The Wraparound: Cale Makar is unmatched

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Be sure to check out all of Friday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action in the Rink Wrap right here

• The Penguins will be without goalie Casey DeSmith for the remainder of the playoffs after he underwent successful core muscle surgery on Friday. 

Another Blues defenseman gets injured. 

We do not know how the NHL’s award voting is going to play out this season (votes have already been submitted) but the Norris Trophy was pretty much a two-player race between the Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar and the Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi. Both players had magnificent offensive seasons, are top defenders for playoff teams, and just so happen to be facing off in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Through two games the story has been Makar and the Avalanche.

Colorado enters Game 3 on Saturday night with a commanding 2-0 lead in the series with Makar playing a starring role.

The numbers are about what you would expect from him given what he has done in the early part of his career.

He already has two goals, four total points, 14 shots on goal, and dominant possession numbers, with the Avalanche completely controlling the game in every aspect when he is on the ice. But it’s not even about just the numbers. Everything about the way he plays is simply mesmerizing to watch.

Just look at the skating, puck control, and the perfectly placed shot in Game 1 to help bury the Predators in the first period.

How many players in the league can pull that off and make that play? Or make it look that easy? He is three years into his career and is still averaging more than a point per game as a defenseman and has continued that pace over to the playoffs. He still does not turn 24 until next October.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

There are a lot of outstanding defensemen in the NHL right now, including Josi, Victor Hedman, Adam Fox, Kris Letang, John Carlson, Charlie McAvoy, and Jaccob Slavin. None of them are quite on the same level as Makar in terms of being the total package of a defender. Nobody controls the game, pushes possession, scores, or skates like him from the blue line. We might be at the point where he is not only the best all-around defenseman in hockey, but also one of the absolute best players in hockey. As good as Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and all of the Avalanche’s forwards are, it is Makar that is starting to establish himself as the player that makes this machine run.

If you were starting a team today and could pick any player in the NHL to build your organization around for the next 10 years, how many players come off the board before you pick Makar? Maybe three? Four? He is right up there with Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and any other top goalie you might want to build around.

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 3: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 1 p.m. ET — ESPN (Series tied 1-1): Goaltending was the big question for both teams at the start of the series and through two games they are getting very different results. Sergei Bobrovsky is doing his best to change his postseason narrative and has been mostly strong for the Panthers in their first two games, especially in their Game 2 win. The Capitals, though, still have a pretty significant problem. Vitek Vanecek was not good in Game 2 and he is going to have to be significantly better if the Capitals are going to have a chance to win this series.

Game 3: Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators, 4:30 p.m. ET — TNT (COL leads 2-0): The Predators took Game 2 to overtime thanks to third string goalie Connor Ingram playing the game of his life. It still was not good enough as the Avalanche eventually wore them down and won on Makar’s overtime goal. The problem for Nashville is not just the goaltending question without Juuse Saros, but the simple fact they are not able to generate anything against a Colorado defense that is the most talented in the league. Nashville has to find a way to win four of the next five games against an Avalanche team that looks significantly superior in every phase of the game and in every possible way.

Game 3: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET — TNT (Series tied 1-1): The Penguins are going to have to rely on Louis Domingue for the foreseeable future now that Casey DeSmith is out for the remainder of the season and there remains no timetable for Tristan Jarry. That is a pretty significant goaltender advantage for the Rangers who have Igor Shesterkin absolutely dominating again. The Penguins might be relying on their third string goalie, but it would be beneficial for them to get back a couple of their other injured players, including forwards Rickard Rakell and Jason Zucker, as well as defenseman Brian Dumoullin.

Game 3: Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET — TNT (Series tied 1-1): There is just no offense to be had anywhere in this series. Flames coach Darryl Sutter and Stars coach Rick Bowness have their teams locking things down to an absurd level. In two games the two teams have combined for three goals (one power play goal, one five-on-five goal, and one empty net goal) while they have combined for only 94 total shots on goal. If you score one goal, you are going to win this game.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 12:30 p.m. ET — ESPN (CAR leads 2-1)
Game 4: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 4:30 p.m. ET — TBS (MIN leads 2-1)
Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m. ET — TBS (TOR leads 2-1)
Game 4: Edmonton Oilers at  Los Angeles Kings, 10 p.m. ET — TBS (EDM leads 2-1)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

Hurricanes vs. Bruins
• Penguins vs. Rangers
• Panthers vs. Capitals
Blues vs. Wild
• Avalanche vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings
Flames vs. Stars

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info
First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
• NHL Draft Lottery set: Canadiens have best odds for top pick
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”