NHL Eastern Conference Standings:
1 - Philadelphia
2 - Washington
3 - Boston
4 - Pittsburgh
5 - Tampa Bay - 89
6 - Montreal - 87
7 - NEW YORK - 84
8 - Buffalo - 81
9 - Carolina - 78
10 - Toronto - 76
11 - Atlanta - 72
12 - NEW JERSEY -72
NEW YORK RANGERS:
Florida Panthers 0
New York Rangers 1
Say hello to points numbers 83 and 84. It wasn't the show of force the last pair of games was, but a third period goal by Brandon Dubinsky made it just as thrilling. Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 31st win as well as his 10th shut-out of the season. The Rangers now find themselves only three points behind #6 Montreal who lost tonight to Buffalo.
My next Rangers post is forth-coming.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS:
New York Islanders 5
Tampa Bay Lightning 2
In spite of playing very good Hockey over the last two months, the Islanders played a rather inconsequential game versus Tampa Bay. With 70 points now, there is still little to hang hope on for a playoff spot. But I red an article over the weekend where Islander Head Coach Jack Capuano may not be retained as Coach for next season. If that is even a consideration, the Islanders and Garth Snow are insane. The guy has done a great job since he was called up to fill in.
The Islanders can still have a lot to say about who gets to play beyond mid-April. They have games remaining with the Devils, Rangers, Atlanta and Carolina.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS:
New Jersey Devils 1
Boston Bruins 4
Before tonight's action, Toronto, Carolina, and seven points stood between the Devils and the eighth place Buffalo Sabres. It seems, as hard as they've worked lately, they haven't gained any real ground on the pack above them. Going into tonight, they only had ten games left to close the gap. And losing two out of their last three couldn't have come at a worse time. And time, is something they don't have. However they won't be without their chances, but they have a hell of a schedule to negotiate.
New Jersey is on the road this week. Tonight in Boston; Friday in Pittsburgh; and Saturday the Devils will take on the Buffalo Sabres in a game of most critical importance to both teams.
The Devils turned out to be the biggest losers on the night's action. They dropped two points while the rest of their competition gained two. Tonight's game against the Boston Bruins went very wrong. They lost 4-1 and the Devils have now missed out on six valuable points over their last four games. They are now losers of three of their last four. Their hellish surge towards the playoffs is now beginning to sputter. They lost two points on Buffalo and are now 9 points behind the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils next head to Pittsburgh for a Friday night game. PITT is still without Sid "the Slew" Crosby and Malfkin. Now the Penguins will also be without defense-man Matt Cooke. The Pittsburgh goon was suspended for the remainder of the season and the first round of the playoffs resulting from his elbow hit to NYRangers McDonagh.
What follows after Pittsburgh will be a major battle of positioning when the Devils take on the eighth place Sabres in Buffalo. Perhaps to aid the Devils' chances, they still have head-to-head match-ups with the Maple Leafs and Rangers. But I think what is closest to the truth is the Devils can no longer afford to lose another game. I believe the Sabres hold a huge scheduling advantage over New Jersey; See Sabres.
BUFFALO SABRES: (Western New York's Team)
Buffalo Sabres 2
Montreal Canadiens 0
Buffalo shut-out Montreal tonight 2-0.
The Rangers are sitting in the #7 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers still have a three point lead on Buffalo. They have to just keep winning. But no team may be better suited to maintain control of their own destiny like Buffalo. Buffalo's schedule has put them in control of their own path to the playoffs. Of the Sabres last remaining nine game, they will have opportunities to meet the Devils, Maple Leafs, Rangers and Carolina. Those are all the teams they want to be facing in order to maintain control of their drive to the playoffs.
Ottawa Senators 3
Carolina Hurricanes 4
Carolina stayed in 9th place behind the Sabres and Rangers as all three teams won tonight. They are still 6 points behind the Rangers and 3 points behind the Sabres. The Rangers will be playing the Sens Thursday night who hopefully will be looking to just play out the string after losing tonight.
Without the benefit of having any head-to-head match-ups aside from their game with Buffalo, the Canes are going to have fight for their playoff spot solo. They are on their own unlike Buffalo who has the advantage of playing teams directly in the mix.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS:
Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Minnesota Wild 0
Toronto just decided they aren't going away. They, like the Rangers, Buffalo, and Carolina, won tonight to keep the standings as they were. They now have 76 points; four ahead of the Devils and good for 10th place behind Carolina.
The NHL ~ The Other March Madness!