MONTREAL - Five days left and the Eastern Conference playoff picture is still as clear as mud. The Canadiens, Rangers, Islanders, Lightning and Maple Leafs continue to battle it out for the final three spots.
Need a little help understanding this ever-changing race? Here's a breakdown of how the final leg of this 82-game marathon is shaping up.
| ||GP ||PTS |
|1. BUFFALO ||79 ||109 |
|2. NEW JERSEY ||80 ||104 |
|3. ATLANTA ||79 || 93 |
|4. OTTAWA ||80 ||103 |
|5. PITTSBURGH ||80 ||101 |
|6. TAMPA BAY ||80 || 92 |
|7. NY RANGERS ||80 || 92 |
|8. MONTREAL ||80 || 90 |
|9. TORONTO ||80 || 89 |
|10. NY ISLANDERS ||79 || 86 |
|11. CAROLINA ||80 || 86 |
|12. FLORIDA ||80 || 83 |
|13. BOSTON ||80 || 76 |
|14. WASHINGTON ||80 || 68 |
|15. PHILADELPHIA ||79 || 54 |
If the Canadiens beat the Rangers in regulation:
- The Canadiens would clinch a playoff berth if the Leafs gain one point or less against the Islanders on Thursday night.
Should the Canadiens steal a point from the Rangers via an overtime or shootout loss:
- Montreal would still clinch with a Leafs regulation loss to the Islanders and if the Islanders fail to win at least one of their two final games against the Flyers (Saturday) and Devils (Sunday).
If the Canadiens fall to the Rangers in regulation:
- The Habs will have to down the Leafs Saturday night in order to clinch, if Toronto picks up two points against the Islanders on Thursday
- Montreal could fall to Toronto in overtime or a shootout and still clinch with a Leafs loss to the Islanders coupled with the Isles failing to win both of their remaining games against the Flyers (Saturday) and Devils (Sunday).
Should the Canadiens leave nothing to chance and win their two last games to bring their season-ending total to 94 points, the Habs could vault as high as the No. 6 spot if the Lightning cooperate by dropping their pair of remaining games. Even if the Rangers defeat the Penguins on Saturday, the Canadiens would still leapfrog New York by virtue of their 44-43 edge in the win column.
Still confused? Just be sure to fasten your seatbelt for what should be a thrilling ride to the finish line this weekend.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com