NHL Playoffs Update: Chicago keeps stumbling

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Nucks1.jpgAfter all of my huffing and puffing about nobody in the East stepping up when it counted, the Bruins, Thrashers and Rangers all won big games and kept the race for the 6th-8th spots increasingly tight.

In the West, it’s starting to get frustrating for the Coyotes. This is a relatively young team and despite having a great record of late still are unable take advantage of a chance to close in on San Jose for the top spot in the West, and for the division. That said, it’s tough to say anything this team does is exactly “disappointing” from here on out.

After the jump, a look at the updated standings and yesterday’s games that mattered.


The games that mattered:

New Jersey Devils 0, Boston Bruins 1 (OT) – There should be no doubt at this point who the starting goaltender for the Bruins should be in the playoffs. Well, if they make it there.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2, Atlanta Thrashers 3 – Ondrej Pavelec stood tall under a third-period assault, and the Thrashers squeaked out an incredibly big win. A loss last night, with the Bruins winning would have made for a tough four-point deficit to overcome, with just five games remaining.

New York Islanders 3, New York Rangers 4 – The Rangers used a three-goal second period to blast past the Islanders and right back into the playoff hunt. They still have a ways to go, but a loss would most likely have made their playoffs hopes disappear.

Washington Capitals 4, Ottawa Senators 5 – Are we worried about the Capitals yet? And the Senators are disappointing me by actually playing well. That wasn’t expected.


The games that mattered:

Detroit Red Wings 5, Edmonton Oilers 4 – The Oilers stormed back from a four-goal deficit to make it interesting against the Wings, until Brad Stuart’s goal with 1:07 remaining in regulation gave Detroit yet another win. They now have two games in hand on Nashville, and are most likely on their way to the 5th spot in the standings.

St. Louis Blues 4, Chicago Blackhawks 2 – Ahhh….yeah, I think the Blackhawks might be in trouble.

Nashville Predators 0, Los Angeles Kings 2 – Big win for the Kings, who avoided completely falling out of the playoff race.

Vancouver Canucks 4, Phoenix Coyotes 1 – Not a great first period for the Coyotes. Three goals allowed, and they came completely unglued after Kesler ‘boarded’ Derek Morris. Have to be more mentally tough than that, boys.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara
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Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: