Welcome to the Pregame Skate, a Five Minute Major Upgrade to Your Inbox
☔️Is Seattle a Hockey Town? ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on how the still nameless NHL team in Seattle is growing the game in a city that’s seen a spike in youth participation.
🎉Dilly Dilly: The Capitals added defenseman Brenden Dillion Tuesday, a move that GM Brian MacLellan hopes will tighten up a defensive unit that has struggled as of late.
Pacific Division Drama
What’s Happening: Tyler Toffoli’s Stadium Series performance was even more impressive given the trade rumors surrounding him ahead of the game. Those rumors turned into reality late Monday night when the Canucks acquired the King’s forward in exchange for Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden, a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2022 fourth-round selection.
Tell Me More: The Canucks hope Toffoli’s scoring can make up for the loss of Brock Boeser, who sustained a rib cartilage fracture that will likely keep him out for at least a month. If he doesn’t fill the void, Canucks fans will feel like they gave up a lot to get a player who is free to enter free agency on July 1st.
Where Toffoli Fits In: The Canucks have five highly skilled forwards (Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Tanner Pearson and Boeser), so Toffoli should round out the top six once Boesser returns from injury. Another bonus is Toffoli’s built-in chemistry with Pearson, who he played with in Los Angeles.
Last night, Toffoli had an assist in his first game with the Canucks, a shootout loss to the Wild.
The Bigger Picture: The Pacific Division is wide open—just two points separate the Oilers, Canucks, Coyotes, Flames and Golden Knights. There’s no reason the Canucks can’t make a push, and their playoff pursuit continues Saturday when they kick off a five-game road trip to the East Coast that starts in Boston and ends in Columbus.
Dig Deeper: Jared Clinton, The Hockey News
What’s Happening: Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended their winning streak to 11 (!) games when Nikita Kucherov scored on a breakaway in overtime. Kucherov now has 29 goals and 44 assists on the year.
By the Numbers: With the win, the Lightning broke the franchise record of 10 games (set last year). Tampa Bay also became just the second franchise to record two separate double-digit winning streaks—the Bruins accomplished the same feat in 1929-30 and 1970-71. During the streak, the Lightning have outscored their opponents 36-13 at even strength.
The Bigger Picture: The Lightning have nearly caught the Bruins who currently lead the Atlantic Division with 86 points. Lightning GM Julien BriseBois isn’t getting complacent either—earlier in the week he added Blake Coleman to the Lightning’s forward unit.
The Even Bigger Picture: After last year’s first round exit, Lightning fans are playing the waiting game despite the team’s recent streak. Last year indicated that regular season success does not always guarantee wins in the playoffs. You might recall, however, that the Capitals went through something similar ahead of their first Stanley Cup victory, winning the President’s Trophy two seasons straight before finally prevailing in the playoffs a year later.
One Game to Watch: Lightning vs. Golden Knights
When: Thursday, February 20th @ 10 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN+, ATTSN-RM, SUN
The Matchup: Can the Lightning push their winning streak to 12? A road contest in Vegas could be where it ends, especially after the Lightning have nearly surrendered multiple goal leads in their last two outings. The Knights also enter the game on a three game winning streak where they have faced three Stanley Cup contenders, the Blues, Capitals and Islanders. With all this said, can we really bet against a team on an 11-game heater?