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Ten Thursday Thoughts: Carolina Needs a Threat, Possible Trade and an Intriguing Rule Change

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
Despite only three teams, soon to be two, remaining in the NHL playoffs, there is lots to discuss in the hockey world including a rule change I’m fascinated to see play out.
1. Despite some close games, the outcome of the Conference Final series has not been close. The Florida Panthers swept the Carolina Hurricanes, and sorry Dallas fans, but we know Vegas is winning the Western Conference final, so let’s just end it tonight and we can all focus on the Stanley Cup final.
The last time both Conference Finals were swept was in 1992. Pittsburgh swept Boston in the then Prince of Wales Conference (East) while Chicago swept Edmonton in the Clarence Campbell Conference (West). The brooms were out again in the Final as Pittsburgh won in four games to claim their second consecutive championship. Let’s hope the 2023 final is closer.
2. I have no problem with the NHL cracking down on Jamie Benn and handing him a two-game suspension for his crosscheck on Mark Stone. It was a dumb, reckless play, but help me understand why Benn received two games, and Alex Pietrangelo only got one for his wood-chopping slash in round two?

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Pietrangelo skated across the ice intent solely on getting a shot on Draisaitl. Benn and Stone were tied up and Benn made a dumb reactionary play, but it doesn’t look like he delivered his crosscheck with any more force than Pietrangelo’s swing. Benn has been fined four times in his career, but on the NHL’s video, they said he had no significant history, so that wasn’t a factor. Again, I have no issue with him receiving two games, but am perplexed Pietrangelo got fewer for an action I haven’t seen occur in years. We see way more crosschecks to the neck than we do over-the-head slashes.
3. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated Buffalo in seven games in the 2006 ECF. Since then, they have lost 12 consecutive games in the ECF. They were swept by Pittsburgh in 2009, Boston in 2019, and Florida this year. That is the longest losing streak in any CF in NHL history. The previous high was nine by Boston between 1991-2011. Toronto lost 10 consecutive games in the round prior to the Stanley Cup between 1954-1956, when the playoffs were only two rounds.
4. The Hurricanes need a proven finisher. A game breaker. They are difficult to find, but their main focus this off-season has to be finding one via trade. Losing Andrei Svechnikov hurt them. Max Pacioretty only played five games all season, so we don’t know how much he could have contributed, but he’s never been a game breaker. He’s a very good scorer, but his career-high is 67 points. Svechnikov’s is 69. He will score 70+ soon, but their lack of finish cost them the series.
5. I understand what Rod Brind’Amour was thinking post-game. “That’s the unfortunate part of this, (people are) going to look back and everyone’s going to say you got swept. That’s not what happened. I watched the game. I’m there. I’m cutting the game. We’re in the game. We didn’t lose four games, we got beat, but it’s, we were right there. It could have been four games the other way.”
Then he added… “I think we took huge steps this year. Coming this far with what we were missing is pretty impressive.”
The games were close, but they couldn’t score. They only had six goals the entire series, and they played 16 periods. Six goals in 16 periods was not close to good enough. Missing Svechnikov and Pacioretty hurts, no doubt, but if the Hurricanes don’t acquire a significant point producer this summer, I think they will be in the exact same spot next year. They will be a very good regular season team that wins by firing a large quantity of shots, but in the playoffs, you need quality and a player or two who can finish. The Canes have the defensive structure and competitiveness, they just lack an elite point producer. Would Carolina and Toronto consider a major trade?
6. It must be tough for Flames fans to watch Florida. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett are killing it. Heck, Ryan Lomberg has been a very good depth player for Florida too, after many fans and some fancy stats people said he was useless. Players develop at different times. It is hard to know, but the one thing all three have is they play with an edge. Tkachuk has been world class for the Panthers, while Bennett has scored some key goals and absolutely steamrolled Jaccob Slavin with a hard, clean hit in game four. Lomberg scored as well.

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7. It is amazing how one regular season game can change things so drastically. On April 10th the Florida Panthers had 92 points in 81 games. The Pittsburgh Penguins had 90 points in 80 games. They hosted the lowly Chicago Blackhawks on April 11th. The Hawks were 1-11 in their previous 12 games and had been outscored 54-24. They’d allowed three goals in each of those 12 games and allowed 4+ nine times. Pittsburgh needed a win, but they soiled the sheets and lost 5-2. Two days later the Penguins played Columbus while Florida played Carolina. Florida lost in regulation, while Pittsburgh lost in OT. Had the Penguins defeated Chicago they would have finished with 93 points and had the eighth seed. That loss, combined with the Blackhawks’ win, triggered three significant things.
  • Florida made the playoffs and are now in the Stanley Cup Final.
  • Chicago won the Connor Bedard lottery. Had they lost the game Columbus would have finished 30th and had the third best odds and won instead of Chicago.
  • Pittsburgh fired their management team. Granted, had they lost easily in the first round to Boston, that might have occurred anyways, based on this great article outlining the missteps leading to their dismissals.
One game that Pittsburgh should have won could have drastically altered the history of the NHL. Crazy.
8. If a team pays Damon Severson more than Dmitri Orlov or Ryan Graves more than Dmitri Gavrikov this summer, they will be grossly disappointed. It was interesting reading Frank Seravalli’s top-50 Free agent rankings and salary projections.  Salary projections are difficult. Did anyone think Erik Gubranson would get $4m x 4 years last summer? Good for him, and it shows how different teams value different players. Severson played third pair minutes for New Jersey in the playoffs, and in the regular season he played most of his TOI (41.7%) v. bottom six forwards via PuckIQ. He played 24.1% v. Elite. He is a solid player, but not a top pair defender. I see Orlov as more valuable, even if he is three years older, as I do Gavrikov over Graves.
I’ve long argued free agency isn’t where you build your team. Often it is where the biggest mistakes are made. Will one player receive a seven-year deal? They shouldn’t, but there are always surprises in the summer.
9. The 2023 Memorial Cup begins tomorrow. The QMJHL has won the past three (2018, 2021 and 2022), while the OHL won in 2015-2017. The Edmonton Oil Kings were the last WHL to win in 2014, but the WHL has two solid representatives this year. The Kamloops Blazers are the hosts while Seattle won the WHL title along with Peterborough (OHL) and the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL). Seattle is loaded. They have 11 players drafted to the NHL and four more (Gracyn Sawchyn, Nico Myatovic, Jeremy Hanzel and Thomas Milic) who will likely be drafted next month. The Thunderbirds are the favourite, and they will be looking for their first Memorial Cup championship. Kamloops has three (1992, 1994, 1995), Quebec has two (1971, 2006) and Peterborough has one (1979). One franchise will end a long drought this year. Looking forward to the tournament and please don’t call it Memorial Cup. No need to be lazy and abbreviate it.
10. The Champions Hockey League (Europe’s Elite Club Hockey League) is introducing three new rule changes involving the power play next season.
  • Minor penalties dealt the same as major: If opposing teams scores a power play the opposition will remain shorthanded for the full two minutes. (The NHL had this rule decades ago.)
  • Serving delayed penalties: a minor penalty will still be served even if a goal is scored during a delayed penalty.
  • Shorthanded goal erases current minor penalty: If a team scores a shorthanded goal, the minor penalty will be over.
The NHL had the first rule many years ago but changed it because Montreal was too dominant on the PP.
The second rule is interesting. It is almost like teams get two power plays on the same call because often a team will pull their goalie for an extra attacker during a delayed penalty. Last year the NHL had 64 goals scored during a delayed penalty.
The third rule is something I’ve never considered. Will it encourage teams to be a bit more aggressive on the penalty kill? A shorthanded goal often swings momentum, but it would be even bigger if the power play ends at the same time. I’m curious to see if it leads to more SHG goals in the CHL next season. If it does, I wonder if the NHL considers it. Edmonton led the NHL with 18 shorthanded goals, and three times the opposition scored on the remainder of the power play.
Which, if any, of the three rules would you want the NHL to add?

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