1. Washington, 105 pts
2. Philadelphia, 103 pts
3. Boston, 99 pts
4. Pittsburgh, 102 pts
5. Tampa Bay, 99 pts
6. Montreal, 93 pts
7. Buffalo, 92 pts
8. NY Rangers, 91 pts
9. Carolina, 87 pts
Let's take a look at these team by team.
|Sorry Ovi, you don't get this one this year.|
1. Washington, 105 pts, 2 games left (vs. Fla, @ Fla)
The Capitals are the new front runner to win the conference and have an easy road to do so. They would lose the tie breaker to Philadelphia, but I don't see that being an issue. With 2 games against Florida, the losers of 8 in a row, Washington should have no problem earning 2 more wins.
2. Philadelphia, 103 pts, 2 games left (@ Buf, vs. NYI)
The Flyers have played some of their worst hockey of the season over the past month (which is still saying something as they are in the race for the conference). They have lost 7 in a row at home which is a cause for major concern. They also just recalled Michael Leighton from the minors, which makes you wonder what the organization is thinking about the goalie situation. I envision the Flyers losing in Buffalo to a Sabres team looking to clinch a playoff spot. I could actually see the Islanders winning that final game, but I'll give the Flyers the edge in that one on the belief they will wake up before the playoffs.
3. Boston, 99 pts, 3 games left (vs. NYI, vs. Ott, @ NJ)
The Bruins have already clinched the Northeast Division and needs a lot of help to move anywhere in the standings. They are guaranteed no lower than 3rd though. I foresee a win over the Islanders, a loss to Ottawa, and a win over the Devils to end the season and head into the playoffs on a positive note.
|Let's hope for no repeat performance.|
The Penguins have suddenly found themselves with a chance to win the division as they are 1 point behind Philadelphia. However, points may very well not be the focus in a rematch with the Islanders on Friday. After both teams amassed in over 300 PIMs in their last meeting, it remains to be seen where each team's focus will lie. Since the NHL will likely have that game under a microscope, I would imagine the Pens come out with a skilled win in New York, and another win at Atlanta to finish the season.
5. Tampa Bay, 99 pts, 2 games left (vs. Fla, @ Car)
As I type up the Lightning's schedule, I am quickly realizing that apparently no one in the East playoff race plays a tough schedule at the end. Tampa is just about stuck in the 5th spot, with a small chance of gaining home ice over Pittsburgh. They should cruise to an easy win over Florida, but will have a tough time with Carolina, especially if Carolina is still in the playoff race at that point. I expect Tampa to end up losing that finale.
6. Montreal, 93 points, 2 games left (@ Ott, @ Tor)
The Canadiens finish the season off against 2 Canadian teams that won't be making the playoffs. Montreal can't go higher than 6th, but they can still drop to 8th even though they have clinched a playoff spot. I don't foresee them having a problem with either of their teams remaining and expect easy wins over Ottawa and Toronto.
|When will it be Miller Time again?|
7. Buffalo, 92 points, 2 games left (vs. Phi, @ Cls)
The Sabres need 1 more point to clinch a playoff spot and it appears they won't have Ryan Miller back quite yet to do it. Buffalo has been one of the best teams in recent weeks as they pushed themselves back into the playoff race. The Sabres have played Philly well all season, and I think Enroth will get the job done for them and clinch their spot, winning both games to end the season.
8. New York, 91 points, 2 games left (vs. Atl, vs. NJ)
The Rangers technically need 3 points to clinch a playoff spot depending on what 9th place Carolina does. They took a huge hit in their last game, losing Ryan Callahan indefinitely with a broke ankle. Carolina also owns the tiebreaker over them. The Rangers should have no problem beating the Thrashers. The interesting game will be New Jersey with the chance to ruin the season of a rival. I think the Devils will succeed in that one.
9. Carolina, 87 points, 3 games left (vs. Det, @ Atl, vs. TB)
The Hurricanes basically need to win out to get into the playoffs. The schedule sets up well for them, as Detroit hasn't played their best hockey lately to start. I think Carolina can pull off the desperate wins they need against Detroit and Atlanta. Tampa Bay will be a close one and will depend on the standings and situation at that point. Personally, I think the Hurricanes will pull that one out to set up the standings as follows:
1. Washington, 109 pts
2. Pittsburgh, 106 pts
3. Boston, 103 pts
4. Philadelphia, 105 pts
5. Tampa Bay, 101 pts
6. Montreal, 97 pts
7. Buffalo, 96 pts
8. Carolina, 93 pts
9. NY Rangers, 93 pts
Can lightning strike the same place twice? If so, NY is gonna get knocked out on the last day of the regular season for the 2nd year in a row. We'll see what actually occurs...