The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.
Brett Ritchie had the game-winning goal and Par Lindholm added the insurance goal against his former team late in the third period, as the Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Tuukka Rask (4-0-1, 1.78 goals against average, .944 save percentage in five games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in the win for Boston.
Rask played in his 500th career game and became the 28th goaltender in league history to play all 500 games with one franchise, as well as the 72nd goaltender all time to reach 500 games in his career (10th active).
Meanwhile, Maple Leafs goaltender, Michael Hutchinson (0-2-1, 4.02 GAA, .890 SV% in four games played) made 35 saves on 39 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 6-1-2 (14 points) and remained 2nd in the Atlantic Divison, while the Maple Leafs fell to 5-4-2 (12 points)– stuck in 3rd place in the Atlantic.
Bruce Cassidy coached his 200th game as Boston’s head coach and is 123-53-24 in that span.
Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), David Krejci (upper body), Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) and Karson Kuhlman (tibia) made up Boston’s long list of players out due to injury on Tuesday night, while Steven Kampfer remained the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.
Krejci was placed on the injured reserve (retroactive to last week when his injury occurred), while Nordstrom returned to practice without the need for a no-contact sweater since the B’s returned from their trip up to Toronto last Saturday.
Kuhlman suffered a hairline nondisplaced fracture of his right tibia in Boston’s game against Toronto on Saturday (Oct. 19th) and will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks, as reported by the team moments after their win against the Maple Leafs Tuesday night.
As a result of Boston’s many injuries, Anders Bjork was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on emergency basis and took on Nordstrom’s usual role as the fourth line left wing alongside Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.
Bjork has 3-5–8 totals in seven games with Providence this season and has a plus-five rating in that span.
Ritchie was bumped up from the third line right wing to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle in place of Kuhlman, while Cassidy also moved David Backes up to the right side of the third line with Danton Heinen and Lindholm as a result.
Torey Krug interfered with Frederik Gauthier after the Leafs skater bumped David Pastrnak along the boards and left the league leading goal scorer hunched over on his way back to the bench.
Krug was assessed a minor penalty at 4:03 of the first period, yielding a power play for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs didn’t convert on the skater advantage.
Just past the midpoint of the opening frame, Pastrnak thought he scored the game’s first goal, but Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, used a coach’s challenge to review how the Bruins entered the attacking zone.
After review, it was determined that the play was offside leading up to Pastrnak’s would-be goal and thus, the score remained tied, 0-0 at 10:48.
Moments later, Andreas Johnsson hooked Kuraly at 16:26 and the Bruins went on the power play for their first time of the night.
It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on the skater advantage as Pastrnak (10) received the puck on his backhand, skated backwards in front of the crease and scored a between-the-legs goal through Hutchinson’s five-hole to give the B’s a power play goal and the, 1-0, lead at 17:15.
The goal was Pastrnak’s 300th career NHL point in his 329th career game– becoming the 4th fastest to reach 300 points in Bruins franchise history– and was assisted by Brad Marchand (9) and Krug (6).
Only Leon Draisaitl (328) has more points than Pastrnak among members from the same 2014 NHL Draft class and only Barry Pederson (235 games), Bobby Orr (279) and Ray Bourque (316) got to 300 points in their career for Boston faster than Pastrnak.
Just three seconds after the Bruins scored on the power play, Johnsson was sent back to the sin bin for roughing Wagner at 17:18.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
At the end of the first period, the B’s held a, 1-0, lead entering the first intermission, while holding an advantage in shots on goal, 12-10, as well.
Toronto led in blocked shots (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while the Bruins led in takeaways (4-2) and hits (11-8). Both teams had four giveaways each heading into the second period.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs power play was 0/1 and the B’s were 1/2.
Less than 90 seconds into the middle frame, Jake Muzzin tripped up DeBrusk and presented Boston with another power play at 1:18 of the second period.
The Bruins were not able to capitalize on their early skater advantage in the second frame and the Leafs killed off Muzzin’s minor without any harm.
In the vulnerable minute thereafter, Kasperi Kapanen (3) blasted a one-timer past Rask off a backhand drop pass from Alexander Kerfoot to tie the game, 1-1, at 4:23 of the second period.
Kerfoot (3) and Justin Holl (3) tallied the assists on Kapanen’s goal as Toronto pounced on Boston’s lackluster effort defending against Toronto’s rush.
But Marchand (5) responded with a quick goal of his own on a wrist shot from the slot that he sent high into the twine over Hutchinson’s glove side after receiving a pass from Pastrnak in the attacking zone.
Pastrnak (7) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins regained the lead, 2-1, at 6:09.
The two teams swapped goals in a 1:05 span of the middle period.
Midway through the middle frame, Zdeno Chara was called for tripping Gauthier even though Chara had actually interfered with the Leaf– catching the Toronto skater with a one-arm shove from about shoulder height instead of a trip and knocking him over.
Nonetheless, a minor penalty was indeed the right call and the Maple Leafs went on the power play at 11:40.
Toronto converted on a tic-tac-goal as Kerfoot (4) notched a power play goal from dead center in the slot while Rask was caught out of position– seconds behind the play.
William Nylander had sent a cross-ice pass to Kapanen, who tossed the puck back to Kerfoot in the slot for the goal at 12:54, tying the game, 2-2.
Kapanen (5) and Nylander (4) had the assists on Toronto’s power play goal as the Maple Leafs took full advantage of catching the Bruins off of their game in the middle frame.
Late in the period, Morgan Rielly tripped Kuraly and was assessed a minor penalty, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting skater advantage at 15:54.
Heading into the second intermission, the two teams were tied on the scoreboard, 2-2, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 25-22– even though Toronto actually held a, 13-12, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
Boston led in every other major statistical category, however, entering the third period, leading the Leafs in blocked shots (7-4), takeaways (11-4), giveaways (7-6), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Toronto was 1/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/4 to begin the final frame of regulation.
After Coyle dumped the puck around the glass for DeBrusk to dig out of the corner on the other side of Hutchinson, Ritchie (2) followed up on a loose puck after DeBrusk’s initial shot attempt was blocked by a Maple Leafs defender and buried a shot behind the Toronto netminder for what would be the eventual game-winning goal at 6:35 of the third period.
DeBrusk (2) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal as Boston retook the lead, 3-2.
Though Kuraly caught Johnsson with a high stick late in the final period at 15:48, Toronto’s power play was no match for Boston’s penalty killing unit– even after Babcock used his team’s timeout with 3:27 remaining in the game to try to draw up a game-tying play.
Seconds after being released from the box, Kuraly entered the offensive zone with the puck on his stick and sent a shot right in and out of Hutchinson’s glove.
Lindholm (1), the former Maple Leaf, scored on the rebound with a backhand tap-in goal to provide the Bruins with an insurance goal, giving Boston the two-goal lead, 4-2, at 17:57 of the third period.
Kuraly (3) had the only assist on Lindholm’s first goal as a Bruin.
Eight seconds after Boston extended their lead, Marchand picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, leaving his teammates shorthanded at 18:05, but the Leafs couldn’t score on the power play– even with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.
The Bruins secured another “W” in the win column with their, 4-2, victory over Toronto at the sound of the final horn.
Boston had defeated the Leafs for the 300th time in franchise history– the most wins vs. any opponent since the Bruins joined the NHL as the first American expansion team in 1924.
The B’s finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 39-30, including a, 14-8, advantage in the third period alone, as well as giveaways (10-8), hits (32-16) and faceoff win% (60-40), while Toronto finished the night leading in blocked shots (9-8).
Both teams went 1/4 on the power play as the Bruins improved to 300-265-111 all-time against Toronto in the regular season.
Boston has a few days off before they face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.
St. Louis will actually be the first back-to-back days with games for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.
The Bruins improved to 3-0-1 at home this season and 5-1-0 when leading after the first period. The B’s are also 5-1-1 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Morgan Rielly had two goals– including the game-winning goal in overtime– in the, 4-3, victory for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena Saturday night.
Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (5-2-0, 3.09 goals against average, .902 save percentage in seven games played) turned aside 43 shots out of 46 shots against for a .935 SV% in the overtime win for Toronto.
Meanwhile, Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (2-1-1, 2.23 GAA, .931 SV% in four games played) had 25 saves on 29 shots for an .862 SV% in the overtime loss for the B’s.
Boston fell to 5-1-2 (12 points) on the season, but retained 2nd place status in the Atlantic Division, while Toronto cemented their foundation in 3rd place with a 5-3-1 record (10 points) this season.
The Bruins fell to 3-1-1 on the road this season, while the Maple Leafs improved to 3-2-1 on home ice.
For the eighth time this season, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were out of the lineup due to injury. Joining them in not traveling to Toronto, were David Krejci (upper body) and Joakim Nordstrom (upper body), who also missed Saturday night’s action against the Maple Leafs.
With injuries piling up for Boston, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted David Backes on the fourth line right wing (moving Chris Wagner to the left side in place of Nordstrom) and flipped Brett Ritchie with Karson Kuhlman on the second and third lines.
Kuhlman rejoined Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle while Krejci is injured and Ritchie joined Danton Heinen and Par Lindholm on the third line.
Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for the Bruins on Saturday, while John Tavares (broken finger) was the only member of Toronto not already on the injured reserve, but out of the lineup due to injury nonetheless.
Tavares suffered his injury Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. in Toronto’s, 4-3, loss to the Capitals.
Zach Hyman (torn ACL), Travis Dermott (shoulder), Mason Marchment (undisclosed), David Clarkson (back) and Nathan Horton (back) are all on the injured reserve/long term injured reserve for the Leafs and were not in action against Boston.
Maple Leafs alternate captain, Morgan Rielly (1) scored his first goal of the season with a shot from the point the deflected off of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, and through Halak’s five-hole to give Toronto the lead, 1-0.
Mitch Marner (7) and Andreas Johnsson (3) tallied the assists on Rielly’s goal at 5:55 of the first period.
Almost ten minutes later, Sean Kuraly turned the puck over in his own zone, as Dmytro Timashov (1) stripped the Bruins fourth line center of the rubber biscuit, skated to the slot and wristed a shot over Halak’s glove side for his first career National Hockey League goal at 15:44.
Frederik Gauthier (1) had the only assist on Timashov’s goal and the Leafs led, 2-0.
In the final minute of the opening frame, Toronto’s two-goal lead was cut in half as DeBrusk (1) notched his first goal of the season from point blank in the low slot on a pass from Coyle at 19:39.
Coyle (2) and Wagner (2) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, after working hard to keep the puck in the attacking zone and setting up DeBrusk for the tally.
DeBrusk’s goal was the first goal for the Bruins by someone not named Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak in almost 200 minutes of hockey.
Entering the first intermission, the Maple Leafs led Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 18-15, in shots on goal.
Boston managed to hold the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while Toronto led in takeaways (7-3) and hits (12-6) heading into the second period.
Neither team had taken a penalty in the first period and thus both teams were still 0/0 on the power play.
Early in the middle frame, Ilya Mikheyev was called for holding against Carlo and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 1:56 of the second period.
Toronto’s penalty kill was too good for the B’s skater advantage, however.
Nicholas Shore tripped up Lindholm at 7:52 and the Leafs went back on the penalty kill, but were able to hold off Boston’s advances on the power play.
Late in the period, after being pushed by Martin Marincin and not able to stop because he had too much speed to begin with while crashing the net, Backes received a goaltender interference minor and was subsequently wrestled to the ice by Marincin at 16:41.
It appeared as though Toronto would see time on their first power play of the night, except for the roughing minor that was called for Marincin’s actions in front of the net.
Why? Nobody knows, but hey, both teams got through 4-on-4 action unscathed and resumed full strength, 5-on-5, play with 1:19 remaining in the second period.
But then Marincin hooked DeBrusk at 19:37 after a long flow of action in Toronto’s own zone without a stoppage.
So Boston would on be on the skater advantage into the third period as a result of not scoring at the conclusion of the second period.
The Maple Leafs entered the second intermission with the, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard after 40 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 33-18– including a, 15-3, advantage in the second period alone for Boston.
Toronto led in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (12-6) and hits (20-19) heading into the third period.
Boston led in giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (54-46) after two periods.
The Leafs had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/3 heading into the third period.
Boston’s power play from the second period extended into the final frame of regulation.
Late in the skater advantage, Ritchie worked a pass to Heinen (2) for the elevated shot over Andersen while the Maple Leafs goaltender dove to make a save, tying the game, 2-2, in the process.
Ritchie (1) and Pastrnak (6) had the assists on Heinen’s power play goal at 1:36 of the third period.
A mere 61 seconds later, Alexander Kerfoot (3) followed a rebound from point blank and floated a backhanded shot over Halak’s blocker side to give Toronto another lead, 3-2, at 2:37.
Jake Muzzin (4) and Mikheyev (4) tallied the assists on Kerfoot’s goal.
Late in the period, Bergeron tossed a pass to Marchand who sent the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the one-timer blast past Andersen’s short side over the blocker and into the twine to tie the game, 3-3, at 15:34.
Marchand (8) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s 15th point of the season.
No. 88 in black-and-gold now has 15 points in eight games so far this season and became the 5th Bruin in franchise history to record at least 15 points in his first 10 team games multiple times in his career, joining Bobby Orr (1969-70, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Phil Esposito (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74 and 1974-75), Bill Cowley (1940-41, 1943-44 and 1944-45) and Adam Oates (1992-93 and 1993-94), according to Conor Ryan of Boston Sports Journal.
At the end of regulation, the two teams were tied, 3-3, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 45-27.
Boston held a slight edge over Toronto in shots on net in the third period alone with a, 12-9, advantage.
The Leafs led the B’s in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (14-9), hits (34-32) and faceoff win% (54-47) after 60 minutes of play, but both teams had 16 giveaways each heading into overtime.
Toronto did not see any time on the power play and Boston finished 1/3 on the skater advantage as neither team was penalized in overtime.
Cassidy started Kuraly, Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy in overtime, while Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, went with Kerfoot, Kasperi Kapanen and Tyson Barrie.
With almost a minute remaining in overtime, Auston Matthews wrapped around the net and tossed a pass to Marner.
Marner fired a shot from the slot that deflected off of Rielly (2) and found its way over Halak’s blocker and into the back of the net to win the game, 4-3, for Toronto.
Marner (8) and Matthews (2) had the assists on Rielly’s game-winning goal at 3:54 of the overtime period.
The Maple Leafs won the game, 4-3, but trailed the Bruins in the final shots on goal total, 46-29.
Toronto controlled all the other statistics, however, finishing the night with the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (17-16), hits (36-34) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Leafs improved to 1-0 in overtime this season, while B’s fell to 0-1 in OT. It was the 2nd straight game that required overtime for Boston, but the first that ended before a shootout.
Boston and Toronto finish their home and home series Tuesday night at TD Garden.
The B’s then have a few days off before they face the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season at home on Oct. 26th.
St. Louis will actually be the first of games on back-to-back days for the Bruins, as Boston will travel to New York to face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27th before finishing the month at home against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 29th.
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.
Toronto Maple Leafs
46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Boston
Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)
Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)
Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy
Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson
Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.
Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.
Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.
This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.
Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.
At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.
Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.
Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.
Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.
Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.
He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.
Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.
Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.
Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.
In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.
In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.
Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.
As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.
Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.
For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.
Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.
The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.
And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.
But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.
The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.
To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.
Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.
Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.
But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.
The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.
One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…
At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.
Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.
38-30-14, 90 points, 5th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by San Jose
Additions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Andre Burakovsky (acquired from WSH, then re-signed), F Joonas Donskoi, F Nazem Kadri (acquired from TOR), F Jayson Megna, F Valeri Nichushkin, F T.J. Tynan, D Kevin Connauton (acquired from ARI), D Jacob MacDonald (acquired from FLA), D Dan Renouf, D Calle Rosen (acquired from TOR)
Subtractions: F Andrew Agozzino (signed with PIT), F Sven Andrighetto (KHL), F Gabriel Bourque (signed with WPG), F Derick Brassard (signed with NYI), F Alexander Kerfoot (traded to TOR), F Scott Kosmachuk (traded to WSH), F Max McCormick (signed with CAR), F Julien Nantel (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Carl Soderberg (traded to ARI), F Dominic Toninato (traded to FLA), D Tyson Barrie (traded to TOR), D Mason Geertsen (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with DET), D David Warsofsky (signed with PIT), G Joe Cannata (Sweden), G Spencer Martin (signed with TBL), G Semyon Varlamov (signed with NYI)
Still Unsigned: F Mikko Rantanen
Re-signed: F J.T. Compher, F Sheldon Dries, F A.J. Greer, F Vladislav Kamenev, F Colin Wilson, D Ryan Graves, D Anton Lindholm, D Nikita Zadorov
Offseason Analysis: Pencil in Joe Sakic for General Manager of the Year 2019-20, because the Colorado Avalanche are a legit team on paper.
Sakic still has about $15.615 million in cap space, but even that should be enough to satisfy– current restricted free agent– Mikko Rantanen’s needs and then some.
Regardless, Sakic went to work on improving a roster that was one win away from the franchise’s first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002.
First, Colorado traded Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for Kevin Connauton and a 2020 3rd round pick on June 25th.
Then the Avs followed it up by acquiring Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2020 2nd round pick and the 2020 3rd round pick previously acquired in the Soderberg trade on June 28th.
Burakovsky was quickly signed to a one-year deal worth $3.250 million as a “prove it” contract. The 24-year-old winger is finally free from the shadows of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Co., but now he can’t hide anymore.
It’s a make or break year as he’s never scored more than 38 points in a season.
Sakic made a minor move with the Florida Panthers a day after the Burakovsky trade, then made a big splash on July 1st and it wasn’t of the free agent variety.
Colorado shipped Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick.
The Avalanche retained 50% of Barrie’s salary ($2.750 million) in the transaction, leaving Toronto with the uneasy task of balancing their checkbooks now that Mitch Marner is re-signed.
Barrie is a versatile defender that will give the Maple Leafs some added flavor to their special teams, but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at season’s end. That’s not Sakic’s problem, however.
Instead, Sakic is focused on continuing to trust in Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, and Bednar’s process.
Bednar has a plethora of new faces that he’ll have to get onboard with his plan.
For starters, Kadri won’t have to face the Boston Bruins in the First Round (assuming Colorado makes the playoffs in 2020, which is a pretty safe bet), so Bednar shouldn’t have too much of a problem reigning him in.
Overall the Avs are relying on their youth, a revamped defense and a stronger top-nine presence with Joonas Donskoi having signed a four-year deal at $3.900 million per season in addition to Sakic’s trade work.
Some experts are picking the Avalanche to win the Cup in 2020, but that might be too much of a stretch too soon.
Colorado is starting to open a championship window, however, so it’d be a major disappointment if they don’t at least get to the Stanley Cup Final in the coming years.
Offseason Grade: A
If there’s a team that’s a dark horse to win the Cup this season out of all the playoff teams from last season, it’s the Avalanche, for sure. That said, Sakic’s moves in the offseason may take a full year to gel (a la Erik Karlsson’s transition from Ottawa to San Jose– East to West), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Colorado’s knocked out before the Final.
But in terms of fixing holes and building off of what’s already on the roster, Sakic hit it out of the park. The Avs are good and should be good as long as they don’t have to rely solely on goaltending (Philipp Grubauer is one deep postseason run away from proving his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL).
The Colorado Avalanche’s first line was more prominent than the Boston Bruins’ first line in Wednesday night’s, 6-3, loss for Boston as the two top-line superpowers collided at Pepsi Center in Denver.
Mikko Rantanen (1-2–3 totals), Nathan MacKinnon (1-1–2) and Gabriel Landeskog (1-0–1) combined for six points on the night for Colorado, while Boston’s David Pastrnak (1-1–2), Patrice Bergeron (0-1–1) and Brad Marchand (0-0–0, minus-1) combined for three points.
Semyon Varlamov (6-5-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average in 13 games played) made 20 saves on 23 shots against for an .870 SV% in the win for the Avs, while Jaroslav Halak (6-2-2, .932 SV%, 2.16 GAA in 12 GP) made 19 saves on 25 shots faced for a .760 SV% in the loss for the B’s.
Boston maintained 3rd place in the Atlantic Division with a 10-6-2 record (22 points) on the season, while Colorado improved to 4th place in the Central Division with a 9-6-3 (21 points) record.
The Bruins had been on a two-game winning streak coming off of a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and a 4-1 win on Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept the same lineup from the weekend for Boston, but with the added advantage of Tuukka Rask back with the team as a backup goaltender Wednesday night in his return from a personal leave of absence.
Rask will get the start against the Dallas Stars on Friday or Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
Defenseman, Jakub Zboril, was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) the other day as Dan Vladar was sent back down to Providence.
Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Urho Vaakanainen may join the team at some point on the road trip, but did not make the initial journey to Colorado on Tuesday. Fellow injured blue liner, Kevan Miller traveled with the team to Denver, but is aiming to return on the road in Detroit against the Red Wings on Nov. 21st.
Wednesday night’s scratches for Boston were as follows: Carlo (upper body), Noel Acciari (healthy scratch), Vaakanainen (concussion), Zboril (healthy scratch), McAvoy (concussion) and Miller (hand).
The Battle of the Best First Lines began with Gabriel Landeskog (12) striking first at 10:16 of the first period as the Bruins couldn’t clear the puck out of their zone.
Zdeno Chara‘s turnover led to Mikko Rantanen finding Joakim Nordstrom out of position and sending Landeskog a pass without pressure for the snipe and a 1-0 lead for Colorado. Rantanen (12) had the only assist on Landeskog’s goal.
Avalanche defender, Mark Barberio, was guilty of cross checking Bruins forward, David Backes, at 14:50 of the first period and received a minor penalty– sending Boston on their first power play of the night.
Late in the ensuing power play, David Krejci worked a slap pass from the face-off circle on Varlamov’s right side along the dasher to David Pastrnak (17) in the low slot for the redirection and power play goal that tied the game, 1-1.
Backes (1) tipped the puck in the midst of Krejci’s (14) pass to Pastrnak, thereby lending the Three Davids to collect all of the possible points on the goal (Backes and Krejci the assists and Pastrnak the goal) at 16:43.
Moments later, on a turnover, turned breakaway opportunity, Jake DeBrusk (6) capitalized on an unassisted effort by getting Varlamov to commit and roof the puck into the the twine at 19:20 of the first period– giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
As both teams entered the dressing room for the first intermission, the B’s led in shots on goal (10-7) and on the scoreboard, 2-1. Boston also led in shot attempts that hit the post, 4-0, as well as hits, 8-4. Colorado had the advantage in takeaways (2-1), giveaways (3-1) and face-off win percentage (92-8) after the first period.
Both teams had three blocked shots each and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play after one period. The Avs had yet to see time on the skater advantage.
DeBrusk (7) scored his second goal of the night (and first on the power play) after Grzelcyk kept the play alive in the offensive zone, completing a pass to Bergeron for the bumper back to Pastrnak who then one-timed a shot from the point that redirected off DeBrusk in front of Varlamov to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
Pastrnak (8) and Bergeron (17) were credited with the primary and secondary assists at 3:05 of the second period.
Pastrnak later hooked Barberio at 7:52 of the middle frame and the Bruins were shorthanded as a result for the first time in the action Wednesday night.
The Avalanche matched Boston’s puck moving efforts on their first power play of the evening with Tyson Barrie working the puck to MacKinnon for a cross-ice pass to Rantanen.
The young Colorado forward then snapped a shot past Halak’s blocker side to make it a one-goal game on the power play.
Ranatnen’s (7) goal at 8:47 of the second period was assisted by MacKinnon (14) and Barrie (14) and gave the Avs a distinct swing in momentum for the rest of the period.
With Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, unable to return to the game having sustained a lower body injury in the first period, Colorado pounced on the already weakened Boston blue line.
This, even after Nikita Zadorov had a brief visit to the penalty box for interfering with Bruins forward, Chris Wagner at 9:14. Colorado killed off Zadorov’s minor infraction with ease and kept the momentum going, leading in just about every statistical category by the end of the period.
Late in the second period, Bergeron hooked Rantanen who then embellished the infraction and received an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty himself and the teams would see 4-on-4 action at 19:11 of the second period.
Both teams would start the third a skater short for a little over a minute into the final frame.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Colorado Avalanche looked more and more like the complete 60-minute game playing style team that they have been so far this season and the Boston Bruins were looking like they were on the brink of collapse.
Boston still led the game, 3-2, entering the second intermission, but shots on goal were even, 14-14, with the Avs leading, 7-4, in the second period alone. The Bruins led in blocked shots (10-6), but the Avalanche led in everything else including, takeaways (6-5), giveaways (5-1), hits (13-10) and face-off win% (69-31).
Colorado was 1/1 on the power play, while Boston was 2/3 with the extra skater.
Early in the third period, Matt Calvert (2) converted on his second goal of the season after following up with the original play and crashing the net for a haphazardly taken backhand spin-o-rama that eyes set for the twine after a wacky bounce resulted off of Halak.
Calvert’s goal was unassisted at 2:11 of the third period and tied the game, 3-3.
From there, it was all Avalanche as the Bruins tumbled down the mountain that is the immense comeback capability of Colorado.
MacKinnon (12) added a goal of his own with a wrist shot that beat Halak cleanly from about the blue line on a rush into the attacking zone, giving the Avs their 2nd lead of the night, 4-3, at 9:02.
Rantanen (22) and Ian Cole (5) had the assists on what would become MacKinnon’s game-winning goal.
Krejci was guilty of holing Tyson Jost at 13:40 of the third period and with one second remaining on the ensuing power play, Jost (3) made the Bruins pay as former Bruin, Carl Soderberg, initially swiped at the puck through the legs of the Boston netminder, leaving the puck sitting at the goal line behind Halak, whereby Jost tapped it into the empty net.
With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker. Jared Bednar’s Avalanche were too much for the Bruins to handle, narrowly missing the empty net goal if it weren’t for Krejci’s heroics by the time the loose puck reached the crease on one empty net attempt.
However, while in the offensive zone on a last-ditch effort, Bergeron hooked his stick around MacKinnon and was penalized with a two-minute minor infraction at 18:57.
The Avalanche completed the hat trick on the power play with their third power play goal of the night on the ensuing skater advantage when Kerfoot (8) tipped a blast from Soderberg past Halak at 19:45 of the third period.
Soderberg (6) and Girard (8) had the assists on the goal and Colorado secured the 6-3 win as time expired.
At the final horn, the Avs led in shots on goal (25-23), giveaways (6-2), hits (22-15) and face-off win% (59-41), while the B’s led in blocked shots (20-18). Colorado was 3/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/3 on the skater advantage.
The Avalanche outscored Boston, 10-3, in their two meetings last season.
Boston is now 0-1-0 to begin a four-game road trip that swings through Dallas (Nov. 16th), Arizona (Nov. 17th) and Detroit (Nov. 21st)– after Wednesday night’s loss in Denver– before heading back home for a Black Friday (Nov. 23rd) matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
43-30-9, 95 points, 4th in the Central Division
2nd Wild Card in the West, lost in First Round to NSH 4-2
Subtractions: G Jonathan Bernier (signed with DET), F Blake Comeau (signed with DAL), F Felix Girard (signed with the Manitoba Moose, AHL), D Jesse Graham (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Rocco Grimaldi (signed with NSH), G Andrew Hammond (signed with MIN), D Brooks Orpik (acquired from WSH, bought out, then signed with WSH), F Nail Yakupov (signed, KHL)
Offseason Analysis: Now that Erik Karlsson has been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic has had one of the best offseasons. Kidding aside, the Senators lottery protected their 2018 1st round pick in the three-team Matt Duchene trade, meaning the Avalanche have Ottawa’s 2019 1st round pick in addition to their own.
The #LoseForHughes watch has begun.
But as for Colorado’s offseason, things have gone swimmingly as Sakic’s roster made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2014. Blake Comeau’s 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 79 games in 2017-18 have departed for Dallas. In his top-nine forward role, Sakic replaced the 32-year-old Comeau with 28-year-old, Matt Calvert.
Calvert had 9-15–24 totals in 69 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and is looking to turn things around in health and in offensive production as a top-nine forward.
While Colorado’s top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen look to continue leading the team in production, Alexander Kerfoot seeks to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump on the second line.
On defense, Sakic knows time is on his side.
Nikita Zadorov and Tyson Barrie have made an effective pairing with Samuel Girard and Erik Johnson contesting for more ice time. Girard had an impressive rookie debut with three goals and 17 assists (20 points) in 68 games played, while Barrie and Johnson played veteran roles– anchoring the blue line for the Avs.
Patrik Nemeth proved to be a smart pickup off waivers from the Stars last season as a bottom-pair defender, so it was an easy decision to re-sign with the NHL’s hottest up-and-coming team from a 48-point season in 2016-17 to a 95-point effort (and playoff berth) in 2017-18.
To complete his top-six defensemen on the depth chart, Sakic signed 29-year-old durable defender, Ian Cole, to a three-year contract worth a friendly $4.250 million per season.
Cole had 20 points in 67 games with the Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins last season and is looking to prove that he’s more than just a flash in the pan at this point in his career.
A two-time Cup winner with the Penguins, Cole is in the midst of his prime and brings a competitive edge to the Avs in his quiet stability.
In goal, Semyon Varlamov has some competition for the starting job– if he can stay healthy– as Philipp Grubauer was acquired at the draft in June and signed to a three-year extension at a cap friendly $3.333 million per season.
Grubauer, 26, dropped the first two games of the Washington Capitals postseason run in April while Braden Holtby was figuring himself out, but managed a 15-10-3 record in 35 games played in the 2017-18 regular season as Washington’s backup. He also had a 2.35 goals against average and .923 save percentage in his most games played in a season since reaching the NHL during the 2012-13 season.
Varlamov, 30, managed to play in 51 games last season, despite injuries, and amassed a 24-16-6 record to go along with a 2.68 GAA and .916 SV%. Last season was much better than his 6-17-0 record in 24 games played in 2016-17, in which Varlamov had a career-worst 3.38 GAA and .898 SV%.
With one-year remaining on his contract at $5.900 million a season, Varlamov’s reached a make-or-break point in his career, let alone his time in the Mile High City. Grubauer is the way of the foreseeable future and a little healthy competition never hurt anyone for the starting job.
Sure Jonathan Bernier’s moved on to the Detroit Red Wings, but Colorado has one of the most sought after goalies that was on the slim trade market among options in the crease.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Avalanche had some needs and they filled them. In accordance with hockey logic, Colorado shouldn’t be as good as they were last season this season, but for the first time in at least a few years it appears they’ve found a reliable goaltender.
As MacKinnon continues to emerge and the kids grow into their own, Sakic’s roster looks set to make some waves in the coming years– at least as a spoiler (they took Nashville to six games before being eliminated after all), if not something more.
Despite acquiring Brooks Orpik only to buy him out as some sort of larger scheme the Capitals secretly wanted all along to sign him to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, Colorado didn’t make a bad choice this offseason. It’s just the beginning of making themselves an attractive free agent destination once again.