Ten Thursday Thoughts

Photo credit:Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
We only have nine days remaining in the NHL regular season and only two playoff positions are locked in. The final week will be great. The top-six teams in each conference have booked their ticket to the Dance, but only Toronto and Tampa Bay know who they will play.
1. Toronto and Tampa should be thrilled, based on their play in the calendar year 2023, that they are playing each other. Neither team has been great since January 1st.
From January 1st to today Toronto ranks 11th in points% and Tampa is 15th.
From February 1st to today Toronto is 13th and TB is 21st.
From March 1st to now, Toronto ranks 15th and Tampa is 20th.
One of them will move to the second round, but Toronto (9-6-2) and Tampa (8-8-2) haven’t been dominant the past five weeks. They have a week to find their strides.
2. Here’s how the six playoff teams and four teams vying for the two Wildcard spots have played in 2023. They are ranked on total P% from January 1st.
Winnipeg is limping to the playoffs. They will need to rediscover their play from October-December if they want to fend off Calgary.
Edmonton and Vegas have the two best P% since March 1st in the NHL. They, along with Minnesota (fourth), LA (fifth), and Colorado (seventh) are all playing well. The race for first in both divisions will be intense.
3. Oilers fans should be cheering for LA to defeat Vegas tonight. A Kings regulation loss would leave Vegas with 104 points, Edmonton with 103 and LA with 102. Each team would have three games to decide who finishes first, second and third.
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Vegas has the toughest final three games. A Kings’ regulation victory tonight would give the Oilers a chance at first place.
4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up his 100th point of the season last night and became the eighth player to reach triple digits this season. David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson, Nathan MacKinnon, and RNH did it for the first time and became the 118th, 119th, 120th and 121st players in NHL history to score 100 points. Elias Pettersson (97 points), Erik Karlsson (96), who could be only the 6th D-man ever to reach 100 points, Mitch Marner (95), and Mikko Rantanen (94) are on pace to join them and push it to 125 players. If those four reach 100 points, it would be the most 100-point players in a season (12) since 1996.
5. If all 12 do it, then 2023 would be among the top 10 all-time.
10 players with 100 points: 1991
11 players: 1983
12 players: 1981, 1984, 1988 and 1996
13 players: 1982, 1986 and 1990
16 players: 1985
21 players: 1993
The most in the salary cap era, until this season, was eight last year. Offence is up across the NHL, and it is great to see.
6. If you could pick one rookie D-man to be on your team for the next decade between Owen Power and Jake Sanderson, who would you choose and why? Both are having very good rookie seasons.
7. If you are looking for a D-man for your playoff pool, don’t sleep on Miro Heiskanen. He’s been on fire down the stretch for Dallas with 26 points in 17 games. Mikhail Sergachev has 20 in 18 games for Tampa Bay. Cale Makar has been stellar as well with 21 points in 14 games (and no one is sleeping on him), but he will miss his second consecutive game tonight. Colorado is playing San Jose for a second consecutive game and has the luxury of being overly cautious with him, but his health, along with that of Gabriel Landeskog, Josh Manson and Artturi Lehkonen, makes the defending Champs one of the biggest wildcards. When fully healthy they are very good, especially their blue line, but they’ve been banged up all year. Can they get healthy, and stay healthy in the playoffs?
8. Connor McDavid is poised to become only the sixth player in NHL history to lead the NHL in goals and assists (no ties for either) in the same season, along with Howie Morenz (1928), Gordie Howe (1953), Phil Esposito (1973) Wayne Gretzky (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987) and Mario Lemieux (1996). It is incredibly difficult to do. He has a six-goal lead on Pastrnak and an eight-assist lead on Nikita Kucherov.
He only needs two points to become the sixth player to reach 150 points. He likely will pass Bernie Nicholls (150) and Esposito (152), and he has a chance to tie or pass Steve Yzerman (155).
9. Tim Thomas posted a sizzling .938Sv% for Boston in 2011. That is the highest in NHL history among goalies with 40 starts in a season. Linus Ullmark is currently tied for the second highest, with Dominik Hasek, at .937. He could pass Thomas. Brian Elliott had a .940Sv% in 36 starts with St. Louis in 2012, but GP does matter for me.
10: The Boston Bruins need three wins in their final five games to set the record for most wins in a season with 63. Sixty-three wins. Amazing. And they are seven points shy from tying the 1977 Montreal Canadiens for most points in a season with 132. The Bruins 125 points is already the 6th most and they have five games remaining. The Canadiens were 60-8-12 (ties). The Bruins season should be talked about more. It has been remarkable.
10B: Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the Hurricanes’ second leading scorer down the stretch with 14 points since March 1st. Sadly, for Canes fans, I think Carolina’s injuries, and lack of an elite scorer, will be their demise in the playoffs. I can’t see them going deep.
10c: If you have these guys in your fantasy team, you should be doing well:
Carter Verhaeghe with 40 goals and 70 points.
Tim Stutzle: 37 goals and 84 points.
Clayton Keller: 36 goals and 82 points.
Andrei Kuzmenko has 37 goals and 70 points.
Jared McCann 37 goals and 63 points.
And, of course, RNH with his 35 goals and 100 points and Erik Karlsson with his 22 goals and 96 points.


You knew we would have a t-shirt dialed in an ready to go as soon as RNH hit 100 points, and here it is!

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