The Thrash are hot on the heels of our Bruins for the last playoff spot in the East. Suddenly, Tuesday night's game in Atlanta is the headline matchup on the NHL sched that night (I'll also be watching the Florida/Toronto game closely which has significant lottery implications). I would be remiss not to mention the Phoenix/Chicago game that is also on Tuesday night. Derek Morris' new team has reeled off NINE straight victories and are currently tied with Chicago for the CONFERENCE LEAD. They passed San Jose over the weekend with a couple of dramatic victories. On Saturday, they came back from two goals down in the 3rd against the aforementioned Blackhawks to win in a shootout. This is a great story. Dave Tippett is a lock for the Jack Adams.
Our Bruins have 11 games remaining and the teams around them are all down to their final 10. Yesterday's victory over the even-more-pathetic Rangers basically wiped the blueshirts out of the race. If the Rangers and Panthers were to win all of their remaining games, they would only have 91 points. If Carolina, Tampa, or the Isle did the same, they would have only 88 points. These teams are all effectively finished which makes tomorrow's matchup against the Thrash a "huge one" as Jack Edwards would say.
Also, take a look in front of the Bruins and you will see some teams that are ripe for the picking. Three teams (OTT, PHI, MTL) are just 3 points ahead of the B's and they have a game in hand on all three of them. Ottawa has really been struggling (losers of 5 straight and 1-7-1 since the Olympics) and Philadelphia is now relying on Brian Boucher in goal. It's possible that one of these teams could be the odd team out if Atlanta keeps winning. Ottawa goes to Montreal tonight in a big game for each of them. As Bruins fans, we're just rooting for anything but a three point game.
If you want to be optimistic, 5th place is still well within reach with a strong finish. For the Bruins to have a chance in the first round, they need to avoid the Caps who they just don't match up with. So, the priorities these final three weeks are:
1. Toronto needs to stop winning and hold onto the #2 position in the lottery
2. The Bruins need to make the playoffs
3. The Bruins need to finish better than 8th to avoid the Caps in the first round
It was great to see some physical play from the B's yesterday and actually see an opposing team that was afraid to venture into the corners (a novel concept guys!). How about Mark Stuart getting hit from behind and then getting up to put a headlock on Gaborik? I also enjoyed Stuey's lookaway facewash of Brian Boyle that had the local Boyle all hot and bothered while probably playing in front of friends and family.
Also note that our boy Bitz had a goal and an assist for the Panthers in two games over the weekend!