There really was a playoff type atmosphere around Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday, with more reporters in the Senators dressing room after the morning skate than there’s been since the Habs were last here.
The New York Rangers being the opposition had a lot to do with that, of course. They are followed by more reporters than most teams.
They also currently represent the best chance for any team that’s just on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference post-season picture.
The Rangers hold down the last wild card spot with 76 points, and they have just 13 games left. Washington, Detroit and New Jersey are between them and Ottawa, with 74, 73 and 71 points respectively.
Prior to Tuesday’s action, the Caps, Red Wings and Devils also had 13, 15 and 14 games left respectively.
And then there’s the Senators, with 69 points and 15 games remaining.
Now before everyone chimes in with claims that “the Senators are finished and they have no hope of making the playoffs” let me just say, that is probably the case. Probably, but it’s not quite.
Fact is, the Senators playoffs have already began. To play beyond their regular season finale in Pittsburgh April 13, they are expected to need about 24 of the 30 points left on their table. Their outlook is bleak, of course, but they are still alive.
Beating the Blueshirts at Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday night is mandatory.
If they can pull it off, they will trail New York by five points, and they will still have two games in hand. Now, there’s no guarantee the Rangers will remain in the Eastern Conference 8-hole, but if they do, the Senators would just need to win those two games in hand to creep to within a point of them.
Anyway, this is all just to say that even though they’ve already likely blown their season, they haven’t done so yet. Their playoffs are now. If they keep winning, they keep playing. A team like the Buffalo Sabres would love to have that luxury.