NHL Rink Wrap: Hope for Canucks, despair for Golden Knights

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Monday’s top NHL players

Andrew Hammond, Devils

Remember when Andrew Hammond dragged the Senators to a playoff berth, and himself to all sorts of free McDonald’s food? Frankly, it was always a bit surprising that “The Hamburglar” didn’t receive longer NHL looks after that run, Cinderella or not.

Well, if this represents Andrew Hammond’s last real stretch of NHL opportunities, he may have made an impact on another playoff run. This time, it meant hurting someone’s chance to make it, not spurring a rise.

Hammond made an impressive 42 saves to help the Devils upset the desperate Golden Knights in regulation. While Andrew Hammond frustrated the Golden Knights, Peter DeBoer seemed disappointed with Robin Lehner‘s play.

The Golden Knights are notorious for making big, sometimes almost reckless offseason changes. In the increasingly likely scenario where Vegas misses the playoffs, could something odd happen with Robin Lehner? With typical teams, you’d say “C’mon.” With the Golden Knights? Who knows.

Monday NHL highlights

Johnny Gaudreau reached 600 career points in a very stylish way. The Blackhawks won’t enjoy watching this one in various Gaudreau retrospectives:

Great execution as Elias Pettersson set up Brock Boeser for a pretty 2-on-1 finish:

Tricky stuff from Jesper Boqvist:

Monday NHL Takeaways

Brutal loss for the Golden Knights; Canucks keep hopes alive by beating Stars

Not going to deny it: I didn’t think the Canucks really had any chance of making a playoff push.

After the NHL action on Tuesday, the Canucks aren’t exactly frontrunners. Yet, with a win against a wild-card team in the Stars, and the Golden Knights dropping a painful one to the Devils, things look as bright as one could expect. Really, things do tend to look brighter when you’ve rattled off six straight wins.

No doubt, there’s some relevance to the Canucks beating the Stars, a current wild card team, especially in regulation. Yet, a lot like the Golden Knights, the clearest playoff route for the Canucks is through the Kings and the third spot in the Pacific Division.

For a deeper look at the standings, stay tuned for “The Push for the Playoffs.” But here’s a quick rundown after a big Canucks win and a jarring Golden Knights loss.

Kings, third in Pacific: 90 points in 77 games played (36 regulation/overtime wins)

Predators, first wild card: 91 points in 76 GP (41 ROW)
Stars, second wild card: 91 points in 76 GP (39 ROW)

Golden Knights, outside West playoffs: 87 points in 77 GP (37 ROW)
Canucks, outside West playoffs: 86 points in 76 GP (35 ROW)

[Check out PHT’s latest Power Rankings]

Of course, the Kings would’ve preferred both the Golden Knights and Canucks to lose, preferably in regulation. Still, if they only had one choice, this was the way Los Angeles likely would’ve picked it. The Golden Knights lost to a long-ago eliminated team, in regulation, squandering a precious game in hand and remaining three points behind the Kings.

The Canucks turn around and face the Coyotes on Tuesday. Winning would leave them two points behind the Kings. That’s a bigger gap that it may sound to some, but there’s a key point: the Canucks have a game left against the Kings. Theoretically, the Canucks could win that April 28 contest (in Vancouver) without giving Los Angeles a point, making this close to a “tie.”

Then they’d need to execute, and maybe get a little luck. Not impossible, at least.

Technically, the Golden Knights aren’t totally hopeless, either. But this sure felt like the sort of night you point to when you miss the playoffs, and maybe make some painful offseason decisions.

Wow.

Capitals end Avalanche’s winning streak at 9 games, gain on Penguins

Both the Capitals and Avalanche clinched playoff spots, so their game on Tuesday was about NHL playoff positioning.

With the Avalanche, it’s about winning the Presidents’ Trophy, as they already clinched home-ice advantage in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Capitals hope to jump out of the wild card and ahead of the Penguins for the Metro’s third spot.

So, to quality teams with something to play for. Maybe that’s the formula for some Tom Wilson physicality, and some intrigue. The Capitals ended up beating the Avalanche, ending Colorado’s winning streak at nine games.

Intriguing stuff, as it opens the door for the Panthers to take a slight advantage over the Avalanche in the Presidents’ Trophy race. (The Capitals merely care about chasing the Penguins, who are one point ahead of them, but Washington has a game in hand.)

Either way, though, these teams won’t necessarily enjoy easy hauls. The East is pretty stacked, and the Capitals are likely to face a tough opponent right off the bat. The Avalanche can’t change the Central Division bracket, which means they’re readying to face one of two hot teams in the Blues or Wild if Colorado can get to the second round.

So, yeah, there were stakes here. Both teams should really just get ready and try to stay healthy for the playoffs most of all.

Johnny Gaudreau reaches 600 points, and matches a Jagr milestone

Johnny Gaudreau already passed 100 points for the season for the first time in his already-impressive career. As noted in the highlights section, Gaudreau also passed 600 points for his career during the NHL action on Tuesday.

That 600-point milestone might not be his most impressive of the night. Johnny Gaudreau is now the first player to record at least 85 even-strength points since Jaromir Jagr did it in 1995-96.

It’s a pretty lofty list of 85+ even-strength point seasons, as Johnny Gaudreau is just the 18th player to pull this off in NHL history.

This season is so jam-packed full of outstanding play, it’s not even clear if Gaudreau should be a Hart finalist. It’s clear that he should be in the conversation, though.

He’s also clearly pushing his potential earning power through the roof.

By the way, fellow Flames free agent Matthew Tkachuk is closing in on his own 100-point season, as he’s at 98.

A big story for Tuesday

Another big day in the West playoff races with Canucks, Kings, Predators in action

After the Monday NHL games, several West teams know they need to take care of business on Tuesday.

  • The Predators face the toughest challenge, on paper. They don’t want to loosen their (currently strong-looking) grip on a wild-card spot, so beating the Flames would be a real stress-reducer. If nothing else, Nashville gets the rest advantage.

  • From there, we have two games where playoff hopefuls are heavily favored. First, the Canucks aim for a seventh consecutive win against the Senators. Closing a back-to-back set off rarely counts as easy, but they need this.

  • The Ducks also linger as one of those teams you’re supposed to beat. One of their all-too-rare wins happened against the lowly Blue Jackets. That said, it’s interesting that the Ducks took both the Panthers and Lightning to overtime before that win against Columbus. As sparse as motivation might be right now for the Ducks, they’d also love to spoil things for the nearby Kings. It won’t be the only chance for the Ducks to spite the Kings, as the two teams also meet on Saturday (making it two matchups in the Kings’ next three games).

Monday NHL scores

Flames 5, Blackhawks 2
Capitals 3, Avalanche 2
Kraken 4, Senators 2
Hurricanes 5, Coyotes 3
Devils 3, Golden Knights 2
Canucks 6, Stars 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Rink Wrap: Hope for Canucks, despair for Golden Knights originally appeared on NBCSports.com