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NHL Nick's Net

Forbort scores pair in, 5-2, win for Boston

Derek Forbort notched his first career two-goal game and earned his second career game-winning goal in the process, while leading the Boston Bruins to a, 5-2, win over the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Linus Ullmark (4-3-0, 2.86 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in seven games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the win for Boston.

Philadelphia goaltender, Martin Jones (3-2-0, 2.82 goals-against average, .920 save percentage in five games played), stopped 39 out of 44 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 9-5-0 (18 points) on the season and remain 5th in the Atlantic Division, while the Flyers fell to 8-5-3 (19 points) overall and stuck in 4th place in the Metropolitan Division.

As a result of Saturday night’s win, the B’s are now 1-1-0 against Philadelphia this season and will face the Flyers once more in the 2021-22 regular season schedule on Jan. 13th at TD Garden.

Trent Frederic (upper body) remained out of the lineup for Boston, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lines with Craig Smith and Curtis Lazar returning to action.

Smith took to the third line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and Erik Haula at center, while Lazar was inserted on the fourth line right wing with Anton Blidh to the left of Tomáš Nosek.

On defense, Mike Reilly was back after serving as a healthy scratch in Boston’s, 5-2, victory over the Montréal Canadiens last Sunday.

Reilly suited up on the left side of the third defensive pairing with Jakub Zboril as his partner and Connor Clifton joining Karson Kuhlman in the press box on the short list of healthy scratches for the Bruins.

Oskar Steen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.

Taylor Hall tripped up Claude Giroux to present the Flyers with their first power play of the night at 4:36 of the first period, but Philadelphia wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, Giroux tripped Brandon Carlo and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the evening at 10:19.

The Bruins even had a 5-on-3 advantage for 12 seconds when Justin Braun tripped David Pastrnak at 12:07, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on either power play.

Late in the period, Lazar went deep on a forecheck and ensured that a puck chipped in from Matt Grzelcyk would find its way onto another Bruins skater’s stick.

Blidh sent a quick pass to Nosek from the trapezoid to the slot where Nosek (2) elevated a backhand shot under the bar from close range to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0, at 18:25 of the first period.

Blidh (2) and Lazar (3) tallied the assists on Nosek’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and outshot the Flyers, 21-8.

The B’s also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2) and hits (9-7), while Philly led in blocked shots (3-1), giveaways (4-2) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

Philadelphia was 0/1 on the power play, while Boston was 0/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

It didn’t take the Bruins long to extend their lead to two-goals as Forbort (3) sent a blast from the point that may have tipped off of Braun’s stick and floated over Jones’ blocker side to make it, 2-0, 30 seconds into the second period.

Brad Marchand (12) and Pastrnak (10) recorded the assists on Forbort’s first goal of the night.

Less than a minute later, however, Boston gave up a goal as Cam Atkinson won a race to a loose puck in the trapezoid and bounced a shot off of Ullmark before Derick Brassard (3) scooped up the rebound goal while crashing the net– cutting Boston’s lead in half.

Atkinson (3) and Rasmus Ristolainen (4) had the assists on the goal and the Flyers trailed, 2-1, at 1:22 of the second period.

About a couple minutes later, Forbort tripped Joel Farabee and was sent to the penalty box at 3:42, but Philadelphia wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Marchand cut a rut to the sin bin after a post-whistle scrum resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction at 8:30.

It didn’t take the Flyers long to convert on the power play as Brassard (4) received a pass that deflected off of Lazar’s stick and buried a catch and release goal– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Giroux (8) and Ivan Provorov (4) tabbed the assists on Brassard’s power-play goal at 9:25 of the second period.

About a minute later, Charlie McAvoy took exception to Farabee’s aggressive play and the two exchanged fisticuffs– yielding five-minute majors for fighting at 10:32, as a result.

Late in the period, Smith setup Forbort (4) for a snap shot over Jones’ glove and under the bar to put Boston ahead, 3-2, on what became the eventual game-winning goal.

Smith (1) and DeBrusk (2) had the assists on Forbort’s second goal of the game as the Bruins defender doubled his career-high goals in a season (four) in just his 14th game with Boston at 16:27 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 34-19, including a, 13-11, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston led in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (5-4), hits (25-18) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.

Philadelphia was 1/3 on the power play, while the Bruins remained 0/2 on the skater advantage entering the final frame.

Early in the final frame, Haula fed Smith with a lead pass into the zone before Smith (1) beat Jones on the short side to give Boston another two-goal lead.

Haula (2) and DeBrusk (3) tallied the assists on Smith’s first goal of the season and the Bruins led, 4-2, at 1:28 of the third period.

Oskar Lindblom was sent to the sin bin for hooking at 4:11, but Boston’s power play didn’t last long as Patrice Bergeron cut a rut in Lindblom’s wake with a hooking infraction of his own at 4:29.

After a span of 1:42 at 4-on-4, the Flyers had an abbreviated power play, but couldn’t muster anything past Ullmark.

Carlo went to the box for tripping Brassard at 11:54 and Philadelphia was set to begin a power play on an offensive zone faceoff– except Brassard got thrown out before the draw, so Giroux glided in to take the faceoff against Bergeron, but then the resulting redo was botched.

Bergeron might have accidentally nudged the linesman, but officials on the ice determined it was Giroux– for some unexplained reason– that had committed a faceoff violation and (seeing as it was Philadelphia’s second violation on the same faceoff) resulted in an automatic bench minor for delay of game.

Giroux protested to no avail as Zack MacEwen skated to the box at 11:54– negating Philly’s power play for 4-on-4 action instead.

Less than a minute later, Pastrnak sent a pass back to Zboril in the attacking zone whereby Zboril was patient with the puck before giving it back to his fellow Czechia native.

Pastrnak (5) then held the rubber biscuit while cutting through the slot before wrapping the puck high behind Jones’ glove into the open twine.

Zboril (2) and Charlie Coyle (4) were credited with the assists as the Bruins took a, 5-2, lead at 12:47 of the third period.

Finally, in the last entry on the event sheet for the night, Forbort hooked MacEwen and was assessed a minor infraction at 14:20, but the Flyers couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 44-31, despite trailing Philadelphia, 12-10, in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins exited the building leading in blocked shots (9-8), giveaways (7-5), hits (33-29) and faceoff win% (51-49).

The Flyers finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while the B’s left Wells Fargo Center 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Boston improved to 7-3-0 (3-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 7-0-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 6-1-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, dropped to 2-5-1 (1-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-3-1 (1-2-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-4-2 (0-2-1 on home ice) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home on Sunday to host the Calgary Flames before hitting the road to face the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center next Wednesday (Nov. 24th) prior to closing out November with a three-game homestand including next Friday’s (Nov. 26th) matinee matchup with the New York Rangers– which will air nationally on ABC at 1 p.m. ET as part of the 2021 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins dance with Devils in, 5-2, matinée victory

Brad Marchand had a pair of goals as the Boston Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, at Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.

Bruins netminder, Jeremy Swayman (4-2-0, 2.18 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in six games played) made 27 saves on 29 shots against in the win.

Jonathan Bernier (4-2-0, 2.80 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 31 out of 35 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 7-5-0 (14 points) on the season and moved ahead of the Buffalo Sabres for 5th place in the Atlantic Division standings by virtue of games-in-hand (the Bruins have played 12 games, while Buffalo has played 13 games thus far).

New Jersey fell to 7-4-2 (16 points) overall and remained in 5th place in the Metropolitan Division standings.

The B’s also improved to 2-4-0 on the road this season, as well as 16-6-5 in 27 games at Prudential Center.

Trent Frederic (upper body) was the only Bruin out of the lineup due to injury, but head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple adjustments to his lines from Thursday night’s, 5-3, loss to the Edmonton Oilers entering Saturday.

Karson Kuhlman re-entered the lineup in place of Craig Smith on the third line, while Mike Reilly was scratched in place of Jakub Zboril on the third defensive pairing.

Smith and Reilly were joined by Oskar Steen on the short list of healthy scratches for Boston on Saturday. Steen was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday and will likely be on the third line in place of Kuhlman on Sunday against Montréal.

Early in the first period, Jesper Boqvist caught David Pastrnak with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty, yielding the afternoon’s first power play opportunity to the Bruins at 6:37 of the first period.

Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Swayman played the puck outside of the trapezoid for a delay of game penalty at 7:27.

Kuhlman served Swayman’s minor, while the two teams skated at 4-on-4 for about 1:10 prior to an abbreviated power play for the Devils.

New Jersey couldn’t capitalize on the shift in skater strength, though.

Minutes later, Connor Clifton checked Tomáš Tatar away from the puck and received an inference infraction at 10:08. Once again, however, the Devils couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the period, after switching up his bottom-six forwards– demoting Jake DeBrusk to the fourth line after a slow start and promoting Anton Blidh to the third line alongside Erik Haula and Kuhlman– Boston’s third line broke through for the afternoon’s first goal of the game.

Haula (1) sent a rebound off an initial shot by Blidh through Bernier’s five-hole to give the B’s a, 1-0, lead at 17:37 of the first period.

Blidh (1) and Kuhlman (1) tallied the assists on Haula’s first goal of the season (and first goal in a Bruins uniform, as well).

Entering the first intermission, Boston held a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and led in shots on goal, 14-9.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2) and hits (6-5), while New Jersey led in takeaways (9-6). Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, in the first period.

The Devils were 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Dawson Mercer tripped up Clifton to kick things off in the middle frame with a Bruins power play at 2:58 of the second period.

Late in the special teams action, Marchand (7) wired a shot from the point with eyes through traffic past Bernier to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

Charlie McAvoy (7) and Patrice Bergeron (7) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 4:10 of the second period.

Jesper Bratt sent a pass to Andreas Johnsson before Johnsson setup Mercer (5) in the slot on a tic-tac-goal to cut Boston’s lead in half as the Devils got on the scoreboard and trailed, 2-1, 28 seconds after Marchand scored his first goal of the afternoon.

Johnsson (5) and Bratt (6) notched the assists on Mercer’s goal at 4:38 of the second period.

For the third time in their last five periods, Boston allowed a goal less than one minute after scoring a goal.

About two minutes later, however, the B’s extended their lead back to two-goals as Marchand worked a pass to Pastrnak for a blast that rebounded off of Bernier’s glove before Marchand (8) collected the garbage and snuck the puck past Bernier’s left pad.

Pastrnak (7) and McAvoy (8) had the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the game– his 50th career two-goal game– and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 6:52.

Less than a minute later, Taylor Hall hooked Alexander Holtz and presented the Devils with a power play at 7:14, but New Jersey wasn’t able to beat Boston’s penalty kill.

Midway through the middle frame, Brandon Carlo cross checked Nico Hischier away from the play and both players cut a rut to their respective penalty boxes– Carlo for cross checking, Hischier for embellishment– at 13:50.

After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams returned to 5-on-5 action without any issue.

In the waning minute of the middle frame, Charlie Coyle banked the puck off of a referee inadvertently, which led to a fortunate bounce for the Devils as Mercer faked a shot and passed the puck off to Bratt (3) for a one-timer goal to pull New Jersey back to within one at 19:24 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 26-18, in shots on goal– including a, 12-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-5), hits (14-8) and faceoff win% (59-41) after two periods, while New Jersey led in takeaways (17-9).

Both teams had three giveaways each through two periods.

The Devils were 0/3 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Midway through the final frame, Pastrnak got a shot off that ended up loose in the crease after Bernier made the initial save, but in the ensuing scrum Bergeron (6) tapped the rubber biscuit over the goal line to give Boston another two-goal lead, 4-2, at 10:49 of the third period.

Pastrnak (8) and McAvoy (9) snagged the assists on Bergeron’s goal– completing a three-assist afternoon for McAvoy (his first since Jan. 26, 2021, in a, 3-2, overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Seconds prior to the goal, Hall had made incidental contact in Boston’s own zone with Devils defender, Ryan Graves, who was slow to get up and off the ice under his own power.

Berner vacated the crease with 2:33 remaining in the game for an extra attacker, but briefly returned to the net before leaving once more around 1:33 left in regulation after New Jersey iced the puck.

Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, used his timeout after a stoppage in play with 1:21 remaining in the action so that assistant coach, Mark Recchi, could drum up a plan to rally his team and tie the game.

Bruins assistant coach, Chris Kelly, had other ideas, however.

In the last minute of regulation, Bratt turned the puck over on a giveaway to DeBrusk’s skates, leading DeBrusk (3) to gain control of the puck, skate forward and hit the empty twine from the center ice logo on an unassisted effort.

DeBrusk’s empty net goal cemented a, 5-2, victory for Boston at 19:06 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-29, despite trailing the Devils in shots on goal in the third period alone, 11-10.

The B’s exited the building with the lead in blocked shots (25-8), hits (16-11) and faceoff win% (54-46), while New Jersey left their home ice with the advantage in giveaways (8-4).

As there were no penalties called in the third period, the Devils finished Saturday afternoon’s effort 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2 on the skater advantage.

Boston improved to 6-3-0 (2-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 6-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after one period and 5-1-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

New Jersey, meanwhile, fell to 4-4-1 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-4-1 (1-3-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-1 (1-3-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home Sunday to host the Montréal Canadiens at TD Garden for the first time since the 2019-20 season before having five days off prior to their next road game in Philadelphia next Saturday (Nov. 20th).

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Bruins’ best home winning streak to start a season in 30 years ends

The Edmonton Oilers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to rout the Boston Bruins, 5-3, at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Leon Draisaitl scored the game-tying and game-winning goals before Cody Ceci added an insurance marker for good measure, while Mikko Koskinen (8-1-0, 2.59 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in nine games played) made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the win for the Oilers.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (3-3-0, 3.01 goals-against average, .903 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 23 out of 28 shots faced in the loss.

Boston fell to 6-5-0 (12 points) overall and stuck in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton remained atop the Pacific Division with a 10-2-0 record and 20 points on the season.

Nick Foligno and Anton Blidh returned from their upper-body injuries that kept Foligno out for the last eight games and Blidh out for the last seven games, respectively.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted Foligno on the second line right wing slot– bumping Craig Smith down to the third line with Jack Studnicka having been reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) for a little seasoning.

Blidh, meanwhile, was slotted into the fourth line left wing role in place of Trent Frederic (upper body) who missed Thursday’s action as a result of an injury sustained in Tuesday night’s, 3-2, win against the Ottawa Senators.

Jakub Zboril and Karson Kuhlman served as Boston’s healthy scratches against the Oilers.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored Colby Cave (1994-2020) with a tribute video and a moment of silence before Emily Cave dropped the ceremonial first puck and administered long hugs for each team’s captain before hugging a few more Oilers players and the entire Bruins bench.

About a minute into Thursday night’s action, Draisaitl tripped Brad Marchand and presented the Bruins with the first power play opportunity of the game at 1:02 of the first period.

Boston didn’t convert on the skater advantage, however, but took advantage of the vulnerable minute after as Patrice Bergeron sent a tape-to-tape pass to David Pastrnak, leading Pastrnak (4) into the attacking zone with Oilers defender, Duncan Keith, trailing before firing a shot from the dot through Koskinen’s five-hole to put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.

Bergeorn (5) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal at 4:45 of the first period.

The lead didn’t last long for the B’s as Evan Bouchard (2) snuck in from the point and wired a shot from the slot over Ullmark’s glove, off the bar and in– tying the game, 1-1, in the process 44 seconds after Pastrnak scored for Boston.

Draisaitl (14) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (15) tallied the assists on Bouchard’s goal at 5:29 of the first period.

Midway through the period, Connor Clifton sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction while trying to clear his own zone at 10:50.

Edmonton did not score on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the period, Slater Koekkoek cut a rut to the sin bin for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage at 17:30.

Heading into the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Oilers led in shots on goal, 9-7.

Edmonton also held the advantage in takeaways (4-2), while Boston led in blocked shots (4-1), hits (19-9) and faceoff win percentage (73-27). Both teams had three giveaways each.

The Oilers were 0/1 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play after one period.

Pastrnak protected the puck in the attacking zone early in the middle period before sending an attempted pass for Bergeron through the slot, but the play was broken up by Bouchard before bouncing to Marchand (6), who promptly pounced on the loose puck and scored from the low slot.

Bergeron (6) and Pastrnak (6) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-1, at 5:06 of the second period.

The goal moved Marchand (731) into sole possession of the eighth-most points scored in a Bruins uniform, surpassing David Krejci (730) in the process.

Wayne Cashman (793 points with Boston) is seventh on the list ahead of Marchand.

Just like they did in the first period, though, the Oilers found a way to score within a minute after the Bruins pulled ahead– only this time Edmonton did it 24 seconds after Marchand’s goal as Zach Hyman (8) received a pass from Connor McDavid, skated past three Bruins players and scored on a quick flip to tie the game.

McDavid (15) had the only assist as Edmonton tied it, 2-2, at 5:30 of the second period.

A few minutes later, Koekkoek went back to the box– this time for tripping Marchand– at 8:42, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting power play.

Late in the middle frame, Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff and sent the puck back to Matt Grzelcyk at the point.

Grzelcyk sent a “D-to-D” pass along the blue line to Brandon Carlo (1), who rocketed a slap shot off of Koskinen’s glove and into the twine to give the Bruins a, 3-2, lead at 17:14.

Grzelcyk (2) and Bergeron (6) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s first goal of the season.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 18-16, in shots on goal, including an, 11-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (27-25) and faceoff win% (67-33), while the Oilers led in giveaways (6-4). Both teams had four takeaways each.

Edmonton was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Marchand held Darnell Nurse and was sent to the box at 1:28 of the third period as a result, but the Oilers couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Edmonton started to capitalize on a shift in momentum, plus quite a few defensive lapses in Bruins players’ judgment.

Carlo lost the rubber biscuit while second-guessing a pass to his defensive partner– softly giving the puck away to Draisaitl (11) instead for an unassisted goal from close range as No. 29 in an Oilers road jersey buried a shot past Ullmark’s glove with a blast.

Draisaitl’s first goal of the game tied things up, 3-3, at 6:22 of the third period.

About a few minutes later, Edmonton won an attacking zone faceoff back to the point where Keith tossed the puck to Ceci as he crept in before sending a shot pass for Draisaitl (12) to redirect from the slot to give the Oilers their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 9:26 of the third period.

Ceci (2) and Keith (3) had the assists as Edmonton tied the game and took the lead in a span of 3:04.

In the closing minutes of Thursday night’s action, Ullmark sent the puck along the boards up to Clifton around the goal line, whereby Clifton promptly banked it inadvertently off of Bouchard, resulting in a mad scramble in front of Boston’s own net.

Though Ullmark made the initial save, a rebound that no Bruin could settle on their stick and clear the zone led to Ceci (1) waltzing in with an easy shot from the point at a mostly empty net to cement Edmonton’s victory with a, 5-3, lead.

Ceci’s goal was unassisted at 17:41 of the third period.

With less than two minute remaining in the action, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but it was all for naught as the final horn sounded– signaling a, 5-3, win for the Oilers, despite Boston finishing the night leading in shots on goal, 29-28.

Edmonton held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone, 12-11, and exited the building leading in blocked shots (8-7), while the Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in giveaways (9-8), hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (67-33).

The Oilers finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

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

Edmonton, meanwhile, improved to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when tied after one and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins travel to Prudential Center for a Saturday matinee road game against the New Jersey Devils before returning home to host the Montréal Canadiens on Sunday for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Boston then has five days off before their next road game in Philadelphia on Nov. 20th.

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Bergeron scores four in, 5-1, win against Red Wings

Patrice Bergeron recorded his first career natural hat trick and second career four-goal game in Thursday night’s, 5-1, victory for the Boston Bruins over the Detroit Red Wings.

Bruins goaltender, Jeremy Swayman (2-2-0, 2.28 goals-against average, .900 save percentage in four games played) made 14 saves on 15 shots against in the win and improved to 6-0-0 on home ice at TD Garden.

Meanwhile, Red Wings netminder, Thomas Greiss (3-3-0, 3.45 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in six games played) stopped 32 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 5-3-0 (10 points) on the season and moved ahead of Detroit for 5th place in the Atlantic Division standings.

Though the Red Wings are 4-5-2 (10 points) overall, the Bruins lead in their tiebreaker for 5th by virtue of having amassed more points in fewer games played (the B’s have 10 points through eight games, while Detroit has 10 points in 11 games thus far).

Boston is now 1-0-0 against Detroit this season, having most recently gone 1-2-0 in their season series in 2019-20 (the two teams did not play each other last season due to the temporarily realigned divisions in light of the ongoing pandemic).

The Bruins were once again without Nick Foligno (upper body) and Anton Blidh (upper body) on Thursday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup– rendering Jack Studnicka and Jakub Zboril as healthy scratches as Oskar Steen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Oct. 30th.

Thursday night’s win also marked the 199th career victory behind the bench as Boston’s head coach for Cassidy.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins held a moment of silence for former Boston Red Sox All Star second baseman and NESN color commentator for 33 years, Jerry Remy, 68, who died on Oct. 30th after a long, courageous, battle with cancer.

Erik Haula tripped up Joe Veleno and yielded the night’s first power play to Detroit at 2:55 of the first period, but the Red Wings couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, Vladislav Namestnikov tried to check someone near the benches while making his way back to Detroit’s bench without a helmet, resulting in a minor penalty for playing without a helmet at 10:58.

It didn’t take Boston long to capitalize on their first power play of the night as Charlie McAvoy worked the puck to Brad Marchand before Marchand setup Bergeron (1) for the power-play goal from his usual spot in the bumper on the skater advantage at 11:03.

Marchand (5) and McAvoy (3) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s first goal of the season and the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead.

Late in the period, Nick Leddy tripped McAvoy and was assessed a minor infraction at 16:14, but the Red Wings penalty kill managed to go unscathed as Leddy returned from the box without issue.

Heading into the first intermission, the B’s led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, and, 11-3, in shots on goal.

Detroit held the advantage in blocked shots (4-1), takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (6-2), while Boston dominated in hits (14-8) and faceoff win percentage (71-29) after 20 minutes of action.

The Red Wings were 0/1 and the Bruins were 1/2 heading into the middle frame.

Tyler Bertuzzi took down McAvoy without the puck and was assessed an interference minor at 9:39 of the second period.

Once more, the Bruins would score on the ensuing advantage as Marchand teed up Bergeron (2) from the trapezoid to the slot for a catch and release goal to put Boston ahead, 2-0.

Marchand (6) had the only assist– tying Terry O’Reilly for the ninth-most assists in a Bruins uniform in franchise history (402) in the process– on Bergeron’s second power-play goal of the night at 10:52 of the second period.

Several minutes later, Moritz Seider was sent to the box for holding and presented Boston with another power play at 17:48.

Once again, Bergeron (3) scored a power-play goal– his third of the night, capping off a natural hat trick in the process– to give the Bruins a, 3-0, lead at 18:45.

Marchand (7) and McAvoy (4) tabbed the assists on Bergeron’s hat trick goal– marking the Bruins captain’s first hat trick since April 6, 2021 (4-2 win at Philadelphia) and giving Marchand his third assist of the night in the process, surpassing O’Reilly for sole possession of the ninth-most assists in a Bruins uniform with 403 assists in his career to O’Reilly’s 402.

Through 40 minutes of play, the B’s led, 3-0, on the scoreboard as well as, 26-9, in shots on goal– including a, 15-6, advantage in the second period alone.

Detroit maintained the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (10-4) and giveaways (7-4), while Boston led in hits (19-18) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Red Wings were 0/1 and the Bruins were 3/4 on the power play heading into the final frame.

In his 100th career NHL game, Connor Clifton had a plus-1 rating, one shot on goal, two hits and two penalty minutes as a result of his tripping minor 24 seconds into the third period on Thursday.

The Bruins managed to kill off Clifton’s infraction, however.

Later on in the third, David Pastrnak caught Robby Fabbri with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty as a result at 6:08 of the third period, presenting the Red Wings with their second power play of the evening.

Detroit earned a 5-on-3 advantage shortly thereafter when Bergeron tripped Filip Hronek at 6:59.

As a result of the resulting two-skater advantage, Red Wings head coach, Jeff Blashill, used his timeout to draw up a plan to get his team back in the game.

Boston’s penalty killing unit was severely hampered by the fact that Bergeron was in the box– limiting their strength at winning the ensuing defensive zone faceoff on the penalty kill.

Detroit played around with the puck in the attacking zone for less than a minute before whipping the rubber biscuit along the blue line from Seider to Hronek before setting up Lucas Raymond (5) for a one-timer goal from the faceoff dot unopposed.

Hronek (3) and Seider (9) notched the assists on Raymond’s power-play goal as the Red Wings trailed, 3-1, at 7:46 of the third period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to respond, however.

24 seconds after giving up a power-play goal against, the Bruins scored a shorthanded goal when Curtis Lazar streaked from one end to the attacking zone on a breakaway before Mike Reilly (1) pounced on the rebound for his first goal as a Bruin– as well as his first goal since Jan. 28, 2020, when he helped contribute to a, 5-2, victory for the Ottawa Senators in Buffalo.

Lazar (2) and Tomáš Nosek (2) had the assists on Reilly’s goal as the Bruins regained a three-goal lead, 4-1, at 8:10 of the third period.

It was also Boston’s first shorthanded goal this season.

Midway through the final frame, Veleno cleared the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 10:34, but the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on the ensuing advantage.

In fact, less than a couple minutes later, Hronek and Matt Grzelcyk entered the box together for their respective teams after a scrum ensued after Swayman froze the puck, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for Hronek and a roughing penalty for Grzelcyk at 12:14 of the third period.

Boston’s skater advantage was unchanged as a result and the Red Wings managed to kill off the remainder of Veleno’s infraction.

Finally, in the dying minutes of the third period, Reilly entered the attacking zone on a rush and dropped a quick pass back to Marchand before Marchand wired a pass across the ice to Bergeron (4) for a shot that squibbed through Greiss to make it, 5-1, Boston at 15:52.

Bergeron, in the process, scored his fourth goal of the night, while Marchand (8) and Reilly (2) were credited with the assists.

It was the 26th time in franchise history that a player scored four goals in a game, as well as the first time since Pastrnak notched four against the Anaheim Ducks in a, 4-2, victory on Oct. 14, 2019.

It was also Bergeron’s first four-goal game (the second of his career) since he scored four goals in a, 7-1, win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 6, 2018.

Marchand, meanwhile, finished the night with four assists (all primary assists) on Bergeron’s goals– trailing Rick Middleton (496) by 92 assists for the eighth-most assists in Bruins franchise history.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-1, and wrapped things up leading in shots on goal, 37-15, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins exited their own arena leading in blocked shots (11-10), as well as faceoff win% (59-41), while the Red Wings finished Thursday night’s action leading in giveaways (7-5) and hits (25-24).

Detroit went 1/4 on the power play, while Boston went 3/5 on the skater advantage en route to the victory.

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

Meanwhile, the Red Wings fell to 1-4-1 (1-3-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-5-1 (1-4-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 1-5-1 (1-4-0 on the road) when trailing after two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins venture up to Canada for the first time since the 2019-20 season due to the ongoing global pandemic and take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday before returning home for a quick, two-game, homestand next week against the Ottawa Senators next Tuesday and Edmonton Oilers next Thursday.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins beat Sharks in first meeting in almost two years

Jake DeBrusk’s second period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Boston Bruins withstood a third period surge and held off the San Jose Sharks in a, 4-3, victory at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Linus Ullmark (2-0-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .935 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 23 out of 26 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Meanwhile, Adin Hill (3-1-0, 2.93 goals-against average, .890 save percentage in four games played) and James Reimer (1-0-0, 0.65 goals-against average, .980 save percentage in two games played) split the effort in the loss for the Sharks.

Hill made 10 saves on 14 shots faced for a .714 save percentage in 25:41 time on ice before he was replaced by Reimer, who stopped all 20 shots against in relief.

Boston improved to 3-1-0 (six points) on the season and– at the time of this writing– moved into 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while San Jose dropped to 4-1-0 (eight points) overall and remained in command of 2nd place in the Pacific Division standings.

The B’s also improved to 2-0-0 at home this season, as well as 25-12-5-0 all time against the Sharks in 42 regular season meetings.

The Bruins were without the services of Curtis Lazar (upper body), Nick Foligno (upper body), Anton Blidh (upper body) and Craig Smith (undisclosed) on Sunday afternoon.

Foligno was placed on injured reserve, while Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL). Veteran defender, John Moore, was assigned to Providence as a result.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters prior to Sunday’s matinee with San Jose that Foligno and Blidh are unlikely to play in the team’s upcoming road trip on Wednesday and Thursday.

As a result of the recent rash of injuries, Cassidy continued to tweak to his lineup, promoting Tomáš Nosek to center the second line and sliding Charlie Coyle to the right wing in place of Smith as a result.

Cassidy inserted Steen on the third line in Nosek’s usual spot and returned Trent Frederic to the fourth line left wing with Studnicka at center and Karson Kuhlman on the right wing.

On defense, Connor Clifton returned to his spot on the third pairing alongside Derek Forbort with Moore assigned to Providence.

Jakub Zboril was the only healthy scratch on Sunday.

It only took 28 seconds into the action on Sunday afternoon for David Pastrnak to work the puck to Patrice Bergeron through the trapezoid behind the net before Bergeron found Brad Marchand (4) in the high slot for a catch and release goal to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead.

Bergeron (2) and Pastrnak (3) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal as Boston got off to a fast start in the first period.

Less than a few minutes later, Clifton worked the puck to Marchand, who sent the rubber biscuit along the point to Forbort (1) for a wrist shot that floated past Hill’s blocker side as a Sharks defender partially screened his own goaltender– extending Boston’s lead to two-goals in the process.

Marchand (3) and Clifton (1) had the assists on Forbort’s first goal in a Bruins uniform and the B’s led, 2-0, at 3:18 of the first period.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Nosek tripped up Tomáš Hertl and cut a rut to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 9:44.

San Jose’s power play, however, could not convert on the skater advantage.

The Sharks got another chance on the power play moments later when Charlie McAvoy caught Logan Couture with a high stick at 13:01, but once again Boston’s penalty kill stood tall as Ullmark kept the puck out of the back of the net.

Shortly after killing off McAvoy’s minor, Brent Burns knocked down Taylor Hall away from the puck and was assessed and interference minor at 15:59– presenting the Bruins with their first power play of the afternoon as a result.

It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage as Bergeron rang a shot off the crossbar before setting up Pastrnak (2) for one of his trademark one-timer power-play goals from the faceoff circle– right above the dot– to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.

Bergeron (3) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal as the B’s extended their lead, 3-0, at 16:12 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, however, San Jose got on the scoreboard with a quick break into the attacking zone and a little bit of a give-and-go that resulted in a short side goal for Jasper Weatherby (2) to cut Boston’s lead back to two-goals.

Jonah Gadjovich (1) and Andrew Cogliano (2) tabbed the assists on Weatherby’s goal at 16:44. With the primary assist, Gadjovich recorded his first career National Hockey League point in his second career game (Gadjovich made his season debut with the Sharks on Sunday and appeared in one game last season for the Vancouver Canucks).

After one period of action, the Bruins led the Sharks, 3-1, on the scoreboard despite both teams amassing 11 shots on goal each.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (10-2), while San Jose led the way in takeaways (3-1), giveaways (4-3), hits (13-7) and faceoff win percentage (58-42).

The Sharks were 0/2 and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Forbort sent Steen up through the neutral zone on a rush with DeBrusk before Steen bounced an indirect pass to DeBrusk off the boards.

DeBrusk (2) entered the attacking zone and wired a shot over Hill’s glove to put Boston ahead by three goals once more, 4-1, at 5:41 of the second period.

Steen (1) and Forbort (1) recorded the assists, marking the first career NHL point for Steen and the first assist as a Bruin for Forbort in the process.

Sharks head coach, Bob Boughner, replaced Hill with Reimer as a result of DeBrusk’s goal and tried to spur momentum in San Jose’s favor as a result of the goalie change.

Late in the period, Nick Bonino and Clifton exchanged pleasantries in a post-whistle scrum that resulted in minor penalties for roughing for each player as well as an addition two minutes for slashing for Bonino at 17:29.

As a result, the Bruins finished off most of the rest of the second period on the power play, though they couldn’t muster anything past Reimer as the second intermission commenced.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 4-1, on the scoreboard and, 22-16, in shots on goal, including an, 11-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (12-6), while San Jose led in takeaways (8-5), giveaways (10-5), hits (20-13) and faceoff win% (53-48).

The Sharks were still 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins dropped to 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

With tensions rising as the second period came to an end, Frederic and Jacob Middleton kicked things off in the third period with five-minute majors for fighting at 3:02 of the final frame in the first fight of the 2021-22 calendar for Boston.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Mario Ferraro took an interference penalty at 5:48 of the third period, but the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on the final power play of the afternoon.

Midway through the third, the Sharks scored a pair of quick goals as Hertl (2) deflected a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at the point amidst net front traffic to pull San Jose back to within two goals, 4-2, at 13:19.

Vlasic (2) and Alexander Barabanov (1) tallied the assists on Hertl’s goal.

Minutes later, Timo Meier (3) redirected a shot from Couture from outside the slot to bring the Sharks to a one-goal deficit, 4-3, at 15:08 of the third period.

Couture (5) and Burns (4) had the assists on Meier’s goal which was reviewed for a high stick, but determined to be a good goal– the call on the ice was confirmed.

Boston’s lead had shrunk to a close, 4-3, game in the dying minutes of Sunday’s action.

Boughner pulled Reimer for an extra attacker with 1:45 remaining in the game and used his timeout with 1:02 left on the clock after a stoppage, but it wasn’t enough to rally his team to force overtime (at least) as the Bruins managed to hold off San Jose’s comeback.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 4-3, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 34-26, including a, 12-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (14-6) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Sharks exited TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (16-7) and hits (25-23).

San Jose went 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage on Sunday.

The B’s improved to 3-0-0 (2-0-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 3-0-0 (2-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 2-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

The Sharks dropped to 2-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22 as a result of the loss.

The Bruins hit the road for a pair of games against the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday and PNC Arena on Thursday, respectively, before returning home to finish the month of October against the Panthers on Saturday (Oct. 30th).

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Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

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Montréal Canadiens 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points

4th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa

Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)

Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven

Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.

The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.

Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.

Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.

Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.

Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.

They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.

They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.

Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.

Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.

Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.

The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.

Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.

It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.

Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.

The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.

The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.

Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.

Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.

After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.

As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.

Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.

As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.

Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.

Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.

Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.

Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.

In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.

While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.

Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.

By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.

Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?

Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).

A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.

The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.

It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.

After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.

The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.

Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.

Offseason Grade: C

It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.

It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.

The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.

At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.

Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.

Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.

The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.

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Vegas Golden Knights 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 40-14-2, 82 points

2nd in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Semifinal by Montréal

Additions: F Sven Baertschi, F Evgenii Dadonov (acquired from OTT), F Brett Howden (acquired from NYR), F Nolan Patrick (acquired from NSH, re-signed), G Laurent Brossoit

Subtractions: F Reid Duke (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Cody Glass (traded to NSH), F Tyrell Goulbourne (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Mikael Hakkarainen (acquired from VGK, signed with TPS, Liiga),F Tomas Nosek (signed with BOS), F Danny O’Regan (signed with ANA), F Ryan Reaves (traded to NYR), F Dylan Sikura (signed with COL), D Carl Dahlström (signed with TOR), D Nick DeSimone (traded to NYR), D Nick Holden (traded to OTT), D Jimmy Schuldt (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), G Oscar Dansk (KHL), G Marc-Andre Fleury (traded to CHI)

Still Unsigned: F Tomas Jurco

Re-signed: F Patrick Brown, F Mattias Janmark, F Gage Quinney, D Dylan Coghlan, D Alec Martinez

Offseason Analysis: Well, at least Vegas didn’t try to sign the market’s best free agent to a long-term deal this summer and instead chose to do some introspection.

Looks like that didn’t last too long (on a technicality, of course).

Sure, the Golden Knights didn’t sign anyone to a massive contract this summer, but they did dump quite a hefty salary in an otherwise inexplicable trade this offseason.

Rather than lose out on recent acquisitions and stay the course with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner as a goaltending tandem, Golden Knights General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, did the one thing Vegas’ majority owner, Bill Foley, promised would never be done– McCrimmon traded Fleury.

The move stunned the goaltender and nearly made the Sorel, Québec native retire, but after a quick tour of Chicago, Fleury decided to play out the remainder of his contract as a pending-unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season.

With an additional $7.000 million to spend towards the cap ceiling, McCrimmon was able to keep Mattias Janmark and Alec Martinez in Vegas– despite likely angering some locals with the loss of Fleury.

Before we discuss the extensions for Janmark and Martinez, let’s talk goaltending.

Whereas Fleury had a 26-10-0 record in 36 games last season with six shutouts, as well as a 1.98 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage en route to his first Vezina Trophy in his 17-year NHL career, Lehner had a 13-4-2 record with one shutout, a 2.29 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 19 games last season.

If you want a starting goaltender to be around 2.00 in goals-against average and about .920 in save percentage, while your backup is pegged around a 2.50 in goals-against average and .910 or so in save percentage, then the dynamic duo did just that last season for the Golden Knights.

For the first time since his time with the New York Islanders in the 2018-19 season, Lehner is back to being a starting netminder. Back then, he went 25-13-5 in 46 games with six shutouts, a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

Now, he’ll be tasked with handling anywhere from four additional games to about a dozen more (give or take a few), since McCrimmon signed Laurent Brossoit on a two-year deal worth $2.325 million per season as Vegas’ backup.

Last season, the Golden Knights spent about $12 million on goaltenders. This season, they’re spending a little more than Fleury’s cap hit alone– $7.325 million for Lehner and Brossoit, compared to Fleury’s $7.000 million price tag against the cap.

Brossoit hasn’t been able to maintain consistency from year-to-year, but he’s a durable backup coming off of a solid performance with the Winnipeg Jets in 2020-21, amassing a 6-6-0 record in 14 games with a 2.42 goals-against average, one shutout and a .918 save percentage.

Vegas was always going to transition from Fleury to Lehner once Lehner became a part of the equation for the future. Doing so now may look bad in the manner that they did it, but it was always going to be inevitable as long as the Golden Knights were spending close to the salary cap.

Anyway, Janmark and Martinez are staying in town– Janmark on a one-year extension worth $2.000 million and Martinez on a three-year deal with a $5.250 million cap hit.

In 56 games last season, Janmark had 11-13–24 totals between Chicago and Vegas, where he went on to contribute eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 playoff games as the Golden Knights advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal before being eliminated by the Montréal Canadiens in six games.

Martinez, meanwhile, amassed 9-23–32 totals in 53 games in his first full season with the Golden Knights since Vegas acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings ahead of the 2020 trade deadline.

He had twice the points in 2020-21 than he had in 2019-20 in roughly the same number of games and chipped in six points (four goals, two assists) from the blue line in 19 playoff games in 2021 for Vegas.

At 34-years-old, signing Martinez until he’s nearly 37 is both a risk and an assurance that he pretty much won’t be playing anywhere else for the rest of his career (unless Vegas flips him later on or he decides to sign elsewhere in the summer of 2024.

For now, the extensions bolster Vegas’ vital depth for both regular season play and postseason clutch performances when you need it most from players you might otherwise least expect down the lineup.

Among other choices made this offseason, McCrimmon was busy working the phones for trade calls and landed a pair of reclamation projects for the 2021-22 season and beyond in Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov, but first a quick recap of all the trades Vegas made this summer.

On July 17th, the Golden Knights dealt defender, Nick DeSimone, and a 2022 4th round pick to the New York Rangers for forward, Brett Howden.

That same day, Vegas completed a transaction with the Nashville Predators, acquiring Patrick in exchange for Cody Glass and sealed the door on trading all three of their 2017 1st round picks (Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brännström) for other assets.

At the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, McCrimmon got in touch with Detroit Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman, and swapped draft picks all day– sending 2021 2nd round pick (36th overall) to Detroit for a 2021 2nd round pick (38th overall) and a 2021 4th round pick (128th overall) in one trade, as well as dealing a 2021 4th round pick (114th overall) and a 2021 5th round pick (155th overall) to the Red Wings for a 2021 4th round pick (102nd overall).

A few days later on July 27th, the Golden Knights traded Fleury to Chicago for forward, Mikael Hakkarainen, who went unsigned and joined a team in Finland instead.

The next day, Vegas traded defender, Nick Holden, and a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Dadonov.

Then on July 29th, McCrimmon shipped fourth line forward, Ryan Reaves, to the Rangers for a 2022 3rd round pick.

Alright, back to Patrick and Dadonov for a second.

Last season, Patrick amassed 4-5–9 totals in 52 games with the Philadelphia Flyers in his first season back since missing all of 2019-20 due to migraines stemming from post concussion syndrome. The 23-year-old is feeling refreshed and looking for a career rejuvenation in the desert with the Golden Knights.

Meanwhile, Dadonov is coming off a down year in which he recorded 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) in 55 games with the Ottawa Senators after amassing 25-22–47 totals in 69 games with the Florida Panthers in 2019-20 after back-to-back seasons with at least 65 points.

The 32-year-old forward is looking to avoid further decline as he is soon to enter the twilight of his prime– approaching his mid-30s having yet to reach the 30-goal plateau or live up to his $5.000 million cap hit through 2022-23.

Time will tell if Vegas can help right the ship.

Offseason Grade: C-

Trading Fleury in the way that they did is hard to swallow– especially since it broke up one of the better goaltending tandems in the league from last season to this season.

At the very least, moving on from Fleury allowed Vegas to hold onto Janmark and Martinez in the manner that they did rather than court this summer’s top free agent, thereby forcing their own hand by trading another “core” player due to salary cap restraints and possibly disrupting the chemistry in the dressing room.

Overall, McCrimmon’s moves this summer seem like lateral transactions for a team that has $0 in salary cap space and should be contending for a Cup ring, but always seems to fall short for one reason or another.

Entering their fifth season of existence, the Golden Knights have this two more years to beat or match the Flyers’ record for the fastest expansion team to win their first Stanley Cup championship in league history.

Though their offseason may be unconvincing on paper, let’s hope they’ll prove us wrong and surprise the hockey world like they did when they made the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first season, but with a different outcome.

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New York Islanders 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 32-17-7, 71 points

4th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Semifinal by Tampa

Additions: F Andy Andreoff, F Richard Panik (acquired from DET), F Zach Parise, D Paul LaDue, D Zdeno Chara

Subtractions: F Robert Carpenter (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), F Jordan Eberle (expansion, SEA), F Tanner Fritz (signed with Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL), F Joshua Ho-Sang (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Andrew Ladd (traded to ARI), F Travis Zajac (signed to one-day contract with NJD, retired), D Nick Leddy (traded to DET)

Still Unsigned: F Kieffer Bellows (RFA), F Michael Dal Colle (RFA), D Braydon Coburn, G Cory Schneider

Re-signed: F Cole Bardreau, F Anthony Beauvillier, F Casey Cizikas, F Otto Koivula, F Kyle Palmieri, F Dmytro Timashov, D Andy Greene, D Adam Pelech, G Ilya Sorokin

Offseason Analysis: It’s October and we still don’t really know who is and who isn’t under contract with the New York Islanders because Isles General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, plays by his own rules.

Well, not exactly like that, but he at least doesn’t like facial hair and won’t allow his players to sport a scruffy look. Not even a goatee (which bothers me as someone that looks much too young without sporting even a small patch of stubble on my chin to prove, in fact, that I am old enough to order a beer– let alone see an “R”-rated movie).

Anyway, Lamoriello has slowly been announcing– though never disclosing the financial terms– deals that have been signed by players like Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara, as well as extensions for Kyle Palmieri, Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Ilya Sorokin.

Parise, 37, joins New York after amassing 393-417–810 totals in 1,060 career National Hockey League games for the New Jersey Devils and– most recently– the Minnesota Wild.

Last season with the Wild, he had 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 45 games, which was a bit of a steep decline in his production from 2019-20, albeit in much more limited time as Minnesota head coach, Dean Evason, felt his team was better with Parise scratched from time to time.

New York head coach, Barry Trotz, on the other hand, thinks he can utilize Parise in the right amounts to maximize his value as a veteran of the league in search of his first Cup ring– let alone his first trip back to the Stanley Cup Final since 2012.

Chara, 44, reunites with the Islanders– the team that drafted him in the 3rd round (56th overall) in the 1996 NHL Draft prior to breaking into the league with the Isles in the 1997-98 season and spending parts of four seasons on Long Island before then-General Manager Mike Milbury traded him to the Ottawa Senators ahead of the 2001-02 season.

The long time veteran defender is entering his 24th season after amassing 207-459–666 totals in 1,608 games thus far with the Islanders, Senators, Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Chara was a member of the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins roster and should pay dividends on the third pairing, as well as on the penalty kill, while Pelech and Ryan Pulock rest up for another long shift.

After being acquired ahead of last season’s deadline, Palmieri put up four points (two goals, two assists) in 17 games down the stretch with New York after amassing 8-9–17 totals with the Devils in 34 games prior in 2020-21.

In the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, Palmieri found his scoring touch– notching seven goals and two assists (nine points) in 19 games en route to being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal.

Lamoriello added more veterans to an already veteran infused lineup while presumably remaining tight against the salary cap.

Though New York had a bit of a bumpy ending to the regular season last year, they peaked at the right time to be one goal away from the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.

As an organization that’s been on the rise with Trotz behind the bench, the Islanders are sure to be out with something to prove in the league’s return to a normal 82-game schedule format and everything.

Pelech’s eight-year extension worth $5.750 million per season at 27-years-old is Lamoriello’s greatest gift thus far to New York’s core as a good team friendly contract as Pulock enters a contract year in 2021-22 and Mathew Barzal carries two remaining years on his current deal.

Love him or hate him, Lamoriello also did a decent job keeping Casey Cizikas in line with more conventional thinking for a top-nine forward on a new six-year deal worth $2.500 million per season compared to his last contract, which was a five-year deal with a $3.350 million cap hit.

Generally speaking, first line forwards should be paid around $9.000 million, second liners between $4.000 to $6.000 million with third liners earning roughly $1.000 to $4.000 million and fourth liners taking home a cap hit between league minimum and $2.000 million per year at most.

Follow that logic and you’ll be able to spread some wealth around on short-term contracts among your replacement level players or sign long term deals at a decent cap hit that’s expendable if you run into performance issues or cap related casualties down the road.

Meanwhile, because of Lamoriello’s masterclass in contract negotiations this summer, Anthony Beauvillier got a three-year bridge deal at $4.150 million per season and Ilya Sorokin earned a three-year extension worth $4.000 million per season– keeping the Islanders competitive as Cup contenders for at least the next few years while balancing the growth and development of their core as they age into their prime.

Of course, everything comes with a price as Lamoriello shipped out Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings in a trade on July 16th for Richard Panik and a 2021 2nd round pick (originally from Edmonton, via Detroit- 52nd overall, Aatu Raty).

Chara is 14 years Leddy’s senior, but Leddy’s $5.500 million cap hit was a roadblock in keeping the bulk of New York’s core together.

To save some additional funds for redistribution this summer, the Islanders dealt Andrew Ladd, a 2021 2nd round pick (originally from Colorado via the Islanders, 60th overall- Janis Jerome Moser), as well as a conditional 2022 2nd round pick and a conditional 2023 3rd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for future considerations.

Arizona took on Ladd’s entire $5.500 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season.

Offseason Grade: B

For what needed to be done to protect the integrity of the Islanders as a Cup contender in the next few seasons (at least), Lamoriello made proper efforts to add without subtracting, while balancing the books in an efficient manner.

There’s a lot to like about the respectable bridge contracts, but Pelech’s eight-year extension is a home run for what is otherwise New York’s cornerstone on defense with Pulock due for a bit of a pay raise next summer.

That said, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Isles off their game by just a little as the long runs into the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020 and 2021 take a toll on a team in every sense of the imagination.

New York won’t need to hit “reset”, but rather “refresh” as they should comfortably reach the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but as for how far they go depends on if they can stay healthy and focused– especially with UBS Arena set to open in November, thereby giving the Islanders a long 13-game road streak to start the 2021-22 regular season.

If they don’t win it all in 2022, they should be primed for a bounce-back in 2023, with their best chance at a Cup since their dynasty in the 1980s.

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Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Season Preview

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

1st in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Vegas

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

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

Still Unsigned: F Travis Barron, G Devan Dubnyk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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