Mar 17, 2011, 10:36 PM EDT
With a busy St. Patrick Day’s slate of 11 games tonight, it might be easier to follow the action if we break the results down into digestible chunks (especially if you’re also ingesting plenty of green beer). With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three games that affected the Eastern Conference playoff bubble tonight.
Luckily for the still-alive-but-barely Thrashers, “style points” are not yet a playoffs tie-breaker. Atlanta coughed up three one-goal leads against the East’s best team, but ultimately managed to squeeze out two crucial points.
The best part for the Thrashers is that they gave up that one “charity point” to a team so far ahead of them it won’t matter.
Ron Hainsey collected two assists for Atlanta while Daniel Briere scored two goals and one assist for the Chris Pronger-less Flyers. If the Thrashers make the playoffs, it won’t be on the strength of their regulation play (their goal differential is -30). It will be on the strength of the charity point, as they have 12 points from overtime or shootout losses and four shootout wins.
While the Thrashers were opportunistic with their shootout win, the two other major bubble teams couldn’t earn a single point against struggling teams.
Sergei Samsonov and Stephen Weiss scored a goal and an assist each while Scott Clemmensen earned a 24-save shutout to win the game for Florida. Whether this win fuels delusions of a playoff run or counts as a satisfying moment as a “spoiler” is up to the Panthers.
Ottawa 3, New Jersey 1
On paper, this looked like an easy win for the ludicrously hot Devils.
After all, the Senators are one of the East’s cellar dwellers and they weren’t even able to start their possible goalie of the future Craig Anderson tonight. Instead, it was Curtis McElhinney between the pipes.
McElhinney ended up being up to the task, as he stopped 33 out of 34 New Jersey shots, only allowing a Brian Rolston slapper to beat him during this game. Chris Neil scored twice (one being an empty netter) in the third period while Ryan Shannon provided Ottawa’s other goal.
So with those three games, the Eastern Conference bubble looks like this (via NBC’s NHL standings page).
So, as you can see, the Devils really missed an opportunity tonight. They still might have a better chance than the Thrashers and Maple Leafs because of total wins and games remaining, though. Overall, the current playoff teams (New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres) are clearly the favorites to earn the last two spots in the East while the Devils and Buffalo Sabres probably have the best chance to usurp them.
- Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls 82
- Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane? 75
- Hall of Famer Al Arbour passes away 22
- Poll: Who will be San Jose’s next captain? 24
- Mike Richards charged with possession of controlled substance 95
- Gio won’t go: Flames extend Giordano for six years, $40.5M 13
- Pens’ plan for now: Crosby starts as Kessel’s center 25
- O, Dear: Russia fined $85K for skipping Canadian anthem 31
- Kings ink Ehrhoff to a one-year, $1.5 million deal 27
- Quebec City, Vegas advance to final phase of NHL expansion process 50
- Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls (97)
- Mike Richards charged with possession of controlled substance (95)
- Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane? (76)
- Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’ (40)
- Poll: Will Kessel score 40? (38)