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Playoff Countdown: Predators, Ducks, Canadiens in

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Saturday, April 11, marks the conclusion to the 2014-15 regular season. Yet, much remains to be decided in the frantic run to the finish line, including playoff positioning and numerous individual accomplishments and milestones. To celebrate the countdown to the end of the season and the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 15, will provide a piece of playoff-related content each day.

Three teams joined the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

The Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens assured themselves of playing beyond April 11 by clinching playoff berths.


Five reasons Canadiens clinched playoff berth

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs one game earlier than they did last season when they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime Saturday.

The Canadiens have six games left; they had five remaining last season when they clinched following a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 1, 2014.

The season prior to that, coach Michel Therrien's first back behind the Montreal bench, the Canadiens clinched with eight games remaining.

For a franchise that had grown accustomed to scratching and clawing its way into the postseason, this has been a welcome change and one of many signs showing how successful Therrien's tenure has been in his second stint with the Canadiens.

Yet in each of those three seasons, there have been reasons to doubt the Canadiens were for real.

In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Montreal began to slip down the stretch after a surprising start coming off a season when they finished last in the Eastern Conference. There were many reasons to believe the Canadiens would fall back to the pack in a full season; their five-game exit in the first round of the 2013 playoffs did nothing to dispel that argument.

The past two seasons, the Canadiens have had poor underlying numbers that suggested they were a flawed team, but they have nonetheless maintained a lofty perch in the standings and comfortably qualified for postseason play.

The reasons they were able to do so this season closely mirror last season's, with the biggest, most glaring one topping the list each time.


Capitals' Fehr excels in new role as checking center

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- More than 10 years have passed since defenseman Mike Green and forward Eric Fehr, now Washington Capitals teammates, played against each other in the Western Hockey League, but Green still has one regret.

"I wanted to drop the gloves with him; I really wanted to go," said Green, who was captain of the Saskatoon Blades. "But Eric, he was too busy scoring goals against us, two or three a game. He was a great goal-scorer, absolutely. We couldn't stop him."


Panthers face must-win games vs. Senators, Bruins

Sunday, 03.29.2015 / 12:43 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – The Florida Panthers have not played a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since losing Game 7 of the first round to the New Jersey Devils in 2012.

The game Sunday at the Ottawa Senators (5 p.m. ET; FS-F, RDS, TSN5) will be as close to a one as Florida has played in three years, followed by a visit to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

The Panthers enter the game in Ottawa three points behind the Senators, who are one point behind the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Florida lost 3-2 in overtime to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday but got some unexpected help from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who rallied to defeat the Senators 4-3 in overtime at home. The Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 earlier in the day.


Five reasons Predators clinched playoff berth

Saturday, 03.28.2015 / 8:00 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Robby Stanley - Correspondent

The Nashville Predators became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a berth in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

The Predators (47-21-8), who have 102 points and lead the Central Division, have been one of the most surprising teams in the NHL this season. Nashville missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons after making the postseason in seven of eight seasons.

Here are five reasons the Predators clinched:


Rangers' Glass fined for butt-ending

Saturday, 03.28.2015 / 7:31 PM / Department of Player Safety News

NEW YORK – New York Rangers forward Tanner Glass has been fined $3,897.85, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for butt-ending Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid during NHL Game No. 1116 in Boston on Saturday, March 28, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 20:00 of the third period. Glass was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for butt-ending.

The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.


Five reasons Ducks clinched playoff berth

Saturday, 03.28.2015 / 4:09 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Anaheim Ducks continue to be one of the NHL's elite teams. For the eighth time in the past 10 seasons, they have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a high-profile coach, a quality goaltending tandem, and three of the top forwards in the League, the Ducks have the assets required to play deep into the playoffs.

Here are five reasons the Ducks clinched a playoff berth:


Top prospects for 2015 draft provide self-evaluations

Saturday, 03.28.2015 / 3:00 AM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Prior to every season, NHL Central Scouting has already evaluated hundreds of the top prospects eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.

In addition to putting together meticulous reports and sharing those details with their colleagues, it's also required that each prospect submit some necessary paperwork.

So even before Erie Otters captain Connor McDavid and Boston University freshman Jack Eichel begin to impress, they've already completed the NHL Central Scouting questionnaire.

When asked for his ambition outside of hockey in September 2014, Eichel wrote: "Be a good father someday."


Thomas Vanek finally found his way with Wild

Friday, 03.27.2015 / 11:50 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Since entering the NHL as a 21-year-old with the Buffalo Sabres, Thomas Vanek has earned the reputation as one of the League's premier goal-scorers. Over that span, Vanek ranks second in power-play goals, ninth in goals and 11th in game-winning goals.

Thomas Vanek
Left Wing - MIN
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 50
SOG: 160 | +/-: -4
It's the reason the Minnesota Wild committed three years and $19.5 million to Vanek in July. But the season wasn't going according to plan for the Wild or for Vanek, who got off to one of the slowest starts of his career.

Minnesota's 16-11-1 start made it easy to forgive Vanek, who was traded twice last season after playing the first eight of his NHL career with the Sabres.

"I went from left to right, to left to right, and finding linemates hasn't been as steady as you'd want it to be," Vanek said last week. "That's what happens when you come to a new place, you try and find chemistry."


Scouts see value in enhanced stats if applied properly

Friday, 03.27.2015 / 5:00 PM / Prospects

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Will the age of enhanced statistics one day change the way NHL Central Scouting goes about its business in evaluating the top players eligible for the NHL Draft?

There's no denying the fact enhanced stats have taken the NHL and its fans by storm. In February, the League announced a partnership with enterprise software company SAP to provide many new statistics via If this stats revolution changes the way people now analyze the game, what could it do for NHL scouts?

"If you add ingredients to help you evaluate someone, you have to use those ingredients," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "But you can't go overboard; we've been baking a cake our whole life and now, if you put icing on the cake, it's better. But if it's all icing it's not a good cake, so I think if you take it too far it might not work.

"The eyeball test still has to be there, you still have to apply what analytics do. It could help you decide between one guy or the other, and I believe it is good for the game."

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Quote of the Day

For six months, it's a really good accomplishment. But as soon as April [11, the end of the regular season] comes around, no one thinks about the regular season anymore. For six months, it's a real battle to get into the playoffs in the NHL these days. There are a lot of good teams, and it takes consistency over a long time.

— Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on clinching a playoff berth after a win against the Islanders on Saturday
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week