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Bruins force Game 7 with commanding, 5-2, victory at home

For the 29th time in franchise history (a National Hockey League leading postseason stat), the Boston Bruins are going to a Game 7 in a best-of-seven series after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, Thursday night at TD Garden.

Whereas recent memory conjures images of Boston’s 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 7 loss on home ice to the visiting St. Louis Blues, this time around the Bruins will look to be a spoiler on the road in Raleigh, North Carolina and become the first wild card team since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 2014, to usurp a division winner in their non-traditional division.

See, the B’s belong to the league’s Atlantic Division, while the Canes exist in the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina, meanwhile, will have home ice in their first Game 7 against Boston since the Hurricanes upset the Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal.

It will also be Carolina’s first Game 7 appearance since they beat the Washington Capitals on the road in their 2019 First Round matchup.

The last Game 7 victory on home ice for the Hurricanes was, of course, the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

Jeremy Swayman (3-1, 2.51 goals-against average, .913 save percentage in four games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against in the win for Boston Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Hurricanes goaltender, Antti Raanta (2-2, 2.46 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 29 out of 33 shots faced in the loss.

Once more, the Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) Thursday night, while Hampus Lindholm returned to the lineup after missing the last few games with an upper body injury.

Down 3-2 in the series entering Thursday and with Lindholm’s return to action, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, restructured his lines and defensive pairings to a more familiar look around the trade deadline when the B’s were surging in the regular season.

Jake DeBrusk went back to the first line right wing with Patrice Bergeron at center and Brad Marchand on left wing, while David Pastrnak was reunited with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula on the second line.

Trent Frederic returned to the lineup on the third line with Charlie Coyle at center– flanked by Frederic and Craig Smith on his wings.

Meanwhile, Nick Foligno, Tomáš Nosek and Curtis Lazar returned to their usual roles on the fourth line with Chris Wagner joining the short list of healthy scratches in the press box at TD Garden for Game 6.

On defense, Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy were reunited, while Mike Reilly suited up alongside Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton’s third pairing went unchanged.

Wagner and Matt Grzelcyk joined Jack Studnicka, Marc McLaughlin, Steven Fogarty, Troy Grosenick, Josh Brown, Joona Koppanen, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Tyler Lewington, Oskar Steen, Nick Wolff, Anton Blidh, Kyle Keyser and Jakub Lauko as Boston’s healthy scratches on Thursday.

Sebastian Aho kicked things off with a hooking infraction at 12:44 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

Neither team could score, nor did either club score a goal in the opening frame, rendering it, 0-0, entering the first intermission despite Carolina holding an, 11-8, advantage in shots on goal.

Boston led in blocked shots (6-3), giveaways (4-0) and faceoff win percentage (62-39), while the Hurricanes held the advantage in hits (22-11).

Both teams had three takeaways each and had yet to see time on the power play entering the middle frame.

It didn’t take long for the B’s to jump out ahead first as Marchand (4) received a pass and entered the attacking zone along his off wing before sending a wrist shot high on the short side over Raanta’s glove and under the bar to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead 46 seconds into the second period.

Clifton (1) and Coyle (4) notched the assists as Boston scored the game’s first goal for the first time in the series.

Less than a few minutes later, however, Clifton kicked off a string of penalties for the Bruins when he was assessed a holding minor at 3:23, but Boston made the kill.

Carolina got a second chance on the power play at 9:08, however, when Frederic tripped Brett Pesce and even had 54 seconds on a 5-on-3 advantage when McAvoy cut a rut to the sin bin hooking Vincent Trocheck at 10:15 of the second period.

The Canes, however, failed to convert on the two power plays.

Haula caught Jesperi Kotkaniemi with a high stick at 13:36 of the second period and presented another power play opportunity that went by the wayside for Carolina.

At 16:58, Pesce was assessed a holding minor and yielded Boston their second power play of the night.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, the B’s worked the puck around the zone enough before Marchand dished a pass back to Pastrnak for a shot attempt from the point that was blocked by a Hurricane before rebounding to Coyle (2) in the slot for the doorstep goal on the forehand.

Pastrnak (3) and Marchand (7) tallied the assists on Coyle’s power-play goal at 18:04 of the second period and the Bruins had a, 2-0, lead as a result.

Through 40 minutes of play, the B’s held a two-goal lead going into the second intermission and led, 19-17, in shots on goal, including an, 11-6, advantage in shots in the middle frame alone.

Boston also dominated in blocked shots (15-9), takeaways (6-3) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Carolina led in giveaways (5-4) and hits (27-21).

The Hurricanes were 0-for-4 and the Bruins were 1-for-2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Carolina struck first in the final frame as Seth Jarvis setup Andrei Svechnikov (2) for a catch and release goal high on the short side past Swayman’s blocker to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.

Jarvis (2) had the only assist on Svechnikov’s first goal of the game at 3:24 of the third period.

Less than four minutes later, however, the Bruins responded and re-extended their lead to two-goals after Haula (1) redirected a shot pass into the far corner of the net behind Raanta for a, 3-1, lead at 7:08 of the third period.

McAvoy (3) had the only assist on Haula’s first goal of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Midway through the third period, Forbort (1) flung a shot from the point with eyes that may have tipped off of a Canes skaters’ stick under Raanta’s blocker side while the Carolina netminder was temporarily without a stick– having dropped it seconds prior.

Nosek (1) had the only assist on Forbort’s first goal– regular season or playoffs– since Nov. 20th and the Bruins had a, 4-1, lead as a result at 10:43.

Jaccob Slavin sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play at 12:01, but the B’s failed to capitalize on their last power play opportunity of the night.

With 4:33 remaining in the action, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it wasn’t long before Lazar (1) floated a shot from the red line into the empty twine to give Boston a, 5-1, advantage.

Foligno (1) and Nosek (2) tallied the assists on Lazar’s empty net goal at 15:43 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Marchand was assessed a four-minute double-minor penalty for spearing Kotkaniemi while skating past the Carolina forward at 16:20.

The Hurricanes made relatively quick work of the first power play as Slavin sent the puck to Martin Nečas, who fed Svechnikov (3) for another one-timer goal– this time cutting the deficit from four goals to three.

Nečas (3) and Slavin (4) had the assists on Svechnikov’s power-play goal– his second goal of the game– at 17:30 of the third period.

The Bruins killed off the rest of Marchand’s penalty and went on to win, 5-2, at the final horn.

At the end of the night, Boston left their own ice leading in shots on goal, 34-25, including a, 15-8, advantage in the third period alone, while Carolina dominated in everything else, including blocked shots (18-12), giveaways (10-5), hits (42-34) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Hurricanes finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1-for-3 on the skater advantage.

The B’s are now 13-14 all time in a Game 6 when trailing in a series 3-2 and are looking to win a best-of-seven series for just the third time in 29 instances of at one point trailing 2-0 in the series heading into Game 3.

Game 7 is back at PNC Arena in Raleigh Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET with the winner clinching the series 4-3 and advancing to the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Viewers in the United States can tune to ESPN, while those in Canada can catch the action on SN360, SNE, SNW, SNP and TVAS.

Local markets can also watch the game on their corresponding regional networks if so desired.

Boston will be making their 29th appearance in a Game 7 and enters Saturday with a 15-13 record in 28 prior Game 7 efforts, having most recently lost in a Game 7 on home ice to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins lead in Game 7 appearances (28) and are tied with the Montréal Canadiens for the most wins (15), as well as with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most losses (13).

Carolina is entering their eighth appearance in a Game 7 Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 record in seven prior instances of a Game 7, having most recently beaten the Washington Capitals on the road in Game 7 of their 2019 First Round series in double overtime.

The Hurricanes last hosted a Game 7 on home ice in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers to clinch the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

The Canes are 5-0 in a Game 7 since relocating from Hartford and previously defeated the Bruins on the road in Game 7 of their 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal series in overtime.

Coincidentally, that game was also held on May 14th.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins beat Blues in overtime on the road, 3-2

For the first time since Game 6 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins paid a visit to Enterprise Center on Tuesday night and snapped the St. Louis Blues’ nine-game winning streak with a, 3-2, overtime victory on the road.

Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal for Boston less than a minute into the extra frame, while Jeremy Swayman (22-12-3, 2.33 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 38 games played) made 20 saves on 22 shots against in the win.

St. Louis goaltender, Ville Husso (24-6-6, 2.46 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 38 games played) stopped 32 out of 35 shots faced in the overtime loss.

The Bruins improved to 47-24-5 (99 points) on the season and are now one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (46-22-8, 100 points) for 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while remaining 4th place in the division and in command of the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Blues, meanwhile, fell to 46-20-11 (103 points) overall and dropped to 3rd in the Central Division as a result of the Minnesota Wild’s, 2-0, victory against the Montréal Canadiens Tuesday night– forcing St. Louis and Minnesota in a tiebreaker that the Wild currently hold by virtue of having played in one fewer game than the Blues so far this season (76 games to St. Louis’ 77).

Boston finished 1-1-0 in their 2021-22 regular season series against St. Louis having previously gone 1-0-0 in their 2019-20 campaign that was cut short due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (which also prevented the two teams from meeting in the regular season in 2020-21).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters ahead of the game that David Pastrnak (undisclosed), Hampus Lindholm (lower body) and Linus Ullmark (undisclosed) would not make the two-game road trip against the Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins and are likely to return next week prior to the conclusion of the regular season.

As such, the B’s were without Pastrnak, Lindholm and Ullmark in addition to being short Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Tuesday.

Frödén’s injury meant that Curtis Lazar would slide in on the right side of the second line with Tomáš Nosek returning to the lineup to center the fourth line.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup from last Saturday’s, 2-1, victory against Pittsburgh to Tuesday night at Enterprise Center.

Jack Studnicka, Josh Brown, Jack Ahcan and Anton Blidh made up Boston’s list of healthy scratches in St. Louis.

Nathan Walker hooked Erik Haula and presented the Bruins with the first power play opportunity of the night at 5:40 of the first period, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as it was cut short when Mike Reilly caught Brayden Schenn with a high stick at 6:49.

The B’s fell to 0-for-26 on the power play in their last 26 opportunities as a result.

St. Louis didn’t convert on their abbreviated skater advantage as the Bruins made the kill and Reilly returned to the ice from his sixth penalty in his last last games (four of which were, in fact, for high sticking).

Midway through the opening frame, McAvoy hooked Ryan O’Reilly at 11:11 and presented the Blues with another power play.

This time St. Louis made quick work of the skater advantage as Pavel Buchnevich (28) redirected a one-touch pass from Vladimir Tarasenko past Swayman to give the Blues a, 1-0, lead at 11:49 of the first period.

Tarasenko (44) and Jordan Kyrou (43) tallied the assists on Buchnevich’s power-play goal.

Late in the period, the two teams went into the first intermission at 4-on-4 after Ivan Barbashev and Lazar went into the box for roughing and an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, respectively, at 19:15.

The two clubs would resume 5-on-5 action early in the middle frame after the penalties expired.

After one period, St. Louis led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Boston holding an, 11-8, advantage in shots on goal.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (8-3), takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while the Blues led in giveaways (5-1) and hits (12-7).

St. Louis was 1-for-2 on the power play, while Boston was 0-for-1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle period.

Jake DeBrusk (23) sent a shot over Husso’s short side under the crossbar and off the back bar in the net before the puck rebounded back out of the twine.

The goal was waved off at first before a quick official review determined that the rubber biscuit had gone in and out so quickly– rendering an assist to Matt Grzelcyk (20) in the process while DeBrusk tied the game, 1-1, at 1:33 of the second period.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Haula sent a one-hand pass back to the point where Derek Forbort got a shot off towards the slot that Taylor Hall (17) tipped from below the crossbar past Husso– giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 2-1, in the process.

Forbort (10) and Haula (25) notched the assists on Hall’s goal and the B’s had momentum well on their side at 9:44.

Late in the period, however, Forbort cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping Dakota Joshua, but Boston was able to make the kill on the ensuing infraction and special teams action at 17:00 of the second period.

In the vulnerable minute thereafter, though, the Blues managed to fling a shot at the net that Robert Thomas (19) tipped while skating through the slot to tie the game, 2-2, at 19:57.

Buchnevich (43) and Tarasenko (45) had the assists on Thomas’ goal with 2.4 seconds left on the clock in the second period as the Bruins gave up their 19th goal against in the final minute of any period this season.

Through 40 minutes the score was tied, 2-2, despite Boston holding a decisive advantage in shots on goal, 28-17. The Bruins even outshot the Blues, 17-9, in the second period alone.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (10-8), takeaways (11-5) and faceoff win% (63-38), while the Blue Notes led in giveaways (8-5) and hits (15-14) heading into the final frame.

St. Louis was 1-for-3 on the power play while Boston was 0-for-1 on the skater advantage.

Neither team scored in the third period, while only Barbashev took a penalty at 6:34 for tripping Haula.

The Bruins fell to 0-for-27 on their last 27 power play opportunities as the skater advantage came and went by the wayside.

After 60 minutes of regulation, Boston and St. Louis were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite the Bruins holding a, 34-22, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 6-5, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s led in takeaways (16-11), hits (22-20) and faceoff win% (59-41), while the Blues led in giveaways (11-4) after three periods.

Both teams had 13 blocked shots each, while St. Louis finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play and Boston went 0-for-2 on the skater advantage as no penalties were called in the extra frame.

Cassidy sent out Charlie Coyle, DeBrusk and McAvoy to start the overtime period, while Blues head coach, Craig Berube, countered with Thomas, Tarasenko and Justin Faulk.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to nearly blow it, then win it.

One Boston skater misplayed a loose puck before DeBrusk over-skated it prior to Swayman emerging from the crease to clear it off the boards in the neutral zone while facing pressure from a St. Louis forward.

The Bruins quickly recovered from their own unforced error and entered the attacking zone on a rush with DeBrusk cutting to the trapezoid rather than shooting the puck prior to sending a pass back to McAvoy (9) as the defender crept into the high slot and snapped a shot past Husso for the game-winning goal.

DeBrusk (15) and Coyle (26) had the assists on McAvoy’s goal 48 seconds into overtime and the Bruins won, 3-2, almost as quickly as the extra frame began.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 35-22, including a, 1-0, advantage in overtime alone, as well as maintaining their advantage in hits (22-20) and faceoff win% (60-40).

St. Louis left their own ice with the lead in giveaways (11-4), while both teams managed to amass 13 blocked shots each.

The Bruins snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Blues in the process on Tuesday night, while improving to 9-3 in overtime this season (11-5 past regulation overall in 2021-22).

The Blues fell to 3-9 in overtime this season, as well as 5-11 past regulation overall.

St. Louis also dropped to 27-8-6 (16-4-3 at home) when scoring first, 20-1-4 (14-0-3 at home) when leading after one and 8-4-5 (3-2-3 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22.

Boston improved to 13-15-3 (6-7-2 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 6-13-2 (2-6-1 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 14-5-0 (7-4-0 on the road) when tied after the second period this season.

The Bruins head to PPG Paints Arena for a matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night before hosting the New York Rangers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden on ABC.

Boston heads to Montréal on Sunday before hosting Florida and Buffalo next Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, prior to their regular season finale in Toronto next Friday.

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Bruins blowout Devils in historic, 8-1, victory

Charlie Coyle, Curtis Lazar, Anton Blidh, Tomáš Nosek, Brandon Carlo and Josh Brown failed to record a point while 12 other members of the Boston Bruins had at least one mention on the scoresheet in an, 8-1, thrashing of the New Jersey Devils Thursday night at TD Garden.

Patrice Bergeron (1-2–3) and David Pastrnak (0-3–3) each had three points, while Linus Ullmark (21-9-2, 2.65 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in 34 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots faced for a .962 save percentage in the win for Boston.

New Jersey goaltender, Nico Daws (8-9-0, 3.27 goals-against average, .894 save percentage in 19 games played) made 15 saves on 20 shots against in 29:01 time on ice in the loss before he was replaced by Jon Gillies (3-10-0, 3.88 goals-against average, .882 save percentage in 17 games played) made 17 saves on 20 shots (30:59 time on ice) in relief of Daws for no decision.

The Bruins improved to 42-20-5 (89 points) overall and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

The B’s also hold the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference entering April.

The Devils, meanwhile, fell to 24-38-5 (53 points) on the season and fell to 8th place in the Metropolitan Division, trailing the Philadelphia Flyers by virtue of a tiebreaker in which the Flyers have 17 regulation wins to New Jersey’s 16.

Boston swept their regular season series against the Devils 3-0-0 in 2021-22 after going 3-3-2 against New Jersey in last season’s condensed 56-game schedule (the Bruins went 2-0-1 against New Jersey in 2019-20).

The B’s outscored the Devils, 18-6, over the course of their three matchups this season.

Bruce Cassidy was without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Craig Smith (illness) and Nick Foligno (lower body) on Thursday.

As a result, Marc McLaughlin made his National Hockey League debut in place of Smith on the third line, while Foligno was ruled “day-to-day” and replaced by Blidh on the fourth line.

Cassidy also switched out Derek Forbot and Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing with Mike Reilly and Brown– the latter of which made his Bruins debut on Thursday since being acquired at the trade deadline on March 21st.

Jack Studnicka, Forbort and Clifton served as Boston’s trio of healthy scratches against the Devils.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored recently retired goaltender, Tuukka Rask, with a video and a ceremonial puck drop at center ice with his wife and three daughters.

Rask is the winningest goaltender in franchise history, amassing 308 wins in 564 games played (also a franchise record).

He ranks second in shutouts (52) with the club, second in career goals-against average (2.28) and is tied for first in career save percentage (.921) all in a Bruins uniform over 15 seasons.

Rask also appeared in 104 Stanley Cup Playoff games and won 57 of them (both franchise records)— winning the Stanley Cup as the backup in 2011, and appearing in two more Finals in 2013 and 2019.

Less than a minute into the opening frame, Matt Grzelcyk (4) wristed a shot from the point into the back of the twine over Daws’ blocker side– giving the Bruins a, 1-0, lead at 57 seconds of the first period.

The two teams got a few extra minutes between Grzelcyk’s unassisted goal and the next faceoff, however, as the TD Garden game clock malfunctioned and left both clubs skating around the ice in a free skate prior to resuming play.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Brown made his first impression with the Boston crowd by squaring off with Mason Geertsen and delivering a few heavy punches back and forth before both players were escorted to their respective penalty box with five-minute majors for fighting at 2:56.

Brown would later leave the game after the second period with an upper body injury, but didn’t look out of place in a Bruins uniform in his debut.

Shortly thereafter, Miles Wood checked Charlie McAvoy hard behind the Boston net and elicited a response from Reilly as the two players wrestled and tumbled to the ice at 4:16 of the first period.

Reilly received two roughing minors– four minutes in penalties in total– to Wood’s sole roughing infraction, rending the night’s first power play to New Jersey as a result.

The Devils did not score on the ensuing skater advantage however.

Hampus Lindholm was penalized for holding at 8:49 and New Jersey went back on the power play, but once again failed to convert on the advantage.

Instead, however, the Devils caught Boston in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as the Bruins were trapped in their own zone.

Nico Hischier cut behind the net, stopped on a dime and turned back the other way before one-handing it to Jack Hughes while falling to his knees after almost losing possession in the trapezoid.

Hughes (25) promptly buried the rubber biscuit high on the short side as Ullmark was a few inches too far off the post.

Hischier (30) and Damon Severson (28) notched the assists as New Jersey tied the game, 1-1, at 11:02 of the first period.

Roughly five minutes later, Jake DeBrusk (18) collected a rebound, deked and pulled the puck to his forehand around Daws’ right pad and into the back of the net for his third goal in as many games after Bergeron initially sent a shot with purpose off of Daws’ blocker back into the high slot.

Bergeron (31) and Lindholm (19) tallied the assists as the Bruins took a, 2-1, lead at 16:09.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston was ahead on the scoreboard and led, 12-7, in shots on goal.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1), takeaways (4-2), hits (9-8) and faceoff win percentage (67-33).

The Devils led in giveaways (7-1) and were o/2 on the power play, while the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the middle frame.

Pastrnak broke up a pass while Erik Haula intercepted the puck and worked it back to Pastrnak, who wrapped around the goal frame as Haula (10) pounced on the rebound and scored over the glove side to extend Boston’s lead to two-goals at 2:22 of the second period.

Pastrnak (31) had the only assist on the goal as the Bruins led, 3-1.

Shortly thereafter, P.K. Subban yanked Blidh to the ice and was assessed a holding infraction at 2:44, but Boston didn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Nevertheless, the Bruins had all the momentum as they continued to pile up pucks behind Daws and his replacement in Gillies.

First, DeBrusk retrieved his own bad angle shot that went into the far corner before working the puck around the horn back to DeBrusk, who by now had made his way back to about where he sent an initial attempt from.

DeBrusk tried again and hit some dead wood before Brad Marchand (29) gathered the puck and wired it into the twine to give Boston a, 4-1, lead on the scoreboard at 6:33 of the second period.

DeBrusk (12) and Grzelcyk (18) tallied the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the game.

Jesper Boqvist then used his hand on a faceoff shortly thereafter– receiving a faceoff violation infraction in the process– and presented the Bruins with another power play at 8:30 of the middle frame.

It only took the B’s about 30 seconds to convert on the skater advantage as Pastrnak sent a shot on goal that was inadvertently redirected by Bergeron (18) with his skate through Daws’ five-hole– giving Boston a four-goal lead at 9:01 of the second period as a result.

Pastrnak (32) and McAvoy (37) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power-play goal as Lindy Ruff swapped his goaltenders with the Devils trailing, 5-1.

Almost 90 seconds later, DeBrusk checked Ty Smith and left the New Jersey defender catching his breath for a few seconds while Bergeron won the loose puck back to Reilly at the point.

Reilly forked it to Marchand (30) for a one-timer goal– giving him 30 goals on the season in the process for the fifth time in his career (13 seasons) as Boston scored a pair of goals in a span of 1:33 to lead, 6-1.

Reilly (11) and Bergeron (32) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the game at 10:34 of the second period and the Bruins weren’t done scoring.

Trent Frederic entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1 with McLaughlin (1) and flipped the puck to No. 26 in black and gold for a one-timer goal on the high glove side– beating Gillies for his first career NHL goal in his first game and extending Boston’s lead to six goals at 12:04.

Frederic (10) had the only assist as Coyle retrieved the puck for McLaughlin’s safekeeping after the game and the B’s led, 7-1, after scoring a trio of goals in a span of 3:03 in the middle frame.

McLaughlin, meanwhile, became the fifth Massachusetts-born NHLer to score in his debut in Bruins history, joining Ryan Donato (March 19, 2018), Frank Vatrano (Nov. 7, 2015), Shawn Bates (Oct. 2, 1997) and Hago Harrington (Dec. 29, 1925) in doing so.

Late in the period, Taylor Hall (16) added one more on a one-timed redirection after Pastrnak and Hall kept it in the attacking zone on a Devils turnover and had a brief 2-on-1 as they made their way to the slot.

Pastrnak (33) had the only assist on Hall’s goal and the Bruins had an, 8-1, lead at 16:12 of the second period– amassing the most goals they’ve scored in a single game this season and reaching eight goals in a game for the first time since Nov. 26, 2019, when Boston beat Montréal, 8-1, at Bell Centre– in part due to a hat trick from Pastrnak that night.

The Bruins also recorded their first instance of scoring six goals in one period since Nov. 3, 1983, when they had six goals in the second period of a, 9-5, victory against the St. Louis Blues at Boston Garden.

Through 40 minutes, the Bruins led, 8-1, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 28-17, including a, 16-10, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also led in blocked shots (9-3), takeaways (7-4), hits (16-15) and faceoff win% (64-36), while New Jersey led in giveaways (10-5) after two periods.

The Devils remained 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Haula hooked Hughes at 1:10 of the third period, but the Devils couldn’t get another shot past Ullmark while the Bruins did their job on the penalty kill in front of their netminder.

Jonas Siegenthaler sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic infraction at 7:26, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the resulting power play.

Late in the game, Coyle and Geertsen exchanged pleasantries and received ten-minute misconducts with a ticket to their respective showers early for the night at 17:03 of the third period.

At the sound of the final horn, the Bruins had won, 8-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-26, including a, 12-9, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston also left their own ice leading in hits (23-20) and faceoff win% (60-40), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (13-6) and giveaways (15-10).

The Devils finished 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/3 on the skater advantage in Thursday’s effort– improving to a 15-3-1 record in their last 19 games, as well as 8-0-1 in games after allowing five or more goals in the previous game.

Boston also improved to 31-7-2 (14-4-1 at home) when scoring first, 25-2-1 (12-1-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 28-1-3 (12-1-1 at home) when leading after the second period this season.

New Jersey fell to 9-23-2 (3-15-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 5-18-2 (1-11-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 3-31-2 (2-20-1 on the road) when trailing after two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins went 10-3-1 in the month of March and begin the month of April by hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before hitting the road for the next four games starting next Monday (April 4th) in Columbus, next Tuesday (April 5th) in Detroit, then Tampa (April 8th) and Washington, D.C. (April 10th).

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NHL Nick's Net

Hurricanes sweep season series against Boston for first time in 10 years

The Carolina Hurricanes shutout the Boston Bruins, 6-0, Thursday night at TD Garden to sweep their regular season series (3-0-0) against Boston for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Andrei Svechnikov had a three-point night (one goal, two assists), while Frederik Andersen (25-6-1, 2.01 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 32 games played) made 34 saves on 34 shots against for his second shutout of the season.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (16-7-1, 2.78 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in 25 games played) stopped 37 out of 43 shots faced in the loss.

Dating back to the 2019-20 season– as the two teams did not meet in the temporarily realigned division-based schedules in 2020-21– three out of their last four regular season games have been shutouts with the Hurricanes amassing two shutouts this season against Boston, while the B’s shutout the Canes in their only meeting in 2019-20.

In 2021-22 alone, Carolina outscored Boston, 16-1.

The Bruins last beat the Hurricanes, 2-0, on Dec. 3, 2019, at TD Garden as Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves en route to a shutout victory.

Thursday night in Boston, the Bruins fell to 26-16-3 (57 points) on the season, but remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as in command of the second wild card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Carolina, meanwhile, improved to 32-10-3 (67 points) overall and sit perched atop the Metropolitan Division– two points behind the Florida Panthers for first overall in the entire Eastern Conference– and three points behind the Colorado Avalanche in the race for the 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy as the Avs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, Thursday night.

The Bruins were without the likes of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Urho Vaakanainen (upper body), Patrice Bergeron (upper body) and Brad Marchand (suspension) in the, 6-0, loss Thursday.

34-year-old goaltender, Tuukka Rask, announced his retirement from the National Hockey League after 15 NHL seasons (all with Boston).

Ultimately, Rask’s body was not responding well enough from offseason hip surgery to continue to play at the level of competition that the Finnish goaltender desired after signing a one-year deal with Boston on Jan. 11th and playing in four games (2-2-0, 4.29 goals-against average, .884 save percentage) this season.

Rask leaves the game leading the franchise in wins (308), games played by a goaltender (564), saves (14,345), minutes played by a goaltender (32,404:55) and second in career goals-against average (2.28), as well as shutouts (52).

He is tied with Tim Thomas for the lead in career save percentage as a Bruin (.921) and was a member of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship roster, serving as Thomas’ backup in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 regular seasons after briefly usurping Thomas for the role of the starter in 2009-10.

Rask was named to the All Star Game in 2017, as well as in 2020, but chose not to go, thereby serving a mandatory one-game suspension in the following game after the All Star break.

He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in 2013-14 and shared the honor of winning the William M. Jennings Trophy with Halak in 2019-20.

Tiny Thompson spent parts of 11 seasons with Boston, while Frank Brimsek played in nine, Gerry Cheevers played in 12 and Thomas spent eight years with the club.

Rask made his league debut in the 2007-08 season and played in 15 seasons for Boston. All for Boston.

Thompson was traded to the Detroit Red Wings as Brimsek forced Art Ross’ hand in the 1938-39 season. Brimsek was dealt to Chicago at the twilight of his career prior to the 1949-50 season.

Cheevers left for a stint in the World Hockey Association in Cleveland from 1972-76, before returning to the Bruins.

Thomas sat out the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and was subsequently traded to the New York Islanders on Feb. 7, 2013, as a result before making an NHL comeback with the Florida Panthers in 2013-14, prior to being traded to the Dallas Stars at the 2014 trade deadline, where he finished his career.

The Bruins traded Andrew Raycroft to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Rask on June 24, 2006, after the Leafs selected Rask 21st overall in 2005.

Rask backstopped Boston to three playoff series wins against Toronto in 2013, 2018, and 2019– leading the Bruins to a pair of Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2013, and 2019.

The torch in the crease passes as Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman look to compete for the starting role in the years to come.

As Bergeron and Marchand were out of the lineup on Thursday, the Bruins had no players remaining from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in the night’s action for just the second time (previous, Dec. 16th at the Islanders in a, 3-1, loss this season while Bergeron and Marchand were in COVID-19 protocol).

Jack Studnicka and Tyler Lewington were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL), while Oskar Steen was reassigned ahead of Thursday night’s loss to Carolina.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, placed Studnicka on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and Craig Smith on his wings– promoting the usual second line to first line duties for the night.

Meanwhile, Trent Frederic and Anton Blidh returned to action with Frederic at left wing on the third line and Blidh at left wing on the fourth line.

Charlie Coyle and Nick Foligno joined Frederic on the checking line, while Tomáš Nosek and Curtis Lazar were the usual suspects with Blidh on the fourth line.

Bergeron, Lewington, Vaakanainen, Marchand and Zboril were all out of the lineup due to injury, suspension or healthy scratch purposes on Thursday.

Cassidy informed reporters after the game that Bergeron would not be traveling with the team to Ottawa for Saturday’s matinée on the road against the Senators and remains “day-to-day” with a head injury.

Martin Nečas cross checked Charlie McAvoy and presented Boston with the night’s first power play at 1:29 of the first period on Thursday.

The Bruins, however, did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

A few minutes later, Ian Cole caught Lazar with a high stick at 4:21, but once again the B’s were powerless on the power play.

Frederic cut a rut to the box for cross checking Svechnikov at 7:43 of the first period and yielded Carolina their first power play of the game as a result.

It didn’t take the Hurricanes long before they converted on the skater advantage as Vincent Trocheck (13) stood in the right place at the right time to kick a pass to himself and score on the far side on a rebound.

Teuvo Teräväinen (22) and Svechnikov (23) tallied the assists on Trocheck’s power-play goal as the Canes pulled ahead, 1-0, at 8:26 of the first period.

About a minute later, McAvoy unloaded on a clean hit in the neutral zone on Sebastian Aho– drawing the ire and a response from Tony DeAngelo as the two defenders exchanged fisticuffs and received fighting majors at 9:35.

Moments later, Connor Clifton cut a rut to the sin bin or interference at 13:17, but Teräväinen shortly followed at 14:17 for hooking.

After one minute of 4-on-4 action and an abbreviated power play for the Bruins, neither team could muster another goal on the scoreboard, despite Carolina receiving a power play that bled into the middle frame courtesy of a high stick from David Pastrnak on Nečas at 18:07 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Hurricanes led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 18-11, in shots on goal.

The Canes also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1), takeaways (3-0), giveaways (3-2) and faceoff win percentage (59-41). Meanwhile, the Bruins held the advantage in hits (22-9).

Carolina went 1/3 and Boston went 0/3 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

The Bruins failed to clear their own zone and turned the puck over right to Svechnikov (18) for an unassisted shot that had eyes and beat Ullmark high on the blocker side.

The Hurricanes jumped out to a, 2-0, lead as a result at 2:35 of the second period and kept pouring it on as the period continued.

Almost midway through the second period, Nečas sent a shot towards the net that Teräväinen deflected off Ullmark and generated a fortunate rebound to Aho (20) as Aho crashed the net in open ice– extending Carolina’s lead to three goals in the process.

Teräväinen (23) and Nečas (16) notched the assists on Aho’s goal as a result and the Hurricanes pulled ahead, 3-0, at 8:01.

Late in the period, while dominating attacking zone possession, the Canes generated yet another rebound that Jesper Fast scooped up and dropped a pass back to the point where Brett Pesce (3) fluttered a shot past the Boston netminder to give Carolina a four-goal lead.

Fast (8) and Jordan Staal (11) had the assists as the Hurricanes took a, 4-0, lead at 14:02 of the second period.

Minutes later, Svechnikov and Matt Grzelcyk collided awkwardly in the corner as Grzelcyk went down in pain– clutching his right shoulder.

After a minute on the ice, Grzelcyk skated off on his own power and went down the tunnel, but did not return to the night’s action.

Through 40 minutes of action Thursday night, the Hurricanes led, 4-0, on the scoreboard, as well as in shots on goal, 29-22, despite both teams amassing 11 shots on net each in the second period alone.

Carolina held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), takeaways (4-1) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Boston led in hits (36-26).

Both teams had eight giveaways each, while the Canes remained 1/3 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Foligno thought he scored a goal and got the Bruins on the board 22 seconds into the third period– only, the on-ice officials quickly waved off the would-be goal.

The official call on ice was no goal by rule of incidental contact with the goaltender as Foligno’s momentum brought him into touch with Andersen– up close and personal as he bowled into the Hurricanes goaltender.

Cassidy challenged the call on the ice on the grounds that he believed his Boston forward was pushed by Brady Skjei, which caused Foligno to continue his path towards the net instead of having a last second chance to bail out.

Video review did not agree with Cassidy’s interpretation of events and the call on the ice was confirmed– no goal.

The Bruins were assessed a bench minor for delay of game as a result of losing the challenge and sent DeBrusk to serve the infraction in the box.

Late on the ensuing power play, Teräväinen gathered a pass from Svechnikov, twirled and spun the rubber biscuit over to Aho (21) for Aho’s second goal of the game– giving Carolina a, 5-0, lead on the scoreboard.

Teräväinen (24) and Svechnikov (24) tallied the assists on Aho’s power-play goal at 1:58 of the third period.

Shortly thereafter, Steven Lorentz tripped Derek Forbort at 6:50, but Boston’s power play went by the wayside (by now you should probably realize this, since Carolina shutout the Bruins on Thursday).

There was no change in the number of skaters on the ice when McAvoy and Aho got into a shoving match and exchanged slashing minors at 8:13.

Things started to quiet down thereafter before Carolina made one more mark on the scoreboard courtesy of a great display of hand-eye coordination from Staal.

Off of an attacking zone faceoff win, Skjei received a pass at the point and wound up to take a shot.

Skjei sent the puck fluttering through the air whereby Staal (3) tipped the shot close past Smith and over Ullmark’s glove to give the Hurricanes a, 6-0, advantage on the scoreboard.

Skjei (12) recorded the only assist on Staal’s goal at 15:24 of the third period.

After that, there were no more goals and no more penalties for the rest of the night– just the sound of the final horn when time ticked down to zeros across the clock.

Carolina won, 6-0, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 43-34, while also amassing a, 14-12, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Hurricanes left TD Garden leading in blocked shots (13-4), giveaways (10-9) and faceoff win% (51-49), while the Bruins exited their own building leading in hits (42-32).

The Canes went 2/4 on the power play on Thursday, while the B’s finished the night 0/4 on the skater advantage.

Andersen, meanwhile, picked up his second shutout of the season, as well as the 21st of his career in the process as Carolina finished their regular season series with Boston– outscoring the Bruins by a combined score of, 16-1, over three games.

Both of Andersen’s shutouts so far in 2021-22, came against the Bruins as the Hurricanes swept their regular season series against the B’s.

Boston fell to 9-10-3 (6-6-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-10-2 (4-6-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-13-2 (3-8-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Carolina, meanwhile, improved to 23-3-2 (12-2-2 on the road) when scoring first, 19-1-1 (8-1-1 on the road) when leading after one and 22-1-1 (8-0-1 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for the next four games and will pay a visit to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, New York Rangers next Tuesday, New York Islanders next Thursday and Senators once more next Saturday.

Boston returns home to host the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 21st before swinging through Seattle, San Jose and Los Angeles to close out the month of February.

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NHL Nick's Net

Penguins complete comeback in first meeting with Boston this season

Danton Heinen scored a pair of goals in his first game back at TD Garden as a member of the visiting team since he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Ritchie on Feb. 24, 2020, while Sidney Crosby scored the eventual game-winning goal and Bryan Rust added an empty net goal to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Boston Bruins, 4-2, on Tuesday night.

Heinen signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent on July 29, 2021, after spending parts of two seasons with Anaheim. The Ducks opted not to tender a qualifying offer to the then would have been-restricted free agent.

Meanwhile, Tristan Jarry (24-8-6, 2.21 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in 38 games played) made a season-high 43 saves on 45 shots against in the win for the Penguins.

Bruins goaltender, Jeremy Swayman (8-7-2, 2.35 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 18 games played) stopped 21 out of 24 shots faced in the loss.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals in Boston’s loss and Patrice Bergeron exited the game midway through the third period with an upper body injury induced by what was deemed as an “incidental” trip (as there was no penalty on the play) by Crosby.

The B’s will likely be without Brad Marchand in their next matchup as a result of his antics in the final minute of the action, but more on that after as we recap some roster news and notes from the All Star break to Tuesday night’s loss.

But first, a quick standings update.

Boston fell to 26-15-3 (55 points) overall, but still holds on to 4th place in the Atlantic Division as well as the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh improved to 28-11-8 (64 points) on the season and in command of 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

The B’s fell to 0-1-0 against the Pens this season after amassing a 5-3-0 record in their regular season series in 2020-21, as well as a 2-1-0 record against Pittsburgh in 2019-20.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Trent Frederic (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body) and Urho Vaakanainen (upper body) on Tuesday, while Nick Foligno and Erik Haula made their return to the lineup.

Foligno took Anton Blidh’s spot on the fourth line left wing, while Haula resumed his role as the second line center with Tomáš Nosek returning to his fourth line job.

As a result of the lineup changes and in accordance with the league’s rules on temporary taxi squads up until the All Star break, Steven Fogarty, Tyler Lewington and Jesper Frödén were reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

On defense, Connor Clifton took over Vaakanainen’s spot on the third pairing alongside Derek Forbort.

Frederic, Rask, Vaakanainen, Zboril and Blidh made up Boston’s list of injured players and healthy scratches against the Penguins.

During the first intermission The Athletic‘s, Fluto Shinzawa, reported that Rask’s comeback from offseason hip surgery was likely coming to an end and that the 34-year-old goaltender is considering a retirement announcement in the next few days.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, offered no update on Rask’s status after the game other than reiterating that Rask will be unavailable for the week and any decisions that may suggest retirement would come from Rask– not as a team directive.

If Rask is, in fact, retiring, he would do so as Boston’s winningest goaltender in franchise history, amassing 308 wins in 564 career NHL games– all with the Bruins– since making his league debut in 2007-08.

In that 15-season span, Rask would finish with a career goals-against average of 2.28 and a career save percentage of .921 in about 32,405 minutes played– the most by any Boston goaltender in club history, while ranking second in shutouts (52) to Tiny Thompson’s 74.

He also served as the backup netminder on the 2011 Stanley Cup champion roster and backstopped Boston to two more Final appearances in 2013, and 2019.

Almost two minutes into the opening frame, Radim Zohorna tripped up Charlie Coyle and cut a rut to the penalty box at 1:40 of the first period as result.

It didn’t take Boston long to convert on the ensuing power play, as Brian Boyle botched an indirect pass up the boards intended for John Marino that was instead snagged by Bergeron as the Bruins captain kept the rubber biscuit in the attacking zone.

Bergeron worked a pass up to Taylor Hall, who set up Pastrnak (23) for a one-timer goal from one knee at the faceoff dot– giving the B’s a, 1-0, lead at 2:01 of the first period in the process.

Hall (20) and Bergeron (23) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal.

A few minutes later, Jake DeBrusk hooked Dominik Simon and presented the Penguins with their first power play of the night at 5:27.

Boston’s penalty kill stood tall, however, and killed off DeBrusk’s minor.

Late in the period, the Pens turned the puck over in their attacking zone– rendering a de facto 3-on-1 opportunity for the Bruins as Haula sent a pass to Hall through the zone before Hall’s shot generated a rebound whereby Pastrnak (24) batted the puck out of mid-air and under Jarry’s glove.

Boston took a, 2-0, lead courtesy of Pastrnak’s 40th career two-goal game, while Hall (21) and Haula (12) notched the assists at 15:34 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the B’s led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, as well as in shots on net, 17-10.

Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (12-11), while Boston led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (5-4) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

The Penguins were 0/1 and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Heinen (10) struck early in the second period– cutting Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, courtesy of being in the right place at the right time to catch a pass from Brock McGinn on a drive-by through the low slot before wrapping the rubber biscuit around Swayman.

McGinn (6) and Mike Matheson (13) had the assists on Heinen’s first goal of the game at 4:18 of the second period.

Just 28 seconds later, Heinen (11) recorded his second goal of the night courtesy of a shot with eyes from the circle to Swayman’s left off of the Bruins goaltender’s shoulder and into the twine.

Marino (17) and Evan Rodrigues (18) notched the assists on the goal as the Pens tied it, 2-2, at 4:46 of the second period– marking the fastest two goals by one Penguins skater since Martin Straka scored a club-record two goals in a seven-second span on Feb. 11, 2000, against the Edmonton Oilers.

Almost midway through the period, Pittsburgh was caught with too many skaters on the ice– rendering a bench minor at 7:24 that was served by Heinen.

Boston couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play, however.

Minutes later, Coyle interfered with Jeff Carter and yielded a power play to the Penguins at 11:56.

It took roughly a minute on the skater advantage for Crosby (13) to notch a power-play goal– the eventual game-winner in the process, as well as his 499th career NHL goal– to give Pittsburgh their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 12:53 of the second period.

Rust (19) and Jake Guentzel (24) had the assists on the goal as the Penguins capped off a trio of goals in a span of 8:35.

Late in the period, Matheson and Hall exchanged some pleasantries after a whistle and earned minor penalties for roughing at 18:49– resulting in 4-on-4 action that would seep into the final frame.

Through 40 minutes of action, Pittsburgh led Boston on the scoreboard, 3-2, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 35-18– including an, 18-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Penguins held the advantage in blocked shots (11-7) and hits (24-19), while the B’s led in takeaways (9-5), giveaways (7-5) and faceoff win% (66-34).

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Craig Smith interfered with McGinn at 1:43 of the third period, but the Penguins weren’t able to score on the ensuing power play to begin the final frame.

Moments later, Crosby took down Bergeron with an errant leg as the Bruins captain smacked the back of his head off the boards while falling.

Bergeron did not return to the night’s action after going down the tunnel under his own power after a brief exchange with a Boston athletic trainer.

Matt Grzelcyk tried to invite Crosby to a square dance shortly thereafter with a swift cross check, but the Pittsburgh captain would not accept and instead was caught retaliating and assessed a roughing minor at 9:25.

The Bruins did not score on the resulting power play, however.

With 1:42 remaining in the action, Cassidy pulled Swayman for an extra attacker amidst the jumbled lines, but as Smith shortly tried to enter the zone and fumbled the puck– Charlie McAvoy couldn’t recover on the error and Rust broke free with possession.

Rust (15) skated through the neutral zone and buried the rubber biscuit in the open basket for a, 4-2, lead at 18:31 of the third period, while Guentzel (25) recorded the only assist.

Swayman vacated the crease once more with about 1:19 left on the clock, but it was ultimately to no avail despite Boston crowding the net in the other end.

After Jarry delivered a quick slash amongst the net front traffic, Marchand took exception to the Pittsburgh goaltender’s action and choice words shortly thereafter– appearing to aggravate the oft-short-tempered Bruin in the process.

Marchand swung a punch at Jarry’s mask and proceeded to get his stick in Jarry’s face– whether or not it was a forceful shove or spear remains at the mercy of the discretion of the officials on the ice and/or league office as Marchand was assessed a match penalty on the play, rendering an automatic suspension unless otherwise stated.

The B’s finished the night shorthanded as Marchand’s roughing minor and match penalty came at 19:35 of the third period.

Jarry took the high road after the game and told reporters “I think it’s just the heat of the moment, everyone’s battling hard out there. [Marchand’s] just trying to get the puck to the net and I think the team did a great job. … It’s part of the game and it stays on the ice.”

Cassidy noted after the game that Marchand’s antics were “undisciplined” and that he “needs to control his emotions in that situation.”

The rest is up to the league now.

At the final horn Tuesday night, the Penguins had won, 4-2, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 45-25.

The Bruins held the advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone, 10-7, as well as in giveaways (11-8) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Pittsburgh wrapped up the night’s action leading in blocked shots (19-13) and hits (30-22).

The Pens finished the night 1/4 on the power play while the B’s left their own ice 1/3 on the skater advantage in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 17-6-0 (9-4-0 at home) when scoring first, 16-1-0 (8-1-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 3-12-2 (3-7-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh improved to 7-8-7 (4-3-3 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-3-3 (3-2-1 on the road) when trailing after one and 21-1-1 (11-1-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

Boston will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday before venturing across the border to visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon to begin a four-game road trip.

The Bruins swing through New York for a pair of games against the Rangers and Islanders before visiting the Senators once more next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

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NHL Nick's Net

What does Don Sweeney need to do to make it up to you by the 2022 trade deadline? (Part 1)

Chapter One- In The Beginning… (2016)

With over two months until the 2022 NHL trade deadline on March 21st, there’s plenty of time to start speculating about what kind of moves— if any— would make the most sense for the Boston Bruins in their 2021-22 endeavor.

Though it wasn’t easy at the start of his tenure as General Manager, Don Sweeney, has significantly improved his trading prowess as the deadline approaches from season to season in Boston.

That said, not every trade has yielded a gold mine for the Bruins and they’ve yet to win the Stanley Cup since 2011, despite making it all the way to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on home ice and winning the Presidents’ Trophy the following season (2019-20).

For the record, a lot has changed in both the league itself, as well as the team’s development since the days of acquiring guys like John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak on Feb. 29, 2016, instead of swinging for the fences and landing, uh, guys like Pat Maroon, Kris Russell or Mikkel Boedker at the 2016 trade deadline.

In retrospect, maybe there really wasn’t that much of a market that season.

Sure, Eric Staal was traded to the New York Rangers the day before the 2016 trade deadline on Feb. 28th, but he only managed to amass six points in 20 games with the Rangers down the stretch.

Staal then joined the Minnesota Wild in free agency on July 1, 2016, and had four seasons of a career resurgence before he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2020-21 season— whereby he was later flipped to the Montréal Canadiens— only to end up losing in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.

These days he has been invited to Team Canada’s training camp for the 2022 Winter Games as he’s currently an unrestricted free agent.

More and more recently, the bigger trades happen in the last couple of weeks leading up to the deadline itself, so let’s widen the scope a bit for 2016, just for a second.

The Florida Panthers added Jakub Kindl from the Detroit Red Wings, Jiri Hudler from the Calgary Flames and Teddy Purcell from the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 27th that year.

Kindl spent parts of two seasons in Florida before leaving for Europe after the 2016-17 season, Hudler joined the Dallas Stars for 2016-17, and promptly retired thereafter, while Purcell joined the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17, before joining the Bruins on a PTO at training camp in 2017, prior to being released then spent the 2017-18 season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and retired thereafter.

One other team tried going for it in the rental market, as Chicago acquired Tomáš Fleischmann and Dale Weise from the Montréal Canadiens for Phillip Danault and a 2018 2nd round pick (38th overall, Alexander Romanov), added Christian Ehrhoff from Los Angeles for Rob Scuderi and dealt Marko Dano, a 2016 1st round pick (later flipped to the Philadelphia Flyers, 22nd overall—selected German Rubtsov) and a conditional 2018 3rd round pick (the condition was not met) to the Winnipeg Jets for Jay Harrison, Andrew Ladd and Matt Fraser.

Fleischmann retired after that season, Weise left for the Philadelphia Flyers in free agency that summer, Ehrhoff went back to Europe, Harrison never suited up for Chicago, Ladd had 12 points in 19 games— then joined the New York Islanders in free agency— and Fraser also never suited up in a Chicago uniform.

So, the rental market didn’t really pan out that year.

The San Jose Sharks added James Reimer and Jeremy Morin from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Ben Smith, Alex Stalock and a 2018 3rd round pick (83rd overall, Riley Stotts) the same day the Panthers made all of their moves.

Reimer went on to serve as a decent backup to Martin Jones in San Jose’s 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance before ultimately losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Sharks also bolstered their blue line five days prior in a separate trade with Toronto on the 22nd, in which San Jose acquired Roman Polák and Nick Spaling from the Maple Leafs for Raffi Torres, a 2017 2nd round pick (later flipped to the Anaheim Ducks, 50th overall— Maxime Comtois) and a 2018 2nd round pick (52nd overall, Sean Durzi), but again, neither of those deals were earth-shattering.

Polák was in search of a Cup ring late in his career (despite playing four more seasons afterward) and had three assists in 24 games with San Jose in the regular season before failing to put up a point in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games as a Shark prior to rejoining Toronto via free agency that summer.

Spaling at least had 2-4—6 totals in 24 games down the stretch with the Sharks and even recorded an assist in 24 playoff games before— like the rest of the team— losing to the Penguins in the Final and leaving the NHL for the Swiss League that summer.

In terms of immediate impact, the Sharks got their money’s worth (kind of), but for a trio of rental players.

San Jose’s deals might have been the biggest trades not involving the Bruins in the buildup to one of Sweeney’s most often criticized trade deadlines because first impressions mean a lot to some in the Boston fanbase.

What was made available, however, didn’t amount to much.

Although, there is enough credibility to the thought that the Bruins should’ve sold high on Loui Eriksson at the time when they could’ve shipped him out of the Hub at a premium before missing the playoffs for a second-straight year.

Instead, Eriksson went on to amass 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) in all 82 games with Boston in his first healthy season in the three years he had been there after the Tyler Seguin trade (which happened under previous General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, while Sweeney worked in a player development role)— and signed on the dotted line with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, 2016, leaving Boston with nothing in his wake.

This, after the Bruins (42-31-9, 93 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division) missed the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker with the Red Wings (41-30-11, 93 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) who had 39 regulation plus overtime wins (ROW) to Boston’s 38.

Two teams from the Metropolitan Division— the Islanders and the Flyers— clinched the Eastern Conference wild card playoff berths with 100 and 96 points, respectively, in the standings.

As for the biggest deal leading up to the 2016 trade deadline, you’d probably have to move the goalposts a little bit on the “within two weeks before the deadline itself” rule to find the best deal.

But the Ottawa Senators were the beneficiary of a revival on Feb. 9, 2016, when they traded Colin Greening, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Tobias Lindberg and a 2017 2nd round pick (59th overall, Eemeli Räsänen) to Toronto for Dion Phaneuf (captain of the Maple Leafs at the time), Matt Frattin, Ryan Rupert, Casey Bailey and Cody Donaghey.

Phaneuf had a late career renaissance with the Sens and proved to be pivotal in their run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final the following year— only to lose on the road in a Game 7 against the Penguins, 3-2, in double overtime.

Pittsburgh, by the way, went on to repeat as Stanley Cup champions that June.

Frattin never suited up for the Senators and left for the KHL after spending a year with the Stockton Heat (AHL) in 2016-17.

Rupert was mired in the minors until going to Europe in 2018-19, while Bailey played in seven games for Ottawa in 2016-17, then spent time split between the American Hockey League and Europe since then (currently in the DEL).

Donaghey, on the other hand, played in one AHL game in 2017-18, before spending the majority of his time in the ECHL prior to leaving for Europe last season (currently in the ELH).

But Phaneuf brought his $7.000 million cap hit to the Sens and actually saved the team money since they shipped out Greening ($2.650 million), Michalek ($4.000 million) and Cowen ($3.100 million) as part of the package— adding about $2.750 million towards the cap for Toronto in the deal.

Of course, the Leafs went on to win the 2016 Draft Lottery and selected Auston Matthews 1st overall that June, so it wasn’t all that bad.

In 51 games with the Maple Leafs prior to the trade in the 2015-16 season, Phaneuf had 3-21—24 totals. In 20 games with Ottawa, he had 1-7—8 totals.

The following year, he had 9-21—30 totals in 81 games and put up five points (one goal, four assists) from the blue line in 19 playoff games in 2017.

He then had 3-13—16 totals in 53 games with Ottawa in 2017-18, before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in another deal that— you guessed it, saved the Senators some money (only about $1.100 million this time around).

Phaneuf had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 26 games with Los Angeles and recorded an assist in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Kings were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 First Round.

Then in 2018-19, he amassed 1-5—6 totals in 67 games and had the last two years of his contract bought out by Los Angeles on June 15, 2019.

He didn’t officially retire until Nov. 16, 2021, and spent parts of two seasons following Brendan Shanahan around in his role as president and alternate governor of the Leafs.

Though he wasn’t scoring 40, 50 or even 60 points as a defender like he did in his prime with the Calgary Flames, Phaneuf was still the rugged and durable veteran blue liner that he was in his short tenure from before the 2016 deadline until about his final season and injury was really the only thing that did him in at the end due to his physical style.

He had value and the Leafs just gave him up to their intra-provincial rivals about three years before Toronto repeated themselves in giving Ottawa a better defender (Nikita Zaitsev) for a younger defender (Cody Ceci) that just didn’t really pan out as part of a larger package in a trade on July 1, 2019.

Anyway, that last part was really just for those of you that made it this far and care about things outside of just the Bruins organization.

We’ll move on to analyzing Sweeney’s deadline deals since 2016, in the next chapter.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-20-9, 63 points

4th in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich (acquired from NYR), F Matthew Peca, F Brandon Saad, F Nathan Todd, D Tommy Cross, D Calle Rosén, G Charlie Lindgren

Subtractions: F Sammy Blais (traded to NYR), F Mike Hoffman (signed with MTL), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with Texas Stars, AHL), F Jaden Schwartz (signed with SEA), F Alexander Steen (retired), D Vince Dunn (expansion, SEA), D Carl Gunnarsson (retired), D Petteri Lindbohm (KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Robert Thomas (RFA), G Jon Gillies

Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Tyler Bozak, F Dakota Joshua, F Tanner Kaspick, F Jordan Kyrou, F Zach Sanford, F Nolan Stevens, F Nathan Walker

Offseason Analysis: Winning the Cup comes with a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to win it (especially as the Blues had never won prior to 2019, since their inception in 1967) and it’s a curse because it sets an expectation for success.

St. Louis might have had a short window to win their second Cup in franchise history.

After being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their face of the franchise before Ryan O’Reilly’s arrival, Vladimir Tarasenko, requested a trade.

Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has yet to fulfill that request and has indicated that he’s in no rush to do so– after all, he’s in control of the cards at hand and like when Avs General Manager, Joe Sakic, ultimately traded Matt Duchene, Armstrong can command a steep price for Tarasenko if he’s patient enough.

Injuries have limited Tarasenko to 34 games in the last two seasons, including 3-7–10 totals in 10 games in 2019-20 and 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21.

From 2014-15 through the 2018-19 season Tarasenko recorded five consecutive seasons with at least 65 points– including his career-high 75 points in 82 games in 2016-17, as well as a 40-goal season in 80 games in 2015-16.

Tarasenko’s situation isn’t the only concern in St. Louis, however, as the depth of the Blues that made them Cup contenders turned champions in 2019, has withered away– leaving Armstrong with the difficult task of overhauling both the top-six forward group and experimenting with the right mixture of replacement players.

Jake Allen, Sammy Blais, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Patrick Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen have all left one way or another since winning the Cup in St. Louis.

In their place, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern have climbed the development ladder, while Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella were acquired by other means.

Some will rise and exceed expectations. Others will be gifted contracts through their prime– though their use may be time limited and the chemistry pulled apart.

At the very least, Barbashev and Kyrou’s extensions this summer lead the youth movement for the Blues in an ever-changing league.

Meanwhile, the introduction of Brandon Saad on a five-year deal worth $4.500 million per season– only a smidge more than what Mike Hoffman was making on a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed– and Pavel Buchnevich via trade and subsequent four-year, $23.200 million extension has solidified St. Louis’ top-six forward group for the foreseeable future.

Saad spent last season with the Avalanche and had 15-9–24 totals in 44 regular season games before coming up clutch in the postseason– albeit at times the only goal scorer, it seemed, for Colorado– with 7-1–8 totals in 10 games.

At 28-years-old, the Blues should have him for what’s left of his prime in what’s been a respectable career thus far with 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 career games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with Chicago, winning two Stanley Cup rings with the organization in 2013 and 2015, then spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago again and Colorado.

Armstrong acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 23rd in the only trade that involved roster players for St. Louis this offseason.

Blais leaves the Blues after breaking into the league in the 2017-18 season and amassing 17-18–35 totals in 119 games with St. Louis, including 8-7–15 totals in 36 games last season.

Buchnevich joins the Blues riding a productive season with the Rangers– notching 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games in 2020-21, as well as 79-116–195 totals in 301 career games with New York since making his league debut in the 2016-17 season.

After nine loyal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak won the Cup in his first season with St. Louis in 2018-19.

Through three seasons with the Blues, Bozak’s amassed 31-53–84 totals in 170 games– despite injuries that kept him to 31 games out of the 56-game schedule in 2020-21.

At 35-years-old and in love with the St. Louis uniform, Bozak is ready to be part of the transitional plans from 2019 Stanley Cup champions to getting back to Cup contention for the Blues– signing a one-year extension worth $750,000 against the cap.

He’ll either be back to full health as a low-risk, high-reward gamble to hang onto or he’ll be trade bait for another team looking to add a touch of experience at the deadline.

It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Blues to have kept Bozak and lost Schwartz this offseason.

Schwartz’s five-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken contains a no-movement clause in the first three seasons for a player that’s suffered from a recent decline in production at 29-years-old.

Contrasted with Phillip Danault’s two-way style that ultimately went to the Los Angeles Kings with an additional sixth-year in his contract– albeit their similar scoring totals– the Blues were never going to be able to afford to keep Schwartz and account for patching a couple of holes at the same time.

After skyrocketing to the top of the league standings and winning the Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington’s looking to reinvent himself as a surefire starter in the National Hockey League.

On the wings of a six-year extension worth $6.000 million per season, he better prove it.

A 30-13-7 record in 50 games played with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts in that span in 2019-20, was followed by an 18-14-8 record in 42 games played with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

That doesn’t exactly scream long-term option in net if it worsens.

In five postseason games in 2020, Binnington went 0-5 and had a 4.72 goals-against average, as well as an .851 save percentage.

In 2021, he went 0-4 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. While that is better than his 2020 performance, it also means that the two postseason wins since winning the Cup in 2019, were recorded by a goaltender not named “Binnington” (they were, in fact, recorded by current Montréal Canadiens backup and former Blues netminder, Jake Allen).

If St. Louis can’t get things tamed in the crease, then they might have even more issues to resolve than already planned.

Offseason Grade: C

While Saad and Buchnevich are quality pickups for the Blues, most teams in playoff contention make one or two moves and otherwise stand pat.

St. Louis got an upgrade over Hoffman’s departure, sure, but they are limited in spending power with about $782,000 left in cap space and burdened by lengthy contracts that haven’t really gone one way or another yet.

Armstrong knows how to build a team up over a period of time, but hasn’t encountered what it means to sustain that success over the years in the postseason, as well as through the course of developing a system to supplement it while talent comes and goes in the ebbs and flows of the salary cap era.

Whereas the Blues once mastered building the foundation for a team that could contend for a decade or more, it seems as though there are cracks starting to form and if they’re not careful, serious structural damage could affect their core.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa repeats in preview of 2021 Stanley Cup Final

For 29 (soon to be 30) franchises, the calendar’s already flipped from 2020-21 to 2021-22, but for two teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs there’s still one goal– winning the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

At one end of the rink, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2016 and 2017.

Lightning forward, Pat Maroon, is seeking to become the first player in the Expansion Era (since 1967) to win three consecutive Cup rings in as many seasons among two different franchises, having won his first with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, and his second last year with Tampa.

Maroon can also be the first player to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons in general since a bunch of players on the New York Islanders did so during the Isles’ dynasty from 1980-83.

At the other end of the rink, the Montréal Canadiens are seeking to win their first Stanley Cup– and 25th in franchise history– since 1993, which also happens to be the last time a Canadian club won the Cup.

The Habs were the last team to clinch a spot in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and yet, here they are.

Corey Perry lost to the Lightning as a member of the Dallas Stars in six games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and has made it back to the Final for the third time in his career, while Eric Staal is back in Cup contention for the first time since 2006, when he won it all as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Perry won his first Stanley Cup ring with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Meanwhile, Carey Price is making his Stanley Cup Final debut as the greatest goaltender in Canadiens history since some guy named Patrick Roy won it all three years before demanding a trade out of Montréal.

It all comes down to this– four more wins and one team will be crowned as this year’s Stanley Cup champion.

For the first time since 2009, all games in the Stanley Cup Final will be played in the Eastern Time Zone. It’ll also be the first time that Stanley Cup Final games are held in July, much like how last year marked the first time the Final was held in September due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s also the first Stanley Cup Final since 1980, to feature teams that are normally in the same conference.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the league temporarily realigned to four divisions and no conferences for a 56-game regular season schedule, featuring the top-four teams in each division qualifying for the postseason and no international travel between the United States and Canada until the Semifinals round– which was held in place of the usual Conference Finals round.

Monday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the 2021 Stanley Cup Final gets underway. Here’s a quick review and more on how each team got here since the dawn of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(3) Tampa Bay Lightning (40-14-2, 82 points) vs (4) Montréal Canadiens (24-21-11, 59 points)

Tampa: 56 games played, .670 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montréal: 56 games played, .527 points percentage, 20 regulation wins.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to go back-to-back as they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games (4-2) in the First Round, eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games (4-1) in the Second Round and finished off the New York Islanders in seven games (4-3) in the Semifinals before reaching their second-straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

Led by Brayden Point in regular season scoring with 23-35–48 totals in 56 games, teammates Ondrej Palat (15-31-46 totals in 55 games) and Victor Hedman (9-36–45 totals in 54 games) rounded out the top-three in Bolts scoring for 2020-21, while Nikita Kucherov spent the entire regular season on long term injured reserve.

It’s a legal loophole in the salary cap, whether it was exploited or not, Kucherov’s hip needed the time off while the Lightning stockpiled in unlimited playoff salary as the cap ceiling gets turned off when the postseason starts.

Kucherov’s play hasn’t skipped a beat as he leads Tampa with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 18 games thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Point trails Kucherov with 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 18 games, followed by Alex Killorn (8-9–17 totals in 18 games), Steven Stamkos (7-10–17 totals in 18 games) and Hedman (1-15–16 totals in 18 games) to round out the top-five in team postseason scoring.

The Lightning can strike more than twice per game– in fact, they’re scoring about 3.22 goals for per game thus far, trailing only the eliminated Colorado Avalanche (3.80) for the most goals for per game this postseason.

Tampa trails the Toronto Maple Leafs– who were ousted in the First Round by Montréal in seven games– for the fewest goals against per game. The Bolts have allowed 2.06 goals against per game in 18 contests, while the Leafs had 2.00 in their seven-game postseason stretch.

In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy served as the Lightning’s starting goaltender in both the regular season and playoffs– amassing a 31-10-1 record in 42 games played (42 starts), as well as a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

A Vezina Trophy Finalist for 2020-21, Vasilevskiy has previously won the award for his 2018-19 season performance.

Curtis McElhinney served as Tampa’s primary backup this season and went 4-6-2 in 12 games (12 starts) with a 3.09 goals-against average, an .875 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Christopher Gibson played in two games (two starts) for the Bolts in the regular season and went 1-1-0 with a 2.65 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

Entering the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Vasilevskiy is 12-6 in 18 games (18 starts), has four shutouts and has a 1.99 goals-against average, as well as a .936 save percentage so far.

He earned his first career postseason shutout in Tampa’s, 2-0, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final– clinching the franchise’s second Stanley Cup ring in the process– and has since become the first goaltender in NHL history to record three shutouts in three series clinching games in one postseason in the Lightning’s ongoing quest for a 2021 Stanley Cup ring.

The Montréal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games (4-3) in the First Round, then swept the Winnipeg Jets in four games (4-0) in the Second Round before upsetting the Vegas Golden Knights in six games (4-2) in the Semifinals to make their 37th appearance in the Stanley Cup Final (including their days before the NHL’s existence).

Tyler Toffoli led the way for the Habs in the regular season in scoring with 28 goals and 16 assists (44 points) in 52 games, while Jeff Petry (12-30–42 totals in 55 games) and Nick Suzuki (15-26–41 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in points on the roster for 2020-21.

Leading up to the trade deadline, Montréal added some depth and veteran experience that’s paid off with some clutch goals in their 2021 postseason run thus far.

Toffoli leads the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 5-9–14 totals in 17 games thus far, while Suzuki (5-8–13 totals in 17 games), Cole Caufield (4-5–9 totals in 15 games), Perry (3-6–9 totals in 17 games), Joel Armia (5-3–8 totals in 17 games) and Staal (2-6–8 totals in 16 games) round out the top-five in points on Montréal’s playoff roster.

In the crease, Jake Allen actually had more playing time than Carey Price in the regular season due to Price having battled a couple of injuries throughout the season.

Allen went 11-12-5 in 29 games (27 starts), amassing a 2.68 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in the process as the expected backup for the Canadiens, while Price produced a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts), as well as one shutout, a 2.64 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in the regular season.

Cayden Primeau appeared in four games (four starts) for the Habs and went 1-2-1 in that span, recording a 4.16 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage in the process.

Since the start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Price has not come out of Montréal’s crease to be replaced by another goaltender and has been lights out for the Canadiens in their run to the Final.

Price has a 12-5 record in 17 games (17 starts) thus far and has recorded one shutout, as well as a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in that span.


The Canadiens have had no problem upsetting teams thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and– as long as they survive the first 10 minutes of each game and are able to get a lead– have been able to steal pivotal games and suck the life out of their opponents.

The Lightning have thundered their way back to the Final after winning it all last year and are capable of completely dominating games on the scoreboard and stifling the other team’s offensive production– limiting shots on goal and shot attempts in the process.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Monday night will be the first time these two teams have seen each other in the league’s 2020-21 calendar year.

It’ll also be the 64th unique Stanley Cup Final in league history.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, is in search of solidifying his place as the greatest at his job behind the bench in Tampa’s history, while Dominique Ducharme is trying to nail down the title as Montréal’s next official head coach– despite the fact that he won’t be back until Game 3 after testing positive for COVID-19 during the last series against Vegas.

Luke Richardson’s waited things out in the American Hockey League for several years and already served well as an assistant coach for the Canadiens, but continues to make a well-rounded argument for staking a claim to the Habs’ coaching job on his own.

Montréal won’t only be without Ducharme for the start of the series, however, as Armia also tested positive ahead of Game 1 for the Final and may not be available while the Canadiens are in Tampa.

UPDATE: Armia cleared COVID protocol on Monday and was en route to Tampa via a private jet and will be a game time decision for Game 1.

Not that it’s a big advantage for the Lightning, since the two teams are of great contrast in playing style thus far.

Tampa can out skate, out hit and out score their opponent.

Montréal can defend, latch on and if they’re able to withhold the sustained pressure from the Bolts (and not take any penalties) they’ll get the necessary goaltending out of Price.

That said, Vasilevskiy is equally, if not more so, locked in right now.

Both goaltenders have won the Vezina before and will be the first pair of Vezina Trophy winners to square off in the Final since the days of Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour in, what, 1999?

The Canadiens have been on a Cinderella run, but they’re running into the Lightning– the Lightning— of all teams now.

They might have stood a chance against the Islanders, but Tampa is on another level.

That said, my recent predictions have been the wrong team, but the right number of games, so it looks like the Habs would have to be taking it all right now in five games.

But the Bolts are just too good. It’s their time to shine– as it has been for the last season already. They might not be dynasty material, but they’re pretty close to it and going back-to-back is within reach.

If they lose, it’ll be their own fault.

Tampa has something else on their side and it’s the fact that their Semifinals round lasted one game longer against New York than Montréal’s six-game series against the Golden Knights.

In recent years, the team that’s played more hockey in the round leading up to the Final has won the Final more often than not.

Just going back to 2015, both Chicago and Tampa won their Conference Finals rounds in seven games (Chicago won the Cup). In 2016, Pittsburgh advance in seven, while the San Jose Sharks won in six– the Penguins went on to win the Cup.

In 2017, it was more of the same– the Pens in seven, the Nashville Predators won in six games, but Pittsburgh won the Cup.

In 2018, the Golden Knights beat the Jets in five games, while the Washington Capitals defeated the Lightning in seven games before going on to win the Cup.

In 2019, the St. Louis Blues advanced in six games, while the Boston Bruins swept the Hurricanes. The Blues went on to win the Cup.

And in 2020, the Stars won in five games, but the Bolts advanced in six games and went on to beat Dallas in the Final.

It’s just science.

Besides, the Lightning are 2-1 in all time playoff series’ against the Canadiens, sweeping the Habs in the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinal, losing to Montréal in four games in the 2014 First Round and beating Montréal in six games in the 2015 Second Round.

Tampa is repeating as your Stanley Cup champion in 2020 and 2021, and this time they’ll do it in five games.

Schedule:

6/28- Game 1 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/30- Game 2 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/2- Game 3 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/5- Game 4 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/7- Game 5 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/9- Game 6 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/11- Game 7 MTL @ TBL 7 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

Categories
NHL

NHL 2020 Top 10 Free Agents

The Tampa Bay Lightning completed their bubble journey and were crowned the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions… but that’s old news now. On Tuesday, the first round of the NHL draft happened followed by rounds 2-7 on Wednesday.

With all of that excitement now in the past (or still in the present for some), it’s time to move on in the NHL offseason. Friday, October 9th marks the first day of the NHL free agency period. An exciting day as fans are anxious to see if their team will make any moves, some will be happy, some on the other hand will experience heartbreak.

This offseason will be no different despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Many top stars are expected to be on the move, and here’s what I expect to happen to the top stars of this year’s NHL free agency class.

The crown jewel of this year’s free agency class is without a doubt St. Louis Blues defender Alex Pietrangelo. It has been reported that Pietrangelo will in fact test the free agent market to see who will offer him the best deal.

As we know, the St. Louis Blues had an impeccable run back in 2019, winning the Stanley Cup in seven games over Boston. However, the Blues won’t have any luck in resigning their captain. Here’s probably a prediction that fans of a team on the East Coast is going to love.

For the 2020-21 season, Alex Pietrangelo will be a member of the Boston Bruins. Yes, the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winner will land the top free agent in this year’s free agent class.

With Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara as unrestricted free agents, Boston has money to spend (about 9 million). With Tampa Bay looking like an actual threat now, Boston is seeing its Stanley Cup window closing. Pietrangelo would be the perfect signing to boost Boston’s chances again of challenging for the Stanley Cup.

If teams miss out on Pietrangelo, the consolation prize is just as nice. This year it’s Taylor Hall. The former number one pick won the Hart Trophy back in the 2017-18 season, but since then, his production on the ice hasn’t been the same. It appears that Hall will not return to Arizona, so where will he go? Colorado.

Yes, the Avalanche will land Hall.

Hall needs to locate to another team to give him the confidence booster he had back in 2017. Nathan MacKinnon will do exactly that. Hall will join a contender and possibly push Colorado over the edge that they have desperately been trying to cross over.

As for the rest, here’s what I got.

  • Torey Krug (D) 2019-2020 (Boston) —> Detroit Red Wings
  • Tyson Barrie (D) 2019-2020 (Toronto) —> Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Jacob Markstrom (G) 2019-2020 (Vancouver) —> Edmonton Oilers
  • Mike Hoffman (LW/RW) 2019-2020 (Florida) —> Carolina Hurricanes
  • Braden Holtby (G) 2019-2020 (Washington) —> Calgary Flames
  • Evgenii Dadonov (RW)- 2019-2020 (Florida) —> Florida Panthers
  • Tyler Toffoli (RW/LW) 2019-2020 (Vancouver) —> Los Angeles Kings
  • Mikael Granlund (C/LW) 2019-2020 (Nashville) —> Nashville Predators

One more time just as a friendly reminder, NHL free agency starts this Friday!

Categories
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.