Stanley Cup Playoff race: Second half record every team needs

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With half of the 2019-20 season officially in the books we are starting to get an idea as to which teams have a realistic chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and which teams do not. It’s extremely rare for teams to overcome point deficits of even four or five points at this stage of the season, and the standings rarely change much down the stretch.

There are, of course, exceptions to that. They are rare, but they do exist. Every team currently on the outside of the playoff picture is going to look at the 2018-19 St. Louis Blues as a reason for optimism. Exactly one year ago today they were 17-20-4 and needed a near miraculous second-half turnaround just to get into the playoffs. They finished the regular season on a 28-8-5 record from that day on, nearly came back to win the Central Division, then went on a run through the playoffs to finally claim the franchise’s first ever championship.

All it took was finding a new franchise goalie out of nowhere to completely alter their season. Not everyone has that card to play in the second half.

But, if you are a fan of a team currently on the outside of the playoff picture, let’s take a quick look at what that team is going to need to do the rest of the way to make the playoffs.

Let’s start with the Eastern Conference

Right now the Philadelphia Flyers hold the second Wild Card spot in the East and with their current points percentage are on track for 96.4 points this season. So let’s say the cutoff to make the Eastern Conference playoffs this season is 97 points (it was 98 points a year ago, but we will stick with 97 for now).

Here is a complete look at the Conference showing what every team has currently done, and what they will need to do the rest of the way to reach the 97-point mark.

Teams are ranked by their current points percentage. 

Washington, Boston, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have all given themselves a pretty good cushion and have some margin for error in the second half. They basically have to play just a little over .500 (Washington and Boston could actually play below that) the rest of the way and still have their spot secured.

Carolina and Toronto also look to be a solid position, but don’t have quite as much margin for error.

Philadelphia and Florida have almost nothing separating them (a game-and-a-half basically), while Columbus is going to need to maintain its recent hot streak for the next few months.

Everyone after Columbus? They are going to need a miracle. Is there a roster there that you can see making a Blues-type turnaround? Who there is just a goalie away from fixing it? Nobody.

Now the Western Conference

The target for the West is slightly lower than the East, and right now the line to get is sitting at 95 points.

Same deal as above, let’s look at where everyone is and where they have to get to.

The West is definitely the weaker of the two conferences. Once you get beyond the Central’s Top-three of St. Louis, Colorado, and Dallas everything just devolves into mediocrity. Arizona, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vegas, and Vancouver are all kind of lumped in together in the Pacific, and you know at least three of them are getting in because of the divisional playoff format.

Yes, it appears as if Edmonton is actually in a position to salvage this season and get Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl back to the playoffs.

Everybody after Vancouver is in a world of trouble.

It is a testament to how much Nashville struggled in the first half that it still needs that sort of second half just to get a wild card spot in what is a very watered down Western Wild Card race.

The same thing is true for San Jose, only with even more emphasis. How does that roster, sit in that spot, in that conference?

Can the Sharks do it?

If there is a team in the NHL that could possibly do what the Blues did a year ago that might be the one you look at — at least before Logan Couture’s injury. It is a team that is built to win now (just like the Blues were), a team that still has high-end talent (just like the Blues did), and could fix a lot of problems with a significant upgrade in goal (like the one the Blues got).

But I just don’t know that this Sharks team has shown any sign of actually being able to do that, or the desire to actually pursue a goaltending upgrade.

Add in the fact their top forward is now out for several weeks and this season that was supposed to be one more Stanley Cup push for Joe Thornton looks like it might just end up being a completely wasted season.

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.

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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The Pro Hockey Talk NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick

Sabres suspend Zach Bogosian for failure to report to AHL

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The Buffalo Sabres announced on Monday afternoon that they have suspended veteran defenseman Zach Bogosian after he refused to report to the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

Buffalo placed Bogosian on waivers on Friday. After going unclaimed, he was assigned to Rochester to create a lineup spot in Buffalo.

The Sabres said they will not have any further comment or information at this time. Bogosian’s agent also said they are aware of the suspension notification and also have no comment.

It has been a brutal season for Bogosian in Buffalo as a hip injury as taken him in and out of the lineup, while he has also found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion. He has played in just 19 games this season.

He also requested a trade earlier this season.

Bogosian is currently in the final year of his contract that carries a $5.14 million salary cap hit.

The Sabres initially acquired him during the 2014-15 season along with Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets. He has appeared in 243 games with the team, scoring 13 goals and adding 54 assists.

As John Vogl of the Athletic points out, the Sabres can continue to attempt to negotiate a trade while he is suspended (though he probably does not have much value — unless the Sabres are willing to retain salary), they negotiate a contract termination, or simply let him sit out.

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.

Avalanche injuries: Grubauer out with lower-body injury; Calvert to miss ‘weeks’

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After being injured in the 2020 Stadium Series game on Saturday, Colorado Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer will not be in the lineup on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a lower-body injury.

Even more concerning for the Avalanche, there is no current timetable for his return.

“I don’t really have a timeline on it,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on Monday, via NHL.com. “He’s still getting evaluated, he’s still going through some testing or training room or whatnot. I’ll have a better answer probably later in the week. Right now he’s day to day and could miss some time.”

Grubauer is 18-12-4 this season for the Avalanche with a .916 save percentage.

He was injured on Saturday during a collision with teammate Ian Cole.

You can see the play here.

Pavel Francouz, who has been outstanding this season, will take over the main goaltending duties for as long as Grubauer is sidelined.

Hunter Miska will serve as the backup.

Even if Grubauer only misses time this week that could still be as many as four games. The Avalanche’s standing as a playoff team is secure, but they are still in a fight for the top spot in the Central Division as well as home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. It doesn’t seem to be serious enough at this point to force a trade to add some depth, but it’s still an injury worth watching. The Avalanche should still be in good hands with Francouz as their starter in the short-term, but things could get a little complicated when it comes to potential playoff seeding if it is an injury that lingers.

In other Avalanche injury news, forward Matt Calvert is also expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury of his own.

In 50 games this season Calvert has 12 goals and 25 total points. He played 12:47 of the Stadium Series game on Saturday.

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning keep getting stronger

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings the Tampa Bay Lightning climb back to the top spot thanks in part to yet another 10-game winning streak.

Yes. Another 10-game winning streak.

Their current streak entering play on Monday is their second 10-game winning streak since Dec. 22. During that time they are 22-2-1, have 10 more points than any other team in the league, and own a .900 points percentage. No other team in the league has a points percentage better than .762 during that stretch.

What makes this particular run even more impressive is that they have recently been hit hard by injuries with Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli all missing some time in recent games, while each of their past seven wins have come against teams currently in a playoff spot. That includes two wins against a Pittsburgh team that has the second-best record in the league since the middle of December.

As if that is not enough, they went out on Sunday and added Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils, giving them another 20-goal scorer, an outstanding penalty killer, and steal against the salary cap through next season.

They are easily in the top spot entering the week.

Where does every other team sit?

To the rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. They paid a lot to get Blake Coleman but if he helps them bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa Bay no one is going to care.

2. Boston Bruins. The race between the Lightning and Bruins for the top spot in the East — and the Presidents’ Trophy — is going to be great. They play each other twice during a four-game stretch in early March.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins. Jim Rutherford finally acquired Jason Zucker, and he should be a great fit for both this season and future seasons.

4. Colorado Avalanche. The superstars at the top of the lineup are the foundation, while the added scoring depth over the summer is what makes them a Stanley Cup contender. All of the salary cap space they have to play with could help put them over the top.

5. Washington Capitals. Their lead in the division is quickly disappearing, but they still have three games remaining against the team they are competing with (Pittsburgh).

6. Dallas Stars. They enter the week tied for first place in the Central Division with St. Louis, and while Colorado is just two points back with two games still in hand, they have made this a three-team race.

7. New York Islanders. A defenseman may not have been my first choice for their trade deadline acquisition, but they really did need a replacement for Adam Pelech on the blue line. Andy Greene fits that. Now, go get a forward that can score.

8. Edmonton Oilers. It would be really something if, after Connor McDavid lost out on winning the MVP award the past two years because his team was not any good, that the Oilers return to the playoffs this year and McDavid again loses the MVP, this to his teammate, Leon Draisaitl.

9. Philadelphia Flyers. The Metropolitan Division is insane. The Flyers have one the 10 best records in the league, have won 10 of their past 16 games, and are still probably only about 50-50 shot to make the playoffs right now.

10. Carolina Hurricanes. Everything we just said about the Flyers? Yeah. The same thing applies here.

11. St. Louis Blues. Maybe you think this is too low for the defending champs — who are still one of the top teams in the West, I might add — but they enter the week with just two wins in their past 12 games, and one of those wins was a shootout win over Calgary. They are struggling right now in a big way.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs. Jack Campbell went into Toronto with huge expectations and a ton of pressure on him for a backup goalie, but he has handled it well so far.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets. Maybe the injuries are starting to catch up to them a little bit. Seth Jones is going to be impossible to replace. They have lost five in a row (three in overtime or shootout) and just gave up a point on Sunday to a bad Devils team that is in the process of getting rid of everything that is not nailed to the floor.

14. New York Rangers. They are playing in the wrong division to make a serious playoff push at this point in the season, but they are 11-6-0 in their past 17 games and on a 90-point pace for the season. They are not far away.

15. Vegas Golden Knights. The coaching change has not really changed much in terms of their results. It probably will not until they add to their blue line and get better goaltending.

16. Nashville Predators. They open the week just a point out of a playoff spot with multiple games in hand. They will be a problem for teams if they get in.

17. Vancouver Canucks. There is not a more underrated goalie in the NHL right now than Jacob Markstrom. He may not be one of the elites, but he has been a well above average goalie and stabilizing presence for the Canucks since taking over the job.

18. Minnesota Wild. A coaching change seemed inevitable at some point, but the timing is weird just as the Wild were starting to make a push.

19. Winnipeg Jets. They are sticking with Paul Maurice beyond this season, but with all due respect to him and his job behind the bench the Jets’ ability to stay in the playoff race is entirely on the shoulders of starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

20. Florida Panthers. They are trending in the wrong direction, which has to be a massive disappointment given the investment they put into this season.

21. Calgary Flames. Goaltending was probably the biggest question on this team entering the season and, quite honestly, it has been fine. That is what makes their overall performance such a letdown. Everyone else has disappointed.

22. Arizona Coyotes. They are hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread after winning just four out of their past 16 games.

23. Buffalo Sabres. They have won four out of five, and Sunday’s win against Toronto had to be especially satisfying. Not enough to fix the mess this season has become, but it is at least something.

24. Chicago Blackhawks. Honestly can not think of a good reason why this team would not sell players like Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson before the trade deadline.

25. Montreal Canadiens. The recent Shea Weber injury timeline has been a roller coaster of emotions and updates.

26. San Jose Sharks. It would be for the best if the Sharks could just pretend this season never happened. Bad, disappointing team and significant injuries to some of the team’s best players. Adding to the misery: Their lottery pick belongs to the Ottawa Senators. Yikes.

27. Anaheim Ducks. The lack of offense on this team is staggering. They desperately need some of their young players to make a big leap next season.

28. New Jersey Devils. Taylor Hall, Andy Greene, and Blake Coleman are already out the door. Who is next?

29. Ottawa Senators. Anthony Duclair was the one pleasant surprise on this team this season and even that has disappeared. He has not scored a goal since Dec. 23, a stretch of more than 20 games entering Monday.

30. Los Angeles Kings. It seems to be a broken record at this point in the season but the Kings are facing a key stage of their rebuild.

31. Detroit Red Wings. Not a stretch to say this is the single worst team of the modern era. Excluding first-year expansion teams it might be one of the worst teams the NHL has ever seen.

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.

Canadiens say Shea Weber could return Tuesday

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Maybe his injury isn’t as severe as initially feared. Or maybe it’s the last act of a desperate team trying to do anything it can to salvage its season before it continues to spiral down the drain. Whatever the reason, there appears to be a very real chance that defenseman Shea Weber could return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

Coach Claude Julien announced on Monday that Weber — along with injured forward Paul Byron — could be in the lineup on Tuesday.

Keep in mind we are just five days removed from the Canadiens announcing that Weber would be sidelined 4-6 weeks due to a sprained ankle.

Weber added (via Sportsnet’s Eric Engels) on Monday that doctors have told him he can not do any more damage to his injured ankle, and that while he is obviously not 100 percent he still feels good to go.

He has been sidelined since Feb. 4, a stretch that has seen the Canadiens win just two of their past six games to continue to fall out of playoff contention.

They enter the week nine points out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are eight points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Adding to their current deficit is they have also played more games than every team ahead of them in the standings. In other words: The playoffs are more than a long shot.

When you combine that with Weber’s age, as well as the way injuries have piled up for him over the years it’s a little bit of a surprise to see his timeline accelerated that way it has been. Weber is having an outstanding season and is still an excellent player when healthy, but injuries have already sidelined him for 90 games during his Canadiens’ tenure over the past four years. That’s more than 30 percent of the possible games.

Hockey’s culture loves to glorify the warrior mentality of a player playing through pain for the good of the team. And it is hard to tell a player that they shouldn’t — or can’t — play. But at some point you have to wonder when it is no longer worth the risk. Even if doctors are pretty sure he can’t do anymore damage to this particular injury by playing, you’re still talking about a 34-year-old player (who you still owe a TON of money to over the next several years), with a lengthy injury history, playing on a bad ankle for a team that probably has less than a 5 percent chance of making the playoffs at this point. Aside from legitimate questions as to how impactful he might be given the circumstances, who is to say that playing on a bad ankle couldn’t lead to a different injury? At some point you have to wonder when it’s no longer worth the risk and just let the guy rest and get healthy and realize there is still a bigger picture at play here than a futile attempt to salvage a lost season.

Related: Canadiens’ Shea Weber expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to ankle injury

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.