Tag Archives: Aaron Ward

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.

Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.

For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.

Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.

Marcus Johansson suffered a lung contusion after Micheal Ferland delivered a check days after Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline in March.

If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.

The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.

Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.

Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.

Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.

When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.

Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.

Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.

Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.

Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.

Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.

Former Hurricane, Joakim Nordstrom, and Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly, each have a pair of goals in 12 and nine games played, respectively.

Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.

Usual playoff performers, David Krejci (4-6–10 totals in 13 games) and Patrice Bergeron (5-3–8 totals in 13 games) are right where you’d expect them to be at this time of the year.

Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.

Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.

He also just tied Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd most postseason shutouts in Bruins franchise history with his 6th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout against Columbus in Game 6.

Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.

Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.

In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.

But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.

No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.

Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.

Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.

On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.

Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.

Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.

Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.

That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.

Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.


The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.

When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.

The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).

Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.

Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.

That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*

5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*

*If necessary

January 17 – Day 94 – Making up like a country song

Welcome to Tuesday hockey, one of the seven best days for the sport in the week. There’s nine games on the schedule this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (Dallas at the New York Rangers [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Carolina at Columbus) and Buffalo at Toronto half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of another pair of contests (Ottawa at St. Louis [RDS] and New Jersey at Minnesota), and another pair get underway an hour later (Chicago at Colorado [NBCSN] and Florida at Calgary). The final pair of games – Nashville at Vancouver and Tampa Bay at Anaheim (SN/SN1) – drop the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Buffalo at Toronto: It’s the Battle of the QEW this evening, one of the Sabres‘ fiercest rivalries.
  • Nashville at Vancouver: For the last three seasons, Yannick Weber played for the Canucks, but he returns tonight wearing a white sweater.

Since I highly underestimated Cody McLeod‘s debut for Nashville, I feel I owe the Predators a feature. Looks like Weber 2.0 is our lucky guy.

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After playing the first five seasons of his professional career with the Canadiens, Weber made like a pioneer of old and headed west for brighter futures. He landed in Vancouver before the 2013-14 season.

His first season with the Canucks was not one that turned league heads, but it was important for him personally. He had a goal of proving to Montréal that he was worthy of being kept, and he made that known by notching a then career-high of six goals.

He followed that up in 2014-15 with his most impressive campaign to date, lighting the lamp 11 times and notching a career-best 21 points.

With last season being a significant step back for the defenseman, Weber once again found himself looking for a new club. He found his way to Nashville, where he’s playing on the third blueline pairing and notching a season +8, easily the best mark of his career.

Yannick and his Predators come into tonight’s game with a 20-16-7 record, the fourth-best mark in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference thanks to winning their last three games. On the outside looking in, the main concern for the Preds has been their offense that has scored only 118 goals, the 13th-fewest in the league.

Ryan Johansen has been the biggest weapon in Nashville, as he has a team-leading 30 points. That being said, it’s been James Neal that has been the most dangerous to goaltenders with his club-leading 14 goals.

Nashville‘s offensive struggles aren’t for a lack of effort. They’ve averaged 31 shots-per-game, the seventh-most in the NHL. Unfortunately Roman Josi, the man who accounts for nearly three shots per night, has a miserable 4% shot percentage – easily the worst mark of his successful career. If and when he finds his rhythm again, the Preds will surely be able to make some noise as they try to qualify for the postseason.

Playing host this evening are the 20-19-6 Canucks, the sixth-best team in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, and it’s almost funny that the Canucks‘ last three games have ended as overtime losses.

Just like the Predators, Vancouver has struggled to score the puck this season, accounting for only 107 goals in 45 games – the sixth-worst scoring rate in the league.

Bo Horvat has tried his hardest to keep the Canucks alive in the playoff race, as both his 30 points and 13 goals lead the club. Unfortunately, that goal total only ties for 50th against the rest of the NHL, which is probably most telling of Vancouver‘s situation.

Much of the reason for the Canucks‘ struggles is due to their miserable power play. Successful on only 13.4% of attempts, they rank fourth-worst in the league. Both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin lead the team with a whopping nine power play points. D. Sedin has been the most dangerous with the man-advantage, as he also tops the club with five man-advantage goals.

The struggles continue on the penalty kill, where the Canucks‘ 79.8% success rate is ninth-worst in the NHL. Even though he’s only played 31 games, Alexander Edler has been the leading shot blocker when down a man, with 18 shorthanded blocks to his credit.

For those like me who are already keeping tabs on the playoff races, this is certainly an important game – if only for a night. The biggest impact occurs if Nashville earns a victory. In that case, they for sure move into eighth place in the Western Conference and surpass Los Angeles for the second wildcard. But, if the Panthers win in regulation in Calgary, the Predators take control of seventh in the conference and the top wildcard.

Although the Canucks can’t move into playoff position tonight, they can certainly continue their climb up the standings. A regulation win moves them past Nashville into ninth place and into a tie with Los Angeles, but the Canucks lose the games played tiebreaker to remain on the outside looking in.

These clubs have only met once so far this season, and it was only a week ago in Nashville. Although the Predators did pull away with a 2-1 victory, they needed to overtime to do it.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Nashville‘s Matt Irwin (+15 and 83 hits [both lead the team]) and Johansen (23 assists among 30 points [both lead the team]) & Vancouver‘s Horvat (13 goals among 30 points [both lead the team]) and Nikita Tryamkin (84 hits [leads the team]).

Home ice does not always result in favoritism by Vegas, as Vancouver is the projected underdog a +110. Given the nice run the Predators are on right now, I have to side with the oddsmakers.

Hockey Birthday

  • Busher Jackson (1911-1966) – Although he may not have been a role model off the ice, he was certainly one of the better players of his day. The Hall of Famer played 15 seasons in the NHL, most of which in Toronto where he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1932. By the time his career was through, he had scored 241 goals.
  • Jacques Plante (1929-1986) – The man of hockey legend, this goaltender had difficulty keeping control of all the hardware he earned over his career. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, he was an eight-time All Star, seven-time Vezina winner (record for the trophy), six-time Stanley Cup winner (all with Montréal) and the 1962 Hart Trophy winner.
  • Sylvain Turgeon (1965-) – Hartford selected this left wing second-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, and he quickly produced. He scored 72 points his rookie season, the second-best campaign of his career. He played most of his dozen seasons with the Whalers and played in one All Star game.
  • Jeremy Roenick (1970-) – Everyone’s favorite center-turned-analyst was drafted eighth-overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, where he played most of his career. By the time his 20-season career was through, the nine-time All Star had scored 1216 points.
  • Aaron Ward (1973-) – Although drafted fifth-overall by Winnipeg in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, he never suited up for the Jets. Instead, this defenseman played most of his 15 seasons in Detroit where he won one of his two Stanley Cups.

If offense is your thing, you missed the game of the season in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. A combined 15 goals were scored in 60:34 of play, with Conor Sheary earning Pittsburgh an 8-7 victory over the Capitals.

With so many goals, it’s going to be much easier just giving the game summary in list form.

*Warning: Be prepared for an obnoxious second period.*

First Period:

  1. 7:06 – Andre Burakovsky (Daniel Winnik) – Caps lead 1-0
  2. 17:09 – Nicklas Backstrom (T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin) – Caps lead 2-0

Second Period:

  1. 1:17 – Justin Williams (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson) – Caps lead 3-0
  2. 6:28 – First Star of the Game Evgeni Malkin (Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz) – Caps lead 3-1
  3. 7:12 – Sheary (Second Star Sidney Crosby and Daley) – Caps lead 3-2
  4. 8:55 – Nick Bonino (Schultz and Phil Kessel) – Tied 3-3
  5. 13:47 – Bryan Rust (Daley and Olli Maatta) – Pens lead 4-3
  6. 14:37 – Malkin (Jake Guentzel and Schultz) – Pens lead 5-3
  7. 15:07 – Brett Connolly (Taylor Chorney and Andre Burakovsky) – Pens lead 5-4
  8. 16:54 – SH – Third Star Lars Eller (Nate Schmidt and Oshie) – Tied 5-5
  9. 17:19 – PP – Malkin (Patric Hornqvist and Crosby) – Pens lead 6-5

Third Period:

  1. 5:55 – Crosby (Sheary and Rust) – Pens lead 7-5
  2. 9:29 – PP – Oshie (Ovechkin and Matt Niskanen) – Pens lead 7-6
  3. 14:38 – Eller (Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen) – Tied 7-7

Overtime

  1. :34 – Sheary (Crosby and Schultz) – Pens win 8-7

Matthew Murray holds on for the victory after saving 21-of-28 shots faced (75%), leaving the overtime loss to Philipp Grubauer, who saved eight-of-11 (72.7%). He came into the game in relief of starter Braden Holtby, who saved 21-of-26 (80.8%) before being pulled following Malkin’s second goal. Holtby obviously earned no-decision.

In addition to ending their own losing skid and Washington‘s winning streak, Pittsburgh also broke the three-game trend of road victories in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The series record now favors the home squads by five points with their 50-32-14 record.