Tag Archives: 2004 Stanley Cup Final

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 4 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

For the first time since 2015, the Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s only been five years since their last appearance in the Final, but it’s been a road of heartbreak and upsets of seemingly unimaginable proportions until now– well, almost now (wouldn’t want to jinx anything).

The Bolts beat the New York Islanders, 4-1, in Game 4 on Sunday in what was a rather tame game despite the pregame meetings between Pat Maroon, some Lightning players and Isles players during warmups.

Maroon ultimately got the last word with an empty net goal, while Tampa and scored two goals in 12 seconds– to complete three goals combined between the two teams in 27 seconds– to stage a comeback victory after the Islanders took the, 1-0, lead in the second period.

With a win in Game 5 (Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN and TVAS) the Lightning can advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, which would be their third appearance in the Final in franchise history as the franchise hopes to capture its second Cup ring and first since winning it all in 2004.

1. Heroes and villains.

Mikhail Sergachev expressed what everyone in the series is thinking (to paraphrase– we don’t like them and they don’t like us), but Game 4 never really went the way that Game 3 did, which showed a testament to Tampa’s ability to regain their focus and play disciplined.

New York also didn’t get too caught up in the heat of the moment after the exchanges at the end of Game 3 resulted in a full game’s worth of misconducts and the pregame meeting between members of both clubs.

Should the Islanders try to get under the Lightning’s skin in Game 5?

Is that what it’s going to take for them to move mountains and get another win in the series?

Time will tell and that time is Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the Bolts got Brayden Point back in the lineup after he missed Game 3 with an injury.

With their first line back intact (Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat) the Lightning were able to get half of their goals on Sunday, which– if you took away Maroon’s empty net goal for being one without the challenge of an opposing goalie in the crease– were vital to Tampa’s success.

2. Islanders still haven’t figured out the “playing with the lead” thing.

So you took a, 1-0, lead at 11:27 of the second period courtesy of a Brock Nelson goal after surviving the first period onslaught that gave Tampa an, 11-5, shots on goal advantage heading into the middle frame– it’d be a shame if you can’t recapture the energy from the last game and do it again, right?

I mean, scoring a goal then avoiding too much of a prevent defense mindset because– it turns out– your best offense is your offense, so you should score more goals than the other team if you want to win a game is a good thing!

Well, sometimes people never learn and the New York Islanders haven’t learned.

In a 27-second span in the middle of the game, the Islanders had a, 1-0, lead, then trailed, 2-1, because playing with the lead hasn’t been a strong part of their game in the Eastern Conference Final.

Leading is so overrated anyway.

3. Warmup drills.

Two of the goals that were given up by Semyon Varlamov were the kind of goals that a backup goaltender usually has to save at the tail end of pregame warmups.

Varlamov could use some work on that last minute of warmups drill where everyone crowds the net and hacks at a puck until they beat their backup goaltender.

That’s the problem, though, unless Thomas Greiss is starting in Game 5, net front traffic isn’t something Varlamov will see much of unless the Islanders work on it in practice.

Regardless, Varlamov’s fallen to a 10-6 record in 18 games played this postseason with a 2.30 goals against average and a .914 save percentage, as well as two shutouts in that span.

4. Still no shutouts.

Speaking of shutouts, Andrei Vasilevskiy has a 13-4 record in all 17 games for the Lightning this postseason, as well as a 1.93 GAA and a .930 SV% in that span.

But you know what he doesn’t have for some strange reason that can only be explained best as “because hockey”?

A shutout.

That’s right, Vasilevskiy does not have a shutout this postseason.

In fact, in 50 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Tampa’s netminder has never recorded a postseason shutout– dating back to four appearances in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How is this even remotely possible? Especially with the Bolts’ defense!

5. It’s beginning to look a lot like 1993.

Just like when they were ousted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 Prince of Wales Conference Final, New York could be eliminated in five games– only this time by the Lightning in the since rebranded Eastern Conference.

Unlike in 1993, however, whereas the Islanders won Game 4 against Montreal in that series to hold off elimination for another day and avoid being swept by the eventual 1993 Stanley Cup champions, the Islanders won Game 3 against Tampa and had a better shot at evening the series 2-2 than they did 27 years ago.

That said, if New York loses in Game 5, then that 36 years that it’s been since the Islanders were last in the Stanley Cup Final turns another year older in 2021.

Tampa Bay has never lost a series when they’ve led 3-1.

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

The calendar flipped to September and it’s time to gear up for preseason hockey— I mean the Conference Finals!

Yes, for the first time in recorded history, the National Hockey League is hosting both the Western Conference Final and the Eastern Conference Final in one hub city as Edmonton, Alberta plays host to the third round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, but we’ll get there in a moment.

First, there’s a little leftover business to take care of and that’s figuring out which of the two Eastern Conference finalists will emerge victorious at Rogers Place and remain in the bubble to contend for what every NHL player dreams of– raising Lord Stanley’s mug high over their shoulders and going for a skate.

Though they were at first excluded from the bubble, some family members will be allowed to partake in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final festivities as long as they are Canadian citizens that are currently in Canada, but they have to self-isolate at home for seven days and produce three negative COVID-19 tests before traveling.

Then, of course, they’ll have to remain in quarantine in a separate hotel room in the bubble and produce four more negative tests before they can interact with the players.

The NHL is still waiting for clearance from the Canadian government, as well as the provincial government in Alberta, with regards to allowing citizens from outside of Canada into the Edmonton bubble and remains in ongoing discussions with the NHLPA, as well as the respective governments to work on a plan.

ESPN‘s, Emily Kaplan, goes into great detail to explain the precautions, plans and policies the entities are creating, working through and dealing with in the face of the pandemic with regards to allowing families into the bubble.

And no, none of the family members and/or romantic partners of any the players are a distraction.

If anything, they are a welcome sense of normalcy while the four remaining teams, staff and workers in the bubble have been isolated from the outside world for the last six weeks.

For now, let’s get back to breaking down the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and trying to predict a winner in some number of games.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) vs (6) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points)

Tampa: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 35 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been Stanley Cup contenders for the last six or seven seasons, but have yet to capture their first Cup since 2004.

This year, as the Lightning make their sixth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in franchise history, Tampa is poised for their best chance at winning the Cup despite not having the services of their captain, Steven Stamkos, since mid-March.

After avenging their 2019 First Round exit at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in four games, the Bolts beat the Blue Jackets in five games in 2020. Then they had a repeat of their 2018 Second Round matchup with the Boston Bruins and ousted the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winning team in five games– just like they did two years ago.

Now the Lightning are set to face the New York Islanders and their head coach, Barry Trotz, the one man with a masterplan that beat the Bolts in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final while he was then the head coach of the Washington Capitals.

Nikita Kucherov led Tampa in regular season scoring with 33-52–85 totals in 68 games played, while Stamkos amassed 66 points in 57 games and Brayden Point had 64 points in 66 games.

Kucherov and Point continue to lead the way for the Lightning, while trade deadline acquisitions, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow have brought Tampa’s game to another dimension.

Point leads the Lightning in postseason scoring with 6-12–18 totals in 13 games, while Kucherov is second on the roster with 16 points in 13 games.

On the blue line, Victor Hedman is tied with glue-guy, Ondrej Palat, for the third most points on the team in the 2020 postseason as each player has five goals and four assists (nine points) in 13 games.

Palat tied a franchise record with Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis for the most consecutive postseason games with at least one goal (four games), while Hedman had the game-winning, series-clinching goal in double overtime against Boston in Game 5 of their Second Round series.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevksiy earned Vezina Trophy finalist honors for the 2019-20 season after amassing a 35-14-3 record in 52 games (52 starts) with a 2.56 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

Tampa’s backup, Curtis McElhinney, produced an 8-7-3 record in 18 appearances with a 2.89 GAA, a .906 SV% and one shutout this season.

In the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has been the only goaltender to appear in game action for the Lightning, yielding a 10-3 record in 13 games with a 1.91 GAA and a .931 SV% in that span.

For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Final. 27 years ago the Isles lost to the eventual 1993 Stanley Cup champion, Montreal Canadiens in five games, and no Canadian team has won the Cup since.

That trend will continue– even though the Cup will be awarded in Canada this year for the first time since 2011– as all four teams remaining in the Edmonton bubble are based in the United States.

New York finished off the Florida Panthers in four games in their best-of-five game Qualifier, then took care of the Washington Capitals in five games in the First Round before overcoming the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the Second Round to make this year’s Eastern Conference Final.

Mathew Barzal led the Islanders in the regular season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) had the second-most for New York in 2019-20.

Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) and Josh Bailey (14-29–43 totals in 68 games) were tied for the third most points on the roster prior to the pandemic shortening the regular season.

Entering the Eastern Conference Final, Bailey leads the Islanders with 2-15–17 totals in 16 games, while Nelson has 15 points in 16 postseason games and Barzal has 13 points in 16 playoff games for the Islanders this postseason.

Anthony Beauvillier leads in goal-scoring for New York in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals in 16 games as the Islanders play a more “defense first” mindset– shutting down and trapping star players from opposing teams to will the game the way of the Trotz’s plan.

Semyon Varlamov went 19-14-6 in 45 games (39 starts) in the regular season, amassing a 2.62 GAA, a .914 SV% and two shutouts in the process in the regular season, while Thomas Greiss went 16-9-4 in 31 games (29 starts) and had a 2.74 GAA, as well as a .913 SV% prior to the stoppage.

In the postseason, Varlamov has gotten more starts with a 9-4 record in 14 games and has a 2.00 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in the process, but Greiss earned the Game 7 win against Philadelphia and is 2-1 in three games (two starts) with a 1.08 GAA, a .960 SV% and one shutout in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Should Greiss get more action in the Eastern Conference Final?

It remains a possibility as Trotz hasn’t given any indication as to who he’s starting in Game 1.

New York went 2-1-0 against the Lightning this season, while Tampa was 1-2-0 against the Islanders in the regular season.

The Isles had 11 goals for in the season series and six goals against, despite the Bolts holding the combined shots on goal advantage, 97-68.

Greiss and Varlamov each had a win against the Lightning, while the Bolts opted to start McElhinney in their second matchup of the season, which resulted in a, 5-1, win for the Islanders on Dec. 9th at Amalie Arena.

It’s a good thing for the Lightning that Vasilevskiy likely won’t be getting chased anytime soon– unless the Islanders somehow muster enough courage to score more than enough goals to not have to fallback on “prevent defense”.

Nonetheless, Tampa is hot and when you’re hot, you’re… hot. Duh.

But if there’s one thing we learned about these playoffs, it’s that being hot doesn’t mean anything to the Islanders– they beat the Flyers after all, and Philly had the best stretch from February until the pause, then won the first seed in the East honors via the Round Robin tournament.

The Lightning are beatable, but they’re not easy.

It’ll be a long and grueling battle– a series that likely plays one way in one game and completely the opposite in the next.

Tampa is well rested, while New York just eliminated Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Bolts are also 2-0 all time against the Isles in postseason series matchups– winning in five games in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, as well as in five games in the 2016 Second Round.

The third time’s a charm, though, and the Islanders should pull off yet another upset in seven games and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 1st, 5-1 NYI at Amalie Arena on Dec. 9th, 3-1 TBL at Amalie Arena on Feb. 8th

Schedule:

9/7- Game 1 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/9- Game 2 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

9/11- Game 3 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/13- Game 4 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/15- Game 5 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/17- Game 6 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/19- Game 7 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 7:30 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

Look To The Rafters: Calgary Flames (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 Calgary Flames might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of Scotiabank Saddledome (but in actuality the new Calgary arena that’s being built) someday.

Calgary Flames Current Retired Numbers

9 Lanny McDonald

12 Jarome Iginla

30 Mike Vernon

“Forever a Flame”

2 Al MacInnis

25 Joe Nieuwendyk

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Jarome Iginla had his No. 12 retired on March 2, 2019, becoming just the third retired jersey number in Flames franchise history. Those “Forever a Flame” members are just honored players for their contributions to Calgary while playing for the Flames, but their jersey numbers remain in circulation.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

13 Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau put up 99 points in 82 games in a breakout season last season after reaching at least 60 points in his first four full NHL seasons from 2014-15 through 2017-18. Technically that means he’s had at least 60 points in his first five full seasons and, despite finishing the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season with 58 points in 70 games played, Gaudreau was on pace for about 68 points this season.

While he officially missed out on yet another 60-point season, Gaudreau is a consistent player for the Flames. Sure, 58 points is a bit of a steep drop off from 99 points, but Calgary went through a coaching change this season and unrelated turmoil in trying to find what worked so well last season, but just wasn’t apparent in their game under Geoff Ward in 2019-20.

What’s perhaps more telling about the Flames from last season to this season is that Gaudreau went from a healthy plus-18 rating in 2018-19, to a minus-10 rating in 2019-20. That’s… not ideal.

As long as he bounces back to his consistent form or even if all he does is put up 50-points per season in Calgary, then Gaudreau has a good chance of seeing his number in the rafters of the Flames’ new arena that’s currently on track to replace Scotiabank Saddledome.

The question is, will he be around long enough to qualify for it though?

Gaudreau has already played in parts of seven NHL seasons so far and, while that’s certainly enough for some teams, it seems the Flames are set on limiting retired jersey numbers for players that average about 12 seasons in a Calgary sweater.

In five years, who knows what could happen, but hopefully for fans of Gaudreau in Calgary, it’ll mean that he’s getting through his 12th season and then some as a Flame.

With 151 goals and 294 assists (445 points) in 464 career games (all with the Flames) so far, Gaudreau’s quickly approaching that “at least 600” benchmark for a player to not just have their number honored in Calgary, but rather set aside as a whole and raised to the rafters– never to be worn again.

14 Theoren Fleury

In order to be considered “royalty” in Calgary franchise history, it seems that a player must have had at least 600 points in a Flames sweater. Both Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk had over 600 points in their time with the Flames (MacInnis had 822 points in 13 seasons with Calgary, while Nieuwendyk had 616 points with the Flames in nine seasons).

Luckily for Fleury, he’s above the “Forever a Flame” club with 830 career points in Calgary from the 1988-89 season through part of the 1998-99 season.

Retiring Fleury’s No. 14 would rightfully honor a story of redemption and continued success on the path of forgiveness for all involved similar to how one could argue for the Boston Bruins to honor Derek Sanderson in some manner.

Fleury won the Cup with the Flames in 1989, and had two seasons with at least 100 points in Calgary– including one season with a career-high 51 goals in 1990-91.

A consistent scorer in his time as a Flame, one word best describes Fleury’s stats in Calgary– dominant.

After 15 NHL seasons from 1988-89 through 2002-03, Fleury amassed 455-633–1,088 totals in 1,084 games, then stepped away from the NHL to deal with substance abuse and released an autobiography, titled Playing With Fire, in 2009.

23 Sean Monahan

Like Gaudreau, Monahan defines an era for Calgary hockey– the current era of the Flames franchise. He had a respectable 34 points in 75 games in his rookie season in 2013-14, then had 60 or more points in three out of four seasons from 2014-15 through 2017-18.

Since then, Monahan had career-highs in goals with 34 and assists with 48 last season for a career-high 82 points in 78 games.

This season, he had 22 goals and 26 assists (48 points) in 70 games and was on pace for 56 points. Not bad, but definitely back to his usual production rates.

That said, like Gaudreau, Monahan has been a part of the Flames in six full seasons and has amassed 194 goals and 217 assists (411 points) in that span. With 541 NHL games under his belt– all with Calgary, Monahan could leverage more points and another half-dozen seasons as a Flame as more than enough to earn a banner alongside Lanny McDonald, Jarome Iginla and Mike Vernon.

34 Miikka Kiprusoff 

Calgary retired Vernon’s No. 30 despite Vernon playing in the tumultuous 1980s NHL. Seriously.

Vernon had 262 wins in a Flames sweater in 527 games played over 13 seasons in Calgary from the 1982-83 season through 1993-94. He had a 3.27 goals against average and an .883 save percentage in that span, as well as 13 shutouts, but he went on to win the Cup in 1989, which has been Calgary’s only Stanley Cup ring so far, so there’s that.

Unlike Kiprusoff, Vernon did not win the Vezina Trophy, nor did he win the William M. Jennings Trophy (well, not with the Flames, at least– Vernon won it in 1995-96 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings).

Kiprusoff, on the other hand, spent nine seasons with the Flames from 2003-04 through 2012-13 and amassed 305 wins in 576 games played (386 starts). In his Calgary playing days, Kiprusoff had a 2.46 GAA, a .913 SV% and 41 shutouts. He also took home the Vezina Trophy and William M. Jennings Trophy in the 2005-06 season.

Sure, Vernon won a Cup and made two appearances in the Final with the Flames in 1986 and 1989, but even though Kiprusoff didn’t win a Cup, he at least reached the Final with Calgary in 2004– losing in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Anyway, the point is simple, if Vernon is your standard for retiring a goalie’s jersey number in Calgary, then at least 300 wins and any hardware becomes the benchmark for future considerations, hence Kirpusoff’s appearance on this list.

Final Thoughts

The Flames don’t seem to have any striking “once in a generation” talent since Iginla was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013, but they do have the kind of committed and consistent players in Gaudreau and Monahan to consider honoring down the line as long as their careers live to see it.

If Calgary makes any bold decisions to trade one or both of them, then it’s not likely that either will see anything more than some “Forever a Flame” recognition.

As a whole, the Flames don’t have many strong candidates in their history that scream “retire this number or else”. 

Iginla is the only player in franchise history with more than 1,000 points with the team and the next closest guy is the most deserving of having his number retired, but carried off ice repercussions that might be holding Calgary back from sending Fleury’s No. 14 to the rafters without proper discussion surrounding hockey culture as a whole and how it failed a player and led to long-lasting effects on his life and those around him.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2019-20 Season Preview

Tampa Bay Lightning

62-16-4, 128 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Columbus

Additions: F Pat Maroon, F Chris Mueller, F Gemel Smith, D Kevin Shattenkirk, D Luke Schenn, D Luke Witkowski, G Mike Condon (acquired from OTT), G Spencer Martin, G Curtis McElhinney, G Scott Wedgewood

Subtractions: F Andy Andreoff (signed with PHI), F Michael Bournival (retired), F Ryan Callahan (traded to OTT), F Gabriel Dumont (signed with MIN) F Adam Erne (traded to DET), F Mitch Hults (signed with Stockton, AHL), F Kevin Lynch (signed with Laval, AHL), F J.T. Miller (traded to VAN), D Dan Girardi (retired), D Anton Stralman (signed with FLA), G Connor Ingram (traded to NSH), G Edward Pasquale (KHL)

Still Unsigned: G Marek Mazanec (ELH, TBL reserve list)

Re-signed: F Danick Martel, F Cedric Paquette, F Brayden Point, F Carter Verhaeghe, D Dominik Masin, D Ben Thomas

Offseason Analysis: Despite tying the NHL record for the most wins in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t even win a playoff game and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Every year, a lot of people pick the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup and every year, a lot of people are disappointed.

On paper, this team is like the San Jose Sharks– really good and should win every season. In reality, this team is nothing like the San Jose Sharks, because Tampa has at least won the Cup before in 2004.

Bolts GM, Julien BriseBois, had one primary focus this offseason– re-signing Brayden Point.

Everything else was just excess.

Anton Stralman became expendable at his high cost and Dan Girardi aged out of Tampa’s system.

In their place– veteran defenders in their prime and on one-year contracts– Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn are fully capable of taking on top-six defensive roles with the Lightning. Shattenkirk is yet another former New York Ranger to head join Tampa– this time on a one-year, $1.750 million deal– and Schenn costs the Bolts a league minimum, $700,000.

BriseBois also brought in a revolving door of backup goaltenders with Curtis McElhinney as the main course behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa’s starter himself (Vasilevskiy), signed an eight-year extension worth $76.000 million ($9.500 million cap hit) that goes into effect next season.

BriseBois negotiated a team-friendly bridge deal with Point, keeping the 23-year-old center in a Lightning sweater for three more years at $6.750 million per season (the same cap hit as Patrik Laine’s new deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but with an extra year).

In the third season of his current contract, however, Point’s salary will be $9.000 million, which means Tampa will have to tender a qualifying offer of at least $9.000 million to re-sign him three years from now.

Point’s going to get paid big money on his next deal and the Bolts are banking on the salary cap to go up with increased league revenue thanks to a new U.S. TV broadcasting rights deal that will have to be signed by then too.

For now, head coach, Jon Cooper can continue to relax and coach his casual style for the regular season, at least.

Come playoff time, he’ll have to tighten the reigns a bit in hopes of driving Tampa’s compete level to an all time high for what’s expected to be a deeper run than a First Round embarrassment.

To keep the band together for the time being, BriseBois shipped J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for Marek Mazanec (since signed with a team in the Czech Republic), a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, dumped Ryan Callahan’s contract and a 2020 5th round pick in Ottawa for now former Senators backup, Mike Condon, and a 2020 6th round pick in July and traded Adam Erne to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2020 4th round pick in August.

In the end, Point signed a team friendly cap hit, but with the long-term cost of having to rebalance the books in 2022.

Offseason Grade: C+

For a team that didn’t meet their high expectations, the Lightning met their goals for this offseason– don’t overreact and re-sign Point.

They made some minor moves and understand the core of the roster still has enough in it for at least a few more years together until bigger philosophical questions must come into consideration.

Calgary Flames 2019-20 Season Preview

Calgary Flames

50-25-7, 107 points, 1st in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Byron Froese, F Justin Kirkland, F Milan Lucic (acquired from EDM), D Brandon Davidson, G Cam Talbot

Subtractions: F Tyler Graovac (signed with VAN), F Garnet Hathaway (signed with WSH), F Curtis Lazar (signed with BUF), F James Neal (traded to EDM), F Anthony Peluso (signed with Bakersfield, AHL), F Brett Pollock (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Kerby Rychel (KHL), F Linden Vey (KHL), D Oscar Fantenberg (signed with VAN), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), D Marcus Hogstrom (SHL), D Dalton Prout (signed with SJS), G Mason McDonald (signed with Colorado, AHL), G Mike Smith (signed with EDM)

Still Unsigned: F Spencer Foo (KHL, CGY reserve list), D Matt Taormina

Re-signed: F Sam Bennett, F Ryan Lomberg, F Andrew Mangiapane, F Matthew Tkachuk, D Rinat Valiev, G David Rittich

Offseason Analysis: After taking home the first overall seed in the Western Conference in the regular season, the Calgary Flames proceeded to burnout in five games against the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What are they doing to prevent another embarrassment?

They traded James Neal.

Flames GM, Brad Treliving, traded Neal to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick. Calgary receives the 3rd round pick if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal this season. Very specific!

Aside from losing other depth pieces (Garnet Hathaway) in free agency, Treliving is fully prepared to send out his core on the ice for head coach, Bill Peters, to play as he sees fit.

The Flames weren’t bad all season until March last year, then they started losing games they shouldn’t have and went on to back themselves into the postseason without any moxie.

As such, the Avs rolled right over them.

For now, Treliving has put off the inevitable pay raise for Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk signed a three-year extension worth $7.000 million per season earlier this week, which may seem like a steal for Calgary, until one considers Tkachuk’s third year salary ($9.000 million).

His next qualifying offer will at least be $9.000 million and he’s bound for a significant raise by that point if his production continues to grow, so even though he said he’s signing for less right now so his teammates don’t have to worry about not being re-signed by the Flames due to cap constraints, things may still get hairy by 2022.

For now, the Flames are the closest to returning to the Stanley Cup Final than they have ever been since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in 2004.

They just have to get out of the First Round to make critics start to believe that their regular season success was not a fluke.

Offseason Grade: C-

Trading Neal for Lucic isn’t a spectacular deal, but the Flames somehow convinced the Oilers to retain some of Lucic’s salary, meaning Edmonton didn’t do themselves any favors as they had hoped to in getting rid of the veteran winger.

Fans in Calgary have come to expect uneventful offseasons, but at least the city and the franchise agreed to a new arena to get everyone even more excited about the future.

Blues win first Cup in franchise history

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

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

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

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

They were dead last in the league standings entering 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the final horn, the Notes had done it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a trip, Blues win, 2-1, can win Cup in Game 6

The St. Louis Blues are one win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup after a controversial non-call tipped the scales in their, 2-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Thursday night.

Jordan Binnington (15-9 record, 2.46 goals against average, .913 save percentage in 22 games played this postseason) stopped 38 out of 39 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-8, 1.97 GAA, .937 SV% in 22 GP this postseason), made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.

Binnington has now tied the NHL rookie record for most wins in a playoff year with his 15th victory this postseason, joining Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy and Matt Murray as the only rookie goaltenders to amass 15 wins in a playoff year.

St. Louis is one road win away from tying the NHL record for most road wins in a single postseason (10, set by the 1995 New Jersey Devils, 2000 Devils, 2004 Calgary Flames, 2012 Los Angeles Kings and 2018 Washington Capitals– all but the Flames won the Cup that year).

The Blues, of course, lead the series 3-2 and will have a chance to win the Cup for the first time in franchise history on home ice at Enterprise Center in Game 6.

The winner of Game 5 has won the Cup about 72% of the time with an 18-7 series record overall since the introduction of the best-of-seven game series format in 1939.

Bruce Cassidy scratched David Backes and went with seven defenders in Game 5, inserting Steven Kampfer on the blue line with Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Connor Clifton.

Chara was on the bench for the entire third period of Game 4 after reportedly sustaining a broken jaw due to an errant puck that deflected off his own stick. He was a game-time decision, but took part in warmups and started Game 5 without any interruption.

With Backes out of the lineup, Boston’s second line right wing was rotated among the remainder of forwards in the action.

As with the last few games, Chris Wagner (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) and Kevan Miller (lower body) were out due to injury.

Grzelcyk was not cleared from concussion protocol for Game 5, but may be a factor on Boston’s defense in Game 6.

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

Robert Bortuzzo was inserted into Craig Berube’s lineup for St. Louis, while Joel Edmundson was scratched on the blue line.

Derek Sanderson and Bobby Orr were Boston’s “Fan Banner Captains” prior to Game 5.

A rowdy crowd at TD Garden erupted in cheers for their Bruins captain as Chara was announced as a starter in Game 5, then the fans kept the noise going as the action progressed.

Blues defender, Vince Dunn, sent the puck out of the playing surface while trying to make a clearing attempt and was instead charged with a minor penalty for delay of game at 6:27 of the first period.

Boston did not convert on the first power play of the game.

Late in the opening frame, Brad Marchand went for a loose puck and got a stick on Binnington while the ref blew a quick whistle. Marchand was also penalized for slashing at 17:22 of the first period and St. Louis went on the power play for the first time of the night.

The Blues did not capitalize on their initial skater advantage on Thursday.

For the first time in the series, the two teams remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission.

The B’s outshot the Blues, 17-8, after one period of play and led in takeaways (5-1) and hits (23-18). Meanwhile, St. Louis held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (3-0) and face-off win percentage (75-25) through 20 minutes played.

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play as the second period got underway.

In the opening minute of the middle frame, St. Louis does what St. Louis has done best in the series– force the Bruins out of position and behind the play.

While both defenders were pressing along the wall, Jake DeBrusk was the closest forward to the low slot and perhaps should’ve been in front of Ryan O’Reilly (6) as O’Reilly received a pass from Zach Sanford and fired a backhand shot over Rask’s glove from point blank.

Sanford (3) and Alex Pietrangelo (14) notched the assists on O’Reilly’s third goal in the last two games and the Blues led, 1-0, 55 seconds into the second period on road ice.

Blues pinch, B’s can’t clear. Rinse, repeat.

Midway through the second period, David Perron was assessed a minor infraction for interference against David Pastrnak at 9:25.

Boston didn’t convert on their second power play of the night.

Through 40 minutes of play, after David Krejci made a save in the final seconds while the Bruins scrambled in their own zone, St. Louis held the, 1-0, lead entering the second intermission.

Boston was still outshooting the Blues, 25-14, and had an, 8-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone. The B’s also led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (7-6) and hits (35-29) after two periods, while the Notes led in giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (62-39).

The Blues were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.

Alexander Steen kicked things off in the final frame of regulation with an interference penalty at 3:09 of the third period.

For the third time of the night, Boston failed to convert on the power play.

Cassidy started to experiment with his lines, placing Charlie Coyle on the first line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and downgrading Pastrnak full-time to the second line right wing with Krejci and Marcus Johansson (in place of DeBrusk).

With 13 minutes left on the clock, after Binnington froze the puck, the officials gathered and summoned an official review to confirm that the puck had, in fact, not crossed the goal line completely on a last ditch effort by Krejci.

Midway through the third period, Tyler Bozak tripped Noel Acciari, but neither ref on the ice made a call– even as the ref behind the net was looking right at the play– leaving many scratching their heads as the Blues kept possession and managed to slip a puck through Rask’s five-hole as the Bruins goaltender was left playing defense for his defenders that had blown coverage.

The non-call left Cassidy irate in his postgame press conference and Berube had the gall to say he’s “not here to judge the officials” in his podium address following Game 5– after complaining about calls made earlier in the series.

But enough about everything you already know if you’ve been watching the entire 2019 postseason.

Perron (7) was credited with the goal that made it, 2-0, St. Louis at 10:36 of the third period, while O’Reilly (14) and Bozak (8) picked up the assists.

Moments later, DeBrusk (4) blasted a shot over Binnington’s blocker side on a delayed call against the Blues for high-sticking and Boston cut St. Louis’ lead in half, 2-1.

Krug (15) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s first goal of the series at 13:32 of the third period.

Despite the being caught in the face with a high-stick, Krug was not bleeding and thus both teams remained even-strength as deemed by the rulebook when a team scores on a delayed call against the other team.

Since there was no double-minor and DeBrusk scored, there was no need to send a St. Louis skater to the penalty box. The action, therefore, resumed.

With about a minute remaining in the game, Rask vacated the crease for an extra attacker as Boston looked to tie the game and force overtime, but it was too little, too late as the seconds ticked off the clock.

At the final horn, the Blues took home the, 2-1, win on the road and took charge of the 3-2 series lead with a chance to win their first Cup in franchise history in front of their home crowd on Sunday.

St. Louis finished the night leading on the scoreboard despite trailing the B’s in shots on goal, 39-21, after 60 minutes of play in Game 5.

Boston finished the night leading in hits (43-34), while the Notes held the advantage in giveaways (7-4) and face-off win% (59-41). Both teams had 15 blocked shots aside.

The Blues went 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play in Game 5.

With the 3-2 series lead, St. Louis heads home with the chance to officially eliminate Boston from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and win the Cup in front of a packed crowd donning the Blue Note crest on Sunday.

St. Louis improved to 9-3 on the road this postseason, while Boston fell to 5-2 in games after a loss this postseason. The Bruins are now 7-5 at home and are facing elimination for the first time since Game 6 in the First Round in Toronto.

The winner of the last three games in the series also scored the game’s first goal.

Game 6 is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET Sunday night at Enterprise Center and fans in the United States can tune in on NBC. Viewers in Canada have a plethora of options to choose from to watch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

If Boston is able to hold off elimination and force a Game 7, the finale of the Final would be next Wednesday night back at TD Garden.

The Blues have never won the Cup on home ice, while the Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis at the old Boston Garden in 1970.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.

In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.

P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”

Only kidding.

Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.

Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.

Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.

Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.

For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.

Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.

Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.

Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.

In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.

Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.

Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?

Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2

4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*

4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*

4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*

*If necessary

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)

The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.

Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.

There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.

Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.

Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.

Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.

Reilly Smith put up 53 points in a “down” season, but Alex Tuch (20-32–52 totals) had a breakout year, so everything evens out in the end.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.

For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.

The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.

But this time around feels different.

San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*

4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*

4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*

*If necessary

C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.

It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.

For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).

Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.

Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

Their offense was led by Ryan Johansen (14-50–64 totals in 80 GP) this season with Filip Forsberg chipping in 50 points and Viktor Arvidsson reaching the 30-goal plateau (he finished with 34).

Their goaltending… oh. Is this when Juuse Saros (17-10-2, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% in 31 GP) takes over for Pekka Rinne (30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV% in 56 GP) as the regular starter?

Oh. Again. Never mind.

While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.

In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.

Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.

This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?

Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.

On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.

Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.

But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.

Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.

As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.

Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.

Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.

It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2

4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*

4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*

4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*

*If necessary

C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.

This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.

Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.

Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.

On defense, Jacob Trouba picked up the slack with 8-42–50 totals from the blue line while Dustin Byfuglien was limited to 42 games and 31 points due to injury.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).

Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.

Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.

Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.

However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.

The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.

This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.

Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.

Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).

Don’t try to mess with what’s working.

Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.

Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.

For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.

Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3

4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2

4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*

4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*

4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*

*If necessary

Game of the week: February 25-March 3

With the trade deadline passing by on Monday, there’s only one important date remaining this regular season: April 6, the season’s finale.

However, we’re not quite focused on that date yet. Instead, let’s see what games this week had to offer:

NHL SCHEDULE: February 25-March 3
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)VISITORHOSTNATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, February 25
7 p.m.BuffaloToronto3-5
7 p.m.MontréalNew Jersey1-2
7:30 p.m.Los AngelesTampa Bay3-4 (SO)
8 p.m.EdmontonNashville2-3 (SO)
9 p.m.FloridaColorado4-3 (OT)
10 p.m.AnaheimVancouver0-4
Tuesday, February 26
7 p.m.San JoseBoston1-4
7 p.m.Calgary FlamesNew York Islanders3-1
7 p.m.BuffaloPhiladelphia2-5
7 p.m.OttawaWashington2-7
7 p.m.Los AngelesCarolina1-6
7 p.m.PittsburghColumbus5-2
7:30 p.m.MontréalDetroit8-1
8 p.m.NashvilleSt. Louis0-2
8 p.m.MinnesotaWinnipeg3-2
9 p.m.FloridaArizona3-4 (SO)
10 p.m.DallasVegas1-4
Wednesday, February 27
7 p.m.EdmontonToronto2-6
7 p.m.CalgaryNew Jersey2-1
7:30 p.m.Tampa Bay LightningNew York Rangers4-3 (OT)
9:30 p.m.VancouverColorado2-3 (SO)
10 p.m.ChicagoAnaheim4-3
Thursday, February 28
7 p.m.Toronto Maple LeafsNew York Islanders1-6
7 p.m.PhiladelphiaColumbus3-4 (OT)
7:30 p.m.Tampa BayBoston1-4
7:30 p.m.EdmontonOttawa4-2
9 p.m.VancouverArizona2-5
10 p.m.FloridaVegas5-6 (SO)
10:30 p.m.DallasLos Angeles4-3 (OT)
Friday, March 1
7 p.m.PittsburghBuffalo3-4 (OT)
7 p.m.PhiladelphiaNew Jersey6-3
7 p.m.Washington CapitalsNew York Islanders3-1
7 p.m.Montréal CanadiensNew York Rangers4-2
7:30 p.m.St. LouisCarolina2-5
8 p.m.NashvilleWinnipeg3-5
10 p.m.VegasAnaheim3-0
10:30 p.m.ColoradoSan Jose3-4
Saturday, March 2
1 p.m.EdmontonColumbus 
4 p.m.ChicagoLos AngelesNHLN
7 p.m.New JerseyBoston 
7 p.m.BuffaloTorontoCBC, NHLN, SN1
7 p.m.PittsburghMontréalSN360, TVAS
7 p.m.OttawaTampa BayCITY, TVAS2
7 p.m.CarolinaFlorida 
8 p.m.DetroitArizona 
8 p.m.DallasSt. Louis 
10 p.m.Minnesota WildCalgary FlamesCBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, March 3
12:30 p.m.Washington CapitalsNew York RangersNBC, TVAS
3 p.m.Philadelphia FlyersNew York IslandersSN1, TVAS
4 p.m.VancouverVegas 
4 p.m.ColoradoAnaheim 
5 p.m.OttawaFloridaRDS2
7 p.m.WinnipegColumbusSN
7:30 p.m.NashvilleMinnesotaNBCSN
10 p.m.ChicagoSan Jose 

There were rivalries galore to choose from this week – nine, if you want to be precise. Buffalo and Toronto waged two editions of the Battle of the QEW, with the Leafs hosting on Monday and the Sabres returning the favor tonight.

In between those meetings, the Penguins made their first visit of the season to Columbus and the Habs squared off against the Wings (both on Tuesday) and Friday featured Montréal visiting the Rangers, the Caps visiting the Islanders and the Battle of the Turnpikes. Joining Toronto and Buffalo in rivalry action today are the Blackhawks and Kings, while the Caps and Blueshirts are waiting until tomorrow to stage their derby.

In a similar strain as rivalries, we were also privy to three rematches from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota and Winnipeg rekindled their First Round animosity on Tuesday, ending with the Wild exacting revenge for their early playoff exit. The Bolts and Bruins were at it Thursday (with Boston pulling off the 4-1 victory), while Nashville and Winnipeg scrapped for first place in the Central Division last night (the Jets recaptured the division lead with a 5-3 win).

Finally, I always try to point out the biggest homecomings, and there were three this week. Of course, none was more anticipated than C John Tavares making his first trip to Nassau Coliseum as a member of the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Tavares enjoyed nine seasons with the Islanders, including five as the club’s 14th captain. His 621 points scored while wearing blue and orange ranks fifth in franchise history, but don’t let that fool you – Islanders fans did not treat him to a warm welcome.

Also making notable homecomings were current Penguin D Jack Johnson returning to Columbus on Tuesday and current Predator F Mikael Granlund returning to St. Paul tomorrow (considering he just experienced the birth of his child, there’s actually a chance he never left Minnesota in the first place). Both spent seven seasons with their respective former clubs before joining their current organizations (Johnson via free agency this summer and Granlund via deadline trade).

However, all of those things having been listed, there’s still one more event that demands our attention. For the third week in a row, a former great of the game is seeing his number raised to the rafters. Tonight, the Calgary Flames honor RW Jarome Iginla.

It can be easily forgotten that Iginla was not drafted by the Flames, but instead by the Dallas Stars. Only two seasons removed from their departure from the State of Hockey, the Stars selected the Kamloops Blazer 11th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Knowing what we know now, how Iginla fell all the way to 11th is hard to fathom. Only 10 total players from this 234-player draft class were ever named to even one NHL All-Star Game, of which only Iginla and nine-year teammate G Miikka Kiprusoff ever received end-of-season All-Star Team nods.

Regardless, Iginla likely never even thought about shopping for a Dallas apartment, as he was traded alongside C Corey Millen to Calgary (coincidentally in the same province as the city that hosted that edition of the draft: Edmonton, Iginla’s hometown) five months later for the rights to C Joe Nieuwendyk.

Nieuwendyk would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 – scoring two game-winning overtime goals on the way, including one in triple-overtime against former rival Edmonton – so perhaps this was a fair trade all-in-all.

Iginla made his NHL debut during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs (he registered 1-1-2 totals in two games played) after the Blazers lost to Spokane in the WHL’s West Division Finals 4-2. As the reigning WHL Player of the Year, Iginla registered 1-1-2 totals in his first two postseason appearances before the Flames were swept by Chicago in the Western Quarterfinals.

Iginla played all 82 games of his rookie campaign in 1996-97, registering impressive 21-29-50 totals (including three game-winning goals) to finish second in Calder voting behind fellow traded 1995 pick D Bryan Berard of the New York Islanders (he was originally drafted first-overall by Ottawa).

Like many outstanding youths, Iginla faced a rather severe sophomore slump. The winger posted only 13-19-32 marks in 70 games played, but he hopped right back on his horse for Season 3 to reemerge as a 50-point player and start a run of scoring at least 50 points in 15 of 16 seasons (interrupted only by the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign) from 1998-2015, a run that extended beyond his time in Calgary.

Of course, implying that the Flames could only count on 50 points from Iginla is undoubtedly doing his reputation a major disservice. The 51 points he scored in the 1998-99 season was only the beginning of his meteoric rise. He notched 63 points at the turn of the millennium, followed by 71 in 2000-01.

Iggy’s sixth season (2001-02) saw him set his career-high in goals with 52-44-96 totals, and everyone in the league took notice. Not only did Iginla earn his first of three First All-Star Team honors, but he also brought home more than his fair share of hardware from the NHL Awards, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award).

Of course, all that hardware didn’t make up for one major hole in Iginla’s resume. Not only had he not yet won a playoff game, he hadn’t even made a playoff appearance since his NHL debut.

That changed in a massive way in 2004, Iginla’s first season as the Flames’ 18th captain in franchise history. With a 41-32-73 season that earned Iginla his first King Clancy Award and second Richard Trophy, he led the Flames to a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference and their first playoff appearance in eight seasons.

The success didn’t end there though: the Flames defeated all three of the West’s division champions, including the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings in the conference semifinals, to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the East’s top seed.

As for Iginla, he hadn’t yet scored all the goals for his campaign, as he added 13 goals and 22 points in his 26 playoff games – including outstanding 5-3-8 totals in the quarterfinals against Vancouver. His 13 markers were the most by any player in the 2004 playoffs, but his side fell to the Bolts in seven games.

Iginla’s Flames would qualify for the next four playoffs after their Stanley Cup Final appearance (skipping, of course, the 2004-05 lockout-cancelled season), but each time they failed to advance beyond the First Round. During that run, the captain earned his last two nominations to the NHL’s First All-Star team, doing it consecutively in 2008 and 2009 with respective 50-48-98 and 35-54-89 seasons.

Iginla’s Flames career would end on March 28, 2013 when he was traded as a rental to Pittsburgh for LW Kenny Agostino, RW Ben Hanowski and a 2013 first-round pick that would eventually become LW Morgan Klimchuk. He would go on to play for the Bruins, Avs and Kings before being forced to hang up his skates after the 2016-17 season.

With 525-570-1095 totals in 1219 career games played for Calgary, Iginla holds franchise records for appearances, goals, points, power play goals (161) and game-winning goals (83). In terms of league records, Iginla is one of only seven players to score 30 or more goals in 11-straight seasons (all of which were with Calgary, and a streak that could have been longer if not for the 2012-13 lockout), one of 20 to reach the 600-goal plateau and one of 34 to manage at least 1300 points.

For these reasons, as well as every other detail and fact listed above, Iginla is bypassing Calgary’s “Forever a Flame” program (in which a player is honored, but his number not retired) and seeing his No. 12 rightfully join RW Lanny McDonald‘s No. 9 and G Mike Vernon‘s No. 30 as the team’s third (fourth if that Oiler’s No. 99 is included) sweater retired from circulation.

What a time to be a member of the C of Red, no? Not only is the organization honoring one of, if not the greatest to ever don the Flaming C (no disrespect intended to D Al MacInnis, McDonald and his mustache or Vernon), but this year’s team is also pretty darn exciting. They boast a 41-16-7 record that that leads San Jose for the Western Conference lead, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down with their seven-game win streak and eight-game point streak – both the best currently active in the NHL.

Dating back to Valentine’s Day, the Flames have played to a 7-0-1 record (they dropped a point to the Panthers in a shootout), largely as a result of their incredible defensive play. Entering play Friday (all stats will not take into account March 1’s eight games due to my work schedule), no team has allowed fewer shots than Calgary in the past 14 days. The Flames have allowed only 214 shots against in their past eight outings, which averages out to 26.75 shots against per game.

Leading that defensive charge has been none other than Calgary’s resident 3-H Club: D Noah Hanifin, who’s 10 takeaways since February 14 lead the team; D Travis Hamonic, who tops the squad by averaging two blocks per game during this run; and W Garnet Hathaway, the Flames’ leading body checker in the past 14 days by averaging three hits per game.

As would be expected, the most prominent place this solid defensive work is showing up is on the scoreboard, as the Flames have allowed a (t)fourth-best 1.75 goals against per game since February 14. As a result, 19-11-2 G Mike Smith has been having an easy go of it lately, made evident by his combined .93 save percentage and 1.98 GAA for his past six starts.

On the season, Smith boasts an .897 save percentage and 2.89 GAA, but his recent run of success means he’ll likely be in the crease this evening. Smith has a not-so-great 6-11-2 all-time record against the Wild, but he stopped all 31 shots faced the last time he saw them on December 6 to improve his career statistics against Minnesota to a .921 save percentage and 2.18 GAA.

Speaking of the Wild, they’re currently on a bit of a run themselves.

On the back of a four-game win streak (including wins against the Blues and Jets), Minnesota has amassed a 31-27-6 record that is currently (well, as of Friday morning) good enough for the Western Conference’s second wild card.

The main player in this recent success has undoubtedly been 25-21-5 G Devan Dubnyk, Smith’s former battery-mate with the Coyotes. Though he’s certainly received help from his defense (the Wild have allowed an average of 30.5 shots against per game in their last four outings, the 12th-best mark in the NHL in that time), he’s played lights out to allow only 1.5 goals against per tilt in his last four starts – the fourth-best mark in the league since February 21.

What makes this streak so impressive is that Dubnyk has been only a little better than average this season with his .912 save percentage and 2.59 GAA on the campaign. However, he’s elevated his game to his 2014-15 level in his last four outings to post a combined .951 save percentage and 1.49 GAA.

Impressive stuff.

Over his 10-year career, Dubnyk has squared off against Calgary 26 times and can boast a solid 11-8-4 record against the Flames. Combined, he’s managed a .923 save percentage and 2.7 GAA against Alberta’s southern franchise.

So if we’re in line for a goaltending duel, which will emerge with two points?

Personally, I like the Flames this evening. They have the advantage of playing at home with an excited C of Red behind them, as well as a better defense and more talented offense. Dubnyk might continue to stand on his head, but I think the Flames can find a way to sneak one more goal past him.

I’ll take Calgary 2-1.

DTFR Podcast #145- We Plan To Be Good In 2021-25

Evgeni Malkin did a bad thing, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game broke attendance records and more trades happened in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron reached 1,000 games and David Pastrnak is injured for the Boston Bruins leaving Nick in a glass case of emotion.

Plus, Eugene Melnyk plans to spend money, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a new alternate sweater, Randy Carlyle was fired and Scott Niedermayer will have his number retired (again) this week. Finally, Connor has a new segment.

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