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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Busy Monday has huge postseason implications

Coaches riding hot hand in goalie decisions; Hurricanes look to climb standings

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Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2018 NHL postseason.

There are 28 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open. Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

 

What's on tap

There are eight games on the schedule Monday and each could have an impact on the race for positioning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-CR, NHL.TV):  The Hurricanes have two points in their past three games and are six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Vegas Golden Knights at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; SN, NBCSP, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV): The Golden Knights are 3-1-0 in their past four games and first in the Pacific Division, 12 points ahead of the San Jose Sharks. They are five points behind the Nashville Predators for first in the Western Conference. The Flyers are third in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the New Jersey Devils and three behind the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for first.

Winnipeg Jets at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, NBCSWA, TSN3, NHL.TV): This game features a matchup between the NHL's two 40-goal scorers, right wing Patrik Laine of the Jets and left wing Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Capitals could re-take the Metropiltan lead from the Penguins. The Jets are six points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for second in the Central Division.

Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV): The Blue Jackets have won four straight and are one point behind the Devils for the first wild card from the Eastern Conference and two points ahead of the hard-charging Florida Panthers.

Ottawa Senators at Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV): The Panthers have won eight of their past nine games, and are two points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, and three points behind the Devils for the first wild card.

St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; SNE, SNO, PRIME, FS-MW, NHL.TV):Looking to end a two-game losing streak, the Ducks are one point behind the San Jose Sharks for second in the Pacific Division. The Blues have won two straight and are three points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

Vancouver Canucks at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, SNP, NHL.TV): The Kings have won four of their past six games and are one point behind the Avalanche for the second wild card from the Western Conference, and three points behind the Dallas Stars for the first wild card.

Detroit Red Wings at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, FS-D, NHL.TV): San Jose has won three of its past five games and is second in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Ducks.

 

If playoffs started Monday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Monday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets
(1M) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (WC1) New Jersey Devils
(2M) Washington Capitals vs. (3M) Philadelphia Flyers
(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference

(1C) Nashville Predators vs. (WC2) Colorado Avalanche
(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars
(2C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3C) Minnesota Wild
(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Anaheim Ducks

 

Need to know

Here are the stories that will have you primed for all the playoff implications Monday and beyond:

 

Life begins at 40

All eyes will be on Capital One Arena on Monday when the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals battle for valuable playof points. But, there is a compelling race for the Rocket Richard Trophy as well as the red-hot Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, the only two players in the League with 40 goals, go head-to-head. Tom Gulitti looks at a compelling race.

Video: Laine, Marchand, Malkin named 3 Stars of the Week

 

Rocket Richard tracker

So, how does the race for the goal-scoring title stack up? Glad you asked. Check out our daily tracker.

 

Net loss

Winnipeg, trying to catch Nashville, is dealing with injuries, including the absence of backup goalie Steve Mason for at least two weeks. Tom Gulitti catches us up on the latest.

 

Red-hot rookie

The Golden Knights have had many surprise stars in their run to the top of the Pacific Division. Mike Morreale focuses on yet another in the latest installment of Rookie Report.

 

Milestone for Marc-Andre

Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will start against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. If he wins, it will be No. 400 in his career. Mike Zeisberger caught up with "Flower" this weekend.

 

Bruised Bruins

Another day, another missing player for the Bruins. Sunday, they played without forwards Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and Brad Marchand and defenseman Charlie McAvoy, yet, the Bruins are holding strong. Tracey Myers explains how.

 

Thought for the day

Now is not the time to play favorites. Coaches throughout the League are showing that when they name their starting goalies during the final month of the regular season. Look no further than the tightly bunched Metropolitan Division.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz will give Philipp Grubauer a third straight start when the Capitals play the Jets. Incumbent starter Braden Holtby has been pulled in three of his past six starts (1-5-0, 3.66 goals-against average .842 save percentage).

Devils coach John Hynes might be in a similar situation at the Golden Knights on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, MSG+, NHL.TV). The Devils (35-26-8, 78 points) hold the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Cory Schneider, the No. 1, is 0-3-0 with a 3.00 GAA and .888 save percentage in three games since returning to the lineup on March 1 after missing 16 games with a groin/hip injury. Keith Kinkaid (17-9-2), meanwhile, is 4-1-0 with a 2.20 GAA and .934 save percentage in his past five starts. Kinkaid made 34 saves in a 3-2 shootout win at the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

So long as the Devils keep finding a winning formula with Kinkaid as the starter, it may well be in Hynes' best interest to keep Kinkaid in the lineup. He has alternated goalies for the past five games, but based on recent performance, Kinkaid might be the best option for now. -- Mike Morreale, NHL.com Staff Writer

Video: NJD@NSH: Kinkaid denies Turris twice with great saves

 

About last night

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Dallas Stars 1 --  The Penguins moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division, taking a one-point lead on the Washington Capitals. The Stars remained two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, and three points behind third-place Minnesota Wild in the Central Division.

New York Islanders 5, Calgary Flames 2  --   Goalie Christopher Gibson made 50 saves to help the Islanders end an eight-game losing streak and move within seven points of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the East. Calgary remained two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card in the West.

Chicago Blackhawks 3, Boston Bruins 1  --   The Bruins saw their six-game winning streak come to an end and remained six points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lighting in the Atlantic Division. The Blackhawks are 12 points behind the Kings for the second wild card.

Arizona 1, Vancouver Canucks 0 -- Darcy Kuemper had his first shutout for the Coyotes, who have 13 of 20 standings points in their past 10 games, but are 25 points behind Colorado for the second wild card from the West. Vancouver is 21 points behind the Avalanche.

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