Sabres Pull Into 8th – Rangers Still Lead Local NHLers
The Rangers held on to their tenuous Atlantic Division lead this week, but the big story is that after a long charge from the depths, the Sabres have wandered their way into playoff position. @JoeBianchino
New York Rangers: After spending much of this century dabbling in mediocrity, the Rangers have crested 100 points. The achievement serves as a reminder that while young, and while not flashy, this Ranger team can play. They hit the century point mark during a week that saw them take three out of four and move their lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins to three points. This week, the Rangers will play four of their remaining six games – two against some of Canada’s least fine, the Jets and Canadiens, and two against East competitors the Bruins and Flyers. All that before the season’s penultimate game, a battle with the Penguins that may very well decide the number one seed.
Boston Bruins: Some California Love appears to have done the Bruins well this week, as the team that had sputtered their way through the middle of the season continued a recent uptick. They took three of four since last Wednesday and moved themselves five points clear of second place in their division. Everything seems to be going well in Boston…except when you look closer and notice that of the four teams they played this week, only one is currently slated for the post season – The Sharks, whom they lost to. Still, it beats the 8-12-1 slide they were on through February and March.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils have returned to some semblance of normalcy following their post-All Star Break tear through the NHL. They lost two of three this week, meaning that of their last eight games, the Devils have managed to pull two points from only three. Their next three contests will come against playoff outsiders however, and they won’t have to see the mighty right hand of Stu Bickel again, so the Devils have a good chance to end the regular season on a high note.
Buffalo Sabres: Once the fiery run of the Devils assuaged, the number one story of the latter half of the NHL season emerged – the Sabres. A trendy pick to win it all the Sabres were awful through the middle of the season, but with injury concerns clearing up, and Ryan Miller beginning to look like Ryan Miller, the Sabres are riding a five game winning streak. With Tuesday night’s win over the Capitals, the Sabres leaped Washington in the standings and into 8th place – the conference’s last playoff spot. To hold that spot they’ll have to survive a tough final five games, with three of the five coming against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston.
New York Islanders: Without question, the Islanders scored their biggest win of the season Tuesday night. Sadly, the only real beneficiary of the win was the Rangers – their cross town rival. In a stunning turn of events, the Islanders beat down the Penguins to the tune of 5-2 and, coupled with a Ranger win, allowed the Blue Shirts to take a three point lead in the East. Still, little encouraging can be said about the Islanders, who welcome the season’s end with open arms.