Rangers give Igor Shesterkin the Henrik Lundqvist treatment in 79 save performance

The only way this interview could have been better is if Domingue had the newspaper he took into the shitter with him tucked under his arm. And this was the guy the Rangers couldn’t find a way past. Sure, he might have been feeling light and limber, but still.

It’s hardly a death knell for the Rangers, but it’s just so Rangers. A goalie doing his own fire dance in the crease to keep a limited Rangers team in it (and despite their gaudy point-total in the regular season they are limited) and suddenly every skater’s hands turning to stone. And sure, maybe you could criticize coach Gerard Gallant’s insistence on throwing Mika Zibanejad’s line out against Sidney Crosby’s all night and watching his top line simply get run over shift after shift, when playing defense is not Zibanejad’s job. Or maybe how he sent out his charges to hit everything in sight and then watched the Penguins simply pass their way around it for the last four periods once they got the rhythm of it all.

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But that’s missing the point. Sometimes we need to be reminded that no one can run from their true nature, at least not forever. On the Rangers’ biggest night in five years or so, they were definitely the most Rangers they could be.

 

NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines to watch for in 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we continue to get you ready for the start of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the top storylines to watch ranging from Tampa Bay’s quest for another championship, to the possibility of a dark horse team making a run, and everything in between.

What all makes the cut this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tampa Bay’s quest for a third straight Stanley Cup. Only two different franchises have managed to win three straight Stanley Cups in the post-Original Six era (the 1970s Montreal Canadiens and the 1980s New York Islanders), so the Lightning are trying to make some history. Will Andrei Vasilevskiy run out of steam? Did they adequately replace their depth? Can they put it all together again for another championship? Over the past five teams that won back-to-back Cups four of them lost in the second round in their bid for a three-peat, while the fifth lost in the First Round.

2. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win a round? Franchise regular season records in wins and points, Auston Matthews60 goals, and Mitch Marner‘s 97 points will not matter if this team, and this core, loses again in the First Round. This current group has lost in the First Round five years in a row, while it has been 16 seasons since the franchise played a game in the Second Round. It is an outstanding team and a very fun team. But it has to do something this time of year to avoid being an annual punchline.

3. Pressure is on Colorado. The Avalanche are now at that point in their development where it becomes Stanley Cup or bust. They have been a top-tier team for three years now, have the best roster in the league on paper, and have yet to reach even the Western Conference Final with this core. If they go out in the Second Round again (or earlier) they are going to start to get the same heat teams like Tampa Bay and Washington got in recent years for not winning (until they did). They have been the odds on favorites all year. That brings pressure.

4. The Penguins core takes another run. For 16 years the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang Penguins have been mainstays in the playoffs and the most successful organization in the league during that time. The latter two players (and Bryan Rust, another two-time champion) are all unrestricted free agents after this season with uncertain futures. They may be playing in different places next season.

5. This is Edmonton’s chance to do something. The Oilers have looked like a completely different team since the coaching change and did not waste another year of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s prime, actually getting them to the playoffs. Now they have a chance to actually make a run. They are going to be heavy favorites against Los Angeles and would have a very good chances in a potential Second Round matchup against Calgary or Dallas. This is a manageable path, but it is going to require Mike Smith to continue his strong play from the end of the regular season.

[Related: 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions]

6. Goalie injuries in Carolina, Pittsburgh, Nashville. This is not the position you want to have uncertainty at in the playoffs. The Hurricanes (Frederik Andersen), Penguins (Tristan Jarry), and Predators (Juuse Saros) are all opening their First Round series with their starting goalies on the bench, with no timeline for when any of them will return. Carolina has the best backup situation of the three as long as Antti Raanta stays healthy, but how is Nashville going to get by Colorado without Saros? Might be the toughest task in the playoffs.

7. Sergei Bobrovsky shaking off his playoff struggles. The Panthers can score on any team in the playoffs, but the question is going to be if Bobrovsky can stop anybody. His career playoff numbers are among the worst in the league among active goalies and he was miserable a year ago before being benched. This is definitely something to watch.

David Berding/Getty Images

8. How will Minnesota handle its goalie tandem? Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot have been outstanding since they were united as a tandem at the trade deadline, and it gives Minnesota a strong last line of defense behind an already strong team. Fleury has had his playoff struggles in the past, but he has also had some very strong postseason performances. Will they continue to alternate? Will Dean Evason lean on Fleury’s track record and Stanley Cup resume?

9. Will the regular season goal scoring increase carry over to the playoffs? The 2021-22 regular season was one of the highest scoring seasons the NHL has seen in decades. But what happens now that we get to the playoffs? Do teams play more conservatively? Do referees look the other way at obstruction and interference and stick infractions? Does the fun get sucked out of the game like it always seems to this time of year?

10. Which goalie emerges for the Capitals, and will it even matter? The Capitals probably have the most unsettled goalie dynamic going into the playoffs with neither Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek taking the job and running with it. One of them has to start, but will any of them be good enough? And even if they are solid, will that matter against a Florida team that scores almost four and a half goals per game?

[Related: Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup]

11. Is Ville Husso the guy for the Blues? The Blues gave Jordan Binnington a massive contract extension that starts this season, but he has been awful in his past couple of playoff appearances and has been significantly outplayed by Ville Husso this season. The Blues have one of the deepest (and best) offenses in the league, but are not going to go anywhere if they can not keep the puck out of their own net. Husso is their best chance based on play this season, but he has almost no track record to speak of and is very much an unknown in the playoffs.

12. Which trade deadline acquisition will pay off the most? Will it be a blockbuster move like Claude Giroux in Florida? A smart move like Andrew Copp in New York or Rickard Rakell in Pittsburgh? Or perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury in Minnesota?

13. Which division champion will lose? Pretty much every year at least one division champion gets upset in the First Round, so odds are at least one of Colorado, Florida, Calgary, or Carolina is in danger. Carolina has a tough matchup and a goalie question. Florida has a goalie question. Those would be the two highest probabilities.

14. Veterans chasing their first Stanley Cup. Always something that gets a lot of attention this time of year. Joe Thornton, Claude Giroux, Mike Smith, Ryan Suter, and Joe Pavelski are all veterans in search of the elusive championship. Thornton will be the player that gets the most attention here given his age and the fact he is at the end of his career.

15. Rangers ready for a run? The pressure was on for the Rangers to make real progress this season and go from rebuilding team to playoff team. They are here. Now the question is if they are ready to take an even bigger step and make a serious run at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1994. They have the goalie, they have the top-line stars, they have the top defender, and they tinkered with their complementary pieces at the trade deadline.

16. Can the Stars find enough offense beyond their top line to have a chance? This has been a year-long problem for the Stars. Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Pavelski have been excellent (dominant, even) all season, but the Stars do not get much offense beyond that trio. One line teams do not tend to do very well in the playoffs.

[Related: 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, TV information]

17. Potential last rides for Brown, Thornton, Bergeron? We already know Dustin Brown is retiring in Los Angeles, and Joe Thornton probably does not have many (if any) seasons remaining after this. But what about Patrice Bergeron‘s future? Does he return to Boston? Retire?

18. Darryl Sutter’s defense locking down another playoff series. This is the time to shine for Sutter-coached teams. Locking things down in the playoffs and grinding games to a halt with a strong goalie. He did it before in Calgary, did it in LA, and now he is back in Calgary with a deep team and excellent goalie in a very winnable divisional bracket.

19. Will Nazem Kadri be able to keep things under control? Not a major storyline but definitely something to keep an eye on. He may not like carrying around that prior baggage from past suspensions, but sometimes you create your own storyline and Kadri has had three of his recent postseasons cut short by lengthy suspensions that have taken him out of different series’. Something about the playoffs makes him lose sight of where the line is. Colorado needs him in the lineup and on the ice.

20. Who can be this year’s Montreal? The past two Stanley Cup Finals have featured teams that entered the playoffs with little to no expectations (Montreal and Dallas). Is there another unexpected run to be had here? Nashville with a healthy Juuse Saros would have been a good possibility, but his injury makes it difficult to imagine. Could Dallas pull off an upset or two in the Pacific?

NHL Power Rankings: Top 2022 Stanley Cup playoff storylines

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we continue to get you ready for the start of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the top storylines to watch ranging from Tampa Bay’s quest for another championship, to the possibility of a dark horse team making a run, and everything in between.

What all makes the cut this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tampa Bay’s quest for a third straight Stanley Cup. Only two different franchises have managed to win three straight Stanley Cups in the post-Original Six era (the 1970s Montreal Canadiens and the 1980s New York Islanders), so the Lightning are trying to make some history. Will Andrei Vasilevskiy run out of steam? Did they adequately replace their depth? Can they put it all together again for another championship? Over the past five teams that won back-to-back Cups four of them lost in the second round in their bid for a three-peat, while the fifth lost in the First Round.

2. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs win a round? Franchise regular season records in wins and points, Auston Matthews60 goals, and Mitch Marner‘s 97 points will not matter if this team, and this core, loses again in the First Round. This current group has lost in the First Round five years in a row, while it has been 16 seasons since the franchise played a game in the Second Round. It is an outstanding team and a very fun team. But it has to do something this time of year to avoid being an annual punchline.

3. Pressure is on Colorado. The Avalanche are now at that point in their development where it becomes Stanley Cup or bust. They have been a top-tier team for three years now, have the best roster in the league on paper, and have yet to reach even the Western Conference Final with this core. If they go out in the Second Round again (or earlier) they are going to start to get the same heat teams like Tampa Bay and Washington got in recent years for not winning (until they did). They have been the odds on favorites all year. That brings pressure.

4. The Penguins core takes another run. For 16 years the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang Penguins have been mainstays in the playoffs and the most successful organization in the league during that time. The latter two players (and Bryan Rust, another two-time champion) are all unrestricted free agents after this season with uncertain futures. They may be playing in different places next season.

5. This is Edmonton’s chance to do something. The Oilers have looked like a completely different team since the coaching change and did not waste another year of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s prime, actually getting them to the playoffs. Now they have a chance to actually make a run. They are going to be heavy favorites against Los Angeles and would have a very good chances in a potential Second Round matchup against Calgary or Dallas. This is a manageable path, but it is going to require Mike Smith to continue his strong play from the end of the regular season.

[Related: 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions]

6. Goalie injuries in Carolina, Pittsburgh, Nashville. This is not the position you want to have uncertainty at in the playoffs. The Hurricanes (Frederik Andersen), Penguins (Tristan Jarry), and Predators (Juuse Saros) are all opening their First Round series with their starting goalies on the bench, with no timeline for when any of them will return. Carolina has the best backup situation of the three as long as Antti Raanta stays healthy, but how is Nashville going to get by Colorado without Saros? Might be the toughest task in the playoffs.

7. Sergei Bobrovsky shaking off his playoff struggles. The Panthers can score on any team in the playoffs, but the question is going to be if Bobrovsky can stop anybody. His career playoff numbers are among the worst in the league among active goalies and he was miserable a year ago before being benched. This is definitely something to watch.

David Berding/Getty Images

8. How will Minnesota handle its goalie tandem? Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot have been outstanding since they were united as a tandem at the trade deadline, and it gives Minnesota a strong last line of defense behind an already strong team. Fleury has had his playoff struggles in the past, but he has also had some very strong postseason performances. Will they continue to alternate? Will Dean Evason lean on Fleury’s track record and Stanley Cup resume?

9. Will the regular season goal scoring increase carry over to the playoffs? The 2021-22 regular season was one of the highest scoring seasons the NHL has seen in decades. But what happens now that we get to the playoffs? Do teams play more conservatively? Do referees look the other way at obstruction and interference and stick infractions? Does the fun get sucked out of the game like it always seems to this time of year?

10. Which goalie emerges for the Capitals, and will it even matter? The Capitals probably have the most unsettled goalie dynamic going into the playoffs with neither Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek taking the job and running with it. One of them has to start, but will any of them be good enough? And even if they are solid, will that matter against a Florida team that scores almost four and a half goals per game?

[Related: Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup]

11. Is Ville Husso the guy for the Blues? The Blues gave Jordan Binnington a massive contract extension that starts this season, but he has been awful in his past couple of playoff appearances and has been significantly outplayed by Ville Husso this season. The Blues have one of the deepest (and best) offenses in the league, but are not going to go anywhere if they can not keep the puck out of their own net. Husso is their best chance based on play this season, but he has almost no track record to speak of and is very much an unknown in the playoffs.

12. Which trade deadline acquisition will pay off the most? Will it be a blockbuster move like Claude Giroux in Florida? A smart move like Andrew Copp in New York or Rickard Rakell in Pittsburgh? Or perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury in Minnesota?

13. Which division champion will lose? Pretty much every year at least one division champion gets upset in the First Round, so odds are at least one of Colorado, Florida, Calgary, or Carolina is in danger. Carolina has a tough matchup and a goalie question. Florida has a goalie question. Those would be the two highest probabilities.

14. Veterans chasing their first Stanley Cup. Always something that gets a lot of attention this time of year. Joe Thornton, Claude Giroux, Mike Smith, Ryan Suter, and Joe Pavelski are all veterans in search of the elusive championship. Thornton will be the player that gets the most attention here given his age and the fact he is at the end of his career.

15. Rangers ready for a run? The pressure was on for the Rangers to make real progress this season and go from rebuilding team to playoff team. They are here. Now the question is if they are ready to take an even bigger step and make a serious run at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1994. They have the goalie, they have the top-line stars, they have the top defender, and they tinkered with their complementary pieces at the trade deadline.

16. Can the Stars find enough offense beyond their top line to have a chance? This has been a year-long problem for the Stars. Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Pavelski have been excellent (dominant, even) all season, but the Stars do not get much offense beyond that trio. One line teams do not tend to do very well in the playoffs.

[Related: 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, TV information]

17. Potential last rides for Brown, Thornton, Bergeron? We already know Dustin Brown is retiring in Los Angeles, and Joe Thornton probably does not have many (if any) seasons remaining after this. But what about Patrice Bergeron‘s future? Does he return to Boston? Retire?

18. Darryl Sutter’s defense locking down another playoff series. This is the time to shine for Sutter-coached teams. Locking things down in the playoffs and grinding games to a halt with a strong goalie. He did it before in Calgary, did it in LA, and now he is back in Calgary with a deep team and excellent goalie in a very winnable divisional bracket.

19. Will Nazem Kadri be able to keep things under control? Not a major storyline but definitely something to keep an eye on. He may not like carrying around that prior baggage from past suspensions, but sometimes you create your own storyline and Kadri has had three of his recent postseasons cut short by lengthy suspensions that have taken him out of different series’. Something about the playoffs makes him lose sight of where the line is. Colorado needs him in the lineup and on the ice.

20. Who can be this year’s Montreal? The past two Stanley Cup Finals have featured teams that entered the playoffs with little to no expectations (Montreal and Dallas). Is there another unexpected run to be had here? Nashville with a healthy Juuse Saros would have been a good possibility, but his injury makes it difficult to imagine. Could Dallas pull off an upset or two in the Pacific?

Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday as 16 teams begin their quest to win the Stanley Cup.

As we have seen in recent years when an expansion Vegas team or a surprising Montreal team went on stunning Stanley Cup Final runs anything is possible at this time of year. A hot goalie (or a cold goalie) can change anything, while a team could get healthy and have everything click at the exact right time to make some unexpected noise.

Every team’s fanbase probably has some sort of reason for optimism and pessimism right now.

So we are going to take a look at why every playoff team in the NHL will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup this season.

Boston Bruins

Why they will win: The Bruins are one of, if not the best, defensive teams in the league and have some game-changing top-tier forwards in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Taylor Hall that can change games.

Why they will not win: Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark have been very good this season, but are they good enough to take the team on a deep playoff run? Are they deep enough at forward to contend with the other top teams in the NHL?

Calgary Flames

Why they will win: Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau are the best top-line duo in the league this season, while they added some much needed scoring depth in Tyler Toffoli and Calle Jarnkrok. They also have an outstanding defensive structure, a great goalie, and are playing in a very winnable divisional bracket where they should be favorites in each of the first two rounds.

Why they will not win: While Toffoli and Jarnkrok have been strong additions, they are still not quite as deep at forward as, say, a team like Colorado or some of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina Hurricanes

Why they will win: Simply put, they have one of the most complete rosters in the NHL from top-to-bottom with few weaknesses as long as everybody is healthy. They are young, fast, skilled, and won the Jennings Trophy by allowing the fewest goals in the NHL this season.

Why they will not win: The health of their goalies late in the season, especially Frederik Andersen, is a definite concern. If Andersen is not healthy or has his play impacted in anyway that could be a game-changer.

Colorado Avalanche

Why they will win: They have superstars at forward, the best defense in the NHL, and a strong goalie in Darcy Kuemper that is not going to lose them many games. On paper it is probably the best team in the league.

Why they will not win: The Central Division bracket is definitely the tougher of the two in the Western Conference, and assuming they take care of business against Nashville are going to get a really tough second round matchup in either Minnesota or St. Louis. Their penalty kill (15th in the NHL) is also a potential weakness that could be exploited.

Dallas Stars

Why they will win: Strong top-end defenders and a dominant top line led by Jason Robertson that could carry them if it gets rolling. It would not be the first time they came into the playoffs with low expectations, got hot at the right time, and went on a run.

Why they will not win: Just not enough scoring depth beyond their top-four forwards. You need balanced scoring to win in the playoffs and the Stars really do not have that. That has played a big role in some of their inconsistency this season.

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Edmonton Oilers

Why they will win: They have the two best offensive players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and have looked like a completely different team since Jay Woodcroft replaced Dave Tippett behind the bench.

Why they will not win: Still do not trust their depth, defense, or goaltending. Mike Smith has been great down the stretch, but what if that is just a mirage and a hot streak instead of a meaningful long-term change?

Florida Panthers

Why they will win: Have you seen that offense? It is ridiculous. The best offense in 30 years and just absolutely loaded from top to bottom. Every line can score goals and the team as a whole can embarrass any opponent on any given night.

Why they will not win: The playoff style of play is designed to suck the fun out of teams like this, so what happens if the offense does not score at the same pace it did in the regular season? The elephant in the room is also the goalie situation. Sergei Bobrovsky has a .900 save percentage since February 1 and his playoff resume is brutal. Among the 32 goalies with at least 25 playoff appearances since the start of the 2010 playoffs, Bobrovsky’s .899 save percentage ranks 32nd out of that group. He was brutal in the playoffs a year ago. High scoring teams with suspect goaltending sometimes have a bad time in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings

Why they will win: They have some really good center depth with Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault, and a lot of their underlying and defensive numbers are very, very strong. Right on par with some of the best teams in the league. This is a sneaky good team.

Why they will not win: Injuries on defense are a concern (no Drew Doughty) and the goaltending is not exactly great. Also just do not stack up with a lot of the contenders in terms of talent on paper.

Minnesota Wild

Why they will win: They have two dominant scoring lines and a very solid defense. After adding Marc-Andre Fleury they also have an outstanding goaltending duo with him and Cam Talbot that gives them options and security. They have been one of the best teams in the league from the start.

Why they will not win: They would have to beat St. Louis and (most likely) Colorado just to reach the Western Conference Final. That is an absolute gauntlet. And while Fleury and Talbot have been great together so far, they can also be a little volatile in a short series.

Nashville Predators

Why they will win: Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Matt Duchene have had outstanding seasons, and if they can stay in it long enough to get Juuse Saros back they would have an upper-level goalie that can carry them.

Why they will not win: If Saros is not able to play against Colorado — or play at full health — that makes an already long-shot team even more of an underdog. If can not go winning a game might be a struggle.

New York Rangers

Why they will win: Igor Shesterkin should be the league MVP and has helped carry them all year, while they have elite players at forward (Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider) and defense (Adam Fox). They also made some fantastic trade deadline additions (Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano) that really changed their season. Elite goaltending and impact players can take a team a long way.

Why they will not win: As good as the top part of the lineup is, their bottom six still leaves a lot to be desired. They really need Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière to make an impact.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Why they will win: As long as they have Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin they have a shot. They are a top-five team in goals against this season and have a deeper forward lineup than they get credit for having.

Why they will not win: Goaltending is a big question, especially at the start with Tristan Jarry sidelined. How much do you trust Casey DeSmith to get them through a series (or even the first part of a series) against Igor Shesterkin? They have also not looked great for the past month, pretty much backing into the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Why they will win: They have transformed from a shutdown defensive team into one of the league’s best offensive juggernauts. Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou have broken out, Vladimir Tarasenko stayed and returned to being an elite player, Pavel Buchnevich turned out to be a steal, and they can score goals with anybody in the NHL as a team.

Why they will not win: Defense is a little bit of a question mark, as is goalie. Ville Husso has been significantly better than Jordan Binnington, but he has very little NHL track record. They also have to run that Central Division bracket that is not going to be easy.

Tampa Bay Lighting

Why they will win: They are the back-to-back champions and until somebody actually beats them you should never write them off. Incredible talent at forward, a future Hall of Famer (Victor Hedman) on defense, and the best goalie in the world as the last line of defense behind all of that.

Why they will not win: There is a reason only two teams have won three consecutive Stanley Cups in the post Original-Six era, and none over the past 40 years. It is difficult, almost impossible even, to have everything go right at the exact same time three years in a row. Tampa Bay (and especially Andrei Vasilevskiy) has played a lot of hockey the past three years and eventually that takes its toll. Also reason to question if their depth is as strong as it was a year ago.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why they will win: You can make all of the playoff jokes you want (I do!), but this is a legitimately good team. An excellent team. An outstanding team. The offense is one of the best in the league, the defense is better than it gets credit for being, and they have done a really good job building some depth around their big money stars. They are capable of winning. Yes, we actually have to see them win a round, but the ability is there.

Why they will not win: Goaltending is a major question mark and potential problem. Jack Campbell has been all over the place this season and they really do not have a Plan B here if things go south for him. That can ruin a postseason really quickly.

Washington Capitals

Why they will win: When healthy this team still has a lot of talent that has won before. They have not been consistently healthy this season (Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha all missed half of the season) and they still comfortably made the playoffs with over 100 points. They are perfectly capable of beating Sergei Bobrovsky in the First Round and making some real noise.

Why they will not win: The goaltending situation might be one of the worst among any teams in the playoffs, while neither Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek has done anything to inspire confidence.

Gaudreau, Kadri, Kuemper among potential UFAs set to cash in this summer

It has been a great year for a lot of the NHL’s pending unrestricted free agents as some perfectly time career years (and some players displaying continued excellence) should result in some major paydays over the coming weeks and months.

Even though some of these players might end up re-signing with their current teams they are still positioned to cash in.

Let’s take a look at 10 players who have done the most for themselves on their next contracts.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

The Flames’ great season is going to come at a significant cost this summer as they not only have to deal with the restricted free agency of Matthew Tkachuk, they also have to figure out if there is a way to keep Gaudreau. They have been the NHL’s most productive forward duo this season, absolutely dominating their opponents. Both players have topped the 100-point mark and are among the NHL’s top scorers. They are going to cost a fortune.

Gaudreau is the fascinating one because players like him, coming off of a season like this do not typically enter the open market. Not only because most teams tend to keep elite scorers, but also because players do not typically have seasons this good going into free agency. You have to go all the way back to Brad Richards in 2010-11 to find the last time a top-10 scorer entered the unrestricted free agent market. Gaudreau has been a top-scorer before but this season represents a massive jump from what he did the past two seasons, while he turns 29 this offseason. Elite talents tend to maintain a lot of their production into their 30s, so he should still have a few great years ahead of him (especially if he stays in Calgary with Tkachuk). He could get $9-10 million on the open market.

Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

There was some discussion as to whether or not Nashville would trade Forsberg before the trade deadline, but that clearly did not happen as the Predators push toward a playoff spot. Forsberg has had a career year by topping the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career and showed what he is capable of over a full season where he is (mostly) healthy. The Predators have a ton of salary cap space to play with and no other major expiring contracts so paying Forsberg his market rate should not be an issue. If they want to. And if he wants to stay. His current salary cap hit is $6 million per season and there is no reason to think he can not get at least $8 million.

Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche

Kadri has been a good fit in Colorado from the moment he arrived, but this season his game went to another level entirely. He has scored at a 100-point pace over 82 games and been a complete two-way force in the middle of the Colorado lineup. The big question here: Would he do that on a team that is not as obscenely loaded offensively as Colorado is, and in a situation where he has to be the top guy over a full season? He will also be 32 at the start of next season. There is some risk here.

Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche

Colorado is actually a pretty great place to be a goalie. You get to play behind the best defensive lineup in the league while getting incredible goal support. You also rarely need to steal games. Philip Grubauer turned his success in Colorado (where he was a Vezina Trophy finalist in his contract year) into a six-year, $35.4 million contract with a no-trade clause. Kuemper stepped in to replace him and is currently one of the best performing goalies in the league. A goalie-needy team will no doubt throw money at him.

Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues

Here is a complete wild card of a player. Husso was awful as St. Louis’ backup goalie a year ago, entered this season as the backup to Jordan Binnington after he signed a massive contract extension, and ended up playing his way into the starting job. And he has been legitimately good, arguably helping to save the Blues’ season and take them from “good playoff team” to “possible Stanley Cup contender.” But his track record as a starting goalie is so limited it seems almost impossible to project him long-term. The last time aa team signed a goalie like that away from St. Louis the Buffalo Sabres ended up with Carter Hutton, which did not work out well for anybody (Hutton or the Sabres). He makes just $700,000 this year and will be getting a significant raise from somebody, whether it is the Blues or somebody else.

[Related: NHL Power Rankings: Blues sneaking under radar; Kings take care of business]

Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins

Rust has become such a valuable player for the Penguins, and it really came out of nowhere. He was an unheralded prospect, got a chance late in the 2015-16 season, scored some big goals on the way to a Stanley Cup, and over the years has turned himself into a legitimate top-six winger that can impact the game in all three zones and every phase of the game. He can play up and down the lineup, play with elite players, kill penalties, and do a little bit of everything. He is one of three key free agents for the Penguins this summer (along with Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin) but the one that is probably least likely to sign. This is his one opportunity at a significant pay day and he would be crazy not to take advantage of it.

Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

If the Penguins are going to re-sign just one of their pending free agents, Letang should be the priority because he is still sensational even in his age 34 season. He is one of the top offensive defenseman in the league and can still control the pace of the game and play major minutes. He is in fantastic physical shape, can still skate at an elite level, and is having one of the best seasons of his career. He has been the most underappreciated of Pittsburgh’s core over the past decade-and-a-half, but also one of the most valuable.

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

I imagine his minus-27 rating is going to be a red flag for some people, but Klingberg’s underlying numbers from a scoring chance and expected goal perspective are still strong, he can still produce in the offensive zone, and after Letang it is a pretty thin market for defenders.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

This is a wild card because there are a couple of questions here. Does he want to retire? Is it Boston or bust? Would he entertain the idea of playing elsewhere? If he plays and stays in Boston the Bruins have a way of getting their top players to sign laughably below market contracts. But if he wanted to entertain the idea of playing elsewhere and cashing in he could absolutely do that because even though he is in his mid-30s he is still an elite two-way center that can score a top-line rate and play masterful defense.

Andrew Copp, New York Rangers

Copp was a huge addition for the Rangers at the NHL trade deadline and is the type of player that could really boost his value in free agency if he has a big playoff run. He has been great since joining the Rangers, is very good defensively, and is having a nice breakout year offensively that has seen him to 20-goals and 50 points. If he plays well in the playoffs teams are going to lineup to throw money at him in the offseason. His salary cap hit is $3.64 million this season. On the open market he probably easily tops $5 million on a long-term deal with the season he has had.

NHL Power Rankings: Panthers in first; Blues make big climb

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we have a new team in the top spot as the Florida Panthers replace the Colorado Avalanche. It is not necessarily because the Avalanche have done anything wrong (they have won nine games in a row!), but more because the Panthers have won 10 games in a row and are scoring goals at a pace we have not seen in the NHL in close to 30 years.

Quite honestly the Panthers and Avalanche might best be suited as a 1A and 1B right now because you can not go wrong with either team in the top spot. They are both fantastic, dominant offensive teams that are clearly the class of the NHL right now.

Along with that change in the first two spots, we also have a new team make a move into the top-five as the St. Louis Blues move into the fourth spot thanks to their own fantastic offense and current nine-game winning streak.

We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s rankings.

Where does your team sit?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Florida Panthers (Last Week: 2). If they can score 14 goals in their remaining seven regular season games they will be the first time since 1995-96 to average at least four goals per game over a full season. Just need the goaltending to be solid.

2. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 1). If you wanted to fight me on them not being first again I would listen to it. There is not a wrong choice between the Panthers and Avs right now.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 3). They have set franchise records for wins and points in a single season despite getting some lousy goaltending for half of the season.

4. St. Louis Blues (LW: 10). Very quietly the Blues have become one of the leagues deepest and most explosive offensive powerhouses. They could have nine 20-goal scorers this season.

[Related: Blues have transformed into offensive powerhouse]

5. Calgary Flames (LW: 5). Bringing back Darryl Sutter has worked out quite well. Very solid team from top to bottom.

6. Carolina Hurricanes (LW: 4). Injuries to Frederik Andersen and Jordan Staal are very concerning.

7. New York Rangers (LW: 6). You got a glimpse of why Alexis Lafrenière can be such an X-factor for them with his two-goal effort against the Detroit Red Wings this weekend.

[Related: Trade additions giving Rangers new life]

8. Minnesota Wild (LW: 7). Paul Fenton’s run here was definitely weird for that one year but he did bring them Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala. Those were big-time franchise changers.

9. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 9). Still not a team that I would want anything to do with in a playoff series.

10. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 11). If Mike Smith can keep giving them solid goaltending they might have something here. That is a big if, but this recent run has been encouraging.

11. Boston Bruins (LW: 8). They have scored exactly two goals in five consecutive games and somehow still managed to win two of those games.

12. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Offense is really coming to life lately. When fully healthy this is still an excellent team. Goaltending is the big question.

13. Dallas Stars (LW: 13). Jason Robertson is blossoming into a superstar for them. He is the engine that drives their team and offense right now.

14. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 14). They really miss Evgeni Malkin, but his suspension ends soon. Tristan Jarry‘s injury is the big concern right now.

15. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 15). They will be a nightmare opponent if they make the playoffs. But they still have some work to do and need some help.

[Related: Golden Knights would be nightmare playoff opponent]

16. Nashville Predators (LW: 16). Sometimes they look like a team capable of making some noise in the playoffs, then they go and give up seven goals in a period.

17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 17). The main thing they have going for them right now is their remaining schedule.

18. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 19). They have a nice winning streak going, but it will not be enough to make the playoffs. No team in the league will be more fascinating going into this offseason with the coaching situation and the salary cap situation.

19. New York Islanders (LW: 18). At least they know they have their goalie. Ilya Sorokin is sensational.

20. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 22). Still not sure what to make of this Tage Thompson season. Looked like a disappointment until this season, now he might score 40 goals and it is not even because of a crazy shooting percentage.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 21). Jakub Voracek has five goals and 50 assists in 73 games as a forward. Just a truly bonkers stat line for the season.

22. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 20). Not a particularly good team. Not a particularly bad team. Just a disappointing team.

23. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 23). Pressure is on to make a big step forward next season. Just seems hard to make that happen in the Eastern Conference.

[Related: Red Wings mixed hope with more growing pains]

24. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 25). They do not win a lot right now but they are pretty fun to watch. Keep skilling it up.

25. Ottawa Senators (LW: 28). Everything we said about Detroit applies here as well.

26. New Jersey Devils (LW: 27). They have some foundation pieces. That is the important part. Now they need the complementary pieces. As well as the goalie.

27. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 24). Seeing Carey Price back on the ice this week was a welcome sight for Canadiens fans. Not sure he would have made a huge difference this season, but he can still make an impact.

[Related: Reviewing the Canadiens’ season as Price returns]

28. San Jose Sharks (LW: 26). Just not sure what direction they are going in here. This is not a good team, it is very expensive, and has an older core.

29. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 29). They missed the playoffs just eight times in the first 45 years of their existence in the NHL. They have missed the playoffs six times in the past 10 seasons.

30. Seattle Kraken (LW: 30). So many what ifs from the expansion draft. It still does not make any sense what they were trying to accomplish here.

31. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 31). How much of Jonathan Toews‘ contract would they have to eat next season to find a taker for it in a trade? At least 30%. Maybe more.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). They have allowed 45 goals in eight games in the month of April. Teams are padding their stats against them right now.

NHL Rink Wrap: Jets top Canadiens; Kings lose Doughty; Malkin suspension

Top player from Jets – Canadiens

Morgan Barron, Jets

After going pointless in his first five games with the Jets, Morgan Barron scored a goal and an assist vs. the Canadiens on Monday.

In his previous 18 games with the Rangers (13 games this season, five in 2020-21), Barron managed a goal and an assist. He was part of the significant trade that sent Andrew Copp to the Rangers. (The Rangers selected Barron in the sixth round [174th overall] in 2017.)

In grading the Andrew Copp trade, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman wrote the following (sub required) about Morgan Barron:

Morgan Barron is a big center with good hockey sense and competitiveness who can finish from mid-range but has heavy feet. He’s got a chance to be a fourth-line center. Also funny note that he gets traded on the same day his brother Justin is dealt to Montreal.

Nothing wrong with seeing what Barron, 23, can bring to the table as the Jets’ season is toast.

Jets – Canadiens highlights

With only one game in the NHL on Monday, check out all that Jets – Canadiens had to offer:

Monday NHL Takeaways

Big blow to Kings: Season-ending surgery for Drew Doughty

With Mark Stone nearing a return, the Kings already seemed to have a tenuous grip on their playoff spot. Now the Kings need to hold on without Drew Doughty, as he underwent season-ending surgery.

As this post notes, they’ve at least had some experience. Doughty’s been sidelined since March 10, and only played in 39 games overall this season.

NHL suspends Evgeni Malkin for four games

In a somewhat surprising verdict, the NHL suspended Evgeni Malkin four games for cross-checking Mark Borowiecki.

Frankly, Malkin’s history of blurring the line (at best) when he loses his temper is robust enough that it’s honestly a bit surprising he’s only been suspended twice in his career. (That’s counting this latest verdict.)

What do you think of the decision? Feel free to share in the comments, on social media, or elsewhere. Just … you know, try to be more civil than Malkin was with Borowiecki. Here’s the explanation video:

What can we expect from the Winnipeg Jets after another lost season?

Remember when the Jets looked like they were built for years of contention? Not that long ago, this seemed like the team of the future.

Heading into this season, expectations weren’t nearly as high for the Jets as those loftier days. Still, with what seemed like a more competent defense, a playoff berth wasn’t an outrageous thought.

Instead, the Jets faced the Canadiens with a lot of the same thoughts. Each team was thinking about next season, at least when they weren’t already daydreaming about golf and vacations.

So, what kind of expectations should we have for the Jets going forward? If you want an interesting exercise, realize how many different Jets players seem like they could be part of something more successful.

  • Has Kyle Connor produced the quietest 40+ goal season in ages? It’s remarkable that he has a shot at 50. Connor’s in the meat of his prime at just 25, too.
  • Also quiet: Mark Scheifele‘s point-per-game season (70 points in 67 games).
  • They’ve still enjoyed quality production from Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers. Some may also forget that they employ Pierre-Luc Dubois, who’s put up numbers (26 goals, 54 points) and shown some serious snarl (100 penalty minutes).
  • You may look at Connor Hellebuyck‘s numbers (.911 save percentage heading into Jets – Canadiens) and think he’s stumbled. If so, he’s only dipped by his own high standards. This Hockey Viz chart points to a goalie who continues to shine:

[PHT’s latest Power Rankings]

That bloated expected goals total above hints at the bad part. Some of the Jets’ best offensive players also rank among their biggest defensive problems.

Truly, it’s kind of jaw-dropping to see both Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele display the drastic extremes you see in visualizations such as Evolving Hockey’s player cards.

Does the good outweigh the bad? It’s an easier pro-con situation to stomach considering that neither Scheifele ($6.125M cap hit through 2023-24) nor Connor ($7.14M through 2025-26) break the bank.

However, to take a step forward, the Jets need to find some answers.

How much of these defensive issues just come down to who these forwards are? With underlying numbers so extreme, could a coaching change solve some of these issues? If not, is it about putting Connor, Scheifele, and others in truly extreme offensive situations, and finding truly great defensive forwards to shoulder huge own-zone burdens?

Despite these last few troubling seasons, it’s not so difficult to picture the Jets figuring this out. Connor Hellebuyck’s frequently in the conversation for best goal in the world. They boast some top-end scoring talent. Cole Perfetti is the sort of prospect who could help, and possibly soon. Maybe a coaching upgrade can tighten up some loose ends.

Nonetheless, right now, the Jets look more than a little lost (though they won against the Canadiens).

A big story for Tuesday

Can Rangers wrestle the Metropolitan Division away from the Hurricanes?

For a decent chunk of time, it seemed like the Hurricanes would cruise to a Metropolitan Division title. The bigger question revolved around whether or not they might grab the top spot in the East.

Amid some modest stumbles, the Hurricanes’ ambitions are now more muted. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Rangers, the Hurricanes only hold a two-point lead (102 to 100) for the Metro title. While the Hurricanes would still maintain a tiebreaker edge, the Rangers could create a virtual tie by beating Carolina in regulation. Both teams have played 73 games so far this season, so there’s no games in hand advantage to consider.

Ultimately, the Hurricanes hold a meaningful edge over the Rangers to win the Metro title. It’s remarkable that the Rangers gained so much ground, though, and this could get really tight if the Hurricanes lose on Tuesday.

Jets – Canadiens score

Jets 4, Canadiens 2

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.

Evgeni Malkin suspended 4 games for cross-checking Borowiecki

The NHL suspended Penguins star Evgeni Malkin a whopping four games for cross-checking Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki.

Watch the video explanation above for more on why the NHL suspended Malkin for four games.

Evgeni Malkin suspended 4 game(s) for cross-checking Mark Borowiecki

This marks the second time the NHL suspended Malkin. In February 2019, the league suspended Malkin one game for swinging his stick at then-Flyers forward Michael Raffl.

While Malkin’s avoided league discipline before, fans with long memories will recall quite a few instances when he lost his temper. Back in 2012, Craig Berube labeled Malkin and Sidney Crosby “the two dirtiest players” on the Penguins.

One would guess that the Penguins won’t push Malkin too hard to dial down his temper. Note Mike Sullivan’s comments after the Malkin – Borowiecki incident.

“Obviously, we don’t want our best players in the penalty box. But these guys are competitive guys. They push back. We’d prefer they be on the ice,” Sullivan said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike DeFabo. “But one of the things we love about Geno is how competitive he is. So when you get an emotional game like the one today, those things happen.”

As much as Malkin will be missed, the Penguins and other Eastern Conference teams are mainly battling for seeding right now. No doubt, it’s concerning for Pittsburgh that the Capitals have a chance to bump the Penguins down to a wild-card spot. That said, the Penguins figure to draw a tough opponent even if it’s a 2/3 Metro matchup, as the Rangers have looked a lot more dangerous since the trade deadline. (It wouldn’t be a picnic if the Hurricanes slipped to the two-spot, either.)

With Malkin’s injury history — including missing significant time this season — there may even be a small blessing of getting him a quick bit of rest before the playoffs.

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.

Evgeni Malkin to have DoPS hearing for cross-checking Borowiecki

Evgeni Malkin will have a Monday hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety after cross-checking Mark Borowiecki of the Predators during their 3-2 overtime win.

The incident occurred at the end of the second period with Malkin and Borowiecki getting into it in the Predators’ zone. It escalated when Malkin delivered a slash and immediately followed it up with a cross-check to the mouth. That left Borowiecki bloodied as he skated to the dressing room for intermission.

Borowiecki was assessed a minor for slashing while Malkin was given a double minor for cross-checking. Borowiecki did not return for the third period.

What could we expect the DoPS to give Malkin? Auston Matthews was suspended two games for cross-checking Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in the neck during last month’s Heritage Classic. Could we see a similar punishment handed out here?

The Penguins have a pair of home and home matchups coming up against the Islanders Tuesday and Thursday and then the Bruins on Saturday and Thursday, April 21.

Malkin has not been disciplined since 2019 when he was involved in two separate incidents. First, he was suspended for one game for a swinging his stick at the Flyers’ Michael Raffl and then was fined $5,000 for high-sticking later that year.

————

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.

NHL Rink Wrap: Crosby reaches 1,400 milestone to lead Penguins; Hat trick for Staal

Top player in the NHL on Sunday

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been struggling lately and entered Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators on a four-game losing streak. Sidney Crosby helped them snap the losing streak with a 3-2 overtime that saw him record three points, including a pair of goals. His second goal was the overtime winner and helped him reach the 1,400 point mark for his career. He has not really slowed down at all this season and is still one of the league’s best all-around players and most dominant offensive forces. He opened the scoring on Sunday early in the first period, assisted on Jason Zucker‘s game-tying goal midway through the third period, and then won the game in overtime on a redirection from a tough angle along the goal line.

Highlights from around the NHL on Sunday

Jason Robertson is becoming a superstar for the Dallas Stars and he gets creative here on Sunday for one of his two goals in the Stars’ 6-4 win.

Jordan Staal records the third hat trick of his career in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. It is the third hat trick of his career and his first since 2012 when he was still a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat score two goals just 17 seconds apart as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Sunday

Big win for Stars

The Dallas Stars entered Sunday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks having lost three of their previous four games, including two in a row. They snapped that little skid with a 6-4 win that was highlighted by a pair of goals from Robertson and Tyler Seguin‘s 22nd goal of the season. That gives Dallas a two-point lead over the Vegas Golden Knights for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference while still having a game in hand.

Impressive run for Capitals

Just when it looked like the Washington Capitals were starting to fade a little bit, they have started to piece together some wins and are now in the middle of a three-game winning streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins. Their 4-2 win on Sunday after the Bruins completed a great weekend that saw them earn four out of a possible four points on their back-to-back. Alex Ovechkin added two more goals during those two games to give him the 12th 45-goal season of his career, bringing him two goals closer to another 50-goal season, and give him 775 goals for his career to help him keep gaining ground on Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky.

Wild storm back against Kings

After allowing three goals in the first 10 minutes against the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild were able to storm back with six consecutive goals to get a 6-3 win. The Kings have now lost three games in a row and five of their past seven games and are now clinging to a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Their playoff spot seemed secure just a couple of weeks ago and they are now just two points ahead of the Golden Knights. The Wild, meanwhile, snapped a two-game losing streak with their win on Sunday to keep pace in the Central Division where they are competing with the St. Louis Blues for home-ice advantage in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Monday’s big story

There is only one game on Monday’s NHL schedule and it features the Winnipeg Jets trying to cling to their playoff hopes against the Montreal Canadiens. The other big story to watch is if Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin will face any supplemental discipline for his slash and cross-check against Nashville Predators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on Sunday. The incident happened at the end of the second period and resulted in the Nashville defender leaving the game with a bloody mouth and not returning. He was given a two-minute minor for slashing while Malkin was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking.

Sunday’s NHL Scores

Washington Capitals 4, Boston Bruins 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Nashville Predators 2 (OT)
Minnesota Wild 6, Los Angeles Kings 3
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Buffalo Sabres 0
Carolina Hurricanes 5, Anaheim Ducks 2
Dallas Stars 6, Chicago Blackhawks 4
Winnipeg Jets 4, Ottawa Senators 3