New York Rangers v Atlanta Thrashers

Race for the playoffs: Rangers try to distance themselves, Habs hope to avoid slide

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.”

Eastern Conference playoff race

y-1. Washington – 107 pts (1 GR)
x-2. Philadelphia 103 pts (2 GR)
y-3. Boston – 101 pts (2 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 102 pts (2 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 99 pts (2 GR)
x-6. Montreal – 93 pts (2 GR)
7. Buffalo – 92 pts (2 GR)
8. NY Rangers – 91 pts (2 GR)
9. Carolina – 89 pts (2 GR)

y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot
GR – games remaining

Atlanta @ NY Rangers – 7:00 pm ET

If the Rangers earn three points in their last two games, they could boot the Hurricanes out of the playoffs regardless of how well Carolina plays. Both teams are locked in at 34 non-shootout wins, so earning a regulation or overtime victory against the Thrashers would go a long way toward giving the Rangers enough breathing room to make the postseason.

Interestingly enough, Atlanta is in an unusual spoiler role being that they will play a home game against those same Hurricanes on Friday night. This isn’t the way the team wanted to be relevant late in the season, but they will make an (indirect) impact on the playoffs nonetheless.

Montreal @ Ottawa – 7:00 pm ET

While the Canadiens already clinched a playoff spot and won’t have a chance to win the Northeast Division, this game is still relevant to Montreal. They have 93 points and two games left with some tiebreaker advantages, but both the Buffalo Sabers and Rangers could pass them by if the Habs lose both of their games. (Although Montreal would need to lose one of those contests in regulation for New York to bump them down to eighth place.)

So, yes, they’ll make the playoffs … but they could also slip all the way down to the eighth seed. The Habs won’t enjoy a stroll in the park, either, because the Senators have been a handful late this season.

Marner’s brilliant passing powers uplifting night for Leafs

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Boston Bruins during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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For a while, the story of the Florida Panthers – Toronto Maple Leafs game would be the remarkable march of Jonathan Marchessault.

As great as his story remains (he gave Florida 1-0 and 2-1 leads), those pesky young Maple Leafs keep stealing the headlines.

In tonight’s case, it was Mitch Marner who was raising eyebrows as he assisted on all three of Toronto’s goals in a 3-2 victory.

His third assist was just sublime:

After the game, Tyler Bozak pondered the two goals Marner helped him score and deemed the youngster “an elite player,” according to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.

Considering the growing discomfort regarding Frederik Andersen‘s play, this tweet should help to make Maple Leafs fans smile:

Ehhhhh, Marner might deserve that first star, but the gesture means almost as much as the win.

Also, it might help Andersen feel a little better after this happened:

Either way, this could be the sort of win that Toronto might build upon.

Devan Dubnyk pushes shutout streak to two games

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against Winnipeg Jets during the game on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk already showed signs of having a hot start to 2016-17, but Thursday made that point abundantly clear.

For the second straight game, Dubnyk generated a shutout, with the Minnesota Wild beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in this instance.

It’s not as if Dubnyk is just leisurely turning aside the occasional chance, either; he made 38 saves to blank Buffalo and needed to stop 65 shots on goal considering the 27 he turned aside in a 5-0 win vs. Boston.

Ryan Suter said that Dubnyk bailed his teammates out during the second period, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports.

He’s now allowed just 10 goals in six games so far in 2016-17, with Taylor Hall‘s overtime-winner being the last shot to beat him. That came on Sunday:

More often than not, Dubnyk’s been making those saves so far in this young season.

Video: Another way Patrik Laine evokes Alex Ovechkin

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There are plenty of differences between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, including obvious things like one being from Russia and the other from Finland.

Still, there are moments when Laine inspires comparisons to his idol, even this early in his rookie season.

Thursday presented one of those moments. It wasn’t just that Laine fired a 3-0 goal home for the Winnipeg Jets against the Dallas Stars with such moxie; it was also that he showed some swagger with a celebration afterward.

This GIF captures the moment brilliantly, while you can also watch the goal in video form.

Sure, there will be some grumbles from the “act like you’ve been here before” crowd, but this is brilliant stuff for the rest of us.

Video: Want another booming hip check? Sean Couturier obliges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Early this season, Dmitry Orlov delighted onlookers and angered Matt Duchene with a mind-blowing, throwback hip check. People really seemed to enjoy it.

While you’d struggle to top that hit, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier must have sensed the void in checks that almost seem to flip opponents, doing so against Anthony Duclair during Thursday’s contest.

Rate this as you will:

Want another look at the Orlov one for comparison’s sake or to chuckle in disbelief? Why not: