NHL Injury Report – the latest injury info as we head into the 2016 NHL postseason – Seguin, Perron, Vlasic, more…
Congratulations to all our regular-season winners! I hope you shoved it in your friends’ stupid ugly faces, like I did. And if you lost… Well… Sucks to suck I guess! Maybe you should try to win a playoff pool? If that’s your path, there’s some stuff you might need to know. Take heed, ye be entering playoff injury news here. Teams absolutely hate discussing their players’ injuries, so it will be sparse. On top of that, there was an unusually long break since the end of the regular season, so players have had a chance to rest up and get to 100% for game 1. Way to hamstring my column, NHL. Here’s your injuries for each series and how they’ll likely factor into who’ll win.
Dallas vs Minnesota
Brett Ritchie (week-to-week, lower-body injury)
Minnesota definitely gets the short end of the stick here. While Tyler Seguin has a chance at missing game one, he won’t be out for long, and even if he is, Dallas was 8-2-0 without him. Jason Demers got a chance to shake off rust in the last game of the season, so Dallas’s defense won’t be hurting either. The Wild, on the other hand, are about to start the playoffs without Zach Parise, who may be out long-term here. Losing one of the best two-way wingers in the game (and your team’s leading scorer) is a recipe for disaster, especially against the Stars’ juggernaut offense. Vanek is still dealing with upper-body pain from a cross-check to the ribs, but he was recently a healthy scratch as well, so they might not miss him too much. Don’t be surprised if the Parise injury limits the Wild to just one victory in the series.
Anaheim vs Nashville
Nashville is lucky to have to no injuries heading into the series, but Anaheim’s pretty healthy as well. Apart from Pirri, they have a good chance at having all their players in the lineup for game 1. At the very least, they’ll get them back sometime in round 1. They ended their season as the sixth-best team. Considering how their season started, that’s practically a miracle. They’ve also got Nashville’s .915 save percentage beat, with goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson combining for .924 and a 2.29 GAA. The Preds, on the other hand, are still just 48.6% in the faceoff circle, even after acquiring Ryan Johansen. They fielded a remarkably healthy roster this year, so there’s no excuse for poor performance. Despite having all the injuries going into this series, expect Anaheim to take it handily.
Los Angeles vs San Jose
The playoffs’ leading goal scorer from 2014, Gaborik, is skating again and might return early in the season. Of course, he could also aggravate his injury and not be back until the Kings get to the third round. The Sharks, on the other hand, are entering the playoffs almost completely healthy. I would say that’s a good thing, if they weren’t prone to get sudden bouts of asphyxia at this time of year. Still, I think the Sharks have had a legitimate shot at the Cup for a while now. Being dismantled by one of the best teams in the NHL doesn’t mean your team is garbage, especially if the series went the distance. This one could go either way, but the Kings are going to have to claw for goals without Gaborik.
St. Louis vs Chicago
This is the series to watch in Round 1. Both teams finished in the top five in the league, which means someone’s going to be crushed when one of them bows out. The Blues are going to get their captain back from a lower-body injury and for the first time this year, St. Louis is going to be fully healthy. That won’t last long against their bitter rivals, the Blackhawks, who also have a number of players returning to the lineup. However, they’re going to miss Duncan Keith, who is sitting out for a game for high-sticking Charlie Coyle pretty viciously. This series won’t be decided by any injuries going into it, but when it’s over, do not expect these two teams to look as healthy as they do right now.
Washington vs Philadelphia
Washington and Nashville are the two healthiest teams in the playoffs. If the Caps don’t win it this year, they’ve gotta be cursed. Backstrom played at the end of the regular season, so he’s not rusty. They’re one of two teams to score more than three goals per game. They’ve got impressive depth, the greatest goal-scorer of all time, and a solid goalie. That’s a recipe for success in the playoffs. The Flyers, on the other hand, will miss Del Zotto, but Shayne Gostisbehere’s emergence mitigates that quite a bit. The lack of playoff experience will hurt, but they also have veteran Mark Streit to back him up, and it’s not like Ghost hasn’t risen to every challenge he’s faced so far. Still, the Capitals stand a good shot at sweeping Philly.
Florida vs New York Islanders
While Florida will sorely miss their captain, especially given his playoff experience with the Kings, they’ll get Trocheck back before long. The Isles, on the other hand, are screwed. They’re missing their top defenceman (he’s returning, but it’s early, and he might be rushed), their starting goalie, and three forwards. I know we expect John Tavares to carry this team, but this is ridiculous. With a resurgent Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo, the Panthers have enough veteran experience to push through the Islanders to a relatively easy victory.
Pittsburgh vs New York Rangers
If there’s one series that injuries could take either way, it’s this one. Pittsburgh stands a good chance at getting Malkin, Määttä, and Fleury back, but none of them managed to get in a regular-season game to get their timing back. If Fleury isn’t good to go (he’s been symptom-free, but this is a brain injury we’re talking about), there’s no alternative. They’ll have to start their third-string goalie, Jeff Zatkoff. However, since they hired Mike Sullivan, they’ve scored 3.24 goals per game, which is good for 1st in the NHL, so they can overcome that. Even so, that’s been because of a dominant performance out of Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, the latter of whom has a standing reservation on the injured reserve. An injury to either of those stars would really hurt their chances. The Rangers will suffer without their number one defenseman and captain as McDonagh heals from blocking a shot. That might be the difference in this series, but the real wild card here is Fleury. Despite his performance in 2012 and 2013, he’s been one of the very best goalies in the league recently, and can carry them straight to the Cup this year. His health will almost certainly decide this series.
Tampa Bay vs Detroit
Drew Miller (LTIR, knee)
Boy, what Tampa Bay would give to be in the Islanders’ position. Their captain and sniper is out until at least round three, which they actually stand an OK shot at seeing. They’re facing an almost-fully-healthy Red Wings team that’s made the postseason for the 25th straight year, but just barely scraped in this time. Even if they move on, that’ll mean they’ll likely face Florida, though they might get Stralman back towards the end of that series. They won’t have to face Pittsburgh or Washington until the Eastern Conference Finals. They’ll miss Stralman until then, though that can be covered up a little by Victor Hedman, who put together a stellar performance last year. Even with Stamkos’s absence, you’re probably safe expecting a similar performance out of Hedman this year as well. Despite their litany of injuries, they stand a decent shot at beating Detroit. However, there’s an almost-quantifiable tonne of playoff experience in the Red Wings’ room. That doesn’t count for nothing.
As always, thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter for more frequent injury updates and general hockey-related tomfoolery! @AjayDaCosta, in case that address bar is too far away.
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