On the importance of ‘support from the bottom’ (see: Toffoli, Krug, Saad, etc.)

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Tyler Toffoli: 22 years old, drafted 47th overall by the Kings in 2010. Five points in the playoffs.

Torey Krug: 23 years old, undrafted, signed as a free agent by the Bruins in 2012. Six points in the playoffs.

Brandon Saad: 21 years old, drafted 43rd overall by the Blackhawks in 2011. Four points in the playoffs.

Andrew Shaw: 22 years old, drafted 139th overall by the Blackhawks in 2011. Four points in the playoffs.

Brendan Gallagher: 21 years old, drafted 147th overall by the Canadiens in 2010. Five points in the playoffs.

Erik Haula: 23 years old, drafted 182nd overall by the Wild in 2009. Two points in the playoffs, key defensive forward.

And those are just the young guys — none of them first-rounders, you’ll notice — on teams still alive in the postseason. Let’s not forget about the diamonds in the rough that were eliminated in the first round, like San Jose’s Matt Nieto (47th overall in 2011, five points) and Columbus’ Boone Jenner (37th overall in 2011, five points).

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, here’s what president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said about a Canucks team that’s gone from elite to missing the playoffs in practically a blink of an eye:

“When I see playoff teams that are successful, I see teams that have some depth, teams that can roll four lines out. I like the people we have in [our] core positions, but they need support from the bottom. There’s a gap between the core players and what’s coming from below them. There hasn’t been a real push from the bottom and that’s created issues.”

Consider: Alex Edler and Jannik Hansen are the last Canuck draft picks still with the team that have made a considerable impact at the NHL level, and they were chosen a decade ago. OK, fine, d-man Chris Tanev, 24, has turned out to be a savvy college free-agent signing, but Vancouver is still a prime example of the importance of drafting and developing, even for teams that can afford to spend to the cap and go after unrestricted free agents.

And it absolutely has to go beyond first-rounders. Edler was a third-rounder; Hansen was taken 287th overall! Back when those two were playing on cheap contracts, they were a huge source of value for the Canucks. Ditto for undrafted Alex Burrows and the since-departed Mason Raymond, a second-rounder in 2005.

John Tortorella wasn’t the right coach for the Canucks, but he was right when he said Vancouver “needs youth.”

Because every team needs that.

Constantly.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule for Sunday, April 23

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Only two series remain in the first-round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both of them continue on Sunday.

First, the Boston Bruins look to push their first-round series to a seventh game after their double overtime win on Friday when they host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon. That game will be followed by Washington Capitals trying to, as Barry Trotz wants to see, push the Toronto Maple Leafs off the cliff.

Here is everything you for Sunday’s games, both of which will be shown on the NBC networks and streamed online.

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

Video: Oilers showed off depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks

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As the Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy frontrunner, there’s no doubt that Connor McDavid is the catalyst for the Edmonton Oilers.

Still, the scary thing for opponents is that, while he created chances against the San Jose Sharks, McDavid wasn’t exactly lighting them up for points.

Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.

Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.

(A fully healthy Hampus Lindholm would increase their odds, mind you.)

Either way, the Oilers’ “other guys” deserve some credit, and they get it in the video above.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.