Be sure to send in your ‘Tom Wilson scores game-winning goal in Game 2’ prop bets

The league hasn’t said anything official yet, but virtually all the reports indicate that Tom Wilson will not have a hearing for his hit on Jonathan Marchessault on Monday night.

I think it’s the right call. I’ll say what I wrote earlier. It was worthy of a penalty, it was needless, even predatory, but it wasn’t worthy of a suspension. Obviously his history doesn’t help. Wilson has become public enemy No. 1 in many circles during these playoffs following a series of incidents, which was highlighted by a three-game suspension in the Second Round for a hit on Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese.

Many feel a suspension, or at very least a hearing, was warranted for Wilson. But the reaction to the hit could’ve been based upon the way you saw it.

For instance, if you it this way, it looks really, really bad. Even indefensible.

But here’s the blowup of how it happened in real time.

Marchessault makes the pass and gets caught standing straight up in the middle of the ice when he’s blown up by Wilson. Again, not saying it was legal. Not saying I even liked it. Late hit? For sure. Penalty? Absolutely.

But on the list of plays I’ve seen over the years, this one ranks pretty low on the category of ‘dirty and dangerous.’

Can’t wait to see how the world reacts should Wilson do anything of consequence in the remaining games of this series. I’m sure it will be very measured and rational.

This story about college hockey player Carson Meyer will be the grossest story you read this week

Carson Meyer is a 20-year-old forward from Powell, Ohio coming off his sophomore season at Miami University and a Blue Jackets prospect, drafted in the 6th round by the club last summer.

The Blue Jackets selection of Meyer came on the heels of a standout freshman season at Miami, in which Meyer put up 26 points (10-16) in 32 games. He had produced at nearly a point-per-game clip the year prior for the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, with 32 goals and 51 points in 56 games.

But the production took a nose-dive last season. Meyer posted just 10 points in 34 games. He had a minus-22 rating and 48 penalty minutes.

So what happened? Aaron Portzline of The Athletic laid out the details in a feature on Monday, reporting that Meyer showed symptoms ranging from loss of appetite, weight loss, even depression. Nobody could figure out what was causing it.

Meyer figured it out in February when he passed a 25-inch tapeworm. Not a typo.

Here’s the excerpt from the story:

On Feb. 27, Meyer finally got an answer. Not from a visit to a doctor’s office, but a trip to the bathroom. 

“I was going to the bathroom, just like normal,” Meyer said. “And it came out.” 

It was a 25-inch tapeworm — the head, the neck and all of the segments, about 50 of them. It was orange. Meyer almost fainted. 

“I FaceTimed my mom and was like, ‘What the hell is this thing?’ ” Meyer said. “I was freaking out. Absolutely freaking out.”

Disgusting.

Meyer is leaving Miami and is hoping to transfer to Ohio State, which is fresh off a trip to the Frozen Four this past season. Here’s hoping he gets back on track.

Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

Avalanche vs Predators

Why the Avalanche win: Nathan MacKinnon takes over games. We’ll see if that continues in the playoffs, but he’s on an unbelievable run right now. Add in the fact he’s got two great players running alongside him in Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, you’ve got your hands full.

Why the Predators win: Predators are the best team in the league, far more dangerous than when they made their run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. There’s no real weakness on this team.

Player that proves to be the difference: Kyle Turris.. This is the true No. 2 center behind Ryan Johansen that Nashville missed last spring. When Turris was acquired from Ottawa early in the season, the Preds solidified themselves down the middle and really transformed the roster into one of the best in the league.

Something you might want to know: Predators leading scorer this season was Filip Forsberg with 64 points, which checked in at 52 on the NHL’s leaderboard. However, the Predators had six players record 50 points – Tampa Bay and Toronto were the only other teams to have that high a tally of 50-point guys.

What happens: Predators in 5. I think Nashville makes this a quick series. There’s just way too much on the Predators side.

Wild vs Jets

Why the Jets win: Can the Wild keep up? I don’t think they can. Minnesota is going to miss Ryan Suter in this series, though getting Jared Spurgeon back will help things.

Why the Wild win: Suter might be done, but Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba will make up for the loss. Minnesota trots out a great shutdown forward line in Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund while Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter will keep Winnipeg’s hands full. Jordan Greenway adds an element the Wild didn’t have before he signed his pro contract after his junior season at BU ended last month.

Player that proves to be the difference: Connor Hellebuyck.. Hellebuyck’s numbers (44-11-9, 2.36 GAA, .924 save percentage, six shutouts) would be enough to run away with the Vezina Trophy most years. He’s the rock that backstops the Jets and allows Winnipeg to play their quick-pace, run-and-gun style.

Something you might want to know: The city of Winnipeg hasn’t experienced a playoff series win since the 1987 Smythe Division semifinals, when the first iteration of the Jets (who are now, of course, the Coyotes) took down the Flames in six games. Winnipeg is 0-for in the last six seasons they’ve made the playoffs (1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2015).

What happens: Jets in 6. Hellebuyck shuts the door on the back end and the Jets keep up their offensive pace on the other end.

Kings vs Golden Knights

Why the Golden Knights win: Because we said Vegas wouldn’t hold onto the Pacific, would fall off in the second half, wouldn’t be a playoff team, wouldn’t be a good team, wouldn’t land an NHL team. We know nothing. Oh and they’re deep, fast, skilled, and have really good goaltending. That helps too.

Why the Kings win: They look similar to the teams that won it all in 2012 and ’14. Anze Kopitar has been a force all year up front and Jeff Carter has been sensational since he returned. Dustin Brown has reignited his career. Drew Doughty holds down a strong defense and Jonathan Quick has been strong in net of late.

Player that proves to be the difference: Jeff Carter.. In 21 games since returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for four months, Carter has 13 goals and 19 points.

Something you should know: Four of the top eight players in terms of plus-minus are playing in this series: William Karlsson (1st, plus-49), Jonathan Marchessault (2nd, plus-36), Reilly Smith/Dustin Brown (t-7th, plus-31).

What happens: Kings in 5. It’s not so much clock strikes midnight on Vegas, more that Los Angeles just isn’t a good matchup for this team.

Sharks vs Ducks

Why the Ducks win: Plagued by injuries early on, the narrative was watch out if they get healthy and get in the playoffs. Well, they’ve done both those things. With everyone back – with the exception of Cam Fowler, who was injured last week – the Ducks enter the playoffs 10-1-1 in their final 12 games. This looks like the team we expected to see come April when the roster was ravaged by injuries in October.

Why the Sharks win: San Jose is solid from the top to bottom. The Evander Kane acquisition at the deadline added offense up front. This team is built very well from the net-out.

Player that proves to be the difference: Ryan Kesler.. Most important player on this team. It’s no coincidence that this team reached the Western Conference Final twice in Kesler’s first three seasons in Anaheim. He’s your best defensive forward and your agitator, the daily double of not just shutting down the opposing top line but getting under their skin, knocking them off their game. On top of that, he can be your top offensive producer. He didn’t had a great regular season after returning from hip surgery just after Christmas, but has shown flashes of finding his game of late.

Something you should know: With 118 points in 121 career playoff games, Ryan Getzlaf has the 4th-most playoff points since the 2004-05 lockout, trailing only Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane. Getzlaf has played six fewer playoff games than Kane, 28 fewer than Malkin, and 27 fewer than Crosby.

What will happen: Ducks in 7. Take it a step further and say Anaheim wins Game 7 in overtime. This series is almost too close to call. It’ll be worth staying up for.

Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

Devils vs Lightning

Why the Lightning win: To put it lightly, Tampa Bay has too much firepower for New Jersey to handle. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov put up points in bunches. Jon Cooper employs 200-foot savant Brayden Point to counter Taylor Hall. Victor Hedman logs his usual half-hour of work per night on the back end.

Why the Devils win: New Jersey knocks Tampa back on their heels with their speed and pace. Keith Kinkaid, who finished the season 7-0-1 with a .931 save percentage in his final eight games, continues to hold down the Devils crease and outplays Andrei Vasilevskiy, who of late has been a shell of his early-season self.

Player that proves to be the difference: Brayden Point.. Point has emerged as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Point’s line, flanked by Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, will be the shutdown line for Tampa. And they can score goals too.

Something you might want to know: Andrei Vasilevskiy in his final nine games: 4-5-0, 3.74 GAA, .884 save percentage. Keith Kinkaid in his final eight games: 7-0-1, 2.25 GAA, .931 save percentage.

What happens: Lightning in 6. Tampa Bay’s best players prove to be too much of a handful for New Jersey.

Maple Leafs vs Bruins

Why the Bruins win: Two words and they both start with ‘D’. Depth, and defense. Bruins roll four lines as good as any team in the league and have one of the league’s top shutdown defensive pairings in Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. The top forward line of Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak might be the best in the league.

Why the Maple Leafs win: Frederik Andersen carries what was one of the best seasons of his career into the postseason, steals a couple games, and outplays Tuukka Rask. Meanwhile, the injury bug that plagued the Bruins for the final month doesn’t just disappear when the playoffs begin.

Player that proves to be the difference: William Nylander.. Auston Matthews is one of the NHL’s best players and Nylander makes him even better. Nylander’s vision, skating, and puck-carrying ability opens up so much extra space for Matthews in the offensive zone, creating prime opportunities for the 20-year-old phenom, who has 78 goals and 137 points through his first 150 NHL games (regular season and playoffs).

Something you might want to know: Maple Leafs record in the 62 games Auston Matthews played this season: 38-19-5. Maple Leafs record in the 20 games Matthews missed: 11-7-2.

What happens: Bruins in 6. Much like their First Round loss to Washington last season, the Maple Leafs will make this a series. Much like their First Round loss to Washington last season, the opponent will prove to be too much for Toronto.

Flyers vs Penguins

Why the Penguins win: You see them up front? They’re loaded. You’ve got Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Derick Brassard, and Riley Sheahan (who has exceeded expectations since being acquired from Detroit early in the season). Phil Kessel had the best year of his career. The Penguins powerplay (tops in the league at 26.2 percent this season) is a threat to score in any man-advantage, especially against a Philadelphia unit that was third-worst in the league this season, better than only also-rans Canadiens and Islanders. The Pens, who are 30-9-2 in their own building this season, have home-ice advantage.

Meanwhile Malkin continues to be his usual, filthy self.

Why the Flyers win: You need defense and goaltending to win this time of year. The Philadelphia blue line is better than Pittsburgh’s. Ivan Provorov could be the best defenseman in this series. Matt Murray has had a rough season, both on and off the ice. If the forever-plagued-with-goalieitis Flyers get just enough stops in net, that could mean trouble for Pittsburgh. Up front, the Flyers are capable of matching what the Penguins bring.

Player that proves to be the difference: Matt Murray.. I really think it all comes down to which Matt Murray we see in net. This hasn’t been an easy season for the 23-year-old by any stretch. But he tends to raise his level when the games become bigger.

What happens: Penguins in 7. There’s going to be some ugly hockey played in this series. Probably quite a few high-scoring games, some bad defense, spotty goaltending, knowing the history of these teams I’m sure tempers will boil over at some point. But in the end, Pittsburgh finds a way to pull it out.

Blue Jackets vs Capitals

Why the Capitals win: This Caps team has two things going for them: 1) They enter the playoffs flying under the radar, 2) They enter the postseason playing their best hockey, winning 12 of their final 15 regular season games. All they need is the goaltending to hold up, which is a big if.

Why the Blue Jackets win: While the Blue Jackets didn’t create any real fireworks at the trade deadline, they did make some savvy, albeit unheralded moves that have paid off in the aftermath, particularly the acquisitions of Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole. Columbus made a strong finishing kick, which included a 10-game winning streak during March.

Player that proves to be the difference: Seth Jones.. One of the NHL’s best defensemen, Jones and D-partner Zach Werenski will be tasked with shutting down Alex Ovechkin. If they’re effective in doing so, it dramatically changes the outlook on this series.

Something you might want to know: The Blue Jackets finished the regular season with 97 points, second-most in franchise history behind last season, when they picked up 108.

What happens: Blue Jackets in 7. This has the potential to be a really good series. Both teams come in playing well. It all comes down to goaltending. I’ll take Sergei Bobrovsky (in spite of his suspect record in the playoffs) over whatever Washington sends out, whether that’s Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer.

Connor McDavid isn’t too bad

The gap between Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby is closing.

Don’t get me wrong, Crosby is still the best player in the world (he scored a goal and assisted on another in the Penguins season-opening overtime loss to the Blues on Wednesday), but McDavid is gaining. It might even be 1-1A at this point.

McDavid opened the season with a hat trick in the Oilers 3-0 win over the Flames to begin the new season on Wednesday. I don’t know if the stat line even did justice for how good he was. The kid was that electric.

It’s amazing how quick and explosive he is. He goes from zero to 60 at the snap of a finger. I hate making comparisons like the one I’m going to make, but I don’t think we’ve seen anything on this level since Wayne Gretzky.

There had to have been at least 8-10 instances of McDavid sneaking behind the Calgary defense, taking a stretch pass and turning it into a scoring opportunity.

On his first goal – which may have been the nicest – McDavid snuck right into the left doorstep as Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl were working the puck out behind the goalline. Draisaitl found McDavid for easy strike.

His second goal, he took it coast-to-coast, making everybody else look like they were standing still.

If you have the chance to stay up and watch McDavid play – do it. There’s a good chance you won’t regret it.

Goalies: 6-10

6 – Craig Anderson

Anderson was one of the real feel-good stories of last season, leading the Senators to overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final after missing much of the regular season to be be his wife’s side as she battled cancer. But Anderson was no flash in the pan – he’s quietly been very good for a while now. Since arriving in Ottawa in February 2011 from Colorado for Brian Elliott in a goalie-for-goalie trade, the 36-year-old has won 151 games, posting a .920 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.

7 – Tuukka Rask

Rask had a phenomenal first half last season before falling off in the second half as he battled some injuries while having a leaky defense in front of him. The key for the Bruins is to get some relief for the goalie, who has averaged 66 games over the past three seasons. If he can get under 60 – he started 58 games when he won the Vezina Trophy in 2013-14 – that could be the difference between the Bruins missing the playoffs outright or making the playoffs and winning a round or two.

8 – Henrik Lundqvist

I’m not sure if Lundqvist’s place among goalies all-time is as high as some feel it is, but he’s high. Lundqvist needs two wins to catch Glenn Hall for ninth all-time in victories. He had one of his worst seasons last year – Lundqvist’s .910 save percentage was a career-low and snapped a seven-year streak of plus-.920 campaigns. That may have been a 34-year-old goalie, or a bad Rangers defense, or a combination of both. We’ll see how Lundqvist performs this season behind an improved back end.

9 – John Gibson

Gibson has improved steadily over the past two seasons, winning the Jennings Trophy in 2015-16 before posting a .924 save percentage and 2.22 GAA last season. The addition of Ryan Miller will only help the 24-year-old.

10 – Jake Allen

We’ll see how this one ages. All I’ve heard on Allen is how talented he is and I think he really turned a corner with his second half performance last season. I think the Blues have a legit No. 1 here going forward.

Goalies: 1-5

1 – Carey Price

Price is the best goaltender on the planet. No netminder is leaned upon as heavily as the 30-year-old is in Montreal, and he’s delivered. Among goalies to appear in 180 games over the past four seasons, Price has the highest save percentage at .928. The next-highest? Cam Talbot, at .922. Price is one of four goalies to record 20 shutouts over that span, along with Braden Holtby, Tuukka Rask, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Over that span, Price has played 25 fewer games than Fleury, 51 fewer than Holtby, and 58 fewer than Rask.

2 – Braden Holtby

Is there anybody in Price’s league? A small case could be made for Holtby, who has been downright spectacular since taking over the Washington crease. In his last three seasons, the 28-year-old has won north of 40 games and finished with a save percentage above .920 in all three years, and has a 2.17 GAA over that time. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2016 and followed that up by winning the Jennings Trophy last season. We all know what trophy is missing.

3 – Devan Dubnyk

It helps having a defensive team as good as the Wild are in front of you, but Dubnyk has been great since arriving in Minnesota via a 2015 trade from Arizona. Since joining the Wild, Dubnyk has a .924 save percentage and 2.17 GAA while recording 15 shutouts. He turned in another Vezina-caliber season last year when the Wild were one of the NHL’s best teams during the regular season.

4 – Matt Murray

Is he Ken Dryden? No. Is this ranking a bit high, possibly premature? Maybe. Is Matt Murray for real? Yes (or at least I think so). Murray hasn’t played a whole lot of hockey, but has played (and played really, really well) when it’s counted, helping the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups. In 32 games over the last two postseasons, Murray has a .928 save percentage and 1.95 GAA. After tearing his hamstring during warmups prior to Pittsburgh’s playoff opener last season, Murray returned during the Eastern Conference Final, recording three shutouts in 10 starts. The 23-year-old has a convincing 62-game regular season sample, going 41-12-5 with a .925 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.

5 – Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky is a little bit of a mystery. His last five seasons are bookended with lights-out, Vezina-winning campaigns while the three in between are riddled with injuries and underperformance. Is this a case of Carey Price circa 2014, a guy coming into his own as one of the game’s dominant performers? It could very well be. Time will tell.

Defensemen: 16-20

16 – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Hjalmarsson is the game’s best defensive defenseman. Nobody in the league does a better job of taking out the opposing team’s best forward. He’ll be a great addition in Arizona and should allow Oliver Ekman-Larsson to open up his game.

17 – Cam Fowler

The Ducks have about six or seven defensemen right now that are 26 or younger and are absolute studs. It’s a toss-up between Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, but I’d go Fowler at this point. The 26-year-old took a big step forward last season, emerging as Anaheim’s No. 1 while playing nearly 25 minutes per game. His 39 points were one off the career-high he set as a rookie in 2010-11.

18 – P.K. Subban

He’s in the perfect situation right now in Nashville, making up a perfect tandem alongside Mattias Ekholm. That’s a pairing where you’re able to get the most out of both guys, where they really compliment each other perfectly. Subban is one of the best playmakers from the back end in the league and has an absolute rocket for a shot.

19 – Rasmus Ristolainen

The analytics crowd tends to give low marks to the Buffalo blueliner because of his poor numbers on possession, which I feel is more reflective on how the Sabres have used the Finish defenseman than it is on the type of player Ristolainen is. What I mean by that is Buffalo has preferred Ristolainen give up the blue line in order to use his size as an advantage in the defensive zone. If adopts a more aggressive style of play under Phil Housley, the results could force the 22-year-old right into the Norris discussion, a la Zdeno Chara in Boston with Claude Julien after a season of Dave Lewis. Ristolainen is that talented.

20 – Oliver Ekman-Larsson

A truly gifted offensive defenseman who in the two seasons prior to last season was tied with Brent Burns for the NHL lead with 44 goals. Ekman-Larsson plays big minutes and is one of the league’s top performers on the powerplay, with his 66 powerplay points over the last three seasons fifth in the league.

Defensemen: 11-15

11 – Shea Weber

One of the best defensemen in the league to not win a Norris Trophy. Has that window closed? It very well may have. But Weber is still a very effective No. 1 blueliner in Montreal. He carried a weak blueline corps in Montreal last season. What his $7.857 million cap hit will look like come 2023 is a conversation for another day.

12 – Ryan McDonagh

Speaking of Montreal’s blue line, the Habs traded away McDonagh for Scott Gomez and Tom Pyatt in 2009. Think they’d take that one back? McDonagh has carried the water for an underwhelming Rangers defense in recent seasons. He’ll get some help this season with Kevin Shattenkirk to his right.

13 – Mark Giordano

He formed one of the league’s best defensive pairings with Dougie Hamilton last season and before that had a good thing going with T.J. Brodie. Sense a trend?

14 – Justin Faulk

Faulk is the senior, veteran presence on the uber-talented Carolina blueline. He’s 25 years old. He’s averaged 23:47 of ice time since 2012-13 while putting up 170 points in 335 games.

15 – Colton Parayko

No idea how he lasted until the third round in the 2012 draft. Either way, the Blues have a perfect compliment to Pietrangelo as a big, skilled defenseman that can move the puck. Parayko’s $5.5 million cap hit through 2021-22 will age nicely.

 

Veteran players offer their their thoughts on the increasingly-younger NHL

Before we get to anything, first let me give shameless, free plug for The Athletic – if you’re a hockey person, subscribe. Some of the best hockey content on the internet.

Anyway, really good piece by James Mirtle here, who asked some of the veteran guys in Leafs camp what they thought about what seems to be a league-wide shift to younger players. The older players, of course, don’t love it (nor should they, considering it’s essentially shortening their careers), but they gave interesting, thoughtful answers on the subject.

A player who I thought spoke the best on the subject was Dominic Moore, a guy who has made a nice career for himself by being a solid bottom-six forward who can kill penalties, and is currently sitting on the bubble of making Toronto’s roster. The 37-year-old is also a great source on this subject because, well, he can still play but his age and the way the game is played now (speed, skill, more speed, and a little more speed), Moore might be getting squeezed out. Ten of fifteen years ago he’d already be pencilled in the lineup for opening night.

Here’s what he told The Athletic:

“I’d be interested to see what the stats say about the quality of the on-ice play that’s gone with that trend… Sometimes with trends, it can be an imitation thing where teams are just going a certain direction thinking it’s better.

“I’m obviously biased, being in my shoes. But it’s a matter of evaluating players based on what they’re able to do. I don’t want to put my GM hat on too much because I’m a player, but one reason to say ‘go young’ is for cost.

“For me, I don’t worry about any of that… For me, it’s just about being as good of a player as I can be. Improve every year, maintain, be healthy and that’s about it.”

He got into the speed and skill aspect and how the game is played now, etc., that seems to be consensus No. 1 reason why the league has gone younger – and I certainly don’t disagree with that notion. But Moore brings up an interesting question – is this all cyclical? Do younger players with less experience begin making more mistakes for the liking of coaches and GMs, leading them to go with veterans that might have better sense for the game – especially at the NHL level – and obviously more experience.

It’ll be interesting to see if that becomes the case in three or five years.

Eric Fehr mentions how guys are coming into the league more mature, more ready to play at that level, harkening to the idea these guys eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. As Fehr put it, the days of seeing the prairie boys work on the farm, play hockey once in a while, and make it to the big leagues, that’s pretty much over”, which I’d contend has been the case for quite some time.

There were other good points made – Colin Greening mentioned the impact of new technologies, advancements made in research on nutrition, etc., on allowing guys to player deeper into their 30s (I’d add that fortune has a thing or two to do with guys playing that long as well). Fehr also mentioned the impact of the salary cap, as younger players on ELCs or second deals being much cheaper and more manageable than players on third contracts or over-35 deals.

My personal feeling is there’s pros and cons to where the game has gone. Obviously less clutching and grabbing, less goonery and a game more based on skill and speed has allowed younger guys to come in and play to their strengths. I think the league has become one more similar to the college and junior game in recent seasons, which tailors the game for these young guys coming in. But there’s also the part where there’s fewer jobs available for veteran players, who can bring a lot to a room. Think about a guy like Moore, what he’s been through on and off the ice (especially off the ice), and the value that can bring to a team.

Like I said, I think – like most things – it all comes full-circle eventually. You see the McDavids and Matthews and Marners and Laines come in the way they have in past couple years and the natural inclination is we need to put every 19-year-old kid in the lineup. Then those 19-year-old kids that are accustomed playing other teenagers from Barrie and Sault Ste. Marie don’t react as well to playing grown men and then all of sudden it’s ‘let’s get guys with more experience’. It might not happen that way, who knows. But it’ll be interesting to see how this continues to evolve.