IN OR OUT: WHO WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?
By Steven Hu
The regular hockey season is coming to an end, and while some teams have their golden ticket for a shot at the Stanley Cup, other teams are making a push to try to get their ticket. The teams that are the top three in their division pretty much has a guaranteed spot in postseason hockey, so I will focus on the Wild Card holders and the next team in line that might take their place.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The Caps are three points ahead of the Boston Bruins, and just defeated one of the best teams in the league. Ovechkin is still being a puck hog, but he is still very productive. In the offseason, Washington acquired a pair of skilled defensemen, (Orpik and Niskanen) they made their blue line best in the league. With Backstrom, Brouwer and Carlson stepping up, I don’t see a way that these guys are on their way out.
BOSTON BRUINS: One of the most dominating teams in the modern day era, Boston’s dynasty will come to an end. They have dropped three straight games, and it will only get worse. Florida Panthers are only four points away from the final wild card spot, and the Bruins have to play the Blues, Blackhawks and the Canucks in the next week. They also have to play four games on the road, which is bad news for them. Boston is 21st in away games in league rankings, posting an 11-11-3 record. Three teams that Boston is playing on the road are in the top 15 when it comes to home games. The players have been unproductive, as the points leader for the Bruins has only 37 points. Boston will need to fight hard for their playoff spot, but if they don’t, Bostonians will be ok with that. After all, their Patriots just won Super Bowl XLIX.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: Florida probably has the toughest schedule to play in the next week. After taking a short break with the Leafs on Monday, the Panthers have to fight against the Canadiens, Penguins, Blackhawks and the Senators. Although Luongo has been red-hot and rookies like Eklad and Bjugstad have assumed big roles, Panthers will probably flop. Just like the Bruins, these guys are awful on the road. Meanwhile, the Flyers have an easy schedule, playing against Carolina, Buffalo and Columbus. Panthers rebuild is going pretty well, but it’s not the right season for them to succeed yet.
WINNIPEG JETS: Winnipeg Jets have been on a playoff drought ever since the team relocated to Winnipeg. However, the drought will end this year. The Evander Kane trade got them some pretty decent players, and a first round draft choice. The jets have six players with 30 plus points, and their goaltenders make a great duo. The Jets have a decent shot at the playoffs, but don’t jump on the bandwagon just yet, because I expect an early exit from them.
CALGARY FLAMES: Calgary had a strong start, but they will not finish fast. Their statistics are very good, but there is too much competition for them. The Kings and the Wild are known for finishing fast, and they are not far from taking the playoff spot away from the Flames. They did their job well, but its just that the competition is too intense for them. Sorry Calgary, but the team is certainly going into the right direction.
MINNESOTA WILD: For the Wild, this is just going to be a race against the Kings. The Kings do have a tougher schedule, but they are known for making a big push to the playoffs late in the season. This will be determined by how well the Kings will play. By the looks of things, I think Minnesota will drop. They had a good run, but the defending champs are going to come on top