Guentzel, Kadri, Stamkos, Terry heading to NHL All-Star Game as ‘Last Men In’

Fans have voted Nazem Kadri, Steven Stamkos, Troy Terry, and Mika Zibanejad into the 2022 NHL All-Star Game as the “Last Men In.

Kadri will join the Central Division team with Avalanche teammate Nathan MacKinnon; Stamkos will be with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Victor Hedman as the Lightning representatives on the Atlantic Division roster; and Terry and John Gibson will be the Ducks’ players on the Pacific Division squad.

This should make MacKinnon happy after he expressed his displeasure at Kadri not being included on the initial roster by saying, “It’s silly. I don’t think every team should send a guy. It’s an All-Star Game, not a Participation Game.”

While Zibanejad was voted in as the Metropolitan Division’s “Last Men In” winner, the forward will not be attending the weekend in Las Vegas due to personal reasons. Jake Guentzel, who finished second in the division voting, will replace him to represent the Penguins along with goaltender Tristan JarryChris Kreider and Adam Fox will be the Rangers’ players on the Metro team.

The NHL announced the All-Star captains and rosters last week for the 3-on-3 event on Feb. 4-5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The three-game tournament will feature two semifinals pitting one division against another with the winners advancing to the final.

Andrew Brunette (Panthers, Atlantic Division), Jared Bednar (Avalanche, Central Division), Rod Brind’Amour (Hurricanes, Metropolitan Division), and Peter DeBoer (Golden Knights, Pacific Division) will serve as the head coaches for each division.

2022 NHL All-Star Game rosters

Atlantic Division (All-Star Appearance)

Auston Matthews, TOR (4th) – captain 
F Steven Stamkos, TB (7th) – via “NHL Last Men In” vote
F
Drake Batherson, OTT (1st)
F Patrice Bergeron, BOS (3rd)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (2nd)
F Dylan Larkin, DET (2nd)
F Nick Suzuki, MTL (1st)
D Rasmus Dahlin, BUF (1st)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (3rd)
G Jack Campbell, TOR (1st)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (4th)

Central Division (All-Star Appearance)

F Nathan MacKinnon, COL (4th) – captain
F Nazem Kadri, COL (1st) – via “NHL Last Men In” vote
F Kyle Connor, WPG (1st)
F Alex DeBrincat, CHI (1st)
F Kirill Kaprizov, MIN (1st)
F Clayton Keller, ARI (2nd)
F Jordan Kyrou, STL (1st)
F Joe Pavelski, DAL (4th)
D Cale Makar, COL (1st)
G Juuse Saros, NSH (1st)
G Cam Talbot, MIN (1st)

Metropolitan Division (All-Star Appearance)

F Alex Ovechkin, WSH (8th) – captain
*F Mika Zibanejad, NYR (1st) – will not attend due to personal reasons
F Jake Guentzel, PIT (1st) – replacing Zibanejad via “Last Men in Vote”
F Sebastian Aho, CAR (2nd)
F Claude Giroux, PHI (7th)
F Jack Hughes, NJD (1st)
F Chris Kreider, NYR (2nd)
D Adam Fox, NYR (1st)
D Adam Pelech, NYI (1st)
D Zach Werenski, CBJ (2nd)
G Frederik Andersen, CAR (2nd)
G Tristan Jarry, PIT (2nd)

Pacific Division (All-Star Appearance)

F Connor McDavid, EDM (5th) – captain
F Troy Terry, ANA (1st) – via “NHL Last Men In” vote
F Leon Draisaitl, EDM (3rd)
F Jordan Eberle, SEA (2nd)
F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY (6th)
F Adrian Kempe, LAK (1st)
F Timo Meier, SJS (1st)
F Mark Stone, VGK (1st)
D Alex Pietrangelo, VGK (3rd)
G Thatcher Demko, VAN (1st)
G John Gibson, ANA (3rd)

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: More on Meier, Klingberg trade spots, NHL market value

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.

• In case you missed it, Timo Meier set a new Sharks franchise record by scoring five goals during Monday’s win against the Kings. [More here, and here]

• Here’s Timo Meier reflecting on that record-breaking performance. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

• Speaking of the Sharks, check out Adam Gretz’s breakdown of their near future (challenges to stay in the playoff hunt) and longer-term future (extend Tomas Hertl, or trade him?). [PHT]

• With John Klingberg trade rumors bubbling up again, it makes sense to wonder which teams would make the best fit. It’s no surprise to see the Hurricanes listed as a possible Klingberg trade partner with the Stars, but Sean O’Leary and Josh Wegman mention four other contenders, too. Should be interesting to see if Klingberg gets moved before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, or down to the wire. [The Score]

• Monday (right before midnight) is your last chance to vote for the “Last Men In” for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. You can do that here. Meanwhile, PHT took a look at All-Star Game snubs, and who would be the best “Last Men In” picks. [PHT]

• An interesting breakdown of where all 32 NHL teams rank in terms of “surplus value.” You might be surprised to see how many teams are in the black instead of the red [The Athletic, sub required]

• Interesting “The Game is Global” series over at EP Rinkside. In part four, Cuyler Holmquist breaks down the “state of play” in South Korea, Austria, Italy, and Great Britain. [EP Rinkside, sub required]

• Check out Adam Gretz’s latest batch of Power Rankings. [PHT]

• Looking back, did people underestimate certain strengths of Wayne Gretzky’s skating abilities? [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Oof, you know what might be worse than tanking on purpose? Tanking because you’re just that hapless. That might just be the case for the lowly Montreal Canadiens. What a fall. [Sportsnet]

• So far, Scott Wheeler counted down his 32nd ranked (Seattle Kraken) to his 25th ranked (Chicago Blackhawks) prospect pools. Once Wheeler finishes, will the Kings be ranked No. 1 again, or will some other team claim the throne? [The Athletic, sub required]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Rink Wrap: Five goals for Meier, Kraken no longer mired in losing streak

Top players from Monday in the NHL

Timo Meier and some other Sharks

This edition of the Monday NHL Rink Wrap presents a challenge. After all, you can’t really avoid marinating in a record-breaking night for Timo Meier and the San Jose Sharks. Yet, with there already being a post on those five (5) goals for Timo Meier, and eight games total on the Monday NHL schedule, it makes sense to spread the wealth, too.

But, goodness, what a night by Timo Meier. Previously, multiple Sharks held the team record with four goals in a single game. Remarkably, Meier collected all five of those goals in the first two periods, including a hat trick in the opening frame. They won’t get the headlines, but Erik Karlsson (three assists, reached 500 helpers for his career) and Tomas Hertl (four assists) weren’t far behind him.

And the Sharks can thank James Reimer (39 out of 41 saves) for not needing all five of those Meier goals. Overall, the Sharks reached six goals on just 17 shots on goal, with Meier firing six of those SOG.

Brayden Schenn/Ivan Barbashev, Blues

Speaking of not far behind Timo Meier, top Blues scorers from Monday were almost as worthy of NHL player of the night. In the case of Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev, the two Blues forwards scored four points (2G, 2A) apiece. Ryan O’Reilly generated three points (1G, 2A) of his own.

With Schenn and especially ROR, great results aren’t that surprising. But Barbashev’s been quite the revelation so far this season. (Congrats if you took a chance on him in your fantasy league, by the way.)

After that four-point outburst, Barbashev’s at 34 points (15G, 19A) in 38 games. He’s already easily eclipsed his previous career-highs of 26 points, set in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Hot take: even if Barbashev is boosted by his linemates, the Blues have to be ecstatic that he only carries a $2.25M AAV through next season.

NHL highlights from Monday

Footage and analysis of that Timo Meier five-goal game from NBC Sports Bay Area:

Next time your friend complains that you’re spamming wraparound goals in “NHL ’94,”* send them this Jake Guentzel goal. (Then run away/hang up before they can say “Yeah, but it barely ever happens.”)

How long can you really go without a great Marc-Andre Fleury save? Can’t be more than a month (of active play), right?

Ryan Donato, the person who scored the first Seattle Kraken goal, helped the team end a nine-game losing streak with this shootout tally:

* – Please just allow me to imagine a world where people still play “NHL ’94” against each other, ideally on a saggy couch. OK?

Thursday NHL Takeaways

Watch the Blues retire Chris Pronger’s number 44

As memorable as Chris Pronger’s other stops ended up being, St. Louis is where he accomplished the extremely rare feat of winning a Hart Trophy as a defenseman.

(Side note: it’s a crime Pronger, and while I mention it, Jarome Iginla, never ended up with a Conn Smythe. Then again, Pronger was a bit of a puck bandit himself.)

Kraken end huge losing streak, Flyers’ skid extends to eight

Heading into the 2021-22 NHL season, both the Flyers and Kraken boasted somewhat reasonable playoff hopes. (The Flyers, in particular, are spending with such expectations.)

Welp.

Each team is fairly deep into the point where fans are conflicted. Losing stinks, and watching a losing team is no fun. But every loss could help the Kraken and Flyers inch closer to the sort of draft lottery odds that might bring better hope in the future.

Even so, there’s a cutoff point where you just want a little relief. The Kraken received that on Monday, ending their losing streak at nine games; with that, the Flyers now lead the NHL with a league-worst eight-game losing streak.

In case you’re wondering, the Flyers haven’t won a single game since the calendar reached 2022. Maybe fittingly, the Flyers won their last game on Dec. 29 … by beating the Kraken in overtime.

(Things aren’t a whole lot better for the Canadiens, either, as they dropped their sixth straight loss. And that loss came against the crummy Coyotes.)

Maybe a 3-0 lead isn’t safe against the Penguins

Entering the first intermission, the Golden Knights seemed like they might make a bit of a statement with a 3-0 lead against the Penguins. Apparently that statement was “maybe a 3-0 lead isn’t so safe against the Penguins?”

It’s gotta sting a little bit extra that Jason Zucker (two goals) factored into the Penguins’ comeback against the Golden Knights. After all, Zucker grew up in Las Vegas, and there were early expansion rumors about the Golden Knights trying to bring in the local product.

As cool as that story would have been, things seemed to work out for both Zucker and the Vegas Golden Knights. It just so happens that they worked out better for Zucker and the Penguins during the NHL action on Monday.

Friday’s big story

Bruins retire Willie O’Ree’s number 22

When Willie O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019, many of us reacted with some variation of “What took so long?” To some extent, the Bruins retiring Willie O’Ree’s number 22 on Tuesday captures a touch of that feeling, as well.

That said, this is a very good thing, so better late than never.

Also better late than never: check out this great “Hockey Culture” video series. A year ago, Willie O’Ree discussed the importance of MLK Jr. Day in the NHL.

NHL scores from Monday

Red Wings 3, Sabres 2 (OT)
Avalanche 4, Wild 3 (SO)
Coyotes 5, Canadiens 2
Sharks 6, Kings 2
Kraken 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)
Islanders 4, Flyers 1
Blues 5, Predators 3
Penguins 5, Golden Knights 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: Panthers are embarrassing teams; Shesterkin carries Rangers

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Florida Panthers take over the top spot after an impressive week that saw them score goals at a ridiculous pace.

Whether or not they are actually the best team in the league at this point is certainly up for some debate. But there are two things that are not really worth debating. The first is that they are absolutely in that discussion for best team alongside the likes of Colorado, Carolina, and Tampa Bay. The other is that their ceiling is as high as any other team in the league right now, and that when they are playing at their absolute best they have the potential to make teams look like they are playing a different game.

Elsewhere this week, the New York Rangers are back into the top-five thanks to the return of their MVP, starting goalie Igor Shesterkin, while the Nashville Predators, Minnesota Wild, and Boston Bruins round out the top-10 of the rankings.

We take a look at all of that and more.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 3). In two different games this week their fans were chanting “we want 10!” in reference to the team’s goal scoring. They keep getting close. The Panthers are 8-0-1 in their past nine games and have scored 54 goals during that stretch. That is six goals per game. They have scored at least four goals in every game, including four games with six goals or more. That includes three seven-goal games and two nine-goal games. Just an insanely ridiculous offense right now.

[Related: Some appreciation for Panthers All-Star Jonathan Huberdeau]

2. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 2). They started the year winning just four of their first 10 games (4-5-1). Since then they are 20-3-2 in the next 25 games. If Darcy Kuemper gets going in goal this team will be tough to stop.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 1). Their drop down a couple of spots has more to do with what the two teams ahead of them have done lately than anything the Hurricanes have or have not done.

4. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 4). Imagine what this team’s record would be if Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov had not combined to miss 46 man games due to injury so far this season.

5. New York Rangers (LW: 9). A top-three goalie carrying the team and stealing games. Something Rangers fans are used to seeing. This is a good team, but probably not as good as its record would indicate. Great goalies (and a couple of superstars at forward and defense) really change things.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 6). Jack Campbell turning his career around in Toronto the way he has has been a game-changer for the Maple Leafs.

7. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 5). Evgeni Malkin is back and Kris Letang is still playing at an insanely high level.

8. Boston Bruins (LW: 10). Tuukka Rask is back, Brad Marchand is on a roll, and the scoring depth is coming around. What else do they need? Maybe a second-line center upgrade.

[Related: With Tuukka Rask back in mix, what else do Boston Bruins need?]

9. Nashville Predators (LW: 8). No shame in losing in overtime to Boston, but that Buffalo loss this week sure was a surprise.

10. Minnesota Wild (LW: 13). They are starting to get some good news on the injury front. When healthy this is an outstanding team.

11. St. Louis Blues (LW: 11). They are 11-3-2 when Jordan Binnington does not play (and 11-8-3 when he does), while their backups are dramatically outperforming him. Something to keep an eye on this season.

12. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 7). Speaking of goaltending, that might be the big concern here for an otherwise pretty complete team.

13. Washington Capitals (LW: 10). Their slump has gone on for about a month-and-a-half now. Starting to become a concern.

14. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 18). They have put themselves in a great position in the playoff race as we near the halfway point of the season.

15 .Winnipeg Jets (LW: 16). We only saw them for one game this week but they picked up a nice 3-0 win.

16. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 14). With only two wins (and one of them being in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings) there might be some cause for concern. By points percentage they now rank ninth in the Western Conference.

17. Calgary Flames (LW: 15). They have barely played lately and when they have they have been losing games.

[Related: Which teams still have realistic chance to make Stanley Cup Playoffs]

18. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 17). Nice win in Washington on Sunday afternoon but this road trip has been tough for them, and they have one more tough game in Nashville this week.

19. New York Islanders (LW: 22). They have started to collect some points lately but even with that and even with all of their games in hand this still seems like it is going to be a major challenge to get back into playoff contention.

20. San Jose Sharks (LW: 20). We are going to learn a lot about them in the next couple of weeks as they face a pretty daunting schedule against some of the league’s best teams.

21. Dallas Stars (LW: 19). The potential is there but they just have no consistency this season.

22. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 21). They have won just two of their past 14 games entering the week and both of those wins came without Dave Tippett behind the bench. This team has the same problems that they simply can not seem to solve.

[Related: Slumping Oilers can not find solutions to same old questions]

23. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 24). The four-game winning streak is a nice distraction in the middle of another disappointing season.

24. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23). Things looked really promising there for a while in the Wild Card race by the Boston Bruins have really jumped over them. This season is still all about the development of the young stars.

25. Ottawa Senators (LW: 28). They are 7-3-2 in their past 12 games and have at least been really competitive against some really good teams. The effort is there. The talent is not quite there yet.

26. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 25). Since the middle of November (or the past two months) they have had a 10-game losing streak and are now on a seven-game losing streak. Not ideal.

27. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 26). At least they won the Seth Jones trade.

[Related: Revisiting the Seth Jones trade between Blackhawks and Blue Jackets]

28. New Jersey Devils (LW: 24). Since the start of the 2020-21 season Mackenzie Blackwood has a .900 save percentage in 47 appearances (46 starts). That is not what they are hoping for with him.

29. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 29). This is going to be the 11th consecutive season without the playoffs and they probably have at least two or three more ahead of them after this season. At least that many.

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). Their struggles make the Vegas Golden Knights immediate success seem even more improbable.

31. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 31). Phil Kessel can still help a playoff team.

32. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 32). From the Stanley Cup Final to the worst team in the league. Just an amazing year here in so many ways.

PHT Morning Skate: Jack Eichel return possible in a ‘few weeks?’

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.

• Catch up on the weekend’s action (busy Saturday, only Canucks – Capitals on Sunday) around the NHL with PHT’s Rink Wraps. [Saturday, Sunday]

• Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Vegas Hockey Hotline that Jack Eichel could return in a “few weeks.” Will a ton of money on IR/LTIR allow the Golden Knights to bring Jack Eichel in seamlessly? Foley admitted Vegas might have to make some adjustments, but a lot of that seems TBD. [NHL.com]

• Jeff Marek reports that the Stars are “ramping up” their efforts to trade John Klingberg. Klingberg recently expressed his frustration with slow contract negotiations. [Jeff Marek on Twitter]

• Monday (right before midnight) is your last chance to vote for the “Last Men In” for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. You can do that here. Meanwhile, PHT took a look at All-Star Game snubs, and who would be the best “Last Men In” picks. [PHT]

• Last week, The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn unveiled his revamped player cards, with a nifty look inspired by hockey cards. Great stuff, and I always have time for eye-friendly ways to make “fancy stats” easier to digest. [The Athletic, sub required]

• Perhaps people expected too much when tabbing Cole Caufield as a Calder Trophy candidate. But, seriously, just one goal in 26 games this season? Who expected that? EP Rinkside’s David St-Louis goes really deep on Caufield’s scoring struggles, noting reasons to breathe easier but also problems to work on. [EP Rinkside, sub required]

• Which NHL teams really have a chance to make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs? [PHT]

• Matt Drake asks: “can we get rid of fights after clean hits?” An especially nuanced take, as this is more about officials handling them than players reacting. (Can’t really ask players to somehow determine a clean vs. dirty hit in the heat of the moment, after all.) [Habs Eyes on the Prize]

• On Sunday, PHT weighed in on the slumping Edmonton Oilers. Here is Mark Spector’s latest on the troubled team. [Sportsnet]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Rink Wrap: Fleury records 70th shutout; Ovechkin scores No. 755

Top players in the NHL on Saturday

Marc-Andre Fleury, Blackhawks

Fleury won his fourth straight start as the Blackhawks topped the Ducks 3-0. He stopped all 37 shots Anaheim fired his way for his third shutout of the season and 70th of his career. He’s now one behind Lorne Chabot and Harry Lumley for ninth all-time in NHL history.

Philip Danault, Kings

Both of Danault’s goals helped LA take two-goal leads over the Kraken during their 3-1 victory. His first came early in the second period for a 2-0 Kings lead. His second, an empty netter, put the game out of reach to lead LA to its fourth straight win and sixth win in seven games. The Kraken, meanwhile, have dropped 12 of their last 13.

Highlights from around the NHL on Saturday

Taylor with an extra effort to help the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators in overtime. Also another big game on Saturday for Brad Marchand.

It was NASCAR day during Carolina’s 4-1 win over the Canucks. To celebrate, Seth Jarvis and Steven Lorentz had a race around the rink as the team participating in their post-victory Storm Surge.

Auston Matthews became the third player in NHL history to have a streak of 10 straight road games with a goal. He joins Pavel Bure (11, 1993-94) and Steve Yzerman (11, 1988-89).

The Penguins beat the Sharks 2-1 in overtime after Sidney Crosby waited and waited and waited before setting up Jake Guentzel‘s winner.

Alex Ovechkin‘s empty-net goal was his 25th of the season, putting him one behind league leader Leon Draisaitl. It was also the 755th of his career. He’s now 11 goals behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL’s all-time list.

In his second AHL game since the 2004-05 season, Eric Staal netted the overtime winner during the Iowa Wild’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Wolves. He also had a goal and an assist during Friday night’s victory.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Saturday

T.J. Oshie can not catch a break this season

The Capitals were 2-0 winners against the Islanders thanks to goals from Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin and a shutout in goal from Vitek Vanecek. That is the good news. The bad news is veteran forward T.J. Oshie exited the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. He has been limited to just 18 games so far this season and every time he returns to the lineup seems to have something else go wrong. He has missed time this season due to COVID protocols, the flu, and various injuries.

The Panthers are a wagon

After dropping four straight heading into the NHL’s early Christmas break last month, the Panthers have eight wins in their last nine games and, like Cobra Kai, are showing no mercy on their opponents.

During these eight victories, the Panthers have scored nine goals twice and netted at least five on seven occasions. In their last nine games they are outscoring opponents 54-24. How wild is this offensive outburst? Consider that in 30 games this season the Islanders have scored a total of 67 times.

Florida leads the NHL in points percentage (.750), goals (158), home wins (21-3-0), and are tied for first in wins (26), points (57), regulation/overtime wins (25).

Sunday’s big story

There is only one game on the NHL schedule for Sunday (with Jets vs. Oilers postponed) and it will feature Bruce Boudreau leading the Canucks against his former team in Washington. The Canucks are desperately trying to stay in the Western Conference playoff race and are currently in the middle of a brutally tough road trip that has taken them against some of the league’s best teams. They have already lost games to Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina (by a combined margin of 13-5) and still have games against the Capitals and Predators remaining on the trip. After a 7-0-0 start with Boudreau, the Canucks are now 1-3-1 in their past five games.

Saturday’s NHL Scores

Hurricanes 4, Canucks 1
Bruins 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Capitals 2, Islanders 0
Panthers 9, Blue Jackets 2
Red Wings 4, Sabres 0
Rangers 3, Flyers 2
Lightning 3, Stars 1
Maple Leafs 6, Blues 5
Blackhawks 3, Ducks 0
Kings 3, Kraken 1
Senators 6, Oilers 4
Avalanche 5, Coyotes 0
Penguins 2, Sharks 1 (OT)

Which teams still have a realistic chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

We are quickly approaching the halfway point of the 2021-22 NHL season, and while you might think that is still a lot of time to make up ground in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, the reality is that it is not.

Making up ground in the standings this late in the season is an extremely difficult task, and even a five-or-six point gap between you and a playoff spot might be asking a lot to overcome.

So let’s take a quick look at the current standings (before Saturday’s games) and see where things stand in the Eastern and Western Conference playoff races.

The Eastern Conference

It is kind of stunning how big of a gap there is right now between the teams currently in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference and the teams outside of a playoff spot.

Entering play on Saturday the two Wild Card teams (Pittsburgh and Boston) were both on pace for more than 106 points this season based on their current points percentages. That is an exceptionally high floor for a playoff spot because in most years 95 or 96 points tends to be the cut off. But right now every team in a playoff position in the Eastern Conference has a points percentage of at least .647, while six of them are over .660.

If those eight teams manage to play just a little over .500 hockey over their remaining games they are going to easily reach 95 points on the season.

That is bad news for the eight teams on the outside of the playoff race because right now only one of them — Columbus — has a points percentage of .500 or better for the season, and the Blue Jackets are exactly at .500. Detroit and the New York Islanders are the only teams over .460 in the conference.

Here is a look at the Eastern Conference standings, sorted by points percentage, and what each team needs to do to reach the 95-point mark this season. And keep in mind, the current playoff cut-off in the Eastern Conference is actually 10 points higher than that at the moment.

Given where all of those teams are right now, which ones below Boston do you see playing at the required level and making up that much of a gap in the second half of the season?

Head-to-head matchups help, sure, but nobody is going to sweep every single head-to-head matchup they have remaining with the teams they are chasing, while many of those teams are going to reach a point in the coming weeks where they make the decision to start selling assets before the NHL trade deadline.

You can never say never because strange things do happen in sports sometimes, but it would be a pretty significant shock if the current Eastern Conference playoff teams change much — if at all — between now and the start of the postseason.

The Western Conference still looks to be a little more wide open.

The Western Conference

Based on current points percentage the Colorado Avalanche are starting to run away with the top spot, and there is a clear group of teams that look to be sitting in a good position with Minnesota, St. Louis, Nashville, Vegas, and Calgary sitting in what would seem to be a good position.

After that, there is still some pretty stiff competition for the remaining spots while the current playoff cut off is at 95 points.

A look at the table, again sorted by points percentage.

Arizona, Seattle, and Chicago are pretty much out of it, and for as strong as Vancouver has played under Bruce Boudreau even that is looking like a long shot.

But everybody else between Calgary and San Jose? There are seven teams there still fighting for what should be three playoff spots. That race at least looks like it has the potential to be interesting down the stretch.

The Ducks, after a great start, are starting to fall back a little bit over the past couple of weeks while the Kings, Jets, and Stars are starting to put things together. Who knows what to expect from Edmonton the rest of the way, while San Jose has been a surprising playoff contender.

In the end, if you are an Eastern Conference team currently outside of the playoff picture your chances seem slim. If you are outside of the top-five in the Western Conference, prepare yourself for quite a scramble in the second half.

NHL Rink Wrap: Hats off to Sam Bennett, Ducks slumping, and Avalanche extend home streak

Top player in the NHL on Friday

Sam Bennett, Florida Panthers

When the Florida Panthers are at their best they are a complete and total buzzsaw. They were at their best on Friday night in a dominating 7-1 win against the Dallas Stars that was highlighted by huge performances from some of their top players. Anthony Duclair had another big game, Jonathan Huberdeau continued his great season, and Sam Bennett recorded a hat trick. That three-goal effort from Bennett earns him top star honors on Friday as he continues to be a great addition to the Panthers’ lineup. General manager Bill Zito has hit all of the right buttons over the past two years in building this team around Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, and the trade deadline acquisition (and contract extension) of Bennett has been one of his better moves. Bennett now has 20 goals in his first 38 regular season games with the team dating back to the end of the 2020-21 season. That averages out to a 44-goal pace over 82 games.

Highlights from around the NHL on Friday

A lot of teams allowed Anthony Duclair to get away from them way too soon. Here he is scoring his 15th goal of the season for the Panthers on Friday night.

Here is Eric Staal scoring a goal for the Iowa Wild in his American Hockey League tryout. That is his first AHL goal since the 2004-05 season.

At the NHL level for the Wild Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello teamed up for this beauty of a one-timer goal.

Nazem Kadri (who has a great All-Star game argument) wins it for the Colorado Avalanche in a shootout with this beauty of a goal against the Arizona Coyotes.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Friday

The Panthers found another dominant line

The trio of Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, and Sam Bennett is just ripping things apart for the Florida Panthers right now. That trio was dominant during the Panthers’ 7-1 win against Dallas on Friday night, owning a 5-0 goals advantage during 5-on-5 play with Bennett recording his aforementioned hat trick. For the season that trio has played more than 74 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this season and outscored opponents by a 10-1 margin. Huberdeau has been one of the league’s best players for years now (read more about him here) while Duclair and Bennett have been great additions over the past two years.

Any concern for the Ducks?

The Anaheim Ducks have been one of the bigger surprise teams in the league so far this season, but they have been trending in the wrong direction over the past couple of weeks. Things did not show any sign of reversing on Friday night in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild. With that loss the Ducks have now lost seven out of their past nine games and are now down to fourth place in the Pacific Division by points percentage, and just narrowly ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. They banked a lot of points early in the season to give themselves some cushion, but that cushion is starting to disappear. They do have some key players out right now due to COVID protocols, including starting goalie John Gibson and breakout star Troy Terry, but even without those absences they are definitely starting to cool down a little as a team.

Avalanche extend home winning streak

It has been more than two months since the Colorado Avalanche lost a game on home ice. They extended their home winning streak to 13 games on Friday night with a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes. After the starting the year with a 4-5-1 record the Avalanche have gone 19-3-2 in the 24 games since to climb to the top of the Western Conference standings.

Saturday’s big story

There is an awesome matchup in St. Louis where the Blues are looking to extend their home point streak to 14 consecutive games (13-0-1 during this stretch) when they host a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has been one of the league’s best so far this season. While the Blues look to continue running their home point streak, Auston Matthews looks to extend his road goal scoring streak having scored a goal in each of the Maple Leafs’ past nine road games.

Friday’s NHL Scores

Florida Panthers 7, Dallas Stars 1
Minnesota Wild 7, Anaheim Ducks 3
Colorado Avalanche 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (SO)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Vegas Golden Knights (Postponed)

In vier Sekunden weggezogen: Minnesota fertigt Anaheim ab

Nico Sturm ist mit den Minnesota Wild in der NHL weiter auf Play-off-Kurs. Siebenmal traf auch das Team der Stunde aus Florida.

Minnesotas Mats Zuccarello lässt sich feiern.

Minnesotas Mats Zuccarello lässt sich feiern.

imago images/Icon SMI

Die Wild gewannen am Freitagabend gegen die Anaheim Ducks mit 7:3. Sturm assistierte beim 1:0-Führungstreffer von Kevin Fiala im ersten Drittel, es war die sechste Torvorlage der Saison für den 26-jährigen gebürtigen Augsburger, der zudem sechs Treffer erzielt hat.

Minnesota entschied die Partie mit drei Treffern in den ersten beiden Minuten des Schlussdrittels, als es die Führung zwischenzeitlich auf 6:1 ausbaute. Matt Boldy und Mats Zuccarello trafen dabei sogar im Abstand von vier Sekunden.

“Heute lief das Spiel in unsere Richtung, wir haben ein paar schöne Tore geschossen. Es ist ein gutes Gefühl, wenn es so läuft”, meinte Doppeltorschütze Zuccarello.

Für die Wild war es der dritte Sieg in Serie. Sie liegen aktuell auf Platz vier der Central Division und haben dabei, wegen der vielen Spielverlegungen in der NHL aufgrund der Corona-Pandemie, weniger Spiele als die Konkurrenz absolviert.

Bennett treibt die Panthers an – 13. Heimsieg für Colorado in Serie

Das beste Team der Liga sind aktuell die Florida Panthers, die in einer weiteren Freitagspartie die Dallas Stars mit 7:1 abfertigten. Sam Bennett schraubte mit drei Toren am Ende das Ergebnis nochmal richtig hoch.

Den Colorado Avalanche gelang beim 4:3 nach Penaltyschießen gegen die Arizona Coyotes der 13. Heimsieg in Serie. Zunächst verspielte die Avalanche ein 2:0, André Burakovsky gelang aber kurz nach dem 2:3 der Ausgleich.

On 2022 NHL All-Star Game snubs, and who should be ‘Last Men in?’

Yes, there are ways to enhance the NHL All-Star Game, including ways to cut down on “snubs.”

Truly, the league could pursue fun, entertainment, and … if they have time left over, a fair representation of each season’s NHL All-Stars. In a dream world, there would still be those messy, almost certainly drunken “fantasy draft” exercises to divide up teams. Maybe we could all even embrace the reality that “The Skills Competition” has been better than each All-Star Game since … (runs out of fingers to count with)?

But the bottom line is that all of the camouflage and flourishes can’t obscure the deeper reality that the 2022 NHL All-Star Game can only be so enthralling. It’s ultimately an exhibition for sponsors and fans (especially young ones).

If anything, it’s best to embrace the salty spirit of NHL All-Star snubs. Thanks to Nathan MacKinnon, we got at least a dash of that.

MacKinnon, Marchand on 2022 NHL All-Star Game snubs

One thing that validates the existence of NHL All-Star Games is that, when they happen, they can serve as neat time capsules.

For every Rory Fitzpatrick fan-voted surge that gets spiked, there’s the occasional John Scott All-Star Game show-stealer. In the case of the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, there was a chance to celebrate a shockingly strong season from Nazem Kadri.

When Kadri hasn’t been making waves with terrible playoff suspensions, he’s often been an underrated player. Yet, even those who noticed his sneaky-good work didn’t expect him to rank fourth in scoring with 48 points. This could’ve been a chance to remember it in a “formal” way.

[Check out the 2022 NHL All-Star Game rosters here]

But, there simply wasn’t room for Kadri, and that bothered Avalanche teammate Nathan MacKinnon.

“It’s silly. I don’t think every team should send a guy,” MacKinnon said, via Peter Baugh of The Athletic. ” … It’s an All-Star Game, not a Participation Game.”

Can we dock MacKinnon a point off the bat for referencing every crusty person on earth complaining about “participation medals?”

Anyway, MacKinnon has a point about how strenuous it can be to try to fill out rosters while including at least one player from the lowliest NHL teams.

[Seriously, it was tough to thread the needle under the league’s current format]

That said, his most prescient point was unintentional: again, the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, and snub talk … “it’s silly.”

Like it or not, NHL fans do want to see their teams represented, at least more often than not. We also shouldn’t ignore the elephant in the room: players often decide to skip out on the NHL All-Star Game, anyway. Sometimes even if it means getting suspended.

Add in the additional risk of players convening during the age of COVID, and you wonder if Brad Marchand and others aren’t exactly heartbroken about missing the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

2022 NHL All-Star Game: Who should be ‘Last Men In?’

While by no means comprehensive, the league seized on the spirit of snub debates by letting fans vote on “The Last Men In” for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. Voters can submit ballots here until Jan . 17.

Being that fans can submit “up to 10 ballots every 24 hours,” let’s try to gauge who should be “The Last Men In” in our own, PHT way. That’s with polls and some quick analysis.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins — Charlie McAvoy
Buffalo Sabres — Tage Thompson
Detroit Red Wings — Lucas Raymond
Florida Panthers —  Aleksander Barkov
Montreal Canadiens — Tyler Toffoli
Ottawa Senators — Brady Tkachuk
Tampa Bay Lightning — Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs —  John Tavares

Take Our Poll

My pick: Steven Stamkos

Sheesh, isn’t it enough that Steven Stamkos still didn’t get to go to the Olympics? Let’s provide some solace in the form of an All-Star nod. Best yet, Stamkos very much deserves it. After the Lightning basically won a Stanley Cup without him, it seemed like Stammer’s best days were behind him. It was even plausible to trade him for salary cap space.

Yet, this season, he’s been brilliant. Most obviously, Stamkos ranks sixth in scoring with 45 points.

As nice as it would be for Charlie McAvoy to get more mainstream attention, or for Brady Tkachuk to get a chance to be a goofball on a national stage, Stamkos is the pick.

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes — Andrei Svechnikov
Columbus Blue Jackets — Jakub Voracek
New Jersey Devils — Jesper Bratt
New York Islanders — Mathew Barzal
New York Rangers —  Mika Zibanejad
Philadelphia Flyers — Cam Atkinson
Pittsburgh Penguins — Jake Guentzel
Washington Capitals — Evgeny Kuznetsov

Take Our Poll

My pick: Jake Guentzel

Hopefully, this serves as a reminder that Jake Guentzel isn’t just some player who lives off of Sidney Crosby. Don’t get me wrong; Crosby enhances Guentzel’s play, but the underrated Penguins forward is brilliant in his own right. Stylistically, it would’ve been refreshing to see Mathew Barzal run free in an All-Star environment, but Guentzel’s the fair choice.

Western Conference

Central Division

Arizona Coyotes — Phil Kessel
Chicago Blackhawks — Seth Jones
Colorado Avalanche —  Nazem Kadri
Dallas Stars — Jason Robertson
Minnesota Wild — Ryan Hartman
Nashville Predators — Roman Josi
St. Louis Blues —  Robert Thomas
Winnipeg Jets — Mark Scheifele

Take Our Poll

My pick: Nazem Kadri

All of that talk about Nazem Kadri being an All-Star snub and … phew, it sure was close between him and Roman Josi.

Kadri has the substance to earn the Central Division “Last Men In” nod. There’s also the style, too. The novelty of a good but rarely heralded player beating a Norris Trophy winner feels just right.

(Just stop delivering bad hits, please, Kadri.)

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks — Troy Terry
Calgary Flames — Matthew Tkachuk
Edmonton Oilers — Darnell Nurse
Los Angeles Kings — Drew Doughty
San Jose Sharks — Logan Couture
Seattle Kraken — Mark Giordano
Vancouver Canucks —  J.T. Miller
Vegas Golden Knights — Jonathan Marchessault

Take Our Poll

My pick: Troy Terry

At minimum, each “Last Men In” pick has at least one really tough matchup. In the Pacific Division’s case, I struggled between Troy Terry and Matthew Tkachuk.

Between that stunning point streak, and just how fun the Ducks have been, Terry gets the edge. That said, maybe we can just make sure the Tkachuk brothers can attend the 2022 NHL All-Star Game anyway? Have some sibling skills competitions?

Anyway, which players would you add to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game rosters? And do you have any snubs to get off your chest? Do tell, and do vote.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.