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.

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    Report: Wild interested in MacLean, Carlyle for head coaching gig

    OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 4: Head coach Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators yells at the on ice-officials following a disallowed goal against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on April 4, 2014 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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    With the coaching carousel now in full spin — another gig opened up today, as Bob Hartley was fired in Calgary — GMs are actively seeking permission to speak with potential candidates.

    Like in Minnesota, where Chuck Fletcher is working the phones.

    Per the Star-Tribune, Fletcher — who has reportedly reached out to Ducks GM Bob Murray about Bruce Boudreau — is now also looking at Boudreau’s assistant in Anaheim, Paul MacLean, along with ex-Ducks and Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle.

    More, from Mike Russo:

    It’s believed on that same phone call with Murray, Fletcher asked about the status of Ducks assistant coach Paul MacLean. I’ve been led to believe Fletcher has yet to receive permission to talk with MacLean. If that’s true, it likely means MacLean, the former Senators head coach, is a candidate to replace Boudreau in Anaheim. That would make sense since MacLean was Murray’s hire in the first place.

    In addition, as I reported in my Boudreau piece in Saturday’s paper here, sources told me that Fletcher did plan to contact Randy Carlyle. I don’t know if that contact has been made yet with the former Ducks and Maple Leafs coach.

    Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, Fletcher is currently in California. Logic suggests he’s getting two interviews done for the price of one, as both Boudreau and Carlyle live in southern California.

    As for MacLean, he’s certainly going to be a figure worth monitoring. One has to think he’s in line to replace Boudreau in Anaheim — something predicted from the moment he was hired — but that’s assuming Murray doesn’t clean house behind the bench.

    Treliving cites ‘style of play’ and poor special teams among reasons for firing Hartley

    Calgary Flames v Florida Panthers
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    Brad Treliving started out with a lot of love for Bob Hartley.

    “Bob did some very good things here,” the Flames’ general manager told reporters today in Calgary. “He built a foundation in this organization. Apart from all else, he put his heart and soul into this team every day. He bled for this team. Bob’s a good coach.”

    Then came the brutal honesty:

    “I just felt that at this particular time, for us to move forward, Bob has taken this team as far as I feel he can take it.”

    Hence, today’s decision to fire Hartley — a decision that Treliving insisted had nothing to do with any other coach that may have recently become available. (Like, for example, Bruce Boudreau.) Nor was it just to “throw a body on the tarmac” after the Flames missed the playoffs.

    The decision to fire Hartley was made for one simple reason — the Flames haven’t been playing good enough hockey.

    “Our special teams for a good portion of the year were 30th in the league. There’s some style-of-play issues,” said Treliving.

    “Our goaltending was not good this year. That falls on the general manager. I need to fix that. [But] the way we play in front of the goaltender needs to be fixed as well.”

    The statistics support Treliving’s assessment. In 2015-16, the Flames had the highest goals-against average in the NHL, and the worst penalty killing.

    At five on five, Calgary was also one of the league’s worst puck-possession teams. And while that was the case last season as well, when the Flames made the playoffs and even won a round, remember that Treliving had previously chalked up a good portion of last season’s success to luck.

    “I don’t want to characterize this as I’m standing in one end of the corner and Bob’s at the other end, and one’s talking chess and the other’s talking checkers,” Treliving said Monday.

    “But in today’s game, you need to have the puck. You’ve gotta work like hell to get it. And when you get it, you gotta hold on to it, you gotta play with it.

    “I think how you defend in the league, too, is an area we look at. … You really break down the chances that we give up… you’ve gotta be able to defend in this league.”

    And so the search for Hartley’s replacement begins.

    “I’ll leave this podium and work will start on who the next coach will be,” said Treliving. “But up until this point, this is about making a decision, doing it in what I believe is the right manner, and then we’ll move on.”

    To listen to Treliving’s entire press conference, click here

    Related: What does ‘good defense’ mean to Barry Trotz?

    Panthers sign Swedish League standout Hultstrom

    STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 18: Linus Hultstrom #33 of Djurgarden Hockey skates against Linkoping HC at Hovet Arena on February 18, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Florida made a noteworthy move on Tuesday, signing defensman Linus Hultstrom from SHL club Djurgardens.

    Hultstrom, 23, just wrapped a terrific year in which he led all SHL blueliners in goals (12) and points (31). In the playoffs, Hultstrom upped his production — 12 points in eight games — paving the way for the Panthers to make their move.

    Though undersized — he’s listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds — Hultstrom has been a scorer at virtually every level, and should be in line for a role on Florida’s blueline next season.

    Captain Willie Mitchell, who missed the second half of the season with concussion issues, is expected to retire.

    Another veteran defenseman, Brian Campbell, will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and it remains unclear if GM Dale Tallon will try to re-sign him.

    Jakub Kindl, acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit, failed to impress and made just one appearance in the postseason. Kindl does, however, have one year remaining on his contract.

     

     

     

    Strome saga continues, will be a healthy scratch for Game 3

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    Ryan Strome‘s tough year just got a little bit tougher.

    After seemingly re-establishing himself in the Islanders lineup, Strome will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s Game 3 against the Lightning.

    Head coach Jack Capuano will drop Strome in favor of Josh Bailey, who returns from a two-game absence due to injury.

    “I try to be a good team guy and I don’t want to draw any negative attention to myself,” Strome continued, per Newsday.

    The fifth overall pick in 2011, Strome endured a difficult campaign that included a three-week stint in the AHL.

    Those difficulties have carried over to the postseason. After playing the first four games of New York’s opening-round playoff series against the Panthers, Strome was dropped for Games 5 and 6 — but Bailey was hurt in the clincher, meaning Strome drew back in for the opening two games of the Bolts series.

    It’s hard to say what exactly got him scratched. In Game 1, he assisted on both of Shane Prince‘s goals, helping the Isles to a 5-3 win — despite fairly limited ice time (12:26, third-lowest among forwards.)

    In Game 2, his numbers weren’t as good — no points, two shots on goal, minus-1 rating, 35.9 Corsi — but his ice time jumped to 17:59, easily his biggest of the postseason.

    The decision to park Strome probably isn’t about numbers. Following the Game 2 loss, Capuano said the Isles were “a little soft,” which has been one of the complaints about Strome’s game this year.

    In fact, the 22-year-old alluded to it today.

    “Last series [the message was] I needed to be a little harder to play against,” Strome said. “Points don’t always tell the whole story. I’m always confident in my game, but unfortunately I don’t make the decisions.

    “I have to live with it.”