Canadiens clinch playoff spot in the East, Hawks earn a point

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Tuesday night was a rough night for any Montreal Canadiens haters out there. The Habs clinched their spot in this year’s playoffs by beating the defending Stanley Cup champs 2-1 in overtime. As if securing a playoff spot wasn’t bad enough for the anti-Habs contingent, Montreal was sent to the second season with the power of PK Subban’s 3rd game winning goal of the season (and his ensuing celebration).

For over 60 minutes the game was a beautiful goaltending exhibition. Quebec native Corey Crawford returned home for his first game in the Bell Centre and had a great showing. On the other end of the rink, Carey Price had 42 saves to help deliver the victory for the Habs. Cue the “Price for Hart” chants coming from North American francophones.

The game was not without its fair bit of controversy. With the game in overtime, Jonathan Toews took a tripping penalty on the forecheck when he brought down rookie PK Subban about 200 feet from the Chicago goal. Replays show that Toews got his stick into Subban’s skates and the officials got the call right—but the officials were late to make the call. Predictably, the Habs scored on the ensuing power play to punch their ticket to the playoffs. After the game, Joel Quenneville was not happy with the call:

“It was a tough ending for sure. I 100% dispute that call at the end… he wasn’t calling it and Jonny (Toews) didn’t touch his feet so, it was a tough call.”

Penalty or not, it was a tough way for the Hawks to lose a game they needed to win. The single point earned for the overtime loss pushes them to 93 points; but with the Stars winning at home against the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks cushion shrinks to a mere two points for the final playoff spot in the West. They’ll play a huge game at home against the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night before their regular season ending home-and-home series against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Stars finish the season with a pair of games against the lowly Colorado Avalanche and another against the Minnesota Wild. Advantage: Stars.

Things are looking much better for the Canadiens. Only a week ago, they were slumping and had both the Sabres and Rangers breathing down their necks. Fast-forward to tonight, the Habs became the 9th team to clinch a playoff spot. Earning a playoff spot is impressive regardless of circumstances with the parity in the league these days, but given the Habs’ injuries, it’s even more impressive. Where would they be if they had any one of their trio of injured defensemen? Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, or Jaro Spacek certainly would help in a big way if they had them for most of the season.

Looking forward, there’s a very good chance Montreal will earn a first round match-up against their bitter rivals from Boston if they can hang onto the 6th spot. If that series comes to fruition, the big winners aren’t the Canadiens or Bruins—it’ll be the fans.

Isles sign Gaudreau’s kid brother, beat deadline for Bischoff

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Busy day for Isles GM Garth Snow.

First, in an interesting move, the Isles have signed Boston College’s Matt Gaudreau — the younger brother of Calgary star Johnny Gaudreauto an ATO with its AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.

Gaudreau, 22, is a diminutive forward (not unlike his brother), listed at 5-foot-9, 145 pounds. He had a good offensive campaign for BC, leading the team in scoring with 35 points in 40 games.

In a second move, the Isles finally agreed to terms with University of Minnesota d-man Jake Bischoff on an entry-level deal.

Five years ago, the Isles selected Bischoff in the seventh round of the draft (out of USHL Omaha). The 22-year-old then proceeded to build an impressive resume with the Gophers, which includes a solid senior campaign that saw him rack up 32 points in 38 games. He also captured the Big Ten defensive player of the year award.

New York had until this summer to sign Bischoff, otherwise it would’ve lost his draft rights.

Like Gaudreau, Bischoff will report to Bridgeport to begin his pro career. There, the pair will join yesterday’s signing — Northeastern captain John Stevens (the son of Kings associate coach John Stevens), who inked a two-year ELC with the Isles.

 

Devils sign d-man Michael Kapla

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The New Jersey Devils have signed UMass-Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Kapla, 22, had three goals and 27 assists in 41 games this season. He’ll report to the Devils and likely burn the first year of his ELC by making his NHL debut sometime very soon.

The Devils host the Winning Jets tonight. They’re in Brooklyn Friday to play the Islanders.

Kapla spent four years in college. Per the Devils’ press release, he “most recently captained the River Hawks to the 2017 Hockey East Championship. He also received Hockey East All-Tournament Team honors and was named to the Hockey East Second All-Star Team.”

 

Report: Penn State sophomore Pedrie leaves school, signs with Rangers

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For the second straight day, the Rangers have landed an undrafted college free agent.

Vince Pedrie, a sophomore blueliner that just wrapped his sophomore campaign at Penn State, has reportedly agreed to terms with the Rangers on an entry-level deal, per the Collegian.

Citing a post from Pedrie’s Facebook account confirming the move, the Collegian reports the 23-year-old is the youngest Nittany Lion in program history to leave the team for the professional ranks.

It comes after Pedrie emerged as a “dominant offensive force” for the club last season, racking up 30 points in 39 games while helping Penn State qualify for its first NCAA championship appearance.

As mentioned above, this is the second intriguing prospect to join the Blueshirts in as many days. On Monday, University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri agreed to join the team after an impressive four-year career with the Gophers.

Hjalmarsson says ‘Hawks are ‘too comfortable’ after rough trip through Florida

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When most people take trips to Florida, it’s to get away from the stress and struggle of everyday life. But it’s safe to say that this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks won’t want to remember their visit to the Sunshine State.

The ‘Hawks dropped an embarrassing 7-0 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before blowing a 4-1 lead in last night’s game against the Bolts (they eventually lost 5-4 in OT).

They still have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division (eight points up on the struggling Wild), but they aren’t satisfied with their play.

“It’s getting close to the end here and we’re getting a little bit too comfortable maybe,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “As soon as you do that, you’re going to lose games … At the same time I’m glad that we were playing like this before the playoffs so we can make some adjustments.

“Eighty-two games is a long season. It’s a mental grind more than anything. As soon as you’re not there 100 percent, it’s going to show in the scoring.”

As Hjalmarsson said, six games is still enough time to figure things out for Chicago. They just won’t have the luxury of facing easy opponents when they do try to sort out their struggles.

They’ll play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday before returning home to play Columbus and Boston. They’ll then head back on the road to close out the season in Denver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.