PHT Predicts: Red Wings vs. Coyotes — Who do you have?

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Familiar foes face off once again. Last year when these two faced off, the Red Wings took out the Coyotes in seven games and breaking the Coyotes hold on home ice in the series. This year, Detroit has home ice and a lot of the same faces are back for another go-around. One face that isn’t there to start the series is Henrik Zetterberg. He’s ailed by a knee injury and won’t begin the series against Phoenix. While they’ve still got Pavel Datsyuk, Nick Lidstrom, and Johan Franzen is that enough to hold off Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, and Ed Jovanovski?

Jimmy Howard will square off against the always intimidating Ilya Bryzgalov in goal and with the Coyotes coming into this one defensive-minded, can they frustrate the Wings into bowing out in the first round? That is the question. As for how we see this series breaking down, “contention” is the word.

James says:
The Red Wings are banged up and the Coyotes gave them a great fight last year, but every part of me thinks that the team who “owns” the NHL (Detroit) will beat the team owned by the league (Phoenix). Besides, I made Detroit my pre-season Stanley Cup winning pick, so I need to pick them for at least one round, right?

There is one frightening fact that makes me slightly worried, though: fantastic Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is in a contract year. What better way to pad his bank account than to beat the mighty Red Wings?

It’s the Wings in 6 as Johan Franzen puts together another astounding playoff series.

Matt says:
The Red Wings have the experience that just about every team in the NHL would kill for. The core of this team is the same core that make it to consecutive appearances in the finals and was within a period of taking home back-to-back Stanley Cups. Jimmy Howard doesn’t need to battle head-to-head with Ilya Bryzgalov, he’ll just need to give the Wings a chance in the low scoring games of the series. The Coyotes gained some valuable experience last season when they lost Game 7 against the same Wings at home, but it won’t be enough. Wings in 6.

Joe says:
Detroit has kind of meandered around the last month of the season while the Coyotes have done the same thing themselves. History doesn’t count for much in these situations because it can always be re-written. That said, the Coyotes haven’t won a playoff series since 1987 when they were the Winnipeg Jets. Phoenix will be throwing the snake and they’ll be wearing white but they’ll be left wondering if this is the last time they get to see their team play. Phoenix will be tough and annoying, but the Red Wings have too much talent to lose. Wings in 6.

Do you think we’re secretly in the back pocket of Canada and we’re picking against Phoenix because we’re huge Winnipeg Jets fans? Prove us wrong and make your vote heard in our poll.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?

Hurricanes’ Lack hospitalized after collision on Red Wings’ OT goal

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The Carolina Hurricanes fell short of a win on Monday, but their thoughts likely revolve around the health of goalie Eddie Lack instead.

Lack was taken off the ice on a stretcher after a collision during Andreas Athanasiou‘s game-winning goal in overtime. Officials reviewed that the goal counted, giving the Red Wings a 4-3 overtime victory against Carolina.

While it’s been a tough overall season for Hurricanes goalie, Lack has been an integral part of Carolina’s push for a postseason spot. PHT will keep an eye out for updates regarding his condition after this scary collision.

The Red Wings stayed on the ice as Lack was taken off, a nice gesture after an unfortunate accident.

Update: A mostly positive bit of news from the Hurricanes.