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Five-Hole Friday: At Last

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The playoffs are here. At last.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s some awesome things from around the League this week.

Dallas Stars Cow

The Stars are having a bit of fun now that they’ve clinched a postseason berth for the first time in a few seasons. They introduced a team cow...yes, a cow. Most teams have puppies. Dallas has a cow. They asked for fan input in naming the cow, and he’s now named Mike Moodano.

In a hockey world filled with puppies, Mike the cow will certainly stand out.

Hammer and Fabbs

The Predators released a nice piece earlier in the week on the relationship between youngster Dante Fabbro and Dan Hamhuis. They’re 14 years apart in age, but Hamhuis has been (and will be) a positive influence for Fabbro as he grows into his role with Nashville.

Fabbro is only skating around 9-10 minutes a night, with Hamhuis taking down about 11 minutes a night since his return from IR. This pairing has seen two straight contests, and they could be the third pair of choice come playoff time next week. Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber remain viable options, but increased chemistry between Hamhuis and Fabbro could mean Nashville finally has three formidable pairs of defenders.

Pitlick and Fabbro

Chris Mason tweeted this out after the game in Buffalo:

To me, it’s pretty evident that Pitlick and Fabbro are taking their time with the big club seriously. Aside from absorbing systems, set plays, and processes, they’re getting the chance to experience the NHL lifestyle. That lifestyle involves a lot of skating, workouts, proper nutrition, and rest. Both bring that hard-work ethic with them, and it’s evident that they’re eager to prove themselves.

NCAA Free Agents

The Nashville Predators signed Lukas Craggs to a contract on Thursday. The forward played college hockey with Bowling Green University. Will the Predators continue to pursue free agents? They’re close to having the league-maximum 50 contracts.

You can read about Craggs's signing here.

St. Louis

It’s very likely at this point in the regular season that Nashville will face St. Louis in the first round, or, less likely, in the second round. The Predators have had some trouble with the resurgent Blues this season.

The Blues have improved from last in the NHL in January to a playoff-contending team. They’re dangerous.

One of the reasons that St. Louis has had an incredible run in these last few months is largely due to the play of rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington. Binnington isn’t a baby; he’s 25 years old and has spent considerable time in the AHL developing his game.

Binnington’s record is ridiculous. He’s 22-5-1 with 5 shutouts. Five. In his first NHL season. Further, he has a .928 Sv% and he’s a monster in net. Watching his play against various teams over the last few weeks, it’s pretty obvious Binnington is confident and prepared in every possible situation.

Like Juuse Saros a few seasons ago, Binnington is so new to the NHL that teams don’t really have a “book” on his positioning or weak areas like they would on a more established goaltender. Breaking Binnington will be the key to defeating the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have also benefited from the play of Ryan O’Reilly. Acquired from Buffalo, he’s had an incredible season in St. Louis. Vladimir Tarasenko is back to his sniping ways, and St. Louis’s blue line boasts names like Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. The Blues will be a tough challenge for whatever team they face in the playoffs.