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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    Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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    For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

    They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

    • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
    • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
    • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

    Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

    Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

    Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

    Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    (Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

    Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

    You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

    It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

    Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

    Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

    Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

    Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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    If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

    You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

    The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

    For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

    (Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

    The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

    Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

    Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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    It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

    The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

    The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

    One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.