With their goal of reaching the playoffs attained the Ottawa Senators will now set their sights on another goal: catching the New Jersey Devils for sixth place, and a date with the Florida Panthers in the post-season.
Ottawa currently sits four points behind the Devils 96 points with 92 and three games to go for each team.
The Senators will need to win out, and get some help from the New York Islanders and the Detroit Red Wings to make it happen, but the season finale against the Devils next Saturday could be huge if the stars line up.
If Ottawa can catch New Jersey they will face off against the South East division champion Panthers who have been little competition for the Senators during the regular season.
The Senators have a record of 3-1 versus Florida this year and have looked dominant at times. A 4-2 loss against the Panthers on March 4 being the only hiccup, a game that Ottawa led 2-0 after one.
Craig Anderson seems to love playing against his former team, and sports a 3-0 record against them this season with a 2.66 GAA.
Daniel Alfredsson was the biggest offensive force against Florida this season racking up seven points in four games.
In my eyes, a match-up against Florida would provide Ottawa with it’s best chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs, but not its only chance.
Unfortunately with the Washington Capitals falling tonight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is all but assured that Ottawa will finish no lower than the seventh spot, so a favourable match-up against the number one seeded New York Rangers will not happen, at least not in the first round.
The Senators have had little trouble with the Rangers this season, winning three out of four against arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference by a combined score of 14-8.
It hasen’t mattered who was in net for Ottawa either with both Anderson, and Ben Bishop picking up wins against New York.
The most likely opponent, and also the most troublesome for Ottawa is the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
The Bruins have given Ottawa fits for years largely due to the play of goaltender Tim Thomas. This season has been no different with Thomas sporting a 4-1 record with a 2.41 GAA and a .932 Save percentage against the Senators.
Senators goaltending prospect Robin Lehner holds the only victory against Boston this season, a 1-0 victory that occurred when Anderson was on the shelf with a lacerated finger.
Spezza, Karlsson, and the captain have done the most damage offensively against the Bruins by combining for 16 points in five games.
A series against Boston will be a war of attrition with the team receiving the best goaltending, and the fewest key injuries winning out, however; the winner will probably be too beat up to do much damage afterward.
Despite the lopsided record during the regualr season, I believe this is still a winnable match-up for Ottawa if Anderson is able to outduel Thomas.
Clearly, that is one very big if.