NHL playoffs update: Sharks drowning in San Jose

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Sharks.jpgIn one, busy day the playoff picture all at once cleared up a bit and became more crowded and muddled. In the East, the No. 2 seed is still up for grabs while New Jersey continues to knock on Pittsburgh’s door for the division lead. In the West, the Coyotes continue their incredible surge and the race for 8th looks just a bit clearer now.

Will somebody tell me just what exactly is going on down in San Jose?

After the jump, updated standings and the games from yesterday that mattered. Anyone care for a Stanley Cup final between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres?

Eastern Conference

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
1 SE 72 48 14 10 106 283 203 +80 26-4-4 22-10-6 7-1-2 Won 1
2 ATL 72 42 24 6 90 224 205 +19 21-10-4 21-14-2 6-2-2  
3 NE 71 39 22 10 88 200 180 +20 21-9-6 18-13-4 6-3-1 Won 3
4 ATL 71 42 25 4 88 189 169 +20 24-10-1 18-15-3 5-4-1 Lost 1
5 NE 72 37 30 5 79 194 212 -18 23-10-4 14-20-1 2-7-1 Lost 5
6 ATL 72 37 30 5 79 212 199 +13 21-13-2 16-17-3 4-4-2 Lost 2
7 NE 72 36 29 7 79 196 198 -2 18-13-4 18-16-3 7-2-1  
8 NE 71 32 27 12 76 176 181 -5 15-14-6 17-13-6 5-4-1 Won 1
9 SE 72 32 29 11 75 218 230 -12 18-13-5 14-16-6 4-5-1 Won 4

 

I’m leaving the New York Rangers out of the picture because even if the are still mathematically in the race, they don’t deserve to be. Here are the games that mattered:

New York Rangers 1, Boston 2 – The Bruins were awake for this one and nabbed an all-important two points to continue to hold on to the 8th spot and to build a bigger lead on the Rangers. It’s a good thing because…

Atlanta Thrashers 3, Philadelphia 1 – Someone told me yesterday that the Thrashers have a better record than the New Jersey Devils do since the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. I’ll run those numbers later today, but if that’s true you all owe Don Waddell an apology.

Buffalo 5, Carolina 3 – At one point, I had hopes for a magical, Cinderella run by the Canes into the playoffs. Oh well. The Sabres continue to keep pace with Pittsburgh, and they have a game in hand.

Western Conference

DIV GP W L OT Pts GF GA DIFF Home Away L10 Streak
1 CEN 71 45 19 7 97 234 179 +55 26-7-3 19-12-4 4-4-2  
2 PAC 73 46 22 5 97 201 179 +22 26-10-2 20-12-3 9-1-0 Won 9
3 NW 72 44 24 4 92 236 187 +49 26-8-2 18-16-2 6-2-2  
4 PAC 72 43 19 10 96 232 192 +40 22-6-8 21-13-2 3-6-1 Lost 5
5 CEN 73 42 26 5 89 206 203 +3 21-12-2 21-14-3 7-3-0 Won 6
6 PAC 70 41 24 5 87 207 185 +22 20-12-3 21-12-2 5-4-1 Won 1
7 NW 71 40 25 6 86 213 190 +23 22-11-2 18-14-4 5-5-0 Lost 2
8 CEN 71 35 23 13 83 193 192 +1 19-10-5 16-13-8 7-2-1 Won 1
9 NW 72 36 27 9 81 184 181 +3 18-16-3 18-11-6 6-4-0 Lost 1

 

I can picture the San Jose Sharks fan, sitting on their beds and clutching their knees tight to their chest muttering to themselves over and over “Not again…..not again…”

Here are the games that mattered:

Calgary 3, Minnesota 4 – It’s funny, ever since the Wild were pretty much taken out of the playoff race they’ve started to play much better. Calgary but desperately needed two points to keep pace with Detroit.

Nashville 3, St. Louis 2 – The Predators are going to be dangerous in the playoffs, and no one is paying any attention. More on them later today.

Phoenix 3, Dallas 2 (SO) – By the power of Dave Tippett’s lost mustache, the Coyotes are riding a nine-game winning streak to the top of the Western Conference. Chicago still holds the top spot thanks to tie breakers, but they don’t count.

San Jose 1, Edmonton 5 – I got nuthin.

Colorado 2, Anaheim 5 – I think we’re starting to see the inexperience and youth of the Avs start to come through.

Ducks forward Sorensen signs in Swedish League

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Nick Sorensen, the forward taken 45th overall by Anaheim in 2013, has opted to return to Europe and sign a two-year pact with SHL club Linkoping, the team announced on Tuesday.

Sorensen, 22, returned to North America this season after spending ’14-15 and ’15-16 in Sweden (the latter with Linkoping, so this is a homecoming of sorts).

A former Quebec League standout, Sorensen impressed during training camp and made the Ducks’ opening-night roster, appearing in five games before being dispatched to AHL San Diego.

“Every game, every practice, every day for me, it’s a look to try to stay here,” Sorensen said back in October, per the Daily News. “Even if I play zero, one, five or 20 games, I’m not going to get comfortable up here. It’s the best league in the world.

“I’m just going to try to prove to them every day I want to be here.”

With the Gulls, Sorensen had 10 goals and 22 points in 48 games. He also chipped in with another four in eight playoff contests, but did suffer an injury during the postseason.

Sorensen was a pending RFA, having just wrapped the last year of his entry-level deal.

 

Sens owner: ‘very disturbing’ that tonight’s game may not sell out

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Entire rows in the upper deck of the Canadian Tire Centre still haven’t been sold for tonight’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Not surprisingly, the specter of a non-sellout for one of the biggest home games in franchise history has the Senators’ owner rather concerned.

“It’s very disturbing,” Eugene Melnyk told Postmedia, “however, knowing the players and coaches they will be trying their hardest for Ottawa.”

The Senators’ attendance has been a big story throughout these playoffs. In the second round, a crowd of just 16,744 was announced for Game 1 against the New York Rangers.

It was thought the story would go away once the conference final started. And for Games 3 and 4, capacity crowds were, indeed, announced.

But with no opportunity for the Sens to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight, it’s possible the building may not be full.

Via Ticketmaster, the blue dots represent unsold seats, while the pink dots are tickets available for resale:

Flames d-man Smid signs in Czech League

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Ladislav Smid isn’t ready to call it a career yet.

Smid, the 31-year-old defenseman that missed all of last year with a neck injury, has signed with Czech League team Liberec, the club announced on Tuesday.

He just wrapped the last of a four-year, $14 million deal with a $3.5M average annual cap hit.

Smid’s last NHL action came in ’15-16, when he appeared in 22 games for the Flames. The end of his tenure in Calgary was marked largely by injury and lineup absences, this after being acquired from Edmonton in 2013 (and scoring eight points in 73 games in his first full season with the Flames).

At one point considered a high-end prospect — the Ducks took him ninth overall in 2004 — Smid is probably best known as one of the pieces Edmonton acquired in the infamous Chris Pronger-to-Anaheim trade. He leaves North America with over 500 NHL games on his resume, and represented the Czechs at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

‘Our guys know the big picture’: Preds aren’t satisfied with spot in Stanley Cup Final

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Nashville Predators, the final team into the NHL playoffs, are headed to the first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

Coach Peter Laviolette insists they won’t just be happy to be there either.

“Our guys know the big picture,” Laviolette said. “They understand what it is that we’re trying to do here. And when that time comes, we’ll be ready.”

Colton Sissons scored a hat trick with his third goal the game-winner with 6:00 left, and goalie Pekka Rinne made 38 saves as the Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 on Monday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

Now the team no one outside of Nashville expected to be here is waiting to face either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is Monday.

No matter what happens next, the Predators already have turned in a thrilling run this postseason as just the third franchise seeded last in its conference to reach the Final since the NHL went to the current conference-based playoff format in 1994. The Edmonton Oilers lost to Laviolette’s Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, while the Kings beat New Jersey in six in 2012.

They also are the eighth team in the past 15 seasons to reach the Stanley Cup Final after finishing the regular season outside the top 10 in the final standings.

Nashville’s magical run started by sweeping the West’s No. 1 seed in Chicago. The Predators downed St. Louis in six to reach their first conference finals, and now they’ve knocked off the Pacific Division champ in Anaheim, which lost for the second time in three years in the Western finals.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators’ longest tenured-player at 34, called the victory an amazing feeling.

“It’s a funny thing though,” Rinne said. “Everything that is happening around us, you still feel hungry and now we have a chance to play for the Cup. It’s a pretty amazing feeling and you’re working for that for a long, long time. I feel like the last number of years, we’ve been going in that direction, building this team and having more depth.”

That depth has paid off, particularly the last two games after losing top center Ryan Johansen after Game 4 to emergency surgery on his left thigh. Captain Mike Fisher, the only player on the roster who has played in the Stanley Cup Final with Ottawa in 2007, also missed those two games with an upper-body injury.

Forward Kevin Fiala broke his left leg in the second round.

Laviolette simply tapped Nashville’s pipeline and has tied the NHL’s all-time mark using 18 forwards this postseason. Sissons is the latest to respond. The 23-year-old center was scoreless in the 2016 playoffs and had 10 points in 58 games during the regular season. Now he has 10 points this postseason.

“I don’t think I even dreamt of this moment, scoring a hat trick in the Western Conference clinching game, but I can’t speak enough for just our whole group,” Sissons said. “We’ve been through some challenges together and we stuck together no matter what, just always believed and here we are.”

Now Laviolette is the first coach since 1994 and the fourth overall to take three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final , joining Scotty Bowman, Dick Irvin and Mike Keenan.

“Probably means that I got fired a lot,” Laviolette said with a chuckle. “I’m fortunate to be here working and fortunate (general manager) David Poile gave me a job. And when you do that, you’re not thinking about things like that, you’re just thinking about coming to work.”

Now Music City stands ready to show the NHL how to chase hockey’s ultimate trophy in star-studded fashion.

The Predators have had a different national anthem singer for each playoff game ranging from Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan to Trisha Yearwood. The singer’s identity is a well-guarded secret. NFL stars like Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, PGA golfer Brandt Snedeker and former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George have revved up crowds for a raucous party each game.

Fans filled the plaza outside the arena and the park across the street during the game before pouring onto the street lined with honky-tonks to celebrate. Forward James Neal said the Predators’ fans are special and now everyone in the hockey world is getting to see them.

“It’s hard to describe and it’s an amazing feeling to win this, and we’re not done,” Neal said.