The New York Rangers spent Sunday scoreboard watching and it wasn’t a good day for their hopes of finishing first in the Metropolitan Division. Despite the fact that the Rangers meet the Hurricanes on Tuesday night, it appears that Carolina has first place locked up. Carolina’s magic number to clinch first place is down two. Any combination of two points gained by Carolina or lost by the Rangers and it is all over.
That means the question for the Rangers and their fans is who will finish in third place in the Metropolitan Division and will face the Blueshirts in Round One of the playoffs. That race between Pittsburgh and Washington got even closer.
What does it really mean?
First place is still a slim possibility and if they can overtake the Hurricanes and finish first there are still four teams they could play: Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Tampa.
With a second place finish most likely, the intriguing fact is that the Rangers’ regular season finale on Friday versus the Capitals could determine who finishes in third place in the Metropolitan Division. In essence, it is very possible that the Rangers could decide who they will play in the first round.
The Capitals play the Islanders home and away and finish up in New York City. The Penguins have two home games against Edmonton and Columbus. Edmonton is fighting for playoff positioning so they will be a challenge for the Penguins.
It Washington can beat the Islanders twice, they will go into the game with the Rangers with 104 points. If the Pens can get three of four points or win both of their remaining games, Washington will have to beat the Rangers to finish in third place.
The results were consequential, but the it was the injury report that was most important with key injuries to the Hurricanes and Capitals.
Hurricanes 5, Islander 2
The Hurricanes keep rolling along as the Rangers got no help this weekend from the Devils or the Islanders . The win leaves the Hurricanes with 112 points, only two points from clinching first place. The most important event was Antti Raanta’s lower body injury that forced him to leafe the game. That leaves both Frederik Andersen and Raanta out of action and rookie Pyotr Kochetkov as Carolina’s starting goalie. That means the Hurricanes may be without their two top goalies when the playoffs start in a week. Oh yeah, three of the Hurricanes’ goals were scored by Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast and Brendan Smith.Flyers 4, Penguins 1
This was an important game for the Penguins and they stunk up the joint, losing 4-1 to a bad Flyers team. In losing, their lead over Washington is down to only one point and Washington has a game in hand. Pittsburgh does hold the first two tiebreakers so the Caps have to actually pass the Penguins in points to grab third place.
Maple Leafs 4, Capitals 3 (Shootout)
The Capitals were a minute away from tying Pittsburgh for third place when Jason Spezza scored to tied the game. After a scoreless overtime, they went to the skills competition and the Maple Leafs prevailed. The biggest news in this game was the fact that Alex Ovechkin crashed into the boards two minutes into the third period and never returned to the game. There was no word on the severity of the injury to the indestructible Russian though after the game .T.J. Oshie indicated that it wasn’t serious.Bruins 5, Canadiens 3
The Bruins won another important game to open up a three point lead on Washington for the first wild card spot. They couldn’t gain any ground on the Lightning for third place.
Lightning 8, Panthers 4
The Lightning made short work of the Panthers’ 13 game winning streak and came closer to locking down third place in the Atlantic Division. They have a three points lead on the Bruins with three games left for each team.
Here are the standings as of this morning.
Carolina: 112 points, 46 RW, 51 ROW, 2 games left
Rangers: 108 points, 43 RW, 47 ROW, 3 games left
Pittsburgh: 101 points, 36 RW, 42 ROW, 2 games left
Washington: 100 points, 35 RW, 39 ROW, 3 games left
Florida: 120 points, 41 RW, 54 ROW, 3 games left
Toronto: 111 points, 43 RW, 49 ROW, 2 games left
Tampa: 106 points, 37 RW, 47 ROW, 3 games left
Boston: 103 points, 38 RW, 47 ROW, 3 games left
There are no games of any importance on Monday so we can take a break from checking the scoreboards.
Here are the games remaining for all of the East contenders:
Rangers (3): Carolina, Montreal, Washington
Hurricanes (2): @ Rangers, New Jersey
Pittsburgh (2): Edmonton, Columbus
Washington (3): Islanders, @ Islanders, @ Rangers
Tampa (3): Columbus, @ Columbus, @ Islanders
Boston (3): Florida, Buffalo, @ Toronto