Monday, April 30, 2018

Pool Outlook for Carolina

I certainly had some much greater expectations from this Carolina Hurricanes team, but there's a good chance that the yips might have got the best of them a little bit in 2018, as they are still a young team, growing into themselves and teams around them in their division, just had a little bit more experience and got the best of them.

By no means were the Hurricanes a terrible team, but playing in the Metropolitan Division is a tough slog, especially for a young team.  The Hurricanes were not overly strong at home, still over .500, but could have been better.  They were okay on the road, just under .500, which isn't awful.  They tinkered a bit in the off-season, bringing on a new goalie, who faltered during the year and they had to go back to an old trusty keeper for the back half of the year, but the bright side of it all is, they have a core that gained a year's worth of experience and are sticking together for a while.

Or are they?  The Hurricanes now have new ownership and this new owner is really putting his stamp on things, changing up the dynamics of the team's front office, which has bled down to the coaching staff and there could be more changes abound.  The team still hasn't found a new General Manager, the coaching vacancy is still warm from the departed Bill Peters and we don't really know what to expect going forward.  All we can really do is look back on this past year and then speculate about moving forward.

20-year old Finnish winger Sebastian Aho was the team's top player in the 2018 season and he was truly the team's breakout player in the year, but he wasn't going to carry this team... not yet, anyways.  In the 2018 season, he finished with 29 goals and 65 points in 78 games, good enough for 60th overall in pool scoring, 45th among all forwards, qualifying him for a 3rd round pick in the draft redo among our 25 teams.  That's a pretty good finish, indeed.

Teuvo Teravainen, Justin Williams, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan were also pool worthy from the forward positions, contributing well, but clearly not often enough for the team not to make the playoffs.  Noah Hanifin, Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin were all pool worthy from the blueline, keeping a pretty good handle on things from back there.  Then, both goalies played (and won) enough to both be considered as pool worthy, Cam Ward finishing 24th among goalies and Scott Darling finished 47th, a goaltending tandem that definitely had its struggles through the year, but did well enough to get the mentions here.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

Already adding a new goalie to the mix in this off-season, before the playoffs have even ended, gives us all the impression that the Hurricanes are out to do something next season... and I certainly think they can. They only fell four wins short from a playoff spot and the team's gradual improvement, both on paper and on the ice, suggests to me that they are going to be hunting for that playoff spot again. This team could really do with one more pool worthy forward to help carry the load offensively, but with Skinner making a comeback and Aho emerging as a solid option, they do have lots to play with already in-house. If the Hurricanes don't make it to the playoffs at this time next season, they'll be damn close to it.

The Hurricanes didn't make the playoffs and they were 7 wins back of the two wild card teams in the Eastern Conference.  Does that make them close?  Florida was technically closer, so I would probably say no... they weren't close to it.  The goaltending situation let them down, the defense wasn't much better, but the youthful side of this team may have gotten the best of them.  It isn't to say that they're not close to competing, but it had to be a frustrating season, not to be able to do it in 2018.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

Defenseman Jaccob Slavin was my pick for the most intriguing player on the Hurricanes roster, heading into the 2018 season, especially since the team's blueline still carries some relative unknowns, including Slavin.  Slavin's previous two season's numbers were impressive enough for the team's management (at the time) to sign him to a long 7-year extension and he turned around and put up a 30-point season, down a bit from my projections, but still a decent season.  He's certainly going to be one of those players that could surprise down the line.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Jordan Staal 6.000 Jaccob Slavin 5.300 Scott Darling 4.150
Jeff Skinner 5.725 Justin Faulk 4.833 Alex Nedeljkovic 0.812
Justin Williams 4.500 Brett Pesce 4.025
Victor Rask 4.000 Haydn Fleury 0.863
Marcus Kruger 3.083 Roland McKeown 0.745
Teuvo Teravainen 2.860 Jake Bean 0.894
Sebastian Aho 0.925 Josh Wesley 0.695
Martin Necas 0.925
Julien Gauthier 0.894
Brock McGinn 0.888
Janne Kuokkanen 0.843
Warren Foegele 0.747
Nicolas Roy 0.720

There are a good number of exciting players on this Carolina Hurricanes team, which makes them a great candidate for some bargain picks at the hockey pool draft.  Unless you're right in the thick of their own market, the Hurricanes tend to hide in the reeds and quietly go about their business.  The trick is always not to pick them too high.  The team has some worthy elements on their current summer roster, but depth will need to be addressed, first and foremost.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Four of their pool worthy players are on the verge of free agency, key young cogs to the organization Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin are looking for big deals to go forward with, while Derek Ryan and Cam Ward may question their roles with the team this summer and may hit the open market.

The struggle for the Hurricanes, even putting together that 22-man roster above, was getting to last season's salary cap floor and this year, it'll go up even further.  Thankfully, the Lindholm and Hanifin deals will see to it that it won't be a struggle to get to the floor, but will they start spending to get to the ceiling any time soon?  With a buyout on the books, I currently have their cap space, with the roster above and a buyout, at $18.2 million.

It was hard to miss Martin Necas at this past World Junior tourney, as he dazzled for the Czech Republic, alongside countryman Filip Zadina and this certainly has the Hurricanes excited for the near future.  Carolina already boasts some pretty good young talent on their roster, especially on the blueline, so if Necas can fill that void as a very good offensive centre in the next couple of years, the Metropolitan Division race only gets that much tighter.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
The Hurricanes scored huge at the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday night, moving all the way up from 11th to 2nd and they get the taste of the wild cards that are the three below Rasmus Dahlin.  And as highlighted above, the chemistry between their own prospect in Necas and the draft eligible Zadina, makes this a perfect fit.  Zadina is a pure goal scorer with a heavy shot, has some great skating ability and some decent size.  An add like this could be very deadly for the Hurricanes and give them that offensive punch that they need to compete with some of the big boys.

The Hurricanes remain on the cusp of the playoff picture and they are a couple blossoming players away from really making that push.  If the kids like Lindholm and Aho can follow the same suit as Teravainen, finally making that push up through the trend lines, they add a couple more key young guns, this team will be so much fun to watch.  Goaltending and defense still remain a bit of a question mark, maybe more so out of comfort among teammates than an actual skill level, so something that could definitely come around.  This Hurricanes team will compete, but just how much closer to the playoffs they get, will certainly depend on the youth movement.

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 30)

The Washington Capitals got off to another quick start on Sunday afternoon in Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the biggest difference between the opener and yesterday's game was that the Capitals were able to hold onto the lead and weather the storm from the Penguins, working their way to a 4-1 win to even the series at 1-1.  It was a solid effort, from start to finish, using their speed and skill, not to mention a massive game from Braden Holtby, who made 32 saves, to get the win.  It will take three more efforts like that, if the Capitals finally want to get over the hump and make it to the Conference Finals.

Lars Eller was the big hockey pool contributor in this one, picking up 3 assists in the victory.  Not only did Holtby get the win, he also picked up an assist of his own, making it into a 3-point effort there too.

The heavyweight match in the Western Conference second round is not pulling any punches, as they'd rather keep throwing haymakers until the final bell sounds.  2-1 Winnipeg after one, 3-2 Nashville after two, 3-3, 4-3 Nashville, Winnipeg ties it up with 1:05 to go... and then overtime... and then double overtime... and Kevin Fiala gets the knockout punch inside of six minutes into the fifth frame to end it.  What a game!  Both goalies were busy, if not incredible at times, but Pekka Rinne was the busiest and the eventual victor, making 46 saves for the victory.

Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg each chimed in with 3 points, while Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban had 2 points in the win, on top of Fiala and Rinne.  In the loss, Mark Scheifele had 3 points and Dustin Byfuglien had 2 points.  It was a well-rounded game for the hockey pool, if you had a good combination of both teams.

Neil is trying to keep pace with the twins, as his team only sits 6 points back of both Tony and Antonio, both teams sitting at 162 points after Sunday night.  Stuart's team is 10 points back of the lead, which seems like a very outside shot at things, but it's certainly possible, if the right players get eliminated down the stretch.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Pool Outlook for Buffalo

How high were the expectations of the Buffalo Sabres anyways?  Probably a little bit higher, if not significantly higher, than what they had been in the previous few seasons.  The team was starting to find a little bit more stability through management's moves, the prospect pool was getting deeper and some everyday depth was in order to get the job done and start competing again.

Sadly, the 2018 season did not pan out quite that way and the Sabres finished the year in 31st place in the standings, which is, of course, the first time that has ever happened in NHL history.

This isn't at all to say that the hopes and the dreams of the Buffalo faithful have been dashed completely.  No, far from it.  The Sabres, as bad as they were in this past season, they did show signs, mostly in that prospect pool I had mentioned already and there are signs of improvement on the horizon, much like last year about this time.  More on that in a bit.

All is not lost here yet.  The team has a bonafide superstar, they have some great young players up-and-coming, maybe a few decisions to make on the back end, but there is some semblance of a competitive franchise, which could happen as soon as next season, if all goes well.  I'm not sure how excited I would be, per se, about investing some hockey pool picks in the 2019 Sabres, but I will have a look again after this summer, just to see how they are faring.

The franchise players, forward Jack Eichel, didn't have a healthy season again in the 2018 season, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't the team's top scorer, which may say a lot more about the depth in Buffalo this past year.  Eichel played in only 67 games this year, scoring 25 goals and 64 points, ranking 69th overall in pool scoring, 52nd among all forwards.  His scoring rate was very good, but if he's not playing 80+ games in the season, it isn't reflecting well on the team.

Only four other forwards finished in the pool worthiness conversation and they include Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and Jason Pominville and O'Reilly was the only other forward to finish in the top 100 at the position.  Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella were the only two defensemen in the hockey pool conversation, while Robin Lehner did manage his way into the top 50 goalies, but only 39th overall, which isn't good enough for a starting goalie pick, in theory.  I think there was a lot more hope for a better year in Buffalo, even in my hockey pool draft, but those teams suffered mightily and with a limited amount of worthy players, that usually translates into their final position in the standings.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

Between O'Reilly, Eichel and Ristolainen, those are three pieces you'd love to have together on any given team in the league and they belong to the Sabres. I'm just not sure that their excellence can overcome the burden of inconsistency that Kane, Okposo and Moulson are generally good for. I don't think that the Sabres goaltending is that bad, the Sabres blueline is a work in progress, so it won't be easy for them, but coming together and overcoming some attitudes is either a team building function or a housecleaning bit of trades away. I'm not convinced that this team is capable of the playoffs, until one or both of these things happen and they may still continue to struggle, despite their ever improving core.

This team was far from capable of a playoff position in the 2018 season, but they were able to do some housecleaning at the trade deadline and they were able to add some more of their young components.  The struggle continues to be rather real and it will take some real work to turn this around in a big hurry and if we've learned anything in the last couple years, quick turnarounds are few and far between.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

I was a little disappointed, not to see Alexander Nylander make the team out of camp, I thought that would have been a great story to see through the better part of this season, lining up against his brother in some divisional games against Toronto.  No, Nylander didn't fare so well out of camp and spent the better part of the season in the AHL with the farm team.  The 20-year old did have a good tournament at the World Juniors and did finally come back up to finish the season, but it wasn't what I really hoped it would be.  He will, however, be one to watch next season, I'm sure.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Jack Eichel 10.000 Rasmus Ristolainen 5.400 Jonas Johansson 0.759
Ryan O'Reilly 7.500 Zach Bogosian 5.143 Linus Ullmark 0.750
Kyle Okposo 6.000 Marco Scandella 4.000
Jason Pominville 5.600 Nathan Beaulieu 2.400
Matt Moulson 5.000 Jake McCabe 1.600
Zemgus Girgensons 1.600 Brendan Guhle 0.698
Johan Larsson 1.475 Matt Tennyson 0.650
Casey Mittelstadt 0.925
Alexander Nylander 0.894
Evan Rodrigues 0.650
Kyle Criscuolo 0.650
Kevin Porter 0.650

The Sabres will more than likely bury Matt Moulson again next season, but for the purposes of going into the summer, we're looking at how their roster may shape up, using only the players that they have signed at the moment.  Goaltending will have to be a point of emphasis in the summer, no matter how high they might be on Linus Ullmark.  There are some pluses on that roster, to date, but it isn't glowing, to say the least.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

The 21-man roster above comes in at $62.3 million and there are rumblings that the ceiling could hit $80 million this summer, which would leave them a lot of cap space to try and shop for that top end goalie and add some depth to those key spots that are in dire need.

Robin Lehner leads the pool worthy UFAs out of Buffalo, while Sam Reinhart does the same on the RFA side.  The Sabres will be busy this summer, one could safely assume, but they may not have as many pressing needs within their organization, rather hoping that there is an overflowing free agent market on July 1st.

The Sabres were able to convince their top prospect Casey Mittelstadt to come out of the college ranks early and no one is really surprised, especially at how well he dominated the World Juniors and the numbers he put up in college.  He is already appearing like a mature body, even at 19 years old, and there's little reason to think that he can't be among the elite players in a couple years.  The young players are slowly coming together for the Sabres and depending on where they sit in the draft this year, they could be adding some talent to their lineup right away.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft
Well, if the Buffalo Sabres were really to truly need anything, it would be a goalie.  This year, however, since they finished last and had the best odds at the lottery... they actually won the lottery!  So, I don't believe that they will be taking a goalie with that pick, not with a stud defenseman like Rasmus Dahlin available.  This kid is the consensus number one across all media platforms for this draft and the Sabres would be brain dead not to jump on the train here.  Their youthful core would get a huge boost, by the puck moving, shooting and skating ability of this kid and things couldn't be better for the Sabres moving forward.

Get a goalie!  A good goalie.  Jonathan Bernier is set to become an unrestricted free agent... he played well in Colorado.  Get him!  Just do something better in net.  The Sabres have a lot of good pieces on their squad, they do have to overcome some bad luck and some injury bug bites, but overall, they do have some pieces that could make them competitive in the 2019 season and possibly right this ship.  Add a full-time Mittelstadt and Dahlin to this mix, they'll be playing a boat load of talent and with the right amount of tinkering in this off-season, they could be looking for a wild card spot, not unlike what the Devils did this year.

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 29)

There's a lot to be said about a team that goes to seven games, plays hard and then right into their next series.  I think the Boston Bruins got the benefit of not taking their feet off the pedal, opening up their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had a few extra days rest, since they finished their opening round series in five games.  The Bruins were harder on the puck, along the boards and in front of the nets and that was certainly the difference between the two sides, as the visiting Bruins opened up with a 6-2 victory on Saturday afternoon.

The Bruins' top line was again dominating, combining for 11 points in this game: Brad Marchand (1 goal, 3 assists), David Pastrnak (4 assists) and Patrice Bergeron (2 goals and 1 assist) were unstoppable again.  Rick Nash ended up with the winner among his pair of his goals for a 3-point night and Charlie McAvoy finally chimed in with a pair of assists.  Tuukka Rask needed to make 34 saves for the win, so it was an all-around impressive afternoon at the rink for the Bruins.

Ryan Donato and Nick Holden remained as healthy scratches to start this series, it seems unlikely that they'll draw into the Bruins lineup now without injuries, while the Lightning pool contingency is running strong... just a little bit rusty.

26 seconds into the 2nd period, the Golden Knights scored to make it 2-0 and here we all were, thinking "here we go again!"  Thankfully, that bearded beauty that is Brent Burns came to the rescue and finally got the Sharks on the board in Game 2 and all of a sudden, San Jose had a little bit of life in their game.  So much so, that the Sharks fought back to take a 3-2 lead before the end of the middle frame and lo and behold, this wasn't going to be a cake walk for the Golden Knights.  Nate Schmidt scored midway through the 3rd, breaking through a strong performance by Martin Jones, forcing overtime... and then a second overtime... and the Sharks were not going to be denied, especially on a power play, when Logan Couture finished the game off.  The Golden Knights are no longer undefeated... we finally have a series in the Pacific Division!  All is not lost.

Both Couture and Burns finished with 3 points in the pool, while Joe Pavelski had a pair of assists and Jones finished up with the win, making only 26 saves.  William Karlsson scored a pair of goals for Vegas, while Schmidt also added an assist to his totals for Vegas, rounding out the scoring.

Now these two teams head back to the Shark Tank, where we'll see Evander Kane return from his 1-game suspension.

So, at what point do I get to call this pool complete?  I am now resorting to calling both twins, Antonio and Tony, evil, so there's that.  They're just the evil twins, dominating the pool standings.  Antonio is now at 156 points, Tony is at 153 and 3rd place, Neil, is a ways back at 144.  Kudos to finding the right combo of players, but these blog posts are going to get really boring in a hurry, at this rate.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Goalie Announcements (Apr 28)

One afternoon game and one evening game on Saturday, as the second round rolls on.  We'll probably get in a little bit of a series preview for both games tonight, since I wasn't able to get one of them during the week.  Should be two good games again tonight... okay, well, if the game later tonight is anything like Game 1 of that series, then we'll just have one good game today.

Tuukka Rask versus Andrei Vasilevskiy
The Bruins were the only team in this second round to go to a 7th game in their opening round, so they got the later of all the starts, which may have been just fine for the Lightning, who only needed five games for their series.

Not expecting any surprises today, as it should be Rask versus Vasilevskiy in the nets today, both goalies got a little bit of love in the pool, one more loved than the other... *cough*Vasilevskiy*cough*.  The Tampa Bay keeper did get the better of the selections, 12-4, and the Lightning, who are the favourites in the east, lead the overall selections, 66-43.

David Pastrnak and Nikita Kucherov are the premier scoring players on either side, both entering this series with 13 pool points to lead their team, but with Boston playing a couple more games, that may sway the overall offensive numbers their way.

Martin Jones versus Marc-Andre Fleury
There's no reason why the Sharks should really consider moving away from Martin Jones for Game 2 of their series, despite the Golden Knights giving him a good thumping in the opening game of the series on Thursday night.  He's got them this far and the 7-0 result said more about the team in front of him, than the goalie that he is.  Marc-Andre Fleury, 5 wins and 3 shutouts in these playoffs, is expected to go for Vegas.

The goaltending match-up in this series wasn't a favourite in the hockey pool, as Fleury only leads Jones by a 2-1 margin in selections... not a ratio of selections, in total selections.  Actually, the way that these two teams line up in the overall selection count, you'd think that they'd be playing each of the Central Division teams in this round.  The Golden Knights hold an overall edge, 38-35 in picks, neither team holds a candle to the teams in the other west series.

Both the Sharks and Golden Knights swept away their opening round opponents, so scoring numbers may be a bit sparse, but the numbers have been effective, which is the most important part.  Tomas Hertl of the Sharks led all skaters coming into this series, but after Game 1, both William Karlsson and Reilly Smith of the Golden Knights jumped up to tie him at 6 points a piece, through five games played.

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 28)

It was the only game in town and probably, the only game we really needed to watch on the night.  The Jets and Predators kicked off their second round series on Friday night and there is plenty excitement ready to be drummed up from this one, as it will be the team that can force its way through their opposition's tight-checking defense that will be the most successful in this series.  On Friday night, that team just happened to be the Winnipeg Jets.

The Predators were able to put a lot of rubber on Connor Hellebuyck, 48 shots on goal to be exact, but very few came from the top spots, as the Jets held Nashville to the perimeter for most of the game.   The Jets, on only 16 shots on Pekka Rinne (through two periods), got the better of the chances and found their way to the front of the net, scored three goals.  Statistics are a funny thing, aren't they?

The Jets indeed capitalized on their chances and ended up with the 4-1 win to take Game 1, but shouldn't write the story of the rest of the series.  This one will be a battle, which happened to go Winnipeg's way.

Mark Scheifele scored a pair of goals, Blake Wheeler had a pair of assists, Paul Stastny scored the eventual winner and Hellebuyck got the win, all four players coming out with 2 points in the pool.

Before the game, the Jets did welcome back both Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey to the lineup... it sounds like Ehlers was more of a healthy scratch for the deciding game, while Morrissey came back from suspension.

Game 2 goes Sunday night, back in Nashville.

Now that we're a few games into the second round, I thought I would drum up this ol' gif file and do some counting of the bonus points.  Stastny scored his 2nd bonus point of these playoffs with last night's winner and he joins a group of four other players with multiple bonus points in these playoffs.  Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov leads all players in the pool with 3 game-winners, while San Jose's Tomas Hertl, Philadelphia's Sean Couturier and Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel all have a pair as well.

Benson's 8th place team currently leads the pool with 10 bonus points, to date, thanks mostly to Kucherov and Guentzel.  Neil and Buddy's team each have 9 bonus points, but Neil's team sits in 3rd place, but more on that in a second.

Three teams have the early lead in the second round for scoring: Thor, Kevin and Chris all have 18 points through two nights of action in this round, but they're all right in the middle of the standings, which is no help to themselves.

Tony's evil twin, Antonio, currently holds the lead at 137 points overall, 2 points better than the "slightly less evil, so we'll call him the good" twin, Tony's team.  Neil's team is right in the thick of it as well, at 134 points, while the regular season champ, Stuart, is only 4 points back of the lead, but well short of players.  It's a damn fine race, so far, but now we wait to see if the twins can hold onto this lead going forward.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Sharks' Kane Banned for One

On top of their embarrassing loss to the Golden Knights on Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks have now also lost one of their most offensively dynamic players, Evander Kane, for one game, due to a suspension handed out on Friday evening by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Kane was chucked from the game in the 3rd period for a cross-check to Golden Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after the play had been blown down, striking him in the head.  I'm not sure you'll need to watch the video, but it does give a pretty good assessment of the play.

In these playoffs, Kane has 3 goals, including a winner, plus an assist, but like the rest of his teammates, was shutout on Thursday night.  If the Sharks are going to make a series out of this match-up against the Golden Knights, they'll first need to find a way to win without Kane and then build on any sort of momentum with him back in the lineup at home.

In the pool, Kane was taken only once, Eric's 9th place team holds the only pick.

Goalie Announcements (Apr 27)

I really wanted to do a goalie post yesterday to open up the second round of these playoffs, but a busy day at the office saw to it that it didn't happen.  They'll get their preview eventually, I suppose.

Night two of the second round of the playoffs only has one game in it and it is my most anticipated series of the bunch, the Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators.  Oh baby, this could be a series for the ages!

Connor Hellebuyck versus Pekka Rinne
No changes expected on either side, as both the Jets and the Predators couldn't be more pleased with their goaltending to this point.  Connor Hellebuyck was steady against the Wild in the opening round, while Pekka Rinne had to overcome some adversity against the Avalanche, but did with the help of a very solid team in front of him.

These are the two most popular goalies in the Western Conference among the 23 teams in the playoff pool this year.  Rinne was taken 10 times to Hellebuyck's 8 times, but the Jets have a slight edge in the total number of selections, 67-65.  Either way, a lot of picks are going to disappear from the hockey pool, once one of these teams are eliminated.

Did you pick the right side?

Morning Playoff Notes (Apr 27)

The second round of the playoffs kicked off with a huge rivalry match-up, between the Penguins and the Capitals, a series starting out at the Verizon Center in Washington.  The Capitals appeared ready to shake off the demons of past series with the Penguins and their inability to make it past the second round, scoring 17 seconds into the game, holding their opponents at bay for two periods and then scoring early in the 3rd period.  Things were so good... so, so good.

And then they weren't anymore.

Not long after the 2-0 goal, the Penguins' top line of Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist went to work and in less than five minutes, they had a 3-2 lead, Guentzel scoring the go-ahead goal, tipping a Crosby shot.  Then the Penguins showed the Capitals how to hold onto a lead and they did, winning the game 3-2.  The Penguins top line combined for 8 points in the pool, including the bonus point, while Matt Murray made 23 saves for the win.

Neither Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin or Washington's Andre Burakovsky were able to return to action from their opening round injuries.  Malkin suffered a lower-body injury, believed to be an ankle problem, while Burakovsky is dealing with an upper-body injury.

It's time we start asking ourselves some serious questions about these Vegas Golden Knights.  They opened their second round series against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night and their relentlessness is not some sort of regular season mirage, it's rather an excellent playoff formula that is truly making some waves.  The Golden Knights put up a 7-spot against the Sharks, winning their 5th straight game, Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves for his 3rd shutout of these playoffs... can these guys be stopped?  Seriously.

If you blinked in that 1st period, like I did, you may have missed three quick goals in a minute and a half, and already, by then, this game had the feeling of being over.  Four goals in the 1st, one in the 2nd and a pair early in the 3rd, it was just domination from start to finish.  Notable pool players include Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, each posting 3 points, while James Neal, Erik Haula and David Perron each had 2 points. 

Sharks forward Evander Kane may be getting a phone call today after getting tossed for a high cross check to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the 3rd period, we'll wait and see on that.  Tomas Tatar remained out as a healthy scratch for Game 1, he has only figured in a couple games in these playoffs, so far.