Today begins the final week of this NHL season that almost never was. Crazy to think just three months ago we were in the unending hell of daily CBA posturing, and now we're in the middle of a historic run by the New York Islanders that is ever, ever, ever so close to resulting in their first playoff spot since Ryan Smyth.
And the playoff spots are starting to fall: Last night Toronto and Vancouver clinched. (The Leafs have the distinction of the worst shot-differential for a playoff team since Montreal in 2002.) Washington's rout of Montreal puts them three points ahead of the ninth-place Jets. This afternoon the Rangers host the Devils.
The Leafs' clinching win over Ottawa last night means today the Isles are in sole possession of sixth place in the East. Their magic number is three.
More coverage of the Isles after last night's 5*-4 shootout win:
- In the CP, Jets coach Claude Noel (who expected the Isles to test the Jets): "I think it's a point gained for me," he said. "We chased the game. It was a difficult game to play. We knew the opponent, they played the way we thought."
- If you missed it, here's Lubomir Visnovsky's game-saver in OT. | Quotes on that from Lubo in Newsday's bit about Brian Strait's return.
- Recaps: NYIFYI | IPB | Winnipeg Free Press | Arctic Ice Hockey with their reactions, plus zone entry and Fenwick data. | Post-game audio links at Illegal Curve
- The Checking Line: Tavares for MVP | Isles > Rangers
- Down on the farm, Anders Nilsson got his first start in months, stopping 27 of 29, but the Sound Tigers lost 3-0 to Providence. Michael Fornabaio has notes in his post-game blog.
Oh, and elsewhere: This is hilarious, but seems a little dirty to me.