This season, we are seeing a race in the Eastern Conference standings that is going to get intense and dramatic as the NHL returns from the Olympic break and heads down the final stretch of the season.
There are only 3 teams that are pretty much safe and that’s assuming that the Tampa Bay Lighting will maintain their 5-point lead in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division . The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins look to be the only other two teams that are safe atop their respective divisions.
After more fluctuation last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs are currently a point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The New York Rangers are in second in the Metropolitan Division. They are a point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers who are a point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes who are a point ahead of a tie between the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets who are a point ahead of the New Jersey Devils.
Basically, there are only 4 points separating the 2nd place team and the 7th place team in the Metropolitan Division.
The New York Islanders have 50 points and are only 5 points behind the Devils.
Back in the Atlantic, there is a little more breathing room between teams with the Detroit Red Wings sitting 4 points behind the Canadiens in 5th. The Ottawa Senators are right behind them with 56 points and then the Florida Panthers with 49. The Sabres are farther down in the basement with 36 points.
The main question is why? Why are these teams so bunched up? Why are the Eastern Conference standings so close? One thing is for sure and that means the wild card race will be no less than insane.
The New York Rangers are in second in their division but are only 8-9-3 against the Metropolitan Division. Their 12-5-0 record against the Atlantic certainly helps that out. The Montreal Canadiens are 11-6-2 against the Metropolitan but falter within their division and stand at 7-6-2.
Tampa Bay, who is keeping pace with the rest of the division, has certainly earned their number 2 spot in the division with a 11-4-1 record in the Atlantic. In the Metropolitan, they are 8-8-2.
Everyone is beating each other. No team is getting the full upper hand against the entire Eastern Conference (outside of the Penguins and Bruins).
In the Western Conference, there are a few small races but it’s basically you’re good or you aren’t. In the East, 7 out of 8 teams that are out of playoff contention going into today are within 8 points of the last wild card spot.
Once the Winter Olympics end, any game inside the Eastern Conference will most likely involve one of the many teams vying for a playoff spot.
This leaves some great games of hockey to come.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.