The Pittsburgh Penguins are fighting the New Jersey Devils as well as the Buffalo Sabres for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with only a handful of games remaining in the 2009-2010 regular season.
On the other end, the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, and the Atlanta Thrashers are all fighting for the bottom three seeds, with the Flyers, Bruins, and Canadiens tied for the sixth, seventh, and eighth spots with 82 points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need to finish either in the second or third seed going into the playoffs because whoever gets the fourth seed is going to have to play a hot Ottawa Senators team that has been lights out since the All-Star break, putting together a few long win streaks, and have the fifth seed pretty much wrapped up.
The next team that could give the Penguins trouble is the Boston Bruins. The Bruins have had trouble putting the puck in the net since Matt Cooke put Marc Savard on the injured list.
However, if Tim Thomas shows up in the playoffs and Boston's defense plays well, then Pittsburgh could have a hard time getting pucks in the net. If you get Thomas confident, he can be one of the hardest goalies to beat.
I believe that the Boston Bruins will finish eighth, however, in the Eastern Conference and face the Washington Capitals in the first round.
The Montreal Canadiens could be an okay matchup for the Penguins, who went 3-1-0 against Montreal this year. The series could be a great matchup for Sidney Crosby as well. He plays very well against Montreal, and in the playoffs I believe his level of play against them would increase.
The one bad thing, though, with playing Montreal would be the away games. Montreal is a hostile place to play in the playoffs, and for Crosby, playing in front of a very hostile crowd may make him a bit nervous, which could in turn affect his level of play.
I have Montreal finishing in the sixth spot, having to play the Buffalo Sabres, who will finish as the third seed in the East.
The last team that I think will finish out the Eastern Conference is the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Flyers are on a straight downhill course to implosion to finish out the season and have looked terrible over the past few weeks.
They have no definite goaltender, and with injuries starting to pile up, they will be limping into the playoffs and more than likely a fairly easy first round series.
The Penguins would love this matchup if they can get it. The Penguins went 5-1-0 against the Flyers this year and looked dominant in their wins.
If the Penguins can manage to catch this first round matchup, they should have an easy series not going more than five games, which would give the players a much-needed rest for a much tougher second and third round matchup.
Those two series could put them up against New Jersey or Washington or possibly both to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
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