NHL Eastern Conference playoff hunt

Mike Saladino

Staff Writer

 

As the NHL season heads into late February, the race for the playoffs tightens up. So far the Washington Capitals are picking up where they left off from last season. They are almost 10 points ahead of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. A big key for the Washington Capitals is there great goaltending by Braden Holtby, who is giving up 2.02 goals a game.

Following the Capitals in the Metro division, are the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. For the Penguins, Sidney Crosby is continuing his good play with 60 points this season, second in the NHL, only behind Connor McDavid.

The Blue Jackets surprised a lot of people with their good play this season. They went on a 16 game winning streak early in the year to get to this point. The Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets look like they will be heading to the playoffs and contending for the Stanley Cup.

In the Atlantic, things are a bit different. The Montreal Canadiens are playing average hockey right now, but thanks to there big start early in the year, are looking good to make it to the postseason. They may not put up a lot of goals in game, but with Carey Price in net, they may not have to. After Montreal, the last two stops in the Atlantic Division is wide open.

The Ottawa Senators are in second right with the Boston Bruins close behind. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers are right there also trying to run them down. The whole season has been extremely close. The last two spots available for the playoffs are the two Wild Card Spots.

The first Wild Card spot belongs to the New York Rangers. They hold a massive 14 point advantage over the second Wild Card spot. That second Wild Card Spot is between eight different teams that could possibly get in.

The Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers are tied for the spot right now with the New York Islanders just one point behind. Behind the Islanders are the Florida Panthers, who are three points back, the Tampa Bay Lighting who are four back, and the New Jersey Devils, who are five back. It is hard to tell who will get the final Wild Card spot.

The Flyers have been up and down all season long. One night it is bad goaltending and the next night it is lack of offense. If it can all come together for the Flyers they can make a great case for them to contend for the spot.

 The Maple Leafs are a very young team, they may lack experience, but they make up for that with a high power offense. If they can become more consist they can make a great push for the playoffs.

The New York Islanders have made an amazing run for the playoffs. Just less than a month ago, they fired their head coach and were taking about looking forward to next year. Lead by John Tavares, their captain, the Islanders are red hot right now. They continue to play great at home and they are scoring plenty of goals. If they want to make the playoffs they will need better goaltending. It seems like every game they play it ends up in a 6 to 5 game.

The Flyers, the Maple Leafs and the Islanders have the best chances to claim that final Wild Card spot.

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