James O'Brien

Brian Strait, Tyler Kennedy, Luke Glendening, Drew Miller

Welcome the Islanders, Red Wings, Jets and Flames to the 2015 playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings didn’t win on Thursday, and the New York Islanders didn’t even play, but both teams are now officially headed for the 2015 playoffs.

The Red Wings clinched thanks to their point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens plus the Boston Bruins’ regulation defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers. The Islanders merely needed a Bruins or Ottawa Senators loss of any kind, so maybe Detroit and the Isles owe the Panthers a tip of the cap.

Detroit maintains the longest-running playoff run in major sports:

The Islanders missed the playoffs last season, yet they’re hoping to put a long run of success together themselves thanks to a young core headlined by John Tavares.

With these spots clinched, the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins battle for the final two playoff berths in the East.

How far do you expect the Red Wings and Islanders to go, by the way?

Update: The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets were the other two teams who clinched postseason spots on Thursday.

Big, bad blunder: Bruins fall against Panthers

Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins
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The good news for the Boston Bruins is that their awful Thursday doesn’t knock them out of the playoffs altogether. The bad news is … just about everything else that happened tonight.

As you may already know, the Ottawa Senators held up their end of the bargain with a 3-0 win against the New York Rangers. That allowed Ottawa to bump Boston out of the East’s wild card ranks, but the Bruins could have made that a temporary thing. The B’s failed in that quest, however, falling to the 10th-ranked Florida Panthers 4-2.

(One can imagine that Roberto Luongo was quite happy to spite his pals from Boston, eh?)

The Panthers also did the New York Islanders a favor, as this Boston win punches their ticket to the playoffs.

The final stretch

Let’s look at what the wild card looks while ignoring the Detroit Red Wings’ tight contest against the Montreal Canadiens for now:

Wild card spot 1: Ottawa, 97 points, one game left, 36 regulation/OT wins
Wild card spot 2: Pittsburgh, 96 points, two games left, 38 ROW

Bubble: Boston, 95 points, one game left, 37 ROW

As you can probably see, the Bruins need some help after this more-or-less worst-case scenario night. The Penguins face the now-clinched Islanders on Friday and then the lowly Buffalo Sabres on Saturday while the Senators close out their season against the Philadelphia Flyers. Boston faces a Tampa Bay Lightning team that may still be gunning for the Atlantic Division crown, so they can’t expect a casual opponent.

Ultimately, if Ottawa gets a mere point against Philly, it’s over for Boston. The Penguins only need two points in whatever fashion they may get them in their last two games.

It all looks very bleak for the Bruins, who saw former teammate Jaromir Jagr score his 1,800th career point in painful fashion tonight.

(That’s cold.)

(Seriously, ouch.)

The most positive thing is that many people were once counting out the Senators like they’re counting out the Bruins right now.

Taking care of business: Senators blank Rangers

Chris Kreider, Andrew Hammond
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The Ottawa Senators still need some help to make the playoffs, but they’re doing whatever they can to make life difficult for the teams ahead of them in the East race.

After a sluggish start in a 0-0 first period against the New York Rangers, the Senators took over in the middle frame, eventually earning an enormous 3-0 win.

Kyle Turris continues to be a huge difference-maker for the Senators, as he (as well as Clarke MacArthur) factored into the first two tallies with a goal and an assist. Of course, Andrew Hammond stood out the most as usual, stopping 26 shots for his third shutout and 19th win of the season. “The Hamburglar” is now a ridiculous 19-1-2 as he continues his storybook season.

At the moment, the Senators find themselves with 97 points and one game left, placing themselves in the first wild card spot over Boston and Pittsburgh … at least for the moment.

Ottawa has some tiebreaker disadvantages, so they’ll be doing some serious scoreboard watching for the rest of tonight and also tomorrow. At least they don’t have to think up fantastical situations for good things to happen after this win, however.

With the Presidents’ Trophy locked up for New York, the Rangers rested a lot of people, and dodged a bullet when Henrik Lundqvist was shaken up in the first period. (He seems OK, though.)

Considering how bleak things were for the Senators when they fired Paul MacLean, it’s remarkable how far they’ve come. We’ll find out if it will be enough very soon.

Video: Vincent Lecavalier injured after two fights with Keegan Lowe

lowelecavalier
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One player (Keegan Lowe) is currently making his NHL debut and is probably best known for being Kevin Lowe’s son. The other (Vincent Lecavalier) has played more than 1,000 games and ranks as one of the most expensive frequent-healthy scratches you’ll see.

It’s an unlikely pairing for two bouts on Thursday, but that’s exactly what happened between Lowe of the Carolina Hurricanes and Lecavalier of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Lowe, 22, got the best of Lecavalier in the first fight.

It seems like the 34-year-old may have bent the rules a bit in getting revenge against Lowe later on, as Lecavalier received an instigator, misconduct and fighting major for the second squabble:

We’ll have to keep an eye out for these two if they meet again in the future.

Update: It turns out that Lecavalier suffered an upper-body injury from the fight(s). The Flyers announced that more will be known on Friday.

Bolt of energy: Lightning get Hedman back

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The Tampa Bay Lightning might be hobbling into the playoffs a bit, but one big, important player is back on Thursday night. Victor Hedman will play against the New Jersey Devils tonight, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.

Hedman is returning from his second troublesome injury of the 2014-15 season, as he’s been sidelined since March 30.

The Lightning have done an admirable job putting together wins even with significant injuries seemingly occurring left and right. Getting Hedman back – maybe even getting both of Tampa Bay’s remaining two games under his belt, depending upon how things shake out – is almost as enormous as the sizable Swede.

Tampa Bay needs some help in chasing Montreal for the Atlantic Division crown. The Habs face the hungry Detroit Red Wings without Tom Gilbert tonight because of an upper-body injury, so consider that another advantage for the Lightning.