As I write this, the Canadiens are 6th in the Eastern Conference and they would be meeting third place Boston. That could change drastically over the final three days of the schedule. There’s a strong chance it could be Philadelphia. And even Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are in the picture. Four points separate second and fifth place and each of the teams has two games left to play. (see standings below)
The one constant in today’s NHL is inconsistency. Baskin-Robbins has had fewer flavours of the month than the Eastern Conference has exhibited this season.
Right now it’s Washington. But how did you like them when they were losing eight in a row in December? (0-6-2)
In January and February it was Philadelphia. On January 25th, the Canadiens caught them in the middle of a 15-4-0 streak. People, myself included, were saying the Flyers had to be considered the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference. What do we know? Since the end of the streak on February 16 the Flyers are 7-7-6 and a nine point lead over the Capitals has become a four point Capitals lead in the conference.
Early in the season, there were those who had already anointed Guy Boucher coach of the year and Tampa as a potential Stanley Cup finalist. Over fifteen games in March they were 3-9-2.
And the Bruins. They lost six of seven last month.
What we’re saying is, in the Eastern Conference there have been no teams sailing through the schedule only with minor bumps along the way a la the Vancouver Canucks.
It also tells us that, if the Canadiens are playing well, they’re capable of beating any team in the Eastern Conference. There just isn’t that much difference top to bottom.
The Eastern Standings going into games of Friday April 8th (Philadelphia@Buffalo; Florida @Tampa; Pittsburgh@NY Islanders; Carolina@Atlanta)
GP Pts. Next Games
1st –Washington 81 107** – @FLA Saturday
2nd -Philadelphia 80 103** @BUF Fri; vs.NYI Saturday
3rd – Boston 80 101** vs.OTT Saturday; @NJD Sunday
4th – Pittsburgh 80 102 @NYI Friday; @ATL Sunday
5th – Tampa Bay 80 99 vs. FLA Friday; @CAR Saturday
6th – Canadiens 81 94 @ TOR Saturday
7th – Buffalo 80 92 vs. PHA Friday; @CBJ Saturday
8th – NY Rangers 81 91 vs. NJD Saturday
9th – Carolina 80 89 @ATL Friday; vs. TBY Saturday
Eliminated – Toronto, Atlanta, New Jersey, NY Islanders, Ottawa and Florida.