Flyers clinch playoff berth, Bruins miss postseason again

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All things considered, the table was set for the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Maybe they didn’t churn out a meal that was a work of art, but it got the job done.

By holding on for a 3-1 lead against their bitter rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers clinched a playoff berth that seemed unthinkable months ago.

In many ways, it was fitting: things weren’t always pretty, but the Flyers kept fighting.

It’s also fitting how Philly made the playoffs, as they head in strong while the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings lost huge contests on Saturday. Ultimately, the Flyers and Red Wings won that three-team race for two spots.

Wayne Simmonds has been a huge part of this run, and he scored the two most important goals for the Flyers.

The Bruins, meanwhile, find themselves out of the playoff mix for two straight seasons.

Red Wings stumble into playoffs, Bruins in serious trouble

RedWings
AP Photo
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The streak has been preserved.

For the 25th consecutive season, the Detroit Red Wings have advanced to the playoffs. That streak ties the St. Louis Blues and puts Detroit four seasons shy of matching the Boston Bruins’ all-time streak.

Speaking of the Bruins, the Red Wings aren’t making the playoffs thanks to their own efforts on Saturday. Detroit suffered a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers, but in the end it didn’t matter because Ottawa crushed the Bruins 6-1.

Boston had to start backup Jonas Gustavsson because Tuukka Rask was sick and while that certainly didn’t help matters, it would be unfair to put this blowout solely on Gustavsson’s shoulders.

Regardless, Boston and Detroit have now both finished the season with 93 points in 82 games. However, because the Red Wings control the tiebreaker, they secured the third Atlantic Division seed while Boston is in the second Wild Card spot. The problem for the Bruins now is that the Philadelphia Flyers are just one point shy of them and have two games left, including their ongoing contest against Pittsburgh.

If Philadelphia gets at least two points in its last two games, Boston will miss the playoffs and the Flyers will get that second Wild Card spot. In other words, the Bruins’ fate is now entirely out of their hands.

‘We’re not handing anything to them’: Sens hope to ruin Bruins playoff hopes

Boston Bruins left wing Matt Beleskey (39) slams Ottawa Senators left wing Mike Hoffman (68) against the board during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
AP Photo
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The Ottawa Senators aren’t going to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not a single Canadian team is, but that’s old news.

They do, however, have the chance to ruin the playoff hopes of the Boston Bruins in their regular season finale on Saturday. And the Senators are hoping to play that role of spoiler.

Should the Senators beat the Bruins in regulation, and the Philadelphia Flyers defeat the rival Pittsburgh Penguins in any fashion later in the day, Boston is eliminated from post-season contention in a late-season collapse highlighted by a five-game losing streak in late-March.

“We’re not handing anything to them,” Senators forward Zack Smith told the Ottawa Sun. “We’ve had enough battles with them. There is a little bit of a rivalry there, too. We don’t owe anything to them, we have to go in there and win the game.

“Everyone has to find motivation from somewhere, whether it’s personal goals or just wanting to prove some things to different people that we’re not giving up, that we do have something to play for.”

Even though the Senators are out of it, they could present a challenge for the Bruins. At least, that’s what the Bruins are expecting.

“There’s no pressure on them, there’s no doubt,” said Boston’s coach Claude Julien, as per the club’s website. “They played a very solid game last night against Florida [in a 3-1 victory]. Just goes to show us that no matter what the situations are at this time of the year, there are no easy games.

“There’s a lot of pride. There’s a lot of players playing for jobs. There’s a lot of reasons for every team to want to win hockey games. And no doubt, if I was in their shoes, I’d say, ‘let’s finish on a winning note here.’”

How Bruins, Red Wings and Flyers can make playoffs after thrilling Thursday

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Jakub Voracek (93) tries pulling away from Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey (27) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP
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There aren’t many certainties, it seems, when it comes to the three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s two unresolved playoff spots.

That said, it seems like we can count on the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers to at least keep things interesting.

As you can see here, the Bruins thwarted the Red Wings’ attempt to clinch yet another playoff berth on Thursday. It seems like everything was coming up Millhouse for the Bruins with the Flyers trailing the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the third period of that game … but it couldn’t be that simple, could it?

Nope, instead, the Flyers managed to force the game into overtime before falling 4-3 in OT to Toronto.

Fittingly, Wayne Simmonds scored his 30th goal at an opportune time for Philly:

So, you might wonder how things look. First, the standings view:

eastwildthreeraceapril7
via NHL.com

OK, now let’s roll out the clinching scenarios for each team.

For the Flyers: They can clinch a spot by winning their two remaining games.

For the Red Wings: Can clinch by beating the New York Rangers in regulation or overtime.

For the Bruins: Can clinch with any kind of win against the Ottawa Senators AND any kind of loss for the Red Wings.

Also:

As you can see, the Red Wings and Flyers can “control their destiny” while Bruins will need a little help.

Of course, there are some other scenarios depending upon wins and losses, especially beyond regulation … but the simpler version is to win.

Drama brewing: Bruins secure crucial win against Red Wings

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After wobbling in a worrisome way toward the end of the season, the Boston Bruins are showing some fight.

The B’s thwarted the Detroit Red Wings’ attempt to clinch a 25th consecutive playoff berth on Thursday, and the Bruins did so with aplomb by winning 5-2.

It wasn’t merely a tough night for Jimmy Howard, though he did get the hook in this game. Instead, it was a great all-around effort by the Bruins, who started strong and only allowed the Red Wings to register 15 shots on goal.

There were definitely some quick strikes in the Bruins’ favor, making the game a little less dramatic than it seemed on paper.

The Bruins finish the season with a home game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday while the Red Wings wrap up against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on that same day. Each team has 93 points … and we’ll see how that all compares to the Philadelphia Flyers in mere moments.

If nothing else, the Bruins turned up the heat on the other teams they’re struggling with.