Last night the Flyers beat the Blackhawks, dropping the Sens' playoff chances 0.1% to an even 74.0% according to Sports Club Stats. In other words, it didn't really matter. However, don't let that fool you, because tonight is the return of a place where the points count.
Tonight, the Senators take on the New York Rangers, only the hottest team in the league in the past couple months. Just to make you worry more, Henrik Lundqvist, one of the top netminders in the world, will serve as backup because Cam Talbot has been that great since Lundqvist went down with injury. A regulation win for Ottawa bumps their chances up to 82.1% while a regulation loss drops them to 64.3%. Before tonight's games, Ottawa is three points behind the Capitals with a game in hand, and the Rangers are one point behind Montreal for the conference (and league) lead with two games in hand.
Other games that matter:
Anaheim Ducks at Boston Bruins: This game is huge. If Boston wins, they're right back in the thick of things. More importantly, if they lose, they fall that much further behind Ottawa's pace. Thankfully, the Ducks have been great all year. It's not like we're depending on the Oilers to beat the Bruins. 2007 be damned, go Ducks go!
New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals: The next-most important game for Ottawa. A Caps loss puts them easily within striking distance for Ottawa. I dislike everything about the Devils: their history of mind-numbing defensive hockey, the ego they gave Martin Brodeur, the fact that Scott Stevens and Adam Oates are their coaches right now... That being said, it would be great if they won tonight.
Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs: A loss for the Panthers would really drop them out of the playoff race, but against the Leafs? Can any good Sens fan cheer for the Leafs? It's not like a Florida win hurts the Sens much (~0.5%).
Montreal Canadiens at Winnipeg Jets: I'd love to see the Jets make the playoffs. I'd also love for Ottawa to face Montreal in the first round. In the end, maybe the best scenario is for Montreal to win the Atlantic but not the whole conference, and for Ottawa to surpass Washington in the standings.
Los Angeles Kings at New York Islanders: Don't look now, but Ottawa's eight points behind the Isles with two games in hand. A regulation loss tonight would go a long way towards making them look vulnerable.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes: The Pens are only six points ahead of Ottawa, and the Sens have one game in hand. Again, a regulation loss for Sid et al. tonight could make the last few games very interesting.
San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings: For some reason, a five-point deficit with no games in hand seems harder to make up that either of the aforementioned ones. Don't ask me why. Anyway, a Sharks victory tonight combined with a Sens victory could put yet another opponent in the realm of "catchable".
Nashville Predators at Tampa Bay Lightning: I really, REALLY don't want the Sens to play the Lightning in the playoffs. Either Ottawa needs to pass Detroit, or the Habs need to stay ahead of the Bolts. I think the latter is the more likely, and for this reason I'd like to see a Preds' victory tonight.