Jagr shines in preseason debut with Flyers

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The Flyers have had more changes than Philadelphia International Airport with all of their arrivals and departures this offseason. While former leaders were traded away and young prospects were acquired to eventually fill the void, the organization reminded everyone that they’re always in a “win-now” mode when they grabbed Jaromir Jagr on the open market. The biggest question mark was Jagr himself: which version of the former superstar was going to show up in the City of Brotherly love?

If the Czech’s first preseason game is a hint of things to come, Flyers fans should be positively giddy. And Penguins fans should start throwing things.

Jagr exceeded just about all expectations in his first game on NHL ice since the 2007-08 season. He had a goal and an assist in his first period as a member of the Flyers as Philadelphia beat the Red Wings 3-1 in Detroit. Actually, he scored two points within a 52-second span in his first period in the orange and black. The scary part? He wasn’t happy with his performance. From CSNPhilly.com:

“It was worse than I expected – the game is too quick for me; I have to get better,” Jagr said, laughing. “It’s different, the skating. We still have two weeks to learn.”

“We had some shifts with a little cycle. That’s the way I wanted to play. That’s my game. But still, it’s first time we play together and we need to get used to each other.”

Jagr was probably the only one who wasn’t impressed by his performance.

Before the game, Jagr had explained that his biggest concern was finding his timing on the different ice surface with NHL players. In theory, it’s a logical concern for a player who has spent the last three seasons in Europe where the ice is bigger, the players aren’t quite as good, and the systems are much different. In practice, Jagr showed that the NHL game for him is just like riding a bike—all he had to do was hop on and the rest would come back to him.

Early on in training camp, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has put Jagr on the same line with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. The pair of Flyers youngsters proved in the playoffs last season they have chemistry and are on the verge of becoming one of the breakout duos in the entire league. On Friday night, Jagr proved that the dangerous duo may in fact turn into a terrific trio. Even without Giroux, Jagr repeatedly created chances for van Riemsdyk throughout the game.

So much for it taking time to remember the North American game.

The 82-game season is more a marathon than a sprint. Jagr will have ample opportunity to prove that he still has what it takes at the NHL level. If anything, he’ll have to prove that he’s up to the physical (and mental) rigors of the seven-month regular season. Rangers and Capitals fans will tell you that he mailed it in more than a few times in his last handful of seasons in North America. But when he’s motivated, he’s proven throughout his career than he’s one of the all-time greats.

On Friday, he showed that he still has a little bit in the tank. Both skill—and motivation.

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.