The Final Week

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It’s the last week (and a half) of the regular season that went on 10 days longer than it was scheduled to, due to COVID cancellations as well as a snowstorm in Texas.

I want to thank the entire hockey staff including Ryan Dadoun, Corey Abbott, Joey Alfieri, Jeff Alfieri, Anna Dua, Dan Dobish and Gus Katsaros for all their hard work. Also, kudos to McKeens Hockey (Rob Howard) and their outstanding personnel for their weekly Prospects Reports.

In addition, there are so many people behind the scenes that are vital and make it so much easier. Thanks go out to Ed Williams, Aaron Solomon, Michael Murphy, Christopher Wilson, Jungkyu Lee, Steven Howard and the entire NBC sports desk. I sure hope I didn’t miss anyone.

As well, thanks to all the video producers who were instrumental in helping Joey and I. Thank you Stephen DeAugustino, Bryan Rubin, Melissa Persaud, Dan Carcamo, Jenna Mauriello and Kylan Watson for all your great work.

Finally, thanks to everyone who reads our columns and blurbs. It has been a compacted but great season.

Looking forward to the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NHL Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code WELCOME10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more

WEEK OF MAY 10-16

5 Games – Vancouver

3 Games Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Winnipeg

2 Games – Boston, Calgary, Minnesota, Montreal, Toronto, Vegas

1 Game – Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Washington

0 Games – Anaheim, Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, Detroit, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh

WEEK OF MAY 17-19

2 Games – Calgary, Vancouver

0 Games – Everyone else

Vancouver plays four games on the road.

Winnipeg plays three games at home.

Any crossed off games have been postponed due to the coronavirus and are expected to be replayed at a later date.

INJURIES

Samuel Girard is out with an undisclosed injury but should return in time for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

ANAHEIM

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Ducks finished the season on the weekend and are done for the season as they did not make the playoffs...While it was a tough season, Anaheim did get a lot younger and we got to see their future as Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale made their NHL debuts...Toss in fellow youngsters Max Comtois, Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Max Jones and Isac Lundstrom and you see why the Ducks are excited about the transformation of their team in the next couple of seasons...Veteran Ryan Getzlaf has only five goals and 17 points in 47 games and turns 36 on Sunday. He is eligible to become a UFA after completing his eight-year/$66 million deal and while he will provide a calming voice in the dressing room and a veteran presence on the ice, he will have to take a serious cut in pay to remain. Getzlaf may want to have a better chance at winning another Stanley Cup before he retires...Ryan Miller will retire at the end of the season and David Backes is likely to as well.

ARIZONA

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Coyotes have been eliminated as they are six points in arrears of the St. Louis Blues and have only two games left on their schedule...Jakob Chychrun became a number one defenseman this season as he has a team-league 18 goals and 39 points...His 18 markers lead all defensemen...There is some young talent up front with Conor Garland, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz but there is no star in the making...The goaltending duo of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta is fine when healthy, but that has been a rare occurrence...Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel have had good seasons for the Coyotes...They really need a star but there doesn’t seem to be one in the pipeline.

BOSTON

Games this week

vs. New York Islanders, @ Washington

Tired: @ Washington (Tuesday)

Rested: None

Notes

The Bruins enter the playoffs with a great top line in Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron and have finally got themselves a good second unit with David Krejci between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith...The second unit should take some pressure off the Bergeron line in the playoffs...The Bruins have a good young defense but may miss the veteran presence of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug who left in the off-season via free agency...The acquisition of Mike Reilly at the trade deadline helped and with Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo leading the way, the Bruins are young and mobile...Tuukka Rask has been great this season in net and rookie Jeremy Swayman has nudged out veteran Jaroslav Halak as the backup at this time.

Editor’s Note: The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins face off Saturday on NBC starting at 3:00 pm ET. Livestream all the action here.

BUFFALO

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

It has been a disaster of a season for the Sabres who came into the 2020-21 campaign looking to make the playoffs...But the signing of Taylor Hall in the off-season did not work out and the Sabres ended up getting only a second-round pick from the Bruins...The biggest loss however was their star, Jack Eichel who played in only 21 games, scoring only twice and adding two assists as he had a herniated disc in his neck. He is expected to be fully recovered in time for the start of the 2021-22 season and that is good news for Buffalo fans...The goaltending was fine when Linus Ullmark was between the pipes but that was not frequent enough due to injuries...Rasmus Dahlin took a huge step back under former coach Ralph Krueger but bounced back when Don Granato took over the reins...There is talent on the Sabres but certainly not enough to make a playoff push next season.

CALGARY

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Vancouver, @ Vancouver, vs. Vancouver

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Flames play their first two games against the Canucks on Thursday and Sunday and then follow it up with a pair of games Tuesday and Wednesday so they play three games in four nights...Calgary is on the verge of being eliminated as they are 10 points behind Montreal with five games remaining...Their new head coach Darryl Sutter will make the Flames better next season...You have to wonder if Johnny Gaudreau will be on the trade block in the off-season as the Flames need to do something to turn their fortunes around as this group has dropped like a rock since winning the Pacific Division in 2018-19...They need to build the team around Matthew Tkachuk up front and Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki on the back end...Calgary does have a good goaltender in Jacob Markstrom but that did not do them any good this season.

CAROLINA

Games this week

@ Nashville

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Hurricanes have been one of the biggest surprises of the season as they are first in the Central, forcing the Tampa Bay Lightning to play the Florida Panthers (as of this writing) while Carolina will likely face Nashville...The goaltending has been fabulous...It was thought that Petr Mrazek would carry the load but a couple of injuries have held him to just 11 starts. He has been spectacular with a 6-1-3/1.77/.934, but the real story has been rookie Alex Nedeljkovic who is 15-4-3 with a 1.89 GAA and a .932 save percentage, relegating James Reimer to the press box when Mrazek has been healthy...On the blueline, Dougie Hamilton has been superb with 10 goals and 42 points this season and the rest of the blueline including Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce have been more than adequate while the addition at the trade deadline of hard-hitting Jani Hakanpaa will help in the post-season...The Hurricanes are strong at forward with stars like Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Andrei Svechnikov, a resurgent Jordan Staal, as well as Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen...This team is going to be a handful for everyone.

CHICAGO

Games this week

vs. Dallas

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blackhawks entered the season as a perceived bottom-dweller, especially after losing their top-two centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach...But the Blackhawks were competitive throughout much of the season, thanks to goaltender Kevin Lankinen as the rookie grabbed the top job and didn’t let go until recently, going 16-14-5 with a .908 save percentage. He faltered late in the season but showed early on that he was a capable starting NHL goaltender...They still have the great Patrick Kane who is a top-ten scorer in the NHL and Alex DeBrincat returned to his goal-scoring self after an off 2019-20 season...Dominik Kubalik and Pius Suter should improve next season and getting Dach back at full strength, as well as Toews who ended up missing the entire season, will help the cause...Chicago needs help on the blueline but Adam Boqvist should take another step forward next season.

COLORADO

Games this week

@ Vegas, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Los Angeles

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Avalanche play three games in four nights with the big one being in Vegas as first place in the West should be on the line...Philipp Grubauer show see all the action as long as the Avalanche have a chance to finish first but if there is no chance, then Jonas Johansson will see the crease as Devan Dubnyk is out of action in COVID protocol...The Avs head into the playoffs with one of, if not the best, line in the NHL with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog...They have an outstanding young defense led by Cale Makar with Devon Toews, Samuel Girard and Ryan Graves providing outstanding support...Girard is out with an undisclosed injury but should be back for the start of the playoffs...The Vegas game has huge implications if the Avs manage to win in regulation...They are going to be a tough matchup for anyone.

COLUMBUS

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blue Jackets do not play this week and will finish the season out of the playoffs...Columbus has a big call to make as to who is their number one goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins as they need so much on forward and the blueline that having two netminders who are capable of being number one in net, is a luxury they cannot afford at this time...Their blueline is very good when healthy, led by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski but Werenski has had trouble staying healthy this season after leading all defensemen in goals last season with 20...I like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic and Patrik Laine as a solid beginning on forward while veteran Cam Atkinson should provide 20-plus goals in a full season...Don’t expect coach John Tortorella back next season as he needs a new contract and Columbus could go in a different direction.

DALLAS

Games this week

@ Chicago

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Stars need help to make the playoffs...They are four points in arrears of the Nashville Predators and have three games left while Nashville has two...The real bad news is that Nashville holds the tie-breaker so the Stars have to beat them outright...They finally got Tyler Seguin back after he missed the entire season after off-season hip surgery...Dallas has been pleasantly surprised by rookie Jason Robertson who seemed to come out of nowhere to pick up 16 goals and 43 points in 48 games and toss himself right in the middle of Calder consideration...I love Miro Heiskanen and can see a Norris Trophy in his future and the Stars have to be thrilled with rookie netminder Jake Oettinger who has the makings of a very good starting goaltender...Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov are top-six forwards as well so there is a lot of good things to look forward to in Dallas.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out NBCSportsEdge Player News, and follow @NBCSEdge HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

DETROIT

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Red Wings made some strides this season and needed to after being the worst team in the NHL by far in the 2019-20 campaign...After a shaky start, Thomas Greiss settled down and by the end of the season, both he and Jonathan Bernier gave Detroit adequate goaltending...They missed Tyler Bertuzzi up front as he managed to play only nine games at the start of the season and underwent successful back surgery which should have him ready and raring to go for the start of the 2021-22 season...Dylan Larkin missed 12 games this season and that hurt as he is tied for the team lead in points with only 23...There is some hope with Filip Zadina taking a big step forward and he should be joined by 2020 first round pick Lucas Raymond next season...Filip Hronek leads the blueline and he had a good season with two goals and 21 assists to date...Moritz Seider was selected sixth overall in 2019 and he has excelled overseas and should be ready to make a huge impact next season...Add in forwards Robby Fabbri, and former first round picks Joe Veleno and Evgeni Svechnikov as well as who they are able to draft this season and the bottoming out of the Red Wings is complete and they are moving on up.

EDMONTON

Games this week

@ Montreal, @ Montreal, vs. Vancouver

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Oilers have the great Connor McDavid and he outshines everyone else, not only on Edmonton but the entire NHL...He needs only four points in his last four games to hit the 100-point mark, an outstanding feat in the 56-game NHL this season...His 1.85 points-per-game this season is a mark that hasn’t been seen in 25 years...Leon Draisaitl is second in NHL scoring and seems to be in the large shadow cast by McDavid, even though he was last season’s Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner...Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi contribute up front but the Oilers get little else up front with the possible exception of Kailer Yamamoto...They will need more in the playoffs...Darnell Nurse is outstanding on the blueline and Tyson Barrie is an offensive stud with Adam Larsson providing solid defensive play...Mike Smith will be relied on in net and he has been great this season, going 19-6-2 with a 2.26 GAA and a .925 save percentage as the Oilers will be seeded second in the North.

FLORIDA

Games this week

vs. Tampa Bay

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Panthers will likely face their cross-state rival Tampa Bay in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the first time this has occurred...Coach Joel Quenneville has a decision to make in net as $70 million man Sergei Bobrovsky has had the poorest season of any of the three goalies (Chris Driedger and Spencer Knight) but has the most experience by far...I would go with Knight to start and see how he does, but it is not my decision thankfully...Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau are as good a one-two punch up front as any team in the NHL not named Edmonton, and if Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist are healthy, the Panthers will be tough to go against...The acquisition of Sam Bennett from Calgary has been outstanding and he plays his best hockey in the post-season...The blueline will miss Aaron Ekblad but he could return late in the third round if Florida gets that far...MacKenzie Weegar is very underrated while Florida made a nice trade to get Brandon Montour from Buffalo.

LOS ANGELES

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, @ Colorado, @ Colorado

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Kings play three games this week in four nights...Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick have been sharing the net but look for Quick to play the last home game and have the duo split the games in Colorado...Los Angeles made strides this season as Petersen has shown he is capable of starting in the NHL...They have sprinkled in their youth to the lineup but still relied on veterans Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty...Quinton Byfield, the second overall pick in 2020, made his NHL debut late in the season and he is going to eventually take over as the Kings top center. He picked up his first NHL point, an assist in his fifth game on Wednesday...By the way, congratulations to Anze Kopitar who hit the 1,000 point mark in the same game...They have some nice young talent already at the NHL-level in Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo and Gabriel Vilardi but there is still so much in the farm system...Tobias Bjornfot is their best youngster on the blueline as the future is bright in Los Angeles.

MINNESOTA

Games this week

@ St. Louis, @ St. Louis

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Wild were another big surprise this season as they were expected to battle Arizona for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West but instead battled Vegas and Colorado for first place...The received great goaltending, first from rookie Kaapo Kahkonen and then veteran Cam Talbot got healthy and took over the reins...Talbot is 18-7-5 with a 2.58 GAA and a .918 save percentage and he will give the opposition few chances to score...Kirill Kaprizov is the favorite for the Calder Trophy and he leads the Wild in goals and points with 26 and 47 respectively...Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello, Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek are having good seasons at forward while Victor Rask is still centering the top line...Jonas Brodin has made a great leap forward offensively and he and Jared Spurgeon, along with Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba give the Wild a strong and veteran blueline...The Wild will give everyone they play in the post-season fits this year.

MONTREAL

Games this week

vs. Edmonton, vs. Edmonton

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Canadiens need only one point to clinch a playoff spot in the North and are still in sight of the reeling Winnipeg Jets for third place...They really need Carey Price to get healthy and lead them in the playoffs as he is capable of stealing a series or two...If you don’t believe me, ask the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins...Jeff Petry is the leader of the defensive corps as Shea Weber is not the defenseman is was in his younger days...Up front, you have to be impressed with the free-agent signing of Tyler Toffoli who has 28 goals, good for a tie for fifth in the NHL...Nick Suzuki is having a fine season and the recent addition of Cole Caufield, this year’s winner of the Hobey Baker Trophy as the best college hockey player in the United States has really helped as he scored two overtime winning goals in his first five NHL games. The Canadiens do need Price to stand on his head if they hope to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

NASHVILLE

Games this week

vs. Carolina

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Predators are a surprise team in the sense that everyone thought that GM David Poile should bust up the team at the trade deadline...But the Predators got hot and are on the verge of making the post-season where they should face the Carolina Hurricanes...Juuse Saros has taken over as the starting goaltender and deservedly so as he has been great while veteran Pekka Rinne gets an occasional start these days. Saros is capable of a first-round upset if he is on...Roman Josi, the 2020 Norris Trophy winner, is the Predators best player and he controls the game from the back end...Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm give the Predators a great blueline, one of the best in the NHL...Nashville finally got Filip Forsberg back from injury on May 1 and need him to be at his best in the playoffs...Calle Jarnkrok, Mikael Granlund, Eeli Tolvanen and Viktor Arvidsson all need to provide some scoring while Matt Duchene needs to find his form from a few years ago, rather than his four goals and seven assists in 32 games this season.

NEW JERSEY

Games this week

@ Philadelphia

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Devils have a lot of good young players and are on the verge of being a playoff contender in a few years...Mackenzie Blackwood gives them strong goaltending, something they really haven’t had since Martin Brodeaur left although Cory Schneider was relevant for a few seasons...There is a lot of talent up front with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt while Pavel Zacha has finally come into his own as he is leading the Devils in points with 34...There is a lot to be happy about with their forwards and Ty Smith made huge strides as a rookie and will be relied upon to lead the blueline.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Games this week

@ Boston

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Islanders head into the playoffs in a bit of a struggle as they are 2-4-2 in their last eight games...They have fallen from first place to fourth and will face either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals...They have one of the top-two goaltending tandems in the NHL with Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin and one great thing the Isles have going for them is that coach Barry Trotz has them playing playoff style hockey all the time...Mathew Barzal leads the offense and the additions of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils will help in the Stanley Cup playoffs...Add in Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Oliver Wahlstrom, Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the Isles may have enough offense to succeed...Nick Leddy has been the top offensive scorer on the blueline while Ryan Pulock and Noah Dobson give them some extra offense on occasion.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None
Notes

New York ends the season out of the playoffs but there is so much to look forward to...They have an excellent young goalkeeper in Igor Shesterkin with Alexandar Georgiev as a capable backup and their young blueliners consisting of Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller and Ryan Lindgren along with veteran Jacob Trouba, should be among the best in a couple of seasons...Fox is there now as he leads all NHL defensemen with 47 points as the second-year pro should get plenty of Norris consideration...Artemi Panarin is one of the best forwards in the NHL and Mika Zibanejad has been great since the middle of March as he started the season with 11 points in 27 games before scoring 19 goals and 37 points in his last 28 contests...Add in youngsters Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov, and the future is so bright in the bright lights of New York.

OTTAWA

Games this week

vs. Toronto

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Senators are another team who did not make the playoffs but have a very good up and coming team...Brady Tkachuk is their star at forward with players like Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris just behind...Norris should get some Calder consideration, certainly more than Stutzle who will likely have a better NHL career...Drake Batherson and Colin White are also up and comers...On the blueline, Thomas Chabot is their star but look out for Erik Brannstrom, Artem Zub and rookie Jacob Bernard-Docker as the Senators have so much young talent and we haven’t even mentioned the fifth-overall pick in the 2020 Draft, defenseman Jake Sanderson...The Senators hope that Matt Murray can rebound from a tough start this season and be a solid NHL goaltender...The good news is that he has already won two Stanley Cups, leading the Penguins a few seasons ago.

PHILADELPHIA

Games this week

vs. New Jersey

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Flyers were a major disappointment this season as it was thought they would make the playoffs...Instead, they will finish sixth in the East, ahead of lowly New Jersey and Buffalo...Carter Hart was considered a top-ten NHL goaltender heading into the season but he has been anything but that this year, going 9-11-5 with a 3.67 GAA and a .877 save percentage...That hurt as he played them out of so many games in the middle of the season that the Flyers collapsed under the pressure...The Flyers scoring was not the problem as they scored 151 times in 53 games but they gave up 191 goals including eight into the empty net...Ivan Provorov is their best defenseman and they have some good young blueliners behind him in Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers and newcomer Cam York...They have a lot of veterans still carrying them offensively with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and James van Riemsdyk leading the way while Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny also help out. Look for the Flyers to be a lot better next season as they cannot be much worse.

PITTSBURGH

Games this week

None

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Penguins are the only playoff bound team to not play this week and you have to wonder if that will hurt or help the team...Pittsburgh could easily surprise and come out of the East as their top line consists of Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel while Evgeni Malkin centers the second unit with Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen...They got a big boost in the trade market, acquiring Jeff Carter who scored four times on Thursday, and he centers the third unit with Jared McCann and Frederik Gaudreau on his wings, giving the Penguins a top-nine that are as good as any in the NHL...The blueline is led by Kris Letang with Brian Dumoulin providing outstanding defensive play as his partner...Mike Matheson has been a nice surprise since his trade from Florida in the off-season...The goaltending has Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith and that could be their only weakness come playoff time as there are better goaltending options in the East.

SAN JOSE

Games this week

vs. Vegas

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Sharks are in trouble as they missed the playoffs this season and have an aging team...They have devoted too much money to their older defense as Brett Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Erik Karlsson are each at least 30 years of age and the trio take up $26.5 million of their $81 million salary cap...It is not like they are anything special anymore but the Sharks are still playing for it...There are a couple of youthful defensemen worth mentioning in Mario Ferraro and Nikolai Knyzhov for the future...The offense has been okay with Evander Kane, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl the top players up front...Timo Meier had a 30-goal season two years ago and is still capable of scoring but there is not a lot to look forward to up front...Martin Jones has been adequate at best in net and they are giving Josef Korenar and Alexei Melnichuk a chance to get their feet wet at the NHL level coming down the stretch.

ST. LOUIS

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, vs. Minnesota, vs. Minnesota

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Blues play three times in four nights this week...Jordan Binnington should get two starts with Ville Husso picking up one...The Blues thought that they were a top-three team in the West but that was not to be in the regular season as they battled it out with Arizona for fourth, before eliminating them this past week...While David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly have been good at forward, players like Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko have disappointed this season as has Mike Hoffman for the most part...Torey Krug was their big free-agent signing as he replaced the departing Alex Pietrangelo but Krug has only one goal this season although he has managed 28 assists...Justin Faulk and Vince Dunn each have six goals and 20 points this season and the Blues finally have Colton Parayko back after he missed 23 games...They need Binnington to play like he did in 2019 when he led them to the Stanley Cup, if the Blues hope to do anything in the playoffs.

TAMPA BAY

Games this week

@ Florida

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Lightning were expected to finish first in the Central but that is not happening and they are to face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs...They will get Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov back and if both are back to form, they will be tough to beat...The Lightning have the best goaltender in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy and while they have had problems with their backups, they will not need one in the playoffs unless Vasilevskiy is injured...Victor Hedman is the top defenseman in the league and it doesn’t seem fair that the Lightning have so much talent as Mkhail Sergachev and David Savard round out a terrific top-three...In addition to Stamkos and Kucherov, Tampa Bay has Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn and Blake Coleman as well at forward...They are going to be favorites coming out of the Central, even if Carolina finished in the top spot.

TORONTO

Games this week

@ Ottawa, @ Winnipeg

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Maple Leafs are the best team in the North with the only controversy coming in goal as Frederik Andersen has been out since March and Jack Campbell has taken over as the starter...The problem with Campbell is that he has not had any playoff experience and while Andersen has, he has had his problems in the last few seasons...Their offense is amazing with the NHL’s leading goal scorer Auston Matthews (40) leading the way...Add in Mitch Marner who is third in NHL scoring with 66 points, the red-hot John Tavares and William Nylander and the Leafs will be able to outscore any team in the North...Toughness has been a problem the last few seasons but GM Kyle Dubas added Wayne Simmonds, Riley Nash and Nick Foligno to Zach Hyman and Toronto will be extra hard to play against...While Morgan Rielly is their top offensive defenseman, the Leafs additions of Zach Bogosian and T.J. Brodie in the off-season with Jake Muzzin already there, make them Stanley Cup contenders.

VANCOUVER

Games this week

@ Winnipeg, @ Winnipeg, @ Calgary, @ Edmonton, vs. Calgary, vs. Calgary, @ Calgary

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Canucks play a whopping seven games in the last 10 days of the season and if you are in a roto-league, grab as many Canucks as you can down the stretch...Vancouver plays five times this week and twice the following week...It has been a tough last half of the season for Vancouver as they had a horrible outbreak of COVID that caused them to miss 25 straight days of action, forcing the schedule to be extended 10 days...They have a lot of young talent with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Nils Hoglander up front and Quinn Hughes on the blueline but Vancouver does not have enough good veterans to challenge at this time...Thatcher Demko proved this season that he is a number one goaltender and that helps but they need more veterans like J.T. Miller if they are going to challenge for a playoff spot next season.

VEGAS

Games this week

vs. Colorado, @ San Jose

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Golden Knights are Stanley Cup contenders and are currently the top team in the West...Their goaltending tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner is outstanding and is the best in the West with only the combo of Varlamov and Sorokin on the Island considered even close...They habve Alex Pietrangelo to head up the defense with Shea Theodore and while Pietrangelo disappointed this season, he can redeem himself in the Stanley Cup playoffs...Mark Stone may be the best two-way winger in the NHL and that will help in the post-season and has Max Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson as his linemates with William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith heading up the second line...Don’t forget about Peyton Krebs who was drafted 17th overall in 2019 and would have gone much higher had he not injured his Achilles tendon just three weeks before the draft...The Golden Knights and Avs should be an amazing second round match if they are able to get past their first-round opponents.

WASHINGTON

Games this week

vs. Boston

Tired: None

Rested: vs. Boston (Tuesday)

Notes

The Capitals are in a fight for first place and tempers sure flared this week in a pair of games against the New York Rangers...They are hurting up front at this time with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov out of action and the extra week added to the end of the schedule will certainly help...The Capitals have a pair of young goaltenders in Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov and that may be a thorn in their side as the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs tend to play havoc with some young goalkeepers... On the blueline they are led by John Carlson who is one of the best in the NHL, with Justin Schultz, Brenden Dillon and Dmitry Orlov providing backup while Zdeno Chara gives them a veteran presence...Nicklas Backstrom leads the Caps in points with 53 while T.J. Oshie, the controversial Tom Wilson, Lars Eller, Daniel Sprong and newcomer Anthony Mantha will help Ovechkin and Kuznetsov up front.

WINNIPEG

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, vs. Vancouver, vs. Toronto

Tired: None

Rested: None

Notes

The Jets are reeling, losers of seven straight games but that could bode well come playoff time as so many teams are streaky and the Jets could go on a run once they end this streak...Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina and while he hasn’t been as good this season, he is still so capable of being great...Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Paul Stastny are as good a top-six as there is in the NHL while Andrew Copp will chip in as well...Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey head up the blueline as well as quarterback the top-two power plays...The Jets are capable of going on a run and could surprise so many in the North.