Hockey Playoff Picture

With three week left the Hockey East playoff picture remains clouded. In particular everything concerning PC is up in the air. Technically PC is guaranteed a playoff spot, however they can still finish anywhere from first to eighth, though first, seventh and eighth would seem unlikely.

For the first time all ten teams are now even in games played and thus have 6 games left. Essentially each team over the next three weekends have a 2 game series each weekend. Six teams are fighting for home ice, which the top four teams get in the first round. The quarterfinal round will be a best of three series played entirely at the on campus sites of the four home ice schools. Of the ten teams in the league only the bottom two are mathematically eliminated from battle for home ice. However there very much is a battle between the last four teams to gain the last two playoff spots.

As a PC fan what you want to happen over the next few weeks depends on how optimistic (and greedy) you want to be. Depending on how well you believe PC will do in their 6 remaining games will dictate how you wish BUdoes.

The assumption is with 12 points left to earn that BC with a 7 point lead and the season series in hand can not be caught. Therefore you want BC to sweep at least their weekend series at Maine this weekend and with UNH the last weekend of the season. BU is three points up on PC and is on fire; however PC does hold the tiebreaker. If you believe PC will come close to winning out then you might not wish BU to split its games. They do have a 2 game series with Northeastern who is fighting for their playoff lives. However if PC does their job this weekend against Northeastern, the Huskies might be breathing their last when they face BU. Clearly you would love to see Northeastern drop a pair to PC but get some points against BU. After that though comes the tricky part. BU faces UNH and Vermont, two of the three teams on PC's tail in the battle for home ice. Splits in those series and there might be a good chance to move up to second. If BU sweeps if becomes unlikely PC catches BU, but it will afford Providence more breathing room in their battle for home ice.

PC actually has the easiest schedule on paper of any team. They play 2 game series against Northeastern and Merrimack, both teams presently on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Merrimack is the last weekend of the season and by then the Warriors will most likely be eliminated. They also play a key home and home series against UNH who is technically tied with PC for third at the moment. PC has the leg up by winning the first game in gaining the tiebreaker.

Conversely UNH has the hardest schedule. They face not only PC, but BU and BC in 2 game series. Possibly they luck out playing BC the last weekend of the season with BC having their position set. The key game between the PC and UNH is the Friar's home game. PC has never done well at the Whitt and with the schedules what they are; right now the game can be looked on as a bonus for PC.

Maine and Vermont the 5th and 6th place teams are jockeying for position. Maine's schedule is similar to PC's, facing one top team and two weaker ones. If BC can go up to Maine and win it will open some room between PC and Maine. PC has the tiebreaker with Maine. Vermont has a four point hole to make up on PC, but they hold the tiebreaker. Their schedule appears to be fairly favorable. They face the teams presently in 7th and 8th place (the Massachusetts state schools) and have a home pair with BU. If PC takes care of business themselves Vermont is not a concern. If PC doesn't dominate the cellar dwellers this is where Friar fans become big Terrier boosters.

Technically, if UMass or Lowell win out its possible for PC to fall to 7th or 8th. However, if Lowell loses 1 point or PC earns one point they can't pass PC. Between PC and UMass the magic number is 2 points. The odds are very long on this happening. UMass faces Vermont and Maine and Lowell has BC and Vermont on their schedule.

The next question then becomes who does PC want to face in the playoffs. Certainly that would be the reason to hope they can catch BU for second. PC has had much better luck against UMass and Lowell, one of whom most likely will travel to the 2nd seed. A third place finish and they most likely face UNH, Maine or Vermont with Vermont the most likely 6th place finisher. Vermont has proven to be a bad match up for the Friars. Maine and UNH seem like better match ups especially if the Friars hold on to home ice. If they fail to hold home ice a trip to either of the other two schools become a far tougher task.

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