The Rangers by all accounts exceeded expectations this season. Yes, they had some lulls throughout the season and yes they have serious question marks heading into the postseason, but sometimes you just gotta step back and appreciate what you have. This will be the seventh straight season of Ranger postseason hockey, that's something to be extremely proud of if you're a fan. It hasn't lead to any hardware yet, although the first step is getting in, and then as all of you know, once you're in anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Rangers are actually in the quintessential spot in terms of playoff seeding. The Rangers have the top wildcard spot, this means instead of having to play either the Penguins or Capitals in first round, they'll play the Canadians or Senators. A much easier opening round matchup to say the least. The Metropolitan division clearly had the cream of the crop in terms of the talented teams this year. For instance, if the Rangers played in the Atlantic division they'd be the top team, but instead they're a wildcard team because they play in the division of death. Now, they can watch those teams murder each other while the Rangers get to matchup against the weaker teams.
The Rangers playoff success I truly believe relies on two things, can the Rangers play well in front of Hank defensively, and can Hank play up to level we all know he's capable of. If Henrik Lundqvist plays like he did a month ago allowing goal after goal the Rangers will be done in the first round. If he can play like he has in the past playoff series where he's King Henrik and makes everyone his bitch, the Rangers will be in great shape going forward. The defense is an essential part of the success formula as well though. If they can't disrupt the offense and stop the other team's offense from getting easy, clear, and open shots then Hank will have no shot to play good regardless. The Rangers can easily make a deep run this postseason, I mean we've seen them do it with less talented teams. Hank however was at the top of his game back then. I truly believe it all comes down to him, if he wants to cement the legacy he deserves he needs to get it done for the Rangers this year.
Tonight, as the Detroit Red Wings fell 4-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes, their streak of 25 straight seasons making the playoffs has come to an end. The streak of 25 seasons was the longest active streak in all four major U.S. sports (hockey, football, basketball, baseball). From 1991-2016, the Red Wings were a staple of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, appearing in 6 Stanley Cup Finals over that stretch, and winning 4 of them.
Many hockey fans have seen the end of this streak coming, as the Red Wings have been on their last legs for the past few seasons, and this season seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. While a rebuild is clearly in the future, and hopefully for Detroit, the very near future, this streak is still quite an accomplishment that the franchise can attempt to build off of. This season has been what seems like an omen for a fresh start, with the streak coming to an end, the Red Wings moving out of the Joe Louis Arena, and with the death of long-time owner Mike Ilitch, this season is the end of a chapter in Detroit's history book.
Having not won their Division since the 2010-2011 season, it is clear that the Red Wings are in need of some change, and hopefully under new ownership, and under a new roof, they can find some sort of building ground. As one of the "Original Six", the Red Wings are a cornerstone of the NHL, and I fully expect them to be clawing their way back into the playoff picture within the next few seasons.
The next Franchise who will look to take over the streak? None other than Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs who have made this season their 20th straight playoff appearance.
An absolute must win for both teams and based off the way they played this game the desire to win was more than usual. Islanders and Bruins are knotted up at 82 points a piece for the final wild card spot in the eastern conference. A win in regulation for either team would be huge and even a win in overtime would be enough to walk away feeling comfortably about your chances getting into the playoff. Islanders have a little easier schedule than the Bruins the rest of the way, only having to play 5 more games against a team that's above .500, meanwhile the Bruins have to play 6. This game had playoff implications and boy did it end up looking like playoff hockey with the intensity we saw for all 3 periods tonight.
The first period was an active one. John Tavares scored a goal off an assist from Brock Nelson and John Bailey to put the Islanders ahead 1-0 halfway through the first. Just 35 seconds later the Bruins would respond on an unassisted goal by Riley Nash. The score was 1-1 after the first period. The second period rolled around and both teams were playing an evenly matched game. Both teams had the same amount of shots on goal, the Bruins had a slight edge in faceoffs, although the Islanders were laying the hits on the Bruins a little more frequently. The Bruins were playing a little sloppy, 9 giveaways through two periods is not something they could've been happy about. After 2 periods the game couldn't have been more evenly matched, as both teams were going shot for shot, hit for hit, and goal for goal.
The third period was most likely going to be the 20 minutes that decided the playoff destiny for one of these teams. If the Islanders were to win they'd be in a great position to lock up the final wildcard spot and same with the Bruins. Well, early into the third Riley Nash was fed a beautiful pass from Dominic Moore that he buried in the back of the net for his second goal of the night and a 2-1 Bruins lead. Bruins were setting up to add an insurance goal when they had a power play after Andrew Ladd got 2 minutes for tripping. Bruins had a great look when David Krejci took a shot, Islanders goalie Greiss deflected it into the air, and David Backes went for the deflection but it missed wide right. Islanders were now back at full strength and looking to strike back to even up the score. at this point in the goal the Islanders offense had gone cold, not getting a shot on a goal in nearly 18 minutes. Then, the Bruins started getting into penalty trouble.
The Islanders got back to back power plays against the Bruins right after the half way point in the third period. These would be their 5th and 6th power plays of the night. Since they went 0 for 4 on the first four power plays of the night, if the Islanders didn't score off these you knew what would be the reason for this game resulting in a loss. Well, the Isles had countless shots on goal during the power play, most noticeably when Tavares got a pass while wide open on the right wing and he sent it off the crossbar. An inch in the other direction and it's tie ball game. Unfortunately, the Isles couldn't capitalize off either of the late power plays, and their playoff hopes were looking more faint by the second.
Islanders were very aggressive on the offensive end in the last few minutes of the game, obviously. They had some good looks late but the Bruins goaltender did a helluva job denying all shots on goal and the Isles couldn't execute to the degree they would've hoped to. Tavares gave it his best effort, it just wasn't enough, and the Islanders offense failed to get another goal on the board. Isles take brutal regulation loss 2-1, as the Bruins gain sole possession of the second wild card spot in the east.