NHL playoffs update: Rangers knocking on the door

Here’s the updated standings for the incredibly close race in the Eastern conference. Remember, it’s not just a battle for the playoffs; none of these teams want to play the Capitals in the first round. Of course, you never would have guessed based on how they’ve played down the stretch:

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 80 40 34 6 86
9 New York Rangers 80 37 33 10 84

 

6. Boston Bruins – Games remaining: Carolina, @Washington

Boston did all but secure a playoff spot with a big win over the Buffalo Sabres last night. Just one point — or a loss by the New York Rangers — and the Bruins will have clinched a spot in the playoffs. They’re only drawback at this point is they might be short on tiebreakers if it comes down securing a higher playoff spot.

7. Montreal Canadiens – Game remaining: Toronto

The Habs are insisting on giving their fans massive heart attacks, as they have won just three of their last ten games and have slowly started to slide down the standings. Eric Staal’s hat trick destroyed another chance for the Canadiens to lock down a playoff spot, and a loss to Toronto in the final game of the season could be devastating. Because of the NHL’s incredibly insane points system, the New York Rangers could beat the Flyers in both games this weekend and the Canadiens could still miss the playoffs. How?

If the Rangers beat the Flyers in two overtime or shootout games, both teams surpass the Canadiens in the standings. So the key is to just beat the Leafs and not worry about such silliness.

8. Philadelphia Flyers – Games remaining: @NY Rangers, NY Rangers

One win in either game against the Rangers and the Flyers secure a spot in the playoffs. They could leap frog the Habs as well, which is incredibly important for a team that has about a 4% chance of beating the Capitals in the first round.

9. New York Rangers – Games remaining: Philadelphia, @Philadelphia

This is the easy part. Win both games against the Flyers and they’re in the playoffs. Three points may not do it, due to tiebreakers, but securing four points in any way possible will certainly get the job done. Amazingly, it’s still possibly for the Rangers to finish in the 6th spot in the East.

Scroll Down For:

    Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

    With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

    “I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

    An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average in these playoffs.

    Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

    To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

    No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

    Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

    Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

    While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

    While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

    “It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

    Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.

     

     

    Ducks say they’ve allowed Draisaitl too much freedom, too much fun

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Given the nicknames bestowed on Leon Drasaitl recently — the German Gretzky, Certified Duck Killer — it’s safe to assume the big Oilers forward is having a pretty good time.

    That’s something Anaheim wants to put to an end, starting tonight.

    “He’s a power forward and we’re allowing him too much freedom. He’s having too much fun,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told the Journal, after Drasaitl went off for four points in Wednesday’s series-opening win.  “I don’t know how I can put it any simpler.”

    The 21-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Anaheim this season. He has goals in five of seven career games at the Honda Center and, in his last 11 tilts versus the Ducks, has racked up an whopping 17 points.

    Coming into this second round series, most of the focus was on how Carlyle and company would shut down Connor McDavid.

    But now it appears they have another matchup issue on their hands.

    Carlyle’s most logical choice is to put out the Ryan Kesler line against McDavid, given Kesler’s stout defensive play and ability to shut down opposing centers. But in terms of straight matching, that puts plenty of responsibility on Kesler’s wingers — especially Andrew Cogliano — to deal with Draisaitl. He has good size (6-foot-1, 216 pounds) and has been bolstered by McDavid’s playmaking ability.

    As such, there’s a fascinating game-within-a-game to watch this evening. Carlyle has the benefit of last change. The forward matchups will be worth monitoring, but so will the defense — veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa is doubtful after exiting Game 1 with a lower-body injury, but Sami Vatanen could return after sitting out since Game 1 of the Calgary series.

     

     

    Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

    Getty
    2 Comments

    The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

    The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

    It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

    “I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

    Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

    But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

    Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

    As for Hischier, it’s his speed that really stands out.

    “He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

    The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

    Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

    Draft lottery odds

    Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
    Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
    Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
    Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
    New Jersey Devils 8.5%
    Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
    Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
    Dallas Stars 5.8%
    Florida Panthers 5.4%
    Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
    Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
    Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
    Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
    Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%