NHL Week in Review (March 16-22)

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The playoff race in the NHL is fully underway as the season begins to wind down with only a few games left. As the season is almost over there are still many spots left in the playoffs with only two teams clinching their spot in the playoffs. The Boston Bruins would do so first as they would ride the longest winning streak of the season to clinch the first spot. They have had a great year so far remaining at the top of the Atlantic Division for the majority of the year and their 12-game winning streak would put them over the top. They would be the first team to clinch a spot and will now be looking to grab the first place spot in the conference as they hope to continue their winning streak. Their counterparts in the West are the St. Louis Blues who would clinch at the end of the week. The Blues have had a season much like the Bruins as they have remained one of the top teams for the majority of the year. They would enter another year against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and were set for a battle with their longtime rivals. After a few bad weeks from the Blackhawks the Blues would extend their lead and this week would clinch their spot in the playoffs. Much like the Bruins they will be looking to try to clinch the top spot in the West with the rest of the season. Other than the Bruins and the Blues there are no other teams that have clinched a spot in the playoffs yet. It has been a tight battle and with many teams hovering around the 10 game mark it seems to be a tight battle that will go right to the end. With the Boston Bruins looking like the top team in the East there are a number of teams sitting just outside of clinching a spot although there is plenty of room to lose ground on their playoff spots. The East is a very close race with a number of teams able to take a playoff spot if they can put on a run with their last games. The only team other than the Boston Bruins that seems to be ready for the playoffs is the Pittsburgh Penguins who are sitting at 97 points and are likely set to clinch a playoff spot this week. The next eight teams in the rankings are separated by only 8 points. That includes two of the three division leaders in each division, the two wild card spots, and the two closest teams in the hunt. The race is tight as only four games makes the difference between a team sitting outside of the playoffs and the team sitting right behind the Boston Bruins. There are a lot of possibilities left for many teams as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, and the New York Rangers are all sitting in the division leader spots. Behind sit the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings in the Wild Card spots. The most likely challengers to these playoff spots will be the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets who are sitting right outside of the playoffs. Meanwhile the rest of the teams will need a little bit of something extra to get a playoff spot while the Buffalo Sabres have been the first team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. In the West the race is a little more spread out as the top teams in the divisions are sitting just outside of clinching a spot. The Blues are in the playoffs for sure while the San Jose Sharks seem to be next as they are sitting at 100 points and look to clinch very soon. The Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks are sitting 20 points ahead of any challengers and look to be in good standing to get a spot in the playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche also seem to be on their way back to the playoffs as they are 15 points ahead of the closest team out of the playoffs. The only spots truly available for the playoffs are for the last division leader and the two wild card spots. The Los Angeles Kings are still in good spot as they have a 9 point lead on the 9th place spot but could be unseated if they struggle down the stretch. The Wild Card spots are almost wide open with Minnesota and Phoenix sitting in the wild card spots right now but the Dallas stars only sit 6 points away from the top wild card spot. Along with the Stars the Vancouver Canucks could make the playoffs as they are 5 points out of the last wild card spot and the Winnipeg Jets are 6 points from that last spot. Nobody else has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in the West as there is a possibility of teams making it although the Jets, Canucks, and Stars seem the most likely challengers. The race continues on with many teams have only 10 games left in the season and all are trying to lock up their playoff spot or trying to make ground with the last few weeks.

 

Overtime:
(Thoughts on the past week in the NHL)

All Class in San Jose
The San Jose Sharks would give a young man the opportunity of a lifetime through the Make-A-Wish Foundation allowing Sam Tageson to become the first person ever to skate through the shark head before the game in an emotional night for everyone involved

The Best Turns 66
The greatest defenceman in the history of the NHL would turn 66 as Bobby Orr’s birthday was this week seeing many fans reflect on the great #4 and all that he did for Boston and for the Game of Hockey

Pair of Fines
The NHL would hand out a pair of fines this week as James Neal would earn a $5,000 fine for his cross-check on Luke Glendening and David Legwand would be given a $5,000 fine for butt-ending Evgeni Malkin in the same game

 

NHL Playoff Outlook

Eastern Conference
Division Leaders:
1. x-Boston Bruins (103)
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (97)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (86)
4. Montreal Canadiens (85)
5. Philadelphia Flyers (83)
6. New York Rangers (82)
Wild Card:
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (80)
8. Detroit Red Wings (79)
In the Hunt:
9. Washington Capitals (79)
10. Columbus Blue Jackets (78)
11. New Jersey Devils (73)
12. Carolina Hurricanes (71)
13. Ottawa Senators (69)
14. New York Islanders (61)
15. Florida Panthers (60)
Out of the Running:
16. Buffalo Sabres (48)

Western Conference
Division Leaders:
1. x-St. Louis Blues (101)
2. San Jose Sharks (100)
3. Anaheim Ducks (97)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (97)
5. Colorado Avalanche (94)
6. Los Angeles Kings (86)
Wild Card:
7. Minnesota Wild (83)
8. Phoenix Coyotes (79)
In the Hunt:
9. Dallas Stars (77)
10. Vancouver Canucks (74)
11. Winnipeg Jets (73)
12. Nashville Predators (70)
13. Calgary Flames (63)
14. Edmonton Oilers (59)

 

Key Scores:
Montreal Canadiens 6 – 3 Colorado Avalanche
– Patrick Roy would return to Montreal for the first time as the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche and would receive a warm welcome from the fans and a bad one from the players as the Avs would allow 6 goals for the loss

Tampa Bay Lightning 5 – 3 Toronto Maple Leafs
– Steven Stamkos would have a great night and it would mark the first time that he seemed like his old self since returning from his leg injury as he would take it to the Leafs with a hat trick forcing the Leads out of their once solid playoff spot and into the wild card

New Jersey Devils 4 – 3 Minnesota Wild
– Zach Parise would leave the New Jersey Devils two years ago to join the Minnesota Wild for a considerably more amount of money and he would return to New Jersey for the first time since leaving receiving a cold welcome from the fans and taking a loss to the Devils

New York Rangers 3 – 1 Columbus Blue Jackets
– Rick Nash was the guy in Columbus but with the Jackets going nowhere he decided to leave for a chance to play playoff hockey and he would do that with the Rangers and would look to get closer to another playoff berth in his first game back in Columbus since leaving

 

Next Week:
Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins (Monday March 24th; 7:30 pm ET)
– The Bruins are officially in the playoffs and the Canadiens are beginning a big run towards the playoffs and are hoping that a win against their longtime rivals will end the Bruins winning streak and get them closer to the playoffs

Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators (Tuesday March 25th; 8:00 pm ET)
– The Avalanche have had a great year but down the stretch they are struggling and are hoping that they can turn things around before they find themselves sitting outside of the playoffs and will try to do it against the Nashville Predators

Winnipeg Jets vs. San Jose Sharks (Thursday March 27th; 10:30 pm ET)
– The Jets are still in the fight for the playoff spot and need to have a great last few weeks to earn a spot as they look to start that run against the San Jose Sharks who by this point may already be in the playoffs

Anaheim Ducks vs. Vancouver Canucks (Saturday March 29th; 10:00 pm ET)
– The Ducks are looking to clinch their playoff spot while the Canucks are hoping that they can save face from a bad season to clinch a playoff spot as they chase the wild card hoping to take out one of the top teams in the conference

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