Statsmania: Tuesday Eastern Playoff Race Primer


Going into Tuesday morning, here’s your Eastern Conference spots up for grabs:

Team GP Pts
6. NY Rangers 79 91
7. Tampa Bay 79 90
8. Montreal 79 88
9. Toronto 79 87
10. Carolina 79 86
11. NY Islanders 78 84
12. Florida 79 83
Your Tuesday games of note for the 6th to 8th spots:

Panthers Capitals
7:00 PM ET
7:00 PM
Flyers Maple Leafs
7:30 PM ET
7:30 PM
Bruins Canadiens
7:30 PM ET
7:30 PM
Rangers Islanders
7:30 PM ET
7:30 PM
Hurricanes Lightning
7:30 PM ET
7:30 PM

There’s no magic formula for clinching because the standings are so fluid. However, it’s easy to say that Florida’s just a cursory inclusion in this list. Even if they run the table with three straight wins to close out the season, they’d still only finish with 89 points. If Montreal or Toronto win on Tuesday night, then the Panthers can officially start considering how they can recover from the Todd Bertuzzi disaster (Toronto’s win would give them 89 points but the Leafs would take the tie-breaker with more wins).

The Islanders aren’t exactly out of it just yet, but without Rick DiPietro, things aren’t looking so rosy. Catching the Rangers are pretty much out of the question, but the 8th place is still possible. If they run the table, they’ll finish with 92 points. The conundrum here is that Montreal, the current 8th place holder, has a game against Toronto, who are above the Islanders. So, the best case scenario here for the Isles is for Toronto to beat Montreal while losing to the Isles and Philly. That would leave Toronto with 91 points, the Islanders with a maximum of 92 points.

The Hurricanes max points matches the Islanders with 92. However, the Hurricanes have less control of their fate as they have no head-to-head games against the Canadiens. Even if the Hurricanes beat the Lightning, they need Tampa to lose all three of their games to drop out. The Canes play the Bolts, Thrashers, and Florida; while Tampa and Atlanta have been inconsistent as of late, it’s still not the most ideal competition for the stretch run.

Toronto’s max points is 93 and they play Philly, the Islanders, and Montreal. Without a head-to-head game against the Rangers or Tampa, it’s doubtful that the Leafs will creep up to 7th, even if they run the table. Still, they have a little bit of control over their fate; they can stomp the Islanders out of the playoffs and they can play catch-up with the Habs on their own terms.

Montreal’s hold on 8th place is precarious at best. Still, it’s better to be ahead rather than play catch-up. With a struggling Boston team up first, the Habs can start things off easy, then they go head-to-head with the Rangers. If the Habs beat Boston and they take out the Rangers, there’s a slight chance that Montreal could finish all the way up as 6th.

Tampa Bay’s small two-game win streak is giving the Lightning hope that they’ve turned the corner. They could put a serious hurt on Carolina with a head-to-head win, then they have an out-of-the-playoffs Florida team, and a chance to possibly win the division by taking on Atlanta. The Bolts are only three points behind the Thrashers, and with one head-to-head game to close out the season, third place is still in reach.

The New York Rangers were left for dead several weeks ago, then they went on a rampage to roar back up the standings. With games against the Islanders and Montreal, the Rangers have their own destiny in their hands. The only drawback is that the Rangers have to close out the season against the powerhouse Penguins; if the Rangers lose to Montreal and the Islanders, they still can hold on to a playoff spot depending on how the other games play out, but falling to 8th place is far less desirable than playing the Southeast winner.

Of course, the monkey wrench in all of this is the NHL’s stupid 3-point game system. With teams playing other teams in contention, any combination of overtime/shootout games could muck up everything. The Rangers are essentially a lock, and the Lightning have to choke things away pretty badly not to make it. However, the teams competing for 8th can have all sorts of strange things happen with these 3-point swings.


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