Playoff update: The fittest survive

Tuesday night seemed like a day in which “the establishment” put down a few puck-based insurgencies. The Boston Bruins won their second game a row against their biggest bubble threat, the Ottawa Senators widened what was once a shrinking lead for fifth place in the East and the San Jose Sharks seemed to reestablish reason by taking back the Pacific.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference scenario (apologies for my lack of technical grace):


Boston 4, Atlanta 0

The bad news for Atlanta and the other East underdogs is that Boston keeps moving away from that pack. The Thrashers might actually want to cast their net wider, now, because Philadelphia or Montreal might end up being easier targets than the Bruins. Could one of Boston, Montreal or Philadelphia falter enough to allow the Thrashers to sneak into the post-season?

Ottawa 2, Philadelphia 0

The Senators outlasted the Flyers in a notably rugged affair last night. So far Ottawa looks like they are in the driver’s seat to take the fifth spot, which is essentially turning into the right to play whomever turns up second in the Atlantic division. (Then again, I might prefer to test my luck against Buffalo than take on either Pittsburgh or New Jersey. That’s just me, though.)

New Jersey 6, Columbus 3

The Devils are once again positioned nicely for an Atlantic division title. They simply keep doing things their way. It might not always be sexy, but it works exceptionally well.

Western Conference scenario


Chicago 2, Phoenix 0

The Blackhawks grabbed a nice hold of first place in the Conference while Phoenix relinquished their Pacific division lead to the Sharks. Some might wonder if Antti Niemi is “the answer” in net for Chicago after a performance like this.

San Jose 4, Minnesota 1

The Sharks took advantage of lowly Minnesota to re-gain their lead in the division. Can they hold off the hungry Coyotes?

Calgary 3, Anaheim 1

The Flames’ playoff hopes are dwindling right now, but they’re still making things stressful for Detroit by keeping up a steady pace. They need to finish the season strong to make the playoffs, though, there’s no doubt about that.

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    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky
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    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

    Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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    Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

    While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

    The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?