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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Bruins eliminate Capitals in five games, advance to Second Round

After 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Zdeno Chara signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Dec. 30, 2020. He left Boston better than he found it and the Bruins handed the captaincy from their former defender to Patrice Bergeron on Jan. 6, 2021.

As the National Hockey League produced a format for the 2020-21 regular season and 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs it was revealed that the Bruins and their ex would get to meet each other eight times over the course of the season and– as fate would have it– at least four mores times times in the playoffs.

On Sunday night, Bergeron shook hands with Chara after the Bruins defeated the Capitals, 3-1, in Game 5 and eliminated Washington on the road at Capital One Arena– winning the series 4-1.

Chara, a 44-year-old veteran of the game, now faces the question of whether to retire or whether to return to the ice– wherever it may be for one more run, one more chance at getting a second Stanley Cup ring and his first since winning with Boston in 2011.

For Bergeron and the rest of his teammates, the Bruins’ journey continues as the transition from the old guard gives way to the youth, experience and new characters that have emerged.

There was life before Chara for Bergeron, who made his NHL debut in the 2003-04 season as an 18-year-old, and there is life after Chara, who signed as free agent with the Bruins on July 1, 2006, and played in a spoked-B uniform until the bubble burst in the 2020 Second Round in five games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Unlike the dissatisfying taste in the mouth of those involved in the Eddie Shore trade with the New York Americans in Jan. 1940, this time around– though there were likely tears shed over the departure of a fan favorite in Chara and a legend in Bruins franchise history– it seems there will be a happy ending sooner rather than later.

Shore never played for an NHL team after 1940, was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947, and subsequently had his No. 2 retired by Boston as a result after some amendments to strained relationships with Art Ross and others had been made– if not put aside for an evening, at least.

Chara won’t have to wait quite as long and there are no hard feelings to get in the way.

Whenever he retires, jot down the very first home game (as it should be) at TD Garden in that upcoming season to see his No. 33 raised to the rafters and add three years to the date from his retirement for eligibility to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Shore, Bobby Orr and other legends of the sport.

Tuukka Rask (4-1, 1.81 goals-against average, .941 save percentage in five games) made 40 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Bruins on Sunday.

Capitals netminder, Ilya Samsonov (0-3, 2.99 goals-against average, .899 save percentage in three games played) stopped 16 out of 19 shots faced in the loss.

Boston became the fifth team since the start of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs to win a best-of-seven series in four or more consecutive postseasons.

They joined the Capitals (4 postseasons from 2015-18), New York Rangers (4, 2012-15), Detroit Red Wings (5, 2007-11) and San Jose Sharks (4, 2004-08) in doing so.

Boston also improved to 13-10 all time in Game 5s when leading a series 3-1. The B’s are now 21-2 in best-of-seven series’ when they have a 3-1 series lead, as well.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jeremy Lauzon (upper body), Kevan Miller (upper body) and John Moore (hip) on Sunday with Steven Kampfer (arm) joining Moore on the list of B’s that won’t return before next season.

As a result of Miller missing Game 5 due to an injury sustained on a high hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup from Friday night’s, 4-1, win to Sunday evening– inserting Jarred Tinordi in Miller’s spot on the third defensive pairing.

Capitals head coach, Peter Laviolette, meanwhile replaced Michael Raffl with Daniel Sprong on his third line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov at center and Tom Wilson at right wing.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players for Game 5 included Nick Wolff, Trent Frederic, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn, Jack Studnicka, Moore, Kase, Jaroslav Halak, Kampfer, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Oskar Steen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Dan Vladar, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Miller.

Just like in Game 4, there were no goals in the first period in Game 5 as the two teams traded penalties throughout the opening frame.

Both clubs were short a skater and played 4-on-4 for a pair of minutes when Garnet Hathaway and Taylor Hall received roughing minors at 5:09 of the first period.

The Capitals later had the first power play of the night when David Pastrnak tripped up Justin Schultz at 6:46.

Just as the Bruins got back to full strength, they went on the skater advantage as Wilson cross checked Jake DeBrusk and cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:47.

Late in the period, Brad Marchand roughed up John Carlson and was assessed a roughing infraction at 16:14, but Washington couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Nor could they prior to the end of the first period as Craig Smith tripped Alex Ovechkin at 19:31, though the skater advantage stretched into the middle frame.

After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Caps outshot the B’s, 10-9.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), hits (12-7) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while the Capitals led in takeaways (3-1). Both teams had two giveaways each.

Washington was 0/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Mike Reilly sent a pass up to Pastrnak as No. 88 in black and gold proceeded to deke around Nic Dowd prior to cutting to the corner and pulling the NHL 94 wraparound the front of the slot move.

Pastrnak (1) slid the puck low around Samsonov’s left pad and gave Boston a, 1-0, lead at 2:28 of the second period.

Reilly (1) had the only assist on the goal and earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in the process.

Less than a minute later, Sprong got a hold on Tinordi and was sent to the box as a result at 3:48.

The Bruins failed to convert on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the period, Pastrnak took a hit at the attacking zone blue line to make a play to Reilly who, in turn, gave it to Bergeron as Bergeron (2) entered the zone and wired a snap shot from the high slot below Samsonov’s blocker and into the back of the twine.

Reilly (2) and Pastrnak (4) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to, 2-0, at 14:05 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Sunday night, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-0, despite Washington holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-13, including a, 20-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Caps dominated in takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-5), hits (24-19) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the B’s led in blocked shots (16-7).

Neither team had scored a goal on the power play through two periods as the Capitals were 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Conor Sheary (1) scored on his own rebound off of a one-timed redirection 11 seconds into the third period to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.

T.J. Oshie (3) and Orlov (3) had the helpers on the goal as the Capitals jumped out to a hot start in the final frame.

Midway through the third, however, the Bruins rushed up the ice, had it broken up, but promptly forced a turnover that led to Bergeron (3) snapping a quick shot from the slot over Samsonov’s shoulder on the blocker side to give Boston another two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s unassisted goal made it, 3-1, for the Bruins at 12:25 of the third period.

Shortly thereafter, Reilly cross checked Oshie and was sent to the box at 12:45.

Washington thought they had a power-play goal to pull themselves back to within one as Lars Eller banked a shot off Rask and in from the goal line, but Kuznetsov had pushed Rask seconds prior to the would-be goal.

Despite Tinordi clearing Kuznetsov from the crease seconds later, Kuznetsov initiated the initial contact with the B’s goaltender and therefore negated the goal on the grounds of goaltender interference without a minor penalty attached to the play.

Late in the third, Sprong tripped Charlie McAvoy and presented Boston with one more power play at 16:18, but the Bruins took the opportunity to run the clock and play “keep away” from the Caps.

With 1:13 remaining in the action, Laviolette pulled Samsonov for an extra attacker but it was of no use.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and eliminated the Capitals in five games.

Washington finished Sunday night’s effort on home ice leading in shots on goal, 41-19, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Caps also led in giveaways (9-5), hits (36-26) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Boston finished the action leading in blocked shots (19-14).

Neither team scored a power play goal in Game 5, as Washington went 0/4 and Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins won the series 4-1 and advance to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result where they will face the other MassMutual NHL East Division series winner between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.

If Pittsburgh defeats New York in their series, the Penguins will have home ice in the Second Round. If the Islanders defeat the Penguins, the Bruins will have home ice in the Second Round.

In either case, as of May 29th, Boston will near or at full capacity at TD Garden in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening policy.

Fans in attendance will still have to wear a mask when they aren’t eating or drinking inside the stadium in accordance with the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final

Paul Stastny opened the game’s scoring with the eventual game-winning goal as the Vegas Golden Knights shutout the Dallas Stars, 3-0, in Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final to tie the series, 1-1.

William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek each had a goal in the win as the Golden Knights evened the series thanks to Robin Lehner’s second consecutive shutout– his fourth of the postseason overall.

So with Game 3 in mind on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), let’s review some takeaways from Game 2 and where the series might go from here.

1. Now that we’ve seen Vegas respond, the obvious “will Dallas respond in Game 3?” must be asked.

Dallas came out flying in Game 1, despite only scoring one goal and winning, 1-0– Vegas looked flat to kick off the series.

Just like in 2018, however, the Golden Knights went full throttle in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, nearly scored four goals (Shea Theodore had a goal disallowed due to incidental contact with the goaltender courtesy of Max Pacioretty on the doorstep of the crease) and notched the shutout to tie the series.

Now, of course, how will the Stars respond?

Especially since they were outshot, 8-5, in the first period and, 19-7, in the second period alone. After 40 minutes, the Stars trailed the Golden Knights, 3-0, on the scoreboard (all Vegas goals were scored in the second period– traditionally what has been a better period for Dallas since their comeback over the Calgary Flames in Game 6 back in the First Round) and, 27-12, in total shots on goal entering the second intermission.

To Dallas’ credit, however, the Stars outshot Vegas, 12-5, in the third period alone.

In fact, the Golden Knights didn’t even have a shot on goal through the midpoint of the final frame, despite finishing with the advantage in shots on net, 32-24, at the final horn.

How will Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, respond to Vegas bringing out the big guns?

Especially since Ryan Reaves returned from his one-game suspension and suited up alongside William Carrier and Nick Cousins, which has been an effective shutdown fourth line thus far in the postseason.

2. Never tip your hand on a good future goalie.

Stars goalie, Jake Oettinger, made his NHL debut after Anton Khudobin was pulled prior to the third period.

The Boston University Terriers men’s hockey team standout amassed a league-leading .917 SV% among first year American Hockey League goaltenders in 2019-20 with the Texas Stars (AHL affiliate of Dallas).

Oettinger was the second goalie to make his league debut this postseason, joining Dan Vladar of the Boston Bruins as the other goalie to do so in the 2020 playoffs and marking the first time since 1937, that two goalies made their NHL debuts in the same postseason.

Whereas Vladar was fed to the wolves (a.k.a. the Tampa Bay Lightning) without much help in both ends of the ice, the Stars played better in front of their backup goaltender after clearly getting the message from Bowness– that they had let Khudobin down.

Oettinger only faced five shots and made five saves in 17:09 time on ice.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite Khudobin amassing 40 minutes played on Tuesday, Oettinger played less than a full period because Bowness pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with lots of time remaining in the game on the off-chance Dallas could score three quick goals and tie the game, at least.

They did not, but in the meantime, at least they didn’t rush Oettinger into any NHL action before it became absolutely necessary (though some watchful eyes of the minor leagues might wonder why Oettinger didn’t get a start earlier in the postseason to offset Khudobin’s workload while Ben Bishop is still injured and “unfit to play”).

Kudos to the Stars for not letting everyone else know about Oettinger’s impressive development thus far, though.

3. So… Robin Lehner the rest of the way?

This one should be obvious, but Lehner just had his fourth shutout this postseason (and second consecutive, if you didn’t read earlier).

Though Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots in Game 1, Lehner is the hotter goaltender right now– hands down.

Fleury’s 2.27 goals against average and .910 save percentage is fine. It pairs well with his 3-1 record in four games in the 2020 postseason.

But Lehner has a 1.84 GAA and a .924 SV% to go with the four shutouts, as well as a 9-4 record in 13 games played, which, if you’re wondering is better than Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning in GAA and shutouts.

Vasilevskiy is 11-3 with Tampa so far in 14 games and has a 1.92 GAA, a .930 SV% and no shutouts in that span.

Yeah, this should be an easy decision for Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer. It’s Lehner’s crease until the team advances or comes up short this year.

4. They scored a goal (at even strength)!

The Golden Knights entered Game 2 against Dallas without a goal from their forwards at even strength since the third period of Game 4 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Second Round.

Thankfully, Stastny put an end to Vegas’ misery at 5-on-5 (or 4-on-4) play with his third goal of the 2020 postseason at 4:53 of the second period.

Vegas added one more goal at even strength when Nosek scored his second playoff goal this year on a beautiful 3-on-1 rush to make it a three-goal game at 14:32 of the second period.

Prior to Stastny’s tally, however, the Golden Knights’ last four goals (dating back to Game 6 against Vancouver in the Second Round) included two empty net goals and a pair of goals from Theodore.

As long as the compete level from Game 2 doesn’t dissipate, Vegas looks to have snapped their even strength skid.

5. Shutouts galore!

Vegas’ last four games have all been shutouts.

The Canucks shutout the Golden Knights, 4-0, in Game 6 of their Second Round matchup as Thatcher Demko emerged as a playoff hero before the Golden Knights returned the favor with a, 3-0, shutout in Game 7– courtesy of Lehner.

To kick things off in the 2020 Western Conference Final, Khudobin had a, 1-0, shutout in Game 1 for the Stars, then Lehner returned the favor again with another, 3-0, shutout in Game 2 for Vegas.

Then there’s this to consider– Lehner is the first NHL goaltender to record four shutouts in a single postseason since Fleury did so in 2018 with the Golden Knights on their run to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their inaugural season.

Only five goalies in league history have recorded more shutouts in a playoff year.

Lehner’s extended his shutout streak to 131:44 in the process, which is the second-longest postseason shutout streak by a Golden Knights goaltender since Fleury had a 144:04 shutout streak going in 2018.

And finally, with both teams earning a shutout through the first two games of the Western Conference Final, Dallas and Vegas joined the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets this season as the only teams to record shutouts in their first two games in a series this year.

The Stars and Golden Knights also joined a longer list in the process since the NHL’s Modern Era (since 1943-44) that includes the Lightning and New York Islanders in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Islanders and Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Philadelphia Flyers and Senators in the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the New Jersey Devils and Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinal and the Montreal Canadiens and Maple Leafs in the 1947 Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s to another shutout in Game 3 for either team to make more history, probably.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 1 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

It seems everybody’s scoring points these days as the Tampa Bay Lightning won, 8-2, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Final matchup with the New York Islanders on Monday.

Seriously, 11 different Lightning players had at least a point in Monday night’s series opener, while Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each had five points in the victorious effort.

Tampa carries a, 1-0, series lead heading into Game 2 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS). Here’s five takeaways for the next game, as well as the series as a whole.

1. Can the Islanders actually contain Tampa’s offense?

Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on nine shots against in the first 10:46 of the game before being replaced by Semyon Varlamov, but that wasn’t the only reason why New York is behind, 1-0, in the series.

Neither the Columbus Blue Jackets, nor the Boston Bruins were able to limit the Lightning’s attacking zone time and possession, which was not only evident by the fact that each of their series matchups with Tampa only lasted five games– the scoreboard reflected it too.

At any point in time, the Bolts can strike fast and amass goals in bunches (as exhibited by their three goals in the first 10:46 of Monday’s game, plus the other five goals they scored afterward).

It’s that momentum swing that the Islanders (or any team that may face the Lightning if Tampa advances to the Stanley Cup Final) will have to be wary about and eliminate at all costs.

Simply put, the Lightning play with a surge in electricity.

2. Inconsistent shots for the Isles

Tampa outshot New York, 10-6, in the first period and finished the second period with an, 18-17, advantage before going on to finish the game with a, 34-24, total shots on goal advantage.

The Lightning went 58:53 without missing the net in Game 1. The only shot attempt that did not go on net for the Bolts came with 67 seconds left in the game off of Cedric Paquette’s stick blade.

Meanwhile, the Islanders– a team primarily built on a defense-first game plan– failed to record at least 30 shots on goal for the second-straight game after amassing 26 shots on net against the Philadelphia Flyers in their, 4-0, win in Game 7 of their Second Round matchup.

New York only allowed 16 shots against that night too.

In their, 5-4, double overtime loss to the Flyers in Game 6, the Islanders recorded 53 shots on goal and allowed 31 shots against.

Game 5 against Philadelphia resulted in a, 4-3, loss in overtime, while shots on goal were even at 32 aside.

The Islanders were outshot, 38-33, in Game 4, but won, 3-2. New York had a, 29-27, advantage in their, 3-1, win in Game 3, as well as a, 34-31, advantage in their, 4-3, overtime loss in Game 2.

Both teams had 29 shots on goal in New York’s, 4-0, win in Game 1 of their Second Round series with Philadelphia.

Without breaking down the quality of their shots for and shots against, a generalized remedy for the Islanders would be to get more pucks on net (duh) and prevent the Lightning from hitting the twine or whichever goaltender Barry Trotz starts in Game 2 against the Bolts.

3. Followup question, who should start in net for New York?

It’s not like Greiss had really made consecutive starts in the postseason before doing just that from Game 7 against Philadelphia on Saturday to Game 1 against Tampa Bay on Monday.

His 2-2 record in four games doesn’t really speak for his 2.02 goals against average and .929 save percentage in the 2020 postseason.

Plus he got most of the night off, so he should still be fresh enough, in theory.

Meanwhile, Varlamov’s decent 9-4 record in 15 games this postseason stands out on its own, but his goals against average is on the rise as of his last two outings to a 2.22, while his save percentage has dropped to a .913.

Still, the Islanders goaltenders have combined for three shutouts this postseason (Varlamov has two, Greiss has one), which are three more shutouts than what Andrei Vasilevskiy has so far (zero, in case that wasn’t clear).

As bad as Greiss’ .667 SV% in Game 1 sounds, Varlamov still allowed five goals against after Greiss gave up the first three in the, 8-2, loss, so Varlamov’s .800 SV% in Game 1 isn’t ideal either.

If anything, Trotz will have to adjust his matchups to curb the speed of Tampa’s rush and instruct his players on getting in passing and shooting lanes to ease the high danger workload of whichever goaltender he opts for in Game 2.

4. Just how many franchise records will Tampa…

In case you haven’t heard by now, the Lightning are good.

So good, in fact, they tied, broke and set some franchise records in Game 1, including:

— The most assists in a playoff year by a Lightning player (Kucherov had four assists in Game 1 to break Martin St. Louis’ previous mark of 15 helpers in 2004, and set the new franchise record with 16 in 2020).

— The first players in franchise history to record five points in a playoff game (Point had two goals and three assists, while Kucherov had one goal and four assists).

— Tampa’s eight goals matched their franchise record for the most goals in a playoff game (the Lightning had eight in what was also an, 8-2, win in Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Penguins).

Oh and the Bolts improved to 5-0 in their last five playoff games going back to Game 2 against Boston in the Second Round, while outscoring their opponents by a combined, 25-9, margin in the process.

Plus, Point and Kucherov are the second pair of teammates to each record five or more points in a Conference Finals game (since 1982).

Paul Coffey had one goal and five assists (six points), while Jari Kurri had three goals and two assists (five points) in Game 5 of the 1985 Clarence Campbell Conference Final with the Oilers.

5. Will the Lightning buck the trend?

In the last decade or so, the team that plays a longer Conference Final than their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final usually wins the Cup.

It happened just as recent as last year, when the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and had 10 days off before the 2019 Stanley Cup Final began.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the 2019 Western Conference Final and only had five days between the third and fourth round of the postseason.

The Blues, of course, won the Cup in seven games.

In terms of significant time off between one series to the next, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after beating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in five games in the 2006 Western Conference Final, then lost in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final in seven games to the Hurricanes who had just come off of a seven-game series win against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006 Eastern Conference Final.

The aforementioned Mighty Ducks had 10 days off after sweeping the Minnesota Wild in the 2003 Western Conference Final, then lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final in seven games after New Jersey had just three days off between their seven-game series win over the Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Final and the Cup Final.

Obviously those few examples don’t cover the last decade, but fear not, let’s get that out of the way now…

The 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, while the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the Eastern Conference Final before losing in six games to Chicago in the Final.

O.K. that one didn’t fit the trend, but in 2011, the Vancouver Canucks ousted the Sharks in five games, while the Bruins beat the Lightning in seven games, then went on to beat Vancouver in seven games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the Western Conference Final, while the Devils overcame the New York Rangers in six games. Los Angeles beat New Jersey in six games to capture their first Cup in franchise history.

Wait, it happened again, didn’t it?

Well, in 2013, the Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East, while the Blackhawks took five games to knockout the Kings in the West, then beat Boston in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. A-ha! There’s one!

In 2014, the Rangers beat Montreal in six games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Kings defeated the Blackhawks in seven games before Los Angeles won their second Cup in three years by defeating New York in five games.

In 2015, both Tampa and Chicago went all seven games in their respective Conference Finals matchups with the Rangers and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.

Chicago won their third Cup in five years in six games over the Bolts in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, though.

In 2016, the Penguins beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Sharks beat the Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final.

Pittsburgh defeated San Jose in six games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2017, the Penguins edged out the Senators in seven games in the East, while the Nashville Predators beat the Ducks in six games in the West.

Pittsburgh went back-to-back as two-time defending Cup champions with their fifth title in franchise history after defeating the Predators in six games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

And, of course, back in 2018, the Washington Capitals beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the Western Conference Final.

Washington won the Cup in five games over Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Back in 1993, of course, the Canadiens beat the Islanders in five games in the Prince of Wales Conference Final, while Los Angeles took seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Clarence Campbell Conference Final.

The Habs defeated the Kings in five games to capture the Cup in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final– what’s perhaps the most recent instance of a team amassing a week off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final and still winning the Cup despite all that time off.

Either that or it’s one more chance to point out that this year’s Cup will be awarded on Canadian sole, but for the 27th year in-a-row, it won’t be going to a Canadian based NHL club.

Assuming (since they won Game 1) that the Lightning go on to punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in as little as four or five games and the 2020 Western Conference Final matchup between the Dallas Stars and Golden Knights goes six or seven games, then Tampa could be in trouble.

Then again, with the bubble in place and resulting lack of travel— as well as a condensed schedule due to the hopes of still having an 82-game regular season in 2020-21— the earliest the 2020 Stanley Cup Final could begin would be around Sept. 21st or 22nd, since the league already determined the Final must end by or on Oct. 4th— which would leave the Bolts with about a week off to scout their next potential opponent in person for as long as the West takes to decide their series.

For any Islanders fans that thought I forgot about them, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after sweeping the Minnesota North Stars in the 1984 Semifinals (the precursor to the modern Conference Finals round), while New York took down Montreal in six games and had four days off between the Semifinals and the 1984 Stanley Cup Final.

Edmonton won the series in five games in what is the Islanders’ most-recent Stanley Cup Final appearance.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Columbus Blue Jackets (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Columbus Blue Jackets might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of Nationwide Arena someday.

Columbus Blue Jackets Current Retired Numbers

None

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! The Blue Jackets have yet to retire any number still, but that should change as soon as possible.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

18 Pierre-Luc Dubois

Columbus has long needed a certified homegrown number one center on their roster, then along came Dubois 3rd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. In his rookie season (2017-18), Dubois had 20 goals and 28 assists (48 points) in 82 games. Last season, he managed career-highs in goals (27), assists (34) and points (61) in 82 games.

Up until the abrupt end to the regular season due to the ongoing pandemic, Dubois had 18 goals and 31 assists (49 points) in 70 games and was on pace for about 57 points this season if the remainder of the regular season hadn’t been canceled.

Through 234 career games, Dubois has amassed 65-93–158 totals and brought a much more physical presence to the lineup that Blue Jackets fans likely haven’t seen since the days of Rick Nash.

With a little more time and development, perhaps Dubois can fine tune his scoring touch to emulate Nash. If not, he’s still shaping up to be in fine company and might see his No. 18 raised to the rafters of Nationwide Arena regardless.

61 Rick Nash

Nash formally retired in January 2019. Somehow Columbus doesn’t think there’s any reason to rush to put No. 61 in the rafters, but they should.

The franchise is approaching its 20th season and Nash was their first superstar while the rest of the team looked… well….

Sure you could argue that since his Blue Jackets relationship ended with him desperate to get out of Columbus and being traded to the New York Rangers on July 23, 2012, might take away some of that immediate response to honoring his legacy, but there have been other players in league history that have done less in greater lengths of time with one team then asked to be put out of their misery.

Nash had 289 goals and 258 assists (547 points) in 674 games with the Blue Jackets. He leads Columbus’ all-time stats in all four of those categories (goals, assists, points and games played).

Cam Atkinson is sitting at 571 games (2nd to Nash in franchise history) with Columbus, but with 198 goals (2nd to Nash), 170 assists (4th most all-time for Columbus) and 368 points (again, 2nd to Nash in franchise history) in his career.

Sure, Nash is destined to slide further down the top-10 list all-time one day, but he still drew eyes to the team in its infancy, put up all the points he pocketed without much of a supporting cast and, oh yeah, shared the 2003-04 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy honors with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk as the league’s leading goal scorers that season with 41 goals.

Besides, as the 1st overall pick by Columbus in 2002, at least Nash had more of a successful career than Patrik Stefan did with the Atlanta Thrashers and he lasted nine seasons with the Blue Jackets whereas Kovalchuk was only a Thrasher for parts of eight seasons.

No team has ever gone without growing pains. No team has ever made their first faces of the franchise that rightfully deserve to be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony, wait it out, and see if they stack up with other franchise greats 50 years later– that’s just not how a team goes about making history and setting their standards.

Nash’s No. 61 isn’t going to be put into circulation anytime soon, why not make it formal?

71 Nick Foligno

Foligno has now almost been in Columbus as long as Nash was. Next season, Foligno will tie Nash in longevity as a Blue Jacket. The current captain of the Blue Jackets has done a lot for the team and in the community. 

It only seems fitting that, while Nash carries the flash and scoring prowess, as well as the Columbus “pioneer” image for the team years from now in its history (assuming No. 61 gets proper retirement treatment), then Foligno’s No. 71 will be a testament to character, leadership and everything in-between.

Acquired by the Blue Jackets from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Marc Methot on July 1, 2012, Foligno has amassed 135-183–318 totals in 557 games with Columbus.

Drafted by the Senators in the first round (28th overall) in 2006, Foligno managed 148 points in his Sens tenure in 351 games from 2007-12.

He broke out with a career-year in 2014-15, scoring career-highs in goals (31), assists (42) and points (73) in 79 games with the Blue Jackets that season. Since then, he’s fallen more into a consistent role as a bottom-six forward, but still managed at least 30-points in the last three seasons.

In 67 games until the ongoing pandemic cut the regular season short, Foligno had ten goals and 21 assists for 31 points. He was on pace for about 38 points this season.

Oh and he won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2016-17.

If longevity, consistency and charity alone can earn the ultimate sign of respect from a franchise and yield a jersey retirement, then Foligno has crossed off every checkmark on the list for his time in Columbus.

Final Thoughts

In 2000, the NHL expanded to Columbus and brought back a team in Minnesota with the introduction of the Blue Jackets and the Wild. 

Minnesota shocked the hockey world and upset the Colorado Avalanche in the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs, eventually going on a run all the way to the Western Conference Final before being swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Columbus didn’t win a playoff series until they also shocked the hockey world and swept the 2018-19 Presidents’ Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning.

Minnesota retired No. 1 for their fans before they even had their first puck drop.

Columbus didn’t resort to that, but probably should do something for their fans to make up for the many years of suffering on the outside looking in and/or playoff losses before making it out of the First Round.

Minnesota hasn’t made it back to the Second Round since 2015.

Columbus has at least made it to the Second Round since the Wild last made it.

The Vegas Golden Knights came into existence in 2017. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, which was their inaugural season (2017-18).

Retire Nash’s number in 2020-21.

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Playoff Recaps

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round– May 9

Unknown-6New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers – Game 6

It’s been a decade, but the Ottawa Senators are back in the Eastern Conference Final coming off a 4-2 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Erik Karlsson had the game winning goal and Craig Anderson made 37 saves on 39 shots faced in the win for a .949 save percentage, while Henrik Lundqvist racked up 22 saves on 25 shots against for an .880 SV% in the loss.

Ottawa defeated New York in six games and will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Game 7 action between the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round.

Mike Hoffman (4) kicked things off with the game’s first goal under five minutes into the 1st period. Hoffman tipped in a shot from the point and completely changed the direction of the puck past a stunned Lundqvist on the glove side. Karlsson (11) and Clarke MacArthur (3) had the assists on Hoffman’s goal.

The Senators made it a two-goal lead at 14:44 of the 1st period on a wrist shot goal from Mark Stone (4). In keeping with the night’s trend, Stone’s twine seeking missle found the back of the net past Lundqvist’s glove side. MacArthur (4) and Chris Wideman (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Stone’s goal.

After trailing 2-0 in the 1st period, New York was eager to respond in the 2nd period and get on the scoreboard.

Former Senator – turned Ranger as a result of this offseason’s one-for-one trade for Derick BrassardMika Zibanejad (2) scored on a breakaway that was set up by Mats Zuccarello (3), with the other assist going to Nick Holden (2) at 13:32 of the 2nd period. Zibanejad made it a one-goal game as the Rangers now trailed, 2-1 with less than seven minutes to go in the second frame.

It would not remain a one-goal game for long, however, as the Senators were quick to respond on a rush after both teams swapped chances at each end of the ice. Bobby Ryan skated in towards the left side of the goal before dropping a no-look backhand pass to Erik Karlsson (2) who pocketed his 2nd goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the short side of Lundqvist. Ryan (5) and Anderson (1) had the assists on the goal that made it, 3-1 Ottawa.

Just 53 seconds into the 3rd period Chris Kreider (3) made it a one-goal game once again with Zibanejad (7) and Brendan Smith (4) collecting the helpers. It wouldn’t be until 19 minutes later in the final period of regulation until the scoreboard would read something other than 3-2.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (7)– undeniably the star of the series, aside from Karlsson’s Conn Smythe worthy postseason run so far– fired home the empty net goal at 19:53 of the 3rd period, sealing a 4-2 win for Ottawa in both Game 6 and in the series. Stone (2) had the lone assist on the goal.

The Senators advanced to their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2007 (the same year they made their one and only Stanley Cup Final appearance). Tuesday night’s victory also marked the third time in franchise history (2003, 2007) that the Sens have made the third round of the postseason.

This will be Ottawa head coach, Guy Boucher’s first Eastern Conference Final appearance since his days as the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach in a thrilling seven game series in 2011 against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins that postseason. Boucher is looking to redeem his one-win-away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Final coupon, pending an opponent that is to be determined.

Pittsburgh visits Washington on Wednesday night for a Game 7 matchup to determine who will face the Senators in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. The winner of the Pittsburgh-Washington series will have home ice in the next round of the playoffs.

Wednesday night is chock full of Game 7 action for your viewing pleasure with Pittsburgh at Washington beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET and Edmonton at Anaheim at 10:00 p.m. ET. Both games can be viewed on NBCSN throughout the United States and on TVAS in Canada. Additionally, CBC will broadcast the Penguins-Capitals game while SN takes over for Oilers-Ducks.

On a positive note (if you’re not emotional right now, sorry, Rangers fans), NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced during the 1st intermission that the 10th edition of the league’s Winter Classic will feature the Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field on January 1, 2018.

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Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Couture’s 3-Point Night Leads Sharks to 2016 Western Conference Final

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe San Jose Sharks thumped the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Logan Couture had a three point night and Joe Pavelski scored the game winning goal while Martin Jones made 20 saves on 20 shots faced en route to the shutout victory on Thursday night at SAP Center in San Jose.

Jones became the fourth Sharks goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff shutout and became the first San Jose goalie to do so in a Game 7. Not only that, but it was the first Game 7 of Jones’s career.

Pekka Rinne made 21 saves on 26 shots against for a .808 SV% in the loss and was pulled in the third period after the Sharks scored their fifth goal of the evening. Rinne’s replacement, Carter Hutton, notched one save on one shot on goal in 16:06 TOI.

With the win, San Jose advanced to the Western Conference Final and will face the St. Louis Blues in the next round of the playoffs. It is the Sharks first appearance in the Western Conference Final since 2011 and their fourth overall (2004, 2010, 2011 and 2016).

Entering Thursday night it was the 13th playoff game in 25 days for the Nashville Predators, who were 3-0 when facing elimination this postseason until Thursday’s outcome. It was just the second Game 7 in Predators franchise history, with their first Game 7 having been a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on road ice in Round One of this year’s playoffs.

Sharks forward, Matt Nieto, was out of the lineup for Game 7 due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Tommy Wingels was inserted into the lineup for the first time in two games after being a healthy scratch. San Jose entered the night 3-0 at home in the series and finished 4-0 at home in the series, while Nashville fell to 0-8 in all-time playoff games at SAP Center. Peter Laviolette’s five straight Game 7 winning streak was snapped and his record as a head coach in Game 7s fell to 5-2 (1-1 with Nashville) with the 5-0 outcome.

Viktor Arvidsson took the game’s first penalty at 8:22 of the first period for sending the puck over the glass. Arvidsson’s delay of game minor gave San Jose their first power play of the night and it didn’t take them long to capitalize on the man advantage. Joe Pavelski wristed one past Rinne for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period. Patrick Marleau (5) and Joe Thornton (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Pavelski’s goal.

The goal was just Pavelski’s 2nd career Game 7 goal and tied a Sharks postseason record for most goals in a playoff year with nine.

It was apparent in the first eight minutes that the Sharks were grabbing momentum of Game 7 when they had already fired numerous shots on goal before Nashville got their first shot on Jones.

In keeping with the home ice, home crowd fueled momentum; Joel Ward received a pass from Melker Karlsson that sent him in on a breakaway towards Rinne. Ward deked and slid the puck underneath Rinne’s five-hole to give San Jose a 2-0 lead at 16:51 of the period. Karlsson (1) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (7) assisted on Ward’s goal— his 3rd in five-career Game 7s.

To finish off the first period, Shea Weber took an interference minor that would extend into the second period for 38 seconds.

UnknownAfter twenty minutes of play the Sharks led 2-0 on the scoreboard and outshot the Predators 17-3. San Jose also lead in faceoff wins (15-7) and takeaways (5-0), while Nashville led in hits (16-14) and giveaways (8-5).

Both teams blocked seven shots in the first period and Nashville has yet to see time on the man advantage, while the Sharks were 1/2 on the power play.

Logan Couture extended his two-game point streak to three games with a quick goal 36 seconds into the second period that put San Jose on top 3-0. Couture capitalized on a Shea Weber mishap (that seemed to be a theme of the night) and put his seventh goal of the playoffs through Rinne’s five-hole. With two assists in the third period, Couture not only extended his point streak, but added to his already five goals and three assists (now make that six goals and five assists) in the series.

His 11 points in the series passed Igor Larionov’s 1994 Sharks franchise record of ten points in a single postseason series.

Fed up with his own play and Nashville’s general lack of effort, Mattias Ekholm went undisciplined at the end of the second period and cross checked Tommy Wingels. Ekholm received a minor penalty that would be served in its entirety to start the third period.

But it didn’t take long for San Jose to capitalize on their third chance on the power play as Joe Thornton sent a backhanded puck in the twine 32 seconds into the third period. Thornton’s 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Couture (9) and made it 4-0 Sharks.

In keeping with the hometown momentum, San Jose pressured the Predators early in the third, resulting in another goal at 3:54 of the period. Joonas Donskoi sent the puck to Couture who then found Patrick Marleau for a snap shot that beat Rinne and made it 5-0 Sharks in the third period. Marleau’s 4th goal of the playoffs was enough to chase Rinne from the net, but not before Rinne swung his stick twice at the net to break it and a third time as he threw it behind him, before skating off the ice to be replaced by Hutton.

Marleau’s goal was assisted by Couture (10) and Donskoi (5).

At 14:34 of the third, Justin Braun took the Sharks first penalty of the night for interfering with Colin Wilson. Nashville was unable to amount anything on their only power play of the night and Jones and the Sharks went on to hold the 5-0 lead through the end of the game.

With the shutout, Wilson’s seven-game point streak had been snapped, along with his 4-5-9 totals in that span and James Neal’s four-game point streak came to an end as well for the Preds.

San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-20), takeaways (10-4) and blocked shots (22-12). Nashville ended the night leading in hits (46-31), faceoff wins (32-31) and giveaways (21-12). The Sharks went 2/3 on the power play, while the Predators went 0/1.

While Couture had a three-point night and Marleau, Thornton and Vlasic each had two-point nights, top Nashville defensive pair, Weber and Roman Josi finished the night as minus-3’s.

Despite trailing in shots on goal in periods one and two (17-3 and 6-5, respectively), Nashville outshot San Jose 12-4 in the third period.

With the series outcome, the team that scores first in Game 7s improved to 123-42 (.745) all-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (4-0 this postseason). San Jose improved to 8-0 when Pavelski records at least a point and the home team won all seven games in the series, which was just the fourth such occurrence in the last 20 years (with the other times being the 2013 Conference Semifinals between Los Angeles and San Jose, the 2003 Stanley Cup Final between New Jersey and Anaheim and the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between Toronto and the New York Islanders).

For the seventh straight season, a team from California will be playing in the Western Conference Final. San Jose played in the WCF in 2010 and 2011 against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively, while Los Angeles took on the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2012 and the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks played the Blackhawks in 2015 and San Jose is once again back in the Western Conference Final in 2016.

Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Final is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM EST in St. Louis at Scottrade Center and will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada. The St. Louis Blues have home ice advantage and play host to San Jose in Games 1 and 2, as well as 5 and 7 if necessary. The Sharks will host the Blues at SAP Center in Games 3 and 4, and Game 6 if necessary.

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Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Hornqvist’s Hat Trick Helps Penguins Win 5-2, Take 1-0 Series Lead on Rangers

By: Nick Lanciani

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoPatric Hornqvist tallied a hat trick in the midst of a 4-point night and 5-2 victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup. Antti Raanta suffered the loss for the Rangers, having made 16 saves on 19 shots for a .842 SV% in 39:54 time on ice.

Wednesday night’s action was Jeff Zatkoff’s first career NHL playoff appearance and first career Stanley Cup Playoff win. He made 35 saves on 37 shots on goal for a .946 SV%. Zatkoff had a .896 SV% in his last five appearances during the regular season, dating back to January 18th. He took to the ice for warmups with Tristan Jarry as his backup as Marc-Andre Fleury was unavailable due to his ongoing recovery from a concussion.

New York Rangers goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, was injured late in the 1st period, after receiving a stick in the eye from his teammate and defenseman, Marc Staal. Lundqvist stayed in the game until the end of the period and made 10 saves on 11 shots against for a .909 SV% through 20 minutes.

During this final minute of play in the first, Patric Hornqvist (1) went hard to the net and received a pass from Conor Sheary (1) and sent the puck past Lundqvist to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead with 17.6 seconds to go in the period. Kris Letang (1) picked up the secondary assist on the goal.

The second period was similar in nature to the first period in that both teams swapped a couple of power play opportunities. Pittsburgh’s special teams weren’t able to capitalize on consecutive penalties to Rangers forwards, Chris Kreider and Dominic Moore, at nine seconds into the period and at 10:02, respectively. Meanwhile, New York’s power play was powerless on Trevor Daley’s tripping penalty with 8:14 to go in the 2nd.

At 18:56 of the second period, Sidney Crosby snapped a quick wrist shot past Raanta on a breakaway to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Crosby’s first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs was assisted by Hornqvist (1).

After forty, the Penguins were leading 2-0 on the scoreboard, but trailing 21-18 in shots on goal to the Raners.

Pittsburgh began the third period playing a little catch-up hockey after amassing six penalty minutes just 2:08 into the period. Karl Hagelin was given a four minute double minor penalty for high sticking Rangers forward, Kevin Hayes, while Pittsburgh defenseman, Ian Cole, was sent to the box with a two minute minor for interfering with Eric Staal in front of Zatkoff.

New York Rangers LogoNew York was quick to capitalize on their 5-on-3 advantage, with Derek Stepan scooping up a power play goal on the rebound and cut the Penguins lead in half. Stepan’s first of the playoffs was assisted by Rick Nash (1) and Derick Brassard (1). But the Penguins were quick to answer back in a hurry, notching a short-handed goal scored by Tom Kuhnhackl (1) on a two-on-one from Nick Bonino (1) and Kris Letang (2). The goal was Kuhnhackl’s first career Stanley Cup playoff goal and gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.

Patric Hornqvist followed up with a power play goal at 8:02 of the third period with his second of the night, assisted by Phil Kessel (1) and Sidney Crosby (1). Hornqvist poked the puck into the net before Raanta could figure out that it had slid behind him and gave the Penguins a 4-1 lead. Rangers head coach, Alain Vigneault, used his coach’s challenge to review the goal for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice was upheld after Hornqvist had clearly allowed Raanta a chance to play the puck.

With lots of time left in regulation, Stepan netted his second of the night at 10:11 of the third, pulling the Rangers to within two once again. Dan Boyle picked up an assist on the goal. New York had been outshooting Pittsburgh 34-27 at the time of Stepan’s goal to trail 4-2.

Finaly, Patric Hornqvist completed his first career playoff hat trick with under three minutes to go in regulation on an empty net goal. The goal was assisted by Crosby and Trevor Daley. Hornqvist became the first Penguins player to score a hat trick in the team’s playoff opener and the first player to do so for any team since Alexander Mogilny did so with the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 9, 2003, per the NHL’s public relations department.

After 60 minutes of play, the Pittsburgh Penguins rejoiced in a 5-2 win and a 1-0 series lead over the New York Rangers.

This is the seventh time- third straight season in a row- that the Rangers and the Penguins have met in the postseason. New York was 1-2-1 in four games against Pittsburgh during the regular season. Having earned their only win in a 3-0 shutout by Henrik Lundqvist on February 10 at CONSOL Energy Center.

Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and can be seen on NBC, before the series heads up to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday for Game 3.