Devils are hot, Panthers cold, but does it matter?

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How much does finishing the season on a high note matter going into the first round? The series between the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers might be a case study in that. The Devils couldn’t be hotter going into the series after winning six straight contests to finish the regular season. Although all series start at 0-0 regardless of how you got that far, Ilya Kovalchuk thinks being hot going into the playoffs helps.

“Definitely,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “You can’t switch in one day and be a totally different team, so you want to prepare yourself the best you can physically and mentally. Winning six in a row will help our confidence for sure.”

The Florida Panthers are almost the polar opposite. They were able to end the season with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, but they have still only won just two of their last 10 games. The last time the Panthers beat a playoff-bound team was March 20 when they earned a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Martin Brodeur is happy with how the Devils finished the season, but he’s seen enough playoff action to know that they can’t discount the Florida Panthers despite their recent struggles.

“I thought we did a good job staying focused and getting prepared as well as we can. Just to get the (good) habits. In the playoffs you’re not going to just turn the switch,” Brodeur said. “But we’ve had teams that came in stumbling and we had years in which we came in doing well. You never know what’s going to happen. You roll the dice coming in hot, that’s for sure.”

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins.

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.

MacArthur, Senators end Bruins’ season in OT after controversial calls

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It’s a feel-good story, especially if you can look beyond questions of officiating.

Clarke MacArthur could have very well never played another NHL game considering his lengthy battles with concussion symptoms. Instead, he drew a penalty on the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 6 and then managed to score the series-clinching goal.

Now, this isn’t to say that MacArthur didn’t rightfully draw a penalty; it most clearly was. And, in the bigger picture, it’s one of those stories that almost makes you wonder if real-life sports actually do follow Hollywood scripts.

People just wonder about some other decisions during that overtime, in particular, making it frustrating for some Bruins fans to see the season end in such a way.

Whether they like it or not, that is the case, though.

The Senators took Game 6 by a score of 3-2 (OT), winning their series 4-2. They can breathe a sigh of relief in avoiding a Game 7, an especially valuable bonus since Erik Karlsson had been pushed hard lately, logging more than 40 minutes in a recent game.

Ottawa avoids a do-or-die contest. Instead, they’ll face the New York Rangers in the next round while the Bruins enter the summer following an up-and-down campaign.

Bergeron takes advantage of slow Sens change, sends Game 6 to OT (Video)

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Every game in this Senators – Bruins series has been decided by one goal, so why not send Game 6 to overtime?

Oh, and speaking of overtime, this contest going beyond regulation makes it 17 OT games, tying an NHL record for the most in a single round.

Ottawa appeared to take a “lazy change” with a 2-1 lead, and Patrice Bergeron made the Senators pay, putting in a rebound to collect the goal that eventually sent this contest to overtime.