The picture above is of Kevin Hayes, a forward for the New York Rangers. I chose it because 1) I know Kevin Hayes from growing up in Dorchester and he’s a good dude, and 2) he and his Rangers are among the Bruins’ best friends tonight.
There are only three games on the NHL schedule tonight, but two of them are as big as games can be when your team isn’t playing in them.
On the docket for tonight:
- Maple Leafs @ Blue Jackets, 7 PM
- Islanders @ Rangers, 8 PM (NBCSN)
It just so happens that the two teams that are the Bruins’ biggest threats to a playoff spot are both in action tonight!
The Rangers don’t have a ton to play for. They’re not going to fall into the second wild card spot, and they only have a microscopic chance of chasing down the third seed in the Metro (currently six points back).
The Blue Jackets, who clinched a playoff spot a few days ago, can tie for first in their division with a win tonight.
How big is that? Finishing first in the division means a first-round series against the Leafs/Bruins/Islanders whoever; finishing second or third means a match-up against the Penguins or Capitals.
Needless to say, the Blue Jackets aren’t anywhere near “mail it in” mode quite yet.
According to Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz, the Islanders’ playoff chances drop by 11% if they lose in regulation tonight; they go up by 8% if they win.
The Leafs are in a similar spot: a regulation loss drops their chances, currently pegged at 76%, down by 9%; a win boosts them by 8%.
McCurdy’s views on how these games impact the Bruins, whose chances he currently pegs at 73%: boosted by 4% and 2% with regulation wins by the Rangers and Blue Jackets, respectively; dropped by 3% and 2% by wins by the Islanders and Maple Leafs respectively.
So...go Blue Jackets and Rangers!