When discussion about the NHL’s playoff format comes up, there is a section of fans who would like to see the league allow for an even greater reward for top teams other than home-ice advantage. That idea has become a reality thanks to the Southern Professional Hockey League. The 10-team SPHL announced on Monday that they are overhauling their opening round and turning it into what’s being dubbed the “Challenge Round.” The top three teams will get to choose their first-round opponent during a “Challenge Round Selection” event which will be broadcast to fans on Sunday, April 8, the day after the regular season concludes. After the top three seeds select their opponents, the No. 4 team will be
Clayton Keller received a special kind of rookie treatment last season moments before his NHL debut with the Arizona Coyotes. Like other young players around the league, Keller’s teammates stayed behind in the tunnel and the rookie ended up taking a solo lap during warmups before a game against the St. Louis Blues last March. The moment was extra special for Keller, who grew up playing youth hockey in area under the tutelage of former NHLers Jeff Brown and Keith Tkachuk. As a kid, Keller would attend Blues games with his father and grandfather, and it was there that his NHL dreams began to develop. As those dreams came closer to reality, it was his late grandfather who played a huge role in Keller
Here are USA TODAY Sports' NHL power rankings based primarily on the team's start, with some consideration to schedule and level of play. 1. Chicago Blackhawks (4-1-1) Fourth in goals per game and third in goals against. So much for taking a step backward. 2. Los Angeles Kings (4-0-1) Last year’s decline was about Jonathan Quick’s injury, and he’s back. 3. Ottawa Senators (3-0-2) Impressive start for a team playing without Erik Karlsson, who is set to return Tuesday. 4. New Jersey Devils (4-1-0) Are they the NHL’s most improved team? Sample size too small to know for sure, but their start shows they are a team on the rise. 5. Toronto Maple Leafs (4-1-0) Maple Leafs are showing a 1980s offense,
–Vegas Golden Knights players knew they’d be in for a unique experience heading into this year, but they could have never imagined that they’d be helping a city heal from a significant tragedy. “It’s special to be here and to try to rebuild this city,” said forward Reilly Smith. “We’re trying to be a team that this city can stand behind.” (Miami Herald) –Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek scored his first two career NHL goals in last week’s game against the Penguins. His mom, Karen, may have given him the nudge he needed to start producing. (Tampa Bay Times) –ESPN hockey writers make their selections for the biggest surprise of the 2017-18 season so far. Hint: There’s plenty of Leafs and Blackhawks
Last season, neither the Tampa Bay Lightning nor the New Jersey Devils reached the Stanley Cup playoffs. For the Lightning (5-1-0), it is a quick trip back atop the standings, while for the Devils (4-1-0), this is rarified air for a club that finished last in the Eastern Conference a year ago and failed to reach the playoffs the past five years. A 3-2 road win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday extended the Lightning's winning streak to four games as they became the first team in the league to reach 10 points.