NHL Playoff Push: Let the post-season race begin

Lou Lamoriello talks about a quite deadline for the Toronto Maple Leafs, adding Brian Boyle and staying the course.

It’s the day after the NHL Trade Deadline, which marks the unofficial beginning of the playoff push.

Teams have made their roster moves, players have been rented, and all that’s left is a little fine tuning and a lot of important games.

Let’s take a look at the league right now, where teams stand, and what our potential post-season matchups could be. (Hint: There are some new faces in the playoff picture, and plenty of Canadian teams, too.)

We’ll begin in the East.


If the season ended today…

(M1) vs. (WC2)

(A1) vs. (WC1)

(M2) vs. (M3)

(A2) vs. (A3)

Series we’d love to see: Maple Leafs vs. Capitals
Let’s be honest: When you look at the above potential matchups, there’s not a series in there we’d pass over (Blue Jackets-Penguins rematch? Yes please.) but we simply cannot resist the opportunity to see the young, rookie-filled Maple Leafs take on the powerhouse Capitals in what would be the ultimate David vs. Goliath showdown. The Capitals look like they’re ready to stop talking about the playoffs and start winning them, while the Maple Leafs’ inexperienced, exciting style of play would be all the more thrilling in a do-or-die matchup.


Here’s what the Eastern Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss? Oh, just the NHL Trade Deadline. While most of the big names were moved before the final day, Wednesday still featured plenty of depth pieces swapped. On the Canadian front, the Habs got bigger (and peskier), the Senators shipped Curtis Lazar out west, and the Maple Leafs freed Frank Corrado and got another seasoned veteran in return.

Wednesday evening was quiet by comparison, with just two NHL games on the schedule. Tampa Bay, who came out as sellers at the deadline, defeated the Hurricanes in overtime without Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle, and Valtteri Filppula—all of whom are no longer with the club. The Penguins, meanwhile, didn’t have their best showing—they were steamrolled 4-1 by Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Fun fact: In all, there were 18 trades on Wednesday (not including the Jannik Hansen and Steve Ott trades that happened late Tuesday night). Of the 33 players that switched teams at the deadline, 17 had found themselves on waivers at some point this season. Eleven draft picks were involved, though we didn’t see any clubs let go of those all-important first-rounders.

Thursday’s game to watch: Predators vs. Canadiens
The Atlantic-leading Canadiens made a splash at the deadline, but their depth moves this year pale in comparison to last June, when they shocked the hockey world by dealing P.K. Subban to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber. We’ve digested, dissected, and analyzed that massive trade from just about every angle since, but we have yet to see Subban return to the Bell Centre. Well, we’re about to. You can watch the game at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.


If the season ended today…

(C1) vs. (WC2)

(P1) vs. (WC1)

(C2) vs. (C3)

(P2) vs. (P3)

Series we’d love to see: Oilers vs. Ducks
The Oilers back in the playoffs? That’s a welcome sight for any hockey fan—except if you side with the Ducks, of course. The Oilers have finally learned how to win this season and have been a legitimate threat in the Pacific all year. And they finally have the size needed to go up against a heavy-hitting team like the Ducks. This could be a great, physical series.

Here’s what the Western Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss? Off the ice, the Oilers made a few minor adjustments at the deadline, adding depth with David Desharnais, while the Flames landed Curtis Lazar, who hasn’t been able to reach his potential in Ottawa but will be looking for a spark with the Flames.

On the ice, the Blackhawks handily defeated the Penguins thanks to Patrick Kane’s hat trick.

Fun fact: Kane put on quite the performance, but his teammate, Richard Panik, may have stolen the show with his gorgeous goal against Marc-Andre Fleury (who, yes, is still a Penguin).

Thursday’s game to watch: Kings vs. Maple Leafs
We would’ve said the Canucks vs. Sharks here, as we’d hoped to see the newly-traded Jannik Hansen take on his old club so soon after being moved to a division rival. Hansen, however, has been delayed by visa paperwork, so we’ll mark our calendars for when these teams next meet (April 2, FYI) and look instead at the Kings as they host the Maple Leafs.

Los Angeles is sitting just outside of a wild card spot, making every game a must-win. The team’s newest rental, Jarome Iginla, will make his debut in a No. 88 Kings sweater, and will be reunited with coach Darryl Sutter as the future Hall of Famer embarks on what could be his final playoff push.

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