NHL’s SnapChamp Era begins: Flames, Jets make playoffs; defending-champ Kings – & maybe, Bruins or Pens – are out

Flames players celebrate a 3-1 home win over L.A. – and making the playoffs this year – in front of a raucous home crowd in Calgary. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Watching the NHL’s action play out Thursday night was kind of like covering a political election and seeing the polls come in and herald a new leader for a new era. In one polling station, you had the Boston Bruins – the league’s top regular-season team last year – falling to the Florida Panthers and putting their playoff fate in the hands of the surging Ottawa Senators and wobbly Pittsburgh Penguins (who, like the Bruins, won a Stanley Cup not too long ago); In another station, you saw the Calgary Flames hold off the desperate Los Angeles Kings and register a 3-1 win, eliminating the defending Cup champions from the post-season and securing a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets.

Change was everywhere, and more change could be coming. Depending on what happens Friday and Saturday, the Eastern Conference playoff picture could have three teams (the Sens, Capitals and Islanders) who weren’t in the 2014 post-season, and the Western Conference will have four teams (Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Winnipeg) in this year’s playoffs who weren’t there last year. A 43.75 percent playoff turnover rate is one thing, but it’s not just the fact there are potentially seven new post-season teams this year that’s so intriguing; it’s the great distance teams are falling that has NHL executives clenching their teeth and always worrying about what’s ahead. Read more

Tyler Seguin shows jaw-dropping puck handling skills in must-see first-person video

Jared Clinton
Tyler Seguin (via NHL/YouTube)

If there weren’t enough reasons for Boston Bruins fans to lament the Tyler Seguin trade, watching what the Dallas Stars sniper can do from his perspective will give even the most jaded of hockey fans new appreciation for Seguin’s skills and make Bruins fans wish they could take back that trade all over again.

In another installment of the GoPro “On the Ice” series, Seguin starts by showing his stick skills with two pucks, but quickly ups the ante to a third without missing a beat. Like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane in videos before, Seguin’s seemingly perpetual movement is topped only by a lightning quick release that leaves little wonder why he has scored 35 goals this season. Check it out: Read more

Denis Leary making new hockey-themed TV series – & here are 12 NHL-themed shows that should be next

Denis Leary (Mychal Watts/WireImage via Getty Images)

News Wednesday that actor and famous hockey/Boston Bruins fan Denis Leary was producing for IFC a new series centered around an amateur hockey team should inspire puck fans to pitch more hockey-themed shows to TV networks in the hope they might get picked up and put on air. Here, I’ll show you what I mean, using titles of TV series as examples:

The Walking Dead An outbreak of a mysterious virus ravages the Sabres, Coyotes and Maple Leafs and leads to locals staggering aimlessly and dead-eyed in the streets in Buffalo, Arizona and Toronto. While death sometimes seems to be a merciful option for our heroes during such a bleak time, they bravely continue to search and hope for a place to settle and grow. Read more

Stars’ Nemeth gets puck under visor, has rubber eye patch as potentially scary moment turns hilarious

Jared Clinton
Patrik Nemeth (via NHL/YouTube)

It’s all fun and games until someone gets a puck in the eye. But it’s fun and games once again if that puck happens to get stuck and appear to be a rubber eye patch, like it did for Dallas Stars defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

Early in the second period of Monday’s game against the Flames, a bouncing puck entered the neutral zone and was chopped at by Calgary’s Jiri Hudler. The puck went sailing up and into the face of Nemeth, but somehow, instead of hitting off of his visor or catching him in the cheek, the puck managed to get wedged between Nemeth’s visor and cheek. The puck remained stuck until Nemeth pulled it out, all the while laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation: Read more

Raphael Diaz dekes, fakes, waits and scores beautiful wraparound goal

Jared Clinton
Raphael Diaz celebrates his wraparound goal (Glenn James/Getty Images)

When Jaromir Jagr scored a dazzling wraparound goal Sunday night, it was fun to watch but not all that unexpected. He is, after all, one of the five top scorers in NHL history. Seeing Calgary Flames defenseman Raphael Diaz – he of one goal this season heading into Monday’s game – bury a skillful wraparound, however, is about an unexpected as it gets.

During the second period of a must-win game for the Flames, the puck got worked back to Diaz on the blueline. A massive hole opened in the Dallas defense, allowing Diaz to walk into the zone unimpeded. With a fake shot, Diaz shook Stars winger Curtis McKenzie. By holding his shot, he pulled Kari Lehtonen all the way out of the net. And with a quick curl, Diaz pivoted around the net and buried the go-ahead tally. Read more

Suspend him or not: Brett Ritchie nails Sean Monahan with hit to the head

Jared Clinton
Brett Ritchie (Glenn James/Getty Images)

For the Calgary Flames to hold onto third place in the Pacific Division and ward off the Los Angeles Kings for a playoff spot, they’re going to need all their stars in the lineup. That’s why it was a scary sight when young center Sean Monahan was knocked to his knees following a hit to the head from Dallas Stars winger Brett Ritchie.

In the waning moments of the second period, Monahan and Ritchie came together towards a loose puck in the neutral zone. Ritchie reached the puck first, chipped it with one hand back to the Stars defensemen and then delivered an elbow/punch/butt end to the head of Monahan. Courtesy of Sportsnet, you can check out the play below: Read more

Wild-card primer: who makes it and who misses in the East and West?

Loui Eriksson (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

When the NHL changed the playoff format to include wild-card teams last season, it’s unlikely even they could have imagined a scenario in which the races for the final playoff berths in each conference would be this tight.

With less than 10 games remaining on the schedules of all playoff hopefuls, only six points separate teams in the Western Conference, while a three-team race separated by five points in the Eastern Conference could come down to the final night.

What’s on the horizon for each of the teams, and who stands the best shot at making it in? Read more

Watch Jason Spezza’s magic hands set up Jamie Benn for tap-in

Jared Clinton
Jason Spezza (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It may seem like this hasn’t been the kind of season we’ve come to expect from Jason Spezza, but rest assured he still has an incredible pair of hands and he put them on display Wednesday night.

Midway through the second period of Dallas’ tilt with Calgary and with the Stars on the power play, Spezza received a pass in the right wing circle. As Flames defenseman Kris Russell slid out to attempt to shut down Spezza’s passing lanes, he perfectly toe-dragged the puck around Russell, waited for a passing lane to open up and put a tape-to-tape feed past Calgary’s Dennis Wideman and onto the stick of Jamie Benn for a tap-in: Read more