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Looking At The Eastern Bubble

Looking at the teams on the fringe of playoff picture, including possible first round opponents for the Bruins.


We've known for a long time that the Bruins were going to be a playoff team, and, with the clinching of the Flortheast (or Atlantic, if you want to get technical) Division and an 9-point lead over Pittsburgh for the East's No. 1 seed, it looks extremely likely that the Bruins will draw the second wild card team. So who's coming in 8th in the East? Who's coming in 7th? Who's out in the cold? Let's look at the candidates for the Eastern Conference Wild Card:


Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers

Technically Still Possible, But It'd Take A Miracle:

Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders. Yeah no, not happening for these teams unless a singularity causes the teams above them to be teleported into another dimension. Even then, it'd be a stretch.

Requiring Only Moderate Divine Intervention:

Ottawa Senators. Hey, with two wins, they're where the Leafs are right now!

The Candidates For 7th-8th in the East:

Columbus Blue Jackets - 82 Points - 7th Place - 8 Games Remaining

Remaining Schedule: COL, at PHI, CHI*, NYI, PHX, at DAL*, at TB, at FLA*

* - second half of a back-to-back.

Columbus and old pal Nathan Horton own the ROW tiebreaker over the other teams in this race, putting them in 7th at the moment. They've had their struggles of late, but snapped out of it with a win against Anton Khudobin and Carolina.

Why They'll Make It

They're the best all-around team in this group, in my opinion. Ryan Johansen has led them from a scoring standpoint, with 30 goals and 25 assists. Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson, and even the somewhat overpaid R.J. Umberger have chipped in as well. James Wisniewski anchors a defense that, aside from a large question mark in Jack Johnson, is pretty solid in front of reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Their Fenwick Close sits at 51.2%, right behind Tampa. Possession ain't everything, certainly, but this is a good 5-on-5 roster. They also have a game in hand on Washington and two on Toronto.

Why They Won't

Bob's been sick lately, and I'm not sure what the prognosis is. If he has the plague, it's Curtis McElhinney in net. He's not necessarily bad, but probably more likely to implode that Bobrovsky, and a bad stretch of goaltending can kill a team in a close race. Also, only two of their remaining eight games are against teams outside the playoff race, and they, amazingly enough, have three back-to-backs left. Thanks, NHL schedule-makers.

Detroit Red Wings - 84 Points - 7th Place - 7 Games Remaining

Remaining Schedule: BOS, BUF, at MTL*, at BUF, at PIT*, CAR, at STL

I'm not sure any team in the NHL's lost more to injuries this year than Detroit, but they've managed to stay in the hunt.

Why They'll Make It

The Gustav Nyquists just won't die. Fueled by Nyquist's ridiculous pace, Zombie Detroit has risen from the dead without Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. Jimmy Howard's also back from injury as well. They're another solid possession team, too, currently percentage points behind Columbus. And, frankly, doesn't Detroit always make it? It's kinda annoying. And hell, they have two games against Buffalo left.

Why They Won't

Zetterberg might be back for the playoffs, but he won't return for the duration of the regular season. Datsyuk won't skate again until Tuesday. If the puckluck of the Grand Rapids Griffins line-up dries up as the schedule gets more intense--they do face both President's Trophy contestants, and get Montreal and Pittsburgh on the second games of B2Bs--it's easy to see them dropping some significant points down the stretch.

New Jersey Devils - 77 Points - 11th Place - 8 Games Remaining

Remaining Schedule: FLA, at BUF*, WSH, at CAR*, CGY, at OTT, NYI*, BOS

Not dead yet, but it'd require a heckuva run on their part to pass three of the four teams on this list. New Jersey's possession numbers are good this year, but they've been let down by decisions on the goaltending front--Martin Brodeur has played too much, even given Cory Schneider being banged up early in the year. The Devils aren't really surging, but they've played well enough, relative to the competition, that they still need to be in the discussion.

Why They'll Make It

The team's good enough for a run. While New Jersey's low-event system arguably has led to underachieving possession results, they're by far the best bubble team by Fenwick Close. They also boast a deep defensive corps, and they have Jaromir Jagr. If they manage to go on a run, they're already up in ROWs compared everyone other than CBJ. Also look at their remaining schedule -- it wouldn't exactly be world-beating to get six wins against those teams.

Why They Won't

Two words: Shootouts, Brodeur. The Devils are an astounding 0-10 in the skills comp this year, and have given too many games to Martin Brodeur over the superior Cory Schneider. The result is that a team that's playoff-quality in a lot of places, but has more ground to make up than anyone else. It could happen, but it isn't particularly likely. Adding to that, while the remaining schedule is easier than other in terms of competition, they have three back-to-backs, travel on all three, and close the season with two different three-games-in-four-days line-ups. Ouch.

Toronto Maple Leafs - 80 Points - 10th Place - 6 Games Remaining

Remaining Schedule:

At this point. I'm unable to look away from the Leafs in the same way it's hard to stop watching a bad movie if you're in the right mood for it. Always a miserable possession team, they started diving at the same time as Vezina candidate Johnathan Bernier got hurt. Hot take: if it takes .925 goaltending to even get you in the playoff discussion, the rest of your team must be seriously flawed. This extends to the coaching, as Randy Carlyle has rightfully come under fire.

Why They'll Make It

It's hard to think of reasons to favor the Leafs getting back into it, (Phil Kessel, anyone?) but here goes nothing: uh, well, they don't have any back-to-backs left. That's actually fairly significant, given that everyone else in this discussion has at least two.

Why They Won't

Have you seen them play this year, particularly during this stretch? The pack hasn't exactly left them in the dust, but they have less games remaining than anyone. And again, you know, they've lost eight in a row in regulation. That's hard to do.

Washington Capitals - 81 Points - 9th Place - 7 Games Remaining

Remaining Schedule: DAL, at NJ, at NYI*, at STL, at CAR, CHI*, TB

The Capitals should technically already be dead, but they somehow grabbed five out of six points on the California trip a week ago. Naturally, they made up for that progress by losing to the Bruins and the Predators in the SO.

Why They'll Make It

Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Power Play, goaltending. Any run of Washington's would require their great man advantage tandem to get hot, and for Jaroslav Halak to continue to play strong. They're also getting Mikhail Grabovski back from injury, and their line of Ward-Fehr-Chimera has been good. Their schedule isn't easy, but if they just put together that California run a couple of weeks ago, this must seem like small beer. Also, like Detroit, they have an annoying tendency to always make it.

Why They Won't

Even Strength play, defense, 25 ROW. The Capitals have become a thoroughly mediocre possession team under Adam Oates. While there's been significant roster turnover since the Caps good years, too, Oates doing things such as putting Jay Beagle on Ovechkin's line and shuffling through defensemen hasn't helped. Defensively, the Capitals are more likely than any team this season to give up a quick reply, and their defensive corps...well, you've probably seen them on highlight reels. Plus, they can't win the tiebreak with anyone.

Bubble Prediction: I lean towards the way the standings are now, given the way yesterday's games went, and say that Columbus and Detroit grab the last two spots. Gotta wonder what that'll mean for the front offices/coaching staffs of the other teams. I do have to say, though, that the Blue Jackets schedule IS pretty tough, and NJ's is pretty easy...


Who would you like to see make it? Who's your favorite first round match-up for the Bruins? Who do think they get?


Also, once again plugging the nifty magic number thingy that Cornelius has been showing people.