Earlier today I broke down the Eastern Conference’s bottom three playoff spots and the four teams who have a good shot of filling them. My blog buddy Marty Vance took a look at the other end of the East spectrum, assessing which of the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins had the best chance to nab the second seed in the conference.
At this point; looking at these schedules, how can you not assume the Penguins are going to be grabbing the 2nd seed? But look a little closer. I could easily see both Pittsburgh and New Jersey having identical 2-1 records going into Sunday, or even really, New Jersey could be ahead by 2 points, having their most difficult game in their finale, while Pittsburgh plays Washington tonight.
… I don’t think anybody wants that 4 seed, with a first rounder against Ottawa, then most likely heading to Washington in the 2nd. Yikes.
Marty predicts that the order will turn out to be New Jersey at No. 2 with Buffalo in the third spot and Pittsburgh getting the tough hand at No. 4. I must agree with him because the Devils’ well-earned (seriously, 6-0 against the Penguins? That’s insane.) tiebreaker over Pittsburgh very well might be the ultimate factor.
It borders on poetic that – at least at this moment – the Penguins and Devils have the exact same record even though Pittsburgh dropped every game to New Jersey. For Buffalo, I figure there isn’t nearly as much anxiety involved with being a second seed versus being a third. Naturally they’d prefer the second seed, but a matchup against Montreal might actually be less strenuous than a grind-it-out series against Boston.
You’ve got to love the fact that there’s plenty of meaningful hockey to be played in this final week of regular season action.
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).
It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.
Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.
At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.
After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.
He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.