Maple Leafs media war; stretch drive star; more roundtable hot topics

Wednesday March 4th, 2015

Every Wednesday, a trio of SI.com staffers sits down for a discussion of the hockey world's hot button issues. This week, Sam Page, Sarah Kwak and Al Muir talk about Phil Kessel's confrontation with the media, offer their takes on the best and worst moves of the trade deadline, examine the wild card race in the East, and pick a player who is ready to light it up down the stretch.

First up:

• Phil Kessel went off on the Toronto media on Tuesday, defending the honor of teammate Dion Phaneuf and taking a veiled shot at team management. What do you make of it?

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• Now that the dust has settled, what's the one deal made on deadline weekend that you see having the greatest impact down the road?

KWAK: I'll go with the fairly obvious and say Keith Yandle to the Rangers. Bringing in the defenseman, who has put up more than 40 points in each of his last five full seasons (and 30 during the shortened 2012-13 campaign), gives New York what easily is the best blueline corps in the East and arguably the best in the league from top to bottom. In his first game with New York on Monday (against Nashville, the best team in the league), you could see how his excellent first pass will fit in perfectly with the Rangers' quick transition game. Sure, Yandle can be a bit of a liability defensively, but New York will eventually get Henrik Lundqvist back, and he's been their longtime liability-eraser in net. So with an offensive activator like Yandle to spark their speedy group of forwards, I think they'll give opponents fits and make a real run for the Cup.

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• Seems like someone always goes on a tear down the stretch. Which player do you like to finish the season red hot this time around?

[daily_cut: NHL]

KWAK: I think Sidney Crosby, who's having the worst statistical season of his career, is feeling the need to assert himself as a dominant player in this league again. And so I have every reason to believe that—with the Penguins in a tight race for playoff positioning in the Metro Division—he will kick himself into the next gear and go on a run. During his career, after all, he's averaged 1.34 points per game during the month of March, by far the best among active players. 

MUIR: Nice stat, Sarah. Me, I'll take John Tavares. Loved his game on Tuesday night in Dallas. Always seemed to be on the right side of the puck. And the move he made on Jamie Benn to get himself into his preferred shooting position? Scary slick. He has 14 points in his last 10 games. I think he ends up winning the Art Ross Trophy.

PAGE: It seems impossible that Steven Stamkos is averaging less than a point per game. A lot of that has to do with reduced ice time, and I suspect the Lightning will lean on their captain down the stretch.  

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