With a month left in the season and the race for 8th place in the East heating up. I am going to give a break down of the teams that I think will be part of the race. I'll work my way down the current standings starting with 3rd place Florida and then 7th place Ottawa to 12th place Toronto. All teams below Toronto are out of the race in my opinion.
Florida Panthers (Currently 3rd) 74 pts 17 games left
Away Schedule (9): Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Carolina, Montreal, Minnesota, Columbus, Detroit, Washington
Home Schedule (8): Carolina, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Edmonton, NYI, Winnipeg, Carolina
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 46%
Injuries: Kris Versteeg
Florida has the easiest schedule remaining. However for some reason I just cannot get on the wagon with the Panthers. I think they fall off and teams with more experience and goaltending will pass them. I am the least confident with this prediction, but I see Florida falling way off.
Ottawa Senators (Currently 7th) 77 pts 15 games left.
Away Schedule (7): Tampa Bay, Montreal, Montreal, Winnipeg, Philadelphia, NYI, NJ
Home Schedule (8): NYR, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, NJ, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Boston
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 49%
Injuries: Craig Anderson
Ottawa has surprised many people this season. They were expected to float near the bottom in the east with another re-build year. Alfredsson was supposed to be a hot topic come trade deadline time. One of the reasons that Ottawa has been successful is due to young Erik Karlsson emerging as a Norris Trophy Candidate leading all defenseman in points by a long way. Also the rebound seasons of Spezza and Michalek. The Sens are counting on newly acquired highly regarded Ben Bishop to carry the team until Anderson returns.
Winnipeg Jets (Currently 8th) 72 pts 15 games left.
Away Schedule (9): Vancouver, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Washington, Nashville, Carolina, TB, Florida, NYI
Home Schedule (6): Dallas, Washington, Carolina, Ottawa, NYR, TB
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 51%
Injuries: Zach Bogosian
With the type of atmosphere I saw last night I expect the Jets to win at least 5 of the 6 remaining home games, giving them 82 points. However looking at their road schedule I can see about 6 points coming out of those games. Getting them to 88 points. Not enough. Team on the rise, just not this year.
Washington Capitals (Currently 9th) 69 pts 17 games left.
Away Schedule (9): Boston, NYI, Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, TB, NYR
Home Schedule (8): Carolina, TB, Toronto, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Buffalo, Montreal, Florida
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 52.5%
Injuries: Nicklas Backstrom
The Caps are an absolute disappointment this year. They made big offseason moves and people were finally saying this could be the year for the Caps. Not so much. Ovechkin and Semin have disappeard most of the season and Vokoun has been terrible. Road schedule is to hard to compete in the race. Washington will probably go through two coaches this season on their way to missing out on the playoffs. Big changes coming in DC.
Buffalo Sabres (Currently 10th) 68 pts 16 games left.
Away Schedule (9): Boston, Ottawa, Florida, TB, NYR, Washington, Toronto, Philadelphia, Boston
Home Schedule (7): Carolina, Montreal, Colorado, Montreal, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 49%
Buffalo made up a lot of ground on a tough west coast trip. They have a very difficult road schedule, however a easy home schedule. I think the Sabres need to win 13 more games to get into the playoffs giving them 94 points. Six at home, seven on the road. Buffalo also has the most experience in playing this type of hockey. I think they squeek in behind Ryan Miller's hot play.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Currently 11th) 68 pts 17 games left.
Away Schedule (7): Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, NJ, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg
Home Schedule (10): Ottawa, Carolina, Boston, Toronto, St. Louis, Buffalo, Edmonton, NYI, Winnipeg, Washington
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 48%
Tampa has continued to play well after selling off a few pieces of their team at the deadline. They play most of their games at the St. Pete Times Forum and have one of the easiest schedules of the teams remaining. Playoff hopes will ride on the back of Mathieu Garon. Stamkos will blow by the 50 mark in goals again.
Prediction: 3rd (SE Division winner)
Toronto Maple Leafs (Currently 12th) 67 pts 17 games left.
Away Schedule (9): Pittsburgh, Washington, Florida, TB, Ottawa, Boston, NJ, Buffalo, Montreal
Home Schedule (8): Boston, Philadelphia, NYI, NYR, Carolina, Philadelphia, Buffalo, TB
Average Winning Percentage of Schedule: 50%
Toronto was in an absolute free fall until they fired Ron Wilson and hired new coach Randy Carlyle. Goaltending has killed the Leafs all season and I have no confidence in that changing. The defense has been awful at times. The Leafs offense will need to put up 4-5 a game to have a chance most nights. Another year without playoff hockey in TO.
So how do you feel the standings will shake out? How much will the dreaded 3 point game into play in the race? Should be a fun final month.
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