NHL Push for the Playoffs: Goalie injuries make things more unpredictable

NHL Push for the Playoffs: Goalie injuries make things even more unpredictable
Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

As much as people hope that the Stanley Cup Playoffs definitively decide the true best team in the NHL this season, the truth is that it’s an imperfect measure. Part of that boils down to random hot streaks and lucky bounces. There’s also the undeniable luck factor involved in who gets injured and who stays healthy.

That said, there are times when you can mitigate risks. Considering that every East team has a spot clinched (with only positioning to fight for), and the West is moving closer to that reality, quite a few teams have the opportunity to rest players.

Some advice, then. If you’re not going to rest players this week, at least consider doing so with your goalies, and we’ve already seen what could be some potentially brutal injuries that spill into the playoffs.

  • The Penguins have been teetering lately (4-5-1 in their last 10 games), and as strange as it may seem to read this a year after a rough postseason for the goalie, it doesn’t help to be without Tristan Jarry.
  • With all that’s going right for the Maple Leafs, they have one fewer safety net with Petr Mrazek injured. Jack Campbell‘s been banged-up too, and not that long ago.
  • Could the Hurricanes suddenly be in the shakiest goalie situation of them all? Not long after losing Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta left Sunday’s game with an injury. Suddenly, this is a scary mess:

  • If the Stars make it, will Braden Holtby an option? Seems dicey. Sure, in 2022, Holtby isn’t the same elite goalie any longer. Dallas would probably prefer the option to lean on a veteran if needed, though.
  • If the Golden Knights reach the playoffs, it’s hard to believe Robin Lehner will be healthy. Laurent Brossoit‘s been hurt for a while, too. Tough situation for Logan Thompson and the rest of the Golden Knights.

To be clear, injuries to other positions matter, as well. The Capitals are currently crossing their fingers about Alex Ovechkin.

Still, goalie injuries are simply harder to shrug off with a “next one up” mentality. There aren’t as many of them, and the drop-off from NHL-level goalies and fringe ones can sometimes be drastic. You can’t hide them in the lineup like you would a fourth-line winger.

Now, it’s possible some of these goalies will be available for the playoffs, and that these are minor injuries. But maybe these recent developments should scare some sense into any team with the luxury to rest netminders and other key players.

After all, does a higher playoff seed matter much if goalie injuries make you easier to beat, whether you’re at home or on the road?

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (sorted by points percentage)

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Panthers vs. Capitals
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Rangers vs. Penguins

CENTRAL DIVISION
Avalanche vs. Stars
Wild vs. Blues

PACIFIC DIVISION
Flames vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings

TODAY’S KEY GAMES

None, unless you’re really into the draft lottery and want to watch Flyers vs. Blackhawks.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Panthers – clinched No. 1 seed in Eastern Conference
Maple Leafs – clinched
Lightning – clinched
Bruins – clinched
Red Wings – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated
Senators – eliminated
Canadiens – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – clinched
Rangers – clinched
Penguins – clinched
Capitals – clinched
Islanders – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Avalanche – clinched No. 1 seed in Western Conference
Wild – clinched
Blues – clinched
Predators – 98.2%
Stars – 87%
Jets – eliminated
Blackhawks – eliminated
Coyotes – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Flames – clinched Pacific Division
Oilers – clinched
Kings – 99.5%
Golden Knights – 15.3%
Canucks – 0.1%
Ducks – eliminated
Sharks – eliminated
Kraken – eliminated

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via Tankathon)

18.5% – Canadiens
13.5% – Coyotes
11.5% – Kraken
9.5% – Flyers
8.5% – Devils
7.5% – Blackhawks (*conditional)
6.5% – Senators
6.0% – Red Wings
5.0% – Sabres
3.5% – Ducks
3.0% – Sharks
2.5% – Blue Jackets
2.0% – Islanders
1.5% – Jets
0.5% – Canucks
0.5% – Golden Knights (*conditional)

“Beginning this season there will be a limit on the total number of selections (10) a team participating in the lottery can move up in the event it wins one of the lottery draws, a change announced by the NHL on March 23, 2021. Only the top 11 seeds will be eligible to receive the No. 1 selection in the 2022 draft.”

The 2022 NHL Draft Lottery drawing will be held May 10

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 118 points
Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers – 115
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 111
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 108
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 104
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 103
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames -101

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 55
Chris Kreider, Rangers – 51
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 50
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 45
Kyle Connor, Jets – 45
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 43
Matt Duchene, Predators – 41

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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