By all accounts, the final day of the regular season should've been a boring affair. With playoff matchups in both conferences set and division and conference winners crowned, there was nothing to play for.
Nothing but the future, as it turns out. Because nothing was up for grabs, teams gave their youngsters a free audition with the big club. And boy, were they exciting at times.
Guys like Nashville's Calle Jarnkrok and the Islanders' Brock Nelson were handed the reins and ran with the opportunity by scoring clutch third period goals. Colton Sceviour scored off a pretty deke in Phoenix. And one of the league's most acclaimed college prospects made an outstanding debut in Vancouver. (More on that below.)
At the same time as these rookies were making a splash, a couple of veterans said goodbye. Teemu Selanne's farewell in Anaheim was a real tear-jerker, while Martin Brodeur got a fine send-off from New Jersey fans in what could be his last game in a Devils sweater.
As a few young careers began, a few old ones ended. Which is fitting, considering it happened as the regular season gave way to what should be one heck of a playoff season.
All the NHL Scores
Devils 3, Bruins 2
Islanders 4, Sabres 3 (SO)
Three Things We Learned
1. Johnny Gaudreau is going to be a godsend for the Flames
The 2014 Hobey Baker winner played his first NHL game for Calgary on Sunday and impressed everyone in the building. In the first minute of his pro career, Gaudreau stole a puck, started a scoring chance and ripped a shot on net. It was just a sign of things to come, as the diminutive forward showed off his slick skills all night. He even scored his first goal!
2. Jaromir Jagr continued his assault on the record book
The Devils finished off their playoff-less season with a nice win over the Eastern Conference champions, but it was Jagr who really stole the show. Jagr had two assists in the win, passing Gordie Howe for eighth all time.
3. The Canucks season ended on the lowest note of the year
A 5-1 win over the Flames was overshadowed when Vancouver lost forward and team leader Daniel Sedin on a scary collision in the second period. When Sedin chased down a loose puck near the corner boards, Flames forward Paul Byron shoved him from behind and his head crashed into the glass stanchion.
Sedin had to be stretchered off and taken to a local hospital, where it was reported he was in stable condition. It's too bad the already difficult Canucks' season had to end on such a scary note, and we wish Daniel well.
The one play or moment from Sunday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Teemu Selanne played his final regular season game in Anaheim on Sunday, and he was given every ounce of respect and honor he deserves as one of the NHL's greats. The fans stood and cheered every single time he hit the ice, his teammates fed him the puck at every possible opportunity and even the reclusive Paul Kariya made an appearance.
But it was the celebrations postgame that had everyone in tears. After the Avalanche came out and shook hands with him, Selanne grabbed his old teammate, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and took him for a spin around the ice.
And tears flowed.
Stat of the Night
Finding out which teams broke records is an annual tradition when the regular season ends. The Buffalo Sabres had the honor of the worst broken record of the year.
Sabres finish the season with 150 non-shootout goals -- a new record low in the post-expansion era.— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdonPHT) April 14, 2014
Post to Post
- If Jason Spezza's career in Ottawa is over then he ended it in style.
- Ilya Bryzgalov played terribly on Sunday, but this was hilarious.
- Finally, the NHL announced the full schedule for the first round of the playoffs. It's so close.