NHL Playoff Bubble About to Burst: Is It Too Little Too Late?

Adam DavisCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2011

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 19  James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates the 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins during game action at the Air Canada Centre March 19, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

We are less than 10 games from the end of the regular season in the NHL, and the playoff race is as tight as ever. Even though there aren’t many spots outside of Philly, Washington and Vancouver that are set in stone, we are starting to form an idea of the playoff matchups we will see in a few weeks.

Teams like Toronto and Calgary may be running out of room before the finish line comes on April 10th.

Other clubs like Dallas and Carolina may be able to creep into the playoffs if certain teams win the necessary games.

In short, the playoff bubble is about to burst, and the long offseason will abruptly begin.

Taking the Canadian teams first, the next three games for both Toronto and Calgary are extremely crucial.

The Flames have played 76 games so far, three more than Dallas and Anaheim—eighth and ninth in the West respectively—and must win these next few in order to even think of a playoff spot.

Saturday, Wednesday, Friday. Edmonton, Anaheim, St. Louis. Easy win, must win, win. If they pull off a string of W’s, they could be headed West to face Vancouver in Round 1.

Toronto has thankfully only played one more game than the two teams above them in the standings, Carolina and Buffalo. Their schedule, however, is not as favorable.

Tonight in Colorado, Saturday night in Detroit and Tuesday at home to Buffalo. Should win, must win, absolutely must win.

Beating Buffalo on Tuesday could mean everything if it follows two W’s or nothing if it doesn’t.

The Leafs are faced by four or five “Game 7′s” in which a single loss could send them to the golf course earlier than expected.

Heading south, Carolina and Dallas are both sitting in ninth in their conferences and have very difficult games coming up this month. Both teams play their next four games against playoff teams, including a home-and-home against Tampa for the Canes.

To put it bluntly, good luck.

Both teams need big wins over these teams if they hope to move up in the standings and beat the other teams that are also continuing to win. It definitely won’t be easy.

As March starts winding down and we head into the final moments of this NHL season, we will soon find out who is going to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup and who will be hanging up the skates.

If these teams can win when it counts, they could creep in before you know it. One thing’s for sure, the NHL is going to excite for the next 17 days. Don’t miss out.