Ryan Johansen

The Wraparound: Kuemper ‘eager to get going’ after scary eye injury

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.

• If you missed it, here is your Second Round NHL playoff schedule.

• Some NHL coaching news from Monday: Lane Lambert will replace Barry Trotz behind the Islanders’ bench and Peter DeBoer is out in Vegas.

• What storylines should you be following during the Second Round?

It was a pretty normal game situation with an Avalanche player defending a Predators player in front of Darcy Kuemper‘s crease. But as the Colorado goaltender was tracking the puck as it was coming to the front of the net an errant stick entered his mask and hit his eye.

“I didn’t know what happened until I watched it,” Kuemper said on Sunday. “It happened so quickly. Obviously, pretty scary when your eyes are involved but, you know, I got pretty lucky that it wasn’t worse.

“I think just bad luck.”

Fortunately, there was no damage to Kuemper’s eye, only swelling around his eyelid which forced him to miss the rest of Game 3 and all of Game 4 during their First Round sweep of Nashville. He’s been back at practice since the weekend and is expected to get the Game 1 start when the Avalanche begin their Second Round series against the Blues Tuesday night (9:30 p.m. ET).

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

“For me individually, it’s been great to have that extra time to heal up,” Kuemper said. “We’re biting at the chop to get back playing. Playoffs are the funnest time of year to play. Especially at home here in front of the crowd. The crowd here was so fun [against Nashville], so we’re eager to get going.”

Kuemper, who posted a .942 5-on-5 save percentage against the Predators in three games, per Natural Stat Trick, has impressed head coach Jared Bednar since returning to practice. Colorado has not played since May 9 as they awaited to find out who they would play in the Second Round.

“So that is the one positive for us, [our] goalie will be sharp, ready to go and feel 100 percent,” Bednar said


Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports): Brayden Point is likely out for the Lightning tonight after suffering an injury versus Toronto in Game 7 of the First Round. Good thing Tampa Bay is known for its depth, right? The Panthers, meanwhile, will be playing in the Second Round for the first time since 1996. After losing to the Lightning in six games last season, Florida is ready for the rematch. “They’ve been the best the last couple of years,” said forward Sam Reinhart. “Obviously they’re the team everyone wants to be, everyone wants to beat. You start with [Andrei Vasilevskiy], another great series out of him [vs. Maple Leafs]. First and foremost you try to make his life difficult. Their top-end guys are some of the best in the world. It’s going to be a great challenge and we’re up for it.”

Game 1: St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Avalanche vs. Blues

Lightning vs. Panthers
Makar, McDavid lead Conn Smythe watch after First Round
NHL Second Round predictions
Storylines for the NHL’s Second Round

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    Matt Duchene’s monster season helping drive Predators’ playoff push

    Matt Duchene Nashville Predators
    John Russell, Getty Images

    If the Nashville Predators were going to build on their surprising second half success from the 2020-21 regular season they were going to need two things to happen.

    The obvious one was another big year from starting goalie Jusse Saros. Consider that box checked, as Saros is again one of the best goalies in the league.

    They were also going to need some of their big-money players to play better than they had in recent seasons, specifically as it relates to Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. That box is also checked, and in the case of Duchene, emphatically so.

    Duchene has been one of the bigger surprises in the NHL this season with the way he has bounced back offensively and starting to produce the way Nashville hoped he would when they gave him a massive seven-year, $56 million contract in free agency prior to the 2019-20 season.

    It was the latest in a long line of blockbuster additions that were supposed to help push Nashville over the top in the Western Conference only to ultimately disappoint. Kyle Turris was not that guy. Johansen has been hit and miss. And Duchene’s first two years were woefully underwhelming, resulting in just 19 goals and 55 total points in 104 games. He was one of the players (along with Johansen) that was left available to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, while it is not a stretch to believe that if Nashville could have found a taker for him they would have dumped that contract.

    [NHL Power Rankings: Avalanche stay in first; Capitals, Predators improve]

    In the end Seattle passed, Duchene remained in Nashville, and the Predators are being rewarded with one of the best seasons of his career.

    As of Monday he already has 31 goals and 59 total points in 55 games, already surpassing his total offensive production from the previous two seasons combined. He is currently on track to do something no Predators player has ever done in franchise history — score 40 goals in a single season.

    It is not empty offensive production, either. He has been one of their best possession and scoring chance drivers during 5-on-5 play, while his individual production has been second to only Filip Forsberg on a per 60 minute basis. He has been a legitimate top-line player at 5-on-5 this season and one of the most efficient power play players in the league. The latter has been a key development as the Predators have gone from one of the worst power play teams in the league (almost historically bad) to one of the best in the league this season.

    The question for Nashville is whether or not this is what they can expect from Duchene going forward, or if this is just a random flash in the pan for a declining player.

    But maybe we should have seen a bounce back coming for him this season. Even though his offensive production plummeted in his first two years, his underlying numbers were still extremely strong and among the best on the team. Few players on the roster (and especially forwards) did more to drive possession, expected goals, and chances than he did, while his ability to generate shots on goal had not really declined.

    [Related: NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Filip Forsberg trade would not be easy]

    What did decline was his finishing ability, at least based on percentages, as his all situations shooting percentage dropped all the way down to 9.6 and 8.2 percent respectively. Prior to the 2019-20 season he was consistently in the 12 to 18 percent range throughout his career in every stop, with an overall number of 13 percent. If he shoots at that level over the prior two years he adds another 10 goals to his total. If he shoots as high as 15 to 18 percent, which he had done multiple times in his career, it could have been another 14 to 18 goals. Things would have looked a lot different for him then.

    This season all of the positive underlying numbers are still there, while the finishing numbers have increased significantly. While it is unlikely he continues to finish 19 percent of his shots, it is still more in line to the rest of his career than what he had done his first two years in Nashville. If nothing else, the fact the process behind his numbers is still strong is almost as encouraging as the results. He is playing well and getting rewarded for it. As are the Predators.

    Combined with Saros’ continued excellence, another big year from Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg, and a bounce back from Ryan Johansen and the Predators suddenly have the fifth best points percentage in the Western Conference and look like a very formidable playoff team.

    10-7 Maple Leafs – Red Wings game upstages 2022 Stadium Series

    At the 2022 Stadium Series, the Predators hosted the Lightning with country music stars, jerseys that looked better on TV, a surprising helping of hatred, and some good action. There was even some unintentional comedy. Yet the hockey world had little choice but to shift its attention to an absolutely wild game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

    Let’s take a look at both spectacles, which overlapped at times on Saturday.

    Predators Lightning 2022 Stadium Series

    One of the most memorable moments of the 2022 Stadium Series happened before the Red Wings and Predators got going.

    Not long after the Predators retired his number 35, Pekka Rinne joined some Titans players (including … a punter?) to get the action going. At one point, Rinne threw a catfish, and hilarity ensued.

    Why it’s always important to have multiple camera angles:

    Perhaps sensing Corey Perry‘s presence in a Predators-related outdoor game, the 2022 Stadium Series began with a controversial hit. Ryan Johansen saw a major turn into a minor penalty for an iffy hit on Erik Cernak:

    If this was a typical game, would Ryan Johansen have received a major or minor penalty? Cernak returned to the contest, but eventually left during the second period, and did not return.

    For a portion of that game, bitter feelings carried over. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare dropped the gloves with Johansen following that hit on Cernak:

    Through the first period, rising Predators rookie Tanner Jeannot scored the only goal. That tally happened on a power play, but Tampa Bay’s special teams eventually shifted the balance.

    Truly, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point put on a clinic in the second period. Each star player scored on the man advantage in the middle frame, showing striking skill.

    Ultimately, both the Predators and Lightning scored two power-play goals during the 2022 Stadium Series. Steven Stamkos was the only play to score at even-strength, and that ended up being the game-winner.

    The Bolts won 3-2.

    But, for all the fireworks — literal and figurative — the 2022 Stadium Series got upstaged by a baffling game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. (At least Red Wings – Maple Leafs ended with about a period of Predators – Lightning remaining.)

    Maple Leafs beat Red Wings 10-7 in a nightmarish night for goalies

    If the Maple Leafs weren’t already pondering a goalie upgrade at the trade deadline, the Red Wings may have given them an extra push.

    Through the first two periods of Maple Leafs – Red Wings, the story was Mitch Marner and his hot line with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting. Overall, Marner stood out as the biggest star. He didn’t just generate his first hat trick in that game. Marner ended up with four goals and six points for the first time in his prolific NHL career.

    But people weren’t making a ton of jokes and dropping their jaws at Marner setting career-highs.

    Entering the third period, the Maple Leafs built a 7-2 lead against the Red Wings.

    In just 5:21 of that third period, the Red Wings scored four goals, shrinking the Maple Leafs’ lead to 7-6. About a minute-and-a-half later, Ilya Mikheyev made it 8-6. That wasn’t much solace, though, as Lucas Raymond scored about 45 seconds after Mikheyev, pushing the game to within a goal (8-7).

    It wasn’t until Ondrej Kase‘s shorthanded goal (the 9-7 tally) that the Maple Leafs likely felt reasonably safe against the Red Wings again. Fittingly, Marner’s fourth goal added that last bit of insurance.

    Honestly … just breathe all this wild stuff in:

    [The latest PHT Power Rankings]

    As the smoke cleared, there were some staggering numbers and plenty of jokes. Consider a few tidbits:

    • The Maple Leafs scored those 10 goals against the Red Wings without receiving a power-play opportunity.
    • Ice-cold John Tavares ended up pointless despite Toronto scoring 10 goals.
    • No surprise that it’s been more than a decade since we’ve seen an offensive onslaught like this:

    So, no shame for the Lightning, Predators, and NHL in pulling off that 2022 Stadium Series. Sometimes (OK, one time) the Maple Leafs and Red Wings just combine for 17 goals.

    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.

    5 likely playoff teams that need to add depth to become contenders

    NHL trade deadline
    Jared Silber, Getty Images

    It was two months ago that we took a look at which teams have done the best (and worst) job building around their star players with some surprising (and not-so-surprising) results. Teams like Tampa Bay, Colorado, Carolina, Florida, and Pittsburgh had done the best, icing teams that were able to still significantly outscore their opponents when their highest paid players were off the ice.

    Teams like Edmonton, Chicago, San Jose, and rebuilding teams like Buffalo, Detroit, and Arizona were predictably at the bottom.

    Now that the season is at its unofficial halfway point we wanted to take an updated look at that and zero in on some potential playoff teams that still need to better address their depth.

    You can read the initial analysis and numbers here. 

    Just as a starting point, here is an updated look at the teams with the best goal differentials when their two highest paid forwards are off the ice. Again, this is not a PERFECT barometer, but it does at least give us some idea as to which teams have been able to build around their stars at a reasonable level.

    Here are the top-10 goal differentials, and as you can see by their points percentages in the league wide standings, they are some of the best teams in the league.

    The Kings are remain the biggest surprise team on there. But everybody else? Legitimate Stanley Cup contenders that not only have superstar players, but are also able to control the game and dominate when those superstars are not playing. Great signs.

    Just for comparisons sake, here are the bottom-10 teams.

    Not surprisingly, a lot of teams that are struggling in the standings. A lot of those duos are very good (particularly the Larkin/Bertuzzi duo in Detroit and the Couture/Meier duo in San Jose) but they just have so little else around them that it holds the rest of the team back.

    But let’s take a minute to look at some teams in the middle of the pack that are likely headed to the playoffs, but still need more around their top players.

    New York Rangers

    Highest salary cap hits: Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider
    Goal differential at 5-on-5 when neither is on the ice: minus-8 (33 goals for, 41 goals against)
    Points percentage rank league wide: Seventh

    The Rangers are fascinating team because their record is stellar and has them among the best teams in the league. Their success is based on having about five high-level players having great years (Panarin, Kreider, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad) and arguably the best goalie in the league this season (Igor Shesterkin). A few game-changing superstars and an elite goalie can mask a lot of flaws and take you a long way. But there is a limit to how far that can get you, because at some point those superstars at the top are going to go cold offensively. That is when the secondary players become vital, and right now the Rangers do not have that on their bottom lines. The frustrating thing is the potential for it is there with a collection of young talent that includes Alexis Lafrenière, Kaapo Kakko, and Filip Chytl. The potential is there. It just has not happened yet. But if the Rangers are truly going to become a Stanley Cup contender this season they need to be better when Panarin and Krieder are sitting on the bench.

    Nashville Predators

    Highest salary cap hits: Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene
    Goal differential at 5-on-5 when neither is on the ice: minus-5 (35 goals for, 40 goals against)
    Points percentage rank league wide: Ninth

    At the midway point of the 2020-21 season the Predators looked like a team that needed to be torn down to the ground and rebuilt. Now they have one of the best records in the league and some of their recent big-money additions that had previously disappointed are now producing. It also helps having an elite goalie in Juuse Saros. The Predators have one of the best records in the league, but like the Rangers have some concerns from their bottom lines.

    Calgary Flames

    Highest salary cap hits: Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau
    Goal differential at 5-on-5 when neither is on the ice: minus-10 (45 goals for, 55 goals against)
    Points percentage rank league wide: 14th

    The Flames are a tale of two teams. When the Tkachuk and Gaudreau are on the ice they outscore teams by an absurd 40-10 margin. It is seriously one of the best, most productive duos in the league. They are nearly unstoppable. When those two leave the ice? Things rapidly decline and the Flames get outscored by 10 goals. You obviously do not want to separate Tkachuk and Gaudreau to balance out the scoring because they are too good together. But you are also not going to go very far in the playoffs with only one line that is capable of outscoring the other team.

    Boston Bruins

    Highest salary cap hits: Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak
    Goal differential at 5-on-5 when neither is on the ice:
    Minus-11 (41 goals for, 52 goals against)
    Points percentage rank league wide:

    Scoring depth beyond the top line has been a Boston problem for a couple of years now, and they briefly found a solution to it a year ago when Craig Smith and Taylor Hall slotted in around David Krejci on the second line. But Krejci is gone, has not been replaced, while Smith and Hall have not really had big seasons. The Bruins are a playoff team and have a lot of things going for them (amazing top line, Norris caliber defenseman in Charlie McAavoy, goalie depth) but they really need more around that top line if they are going to hang with Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina.

    Edmonton Oilers

    Highest salary cap hits: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl
    Goal differential at 5-on-5 when neither is on the ice: Minus-16 (30 goals for, 46 goals against)
    Points percentage rank league wide: 16th

    The poster child for laughably top-heavy team that needs depth. When we did our first analysis on this subject the Oilers were at the bottom of the league, literally the worst team when their top two players were off the ice. They have improved, but only marginally, and not anywhere near enough to be where they need to be. They decided Evander Kane is worth the risk and that might help on the ice, but that is probably not going to be enough given the state of the rest of the forwards, defense, and goaltending.

    NHL implementing enhanced COVID-19 protocols amid rise in cases

    Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

    The NHL is implementing enhanced COVID-19 protocols for all 32 teams, with the changes lasting through at least Jan. 7. After the new year, the league and NHLPA will revisit the issue and a decision will be made to either roll back the changes or extend them.

    The protocols, which teams experienced last season, include daily testing (no longer every third day); masks worn inside team facilities; limited interactions away from home, hotels, and rinks; and meetings to be held virtually.

    Full measures for all teams to follow can be found here.

    It’s been a week where the number of players, coaches and staff in COVID-19 protocol has risen every day. Game postponements, games in front of empty crowds, and affected rosters have been a daily occurrence. Due to rising COVID-19 numbers the NHL postponed Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Florida Panthers games through next week’s holiday break.

    [MORE: Quarantine concerns loom over NHL participation in Olympics]

    On Friday, the NHL announced that Saturday’s Bruins-Canadiens game in Montreal was postponed. At least six Bruins players are on the NHL COVID protocol list.

    Jeremy Swayman, Anton Blidh and Trent Frederic entered Thursday, after Patrice Bergeron (Wednesday), along with Craig Smith and Brad Marchand (both on Tuesday). A staff member is also in protocol.

    Twenty-nine games have been postponed so far due to COVID-19 outbreaks and over 140 players have entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol this season. The Omicron variant has been found in some positive test results. All but one current player is vaccinated and many have already received booster shots. Vaccination is not mandated, but encouraged.

    Players speaking out

    There are no indications that the league is planning to pause the season despite more and more players expressing their concerns.

    “When you get to 60 to 80 players who have COVID, that’s a big percentage of our league,” said Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin. “I don’t think it’s good for hockey either when a team is missing five or six players — it takes away from the NHL. It will be up to the league to make a decision on whether we stop playing for a bit, but I would tell you it’s really not ideal.”

    Nick Cousins is one of 12 Predators players and staff currently in COVID-19 protocol.

    As the number of cases continues to rise, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be more postponements. The league does have a three-day break next weekend, but will empty arenas like what we saw in Montreal, or ones with reduced capacity, like what Ontario will experience beginning Saturday, come next to try and help slow the spread?


    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.