Each Monday, we’ll wrap up three of the biggest stories from the weekend and how they’ll play into the coming week.
Revisiting the Playoff Bubble
On March 13, I wrote a post that examined the 15 teams on the playoff bubble, breaking them down into three groups based on what I considered their odds of making it in. A lot can change in 11 days, so it’s worth going back and updating some statuses now.
My first group was the teams I thought could feel relatively safe. That list had five teams, including the Habs, Lightning, and Wild, and at this point we can probably take those three off the bubble list altogether; they’re all in.
The fourth team in the “safe” category was the New York Rangers. Despite being only three points clear of a playoff spot, I figured they’d be fine based on an easy schedule and their recent addition of Martin St. Louis. They’ve won three straight, but St. Louis has yet to score and they haven’t been able to gain any ground; they’re holding down their spot by that same three-point margin. I still like their chances, but I’ve heard from plenty of nervous Rangers fans who feel like “safe” is stretching things.
That still leaves us with one more team from the “safe” group, but let’s skip it for a minute and move on to the second group, the “need a miracle” teams. The Jets and Senators are done. The Canucks have proven surprisingly feisty and are still hanging around, but it’s only by a thread after yet another injury, this one to Henrik Sedin.
That left seven true bubble teams that could go either way. Of those, only the Devils have really stumbled, managing just one OT win in five games before finally getting a regulation win Sunday night. They’re not quite dead yet, but at this point, their best hope may be that Gary Bettman just decides to ignore the rules and do Lou Lamoriello another favor.
On the other hand, the Flyers have won five straight, including wins over top-tier teams like the Penguins, Hawks, and Blues. That last win came on Saturday by a 4-1 score, with the Blues dominating the shot chart but having Ryan Miller outdueled by Steve Mason. With a four-point cushion and games in hand on everyone chasing them, the Flyers are all but in.
The Red Wings have made a late push and are now holding down a wild-card spot. The Capitals are pushing hard, but have a tough pair of games coming up this week against the Kings and Bruins. And the Blue Jackets are still very much alive, though Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the lowly Islanders is a tough one.
That leaves us with three teams we haven’t mentioned yet, and they probably need their own sections. Let’s start out West.