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With Northeast Division up for grabs, Bruins and Canadiens sputtering late

04.24.13 at 12:59 am ET
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The Bruins and Canadiens always go down to the wire — though the Habs won three of four meetings this season, all four were one-goal games — but this is just weird. With the Northeast Division up for grabs, neither team seems willing to take it.

As of Wednesday, the Bruins and Habs are tied with 59 points, with each team taking turns giving the other an opportunity to take control of the division and No. 2 seed in the conference.

Boston is 1-4-1 over its last six games, while the Habs are 1-5-0. What was once a furious race for a division title has turned into standstill consisting of loss after loss.

The Canadiens gave the Bruins their latest chance at getting some distance in the standings when they dropped a 3-2 decision in regulation to the Devils on Tuesday night. The Bruins could have led by two points with one game in hand by beating the Flyers, but they put up a stinker in Philadelphia and lost, 5-2.

The B’s still have the edge, as they have three games remaining to Montreal’s two. However, if the teams both finish with the same number of points, the Canadiens would hold the tiebreaker as long as they don’t win another game in a shootout (the tiebreaker is regulation and overtime wins combined, with the Habs holding a 24-23 advantage).

Both of Montreal’s remaining games are against contenders in the desperate Jets (ninth in the conference and a point out of a playoff spot) and the Maple Leafs. The series finale between the fifth-place Leafs and Habs actually could matter, as the Leafs have three games left to play. If they win on Wednesday against Tampa Bay or Thursday against Florida, and Montreal loses to the Jets, Toronto will be able to leapfrog the Habs for fourth place. There’s a number of scenarios in which the Leafs could surpass the Habs (or the B’s for that matter), as Toronto has more regulation and overtime wins (25) than either team. Long story short, the Bruins and Canadiens actually do have to win games, or they’ll run the risk of falling as low as the No. 5 spot and lose home-ice advantage in the first round.

Both the B’s and Habs are obviously struggling, but one can’t help but look at the standings and see that the potential opponent for the No. 4 seed (which currently would the No. 5 Maple Leafs) would be a lot easier than some of the teams that the No. 2 seed could face. As of Wednesday, the Rangers and Senators were tied with 52 points, with the eighth-place New York having played 46 games to Ottawa’s 45. Depending on how things play out, the Bruins beating the Senators on Sunday potentially could lock them into a matchup with the Rangers. John Tortorella‘s club has been a mess this season, but Henrik Lundqvist might be the last guy the Bruins would want to see in the first round. Maybe the Canadiens are thinking the same thing.

So with five days remaining in the regular season, the Northeast Division is up for grabs, maybe even between three teams. Maybe neither the Canadiens nor the Bruins want to see the Rangers or Senators in the first round, but they’ve got to start winning games for the sake of not dragging their feet into the playoffs.

By the end of the day Sunday, one of these teams will have won the division, but neither will be able to say it was pretty.

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