No, I don't have a crystal ball, but I want to know before the anticipation kills me. Three games to go for most teams, and this one is reminding me of last year's run for the teams vying for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. This is NHL hockey at its finest.
Tonight, I watched a very physical and nail-biting game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins. Last night, Florida became the next team to be eliminated from the race with their loss to the Washington Capitals. How fitting, right? The question now becomes: Who will make the final push in the remaining two teams to bump into the playoffs? Two teams now remain; Washington and Buffalo. Lets draw out the situation.
1) Pittsburgh 99pts
2) Montreal 98pts
3) Carolina 90pts
4) New Jersey 93pts
5) Ottawa 92pts
6) NY Rangers 91pts
7) Boston 91pts
8) Philadelphia 91pts
9) Washington 88pts
10) Buffalo 86pts
In all reality, five teams are involved, and possibly six if you include Ottawa. Washington can overtake third if they get three points and Carolina loses out in their remaining games.
Ottawa needs to lose out all of their games and Washington and Buffalo need to win out their remaining games to trump out Ottawa if one of the bottom feeders win at least one. But, that scenario is most far-fetched of them all. Ottawa would then fall out and possibly suffer the biggest fallout since being number one in the east at the midway point of the season.
Buffalo can get into the playoffs if they get 5 of their last 6 possible points. They have Toronto, Montreal, and Boston left in their remaining three games. If one point is gained by the Rangers, Boston, and Philadelphia, Buffalo must win all 6pts. Then, the fun tie-breaking scenarios would begin. If Washington were to get 90pts, Carolina drops to 9th, Buffalo would have to win still at least 5pts because 4pts and a tie-break would permit Carolina to take 8th. Confused yet?
Washington could win out and need at least one of the bottom teams to drop all their games. These are the 91pts teams.
Buffalo - Toronto, Montreal, Boston
Boston - NJ, Ottawa, Buffalo
NYR - Pittsburgh, NYI, NYI, NJ
Ottawa - Montreal, Toronto, Boston
Philadelphia - Pittsburgh, NJ, Pittsburgh
Washington - Carolina, TB, Florida
My opinion on each team's remaining schedules:
Washington - has the easier of the six. The game that means the most will be the one against Carolina, of course. Tampa and Florida may be cake-walk, but watch the two teams play the role of upsetters, but the way Alex Ovechkin has been playing and Huet's solid performance in goal, they have a great chance.
Philadelphia - An overtime loss, followed by an overtime win, this team isn't making it any easier for Buffalo and Washington. BUT, Pittsburgh twice and a rematch against the overtime loss team from the other night with New Jersey, Philadelphia has the best chance of all the teams to lose out their last three. Pittsburgh has Philadelphia's number as of the last two games, especially the last meeting which resulted in a 7-1 Pens win. But, that one point that could be gained to bump them up a peg may come in overtime in any one of their last three games.
Ottawa - Hot and cold. You never know what you're going to get from this team any more. It depends on Gerber's style of play. He has started more than a dozen games in a row, but he's been on and off his game. This one is up in the air, but Toronto may be the most lenient of the three opponents to go up against, unless they play with passion to upset.
NYR - Pittsburgh took them out today 3-1, tomorrow may be the case, as well. Ahead of that the Islanders may be easy to overturn twice in a row. The Devils will be tough, but that's a dream playoff match-up for myself to hope for. Quality excitement right there folks.
Boston - NJ will give them a hell of a time. Ottawa will be a tight one. Buffalo, may be the game where everything is on the line for BOTH teams. It could be a game that means who is in, and who is out. Boston has either played really good, or really bad. The 4-0 win over Ottawa was nice, but will it happen again? I HIGHLY doubt it. Look for Ottawa to try and save face on a rocky season and bury the hatchet from that loss. If this team can't beat NJ or Ottawa, and Buffalo wins against Toronto and Montreal, see this Saturday match-up for intense fun meaning who will be playing the Penguins or Canadiens first round.
Buffalo - Yeah, I think I said it all in the above paragraph on what may happen. Flat out, they need to win against Toronto because a win against Montreal will be tough (looked easier last week Friday before the last few minutes where the Habs made a HUGE come back to win in OT). So, fact of the matter, win against Toronto and Boston, OTL to Montreal is the minimum need. If they lose in regulation in any one of these games, it's done. Clear as day. Washington has it easy, and Buffalo, well, they need to play like they do in adverse situations...but that was last year's team. This year's team will need divine inspiration.