With less than a month remaining in the 2013-14 regular season, winning against fellow playoff bubble teams matters … but winning in regulation is a much sweeter victory.
The Winnipeg Jets probably did so most emphatically, as they didn’t slow down after chasing Tim Thomas on Sunday, ultimately pounding the West’s current final wild card team by an eye-popping score of 7-2.
This win emboldens Winnipeg’s chances (even if only slightly) while making Dallas’ grip a little looser on that final playoff spot. Let’s take a quick look through both conferences to see where things are at heading into Monday.
- It wasn’t pretty, but the Vancouver Canucks avoided a loss against Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers, taking an important 4-3 shootout win. Eddie Lack exhales.
- Winnipeg’s win is good news for the idle Phoenix Coyotes, who are tied with the Stars points-wise, although Dallas has a game in hand. The Stars and Coyotes may very well have a playoff spot on the line when they meet in Glendale on April 13.
- In the upper ranks of the Central Division, the Colorado Avalanche stayed a point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks after the Avs beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 while Chicago bested Detroit 4-1.
- Meanwhile, the idle Anaheim Ducks still hold a game in hand over the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks won 1-0 against the New York Rangers to give them six wins in a row and 97 standings points (the same as the Ducks, who have played 68 games to San Jose’s 69).
Here’s the West outlook, via NHL.com:
Here’s an even quicker summary of the East action:
- In the bubble, Detroit lost some ground to the Washington Capitals. Both the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes fell short against the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers respectively, leaving their outlooks that much dimmer.
- In the Atlantic Division, the Montreal Canadiens won their game to leave them second in the division while the Toronto Maple Leafs squandered an opportunity to increase their breathing room at third. The idle Tampa Bay Lightning (first wild card spot) are only one point behind Toronto with two games in hand.
- The Metropolitan Division saw a little upheaval. The Philadelphia Flyers’ win against the Pittsburgh Penguins hurts other teams in the division, as the New York Rangers were pushed down to the East’s final wild card spot (thanks also to their 1-0 loss against the Sharks). The idle Columbus Blue Jackets’ playoff hopes look a little safer after losses for Washington and New York.
Need the numbers and standings? Understandable enough:
It doesn’t get much better than a player making the type of save you’d only expect from a goalie. OK, how about this: when it happens amid the high stakes of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel had already been distinguishing himself with a red-hot scoring start to the postseason, but he made a big difference in a way that won’t show up in the box score (aside from maybe as a blocked shot) for Game 1 against the Washington Capitals.
In one of the few golden opportunities in a notably tight first period, Guentzel made a “kick save” to keep it 0-0. He also managed to avoid giving the Capitals a penalty shot in the process, so this was quite the effort from the impressive rookie.
Video will be added soon. Here’s the moment in GIF form first:
You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.
The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.
As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.
In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.
That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.
Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.
The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.
The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.
So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.
He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:
The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).
In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):
Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone.
So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.
Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.
Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?