Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Five forgotten games that ended up changing the draft lottery results

Saturday night's lottery certainly shook up the draft order, with four of the league's worst teams suffering the dreaded three-spot drop while the Devils, Flyers and Stars all moved up.

We probably should have seen at least part of that coming. Earlier in the week, I predicted that the Devils would win because they had the lottery's most unbeatable good luck charm: Taylor Hall. He was drafted with a lottery-winning choice, he stuck around Edmonton for multiple lottery wins, he was eventually traded for another player taken with a lottery-winning choice, and now he's willed his team to yet another one. By the time it was made official, even Hall himself was having some fun with it.

But were Saturday night's results really inevitable? Maybe not. The beauty of the NHL system is that once you know which spots in the standings held ended up holding the winning combos, you can go back and play "what if?" with certain games during the season. That's how you get Patrik Stefan's empty net miss costing the Oilers the Patrick Kane pick, or how a comical Ryan Getzlaf giveaway ends up costing the Coyotes the services of Patrik Laine.

Now that we know which spots in this year's standings turned out to be the lucky ones – 27th, 19th and 24th if you're keeping track – let's take another run at some alternate history with five games that may have single-handedly changed the lottery results. Warning: This can get painful for certain teams. You've been warned, Canucks fans.

March 19, 2017 – Hurricanes at Flyers

The Flyers and Hurricanes both went into this late-season matchup desperately needing a win. Tied at 72 points, both teams were seven back of the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot and needed to all but run the table to have a shot at the postseason.

It turned out to be a good game, with the Flyers taking a 2-0 lead early in the second before the Hurricanes pushed back to tie it. It stayed that way until a Jordan Staal goal midway through the third gave Carolina a 3-2 lead, and a shot a crucial road win.

But with the goalie pulled in the final minute, the Flyers tied it up on a fluke. Travis Konecny's attempt at a centering pass got caught in the feet of Hurricanes' defenseman Brett Pesce, who accidentally kicked it into this own net. That sent the game to overtime, where Brayden Schenn won it for Philadelphia less than 40 seconds in.

At the time, the loss seemed like one more blow to the Hurricanes fading playoff hopes. But it ended up being something more. If Carolina avoids Pesce's accidental own goal and holds on for a regulation win, they finish the year with 88 points, passing the Flyers for 19th spot. That would have made it a Hurricanes logo that Bill Daly flipped over for the second overall pick, the first lottery win in Carolina franchise history.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News


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