Both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens faced an alluring proposition on Tuesday: they had the chance to improve their odds of winning the Northeast Division title by beating up on non-playoff teams. Each squad failed.
The Bruins lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 while the Canadiens fell short of a comeback against the New Jersey Devils, ultimately falling 3-2.
Despite the score differences, one can quibble over which loss was worse. The Flyers have been playing better lately, as this marks their fourth win in five games. On the other hand, the Devils are closer to full strength with Ilya Kovalchuk back in the lineup.
Either way, those defeats represent missed opportunities. Check out the two teams’ remaining schedules:
Thursday: home vs. Tampa Bay
Saturday: at Washington
Sunday: home vs. Ottawa
Thursday: at Winnipeg
Saturday: at Toronto
The Bruins have that extra game in hand while the Habs have one extra regulation/overtime win (24 to Boston’s 23).
Depending upon how things shake out, Montreal’s season-ending Saturday game against the Maple Leafs might just be a playoff preview.
New Jersey forward Adam Henrique will be a healthy scratch tonight when his Devils, already eliminated from the playoffs, host Montreal.
“I think he needs to take a step back for a night and just watch,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said, per The Record. “His confidence isn’t where it needs to be. So, that’s the solution I’ve come up with.”
Henrique, 23, has just 11 goals and five assists in 40 games. Last year, he had 16 goals and 35 assists in 74 games as a rookie.
Hence, the need to “take a step back.”
Obviously, the Devils could use more than five helpers from one of their top centers. But the lack of assists is surely somewhat related to his teammates being absolutely snakebit this season.
Also, Henrique doesn’t have Zach Parise to pass the puck to anymore.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s injury won’t have helped either.
“I still feel like I’m there battling and getting some opportunities,” said Henrique, “but I’ll watch the game tonight and take it as a positive thing where I’ll come back and play well.”
Technically, the New Jersey Devils kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Florida Panthers 6-2 on Saturday.
Their odds are still ridiculously low – Sports Club Stats gives them less than a five percent shot if they win all four of their remaining games – but the New York Rangers can officially eliminate them in the local rivals’ NHL on NBC match at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The Rangers have plenty to fight for beyond smiting their foes, though. While they’re currently ranked eighth in the East, the Winnipeg Jets remain only one point behind for that final playoff spot.
John Tortorella’s bunch has been beating up on fading teams lately. After struggling to score most of this season, the Rangers pounded the Panthers 6-1 and the Buffalo Sabres 8-4 in back-to-back nights on April 18 and 19.
Considering their recently-broken 10-game losing streak, the Devils might seem like they’d be roadkill for the Rangers as well. That might not be the case, however, as Ilya Kovalchuk seemed comfortable in his return from a shoulder injury on Saturday and New Jersey won its last two games by a combined score of 9-2.
With Brad Richards showing more life lately (particularly scoring a hat trick in New York’s last game) and the Devils grasping for the last remnants of their playoff hopes, Sunday’s game could get awfully interesting … and maybe a little nasty.
Ilya Kovalchuk told the Bergen Record that he didn’t feel pain or experience problems during his return to action in the New Jersey Devils’ 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
“The first couple of shifts I was little – not nervous – but not in game shape,” Kovalchuk said. “Then, after the first five minutes I got a couple of hits and I feel more comfortable and we started playing better as a line for sure.”
In some ways, it’s likely a good sign that Kovalchuk, 30, seemed preoccupied with his individual shortcomings during a blowout win instead of any soreness to his injured shoulder (which has sidelined him since March 23).
“You don’t want to be minus when the team wins 6-2,” Kovalchuk said. “It doesn’t really matter, but still we as a line we want to produce and that’s what the coaches want from us. They give us a chance to play on the (power play) and all different situations, so you’ve got to put the puck in the net.”
The Russian star didn’t score a point, but he had 22:43 minutes of ice time and three shots on goal. While Kovalchuk critiqued that -1, head coach Peter DeBoer praised his play.
“I thought he was good,” DeBoer said. “First game back, he got his feet wet. I’m glad he got a game under him before we go into tomorrow to get his timing back. He created a half dozen chances for himself or other people. That’s what he does for us.”
Ilya Kovalchuk’s return to action was a successful one for the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils kept their playoff hopes alive by scoring six unanswered goals and taking out the Florida Panthers 6-2. Patrik Elias had two goals while David Clarkson had a goal and an assist to lead the way for New Jersey. Kovalchuk finished the game with no points and was a minus-one. Hey, a win is a win, right?
The win puts New Jersey six points behind the Rangers with four games to play. Two of those final four games come against New York with one being tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. The deficit makes tomorrow’s game a must-win game for the Devils.
If the Rangers win in regulation or overtime, the Devils will be eliminated from the playoff race. Even if New Jersey wins in overtime or a shootout, they’ll be hard up against it being five points back with three to play.