The Original Trio reunite for a special look at the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, college coaches landing NHL jobs and Conference Finals takeaways. Also, we meant Andrei Svechnikov.
In a first, everyone (except for Jordan) appears on the Down the Frozen River Podcast to predict how the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go before the 2017-18 NHL regular season even ends, technically speaking. The 100th episode anniversary is informally observed.
Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.
Nick and Connor ponder whether or not Taylor Hall is a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate, which Western Conference team (NSH, WPG or VGK) will make the Stanley Cup Final and dive into the odds of the Florida Panthers making the playoffs and/or fielding a competitive team. Also, thoughts on the Detroit Red Wings and goaltender interference.
Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.
First of all, it’s March, which means it’s officially the best month of the year, but not for any of the reasons you’re thinking. College basketball can stay on the back burner– especially when there’s playoff hockey to look forward to next month when, oh yeah, that NCAA championship game actually occurs.
Save your “March is the worst month of the year” takes for the next person in line, thanks.
Anyway, at this point in the season it’s worth noting that the trade deadline has come and passed. While acquisitions like Rick Nash for the Boston Bruins, Derick Brassard for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tomas Tatar for the Vegas Golden Knights and Paul Stastny for the Winnipeg Jets will certainly impact their teams, the following projected standings are merely an educated guess at how things should pan out.
There are simply too many variables that Microsoft Excel cannot account for, namely injuries, roster changes and well, whether or not a player woke up on the right side of the bed that day.
To that end, some projected points totals had a little Gut Feeling 2.0 added to them. In other words, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not going to end up with 130 or 131 points like a couple of models showed– there’s simply not enough games remaining for them to almost match an NHL record.
Therefore, more realistic measures have been added for some teams to account for “reality”.
Some teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, for instance, had a little win-percentage on the season taken into account for their 19 remaining games on the season– and then reflected in the total number of points they should earn.
As with all stats and analytics, try not to get too bogged down on one or another. A holistic viewpoint goes much further than trying to survive on heart and grit alone.
Especially in today’s NHL, where speed and skill are more present than ever before.
With that, here’s a glance at how the standings should shake out for all 31 NHL clubs based on their performances through February 28, 2018.
As always, my degree is in communication, not math. In other words, throw everything mentioned above out the window, strap yourself in and good luck surviving the adrenaline rush that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Oh, your team’s not going to make it, you say?
My condolences, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes fans. Next year is totally your year.
2017-2018 Projected Standings after Five Months
- y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (64 GP so far)
- x-Boston Bruins, 105 points (61 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (66 GP so far)
- Montreal Canadiens, 78 points (63 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (63 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 75 points (60 GP so far)
- Buffalo Sabres, 68 points (64 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 65 points (62 GP so far)
The Atlantic Division was already determined in December. Nothing should surprise anyone, except for how close it should be coming down the wire for first place in the division.
It might seem crazy considering the Tampa Bay Lightning really bolstered their defense with Ryan McDonagh at the trade deadline, but Boston and Toronto have as much speed and offense to remain in the hunt for that little “Y” next to their names down the stretch. Plus it helps that the Lightning, Bruins and Maple Leafs aren’t playing each other every night, so that has to factor in their somehow.
Between 4th and 6th in the division it’s anyone’s game. The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers are all teetering on the edge of either a rebuild or just a few steps away from a re-tool-on-the-fly.
Neither of them are inherently “ideal”, but they can’t do anything else to compete with Tampa, Boston and Toronto.
It’s worth noting that the Buffalo Sabres will barely climb out of the basement of the division this year. And that’s without Jack Eichel (fractured ankle).
Simply put, the Ottawa Senators are beyond bad.
- z-Pittsburgh Penguins, 108 points (64 GP so far)
- x-Philadelphia Flyers, 99 points (63 GP so far)
- x-New Jersey Devils, 97 points (63 GP so far)
- wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 96 points (63 GP so far)
- wc2-Washington Capitals, 94 points (64 GP so far)
- New York Islanders, 87 points (64 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 75 points (63 GP so far)
- New York Rangers, 72 points (64 GP so far)
After much turbulence leading up to this month in the Metropolitan Division, it seems by the end of the month, we’ll have a clear picture of who’s really a contender, who’s making a Second Round exit and who’s just pretending to be on the ice when they’re actually sending out some pretty high-tech holograms on the ice.
In other words, the Pittsburgh Penguins are suited for a three-peat as long as Matt Murray can stay healthy. Even still, they’re beginning to peak at the right time as they have done every year with Mike Sullivan behind the bench.
But who’s that neighbor of theirs in Pennsylvania? They might have to re-grease some poles in Philadelphia, because the Flyers are surging right now and it should carry them into decent playoff position.
The New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals all remain competitive, but sadly fall victim to First or Second Round exits simply because have you seen the rest of the Eastern Conference? Yeah, I thought so too.
One of these years if the Carolina Hurricanes look to actually spend a little more money they’ll be able to take their money-puck approach back to the postseason for the first time since 2009, but this year is not that year. They didn’t do anything at the deadline and it shows.
- p-Winnipeg Jets, 116 points (63 GP so far)
- x-Minnesota Wild, 104 points (63 GP so far)
- x-Nashville Predators, 100 points (62 GP so far)
- wc2-St. Louis Blues, 92 points (65 GP so far)
- Dallas Stars, 92 points (63 GP so far)
- Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (63 GP so far)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 70 points (63 GP so far)
Your President’s Trophy winners, ladies and gentlemen, entering March 2018 should be the Winnipeg Jets.
That’s right, the team in Winnipeg, Manitoba with a seating capacity of a little more than 15,000 fans at Bell MTS Place. That one. Winnipeg. The Western Conference’s Carolina Hurricanes. They aren’t big spenders, yet they bought exactly what they needed at the trade deadline in Paul Stastny.
Meanwhile, apparently Eric Staal‘s first hat trick in a little over five years is enough to catapult the Minnesota Wild on a surprising run down the stretch. Though they are currently 3rd in the Central Division, Minnesota is coming alive.
It’s hard to knock the Nashville Predators off of their game– especially while they’re in command of the division– but something just doesn’t go exactly as planned this month for the Preds.
They’ll still beat Minnesota in the First Round and set themselves up for quite a matchup with Winnipeg in the Second Round though. Obviously the winner of that is going to battle the Vegas Golden Knights for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.
A warning to the St. Louis Blues– keep up this downward trend and the Dallas Stars will replace you in the wild card.
Whatever upper body injury is plaguing Corey Crawford is only making things worse for the Chicago Blackhawks.
In some models, they should be a lot better than they are right now, but that’s due to their impressive streak of success from 2010-17. Now, in 2018, the wheels fell off and the floor fell out from under them– on top of the Crawford injury.
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 113 points (63 GP so far)
- x-Los Angeles Kings, 105 points (64 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 100 points (64 GP so far)
- wc1-San Jose Sharks, 94 points (64 GP so far)
- Calgary Flames, 78 points (65 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 78 points (63 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 77 points (64 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 63 points (62 GP so far)
The Vegas Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, come up three points shy of winning the 2017-18 President’s Trophy as the team with the best regular season record. The Vegas Golden Knights.
Despite the push from all of the California clubs, this is Vegas’s division title to lose. Not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs too.
No amount of onslaught from the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks should be able to stand a seven-game series with Ryan Reaves and the rest of the Golden Knights. Having said that though, it’s a shame the San Jose Sharks will likely pair-up with the Jets, because we’ll never get to know if Vegas could single handedly defeat all three California teams en route to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
That’s assuming a lot, but let’s roll with it.
All season long the Calgary Flames have been a lovable underdog. Unfortunately, their time is cut short. All good things must come to an end and again, if you’re going to do nothing at the deadline as a fringe competitor, you can’t expect to improve.
At least you shouldn’t, otherwise well, you know the definition of insanity (doing the same thing and expecting a different result).
Better luck next year, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes.
A highly touted winger was swapped with a couple of picks and a prospect that now reunites a Boston University line in Buffalo. Should BU open up a remote campus in upstate New York?
The Buffalo Sabres traded F Evander Kane to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for F Danny O’Regan, a conditional 1st round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and a conditional 4th round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft prior to Monday’s trade deadline.
If Kane doesn’t re-sign with the Sharks, then the 2019 1st round pick becomes a 2019 2nd round pick. The 2019 1st round pick is also lottery protected and will remain a 1st round pick if San Jose wins the Cup.
The conditional 4th round pick in 2019 can become a 2020 3rd round pick if the Sharks so choose.
Kane, 26, has 20-20–40 totals in 61 games for the Sabres this season. A five-time 40-point scorer, Kane has 177 goals and 163 assists (340 points) in 557 career NHL games with the Sabres and Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers.
A native of Vancouver, British Columbia, the 6’2″, 212-pound power forward combines scoring prowess with quite a punch. He is a pending-UFA this July and was originally drafted by the Thrashers in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
O’Regan, 24, has four assists in 19 games with San Jose this season.
The 5’10”, 185-pound center has 7-18–25 totals in 31 games with the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) in 2017-18 and had 23-35–58 totals in 63 games last season with the Barracuda after completing four years at Boston University alongside now-current Buffalo teammates, Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues.
A native of Berlin, Germany, O’Regan was originally drafted by the Sharks in the 5th round (138th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He’ll likely report to the Rochester Americans.
The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.
Skater of the Week: Connor McDavid
Likely a byproduct of the abysmal season Edmonton is having, McDavid has been enjoying a solid if less-than-stellar season (he’s still put up 64 points in 54 games, we’re just talking about the arguable best player in the world) and hadn’t made this esteemed list until now. But with eight points in four games this week (including a four-goal, five-point performance against the almighty Lightning), Edmonton’s lord and savior has claimed the throne.
McDavid saw a five-game point scoring streak (seven goals, 11 points) come to an end in Edmonton’s final game of the week, but managed to put up eight points in the week’s three prior contests, so he definitely is worthy of the nod.
Tendy of the Week: Devan Dubnyk
In a week of slim standout goaltending performances (apart from Andrei Vasilevskiy making what might actually be the greatest save in the history of hockey), Dubnyk’s 2-0-1 record manages to stand out, particularly paired with his .950 save percentage and 1.96 GAA.
Apart from giving up four goals in the overtime loss to Arizona (which came on 40 shots, allowing Dubnyk to still manage a .900 save percentage), Dubnyk backstopped two victories over division rivals to cap a stellar week, turning aside 35-of-37 shots faced against St. Louis, and posting a 44-save blanking of Chicago.
The lanky Saskatchawinian (I have no idea if that’s a real word, but it was fun to say) hasn’t quite matched his ridiculous numbers from last season to this point, but he’s still been more than solid and has the Wild poised for another playoff run.
*Editor’s note: It’s “Saskatchewanian,” Pete. But close enough.*
Game of the Week: Detroit Red Wings 6 @ New York Islanders 7 (OT), Friday February 9th, 2018
Someone pick up the damn phone, the 1980s are calling.
This was one of those games that just made you laugh, because nothing about it made any sense. Three goaltenders played in the game, none of them posting a save percentage higher than .857 (Petr Mrazek had a frankly disturbing .759 and played for the team that DIDN’T switch goaltenders). Nine, count them, nine skaters had multi-point games, including a hat trick for Brock Nelson, a four-point outing for Henrik Zetterberg, and Mathew Barzal‘s five-assist performance making him the first rookie in 100 years to post three five-point games in a season.
Detroit was all over the Isles early, dominating the first period and taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room. New York could only answer one time in the second period, before drawing to within one early in the third, only to have the Wings score twice more in a 2:12 span to regain a three-goal lead. But with about six minutes to play, Tyler Bertuzzi would attempt to chop off the leg of Cal Clutterbuck, giving the Islanders a five-minute major power play opportunity. An opportunity they would capitalize upon thoroughly.
Brock Nelson. 5-3. Anders Lee. 5-4. Nick Leddy. Tie game. Josh Bailey. The Isles now somehow lead this game 6-5 with 1:49 to play after scoring four times on a single power play. Who could have predicted this? Who could even believe this? Who is writing the script for this movie? Who’s got Mike Green in the slot? Oh, nobody does, and with 29 seconds to play the Red Wings complete the circus act to tie the game at six and force overtime.
Nelson would complete his hat trick to finally end the chaos 3:15 into the extra frame, but if we’re honest, everyone who watched this game were the real winners*.
*Except my father, who is still questioning how his team could score six goals and lose a hockey game.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Sidney Crosby scored the 400th goal of his career on Sunday against the Blues. I can only speak positively of him for so long at any given time, so I’ll just end this right here.
Lars Eller got himself a five-year, $17.5M extension with the Capitals, making him probably the highest-paid person in the world named Lars that doesn’t play drums.
Alexandre Burrows decided not to appeal his 10-game suspension for being an absolute piece of…err…I mean kneeing Taylor Hall in the head…a lot. Personally, I was really hoping he would appeal the suspension, and the league would respond by making it an 11-game suspension, just because it’s Alex Burrows.
Mark Scheifele is back off of IR, adding even more firepower to a Jets squad that might just screw around and grab a Presidents’ Trophy.
The Rangers basically announced in a letter to their fans that they are dropping the franchise on a landmine and starting over, which is probably disheartening to the fanbase, but New York was only one point behind my Blue Jackets when the letter was published so, like, I’m definitely not thinking about that when I try to go to sleep or anything.
Jack Eichel is out for at least a month after suffering a high-ankle sprain. This is devastating news for the Sabres, as they lose a key piece in their pursuit of a playoff spot. (Nobody say anything and let’s see if any Buffalo fans know that was sarcasm)