Around the NHL: Arizona Coyotes on the brink of moving to Salt Lake City, playoff races are coming down to the wire, and more!

Photo credit:© Isaiah J. Downing - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
Who doesn’t love some general notes on the happenings from around the league?
On Wednesday morning, a bombshell was dropped regarding a franchise potentially moving, a young star scored his first career-hat trick, and old star scored his 30th goal, and we’ll update the playoff races!
Let’s dig into the latest edition of Around the NHL!

The Arizona Coyotes to could move to Utah

On Wednesday morning, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli tweeted a bombshell noting that the National Hockey League has two plans for the 2024-25 season regarding the Arizona Coyotes. One with the team remaining at Mullett Arena, and the other with the team moving to Salt Lake City, Utah.
In the article, Seravalli reported that one pathway sees the Coyotes winning a land auction which is to be held on June 27, while the other option would see the Utah Jazz owner’s group, the Smith Entertainment Group, landing the franchise for a deal up to a billion dollars.
In an update in the mid-afternoon,  it was reported that the group and the Arizona Coyotes have made “significant and meaningful progress on an agreement that would see the Coyotes franchise sold and relocated to SLC, Utah.”
However, it is worth mentioning that if Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo does win the bid for the land and builds a stadium on the site, that there could be a clause in the sale that would reactivate the Coyotes franchise, likely with the very beneficial expansion rules.
The city of Phoenix is one of the largest in the United States with a population of 1,644,409 in a 2022 estimate, which ranks them fifth in the country. Meanwhile, their metropolitan area of 5,070,110 is the 10th largest in the country.
Just like the city of Atlanta, a team in one of the largest metropolitan areas makes sense, as the team and sport as a whole is broadcast to a larger audience.
Time will tell if the team in Salt Lake City will be successful, but the Coyotes have one of the youngest cores with a great prospect pool. On top of that, the city of Phoenix will hopefully get another team down the line, especially if the current ownership wins the bid for that land.

Juraj Slafkovský first career hat trick

In his first season, Juarj Slafkovský scored just four goals and 10 points in 39 games, which isn’t great for the first overall pick in the 2022 draft.
A year later, the young power forward has 19 goals and 48 points in 78 games, and has emerged a bright spot for the Montréal Canadiens in a lost season. He scored three of those goals on Tuesday for his first career hat trick.
The young forward is a great example of why you don’t give up on talent after just one season. The 6’3”, 230 lb left winger is going to be a force in the National Hockey League for seasons to come, especially if the Canadiens end up finding an elite centre to stick between him and Cole Caufield.

Alex Ovechkin most career 30-goal seasons

From a young power forward to a nearly 40-year-old power forward/sniper, Alex Ovechkin is on the precipice of doing something amazing for the Washington Capitals.
On Tuesday, he scored his 30th goal of the season, the 18th time in his 19-year career that he was able to hit that mark. The one time he didn’t was when he scored just 24 goals in 45 games during the pandemic season in 2020-21, where he was on pace for 43 goals in an 82 game season.
As you likely know, he is chasing down Wayne Gretzky’s career-goal record of 894 goals, and he now has 852 goals in his career with two more seasons left on his contract. With just 43 goals to go, he needs just a 21-goal season and a 22-goal season, which is seemingly as easy for him as breathing air for the general population.
It looked as if breaking the record may be in question for Ovechkin as he had just eight goals and 29 points in his first 43 games this season, but he’s been on an otherworldly tear since January 27. In the last 32 games, Ovechkin has 22 goals and 34 points, which has helped drag the Capitals into a playoff spot.
Speaking of which, let’s check in on that playoff race.

Eastern Conference playoff race

If there was one word to describe what is happening with the Eastern Conference Wild Card race, it’d be “bonkers”.
There are two spots available for four of the five teams that still have a shot to make the playoffs. The third spot in the Metropolitan Division is occupied by the New York Islanders who have 87 points with four games remaining. The final Wild Card spot is held by the Alexander Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals who have 85 points with four games remaining.
The other teams in the race are the Pittsburgh Penguins who have 84 points with 78 games remaining, the same total as the Detroit Red Wings. The Philadelphia Flyers occupied that spot for so long, but they have 83 points with just three games remaining and look to be dropping out of the race with three consecutive losses and a record of 1-6-3 in their last 10 games.
Prior to Tuesday’s slate of games, it was the Red Wings who occupied the final Wild Card spot, the only spot they can get. However, the Washington Capitals won one of the biggest games in recent years, defeating the Wings 2-1.
In the Islanders’ last four games, the Islanders will play the Montréal Canadiens at home, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils away, and the Penguins at home.
The last four games for the Capitals will be against the Buffalo Sabres away, before a two-game home stand against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins, before their final game on the road against the Flyers, which will be a back-to-back.
For the Penguins, they’ll host the Red Wings, the Bruins, the Nashville Predators, before heading to Long Island to face the Islanders.
The Red Wings have the easiest schedule of the bunch, as they’ll have that massive game on the road against the Penguins, before heading to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs. Their final two games of the season will be a home-and-home against the Canadiens.
In the Flyers remaining three games, they’ll face the Rangers away, before hosting the Devils and the Capitals.
It’ll come down to the wire and is in all honesty, one of the most exciting races in the history of the sport.

Western Conference playoff race, part 1

The race for the final Wild Card position in the Western Conference is a little less exciting, but still noteworthy.
It’s done to just three teams, the Los Angeles Kings who occupy the third spot in the Pacific Division with 93 points and four games remaining. The Vegas Golden Knights are in the final Wild Card position with 92 points (and still have a chance at third in the Pacific Division), while the St. Louis Blues have 89 points with just three games remaining.
The Blues picked up two points on the Golden Knights on Wednesday evening, as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks while the Golden Knights lost to the Edmonton Oilers (more on that in a bit).
 For the Kings, they won’t play another road game all season and will host the Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, and the Chicago Blackhawks, a very easy schedule that they should be able to breeze by.
The Golden Knights have a similar schedule, with all their games being held in Vegas as well. They’ll face off against the Wild, the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks, and the Ducks. They are just three points back of the Nashville Predators for the first Wild Card spot, which would put them in the Pacific Division pathway. The Predators have just three games remaining.
As for the Blues, well, they have the most difficult schedule with just three games left and three points to make up. They’ll host the Carolina Hurricanes and the Seattle Kraken, before heading to Texas to face the Dallas Stars. The cards are stacked against the Blues, in all reality.

Western Conference playoff race, part 2

Another battle is brewing, this one for the top spot in the Pacific Division. With the Edmonton Oilers win over the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes, the Canucks have a four-point lead on the Oilers, who have two games in hand.
If the Oilers are to win their games in hand, they’ll draw even with the Canucks, who own the tiebreaker of regulation wins by four. However, the two teams will play their most important games of the season for either team on the night cap of Hockey Night in Canada, as the two teams will battle it out. 
If the Oilers defeat the Arizona Coyotes on Friday evening, they will move into first place in the Pacific Division with a win over the Canucks on Saturday. 
Even if the Oilers lose the game against the Canucks but win the game against the Coyotes, the Pacific Division technically isn’t out of reach, as the Canucks would have 107 points to Edmonton’s 103 points, but the Oilers wouldn’t control their destiny anymore.
The Oilers have the easier schedule of the two teams, as they’ll host the Coyotes on Friday, the Canucks on Saturday, and the San Jose Sharks on Monday. Afterwards, they’ll head on a two-game road trip to end the season where they’ll face the Coyotes again and the Colorado Avalanche in the final game of the season.
On the other hand, the Canucks will face off against the Oilers on the road on Saturday, head back home to host the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, before heading to Winnipeg to face the Jets on Thursday.
This one will come down to the wire.

Art Ross race

On top of several exciting playoff races, we’re witnessing one of the greatest Art Ross races in our generation. Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has 139 points with four team games left, Colorado Avalanche centre Nathan MacKinnon has 137 points with three team games remaining, and Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid has 130 points with five team games remaining.
McDavid’s chances were hampered as he missed Wednesday’s game with a lower body injury, especially due to the fact he has quite a bit of ground to cover. However, if there’s any player that can make up a nine point gap, it’d be McDavid. He has won the last four Art Ross awards.
Kucherov is likely the favourite as he has a nice balance of games remaining and a good point lead, but MacKinnon certainly should be discounted, especially after his hat trick on Tuesday.
It’s safe to say we are witnessing history right now, this is can’t miss hockey.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.
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