Waving goodbye to the non-playoff 14
What a finish! I know you didn't figure that Philly journeyman goalie Brian Boucher would out-duel New York Rangers star stopper Henrik Lundqvist in a shootout to propel the Philadelphia Flyers into the playoffs.
I certainly thought the Rangers had the edge when the game came down to penalty shots. Then again, I thought Marian Gaborik would get a crack at Boucher. New York head coach John Tortorella didn't tap his top sniper, who has a terrible 2-for-18 lifetime mark in the shootout. I know it's very easy to second guess, but I'd have a hard time sleeping if I'd left my best scorer on the bench.
So, just like that, the Flyers get ready for the New Jersey Devils, while the Rangers get ready for summer. Before I get focused on the playoffs (I can start doing that tomorrow), I want to take one parting shot at the 14 teams we're leaving behind. And, I'll single out one guy who did his part in a lost season.
THE NON-PLAYOFF TEAMS
17. St. Louis Blues: After making the playoffs last season, the Blues took a step backward this year. With a young team, I wasn't surprised. I think they remain on the right track for the future. I figure they'd like to re-sign veteran goalie Chris Mason. They also have to make a decision about Paul Kariya as well as interim head coach Davis Payne. While they might pass on Kariya (if the price is too high), I believe Payne will get the full-time job. Former Stars GM Doug Armstrong is transitioning into that role in St. Louis under team president John Davidson.
Don't Blame Me: Alex Steen. In his first full season in St. Louis, Steen netted a career-best 24 goals and 47 points. He was particularly productive after the Olympic break, totaling 19 points in his last 20 games. Steen finished with a plus-6 rating.
To read EJ's take on the other 13 teams that missed the playoffs, from the Rangers to the Oilers, you must be an ESPN Insider.