NHL Bubble Wrap: Flames advance, Maple Leafs collapse, top seed battles set

  • The Flames eliminated the Jets from the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
  • Another shocking collapse happened as the Blue Jackets rallied against the Maple Leafs.
  • The stage is set for a wild Friday of possible eliminations.
  • Also, Saturday will serve as games where the top seeds in the East and West will be determined with round-robin games.
  • NHL Scores from Thursday

    Canucks 3, Wild 0 (Vancouver leads series 2-1)

    After dropping Game 1 to Minnesota, the Canucks won the last two games in a row. In Game 3, Vancouver stayed focused during a physical game, enjoying a 27-save shutout from Jacob Markstrom. Big name players also scored for the Canucks, while Antoine Roussel also found the net and Alex Stalock‘s ire.

    Flyers 3, Capitals 1 — East Round Robin

    Once again, the Flyers remain on fire. They ended the regular season very hot, won their exhibition game, and now won two of three round-robin contests. Their excellence keeps things pretty simple: it will be Flyers vs. Lightning for the East’s top seed on Saturday. While those two joust for No. 1 (with the loser getting second), the Capitals must face the Bruins to see which team will rank third or fourth. Yes, the two division leaders will finish third and fourth. The Round Robin, and 2020, are both very odd.

    Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 — West Round Robin

    If the round-robin games are any indication, few leads will be safe against the Golden Knights. Vegas rallied to beat the Stars in their first contest, then did similar things against the Blues. In Thursday’s case, the Golden Knights scored three third-period goals to run away with this one. The Golden Knights face the Avalanche on Saturday to determine the West’s top seed, while the Blues and Stars battle for third.

    Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 [OT] (CBJ leads series 2-1)

    Like the Penguins and Oilers, the Maple Leafs coughed up a Game 3 lead and lost in a stunning fashion. Also like the Penguins and Oilers, the Maple Leafs rank among the teams who can get eliminated during Friday’s NHL games. The Maple Leafs built a 3-0 lead, only for Pierre-Luc Dubois, Elvis Merzlikins, and the rest of the Blue Jackets to roar back and force overtime. Dubois capped his hat trick by scoring the overtime game-winner. For better or worse, there’s a short turnaround for both teams to battle it out again in Game 4 on Friday.

    Flames 4, Jets 0 (CGY wins series 3-1)

    It sure seems like the Jets just ran out of gas or, erm, fuel. If there was going to be a big push, the Flames’ 2-0 first period likely deflated that. Then again, it might have just come down to Cam Talbot being on point. Talbot pitched a 31-save shutout, frustrating what remaining stars the Jets still had healthy. Calgary became the first West team to punch its ticket to the final 16, aka the formal start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They don’t have any clue who they’ll face yet, though.


    Round-robin standings (ties broken by regular-season points percentage)

    Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
    Flyers (2-0-0, 4 points)
    Capitals (0-1-1, 1 point)
    Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

    Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
    Golden Knights (2-0-0, 4 points)
    Blues (0-2-0, 0 points)
    Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)

    NHL Three Stars for Wednesday, and the highlight of the night

    1. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blue Jackets

    Pierre-Luc Dubois didn’t just score the first Blue Jackets hat trick, and he didn’t just do so in a huge way, completing it with that stunning overtime game-winner. PLD also pulled it off with style, even throwing a bit of a Michael Jordan tongue-wag in during one of his goals. The Maple Leafs couldn’t seem to stop him as he barreled to the net and scored huge goals. They won’t have much time to find a better plan vs. PLD, either.

    We might as well get the highlight of the night over with, too, because Pierre-Luc Dubois provided that. Consider his hat trick as the overall highlight of the night.

    2. Cam Talbot, Flames

    Circling back, it’s easy to look at the Flames winning 4-0 and thinking Game 4 was a cakewalk. Especially if you ignore the two empty-net goals clouding such perceptions.

    But was it that easy even beyond that, or did the Flames eliminate the Jets in such a tidy fashion in large part because of Cam (sometimes Cameron) Talbot? Talbot pitched a 31-save shutout to close out one heck of a four-game performance. Talbot generated a strong .945 save percentage during the series, putting up the sort of gaudy numbers we were expecting from Connor Hellebuyck.

    If Talbot can stay on his game, then the Flames are the team the top four seeds might wish to avoid.

    3. Quinn Hughes, Canucks

    Let’s give the tiebreaker for some three-point games to one that factored into a 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with higher stakes than a round-robin game, shall we? Hughes figured into all three Canucks goals with two primary and one secondary assist in Game 3. Hughes gave the Canucks another beyond-his-years game, as the rookie logged 22:47 TOI in Game 3.

    Now, you might prefer Jacob Markstrom’s 27-save shutout from that game. That’s fine, too.


    • Pierre-Luc Dubois wasn’t just the first Blue Jackets player to score a postseason hat trick. He also became just the 10th player in the last 27 years to complete a playoff hat trick in OT, via NHL PR. Statscentre provides even more on PLD’s hat trick.
    • Nicholas Robertson became the third Maple Leafs player to score a playoff goal before turning 19.
    • Elliotte Friedman notes that this was the first time this season that the Blue Jackets came back from down three goals to tie a game, let alone win it. Ouch.


    Game 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN (NYI leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN (ARI leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN (MTL leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (CHI leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. ET – live look-in NBCSN (CBJ leads 2-1)
    Game 4: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (VAN leads 2-1)

    • 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.