The top eight teams in the eastern conference have been determined thanks to the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers clinching playoff spots last night. All that needs to be determined now is the final positions.
The Senators beat the surging Washington Capitals 2-1 in overtime to cap off what has been an amazing season for the club with their crucial injuries. After losing Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson for extended periods of time, the Senators were supposed to fold up camp, mail it in and forget about the playoffs. But someone clearly forgot to tell the Sens that.
The self labelled “Pesky Sens” have hung around all season, grinding out wins and finding new ways to take two points. They’ve defied the odds and now they have a chance to send Daniel Alfredsson into retirement with a memorable cup run. This team is getting healthy at the right time and could be a great sleeper pick in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Meanwhile the New York Rangers also punched their ticket to the dance thanks to a 2-1 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes. But the Rangers aren’t a feel good story like the Senators, rather the opposite.
This is a club that was assembled to steam roll through the regular season and had many experts picking them as the clear Stanley Cup favorites. Inconsistency all season has haunted the blue shirts and now they limp into the playoffs after winning game 47. Sure the old adage rings true, just get in and anything can happen. But it’s hard to imagine that anything short of a miraculous cup final run would mean drastic changes on Broadway.
The Winnipeg Jets were still in the hunt half way through their game against the Montreal Canadiens but when the Sens and Rangers won, the Jets were officially eliminated. Their impressive run came to an end on the last game of the regular season for them and much like the Senators, the Jets weren’t supposed to hang around this long.
They do have a solid core of players to build around and free-agency could provide them the opportunity to add some missing tools. With some bloated salaries and under performing players set to come off the books, the Jets need to open the wallet and instantly make their roster better on July 5th.
Out west the playoff chase has tightened up and will come down to the final games of the season for the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. Both clubs won last night and the victory by Columbus over the Dallas Stars officially eliminated the Texas based team from the playoffs.
Three teams remain and will battle it out for the final two playoff spots. As it stands today the Wings are in seventh, just one point up on the Jackets and Minnesota Wild who currently hold down the eight spot thanks to more regulation wins.
The Wild have two games remaining while Detroit and Columbus each have one. My prediction? The Wings falter against Dallas in their final contest, the Jackets win and they will shock the hockey world by making the playoffs. As for the Wild, that leaves them in the playoffs as they play the lowly Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, so two points somewhere in there should be a given.
Buckle up, the final few days of the regular season is going to be a wild ride.