PHT Morning Skate: Tough to score Leafs tickets; How do Preds shut down MacKinnon?

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Colorado Avalanche are ready for the crazy hockey fans in Nashville. “I don’t know if there’s any way to quiet them. Just come out and enjoy the atmosphere, no doubt. It’s probably one of the better playoff buildings to play in,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said. (NHL.com)

• The parents of one of the teenagers who passed away in the bus crash in Humboldt, Saskatchewan are hoping that their tragic loss can serve as a catalyst for a greater movement within the province. (The Hockey News)

• Rookie Brock Boeser was worried that the back injury he suffered this season could have been career-threatening. Thankfully, he’s expected to make a full recovery. (NHL.com)

• With Taylor Hall set to play in his first career playoff game, it’s safe to assume that he’s embraced life in New Jersey. (Sportsnet)

• According to CBC, the Maple Leafs put 96 tickets for sale to general public and most of those were singles. Good luck finding an affordable seat at the ACC this postseason. (CBC.ca)

• The Bruins and Maple Leafs are evenly matched teams, but there’s a substantial difference between on the blue line between these two rivals. Boston’s defense is superior and it’s not even close, according to Stanley Cup of Chowder.

• The Washington Capitals aren’t getting wrapped up in the amount of shots they take. They prefer firing less pucks on net but having more quality shot attempts. (Washington Post)

• Who should the Predators roll out onto the ice when Nathan MacKinnon jumps over the boards for the Avalanche? Well, there’s a few quality options, but Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis probably give them their best chance to shut him down. (On the Forecheck)

• NBC Bay Area looks at five questions that will likely determine the winner of the Ducks-Sharks series. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Steven Stamkos has done a lot for the city of Tampa Bay, but it’s time for him to come through with a Stanley Cup this spring. (Tampa Times)

• The New York Rangers shouldn’t rush to hire a new head coach. It’s critical that they find the right person to help groom their young players. (New York Post)

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Flyers and Penguins.

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.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Weber’s comeback year; Where should Bolts upgrade?

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • If the Predators continue struggling, they’ll have to ask themselves some tough questions. (The Hockey News)

    • There’s several reasons why there should be concern in Winnipeg, according to Travis Yost. (TSN.ca)

    • The Jets have an issue on defense and there’s no easy way to address it. (Arctic Hockey)

    Chris Tanev has helped Quinn Hughes settle into the NHL. (Sportsnet)

    Shea Weber is having a great comeback season and people around the NHL are noticing. (The Score)

    • Dave Andreychuk answered five questions from NHL.com. (NHL)

    Boone Jenner is playing big defensive minutes for Columbus, but is that working out? (The Cannon)

    • How have the Bruins done in their own end this season? (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

    • It’s officially time to call the Canadiens sellers. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

    • Which position should Lightning GM Julien BriseBois consider upgrading before the trade deadline? (Raw Charge)

    • The Coyotes added Taylor Hall via trade in December. Is it time for them to keep buying? (Five For Howling)

    • On the Forecheck breaks down the untouchables and the tradable players on the Preds roster. (On the Forecheck)

    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: Blues edge Flames in shootout; Eichel sets new career high

    The St. Louis Blues celebrate their 5-4 shootout win over the Calgary Flames
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    Three Stars

    1) David Perron, St. Louis Blues

    After making the All-Star Game for the first time in his NHL career, Perron started the second half of the season with a two-game point streak. He added a goal, an assist and a shootout tally as the Blues defeated the Flames 5-4 in a back-and-forth battle that ended in the skills competition. The 31-year-old forward notched his 22nd of the season when he hammered home a loose puck in front to knot the game at 2-2 late in the first period. Perron also made a nifty pass to help St. Louis exit the zone before Zach Sanford tied the game early in the final frame. Additionally, the Blues snapped a three-game losing streak.

    2) Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames

    The Flames alternate captain is still a bit behind his 82-point total pace from last year after surpassing his previous career-high by 18 points set the season before. Monahan remains a critical piece in the Flames’ lineup as they prepare for a playoff push in the tightly contested Pacific Division. The 25-year-old recorded his 400th career point when he snapped off a wrist shot from the slot at 15:43 of the first period to give Calgary a 2-1 lead at the time. He would go on to record his second of the game, another wrister from the slot, early in the middle frame to even the score at 3-3.

    3) Mark Borowiecki, Ottawa Senators

    It’s not often an empty-net goal helps an NHL player land on this list, but Borowiecki’s game-sealing tally late in the third period was quite the play in the Senators’ 5-2 win against the Sabres. Ottawa’s alternate captain willingly went down on one knee in order to block a one-timer from Marcus Johansson to help preserve a one-goal lead at the time. After the block, Borowiecki quickly gathered himself, collected a loose puck and fired it off the boards into the empty cage. The Senators lead the NHL with 11 shorthanded goals.

    Highlights of the Night

    Blues forward Robert Thomas feathered a beautiful cross-ice pass between a couple of Calgary Flames to set up Alexander Steen to open the scoring.

    In his 500th NHL game, Jaden Schwartz recorded his 17th of the season when he redirected a pretty pass from Brayden Schenn.

    [RELATED: Predators facing difficult road in playoff push | How the Canucks climbed to top of Pacific Division]

    Blooper of the Night

    Who should get credit for this empty-net goal?

    Stat of the Night

    Scores

    Ottawa Senators 5, Buffalo Sabres 2

    St. Louis Blues 5, Calgary Flames 4 (SO)

    Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

    Hall of Fame goalie Ed Belfour arrested on mischief, public intoxication charges

    former Dallas Star and NHL alumnus Ed Belfour
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    Hockey Hall of Famer Ed Belfour was arrested early Tuesday morning. The former NHL goaltender caused damage to a downtown Bowling Green hotel.

    Police found the 54-year-old inside the Kentucky Grand Hotel and Spa around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Bowling Green Daily News said, citing the arrest report. He was arrested on charges of third-degree criminal mischief and alcohol intoxication in a public place, according to the citation. He was booked into the Warren County Regional Jail just before 3 a.m. Tuesday, according to the jail’s website.

    According to report, he was “manifestly under the influence of alcohol to a point he was a danger to himself and others.”

    Police responded to a complaint of an intoxicated person after Belfour tried to fight an employee and struck glass in anger. When cops arrived on the scene, they found Belfour on the second floor, kicking a spa door while “clutching a curtain rod that had been ripped out of the dry wall above a window next to him,” according to the report.

    When detained, Belfour was not compliant with officers.

    Belfour won the Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars and captured an Olympic gold medal during the 2002 Winter Games as a member of Team Canada. He currently sits in fourth place on the NHL all-time wins list.

    How the Canucks climbed to top of Pacific Division

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    For the first time in five years Vancouver Canucks fans have reason to be excited about their team. They are the hottest team in the NHL right now, and with their 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night are 12-3-0 over their past 15 games. That run has helped them climb to the top of the Pacific Division and put them in a position where they have a very good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

    While it is true that the Pacific Division is very watered down this season — especially with the struggles of Vegas and San Jose — the Canucks still have something building here. They are exciting, they can score, and as of Monday have the third-best goal differential in the Western Conference.

    Let’s take a look at what is driving their success so far this season.

    Quinn Hughes has been better than advertised

    Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are the young cornerstones at forward, but Hughes is the player that’s really helped get this rebuild running in the right direction.

    He may not win the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, but he is almost certainly going to be Vancouver’s third straight finalist (following Boeser and Pettersson) as he competes with fellow rookie defenseman Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche) for that crown. He’s already a 20-minute per night defenseman and fills one of the single biggest needs the Canucks have had the past couple of years — a young, impactful, top-pairing defenseman to lead their blue line. He’s the type of player that as soon as you watch him you know he’s going to be a star with the way he skates, moves the puck, and contributes to the offense.

    But what’s really made him such a valuable piece is that he is able to do all of that while still being the team’s best defensive defenseman as a 20-year-old rookie. When he is on the ice during 5-on-5 play this season the Canucks are allowing the following:

    • 52.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes
    • 28.2 shots on goal per 60 minutes
    • 2.24 expected goals against per 60 minutes
    • 27.4 scoring chances per 60 minutes
    • 2.24 goals against per 60 minutes

    Those numbers not only place him first among all Canucks defenders in every category, he is first by a significant margin in all of them.

    (Data via Natural Stat Trick)

    J.T. Miller has been the perfect support player

    It’s been no secret the past two years that Boeser and Pettersson were the two players driving the bus for the Canucks offensively, and they still are.

    It’s also no secret that two players alone can not carry a team on their own. And while the Canucks still have some depth concerns, Miller has been everything the Canucks could have hoped for him to be and more.

    They raised some eyebrows when they traded a future first-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for him, but it’s hard to argue with the results right now.

    He is in the middle of a career year and currently on pace for more than 30 goals and 70 points, while also being one of the best possession-driving forwards in the entire league.

    They paid a steep price, and the trade definitely carried some risk, but he is signed long-term, at a fair price, and has been a perfect fit within the core, while also being young enough to be a part of that core in future seasons. I was not a huge fan of the move at the time, but at some point you have to start adding talent to make your rebuild actually get somewhere. The Canucks have done that here.

    Jacob Markstrom has been a rock in net

    Markstrom hasn’t been one of the league’s elites in net, but he has been a rock solid starter since taking over that position in Vancouver. He may not steal a ton of games, but he’s not losing many games for them, either. He’s been a steady, and durable goalie that has consistently given them better-than-league average play the past few years. He has been even better this season.

    While Hughes has been an immediate sensation on the blue line, this team still has its flaws defensively and gives up its share of shots and chances. They’re not yet a championship-level defensive team, and that makes quality goaltending even more vital for their chances. Markstrom is giving them that, and in the process is playing his way toward what could be a pretty significant raise this offseason.

    MORE:
    NHL Power Rankings: Looking at top Stanley Cup Contenders
    The 6 coaches and general managers that can impact NHL playoff race
    The 10 players that can impact NHL playoff race

    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.