Jeff Carter knows he’ll need to pass more on a line with Rick Nash, doesn’t expect big style changes

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When you’ve never won a single playoff game in your franchise history, it’s probably safe to say that your team has its fair share of weaknesses. That being said, if you ask most people in the hockey world for two specific issues plaguing the Columbus Blue Jackets for several years, you would hear a chorus of “top-line center and elite scoring defenseman.”

As we’ve discussed before, Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson paid quite the ransom in hopes of addressing those needs with Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski. A previous post touched on how Wisniewski might fit into the mix in Columbus, but there hasn’t been much specific discussion regarding how Carter will adapt his game until today.

The Columbus Dispatch’s AJ Mazzolini caught up with Carter to ask him about a concern many (including myself) shared about the acquisition: will Nash and Carter be able to find chemistry together even though they’re both known as being better goal scorers than passers?

“That’s something that we’re going to have to work on,” Carter said. “With our games, they’re pretty similar, so I don’t think it will take us too long. We’re both big guys that like to skate and like to shoot the puck.”

(snip)

Carter said he doesn’t anticipate having to adjust his style much when the season starts in October.

“I’ve played in pretty much every situation in Philly the last few years,” said Carter, who spent six seasons with the Flyers. “I’m familiar with everything. I know what to do out there. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

He added that passing the puck more will become a larger part of his game, but shooting is still his main focus.

On one hand, team-building isn’t as simple as it might seem when you’re matching the highest-rated players with each other in a video game. Yet more often than not, talented players tend to learn to work off each others’ strengths and exploit advantages that their skills can create. The one thing the Blue Jackets must avoid is trying to make Carter (or Nash) something he’s not. Too often sports teams pump themselves up about “fixing” a player when it’s usually far wiser to utilize what that athlete can bring to the table while camouflaging blemishes in their games.

Even if Nash and Carter mix like water and oil, the addition could be useful if they play on separate lines. Such a setup probably wouldn’t be ideal for the Blue Jackets, but it would create something of a “pick your poison” scenario as an opposing team would need to put lesser defensemen on one of those two scorers (most likely Carter).

This new setup will be a test for those two high-scoring forwards, but it also might give us an idea of how strong a coach Scott Arniel really is. The list of excuses is starting to dwindle for Arniel, Howson and the rest of the Blue Jackets organization. Can they finally take a step toward credibility or will they continue to be a squad that cannot outgrow its expansion roots?

It should be interesting to find out.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

Just about every relevant team in the East playoff races won tonight

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After Eastern Conference teams deserved a “C” on Monday, they generally passed Tuesday’s tests with flying colors. Sometimes they carved out three-point games when relevant teams faced off, too.

It’s almost bewildering trying to figure out where to start … so how about the top of the East?

Metro’s rich get richer

The Minnesota Wild deserve credit for fighting back from a considerable deficit, including overcoming an Alex Ovechkin hat trick (all on the power play). Ultimately, T.J. Oshie‘s overtime-winner gave Washington the 5-4 (OT) win.

Elsewhere in the Metro’s top ranks, Sergei Bobrovsky grabbed his 41st win of the season (3-1 win against the Sabres) to put Columbus three points behind the Capitals and two ahead of the idle Penguins.

Metro top three (all with 75 games played)

1. Capitals – 108 points
2. Blue Jackets – 105 points
3. Penguins – 103 points

Canadiens gain ground

The Montreal Canadiens handled the Dallas Stars 4-1 in The Epic Battle of the Benns. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the second-place Senators 3-2 via a shootout

Both the Maple Leafs and Bruins won their games, leaving Toronto one point ahead of Boston for third in the Atlantic.

Atlantic top five

1. Canadiens – 95 points in 76 games played
2. Senators – 91 points in 75 GP
3. Maple Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP
Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP

Finally, let’s look at the final spot in the East

OK, so there’s some overlap here. Why don’t we check on the most wild-card-relevant teams?

Third Atlantic spot: Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Final spot: Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 82 points in 75 GP
Flyers – 80 points in 76 GP
Panthers – 77 points in 76 GP

Again, the Bruins won, as did the Flyers. The Lightning were idle. The Panthers fell to the Maple Leafs. Buffalo lost while Detroit and New Jersey are out of the running.

You know who deserves special mention outside of the top eight? The Carolina Hurricanes deserve such a distinction, as they are enjoying one of their hottest runs in franchise history after beating Detroit 4-1.

The overall message: just about any truly relevant team at least grabbed a standings point, with most winning games outright on Tuesday.

It doesn’t exactly thin the herd, but it keeps the door open for a fun race to the finish.