There are 20 games remaining in the 2017/2018 NHL season. Fourteen playoff spots are confirmed, with Philadelphia and Florida battling for the final spot in the east, while St. Louis and Colorado will face each other tomorrow to determine who gets the final spot in the west, and the opportunity to be bludgeoned by the first-place Nashville Predators. The Avalanche and Blues are both banged up, and whoever gets in, likely won’t last very long against the Predators.
There is only one first round matchup confirmed thus far: Winnipeg will host Minnesota in game one of their Central Division semi-final. The Jets have skated to their best season in franchise history, including Jets 1.0 and 2.0. Winnipeg fans have never witnessed their team reach 100 points. Their previous high was 99 points in 2015. The Jets were swept in four games that spring.
Winnipeg fans last cheered a playoff victory on April 26th, 1996. The last series win in Winnipeg occurred 30 years ago in 1987 when they defeated the Calgary Flames in six games.
Jets fans are overdue for a playoff victory.
AROUND THE LEAGUE…
1. Daniel and Henrik Sedin had a fairytale send off in Vancouver last night. They combined on two goals. Fittingly, Daniel scored and Henrik assisted on both. Daniel’s 22nd goal of the season came 33 seconds into the second period, and then in OT he scored at 2:33. Sometimes you sit back and wonder if things were just meant to be, and for the twins their #22 and #33 was all over the scoresheet. They were great players for the Canucks, and even better people in the Vancouver community. Tomorrow they play their final game in Edmonton, and it should add a bit more excitement in what would be an otherwise somber atmosphere.
2. Connor McDavid has 106 points and an seven-point lead in the Art Ross race. If he picks up a point tomorrow, he will have scored the most points in an NHL season since Evgeni Malkin tallied 109 in 2012. McDavid has 59 points in 38 games since January 8th. If he maintained that 1.55 points/game pace over an entire season, he’d finish with 127 points. McDavid has been on a tear since he regained his strength after losing 15 pounds in November and battling numerous illnesses. I don’t think many will be surprised if he scores 120 points next year.
3. Outside of McDavid, the other players to score 50 points since January 8th are Evgeni Malkin (55 points in 37 games) and Taylor Hall (51 points in 37 games). McDavid leads the NHL in goals in that span with 27, Patrik Laine has 26, Malkin 25 and Hall 24.
4. William Karlsson has 43 goals for Vegas. He was drafted 53rd overall by Anaheim in 2011. He was traded to Columbus at the 2015 trade deadline along with Rene Bourque for James Wisniewski and a 2015 third round pick (Brent Gates). Karlsson played 15 AHL games in Springfield and didn’t register a point, but he did scored 1-1-2 in three games with the Blue Jackets. In 2015/2016, he played 81 games for Columbus and scored 9-11-20. He tallied 6-19-25 in 81 games last season before being exposed in the expansion draft. Vegas claimed him and he’s exploded.
He has 43 goals and 78 points with Vegas and is in the running for the Lady Byng and the Selke. He plays 18:33/game for Vegas, faces good competition and he leads the NHL at+49. I know it isn’t the best stat, but that is a very impressive number. Teammates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith are +37 and +32 respectively, while Brad Marchand is third in the NHL at +33.
It will be interesting to see what type of contract Karlsson receives in Vegas. I could see him getting similar money to Marchessault, $5 million/year.
5. I haven’t “cheered” for an NHL hockey team in a long time, but with my nephew, Noah Gregor, signing his ELC contract with the San Jose Sharks last night, in a few years I could become a fan again. I’m a fan of hockey, but haven’t openly cared about a team. I’ve watched Noah, and many other Edmonton area 1998 kids, chase their dream since peewee. I’ve watched him play against Tyler Benson, Sam Steel, Josh Mahura and others for years. I loved watching Bantam and Midget AAA games and now the WHL. The dedication any player makes to even get signed to an NHL contract is impressive. Going to bed early when you are teenagers, missing many parties, school events and other fun times with no guarantee they will make it, is true dedication. I’ve always respected how good NHL players are, even AHL players and CIS. Outside of the superstar NHL players, the gap between third line NHLers and players in lower leagues isn’t that big. Congrats Noah and all the other young players who have signed ELC deals the past few months. Good luck in coming years. The competition becomes harder, but I’m sure the journey will be exciting.
6. Benson and Oilers 2017 third round pick Dmitri Samorukov have signed a PTO with Bakersfield, and they will make their AHL debuts tonight in Winnipeg. Kailer Yamamoto was sat out the final three games of the WHL season with an injury, and then played hurt in Spokane’s first round loss to Portland. He wasn’t assigned to Bakersfield, because the Oilers wisely want him to get healthy.
7. The Jets will represent the west in the Stanley Cup Finals. They will face Washington. Yes, two long suffering fan bases will be in the Final. One will be elated, while the other will be disappointed again. Sadly, the Canadian curse in the Finals won’t end. Capitals win their first Stanley Cup.
8. If you are looking for a fun night out, I have one. We will be Roasting Jason Strudwick on Thursday, April 26th. We have already sold 220 tickets.
If you want a Table, half table or just individual tickets, call Dayna at KidSport at 780.492.0095. This is an adult only show. Struds has asked his mother not to come, as a guideline of what to expect from those who will be roasting him.
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