April 2, 2012

 

The end of the NHL regular season is fast approaching, and there are teams still vying for that final spot. One of the most exciting aspects in sports is that stretch run in which teams go all out so they can continue to play on. Every one of these teams wants to win Lord Stanley’s Cup, but to get there they first have to secure that No.8 spot.

For this week’s edition of the Hot Corner, we have decided to lay out what we think will happen in the East and the West as the NHL moves into the final week of the regular season. With the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres battling it out in the East and three teams with a shot at No. 8 in the West it sure looks like it is going to be a great stretch run in the NHL.

Nick:

I have to say that with the way I follow hockey I have to make my picks based on who each team has remaining on their schedule. My best guess is to look at who has the easiest road to get a playoff spot. In the Eastern Conference I have to say that I like the Capitals. I just think that with the three remaining games they have they are better suited to finish stronger than the Sabres.

With games against Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers winnable for the Caps, I see them getting into the playoffs. Buffalo has a hard last two games away against the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins that will probably cost them entrance. In the west I like the San Jose Sharks to keep the No.8 spot heading into the playoffs. In fact, with two games remaining against the Los Angeles Kings, I think San Jose has a shot at taking over the No. 3 seed and pushing the Kings to No. 8. For now though we will stick with that and hope to see what comes out of the last few games left in the NHL season.

Sam:

Playoff hockey is finally near. The most exciting sport now gets revved up for a playoff marathon that is unparralled in any sport. Battling for positioning has been at its finest, especially with the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry heating up at just the right time. The Capitals and Sabres are vying for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference while in the Western Conference there is a three-team logjam battling for that coveted playoff spot.

In the East, look for the Capitals to eek out close victories against Tampa Bay and Florida. Ovechkin and company have their backs up against the wall, a task that seems to fall through with this squad, but their schedule is too favorable to lose out. Buffalo has to go against Philly and Boston. They have a chance at beating Philly with Ilya Bryzgalov out, but Boston is too tough. Sabres players will be watching the playoffs from their couches this year.

Out in the west, the game to watch to watch is San Jose and Dallas. The winner of this game will make the playoffs. I see San Jose winning this game as well. Dallas has lost three out of four games and has slipped in the standings and the Pacific Division. San Jose will reach the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

The last weekend of the regular season will bring many teams to jostling for position. The Flyers and Penguins are vying for home-ice advantage out in the east. Look for the Flyers to continue to take it to the Penguins this final weekend. The Penguins are flat out scared of the Flyers and it showed in the 6-4 trouncing that they took on Saturday. Bryzgalov will be back in time for these games, and with the way that he has been playing lately will spell more trouble for the Pens.

Meanwhile, in the West, I see the Flyers, err, the Kings to claim the Pacific Division. The team, led by Simon Gagne, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (all former Flyers), have been playing strong hockey late in the season. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been standing on his head late in games. His franchise record of nine shutouts has proven to be critical throughout the year. The Kings will be dangerous in the playoffs if Quick continues to play like this.

This may be the first time that Nick and I have agreed on most of the argument. Do not get used to this Hot Corner readers. Baseball season is just ahead.

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