Playoff Teams Set
(4/6/12) It's the most exciting time of the year in hockey. Yeah sure, the puck drop of the first game of the season is awesome too. And yes, the Stanley Cup Finals are right there as well. But, there is no other time in the entire hockey season when more hockey fans are excited about NHL hockey and their team's chances at sipping from Lord Stanley's chalice. Thursday night, the final playoff teams for the 2012 tournament punched their tickets, while the hopes of all non-playoff teams were finally crushed... until next year of course.
First in Washington, the Caps' key players led the team to victory over the freshly crowned SE Division champion Florida Panthers. Ovechkin got his 37th, and Semin, and Laich both scored for WAS, while Samuelsson responded for the Swamp Cats. Buffalo was eliminated in the process, thanks to their 2-1 loss to a surging Flyers team. Despite all the hoopla, both the Panthers and Capitals will likely lose in Round 1. Florida is staring at a match up with a far better Devils team, while the Caps are going to face either the Rangers or the Bruins. Good luck.
The playoff positions in the East are now set, except for the number seven and eight spots. WAS could still pass OTT. What this means is that PIT will face PHI. By far and away it will be the most evenly matched first round series. Before you go putting all your eggs in the Pittsburgh basket, remind yourself of the most recent battle between these two clubs - an all out brawl that ended 6-4 for the Flyers. The teams will meet again on Saturday night in Pittsburgh in the final game of the regular season.
Over in the Western Conference, San Jose defeated the Kings in a 6-5 shootout on Thursday, which when combined with Dallas' 0-2 loss to Nashville, sealed the fate for the Stars in what amounted to a 4-point win for the Sharks. With the victory, the Sharks jump into 7th in the West, and Phoenix drops to 8th, but those positions are not final. Phoenix has a game in hand on San Jose and will likely leap frog the Sharks by the end of the weekend. The Coyotes can actually still catch LA for top spot in the West.
With 11 goals in the game, it was fantasy points a-go-go in LA. Pavelski got the shootout winner along with an assist. Thornton, Marleau and Clowe all had 1G and 1A for SJ. Kopitar (3A), Justin Williams (2G), and Brown (1G and 1A) led the way for the Kings. Of note, defenders Mitchell (3) and Martinez (1G, 1A) both had strong games for LA.