Tuesday, 1 April 2008

All Jokes Aside

Being that it's April Fool's Day, there have been a number of sites that cover hockey who have had a little fun with their readers today. I will tell you that this will not happen on Hockey Blog In Canada. Today is a huge day for NHL teams as there are a number of teams fighting to keep their chances of a playoff spot alive. Who's in? Who's out? Who still has a chance?

Feature Game: Let's start with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators tonight. The Canadiens had a chance to pull even with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Eastern Conference with a win tonight. They would also become the fourth NHL team to amass 100 points with a victory. Ottawa, on the other hand, is falling faster than the price of Enron stock, and need a victory in a major way.

Well, if this is any showing of what kind of mettle these teams have, Montreal proved they are for real while Ottawa folded like cheap tent. Montreal defeated the Senators 3-0 tonight as Carey Price picked up his third shutout of the season. Goals by Alexei Kovalev, Mathieu Dandenault, and Andrei Kostitsyn paced Montreal to the win, and allowed them to pull even with the Penguins. Montreal also clinched their division, meaning they will finish no lower than the second-seed in the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa remains in sixth place in the conference with 92 points, but are dangerously close to missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Both Boston and Philadelphia have 91 points, and ninth-place Washington has 90 points. With only having two games to go, Ottawa needs a win in their last two games in the worst way.

With games against the Maple Leafs and Bruins left, the Senators aren't out of the woods yet. The upstart Maple Leafs have been playing extremely well over the last few weeks despite them missing the playoffs. A game where they can stick it to their provincial rivals should make Thursday's game a heated affair. The Bruins are also fighting for a playoff spot, so I expect another fiesty game on Friday night as well.

Game Two: The Barney Rubble Hairpieces were looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Sabres trailed eighth-place Philadelphia by five points and had to defeat Toronto to keep their hopes alive. Toronto, meanwhile, can play the role of ultimate spoiler after their playoff hopes were dashed.

The teams battled to a 3-3 tie through regulation, and overtime solved nothing. Tomas Kaberle led off the shootout by scoring on Ryan Miller. Ales Kotalik replied for the Sabres by scoring on a backhand past Andrew Raycroft. Nine shooters later, and we had a winner on a Maxim Afinogenov wrist shot that beat Raycroft.

With the win, Buffalo moves to within three points of Philadelphia, but will definitely need help. Buffalo has two games remaining and has to win both games, while Philadelphia has to lose all three of their remaining games. Any loss by Buffalo or any point gained by Philadelphia and Boston will eliminate the Hairpieces due to tie-breaking rules.

The problem is that Buffalo travels to Montreal and Boston for their remaining games. Montreal has been playing exceptional hockey, and Boston is battling for their own playoff life. Personally, I think Buffalo is dead in the water, but I should never count out the Lindy Ruff-led Hairpieces.

Philadelphia, however, draws the Penguins twice, and the Devils once. Those games will certainly not be easy for the Flyers, so the Sabres still may have a chance at the playoffs if they play mistake-free hockey for the rest of the season.

Game Three: In a game that could very well decide the third-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals hosted the Carolina Hurricanes in what could be described as a game with monsterous implications. With a win, the Capitals would move into a tie with the Hurricanes for points and the Southeast Division lead. With a loss, the Hurricanes would clinch their division, giving them the third-seed in the Eastern Conference.

Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green assisted on two goals apiece and Alexander Ovechkin scored his 63rd goal of the season as the Washington Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1. Cristobal Huet made 21 saves in the victory, and the Capitals look like a team on a mission.

Let's flashback to November when the Capitals were dead last in the NHL. Skip ahead to the NHL All-Star game in January when the Capitals were still in 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Since January 1, the Capitals have gone 26-12-3!

Both the Hurricanes and Capitals have games against the Panthers and Lightning remaining. The Hurricanes currently hold the tie-breaker over Washington, but every point matters to these two teams as they both could make the playoffs if Ottawa, Boston, or Philly stumbles.

Game Four: Not much to comment on here, except that the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in overtime to clinch a playoff spot, and keep their slim hopes of catching the Penguins for the Atlantic Division title alive. That battle will be settled this week.

Game Five: The Nashville Predators met the St. Louis Blues tonight. The Blues wanted to play the role of spoiler, and nearly did that after jumping out to a 3-0 lead just seven minutes in. However, after Dan Ellis was replaced by Chris Mason, Rich Peverley's overtime goal gave the Predator's a 4-3 win, and boosted them into eighth-place over idle Vancouver.

With this win tonight, Nashville put considerable pressure on Vancouver, Edmonton, and Chicago in their quest for a playoff spot. And that leads me to...

Game Six: Calgary and Edmonton squared off with both teams needing points. With Nashville winning their game, it basically meant that Edmonton had to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But it was not to be as Calgary defeated the Oilers 4-2. With the loss, the Oilers cannot make the playoffs as they have one game left, and are three points back of the Predators. Officially, you can cross the Oilers off the list of playoff-bound teams.

Calgary inched closer to Dallas, and are now a point behind the fifth-place Stars. The Stars do have a game in hand, though.

Game Seven: Colorado and Vancouver battled tonight with both teams needing points as well. Vancouver was looking to stay ahead of Nashville while Colorado was looking to keep pace with Calgary.

Well, Colorado has defeated the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 4-2, meaning Colorado is two points ahead of eighth-place Nashville, and Vancouver is one point behind Nashville now.

Personally, this is why I love this time of year. Everyone is making a mad dash for the playoffs, and the game of musical chairs won't be over until the last game is played. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Until tomorrow's games, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: