NHL Playoff Update: The mighty fall

sabres.jpgLast night was … interesting, to say the least. Plenty of teams previously on Vulture Circle Watch are now showing some surprising signs of life while once-hot teams are crashing down to Earth.

Both the Sharks and the Coyotes dropped games to Western foes while the Blackhawks defeated the hapless Wild convincingly with a 4-0 win. In the East, the Penguins couldn’t improve their slim Atlantic division lead while the Sabres jumped to second place in the conference.

After the jump, I’ll share updated standings for playoff relevant teams, including a few sneaky teams who might be in for a miracle run to the playoffs.


First, the Western Conference (click to enlarge, teams who clinched a playoff berth are highlighted.)

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Flames 2, Coyotes 1

All of a sudden, things are looking quite a bit more optimistic for the fledgling Flames. While the Colorado Avalanche are in sinking ship mode, the Flames are only two points back (although the Avs have a game in hand). You think Friday’s game in Colorado might mean a little bit?

Ducks 5, Avalanche 2

I doubt that the Ducks should cancel their country club memberships just yet, but they are on a three game winning streak right now and aren’t mathematically eliminated yet. The team sure seems to excel at being fashionably late.

Stars 5, Sharks 1

Something tells me that the Sharks are glad that the Stars are more or less hopeless when it comes to a playoff run. Their longtime divisional foes are a constant headache for San Jose.

Blackhawks 4, Wild 0

Beating up on the lowly Wild doesn’t wash all the stink off Chicago, but it never hurts to win big every now and then.

Now, the Eastern Conference picture.

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Sabres 6, Panthers 2

Buffalo is quietly rounding into a serious contender in the East.

Lightning 2, Penguins 0

This is one of those games the Penguins will rue if they fail to win the Atlantic division.

Hurricanes 2, Canadiens 1

It would almost certainly require Carolina to win all five of their remaining games (not to mention for other teams to fail quite a bit) for this to be anything more than a nice run that hurts their draft status. Still, the Canes are the ultimate spoiler right now. For Montreal, it could be time to worry.

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    Potential No. 1 overall pick Nolan Patrick to miss World Juniors

    KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 25: Rourke Chartier #14 of Kelowna Rockets faces off against Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings during the first period on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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    Nolan Patrick will miss the upcoming World Juniors due to an injury that has kept him out of game action since mid-October.

    Hockey Canada made the announcement Monday evening.

    Patrick is a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was recently named to Canada’s selection camp, however the 18-year-old forward has only played in six games with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings this season.

    He has four goals and nine points, his season reduced because of this upper-body injury. Per Hockey Canada, Patrick hasn’t been medically cleared to attend the camp, so therefor he will miss the entire tournament.

    Patrick has already missed the annual series last month between Canada and Russia. He also underwent sports hernia surgery in July.

    Related: Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

    Video: Luongo denies Spooner with spectacular glove save

    SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers skates prior to the game against the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center on November 8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 6-4. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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    Roberto Luongo was on his game in the first period versus the Boston Bruins on Monday.

    The Florida Panthers goalie was called upon to make 14 saves in the opening 20 minutes, and none better than this glove stop on Ryan Spooner.

    Spooner appeared to have the wide open net on a cross-ice pass, but Luongo threw up the glove in spectacular fashion to deny the Bruins forward less than three minutes into the game.

    Flyers’ Read out four weeks with reported oblique muscle pull

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 02:  Matt Read #24 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Wells Fargo Center on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    The Philadelphia Flyers have had their share of good news lately. They’ve won five in a row and goalie Steve Mason has been solid in that span, being named on Monday the NHL’s first star for the week.

    But it hasn’t all been positive.

    Forward Matt Read is out of the lineup for at least four weeks with an upper-body injury, the Flyers announced Monday. The injury occurred during Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators.

    It’s been reported the injury is an oblique muscle pull.

    With Read out, the Flyers have recalled Taylor Leier from the American Hockey League.

    Leier has been very productive in the minors. In 22 games this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he has six goals and 20 points.

    Ken Holland is all for expanding playoff format to include Wild Card play-in game

    Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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    The topic of a possible Wild Card play-in game being added to the NHL’s playoff format isn’t new.

    General managers around the league have talked about it before. The idea recently seemed to gain traction with at least the small majority, too.

    Hockey insider Bob McKenzie once polled all 30 GMs to get a sense of how many would be in favor of such a thing — and 16 of those GMs were. You can count Ken Holland with the Detroit Red Wings as someone who would like to see a Wild Card play-in game.

    From TSN:

    Holland is also a baseball fan and likes the way MLB has created must-watch play-in games. In baseball, there are three division winners in each league. Those three teams qualify for the division round of the postseason. Two wild-card teams in each league square off in a one-game play-in to decide the fourth divisional qualifier on each side.

    “I’m all for an extra team in each conference qualifying for the playoffs and having a wild- card play-in game,” said Holland. “It would add excitement down the stretch for many more teams fighting for the additional wild-card spot and two extra teams would be involved in the playoffs. Those play-in games would be dramatic.” 

    Of course, the interesting thing about that is the Red Wings have a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances on the line.

    But their best days — when Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg led them to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the final the following year — are long behind them. The organization has undergone substantial change with Zetterberg getting older, the loss of Datsyuk to the KHL and Mike Babcock joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The Red Wings could be in real danger of missing the post-season under its current format in 2017.

    Detroit is two points out of the second Wild Card spot in the East, with New Jersey and Boston still ahead of them, although not currently in a playoff spot.