Nicklas Lidstrom, Joe Thornton

Red Wings and Sharks will look to history to provide inspiration tonight

For the eighth time in NHL history a team has forced a Game 7 after being down 0-3 in the series. Detroit will attempt to be the fourth team to come all the way back after being put on the brink of elimination. While it’s incredible that they could swing the percentages of teams that come back from being down so badly to win to 50% should they pull it off.

While the Sharks will look to the Vancouver Canucks from this year’s playoffs for inspiration on how to get things done in Game 7, the Red Wings will be taking a look back through history both recent and distant for inspiration.

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were down 0-3 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals that season. Thanks to the goaltending of Turk Broda, the heroics of Don Metz, and the leadership of Syl Apps the Leafs were able to accomplish the feat for the only time it would happen in the Cup-deciding series. While those days saw just a small handful of teams in the NHL, roaring back from the brink of defeat was still a rarity and the guts of that Leafs team set the example for future teams on how to get things done. Broda earned a shutout in Game 6 of that series while Metz earned a hat trick in Game 4 to light the spark for the comeback.

The 1975 New York Islanders weren’t one of the heroic Stanley Cup winners that made the Isles famous, but that team was loaded with guys who would eventually become legends on the Island and their comeback from 3-0 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be a rallying point for legends like Denis Potvin, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, and Bob Bourne. While goaltender Billy Smith is the name guy on that team, the man who sparked things for them that year was current Devils broadcaster Glenn “Chico” Resch who coach Al Arbour put in to shake the team up. It worked as Resch led the Islanders the rest of the way through the series as the Isles dominated play on the way to delivering heartbreak to the Penguins.

Last season we all remember for the Flyers remarkable comeback that saw them roar back from down 3-0 in the series to beat the Bruins in seven games. Making that series all the more fascinating is how Game 7 itself played out. At one point the Bruins led the final game 3-0 only to see the Flyers roar back one more time and break the Bruins hearts all over again with it all starting with a James van Riemsdyk goal late in the first to quell the B’s momentum. The rest was history as the Flyers would chip away and win 4-3 in the game and the series.

For Detroit, should they get down early against San Jose tonight looking to last year would be ideal. Of course, Detroit has yet to show any signs of ever giving up in this series when they’ve fallen behind. The Sharks are more than aware of that now and they don’t need history from last year or even 60 years ago to teach them that.

While we don’t know what we’re in store for tonight, history shows us that anything can happen and if you’re someone that believes in things balancing out overall, you’re leaning on the Red Wings. If you’re a believer that the better team will win out, you might be leaning towards the Sharks. If the Sharks don’t clean things up a bit after sloppy play in Games 5 and 6, they’ll have an agonizing summer to think things over. Either way, the drama is set to be sky high tonight.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.