Friday, April 12, 2024

Sixteen players you meet during every NHL playoff run

We’re just over a week away from the playoffs, the only part of the hockey season that actually matters. Are you ready?

You probably are, especially if you’re a fan of one of the many teams that have had their spots locked up since midseason. But just in case, let’s use these last few days to get in a quick refresher. Whether you’re rooting for your own team, hate-watching a rival, or just sitting back as a neutral observer, you’re going to spend the next few weeks getting to know a cast of characters who show up every year right around this time.

Let’s refresh your memory with a quick run down of some of the key players who’ll be showing up over the next two months. We’ll go with 16, one for every win it takes to lift the Cup, or so it has been explained to me.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Rules court: Draft your playoff opponents? Goalies serve penalties? Guaranteed OT?

A few weeks ago, the NHL GMs got together, talked about a bunch of potential rule changes, and then voted to barely do anything at all. The game is great, no need to change anything, let’s hit the golf course.

You guys don’t agree. We know this, because we have a mailbox where you can submit your ideas for rule changes, and it’s constantly overflowing. Some of you want to tinker, some of you are thinking a bit bigger than that, and some of you are quite frankly out of your minds. 

All of which is to say, it’s time for another edition of Rules Court, the feature where you submit your ideas, and the three of us vote on them. Convince two out of three, and your rule is passed. We have eight new cases on the docket this time around, so court is in session.

Have the higher-seeded playoff teams “draft” their opponents, meaning the top seed in each conference would have the right to choose any other team as their first-round matchup. That could be the worst team according to record, but could also be a team that was viewed as an easier matchup due to injuries, slumps, head-to-head history, etc. – A ton of you, especially after the PWHL announced that they’d be adopting this rule.

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Monday, April 8, 2024

Weekend rankings: 5 playoff teams I’m getting worried about, plus the Penguins

We’re two weeks away from the playoffs, which means it time to feel a sense of irrational panic over any team that isn’t red hot.

The key word here is “irrational”, because as we’ve covered before, seeding and home-ice doesn’t matter as much as you’d think in today’s NHL and late-season momentum means even less. As long as you make the playoffs, whatever happens down the stretch isn’t all that important. Usually. Sometimes. You know what, that applies for everyone but your team, you guys are screwed.

See? Irrational panic is fun. And as we close out the schedule, here are five teams that I’m starting to worry about.

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Friday, April 5, 2024

The power of postive thinking: Finding hope for the NHL’s 11 most hopeless teams

It’s April, meaning there are three types of teams. The good ones have already locked up their playoff spot, and are playing out the string with an eye on seeding and home ice, waiting to find out who’ll they’ll face in the first round. Other teams are still fighting for their invitation, with every game down the stretch feeling like a make-or-break contest where every moment matters.

And then, there are the loser teams.

Sorry, maybe there’s a kinder way to put that, but you know who I mean. These are the teams that have no shot at the playoffs, even with weeks left on the schedule. They’re out, and in most cases they’ve been out for a long time. It’s a miserable time to be a fan of one of those teams – the lottery is still a month away, the draft is even further, you’re not sure if you’re even supposed to want your team to win anymore, and everyone else seems to be having way more fun than you are.

It's rough. And I’m here to help. So today, let’s try our annual-ish exercise of coming up with some positivity for the truly hopeless teams. Using the playoff odds from Dom’s model and Moneypuck, we can find 11 teams that both models agree have less than a one per cent chance at the postseason right now. That’s about as low as we can go, and it means we get to pretend that teams like the Penguins, the Blues and (just barely) the Wild are still alive. You have to be pretty bad to be completely out of it with weeks still left to play. And these teams are indeed quite bad.

Just not so bad that we can’t pump their tires a little bit. Let’s get positive, as we work through all 11 teams in order, from my picks for the easiest to feel good about down to the most challenging.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

We’re not making a big enough deal over Connor McDavid chasing100 assists

Connor McDavid is going to hit 100 assists this season, maybe as early as tonight if he can get three in Dallas. It’s a cool stat, the sort of nice round number that sports fans love. Who doesn’t appreciate seeing somebody get to the century mark, in anything? Whether it’s 100 points or a 100-yard game or 100 RBIs, our sports-fan brains are wired to like the number. Why wouldn’t 100 assists be cool too?

As someone who once wrote a book on NHL history and has never met a current event he can't twist into a YouTube breakdown of something that happened 30 years ago, I’ve been asked a few times: Is McDavid’s chase for 100 assists really as big a deal as people are making it out to be?

And my answer is: No, it’s not as big a deal. It’s actually bigger. McDavid is about to do something amazing, and we’re underselling it.

You could blame McDavid for that, since by this point he’s done so many amazing things over the years that apparently we’ve just become inclined to shrug and toss another accolade onto the pile. But we shouldn’t, and today I’m going to put my historian hat on and try to convince you that this is a bigger story than you think.

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