Around the rink – Thursday, November 11th

It’s Veteran’s Day in America, so remember to say thanks to anyone you know who has served their country in the military. On the hockey side of things, it’s Gaborik Day in New York as the Rangers get their top scorer back in the lineup. That’s a reason to throw a party, right? If not, there’s enough going on elsewhere to whet your appetite. All times listed are Eastern.

7:00 pm

Montreal @ Boston

Boston’s coming off a big win over Pittsburgh but dealing with the Habs always means things get interesting and with the Habs dedication to frustrating the opponents offense these rivals should have quite the reunion tonight. With Tim Thomas having started against Pittsburgh last night, could we see Tuukka Rask get the call against Carey Price?

Buffalo @ NY Rangers

Marian Gaborik makes his triumphant return to the Rangers following his shoulder injury and he gets to deal with a Sabres team that comes in after winning two in a row. Oh yeah, and Ryan Miller could be back in the lineup for the Sabres as well. All of a sudden it looks like a marquee match-up doesn’t it? Let’s hope the game can live up to the names.

Tampa Bay @ Washington

A Southeast Division battle kicks in with the Caps coming in on fire winners of five in a row. Tampa Bay comes into the game after getting off a three-game skid with a win over the slump-busting Maple Leafs. Did the Lightning get over what ails them? A red-hot Caps team should provide a good litmus test to see if that’s the case.

Philadelphia @ Carolina

If the Hurricanes are going to be seen as a playoff threat, a win over the Flyers might help convince some people. The Flyers are looking to bounce back after a loss to the Caps. They were winners of seven straight before that and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky deserves a lot of credit for that. The Hurricanes enter the game on a two-game win streak having beaten the Panthers and Oilers. Expect them to get a healthy test at the hands of the Flyers.

Minnesota @ Atlanta

Minnesota is looking to get their offense jump-started a little bit and a game with the Thrashers might just be the kind of help they’re looking for. The Thrashers have allowed the most goals in the league but if the Wild aren’t careful they could get lit up themselves with Atlanta being one of the better scoring teams in the league.

7:30 pm

Edmonton @ Detroit

Things are tough for the Oilers right now. If they hadn’t played the Blackhawks they’d be in the middle of a soul-crushing losing streak. They’ve lost nine of their last eleven games and their only two wins in there are against Chicago. With that reasoning in place, their prospects against the Red Wings don’t look good, especially with the Wings playing steady hockey of late. Detroit has won four of their last five games and it’s been Jimmy Howard they can thank for a lot of that holding opponents to six goals in those four wins.

Keep an eye on Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall in this one as he’ll be playing across the river from Windsor, Ontario where he played junior hockey. Playing in Detroit is about as much of a homecoming as he’ll get, at least until an eccentric Canadian billionaire tries to move a struggling team there.

Vancouver @ Ottawa

Vancouver’s east coast swing continues in Ottawa and they’ll be looking for a little bit more offense than they saw against Montreal the other night. As in any offense as they were shutout by the Habs. Playing a streaking Ottawa team may not be the solution they’re looking for though. The Sens are winners of four in a row and have gotten fantastic play in goal from Brian Elliott and he could get the nod again tonight. Special side highlight of the night? The Sedin twins facing off with Swedish favorite Daniel Alfredsson.

8:00 pm

Nashville @ St. Louis

So how do you come back after getting thrashed 8-1 by the Blue Jackets? For the Blues you get to shake it off right away the following night against fellow divisional foe Nashville. That might not be the best medicine as the Preds are notoriously difficult to deal with, but at least the Blues have home ice to support them. The Preds, meanwhile, will be looking to end a five game losing streak. Desperation meets reclamation. It’s got the makings of a good one in St. Louis.

10:30 pm

Dallas @ Los Angeles

The Kings are winners of four straight and are one of the league’s best teams. Meanwhile, the Stars sit just four points behind them in the standings and have been a surprise themselves so far this year. After a humbling 5-0 loss to Colorado the other night, the Stars will be looking to get back on the right track. Previous to that beat down they were on a three-game win streak. Dealing with the Kings, even with injuries to Willie Mitchell and Alexei Ponikarovsky, will make living difficult.

NY Islanders @ San Jose

Does the Isles streak end tonight? The Islanders have lost eight in a row, including two straight one-goal losses. They did just about everything but win (or score a goal) last night against Anaheim limiting the Ducks to 14 shots on goal but still managed to lose. Scoring has been their biggest issue and facing San Jose won’t help that much. The Sharks are fifth in the league in goals allowed but they’re struggling a bit themselves, losing three of their last four games. The Sharks aren’t scoring much of late either, but the Isles have been slump busters before. Unless the Isles start scoring, they don’t look to be much of a threat.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.