By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Sometimes in sports, figuring out standings and playoff positioning and tiebreakers can get unnecessarily complicated. In a sport like hockey — with regulation/overtime wins, shootouts, games in hand, etc. — that is doubly true.
But fortunately for everybody in the universe, we don’t need to crack open any textbooks or employ and convoluted formulas in order to figure out where exactly the Boston Bruins will end up in the Eastern Conference standings. It’s as simple as simple gets this time around.
If the Bruins hope to salvage the No. 3 seed instead of ending up as the No. 4 seed in the East, here’s what they need to do:
Beat the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
That is it.
Win the game, get the third seed. Lose the game, fourth place it is.
Regulation, overtime, shootout — doesn’t matter. Finish the game with a bigger number on the scoreboard than the opponent, take the No. 3 seed in the East.
It’s that simple due to the Capitals losing in regulation to Philadelphia on Thursday. That loss leaves Washington with one standings point through two games played. With one game remaining for all round robin teams, here’s where they stand:
T-1. Tampa Bay, 4 points
T-2. Philadelphia, 4 points
3. Washington, 1 point
4. Boston, 0 points
Clearly the top two spots are out of reach, but jumping past Washington only requires a victory. That win can come in regulation or overtime, as the Bruins own the tiebreaker if they end up with the same number of points as Washington.
Of course, the stakes are somewhat lowered for seeding this year, as the league has eliminated most elements of home-ice advantage by creating the bubble. But the playoffs will re-seed after every round, and home coaches will have last change, so there’s still something to be gained.
The Bruins would likely say that the seeding matters less than the way they’re playing, which is true. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t been playing well, outside of a 20-30 minute stretch during Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Tampa. They now face the task of trying to get it all figured out against the Capitals, a team that has traditionally owned the Bruins over the past several years. The Capitals went 2-1-0 against the Bruins this year, and they own an astounding 16-2-0 record vs. Boston, dating back to the 2014-15 season.
If there is one positive for the Bruins it’s that the Capitals have also not looked like themselves early on in bubble play. They did take Tampa Bay to a shootout in their debut, a contest which the Lightning won, but they were then soundly beaten 3-1 by the Flyers on Thursday, a game in which they trailed 3-0 in the third period.
While beating the Capitals would work to get the Bruins that third seed, a victory would likely prove more useful in giving the Bruins some bit of positivity and confidence as they head into the real, live, actual playoffs, which begin next week.