Tag Archives: Artemi Panarin

Jenner’s hat trick downs Bruins, 7-4, in Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets dealt the Boston Bruins their first back-to-back losses since late December with a, 7-4, victory at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.

Boone Jenner had a hat trick for Columbus as Boston lost in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 23rd (at Carolina) and Dec. 27th (versus New Jersey) after their 19-game point streak was snapped on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Sergei Bobrovsky (30-22-1 record, 2.76 goals against average, .906 save percentage in 53 games played) made 27 saves on 31 shots against for an .871 SV% in the win for the Blue Jackets.

Before being replaced in the second period, Tuukka Rask (24-9-5, 2.41 GAA, .918 SV% in 39 GP) stopped 19 out of 24 shots faced in the loss, while Jaroslav Halak (18-10-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV% in 35 GP) made nine saves on 10 shots against in relief of Rask for the B’s.

Boston fell to 42-19-9 (93 points) on the season, but remained in control of 2nd place in the Atlantic, while Columbus improved to 39-28-3 (81 points) and remained 5th in the Metropolitan, as well as in command of the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins fell to 27-6-5 when scoring first in a game this season and 15-12-6 on the road.

Bruce Cassidy made a few adjustments to his lineup with Kevan Miller (upper body), David Pastrnak (left thumb), Jake DeBrusk (lower body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) all out due to injury.

With Lee Stempniak reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL), Trent Frederic was recalled on emergency basis.

Charlie Coyle moved up to David Krejci’s right wing with Peter Cehlarik at left wing on the second line, while Joakim Nordstrom slid down to the third line left wing with Frederic at center and David Backes on the right side in his usual role.

Since Grzelcyk was out due to injury, Steven Kampfer suited up alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing.

Early into the action, Brandon Carlo was penalized for interference at 3:29 of the first period and gave the Blue Jackets their first power play of the night.

Nearly 30 seconds into the ensuing power play for Columbus, the Bruins caught the Blue Jackets on a turnover and charged down the ice on a shorthanded bid.

Brad Marchand tossed the puck over to Patrice Bergeron (26) for his 4th shorthanded goal of the season and 3rd SHG this week.

Boston grabbed the, 1-0, lead at 4:00 of the first period with Marchand (55) tallying the only assist on Bergeron’s goal.

Shortly after the B’s went ahead, Josh Anderson (23) showed off his speed and caught the Bruins in a line change. Anderson deked and scored on a breakaway with ease and tied the game, 1-1.

Zach Werenski (28) and Ryan Dzingel (26) had the assists on Anderson’s goal at 7:19.

Almost seven minutes later, Dzingel (23) scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket after following up on a rebound generated by Werenski (and the following second and third chances until Dzingel banked the puck off Rask and in)– making it, 2-1, Columbus.

Werenski (29) and Seth Jones (32) were credited with the assists on Dzingel’s goal at 14:18 of the first period.

Late in the period, Columbus committed a rash of penalties with Jenner sent to the box for tripping Bergeron at 17:34 and Nick Foligno closing his hand on the puck at 18:56, resulting in 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Boston.

It did not go well for the Bruins.

Shortly after emerging from the box, Jenner (13) crashed the slot on another breakaway by Anderson and pocketed the rebound to give the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead.

Anderson (15) had the only assist on Jenner’s first goal of the night t 19:54 of the first period and Columbus led, 3-1, heading into the first intermission.

It was the 13th shorthanded goal allowed by the Bruins this season.

The Blue Jackets dominated in shots on goal (13-4), blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (70-30) entering the second period, while Boston led in hits (9-2).

Both teams had three takeaways each, while the Blue Jackets were 0/1 on the power play. The B’s were 0/2 on the skater advantage after 20 minutes of play.

Cassidy juggled his second and third lines to start the middle frame, but things started to slide almost halfway into the period.

Matt Duchene (29) scored on a backhand pass from Dzingel while sneaking into the slot after Columbus sustained pressure in the attacking zone to make it, 4-1, Blue Jackets.

Dzingel (27) and Anderson (16) had the assists at 7:09 of the second period.

Jenner (14) added his second goal of the night– and his 100th career NHL goal– a minute later with Riley Nash (8) and Foligno (14) receiving credit for the assists.

Columbus led, 5-1, at 8:09 of the second period and Cassidy had watched his crew let down his goaltender enough. It was time for a change, so he pulled Rask in favor of Halak.

Things started to click for the B’s as Marchand (29) answered on the scoreboard at 13:07 of the middle frame.

Charlie McAvoy (18) and Backes (11) notched the assists as Boston pulled to within three goals.

A mere 14 seconds after Marchand’s goal, McAvoy and Artemi Panarin got into a scrap and exchanged fisticuffs for the 1st time this season (and 2nd time in their careers) at 13:21.

As an aside, McAvoy’s last fight (and first of his career) also came against the Blue Jackets last season (against Pierre-Luc Dubois).

McAvoy also picked up an extra minor penalty for slashing, so Cassidy sent Danton Heinen to serve the penalty while the Bruins were shorthanded.

Boston had a little more fight in them– in part because of McAvoy’s actual fight– and sustained an attack as the period ticked by.

Chris Wagner (12) broke free from the Blue Jackets blue liners and slipped the puck past Bobrovsky on a breakaway at 15:36 of the second period.

Heinen (20) had the only assist as the “Mayor of Walpole” made it a two-goal game. Columbus’ lead was whittled down to, 5-3.

Late in the middle frame, Marchand (30) tabbed his second goal of the game off a face-off from point blank.

Bergeron (39) had the only assist and the Bruins trailed, 5-4, at 18:37 of the second period.

Marchand has reached the 30-goal plateau for the 4th consecutive season and has at least 85 points in his last three seasons.

Columbus also only had four skaters on the ice– after a stoppage in play that resulted in a face-off in their own zone– for the goal against.

They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Heading into the second intermission, Columbus led, 5-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 28-17. The Blue Jackets also led in blocked shots (11-5), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (70-30).

Boston led in hits (18-9) after 40 minutes of play, while both clubs were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.

Kampfer cut a rut to the penalty box for slashing Anderson at 1:43 of the third period, but the Blue Jackets did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Panarin slashed Torey Krug at 10:08, but Boston didn’t capitalized on the skater advantage. Despite nearly completing a comeback in the second period– the Bruins failed to score in the final frame.

Heinen hooked David Savard at 10:49 of the third period and Columbus went back on the power play.

Late on the ensuing advantage, Werenski (10) wired a shot into the twine from the point past Halak after the Bruins nearly capitalized on a couple quality shorthanded chances.

Panarin (49) and Anderson (17) notched the assists on Werenski’s goal at 12:21 of the third period and the Blue Jackets led, 6-4.

With less than 90 seconds left in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker to no avail.

Jenner (15) completed his first career hat trick with a shot at the empty net from his own end at 19:13. Nash (9) and Werenski (30) had the assists and the Blue Jackets led, 7-4.

Columbus finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-31), blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (7-5) and face-off win% (64-36).

The Blue Jackets went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston finished Tuesday night leading in hits (22-18) and went 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins are currently 0-2-0 on their three-game road trip that wraps up Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Boston returns home to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday before hitting the road against next Tuesday (March 19th) against the New York Islanders.

After the B’s take on the Isles, they swing through New Jersey on March 21st, Florida on March 23rd and Tampa on March 25th.


Game of the week: March 4-10

It’s hard to believe, but there’s less than one month remaining in the regular season. 16 clubs are none too concerned about that, but with the exception of Tampa Bay, we don’t officially know yet which teams those are.

Take a look at this week’s schedule that got us a little closer to figuring out the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL SCHEDULE: March 4-10
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, March 4
7 p.m. Edmonton Buffalo 4-3
9 p.m. Toronto Calgary 6-2
Tuesday, March 5
7 p.m. Carolina Boston 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Columbus New Jersey 2-1 (SO)
7 p.m. Ottawa Senators New York Islanders 4-5 (SO)
7 p.m. Florida Pittsburgh 2-3 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Tampa Bay 2-5
8 p.m. Minnesota Nashville 4-5 (SO)
8:30 p.m. New York Rangers Dallas Stars 0-1
9 p.m. Detroit Colorado 3-4 (OT)
9 p.m. Anaheim Arizona 3-1
10:30 p.m. Montréal Los Angeles 3-1
Wednesday, March 6
7:30 p.m. Washington Philadelphia 5-3
9 p.m. Toronto Vancouver 2-3 (OT)
10 p.m. St. Louis Anaheim 5-4
10:30 p.m. Calgary Vegas 1-2
Thursday, March 7
7 p.m. Florida Boston 3-4
7 p.m. Columbus Pittsburgh 0-3
7:30 p.m. New York Islanders Ottawa Senators 4-2
7:30 p.m. New York Rangers Detroit Red Wings 2-3 (SO)
7:30 p.m. Minnesota Tampa Bay 3-0
8:30 p.m. Buffalo Chicago 4-5 (SO)
8:30 p.m. Colorado Dallas 0-4
9 p.m. Vancouver Edmonton 2-3
9 p.m. Calgary Arizona 0-2
10:30 p.m. St. Louis Los Angeles 4-0
10:30 p.m. Montréal San Jose 2-5
Friday, March 8
7 p.m. Minnesota Florida 2-6
7 p.m. New Jersey Washington 0-3
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Carolina 8-1
10 p.m. Montréal Anaheim 2-8
Saturday, March 9
3 p.m. Buffalo Colorado  
4 p.m. St. Louis San Jose NHLN
7 p.m. Toronto Edmonton CBC, NHLN, SN
7 p.m. Ottawa Boston CITY, SN1, TVAS
7 p.m. Detroit Tampa Bay  
7 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers New York Islanders  
7 p.m. New Jersey Devils New York Rangers  
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Columbus  
8 p.m. Los Angeles Arizona  
8 p.m. Carolina Nashville  
8 p.m. Chicago Dallas  
10 p.m. Vegas Vancouver CBC, CITY, SN, SN1
Sunday, March 10
5 p.m. Detroit Florida  
7 p.m. Winnipeg Washington SN
7:30 p.m. Boston Pittsburgh NBCSN, TVAS
9:30 p.m. Vegas Calgary SN1
10 p.m. Los Angeles Anaheim NBCSN

As always, this week’s NHL schedule did not disappoint. We were given our regular serving of rivalries, starting with a throwback in Denver when Detroit visited Colorado on Tuesday. Wednesday also featured a derby, this one involving the Capitals heading to the City of Brotherly Love.

Columbus and Pittsburgh will square off twice this week, with the Pens taking Game 1 on Thursday before heading to Ohio for Game 2 this evening. Speaking of Thursday, the Rangers and Red Wings also matched up and honored Ted Lindsay with an extremely competitive game.

Finally, this weekend also features the previously-mentioned Penguins-Blue Jackets tilt and the Battle of the Hudson River today followed by the Freeway Face-Off tomorrow night.

In regards to momentous homecomings this week, there weren’t any. By my estimation, the most important was Kevin Fiala‘s return to Nashville. Fiala played 204 games with the Predators since being drafted by the organization in 2014 before being traded to Minnesota at this year’s deadline.

As to which game takes our attention this week, I’ve been drawn to the Columbus-Pittsburgh series. With six teams (Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Capitals, Hurricanes, Islanders and Penguins) fighting for five spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, one good side is going to see its season end at 82 games.

While not a season-ender, this series is a major step for both Columbus and Pittsburgh in determining their postseason fates. With two points already in the Pens’ pockets, how will tonight’s tilt go down?

Coming into tonight’s game with a 36-22-9 record, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently holding down third place in the Metropolitan Division.

While that is certainly an improvement from where this team was just a few weeks ago, the Pens’ job is still not finished as they only have a four-point cushion separating them from ending their season at 82 games.

Pittsburgh isn’t looking back these days, though. It’s riding a solid six-game point streak (4-0-2) that includes two wins against tonight’s opponent (more on that later) and a 5-1 victory in Québec.

Pittsburgh fans will know that this string of games started with the Stadium Series overtime loss in Philadelphia. That was a game that cost the Penguins two defensemen (D Brian Dumoulin has since returned to action on Tuesday) and has forced them to reexamine their defensive game, involving each and every skater on the ice.

While this new strategy has certainly paid major dividends for Head Coach Mike Sullivan‘s side, there is one player who has still shined brighter than the rest: 22-10-3 G Matt Murray.

Despite the new defensive strategies, Pittsburgh is still yielding an average of 31 shots per game during this run – the NHL’s middle-of-the-road since February 23. Despite that, the Penguins are also yielding an average of only 2.17 goals against per game, the fifth-best mark in that time.

Murray has been in net for all of the Penguins’ last six games and claims a commanding .93 save percentage and associated 2.12 GAA for those outings (both eighth-best in the league among the 28 netminders with at least four starts since February 23). Those outstanding numbers boost his season statistics to a .916 save percentage and 2.79 GAA, the 10th and 19th-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 43 goaltenders with at least 24 starts to their credit.

With a home game against the Bruins tomorrow night, it remains to be seen which goaltender Sullivan starts this evening. If I had my druthers, Murray would be in action this evening considering the importance of beating a division rival in a tightly contested playoff race. With 12 points (and two games-in-hand against the Habs) separating Boston from the a wildcard spot, Pittsburgh cannot worry about the Bruins until it runs into them in a potential playoff matchup (whether that would be the Conference Semifinals or Final remains to be seen).

Of course, it would be highly irresponsible to talk about the Penguins and not mention their potent offense. Averaging 3.45 goals per game for the season, Pittsburgh has been operating at a slightly higher level lately, as it has averaged 3.67 goals per game during this six-game run (again, I emphasize slightly) – the (t)sixth-best mark in the league since February 23.

Pittsburgh’s top line has carried most of that charge, which of course means C Sidney Crosby has been the star of the show. In his past six games, the captain has managed an outstanding 6-8-14 effort to lead the league in scoring in that time (well, he’s technically tied with Florida’s F Jonathan Huberdeau on points, but Crosby has played fewer games and scored more goals to take the title in my book).

Joining Crosby in averaging a point per game for the Pens during this run are linemates F Jake Guentzel (5-3-8 totals) and F Jared McCann (3-3-6).

Since all of 37-27-3 Columbus’ moves at the trade deadline, everything it has done from then until the end of the season has taken on a new life.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, that new light isn’t all that positive, as they’ve gone on a 2-4-0 run since then to find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, trailing Montréal by two points for the East’s second wild card.

Though Columbus has struggled to keep opponents off the board during this six-game run (the Jackets have allowed 3.5 goals against per game since February 26, the eighth-worst mark in the NHL in that time), an even bigger problem has been its offense.

With the exception of fellow Metropolitan member New Jersey, no team has struggled more on the attack since the trade deadline than Columbus. The Blue Jackets are averaging only 1.5 goals per game in their last six outings, compared to the 11th-best 3.04 they’ve averaged for the season.

Surely, much of this can be attributed to all of the Jackets’ deadline additions. In fact, the second line has been entirely revamped and now features Oliver Bjorkstrand and former-Senators Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (who’s celebrating his 27th birthday today). Fortunately for Columbus, Duchene and Dzingel regularly played together in Ottawa, so it is just a matter of Head Coach John Tortorella finding the right person to complete their line.

However, a lack of familiarity cannot be the excuse for Columbus’ top line, as Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin have spent the entire season together. Instead, all three combine for only 3-6-9 totals in the past six games.

Dubois in particular is struggling the most. He’s only registered one assist since the trade deadline, well off the .81 points per game average he’s managed for the entire season. As his club’s top center, Dubois’ performance can often dictate his team’s success. The sooner he breaks out of his funk, the sooner, Columbus will begin finding success once again.

In addition to cleaning up Columbus and Pittsburgh’s home-and-home, tonight’s game also concludes the four-game regular season series between the two clubs. The Penguins have won the first three meetings 4-2 on November 24, 5-2 on February 26 and 3-0 on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Columbus, I don’t see that script changing tonight. The Penguins have been playing incredibly well lately now that they’ve bought into their new strategy, and that doesn’t pair well with the Blue Jackets’ offensive struggles.

I don’t think the Jackets will be shutout for the second game in a row, but I do think the Pens will win 3-1.

DTFR Podcast #147- Trade The Whole Team

It’s the DTFR 2019 Trade Deadline recap! Plus a few other notes from the last week around the NHL.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #144- (The Other) Auston City Limits

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.

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Analysis: Time is the biggest gamble in Brassard, Bjugstad swap

Midday Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers completed a trade that left many scratching their heads.

Pittsburgh sent Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, a 2019 2nd round pick and two 2019 4th round picks (Pittsburgh’s own and Minnesota’s previously acquired in a deal earlier this week with the Dallas Stars) to the Panthers in exchange for Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.

Brassard, 31, was in his first full season with the Penguins and amassed 9-6–15 totals in 40 games played this season prior to the trade.

He was acquired by Pittsburgh last February from the Vegas Golden Knights after the Golden Knights added Brassard in a separate deal with the Ottawa Senators first– prior to retaining salary on Brassard’s contract and flipping him along with Tobias Lindberg to the Penguins for Ryan Reaves and a 4th round pick originally belonging to the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

In 14 games with the Penguins in 2017-18, Brassard added three goals and five assists (eight points) on top of his 18-20–38 totals in 58 games with the Senators prior to being trade deadline bait last season.

He registered one goal and three assist (four points) in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Pittsburgh in the 2018 postseason before the Penguins were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

Never mind what he’s done for you yesterday, Brassard carries a cap hit of $3.000 million per season and is a pending unrestricted free agent this July 1st.

Not only that, but his salary can be retained one more time on his current contract if Florida desires to flip him by February 25th’s trade deadline.

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 6th overall pick of the 2006 NHL Draft, Brassard has 443 points (171 goals, 272 assists) in 756 career NHL games with the Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Senators and Penguins.

Sheahan, 27, had seven goals and two assists (nine points) in 49 games with Pittsburgh prior to the trade and was previously acquired by the Penguins in a transaction involving the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 21, 2017 in exchange for Scott Wilson.

He is a pending-UFA this July and carries a cap hit of $2.100 million.

Despite failing to record a point with the Red Wings in eight games in the 2017-18 season, leading to his trade to the Penguins, Sheahan amassed his second-best season of 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 81 games with Pittsburgh and Detroit last season.

He established career-highs in assists (23) and points (36) in 79 games with the Red Wings in 2014-15 and had a career-high 14 goals in 81 games in 2015-16 with Detroit.

In 414 career NHL games, the 21st overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft has 139 career points (56 goals, 83 assists).

In summary, the Panthers added to a list of growing draft picks in 2019 (presently with nine selections, including three picks in the 4th round), while potentially clearing out enough cap space to pursue some of the big names (*ahem* Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky) that might hit the free agency market on July 1st.

While the move looks like a haphazard approach to writing off this season, Panthers fans will have to be patient and wait for the other shoe to drop in General Manager Dale Tallon‘s masterplan.

Even if that’s been said before.

Bjugstad, 26, had five goals and seven assists (12 points) in 32 games with the Panthers at the time of the trade and was the last connection Florida had to the 2010 NHL Draft as their 19th overall selection.

He posted a career-best 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games last season for the Panthers, establishing career-highs in assists and points.

The most goals he’s ever scored in one season was 24 in 72 games in the 2014-15 season as a 22-year-old. In five career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Bjugstad has two goals and two assists (four points) with one game-winning goal and a plus-six rating.

Bjugstad has two years left on his current contract with a $4.100 million cap hit and has 87-104–191 totals in 394 career games (all with the Panthers).

McCann, 22, had eight goals and 10 assists (18 points) in 46 games for Florida prior to the trade and was originally selected 24th overall by the Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft.

He posted his career-best numbers last season for the Panthers with nine goals and 19 assists (28 points) in 68 games while earning a plus-11 rating (his first positive plus/minus outcome in four NHL seasons including the current 2018-19 season).

McCann has two years left on his current contract at $1.250 million per season and can become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season. He has 27-44–71 totals in 212 games with Vancouver and Florida in his young career and was previously acquired by the Panthers in exchange for Erik Gudbranson on May 25, 2016.

Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford has a knack for finding overlooked talent in an otherwise not as lively market and making them better in his current tenure with Pittsburgh, however, his latest move in snagging Bjugstad and McCann leaves more to be desired.

While Rutherford brought in younger players with an additional year remaining on their contract, the gamble remains as to whether or not McCann will fully pan out– or if he does, whether or not he’ll price himself out of Pittsburgh with a tight cap situation and no trade or no movement clauses on some of their larger contracts that extend past 2019-20 currently on the books.

Rutherford coveted McCann and now the next step will be figuring out how he can become part of the long-term solution.

In addition to his oft-injured history, Bjugstad is a younger replacement for Brassard– one year after Rutherford made the move to get Brassard.

Winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 should be enough to overlook an otherwise mismanaged acquisition, however, Bjugstad costs more and now carries the added weight of living up to expectations or else further looking like the beginning of Rutherford’s mistakes on the way down from a Cup window.

One positive takeaway for Penguins fans– who perhaps know this best– is that Rutherford is active. No one can take that away from him in his search for finding the right pieces to build a dynasty.

As always, though, it is rare for any general manager in any sport to willingly depart an organization on their terms. Usually it’s the buildup of poor roster moves or repeated postseason failures that leads to “being relieved of duties” and kindly shown the door.

In short, the biggest takeaway for this deal is… …time will tell.

DTFR Podcast #143- Overage Fees

The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped familiar assets, while the Toronto Maple Leafs added a defender in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Red Kelly’s number is going to be retired (again– this time by the Detroit Red Wings) and we now know the opponents in the 2020 Winter Classic and 2020 Stadium Series games.

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DTFR Podcast #141- The Midseasonies

Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.

Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot

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Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.

No, not that forward thinking.

Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).

Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.

At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.

In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem. 

The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.

The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.

Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.

Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.

Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.

In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.

When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.

The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.

It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).

Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.

Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).

Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).

And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.

Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.

Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.

Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.

Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.

In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.

When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.

In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.

Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes  (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.

Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.

Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.

For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?

Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.

This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.

His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.

He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.

Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.

Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.

If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.

Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.

Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that,  he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.

The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.

Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.

Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.

Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).

Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.

He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.

Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.

(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)

Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.

Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.

Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?

Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.

It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games

It’s past the quarter mark of the 2018-19 regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but thanks to the way the calendar (and life) works out, I’m a few games behind on presenting my latest forecast for Columbus.

Thankfully, the Blue Jackets have a couple of days between their game on Monday (a 7-5 victory against Detroit) and their next matchup against Minnesota on Thursday.

As such, here’s a quick look at what to expect through the remaining 58 games this season.

Keep in mind, there’s many unknown variables that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, roster moves and whatever else Microsoft Excel doesn’t already know. My degree is in communication– not math– and I’d like to keep things as brief as I can in John Tortorella fashion so you can look things over, get a gist of it and go back to watching the game.

If a player meets the forecasted stats I’ve updated, they’ve met the latest expectations. If they do better, they’ve exceeded expectations. Of course, if they do worse– they just didn’t live up to expectations– it’s that simple. Well, either that or they missed a lot of action due to injury or something.

Anyway, you can’t forecast puck luck, but you can indicate general trends and estimated hunches based on what the scoresheet indicates each night.

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Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games (58 Games Remaining)

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Good news, Blue Jackets fans, Artemi Panarin should reach the 80-point plateau this season. Bad news, Blue Jackets fans, Panarin’s still a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and still doesn’t seem intent on sticking around in Columbus.

Other than that, Cam Atkinson is expected to amass 62 points this season (35 expected goals, 27 expected assists) and lead the team in goals, while Pierre-Luc Dubois sits one goal shy of reaching 30 this season.

Josh Anderson should tie Panarin for third place on the roster in goals scored this season with 26 expected goals, while Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner contribute close to 20 goals each.

Newcomer Anthony Ducliar continues his career revival with respectable 19-18–37 expected totals and Zach Werenski should lead all defenders in expected goals (14), assists (32) and points (46).

Meanwhile, noted top-pairing blue liner Seth Jones, should amass 10-28–38 totals from the point with Werenski beating out Jones in goals from the blue line by four.

Scott Harrinton’s expected 18 points fit perfectly behind Ryan Murray (30),  Markus Nutivaara (25) and David Savard (24) as the Blue Jackets defensive corps continues to improve at moving the puck out of their own zone and into quality scoring opportunities.

Other than Panarin’s uncertain future, the only other concern for Columbus revolves around the franchise’s stability in net.

Sergei Bobrovsky‘s expected goals against average has worsened after the first quarter of the season. It’s now set to be a 2.46 GAA by season’s end. Yeah, that’s not great.

In fact, it would be Bobrovsky’s worst GAA since he posted a 2.75 in 37 games played in 2015-16. To begin with, he’s at a 2.74 currently with a .912 save percentage in 16 games this season.

At least Bobrovsky’s save percentage is expected to improve to a .920 SV% by the time 2018-19 wraps up.

Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo should end up with a 2.61 GAA and .919 SV% by season’s end, which would be significant improvements from last season’s 3.32 GAA and .897 SV% in 18 games.

As is it, Korpisalo has a 3.73 GAA and .886 SV% through nine games played this season, so things can only get… better? That’s the hope anyway.

Columbus has to work on suppressing shot attempts against, let alone shots on goal, since they’re evidently overworking their goaltenders and it’s showing (remember, a goalie has to move around and “make the save” regardless of whether or not the puck actually hits the net as an official shot on goal).

It’s either that or maybe Bobrovsky isn’t worth as much as some might think he is (because he’s also a pending-UFA in July)– especially in a contract year.

Somehow the Blue Jackets find themselves 2nd in the Metropolitan Division with 30 points on the season and a 14-8-2 record on the season and a plus-six goal differential.

So has Columbus been under the radar and quietly good? Or are they just quietly lucky and surviving in a volatile division (whereby the Pittsburgh Penguins– remember them? they won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017– are currently 6th in the division outside the playoff picture)?

Time will tell or @capncornelius and/or @vanekatthedisco might fill you in on their outlook sometime.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 20 Games

I’ve been away from the blog for a week (shouts road trips) and look what happens– the Boston Bruins are off to a 1-1-1 start on a four-game road trip, having lost in Colorado, 6-3, against the Avalanche on Nov. 14th, then losing in overtime, 1-0, to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 16th before beating the Arizona Coyotes, 2-1, on Nov. 17th thanks to goals from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (his first career National Hockey League goal) and Jake DeBrusk (8)– so there’s a quick little recap for you, if you’ve been wondering where the last two games have been around here on the site.

Oh and the Bruins have reached the quarter-mark of the regular season having completed 20 games, which means it’s time to update my forecasted stats for Boston.

Really couldn’t have timed a quick trip outside of New England better than I did, thank you very much.

In all seriousness, the Bruins lost Zdeno Chara due to injury in Colorado– leaving my personal road trip off to a poor taste– then Patrice Bergeron went down with an injury in Dallas while I helplessly streamed the radio broadcast from the NHL app in a hotel room.

The Hockey Gods don’t believe in having fun outside of the sport.

My neurotic bumblings were eased with the support of the “next man up” mentality in the dressing room and, well, Connor Clifton beating the crap out of a guy against the Stars in his first career NHL fight (in his NHL debut, nonetheless).

That guy being Jason Spezza, who’s actually kind of a big deal and not a jerk(?).

Anyway, Boston is 5th in the Atlantic Division through 20 games played this season with an 11-6-3 record (25 points), a plethora of injuries and a lackluster depth scoring situation.

Through 20 games last season, the B’s were 9-7-4 (22 points) and 4th in the division.

This season, 25 points in the Eastern Conference is good enough for the 2nd wild card spot (for now). Last season, 22 points wasn’t good enough to be ahead of the playoff cutoff line.

If anything, they’re managing to weather the storm well, despite having more injuries to the roster this year than this time last November– but they’re still not showing signs of the dominant Eastern Conference team that we saw from January through March of last season.

Peaking at the right time is of the utmost importance in sports.

In high school, when you’re running the mile, it’s the second lap that’s the most important before you begin to drop the hammer on the third lap and go all out on the fourth lap. The second lap is make or break.

For Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals last season it meant having Holtby get off to a rocky start, lose his starting job for the first two games of the postseason, then go on to win the Stanley Cup by virtue of Holtby regaining his rhythm on top of the ridiculous depth scoring capabilities of guys like Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly.

For the Bruins last season, it meant being in contention for the President’s Trophy hunt late into the regular season, falling short, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round, then being too worn down to even match the compete level of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Second Round.

Boston was done in five games– 12 postseason games total.

What all of this has to do with this season is that basically, the Bruins are a combination of the team on the ice last season and their mirror image below-average start to this season as Washington had last season.

Their starting netminder has struggled, their scoring depth isn’t apparent and they’re clinging to a playoff berth.

In other words, it’s too early to rule them out– as evidenced last season, Mike.

But– and this the important part– the window for optimal peak performance is closing. The B’s are running the second lap of the mile in high school track right now, if you will.

Another ten games of whatever has plagued them from October until now will leave them just barely on the outside of the postseason looking in like the Florida Panthers did last season with 96 points.

They won’t set a PR (personal record), nor will they get a chance to compete for the Cup.

Tuukka Rask is back from his personal leave of absence and kept Boston close in Dallas, despite allowing the game’s only goal– in overtime– with a defense that featured Torey Krug as the only regular, Matt Grzelcyk as the usual seventh defender turned regular for now and Steven Kampfer as the go-to blue liner when Chara, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore are all out of the lineup.

Plus Jakub Zboril and Clifton made their NHL debuts in Dallas, with Jeremy Lauzon continuing to see ice-time since Urho Vaakanainen was an emergency recall that sustained a concussion in his 2nd career game while in Ottawa.

We haven’t seen what a full, well-rested, Bruins lineup is capable of yet so far this season.

They spent training camp and part of the preseason with split squads and most of their NHL regulars in China, returned with jet-lag that slowed their legs down through the first couple of weeks of October, got banged up and since then have been waiting for the return of… everyone? Is that fair to say at this point?

Without further ado, here’s an updated look at the forecasted stats for the Bruins roster. As always, keep in mind there are many variables that can or will change things as seen here due to injuries, being a healthy scratch, being assigned to the minors (or called up), sickness and general hot and cold streaks unbeknownst to the formulas of Microsoft Excel.

My degree is in communication– not math.

These forecasted stats are an utopian outlook on the remaining 62 games of the regular season for Boston. If a player exceeds the forecast, they’ve exceeded expectations. If a player matches the forecast, they’ve met expectations. If a player falls short, they were either hurt a lot or simply didn’t live up to expectations.

Hockey is both quantifiably predictable because of its concrete stats (goals, assists, points– everything on the scoresheet each night) and certifiably unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.

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Boston Bruins Forecast Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)

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One player that’s been consistent all season long thus far is David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand‘s become more of a playmaker through the first 20 games while Pastrnak’s emerged as a superstar in the making– drawing comparisons to Jaromir Jagr from Czech Republic’s other legendary player, Petr Klima.

Pastrnak’s success should land him his third consecutive season amassing 70 points or more, while also surpassing the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career. In doing so, Pastrnak would be the first 40-goal scorer for the Bruins since Glen Murray had 44 goals in 2002-03.

With Bergeron missing some games due to injury, David Krejci looks to reemerge as the leading assist collector for the B’s, reaching 46 expected assists this season.

In the meantime, DeBrusk surpasses the 20-goal plateau and solidifies himself as a top-six forward, while Danton Heinen continues to grow as a candidate for top-six minutes in spite of Boston not having a guy like Artemi Panarin alongside Krejci and DeBrusk.

On defense, Krug rebounds from missing time to a 43-point season, leading McAvoy (38 expected points) and crew in scoring from the point.

Though Jaroslav Halak has won playing time with the hot hands in goal at the quarter-mark, Rask settles into his rhythm with an expected goals against average of 2.32 and an expected save percentage of .920 to backstop his team to perhaps one of the best 1-2 matchups in net– if not, 1A-1B– of the entire league.

Halak, in the meantime, should cool to a 2.43 GAA and .919 SV%, but both numbers are highly valuable for backup goaltending duties especially if the Bruins can continue to get healthy and limit the shot attempts against.

Healthy competition for playing time in the crease isn’t a bad thing if both goaltenders are performing thanks to a limited workload from their teammates.

The next forecast review (through 40 games played) should determine whether or not the Bruins are serious playoff contenders or large-scale pretenders with a lot to lose in 2018-19.