Boston Bruins Clinch Playoff Berth; Toronto Maple Leafs Slide Down Into Wildcard Spot; New York Islanders Barely Clinging to LifeRead Now
The Boston Bruins entered yesterday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning a couple points from a playoff berth. Two weeks prior they weren't even in the playoff picture, so they've managed to play some great hockey in the recent weeks. Boston had reeled off 5 games in a row and set themselves up with a hefty lead in the wildcard race with just a few games left to play. Last night, they wanted to take care of business and clinch their playoff spot, not leaving anything up to chance. That urgency was clearly visible in their play consistently throughout the night. Boston dominated faceoffs and dominated the puck, those two things tend to go hand and hand in most cases, which is a formula for success. Tuukka Rask, goaltender for the Bruins, had a phenomenal night in net, and a lot of that can be attributed to the Boston defenders. Boston went on to slaughter the Lightning, possibly ending any and all playoff aspirations for them, all the while locking up a playoff spot of their own. Not only did Boston clinch a playoff spot, but it's now looking like they might be able to get the 2 or 3 spot in their division. Right now Boston might be the hottest team going into the postseason as their winning streak is now at six games, so playing them in the first round is something I'd want to avoid. Impressive run by the Bruins to lock up a playoff spot, now let's see if they can carry this hot streak into the playoffs.
Toronto suffered a rough loss to the Capitals last night. It's tough when you're trying to make a playoff run just to get absolutely decimated by the best team in the league. Well, the news doesn't get any better for Toronto because last night after the loss they got the boot from the top 3 division spots and now fall into the wildcard race. They have a 5 point lead over the Islanders and Lightning with 3 games left to go for each team. All Toronto needs to do is win one of their final 3 and they're in, or the Islanders and Lightning just need to lose one game. This might be easier said then done, though. Maple Leafs play the Lightning Friday, if they win that game it's over they're in, and the playoffs are set. However, if the lightning win things could get very interesting, especially since the final two games for Toronto are against the Penguins and the Blue Jackets, two of the best teams in the conference. Thursday's game against the Lightning is the big one in terms of playoff implications. If the Toronto losses Thursday I don't see them reaching the playoffs, and that would be a monumental collapse.
Once the Bruins won last night I thought our magical season was all over. This and the fact that we were down by one early to the Predators left me mentally defeated. Little did I know that Toronto was collapsing opening up the possibility of the Islanders still being mathematically in the playoff hunt. Well, I went to bed and the Islanders continued to fight for their season. Quick thank you to Thomas Hickey for scoring an overtime goal that kept the Islanders alive. Are chances still remain slim, damn near impossible, but this squad is special, and I believe if the Maple Leafs lose their final three games, which is very possible with the competition they're up against, that the Islanders will be the team to sneak in. The final three games of the season are against the Hurricanes(Very winnable game), the Devils(In the bag already), and the Senators(Tough). If we can get to the Senators with a shot of making the playoffs if we win, we'll win with ease just out of the pure adrenaline the Islanders players will be playing with. I believe in miracles, the chances of the Isles sneaking in couldn't be much smaller, nonetheless I still believe. Go Isles Go.
Let me start off by saying what a year it's been for the Islanders. This team got off to a God awful start after a really nice playoff run the year prior. Granted the Isles lost some pieces, but still with Tavares, Bailey, Lee, and Leddy they were expected to remain relatively competitive. Greiss put together a very nice stretch at the end of last year that left Islander fans optimistic about the upcoming season. Unfortunately, nothing went to plan and the Islanders were awful, rumors of the franchise moving were floating around, and then the head coach Jack Capuano was fired. I actually thought he did a solid job and he was unjustly fired, however when the team did a complete 180 after that and started racking up points it was hard to say it wasn't the right move. Islanders found themselves in the second wildcard spot with 9 games left to play, and one of the all time midseason turnarounds was about to be complete. Everything was going so smoothly... until Boston came to town.
The Islanders lost that game to Boston in heartbreaking fashion and lost the wildcard spot along with it. The Bruins now controlled their own destiny and they've taken full advantage of the situation. They haven't lost since building their lead over the Islanders to 6 points. The only way I can see the Isles sneaking in is by an act of God.
The Islanders have 4 games left to play and the bruins have 3. All the Bruins games are totally losable and all the Islanders remaining games are winnable, the toughest one being tonight against the Predators. Bruins need to lose the remaining games they have left in order for the Islanders to even have a chance of getting in. The Islanders would then have to win at least 3 of 4 and lose in OT the 1 game they didn't win. They'd also need to hope that the Lighting don't wind up with more than 93 points, which isn't going to be hard for them since they're at 88 with 4 games to play.
Yeah, so the Islanders chances are super slim, a nearly impossible feat. I'm a believer though, especially when it comes to hockey, I'm a believer. The wildest shit I've seen in sports is always hockey or baseball, so if a miracle is bound to happen why can't it be the Islanders somehow pulling a playoff berth out of their ass. Boston losing and the Isles winning tonight is the first step towards glory.
After months of back and forth speculation, the NHL announced today that it will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This decision has been one that the NHL has battled with for a while, as players, coaches, and owners have all been outspoken, and have had differing opinions throughout. This will end the NHL's run of five straight Winter Olympics with NHL players.
The Winter Olympics forces the NHL to postpone and disrupt their season, by either trying to postpone games, or by having teams play without certain players, but either way it has been somewhat of a debacle. The NHL had said for a few months that they were open to dialogue and discussion around the matter, from both sides, but they now feel that after these months of dialogue have not amounted to anything meaningful.
The Commissioner, Gary Bettman, has stressed over the last few months that the owners were almost unanimously against being a part of the Winter Olympics, for several reasons, but the most major one being the proposed 17-day break in the season schedule in February of 2018. That time period also happens to be a peak time for the NHL, when the NFL has just finished up, and the MLB has still not started.
The NHL conducted polls in the U.S. and Canada among the fans, where 73% of Americans were against the 17-day season break, and 53% of Canadians were against.
One of the biggest supporters of the NHL participating, was the Washington Capital's superstar Alexander Ovechkin, who stated several times over the past few months that he will play in the Olympics - whether the rest of the NHL is or not. We will have to wait and see what comes of this, because I don't know the legalities around this, if Ovechkin will be fined or what, but this is definitely something to watch.
This is big news in the hockey world, and for the Winter Olympics in general, and while the NHL has participated in all of the winter games since 1998, this may become the precedent for the league.
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.
Woo that was fun. The Washington Capitals came to Philly last night for the first meeting since the playoffs last year but the tempers didn't flare too much in this one. What started off as a pretty slow game really picked up at the end of the first and carried over into the rest of the game. Andre Burakovsky hadn't scored in 26 games for the Caps so of course he scored the first goal of the night on a snipe from down low. Michael Waffle Raffl tied it up with a saucy wraparound early in the second but that was wiped away by a trash goal from the Caps six minutes later. Then with 21 seconds left in the second, a weird bounce off the boards left the puck right on Giroux's stick during an odd 4-on-4 and he sniped the top right corner over Holtby's glove to knot it up at 2 where the score would stay throughout the third and OT. The Flyers were able to kill off a late Radko Gudas hooking penalty that lasted 11 seconds into the extra period, depriving us of 2 and a half minutes of 3 on 3 OT. Stevie Mason played out of his mind for 65 minutes and then ultimately the shootout against one of the more dangerous teams in the leagues in that department.
After Shayne Gostibehere (why the fuck was he our first shooter) and Claude Giroux were stoned by Holtby and TJ Oshie was able to hypnotize Mason to sleep as he sniped a goal blocker side in the shootout (to the surprise of no one), the game rested on Voracek's stick and he took a page out of Oshie's Olympic handbook and ripped a wrister past Holtby to extend the shootout. Mason held his end of the bargain and stopped the 3rd Caps attempt which set up Wayne Simmonds for this:
Steve Mason followed Simmer's lead and shut down Justin Williams (shout out to my neighbor.. for real he has a house down the street from me I've seen the Cup at his house and its NUTS) and the Flyers escaped Wednesday Night Rivalry with 2 points. Let's break it down.
Steve Money Ma$on
Mason has really been stepping it up lately with Neuvirth sidelined and Hakstol giving him the reigns. It's tough to pick which of his 36 saves were the best but he made a ridiculous save late in OT on Niskanen that saw him sprawling across the crease with his stick on the ice to poke it away. Mason earned those 2 points for the Fly Guys and deserves a cold beer or 12 after that gritty performance.
Ivan Provorov is the truth, man. The kids 19 and is able to skate around these shmuck adults with ease. Provorov was the one streaking down the left side in the 2nd period who got the first outlet pass to rip a shot on net which caused the weird breakout attempt which resulted in the puck bouncing right to Giroux in the slot for the tying goal. The only thing about Provorov which may be causing a problem is that he's stealing Ghost's thunder. I treat Provy this year like I treated Ghost last year. Young defenseman who can handle the puck, skate well, score, and get the gritty things done too. Sign me up, I'll take 6 of em. But Ghost hasn't been putting up numbers this year and it's obvious that he's down on himself. He had a wide open shot in the 3rd and instead tried to pass it to Giroux who had it tipped away. Ghost isn't playing with a lot of confidence and that needs to change if he's gonna start producing because we need that man to get on the board. I hope Hakstol benching him doesn't ruin him like Coach Bean benching me ruined my high school baseball career because it caused me to be in my own head trying to do too much (I'll NEVER forgive that man).
Gudas and Provorov were the pairing who faced the Ovechkin line the most last night and held him without a shot until late in the 3rd period. My dad actually said to me during the Gudas penalty kill "Is Ovechkin playing tonight?" to which I responded "way to go now he's gonna score the game winner" but alas I was wrong. I love Gudas and Provy together because Provorov is able to get down and put on offensive pressure while Gudas wants absolutely nothing to do with that. Speaking of pressure let's give Michael Del Zotto a quick shoutout. When the Flyers had to play 4 on 4 in OT my dad was questioning why we were playing 2 forwards and 2 defensemen instead of 3 forwards and one defensemen and I said it's becuase we have guys like Del Zotto and Provy and Ghost who can score like a forward but can get back to defend so we don't have to worry about Voracek sitting at the point and getting burnt by Ovie and Oshie going the other way.
Great job bouncing back from two straight L's and getting the two points against the Caps who are right behind us in the Metro. Hakstol today:
Let's start a new streak baby!
P.S. When did the Blue Jackets get good and decide to go streaking on their own? Screw them. 44 points and we're 4th in the Metro while San Jose leads the Pacific with 41 points? Boooo.. BTW I found this cool video of highlights from last night so uhh here you go:
P.P.S Flyers head to New Jersey to play the Devils tonight so you know what that means?? BAD NEWS FOR THE DEVILS (IDK why I just felt like I had to throw in another old baseball movie reference).
How many games in a row have the Flyers won?
NINE!!!! 9! NUEVE!!! No matter how you wanna say it, the Philadelphia Flyers have won NINE straight hockey games! In a world where the Sixers are still in The Process, the Phillies are rebuilding, and the Eagles make me want to stick my head in a hole for three years, the Flyers are playing unbelievable hockey and have reached nine straight wins for only the 6th time in the franchise's 50 year history.
In their 12th game in 20 days, the Flyers battled to a 1-0 OT win in Detroit over the Red Wings today with none other than Brayden Schenn being the hero as he was the recipient of a beatiful give and go with Simmonds and Provorov and finished it off with a heck of a dangle on Jimmy Howard who had stopped the previous 35 shots. It wasn't the prettiest game in the world but a win is a win is a win. Let's break it down baby.
Have a day young man. Stolarz looked fantastic in net today, stopping all 28 shots that came his way. He kept his glove hand strong and snagged a few would be goals as he was able to control the low shots with ease. We had a bit of a scare in the third period when Stolarz executed a poke on an incoming Red Wing and the puck skirted to the center of the crease. Radko Gudas whiffed at the clearing attempt and instead (being the savvy D-man that he is) rammed into the goal, knocking it off its moorings. Did he do it on purpose? Probably not. But he gets credit anyway. Instead of an easy layup goal for Detroit, Radko took a two minute delay of game and the Flyers lived to fight another day.
With Shayne Gostibehere sidelined with a hand injury from blocking a shot yesterday, the defense held their own but dear lord did today ever show what he means to this team. Without Ghost on the power play the entire unit drops down a few notches. Our 25% mark for the season is number one in the league but the PECO Power Play went 0 for 4 today. Now I'm no mathematician but I'm pretty sure that if we are 25% on the PP that means we score 1 out of every 4 times. Therefore, today was below average (don't quote me on that).
Ghost just has that "it" factor about him where he makes things work smoothly. His absence was obvious on a power play late in the 3rd period when there was a puck coming out to the point. Mark Streit couldn't get there and it went out to center forcing the team to clear out and regroup. If Ghost is out there, he dives into the boards and keeps it in because he doesn't give a fuck about taking a puck off the chest for this team, and allows the power play to keep its momentum. The little things like that are what has allowed this team to be on this streak. Healthy Ghost= better Flyers.
But we can't talk about the defensemen without talking about Ivan Provorov. This kid is special. I'm talking Rain Man special. Live look at Provy watching his game film:
19 years old and he leads the Flyers in minutes per game. Just bonkers to think about. The thought of watching Provorov and Ghost winning Stanley Cups together just makes it all worthwhile. And allows me to forget about the flaming pile of poo across the street in the Linc. And when the Eagles find a way to creep in and make me sad while I'm celebrating the glorious Flyers is when I decide it's time to end the article. 9 straight baby.
8 straight wins!!! This is nuts!! The Flyers beat the Stars 4-2 to keep alive the franchise's longest winning streak since 2002. Suffice to say, we haven't seen hockey like this in years. Just when you think the Flyers are finally gonna run out of steam, somebody like Baby Schenn comes along and nets a hatty to get the job done. The Stars are a good team with a dangerous first line and Kari Lehtonen stood on his head and flashed the leather for some miraculous saves today, but the Flyers' deadly powerplay got the job done today.
Baby Schenn has been pretty meh the last few games and needed a big game to get things going. All three of his goals came on the power play which is the kind of stuff I like to see. Capitalize on the opponent's mistakes and you win hockey games. Schenn tried to fight Stephen Johns in the second period because he's a real big tough guy when he scores goals, and he got his ass rocked. It was a great effort though and always nice to see a scrap.
Mason didn't see much action only stopping 21 of 23 shots, which is good being as Mason was making his 7th straight start. We'll probably see Stolarz in net tomorrow. Mason almost made a spectacular stick save in the third but it was jabbed in by Devin Shore, who scored both Dallas goals today.
Scoracek alloted 4 points today with 3 assists and an empty netter, marking the second straight game with 4 points. Nice to see him getting into a groove lately as he was starting to get into a bit of a shooting funk. He now has 21 assists which ranks him 3rd in the league.
The Flyers are on to Detroit to face the Red Wings tomorrow at 5, their 12th game in 20 days. The Flyers have made the most of this stretch and hopefully can keep it going tomorrow. Let's go for 9 baby!
First and foremost, I hope we now have beef with the Oilers because Connor McDavid sure was trying to start some shit. For some reason, McDavid blames Brandon Manning for his broken collarbone when it was just an unfortunate accident. But right from the get go McDavid was coming after Manning and TBH it was working out well for the Flyers. Manning was getting in McDavid's head and making him make mistakes but McDavid got the early lead in the battle when he notched a power play goal right in Manning's grill. The goal would've been enough to rattle B-Man but McDavid decided to turn right around and call Manning a "fucking bitch/pussy" or something of that nature. I was PRAYING for them to drop the gloves but alas the game continued into a barn burner after the Flyers fell behind 2-0.
The Fly Guys proceeded to score 3 straight goals in one minute and twelve seconds and turned the game on its head. The final period was full of high energy and bodies flying around and just fun hockey to watch. Radko Gudas got involved on the offense when he made a nice Ghost-like move to keep the puck in at the blue line and then took the puck to the net resulting in a centering pass to Giroux who put home his second of the game. Then the saucemesiter himself, Michael Raffl, made a power move similar to the one he made the other day to score and take the lead late in the 3rd. The Flyers are ROLLING and have risen to 3rd in the Metropolitan Division. Seven wins a row. Man. Is that good?
P.S. Connor McDavid is REALLY good at hockey