NHL Nick's Net

Hurricanes advance to Second Round in Game 7 victory over Boston

19,513 fans watched the Carolina Hurricanes advance to the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs after defeating the Boston Bruins, 3-2, in Game 7 of their First Round series at PNC Arena Saturday afternoon.

Max Domi scored a pair of goals in the win as the Hurricanes entertained their largest crowd in franchise history, surpassing that of their 2019 Second Round series sweep of the New York Islanders in Game 4.

Carolina awaits the winner of the New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins series (Game 7 is Sunday with the series tied 3-3).

Meanwhile, Boston heads into a long offseason filled with decisions to make on their own amid a waiting game regarding the playing future of captain, Patrice Bergeron, as the 36-year-old is wrapping up his 18th National Hockey League season and is a pending-unrestricted free agent this summer.

Bergeron indicated before the 2021-22 season began that he wouldn’t negotiate a new contract in season and is likely to begin signing one-year deals as he enters the twilight of his career, though opting to retire altogether remains an option.

After 400 goals and 582 assists (982 points) in 1,216 career regular season games, as well as 49 goals and 78 assists (127 points) in 167 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Bergeron has certainly had quite the career.

He won a Stanley Cup ring in 2011 (scoring the game-winning goal in a, 4-0, win in Game 7 in Vancouver), could very well take home an NHL record fifth Frank J. Selke Trophy this season, is a member of the Triple Gold Club– and even more elusive Quadruple Gold Club and/or Quintuple Gold Club, depending on how you take into account World Junior Championships and World Cup of Hockey titles– and most importantly, is a loving husband and father to his wife and three children.

After Saturday’s loss, Bergeron gave no indication as to whether he would play next season or retire as it’s much too soon to rush to any decision.

Antti Raanta (3-2, 2.37 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in five games played) delivered a 27-save performance on 29 shots faced in the win for the Hurricanes, while Jeremy Swayman (3-2, 2.64 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in five games played) made 28 saves on 31 shots against in the loss for the Bruins.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, fell to 36-37 in 73 Stanley Cup Playoff games behind the bench with Boston as head coach since taking over in Feb. 2017, as well as 38-41 in 79 postseason games all time with Boston (2017-present) and Washington (2003).

The B’s went 3-0 on home ice in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and failed to record a win in four road games this postseason.

Saturday also marked the 13th career Game 7 for Bergeron, moving him to a tie for the second-most Game 7 appearances by a player in their NHL career with Patrick Roy and Scott Stevens.

Bergeron, Roy and Stevens trail Zdeno Chara for the overall record (14).

Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) remained out of the lineup for Boston due to injuries, while Cassidy made no changes to his lineup from Game 6’s, 5-2, victory in Boston to Game 7 in Raleigh.

The B’s had a long list of healthy scratches and expanded playoff roster components on Saturday, including Chris Wagner, Jack Studnicka, Marc McLaughlin, Steven Fogarty, Troy Grosenick, Josh Brown, Joona Koppanen, Matt Grzelcyk, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Tyler Lewington, Oskar Steen, Nick Wolff, Anton Blidh, Kyle Keyser and Jakub Lauko.

Early in the opening frame, Craig Smith made a high hit on Anthony DeAngelo and was assessed a roughing infraction as a result, but rather than presenting Carolina with their first power play opportunity of the afternoon, Vincent Trocheck got in Smith’s face and also picked up a roughing minor.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 as a result at 4:42 of the first period.

A few minutes later, however, Derek Forbort, was penalized for holding and yielded the first power play of the game to the Hurricanes at 7:41 of the first period.

Carolina failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, though.

Midway through the first, Connor Clifton tripped Andrei Svechnikov and Brett Pesce caught Taylor Hall with a high stick on the delayed call.

As a result, Clifton and Pesce each went to the box at 10:48 and yielded another pair of minutes at 4-on-4 for both clubs.

Late in the period, Domi shoveled a shot pass to Teuvo Teräväinen (2) in the slot for the redirection to make it, 1-0, Carolina– giving the Hurricanes the first goal in six out of seven games in the series.

Domi (3) and Jaccob Slavin (5) had the assists on Teräväinen’s goal at 18:36 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, DeAngelo took a high stick from Hall and drew blood, resulting in a four-minute double-minor infraction on the Bruins forward and a lengthy power play for the Canes at 19:02.

Entering the first intermission, the Hurricanes led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 11-10, in shots on goal.

Carolina held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (6-3) and hits (12-10), while Boston led in giveaways (6-3).

Both teams went, 50-50, in faceoff win percentage after one period, while only the Hurricanes had seen any time on the power play and were 0-for-2 heading into the middle frame.

The Canes had about 3:03 remaining on the skater advantage to begin the second period, however.

Boston somehow managed to kill off Hall’s double-minor, then promptly gave up a goal in the vulnerable minute after special teams play as a shot from Jordan Staal bounced off of Hampus Lindholm’s leg right to where Domi (1) was heading before guiding the loose puck into the twine behind Swayman.

Staal (3) and Brady Skjei (1) tallied the assists as a result and the Hurricanes took a, 2-0, lead at 3:14 of the second period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Carolina won a faceoff in their own zone but couldn’t get through the neutral zone as Charlie McAvoy made a play to steal the puck and move it up to Bergeron as the Bruins re-entered the attacking zone.

Bergeron spun and flung a pass intended for McAvoy as the B’s defender pinched in from the point, but the puck was just a touch too hot to handle as McAvoy instead deflected it towards the high slot where Jake DeBrusk (2) gathered a quick shot over Raanta’s glove side– cutting Carolina’s lead in half in the process.

McAvoy (4) and Bergeron (4) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal and Boston trailed, 2-1, at 5:04 of the second period as a result.

Midway through the middle frame, however, the Hurricanes answered and re-extended their lead to two-goals.

After Trent Frederic rang the iron in the other end, the Canes worked the puck deep into their attacking zone before Teräväinen worked a pass to Domi (2) for a one-timer goal.

Teräväinen (5) and Slavin (6) notched the assists on Domi’s second goal of the game and the Hurricanes took a, 3-1, lead at 10:33 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, Carolina led, 3-1, and was in control with a, 21-18, advantage in shots on goal, including an, 11-7, advantage in the second period alone.

The Hurricanes also led in blocked shots (13-4), takeaways (11-4) and faceoff win% (51-49), while the Bruins led in giveaways (14-6) and hits (27-24).

Carolina was 0-for-3 on the power play, while Boston had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Brendan Smith sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor at 13:33 of the third period.

The Bruins promptly went 6-for-29 on the power play this postseason as they failed to convert on skater advantage while Smith was in the box.

With 2:55 remaining in the action, Carolina thought they scored though the call on the ice was “no goal” and video review was inconclusive, thereby rendering the call on the ice as canon.

With 2:41 left in the game, Cassidy pulled Swayman for an extra attacker.

Boston tried and tried, but they couldn’t establish zone time for long enough until a pass that was almost intercepted shattered the stick blade of a Hurricanes defender and bounced off the far boards.

Hall worked the puck to McAvoy before McAvoy setup David Pastrnak (3) for the one-timer blast on Raanta’s blocker side to bring the Bruins to within one with 21.7 seconds remaining.

McAvoy (5) and Hall (2) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston trailed, 3-2, and used their timeout at 19:39 of the third period.

They didn’t have enough to muster an improbable tie to end regulation, however, despite several attempts in the dying seconds.

At the final horn, the Hurricanes had won, 3-2, and clinched the series in seven games, 4-3.

Carolina left their own ice leading in shots on goal, 31-29, despite Boston outshooting the Canes, 11-10, in the third period alone.

The Hurricanes finished Saturday’s effort leading in blocked shots (16-14) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Bruins left PNC Arena leading in giveaways (18-11) and hits (40-35).

Neither team managed to score a power-play goal in Game 7 as the Hurricanes went 0-for-3 and the Bruins went 0-for-1 on the skater advantage.

Boston fell to 2-27 when trailing a best-of-seven series 2-0.

The B’s also fell to 15-14 in 29 Game 7 appearances, as well as 1-5 in six Game 7 appearances on the road.

The Canes, meanwhile, improved to 6-3 in nine Game 7 appearances overall, as well as 3-0 in three Game 7 matchups on home ice and 6-0 in a Game 7 since relocating from Hartford.

The Hurricanes advanced to the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs after eliminating the Bruins in seven games.

This will be Carolina’s second appearance in the Second Round in as many years which is a first in franchise history— dating back to their time as the Hartford Whalers from 1979-97.

NHL Nick's Net

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.

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.

NHL Nick's Net

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).

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.

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.

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.

NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Your Team Will Rise/Fail: 2021-22 Standings Projections

It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.

Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.

And then Wednesday’s games happened too.

Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.

Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.

The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).

A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.

Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.

In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.

Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.

In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.

However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.

As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.

We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).

Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?

Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:

No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?

The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.

Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.

Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.

The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.

Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.

Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?

The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.

Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.

As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.

Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?

I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.

You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.

If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.

The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.

Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.

Can Arizona avoid the basement?

Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.

That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).

Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.

Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?

Yes, really.

The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.

That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.

It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.

Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.

Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?

The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.

Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.

Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.

If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.

That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.

Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.

Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?

Eh, it’s hard to say.

The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.

Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.

Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.

It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.

Is this the toughest division to project?


The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.

The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.

The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.

What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?

They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.

There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?

What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?

I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.

Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.

Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.

First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.

The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.

No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.

A lot and not a lot has changed since then.

Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.

So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.

That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.

Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?

No. Let’s be realistic here.

The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.

In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.

In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.

That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.

Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.

Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.

A little more patience won’t hurt them.

The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.

It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…

At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.


Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?

Probably not.

I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.

The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.

That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.

Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.

Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.

NHL Nick's Net Previews

Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 39-13-4, 82 points

1st in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Vegas

Additions: F Darren Helm, F Mikhail Maltsev (acquired from NJD), F Dylan Sikura, D Jordan Gross, D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO), D Kurtis MacDermid (acquired from SEA), D Stefan Matteau, D Roland McKeown, D Ryan Murray, G Darcy Kuemper (acquired from ARI)

Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with TBL), F Matt Calvert (retired), F Joonas Donskoi (expansion, SEA), F Sheldon Dries (signed with VAN), F Ty Lewis (retired), F Liam O’Brien (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Brandon Saad (signed with STL), F Miikka Salomäki (SHL), F Carl Söderberg (SHL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with WSH), D Kyle Burroughs (signed with VAN), D Ryan Graves (traded to NJD), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with DET), D Conor Timmins (traded to ARI), G Philipp Grubauer (signed with SEA), G Peyton Jones (signed with Colorado Eagles, AHL), G Adam Werner (signed with CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Travis Barron, G Devan Dubnyk

Re-signed: F Tyson Jost, F Gabriel Landeskog, F Jayson Megna, F Kiefer Sherwood, D Dennis Gilbert, D Cale Makar, G Jonas Johansson

Offseason Analysis: If next spring doesn’t bring the desired results to Colorado, it’ll be 20 years since the Avalanche last made an appearance in the Western Conference Final.

Back in 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were in the prime of their dominance and the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry was red hot as the two teams went at it for not only regular season titles, but Stanley Cup rings as well.

Colorado had won in 1996 and 2001, Detroit won in 1997, 1998 and would do so again in 2002, as well as 2008– five years after Patrick Roy played his last National Hockey League game.

In the 2002 Western Conference Final, the defending Stanley Cup champion Avs were once again the team to beat, but the Red Wings took the series in seven games and went on to win the Cup.

Since then, both teams have had a bit of a falling out.

When Joe Sakic took over as General Manager of the Avalanche, the goal was simple– return the franchise to its glory days.

The bump in the road that was the 2016-17 season brought the team the 4th overall pick after losing in the draft lottery, yet at 4th overall in 2017, Colorado selected their biggest game-changing defender since the acquisition of Ray Bourque in Cale Makar.

Sakic turned his attention to a Makar extension when it seemed like things had gone south with keeping captain, Gabriel Landeskog, in town.

The 22-year-old defender signed a six-year extension worth $9.000 million per season after finishing second in Norris Trophy voting to New York Rangers defender, Adam Fox, for the 2020-21 season.

Makar had 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games– exactly a point-a-game in his sophomore campaign, limited again due to injury after amassing 12-38–50 totals in 57 games in his first NHL season in 2019-20.

Sakic signed Makar to an extension on July 24th and then in the 11th hour as free agency drew near, signed Landeskog to an eight-year extension worth $7.000 million per season.

The 28-year-old captain was Colorado’s 2011 1st round pick (2nd overall) and has 218-294–512 totals in 687 games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with the Avs.

Landeskog had a promising 52-point season (22 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games in his first year in the league, then the 2012-13 48-game lockout shortened season kept him to 9-8–17 totals in 36 games.

The Avalanche missed out on the playoffs from 2011-13, but in 2014, Colorado squared off against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round– only to lose in seven games.

That playoff series, however, was the first taste of playoff hockey for Nathan MacKinnon and went decently for Landeskog as well.

After amassing 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 81 games in the regular season, Landeskog had 3-1–4 totals in the seven-game series against the Wild.

Then his production dropped to 59 points in 82 games in 2014-15, and 53 points in 75 games in 2015-16– coinciding with Colorado’s fall from grace.

In the dismal 2016-17 campaign for the Avalanche, in which the team amassed 48 points on the season with a 22-56-4 record, Landeskog had just 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) and had a minus-25 rating.

But the Avs have made the playoffs every season since then– succumbing to the Nashville Predators in six games in the 2018 First Round, bowing out to the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the 2019 Second Round, losing to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the 2020 Second Round and dropping out in six games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 Second Round.

In that span, Landeskog’s had a career resurgence. He had 62 points in 78 games in 2017-18, 75 points in 73 games in 2018-19, 44 points in 54 games while battling injury and the COVID-19 pandemic shortened regular season in 2019-20, as well as 52 points in 54 games in last season’s 56-game regular season schedule.

Some say his resurgence can be accredited to the emergence of Colorado’s dominant first line with MacKinnon at center, Landeskog at left wing and Mikko Rantanen at right wing, but then how can that attribute to his own individual playoff success?

Landeskog had seven points (four goals, three assists) in six postseason games in 2018, 3-5–8 totals in Colorado’s 12-game 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff experience, 2-11–13 totals in 14 games during their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble run and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in ten games in the Avalanche’s 2021 postseason run.

It’s plain to see that whereas MacKinnon is the superstar forward, Landeskog is the lifeblood of the organization– both as the captain and as a clutch performer when it matters most.

Landeskog’s reasonable cap hit should take some pressure off of Sakic as he negotiates extensions with MacKinnon after the 2022-23 season and Rantanen after the 2024-25 season, when the salary cap ceiling is expected to have risen due to the increased revenue from the current U.S. broadcasting rights packages.

Two big pieces were taken care of, so naturally Sakic set his sights on Philipp Grubauer… …who chose to leave for the Seattle Kraken in free agency.

Grubauer signed a six-year contract worth $5.900 million per season with the Kraken on July 28th– the day that free agency began and a week after Seattle claimed Joonas Donskoi from the Avs in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Last season, Grubauer went 30-9-1 in 40 games played, had seven shutouts (tied for the most with New York Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov) and amassed a 1.95 goals-against average, as well as a .922 save percentage in that span.

It was a breakout year for the 29-year-old goaltender, so why not cash in while you can?

The downside for Colorado, however, is that it left them briefly with uncertainty in the crease until they acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes later that same day.

Sakic worked the phones quite a bit this summer between agents and fellow general managers.

On July 15th, Colorado swapped defender, Ryan Graves, with the New Jersey Devils for forward, Mikhail Maltsev, and a 2021 2nd round pick (from NYI via NJD- 61st overall, Sean Behrens).

On July 27th, Sakic sent a 2023 4th round pick to the Kraken for defender, Kurtis MacDermid, whose father, Paul, played for the Québec Nordiques from 1993-95.f

After losing Grubauer to Seattle in free agency, Sakic dealt defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick to the Coyotes for Kuemper.

Much like Linus Ullmark going from the Buffalo Sabres to the Boston Bruins via free agency this summer, it’s hard to tell what to expect out of Kuemper in an Avalanche uniform.

He should be better considering the overall quality and depth of defenders on Colorado’s blue line a la Ullmark’s upgrade from Buffalo’s defense to Boston’s defense in front of him.

That said, Kuemper hasn’t really been a starting goaltender for long. It’s a risk, like when Colorado sought after Grubauer in the first place from the Washington Capitals a few summers ago.

In his first season as a starter, Kuemper went 27-20-8 in 55 games with Arizona– notching five shutouts and recording a 2.33 goals-against average, as well as a .925 save percentage. Good stuff.

In 2019-20, he went 16-11-2 in 29 games, had two shutouts and yielded a 2.22 goals-against average, as well as a .928 save percentage.

Last season, he went 10-11-3 in 27 games, dropping to a 2.56 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and once again recording two shutouts.

Kuemper is 31-years-old and made his league debut with the Minnesota Wild back in the 2012-13 season– the same season that Grubauer broke into the league with the Capitals, albeit two years younger in age.

How will a full 82-game schedule as the starting netminder with Pavel Francouz returning from an injury that prevented him from being the backup in Colorado last season impact Kuemper’s performance in the crease?

There’s kind of a lot at stake here. No pressure or anything, but the Avalanche are trying to win the Cup now rather than later.

Speaking of “win-now” mode, the loss of Donskoi, Brandon Saad and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare puts Colorado in a difficult spot.

They don’t have the dominant bottom-six players on paper that they had last season that made them as much of a threat as the Golden Knights or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead, they’ll be relying on the emergence of youth in Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor and Maltsev mixed with a combination of young players getting better in Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher, as well as a veteran in Darren Helm.

Much like how Saad brought in Cup winning experience to the dressing room last season, however, Helm is doing so for the Avs this season as he happened to be on the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings– appearing in seven games in the 2007-08 regular season, then 18 postseason games for Detroit in their 2008 Cup run.

It was Helm’s first taste of NHL action and he already was on top of the mountain. Now 34, he’s looking for more.

Offseason Grade: B-

Sakic has a way of taking reclamation projects and maximizing their production in Colorado, though we’ll see if the same effect can be applied to Stefan Matteau and Ryan Murray on the blue line, as well as other moves already mentioned.

The Avalanche have depth, but do they have enough depth?

Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, Colorado finished the 2020-21 regular season with 39 wins– one shy of Vegas (40 wins) for the most in the league– and eliminated in the Second Round by that same Golden Knights team (the Avs won the tiebreaker with 35 regulation wins to Vegas’ 30).

That said most of the Avalanche roster remains the same and there’s the feeling that one of these year’s they’ll get over the hump and back into the later end of the postseason.

Super teams don’t always win, but having a (super) consistent performance down the stretch and in the playoffs does and that’s what the Lightning have done best for the last two years– turning it on when it counts and sustaining the pressure.

NHL Nick's Net Previews

Carolina Hurricanes 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-12-8, 80 points

1st in the Discover NHL Central Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Tampa

Additions: F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (signed to an offersheet, not matched by MTL), F Josh Leivo, F Maxim Letunov, F Sam Miletic, F Stefan Noesen, F Andrew Poturalski, F C.J. Smith, F Derek Stepan, D Ethan Bear (acquired from EDM), D Ian Cole, D Jalen Chatfield, D Tony DeAngelo, D Eric Gelinas, D Josh Jacobs, D Brendan Smith, G Frederik Andersen, G Alex Lyon, G Antti Raanta

Subtractions: F Warren Foegele (traded to EDM), F Morgan Geekie (expansion, SEA), F Dave Gust (signed with Chicago Wolves, AHL), F Egor Korshkov (KHL), F Saku Maenalanen (Liiga), F Brock McGinn (signed with PIT), F Cedric Paquette (signed with MTL), F Sheldon Rempal (signed with VAN), D Jake Bean (traded to CBJ), D Jani Hakanpää (signed with DAL), D Dougie Hamilton (signed with NJD), D Rolan McKeown (signed with COL), D Joakim Ryan (SHL), D David Warsofsky (DEL), G Jonathan Bernier (rights acquired from DET, signed with NJD), G Petr Mrázek (signed with TOR), G Alex Nedeljkovic (traded to DET), G James Reimer (signed with SJS)

Still Unsigned: F Max McCormick, F Drew Shore, G Jeremy Helvig, G Dylan Wells (acquired from EDM, CAR reserve list, AHL- Chicago Wolves)

Re-signed: F Jordan Martinook, F Spencer Smallman, F Andrei Svechnikov, D Maxime Lajoie

Offseason Analysis: Whoa boy, what didn’t the Canes do this offseason?

Carolina was all over the place– both in transactions and scrambling to assemble some semblance of a message in press conferences afterward while trying to convince everyone (perhaps more so themselves, at times) that they’re still a competitive team heading in the right direction and that they totally didn’t overreact.

Unlike how the New York Rangers reacted to one player on another team apparently dismantling their franchise, the Hurricanes reacted to– egad! The salary cap! The horror, the horror!

Canes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t like the optics of a team that’s been improving in each of the last three seasons despite First Round exits in back-to-back years after making the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

Though owner, Tom Dundon, denies having any say in the approach to the offseason short of just signing the cheques, Carolina didn’t want to spend more than they absolutely had to on fielding a roster that can probably make the playoffs, generate some additional revenue and peter out before anyone catches Stanley Cup fever.

At the very least, the team is spending more than when Peter Karmanos, Jr. spent from season-to-season on a team that made the postseason in 2009, then again in 2019, with nothing happening in-between, for example.

The team didn’t have to lose both Dougie Hamilton and Alex Nedeljkovic while re-signing Andrei Svechnikov this offseason, but they did.

Hamilton received a low-ball offer and got what he felt he deserved on a seven-year deal with the New Jersey Devils worth $9.000 million per season. Compared to the rest of the defenders on the market and other extensions that begin in 2022-23 for Seth Jones with Chicago and Zach Werenski in Columbus, Hamilton’s deal with the Devils is a steal.

He could’ve made $10.000 or $11.000 million per season and you might say “what’s the difference of a couple million dollars” and well, everything in the sense that he’s saved New Jersey a couple million to spend on glue guys on the roster, like Tomas Tatar.

Carolina could’ve done that, but with a few more additional steps required to make space.

Fine, move on from Hamilton, then re-sign Nedeljkovic– oh.

The Hurricanes were not willing to spend $3.500 million per season on a two-year deal for the goaltender they drafted and brought up the ranks as their “goaltender of the future”.

Instead, Waddell traded him to the Detroit Red Wings for the rights to unrestricted free agent, Jonathan Bernier, who also joined Hamilton in New Jersey.

Petr Mrázek and James Reimer were both turned loose as the former went to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the latter joined the San Jose Sharks.

Waddell then signed Frederik Andersen– who’s had about as much playoff success as Nedeljkovic, regardless of the number of games played– to a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and Antti Raanta to a two-year contract worth $2.000 million per season.

Make it make sense.

Add to that, Carolina lost depth in the departure of Brock McGinn to the Pittsburgh Penguins via free agency and traded Jake Bean to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the draft.

In their place, enter a mixture of bottom-six talent in Derek Stepan, Josh Leivo and others, as well as bottom-six defenders in Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith.

At the very least, Carolina’s not spending much to “replace” what they’ve lost in an asset for asset sense.

They spent their money on goaltenders, an eight-year extension worth $7.750 million per season for Svechnikov and signed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet from the Montréal Canadiens for one-year at $6.100 million.

That makes up for signing DeAngelo to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, right?

Not even close.

Last year’s roster carried the threat of Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Bean and Haydn Fleury until he was traded for Jani Hakanpää at the 2021 deadline.

Only three defenders are returning to Carolina’s core on the blue line as Ian Cole, DeAngelo and Smith were brought in via free agency and Warren Foegele was dealt for Ethan Bear.

Oh and the same three defenders returning from last season are the only defenders under contract through next season.

There’s just no logic for whatever reaction– overreaction or, perhaps, under-reaction is going on here.

It begs the question that Canes fans have heard for far too long, “what, exactly, is the plan?”

Offseason Grade: D

The Hurricanes had a challenging, yet simple premise heading into the offseason– add without subtracting and limit the inevitable damage in the loss of a key player.

Instead, they chose violence (that’s a phrase kids say on Twitter these days, I’m told).

Keeping Svechnikov, Hamilton and Nedeljkovic satisfied was going to be a challenge and it was going to be the most strenuous negotiations that Waddell would have to go through in recent summers as Carolina continues building towards Stanley Cup contenders.

It’s likely that the Canes could’ve kept Svechnikov, Nedeljkovic and still added to the roster this offseason– whether they’d land Andersen, Raanta or someone else as a solid counterpart in the crease.

In any case, Hamilton was likely going to walk due to the constraints of the salary cap era and possible looming extensions for Martin Necas, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teräväinen and Sebastian Aho in one-to-three summers from now.

After the marketing and promotions team led the way in showing the rest of the league how Pride Night could feel more like a celebration for the local fan base and not just a corporate shill– an organization that took the pledge to Get Uncomfortable by teaming up with Black Girl Hockey Club– the values of a kinder society were tossed aside in the interest of signing noted actual jerks.

This team did not get better. No matter the rehabilitation that may or may not occur with Rod Brind’Amour as head coach.

One step forward, two steps back.