With the Islanders beating the Penguins last night, everything's up in the air. Ottawa could finish as high as third in the division, and as low as missing the playoffs. The simple answer is that if Ottawa gets at least one point, they are guaranteed a playoff spot. After that, there are a number of factors at play. To help you figure out the playoff implications of each result, I've made this handy flowchart:
Oh sorry, that looks like the wrong flow chart. Anyway, I realized in trying to make a flow chart that a flow chart for tonight's games was huge, full of repetition, and not particularly useful. I've decided instead to make a table, grouped by which results set up the Sens with each specific playoff opponent.
|The Senators face the Lightning if...||The Lightning beat the Bruins AND the Canadiens lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation AND either the Penguins lose to the Sabres in regulation AND the Senators lose to the Flyers in regulation OR the Penguins lose to the Sabres AND the Senators lose to the Flyers in overtime OR the Penguins lose to the Sabres in regulation AND the Red Wings get at least a point against the Hurricanes|
|or if...||The Senators beat the Flyers AND the Red Wings lose to the Hurricanes in regulation AND either the Bruins beat the Lightning OR the Canadiens get at least a point against the Leafs OR both|
|The Senators face the Canadiens if...||The Senators win AND the Red Wings get at least a point AND either the Canadiens get at least a point OR the Lightning lose OR both|
|or if...||The Senators lose in overtime AND the Penguins lose AND either the Canadiens get at least a point OR the Lightning lose OR both|
|or if...||The Senators lose in regulation AND the Penguins lose in regulation AND the Bruins lose AND the Canadiens get at least a point|
|The Senators face the Rangers if...||The Senators lose in overtime AND the Penguins win|
|or if...||The Senators lose in regulation AND either the Penguins get at least a point AND the Bruins lose OR the Penguins lose in regulation AND the Bruins win|
|The Senators miss the playoffs if...||The Senators lose in regulation AND the Penguins get at least a point AND the Bruins win|
Got all that? The most important part is that there's only one specific scenario that allows the Sens to miss the playoffs. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
I think most Sens fans are pretty convinced that Montreal would be the best first-round opponent for the Sens to face. Everyone has fond memories of 2013. After that, it's mostly a toss-up. Personally, I'm more scared of Tampa Bay than New York. The Rangers have strong goaltending and possibly the best defence corps in the league, but their offence isn't as deep as some groups. The Lightning on the other hand have possibly the deepest forward group in the league. They are built on speed which could wreck the Sens. And their defence and goaltending are nothing to scoff at.
Today's Sens game
Ottawa Senators at Philadelphia Flyers: Each team has won a 2-1 shootout decision this season. It bodes well for the Sens' attempt to clinch a playoff spot.
The other games that matter
Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning: if Boston loses this game, it doesn't matter what happens in the other games. Ottawa still makes the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres: If Pittsburgh loses this game in regulation, it doesn't matter what happens in the other games. Ottawa still makes the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings at Carolina Hurricanes: If the Red Wings lose in regulation, a win for Ottawa would push them into third in the division.
Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs: If Montreal gets a single point out of this game, they are locked into the division lead.
And that does it for games that could impact the Sens! Thanks for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed watching the playoff odds as much as I have. Here's hoping for one more game in which things go just right enough for the Sens to make the playoffs.