NHL playoffs update: Just win baby

You had to know it wasn’t going to turn out easy. Nothing about the race for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference has been easy nor logical, so of course there was no way the Flyers would beat the Rangers tonight to finalize the East field. Of course the Rangers would win, and do so in regulation, to make things even tighter and even more butt-clenchingly silly for the Flyers, Bruins, and Canadiens.

With all that said, here’s how the Eastern Conference playoff race looks now:

Team GP W L OTL PTS
6 Boston Bruins 80 37 30 13 87
7 Montreal Canadiens 81 39 33 9 87
8 Philadelphia Flyers 81 40 35 6 86
9 New York Rangers 81 38 33 10

86

 

That sets the table for tomorrow night with two huge games that will put the onus on both the Bruins and Canadiens to do something different. They’ll actually have to win a game if they want to get in the playoffs. The team with the most seeming leeway is the Bruins as they’ve got two games left. A win over Carolina tomorrow would lock up a playoff spot for the Bruins as they’d have 89 points and the only other team that can hit that mark is Montreal. A Boston loss in regulation or overtime puts the Bruins in the unenviable position of having to get a point against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Sunday afternoon on NBC.

The Habs are in the unenviable spot of teetering on the edge. Should the Maple Leafs beat the Habs in regulation, they’ll be sweating out the Rangers-Flyers brawl-for-it-all on Sunday afternoon as a Rangers win in overtime or shootout would then eliminate Montreal from the playoffs. If Montreal was able to just make it to overtime against Toronto, that would ensure a spot in the playoffs for the Habs.  All of these “loser” possibilities have to be counted upon because asking anyone to, you know, actually win their way into the playoffs seems to be like asking for the moon as a gift.

The Rangers-Flyers game on Sunday afternoon sets up to be a winner-take-all game with a playoff spot on the line.  Both teams can still make the playoffs if the Bruins earn zero points this weekend and their game on Sunday goes to overtime.

Confused yet? Good. The key here for everyone involved is to just win, or in the case of the Canadiens, just get a single stinking point. The Bruins could make the playoffs just by going to overtime twice. Yes, I know, this is a daunting task to ask of all these teams. This is why we can’t have nice things out East.

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    Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

    Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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    It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

    As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

    Actually …

    If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

    Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

    Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

    The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

    On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

    Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

    Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) scores a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

    The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

    You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

    At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

    Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

    (Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

    As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

    Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

    Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

    Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring on a penalty shot during the overtime period of the Boston Bruins 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game in Boston Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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    Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

    Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

    Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

    That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

    Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

    Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

    Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

    Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

    Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

    Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

    Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

    The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.