With Five Games To Go, Ottawa’s Target Is Still Boston


There is only one week left in the regular season, and Ottawa has five games in their schedule. It’s going down to the wire, and currently the Senators still sit three points out of a playoff spot. They play the Washington Capitals tonight and like every other game the rest of the way, it is a must-win. The Boston Bruins play the Toronto Maple Leafs, so I don’t think we can even hope that the Leafs help the Senators out in any way.

For the longest time, Ottawa’s target to pass in the standings has been Boston. No other team was particularly close in the standings, and the Bruins were slipping. Now however, some fans seem to think that there are other targets, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, and Washington Capitals. Those three other teams aren’t too far away from Ottawa, but the problem is there aren’t many games left. The Bruins are still the most realistic team to catch right now.

Let’s go through each team. First, the Pittsburgh Penguins:

The Penguins sit at 95 points, and Ottawa has 90. Both have the same amount of games played, at 77. Most people seem to think that Ottawa will have to go either 3-1-1 or 4-1-0 to make the playoffs, so we’ll look at both scenarios. With a 3-1-1- record, the Penguins would need to finish 0-4-1 or worse, because they have the first tiebreaker (ROW) over Ottawa. Even going a perfect 5-0-0, the Penguins need a .500 record at 2-2-1 at least to pass the Senators.

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They play the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Senators and Sabres on the road, and Islanders at home, which is not the hardest schedule. If they lose both on the weekend, then things change a bit, as Ottawa has one more game against them. However, that’s a big if.

The Penguins are unlikely to catch. How about the Washington Capitals?

Well, they are even more likely to make the playoffs. With a win tonight over Ottawa, they will clinch a playoff berth. They have 96 points, but have played one more game than the Senators. If the Senators can win tonight’s game, then it’s not impossible to catch up to them. Let’s assume that all goes well tonight and Ottawa wins. In that case, if they finish the season 3-1-0 after that, then the Capitals need just one win in their last three games. Even going a perfect 5-0-0, the Capitals need just two wins out of the four.

Of course, with a loss tonight, then Washington would need two wins out of three, which is harder, but that’s a lot to ask of Ottawa to go perfect. Remember, just one win tonight, and the Capitals clinch. They’re unlikely to pass.

Feb 5, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie

Robin Lehner

(40) makes a save on a shot from Washington Capitals right wing

Joel Ward

(42) in the third period at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Capitals defeated the Senators 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

How about a team that’s a bit closer? The Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings are only three points up on Ottawa, but have the same amount of games played. While three may not seem like much, with a week to go it’s very hard to catch up. Their schedule doesn’t look to good or bad. They play the Wild, Canadiens, and Hurricanes on the road, and the Capitals and Hurricanes at home.

Ottawa doesn’t play them this week, so that’s a bad thing. If they had a head-to-head, gaining ground would have been much easier. If the Senators finish perfect with 100 points, Detroit will have to get six points or less, or a record of 3-2-0 or less. But even if Ottawa continues to play well, it’s unlikely they finish perfect. A more realistic finish is 4-1-0, and in that case Detroit would have to finish 2-3-0 or worse. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on them losing this many games going into the playoffs.

Now the last team that Ottawa could possibly pass is the Boston Bruins, of course.

They sit at 93 points, but have just four games to play. Once again, if Ottawa wins four of their last five games, the Bruins would have to finish with a record of 2-2-0 at best. Somehow if the Senators can pull some magic and finish 5-0-0, then it’s a very real possibility that they will make the playoffs, as even a record of 3-1-0 from the Bruins would not be good enough for Boston to make it.

Tonight’s game, like the rest of them, is the biggest game of the year

In their last four games, Boston plays the Maple Leafs, Panthers, Capitals, and Lightning. The unfortunate thing is, tonight’s game against the Leafs is essentially a guaranteed win, as the Leafs never win on the road anymore. The good news is that their last three games are all on the road, including one back to back. But if we’re looking at their last three games, the Senators basically need them to lose two of those games if they want a chance to make it.

So it’s clear that Boston is still the target to gain ground on. Of course, after today and/or tomorrow, things could change. If the Red Wings lose both this weekend, then all of a sudden they are a threat to miss the playoffs. But as of now, the Bruins are the most vulnerable.

No matter what, Ottawa needs a record of 3-1-1 at worst, and even 4-1-0 might not get them in. If they finish 3-1-1, they need either Washington to go 0-4-0, Pittsburgh to go 0-4-1, Detroit to go 1-3-1, or Boston to go 1-2-1. But just one more point, and it’s doable. A record of 4-1-0 for Ottawa, and they need either Washington to go 0-3-1, Pittsburgh to go 1-4-0, Detroit to go 2-3-0, or Boston to go 2-2-0.

Lastly, the best case scenario is if Ottawa goes perfect. Then things look much better, as either Washington to go 1-2-1, Pittsburgh to go 2-3-0, Detroit to go 3-2-0, or Boston to go 3-1-0.

In the end, my point is Ottawa needs to win. Tonight’s game, like the rest of them, is the biggest game of the year. A loss will be deadly, and no matter what they still need help from others. It’ll be a close race until the end, but the Senators need to be on their A-game.

Next: Senators Continue Playoff Push Against Capitals