Sunday, April 01, 2012

Devils and Blackhawks Clinch, Races Pared Down

The Devils only needed a point (and a little bit of help) to clinch their playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on Saturday night, but they went above and beyond that with a 5-0 shutout win over the Hurricanes, shutting the door on any doubt that they would make it. Martin Brodeur has played fairly well this season for the Devils, which is great after somewhat of a shaky start to the year.  The Devils currently sit in the 6th seed in the conference and would potentially be playing the Southeast Division champion, which could be a profitable match-up for the team, possibly giving them a walk into the second round.  This makes the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique safe for your selections in the pool, which is pretty exciting.

The eliminations in the East saw all that had potential to drop out of the race do so, as Long Island, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg all were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.  All three teams have been knocked off the online selection sheet this morning, so you can't pick the likes of John Tavares, Steven Stamkos or Dustin Byfuglien.

This now leaves only three spots in the Eastern Conference left to be clinched and there are only four teams left in this game of musical chairs.  The Ottawa Senators can sit down in their chair with a win over the Islanders on Sunday afternoon, taking their spot with the tie-break on their side and 92 points.  That would leave the Southeast Division and the 8th spot to be determined.

The Chicago Blackhawks also did better than what they needed to clinch, but it was pretty close. The Hawks needed a single point out of their game against the Predators and they came close to blowing a game where they had a 4-0 lead early in the 2nd period.  Chicago survived to win the game, 5-4, and thus clinching their spot in the Western Conference playoffs.  Much like the Devils, they currently hold the 6th spot in the Conference, which would give them the Pacific Division champ, which is going to be determined in the final days of the season.  Look for Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and possibly a healthy Jonathan Toews to help lead your playoff pool team this Spring.

As for eliminations, the only team that was up for elimination was the Calgary Flames and they put up a good fight against the Canucks on Saturday night, getting to overtime and getting that extra point, but by virtue of the Sharks and Stars playing each other once more and the Sharks playing the Kings twice, the Flames don't have a chance for catching up.  Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff have been struck from the playoff pool sheet again for the year.

The West has three spots left, but they have five teams on the go for these spots, which is a little bit more interesting.  Sunday won't have much bearing on the elimination race, but the next up on the chopping block is the Colorado Avalanche, who have two games left and could be eliminated by sitting still and being idle, since they don't play again until Thursday.  They've got to put a hope and a prayer out there, but it does seem rather unlikely.

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