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Friday April 2, 2010 9:36 pm

Only offense will decide final spots in East




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: NHL, Playoffs,

Andrei MarkovThe back end of the Eastern Conference playoff spots is very tightly contested; a welcome change from most other areas of the NHL standings. The Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins hold the last three positions, each with 82 points and five games remaining. The tiebreaking procedures gives Philadelphia a huge edge over Boston with three more wins total, but a tough final week could be deadly if they don’t play right. They’ll get their chance to start the end right tonight when they welcome those Canadiens.

None of these three teams are highly offensively-charged. Among the three, only Plekanec of the Canadiens has over 60 points this season. With 23 goals and 45 assists, he’s at 68. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron tops Bruins scorers with just 50 points; 18 goals and 32 assists. Despite these shortcomings, they’ll each look to their front lines to raise the level of play to solidify the playoff berths. Montreal’s Andrei Markov and Mike Cammalleri will be judged against Jeff Carter and Mike Richards from Philly. Whoever comes out on top gets the sixth seed.

Boston took a huge blow a few weeks ago when they lost the services of Marc Savard and will look elsewhere to guys like Bergeron to pick up the slack if they hope to secure even the eighth spot. With two games against Washington and another against Buffalo left on the schedule, it looks like if any, Boston will be the team to fall under the cut line when the dust settles on Apr. 11.

More interesting for these three teams is that while they each still hold a spot, there are another three teams within six points of them looking to make their own moves. Atlanta’s 80 points, the Rangers’ 78 and Carolina’s 76 are all within striking distance. Atlanta is the closest, but with two Pittsburgh games, a Washington and a New Jersey match in front of them, chances are better they’ll fall than climb. That doesn’t take any pressure off of Philly, the Habs or the Bruins though. This is the time of year where everything is on the line, and nothing will be given to any of these teams.

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