Eastern Conference playoff race
x-1. Philadelphia – 102 pts
x-2. Washington – 101 pts
x-3. Boston – 97 pts
x-4. Pittsburgh – 98 pts
5. Tampa Bay – 95 pts
6. Montreal – 89 pts
7. Buffalo – 87 pts
8. NY Rangers – 87 pts
9. Carolina – 84 pts
10. Toronto – 82 pts
11. Atlanta – 78 pts
12. New Jersey – 77 pts
x – clinched playoff spot
New Jersey 4, Philadelphia 2
All it took was the first Patrik Elias hat trick in five years for the New Jersey Devils to hang onto their ever-so-slim playoff hopes. With five games remaining, the Devils have realistically been eliminated from the playoffs, but mathematically still have a shred of hope. By beating the Flyers, they only have to win their last five games while either the Sabres or Rangers lose the rest of their games in regulation. Then again, had they lost on Friday night to the rival Flyers, all hope would have been squashed.
Despite the loss, the news is slightly better for the Flyers. Philadelphia was a point ahead of the 2nd place Washington Capitals with a game in hand before the night started. Now the Flyers are a point ahead of the Caps with no game in hand. The loss was the second in as many nights for the top-seeded Flyers and their third loss four games. As Kimmo Timonen expressed, this is not the way the team wants to be playing as they head to the playoffs.
“We keep talking about being the top team in the league but we haven’t played that way. For sure we want to be the top team in the East, but right now we have to worry about ourselves and get our game in order. These four games are huge for us. Going into the playoffs, we have to get our game back on track.”
The Flyers next game is a big Atlantic Division battle against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon. The Game of the Week will have implications for both the Flyers who were fighting for home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, and the Rangers who are just trying to get into the playoffs. Who knows, this time it might be closer than the 7-0 embarrassment the Flyers endured last time the two teams played.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.
Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.
Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.
It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.
Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.