Despite the chaotic wild card battles in both conferences, teams are beginning to separate into strong contenders and playoff also-rans. The conference leaders continued their dominance on Saturday while the wild card race got even murkier.
Boston finished off the Capitals thanks to Jarome Iginla's 30th goal, sealing a 4-2 win and clinching the Atlantic Division title in the process. The Bruins' play during the last month has to be making their Eastern Conference foes sweat every night.
The Ducks survived a shaky start in Vancouver and rolled ahead for a 5-1 win. Anaheim's win, coupled with San Jose's loss to Colorado, brings them one step closer to a Pacific Division title. And now that Chicago has clinched a playoff berth, only three spots remain open in the Western Conference. Let the dogfights continue.
All the NHL Scores
Ducks 5, Canucks 1
Bruins 4, Capitals 2
Red Wings 4, Leafs 2
Three Things We Learned
1. The Maple Leafs are crashing right on schedule
Many predicted that the pace Toronto started the season on clearly wasn't sustainable. The Maple Leafs allowed too many scoring chances and played with too much puck luck to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings for long. It's been a slow burn, but the Maple Leafs have officially bottomed out of the playoff race after dropping an important game against Detroit on Saturday. The stats during the last twenty games tell the tale true: the Leafs led the Canadiens by three points on March 13. The Canadiens have gained sixteen points on the Maple Leafs in sixteen days, leaving Toronto behind in the dust.
2. The Blues have some scoring depth issues
Dallas walked into St. Louis on the second half of a back-to-back and won for a second time this season. Whether the Blues want to face the Stars in the first round of the playoffs isn't as pressing an issue as their goal scoring problems. The Blues' top line of David Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie had another terrific game, but once again St. Louis couldn't muster any production from their other three lines.
I know that it's entertaining to some people, to read a piece by a fan of the Western Conference's top team worrying about scoring - but it's a concern shared by many fans. We're Blues fans. We're conditioned for the worst possible scenario, because the team has never shown us that it's wrong to be that way. You'll have to forgive us for noticing problems that other teams'd be thrilled to have. It's natural.
But this is a serious concern. The Blues score against very bad teams. They have been having issues for the past several weeks with teams who are good. They lost the first round to the Kings last year not because of Brian Elliott, but because the team couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
If they don't get things figured out soon, history could repeat itself.
3. The West madness is just getting heated up
The Stars win brought them within a point of the Coyotes for the final wild card berth in the Western Conference. The Stars have two games in hand, so the Coyotes desperately needed to get at least a point against Minnesota. Instead they let the Wild score three unanswered goals to close the game. The three teams are now separated by a mere four points as the schedule hits the final stretch.
The one play or moment from Saturday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Steven Stamkos netted a hat trick on Saturday in the most unusual way. The NHL's best goal scorer scored the opening goal and the game-winner for the Lightning, but put his team in a bad situation when he did the unthinkable in the second period.
This truly makes Stamkos the ultimate goal scorer in the league, right? It's worth mentioning that Stamkos has nine goals in his last ten games and is converting shots on goal at a 25 percent clip. Safe to say he's back to normal after breaking his leg earlier this season.
Stat of the Night
Ryan O'Reilly was trying to become the 1st player with 25 goals, 70 games played and 0 penalty minutes. That ended today— Vin Masi (@VinMasi) March 29, 2014
You read that right. O'Reilly hadn't taken a single penalty all season until Saturday. That's an incredible feat.
Post to Post
- It looks like the Islanders are going to be sold.
- Is a team with a PDO of 101.973 a lucky team?
- Finally, Defending Big D is hosting a fundraiser to donate an AED in DFW in honor of Rich Peverley. Check it out and donate if you can!