The Senators continued their improbable run towards a still distant playoff spot tonight in New York (9 wins out of their last 10) and with their hard fought 2-1 victory, the numbers are starting to give more than just the die-hards a sliver of hope.
Here's the new math:
The Senators are now at 74 points and have jumped over the Leafs for 11th spot in the East.
More importantly, they are now just 7 points back of the Habs for the final playoff spot with both teams having 10 games left in the season.
As we pointed out in yesterday's article, Saturday night couldn't have gone any better for Ottawa with Montreal, Florida and Buffalo, the 3 teams standing in the Senators way, all losing their games.
Ottawa still has to play their next 5 games on the road but thankfully have until Wednesday to get prepared for the Hurricanes in what will be another pivotal game (obviously).
Of the 3 teams Ottawa has to leapfrog, they only get to play Florida once and Montreal once, so that makes it all the harder to control their own destiny.
Montreal has a favourable schedule coming up with 6 of their next 10 at home and a few mediocre opponents such as Atlanta, Tampa Bay and the Islanders. They also go up against Buffalo next Saturday which ensures a setback in points for Ottawa.
Florida will split their last 10 games at home and on the road but face a tougher opposition in Philadelphia (twice), Pittsburgh and Washington.
Buffalo will split their last 10 as well but they also have to go through the likes of Detroit, New Jersey, Washington and Boston.
It's still bleak, but a little brighter than even yesterday.
Regardless, it at least makes the last 10 games worth watching and that's an improvement any way you look at it.
Larry Brooks of the NY Post has an interesting proposition regarding the annual draft lottery:
There should be only one boundary applied to the lottery and it's the one between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. Every team that misses the playoffs should have a chance to get the first-overall pick in the draft under a variation of the formula that was applied to the 2005 post-lockout, 30-team lottery.
The NHL and NHLPA should amend the CBA and immediately to move to a 14-team lottery that would be weighted on two factors: 1) the number of consecutive years out of the playoffs; and, 2) the number of previous first-overall picks within a three- to five-year period.
Not only would such a system eliminate any questions of propriety down the stretch, it would create great anticipation and interest in the lottery.
Your favorite team misses the playoffs by a point, but still has a shot at the first-overall pick? You're watching the lottery.
Here's a great quote from referee Rob Schick (who just retired a few weeks ago) concerning players respect for referees in the 80's and the way they policed themselves on the ice:
"I remember when Brian Sutter was captain in St. Louis, he'd come up to me and say, 'Rob, did you get a look at that play?' Maybe a guy had been speared and back in the one-referee game, you only got small looks at everything," said Shick.
"I'd say something like, 'Sorry Brian, I didn't get a good look at that thing.' He'd say, 'No problem.' Then, the next shift the guy you thought might have done something was probably laying on the ice.
"They seemed to take care of things on their own."
I'm pretty sure that Jarkko Ruutu is the first Ottawa Senator to have his name chanted in an opposition arena with the suffix "sucks" attached at the end like he did tonight in New York. I know that Alfie gets booed in Toronto but I'm not sure those fans are intelligent or organized enough to get a syncopated chant going.
I'm assuming the "Ruutu Sucks" chant is from his days with the Pens when he would go up against the Rangers 8 times a year and 4 times at the Garden. Now that Rangers fans will only get to see Ruutu twice a year, they better make it count. For his part, Ruutu seemed to enjoy the attention and was rocking his head back and forth and pumping his fist a little.
He had a little harder time getting Sean Avery's attention late in the first. In a scrum, Ruutu was talking right into Avery's ear but the shit-disturbing Ranger didn't even take a glimpse. He was too busy re-acquainting himself with another former Atlantic division rival, Chris Campoli.......
Speaking of the Garden, the current version has been open since 1968 yet they still haven't found a way to light a hockey game properly. Perhaps it looks fine inside the arena, but on television, it's the darkest and murkiest arena in the league. Not only are the corners of the ice dark, but the whole section behind the net on both ends are seemingly in a shadow. Just watching the regular nightly highlights, I could tell for years that the game was at MSG before even seeing a blue uniform. It's sort of like watching the game through a haze of cigarette smoke. What gives?.......
How anonymous is Ryan Shannon (who scored the game winning goal)? The site where I check out the boxscores doesn't even have a picture of him. They gave him the first star but they had to use the Senators logo in place of his pic. That won't be a problem next year when everyone better be aware of the late-blooming offensive threat.