The New York Rangers will be without star netminder Henrik Lundqvist for two to three weeks due to a lower-body injury, the team announced Saturday. Lundqvist last played on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers, turning aside 43 of the 45 shots he faced. He was scratched from Thursday's game.
Lundqvist, 35, had a very slow start to the season, but has rebounded in recent weeks. A three-week timetable would mean he would miss the Rangers' next ten games.
But this may not be such a bad thing for the Rangers.
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New York currently sits in the first wild card spot with a whopping 13-point lead over the New York Islanders who sit in the second wild card spot. Barring a complete collapse, no one is going to catch the Rangers. New York also sits four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan.
Depending on how the last month of the season plays out, a finish in the top three of the division would mean staying on the Metropolitan side of the playoff bracket and likely having to play Washington, Columbus or Pittsburgh in the first and second rounds. Staying in the top wild card spot, however, offers an easier route to the conference finals as the Rangers would move to the Atlantic Division.
Without their top netminder, the Rangers seem unlikely to catch any of the top three teams in the Metropolitan. With such a large lead in the wild card, however, no one behind them in the standings is going to catch them.
The loss of Lundqvist may well guarantee the Rangers' spot as the top wild card team and that may be exactly where they want to be.
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And then there were eight.
The Caps’ Game 6 victory on Sunday brought to a close the first round of the playoffs. Already, the field looks entirely different than many anticipated.
Washington came into the postseason as the team to beat, but the Caps were given all they could handle by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, made short work of the Columbus Blue Jackets in what was expected to be one of the most competitive series of the first round. This begs the question, are the Penguins now the frontrunners in the East despite ceding home-ice advantage to Washington and not having Kris Letang?
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The West is now wide open after the Nashville Predators’ stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues had the longest odds of any team to win the Cup because their path went through the top two seeds in the West. The Blues dispatched the Minnesota Wild in just five games and Chicago is already out. If you put money on St. Louis, you’re probably feeling pretty good right now.
But did Nashville’s sweep show that they are now the frontrunners in the West?
And let's not forget about the Pacific. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose this postseason after a sweep of the Calgary Flames while Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are out to prove that experience is overrated.
Find out where all eight of the remaining teams stand in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.
The Maple Leafs made a push for Game 7, but in the end they fell in Game 6 as the Caps took the game and the series on Sunday.
Here's a recap of the three bold predictions.
1. Toronto will score in the third period - Correct
The hockey gods would not allow this prediction to be wrong. Did you see that bounce off the boards? Not only did it bounce right into the danger area right in front of the bench, it went to the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer in Auston Matthews.
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2. Someone will take a penalty against Alex Ovechkin - Wrong
Give Mike Babcock all the credit in the world. Every point where you thought lack of experience would hurt Toronto, it didn’t. That speaks to coaching. I thought the Maple Leafs would try to coax a penalty out of Ovechkin, but would get carried away. Yet, despite their inexperience and the pressure of the moment, Toronto remained very disciplined.
3. If Toronto leads after the first period, the series is going 7 games - Push
For the first time all series, the score after the first period was 0-0. Both teams had chances but looked more tentative than they had earlier in the series. They recognized what was at stake on Sunday and affected the play to a degree.
2017 Results: I expected to see Toronto’s best push in Game 6 and I was not sure how the Caps would respond. Washington’s response late in the game was very impressive and a great sign for Caps fans going forward in the postseason.
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