Thursday’s top NHL players
The Lightning had a chance to clinch the third spot in the Atlantic, thus relegating the Bruins to the East’s first Wild Card spot. Instead, the Lightning lost to the Blue Jackets (even while dressing some key players) while the Bruins scorched the Sabres.
Patrice Bergeron played a big role in said scorching, scoring four points on a hat trick and an assist.
This marks the eighth hat trick of Bergeron’s career. It’s his second this season, and third since 2021. Remarkably, Bergeron’s collected seven of his eight career hat tricks since 2018. Seems like a nice time to mention that Bergeron should be a runaway Selke Trophy winner this season. Bergeron reached 400+ goals on his career, too.
(Bergeron’s basically aging as well as Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul.)
Thursday NHL highlights
Johnny Gaudreau hit another first as he keeps adding to his Hart Trophy resume. Already (comfortably) over 100 points for the first time in his career, Gaudreau reached 40 goals for the first time. Fittingly, Matthew Tkachuk beautifully assisted on Gaudreau’s 40th goal:
Speaking of reaching that 40-goal mark, David Pastrnak did it for the second time in his career:
Tremendous goal from the AHL’s Laval Rocket; a great pass, and then Brandon Gignac with the outstanding finish.
Enjoy a couple of tasty kick/foot/skate saves from goalies:
Thursday NHL Takeaways
Read up on the longtime Los Angeles Kings forward who was a master at drawing penalties (among other things).
Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy after Avalanche lose to Predators
The Presidents’ Trophy race could have bled into Friday’s NHL games, but the Panthers instead locked it up on Thursday. The Panthers did so by cruising past the Senators, then watched as the Predators rallied to beat the Avalanche in a shootout.
Other NHL playoff picture updates: More to be settled after missed opportunities
While the stakes mainly boiled down to “which of the rich would get richer?,” there were still some Thursday games with NHL playoff positioning implications. Generally, the results mean there will also be Friday games with similar implications.
Again, the Lightning failed to clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division after losing and seeing the Bruins win.
By beating the Avalanche, the Predators finished Thursday a point ahead of the Stars in one of the remaining NHL races: the battle for the West’s first Wild Card spot. As a reminder, the first West wild card faces the Flames, while the second one takes on the Avalanche. (Clearly, not an easy task either way.)
Instead of gaining an advantage over the Penguins for the third Metropolitan Division spot, the Capitals lost to the Islanders. The idle Penguins have a one point lead over the Capitals, with both teams set to play during the Friday NHL action.
As is the custom, the Predators didn’t provide much concrete information about the health of crucial goalie Juuse Saros. It doesn’t sound promising, though.
Things also remain murky for Alex Ovechkin as the Capitals jockey for positioning with the Penguins.
Click here for more on Saros and Ovechkin.
Some fallout from Golden Knights missing the playoffs
PHT’s Adam Gretz on a shocking failed season for the Golden Knights.
Friday’s big NHL story
The virtual last day of the 2021-22 regular season lacks must-win games, but there’s plenty to be decided
As you saw in that NHL playoff update in the Thursday takeaways section, teams had the opportunity to sap any last bit of drama out of Friday’s games. While the Panthers locked down the Presidents’ Trophy from the Avalanche, there’s still NHL playoff seeding to be determined.
The Penguins hope to put the finishing touches on grabbing the Atlantic third seed by beating the Blue Jackets, or at least getting a point. Meanwhile, the Capitals face a team that already clinched the Metro 2 spot: the Rangers.
Similarly, the third seed in the Atlantic remains up for grabs between the Lightning (vs. Islanders) and the Bruins (vs. Maple Leafs). There’s even the parallel of the Maple Leafs possibly facing their first-round opponent if the Bruins were to surpass the Lightning.
Will it be the Predators who will remain the West’s first wild-card seed (and thus, the Flames’ opponent) and hold the Stars to the second WC (partnering Dallas up with the Avalanche)? Friday’s NHL games will also answer those questions.
Frankly, all of these teams should also debate the potential rewards of better playoff seeding with the risks of injuries. When it comes to health, you can only control so much, but it’s a serious gamble to lean on your workhorses when you’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it’s the last “real” day of the NHL season.
(Sorry for disparaging your Sunday makeup game, Kraken and Jets.)
Thursday NHL scores
Bruins 5, Sabres 0
Panthers 4, Senators 0
Hurricanes 6, Devils 3
Blue Jackets 5, Lightning 2
Islanders 5, Capitals 1
Wild 3, Flames 2 (OT)
Predators 5, Avalanche 4 (SO)
Oilers 5, Sharks 4 (OT)
Canucks 3, Kings 2 (OT)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.
NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers win Presidents’ Trophy, but more must be decided originally appeared on NBCSports.com