Atlantic Watch: 4/6-4/12

With only two games this week, the Flyers went 1-0-1 capturing the Atlantic Division title. Although they still aren’t playing their best hockey, the Flyers hung on to second place in the conference for a first-round playoff series against the Buffalo Sabres. With the first game scheduled for tomorrow, the Flyers hope to benefit from having home-ice advantage.

Even though they played one of their best periods in the week, the Flyers had only a 1-0 lead going into the second period Friday night in Buffalo. After both teams scored a pair of goals in the middle period, a ridiculous Nathan Gerbe spin-o-rama backhand shot went top-shelf to tie the game at three halfway through the third period. Thomas Vanek scored 1:16 into overtime to give the Sabres the additional point and extend the Flyers’ losing streak to five.

Despite nearly blowing their gigantic divisional lead, the Flyers came through in the final game of the year to clinch the division. With two goals in the opening 47 seconds, the Flyers kept rollling to a 7-4 win at home against the New York Islanders, a team they went 6-0-0 against during the 2010-2011 season.

Scott Hartnell had three goals and an assist this week. After opening the scoring against Buffalo, he also assisted on Danny Briere’s second period goal. Hartnell also had two goals on Saturday, one of which came 47 seconds into the game.

Even with their 2-4-2 slide to end the season, the Flyers finished second in the Eastern Conference. In the opening round they’ll take on the Buffalo Sabres, a team that went 8-1-1 to finish the season. The Flyers were 2-1-1 against the Sabres this season dropping the last two meetings.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-0. Giving the Flyers a run for their money, the Penguins still fell short in their attempt to win the division for the first time since 2008.

With their 10th shootout win on the season, the Penguins tied the Flyers for the Atlantic division lead on Friday night forcing Philadelphia to win against the Islanders. Allowing a Travis Hamonic goal with 35 seconds left, the Penguins choked away a late third period lead. No goals in overtime lead to a shootout where Chris Kunitz was the only player to score giving Pitt the additional point.

In their last game of the season, the Penguins beat the Thrashers 5-2 on Sunday in a game that had no importance. With Jordan Staal, Kunitz, James Neal, and Paul Martin sitting out, the Penguins still managed to score four goals in the second period. Mike Comrie scored his first goal of the year on an empty net opportunity in the final minutes.

Ben Lovejoy had the biggest offensive night on the week for the Pens registering three assists against the Thrashers. Some of the Pens’ bruisers had some unexpected weeks as Mike Rupp had two goals and Eric Godard had two assists.

The Pens are the fourth seed and head into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak. Unfortunately, their last loss came against the team they’re facing in the first round, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Home ice advantage will help out the Penguins a lot since they were 2-2-0 against the Lightning during the regular season.

New York Rangers: 1-1-0. Facing two non-playoff teams, the Rangers enter the playoffs winning the last game of the year against a divisional foe. Although they made the playoffs, the Rangers have a steep hill to climb if they want to advance playing the Capitals in the first round.

After being shut out by the Thrashers on Thursday 3-0, the Rangers bounced back with a 5-2 win to put themselves in the eigth and final playoff spot. Chris Drury and Ryan McDonagh scored their first goals of the year in the most important game of the season. Out scoring the Devils 4-0 in the last two periods, the Rangers had their playoff prayers answered as the Hurricanes lost to the Lightning later in the day.

The Washington Capitals haven’t played too well in the playoffs in recent years, but the team has been playing more defensively sound. Aside from the fact it’s uncommon for an eight seed to beat a one seed in the NHL, the Rangers don’t have the most depth. Even with the lack of offense, the Rangers almost beat the Capitals two years ago in the first round when the seventh-seeded Rangers met the second-seeded Capitals. Maybe New York is able to pull off the upset this season.

New Jersey Devils: 1-1-0. The Devils won their last game of the season and won the NHL draft lottery. Despite missing the playoffs, the Devils did get lucky winning the draft lottery moving them from the eighth pick in the draft to the fourth.

Playing a team determined for the playoffs, the Devils lost to the Rangers on Saturday 5-2. Despite out scoring the Rangers 2-1 in the first period, the Devils gave up four unanswered goals leading to their three-goal defeat.

The following day the Devils ended the season on a good note beating the Bruins 3-2 at home. Even though Chris Kelly scored with four seconds left in the game, the Devils’ fans cheered their team on until the buzzer sounded appreciating their team’s efforts to make the playoffs late in the season.

Ilya Kovalchuk had a two-point game against the Rangers assisting on Palmieri’s goal and scoring one of his own with just 42 seconds left in the period.

The Devils weren’t intimidating this season, but next year New Jersey could potentially be the division champions. With the help of the fourth pick in this year’s draft, the Devils will most likely receive better luck with injuries to key players. If the team carries the momentum gained from the second half of this season, the Devils could be a Cup contender next year.

New York Islanders: 0-2-1. Despite having the most games this week, the Islanders ended up being the only team in the division without a win.

After a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Wednesday, the Islanders dropped a shootout to the Pens and lost in a high-scoring game against the Flyers on Saturday.

Michael Grabner yet again was the Islander who performed the best offensively. With a two-goal against the Bruins on Wednesday, Grabner had three goals and an assist.

Constant goalie issues, injuries, and a stretch of 1-17-3 early in the season made it difficult for the Islanders to make the playoffs. There is a bright side on Long Island as they had five 20-goal scorers, two of which had 30; Michael Grabner 34 and Matt Moulson with 31 (John Tavares had 29). If Rick DiPietro can go one season with consistency, and no injuries, the Islanders have a decent shot to sneak into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.