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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    Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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    The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

    For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

    The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

    New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

    This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

    The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

    Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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    There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

    On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

    The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

    In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

    The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

    Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

    The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

    Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

    Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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    Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

    It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

    Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

    Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

    You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

    It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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    When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

    It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

    After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

    Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

    EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

    “Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

    Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: