While the Thrashers were busy dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a couple of other outcomes that effect Atlanta didn’t go our way either. The Montreal Canadiens whipped Florida 4-1 and Philadelphia gained a loser point in their 4-3 OT loss to Minnesota.
However, Boston was defeated by Tampa Bay 5-3…which was a positive result for the Thrashers.
With that, a quick look at the updated standings show the Thrashers with 76 points after 74 games played…matching the season totals for last year and the one prior…and are trailing the Bruins by two, the Flyers by four and the Habs by six.
Atlanta and Philly have eight games left to play, Montreal seven and Boston nine.
Thus, Atlanta remains on the outside looking in through the front window of the Playoff Café…shaving but one point from their deficit behind the eighth-place Bruins, remaining the same amount behind Philly and falling one more point behind the Canadiens.
But don’t look now… scooting in close behind us in line are the New York Rangers, one point back after their 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. And if it’s tough to be standing in the doorway of the Playoff Café, “outside looking in”, waiting for a table to clear in order to take the spot…it would be even that much tougher if the Rangers were to cut in line.
And that’s a real possibility if you simply look at the upcoming slate of games between the two teams.
After playing Carolina twice between now and Monday night, then go to Toronto, the Thrashers begin the much-dreaded five-game stretch with New Jersey, Washington and Pittsburgh to finish the season. Many believe that to be the final steps in what could be described as their 2010 Death March from the Playoffs.
Even if they do manage to take all six points from the Canes and Leafs…who are a combined 12-6-2 in their last ten games…that will leave them with 82 points with those last five games remaining.
Now, if you are one of those who are hoping to catch the Caps, Devils and Pens “napping” because they are sitting pretty at their Playoff Café table… I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Yes, Washington has a firm grip on the top spot in the east and are nine points up on San Jose in regards to the President’s Cup…but they do not seem to be playing out the string as they’ve gone 6-1-3 in their last ten.
Then there are Devils and Penguins who are in the process of slugging it out for the Atlantic Division championship, both with 91 points. The difference between finish first or second there is the difference between possibly being a number 2 seed in the conference and taking on someone like Philly in the opening round…or finishing fourth and facing either Ottawa or Montreal.
So, I don’t expect either of them to be “coasting” toward the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have a little easier road to hoe…two with Toronto, the Islanders, Tampa Bay, Florida, Buffalo and then they will close the season with a pair against the hurting Philadelphia Flyers. No, it’s not a cakewalk…but between the Rangers and Thrashers, which schedule would you rather have right now?
So in light of that, I would not be the least bit surprised if the Rangers finish above Atlanta when all is said and done, regardless if New York makes the playoffs or not.
Not trying to be the pessimist, mind you…but it not too hard to think that the morning after the Thrashers lost to the last place team in the Eastern Conference while at the same time the Rangers were beating the second best one. New York has outscored their opposition 9-3 in the last two games while the Thrashers have mustered up a solitary goal in the last two games plus 39 second of overtime and have surrendered six.
Which team do you think is playing like they still have the post-season as their goal right now?
Uh-huh…that’s what I thought too.
So, while the Thrashers may be continuing to stand in the doorway of the Playoff Café… “outside looking in” as it were… and looking for an opening, they are in serious danger of being caught by the Rangers and tossed to the curb.