NHL Playoffs Update: Previewing tonight's action

Thrashers.jpgI apologize for not having an update based on last night’s action, so I thought we’d merge the update from last night’s games into a preview for tonight’s games, and focus on the ones that truly affect the playoff standings.

The big news from yesterday in the East was the loss by the New Jersey Devils, which dropped them down from 2nd to 4th in the conference standings. They do have one game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins, so there’s still time left to make another run for the division. Of course, since the Pens and Devils don’t face each other for the rest of the season (thanks NHL!!) we won’t have the privilege of head-to-head matchup with the title on the line.

In the West, the Colorado Avalanche continue their slide and have opened up the possibility (once again) for the Calgary Flames to somehow make it into the playoffs.

After the jump, we take a look at the standings and at tonight’s big games.


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The games that matter:

Buffalo Sabres @ Boston Bruins, 7:00 p.m. EDT – The Bruins have a big, big game tonight as they fight to keep in the playoff standings. Doing so against Ryan Miller and the Sabres will be tough, especially as they continue to struggle without Marc Savard (don’t let that big game on Saturday fool you). Another such win tonight, against the Sabres, would go a long ways to assuaging the fears that the Bruins are on their ways to backing out of the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes @ Atlanta Thrashers, 7:00 p.m. EDT – This game is why the Bruins should be feeling the heat. The Thrashers have yet another chance to win a big game at home and somehow sneak into a playoff spot — however temporarily.

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The games that matter:

Los Angeles Kings @ Minnesota Wild, 9:00 p.m. EDT – Just a month ago we were talking about the Los Angeles Kings perhaps threatening for the top spot in the West. Now they’re close to falling out of the playoffs altogether. The Wild should prove an easy foe for the Kings, but one thing to keep an eye on: Jonathan Quick may get the Kings to the playoffs but he may fall apart from exhaustion once they get there.

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    Capitals’ Carey ties it late before Ovechkin beats Devils in the shootout

    The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
    Associated Press
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    The 2015-16 Washington Capitals always seem to find a way to get the job done.

    That’s exactly what they did in Saturday’s matinee against the New Jersey Devils.

    The Capitals opened the scoring when Andrei Burakovsky beat Cory Schneider in the second period, but the Devils answered with back-to-back goals by Joseph Blandisi and Adam Henrique.

    Washington got the game-tying goal from an unlikely source as Paul Carey scored his first career goal with under six minutes remaining in regulation.

    In overtime, Ovechkin dished out this huge hit:

    And in typical Ovechkin fashion, he finished the game off in the shootout:

    The Caps have now won back-to-back games and they remain 15 points ahead of the Rangers, who beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout this afternoon, with two games in hand.

    For the Devils, the loser point allows them to move ahead of the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan division, but New York still has four games in hand.

    Here’s an updated look at the division standings:

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    Video: Flyers’ Simmonds gets tossed for sucker-punch after retaliating to McDonagh’s cross-check

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    Some rough stuff in Saturday’s matinee between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

    Wayne Simmonds was thrown out of the game after he punched Ryan McDonagh.

    As you can see from the video at the top of the page, McDonagh nails Simmonds with a cross-check to the head before the Flyers forward went after him.

    McDonagh left the game with a possible concussion.

    Here’s how the referees handed out the penalties:

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    Simmonds received a five-minute major and was tossed from the game while McDonagh received two separate two-minute penalties.

    The Rangers were unable to score on the ensuing power play, and that’s when more weird stuff happened.

    Here’s how the New York Daily News described the moments after the penalty expired:

    The Rangers were already upset with Simmonds’ sucker punch, but then Alain Vigneault lost his mind all over again at the end of the Rangers’ unsuccessful power play: The Flyers had forgotten to put a player in the penalty box, with Simmonds having been sent off.

    Illegally, during the flow of play, forward Jake Voracek just jumped off Philly’s bench as the power play expired and was sprung on a breakaway. Lundqvist made the save but the Rangers were flabbergasted at the officials’ lack of control or apparent knowledge of the rule book, which would require the Flyers in that situation to wait until a whistle to put their fifth man back on the ice.

    By the way, the referees for this game are Dave Lewis and Kelly Sutherland.

    Video: Brodeur, Schneider, Holtby participate in ceremonial faceoff

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    You don’t see this very often.

    The New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals added an interesting twist to the ceremonial faceoff prior to Saturday’s game.

    Former Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur dropped the puck, but instead of the captains taking the draw, it was the two starting goaltenders-Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider.

    You can watch the highlights from the ceremony by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    Before the ceremony, Brodeur had some kind words for Holtby.

    “He reminds me of me a lot,” Brodeur said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “Not the way he plays, but the way he puts himself out there.

    “He’s not scared. He just wants to play. I’m sure he’s playing through tons of injuries. He’s a warrior out there. I don’t know him and I don’t know if he does or not, but he’s having a great year. Not just this year; last year he was coming on and he’s going to be good for a long time for them.”

    The Devils will be retiring Brodeur’s number 30 prior to Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

    The 43-year-old won 688 games and posted 124 shutouts as a member of the Devils between 1991 and 2014.

    He also won three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies in his career.

    Mike Yeo gets a vote of confidence; Wild will scratch Vanek, Zucker vs. STL

    Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo talks to Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
    Associated Press
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    Things haven’t been going well with Minnesota’s hockey team, but that doesn’t necessarily mean changes are coming via firings or trades.

    On Saturday, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher reiterated his confidence in his team and his coaching staff going forward.

    The Wild have won just three of 15 games since Jan. 1 and they’re currently riding a four-game losing streak.

    The Wild have been through mid-season slumps before.

    Last year, Yeo lost it during a team practice and that seemed to spark his team, as they were able to turn things around and make it to the postseason.

    Will a similar tactic work, again? Probably not.

    As PHT pointed out earlier this week, this slump might not be like the previous ones.

    The Wild are just one point behind Nashville (with a game in a hand) for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but will their top guns be able to get them out of this funk?

    The numbers aren’t pretty:

    Zach Parise has no points in his last four games and just one goal in his last nine contests.

    Thomas Vanek hasn’t scored in eight games. He has just one assist during that span.

    Mikko Koivu has four assists in 15 games since the new year began.

    Mikael Granlund has two assists since Jan. 7 and he has a a minus-11 rating since then.

    Jason Zucker has one assist in 11 games. He hasn’t scored since Jan. 7.

    How will Yeo get his team’s attention this time around?

    Here’s your answer: