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Thursday, February 23, 2012

NHL Eastern Conference Update – Caps Lose, Jets and Lightning Not Out Yet!

On Wednesday the Ottawa Senators handed the Capitals a 5-2 defeat, and in a game that Ovechkin did not play due to a lower body injury. The Capitals have continued to squander valuable opportunities to take the eighth and final playoff spot from the Leafs and you have to wonder about the desire of the Cap players since they have a huge amount of talent on the team. Regarding the Leafs, with their poor play they have opened the door and now have to fend-off three teams instead of just the Capitals—the Jets and Lightning being the other two. I don’t like the Leafs’ chances at all and they will get what they deserve.

As of Thursday morning, the Eastern Conference standings regarding the eighth and final playoff spot are:

Toronto holds the 8th spot with 65 points in 60 games played.

Winnipeg is in 9th with 65 points but with 62 games played.

Washington is in 10th with 63 points in 60 games played.

Tampa bay is in 11th with 60 points but have only played 59 games.

In a previous article, “NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture,” I predicted that New Jersey would make the playoffs and be a huge threat to every team in the Conference except the Bruins—based on past games played this year. I stated that the Devils can actually win the Conference and even win the Stanley Cup if their goaltending improves (which it has been). I also predicted that the Senators would make the playoffs. The only team that has not come through in my predictions has been the Capitals, and it really is a surprise to everyone. I feel that they are still going to take the eighth playoff spot from the Leafs and then not look back; however, anything can happen because now the Jets and Lightning have been brought back into the picture due to poor play by Washington. Honestly, I would much prefer the Lightning or the Jets in the playoffs than the Capitals. 

The Winnipeg Jets just won’t go away and they have decided to battle right until the end, thanks to the inspiration from the great fans in Winnipeg. The players believe that they can make it and they just might.

The Lightning have made four trades in the last week, and at least three of the four trades were excellent and beneficial for the team now and in the long-run. Yes, I am saying now as well because any time you can get rid of a dirty bastard like Steve Downie it is a great inspiration to the team. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos must be celebrating; and, in fact, Stamkos notched his 41st and 42nd goals the night of the trade! Nobody will catch Stamkos in goals now because Malkin is the closest to him and he has 33, nine behind. However, Malkin is still the favorite to win the Hart Trophy because he has 73 points to Stamkos’ 70, and Malkin has played six fewer games. If Stamkos can continue his pace and get the Lightning in the playoffs then it could be a lot closer. I say this because the biggest problem with the Lightning has been poor goaltending, especially Roloson.   

Well, with the Capitals squandering many opportunities we have a very tight battle in the Eastern Conference, just as we have in the Western Conference. It will be exciting to see who wants it more!

TJ Stanley