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DTFR Podcast #208- Lightning Strikes Twice/Offseason Part II

Nick and Colby are annoyed by technological difficulties both on and off the podcast, so this is the best of their talk about the 2020 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, potential rebuild in Arizona, Patric Hornqvist trade and more. Seriously, the audio is that bad.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning shutout Stars in Game 6, win 2nd Cup in franchise history

For the first time since 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions.

Gone are the days of choking in the 2015 Final, the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Final or being swept in the 2019 First Round.

Open a window– make it a championship window– and see just how long the good times will last (there’s going to be some salary cap stuff to figure out for 2020-21 and beyond, but worry about that later).

For now, raise a socially distant glass on Zoom or whatever and celebrate responsibly as the Bolts downed the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win the series 4-2 and bring the Cup back to Tampa for the second time in franchise history.

Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the first period held up to be the game-winning, Stanley Cup clinching goal as Blake Coleman added an insurance marker in the middle frame.

Victor Hedman became the second player in Lightning franchise history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 postseason’s most valuable player.

Hedman’s also the third player from Sweden to win the Conn Smythe and the 10th different defender to win it in league history, joining Duncan Keith (2015), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Stevens (2000), Brian Leetch (1994), Al MacInnis (1989), Larry Robinson (1978), Bobby Orr (1970 and 1972) and Serge Savard (1969) in the process.

He also had 10 goals in the 2020 postseason, which were the most by a defender since Leetch had 11 in 23 games with the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-7, 1.90 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 25 games this postseason) earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in his 58th career postseason appearance– stopping all 22 shots faced en route to winning the Cup Monday night.

Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (14-10, 2.69 GAA, .917 SV% in 25 games this postseason) had 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the loss.

Dallas interim head coach, Rick Bowness, didn’t change a thing from his lineup after winning in double overtime, 3-2, in Game 5 on Saturday to Monday night’s action in Game 6.

As a result, Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea remained out of the lineup due to injury or otherwise.

Prior to Game 6 on Monday, Steven Stamkos was ruled out of the rest of the Final by the Lightning on Sunday.

Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, inserted Alexander Volkov on Stamkos’ slot on the fourth line right wing (where Carter Verhaeghe played in Game 5 after Stamkos returned for Game 4 before re-aggravating an injury forced him out of the lineup).

On defense, Kevin Shattenkirk was bumped up to the first pairing with Hedman, while Jan Rutta joined the list of scratches as Zach Bogosian took over Shattenkirk’s role on the third pairing with Ryan McDonagh.

Everything else was the same for the Bolts.

Tampa’s list of scratches on Monday included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Scott Wedgewood, Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Stamkos.

Early in the opening frame, Andrew Cogliano tripped up Point and was assessed a minor infraction at 6:32 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night, but soon found themselves back on the skater advantage at 11:58, after John Klingberg tripped Volkov.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Point (14) gathered his own rebound and scored on the far side while Khudobin was caught thinking the puck was trapped between his arm and his body.

Nikita Kucherov (27) and Hedman (12) tallied the assists on Point’s power-play goal at 12:23 of the first period and the Lightning led, 1-0.

The goal was Point’s fifth of the series and set a franchise record for the most goals in one postseason by a Tampa player as Point surpassed Tyler Johnson’s previous mark of 13 goals in Tampa’s 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, which ended in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that year– the most recent time the Bolts made the Final before beating Dallas in six games on Monday night.

Kucherov’s primary assist on the goal also assured him of the fifth most assists (27) in a playoff year in NHL history, trailing Wayne Gretzky (31 assists in 1988), Gretzky again (30 assists in 1985), Gretzky for a third time (29 in 1987) and Mario Lemieux (28 in 1991).

Late in the first period, Hedman interfered with Stars forward, Corey Perry, and received a minor penalty at 18:36, but Dallas’ first power play opportunity did not go well.

Through one period of action in Edmonton on Monday night, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-4, in shots on goal.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (1-0), hits (18-12) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

The Stars, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (8-5) and giveaways (7-5).

Tampa was 1/2 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Coleman (5) received a pass through the high slot from Cedric Paquette and fired a one-timer past Khudobin to extend Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Paquette (3) and Pat Maroon (5) notched the assists on the goal and the Lightning led, 2-0, at 7:01 of the second period.

About a minute later, Tampa defender, Ryan McDonagh was penalized for interference after colliding with Dallas forward, Tyler Seguin at 8:02.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play was powerless and, in fact, cut shot when Perry bumped into Vasilevskiy yielding a penalty for goaltender interference at 9:22.

Tampa’s ensuing abbreviated power play after a little 4-on-4 action did not result in a difference on the scoreboard as both teams eventually entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission with the Bolts still in command, 2-0.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led in shots on goal, 21-8– including a, 10-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), hits (31-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Stars led in giveaways (9-8).

Both teams had 13 blocked shots aside after two periods.

Tampa was 1/3 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/2 heading into the final frame of regulation.

Not much happened in the final period as the Stars rallied to a, 14-8, shots on net in the third period alone advantage– despite ultimately failing to score and finishing the night trailing, 29-22, in total shots on goal.

Dallas played desperate and had one final chance to cut the lead in half on the power play at 15:27 of the third period when McDonagh tripped Joel Kiviranta, but the Stars just couldn’t get any offense on the board.

With 1:44 remaining in the season, Bowness pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker in an attempt to muster just about anything by that point to spur his team for one last chance at forcing a Game 7.

This time, their heroic comeback moment did not come as the Lightning bolted down their defense and struck the Stars with a, 2-0, shutout at the final horn.

Tampa emerged with the 4-2 series win and their first Stanley Cup championship since 2004– their second Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Dallas fell to 1-2 in three Stanley Cup Final appearances overall, having won in six games in 1999, against the Buffalo Sabres, and losing in six games in 2000, against the New Jersey Devils.

Six games is all it takes, apparently, for better or worse for the Stars in the Final.

Meanwhile, it’s all the Lightning needed to complete a redemption arc from losing in six games to Chicago in 2015, and the ensuing bouts of embarrassment since then until the stars aligned for Tampa on Monday.

Tampa finished Game 6 leading in blocked shots (22-16), hits (40-37) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Dallas exited the bubble with the advantage in giveaways (11-9) in their final game.

The Lightning finished 1/3 on the power play as the Stars finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.

As the Bolts skated around with Lord Stanley’s mug, Cooper had completed the achievement of winning a championship at every level of hockey that he has coached– a feat that is by no means easy to accomplish, even though he did so while only 53-years-old (which is relatively young for a head coach).

Tampa became the first team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and be swept in the First Round the year before winning the Cup in the following season as the Columbus Blue Jackets ousted the Lightning in four games in the 2019 First Round.

The Lightning, fun fact, overcame Columbus in five games in the 2020 First Round before defeating the Boston Bruins in five games in the Second Round and the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Maroon became the eighth player in history– and first since former Lightning player, Cory Stillman– to win back-to-back Cups with different teams in consecutive seasons.

Stillman won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, before winning it again in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes (the NHL had a lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season in between), while Maroon won the Cup last year with the St. Louis Blues– his hometown team– before raising the Cup again in 2020 with Tampa.

Vasilevskiy set an NHL record for minutes played by a goaltender in a postseason with 1,708:12 time on ice.

He also became the 10th different netminder since the league expanded prior to the 1967-68 season to appear in every game en route to the Cup, joining Corey Crawford (with Chicago in 2013), Jonathan Quick (with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012), Tim Thomas (with Boston in 2011), Martin Brodeur (with New Jersey in 2000), Ed Belfour (with Dallas in 1999), Grant Fuhr (with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988), Patrick Roy (with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986), Ken Dryden (five times with Montreal from 1971-78) and Bernie Parent (with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974) in the process.

Bowness fell to 15-13 with Dallas in the postseason (all-time) as the Stars fell to 15-13 in the 2020 postseason as a whole, while Cooper improved to 54-29 behind the bench in the postseason with Tampa.

The Lightning finished 18-7 in the bubble in postseason action– capitalizing their longest postseason (25 games) with a Cup win.

Meanwhile, the NHL as a whole was able to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic with zero positive tests in Phase 4 of their Return to Play plan– which deserves a banner in its own right– having “administered 33,174 tests to club Personnel, including Players” from the beginning of Phase 4 through September 26th, according to a statement released by the league prior to the game on Monday.

Kudos to the NHL, NHLPA, Gary Bettman and all of the public health and local Canadian government officials that were able to make this happen.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Heroes and villains.

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

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

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

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

Time will tell and that time is Tuesday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading is so overrated anyway.

3. Warmup drills.

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

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

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

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

4. Still no shutouts.

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

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

A shutout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Inconsistent shots for the Isles

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

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

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

New York only allowed 16 shots against that night too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Just how many franchise records will Tampa…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Will the Lightning buck the trend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, it happened again, didn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Bolts advance to the Eastern Conference Final with, 3-2, 2OT win over Bruins in Game 5

Victor Hedman scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to catapult the Tampa Bay Lightning into the 2020 Eastern Conference Final with a, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of their Second Round series.

Tampa emerged victorious in the series, 4-1, while Boston is heading home from the Scotiabank Arena bubble in Toronto empty handed.

For the first time since 2018, the Lightning are back in the Eastern Conference Final, which, coincidentally also featured a five-game series win against the Bruins in the Second Round to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

With the series win on Monday, Tampa improved to 2-1 in all-time postseason series meetings against Boston.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (9-4 in 13 games this postseason, 1.91 goals against average, .931 save percentage) made 45 saves on 47 shots against for a .957 SV% in the win for the Bolts.

Meanwhile, Jaroslav Halak (4-5 in nine games this postseason, 2.76 GAA, .902 SV%) stopped 32 out of 35 shots faced for a .914 SV% in the loss for the Bruins.

Bruce Cassidy made a few necessary adjustments to his lineup with Sean Kuraly, Nick Ritchie and Chris Wagner out due to injury (officially, “unfit to participate”).

With Kuraly missing his third game of the series, Par Lindholm remained as the fourth line center with Karson Kuhlman taking Wagner’s spot at right wing while Joakim Nordstrom remained on the left side.

Jack Studnicka was back in the lineup and took over Kuhlman’s spot on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork also back in action on the left side of Charlie Coyle.

Kuraly, Ritchie and Wagner were all “unfit to participate”, while Boston’s list of scratches also included Zach Senyshyn, John Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Trent Frederic.

Jon Cooper made one change to Tampa’s lineup for Game 5, re-inserting Ryan McDonagh on the blue line after the defender had been out since Game 1 with an injury.

As a result, Braydon Coburn joined Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe, Jan Rutta, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Volkov and Scott Wedgewood among the Lightning’s scratches on Monday.

David Krejci tied Wayne Cashman for the fourth most postseason games played in a Bruins uniform with 145.

Meanwhile, Cassidy now holds a 27-28 (.491 winning percentage) record in the postseason behind the bench with Boston.

He is 29-32 overall as an NHL head coach in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Cassidy was the head coach of the Washington Capitals for parts of two seasons from 2002-04, leading Washington to a 2-4 record in six postseason games outside his tenure with the Bruins).

2020 marks the sixth appearance (previous, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2018) in the Eastern Conference Final for the Lightning since their first season in the NHL in 1992-93.

As a fun fact, Tampa spent their first season in the Campbell Conference (what is now known as the Western Conference) before moving to the Eastern Conference for the 1993-94 season and beyond.

Midway through the opening frame Nikita Kucherov tried to sneak behind Zdeno Chara while skating through the low slot in front of the net before the two collided without Chara knowing the Lightning forward was there, thereby lending both players to lose their balance.

In the process, the Bruins captain caught Kucherov with a high stick, while an errant puck hit Chara in the leg/skate as an unintentional blocked shot that left both players falling to the ice– Kucherov for the stick to the face, Chara for the shot to the leg/foot.

Chara was sent to the box with a double-minor for high sticking at 12:48 of the first period and despite having a four-minute power play, the Lightning weren’t able to score on the skater advantage.

Late in the period, Barclay Goodrow got a stick around David Pastrnak and hooked the Bruins forward, yielding a power play to Boston in the closing minutes of the opening frame at 17:46, but the B’s didn’t convert on the advantage.

The game was still tied, 0-0, after one period despite the Bruins holding an advantage in shots on goal, 8-5.

Boston also held the lead in blocked shots (10-4), while Tampa led in hits (14-10) and faceoff win percentage (59-41) heading into the first intermission.

Both teams had two takeaways and two giveaways aside, while the Lightning were 0/2 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Early in the middle frame, Ondrej Palat (5) redirected a shot from Kevin Shattenkirk over Halak’s shoulder on the glove side, off the bar and into the twine to give Tampa the, 1-0, lead, while tying the longest postseason goal scoring streak in Lightning franchise history as Palat has scored at least one goal in the last four games.

Palat (2020), Stamkos (2015 and 2018), Vincent Lecavalier (2007) and Martin St. Louis (2003) are all tied for the team record with goals in at least four-straight playoff games for the Bolts.

Meanwhile, Shattenkirk (4) and Blake Coleman (4) had the assists on Palat’s goal at 4:21 of the second period.

Midway through the period, Kucherov tripped Charlie McAvoy and was sent to the box at 10:44, presenting Boston with their second power play of the night.

Krejci sent a pass to Pastrnak (3) for the one-timer from the dot to Vasilevskiy’s right side– beating the Bolts goaltender on the blocker side and tying the game, 1-1, with a power-play goal at 12:38 of the second period.

Krejci (8) and Patrice Bergeron (6) yielded the assists while Pastrnak recorded his 20th career postseason goal in his 52nd career Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Only three players in Bruins history required fewer games to reach 20 goals in the playoffs– Barry Pederson (24 games), Gregg Sheppard (32) and Bobby Orr (50)– while Pastrnak has 20-33–53 totals in 52 games.

About four minutes later, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Goodrow at 16:13 and the Lightning went on the power play for the third time Monday night.

Tampa’s skater advantage was cut short when Yanni Gourde hooked McAvoy at 16:56 and presented each team with a 1:17 span of 4-on-4 action before the Bruins had a brief 5-on-4 power play afterwards.

Through 40 minutes of play, the B’s and Bolts were tied, 1-1, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 23-13– including a, 15-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins also held the lead in takeaways (3-2), while the Lightning led in blocked shots (16-12), giveaways (7-6), hits (29-22) and faceoff win% (54-46) heading into the second intermission.

Tampa was 0/3 and Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Kucherov wasn’t available for the Bolts in the third period onward while an undisclosed injury kept him out for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, Cedric Paquette ran McAvoy from behind into the boards– worthy of at least a minor for boarding, given the standards defined in the series, but instead received no penalty whatsoever while McAvoy needed assistance from a trainer and a teammate before returning late in the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Hedman sent a shot with eyes from the point that was redirected by Anthony Cirelli (2) off of Halak’s blocker and stick before it found the twine to give Tampa the, 2-1, lead at 12:03 of the third period.

Hedman (4) and Brayden Point (11) tallied the assists on Cirelli’s goal as the Lightning grabbed the lead once more and settled into their game for a few minutes.

McAvoy returned to Boston’s bench with 4:20 left in the third period, then the team rallied to tie the game, 2-2, at 17:27 of the third when Krejci (4) guided the puck into the open twine while Vasilevksiy was behind the play after Chara faked the goaltender and sent a pass to Krejci on the doorstep instead.

Chara (2) and Connor Clifton (2) collected the assists on Krejci’s game-tying goal and the B’s yanked enough momentum to carry themselves into overtime while earning a power play when Hedman tripped Ondrej Kase at 18:04.

After 60 minutes of action, the Bruins and Lightning were tied, 2-2, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 35-21– including a, 12-8, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (3-2) and giveaways (11-9), while Tampa led in blocked shots (24-20), hits (40-34) and faceoff win% (59-41).

The Lightning were 0/3 and the Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into the first overtime period.

Cassidy opted to start Brad Marchand, Bergeron and Kase as his forwards, while sending out Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo on defense.

Cooper kicked things off in overtime with Coleman, Goodrow, Erik Cernak and McDonagh on the penalty kill before Hedman returned from the box and the Lightning could make a line change.

Midway through the first overtime period, Krejci tripped up Alex Killorn and was sent to the box at 10:27, but Tampa wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play in sudden death overtime.

Through 80 minutes of hockey on Monday night, the Bruins led in shots on goal, 46-28, despite the score remaining even at, 2-2, entering the second overtime.

Boston held the, 11-7, advantage in shots on goal in the first overtime period alone, while also leading in giveaways (15-11) entering the fourth intermission.

Tampa led in blocked shots (30-29), takeaways (5-3), hits (50-46) and faceoff win% (59-41) heading into the second overtime.

With no penalties called in the second overtime, the Bolts finished 0/4 and the B’s finished 1/4 on the power play on Monday.

Cassidy began the second overtime with Marchand, Bergeron, Kase, Clifton and Grzlecyk, while Cooper matched with Goodrow, Gourde, Coleman, Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev.

Both teams went back and forth until the ice was scrapped during a stoppage with 9:51 remaining in double overtime.

Moments later, Hedman (5) slipped a shot through Halak while Pat Maroon acted as a screen in front of the Boston netminder and sent the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final while eliminating the Bruins with the, 3-2, game-winning goal at 14:10 of the double-overtime period.

Shattenkirk (5) and Point (12) tabbed the assists on the game-winning goal as the Bolts wrapped up the series.

Boston finished Monday night’s action leading in shots on goal, 47-35, despite trailing Tampa, 7-1, in shots on net in the second overtime period alone.

Tampa finished the night leading in blocked shots (35-34), hits (56-53) and faceoff win% (60-40), while Boston wrapped up the night leading in giveaways (21-12) in addition to their advantage in shots on goal.

With the win, the Lightning improved to 4-0 in overtime (5-0 past regulation this postseason– they went 1-0 in shootouts in the Round Robin), while the Bruins fell to 1-2 in overtime as they were ousted from the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tampa improved to 20-8, while Boston fell to 59-77-3 in all-time overtime postseason games.

The Bruins also fell to 2-3 when tied after one period, 1-3 when tied after two periods and 1-2 when tied after three periods in the 2020 postseason.

While Tampa moves on and will likely travel to Edmonton to play in the Eastern Conference Final (though there is a plan to begin the series in Toronto if the Western Conference’s Second Round matchups take too long and/or the Lightning cannot travel to Rogers Place just yet), Boston will leave the Toronto bubble and disperse for the 2020 offseason with the future uncertain.

Chara is 43-years-old and may retire, Krug is a pending-unrestricted free agent looking for a big payday as a 29-year-old defender in his prime, while Jake DeBrusk and Grzelcyk are pending-restricted free agents.

Additionally, Nordstrom is a pending-UFA who may or may not be back due to Boston’s plethora of bottom-six talent, while Kevan Miller will likely be riding into the sunset after not playing since May 2019 due to multiple knee injuries that kept him out of 2019-20 action.

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NHL Nick's Net

Flyers down Bruins, 4-1, in Round Robin action

Four different goal scorers’ combined efforts lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in the first game of Round Robin action in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario on Sunday.

Carter Hart (1-0-0 in one game played, 1.00 goals against average, .971 save percentage) made 34 saves on 35 shots faced for a .971 SV% in the win for the Flyers.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (0-1-0 in one game played, 4.29 GAA, .862 SV%) made 25 saves on 29 shots against for an .862 SV% in the loss.

Tuukka Rask did not practice on Saturday in either session and was ruled “unfit to play” in Sunday’s matinee against Philadelphia. As a result, Dan Vladar took part in warmups and was Halak’s backup for the Bruins.

It was the first time since 2012, that a goaltender other than Rask started a postseason game for Boston. Tim Thomas started all seven games in their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series loss to the Washington Capitals.

Sunday also marked the first postseason start for Halak since 2015.

Three Bruins made their NHL postseason debuts as Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon and Anders Bjork were all in the lineup for Boston.

Ondrej Kase joined the team in Toronto on Saturday and practiced in the second group session for the Bruins and might be available in time for their next matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday afternoon.

Kase, along with Nick Ritchie and Rask, were the big names out of the lineup for Boston on Sunday, but they weren’t the only ones not on the ice for the action as the B’s had a long list of healthy scratches including, Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton and Trent Frederic (Kevan Miller was not included on the Phase 3 and 4 roster and Steven Kampfer opted out of Phase 3 and 4 action).

Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara skated in his 183rd career postseason NHL game, which is the second-most among active NHL players– trailing Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Patrick Marleau (192 Stanley Cup Playoff games and counting).

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy kicked things off with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as his usual first line, while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Studnicka rounded out his top-six forwards.

Bjork was on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, while Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner were reunited as the fourth line trio after they were split among the bottom-six forwards in Boston’s, 4-1, exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday.

On defense, Cassidy opted for Chara alongside Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug paired with Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk partnered with Lauzon.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Michael Raffl slashed Bjork and presented Boston with the first power play of the afternoon at 8:51 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Krejci cut a rut to the box after hooking Travis Konecny at 14:41, but Philadelphia’s power play was powerless– a trend that would suit both teams all afternoon.

At 19:08, Carlo was sent to the sin bin for tripping Tyler Pitlick, but despite the skater advantage overlapping with part of the second period, the Flyers were unsuccessful at finding the back of the net while the B’s were shorthanded.

Through 20 minutes of action in Toronto, the Bruins and Flyers were still tied, 0-0, with Boston holding the advantage in shots on goal, 12-6.

The Bruins also led in hits (9-7), while the Flyers led in takeaways (3-0) and faceoff win percentage (67-37).

Both teams had seven blocked shots aside and four giveaways apiece.

Philadelphia was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Raffl (1) broke through Boston’s defense as Lauzon was caught out of position, deked and flipped the puck high over Halak to give Philly the game’s first goal and the game’s first lead, 1-0, at 5:33 of the second period.

Travis Sanheim (1) had the only assist on Raffl’s tally, while the Bruins looked gassed as Raffl scored the goal on a shift lasting over a minute for Bergeron, Marchand, Krug and Lauzon.

Then, moments later, Nate Thompson (1) rushed in with a burst of speed– catching the B’s behind the play again and sent the puck over Lauzon while the Bruins defender inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

The rubber biscuit had eyes as it floated over Lauzon, over Halak’s blocker side, off Halak’s stick and into the twine behind the Boston netminder to extend Philadelphia’s lead to two goals.

Raffl (1) and Ivan Provorov (1) notched the assists on Thompson’s goal and the Flyers led, 2-0, at 9:31 of the second period.

Eight seconds later, Robert Hagg was chasing Bjork and penalized for interference at 9:39, but Boston wasn’t able to muster anything on the scoreboard while on the skater advantage.

Late in the period, Wagner (1) collected a garbage goal and cut Philadelphia’s lead in half, 2-1, at 18:51.

Nordstrom (1) and McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s only goal of the afternoon, but the momentum the B’s generated was short-lived. Really short-lived.

Eight seconds after Wagner made it a one-goal game, Philippe Myers (1) made it a two-goal lead for the Flyers once more after he broke free from the neutral zone while Chara was tripped up and left his netminder short a defender.

Myers sniped a shot over Halak and just under the crossbar and made it, 3-1, Philly at 18:59 of the middle frame.

Jakub Voracek (1) had the only assist on the goal.

After two periods, the Flyers led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Bruins, 20-17, in total shots on goal– despite outshooting Boston, 11-8, in the second period alone.

Philly also held onto the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (5-0) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16).

Both teams were 0/2 on the power play entering the final frame.

At 4:07 of the third period, Scott Laughton (1) fired a shot over Halak’s glove after sneaking through Boston’s defense after Carlo bungled a pinch and Krug was left trailing the Flyers forward.

Kevin Hayes (1) was credited with the only assist on Laughton’s goal and Philadelphia led, 4-1.

Boston recorded their first shot on net in the third period at 9:39, before going on the power play 61 seconds later after Matt Niskanen caught Pastrnak with a high-stick at 10:40.

The Flyers killed off Niskanen’s minor infraction with ease, then Raffl and Lauzon collided near the boards, resulting in an awkward collapse to the ice for Raffl that left the Philadelphia forward with an apparent lower body injury– requiring assistance off the rink from the trainer and one of his Flyers teammates.

Laughton tried to spar with Lauzon, but the two players each received slashing minors and 10-minute misconducts at 13:48 of the third period.

Studnicka served Lauzon’s minor, while James van Riemsdyk served Laughton’s minor infraction as well. Both teams skated at 4-on-4 for two minutes before resuming full strength.

With about 3:30 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.

In the closing minutes, Krug and van Riemsdyk got tangled up, latched onto each other and received holding minors at 18:31– ending their nights early.

At the final horn, the Flyers had won, 4-1, and finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (16-11) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in shots on goal (35-29), giveaways (10-7) and hits (28-25).

Philadelphia finished the game 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 0/3 on the power play.

The two teams will remain in the Toronto bubble until the Bruins take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 4 PM ET on Wednesday and the Flyers take on the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Both games will be at Scotiabank Arena as the NHL’s postseason plan rolls on while the threat of the pandemic lurks outside each and every day.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.

All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.

(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.

The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.

2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.

That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.

Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.

Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:

(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)

Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.

In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.

The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.

Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.

Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.

That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.

2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.

For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.

For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.

In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.

Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.

Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.

Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.

Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.

What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.

This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.

It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.

Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.

Regular season outcomes:

3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.

Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.

He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.

It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.

Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).

Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.

Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.

Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.

This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.

The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.

Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.

Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.

Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.

He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.

Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.

Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).

Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.

In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.

If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.

Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.

Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.

Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.

But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.

The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.

If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.

If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.

At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.

Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360

8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360

8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360

8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.

As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.

Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.

Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.

Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.

Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.

For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.

The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.

Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.

Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.

In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.

Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.

Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.

Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.

The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD

8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.

He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.

Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.

Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.

In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.

Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.

Alright, let’s check the backup…

Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.

Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?

The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.

Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.

Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.

Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.

Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.

Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.

This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.

In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.

2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.

Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).

Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.

The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.

That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.

Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!

The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.

They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).

If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.

Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.

Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*

*If necessary


2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.

St. Louis Blues

42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW

Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW

Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Chicago Blackhawks (Part II)

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

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Chicago Blackhawks might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters at United Center someday.

Chicago Blackhawks Current Retired Numbers

1 Glenn Hall

3 Keith Magnuson/Pierre Pilote

9 Bobby Hull

18 Denis Savard

21 Stan Mikita

35 Tony Esposito

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! As a matter of fact, the Blackhawks haven’t retired any numbers since Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote’s No. 3 on Nov. 12, 2008, but they’ll soon have a plethora of jersey retirement ceremonies because winning three Cups in five seasons will do that.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

2 Duncan Keith

There’s a trend among all the possible numbers to retire in the near future in Chicago– they all won at least two Stanley Cup rings with the Blackhawks. You’re probably quite familiar with them if you’ve been watching the NHL in the last decade.

Keith broke into the league in the 2005-06 season with the Blackhawks (who drafted him in the second round, 54th overall, in 2002) and has spent his entire career with Chicago across 15 seasons so far.

In that span, Keith has won three Cups (2010, 2013 and 2015) and has amassed 101 goals and 509 assists in 1,138 career regular season games played and ranks 10th all-time in points in franchise history with 610.

His team friendly $5.538 million cap hit expires after the 2022-23 season, when the defender will be approaching 40-years-old and may or may not even still be playing by then. Oh and he won the James Norris Trophy as the league’s best defender in 2009-10 and 2013-14. Keith was also named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Anyway, for most of these Blackhawks players it should be pretty self-explanatory.

7 Brent Seabrook

Seabrook was originally selected in the first round by Chicago (14th overall) in 2003. He broke into the league with the Blackhawks in the 2005-06 season and has spent all 15 seasons of his NHL career thus far with Chicago.

He’s also a three-time Stanley Cup champion, having been a member of Chicago’s 2010, 2013 and 2015 rosters. In 1,114 career NHL games, Seabrook’s amassed 103-361–464 totals from the blue line. Along with Keith, he’s been a long-standing pillar on Chicago’s defense and deserves acknowledgment in his own right for the longevity of his tenure that somehow made it as far as it did– and as durable– until he had season ending surgery on his right shoulder on Dec. 27, 2019.

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks will honor both workhorses on their defense that single handedly defined Chicago’s championship style from their own zone out.

10 Patrick Sharp

Compared to the rest of this list, it might be a harder time to argue for Chicago to send Sharp’s No. 10 up to the rafters of United Center, but if you want to make the argument, first there’s the number of years and dedication spent with the team and city (11 seasons across two stints) and second, there’s the fact that Sharp had 532 points in 749 games in a Blackhawks sweater (or .710 points per game while with Chicago).

He spent parts of three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and two seasons with the Dallas Stars, which contributed to his 287-333–620 totals in 939 career NHL games, which– if you can’t do the math– means that Sharp had 88 points outside of Chicago in 129 games (.682 points per game outside Chicago), which means (“eye test” aside) that he spent his prime with the Blackhawks and was able to give his all to the team that he won three Cups with in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

So… yeah… maybe don’t forget about Sharp in the “potential numbers to retire” conversation.

19 Jonathan Toews

A year before the Blackhawks drafted Patrick Kane, they selected their centerpiece for the future in Toews with the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He made his league debut with Chicago in the 2007-08 season and produced 54 points in his rookie year. Two seasons later, he raised the Stanley Cup above his head as the first Blackhawks player to do so since 1961, after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Toews was named the 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner and has won an award in each of his Stanley Cup winning seasons– winning the Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015 with the Blackhawks, while taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2013 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2015.

He’s fast approaching 1,000 career NHL games– all with Chicago– as he’s already appeared in 943 contests for the Blackhawks since his rookie season, amassing 345-470–815 totals.

There’s no doubt Toews will see his No. 19 raised to the rafters when he hangs up his skates.

50 Corey Crawford

Crawford is the reason why the qualifier “at least two Cup rings with the Blackhawks” had to be used for this list because– spoiler alert– he was not Chicago’s starting goaltender until the 2010-11 season, and thus, only won the Cup in 2013 and 2015.

Antti Niemi led the Blackhawks to their first Cup in 49 years, but Crawford doubled Niemi’s Cup wins in Chicago and led many to forget about the goaltender that ended the Cup drought for the Blackhawks, then went to arbitration, but couldn’t reach a deal to keep him as the home goaltender at United Center and finally signed a deal with the San Jose Sharks before the start of the 2010-11 season.

Meanwhile, Crawford’s amassed 260 wins in 488 games played for Chicago– yielding a 2.45 career goals against average and a career .918 save percentage, as well as 26 shutouts in that span.

He’s been around for parts of 13 seasons with the Blackhawks and is the modern Tony Esposito for the franchise, so it’s only fitting that Crawford’s No. 50 becomes the next jersey number belonging to a goaltender to be raised to the rafters in Chicago.

81 Marian Hossa

Three Cups with Chicago and he gets in the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility? Might as well complete the journey with retiring No. 81 for the Blackhawks this upcoming season– whenever it happens (if it happens) in 2020-21.

After missing out on the Cup in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hossa signed a one-year deal with the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings for the 2008-09 season. Detroit met up with the Penguins in a rematch of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, but in the 2009 edition of the Stanley Cup Final. Once again, however, Hossa drew the short end of the stick and was defeated by his former teammates on his quest for his first Cup.

In the summer of 2009, Hossa signed a mega-deal worth $5.275 million per season over the course of 12 seasons through next season. After a debilitating skin allergy to his hockey equipment cut his career short, Hossa’s contract currently sits on the books of the Arizona Coyotes, but that’s besides the point.

In his first season with the Blackhawk’s, Hossa won it all. The long, torturous, journey to three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances paid off with Chicago’s defeat of the Flyers in 2010.

Then Hossa won two more Cups in 2013 and 2015 with the Blackhawks and amassed 186-229–415 totals in 534 games with Chicago from 2009-17.

Anyway, he scored a bunch of clutch goals for the Blackhawks, so I’m sure that alone will be good enough, right?

Since he’s still under contract with a team for 2020-21, does this mean the Blackhawks will have to wait until the 2021-22 season to retire his number– or are they going to have to wait until then anyway due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

88 Patrick Kane

The 1st overall pick in the 2007 Draft, Kane was selected by the Blackhawks as the planned counterpart for Toews in the overnight redefinition of a basement dwelling franchise to Stanley Cup contending club from season-to-season for a decade.

In 973 regular season games with Chicago, Kane has 389 goals and 633 assists (1,022 points), as well as lots of hardware.

For starters, he’s won three Stanley Cups with the club in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Oddly enough, his best season didn’t even come until after he won three Cups in five seasons with the Blackhawks. In 2015-16, Kane took home the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points, and won the Hart Memorial Trophy, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award that season as the league’s regular season MVP both as determined by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) for the Hart and by the rest of the league’s players for the Lindsay.

Oh and he won the Calder Memorial Trophy in his rookie season (2007-08) and picked up a Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So there’s that.

Oh plus he scored the goal that ended Chicago’s 49-year Cup drought.

So there’s that too.

Final Thoughts

Now is the perfect time to get rid of the biggest disgrace in franchise history. Unretire No. 9.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Mike Babcock Fired: What Does This Mean for The– Bruins?

Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).

It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.

Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.

Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.

It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.

For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.

But that’s a separate discussion entirely.

For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.

The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.

Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.

From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.

This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.

Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.

He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.

Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.

Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).

Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.

In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.

That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.

They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.

Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.

Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.

Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.

Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.

Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.

In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.

It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.

Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.

They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.

In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.

So, what does this mean for the Bruins?

A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.

First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.

The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).

Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.

This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.

Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.

Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.

There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.

Now for the advantages for Boston.

History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.

Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).

This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.

Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.

This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.

History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.

Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.

As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.

Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).

But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).

Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).

In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.

Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.

As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).

Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).

Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.

Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.

Bruins fans be worried or not.

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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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