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With the second easiest pick in the draft, the Devils will take the face of the 2019 draft class and the new face of their franchise; who they better hope can come on the horizon quickly if they want any chance of changing Taylor Hall’s mind about re-signing in New Jersey.
NY Rangers: Kaapo Kakko – RW – TPS-Liiga
Now if I had to guess one team that would pass on Kakko and go off the board with the 2nd overall pick, my guess would definitely be Jeff Gorton’s Rangers. However, with that said this is the easiest selection of the draft, and I think that even the Rangers won’t be tempted to look outside the box here.
Im going to say the Bruins. We saw a long break actually hurt the Islanders in round two and then the Hurricanes in round three, but the Bruins are a different story. Veteran players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci aren’t 100% and this long break gives them a good chance to rest there bodies. The only question mark: will Tuuka Rask be able to jump back to his historically good form?
The Blues will no doubt benefit from the rest, but I bet they would have preferered to just keep rolling and getting hot at the end of their series vs San Jose.
The Bruins. Normally I think the rest can hurt a team and knock them out of rhythm while I think a team like the Blues can benefit from the quick turnaround and stay hot. But Boston’s biggest strength right now has been Tuukka Rask and his playoff leading 1.84 GAA and .942 SV%.
A rested and relaxed Tukkaa will only pay off for the Bruins as they continue to make this cup run behind their Finnish net-minder.
I’ll say the Blues. Every team that has swept a round in these playoffs have lost in the next round; Columbus, NYI, Carolina are all gone and combined for a lacklustre 2 wins.
The Bruins being an older team need the rest but getting out of rhythm can also be a very dangerous thing. St.Louis hasn’t turned the motor off since January and I believe the shorter rest is better for their momentum heading into the Stanley Cup final.
My head tells me to take Boston, but I will admit that I’m cheering for the Blues. There are some local connections on that team with St. Albert product Colton Parayko playing. Would be really cool to see The Cup come to my hometown. On top of that, the Blues are a great story. From being dead last in the NHL when the calendar flipped to 2019 and riding a rookie goaltender to the finals, to the “Play Gloria” theme, and of course, the story of young Laila Anderson.
This is a tough one. As I mentioned earlier, Boston is riding their hot goaltender. St. Louis is heavy offensively with solid defence and a great young goalie. My heart wants to see the Blues take it but it’s really hard to bet against Rask right now. There’s obviously more to it than that with a deep roster on Boston’s bench.
Whether it’s Bergeron, Pastrnak, Marchand or young guys like Jake DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly the Bruins know how to put the puck in the net. But I always give the edge to the team with the better goaltending and that’s Rask right now.
This is a very conflicting series because both teams are so deep. It would nice to see the local boy Parayko win it (I wonder if he’d bring it to OJ’s) but I think the Bruins skate away champions.
They’re a team that knows how to win and once Tampa was eliminated I thought they had the best remaining roster. I think the series is close and most likely takes 7 games and will come down to who can out best who in between the pipes.
On a side note it would be such an incredible story for the city of Boston who have been starved of a championship for nearly 6 months now.
See questions 1 and 2. Tuukka Rask has been outstanding for Boston this postseason and has stood tall when needed most. He was the backbone for the team through a tough 7-game series with Toronto in round one, especially in a 5-1 win in Game 7. Then he held his own through six games against Columbus in Round 2 before giving up just five goals in four games in the sweep of the Hurricanes.
He has been the MVP of the playoffs much like Marc-Andre Fleury was for Vegas last year. The only question now is will he hold up in the Cup Final? I think so.
The Sharks. Ever since their series win over Vegas I’ve had them as my favourite to win the cup. Colorado gave them a good fight and St.Louis has been playing with a lot of momentum as of late but I’ve given San Jose the edge since that miraculous Game 7 win in round one. Now with their captain Joel Pavelski is back in the line up and lighting a spark I don’t know what stops them.
They have the top two leading scorers in the playoffs so far with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl and as a team have had one of the higher powered offences in the postseason so far.
These playoffs have hardly made any sense. That’s why we love the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the West, I’m going to pick the Blues. They seem to be a team of destiny and if Jordan ‘Win-ington’ keeps up this level of play, then they’ll be fine. No disrespect to the Sharks, who are a wildly deep and dangerous team, but I just have a feeling about the Blues.
They’re also getting contributions from lower in their lineup, which is massive. If Tarasenko, Schenn, and Schwartz stay hot and their depth players continue to come through, the Blues can make the Stanley Cup Final.
The wild, wild, west as they call it. Much like the cowboy I was named after, I’m going to shoot from the hip and say the San Jose Sharks.
This is their second west final in four seasons and most of the core remains in-tact from the cup final loss to Pittsburgh.
I love the fire power that San Jose possesses; Couture, Hertl, Meier, Pavelski, Kane, the list goes on. It’s not only the offence though, Burns has been the best defensemen in these playoffs and even Karlsson on one ankle can dazzle you from shift to shift. Martin Jones is the achilles heel of this team and will need to continue to build off a “good” performance against Colorado in order to move on.
Boston. We saw them dominate in Game 1 with the 5-2 win. Carolina has been a great cinderella stories this year making it all the way to Eastern Conference Final. The Bunch of Jerks has gone on a solid run but I don’t see it being enough to make it past the Bruins. Whether it be Brad Marchand and his postseason leading 15 points, or the amazing performances from Tuukka Rask, Boston just looks unstoppable right now.
And the latter is what I think makes them the best team in the playoffs right now. You need stellar goaltending to truly have a chance at the Cup and Boston has been getting that with Rask. I give them the edge over Carolina.
In the East, my pick was the Hurricanes and I’ll stick with them, but they blew a massive chance in game one. Petr Mrazek was nearly unbeatable through 40 minutes and the Bruins were missing Charlie McAvoy and didn’t have Chara for a chunk of the game. Add on the lead heading into the third and that opening game loss stings even more.
I like the Hurricanes defensive core and if Mrazek can return to form, I still like the Canes.
Somebody in Carolina better call an apiaries because the killer B’s are going to swarm.
In round 1 people said “can Rask out-duel Anderson?” He did. In round 2 they said “Can he out-duel Bobrovsky?” He did. Now when people look across and see Mrazek in net, I don’t think they write the same narrative.
Special teams will also play a huge part in the series as we saw in game one. Carolina comes into the season with worst PP of the remaining teams at 10.5% and is tied with St.Louis for the worst PK at 75%. Boston on the flip side has the most lethal PP of any postseason team with 28.6% and the best PK hovering at 84.8%.
The Hurricanes are going to need a lot of puck luck to get past a veteran Bruins squad that captured 1-0 series lead, without their best defenseman.
San Jose. See answer to question one. I feel like the Sharks are riding a wave right now and have the perfect mix of of veterans and young stars who can contribute. As proven in the Game 7 of the semis with Joonas Donskoi coming up with the massive goal, this team is full of players who can land on the score sheet.
Goaltending has been shaky for them at times but I think it’s something they can overcome. If they are to face Boston in the Cup Final it will be tough going up against Tuukka Rask but I still give the edge to the Sharks.
My Stanley Cup winner will be the St. Louis Blues! Back in December in one of our Friday Three’s I called them bounceback team to watch. Well, look at them now! The story would be incredible for so many reasons. Patrick Maroon returning to his hometown, rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, and the fact they were dead last in the league on January 3rd. In a postseason that’s barely made any sense, the Blues winning the Cup seems perfect.
Your 2018-19 Stanley Cup winner is … The Boston Bruins.
Boston has the best goaltending left, a strong top 6 and more than capable D corps. The Bruins will lean heavily on the top line of Marchand – Bergeron – Pasternk as well as McAvoy off the backend.
Out of the remaining teams they have highest goal differential at 12, the best GAA, 2.08 and as I mentioned before the best special teams. The only question mark is how much gas does Chara have left in the tank, at times he as been a liability defensively off the rush. The game passes all eventually but can he lead this Bruins squad to another cup victory?
Sorry Jumbo Joe, you deserve a ring more than anyone but like every other year for San Jose “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”
The Friday Three – Final Four was last modified: May 10th, 2019 by Wyatt Zieger
The year is 2001. A young 6-year old Arik Krause is just like any curious kid and grabs a VHS tape and puts it into the VCR. The tape is titled “doubledown casino christmas slots 1990 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs”. Now if you don’t know, the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of their dynasty and in these playoffs would face the Boston Bruins. A series which they would win for their fifth and final Stanley Cup this far. That series was famous for the Petr Klima goal in Game 1. Klima didn’t play at all during the third period or first two overtime periods, but he would slide the puck past Andy Moog in the third overtime and give the Oilers a win in Game 1.
Which second-round matchup in the west has been most exciting for you?
IAN SHEPPARD: For me, we haven’t seen the same sort of excitement that came with the round one upsets but for me, the series I’m most interested in has been the Blues Stars series. With the series tied at 2-2, each game so far has been one or two goal games. Not to mention the exciting finish to Game 3 with Patrick Maroon scoring late to win it, and Dallas bouncing back in Game 4 to tie the series.
This Series has been the closest with a total of 24 goals through four games. This series will almost definitely go to seven games with the back and forth action we’ve seen so far.
WYATT ZIEGER: In the West, it has to be the Av’s and Sharks.
The old boys vs the new wave has lived up to the hype and is a rare 2nd-round series that has featured some goals in it. Each game is a coin toss and that’s why it’s my favourite. At this point either could win the series and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the cup final. Who can get steadier goaltending is the key in this one.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I’ll break the tie here and go with the Blues and Stars series. There’s been thrilling finishes, games with lots of goals, games with great goaltending. It’s had a bit of everything. I also think the winner of this series will go to the Stanley Cup Finals so I’m really keeping a close eye on this one.
Which second-round matchup in the east has been most exciting for you?
IAN SHEPPARD: This one is a pretty easy one. The Islanders/Canes series has been really one-sided so far with the 3-0 series lead for Carolina, so I’ll have to go with Columbus and Boston. No one expected the Jackets to make it past Tampa, let alone sweep them. I for one didn’t think they’d have a chance to make it out of the second round after the first round upset.
They have found themselves in prime position to compete with Boston and potentially make a splash into the ECF and I’ll be tuning in all series long to see if they can do it! Excluding all of that, two games so far have gone into OT with three games being decided by one goal, and each team exchanging wins resulting in a 2-2 series tie. Talk about an exciting series.
WYATT ZIEGER: The East is an easy answer, Bruins/Jackets. Carolina has runaway on the Islanders but the other East matchup has been tighter than the lid on a pickle jar. Columbus has approximately 6 more wins than most would of thought to date and the Bruins who remain the most “obvious” cup pick haven’t pulled away at all.
This has all the makings of a seven-game series in what has been a sub-par 2nd round. I’m still excited to see how Carolina and New York plays out but I wouldn’t hold my breath Islanders fans.
BOSTON MA. – APRIL 25: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Boston Bruins puts a shot on Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Bruins take on the Blue Jackets in Round 2, Game 1 of the NHL Playoffs on April 25, 2019 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s definitely Boston and Columbus. It’s fast and it’s hard hitting. Both of these teams have goaltending capable of stealing a game yet they’re both capable of giving up five or six goals on any given night. I love that element of unpredictability. Like the Dallas/St. Louis series, I believe the winner of this one is going to the Cup Final, so I got my eyes glued to this series.
Who’s been the MVP of the playoffs thus far?
IAN SHEPPARD: It’s tough to argue with what Logan Couture has done so far in helping his team make it past the first round and into a 2-2 series tie with Colorado while leading the playoffs with 9 goals. But for me, it’s Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon leads the playoffs in points with 13 and has been a one-man wrecking crew all playoffs.
His six goals are second in the postseason only behind Couture’s nine, but he almost singlehandedly took down the Calgary Flames in round one and has so far scored three goals in each round. He continues to be a playmaker and a leader for his team, one that much like Columbus has over excelled the expectations that were laid upon them.
WYATT ZIEGER: There are a few deserving players as of today; MacKinnon, Bobrovsky, Couture, but it has been Jacob Slavin who has impressed me most.
Whether it’s his incredible defensive play with his stick or the offense that’s come off of it, he has been the calming eye of the Hurricanes. His 12 points are one off the franchise record for most in a postseason (13 by Frantisek Kaberle) and he is the best D-man in these playoffs.
If Carolina is going to sneak their way into a 3rd cup final it’ll be on the broad shoulders of Slavin.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I really like the way Logan Couture has stepped up with Joe Pavelski out of the lineup. He’s been the heartbeat of that Sharks team and that video of him yelling “that’s one” at the Sharks bench during their comeback against Vegas will be iconic in San Jose if they go all the way this year. He leads the playoffs in goals with nine like Ian mentioned so not only has he brought energy and leadership, he’s brought the offense to back it up.
The Friday Three – Wild Playoffs Stays Unpredictable was last modified: May 3rd, 2019 by Tyler Yaremchuk
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I used logic and numbers to predict the first round… I went zero-for-eight. So now Im throwing logic out the window. Are the Avalanche a one-line team? YUP! Do they rely on their powerplay? YUP! Is their goaltender proven? HARDLY!
I’m taking the Avalanche to come out of the west! Book it!
WYATT ZIEGER: In the west, it’s a bit more complicated, St.Louis and San Jose have the deepest rosters but the Avalanche have the best player left in these playoffs (MacKinnon). I’m going to go with St.Louis though. They have a strong D core, only 2nd to SJS but they have a balanced offence and solid goaltending.
First, they’ll have to get through Ben Bishop and the rest of the Stars, but I see them as a cup finalist.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Sharks. They’re easily the most talented team left in the West for starters with a nice mix of younger aged players to savvy veterans with the experience to win. Goaltending has been an issue for them with Martin Jones having a very shaky playoff so far. Even after the magnificent comeback in Game seven, Vegas was able to tie the game in the dying seconds, so there is a weakness there for San Jose.
But ultimately what puts me behind them is the momentum I think they’ll carry the rest of the way. Storming back to win that Game seven the way they did is something very few if any team can do. For me, that boasts a team with confidence. They were playing for their captain that night and I think this is something they can rally behind to give themselves an edge.
WHO’S YOUR NEW FAVOURITE TO COME OUT OF THE EAST?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I really don’t trust this Islanders team, but I also don’t trust the Hurricanes. I think that series could be a snooze-fest. So I will go to the other series and take the Columbus Blue Jackets. They have four strong forward lines, a strong and speedy d-core that can move the puck like crazy, and a goaltender who can be the best in the world when he’s on his game. CBJ to the Cup Final!
WYATT ZIEGER: I hate to give the boring answer but how could you not say the Bruins?
The other 3 remaining teams just don’t scare me. I know CBJ took it to Tampa but I don’t think Boston will be as complacent as the Lightning. Boston’s got the most playoff experience and the deeper you go the more valuable that becomes.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Islanders. I said it coming into the playoffs and I’m sticking with it now! I’m all aboard the Trotz train! Barry Trotz has his team playing as just that, a team. They have the firepower to put up points and they’re getting an outstanding performance from their goaltender. Robin Lehner has led the playoffs with a 1.47 GAA and a .956 SV% while being the backbone of his team.
I can see them moving past the Hurricanes in five or six games and I think the Isle would hold up well against either Boston or Columbus. With teams like Tampa and Washington now out of the playoffs, I could see a team like New York pave a way to the cup final.
OUTSIDE OF TB LOSING, WHICH FIRST ROUND RESULT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Islanders SWEEPING the Penguins stunned me. Straight up. I thought the Penguins would find a way to handle the Islanders, but the magic of Barry Trotz proved to be too much. That was the one series I was VERY wrong on. It’s a shame because I like watching Sidney Crosby play in meaningful hockey games.
WYATT ZIEGER: The most surprising for me is a tie between Carolina and NYI. This is the first time since 2007 that neither the Caps or Penguins will be in the 2nd round.
I’ll give the edge to the Islanders because of the dominant fashion in which they beat Pittsburgh. I don’t think anyone saw a sweep coming in that series. If you did you’re a liar.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Avalanche eliminating the Flames. I wasn’t shocked to see Calgary lose the round even though I predicted to win it. But I really didn’t see them losing in five games. This was the best team in the West record wise and I thought they could make it past an Avalanche team with a thinner lineup. I was shocked by the lack of production from a few bigger name stars on the roster, like Johnny Gaudreau, and I did not expect Colorado to dominate the way they did through most of that series.
The Friday Three – Wild First Round was last modified: April 26th, 2019 by BelowTheIce
1 – Which underdog do you think will advance past round one?
IAN SHEPPARD: The New York Islanders. The Isles have the higher seed so I guess it wouldn’t technically be an upset but with Pittsburgh’s playoff and cup experience, I see this as an upset. Before Game 1 I believed the Isle would find a way to upset the Penguins. Everything about their season so far has made me believe they are capable of more than a first-round exit.
The Penguins have always been that team that finds a way to make a run but to me, if any team has a shot to upset them in the first round it’s New York. The Isles won Game 1 in OT and were outshot 44-33 so I think it will be a long series but I see New York coming out on top.
WYATT ZIEGER: Everyone loves a first-round upset. I suppose the underdog list contains; NYI, CAR, COL, TML, DAL and CBJ.
I’d love to pick a number of these teams, especially considering most of them won game 1, but the least surprising upset to me would be out West.
The Dallas Stars have in my mind the best chance of pulling an upset if game one proved anything its that Bishop, can outduel Rinne if need be. Nashville and Dallas play near-identical games but the Stars have the edge when it comes to firepower. D’ still favours the Preds but Calder hopeful Miro Heiskanen proved that the Predators aren’t the only team with a defenseman that can take over a game.
These matchups are why I love NHL playoff hockey, anything can happen and the tournament is always wide open.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Is Vegas considered an upset since they are the lower seed? I would like to say them, or Pittsburgh for that matter, but those don’t feel like true upsets to me given those two teams recent history of playoff success.
My answer will be the Maple Leafs. Speed and skill are the way the new NHL is played and in game one, you saw that on full display. When things shift back to Toronto, Mike Babcock can just roll Mitch Marner out against Zdeno Chara and watch his young winger fly around the ageing d-man. Game one allowed them to grab home-ice advantage, and I expect the Leafs to take advantage of that.
2 – Who was the most effective trade deadline pickup?
IAN SHEPPARD: It’s tough to say this early into the playoffs. That’s where I really measure which moves worked best. You could the flurry of trades made by Columbus were the best, with them sneaking into the playoffs and winning Game 1 against Tampa. But I’ll go with a bit of a dark horse and say Jake Muzzin.
That’s right Jake Muzzin! Why you ask? Well in Game 1 for Toronto he played just over 20 minutes and notched one assist, two hits and one block. So in an early playoff so far I’ll go with Muzzin, but I assume my answer will change the deeper the postseason goes.
WYATT ZIEGER: With his team ahead 1-0 over the Bruins, things are looking pretty okay for Toronto’s Jake Muzzin. He’s been as advertised for the Leafs and even picked up an assist in the W. Muzzin was severely underrated on the Kings and now being in the centre of the universe, on the biggest stage, the casual fan is starting to realize how good he really is.
I had this weird itch with all the hate and underdog talk that Toronto would come out swinging and maybe stun the Bruins, good start so far. If a ‘Cinderella’ story is unfolding, it’ll be the backend of Toronto that’ll need to keep their game up.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s Mark Stone! He notched a pair in the Golden Knight’s playoff opener but if you put that aside, I still think he’s been the best deadline pickup. Vegas got themselves a true top line winger and can afford to put him on their newly formed second line. He’s either going to get easier matchups if the other team focuses on Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith or he’ll create easier matchups for the teams’ top line. The impact he’ll have on their powerplay is massive as well.
3 – Which team benefited most from the draft lottery? (Chicago from 12 to 3, New York from 4 to 2, or New Jersey from 3 to 1)
IAN SHEPPARD: The obvious answer is the Blackhawks moving up from number 12 to three. But I’m going to say the Rangers. They moved up four spots just like the Devils but they’ll land Kaapo Kakko assuming the Devils select Jack Hughes. Chicago will still end up with a high-quality player at three, but the Rangers landing a player like Kakko when they could have been selecting 6th overall is a huge steal.
CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is interviewed during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
WYATT ZIEGER: This is a tough question but I’m going to look down the road and go with the Chicago Blackhawks.
They jumped up nine spots into the #3 position which was the biggest leap of any lottery winner. If everything goes according to script they’ll have their choice of Byram, Dach or Podkolzin. The latter appears to be the most likely based off draft rankings but it’s hard to go wrong with any of the three. The most important part of all of this is that Chicago a team pushed against the cap is likely going to get a player that can jump into their lineup next season for cheap.
But now the hard part is who to select. Bowen Byram a LHD could pair with last years top selection Boqvist’s for years to come, Ryan Getzlaf 2.0, in Kirby Dach, or the elite scoring Russian winger, Vasili Podkolzin. Chicago has a good problem to have and that’s why they’re my biggest winner.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: You could obviously make a case for all three of these teams because winning the lottery is sweet no matter what. But I will also say the Chicago Blackhawks. I think Bowen Byram is going to be a true top-pairing defenseman in the mould of Morgan Reilly, a fellow WHL product. He’s dynamic with the puck, has a smooth stride, and can control the game from the backend. Moving up from 12 to grab a player like Byram is massive.
The Friday Three – Playoff Season Has Begun! was last modified: April 12th, 2019 by Tyler Yaremchuk
Aside from Tampa Bay, who’s the best team in the Atlantic?
IAN SHEPPARD: It’s so hard not to say Tampa Bay! The best team in the Atlantic other than them for me though would have to be the Boston Bruins. They’re a playoff contender every year and their young depth is gaining experience now putting them in a better spot. They also bring that patented Bruins nastiness that I think gives them an edge.
The other reason I take Boston is that the only other possible team you could mention is Toronto and I’m just not sold on them as being a team that could actually give Tampa Bay some legit competition.
WYATT ZIEGER: It’s gotta be the Boston Bruins for me. Top to bottom they’d be the best team in the division (other than TB) they had an 18 game point streak, mostly without Pastrnak and Big Z is still showing no signs of aging even at 42 years young. The Leafs are going to have their work cut out for them in that first-round matchup.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Boston is more proven than Toronto so I will say them. Toronto’s forward group makes me think about this one, but I really like Boston’s defence. Goaltending a wash between the two of them. The Bruins playoff experience also attributes to me going with them over the Leafs.
Aside from Washington, who’s the best team in the Metro?
IAN SHEPPARD: The Islanders for me! I would like to say Pittsburgh because they have the playoff experience and could make the deeper run, but ultimately New York has the better team for me. For a roster that isn’t necessarily deep, they’ve been playing better than most people would think. With a goal differential of +28 this year the Isle are being led by one of the best coaches ever and for me are the best team aside from Washington.
Goaltending is also a factor that sets them apart right now with Robin Lehner having an outstanding season landing in the top-5 in GAA a stat he’s had as his best of his career as a starter so far.
WYATT ZIEGER: How could you not say Pittsburgh? I know based off this year that they may not seem like the most dominant but get them in he playoffs and anything could happen. They have everything you want in a team and they’ve done it all before lead by Crosby.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Am I a fool for continuing to doubt the Islanders? Maybe, but I will. I don’t trust their goaltending and they don’t have the star power up front that someone like Pittsburgh does. Despite their struggles during the regular season, I look at Pittsburgh and see an experienced team, a dynamic forward group, and a goaltender that has been through a few long playoff runs. I wouldn’t want to play them in the first round.
Who’s the best NHL prospect not currently playing in the NHL?
IAN SHEPPARD: My knowledge on NHL prospects doesn’t span very widely so bare with me over this portion of the blog. Rather than me listing who I think the best prospect is and risk looking foolish with my lack of knowledge I’m going to name a few obvious ones not currently the NHL that I look forward to seeing in the future.
Filip Zadina in the Red Wings organization who’s been up and down this year certainly ranks high up on the list. Zadina has put up 31 points in the AHL this year and his permanent stay in the NHL is one many are excited to see. From a goaltending view, Carter Hart is an obvious choice but he’s currently with the big club right now.
I’ll go with Michael DiPietro had a tremendous World Junior tournament this year and has made a start for the Canucks this year, although it was rushed. DiPietro has 23 wins this year in the AHL and 4 shutouts.
WYATT ZIEGER: HOMER PICK TIME: Maxime Comtois, he’s had an injury-plagued season but still has 31 goals in just 25 games and 48 points. He captained Canada at the WJC and finished with 5-1-6 in 5 games. The only reason he’s not in the NHL right now is the fear of losing him to Seattle in the expansion draft. Expect him to have a long, fruitful NHL career.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: Going to give a little bit of love to the AJHL and say Cale Makar. The former fourth overall pick was good with Team Canada is having a hell of a season with U-Mass with 46 points in 36 games. Those are historic kind of numbers in the NCAA. He’s a little undersized, but he’s dynamic and can move the puck very efficiently. He’s the exact definition of what a modern NHL defenseman should be.
Friday Three – Looking at the East was last modified: April 5th, 2019 by BelowTheIce
IAN SHEPPARD: I’ve been standing behind the Winnipeg Jets all year and I won’t stop now. They’ve fallen into a bit of a funk lately but I still see them as the best team. Nashville makes it close but again in the long stretch, I see Winnipeg coming together for a deep playoff run. From top to bottom I saw them as one of the deepest teams in the NHL, and that was before they acquired Kevin Hayes.
The Jets have a +30 goal differential which is third best in the West and they have two goaltenders who are very hot right now. I will continue to give them the edge until they are eliminated from the playoffs.
Winnipeg Jets’ Patrik Laine (29), Mark Scheifele (55), Blake Wheeler (26) and Jacob Trouba (8) celebrate Scheifele’s goal Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, March 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
WYATT ZIEGER: Best in the Central is an easy one for me, when I look at Nashville they have everything you look for in a Stanley Cup contender. Scoring and grit was an issue so they grabbed Granlund and Simmonds in deals at the deadline.
Offensively they still do fall short to the firepower of Winnipeg but they win in both the goaltending and defensive categories. They’ve tasted defeat in the last few years making it to the Cup final as well as the Western Conference final last year. Look for them to be hungry and win the Central.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s down to the Predators or Jets and you can make a really good case for both. The Jets have a much more dynamic group of forwards, but I really like the Preds back end. Goaltending is close, but I’ll give Nashvillethe slight edge this year because Rinne has a little more experience.
You need goals to win and I think the gap in the forward groups are large enough for me to say the Jets are better.
WHO’S THE BEST TEAM IN THE PACIFIC?
IAN SHEPPARD: It pains me to say it but its Calgary. San Jose has played better as of late but I still Calgary as the better team right now. They are having some issues with goaltending but in the long run, I just see the Flames outlasting the Sharks. Calgary has the younger roster and more firepower to me.
The deciding factor for me is Calgary’s ability to fight back. Countless times this year they’ve found themselves down in a game before coming back to win in the final period. For this, I give them the edge.
WYATT ZIEGER: The Pacific is much more of a crap-shoot when trying to find the best team, Calgary, San Jose, and Vegas have clearly separated themselves from the pack but even Arizona is trying to make a late push.
But its the Golden Knights who take the cake for me. They made the biggest acquisition at the deadline and are coming off the taste of defeat from last years cup final. Marc-Andre Fleury is the backbone and you can always ride a hot goaltender in the playoffs.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: This is one where you could make a really strong case for any one of San Jose, Calgary, or Vegas. I like San Jose’s forward depth a little more and I actually like their defence more than the other two teams. Their goaltending is suspect and there’s no doubt Vegas has the best goaltending in the division. Vegas also has the second best forward group. I’ll say San Jose is the best of the three, but Vegas is a close second. Calgary has an inconsistent forward group and sub-par goaltending so I think they’re third.
ARE YOU OKAY WITH A NON-PLAYOFF PLAYER WINNING THE HART?
IAN SHEPPARD: I am ok with it if he’s had a tremendous season or has clearly carried a team. Being surrounded by a bad team or a group that isn’t succeeding shouldn’t nullify one player’s contribution. I’m not saying it should happen all the time but if it were to happen every once in a while to a player who is clearly an MVP and has had a significant impact on his team despite their overall success then I have no issue with that player being recognized with the Hart Trophy.
WYATT ZIEGER: I am okay with it if it is an outstanding season but this year with what others have done it’s hard to give it to a player that doesn’t make the postseason. As much as you don’t want to admit it a success in the NHL is based upon whether or not you make the playoffs.
Players will tell you that individual awards don’t matter as much anyway so let’s give it someone who actually makes the dance.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I’m more than okay with it. The award isn’t for “player who was most valuable to his team making the playoffs” it’s just the teams most valuable player. Nikita Kucherov has been great this year, but would the Lightning be a damn good team without him? Absolutely.
Would the Oilers be anywhere close to where they are right now without McDavid? Nope, and that’s saying something. Would the Blackhawks be anywhere close to a playoff race without the production of Patrick Kane? Not a chance in hell. Patrick Kane is your MVP and I don’t care if they make the playoffs or not.
The Friday Three – The Western Conference was last modified: March 15th, 2019 by Tyler Yaremchuk
IAN SHEPPARD: I honestly have no complaints with the current format. I didn’t hate the old one either with the traditional one through eight match ups. But I just don’t see too many issues with the current format. Sure you get some of the better matchups done and over with early with first-round divisional series.
I don’t mind having the divisional matchups early in the playoffs. You’re always guaranteed to get the rival series this way even if they are earlier in the playoffs. I haven’t found the quality of hockey or experience of the playoffs diminish since the change.
WYATT ZIEGER: 1-16 would be unique but travel completely shuts that idea down. I’d like to see the old 1-8 format return but with a play-in game like baseball for the last wildcard spot in each conference.
Having the 8 and 9 teams play each other for the last spot would increase competition because fewer teams would tank with an additional spot.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: With modern day travel and how luxurious these teams live on the road, travel isn’t the issue with a 1-16 format, it’s time zones. It would be very unfiar to make a #1 seeded Tampa Bay Lightning team travel to the Pacific time zone. That would be a brutal way to start the playoffs especially considering the NHL works their series on a 2-2-1-1-1 instead of a 2-3-2 system for travel.
I like the idea of 1-8, but honestly, the best part of the playoffs is the first and second rounds so why not put the best matchups there and let it set the tone for the rest of the playoffs. I say leave things alone for a few more years.
IF YOU COULD PRESENT ONE CHANGE TO THE NHL GM’S, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
IAN SHEPPARD: I don’t know if I would pitch changes in terms of rules but I much like everyone else would like to see something done regarding officiating and player safety. Compare to some sports the NHL is well behind the mark in terms of protecting its players with consistency. In the NFL if a player is hit in the head and shows even the slightest sign of concussion he is immediately taken out of the game.
I draw back to an incident in a game between the Coyotes and Oilers when Conor Garland had his helmet pushed back before taking the puck off his unprotected head and into the net. Garland was not only celebrated for a unique goal but remained in the game to score another goal. I’m not being a bitter Oilers fan here, just feel that in an instant like there’s no way a player should remain in the game after something like that.
That’s just one instance where I feel the NHL mishandled player safety and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed.
WYATT ZIEGER: I know hockey fans hate major changes to the game so I’ll stay away from making the net bigger or giving teams the option of a penalty shot instead of a power play.
Instead, I’d like to see the point format change. I propose; 3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime win, 1 for an OT loss, 1 for a shootout win and 0 for a shootout loss. Giving more points for regulation wins would entice teams not to sit back late in tie games and would drive even more offense into overtime.
It would also weed out teams that survive in the standings thanks to losses in extra time.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I agree with Wyatt in the sense that I don’t think there’s an appetite for a massive change, so I will propose this: double up 3v3 OT. Make it ten minutes. At first, there was concern about how the players would handle it, but I think those have been erased by people in the game. Making it longer would also benefit teams with deeper, more skilled lineups since that’s what 3v3 is all about. More exciting OT and less dull shootouts, please!
WHO SHOULD THE LIGHTNING BE HOPING TO PLAY IN ROUND ONE?
IAN SHEPPARD: As it sits right now I think Montreal. If they were to stay in that last Wild Card spot, would be the obvious choice for an ideal matchup for the Lightning but I think if I’m Tampa I’m pulling for Columbus to make a push. I think Carolina is hot so if they drop a spot they would not be a team worth facing while Pittsburgh with it’s deep playoff pedigree could be scary.
Columbus is a team I think doesn’t really know what it wants. They went out and made some huge acquisitions in an attempt to win now. I just don’t think they would anywhere near capable of being ready for a powerhouse like Tampa especially after having to fight to get into the playoffs.
WYATT ZIEGER: If you want a fair matchup and someone that will actually give Tampa Bay a run for their money its gotta be Pittsburgh. They have all the playoff experience necessary and the best player in the world but they need to make the dance first.
If the Lightning take on the Penguins in the 1st round and get bounced it will be an extremely disappointing season for Tampa and create great parity for the NHL.
TYLER YAREMCHUK: They should be hoping that the Carolina Hurricanes grab the last playoff spot. Aside from Justin Williams, they’re largely inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs. I don’t trust their goaltending situation either. That’s a bad recipe for playoff sucess and I think the Lightning would throttle them.
The Friday Three – Changing The NHL was last modified: March 8th, 2019 by BelowTheIce