Edge of Glory

23 Feb

It’s about that time – 20-24 games left to play and the pressure is on.  Sure the Rangers lead the East by 7 points and have won 7 of 10 games this month.  Detroit’s inevitable juggernaut hasn’t lost at home since the Clinton Administration.  But if Chicago’s 9 game slide and subsequent 4-game wining streak prove anything, it’s that you’re definitely sure you’re not sure.

Here’s a look at teams on the brink of post-season dreams:

Eastern Conference

The gap between 7th and 8th places is widening at Ottawa puts on the moves with 4 wins in a row.  It could be a 4, 5 or even 8-way death match for the final playoff spot.

Toronto – The Leafs put together a nice 5-0-1 run, then promptly dropped 6 of their last 7 (1 in OT).  Kessel’s still hot and Lupul’s having a great season (career-high 39A + within 5 of his goal-high mark).  They’re currently 8th, which is how many years it’s been since Toronto made the playoffs.  They need to rebound like J Lo. with a jailbait boyfriend, and quick – their last 18 games are against Conference foes.

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Winnipeg – In the last 4 games they’ve scored 17 goals.  That’s as many as in the 10 games prior.  Not bad considering their leading scorer, Evander Kane (definitely a Ravenclaw) has just 23 goals.  Can their goals-per-game possibly stay so high?  Their geographically means 5 out-of-conference games left, costing them time while other teams play 4-point games.  Opportunities for points vs. the East will quickly become necessities.

Goals and goals and goals.

Washington – For the love of Haagen-Dazs, what is going on?  They haven’t just lost 3 straight.  That implies they tried, which is not true of Monday’s Carolina game.  Troy Brouwer called it an “embarrassing effort” [link].  Last night’s 5-2 loss to Ottawa was marginally salvaged by Semin and Green, plus Perreault’s face.  It literally scored when no one else could.  But… drum roll please… the Caps are only 2 points out of a) a messy tie for first in the Southeast and/or b) a messy tie for 8th in the East.  So it’s not over until they let it be over by playing this badly ever again.

Vokoun's been pulled in 2 consecutive games - look at Karl Alzner's face. We know.

Tampa Bay – Not sure here.  The Bolts have won their last 3, each by 1 goal.  Stamkos is a machine (42G, 28A).  But Yzerman’s has been standing at the trade table yelling “Hit me!” – Kubina for draft picks, Downie for Quincey then Quincey for a 1st Round pick [link].  What about this season?  With Lecavalier out indefinitely (broken right hand) – well, we’d never count Steven & Squishy out when it comes to a fight.  If they get hot at the right time… Pens and Caps fans shudder at the memory of being steamrolled in last year’s early rounds.

Count? Not out.

Buffalo – The law of averages says that average play will not win playoff berths.  The Sabres 5-of-10 performance in Feb (inc. 2 SO losses) has only kept them on the radar while other teams fall apart.  Pominville’s been as strong as in any of his last 4 years, but Thomas Vanek’s totals career totals are all over the place [link].  He’ll struggle to match any highs since his rookie season, and beyond those two the goal production drops like a rock.  I don’t like their chances unless other, deeper teams continue to under-perform.

This little Sabres fan believes.

Down, but not out: NY Islanders,  Montreal, Carolina – Just 1 or 2 points behind Buffalo, any of these teams could throw a wrench into a struggling team’s plan.  The Isles and Habs will have to pull it together – they’ve each lost 6 of 11.  The Canes could finally be gelling after a rough season – they’ve won 7 of 12 and EStaal has 10 points in 5 games.  Too late?  Maybe not – teams are flailing and there’s blood in the water.

Captain Waited Too Long?

What do you think?  Who makes the stretch count and who falls apart?  Tomorrow, a Western Conference rundown.

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2 Responses to “Edge of Glory”

  1. Sue (Scorpiosue1102) February 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I really don’t understand what happened to the Caps at all. This team started 7-0 with all the same players. Granted Mike Green was out for forever and a day and poor Nicky is still out, but should that warrant where they are now?

    The Carolina game was ridiculous. There is no other word. No way should the captain of the team be taking the puck from another teammate. Bad decisions leading to goals. Goaltending sucking the big one. It was awful.

    I don’t know if you could say that this is still Boudreau’s after shocks when Anaheim is lighting it up. Could Boudreau win the Jack Adams if Anaheim reaches the playoffs? So does it come down to the players, McPhee, Hunter……I don’t know. What I do know is that this is frustrating as all get out.

  2. Chuck February 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Atlantic division is strong this year.
    Southeast division…eh not so much.

    NYR are steamrolling and as much as I hate to admit it – they look real good. Strong goaltending, good defense. All key components of making a run for the SC. Just ask the Bruins.

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