mathematical elimination

Red Wings already eliminated from playoffs PHT Buzzer
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The Buzzer: Red Wings eliminated before trade deadline; Spurgeon’s surge

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Three Stars

1. Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild

Spurgeon collected a hat trick on Friday. It was the first hat trick of his career, making him the second Wild defenseman to pull off such a feat after Ryan Suter. Spurgeon enjoyed a tremendous all-around performance, managing six shots on goal, a +3 rating, three blocked shots, and one hit in 21:55 TOI.

Spurgeon reached the 10-goal mark in just 53 games. He’s hit double digits in goals during four of his last five seasons, and could top his 2018-19 career-high of 14. He also generated nine goals in 2014-15 and 2017-18. In other words, it’s almost OK to write “Spurgeon, hands of a surgeon” in headlines. Almost.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins provided quite an effort for the Oilers in their loss to Spurgeon’s Wild. RNH managed two goals and one assist, but Edmonton fell short.

2. Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders

Eberle generated the third hat trick of his career as the Islanders took care of business against Detroit. Eberle supplied the game-winner in a 4-1 win. His last hat trick came on April 9, 2017, while he was still with the Oilers. The only knock against his hat trick is that it came against the Red Wings, who have already been officially eliminated from playoff contention.

The Islanders decided to re-sign Eberle despite a down season in 2018-19 where he was limited to 19 goals and 37 points. With 13 goals and 34 points in 50 games, Eberle looks closer to the player he was during his debut season with the Isles. (Interestingly, Eberle is enjoying similar rebounds in his possession stats after a slight dip last year.)

Mika Zibanejad and Colton Parayko also enjoyed strong three-point nights, but the third star goes to …

3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

The Predators received five power-play opportunities, including some 5-on-3 time. They fired 20 SOG on Crawford during the second period alone, failing to beat him during that frame.

Crawford ended Friday making 42 out of 43 saves in a goalie duel with Pekka Rinne (36 saves). Alex DeBrincat ended up scoring both of Chicago’s goals to grab an OT win for the Blackhawks. Crawford broke a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) with this splendid performance.

Highlights of the Night

Now, this is one strange goal credited to Leon Draisaitl:

DeBrincat broke loose for the OT-winner:

(This Petr Mrazek save ranks as a runner-up.)

Red Wings already eliminated and other factoids

  • The Red Wings became the first team to be eliminated before the trade deadline since the Penguins suffered that ignominious fate in 2003-04. Hey, at least that paved the way for better things for Pittsburgh, eh?  Getting mathematically eliminated in game 63 is the quickest boot-out since the 1995-96 Senators. (Sportsnet Stats)
  • Colton Parayko has been a nightmare for the Stars this season. The big Blues blueliner collected one goal and two assists on Friday. Parayko increased his output to seven points (4G, 3A) in three games vs. the Stars in 2019-20.
  • Pavel Francouz celebrated his contract extension with a steady performance for Colorado with his first career shutout.
  • Spurgeon’s hat trick was of the natural variety. He became the 12th player listed as a D to score a natural hat trick. Justin Faulk and Dustin Byfuglien authored the most recent ones that preceded Spurgeon’s surge. (NHL PR)
  • The Rangers pushed their road winning streak to seven consecutive games, tying a franchise record. (NHL PR)
  • The Bruins fell behind the Flames 3-0 less than four minutes (3:23) into Friday’s game. Despite that, Boston ended up winning. This marks the seventh instance where a team fell behind 3-0 within the opening four minutes of a game, only to win. (NHL PR)

Scores

NYR 5 – CAR 2
NYI 4 – DET 1
CHI 2 – NSH 1 (OT)
STL 5 – DAL 1
BOS 4 – CGY 3
MIN 5 – EDM 3
COL 1 – ANA 0

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.

West playoff picture complete: Sharks, Kings and Coyotes are in

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With the Pacific Division title still up for grabs, it’s unfair to say that the Nashville Predators’ 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars killed the drama of matches like the Los Angeles Kings-San Jose Sharks home-and-home series. Still, the Predators’ pursuit of home ice advantage* sure made things a lot less interesting.

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Update: the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to revel in their role as spoilers; they eliminated the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-2 win.

What it clinched:

Playoff spots for the Phoenix Coyotes, Kings and Sharks.

Who’s eliminated:

The Stars would max out at 91 points, so the Predators hammered the final nail in their season. The Avalanche can only get 90, so they’re done too – and against a team that’s far less dangerous (although almost as dangerous lately).

Why there’s still some drama:

Again, the good news is that Pacific – and thus, the third seed – is still up for grabs. (Also, the seventh seed serves as a solid consolation prize.)

Sure, it’s not as thrilling as just about everyone fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot, but notching the No. 3 spot can be a huge advantage – especially if the Vancouver Canucks and/or St. Louis Blues stumble in early playoff rounds. Still, it’s stunning to realize that the Stars could have been right there too if they took care of their late-season business.

* Nashville’s win and Detroit’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils means that the Predators only need a point to clinch the fourth seed and the huge (especially in negative way for the Red Wings) home ice advantage in their likely upcoming series. Of course, there’s also a chance the Chicago Blackhawks could slide into the fifth seed; check out this breakdown from On the Forecheck for all the headache-inducing details.

PHT Morning Skate: Flames extinguished

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Interesting fact from NHL.com’s Brian Compton: Ray Whitney’s first point came on April 15, 1992. I wonder if he expected to cross the 1,000 (and 1,001) point barrier almost 20 years later? (Brian Compton)

Brent Sutter on the mood for the Calgary Flames, who were mathematically eliminated last night: “It’s worse than being disappointed.” (The Canadian Press)

The St. Louis Blues also lost on Saturday – to the Columbus Blue Jackets, no less – but they still clinched the Central Division. Still, losing to the Blue Jackets is a sign that St. Louis isn’t the kind of team that can rest on its laurels. (The Associated Press)

In the final clinch/elimination update left from the West (read about the New Jersey Devils covering their own bases in the East here), the Chicago Blackhawks clinched a spot for the fourth season in a row. (NHL.com)

Nick Kypreos floats rumors about Ryan Suter eye-balling the Minnesota Wild and reports that if Jeff Carter is going to help the Los Angeles Kings again before next season, it will have to be in the playoffs. (Kukla’s Korner)

The San Jose Sharks earned a big 3-0 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday as the first half of a home-and-home set. Read up on the Sharks’ side from CSNBayArea.com and the Stars’ perspective from Defending Big D.

For more on the Devils’ clinching a playoff spot, Compton gives the six reasons why it happened. (NHL.com)

Now that the Boston Bruins are guaranteed an opportunity to defend their title and just about have the Northeast Division title wrapped up, Joe Haggerty reports that the focus shifts to NFL bye week-type stuff: managing minutes and nursing injuries. (CSNNE.com)

Eric Stephens reports that George Parros faces an “uncertain future.” Hopefully that future includes a bodacious mustache, though. (Ducks blog)

Oh yeah, the Winnipeg Jets were officially booted from the playoffs, too. Kinda forgot about them, right? (CSNPhilly.com)

East update: An ideal night for idle teams

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There weren’t a ton of playoff-relevant games for the Eastern Conference tonight, yet it seemed like the big ones had some awfully interesting ripple effects. The number one theme was that it was a good night for idle teams, but here’s a roundup of what happened.

Idle Bruins clinch

The second seed isn’t a guarantee yet for the Boston Bruins, but another playoff berth is. They didn’t play on Friday but the Pittsburgh Penguins made it official when they beat the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-3 game that had a playoff atmosphere, according to Dan Bylsma via Mike Harrington.

Perhaps an even better night for the Capitals

The good news for Boston and the Washington Capitals more-or-less intertwined tonight, which is amusing (and telling of the stretch run’s whims) since they were going toe-to-toe on Thursday. Obviously, that Sabres loss is the biggest deal for the Capitals since it places Washington in eighth and Buffalo in ninth place for tiebreaker reasons – each team now has four games left – but it’s also big for the purpose of higher aims.

Considering the Florida Panthers’ surprising recent struggles, a Southeast Division title bid isn’t totally out of the question for the Capitals. The gap is now four points and Washington actually holds tiebreakers there, too – plus they’ll host what could be a huge game between the two teams on April 5.*

So yeah, tonight’s biggest winners didn’t even play. Let’s move on to the active ones that are left, though.

Time is running out for Penguins

There are plenty of good things for Pittsburgh to take from Friday. They beat the Sabres 5-3. Sidney Crosby became the seventh-youngest player to reach the 600-point plateau while Pascal Dupuis extended the NHL’s best points streak of the season to 13 games. (Click here for that story.)

Still, it’s looking likely that they’ll need to carry all their positivity into a challenging first round series against the formidable Philadelphia Flyers. The New York Rangers maintained their Atlantic Division/Eastern Conference lead at five points thanks to a demonstrative 4-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

An April 5 meeting could shave that difference down to three points if Pittsburgh wins in regulation, but the Rangers hold the tiebreaker advantage and each squad only has three games remaining aside from that. It’s rarely safe to assume anything in this crazy stretch run, but the Blueshirts’ odds of winning the East’s top seed are extremely high.

In fact, their biggest competition might be for the Presidents’ Trophy. They took a one-point lead over the idle St. Louis Blues for that award today, so it wasn’t a great night for idle teams in every way.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Carolina Hurricanes are officially eliminated from playoff contention. If only they had more time …)

* – To extend the good for Washington and Boston talk, a weaker Southeast naturally makes it that much more likely for the Bruins to grab the second seed.

Leafs officially eliminated from playoffs, but Burke might keep his job

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With a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the seemingly inevitable became official: the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Now the obvious question for the free-falling Leafs is: what’s next? If you believe Dave Shoalts’ unnamed sources, embattled (and profoundly entertaining) GM Brian Burke will be there to shape the team in 2012-13.

Efficient may not be a popular word right now when it comes to the Maple Leafs and their general manager, Brian Burke, but the board has no plans to fire him.

The MLSE insider, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, also does not expect this to change when BCE Inc., and Rogers Communications Inc., officially become the owners of 75 per cent of MLSE some time this summer. He can’t say that for sure, of course, but he also said he has no reason to think either communications giant will demand Burke’s head before his contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season.

Shoalts goes on to detail some of the wins and losses of Burke’s tenure, although I must play the devil’s advocate on the Phil Kessel deal to some extent. Yes, Dougie Hamilton could be a good-to-great NHL defenseman and Tyler Seguin is beginning to show his promise with 61 points this season, but Kessel was absolutely outstanding for most of this season. (Yes, Kessel might have his flaws, yet it might be time to downgrade that trade from the “awful” category.)

There is one “benefit” from the Maple Leafs plummeting ways (whether Burke is there to take advantage or not): Toronto is tanking its way to a possible lottery pick. NHL Network provided this helpful look at the lottery situation, which I’ll share in text form:

Tank watch

Anaheim: 6 games left, 75 points
Islanders: 6 games left, 75 points

Lottery Teams as of this writing
Toronto: 5, 75 (8.1 percent chance for the top pick)
Minnesota: 6, 72 (10.7 percent)
Montreal: 6, 72 (14.2 percent)
Edmonton: 6, 71 (18.8 percent)
Columbus: 6, 55 (48.2 percent )

(Boy, the Islanders must feel great about smiting the Pittsburgh Penguins, right?)

The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in the post-lockout era, so “wait til next year” is the sort of phrase that likely sends Toronto fans to the nearest pub, but the team should be able to add a nice prospect to try to turn things around.

It just remains to be seen if Burke will get another year or two to try to steer that ship.