Saturday, March 31, 2007

A BIG Saturday Night

First, here is my updated "chart" involving the Eastern Conference playoff race...

6th - Tampa Bay - must go 2-2 in their final 4 games to make the playoffs
7th - NYR - must go 2-2-1 in their final 5 games to make the playoffs
8th - MTL - must go 3-1 in their final 4 games to the make the playoffs
9th - TOR - must go 3-1-1 in their final 5 games to make the playoffs
10th - NYI - must go 4-1 in their final 5 games to make the playoffs
11th - CAR - must go 4-0 in their final 4 games to make the playoffs

Tampa's win last night gave them a good step on the playoffs, as they now really only need to finish at .500 to make the post season. When your final four games are against Washington, Carolina, Florida and Atlanta you would think splitting those games would be easy, while even coming out with 5 or 6 points is possible. I think at this point it would be hard for Tampa Bay to miss the playoffs.

The Rangers can play at less than .500 to make the playoffs, as long as one of those losses is in overtime. Tonight's game in Philly is very winable and will put them in very good shape heading into the final week of the season. They then play Toronto tomorrow night, followed by the Islanders, Habs and Penguins. While they have a VERY tough week ahead, maybe the toughest, a win tonight and they would be left with only having to go 1-2-1 in that stretch, which shouldn't be too hard for the red-hot rangers. A loss tonight, however, would really put the pressure on this team.

Montreal suffered a tough loss last night, and now must go 3-1 to reach 92 points on the season, the estimate required to make the playoffs. A big game against the Sabres tonight, though Conklin starts for Buffalo so this game is winable. A loss tonight and it's all up hill. Boston, NYR and Toronto await next week.

Toronto plays a Pittsburgh team that has beat them up all season long. The good news for Toronto is they've won six straight at the ACC, which is where they play tonight. The leafs then play the Rangers tomorrow in a very key matchup that could possibly by tomorrow be for 6th spot (or could be for much lower). They finish the season off against Philly, followed by two huge games against NYI and Montreal. Both winable games, but both just as easily lost.

The Islanders loss last night may have finished them off. DiPietro will not play tonight, and we may even see them play their AHL goalie as starter tonight. Ottawa is playing red-hot and a loss tonight would likely put the Islanders out of it (though if they could beat Toronto and NYR next week, yes both of them, not just one) they may find their way back in. That being said, if DiPietro isn't back, the Islanders should be easy pickings for the Rangers and Leafs. Ottawa, NYR, Toronto, Philly and New Jersey is what the Islanders have to look forward to. Not looking good considering they have to win four of those five games to get to the next stage of the season.

Finally Carolina, who will become the first team to win the cup one year and miss the playoffs the next. 4-0 t0 end the season is what they need to prevent that, and even then that may not be enough. Can the Hurricanes go 4-0 against Florida twice, Atlanta and Tampa? It's possible, but even an overtime loss would cripple the Canes. Better luck next year...

So tonight, here is what we're looking at

Pittsburgh @ Toronto - A win could move the leafs as high as tied for 7th, or it could leave them in 9th (with game in hand on possible 8th place Montreal). A win tonight would put the Leafs in great shape, while a loss wouldn't cripple them, unless everyone else won which is doubtful as a lot of teams face up-hill battles tonight. A win for the Penguins would likely keep them even with fourth place ottawa, but more importantly would put them into 2nd place as they'd pass NJ for the division lead. Big game for both teams tonight.

Buffalo @ Montreal - This will be a great game. Buffalo wants the win to expand their presidents trophy lead, while Montreal needs the win to not only move up the Eastern Standings but to hold off Toronto and NYI. Conklin and Halak are the netminders, should be a great game.

Ottawa @ Long Island - Still no Dipietro, so I'd put solid money on the Senators. A win tonight by the Islanders could put them tied for 8th, or keep them in 10th depending on what those in front of them do tonight. An Ottawa win would keep them in fourth place, a loss and they could possible fall to 5th.

NYR @ Philly - Ask Carolina, Philly isn't a team that is just going to roll over. The Rangers could jump into 6th with a win tonight, while a loss and they could be tied for 8th. This is a game the Rangers really need to win.

Washington @ Tampa Bay - Revenge time for Tampa, as they got blown out by Washington last week. A win is likely necessary if Tampa wants to keep 6th place. A loss and they could be possibly tied for 7th, while the 9th place team could be just one point back with a game in hand.

Do you see a pattern yet? One loss and you could be in deep trouble...or if you get lucky, your still in the same spot. It's a crazy race, but I can see the finish line. In 8 days the playoff picture will be set, I can't wait.