When I sat down to write this post, I thought we might be at a place, 77 games in (and a Metro Division Title), that I could start to preview potential first round goalie matchups. Then, I looked at the standings. There is so much congestion in the bottom of the of the division spots and the wild cards that I honestly didn’t know where to start.
Obviously, the Panthers aren’t catching the Penguins, Islanders or Caps. There is an extreme long-shot that they would even catch Detroit. At this point, the odds are clearly looking like the Rangers will play the Bruins in the first round. However, the B’s have been playing much better lately and find themselves tied in points with the third place Red Wings for the last division spot in the Atlantic (albeit with one less game). They are only two points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild card, as well.
I would be surprised if a ton happened in four games leading up to the start of the postseason, and in the era of the loser point, a three point swing is tough to muster in such a short window. However, I do think that there is potential for some shuffling leading up to the start of the second season.
The top of the conference is pretty well established with the Rangers, Habs and Lightning looking at top three seeding. Every other team that is seriously contending (I haven’t completely written Ottawa off, but they will need some help) is within three points of one another.
It takes a little intrigue out of that five team race that the two and three seeds from each division automatically play each other, so the only real matchup movement we will see would be teams climbing out of, and dropping into, wild card spots. Pittsburgh has a game in hand on both the Caps and Isles, so we could see them dump one of their Metro rivals into that spot, or the Bruins and Red Wings could swap, of some team could nose dive and Ottawa could sneak in.
When you look at the remaining schedules, Washington probably has the roughest ride. They have Ottawa, Detroit, Boston and the Rangers left this season. Ironically, the Rangers might be the least interested in taking it to the Caps, since it’s the last day of the season. The Isles have the easiest schedule with only Pittsburgh in the playoff picture of their remaining matchups. The rest of the field has a decent mix of contending teams and weaker sides.
Now, I feel compelled to point out that I hate the loser point with every fiber of my being. However, in this case, I am pretty excited about the potential for last minute drama in the East, and it could drastically change our preconceptions about the Rangers first round opponent.
So, to you, BSB Community, how do you think this will all shake out? How would you like to see it go? Let’s hear about it in the comments below. As of now, it looks like I’m going to have to wait a little longer to write my Round 1 Goaltending Preview."Taking a look at the playoff race in the East",