Forget simply making the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators are now challengers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division after their latest win.
Mike Condon stopped all 23 shots he faced on Thursday night in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils to record his fifth shutout of the season and help lead the Senators to their 30th win.
The win does a lot of things for the Senators.
First, it helps give them a little extra cushion over the teams below them in the standings when it comes to securing a playoff spot. But it also brings them to within four points of the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. While a four point gap is normally more difficult to overcome at this point in the season than it would appear, this is not exactly a normal circumstance.
The Senators still have three games in hand on the Canadiens after Thursday night (they also have three games in hand on the Boston Bruins, the team immediately behind them in the standings), and also still have three head-to-head matchups remaining with the Canadiens. All three of those games come during an eight-day stretch between March 18 and March 25.
Assuming things stay as they are in the standings, they are going to be absolutely massive games.
No matter what happens the rest of the way it is still pretty surprising to even see the Senators in this position.
This is a team that missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and did not really make any significant changes this offseason (they traded Mika Zibanejad for Derrick Brassard; hired Guy Boucher). They also have spent a large portion of this season without starting goalie Craig Anderson as he has been away with the team, turning the goal crease over to Condon, a goalie that was not even with the team at the start of the season.
The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.
Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.
In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)
Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:
Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.
With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/posts – another theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.
And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:
The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.
Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.
He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.
The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:
Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:
Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.
Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.
That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)
The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”
You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.
Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.
via Natural Stat Trick
P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.
Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.
Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.
For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).
Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.
It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)
Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.
In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.
This tweet explains it in additional detail.
The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.
We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online)