— ESPN’s Craig Custance makes a case for a play-in game between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in each conference. “Imagine a one-game playoff between Steven Stamkos‘ Lightning and Alex Ovechkin‘s Washington Capitals, two teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. The current standings suggest it wouldn’t be out of the question. Or what about a one-game play-in game between Connor McDavid and the Oilers versus Patrik Laine and the Jets?” The NHL, for the record, has shown absolutely no interest in this idea. (ESPN)
— We weren’t the only ones to recognize the Metropolitan Division as the new power division in the NHL. Writes Sportsnet’s Sean McIndoe: “Here’s something to keep an eye on: If things keep trending in this direction, we have the possibility of running into a scenario that’s long been possible in the NHL but rarely actually happens: a top-eight team in a conference not making the postseason. That would require the relatively unlikely outcome of one division’s sixth place team ending up ahead of the other’s third place finisher, and we’re almost there right now…. The Devils (or Hurricanes) could theoretically finish eighth or even seventh in the East and still miss out on a postseason invite.” (Sportsnet)
— The Tampa Bay Lightning are enduring a tough start to the season, but they should still be considered Stanley Cup contenders. And you know what else? They’ve got a pretty good group of prospects, including six invitees to Team Canada’s World Juniors camp. “It’s a credit to the management staff in Tampa Bay for the prospects they’ve put into their system,” said forward Mitchell Stephens, the 33rd overall pick in 2015. “It shows they’re one of the top teams in the league for a reason.” (Canadian Press)
— On the annual Rookie Orientation Program, a joint initiative between the NHL and NHLPA, which aims to help rich, young athletes stay rich. “At the end of the day, it’s your money and you want to know what’s happening with it,” said Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who could be a lot richer very soon. “I think it’s really important that you know what’s going on and that you watch your money and you have good people surrounding yourself.” (Canadian Press)
— The Detroit Red Wings are having all sorts of trouble scoring, but at least they’ve got Jimmy Howard back. The veteran netminder stopped 35 of 36 shots in Sunday’s 1-0 OT loss to Philadelphia. He is now 5-5-1 with a .945 save percentage. Sunday’s loss marked the fourth time this season that the Wings have been shut out. No regular netminder has received worse goal support than Howard has. (MLive)
Enjoy the games!