Final days of NHL and NBA regular seasons

The Maple Leafs are the hottest Canadian team heading into the final week of the regular season Photo Credit: Maple Leafs/X

As the regular seasons wind down for both the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association, The Niagara Independent looks ahead at where things stand now, and what may play out in the postseason in each respective league.

Let’s start in the NHL, where four of the seven Canadian clubs are set to compete for Lord Stanley’s Mug.

The Vancouver Canucks are the top Canadian team (as of press time) with 48 wins and 105 points.

The Winnipeg Jets are next with 48 wins and 102 points, followed by the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs both with 101 points apiece.

The Oilers have two more wins than the Leafs.

In the West, the Jets appear to have found their groove again, winners of four in a row, and featuring the top goaltender of all the Canadian teams and one of the best all around in the NHL in Connor Hellebuyck.

In the East, the Maple Leafs are the hottest Canadian team heading into the final week of the regular season winners in seven of their last 10 games, but once again question marks surrounding their goaltending. Who will start Game 1 of the playoffs, Ilya Samsonov or Joseph Woll?

It appears the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference, and Dallas Stars in the Western Conference will battle it out for the President’s Trophy as top team through the first 82 games of the regular season.

As for leading scorers. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov leads in points with 139, and the Leafs Auston Matthews in goals with 66.

The Canucks Quinn Hughes is the top point getter among defencemen with 91 on the campaign, while the Florida Panthers Anthony Stolarz leads in goals-against average at 2.03 and save-percentage at .926.

The National Hockey League playoffs begin Monday April 22.

To the NBA now, and in case you hadn’t heard, the Toronto Raptors playoff aspirations essentially ended in January when both OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam were traded.

The Boston Celtics clinched first place overall earlier this month and will win the East.

The Western Conference could come down to the final day of the regular season as a trio of teams are fighting for top spot.

The defending NBA Champion Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder are all separated by just a single game in the standings.

The Thunder feature Canadian, and perhaps the biggest surprise of the NBA season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his 30.4 points per game – which is currently tied for second in the league.

That stat also puts the Canadian ahead of the likes Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.

Most knew Gilgeous-Alexander was good, but not 30.4 points per game good. And he also leads the NBA in steals with 2.1 per game.

Sacramento King Domantas Sabonis leads the league in rebounds at 13.8 per contest, and the Indiana Pacers Tyrese Haliburton in assists with 10.9.

San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama is the clear leader in blocks with 3.6 per game.

The National Basketball Association post-season gets underway next Saturday, April 20.

Sometimes the old adage ‘just get there’ holds true for teams qualifying for the playoffs, but in the NBA there’s no denying the regular seasons that Boston in the East and Denver and Minnesota in the West have had. Any of those three clubs could raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champion.

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