Stanley cup playoff push who would the maple leafs rather play – sportsnet.ca

A sunday win against the edmonton oilers made the tampa bay lightning the first eastern conference team to clinch a playoff berth and a third-period comeback win over the toronto maple leafs on tuesday (as the boston bruins had a rare off-night) gave the lightning a five-point cushion for the division lead.

The bruins still have two games in hand on the lightning, but their destiny is no longer in their own hands — at the current point differential boston would need some help from tampa to end up with the division title.

Both teams are 7-2-1 in their past 10 and securely in the playoffs, though boston doesn’t have the little ‘X’ beside its name.Alerts event the third-place atlantic team from toronto can also feel confident about playing spring hockey, and there’s a real debate in the city about which team in front of it would be a better first-round matchup.

Is it the bruins, a surging second-half team against whom toronto holds a 3-1-0 season series advantage? Or is it the lightning and their porous defence that has allowed the fifth-most shots in the league since jan. 1 and helped bring down one-time vezina contender andrei vasilevskiy’s save percentage to a pedestrian .907 rate for the past three months?

On style alone, the maple leafs’ offensive lean might suggest that taking on that lightning defence is the preferred choice and they’d have a better chance in a back-and-forth slug fest.Alerts event notifications but also consider that the maple leafs have a better record against the bruins this season and that blowing a three-goal lead against the lightning on tuesday night (without auston matthews) served as a reminder of just how hard it is to keep up with the best offence in the league.

The metro half of the eastern conference bracket is far less clear, though washington is closing in on a clinch. Pittsburgh, too, is getting there despite cooling lately (5-4-1 in its past 10), but both teams are looking over their shoulder at the columbus blue jackets who are finally starting to score.Alerts event notifications

Through most of the season the blue jackets had the lowest shooting percentage in the league as alexander wennberg and cam atkinson (among others) were nowhere close to the scoring pace they had a season ago. Not everyone on this team could have had a career year at the same time, could they?

The offence is now coming around and the jackets are starting to look like the sneaky contenders some picked before the season. During their nine-game winning streak they’ve scored a league-high 38 goals as artemi panarin (15 points), boone jenner (nine), atkinson (nine) and wennberg (nine) are all scoring at point-per-game paces, while seth jones (eight points in six games) was making a late bid for norris consideration before he was forced out of the past three games with an upper-body injury.Alerts event sergei bobrovsky (.930 save percentage during the streak) has been as good as ever and an outside candidate for the vezina.

Philadelphia acquired the 26-year-old at the deadline to cover for injuries to brian elliott and michal neuvirth. Mrazek had a promising start with three wins and a .947 save percentage in his first three starts. But in nine march appearances, mrazek has two wins, an .865 save percentage and was pulled tuesday after allowing three goals in under four minutes.

The goals weren’t all on mrazek, but the fact he’s allowed fewer than three goals in a game just once this month is alarming.Alerts event notifications special meanwhile alex lyon, a 25-year-old undrafted goalie from yale university, has been nearly perfect coming on in relief this season and appears to be the steadiest option in net right now.

The nashville predators became the first western conference team to clinch a playoff spot a few days ago and the vegas golden knights could be next as they sit with 99 points and a magic number of just four.

As an expansion team, everybody expected the golden knights to cool by now, but the team has kept on chugging to prove everyone wrong and set a new (and completely unattainable) standard for seattle when the NHL expands there in a few years.Alerts event notifications but while the golden knights have been the best story of the NHL this season, some cracks are starting to show.

Much has been made of their home record this season and the “vegas flu” that strikes teams by the time they hit the ice at T-mobile arena. The golden knights were 19-3-2 at home through january and clearly, somehow, held a distinct advantage there. But from the beginning of march, the worm has turned. Vegas is a mediocre 2-3-0 in friendly confines in that time and hasn’t beaten a team currently in a playoff spot at home since a 6-3 win over columbus two months ago, before the blue jackets offence started to take off again.Alerts event notifications special

The golden knights have been able to maintain an eight-point lead on the sharks – who are 8-2-0 since adding evander kane at the trade deadline – because they’ve been stronger on the road lately. The golden knights are 9-3-1 in their past 13 road games, but face stiff tests in san jose and colorado to close out this week. Depending on what the st. Louis blues do, one or two wins could clinch vegas a playoff spot.

They may have to do without marc-andre fleury again, too. The face of the franchise left tuesday’s 4-1 win over vancouver after the first period and though the team hasn’t given an injury update, head coach gerard gallant did confirm it wasn’t a rest option: the training staff didn’t clear fleury to return for the second period.Alerts event notifications it’s speculated fleury became hurt when he took a brandon sutter shot off the mask.

When he’s been healthy this season, fleury has been good enough to be an under-the-radar vezina option (.930 SP, 2.18 GAA), though an early-season injury probably took him out of the running because he likely wouldn’t have played even 50 games.

Though the four-headed monster of oscar dansk, malcolm subban, maxime lagace and dylan ferguson received deserved kudos for holding the fort when fleury missed two months from october to december, it’s worth remembering that they combined for an .896 save percentage in fleury’s absence and allowed the 10th-most goals in the league over that time.Alerts event notifications if vegas finds itself without its 33-year-old, three-time cup-winning goalie again, it could be a death knell.

The winnipeg jets beat the los angeles kings 2-1 in a one-sided affair made closer on the scoreboard by jack campbell’s 36-save effort. Kyle connor scored both goals and is now just two shy of the injured brock boeser for the rookie goal-scoring lead. He’s been consistent in his production all season and one of the many rookies flying under the radar in a surprisingly deep class of first-year players.

The jets need connor to keep that scoring up, especially if anything comes of patrik laine‘s situation.Alerts event the 19-year-old sniper entered tuesday’s game with 18 goals in 15 games, but left early after blocking a shot. It was a scary moment for one of the most important players on the team, though head coach paul maurice said it was “nothing sinister” in his post-game comments.

Elsewhere, the dallas stars had a chance to get back into a wild-card spot tuesday night with the anaheim ducks idle, but a 4-3 loss to the washington capitals ended a six-game road trip in which they didn’t get a win. In fact, dallas has just one win in its past nine. The team lost ben bishop to injury for at least the next two weeks on sunday and is pushing ahead with kari lehtonen, who has failed as the team’s no. 1 for the past four seasons and has an .894 save percentage this month.Alerts event

“we had players that really carried the ball in the last four games of this trip and we still couldn’t get wins,” hitchcock told the dallas morning news. “I think we have to have more people join the fight. If you’re not scoring, you’d better be terrorizing people with your work, and we did not get enough participation at the end when our big guys really played well.”

Four of dallas’ next five games are at home, but it’ll face few easy touches against boston, vancouver, philadelphia and minnesota. When the calendar flips to april, the stars will have three games left on the schedule as they finish with a very difficult california road swing.Alerts event notifications this upcoming home set is huge.

Meanwhile the colorado avalanche, who are in this fight for a wild-card spot with dallas, are hitting a high note and getting healthy at exactly the right time. Since nathan mackinnon returned to the avalanche lineup on feb. 18, colorado is 9-3-4, which is the second-best record from a western conference team in that stretch. For his part, mackinnon has a whopping 30 points in those 16 games. The cole harbour, N.S., native is now just three points shy of nikita kucherov for the league-scoring lead and has the best points-per-game rate in the NHL.Alerts event

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