8

The Nation Notebook: Ruff goes, Sheahan scores, and Playoff Matchups

The Nation Network Notebook is a regular feature that rounds up interesting news, stories, and rumours from around the NHL that don’t quite deserve their own article. 

The Stars part ways with Lindy Ruff. Riley Sheahan ends his goal drought. The playoff format is set, and Vancouver finishes strong.

STARS FIRE RUFF

The Stars become the first NHL team to part ways with their head coach. Lindy Ruff’s firing wasn’t hard to forecast. This was Ruff’s fourth year and his second year out of the playoffs with Dallas, although he did win a round with them last season.

I’m going to give Ruff a bit of slack here. It’s hard to see any coach have success when his two goalies are Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Their defence didn’t help much either. The Stars let all of Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, and Kris Russell go in free agency, and replaced them with Dan Hamhuis and a bunch of rookies. Hamhuis can still be a solid defenceman, but that defensive group is way too green to compliment their forwards. The Stars have a strong group of forwards, but they’ll need to add significantly on defence and goaltending if they want to be in a different position next year.

SHEAHAN FINALLY SCORES

Riley Sheahan finally ends his ridiculous goal drought. The Red Wings forward got his first (and second) in the last game of the season and final game at the Joe Louis Arena. You have to feel for Sheahan. It must have been trying to go the entire season without a goal, and it was not without effort, as he had over 100 shots before finally hitting the back of the net.

Then he gets two, and scores the final goal at the Joe which is pretty awesome. What a way to end a drought.

PLAYOFF MATCHUPS

We didn’t get the Battle of Alberta or the Battle of Ontario, but there are some interesting matchups ahead with the playoffs now set. Washington is still facing the easiest opponent possible, but then things get a little muddy. Pittsburgh play Columbus, who are second and third in the conference. Then the fourth and fifth seeds play one another, and same with the six and seventh.

The big loser here is Columbus, although they draw a Penguins team without Kris Letang. It seems odd to have a 100-point season and face one of the conference’s best.

Meanwhile, the second team in the west will meet the fifth, and the third will play the seventh. I’m a fan of the old first plays eight and so on, but the NHL loves their brackets and this seeding came close to bringing some huge rivalries in the first round, it just still doesn’t sit right.

CANUCKS’ CRUCIAL TANK

The Vancouver Canucks’ two losses against the Edmonton Oilers on the weekend might be some of the most important games since the team appeared in the Stanley Cup Final back in 2011.

The Canucks clinched second last, and that was especially important given the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights hold the third best odds at the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, meaning one win could have sent them into 27th overall, and even further back depending on how the lottery balls fall. Vancouver will now have, at worst, the fifth overall pick, which could make all the difference when it comes to draft day.

Last year’s draft saw the Canucks fall from third to fifth, and they lost a shot at Pierre Luc Dubois and Jesse Puljujarvi in the process. It’s about giving yourself the best odds possible, and that’s what the Canucks accomplished given the dire circumstances in Denver. They now have the opportunity to draft a highly skilled player, and hey, maybe even first overall potentially.

  • AL

    Can someone please explain this whole bracket thing that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. If the oilers and flames both win in the first round do they play each other or not. I’m seeing conflicting accounts about this and I want the damn truth. Thx.

    • Eggs Bennett

      Yes they will play each other. The confusion is whether re-seeding takes place after the first round (I.e. Chicago and Calgary advance, does #1 play the lowest seeded team WC#1?) The answer is no, the winner of Chicago-Nashville will play the winner of Central #2 & #3 (MIN-STL). Winner of ANA-CGY plays winner of Pacific #2 & #3 (EDM-SJS). Conference finals will be Central winner vs Pacific winner. The only case where conference finals would be two teams from the same division is if the WC teams end up in the other division’s bracket (e.g. imagine LAK made the playoffs instead of NSH and beat out all the central teams).

      • Stan Smith

        I have a difficult time wrapping my head around the NHL’s wisdom in the present set-up. Before the recent change the schedule featured more games between division rivals but the playoff set up was 1st vs 8th, 2nd vs 7th etc in each conference.

        Under the present format they play a more balanced schedule, but the playoffs are set up so division rivals play each other. To me they should have either played a more balanced schedule and left the playoff format the same, or kept the division bias in the regular season and playoffs.