Friday April 17th, 2015

Off The Draw

Hockey fans have been fantasizing for years about Connor McDavid and what he could do for their team.

On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, we’ll find out whose dreams will come true.

That’s when the NHL will conduct a lottery to determine which of the 14 nonplayoff teams will get the right to make McDavid the first choice in the June draft. The Sabres, by virtue of finishing 30th, have the best odds (20%) to win the right to pick him. That also means that there is an 80% chance they will move down, though they won’t fall far. Buffalo will drop no further than one spot if another team wins the lottery, guaranteeing the Sabres the chance to select Jack Eichel at No. 2. Not a bad consolation prize.

There’s a small chance, of course, that he could go to the Kings or the Bruins. It wouldn’t be fair, but having McDavid land with an established team in a major market might be the best possible outcome for the league.

Lucky for the NHL, Buffalo is an established team. It was in the same spot last spring and lost the lottery to the Panthers, who chose Aaron Ekblad with the No. 1 pick. The Sabres selected Sam Reinhart second.

A few surprises in Central Scouting's final 2015 NHL draft rankings

The lottery will be conducted in private at the Hockey Central studio inside CBC headquarters in Toronto. The results will then be televised (on NBC in the U.S.; on CBC in Canada) prior to the puck drop for Game 2 of the Penguins–Rangers series.

This won’t be a Powerball-type drawing. The NHL’s setup features 14 individually numbered balls. A lottery machine will randomly select four and the resulting four-number series will be matched against a chart that shows all possible combinations and the teams to which each is assigned.

The chart of assigned combinations was revealed on the league website. Video of the actual drawing will also be posted there after Saturday’s lottery is complete.

A team that finished better than bottom-five has won the lottery only three times in the 20-year history of the draw. Of course those lotteries were held before the odds were changed to discourage teams from scuttling their seasons in an effort to better their chances of getting the top pick.

Here are the odds of each team winning the right to select first:

1. Sabres – 20%
2. Coyotes – 13.5%
3. Oilers – 11.5%
4. Maple Leafs – 9.5%
5. Hurricanes – 8.5%
6. Devils – 7.5%
7. Flyers – 6.5%
8. Blue Jackets – 6%
9. Sharks – 5%
10. Avalanche – 3.5%
11. Panthers – 3%
12. Stars – 2.5%
13. Kings – 2%
14. Bruins – 1%

Looking Out For No. 1: Jack Eichel is an NHL team changing talent

​McDavid is doing everything he can to heighten the tension ahead of the draw. After a regular season in which he scored 120 points in 47 games for the OHL’s Erie Otters, the 17-year-old center amassed a franchise-record 14 points in a second-round playoff sweep of the London Knights, highlighted by a five-goal outburst in Game 2. In nine playoff games, McDavid has scored 11 goals, with 12 assists. Such a player could turn around a rebuilding franchise such as Buffalo or the Coyotes in short order.

• It seems highly unlikely that either the SenatorsMark Stone or the CanadiensMax Pacioretty will be available for Game 2 of their series. Pacioretty, who has missed three games with a possible concussion, skated with his teammates on Friday morning but has not yet received medical clearance to play. Stone, who suffered a microfracture in his wrist when he was slashed by P.K. Subban in Game 1, was on the ice for practice but did not participate in drills.

• I get it. There are times when opportunity speaks to Sidney Crosby in a language that others simply can’t decode. So questioning a decision like the one he made in the second period of Thursday night’s 2–1 loss to the Rangers—when he decided that a blind, behind-the-back pass was a better option than a point blank shot from 12 feet—has to be tempered with the understanding that he probably saw something we didn’t.

Penalty-filled first period dooms Penguins as Rangers take Game 1

But at some point the all-seeing Kid has to see this: His linemates just aren’t good enough to keep up with his kind of game.

The Penguins have been a one-pass-too-many team for far too long, and Crosby has, at times, been the prime offender. His mistakes have only become more obvious as the quality of the talent around him has deteriorated.

“Pretty” play is the worst possible response to a slump in which Pittsburgh scored two or fewer goals in 12 of its last 16 games. The Pens need to simplify. To get pucks to the net. And yet Crosby continues to look for Plan B. In nearly 20 minutes of ice time in the Game 1 loss, he attempted just three shots. None were blocked. Two went wide. Only one actually tested New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers will take that kind of decision-making all series long.

Crosby’s blind pass wasn’t an isolated case of him being trigger-shy, either. In 13 playoff games last year, he took three shots or fewer 10 times. You want to know why the man who is called the best player in the world has just one goal in his .ast 18 playoff games? There’s your answer.

The easiest thing to do is to shout “Shoot!’ from the peanut gallery, but just because it’s easy to say doesn’t mean that it’s bad advice. For Pittsburgh to break through, Sid needs to start calling his own number more often.

2015 NHL playoffs crystal ball: Cup picks, predictions and more

•​ Getting shots on net wasn’t a problem for Alex Ovechkin, who had six in the Capitals’ Game 1 loss to the Islanders. That kind of volume will pay off in this series. Especially if he’s being set up for those chances by frequent cohort Nicklas Backstrom. Expect the two to be reunited for their must-win Game 2 at Verizon Center. 

• I love John Klingberg. Scouts love John Klinberg. And clearly, the Stars love John Klingberg. A whole lot. Dallas gave the young defenseman a seven-year extension on Friday morning worth $4.25 annually. It’s a remarkable—and surely unprecedented—commitment to a player who has all of 65 games of NHL experience.

Klingberg looked every bit the real deal during his rookie season and seems to have the potential to become one of the best in the game. But he’s only played 65 games! With the option to go with a bridge deal here, this seems like an unnecessary risk on the part of Stars GM Jim Nill.

The numbers game

Who advanced analytics (fancystats) predict will win the 2015 Stanley Cup

• The Red Wings’ Game 1 victory over the Lightning, in which Tampa Bay outshot Detroit 46–14, was the Wings’ fewest shots on goal in a playoff win in the expansion era. Montreal—on April 26, 2010 (against Washington) was the last team to win a postseason game in regulation with a shot differential of –32 or more.​

• Game 1 of the series between the Ducks and the Jets featured the playoff debuts of Winnipeg’s Toby Enstrom, Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn, as well as Anaheim’s Tim Jackman. All four players ranked on the NHL’s top-10 list of most regular-season games played without a postseason appearance: Ron Hainsey, 754*; Guy Charron, 734; Thorburn, 604*; Sam Gagner, 562*, Ladislav Smid, 561; Little,556*; Enstrom,544*; David Vyborny, 543; Vitali Yachmenev, 487; Jackman, 481*. (Active players are denoted by an asterisk.)

• The Ducks, who won Game 1 with a third-period comeback, set an NHL record this season for wins when trailing at any point in the final period (18). They also tied the league record of 12 victories when trailing after two periods (12-23-0).​

Hot links

• Don Brennan thinks that the Senators should target Carey Price or Max Pacioretty to avenge Mark Stone’s injury in Game 1. I suspect more than a few Ottawa fans share his eye-for-an-eye sentiment.

•​ This is what motivates Lightning GM Steve Yzerman to live 1,000 miles away from his family.

• The Blue Jackets are moving their AHL affiliate closer to home next season.

• I love these pieces Sportsnet is doing with various hockey types talking about winning the Cup. Here’s Mike Babcock explaining the importance of his ring.

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