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Rangers Claim East’s Top Spot – Sabres Stumble

With just two games left in the NHL season, the fate of many local teams has been decided.  The Rangers clinched the Eastern Conference’s top spot on Tuesday, playoff positions for the Bruins and Devils have been sewn up, while the Islanders were eliminated from playoff contention seemingly sometime before the New York Jets were. The Sabres now stand as the only team with nothing more than seeding to play for, tied for 8th place with four points left to pull. @JoeBianchino

Chris Trotman, Getty Images

New York Rangers: With a 5-3 drubbing of the Flyers that was never as close as the score indicated, the Rangers capped off a 3-1 week and clinched their spot as the Eastern Conference’s number one seed.  It’s a momentous accomplishment for a team so young, and one that has known mediocrity for too long.  They stand at 109 points with two games left, tied with Vancouver in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs.  They’ll try and lock up such an honor with games against the Penguins and Capitals to close out the regular season.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins’ enigmatic run continued this week as they bookended a pair of wins with losses to the Capitals and Penguins.  Recent struggles aside, however, the Bruins managed to lock up their division title and the second seed in the East.  With little left to play for, the Bruins can rest their starters through their last two games and head into the playoffs well rested.

New Jersey Devils: An undefeated week has the Devils on a four game winning streak and likely locked into the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed – though with wins over Detroit and Ottawa this week the Devils can move as high as fifth.  It’s been a terrific second half for the Devils and they’ll likely draw a favorable matchup with the Florida Panthers in the first round.

Buffalo Sabres: Two losses to begin the week threw the Sabres’ playoff hopes into doubt, and after one period Tuesday night all seemed lost for Western New York’s squad.  Down 3-0 the Sabres were in trouble.  They rallied, however, claiming the two points in overtime with a 6-5 win.  They stand tied with the Capitals for the East’s final playoff spot and will need to sweep games against the Flyers and Bruins, and receive some help, to make it into the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup.  The outlook is bleak, but hope is still alive for the Sabres.

New York Islanders: Unlike for the Islanders, for whom it seems Dante’s famous line “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” is all too fitting.  A sweep of the Penguins will do little to console Islander fans, as they lost three games this week and will, once again, miss the playoffs.

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