Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
*cue Andy Williams*
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).
In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.
This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.
Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.
A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.
Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.
The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).
Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.
Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.
Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.
Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.
Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.
In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.
While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.
Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.
After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.
That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.
Regular season outcomes:
5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th
4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS
4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*
4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*
4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)
For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.
Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.
Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.
The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).
Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.
The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.
Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.
Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million
boy wonder man.
Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.
Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.
Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.
To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th
4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*
4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*
4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*
M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)
Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?
Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.
After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.
Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.
Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).
The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).
Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.
The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.
Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.
Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.
Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.
Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.
Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.
This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th
4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2
4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS
4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*
4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*
4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*
M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)
Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.
That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.
New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).
Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.
That same trap won the Cup last season.
Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.
Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?
Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.
The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.
How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?
Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.
Regular season outcomes:
2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th
4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*
4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*
4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*
The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.
The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.
A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
“Hockey’s been dead to me since 1997,” my high school English teacher told me one day senior year. You see, he was from Connecticut and– by default– a Hartford Whalers fan.
When the Whalers relocated to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season, my 12th grade English teacher couldn’t see himself switching allegiances and rooting for one of Hartford’s rivals and he wasn’t about to follow the Whalers to Greensboro (because their new home arena– ironically– wouldn’t be ready for a couple of years), then ultimately Raleigh.
So for Mr. Huse, hockey didn’t even make it to 100 years like the NHL celebrated last season.
For others, nostalgia sells well, though it’ll never fully replace the void left behind by the real thing.
For the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins on Sunday night, it meant the Hurricanes could sell more seats and merchandise, then let fans watch a thrilling, 5-3, comeback Hurricanes victory over the B’s at PNC Arena.
Coincidentally, the last time the Whalers beat the Bruins as a team based out of Hartford, Connecticut, the final score was, 6-3, on March 12, 1997, so history almost repeats itself, if you will.
Sebastian Aho had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-four in Carolina’s victory on Sunday, while Petr Mrazek (6-7-2 record, 2.62 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the win.
Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-8-2, 2.72 GAA, .911 SV% in 18 GP) made 32 saves on 37 shots against for an .865 SV% in the loss.
After Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory over the Nashville Predators on home ice, the Bruins hit the road for one last game before the mandatory three-day, league-wide, Christmas break.
Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup against the Predators and recorded his 299th and 300th career goals, becoming the 6th player in franchise history to record 300-plus goals with Boston.
Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in the win against the Preds and had Sunday off, while Rask backstopped the Bruins in the second night of back-to-back games, home and away.
Joakim Nordstrom remained on the left side of David Krejci and Pastrnak, while the bottom-six forward lines of Ryan Donato–Colby Cave–David Backes and Kuraly-Noel Acciari–Chris Wagner remained intact.
With Urho Vaakanainen assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and subsequently loaned to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Finland, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Sunday.
Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Jake DeBrusk (concussion protocol) and Kevan Miller (larynx) are all progressing and nearing returns after the Christmas break. Some, if not all, may be ready to go on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.
If not, they might return in Buffalo against the Sabres next Saturday. Otherwise, the three currently injured Bruins may return next year (well, next calendar year, that is).
As a result of Sunday’s loss, the B’s fell to 6-1-1 in the 2nd night of back-to-back games this season (outscoring opponents, 24-13, in that span).
Micheal Ferland kicked off the action on Whalers Night early in the first period, getting his stick up high on Backes, yielding a minor infraction for high-sticking at 1:27.
The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night and got to work quickly with a fluke play-turned-power play goal thanks to a friendly-fire bounce off of Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Donato (4) was the last Bruin to touch the puck on a shot attempt by Torey Krug that then deflected off of van Riemsdyk, bounced over Mrazek and landed in the net behind the Carolina goaltender.
Krug (18) and Marchand (28) had the assists on Donato’s goal at 2:40 of the first period and Boston led, 1-0.
The Hurricanes did not convert on their abbreviated two-skater advantage and subsequent shortened 5-on-4 power play, but the Bruins were able to work the game’s momentum in their favor.
With Kampfer fresh out of the box, Boston worked the offensive zone with little pushback and Kampfer (2) unloaded a shot from the point that Mrazek had no chance at stopping to give the B’s a two-goal lead.
Kuraly (6) and Marchand (29) had the assists on Kampfer’s goal at 8:56 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.
Prior to Sunday, the Bruins were 16-1 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season. After Sunday, the Bruins were 16-2 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season.
Why? Because the Hurricanes had a whale of a comeback.
(Thank you, thank you very much.)
Carolina improved to 5-12-3 when allowing the game’s first goal this season, thanks to four unanswered goals stretching from the first period into the second period.
Boston fell to 13-3-2 when scoring first this season as a result of the blown two-goal lead and loss.
Justin Faulk interfered with Donato and was sent to the box at 10:09 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t score on the resulting power play.
Instead, shortly after killing off the penalty, Carolina capitalized on a fluke play.
Charlie McAvoy misplayed the puck in his own zone, leading to a Hurricanes attack that resulted in Teuvo Teravainen (7) banking a shot off of McAvoy’s glove and into the net as the young Bruins defender motioned his hand to try to bat the puck away (but instead swatted it into his own net).
Andrei Svechnikov (9) and Aho (23) had the assists and the Canes cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 12:55 of the first period.
With about 16 seconds left on the clock in the first frame, Svechnikov caught Krug with a high-stick and cut a rut to the sin bin.
The Bruins did not score on the power play that stretched into the second period.
Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Carolina held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 13-10.
The Hurricanes also led in takeaways (8-1), while the B’s dominated in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (3-1), hits (14-11) and face-off win percentage (61-39) through one period.
The Canes were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were 1/3 after 20 minutes of play.
While still on the penalty kill, Carolina roared out to a fast start in the second period as Aho (13) fired a shot that squibbed through Rask’s five-hole as McAvoy partially screened his own goaltender.
Teravainen (20) had the only assist on Aho’s short-handed goal at 1:29 of the second period and the Hurricanes tied the game, 2-2.
As a result of the shorthanded goal against, Boston has now allowed six shorthanded goals this season (tied for the 4th worst in the league).
Aho (14) followed up with his second goal of the night after Carolina forced a turnover and entered the attacking zone with a 3-on-1. This time a one-timer beat Rask and the Hurricanes led, 3-2, at 7:11 for the first time of the night.
Moments later, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Faulk (2) wired a shot from the point that beat Rask’s glove side as traffic in the slot screened the Bruins netminder from even seeing the puck.
Ferland (5) and Justin Williams (13) had the assists on Faulk’s goal at 11:47 and the Canes led, 4-2.
Late in the middle frame, Donato (5) scored his second goal of the night with a patented Donato snipe that went bar-down in the top left corner to pull the B’s within one goal.
Colby Cave (4) and Backes (7) had the assists at 16:05.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes held onto a, 4-3, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-28, advantage in shots on goal.
Early in the third period, Ferland hooked Donato and the Bruins went back on the power play at 5:44.
While shorthanded, Teravainen (8) capitalized on another bad play with the puck in Boston’s own zone– this time on a lapse in judgment from Rask– and pocketed the mostly empty net goal to make it, 5-3, Hurricanes after Aho was denied the first time.
Aho (24) did pick up an assist, however, on Teravainen’s goal and Carolina led by two-goals at 7:20 of the third period.
Late in the final frame of regulation, the Bruins bench picked up a minor penalty for too many men (served by Donato) at 14:27 and Svechnikov put the Hurricanes on the penalty kill for boarding McAvoy at 17:20.
Neither power play was successful and despite pulling Rask for an extra attacker with about 2:40 remaining in regulation, the Bruins failed to score.
At the final horn the Hurricanes had handed Boston their first regulation loss to Carolina since April 13, 2013, with a, 5-3, victory.
Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-30) and giveaways (8-6), while Boston led in blocked shots (16-14), hits (41-32) and face-off win% (60-40) as the team wearing Whalers throwbacks played the role of spoiler just as Hartford used to actually do.
The Canes went 0/3 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/5.
Among other stats, McAvoy finished the night as a minus-four. Matt Grzelcyk and Krejci were both minus-three’s. Steven Kampfer was a plus-one.
The reported attendance at PNC Arena was 17,491– the second highest this season, short of the 18,000-plus crowd for the home opener.
Fired up pic.twitter.com/8zdnmsyfRP— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) December 23, 2018
Boston fell to 20-13-4 (44 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic, while Carolina improved to 15-15-5 (35 points) and stayed in 6th in the Metropolitan Division.
Boston takes on New Jersey (Thurs.) and Buffalo (Sat.) before heading to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2019.
Before the action gets going Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, let’s take a quick second to give an updated forecast on the Carolina Hurricanes roster through 20 games played in the regular season.
Carolina currently sits 5th in the Metropolitan Division with a 9-8-3 record (21 points) on the season and has been all over the board in the league’s most tumultuous division thus far. The Hurricanes have been as high as 1st place in the Metropolitan and as low as 7th in the division on Nov. 6th (then again on Nov. 10th and 11th).
The Canes stormed out of the gate, then quickly dissipated around Halloween dropping out of the lead– but still maintaining a divisional playoff spot– before the rise of the Columbus Blue Jackets bumped them out of a postseason berth altogether on Nov. 1st.
They flirted with a wild card spot for a few days before the sinking ship began to carry too much water.
Head coach, Rod Brind’Amour has implemented a new style in the Hurricanes organization, featuring an emphasis on more shots on goal than ever before regardless of the actual scoring outcome.
Carolina is infected with the youth bug. Rookie mistakes and inconsistencies are to be made and a rookie coach trying to avoid the inevitable errors is no small task. Nothing is truly overnight and through the first quarter of the regular season, the Hurricanes are finding that out.
There’s some good news, however, as the Metropolitan Division is separated by a mere eight points from the Blue Jackets (1st) to the Pittsburgh Penguins (8th), so fixing the weak-spots in one’s game should lead to some separation from the competition with enough wins stringed together.
But with good news, there’s always some bad news too and that is what’s to be expected.
No really, as in the expected outcomes for the Hurricanes latest forecast– it’s not great.
Here’s the latest updated forecast for Carolina through the first 20 games of the regular season, keeping in mind there are many variable that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, etc. unknown to the frontiers of Microsoft Excel’s formulas.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math.
If a player meets the forecasted stats, they’ve met expectations. If they do better, they exceed expectations. If they do worse, they either missed a lot of action or didn’t live up to expectations.
There’s nothing to forecast puck luck, but we can point out trends and general indications from the scoresheet each night.
Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)
If anything, it’s promising that Sebastian Aho is on track for 26 goals and 43 assists (69 points) in his third NHL season. Next to Teuvo Teravainen‘s 17-35–52 expected totals, that’s about as far as it goes for excitement.
Only Aho, Jordan Staal and Micheal Ferland are expected to reach the 20-goal plateau for the Hurricanes this season. To make matters worse, Staal should end up with 22 goals and Ferland with 20, meaning Carolina will barely even have three players past the 20-goal mark. Yikes.
Hey at least Victor Rask is back from injury after missing the first 20 games.
On the blue line, three defenders will reach the 30-point plateau in expected points as Dougie Hamilton (12-26–38 expected totals), Justin Faulk (10-27–37 expected totals) and Jaccob Slavin (6-24–30 expected totals) lead the way in scoring from the point.
Considering the rest of the offense isn’t necessarily there, at least the defense is pretty respectable, all things considered.
If the Hurricanes get things going, they can capitalize on overall improvements and likely end up with at least two blue liners pushing 40 points. If they don’t– they might be worse than middle of the road. Again.
In goal, well, it’s the same old, same old.
Scott Darling (2.97 expected goals against average and .899 expected save percentage) has yet to prove he is a capable starting netminder. In fact, his expected totals as things stand right now wouldn’t even be backup goaltender caliber.
Petr Mrazek (2.73 expected GAA, .907 expected SV%) might have something left in the tank for one last chance at redemption and becoming a starter– if his defense can tighten its game up and limit quality shots against.
As for Curtis McElhinney (2.87 expected GAA, .908 expected SV%), well, he’s a decent backup in a limited role, so if Carolina wants to continue with a three-goaltender rotation, McElhinney is certain to improve his overall forecast, though only to respectable backup numbers.
After 20 games into the regular season, the Hurricanes aren’t looking much different from last season. This, of course, after they traded their best scorer in Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason for peanuts (draft picks).
Brind’Amour has improved Carolina’s pace of play, but he can’t do anything about the roster that was dealt to him. That’s where General Manager Don Waddell is going to have to get crafty– and soon, given the perpetual rebuild and playoff drought since 2009.
Tuesday night at PNC Arena the visiting Boston Bruins defeated a shot-making machine offense in the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, thanks to a two-goal effort from Brad Marchand and goaltender, Jaroslav Halak‘s 42 saves.
Halak (4-0-2 in 7 games played with a 1.52 goals against average and .947 save percentage) made 42 saves on 44 shots against for a .955 SV% in the win, while Carolina’s Scott Darling made his 2018-19 season debut after returning from injury and his conditioning stint with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).
Darling (0-1-0 in 1 GP) turned aside 28 shots out of 31 shots faced for a .903 SV% in 57:39 time on ice in the loss.
Boston improved to 7-3-2 (16 points) on the season, good enough for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings (trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs), while the Hurricanes slid to 6-5-1 (13 points) and 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division (behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders).
Torey Krug made his season debut for the Bruins as he was back in the lineup for the first time since his leg injury in the preseason, while Matt Grzelcyk was out of Bruce Cassidy‘s lineup with a lower body injury.
Early in the first period– like, 35 seconds into the opening frame, early– Jordan Staal tripped Bruins defender, John Moore, and gave Boston their first power play of the night. The B’s did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
It only took eight seconds for the Canes to score on the skater advantage.
Micheal Ferland (7) notched the power play goal as a scramble for the loose puck ensued as Halak fell back in desperation, yearning to make a glove save while No. 79 in red pocketed the rubber biscuit in the twine.
Cassidy used his coach’s challenge on the call on the ice (goal) on the grounds for a goaltender interference review as Zykov had brushed behind Halak in the crease prior to Ferland getting a stick on the puck. After review, the call on the ice stood and the Bruins lost their timeout as a result.
With his assist on Ferland’s goal, Aho became the 3rd player in NHL history to record at least one assist in a season-opening streak of 12 games joining Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky (7-20–27 totals through 12 games in 1982-83) and Boston’s Ken Linseman (2-19–21, 1985-86).
The goal was also Ferland’s 100th career NHL point.
Less than a minute later, Brandon Carlo earned himself a minor infraction for slashing Andrei Svechnikov and was sent to the penalty box at 18:29. Carolina didn’t score as time expired in the first period, so the resulting power play carried over into the second period.
Entering the dressing room for the first intermission, Carolina held onto a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard and a 12-8 advantage in shots on goal. The Hurricanes also led in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (4-2), giveaways (3-2) and hits (16-10), while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (55-46).
Carolina went 1/2 on the power play in the first period and Boston was 0/1 after 20 minutes.
The second period started out much to the tune of a more controlled Bruins effort as Brad Marchand moved in all alone on Darling, only to lose the puck while switching to his backhand as the Hurricanes netminder dove to make a last-ditch effort poke check.
Jaccob Slavin received a slashing minor for his obstruction of Marchand’s ability to get a shot off and Boston went back on the power play 1:01 into the second period.
Moments later it was Marchand himself cutting a rut to the sin bin for slashing Hurricanes blue liner, Dougie Hamilton, in one of those retaliation “chop the stick out of the other guy’s hands” plays at 4:55.
Carolina did not score on the power play.
Just past the halfway mark of the second period, Hurricanes captain, Justin Williams caught Krug up high with a stick to the face and was subsequently penalized for high-sticking at 10:36.
The Bruins scored on the ensuing power play, tying the game, 1-1, thanks to David Pastrnak (11) and his third time’s a charm effort on a one-timer blast from about the goal line, beating Darling short side.
Krug (1) and Patrice Bergeron (10) were tabbed with the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 12:22 of the middle frame.
Moore later sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game minor infraction, yielding a skater advantage to Carolina at 17:20.
While on a face-off in the attacking zone on the ensuing power play, Jordan Staal won the draw back to the left point where Hamilton (2) blasted a one-timer past Halak, high, blocker-side to give the Hurricanes a power play goal and the lead, 2-1 at 18:33.
Staal (3) had the only assist on Hamilton’s goal against the team that drafted him 9th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft prior to sending him to the Calgary Flames hours before the 2015 NHL Draft in exchange for a 2015 1st round pick (Zach Senyshyn, 15th overall) and two 2015 2nd round picks (Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, 45th overall and Lauzon, 52nd overall).
After Bergeron stripped Warren Foegele of the puck on a break-in, No. 37 in black-and-gold sent a pass up-ice to his linemate wearing No. 63 awaiting entry in the attacking zone at the blue line.
From there, Marchand (3) broke in with speed and fired a wrist shot past Darling’s glove hand to tied the game, 2-2, on the power play as the Hurricanes were caught during a bungled line change.
Carolina’s bench was guilty of too many men on the ice and Boston went from ending one power play to beginning a new one at 19:42 of the middle frame.
Bergeron (11) had the only assist on Marchand’s power play goal and Ferland served the bench minor for the Hurricanes as play resumed.
Through two periods of play the score was tied, 2-2, and the Hurricanes were outshooting the Bruins, 36-22. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (8-7), while the Canes led in takeaways (8-6), hits (19-18) and face-off win% (56-44). Both teams had nine giveaways aside after 40 minutes of play and Carolina was 2/4 on the power play, while the B’s were 2/5.
Boston was the only team to score a goal in the third period as Marchand (4) picked up his second of the night on a wraparound goal, having freed himself with speed from Williams behind the net at 5:23 of the final frame.
Darling overcommitted to the right side of the crease as Marchand maintained possession, wrapped around the goalframe and gave the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 5:23 of the third period.
Bergeron (12) once again had the only assist on Marchand’s goal.
After a stoppage in play with 2:19 remaining in regulation, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour used his timeout to hone the focus of his players on the ice on getting the game-tying goal with the extra attacker as a result of pulling his goaltender.
Carolina’s plans didn’t come to fruition and almost backfired when Pastrnak sent the puck wide of the open 4-by-6 frame with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game.
At the final horn, Boston defeated Carolina, 3-2, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 44-31, in shots on goal. The Hurricanes led in every other category, including blocked shots (17-12), giveaways (15-12), hits (28-23) and face-off win% (56-44) after the 60-minute effort.
The B’s finished 2/5 on the power play, while the Canes went 2/4.
The Bruins head to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee for a Saturday night matchup with the Predators before returning home on Monday, Nov. 5th against the Dallas Stars.
Among other stats…
Pastrnak led Boston with nine shots on goal. Marchand was the next closest with five. Carlo led his teammates in hits with six and Zdeno Chara recorded a team-high three blocked shots.
Jordan Martinook had a team-high five hits for Carolina in the loss.
It’s October whateverth, I know, and the regular season is already underway, but transferring data into a new system and (in some cases) building new rosters entirely can take its time in the midst of catching every game on TV, living life, etc.
So without further ado let’s pretend the 5-3-1 (11 points)– 1st place in the Metropolitan Division– Carolina Hurricanes didn’t actually start the season yet and let’s turn back the clocks to before puck drop on the regular season.
Back then, Andrei Svechnikov had yet to play an NHL game as an 18-year-old rookie. The 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft’s forecasted stats couldn’t be calculated until he stepped foot on the ice. Though his 2-2–4 totals in his first nine games have him forecasted for 18 goals and 18 assists (36 points) over his first 82 games, we’ll pretend we don’t actually know what we know now.
Anyway, the fact of the matter remains the same– prior to the start of any regular season, these forecasted stats are merely educated expectations. A player who performs better than their expected outcome exceeded expectations (makes sense). A player who doesn’t live up to the numbers was either injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak (or whatever).
Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division with a 36-35-11 record and 83 points on the season. Bill Peters was fired as head coach and former Hurricanes superstar Rod Brind’Amour was hired behind the bench. Don Waddell took over as General Manager in the offseason, going from interim to full-time as owner Tom Dundon embraced a new direction to go along with his new reign.
The annual doldrums in Raleigh, North Carolina might be over sooner rather than later with a stockpile of youth in Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Svechnikov and others, in addition to the quietly shutdown defensive pairings that include Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and newcomers Dougie Hamilton, as well as Calvin de Haan.
Carolina holds the longest playoff drought in the league currently, dating back to their 2009 Eastern Conference Finals appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins– just three years removed from their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The Hurricanes haven’t been part of any postseason activity in the 2010s.
Not that this season can necessarily change that, but the end of the drought is soon and the oasis of playoff hockey draws near.
It’s at this point in every forecast where I’d like to remind everyone my degree is in communication– not math– therefore all mistakes are strictly Microsoft Excels fault and for sure not an error of my own. Well, that, and there’s sometimes a little gut-feeling mixed in for players who’ve only played in less than ten games and therefore are projected to score, like, 100 goals or something.
My area of expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers.
Forecasted stats are to be looked at as an utopian perspective– as though everything were to fall into line and nothing bad could ever happen. Some players will pan out and others will fall flat. These are only suggested (expected) outcomes for a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
The good news for Carolina heading into 2018-19 is the realistic expectations are low. There’s only three players that are expected to crack the 50-point plateau, but that doesn’t mean any meteoric rise can’t creep up on any member of the Hurricanes and propel this roster into the postseason for the first time in– by the time April rolls around– a decade.
Brind’Amour is behind the bench now and having no prior NHL experience as a head coach, there’s nothing to point to and say “they’re destined to fail”. The Canes might come out of this with one of the best rookie coaches this season if they make the playofs and given all the expectations of the other rookie coaches around the league.
Washington’s Todd Reirden is behind the defending-Cup champions (so there’s high expectations with room only to fail), David Quinn is coaching a rebuilding New York Rangers bunch (so anything goes), Jim Montgomery is in charge of the borderline Dallas Stars (things could go either way) and Brind’Amour, well, he can only go up what with the roster he was given.
As always, we’ll get into goalies and rookies after the first quarter of the season passes, however, he’s a quick look at the expected top-points scorers for the Hurricanes this season.
Valentin Zykov has shown potential before and if Brind’Amour can finally be the one to light a fire under his playing style, perhaps Zykov just might amass 24-35–59 totals and be like William Karlsson was for the Vegas Golden Knights last season– except this time around, Zykov isn’t a new face in town for a new team.
Aho (27-31–58 expected totals) should easily reach, if not exceed, expectations for Carolina as he enters the world of first line minutes in the post-Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes era.
We’ll neglect the holes in the Skinner trade where Waddell should’ve gotten more, but at least Aho is a positive in the “next man up” category of “players who should live up to being rushed into the spotlight, since there’s nobody else to turn to and have already been part of the organization prior to a rather one-sided trade”.
“Mr. Game 7” himself (Justin Williams) is bound for one last “breakout” year with 22-33–55 expected totals on a rejuvenated Hurricanes roster.
On defense, Dougie Hamilton (44 expected points) supersedes Justin Faulk (39 expected points) as Carolina’s top blue liner after being acquired in the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm trade for Hamilton, Ferland and Adam Fox. In addition, Slavin and Pesce continue to fill-out one of the best kept secrets in NHL defense as pieces of the most underrated top-six blue liners with de Haan now part of the fold.
In goal, well, Brind’Amour has a lot of decisions to make on an almost nightly basis. Neither Scott Darling nor Petr Mrazek look to have goals against averages or save percentages in the starting goaltender range.
In fact, both are in the sub-par backup goaltender range– closer to 3.00 than 2.00– so as long as the Hurricane’s defense limits shots against and lessens the workload, then perhaps the season’s collapse won’t be because of bad goaltending.
Time will tell.