If any Western Conference bubble team has an excuse to fade from the playoffs, it’s the Dallas Stars.
Their All-Star Jamie Benn suffered his second hard-luck injury of the season when a skate blade cut his leg. Brenden Morrow’s on the IR and really hasn’t been right all year. Mike Ribeiro, Alex Goligoski, Kari Lehtonen and even Loui Eriksson have missed some time here and there.
Combine those injuries with a shoe-string budget, undeniably sparse home crowds and even a bit of deck-clearing via trades and it’s downright stupefying that this Stars team keeps chugging along.
They’re doing that right now, though, as Dallas established sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference with a defiant 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild. Maybe you can discount triumphing in back-to-back games because Minny was doing the same, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.
Dallas is now on a three-game winning streak and stands at 3-1-1 in the five games following Benn’s latest ailment. The biggest factor has been goaltending, as Kari Lehtonen has allowed a single goal in his last two games while Richard Bachman allowed a lone tally against the dangerous Blackhawks in Chicago last night. It hasn’t just been about their netminding, either, as they’ve gotten a little of everything to thrive in unlikely circumstances.
Can they keep it up and make the playoffs, though? It looks like the race will be awfully close. Sports Club Stats currently gives them a slight edge to hold onto eighth place, as they have a 36.2 percent chance to make the playoffs compared to Calgary (32.9), Los Angeles (25.4) and Colorado (18.5).
Yup, it won’t be easy, but you’d be wise not to bet against the Stars at this point.
It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.
Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.
At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.
After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.
He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Among the 21 NHL.com and NHL Network experts offering their prediction for the Stanley Cup Final, 17 of them are choosing the San Jose Sharks. (NHL.com)
The majority of ESPN’s experts are also picking the Sharks. (ESPN.com)
For CBS Sports, Adam Gretz and Chris Peters are split on the outcome. (CBS Sports)
Tickets for the first Stanley Cup Final in San Jose appear to be going for significantly more than their Pittsburgh Penguins counterparts. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Inspired by John Scott‘s comments, here’s the start of a World Cup All-Snubs’ team. (TSN)
Peter DeBoer said that then New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello fired him from the Devils’ head coaching job late at night on Christmas. The news then broke on Dec. 26. (Tom Gulitti)
The Pittsburgh Penguins are Vegas favorites to win the 2016 Stanley Cup, but the odds lean toward a San Jose Sharks player capturing the Conn Smythe.
Bovada released a variety of odds on Sunday after others surfaced on Friday.
Joe Pavelski is pegged as a +400 favorite as a winner, edging some other top candidates such as Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Matt Murray.
Here’s the full list:
Logan Couture +500
Martin Jones +600
Brent Burns +700
Joe Thornton +900
Evgeni Malkin +900
Kris Letang +1400
Bovada also released prop bets, including how long the series might last. Check that out here.