Northeast Division Watch (March 3)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (March 3 -March 9th)

1. Boston Bruins (37-19-7 for 81 pts; 63 Games Played)

Current streak: Six straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. Tampa Bay (Thursday), home vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday) and @ Montreal (Tuesday).

Thoughts: After putting together their best road trip since 1972, the Bruins get a couple home games … unfortunately it’s against some tough opponents. After that, they’ll play five of their last six games away from home, so their division lead isn’t a sure thing.

2. Montreal Canadiens (34-23-7 for 75 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: @ Florida (Thurs), @ Tampa Bay (Sat), home vs. Boston (Tues).

Thoughts: The Habs are in the middle of a tour of the non-traditional Southeast Division teams (everyone but the Washington Capitals) before the play what could be a big game against the Bruins. They need to work on their road game, though, being that they’re currently below .500 (14-15-1) away from Montreal.

3. Buffalo Sabres (30-25-7 for 67 pts; 62 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Four road games – vs. Carolina (Thurs), Philadelphia (Sat), Minnesota (Sun) and Pittsburgh (Tues).

Thoughts: The Sabres began their seven-game road trip with a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers. They’re hoping they can match their division mates in Boston for heartiness outside of their home digs. It won’t be easy considering the fact that they play two likely playoff teams from Pennsylvania plus two teams fighting for their playoff lives. The game against Carolina tonight is obviously one of the truest tests.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-27-9 for 65 pts; 64 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away against Philadelphia (Thurs), home vs. Chicago (Sat) and @ Islanders (Tues).

Thoughts: The Leafs need a big week, as they trail the Hurricanes by four points while the Sabres are two points ahead of them with two less games played. If only they could play against the Penguins more often, as they beat them twice in extra innings (once in a shootout, once in overtime) in the last three games.

5. Ottawa Senators (21-33-9 for 51 pts; 63 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: On the road against Atlanta (Thurs), home vs. Rangers (Fri) and @ New Jersey (Tues).

Thoughts: If the Senators were in playoff contention, playing 10 road games vs. five home contests would make this March a horrible month. Instead, this is a good thing because Ottawa will (probably) lose enough to get a better draft pick. Hopefully they won’t turn on Craig Anderson because of it.

Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

via Natural Stat Trick

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

Video: Austin Watson takes a shot at Vladimir Tarasenko

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The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.

Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.

One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.

It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?

Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.

Blues just have no answer for P.K. Subban right now

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In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.

You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.

Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.

No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.

Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.