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NHL Nick's Net

Secondary scoring catapults Bruins to, 5-1, victory in Detroit

The Boston Bruins scored five unanswered goals after giving up the game’s first goal to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 5-1, at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday.

Usual suspects, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, each had a goal, while Erik Haula, Trent Frederic and Tomáš Nosek chipped in tallies of their own– ending scoring droughts of varying lengths.

Jeremy Swayman (8-5-2, 2.20 goals-against average, .920 save percentage in 15 games played) made 23 saves on 24 shots against en route to the win for Boston.

Detroit netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic (9-8-3, 2.89 goals-against average, .913 save percentage in 22 games played), stopped 32 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.

The B’s improved to 16-10-2 (34 points) on the season and jumped ahead of the Red Wings for 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings.

For the second time this season, Boston is in a playoff position– holding onto the second wild card in the Eastern Conference as of this writing.

Detroit, meanwhile, fell to 15-15-3 (33 points) and dropped to 5th place in the Atlantic as a result.

Boston is 2-1-0 against the Red Wings this season with one final matchup remaining in their regular season series scheduled for April 5th in Detroit.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol) and Curtis Lazar (undisclosed) on Sunday, while head coach Bruce Cassidy made one change to his lineup as a result.

Oskar Steen went in place of Lazar on the fourth line, having been recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) to the taxi squad after Saturday afternoon’s, 4-3, overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres and subsequently recalled from the taxi squad on Sunday prior to the warmup in Detroit.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup with Swayman getting the start over Linus Ullmark after Ullmark got the win in Saturday’s matinée.

John Moore (taxi squad) and Anton Blidh were the only healthy scratches for Boston on Sunday.

Robby Fabbri interfered with Brandon Carlo away from the puck and presented the Bruins with the afternoon’s first power play at 1:13 of the first period but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage.

A few minutes after Fabbri cut a rut to the box, Nosek skated off to the visiting penalty box for catching Tyler Bertuzzi with a high stick at 4:20 (whether Nosek actually made contact with his face or not– Bertuzzi might have clipped himself, though Nosek may have initiated it with a stick lift).

The Red Wings didn’t score on their first power play of the afternoon, regardless.

Midway through the opening frame, Danny DeKeyser sent a shot on goal that rebounded off of Swayman towards the sideboards before Bertuzzi (13) intercepted the loose puck and buried it in the twine to give Detroit a, 1-0, lead.

DeKeyser (3) and Dylan Larkin (15) tallied the assists on Bertuzzi’s goal– his fourth in four games– at 11:28 of the first period.

A few minutes after Bertuzzi scored, Boston answered.

Brad Marchand battled along the boards as Craig Smith came away with the puck before setting up Bergeron (11) for the one-timer goal while crashing the slot.

Smith (6) and Marchand (19) had the assists as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 14:47 of the first period.

Late in the period, Nick Foligno shoved Filip Hronek in front of the net and delivered a swift cross check as the two escalated their battle.

Foligno, as a result, received a minor infraction for cross checking at 19:32 and the ensuing power play spilled over into the middle frame.

Detroit, however, didn’t capitalize on the skater advantage that was stretched over two periods with the first intermission in-between.

After 20 minutes, the game was tied, 1-1, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 15-6.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (6-4) and giveaways (2-1), while the Red Wings led in hits (9-6) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

Both teams had one takeaway each and were powerless on their respective power plays as Detroit was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1.

Marchand got tangled up with Vladislav Namestnikov early in the middle frame as the two exchanged blows, slashes and ultimately fists, yielding majors for fighting and minors for slashing at 2:59 of the second period.

It was the sixth fighting major of the season for Boston and first since Foligno fought New York Islanders forward, Matt Martin, on Dec. 16th at UBS Arena.

A few minutes later, pleasantries continued to be trending in the action as Swayman delivered a quick blow to Sam Gagner, resulting in a little retaliatory effort on Gagner’s behalf, as well as 4-on-4 action for two minutes as each player received unsportsmanlike conduct minors.

Haula served Swayman’s penalty, while Gagner served his own at 5:24 of the second period.

Shortly after both teams got their skater back from the sin bin, the Red Wings wired a shot wide of the net and around the glass where Haula was waiting by the blue line to break through the neutral zone.

Haula (2) sped down the ice and free from any defender before crossing into the attacking zone and zipping a wrist shot over Nedeljkovic’s high glove side to put the Bruins ahead, 2-1, at 7:37 on an unassisted effort.

It was also his first goal in 15 games.

About a minute later, Frederic cross checked Moritz Seider and took his trip to the penalty box at 8:47, but the Red Wings went scoreless on the resulting power play yet again.

Late in the second period, Jake DeBrusk caught Joe Veleno with a hook and brought the Detroit forward down before being sent to the box at 15:50.

Once more, the Red Wings went powerless on the power play, however.

The B’s carried a, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard through two periods and led in shots on goal, 23-16, despite being outshot by Detroit, 10-8, in the middle frame alone.

Boston also maintained control of blocked shots (11-5), while the Red Wings led in takeaways (2-1), giveaways (3-2), hits (16-9) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Neither team could buy a power play goal heading into the second intermission as Detroit was 0/4 and the Bruins went 0/1 on the skater advantage.

Boston got out of the gate on all cylinders to start the final frame.

Taylor Hall sent a pass to McAvoy (5) as the Bruins defender pinched in from the point on the right side for a catch and release goal over the glove from close range to extend the Bruins’ lead to two-goals at 5:59 of the third period.

Hall (10) and Charlie Coyle (8) notched the assists on McAvoy’s goal as Boston took a, 3-1, lead.

Almost two minutes later, Frederic (1) buried a rebound off of a shot by Mike Reilly from the point while Nedeljkovic was left playing catch up and extended the B’s lead to three goals at 7:55 of the third period.

Reilly (3) and Nosek (3) were credited with the assists on Frederic’s first goal of the season as the Bruins pulled ahead, 4-1, with a pair of goals in a span of 1:56.

Minutes later, Boston ended up scoring three goals in less than five minutes (4:41, to be exact) as Steen sent Nosek (3) into the attacking zone for a shot that slipped through Nedeljkovic’s five-hole at 10:39.

Steen (3) and McAvoy (15) had the assists on Nosek’s first goal since Nov. 20th in Philadelphia and the B’s led, 5-1.

About half a minute later, DeKeyser was sent to the box for holding, but the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play at 11:01.

Detroit resumed full strength then quickly went back on the penalty kill due to a minor infraction when Namestnikov tripped up DeBrusk at 13:15.

Once more, however, Boston didn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage.

At the final horn, the Bruins had sealed the deal on back-to-back wins on back-to-back days with a, 5-1, victory on the road in Detroit.

The B’s left Little Caesars Arena with the lead in shots on goal, 37-24– including a, 14-8, advantage in the third period alone– as well as the lead in blocked shots (14-10).

The Red Wings, meanwhile, exited their own building leading in giveaways (4-2), hits (26-15) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Neither team scored a power play goal on Sunday afternoon as Detroit went 0/4 and Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins improved to 6-6-2 (2-3-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-5-1 (1-2-1 on the road) when tied after the first period and 11-1-0 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

The Red Wings fell to 9-4-2 (6-2-1 at home) when scoring first, 8-3-0 (6-2-0 at home) when tied after one and 2-12-1 (0-4-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home to host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and Minnesota Wild on Thursday before hitting the road for a pair of games next Saturday (Jan. 8th) in Tampa against the Lightning and next Monday (Jan. 10th) in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals.

Boston is then currently scheduled to begin a seven-game homestand starting on Jan. 12th in a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Montréal against the Canadiens before the rise of the Omicron variant restricted indoor venue attendance across Canada.

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NHL Nick's Net

Red Wings defeat Bruins for 3,000th win in franchise history

The Detroit Red Wings were outshot, 42-16, on Tuesday, but picked up the, 2-1, win against the Boston Bruins on the road at TD Garden for their 3,000th win in franchise history since joining the National Hockey League as an expansion team ahead of the 1926-27 season.

Alex Nedeljkovic (7-3-3, 2.58 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 15 games played) made 41 saves on 42 shots against in the win for the Red Wings.

Linus Ullmark (5-4-0, 2.68 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in nine games played) stopped 14 out of 16 shots faced in the loss for the Bruins.

Boston fell to 11-8-0 (22 points) on the season and remain in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Detroit improved to 11-9-3 (25 points) and increased their lead over the B’s for 4th place in the Atlantic.

Tuesday night marked the final game at TD Garden between these two teams in the regular season as the last two matchups in their 2021-22 season series are at Little Caesars Arena on Jan. 2, 2022, and April 5, 2022.

Both teams are now 1-1-0 in their four-game regular season series.

The Bruins were without the services of Anton Blidh (upper body), Brad Marchand (suspension) and even head coach, Bruce Cassidy (COVID-19 protocol), on Tuesday.

Blidh sustained an injury in Sunday night’s, 3-2, win against the Vancouver Canucks, while Marchand was suspended three games for slew-footing Canucks defender, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (no penalty was called on the play, but a hearing for Marchand was announced on Monday).

For the sixth time in his career and first time since 2018, Marchand was suspended and will miss Boston’s matchups against Detroit, at Nashville and against Tampa before being eligible to return on the road in Vancouver.

In all, Marchand will have missed at least 22 games in his career due to suspensions.

Cassidy was placed in COVID protocol hours ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup with the Red Wings as B’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, spoke to reporters about Cassidy, Jake DeBrusk’s trade request and more.

Sweeney added that Cassidy has mild symptoms and that assistant coach, Joe Sacco, would take over primary coaching duties for Boston against the Red Wings, while Bob Essensa and Kim Brandvold would take on a little more responsibility in their roles with Cassidy in COVID-19 protocol and Chris Kelly currently away from the team.

Kelly is expected to return before the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Providence Bruins (AHL) have an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and are shutdown for the time being, so Boston cannot call anyone up from the Providence staff or players in the interim.

Out of necessity, the Bruins switched up their lines against Detroit with Taylor Hall moving up to Marchand’s spot on the first line left wing with Patrice Bergeron at center and David Pastrnak on the right wing.

Nick Foligno was promoted to the second line left wing slot alongside Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith.

Trent Frederic centered the third line with Tomáš Nosek at left wing and Karson Kuhlman at right wing, while DeBrusk, Erik Haula and Curtis Lazar comprised the fourth line.

Boston made no changes to their defensive pairings and Jeremy Swayman served as Ullmark’s backup on Tuesday night.

Connor Clifton was the only healthy scratch for the Bruins in the press box against Detroit.

Not much was happening in the opening frame as both teams haphazardly skated up and down the ice, occasionally firing a shot at the opposing goaltender.

There were no goals and no penalties in the first period.

Boston outshot Detroit, 8-5, as the two teams went back to their respective dressing rooms for the first intermission.

The Red Wings held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (5-2), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while the Bruins led in giveaways (5-4).

Neither team had an opportunity on the power play heading into the middle frame (as, again, there were no penalties in the first period).

Detroit made the most of a line change when Pius Suter carefully awaited his teammate’s departure from the playing surface before hopping over the boards and onto the ice as the puck strolled past the Red Wings’ bench.

Suter fed Filip Zadina a lead pass into the attacking zone where Zadina (4) crashed the net with a forehand, backhand, elevated shot past Ullmark to give Detroit the game’s first goal at 5:03 of the second period.

Suter (5) had the only assist on Zadina’s goal as the Red Wings jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.

Moments later, Jakub Zboril inadvertently took out referee, Marc Joannette’s, legs from underneath him with an errant stick as the two were vying for the same ice to get around each other (well, Zboril around Joannette and Joannette out of the way of the play entirely).

Joannette went down awkwardly and suffered a lower body injury as he had to be helped off the ice by his fellow officials.

Tuesday night’s action would finish with only one ref (Kendrick Nicholson) assisted by two linesmen (Kiel Murchison and Brad Kovachik).

Late in the period, Foligno and Vladislav Namestnikov got tangled up by Boston’s bench and exchanged pleasantries yielding two-minute minors for roughing at 17:22.

After a pair of minutes at 4-on-4, the two teams resumed full even strength action.

In the dying seconds of the middle frame, Michael Rasmussen got a hold on Haula, but as time would expire the Bruins wouldn’t go on the power play until the third period.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Tuesday, the B’s trailed the Red Wings, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite outshooting Detroit, 25-10, including a, 17-5, advantage in the second period alone.

The Red Wings continued to lead in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-3), hits (24-19) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Bruins led in giveaways (12-5).

Neither team had witnessed a second on the power play, so both remained 0/0 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

The Bruins couldn’t muster anything on the power play that carried over from Rasmussen’s minor to kick things off in the third period.

Shortly thereafter, Gustav Lindström administered a swift cross check to Bergeron’s back and was assessed a minor infraction at 4:24 of the third period as a scrum ensued.

It didn’t take too long before Boston went on a 5-on-3 advantage courtesy of Marc Staal’s hooking infraction at 5:23 of the third period.

The B’s went to work on the two-skater advantage and quickly punished Detroit for being undisciplined to start the period as Charlie McAvoy worked the puck to Hall down low.

Hall patiently awaited for an open Pastrnak in his usual spot on the power play to setup Pastrnak (8) for the one-timer goal from the faceoff circle hashmark– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Hall (6) and McAvoy (11) had the only assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal at 6:20 of the third period and the Bruins remained on the advantage for about 64 seconds longer at 5-on-4.

This time, however, the Red Wings managed to kill off the remainder of Staal’s minor.

Lazar tripped up Zadina at 8:23 of the third period and presented Detroit with their first power play of the night.

Boston’s penalty kill stood tall, however, and managed to escape the shorthanded action unscathed until the vulnerable minute after special teams play came back to bite them.

The Red Wings controlled a lengthy attacking zone possession that generated a shot attempt towards the net with traffic in front– deflecting off of a Bruin defender or a Detroit forward, no matter, but rebounding nevertheless to Staal (1) as the veteran defender crashed the net from the point– burying the puck behind Ullmark in the process.

Namestnikov (5) and Lindström (4) tallied the assists on Staal’s goal and the Red Wings pulled ahead, 2-1, at 11:33 of the third period.

With 1:30 remaining in the game, Sacco pulled Ullmark for an extra attacker.

After a stoppage with 28.6 seconds remaining Sacco used his timeout, but Boston couldn’t draw up a last second game-tying play.

At the final horn, Detroit had won, 2-1, despite finishing the night trailing the Bruins, 42-16, in shots on goal. Boston had a, 17-6, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Red Wings exited TD Garden with the lead in blocked shots (14-9) and faceoff win% (52-48), as well as their 3,000th win in franchise history, while the B’s finished the night leading in giveaways (17-9) and hits (30-28).

Detroit wrapped up Tuesday night’s action 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 1/3 on the power play.

The B’s fell to 1-5-0 (1-3-0 at home) when tied after the first period, 4-4-0 (3-2-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal and 2-5-0 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, improved to 5-1-0 (2-1-0 on the road) when tied after one, 6-2-2 (3-2-1 on the road) when scoring first and 8-0-2 (2-0-1 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins begin the month of December with a one-off road game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators on Thursday before returning home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Boston then has a few days off before hitting the road again for their regular Western Canada road trip with stops in Vancouver (Dec. 8th), Edmonton (Dec. 9th) and Calgary (Dec. 11th).

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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.

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Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-14-7, 77 points

1st in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Montréal

Additions: F Michael Amadio, F Michael Bunting, F Kurtis Gabriel, F Joshua Ho-Sang (signed to a PTO), F David Kämpf, F Ondrej Kaše, F Nikita Gusev (signed to a PTO), F Nick Ritchie, F Brett Seney, D Alex Biega, D Carl Dahlström, D Brennan Menell, G Petr Mrázek

Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (KHL), F Nick Foligno (signed with BOS), F Alex Galchenyuk (signed to a PTO with ARI), F Zach Hyman (signed with EDM), F Denis Malgin (NL), F Jared McCann (acquired from PIT, expansion, SEA), F Riley Nash (signed with WPG), F Joe Thornton (signed with FLA), D Zach Bogosian (signed with TBL), G Frederik Andersen (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: D Ben Hutton

Re-signed: F Wayne Simmonds, F Jason Spezza, D Travis Dermott, D Joseph Duszak, G Joseph Woll

Offseason Analysis: Whereas the Maple Leafs loaded up on veterans you may have heard of before last offseason in Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and others, then acquired Nick Foligno and Riley Nash at the trade deadline, this year’s approach for Toronto has gone in a different direction.

This year, Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, is signing guys you might not even know exist, plus a few underdogs.

Michael Bunting and David Kämpf might not be the first players you think of when you think about quality depth down the lineup, but Toronto is out to prove the naysayers wrong this season and show forward progress in the postseason– at the very least, if not win it all.

Though it’s a small sample size, Bunting had 10-3–13 totals in 21 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. In 26 career NHL games, he has 11-3–14 totals, but again, that was with players not of the same caliber as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander.

Now he finds himself in competition for a top-six role– if he can beat his competition in Nick Ritchie and Ilya Mikheyev among top-nine forwards on the left wing.

Kämpf, meanwhile, can switch out with Jason Spezza at center on the fourth line and amassed 1-11-12 totals with Chicago in 56 games last season.

In 2019-20, Kämpf had 8-8–16 totals in 70 games– three points shy of his career-high 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 63 games in 2018-19 with Chicago.

Playing alongside Simmonds and Spezza should make Toronto’s fourth line more competitive with Kurtis Gabriel rotated in for some added oomph.

Speaking of Ritchie, however, Leafs-centric media might have you thinking he’s the next Matthews, but buyer beware– his 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 56 games with the Boston Bruins last season wasn’t so much of a breakout or a fluke as it was a return to his expectations.

Ritchie played up in Boston’s lineup due to injury and became a unique piece of their power play at one point in that (strangely enough) it worked.

He spent pretty much the first half of last season playing with David Krejci at center and that’s not to say Matthews isn’t as skilled or better than Krejci, but rather a testament to Krejci’s status as a playmaker that elevates all around him.

Luckily for Toronto, Krejci’s gone back to Czechia to play in front of family and friends in his home country, so the Maple Leafs are better matched down the middle against the Bruins.

Yet, Ritchie’s impressive first half of the season regressed to the norm by the second half and down the stretch. He’s no Zach Hyman, but anything over 30 points in the upcoming season is a success for a player that had 9-22-31 totals with the Anaheim Ducks in 60 games in the 2018-19 season.

At the very least, Ritchie’s two-year deal worth $2.500 million per season is manageable. In fact, it’s the most Dubas spent on a skater this offseason.

If you can’t beat them– steal them.

Former Bruin, Ondrej Kaše, also joins Ritchie as a new Leaf and Kaše’s really looking to turn over a new leaf, since he’s coming off of a season in which he played three games and was sidelined by a concussion between Game 2 and Game 55 of a 56-game regular season.

In nine games as a Bruin, Kaše amassed one point, an assist, after he was acquired by Boston for David Backes, Axel Andersson and a 2020 1st round pick on Feb. 21, 2020.

Whether or not Kaše can get back up to speed– let alone continue his career– remains to be seen, but for now he’s signed to a one-year deal worth $1.250 million per season.

The defense is the same, Alexander Kerfoot did not get selected by the Seattle Kraken at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and Toronto essentially traded goaltenders with the Carolina Hurricanes without actually making a trade.

No, David Ayres isn’t taking his talents to Scotiabank Arena in a Leafs uniform, but Petr Mrázek is on a three-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

At 29-years-old, he’s the same age as Jack Campbell and signed through 2023-24, whereas Campbell is a pending-unrestricted free agent as of July 2022.

Mrázek was limited to 12 games due to injury last season and went 6-2-3 with three shutouts, a 2.06 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in that span.

It was his best performance in three seasons with the Canes, though in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, he played in 40 games, so was last season just a testament to Carolina’s defense or….

Nevertheless, when the Hurricanes faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Second Round, Mrázek was called upon to replace Alex Nedeljkovic for a pair of starts.

Though he extended Carolina’s postseason to a Game 5 against Tampa in the Second Round, Mrázek went 1-1 with a 3.90 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage.

So it appears as though there’ll be healthy competition for the starting job– at least come time for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as it wasn’t entirely Campbell’s fault the Leafs blew a 3-1 series lead against a low-scoring Montréal Canadiens offense.

Anyway, Frederik Andersen left for the Hurricanes– the team that originally drafted him in the 7th round (187th overall) in 2010, before he re-entered the draft and was selected in the 3rd round (87th overall) by Anaheim in 2012.

Before we grade the Toronto’s offseason, let’s review a pair of trades that Dubas made this summer.

First, on July 17th, he dealt Filip Hallander and a 2023 7th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jared McCann, who was then left exposed for the Kraken to take over Kerfoot. Whoops.

Then on July 26th, James (J.D.) Greenway was traded to Boston for future considerations.

Maybe that’s all it takes to get out of the First Round for the first time since 2004.

Offseason Grade: B-

With about $80,200 in cap space, the Maple Leafs aren’t doing themselves any favors if they’re looking to add without subtracting around the 2022 trade deadline.

That said, Dubas would likely have to get creative if things are dire anyway, since the runway is getting shorter and shorter year-by-year.

Nylander is not the problem when a trio of players are getting paid more than him against the cap and producing… …not as much.

Sometimes points per dollar in the playoffs should be accounted for more than points per game in the regular season or something like that– not looking to stir up any more arguments than there already are on Leafs Twitter.

Though it may not look it on paper like last season, Toronto has made improvements where it counts and trimmed the excess where it dragged them down in crucial moments, but if all else fails yet again this season– they still need to resolve a true “goaltender of the future” problem, tweak the defense and make some big, bold, moves.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Detroit Red Wings 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 19-27-10, 48 points

7th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Missed the postseason for the fifth-straight year

Additions: F Mitchell Stephens (acquired from TBL), F Pius Suter, D Nick Leddy (acquired from NYI), G Alex Nedeljkovic (acquired from CAR)

Subtractions: F Mathias Bromé (NL), F Turner Elson (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), F Valtteri Filppula (NL), F Luke Glendening (signed with DAL), F Darren Helm (signed with COL), F Frans Nielsen (buyout), F Richard Panik (traded to NYI), F Evgeny Svechnikov (PTO with WPG), F Dominic Turgeon (signed with MIN), F Hayden Verbeek (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), F Henrik Zetterberg (retired), D Alex Biega (signed with TOR), D Dennis Cholowski (expansion, SEA), D Christian Djoos (NL), D Joe Hicketts (signed with MIN), D Dylan McIlrath (signed with WSH), G Jonathan Bernier (traded to CAR, signed with NJD), G Kevin Boyle (ICEHL), G Patrik Rybár (KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Bobby Ryan, F Givani Smith (RFA)

Re-signed: F Tyler Bertuzzi, F Adam Erne, F Sam Gagner, F Chase Pearson, F Jakub Vrana, D Filip Hronek, D Gustav Lindstrom, D Marc Staal, G Calvin Pickard

Offseason Analysis: When Steve Yzerman resigned from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the foundation of his plan as General Manager and the years of development that it took had built up a few levels short of winning back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, after Julien BriseBois picked up where Yzerman left off shortly before the 2018-19 season.

On April 19, 2019, the prodigal son made his return to Detroit as the now current General Manager of the Red Wings– inheriting a mess left behind by Ken Holland who, despite winning the Cup three times as the executive vice president and GM in Detroit from 1997-2019, was promoted to senior vice president before walking away from the Red Wings altogether.

Still with me here?

Yzerman left the Lightning in September 2018, and BriseBois was named his replacement, then later in the 2018-19 league calendar year, the Red Wings hired Yzerman as their General Manager, while Holland stuck around for less than a month longer before leaving for his current role as General Manager and President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers.

In this pseudo-musical chairs endeavor, Tampa has won back-to-back Stanley Cups, while Holland’s Oilers have been mired in early postseason exits and Yzerman, well… …Yzerman’s just been biding his time.

Though he hasn’t played since the 2017-18 season due to a career-ending degenerative back condition, Henrik Zetterberg’s $6.083 million cap hit is finally off the books.

Yzerman is no longer looking to take on dead cap space to meet the salary cap floor, but he’s also not quite spending to the ceiling just yet.

Instead, the Red Wings are setting the gears in motion for big strides sooner rather than later.

This offseason sped things up, though the team hasn’t been kicked into high-gear just yet.

For starters, Yzerman’s kept Tyler Bertuzzi, Adam Erne, Sam Gagner, Filip Hronek and Calvin Pickard around as top-six talent, glue guys and necessary goaltending depth in the event of injury.

He also worked out a solid bridge contract with 25-year-old Jakub Vrana– giving the left wing that was acquired at the 2021 trade deadline a $5.250 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season and buying a year of potential unrestricted free agency in the process.

Vrana’s short stint down the stretch with Detroit proved to be very productive amassing 8-3–11 totals in 11 games with the Red Wings after putting up 11-14–25 totals through 39 games with the Washington Capitals prior to the trade last season.

Detroit also managed to snag Pius Suter on the open market after Chicago chose not to tender a qualifying offer for the would have been restricted free agent.

Suter broke into the league as a 25-year-old rookie and scored 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games with Chicago. In a non-pandemic timeline, Suter would have been on pace for about 40 points in an 82-game schedule.

That’s nothing to sneeze at for a guy that can work up and down the lineup in a top-nine role on a team that’s looking to get back into annual playoff contention.

But that’s not all that Yzerman did this offseason.

As the team said “goodbye” to many long-time Red Wings members, like Darren Helm– who’s now with the Colorado Avalanche– and other more recent placeholders, Yzerman was busy working the phones and dialing the NHL’s trade center.

Aside from making a few trades involving nothing but draft picks at the 2021 NHL Draft– including one that led to Detroit moving up in the first round in a swap with the Dallas Stars that led to the Red Wings selecting Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) goaltender, Sebastian Cossa– Yzerman continued to assemble depth down the lineup.

On July 16th, Detroit sent Richard Panik and a 2021 2nd round pick to the New York Islanders for Nick Leddy as the Islanders looked to make cap space– clearing about $4.125 million in the process for New York and likely teaming Leddy up with Moritz Seider on the second defensive pairing for the Red Wings.

Yzerman then dealt the negotiating rights for Jonathan Bernier and a 2021 3rd round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Alex Nedeljkovic on July 22nd, before signing the former Canes netminder to a two-year extension worth $2.000 million per season.

Finally, Yzerman went back to the well in Tampa for Mitchell Stephens– sending a 2022 6th round pick in return to the Lightning on July 30th.

Offseason Grade: B+

Detroit won’t be great, but they should be better than last season and given the fact that the Red Wings looked competitive at times in 2020-21, they just might play spoiler for some of the teams in the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, Leddy’s jump in production from 21 points in 60 games with the Islanders in 2019-20 to 31 points in 56 games last season should help jumpstart some two-way play in the backend for Detroit.

A change of scenery and a reunification with Erne on the fourth line for Stephens should necessitate more production than his one point in seven games with the Bolts last season– though neither Erne, nor Stephens are looking to be leading goal scorers on the roster.

Finally, Nedeljkovic established himself as a starting goaltender in the NHL– or a fringe starter, at least– amassing a 15-5-3 record in 23 games with Carolina last season to go with a 1.90 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

The improvements to Detroit’s defense should pave a way to letting the Red Wings’ offense to grow and the youth throughout the organization to develop while Nedeljkovic can focus on competing with himself to maintain a high-level of play as the goaltender of the future for now, unless Cossa has anything to say about it in the near future.

For a team that’s been rebuilding in recent years, this is how you do it. Yzerman’s careful scouting, planning and execution is picking up speed.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 0-0-0, 0 points

Making their debut in the Pacific Division

Newest expansion team entering their 1st season

Additions: F Mason Appleton (from WPG), F Nathan Bastian (from NJD), F Colin Blackwell (from NYR), F Joonas Donskoi (from COL), F Jordan Eberle (from NYI), F Yanni Gourde (from TBL), F Morgan Geekie (from CAR), F Luke Henman, F Calle Järnkrok (from NSH), F Marcus Johansson (UFA from MIN), F Jared McCann (from TOR), F Jaden Schwartz (UFA from STL), F Brandon Tanev (from PIT), F Alexander Wennberg (UFA from FLA), D Connor Carrick (UFA from NJD), D Mark Giordano (from CGY), D Haydn Fleury (from ANA), D Adam Larsson (from EDM), D Jeremy Lauzon (from BOS), D Jamie Oleksiak (from DAL), D Gustav Olofsson (UFA from MTL), D Carson Soucy (from MIN), G Antoine Bibeau (UFA from COL), G Joey Daccord (from OTT), G Chris Driedger (from FLA), G Philipp Grubauer (UFA from COL)

Subtractions: F Tyler Pitlick (traded to CGY), F John Quenneville (NL), D Gavin Bayreuther (signed with CBJ), D Kurtis MacDermid (traded to COL), G Vitek Vanecek (traded to WSH)

Still Unsigned: D Dennis Cholowski (from DET)

Re-signed: F Kole Lind (from VAN), F Alexander True (from SJS), F Carsen Twarynski (from PHI), D Will Borgen (from BUF), D Vince Dunn (from STL), D Cale Fleury (from MTL)

Offseason Analysis: The NHL’s newest franchise is set to take to the ice for their first season on Oct. 12th as the Kraken pay a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights to kickoff a five-game road trip before hosting the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 16th in the first home game in the freshly renovated Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

Vegas didn’t do Seattle any favors in terms of establishing new-age expansion team expectations, since the Golden Knights found a way to make the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first season, but Kraken fans are just happy to have a professional hockey team competing for the Cup back in the city for the first time since the Seattle Metropolitans folded in 1924.

The Kraken are going to draw many comparisons to the Golden Knights despite adopting different strategies in roster compesition.

Vegas hit the ground running with a “win now” mentality, while Seattle’s built to grind their opponents down by rolling four lines similar to how the New York Islanders play a modified version of “the trap”.

Kraken General Manager, Ron Francis, has a great scouting department down the hall and knows how to construct a foundation for the future.

Francis’ track record as the General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes prior to Don Waddell’s arrival saw the likes of Martin Neceas, Morgan Geekie, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, Nicolas Roy, Haydn Fleury, Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark, Elias Lindholm, Brett Pesce, Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin rise through the ranks to the NHL– whether they still remain in a Canes uniform or not.

The future is bright for Seattle, while Dave Hakstol is getting a second chance behind the bench of an NHL team after a brief stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs most recently.

Hakstol’s time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers followed the rollercoaster that the organization’s been stuck in since Ron Hextall vacated the net.

One year showed promise, the next year was average, but then Hakstol and the team found another gear and were on the rise again– finishing 3rd in the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18, before his ultimate downfall and firing– though Philadelphia’s revolving door of goaltenders may have been a contribution.

Yanni Gourde had 17-19–36 totals in 56 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

He will miss the start of the 2021-22 season, though, which could put a damper on the expectations that he’ll be a breakout player in a Kraken uniform.

That said, glue guys like Joonas Donskoi, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Tanev and Mason Appleton should compliment the roster well and help fill the void, while Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz work on solidifying a top-six forward group.

On defense, Mark Giordano provides a touch of leadership and experience with Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson on an otherwise young blue line filled with the likes of Will Borgen, Vince Dunn, Haydn Fleury and Jeremy Lauzon.

In the crease, Seattle signed Philipp Grubauer after selecting Chris Driedger, Vitek Vanecek (later traded back to the Washington Capitals) and Joey Daccord in the expansion draft.

Driedger was the expected starter until Grubauer came along and left the Colorado Avalanche after the last three seasons.

Grubauer had seven shutouts to go with his 30-9-1 record in 40 games played last season, as well as a 1.95 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in that span.

While Driedger’s 2.07 goals-against average and .927 save percentage was pretty great for the Florida Panthers last season, his 14-6-3 record and three shutouts pale in comparison to Grubauer.

That said, the two should make a dynamic duo as one of the most promising goaltending tandems on paper entering the 2021-22 season.

Seattle may or may not make the playoffs in their first season, but they’re sure to be better than a lot of expansion teams before the Golden Knights came around and flipped the script.

Offseason Grade: B-

Both the Golden Knights and the Kraken benefitted from some of the most generous expansion draft rules in league history– though Seattle dealt with the aftermath of Vegas’ wrath in swindling other teams via side deals in 2017, and couldn’t make a trade at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft itself as a result.

Admit it, you would’ve taken Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price, Gabriel Landeskog and Vladimir Tarasenko if they were made available to you in an NHL 22 fantasy draft– salary cap be damned.

But that’s just it– a fantasy.

Even Vegas was laughed at for some of their expansion draft choices, but both the Golden Knights and Kraken experienced quite a turnover between when they filled out a roster for the first time on paper and when they hit the ice.

For having to put together a team from scratch, Francis didn’t do a bad job. For trying to win a Cup in their first season, well, the jury’s still out on that one, Seattle.

In any case, the city has more Stanley Cup rings before the Kraken even existed than 11 other current NHL teams thanks to the Metropolitans winning it all as the first American team to win the Cup in 1917.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning strike twice in, 2-1, victory on the road in Game 1 against Hurricanes

It’s the perfect storm for meteorologists that also like hockey as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 1 on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, at PNC Arena on Sunday.

Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as Andrei Vasilevskiy (5-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in seven games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against in the win for Tampa.

Carolina netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic (4-3, 2.20 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in seven games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

David Savard (upper body) was out of the lineup for the Lightning, while Nino Niederreiter (undisclosed) was not available for the Hurricanes in Game 1.

Rod Brind’Amour told reporters after Sunday’s game that Niederreiter might be out for the entire series against Tampa.

Meanwhile, these two clubs are meeting for the first time in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Midway through the opening frame, the Bolts botched a line change and had too many skaters on the ice, yielding a bench minor for exactly that– sending Pat Maroon to the box to serve the infraction– and presenting Carolina with the game’s first power play at 9:13 of the first period.

The Hurricanes, however, did not convert on the ensuing advantage.

Nor did the Canes find the back of the net on the following power play at 14:45 as Nikita Kucherov cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping Sebastian Aho.

After one period of action in Raleigh, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes outshot the Lightning, 15-12.

Carolina held the advantage in giveaways (3-2), while Tampa dominated in just about everything else, including blocked shots (4-3), hits (18-13) and faceoff win percentage (63-37).

Both teams had two takeaways each as the Lightning had yet to see time on the power play and the Hurricanes were 0/2.

Brock McGinn caught Mikhail Sergachev with a high stick to kickoff the second period with a power play for the Bolts at 6:56.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Victor Hedman sent a shot pass to Brayden Point (5) for the redirection through Nedeljkovic’s five-hole from point blank to give Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 8:15 of the second period.

Hedman (9) and Kucherov (9) notched the assists on Point’s power-play goal as the Bolts got on the board first.

Less than a minute later, Tampa was back on the power play as former Lightning forward, turned current Hurricanes player, Cedric Paquette, was penalized for interference at 8:56.

Tampa’s power play didn’t last long, however, as Kucherov cross checked McGinn at 10:11 and presented both teams with 46 seconds of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for Carolina.

Neither team managed to score on the ensuing special teams play and the Lightning got one more chance on the skater advantage late in the middle frame when Dougie Hamilton tripped Point at 15:06.

In the dying minute of the middle frame, Blake Coleman tripped Jordan Martinook and was sent to the box at 19:47 as a result.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Carolina holding a, 26-21, advantage in shots on goal, including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Hurricanes led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (6-5) and giveaways (7-6) after two periods, while Tampa led in hits (32-23) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Bolts were 1/3 and the Canes were 0/4 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Carolina started the final frame with 1:48 left on the power play and used all but about seven seconds of it to wire one into the back of the net.

Jake Bean played catch with Andrei Svechnikov as Svechnikov tossed the puck back to Bean (1) for the shot past Vasilevskiy’s blocker side while Jesper Fast acted as a screen in front of the net.

Svechnikov (3) and Fast (2) had the assists on Bean’s first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal as the Hurricanes tied things up, 1-1, at 1:41 of the third period.

Midway through the period, Anthony Cirelli got a stick up high on Vincent Trocheck and was assessed a minor infraction at 8:04 of the third period.

Carolina couldn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Goodrow (1) beat Nedeljkovic on the short side as the Canes netminder took his pad off the post to fall into the shot with his chest except the Bolts forward sent the puck low– beating Nedeljkovic and putting Tampa ahead, 2-1, at 12:39.

Coleman (3) had the only assist on Goodrow’s goal.

The Hurricanes tried to even things up– even after pulling Nedeljkovic for an extra skater with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but they couldn’t muster anything else past Vasilevskiy as the final horn sounded on the night.

Tampa had won, 2-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead despite being outshot by Carolina, 38-30, in total shots on goal, as well as, 12-9, in shots in the third period alone.

The Lightning wrapped up Sunday’s action leading in blocked shots (18-16) and hits (37-31), while the Hurricanes led in giveaways (12-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Both teams managed to score a power-play goal as the Bolts went 1/3 and the Canes went 1/5 on the skater advantage in Game 1.

The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 series lead as a result of stealing Game 1 on the road as the two clubs head into Game 2 on Tuesday night in Raleigh.

Puck drop at PNC Arena is expected to be around 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Canes finish Preds on the road in Game 6

For the third straight postseason, the Carolina Hurricanes have won a series as the Canes defeated the Nashville Predators in Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, 4-3, in overtime.

Oh, and it was the first time all series long that the road team won a game– let alone just the third instance in Stanley Cup Playoffs series history that four consecutive games required overtime to determine a winner.

Sebastian Aho had a pair of goals, including the game-winning tip-in goal, as the Hurricanes eliminated the Predators and advanced to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alex Nedeljkovic (4-2, 2.22 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in six games) stopped 24 out of 27 shots against in the win for Carolina.

Predators goaltender, Juuse Saros (2-4, 2.78 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in six games played) made 27 saves on 31 shots faced in the loss.

Nashville got on the board early and first as Nick Cousins (2) redirected the puck past Nedeljkovic at 1:44 of the first period.

The Preds had utilized the dump and chase to break into the zone, fought hard to keep the puck from going across the blue line, then ultimately shifted the rubber biscuit from Ben Harpur to Erik Haula before a redirection had other plans as Cousins picked up the goal.

Haula (3) and Harpur (1) had the assists on Cousins’ goal and the Predators had the lead, 1-0, as a result.

Less than a few minutes later, Brock McGinn (3) tied the game, 1-1, with a wraparound that he tucked in on the short side from the slot after winning a battle for a loose puck on the other side of the net behind the goal line.

Martin Necas (3) tallied the only assist on McGinn’s goal at 4:21.

Almost 30 seconds later, Andrei Svechnikov tripped Luke Kunin and was sent to the penalty box with a tripping infraction at 4:52 of the first period.

Nashville couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play– their first of the night.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, as the Predators outshot the Hurricanes, 11-9.

The Preds held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and faceoff win percentage (60-40), while the Canes led in takeaways (5-1), giveaways (7-4) and hits (14-12).

Carolina had yet to see any time on the skater advantage, while Nashville was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Mikael Granlund (2) made it, 2-1, Nashville at 1:13 of the second period after the Hurricanes turned the puck over in their own zone.

Ryan Ellis sent the puck to the slot where Granlund corralled it, pulled it to his blade and scored on Nedeljkovic while the Canes netminder was caught off guard. Ellis (4) had the only assist as a result.

A few minutes later, Granlund tripped Necas and was sent to the box at 4:42 of the second period– presenting Carolina with their first chance on the power play, but it was later cut short when Dougie Hamilton received an interference minor at 5:37.

After a little 4-on-4 action, the Predators would have an abbreviated power play, but Nashville couldn’t capitalize on the resulting 5-on-4 advantage.

Nevertheless, the Preds would get another chance on the skater advantage when Aho caught Ryan Johansen with a slash at 7:18 of the second period.

It didn’t take long for Johansen (3) to get his revenge on the scoreboard as Roman Josi sent a shot pass to No. 92 in a Predators uniform for the redirection power-play goal.

Josi (4) and Granlund (3) had the assists as the Preds extended their lead, 3-1, at 7:32.

A little more than four minutes later, however, Matt Benning was assessed an infraction for interference at 11:49 and presented Carolina with their second power play of the night.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Hamilton sent the puck to Aho (4) for the deflection goal to bring the Hurricanes to within one while on the power play.

Hamilton (3) had the only assist on Aho’s power play goal as Carolina trailed, 3-2, at 13:34.

Late in the period, Hurricanes defender, Brady Skjei cross checked Cousins and cut a rut to the sin bin at 18:38 as a result– yielding a power play that would spill into the final frame of regulation for Nashville.

After two periods, the Predators led, 3-2, on the scorebaord and, 21-14, in shots on goal, including a, 10-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Nashville held the advantage in blocked shots (13-10) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Carolina led in takeaways (7-3) and hits (23-18). Both teams managed to have 13 giveaways each through 40 minutes of play.

The Canes were 1/2 and the Preds were 1/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

After killing off Skjei’s minor, the Hurricanes went back on the power play when Ellis slashed Jesper Fast while the Canes forward had a quick break at 3:02 of the thrid period.

Carolina did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Shortly thereafter, Jordan Martinook collided with Josi, rendering the Predators captain out for the rest of the night with an injury.

Midway through the third, Jaccob Slavin setup Hamilton (1) with a pass for another redirection goal while No. 19 for Carolina pinched and stood around on the doorstep in front of Saros to tie the game, 3-3, at 13:59.

Slavin (2) and McGinn (1) notched the assists on Hamilton’s first goal of the 2021 postseason.

60 minutes was not enough to decide a winner as the two teams were heading for overtime for the fourth consecutive game in the series– tied, 3-3, in Game 6.

Carolina led in shots on goal, 30-26, and had a, 16-5, advantage in the third period alone, while the Canes also led in takeaways (8-7) and hits (32-28).

Nashville, meanwhile, held the lead in blocked shots (20-11), giveaways (18-16) and faceoff win% (57-43).

As there were no penalties called in overtime, the Hurricanes finished 1/3 on the power play Thursday night, while the Predators went 1/4.

It didn’t take long before Carolina won an attacking zone faceoff off the boards back to the point where Slavin floated a shot that Aho (3) tipped over Saros’ glove side to end the game, 4-3, for the Hurricanes at 1:06 of the overtime period.

Slavin (3) recorded the only assist on Aho’s game-winning/series clinching goal and Canes finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-27, despite both teams managing to each record one shot on goal in overtime.

Nashville finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-11), giveaways (18-16) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Carolina held the advantage in hits (32-28).

In the handshake line after Aho’s goal, Nedeljkovic took a longer time to speak with Preds backup, Pekka Rinne, in what might have possibly been Rinne’s last game under contract as an NHL player.

The 38-year-old goaltender was drafted by Nashville in the 8th round (258th overall) in 2004, and spent the last two seasons primarily as the backup for the Predators as the club transitioned to Saros as the full-time starter.

Rinne is a pending-unrestricted free agent and may return to his home country of Finland for a season or two prior to hanging up the skates.

He made his NHL debut with the Preds in the 2005-06 season and spent parts of 15 seasons with one team– Nashville.

Across that span, Rinne amassed a 369-213-75 record in 683 career games (667 starts) and finished with a career 2.43 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and 60 shutouts with the Predators as one of the most prominent Finnish goaltenders in league history.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, won their First Round series against Nashville in six games (4-2) and advanced to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result.

The Canes will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the next round with Carolina in command of home ice advantage for the best-of-seven game series, having won the Discover NHL Central Division regular season title as the club with the best record in the 2020-21 season.

Game 1 is Sunday at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can watch the action on NBCSN, while those in Canada can tune to SN or TVAS for the series opener.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Canes take 3-2 series lead with win in Game 5

Martin Necas scored a pair of goals as Jordan Staal scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a, 3-2, victory in front of their home crowd at PNC Arena as the Canes took a 3-2 series lead over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Tuesday.

Alex Nedeljkovic (3-2, 2.10 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in five games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against int he win for Carolina.

Predators netminder, Juuse Saros (2-3, 2.59 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in five games played) stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.

The biggest lineup change from Game 4 to Game 5 was the return of defender, Jaccob Slavin, to Carolina’s blue line. Slavin’s missed three games this postseason due to injury and brings a physical presence that the Hurricanes would be wise to utilize to combat Nashville’s big bodies.

Dougie Hamilton cross checked Filip Forsberg as the two skaters barreled into Nedeljkovic early in the opening frame, yielding the night’s first power play to Nashville at 5:03 of the first period.

The Predators weren’t successful on the ensuing skater advantage, but used the momentum gained from surviving the energy of the PNC Arena crowd as well as the power play opportunity to strike first moments later.

Roman Josi sent a shot towards the net from the point that deflected off teammate, Yakov Trenin (1) and floated over Nedeljkovic’s shoulder like a “knuckle puck” would cut erratically through the air and into the twine in The Mighty Ducks.

Josi (3) had the only assist on Trenin’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal as the Preds jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 11:44 of the first period.

About a couple minutes later, Luke Kunin hit Andrei Svechnikov hard along the boards, which sparked a response from Svechnikov as the two players exchanged pleasantries before a crowd gathered.

In all, Kunin and Matt Benning, as well as Svechnikov picked up roughing minors, while the Hurricanes got a power play out of it at 13:10.

About a minute later, Carolina converted on the skater advantage as Hamilton worked the puck over to Necas (1) for a snap shot over Saros’ glove to tie the game, 1-1, at 14:21.

Hamilton (2) tallied the only assist on Necas’ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Hurricanes and Predators were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, though Carolina led in shots on goal, 10-5.

The Canes also held the advantage in giveaways (5-0) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Preds led in blocked shots (8-7), takeaways (2-1) and hits (21-19).

Nashville was 0/1 and Carolina was 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Less than a minute after returning from the first intermission, Trenin (2) scored on a catch-and-release goal on a 2-on-1 as Colton Sissons (2) provided the only assist to give the Predators a, 2-1, lead 53 seconds into the second period.

Midway through the period, Forsberg cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping Sebastian Aho at 8:59, but the Hurricanes couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Carolina thought they had tied the game on a shot by Slavin that appeared to hit Nashville forward, Ryan Johansen, and deflect past Saros, but Predators head coach, John Hynes, used a coach’s challenge to argue that there was goaltender interference on the play and the call on the ice should be reversed in that case.

Though review confirmed to the eyes of Caniacs in the stands at PNC Arena and fans at home that Warren Foegele entered, then promptly exited the crease with his right skate with enough time for Saros to reset himself (nevertheless, he was unaffected anyway) before– what’s that? His own teammate barreled into him?

Yes, Josi made contact with his own goaltender, pile-driving him out of position as the goal had been scored. Surely the on-ice officials would make the right call and…

…well.

In the eyes of the officials, Foegele had done enough to merely exist in the playing surface, despite not making any contact or direct impeding gesture to disrupt Saros’ play, but what’s a catch these days anyway?

The call on the ice was reversed and the goal was taken off the board due to incidental goaltender interference.

Nashville remained in command, 2-1, at 12:22 of the second period.

And the Preds’, 2-1, lead was enough to get them into the dressing room for the second intermission unscathed as Carolina outshot the Predators, 24-16, through 40 minutes of action.

The Hurricanes had a, 14-11, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone and led in giveaways (13-1), hits (48-30) and faceoff win% (64-36), while Nashville held the lead in blocked shots (12-7) and takeaways (6-2) after two periods.

The Preds were still 0/1 and the Canes remained 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Foegele was assessed a roughing minor for getting tangled up with Ben Harpur at 5:36 of the third period and presented the Predators with a power play as a result.

Carolina’s penalty kill stood tall, however, as Foegele was released from the box two minutes later without issue.

Midway through the period, Necas (2) raced up through the neutral zone with speed, broke into the attacking zone, cut for the trapezoid behind the net and wrapped the rubber biscuit around the goal frame and into the twine behind Saros to tie the game, 2-2, on an impressive display of athletic ability.

Slavin (1) notched the assist on Necas’ second goal of the game as No. 88 for Carolina almost singlehandedly put the team on his back at 12:55 of the third period.

Despite scoring a goal that was later waved off due to the magic of a coach’s challenge in the second period, the Hurricanes found themselves heading to overtime with the Predators tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard– even after outshooting Nashville, 35-25, in shots on goal, including an, 11-9, advantage in the third period alone.

The Preds led in blocked shots (15-12) and takeaways (6-4) after regulation, while the Canes led in giveaways (20-4), hits (66-40) and faceoff win% (56-44).

Nashville was 0/2 and Carolina was 1/2 on the power play as each team searched within themselves to find a game-winner and procure a 3-2 series lead as a result with overtime looming after the 15-minute intermission.

Brady Skjei was sent to the box for holding 56 seconds into the extra frame, but Nashville’s ensuing power play was cut short as Alexandre Carrier interfered with Aho at 1:43.

The two clubs would skate at 4-on-4 for 1:14 prior to Carolina yielding an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.

But the Hurricanes’ captain had other plans.

Staal sent a shot on Saros that the Predators goaltender stopped while generating a rebound that he quickly batted away from the crease right to… …Staal as Staal (4) smacked the puck out of the air, got a lucky bounce and watched the vulcanized piece of rubber sneaked through Saros’ five-hole to give Carolina a, 3-2, overtime win.

Staal’s unassisted effort at 2:03 of the overtime period secured a 3-2 series lead for the Hurricanes as the home team finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 37-25, including a, 2-0, advantage in the extra frame alone.

Carolina wrapped up the effort leading in blocked shots (21-4), hits (66-40) and faceoff win% (59-41), while Nashville exited PNC Arena with the lead in blocked shots (16-12).

The Preds finished the night 0/3 on the skater advantage while the Canes went 1/3 on the power play in Game 5.

The Hurricanes take a 3-2 series lead back on the road for Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Thursday. Puck drop is expected a little after 9:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for national coverage, while fans in Canada can catch the game on SN360 or TVAS.

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Aho and Nedeljkovic power Canes to, 3-0, shutout

Sebastian Aho scored a pair of goals as Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves in a, 3-0, shutout win for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their 2021 First Round series with the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

Nedeljkovic (2-0, 1.01 goals-against average, .964 save percentage in two games played) became the second rookie goaltender in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise history to record a postseason shutout, joining Cam Ward in doing so.

Ward notched a pair of shutouts in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to leading Carolina to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

Meanwhile, Predators goaltender, Juuse Saros (0-2, 3.08 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in two games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Hurricanes were without Jaccob Slavin on the blue line, so Jake Gardiner was dressed for Carolina.

Meanwhile, Predators head coach, John Hynes, had replaced Calle Jarnkrok (illness), Mathieu Olivier and Ben Harpur with Eeli Tolvanen, Brad Richardson and Matt Benning in the lineup on Wednesday.

Early in the action, former Carolina forward, Erik Haula, got tangled up with Martin Necas and received a minor infraction for roughing– yielding the game’s first power play to the Hurricanes at 2:02 of the first period.

The Canes were not successful on their first skater advantage of the game.

Moments later, Nashville defender, Mattias Ekholm, tripped Warren Foegele and presented Carolina with another power play at 7:17 of the opening frame.

The Hurricanes wouldn’t waste much time on the ensuing skater advantage before Aho (1) received a pass from Andrei Svechnikov through the high slot and one-timed the puck into the back of the twine.

Svechnikov (1) and Dougie Hamilton (1) had the assists on Aho’s power-play goal and Carolina took a, 1-0, lead at 8:03.

The Predators got their first skater advantage of the night at 8:47 when Vincent Trocheck roughed up Benning, but the Preds weren’t able to convert on the power play.

Nor did Nashville have any success on the skater advantage moments later when Hamilton was penalized for interference at 13:04.

No, the Preds also didn’t score on the power play at 15:59 when Aho roughed Haula and again the Predators were powerless on the advantage at 19:03 when Jordan Staal cut a rut to the sin bin for interference.

Heading into the first intermission, the Hurricanes led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting Nashville, 10-9.

Carolina also led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (5-3) and hits (20-18), while the Predators dominated the faceoff dot in faceoff win percentage (57-44).

Nashville was 0/4 and the Canes were 0/2 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Ryan Johansen got tangled up with Svechnikov as the two forwards exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 4:16 of the second period.

After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams resumed full strength with cooler heads (for a few minutes anyway).

Brett Pesce was penalized for holding at 8:34, but Nashville continued to struggle on the power play as Nedeljkovic stood tall in the crease for Carolina.

Viktor Arvidsson took a trip to the box at 9:38 for interference, but the Hurricanes couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Shortly thereafter, Benning and Jordan Martinook got into a heated exchange, yielding roughing minors at 12:03 of the second period and plunging the game into another pair of minutes at 4-on-4.

Late in the period, Nino Niederreiter hooked Richardson, but the Preds couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing power play at 16:37.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Hurricanes held onto their, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard despite Nashville pulling ahead in shots on goal, 24-20, including a, 15-10, advantage in the second period alone.

Carolina held the lead in blocked shots (10-6), giveaways (11-10) and hits (36-32), while the Predators had the advantage in takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win% (56-44).

Nashville was 0/6 on the power play, while the Canes were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Foegele sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game infraction almost midway through the third period at 9:24.

The Preds couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.

Late in the period, Hynes pulled Saros for an extra attacker, but Carolina worked to clear the puck out of their own zone.

Pesce dumped the puck deep– missing the empty net– but didn’t ice the puck as Aho (2) charged into the attacking zone, pounced on the loose puck and buried the rubber biscuit into the net to give Carolina a two-goal lead.

Pesce (3) had the only assist on Aho’s second goal of the night and the Hurricanes led, 2-0, at 19:07 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Foegele (1) worked the puck behind the goal line and wrapped around the net, sending an errant puck off of Ryan Ellis’ skate and through Saros for a three-goal lead.

Jesper Fast (1) had the only assist on Foegele’s insurance goal as the Canes made it, 3-0, at 19:32.

At the final horn, Carolina had secured a 2-0 series lead with a, 3-0, win as Nedeljkovic recorded the shutout– his first career postseason shutout.

The Predators finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-31, despite Carolina leading in shots on goal in the third period alone, 11-8.

Nashville also wrapped up Wednesday night’s action with the lead in giveaways (19-16) and faceoff win% (53-48), while the Canes finished the night leading in blocked shots (17-10) and hits (52-39).

The Preds went 0/7 and the Canes went 1/3 on the power play in Game 2.

The Hurricanes lead the series 2-0 as the venue shifts to Bridgestone Arena for Game 3 in Nashville on Friday. Puck drop is expected a little after 7 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to national coverage on USA Network, while those in Canada can watch the action on FXX-Canada or TVAS2.