Cam Ward, Henrik Lundqvist

Race for the playoffs: Rangers and Hurricanes play for their playoff lives

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

z-1. Washington – 107 pts (1 GR)
x-2. Philadelphia 104 pts (1 GR)
y-3. Boston – 101 pts (2 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 104 pts (1 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 101 pts (1 GR)
x-6. Montreal – 94 pts (1 GR)
x-7. Buffalo – 94 pts (1 GR)
8. Carolina – 91 pts (1 GR)
9. NY Rangers – 91 pts (1 GR)

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

New Jersey @ NY Rangers – 12:30 p.m. ET

It’s not the position the Rangers wanted to be in. Last week it seemed almost elementary that they’d make the playoffs but today they must get at least one point to put any pressure on Carolina to do the same tonight. If the Rangers lose in regulation, that’s it – season over. Carolina owns the tiebreakers on the Rangers, which right now means that they’ve got more regulation/overtime wins than New York (35 to 34).

Should the Rangers win in regulation and Carolina wins in the shootout, the edge still goes to Carolina by virtue of better head-to-head record. While the two teams split their four games, Carolina won both of theirs in regulation while the Rangers won once in overtime (good) and once in the shootout (not good).

Should the Rangers get either a point for losing in overtime or the shootout or a win of any kind, they can force Carolina to either match them or equal them later tonight. With both teams sitting on 91 points today turns into a high-stakes game of “can you top this?” for the Rangers. Again, New York can’t afford a regulation loss today and a loss in overtime or shootout means they’ll be rooting doubly hard for Tampa Bay tonight.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina – 7 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay is locked in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and they’ll get to face either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. Their fate is simple as they can’t move. Carolina won’t have to do any scoreboard watching at all as they’ll know what they have to do before they even hit the ice for warmups tonight. This game could turn out to be a meaningless playoff warm up for both teams if the Rangers lose in regulation as it would be set in stone that Carolina makes the playoffs as the eighth seed and has a first round date with Washington. If this game does turn out to be just a 60 or 65 minute practice for these two, you might see some drastically different lineups and starters in goal.

NY Islanders @ Philadelphia – 7 p.m. ET

The task is simple on paper for the Flyers: Win the game, win the division. A win by Philadelphia regardless of how they do it gives the Flyers the Atlantic Division title and the second seed in the playoffs. An overtime/shootout loss would put the pressure on Pittsburgh to beat Atlanta tomorrow while a regulation loss means Pittsburgh could get a point through any means to win the Atlantic. The fact that this comes down to the final game of the season for the Flyers is stunning considering how they’ve led the division virtually all season long. The Flyers have lost 14 of their last 20 games dating back to February 26 while the Penguins have stayed steady all along. Finishing fourth means facing Tampa Bay in the first round. Finishing second (or even third should Boston win out) means getting either Buffalo or Montreal.

Montreal @ Toronto – 7 p.m. ET
Buffalo @ Columbus – 7 p.m. ET

Two games will help figure out where Montreal and Buffalo sit in the standings. Should Montreal and Buffalo finish tied in points, Montreal will start the playoffs as the sixth seed. Buffalo still has a shot at sixth and a first round rematch with Boston if they earn more points than Montreal today. With the Sabres facing a hapless Blue Jackets team and the Habs taking on their bitter rivals from Toronto, nothing at all is set in stone here especially with Toronto breaking out a pair of prospects tonight in Joe Colborne and Hobey Baker Award finalist Matt Frattin.

Ottawa @ Boston – 1 p.m. ET

We’ll keep it simple here, a Boston win keeps them alive for a shot at the second seed. That’s the upside. The flipside of that is their first round opponent is going to be Buffalo or Montreal one way or another. The higher the seed, the better it is for home ice purposes in match-ups later on, of course. The secret highlight of this game is seeing former Merrimack College star Stephane Da Costa return to Boston for the first time since leaving college to go pro.

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: