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Morning Flurries: Calgary moves on to the Western Conference playoffs

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The Flames would be a pretty good matchup for the Avalanche in round 1

Calgary Flames v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

As the Stanley Cup qualifiers march along, one more team — this time out of the Western Conference — has punched their ticket to the official first round this upcoming Tuesday.

The Calgary Flames dropped Game 2 of their series against the Winnipeg Jets this past Monday, but Winnipeg’s mounting injuries ultimately proved too much to overcome. So on Thursday night, in the final game of that day’s play-in slate, Calgary stormed to a 4-0 shutout win in their fourth game against Winnipeg to clinch their series. They’ll move on to face either St. Louis or Dallas next week, becoming the first Western Conference team to punch their playoff ticket from the play-in bracket.

In the East, no teams managed to earn their berth on Thursday — but the Toronto Maple Leafs were met with a pretty chaotic (and traumatic, if you’re a Leafs fan) upset at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets to fall to a 2-1 series deficit in their own round.

First, the Leafs went up 3-0, chasing starting goaltender Joonas Korpisalo from the crease in favor of Elvis Merzlikins:

Leafs Twitter went a little nuts, because oft-maligned blue liner Cody Ceci was one of the goal scorers for the team. He opened up scoring in the game on a short-handed chance, and it seemed like Columbus fell apart after that.

After Elvis entered the building, though, the Leafs got a little too complacent, their goaltending went a little awry, and then they did what they do best gave up a three-goal lead and lost in overtime:

Perhaps the best part is that the Leafs and the Blue Jackets play again on Friday evening, so there’s less than 24 hours for the two teams — who nearly hit double OT before Dubois scored the game winner — to recover and head back to the rink to see if Toronto is headed home or if they can push a game 5.

In slightly more somber news, the Leafs will have to play that Game 4 (and potential Game 5) without defender Jake Muzzin. Muzzin, who arrived in Toronto in 2019 in a deal from the Los Angeles Kings, was injured earlier in the series by the OT-goal-scoring Pierre-Luc Dubois and had to be taken to the hospital. He’s now recovering there, where he’s in quarantine after leaving the bubble. [NHL.com]

In fun news, does anyone remember Chad Johnson? Not the goaltender, of course, but the football player who renamed himself Ochocinco?

Well, his discovery of the hockey Chad Johnson a while back helped him discover on-ice sports — and now, during bubble play-in hockey, it seems he’s gone all in on being a hockey fan:

It seems that Johnson let Twitter tell him who to start Youtubing highlights for... and he did it:

Watching inter-sport fandom is always a blast, although Johnson has a ways to go before he hits Tre White hockey fandom levels.

Finally. Nazem Kadri is raising awareness to help those affected by the blast in Beirut, Lebanon, his family’s home country: