Buffalo Sabres

Sabres’ weird win might be a metaphor for their season

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If you’re the type of person who analogizes things constantly like me, the Buffalo Sabres’ comeback-filled 6-5 OT win against the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t shocking. Instead, it was really a microcosm of both teams’ seasons.

Toronto opened the game with a stunning 3-0 lead, much like they raced off out of the gates with a high-powered offense. Even Phil Kessel stuck to the script, supplying assists on all of those tallies.

Sabres fight back

Much like during this season’s rougher moments, the Buffalo Sabres could have thrown in the towel with that big deficit in mind – not to mention an endless deluge of Internet snark building – but they refused to do so. That being said, they sure didn’t make it look easy … unless you think they really have a flair for the dramatic.

Buffalo dominated the second period 2-0 with a 19-6 shot advantage. Things could have fallen apart two more times in the third period, too. Clarke MacArthur made it 4-2 just a minute and a half in but Derek Roy collected a power-play tally to give Buffalo hope. Jake Gardiner then seemingly put things out of reach by skating around the Buffalo defense and made it 5-3, but it shockingly wasn’t over.

One more comeback

Alexander Suzler scored his second goal of the game to make it 5-4 about 15 minutes into that manic final frame, yet the tying goal might have been the most symbolic moment.

As PHT’s Joe Yerdon points out, the scramble in front of Toronto’s net that resulted in the 5-5 Jordan Leopold tally in many ways tells the story of the Leafs’ lost season. In a way, it tells Buffalo’s story too – they keep coming back and finding ways to win, even if it’s nowhere near as pretty as anyone expected.

It’s pretty hard to deny the beauty of a wild Buffalo crowd after Roy scored the overtime power play game-winner, though. That’s a moment that was a beauty for any hockey fans without a horse in this increasingly crazy race.

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Standings update

For now, let’s ignore the Florida Panthers’ place in the eighth place mess, even after they coughed up an embarrassing 5-4 OT loss to the Winnipeg Jets tonight. Here’s what the race between Washington and Buffalo looks like after the Sabres’ surge:

8. Washington: 88 points, 36 regulation/OT wins and two games left – vs. Florida (Thursday) and at Rangers (Saturday)
9. Buffalo: 88 points, 32 regulation/OT wins and two games left – at Philadelphia (Thursday), at Boston (Saturday)

As you can see, the Capitals hold the tiebreaker advantage so the Sabres need to finish with one more point to take the eighth seed. The nice thing about Thursday’s Panthers-Capitals game is that Florida has incentive to at least fight for a win since the Southeast title hasn’t been clinched yet. On the other hand, the Rangers have even less on the line than the Flyers and Bruins, so Buffalo’s best chance to “control its destiny” is if Washington finishes with a point or less on Thursday.

It all sets up for a stretch run that should be as dramatic and ridiculous as every day-to-day development so far.

That being said, it might be hard to top tonight’s theatrics.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

Video: Brouwer was big for Blues

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Troy Brouwer made quite an impression in his first year with the St. Louis Blues. After being acquired from the Capitals for T.J. Oshie, the 30-year-old scored 18 goals and 39 points in 82 games during the 2015-16 season. His eight goals and 13 points during the playoffs weren’t too shabby either.

Brouwer took on more of a signficant role in the postseason. His points-per-game increased, his ice time increased and he was more productive on the man-advantage (3 goals in 20 games). While the Blues were fighting for their playoff lives in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Final, Brouwer contributed three goals.

Now, the Blues will have to find a way to keep him around. His playoff success likely means that he’ll be expecting a substantial raise between now and the end of the league year on July 1st. Brouwer is set to become an unrestricted free agent on that day.

Brouwer came with a cap hit of $3.66 million and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number climb higher, especially if he hits the open market.

The Blues also need to work out deals with other pending free agents like captain David Backes and Jaden Schwartz (RFA). There isn’t a ton of money left under the cap in St. Louis, which means that GM Doug Armstrong will have to get creative this summer.

One of the things Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock liked about Brouwer was the way he seemed to fit in right away.

“He was on the team for a month,” Hitchcock explained earlier this week, per the Vancouver Sun. “I think my meetings were a little bit too long.  He told me it would be best if I kept them a little briefer.  So I knew he had a bite on the team right away. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable with us, which is great.”  

How much will comfort count for in the off-season negotiations between club and player? We’ll find out soon enough.

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”