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MLS team’s ticket promotion doesn’t go as planned, thanks to Canucks


The idea was simple enough: All the Vancouver Canucks had to do was score a single goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night and Major League Soccer side would give fans a chance to win a pair of tickets to their next home game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

They didn’t have to beat the Kings, no, that would have been quite a task for a Canucks team that had won twice in their previous 10 games entering Monday night. Just one stinkin’ goal and a two happy fans would get to see Kei Kamara, Alphonso Davies and the 2-0 Whitecaps.

After a slow start peppering Jonathan Quick with just five shots in the first period, the Canucks really kept the Kings’ netminder busy over the final 40 minutes, firing 30 shots his way. The Whitecaps were keeping the faith:

But it was all for naught and LA ended up keeping Vancouver off the scoreboard entirely with a 3-0 victory.

So what was the MLS side to do in order to keep the promotion alive? They asked their Twitter followers to retweet a gif of some young Canucks fans and they would choose a winner.

Lesson learned, Whitecaps.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Coyotes risk spoiling their draft lottery odds


To some extent, the Arizona Coyotes should take wins when they can get them. They’re not exactly at a point where they can afford to wave away even modest gains that might build confidence for the future.

Even so, they’re approaching an awkward point where their hot streak might be a touch self-destructive.

Last night provided almost too-perfect an example, as the Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes squared off in something of a Tank Bowl. It came down to the dying seconds with an exasperated Daniel Sedin unable to beat Darcy Kuemper, who recorded his first shutout with Arizona as the Coyotes won 1-0.

[At the other end of the spectrum, see who tops PHT’s Power Rankings.]

The Coyotes dug themselves far too deep of a hole for most to notice, but they’ve actually been on an upward trend for a while now, even if some of the wins haven’t been very pretty. They’re 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, even with Antti Raanta‘s up-and-down season continuing with a recent injury.

Last night’s shutout win began a five-game homestand for the Coyotes, one that should be fascinating to watch.

While the Canucks are another team that features a Coyotes-like mixture of players hungry to prove themselves and ones who are daydreaming about summer vacations, the next four opponents will try to avoid being spoiled by these pesky Coyotes:

Tue, Mar 13 vs Los Angeles
Thu, Mar 15 vs Nashville
Sat, Mar 17 vs Minnesota
Mon, Mar 19 vs Calgary

For the most part, this Arizona run comes down to stellar goaltending, with Raanta leading much of the way aside from last night’s shutout for Kuemper. With two games against teams already in playoff position (red-hot Predators, rising Wild) and two against teams fighting for their playoff lives (Kings and Flames), it will be interesting to see if the Coyotes’ spoiler trend continues or washes out. If intense opponents call for run-and-gun games, Arizona might not be well-suited for such squabbles.

“Luckily,” the Coyotes will then face a six-game road trip and eight of 10 games on the road to close out the 2017-18 season, so maybe this spoiler talk is really moot. It could, indeed, be a low-expectations version of having your cake and eating it too, as the Coyotes might be able to retain the best draft lottery odds while also putting together at least one stretch to build on for next year.

Race to the bottom

Coyotes: 55 points in 68 games
Sabres: 56 points in 69 GP
Senators: 57 points in 67 GP
Canucks: 59 points in 69 GP
Canadiens: 62 points in 68 GP
Red Wings: 63 points in 68 GP
Oilers: 64 points in 68 GP

It’s interesting to note that, while the Coyotes have suffered quite a few rough seasons lately, they haven’t landed the top overall pick once in Arizona/Phoenix. At minimum, there’s a very real chance the Coyotes may pass the Sabres, and possibly a couple other sinking squads.

With “tanking” in mind, their current home stretch isn’t as important as select dates against other cellar dwellers. There are two such games that stick out in that regard, as they face the Sabres in Buffalo on March 21 and then the Canucks in Vancouver on April 5. You might feel the dissonance in the air during those contests, as fan bases will likely be rooting hard against their own teams, and they’ll prefer to see such losses in regulation.

Tanking is weird.

Note: In other Coyotes news, head coach Rick Tocchet is taking a leave of absence as a family member deals with an illness.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Power Rankings: Making sense of the nonsensical Minnesota Wild


Take a look at the NHL standings and look at the top-four teams in each conference. Do it right now. Here they are. Go look. Take a look at the teams you see in those groups.

A lot of the ones you expect to see, right? A lot of the teams we have talked about all season.

Nashville. Tampa Bay. Boston. Vegas (yes, Vegas). Winnipeg. Pittsburgh. Toronto. Teams like that.

Then there is the Minnesota Wild. A team that almost nobody is talking about or has talked about it, mostly because they are decidedly average in just about every major category, sitting with one of the 10 best records in the league.

Nothing about their actual play on the ice really points to a team that should be that high in the standings.

They are one of the worst teams in the league in shot attempt percentage during 5-on-5 play.

They are in the bottom 10 in shots on goal for and shots on goal against per game. They are a middle of the pack team on the power play and the penalty kill. They are getting okay goaltending, but not really the type of out-of-this world performance that typically lifts a mediocre team this high up in the standings.

They do have a fairly decent shooting percentage (both overall and during 5-on-5 play) but like the goaltending it is nothing so out of the ordinary that it should lead to such a significant bump in the standings.

Along with all of that they really haven’t been a terribly healthy team this season and have had to deal with some pretty significant injuries to some pretty significant players. Nino Niederreiter has missed 19 games. Zach Parise has missed 39. Charlie Coyle has missed 16. Mikael Granlund has missed five.

Even with all of that here they are with one of the better records in the league.

None of it makes sense. Based on everything mentioned above they should probably be one of the worst teams in the league.

The two things they have going for them this season are the fact they have, for whatever reason, been nearly unbeatable at home with a staggering 24-5-6 record at the Xcel Energy Center.

They also have a couple of key forwards in Eric Staal, Jason Zucker (two of the top forwards that have been healthy all season) and Mikael Granlund having some huge years offensively.

Staal remains a remarkable story based on the way his career has rebounded since arriving in Minnesota before the start of the 2016-17 season. He looked like he was a shell of his former self during his last year in Carolina, but after a nice bounceback season a year ago he has come back this season and producing the way he did in his prime when he was one of the best players in the league.

Zucker has already shattered his previous career high in goals, and has once again helped form a pretty strong duo with Granlund when they have been used together. Since the start of last season Zucker and Granlund have spent more than 1,400 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time together (via Natural Stat Trick), during which time the Wild have outscored teams by a 74-45 margin and controlled more than 51 percent of the shot attempts (an impressive number considering how bad the rest of the Wild’s possession numbers are).

Those three players deserve a ton of credit for the Wild’s current standing.

They are are also another nice reminder that sometimes a lot of what happens in the NHL in any given season can be completely random and not make any sense. It is the beauty of the sport sometimes. No other sports lends itself to that sort of performance for teams the way hockey can.

On to the rankings!

The Elites

1. Nashville Predators — They are 10-0-1 in their past 11 games entering the week and have no weakness on paper or on the ice. The best team in hockey.

2. Boston Bruins — They fact the have won six of their past seven games and are averaging more than five goals per game during that stretch without Patrice Bergeron for all of those games and Charlie McAvoy for five of them is remarkable. A scary team in the Eastern Conference.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning — Speaking of scary teams in the Eastern Conference, Tampa Bay is 9-0-1 in its past 10, has already hit 100 points on the season, and has two of the top scorers in the league. Honestly, any of these top three teams have a legit argument to be in the top spot.

4. Winnipeg Jets — Patrik Laine has 15 goals in his past 11 games. That is an absurd run. The Jets have a lot of great offensive weapons. He is the most dangerous.

The Rest Of The Contenders

5. Vegas Golden Knights — They have cooled off a little bit recently but enter the week having won three out of four on their current road trip.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins — They have not always looked great, but they enter the week in first place in the Metropolitan Division, have won three out of four, and are still playing without their starting goalie.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs — They had a pretty miserable four-game road trip recently but returned home with a big win over Pittsburgh. Given the number of shots they give up their playoff success will still largely be determined by how well Frederik Andersen plays in net.

8. Minnesota Wild — Not really sure how they are doing it, but they have one of the top records in the league. Eric Staal is getting most of the attention for his season, but let’s not overlook Jason Zucker’s 28 goals.

The ‘could go either way’ group

9. Philadelphia Flyers — Being a fan of this team has to be quite a trip. So far this season they have lost 10 games in a row, won six in a row two different times, and then lost five in a row over the past week and a half before snapping out of it by shutting down one of the best offensive teams in the league over the weekend.

10. Florida Panthers — They have the inside track for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They enter the week on a nine-game point streak and have been on a roll for a couple of months now. I wonder what the narrative surrounding this team and its front office changes the past two seasons would look like had they not lost Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, and Nick Bjugstad for more than 114 man-games a season ago. Think that had something to do with their decline? Think their healthy this season has something to do with their improvement?

11. Washington Capitals — If Braden Holtby does not get back to playing like Braden Holtby it could be an awfully short spring in Washington. Shorter than usual, that is.

12. Columbus Blue Jackets — They are starting to pick it up at the right time but they still have very little margin for error in that race with New Jersey and Florida.

13. San Jose Sharks — Brent Burns is on track to finish in the top-three in shots on goal for the third year in a row. For a defenseman that is unheard of. Bobby Orr used to do that. That is about it.

14. Colorado Avalanche — If you are going to lose, lose in overtime. The Avalanche have lost five of their past 10 games. Not great. But four of those losses have come in overtime or a shootout which means they’ve earned 14 of a possible 20 points over that stretch. That will keep you in the playoff hunt.

15. New Jersey Devils — Taylor Hall is still doing amazing things but he needs some help. The Devils have lost six out of 10 entering the week and are still waiting for trade deadline acquisition Michael Grabner to record his first point with the team.

16. Anaheim Ducks — When healthy Ryan Getzlaf is still an incredible talent. He has 50 points in 44 games this season. With a healthy lineup they would not be a fun first-round matchup in the playoffs for anybody.

17. Dallas Stars — They are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time of year. Maybe that’s not the worst thing. They still have a hold on a playoff spot and at the moment would sneak into Pacific Division playoff bracket as the first wild card team, avoiding a first-second round gauntlet that could include Winnipeg and Nashville. So … a strategic tank? Doubtful, because it still seems like something is holding them back, but it could work out that way.

18. Los Angeles Kings — Just when it looked like they were going to make a nice little push they get obliterated at home by a Blues team that had been falling apart.

19. Calgary Flames — Mike Smith‘s absence was a big problem for them. His return did not go well for him or the Flames as they dropped a big game to an Islanders team that had lost eight in a row.

20. St. Louis Blues — The only reason they are not firmly in the lottery at this point is because they had such a great start to the season. They have been awful for weeks, though.

Hope the ping pong balls go your way

21. Edmonton Oilers — They are 7-4-0 in their past 11 games, mostly because Connor McDavid has gone from “best player in the world” to “superman” mode.

22. New York Rangers — Ryan Spooner has 12 points in seven games since being acquired from the Boston Bruins in the Rick Nash trade. He is a restricted free agent after the season and making a nice argument to be a part of the Rangers’ immediate future.

23. Chicago Blackhawks — Not sure I fully understand the front office’s apparent plan to stick with the same defense that has, for the most part, stunk this season.

24. Carolina Hurricanes — Maybe next year will be the year it all comes together for them, he said for the eighth year in a row.

25. Arizona Coyotes — They might still have the worst record in the league but they are not playing like the worst team in the league at the moment, and have not for several weeks. The schedule has softened up a bit but they have still beaten some really good teams during this stretch (Minnesota twice, Anaheim, San Jose).

26. Vancouver Canucks — Brock Boeser‘s unfortunate injury means there is literally no reason for anybody to watch their games for the rest of the season, unless you are contractually obligated to.

27. Buffalo Sabres — It is still inexcusable they are this bad this far into their rebuild, but at least they have won a couple of games recently.

28. New York Islanders — I put them at No. 31 a week ago mainly because they had just been on such an unspeakably bad run and looked so awful for so long. I didn’t really think they were the worst team in the league. But I am not sure they are far from it, either. They have allowed 50 shots on goal in six different games this season. Since the start of the 2015-16 season no team in the NHL has allowed more than 50 shots in a game three times. In nearly three full years. The Islanders have doubled that in less than 70 games this year.

29. Ottawa Senators — The fans deserve a break and if they are going to lose Erik Karlsson this summer (or next summer) I hope for their case they get some good fortunate in the draft lottery and get a chance to pick Rasmus Dahlin to one day (hopefully) replace him. The owner probably does not deserve that same good fortune, though.

30. Detroit Red Wings — Henrik Zetterberg is a Hall of Fame talent that played on some of the best teams of the modern era. Now he is going out on this team. It seems to be getting to him. How could it not?

31. Montreal Canadiens — They have only won five of their past 20 games and I am not sure I trust Marc Bergevin to dig the franchise out of the hole he has helped put it in.


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Isles end eight-game losing skid; Bruins win streak stops at six

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Players of the Night: 

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks: Toews assisted on all three of Chicago’s goals. Two of his helpers were came on the power play and of the primary variety. Captain serious has picked up nine points in his last six contests.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks: He scored the game-winning goal Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Bruins. He also assisted teammate Brent Seabrook‘s late tally. The 29-year-old has 25 goals and 66 points in 70 games this season. The ‘Hawks put an end to Boston’s six-game winning streak.

Johnny Boychuk, New York Islanders: The Isles blue liner finished Sunday’s game against the Flames with a great stat line. He had one goal, two assists and a plus-5 rating in 21:05 of ice time. They also managed to put an end to their eight-game losing streak.

Christopher Gibson, New York Islanders: Another day, another 50-shot performance against the Islanders. Gibson turned aside 50 of the 52 shots the Flames sent his way.

Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes: It wasn’t exactly must-see TV, but the Coyotes netminder managed to stop all 26 shots he faced in a win over the Canucks. This was his first shutout as a member of the ‘Yotes.

Highlights of the Night:

Alexander Radulov doing Alexander Radulov things:

Patrick Kane scored the go-ahead goal late:

Another mention for young Gibson:

Factoids of the Night: 

Another goal and an assist for Evgeni Malkin on Sunday. He’s rolling:

Christopher Gibson saw a lot of rubber tonight:

Patrick Kane is moving on up:

The Pens are rolling:


Blackhawks 3, Bruins 1

Islanders 5, Flames 2

Penguins 3, Stars 1

Coyotes 1, Canucks 0

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Taking care of business

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When you look on the schedule and see contenders facing teams that are already thinking of the draft and of summer vacations, it’s tempting to pencil in a “W.” That’s not always how things shake out, but in Friday’s case, the three of four matchups that seemed obvious ended up going as expected. Hence, those teams took care of business.

(The Stars vs. the Ducks was the exception, as both teams are in playoff position.)

Let’s review Friday in the NHL:

Old, new, and the usual

  • Still-very-young Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones scored two goals to help Columbus take care of business against Detroit. Read all about that CBJ win, and their general upward trend, in this post.
  • Matt Cullen, 41, continues to look quite spry lately. For one thing, he scored a gorgeous goal for his 10th of the season, which was also his fifth goal in 10 games:

Not long after, Cullen seemed like he might score off of a nice Charlie Coyle feed, but was robbed. Perhaps that makes it “OK” that his assist came on an empty-netter, then?

  • Then there were the usual suspects. Jamie Benn collected a goal and an assist while Tyler Seguin collected two helpers as Dallas found a way to gut out a tough regulation win against Anaheim. Meanwhile, Eric Staal scored the game-winner to help Minnesota eventually beat Vancouver 5-2 in a game that was closer than that until the final minute. Staal already has 37 goals this season.


It was quite a showing from goalies in losing efforts, and 35 came up on three occasions.

Ryan Miller made 35 saves for the Anaheim Ducks, including stopping all 32 of the Stars’ shots at even-strength. Dallas went 2-for-2 on the power play to beat Miller and the Ducks, however. Mike Condon stopped 35 of 37 shots on goal as well, including a chance that left Johnny Gaudreau shaking his head and muttering to himself.

Anders Nilsson didn’t have quite the same game as the others, including not making 35 saves. He did face 35 shots, however, stopping 31 of them. As you can see in that GIF in the section with Matt Cullen, some of those were high-difficulty shots, too.


Ryan Getzlaf couldn’t grind out a win or even a charity point for the Ducks, but he’s been outstanding lately. He scored a nice goal, giving him 12(!) points in his last five games and 50 in 44 contests this season. This actually broke a four-game multi-point streak.

Maybe the NHL should create an assist trophy? If so, would it be named after Adam Oates, Wayne Gretzky, or someone else?

Some numbers behind the widely-shared belief that the Blue Jackets have two dangerous scoring defensemen in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski:

Nice stat from that Min win:


Blue Jackets 3, Red Wings 2
Flames 2, Senators 1
Stars 2, Ducks 1
Wild 5, Canucks 2

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.