Maybe the objects in the mirror aren’t really closer than they appear.
One team in the East (the Carolina Hurricanes) and one in the West (the Dallas Stars) have legitimate shots of unseating one the current low seeds in their respective conferences. Sure, Toronto and Calgary are mathematically alive, but let’s be real.
The Hurricanes, in fact, could have pulled even with the Buffalo Sabres points-wise for the eighth and final playoff slot in the East had things turned out just a bit differently in their game Sunday. Rookie Jonas Enroth made 35 saves and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani scored with two minutes left in overtime as the Sabres pulled out the 2-1 victory. (Here’s our game recap.) At least the Hurricanes picked up a point as they head into their final three games --- Detroit (Wednesday), Atlanta (Friday) and Tampa Bay (Saturday) --- three points behind the New York Rangers, who fell to eighth with the Sabres' win.
Here’s Carolina coach Paul Maurice told The News & Observer after the loss:
"We've been feeling like this for the last two weeks, three weeks -- that you had to win that game," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "There seems in every one of these you're going to lose a game that feels like it's the end and you can't let it be that way.
"You get a real feeling of disappointment after a loss like that. But not a feeling that you let one slip away, because you did what you were supposed to do."
The Dallas Stars, who entered on a six-game skid, netted a must-win victory, 4-3, against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. (Here’s a link to the game recap.) The Stars’ win -- aided by two Ducks goals that were waived off over the final couple minutes--- kept Anaheim, Los Angeles and Phoenix from clinching playoff berths, at least for another day or two.
Dallas coach Marc Crawford sounded upbeat Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika reported:
"There's no quit in our team, and we're still in the race. We have to keep coming out and having performances like this. This was a very deserving game for our team. You make your luck, and tonight we played with the desperation we've been striving for. It's a huge win, and hopefully we can get this to snowball."
The Stars, who trail eighth-place Chicago by three points, have four games left on the schedule, all against non-playoff teams: Columbus (Tuesday), Colorado (Thursday), Colorado (Friday) and Minnesota (Sunday). The ‘Hawks also have four games left in the schedule.
The Flames are only two points in back of eighth, but they only have two games left to play.
SCHWARTZ PASSES: Yale Hockey player Mandi Schwartz’s lost her battle with myeloid leukemia Sunday, certainly a sad day for all those she inspired in her two-plus years battling the disease. She was 23.
Here’s part of the statement from the school:
The grace and courage with which Mandi approached her treatment, and the enthusiasm and optimism with which Mandi approached life itself have inspired countless people, both here in New Haven and beyond. Her efforts -- and the efforts of those close to her -- to raise awareness of, and participation in, marrow and cord blood donor programs have already yielded potentially lifesaving results.
Thousands of people were brought into donor programs on her behalf, not to mention her perseverance despite continuous setbacks were an inspiration.
My former AOL FanHouse colleague, Lisa Olson, caught up to Schwartz -- whose treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy along with bone and stem cell transplants -- at a rink in Seattle where she helped coach a girls hockey team last December:
Rarely has there been a one-time assistant coach as satisfied as Mandi Schwartz was on that fine day. For three glorious periods, in a frosty rink similar to the hundreds she frequented as a child in Saskatchewan, Mandi wasn't a leukemia patient. She was a hockey nut, swaying to the music of blades skimming ice.
Nora Keaney, wobbling atop skates at age four, is 13 now, and she plays alongside Maddie Davis on an elite select team. They competed in the MLK Invitational Girls'/Women's Hockey Tournament in San Jose over the holiday weekend, took second place, and talked about Mandi Schwartz the way teenage boys talk about Sidney Crosby.
"When I first met her she was at the hospital. She didn't look too good. We were just happy she was getting better," Nora says. "There aren't a lot of (hockey) opportunities for girls. The leagues are almost always all guys. She's such an inspiration to us."
NY Rangers 3, Philadelphia 2 (SO)
Detroit 4, Minnesota 2
St. Louis 6, Columbus 1
Buffalo 2, Carolina 1 (OT)
Tampa Bay 2, Chicago 0
Calgary 2 Colorado 1
Dallas 4, Anaheim 3
-- A.J. Perez