The Eastern Conference Playoff Bubble

Updated: April 7, 2011 at 11:40 am by Adam Schwartz

Adam Schwartz

It’s that time of the season again when we all turn into mathematicians and try to figure out who needs to win in order for their team to crack the top eight in their Conference.

Without further ado here is an analysis of the three bubble teams in the Eastern Conference:

Buffalo Sabres

Why they will make it:

Goaltending: Ryan Miller is one of the League’s best and has big-game pedigree taking Team USA to the gold-medal game last year at the Olympics and the Sabres to back-to-back conference finals in 2006 and 2007. It’s no secret that Miller hasn’t had his best season, but he is still an all-world goalie. Moreover, rookie Jhonas Enroth has played even better than Miller, getting five points out of a possible six over his last three starts.

Two-way Defense: Only one of the Sabres top-four defenseman, Jordan Leopold, has a minus rating. Leopold makes up for his minus-11 rating with offense though and has 35 points but will unfortunately miss the rest of the regular season. The other three defensemen; Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera and Steve Montador are all mobile defensemen that are trustworthy in their own zone. It could easily be said that Myers is among the league’s best defenseman. Sekera has been a quiet contributor from the back end with 29 points and Montador provides a veteran leadership and know-how along with a steady stay-at-home style.

Why they won’t make it:

Physical Element: The Sabres score plenty of goals and pay the price to do so, but there is a heftier toll to do so in the post season. Leading goal scorer Thomas Vanek hasn’t proven himself in the playoffs with just 15 points in 29 career playoff games. Who knows if the ever-fragile Tim Connolly can handle the playoff rigors not to mention 5-foot-5, 178-pound Nathan Gerbe.

Faceoffs: Aside from Paul Gaustad, who has won 60 percent of his draws, the Sabres don’t have another center with a faceoff-winning percentage above 50 percent. Sure, Gaustad is a good player to have out there in the last minute when your team is leading by a goal, but not so much when your team is trailing by one.

New York Rangers

Why they will make it:

Defense: John Tortorella’s free wheeling days are through and he is now coaching a defense-first, shot-blocking oriented team. Here’s a couple fun facts: the Rangers have blocked the second-most shots among playoff teams with 1,227 and have allowed the second-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference in large part because of Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and the emergence of rookie Ryan McDonagh.

Balanced Scoring: The Rangers have five 20-goal scorers and Artem Anisimov has 18. The most surprising of the bunch are rookie Derek Stepan with 20 and grinder Brian Boyle with 21.

Why they won’t make it:

No Offense From the Defense: Aside from Girardi, the Blueshirts don’t have a very threatening back line. Staal, Michael Sauer and McDonagh are all primarily defensive defensemen. Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy are both known to contribute offensively, but neither of them see major minutes with the former down in Connecticut and the latter a frequent healthy scratch.

Carolina Hurricanes

Why they will make it:

Home-Ice Advantage: The Hurricanes are just 17-17-6 away from home this season, but have a 21-13-5 record in Carolina, including a 9-5-3 record since the beginning of February. Two of their last three games are home against the Red Wings and the Lightning, who are clearly no pushovers. Their lone road game left is against the lowly Atlanta Thrashers.

Why they won’t make it:

Defense: The Hurricanes have allowed more goals than any team that currently holds a playoff spot. All four of Carolina’s top-four defensemen – Joe Corvo, Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain and Tim Gleason – have a negative plus-minus rating. Cam Ward is an excellent goaltender, but he can only bail out his team so often. Both Corvo and Pitkanen are risk takers and McBain still has a lot to learn as a rookie.

We hope you enjoyed our latest as much as we enjoyed writing it. If there are glaring omissions let your voice be heard in the comments. Regardless, make sure to take all of the advice in and continue to check our renowned starting goalies section, which is updated all day until game time and follow us on Twitter @DailyFaceoff

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