Senators Control Playoff Destiny In NHL Regular-Season Finale
The Ottawa Senators looked dead in the water in terms of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs just two months ago, but they control their destiny for a spot in the postseason heading into Saturday afternoon’s regular-season finale at the Philadelphia Flyers, who have nothing to play for other than to be a spoiler. Ottawa is a -140 favorite at Bovada.
Thank You Rangers!
Ottawa caught a break Thursday night at the Rangers as New York had clinched the Presidents’ Trophy and thus rested some key players with no motivation to win. The Senators prevailed 3-0, their fifth win in the past six games — the previous five had all been decided by one goal. The Senators gained control of their destiny by getting goals from Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris in a 1:04 span late in the second period and a 26-save performance from stellar rookie Andrew Hammond. He is 19-1-2 with a 1.76 goals-against average in 22 starts since being called up from the AHL. That GAA is down to 1.58 during the Senators’ current 5-0-1 stretch.
The Rangers, who had a ceremony prior to the game to receive the Presidents’ Trophy from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, played without forwards Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, and defensemen Marc Staal and Kevin Klein.
The Senators, who fired coach Paul MacLean in early December, were 14 points out of a wild-card spot in early February. Ottawa has now won 22 of its past 30 games dating back to Feb. 10 — a record of 22-4-4. The Sens have earned 48 of a possible 60 points over that span, 20 more points than the Pittsburgh Penguins and 16 more than the Boston Bruins over the same time period. To put it in perspective, on Feb. 10 Ottawa sat one point behind the awful Toronto Maple Leafs and were tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for 13th place in the conference.
The Senators (42-26-13) are currently the first wild card from the Eastern Conference but can finish third in the Atlantic Division with a win Saturday coupled with a regulation loss by the Detroit Red Wings against the Carolina Hurricanes. Ottawa has 97 points, one fewer than Detroit, one more than the Penguins and two more than the Bruins, who fell out of playoff position with a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. The Penguins have two games remaining, Friday night vs. the Islanders and then Saturday at Buffalo.
Simply put: If the Senators either win or gain a point by going to overtime at Philadelphia, or if Boston loses in Tampa Bay, the Senators are in the playoffs. Both matchups between the Senators and Flyers this season have gone to shootouts, with each winning at home 2-1. The only one Hammond played was a win March 15 when he made 27 saves and stopped all three of Philadelphia’s shootout attempts.
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