With the 2016-2017 National Hockey League (NHL) season coming to close, only two playoff spots are left. Two playoff spots remain unsecured with the final four days in the season. After 79 of 82 games played, four teams looking to secure the two remaining positions and the possibilities are: NY Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. All four are remain quite close in the standings. April 9th is the final day of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs begins three days later.
Currently, the last two playoff positions are held by the Ottawa Senators with 94 points and Toronto Maple Leafs with 93 points. The outsiders, NY Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied with 88 points. Each of the four teams have three games left on their schedules. The season boils down to these final days.
Ottawa Senators are in the most comfortable position; if you want to call it that. At 94 point, the Sens are sitting second in their division, tied with the Boston Bruins who already clinched a position with a 4-0 win of the Lightning on Tuesday night. Sens can fall into the second wild card position or out of the whole playoff picture with three losses. Their remaining schedule is a tough one. Two road games, Bruins and Islanders sandwiching a home game against the NY Rangers. The Bruins are hot and the Islanders are desperate for points. The Rangers are looking strong and confident.
The rookie sensation Austin Matthews has brought life back into the Maple Leafs. With the teams at 93 points and sitting in the second wild card position, the Leafs have a chance to end their 50-year dry spell without a Stanley Cup. The NHL scheduling gods have not been kind to the Leafs though. Their final three games are all at home but against strong competition. One opponent, the Lightning, are scratching and clawing their way into the playoffs. Don’t underestimate them; especially if Stamkos returns. The Penguins are hungry to repeat their championship form from last year. This year’s surprise team, Columbus Blue Jackets, are a legitimate contender for the finals.
Looking in, is the NY Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. At one time, both teams fell to the basement and held last place in the Eastern Conference. Both teams struggled with inconsistent goaltending all season. Both teams are missing their star centers; John Tavares Steven Stamkos. The Islanders seem to have the average over the Lightning, schedule wise. Isles have two road games against non-playoff bound teams; Carolina Hurricane and NJ Devils. Just to come home to face the Senators for their final game. Lightning have a much tougher road ahead. Lightning face the Maple Leafs and Canadiens on the road and head home for a match up against the playoff eliminated Buffalo Sabres.
Not only do these teams need to battle each other, they must fight against the schedule. It certainly does look like the Islanders have an easier schedule. However, this is hockey and anything can happen. Don’t look away for the slightest moment because you might just miss it!