What we learned from the last week in the NHL
Connor McDavid is the NHL’s best player, but …
He shouldn’t be voted the most valuable player. The Edmonton center took the scoring lead last week with 99 points, boosted by a five-goal, 10-point surge in his last four games, and he’s all but sure to win his second straight scoring title. But the Oilers have been well out of the playoffs for months and aren’t playing high-pressure games. There’s no rule stipulating the MVP (Hart Trophy) must go to a player whose team qualifies for postseason play but it’s tough to justify giving it to McDavid over players who are carrying their teams to playoff berths, like Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and — maybe — Kings center Anze Kopitar. It’s not McDavid’s fault the Oilers will miss out, but his late scoring feats won’t change a dismal season for Edmonton. Those other candidates are changing the course of the season for their respective teams.
An era ends for the Blackhawks
The Blackhawks had a great run, winning Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 before age, wear and salary-cap constraints caught up with them and ended a streak of nine straight playoff appearances. If goaltender Corey Crawford hadn’t suffered a head injury he might have kept them competitive, but he would have had to be spectacular behind a mediocre defense. They’re saddled with some big contracts for a long time, so their rebuilding efforts are likely to be slow. But their rebirth made the NHL more visible — even if it seemed that they were scheduled to play in every outdoor game — and revived a franchise that had become an afterthought in Chicago. One more Blackhawks-related note: Broadcaster Eddie Olczyk’s declaration he’s cancer-free was the best news in the entire NHL last week.
Playoff berth may not be in the Stars
When crunch time came, the Stars crumbled. Their playoff hopes were trampled on Sunday, when they lost to the long-eliminated Vancouver Canucks and extended their winless streak to 0-6-2, their worst since the franchise left Minnesota for Dallas in 1993. Injuries are part of the problem: goaltender Ben Bishop has been hurt twice recently, center Martin Hanzal’s season ended early because of back surgery, and other players have had minor problems. In addition, goalie Kari Lehtonen simply couldn’t win when the Stars needed him most. “We don’t deserve to win right now,” defenseman John Klingberg said in a story on the team’s website.
The Blues are still battling
When St. Louis goalie Carter Hutton sustained a neck injury on March 8, the Blues’ season appeared to be teetering toward oblivion. But Jake Allen, who had lost the starting job to Hutton, responded well and is a key reason the Blues are within reach of a wild-card playoff spot. He has started nine straight games — including two back-to-back sequences — and has led the Blues to a five-game winning streak. He stopped 33 shots Saturday to end the Blue Jackets’ 10-game winning streak. In that game, Columbus lost forward Nick Foligno to a lower-body injury for two to four weeks, and its depth will be severely challenged.