2011 Playoffs: Redemption or desperation? Tonight’s Game 2’s dictate the future

With four Game 2’s on tap tonight, there are four teams that can do something about the instant hole they’re in. Some of them could also find themselves heading back home down 0-2 if they’re not careful. Here’s what’s on tap tonight across the NHL playoff landscape. All times are Eastern.

Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh – 7 p.m. – Pittsburgh leads series 1-0

Tampa Bay got the sort of lackluster effort that any team in the playoffs would like to avoid. After going through two scoreless periods, the Penguins jumped out in the third and put the Lightning down. The Lightning need a lot more physicality tonight. Brooks Orpik welcomed Steve Stamkos to the playoffs rudely on his first shift and the hitting didn’t stop all game long. Tampa Bay could stand to fire back with some big shots of their own and get snapped into a higher gear. Of all the Game 1’s played, Tampa-Pittsburgh had the most reserved pace to it. Tampa might benefit from pressing a bit more.

NY Rangers @ Washington – 7:30 p.m. (Versus) – Washington leads series 1-0

The Rangers will change things up a little bit tonight as Mats Zuccarello will sit while Sean Avery and his special brand of annoyance and aggression will play tonight. Avery against Washington should help keep the Rangers on their toes and the Caps with their heads on a swivel. They might benefit the most from a set of earplugs though so Avery’s verbal barbs won’t make them do something foolish. Avery’s ability to get players to take bad penalities rivals Avery’s ability to take some of his own. In the playoffs, however, he’s been a very effective player and that’s something the Caps can remember from the 2009 playoffs. The Caps will be hoping that Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin can continue to be the offensive studs, just that they they could do it a bit sooner than the final minutes of the third and overtime.

Chicago @ Vancouver – 10 p.m. (Versus)Vancouver leads series 1-0

If Chicago’s going to give Vancouver nightmares in the playoffs, sending the series back to Chicago tied would be the right way to do it. If the Blackhawks allow the Canucks to come out flying and seize the game right away, fighting an uphill battle against the league’s best team is a losing proposition. While Vancouver got great goaltending from Roberto Luongo in his 2-0 shutout in Game 1, there were a lot of post hits as well. Good luck is part of the battle, but if some of those shots start missing posts and hit the back of the net, Vancouver’s got a fight on their hands.

Nashville @ Anaheim – 10:30 p.m.Nashville leads series 1-0

While goaltending was only part of the problem for the Ducks in Game 1, they might be testing out Ray Emery to be the starter tonight. Emery will be hoping his defense does a better job of withstanding the Predators pressure on both sides of the puck than they did on Wednesday losing 4-1. For Nashville they’ll want to do more of the same and if Mike Fisher continues to be a ridiculous sniper, the Ducks are looking at a world of hurt potentially heading to Nashville down 0-2. The Ducks will need more of that snarl and much better play from their best players tonight. If not, the Ducks may be looking at a very quick exit.

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.