But admit it: If Lindback gets the hook and Bishop isn’t ready to go, the Lightning would then turn to Kristers Gudlevskis in goal and reprise that wonderful Latvia-Canada game at the 2014 Olympics, when his opposite number in goal just happened to be the Canadiens’ Carey Price. What fun that would be.
The fact that Colorado sneaked through and took top spot in the Central Division was a momentous achievement given that the Avalanche finished 29th overall last season. But they were helped along by a collapse of epic proportions by the St. Louis Blues, who lost their last six in a row.
One of the few teams playing a meaningful game on the final Sunday – because a win could have kept them in contention for the division crown – they instead fell 3-0 to Detroit. Unlike all the teams that rested their stars for the playoffs, the Blues’ injury list runs eight deep – and it includes key players such as T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Berglund, Brendan Morrow, along with defenceman Alex Pietrangelo.
For months now, it has been suggested here that the Olympics could cast a major shadow over these playoffs in the same way that the 2006 Olympics – or when the NHL last travelled overseas for an Olympics – affected results that year in the postseason (when all four favorites in the West were upset in the opening round).
Speaking to reporters following the loss to Detroit, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock riffed on a similar theme, saying: “We had a brutal stretch here at the end. Every team went through a brutal stretch. The teams that had the Olympians, at some period of time, they hit the wall. Chicago's stretch was right after the break, ours happened now.
Most people will give the Blues little chance against a Blackhawks team scheduled to get Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back in time for the playoffs, but Hitchcock believed the break would do his team a world of good as well.
“We can get re-energized, refocused and come back and get ready to play,” he said.
“We got caught in the vortex, just like two or three other teams that had multiple players get caught in the vortex, too. We get a chance to rest. Our work-base part of our practices will be minimal now. We'll have a lot different lineup (by) Thursday."
FAREWELL TEEMU, MARTY AND RYAN: There were a number of memorable regular-season farewells on the final weekend, beginning in Anaheim, where Teemu Selanne has played in his 1,451st and final game over a 21 year career that has him 11th in NHL history with 684 goals and 15th with 1,457 points. He leaves as the Ducks franchise leader in goals (457), assists (531), points (988) and games played (965). Even with Selanne held out of Saturday’s next-to-last game of the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings (because Bruce Boudreau doesn’t play him in back-to-back games), the home team presented him with a specially designed paddleboard to honour his illustrious career. Presumably, he’ll get a chance to catch the odd wave with his surfing buddy, Paul Kariya, who long ago preceded him into retirement.
Devils’ goaltender Martin Brodeur isn’t as certain that he will retire, but he could have played his last game in a New Jersey uniform Sunday, in the 3-2 win over Boston. Brodeur also earned his first NHL victory as a call-up back in March of 1992. Sunday’s win was the 688th of his career. That’s a 137-win lead over the runner-up Patrick Roy (551). Ed Belfour is third at 484. Even though Brodeur faced only 18 shots, he was sentimentally chosen the game’s first star and there was a nice curtain call at the end, returning to the ice from the dressing room as fans chanted “Marty, Marty, Marty.” Brodeur, who turns 42 next month, wants to play next year, but it remains to be seen if it will be in New Jersey, where he will likely have to take an even lesser role with Cory Schneider there, or somewhere else.
The market for free-agent goalies will be fascinating. The one team that could really use an experienced backup is the Phoenix Coyotes, who essentially fell out of the playoff race when starter Mike Smith got hurt and Thomas Greiss couldn’t deliver the necessary saves down the stretch. Twelve goalies changed teams during the regular season this year – a phenomenal and close-to-unprecedented turnover – but Phoenix stood pat and now has to figure if Mark Visentin is ready for regular NHL duty, or if they need to sign a different backup. Maybe Ilya Bryzgalov, who helped back-stop the Minnesota Wild to a playoff spot after they were similarly devastated by goalie injuries, would consider a return to Arizona.