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NHL Who’s Hot, Who’s Not: A Tale of Two Floridas

One Team Surges, Other Fades

The Battle of Florida has heated up over the past few seasons, and there is a chance we will see it again in the playoffs if the Florida Panthers can keep it up. Trying to grab that final wild card spot, several Panthers have lit up the scoreboard. While on the flip side, their archnemesis, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are limping into the playoffs. For once, it’s Florida hogging the positive NHL news in this week’s edition of “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not.”

Who’s Hot

Forwards

  • Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers: Florida is now just one point behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot, and it’s mainly thanks to Tkachuk. The Panthers’ superstar has scored a goal in six straight games and has 16 points (seven from the power play (PP)) in his last seven games.
    Florida is averaging 4.43 goals per game during this span and, had it had more consistent netminding, would have fared better on the online sports betting lines.
  • Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: It feels redundant to feature McDavid in lists like this. But we can’t deny the milestone he just achieved recently: 60 goals. McDavid is just the fourth active NHL player to pull off this feat, and it’s the first time in 30 years the NHL has seen back-to-back 60-goal scorers with Auston Matthews’ feat last season.
    Edmonton has also won five straight and seven of its last eight games. The Oilers even have an outside chance to unseat Vegas as the Pacific Division’s top team. It’s unlikely, but folks can earn a pretty penny betting online on it.
  • Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: McDavid may have the Hart Trophy (and Art Ross) all locked up, but MacKinnon is reserving a spot for himself in the NHL Awards with his recent play. He’s scored in 10 straight games and has 13 points (six from the PP) in his last seven games.
    Colorado is heating up at the right time and has won seven of its last 10 games. If MacKinnon can continue putting up multi-point games as he has done recently, this team will likely be the popular NHL picks to win the Stanley Cup again.
Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates after scoring a goal against the Metropolitan Division
Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates after scoring a goal against the Metropolitan Division // Bruce Bennett - AFP

— NHL (@NHL) March 18, 2023

Defensemen

  • Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars: Look who’s back on the list. Heiskanen has not slowed down since last week, putting up five points in the three games he’s played since. He was a -2 against Calgary, but Dallas still won the game. The Finn continues to add to his career high in points and is now on pace for 73.
    The Stars are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, but considering their tough schedule, that’s a big win. With a softer slate against Vancouver, Chicago, and Arizona, Heiskanen and Dallas should keep cooking.
  • Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights: Quiet for most of the season, Pietrangelo has come alive for Vegas and at the right time, scoring in seven of his last eight games, which includes a whopping four assists in Vegas’s 7-2 dismantling of Columbus.
    Vegas also won seven of these eight games, which gives them a cushion over the Oilers and Kings. The Knights are now 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and remain a top team on the road with six straight wins.
  • Brandon Montour, Florida Panthers: We can’t credit Tkachuk without giving a shoutout to his teammate, Montour. The 28-year-old continues to enjoy a breakout season and now has 61 points. He’s been lethal on special teams and has helped create seven PP goals in his last seven games. He has 10 points in total in this span.
  • Montour has also put up a couple of multi-point games to help Florida win. The Panthers are 8-2-2 when Montour has 2+ points. He’s a solid player to bet in the sportsbook’s props while on fire.
Miro Heiskanen #4 of the Dallas Stars shoots against the Seattle Kraken during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on March 13, 2023
Heiskanen #4 of the Stars shoots against the Kraken during the first period at Climate Pledge Arena on March 13, 2023 / Steph Chambers – AFP

Goalies

  • Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins: Like Heiskanen, Swayman returns to the “Hot” list thanks to being virtually unbeatable. Swayman posted another shutout as Boston humiliated Buffalo 7-0, then followed that up by stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced against Montreal.
    Originally under Linus Ullmark’s shadow, Swayman has arguably been better since the new year. He’s posted a 12-3-1 record with a 93.7 save percentage (SV%) and four shutouts, which is twice as many as Ullmark has.
  • Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers: The reigning Vezina Trophy winner now resembles the unbreachable wall he was last year. Shesterkin has been on a torrid run in his last six starts having won five with a 94.9 SV%, which is tied with Swayman for the best in this stretch. In all six games, Shesterkin had to make 30+ saves as New York won critical games over its division rivals. New York is now firmly entrenched in the third spot in the division. There is a slim chance it can overtake Carolina if it continues with this current pace, going 6-1-1 in its last eight games.
  • Joel Hofer, St. Louis Blues: Not many know who Hofer is, but fantasy players are in love with this new Blues goalie that has come through in Jordan Binnington’s absence. Hofer started four games and won three. He shut out Winnipeg and posted a 94.4 SV% with just 1.74 goals allowed on average.
    The Blues are not going anywhere, but it can’t hurt them to see they have a viable option outside their unhinged starter.

Who’s Not

Forwards

  • Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are running out of fuel and if they are to clinch a playoff spot, their top players need to perform. That means Mark Scheifele needs to be better than his recent form: just two points and a -11 plus/minus in his last seven games.
    In fact, Scheifele has registered a negative plus/minus in nine of his last 12 games. Plus/minus is an outdated metric nowadays, but even with the eyeball test, Winnipeg’s star player is not holding his own regarding two-way play.
  • Ross Colton, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have lost 10 of their last 15 games and a big reason is their lack of offense. Nikita Kucherov and co. can only do so much, so it’s up to the likes of Colton to provide additional firepower. Unfortunately, he’s been a disappointment.
    Colton has just one goal and two points in his last nine games. He’s also -5 during this stretch with a 5.3 shooting percentage. Tampa is 11-1-4 when he scores a goal, so for its sake, he needs to find his mojo.
  • Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres: At one point, some NHL predictions pegged Thompson as a Hart Trophy finalist beside McDavid and David Pastrnak. But that all seems like a pipe dream now with how frigid Thompson and Buffalo have been.
    Thompson has just one goal in his last nine games. He has six points and is -6 during this span. Worst is his shooting percentage, which is an abysmal 3.6 percent compared to 17.9 percent prior to this stretch. The Sabres average just 2.44 goals and are 1-6-2 while he’s in this rut.
Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets against the Tampa Bay Lightning during a hockey game at the Amalie Arena on March 12, 2023
Scheifele #55 of Jets against Lightning during a hockey game at the Amalie Arena on March 12, 2023 // Mike Carlson – AFP

Defensemen

  • Jakob Chychrun, Ottawa Senators: It was a dream start for Chychrun and the Senators as he tallied four points and the Sens went 3-1-0. But since that, Chychrun has contributed just one assist in the last eight games, while Ottawa has gone 2-5-1.
    It’s even worse as Ottawa looked to fight for the final wild-card spot but is now five points back of Pittsburgh. With a tough schedule ahead, Chychrun and Ottawa will need to get it going.
  • Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres: If Thompson is in a slump, Dahlin has all but disappeared. The former first-overall pick snapped an eight-game pointless drought with an assist versus Nashville. He also has not lit the lamp in nearly two months – a 21-game goalless drought.
    Dahlin was previously on pace to hit 96 points. Many expected him and the Sabres to regress, but something is amiss here with just two points and a -14 plus/minus in his last 11 contests.

  • Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg Jets: Morrissey joins Dahlin as another rising star on defense that is in a slump. Save for a two-assist showing versus Nashville, Morrissey has not scored in his last seven games.
    Even more troublesome is his ineffectiveness on the man advantage. Morrissey has just one PP point in his last 13 games. Winnipeg’s offense has dropped to 28th in the NHL and its PP is second-worst as a result.

Goalies

  • James Reimer, San Jose Sharks: Reimer is making NHL news for all the wrong reasons. But even if we exclude his off-ice controversies, he’s also doing poorly in the actual game. Reimer is 0-2-2 in his last five starts and has an 87.5 save percentage during this span.
    And coincidentally, he’s been hung out to dry by his own team – 12 goals on 61 shots in two games – since he refused to wear the Pride-themed jerseys despite his team’s messages.
  • Michael Hutchinson, Columbus Blue Jackets: I can’t help but feel sorry for Hutchinson, who rarely gets the chance to start in the NHL. And when he does, it’s for this sorry Blue Jackets team that is dead-set on landing Connor Bedard by finishing last.
    Hutchinson has lost both of his starts with Columbus and has an 87.5 SV% during this span. The worst part is how Columbus let Anaheim, one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL, light him up for five goals.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: Every elite netminder has bad stretches. Vasilevskiy is going through one as he and Tampa crawl their way to the postseason. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is just 2-3-1 in his last six starts with an 88.7 SV%.
    And if we exclude his games against New Jersey, he has not recorded a save percentage above 90 since Philadelphia back on March 7.

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