The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

After Nashville refused to piss away its season with a loss to the pathetic St. Louis Blues last night, two teams has their playoff torches snuffed by Jeff Probst and his khaki shorts. One team was the Blackhawks, a valorous collection of hard-working players who overcame inexperience and expectations to capture the imagination of a long-dormant hockey town. The other team would be the Canucks, who completed an emphatic end-of-the-season choke that has yet again left Vancouver fans bitter and mopey. So ... anyone know the Heimlich?

Edmonton knocked off the Canucks, 2-1, last night in a game that Vancouver knew it needed to win in order to remain alive for the playoffs. Or, in other words: "It's not quite football season yet, but there's no better way to say it other than the Vancouver Canucks got punted THursday night from the National Hockey League playoffs." As shitty game-story ledes go, that's some gold-standard stuff from BC Local News. Especially combined with use of the word "SpOilers" in the headline.

In a way, last night's loss completes the linear storyline for both of these teams this season. Vancouver's run last year made it appear that Coach Alain Vigneault had turned garbage into gold, when he may have actually put a tourniquet on a turd. The Canucks dropped six of their last seven games, stumbling to a finish of inevitable disappointment. As Alanah from Kukla's wrote: "I'm not at all glad it's over, but I amrelieved it's over." The Oilers? They've just been fucking annoying since the summer, when Kevin Lowe decided to play Supermarket Sweep with other teams' free agents. So their gnat-like presence in the Canucks' ultimate demise is a richly deserved role.


After a 3-1 loss to Minnesota last night, Calgary backed its ass into the playoffs by virtue of Vancouver's choke job. Nashville's second comeback win over the Blues this week put them in the playoffs and tragically eliminated the Blackhawks from postseason contention, leaving them free to Commit To The 9-Iron. (The Predators, incidentally, had quite the sick crowd last night. Good for them.) So for the Red Wings — who clinched the kiss of, "President's Trophy" last night with a 3-2 win over Columbus — it'll either be Calgary or Nashville in the first round. Which probably means there'll be a second round for Detroit, too.

When Is An Elbow Not An Elbow? The Senators curb-stomped the Leafs last night, 8-2, in a game they had to have because they've managed to piss away one of the best starts in NHL history over the course of several months. But the big news was this hit by Mark Bell of Toronto on Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson:

Alfredsson would eventually leave the game and join Mike Fisher, who earlier injured his knee, in the locker room. The Ottawa Citizen called Bell's hit "a vicious elbow to the head" and that it "went unpenalized, the officials obviously having missed it." Which is strange, because Bell claimed after the game that "the linesman yelled clean hit, the referee yelled clean hit. It looked worse because he'd just shot (and his head was turned)."


The question now becomes whether Ottawa can still make the playoffs, let alone challenge for the Cup again, without Alfredsson and Fisher for an undetermined amount of time. Another question: Would Bell be throwing around his elbow/shoulder/forearms if he wasn't wearing a full face cage to protect him from violent retribution...I mean, his "healing broken orbital bone?"

If The Playoffs Started Today. I know I'm in the minority on the "Ovechkin needs to make the playoffs to win the Hart Trophy" thing, and he's really not helping my argument with games like last night's against Tampa: Two more goals in a 4-1 win, and the Capitals hurdle the Flyers into eighth place and (temporarily) that dream matchup against the Penguins. There are several dozen scenarios in which the Capitals could finish either third overall as a division champion or eliminate either the Senators, Bruins or Flyers for the seventh or eighth seeds. I can't conceive of Washington not winning its finale against Florida this weekend; this team has momentum and mojo, from Ovechkin's heroics to Huet's stone-walling to happy accidents like Matt Cooke injuring Vinny Lecavalier's right shoulder before the Lightning needed him on a 4-minute power play they squandered, basically sealing their fate.

Meanwhile, the Rangers clinched a playoff berth with a 3-0 shutout of the Islanders; Jagr had two goals in what I can only assume is an audition for some Russian League team. And the long, sad story of the Buffalo Sabres' season reached its final page last night in a 3-1 loss to Montreal, leaving Sabres fans reaching for any positives from this dreadful season that they can ... like, for example, "Jaroslav Spacek has returned from injury and no children were eaten in the interim."


Puck Headlines

* It's pretty much the most exciting time of the year as far as action on the ice. So what better time to get on your soapbox and passionately extol the virtues of wooden hockey sticks? WTF? [Fox Sports]

* The Mike Lange Tournament of Quotes continues. "Get in the fast lane Grandma, the bingo game's ready to roll!" [Going Five Hole]


* Things You Shouldn't Do With Youth Hockey Players, Part One: Serve them booze at a team party. [Winnipeg Free Press]

* At the rate the salary cap is rising, anyone who thinks the players "lost" under the new CBA is pretty much dumber than a box of retarded bricks. [Spector]

* Things You Shouldn't Do With Youth Hockey Players, Part Two: Inappropriately touch them on team bus trips. [Northumberland Today]


* NBC appears ready to re-up with the NHL on its TV deal, although it's weary about airing Stanley Cup Finals games in weekday prime day. And who wouldn't be, what with that scary-good prime time lineup NBC has. Can't preempt "Lipstick Jungle" for a week, can you? [Globe & Mail]

* Finally, I asked for someone to put a hamburger on Rachel McAdams's beautiful head. Ask and you shall receive, from diligent Deadspinner Summer of George, who created some sort of McAdams/McCheese/McDonalds burger dress hybrid. Yowser...happy weekend everybody.