First, before we start-- hopefully this blog will be updated daily from Monday until the end of the Stanley Cup. It may not be pretty, but it will get done.
We're in a dog-fight now with the playoffs. In the East, the top five (Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres) are all but locked down, but the 6th through 8th spots are still heavily contested. In the West, there's still a fight for supremecy in the Northwest Division as well as for the 8th and final spot in that Conference. Who said that the NHL wasn't exciting. It's why fans deal with the first five-and-a-half months of the season. So, why not let's break down who's in, who's out, and who could just bomb and lose it all.
The Eastern Conference is much easier right now, so we'll start there. As it stands, there are four teams vying for three spots. You could say five teams with the inclusion of the Toronto Maple Leafs (70 pts), but those who say that usually have a 416 area code and live right off the QEW. Anyway, as it stands, the Tampa Lightning (79 pts) are in 6th, New Jersey Devils (77 pts) are in 7th, and the Atlanta Thrashers (76 pts) are in 8th. The Montreal Canadiens (75 pts) are in 9th, but have slid a bit in the past couple of weeks.
Right now, it's all about not slipping up too much. Any bad game could ruin a season. The Canadiens know that first hand as they were in 7th about a week ago, and now are in the outside looking in. The Devils could be the most likely team that will falter. Their inconsistent play this season has put them in this situation, but since the deadline, the Devils have played better and better. The two Southeastern teams, Atlanta and Tampa, have hit their stride at the right time. How far they will go is still undecided, but if they keep up their pace, they should be just fine.
The Western Conference is a little more tricky. There's a good chance that the Detroit Red Wings (102 pts, 1st in conference), Dallas Stars (95 pts, 2nd), and Nashville Predators (92 pts, 4th) are all in. The Calgary Flames (86 pts, 3rd) is in a tight race with the Colorado Avalanche (83 pts, 5th) for first in the Northwest with the Vancouver Canucks (82 pts, 7th) and Edmonton Oilers (80 pts, 8th) not far behind. Then you have the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (82 pts, 6th) who is battling off the Canucks, Oilers, Los Angeles Kings (79 pts, 9th) and San Jose Sharks (78 pts, 10th).
Needless to say, there's much more risk if there is a bad game in the Western ranks than there is in the East. The bad thing for some of those in the race is that Sharks and Mighty Ducks have 14 games remaining on their schedule, the most in the NHL with several other teams. The Canucks has only 11 games remaining, which is the least in the NHL-- less chance of losing. One win can go a long way as the Sharks could pole vault the Kings and Oilers if they win when those teams are idle. Conversely, the Flames could be in the lower rank mix if they lose or go to OT and the Avalanche, Canucks, and Oilers start to roll on. Of course, this is all just the beginning of the craziness. Even when the playoffs start, the fact of a first-round upset is very believable in the West.
However, we're about 24 days away from the playoffs, so it should come as no surprise that there will be shuffling to and fro in the standings. Every game finally matters and you can see that the teams are much more determined to not eff up completely, because that could make or break a season in an instant.
Even with those craptastic "Gladiator....ON ICE" commercials, I still love this game
This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!