NHL insiders debate this week

With less than two weeks left in the regular season, teams are still jockeying for playoff spots, players are padding award résumés and the pressure is ratcheted up.

Our panel of experts has gathered to discuss all the major topics for the week ahead, including whether the Los Angeles KingsWhich team can keep their playoff spot and which team would win in a postseason game between the Toronto Maple LeafsAnd the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NHL insiders debate this week

1. Are you positive that the Kings will be able to retain a playoff spot in the future?

Arda OcalIt is my opinion. They will face all non-playoff team the Kings the rest of their way. As they head into week's action, Vegas is still three points behind them for third place in the Pacific. The Golden Knights are one game ahead. Three matchups remain for the Golden Knights with playoff teams, including one with the Dallas StarsThey are competing for a wild card spot. I love the chaos that could occur right up until the end of the regular season.

Kristen Shilton:Los Angeles has been in a difficult few weeks. This was highlighted by the 9-3 loss to Colorado. But the Kings bounced back with a win over the Blue Jackets Sunday and remain in control of their destiny. L.A. has no margin for error but is not dependent on other teams' results to ensure they make it to the postseason. Vegas suffered a disappointing loss and looked defeated in Saturday's 4-0 loss in Edmonton. If the Kings can hold onto third place in Pacific, I think they can.

Greg Wyshynski:The Kings beat the Kings Columbus Blue JacketsThere are two possible ways to look at Saturday night. This was yet another poor effort by a team which had lost four out of five games before coming in. However, the Kings were able to score two points against a nonplayoff team in a game where they weren't always able to use their fastball. Their five last games were against non-playoff team, where they are 6-3-2. They can pull six points if they achieve the same percentage of points against them in their last five games. This effectively reduces the Golden Knights' terrible number to three points. The Kings have no playoff spot and it is unlikely they will lose it. It would also be very similar to the Hockey Gods to deny us the McDavid-vs. Eichel playoff showdown, which would be Edmonton vs. Vegas.)

2. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Tampa Bay LightningA preview of a first-round playoff matchup could be available on Thursday (8 p.m. ESPN). Which team would give the advantage in this series?

Ocal:Toronto would have the edge. The Leafs have a chip in their shoulders and have much more to prove in the playoffs. Another year has passed without hearing from the Leafs about how they “haven’t won a Cup in 1967” or “haven’t won a playoff series ever since 2004.”

How exhausted will the Lightning be, and how will that affect the playoffs? Can the Leafs find goaltending of Stanley Cup quality? Jack CampbellAnd Erik Kallgren?

It would be a great first round series. There are many situations in the East where really good teams could lose in the first round.

Shilton:If we look at recent success (or lack thereof), in the playoffs, Tampa has a clear edge. Based on the current state of both teams, however? This is a bit more. In April, the Lightning are a.500 club. They've lost to many good teams including Toronto. Could this be a sign of fatigue for a team that has played more hockey than any other club on their way to back-to-back titles? It could be.

Toronto has a scoring machine Auston MatthewsMitch Marner is riding shotgun, at the top of his game. Tampa is home to one of the NHL’s best, most game-changing goaltenders. Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Leafs experienced Carey PriceThe Leafs won all the games and beat Jack Campbell in round one last season. The new year is here and considering how Toronto and Tampa have been playing of late, I'd wager on the Leafs winning a seven-game series.

Wyshynski:Logically, the Maple Leafs are the winners of this series. They've been the stronger team lately. Matthews has enjoyed seven points from the Lightning in three games and faced Vasilevskiy in each of them. Matthews is hungry for playoff success and playing against a team with a lack of motivation this season is like asking for another slice of cake. The Stanley Cup playoffs switch at the end the regular season flips is what worries me most about Toronto. This is the one that makes the Leafs quake at any sign of adversity. The one that theoretically turns the Lightning into the postseason slayers who have won 8 consecutive playoff rounds. Tampa Bay has been waiting 2022 to make the playoffs. Toronto is not going to be able to knock out the Leafs in the first round.

3. Which team is currently eliminated and must win the draft lottery most?

Ocal: Arizona. Arizona's 5,000-seat arena will be the focus of attention for the Coyotes next season. Many former NHL players and current NHL players told me that they would not want to play in such conditions if given the option. Although it may create a positive vibe, even though it is temporary, I believe it will not be ideal. However, for a player just entering the league, all is new and it's still “the main show”. Having a new No. 1. The overall pick on the team may draw attention from the crowds at 3,500 or whatever it is.

Shilton:I'll be there Seattle Kraken. It felt like Seattle was forgotten about this season. Recent additions of Matty BeniersThis has been a plus. Did you see him playing against New Jersey last weekend?Especially after GM Ron FrancisTraded for plenty of draft picks before the deadline to build for future. The Kraken could use more “wow” factor, more tangible reasons to cheer for this team in the future. Francis will have other first-round picks in the upcoming draft, but there's something about being the No. 1 overall pick.

Wyshynski:The NHL is a game that we all love to watch. Here's one: Detroit Red WingsSince 1986, when they made their first overall selection, have not had one Joe MurphyMichigan State. For context, see GM Steve YzermanAt the time, he was 21 years old. They have not been able to pick first overall in 20 years of postseason success, despite some bad luck with the lottery in recent years. The last time they picked a player in the top 3 was actually Keith PrimeauIn 1990! Stevie Y has another piece of foundational material to share! Lucas Raymond, Moritz SeiderSimon Edvinsson, in his efforts to bring the Red Wings back to prominence.

4. Do you have a question that is still unanswered?

Ocal:This question might not be answered, but I'm keeping track of which direction the Hart Trophy discussion goes. Is it? Roman JosiMake a push with another monster (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, needs updating tonight). Can Auston Matthews score 60 goals? Is it 65? Perhaps 65? Do you agree? Jonathan HuberdeauToss a bunch of apples in the oven and enjoy Connor McDavidIn points and stay there? Does Igor ShesterkinGet a few more shutouts to increase his savings percentage.

Perhaps it is time to eliminate the Hart Trophy's “most valuable to his teams” section. Shesterkin is the obvious and obvious choice, based on that definition. However, I agree with the other players (and also Connor McDavid) that Shesterkin is the best choice. Leon DraisaitlBecause of their overall value, ) are more worthy of the “MVP” title. It's almost a hockey rite-of-pass to continue debating the exact same thing for years. Maybe it's more fun to just keep it in there.

Shilton:Are there any concerns about some of the NHL's perennial rivals, namely the Pittsburgh PenguinsAnd Boston Bruins? Both teams clinched playoff berths last week, but the responses were strangely somber. “They made it,” they said. But, how far can each team really go? Both benches have aging cores. Young goalies shouldering the burden. No matter what the standings turn out, there will be a difficult first round matchup. Boston and Pittsburgh met on Saturday. Boston won 2-1. They will face each other again this week. I'll be monitoring the game closely to see how it develops and whether either team begins to show more consistency as they approach the playoffs.

Wyshynski:Who can avoid the Colorado AvalancheThe first round? The Nashville PredatorsBoth the Dallas Stars and Preds have 91 point in 75 games. The Preds however have the edge in tiebreakers of overtime and regulation wins (41 to39). The Avalanche have won nine consecutive games and are dominating offensively. The Calgary FlamesThey're not pushovers. They are also not the Avalanche.

Dallas will travel to Western Canada, where it will visit Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary. Seattle will be the host. After Sunday's game against the Blues, the Predators will only have two games this week: Tuesday's home match against the Flames and Saturday's road meeting with the Lightning. In the last week, they'll play four games: Minnesota and Calgary at their home, as well as the Avalanche on the road and the Coyotes in back-to-back matches. Money Puck rates the Stars at 57.7% for finishing in the first round of the wild card and avoiding the Avs. These teams must ensure that the Golden Knights don't win one of their wild-card spots.

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