Volume 95, Issue 97

Tuesday, April 9, 2002
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Ah memories - the Mustangs year in review

Who will be left standing at the finish line?

View from the isolated, yet superior corner

Who will be left standing at the finish line?

Heading into the final week of the NHL season, hockey fans couldn't ask for more excitement, as congested playoff races in both conferences will come down to the final buzzer before being decided.

In the Western Conference, only a mere five points separate six teams vying for the final four positions (Los Angeles 91, St. Louis 90, Phoenix 89, Edmonton 88, Vancouver 88, Dallas 86).

Phoenix has the easiest road in playing three of its last four games against non-playoff teams, whereas St. Louis is in for an extremely tough ride, finishing with four of its last five games against the top three teams in the West (Colorado, San Jose and two doses of powerful Detroit).

Dallas also finishes with three of four against strong conference rivals and after losing a very important game to the lowly Mighty Ducks Sunday, they will find it tough to make the post-season.

Even though St. Louis has two games in hand on both Vancouver and Edmonton, it could quite possibly turn out that both Canadian teams will nudge the Blues and their $55 million payroll out of the playoff picture.

In the Eastern Conference, the inspired play of the Montreal Canadiens has recently made their playoff chances look very good, leaving traditional playoff competitors Washington, Buffalo and the "money-can't-buy-success" New York Rangers looking at early dates with their golf clubs.

Inside the Eastern playoff bracket, there promises to be exciting games of leap-frog as only three points separate places four through seven (Toronto – 92, Ottawa – 92, New York Islanders – 90, New Jersey – 89).

With the chance of five Canadian teams making the playoffs next week, any hockey fan in this country, no matter who they normally cheer for, has to be watching with a smile on their face.

–Dave Martin

The Miracle on Bay Street continues.

The Toronto Raptors have reeled off an eight-game winning streak with gritty play – and dare we say without 'Air Canada,' forward Vince Carter.

The playoff stretch is gearing up with nothing guaranteed and each game posing disastrous consequences.

In the Eastern Conference, the race is on for the elusive eighth seed. Toronto has a game on the Indiana Pacers, but both teams have extremely favourable schedules – maybe more so for the Pacers.

The race should be decided by who can win the Pacers-Raptors final head-to-head showdown on Wednesday night.

However, the amazing story unfolding is the Bucks, who are dying a slow, lonely death.

In the Western Conference, the fight is at the top of the pack, where teams continue to jostle positions.

The Sacramento Kings own the top spot, but the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs will fight tooth-and-nail for the second spot – thus avoiding Minnesota or Portland in the first round.

However, the greatest challenge for all teams in the West draw is to avoid the Lakers because come playoff time your toast if you snag them in the draw.

–Jordan Bell

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Copyright The Gazette 2002