No one wants to face Detroit in the first round

holmstromscreen.jpgLast year, an eighth-place Ducks team loaded with talent from Pronger to Getzlaf to Hiller knocked the San Jose Sharks out of the first round 4-2. This year, the Detroit Red Wings could play a similar spoiler role as a team with way too much talent to be in the conference’s final playoff spot.

Now, there’s still plenty of time for a variety of things to happen. It is possible that even though the Red Wings widened their lead over Calgary last night, the Flames could still conceivably overtake Detroit for the last spot. On the other hand, the Red Wings are only one point behind Nashville, four points behind Colorado and five points behind the Los Angeles Kings. The team could absolutely be in a different spot after they get through the last 13 games of their season.

But if things hold true and the Red Wings stay in the eighth spot, the Sharks or Blackhawks may in fact be wise to let the Conference’s top spot “slip away.”

Sure, the Red Wings have struggled at times this season and may indeed have lost a few miles per hour on their fastball that they’ll never get back. That being said, this team still has Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Both Jimmy Howard and “Mr. Playoff Light Switch” Chris Osgood could give the team some good goaltending in the playoffs. In other words, there are still plenty of the elements that made them the elite team in this league.

You have to think that the Red Wings would relish the role of being the “underdog” after many seasons of being a top-3 seed. Could it be that for the second year in a row, winning the Western Conference’s top spot could really be like stumbling on a dangerous booby trap?

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    Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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    The New York Rangers needed a win.

    Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

    Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

    Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

    Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

    Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

    Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

    “Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

    A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

    The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Kucherov joins elite company with hot start, but Devils defeat Bolts

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    The Nikita Kucherov Show continues.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning star forward maintained his torrid pace Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, scoring his eighth goal of the season — in just his seventh game.

    The Bolts took the lead in the second period on goals from Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, but couldn’t hang on and ultimately lost to the Devils (how about this start for New Jersey?) by a score of 5-4 in the shootout.

    There is no denying, however, that this has been a special start for the 24-year-old Kucherov and he has joined elite company as a result.

    That’s a perfect shot on Cory Schneider.

    Read more: Kucherov’s star continues to rise

    Kucherov also added an assist on Vladislav Namestnikov‘s beautiful first-period goal. The Devils, though, completed the comeback to continue their strong start to the season, both in wins and goals for. They entered Tuesday’s contest among the league leaders in scoring and surged out to an early lead following a wild five-goal first period.

    Drew Stafford opened the scoring for New Jersey and then tied it late in the third period. Kyle Palmieri scored the winner in the shootout.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Sharks

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    It’s been a difficult start to the season for both the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens, however both clubs have an opportunity to change that beginning tonight.

    The Sharks host the Habs and you can catch the action on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or via the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Rangers, Sharks need to wake up from early slumps

    Canadiens looking to spark, not ‘bury’ Alex Galchenyuk after move to fourth line

    It’s early but the Habs are struggling to find the back of the net

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Video: Nolan Patrick’s sweet drop pass sets up Dale Weise

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    That was quite the second period for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

    The Flyers scored four straight goals to take a commanding lead, but Nolan Patrick put the exclamation point on the frenzied frame with this sweet drop pass to set up Dale Weise for Philadelphia’s fourth goal.

    That’s the second assist and third point of the season for the 19-year-old Patrick.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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