There are a lot of highly-enjoyable storylines to follow during the playoff chase. During the Game 48-to-Game 82 stretch in a normal season, a couple of teams that don’t belong fall out of the chase (last season it happened to be the Minnesota Wild and the Toronto Maple Leafs) but this season there’s some added excitement because teams that specifically don’t belong are in the chase.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs for the first time in nine years—the playoff team with the worst shot differential numbers since the 2002 Montreal Canadiens, as per Elliotte Friedman at Hockey Night in Canada. The hockey blogosphere is abuzz with the success of the new-look Columbus Blue Jackets, or “New York Rangers West”, or quite simply “Lumbus” and as of Sunday night, they hold a slippery grip on the 8th spot.
So it’s not the low number of games that is keeping Anaheim and Toronto in the playoffs, Pittsburgh and Chicago picking up points like gangbusters, and Florida unable to make a save while the New Jersey Devils could become the best team to miss the postseason probably ever. There’s something else happening this season. Perhaps the short turnaround, the extra days off, the more four- and five-game weeks is giving an added boost to certain teams. Who knows.
The KHL’s major junior league doesn’t usually get any attention in the media, but after seeing this Artem Voronin shootout goal to give his team, MHC Spartak, the win, maybe we should start to check in a little more often, especially during any future shootouts.
Lehtonen’s goals-against-average sits at 2.58, which is just fine, but when you note that his save percentage is .926, you know that he’s getting hung out to dry by his team in Dallas.
Last night it happened again, only this time it was a nifty feed from Pavel Datsyuk that caused the crease chaos. How on earth this doesn’t end up in the net I’ll never know, assuming the tender doesn’t have access to some sort of force field he strings along the goal line. The .GIF shows it best:
If you missed it last night, Kari Lehtonen made a ridiculous save on a great play from Columbus Blue Jacket’s defenseman Jack Johnson. The initial save is impressive, but that he manages to track it back behind him as it’s heading in, catch it, and roll his wrist over to keep it out was incredible.