We took a look at what will start to shake loose in the Eastern Conference playoffs with today’s games already today, but we know for sure how the West will stack up after tonight. The battle for the final two spots will be figured out between Columbus, Detroit, and Minnesota but there is still one spot left for home ice advantage to be decided.
Here’s how the Western Conference sets up going into tonight’s games:
No. 1 – Chicago: They’re the top seed Central Division champs and Presidents’ Trophy winners. They’ll face either Columbus, Detroit, or Minnesota in the first round.
No. 2 – Anaheim: The Ducks won the Pacific Division and locked down the second seed in the West. They too can face any of Columbus, Detroit, or Minnesota in the opening round.
No. 3 – Vancouver: The Canucks won the Northwest Division and have the third seed locked down. They’ll get to face either Los Angeles, St. Louis, or San Jose in the first round.
St. Louis: The Blues can lock down the No. 4 seed with a victory of any kind over Chicago tonight. The Blackhawks should be resting plenty of guys so they may have an easy go of it. If they lose and San Jose beats L.A. in overtime or a shootout, the Blues could land in sixth. If the Kings win and the Blues lose, those two will meet up in the first round starting in California.
Los Angeles and San Jose: These two face each other tonight with the winner potentially getting home ice in the first round or a date on the road against the Blues should St. Louis win. San Jose can move up to fourth with a win and Blues loss.
The only way the Sharks can host the Kings in the first round is to beat L.A. in overtime or a shootout and have the Blues lose in regulation to Chicago. No matter how things shake out with St. Louis, if the Kings win they’re getting the Blues.
We already glossed over what can happen with the seventh and eighth seeds today. You’d have to think Chicago and Anaheim are hoping to see the Dallas Stars step up and help find a way to get Detroit out of the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanen to injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.
For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.
After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.
Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.
Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:
Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins
Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals
Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.
Patrice Bergeron doesn’t have a reputation for dirty hits, but he drew the Washington Capitals’ ire for a hit on Matt Niskanen.
The Capitals consider Niskanen “probable” to return to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins with what they’re calling an upper-body injury. Bergeron received a two-minute boarding penalty for the infraction.
(Check out video of the hit above.)
The Capitals’ Twitter acknowledged the brewing bad feelings.
Does Bergeron deserve supplemental discipline for that boarding hit?
Washington currently leads the game 3-2.
There are plenty of hazards on an NHL rink even if you’re not a player.
Barry Trotz ranks among the coaches who’ve been hit by pucks, though he’s one of the tiny sliver of humans who would shake off a puck to the forehead. It can be dangerous for officials, too, whether it means a wayward puck or wayward player.
The latest example comes in the form of linesman Steve Miller needing help off the ice after a puck hit him in the knee area. As you can see from the video, it looked like he was in serious pain.
It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.
The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.
Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?
(If you’re into that kind of thing.)
Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form: