Tag Archives: 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

DTFR Podcast #165- Where’s My Cottage Invite?

Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.

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O’Reilly nets two, Blues even series in Game 4

Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and helped even up the series as the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, on home ice Monday night

It was the first home win in the Stanley Cup Final for the Blues at Enterprise Center and in their entire franchise history.

Jordan Binnington (14-9 record, 2.52 goals gainst average, .909 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) turned aside 21 out of 23 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-7, 1.96 GAA, .938 SV% in 21 GP this postseason) made 34 saves on 37 shots against in the loss.

Binnington now has seven wins following a loss this postseason and trails only Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Mikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) who all had eight wins following a loss in their respective playoff years.

In the 25 instances in which the team that tied the series 2-2 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final format– prior to Monday night– that team has gone on to win the Cup 10 times.

Three out of the last five instances have resulted in Cup championships, including 2015, 2013 and 2011 (Chicago, Chicago and Boston, respectively).

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the Bruins, while Chris Wagner (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) remained out of the action for Game 4.

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

Blues head coach, Craig Berube, had Oskar Sundqvist and Vince Dunn back in his lineup for Game 4. Sundqvist returned from his one-game suspension and Dunn made his first appearance in this series after being injured in the Western Conference Final and missing the last six games.

Robert Thomas remained out for St. Louis, while Zach Sanford suited up in his place for the second straight game.

O’Reilly (4) scored the game’s first goal in the opening minute of the action on Monday after jumping on a loose puck and wrapping around the goalframe.

Boston couldn’t clear the zone and Sanford made just enough of a redirection to yield a rebound for O’Reilly to pounce on and bury in the twine as Rask was forced to go end-to-end in the crease.

Sanford (2) and Dunn (6) tallied the assists on O’Reilly’s goal 43 seconds into the first period and St. Louis led, 1-0.

With the secondary assist, Dunn collected his first point of the series in his first game back from injury.

Midway through the opening frame, Danton Heinen absorbed a hit while bringing the puck into the attacking zone, whereby Zdeno Chara scooped up the rubber biscuit and sent it to the net– generating a rebound.

Charlie Coyle (9) collected the puck and pocketed it in the twine to tie the game, 1-1, at 13:14 of the first period– his third goal in as many games, joining Devante Smith-Pelly (2018) and Jake Guentzel (2017) as the only players to score a goal in three straight games in the Stanley Cup Final in the last three years.

Chara (4) had the only assist on the goal as the B’s got on the scoreboard.

Almost a couple minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko (11) banked in a rebound past Rask after Alex Pietrangelo kept the puck in the zone while entering fresh off the bench in the midst of a line change.

Pietrangelo (12) and Brayden Schenn (7) notched the assists on Tarasenko’s goal and the Blues led, 2-1, at 15:30 of the first period.

After one period of play, St. Louis was leading on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 13-9. The Blues also held the advantage in giveaways (6-4) and hits (24-16), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (5-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48).

Both teams had four takeaways aside and neither team had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

With 16:53 left in the second period, Chara took a shot that ricocheted off his own stick and into his mouth, causing the 6-foot-9 defender to bleed and leave the ice for repair.

Early in the middle frame, Coyle caught Carl Gunnarsson with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 5:47 of the second period.

St. Louis did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Gunnarsson, in turn, flipped the puck over the glass without any deflections, yielding an automatic minor penalty for delay of game at 8:31 of the second period.

Though the Blue Notes almost scored a shorthanded goal, nothing happened on the special teams opportunity– Boston’s first power play of the game– and both teams resumed 5-on-5 action two minutes later.

Shortly thereafter, Connor Clifton caught Tarasenko with an illegal hit to the head as Tarasenko attempted to back-check the Bruins defender.

Clifton was sent to the penalty box with a minor penalty at 13:53 after finishing a shift that spanned 3:06.

While shorthanded, Brad Marchand sent Patrice Bergeron up-ice in the attacking zone whereby the longest-tenured alternate captain in the NHL fired a shot and generated a rebound off Binnington.

Brandon Carlo (1) buried the rebound for his first career Stanley Cup Final goal and tied the game, 2-2, with Boston’s first shorthanded goal of the series.

Bergeron (8) and Marchand (13) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Carlo’s goal at 14:19 of the second period.

Carlo’s goal was also the first shothanded goal by a defender since Scott Niedermayer scored a shorthanded goal for the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.

No. 25 in black-and-gold scored the 19th shorthanded goal by a defender since the league began tracking the stat in the 1933-34 season.

The Blues did not capitalize on the power play as both teams went to the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard with St. Louis still ahead in shots on goal, 25-19 (including a, 12-10, advantage in the second period alone for the Notes).

Through 40 minutes of play, the Blues maintained an advantage in takeaways (9-8), giveaways (9-6), hits (32-29) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (12-3).

St. Louis was 0/2 on the skater advantage– while allowing a shorthanded goal– and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play.

Chara returned to the bench for the third period– wearing a fishbowl– but did not take a shift. He is one of the few remaining players that were grandfathered in after the mandatory visor rule was put in place prior to the 2013-14 season.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Heinen tripped up Jaden Schwartz and was sent to the box at 2:08 of the third period.

Once again, St. Louis was not able to capitalize on the power play, but at least the Blues didn’t allow a shorthanded goal against this time around.

Jay Bouwmeester caught Coyle with a high-stick at 6:42 of the third period and was charged with a minor penalty.

Boston did not score on the resulting power play.

Midway through the third period, Pietrangelo sent a shot off of Rask’s blocker and generated enough of a rebound for O’Reilly (5) to bury for his second goal of the game.

Pietrangelo (13) and Gunnarsson (2) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal at 10:38 of the third period and the Blues took the, 3-2, lead thanks to O’Reilly’s eventual game-winning goal.

Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker with about 1:43 left in the action and Schenn (4) subsequently forced a turnover, then buried the puck in the empty net to seal the deal on St. Louis’ Game 4 efforts.

Torey Krug and Bouwmeester got into a fracas that resulted in a slashing minor for Krug and an elbowing infraction for Bouwmeester at 19:34, yielding 4-on-4 action to finish the night.

At the final horn, the Blues had won their first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in franchise history with a, 4-2, victory over the Bruins and evened the series 2-2.

St. Louis finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-23), giveaways (9-6), hits (44-41) and face-off win% (52-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (15-7).

The Blues went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage on Monday.

The team that has scored first in each game has now won the last two games in the series as Boston took down St. Louis, 7-2, in Game 3 and St. Louis beat Boston, 4-2, in Game 4.

Binnington improved to 13-2 after a loss in his career (regular season and playoffs), while the Blues improved to 7-2 when leading after one period this postseason.

Of note, as a result of Carlo’s goal, the Bruins have now had 20 different goal scores in this postseason– the most in franchise history, surpassing the previous record (19) established in 1988.

The series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 at TD Garden on Thursday. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBC. Fans in Canada can tune in on CBC, SN or TVAS for the action.

Whoever wins on Thursday will have a chance to win the Cup back in St. Louis in Game 6.

Bruins downgrade Hurricanes, advance to Stanley Cup Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DTFR Podcast #153- Solo Cup Picks

Nick reacts to coaching changes, the draft lottery and the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs already in progress while providing an update.

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Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.

No, not that forward thinking.

Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).

Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.

At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.

In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem. 

The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.

The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.

Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.

Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.

Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.

In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.

When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.

The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.

It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).

Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.

Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).

Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).

And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.

Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.

Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.

Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.

Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.

In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.

When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.

In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.

Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes  (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.

Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.

Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.

For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?

Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.

This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.

His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.

He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.

Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.

Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.

If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.

Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.

Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that,  he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.

The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.

Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.

Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.

Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).

Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.

He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.

Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.

(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)

Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.

Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.

Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?

Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.

It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

No quit, Avalanche beat Predators, 2-1, force Game 6

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Andrew Hammond, Gabriel Landeskog, Sven Andrighetto and the rest of the Colorado Avalanche stole Game 5 from the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night. Hammond was making just his first Stanley Cup Playoff start since he did so in 2015 with the Ottawa Senators.

Oh, and by the way, Hammond was part of November’s Matt Duchene trade. Advantage, Joe Sakic.

Hammond made 44 saves on 45 shots against for a .978 save percentage in his first NHL win in two years, while Nashville’s netminder, Pekka Rinne, made 25 saves on 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the loss.

Early in the first period, Nashville’s Kevin Fiala tripped up Colorado’s Alex Kerfoot and gave the Avalanche the first power play of the night. Colorado was not able to convert on the ensuing man advantage.

Both teams swapped chances back and forth, but neither side was able to put a goal on the scoreboard as the first period ended, 0-0.

J.T. Compher picked up a minor penalty for holding Craig Smith at 20:00 of the first period after the Avalanche failed to touch the puck between when the incident occurred and when time expired. The Predators would begin the second period on their first power play of the night.

After one period, Nashville led in shots on goal (11-8), blocked shots (10-3), takeaways (4-0) and faceoff win percentage (71-29). Meanwhile, Colorado was 0/1 on the man advantage. Both teams had nine hits aside and four giveaways entering the first intermission.

Much like the first period, there wasn’t a lot happening in the second period.

Nashville started the second frame of the game on the power play, but didn’t convert on the man advantage. Both teams then continued to swap chances until things got uneasy towards the end of the period.

With about three minutes remaining in the second period, Hammond went to play the puck— except he mishandled it. The Predators were not able to capitalize on the Avalanche netminder’s error, but they did sustain the pressure in the offensive zone and got a couple of tremendous rebound opportunities.

The Preds even had a clear sightline to the puck while Hammond was down, but nobody could get it to hit the twine.

Finally, at 17:47 of the second period, Nikita Zadorov slashed Predators captain, Roman Josi, and the crowd at Bridgestone Arena went from already elevated (based on the last few minutes of frantic play) to berserk.

Colorado’s penalty kill, however, was too much to handle for Nashville’s special teams and the score remained, 0-0.

After 40 minutes of play, Nashville led in shots on goal (25-17), blocked shots (15-8), hits (14-13), takeaways (6-0) and faceoff win percentage (71-29). For the lack of a better word, the Predators were dominating in every possible way, except for on the scoreboard. Both teams had ten giveaways each and neither team had yet to convert on the power play (Colorado was 0/1 and Nashville was 0/2 through two periods).

Fiala was again guilty of a minor penalty early in the third period— this time for holding Colorado forward, Blake Comeau at 1:39.

The Avalanche bungled a line change in the midst of their ensuing power play and were penalized for too many men on the ice. Colin Wilson served the bench minor in the box for Jared Bednar’s Colorado crew.

There would be 20 seconds of 4-on-4 action until the Predators would then see an abbreviated power play. But Nashville’s special teams were to no avail as Hammond stood tall.

Just past the halfway mark of the third period, Mattias Ekholm sent a shot on Hammond that appeared to rebound right into the pathway of an oncoming Predators forward who looked like he kicked the puck into the open goal.

That Predators forward was Nick Bonino (1) who was crashing the net on what was not exactly a rebound, but rather a deflection to the open space to the side of the net— though not a good one— by Hammond.

Bonino’s goal was immediately waved off and reviewed.

Fans inside Bridgestone Arena began singing “Let It Be” by The Beatles in unison while the refs reviewed the play, which, in hindsight, could’ve been bad if the home fans had any influence on officiating. Maybe don’t sing “Let It Be” if you actually want the call on the ice to be the exact opposite (unless Preds fans were implying the refs to “let [the leg motion] be [called a goal on the ice]”).

Upon replay, everyone in attendance and watching from home, could see Bonino shifted his leg into a prime redirection motion and kept skating into the puck. Or at least, that might be a loose explanation for something that many fans assumed wouldn’t be reversed given the track record of NHL officiating and review this season.

But that didn’t happen.

The call on the ice was reversed and Bonino had scored his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the assists credited to Ekholm (5) and Austin Watson (3). Nashville was in command of a 1-0 lead at 10:18 of the third period.

Colorado didn’t let the party in Nashville last too long, though.

Nathan MacKinnon held onto the puck in the offensive zone for just long enough to get Rinne to overcommit and bump into his own defender, failing helplessly to the ice, while MacKinnon slid a loose puck over to Gabriel Landeskog.

Landeskog (4) pocketed the loosed puck on the doorstep of the crease into the gapping goal into front of him to tie the game, 1-1, at 15:49. The Avalanche bulldozed Nashville’s momentum.

MacKinnon (3) and Mikko Rantanen (4) had the primary and secondary assists on the goal and Colorado kept trucking.

Less than three minutes later— on a similar play— Sven Andrighetto (1) found a rebound and Rinne out of position to score on what was otherwise an empty net and give the Avalanche their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 18:32 of the third period.

Compher (3) and Tyson Barrie (4) had the assists on Andrighetto’s first goal of the series and suddenly the Predators were facing a loss on home ice in an elimination game.

Peter Laviolette pulled his goaltender with about a minute remaining in regulation after calling a timeout to instruct his Predators roster what to do as time ticked down.

It did not matter. Colorado held off elimination for at least one more night.

At the final horn, the Avalanche had won Game 5 by a score of 2-1 despite being outshot (45-27). Nashville led in blocked shots (18-14), giveaways (14-13) and faceoff win percentage (61-39), but never got as physical as they have in previous games in the series. In fact, Colorado led in hits (17-16) after 60 minutes.

The Avalanche finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while the Predators went 0/3 on the man advantage.

For the first time since Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators lost a postseason game at home. Not just to anyone, but to the Colorado Avalanche— last year’s worst team in the league that only amassed 48 points on an 82-game regular season.

But this year’s Avalanche team is different. They had a 47-point increase in standings between last season and this season (tied for 4th best in NHL history) and they’re looking to play spoiler.

The Predators take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 on the road Sunday night at Pepsi Center. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN. Meanwhile, fans interested in watching the game in Canada can do so on Sportsnet or TVAS.

Dating back to their days as the Québec Nordiques, the Colorado Avalanche are 0-3 lifetime in a series where they have trailed 3-1.

Rangers, Vigneault will bounce back

Shortly after their last game of the season on Saturday, the New York Rangers relieved Alain Vigneault of his head coaching duties. In his fifth year with the organization, the Rangers went 34-39-9 (77 points) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

It was Vigneault’s worst year in the Big Apple. It was a transition year for a team retooling on the fly– trading away Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and others for centerpieces in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov (among other assets).

Now it’s time for someone else to take the reins behind the bench of King Henrik’s team.

The clock is ticking in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist‘s quest for his first Stanley Cup. Vigneault was almost the man to do it having brought the Rangers all the way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in his first season with New York.

That was the closest Lundqvist has ever been– just three wins away– but the Los Angeles Kings had other plans, given it only took them five games to beat New York for the Los Angeles’s second Stanley Cup championship in three years.

It was the closest the Rangers had come to winning its first Cup since defeating the Vancouver Canucks in 1994.

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The 2014-15 season witnessed a franchise record 113 points in the regular season– good enough to notch the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best record that year. Vigneault’s team knocked out Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the First Round in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then New York got behind in the Second Round series with the Washington Capitals, 3-1. Chris Kreider tied Game 5, McDonagh scored the game winner in overtime and the Rangers rallied back in the series to force the first Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks.

For the first time in Stanley Cup Playoff history, the Rangers were to battle the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Despite a decisive 7-3 victory in Game 6 on the road at Amalie Arena, New York was shutout, 2-0, in Game 7 on home ice.

They wouldn’t get another chance to come that close to the Stanley Cup Final with Vigneault behind the bench.

The 2015-16 Rangers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points and battled Mike Sullivan‘s Penguins in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It only took five games for the Rangers to be eliminated in Pittsburgh’s tear through the playoffs to their first Cup since 2009.

In 2016-17, New York regrouped with a 102-point season, but was cursed by the NHL’s current playoff format.

The Rangers were relegated to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference since three teams finished ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division with at least 108 points or more.

New York had four more points in the regular season than the Ottawa Senators (98 points)– who finished second in the Atlantic Division– and seven more points than the Boston Bruins (95 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) and Toronto Maple Leafs (95 points, second wild card in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having three fewer regulation-plus-overtime wins than Boston).

Vigneault’s team got by Michel Therrien’s Montreal Canadiens in six games of the First Round in what was touted as a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Then they ran into the streaking Senators who had beaten the Bruins in their own six game series.

Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 series lead with home ice advantage– despite having the worse of the two teams’s regular season records, but the Rangers seemed unfazed having won Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden 4-1 and 4-1, respectively.

Kyle Turris ended Game 5 almost six-and-a-half minutes into overtime at Canadian Tire Centre and the Rangers found themselves in a 3-2 series hole heading home for Game 6.

Senators captain, Erik Karlsson, had a goal and an assist in Ottawa’s decisive 4-2 victory on road ice and New York hit the golf course after just two rounds of the 2017 postseason.

Time kept ticking. Lundqvist got older.

Management grew more frustrated with the lack of a direction.

Dead last in the Metropolitan Division after all 82 games this season and under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Vigneault’s dismissal comes as no surprise.

It’s what is expected of any organization that expects to finish first, but fails in a rather large fashion.

Even more so with the league getting younger, skaters getting faster and teams placing more of an emphasis on a constant attack, a constant barrage of offense.

Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Spooner, Namestnikov and crew have already showcased a new face of the game in “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, while Vigneault’s systems might have been the only thing slowing them down in the waning days of the season.

It was time to shake things up and head in that new face of the game’s direction.

For the first time since the 1967-68 season only one coach was fired in-season (thanks to Mother Nature having played a part in extending the season by a day due to Boston’s rescheduled matchup from January with the Florida Panthers).

Unfortunately for Vigneault, he was that coach.

New York will be just fine.

They’re stockpiled with prospects and have already integrated youth, skill and speed into their lineup.

Now general manager Jeff Gorton will look to patch the blue line and give Lundqvist a high-caliber backup goaltender to ease the workload of the grueling regular season schedule.

It might not be the quickest turnaround, but it shouldn’t turn out to become an annual groan-fest watching the Blueshirts next season.

For Vigneault, there will be other opportunities.

He led Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in the midst of President’s Trophy seasons. He led New York back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in a generation. He’ll be studying hard, but he’s still in demand.

Somewhere there’s a team looking for his veteran coaching presence– like Buffalo– or a team that just missed the cut this season, but is on the brinks of a breakout year that very well might end up with their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970– like St. Louis.

But alas, this is all merely speculation.

More coaches will be fired for their team’s shortcomings (of their own fault or otherwise) this offseason upon diligent review in front office’s league-wide.

Rangers fans may be glad and it should be a mutual feeling of respect and good luck. They had a good run that lasted a while, but ultimately came up empty handed. Times have changed, players moved on and the game evolved.

Somewhere, Vigneault is that missing piece a franchise is looking for and it won’t just be a team finally getting over that mountain, but a head coach too.

March 6 – Day 146 – Colorful adjectives

Nine games are on today’s schedule, so let’s jump right in!

Like most nights, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. with a quartet of games (Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/SN/TVAS], Montréal at New Jersey [RDS/TSN2], Winnipeg at the New York Rangers and Vegas at Columbus), followed half an hour later by the Governor’s Cup featuring Florida at Tampa Bay. A pair of tilts drop the puck at 8 p.m. (Dallas at Nashville and Carolina at Minnesota), with Colorado at Chicago waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. Finally, Washington at Anaheim (NBCSN) closes out the evening’s schedule at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.

Some of the games I circled before the start of the season include…

  • Detroit at Boston: Original Six matchup, anyone?
  • Vegas at Columbus: Remember that C William Karlsson guy the Blue Jackets left exposed for the expansion draft? Turns out he’s pretty good at hockey.
  • Florida at Tampa Bay: Given the Panthers’ recent surge, this season’s Governor’s Cup is turning out to be a big deal.

Of those three, the game in Ohio looks like it will be the most competitive. Off to Nationwide Arena!

 

 

 

 

 

Though selected by the Ducks in the second round of the 2011 Entry Draft, Karlsson played only 18 NHL games with Anaheim before it shipped him, RW Rene Bourque and a 2015 second round pick to Columbus (the Jackets used to select C Kevin Stenlund, if you’re wondering) at the 2015 trade deadline for D James Wisniewski and Detroit’s 2015 third round pick (the Ducks chose F Brent Gates, for those keeping score at home).

Though it seems hard to believe in light of this season, Wild Bill was far from the main attraction in this transaction. The Ducks were rolling as the Western Conference’s top seed, and they brought in the experienced 30-year-old Wisniewski to shore up their defensive end. Ultimately, Anaheim fell in the Western Finals in seven games to Chicago, even though it rolled through the first two rounds by suffering only one loss.

But this isn’t about those Ducks. It’s about Karlsson.

After only one offseason in the Columbus system, Karlsson earned a permanent spot on the NHL roster for the 2015-’16 season. He improved nominally on his 3-2-5 totals in 21 games during the 2014-’15 season, managing 9-11-20 marks in 81 games played in what was technically his rookie campaign. Of note, Karlsson also earned 10 votes for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy that season, finishing 32nd behind award-winner and former rival C Anze Kopitar.

We started to get glimpses of Karlsson’s new normal last season, as he improved his season marks to 6-19-25 in 81 regular season games played. Though far from exemplary, Karlsson was still showing growth and reason for optimism.

Then the postseason started, and Karlsson officially earned his “Wild Bill” nickname.

The Blue Jackets lasted only five games in last season’s playoffs against the Penguins, but boy was the Swede impressive. He posted dominant 2-1-3 totals (tying RW Cam Atkinson and F Boone Jenner for most goals and forcing a four-way tie for most points [W Brandon Saad]) in his five showings, while also tying W Matt Calvert for a team-leading +4 goal-differential.

This is the return General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen was hoping for when he traded Wisniewski!

Well… maybe not.

Not only was Karlsson left exposed to the Golden Knights for the expansion draft, but Kekalainen also traded a 2017 first round pick (Vegas flipped that pick to Winnipeg, who selected W Kristian Vesalainen) and a 2019 second round pick to General Manager George McPhee to ensure Karlsson was the Jacket selected to relocate to Sin City.

There’s no telling if McPhee and Head Coach Gerard Gallant always had their eye on Karlsson or if they considered him at Kekalainen’s request, but considering how everything has gone their way this season, I wouldn’t doubt it. I’m sure they saw Wild Bill’s coming out party in April and dreamed of playing him on their top line with much success.

Of course, even with his playoff performance, who could have expected this explosion? Karlsson has played in every game this season for the Golden Knights, posting 35-24-59 totals in 65 showings. His 35 goals are (t)fourth-most in the league, and he’s only five short of Richard Trophy-leader W Alex Ovechkin. Additionally, his +39 goal differential on the season is far and away the best in the NHL, as he has a +5 advantage on linemate W Reilly Smith.

Karlsson is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, but I have an inkling he’ll be a Golden Knight for the considerable future considering Vegas has almost $28.5 million in cap space next season.

Even though they’re still leading the Pacific Division by 10 points, the 42-18-5 Golden Knights don’t necessarily come to Columbus in top form. A win against the Devils Sunday snapped a three-game losing skid that saw Vegas earn only one point.

Vegas’ biggest struggle right now seems to be on the defensive end. Since February 26, the Knights have allowed 36.75 shots against per game, the fourth-most of any team in the league in that time. That mark is well off the 30.6 shots the Golden Knights have allowed per game all season, which is sixth-best in the NHL.

However, unlike a couple teams in the Metropolitan Division, Vegas’ defense isn’t poor due to a lack of effort. D Brayden McNabb in particular has been leaving everything on the ice lately, as his five hits-per-game and 2.5 blocks per game over the past week are both the best marks on the team in that time.

Of course, additional shots have made life a bit more difficult for 22-8-3 G Marc-Andre Fleury. Though he’s managed a decent enough .914 save percentage in his last three starts, the added shots mean that he’s posted a rather unattractive 3.31 GAA. For the season, Fleury has now earned a .928 save percentage and 2.24 GAA.

Tonight’s tilt will be 33-28-5 Columbus’ first since getting back from a three-game Californian road trip that saw the Jackets earn only two points (a 4-2 win in San Jose).

While away from home, the Jackets’ usually solid defense failed them miserably. With 28-21-5 G Sergei Bobrovsky accustomed to facing only 31.3 shots per game (the [t]eighth-best mark in the league), Columbus’ defense has allowed 34.67 in its past three games – the ninth-worst mark in the NHL since March 1.

Just like McNabb has been doing all he can to keep the Knights’ defense together, D Jack Johnson has been doing the same for the Ohioans. Johnson’s 2.7 hits per game and two blocks per game since March 1 are both tied for the team leads (F Brandon Dubinsky and D Ian Cole, respectively) as he is making his presence known all over the ice.

If you’ve reached this paragraph expecting talk about Bobrovsky, you have another think coming as the Russian will be unavailable tonight due to illness. Instead, that forces 5-7-0 G Joonas Korpisalo into the spotlight with his .899 season save percentage and corresponding 3.3 GAA, as he’ll be tonight’s starter. Korpisalo’s last showing was in Los Angeles on March 1, where he saved 29-of-34 shots faced (.853 save percentage) for five goals against.

When the Blue Jackets made their inaugural trip to Vegas on January 23, they joined the long list of teams that have suffered at the hands of the Golden Knights. With a two-goal night from none other than Karlsson, Vegas dominated Columbus to a 6-3 victory.

As for which of these teams needs the points in the standings more, the answer has to be Columbus. Currently occupying the Eastern Conference’s second wild card, the Jackets are in a dog fight with at least three other teams for two playoff spots, meaning every point is important. In fact, if Columbus does not win tonight, it runs the risk of dropping behind the Panthers if they can best the Lightning.

Playoff qualification is all but assured for the Golden Knights at this point, and the same might be able to be said for a Pacific Division banner soon enough. However, they’ve fallen behind the Predators for the conference’s top seed, meaning a potential Game 7 in the Western Finals is currently slated to be played at Bridgestone Arena. Trailing by four points with the same number of games played, this will be a very tight race to keep an eye on.

With two defenses struggling, there’s a big chance this game can turn into a barn burner. If that proves to be the case, there’s no doubt the Golden Knights will earn the victory, as their offense easily outclasses that of the Blue Jackets and should definitely be able to take care of Korpisalo.


The Calgary Flames had an answer for almost everything the Pittsburgh Penguins could throw at them, but it was the hosts that won 4-3 in overtime in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at PPG Paints Arena.

Only 3:05 into the first period, the Penguins had already earned a two-goal advantage. D Chad Ruhwedel (RW Phil Kessel) provided Pittsburgh’s first tally at the 2:10 mark, followed only 55 seconds later by an unassisted wrist shot by F Evgeni Malkin. However, Calgary wasn’t going to let this game get away that easily, as D Mark Giordano (Third Star of the Game W Troy Brouwer and C Matt Stajan) buried a wrister at the 6:14 mark, followed by a C Mikael Backlund (F Michael Frolik and D Travis Hamonic) backhanded shot to level the game at 2-2 – the score that would hold into the first intermission.

The second period would also end with a tied score, but not without a flurry of goals in the final three minutes. Second Star D Kris Letang (Malkin and LW Carl Hagelin) returned a one-goal advantage to Pittsburgh with 2:59 remaining in the frame, but Brouwer (D T.J. Brodie and LW Johnny Gaudreau) buried a wrister with only three seconds remaining before the break to pull the Flames back even at three goals apiece.

With no goals being struck in the third period, that set up a five minute three-on-three overtime period, but First Star D Justin Schultz (Kessel and Malkin) needed only 2:36 of that to provide the Pens’ game-winner.

By removing four players from action, there’s a lot of free space on the ice to execute some deadly passes. That’s exactly what happened in this situation, as Kessel drove towards G Jon Gillies‘ net from the right face-off circle to draw the netminder’s attention – as well as that of Backlund and Frolik. That left Schultz with exactly zero people paying attention to him, leaving the defenseman with more than enough time to bury his snap shot into the gaping cage.

G Tristan Jarry earned the victory after saving 35-of-38 shots faced (.921 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Gillies, who saved 28-of-32 (.875).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have been unstoppable this week, as they’re currently riding a six-game winning streak. With that success, the 80-47-19 hosts have earned a 29-point advantage over the series’ roadies.

2018 Trade Deadline Preview: Atlantic Division

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1. Tampa Bay Lightning– 40-17-3 (83 points, 60 GP)

Though the Tampa Bay Lightning have been on top of the Eastern Conference all season, the Boston Bruins are catching them and sure to give the Bolts a run for their money in the Eastern Conference Finals.

What do you mean that will never happen because of the current playoff format? Way to be a buzzkill, NHL.

Tampa general manager, Steve Yzerman, worked his magic on the ice for years in Detroit and his magic has gotten even better as a GM. The Lightning don’t need older guys like Dan Girardi or Chris Kunitz on the team and yet– here they are– sitting in 1st in the Atlantic Division with those guys on the roster.

The Lightning have about $2.000 million in cap space right now with some pretty important pending-RFAs to re-sign this offseason. Then again, when isn’t that the case for them?

Just try not to make a bad move at the deadline (or any moves, really) and Yzerman will find a way to keep Vladislav Namestnikov and Slater Koekkoek around for a few more years.

Potential assets to trade: F Ryan Callahan (if he’ll waive his NMC), D Braydon Coburn, F Erik Condra, F Adam Erne, D Dan Girardi, F Chris Kunitz

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), D Johnny Oduya (OTT), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

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2. Boston Bruins– 37-13-8 (82 points, 58 GP)

At the time of this writing, I had the Boston Bruins pinpointed on Nick Holden as an option in case they aren’t able to pull off a Ryan McDonagh trade with the New York Rangers. Holden’s cheaper, a year removed from his best season in his career and a clear top-six defenseman that’ll boost not only Boston’s depth, but solidify their blue line as contenders.

Look, it didn’t cost the Bruins much, considering Rob O’Gara was stuck in the midst of an overcrowded pool of defensive prospects and not every third round pick is making the NHL for more than half a season. Holden has the chance of becoming the next Tomas Kaberle for Boston (and let’s check where Joe Colborne is these days, oh right San Antonio).

Or Holden could stick around for a little longer if things work out just right.

If general manager, Don Sweeney, is confident in his roster, he’s set. If he’s looking to add without subtracting that “necessary” one or two more pieces to put the Bruins over the edge and into Stanley Cup favorites, then sure, he’ll find it.

Sweeney is all about holding onto his cards and being tactically smart. He’s improved in each of his three years as general manager around this time of year.

They really shouldn’t part with Jakub Zboril so early, considering he must be next in line behind Jeremy Lauzon. Yet if there’s an offer that’s too good to refuse and all indications point towards finding your next veteran defenseman for the post-Tom Brady 2.0 (at least in terms of age and playing ability) Zdeno Chara days, then sure, go for it.

Potential assets to trade: F Frank Vatrano, D Jakub Zboril

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Derek Ryan (CAR), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), F Boone Jenner (CBJ), F Gustav Nyqvist (DET), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR)– acquired on Tuesday, D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), D Ben Hutton (VAN)

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3. Toronto Maple Leafs– 37-20-5 (79 points, 62 GP)

Despite having immense youth and talent, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves at a crossroads. Do they go for it this season (without any cap room)?

Or should they move some pieces to make the future work to their advantage (at a time when Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and crew are ready for their Stanley Cup Final debut)?

With these questions in mind, it seems a guy like James van Riemsdyk‘s time might be running short. Alas, van Riemsdyk has a modified-no trade clause and carries a $4.250 million cap hit– all while being a pending-UFA this July– but that’s nothing that can’t be overcome.

There’s still 21 teams he can be traded to and up to 50 percent of his salary can be retained if that’s a concern for anyone.

Joffrey Lupul‘s contract expires at the end of this season, so the Maple Leafs won’t have to go back and put him on the long-term injured reserve every September. It might be a smart idea to move Nathan Horton‘s contract elsewhere *ahem, Arizona* to try to get something out of it and not have to go through the LTIR motions. Neither of those situations is pressing, just food for thought.

This isn’t the year to cash in if you’re Toronto.

That might be painful for a guy like Patrick Marleau to hear, then again, he did sign a three-year contract last summer. He’s in it for the long haul and so is the Maple Leafs front office as they navigate what Matthews, Marner and Nylander’s second contracts will be.

Nylander, by the way, is a pending-RFA this summer.

Potential assets to trade: F Tyler Bozak, F Nathan Horton, F Josh Leivo, F James van Riemsdyk

Potential assets to acquire: F Antoine Vermette (ANA), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Matt Cullen (MIN), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL)

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4. Florida Panthers– 26-25-6 (58 points, 57 GP)

The Florida Panthers have about $7.100 million in cap space currently and the opportunity to be the best of the worst teams in the Atlantic Division.

They can’t buy in bulk, but they can buy the right pieces to make themselves playoff contenders again since they blew whatever plans they had in the dismissal of Gerard Gallant as head coach and losses of Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights last June.

Another top-four defenseman and one or two of the right top-nine forwards should really make an impact on the Panthers. This is where Florida has a decent chance at being a sleeper pick for Evander Kane.

They’ve got the cap space and the right amount of talent waiting for a complementary player.

Or Florida could become sellers and move on from everything they had built to bring themselves to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and, well, nothing since.

Potential assets to trade: F Nick Bjugstad, F Derek MacKenzie, D Mark Pysyk, G James Reimer, F Radim Vrbata

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), F Evander Kane (BUF), G Jon Gillies (CGY), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Boone Jenner (CBJ), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Gustav Nyqvist (DET), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Derick Brassard (OTT), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Zack Smith (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ)

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5. Detroit Red Wings– 24-26-9 (57 points, 59 GP)

The Detroit Red Wings have a plethora of no-movement-clauses, expensive cap hits and everything else to sort through as they enter full-on rebuild mode.

As an Atlantic Division team outside of the playoff picture, they’re not going anywhere.

It’d make sense to go for a dive in the standings, but at what cost, since the draft lottery exists? A defenseman from Sweden leading the Red Wings to glory? Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Yes, it might sense to embrace the tank and give yourself a shot at Rasmus Dahlin, Detroit. This is your year– until the Edmonton Oilers win another lottery and then have Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Dahlin on a team that’s still scraping out of the basement next season.

Everyone’s at play at this year’s deadline– except for Henrik Zetterberg (because he still believes for some reason, a.k.a. he’s the new Shane Doan).

Potential assets to trade: F Luke Glendening, D Mike Green, F Darren Helm, D Niklas Kronwall, F Gustav Nyqvist, D Xavier Ouellet, F Tomas Tatar

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, prospects, F Max Domi (ARI), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Derek Ryan (CAR), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), D Ben Hutton (VAN)

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6. Montreal Canadiens– 22-29-8 (52 points, 59 GP)

The Montreal Canadiens aren’t good.

Claude Julien‘s behind the bench, their scoring is down, Carey Price is fatigued (at times), Max Pacioretty’s probably going to be traded and Andrew Shaw might become the new poster boy in bleu, blanc et rouge as a result.

Nothing makes sense anymore. The Canadiens are rebuilding, about to rebuild or should rebuild.

There’s nothing else to it really. This is more than just a bad year for them, save for Buffalo and Ottawa sitting beneath them in the division. Wait, the Senators are how close?

With almost $7.200 million in cap space, the Habs can make something happen and retool on-the-fly. Though if they’re smart, they’ll try to maximize their return on any trades without jeopardizing their pending-RFAs from re-signing.

Potential assets to trade: F Alex Galchenyuk, F Max Pacioretty, D Jeff Petry, F Tomas Plekanec, F Andrew Shaw

Potential assets to acquire: F Max Domi (ARI), G Jon Gillies (CGY), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), D Jack Johnson (CBJ), F Michael Grabner (NYR), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F Nic Petan (WPG)

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7. Ottawa Senators– 21-28-10 (52 ponts, 59 GP)

If you thought things were bad in Québec, just wait until you see how the Ottawa Senators have been this year.

After nearly reaching last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Sens thought they had a chance of making “boring” hockey exciting again. There’s just one problem– none of their players are any good, save for Erik Karlsson (who’s slumping this season), Mike Hoffman (who’s definitely going to be traded, even though GM Pierre Dorion keeps indicating he will/won’t), Mark Stone and that’s about it.

Karlsson’s a free agent after the 2018-19 season and surely won’t stick around if Ottawa doesn’t turn things around. Or worse, the Senators just might go ahead and trade their franchise defenseman.

If you thought Montreal was a dumpster fire, you’re right, but Ottawa is a thousand dumpster fires.

With about $1.315 million in cap space approaching the deadline the Senators shouldn’t have to worry. If they’re smart, that is. They’re sellers and they have to admit that they keep messing up.

In a league that’s getting younger and faster, the Sens are doing just the opposite.

Potential assets to trade: G Craig Anderson, F Derick Brassard, G Mike Condon, F Mike Hoffman, D Erik Karlsson (I don’t understand how I should even have to put him here, but I do, because it’s Ottawa we’re talking about), D Johnny Oduya, F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F Bobby Ryan, F Zack Smith

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, F Benoit Pouliot (BUF), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), F Tommy Wingels (CHI), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Mark Letestu (EDM), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), G Aaron Dell (SJ), D Ben Hutton (VAN), F Nic Petan (WPG)

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8. Buffalo Sabres– 17-32-11 (45 points, 60 GP)

Figure it out, Buffalo. One of these years.

The Buffalo Sabres have about $5.600 million in cap space approaching Monday’s trade deadline. They’ll likely have more room to work with heading into the offseason, given Evander Kane and his $5.250 million cap hit is all but assured of being on its way out of upstate New York.

The pending-UFA is the biggest prize the Sabres have to offer to a playoff contender or any team with enough cap room looking to reignite their offense.

Other than that, the goalie market looks slim at the deadline– especially after the Philadelphia Flyers already went out and got Petr Mrazek from Detroit– so Robin Lehner probably isn’t going anywhere. Yet.

Lehner is a 26-year-old pending-RFA this July and could certainly prove worthy to a team looking to overhaul its goaltending. If Sabres general manager, Jason Botterill, can’t find the right trading partner now, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so at the NHL Entry Draft in June.

As for the rest of the roster, Buffalo might take a page from Ottawa and the New York Rangers in that everyone– save for Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly— just might be available.

Don’t count the Sabres out (of the trade market, that is). They just might go all in on landing a big name or two looking for a reset.

Potential assets to trade: D Nathan Beaulieu, F Evander Kane, F Zemgus Girgensons, D Josh Gorges, G Robin Lehner, F Matt Moulson, F Benoit Pouliot, F Sam Reinhart, F Scott Wilson

Potential assets to acquire: F Antoine Vermette (ANA), F Frank Vatrano (BOS), F Jeff Skinner (CAR), D Tyson Barrie (COL), D Xavier Ouellet (DET), F Tomas Tatar (DET), G James Reimer (FLA), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), D Erik Karlsson (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ)

Down the Frozen River Podcast #86- Best Misnomers of 2017

Nick and Connor pick apart the Central Division, provide injury updates, preview the 2018 Winter Classic and discuss the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship so far.

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