Around the NHL: The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, Ryan Hartman suspended, and more!

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson - USA Today
Ryley Delaney
24 days ago
There are just 15 days left in the National Hockey League season.
Obviously, that means that playoff races are down to the wire, especially in the Eastern Conference. Not just that, but we have one of the best Art Ross races in recent memory, and a handful of suspensions to look at.
Without further ado, let’s dig into the latest edition of Around the NHL.

Playoff races

In this section, we’ll look at games from the past two days and update the standings.
As you may know, the Eastern Conference playoff race is incredibly tight, with five teams battling for just two spots. The Philadelphia Flyers currently maintain the final spot in the Metropolitan Division, while the Washington Capitals occupy the final wild card spot. The Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins are all within three points.
On Monday, the Red Wings picked up a big 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to bring them to an even 82 points with the Washington Capitals, who were in action on Tuesday. Moreover, the New York Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, giving the Flyers an additional point to move them back to third in the Metropolitan Division while moving the Islanders to within one point of the Capitals and Red Wings.
The Penguins also picked up a big win on Monday, defeating the New York Rangers 5-2, bringing them to 77 points on the season. The Penguins also defeated the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, moving them to within three points of the final wild card position, still held by the Capitals.
However, the Capitals ran into some issues on Tuesday as they fell 6-2 to the Buffalo Sabres, giving them just one game in hand (and the tiebreaker) over the Red Wings. The Sabres themselves are just five points out of a playoff spot, but they have just six games remaining with very little margin for error and needing a whole lot of help. 
While the Western Conference wild card situation is a lot more tame, there is still an interesting race ongoing. The Los Angeles Kings occupy the final wild card spot with 87 points with eight games remaining. The St. Louis Blues are really the only team within striking distance, as they have 84 points with seven games remaining. The Minnesota Wild are six points back with just eight games remaining.

Art Ross race

On top of the very exciting Eastern Conference race, the Art Ross race is shaping up to be one of the best in recent times. With less than 10 games remaining, Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon are tied with 127 points, while Connor McDavid has 126 points.
As you likely know, the Edmonton Oilers’ captain has won the last three Art Ross trophies and has won five of the last seven Art Ross awards. The Oilers have the most games remaining in the league, as they’ll play nine more times before the end of the season, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have eight games remaining and the Colorado Avalanche have seven games remaining.
Both McDavid and Kucherov will be in action on Wednesday evening…

Wednesday’s slate of games

There are some exciting games on tap on Wednesday. One of the early games features a potential playoff matchup, as the Toronto Maple Leafs will host Kucherov’s Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs are likely looking at a matchup against the Florida Panthers in the first round as they have 95 points. The Lightning are still technically within striking distance, but with six points to make up with just eight games remaining, it’ll be difficult.
Although the New Jersey Devils are all but out of the playoff race, their game against the New York Rangers on Wednesday will be a fun one for one reason: The Matt Rempe beef. In the two games that the rookie has played, he’s had two suspendable offences and has declined a fight with Kurtis MacDermid. The defenceman is out day-to-day but is close to returning to the lineup.
Another interesting game on tap is when the Dallas Stars host the Edmonton Oilers. This could be a possible preview for the Western Conference Final, as both teams are poised to make a deep run. In 2022, the Oilers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the WCF, while the Stars fell to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2023 playoffs.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Kings will host the Seattle Kraken, while the Vancouver Canucks will head to Arizona to play the Coyotes.

Nikita Zadorov ejected from Tuesday’s game

Speaking of the Canucks, defenceman Nikita Zadorov was given a five-minute major and the gate for a board/hit from behind on Vegas Golden Knights’ forward Brett Howden.
However, there will be no further discipline for the former Flame defenceman according to Rick Dhaliwal on Twitter.
It’s borderline, but Zadorov has already been suspended this season, as he hit Detroit Red Wings forward Lucas Raymond in the head, getting a five-and-a-game with an additional two-game suspension attached to it.
It’s rather surprising that this dirty hit was not worthy of a suspension, considering what the next player got for a minuscule offence.

Ryan Hartman suspended

Hitting someone in the head is worthy of a three-game suspension. Slew footing someone is worthy of a three-game suspension. Whacking someone with a stick is worthy of a three-game suspension (or more, if you’re Tom Wilson). But have you ever seen someone suspended for throwing their stick on the ice away from the opposition and referees, just to be suspended for three games?
Well, that was the case for Ryan Hartman, who threw his stick on the ice after the Minnesota Wild’s defeat at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Now it’s true that Hartman is a repeat offender, as he was suspended early in the season for a slew foot (which he laughably got two games for), along with plenty of other suspensions. This play itself is definitely fine worthy, and it probably wouldn’t be questioned if it was a one game suspension OR if it hit a player or an official.
But the stick was thrown harmlessly away from where the official was skating and away from the Golden Knights’ players celebrating at centre ice.
It’s just a very, very soft suspension that in all reality, was harmless. Plenty of other dangerous plays, such as the Zadorov hit in Tuesday’s game, go suspensionless. This is not worthy of a three-game suspension, and it’s a joke Hartman’s suspension is that long.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.
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