The State of the Eastern Conference: Uh-Oh, Buffalo!

Mar. 16, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Ottawa Senators right wing Chris Neil (25) and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr (24) fight during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres fans woke up this morning with an empty feeling inside of them, as almost everything that could have gone wrong for the Sabres’ playoff chances over the weekend did just that: go wrong.  Big time.

Heading into Saturday’s game with the Ottawa Senators, the Sabres were 14th in the Eastern Conference, but only five points separated them between the 14th and the 9th position.  Two teams, Tampa Bay and Washington, were tied with Buffalo, while two more teams, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders, were four points ahead.  The New York Rangers, previous owners of the 8th playoff slot, had fallen into the 9th position.  That is an awful lot of teams to have to leapfrog, but the Sabres had to feel good about the weekend’s slate of games: a home game against an injury-wracked Ottawa team, and a Sunday night road game against the punchless Capitals.  Two wins and a handful of losses by the teams ahead of them, and the Sabres could have jumped into a tie with the Flyers and Islanders by Sunday night.

Cue sound of reality crashing down upon us!

What should have been a win against Ottawa became an overtime loss, which, coupled with wins by the Flyers, Islanders, and Lightning meant that the Sabres had leapt over Washington, but lost ground to everyone except the Rangers.  Good, but not as good as it should have been.  However, that OT loss to Ottawa was nothing compared to the nationally-televised embarrassment the Sabres endured Sunday evening.  That loss, which was easy to see coming only 19 seconds into the game, put Buffalo right back behind the Capitals in the standings, and caused pretty much any Sabres fan who still hoped to see his or her beloved hockey team make a push for the playoffs to ask the question, “What went wrong this season?”

The answer: too much to discuss in this little post!

A quick look at the Eastern Conference standings looks like this today:

If the playoffs were to start tonight, there would be no teams from the great state of New York playing.  There would, however, be four Canadian teams preparing to do battle for the right to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.  That’s amazing, made even more impressive by the fact that with the exception of the Ottawa Senators, not one of those Canadian teams were in the playoffs last year.  No one expected much of Montreal, Winnipeg or even Toronto this year, and Ottawa has been hammered by injuries – yet there they are, solidly in the mix of things.   I have no love for Montreal, but as for the other Canadian teams on this list, I find myself mildly interested in the prospect of watching them come playoff time.  Beyond that, I don’t like Boston, I thoroughly despise Pittsburgh, and have no interest in either Carolina or New Jersey.  Hence, if this is what the playoffs are going to look like, I suppose I will be cheering for either Canada or a team out West!

Feel free to leave your thoughts or predictions regarding the rest of the NHL season below, or follow me @theamazingMrS and chat with me on Twitter!

 

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