Riding the Zamboni – Friday, March 18th

NY Rangers 6, Montreal 3

The Rangers posted a 5 spot in the first period against the Habs, chased Carey Price, and earned their third straight win. The five goals from five different goal scorers in the opening frame was the best start in 11 years as the Blueshirts were able to put the game on cruise control after the opening stanza. Unfortunately, Benoit Pouliot collided with Henrik Lundqvist with only about 3 minutes remaining. Lundqvist stayed in the game but had a sore neck that started to stiffen up as the game concluded. The victory is nice—but New York will need Lundqvist at 100% if they want to do anything more than simply make the playoffs.

Washington 3, New Jersey 0

The good news for the Devils was they controlled the game in their retro jerseys on throwback night in Newark. The bad news is they were unable to get any pucks past Michal Neuvirth and lost for the second time in as many nights. A few months ago, a performance like this would be a sign of better things to come for a struggling team. But nowadays, the Devils are desperate to earn every single point they can. On a night when they failed to earn a point, it doesn’t really matter how well they played.

For the Capitals, the win was their 10th in 11 games. Neuvirth balanced his play between good, great, and spectacular throughout the night. Mike Knuble provided all the scoring the Caps would need as he potted a pair to pull the Capitals into a tie for the Eastern Conference lead. Now if Neuvirth could just erase those three games in hand the Flyers own, then he’d really be amazing.

Carolina 3, NY Islanders 2 (OT)

This just in: Cam Ward is a pretty good goaltender. Ward earned the #1 star of the game; but he just as easily could have won the #2 and #3 stars as well. He made just enough saves – 33 in fact – giving the Canes a chance to win with only about a minute left in overtime. Joni Pitkanen picked up his second point of the night on the game winner that pushed Carolina into a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.

For the Islanders, it was a tough loss to handle as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ward. Michael Grabner had a goal, an assist, and 9 total shots on goal in the game. But alas, it wasn’t enough.

Phoenix 3, Vancouver 1

All good things eventually come to an end—and for the Vancouver Canucks, it was their 7-game winning streak that came to an end on Friday night. Even though they didn’t have the same fire they’ve had over the last two weeks as they were clinching a playoff spot, they still managed to put 47 shots on goal. Moreover, it took a 5-minute major penalty halfway through the 3rd period for the Coyotes to finally break through (twice) as they rode two power play goals and an empty netter to the win. They game was much more important for the Coyotes as the win pushed them to 4th place in the Western Conference. Their fifth straight win also pulled them within a single point of the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks. On the other hand, the Canucks clinched a playoff spot in their last game.

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 when they 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 fan, 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 regular seasons, even as memories of their Cup win start to fade into the distance. 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 defend Craig Anderson following his 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 sad 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: