Saturday, January 20, 2007

Eastern Playoff Picture at the Break

With one game left tonight that won't affect positioning (Carolina and Tampa are locked in 6th and 7th, they're locked in a 4-4 barnburner in Raleigh) it's time we took a good luck at the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture.

The Sabres lead the Devils in the East by 7 points, and Montreal for the division by 11 after tonight's loss to the Habs in Montreal. They are fairly safe but have 3 left to play against New Jersey so even if they keep playing to the standard they do there's still a chance that NJ or Atlanta (8 back) could catch them.

Let's look at the Atlantic Division. Devils lead the 2nd place Rangers by 13 points, with 3 remaining between the teams. Unless the Rangers make a big move at the deadline (which may happen) you can't see them as a logistic threat if the Devils take at least 2 of the final 3 games with the Blueshirts.

New York is in a 3-way tie for 8th with Pittsburgh and Toronto. The Pens thrashed the Laffs 8-2 at the Igloo tonight. Of all 3 teams, I count on the Rangers to take the final spot, but never count out that young Penguin team.

Of course, if it were only a 3-way tie, it'd be so simple. Instead, if Tampa loses, you have a count of 8 teams, within 6 points of eachother, fighting for two spots. Tampa, Rags, Laffs, Boston, Pens, Isles, Caps and Panthers all have hope at the All-Star break. A 5 game win streak puts you in 7th, a 5-game loser puts you in 14th possibly. Everyone but Philly is in it, and boy will it be a fun 3 month rush to the finish.

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