2019-20 Atlantic Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
  4. Florida Panthers, 89 points
  5. Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
  6. Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
  7. Ottawa Senators, 78 points
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 71 points

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons

The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.

You know what they say when you assume.

Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.

Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.

That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.

They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.

The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How would the Lightning fail?

Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.

Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons

The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.

Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.

Injuries come and go.

If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.

With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.

David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.

General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.

But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.

How would the Bruins fail?

There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons

Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.

That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.

Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).

Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.

By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.

The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.

How would the Leafs fail?

They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.

Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons

The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.

They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.

While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.

Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.

Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.

Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.

At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).

Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.

How would the Panthers fail?

Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?

Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons

Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.

That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.

Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?

The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.

That’s not a bad thing.

Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).

But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.

At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.

How would the Canadiens fail?

Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.

Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons

Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.

Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.

Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.

It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.

How would the Red Wings fail?

Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.

Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons

The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.

Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?

But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.

Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.

For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.

Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!

How would the Senators fail?

More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?

Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons

Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.

Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).

Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.

Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.

Pro: Marcus Johansson!

Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)

Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.

Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.

Pro: Royal blue in 2020!

Con: It’s not until 2020.

How would the Sabres fail?

If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.

DTFR Podcast #165- Where’s My Cottage Invite?

Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

How to Make the Best of the Worst: Free Agent Alternatives for the Blue Jackets

So, let’s look into a sad future.  A future less than 24 hours from now that sees all of the Jackets big three free agents walk.  It isn’t an unlikely future, unfortunately.  With Florida trading James Reimer so they could acquire and buyout Scott Darling it sure seems like the Panthers are looking to make room for at least one of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, but preferably for Dale Tallon, both of the Russians.  The only talk about Matt Duchene for most of this week has involved Montreal and Nashville and his good friend, Ryan Dzingel, unsurprisingly will not be back in Columbus.

You can’t fault Jarmo Kekalainen for attempting to build a team that compete both in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and beyond by shoring up his center position with the addition of Duchene.  Bringing in Dzingel to help sell Duchene on a more permanent move while also addressing the weakness on left wing initially seemed brilliant, but ultimately backfired when Head Coach John Tortorella was unable to find a way to co-exist with Dzingel, culminating with scratching Dzingel from the lineup during the Boston series in favor of playing the mercurial Alex Wennberg.  It was pretty clear when Dzingel was talking to the press and cleaning out his locker that he was a goner and Duchene had one less reason to stick around.

Should this all come to past, as noted in my other article, the Jackets shouldn’t just add players to add players.  They should continue to be methodical and creative to address their holes on the left wing and center.

It is important to remember that the center position is more likely to sort itself out internally.  The Jackets have two very good chances to develop a player that can take a role behind Pierre-Luc Dubois in the lineup.  There is every reason to believe Dubois will continue to develop as a first line center.  Which means the pressure on Liam Foudy and Alex Texier is not what it might have been in the past.  Boone Jenner is certainly capable of playing second line minutes in the short term.  Nick Foligno as first line left wing is a bit more concerning.  Foligno is a fine player, but at this point in his career is more suited to play second or even third line minutes.  So, the Jackets should be on the hunt for a center, but probably more importantly, for a left wing both because they lack a current left wing that has high level talent with Panarin’s departure and because their strength going forward is heavily weighted to the right side.

What assets do the Jackets have to offer in a trade?  TSN has conspicuously listed Ryan Murray highly on their Trade Bait list.  This isn’t too surprising.  Murray is due a raise and the Jackets have the opposite problem on defense–they are overstocked on the left side.  With the addition of Gavrikov and with solid play from Dean Kukan in the playoffs (already extended) and with Zach Werenski also due a substantial pay increase, Murray or Markus Nutivaara are probably the easiest players with value to move.  Some would argue David Savard, who played quite well in the playoffs and might be at a high point in his value, particularly as a right-handed shot, but the problem there is that the Jackets lack depth on the right side as it is.  Andrew Peeke is probably the next right handed prospect with a chance to play in the NHL and he is probably not ready to take on that role this year.

The challenge with Murray has always been his ability to stay healthy.  He finally showed his potential this season only to be slowed by another injury.  This makes him a difficult player to trade.  Additionally, the hotter commodity when it comes to defensemen, as noted above, is right handed defensemen.  There are names out there such as Tyson Barrie (whose contract is up after this season) and Rasmus Ristolainen.  Those players may have to find a destination before a team looks at Murray.  Another left defenseman out there who is likely to get serious consideration ahead of Murray if he’s truly available is Shayne Gostisbehere.  So, while Murray is a solid defenseman, he has some competition in the market.

Markus Nutivaara is a solid, cost-controlled defenseman with some upside.  He can play the right side even though he is left handed, so maybe that adds some attraction.  He may have more offensive upside than Murray, but isn’t necessarily as positionally sound as Murray is.  He hasn’t had the same injury history.  But these are the very reasons the Jackets may be less than thrilled to part with Nutivaara.

What else do the Jackets have in the way of assets?  Sonny Milano is still an asset, but, based on the rough season he had that included a serious injury, he is probably more of a throw in at this point.  Bemstrom, Texier and Foudy are untouchable at the moment.  There are certainly deeper prospects like Fix-Wolansky and Kole Sherwood who could be of interest in a trade, but, again, these are not going to be more than add-ins to even out a deal.  The Jackets’ draft pick situation isn’t all that great, but if Duchene is not re-signed, they will have a first round pick in 2020 if they want to dangle it.  However, given the uncertainty of the upcoming season, it seems like hanging onto that pick is the wiser option barring a truly ridiculous trade opportunity becoming available–this is the only time I’ll allow any thought of Mitch Marner because we are not giving up 4 first round picks for him via offer sheet, but if you had to put in 1-2 picks and a player and prospect, yes, you’d probably have to look at that.

I’m not going to entertain trading Werenski this offseason.  No, not even in a trade for Marner.  Maybe if Vladislav Gavrikov has an overwhelming season this would be a consideration next off-season, but I am just not there at this point.  Defensive depth is going to be a key if this team is going to be a contender and I don’t see trading Werenski as a particularly good option

There is one additional asset the Jackets could use in a trade and that is their depth at right wing.  As I noted in my other article, when you look at the Jackets’ right side, they have an overabundance both now and in he future.  Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Emil Bemstrom, Sherwood and Fix-Wollansky are all right wings.  Anderson and Sherwood are the only two with any real size.  The rest are of the speedy and skilled wings.  Anderson’s contract will be up again next year. He will have arbitration rights and his agent has not been easy to deal with in recent negotiations–witness the Mitch Marner situation.  Should he get Marner $11 million, as he hopes, he’ll be shooting for the moon, but not that high, with Anderson next summer.  With the way the Restricted Free Agent Market has changed since his last contract, he could be due for a huge raise.  If arbitration doesn’t go well, it could lead to a short term contract that might lead to Anderson’s departure before the 2021 offseason.

On the other hand, as noted, Anderson is very different from the Jackets other right wings.  He brings a combination of speed and size that is hard to find.  Compare this to Oliver Bjorstrand who has struggled to find ice time competing against Atkinson and Anderson.  Now add Bemstrom to that competition and where does Bjorkstrand fit going forward?  That’s without another prospect like Fix-Wolansky potentially coming up and surprising people (as he has repeatedly).  With the Jackets seemingly unwilling to play Bjorkstrand on his off-wing, where does that leave him?

I’m a huge fan of both Anderson and Bjorkstrand so I am not suggesting them as tradable assets without serious reservations.  They are good players and they may well become even better players.  Frankly, I think Bjorkstrand has been held back by his usage to this point.  But you have to give something to get something and the sign of a good deal (including a trade) is often that neither side is totally happy with it.  Make no mistake though, Anderson and Bjorkstrand are only available for a home run–a first line left wing or a second line (or better) center.

With all of that in mind, who might be some targets and what might be some other things the Jackets could do to put themselves in a position to improve the chances to make a deal?

Let’s start off with the low-hanging fruit–the guys on the trading block or plausibly on it.  Not necessarily in order of possibility or priority.

  1.  Jason Zucker.  When you, very publicly, try to trade a guy two times only for it to fail, its probably a sign that its time for both parties to move on.  Zucker is 27 years old and under contract for 4 more years at a cap hit of $5.5 million.  That is probably less than Mats Zuccarello is going to get and he will be the same age is Zuccarello is now when his contract is over.  Minnesota attempted to trade him for Phil Kessel, so they are primarily looking for help at forward.  While his production went from 64 points in 2017-18 to 42 points last year, in his defense, Minnesota was kind of a train wreck.  Nonetheless, would you trade Bjorkstrand or Anderson for Zucker?  I’m not sure I would.  Worth noting–Bjorkstrand’s father is from Minnesota, and you can’t underestimate the whole obsession Wild fans (and management) seem to have for guys with a Minnesota connection.
  2. Nazem Kadri.  You may have heard the Leafs need cap room in order to make room for Mitch Marner’s new contract.  You may also have heard the Leafs were not happy with Kadri’s boneheaded play during their series against Boston.  On a good team like the Leafs, Kadri is a third line center.  But, in a pinch, he can play second line center.  What do the Leafs need? Cap relief.  Cheap help on defense.  The challenge here is that the Leafs also don’t have a lot of depth at center. Shot in the dark–Riley Nash and Dean Kukan?  The Leafs are really in a bad situation, but I don’t buy the idea they move Marner or Nylander.  They will find a way and it probably will involve Kadri departing.  Just not sure there is a true fit here for the Jackets.
  3. Yanni Gourde/Tyler Johnson/Alex Kilorn.  This possibility may be fading.  Had the Lightning added Joe Pavelski, this seemed inevitable to make room for him.  At the moment, subject to change, Dallas seems to be in the lead for Pavelski’s services.  All 3 players have a no-trade clause to complicate matters.  What would the Lightning want?  Cap relief and a cheap defenseman wouldn’t hurt.
  4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  Look, let’s just get through this quick.  He’s Spezza 2.0–the guy potentially in the rumor mill that fits a need the Jackets have.  He’s still only 26 years old.  He has 2 years left on his deal for a reasonable $6,000,000 and he plays center AND left wing.  What do the Oilers need?  Defense and, ironically, better wings for Connor McDavid.  And depth.  Maybe Ken Holland is finally the guy to trade RNH, but, I doubt it.  So, he’ll play out the next two years with Edmonton and then probably take his turn on the Dallas carousel of aging centers.
  5. Brandon Saad/Artem Anisimov.  No, I’m just kidding.
  6. David Krecji.  This would be a cap space move if it happened, but the Bruins aren’t giving this guy up for nothing even with his injury history.   His contract is down to the last two years, so the $7,250,000 cap hit suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.  I just think the price will be too steep.  Otherwise, the two year term is nearly perfect for the timeframe it is likely to take Foudy and Texier to develop and it would give them a mentor, etc.
  7. Kyle Turris.  There are a million warning signs with this guy.  The term of his contract is staggering.  His production has decreased.  I mean, there’s a reason the Predators are chasing Duchene.  Heck, even if you traded Alex Wennberg straight up for him in a “change of scenery” deal, I think you might regret it when you were stuck buying him out at a much higher cost than a buyout on Wennberg.  Hard pass.
  8. Mike Hoffman.  After only acquiring him a year ago, his name was in the rumor mill by the deadline.  And he kind of has a reputation as a locker room cancer from the whole mess in Ottawa. But, he only has a year left on his deal, so if it doesn’t work, not a huge deal.  And this is a guy that maybe a straight up trade for Murray works?  Certainly not a Plan A, but it’s a thought.  Likely a short term solution though.
  9. Chris Kreider. If they don’t sign Panarin (unlikely), I’m not sure there is much point in rushing to trade Kreider now rather than trading him at the deadline.  I’m also not convinced he’s a true #1 left wing.  They’d mainly be looking for a younger player/prospect and you do have to keep in mind that maybe John Davidson has his eye on a player in the Jackets organization.  But this seems like a subpar use of assets.
  10. Adam Henrique.  I only listed his name to ask how on earth Bob Murray keeps signing guys like him and Ryan Kesler to these absurd deals.  5 more years and almost $6 million/year cap hit at age 29. Hardest of hard passes.
  11. Nikita Gusev.  So, Vegas decided to rush their window and now they have to pay the piper.  He’s a left wing, but a right shot, so the Jackets may not feel this is ideal.  On the other hand, he’s 26 years old and could come cheap both as far as contract (he’s an arbitration-eligible RFA) and as far as what it takes to get him (Vegas is vulnerable to an offer sheet that gives them very little.). Worth consideration.

Okay, those are some names that are out there, but now let’s get really out there.  Jarmo threw away his Easy Button a long time ago, so, what could he do if he really wanted to get creative and go after a guy that is in the prime of his career?  Let’s talk offer sheets and RFA trades.

No, we are NOT going to talk about Mitch Marner or Brayden Point.  No one in their right mind is giving up 4 first round picks and paying $10 million for these guys.  Just not happening.  If you thought the screams were loud when Jarmo traded picks at the deadline, multiply that by 1000 times.  Just not going to happen.  But there are other guys out there on teams with varying degree of cap issues.  Specifically, Kyle Connor (Winnipeg), Timo Meier (San Jose) and Kevin Labanc (also San Jose).

So, there’s some good news and bad news here.  The good news–the draft compensation for these guys is likely to be substantially lower than it would for Marner and Point.  I would expect, at the high end, you’d be looking at a First, Second and Third Round Pick.  But, here is where the problem for the Jackets starts.  They don’t presently have their second and third round picks.

Enter the Ottawa Senators.  Even after the trade for Nikita Zaitsev which (wink, wink) isn’t yet complete, the Senators are below the cap floor.  Unlike the Jackets, their remaining RFA’s are not likely to push them over the floor.  Perhaps a player like Alex Wennberg might have some value for Ottawa–he’s still young, maybe he really does need a change of scenery.  Perhaps Sonny Milano is of some interest.  Whatever the deal, the Jackets somehow get back their second and third round picks in addition to their first round pick they retained as a result of Duchene now signing.

This would be a very visible tell to teams with restricted free agents that Jarmo was at least considering an offer sheet, which would change the tenor of subsequent conversations centered around a trade for the player in question.  The team would know that if a trade wasn’t worked out, there is a possibility Jarmo simply goes the offer sheet route.  And, frankly, for Meier or Connor in particular, the offer sheet route seems pretty good to me.  A first, second and third round pick for a top line left wing in the prime of their career?  Yes, I’ll do that.

San Jose is more vulnerable because of how close they are to the cap, but Winnipeg still has a lot of holes to fill.  Additionally, after trading Trouba and likely losing Tyler Myers on defense, they really lack defensive depth.  So, there’s a match there, but it could be a steep price–let’s say Murray and one of Bjorkstrand or Anderson.  Of course, the Jets are already potentially marketing Nikolaj Ehlers and if they can manage a trade of Ehlers for a defenseman–let’s say Tyson Barrie–their situation is probably less precarious and they are probably less interested in a trade.  Acquiring Ehlers is also a possibility, but the Jets priorities, to this point have been a right shot defenseman and with Barrie and Ristolainen on the market, it seems like that’s a price they should be able to get.

Kyler Connor would be a catch if he could be acquired.  Speed and size.  34 goals last year and 66 points.  5 points in 6 playoff games.  Connor is one guy that a trade of Anderson would hurt less because you are trading for a version of Anderson with higher upside who plays on the other wing.  Of course, having both of them in your lineup would also be very attractive.  It’s a long shot, but so was landing Panarin in trade.

San Jose, on the other hand, has painted themselves into a corner.  After re-signing Erik Karlsson, they’ve already effectively let Joe Pavelski walk.  Now they have to re-sign Labanc and Meier plus roster spots for 4 more forwards and a 7th defenseman with less than $15,000,000 in cap space and Patrick Marleau wanting to return to the team (presumably on a cheap deal).  Meier and Labanc are just 22 and 23, respectively.  Meier put up 30 goals and 66 points and Labanc had 17 goals and 56 points.  Of the two, Meier projects as more of a first line talent or at least a high end second line talent.  Also, Labanc is a right shot even though a capable left wing.

Teams have used offer sheets strategically in the past to get a team to further hamper their ability to match an offer for the actual target–ironically, it was what San Jose did to acquire Antti Niemi after they gave an offer sheet to Niklas Hjalmarsson.  But I’m not sure if that would work out if you put an offer sheet on Labanc.  The Sharks might let you have him in order to protect Meier.  The direct route is probably the safest–go after Meier first and take Labanc if the Sharks match and put themselves in position that they can’t sign Labanc.  Of course, any offer sheet would be proceeded by a trade discussion and it may well be that San Jose might have interest in a cost-controlled forward and/or defenseman given their current cap situation.

Of course, it is also possible that Jarmo can facilitate a trade if one of these teams is threatened by another team with an offer sheet.  That’s apparently what happened that led to the Brandon Saad trade.  So, Jarmo is no stranger to these territories.

There are a lot of options, but a trade/offer sheet that nets one of Meier or Connor would be the most intriguing and seems like the sort of move Jarmo has made in prior years.

Go Big or Stay Home: Why the Jackets Should Avoid the Middle Road

After a year of highs (the sweep of Tampa) and lows (the Panarin and Bobrovsky saga), it all comes down to less than 24 hours for the Columbus Blue Jackets future to be determined.  While some may hope for a last minute change of heart from Panarin, that ship seems to have sailed.  With each passing minute, the chance for a sign and trade that nets some value from the departing Russians also fades.  It would seem the competitors for their services are more willing to overpay on annual salary than they are to give an asset to the Jackets to get an eighth year for the player.  So it. goes.

Matt Duchene’s future with the Jackets is also seriously in doubt.  However, of the three, the consensus seems to be that Duchene is the one that might still be persuaded to stay.  As I predicted previously, there seem to be 3 suitors based on Duchene’s personal preferences and cap space to sign him:  the Jackets, the Canadiens and the Predators.  The Predators seemed like a foregone conclusion when Ray Shero decided to help the Predators and his own team while potentially hurting the Jackets by taking on all of P.K. Subban’s salary.  However, proximity to home and the fact that Duchene grew up rooting for the Habs could tip the scales toward Montreal.  On the other hand, the Jackets might be a safe middle ground both literally and figuratively–geographically between home and Nashville’s country music scene that Duchene loves and also competitively somewhere between the Predators and Montreal as far as capability of competing for a Cup.

The Jackets shouldn’t shy away from backing up the Brinks truck to Duchene.  They came this far, might as well go all in.  Overpaying a productive player like Duchene, as I’ll explain, makes substantially more sense than paying for the likes of Mats Zuccarello.

There will be a cost to signing Duchene, make no mistake.  It is the same cost that the Jackets would have had to extending Panarin, which they were clearly ready to do even though the Jackets have more depth at wing than they do at center, presently.  The problem isn’t this year.  The Jackets had plenty of cap space to sign Bobrovsky and Panarin, which was likely the initial plan.  That’s even after paying Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski for their new contracts.  It is next offseason where things get tricky.

Let’s just assume for a moment that Werenski’s AAV on his next deal is around $6.5 million give the current free agent market.  You could argue up or down from there, but I think that is a safe midpoint.  Let’s also assume Murray ends up with an AAV of $4.5 million. Again, you could argue up or down from there, but that is probably a safe midpoint.  So, their combined AAV comes in around $11 million.  Also, worth pointing out that for this reason the Jackets are in no danger of being under the cap floor.

Now, let’s say that Duchene signs an 8 year extension and let’s just be conservative and say that the AAV is around $10 million.  That still leaves the Jackets about $7 million in cap space for this season.  But, again, next season is where it becomes tricky.  Anderson, Dubois and Merzlikins will all be RFA’s.  That Jackets would have only about $15 million in cap space to sign all 3.  They could make room with a buyout of Brandon Dubinsky, that would give them an extra, roughly $3 million.  They could also make room with a buyout of Alex Wennberg.  This actually creates more cap room–about $4.5 million.  The only problem would be that Wennberg would impact the Jackets’ cap through 2025-26.

There is another alternative if Duchene is signed that will certainly frighten some.  However, as I’ll detail in a separate article, it may end up being an alternative if the Jackets don’t sign Duchene–trade Josh Anderson.

I know what you are going to say: “Trade Anderson?  Are you nuts?  His size and speed.  He is exactly what you want in a player, particularly in the playoffs.”  I don’t disagree with any of this, but I also look to the future and I wonder how much it will cost to retain Anderson and whether the Jackets strength on the right side justifies trading Anderson to add someone on the left side, where the Jackets depth is weaker.  With respect to re-signing him, let’s keep in mind his last contract negotiation wasn’t pleasant and Darren Ferris will be even more emboldened should he actually get Mitch Marner $11 million or more per year.  What sort of contract will Ferris seek for Anderson if he puts up 30 goals or more next season?

If you are going to trade Anderson, you have to get a left wing that is cost-controlled for, ideally, at least the next 4 years.  Again, I’ll discuss this separately in another article.

Either way, getting Duchene keeps the Jackets as an immediate contender in the 2019-20 season by shoring up their center situation. With Dubois, Duchene and Jenner, there is probably a fight for the final center spot between the incumbent, Wennberg, Riley Nash, Alex Texier and Liam Foudy.  Something is likely to sort itself out there and it isn’t necessary for Texier or Foudy to have to face the immediate pressure of being a #2 center.  Heck, they might end up playing left wing to ease into the league.

Even if you trade Anderson as a result of signing Duchene, you have Atkinson locked in as the top right wing and Bjorkstrand moving up to the second line, where he played well to finish the season.  From there you have Bemstrom potentially getting a shot on the third line where, again, pressure will be lower on him.  If he isn’t quite ready, perhaps Sherwood is.  If not, depending on who takes the vacant center spot, Riley Nash might take on this role.  The right side really is not a problem even if Anderson were to be moved.

If the Jackets swing and miss on Duchene, they should not fall to the temptation of the middle ground.  Taking a shot and Anders Lee would be worthwhile because of the weakness on the left side and because of Lee’s talent level and skillset.  Unlike the departing Panarin, Lee is a guy who likes to play low in the offensive zone and who will grind and cycle the puck.  The idea of him with Dubois and Atkinson is intriguing and not too steep of a fall off from Panarin.  Joe Pavelski would have been interesting, but he apparently rebuffed a request by the Jackets to speak with him.  Gustav Nyquist is, perhaps, the must below-the-radar option.  He actually had more points than Lee last season, though is less of a goal scorer.  He’s capable of playing all three forward positions, which is always nice for a guy like him who, ideally, is a middle six forward.

After those two, it is a steep drop off.  One name connected to the Jackets has been Mats Zuccarello.  This has all the makings of a bad deal considering that Zuccarello is looking for 4-5 years on his deal and will be 32 years old entering the season.  His production has declined already and he’s only hit the 20 goal plateau once in his career.  As it stands, the Jackets cap situation gets even better in two years when Dubinsky and Foligno are off the books, giving the Jackets room when they need it to sign Bjorkstrand’s next contract, and Jones’ next contract, etc.  Adding Zuccarello takes away some of that future cap flexibility and feels like the sort of deal that may later result in a buyout.

Signing Zuccarello also takes away flexibility next offseason to go after free agents after getting Anderson and Dubois signed.  Taylor Hall will potentially be available, but so will guys like Alex Galchenyuk and Mikael Granlund.  If the Habs sign Duchene, an offer sheet for Max Domi would be an option.  Nothing about Zuccarello suggests that he is worth taking away options next offseason.  With Lee and Nyquist, at least they address immediate needs at left wing or center, but, perhaps the better approach is to simply stick with what the Jackets have and search for trade options.  Again, stay tuned for some thoughts on that.

That would serve another purpose–a test of John Tortorella’s ability to get the most out of players that fit the current NHL, but don’t necessarily fit the coach’s personal biases.  With no additions to the current roster, Torts will be forced to co-exist with the likes of Sonny Milano, Alex Texier, Eric Robinson and Emil Bemstrom and to get the most out of them if the team is going to succeed.  He’s going to have to get more out of Oliver Bjorkstrand and, for better or worse, Alex Wennberg.  If he can’t do that, when you look at the Jackets pipeline, some of the most talented of which are undersized wings, you have to ask if he is the right man for the job going forward.  Staying the course will give a clear answer on whether Torts is right for the job and will also give a clear answer on whether guys like Milano and Wennberg, in particular, have a future in the organization.  Overpaying a guy like Zuccarello and/or bringing in a guy like Brian Boyle will just allow Torts to, once again, bury young players.  If you aren’t adding a difference maker like Lee or keeping a guy like Duchene, that seems ill-advised.

So, we’ll know which way the Jackets go in less than 24 hours, but here is hoping that they either keep Duchene, damn the cost or perhaps add high end talent like Lee or even Nyquist.  Barring that, here’s hoping they have faith in the talent that made them comfortable to make the Duchene trade in the first place instead of feeling the need to placate fans (and their coach) with a guy like Mats Zuccarello.

 

 

2019 NHL Awards Ceremony: DTFR Live Blog

While everyone awaits the dawn of the 2019-20 season, it’s time to wrap up the 2018-19 season with some wholesome family fun on a Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

Yes, it’s once again time for the National Hockey League to present its season awards to its members and gather around for an evening of B-list entertainment.

If– for some odd reason– you’re busy on a Wednesday night in June and can’t get your hockey fix– we’re here for you. Just follow along as we update the list of award winners as they’re announced.

And if you can tune in on TV, viewers in the United States can catch the 2019 NHL Awards Ceremony live from Las Vegas on NBCSN, while those in Canada can watch on Sportsnet at 8 p.m. ET.

Calder Memorial Trophy- Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks

Other Finalists: Jordan Binnington (STL) and Rasmus Dahlin (BUF)

(best rookie/rookie of the year)

Art Ross Trophy- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Other Finalists: Sean Monahan (CGY) and Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

(sportsmanship and ability, a.k.a. this player didn’t take a lot of penalties)

NHL General Manager of the Year Award- Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins

Other Finalists: Doug Armstrong (STL) and Don Waddell (CAR)

(best GM)

King Clancy Memorial Trophy- Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Other Finalists: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI) and Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)

(humanitarian/volunteering award)

Ted Lindsay Award- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Patrick Kane (CHI) and Connor McDavid (EDM)

(basically the “M.V.P.” as voted on by the NHLPA, a.k.a. the players)

James Norris Memorial Trophy- Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Other Finalists: Victor Hedman (TBL) and Brent Burns (SJS)

(best defender)

EA SPORTS NHL 20® Cover Athlete- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Other Finalists: None

(not actually a curse)

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy– Robin Lehner, New York Islanders

Other Finalists: Nick Foligno (CBJ) and Joe Thornton (SJS)

(perseverance and dedication to the sport)

Frank J. Selke Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Other Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Mark Stone (VGK)

(best defensive forward)

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy– Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)

Jack Adams Award– Barry Trotz, New York Islanders

Other Finalists: Craig Berube (STL) and Jon Cooper (TBL)

(best head coach)

Vezina Trophy– Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Ben Bishop (DAL) and Robin Lehner (NYI)

(best goaltender)

William M. Jennings Trophy– Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award– Wayne Simmonds, Nashville Predators

Other Finalists: Mark Giordano (CGY) and Justin Williams (CAR)

(something related to leadership and growing the game that Mark Messier picks)

Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award– Rico Phillips

Other Finalists: Anthony Benavides and Tammi Lynch

(presented to an “individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society[,]” as described by the NHL)

Hart Memorial Trophy– Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Sidney Crosby (PIT) and Connor McDavid (EDM)

(regular season M.V.P.)

2018-19 Team and 2019 Postseason Awards 

President’s Trophy– Tampa Bay Lightning

(best record in the regular season, 2018-19)

Prince of Wales Trophy– Boston Bruins

(2019 Eastern Conference Champions)

Clarence S. Campbell Bowl– St. Louis Blues

(2019 Western Conference Champions)

Conn Smythe Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

(Stanley Cup Playoffs M.V.P. as determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Stanley Cup– St. Louis Blues

(league champion, winner of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final)

DTFR Podcast #163- Cap’n Crunch

The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #162- Battle For Gloria (Part Four- The Blues Have Won)

The Battle For Gloria concludes. The Jeff Skinner extension is analyzed. What to do with Corey Perry? As well as everyone’s favorite game returns.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Blues win first Cup in franchise history

In a scene of poetic justice, if you will, the St. Louis Blues raised the 35-pound Stanley Cup high over their heads Wednesday night against the team that beat them the last time they were in the Final 49 years ago– the Boston Bruins.

The Blues are your 2019 Stanley Cup champions after defeating the Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– capturing the series 4-3.

For the first time in franchise history, a St. Louis captain skated out to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, shake Bettman’s hand, take a photo and accept the hardest silverware to win in professional sports.

Alex Pietrangelo gets to be the first person in league history to say that he lifted the trophy as a member of the Blues.

They were dead last in the league standings entering 2019.

For the first time in their 52-year existence (51 seasons), the Blues are Stanley Cup champions thanks to Jordan Binnington’s NHL rookie record 16 wins in the postseason, as well as his 32 saves on 33 shots against en route to the win in Game 7.

Binnington (16-10 record, 2.46 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 26 games played this postseason) also recorded an 8-2 record on the road in the postseason– tying Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Miikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) for the most road wins by a goaltender in a playoff year.

He made 187 saves on 205 shots against (.913 SV%) and had a 2.76 GAA in the series.

Ryan O’Reilly took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP. He finished with a six-game point streak in the Final.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (15-9, 2.02 GAA, .934 SV% in 24 GP this postseason) stopped 16 out of 20 shots faced in the loss.

Rask finished the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with 176 saves on 193 shots against (.912 SV%) and a 2.46 GAA.

Eight years after winning the Cup in the last Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, the Bruins will have to wait until another day to earn their seventh title in franchise history.

For the first time in their 95-year franchise history, the Bruins hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final (though the Final only became a best-of-seven series since 1939).

Boston joined the Chicago Blackhawks as the only other team to lose the only Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final that they’ve ever hosted among the first six financially stable franchises from 1942-67– after the league’s inception in 1917 (otherwise referred to as the “Original Six” teams).

The other “Original Six” teams have hosted at least one such contest with the Detroit Red Wings (3-2 in five Stanley Cup Final Game 7s on home ice) as the most successful team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0), Montreal Canadiens (1-0) and New York Rangers (1-0) have all never lost a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final on home ice.

St. Louis finished 10-3 on the road this postseason, while Binnington improved to 14-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and playoffs in his young career.

The Blues became the fifth road team to win a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final– and third in-a-row since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and Bruins in 2011.

Home teams are now 12-5 in 17 total Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final.

No home team has won the Cup since the 2015 Blackhawks.

The Bruins fell to 14-9 in Game 7s on home ice (last loss prior to Wednesday night was against Montreal, 3-1, in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

This postseason run wrapped up the longest season (regular and playoffs) in Blues franchise history as St. Louis participated in 108 games total (26 postseason games).

It was the 2nd longest season in Bruins franchise history as Boston played 106 total games (82 regular season and 24 playoff games)– one game short of their 2010-11 record (107 games, 82 regular season and 25 playoff games).

Boston is now 2-1 all time in a playoff series against St. Louis, winning the Cup in four games in 1970, sweeping the Blues in four games in the 1972 Semifinals and losing in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters ahead of Game 7 that defender, Matt Grzelcyk, would be a game-time decision and was cleared from concussion protocol.

After warmups, Grzelcyk was good-to-go and placed alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing in place of Connor Clifton.

Joining Clifton among the long list of healthy scratches for Boston Wednesday night was Chris Wagner, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, David Backes, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, and Trent Frederic.

Once again, Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup for the final time this season due to injury.

B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, set an NHL record for the most Game 7 appearances by a player with his 14th Game 7 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube had the services of Ivan Barbashev back in the lineup after Barbashev served his one-game suspension in Game 6 for an illegal hit to head of Boston forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.

Berube also scratched Robert Bortuzzo and re-inserted Joel Edmundson on his blue line for Game 7.

Nearly halfway through the opening frame, St. Louis defender, Colton Parayko, sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 7:57 of the first period.

Though they moved the puck around with ease on the ensuing power play, Boston couldn’t muster a goal on their first skater advantage of the night.

The Bruins fired three shots on goal on the power play– including a point-blank attempt by David Krejci to deke and stuff the puck through Binnington’s five-hole.

Late in the period, after Boston’s fourth line couldn’t clear their own zone, Jay Bouwmeester let go of a shot from the point that O’Reilly (8) redirected through Rask’s five-hole to give St. Louis the fist goal of the game.

Bouwmeester (7) and Pietrangelo (16) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal and the Blues led, 1-0, at 16:47 of the first period.

The goal came on just the third shot on goal for St. Louis after they got the first shot in the game 27 seconds into the action.

For the first time since Wayne Gretzky did so in 1985, O’Reilly scored a goal in four consecutive Stanley Cup Final games. It was also his 22nd point of the postseason– establishing a Blues franchise record for points in a playoff year.

With eight seconds left in the first period, Jaden Schwartz evaded an attempt by Brad Marchand to make a check while Marchand was a de facto defenseman on a botched line chance by the Bruins.

Schwartz skated with the puck deep into the corner and dropped a pass back to Pietrangelo (3) whereby the Blues captain walked right into the slot, pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped it through Rask’s seven-hole to make it, 2-0, St. Louis.

Pietrangelo’s goal officially came at 19:52 of the first period and was assisted by Schwartz (7).

After one period of play at TD Garden, the Blues led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, while the Bruins dominated shots on goal, 12-4.

The B’s also led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (5-0) and face-off win percentage (61-39), while the Notes led in blocked shots (9-2) and hits (14-11).

St. Louis had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Despite being badly outshot in the first period, the Blues emerged as hockey normally has its way swinging games back-and-forth for a full-press middle frame.

Brayden Schenn had a shot midway in the second period that went off Rask’s stick, off the crossbar and stayed out of the twine thanks to Chara’s stick work keeping the puck out of the goal while chaos befell the rest of the players on the ice all around the crease.

Through 40 minutes of play, St. Louis still led, 2-0, and trailed Boston in shots on goal, 23-10– including an, 11-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone for the Bruins.

The B’s led in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (12-4) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Notes led in blocked shots (15-7) and hits (27-21).

The Blues still hadn’t seen any time on the power play entering the third period and the Bruins were 0/1.

Midway through the final frame, Vladimir Tarasenko chased a loose puck in the attacking zone and threw a pass to Schenn (5) in the slot for the one-timer to give St. Louis a three-goal lead and all but assure themselves of their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Tarasenko (6) and Schwartz (8) tallied the assists on Schenn’s goal at 11:25 of the third period and the Blues led, 3-0.

St. Louis capitalized on the scoreboard moments after Joakim Nordstrom was denied at the other end by Binnington’s right pad.

Late in the period, the Blues did it again as David Perron threw the puck through the slot to Zach Sanford (1) for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal.

The New Hampshire native made it, 4-0, St. Louis with a goal that was assisted by Perron (9) and O’Reilly (15) at 15:22 of the third period.

With the secondary assist on the goal, O’Reilly boosted his own Blues franchise record for the most points in a single postseason to 23 points (8-15–23 totals).

Cassidy pulled Rask with 3:54 remaining in regulation out of a desperate attempt to just get on the scoreboard and it worked.

As the seconds counted down, Grzelcyk (4) sent a shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net over Binnington’s blocker side to cut St. Louis’ lead to three goals.

Krejci (12) had the only assist on the goal at 17:50 of the third period.

The Blues were still in command, 4-1, and even after Boston pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker again with about 1:48 left on the clock, that three-goal deficit was all St. Louis needed.

At the final horn, the Notes had done it.

They finally won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

This, despite trailing in shots on goal, 33-20, in Game 7. The Bruins also finished the night leading in giveaways (13-7) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Blues led in blocked shots (21-7) and hits (36-28).

There was only one penalty called in the game and thus St. Louis’ power play never saw a second of ice time, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage– way back in the first period after Parayko sent the puck over the glass for an automatic infraction.

The team that scored first won Games 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the series, while the home team only won two games in the entire seven game series.

Boston finished 5-1 in elimination games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (won Games 6 and 7 in the First Round against Toronto, won Game 6 against Columbus, won Game 4 against Carolina and forced Game 7 against St. Louis by winning Game 6– then lost in the final game).

Exactly 35 years ago, Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship in the last Game 7 hosted in Boston.

That was at the old Boston Garden (1928-95). Wednesday night’s action was at TD Garden (1995-present) and the opposing team won.

The Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis on May 10, 1970. Bobby Orr scored his iconic– sports photography defining– goal in overtime to clinch the Cup for Boston for the first time since 1941 that night– ending a 29-year drought.

In 2019, it was the Blues quenching their thirst by winning their first.

Bruins force Game 7 after, 5-1, win in St. Louis

For the first time since 2011, there will be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final as a result of the Boston Bruins’, 5-1, victory over the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Sunday.

Boston has never hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final since the adoption of the best-of-seven format in the Final in 1939.

The Bruins last defeated the Vancouver Canucks on the road in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and have not won the Cup at home since beating the Blues in 1970.

Tuukka Rask (15-8 record, 1.93 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) made 28 saves on 29 shots against (.966 SV%) in the win for the B’s.

Rask entered Game 6 with a 5-5 record in 10 career games when facing elimination (2.64 GAA, .899 SV%)– including a 2-0 mark during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (1.50 GAA, .947 SV%).

He’s made 145 saves on 149 shots faced in five elimination games this postseason for a .973 SV% and improved to 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .953 SV% when facing elimination this spring.

The Boston goaltender also became the 19th NHL goaltender to record 50 career playoff wins.

Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington (15-10, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV% in 25 GP this postseason) stopped 27 out of 31 shots faced (.871 SV%) in the loss.

He is 13-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and postseaosn this year.

St. Louis finished 6-7 at home this postseason, while Boston finished 8-3 on the road. The Blues are a league-best 9-3 on the road this postseason as the series heads back to TD Garden.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted rookie winger, Karson Kulhman, on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while reverting back to 12 forwards and six defenders in the lineup.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included Chris Wagner, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, David Backes, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh and Trent Frederic.

Wagner returned to practice on Saturday for the B’s, but was ruled “doubtful” to return to game action for the first time since blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Matt Grzelcyk was not medically cleared and remains in concussion protocol, while Kevan Miller (lower body) is still out.

Blues head coach, Craig Berube added Robert Thomas back into his lineup for the first time since Game 1 in the series, while Ivan Barbashev served his one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Bruins forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.

Sean Kuraly sent the puck over the glass and out of the playing surface 2:42 into the first period and was charged with an automatic delay of game minor penalty.

St. Louis did not convert on their first power play of the night and followed up with a penalty of their own– Brayden Schenn for boarding Joakim Nordstrom at 7:17 of the first period.

The Blues held a, 4-1, advantage in shots on goal at the time of their first penalty and killed off five-straight penalties through the last two games in the series.

A little over a minute later, Ryan O’Reilly sent the puck out of play and received an automatic infraction, yielding a two-skater advantage to the Bruins at 8:19.

It was Boston’s first 5-on-3 advantage this postseason and the B’s weren’t going to go quietly on the power play for long.

Almost 20 seconds after the 5-on-3 began, Torey Krug worked the puck over to David Pastrnak at the point, whereby No. 88 in black-and-gold sent a pass across the ice to Brad Marchand (9) for the one-timer over Binnington’s glove– giving Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.

Pastrnak (10) and Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s power play goal at 8:40 of the first period.

The goal was Boston’s 24th power play goal this postseason– tying their franchise record set in 1991. It was also Marchand’s 7th career goal in the Stanley Cup Final (19 games)– tying for 2nd with Wayne Cashman (7 Stanley Cup Final goals in 26 games).

Only Bobby Orr (16 games) and Johnny Bucyk (24 games) had more goals in the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins with eight.

Late in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara was tied up with David Perron in front of the goal and received the only minor penalty from their net front fracas– a two-minute minor for interference at 18:21.

St. Louis’ ensuing power play would extend into the second period after the Blues failed to capitalize on the skater advantage by the first intermission.

After one period of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-9, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (10-9), while St. Louis led in takeaways (6-1), giveaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (59-41).

The Notes were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period and the B’s were 1/2.

With 21 seconds left to kill on Chara’s minor, Boston began the second period shorthanded. The Bruins successfully killed off the remainder of Chara’s penalty.

Midway through the middle frame, Marchand tripped Alex Pietrangelo and sent the Blues on the power play at 9:11 of the second period.

Though St. Louis didn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play, they did send five shots on goal, including one that rang the post and off of Rask’s back as the Bruins goaltender reached around his back to guide the puck with his glove hand while twirling out of the crease.

Moments later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Vladimir Tarasenko and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 13:43 of the second period.

Once again, Boston killed off the penalty.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-19, in shots on goal– despite St. Louis’, 10-8, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (12-7) heading into the second intermission, while the Blues led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (9-3), hits (23-19) and face-off win% (56-44).

Heading into the third period, the Notes were 0/4 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were still 1/2 on the power play.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Brandon Carlo (2) let go of a floater from the point that Vesa Toskala’ed Binnington on an odd bounce (the puck bounced off his blocker and into the twine) to make it, 2-0, Bruins.

DeBrusk (7) had the only assist on Carlo’s goal at 2:31 of the third period.

The goal would become the eventual game-winner and Carlo’s first career game-winning postseason goal.

Midway through the third, Kuhlman (1) unloaded a wrist shot from the face-off dot to the left of the Blues goaltender and sent the puck over Binnington’s blocker to give Boston a three-goal lead.

Krejci (11) had the only assist on Kuhlman’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal at 10:15 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-0.

As a result of his goal, Kuhlman became the 21st Bruin to score a goal in the postseason– tying the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the most goal scorers by a team in one postseason.

Less than a couple minutes later, O’Reilly (7) squeaked a one-timer just past the goal line after the puck bounced off of Rask’s leg pad and out.

Video review determined O’Reilly had indeed scored at 12:01 of the third period and cut Boston’s lead to two-goals with Pietrangelo (15) and Perron (8) tallying the assists on O’Reilly’s goal.

Rather than backing down, the Bruins pressed forward as Kuraly used the body to free the puck along the end boards and work a short pass to Marchand in the low slot.

No. 63 in black-and-gold pushed the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the drag and top-shelf goal while Binnington dove to poke-check the puck off of Pastrnak’s stick in desperation.

Marchand (14) and Kuraly (6) were credited with the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 14:06 and Boston led, 4-1, after amassing three goals on their last nine shots including Pastrnak’s goal.

With about 4:12 remaining in the action, Berube pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.

Shortly thereafter, Chara (2) flipped the puck from his own face-off circle to the left of Rask into the empty twine at 17:41.

The 42-year-old captain became the 2nd oldest goal scorer in the Stanley Cup Final in Bruins franchise history since Mark Recchi (43 in 2011).

In the closing seconds of the game, Sammy Blais slashing Connor Clifton and the two engaged in a shoving match resulting in two minor penalties for Blais (slashing and roughing) and a minor penalty for Clifton (roughing) at 19:38.

Five seconds later, after a face-off in Boston’s attacking zone, Robert Bortuzzo cross checked Noel Acciari and picked up a minor infraction as well as a ten-minute misconduct at 19:43.

The Bruins finished the action with a 5-on-3 advantage as the final horn sounded on Boston’s, 5-1, victory in Game 6.

Boston finished the night with the series tied 3-3 and leading in shots on goal (32-29), as well as blocked shots (16-9).

St. Louis led in giveaways (12-4), hits (29-27) and face-off win% (59-41) in their final home game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blues went 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/2 on the skater advantage Sunday night.

Boston improved to 25-1 all-time in the postseason when Marchand has a goal and 8-0 this postseason when Marchand scores.

The team that scored first in this series has won Games 3, 4, 5 and 6.

The Bruins forced a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final for the 17th time in league history and first since their Cup-clinching victory in 2011.

The Bruins have also faced a 3-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series 25 times in franchise history– winning four of their 24 prior instances, including the 1941 Semifinal, 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2019 First Round.

Puck drop for Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final is slated for a little after 8 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

It’ll be the 2nd Game 7 of the postseason for both clubs and 6th Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs– tied for the 2nd most Game 7s in one postseason in league history.

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