Welcome to another edition of NHL Insights as we look at the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights and more.
Welcome to another edition of NHL Insights. Following a week off thanks to a busy trade deadline, the regular season is starting to wind down and there are a lot of interesting teams and storylines. The New York Rangers were one of the more successful teams at the trade deadline as their acquisitions are paying dividends right away. Another interesting team is the Toronto Maple Leafs as they are battling three other teams in a tight Atlantic Division, but they are doing so without their two starting goalies in the lineup. Then there is the Vegas Golden Knights, who find themselves on the outside looking in a Wild Wild Western Conference Playoff race.
Time to dive into some NHL Insights for the past week.
NHL Insights: New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers continue to have a great season. Many fans were not happy with general manager Chris Drury‘s trade deadline. However, Drury was practical and smart by not overspending to acquire Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Justin Braun. All of whom have made an impact with the Rangers since being acquired. Vatrano has five goals in nine games with the Rangers playing in the top six for the Rangers. Copp has been excellent either playing centre or wing. Not to mention Copp’s ability to play on the penalty kill or on the power play. Copp has seven points in six games with the Rangers. Motte has added an edge to the Rangers on their fourth line to go along with Ryan Reaves.
And how about the play of Chris Kreider, he leads the team in goals with 46 as he closes in on 50 goals for the season. Kreider also leads the league in tip-in goals with 16 with Joe Pavelski right behind him in second. Then there is the play of Igor Shesterkin. As Shesterkin goes so do the Rangers. Though Alexandar Georgiev has been playing well when he has played more. Interestingly enough, the Rangers will still look to move him in the offseason.
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Speaking of goaltending, the Toronto Maple Leafs have some issues in between the pipes. With no Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, the Maple Leafs have been relying on Erik Källgren and Michael Hutchinson, who is back with the team. Mrazek got hurt this past week again in Boston and is lost for the remainder of the regular season. With Campbell back, it takes the pressure off Kallgren, who did a great job filling in. The Maple Leafs have played well in front of Kallgren, but they did that earlier in the year in front of Campbell as well.
With the way this division is playing out, there is no easy matchup for the Maple Leafs heading into the playoffs. All along we thought Toronto was taking on either Florida or Tampa Bay, but there is a real chance the Maple Leafs could play Boston. Though their offence is playing really well, with Auston Matthews eclipsing the 50 goal mark, you have to wonder if their defence and goaltending will hold up during a long playoff series. Mark Giordano certainly helps the cause, but they will need a team effort moving forward. And Jack Campbell to play like he showed he has the capability of if they want to erase the first-round playoff ghosts.
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Vegas Golden Knights
Who would have thought prior to the regular season the Vegas Golden Knights would be on the outside looking in on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But that is where the Golden Knights found themselves. It is a mixture of things that have put the Golden Knights in this position. From the continuous injuries to being up against the salary cap, the Golden Knights are not having the season they wanted. Let’s face some facts, the goaltending has not been good this year either. Maybe just maybe they gave the wrong goaltender the contract extension. Nothing against Robin Lehner, but he is more of 1B than a starter and it is showing this year.
The Golden Knights will need help if they want to get into the playoffs. They are holding onto the final wild card spot in the West and they need some of their big guns back. Mark Stone being one of them. If they can get him back, the Golden Knights have a chance. But it will be tough as they don’t control their own destiny. Jack Eichel is doing everything he can, but the Golden Knights are missing something that made them special in 2018.
Wide Open Wild Card Race
Speaking of the playoffs, there are about seven teams fighting for the final two spots in the Western Conference. It is truly the Wild Wild West. We talked about the Golden Knights, but the Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks are all in the mix. Edmonton and St. Louis occupy the third spot in their respective divisions, but either one of them could fall in the standings with only points separating the third and fourth place spots in each division.
The Canucks are the furthest team out as they are eight points behind the Golden Knights. Winnipeg is six points out and both the Canucks and Jets have the hardest paths to get to the playoffs. Dallas has the easiest as they have three games in hand as they control their own destiny to get. There is a scenario where the Central Division gets five teams in the playoffs. But things change daily in the Wild Wild West.
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