With only seven games left in the regular season, the Atlanta Thrashers find themselves just two points out of the final playoff spot. That spot is held by - depending on how you want to look at it - the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, or Philadelphia Flyers. (Under the NHL's system for mid-season rankings, the Flyers are in 8th.)
Both the Bruins and Flyers are two points ahead of the Thrashers with 80 points. The Bruins have a game in hand, though. The Montreal Canadiens are four points ahead (with 82) but have played one more game than the Thrashers and Flyers. In terms of Games Over 0.500, Montreal and Boston are currently tied.
Using a site like SportsClubStats you can surmise that the Thrashers must go 5-2-0 the rest of the way to have a shot at extra games. How possible is this? Follow me after the jump.
Our remaining schedule is not exactly "easy" - in fact, it gets pretty brutal in April. Here's the remaining games:
Carolina, Toronto, Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Washington, Pittsburgh
Ouch! It's going to be very necessary to get two points against Carolina and Toronto. That'd mean we'd need to go 3-2 in those last five. However, we could also go 2-1-2 or 1-0-4 and still have an (almost) equal chance at the playoffs. The key is going to be getting points in as many games as possible.
Problems? Well, we've lost both games we've played against Pittsburgh this year. We're 1-2 against the Devils. We're (gulp) 0-4 against the Capitals. That means that we'll likely have to win the game against New Jersey and one of the other four... plus get points in two more. So it'd take a run like this:
Carolina (W), Toronto (W), Washington (L), Pittsburgh (OTL), New Jersey (W), Washington (OTL), Pittsburgh (W)
Possible? Sure. Easy? Not in this lifetime.
The other option is for Philadelphia to collapse entirely. Don't kid yourself - we're no longer chasing the Bruins. With two points and one game in hand, they're likely too far ahead of us to catch. The Flyers, however, could cede a playoff position to the Thrashers by falling to 3-4-0 or lower this season. It'd still take a run very similar to the one above, but they'd make it slightly easier.
That's not outside the realm of possibility. The Flyers have seen a rash of goalie injuries and have gone just 2-6-2 in their last 10. 2-6-2 is a winning percentage of 0.300% which would translate to... 2-5-0. Therefore, if Philadelphia does not start playing better, the Thrashers can make the playoffs. We aren't praying for a team to collapse anymore, we just need the Flyers to play the way they've been playing.
Thrashers fans: there are currently just three home games remaining this season, but there is a reasonable chance there will be five or more. Now is the time to get excited.