Monday, April 9, 2018

Weekend wrap: On to the playoffs

The weekend’s biggest game came on Saturday night in Colorado, with the Avalanche and Blues facing off in what was essentially a single-game playoff for the West’s final wild card. The Avalanche took that one by a 5–2 final, earning a playoff spot and completing one of the most stunning season-to-season turnarounds in modern history. They’ll face the Predators in the opening round.

Saturday’s turning point came in the second period, with the Avalanche taking a 2–0 lead on a goal that the Blues challenged for offside. The play was close, with Blues fans insisting it was indeed offside, but the goal stood. That’s led to some silly conspiracy talk, which rings a little hollow when you remember that the Blues benefitted from a blown offside review to beat these same Avalanche earlier in the season. To their credit, St. Louis fought back to close the gap to 2–1, but Nathan MacKinnon‘s goal was the dagger, and Gabriel Landeskog‘s empty-netter set off an epic celebration.

The other open playoff race didn’t come with the same level of drama, as the Flyers put an early end to any suspense with a Saturday-afternoon win over the listless Rangers to eliminate the Panthers. That left Florida with a pair of meaningless games to play out, including last night’s contest against the Bruins. That one mattered to Boston, with first place in the Atlantic on the line. But the Bruins came out flat and didn’t find their legs until the third period, and by then they’d left themselves too much ground to over. The Panthers weathered the loss of goaltender James Reimer and held on for a 4–2 win.

That leaves the Lightning as the Atlantic’s top seed and sets up a first-round meeting with the Devils. The Bruins finish second and will get the Maple Leafs, a matchup that at least on paper looks a lot tougher.

The weekend’s other big NHL news was the final game for the Sedins. The twins took their final bow after Saturday’s shootout loss in Edmonton, one that saw them receive a heartfelt goodbye from Oiler fans and players alike while their children watched on from the bench.

Not a bad way to go out. For the rest of us, it’s two days off and then on to the first round.

Road to the Cup

The five teams that look like they’re headed towards Stanley Cup–favourite status.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins (47-29-6, +22 true goals differential*): With a winnable first-round matchup locked in against the Flyers, we’ll bump the defending champs back into the top five to close out the season. Don’t sleep on the Capitals, though.

4. Boston Bruins (50-20-12, +56): The team honoured anthem singer Rene Rancourt before last night’s game. He’s already announced that he’ll be retiring after their playoff run.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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