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Posted by Yahoo! Sports - NHL - Toronto Maple Leafs News on April 22, 2013 in nhl with No Comments

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it. Puck Daddy's daily Death Watch posts have become essential reading for me in a very short period of time because the races to see who can squeeze into the playoffs have been particularly fascinating this season. Not that this is the kind of thing I think we should be saying too loudly, lest Gary Bettman and his cadre hear, but I've really come to enjoy the fact that this is a 48-game season instead of an 82-gamer. Each loss is that much more agonizing, each win that much more likely to bring a postseason berth. There's something to be said for the cold brutality of the natural selection that emerges over the course of a six-month season as opposed to one that runs three and a half, because it does a lot to ensure that the best teams possible are competing for the Stanley Cup. But seeing all these bad ones white-knuckle it has been fascinating. The East is a conference with its playoff teams all but decided at this point, though Winnipeg has the slimmest glimmer of hope for unseating Washington atop the abysmal Southeast. Nonetheless, the fact that a team like New Jersey was hanging around at all says a lot about the type of competition they were facing. It has given teams hope they almost certainly wouldn't have had otherwise, and allowed not-great teams like the Maple Leafs to secure a playoff spot they would almost assuredly have lost were it not for the fact that the calendar saved them from statistical correction running them down and sinking its teeth into their throat like a cheetah on the Serengeti. The West, as you might expect given the generally higher quality of the teams involved therein, is far more interesting, insofar as the Blue Jackets, the team that spent most of the week in eighth place, has also spent pretty much that entire time with less of a chance of sneaking in than the Red Wings lurking directly behind them. This, too, is somewhat a function of the shortened schedule: Games in hand simply mean far more than they do in an 82-game schedule, and holding on with slipping, whitening fingertips to that final playoff spot for a week has meant all the more given the number of games currently being packed into your average seven-day period this time around as opposed to the norm. Normally, I'm all for seeing teams not good enough for a playoff appearance having their hopes scuttled on jagged rocks as soon as humanly possible, so everyone can get on with the business of watching hockey that's actually compelling in any way. But because of all these atypically tight races, even the games featuring otherwise bad teams are coming off as interesting and even lively.

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