As some television stations are prone to do before all the polls have reported, on behalf of SenShot I am calling the shot and declaring the Ottawa Senators playoff bound this season. Perhaps it is a bold statement with 21 games yet to be played, but looking at the standings as they are today, the Senators are almost a shoo-in to make the post-season, even if they fall slightly off their current pace.
There are essentially 4 spots spoken for already- Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal have opened a wide gap and whoever comes out on top in the Southeast will round out the top 4 spots. So I will disregard those spots for the time being.
Seeds 5 through 9 are currently occupied by Ottawa, Toronto, New Jersey, New York Rangers and Winnipeg. Ottawa leads that pack with 32 points while the Rangers and Jets are tied for the 8th spot with 28, and they play each other on Thursday night. The Jets are closer to the Hurricanes (31 points) for the 3rd seed than they are to the Senators.
Which brings me to the next level, the Islanders and the Flyers. For the Islanders to make up the 7 points on the Senators it would take a monumental effort. They could conceivably catch the Rangers and Jets, but in doing so that would mean that both of those teams would have fallen off the pace and would no longer be a threat to the Senators. The Flyers are in a tailspin and are tied with the Islanders, but have also played at least 2 more games than the 3 teams immediately in front of, or tied with, them.
After the Flyers, the Lightning and Sabres are 9 points back of the Senators and pose no threat, while Washington and Florida are looking at next year.
So it is essentially a 5 team race to the finish for 4 spots, with the Senators holding down Pole Position. Four teams would have to pass the Senators, and even with the Rangers and Jets holding 2 and 1 games in hand respectively, it seems like a tall order.
We will have a much clearer (or perhaps muddier) picture after Sunday’s Senators game against Winnipeg. That will be Winnipeg’s third road game in 4 days, against the 3 teams occupying the seeds directly in front of them. If the Jets don’t go 3-0, or at the very least take home points in each game, then they will be in some trouble to stay in the race. In doing so they could overtake the Hurricanes for first in the Southeast and bring the Canes in to the picture.
You might not like the three point games, and I for one think the system doesn’t work, but that is the way it is and the Sens have used it to their advantage over the last 12 games to keep themselves in the driver’s seat. It hasn’t been pretty on the ice, but all the scratching and clawing by the Pesky Sens has them sitting pretty in the standings.