Race for the Playoffs – March 23; Western Conference in focus top to bottom

With the season winding down and the playoff picture sorting itself out, we’ll be taking a look at the night’s games and how they’ll potentially affect the playoff races. This is ProHockeyTalk’s “Race for the Playoffs.”

  1. Vancouver 103 pts
  2. Detroit 95 pts
  3. San Jose 92 pts
  4. Phoenix 91 pts
  5. Los Angeles 88 pts
  6. Nashville 88 pts
  7. Chicago 86 pts
  8. Anaheim 85 pts
  9. Dallas 85 pts
  10. Calgary 85 pts

Vancouver @ Detroit – 7:30 p.m. ET

The top two teams in the Western Conference square off and for the Canucks, it’s their opportunity to lock down the top spot in the West for good, for all intents and purposes. Vancouver’s got an NHL-best 103 points while Detroit trails them with 95 atop the Central Division. A win for Vancouver gives them a nine or ten point lead in the West with eight games left to play. That would be one tough hill to climb.

Of course a Detroit win opens up the possibility of things getting stressful towards the end of the year for the Canucks.  Vancouver’s been on top of the West all year long and haven’t had a real threat from anyone in their division or the conference. If Detroit’s able to cut their lead to six with a regulation win, the final games of the season get much more interesting. As it is, there’s no telling who either team will draw in the first round regardless given how crazy things are below them.

Florida @ Chicago – 8:30 p.m. ET

While the Panthers don’t have any fight for the playoffs sitting 13 points out of eighth in the East, Chicago’s got everything to get psyched up for. The Blackhawks are currently alone in seventh place in the West with 86 points, just two points out of fifth with Los Angeles and Nashville just ahead of them. Chicago, like everyone else in the hunt in the West, can’t afford a loss and with Anaheim facing Dallas tonight a Chicago loss would put them in more immediate peril. Playoff time is about survival and winning is the only way to stay alive. For the spot that Chicago’s in a win puts them in fifth place whereas a loss could wind up with them being knocked out of the top eight with Calgary also in action tonight.

Anaheim @ Dallas – 8:30 p.m. ET

These two teams are tied in the West with 85 points and a win in regulation would be crucial for either team to put some space between themselves and the rest of the field. Anaheim rolls into this one winners of three in a row while Dallas has lost three of their last four. Those sorts of cold streaks are killers out West and for Dallas it’s knocked them down into the “danger zone” of having their season potentially decided by a three point game that they may or may not even be playing in. Given that Anaheim is doing well without, perhaps, their best player in Jonas Hiller their run and ability to stay in the playoff hunt this well is remarkable. For Dallas, they need a win, badly, and getting one against Anaheim would do themselves a huge favor.

Calgary @ San Jose – 10:00 p.m. ET

A game that’s huge on both ends of the spectrum. For the Sharks, they’d like to keep the Coyotes off their heels and they’ve won three straight while doing just that. Calgary, meanwhile, is barely hanging on and they’ve lost five of their last six games. Calgary is running out of games as after tonight they’ll have just six games left to play. If the Flames want to make the playoffs, winning out wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Doing so against a Sharks team that’s been playing great the entire second half of the season makes for a daunting task. If Calgary can win tonight, it breathes a bit more life into their playoff hopes while a loss sets them back in a potentially big way as the teams immediately ahead of them all have a chance to add points tonight.

After lopsided loss, Julien says it’s ‘not about the young D’

Claude Julien

The Boston Bruins’ young, makeshift defense failed to come through Thursday night as the B’s were thumped, 6-2, on home ice by the Winnipeg Jets.

Without injured veterans Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the defensive pairings were as follows:

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid
Joe MorrowKevan Miller
Matt IrwinZach Trotman

And let’s just say, turnovers were a factor:

That was Irwin getting checked off the puck there.

“I had the puck behind the net, and I went to one side of the net, and then I just didn’t use the net to my advantage,” he explained afterwards, per CSN New England. “He got his stick in there, obviously stripped me of the puck, and we all know what happened after that. I take full blame for that one.”

But head coach Claude Julien wasn’t willing to blame inexperience for the poor outing.

“It’s not about youth. It’s not about the young D,” said Julien. “It’s about our game without the puck. I think we might have gotten a little excited here about our offense and forgot about the other part of our game.”

And to be fair, even Boston’s more accomplished d-men had their challenging moments.

Here’s Krug failing to get position on Nicolas Petan in front of the Bruins’ net:

All in all, it was a tough night.

“We’ll correct those [mistakes] tomorrow in practice,” said Irwin. “We’re a confident group in here. We liked our offense. We liked the chances we were getting. All those mistakes, D-zone, are something that we’re going to work on and get better every day.”

The Bruins host their rivals from Montreal on Saturday.

Greene named 11th captain in Devils history

Dion Phaneuf; Andy Greene
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Andy Greene has been named Bryce Salvador’s successor as New Jersey’s team captain.

Greene, an undrafted free agent that’s spent his entire nine-year career with the Devils organization, becomes the 11th captain in the franchise’s history and third American to wear the “C” (Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were the others).

A former standout at Miami of Ohio, Greene — who served as an alternate captain in each of the last two seasons — has developed into a steady, durable blueliner that hasn’t missed a game in three years. He’s also locked into the Devils long term, having signed a five-year, $25 million extension with the club last summer.

That deal kicks in this season, and runs through 2020.

As for the rest of the leadership group, four players will serve as alternate captains this season: Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri, and Adam Henrique.

Elias and Zajac both wore an “A” in New Jersey last year, while Cammalleri and Henrique are first-timers.