The New York Rangers loss to the Boston Bruins was no cause for alarm, but it could play a big role in determining some of the questions still facing the Blueshirts’ postseason. With less than a week left in the season, no first round match-ups have been determined for the Eastern Conference.
Blue Line Station conducted an informal Twitter poll asking fans who they would prefer to face in the first round. Unsurprisingly, the Penguins were the top choice.
Two third of the respondents want to see Pittsburgh in Round One. Believe it or not, the Rangers’ final game of the season is against the Capitals and that game could actually determine who they play in the first round if Pittsburgh and Washington go into the last day of the season tied for third place.
One fascinating note about this season. If the Caps can get one point over their last four games, it will mean all eight playoff teams in the East will have over 100 points. That’s never happened before with the most 100 point teams in any conference in any season maxing out at six.
Saturday had a full slate of games. Here are the results of the games we care about and why they mattered.
Bruins 3 Rangers 1
For the Rangers, it was a costly blow to their hopes for a first place finish. A Hurricanes win on Sunday means that the Canes can clinch first place with a win at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. The best case for Rangers’ a first place finish is for the Hurricanes to win only one of their final three games. In that case the Rangers need to get five of six points in their last three games. If the Rangers lose to Carolina on Tuesday, second place is likely.
For the Bruins, they remain two points ahead of Washington for the first wild card spot. They still have hopes for third place in the Atlantic, but are three points behind Tampa.
Hurricanes 3 Devils 2 OT
The Hurricanes big comeback win with a rookie goalie in net was huge. They are in the catbird seat when it comes to finishing first and it will require an almost perfect finish for the Rangers to catch them, especially if the Canes can beat the Islanders today.
Penguins 7 Red Wings 2
Pittsburgh broke their tie with the Capitals for third place though Washington has a game in hand. The Penguins own the top two tiebreakers (as of today) with Washington.
Lightning 6 Predators 2
Tampa still has hopes for a second place finish, but are five points behind Toronto after the Maple Leafs lost in OT to Florida. More important, they remained three points up on the Bruins for third place.
Here are the standings as of this morning.
Carolina: 110 points, 45 RW, 50 ROW, 3 games left
Rangers: 108 points, 43 RW, 47 ROW, 3 games left
Pittsburgh: 101 points, 36 RW, 42 ROW, 3 games left
Washington: 99 points, 35 RW, 39 ROW, 4 games left
Florida: 120 points, 42 RW, 54 ROW, 4 games left
Toronto: 109 points, 43 RW, 49 ROW, 3 games left
Tampa: 104 points, 36 RW, 46 ROW, 4 games left
Boston: 101 points, 37 RW, 46 ROW, 4 games left
This is a great day for scoreboard watching. The Rangers are the only Eastern playoff team with the day off. By Tuesday night, we could know who the Rangers will be playing in the first round next week. All games are at night unless noted.
Hurricanes at Islanders (1pm) – A Carolina win and they can clinch first place on Tuesday and the Rangers finishing first is virtually impossible, even with a win on Tuesday.
Penguins at Flyers (4pm) – Pittsburgh needs to keep winning to stay ahead of the Capitals. That’s the story.
Lightning at Panthers – Same for the Lightning. They need to stay ahead of Boston to finish third. If Tampa wins and the Capitals lose, they will finish no worse than the top wild card team. More incentive for Tampa? Florida has won 13 straight and the Lightning would love to end that streak.
Maple Leafs at Capitals – This is a big one. Toronto wins and they are a virtual lock for second place. Caps win and they can pull into a tie with the Penguins with a Pittsburgh loss. They have also played one fewer game than the Penguins.
Bruins at Canadiens – Boston still has slim hopes of finishing third and want to stay ahead of the Capitals.
Who the Rangers could play
First place may be almost out of reach, but we’ll still look at who potential opponents can be.
IF THE RANGERS FINISH FIRST:
Boston: If the standings remain the same and the Rangers finish in the top slot, they will play the Bruins.
Tampa: If Boston can overtake Tampa for third place in the Atlantic Division, the Rangers could play Tampa as long as the Lightning finish ahead of Washington or Pittsburgh in the first wild card spot.
Washington: They play the Capitals if Washington can overtake Boston or Tampa for the top wild card spot.
Pittsburgh: They play the Penguins if Pittsburgh finishes in the first wild card spot, ahead of Boston or Tampa
IF THE RANGERS FINISH SECOND:
Pittsburgh: They play the Penguins if Pittsburgh holds onto third place ahead of the Capitals.
Washington: They play the Capitals if Washington can overtake Pittsburgh for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Here are the games remaining for all of the East contenders:
Rangers (3): Carolina, Montreal, Washington
Hurricanes (3): @ Islanders, @ Rangers, New Jersey
Pittsburgh (3): @ Philadelphia, Edmonton, Columbus
Washington (3): Toronto, Islanders, @ Islanders, @ Rangers
Tampa (4): @ Florida, Columbus, @ Columbus, @ Islanders
Boston (4): @ Montreal, Florida, Buffalo, @ Toronto
We’ll keep you updated every day.