Throwback question: Taylor vs. Tyler? -- @briantodd34
Ah, a throwback to the 2010 NHL Draft, the great debate of Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. That year, Hall, now with the New Jersey Devils, went No. 1 to the Edmonton Oilers and Seguin, now with the Dallas Stars, went No. 2 to the Boston Bruins. It's a terrific question considering Hall and Seguin, each 26, are having excellent seasons. Hall is rapidly becoming one of the favorites to win the Hart Trophy. Each has at least 30 goals (Hall has 30, Seguin has 36). They're each in the top 25 in NHL scoring. They are dominant, elite players.
But I have to take Seguin because he's the center. I'm always going to favor the center when talking about elite players because their responsibilities are always greater than those of a wing. Hall is fantastic. He's the biggest reason the Devils are in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. But Seguin is a No. 1 center on a team that is likely heading to the playoffs. His impact on the Stars is huge. Seguin has also been more consistent than Hall in the past five seasons. Seguin is four goals short of tying Mike Modano's record for most goals by a player in his first five seasons with the Dallas/Minnesota North Stars franchise. Modano had 173 in 393 games from 1989-94 (.440 per game). Seguin has 169 in 372 games (.454 per game).
Hall has 117 goals in 344 games since the start of the 2013-14 season (.340 per game).
Hall has a great case for NHL MVP this season, but if there was a redraft for the 2010 draft, I'd pick Seguin at No. 1.
Video: VGK@NJD: Hall pots 30th goal of season on wraparound
Brian Boyle is definitely the front-runner for the Masterton Trophy, right? -- @sun_puck
Right. And I don't think there is a close second to the Devils center. In my opinion, Boyle won the Masterton Trophy on Nov. 1, when he made his season debut against the Vancouver Canucks.
Boyle's story has been well documented, but to rehash, he announced prior to the start of the season that he had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare but treatable form of cancer. He said Sept. 19 he felt the doctors had a good plan of attack for him and he was looking forward to getting on the ice and playing this season. Dr. Michael Farber said Boyle's disease is treatable with medication. Boyle needed some time to get the medication process started, but he never wavered in his desire to play this season. He missed New Jersey's first 10 games and was back against the Canucks. He has since missed three games because of an injury (Feb. 13-17).
He was named as Hall's replacement for the 2018 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay, where he played for the Lightning and was a fan favorite from 2014-17. I will never forget the rousing ovation Boyle received at Amalie Arena that weekend.
Boyle's former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate, Steven Stamkos, could get some consideration because of his ability to bounce back from another serious injury to have a terrific season. But it would be shocking if Boyle doesn't win the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.
Should the Vancouver Canucks get a new starting goalie for next season or are you confident in Jacob Markstrom moving forward? -- @CalvinBiefeld
I wouldn't say I'm confident in Markstrom, but there are factors at play that need to be considered before we dismiss him as the Canucks goalie. You must weigh if the goalies who potentially could be on the market after this season are better than Markstrom. Without too much speculation on potential trades, etc., I'm talking about Antti Raanta, Robin Lehner, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier and either Petr Mrazek, Michal Neuvirth or Brian Elliott, depending on what the Philadelphia Flyers decide to do with their goaltending. Mrazek, like Lehner (Buffalo Sabres), can become a restricted free agent July 1. Neuvirth and Elliott are signed. Raanta (Arizona Coyotes), Halak (New York Islanders), Ward (Carolina Hurricanes) and Bernier (Colorado Avalanche) can become unrestricted free agents July 1.
I don't think any of the goalies mentioned above are a guaranteed upgrade over Markstrom, who is signed for two more seasons with an NHL salary cap charge of $3.67 million. Anders Nilsson is also signed for next season for $2.5 million. By the way, if the Canucks are going to bring in someone new, Markstrom or Nilsson will have to go.
Markstrom has been what we thought he was going to be: an average goalie who can't lift a below average team into playoff contention. He has a 2.79 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 49 games (46 starts). The Canucks are 28th in the NHL in goals-against (3.24 per game) and 26th on the penalty kill (77.2 percent). You could argue that with a better defense, Markstrom's numbers would be better, so maybe the Canucks need to beef up their back end and not worry so much about their goaltending.
Video: NYI@VAN: Markstrom makes strong save on Tavares
What's your take on the Nashville Predators' string of multigoal comeback victories lately? -- @jay_stephensjp
My take is teams should never play prevent defense against the Nashville Predators. Nashville is too good, especially on the back end, to think that going into safe mode is a good idea. The Predators push the pace from the back end, meaning a lot of the offense they generate is from their defense. Their defensemen are intuitive and they are encouraged to attack. When you try to play safe against a team that generates from the back end, you're going to be playing on your heels. They will get the puck, move it up the ice quickly, push and attack and you will have to retreat and have to give up precious ice in the neutral zone and across the blue line. That could create issues with gap control, which eventually lead to allowing quality scoring chances. It's a bigger issue because of how effective the Predators defensemen, specifically Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, are at getting off high-percentage shots from distance. The forwards attack the net well too. And when they're doing it with desperation, it's almost impossible to stop. The Predators feast on teams that play safe. The best way to beat the Predators is to attack them, no matter the score. It's human nature to want to protect, but the moment you do against Nashville, you're pretty much done.
Shouldn't John Gibson be getting some buzz for Vezina Trophy consideration? His stats are pretty impressive and you can argue the Ducks wouldn't be in the playoff conversation without him. -- Mkton31
Minor buzz. Gibson has been good. His .927 save percentage is second in the NHL among goalies with 40 or more games, behind Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators (.928), and his 2.46 goals-against average is sixth. He's been solid and is a big reason the Ducks are in contention for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
He probably should be getting more buzz, but I can't put him ahead of Rinne, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets or Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins. Those four have led teams that have been at or near the top of the standings all season. Yes, you can argue that the Lightning, Predators, Jets and Bruins are better teams than the Ducks, but the margin is not very wide. You can also argue Gibson's average start to the season -- he was 8-10-1 with a 2.98 GAA and .920 save percentage Dec. 2 -- is partially why the Ducks have had to play catch-up this season. In fairness to Gibson, the Ducks were allowing 36.4 shots on goal per game at that time. They've cut down on that (33.4 per game), and Gibson's numbers have improved. That's why I think he's in the second wave of Vezina Trophy candidates and could play his way into the top group with a strong finish. He needs to stay healthy too.
Video: CHI@ANA: Gibson makes glove save on Kane
Florida Panthers: Definitely in or definitely not? -- @themoose0221
(I feel terrible about myself for writing that, but I'm not changing it.)
I wrote in the mailbag last week that the Panthers are built for sustained success, but it's going to be hard for them to get into the playoffs this season because of how much ground they had to make up. Well, a lot can change in a week. They must win their games in hand to make them matter, but we've seen massive growth in this team from the start of the season until now, particularly from their young defensemen. The confidence in the system coach Bob Boughner has them playing is the biggest difference. They know he wants them to push the pace, play aggressively. They like doing it and they're comfortable too. This is crunch time now, so we'll learn a lot about the Panthers in the next four weeks.
I won't say definitely because I need to leave myself some room for error, but I do like what I'm seeing from Florida, and if I had to wager today, I'd say they get in ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets. I still think the Devils will be OK.
Will Ovi get to 50? -- @gdohlke
Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals captain, needs 10 goals to reach 50 this season, with 16 games to play.
He'll finish with 49.
I'm a buzzkill.