This is what my latest Devils Dispatch email is dramatically calling the final stretch. With only 8 points separating the bottom team from the top (ignoring the Islanders, of course), we haven't seen a battle for the Atlantic this huge since the Spanish Armada clashed with the British in 1588. And we all know how that turned out, with the Spaniards being kicked out of the pantry.
It starts tonight with the Rangers at the ROCK. The Devils haven't been able to figure out the Blueshirts this season, losing all 5 so far. Here's the breakdown of the interdivisional games left for the four teams still in the hunt.
New Jersey (9 of 10 remaining games): NYR, NYI, @PIT, PIT, @NYR, PHI, @NYI, @PHI, NYR
N.Y. Rangers (9/9): @NJ ,@PHI ,PHI, NJ, @PIT, PIT, @NYI, NYI, @NJ
Pittsburgh: (8/9): NJ, @NYI, @NJ, NYI, NYR, @NYR, PHI, @PHI
Philadelphia: (8/8): NYR, NYI, @NYR, @NJ, @NYI, @PIT, NJ, PIT
For the Devils, the main team in their way of the division crown is the Pittsburgh Crosbys. It remains to be seen when he will be back to save hockey once again, hopefully it will be on the game of the week on NBC: NOTHING BUT CROSBY! For the Rangers, the biggest obstacle is, as always, the Rangers. Oh, and phuck the Flyers. I really don't want to see them and Danielle's -30 plus/minus in the playoffs.
As for the rest of the Wales . . . looking at the standings a few weeks ago, you could assume that Florida was dead, losing 8 of 10 and sinking like a dead marlin. But with wins in their last 7 (including two in OT) they are suddenly in the playoff race? Though it's probably too little too late, I suppose it's great for the fans. But I hate how teams can go on massive losing streaks, play horrible hockey for months on end, and still be right in the postseason hunt. Philthy has come back from the dead at least 4 times this season; the Rangers lost 8 of 10 in January, and then won 10 of 13 last month to continue their rollercoaster ride; Buffalo has been listless for the first 3/4 of the season, including a 10 game winless streak, go a mediocre 9-11 since the beginning of February, then win 2 lopsided games this past weekend (vs. CAR and @TOR), and they're right back in it! It's absurd. Why go out there and bust your buns every night? Just have a good month or two, and you're fine! (At least in the Wales, where most of the teams can't get out of their own way.) As I've said before, the point system is fatally flawed, and it's merely rewarding mediocrity. (Don't even get me started with Edmonton and all the points they've gotten from the
skills competition shootout.)
I'll close this out with some Marty, who doesn't get enough recognition. This photo is from the new "My NHL, My Cup" promotional ads. Why is everything is "my", from My Yahoo to MyFox? Oh, so you watched your team win the Cup. What did YOU do?
I may start to sound like a homer here, but I don't care. Last Saturday afternoon in a 4-2 win in Colorado, en route to his 40th win Marty made some ridiculous saves. While the chicken wing block (0:24) was nice, none was quite as fun to watch as the stick save from behind his back (1:13 in, 14:15 left in the 2nd).
Of course, the NHL Video highlight reel absolutely sucks (why can't these jackasses make quality video available?), so here's the Top 10 Saves of the Week (check out #3 at the 3:00 mark).
Yes, it's fun to watch Marty. And afterwards he humbly said, "I got lucky on a few of those." How can you hate the guy? He's the exact opposite of Patrick Roy, whose giant inflated head didn't even fit in his helmet.