It was fitting that the winners in both NHL conferences bookended the action on Saturday night.
The Eastern Conference was wrapped up first in Boston, where the Bruins took advantage of a beaten and battered Buffalo Sabres squad. Patrice Bergeron reached 30 goals. Tukka Rask likely locked up a Vezina Trophy win. And the Bruins sealed the deal as both the Eastern Conference victors and the winners of the President's Trophy.
Believe it or not, we had to literally wait until the last possible moment of the night to find out who would win the Western Conference. All Anaheim had to do was come away with a point in Los Angeles, and they certainly had to work for it. The Kings and Ducks slogged through a grinding battle before exploding for goals in the last half. Luckily for the Ducks, Anze Kopitar's game-tying goal only delayed the inevitable. With the shootout win, the Ducks clinched the Western Conference in dramatic fashion.
All the NHL Scores
Bruins 4, Sabres 1
Nashville 7, Blackhawks 5
Ducks 4, Kings 3 (SO)
Three Things We Learned
1. The Eastern Conference playoffs will feature familiar foes
Columbus' win in Florida finalized all of the playoff matchups in the Eastern Conference, and each of the participants are quite familiar with their opponents. Detroit plays Boston. Tampa Bay plays Montreal. Columbus plays Pittsburgh. Philadelphia plays New York. Division rivals versus division rivals. It's going to be one heck of a first round out East.
2. The only playoff drama left is in the Central Division.
The Eastern Conference matchups are set, and we already know that the Sharks will play the Kings and the Ducks will play the Stars out West. But the rest of the conference playoff series will be determined on Sunday. If the Avalanche end the day ahead of the Blues in points, they'll win the Central Division and play Minnesota in the first round. Whoever finishes second in the Central will have the honor of playing the Blackhawks.
3. Hockey players cry too.
The one play or moment from Sunday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
The Blackhawks aren't exactly healthy as the playoffs begin. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are nursing injuries, Marian Hossa is dealing with lingering back issues and coach Joel Quennville rested four starters on Saturday. Considering the Hawks are backing into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, should fans be concerned about how they'll fare in the first round?
Stat of the Night
Ryan Smyth entered his final game just one goal shy of becoming the Oilers' all-time leader in power play goals. So, as you might expect, Edmonton left him out there for virtually every second of every power play they got. That includes a four-minute double minor penalty, which resulted in this: