Examining the East: Four teams that won’t make the playoffsby Eric Schwartz
Eight teams, three spots.
Note: This is being published before Saturday’s games have been concluded.
Elimination No. 1 – New York Islanders: Is it hard to call a division opponent a “feel-good” story? The Islanders have been bottom dwellers for the better part of a decade but are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once a given win on the Flyers schedule the Islanders have proven tough to beat this season and are currently 23-23-8. At time of publication the team was trailing the Flyers 2-1 in a game that could help our hurt their place in the standings.
Because they have struggled for so long, I want to root for this team to sneak in a grab a playoff spot but the evidence isn’t there. They still lack consistent scoring and their April schedule is brutal.
They close the season with just one easy game (Carolina) in their last six and their final three gamess come against Pittsburgh (twice) and New Jersey.
Elimination No. 2 – Montreal: The Canadians have the most games played (55) of all of the contenders, giving them less games to gain points down the stretch, but that isn’t why they will be on the outside.
The offense for the Habs, just isn’t consistent enough. They have the 28th ranked offense in the NHL. They have scored three-or-more goals just three times over their past 12 games. The team does have a chance if they stay in contention until the final week, as Montreal closes with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs.
I just think it will be too late by then.
Elimination No. 3 – Florida: By eliminating the Panthers I am going against the old adage great goaltending can take a team far into the playoffs. In this case, I don’t think the stellar play of Thomas Volkan can even get the team into the postseason. Volken has done an amazing job keeping his team in the race, posting a 2.37 goals-against average.
The problem with this team is that it has not shown an ability to get hot for long stretches. The Panthers have not had a winning streak longer than three games this year, while they have lost four straight twice, and five straight another. The teams that sneak in the playoffs will be the ones that catch fire down the stretch. I don’t see that ability in the Panthers.
Elimination No. 4 – Tampa Bay: Quite honestly I don’t understand how the team has stayed in it to this point. They have by far the worst goals for/goals against total among the playoff competitors with a -23. The second worst is the Rangers with a -12. By contrast the Flyers are a +10 in that department. Even more remarkable is that only three players on the Tampa Bay roster have a plus rating. Even Martin St. Louis, who has a team-high 57 points, is a -4.
Those stats will catch up with this team sooner, than later.
That leaves us with the Flyers, Rangers, Bruins and Thrashers as the final teams fighting for the three open playoff spots.
On Sunday I will examine which three will be have the best shot of punching their ticket to the postseason.