29 March, 2010

Bruins Fight For Playoff Life In Tight Eastern Conference Race

If the NHL regular-season ended today, the Boston Bruins would be in the playoffs; they currently sit in the 8th, and final, spot in the Eastern Conference. The season isn’t over, though, and with eight games left to play there is a lot that can happen.

Boston (80pts) barely leads the 9th place Atlanta Thrashers (78pts) and the 10th place NY Rangers (76pts), though the Black and Gold have a game in hand on both teams. They also only trail the 6th place Philadelphia Flyers (82pts) and 7th place Montreal Canadiens (82pts) by the slimmest of margins. Also, Boston holds two games on each of these squads.

Of the eight remaining games on the B’s schedule, five will be played against top-tier Eastern Conference teams. Boston plays 3rd place Buffalo twice (3/29, 4/8), 4th place NJ once (3/30), and the powerhouse Eastern Conference leading Washing Capitals twice (4/5, 4/11). Their other three games, though, are against the worst teams in the East: Florida (4/1), Toronto (4/3), and Carolina (4/10).

The Thrashers also have a tough road ahead of them, playing games against Carolina (3/29) and Toronto (3/30) before finishing the season with Washington twice (4/1, 4/9), Pittsburgh twice (4/3, 4/9), and NJ once (4/6). The Rangers have a seemingly easy schedule in comparison with Buffalo (4/3) being the only top-5 team they will face, though they do have to hold off the 11th place Islanders (3/30) and 12th place Lightning (4/2) as well as finishing the season with two games against the Flyers (4/9, 4/11) who are currently in 6th. Montreal’s only challenge seems to be a match-up against the Sabres (4/3), while Philadelphia is the only team in the picture to have a game against a Western Conference team; they have to face-off against the Detroit Red Wings on Easter Sunday (4/4).

To hold on to their playoff spot, or possibly climb in the Conference standings, Boston will have to earn some hard fought points; which will come down to them scoring key goals and continuing to play solid defense. They are currently second in the league with a 2.34 GAA and also stand at second in penalty-killing. Tonight’s opponent (Buffalo) has the number four GAA, at 2.41, and is third in the NHL in penalty-kills; tomorrows opponent (NJ) is the number one defensive team in the league, allowing only 174 goals so far this season. Boston has allowed just 177. It seems goals will be precious in the upcoming matches, and the weeks ahead should hold some exciting hockey, no matter what team you cheer for.

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