Sports

NHL 2nd-half outlook: Commerce deadline, MVP race and extra outside video games

Even in the course of the all-star break, Nathan MacKinnon stored considering forward to the second half of the NHL season.

“You strive to not eat an excessive amount of,” MacKinnon mentioned. “You are trying within the mirror and also you look fats.”

Possibly MacKinnon, and loads of different gamers across the league, placed on a few kilos throughout all-star festivities, however the Colorado centre would not have a lot to fret about on that entrance.

Getting by the Western Convention is one other story.

The stretch run begins Monday with MacKinnon and the Avalanche visiting the New York Rangers and there is a lot to play out over the following 2 1/2 months.

The March 8 commerce deadline, outside video games on back-to-back days and the MVP race heating up between MacKinnon and Connor McDavid are among the many issues to observe earlier than the playoffs begin on April 22 and the chase for the Stanley Cup begins.

Commerce flurry

Two of the highest groups within the league, Vancouver and Winnipeg, made a major acquisition in current days. The Canucks bought Elias Lindholm from Calgary, the Jets bought fellow middle Sean Monahan from Montreal and way more exercise is predicted earlier than the March 8 commerce deadline.

Very similar to final yr when Vancouver despatched Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders, the wheeling and dealing is getting underway early. That is not good for deadline day tv drama, however the subsequent month could possibly be frantic.

“Groups are undoubtedly making some strikes,” MacKinnon mentioned. “I do not know what we will do, however I like our group, for certain.”

Among the many gamers who could possibly be on the transfer are Minnesota goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, Philadelphia’s Sean Walker, Washington’s Nic Dowd and Ottawa’s Jakob Chychrun.

The Rangers in win-now mode are a group to observe, as are the rival New Jersey Devils, maybe available in the market for goaltending assist.

Out of doors hockey

The NHL is taking it exterior for video games between the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers after which the Rangers and Islanders on Feb. 17 and 18 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

It is the primary time the league has accomplished outside video games in consecutive days and an opportunity to showcase a few longtime division rivalries.

“We’re actually trying ahead to that recreation,” Flyers all-star Travis Konecny mentioned. “It is one thing that you simply circle on the calendar if you discover out you are going to be concerned in a single and check out your finest to deal with it like one other recreation. However there’s clearly some pleasure round it, and also you’re trying ahead to it.”

New Jersey’s Jesper Bratt has by no means performed organized outside hockey earlier than, although he is attempting to stability the anticipation in opposition to the Devils’ must win video games and get into playoff place.

“We’re popping out enjoying some actually, actually significant video games for the remainder of the yr,” Bratt mentioned. “Each level makes a whole lot of distinction.”

Playoff races

The Devils, Islanders and Seattle Kraken are among the many 2023 playoff groups at the moment out of a spot. Similar with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who’re constructed to attempt to get again in after lacking final season.

“Everybody’s going to be enjoying a whole lot of hockey right here the following couple months, so consistency’s huge,” Crosby mentioned. “When you can string some collectively right here and get sizzling, you are enjoying a whole lot of video games, so for the groups that may try this, they’re going to get a giant push.”

An enormous push is coming within the West, with 4 groups separated by simply 4 factors within the standings. The streaking St. Louis Blues, flailing Los Angeles Kings, Kraken and Nashville Predators are competing for 2 wild-card spots.

Seattle’s Oliver Bjorkstrand mentioned he and his teammates must “work our butts off” to qualify.

“We all know we’re within the hunt for it,” Bjorkstrand mentioned. “There’s different groups enjoying good hockey, so, yeah, we bought to win video games.”

MVP repeat?

McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers have gained 16 in a row, one shy of the file, and the reigning Hart Trophy winner is making a case to be MVP for the fourth time in his nine-year profession.

He trails MacKinnon by 17 factors and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov by 18 within the scoring race, however McDavid is arguably enjoying higher all-around hockey than he did final season.

“It may not be probably the most offensively horny yr, however I believe we’re doing a whole lot of good issues,” McDavid mentioned. “I be ok with my recreation. I be ok with the place I am at, and I be ok with our group.”

MacKinnon and Colorado gained the Stanley Cup in 2022, sweeping Edmonton within the West ultimate, however he has but to be voted MVP.

McDavid would commerce that {hardware} to elevate the Cup over his head for the primary time.

“It is about profitable, and that is sort of all it’s,” McDavid mentioned.

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