The Anaheim Ducks became the first team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 3-1 win and a 4-0 sweep of the Calgary Flames on Wednesday in Calgary — the fifth sweep in Ducks’ history.
The St. Louis Blues couldn’t do the same to Minnesota in a 2-0 loss, but the Blues could get center Paul Stastny back for Game 5 in St. Paul.
Good to see Paul Stastny back on the ice with his teammates after skating on his own. #stlblues being careful and smart with #1 center
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) April 18, 2017
With Boston on the brink and Washington all square with Toronto, we give you Wednesday’s best and worsts.
Best game: Washington 5, Toronto 4 — Let’s face it. The Columbus-Pittsburgh series and this one are the two most entertaining series of this postseason, even with the ridiculous plays that Erik Karlsson is making for Ottawa on a nightly basis.
Even when Washington took a 4-1, first-period lead, you had the feeling the Leafs were still in it. They pulled within a goal twice, the last time on Tyler Bozak’s goal with 27 seconds remaining, but the Caps are heading back to DC with home-ice advantage restored.
Best individual performance: Tom Wilson, Washington — Remember that Mike Babcock quote about Tom Wilson? No? OK, here it is…
Babcock on Wilson: "Nothing against Wils because he works hard and all that, but he’s not as big of concern as lot of people on their team."
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 11, 2017
We’re not saying the Maple Leafs should have really been concerned with Wilson, who had zero career playoff goals before this postseason, and 21 career goals. Still, when asked these types of questions, coaches are always best served to lie or dance around the query.
Wilson had two goals in Wednesday’s series-evening 5-4 win, and he has three goals in the series, which is as many as Alex Ovechkin.
— Margie Gorman (@margie_gorman) April 20, 2017
Oh yeah, Wilson also saved a goal that would have tied the game by scraping the puck off the goal line after it had slipped behind Braden Holtby. Tom Wilson: playoff legend.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 19, 2017
Best run: Anaheim Ducks — Anaheim is 18-2-3 since the start of March and 8-0-1 since the start of April. Could the Ducks be real Cup contenders?
Best better-late-than-never performance: Martin Hanzal, Minnesota — Hanzal was the Wild’s big trade-deadline acquisition, but he had no points and was minus-1 in the first three games of this series, despite a sparkling 66.32 Corsi For percentage. After Ryan Reaves nearly took his head off early in the game, Hanzal was a force all over the ice, scoring his fifth career playoff goal and winning battles everywhere as the Wild stayed alive with a 2-0 win.
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 20, 2017
That Hanzal is so hot right now. pic.twitter.com/VpTl4AV9EW
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) April 20, 2017
Best closer: Bobby Ryan, Ottawa — The Senators’ forward has game-winning goals in back-to-back games and five points in this postseason after notching 13 goals and 25 points during the regular season.
“When you look at the big picture, this is an opportunity, I’ve said it before, to wash that season,” Ryan told NHL.com. “I’m trying to focus on contributing now and be in the moment with it. So far, so good. There are a lot of guys in here that are going to contribute in some way down the stretch, and right now the pucks are going in for me, and that could shift. But I’ll take it.”
Best assist: Jake Allen, St. Louis — The Blues goaltender was just clearing a puck around the boards. Unfortunately for Allen, he didn’t look first and put a pass right on the stick of Charlie Coyle on the right half wall. Coyle’s shot beat Allen back to the net.
Worst decision by NHL Player safety (this week, anyway): Leon Draisaitl’s slap on the wrist — Sigh. We could have guessed that Draisaitl wouldn’t get anything more than his initial game misconduct and a slap on the wrist that is the maximum fine allowed under the CBA. When Matt Calvert only gets one game for on-ice assault with a deadly weapon, how can you reasonably expect more for a mere spear to the genitals? ‘Oh, that happens all the time’ goes the NHL rationale. And so the rest of us stare numbly, mumble ‘mmhmm,’ and blink to hide the feeling that we are talking to a less evolved life form.
Worst prediction: Boston backers — Remember all those numbers that told us Boston was very unlucky much of the season — that the Bruins were an excellent possession team that was due for better luck and poised to make a deep playoff run? Whatever. The Bruins have lost three straight one-goal games to Ottawa and looked utterly lifeless with their season in jeopardy on Wednesday at TD Garden.
Worst kept secret: Alex Ovechkin, Washington — We’ll let you in on a horribly kept secret. Ovi likes to shoot from the left circle. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith calls it his “honey hole.” He did it again on Wednesday.
Absolute laser from Ovechkin pic.twitter.com/QOw9FQjRMx
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 19, 2017
Props to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan for explaining how this keeps happening (pay wall alert).
Worst goalie interference call: Nicklas Backstrom on Frederik Andersen — OK, so when the skater (Backstrom) is doing his best to get away and the goalie (Andersen) ties up his skates with his stick and wraps his glove hand around him, that’s goalie interference, but when Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson slaps Chicago goalie Corey Crawford’s stick and interferes with Crawford’s left pad, all the while looking at Crawford as he spins the goalie to his right, that is not goalie interference. Got it.
Here's Nate's overturned goal for goaltender interference pic.twitter.com/970ZyK9IdH
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) April 20, 2017
Best job overcoming adversity: Washington — Toronto’s first goal went off Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman’s skate. Toronto’s second goal went off Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov’s skate. Toronto’s third goal went off a linesman. Oh yeah, the Caps also had to kill off a 5-on-3 power play to start the third period and they did. Well done.
Worst goal: Brian Elliott, Calgary — This has mostly been a season to forget for Elliott, who has not solved the Flames’ goaltending woes. The season ended the way it started for Elliott, as he gave up this horrific goal in Anaheim’s series clinching win. Elliott was pulled after a second goal on three shots.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) April 20, 2017
Worst feeling: Calgary GM Brad Treliving — Inexplicably, Treliving doesn’t have a contract beyond this season and now he has to squirm and wonder about a future that should be secure after the red-hot Ducks swept the Flames.
Best quote: Barry Trotz, Washington coach on his Game 4 star — “He’s Tom Wilson. Everybody knows who Tom Wilson is. That’s what he brings.”
Best thing to look forward to Thursday: Chicago at Nashville, Game 4. Nashville goes for the knockout punch against top West seed Chicago, leading the series 3-0, and looking every bit like the better team in this series.