Tag:Western Conference
Posted on: April 10, 2011 2:05 am
Edited on: April 10, 2011 2:12 am
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Posted on: April 10, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: April 10, 2011 3:46 pm

Playoff Watch: 'Hawks can only wait, watch Dallas

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Chicago Blackhawks left the Dallas Stars plenty of room to seize the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The ‘Hawks trailed throughout their nationally televised finale against the Detroit Red Wings, a team that had clinched a playoff spot several days ago but looked to avoid a skid heading into the postseason. Chicago pulled within a goal midway through the third period on a Duncan Keith tally, but was unable to take advantage of two Red Wings penalties over the closing five minutes as Detroit seized a 4-3 victory at the United Center on Sunday. 

Now, it will be up to the Dallas Stars. A victory tonight over the Minnesota Wild in regulation or overtime will allow the Stars to clinch league’s final playoff spot. Afterward, they can thank Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson, who pushed for the tiebreaker rule change last offseason. Had the first tiebreaker remained all wins -- including in the shootout -- the Blackhawks would have already clinched a berth. 

The Stars, with any sort of victory that doesn’t come via a shootout, would match the Blackhawks regulation and overtime wins (38) -- the new tiebreaker -- and the Stars would get the nod in the second, a better head-to-head record. 

That would also mean the Chicago Blackhawks the first teams since the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes to miss the playoffs a season after winning the Stanley Cup. 

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Montreal, Nashville, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Anaheim, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit, New York Rangers and Washington.      

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Dallas Stars (42-28-11) at Minnesota Wild (38-35-8), 6 p.m. ET, NHL Network

The Dallas Stars have won all three meetings and the only close game was a 4-3 decision on Dec. 4. The Stars got the help they needed from Detroit, so now the Pacific Division has a chance to become the first to get all of its teams into the playoffs.

"We definitely want to finish out strong no matter what, but I would be lying if I said the Chicago game won't have a bearing on our game,'' said Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner told Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News. ``Honestly, it means everything. We want to be playing for the playoffs.'' 

Another thing that will be interesting to watch is if the game reaches overtime. As mentioned above, a shootout win does the Stars no good. So, could we see Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen pulled for an extra attacker at some point in OT? 

GOLF WATCH: Either Chicago or Dallas will be heading to the course. (See above). Calgary, Carolina, Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.   

-- A.J. Perez 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 8, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 5:05 pm

Playoff Watch: 'Canes, Stars face crucial tilts

WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Washington Capitals will repeat as Eastern Conference champs if the Philadelphia Flyers lose to the Buffalo Sabres in regulation, overtime or a shootout.

The Philadelphia Flyers will clinch the Atlantic Division title with either: 
  • a victory over the Sabres combined with Pittsburgh Penguins loss to the New York Islanders
  • an overtime loss to Sabres and a Penguins loss. 

The Buffalo Sabres can secure a berth with either:
  • they net a point against the Flyers
  • the Carolina Hurricanes fall to the Atlanta Thrashers in regulation, overtime or a shootout.

The Nashville Predators will clinch a berth if either:

The Phoenix Coyotes can clinch a berth one of three ways:
  • a victory or a shootout/overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks
  • the Stars lose to the Avalanche in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
  • the Stars beat the Avalanche, but it’s in a shootout. 

The Anaheim Ducks can secure a berth three different ways:
  • the Ducks beat the Los Angeles Kings
  • the Ducks get one pints against the Kings AND the Stars lose to the Avalanche.
  • the Stars lose to the Avs in regulation. 

The Chicago Blackhawks advance to the postseason with either:
  • a victory over the Detroit Red Wings in regulation or overtime coupled with a Stars loss or if the Stars need a shootout to beat the Avs. 
  • the ‘Hawks beat the Wings in a shootout coupled with a Stars loss. 

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes (39-30-11) at Atlanta Thrashers (34-34-12), 7:30 p.m. 

Any kind of victory will move the Hurricanes into the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, although they may want to take care of things in regulation or overtime. Sure, a shootout win will give them two points and that’d be enough to boot the New York Rangers out of eighth. That would, however, still leave the Hurricanes and the Rangers with the same amount of regulation/overtime wins (34) heading into Saturday. (The Rangers finish up against the rival New Jersey Devils, while the ‘Canes play Tampa Bay.) The ‘Canes still hold the second tiebreaker, a better head-to-head record against the Rangers. 

All of the first five meetings between these two Southeast Division rivals have been one-goal games with four contests reached overtime. (One of the games also went to a shootout.) The Canes’ have won four of the five games with forward Erik Cole netting the game-winner Carolina’s three regulation/overtime wins. The road team has won nine of the last 11 meetings. 
The Thrashers showed with their 3-0 victory over the Rangers Thursday that they don’t mind playing the role of spoiler. Of course, they could just as easily help the Rangers with a victory tonight. Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves Thursday for his fourth shutout of the season. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (41-28-11) at Colorado Avalanche (29-43-8)
The Stars can either rein in their playoff destiny or get eliminated tonight. No pressure. Dallas will probably know by sometime during the second period of their game how the Blackhawks-Red Wings contest turned out. A ‘Hawks regulation loss coupled with a Dallas regulation/overtime win puts the Stars back  in control heading into their finale against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. (In that scenario, a Stars victory in the finale would mean an entry in the playoffs and would mark the first time a division has gotten all of its teams into postseason at once.) The Avs have one two of the first three meetings between these two clubs. 

GOLF WATCH: The Stars will be eliminated with a loss combined with a regulation victory by Chicago. Calgary, Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: April 7, 2011 1:41 am
Edited on: April 7, 2011 2:28 am

Morning Skate: 'Canes, Stars only 2 chasers left

And then there were two.

The Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes are the only teams outside the top-8 in each conference who remain mathematically in the hunt for a playoff spot after Wednesday night’s action. Despite a 6-1 victory over the rival Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames didn't get the help they needed elsewhere. Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks -- one of which needed to lose -- both won, although Chicago's OT victory over the St. Louis Blues wasn't without controversy.

Line Changes
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  • Carolina pulled to within two points of the idle New York Rangers with a 3-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It was Cam Ward’s fourth shutout of the season and captain Eric Staal assisted on all three goals. Both the Hurricanes -- Atlanta (Friday) and Tampa Bay (Saturday) -- and the Rangers --- Atlanta (Thursday) and New Jersey (Saturday) -- have two games remaining. 

    The 'Canes and Rangers are currently even in the first tie-breaker, regulation and overtime wins (34). The Hurricanes have the edge in the second tie-breaker, points head to head. Carolina has picked up six over their four meetings to the Rangers’ four points. 

    "Up to this point, no team has done us any favors," Derek Joslin, who scored a power-play goal in the second period, told The News & Observer. "If we can get two more wins we definitely give ourselves a shot at making the playoffs.

    "I know the Rangers are peeking over their shoulders, especially after a big win tonight against a team like that. Maybe they'll be gripping their sticks a little tight."

    Neither the Flames nor the Stars were done any favors either by the referees or the replay officials in Toronto. The Chicago Blackhawks used an iffy  second-period tally to help force overtime, where they eked out a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues. 

    Trailing 2-0, replays appear to show Chicago forward Marian Hossa kick the puck across the goal. (Hossa may very well have tipped it with this stick after he booted it to make it a legal play, but it was hard to tell in the replays.) Even more difficult was determining whether the puck indeed crossed the goal line since Blues goalie Ty Conklin’s catching glove was over top of it. 

    Judge for yourself:

    Here's what Calgary Sun's Scott Fisher, who was live blogging the game, had to say: 
    After a lengthy review, Hossa’s goal is upheld — even though he appeared to kick the puck, which went off the post and never conclusively crossed the line. Considering the Flames’ recent dealings with the NHL’s war room, conspiracy theorists are given added ammunition.

    Either way, the game’s in the books and the Blackhawks finished the night tied for seventh place points-wise with the Anaheim Ducks. Both teams are four points up on the Dallas Stars, who finish with games against the Colorado Avalanche (Thursday and Friday) and the Minnesota Wild (Sunday). 

    PERRY REACHES 50: Corey Perry’s third career hat trick in a 6-2 rout of the San Jose Sharks pushed the Anaheim Ducks forward over the 50-goal mark on Wednesday. 

    He became the third player in franchise history to reach that plateau -- joining Paul Kariya (1995-96) and Teemu Selanne in 1996-97 and 1997-98) -- and extended his points streak to 10 games in the process. 

    Perry, one of the leading candidates for the Hart Trophy, is six goals ahead of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos in the race for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

    Washington 5, Florida 2
    New Jersey 4, Toronto 2
    Boston 3, NY Islanders 2
    Carolina 3, Detroit 0
    Chicago 4, St. Louis  3 (OT)
    Calgary 6,  Edmonton 1
    Anaheim 6, San Jose 2
    Los Angeles 3, Phoenix 2 (SO)  

    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: April 6, 2011 5:25 pm
    Edited on: April 6, 2011 5:27 pm

    Playoff Watch: Carolina faces another test

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Buffalo Sabres will seize a playoff berth if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Detroit Red Wings tonight (in regulation, overtime or a shootout). The Phoenix Coyotes will clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Los Angeles Kings in regulation, also by any means. Conversely, the Kings can secure a playoff berth with a victory. 

    ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Detroit Red Wings (46-23-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-11), 7 p.m. ET

    The ninth-place Hurricanes can’t let many more points slip away. The 'Canes enter with 87 points, four behind the idle, eighth-place New York Rangers. Both the Rangers and the Hurricanes will have two games left in the regular season after tonight. 

    This is the one and only meeting this season between these two clubs and the Red Wings have an edge in the series, 32-25-8-0. Detroit has bounced back from a 10-3 beat down by the St. Louis Blues last Wednesday and has netted two wins in a row. 

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-12) at Los Angeles Kings (45-28-6), 10:30 p.m. ET

    One of these two teams can clinch a playoff berth with a victory tonight. The Kings are looking to bounce back from an ugly 6-1 loss to San Jose, the first game since both Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar went down to injury where Los Angeles was out-classed. 

    GOLF WATCH:  The Calgary Flames can be eliminated couple different ways tonight. They’re out if the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the St. Louis Blues in regulation combined with a Flames loss. The Flames can also be ousted if they lose in regulation and the Blackhawks lose in overtime or a shootout. Toronto, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

    -- A.J. Perez

    Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:38 pm
    Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:00 pm

    Playoff Watch: Clinchers all around tonight

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The Philadelphia Flyers can clinch the Atlantic Division with a victory over the Ottawa Senators tonight combined with a win by New Jersey Devils, who face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers can also win the division with an overtime or shootout loss to the Sens coupled with regulation loss by the Penguins. 

    The Washington Capitals can clinch the Southeast three different ways:
    • a regulation victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs
    • a point against the Leafs via a shootout/overtime loss and a Tampa Bay Lightning loss to the Buffalo Sabres (in any manner). 
    • a Lightning loss in regulation.

    The Montreal Canadiens can secure a playoff berth with any kind of victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

    The idle Phoenix Coyotes are in if the Dallas Stars lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets

    The Los Angeles Kings, also idle, are also in with a Stars loss, as long as it’s in regulation. 

    The Nashville Predators can dance in the land of milk and honey if they beat the Atlanta Thrashers (in regulation, OT or shootout) and the Stars lose in any fashion. The Preds are also in with a shootout/overtime loss and a regulation loss by Dallas. 

    ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11) at Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10), 7 p.m. ET

    The Sabres will again be without goalie Ryan Miller, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with an upper body injury. Of course, with the way rookie Jhonas Enrothm (pictured above) has been playing, he doesn’t exactly have to rush back. Enroth is 2-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in Miller’s absence. Enroth has gotten points in his last six starts overall and the Sabres, who enter three points ahead of idle Carolina in the eighth place, would like to see that trend to continue. 

    Tampa Bay enters on a five-game win streak. Captain Vincent Lecavalier, who took a high-stick to the eye in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, will play in tonight’s game, according to The St. Petersburg Times. He had been listed as day-to-day since he received stitches and was examined by an eye doctor. 

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (46-22-11) at Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-10), 7 p.m. ET
    The Caps don’t need a victory to clinch the Southeast for a fourth consecutive season, but the Leafs do need one to stay alive in the playoff picture. Of course, even that may not be enough to keep the Leafs from missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season (see below).

    GOLF WATCH:  The Toronto Maple Leafs will be eliminated if they lose (in any form) to the Capitals in regulation or overtime. Toronto is also out if the Sabres manage to get one point tonight. Atlanta, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: April 4, 2011 9:00 am

    Morning Skate: Not much drama in final week

    Several days ago it looked like we had an epic down-the-stretch battle for playoff berths on our hands, especially in the Western Conference. 

    Maybe the objects in the mirror aren’t really closer than they appear. 

    One team in the East (the Carolina Hurricanes) and one in the West (the Dallas Stars) have legitimate shots of unseating one the current low seeds in their respective conferences. Sure, Toronto and Calgary are mathematically alive, but let’s be real. 

    The Hurricanes, in fact, could have pulled even with the Buffalo Sabres points-wise for the eighth and final playoff slot in the East had things turned out just a bit differently in their game Sunday. Rookie Jonas Enroth made 35 saves and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani scored with two minutes left in overtime as the Sabres pulled out the 2-1 victory. (Here’s our game recap.) At least the Hurricanes picked up a point as they head into their final three games --- Detroit (Wednesday), Atlanta (Friday) and Tampa Bay (Saturday) --- three points behind the New York Rangers, who fell to eighth with the Sabres' win.

    Here’s Carolina coach Paul Maurice told The News & Observer after the loss:

    "We've been feeling like this for the last two weeks, three weeks -- that you had to win that game," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "There seems in every one of these you're going to lose a game that feels like it's the end and you can't let it be that way.

    "You get a real feeling of disappointment after a loss like that. But not a feeling that you let one slip away, because you did what you were supposed to do."

    The Dallas Stars, who entered on a six-game skid, netted a must-win victory, 4-3, against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. (Here’s a link to the game recap.)  The Stars’ win -- aided by two Ducks goals that were waived off over the final couple minutes--- kept  Anaheim, Los Angeles and Phoenix from clinching playoff berths, at least for another day or two. 
    Dallas coach Marc Crawford sounded upbeat Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika reported

    "There's no quit in our team, and we're still in the race. We have to keep coming out and having performances like this. This was a very deserving game for our team. You make your luck, and tonight we played with the desperation we've been striving for. It's a huge win, and hopefully we can get this to snowball."

    The Stars, who trail eighth-place Chicago by three points, have four games left on the schedule, all against non-playoff teams: Columbus (Tuesday), Colorado (Thursday), Colorado (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday). The ‘Hawks also have four games left in the schedule. 

    The Flames are only two points in back of eighth, but they only have two games left to play. 

    SCHWARTZ PASSES: Yale Hockey player Mandi Schwartz’s lost her battle with myeloid leukemia Sunday, certainly a sad day for all those she inspired in her two-plus years battling the disease. She was 23. 

    Here’s part of the statement from the school
    The grace and courage with which Mandi approached her treatment, and the enthusiasm and optimism with which Mandi approached life itself have inspired countless people, both here in New Haven and beyond. Her efforts -- and the efforts of those close to her -- to raise awareness of, and participation in, marrow and cord blood donor programs have already yielded potentially lifesaving results.

    Thousands of people were brought into donor programs on her behalf, not to mention her perseverance despite continuous setbacks were an inspiration. 

    My former AOL FanHouse colleague, Lisa Olson, caught up to Schwartz -- whose treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy along with bone and stem cell transplants -- at a rink in Seattle where she helped coach a girls hockey team last December
    Rarely has there been a one-time assistant coach as satisfied as Mandi Schwartz was on that fine day. For three glorious periods, in a frosty rink similar to the hundreds she frequented as a child in Saskatchewan, Mandi wasn't a leukemia patient. She was a hockey nut, swaying to the music of blades skimming ice. 
    Nora Keaney, wobbling atop skates at age four, is 13 now, and she plays alongside Maddie Davis on an elite select team. They competed in the MLK Invitational Girls'/Women's Hockey Tournament in San Jose over the holiday weekend, took second place, and talked about Mandi Schwartz the way teenage boys talk about Sidney Crosby. 
    "When I first met her she was at the hospital. She didn't look too good. We were just happy she was getting better," Nora says. "There aren't a lot of (hockey) opportunities for girls. The leagues are almost always all guys. She's such an inspiration to us."

    NY Rangers 3, Philadelphia 2 (SO)
    Detroit 4, Minnesota 2
    St. Louis 6, Columbus 1
    Buffalo 2, Carolina 1 (OT)
    Tampa Bay 2, Chicago 0
    Calgary 2 Colorado 1
    Dallas 4, Anaheim 3  
    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: April 3, 2011 1:46 pm
    Edited on: April 3, 2011 3:27 pm

    Playoff Watch: East race could swing in Raleigh

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Washington Capitals will win their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title if Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Chicago. The Detroit Red Wings can clinch the Central Division title if they beat Minnesota (regulation or OT) OR if they win via a shootout and Blackhawks lose to Tampa Bay. If the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars, as many as three teams can secure playoff berths. The Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are in with a regulation winand the Phoenix Coyotes can earn a slot with a regulation, OT or shootout win by Anaheim.

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Buffalo Sabres (39-29-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-10), 5 p.m. ET

    Separated by just two points, there's plenty on the line for this fourth and final tilt between these two teams. The Hurricanes enter on a three-game win streak and have won six of their last seven games. The 'Canes are coming off a 4-2 victory over the the New York Islanders on Saturday. They were briefly just a point out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East until the New York Rangers used a 3-2 shootout victory over Philaelphia Sunday to push that margin back to three points and move up a spot to seventh. 

    The Sabres -- who enter in seventh place in the East -- felt the absence of starting goalie Ryan Miller, who missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Buffalo still managed to pick up a point in an OT loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, but Jhonas Enroth was shaky at times in net.

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (38-28-11) at Anaheim Ducks (44-29-5), 8 p.m. ET
    This game means a lot to plenty of teams (see above).  The Stars are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt heading into the final week of the season. (Dallas’ only hope with a loss would be to catch eighth-place Chicago, but that would be a major stretch.) The Ducks have won four of the first five meetings, although they could be without defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who left Saturday’s 4-2 loss to San Jose with an upper-body injury. The Stars have enter on a six-game skid. 

    GOLF WATCH: The Calgary Flames will be eliminated if they lose to Colorado in regulation AND Chicago defeats Tampa Bay. Atlanta, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated. 
    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com