As the Regular Season Winds Down
As we are heading into the last weekend of the regular season, there are many great things to watch as the playoffs approach. We have multiple 100 point scorers (Kucherov 126, McDavid 115, Kane 107, Draisaitl 102, and Marchand 100) for the first time in ten years where four or more skaters broke the century mark. Not to mention, we still have the weekend where Johnny Gaudreau (98), Nathan McKinnon (98), Sidney Crosby (98) and Steven Stamkos (97) could still top that mark as well, with numerous other players in the 90 point range.
Nikita Kucherov’s current 126 points are the most in a season over the last 20 years since Jaromir Jagr posted 127 back in 1998-99 season. Nikita Kucherov will most likely surpass that marker with two games left, but will not catch Mario Lemieux’s 161 points in the 1995-96 season. That shows you just how special Kucherov is, and how well the Tampa team blends.
All season long all I heard from the NHL Network was that Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak are the best line in the NHL. Well they're certainly top three, but look up in the standings to the team 20 points ahead of them and you will see Kucherov (125), Stamkos (97) and Brayden Point (92). They haven’t been together all year, but when they are, they destroy. The Boston trio along with Tampa’s, all play on each team’s top power-play unit, and that provides all the scoring chances on earth. I’m pretty sure if I plopped my fat ass onto one of those power play lines, I could knock in at least 20 goals myself….Ok, ten is more reasonable, but I’m 48 and they’re not. My pre-season Cup final was Tampa over Nashville and I’m still sticking with that call.
Edmonton’s top duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are the first tandem in Edmonton since the 1988-89 season to top the 100 point plateau, with Jari Kurri (102) and Jimmy Carson (100) points respectively.
Speaking of Tampa, they have been the class of the NHL all season long, winning the Presidents Trophy back in November it seems. They’re not the only big dog in the yard though as defending Cup Champion Washington Capitals are sitting on 102 points with two games remaining and are certainly no pushover. As I spoke of earlier, Boston is really good as well, with 105 points and two games left. Out West, Calgary is leader of the pack with 107 points, and certainly makes for interesting spring hockey.
Once again Alex Ovechkin surpassed the 50 goal plateau, and may get some company with Leon Draisaitl sitting on 49 goals and my pre-season MVP pick John Tavares with 47. Speaking of JT, he has made an already potent offense in Toronto almost illegal. But is it enough to do some trophy lifting in early June? I’m not so sure, I honestly think the Leafs should have anteed up and got Drew Doughty from the Kings for this dynasty to be. It’ll be interesting to watch, as Muzzin has Stanley Cup experience as well, and Mike Babcock is a certifiable genius when it comes to molding parts and players.
There are some powerhouses out in the Western Conference, and like I said above, Calgary sits atop the Campbell Conference, but Winnipeg, Nashville and San Jose are also very good, and could also represent the West very well in a Cup final and be a very tough out in the playoffs.
In the Prince of Wales Conference (East) to the hockey ignorant, seven teams have punched their ticket to the playoffs, with Columbus and Montreal sitting at 94 points each, and C-Bus has a game in hand. If the Jackets miss the playoffs, coach Torts might be collecting unemployment as soon as next week. Montreal, who nobody had predicted for the playoffs, would be a huge surprise and Claude Julian should be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year for the job he has done.
As of today, Tampa Bay and Washington have the top two spots locked up, and in order of points, Boston, N.Y. Islanders, Pittsburgh, Toronto are in and Carolina ended a decade long playoff drought by locking down the top Wildcard spot.
Out West Calgary locked into the one hole with Nashville at 98 points. At 97 points each are Winnipeg and St. Louis, so this will be settled after the dust falls Sunday to see who plays who. San Jose has 99 points and Vegas is in with 93, with Dallas and Colorado locked up the Wild Cards. I cannot wait for the playoffs to begin, as I use is as a reason to not groom my beard and let it go. More and more gray sprinkled in it every day though, but that’s what marriage does to a fella.
I will have it all written out and lined up for a new article Tuesday or Wednesday to go over the playoff matchups once all is locked in.
If you ever want to talk fantasy, reach out to me @PolkaPat, and I know way more than hockey, as I placed second in the Fighting Chance Football and Baseball Fantasy Leagues in our inaugural seasons.
And I want to give a shout of kudos to the Arizona Coyotes, who hit 86 points and just missed the playoffs and a great season! I really hope this team continues to build around its core of young horses and Oliver Ekman-Larsson anchoring the defense.