Category Archives: NHL

Bruins downgrade Hurricanes, advance to Stanley Cup Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Final– and for the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice advantage in the Final– after their, 4-0, victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the series 4-0 to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– their 20th appearance in the Final in franchise history.

Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) made 24 saves on 24 shots against to record the shutout win for Boston.

He made 109 saves on 114 shots faced in the entire series against the Canes.

Hurricanes goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced (.864 SV%) in the loss.

Carolina finished the postseason 5-2 on home ice and 2-1 when facing elimination, while the Bruins improved to 11-0 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston also improved to 20-1 all time when leading a series 3-0.

The Hurricanes became the first team since the 1992 Bruins to sweep the Second Round, then be swept in the Eastern Conference Final.

Boston swept the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, then got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Eastern Conference Final– en route to Pittsburgh’s 1992 Cup run.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to injury, replacing Chris Wagner (upper body) with Noel Acciari on the fourth line right wing after Wagner blocked a shot and left Game 3, as well as Zdeno Chara (undisclosed) with John Moore for Game 4.

Moore was placed on the left side of the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Matt Grzelcyk took Chara’s place on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo suited up as normal on the second pairing.

Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Aside from Chara, Wagner and Kevan Miller (lower body), Boston’s usual crew of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Carolina had an early power play after Grzelcyk tripped Nino Niederreiter at 1:18 of the first period, but the Hurricanes did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Midway through the opening frame, Niederreiter skated to the penalty box with a minor infraction of his own for slashing Boston’s Brad Marchand at 10:35 of the first period.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their skater advantage and Charlie Coyle was penalized with about 20 seconds left on the power play– resulting in a short 4-on-4 even strength opportunity before an abbreviated power play for the Canes at 12:19.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, with the Hurricanes leading in shots on goal, 13-11.

The Canes also led in blocked shots (6-5) after one period, while the B’s led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (57-44). Both teams had seven giveaways each.

Heading into the second period, Carolina was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

Early in the middle frame, the Hurricanes botched a line change as the puck came out of their attacking zone and the Carolina bench was caught with too many men on the ice.

Justin Williams served the bench minor penalty at 4:28 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, Marchand led Boston on a break in on the power play and sent a pass to the slot whereby David Pastrnak (7) redirected the puck behind McElhinney to give the B’s the first goal of the game, 1-0.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Marchand (11) and Krug (11) at 4:46 of the second period.

Late in the period, Greg McKegg bumped into Rask while going hard to the crease, yielding a goaltender interference minor penalty at 18:10.

While on the ensuing power play, Patrice Bergeron (7) worked a give-and-go to Pastrnak and sneaked his way to the bumper to receive the pass back from his winger to rip the one-timer past McElhinney and give Boston a two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and extended the Bruins lead to, 2-0, at 18:34 of the second period. The goal also moved Bergeron past Phil Esposito, John Bucyk and Jean Ratelle for the 2nd most power play goals by a Bruin in a postseason.

Cam Neely holds the franchise record with nine power play goals in a single playoff year.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 19-17, including an, 8-4 advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s also held the advantage in face-off win% (52-48), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (10-7) and hits (19-15) after two periods. Entering the second intermission, both teams had 14 blocked shots aside and 11 giveaways each.

Carolina was 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period, while Boston was 2/3 on the skater advantage.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Selke Trophy finalist, Bergeron forced a turnover to Pastrnak in the attacking zone.

Pastrnak worked the puck back to Bergeron (8) along the goal line near the short side whereby the veteran Bruin blasted a one-timer past the Carolina goaltender to give Boston a three-goal lead.

With his second assist of the night, Pastrnak (8) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal and notched his third point of the evening (1-2–3 totals) at 10:32 of the third period as the Bruins led, 3-0.

As time ticked down in the third period, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 5:22 to go in regulation.

Shortly thereafter, Bergeron freed the puck through the neutral zone to Marchand (7) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-0, Bruins.

Bergeron (5) and David Krejci (10) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 17:43 of the third period.

With the primary assist on the goal, Bergeron tallied a three-point night (two goals, one assist) as Boston closed out the series.

At the final horn, the Bruins completed the sweep with a, 4-0, win and finished the night leading in blocked shots (23-16) and face-off win% (53-47).

Carolina wrapped up their season leading in shots on goal (24-23), giveaways (15-14) and hits (33-17).

The Canes went 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/3 on the power play on Thursday night.

For the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice in the Stanley Cup Final as they await the winner of the 2019 Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

San Jose currently leads the series 2-1 over the Blues.

This will be the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for David Backes– who spent 10 seasons with St. Louis before signing with Boston in free agency on July 1, 2016.

It’s also Cassidy’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance as a head coach.

It will be the third time the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, joining the Chicago Blackhawks as the only team to reach the Final in three or more appearances since 2010.

Chicago made (and won) the Final in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

(For those wondering, the Penguins made the Cup Final in 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017.)

Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask are the only Bruins to have been part of all three Stanley Cup Final appearances for Boston since 1990 (2011, 2013 and 2019).

Bruins, Rask, one win away from sweeping Hurricanes

The “Mayor of Walpole” initiated scoring, the “Little Ball of Hate” scored the eventual game winner and Tuukka “Mr. Steal Yo’ Game” Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a, 2-1, win at PNC Arena in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston leads the series 3-0 and is one win away from sweeping the Eastern Conference Final.

Tuukka Rask (11-5 record, 1.96 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 16 games played this postseason) turned aside 35 out of 36 shots faced for the .972 SV% in the win. He’s also made 85 saves on 90 shots faced through three games in this series.

Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-1, 1.70 GAA, .943 SV% in four games played this postseason), made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup while John Moore (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remain out due to injury.

Acciari resumed skating with full-contact on Tuesday, but was a coach’s decision and did not suit up for Game 3.

The long list of healthy scratches in the playoffs continued Tuesday night for Boston– including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Meanwhile, Carolina head coach, Rod Brind’Amour relied on McElhinney for Game 3 in the crease in place of Games 1 and 2 starting goaltender, Petr Mrazek.

Almost a minute into Game 3, Brandon Carlo sent the puck over the glass in his own zone and received an automatic delay of game penalty, yielding the first power play of the game to the Hurricanes.

Carolina did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but continued to dominated possession in their attacking zone.

After saying he wasn’t going to play like poop again, Justin Williams didn’t play a disciplined game in the first period. Williams was sent to the penalty box on three separate occasions prior to the first intermission.

First, Williams and Torey Krug received matching roughing minor infractions, leading to a solid two minutes of 4-on-4 action at 6:23 of the first period.

The Canes were outshooting the Bruins, 11-1, by the time both players reached the sin bin to serve their minors.

Midway through the opening frame, Williams went back to the box for holding the stick at 10:41 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston’s power play was shortlived, however, as Jake DeBrusk slashed Jaccob Slavin at 11:26 and David Krejci followed things up with a high-sticking minor of his own at 11:32 after Sebastian Aho got a quick cross check to Krejci’s midsection that went uncalled.

Needless to say, discipline was an issue at both ends of the rink and the Hurricanes found themselves with an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play that became a short 5-on-3 skater advantage.

Carolina did not convert on the opportunity.

A few minutes later, after Rask froze the puck, a crowd gathered and Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Krug all went to the box with roughing minors at 14:19.

The Hurricanes didn’t score on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play.

Late in the period, Williams amassed his third penalty of the night after he elbowed Krug at 18:27. Though the power play overlapped into the second period, Boston did not muster a goal on the skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal, 20-6.

Carolina also held the advantage in takeaways (7-6), giveaways (7-4) and hits (12-8) as Boston dominated in blocked shots (5-1) and face-off win percentage (61-39) after one period.

The Canes were 0/4 on the skater advantage and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period.

Rask became the first Bruins goaltender to make 20 or more saves in a period since Tim Thomas did so in the third period of Game 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals (Thomas made 22 saves).

Almost 90 seconds into the middle frame, Sean Kuraly kept the puck in the offensive zone and worked it deep to Joakim Nordstrom along the boards.

Nordstrom threw a shot towards the slot for Chris Wagner (2) to redirect past McElhinney at 1:21 of the second period to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.

The former Hurricane, Nordstrom (2) picked up the primary assist, while Kuraly (3) was tabbed with the secondary assist on Wagner’s goal.

Moments late, Niederreiter went to the box for high-sticking Krejci at 4:47 of the second period.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Brad Marchand (6) let go of a backhand shot from the low slot that deflected off of Carolina defender, Calvin de Haan, and through McElhinney’s five-hole into the twine.

Krejci (9) and Charlie McAvoy (6) had the assists on Marchand’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 6:28 of the second period.

With the primary assist on Marchand’s goal, Krejci reached the 100-point plateau in his postseason career points totals and became just the 5th Bruin in franchise history to do so. He also tied Rick Middleton and John Bucyk for 3rd all-time in postseason scoring for Boston.

Phil Esposito is 2nd all-time in Bruins franchise history with 102 postseason points for the B’s. Ray Bourque has the most Stanley Cup Playoff points while wearing a Bruins sweater with 161.

Near the midpoint of regulation, Micheal Ferland got a stick up high on David Backes and was assessed minor infraction for high-sticking at 9:53 of the second period.

Boston did not score on the resulting power play and the Canes utilized the momentum of the penalty kill to muster a couple of great one-timer opportunities in the vulnerable minute thereafter, but Rask made a couple great saves across the crease.

Off of an offensive zone face-off win for Carolina, the Hurricanes worked the puck “D-to-D” along the blue line for the blast from de Haan (1) that squibbed through the leg pads of the Bruins goaltender for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Justin Faulk (7) and Aho (7) notched the assists on de Haan’s goal at 13:48 and the Hurricanes cut the B’s lead in half, 2-1.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed, 26-24, in shots on goal– despite outshooting the Hurricanes, 18-6, in the second period alone.

Carolina maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (11-9), giveaways (11-5) and hits (28-19), while Boston led in face-off win% (61-39).

The Canes were 0/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage entering the third period.

de Haan tripped Marchand at 3:43 of the third period to grace Boston with an early power play to begin the final frame of regulation.

While on the power play, the Bruins thought they scored when Krug fired a shot from the point that deflected off of Slavin and went behind McElhinney as the Hurricanes goaltender was being screened by DeBrusk, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact with the goaltender (goaltender interference).

As such, Cassidy challenged the call on the ice, but his coach’s challenge was to no avail because– even after it appeared DeBrusk was bumped by Slavin and tried to get out of the way of McElhinney as the Canes goaltender skated out of his crease into the oncoming Bruin on his own merit– this is what happens when a coach’s challenge is a thing.

The call on the ice was confirmed. No goal.

Can’t just enjoy a call– blown or otherwise– like the good ol’ days, right? (Standard disclaimer, not all video review is bad, folks.)

Anyway, Boston lost their timeout and followed things up with a penalty of their own as Matt Grzelcyk was caught behind the play and interfered with Brock McGinn at 5:38 of the third period.

The Hurricanes did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Despite pulling McElhinney for an extra attacker with about 2:04 remaining in regulation, Carolina was not able to slip a puck past Rask and the Bruins managed to defend their way to the, 2-1, win at the final horn.

The Canes finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-31), giveaways (15-5) and hits (35-24), while the B’s finished Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-13) and face-off win% (57-43).

Carolina went 0/5 on the power play and Boston went 1/5 on the skater advantage, while taking command of a 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday.

The Bruins are 19-1 all-time when leading a series 3-0 and have won seven straight Eastern Conference Final games dating back to their last appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (a 4-0 series sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Boston is also on a six game winning streak in the postseason for the first time since 1978, and improved to 10-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.

The Hurricanes fell to 5-1 on home ice in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and are looking to avoid elimination Thursday night at PNC Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN. Fans in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS for the game.

Bruins storm Hurricanes, 6-2, in Game 2

The Boston Bruins third line dominated scoring on Sunday as the B’s defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-2, at TD Garden in Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

Charlie Coyle (three assists), Danton Heinen (goal, two assists) and Marcus Johansson (two assists) led the way for the Bruins while Torey Krug (three assists) chipped in from the blue line in the dominant display of offensive secondary scoring.

Tuukka Rask (10-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .937 save percentage in 15 games played this postseason) made 21 saves on 23 shots against (.913 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Hurricanes goaltender, Petr Mrazek (5-5, 2.72 GAA, .894 SV% in 11 GP this postseason) stopped 19 out of 25 shots faced for a .760 SV% in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, had Charlie McAvoy back in his lineup alongside Zdeno Chara on the first defensive pairing after McAvoy served his one-game suspension in Game 1.

As a result, Steven Kampfer rejoined the long list of healthy scratches (including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman), while John Moore (upper body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) remain day-to-day. Kevan Miller (lower body) is still out.

Midway through the opening course of the action, Chara tripped up Hurricanes forward, Andrei Svechnikov, and was sent to the penalty box at 11:56 of the first period.

Carolina was not able to convert on the ensuing power play– their first of the afternoon on Sunday.

Less than two minutes after killing off Chara’s minor, the Bruins rallied with a scoring chance of their own after maintaining possession deep in the offensive zone.

Coyle worked the puck back to the point where Johansson flipped a pass over to Matt Grzelcyk as the Boston defender pinched near the face-off circle to the right of Mrazek.

Grzelcyk (2) fired a shot past the Carolina goaltender’s blocker on the short side and the puck trickled past the goal line to give the B’s the lead, 1-0.

Johansson (5) and Coyle (4) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal at 15:22 of the first period.

A few minutes later, Justin Williams interfered with Heinen in front of the Canes net and was sent to the box at 18:26 with a minor infraction.

Six seconds into the power play, David Pastrnak ripped a shot from the point that Jake DeBrusk (3) tipped on Mrazek, collected his own rebound and pocketed the loose puck into the twine to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Pastrnak (6) and Krug (8) had the assists on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 18:32 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.

Heading into the first intermission, the B’s led on the scoreboard, 2-0, and in shots on goal, 11-6.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2), giveaways (4-2), hits (20-14) and face-off win percentage (62-38), while Carolina led in takeaways (4-2).

The Hurricanes were 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Patrice Bergeron opened the second period with a tripping penalty 69 seconds into the middle frame and Carolina went on the power play for the second time of the afternoon. They did not score on the resulting skater advantage.

Less than a minute after killing off Bergeron’s minor, the Bruins caught the Hurricanes in the “vulnerable minute” after special teams play as Johansson worked a pass that almost got blown up by Greg McKegg over to Connor Clifton as the Boston defender worked his way in from the point.

Clifton (1) buried the puck in the open net as Mrazek was left diving in desperation across the crease at 3:46 of the second period.

Johansson (6) and Heinen (5) had the assists on Clifton’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Bruins led, 3-0.

As a result of his goal, Clifton became the 19th different goal scorer for Boston this postseason– tying their franchise record for most in a single playoff run set in 1988.

Chris Wagner tied up Williams behind the Boston goal midway through the second period and was assessed a minor penalty at 13:36.

Carolina did not score on the following penalty and followed up their skater advantage with a skater disadvantage of their own as Williams held Brad Marchand at 16:07 of the second period.

Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, Krug sent Coyle up ice with a lead pass that led to a drop pass back to Grzelcyk (3) whereby the Bruins defender pulled the puck to his backhand and released a shot past the glove side of Mrazek for his second goal of the afternoon.

Coyle (5) and Krug (9) were credited with their second assists of the afternoon– joining Johansson in the two-assist department for Boston– and the B’s led, 4-0, at 17:56 of the second period thanks to Grzelcyk’s power play goal.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 21-17, in shots on goal– though the Hurricanes held the second period advantage by itself, 11-10.

Boston dominated every other statistical category after two periods, leading in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (8-4), giveaways (8-4), hits (28-26) and face-off win% (54-46).

Entering the third period, Carolina was 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2– having scored a goal on four out of their last five power plays in Games 1 and 2.

Boston came out of the second intermission with an early attack and tapped in yet another goal as David Backes (2) scooped up a loose puck and buried it into an empty frame while Mrazek was out of position after David Krejci slid a pass through the crease to Backes.

Krejci (8) and Krug (10) notched the assists on Backes’ goal at 1:10 of the third period and the Bruins led, 5-0.

As a result of the secondary assist on Backes’ goal, Krug tabbed his third helper of the afternoon.

He became the fifth defender in Bruins franchise history to record three assists in a playoff game in multiple outings and joined Ray Bourque (5x), Bobby Orr (5x), Brad Park (3x) and Carol Vadnais (2x) as the only members to do so in a Boston sweater.

About a minute later, Bergeron tripped up Williams and was sent to the box at 2:22 of the third period.

After killing off the penalty, Bergeron was freed from the box and received a lead pass from Coyle, then swerved the puck around former Bruins defender, Dougie Hamilton, and tossed the rubber biscuit to Heinen (2) for the short side goal on a backhand shot while unopposed.

Bergeron (4) and Coyle (6) had the assists on Heinen’s goal and Boston led, 6-0, while Coyle tabbed his third assist on the afternoon at 4:32 of the third period.

Midway through the third period, Williams freed the puck from behind the net in Carolina’s offensive zone and worked it back to the point whereby Justin Faulk unloaded on a shot that Williams (4) deflected to rob Rask of the shutout.

The Hurricanes cut Boston’s lead to five as Faulk (6) and Sebastian Aho (6) picked up assists to trail, 6-1, at 11:17 of the third period.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Rask skated out of his crease to clear the puck, but gave it away to Teuvo Teravainen (7) who pounced on the botched clearing attempt and wired the puck into the empty net as Rask couldn’t get back fast enough at 17:32.

The Hurricanes trailed, 6-2, and that’s all that was written from TD Garden in Game 2.

Boston finished the afternoon with the, 6-2, win and 2-0 series lead, while dominating in shots on goal (25-23), blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (11-7), hits (35-27) and face-off win% (59-42).

Carolina went 0/4 on the power play on Sunday, while the Bruins finished 2/2 on the skater advantage.

The Canes have allowed 11 goals against through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final (they only allowed five goals against in their Second Round sweep of the New York Islanders).

The B’s have won five-straight games and improved to 9-0 when leading after two periods this postseason.

Boston leads the series 2-0 as the 2019 Eastern Conference Final swings to Raleigh, North Carolina for Games 3 and 4 at PNC Arena.

Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday night with puck drop a little after 8:00 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN, while those in Canada can tune in on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Bruins score four in the third, beat Hurricanes, 5-2, in Game 1

Four unanswered goals in the third period propelled the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, in Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Thursday.

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal while on the power play in the third period before the B’s added two more goals for good measure as the Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 series lead.

Tuukka Rask (9-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) made 29 saves on 31 shots against (.935 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Carolina goaltender, Petr Mrazek (5-4, 2.40 GAA, .907 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.

Mrazek was back for the Hurricanes for the first time since leaving Game 2 against the New York Islanders in the Second Round with a lower body injury.

John Moore (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) missed the action in Game 1 for Boston, while B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted Steven Kampfer on his blue line while Charlie McAvoy served his one game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 at Columbus in the Second Round.

Cassidy bumped up Connor Clifton to the right side of Zdeno Chara on the first defensive pairing and slid Kampfer in on the right of the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk.

He made no other changes to his lineup.

Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman made up the long list of healthy scratches for the Bruins.

Boston is making their eighth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final since the format was introduced in 1982. The B’s last made the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (also 1983, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2011). The Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in 2013.

Carolina is making their fourth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final and first since 2009 (also 2002, 2006). The Hurricanes were swept by the Penguins in 2009.

Kicking things off with the first goal of the series was Kampfer (1) in just his second career Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Kampfer scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 2:55 of the first period after Marcus Johansson slipped through the neutral zone with speed and dropped the puck back to Kampfer as the Bruins defender pinched in from the point.

Johansson (4) had the only assist as Boston jumped out to the, 1-0, lead.

But the B’s lead was shortlived as Sean Kuraly picked up a roughing minor against Brock McGinn at 3:39 of the first period, yielding the first power play of the series to the Hurricanes.

Just 47 seconds after Boston took the lead, Carolina tied the game with a tip-in past Rask as Sebastian Aho (5) skated through the low slot– point blank– while Andrei Svechnikov threw the rubber biscuit on goal.

Svechnikov (2) and Jordan Staal (6) notched the assists on Aho’s goal at 3:42 and the Canes tied the game, 1-1.

Late in the period, Charlie Coyle hooked Teuvo Teravainen and was sent to the penalty box at 14:37, but the Canes did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Shortly after killing off Coyle’s minor, Boston found themselves going on the power play after Nino Niederreiter slashed Brad Marchand at 16:55.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their first skater advantage Thursday night.

After one period, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal (10-8), giveaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (61-39).

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), as well as takeaways (3-2) entering the first intermission.

Carolina was 1/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, Kuraly got a stick up high on Calvin de Haan and went back to the sin bin for his second time of the night at 4:08 of the second period.

The Canes fired five shots on goal– including an impressive one-timer from Teravainen that was denied by Rask as the Bruins goaltender went from post-to-post– but couldn’t wire the puck into the back of the twine on the skater advantage.

Nonetheless, moments later, Greg McKegg (2) charged into the offensive zone, crashed the net and scored while bowling into the Boston netminder.

Carolina led for the first time of the night, 2-1, thanks to McKegg’s goal. Jordan Martinook (4) and Micheal Ferland (1) tallied the assists at 9:18 of the second period.

Boston had not trailed in a game for a span of 210:42 since Game 3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Second Round prior to McKegg’s goal.

Late in the period, Ferland’s name popped up again on the event sheet– this time for interference against David Krejci— and the Hurricanes forward took a seat in the penalty box with a minor penalty at 16:56.

Boston’s power play could not convert on the late skater advantage as time dwindled down in the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 25-18 (including a, 15-10, advantage in the second period alone).

Carolina also led in blocked shots (10-8), giveaways (7-6), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (57-43), while both teams had four takeaways each after two periods.

The Canes were 1/3 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period.

In the final frame of regulation, Staal boarded Chris Wagner 49 seconds into the third period and yielded a power play for the Bruins.

Late on the ensuing skater advantage, Marchand unloaded on a shot and generated a rebound for Johansson (3) to settle in the slot and bury the loose puck after elevating it over Mrazek’s pads to tie the game, 2-2, with a power play goal at 2:26 of the third period.

Marchand (9) and Krejci (7) had the assists on the goal. With the secondary assist on Johansson’s goal, Krejci is now two points away from 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points.

Less than a minute after allowing a power play goal against, the Hurricanes took another penalty when former Bruins defender, Dougie Hamilton, roughed former Carolina forward, Joakim Nordstrom, at 2:41.

Just 13 seconds into the ensuing power play, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Jake DeBrusk worked the puck from the wall to Marchand across the slot, whereby Marchand found Bergeron (6) acting as the bumper in front of the net for the one-timer past Mrazek.

Marchand (10) and DeBrusk (4) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal at 2:54 of the third period and the B’s amassed two power play goals in a span of 28 seconds to lead, 3-2, with plenty of time left in the final frame.

Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour used his timeout after Bergeron’s goal to put his players at ease and motivate them to get back on the scoreboard, but the Canes couldn’t muster the confidence– especially after Hamilton went back to the penalty box for interference at 5:29.

Though the Bruins didn’t score on the resulting power play, they did maintain solid puck possession on the skater advantage.

As the clock continued to tick away Carolina pulled their goaltender with 2:38 remaining in regulation to try to knot things up.

Shortly after Mrazek got to the bench, the Bruins cleared the puck from their own blue line as Brandon Carlo got a double deflection off of Niederreiter then his own teammate in Coyle as the puck trickled with enough momentum into the open goal frame for the empty net goal.

Coyle (6) was credited with the marker as Boston went ahead, 4-2, at 17:47. Carlo (2) and Kuraly (2) had the assists on Coyle’s goal.

Wagner (1) got a breakaway 11 seconds later, deked and slipped the puck through Mrazek’s five-hole to give the B’s a three-goal lead, 5-2, at 17:58 of the third period.

The Hurricanes only allowed five goals in four games against the New York Islanders in the Second Round, but they allowed five goals against in Game 1 against Boston as time expired in the series opener.

The Bruins had won, 5-2, and grabbed the 1-0 series lead on Thursday.

Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-28), giveaways (11-7), hits (27-25) and face-off win% (53-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (11-10) after the dust settled.

Both teams found some success on the power play in Game 1 as the Canes went 1/3 and the B’s went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins lead the series, 1-0, and host Game 2 Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. Puck drop is expected for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC to catch the action. Fans in Canada can follow along on CBC, SN or TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.

The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.

Anybody see that coming? No?

But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.

Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.

The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.

As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.

St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.

They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.

Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.

Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.

Sound familiar?

That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.

This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.

Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?

There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.

San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.

But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.

Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.

General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.

Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.

DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.

San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.

Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).

Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.

St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.

Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.

Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.

Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.

Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.

Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.

Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.

The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.


The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.

Though Donskoi hasn’t scored as much, the Sharks have a deeper team than in 2016 and are a younger bunch– what with the lack of Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on their roster– this time around.

St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.

That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.

This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.

Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th

Schedule:

5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS

5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*

5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.

Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.

For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.

Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.

Marcus Johansson suffered a lung contusion after Micheal Ferland delivered a check days after Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline in March.

If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.

The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.

Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.

Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.

Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.

When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.

Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.

Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.

Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.

Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.

Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.

Former Hurricane, Joakim Nordstrom, and Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly, each have a pair of goals in 12 and nine games played, respectively.

Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.

Usual playoff performers, David Krejci (4-6–10 totals in 13 games) and Patrice Bergeron (5-3–8 totals in 13 games) are right where you’d expect them to be at this time of the year.

Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.

Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.

He also just tied Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd most postseason shutouts in Bruins franchise history with his 6th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout against Columbus in Game 6.

Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.

Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.

In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.

But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.

No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.

Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.

Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.

On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.

Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.

Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.

Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.

That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.

Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.


The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.

When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.

The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).

Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.

Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.

That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*

5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Western Conference

How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.

Or maybe you won’t.

Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

San Jose went 3-0-0 in their regular season series against Colorado, but the Avs were 0-2-1 against the Calgary Flames entering their First Round matchup. In short, the regular season doesn’t mean much. Seriously.

Calgary had home ice advantage and lost two out of their three home games in the First Round to the Avalanche.

The Sharks trailed, 3-1, in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights, then Tomas Hertl guaranteed things would go seven games and they did.

Then the Sharks pulled off an improbable comeback in Game 7, overcoming a three-goal deficit in the third period to win in overtime a la the 2013 Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs that postseason.

Colorado’s first line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen is back firing on all cylinders, while Philipp Grubauer (4-1-0 record, 1.89 goals against average, .939 save percentage in five games played this postseason) has locked down the crease in the Mile High City.

At the other end of the ice, San Jose’s seen the re-emergence of Hertl and Logan Couture, while Barclay Goodrow‘s stock is rising with the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Vegas.

Martin Jones (4-2-0, 3.20 GAA, .904 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has been all over the place in the crease for the Sharks.

With Erik Karlsson amassing nine assists in the last series, San Jose’s defense is quite the two-way prowess in the wake of Colorado’s mostly “shut-down” blue line.

This series is going to come down to whether the Avs can get out to a lead and withhold the inevitable Sharks comeback or if San Jose can limit Colorado’s scoring chances and will the scoreboard to their advantage.

After six games, expect the Avalanche to come out on top of the mountain and make their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002 when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 SJS at SAP Center on April 6th, 4-3 SJS at SAP Center on March 1st, 5-4 SJS at Pepsi Center on Jan. 2nd

Schedule:

4/26- Game 1 COL @ SJS 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/28- Game 2 COL @ SJS 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/30- Game 3 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/2- Game 4 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/4- Game 5 COL @ SJS*

5/6- Game 6 SJS @ COL*

5/8- Game 7 COL @ SJS*

*If necessary

C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

Despite facing the Stars solely in the second-half of the regular season– whereby the Blues went on an incredible run to the postseason backstopped by rookie sensation, Jordan Binnington (4-2-0, 2.63 GAA, .908 SV% in six games played this posteason)– St. Louis went 1-3-0 against Dallas in 2018-19.

Of course, as already noted, the regular season series record doesn’t mean much when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, but is it possible the Stars are the only team that could make Binnington nervous?

Surely St. Louis’ roster can’t be too nervous, what with Jaden Schwartz notching the natural hat trick in Game 6 against the Winnipeg Jets– almost single handedly eliminating the Jets himself– and the rest of the Blues, like David Perron, overcoming Winnipeg’s speed and skill to get to the Second Round.

But the sheer fire power of the Stars was hard to contain by one of the best defenses on paper in the Nashville Predators. Alexander Radulov had a two-goal game en route to Dallas heading home to clinch their series against the Preds in six games.

Then there’s the best goaltending of the Western Conference to consider. The real wild card that could steal the Vezina Trophy this season (as he is a finalist).

Ben Bishop (4-2-0, 1.89 GAA, .945 SV% in six games this postseason) has been lights out in the regular season and playoffs so far.

Oh yeah, and those guys that were criticized earlier this season in Dallas (Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn)? They’re chipping in when it matters most. Not that they hadn’t been before now, really.

There’s no way this series isn’t going seven games. If it falls short, then that’s an abomination on behalf of The Hockey Gods.

That said, St. Louis has the all-important home ice advantage should it come down to– when it comes down to a Game 7. Because of that, the Blues will meet the Avalanche in the 2019 Western Conference Final.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on March 2nd, 5-2 DAL at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21st, 3-1 STL at American Airlines Center on Jan. 12th, 3-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on Jan. 8th

Schedule:

4/25- Game 1 DAL @ STL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/27- Game 2 DAL @ STL 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/29- Game 3 STL @ DAL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

5/1- Game 4 STL @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

5/3- Game 5 DAL @ STL* 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, TVAS

5/5- Game 6 STL @ DAL*

5/7- Game 7 DAL @ STL*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.

Or maybe you won’t.

Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Bruins went 2-1-0 against the Blue Jackets in the regular season and matched Columbus’ intensity at times throughout all three games in the season series.

Boston is coming off a seven game series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second year in a row and is getting more than enough production from their bottom six forwards as of late.

Charlie Coyle has consistently been the best player on the ice for the B’s– going hard to the corners and dirty areas, carrying the puck and adding 3-1–4 totals (tied for 5th on the roster in scoring).

As usual, Brad Marchand leads the Bruins this postseason in goals, assists and points with 4-5–9 totals entering the Second Round, while the rest of the first line– Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak— has five and six points, respectively.

But wait, what’s that? Bruce Cassidy moved Pastrnak to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and promoted Danton Heinen to the first line right wing?

Yes, short of Krejci and Pastrnak’s performance in the First Round matchup, the B’s are looking to get a little more from DeBrusk (one goal against Toronto) against Columbus.

Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) has been solid in his last few starts and looks to maintain momentum as things get going with the Blue Jackets.

For the first time in franchise history, Columbus advanced past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Not only that, but they rocketed past the Tampa Bay Lightning– sweeping the 2018-19 President’s Trophy winners with the best regular season record of 62-16-4 (tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins in a season) in just four postseason games.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, is quite familiar with what it takes to knockoff one of the best teams already heading into the Second Round and he has a Stanley Cup championship to his name with the (you guessed it) 2004 Lightning.

Columbus is led by trade deadline acquisition, Matt Duchene, in scoring with sevens points (three goals, four assists) in four games this postseason.

Pending-UFA this July, Artemi Panarin, is 2nd on the roster with 2-3–5 totals, followed by a three-way tie for 3rd between Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seth Jones with four points.

The Blue Jackets have a lot of speed and firepower and they have guys like, former Bruin, Riley Nash on their penalty kill.

Though he finished the regular season with a career-worst 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 78 games played (ignoring his nine points in 32 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and previous one point in five games in 2011-12), Nash has reached the back of the twine once already in the playoffs.

After recording a career-high and league-best nine shutouts in the regular season, Sergei Bobrovsky (4-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .932 SV% in four games this postseason) has the upper hand in goaltending– statistically speaking, of course.

He is in the midst of his postseason career-best performance, but he has faced the Bruins before in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. That year, Boston swept Philly and went on to win the Cup, while Bobrovsky suffered two losses in three starts (six games played) and amassed a 3.23 GAA and .877 SV%.

He was just a rookie, but if anyone’s done their research on how to beat Bobrovsky it might just be the Bruins. In his two starts against Boston this season (March 12th and April 2nd) he allowed four goals in each game.

Granted, the playoffs are a different breed from the regular season, Boston should still find a way to deal with Tortorella’s all-in crew in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

6-2 BOS at Nationwide Arena on April 2nd, 2-1 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 16th, 7-4 CBJ at Nationwide Arena on March 12th

Schedule:

4/25- Game 1 CBJ @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/27- Game 2 CBJ @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/30- Game 3 BOS @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/2- Game 4 BOS @ CBJ 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/4- Game 5 CBJ @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, TVAS*

5/6- Game 6 BOS @ CBJ*

5/8- Game 7 CBJ @ BOS*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

New York went 3-1-0 against Carolina in the regular season, but don’t let that influence anything.

The Islanders split their games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season, then went on to sweep them in the First Round and the Hurricanes lost every game against the Washington Capitals in the regular season, but defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.

Welcome to the playoffs.

Barry Trotz is in his first season behind the bench of the Islanders and brought his usual anchor of a defensive style, while General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought some stability to the front office, as well as the roster as New York said “goodbye” to John Tavares last July.

The Isles led the Metropolitan Division at times this season, but faltered late in February and March to 2nd place in the division standings.

Yet, this team has almost always performed better when just about everyone is counting them out.

When Tavares left, many experts didn’t see anything that could make up for the hole in the roster.

When the puck dropped against the Penguins in the First Round, many thought Pittsburgh’s three Cups in the last ten years would have brought more than enough experience to outperform the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

New York has been led by Jordan Eberle in scoring this postseason as the former Edmonton Oiler has amassed a goal a game and six points (four goals, two assists) in four playoff games this year.

As for Mathew Barzal? He leads the team in assists with five.

Josh Bailey and Valtteri Filppula each have four points through four games.

In goal, Robin Lehner (4-0-0, 1.47 GAA, .956 SV% in four games played this postseason) is blazing through his prior struggles in the crease in his first postseason as a starting goaltender.

It’s a team effort that’s gotten the Isles this far. But it’s also a team effort that’s let the Hurricanes into the Second Round.

Making their first postseason appearance since 2009, Carolina entered Game 7 in Washington boasting a 4-0 record in such games since relocating from Hartford.

The Canes trailed 2-0, and 3-1, but they forced overtime and won the game, 4-3, in double overtime– improving to 5-0, since the Whalers last existed, in Game 7s and knocking off Alex Ovechkin and his pals.

For the 19th time in the last 20 postseasons, there won’t be a repeat champion.

Rod Brind’Amour won a Cup with Carolina as player in 2006. He’s in his first season behind the bench as the Hurricanes head coach and joined Dallas Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, as the only rookie coaches this season to advance to the Second Round.

Brind’Amour’s lineup has been led from the back-end out with Jaccob Slavin leading in scoring with nine assists in seven postseason games.

Warren Foegele leads the team in goals with four and is tied for 2nd in scoring with Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton on the roster. Each player has six points this postseason.

The man that scored the series clinching goal against the Caps, Brock McGinn, has 2-3–5 totals, as does Sebastian Aho, in seven games.

In the crease, Petr Mrazek (4-3-0, 2.53 GAA, .899 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has battened down the hatches for the Canes.

The last time Carolina won a Game 7 on the road in overtime, they beat the Boston Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. There’s no reason not to believe in a team after what we’ve witnessed from that said organization which has promised others to Take Warning all season long.

It’s ten years in the making, but the Hurricanes will get back to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since they last appeared in that round against the Penguins in 2009 (Pittsburgh swept the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final).

Carolina will defeat the Islanders in six games and meet up with the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

PNC Arena is louder than Barclays Center– and overall better– and it’s shame the Islanders can’t just keep using the NYCB Live for the Second Round.

#CanesIn6

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 CAR at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 8th, 4-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 24th, 2-1 NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 28th, 2-1 F/OT NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/26- Game 1 CAR @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/28- Game 2 CAR @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/1- Game 3 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/3- Game 4 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/5- Game 5 CAR @ NYI*

5/7- Game 6 NYI @ CAR*

5/8- Game 7 CAR @ NYI*

*If necessary

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering April

There’s only one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, so let’s make this quick. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 10th.

The stretch run is almost complete. If you’re mathematically alive, you still have a chance. Already clinched a playoff berth? Isn’t a great feeling to be ahead of things for once?

If you’re not, then there’s a good chance you’re looking forward to the 2019 NHL Draft lottery (unless you’re the Ottawa Senators– you see, they traded their 2019 1st round pick last season to the Colorado Avalanche after opting to keep their 2018 1st round pick instead– it’s a long story).

Without further ado, here’s the latest standings forecast through the end of March 31, 2019– keeping in mind this is not an exact science.

Given recent and season long trends, as well as records from the last few seasons, the forecasted standings that appear below are only an educated guess.

Anything can happen (for teams that aren’t otherwise already elimination from postseason contention and/or division, conference of President’s Trophy winners).

Projected Standings After Six Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 126 points (78 games played entering April 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 110 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 100 points (78 GP)
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. Florida Panthers, 87 points (79 GP)
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 75 points (79 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 74 points (79 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 65 points (78 GP)

To no surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy in real life and come close to a 130-point season. Though the Bolts didn’t set an NHL record for “best regular season ever”, they did become the third team in league history to amass 60-plus wins in a season.

Also, sorry Nikita Kucherov, but you can’t spread out your 120-plus points over the course of the playoffs. Everything is reset to “zero” as if it’s a new season within a season altogether.

Is this the year Steven Stamkos records a point in a Game 7?

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs keep running into each other as Toronto is looking to avenge last postseason’s seven-game series loss to the Bruins.

Unless David Pastrnak has anything to say about that on the scoreboard.

The Montreal Canadiens come up short of a playoff berth thanks to the current tiebreaker format, whereby both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes had more regulation-plus-overtime wins. If anything, there’s more hope for next season than this time around last season in Montreal.

And if you’re a Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings fan, for some reason you still think your teams are on the cusp of playoff contention– especially now that you’ve already reset your focus on being tied with all 31-NHL teams for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff action.

However, unless the Panthers make some serious moves in the offseason, the Sabres find a system (and goaltender) and stick with it and the Red Wings try to speed up their rebuild, it might be Groundhog Day for another season or two.

Finally, Ottawa Senators fans, you exist. You’re real fans.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 105 points (79 GP)
  2. x-New York Islanders, 102 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Carolina Hurricanes, 95 points (79 GP)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 83 points (79 GP)
  7. New York Rangers, 77 points (78 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 70 points (79 GP)

In the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals found a way to once-again reign as the division winner heading into the postseason.

After the New York Islanders charged out of the gate on the heels of Barry Trotz’s defensive masterplan and stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, things have started to slide in Long Island.

The good news? Trotz is their head coach and is the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

The bad news? They’ll suit up against the Pittsburgh Penguins– annual Stanley Cup contenders as long as Sidney Crosby is still playing and Mike Sullivan is within his five-year window of being the game’s best coach in the playoffs– and that’s just the First Round.

In the Eastern Conference wild card race, Columbus entered April with 44 regulation-plus-overtime wins, leading the Hurricanes (41) and Canadiens (40).

Given the forecasted tie and methods in which each team would need to reach 95 points on the season, it appears as though nothing is going to change over the last week of the season.

Nothing should change anyway.

Not to jinx them or anything, but Carolina is looking to end the longest postseason drought in the major four North American professional sports. The Canes haven’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, there’s 1) maybe a goaltender you can rely on, 2) a goaltender who still hasn’t won a Cup and is sticking with a team that’s rebuilding and 3) a goaltender that finally won a game this season (Cory Schneider) and a goaltender that should be your starter next season (Mackenzie Blackwood).

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (78 GP)
  2. x-Winnipeg Jets, 98 points (78 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 97 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Dallas Stars, 93 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Colorado Avalanche, 89 points (78 GP)
  6. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (79 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points (78 GP)

Ever hear of a team going from worst to first? Now have you ever heard of a team doing that in the same season? Because the St. Louis Blues are that team this season (at least in the Central Division alone).

However, the point spread in the expected forecast from 1st to 3rd in the Central is only a two-point difference, which means it’s still anybody’s guess as to who will come out with the top-seed in the division.

Should the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators end up in a First Round rematch of last season’s Second Round battle, then you can expect the Jets to take flight. Just a hunch.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference wild card race came down to the wire and– you guessed it– another tiebreaker.

While the Dallas Stars laid claim to the first wild card spot, the Colorado Avalanche came out on top of the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot by virtue of having won their regular season series, 2-1-0.

Things didn’t go so well for the Minnesota Wild this season, both because of injuries and because of a lot of inconsistency (so… injuries?).

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the season started in October, not January.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 109 points (79 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 95 points (79 GP)
  4. Arizona Coyotes, 89 points (79 GP)
  5. Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (78 GP)
  6. Anaheim Ducks, 80 points (80 GP)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 80 points (79 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 70 points (78 GP)

The Calgary Flames clinched the best record in the Western Conference for the first time in almost 30 years. Conveniently, the Flames last won the Cup 30 years ago.

Guess it’s about time for another repeat of 2004, even though goal line technology could surely keep that from ever happening again whether you believe it was in or not.

Things are looking like business as usual for the San Jose Sharks as they gear up for another taxing First Round battle– this time around in a rematch from last year’s Second Round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights, by the way, are the 7th team to reach the postseason in their first two seasons of existence.

It’s too bad the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t pull off an incredible run, despite losing their starting goaltender to injury for the season before American Thanksgiving.

The fact that they’re not in the Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko conversation is about as close as you can come to winning the Cup this season when you’ve relied on Darcy Kuemper for over 20-consecutive starts.

That’s not a shot at Kuemper. That’s just [heck-]ing incredible (pardon my French).

Back up north in Edmonton, the Oilers are gearing up for another rebuild? Is it that time already? Probably not, but if it’s what Connor McDavid wants… (it’s not).

Thanks to that good old ROW tiebreaker, the Anaheim Ducks managed to climb above the Vancouver Canucks in the standings. That’s not saying much.

Vancouver should be this season’s Arizona, next season (minus the injuries). If that makes sense.

Anaheim, on the other hand, should sell, sell, sell this summer.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings were crowned 2014 Stanley Cup champions for the 5th year in-a-row and finished in the basement of the Pacific.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering March

Happy Meteorological Spring (and when the time comes, actual Spring too as the Spring Equinox falls on… well, it’s written on the calendar in your office somewhere).

Of course, the only day that really matters in March is the 18th (you thought I was going to say the 17th, but we can’t all pretend to be Irish now, can we?).

If you’re new to the sport, that’s the day the Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the idea of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup back in 1892 and thus the Stanley Cup was first played for and awarded in 1893.

The original Cup resides in an old bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and was purchased for ten guineas, which was $48.67 at the time or almost $1,400 in contemporary times.

Anyway, March is a pretty important month.

Teams have added or subtracted to their rosters from the trade deadline and are looking to go down the stretch without any additional injuries or worries heading into the postseason (or for some, the offseason).

Feeling lucky? Is this the year your bracket won’t be busted in the First Round? Let the madness begin with a look at the latest standings forecast* across the league based on all 31 NHL teams’ performances through February 28, 2019.

*Standard disclaimer: This forecast is not an exact science, but rather an educated guess among recent and season long trends, with a foundation steeped in recent records over the last few seasons.

In simple terms, just focus on the standing within the division and less on the point spread. A team isn’t eliminated from postseason contention until they are mathematically eliminated.

Anything can still happen (relatively, of course).

Projected Standings After Five Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 121 points (65 games played entering March 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 115 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (64 GP)
  4. wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 103 points (64 GP)
  5. wc2-Buffalo Sabres, 90 points (63 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 82 points (63 GP)
  7. Ottawa Senators, 61 points (64 GP)
  8. Detroit Red Wings, 60 points (64 GP)

In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still on pace for what could almost be the best regular season in league history. Their franchise record ten-game winning streak was halted by the re-hot Boston Bruins on Feb. 28th.

Tampa should still lock up the division (if not the President’s Trophy) with ease, though they are beatable– as proven by the Bruins recent win (ignoring the back-to-back games), as well as the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 overtime victory on Feb. 7th (more on the Blues later).

Boston, meanwhile, is surging at the right time. After going 7-7-0 in December and 6-3-3 in January, the B’s went without a regulation loss in the month of February, finishing with an 11-0-2 record.

It was the 9th time in franchise history and first time since November 2011, that the Bruins went without a regulation loss in an entire calendar month.

Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very alive and well in a divisional spot and for the second straight season appear destined to battle the Bruins in a First Round rematch from last season.

At least one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be filled by an Atlantic Division team– the first of which being the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs are in the hunt and could knock the Maple Leafs out of the last divisional spot with a good run down the stretch, while the second wild card spot is a little harder to project.

It could be the Buffalo Sabres or it could very well be a team that’s surging in the Metropolitan Division.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-New York Islanders, 113 points (63 GP)
  2. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 101 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Washington Capitals, 92 points (64 GP)
  4. Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (63 GP)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins, 87 points (63 GP)
  6. New York Rangers, 77 points (63 GP)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 74 points (64 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 61 points (64 GP)

John Tavares wasn’t well-received in his first trip back to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders for the Leafs in free agency last July, however, Barry Trotz has been adored by Isles fans as the coach of the Metropolitan Division’s best team.

Despite adding a lot of firepower leading up to the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t quite a surefire powerhouse in the division, but they should be good enough for home ice advantage in the First Round and a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals.

It’s a wide-open race for two or three potential playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division, as the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins all have their sights set on one of two remaining divisional spots or at least one wild card spot in the postseason.

Despite the Capitals edging the Hurricanes and Penguins in this forecast, gut feeling indicates there’s sure to be an upset before the brackets are even finalized.

Carolina is playing really well lately and as those bunch of jerks have shown all season long– you can’t count them out. They also reached 70 points in 61 games played for just the second time in franchise history this season.

The last time they did that was in the 2005-06 season– you know, the one they went on to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

As for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, well, there’s always a chance things go south for some of the teams ahead of them– except the Rangers are rebuilding and the Flyers have gone zero weeks without an injury to one of the eight goaltenders they’ve used this season.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-Winnipeg Jets, 104 points (63 GP)
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 93 points (66 GP)
  4. wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (64 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (64 GP)
  6. Dallas Stars, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (64 GP)

The Western Conference as a whole has been weaker than the Eastern Conference this season, but no division has been quite as lively as the Central Division.

While the Winnipeg Jets soar into the postseason as the top-team in the Central, the St. Louis Blues are attempting to go from last to first– and then some.

St. Louis might not stop at potentially leading the Central Division by the time the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin– they could just very well go on to win the Cup. The Blues are that hot.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators added a lot of grit leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Cody McLeod, Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to bolster their crunch to go along with new addition, Mikael Granlund‘s scoring ability.

Anyway, they’ve been slipping as of late and appear destined to miss out on home ice advantage in what will likely be a First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Finally, one of the Western wild cards will surely come from the Central Division teams. Whether that’s the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars will depend on how hot Colorado’s first line is and/or how injured the Wild and Stars are.

Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for setting the second half of the season ablaze, though not nearly as mightily as the Blues have, but they’ll still end up last in the Central, but about mid-pack league-wide.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 111 points (64 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 107 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (65 GP)
  4. wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 91 points (64 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (65 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Anaheim Ducks, 75 points (64 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 68 points (64 GP)

In the most disappointing division of the season, the Calgary Flames have risen a cut above the rest in the West. Not only do they look to lead the conference, but they look to do so in style.

The Flames are a team that’s destined for a deeper run than just a First or Second Round exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how much will recent playoff experience for the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights play into Calgary’s chances of going far?

Vegas hasn’t been as dominant as they were in their inaugural season, however the Sharks have also had a few slip ups in the last month.

Both teams are looking like they’ll meet in the First Round– a round sooner than their Second Round matchup last postseason. It’s a rematch for the ages for the Golden Knights, as the young franchise looks to continue to add to the nearly 30 years of dismal playoff failure for San Jose.

One of the biggest– and most pleasant– surprises in the Western Conference? The Arizona Coyotes.

The team is destined for a wild card spot this season and just might spoil the party for more than just who they cut out of the playoff picture.

For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a battle until the end. They might make it, they might not, but next season should be better– just stay the course.

And if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and/or the Los Angeles Kings, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.