In the midst of what has become one hell of an entertaining NHL
Stanley Cup finals, there is a big surprise brewing in the AHL’s Calder
Cup finals. The Texas Stars, in their first season in the league, have
absolutely stunned the Hershey Bears in the first two games of the
The Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals,
were the best team in the AHL this past season and were absolutely
dominant at home. The Bears had won 37 of 38 games at home this season,
and no one believed the Stars had a chance to steal any of the games in
Ohio, let alone win the series.
Yet after last night’s 4-3 win, in
which Travis Morin broke a 3-3 tie with 45 seconds remaining in
regulation, the Stars own a 2-0 series lead as the teams head back to
Austin for Games 3, 4 and (possibly) 5.
The Bears have had nearly
11,000 fans at each of the first two games of the series and each time
the fans have left stunned and reeling after the two losses. The Stars
have turned into perhaps one of the more surprising stories and possible
Cup-winning teams, as many felt they were just a team with role players
and a suspect defense.
After they were able to come back and win a
surprising Game 7 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, many felt the Stars were
just banking on Jamie Benn to get as far as they had. Yet against
Hershey, the Stars have proven to be much, much more than that.
Bears head to Austin having to answer all the questions about why
they’ve allowed a team like Texas to stun them, as it’s possibly another
instance of a talented and successful team overlooking their opponent.
Everyone expect the Bears to roll the Stars, and now they face a
considerable hole in the series.
Game 3 is tomorrow night in Cedar
Ducks give Bruins first loss under Cassidy, putting … Islanders in wild card
Wednesday was a night of futility in the Eastern Conference wild card races, so it make sense that a team that didn’t even play ended up grabbing the second spot.
The Florida Panthers began the night in the second wild card spot. However, they were knocked down the totem pole when they lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Boston Bruins inherited the second wild card spot from Florida, but the Anaheim Ducks just gave them their first loss under Bruce Cassidy. With that defeat coming in regulation, it meant that the Bruins’ stay in the East’s top eight lasted mere hours.
So, congrats to the New York Islanders, who enjoyed the rare tiebreaker treat of climbing into playoff position even though they didn’t even play on Wednesday.
Despite Pastrnak’s -3 rating in this one, Marchand probably had the toughest night thanks to Bernier and Josh Manson:
This one hurts, but it’s also a reminder that there will probably be plenty of twists and turns in the races for the lower spots in the East and Atlantic Division. With that in mind, the Bruins have to shake it off and get ready to face the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Kuznetsov, bad breaks baffle Flyers in loss to Capitals
The Capitals won their first game after a bye week (following two losses), improving their Metropolitan Division lead to five points and Presidents’ Trophy edge over Minnesota to three.
The Flyers fail to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race, staying at 63 standings points in 60 games played. The Panthers are tied with the Islanders and Bruins at 66 points, though Boston can change the picture ever so slightly against Anaheim (still in action) tonight.
The bottom line, again, is that the Flyers failed in a chance to get a little closer to that logjam for the last East spot.
Of course, plenty of Flyers fans will grumble about missed opportunities and iffy calls. Mike Milbury broke down the early setbacks that made life that much tougher for Philly:
Philly couldn’t overcome the Capitals and that bad luck, making their playoff hopes a little dimmer as the trade deadline approaches.
Oilers win on rare Russell goal, Panthers fall out of second wild card spot
The two rising squads engaged in a back-and-forth game, with the Oilers winning in regulation. Maybe fittingly with Edmonton leaking defensemen lately: Kris Russell was the guy to score the game-winner, set up by Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed and a nice pass by Leon Draisaitl.
It was Russell’s first goal in more than a year.
Russell had gone 60 games without a goal. Last goal was Feb 11, 2016 against the Sharks.
The Oilers will remain in the second spot in the Pacific at the end of the night whether the Anaheim Ducks beat the Boston Bruins or not. Interestingly, this puts them in a reasonable position to catch the Sharks for first place in the division, too.
1. Sharks – 77 points in 60 games
2. Oilers – 74 points in 61 games
3. Ducks – 72 points in 61 games (in progress vs. Boston)
The Oilers likely had some fans out East tonight, as this loss pushes Florida down the wild card rankings. They’re actually out of the second spot thanks to tiebreakers.
Second wild card spot: Bruins – 66 points in 59 games, 30 wins and 28 ROW (in progress)
Islanders – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 27 ROW
Panthers – 66 points in 59 games, 28 wins and 25 ROW
The Isles would move into the second spot if Boston loses in regulation, underscoring just how congested this situation is. But either way, the Panthers won’t be in the East’s top eight at the end of the night.
With Gibson out, Ducks recall interesting goalie: Enroth
With the way Bernier’s been playing at times, it’s not impossible that Enroth could play as soon as tonight. But if he doesn’t you have to wonder if the Ducks might feel compelled to throw a start his way in the next week.
The trade deadline is coming, and while the goalie market is really cold, some of that slow movement likely comes from how cap-unfriendly netminders like Ben Bishop might be.
But what about Enroth? His cap hit is $750K this season, and while he thoroughly unimpressed Mike Babcock with rapid speed in Toronto, he was fantastic as a backup in Los Angeles last season and has been outstanding lately for the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.
Enroth 10-2-0 with .944 SV% in 12 GP with AHL Gulls since leaving Toronto. As pending UFA, that's why he's on #TSN Trade Bait board. https://t.co/gtK8roGW5g
All things considered, it’s almost a little surprising the Ducks aren’t throwing him right into the deep end tonight. If you’re a team with poor backup goaltending like the Edmonton Oilers or any number of other teams,* why wouldn’t you give the Ducks a call?