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Last night, the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets punched their tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and finalized the field in the Eastern Conference. All there is left to do is determine the seeding. The Red Wings are guaranteed to be in the wild card since they cannot catch the Tampa Bay Lightning for the third spot in the Atlantic Division. In the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets will duke it out with the Philadelphia Flyers for third place and the winner will avoid facing one of the two juggernauts in the East, the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the two teams are tied with 91 points, the Flyers have the advantage with a game in hand over the Blue Jackets.
The Red Wings make their 23rd consecutive postseason to extend the longest playoff streak in North American professional sports. The Red Wings lost in a shootout against the Penguins last night, but secured the one point needed to clinch a playoff berth. It's an impressive feat given all the injuries that handicapped them. Detroit suited up an unprecedented 10 rookies this season with injuries to key players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Jonathan Ericsson. Head coach Mike Babcock should receive heavy consideration for the Jack Adams (NHL's Coach of the Year) for his best coaching job to date.
Meanwhile, with a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, the Blue Jackets will make just their second playoff appearance in the franchise history and their first since 2009. In addition, they earned their 42nd win of the regular season, which is the most in team history. The Blue Jackets did it despite fielding the youngest team in the league with an average age of 26.3. They also received a lot of help from the emergence of 21-year-old Ryan Johansen, who leads the team in goals (32) and points (60).
Some notable teams that did not make the cut include the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and New Jersey Devils. For the first time since 2007, the Capitals will not be in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which could mean that head coach Adam Oates and general manager George McPhee could be on their way out. The Maple Leafs choked away their playoff chances with a disastrous eight-game losing streak in the middle of March. Maple Leafs' head coach Randy Carlyle is likely on the chopping block. The Senators were probably one of the most disappointing teams in the NHL. In off-season, the Senators looked like contenders after they added premier goal scorer Bobby Ryan via trade, but goaltending and their defense did them in this season. The Devils miss their third playoffs in four seasons and it marks the first time missing the postseason in back to back years since 1986 and 1987.
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