What We Learned: No sympathy for NHL’s playoff berth chokers

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Three teams entered their final games of the season with one simple mandate: win and you're in.

And every one of them managed to barely get up for the biggest games of the season.

The ugliest loss of the three was by Carolina, though that was probably to be expected. After all, the 'Canes were only hanging around at all given the Rangers' complete inability to seal things up down the stretch, letting a mediocre team with no defense to speak of grip tenuously to the edge of oblivion through the sheer force of Cam Ward's will.

So the Lightning went into Raleigh and the game was done for all intents and purposes within the first 11 or so minutes. It was already 4-0 Bolts when the Hurricanes showed any life at all. But that was pretty much the season in a nutshell: Too many weak team efforts.

In the game, as he did all season, Cam Ward faced a ridiculous number of shots because not only did the defense stink, the offense couldn't effectively hold the puck for long enough stretches to prevent the other team from getting chances either.

It was poorly constructed and poorly coached from Day 1, and frankly, the Hurricanes deserved to be in the NHL playoffs about as much as your beer league team.

The same is true, though to a lesser extent, of the Stars. They just weren't a good team this season. Sub-league average offense. Almost exactly league average defense. That shouldn't get you into the playoffs, and it didn't. That's fair enough.

But to have that type of game against the nothing-to-play-for Wild? That's just inexcusable.

(Coming Up: Sidney sets records even when he's not playing; Alain Vigneault's job status; fare thee well, Adam Foote; why DeBoer was fired; Zetterberg's status; Justin Williams and Dave Bolland working back; cringe-worthy Canadiens fan video; Brad Richardson got beat up by an old dude; Vinny Lecavalier, pillow fighter; getting drunk on T.J. Oshie highlights; a terrible trade for the Flyers; and ESPN's NHL news fail.)

Try as Loui Eriksson might, the team just had no interest in winning the game, and instead appeared to have actively tried to lose it. Just look at the goal to open the scoring. The Stars were outcompeted in just about every aspect of that entire play and eventually gave up a goal to Brad Staubitz.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

That's three-goals-this-season Brad Staubitz. Same goes for the Colton "Six-games ]-this-season" Gillies goal.

Like Carolina, The Stars just didn't compete like it wanted to be playing that day, and indeed, for the rest of the summer. They got their wish. Now all their fans have to look forward to is watching Brad Richards leave on July 1. What a time to be a Dallas fan.

So that let the Blackhawks, who at least turned in a feisty performance in their must-win loss, sneak into the playoffs through an unattended back door.

But even after Michael Frolik opened the scoring, the team seemed to think that was somehow going to be enough to dispirit the Red Wings. If hockey pants had pockets, the Blackhawks would have had their hands planted firmly in them while the Red Wings scored three goals in the space of 15 minutes. The comeback attempt was admirable, or would have been had it not sandwiched that Danny Cleary goal.

And remember all that talk about how huge Jonathan Toews came up in OT against the Blues earlier in the week? Yeah, about that…

In two games against the Red Wings — either of which would have sealed up the eighth and final playoff seed so that the Blackhawks weren't chewing their fingernails to bloody nubs hoping the freakin' Wild pulled out a W — he went 0-fer with just three shots on goal. That's hardly leading by example.

Yeah, I know, we're all supposed to be thrilled about this coming Blackhawks/Canucks grudge match of a series. But having seen the complete lack of giddy-up Chicago had against their biggest rivals. At home. In a game they absolutely positively had to win.

I'm not quite so excited any more.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: And now Brad Richardson will be able to tell his kids he got punched in the face by a hand that also scored 630 NHL goals.

What a great photo.

Atlanta Thrashers: Here's a thing everyone probably just remembered: Yesterday might have been the last NHL game in Atlanta ever. At least until the league expands to 40 teams by 2020.

Boston Bruins: I don't know what Nathan Horton's doing fighting in the second-to-last game of the season, but this was a hell of a scrap.

Claude Julien probably gave him a little bit of a talkin'-to after this one.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres went 9-1-2 in their last 12 games of the season and are 29-11-6 since December 28. One really gets the feeling they're going to steamroll the slip-sliding Flyers.

Calgary Flames: The headline says "Flames' roller-coaster season won't soon be forgotten" but it sure won't be for lack of trying.

Carolina Hurricanes: Look for Paul Maurice to catch hell for the 'Canes not making the playoffs. Meanwhile Jim Rutherford will lean back in his office chair, give another mediocre forward a too-big contract and wonder why Cam Ward sent him another email complaining about facing 10,000 shots a night.

Chicago Blackhawks: Dave Bolland skated with the team on Friday, the first time he's done so since picking up a concussion in early March. Getting him back at any point in the playoffs would be huge.

Colorado Avalanche: Yesterday was Adam Foote's last ever NHL game. Kind of weird to think about that. So here's a nice tribute video the Avs put together for him.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Wow, the Blue Jackets have picked in the top 8 spots of the draft in every season of their existence but one. You'd think at some point they'd almost luck into winning the division with that many high picks. But then you'd also think the Blue Jackets would be able to stop going out of their way to be terrible, so you'd be wrong.

Dallas Stars: Marc Crawford was probably just trying to keep it fun for his guys the day before the most important game of the season, but when you absolutely need to win in regulation or overtime, maybe you don't practice the shootout. (Though in reading that, I now wish that game had gone to an absolutely meaningless shootout and Dallas had won with ease.)

Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg is out to start the playoffs, but Niklas Kronwall is back. Win some, lose some.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers finished the season in last place and have a really great shot at getting the No. 1 overall pick as a result. This team is going to be terrifying in about three years if it can ever find someone to play defense and goal.

Florida Panthers: Steven Weiss on Pete DeBoer getting canned: "At the end of the day, you need the players. I don't think he had that here, those guys you could lean on to get the job done." Headline next week will be "Weiss traded to Edmonton or somewhere like that."

Los Angeles Kings: Justin Williams is going to practice today and will probably return to the lineup when he tells Terry Murray he's good to go. With any luck, he'll be back just in time for the Kings to get bounced by the Sharks.

Minnesota Wild: Big-time headline writing on the Wild's website.

Montreal Canadiens: Here's one of those music-video-lip-synched-by-an-entire-school things that were all the rage two years ago. Those kids sure love the Canadiens and speaking French and being really bad at lip synching.

Nashville Predators: The Predators haven't scored a goal in St. Louis since Nov. 11. Luckily for them, they won't have to worry about facing the Blues in the playoffs for a good long while.

New Jersey Devils: Here's video of Alexander Urbom's first career NHL goal. Pretty impressive presence around the net for a 20-year-old defenseman.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro really doesn't appreciate your insinuations that there might be a goaltending controversy for the Isles next season. When asked about the potential three-way tussle, he said, "Who are we talking about?" Oh jeez Rick, I dunno, the two guys who are way better at your job than you, maybe?

New York Rangers: John Tortorella said, "Too many good things have happened with this club." Well, that's one way to put it. Not an especially accurate one, but one nonetheless.

Ottawa Senators: Regarding the Sens' coaching search: "The jobs of Claude Julien in Boston, Alain Vigneault in Vancouver, Bruce Boudreau in Washington and Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia are at risk should their teams not get out of the first round." That can't be true, can it? Laviolette maybe. Julien there's an outside chance. But Vigneault? Really?

Philadelphia Flyers: "I think they're more ready than last year's team," said Ed Snider, who is apparently blissfully unaware that the Flyers won just seven of their last 21 games, most of which were against bottom feeders any team with legitimate designs on another run to the Stanley Cup Finals would have dispatched with ease.

Phoenix Coyotes: Hey remember how good last year's Wings/Coyotes series was? Yup, that's happening again. It's going to rule.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Here's a really great stat they featured on the Penguins' game broadcast: Sid Crosby played the fewest games by a team's points leader in NHL history. Crosby's 66 in 41(!) was 16 more than Kris Letang. You can also ignore that thing about Ales Hemsky's team-leading point total since he, y'know, didn't lead the Oilers in points this year.

San Jose Sharks: Bad news, Kings fans: Ryane Clowe will be back in the saddle for the playoffs after missing the last two games. The guy had one heck of a season this year that's for sure.

St. Louis Blues: Only two players on the current Blues roster were with the team when Dave Checketts bought it: Barrett Jackman and David Backes. The takeover took place prior to the 2006-07 season, so it wasn't even that long ago.

Tampa Bay Lightning: A thing I never wanted to think about: "When C Vinny Lecavalier and D Pavel Kubina were roommates during the 1999-2000 season, their daily activities included a combination wrestling and pillow fight before turning in at night."

Toronto Maple Leafs: Joe Colborne made his NHL debut in the final game of the season and didn't look completely lost. The Leafs even have an idea of how to use him going forward, if you can believe that.

Vancouver Canucks: So the Canucks finished with the most goals for, the fewest goals allowed and the best power play. But not the best penalty kill; they only tied for second. What a bunch of losers. Seriously.

Washington Capitals: The Caps lost three of their four games against the Rangers this year. By a combined score of 17-6. Ouch.

Gold Star Award

Whoever this girl is, she is a genius.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

That's Masters-winning form right there. Or would be if Augusta let women within 50 yards of anything they might ruin with their woman-ness.

Minus of the Weekend

Sorry Steelers fans, but ESPN has some bad news for you…

Play of the Weekend

TJ Oshie is realllllllllly good.

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "Rotten Scoundrel" sure is good at hockey things.

To Flyers: Michael Grabner

To Islanders: Jeff Carter



Don't quit your day job, Chief. Whatever that is.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

What to Read Next