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Habs playoff picture getting clearer

At the end of Friday night's games, with two days left in the regular season, here is what is known about the Eastern Conference playoff teams.

Philadelphia, who beat New Jersey 3-0, has clinched a playoff spot. They sit eighth and play Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Boston beat Ottawa 2-1, and clinched a spot. They currently sit sixth and have a date with Buffalo Saturday night.

The Senators gain entry into the playoffs back door style thanks to Carolina losing to Florida 4-3. Believe it or not, the Hurricanes had 9 powerplays while the Panthers had none. They outshot Florida 46-17, chased Tomas Vokoun and still couldn't win. Ottawa sits in seventh place and have no games remaining.

Now because both Washington and Carolina currently have 92 points it is not possible for both teams to make the post season. You'll notice that the Capitals currently hold the 3rd seed in the conference and that is due to their game in hand over Carolina, who are bumped down to ninth with the loss.

Washington needs one point against the Florida Panthers to make the playoffs and eliminate the Hurricanes.

New York gained one point for a 4-3 OT loss the Islanders, and New Jersey remain in fourth with 97 points, one up on the fifth place Rangers.

Now here is what can happen in regards to who the Canadiens can meet in the first round.

Montreal and Pittsburgh are currently tied with 102 points, and the Habs fate is tied to the Penguins / Flyers game on Sunday. With Philadelphia now guaranteed a spot, they will surely be less hungry than they would have otherwise.

Montreal, of course can make that game matter win a win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Should the Habs lose, they finish second, simple as that.

Either way, the Canadiens will be playing teams that finish seventh or eighth, and there are only three possibilities - Boston, Ottawa, or Philadelphia.

The way it works out is that the Rangers can fall no lower than sixth with a loss to New Jersey. With a win, the Rangers gain home ice in round one against the Devils. If the Rangers end up with a overtime point, they will open in New Jersey.

Boston can catch New York should they win and the Rangers lose. Both teams would have 96 points and 42 wins, but the Bruins have the season record tiebreaker.

The Flyers can change their fate with a win in Pittsburgh on Sunday. They would pass the Bruins in the standings, should Boston lose.

If that scenario plays out, Boston would then drop to eighth place and the Senators would remain seventh.

A Philadelphia tie does nothing for their standing. They cannot move ahead of Boston if tied with them, as the Bruins has the season series 3 games to 1.

In regards to Ottawa, they can only fall into eighth spot should both Boston and Philadelphia win. A Flyer win and a Bruins loss leaves Ottawa in seventh, and Boston and Philadelphia would flip flop positions.

Ottawa can in fact move up to sixth, but it would take a Bruins loss and nothing more than a Flyers single OT point combined.

The Bruins might be motivated to win, simply to avoid the Canadiens and instead play the Southeastern Division champions, be it Washington or Carolina.

So for the Canadiens, this is how it all shakes down.

First, their fate can only be determined on Saturday night with a loss to the Leafs. If the Habs win it is wait and see what the Penguins do on Sunday.

Now here are the scenarios of who the Canadiens could meet should they lose to Toronto.

A Bruins win or tie, eliminates the possibility of a matchup against the Canadiens. A Bruins loss, if Montreal also losses, throws it into Philadelphia's hands on Sunday.

A Bruins win or tie, combined with a Sunday Flyers loss, irregardless of what Montreal does Saturday, means the Canadiens will play the Senators in the first round.

If both the Flyers and Bruins lose on the weekend, the Canadiens would meet Boston in the first round.

There is only one way that the Canadiens could possibly meet up with the Flyers in the first round round. It would involve Montreal losing to Toronto and both the Flyers and Bruins winning their last games, which would place Ottawa in eighth and Philly in seventh.

If both the Habs and Flyers win their games on the weekend, OT for Philly or not, then they cannot meet in the first round.

Wow, now my brain hurts.

Yes, it's all clear as mud in someways, but it is getting clearer.

Here's the standings for right now, before any games are played Saturday.