PHT’s Season Preview: 30 questions, 180 answers

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We made a list of 30 questions ahead of the 2016-17 NHL season, then we tried to answer those questions. Enjoy:

1. Of all the teams that missed the playoffs last season, the most likely to make the playoffs this season is…

Jason Brough: Winnipeg. The Jets made the right choice by waiving Ondrej Pavelec. You worry about their structure and discipline, but there’s enough young talent on that roster, led by Mark Scheifele.

Adam Gretz: I will say Carolina, because I always say Carolina. I love their defense and eventually they have to get goaltending that is good enough to get them in. That has to happen at some point, right?

Joey Alfieri: Montreal. Carey Price‘s knee has held up through the World Cup and one preseason game and if he can stay relatively healthy this year, the Canadiens will return to the postseason.

James O’Brien: The Bruins’ long-term outlook is troubling, but they have the goods to make that small step back into the playoffs. They only missed last season in a tiebreaker, after all.

Cam Tucker: I want to say the Carolina Hurricanes. But I’ll go with the Boston Bruins. Mainly because I don’t see the Detroit Red Wings making the playoffs.

Mike Halford: Montreal. A healthy Price doesn’t just get them back into the postseason, it makes them a contender to come out of the East.

2. Of all the teams that made the playoffs last season, the most likely to miss the playoffs is…

Brough: Minnesota. The Wild’s core is getting old, and there’s not enough youth to stem the decline. Signing Eric Staal and making him the No. 1 center was an act of sheer desperation.

Gretz: Detroit. Another core player (Pavel Datsyuk) is gone, another one (Henrik Zetterberg) is another year older, and I still don’t trust their defense.

Alfieri: Minnesota. I’m with Jason on this one. That’s an old team and they didn’t do much to get younger or faster this offseason. I like the Bruce Boudreau hire, but it won’t be enough.

O’Brien: Philadelphia. Ron Hextall knows what he’s doing, but the good stuff won’t really come until after 2016-17 when cap space really clears up. Expect some growing pains in the meantime.

Tucker: Detroit’s streak of 25 consecutive post-season appearances is great, but they were underwhelming last year. No Datsyuk now. Henrik Zetterberg is a year older. Feels like the end of an era.

Halford: The Red Wings, who are in serious trouble. They did nothing to upgrade their aging blue line, and now both Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson are banged up.

3. One team that isn’t getting enough respect is…

Brough: Vancouver. The Canucks probably won’t make the playoffs, but they won’t finish dead last with 65 points either.

Gretz: Probably Montreal. I hate what they did over the summer and I hate the way they play, but a healthy Carey Price is going to make a big difference.

Alfieri: Florida. They have a great bunch of young players that will be looking to take the next step. For a team that finished at the top of the Atlantic division, no one is talking about them as serious contenders.

O’Brien: Los Angeles. The Kings remain possession demigods, their important defensemen are in their primes and Anze Kopitar is beyond legit. Their championship window is open.

Tucker: The Hurricanes. Lots of young, talented players. Good puck possession team. I think they’re capable of surprising some teams in the East this season.

Halford: Carolina. I love everything Ron Francis has done there… aside from the goaltending.

4. One team that’s getting too much respect is…

Brough: Florida. It’s funny, last year, I picked the Panthers as the team that wasn’t getting enough respect. I still like what they’re doing, but they haven’t won a playoff round yet. Let’s just hold our horses on these guys. (I obviously disagree with Joey that they’re not getting enough love.)

Gretz: I’ll say Los Angeles. Still a good team, but they have a lot of core guys that are starting to get older and I have doubts about their ability to consistently score enough.

Alfieri: Chicago. Before you throw stones at me, hear me out. Yes, Toews, Kane, Panarin and Keith are still around, but the supporting cast has taken a hit over the last few off-seasons. I’m not suggesting they’ll miss the playoffs, but maybe they aren’t as elite as some people think.

O’Brien: Last year, people overlooked the Sharks too much. This time around, are red flags being ignored? Because yikes, that core is scary old.

Tucker: The Kings. Didn’t make the playoffs in 2015, got eliminated in the first round in 2016. I think they’re a playoff team. Just not the juggernaut they used to be.

Halford: Dallas. Absolutely decimated by injury right now, and a major candidate for a slow start. Also, that “who’s your starting goalie?” question isn’t going away, much to Lindy Ruff’s chagrin.

5. The worst team in the NHL will be…

Brough: Columbus. The Jackets were terrible last year, and they haven’t made many changes. I like their young blue line, and I do think there’s hope for this club. But Sergei Bobrovsky will need to be really, really good if they have any hope this year.

Gretz: Columbus. And it doesn’t look very promising long-term, either.

Alfieri: Not to be redundant, but I think it has to be Columbus. They have a few nice pieces, but that roster simply isn’t good enough right now.

O’Brien: John Chayka is working magic in Arizona, but the current roster looks weaker than that “hide the coin” trick.

Tucker: The Canucks. And they’ll pick No. 2 overall in the draft, missing out on the one guy they really need, Nolan Patrick, because they’re the Canucks.

Halford: Columbus. I’m not making the same mistake as last year. John Tortorella is gonna run this team into the ground.

6. The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs 25 straight seasons. Will they keep the streak alive?

Brough: No, I think this is the year it ends. Frans Nielsen can probably replace last year’s version of Pavel Datsyuk, but that blue line just isn’t good enough.

Gretz: As I mentioned above, no. The Red Wings have been flirting with this for a couple of years now and I think this is the year it happens.

Alfieri: Nope. Datsyuk is gone, Zetterberg’s production has dipped and that group of defensemen isn’t good enough in today’s NHL.

O’Brien: Yes, on the strength of their young forwards and Petr Mrazek. But it won’t be pretty with that sketchy defense. Missing the playoffs might be better for Detroit, actually.

Tucker: No. They’re on the decline, and there are other teams in the East on the rise.

Halford: No, and an aside — how weird will it be to see the Red Wings in the draft lottery?

7. The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs 10 straight seasons. Will they miss them again?

Brough: Yes. The Oilers are still too thin on defense. They should be better than last season, but I’ve said that before and regretted it.

Gretz: Yes, but a full season of Connor McDavid is going to get them a little bit closer.

Alfieri: No. The Oilers will shock everyone this year and sneak into the playoffs. They still have some deficiencies on the blue line, but I think McDavid (and the depth up front) will carry this team into this postseason this year.

O’Brien: Yes. With the Oilers, let’s just assume they’ll fail until they prove otherwise.

Tucker: Yes. But I think they will be in a fight for a wild-card spot right up until the final few games of the season.

Halford: Yes. They’re going to be exactly like Team North America at the World Cup — tons of fun, great to watch, but goaltending and defensive lapses will keep ’em out.

8. Will the Washington Capitals finally get past the second round of the playoffs?

Brough: No. I picked them to win the Cup last year and they let me down. My answer is out of spite.

Gretz: I am going to say yes. They will probably have to get through Pittsburgh to do it, and that almost certainly sends Capitals fans into a panic, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think Washington could win a best-of-seven there. We were an overtime Game 6 from getting a winner-take-all game last year.

Alfieri: Yes. The Capitals continue to disappoint every spring, but this is the year they get it done. Don’t ask me why, they just do.

O’Brien: Yes, this Capitals team is seriously stacked. That forward group is extra-frightening.

Tucker: Yes. #CapsThirdRound2017. I know. Worst hashtag ever. But still, the Capitals have plenty of talent and it will happen.

Halford: Yes. My answer is out of spite for Brough.

9. Assuming Sidney Crosby will be healthy for the playoffs, how confident are you that the Pittsburgh Penguins could repeat as Stanley Cup champs?

Brough: Surprisingly confident, considering there hasn’t been a repeat champ in almost two decades. I still can’t believe how easily the Pens handled the Sharks. The series went six games, but it wasn’t even close.

Gretz: Not very. It’s not that I don’t think they are good enough, I am just going based on history and logic here. There is a reason nobody has done it in nearly 20 years. They will still be one of the top teams in the league, but a lot has to go your way to win it once. Even more has to go your way to win it two years in a row.

Alfieri: I’m not confident. There’s depth up front and depth in goal, but a lot of what they do hinges on Kris Letang. Can he stay healthy after a short summer?

O’Brien: I’m confident that the Penguins are for real, but I’d still go with “the field” over Pittsburgh. So, technically: not confident. Technically.

Tucker: Well, I’ve got the Capitals going beyond the second round, so not very confident I guess.

Halford: Not very. They’re in a three-way race with the Caps and Bolts to come out of the East. (Four if you count Montreal, which I have). So I’m 25 to 33.3 percent confident.

10. The biggest wildcard team (i.e. could be decent, could be a disaster) is…

Brough: Anaheim. The Ducks have the talent. But an aging core full of strong personalities, with Randy Carlyle as the coach? Yeah, I could see that going sideways.

Gretz: Montreal. Carey Price could put the team on his back and Shea Weber could score 25 goals. Or the house of cards collapses again and Therrien gets fired in a month. Then there is Alexander Radulov and where he fits and what he can still do. So many amazing things can happen here and it can all go in any direction at any time. My eyes are glued to them.

Alfieri: It has to be Montreal. I think they’ll be fine, but there’s no team that’s more of a wildcard than the Canadiens. If Carey Price goes down again, forget about it.

O’Brien: Colorado is a tough nut to crack. Sure, there’s talent on paper, but what if those horrific possession stats weren’t all Patrick Roy’s fault? Then again, what if it WAS all Roy’s fault?

Tucker: Hurricanes. They’ve got plenty of good young players and I think they could push for a wild card in the East. Depends on the goaltending duo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack, so…?

Halford: Winnipeg. The Jets are absolutely loaded with talent, speed, youth, etc. etc. So much relies on their goaltending, though, which is why they’re the ultimate wildcard.

11. What is the most dangerous assumption that you’ve seen people making?

Brough: That the Blackhawks will be fine, just because they’re the Blackhawks. There are so many wild cards in that forward group. There was a reason Stan Bowman kicked the tires on Nail Yakupov.

Gretz: That all of Philadelphia’s young defensemen are going to pan out exactly as planned. Things almost never work out that well with prospects. One will probably be as good as expected (or better), one will probably be decent, another will probably be a bust. We’ll just have to wait to find out who does what.

Alfieri: That Henrik Lundqvist will be able to keep the Rangers competitive. Lundqvist is still great, but he’s getting older, and have you seen the group of defensemen in front of him? Marc Staal and Dan Girardi aren’t getting any quicker.

O’Brien: That Carey Price will be Carey Price. So far so good, mind you, but it’s dangerous to assume that a player can seamlessly return from an injury (even a superstar like Carey Price).

Tucker: When it comes to the Panthers, I’m guilty of thinking they’re a Stanley Cup contender this year. Plenty to get excited about with this team. They’re going in the right direction. But they may still be a year or two away from being a conference champion.

Halford: That the Stars won’t miss Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers on the back end. Those guys played big minutes for them last year, and Dan Hamhuis isn’t so young anymore.

12. The team that should be most worried about its goaltending is…

Brough: Still the Dallas Stars, just like last year. Jim Nill has done everything well there, except that.

Gretz: Carolina. They are still sticking with Cam Ward, who has been below average for a few years now, and I don’t think Eddie Lack was quite as good as they hoped he would be last season.

Alfieri: Dallas. All the other pieces are in place for them to be legit cup contenders, but their goalie situation is holding them back.

O’Brien: Nashville. In three of the past four seasons, Pekka Rinne put up backup-type numbers. That won’t fly if the Predators want to make that next step.

Tucker: The Ducks. John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier? Could be a challenge.

Halford: Dallas, but you can write any story you want.

13. The player with the most to prove is…

Brough: Eric Staal. See my answer to No. 2.

Gretz: Whoever is standing in the crease for the Dallas Stars on any given night. Everything about that team is Stanley Cup ready. Except for the goalies.

Alfieri: Alexander Radulov. There’s no doubt that the talent is there, but we’ll see how much his attitude has changed. He’s saying all the right things for now, but what happens when the going gets tough.

O’Brien: Frederik Andersen. Toronto is tough on goalies, and the Maple Leafs handed him $25 million before he even played a game for them. Hot take: that situation could really go sour.

Tucker: P.K. Subban. Most were highly critical of Habs GM Marc Bergevin for making that trade. Subban even said this trade was more about personality than hockey. The Preds started right away in marketing him to their fans. He’s in a new, enthusiastic market with a team that should content in the West.

Halford: Nail Yakupov. Easiest answer of the bunch.

14. A young player (not a rookie) who really needs to take the next step is…

Brough: Robby Fabbri in St. Louis. After losing David Backes and Troy Brouwer, the Blues will need Fabbri to build on his impressive rookie season.

Gretz: Derrick Pouliot in Pittsburgh. A top-10 pick that is supposed to be a top-pairing defensemen should have probably already taken that next step by this point in his career.

Alfieri: I’ll go with Nathan Beaulieu. You may have heard that the Canadiens traded P.K. Subban away this summer. They’ll need a mobile guy (he’s also a former first round pick) to eat a lot more minutes this season.

O’Brien: How much better will the Sabres be? Robin Lehner‘s play will likely answer that question. Contract year pressures bring it up a notch, too.

Tucker: Jonathan Drouin. He was productive in the playoffs, salvaging his 2015-16 season after all the speculation — following his public trade request — about his future with the Lightning. Only eight goals and 42 points in 91 regular season games, though. Think he’s capable of far more.

Halford: John Gibson. So much of Anaheim’s season is riding on the guy. And it’s a huge season for the Ducks.

15. A rookie (not Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, or Jesse Puljujarvi) who could win the Calder Trophy is…

Brough: William Nylander in Toronto. He tore it up in the AHL, and you know he’ll get plenty of publicity playing for the Leafs.

Gretz: Dylan Strome in Arizona. His numbers in the OHL were consistently ridiculous and he is probably the best of the already impressive young core in Arizona.

Alfieri: Zach Werenski. As some of us mentioned above, the Jackets aren’t very good, which means their talented young d-man should get plenty of ice time this season.

O’Brien: Matt Murray. His injury and Marc-Andre Fleury makes this risky, but his talent and the team in front of him could make for great numbers.

Tucker: Sebastian Aho. Productive 2015-16 Finnish league season with 45 points in 45 games. May not be able to fly under the radar for very long in Carolina.

Halford: Jimmy Vesey, at the ripe ol’ age of 23. Like last year’s winner, Artemi Panarin, he’s older and more experienced than the field. Should prove beneficial.

16. The best free-agent addition will be…

Brough: Brian Campbell in Chicago. I no longer worry about the Blackhawks’ defense. (The forwards, as mentioned, are a different story.)

Gretz: Keith Yandle in Florida. They gave him a ton of money, but he is one of the most productive defensemen in the entire league, and has been for quite some time. He is going to be a great fit for a team that needs more offense from its blue line.

Alfieri: Andrew Ladd. I don’t love this contract long-term, but with Okposo gone, he’ll have a great chance to produce in Brooklyn.

O’Brien: Jiri Hudler. The Stars paid just $2 million to land a forward who scored 76 points in 2014-15. Much like with Campbell, it almost feels like cheating.

Tucker: Dale Weise! No…seriously, Kyle Okposo. Proven scorer from the Islanders. Wonder what he can do playing alongside someone like Ryan O’Reilly or Jack Eichel.

Halford: Loui Eriksson. The Canucks won’t be good, but he’ll make an impact, either on the top line with fellow Swedes Daniel and Henrik Sedin, or by giving Vancouver’s second line a boost.

17. The pending UFA you’re most curious about is…

Brough: Brent Burns is the big one, but I think he’ll re-sign. I’m curious to see where Ben Bishop goes, because there’s no room in Tampa Bay to keep him.

Gretz: Burns’ teammate, Joe Thornton. How much longer does he want to keep playing? Will he finish his career as a Shark? What would he get on the open market as a 38-year-old? He will still probably be a top-10 player in the league.

Alfieri: Kevin Shattenkirk. Multiple teams were interested in trading for Shattenkirk this summer, but it sounds like the price was pretty steep. With Vladimir Tarasenko and Paul Stastny making $7-plus million and Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester signed long-term, will the Blues be able to lock up Shattenkirk, do they deal him or do they let him walk in July?

O’Brien: Ben Bishop’s been great in Tampa Bay, looking sharp in the playoffs and landing two Vezina nominations. He’s likely out of town at some point, so who gets a potential franchise goalie?

Tucker: Newly signed Kris Russell. What will the Oilers do if they’re out of it by the deadline and another team needs a defenseman? Or, could he turn his one-year contract into something more long-term?

Halford: Did Tucker really say Kris Russell? Anyway, definitely Bishop.

18. One big-name player who will get traded mid-season is… 

Brough: Martin Hanzal from Arizona. He’s a pending UFA, and the Coyotes are long shots to make the playoffs.

Gretz: Ben Bishop. Andrei Vasilevskiy is the future, I can’t see Tampa Bay wanting to lose an asset like Bishop for nothing, and somebody like Dallas is going to need him.

Alfieri: Patrick Marleau. This is the year it finally happens. After years of speculation, the Sharks will unload the pending UFA.

O’Brien: Kevin Shattenkirk. Someone else might recognize the value seemingly downplayed by the Blues.

Tucker: My original answer was going to be Nail Yakupov. Timing is everything. I’ll say … Ryan Miller? Maybe a contending team suddenly needs a goalie around the trade deadline, and he’s a pending UFA? Hey, it worked out great for the Blues! I’d like to change my answer to Bishop.

Halford: Jarome Iginla, once Colorado falls out of the race. It’ll be the 2013 trade deadline all over again. CONFIRMED!

19. In terms of this season ALONE, which team will win the Shea Weber for P.K. Subban trade?

Brough: The Predators. Subban is a perfect fit for Peter Laviolette’s system, and he’s already a hit with the fans. Weber, meanwhile, is a great warrior, but there are a lot of hard miles on that 31-year-old body.

Gretz: The Predators. Nashville has the best defensive situation (talent, salary cap, age) in the league and I think we are going to see Subban’s game reach a level we have never seen before.

Alfieri: Give me Nashville. Subban will thrive now that he’s away from ultra conservative coach Michel Therrien.

O’Brien: Predators. The real question is: will Subban score more points than Erik Karlsson?

Tucker: I see a trend happening here. So I’ll say Montreal. Shea Weber’s slap shot ripped a hole in the net during the 2010 Olympics.

Halford: Nashville. I don’t want to say Shea Weber is done — far from it — but he’s definitely on the back nine of his career. Are we all forgetting how bad he was in Game 7 against San Jose?

20. Connor McDavid versus Sidney Crosby – once again assuming Crosby will be healthy, who will finish with more points?

Brough: I’ll take McDavid. And you know why? Because Crosby had the most points of his career (120) in his second season.

Gretz: Crosby. They will end up No. 1 and 2 in the Art Ross race.

Alfieri: Crosby. McDavid might be the next great superstar, but when Crosby got hot last season there was no stopping him.

O’Brien: McDavid. I have a weird feeling that Crosby deals with nagging injuries while Connor gets the health luck he lacked last season.

Tucker: Sidney Crosby. But not by much. Let’s just hope both remain healthy for the entire season.

Halford: Patrick Kane.

21. The first head coach to be fired will be…

Brough: For the record, I always get this wrong. So congratulations, Michel Therrien, I pick you.

Gretz: The John Tortorella era in Columbus was fun.

Alfieri: Like Adam, I think Tortorella gets the boot in Columbus.

O’Brien: Canucks management could make Willie Desjardins the fall guy for a slow start. Don’t forget, Travis Green is down in Utica.

Tucker: Willie Desjardins. He’s been on the hot seat for a while. If the Canucks start poorly, it’s difficult to justify to the fan base that Desjardins should stick around.

Halford: Claude Julien. Suffice to say I don’t have the highest of hopes for Boston this year.

22. The NHL general manager on the hottest seat is…

Brough: Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota. He’s spent a lot of his owner’s money, and Bruce Boudreau is his third head coach. The Wild have only won two playoff series since Fletcher came aboard in 2009.

Gretz: Marc Bergevin. You don’t preside over the biggest collapse in the history of the Montreal Canadiens and then respond by trading the face of the franchise without sitting on a seat that is at least a little bit warm.

Alfieri: I’m going with Fletcher as well. He hasn’t done much to make that team better over the last few years. He better hope Boudreau can figure this thing out.

O’Brien: Jarmo Kekalainen is basically Fletcher if his expensive teams didn’t even make the playoffs.

Tucker: Marc Bergevin. I feel like I’m going to have a Frank Costanza moment here (skip ahead to the 0:14 mark of the clip).

Halford: Bob Murray. He’s got some onerous contracts, the team is getting old, the pressure is on and I feel like the Randy Carlyle re-hire could be a disaster.

23. The Canadian team with the best chance to win the country’s first Stanley Cup since 1993 is…

Brough: I’m tempted to say Montreal with a healthy Carey Price. But that’s too easy, so I’ll say Winnipeg, with Connor Hellebuyck playing the role of Matt Murray. (P.S. — I don’t think this is the year Canada’s drought will end.)

Gretz: Toronto. I know. That is crazy. But it’s mainly because out of all of the teams in Canada I can at least reasonably figure out what the Maple Leafs’ long-term plan is. And it might eventually work. This is also another way of saying all of the Canadian teams are very far away from winning the Stanley Cup.

Alfieri: I guess it has to be Montreal, but let’s be real here…no Canadian team is winning the Stanley Cup this year.

O’Brien: Yikes, Montreal I guess. Get it together, gang.

Tucker: The Canadiens. Carey Price is already a great goalie, but he will morph into a brick wall — like, an actual brick wall the size of the net — and that’s how it will be done.

Halford: Montreal by default. I actually think the Habs will be pretty good —  healthy Price, way tougher and nastier to play against — but even if they’re just OK, they’re still the best of the lot. Woe Canada.

24. Will NHL players participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea?

Brough: I’ll say yes, with 60 percent confidence. If they were so dead set against it, they wouldn’t even be trying to get the IOC to cover the costs.

Gretz: Definitely. It seems like we go through this will-they-or-won’t-they situation every four years and until they don’t actually go, I am convinced they will find a way to make it work.

Alfieri: I think they’re going, but who knows? Hockey fans will riot if they don’t. (Or maybe they won’t, who knows?)

O’Brien: I’m saying no in hopes of reverse-jinxing the league into doing the right thing. Wait, does that nullify the reverse-jinx? This is hard.

Tucker: Yes. You can showcase your best players to a completely different part of the world, a completely different market. Be foolish not to.

Halford: They’ll go. The players want it too much.

25. I’ll be a happy hockey fan if…

Brough: The league admits it’s become too hard to score goals. Because admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Gretz: Sort of related to Jason’s answer, but if we, as a hockey-watching community, can finally accept that even the best players will at some point go a long time (8-10 games) without scoring a goal and not freak out every time they do.

Alfieri: Just give me more goals and I’ll be happy. I don’t need every game to end 6-4, but just more goals overall, please.

O’Brien: More teams follow the lead of the exciting, aggressive Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tucker: Alex Ovechkin wins the Stanley Cup. One less narrative to worry about.

Halford: St. Louis wins one for the Gipper and makes a playoff run for Ken Hitchcock. I like Hitch. I’ll miss his sweet HOCKEY sweater.

26. I’ll be a sad hockey fan if…

Brough: The Arizona Coyotes don’t announce an arena deal soon. It’s the story that never ends. I want it to end!

Gretz: This turns out to be Jaromir Jagr‘s last season in the NHL.

Alfieri: The NHL announces that it won’t go to the Olympics.

O’Brien: We never progress beyond an era of 60-point seasons being (accurately) labeled as really good.

Tucker: Every Canadian team is shut out of the playoffs. Again. One more narrative to worry about.

Halford: Sidney Crosby’s season is derailed by this concussion. Would be awful.

27. What is an under-the-radar story that you’ll be following even if most people aren’t?

Brough: The Ottawa Senators are the definition of under the radar, but I’m very curious to see how they do, especially with Guy Boucher behind the bench. If the Sens were in a big market, they’d be a far more popular soap opera.

Gretz: Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like we kind of forgot about Taylor Hall being in New Jersey. He is one of the elite players at his position and gives the Devils exactly what they need.

Alfieri: I’ll play off what Adam said. I’m really curious to see what Adam Larsson does in Edmonton. Most of the fans believe the Oilers got fleeced in that deal.

O’Brien: Liberals vs. conservatives, hockey edition. Will teams drift more toward “new” ways of thinking or will the grit-minded types win out?

Tucker: Auston Matthews in his first season in Toronto. Just kidding. The play of the Colorado Avalanche under new coach Jared Bednar. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Patrick Roy, obviously. But he’s done some very good things coaching in the minors.

Halford: The Islanders potentially leaving Brooklyn. Heck, the Islanders in general. Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin all gone. Three-headed goalie monster. Plenty of storylines in play.

28. Last season, you were dead wrong about…

Brough: Mike Sullivan. After all those years as John Tortorella’s right-hand man, I didn’t think he was the guy to solve the Penguins. I was wrong. Incredibly wrong.

Gretz: The Carl Hagelin trade making a difference for Pittsburgh. As in, I did not think it would. Oops.

Alfieri: The Montreal Canadiens. They started 9-0-0, but what a collapse.

O’Brien: Christian Ehrhoff didn’t work out so well.

Tucker: Um, where do we start? Well, I had pretty much written off the Penguins when they made their coaching change, so that’s one. There were a few others, but you only asked for one.

Halford: Everything positive thing I said about the Blue Jackets.

29. The prediction you’re least confident about this season is…

Brough: Not a prediction per se, but my skepticism about the Blackhawks’ forwards may be overdone. There’s talent among those youngsters. It just hasn’t been proven at the NHL level yet.

Gretz: I will go back to the first one I made at the top and the Carolina Hurricanes making the playoffs. There is a lot to like about that team. There is also a lot that can go wrong.

Alfieri: I picked the Oilers to make the playoffs, so this one is fairly obvious.

O’Brien: Just one? Picking a coach to lose his job and a team to be the worst keeps getting tougher.

Tucker: The Capitals making it past the second round. Thanks, Pittsburgh.

Halford: I’m pretty down on Dallas, so of course the Stars will win 67 games and sweep their way to the Cup.

30. Finally, make a crazy prediction that probably won’t happen, but on second thought, you never know…

Brough: It turns out Subban’s teammates in Nashville don’t like him either, but the Preds win the Cup because that stuff doesn’t really matter anyway.

Gretz: Shea. Weber. Norris. Trophy. Winner.

Alfieri: My “Oilers make the playoffs” prediction wasn’t enough? Fine. The Kyle Okposo signing will be a flop. He’ll score less than 20 goals in his first season with Buffalo.

O’Brien: Alex Radulov saves Michel Therrien’s job. Just ruminate on that one for a moment.

Tucker: The Maple Leafs make the playoffs, clinching a spot on April 8 with the Penguins and Phil Kessel in the house. *Thumbs up*

Halford: Torts wins the Jack Adams.

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BOSTON – Taylor Hall scored twice and the Boston Bruins extended their NHL-record streak of home victories to open a season to 13 games with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Backup goalie Jeremy Swayman made 27 saves and Brad Marchand added an empty-netter for the Bruins, whose 3-2 overtime win over Carolina on Friday broke the record of 11 set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and matched by the Florida Panthers last season.

“For us, it’s more about our process that allows us to have positive outcomes,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said of the streak. “We’re together on how we think things should work and we believe in that process.”

Steven Stamkos had a power-play goal, raising his career point total to 999, and Andrei Vasilievskiy stopped 23 shots for Tampa Bay. The Lightning had won six of their last seven games.

“I think these are the (games) you circle,” Tampa Bay center Ross Colton said. “These are the ones you want to measure up against. For the most part, I think we played really well.”

Hall snapped off a shot from the slot for the eventual winner 2:49 into the third period after collecting a pass from Nick Foligno, who started to circle the net before quickly turning and centering the puck.

“I think we’re showing, that no matter who we’re playing, that its really about us and how we play,” Hall said. “We’re going to get team’s bests, they’re going to come hard. I think we have the confidence that if we play our game, we’re probably going to win.”

Swayman came across the crease, flashing his right pad to make a splendid stop on Corey Perry with just under seven minutes left in the game.

“That’s the best he’s looked this year to me,” Montgomery said of his netminder. “Very calm in the crease.”

Tampa Bay had tied it on Stamkos’ score with 1:40 left in the second period.

Swayman stopped about four or five excellent chances in the period before Stamkos scored on a one-timer off a pass from Nikita Kucherov from near the left circle.

“Even though we’ve had success in the win column, it doesn’t mean guys haven’t gone up and down in different mental states and stuff,” Swayman said. “They’re doing what it takes to perform on the ice, and that’s special.”

In an opening period with few quality scoring opportunities, Hall made it 1-0 just 67 seconds into the game. Positioned in the slot, Hall tipped in Brandon Carlo‘s shot from the point, with the puck dropping from about waist high and going between Vasilievskiy’s pads.

Vasilievskiy robbed Jake DeBrusk‘s short-handed bid midway into the period with a blocker stop when the winger broke free for a wrister between the circles.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Bruins standout defenseman Charlie McAvoy was down for a while after the puck deflected under his visor and hit him on the bridge of his nose. He got up slowly, headed down the runway toward the locker room, but quickly came back and didn’t a shift.

NOTES: Stamkos, who had two goals, including the game-winner in a 6-5 OT victory at Buffalo on Monday night, notched his 26th career goal against the Bruins. . Boston defenseman Derek Forbort returned to the lineup after missing the previous 11 games with a broken finger, and forward Trent Frederic was back after being sidelined the last two games with an undisclosed injury.

UP NEXT

Lightning: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

Bruins: Host the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night.

Stars sign Hintz to $67.6M, 8-year extension through 2030-31

roope hintz
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports
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FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Stars have signed center Roope Hintz, a nearly point-a-game player in the prime of his career, to a $67.6 million, eight-year contract extension.

“He brings so much to us,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said Tuesday. “He realizes now who he is. He came into the league three, four years ago finding his way. He started out probably as the third-line center man and very responsible, and all of a sudden he’s groomed into this No. 1 center man. You can just see the confidence that he has now.”

The 26-year-old Hintz has 88 goals and 106 assists in his 261 games over five seasons, all with Dallas, including 139 points in 142 games since the start of the 2020-21 season.

The Finland native set career highs with 37 goals and 35 assists last season, and has eight goals and 16 assists in 22 games this season for the Central Division-leading Stars.

The extension takes effect after the end of this season, when Hintz could have become a restricted free agent. It goes through the 2030-31 season and has an average value of $8.45 million.

“We wanted to do something quick if we could. We didn’t want this to drag on. It’s not easy for players during the season to live through negotiations,” Nill said. “He’s a 6-foot-3, No. 1 center man in the NHL that can skate well and has got great skills and is putting up big points, so he’s a high-demand player. He’s a hard player to find.”

The Hintz contract is identical to the one defenseman Miro Heiskanen signed before last season. Before this season, the Stars signed restricted free agent Jason Robertson a $31 million, four-year deal, and goaltender Jake Oettinger to a $12 million, three-year deal. All three of those players are 23 years old. Robertson, a 41-goal scorer last season, leads the NHL with 19 goals in 23 games this season, and also has 17 assists.

“We now have our core signed up,” Nill said. “Trying to get this core together, keep it together for as many years as we can, and that’s why we made this move now.”

Devils rally from two goals down to beat Rangers 5-3

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NEW YORK – Jack Hughes and Michael McLeod scored in the second period, Vitek Vanecek stopped 35 shots and the surging New Jersey Devils rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Monday night.

Yegor Sharangovich had two goals and Tomas Tatar also scored to help the first-place Devils win their third straight since having their 13-game winning streak snapped last week. New Jersey has won 10 straight road games and has only one loss since starting the season 3-3-0.

The Rangers raced to a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the contest but the Devils scored twice to tie it later in the first period to tie it and then scored twice in the second period to take the lead.

“We stayed with our game. There was a calmness on the bench,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of his team’s early deficit. “All I said on the bench was ‘let’s get the next goal and we’ll be back in the game.”‘

Vanecek improved to 11-2-0 as scattered chants of “Let’s Go Devils” were heard at Madison Square Garden.

The Devils have made the playoffs only once – in 2018 – since beating the Rangers in six games in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals.

“It was great to hear the fans here on our side,” Devils forward Miles Wood said. “We can’t thank them enough.”

Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck scored and Chris Kreider had two assists for the Rangers, who fell to 4-5-3 at home. Igor Shesterkin had 33 saves.

New York also lost its second straight at home in a disheartening fashion. The Rangers squandered a 3-0 third-period lead against Edmonton on Saturday to lose 4-3. Last season, they won 27 of 41 games at the Garden.

“When one thing goes wrong it starts to snowball on us,” Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren said. “We keep saying we have to play a full 60. You can’t keep talking about it, you have to go out and do it.”

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant credited the young and hungry Devils with playing a superior game.

“They put lots of offense at you, they play fast and they showed that,” Gallant said. “Tonight they were the better team.”

Tatar narrowed the deficit to 2-1 at 7:31 of the first with a nifty high backhand shot past Shesterkin for his sixth of the season. Jesper Bratt had an assist on the play, giving him a point in 18 for the Devils’ 23 games this season.

Sharangovich tied it with an unassisted goal with 6:35 left in the first.

Hughes put the Devils ahead at 5:44 of the second after he gained a stride on Lindgren before sliding the puck past Shesterkin for his 12th of the season and fourth in the last two games.

McLeod made it 4-2 at 9:40 with his third goal after Wood hit the crossbar behind Shesterkin.

“I have to play better,” said , who was also in goal for Saturday’s meltdown against Edmonton and has lost three of his last five games.

It was the fourth time in their last six games the Devils scored at least four times and New Jersey improved to 9-0-0 when the 21-year-old Hughes – the top overall pick by the Devils in the 2019 draft – has a goal.

Trocheck scored his eighth goal on the power play for the Rangers with 6:42 left in the third to pull within one, but Sharangovich added an empty-netter with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.

The Devils improved a franchise-best 13-1-0 in November and an NHL-best 16-0-0 when leading after two periods.

“It’s fun playing here,” Hischier said. “It feels great to beat the Rangers,?

Panarin scored 1:20 into the game to end a personal 12-game goal-scoring drought with his sixth of the season and first since Oct. 30 at Arizona.

Zibanejad made it 2-0 at 3:01 with his team-best 11th of the season.

UP NEXT

Devils: Host Nashville on Thursday night.

Rangers: At Ottawa on Wednesday night.

Stamkos lifts Lightning past Sabres 6-5 in OT

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. – Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game 2:44 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 6-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Brayden Point also had two goals, Brandon Hagel had a goal and an assist, and Corey Perry also scored for the Lightning, who rallied from two goals down in the third period to force overtime. Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev each had three assists, and Stamkos added one for a three-point night.

Brian Elliott had 32 saves to get the win.

“We got the breaks at the end to pull us back, some big-time players got us back into it,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.

Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost, Jeff Skinner, Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens also scored for Buffalo. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves.

“You allow good players a little bit of extra time and a little bit of extra space, they’re going to make plays on you,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We had hesitation in our game and it was only the last 10 minutes.”

In the extra period, Stamkos got the winner on a blast from the right circle for his 12th of the season.

“There’s going to be games where we don’t deserve the two points and tonight was probably one of those, but we’ve been on the other side of that too,” Stamkos said.

With the score tied at 3-3 to open the third period, the Sabres appeared to take control in the third with two goals for a 5-3 lead with a little more than 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

Cozens put Buffalo ahead at 9:37, ripping a shot from the right circle under the crossbar and beating Elliott on the glove side. Skinner made it 5-3 with 5:41 remaining, finishing from a tight angle after an odd-man rush was initially stopped.

However, the Lightning answered back with two goals 3 1/2 minutes apart.

Stamkos scored just 16 seconds after Skinner’s goal to get the Lightning within one. Hagel tied it with a power-play goal with 2:02 remaining. With Elliott pulled to create a 6-on-4 advantage, Kucherov’s shot from the right circle was deflected by Hagel past Luukkonen.

Point opened the scoring 7:54 into the game with a power-play goal from close range for his ninth.

Perry made it 2-0 with 3:12 left in the first off a cross-ice pass from Stamkos.

Thompson put Buffalo on the board with 2:06 left in the first, beating Elliott with some nifty stick-handling after forcing a turnover in front of the Tampa net.

Quinn evened it 59 seconds later, finishing a nice feed from JJ Peterka on a quick offensive rush.

Jost gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead midway through the second period, scoring his first goal with the Sabres after he was acquired off waivers from Minnesota on Nov. 19.

Point tied it 3-3 on the power play with 3:34 left in the second after getting a pass from Kucherov.

INJURY RETURNS

Each team had one player return from a recent injury. Sabres center Rasmus Asplund returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Tampa Bay forward Cole Koepke returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Lightning: At Boston on Tuesday night.

Sabres: At Detroit on Wednesday night.