Penguins clinch a playoff berth, Bruins miss the cut, Jamie Benn wins Art Ross Trophy, NHL first-round playoff schedule released and much more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Jamie Benn became the first player in Dallas Stars history to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer as the Stars defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1. Benn scored three goals and set up another, giving him 87 points on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Benn on this achievement. No one would’ve predicted he would be an Art Ross candidate when the season began, as linemate Tyler Seguin was considered a more likely candidate. Benn has truly come into his own as a superstar, accomplishing this feat with Seguin sidelined for several weeks by a knee injury.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff berth with a 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Brandon Sutter scored the only goals and Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 28 shots for his league-leading 10th shutout of the regular season.
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE: The Tampa Bay Lightning set a franchise record with their 50th win of the season in downing the Boston Bruins 3-2 in a shootout, with Victor Hedman tallying the winner. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop extended his franchise single-season wins record to 40 games. On the basis of the Penguins and Ottawa Senators victories yesterday (the latter recapped in “Canadian Corner”), the Bruins failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks earned top seed in the Western Conference with a 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Ryan Getzlaf and Jakub Silfverberg scored for the Ducks while Frederik Andersen made 23 saves for the win.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The New York Rangers set a franchise record for wins (53) and points (113) with a 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. Kevin Hayes had a goal and an assists while Martin St. Louis picked up two assists for the Rangers, while Capitals Alexander Ovechkin tallied his league-leading 53rd goal of the season.
STLTODAY.COM: Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen and Jori Lehtera each had two-point performances as the St. Louis Blues doubled up the Minnesota Wild 4-2. The two clubs will face each other in the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Petr Mrazek made 35 saves as the Detroit Red Wings blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Los Angeles Kings ended their season with a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said this season could be his last. Regehr is a 15-year NHL veteran, 11 of them spent with the Calgary Flames. He was part of the Kings 2014 Stanley Cup championship roster. There was also a report yesterday claiming the Kings players were so unhappy with head coach Darryl Sutter that after one late-season loss they barred him from the dressing room.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report comes from the New York Post and not from any of the Los Angeles-based media. Should be interesting to see/hear the Kings’ reaction to this story. If there’s any truth to it, Sutter could lose his job.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Columbus Blue Jackets overcame two deficits to upset the New York Islander 5-4 in a shootout, spoiling the Isles’ final regular-season game in Nassau Coliseum. The Jackets also finished their season on a franchise-best 13 game points streak (12-0-1).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If not for leading the league in man-games lost to injury, I believe the Blue Jackets would have made the 2015 playoffs. Keep an eye on the Jackets next season, as their roster is bound to be healthier and thus much more competitive than they were earlier this season.
SUN-SENTINEL: Jaromir Jagr scored the game winner and also collected an assist to lift the Florida Panthers to a season-ending 3-2 win over his former team, the New Jersey Devils.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche ended their season with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, sending the latter into the playoffs on a four-game losing skid.
Note: Games involving Canadian NHL teams are recapped in “Canadian Corner.”
NHL.COM: The schedule for the opening round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been released by the league. The playoffs begin Wednesday, April 15.
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin is the winner of the 2015 Richard Trophy as this season’s leading goal scorer (53). Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price and Chicago Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford share the Jennings Trophy. As noted earlier, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy as this season’s scoring leader with 87 points.
NBC SPORTS: Here are your NHL 2015 Draft Lottery odds.
NJ.COM: Long-time New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias is undecided if he’ll pursue another contract or retire at the end of next season, when his current deal expires.
SPORTSNET: NHLPA director Donald Fehr told NHL agents the salary cap could reach $68 million for 2015-16, which would be a decline from this season’s $69 million. However, most agents and league executives believe the PA and the NHL will negotiate a number workable for both sides, possible a slight raise to $70 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fehr’s comments suggest the PA membership could vote against exercising its annual five percent escalator clause for next season. There’s been rumblings for months the majority of players under contract for next season aren’t happy over the high rates of escrow (up to 15 percent) being deducted from their pay. A lower-than-projected cap ceiling means a lower rate of escrow.
CBS SPORTS: Providence rallied to a 4-3 victory over Boston University to win the NCAA national hockey championship. Providence held Boston University star and Hobey Baker Trophy winner Jack Eichel (expected to be one of the top-two picks in this year’s NHL draft) to one assist in the championship game.