With somewhere around 20-22 games left in the regular season, give or take for a few teams, the Atlantic division race is closer than anyone could have ever expected. Just four points separate the Bruins from the top spot in the division and yet, they still sit outside of the playoff structure. This weekend is incredibly important in terms of the Bruins playoff chances, so let’s break down what could happen:
They play Sunday afternoon in Dallas, their only game of the weekend. Two points is two points, especially with the two or three games in hand other teams close to them have. It’s all the B’s can control in this: if they can keep winning, good things should happen.
Both the B’s and Leafs sit with 68 points, but because Toronto has one game in hand, they take the third Atlantic spot, keeping the Bruins on the outside looking in. Their lone game of the weekend is a Saturday night heavyweight bout against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have the longest active win streak against any team in the Maple Leafs, a 13 game win streak against Toronto. If history prevails, the game in hand lost will be of incredible help to the Bruins going into Sunday.
The same is true of the Islanders in terms of points. Both Boston and Brooklyn with 68 points in the standings, the lone game in hand by New York is what’s keeping the B’s out of the second wildcard slot. They play Saturday late afternoon at Columbus, a team not looking too hot as of late, the first wildcard team. However, their home record is impressive, 21-9-1, compared to a 9-13-4 road record for the Isles. If the Islanders lose, the game in hand becomes moot and the tiebreaker becomes regulation and overtime wins, where the Bruins hold a slim 29-28 advantage. That flips the Bruins and Islanders in the playoffs, putting Boston in the second wildcard and New York on the outs.
The Sens play two games this weekend, and being only four points ahead of the Bruins, they could be face to face with the B’s coming out of the weekend. A road trip sees the Sens take on the Hurricanes and Panthers. The ‘Canes are the East basement dwellers, but have a strong home record, while the Panthers are arguably the hottest team in hockey, 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. Somehow, the Panthers have an even more average home record than the Bruins, 14-11-3, which works in favor of the Sens 16-10-0 road markers. It’s just as make or break a weekend for Ottawa as it is for any of the teams on this list.
While there’s no chance the Habs lose the top division spot to the Bruins this weekend alone, they definitely are at risk of losing it to Ottawa. If history doesn’t hold up between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs and Toronto actually wins, they could drop out of the top Atlantic slot in no time. This clearly isn’t the way Marc Bergevin envisioned the Claude Julien era’s second start going, but that’s the way the cookie could crumble.
Just two points behind the Bruins, with two games in hand, and two games this weekend, everything is in favor of Florida doing good things for their playoff chances if they choose to. They take on a hot Calgary team, 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, Friday night, and the Senators on Sunday evening. Their average home record certainly doesn’t work in the Panthers’ favor, so every win, with games in hand on teams above them, matter even more this far into the season.
How will the weekend shake out? Comment below with where the Bruins will end up come Monday morning!