You’d think once a team was eliminated from the NHL playoffs, there would be some sort of decline in its play style.
Quite the opposite actually.
The pressure of trying to make it in seems to vanish. Now, you’re just playing hockey for the hell of it.
At that point, you look toward the offseason, the perfect time for rest but also to prepare you for what comes next season, and you hope the hockey gods will be more in your favor.
The Edmonton Oilers may be breaking out the golf clubs earlier than those going for the long haul toward the cup, but their season isn’t over yet.
With six games left, this is the time to see what may need work over the offseason, or what may need to change. But that scenario didn’t apply Tuesday night with the matchup against the Los Angeles Kings.
Edmonton defeated the Kings 8-4 and recorded a double hat-trick that night.
Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each scored three goals against Johnathan Quick. What made Hopkins’ night so special was that all three of his goals were scored within the first period and tallied his first NHL hat trick, also putting the Oilers up 5-1 by the end of the first.
The next team to join the “elites” in the Sweet Sixteen were the Nashville Predators, and they’ll be doing so for the fifth straight season. Not to say it’s much of a surprise, they were one of the teams that dominated throughout the season.
They’re in. So who’s out?
Two teams lost their chances to manifest their ability to fight toward the cup finals.
The Florida Panthers will join the Anaheim Ducks in waiting until next season to prove if they have what it takes to make it to the playoffs – or considering current circumstances, just make the wild card round.
What is interesting is who has already made it.
There are six teams that have clinched spots, two per division. This is excluding the Metropolitan Division, which has yet to see a team clinch a playoff spot as of yet.
In the Eastern Conference, the only teams still in the hunt are from the Metro Division not currently in a playoff spot: the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But with few games left, the door to achieve those much-needed points is closing rapidly. Although, after the Flyers past two losses to division teams (Saturday against the Islanders, and Sunday versus the Capitals), the odds are not in their favor. On the bright side, they managed to beat a back-and-forth, here-one-day, gone-the-next team, the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout.
Even though the chances of Columbus making the playoffs haven’t completely eviscerated, their likelihood is slim as well.
It’s a shame to see everything they traded during the trade deadline. For going “all in,” they are getting really close. But close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.
In the past four games, Blue Jackets starting goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky has tied himself with the face of the Golden Knights, Marc-Andre Fleury, for most shutouts (8) in the league.
The Dallas Stars’ goaltender also makes headline, but not for the same reason. Late in the second period, Ben Bishop was injured and left the game. He did not return.
But watching the replay, it’s hard to say what it was that he injured. It could be something with a past injury, but for now it is just speculation. The Stars did defeat the Calgary Flames 2-1 with backup Anton Khudobin.
Injuries are always so unpredictable this time of year. It’s a concern regardless, but this close to playoffs could be make it or break it for a team.
For now, another day over, another night of hockey and one step closer to the Stanley Cup playoffs.