The New York Rangers hold the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth entering the final week of the regular season, with only nine teams mathematically remaining in postseason contention.
However, Winnipeg and Washington could blue-line the Blue Shirts with three games to go for most clubs. It’s a little intricacy only found in the National Hockey League.
Winnipeg has two chances to advance to the battle for the Stanley Cup. While overtaking the Rangers is the obvious one, many forget that division winners are guaranteed one of the top three berths. Thus, Winnipeg only needs to overtake Southeast Division leading Washington to gain a berth.
So if the Jets have a hot week and take the division, the NYR-Capitals matchup – both teams enter the week with 52 points – will be the prime determination for the No. 8 spot. And finding the tie-breaker is no small task.
As mentioned last week, the ‘ROW’ number (Regulation and Overtime Wins – shootouts wins are NOT included) is the first tie-breaker. Thus, the current total wins totals (Washington at 25; NYR, 24) mean nothing.
Here are the real standings entering the week should two (or more) teams match each other for total points: Washington, 22; Winnipeg, 21; and N.Y. Rangers, 20. And if Winnipeg has an anticipated solid week to close the truncated, 48-game season, it puts that much additional pressure on New York.
Meanwhile, the hot Capitals close with Winnipeg, Ottawa and Boston – at least all three are at home. The Rangers close at Florida and Carolina, then home to New Jersey – will this be the final game for Devils goalie Martin Brodeur?
Fortunately, the 6-layer, trade deadline swap which sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus is working out well for both sides.
With the Big Apple media spotlight off, Gaborik, a three-time 40-goal scorer,is again lighting the lamp, helping lift the Blue Jackets ahead of Detroit for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
The Rangers are a mere 7-2-1 since its roster realignment, earning three of four points in a home-and-home series with East No. 1 Pittsburgh. The Broadway Blues have 40 goals in those 10 games, including 20 in three outings last week.
For a major market team, the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan is the most unknown captain in the league. But if you saw him on Sunday’s national game in eliminating New Jersey, more people will become familiar with this native of New York (not the city, upstate in Rochester).
Fast starts: Even in a shortened season, fast starts are not indicative to long-term success. New Jersey, once 8-1-3, is long gone. San Jose was 7-0-1, then shark-tanked at 6-11-5 (6-16 ATS) before sweeping a home-and-home set with Anaheim.
Even Chicago closed March with a yawn 5-5-0 mark, before re-igniting at 8-0-2 in April (we gave you Phoenix at +170 on Saturday – you’re welcome).
Totals: Are teams currently playing playoff hockey, or are they taking a few days off? Over the past eight days, the Grand Salami (total goals in all games that day) has gone OVER seven times after maintaining a 2-to-1 trend toward the UNDER..
Since many teams are already removing golf clubs from the closet, the OVER may be a better bet than simply picking and choosing any single game. Meanwhile, why is Montreal in such a slump? They are 15-6 toward the OVER on the road, and 15-9 toward the UNDER at home.
And what was Canadiens goalie Carey Price thinking by changing his goalie pads with two weeks to go in the season? Talk about placing the whammy on one’s self – he’s 1-5 with a 7.12 GAA since changing this key part of his equipment.
For example, baseball players avoid changing gloves or keep wearing dirty caps and socks for weeks. It reminds me of when baseball’s Tony Gwynn batted .400 over a calendar year (in his case, July-to-July) – while using only one bat. When the bat finally cracked, so did Gwynn’s batting average (he still batted .394 in 1994 when the owners-players dispute halted play).
Price may not be superstitious, but maybe he should be!
Contact Nick at [email protected].