Chicago dismantles Vancouver 5-1 to win series

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bolland.jpgFor a tiny chunk of the third period, it looked like the Canucks were going to at least make things interesting. Shane O’Brien scored a goal to make it 3-1 and the team generated some nice chances. Perhaps that simply woke up the Blackhawks, though, as two constant nuisances – Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien – scored clinching goals to make the deciding game a laugher for a second straight year.

Chicago Blackhawks 5, Vancouver Canucks 1

Blackhawks win series 4-2

Each of the five Blackhawks goals came from collective failures on the part of the Canucks. You can try to point a finger at Roberto Luongo, but his team left him out on an island over and over again. He was splendid in the team’s two wins but human-to-weak in the four losses. That’s just not good enough against the talented Chicago team. 

The Sedin twins will be thrown under the bus too, although their stat lines aren’t as bad as you might think. (Henrik put up two goals and four assists, Daniel managed one goal and three assists.) The fact is, those guys produced amazing point per game totals during the regular season so any drop-off would hurt the team. The most telling stat is that they both ended up with a goose egg in this one (and the Canucks were 0-3 in the playoffs when that happens).

Chicago must have a ton of confidence right now. Antti NIemi provides steady goaltending for a team that lacks many flaws otherwise. Byfuglien might be the team’s truest “villain” while Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are among the league’s best forwards. But what really makes the team stand out is its unparalleled depth; from Marian Hossa to Patrick Sharp to Kris Versteeg (and tonight, Dave Bolland), it seems like the Blackhawks can call on a different supporting cast member every night. I didn’t even mention their talented D-core, either, with great players like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook supported by some other complimentary parts.

The Canucks have a lot of soul searching to do right now. On one hand, the season was impressive as the team persevered through a brutal road trip to win their division and get to the second round of the playoffs. That being said, they still have plenty of questions to answer from Luongo to the Sedin twins to how to get over the hump against Chicago.

A Blackhawks-Sharks series should be a real treat for hockey nerds such as myself. Both teams can throw out multiple, quality lines and play a wide-open (or defensively tight) style of hockey. It should be a treat to watch and we’ll take you through each exciting game at PHT.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: