The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.
A pair of goals from Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak’s 20th goal of the season and one game-changing save from Tuukka Rask catapulted the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Thursday.
Rask (10-2-2 record, 2.05 goals against average, .931 save percentage in 14 games played) made a season-high 36 saves on 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for the B’s.
Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (4-5-1, 3.01 GAA, .910 SV% in 10 games played) turned aside 24 shots on 27 shots against for an .889 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 14-3-5 (33 points) and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-9-3 (23 points) and stuck in 4th place in the Atlantic as the Toronto Maple Leafs were in action in Arizona against the Coyotes (a win in any fashion for the Leafs would drop Buffalo to 5th in the Atlantic Division standings).
Boston is 8-0-4 at home this season in 12 games, which is the longest home point streak since the 1973-74 season.
Meanwhile, Pastrnak is the fourth different player in Bruins history to reach the 20-goal mark in 22 or fewer games, becoming the fifth fastest behind Phil Esposito (20 goals in 18 games in 1973-74), Cam Neely (20 goals in 19 games in 1993-94), Herb Cain (20 goals in 20 games in 1943-44) and Esposito again (20 goals in 21 games in 1974-75).
The B’s are now on a two-game winning streak and have won three out of their last four games, while the Sabres dropped to 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.
One more, the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Thursday.
Re-joining the long list of injured B’s was Brett Ritchie (upper body), as announced by Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, earlier in the day prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Sabres.
Ritchie’s infection was reaggravated and kept him out of his 7th game due to injury this season.
Patrice Bergeron was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. He returned to his usual spot as the first line center with Marchand on his left wing and Pastrnak on his right wing.
Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing with David Krejci resuming his role as the No. 2 center and Jake DeBrusk remaining on the left side.
Par Lindholm was left as the third line center with Anders Bjork on his left wing and Danton Heinen on his right wing.
Cassidy left his fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner alone, as well as his defensive pairings in the same shape as they’ve been with Krug out due to injury.
Steven Kampfer remained Boston’s only healthy scratch on Thursday.
Early in the period, Lindholm went down the tunnel with an injury after it appeared he might have been cut by a skate in a collision with Rasmus Asplund. He returned to the bench by the end of the period, but only played 20 seconds in his first shift of the night.
Lindholm later returned to the ice in the second period and resumed his usual duties.
Moments later, Kuraly tripped Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues and was sent to the penalty box at 5:05 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to the Sabres.
Buffalo’s power play unit worked quickly and effectively as Rasmus Ristolainen (1) pocketed a rebound into the back of the net from right in the crease after Rask made the initial save.
Jack Eichel (13) and Victor Olofsson (9) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s power play goal that made it, 1-0, Sabres at 5:25.
It was just the 6th time in 22 games that the Bruins allowed the game’s first goal.
What was more troubling for the B’s wasn’t that they were down early, but rather that they didn’t record their first shot on net until 12:11.
About a couple minutes later, Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that Marchand (14) tipped in from the low slot, tying the game, 1-1, on Boston’s 2nd shot of the night at 13:52.
Chara (5) and Pastrnak (16) had the assists on Marchand’s goal.
Less than a minute later, after a scrum in front of the net followed a puck frozen by a goaltender, Wagner dropped the gloves with Curtis Lazar in what was just Boston’s 3rd fight of the season (and first since Marchand fought Filip Hronek on Nov. 8th in Detroit).
Both players also received matching roughing minors at 14:14, resulting in no skater advantages.
Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Sabres leading in shots on goal, 17-4.
Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (6-4) and hits (8-7), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4) after one period.
The two teams had a pair of giveaways and were 50-50 in faceoff winning percentage.
Heading into the second period, Buffalo was 1/1 on the power play, while the B’s had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.
Buffalo’s 17 shots on goal in the first period were the 2nd most shots allowed in a period by Boston this season. The most shots against in one period for the Bruins thus far is 18 on Nov. 16th on home ice against the Washington Capitals.
Early in the middle frame, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Zemgus Girgensons and was sent to the box at 4:44 of the second period.
The Sabres didn’t convert on the resulting power play.
Midway through the period, Asplund held Krejci and was assessed with a minor at 13:15– presenting Boston with their first power play opportunity of the night.
It only took the Bruins 90 seconds to capitalize on the power play as Marchand (15) caught a rebound and slid the puck under Ullmark for the power play goal at 14:45.
Grzelcyk (5) and Heinen (6) had the assists on the goal as the B’s took their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Less than a minute later, Coyle took a trip to the sin bin for hooking Eichel at 15:16. Boston killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid with ease.
In the final minute of the second period, Ullmark denied DeBrusk with a sprawling leg pad save while DeBrusk entered the attacking zone on a breakaway, before crashing into the boards and heading right down the tunnel to the dressing room for a head start on the second intermission.
He returned for the third period without any issues.
After 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Sabres, 24-18, in shots on goal, despite having a, 14-7, shots on net advantage in the second period alone.
The B’s held the lead in blocked shots (10-9), hits (14-12) and faceoff win% (51-49), however, while Buffalo led in takeaways (10-6) and giveaways (8-4).
Heading into the third period, the Sabres were 1/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/1.
Jake McCabe opened up the final frame of regulation with a minor penalty for holding against Heinen 32 seconds into the third period.
While on the power play, Pastrnak (20) gathered a rebound and slipped the puck underneath Ullmark’s elevated leg pad and scored his 20th goal of the season– becoming the first NHL player to reach the 20-goal plateau this season.
Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Heinen (7) and Bergeron (12) at 1:56 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-1.
Less than a couple of minutes later, Nordstrom was sent to the box for tripping Rasmus Dahlin at 3:33.
Rodrigues thought he had a surefire power play goal for the Sabres as Buffalo pressured the Bruins into near submission, but Rask made a no-stick, inside of the blocker save, while diving across the crease.
Boston killed off Nordstrom’s minor as a result.
Midway through the third period, Brandon Montour (2) blasted a one-timer into the twine from the point, cutting Boston’s lead in half, 3-2, at 12:58.
Conor Sheary (3) and Dahlin (13) tallied the assists on Montour’s goal as the Sabres pressed, but couldn’t complete a third period comeback over the Bruins.
With 1:19 remaining in the game, Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but couldn’t muster a 6-on-5 goal– even after using his timeout with 39.8 seconds left to drum up the perfect plan.
At the final horn, Boston sealed the deal on a, 3-2, victory over Buffalo– improving to 10-0-2 when leading after two periods in the process.
The Sabres finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-27) and giveaways (14-4), while the Bruins walked away with the advantage in blocked shots (17-11), hits (20-14) and faceoff win% (54-46).
Buffalo finished Thursday’s action 1/4 on the skater advantage as the B’s went 2/2 on the power play.
Boston finishes their two-game homestand (1-0-0) against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.
The new format of the DTFR Podcast is introduced as Dustin Byfuglien is out for an extended period of time, Louis Domingue was traded, Scott Sabourin suffered a scary injury and the New York Islanders are on a nine-game winning streak.
For the first time this season, the calendar is flipped to a new month– and with a new month comes new expectations.
All 31 National Hockey League teams are starting to find a rhythm– for better or worse– and it’s time to acknowledge the general trends of what to expect based on what’s already happened for the first 1/8th of the season (approximately).
American Thanksgiving is still around the corner, which means that any team in a playoff position by Nov. 28th is more likely to qualify for the playoffs by April 4th.
There’s enough time between now and then for a lot to change.
As always, that means it’s time for a new forecast based on what we’ve seen so far and what we may see in the future.
In other words, here’s an educated guess based on a formulaic approach thanks to the wonderful world of spreadsheets.
This isn’t an exact science. It takes into account everything from the last few seasons, as well as every little detail through the end of Oct. 31, 2019.
Anything can happen. It’s a long road to April.
Projected Standings After One Month
- p-Boston Bruins, 110 points (12 games played entering November 1st)
- x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (12 GP)
- x-Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (13 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 91 points (13 GP)
- Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points (14 GP)
- Buffalo Sabres, 82 points (13 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 79 points (13 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 74 points (11 GP)
The Boston Bruins are off to a hot start thanks to Tuukka Rask’s stellar goaltending (6-0-1 record, 1.42 goals against average, .951 save percentage in seven games played) and David Pastrnak’s hot stick (12-12–24 totals in 12 games played).
Bruce Cassidy’s leadership behind the bench has steered the B’s away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance hangover and towards another playoff berth for what would be the fourth year in-a-row.
Meanwhile, after a slow start to their season, Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning casually waltz into home ice advantage in at least the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Claude Julien re-enters the postseason frame with the Montreal Canadiens as if it’s 2004 again (granted, Julien and the Habs made it in 2017, but only after Julien replaced Michel Therrien as head coach for the second time).
Joel Quenneville’s first season as head coach of the Florida Panthers led to an improvement, but not quite enough to get them back into the postseason, while another Stanely Cup winning coach took his team in a different direction.
That coach is Mike Babcock and that team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who trudged through the middle of the road all season and ended up just outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (unless Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan decide to stray from the “Shanaplan”).
Though the Buffalo Sabres are hot right now, it seems history repeats itself. Buffalo’s great October, November and/or December wasn’t enough to sustain themselves through the winer months of January, February and March, but overall the team improved and should be a playoff contender next season.
At least the Sabres aren’t the Detroit Red Wings (still a few years away from being a contender) or the Ottawa Senators (they say they’ll spend money in 2021, but…).
- y-Washington Capitals, 110 points (14 GP)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (13 GP)
- x-New York Islanders, 95 points (11 GP)
- wc1-Carolina Hurricanes, 92 points (12 GP)
- wc2-Columbus Blue Jackets, 91 points (12 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (11 GP)
- New York Rangers, 87 points (10 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 81 points (10 GP)
Alex Ovechkin continues his annual quest for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and likely succeeds unless Pastrnak has anything to say about it.
In the meantime, the Washington Capitals continue to take home the regular season crown in the Metropolitan Division because somehow they always seem to do that no matter the postseason outcome.
The Pittsburgh Penguins avoid major missteps without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup for most of October due to injury and turned things on for the duration of the second half of the season as they always do, yielding 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.
Barry Trotz’s leadership with the New York Islanders has keep things tight-knit and playoff bound, but unless every 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff home game for the Isles is played at NYCB Live/Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, then it’s not worth it.
Rod Brind’Amour is the best coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and he continues to climb the ranks of “best head coaches in franchise history” with another wild card appearance, at least, and what should be yet another thrilling playoff run for the Canes.
Meanwhile, somehow the Columbus Blue Jackets pieced together enough wins to snag the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference before bowing out in the First Round due to a lack of depth.
Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are all near the bottom of the division, but only with a few points spread between them– meaning that anything after 1st or 2nd place in the division is realistically up for grabs as long as a team goes on a perfectly timed run.
- z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (13 GP)
- x-St. Louis Blues, 101 points (13 GP)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 93 points (13 GP)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (12 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (11 GP)
- Dallas Stars, 86 points (14 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (13 GP)
In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are going to pounce on the competition as the leaders of the West in the regular season. The only trouble is, they still might blow it in the last second of overtime or something.
The defending champion St. Louis Blues are content to finish 2nd in the Central Division, but remain hungry in their quest for another Cup.
After a slow start to the season, Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets somehow right the ship and earned themselves the last divisional spot in the Central Division.
But the Colorado Avalanche hold a wild card spot in the latest forecast as the real wild card of the entire Western Conference. Injuries could hold them back in the regular season, but they’ve shown they can make noise in the playoffs last spring.
Otherwise, if the Avs can stay healthy for longer periods of time, then Colorado could climb in the standings.
Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks are still trending in the wrong direction– facing the existential crisis of holding onto the old guard or continuing to dismantle their Cup-winning core– while the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild compete for the worst of the former and/or current Minnesota franchises this season.
Spoiler alert, it’s the Wild.
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points (14 GP)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points (14 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 92 points (13 GP)
- wc2-Calgary Flames, 91 points (15 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 89 points (12 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (14 GP)
- Arizona Coyotes, 82 points (12 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 82 points (13 GP)
Nothing is going how things were expected to go in the Pacific Division and as a result, there’s still no conclusive results.
The Vegas Golden Knights are good and could likely win the Pacific Division regular season title, but the Anaheim Ducks aren’t bowing out of playoff contention just yet.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks are as bad as the Los Angeles Kings, so this forecast will be further fine-tuned next month as the Sharks continue to slip from dominant to dormant in the standings.
The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers all might take a stab at playoff contention, yet the Arizona Coyotes are on the rise.
At the very least, this is the most unpredictable division in the league that not even our current forecast can make any definitive claims.
Check back next month for further separation in the spread, as well as a more realistic view of where each team should likely land within the range of standings.
Brad Marchand scored the game’s only goal and Jaroslav Halak turned aside every shot he faced en route to the Boston Bruins’, 1-0, victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Saturday.
Halak (1-0-0 record, 0.00 goals against average, 1.000 save percentage in one game played) made 35 saves on 35 shots for his 1st shutout of the season (48th of his career).
Coyotes goaltender, Darcy Kuemper (0-2-0, 1.54 GAA, .945 SV% in two games played), stopped 25 out of 26 shots faced for a .962 SV% in the loss.
The B’s have won their last 15 games against Arizona, which is tied for the longest active win streak versus an opponent. The Tampa Bay Lightning have also won 15 in a row against the Detroit Red Wings.
Boston was once again without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder) and Joakim Nordstrom (foot), but David Krejci (lower body) returned to the lineup Saturday night.
Krejci missed Thursday night’s season opener in Dallas and was a game-time decision both nights, but Bruce Cassidy told reporters prior to Saturday night’s game that he expected Krejci to play.
Cassidy also informed reporters that Nordstrom could return to the lineup during the road trip.
With Krejci back in the lineup– making his season debut– centering the second line, Cassidy moved Par Lindholm to the fourth line center and shifted Sean Kuraly to the left wing and Chris Wagner to the right wing.
As a result, David Backes joined Steven Kampfer on Boston’s list of healthy scratches.
Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie remained together on the third line, while the “Perfection Line” of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak went untouched (as always).
On defense, Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton remained as the third pairing with Miller and Moore out due to injury.
The last time the B’s lost to the Coyotes was on Oct. 9, 2010. That night, the game was in Prague, Czech Republic as part of the Compuware NHL Premiere that season. The team then known as the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Bruins, 5-2, in the 2010-11 season opener.
Boston went on to win the Cup that season, though.
Phil Kessel made his home debut for Arizona as the Coyotes played their first home game of the season at Gila River Arena on Saturday.
Midway through the first period, Charlie McAvoy was penalized for interference when he tied up Lawson Crouse for too long away from the puck.
Arizona went on the power play for the first time of the night at 13:01 of the first period and could not convert on the skater advantage.
Late in the opening frame, after defending multiple chances for the Coyotes, Boston worked their way into the attacking zone and cycled the puck to generate a shot on goal.
Marchand (1) unleashed a shot from the faceoff circle that squibbed through Kuemper to give the B’s the, 1-0, lead.
Bergeron (1) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal at 18:41.
After one period, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 10-6, in shots on goal. Arizona also led in blocked shots (8-4), hits (11-9) and faceoff win percentage (59-41) entering the first intermission.
Boston led in giveaways (6-4), while both teams had three takeaways each. The Coyotes were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Clifton and Crouse receiving roughing minors at 11:05 of the second period after a post-whistle scuffle.
After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, both sides resumed full strength with no issues.
Christian Dvorak caught Clifton with a high stick late in the period and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night at 17:59 of the second period.
Eight seconds later, Pastrnak interfered with Michael Grabner while Grabner was on a shorthanded breakaway for Arizona.
Pastrnak was charged with an infraction at 18:07 and the two teams played 4-on-4 once again for 1:52.
The Coyotes couldn’t muster anything with their abbreviated power play thereafter.
Through 40 minutes of action, Boston still led on the scoreboard, 1-0, despite trailing in shots on goal, 21-15 (including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone for the Coyotes).
Arizona continued to lead in blocked shots (16-12), hits (20-18) and faceoff win% (67-33), while also taking the lead in takeaways (7-4) after two periods.
The B’s led in giveaways (9-6) and were 0/1 on the skater advantage entering the final frame of regulation. Arizona was 0/2.
Just 48 seconds into the third period, Karson Kuhlman was penalized for interference, but the Coyotes were unable to capitalized on the power play.
Less than a minute after killing off Kuhlman’s minor, the Bruins went on the power play thanks to Jordan Oesterle’s slashing infraction at 3:24 of the third period.
Boston did not score on the skater advantage.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, Coyotes head coach, Rick Tocchet, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was too little, too late for Arizona as time expired
At the final horn, Halak and the Bruins locked up the, 1-0, shutout victory, while finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 35-26.
Arizona also led in the final statistics for blocked shots (19-15), hits (27-25) and faceoff win% (65-35), while both teams managed 11 giveaways aside.
The Coyotes finished the night 0/3 on the power play and Boston went 0/2.
The Bruins improved to 2-0-0 on the season and are tied for 2nd in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres, while Arizona fell to 0-2-0 and remain tied for 6th in the Pacific Division with the Vancouver Canucks.
Boston travels to T-Mobile Arena for a Tuesday night meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights before wrapping up their four-game road trip with a stop in Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.
The B’s will play the New Jersey Devils next Saturday in Boston’s home opener.