James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Babcock thinks the fix is in against Kadri regarding penalties

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With an intriguing summer coming ahead considering his restricted free agent status, the Toronto Maple Leafs could probably use every little detail in assessing Nazem Kadri‘s value.

It might be a tough finish for him if he can’t draw a penalty, though.

The Maple Leafs forward seems to be a magnet for controversy lately, whether it’s him delivering a boarding hit and receiving a cutthroat gesture for his trouble or when he’s the guy receiving that check.

(He’s also been the guy who made that throat-slashing hand signal. Phew.)

Anyway, you can see a big hit on Kadri from Saturday’s 3-1 Boston Bruins win against the Maple Leafs in the video above the headline.

The juicier stuff comes via Babcock’s press conference, where he states that he believes a “memo” went out among NHL officials about four games ago not to call penalties on infractions against Kadri.

If you don’t want to watch the video, reporters gathered some of the best quips:

Calling a penalty when there’s a penalty? Novel idea.

In all seriousness, Babs seemed steamed about the whole thing, and it’s a reminder that his press conferences may occasionally be more fun to watch than the Leafs’ remaining tankings games.

Let’s look at the playoff races after Saturday’s action

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The NHL is planted deeply in a stretch where “must-win games” really are starting to resemble actual must-win games.

So, each night is important, but with some key head-to-head matches and just a lot of games in general, let’s touch on some of the biggest developments.

East – Atlantic

  • The Florida Panthers are firmly planted in first place in the Atlantic after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning. If that isn’t bad enough for the Bolts, Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman are injured. Not a great weekend for Tampa Bay. (More here.)
  • The Boston Bruins remain three points behind the Lightning for second place after breaking their slump by beating the Maple Leafs.

East – Metro

  • By edging the Habs, the New York Rangers are comfortably seated in second behind the Capitals.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins pulverized the Detroit Red Wings, leaving them four points behind the Rangers at third place. (More here.)

East – Wild card

  • It was dicey for a while there, but the New York Islanders beat the Carolina Hurricanes. With that, the Isles hold the first wild card spot and trail the Penguins by one point for third in the Metro.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers had a chance to fatten their lead over the Red Wings for the second wild card spot. Instead, they lost, so the Flyers and Red Wings are locked at 85 points. The Flyers hold a game in hand, so they sit in the last wild card spot.

Want the shorter version? TSN’s Bob McKenzie runs it down:

West – Wild card

  • Starting here with arguably the most important result of Saturday: the Minnesota Wild beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-0. While the Avalanche hold one game in hand, this win gives Minnesota a five-point standings lead over Colorado for the second wild card spot. The Avs face very long playoff odds. (More here.)
  • The Nashville Predators won their game, but so did the Chicago Blackhawks, so Nashville is still clearly the first wild card in the West. They still have a shot at climbing into the Central’s three, though.

West – Central

  • Remarkably, the top five teams in Central all won, with No.6 (Colorado) losing to No. 5 (Minnesota).
  • While the Blackhawks hope to hold off the Predators for third place, the Stars and Blues remain tied at 99 standings points. Nothing changed, as Dallas stays in first thanks to a tiebreaker (43 ROW to Blues’ 40). So Stars in first, Blues virtually tied but at second and ‘Hawks are in third.

West – Pacific

  • The Los Angeles Kings won (staying in first), so did the Anaheim Ducks (firmly in second) and the San Jose Sharks lost, keeping them in third. So the norm remains. (Here’s a post on the Ducks’ win, and also video of a Jonathan Quick save.)

McKenzie also summarized the West:

Pretty much. That said, if you’re more of a visual learner, here’s the NHL standings page.

Coyotes, Smith stifle Flyers in nasty loss for Philly

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“Nasty” seems like a decent way to describe the Arizona Coyotes’ 2-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Physically speaking, it was very nasty at times, with the Flyers and Coyotes chewing up penalty minutes and polarizing hits. We’ll need to wait and see about the condition of players including Claude Giroux, Shane Doan and Michael Stone.

Mike Smith was “nasty” in a good way, on the other hand, as Philly took nearly all of this game to score a single goal against the returning netminder.

The Flyers carried much of the play, yet they fell to Arizona, and they did so during regulation.

A few of the nastiest moments, in GIF form:

With the Detroit Red Wings falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier on Saturday, this was a golden opportunity for the Flyers to grab crucial standings points.

Instead, the difference is skin-tight as usual between the Flyers and Red Wings, a nasty thought for those who want to watch stress-free hockey.

Also: the Coyotes sure have spoiler potential:

Video: Quick’s save survives review; McDavid tricks Lecavalier

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The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings aren’t fighting for the same things this season, but for all of the Oil’s struggles, it’s tempting to picture these teams squaring off with a lot on the line.

More precisely, we want to see battles like Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ other young guns against Jonathan Quick.

Saturday provided some appetizers in the form of a nice save and a clever goal.

Above, you can watch Quick’s great glove stop. Below, watch as McDavid gets the best of Lecavalier, and thus Quick:

Cardiac quacks? Ducks rally from another big deficit

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The Anaheim Ducks are starting to resemble Jason Voorhees or some other villain from a slasher horror movie: just because they’re down doesn’t mean they will stay down.

Echoing a point from a post a couple days ago, it feels like a metaphor for their entire season, as they went from duds to dangerous as the months went along, even though many gave up on them after a frightening start.

Clinching their playoff berth by salvaging a “charity point” in an eventual overtime loss was enough, yet the theme continued on Saturday with their come-from-behind win against the Ottawa Senators.

At one point, the Ducks’ Twitter feed captured the spirit of frustration as the Senators bulked up a 3-0 lead:

They went into the third period down 3-0, yet they won 4-3 in overtime.

Now, while this makes for a nice narrative, it’s not exactly the norm for the Ducks or any team:

And, yes, you can take some of the starch out of this one merely by pointing to the weakness of Anaheim’s opponents. They probably shouldn’t have needed a standing eight count before engaging with the Maple Leafs and Senators … not if they’re true contenders.

Still, it’s a long season, and this is yet another example of the Ducks refusing to throw in the towel.