The New York Rangers dominated Saturday’s match against the New Jersey Devils from start to finish and were rewarded with a comfortable 4-0 victory.
With this win, the Rangers have avoided a first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They could finish as high as sixth place, but the Ottawa Senators can push them down to the seventh seed if they get three points in their final two contests.
Here are the talking points:
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- Rick Nash scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season this afternoon. He pretty much lived up to expectations in his first regular season with the Rangers, but how will he do in the playoffs? Nash has a goal and three points in four career postseason contests. He also has never won a playoff game.
- The Rangers won 10 of their final 13 matches. Can they carry that momentum into the postseason?
- New Jersey will finish the season with one of the worst records in the league when it comes to goals per game. They were without Ilya Kovalchuk for 11 contests, but the loss of Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild was certainly felt.
- Martin Brodeur will turn 41 in May and Johan Hedberg will celebrate his 40th birthday. They’re both signed through 2013-14, but can the Devils stay competitive with that tandem? It’s not just about how they’ll preform, it’s a question of if they can stay healthy over the course of an 82-game season.
- Henrik Lundqvist ended up starting in 43 of the Rangers’ 48 games. That might end up being on par with Antti Niemi, but it’s more playing time than Sergei Bobrovsky, Corey Crawford, or Tuukka Rask will receive. Could that push Lundqvist over the edge in his quest for a second straight Vezina Trophy?
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.
He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.
With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.
Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?
Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: