So I spent about 4 hours today (seriously) obsessing over the playoffs and clinching scenarios, etc. and thought it would be an even worse waste of time if I didn't post a summary of my conclusions.
Here's the dealio, Sabres are at 88 points with 11 games left and can possibly achieve 110 points with a clean sweep of the rest of the season.
Ottawa, 81 points, 9 games left, 99 points possible.
Boston, 76 points, 11 games, 98 possible
Montreal, 79 points, 9 games, 97 points possible
This means that The sabres win the division with 6 wins (or 12 points in some other way), guaranteed, since that would give them 100. Also if the Sabres beat the Senators in 1 out of the 2 remaining games in which they play each other then the Sabres would only have to win 4/10 other games (unless Boston wins all 11 remaining games).
Division aside the Sabres only need to win any 4 games to get at least the number 8 spot since atlanta, currently at 9 can only get 95 points total.
The Sabres have a difficult remaining schedule in that there are a lot of games bunched together, but other than a game against the Devils they don't play any top 4 teams. There is a game against Toronto, Tampa, Florida, the Rangers, Boston, Montreal (x2) Philly, Ottawa (x2), and Jersey to end the season. Not too tough, But those games fall like this: Wed, Fri, Sat, Mon (oh my) then Wed, Thu, Sat, Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun. In that span there is only two days off in a row once and there is a span with 6 games in 9 nights, which I don't recall ever seeing before. On the bright side there are no games against the West and many games are home or very short travel distances.
Now, onto that pesky 2 seed. Pens are up 2 points with 2 less games to play, and the devils are tied in points with 3 more wins and same games remaining. So all that we have to do is win more games than the Pens and Devils (and beat the Devils when we play them) to get the 2 spot. I repeat: all that we have to do is do better than them. Sounds too easy. 2 seed is going to be huge this year, I think, since it will guarantee home ice in the second round. The teams in spots 5-9 were at almost identical standings before the Ottawa Habs game yesterday, so the first round matchups won't matter much. I'm not saying that there definitely won't be any upsets, I'm just saying that whoever is in spots 5-8 at the start of the playoffs will probably be roughly the same. (So it's all about guaranteeing home ice in round 2.) And obviously getting the 4th seed could mean playing the caps at home in round 2, and they only have 8 home losses this year, so Pittsburgh and NJ will be fighting hard for their division crown, I suspect.
To keep this Sabres-centric, here is what other teams could do to no longer be able to bypass the Sabres.
Toronto: cannot bypass the Sabres.
Tampa: cannot bypass the Sabres.
NYI, and Carolina have 68 points and 10 games remaining. If they lose any games, even in OT, they cannot bypass the Sabres. Islanders are probably already out, but I'm not sure about the tie breaker off hand. (I remember they beat us once, not sure about the other 3 games.)
Florida and the Rangers both have a potential to reach 91 points. If either lose 2 games or their game against the Sabres then they can no longer bypass the Sabres.
Atlanta has a total point possibility of 95. 4 losses will no longer allow them to bypass the Sabres, and each Sabres win decreases that number by 1. So if the Sabres win 3 of their remaining 11 games then Atlanta needs to win 9/10 of theirs.
The Sabres can clinch the conference if the capitals join a cult and all die, or if The Capitals get less than 3 points in their remaining 10 games and the Sabres win out. IN the death scenario I am not sure if the league would give the sabres the conference title, or if there would be some wacky "Replacements" type idea in which a rag tag team of misfits would capture our hearts . . . and maybe the Stanley Cup.
My prediction is that the Sabres will clinch the division by Monday. They play MTL Wednesday, then Ottawa Friday, and Tampa Saturday all at home. By the Boston game Monday I am hoping it will all be settled, and if not we have an easy game Wednesday against Florida. (I actually think it more likely to clinch on Wednesday, but am trying to be bold.) Ottawa is the biggest threat right now, but they have had spotty goal tending and are 2-7-1 since the Olympic break. They have an easy remaining schedule but are just running out of time. Even if they manage to beat the Sabres in both remaining games they would still only have 7 other games to catch up, one against Washington. Anyway I have to go induce a coma on myself until Wednesday because I'm too excited about all of this and could go on much longer if I had to. Later
only edmonton is officially out so far, and they beat san jose 5-1 the other night.
Philly lost their lead scorer (Carter) for 3-4 weeks, bummer.
If the coyotes win the stanley cup then the NHL, as owners, would be able to do whatever they want with it. Of course that is probably true all of the time.