We had a little bit of everything today.
Some great goaltending, plenty of goals, and even said goodbye to another Stanley Cup hopefully.
Better luck next year Anaheim.
Here’s how today went:
We had a little bit of everything today.
Some great goaltending, plenty of goals, and even said goodbye to another Stanley Cup hopefully.
Better luck next year Anaheim.
Here’s how today went:
The offence wasn’t about to slow down on day six of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs stayed alive to breathe some life back into their playoff hopes; the Devils did the same scoring three unanswered goals, Colorado got some revenge on Nashville lighting them up for five goals, and the Sharks dominated the Ducks for a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.
Heres what happened:
Written by: Liam Horrobin & Ian Sheppard
Apparently, defence doesn’t exist in day four of the Stanley Cup playoffs with 27 goals being scored in the first three games and five in the final game of the night.
Tampa continued to buzz against the Devils, and Nashville nudged out the Avs while the Bruins dismantled the Leafs, and the Sharks outlasted and outmuscled the Ducks.
Here’s how they went:
Previously I looked at the Eastern Conference and previewed the playoff picture. Now it’s time to look at the other side and preview what to expect from the Western Conference. The West is set up with talented teams mixed with veteran groups that have been to the dance before. There are only two teams that I see as favourites to make it all the way, but there’s always a chance for an upset, especially when there are more experienced teams. Here’s a preview of the Western Conference playoffs.
For this year, I think they could not only make it to the playoffs, but they could do some damage once they get to the big dance.
You could go read a magazine or go to major websites for season previews… but then it’s the same thing that tens of thousands of people read. So here is the start of my unique division by division season previews, which get you set for upcoming NHL season. If you want to check out my Central Preview, you can find it HERE.
Add: R.Miller – F.Beauchemin
Lost: S.Theodore (t) – J.Bernier (fa) – N.Thompson (fa) – C. Stoner (e) – R. Garbutt (fa)
They won the division last year despite a slumping offense, which came 18th in goals for. In a year where they struggled to score, their goaltending and defense stepped up in a big way. Their team GAA was 3rd and their core is still intact. Gibson will be back between the pipes while Lindholm, Fowler, Vatanen, and Manson will all be back on the blueline.
If there’s one concern with this team heading into the year it’s that the offense that finished 18th didn’t get better. While I do consider it a win that they didn’t lose any key pieces, especially considering the expansion draft, I would have liked to see them add an extra piece. They’ll need to rely on some bounce-back performances if they want to retain their Pacific Division crown.
I’m banking on that to happen. I think with the number of weapons they have, two years of below average offensive production isn’t going to happen. Expect another year of first in the Pac-8 for the Ducks.
Add: R.Strome – J.Jokinen – T.Rattie
Lost: J.Eberle (t) – B.Pouliot (bo) – D. Desharnais (fa) – G. Reinhart (e) – T. Pitlick (fa)
A quiet offseason in Oil Country, but most of the moves they made I consider a wash. Eberle simply couldn’t come back for another year with this team and while Strome lacks the same goal-scoring ability that Eberle had, he has some upside.
Offensively this team will be fine, they came 8th last year in GF/60 and there is really no reason to expect that number to drop. In fact, with McDavid and Draisaitl a year older and players like Lucic and Nugent-Hopkins looking for bounce-back years, they could score more than the 2.96 goals per game they had last year.
There are a few concerns for me when it comes to this team and it’s why I don’t have them passing the Ducks.
How will their defense hold up with Andrej Sekera out until at least the new year? It’s unclear how Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse will handle a heavier workload.
Also, this team stayed very healthy last year. Can they repeat that string of good health? Injuries are bound to hit every team at some point, does this team have the depth to overcome a significant injury? That still remains unclear.
Lastly, can Cam Talbot make it through another year starting close to 70 games? I’m not saying last year was a fluke by any means, but Talbot would have been a Vezina finalist last year, does he have that in him again?
Question marks aplenty, but I believe the young talent of this team can push them to another year with home-ice advantage in the postseason.
Add: T. Hamonic – S. Foo – M. Smith – E. Lack
Lost: B. Elliott (fa) – C. Johnson (fa) – D. Engelland (e) – L. Smid (fa) – L.Bouma (fa) – D. Wideman (fa)
Let’s start with what I like about the Flames heading into this season. The addition of Travis Hamonic is great and gives them an elite top four. The price they paid was steep, but the team is in win now mode, so I have no problems with it.
They also signed Spencer Foo, who could be a NHLer a few years from now, but I don’t believe he’ll have an impact this year.
Adding to their d-core, which was already a strength, as well as putting another winger in the prospect pool are both good moves. The problem with the Flames heading into this year is that they really didn’t address their major needs.
They still have a very poor right side. I don’t have confidence in Frolik & Brouwer to play on the team’s top line. Could they add someone mid-season? Absolutely. Wingers can be found around the trade deadline fairly easily so maybe this is a whole they could still look to fill.
They also didn’t improve their goaltending in my eyes. Mike Smith is 35 years old and not getting any better, while Eddie Lack is coming off a concussion riddled stint with Carolina that also saw minimal success. Just looking at last season, the combined GAA of Smith and Lack was 5.56 while compared to the combined GAA of Johnson and Elliot which was 5.14.
Those numbers may get better for Smith and Lack that they have a better team in front of them, but it wasn’t a big enough improvement in my eyes, especially given some of the marquee goaltenders available this offseason.
A few good moves and they can bank on some improvement from their young core, but not enough to catch either Edmonton or Anaheim.
Add: J. Demers – N. Hjalmarsson – D. Stepan – N. Cousins – A. Raanta
Lost: S. Doan (r) – Z. Michalek (fa) – J. McGinn (t) – C. Murphy (t) – L. Dauphin (t) – A. DeAngelo (t)
This may look absolutely crazy, but they had the best offseason of any team in their division. We already knew that they had one of the better young cores in the league, and now they actually have a solid group of veterans to play along with them.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was a sensational pickup. Some would argue he was the Hawks best d-man at times, and they got him at a great price. Factor in the great trade they made to grab Jason Demers along with the likes of Ekman-Larsson and Goligoski and you might be able to say they have one of the best d-cores in their division.
Up front, they added Derek Stepan who gives them an experienced centerman who can produce. Other than that their depth chart is littered with young talent and they’ll need some of those rookies to step up. There are high hopes for Clayton Keller, Dylan Strom, and Christian Dvorak. If they perform like some expect, the ‘Yotes could have a very succesful year.
In net, I like the addition of Antti Raanta and think him and Louis Domingue could be more than competent this year.
I don’t think they have enough to push into a playoff spot this year, but the Yotes are coming and might be a playoff team sooner rather than later.
Add: M.Cammalleri – D.Kuemper
Lost: B.Bishop (t) – B.McNabb (e) – M.Greene (bo) – D. Setoguchi (fa)
The Kings are coming into this season with more or less the same roster that has only won 1 playoff game in the past 3 years.
Their offense finished 25th last year and all they did was add veteran Mike Cammalleri, who is coming off a 10 goal campaign. Jeff Carter had to almost single-handedly carry this team’s offense last year, scoring a whopping 16% of his teams’ goals. The only other player to score 20 was Tanner Pearson (24).
Anze Kopitar also had a horrible year. His shooting percentage as 2.2% lower than it’s ever been, but even if he would have shot at his average percent, he wouldn’t have hit 20 goals. He’ll need to be better if the Kings want any hope of snagging a wild-card spot.
If there’s one beacon of hope, it’s that a full year of both Jonathan Quick and Tyler Toffoli may be able to boost them up the standings.
All in all, I didn’t see enough improvement to give me any reason to believe that this team can pass anyone for a Pacific Division playoff spot, and given how strong the Central is, I don’t like their odds at a Wild Card spot either.
Add: No Notable Players
Lost: P. Marleau (fa) – M. Mueller (t) – D. Schlemko (e) – M. Haley (fa)
With no additions to this point and having lost Marleau along with a solid depth d-man in Schlemko, it was not a great offseason in San Jose.
Joe Thornton is another year older, and he’s coming off a season in which he struggled to produce much offensively. Brent Burns got hot early, but shot well over his career sh%. During the last 20 games of the regular season, we saw Burns struggle, only scoring 10 points. When Burns struggled, so did the team, going 9-11-0 during Burns’ slump.
I have no questions about Martin Jones, even though both his GAA and SV% took dips last year, he should be solid again. But the cast in front of Jones? Not as strong as they once were.
To make the playoffs they’ll likely have to grab a Wild Card spot, and I just don’t see enough on this roster to beat out the crazy strong Central Division teams.
Add: EVERYONE GOT ADDED
Lost: THEY HAD NO PLAYERS LAST YEAR
You can expect a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games this year from the Golden Knights. I really like the d-core that they managed to grab through the expansion process. Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt are all relatively young and can all play competently in a team’s top 4. Mix them in with vets like Jason Garrison and Deryk Engelland and you have a d-core that’s better than a handful of other teams in the league.
Between the pipes, Marc-Andre Fleury can still hold a crease down. His numbers weren’t great in the regular season, but he played like his old self in the playoffs which is an encouraging sign. Even if he falters, they also have Calvin Pickard, who I was shocked to see available. The 25-year-old put up a 2.98 GAA and .904 SV% on an absolutely horrible Avalanche team. He could be a real surprise for VGK fans next year.
Up front, well, they aren’t good. They basically have a team full of 3rd liners with a few exceptions like Jonathan Marchessault and James Neal. There is some upside in guys like Vadim Shipachyov and Alex Tuch, but goal scoring will be a struggle.
I don’t think they’ll finish last, I think they’ll be too strong defensively, but the lack of goal scoring will keep them close to the basement.
Add: S.Gagner – A.Burmistrov – T. Vanek – M.Del Zotto – P.Wiercioch – A.Lindback
Lost: R.Miller (fa) – L.Sbisa (e) – D.Shore (fa) – P.Larsen (fa)
Are they tanking? Are they trying to compete for some reason? Who knows!
The Canucks are officially a laughing stock. The butt of every joke just like the Oilers and Sabres once were. The only difference: those teams knew they were going to be bad. What the Canucks are doing is just straight confusing.
They bring in Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Thomas Vanek which makes no sense. Those types of players don’t help you compete, they help you go from 29th to 27th and diminish your lottery chances.
Those additions also take playing time from guys like Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser or even guys like Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Gaunce, who need to figure out the NHL game in a hurry if they want to have prolonged careers.
The offseason made no sense, the season will go horribly and that cycle will likely continue until the organization can find a definitive direction.
Round one was really good. Round two got pretty close to living up to that hype. A couple of game sevens and the two best storylines in the playoffs (Nashville, Ottawa) continued onto the next round.
Here are 10 things I took from the four conference semi-final series:
Remember when Pittsburgh was almost relocated (I remember you Jim Balsillie) or when Chicago played games in front of a mainly empty arena. Bring some success into the picture and now you have two stable hockey markets.
Well, the same thing has happened to Nashville. They have a young, exciting team and are in a city that loves to party and rowdy. Watching the crowd erupt during their country music themed national anthems or seeing videos of fans partying in the streets has been one of my favourite parts of these playoffs.
The only thing more exciting than their fans has been their play on the ice, which brings me to my next point:
They have one of the most well-rounded d-men in the league, Roman Josi. Add the electrifying PK Subban who can move the puck up the ice like few others. Throw in Ryan Ellis, who has been contributing 5v5, on the powerplay and on the PK, and doing an incredible job with it. Mattias Ekholm doesn’t make many mistakes, just gives Peter Laviolette good, honest minutes. Matt Irwin was in the minors at one point this season, now he’s anchoring the 3rd pairing in the conference finals. It’s an incredible combination of raw ability mixed with everyone clicking into their best form at the same time.
A defense like that wins you games and can cover when Pekka Rinne has an off night (even though he hasn’t had one yet) but there’s another group of defenders that I can’t say the same about…
Teams can overcome not having a superstar forward (Ottawa, Nashville), and teams can be brought along by a hot goalie as well. But when you have a blueline that is as poor as the New York Rangers, it’s tough to have any success.
This is not a knack on Ryan McDonaugh, who was absolutely incredible in my eyes. But this is on the old and slow Dan Girardi and Marc Staal who is a shadow of his former self. This is on a management group and coaching staff who brought in Brendan Smith to try to fix a poor defensive group. They also refused to give more minutes to two of their more competent players, Brady Skjei played less than Staal and Girardi, while Nick Holden averaged 3 minutes less per game than Girardi.
Man, if you want an inspiring story, look no further than the Ottawa Senators. From Bryan Murray’s health to Craig Anderson and his wife Nicholle going through an un-imaginable time right now.
Then there’s Clarke MacArthur, who was really never supposed to play hockey again, never mind be scoring series-clinching goals in round one and making an impact late in the playoffs.
It’s an incredible reminder as to why someone like myself loves to watch sports. Sometimes the stars align and everything works out, and it’s amazing to see that happen to this Senator’s family.
The stories on the Senators have been great, but Erik Karlsson has been THE story on the ice. Averaging over 28 minutes a game, with more than a point a game, he had his coming out party in round two, which is weird to say about a player with multiple Norris trophies.
He’s a top 3 player in the World right now, and I have no doubt about that. We throw the term “generational” around a lot, but that sums up Karlsson. His commitment to defense, while still pushing the offensive pace the way he has this year is incredible.
A young core with two top ten scorers almost made the Conference Finals. In fact, they were two botched goalie interference calls away from being in the NHL’s final four.
Emerging defensemen like Klefbom, Nurse, and Benning only add to the white-hot future Edmonton has. They didn’t make it this year, but you’d be a fool to bet against them being in the big dance soon, and often.
Shea Theodore has been solid on the incredibly mobile Ducks defense, while up front, Rickard Rakell put up 30 goals this season and Jakob Silfverberg gave the Oilers fits during this past round. Which raises the expansion problem that the success of these three individuals will bring.
Silfverberg brings the classic power forward game, with a habit to fire the puck often. Rakell is just all around solid but has a knack for finishing plays. Theodore is a future top 4 defensemen, and one of them has to be traded, or be lost in the expansion draft. A good problem to have, but a problem none the less.
Take away their best d-man, give Crosby a rookie winger, take out their starting goalie… it doesn’t matter. The Penguins and Sidney Crosby are damn near impossible to win.
As much as it might be boring to watch a repeat champion and not have a young fresh team like Nashville win, witnessing the greatness that is Crosby (and Malkin and Fleury) is quite incredible.
Hardly needs any explaining. They call PK Subban for diving, which puzzled me. They miss calls late when Nick Bonino is given the phantom high stick from TJ Oshie. They blow goalie interference calls on the Oilers, which may have cost them the series.
The NHL Referees have a habit of giving respect to players who have been in the league a while, and this past round has taught me that is not the right way to do things.
Why have a rule book when it only applies to certain players, at certain points in the game, at certain times of the year. The game should be called the same way during game one in October, as it is in Game 7 of a playoff series. It’s sad that the officials became such a dominant story line, and it makes the NHL less pleasant to watch.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Let’s start with this: I really really really like the Nashville Predators. I think their defence is exceptional and if Pekka Rinne plays good then they could be giving the Hawks dynasty a real run for their money. In the end, I think Chicago is too deep. They can beat you in too many ways and have a lot of players breakthrough this year (Panik, Hartman). My pick is
Liam Horrobin: This serious could easily go to seven games with the amount of fire power both teams have. Nashville have the young up and coming roster led by Flip Forsberg up front and Subban at the back. On the flip side, the Blackhawks have all the experience in the world and that’s what will help them cross the line.
Taylor Paniccia: A Western Conference dark-horse to many people, this is a first round matchup that the Predators didn’t want to get involved in heading into the playoffs. These two teams have met twice in the postseason in recent years (2010 and 2015) with the Blackhawks winning both series in six games. It’s no secret that the Chicago Blackhawks love to play against the Nashville Predators as the Hawks took the season series this year four games to one. This is a Chicago team that knows how to win and will be looking to avenge their first round exit from last year and hunt down the Predators.
Brayden Engel: For the second time in 3 years, Nashville gets the pleasure of taking on the Blackhawks in the first round. Much like in 2015, I don’t see the out-experienced and out-skilled Predators making much of a dent in the armour of juggernaut Chicago.
Josh Goodings: As much as I’d love to see Nashville take down Chicago I don’t see this series being much different from the one in 2015. I really like Nashville’s young core of Forsberg, Johansen, Subban, and Josi. I expected more from the Preds this season, but they still have a bright future. Sadly I don’t think they have enough to beat the Blackhawks, who many were skeptical of after they failed to advance to the second round last year. But clearly they’re still the good ol’ Blackhawks, finishing 3rd in the NHL this year with 109 points. I think the Preds will be the Hawks first victim on their path to another Stanley Cup Final.
Devin Horne: How can you bet against Patrick Kane and Johnny Toews? The Blackhawks are still the dominant force in the west and will cruise to the western conference final. Nashville still doesn’t have all of the pieces they need to make a deep push, Subban was a great addition but I feel like they need something more up front. Watch out for Pekka Rinne though.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think the consensus is that this series will be one of the least exciting (or least attention grabbing) in the first round. Minnesota is slipping and if Devan Dubnyk isn’t back to his elite level in a hurry, then the Wild are in serious trouble. On the Blues side, even without Shattenkirk, they have a very good defense. You also can’t forget about Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues are also a better 5v5 possession team, so when the whistles go away in the playoffs (like they often do), I give them the edge.
Liam Horrobin: The Wild are getting cold at the wrong time! Devan Dubnyk’s have got worse every month which will also not help out the Wild. On the other hand, the Blues have been playing good hockey of late giving themselves a 7-1-2 record in their last 10 games. Out of all the series in west, this will be the closest one but I am going to have to take the Blues. Another great regular season for Boudreau but yet another disappointing postseason.
Taylor Paniccia: A few months ago I held the Minnesota Wild as one of my favourites in the West. But After buying at the deadline the Wild have cooled down as well as their goaltending from Devan Dubnyk, while the deadline seller Blues went on a hot run with much improved goaltending from Jake Allen. A fairly even season series between the two teams, (Blues taking it three games to two) look for special teams to play an important role in this playoff series, with the Blues running better numbers on the PP as well as the PK. While the Wild hold the title for most goals scored and goal differential in the West look for Jake Allen and the Blues to keep up their peak heading into the post-season and take down the Wild.
Brayden Engel: The Blues are 15-3-2 in their last 20 games coming into this series. Not to mention Dubnyk’s abysmal .895 SV% since the Blues started their streak. While regular season success/momentum doesn’t guarantee anything, it makes St Louis a sexy pick for an “upset”.
Josh Goodings: The Blues have been red hot ever since Mike Yeo became the new bench boss, while Minnesota has seen their very strong start drop off as of late. Devan Dubnyk looked like a potential Vezina winner at the halfway point, now he might not even be nominated. Dubnyk went 6-8-2 with a .895 SV% since the beginning of March, and if he doesn’t turn it around now the Wild’s playoff run will be very short lived. On the other hand Jake Allen has been red hot since March, going 11-2-2 with a .942 SV%. Despite trading Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline the Blues still have a very solid d-core, as well as the biggest offensive threat in the series in Vladimir Tarasenko. I smell an upset in the state of hockey.
Devin Horne: Am I the only person not looking forward to this snooze fest? This is the series I’m least looking forward to, excitement has faded as the Wild have cooled off and Dubnyk isn’t standing on his head like he was earlier this season. St. Louis trading Kevin Shattenkirk didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. Sure, you don’t want to lose him for nothing, but if the Blues thought they had a shot they wouldn’t have traded him.
Tyler Yaremchuk: The Flames can’t win in Anaheim, I don’t know why, and if the Flames knew why then they wouldn’t keep losing. Are they due for a win in So-Cal? I would say no. Even without Fowler, the Ducks are solid on the backend and i trust their offensive core, especially with the addition of Eaves. The Flames can win if the Ducks health becomes a serious issue or if they can throw the Ducks off their game by adding some bad blood to things. I don’t see that happening.
Liam Horrobin: This will be a fun but short series. The Flames have got all the speed up front while the Ducks have it all at the back which could be the difference maker. When you have a first line which has Perry and Getzlaf, then the second line with Ryan Kesler it’s very difficult to not say they’re the favourite. Much like Nashville, the Flames will have to rely heavily on their goaltender Brian Elliott if they want any chance of winning.
Taylor Paniccia: A matchup I’m very excited to watch. This series has all the signs of good old school hockey as these two teams do not like each other. The size and physicality of the Anaheim Ducks will be a problem for the small forwards of the Calgary Flames. With the Flames not winning in Anaheim in over ten years look for this to a be a mental problem for Calgary. While the Flames do have a deep roster the Ducks dominated the season series (four games to one) and have been one of the NHL’s best down the stretch. Look for the Ducks to extinguish the Flames quickly.
Brayden Engel: Another familiar matchup brings the return of the Red Mile and, in all likelihood, a disappointment for Calgary fans. I’m not one for season series numbers because I think a playoff date varies greatly from playing on the second half of a back to back in December but Anaheim did win 4 of 5 against their first round opponents. There’s no way a Randy Carlyle coached team could let its fans down right?
Josh Goodings: The Flames cannot win in Anaheim. Simple as that. The Flames haven’t won a game at the Honda Centre since 2006. Insane, and I really don’t think that’s gonna change during this series. Not to mention Anaheim is just a better, more experienced team. This should be a quick and easy series for the Ducks.
Devin Horne: We were so close to the first playoff battle of Alberta since 1991, but Anaheim had to ruin that. Thanks guys. As an Oiler fan I’m not sure which team I hate more, since acquiring Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler the Ducks are giving Calgary a run for it’s money. It would be a dream come true for Calgary to upset the Ducks and possibly meet Edmonton in the second round, but the Ducks are just too good. Deep down the middle and even with the Cam Fowler injury their defense is still a force. Add to that Calgary hasn’t won in Anaheim in 20 some games.
Tyler Yaremchuk: The San Jose Sharks are banged up and slumping. The Edmonton Oilers are healthy, fast and hot. That would explain why many have the Oilers walking away with this, but I’d pump the breaks. This Sharks team knows how to win and they know how to play in the playoffs. They can get away with the little slashes and cheap plays, a definite advantage over a younger Oilers team. Martin Jones should also be scaring Oilers fans, he’s the type who can carry a team through a round and he proved it last year. In the end, I think the raw skill of Edmonton prevails, but barely.
Liam Horrobin: With the injuries that the Sharks have had in recent weeks, you’ve got to make the Oilers the
favourites. However, even without those injuries, the Oilers still took the season series verse the Sharks. Although Connor McDavid led the league and Oilers in points, in the last few weeks, the Oil have had numerous other players step up like Lucic and Eberle. With those guys now hitting a hot streak, the depth that the Oilers have will help them defeat the Sharks.
Taylor Paniccia: It’s no secret and people have to realize it. The Edmonton Oilers have owned all Western Conference season series matchups this year. The Oilers have won the season series against all Western Conference playoff teams except for the Wild and the Predators. With the fade of the San Jose Sharks in the later stages of the season and the injuries to the likes of Thornton, Couture and Pavelski, look for the Oilers to drown the Sharks in their return to the post-season.
Brayden Engel: Connor McDavid puts up 4 goals in his first game of the postseason and exposes himself to Joe Thornton, setting the tone for the series. Really think home ice makes a huge difference in this one with Edmontonians finally hosting some playoff action and getting to wear orange to the games to show their support for the NDP party’s leadership.
Josh Goodings: The Oilers are legit. After finishing 29th in the NHL last year, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Cam Talbot have lead the blue and orange back to the playoffs with a 103 point season. They’re no joke, and they’ve been great against not only the pacific division but the entire Western Conference, winning their season series against every team except Nashville and Minnesota. They won the season series against San Jose 3-1-1, winning the 3 most recent games. Earning home-ice advantage in this series was huge for the Oilers, as they won their last nine home games of the season. Brent Burns is the clear cut MVP of the Sharks this season, but it’s worth noting he slowed down at the end of the season, scoring only 2 goals in his last 23 games. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton being banged up could also make this series much easier for the Oilers, but the Sharks are not a team to just shrug off, this will be a hard series for the Oilers to win. But the Sharks have the biggest challenge in this series, stopping the McDavid/Draisaitl duo. Draisaitl put up 21 points in the last 14 games, while McDavid had 25 points on his 14 game point streak to close out the year. The Oilers head into their first playoff berth since 2006 extremely hot, with no intentions of slowing down.
Devin Horne: Decade of darkness is over! I predicted the Oil to make the post season, but I thought they would be fighting tooth and nail for a wild card spot, not 2 points back of a Pacific Division title. Thornton is going to play hurt, as is Logan Couture. Sharks are still deep at centre and Martin Jones is an absolute beast. The Oil faired pretty well against the Sharks this season, taking the season series 3 to 2. Connor McDavid is the best player on earth, Draisaitl, Maroon, Talbot, and Eberle/Lucic are finally hitting their strides. This Oilers team is looking scary. Sharks are the veteran team and will be a handful for the Oilers, but I think the Oil squeeze into the second round.
(photo via Toronto Star)
A report out of Ottawa this week claims that the Senators plan to ask Dion Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause before this year’s expansion draft.
Some are surprised since Phaneuf seemed to have found a good role in Ottawa and the organization, by all accounts, is happy with what they’ve gotten from the former Maple Leaf.
But one thing that should be noted with a story like this is even if the team asks a player to waive his NTC or NMC, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to lose him, it may just be a strategy, and there will be a lot of teams using this strategy. Let me explain it from the Senators perspective:
The Senators can only protect 3 defenders. Karlsson and Ceci are automatics, which means one of Methot or Phaneuf need to be left unprotected. Methot has a fairly team friendly contract and would likely be a vet that Vegas looks at favorably. While Phaneuf, while still valuable, is still owed $7 million a season until 2021. Likely a deal that Vegas doesn’t want to touch.
So the Senators would much rather protect Methot from the expansion draft, but Phaneuf’s NMC means he needs to be automatically protected, meaning Methot would likely be lost. If the Senators can approach Phaneuf and say:
“Look, we want to keep both you and Marc Methot around, we know they won’t touch your contract, so if you waive your NMC, it will improve the team.”
Then they could be in a scenario where they don’t lose a top six forward or a top four d-man. This is something I think a lot of teams will be doing during the months leading up to the expansion draft. As it sits right now, only Calgary, New Jersey, San Jose, Washington, St. Louis, and Toronto don’t have any active no move or no trade clauses. Meaning that ⅘ of the NHL could have a problem similar to the one Ottawa is facing. Here are some other notable scenarios it may be happening:
The Anaheim Ducks are in a tough spot with their defense, so asking Kevin Bieksa to waive his NMC could be the difference between losing one of Silfverberg/Cogliano or losing Josh Manson, a big difference for that organization.
The Blackhawks likely don’t want to lose Trevor Van Riemsdyk, as he is a young, cost controlled defenseman. If they want to keep both TVR and Kruger, it may require convincing Marian Hossa to waive his NMC. He owns a cap hit of $5.25 million until 2021, so it’s close to a guarantee Vegas won’t want to touch him. This could be a scenario where Hossa weaves his NMC, with an understanding he won’t be going anywhere.
The Blue Jackets have 3 forwards with NMC’s, one of which is Scott Hartnell, who will be getting $4.75 million. If the team wants to keep Matt Calvert or Josh Anderson, they will need to ask Hartnell to waive his clause, even though it’s doubtful he will be selected due to his contract.
Could the Minnesota Wild do this with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? Potentially both?! It’s a little insane at first glance, but
word is, that Vegas doesn’t want term. They want contracts they can get out of in 3-5 years so they have money for free agency and players coming off entry-level contracts. Well, Parise and Suter are both owed $7.5 million until 2025, will Vegas really take those deals with two players who are aging and declining in skill? Doubtful. Leaving them both unprotected allows Minnesota to keep Nino Niederreiter and all 4 of their young d-men. It’s a little crazy, but it might work!
The Rangers have three players who fit this bill, Marc Staal ($5.7mil until 2021), Dan Girardi ($5.5mil until 2020) and Rick Nash ($7.8mil until 2018). Out of those, Rick Nash might actually get taken because of how little term is left. But leaving one of the older d-men unprotected allows them to go with the 8 skaters option and keep Oscar Lindberg or Kevin Hayes.
More of the same in Tampa where the difference between Ryan Callahan waiving his NMC or refusing could cost the team a young/impactful forward like Vlad Namestnikov or a reliable vet like Alex Killorn.
Plenty of examples of how crucial convincing an aging vet to take a leap of faith will be when the expansion draft roles around. A GM’s ability to negotiate and convince a player to trust him could have repercussions that will be felt for over a decade.
photo via likesuccess.com
With the end of the regular season here and fantasy playoff hockey talk hot, let’s countdown the top ten players you should pick up for success in your pool.
10 Tyler Seguin – I do have the Minnesota Wild taking down the offensive heavy Dallas Stars but it’s too tough not to have a natural goal scorer in Tyler Seguin on this list.
9 Vladimir Tarasenko – It’s hard to pick between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on who advances to the next round but it’s always better to take a superstar on a team that may potentially get knocked out in the first round than a depth guy on a team that may go far.
8 Pavel Datsyuk – It’s a going away party for the Magic Man as this his going to be his last crack at Lord Stanley. Find his silky mitts putting up points and for the Detroit Red Wings to take down the banged up Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of playoffs.
7 Aleksander Barkov – It’s a toss up in my opinion between Jagr and Barkov and just out of sheer instinct Barkov will lead the way for his team in the playoffs.
6 Corey Perry – Many people are saying the Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the NHL right now and Corey Perry will lead the way with what I feel is a simple first round matchup for the Ducks
5 Zach Parise – The Minnesota Wild will knock out the Dallas Stars in the first round of playoffs and find none other than Zach Parise leading the way for the Wild. They upset the St. Louis Blues a year ago and I feel they can do the same against Dallas this playoff campaign.
4 Sidney Crosby – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are arguably the hottest team in the NHL. Crosby since the All-Star break has been the NHL’s best player and look for Pittsburgh to keep up their momentum and take down the difficult New York Rangers in the first round of playoffs.
3 Anze Kopitar – There’s no doubt that Anze Kopitar is LA’s go to machine. Look for LA to advance to the next round of playoffs and for Kopitar to be in on many of their goals.
2 Alexander Ovechkin – I believe Ovechkin is interchangeable with the number one spot on this list. It really comes down to who you favor winning the cup this year. Ovechkin’s importance to the Washington Capitals offense is heavy. He’s a natural sniper and is the best powerplay player in the league. Averaging just over five shots per game you can’t leave The Great Eight off this list. With Washington a true top three cup contender look for Ovechkin to really step up his play in the playoffs to try and capture his first Stanley Cup ring.
1 Patrick Kane – It’s hard not to have the NHL’s leading scorer on the top of this list. With Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks roster you can’t sell them short of taking home yet another Stanley Cup. Look for Chicago to go deep in this year’s post-season and don’t be surprised when you see Patrick Kane leading the way in points for his team and possibly capturing a Conn Smythe if the Blackhawks take home another Stanley Cup.