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The Breakaway: Exciting finish

by Shawn P. Roarke

-- Has there ever been a last week of any regular season like this? When the week started, almost nothing had been decided concerning the playoff picture. The Presidents' Trophy, both conference titles, four division titles, nine playoff berths and all 16 playoff seeds were all still in play when the final week opened.

-- Sure, the San Jose Sharks are hot in the NHL, but check out the Baby Penguins in the American Hockey League. They are 13-5 in their last 18 games and have erased a 14-point deficit to tie Philadelphia atop the East Division. Now that is gaining ground.

-- The Ottawa Senators are the opposite of hot. This club, which once led the Eastern Conference by nine points, is in legitimate danger of falling out of the playoff picture after Tuesday's loss to Montreal.

-- Why have the Senators fallen from grace? Check out these numbers. After Tuesday's shutout loss, the usually high-scoring Senators have gone 136:02 without lighting the red lamp. The team is just 26-27-8 since winning 16 of its first 19 games, and its .405 winning percentage in 2008 is the fourth-lowest in the League.

-- No wonder Jason Spezza lost it in Monday's tirade when reporters tried to pin the slump on a lack of effort.

-- Returning to the Sharks, what is going on with Joe Thornton? Suddenly, Jumbo Joe is a scorer and 30 goals is a legitimate target. What happened to the pass-first Thornton of yesteryear?

-- Thornton's evolving game reminds CTN of the change Scott Gomez underwent a few years ago when the New Jersey coaching staff convinced him to trust his shot and to shoot more. It certainly worked for Gomer.

-- Just learned an interesting stat watching TSN's SportCentre on Wednesday morning. It seems Brendan Shanahan leads all active players with 17 Gordie Howe hat tricks, which we all know is a fight, a goal and an assist in the same game. CTN knew there was a reason to like that Shanny kid.

-- Who would have thought Boston's David Krejci would be named one of the NHL's Three Stars of the Week this season? It's not that Krejci didn't deserve the honor – he certainly did – just that he has been a support player all season. It's nice to see the young man get some spotlight time.

-- But nobody deserved spotlight time more than Vancouver's Trevor Linden, who scored two goals for the Canucks in a huge win Sunday that kept the club's playoff hopes alive.

-- Once, two-goal nights were relatively commonplace for Linden. But no longer. Linden had scored just two goals in his previous 29 appearances, which occurred during a 44-game stretch that saw Linden sit as a healthy scratch 15 times.

-- Speaking of big goals from struggling vets, how about the winning goal Owen Nolan scored Tuesday night as the Flames eliminated the Oilers from the playoffs. Think that goal will be remembered in the annals of the Battle of Alberta? You betcha!

-- Edmonton might be eliminated from playoff contention, but you can't say they haven't been entertaining down the stretch. The young, exciting club played pedal-to-the-metal hockey for almost two months and were 13-4-1 in their past 18 games before Tuesday's loss.

Freddy Meyer should consider changing positions. Freddy Meyer's save
-- Maybe Islanders defenseman Freddy Meyer might want to consider a position change. Anybody that saw the save he made Tuesday night against the Devils knows just what CTN is talking about.

-- The Avalanche clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night and are 7-1 with Peter Forsberg in the lineup. A healthy Forsberg has to scare the rest of the Western Conference silly.

-- How weird is it to see Ryan Smyth playing third-line hockey for the Avs?

-- Can you say contract push? Marian Gaborik, set to become a free agent after next season, has set Minnesota Wild records for goals (40) and points (80) in a season. The Wild might just want to think about getting his John Hancock on a new deal this summer.

-- You gotta love the plucky team out in Nashville. They just refuse to give up. Tuesday night, the Preds spotted St. Louis a three-goal lead and roared back to win in OT – on a goal by Rich Peverley, no less.

-- Congrats to the Canadiens, who won the Northeast Division on Tuesday night. The last time Montreal won its division, starting goalie Carey Price was 4.

-- According to reports, Hockey Canada is thinking about having a summer training camp for the World Junior team. CTN is all for this, as it will make more hockey to talk about in the summer. But does Canada really have to change anything about its preparation for the WJC?

--CTN thinks Ken Hitchcock is the perfect choice to coach Canada in this month's World Championships. Potential Team Canada players might not agree, though.

-- Hitch is going to coach Canada and John Tortorella is going to coach Team USA and both teams are in the same preliminary group. You might want to circle the date when these two meet. Their bombastic natures should add to an already great rivalry.

-- CTN was shocked to see Kyle Turris sign with Phoenix this week. CTN was sure last year's No. 1 draft choice would play at Wisconsin for at last two years. With that said, CTN can't wait to see Turris strut his stuff on the NHL stage in this final week.

-- And not for nothing, but wouldn't it be cool to see Turris named to Team Canada's World Championship roster, filling the same role that Jonathan Toews occupied last year?

-- Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft may have not won Tuesday's game against Buffalo, losing in a lengthy shootout, but he should have won the respect of Leafs fans, which unfairly have made him a scapegoat for the team's woes.

-- And speaking of scapegoats in Toronto, isn't it time everybody lay off Mats Sundin? The man has given his heart and soul to the franchise.

-- Good news out of Anaheim. It seems that winger Corey Perry is slightly ahead of schedule and could return from his lacerated quadriceps tendon during the first round of the playoffs.

Early this week, Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire suffered a concussion.
-- The Blue Jackets must be sick of hearing about concussions. Early this week, goalie Pascal Leclaire, defensemen Ron Hainsey and Dick Tarnstrom and forward Fredrik Modin all were shelved with head injuries. Tarnstrom is done for the season.

-- Cristobal Huet has been pretty good for the Caps, no? Without playing favorites, CTN has no problem admitting to pulling for Washington to make the field of 16.

-- It's sad to see Tim Taylor retire without playing again. It would have been nice to see him take the ice again for a fitting goodbye.

-- For years Chris Drury has been the definition of clutch when it comes to hockey players. If he's not careful, though, Johan Franzen in Detroit may take his title. The Wings forward has had the most “clutch” month in recent hockey memory. Franzen scored six game-winning goals in March for the Red Wings.  


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