Getty

Goalie nods: Smith, 27, to make NHL debut for Avs

1 Comment

Colorado will get to look at another goalie in the system tonight.

Jeremy Smith, the 27-year-old journeyman that’s spent all year in AHL San Antonio, will make his big league debut when the Avs take on the Devils in New Jersey.

Smith, originally drafted back in 2007, has played almost exclusively in the American League during his career, with stops in Milwaukee, Springfield, Providence, Iowa and finally San Antonio, where he’s 5-8-0 with a .911 save percentage and 2.57 GAA this season.

Prior to tonight, the closest Smith came to the NHL was with Boston, who recalled him from the minors a few times. But he never saw game action with the B’s.

Tonight’s start comes after the Avs shut No. 1 Semyon Varlamov down for the year, which left them with a Calvin Pickard-Spencer Martin duo. Martin, who made his NHL debut back in late January, has since been returned to the minors.

Martin, 21, was likely sent back to save his confidence. It was a big ask for him to play at the NHL level in this stage of his career, made even bigger by asking him to play behind the worst team in the league. Martin’s only in his second full season of pro hockey and, unsurprisingly, struggled to an 0-2-1 mark with the Avs, posting a 4.35 GAA and .865 save percentage.

For the Devils, Cory Schneider starts in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Vancouver will start Ryan Miller after Jacob Markstrom beat the Sabres on Sunday. Matt Murray also returns to the net after a night off, as Marc-Andre Fleury played (and lost) on Saturday.

— The streaking Isles will stick with Thomas Greiss in goal when they take on the Leafs in Toronto. Greiss will square off against Frederik Andersen, who has lost three straight while posting an .887 save percentage over that stretch.

Robin Lehner goes up against his old team, as the Sabres invade Ottawa. Craig Anderson makes his second consecutive start since rejoining the Sens, having posted a 33-save shutout in his return on Saturday.

John Gibson has struggled lately, losing three of four while posting a .898 save percentage. He’ll look to get things on track tonight in Minnesota. The Wild, as they almost always do, are starting Devan Dubnyk, who’s emerged as the favorite for the Vezina Trophy.

Connor Hellebuyck starts again for the Jets, as Ondrej Pavelec is out hurt (he was placed on IR today). The visiting Stars will go with Antti Niemi, who starts for the first time in three games.

— It’s Cam Talbot versus Louis Domingue as the Oilers host the Coyotes in Edmonton.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

Getty
Leave a comment

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

Getty
1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Getty
9 Comments

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: