NHL playoff preview 2019-20: what you need to know ahead of the new season

Chris Johnston of Hockey News and GPX offers up the top five things to know about the NHL and provides some readers with short plays on the NHL conference call this morning:

5. How much of a win is too much of a win?

Like any coach, Mike Babcock may have turned to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, his elder statesman at 24, to bring some maturity and experience to this group as both John Tavares and Victor Hedman were suffering from lapses in their game. So when his line combined for two goals and two assists in one of their best showings of the season, Babcock looked very pleased. It was probably a mistake to let them score a hat trick but even casual NHL fans probably don’t need to know why.

4. The meeting in Bakersfield between the Sabres and Ducks will take on a new meaning this evening

With the Ducks (16-2-2) now in Detroit and the Sabres (5-9-4) hosting the Rangers at home, it will be an interesting statement about the standings with the latter team falling to the second in the Metropolitan Division and last overall. It will also be another chance for players to display chemistry on lines that may be developing. Perhaps in an attempt to help shore up some lines and retool some areas of the defensive zone, the Sabres and Rangers have all kinds of assistant coaches from each other’s ranks.

On the Sabres? Rob Ray, Dave Eakins and Rick Dudley, who have accumulated AHL coaching honours and, recently, helped Buffalo find itself a couple of strong defensive defencemen in Rasmus Ristolainen and Nathan Beaulieu. On the Rangers: Guy Boucher and Rick Bowness, who have gone 8-3 in the AHL and were both part of the staffs that brought Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup final. Their time in Buffalo overlapped with two of Buffalo’s greatest coaches of all time. Rick Martin, who had the Buffalo Attack to the 1996 championship finals as head coach, and Scotty Bowman, who had the Sabres to the finals in 2001 as both an assistant and head coach.

3. Rogers has signed six more contracts with sports media companies for its NHLN multiplatform television and multimedia package. This one is reportedly worth $250m over 10 years.

There’s been a lot of talk about what Hockey Night in Canada might look like in the future but, after this deal, the NHLN still seems to be the only big hockey rights package outside of the United States that will be available on Canadian TV. The lack of a French-language NHLN and the glut of NHLN in the United States will surely be explored in a media boardroom some time in the next few years.

2. The progression of the Philadelphia Flyers depth chart is impressive

After spending the first two months of the season struggling in their goals for and against goals regulation and overtime stats, the Flyers still don’t have the top spot in the Eastern Conference, but still have to be pushing. Going against GM Ron Hextall’s wish to continue playing the veterans he acquired at the deadline, Philadelphia now features up-and-coming names like Derek Grant, Dale Weise, Travis Konecny and Travis Konecny and has scouted Mikko Rantanen. The prize prospect, of course, is Nolan Patrick.

1. That’s a large chunk of financial commitments for Kevin Lowe.

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