The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on February 9th.
With the All-Star break completed, the playoff chase in the NHL is officially in full swing. We’re just over two weeks from the trade deadline, and a number of teams are looking to make a final push for the postseason. Our top dogs in the NHL have been clearly defined for the better part of a month now; frankly, there’s no risk of a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning missing out on the postseason. Conversely, a number of teams on the bubble have decisions to make heading into the deadline. This season, the playoff race seems to be tighter than ever, with only five points separating a playoff berth and last place in the Western Conference and nine separating the 7th and 12th spots in the East. With so many teams on the bubble, who stands the best shot of not only making the second season but excelling in it? That’s the question the Win Column Sports panel answers in this week’s edition of the Saturday Slate!
You can argue that the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t a bubble team, but as of right now the team is teetering on the brink of falling out of the last Wild Card spot. This doesn’t mean much as there is plenty of hockey left, but by saying that, it allows teams such as the Flyers and Carolina to keep building upon their momentum. The story of the Pittsburgh Penguins this year has been injuries to key pieces such as the likes of Justin Schultz, Matt Murray, and Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins and the playoffs almost go hand-in-hand, and Pittsburgh’s built a roster that can compete against any team in the East. However, the team has to stay healthy to compete in what’s becoming a tight conference. It wouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Penguins active at the deadline; they’ve already made a move to obtain Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. I believe they aren’t finished when it comes to moves and not only will make the playoffs but go far.
If a team on the bubble is what you’re looking for, there’s none better than the Colorado Avalanche. No, the team doesn’t look poised for a Stanley Cup run any time soon, but the squad from Denver have a promising young core and a capable head coach in former Jack Adams nominee Jared Bednar. Despite their defensive woes, their -1 goal differential is best among teams not currently in a playoff position, and they’ve got the offensive firepower to make up any defensive deficiency. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon currently sit 4th and 6th in NHL scoring respectively, with weapons like Gabriel Landeskog and Tyson Barrie rounding out a team currently averaging 3.3 goals-per-game. Yes, Semyon Varlamov may be streaky, but if he gets hot at the right time, I could see the Avalanche doing some damage in the postseason.
I’m going to tap into my home-team bias a bit here. I actually think the Edmonton Oilers have the shot of making the playoffs as a bubble team this year. The play of both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl has been out of this world as both players are poised to finish top 10 in league scoring once again. They are getting some key pieces back from injury in Andrej Sekera and Oscar Klefbom, and the goaltending they are getting from Talbot has been more than satisfactory lately. I believe those three things combined give them just as good of a shot as any when it comes to getting into the playoffs, and once you’re there anything can happen – just look at 2005/2006.
While I appreciate Spencer’s optimism for my Colorado Avalanche, I, unfortunately, can’t get on that train. While I might have the blues over my fandom, I also have the Blues of St. Louis as my Super Bubble Team. The Blues were thought of highly in the pre-season with a number of moves that they’d made in the offseason. Well, after the firing of a head coach and the re-emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko (7G, 8A in 14 games in 2019), the Blues are back in a playoff spot in the incredibly mediocre (at best) Western Conference. This Blues roster is the exact same that many were high on to begin the season and with the potential for them to make a move at the deadline, to replace Jake Allen potentially, this could be the midseason comeback team of the year.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Avalanche @ Islanders||Islanders||Avalanche||Islanders||Islanders|
|Wild @ Devils||Wild||Devils||Wild||Wild|
|Ducks @ Flyers||Flyers||Flyers||Flyers||Flyers|
|Kings @ Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins||Bruins|
|Red Wings @ Sabres||Sabres||Sabres||Sabres||Sabres|
|Predators @ Blues||Predators||Blues||Predators||Predators|
|Jets @ Senators||Jets||Senators||Jets||Jets|
|Stars @ Coyotes||Stars||Stars||Coyotes||Stars|
|Penguins @ Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning|
|Sharks @ Oilers||Sharks||Oilers||Sharks||Sharks|
|Maple Leafs @ Canadiens||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs|
|Panthers @ Capitals||Capitals||Panthers||Capitals||Capitals|
|Flames @ Canucks||Flames||Canucks||Flames||Flames|
|Blue Jackets @ Golden Knights||Golden Knights||Blue Jackets||Golden Knights||Golden Knights|
Records Thus Far:
- Ben: (93-76), Last Week: (7-6), Winning Percentage: (55%)
- Carl: (60-55), Last Week: (6-7), Winning Percentage (52%)
- Spencer: (85-84), Last Week: (10-3), Winning Percentage: (50%)
- Arik: (84-85), Last Week: (8-5), Winning Percentage: (49%)
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