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2008 Eastern Conference Playoff Race: More Spots Than Hunters

 

In less than two weeks, the NHL hockey season will be over and all playoff matches will be set. The Eastern Conference is providing a photo finish with many teams uncertain of their future in April. Looking at the top of the conference, teams such as the Canadiens, Devils, Penguins and Senators will no doubt be in the playoffs. These teams are fighting for their position in the standings and for home ice advantage. It’s at the bottom of the conference that is getting exciting with both the fans’ and coaches’ nerves being tested. There are six teams, six points apart, all fighting to extend their hockey year by grabbing the final two spots.



Most teams have five or six games left. This would be a terrible time for Washington, Florida, Buffalo and even Toronto to go on losing streaks. On the other end of the stick, Boston and Philadelphia, who hold the seventh and eighth seeds respectively, have to pick up the pace to hold their spot. Boston is playing cold, while Florida is hot right now. The NHL schedule is making a great finish with great divisional battles. In the Eastern Conference, in three games, you could go from fifth to ninth, without even realizing it.

MVP candidate Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals have a great chance to win all of their remaining games. Not only does this implicate a playoff spot, but this leaves the chance to win the NHL’s Southeast Division and take the third seed. If there is a team that may sneak in, it is the Capitols who will be in the playoffs for the first time in five years. To all Hurricane fans, you may currently lead the Southeast, but be careful. You may have a tougher first round opponent than expected.

Philadelphia spent a lot of money this off season and still find themselves without a first place, top-quality, Stanley Cup contending team. The Flyers may have the hardest schedule to finish the season and have a good chance of golfing in the middle of April. They have to play the Penguins and Devils each twice to end the season. With Washington right behind them, these are all must wins for the Flyers. Daniel Briere may have made a bad choice this off season signing here, as opposed to current first place holder the Montreal Canadiens. The chances do not look good for the Flyers.

Though technically still in the hunt, Florida, Buffalo, and Toronto may as well hang up their skates. These teams may make good T.V. finishing the season and cause some excitement, but the odds are far too against them, with their finishing schedule. The Panthers are making a late charge, but with two huge games against Washington this season, both teams cannot be in the playoffs. This may be a “too little, too late” situation for the Panthers.

 

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The Eastern Conference will provide a great finish to the season, most likely to come down to the final game of the year. The interesting thing is that many of teams currently not in today are battling each other for the final spots. Expect the Bruins and Capitals to get in with the Flyers, Panthers, Sabres and Maple Leafs out.

 

By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer

 

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