Tag Archives: 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs

DTFR Podcast #157- Play Gloria, You Jerks

Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*If necessary

Bruins shutout Blue Jackets, 3-0, advance to 2019 Eastern Conference Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Eastern Conference Final after a, 3-0, shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Game 6 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.

Boston will host the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Tuukka Rask (8-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason) made 39 saves on 39 shots against to record his 6th career postseason shutout and tie Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd-most Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts in Bruins franchise history.

Gerry Cheevers leads the club with eight postseason shutouts in his career with the B’s.

Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-4, 2.41 GAA, .925 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept his lineup the same from Game 5 to Game 6, while John Moore (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) sat out due to injury.

Once again, Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Early in the opening frame of the game, Pierre-Luc Dubois went hard into Rask and was assessed with a goaltender interference minor penalty. Boston went on the power play for the first time of the night at 6:46 of the first period.

Seconds after Columbus killed off Dubois’ minor, the Bruins thought they had a goal when Sean Kuraly appeared to pocket the puck in the open twine.

However, Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella used his coach’s challenge to send the call on the ice to a review, in which it was determined that Joakim Nordstrom was not pushed into Bobrovsky by a Columbus defender and instead had collided with the Columbus goaltender by his own merit.

As a result, the call on the ice was overturned. No goal.

The game remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 12-10.

Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (60-40). Meanwhile, Columbus led in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (24-8). Both teams had one takeaway each and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

David Pastrnak tripped up Cam Atkinson and was sent to the penalty box at 2:42 of the second period as the Blue Jackets went on the skater advantage for the first time Monday night.

Columbus did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Midway through the period, Brad Marchand slashed the stick of Seth Jones and was sent to the box with a slashing minor at 9:22 of the second period.

The Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on their second power play of the game and the Bruins took advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams play.

Jake DeBrusk rang the crossbar and David Krejci (4) blasted the rebound under Bobrovsky’s blocker to give the B’s the lead, 1-0, at 12:13.

DeBrusk (3) and Connor Clifton (2) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal.

In the final minute of the period, Charlie McAvoy charged Josh Anderson along the boards and led with his shoulder directly into the head of the Columbus forward.

McAvoy received a two-minute minor for an illegal hit to the head at 19:40, leaving fans inside the arena, at bars and on their couches at home confused as to why it was not a five-minute major infraction.

Regardless, McAvoy should expect to receive a phone call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, at the very least. Warnings can still be a thing, even if a player can or cannot be suspended.

Anderson did return from the second intermission for the third period.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailed, 27-17, in shots on goal after the Blue Jackets had a, 17-5, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-7) and hits (36-17), while the Bruins led in giveaways (6-5) and face-off win% (53-48) after two periods.

Both teams had four takeaways aside. The Blue Jackets were 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.

Though they had a few shots on net while McAvoy was in the box with time remaining on his penalty to start the third period, Columbus did not score on the power play.

Nordstrom slashed Dubois at 4:48 of the third period and sent the Blue Jackets back on the power play early in the final frame of regulation.

Once again, the Blue Jackets failed to hit the back of the twine on the skater advantage.

A little over a couple of minutes after killing Nordstrom’s penalty, Boston’s bottom-six forwards went to work and hooked up Marcus Johansson (2) with a quick break-in and shot that popped off Bobrovsky and carried itself over the goal line with just enough momentum on the puck.

Johaonsson’s goal was assited by Charlie Coyle (3) and Danton Heinen (4) as the Bruins took a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:58 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Krejci worked a pass to Torey Krug, whereby Krug turned and flung the puck towards David Backes (1) for the redirection past the Columbus goaltender and the, 3-0, lead.

Krug (7) and Krejci (6) were tabbed with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 10:39.

As a result of his two-point effort in Game 6, Krejci is now three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with Boston). He’s seeking to become the 5th Bruin to reach 100 postseason points with the franchise.

With no other choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker, Tortorella exercised his right with 3:30 remaining in regulation, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t maintain enough offensive zone pressure to muster a comeback.

Nor could the Bruins tally an empty net goal, but by the final horn none of that mattered.

Boston had defeated Columbus, 3-0, in Game 6 and won the series 4-2.

The B’s finished Monday night leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the Blue Jackets gave their home crowd a solid performance– despite the loss– leading in shots on goal (39-29), giveaways (10-7), hits (43-19) and face-off win% (51-49).

You can’t say Columbus didn’t try.

Neither team scored a goal on the skater advantage in Game 6 as the Blue Jackets went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins went 0/1.

The Bruins improved to 8-0 when leading after two periods this postseason as Rask picked up his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout since 2014.

For the first time since they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, Boston will host the Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

Carolina last appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 and lost in four games to the Penguins.

But that same Hurricanes team also defeated the Bruins in their last series matchup in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Scott Walker had the series clinching goal in overtime against Thomas to lift the Canes over the B’s, 3-2, at the then branded TD Banknorth Garden in Game 7 of that series.

Boston holds a 3-1 series record all-time against the Hurricanes including two postseason matchups with the Hartford Whalers before they relocated to North Carolina in 1997.


DTFR Podcast #155- The One Where They’re Divided

Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

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

Or maybe you won’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

5/6- Game 6 BOS @ CBJ*

5/8- Game 7 CBJ @ BOS*

*If necessary

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

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

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

Welcome to the playoffs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#CanesIn6

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

5/5- Game 5 CAR @ NYI*

5/7- Game 6 NYI @ CAR*

5/8- Game 7 CAR @ NYI*

*If necessary

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering April

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Standings After Six Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metropolitan Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing should change anyway.

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

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

Western Conference

Central Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Hurricanes 2018-19 Season Projections

It’s October whateverth, I know, and the regular season is already underway, but transferring data into a new system and (in some cases) building new rosters entirely can take its time in the midst of catching every game on TV, living life, etc.

So without further ado let’s pretend the 5-3-1 (11 points)– 1st place in the Metropolitan Division– Carolina Hurricanes didn’t actually start the season yet and let’s turn back the clocks to before puck drop on the regular season.

Back then, Andrei Svechnikov had yet to play an NHL game as an 18-year-old rookie. The 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft’s forecasted stats couldn’t be calculated until he stepped foot on the ice. Though his 2-2–4 totals in his first nine games have him forecasted for 18 goals and 18 assists (36 points) over his first 82 games, we’ll pretend we don’t actually know what we know now.

Anyway, the fact of the matter remains the same–  prior to the start of any regular season, these forecasted stats are merely educated expectations. A player who performs better than their expected outcome exceeded expectations (makes sense). A player who doesn’t live up to the numbers was either injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak (or whatever).

Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division with a 36-35-11 record and 83 points on the season. Bill Peters was fired as head coach and former Hurricanes superstar Rod Brind’Amour was hired behind the bench. Don Waddell took over as General Manager in the offseason, going from interim to full-time as owner Tom Dundon embraced a new direction to go along with his new reign.

The annual doldrums in Raleigh, North Carolina might be over sooner rather than later with a stockpile of youth in Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Svechnikov and others, in addition to the quietly shutdown defensive pairings that include Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and newcomers Dougie Hamilton, as well as Calvin de Haan.

Carolina holds the longest playoff drought in the league currently, dating back to their 2009 Eastern Conference Finals appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins– just three years removed from their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The Hurricanes haven’t been part of any postseason activity in the 2010s.

Not that this season can necessarily change that, but the end of the drought is soon and the oasis of playoff hockey draws near.

It’s at this point in every forecast where I’d like to remind everyone my degree is in communication– not math– therefore all mistakes are strictly Microsoft Excels fault and for sure not an error of my own. Well, that, and there’s sometimes a little gut-feeling mixed in for players who’ve only played in less than ten games and therefore are projected to score, like, 100 goals or something.

My area of expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers.

Forecasted stats are to be looked at as an utopian perspective– as though everything were to fall into line and nothing bad could ever happen. Some players will pan out and others will fall flat. These are only suggested (expected) outcomes for a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.

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Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

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The good news for Carolina heading into 2018-19 is the realistic expectations are low. There’s only three players that are expected to crack the 50-point plateau, but that doesn’t mean any meteoric rise can’t creep up on any member of the Hurricanes and propel this roster into the postseason for the first time in– by the time April rolls around– a decade.

Brind’Amour is behind the bench now and having no prior NHL experience as a head coach, there’s nothing to point to and say “they’re destined to fail”. The Canes might come out of this with one of the best rookie coaches this season if they make the playofs and given all the expectations of the other rookie coaches around the league.

Washington’s Todd Reirden is behind the defending-Cup champions (so there’s high expectations with room only to fail), David Quinn is coaching a rebuilding New York Rangers bunch (so anything goes), Jim Montgomery is in charge of the borderline Dallas Stars (things could go either way) and Brind’Amour, well, he can only go up what with the roster he was given.

As always, we’ll get into goalies and rookies after the first quarter of the season passes, however, he’s a quick look at the expected top-points scorers for the Hurricanes this season.

Valentin Zykov has shown potential before and if Brind’Amour can finally be the one to light a fire under his playing style, perhaps Zykov just might amass 24-35–59 totals and be like William Karlsson was for the Vegas Golden Knights last season– except this time around, Zykov isn’t a new face in town for a new team.

Aho (27-31–58 expected totals) should easily reach, if not exceed, expectations for Carolina as he enters the world of first line minutes in the post-Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes era.

We’ll neglect the holes in the Skinner trade where Waddell should’ve gotten more, but at least Aho is a positive in the “next man up” category of “players who should live up to being rushed into the spotlight, since there’s nobody else to turn to and have already been part of the organization prior to a rather one-sided trade”.

“Mr. Game 7” himself (Justin Williams) is bound for one last “breakout” year with 22-33–55 expected totals on a rejuvenated Hurricanes roster.

Meanwhile, Micheal Ferland, Warren Foegele and Jordan Staal make themselves as prime candidates for dark horse work horses in Carolina.

On defense, Dougie Hamilton (44 expected points) supersedes Justin Faulk (39 expected points) as Carolina’s top blue liner after being acquired in the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm trade for Hamilton, Ferland and Adam Fox. In addition, Slavin and Pesce continue to fill-out one of the best kept secrets in NHL defense as pieces of the most underrated top-six blue liners with de Haan now part of the fold.

In goal, well, Brind’Amour has a lot of decisions to make on an almost nightly basis. Neither Scott Darling nor Petr Mrazek look to have goals against averages or save percentages in the starting goaltender range.

In fact, both are in the sub-par backup goaltender range– closer to 3.00 than 2.00– so as long as the Hurricane’s defense limits shots against and lessens the workload, then perhaps the season’s collapse won’t be because of bad goaltending.

Time will tell.

Until then, feel free to look around at how the Golden Knights and Boston Bruins should do this season.

Fleury stands on his head, but not in Cirque, for 4-2 Vegas win

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The house always wins in Vegas and that was once again apparent as the Vegas Golden Knights took down the Winnipeg Jets, 4-2, on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights lead the 2018 Western Conference Final, 2-1, thanks to the efforts of Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal and their superstar since the 2017 Expansion Draft, Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3.

For the first time in about nine weeks, the Jets have lost back-to-back games (dating back to a string of three losses in mid-March during the regular season).

Fleury made 33 saves on 35 shots against for a .943 save percentage in the win, while Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 shots out of 29 shots faced for an .897 SV% in 58:58 time on ice in the loss.

Quick goals were a theme Wednesday night as Jonathan Marchessault (7) kicked things off with a beautiful backhand goal, beating Hellebuyck with just a tap-in after the Jets netminder overcommitted 35 seconds into the action.

Brayden McNabb (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Golden Knights led, 1-0.

After taking a wild elbow to the face from a Winnipeg defender, James Neal left the ice for a short period of time in the first period. Neal would return by the end of the opening frame and proved to be a key component in Game 3 in the second period.

Erik Haula served a minor penalty for tripping about midway through the first period and the Jets did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Vegas was unable to convert on two man advantage opportunities of their own late in the third (Josh Morrissey for holding at 14:50 and Mathieu Perreault for tripping at 19:35 of the first period, respectively).

After one period of play, the Golden Knights led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and 10-3 in shots on goal. Vegas also led in takeaways (6-0), giveaways (5-1) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while Winnipeg led in blocked shots (8-5) and hits (18-9). Both teams had yet to convert on the power play as the Jets were 0/1 and the Golden Knights were 0/2 after the first period.

Winnipeg opened scoring in the second period with a nifty deflection by Mark Scheifele (13) on a shot from Blake Wheeler at the goal line to the left of Fleury. Scheifele’s deflection beat the Vegas netminder on the short side and tied the game, 1-1, at 5:28 of the second period as the Jets looked to soar.

Wheeler (16) had the only assist on the goal and the game did not remain tied for long.

Not long at all, as 12 seconds after the Jets tied it, the Golden Knights untied it with a goal of their own from none other than James Neal.

Neal (4) pocketed the puck in the twine after Hellebuyck butchered a chance to handle the puck and promptly turned it over to Vegas forward, Erik Haula. Haula quickly threw the piece of vulcanized rubber in front of the goal where Neal was awaiting and Vegas took the lead, 2-1, at 5:40 of the second period.

Haula (4) had the only assist on the goal.

Less than three minutes later the Golden Knights were at it again with the same basic principle— get the puck down low, toss it to the guy in front of the net in the low slot, one-time it/deflect it and score.

So it came as no surprise when Neal collected his own rebound, then wrapped around the goal only to toss the puck to Alex Tuch (5) in the low slot for the redirection into the twine. Vegas had a two-goal lead just like that at 8:13 of the second period. Neal (5) and Nate Schmidt (4) were credited with the primary and secondary assists and the Golden Knights led, 3-1.

About a minute later, Scheifele slashed McNabb and the home team went on the power play. Unfortunately for T-Mobile Arena goers, the Golden Knights did not score a goal on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Vegas defender, Luca Sbisa, was guilty of holding Perreault and was sent to the sin bin. Winnipeg did not convert on the ensuing player advantage at 14:39 of the second period.

In the closing minutes of the second frame, a scrum resulted after the whistle had been blown on a routine cover up by Fleury. Every skater on the ice grabbed a hold of an opponent and exchanged some pleasantries while Fleury tickled Wheeler’s ear and Jets defender, Dustin Byfuglien latched on to two Golden Knights at once.

Scheifele, Ryan Carpenter, Wheeler and Cody Eakin were all sent to the box for their respective teams with matching roughing minors at 17:26 of the second period so there was no change in strength on the ice.

Through 40 minutes of play, Vegas held on to a 3-1 lead over Winnipeg. The Golden Knights still had advantages in shots on goal (22-19), blocked shots (14-13), takeaways (11-2), giveaways (8-4) and faceoff win percentage (51-49), while the Jets led in hits (38-24) after two periods. Neither team had scored on the power play, as Winnipeg was 0/2 and Vegas was 0/3 entering the second intermission.

Winnipeg came out strong in the third period.

So strong, in fact, that the Jets scored in the first 18 seconds of the period as Scheifele (14) scored his second goal of the night emulating Tuch on his goal for the Golden Knights.

The Jets won the opening faceoff of the third period and worked the puck down low in the attacking zone, where Kyle Connor then found Scheifele sneaking behind Vegas’s defense in open ice for a one-timer past Fleury as the Golden Knights goalie had to stretch across the crease.

Connor (7) and Wheeler (17) had the assists on the goal and Winnipeg pulled to within one, as the Golden Knights two-goal lead diminished to a 3-2 lead with plenty of time left in regulation.

Scheifele’s second goal of the night set an NHL record for most road goals in a postseason (11), previously held by Sidney Crosby (with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009) and Joe Mullen (with the Calgary Flames in 1989), who each had 10 road goals in their respective postseason runs.

Coincidentally, both the 2009 Penguins and 1989 Flames won the Stanley Cup.

The Jets dominated the pace of play throughout the third period, as Fleury was auditioning for a role in Cirque du Soleil by seemingly standing on his head making save-after-save for Vegas.

Fleury’s play culminated in a split across the crease followed by a desperation dive to deny Winnipeg of two quality scoring chances that for sure would have tied the game otherwise if it were not for Fleury’s superhuman ability.

After Hellebuyck covered the puck for a faceoff, Paul Maurice called a timeout to gather his team, draw up a plan and rally a way to forcing the issue.

Instead, Maruice’s Jets were no match for Gerard Gallant’s Golden Knights as the Winnipeg netminder was finally able to vacate the net with about a minute left in regulation.

Despite two blown chances at the empty net with about 25 seconds left in Game 3, Marchessault (8) was the one to get the job done on a wraparound with 2.7 seconds left in the game.

The Golden Knights forward beat out the icing call, raced to the puck and put it away for a 4-2 victory in Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead as McNabb (3) and Fleury (1) picked up the assists. Yes, Fleury fittingly got an assist on the empty net goal.

At the final horn, Adam Lowry mixed things up a bit with Ryan Reaves and the rest of the skaters on the ice as both teams found partners in case they needed to go square dancing, but the linesmen got things under control after a shoving match and Vegas celebrated their victory.

Entering Wednesday, Winnipeg had not lost back-to-back games this postseason, nor had they trailed in a series. Until now.

After 60 minutes of play, the Golden Knights walked away with the 4-2 win and an advantage in faceoff win percentage (52-48). The Jets finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-30) and hits (48-41). There were no penalties called in the third period.

Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night at T-Mobile Arena with puck drop a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune in once again to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN1 or TVAS.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #87- 87s Galore (Crosby’s Favorite Episode)

The Original Trio discuss the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and more in separately recorded sessions of the podcast. Also, we’re available for hire. In memoriam: Part of Joe Thornton’s beard that Nazem Kadri ripped off (2015-2018).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

March 30 – Day 162 – The Oilers have surpassed the Jones

Thursdays are fantastic, aren’t they? There’s only one day of work left, the weekend is on its way and the cherry on top is that there’s tons of hockey to watch in the meantime.

Nine games will be played in all this evening, starting with two (the New York Islanders at Philadelphia [SN1] and Columbus at Carolina) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by three more (Dallas at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Detroit at Tampa Bay). Another trio of contests (Toronto at Nashville, Ottawa at Minnesota [RDS2] and Anaheim at Winnipeg) drop the puck at the top of the hour and San Jose at Edmonton – tonight’s nightcap – gets the green light at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Detroit at Tampa Bay: In light of the Red Wings not qualifying for the postseason for the first time in 26 years, I present to you their final rematch of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

  • San Jose at Edmonton: Currently tied at 93 points, this is the first of two meetings in eight days between the Oilers and Sharks, who could meet up in the Western Quarterfinals.

Sorry Wings, but you got some love already this week. It’s off to Alberta with us for the biggest game of the night.

 

Nothing makes for more exciting hockey this late in the season than two divisional rivals tied on points and games-played scrapping for home ice in the playoffs. The cherry on top? They very well could be fighting to host tonight’s opponent in that first round.

Thanks to the NHL’s rule book, the tie is broken by regulation+ overtime wins. Tonight’s hosts – the Oilers – have 38 to their credit. The Sharks have 41, so they’d be hosting that playoff series if it started right now.

Of course, that may or may not be the case following tonight’s events. No matter how this contest ends, we will have a clear cut third-place team in the Pacific Division with five games remaining to be played by Anaheim, Edmonton and San Jose.

Things have been better for the 43-26-7 Sharks than they are right now. Although they beat the Rangers 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night, those are the only two points they have to show for their past seven games.

Nothing has gone right for the Sharks in the last two weeks. San Jose has been outscored 27-12 since March 16, showing that the struggles are equal parts offensive and in goal.

You’ll notice I didn’t say defensive. I slightly over-exaggerated before, as the defense has actually remained consistent with their entire campaign. They’ve allowed only 201 shots (28.7 per game) to reach 33-20-6 Martin Jones‘ crease, which is pretty close to their 27.6 season average.

Instead, the issue has been Jones and backup 10-6-1 Aaron Dell. Peter DeBoer has been almost religious in alternating his goaltenders in the month of March, as Jones has made only two pairs of consecutive starts.

What has resting his backstops done for him? Dell has an .881 save percentage and 3.4 GAA. Ouch. Unfortunately, that’s good in comparison to Jones’ .862 and 4.04 GAA.

Jones’ recent struggles continue on the penalty kill, where he’s managed only an .8 save percentage against opponents’ power plays. That is the ninth-worst mark in the league among the 40 netminders with at least three appearances and has resulted in a 64.7% kill rate, the second-worst in the NHL since mid-March.

As of publication of this article, no word has been released from the Sharks whether Dell or Jones will be in net. Since Jones started his second-straight game two nights ago, I’m going to guess Dell will get the nod tonight. I do not know whether that’s the right or wrong choice, but I do know Dell has been the 11th-worst goaltender in the league since March 16, meaning Jones has been… worse.

But the issues aren’t simply limited to DeBoer’s goaltending situation. The Sharks‘ offense has been abysmal too, averaging only 1.7 goals per game. The lone standout over this stretch has been Patrick Marleau, who has buried three of San Jose‘s dozen goals in the past two weeks, not to mention tacking on two more assists.

My biggest concern is that Joel Ward, the man who has notched the sixth-most points (27) and goals (t19) all season for San Jose, did not register a point during the recently-ended skid. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but I think it is no accident that his most recent assist was on March 14 in a victory against the Sabres. The sooner he returns to form, the sooner the Sharks become the team we’ve come to expect.

All that being said about the offense as whole, the power play has actually been solid of late. Not only is a 23.5% conversion rate 10th-best in the league since mid-March, but it also well exceeds the Sharks‘ 17.2% season rate.

It’s been all about the first power play unit – specifically Brent Burns, Marleau and Joe Thornton. Each have a goal and two assists on the man-advantage since the 16th to lead the squad.

While the third month of the year has not gone so well for the Sharks, it’s been splendid for the 42-25-9 Oilers. They’ve taken advantage of playing only two of their 12 games away from Rogers Place to earn an 8-3-1 record in March.

Just like you’d expect from a team led by Connor McDavid, offense has been the driver to Edmonton‘s success. The Oilers have scored 42 goals since March 4, the second-highest total in the league in that time.

In addition to the stellar play of McDavid, line mate Leon Draisaitl has also been exceptional as both have 17 points to their credit this month, which ties for fourth-most in the league in that time. Don’t get confused though; the captain is still in charge of this attack, as he’s scored six of his 27 goals this month, two more than his partner in crime.

As you might expect, Draisaitl and McDavid continue their chemistry on the power play. Since March 4, the Oil has successfully converted 27% of its opponents’ penalties into goals, the fourth-best mark in the league.

The man-advantage seems to be Draisaitl’s forte, as he’s set up five power play goals in March to lead the team in extra-man points. Of course, someone has to score those assists…

That’s where Mark Letestu and Milan Lucic come into play. They are the other two forwards on Draisaitl and McDavid’s power play unit, and they’ve both buried two goals apiece in that situation this month to lead the team.

The Oilers have been just as good of late on the penalty kill with their 88.5% kill rate, so the Sharks will have their work cut out for them this evening. My advice: avoid Andrej Sekera at all costs. He’s blocked nine shots on the penalty kill to not only lead the team, but tie for fourth-most in the league in that time-span.

Thanks to forcing overtime the first time these clubs met, Edmonton trails the Sharks by only a point in the season series between them. The last time they met was January 26, the Oilers‘ lone win against San Jose this season. They traveled to The Tank and emerged with a 4-1 victory thanks to Sekera’s two goals and Cam Talbot‘s 32 saves.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s Draisaitl (71 points [10th-most in the NHL]), McDavid (89 points on 62 assists [both lead the league]) and Talbot (seven shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 38 wins [third-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the NHL] on 45 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Edmonton a -126 favorite tonight, a line I think the Oilers are more than capable of upholding. Unless the Sharks get their goaltending under control, the hot Oilers should get their fans screaming at full-throat and even more excited for their return to the playoffs.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Wickenheiser (1961-1999) – Montréal selected this center with the top pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, but he actually spent more of his 10-year career in St. Louis. Hockey fans truly in the know remember Wickenheiser for completing the Blues‘ “Monday Night Miracle” with an overtime goal against Calgary to force a Game 7 in the 1986 Campbell Conference Finals.
  • Ty Conklin (1976-) – Some guys just seem to be born unlucky. This goaltender, who has nine years of NHL experience with six different teams (mostly with Edmonton), was a member of the 2008 Penguins team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit. So he could get his hands on the hardware, he joined the Red Wings the following season, who ended up losing the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic (1987-) – This defenseman was selected 35th-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, and that’s where he’s played ever since. Even though this is his 11th season, tonight’s game is only the fifth he’s ever played on his birthday in the NHL. His last was in 2013, and it was a special one: he notched his first birthday goal.

With four goals in the opening period, the Blackhawks easily beat Pittsburgh 5-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though the scoring started quickly thanks to First Star of the Game Artemi Panarin‘s (Third Star Patrick Kane and Second Star Tanner Kero) wrist shot 3:23 after the opening puck drop, the Hawks truly took command of the game in the final six minutes of the first frame. With what proved to be the game-winning goal, Richard Panik (Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews) buried a snap shot with 5:21 remaining, followed by Marcus Kruger (Kane and Panarin) and Marian Hossa (Ryan Hartman) in the closing minute of the period to set Chicago‘s advantage at four goals.

Kero tacked on an additional goal 3:32 into the third period, followed 2:14 later by an shutout-snapping backhanded shot from Bryan Rust (Ian Cole and Matt Cullen).

Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.875%), leaving the loss to Marc-Andre Fleury, who saved 31-of-36 (86.1%).

A win by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series was an important one yesterday, as it set the visitors’ record at 83-58-23 and gave them a two-point advantage on the hosts.