Taylor Hall and the Coyotes need each other

Over the next few months Taylor Hall and the Arizona Coyotes will have an opportunity to help each other reach a destination that has been painfully out of reach for both.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Coyotes haven’t been there since the 2011-12 season when they went on a stunning run to the Western Conference Final.

Meanwhile, Hall’s career has been mostly wasted by two organizations (Edmonton and New Jersey) in a way that few other No. 1 overall picks have experienced. Now in the 10th year of his career, he has had the opportunity to play in just five postseason games, winning only one. It is an almost unprecedented career for a top pick. He is just the second No. 1 overall pick to make it this far into their career (nine-plus seasons) and play in five or fewer playoff games. Goaltender Michel Plesse, the No. 1 overall pick in 1968, is the only other to experience that lack of team success.

It is impossible to blame that lack of success on Hall himself, because he has always carried his end of the bargain for every team he has played for.

He is one of only nine active players in the NHL to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

Since the 2010-11 season (his first year in the league) he is among the top-20 forwards (out of 260 with at least 400 games played) in the league in goals per game, points per game, and shots per game.

When he has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play his teams have outscored their opponents by four goals and controlled more than 51 percent of the total shot attempts during his career. Those numbers may not seem all that impressive, but consider the quality of the teams he has played for. His teams have been outscored by 347 goals and control just 46 percent of the shot attempts when he is not on the ice over the past decade. That is not the sign of a bad player, it is the sign of bad teams. By almost every objective measure (wins, playoff appearances, playoff wins, playoff series wins) he has spent his entire career playing for two of the least successful organizations in the league.

Now it is up to the Coyotes to take advantage of his skill and potentially give him a reason to want to stick around beyond this season. And Hall’s presence might be enough to help the Coyotes make a statement with their fans that a new, more successful era is upon them.

This is no longer a young, rebuilding team. It is a veteran roster with elite goaltending and a strong defense that is good enough to win right now. They are in first place in the Pacific Division, have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference by points percentage, and the third-best goal differential. They are legitimately good, and are probably the first legitimately good team that Hall has ever played for in his career (even the New Jersey team that he made the playoffs with was bad outside of his line).

The biggest thing they lack is a game-changing forward up front. They have some really good players, they have some depth, but they do not have someone that can take over a game. Phil Kessel was supposed to provide some of that offensively but it hasn’t yet worked out as planned.

Hall could provide that presence, especially if his shooting percentage (a career worst 5.5 percent so far this season) bounces back the way it could — or even should — in the second half of the season.

You know he is going to be able to drive possession. He is going to be the best playmaker on the roster and make players on his line more dangerous. Once the goal-scoring comes back he is the total package as a top-line player, and allows everyone else in the lineup to settle into roles that better fit their skillset.

If it feels like this trade raises the expectations in Arizona, it’s probably because they did. And that’s good. There is no reason why this team as constructed — with this goaltending, defense, and now an elite first-line forward — can’t not only make the playoffs, but also make some noise once they get there. The two best teams in the Western Conference (Colorado and St. Louis) wouldn’t be a potential opponent until the Western Conference Final if the Coyotes can maintain a top-three spot in the Pacific. And given the overall state of the other teams in the division, that should be a reachable goal.

It is not known what the future holds for the Hall-Coyotes relationship beyond this season. But in the short-term it is a great opportunity for the Coyotes to establish themselves as a factor in the West, and it’s a great opportunity for Hall to finally play on a team that might be able to take advantage of what he does on the ice.

It is the right trade at the right time for everyone.

More on Hall to the Coyotes:
Devils trade Hall to Coyotes for prospects, picks
Hall focused on helping Coyotes make playoffs
Shero: Hall trade right move at the right time

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.

What will Capitals do before trade deadline?

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It looked like the Washington Capitals were going to run away with the Metropolitan Division again this year, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. As of right now, they’re no longer in the top spot. What can they do to get the division crown back?

The team that’s now slightly ahead of them, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have been aggressive over the last few weeks. Pens GM Jim Rutherford swung a deal for winger Jason Zucker and that seems to have helped improve their roster. And it sounds like they’d be open to making another move or two before Monday’s trade deadline.

The Capitals sacrificed a second-round pick in 2020 and a conditional third-rounder in 2021 to land Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks this week. That’s a smart move by general manager Brian MacLellan, but is it enough to get the Caps out of the rut they’re currently in?

Washington has dropped three games in a row and they have just one win in their last six games. Since the start of February, they have a 2-5-1 record.

In fairness, they were without center Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games against Colorado, Arizona and Vegas. He managed to return to the lineup against Montreal on Thursday, but the Caps still dropped an OT decision on home ice to the struggling Canadiens.

“We’re going to pursue anything that we think can make us better,” MacLellan said. “We’ll continue to talk to teams. We’ve had conversations. We’ll keep doing it and see if we can make our team better.”

When asked about his team’s defense’s struggles, MacLellan added that he felt it wasn’t just his blue liners that were were having a hard time in that area. He pointed out that the forwards make life difficult for themselves when they don’t have the puck. In short, his point was that the team’s overall play has slipped of late.

The Caps know they can keep up offensively with every team in the league. The question is whether or not they can keep the puck out of their own net. They’ve already added a defender, so it’s entirely possible that they’d be looking to add a two-way depth forward between now and Monday.

Options may or may not include:

Nate Thompson – C – Montreal Canadiens: Thompson is responsible defensively, capable of killing penalties and he’s also great in the face-off circle. He could probably be had for a mid-round pick this year or in 2021.

Jesper Fast – W – New York Rangers: Fast could be a perfect fit on Washington’s bottom two lines and he could move up in the lineup if ever they suffer a short-term injury.

Derek Grant – C – Anaheim Ducks: Grant is having a heck of a year, as he’s scored 14 goals in 48 games (he’s on pace to score 20). He’s also chipped in three shorthanded markers in 2019-20. He’s also not making much money this year, so the Caps could fit him under the cap.

Again, those are just some of the options that could be available to MacLellan before Monday. Will any one of the players mentioned above help the Capitals keep the puck out of their own net? Sure, they may help a little bit. But the entire roster needs to figure out how to play defensively as a team.

If they can find a team that’s willing to take salary back or retain salary in a trade, they may be able to get a better player. Washington’s window to win is open right now. If that means they have to trade draft collateral and a top prospect or two to land a big fish on the market, they should do that. But with the clock ticking, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to make a splash of that magnitude. Would they love to get a Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Ottawa? Probably. That won’t be an easy trade for them to make right now.

Here’s the most important thing the Caps need to realize: Once you get into the playoffs, scoring tends to dry up a little bit. Once you have a lead, you need to know how to protect it. That’s what they need to figure out if they’re going to make a long run into June, again.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Players that need change of scenery; Who should go after Byfuglien?

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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.

• Here are seven cup contenders that have yet to make a trade. (TSN)

• The Hockey News provides us with a list of seven players that could benefit from a change of scenery. (The Hockey News)

• Sticking with the seven trend: ESPN shares seven trades they’d like to see happen before the trade deadline. (ESPN)

• The Canadiens and Penguins made a four-player minor-league trade. (NHL.com/Canadiens)

Connor McDavid‘s return from injury puts pressure on GM Ken Holland before the trade deadline. (Sportsnet)

• Ever wonder who the top 10 Latvians are in NHL history are? Here’s your answer. (The Hockey Writers)

Artemi Panarin still doesn’t understand why the Blackhawks traded him away in 2017. (Daily Herald)

• Here’s three teams that should trade for Dustin Byfuglien. (The Score)

• Who could the Blue Jackets move before Monday’s trade deadline? (The Cannon)

Cale Makar and Ryan Graves have been a strong pairing for the Avs. (Mile High Hockey)

• The Alec Martinez pairing could push Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore onto the same pairing. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• How has the Jason Zucker trade affected Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov? (Hockey Wilderness)

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: Scheifele lights the lamp three times; Binnington earns second straight shutout

Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets
Getty Images
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Three Stars

1) Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele picked up his third NHL hat trick in the Jets’ 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.  The overlooked centerman completed the milestone with 1:33 remaining in the third period. Nick Paul kicked off the scoring to give the Senators an early advantage, but the Jets stormed back with five unanswered. Scheifele scored his first two goals late in the first period to help Winnipeg gain control of the game. He collected a loose puck near the top of the crease and buried a wrister to even the game, 1:11 after the equalizer, Scheifele redirected Neal Pionk’s shot from the point to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish. With the win, Winnipeg claimed the top wild card spot in the Western Conference for the time being.

2) Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens

Chiarot recorded his second two-goal game of the season in the Canadiens’ 4-3 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. The defenseman had two pretty goals, including the overtime winner when his blistering one-timer sped through the legs of Braden Holtby to help the Canadiens end a five-game losing streak. Early in the third period, Chiarot fired a wrist shot from the high slot to give the Canadiens a one-goal advantage. With two more years after this season remaining on his contract at an average annual value of $3.5 million, Chiarot is unlikely to be moved in the coming days even though the playoffs are a long shot for the Canadiens.

3) Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs and Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues

Andersen rebounded from a tough performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week and posted his second shutout of the season in Toronto’s 4-0 victory. It was Andersen’s first win in four starts since returning from a neck injury that sidelined him for four games. Binnington has not been tested frequently in the past two games, but two consecutive shutouts is an accomplishment despite the limited save totals. Mackenzie Blackwood’s 36 saves and Antti Raanta‘s 45 stops also deserve recognition on a solid night from a few goaltenders in the NHL.

Highlights of the Night

The between-the-legs craze continued when Nick Foligno fooled Brian Elliott with this beauty.

Chiarot is not known for his offense but hammered this one-time feed from Max Domi.

It didn’t take long for Gabriel Vilardi to score his first NHL goal.

Raanta was nearly unbeatable, but Ryan O'Reilly finished a precise pass from Brayden Schenn to lead the Blues past the Coyotes.

Kevin Hayes‘ game-winning goal wasn’t anything special, but his celebration following was something to see.

Pavel Zacha threaded a perfect stretch pass and then Jesper Bratt mesmerized Martin Jones with a series of dekes.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 0

New Jersey Devils 2, San Jose Sharks 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Washington Capitals 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 (OT)

Winnipeg Jets 5, Ottawa Senators 1

St. Louis Blues 1, Arizona Coyotes 0

Vegas Golden Knights 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

Los Angeles Kings 5. Florida Panthers 4


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.

Ovechkin ends scoring drought in Capitals OT loss

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Alex Ovechkin inched closer to 700 career goals, but the Washington Capitals fell in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday, 4-3.

The Capitals captain recorded his 699th career goal to open the scoring early in the first period, but Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot scored twice, including the game-winner after regulation.

The Pittsburgh Penguins took over the top spot in the Metropolitan Division earlier this week, and the Capitals’ recent slump could cost them home-ice advantage in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Additionally, the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets and trail the Capitals by five points for second place in the division.

Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher also scored for the Canadiens as they snapped a five-game losing streak. Carey Price made 29 saves in his 25th win of the season.

Capitals forward Tom Wilson evened the score in the final minute of the third period to force overtime and help Washington earn at least one point. The power forward jammed a puck past Price to give Ovechkin another shot at 700 in the extra session.

However, less than a minute into the three-on-three portion, Chiarot hammered a feed from Max Domi through the legs of Braden Holtby. The defenseman scored his first of the evening early in the third period when he wired a wrist shot from the high slot to give Montreal a 3-2 lead.

Ovechkin scored goal No. 699 to break a five-game streak without a point. No. 8 controlled a rolling puck after Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff cleanly in the offensive zone, then fired a wrist shot past Price.

Weber knotted the game at 1-1 when he notched his 14th of the season late in the first period. The Canadiens captain was originally expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to an ankle injury but returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing only six games.

Ovechkin’s chase for 700 continues Saturday when the Capitals square off with the New Jersey Devils.

 

Ovechkin’s quest for 700:


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.