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MIT’s Interruption

By Eric Rosenblatt

With March Madness heating up here in April, the NBA playoffs approaching, the MLB season starting off wildly (Red Sox blow a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 9th), and football season now only five months away, many have forgotten about ice hockey.

Unfortunately, however, this is not due to the sports-packed week we are in. With the biggest story of the year so far being the possibility that Sergei Fedorov and Anna Kournikova were actually married, it is obvious that the NHL has been suffering all season long.

Television ratings are down and many teams are finding themselves in financial trouble. Only the Rangers can spend money in the true New York fashion, and they can’t even buy a sure playoff birth.

The traditional hockey markets such as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Calgary, and Edmonton can’t afford to keep their stars and are all struggling this season; this while the Carolina Hurricanes go to a Stanley Cup Championship last year (as their fans dream about a possible Duke-UNC hockey game) and Tampa Bay fights for home advantage this year (seriously, ice should only be used to cool down Pina Coladas in Florida).

Still, with all these troubles, the ice is just getting warm as the playoffs (and summer) approach.

Now in the final week of the regular season the playoff picture is relatively clear. The only uncertainty is which of the two New York teams will take the 8th spot in the East. Having already clinched playoff spots, Ottawa, New Jersey, and Philadelphia will be looking to avoid a tough first-round match-up against as Toronto. While beating the Maple Leafs would be doable for all these teams, it would leave any of them quite beaten up for the second round. My Take: Islanders hold onto the 8 spot; Rangers buy a Stanley Cup replica made of platinum.

In the West: Detroit, Vancouver, and Dallas are playing hard for the one seed. These three teams are only separated by a couple of points in the overall standings, which makes for some exciting remaining games. Vancouver looks like a very good pick to win it all this year; Bertuzzi and Naslund combine for 93 goals so far this season and the team has been hot recently.

Watch out for Colorado, however. They have been sneaking up to the top three in the past two weeks and with Sakic, Hejduk, Roy, and Hart Trophy candidate Forsberg healthy this team can beat anyone on a given night. The big surprises this year: the Minnesota Wild in the seventh spot and the LA Kings not even close to a playoff birth. My Take: Forsberg does some damage; those Vikings know how to play hockey.