The season’s officially over after Sunday, and the playoffs will begin shortly thereafter. With all but two playoff matchups already determined, the rest of Sunday’s slate lacks some intrigue, other than perhaps to see which team will be able to enhance their odds in the draft lottery.
The two games of note involve the Ducks and Oilers, with the Ducks needing just one point to clinch their fifth straight division title, the first under Carlyle in his second stint with the team, but his second overall after accomplishing the same feat in 2007. If the Oilers win, it’ll set up the Battle of Alberta in the first round, while the Ducks and Sharks will face each other in an all-California match.
Blue Jackets (PP: 11, PK: 10) at Maple Leafs (PP: 2, PK: 9), 6:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo (6-5-1, 2.95, .902), Curtis McElhinney (5-6-0, 2.80, .917)
Key Injuries: Ryan Murray (hand), Lukas Sedlak (upper body), Zach Werenski (shoulder), Frederik Andersen (head), Eric Fehr (hand), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed)
The Senators may want to send a box to chocolates to the Penguins after Tom Sestito’s careless hit knocked Andersen out of the game, because if McElhinney can’t show he’s capable of giving the Leafs a chance to win, it’s going to be a very short series. This will be the first playoffs for many of the Leafs defensemen, including Nikita Zaitsev, Morgan Rielly and Connor Carrick. The Jackets, mired in a five-game losing streak, likely won’t rest anyone, because that’s just not John Tortorella’s way, and they need to generate a little momentum before facing the Pens. With 40 goals and 29 assists heading into the season’s final game, Auston Matthews is just one point shy of 70, and will be the first Leaf since Phil Kessel in 2014 to record at least 70 points in a season. He’d also be the only rookie to accomplish that feat this season, which may tip Calder Trophy voting in his favor.
Kings (PP: 15, PK: 5) at Ducks (PP: 17, PK: 3), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Ben Bishop (2-3-2, 2.49, .900), John Gibson (25-16-9, 2.22, .924)
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (head), Cam Fowler (knee), Korbinian Holzer (personal), Hampus Lindholm (upper body), Nick Ritchie (suspension), Clayton Stoner (abdomen), Nate Thompson (upper body), Matt Greene (undisclosed)
The Ducks need just one point to clinch their fifth straight division title and ensure a matchup against the Flames in the first round, a team that has lost 26 straight games in Anaheim. Randy Carlyle’s first season in his second stint behind the Ducks bench has gone very well despite some slight hiccups, and it’s worth noting that the last time he won the division title with the Ducks, they went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Kings can play spoiler, but if they win in regulation it would give them the tie breaker over the Jets, and see them finish in a higher spot but with a lower draft slot.
Canucks (PP: 29, PK: 28) at Oilers (PP: 6, PK: 17), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Richard Bachman (2-2-0, 2.04, .932), Laurent Brossoit (3-1-0, 1.99, .934)
Key Injuries: Tyler Pitlick (knee), Sven Baertschi (neck), Joseph Cramarossa (foot), Derek Dorsett (neck), Loui Eriksson (lower body), Brendan Gaunce (undisclosed), Markus Granlund (wrist), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jacob Markstrom (knee), Anton Rodin (knee), Jack Skille (ankle)
The Oilers also need the Ducks to lose if they want to end the Ducks’ four-year reign as division champions, so a win against the lowly Canucks won’t be able to get the job done. A division title for the Oilers would set up the Battle of Alberta and an all-California battle in the first round, a marketing dream and crowd pleaser for the fans, but finishing second may be much desirable, since it would set up an opening round match against the struggling Sharks and Todd McLellan’s former team. The Oilers’ chase for the division title, which would be their first since 1987, is the only meaningful race remaining. The Canucks, meanwhile, will be merely playing for pride.
Devils (PP: 21, PK: 22) at Red Wings (PP: 28, PK: 18), 5:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cory Schneider (20-26-11, 2.79, .909), Jimmy Howard (9-11-1, 2.15, .926)
Key Injuries: Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Luke Glendening (lower body), Anthony Mantha (finger), Ryan Sproul (knee), Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body)
The two teams occupy the bottom two spots of the Eastern Conference heading into Sunday, with the Devils already guaranteed to finish last, sitting seven points behind the Red Wings. A decade ago, the Devils and Red Wings (and the Canucks, Sabres and Thrashers!) finished in first place in their respective divisions, and it’s a little jarring to think how much has changed. Schneider has lost four straight games and allowed 16 goals in that span, and has a chance to at least end the season on a strong note.
Sabres (PP: 1, PK: 26) at Lightning (PP: 5, PK: 13), 5:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Anders Nilsson (10-10-4, 2.67, .923), Andrei Vasilevskiy (22-17-7, 2.62, .917)
Key Injuries: Taylor Fedun (undisclosed), Marcus Foligno (knee), Johan Larsson (wrist), Kyle Okposo (illness), J.T. Brown (undisclosed), Ryan Callahan (hip), Jason Garrison (lower body), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body), Steven Stamkos (knee)
The Lightning made a valiant chase for the final playoff spot, but saw their opportunity close when the Leafs took matters into their own hands. With nothing to play for, this almost assuredly ensures that Stamkos will not play this season, and that the Lightning will likely give a little more playing time to youngsters Brayden Point, Jonathan Drouin, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne. The Sabres were harsh and honest in their own assessment of the season, and they have one final chance to salvage a win and head into the summer with a little more optimism.
Senators (PP: 23, PK: 23) at Islanders (PP: 27, PK: 11), 5:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Mike Condon (19-3-6, 2.49, .915), Jaroslav Halak (11-9-5, 2.83, .914)
Key Injuries: Casey Cizikas (upper body), Travis Hamonic (wrist), Shane Prince (lower body), Ryan Strome (wrist), John Tavares (lower body), Craig Anderson (rest), Mike Hoffman (rest), Erik Karlsson (foot), Marc Methot (hand), Chris Neil (finger), Dion Phaneuf (rest), Bobby Ryan (upper body), Zack Smith (upper body), Viktor Stalberg (rest), Mark Stone (rest), Kyle Turris (rest)
Most of the Senators will get the night off with the knowledge they will have home-ice advantage in the first round against the Leafs, while the Islanders get a chance to at least say they came one point shy of making the playoffs despite a disappointing season. It’s not as if the Senators won’t care about the game, but with nothing at stake, it seems like they’ll simply be going through the motions to finish the season as they look ahead toward the playoffs.
Avalanche (PP: 30, PK: 29) at Blues (PP: 8, PK: 4), 6:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Calvin Pickard (15-30-2, 2.98, .904), Jake Allen (32-20-5, 2.43, .914)
Key Injuries: Semyon Varlamov (groin), Nikita Zadorov (ankle), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Robby Fabbri (knee), Jori Lehtera (illness), Paul Stastny (lower body), Nail Yakupov (undisclosed)
It’d be nice for the Blues if they can win and take a little momentum with them into the playoffs, especially after needing a shootout to defeat the Hurricanes last night. Defensively, the Blues still don’t breed a lot of confidence, and Allen is still prone to some stretches of poor play. The Avalanche have already ensured they’ll finish the season with more loses (55) than points (48), which tells you what kind of season they’re having.
Hurricanes (PP: 22, PK: 7) at Flyers (PP: 14, PK: 20), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Cam Ward (26-22-11, 2.67, .906), Michal Neuvirth (11-11-1, 2.82, .891)
Key Injuries: Jay McClement (lower body), Ryan Murphy (lower body), Nick Cousins (upper body), Radko Gudas (concussion), Michal Neuvirth (upper body), Michael Raffl (lower body), Matt Read (upper body)
The Hurricanes are an awfully fun bunch to watch because they’re so quick and so skilled, and both teams are expected to be even better next year with more experience and a coming wave of young stars. Jeff Skinner has 37 goals this season, one of only eight players who have scored at least 35 this season.
Panthers (PP: 25, PK: 2) at Capitals (PP: 3, PK: 6), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Reto Berra (0-5-0, 3.45, .876), Braden Holtby (42-12-6, 2.08, .925)
Key Injuries: Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Aaron Ekblad (neck), Roberto Luongo (lower body), Michael Sgarbossa (lower body), John Carlson (lower body), Brett Connolly (illness)
The Panthers won’t provide much of a challenge to the Capitals, who are breathing a sigh of relief after lamenting how long the season felt when they were struggling in the first few months. This is the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era (2004-present) a Russian will not lead the team in scoring, with Nicklas Backstrom being the only Capital to crack 80 points this season.
Penguins (PP: 4, PK: 19) at Rangers (PP: 12, PK: 21), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies: Matt Murray (32-10-4, 2.41, .923), Antti Raanta (16-8-2, 2.26, .922)
Key Injuries: Jesper Fast (undisclosed), Nick Holden (undisclosed), Ryan McDonagh (undisclosed), Rick Nash (undisclosed), Mats Zuccarello (undisclosed), Carl Hagelin (lower body), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Kris Letang (neck), Olli Maatta (hand), Evgeni Malkin (shoulder)
Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals to end what may be his final season as a Penguin, and even though Murray did not dress last night, he’s not reported to be suffering from any ailments. There was never any debate this season about who has No. 1, and it’s possible the Pens just didn’t want to risk playing Murray even as a backup, which prompted the call-up for Tristan Jarry. The Rangers have won just three of their past 10, which is slightly concerning, but they’re a veteran squad and not too much should be read into a potential loss to the Penguins.
Anders Lee, LW, NYI – He’s scored five goals in his past five games to give him 33 on the season, and he’ll be playing a Senators squad that’s resting a lot of their veteran players. Lee isn’t shy about shooting the puck, and perhaps in a game where nothing’s at stake, Doug Weight will give him a little more ice time. He’s registered at least four shots in four of his past five games.