NHL: As the Season Winds Down, Bottom Feeders Look to Play the Spoiler

JKlau Sportz BroCorrespondent IApril 8, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save against Evander Kane #9 of the Atlanta Thrashers during their game on April 7, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

If there’s one thing the NHL is known for, it’s toughness.

Regardless of the situation, players play with an edge not seen in other sports. One thing that drives that edge is personal pride, and the hopes of keeping a job. For the fringe players on the teams who will not qualify for the upcoming postseason, there isn’t much time left to prove they belong. For guys who don’t have a contract for the next season, they have one last chance to make an impression on the rest of the league. They don’t care about the team's draft position, they don’t care about what bar they’re going to after the game (okay, maybe they care a little bit about that); they have one thing on their minds and that is their pride.

They do not want to be laughed off the ice by a team that is destined for the playoffs, they want to give them second thoughts about their Cup chances.

They do not want to lose their jobs in the NHL and they sure as hell do not want to be pushovers.

The bottom teams can be the most dangerous to play, because in the end, they have nothing to lose. It’s balls to the wall for the last couple of games and that’s it.

A team like the New York Rangers knows this better than anyone lately, dropping a couple of key games to the Islanders and Thrashers, two teams whose postseason hopes were over weeks ago. The bitter rivalry the Islanders have with the Rangers only fueled the fire. In an Islanders arena filled with many Rangers fans, the Islanders gave them a real good whooping.

The Rangers than got embarrassed on their home ice by the Atlanta Thrashers. The game was perfect for the younger players on Atlanta, players like Andrey Zubarev, who tallied his first career point in his second career game.

The Ottawa Senators, who have rallied to jump out of last in the conference, have wins in April against the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers, both of whom have already clinched in the playoff berths.

The New Jersey Devils also took down the Flyers and also have a great chance to knock their bitter rival New York Rangers out of the playoffs with a win in their 81st game, and the Rangers final game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who’s rally towards the playoffs will fall just short, took down the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes in the month of March. And while they weren’t exactly spoilers at the time, they used those wins to move from being all but out to contending late in the season. They also took a couple of games from the Boston Bruins, who were looking to lock up a division title and will look to knock Montreal a seed or two down in their final game.

The tail end of the season is typically the most exciting. Although a battle involving a couple of teams going against each other for a playoff spot might draw lots of attention and anticipation, sometimes it is the teams who are already headed for the golf course that put up the biggest fight.

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