The National Hockey League season is coming to a close, with just a game or two remaining for every team in the Eastern Conference.
The eight spots for the second season have been claimed, with nothing more than the seeding left to be decided. How did the shortened NHL season fair for the 16 teams in the Eastern Conference?
Teams that will be waiting for the draft lottery on Monday are the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Winnipeg Jets. The Panthers are the odds on favorites for the top pick in the draft.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have guaranteed themselves home ice advantage as long as they are playing an Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs, having clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington has won their division, and has clinched the third seed overall.
Second place remains in play, as both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens still have a shot at winning the Northeast Division. Boston currently holds the spot down, with a game in hand on the Canadiens. Montreal needs to win their final game of the season; and hope that the Bruins get only a point or none in the last two games of their schedule. Montreal and Boston will end up with either the two seed, or the fourth seed. Neither team can fall below that.
The Toronto Maple Leafs can clinch the fifth spot with a win in their final game of the season. The Ottawa Senators are just three points behind the Maple Leafs – with a game in hand. Even with a loss – Toronto can still keep the fifth spot, or fall no further than the sixth spot.
The final two playoff teams are the representatives from New York City. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders hold the seventh and eighth spots with one game remaining for both teams. The Buffalo Sabres can help the Rangers keep the seventh spot in the playoffs, forcing the New York Islanders to play the Penguins in round one by defeating them in the final game of the playoffs.
The Sabres will end the season at least six points out of the playoffs. A loss to the Islanders and a win by the Rangers can increase that to eight points.
Would a full 82 game season have changed the fortunes of the seven teams that are not in the playoffs? Has a shortened season helped the normally fairway bound New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs?
The Southeast Division has one representative in the playoffs – the division winner. Buffalo is the only team in the Northeast not making the playoffs.
With a win in their final game of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning would be the only non-playoff team in the Eastern Conference with a positive goal differential.
If the Buffalo Sabres can defeat the New York Islanders by more than one goal – the Islanders will make the playoffs despite being outscored by their opponents.