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.


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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.

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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.

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: