1 OTTAWA* 61 76
2 NEW JERSEY* 61 75
3 CAROLINA* 64 67
4 PITTSBURGH 61 75
5 MONTREAL 62 75
6 BOSTON 60 68
7 BUFFALO 61 68
8 NY RANGERS 62 68
9 NY ISLANDERS 62 67
10 PHILADELPHIA 61 66
11 WASHINGTON 61 63
12 ATLANTA 62 62
13 FLORIDA 63 61
We all know very well the standings change quickly but even with the Isles winning six in a row there is a lot of work to do moving forward if this team wants to earn a playoff spot and they will not have games in hand to do it with and no head to head games with Buffalo or Boston.
At this time they are still on the outside and the clubs in front of them/behind them all have the ability to go on a big winning or losing streak.
In the event of a tie-breaker in posts/wins Boston owns head to head with the Isles with Buffalo it get's more complex with both teams splitting the season series. The four remaining games with the Rangers will determine the tie breaker but for now Isles lead 3-1 in that series.
For those needing a refresher on tie-breakers:
2. The greater number of games won.
3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
4. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season.
We all know the Isles are the among the lowest scoring club's in the league and will be a minus in the differential department, they currently stand at minus twenty two, only Atlanta is worse among the current bubble teams.
For now it's time to separate the division leaders with Pittsburgh and Montreal from the bubble playoff teams until someone closes the seven point gap with them. For now I'm keeping Tampa and Toronto outside the mix of bubble teams until they break into the top thirteen.
Thing have changed quickly and will be changing quickly the rest of the way.
With that let's take a quick look at all the bubble teams:
Boston-I suspect the Bruins to be a buyer given how they have hung in all year with injuries and a team that has a strong chemistry. This club has the survival skills to not only keep their playoff seed but also go on a big winning streak that has helped them get past a losing streak. Their last game against Florida tells Boston's story this season and there is little to suggest a collapse is coming.
Buffalo-This is still a club with a lot of key players that won a President's Trophy last year. With Vanek, Connolly it's hard to see them go back into the tailspin that they just got out of. I expect this team will do something with Brian Campbell if he is not signed but also have enough talent to move up quickly. Lindy Ruff a year ago had a lot of injuries and still got his team to first overall that last month.
Rangers-They play the trap and the percentages of outshooting teams by a good
ten-fifteen shots per game and have enough scoring depth and I expect that will be the plan the rest of the way. They also have the cap space to go in any direction they want in terms of adding someone. Clearly the trap is effecting the scoring by design and this is a team that has had winning streaks and some losing streaks. Isles two games in early March will likely play a big part in who is chasing who and if those April games will matter by that point.
Islanders-On paper the scoring and defense say no chance, but at this point it's time to acknowledge this club is capable of anything and somewhat of a weaker version of Boston but also have strong survival skills in games. Hopefully the trade deadline brings some depth to help them fight off any more losing streaks. Nolan and DiPietro are a hard combination to beat behind the bench and in goal and I do not see that changing. Any team that can pull off a streak like this with it's back against the wall and the deadline coming has to be taken very seriously because they have earned the right to stay together.
Carolina-Have to include a first place team that could drop into second with any losing streak. Isles control the tie-breaker head to head with Carolina with five points. They have the speed and skills but seem to be lacking any killer instinct in terms of opening up a lead in it's division. Of course if Carolina does play anyone as a division winner, they have home ice.
Philadelphia-Hard to see Philadelphia not making a deal with all the money they invested given it's losing streak and even with some teams up against the cap it's not hard to add rentals who are free agents because most of their salary is already paid for the year. I do not think they have the goaltending and no doubt Gagne's injury is huge but I suspect once they win a game they will win a bunch.
Just remember folks it took a six game winning streak by the Isles and a nine game losing streak for the Flyers to inch past them for a day. Head to head Flyers have the edge but the four games in March should decide that. The freefall can continue but they have the depth unlike last year.
Washington-Isles control the tie-breaker and you hope it's only one club from the Southeast that qualifies but this is a very good team that seems to have it's best hockey still in front of it and got red-hot just to get where they are now. They could easily win the division. Kolzig despite the Islander game had been very good. Caps could be buyers at the deadline.
Atlanta-Thrashers hold a 2-1 edge on the Isles with a game left and need a win in regulation to control tiebreaker. Thrashers have been an up and down team but when good have been very good. Hard to say where they will go at the deadline but do not have the ability to be buyers like last year.
Florida-Despite a good year this is the point where the Panthers usually make their unexpected playoff charge and unlike other years are likely to be buyers after years of being bystanders. Zednik will be out for a while and they need more depth. Panthers control the head to head tie-breaker with the Isles. That written this club unlike last year has a goaltender who is outstanding in Vokoun.