Petry petrifies Bruins in OT, Habs win, 3-2

Jeff Petry batted in his game-winning goal in overtime just 15 seconds into the five-minute, 3-on-3, overtime period to secure the, 3-2, victory for the Montreal Canadiens over the Boston Bruins Monday night at TD Garden.

Carey Price (18-13-4 record, 2.65 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 36 games played) made 41 saves on 43 shots against for a .953 SV% in the win for the Habs.

Tuukka Rask (13-8-3, 2.44 GAA, .919 SV% in 24 GP) turned aside 19 out of 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss for Boston.

The Bruins fell to 26-14-5 (57 points) on the season and remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Canadiens remain in 4th with a 25-17-3 record (55 points).

Boston fell to 16-3-3 when scoring first this season as Brad Marchand had opened the game’s scoring in the first period before Montreal added two unanswered goals.

It was the final regular season matchup between these two rival clubs, with the Bruins having won eight of the last nine games against Montreal entering Monday night.

Boston placed Colby Cave on waivers for the purpose of assigning the young center to Providence (AHL) prior to the game on Monday as Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup with Steven Kampfer and John Moore serving as his only healthy scratches and Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) still out due to injury.

Despite the loss, one Bruins player reached a milestone in the action with David Pastrnak having appeared in his 300th career NHL game.

For just the second time since being fired by the Bruins, Monreal head coach, Claude Julien beat his former team (that he previously beat a bunch of times in his first stint with the Habs).

Mike Reilly tripped up Marchand at 8:16 of the first period and provided the Bruins their first power play of the night. Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Zdeno Chara interfered with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who– as a result– tripped up Charlie McAvoy while falling.

Both Chara and Kotkaniemi were sent to the box at 13:46, leaving Boston and Montreal at even strength, 4-on-4, for the next two minutes.

While both teams were short a skater, Marchand (17) received an exceptional pass from Patrice Bergeron, then skated past Shea Weber and sniped a wrist shot past Price’s glove side a la Joe Sakic on any goaltender in his prime.

Bergeron (25) and Matt Grzelcyk (12) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 14:09 of the first period and the B’s led, 1-0.

Moments later, tempers flared as Kevan Miller and Nicolas Deslauriers dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs. Both players received five-minute majors for fighting at 16:10 as Miller perhaps sought revenge for his shoulder injury that he suffered back in the day when Deslauriers was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Is it your modern day Milan Lucic vs. Mike Komisarek matchup? No, but it was a great fight nonetheless and we’ll take it considering the B’s and Habs rivalry.

Late in the first period on a face-off in Montreal’s offensive zone, Phillip Danault won the draw back to Petry for the shot from the point that Brendan Gallagher (18) tipped with incredible hand-eye coordination through Rask’s five-hole.

Petry (23) and Danault (24) had the assists on Gallagher’s goal at 18:27 and the Canadiens had tied the game, 1-1.

Heading into the dressing room for the first intermission, the Bruins led in shots on goal (11-6), blocked shots (8-3) and takeaways (9-6), while Montreal led in giveaways (3-2), hits (14-9) and face-off win percentage (57-44).

The Habs had yet to see any time on the power play– and, in fact, wouldn’t see any skater advantage opportunities all night as it was a relatively quiet night for penalties– while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Late in the second period, Victor Mete hooked Miller at 16:16 and the ensuing skater advantage for Boston did not go as the B’s had planned.

Less than a minute into their power play, the Bruins turned the puck over as Paul Byron (10) went unchallenged, breaking into Montreal’s offensive zone with speed and beating Rask with an elevated backhander to give the Canadiens the lead, 2-1, at 17:09.

Byron’s shorthanded goal was unassisted and was the league-leading 10th shorthanded goal allowed by Boston this season.

In the final minute of the middle frame, a scrum ensued post whistle, whereby Max Domi sought out Jake DeBrusk and everyone pulled on a member of the opposing team’s sweater.

Brandon Carlo received a two-minute minor for roughing, as did Domi, and the two players were sent to their dressing rooms early as the period was coming to a close.

Through 40 minutes of play, Montreal led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Boston led, 26-17, in shots on goal.

The Bruins maintained an advantage in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (11-10) and giveaways (7-4) after two periods, while the Canadiens led in hits (22-17). Both teams were 50-50 in face-off win% heading into the third period and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play.

Boston couldn’t put anything past Price as the Habs struggled to generate shots on goal in the third period.

Late in the third, Michael Chaput sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game minor at 17:55.

Cassidy pulled his netminder with about 1:35 remaining in regulation while on the power play to try to tie the game and force overtime.

As the seconds were ticking down– both in the power play and in the game itself– David Krejci (10) found himself with ample opportunity to unload a wrist shot past the blocker side of Price while the Montreal goaltender was screened by DeBrusk in front of the goal.

Krejci’s power play goal tied the game, 2-2, and was assisted by Marchand (32) and Pastrnak (28) at 19:22 of the third period.

At the end of regulation, the Bruins led in shots on goal, 43-21, despite the scoreboard only reading, 2-2.

It took 15 seconds after puck drop in the overtime period for the Habs to work the puck in the offensive zone, generate a shot on goal and a rebound that Petry (10) batted out of the air for the odd, sheer good puck luck, overtime game-winning goal.

Domi (26) and Byron (7) were credited with the assists as the Canadiens defeated the Bruins, 3-2.

Upon the final horn, Montreal had stolen the extra point on the road, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal (43-22), blocked shots (14-11), giveaways (13-7) and face-off win% (53-47).

Montreal finished the night leading in hits (29-23) and never had a power play opportunity. Meanwhile, Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins embark on three games in four nights with a game in Philadelphia against the Flyers on Wednesday, then back home at TD Garden for a matchup Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues and finish off their third game in four nights with their final game before the All-Star break on Saturday against the New York Rangers.

Second period comeback, defense, solidifies B’s, 3-2, victory in Toronto

After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night, the Boston Bruins are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games– including five straight wins from their starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask.

David Pastrnak scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second period as Sean Kuraly had his first career three-point night with a goal and two assists in his fourth career multi-point game.

Rask (13-8-2 record, 2.41 goals against average, .921 save percentage in 23 games played) made 30 saves on 32 shots against for a .921 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Michael Hutchinson (3-4-2, 3.27 GAA, .887 SV% in nine GP) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced for an .897 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 16-3-2 when scoring first this season and beat Toronto in their season series, 3-1-0, outscoring the Leafs, 16-10, in that span. Boston also improved to 26-14-4 (56 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.

The Maple Leafs fell to 28-14-2 (58 points) so far this season and continue to hold a two-point lead over the Bruins for 2nd place in the Atlantic.

With Charlie McAvoy back in the lineup for the first time since missing the last seven games due to a lower body injury, Bruce Cassidy‘s only lineup change was to his defensive corps.

McAvoy suited up alongside Zdeno Chara on the first pairing, with Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo shutting down the remainder of the top-four defensemen.

Matt Grzelcyk was paired on the third defensive pairing with Kevan Miller as Cassidy made John Moore a healthy scratch. This decision would prove to be helpful upon what was an otherwise surefire goal, only to be blocked by Grzelcyk, later in the game.

Cassidy made no other changes and went with Rask in goal as opposed to Jaroslav Halak as Rask has won back his starting job for the time being.

Joining Moore in the press box on the shortlist of healthy scratches were Colby Cave and Steven Kampfer, while Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remained in Boston for the duration of this short road trip.

Late in the first period, David Krejci (9) blasted a shot past Hutchinson to open up the game’s scoring, 1-0, for Boston at 18:21.

Kuraly (7) and Zdeno Chara (2) had the assists on Krejci’s goal.

About a minute later, John Tavares was sent to the penalty box for hooking Pastrnak at 19:38, but the Bruins couldn’t convert on the power play heading into the first intermission– even though it would overlap the start of the second period.

After one period, Boston held onto a, 1-0, lead, despite being outshot by Toronto, 15-9. The Maple Leafs dominated possession in the first period, leading in takeaways (2-0), giveaways (8-4) and face-off win percentage (59-41), as well.

The B’s led in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (13-10) entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Andreas Johnsson was guilty of boarding Carlo at 2:40, resulting in Boston’s second power play of the night. The Bruins couldn’t muster anything on the power play, as momentum started to swing more in Toronto’s favor.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Johnsson (10) redeemed himself with a goal that took an odd bounce from up high, down low and through Rask’s five-hole to tie the game, 1-1, at 7:37 of the second period.

Kasperi Kapanen (12) and Auston Matthews (20) had the assists on Johnsson’s goal.

Less than a minute later, Miller cut a rut to the sin bin for holding William Nylander at 8:59 and the Maple Leafs went on their first power play of the night.

It only took about 30 seconds for Mitch Marner (17) to unload his cannon of a shot on Rask and beat the Bruins netminder cleanly, giving Toronto its first lead of the night.

Marner’s goal was assisted by Nazem Kadri (17) and Kapanen (13) at 9:30 of the middle frame and was the first lead change in the season series between Boston and Toronto this season.

In all three games entering Saturday night, the team that scored first went on to win the game.

The Bruins made sure to make that stat ring true, rendering it four-for-four with their comeback late in the second frame.

Late in the period, Kuraly (5) finagled his way to the low slot as Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner freed the puck to the eventual Boston goal scorer that made it, 2-2, at 14:47.

Wagner (4) and Acciari (3) were credited with the assists.

Kuraly now has four goals in his last 10 games (he had four goals in 84 games prior to this recent stretch).

Less than two minutes later, Patrice Bergeron bungled a clearing attempt and sent the puck clear over the glass, resulting in an automatic delay of game penalty and putting the Maple Leafs back on the power play for the second time of the night.

This time, Rask and his penalty killing unit in front of him stood tall and killed off Bergeron’s minor.

As the seconds were ticking off the clock in the second period, Kuraly worked the puck to Pastrnak in the low slot after capitalizing on a weak pass attempt from one Maple Leafs skater to another.

Pastrnak (26) buried the puck behind Hutchinson at 19:45 and gave the B’s the lead, 3-2.

Kuraly (8) had the only assist on the goal and earned himself a three-point night.

With the goal, Pastrnak tied Barry Pederson for the most career goals (with 120) in Bruins franchise history by a player before their 23rd birthday.

Heading into the second intermission, Boston led Toronto, 3-2, on the scoreboard, despite the Maple Leafs holding an advantage in shots on goal (26-19).

The Leafs also led in takeaways (5-1), giveaways (14-9) and face-off win% (55-46) prior to the start of the third period, while the B’s led in blocked shots (11-9) and hits (23-19).

Both teams would stay out of the box for the final period of play, resulting in Toronto’s final power play stat line reading as 1/2 and Boston’s skater advantage going 0/2.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, pulled his netminder with about two minutes remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but unlike his own skaters on the ice, the Bruins brass played tight defense in their own zone.

The final horn sounded and Boston had sealed the deal on a 3-2 victory, despite trailing in shots on goal (32-29), giveaways (18-12) and face-off win% (52-48).

The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-11) and hits (29-28) with Rask picking up his fifth straight win and 251st career win with Boston as both teams played the final 5:56 of regulation without a stoppage.

Rask is one win shy of tying Tiny Thompson‘s franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in Bruins history with 252. Frank Brimsek, the goaltender who upended Thompson from his job with Boston in the 1938-39 season, is third on the list with 230 career wins as a Bruin.

The Bruins return home to take on the Montreal Canadiens Monday night at TD Garden before traveling to Philadelphia for a Wednesday night matchup with the Flyers in the first of back-to-back game days.

Boston hosts the St. Louis Blues on Thursday before facing the New York Rangers next Saturday in the B’s final game before the All-Star break.

Capitals extend regular season win streak versus Boston with 4-2 victory

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins in a regular season game.

Thursday night at TD Garden, the Capitals ended Boston’s five-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory on the road as Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in the third period prior to Alex Ovechkin adding the insurance goal (his second of the night) with the Bruins net empty as time ticked away in regulation.

Braden Holtby (17-10-2 record, 2.86 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 30 games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 SV% in the win for Washington and improved to 16-2 in 18 career games against Boston.

B’s netminder, Jaroslav Halak (13-7-2, 2.39 GAA, .924 SV% in 24 GP), made 18 saves on 21 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins are now 0-11-3 in their last 14 regular season games against Washington.

Boston falls to 25-15-4 (54 points) on the season and remains in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Capitals improved to 27-12-4 (58 points) so far this season and remain in 1st place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup, save for Halak getting the start over Tuukka Rask, based on the logic Cassidy used against the Anaheim Ducks last month (starting Halak in goal against a team the Bruins haven’t beaten in a while).

It worked against the Ducks. It didn’t against the Caps.

The moral of the story is it’s not the goaltender. It’s the overall effort of the team.

Boston’s scratches on Thursday night included Colby Cave and Steven Kampfer as healthy scratches, as well as Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body).

Cassidy indicated McAvoy could be back in the lineup on Saturday in Toronto, earlier in the day on Thursday.

Jonas Siegenthaler was guilty of holding Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, at 1:51 of the first period and was sent to the penalty box, resulting in Boston’s first power play of the night.

The Bruins did not convert on the skater advantage and the Caps swung momentum in their favor.

Jakub Vrana (15) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway resulting from T.J. Oshie‘s lead pass, which Vrana used to springboard himself in on a defenseless Halak, sniping the puck past Boston’s goaltender and giving Washington the lead, 1-0, at 6:38 of the first period.

Oshie (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Late in the opening frame, Marchand drew another penalty, this time when Michal Kempny tripped up the Bruins winger at 14:13.

The Capitals entered the dressing room for the first intermission with the lead, 1-0, while being outshot by Boston, 17-5. The Caps also led in blocked shots (8-2), giveaways (7-1) and hits (10-5), while the Bruins led in takeaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (53-47).

Washington had yet to see any time on the power play after one period, but Boston was already 0/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Early in the second period, Patrice Bergeron tripped Vrana and gave Washington their first power play of the night at 5:10.

Shortly after their power play expired, Lars Eller received a two-minute minor infraction for unsportsmanlike conduct directed towards Marchand at 7:43 of the second period and the Bruins went on the power play for the third time Thursday evening.

Boston did not yield a goal on the skater advantage and shortly followed up with a penalty of their own as Brandon Carlo was penalized for tripping Ovechkin at 10:57.

The Bruins managed to kill off Carlo’s minor and surged enough in momentum to generate some zone time over the course of the vulnerable minute after Washington’s power play ended.

Torey Krug sent a pass to Ryan Donato as Donato was out high on his own from about the face-off circle to the left of Holtby.

The rookie Bruins winger settled the puck and fired his patented wrist shot past the Capitals goaltender to tie the game, 1-1, at 14:11 of the second period.

Krug (25) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (4) had the assists on Donato’s (6) goal, which set a new career-high for No. 17 in black-and-gold.

Less than a minute later, Ovechkin (31) found his revenge on the scoreboard as he sent a shot from close range past Halak’s short side as Tom Wilson found Ovechkin in the face-off circle to the right of the Bruins goalie.

Wilson (9) had the only assist on Ovechkin’s goal at 14:50 and the Caps led, 2-1.

In the dying seconds of the middle frame, former Bruin, Brett Connolly received a minor penalty for holding Krug at 19:52.

Boston’s ensuing power play would carry on into the third period, with the Capitals still in command of the scoreboard, 2-1, after 40 minutes of play.

The B’s led in shots on goal, 28-12, after two periods– outshooting Washington, 11-7, in the second period alone.

Washington led in blocked shots (13-7), giveaways (10-5) and hits (24-17) through two periods of action, while Boston led in takeaways (11-5) and face-off win% (62-38).

Entering the second intermission, the Capitals were 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/4.

After a bungled line change cost Washington a too many men on the ice bench minor at 3:58 of the third period, Capitals head coach sent Ovechkin to serve the penalty.

While Ovechkin was in the box, David Krejci (8) was scoring goals– a power play goal, blasted from the outer edge of the face-off circle to Holtby’s left, tying the game, 2-2, at 4:37 of the third.

Danton Heinen (7) and David Backes (8) notched the assists on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins looked like they might have enough confidence to get over their regular season slump against the Capitals, but Washington had other things in mind.

Backstrom (11) scored the game-winning goal, high, glove-side past Halak with a wrong-footed wrist shot at 5:46– just over a minute after Krejci tied the game for Boston.

Oshie (7) and Siegenthaler (4) had the assists on Backstrom’s goal as the Capitals took the lead, 3-2, in the final frame.

Down by a goal with about 1:39 remaining on the clock, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra skater, but four seconds later, Ovechkin (32) cleared the puck from his own zone into the empty net in Boston’s defensive end.

Ovechkin’s goal put the game away, 4-2, and was unassisted at 18:25. It was his second goal of the night and his 128th career two-goal game, as a result.

Halak vacated the net once more about 20 seconds later, but it was too little, too late, as the final horn sounded and the Capitals secured the win in Boston.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-22) and face-off win% (66-34), but Washington dominated the scoreboard, 4-2, and led in blocked shots (18-7), giveaways (14-6), as well as hits (32-25).

The Caps went 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s finished 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Boston travels to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs this Saturday night before heading back home for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

The Bruins then hit the road for the start of two games in two nights, starting with a Wednesday night game in Philadelphia against the Flyers before venturing back home to host the St. Louis Blues next Thursday. The B’s host the New York Rangers next Saturday (Jan. 19th) in their last game before the All-Star break.


DTFR Podcast #140- All-Star Finnish Trivia

Thoughts on the conclusion and controversies of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, as well as a look at the schedule around the league as we near the All-Star Weekend festivities and bye week(s). Nick puts Connor on the spot and asks him some trivia questions that only went so well.

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

Game of the week: January 7-13

It’s the first full week of 2019! What better way to celebrate than with some hockey?

Here’s this week’s slate of games:

NHL SCHEDULE: January 7-13
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, January 7
7 p.m. Nashville Toronto 4-0
7 p.m. St. Louis Philadelphia 3-0
7:30 p.m. Minnesota Montréal 1-0
8:30 p.m. Calgary Chicago 4-3
10:30 p.m. Los Angeles San Jose 1-3
Tuesday, January 8
7 p.m. Minnesota Boston 0-4
7 p.m. New Jersey Buffalo 1-5
7 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes New York Islanders 4-3
7 p.m. Florida Pittsburgh 1-5
7:30 p.m. Philadelphia Washington 3-5
7:30 p.m. Montréal Detroit 3-2
7:30 p.m. Columbus Tampa Bay 0-4
8 p.m. Dallas St. Louis 3-1
8 p.m. Colorado Winnipeg 4-7
10 p.m. New York Rangers Vegas Golden Knights 2-4
10:30 p.m. Edmonton San Jose 2-7
Wednesday, January 9
8 p.m. Nashville Predators Chicago Blackhawks NBCSN, SN360, TVAS
9:30 p.m. Colorado Calgary ESPN+
10 p.m. Ottawa Anaheim RDS
Thursday, January 10
7 p.m. Washington Boston ESPN+, TVAS
7 p.m. Toronto New Jersey  
7 p.m. New York Islanders New York Rangers  
7 p.m. Dallas Philadelphia  
7 p.m. Nashville Columbus  
7:30 p.m. Carolina Tampa Bay  
8 p.m. Montréal St. Louis RDS, TSN2
8 p.m. Winnipeg Minnesota NBCSN
9 p.m. Florida Edmonton  
10 p.m. Arizona Vancouver  
10 p.m. San Jose Vegas ESPN+
10:30 p.m. Ottawa Los Angeles RDS
Friday, January 11
7:30 p.m. Buffalo Carolina NHLN
8 p.m. Detroit Winnipeg TVAS
9 p.m. Florida Calgary  
10 p.m. Pittsburgh Anaheim ESPN+, SN360
Saturday, January 12
1 p.m. Philadelphia New Jersey NHLN, SN
1 p.m. New York Rangers New York Islanders ESPN+
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Buffalo  
7 p.m. Boston Bruins Toronto Maple Leafs CBC, CITY, NHLN, SN1
7 p.m. Colorado Montréal SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Columbus Washington ESPN+
8 p.m. Detroit Minnesota  
8:30 p.m. Vegas Chicago ESPN+
9 p.m. St. Louis Dallas  
10 p.m. Ottawa San Jose CBC, SN1, TVAS
10 p.m. Arizona Edmonton SN
10:30 p.m. Pittsburgh Los Angeles  
Sunday, January 13
12:30 p.m. Nashville Carolina  
6 p.m. Anaheim Winnipeg  
6 p.m. New York Rangers Columbus Blue Jackets NHLN
7 p.m. Florida Vancouver SN
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Lightning New York Islanders ESPN+
9:30 p.m. Arizona Calgary SN1

Among the week’s biggest games are the usual suspects of rivalries, playoff rematches and player returns.

In the rivalry department, the Battle of California reignited Monday when the Kings visited San Jose, followed a day later by Philadelphia at Washington and an Original Six showdown between the Canadiens and Red Wings. The Battle of New York will be waged twice this week, starting in Manhattan tomorrow night and heading to Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. Also taking place Saturday is the Battle of the Turnpikes between Philadelphia and New Jersey, as well as another Original Six fixture featuring Boston and Toronto.

As for rematches from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Thursday will see Winnipeg make a return to Minnesota in a rematch of the Western Quarterfinals, and a Western Semifinals rematch between San Jose and Vegas. The previously mentioned Bruins-Maple Leafs tilt on Saturday is a rematch of the Eastern Quarterfinals, as is Columbus at Washington on the same day.

Making his first trip back to Raleigh since being traded to Buffalo this summer, no player’s homecoming is bigger than Jeff Skinner‘s this week. Drafted seventh overall in 2010, Skinner was a member of the Hurricanes for eight seasons before joining Jack Eichel‘s Sabres. While a Cane, Skinner won the organization’s first Calder Trophy and was named the youngest All-Star in North American professional sports history – both in 2011.

Also making a major homecoming trip is Tanner Pearson, now a member of the Penguins after a mid-season trade ended his six-season tenure in Los Angeles.

However, the game that excites me the most is going down tonight when the Colorado Avalanche make the trip north into Alberta to take on the Calgary Flames.

For much of the season so far, 20-15-8 Colorado – the West’s top wild card – was one of the scariest opponents in the league for any team. They boast a dominant top line and a top-five power play (the Avs’ 26.5 percent conversion rate is second-best in the conference).

However, that has not been the case for the past three weeks, as Colorado has racked up only a lowly 1-5-2 record in its last eight appearances (including regulation losses to Arizona, Chicago and Los Angeles – all also-rans in the Western Conference), causing them to give up third place in the Central Division to Dallas.

Averaging three goals per game during this run, the offense is still clicking at a good enough pace that the Avalanche should not be struggling – at least not to this extent. Instead, it has been Colorado’s goaltending that has really dropped the ball.

With 9-5-3 G Philipp Grubauer earning the start last night in Winnipeg (Colorado lost 7-4, for those keeping track at home), it seems likely that 11-8-5 G Semyon Varlamov will get the nod this evening. If that’s the case, he’ll surely have full intention of playing closer to the .912 save percentage and 2.8 GAA he’s managed for the season and not the .891 and 2.97 marks he’s posted in his last two starts.

Of course, even those numbers are improvements over Grubauer’s. In the former Capital’s last six starts, he’s managed only an .87 save percentage and 3.94 GAA – only slightly worse than the .895 and 3.29 he’s shown for the entire season. With numbers like those and the fact that 0-2-0 G Pavel Francouz looked fairly solid in his NHL debut this season (he managed a .943 save percentage and 1.96 GAA in 61 minutes), it’s a wonder the Czech hasn’t had the opportunity to join the Avs full-time if it would mean Varlamov could take more games off.

What makes these recent goaltending numbers so frustrating is the fact that Colorado has been playing some solid defense during this stretch of games. In the Avs’ last eight games, they’ve allowed only 29.75 shots against per game – the ninth-lowest mark in the NHL since December 21. W Gabriel Bourque and C Sheldon Dries (both with 2.3 hits per game since December 21), W Matt Calvert (seven takeaways during this stretch) and D Erik Johnson (2.4 blocks per game in his past eight outings) have all played major roles in that success, but they’ll be pushed to the limit tonight when facing the Flames’ imposing attack.

Speaking of those high-flying Flames, they currently boast the Western Conference’s top record with a 27-13-4 mark – a performance that’s even more intimidating when we keep in mind they have at least one game in hand on the Pacific Division’s two other best teams.

Tonight’s tilt will be the Flames’ first back in Calgary after a four-game Eastern road trip that saw them earn six of eight possible points. In fact, Calgary enters tonight’s game on an impressive 5-1-1 run in its past seven showings, including wins over solid Western foes in San Jose and Winnipeg.

Leading that charge is the Flames’ previously mentioned offense, which has few rivals in the NHL lately. Averaging 4.29 goals per game since December 27, Calgary’s attack is ranked fourth in the league and second in the conference in that time.

An outstanding five skaters are averaging at least a point per game during this run, but none are as intimidating as LW Johnny Gaudreau. With 10-6-16 totals in his past seven games (that’s 1.43 goals and 2.29 points per game), he’s elevated his season marks to 26-38-64, good enough for fourth, (t)fifth and (t)eighth in the NHL in points, goals and assists respectively.

Joining Gaudreau in averaging at least a point per game during this seven game stretch are C Sean Monahan (2-12-14 totals), F Elias Lindholm (3-8-11), LW Matthew Tkachuk (3-5-8) and D Noah Hanifin (0-7-7).

Perhaps the most impressive facet of Calgary’s attack is that the Flames are scoring almost all of their goals at even strength, having converted only four of their last 28 power play opportunities (14.3 percent, 12th-worst in the NHL since December 27. While Head Coach Bill Peters would surely like to see his special teams perform better, the fact that the Flames have scored 21 of their last 30 goals (70 percent) at even strength surely makes that an easier pill to swallow.


A potent attack taking on a slumping goaltending corps is usually a recipe for disaster, but the fact that Colorado boasts a solid offense of its own is what makes this tilt interesting. If the Avalanche want any chance of pulling off the upset, F Nathan MacKinnon, RW Mikko Rantanen and co. will need to do their best to beat 15-4-3 G David Rittich to keep up with the Flames. If they can’t, this could get ugly early.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 40 Games

In keeping with true fashion to cranking out these forecasts this season, once again I am a couple of games behind in terms of timeliness.

Nonetheless, the last few games don’t matter– they’re not taken into account for this latest forecast, but they are taken into consideration for future performance as a whole over the remaining “42” games at the time these projections were forecasted.

Halfway through the season, the Boston Bruins find themselves in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings. Despite all the injuries, despite the lack of depth scoring and despite all other areas of regression, the B’s are holding their own weight in a competitive division.

Bruce Cassidy‘s coaching style and compete level is something to be praised as they’ve weathered the storm, but now the question remains– can they take it to the next level?

General Manager, Don Sweeney, probably could opt for a scoring winger before the team goes down the stretch and into the playoffs, where, last year’s depth scoring dried up thanks, in part, due to a gamble that didn’t pay off in acquiring Rick Nash to help provide a spark on the second line.

This season’s team is righting the ship, but are they peaking too early? When will they peak if they aren’t starting to peak now?

Doubt will always enter the mind. True professionals ignore it and achieve.

Anyway, to avoid getting too much into coaching philosophy or whatever, let’s take a look at the most recent forecast for Boston and remember there are many variables that can and will change things. Being injured, called up, assigned, scratched, traded, lucky or unlucky will incur damage to the expected stats.

Unpredictable variables happen. Microsoft Excel knows none of that.

As always, my degree is in communication– not math. This forecast is just an utopian outlook for the Bruins if every player met expectations.

Should they do better, then they will have exceeded expectations. If they fall short, then they were injured, out of the lineup or whatever– they didn’t meet expectations and next season’s numbers will reflect a new benchmark for meeting expectations.

The nature of hockey is both contextually analytical and holistically unpredictable– nothing can account for sheer puck luck or the odd puck bounce, but whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends and be utilized for educated guesses.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)

(Just click on the image if you’re having trouble seeing it– WordPress changed their layout so there’s no more slideshow options.)

Boston’s expected leaders in points indicates an 80-point season for David Pastrnak for the second season in-a-row– and not only that, but a career-high in goals and points.

Pastrnak is forecasted to lead the Bruins with 39 goals and 43 assists (82 points) with linemate Patrice Bergeron (26-41–67 forecasted totals) expected to be second in the club’s scoring.

Second line center, David Krejci (15-45–60 expected totals) is bound to be third in Bruins scoring this season with Jake DeBrusk emerging from the haze of injury and a slow start to his sophomore season.

While Pastrnak is destined to lead his club in goals with 39 in the latest forecast, it appears he’ll be the only Bruin to reach the 30-goal plateau this season, as Brad Marchand is currently forecasted to end up with 27 goals this season.

Marchand has reached 30-goals for the last three consecutive seasons and the 20-goal plateau in seven out of his eight full seasons he’s played since 2010-11.

Should he reach 20 goals as expected this season, he’ll extend his scoring prowess to eight out of his nine seasons in the NHL.

Bergeron’s expected to follow suit with his teammates on what is one of the best lines in the league, ranking third in goals by season’s end with 26, despite missing 16 games due to a rib/sternoclavicular injury.

In assists, Marchand has emerged as much of a playmaker as he is a natural scorer with the current expectation of 47 assists this season, leading his teammates, Krejci (45 expected assists) and Pastrnak (43 expected assists).

Marchand set a career-high in assists with 51 last season and is on pace to reach at least 40 assists for the third consecutive season.

Noted playmaker and usual assist leading suspect, Krejci’s 45 assists would be his best since he had 46 assists in 72 games during 2015-16. Of note, Krejci has not missed a game so far this season.

Fellow Czech native, Pastrnak is the only other player to have appeared in every game so far.

On defense, Torey Krug remains supreme with 10-40–50 expected totals, despite missing 11 games thus far. Another 50 points this season would be the third consecutive season of reaching the 50-point plateau for Krug.

He matched his career-high in goals (14) and set a new career-high in assists (45) last season en route to a career-high 59-point year in 76 games played.

It’s very likely Krug may exceed expectations, so long as he’s healthy.

Young stallion, Charlie McAvoy is still on pace for breaking the 30-point benchmark this season, despite missing 23 games through this forecast due to a couple of injuries (namely, a concussion and a lower body injury after blocking a shot).

While McAvoy’s health may be worrisome this season, Matt Grzelcyk has stepped into more minutes with the expectations of a career-year with 3-19–22 forecasted totals.

John Moore and Zdeno Chara are both expected to reach 15 points with Kevan Miller adding another 12 from the blue line this season.

In goal, Boston has seen some stellar action from Jaroslav Halak— though recently he has been trending in the other direction, Tuukka Rask has picked up his pace of play back to where it’s expected night-in and night-out.

Halak is on pace for a 2.42 goals against average, despite his 2.28 GAA in 22 games played as of this forecast. Still, a 2.42 GAA would be equivalent to his 2.43 GAA in 59 GP in 2014-15 with the New York Islanders.

His workload shouldn’t reach nearly 60 games this season, so there’s still hope he exceeds expectations and keeps his GAA low, while increasing his expected save percentage.

Currently, Halak is forecasted to finish the 2018-19 regular season with a .920 SV%– his highest since attaining a .920 SV% in 52 games in 2013-14 for the Islanders. He had a .919 SV% in 36 games with New York in 2015-16.

Whether Halak will regress back to his usual form remains to fully be seen.

As has been since Halak’s stellar performances early in the season outplayed Tuukka Rask, Cassidy will have to manage both of his goaltender’s time in the crease– keeping each fresh enough to remain hot and rested for a playoff stretch.

Rask, in the meantime, is currently forecasted to reach a 2.38 GAA, which would be the second consecutive season of a slightly worse goals against average since he had a 2.23 in 65 games played in 2016-17 (he had a 2.36 GAA in 54 GP last season).

However, a 2.38 GAA is still respectable, considering his 2.63 GAA in 20 appearances through Boston’s first 40 games this season.

Boston’s usual starting goaltender is on track for a .919 SV%, which would be Rask’s highest since amassing a .922 SV% in 70 games played in 2014-15– a season in which he was drastically overworked.

Rask’s career-high .931 SV% came in 2009-10, when he had stolen the starting job from Tim Thomas and played in 45 games.

He’s also had back-to-back seasons at .929 in 23 games in 2011-12 (while serving as Thomas’ backup) and in 36 games in 2012-13 (during the 48-game lockout-shortened season, in which Rask backstopped Boston to their 2013 Stanley Cup Final appearance).

Anything at or above .920 in terms of save percentage is usually widely praised. A .919 SV% is not that far off and might actually be more reflective of the increased offense league-wide, but that’s something to research on a different day.

Regardless, two goaltenders around .920 in save percentage and close to a 2.30 goals against average isn’t a bad thing to have. That’s what some might refer to as an effective “1A/1B” scenario.

Now fight it out in the comments over who is “1A” and who is “1B” in this case.

Bruins score wild goals in 4-0 win over Minnesota

Don’t look now, but the Boston Bruins are on a five-game winning streak after shutting out the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, Tuesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins haven’t lost since Dec. 29th’s, 3-2, comeback win in overtime against the Sabres in Buffalo.

Boston improved to 15-3-2 when scoring first this season, as Danton Heinen recorded the game’s first goal. Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron each added goals of their own in the Bruins’ win.

Tuukka Rask (12-8-2 record, 2.43 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 22 games played) made 24 saves on 24 shots against for the win and his first shutout of the season.

Rask’s last shutout came on March 17, 2018 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tuesday night’s shutout was the 42nd of his career.

Alex Stalock (5-4-0, 2.75 GAA, .894 SV% in 11 GP) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss for the Wild.

The B’s improved to 25-14-4 (54 points) on the season and remain 3rd in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place and two points ahead of the 4th place Sabres.

Minnesota fell to 21-18-3 (45 points) and remained 5th place in the Central Division.

Bruce Cassidy left his lines alone for Boston with Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibular fracture) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) still out of the lineup due to injury and Colby Cave, as well as Steven Kampfer, as the only healthy scratches Tuesday.

Heinen (5) notched the game’s first goal early in the first period after Torey Krug went d-to-d with a pass across the point to John Moore.

Moore fired a shot that Heinen tipped in past Stalock at 5:23 to give Boston the, 1-0, lead with Moore (6) and Krug (23) tallying the assists.

Moments later, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, cut a rut to the penalty box after being penalized for interference, having bumped into Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway without the puck at 7:00 of the first period.

The Bruins successfully killed off Chara’s minor infraction and momentum further swung to their side as almost a few minutes after the Wild’s power play failed, Marchand was in the right place at the right time.

Moore worked the puck over to Bergeron, who then fired a shot that went wide of the goal and caromed off the end-boards to Marchand as No. 63 in black-and-gold crashed the net.

Marchand (16) put home the rebound as Stalock was moving a step behind across the crease, giving Moore his first two-point game in a Bruins uniform.

Bergeron (23) and Moore (7) were credited with the assists at 11:29.

Late in the opening frame, the B’s and Wild swapped minor penalties with Kevan Miller going to the box first for holding Nino Niederreiter at 16:16, then Minnesota’s Eric Staal following up with a tripping minor against Rask at 17:42.

After an abbreviated 4-on-4 sequence, the Bruins went on an abbreviated power play that yielded their third goal of the period and first of two power play goals on the night.

Bergeron fired a shot towards the goal that deflected off of DeBrusk’s (14) chest and went past Stalock to give Boston a three-goal lead.

Bergeron (24) and Marchand (30) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 19:15 of the first period and the B’s led, 3-0.

DeBrusk has four goals and one assist (five points) in his six games since returning from concussion-like symptoms.

Entering the first intermission, Boston was ahead by three goals and led in shots on goal, 15-6. Minnesota led in blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (13-9) after 20 minutes, while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (67-33).

Both teams had two takeaways each through one period as the Wild went 0/2 on the power play and the B’s went 1/1.

Early in the second period, Zach Parise tripped Bergeron just past the six-minute mark of the middle frame and the Bruins went back on the power play.

Less than 20 seconds later, Bergeron (14) got his revenge on the scoreboard, redirecting a shot past Stalock for the power play goal at 6:24 of the second period.

Marchand (31) and Krug (24) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 4-0.

Almost midway through the second period, with the pace in play rather deflated, Moore was charged with interference against Luke Kunin, resulting in the Wild’s final power play of the night and last chance to muster anything resembling the commencement of a comeback.

Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of play at TD Garden, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal. Minnesota actually outshot Boston, 12-5, in the second period alone, but the Wild couldn’t get past the brick wall of Rask in Boston’s crease.

The B’s led in blocked shots (13-5) and face-off win% (59-41) after two periods. Minnesota led in takeaways (6-3), giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16), while finishing the night 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins went 2/2 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.

There were no penalties and there was no scoring in the third period from either club as the Bruins secured the, 4-0, victory and finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-24), blocked shots (18-9), giveaways (12-11) and face-off win% (54-46).

The Wild finished the night leading in hits (28-21).

Boston hosts the Washington Capitals this Thursday night at the Garden before traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.

The Bruins return home for a Monday night (Jan. 14th) rivalry matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, before traveling to Philadelphia for the first of back-to-back games on the road at Wells Fargo Center against the Flyers next Wednesday (Jan. 16th) and at home against the St. Louis Blues next Thursday (Jan. 17th).

They’ll play one more game after that against the New York Rangers at home next Saturday (Jan. 19th) before the All-Star break and bye week begins for Boston.

Game of the week: December 31-January 6

Welcome to 2019! Nothing quite rings in the new year like hockey (shh, nobody asked you what you think, college football!), and in case you haven’t heard, the Blackhawks and Bruins are headed to South Bend, Ind. for this year’s iteration of the Winter Classic.

However, there’s far more than that tilt going down this week, so here’s all the fixtures for 2018’s finale and the first six days of 2019.

NHL SCHEDULE: December 31-january 6
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 31
12:30 p.m. Nashville Washington 6-3
1 p.m. Vancouver New Jersey 0-4
6 p.m. Pittsburgh Minnesota 3-2
6 p.m. New York Islanders Buffalo Sabres 3-1
6 p.m. Philadelphia Carolina 1-3
7 p.m. New York Rangers St. Louis Blues 2-1
7 p.m. Ottawa Columbus 3-6
7:30 p.m. Florida Detroit 4-3 (SO)
8 p.m. Tampa Bay Anaheim 2-1 (OT)
8 p.m. Los Angeles Colorado 3-2 (OT)
8:30 p.m. Montréal Dallas 3-2 (OT)
9 p.m. San Jose Calgary 5-8
9 p.m. Winnipeg Edmonton 4-3
Tuesday, January 1
1 p.m. Boston Chicago 4-2
8:30 p.m. Philadelphia Nashville 0-4
9 p.m. Los Angeles Vegas 0-2
Wednesday, January 2
7 p.m. Vancouver Ottawa 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Calgary Detroit 5-3
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Penguins New York Rangers 7-2
8:30 p.m. New Jersey Dallas 4-5
9:30 p.m. San Jose Colorado 5-4
9:30 p.m. Edmonton Arizona 3-1
Thursday, January 3
2 p.m. Minnesota Toronto 4-3
7 p.m. Calgary Boston 4-6
7 p.m. Florida Buffalo 3-4
7 p.m. Carolina Philadelphia 5-3
7:30 p.m. Chicago Blackhawks New York Islanders 2-3 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Vancouver Montréal 0-2
8 p.m. Washington St. Louis 2-5
10:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Los Angeles 6-2
Friday, January 4
7 p.m. Winnipeg Pittsburgh 0-4
7:30 p.m. Nashville Detroit 3-4 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Columbus Carolina 2-4
8 p.m. Washington Dallas 1-2 (OT)
9 p.m. New York Rangers Colorado Avalanche 1-6
9 p.m. New Jersey Arizona 3-2 (SO)
10 p.m. Vegas Anaheim 3-2
Saturday, January 5
1 p.m. Calgary Philadelphia 3-2 (OT)
1 p.m. Minnesota Ottawa 4-3
7 p.m. Buffalo Boston 1-2
7 p.m. Vancouver Toronto 0-5
7 p.m. Nashville Montréal 4-1
7 p.m. Columbus Florida 4-3 (OT)
8 p.m. New York Islanders St. Louis Blues 4-3
10 p.m. Edmonton Los Angeles 0-4
11 p.m. Tampa Bay San Jose 2-5
Sunday, January 6
1 p.m. Carolina Ottawa RDS2
4 p.m. New Jersey Vegas SN
4 p.m. New York Rangers Arizona Coyotes  
5 p.m. Dallas Winnipeg ESPN+
5 p.m. Washington Detroit NHLN
8 p.m. Edmonton Anaheim SN, SN360
8 p.m. Chicago Pittsburgh NBCSN

If you enjoyed the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals and rivalries are your jam, this week’s slate of games was made just for you. Both Boston and Edmonton squared off against two rivals this week, with the Oilers taking on Winnipeg on Monday and the Kings on Saturday and the Bruins playing Chicago and Buffalo on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.

Speaking of the Kings, their Tuesday tilt in Vegas was a rematch of the First Round from the most recent Stanley Cup playoffs – the only such tilt of the week.

Finally, in the “Player Returns” department, W Dmitrij Jaskin takes the cake for the longest tenure with his former club, as he was claimed off waivers by the Capitals earlier this season after six campaigns with the Blues – Washington’s opponent on Thursday.

In an attempt to avoid repeating teams too frequently, I turned my attention away from the Winter Classic (we all knew how it was going to go anyways) and the Flames and Sharks’ major showdown. Instead, let’s take in a pivotal game in the race for the Western Conference’s second wild card.

To put things simply, life has been much better for the Oilers and their faithful fans.

As recently as three weeks ago, Edmonton was in third place in the Pacific Division and looking like a real threat for the remainder of the season. However, that impressive 9-2-2 run that got them to that point is long forgotten now, as the 19-19-3 Oil enter tonight’s tilt on a disastrous 1-7-0 skid, accented by last night’s embarrassing 4-0 loss to lowly Los Angeles.

Without a doubt, the worst aspect of Edmonton’s play over this eight-game run has been the play of its two goaltenders. 12-8-1 G Mikko Koskinen has received six of those starts, but his .869 save percentage and 4.45 GAA in those appearances (compared to a .915 season save percentage and corresponding 2.64 GAA) hardly reflect starters’ numbers.

However, handing the reins over to 7-11-2 G Cam Talbot has rarely been the fix Head Coach Ken Hitchcock’s club has hoped for, as almost every time they’ve turned to him they’ve gotten the same old Talbot they’ve gotten all year. Boasting an .893 save percentage and 3.23 GAA for the season, Talbot has stayed true to his form for this campaign in his last four appearances since December 16, posting almost identical .888 and 3.25 marks in those outings.

With both Koskinen and Talbot seeing action in yesterday’s tilt in Tinseltown, it remains unclear which will earn the nod this evening. Koskinen did start against the Kings, but he only logged 13:57 of action before getting pulled due to allowing three goals on eight shots (.625 save percentage). Conversely, though Talbot saw more TOI, his 14-for-15 performance (.933 save percentage) in relief could earn him the opportunity to reclaim his starting job tonight.

Though not the sole reason for the netminders’ struggles, part of their problems might be related to the Oil’s defensive play of late. Edmonton has allowed an average of 30.7 shots on goal per game this season, a mark that is good enough for 11th-best in the NHL. However, that mark has climbed ever so slightly to 31.75 shots per game in Edmonton’s games since December 16, the 14th-highest in the league in that stretch.

If any are to blame for that defensive decline, it is surely not F Jujhar Khaira (3.8 hits per game since December 16), C Connor McDavid (10 takeaways in the last eight games) or D Darnell Nurse (1.5 blocks per game during this run), as all three lead the team in their respective statistics.

There’s certainly still time for Edmonton to rediscover its winning groove, but the Oilers must make sure to stop the bleeding against Anaheim tonight, considering it is those very Ducks they’re trailing by four points for the Western Conference’s second wild card.

Speaking of teams looking to get off the schneid, the 19-16-7 Anaheim Ducks also fit the bill considering their seven-game losing skid that has seen them earn only two of a possible 14 points.

Since December 18 (the date of Anaheim’s 3-1 loss at Madison Square Garden, the first of these consecutive losses), no offense in the NHL has been as anemic as the Ducks’. The entire league has averaged 2.84 goals per game since that date, but Anaheim has ranked dead last with an uninspiring 1.57 goals per game.

Unsurprisingly, no players have averaged a point per game or better during this losing skid – not even the usually reliable C Ryan Getzlaf (9-20-29 totals in 36 games played) or W Ondrej Kase (11-8-19 in 24 appearances). In fact, only eight of Anaheim’s 20 skaters have registered more than a lone point in the Ducks’ last seven games – an alarmingly low number, especially for a team without a dominant top line of the likes of Boston, Colorado or Dallas.

Of course, it’s not as if Anaheim’s offense has exactly lit up the scoreboard this season. At this point in the campaign, the Ducks have averaged 2.4 goals per game for 2018-19, a mark that ranks second-worst ahead of only their crosstown rivals’ 2.26. However, dropping almost three-quarters of a goal per game is far more noticeable for a team lacking in offensive firepower than it is for a club like Tampa Bay that has averaged over four goals per game for the entire season. The Bolts can spare a goal here or there – the Ducks most certainly cannot.

And so, that brings us to our usual question: how does all this factor into tonight’s game?

This evening’s tilt features weak goaltending squaring off against a lackluster offense, and – by virtue of an NHL game being unable to end in a tie – one of them must win.

Usually I would favor the offense in that matchup, but Anaheim’s attack has been so awful I simply can’t bare to do it. Similarly, I think the Oilers will be fired up to score some goals this evening considering they got blanked by the *former* worst team in the league less than 24 hours ago. Edmonton should come away with two points tonight and pull within two points (not to mention its game in hand on Anaheim) of a playoff spot.

Rask makes 31 saves as Wagner and Backes lead B’s, 2-1, over Sabres

For the first time since Oct. 4-14th (2018), the Boston Bruins are on a four-game winning streak thanks to their, 2-1, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Chris Wagner opened the game’s scoring for Boston in the first period before David Backes‘ eventual defactogame winning goal in the second frame, while Tuukka Rask (11-8-2 record, 2.55 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 21 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the win.

Rasmus Ristolainen had Buffalo’s only goal with 2:38 remaining in regulation.

Linus Ullmark (9-2-3, 2.69 GAA, .924 SV% in 15 GP) turned aside 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.

Boston improved to 24-14-4 (52 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 22-14-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s take on the Wild next Tuesday at home, while the Sabres head back to KeyBank Center to face the New Jersey Devils.

Minnesota comes to Boston on the second night of back-to-back road games with a stop in Montreal to face the Canadiens on Monday.

Saturday night was the final game of the regular season between the Bruins and the Sabres with Boston winning the season series, 2-1-1, and outscoring Buffalo, 11-7.

Backes returned to the lineup having served his three-game suspension, leaving Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy with the choice to make Colby Cave a healthy scratch on Saturday.

Steven Kampfer was the only other healthy scratch as Charlie McAvoy (lower body) and Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remain out of the lineup for Boston.

Jack Eichel (5-6–11 totals in 13 career games against the Bruins) was out of Buffalo’s lineup for the second straight game due to his ongoing injury (upper body).

Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, did not provide an update on when his captain would return, though he was scheduled to miss at least two games (Thursday against the Florida Panthers and Saturday in Boston).

Cassidy inserted Backes on the second line to the right side of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while keeping his first and fourth lines the same.

Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Ryan Donato were reunited on the third line with their stellar, youth-infused, chemistry that yielded a couple quality scoring chances, but nothing on the scoresheet Saturday night.

Boston’s defensive pairings were left untouched with Rask getting the start in net over Jaroslav Halak.

About 20 seconds into the first period, Wagner thought he had scored the game’s first goal after following up on a rebound and burying the puck in the back of the largely open net as Ullmark was pulled out of position.

Wagner’s goal was immediately waved off by the officials and deemed “no goal” on account of Sean Kuraly falling and barreling into Ullmark as Ullmark was pushing away from the center of the crease to deny Kuraly’s initial shot that generated the rebound for Wagner to cash in on in the first place.

Cassidy used his coach’s challenge for further review, but the call on the ice was confirmed and the score remained, 0-0, with the Bruins losing their timeout less than half-a-minute into the game.

Moments later, Remi Elie was penalized for interference at 6:32, sending Boston on their first power play of the night.

The B’s were not able to generate a successful offense on the skater advantage and the Sabres killed off Elie’s minor.

Past the halfway mark of the first period, Wagner (5) scored a goal that actually counted this time after Rasmus Dahlin turned the puck over to Noel Acciari and Acciari slid the puck to Wagner for the twine seeking missile.

Acciari (2) had the only assist on Wagner’s goal at 10:10 of the first period and the Bruins led, 1-0.

The goal was Wagner’s first in his first game since his grandfather’s passing, leaving some comfort for the Boston forward in the face of such a tremendous loss outside of the game.

Through one period of play, the B’s led, 1-0, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 13-10. The Sabres entered the first intermission with the lead in takeaways (7-3) and hits (16-10), while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (68-32).

Both teams had three blocked shots aside and seven giveaways each after 20 minutes of play and Boston was 0/1 on the power play.

A couple minutes into the second period, Backes (4) tallied a goal to make it, 2-0, Bruins on a rush the other way after Rask stopped a quality chance by Buffalo.

Backes sniped his shot past Ullmark’s glove side and rang the rear crossbar of the net at 2:00 of the second frame. Rask (1) had the only assist on the goal, giving the Bruins goaltending tandem four assists on the season.

After 40 minutes of play, Boston led by two goals and in shots on goal, 28-20, while the Sabres led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (18-8) and hits (22-21).

The B’s also led in face-off win% (63-37) heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, while both teams had eight giveaways each.

Almost midway in the third period, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Kyle Okposo and presented the Sabres with their first chance on the power play at 7:42.

Buffalo did not convert on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Jake McCabe tripped Donato and Boston went back on the power play for the second time of the night at 12:39 of the third period. The B’s did not capitalize on the 5-on-4 advantage.

Late in the final frame, Rasmus Ristolainen (5) put a shot past Rask, high on the short-side, that was unassisted at 17:22 to make it a one-goal game and put the Sabres on the scoreboard, 2-1.

With about 1:44 remaining in regulation, Housley pulled Ullmark for an extra attacker, but it was too little too late– even after Buffalo used their only timeout after a stoppage with 1:17 left in the game.

The Sabres failed to register a shot on goal after Ristolainen’s goal as time expired and the Bruins won, 2-1.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-31) and face-off win% (56-44), while Buffalo ended the night leading in giveaways (16-8) and hits (32-26). Both teams had 11 blocked shots.

Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston finished 0/2 on the power play Saturday night.

The B’s improved to 14-3-2 when scoring first this season and take on the Wild on Tuesday at TD Garden before hosting the Washington Capitals next Thursday, then traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a one-game road trip to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs next Saturday.

DTFR Podcast #139- They Ran Out Of Beer!

A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.

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

*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.

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