Tag Archives: 2019 Stanley Cup Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Inconsistent shots for the Isles

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

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

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

New York only allowed 16 shots against that night too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Just how many franchise records will Tampa…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Will the Lightning buck the trend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, it happened again, didn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look To The Rafters: Boston Bruins (Part II)

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

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Boston Bruins might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of TD Garden someday.

Boston Bruins Current Retired Numbers

2 Eddie Shore

3 Lionel Hitchman

4 Bobby Orr

5 Dit Clapper

7 Phil Esposito

8 Cam Neely

9 Johnny Bucyk

15 Milt Schmidt

16 Rick Middleton

24 Terry O’Reilly

77 Ray Bourque

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Rick Middleton had his No. 16 retired by the Bruins on Nov. 29, 2018, after scoring 898 points in 881 games with Boston over 12 seasons from 1976-88.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, so why not make the first one count for two of the most prolific Boston netminders in the Expansion Era?

Boston has a chance to right a few wrongs if there’s any ill will leftover from Cheevers’ departure to the World Hockey Association (WHA) and back or Thomas’ debacle regarding his year-long vacation from the sport that led to being suspended from the team and his trade to the New York Islanders in Feb. 2013, while Thomas was resting at home reconnecting with (in his words) his family, friends and faith.

Last month, I addressed the pros and cons facing what might be a longshot at this point for No. 30 to ever be raised to the rafters at TD Garden in Cheevers’ and/or Thomas’ honor, but with Rick Middleton having his No. 16 retired last season– years after he hung up the skates and despite being on the outside looking in regarding Hockey Hall of Fame status, then there’s a chance the B’s overlook Cheevers’ sin and Thomas’ short tenure.

Nevertheless, both are Stanley Cup champion goaltenders and legends in their own right among Bruins fans around the Hub.

33 Zdeno Chara

The 2008-09 James Norris Trophy winner has played in 1,023 games in a Bruins uniform and amassed 148-333-481 totals in that span– so far. No, the 43-year-old defender and longest tenured captain in the National Hockey League is not done yet. 

Chara has indicated he’d like to go out on his own terms, whether that’s with another Cup under his belt or another full season– at least– if there’s ever another “normal” 82-game schedule again in the future.

In 1,553 career NHL games played for the Bruins (1,023 games), Ottawa Senators (299) and New York Islanders (231), Chara has 205 career goals and 451 career assists (656 points).

At 6-foot-9, he’s the tallest player in NHL history and though he might be tall in stature and a fierce competitor on the ice, Chara has a big heart off of it– taking charge in the annual pie donation at homeless shelters across Boston on American Thanksgiving, being one of the first You Can Play Project supporters and many other charitable efforts throughout the city, including, most recently, joining Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of Boston.

He joined the Bruins as a free agent on July 1, 2006, with Marc Savard as two centerpieces tasked with overhauling a floundering Original Six franchise on the ice and transforming the team into not only an annual playoff contender, but more popular than perhaps even the 1970s B’s teams throughout the New England region.

And even still, there’s some in the Bruins fan base that negate his workhorse effort, team leader mentality and humility.

Well, there was until he sustained a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then played in Game 5 on home ice with a cage and (presumably) in pain.

He’ll do anything to win another Cup since winning it with Boston nine years ago and ending the city’s 39-year Cup drought between raising Lord Stanley’s mug in 1972 and 2011.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Throughout the course of Bruins history there have been several individuals who have exemplified– with the utmost detail in every little thing they do– what it means to be a Bruin in Boston. 

Their names are Art Ross, Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Orr and Patrice Bergeron.

Bergeron has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with Boston since being drafted by the Bruins in the second round (45th overall) in 2003. In 1,089 games, he’s scored 352 goals and amassed 517 assists for 869 career points. 

He’s also a member of the elusive Quadruple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup ring in 2011, two gold medals at the Winter Games for Canada in 2010 and 2014, a gold medal at the World Championship in 2004 and a gold medal at the World Junior Championship in 2005.

And if the Pentaple Gold Club was a thing, then Bergeron would be in that too– having been a member of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey championship winning Team Canada.

But enough about what he’s done away from the Bruins, eh.

If Schmidt was “Mr. Bruin”– or “The Ultimate Bruin” in his later years– then Bergeron is “Mr. Bruin Jr.” as the quintessential (likely) Bruin for life like how Schmidt lived and breathed (despite at one point coaching the Washington Capitals).

Bergeron recorded back-to-back 70-point seasons in his sophomore season and third NHL season, then suffered an almost career-ending– if not life threatening– concussion at the helm of Philadelphia Flyers defender, Randy Jones’ hit from behind just ten games into the 2007-08 season.

Bergeron’s season was cut short and his 2008-09 campaign was limited to 64 games when another concussion from a run-in with future teammate, then Carolina Hurricanes defender, Dennis Seidenberg, sidelined Bergeron for a duration of the season.

In 2011, Bergeron captured the Cup with Chara, Thomas and several other players who will be named in a moment that are possibly also deserving of the highest team honor in Boston– which raises a point about retired numbers in Bruins lore.

They come in bunches.

Nos. 2, 3 and 5 were all early pioneers of the franchise with No. 15 serving as a bridge between them and Nos. 4, 7 and 9. Then along came No. 24 before Nos. 8, 16 and 77 defined an era of Bruins hockey.

The same can be said for Nos. 33, 37, 40, 46 and perhaps 63 one day.

Anyway, No. 37 will go down in Boston sports history for more than a few reasons aside from his playoff overtime goals and everything else– he got better with age.

Bergeron turned in a career-high 79 points in 65 games played in 2018-19, and had 31-25–56 totals in 61 games up until the COVID-19 stoppage this season. He was on pace for 75 points had the regular season not met an abrupt end.

40 Tuukka Rask

No, Rask has “never won a Cup”. He has a Stanley Cup ring from 2011 and it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the engraver whether or not you were the starter or the backup when your name is etched into Lord Stanley’s mug.

Also, what hasn’t he done in Boston?

Rask has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy twice (which was the same number of times Thomas was a Vezina finalist) in his career, winning in 2013-14 and yet to be determined this season. 

Oh, plus he ranks 1st in Bruins franchise history in wins (Rask has 291, Tiny Thompson is 2nd with 252), games played (Rask has 536, Thompson is 2nd with 468), saves (Rask has 13,711, Eddie Johnston had 12,375), save percentage (among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played as a Bruin, Rask has a .922, Thomas had a .921) and goals against average (again, among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played, Rask has a 2.26, Byron Dafoe had a 2.30).

Rask also leads all Bruins goaltenders in franchise history in points with 15 (all assists, as no B’s netminder has ever scored a goal). Cheevers is second to Rask in points by a Boston goaltender with 11 assists.

Want to talk about the two most important trophies in the league?

Cheevers and the Bruins made four Stanley Cup Final appearances together, winning in 1970 and 1972, and losing in 1977 and 1978. Boston also finished first in the regular season standings in 1970-71 and 1971-72, which preceded the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986, but was done with Cheevers in net.

Thomas won the Cup and the Conn Smythe in his only Stanley Cup Final with the team in 2011, but never backstopped the team to a Presidents’ Trophy season.

Rask, meanwhile, earned a Cup ring on the 2010-11 roster, dragged his teammates to the 2013 and 2019 Stanley Cup Final and helped them to the franchise’s second and third Presidents’ Trophy seasons in 2013-14 and 2019-20.

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, but they’d be crazy not to retire Rask’s when his playing career is over.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that both Thomas and Rask won the William M. Jennings Trophy in their careers. Thomas shared the award with his backup, Manny Fernandez, in the 2008-09 season, while Rask won the award with his backup, Jaroslav Halak, this season.

Crazy, right?

46 David Krejci

Imagine for a moment, if you will, a player like Bergeron, but only quieter and better at making everyone around him better because he has a golden stick when it comes to passing. That player is Krejci.

Krejci has 38 assists fewer than Bergeron in 178 games less in his career so far. Bergeron has 517 assists in 1,089 games, while Krejci has 479 assists in 911 career NHL games. Both players have only ever played for Boston.

A second-half of the season player, Krejci emerges in peak performance from about February onward and crests his prime in the postseason. As long as the Bruins clinch a playoff berth, Krejci remains a dark horse threat for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

He had 23 points in 25 games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and improved that to 26 points in 22 games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the run to his third Stanley Cup Final appearance, Krejci had 16 points across 24 games played through the seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

All of this is to say that Krejci is the other constant in the Bergeron-Chara Era (or is it really the Bergeron-Chara-Krejci Era?) and that he’s quietly amassed 207-479–686 totals in 911 career games with Boston from breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season through now.

Do not sleep on him. He deserves as much praise when all is said and done as some of the surefire players to have their jersey numbers retired when they hang up the skates.

63 Brad Marchand

Controversial? You got it.

But Terry O’Reilly has his jersey number hanging from the rafters of TD Garden, which means the “Little Ball of Hate” can get the same treatment as “Taz”.

Then there’s the fact that Marchand had 100 points last season in 79 games played– no, he did not miss any time due to any suspensions in 2018-19. He’s also had 85-points or more in the last four seasons dating back to 2016-17.

Since breaking into the league with a 20-game stint and only one assist in 2009-10, Marchand has gone on to amass 290-355–645 totals in 731 games from 2010-11 through the pandemic shortened 2019-20 season. That means he’s had 646 points in 751 career NHL games from the 2009-10 season through now.

After reaching 100 points last season in 79 games, Marchand had 87 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 102 points had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted those plans.

Instead of extending his four consecutive 30-goal seasons to five, Marchand finished short with 28 goals in 2019-20’s shortened regular season. He had a career-high 39 goals in 2016-17, and a career-high 64 assists last season.

Like Bergeron, Marchand appears to only be getting better with age and that’s only going to cement his status as an icon in Bruins franchise history. It might just be enough to push him over the edge and encourage Boston to hang his number from the rafters someday.

88 David Pastrnak

How did 24 other teams– yes fully acknowledging that some teams traded their picks to other teams that then had multiple picks in the first round before Boston selected 25th overall– pass over Pastrnak in the 2014 NHL Draft? How? 

In 390 career NHL games thus far, Pastrnak has 379 points. He has 180 goals and 199 assists in that span since breaking into the league in the 2014-15 season and not being sent back down to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

This season alone, Pastrnak had 48 goals in 70 games– tied for the league lead in goals scored with Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin– en route to sharing the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and being the first Bruin in franchise history to have his name etched on that award named after the prolific Montreal Canadiens goal scorer from many years ago.

In fairness, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy wasn’t a thing until the 1998-99 season, so B’s legends like Rick Middleton and Cam Neely never got a chance to win it (let alone Bobby Orr).

But Pastrnak is a star in his own right. He’s a star in the making that was on pace for 56 goals at the time of the stoppage and 111 points before the pandemic put an early end to the 2019-20 regular season.

Nevertheless, he set career-highs in goals (48), assists (47) and points (95) this season and has scored more goals than the prior season in four-consecutive seasons now (34 goals in 75 games in 2016-17, 35 goals in 82 games in 2017-18, 38 goals in 66 games in 2018-19 and 48 goals in 70 games in 2019-20).

As long as Pastrnak can stay healthy and maintain and/or elevate his play for the next four or five seasons, then he’ll see his jersey number in Boston’s rafters with their most recent prolific goal scorer with the last name “Neely”.

Final Thoughts

Since Chara created the current team culture, it’d be an insult to leave out any of the key core members of the last decade or so of Bruins hockey history. 

Sure, it might be a bit much to have so many jersey retirement nights upcoming and increasing the amount of jersey numbers taken out of circulation in Boston from 11 to upwards of at least 16, but to reiterate– the Bruins retire numbers in bunches.

These players define an era in B’s lore. These players are doing so as one unit– the way their current captain and perhaps greatest leader in the history of the team methodically designed, cultivated and produced the close-knit machine that is the Bruins organization on the ice and in the dressing room.

In a time with rightful public shaming and disgrace for not immediately stepping up and committing to help their employees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these players stepped up out of their own volition to do something their owner wouldn’t do without being provoked.

The very least that owner can do to keep in good faith standing with the club’s alumni and current players destined for jersey retirement night ceremony glory, would be to honor this extraordinary group of gentlemen with class.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s a separate discussion entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what does this mean for the Bruins?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now for the advantages for Boston.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins fans be worried or not.

Bruins win, 3-0, in Stanley Cup Final rematch

Tuukka Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to their, 3-0, shutout victory over the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden Saturday night, while David Pastrnak added yet another goal to his league-leading goal scoring totals in the win.

Rask (5-0-1, 1.48 goals against average, .952 save percentage in six games played) turned aside all 26 shots that he faced for his 2nd shutout of the season (and 47th of his career).

The Bruins have three shutouts in 10 games this season.

Meanwhile, Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington (4-2-3, 2.53 GAA, .916 SV% in nine games played) made 21 saves on 23 shots against (.913 SV%) in the loss.

Boston improved to 4-0-1 at home this season and 7-1-2 (16 points) overall– good enough to remain in 2nd place of the Atlantic Division. St. Louis fell to 5-3-3 (13 points), but stayed in 3rd place in the Central Division standings.

Bruins defenders, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) have yet to make their season debuts, but are progressing according to plan with Miller expected to begin practicing with the rest of the team next week and Moore still sidelined until mid-November.

David Krejci (upper body) missed his 3rd consecutive game and was ruled out for the weekend by Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy. Krejci is hopeful to return on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Meanwhile, Joakim Nordstrom returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with an upper body injury and Karson Kuhlman (hairline nondisplaced fracture of the right tibia) is out for at least four weeks.

Kuhlman sustained his fractured tibia in Boston’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, Oct. 19th while blocking a shot. He missed his 2nd consecutive game this season Saturday against the Blues.

As a result of all the injuries plaguing the B’s, Cassidy switched things up among his bottom-six forwards with Nordstrom’s return to action.

Anders Bjork joined Par Lindholm on the left side, while Danton Heinen was shifted to right wing on the third line.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom was reunited with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner in their usual spots on the fourth line.

David Backes and Steven Kampfer were Boston’s only healthy scratches against St. Louis.

Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body) was out for the Blues in their first matchup against the Bruins in Boston since winning their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history on June 12th at TD Garden in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Less than a minute into the action, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara leveled Oskar Sundqvist with a big hit near St. Louis’ bench.

Blues forward, Brayden Schenn, responded to Chara’s hit and the two players were escorted to the penalty box with roughing minors 38 seconds into the first period.

Both teams skated 4-on-4 as a result for two minutes, then resumed full strength afterwards with no issues until about five minutes later when Torey Krug and David Perron got into a bit of a shoving match.

Krug was penalized for holding the stick and Perron received a roughing infraction as a result. Both penalties were called at 6:13 of the first period and once again– the two teams skated 4-on-4 for a couple minutes.

Late in the opening frame, Perron was guilty of holding Charlie Coyle and sent to the sin bin as a result at 14:08.

Boston capitalized on their first power play opportunity of the night as Pastrnak (11) blasted a one-timer through Binnington’s seven-hole to give the B’s the game’s first goal at 14:59.

Krug (7) and Brad Marchand (10) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 1-0.

Less than a minute later, Kuraly was penalized for cross checking Vince Dunn and the Blues went on the power play at 15:49.

St. Louis wasn’t able to convert on the skater advantage– what would become a trend for the Notes all evening.

Finally, to wrap up the first frame, Sundqvist got his stick caught in Connor Clifton’s skate and tripped the Bruins defender at 18:12.

Boston’s ensuing power play would carryover into the second period.

Through 20 minutes of action Saturday night, the Bruins led St. Louis, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 10-9, in shots on goal.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2) and giveaways (5-1) entering the first intermission, while the Blues led in takeaways (6-3), hits (10-9) and faceoff win percentage (57-44).

St. Louis was 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Despite starting the middle frame with 12 seconds left on the power play, Boston’s skater advantage went powerless for the rest of the night after Pastrnak’s first period power play goal.

But midway through the middle frame, Bjork (1) ripped a one-timer over Binnington’s glove on a pass from Matt Grzelcyk to put Boston ahead, 2-0.

Grzelcyk (2) and Heinen (1) tallied the assists at 9:31 of the second period as Bjork snapped a 17-game goal drought.

Just 11 seconds later, Krug hooked Perron and presented St. Louis with their second power play of the night at 9:42. The Blues did not convert on the advantage.

In the vulnerable minute after a special teams effort, Sundqvist didn’t use his better judgment and boarded Charlie McAvoy at 12:06, resulting in a power play for the Bruins.

At least Boston didn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage.

With less than a minute left in the second period, Grzelcyk interfered with Alexander Steen at 19:17 and was sent to the penalty box accordingly, yielding 1:17 of time carried over on the power play for St. Louis to start the third period.

After two periods in Boston, the Bruins led, 2-0. The B’s held a, 19-16, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 9-7, advantage in the second period alone– and led in giveaways (7-3), while the Notes led in takeaways (10-6), hits (21-16) and faceoff win% (68-33).

Both teams had five blocked shots aside entering the second intermission.

Boston was 1/3 on the power play, while St. Louis was 0/3 on the skater advantage.

St. Louis began the third period with 1:17 left on their power play, but couldn’t muster anything on the fresh sheet of ice, leaving the Bruins unharmed.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Colton Parayko hooked Bjork and was sent to the box at 4:02 of the third period.

Boston didn’t score on the resulting power play.

Midway through the third, Krug was penalized for holding 2019 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Ryan O’Reilly, and sent to the box at 8:22, but once again the Blues were powerless and let another skater advantage slip by.

With 2:35 remaining in the game, Blue head coach, Craig Berube pulled Binnington for an extra attacker.

At 19:11 of the third, Brandon Carlo (1) cleared the puck out of his own zone and into the empty twine to make it, 3-0, Boston with an unassisted goal.

The Bruins won, 3-0, at the final horn, despite being outshot, 26-24, in the action.

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (11-8), while St. Louis finished leading in hits (27-22) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Both teams ended up with nine giveaways each.

Boston travels to Madison Square Garden for their second game in back-to-back days for a Sunday night matchup with the New York Rangers before finishing the month of October at home Tuesday night versus San Jose.

Rask wins in 500th game, B’s depth carries Boston over Toronto, 4-2

Brett Ritchie had the game-winning goal and Par Lindholm added the insurance goal against his former team late in the third period, as the Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Tuukka Rask (4-0-1, 1.78 goals against average, .944 save percentage in five games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in the win for Boston.

Rask played in his 500th career game and became the 28th goaltender in league history to play all 500 games with one franchise, as well as the 72nd goaltender all time to reach 500 games in his career (10th active).

Meanwhile, Maple Leafs goaltender, Michael Hutchinson (0-2-1, 4.02 GAA, .890 SV% in four games played) made 35 saves on 39 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 6-1-2 (14 points) and remained 2nd in the Atlantic Divison, while the Maple Leafs fell to 5-4-2 (12 points)– stuck in 3rd place in the Atlantic.

Bruce Cassidy coached his 200th game as Boston’s head coach and is 123-53-24 in that span.

Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), David Krejci (upper body), Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) and Karson Kuhlman (tibia) made up Boston’s long list of players out due to injury on Tuesday night, while Steven Kampfer remained the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Krejci was placed on the injured reserve (retroactive to last week when his injury occurred), while Nordstrom returned to practice without the need for a no-contact sweater since the B’s returned from their trip up to Toronto last Saturday.

Kuhlman suffered a hairline nondisplaced fracture of his right tibia in Boston’s game against Toronto on Saturday (Oct. 19th) and will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks, as reported by the team moments after their win against the Maple Leafs Tuesday night.

As a result of Boston’s many injuries, Anders Bjork was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on emergency basis and took on Nordstrom’s usual role as the fourth line left wing alongside Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.

Bjork has 3-5–8 totals in seven games with Providence this season and has a plus-five rating in that span.

Ritchie was bumped up from the third line right wing to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle in place of Kuhlman, while Cassidy also moved David Backes up to the right side of the third line with Danton Heinen and Lindholm as a result.

Torey Krug interfered with Frederik Gauthier after the Leafs skater bumped David Pastrnak along the boards and left the league leading goal scorer hunched over on his way back to the bench.

Krug was assessed a minor penalty at 4:03 of the first period, yielding a power play for Toronto.

The Maple Leafs didn’t convert on the skater advantage.

Just past the midpoint of the opening frame, Pastrnak thought he scored the game’s first goal, but Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, used a coach’s challenge to review how the Bruins entered the attacking zone.

After review, it was determined that the play was offside leading up to Pastrnak’s would-be goal and thus, the score remained tied, 0-0 at 10:48.

Moments later, Andreas Johnsson hooked Kuraly at 16:26 and the Bruins went on the power play for their first time of the night.

It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on the skater advantage as Pastrnak (10) received the puck on his backhand, skated backwards in front of the crease and scored a between-the-legs goal through Hutchinson’s five-hole to give the B’s a power play goal and the, 1-0, lead at 17:15.

The goal was Pastrnak’s 300th career NHL point in his 329th career game– becoming the 4th fastest to reach 300 points in Bruins franchise history– and was assisted by Brad Marchand (9) and Krug (6).

Only Leon Draisaitl (328) has more points than Pastrnak among members from the same 2014 NHL Draft class and only Barry Pederson (235 games), Bobby Orr (279) and Ray Bourque (316) got to 300 points in their career for Boston faster than Pastrnak.

Just three seconds after the Bruins scored on the power play, Johnsson was sent back to the sin bin for roughing Wagner at 17:18.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.

At the end of the first period, the B’s held a, 1-0, lead entering the first intermission, while holding an advantage in shots on goal, 12-10, as well.

Toronto led in blocked shots (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while the Bruins led in takeaways (4-2) and hits (11-8). Both teams had four giveaways each heading into the second period.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs power play was 0/1 and the B’s were 1/2.

Less than 90 seconds into the middle frame, Jake Muzzin tripped up DeBrusk and presented Boston with another power play at 1:18 of the second period.

The Bruins were not able to capitalize on their early skater advantage in the second frame and the Leafs killed off Muzzin’s minor without any harm.

In the vulnerable minute thereafter, Kasperi Kapanen (3) blasted a one-timer past Rask off a backhand drop pass from Alexander Kerfoot to tie the game, 1-1, at 4:23 of the second period.

Kerfoot (3) and Justin Holl (3) tallied the assists on Kapanen’s goal as Toronto pounced on Boston’s lackluster effort defending against Toronto’s rush.

But Marchand (5) responded with a quick goal of his own on a wrist shot from the slot that he sent high into the twine over Hutchinson’s glove side after receiving a pass from Pastrnak in the attacking zone.

Pastrnak (7) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins regained the lead, 2-1, at 6:09.

The two teams swapped goals in a 1:05 span of the middle period.

Midway through the middle frame, Zdeno Chara was called for tripping Gauthier even though Chara had actually interfered with the Leaf– catching the Toronto skater with a one-arm shove from about shoulder height instead of a trip and knocking him over.

Nonetheless, a minor penalty was indeed the right call and the Maple Leafs went on the power play at 11:40.

Toronto converted on a tic-tac-goal as Kerfoot (4) notched a power play goal from dead center in the slot while Rask was caught out of position– seconds behind the play.

William Nylander had sent a cross-ice pass to Kapanen, who tossed the puck back to Kerfoot in the slot for the goal at 12:54, tying the game, 2-2.

Kapanen (5) and Nylander (4) had the assists on Toronto’s power play goal as the Maple Leafs took full advantage of catching the Bruins off of their game in the middle frame.

Late in the period, Morgan Rielly tripped Kuraly and was assessed a minor penalty, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting skater advantage at 15:54.

Heading into the second intermission, the two teams were tied on the scoreboard, 2-2, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 25-22– even though Toronto actually held a, 13-12, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Boston led in every other major statistical category, however, entering the third period, leading the Leafs in blocked shots (7-4), takeaways (11-4), giveaways (7-6), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Toronto was 1/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/4 to begin the final frame of regulation.

After Coyle dumped the puck around the glass for DeBrusk to dig out of the corner on the other side of Hutchinson, Ritchie (2) followed up on a loose puck after DeBrusk’s initial shot attempt was blocked by a Maple Leafs defender and buried a shot behind the Toronto netminder for what would be the eventual game-winning goal at 6:35 of the third period.

DeBrusk (2) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal as Boston retook the lead, 3-2.

Though Kuraly caught Johnsson with a high stick late in the final period at 15:48, Toronto’s power play was no match for Boston’s penalty killing unit– even after Babcock used his team’s timeout with 3:27 remaining in the game to try to draw up a game-tying play.

Seconds after being released from the box, Kuraly entered the offensive zone with the puck on his stick and sent a shot right in and out of Hutchinson’s glove.

Lindholm (1), the former Maple Leaf, scored on the rebound with a backhand tap-in goal to provide the Bruins with an insurance goal, giving Boston the two-goal lead, 4-2, at 17:57 of the third period.

Kuraly (3) had the only assist on Lindholm’s first goal as a Bruin.

Eight seconds after Boston extended their lead, Marchand picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, leaving his teammates shorthanded at 18:05, but the Leafs couldn’t score on the power play– even with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.

The Bruins secured another “W” in the win column with their, 4-2, victory over Toronto at the sound of the final horn.

Boston had defeated the Leafs for the 300th time in franchise history– the most wins vs. any opponent since the Bruins joined the NHL as the first American expansion team in 1924.

The B’s finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 39-30, including a, 14-8, advantage in the third period alone, as well as giveaways (10-8), hits (32-16) and faceoff win% (60-40), while Toronto finished the night leading in blocked shots (9-8).

Both teams went 1/4 on the power play as the Bruins improved to 300-265-111 all-time against Toronto in the regular season.

Boston has a few days off before they face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.

St. Louis will actually be the first back-to-back days with games for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.

The Bruins improved to 3-0-1 at home this season and 5-1-0 when leading after the first period. The B’s are also 5-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.

Rielly nets two in Leafs, 4-3, OT victory over Boston

Morgan Rielly had two goals– including the game-winning goal in overtime– in the, 4-3, victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena Saturday night.

Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (5-2-0, 3.09 goals against average, .902 save percentage in seven games played) turned aside 43 shots out of 46 shots against for a .935 SV% in the overtime win for Toronto.

Meanwhile, Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (2-1-1, 2.23 GAA, .931 SV% in four games played) had 25 saves on 29 shots for an .862 SV% in the overtime loss for the B’s.

Boston fell to 5-1-2 (12 points) on the season, but retained 2nd place status in the Atlantic Division, while Toronto cemented their foundation in 3rd place with a 5-3-1 record (10 points) this season.

The Bruins fell to 3-1-1 on the road this season, while the Maple Leafs improved to 3-2-1 on home ice.

For the eighth time this season, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were out of the lineup due to injury. Joining them in not traveling to Toronto, were David Krejci (upper body) and Joakim Nordstrom (upper body), who also missed Saturday night’s action against the Maple Leafs.

With injuries piling up for Boston, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted David Backes on the fourth line right wing (moving Chris Wagner to the left side in place of Nordstrom) and flipped Brett Ritchie with Karson Kuhlman on the second and third lines.

Kuhlman rejoined Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle while Krejci is injured and Ritchie joined Danton Heinen and Par Lindholm on the third line.

Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for the Bruins on Saturday, while John Tavares (broken finger) was the only member of Toronto not already on the injured reserve, but out of the lineup due to injury nonetheless.

Tavares suffered his injury Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. in Toronto’s, 4-3, loss to the Capitals.

Zach Hyman (torn ACL), Travis Dermott (shoulder), Mason Marchment (undisclosed), David Clarkson (back) and Nathan Horton (back) are all on the injured reserve/long term injured reserve for the Leafs and were not in action against Boston.

Maple Leafs alternate captain, Morgan Rielly (1) scored his first goal of the season with a shot from the point the deflected off of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, and through Halak’s five-hole to give Toronto the lead, 1-0.

Mitch Marner (7) and Andreas Johnsson (3) tallied the assists on Rielly’s goal at 5:55 of the first period.

Almost ten minutes later, Sean Kuraly turned the puck over in his own zone, as Dmytro Timashov (1) stripped the Bruins fourth line center of the rubber biscuit, skated to the slot and wristed a shot over Halak’s glove side for his first career National Hockey League goal at 15:44.

Frederik Gauthier (1) had the only assist on Timashov’s goal and the Leafs led, 2-0.

In the final minute of the opening frame, Toronto’s two-goal lead was cut in half as DeBrusk (1) notched his first goal of the season from point blank in the low slot on a pass from Coyle at 19:39.

Coyle (2) and Wagner (2) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, after working hard to keep the puck in the attacking zone and setting up DeBrusk for the tally.

DeBrusk’s goal was the first goal for the Bruins by someone not named Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak in almost 200 minutes of hockey.

Entering the first intermission, the Maple Leafs led Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 18-15, in shots on goal.

Boston managed to hold the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while Toronto led in takeaways (7-3) and hits (12-6) heading into the second period.

Neither team had taken a penalty in the first period and thus both teams were still 0/0 on the power play.

Early in the middle frame, Ilya Mikheyev was called for holding against Carlo and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 1:56 of the second period.

Toronto’s penalty kill was too good for the B’s skater advantage, however.

Nicholas Shore tripped up Lindholm at 7:52 and the Leafs went back on the penalty kill, but were able to hold off Boston’s advances on the power play.

Late in the period, after being pushed by Martin Marincin and not able to stop because he had too much speed to begin with while crashing the net, Backes received a goaltender interference minor and was subsequently wrestled to the ice by Marincin at 16:41.

It appeared as though Toronto would see time on their first power play of the night, except for the roughing minor that was called for Marincin’s actions in front of the net.

Why? Nobody knows, but hey, both teams got through 4-on-4 action unscathed and resumed full strength, 5-on-5, play with 1:19 remaining in the second period.

But then Marincin hooked DeBrusk at 19:37 after a long flow of action in Toronto’s own zone without a stoppage.

So Boston would on be on the skater advantage into the third period as a result of not scoring at the conclusion of the second period.

The Maple Leafs entered the second intermission with the, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard after 40 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 33-18– including a, 15-3, advantage in the second period alone for Boston.

Toronto led in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (12-6) and hits (20-19) heading into the third period.

Boston led in giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (54-46) after two periods.

The Leafs had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/3 heading into the third period.

Boston’s power play from the second period extended into the final frame of regulation.

Late in the skater advantage, Ritchie worked a pass to Heinen (2) for the elevated shot over Andersen while the Maple Leafs goaltender dove to make a save, tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Ritchie (1) and Pastrnak (6) had the assists on Heinen’s power play goal at 1:36 of the third period.

A mere 61 seconds later, Alexander Kerfoot (3) followed a rebound from point blank and floated a backhanded shot over Halak’s blocker side to give Toronto another lead, 3-2, at 2:37.

Jake Muzzin (4) and Mikheyev (4) tallied the assists on Kerfoot’s goal.

Late in the period, Bergeron tossed a pass to Marchand who sent the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the one-timer blast past Andersen’s short side over the blocker and into the twine to tie the game, 3-3, at 15:34.

Marchand (8) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s 15th point of the season.

No. 88 in black-and-gold now has 15 points in eight games so far this season and became the 5th Bruin in franchise history to record at least 15 points in his first 10 team games multiple times in his career, joining Bobby Orr (1969-70, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Phil Esposito (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Bill Cowley (1940-41, 1943-44 and 1944-45) and Adam Oates (1992-93 and 1993-94), according to Conor Ryan of Boston Sports Journal.

At the end of regulation, the two teams were tied, 3-3, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 45-27.

Boston held a slight edge over Toronto in shots on net in the third period alone with a, 12-9, advantage.

The Leafs led the B’s in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (14-9), hits (34-32) and faceoff win% (54-47) after 60 minutes of play, but both teams had 16 giveaways each heading into overtime.

Toronto did not see any time on the power play and Boston finished 1/3 on the skater advantage as neither team was penalized in overtime.

Cassidy started Kuraly, Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy in overtime, while Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, went with Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen and Tyson Barrie.

With almost a minute remaining in overtime, Auston Matthews wrapped around the net and tossed a pass to Marner.

Marner fired a shot from the slot that deflected off of Rielly (2) and found its way over Halak’s blocker and into the back of the net to win the game, 4-3, for Toronto.

Marner (8) and Matthews (2) had the assists on Rielly’s game-winning goal at 3:54 of the overtime period.

The Maple Leafs won the game, 4-3, but trailed the Bruins in the final shots on goal total, 46-29.

Toronto controlled all the other statistics, however, finishing the night with the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (17-16), hits (36-34) and faceoff win% (53-47).

The Leafs improved to 1-0 in overtime this season, while B’s fell to 0-1 in OT. It was the 2nd straight game that required overtime for Boston, but the first that ended before a shootout.

Boston and Toronto finish their home and home series Tuesday night at TD Garden.

The B’s then have a few days off before they face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.

St. Louis will actually be the first of games on back-to-back days for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.

Lightning strike Bruins, 4-3, in shootout victory

Steven Stamkos’ only goal in a shootout was enough to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Boston Bruins, 4-3, on Thursday night at TD Garden.

The Bolts led briefly in the third period before the B’s tied the game almost two minutes later and forced overtime.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (4-1-0, 2.58 goals against average, .921 save percentage in five games played) made 34 saves on 37 shots against for a .919 SV% in the shootout win for Tampa.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (3-0-1, 1.72 GAA, .946 SV% in four games played) stopped 33 out of 36 shots faced for a .917 SV% in the shootout loss.

The Bruins fell to 5-1-1 (11 points) on the season and temporarily moved into 1st place in the Atlantic Division before the Buffalo Sabres won their late game Thursday night and regained control of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the Lightning improved to 4-2-1 (9 points) and moved into 3rd place in the Atlantic, thanks to having more points in fewer games than the Toronto Maple Leafs (Tampa has nine points in seven games, while Toronto has nine points in eight games).

For the seventh time this season, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were out of the action due to injury.

David Krejci (upper body) was also ruled out of Thursday night’s action after sustaining an injury or re-injuring something in Monday afternoon’s meeting with the Anaheim Ducks.

Miller and Moore both skated on their own in red no-contact sweaters before practice Thursday morning, while Krejci’s prognosis is to be determined.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, juggled his lines in Krejci’s absence, moving Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie up to the second line with Jake DeBrusk (celebrating his 23rd birthday on Thursday) at left wing, while re-inserting Par Lindholm in the lineup at center on the third line and bumping Karson Kuhlman to the third line right wing.

Connor Clifton was also back in the lineup for Boston after serving his time as a healthy scratch against the Ducks.

David Backes and Steven Kampfer were the only healthy scratches for Boston on Thursday.

Midway through the opening frame, Lightning forward, Mikhail Sergachev, was guilty of holding Bruins forward, Brett Ritchie, and was sent to the penalty box at 9:27 of the first period.

Seven seconds into the ensuing power play, Boston’s David Pastrnak (7) struck first on the scoreboard with a power play goal on a one-timer pass from Patrice Bergeron to give the B’s the lead, 1-0, at 9:34.

Bergeron (5) and Torey Krug (4) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal.

With his 5th consecutive goal for Boston, Pastrnak tied Dunc Fisher for the 2nd most consecutive goals in Bruins franchise history. Glen Murray is the team record holder with six consecutive goals for Boston in the 2003-04 season, while Pastrnak and Fisher each have five in 2019-20 and 1951-52, repsectively.

Less than two minutes later, Sean Kuraly hooked Nikita Kucherov and Tampa went on the skater advantage for the first time of the night.

The Bruins killed off Kuraly’s minor without any major issues.

Moments later, Bergeron was penalized for slashing against Ondrej Palat and cut a rut to the sin bin at 16:09.

Once more, the Bolts weren’t able to convert on the resulting power play.

In the final seconds of the first period, Yanni Gourde flipped the puck through the neutral zone to Brayden Point (3) who entered the attacking zone on a quick breakaway and elevated the puck into the top of the twine to tie the game, 1-1, at 19:59.

Gourde (3) and Victor Hedman (6) notched the assists on Point’s goal as the teams went into the first intermission knotted at, 1-1.

Tampa led in shots on goal (16-11), hits (12-4) and faceoff win percentage (60-40), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (4-1) and giveaways (8-4).

Both teams had two takeaways aside after 20 minutes of action.

The Lightning were 0/2 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 1/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

Bergeron took a beating early in the middle frame as No. 37 in black-and-gold was on the receiving end of consecutive penalties by the Lightning.

First, Carter Verhaeghe tripped Bergeron at 2:15 of the second period, then Gourde interfered with Bergeron at 6:23.

Boston was unsuccessful on their first power play of the second period, but worked their magic while Gourde was in the box.

Bergeron (2) redirected a slap pass from Pastrnak into the twine to give the Bruins their second power play goal of the game and the lead, 2-1.

Pastrnak (5) and Brad Marchand (6) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s goal at 7:26.

Shortly after regaining the lead, the Bruins turned the puck over at an inopportune time, leading to a quality scoring chance for the Bolts.

Tampa forward, Alex Killorn, fired a shot that Rask got a chunk of, but couldn’t contain the rebound as Mathieu Joseph (2) pounced on the loose puck for the tap-in goal, tying the game, 2-2.

Killorn (3) and Erik Cernak (1) were credited with the assists on Joseph’s goal at 10:32..

Late in the period, Cernak was charged with a minor for interference against Lindholm at 17:56 and the B’s went on the power play for the fourth time of the night.

Boston was not able to capitalize on the skater advantage, however.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden, the Bruins and Lightning were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard.

Tampa led in shots on goal (29-21– including a, 13-10, advantage in the second period alone), blocked shots (6-5) and hits (22-9), while Boston led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (11-8).

The two clubs were split in faceoff win%, 50-50.

The Bolts were powerless on the power play (0/2) after two periods, while the B’s were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Pat Maroon while trailing the Lightning forward and was sent to the box at 8:25 of the third.

Tampa didn’t convert on their third power play opportunity of the night and the Bruins killed off Grzelcyk’s minor as a result.

After dominating in shots on net, Boston gave up a chance the other way that Kevin Shattenkirk (4) was sure to take advantage of– sending a snap shot over Rask’s glove side from the faceoff dot to give the Lightning their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 15:13 of the third period.

Stamkos (5) and Point (2) recorded the assists on Shattenkirk’s goal.

The Bolts followed up their lead with a quick penalty of their own– Anthony Cirelli was guilty of a minor infraction for tripping Pastrnak at 16:08.

On the ensuing skater advantage, Boston fired everything but the kitchen sink towards the goal, missing the net entirely a couple of times, but proving to be worthy in the long-run.

After Marchand fired a shot off the endboards that caromed back into the slot, Pastrnak (8) sent the puck off of Shattenkirk’s stick and into the net behind Vasilevskiy to tie the game, 3-3, with his 2nd goal of the night.

Marchand (7) and Krug (5) each had a hand in assisting Pastrnak’s power play goal at 16:55.

Boston’s three goals all came on the power play, while Tampa’s weak penalty kill was on full display Thursday night.

At the end of regulation, the score remained tied, 3-3, on the scoreboard, while Tampa held onto a slim advantage in shots on goal, 33-32, despite trailing, 11-4, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Lightning maintained an advantage in blocked shots (12-9), takeaways (7-6), giveaways (15-12), hits (29-21) and faceoff win% (53-47) heading into overtime.

The Bolts were 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 3/5 on the skater advantage.

Cassidy started Coyle, Pastrnak and Krug in overtime, while Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, opted for Cirelli, Killon and Hedman to kick things off in the five-minute, 3-on-3, OT action.

Neither team scored and Marchand had Point in a headlock in the dying seconds to prevent a last second scoring chance for the Bolts.

He was assessed a roughing penalty at 5:00 of the overtime period, but could still take part in the shootout, because apparently there’s no rule that’d say otherwise.

After the overtime period, the Bruins held the slight advantage in shots on goal, 37-36, including a, 5-3, advantage in overtime alone.

Tampa finished the night with the lead in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (15-12), hits (31-21) and faceoff win% (53-47), while both teams had seven takeaways aside.

The Lightning finished the night 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 3/5.

Boston elected to shoot second in the shootout, thereby giving Tampa the first shot of the first round of the shootout.

Cooper sent Hedman to get things started, but the defender was denied by Rask with a blocker save.

Cassidy responded by sending Coyle for the first attempt on Vasilevskiy, but the Tampa netminder wasn’t fooled by Coyle’s deke and made a pad save.

Point made an appearance for the Lightning in the second round of the shootout, but clipped Rask’s blocker and sent the puck wide of the net.

Next up for Boston, Pastrnak flat out missed the goal frame, leaving the shootout tied, 0-0, through two rounds.

Last season’s Art Ross Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy winner, Kucherov had Tampa’s first shot of the third round of the shootout, but was stopped by Rask with the pad save as Kucherov tried to go five-hole.

In response, Marchand tried to get Vasilevskiy to stretch just far enough that Marchand would’ve eluded the Lightning goaltender, but Vasilevskiy made the save with the right leg pad and kept the shootout even, 0-0, through three rounds.

Finally, Stamkos broke open the scoring in the shootout with a shot high over Rask’s blocker and into the back of the net to give Tampa the, 1-0, advantage– meaning Boston would have to score to extend the shootout.

Celebrating his birthday in style, DeBrusk was given Boston’s last chance in the shootout, but was stopped by Vasilevskiy’s blocker, leaving the Bruins scoreless in the shootout and with the, 4-3, loss in the final boxscore.

Boston wrapped up their three-game homestand 2-0-1 thanks to their shootout loss to Tampa on Thursday.

The Bruins travel to Toronto for a home and home series with the Maple Leafs on Oct. 19th at Scotiabank Arena and Oct. 22nd at TD Garden.

It will be Boston and Toronto’s first meeting since their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.

Afterwards, the B’s then have a few days off until they’ll face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.

St. Louis kicks off the first games on back-to-back days for the Bruins this season, as Boston will travel to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers on Oct. 27th before finishing the month on home ice against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.

DTFR Podcast #171- 2019-20 Season Preview: Central Division

All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.

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

St. Louis Blues 2019-20 Season Preview

St. Louis Blues

45-28-9, 99 points, 3rd in the Central Division

Defeated Boston in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Dakota Joshua (acquired from TOR), F Nick Lappin, F Evan Polei, F Michael Vecchione, F Nathan Walker, D Andreas Borgman (acquired from TOR), D Jake Dotchin, D Justin Faulk (acquired from CAR), D Derrick Pouliot

Subtractions: F Conner Bleackley (signed with Idaho, ECHL), F Dominik Bokk (traded to CAR), F Pat Maroon (signed with TBL), F Nikita Soshnikov (KHL), D Chris Butler (retired), D Michael Del Zotto (signed with ANA), D Joel Edmundson (re-signed, then traded to CAR), D Jani Hakanpaa (signed with ANA), D Jakub Jerabek (KHL), D Jordan Schmaltz (traded to TOR), D Tyler Wotherspoon (signed with PHI), G Jared Coreau (signed with NYI)

Still Unsigned: F Chris Thorburn

Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Sammy Blais, F Robby Fabbri, F Zach Sanford, F Oskar Sundqvist, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Jordan Binnington, G Ville Husso

Offseason Analysis: Winning the Stanley Cup cures everything. Nobody’s asking when and if the St. Louis Blues will ever a) make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final or b) winning the Cup.

The Blues crossed off the top item from their bucket list and hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads in Boston after winning Game 7 against the Bruins in June.

General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has been building and retooling the organization since assuming his current role in 2010. A finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award last season, Armstrong landed a key piece of St. Louis’ Cup-winning roster (and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP) in Ryan O’Reilly last offseason in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.

St. Louis won the Cup, so now Armstrong’s task of winning one is taken care of. He– along with the rest of the Blues– will have a bit of a grace period until fans are fed up again with whatever behooves them next.

Of course, the goal of winning the Cup for any GM ultimately isn’t to just win it once, but rather to win it as many times as possible in your career.

Armstrong took care of a delicate balance in re-signed a plethora of restricted free agent members of the Blues.

Rather than making Jordan Binnington the surefire franchise goaltender, Armstrong was able to negotiate a solid two-year bridge deal worth $4.400 million per season.

The 26-year-old goaltender took over St. Louis’ starting role at the dawn of the new year in January and– even though he set a National Hockey League rookie record for most wins in the postseason with 16– has yet to solidify his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL.

Binnington and 29-year-old, Jake Allen, each have two years on their respective contracts. This season, one will rise above the other as the starter (likely Binnington), but for the next couple of seasons each are competing for a long-term role with the organization.

Glue guys, Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist and Carl Gunnarsson are all sticking around in St. Louis for the near future, with Sundqvist extended for the longest tenure on a new four-year deal worth $2.750 million per season.

The Blues can sit back for a season or two and see if Craig Berube and Co. can recreate the magic of their 52nd season in franchise history.

Whether or not this team has what it takes to formulate a dynasty remains to be seen, but Armstrong bolstered their chances after trading Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for veteran defender, Justin Faulk, and a 2020 5th round pick on Sept. 24th.

Carolina retained 14% of Faulk’s salary ($676,667), which means he will carry a $4.157 million cap hit for the Blues this season.

Upon his acquisition, Armstrong locked up the defender to a seven-year extension with St. Louis worth $45.500 million ($6.500 million per season). Faulk’s extension goes into effect next season and carries a no-trade clause for the first five years, then a modified no-trade clause for the remainder.

A full no-trade clause was added by the Blues to the final year of his current deal.

If nothing else, this trade covers Armstrong’s back in case he is unable to sign Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, to an extension.

The 29-year-old defender is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and likely to see a pay raise from his current $6.500 million cap hit (especially considering, 1) his role in St. Louis’ turnaround, 2) his Stanley Cup ring and 3) the fact that Faulk’s extension carries Pietrangelo’s current cap hit).

In short, Pietrangelo is better than Faulk and best while the two of them are on the same blue line.

Armstrong will also have to balance the books next season by deciding whether or not to re-sign Brayden Schenn, Fabbri, Blais, Dunn, Jay Bouwmeester and Mackenzie MacEachern.

For now, bars across St. Louis will keep playing “Gloria” even as the team on the ice must turn the page on last season and focus on what looms this season and beyond.

Offseason Grade: B-

Considering the number of RFAs Armstrong had to re-sign, the Blues GM managed to do a decent job tidying things up for the time being, but most of the extensions were short term, one or two year deals.

St. Louis has about $138,740 in cap space available, leaving them with little to no room for any major extensions for next season without having to unload some larger contracts from the books.

At the very least, the only major loss from last season’s Cup winning roster to this season was Pat Maroon, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning due to St. Louis’ cap constraints.

Boston Bruins 2019-20 Season Preview

Boston Bruins

49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by St. Louis

Additions: F Brendan Gaunce, F Pär Lindholm, F Brett Ritchie, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Noel Acciari (signed with FLA), F Marcus Johansson (signed with BUF), F Mark McNeill (EBEL), F Gemel Smith (signed with TBL), F Jordan Szwarz (signed with OTT), G Zane McIntyre (signed with VAN)

Still Unsigned: F Lee Stempniak

Re-signed: F Peter Cehlarik, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Danton Heinen, D Brandon Carlo, D Charlie McAvoy

Offseason Analysis: After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice, the Boston Bruins quickly turned the page to the 2019-20 season. Rookie camp was less than a month away and with it meant free agency for the veteran players of the game.

General Manager, Don Sweeney, followed suit with his business as usual masterplan– stay the course. Don’t overspend on any bottom-six talent and don’t rock the boat.

Boston’s impeccable leadership group of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes has everyone in the dressing room in a collective mindset.

The Bruins remain focused on an unaccomplished goal from last season– winning the Cup.

The tight-knit roster witnessed the departure of fourth liner, Noel Acciari, and third-line trade deadline acquisition, Marcus Johansson.

Acciari, 27, brought his talents to the Florida Panthers on a three-year contract worth $1.667 million per season, while Johansson, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres worth $4.500 million per season.

Since Sweeney was named GM in May 2015, he’s adopted a new policy for the organization whereby bottom-six forwards– especially on the fourth line– are usually expendable.

Though Acciari’s physical game will be missed by the Bruins, it’s a next-player up mentality combined with the signing of Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, that will hold the B’s over for the 2019-20 season.

Excess spending in a salary cap world can get teams into cap hell and more often than not, getting too attached to players that are outside of your top line, top defensive pairing or top goaltender is more costly in the long run.

A little more here and there will hurt a team when the time comes to sign a younger, better, player to a new– more expensive– contract.

In other words, saving $667,000 on Ritchie’s services for the same role as Acciari, should yield the same result on the fourth line (in theory) and save just enough money to utilize elsewhere– like on Par Lindholm’s two-year deal worth $850,000 per season.

Lindholm and Ritchie provide more depth to Boston’s roster than Acciari alone in the simple sense that two players are more than one (especially if one gets hurt).

The Bruins weren’t going to be able to retain Johansson at a $4.500 million cap hit while having to re-sign Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Though Johansson was a good fit for the B’s with Charlie Coyle and Heinen on the third line, signing Heinen to a two-year, $5.600 million ($2.800 million cap hit) deal and negotiating a bridge deal that was fair for both sides in McAvoy and Carlo’s case was more important for the future of the franchise.

Sweeney might be playing with fire as McAvoy’s three-year deal bears a $4.900 million cap hit and a surefire significant raise for the 21-year-old defender in three years from now when he’s even further into his prime, but for now, the contract is just another example of Sweeney’s mastery at keeping his team under the cap ceiling.

Carlo’s two-year extension is worth $2.850 million per season and is less likely to cause a ruckus when the defender is in the $4.000 million range depending on how Sweeney’s newest challenge plays out.

With McAvoy and Carlo under contract, Sweeney’s attention can shift to figuring out Torey Krug’s future with the franchise.

While Chara and Kevan Miller are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end on the blue line, Matt Grzelcyk will be a restricted free agent and a shoe-in for an extension.

Chara, 42, may retire at season’s end and Miller, 31, might be in his final days as a Bruin this season.

The oft-injured defender (Miller) won’t start the season with Boston as he’s out with a knee injury and has been replaced in his bottom-pairing role by younger and cheaper options in Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton– who signed a three-year extension carrying a $1.000 million cap hit that will kick in starting next season.

With an additional $4.500 million to work with, Sweeney could pay Krug upwards of $9.000 million per season– except Jake DeBrusk will also be Boston’s biggest pending-RFA next July and he’ll need some of that money.

So Krug could sign an extension and have to deal with Sweeney’s money saving ways, be traded while he carries enough trade value before the trade deadline or walk away in free agency, leaving the Bruins with nothing.

At any rate, Boston locked down their biggest component in keeping everything together on the ice this offseason as head coach, Bruce Cassidy, signed a multi-year extension that will begin next season after his current deal expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Offseason Grade: B

The reigning GM of the Year had his work cutout for him this offseason in keeping all of his RFAs on the same team without overpaying. Sweeney also managed to avoid handing out any large contracts to free agents and continued to opt for cheap, expendable, replacements to fill lower-ranked roles on the roster.

They didn’t hit it out of the park with a big name star, but they quietly went about their business signing better than average deals (for the advantage of the franchise) and still have enough of their core (despite the age factor) to remain competitive on the ice this season.