With just one game on tap, we’ll start things off with a little draft lottery precursor. Sportsnet announced they would prolong the pain/excitement on Saturday by revealing teams 4-15 before the San Jose – Vegas tilt. They will then leave the final three spots to be unveiled after the second intermission of that same game.
For those who “cheered” for a bottom-feeder, this will be their Stanley Cup playoffs and brings with it a potential to change the course of an organization or two.
Just in time for the lottery hysteria, I’ve released an updated Rankings Thursday night. Have a gander here.
If you’re like me, this Winnipeg-Nashville series was the most anticipated of the bunch. In a perfect example of the atrocity that is the NHL playoff format, the top two teams IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE face off in round two.
It's criminal that one of these squads won't continue on. However, at least we can enjoy the ferocity that the series will bring.
Mathieu Perreault joined the team in a non-contact jersey at the tail end of the morning skate. It was the first time Perreault had been on the ice since his injury in Game One against the Wild. It's a step in the right direction but indicates he's still a ways off from returning.
After a week of rest for both squads, the fans and players were ready to roll. The Preds' barn was rocking to start this game and their players were equally fired up. Nashville came out absolutely flying. They outshot their opponent 20-4 in the first frame, but it was Winnipeg who scored first when Brandon Tanev banged home a rebound.
The Jets extended their lead with two second period tallies by Paul Stastny and Mark Scheifele. That ended Pekka Rinne’s night as he gave up three goals on just 16 shots. Juuse Saros needed to make just three stops in the final frame in relief.
Scheifele is sporting a nice little goal-per-game output in the postseason thus far. This after scoring just two goals in the final two months of the season dating back to March 2nd. Suffice to say, he’s showing up when it matters most.
For a while there, it looked like Connor Hellebuyck might never surrender another goal against again. After shutting out the Wild in the final two games of the first round he was a man possessed at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night. He ended up as the first star after making 47 saves. However, his shutout streak ended early in the third off a Kevin Fiala marker. 163:00 of shutout hockey isn't too shabby I guess.
If your Nashville, the message likely stays the same: keep doing what we’re doing, and the brick wall will eventually crumble.
Game two goes Sunday evening.
It’s still early, but Jake Guentzel is making a name for himself as a big stage performer. The 23-year-old burst onto the scene a season ago and found immediate success next to Sidney Crosby. His play managed to elevate even further as he set the rookie points record with 21 on route to a Cup victory last spring.
This season, the Nebraska native had the ups and downs expected of a young player learning to play at the highest level each night. He saw time with and without Crosby. On and off the top power-play unit. But he finished his final quarter saw him produce at a 60-point pace – even if his goal-scoring had dried up to some degree.
We've now learned that the fresh smell of spring brings with it flamethrower-Guentzel. And boy, does he enjoy setting the world on fire. Through six games against the Flyers, Guentzel found the back of the net six times. He juiced that up by adding a goal and two helpers in game one against the Caps. He sits atop the playoff leaderboard with 16 points in seven games. His crowning achievement being a monstrous four goal, five point outing to eliminate the cross-state rivals.
Guentzel's 37 points in 32 playoff contests represents a 1.16 point-per-game output. That mark slides him into the top 10 all-time for players with at least 25 playoff games.
Needless to say, this is a heady group to be associated with. Each of those on the list are either in the Hall of Fame or will be once their opportunity arises.
I'm not standing here saying that Jake Guentzel is destined to be a first ballot HoFer. But rather, the way this sophomore is playing warrants all the virtual ink I can spill.
On top of his prolific post-season totals, the dynamic forward has been a truly elite marksman for some time. He recorded a solid 17.6 percent clip in his final season of NCAA action. And then, in 90 combined regular season and playoff games in the AHL and NHL in 2016-17, he posted 50 goals on 231 shots (21.6%).
Despite lulls in production this year, Guentzel managed a respectable 12.9 percent conversion rate during the regular season. And is now clicking along at 35 percent in the post-season!
Clearly that latter number is wildly unsustainable – as is his career playoff conversion rate of 27 percent. However, his ability to finish should not be questioned.
What can we expect from Guentzel next season and where he should land in fantasy drafts hinges on a few things:
- Does he maintain his spot next to Crosby for more than the 66 percent of even-strength ice he saw in 2017-18?
- Does he manage to work his way onto the top power-play unit in lieu of a newly re-signed, Patric Hornqvist? (This is a biggie)
- How inflated will his value you be on draft day due to this continued playoff excellence?
Last season, despite the massive point production, it appeared that the inexperience of just 65 NHL games under his belt played a role in assessment. Guentzel was the 104th player off the board on Yahoo last season. Though dual eligible for centre and left-wing, he was the 23rd LW selected on average.
It’s difficult to say if you can count on snagging him in the ninth round again next fall, but if you can, that seems like a prudent move to make.
Of note, digging a bit deeper into that list of All-Time playoff performers, there is another current player who is tracking very well. Nikita Kucherov sits in a tie for 24th all-time with 52 points in 50 contests. Despite his tremendous ability and monster 2017-18 season, I still feel that his greatness has been understated. It shouldn’t be. He’s amazing.
The other active players in the top 50:
9th Sidney Crosby 1.15
22nd Evgeni Malkin 1.05
34th Mike Cammalleri 1.0
42nd Patrick Kane 0.97
47th Ryan Getzlaf 0.96
48th Alex Ovechkin 0.96
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3
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