Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.
Danton Heinen scored the eventual game-winner early in the first period and the Boston Bruins held on for a, 2-1, victory on the road against the Dallas Stars to kick off the 2019-20 season.
Tuukka Rask (1-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average in one game played) made 28 saves on 29 shots faced for a .966 save percentage in the win at American Airlines Center for Boston, while Ben Bishop (0-1-0, 2.07 GAA, .900 SV% in one game played) turned aside 18 out of 20 shots against in the loss for Dallas.
Boston began their 96th season in franchise history, while Dallas kicked off their 27th season since relocating from Minnesota (53rd season if you include their North Stars days).
David Krejci (lower body), Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder) and Joakim Nordstrom (foot) were all out of the lineup for the Bruins.
Krejci was a game-time decision, per B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Miller and Nordstrom were placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with Miller on track for a hopeful return to game action by mid-October.
Moore was placed on long-term injured reserve to start the season and likely won’t be back with the team until mid-November.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Boston placed Peter Cehlarik and Maxime Lagacé on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Both players cleared and were assigned to Providence.
Others, like Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Cameron Hughes, Jack Studnicka and Jakub Zboril, were sent to Providence without having to clear waivers as part of Boston’s final cuts upon the conclusion of the preseason.
Joe Pavelski and Andrej Sekera made their Stars debuts, while Corey Perry remains out of the lineup due to injury.
In his first shift for his new team in his first game against his old team, Brett Ritchie (1) scored on his first shot of the season to give Boston their first, 1-0, lead of the season 69 seconds into the action.
Charlie Coyle (1) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal at 1:09 of the first period, as the duo collaborated on the Bruins’ first goal of the 2019-20 season.
About a few minutes later, Stars forward, Alexander Radulov, was penalized for holding at 4:23 and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the season.
After receiving the puck from Matt Grzelcyk, Heinen (1) fired a wrist shot over Bishop’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead at 5:59 of the first period.
Grzelcyk (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s first power play goal of the season as Cassidy’s second power play unit converted on the skater advantage.
Late in the period, Radek Faksa caught Sean Kuraly with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 17:33.
The Bruins did not score on the ensuing power play.
Prior to the stoppage for the delayed call, however, Brad Marchand tried to chip the puck across the ice to a teammate and inadvertently deflected the puck off of Sekera’s stick into Blake Comeau’s face, leaving the Dallas forward with a bloody mouth.
After 20 minutes of play into the 2019-20 season, Boston led Dallas, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 6-4, in shots on goal.
The Stars led in blocked shots (9-3), takeaways (2-0), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while hits were even (7-7).
Boston was 1/2 on the power play and Dallas had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Early in the second period, Stars defender, Roman Polak, went to make a hit on Bruins forward, Chris Wagner, and pushed Wagner’s lower body with enough force to help spin the forward out of the way, but in doing so, exposing himself to the brunt of the boards– head first, right about at the back of his neck– as Polak tumbled into the corner.
He was stretchered off the ice and sent to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
Roope Hintz (1) went top-shelf on Rask’s glove side to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, a mere 51 seconds after the stoppage for Polak’s injury.
Mattias Janmark (1) and Pavelski (1) recorded the primary and secondary assists on Hintz’s breakaway goal at 7:55 of the second period.
The secondary assist was Pavelski’s first point with Dallas in his first game with the club since signing with the Stars in free agency on July 1st– leaving the San Jose Sharks (where he had played since the 2006-07 season after being drafted by San Jose in 2003).
Almost a couple of minutes later, Radulov tripped Bruins newcomer, Par Lindholm, at 9:30 of the middle frame and was assessed a minor infraction.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
After killing off Radulov’s second penalty of the night, Dallas found themselves shorthanded once again as Janmark was sent to the penalty box for interference at 16:00 of the second period.
During the resulting media timeout, the Stars tweeted that Comeau suffered a lower body injury, Jason Dickinson suffered an upper body injury and that Polak had been transported to the hospital for evaluation.
All three players would not return Thursday night’s game.
A little more than halfway into Boston’s power play, McAvoy was penalized for interference against Tyler Seguin at 17:12.
Both teams would play 4-on-4 for 48 seconds, then Dallas would have an abbreviated power play.
Neither team took advantage of the special teams opportunities.
Through two periods of play, the Bruins led the Stars, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while shots on goal were even (13-13).
Dallas held a, 9-7, in shots on goal in the second period, while the Stars also led in blocked shots (12-9), takeaways (8-1), giveaways (12-7) and hits (11-7) entering the second intermission.
Boston led in faceoff win%, 53-37, after 40 minutes.
The Stars were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
Less than a minute into the third period, Zdeno Chara was penalized for interference. Dallas did not score on the ensuing power play, but went on to establish complete control of the stat sheet in the final frame of regulation.
Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, pulled Bishop for an extra attacker with about 85 seconds remaining in the game, but Dallas couldn’t muster one past Rask.
Boston sealed the deal on the, 2-1, win for their first victory of the season, despite being outshot, 29-20, in the game.
The Stars held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone and led in blocked shots (18-16), giveaways (17-10), hits (15-12) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Bruins finished the night 1/4 on the power play, while Dallas went 0/2 on the skater advantage.
The B’s improved to 1-0-0 on the season and continue their four-game road trip to kick things off with a stop in Arizona against the Coyotes on Saturday, before visiting the Vegas Golden Knights next Tuesday and the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.
Boston makes their home debut at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 12th.
Chara began his 14th season as captain of the Bruins, trailing Ray Bourque for the most consecutive seasons as captain in franchise history (Bourque was captain for 15 seasons). Only Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic served as captains of their franchises for longer than Chara and Bourque.
Yzerman served as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for 19 seasons and Sakic was captain of the Québec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche for 16 seasons. Both are now the current General Managers of the aforementioned clubs (Yzerman with Detroit, Sakic with Colorado).
Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron remains the longest active tenured alternate captain in the league, having assumed his current role since the 2006-07 season.
43-32-7, 93 points, 4th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Tanner Kero, F Joe Pavelski, F Corey Perry, D Andrej Sekera
Subtractions: F Erik Condra (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Ryan Hartman (signed with MIN), F Valeri Nichushkin (bought out), F Tyler Pitlick (traded to PHI), F Brett Ritchie (signed with BOS), F Jason Spezza (signed with TOR), F Mats Zuccarello (signed with MIN), D Niklas Hansson (SHL), D Ben Lovejoy (retired), D Chris Martenet (signed with Brampton, ECHL), G Philippe Desrosiers (signed with FLA)
Still Unsigned: D Julius Honka, D Marc Methot
Re-signed: F Jason Dickinson, D Gavin Bayreuther, D Dillon Heatherington, D Reece Scarlett, G Landon Bow
Offseason Analysis: Dallas Stars General Manager, Jim Nill, had one thing to do this offseason and one thing only– improve the offense.
Dallas’ defense is still growing into its own and will take care of itself as one of the better underrated blue lines in the league, plus Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin make a strong tandem in the crease.
While the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are great on paper to the Stars’ offense, each comes with a price.
Pavelski is 35-years-old and tallied 38 goals in 75 games played last season– tying a career-high that he set in the 2015-16 season. Perry is 34-years-old and six goals in 31 games played last season.
The former was injured in the playoffs, but doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down, even if he only scores 20-25 goals a season. Over the course of Pavelski’s three-year deal with Dallas, that’s not a terrible amount of offense, but if he deviates from the norm and regresses at all… well, he still carries a $7.000 million cap hit.
It’s a gamble considering the age factor, but it’s not the worst contract in the world.
Perry, on the other hand, has been oft-injured as of the last couple of seasons and looks like a shell of his former “Scorey” self.
The good news? Nill was smart and signed Perry to a one-year contract worth $1.500 million.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward– no foul– signing.
But with Pavelski, Perry and newcomer, Andrej Sekera, all added to the roster, Dallas’ average age across the board has only gotten older.
In a league that emphasizes youth, speed and hand-eye coordination, let’s just hope the Stars have discovered the Fountain of Youth and can beat the aging curve.
Other than that, head coach, Jim Montgomery knows what to expect out of his core and can depend on Pavelski to make something happen when Alexander Radulov falls into a lull from time-to-time.
Offseason Grade: C+
The Stars didn’t have to go out and land the biggest star in free agency, so they went out and got a modest harvest instead. Nill signed Pavelski at a steep price on what would otherwise be a bad contract if it were longer than three-years, but it’s really only as bad as when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Patrick Marleau for three-years and over $6.000 million.
Something about ex-Sharks in the 35-plus category… Other general managers have learned from Toronto’s mistake to stay away– even if there’s a boost in the locker room for a season or two. At least Dallas had the room to make it work and has enough pending free agents in July 2020 to ease their salary cap concerns.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.
Or maybe you won’t.
Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)
San Jose went 3-0-0 in their regular season series against Colorado, but the Avs were 0-2-1 against the Calgary Flames entering their First Round matchup. In short, the regular season doesn’t mean much. Seriously.
Calgary had home ice advantage and lost two out of their three home games in the First Round to the Avalanche.
The Sharks trailed, 3-1, in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights, then Tomas Hertl guaranteed things would go seven games and they did.
Then the Sharks pulled off an improbable comeback in Game 7, overcoming a three-goal deficit in the third period to win in overtime a la the 2013 Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs that postseason.
Colorado’s first line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen is back firing on all cylinders, while Philipp Grubauer (4-1-0 record, 1.89 goals against average, .939 save percentage in five games played this postseason) has locked down the crease in the Mile High City.
Martin Jones (4-2-0, 3.20 GAA, .904 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has been all over the place in the crease for the Sharks.
With Erik Karlsson amassing nine assists in the last series, San Jose’s defense is quite the two-way prowess in the wake of Colorado’s mostly “shut-down” blue line.
This series is going to come down to whether the Avs can get out to a lead and withhold the inevitable Sharks comeback or if San Jose can limit Colorado’s scoring chances and will the scoreboard to their advantage.
After six games, expect the Avalanche to come out on top of the mountain and make their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002 when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.
Regular season outcomes:
5-2 SJS at SAP Center on April 6th, 4-3 SJS at SAP Center on March 1st, 5-4 SJS at Pepsi Center on Jan. 2nd
4/26- Game 1 COL @ SJS 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/28- Game 2 COL @ SJS 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/30- Game 3 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/2- Game 4 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/4- Game 5 COL @ SJS*
5/6- Game 6 SJS @ COL*
5/8- Game 7 COL @ SJS*
C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)
Despite facing the Stars solely in the second-half of the regular season– whereby the Blues went on an incredible run to the postseason backstopped by rookie sensation, Jordan Binnington (4-2-0, 2.63 GAA, .908 SV% in six games played this posteason)– St. Louis went 1-3-0 against Dallas in 2018-19.
Of course, as already noted, the regular season series record doesn’t mean much when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, but is it possible the Stars are the only team that could make Binnington nervous?
Surely St. Louis’ roster can’t be too nervous, what with Jaden Schwartz notching the natural hat trick in Game 6 against the Winnipeg Jets– almost single handedly eliminating the Jets himself– and the rest of the Blues, like David Perron, overcoming Winnipeg’s speed and skill to get to the Second Round.
But the sheer fire power of the Stars was hard to contain by one of the best defenses on paper in the Nashville Predators. Alexander Radulov had a two-goal game en route to Dallas heading home to clinch their series against the Preds in six games.
Then there’s the best goaltending of the Western Conference to consider. The real wild card that could steal the Vezina Trophy this season (as he is a finalist).
Ben Bishop (4-2-0, 1.89 GAA, .945 SV% in six games this postseason) has been lights out in the regular season and playoffs so far.
There’s no way this series isn’t going seven games. If it falls short, then that’s an abomination on behalf of The Hockey Gods.
That said, St. Louis has the all-important home ice advantage should it come down to– when it comes down to a Game 7. Because of that, the Blues will meet the Avalanche in the 2019 Western Conference Final.
Regular season outcomes:
4-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on March 2nd, 5-2 DAL at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21st, 3-1 STL at American Airlines Center on Jan. 12th, 3-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on Jan. 8th
4/25- Game 1 DAL @ STL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
4/27- Game 2 DAL @ STL 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS
4/29- Game 3 STL @ DAL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
5/1- Game 4 STL @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
5/3- Game 5 DAL @ STL* 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, TVAS
5/5- Game 6 STL @ DAL*
5/7- Game 7 DAL @ STL*
In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.
In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.
P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)
The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”
Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.
Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.
Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.
Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.
For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.
Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.
Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.
Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.
In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.
Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.
Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?
Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th
4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2
4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*
4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*
4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)
The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.
Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.
There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.
Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.
Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.
Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.
In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.
For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.
The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.
But this time around feels different.
San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th
4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*
4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*
4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*
C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)
A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.
It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.
For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).
Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.
Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.
Oh. Again. Never mind.
While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.
In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.
Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.
This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?
Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.
On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.
Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.
But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.
Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.
As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.
Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.
Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.
It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th
4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2
4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*
4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*
4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*
C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.
This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.
Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.
Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.
In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).
Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.
Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.
Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.
However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.
The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.
This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.
Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.
Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).
Don’t try to mess with what’s working.
Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.
Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.
For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.
Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.
Regular season outcomes:
1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th
4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3
4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2
4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*
4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*
4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*
Nick and Connor recap and react to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship so far, review the latest suspensions and injuries, look to the future of the NHL in 2019 and beyond, discuss 2019 All-Star Game captains, Jake Guentzel’s new extension and Jim Lites’ quotes on Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?
Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.