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From the Branches: The last games of the season

When hockey is at its best.

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I ship it
I ship it
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It's the time of year when hockey feels desperate and fierce, and I can't wait until next season when the Leafs are fighting for a wild card spot and every game is going to break our hearts or make us dance with glee. I saw that ferocity last night in the Tampa-Islanders game -- the final score was 7-4, but along the way, Anton Stralman was lost to a fractured fibula.

Stralman will be out until deep into the playoff run (if the hockey gods allow Tampa to go that far), his first time missing playoffs in four seasons. In the past four seasons, that guy has played 81 playoff games -- almost as much as another full season of hockey. Talk about heart-shattering win?

The Flyers are grimly hanging on to the last playoff spot, keeping pace with Detroit. Both of these teams won their last game, but Philadelphia is the ONLY TEAM with a negative goal differential currently in the playoff picture. If they make playoffs in this last wild card spot, congrats, you're in for a first round against the Washington Ovechkins.

If the playoffs were to start today, Tampa faces the Islanders first round, and the Panthers face the Bruins. In Metro, the Rangers are also set to battle Pittsburgh. The lads in the west are busy clinching their spots already, with Dallas facing Minnesota, the LA Kings up against Nashville, St. Louis drawing Chicago (hahaha, good luck), and the Ducks facing the Sharks in the usual battle of California.

Avs have three points to catch up to the Wild in that last wild card slot in the West. Go Katya's team go!

Unless there are some upsets and a little shifting around for home ice, maybe this is our playoff picture?

Leafs news

Jimmy Vesey Watch is on after Harvard’s 2015-16 season ends | MLHS
"Jimmy Vesey’s Harvard Crimson lost out in the ECAC Regional Final tonight, officially launching #VeseyWatch2016."

Raffi Torres the forgotten Maple Leaf | Simmons (warning)
"I know it was just a paper transaction. My GM, Doug Wilson, called to tell me what was going on. I never heard from the Leafs. Never heard a thing."

Leafs rookie Zach Hyman a privileged kid who plays a ‘blue-collar game’ | Mirtle
"He may have been the ultimate 'overdog' – one of the rich kids who had every chance to succeed. But that’s not what his coaches and teammates are struck by. In fact, it’s just the opposite."

Other hockey news

Hurricanes Statement on Discriminatory Law in North Carolina is Good First Step | THW
"The Hurricanes have said the right things, but will need to show a commitment to diversity and inclusiveness through their actions as the situation in North Carolina continues. Even more important would be a stance from the NHL, showing that they’re going to stand by all fans of the game at the moments when it matters most."

[I am looking for more editorials about this -- please link in comments, if you would!]

Swiss women's national team ready for the world championship | Swiss Hockey News
"With the direct qualification for the next Olympic games on their minds, the Swiss women’s national team will face Japan in their first game at this year’s World Championship in Kamloops (Ca) next Monday."

My view on the state of hockey journalism | AP Hockey
"Analytics have largely been ignored in the media, for the most part because journalists aren’t schooled in math and just don’t know what metrics are out there and what they mean. But for the media, implicit analytics are perhaps more important than explicit ones. What does that mean? You don’t need to know every number, you just need to know on a league-wide level what the numbers have been finding."

Behind Hockey Operations: An Exclusive Interview With Mark Howe | THW
"The first question I have for you is a lot of people don’t really know or understand how a hockey team works on the back end. Would you be able to describe you role as director of pro scouting and what some of your responsibilities might be?"

Anton Stralman breaks leg, out rest of regular season | ESPN
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo /Anakin voice

5 Reasons to Watch the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament | THW
(6) To scout good NCAA acquisitions for the Leafs system.

NCAA hockey referee dies from injuries sustained in fall | Puck Daddy
First native referee passes away due to injuries suffered from a fall on the ice.

Best seat in the house | Rapid City Journal
"Where Oliver 'Butch' Mousseau grew up near Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, sports like basketball and baseball ruled the roost."