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Mailbag: Sidney Crosby favorite to win scoring race

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the March 22 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday through the course of the 2016-17 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

Who wins the Art Ross Trophy: A) Connor McDavid; B) Sidney Crosby; C) Brad Marchand; D) Patrick Kane; E) other? -- @RichBooth1

I'm going with Crosby, though I'll admit at this point it's a pretty big toss-up.

Here's why I'm choosing Crosby, who has 81 points, one behind McDavid for the NHL scoring lead:

Crosby is averaging 1.25 points per game against the nine opponents the Penguins will play over their final 10 regular-season games. He has 30 points in 24 games against them. McDavid is averaging 1.00 points per game against the five opponents that make up the final 10 games on the Edmonton Oilers schedule. That's 13 points in 13 games.

The Penguins will play the New York Rangers twice. Crosby has five points in three games against them this season. He has eight points in four games against the New Jersey Devils, six points in three games against the New York Islanders, three points in three games against the Philadelphia Flyers, and three points in two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games. And the Penguins are playing to try to win the Metropolitan Division.

Video: PIT@BUF: Crosby dances past defense for gorgeous PPG

McDavid has 13 points in his past 10 games. The Oilers are playing for home-ice advantage and potentially to try to win the Pacific Division, but they're a long shot for that.

The other three contenders are Marchand, Kane and Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom. Marchand and Kane each has 80 points, and Backstrom has 78. Marchand and Kane each has nine games remaining, and Backstrom has 10.

Marchand had 18 points in 17 games against the eight opponents left on the Boston Bruins schedule (1.125 points per game). Kane has 14 points in 17 games against the nine teams he and the Chicago Blackhawks will play (0.823 ppg). Backstrom has 16 points in 14 games against the eight teams left on Washington's schedule (1.143 ppg). He hasn't played against the Arizona Coyotes yet.

 

Which Canadian team will make it furthest in the postseason? McDavid and Edmonton? Leafs? First Canadian Cup win in decades? -- @mikeybox

It depends on matchups, particularly in the Pacific Division and if the Oilers play the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference First Round. You can throw out the fact that Edmonton swept the regular-season series (4-0-0) against Calgary because the Alberta teams haven't played since Jan. 21, before the Flames figured it out this season, and two of the games were the first two games of the season. However, it would guarantee at least one team from Canada moving on. I don't think either of them get out of the second round. If the matchups in the Eastern Conference stay what they are now, I think the Ottawa Senators are the only team from Canada that will advance. I'm done underestimating them and overestimating the Bruins. The Rangers struggled against the Montreal Canadiens this season (0-2-1), but over the course of a seven-game series I think their transition game and ability to score will be the difference, as will a rested Henrik Lundqvist. The Maple Leafs are a nice story, and they may be the next team from Canada to win the Stanley Cup, but it won't be this season. They aren't ready to handle any of the top three Metropolitan Division teams. So, no, we won't see a team from Canada win the Cup this season. We will see a Chicago team win the Cup, again.

 

People have been comparing Toronto to the 2007-08 Blackhawks. Thoughts on the comparison? -- @jimmy_krueger

I like the comparison better using the 2008-09 Blackhawks because that team made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and I think the Maple Leafs will get in this season. The comparison works with one question: Which three Toronto defensemen play the role of Chicago's Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson?

Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson finally started to make an impact late in the 2008-09 season and throughout Chicago's three-round playoff run.

Morgan Rielly fits. Nikita Zaitsev certainly looks like he does too. But I have reservations about Jake Gardiner despite the fact that he leads Toronto's defensemen with 34 points and is averaging 21:23 of ice time per game. He plays a dangerous game. Dangerous games can be deadly to teams in the playoffs.

You could make the case Toronto is better situated up front because of its center depth with Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak. Marner currently is playing right wing. Chicago's center depth had been a concern beyond Jonathan Toews until last season, when Artem Anisimov arrived. However, the Maple Leafs don't have anyone like Patrick Kane or Marian Hossa on the wing. James van Riemsdyk could be the equivalent of Patrick Sharp. I'm not sure who from the Blackhawks was the equivalent of William Nylander, but I don't think the Maple Leafs have a Dustin Byfuglien-type either. The role players are similar: Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland and Adam Burish for Chicago, and Zach Hyman, Connor Brown, Leo Komarov, Nikita Soshnikov and Matt Martin for Toronto.

Video: CHI@TOR: Matthews tips home Nylander's terrific feed

 

At the time I didn't think the New York Rangers got enough for Cam Talbot. Even more so now? What's your take? -- @Agentsmith212

Of course they didn't get enough for Talbot, but they were never going to get what his market value is now as one of the top No. 1 goalies in the League for the Oilers. The Rangers didn't trade a No. 1 goalie when they traded Talbot and the 209th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to Edmonton for three 2015 picks (Nos. 57, 79 and 184); they traded a goalie who had the potential to be a No. 1. Big difference. And they traded a goalie every other team in the NHL knew was a luxury for them, one they could not afford with Lundqvist in the mix and, at the time, six years remaining on the seven-year contract extension he signed during the 2013-14 season. The Rangers were not in a good negotiating position at that time. They got what they could and they've been fine without him. Antti Raanta is a quality backup, and Lundqvist remains one of the best starters in the League. Eventually, the Rangers will need to be worried about Lundqvist's replacement, but that was never going to be Talbot.

Video: LAK@EDM: Talbot uses his glove to deny Gaborik

 

What are your thoughts on Anze Kopitar's disappointing year? -- @e_hodgens

Surprising, but not entirely his fault. Kopitar hasn't produced as we know Kopitar can produce (10 goals, 34 assists), but he is doing a lot of other things to help the Kings. He's winning faceoffs (51.5 percent). He's playing nearly 21 quality minutes per game. He's contributing on a penalty kill that's tied for third-best in the NHL (85.0 percent) and has helped the Kings be at least middle of the pack on the power play (18.8 percent) with four goals and 11 assists.

Kopitar's problem is he's not on Jeff Carter's line. Carter is the only Kings forward who has been a consistently reliable scorer this season. Tanner Pearson has 22 goals, but he's played a lot with Carter. Kopitar has had Dustin Brown on his left side and Jarome Iginla on his right side since the Kings acquired Iginla in a trade from the Colorado Avalanche on March 1. They're not scoring to help his production. Tyler Toffoli hasn't scored enough. Neither has Marian Gaborik. Kopitar is getting zero help. He hasn't been terrific either, but he doesn't get all of the blame.

However, I also think Kopitar, and the Kings in general, are guilty of trying to play a heavy game in a fast league. They won the Stanley Cup twice by beating everybody up in the playoffs while scoring and getting terrific goaltending. The game has changed in the past three years. It's faster than it's ever been. The Kings are struggling to keep up, and I think it's wearing on Kopitar too. I also wonder if he's tired in general because in addition to playing six games in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for Team Europe plus another three pretournament games, he also played for Slovenia in the Olympic qualification rounds in early September.

Video: LAK@CGY: Brown, Kopitar go backhand-to-backhand

 

What player do you think Vegas will take from San Jose in the expansion draft? -- @bloodfury96

Before I can come up with a player, we need to see the pool of San Jose Sharks players who will be available to the Vegas Golden Knights.

If the Sharks opt for the 7-3-1 protection list (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie), I like the following 11 players to be protected: forwards Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi, Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney; defensemen Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun; and goalie Martin Jones.

If the Sharks opt for the 8-1 protection list (eight skaters regardless of position, one goalie), I like this list: Pavelski, Couture, Hertl, Tierney, Burns, Vlasic, Braun, defenseman David Schlemko and Jones.

If it's the 7-3-1 option, Schlemko would be exposed and would be an excellent pick by the Golden Knights. He's a third-pair defenseman, but he's reliable, strong in his own end, good at moving the puck out and keeping it out, and he's signed for three more seasons with a reasonable $2.1 million salary-cap charge.

If it's the 8-1 option, Karlsson would be exposed and Vegas could get a potential top-nine forward who is 26 years old and a restricted free agent. They could potentially sign him to a multiyear contract to eat up some unrestricted free agent years.

Either way, Vegas is going to get a good player from the Sharks.

 

When will the Devils spend money? -- @SeanPilkin

It has to be this summer. It has to be. It better be, for their sake. They can't keep going down this road. The team this season is a disappointment. I didn't think they'd be a playoff team, but I thought they'd be a contender, a team that was fading out of the race right about now, with less than three weeks to go in the regular season. They've been out of it for a long time. They have cap space and they have needs in all areas, but most notably on defense. They need a No. 1. I think they'll be involved in the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes. Will they get him? Can't say for sure. Is he a true No. 1? I don't think so, but he's the best option in free agency. They need a No. 1 center, but signing one of those in free agency is darn near impossible. So try to trade for one. General manager Ray Shero isn't gun-shy, never has been. Swing a deal, get Matt Duchene, who would be a No. 1 center for the Devils but might not be for a lot of other teams.

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