Well, we’re in the stretch run of the NHL regular season! A time when some teams are already sitting pretty in the standings, and waiting for the postseason battle to begin. But for other teams it is a time of extreme stress! A time to watch the out-of-town scoreboards, and hope that your wins coupled with rival losses, might squeak you in to the NHL’s ‘second season’.
Here’s a look at two teams – one from each conference that are really on the bubble!
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs are sitting in 10th place (86 points) in the Western Conference as I write here. They have been playing decent hockey as of late (5-3-2 in past 10), and are only one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot held by Phoenix. Their biggest issue is consistency, and the fact that they have to hurdle the Kings who sit in 9th (also 86 points), and hold off the Flames in 11th (85 points). For the Avs to pull this off they need some big-time leadership from Milan Hejduk – and some key goals and nerve from their young, but talented nucleus (O’Reilly, Stastny, Landeskog). Oh yeah, and a lot of luck for the next week or so!
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres were left for dead at the All-Star break, but what a turn-around for this team! They are 7-1-2 in their last ten, including a current four-game win streak. They sit in 9th in the Eastern Conference with 84 points. They are chasing the Washington Capitals for the final slot in the East. The Caps also have 84 points, but if the postseason started today, they’d get the nod with more wins than Buffalo. The big advantage for the Sabres is goaltending. Ryan Miller (29-18-7, 2.48 GAA, .917 SV%) seems to have shaken off the cobwebs from his early season funk, and is now looking like the top keeper we all know he can be. If he stays hot, he will be the key in this battle for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations. The boys from Buffalo also have to hope that Alex Ovechkin’s hot-streak stalls soon – he’s been carrying the Caps (7 goals in last 5 games) – and that’s the last thing the Sabres can afford!
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have been everybody’s ‘feel-good’ team this season. A return of the NHL to Winnipeg was always going to be a good story, but give this club credit, they have battled and remained competitive throughout. They have unfortunately picked a terrible time for a mini-slump though. They are 4-6 in their past ten, and have lost two in a row. As I write, they sit in 10th in the East with 78 points, and probably have too much ground to make up on the Sabres and Capitals. That being said, they certainly gave the fans in Winnipeg something to cheer for right up until the end. And, who knows, with a few key off-season additions, the Jets could make that playoff jump next season.
Well I hope that your team has already secured a playoff berth! If not this will be a stressful 10 days for you. And if you are a fan of any of the teams mentioned above – good luck to you in the final stages of this fantastic playoff race!
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