Daily Hab-it: Endless first round possibilities
Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek, left, of Austria, celebrates his goal with teammate Drew Stafford (21) in overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, April 8, 2011. The Sabres won 4-3. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Published Friday, April 8, 2011 11:01PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:10AM EDT
Friday evening's NHL slate began with the distinct possibility that the Canadiens potential first round opponents would be cut down to two teams, the two teams most Canadiens fans want no part of: the Bruins or the Flyers.
But after the Buffalo Sabres came back from a 3-2 third period deficit to down the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime, the possibilities for the Canadiens are just about as wide open as they can be.
There's one thing we do know, and that's the Canadiens won't be opening the playoffs in either Washington or Tampa Bay.
The Capitals clinched first place in the conference with the Flyers just getting the single point in Buffalo, and there's no way Montreal finishes eighth, so Washington is out.
Tampa Bay is locked into fifth in the conference, which makes the Lightning an impossible first round opponent.
But now, with the Sabres and Canadiens tied at 94 points but Montreal still maintaining its sixth-place position thanks to a 40-37 edge in non-shootout wins, both teams final positioning comes down to Saturday.
The Canadiens are in Toronto while the Sabres are in Columbus, and if both teams win then the current standings are maintained.
In the fight for eighth, the Rangers host New Jersey at 12:30 Saturday needing a point just to stay alive. But even if the Rangers win, they need Carolina to lose at home to Tampa Bay later in the evening or else they'll be eliminated in the final game of the regular season for a second year in a row.
At the top of the conference, a slew of possibilities remain.
Boston hosts Ottawa in a 1 p.m. matinee Saturday. The Bruins still have a chance to finish second in the conference by getting at least three points in their final two games, with another matinee Sunday in New Jersey.
Boston and Philadelphia both have 43 non-shootout wins but the Flyers have a three-point edge in the standings with one game left on their schedule, a home game against the Islanders on Saturday night.
If the Flyers win, they finish second. Simple as that.
If they lose, even if it's in overtime, they're at risk of dropping to third or fourth.
The Penguins are tied with the Flyers at 104 points, but they have only 38 non-shootout wins so they would need to finish with more points than Philadelphia to win the Atlantic division.
If Pittsburgh wins in Atlanta on Sunday and Philadelphia loses on Saturday, then the Penguins get the second seed.
So to summarize, the Flyers and Penguins can still finish second, third or fourth, the Bruins can finish second or third, the Canadiens and Sabres can finish in sixth or seventh, and the Rangers and Hurricanes can finish eighth or ninth.
Basically, it's going to make for an exciting final weekend of hockey, and we haven't even touched on the wild Western Conference.