NHL on NBCSN: Caps fight Hawks team they could have been

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NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Capitals might want to watch the Blackhawks closely tonight because they represent what they had the potential to be, and could still become.

Both are teams that struck gold with a pair of forwards selected high in drafts in close proximity and both franchises quickly looked dangerous as a result. But while the Blackhawks were able to add key players like Marian Hossa on the free agent market, develop an enviable defense, and build a team that went far beyond Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the same can’t be said for Washington.

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The result is that Chicago can use tonight’s contest as a tuneup game in preparation for their bid to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in five years. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and the Capitals’ streak of disappointing playoff runs will come to an end courtesy of a lackluster season.

Perhaps the most obvious example of the difference between these two teams can be illustrated by the fact that Toews and Kane are both out tonight, and yet Chicago still has a great chance of beating Washington. It helps that Chicago has six players that have scored at least 19 goals while the Capitals have three. Beyond the big two in Washington, no one has reached the 50-point mark. Three players have accomplished that feat in Chicago, not including Kane and Toews.

“Before the Capitals season started, I was quoted as saying I didn’t see any weakness in our lineup,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said. “While I knew some aspects of our team were stronger than others, I didn’t see anything that I believed was a specific weakness. Obviously I was wrong.”

No team is devoid of weaknesses, but his original statement in October is in some respects more suited to the Capitals’ opponents tonight than themselves.

While Washington conducts it’s “comprehensive review,” the Blackhawks will fight to earn their fifth straight victory. It won’t change their playoff seeding, but it will help them build momentum ahead of their first round series against St. Louis or Colorado.

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: