The National Hockey League season will end on April 10 and the race for two playoff spots in the league’s Eastern Conference may come down to the final day of the season.
The Western Conference is all set. The eight teams that will vie for supremacy of the west (Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Nashville, Minnesota) are looking forward to the postseason.
The teams that have qualified for the playoffs from the east (Washington, Pittsburgh, Florida, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers) are, like their western brethren, playing out the string.
This brings us down to the final two playoff positions.
Three clubs, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, and Philadelphia Flyers, are the teams that are very glad that tomorrow is another day.
Thursday evening, Boston defeated Detroit 5-2 in Beantown. While the Bruins were taking care of business with the Red Wings, Philadelphia was losing to Toronto but good teams never give up and the Flyers came from behind to force overtime, however, the Leafs pulled out the victory with a goal in the extra period.
Going into the weekend, Boston and Detroit are tied with 93 points, however, the Red Wings hold the first tie breaker with 39 regulation or overtime wins. Boston has 38 ROWs.
Detroit has one game remaining on its schedule. The Wings will play against the Rangers in New York on Saturday afternoon.
Boston also has one game to play. They will face off against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon in Boston.
Philadelphia has 92 points with a ROW of 36. The Flyers have two contests on their agenda. Saturday afternoon, they will host the Pittsburgh Penguins then travel to Brooklyn, New York for a meeting with the Islanders on Sunday evening.
There is a bevy of scenarios as to how each squad can qualify for the playoffs and they appear as follows:
- Boston will advance to the postseason if they defeat Ottawa in any fashion and Detroit loses to the Rangers or wins in a shootout. This would result in Boston finishing in third place in the Atlantic Division relegating Detroit to a Wild Card spot, however, If Philadelphia were to win both of their games or win one and lose one in overtime or a shootout, they would qualify for the postseason. In this scenario, if the Flyers make it into the playoffs, the Red Wings will not.
- The Bruins win in any fashion versus Ottawa. The Red Wings win in regulation or overtime versus New York, and the Flyers lose either one of their remaining games in any fashion. In this scenario, the Bruins would earn the second wild-card spot and Flyers would not qualify for the postseason.
- Boston loses in overtime/shootout against Ottawa, Red Wings lose in regulation against the Rangers. In this scenario, the Bruins would finish third in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings would be eliminated from the postseason if the Flyers win one game in regulation or lose both of their remaining games in overtime or in shootouts.
- The Bruins lose to the Senators in overtime/shootout. The Red Wings win or lose in overtime/shootout versus the Rangers. The Flyers earn two or fewer points from their final two games (one regulation loss or two overtime losses). In this scenario, the Red Wings would finish third in the Atlantic Division and the Bruins would earn the second wild-card spot. The Flyers would not participate in the playoffs.
- Boston loses in regulation to Ottawa. Detroit loses in regulation to New York. Philadelphia earns one or zero points from their final two games (two regulation losses or one regulation loss and one overtime loss). In this scenario, all three teams would finish the season with 93 points. Detroit would finish third in the Atlantic Division, Boston would earn the second wild-card spot, and Philadelphia would be on the outside looking in. Due to tiebreaker system.
It is expected that pharmacy counters in New England, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Michigan, will enjoy increased sales this weekend mostly on antacids and aspirin as fans will be nervous wrecks.
The players will have butterflies but this is why they play the game.
Every kid, who laces up a pair of skates, dreams of making a difference in the “big game”. They live for these games. There is nothing that can compare with the excitement and players thrive on it.
Detroit‘s Brad Richards is one who is looking forward to his team’s fortunes coming down to one game.
“It’s great because there’s no other thoughts, no other distractions,” Richards explained. “It’s just our own focus on us and go play hockey. You know, there’s no scoreboard watching or any of that stuff, so we’ll wake up Saturday morning and get right at it. It’s good it’s an early game. We can, you know, no thinking. Just go out and go play.”
Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug agrees with Richards.
“It’s fun,” Krug said when asked about playing in games with so much on the line. “I mean, obviously, you’d like to be in a different position where your playoff spot is secure but you want to play in big games and important games and you want to be the guy that helps your team win. So, I think right now we have a lot of guys in this locker room that want to help out that way.”
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.