No longer ‘young and naive,’ Kane aims for Olympic redemption in Sochi

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SOCHI, Russia — Well-spoken and seeming totally at ease with the intense media glare, Patrick Kane chatted amiably with reporters Tuesday in Sochi, two days before his United States hockey team was scheduled to open its Olympic tournament against Slovakia.

What a nice young man, you might’ve thought listening to him. Which is worth mentioning, because he hasn’t always left that impression.

Most hockey fans don’t need to be told what we mean by that. Just Google “Deadspin Patrick Kane” if you don’t.

One can never be sure, but those days of youthful indiscretions seem in the past now.

Also in the past is Kane’s first Olympic experience in Vancouver, where four years ago he was part of the U.S. team that won silver, ultimately falling victim to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.

“In 2010, I was kind of young and naive to know what was really going on,” Kane said. “Looking back at that game, I actually watched it for the first time this year, that gold-medal game, just to kind of relive the situation, and see how important it was to the game of hockey.

“I feel I’ve grown a lot and matured a lot, just like any 21-year-old would to being 25 four years later. It was a great experience [in Vancouver], but I think I know a little more this time around.”

Indeed, Kane’s been through a lot in the last four years — both good and, well, not so good — and he’s added some serious credentials to a resume that already included being drafted first overall in 2007. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks now. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in June.

He also enters the Olympics as the NHL’s fifth-leading scorer, with 63 points in 59 games for the ‘Hawks, and will be counted on to produce offense for the American side, along with the likes of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Joe Pavelski.

In Sochi, Kane is looking forward to getting back on the bigger international ice surface, where he thinks the extra time and space he’ll get with the puck will work to his advantage. During the NHL lockout, he played 20 games in Switzerland.

“I’m kind of glad I went through it for this experience now, to know what to expect,” he said. “Different ways I can use it to my advantage. I think anytime you give a player time and space, he should be able to use that to his advantage, and try to make more plays out there.”

While a shot at Olympic redemption is Kane’s ultimate goal in Sochi, he doesn’t want to get caught looking ahead to a possible return to the gold-medal game.

“It’s still a long tournament,” he said. “You still have five, six games to get to that situation. Take one game at a time. Try to get better each game as a team.”

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.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: