The NHL playoff field is set, but there remains one more division to decide.
For the first time since 2008 the NHL playoffs will include the Dallas Stars as they clinched the last remaining spot on Friday with their 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
The Stars’ win eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes from playoff contention and completed the NHL’s 16-team playoff field.
Only one player, Trevor Daley, remains from the Stars’ last playoff team, and it was Daley that started the scoring on Friday by scoring on a breakaway for his ninth goal of the season. Tyler Seguin and Ryan Garbutt also added goals in the win, while Kari Lehtonen stopped all 22 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season.
While the Stars were completing the playoff field, the Colorado Avalanche had a chance to clinch the last remaining division title but fell short with a 5-1 loss in San Jose. The Avalanche can still clinch the Central Division on Sunday with either a win in Anaheim or a regulation loss by the St. Louis Blues against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Jets-Flames game on Friday had no real importance, but it at least produced some comedy. That is really all we can ask for.
Stars 3, Blues 0
Jets 5, Flames 3
Sharks 5, Avalanche 1
Three Things We Learned
1. Lindy Ruff has done a fantastic job in Dallas this season
Taking over a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in five years, Lindy Ruff certainly had his work cut out for him this season. Even though the record may not be great, it’s been good enough to end the Stars’ playoff drought, and they might even be a little bit better than the win-loss record indicates. They’re a top-10 possession team in the NHL and have had 11 overtime or shootout losses this season, which might indicate a bit of bad luck on their side. With their top line and goaltending they are going to be a tough out in the first round no matter who they play.
2. The Devils are comically bad in the shootout
Look, we already knew the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils were an historically bad team in the shootout and that their performance played a big role in the team missing the playoffs, but the way they lost on Friday to the New York Islanders was a new low. Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson didn’t have to make a single save (he gave up one goal while Jaromir Jagr missed the net on the other attempt) while Martin Brodeur not only gave up three goals on the three shots he faced, but was also beaten by not one, but two spin-o-rama goals to end it. If he doesn’t get the start in New Jersey’s season finale, that will probably be the final game Brodeur starts in New Jersey as a member of the Devils.
When we last saw Kristers Gudlevskis playing in a meaningful hockey game, he was stopping 55 shots against Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and giving an outmanned Latvia team a fighting chance against the best collection of hockey players in the world. On Friday, he made his NHL debut for the Tampa Bay Lightning and was outstanding in a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, making the same type of highlight reel saves we saw from him in Sochi.
The one play or moment from Friday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
With a chance to clinch a division title, Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy made the curious decision to start backup goalie Reto Berra, and it did not go particularly well. Berra was pulled just 10 minutes into the game after giving up two goals on the first five shots he faced. He was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who did everything he could to keep the Avalanche in it, but the Sharks’ offensive pressure was just too much. Still, going with Berra, perhaps your third best goalie, with a chance to secure a top spot in the playoffs was an odd move by a coach that has done so many good things this season.
Stat of the Night
Remember how Ryan Miller was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle for the St. Louis Blues? Well, he still might end up being that in the playoffs — but he’s managed just a .905 save percentage (lower than all of the other Blues’ goaltenders this season) while the team has lost seven of its past 13 games.
Post to Post
Patience is not the solution to the Carolina Hurricanes’ problems.
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NHL Scores: Stars clinch playoff spot; Avalanche miss chance to …