Tag Archives: 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Pastrnak’s 2nd hat trick this season helps dismantle Leafs, 5-1

David Pastrnak (3-1–4 totals), Patrice Bergeron (1-2–3) and Brad Marchand (0-2–2) led the way once again for the Boston Bruins as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-1, Saturday night on home ice at TD Garden.

Jaroslav Halak (5-1-2, 1.86 goals against average, .941 save percentage in 10 games played) made 40 saves on 41 shots against for a .976 SV% in the win, while Garret Sparks (2-1-0, 4.00 GAA, .879 SV% in 3 GP) stopped 29 out of 34 shots faced for an .853 SV% in the loss for Toronto.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask was granted a personal leave of absence by the club on Friday for at least a few days so the Boston netminder can attend to “personal matters”. No further explanation was given out of respect for Rask and his family’s privacy.

Boston improved to 2-1-0 on their current four-game homestand which ends Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

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The B’s also jumped back into 4th place in the Atlantic Division thanks to Saturday night’s victory, amassing a 9-5-2 record (20 points) so far this season– leading the Buffalo Sabres for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having one more regulation-plus-overtime win than the Sabres.

The Maple Leafs fell to 11-6-0 (22 points) on the season and retained 2nd place in the Atlantic Division despite the loss.

It Boston and Toronto’s first meeting since the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in which the Bruins eliminated the Maple Leafs in seven games.

Forward, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL), as Bruce Cassidy was looking to change up the lines, and Dan Vladar was also an emergency recall from Providence, serving as the backup goaltender to Halak.

Cassidy left the first and second lines alone, while pairing Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork to the left and right, respectively, of Forsbacka Karlsson on the third line. David Backes centered Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the fourth line.

Noel Acciari was a healthy scratch for the Bruins, while Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Charlie McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (hand) remained out of the lineup with their respective injuries.

Vaakanainen, McAvoy and Miller have skated on their own as of Saturday and are all improving.

Steven Kampfer kicked things off with the game’s first penalty– a minor for interference against Toronto’s Josh Leivo— at 5:48 of the first period. The Bruins allowed nine shots against on the ensuing penalty kill in what was a Maple Leafs dominated effort in the first period.

But as things in hockey (and life) sometimes go– nothing makes sense.

Bergeron (9) redirection a pass behind Sparks from close range for the 1-0 lead at 16:12 of the first period thanks to an assist from Pastrnak (6). Boston got on the scoreboard first.

After 20 minutes, the B’s were ahead, 1-0, on the scoreboard, but trailing the Leafs in shots on goal, 20-6. Toronto also had an advantage in takeaways (7-2) and face-off win percentage (52-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4), giveaways (7-5) and hits (11-9). The Maple Leafs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission, while the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage.

That would change in the first 41 seconds of the middle frame.

Zach Hyman cross checked Matt Grzelcyk and the Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night. They did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the game.

Grzelcyk later kept the puck in the offensive zone, sending it to Bergeron who forced a pass to Pastrnak (13) for a one-timer while falling past Sparks on the high-blocker side to give Boston a two-goal lead.

Bergeron (14) and Grzelcyk (7) had the primary and secondary assists on Pastrnak’s first goal of the game that made it, 2-0, Bruins at 5:46 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, while Bjork was on a break-in, Leafs defender, Martin Marincin got a hold on the Bruins forward, yielding a holding infraction at 9:09.

Boston went back on the power play and took almost 90 seconds to convert on the skater advantage with Pastrnak (14) scoring his 2nd goal of the game on another one-timer redirection while crashing the net.

Bergeron worked the puck to Marchand across the ice to the boards closest to the benches, whereby Marchand planted a cross the slot pass to Pastrnak for the 3-0 lead at 10:34 of the second period. Marchand (13) and Bergeron (15) notched the power play assists.

Tempers began to boil when Brandon Carlo roughed up Kasperi Kapanen at 17:28 of the period.

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Two seconds after the Maple Leafs power play expired, a wide open John Tavares (10) found a wide open piece of the twine net– after the rubber biscuit was dished all-around the umbrella setup on the skater advantage– and cut the lead to two-goals. Mitch Marner (15) and Morgan Rielly (14) had the assists on Tavares’ goal that made it, 3-1, Bruins at 19:30 of the middle period.

Through two periods of action, Boston held onto a 3-1 lead.

Toronto was still leading in shots on goal, 30-22, but the Bruins outshot the Maple Leafs in the second period, 16-10. Boston also led in blocked shots (10-9), giveaways (12-8) and face-off win% (53-47), while the Leafs led in takeaways (9-3) and hits (17-15).

Entering the dressing room for the second intermission, Toronto was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 on the advantage.

Kapanen caught Boston defender, John Moore, with a high-stick that drew blood and earned the Leafs forward a four-minute, double minor, penalty at 11:28 of the third period.

While on the extended power play, Pastrnak (15) completed his hat trick thanks to the work of Torey Krug moving the puck back to Marchand who then fed Pastrnak on a tic-toc-goal effort.

Marchand (14) picked up his second assist of the evening and Krug (5) earned his first point of the night at 14:04 of the third period, as the Bruins now led, 4-1.

A mere, 26 seconds later, with the power play expired, David Krejci spun away from Toronto’s pressure with a back-pass to Joakim Nordstrom (3) for the added insurance policy goal to make it, 5-1, Boston.

Krejci (12) laid claim to the only assist on the goal at 14:30.

Late in the third period, Kampfer was called for his fourth minor penalty in the last two games– this time for slashing Toronto’s Nazem Kadri.

The Maple Leafs did not convert on the ensuing power play.

At the final horn, the Bruins defeated Toronto, 5-1, despite being outshot, 41-34. The B’s led in shots on goal in the third period, 12-11, and had the final advantage in giveaways (16-8), hits (22-20) and face-off win% (53-47) after the 60-minute effort.

Both teams had 12 blocked shots aside, while Toronto finished Saturday night powerless on the power play (0/3). Boston operated at 50% capacity (2/4) on the skater advantage.

With the loss on the road, the Maple Leafs fell to 6-1-0 in seven road games so far this season. The Bruins face the Golden Knights on Sunday before departing for a four-game road trip, stopping in Colorado on Nov. 14th, Dallas on Nov. 16, Arizona on Nov. 17th and Detroit on Nov. 21st.

After the four-game road trip, Boston returns home for their annual Black Friday game– this time a matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 23rd. The Bruins play two games back-to-back after American Thanksgiving this year, with a home game against Pittsburgh on the 23rd and a road game in Montreal on Nov. 24th.

With his 2nd career hat trick (regular season and playoffs) against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, Pastrnak joined Phil Esposito (four-times), Bobby Bauer (two-times), Herb Cain (two-times), Cam Neely (two-times) and Krejci (two-times) as the only players in Bruins franchise history to record multiple hat tricks against Toronto.

Pastrnak’s hat trick helps B’s pummel Red Wings, 8-2

The Detroit Red Wings have not won in Boston in five years. Even worse, the Red Wings are 0-9-0 at TD Garden in their last nine visits as a result of Saturday afternoon’s 8-2 loss to the Bruins.

Detroit’s last win in the Hub came on October 14, 2013.

David Pastrnak (3-0–3 totals) recorded his second career hat trick (third if you include his postseason hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs last April) as Boston won their fourth game in-a-row since losing 7-0 to the Washington Capitals on the road to start the season.

Patrice Bergeron had three assists, Brad Marchand had two assists and David Krejci had a pair of assists to reach 400 career assists since entering the league with the Bruins in the 2006-07 season.

Meanwhile Charlie McAvoy (1-0–1), Jake DeBrusk (2-0–2), Anders Bjork (1-1–2) and Sean Kuraly (1-0–1) had the other goals for the B’s in the 8-2 victory.

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Tuukka Rask made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage in the win, while Detroit netminder, Jonathan Bernier, stopped 31 out of 39 shots faced for a .795 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 (8 points) on the season, while the Red Wings fell to 0-3-2 (2 points) in their first five games.

Boston has a plus-13 goal differential through the first five games of the regular season and has outscored their opponents 22-6 in the last four games since being shutout by Washington on the road to start the 2018-19 regular season.

The Bruins are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1st place in the Atlantic Division, at least until the Leafs take on the Capitals Saturday night.

Detroit has a minus-12 goal differential through their first five games this season and is one point ahead of the Florida Panthers (0-0-1, 1 point) from the basement of the Atlantic Division. Florida is in action Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Rask got the start Saturday afternoon for Boston after Jaroslav Halak backstopped the B’s to a 4-1 victory Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Bruce Cassidy inserted Ryan Donato back into his lineup in place of Danton Heinen (scratched Saturday after no points in four games) on the third line and kept Joakim Nordstrom on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

Steven Kampfer remained a healthy scratch on the blue line, while Torey Krug remained out of the lineup due to injury.

Late in the first period, Pastrnak (5) went end-to-end with the puck on his stick and fired a snap shot, high-glove side, past Bernier to open Saturday’s scoring for the Bruins, 1-0. Brandon Carlo (1) and Chris Wagner (1) picked up their first assists of the season on Pastrnak’s goal at 19:09.

After attempting to check Noel Acciari and instead reverberating off of Acciari’s solid frame, Dylan Larkin kept pressuring Acciari to crack. Instead, after the third attempt at  a hit that included a quick left handed shove, Acciari dropped the gloves expecting Larkin to do the same.

He did not.

So both Larkin and Acciari received roughing minor penalties, with Larkin earning an extra one for good measure, giving Boston their first power play of the night at 19:44 of the first period.

The skater advantage would carry over into the second period, but the Bruins failed to convert on the advantage.

Through 20 minutes of play, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard, despite the Red Wings leading in shots on goal, 12-8.

Detroit also led in blocked shots (5-2), hits (13-8) and face-off win percentage (64-36) after one period, while the Bruins led in takeaways (7-5) and giveaways (4-3). The Red Wings had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period on a face-off in the offensive zone, Bergeron won the draw back to McAvoy (1) who fired a shot from the face-off circle that deflected off an opponent in front of the goal past Bernier to make it 2-0 Bruins.

Bergeron (4) had the only assist on McAvoy’s first goal of the season at 4:44 of the second period. Boston did not let off the gas pedal the rest of the way.

DeBrusk (1) was sent into the attacking zone on a breakaway and slid the puck underneath Bernier’s pad– just squeaking the rubber biscuit past the goal line, but enough for the nearest ref to see the whole thing– to make it 3-0 Bruins.

Krejci (3) had the only assist on the DeBrusk’s first of the year at 11:26.

Moments later, Christoffer Ehn caught McAvoy with a high-stick and gave the Bruins their second power play of the afternoon 16 minutes into the second period.

Boston’s first power play unit only needed 20 seconds to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as Pastrnak (6) scored his second goal of the game on a one-timed slap shot. Bergeron (5) and Marchand (8) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal– the 100th of his career– at 16:20 and the B’s led, 4-0.

Late in the second frame, the Bruins were guilty of minor penalties less than a minute apart. First, DeBrusk was sent to the box for tripping Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou at 18:17. Then Marchand took a trip to the sin bin for sending the puck over the glass on a delay of game minor at 19:00.

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The Red Wings would have 1:17 on the 5-on-3 advantage that would spillover into the third period.

After 40 minutes of play, No. 40 in the home goal (Rask) and the Bruins led 4-0. Boston recovered from trailing in shots on goal in the first period, 12-8, to leading in shots on goal, 23-20 after two periods. The Bruins outshot the Red Wings, 15-8, in the second frame.

Detroit led in blocked shots (10-4) and hits (18-14), while Boston held an advantage in takeaways (13-12), giveaways (7-6) and face-off win% (60-40) entering the second intermission. The Red Wings were 0/2 on the power play (but not for long) and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the final frame.

Filip Hronek (1) fired a clapper from the point 21 seconds into the third period as the first penalty expired for Boston, yielding a 5-on-4 power play goal and his first career NHL goal to put Detroit on the scoreboard, 4-1.

Tyler Bertuzzi (2) and Gustav Nyquist (4) had the assists on Hronek’s goal.

Just 1:44 after the Red Wings scored, David Pastrnak (7) completed his hat trick on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand in the offensive zone.

Pastrnak rushed in on a pass from Patrice Bergeron, giving the puck to Marchand, before No. 63 returned the vulcanized rubber to its sender for the snipe past Bernier. Marchand (9) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s third goal of the game and the Bruins led, 5-1.

It was Pastrnak’s first regular season hat trick since recording his first career hat trick in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13, 2018 (he had 3-1–4 totals that night) and it was his first hat trick since his 6-point effort against Toronto in Game 2 of the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Anthony Mantha tripped up Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, at 6:24 of the third period, but Boston would not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Dylan Larkin (3) fired a wrist shot past Rask for his third goal of the season at 8:23 and brough the Red Wings to within three, making it a 5-2 game with plenty of time left in the final period of regulation.

Frans Nielsen (2) and Joe Hicketts (1) had primary and secondary assists on Larkin’s goal.

Less than a couple minutes later, the Bruins responded.

Anders Bjork (1) scored his first goal of the season– and the first of his sophomore campaign since his rookie season ended prematurely due to left-shoulder injury.

Bjork’s goal was unassisted at 10:12 of the third period after No. 10 in black-and-gold was credited with a takeaway in the neutral zone and burst into the attacking zone with Donato on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing, Bjork sniped a wrist shot past Bernier to make it, 6-2, Boston.

A little over a minute later, John Moore was guilty of hooking Darren Helm and Detroit went back on the power play at 11:36. The Red Wings were unable to score this time around on the advantage.

Mantha and McAvoy received roughing minors for some extracurricular activity after the whistle at 13:57 of the third period and two minutes of 4-on-4 action resulted.

That’s about the time when DeBrusk sent a pass to Krejci on the left side, before the Czech center lobbed a pass to Brandon Carlo pinching in from the point, whereby Carlo found DeBrusk (2) in the low slot for the redirection past Bernier to make it 7-2 Boston at 15:15.

In the final minute of regulation, Detroit defender, Nick Jensen caught Ryan Donato with a shoulder to the head and Bruins fourth liner, Chris Wagner, immediately responded.

Though Wagner and Jensen had the gloves off and exchanged fisticuffs, both received unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalties, with Wagner serving two and Jensen picking up one unsportsmanlike conduct call and an illegal check to the head minor penalty at 19:35 of the third period.

In the closing seconds of the game, Sean Kuraly (1) added his first goal of the season and the Bruins sealed an 8-2 victory with 1.3 seconds remaining on the game clock. Kevan Miller (1) and Bjork (1) were tabbed with the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 19:58 (officially) of the third period.

The Bruins finished the night with the 8-2 win and leading in shots on goal (39-34), as well as, face-off win% (52-49), while going 1/3 on the power play. Detroit ended the game leading in blocked shots (12-9) and was 1/3 on the skater advantage, as well. Both teams finished Saturday’s matinee matchup with 21 hits.

Among other stats…

Miller was a plus-four for the Bruins, as only Wagner (even) and Acciari (minus-one) finished the game without a positive plus/minus for Boston.

Moore led the B’s in shots on goal with five, while Chara, DeBrusk, Nordstrom and Pastrnak all recorded four shots on net.

Acciari led the Bruins in hits with four. Carlo, Miller and Nordstrom each had three.

David Pastrnak is the third fastest to reach 100 career goals in franchise history for Boston, doing so in his 259th career game– trailing only Barry Pederson (100 goals in 187 games) and Dit Clapper (100 goals in 247 games). He also became the third fastest Czech-born player to score 100 goals, behind Petr Klima (231) and Jaromir Jagr (245).

Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist and Frans Nielsen were minus-three on Saturday for Detroit. Filip Hronek not only scored his first career goal, but led the Red Wings in shots on goal with six from the blue line (Nyquist was second on the team with five). Joe Hicketts led the Red Wings in hits with five and Nick Jensen led Detroit in blocked shots with four.

The Bruins take on the Calgary Flames on the road on Wednesday, before facing the Oilers on Thursday and rounding out their Western Canada portion of the upcoming four-game road trip on October 20th against the Vancouver Canucks.

Boston travels to Ottawa for a matchup with the Senators on the 23rd before returning home to face the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden on the 25th.

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Season Projections

It’s forecasting season, well, actually it’s the regular season and I’m just a little behind, but until I pointed that out, you didn’t know I was behind on my little passion project here, did you?

I know I wrote “[i]n the coming days I’ll reveal what teams I’ll be forecasting/tracking all season long, so stay tuned because it’s about to get messier than ever before and I’m up for the challenge,” in my Boston Bruins 2018-19 forecast, but life and the fact that I’m moving all my data into a new format has slowed my turnaround for the time being.

Nevertheless, my Vegas Golden Knights forecast for 2018-19 is here and let’s pretend the first week of the regular season hasn’t already happened or something.

Additionally, if you’re wondering what other teams I’m preparing to post (before we get too far into the first quarter of the season) they are the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.

I always keep tabs on the Bruins every year because I grew up a Boston fan and I decided to track Vegas last season because there hadn’t been nearly as much hype surrounding an expansion team since Columbus and the Minnesota Wild in 2000. Additionally, I’ve previously tracked the Arizona Coyotes simply because they follow us on Twitter (and I’ll get back around to them hopefully before season’s end, if you’re interested).

But I’m adding Carolina and Columbus to my forecast portfolio this season because 1) the Hurricanes are supposed to be better than last season, plus they have some exciting youth in the lineup and 2) a lot of Blue Jackets fans are also fans of our brand around here, so shouts 5th Liners.

Please be patient on the timeline for when I’ll get my Hurricanes and Blue Jackets forecasts posted– it’ll be by the end of the month for sure.

Anyway, on with the Golden Knights, shall we?


Vegas is coming off of their inaugural season having finished 1st in the Pacific Division with 109 points and a 51-24-7 record under head coach Gerard Gallant. Not only did they finish at the top of their division in their first season, but they did so with over 100 points and a 50-plus win season.

Oh yeah and they played the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Despite the loss in five games to Washington, the Golden Knights were and still are well ahead of owner Bill Foley’s “Cup in three [seasons]” masterplan– what with General Manager George McPhee‘s offseason additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty and everything.

This year, of course, the competition has gotten a lot tougher. There are expectations now when opponents play the Golden Knights.

Gallant and his Vegas lineup are going to have to get more creative than ever before in franchise history to avoid the hangover of a Stanley Cup Final appearance run and to avoid getting too predictable.

Things are different now. They’re no longer the new kids on the block. They’re the 2018 Western Conference champions and a team to beat.

As always, I’d like to remind you my degree is in communication– not math– therefore anything that looks wrong is either adjusted with a little gut-feeling and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault. My expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers on a spreadsheet.

These forecasted stats are to be seen as an utopian perspective, as though nothing bad could happen this season at any point to any player– where every player at least lives up to their forecast and then some.

Some will pan out and some will fall flat. It’s a suggested outcome for a sport that’s played on ice in a highly unpredictable collective environment of action and sheer puck luck.

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Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

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After a breakout 78-point season (43 goals, 35 assists) for William Karlsson, the Golden Knights number-one center is prime for a respectable 41-point season as part of the natural regression of the game– unless Karlsson is truly an outlier, like he was coming from Columbus to Vegas last season.

Meanwhile, Reilly Smith (19-27–46 expected totals) and Jonathan Marchessault (28-35–63 expected totals) bolster the Golden Knights first line with respectable performances of their own, while the point spread has really been shared with the second line.

Newcomers Paul Stastny (22-43–65 expected totals) and Max Pacioretty (33-30–63 expected totals) are set to become the key contributors to the fiery Vegas offense in their first season with the club.

The Golden Knights top-six core of forwards is deeper than last season, whereas the majority of their offense was reliant upon Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith. This year there’s more emphasis on Alex Tuch and Erik Haula inside the top-nine.

On defense, Gallant’s crew will have to do without Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games of the season while Schmidt serves a suspension for a performance enhancing drug.

Luckily, Brad Hunt, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore are prime for an uptick in time-on-ice and production, with Hunt and Miller expected to reach the 30-point plateau, while offseason addition, Nick Holden should see a pleasant rebound from his 17 points split between the Bruins and New York Rangers last season to a 25-point effort in 2018-19 with Vegas, provided he can remain in the top-six on the depth chart.

Upon Schmidt’s return, he should still have 4-23–27 totals from the blue line, which is not great like last season’s 5-31–36 totals, but not terrible for a top-four defender.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to return to Earth from his superhuman season last year (a 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage in 46 games) to a 2.49 GAA and .913 SV% in 2018-19. As the Golden Knights starter continues to get older, limiting his workload to keep him fresher for the postseason is the way to go.

Granted, Fleury’s playing time was limited last season due to a concussion, he still went on to have solid regular season numbers and an impeccable 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff run up until the Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Subban‘s 2.68 GAA and .910 SV% in 22 games played look to be improved upon to a 2.65 GAA and .911 SV% in somewhere around 30 appearances as the backup netminder for Vegas.

As always, we’ll get more into the goalies once the team has played through a quarter of the season.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Projected Stats

Well, technically it’s a forecast.

In the coming days I’ll reveal what teams I’ll be forecasting/tracking all season long, so stay tuned because it’s about to get messier than ever before and I’m up for the challenge.


The 2018-19 regular season gets underway Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. as the Boston Bruins visit the United States capital and defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to kick off their own run to the Cup.*

*Subject to change based on injuries and performance.

As has been tradition for the last– oh I don’t know– several seasons now, here’s a look at some things to expect from each and every member of the Bruins roster that has played in at least one career NHL game. Keep in mind there are many variables that should be taken into account when everyone reads this in April and points and laughs.

For starters, injuries, being a healthy scratch, being sent down or called up, sickness and general superstitions (which may or may not actually exist) disrupt a player’s season pretty well, as well as more things I won’t bother to mention.

You’re either here to hear about how David Pastrnak is going to lead Boston in scoring this season or you’re wondering when the next post will appear and you can keep scrolling on by.

Before we dive in– just for the record– I’d like to remind you all that my degree is in communication– not math– therefore anything that looks “out-of-whack” is Microsoft Excel’s fault. My expertise is in words, which…

These forecasted stats come with an utopian view– as if nothing bad could ever happen and every player actually lived up to their projections– but of course some will pan out, some will exceed expectations and others will miss the mark entirely.

Think of it as a suggested outcome for a sport that is highly unpredictable based on its collective nature and sheer puck luck.

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Boston Bruins Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

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The Bruins 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs run came to a disappointing end in quick fashion against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Second Round, but the experience– both tangible and intangible– will be enough to a) leave everyone wanting more and b) leave a lot of players with something to prove.

After entering 2017-18 to the tune of “[they’re] too young– too, too young” (shouts Mike Felger of 98.5 The Sports Hub), Boston turned a lot of eyes with a 50-win season, finishing 2nd in the Atlantic Division with 112 points– one point behind the Lightning. In fact, had Boston won their final game of the regular season against the Florida Panthers, they would’ve clinched the division title.

This, of course, all after a First Round exit to the Ottawa Senators in 2017 following two straight postseason misses in 2015 and 2016.

Now the Bruins enter Phase Three of General Manager Don Sweeney‘s masterplan– win a Cup. Now.

First Sweeney retooled on-the-fly, beginning with the Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton trades at the 2015 Draft. Then he worked youth into the lineup of Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy‘s teams. Finally, here we are, the third year of the secret plan to win a Cup in three years as most Bruins front office members determined they’d be at this point, three years ago.

But enough about that, here’s a look at some of Boston’s expected top performers of 2018-19 before the puck even drops on the regular season.

David Pastrnak leads the way in scoring with 71 points (33 goals, 38 assists) from one of the league’s best first lines, comprised of Pastrnak on the right side, Brad Marchand (32-32–64 expected totals) on the left and Patrice Bergeron (25-38–63 expected totals) down the middle.

After injuries limited Bergeron to 64 games last season, the rejuvenated 33-year-old alternate captain in the Hub finally reaches back-to-back 60-point seasons since his pre-Randy Jones induced concussion days. Bergeron had 73 points in his sophomore NHL season (81 games) in 2005-06 and 70 points (77 games) in 2006-07.

The Bruins expected second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ryan Donato doesn’t show any signs of slowing down as DeBrusk (19-32–51 expected totals) enters his sophomore season and Donato (34-27–61 expected totals) enters his first full season in the NHL.

For the first time since the days of the Lucic-Krejci-Nathan Horton line, it seems the Bruins have finally found the right combination of skill, speed and scoring to compliment Krejci’s tremendous two-way playmaking abilities.

Krejci’s 43 assists are expected to lead his team, provided he can stay healthy as the 32-year-old enters his 13th season with Boston since entering the league in 2006-07 (six games played).

Meanwhile, Danton Heinen‘s 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) are expected to be a key contributor to improved play from Sean Kuraly and David Backes on the third line.

On defense, Charlie McAvoy steps up with 42 points on the season (nine goals, 33 assists) in his sophomore year– uninterrupted by injury or health scares.

Despite missing the start of the regular season Torey Krug still found a way to put up 49 points (11 goals, 38 assists) from the blue line in his fourth consecutive season of 40 or more points. In fact, the only time Krug’s missed the 40-point plateau, he had 39 points in 2014-15 (his 2nd full-season, 78 games played).

Zdeno Chara‘s 12-26–38 expected totals are sensational from a 41-year-old defender entering his 21st professional season in the National Hockey League. Meanwhile, Brandon Carlo‘s going to bounce-back from a sophomore slump to produce three goals and eight assists (11 points) in his junior season as a bottom-three blue liner, sharing duties with Krug, John Moore, Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk on any given night.

In goal, Tuukka Rask remains confident in his defense and in the scoring power of the forwards in front of him, as he cruises along with a 2.28 goals against average and .921 save percentage at (regular) season’s end in April.

Jaroslav Halak stabilizes as a backup goaltender in a system that actually works with good, talented, young defenders that help limit his workload, Halak amasses a 2.49 GAA and .916 SV% in his appearances. His play provides Boston with a nearly 1A/1B option, but ultimately gives way to Rask down the stretch and into the playoffs.

We’ll get into exactly how many games each goalie should realistically see playing time in the next forecast.

Anaheim Ducks 2018-19 Season Preview

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Anaheim Ducks

44-25-13, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division

Swept in the First Round by San Jose, 4-0

Additions: G Jared Coreau, F Chase De Leo (acquired from WPG), F Brian Gibbons, F Anton Rodin, F Carter Rowney, D Luke Schenn, F Ben Street, D Andrej Sustr

Subtractions: D Francois Beauchemin (retired), G Reto Berra (signed, Switzerland), F Jared Boll (retired), F J.T. Brown (signed with MIN), F Derek Grant (signed with PIT), F Chris Kelly (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (traded to WPG), F Mike Liambas (signed with MIN), F Andre Petersson (signed, KHL), F Corey Tropp (signed with San Diego Gulls, AHL)

Still Unsigned: D Kevin Bieksa, F Jason Chimera, F Nick Ritchie, F Scott Sabourin, F Antoine Vermette

Re-signed: F Ondrej Kase, F Kalle Kossila, D Brandon Montour, F Kevin Roy, D Andy Welinski

Offseason Analysis: Despite finishing one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks in the final standings at the end of the regular season, the Sharks took a bite out of the Anaheim Ducks in the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. So much of a bite, in fact, it swept the Ducks off their feet.

Get it? Because they got swept in the postseason.

Despite winning the Cup with Randy Carlyle behind the bench in 2007, Anaheim needs to recognize just how much has changed in the last 11 years. The Ducks got back with their ex and fell into their old habits in a new-age game.

Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler aren’t the players they used to be. It’s not that Perry can’t score, it’s just that he’s not as effective. As for the Ryans (Getzlaf and Kesler), one’s still existent (Getzlaf) though he’d be much better on the second or third line– or at least flanked by youth on his wings– and the other (Kesler) has become irrelevant.

Rickard Rakell would be better at center and well… the key is Carlyle has to revamp the lines, given what General Manager Bob Murray‘s handed to him this offseason (not much).

Brian Gibbons and Carter Rowney are fourth liners, so depth down the bottom-six is covered, at least. Meanwhile Luke Schenn and Andrej Sustr provide excellent coverage as sixth defensemen fighting for the last spot on Anaheim’s blue line, which is one of two bright spots for the Ducks heading into 2018-19.

Anaheim’s defensive core is strong with Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour as their top-four defenders. As one of the most under-the-radar defensive core, they’ve kept John Gibson‘s workload to a manageable– wait, actually, Gibson faced 435 shots more in eight additional games last season than he did in 2016-17.

For the record, Gibson faced 1,437 shots against in 52 games (25-16-9 record) in 2016-17, while he faced 1,872 shots against in 60 games (31-18-7) last season. Though the workload increased, Gibson’s save percentage improved from a .924 to a .926. He also won over half the games he played in last season.

So Anaheim’s main strong point is the best American goaltender in the game, while having one of the better than average defenses in the game. Meanwhile, Nick Ritchie remains an unsigned RFA that Murray has to manage carefully.

Quintessential to the transition from the 2000s/2010s style Ducks to the 2020s era Ducks, the 22-year-old left winger is Anaheim’s biggest blue chip roster player outside of the crease. Ritchie is just waiting to emerge with a breakout year as Troy Terry joins the fold on offense.

The fact of the matter remains– play the kids more.

It can only help manage the workload of the physically worn out Ducks that have been around for the last decade. Perry might still produce, but it’s time to break him free from Getzlaf on the first line.

Ondrej Kase could move up a line, but Jakob Silfverberg isn’t actually the problem on the second line.

Anaheim’s in the middle of something– middle of the road, middle of a transition or middle of mediocrity. Whatever it is, they didn’t do much this offseason to fix it this season, but there’s still time to turn things around in the next few years– wait, Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler all have NMCs in their contracts that have three, three and four-years remaining respectively?

Oh boy.

Offseason Grade: D+

No you can’t get an “A” by default after having Francois Beauchemin, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly retire in one offseason from your roster.

John Gibson might be the closest thing to Dominik Hasek that we’ve seen since Dominik Hasek led the nonchalant 1999 Buffalo Sabres (seriously, look up the scoring leaders for that team, it trails off after Miroslav Satan— shouts Puck Soup) in the dead puck/trap era to the Stanley Cup Final– that’s if Gibson single handedly leads the Ducks to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, mind you, and the mountain looks too steep.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Projected Lineup

If you wait long enough into the summer things start to look more concrete– until you really look at the nitty gritty.

The 2017-18 Boston Bruins were ahead of schedule. They exceeded expectations. They weren’t even supposed to have the kind of season they had until at least this season or next season (if that makes sense), depending on how you broke down General Manager Don Sweeney‘s master three-year plan.

Like everything, however, this offseason has had some ups and downs.

Without getting too much into the nonsensically named (okay, it was named after some videogame, read Bob McKenzie’s book Hockey Confidential— shameless plug) advanced stat “PDO”, let’s just say that whenever a team does really well for a season, they usually come back to reality the following season.

Hockey logic has indicated this in the past, what with the Chicago Blackhawks almost evenly spaced out Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 (notice, 2011, 2012 and 2014 did not result in Cups– kind of makes you think)– let alone all of hockey history.

A long season, while rewarding with a championship run (sometimes), is a grind.

Not trying to be Debbie Downer here, but let’s just try to look at things with a slice of realism for this season especially.

Last season they were “too young, too, too young”, but they amassed 50 wins and made it to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season they’re more experienced, but with an unknown and untapped source of depth in both their free agent signings and expected rookie debuts and sophomores.

Gone are Tim Schaller and Riley Nash— two quality bottom-six forwards who left for Vancouver and Columbus respectively in July. In their place we find Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom. Lateral– but necessary– moves.

The expectations coming into Schaller and Nash’s two-year deals in the 2016 offseason were that they’d contribute in some way, but nobody could predict Schaller becoming a legitimate fourth liner and Nash amassing 41 points (a career best) in a contract year.

While Wagner and Nordstrom aren’t your bottom-six fan favorites yet, they share similar parallels of the unknown and are expected to rise to the occasion– whatever that may be as Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will see fit.

Wagner’s your tough guy and Nordstrom’s a solid penalty killer. The latter will likely see some time with Sean Kuraly on a PK-unit a la Nash and Kuraly from this past season.

Also departed this offseason are defenseman, Nick Holden (signed with Vegas), and goaltender, Anton Khudobin (signed with Dallas).

In their place the Bruins signed blueliner John Moore and backup netminder Jaroslav Halak.

Moore’s five-year deal may seem like a bit much, but at $2.750 million per season, he’s making as much as Adam McQuaid for likely a bottom-pair role that’ll transform into McQuaid’s replacement, should Sweeney look to move the career-long Boston defender or not re-sign him in July 2019.

Despite being one-year older than Khudobin, Halak is an upgrade as a stable backup goaltender who’s numbers should improve in a more limited role with a better group of skaters in front of him than his now former New York Islanders teammates were the last few seasons.

Pointless arguments can be made all day (Halak is better than Khudobin), but let’s move on with the actual lineup projection, shall we?

Actually, let’s digress for another moment. Rick Nash remains undecided about whether or not he’d like to return to the game, so that could always mess everything up.

Anyway, here’s a look at how the Boston Bruins 2018-19 lineup should shape up:


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Forward Line 1

63 Brad Marchand — 37 Patrice Bergeron — 88 David Pastrnak

Isn’t it obvious? The best line in the NHL from 2017-18 rolls right into 2018-19 intact with the same level of chemistry as before. Sure, you could spread out the points a bit by putting Pastrnak on the second line with David Krejci, but you really don’t have to unless you’re looking to shake things up a bit from time to time.

Boston’s first line is set for at least the remainder of Patrice Bergeron’s existence– ignoring contracts altogether. Brad Marchand is inseparable from Bergeron and Pastrnak has joined that royalty in his own right, as he continues to emerge as a star.

Forward Line 2

74 Jake DeBrusk — 46 David Krejci — 10 Anders Bjork/17 Ryan Donato

Jake DeBrusk and Krejci go together like Milan Lucic once did on the Czech center’s left side. Except there’s a bit of a difference in DeBrusk’s game– it’s more offensive. The bigger question on Boston’s second line shouldn’t be “what top-six forward will they try to acquire to fill a ‘hole'”, but rather “who will win the job between Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato?”

For the sake of testing things out in the wake of Bjork’s return from a season-ending injury in 2017-18, Cassidy could insert No. 10 on the second line. Then again, if the Bruins are set on giving Donato a big-time role for a full season, well, then it’ll be Bjork sliding down to line three or line four.

Donato could be like Pastrnak once was early in his development and be sent to Providence for some seasoning in his game and offensive capabilities at the professional level. However, one difference between Donato’s development and Pastrnak’s development is that Donato stood out on an Olympic level, not just in an international World Junior Championship competition.

But if you’re looking to give props to Pastrnak, it’s worth mentioning (albeit due to international/minor league transfer rules) that No. 88 in black and gold went pro before Donato while No. 17 in the spoked-B finished his bona fide duties at Harvard University.

Or just to mess everything else up, perhaps Bjork starts 2018-19 with a stint in Providence.

Forward Line 3

43 Danton Heinen — 52 Sean Kuraly — 42 David Backes

Whoever doesn’t win the second line right wing job (Bjork or Donato) should likely end up on the third line in Boston alongside Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly. Kuraly, you say?

Yes, Kuraly will be tested out as a third line center as had been planned since he was part of the Martin Jones trade with the San Jose Sharks. Just how far will his bottom-six forward potential go? Time well tell and the time is now.

Otherwise Joakim Nordstrom slides right into Riley Nash’s old job much like how he’s already slid into the No. 20 sweater in the Hub.

Forward Line 4

14 Chris Wagner — 20 Joakim Nordstrom — 55 Noel Acciari

Then again, if Bjork or Donato slide just enough, they might end up taking a job from Noel Acciari on the fourth line. Or just maybe Sweeney can console armchair GMs enough with some level justification for having Backes on the fourth line at $6.000 million per season through the 2020-21 season.

For fans and armchair GMs alike that like a lot of hitting, Chris Wagner is your man. He’s basically the new Matt Beleskey, but without the expectations that ran rampant after Beleskey’s incredible 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff run with the Anaheim Ducks.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much status quo on the fourth line, despite some new faces in Wagner and Nordstrom– provide a spark. Whatever that is.

Defensive Pair 1

33 Zdeno Chara — 73 Charlie McAvoy

Zdeno Chara wants to play forever (basically) and Charlie McAvoy is the closest thing Bruins fans have seen to a modern-day Ray Bourque in his development and potential.

On a serious note, Chara intends to play for at least another four years (by then he’ll be 45) and signed a one-year extension (at a $5.000 million cap hit) this spring for the 2018-19 season. McAvoy, on the other hand, seeks to continue his rise to stardom on the blue line moving on to his sophomore season.

Defensive Pair 2

47 Torey Krug — 25 Brandon Carlo

There’s an impetus among armchair GMs to trade Torey Krug for a second line wing and/or other assets, but the fact of the matter is Sweeney and Co. have no legitimate rush to move on from Krug. He might be their biggest piece of trade bait for speculative purposes this season, yet he’s also still part of the top-four defensive core in Boston.

Meanwhile, Brandon Carlo looks to rebound from a bit of a sophomore slump in which he failed to score a goal. Carlo and Krug had a chemistry that– at best of times– worked well in 2017-18. Like any defender, though, mistakes are usually noticeable, because there’s a puck in the net behind them.

Defensive Pair 3

27 John Moore — 86 Kevan Miller

You’re not going to pay John Moore $2.750 million for the next five seasons to not play him, whereas a guy like Matt Grzelcyk or Brandon Carlo could be at risk of becoming a healthy scratch– and that’s assuming Adam McQuaid who also has a $2.750 million cap hit this season already will be a healthy scratch most nights.

In the meantime, Kevan Miller has solidified himself as the 5th or 6th defenseman in Boston– for his physicality and impressive play alone– and could further take on McQuaid’s fighter role this season as a deterrence from the waning role of the enforcer around the rest of the league.

Extra Skaters

48 Matt Grzelcyk, 54 Adam McQuaid

Following suit with last season, Grzelcyk will have to win his full-time role out of the gate once again, while McQuaid’s future status with the organization remains cloudy past 2019. So cloudy, in fact, that he’ll be a pending-UFA as of July 2019.

In the system

Zach Senyshyn (potential second line RW/bottom six contender), Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (bottom six contender), Jesse Gabrielle (fourth line option at camp), Trent Frederic (bottom six contender), Jack Studnicka (bottom six contender at camp), Jakub Zboril (bottom pair defensive contender), Jeremy Lauzon (bottom pair defensive contender), Zane McIntyre (backup goalie contender at camp), Dan Vladar (backup goalie contender at camp)

Goalies

40 Tuukka Rask

Tuukka Rask is your starting goaltender as he has been since Tim Thomas decided to take a gap year (and was subsequently traded to the Islanders). There is no goaltending controversy, though Jaroslav Halak should provide more consistency in net on the night’s Rask gets to rest.

In addition to finding the right mix of rest and play, fewer shots against for the third consecutive year since facing a career high 2,011 shots in 70 games in 2014-15 has helped Rask’s focus throughout the season as the Bruins look to go further as a team.

You win and lose as a team– not solely as a goaltender.

41 Jaroslav Halak

Yes, Anton Khudobin bounced back from a disappointing 2016-17 season to an exuberant 2017-18 season, but let’s get this clear– he’s a backup. Khudobin bounced around a bit from the NHL to the AHL and back again in 2016-17, posting a 2.64 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 16 games played.

He then had a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 games as Boston’s backup in 2017-18, which was good enough for his third best season in GAA and SV%, dating back to his first real taste of being a backup NHL goaltender in 2012-13 with Boston (Khudobin appeared in seven NHL games from 2009-12 with Minnesota and the Bruins in dire situations).

The thing here is a 2.56 GAA is not starting netminder material, no matter how you break down Khudobin’s overall improvement from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

In the meantime, Jaroslav Halak is poised for career-reset. He’s got a change of scenery from Brooklyn to Boston and with that he won’t be playing in nearly as many games.

Halak had a 3.19 GAA and .908 SV% in 54 games as New York’s starting goalie, keeping in mind the Islanders suffered a lot of injuries on the blue line last season. He also nearly doubled his workload from a dismal 2016-17 (28 games played) to 2017-18 (54 GP).

In 2015-16, Halak had a 2.30 GAA and .919 SV% as the Islanders backup netminder in 36 games played. Khudobin, on the other hand, appeared in nine games for the Anaheim Ducks that season, amassing a 2.69 GAA and .909 SV% before being sent down to San Diego (AHL).

The moral of the story here is that the Bruins have been about giving backups second chances in recent history, whether that’s Chad Johnson, Jonas Gustavsson, Khudobin and now Halak– they’re willing to take that gamble.

Okay, end Halak vs. Khudobin rant.

2018 Offseason Preview: Washington Capitals

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams concludes with the Washington Capitals and their outlook for the summer– headaches, lots of headaches and not the salary cap related kind.

Washington Capitals Logo

It only took 13 NHL seasons, but Alex Ovechkin is finally a Stanley Cup champion– and once you’re a Stanley Cup champion, you’re a Stanley Cup champion. No more “annual Second Round exit” jokes, no more counting the number of seasons or games until Ovechkin finally wins the Cup.

Instead, we’re left counting the number of beers all of the Capitals can consume in one offseason– and that’s from winning, not being eliminated this time around.

Kidding aside, Barry Trotz led the Caps to a 49-26-7 record and 105 points on the season. That was good enough for 1st in the Metropolitan Division in a season when most thought they’d never be as competitive as years past.

This team wasn’t “supposed” to win the Cup. But they did.

Now, Trotz’s two-year extension clause that would’ve kicked in having won the Cup led Trotz to resign as head coach, leaving General Manager Brian MacLellan searching for the next best coach available to step in behind the bench.

Trotz has every right to test the waters of free agency like players can and coaches salaries have risen for top-notch talent (Claude Julien makes $5.000 million a year– guaranteed, while Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville both make at least $6.000 million a year).

He’s the first head coach to not return to his team after winning the Cup since Scotty Bowman retired after winning with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and Mike Keenan left the New York Rangers after winning in 1994 to take the job as head coach of the St. Louis Blues.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Washington has the 31st overall pick in Friday’s draft thanks to winning the Cup.

They’ll either a) keep the pick and use it on a player inside the first or second round rankings, then overcook said prospect until he is ripe for an NHL debut or b) trade the pick for some assets (more picks in lower rounds or replenish some holes on the roster within the tight cap space that they have.

Pending free agents

The Capitals currently have about $11.200 million free in available money to spend this summer. There’s good news and bad news that comes with that.

Good news, Washington will keep some of their glue guys. Bad news, John Carlson is for sure gone because he can make bank (probably around $9.000 million per year) with his next contract elsewhere and MacLellan’s going to trade backup goaltender and pending-RFA, Philipp Grubauer.

This begs the obvious question, can the Capitals go back-to-back?

Yes and no.

Trotz plays a huge role in the postseason run that Washington had. The buy-in, the chemistry in the lineups and the changing strategies that got them further than they had ever gone under Trotz’s tenure– all of that comes under a combo of Trotz and the roster MacLellan built (okay, tweaked, since most of the Capitals were drafted by George McPhee anyway).

And no, because Washington’s run might just be one of those one-off acts where a team slays the competition in the playoffs, then stays competitive in the first or second round(s) for another year or two before returning to Earth.

MacLellan has two pending-UFAs to consider re-signing in Alex Chiasson and Jay Beagle.

Chiasson, 27, had nine goals and nine assists (18 points) in 61 games in his first season in Washington. He’s been around the league (Dallas, Ottawa, Calgary and D.C.) and likely will find a new address for 2018-19.

Beagle, 32, had 7-15–22 totals in 79 games played this season. Compared to Chiasson, that’s not that much better in 18 additional games. Beagle’s been part of the bottom-six soul of Washington’s forwards, but in an increasingly younger and faster game, he may be outpaced and outdone by the salary cap for the Capitals to retain his services.

Pending-RFAs Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson and Travis Boyd should all see expanded roles if they stick around.

Smith-Pelly, 26, had seven goals in 75 games in the regular season. He had seven goals in 24 gams this postseason. There’s no greater time than now for Smith-Pelly to cash in as one of the most important glue guys to any roster and given Washington’s cash strapped outlook, only time will tell if he’s rocking the red next season.

Wilson, 24, has his antics, reputation and scoring ability? The controversial forward and 16th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft had his best season in 2017-18 notching career-highs in goals (14), assists (21) and points (35). Washington’s going to want to lock him up if they can, while Wilson may opt for a bridge deal to drive up his value with another productive season or two.

Boyd, 24, hasn’t had a fair shake at the NHL level, having finally reached the Capitals roster in eight games (one assist) this season. He’ll be a low-cost, potentially high-reward (though anything more than one assist is automatically more rewarding) extension if a deal gets done.

28-year-old pending-UFA defender, John Carlson, will be the hottest blueliner on the market and unless MacLellan dumps some salary in a trade, Carlson won’t be back in the U.S. capital.

Michal Kempny, 27, on the other hand, has the chance to become more than a rental player, proving his worth over the course of 22 games in the regular season with Washington after being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks and 24 games in the postseason. He’s a top-6 defenseman that can play top-4 minutes, but like everything in Washington, only time will tell.

Given when this post runs, maybe some of these guys will have signed their name on the dotted line to stick around?

In a lesser sense, near-trade deadline acquisition, Jakub Jerabek, 27, could become more important this season if he’s re-signed as a top-6 guy to fill in behind Kempny, as Kempny fills in for Carlson (assuming both Jerabek and Kempny re-sign).

Madison Bowey, 23, is the only pending-RFA defender for the Capitals.

Star-goaltender, Braden Holtby, 28, has two-years remaining with a $6.100 million cap hit on his current contract and is Washington’s surefire starter for at least another seven years (probably).

Pheonix Copley, 26, likely will inherit the backup role with one-year remaining on his current contract ($650,000 cap hit) as MacLellan finds a trading partner to send 26-year-old backup turned probable starter (and pending-RFA) for a team in need of a goaltender, Philipp Grubauer.

While the Caps have to make the move for salary reasons, there’s a big potential to nail the perfect return.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Wayne Simpson (UFA), Adam Carlson (RFA), Adam Chapie (RFA), Tim McGauley (RFA), Zach Sill (UFA), Liam O’Brien (RFA), Riley Barber (RFA), Tyler Graovac (UFA), Anthony Peluso (UFA)

2018 Offseason Preview: Vegas Golden Knights

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Vegas Golden Knights and their outlook for the summer.

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After shattering record after record set by previous expansion teams in their inaugural seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights compiled a 51-24-7 record and 109 points on the season in 2017-18. It was not only good enough for a playoff berth, but good enough for 1st place in the Pacific Division.

Head coach Gerard Gallant got the most out of General Manager George McPhee‘s roster, which was mostly built on trades and a mix of 2017 Expansion Draft claims, bringing the Golden Knights all the way to the Stanley Cup Final– in their first season. First postseason. First Western Conference championship. First everything.

Well, almost everything (except the Cup, which I hear Alex Ovechkin is, yep, still attached to it).

Jon Marchessault and Reilly Smith dominated the first line, while William Karlsson emerged from the shadows of the Columbus Blue Jackets into the limelight as one of the league’s top goal scorers.

He’s also a pending-RFA this summer.

But Vegas doesn’t have to worry about whatever anyone else thinks of them. They’ve already smashed through all the walls that others thought would surely contain them back Earth, yet here they are– with almost $26.500 million to spend this summer.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

McPhee’s Golden Knights do not have a first round pick in the 2018 Draft currently as Vegas packaged a 2018 first round pick, 2019 second round pick and 2021 third round pick at the trade deadline in exchange for Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings.

Tatar signed a four-year extension with Detroit last offseason and is on Vegas’s books through 2020-21 at a whopping $5.300 million cap hit. I say whopping, because that’s the most expensive cap hit on the roster currently.

Pending free agents

With almost $26.500 million to work with this offseason and some big-time renewals to hand out, McPhee’s work isn’t cut out for him, but the Golden Knights look good heading into 2018-19.

Sure, maybe they won’t get back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, but…

Who am I kidding? They’ve defied all logic and we’ll never see an expansion team as good as this one in their inaugural season again. No, not because of any pending changes to future expansion drafts (I’m talking post-Seattle here).

James Neal, Mikhail Grabovski, David Perron and Ryan Reaves are all pending-UFAs for Vegas.

Neal, 30, was an alternate captain this season and 25-19–44 totals in 71 games as a clutch goal-scorer and early face of the franchise. He’ll get top-dollar on the market if he doesn’t re-sign and is the only priority pending-UFA for McPhee to consider bringing back.

Grabovski, 34, is likely to never play in the NHL again, since missing the entire 2016-17 season with ongoing concussion issues.

Perron, 30, was another alternate captain on Vegas’s squad and had 16-50–66 totals in 70 games. His point production was up 20 from last season to this season and he could have some staying power as a playmaker or he could test the waters.

McPhee isn’t rushing to re-sign Neal or Perron because the future’s looking pretty bright with the Golden Knights core, plus the tremendous cap space available that could make Vegas a dark horse for John Tavares, Ilya Kovalchuk or a landing spot for an Erik Karlsson trade.

Reaves, 31, was acquired in a three-team trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, fitting in on Vegas’s fourth line as a tough guy that scored two important goals in the postseason. He’s a cheap bottom-six forward if McPhee likes grit, otherwise there’ll be other opportunities for Reaves to seek.

Pending-RFAs, William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek and William Carrier are more important to McPhee’s immediate plan.

Karlsson, 25, is likely to receive the biggest salary on the roster, thanks, in part to his forthcoming raise, but mostly due to his scoring ability. He had 43-35–78 totals in 82 games with the Golden Knights this season and 7-8–15 totals in 20 postseason games.

Pay up.

Nosek, 25, eased into a comfortable seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 67 games this season, then added another four goals and two assists (six points) in 17 playoff games. By comparison, he’s no William Karlsson, but he is a dependable top-9 forward in his prime.

Likewise, Carrier, 23, is still young and coming into his own as a bottom-six forward that could see more time or about the same number of games this season (37) as next season. For depth purposes alone, Carrier matters a lot to the team.

28-year-old pending-UFA, Luca Sbisa, played a part in 30 regular season games and could remain as a depth defender if he stays, while 33-year-old pending-UFA, Clayton Stoner, is without a doubt searching for a new place to play.

If re-signing Karlsson and his other pending-RFAs is a pretty big deal for McPhee this summer, then so is locking up Colin Miller, 25, and Shea Theodore, 22, to viable contracts that won’t cost an arm and a leg, assuming the top-6 defenders continue to develop and capitalize on career seasons.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury, 33, has one-year left on his current deal at $5.750 million and will be looking to sign what might be his last NHL contract next summer, while backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, 24, is also entering the final year of his $650,000 per year deal.

Subban isn’t likely to overtake Fleury in the next year or two, so both goalies should be back, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, okay? It’s only 2018, not 2019.

Retained salary: Derick Brassard ($2.000 million) through 2018-19.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Brandon Pirri (UFA), Chris Casto (UFA), Paul Thompson (UFA), Maxime Lagace (UFA), Jason Garrison (UFA), Teemu Pulkkinen (RFA), Oscar Dansk (RFA), and Philip Holm (RFA)

2018 Offseason Preview: Winnipeg Jets

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Winnipeg Jets and their outlook for the summer.

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The Winnipeg Jets soared high in 2017-18, amassing 114 points on the season with a–franchise best– 52-20-10 record to finish 2nd in the Central Division and 2nd in the Western Conference (both in the regular season and postseason, by virtue of having been eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final).

General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff went all-in on a potential Stanley Cup run at the trade deadline, acquiring Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Winnipeg’s 2018 first round pick and prospect, Erik Foley.

Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Dustin Byfuglien were great at their positions as always, while Connor Hellebuyck backstopped the team to glory. Meanwhile, Kyle Connor had one of the quietest sensational rookie seasons in recent memory, scoring 31 goals and 26 assists (57 points) in 76 games played.

Things are only looking up for the Jets despite their Western Conference Final defeat in five games to the expansion Golden Knights.

Both Winnipeg and Vegas were dominant teams in the West and if one of them hadn’t made the Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators probably would have, but the Jets defeated the Preds in seven games in the Second Round after easily finishing off the Minnesota Wild in five games in the First Round.

Paul Maurice got to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2002 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes head coach, while the Jets made the third round for the first time in franchise history dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers (R.I.P.).

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Winnipeg doesn’t have a selection in the first round currently, thanks to Cheveldayoff’s deadline acquisition bargain hunting.

It’s not entirely clear if the Jets will take a stab at jumping into the first round, but at least they’ve got some pretty sweet third jerseys finally coming along seven years into their tenure at Bell MTS Place since relocating from Atlanta.

Nic Petan, as always, is on the trade bait list and could yield the club a first round pick as part of a return on a transaction.

Pending free agents

The Jets have almost $20.600 million to spend on free agents this summer with their captain, Blake Wheeler, ($5.600 million cap hit) and young superstar, Patrik Laine, ($925,000 cap hit– final year of his entry-level deal) entering contract years.

In other words, next summer is going to be expensive.

Winnipeg has three pending-UFAs in Shawn Matthias, Matt Hendricks and Paul Stastny.

Matthias, 30, had one goal and two assists (three points) in 27 games, while Hendricks, 37, had 5-8–13 totals in 60 games this season. Neither of them have to be brought back for the Jets to remain a contender in the Central Division, but what Cheveldayoff does with Stastny could mean a world of a difference.

Stastny, 32, had clear chemistry with his teammates in Winnipeg from the moment he was on the ice with them, right through the postseason. He’s such a great playmaker and dependable on the faceoff dot that it only makes sense you’d let him be the one feeding Wheeler and Laine for as long as you can.

In 82 games with the Jets and Blues, Stastny had 16 goals and 37 assists (53 points). He then went on to have 6-9–15 totals in 17 postseason games. Re-sign him.

Winnipeg has a lot of cap space and a plethora of pending-RFAs to re-sign or let go.

Brandon Tanev, Joel Armia, Marko Dano and Adam Lowry all need new deals and contributed in some way to the club’s deep playoff run.

Tanev, 26, is a solid bottom-six forward. Armia, 25, goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the glue guys. Meanwhile, Dano, 23, and Lowry, 25, have made a case for one to be preserved over the other (it’s Lowry, obviously).

On defense, Toby Enstrom, 33, already knows he’ll be hitting the waters of the open market as he has both price himself out of a Jets jersey and been bumped out of contention for ice-time with the likes of Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Dmitry Kulikov and Ben Chiarot holding down the fort.

What’s that? I didn’t even mention Jacob Trouba, Tucker Poolman, Joe Morrow or Josh Morrissey? Well, that’s because they’re all pending-RFAs.

24-year-old Jacob Trouba’s bridge-deal is expiring and he’ll need a raise. Poolman, 25, emerged as a top-6 quality defender. Morrow, 25, was acquired at the deadline from the Montreal Canadiens and should return as a top-6 guy that came in clutch under Maurice’s instructions.

Morrow was never really utilized under Claude Julien in Montreal and Boston. Prior to that he was a journeyman from the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins (where he was originally drafted). Winnipeg seems like it should be home for the 25-year-old blueliner.

Make of Morrissey what you will, but the 23-year-old defender had 26 points this season setting career highs in goals (7), assists (19) and points (26). He’ll be sticking around.

The real problem with Winnipeg is what they’re going to have to do with their goaltenders.

Starter, Connor Hellebuyck, is a pending-RFA. The 25-year-old solidified his status as a clear number one goaltender with a cut above the rest in the league, winning 44 games out of 67 appearances this season. He had a 2.36 goals against average and .924 save percentage.

Hellebuyck’s earned a raise, but the only problem is it leaves the Jets paying 30-year-old, Steve Mason, his $4.100 million cap hit in his final year of his two-year deal. In 13 games as a backup, he wasn’t great, amassing a 3.24 GAA and .906 SV%. Good luck trying to convince a team to take on his contract at full value.

Cheveldayoff will likely have to ship Mason out while retaining close to 50% of his remaining salary (the maximum allowed per the collective bargaining agreement).

28-year-old, Michael Hutchinson, in the meantime is a pending-UFA and regressed in 2017-18. Though he only played in three games, Hutchinson had a 3.26 GAA and .907 SV%.

For much less than Mason, Hutchinson could rebound back to a goals against average under 3.00, which is the least you expect from a backup– anything between 2.50 and 3.00 is right on target, anything better than 2.50 is godlike (for a backup) and anything over 3.00 is usually a poor investment in an easily overlooked position.

Sure, Eric Comrie is developing in the system, but wait, he’s a pending-RFA this summer too.

Winnipeg looks like they finally have this goaltending thing figured out, but Cheveldayoff cannot afford to mess any part of it up or else he risks long-term success, a la the Ondrej Pavelec saga from Atlanta to Winnipeg until Hellebuyck and Hutchinson overtook him.

Buyouts on the books: Mark Stuart at $583,333 through the end of 2018-19.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Buddy Robinson (UFA), Michael Sgarbossa (UFA), Chase De Leo (RFA), Jamie Phillips (RFA), Cameron Schilling (UFA), Jan Kostalek (RFA), James Lodge (RFA), Eric Comrie (RFA), Nic Petan (RFA), JC Lipon (RFA), Julian Melchiori (UFA)

2018 Offseason Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Tampa Bay Lightning and their outlook for the summer.

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General Manager Steve Yzerman added Mikhail Sergachev at the expense of Jonathan Drouin last June in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, added some veteran leadership in four-time Stanley Cup champion, Chris Kunitz, and the Tampa Bay Lightning never looked back*.

*In the regular season, that is. The fun came to a halt in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final.

Jon Cooper out-coached the entire Eastern Conference in the regular season, leading his Lightning club to 1st place in the Atlantic Division with 113 points on the season and a 54-23-5 record.

The Bolts cruised through the New Jersey Devils in five games in the First Round, then lost Game 1 against the Boston Bruins in the Second Round. Tampa didn’t let another game slip away, winning four straight to eliminate the Bruins and advance to their third Eastern Conference Finals appearance in four years.

But then the Lightning caught up with the Washington Capitals and the Caps stole their thunder.

Washington won Games 1 and 2, Tampa stormed back for Games 3, 4 and 5. Braden Holtby and the Capitals settled in for Game 6 and Steven Stamkos still has yet to produce a point in a Game 7 after the Lightning were shut out 4-0 on home ice.

Just like that, one of the best teams in the NHL was eliminated.

For all of Yzerman’s magic, Tampa has only been to the Stanley Cup Final once, in 2015.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Speaking of Yzerman’s magic, the Lightning GM acquired J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh from the New York Rangers in exchange for Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, Vladislav Namestnikov, a 2018 first round pick (28th overall) and a conditional 2019 second round pick.

If you thought Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins overpaid for the services of Rick Nash, well….

Miller is a pending-RFA and the numbers– barring any trades– don’t look good at the forward sticking around long-term. But let’s ignore that trade for a second and focus more on the fact that Tampa doesn’t have a first round pick in Friday’s first round of the 2018 Draft.

Only time will tell if the Bolts find a way into the top-31 picks.

In defense of Tampa and Boston, sometimes these trades work out and are the difference maker between an exciting Stanley Cup champions DVD or not and sometimes they don’t pan out at all.

Pending free agents

Yzerman and Tampa’s front office staff have about $7.210 million to spend this summer with a mixture of talent and skill levels to re-sign.

Andy Andreoff, 27, was recently acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for backup goaltender Peter Budaj, which all but assures one of the pending free agents will be replaced heading into 2018-19.

In an evolving game where the emphasis on youth, speed and skill is more than ever before, logic indicates that 38-year-old, Chris Kunitz, will be on his way out the door, despite his 13-16–29 totals in 82 games.

For all that Kunitz did in the regular season, however, he only had one assist in 17 games this postseason.

Tampa has three pending-RFA forwards to re-sign this offseason in Adam Erne, J.T. Miller and Cedric Paquette.

Erne, 23, had three goals and one assist (four points) in 23 games with the Lightning this season and 6-1–7 totals in 49 career NHL games. Tampa’s 33rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has yet to see full-time status at the NHL level and shouldn’t need a raise if Yzerman is set on keeping him around as a bottom-6 forward.

Miller, 25, is a little more complicated.

The durable forward had a $2.750 million cap hit on his most recent contract– a two-year extension signed with the Rangers– and 23-35–58 totals in 82 games with Tampa and New York this season, setting career-highs in goals, assists and points.

He’s going to need a bigger piece of the salary cap pie, having reached the 50-point plateau for the second time in his career and fourth season in-a-row of 40-points or more.

Unless the Lightning can convince Ryan Callahan to waive his modified no-trade-clause/no-movement-clause and dump his $5.800 million cap hit, there’s not a lot of wiggle room.

Yzerman’s roster is filled with NTCs, NMCs and modified versions of the two. It’s not as bad as the Detroit Red Wings, as most players with the aforementioned clauses in Tampa have one-year remaining on their contract and, again, a modified version of a no-trade clause (in which the player lists teams he can/cannot be traded to).

Tyler Johnson, in the meantime, is only 27, has a $5.000 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season and a no-trade-clause that doesn’t go into affect until July 1st.

If desperate times call for desperate measures any Johnson transaction would be a clear measure of Yzerman’s skill as a GM. The return wouldn’t be as much of a home run as Sergachev was for Drouin, but Yzerman would have to find a way to get it there.

Finally, the 24-year-old fourth line center in Cedric Paquette is due for a new deal.

Since amassing 19 points in 64 games in 2014-15 with Tampa, Paquette’s production has faltered to just five goals and four assists (nine points) in 56 games this season.

Anything more than a million dollars and longer than three years could come back to bite the Bolts, if they offer an extension.

27-year-old Andrej Sustr might have been bumped out of the Lightning’s top-6 defenders, considering he only played in 44 regular season games and appeared in zero postseason games.

Sustr’s next best deal is going to come from another team after spending the last six seasons in Tampa.

Slater Koekkoek, 24, had four goals and four assists (eight points) in 35 games with the Lightning this season, but was held out of postseason play. The pending-RFA should see another go around with the Bolts, especially if Yzerman pulls of a trade, but stranger things have happened and Koekkoek could end up looking elsewhere for employment.

In goal, the Lightning have 23-year-old starter, Andrei Vasilevskiy locked up for two more years at a $3.500 million cap hit. After that, they’re looking for one of their AHL guys to step into the backup role or searching the market.

Buyouts on the books: Matthew Carle at $1.833 million through the 2019-20 season.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Alex Gallant (RFA), Erik Condra (UFA), Jamie McBain (UFA), Louis Domingue (RFA), Matthew Peca (UFA), Mat Bodie (UFA)