The Eastern Conference playoffs logjam currently consists of eight teams and eight points. The range is from 71 points currently held by the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, to 63 points held by the Montreal Canadiens. Eight teams to whom the cliché, “every game counts” can be easily applied. The Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers are all in the mix.
Eight teams represent quite a logjam. Of course some of the eight have a minimal chance of actually finding themselves in the playoffs when the dam bursts, but the road is currently jammed, which for hockey fans, is a good thing. Seeing teams ramp their games up close to the end of February means we are being treated to exciting games with a lot at stake.
Early Playoff Hockey
For example, Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said after his team’s recent loss to the Lightning, “This is playoff-style hockey, right? You’ve got to step up and play. It’s fun. It’s a great time of year.” Peters nailed it right on the head; it is fun and a great time to be a hockey fan.
A great example is the game Wednesday night that matched the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Boston Bruins. The Bruins had 70 points and the Penguins had 68. The two teams played a great game, with fierce intensity, not unlike a playoff game. The Bruins won big, 5-1, but watching the game it was clear that both teams knew it was important. Times like these are when players like Sidney Crosby are expected to step up and lead their teams.
@ariyoloj HE’S OUR ONLY HOPE. Do the thing, Squid.
— Αναστασία ✨ (@thebonyelbows) February 25, 2016
Another fun Wednesday night tilt with logjam implications was the Canadiens visit to the Washington Capitals. The Caps have been running away with the overall best record in the NHL, currently at 92 points. The Habs were at 61.
After winning 4-3, the Canadiens have 63 points. Yes, the Habs are swimming upstream, especially missing goalie Carey Price, but the point is that every game counts, with wins helping your team inch closer to a playoff spot, and losses holding the potential to drop your team down the playoff ladder like a boulder.
Logjam Will Explode
Eventually the playoff logjam will explode. It is inevitable that some teams will get hot, some will cool off and others will tread water. Treading water can be almost as bad as losing, if the teams you are trying to catch and pass get hot and put a few wins together in a row.
Fans of the eight teams fighting for a playoff spot are definitely fired up right now.
— Ashley Campbell (@526photo) February 25, 2016
12 hours later and I'm still pissed about that game last night. Boy, I hope they come out and annihilate the Jets Saturday #Pens
— Big Dave (@BigDavePens) February 25, 2016
Unfortunately some are going to be disappointed pretty soon. The season is drawing close to its end, and the reality of decreasing chances will make the math unworkable. But, it’s a fantastic time to be pulling for your favorite team and hoping for them to make the playoffs.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.