Feb 10, 2011, 8:00 AM EDT
With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.
Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.
Northeast Division outlook (February 10-16)
1. Boston Bruins (31-16-7 for 69 pts; 54 Games Played)
Current streak: One win.
Week ahead: Home vs. Detroit (Friday), @ Detroit (Sunday – at 12:30 pm ET on NBC, by the way), Home vs. Toronto (Tues).
Thoughts: It’s good that the Bruins will get today to rest up after that bloodbath against the Canadiens. This weekend won’t be a walk in the park as they face a home-and-home series with the Red Wings.
2. Montreal Canadiens (30-20-5 for 65 pts; 55 GP)
Current streak: Two losses in a row.
Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Islanders (Thurs), Toronto (Sat), Buffalo (Tues).
Thoughts: As demoralizing as that Boston defeat might have been, the Habs aren’t far behind and face a winnable schedule this week. Anything less than four points in these three home games would be a letdown, I’d say.
3. Buffalo Sabres (25-22-5 for 55 pts, 52 GP)
Current streak: Two straight wins.
Week ahead: @ Florida (Thurs), home vs. Islanders (Sat), @ Montreal (Tues), home vs. Toronto (Wed).
Thoughts: The Sabres must be licking their chops considering the struggles of the seventh-place Rangers and ninth-place Thrashers. Considering their games in hand, Buffalo is probably close to an equal threat to the Hurricanes as the Thrashers might be. Of course, this could change quickly.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (23-26-5 for 51 pts; 54 GP)
Current streak: Two straight wins.
Week ahead: Home vs. New Jersey (Thurs), then three road games: vs. Montreal (Sat), vs. Boston (Tues), vs. Buffalo (Wed).
Thoughts: Gosh, even I’m a little surprised that the Leafs aren’t in italics this week. Yet considering the fact that they’re only eight measly points behind the Hurricanes for the eighth spot in the East, they have to be consider at least mild contenders. If they can squeeze 6 points out of this week, they might even upgrade to semi-serious.
5. Ottawa Senators (17-30-8 for 42 pts; 55 GP)
Current streak: 11 straight losses. Yikes.
Week ahead: @ Edmonton (Sat), home vs. Islanders (Tues).
Thoughts: So who’s up for sale in Ottawa? Or who isn’t?
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