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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Coyotes will surprise, Panthers' playoff expectations

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Sept. 25 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

What team do you see being the biggest surprise of 2019-20? It can be positive or negative. -- @jin_winberg

The Arizona Coyotes will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The addition of right wing Phil Kessel gives them a legitimate go-to, impact scorer, a threat they were missing last season. Clayton Keller has been through highs and lows in his first two NHL seasons. The forward will figure it out this season and I think he'll score 20-30 goals and get 60-70 points. Nick Schmaltz will give the Coyotes a speed element at center they didn't have in the second half of last season after he sustained a season-ending knee injury Dec. 30 by helping them move the puck up the ice quickly. He can carry it into the zone himself and make plays off the rush, which will help Kessel too. Arizona scored 2.55 goals per game last season, 28th in the NHL. Its offense is better this season and its defense hasn't taken a hit. Provided they stay healthy, the Coyotes will score enough to make the playoffs. Last season they missed by four points allowing 2.68 goals per game, tied for fifth with the St. Louis Blues.

Video: Phil Kessel on joining the Coyotes, expectations

 

Who are some big locker room impacts from acquisitions and losses in the offseason? P.K. Subban and the New Jersey Devils? Dan Girardi and the Tampa Bay Lightning? -- @mikeybox

The two you mentioned can be significant, but here are three on each side:

Impact additions

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars: The former captain of the San Jose Sharks brings respect, credibility, work ethic and leadership into the Stars dressing room. His lead-by-example style will rub off on everyone there just as it did in San Jose.

Ron Hainsey, Ottawa Senators: The defenseman is a no-nonsense veteran who will stand up in front of reporters and honestly answer questions if it means shielding young players from the cameras or criticism. He'll help defenseman Thomas Chabot's maturation into a leader. 

Pat Maroon, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have a lot of players who have played in a lot of playoff games, but until Maroon got there on a one-year contract he signed Aug. 24 they didn't have anyone who had won the Stanley Cup. The forward won it with the Blues last season. 

Impact subtractions

Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings: The longtime Red Wings defenseman retired, leaving a leadership void at the position. 

Pavelski, Sharks: San Jose has the players to make up for Pavelski's leadership, but it's not known where the void will be felt. Logan Couture is taking over as captain, Tomas Hertl will be an alternate captain, and Timo Meier wants to take on a bigger leadership role.

Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes: The undisputed leader of the Hurricanes is unsure of his playing future, so he's still an unrestricted free agent. Carolina will miss its captain, who was its most decorated veteran and a productive player.

 

Do you believe in the "Cup Hangover" and if so, how bad do you think it will hit the St. Louis Blues this season? -- @SimpDogMilionar

I used to believe in it. I don't anymore. Players are wired differently these days. They train and celebrate at the same time. Their focus in the offseason is on the next season and getting ready for it. Typically, by late August they're in full swing and have moved on. I don't think the Blues will have any Stanley Cup hangover. The 2014-15 Los Angeles Kings are the only team in the past 12 seasons to not make the playoffs the season after winning the Stanley Cup, and I think they missed them because they were at the end of their run. They've failed to qualify in three of the five seasons since, have won one playoff game in their two appearances, and are now rebuilding. 

The problem the Blues are going to run into is the Central Division is stacked and arguably the best division in the NHL. If they're in a fight to make the playoffs it's going to be because of that, not because they won the Stanley Cup and they are either tired or content. 

Video: Stanley Cup champion Ryan O'Reilly at PMT in Chicago

 

What should we expect from the Montreal Canadiens and where do they fit within the Atlantic Division? -- @TJRinger1

The Canadiens can be a playoff team, but I have two major questions:

1. Will their power play help or hurt them?

2. Will Keith Kinkaid be a reliable backup to Carey Price?

The power play was undeniably the biggest culprit in the Canadiens missing the playoffs by two points last season. They were 30th in the NHL at 13.2 percent. They had 34 games decided by one goal and won half of them (17-9-8), and in their 17 one-goal losses not including shootouts they were 16.7 percent on the power play (9-for-54). If they scored three or four more power-play goals, they likely would have been a playoff team. 

The good news is Montreal should benefit from having defenseman Shea Weber's shot on the power play from the start of this season. Weber missed the first 24 games last season and Montreal scored at 14.9 percent on the power play. Then again, the Canadiens were 12.2 percent in the 58 games he played, but that may have been less because of Weber and more because of an inability to possess the puck or transition back to offense after losing possession. They need to win the face-off to start the power play and generate scoring chances off Weber's shot, making people respect it enough that it could open lanes elsewhere. If the power play is middle of the road, the Canadiens might be good enough to make the playoffs.

But I still think they have to get at least 20 respectable starts out of Kinkaid to make it happen. If he can get the Canadiens 12 or 13 wins it could put them over the top, especially if Montreal can count on Price getting about 35. 

Video: 31 in 31: Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 season preview

 

Do you think the Florida Panthers make the playoffs this season? -- @TrishTheMiddle

There are no more learning curves to be graded on. The Panthers have their veteran coach who is a proven winner: Joel Quenneville is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and second all-time in wins (890) behind Scotty Bowman (1,244). They have their No. 1 goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina Trophy winner and proved last season he could be clutch too. He was 10-3-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and four shutouts in 13 games from March 5 to the end of the season, helping the Blue Jackets get into the playoffs. He was 6-4 with a 2.41 GAA and .925 save percentage in the postseason, helping Columbus win a playoff round for the first time.

The Panthers have high-end talent and depth. They should be top 15 in the NHL in goals and goals against. Last season, they were ninth in goals (3.22 per game) but 28th in goals against (3.33) despite being 10th on the penalty kill (81.3 percent) and in shots against per game (30.7). Bobrovsky will make the biggest difference and the Panthers will make the playoffs. They're built for it.

 

How many points do you think do you think the New York Rangers' first line could get? -- @timnhlll

I'll answer assuming Pavel Buchnevich will be the primary right wing on a line with center Mika Zibanejad and left wing Artemi Panarin. This also assumes they'll be healthy. 

My guess is 200 points, give or take a few.

The Rangers haven't had an 80-point player since Marian Gaborik had 86 in 2009-10. Panarin should be at least an 80-point player. Zibanejad had an NHL career-high 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) last season. He could do it again with Panarin on his line. He'll also benefit from getting open in the middle of the top power-play unit with Panarin and rookie Kaapo Kakko feeding him from the wings. Buchnevich had 38 points (21 goals, 17 assists) in 64 games last season. He won't be on PP1 (Chris Kreider will), but he'll get the bump from playing at even strength with Panarin and Zibanejad, so let's put him down for 45-50 points. Add it up and it's right around 200, which gives the Rangers a bona fide No. 1 line and should take the pressure off their other lines that will feature several young players, including Kakko, who is 18.

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