The New Jersey Devils became the latest team to clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a win over Carolina. That leaves only 7th and 8th spot unclaimed and the way things are going it could go right down to the last game.
The Maple Leafs won’t die quietly and Mats Sundin managed a 4 goal outburst to keep their razor thin hopes alive. The Atlanta Thrashers embarassed Tampa Bay and exposed their weak defence and goaltending. They aren’t ready to hang them up either and are only 4 points back of 8th. 2 points for the Leafs and 2 points for the Thrashers. Chances the Leafs will advance high enough to make the playoffs are virtually nil. The Thrashers can pull within 2 points of Tampa Bay if they win their game in hand against the Capitals on Thursday which would really make it interesting.
Last night saw Carolina losing to a lower seed, Tampa losing to a non playoff team (badly) and Ottawa giving up a goal in the last 20 seconds to the Bruins of all teams before barely beating them. The top seeds aren’t exactly hammering their way into the post season. Most of them seem to be limping in. Far different from the last playoff run which saw Tampa Bay tear up the end of the season before winning 4 rounds in the playoffs.
The only team ‘tearing things up’ right now are the Habs. Wipe out the 1 goal loss to New Jersey and the Canadiens have 18 points out of a possible 20 over their last 10 games. The Canadiens rebounded from a loss with a win over the Conference leading Senators proving at least for the short term, this wasn’t a flukey or lucky streak.
Tonight the Canadiens play in Buffalo where traditionally they don’t do very well. The Sabres are fighting for home ice in the playoffs and the Canadiens are still capable of reaching 6th spot. Both teams have something to play for and until the Canadiens are mathematically clinched every game is still extremely important.
1 more win will almost gurantee the playoffs.