NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy, but more must be decided

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Thursday’s top NHL players

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

The Lightning had a chance to clinch the third spot in the Atlantic, thus relegating the Bruins to the East’s first Wild Card spot. Instead, the Lightning lost to the Blue Jackets (even while dressing some key players) while the Bruins scorched the Sabres.

Patrice Bergeron played a big role in said scorching, scoring four points on a hat trick and an assist.

This marks the eighth hat trick of Bergeron’s career. It’s his second this season, and third since 2021. Remarkably, Bergeron’s collected seven of his eight career hat tricks since 2018. Seems like a nice time to mention that Bergeron should be a runaway Selke Trophy winner this season. Bergeron reached 400+ goals on his career, too.

(Bergeron’s basically aging as well as Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul.)

Thursday NHL highlights

This scrumptious Roman Josi goal helped the Predators rally to eventually beat the Avalanche, which clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the Panthers.

Johnny Gaudreau hit another first as he keeps adding to his Hart Trophy resume. Already (comfortably) over 100 points for the first time in his career, Gaudreau reached 40 goals for the first time. Fittingly, Matthew Tkachuk beautifully assisted on Gaudreau’s 40th goal:

Speaking of reaching that 40-goal mark, David Pastrnak did it for the second time in his career:

Tremendous goal from the AHL’s Laval Rocket; a great pass, and then Brandon Gignac with the outstanding finish.

Noah Gregor scored two goals just 26 seconds apart.

Enjoy a couple of tasty kick/foot/skate saves from goalies:

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Dustin Brown decides to retire after Kings’ playoff run

Read up on the longtime Los Angeles Kings forward who was a master at drawing penalties (among other things).

Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy after Avalanche lose to Predators

The Presidents’ Trophy race could have bled into Friday’s NHL games, but the Panthers instead locked it up on Thursday. The Panthers did so by cruising past the Senators, then watched as the Predators rallied to beat the Avalanche in a shootout.

Other NHL playoff picture updates: More to be settled after missed opportunities

While the stakes mainly boiled down to “which of the rich would get richer?,” there were still some Thursday games with NHL playoff positioning implications. Generally, the results mean there will also be Friday games with similar implications.

  • Again, the Lightning failed to clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division after losing and seeing the Bruins win.
  • By beating the Avalanche, the Predators finished Thursday a point ahead of the Stars in one of the remaining NHL races: the battle for the West’s first Wild Card spot. As a reminder, the first West wild card faces the Flames, while the second one takes on the Avalanche. (Clearly, not an easy task either way.)
  • Instead of gaining an advantage over the Penguins for the third Metropolitan Division spot, the Capitals lost to the Islanders. The idle Penguins have a one point lead over the Capitals, with both teams set to play during the Friday NHL action.

Juuse Saros update not promising for the Predators; Ovechkin missing more time

As is the custom, the Predators didn’t provide much concrete information about the health of crucial goalie Juuse Saros. It doesn’t sound promising, though.

Things also remain murky for Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals jockey for positioning with the Penguins.

Click here for more on Saros and Ovechkin.

Some fallout from Golden Knights missing the playoffs

PHT’s Adam Gretz on a shocking failed season for the Golden Knights.

Friday’s big NHL story

The virtual last day of the 2021-22 regular season lacks must-win games, but there’s plenty to be decided

As you saw in that NHL playoff update in the Thursday takeaways section, teams had the opportunity to sap any last bit of drama out of Friday’s games. While the Panthers locked down the Presidents’ Trophy from the Avalanche, there’s still NHL playoff seeding to be determined.

  • The Penguins hope to put the finishing touches on grabbing the Atlantic third seed by beating the Blue Jackets, or at least getting a point. Meanwhile, the Capitals face a team that already clinched the Metro 2 spot: the Rangers.
  • Similarly, the third seed in the Atlantic remains up for grabs between the Lightning (vs. Islanders) and the Bruins (vs. Maple Leafs). There’s even the parallel of the Maple Leafs possibly facing their first-round opponent if the Bruins were to surpass the Lightning.
  • Will it be the Predators who will remain the West’s first wild-card seed (and thus, the Flames’ opponent) and hold the Stars to the second WC (partnering Dallas up with the Avalanche)? Friday’s NHL games will also answer those questions.

Frankly, all of these teams should also debate the potential rewards of better playoff seeding with the risks of injuries. When it comes to health, you can only control so much, but it’s a serious gamble to lean on your workhorses when you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it’s the last “real” day of the NHL season.

(Sorry for disparaging your Sunday makeup game, Kraken and Jets.)

CLINCHING SCENARIOS

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Tampa Bay will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division (and an A2-A3 First Round matchup vs. Toronto) and Boston will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and an M1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Carolina):

* If Tampa Bay defeats NY Islanders in any fashion

OR

* If Tampa Bay gets one point vs. NY Islanders AND Toronto defeats Boston in any fashion

OR

* If Toronto defeats Boston in regulation.

Boston will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division (and an A2-A3 First Round matchup vs. Toronto) and Tampa Bay will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and an M1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Carolina):

* If Boston defeats Toronto in any fashion AND NY Islanders defeat Tampa Bay in any fashion

OR

* If Boston gets one point vs. Toronto AND NY Islanders defeat Tampa Bay in regulation.

Pittsburgh will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division (and an M2-M3 First Round matchup vs. NY Rangers) and Washington will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and an A1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Florida):

* If Pittsburgh gets at least one point vs. Columbus

OR

* If NY Rangers defeat Washington in any fashion.

Washington will clinch the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division (and an M2-M3 First Round matchup vs. NY Rangers) and Pittsburgh will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and an A1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Florida):

* If Washington defeats NY Rangers in any fashion AND Columbus defeats Pittsburgh in regulation.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

Minnesota will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Central Division (and home-ice advantage in the C2-C3 First Round matchup vs. St. Louis):

* If Minnesota gets at least one point vs. Colorado

OR

* If Vegas defeats St. Louis in any fashion.

St. Louis will clinch the No. 2 seed in the Central Division (and home-ice advantage in the C2-C3 First Round matchup vs. Minnesota):

* If St. Louis defeats Vegas in any fashion AND Colorado defeats Minnesota in regulation.

Nashville will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and a P1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Calgary) and Dallas will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and a C1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Colorado):

* If Nashville gets at least one point vs. Arizona

OR

* If Anaheim defeats Dallas in any fashion.

Dallas will clinch the Wild Card 1 seed (and a P1-WC1 First Round matchup vs. Calgary) and Nashville will clinch the Wild Card 2 seed (and a C1-WC2 First Round matchup vs. Colorado):

* If Dallas defeats Anaheim in any fashion AND Arizona defeats Nashville in regulation.

Thursday NHL scores

Bruins 5, Sabres 0
Panthers 4, Senators 0
Hurricanes 6, Devils 3
Blue Jackets 5, Lightning 2
Islanders 5, Capitals 1
Wild 3, Flames 2 (OT)
Predators 5, Avalanche 4 (SO)
Oilers 5, Sharks 4 (OT)
Canucks 3, Kings 2 (OT)

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.

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”