Tag Archives: Atlantic Division

Florida Panthers 2019-20 Season Preview

Florida Panthers

36-32-14, 86 points, 5th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the postseason for the third straight year

Additions: F Noel Acciari, F Brett Connolly, F Joel Lowry, F Kevin Roy, F Dominic Toninato (acquired from COL), D Gustav Bouramman (acquired from MIN), D Tommy Cross, D Ethan Prow, D Anton Stralman, G Sergei Bobrovsky, G Philippe Desrosiers

Subtractions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea (signed with BUF), F Henrik Haapala (KHL), F Juho Lammikko (Liiga), F Derek MacKenzie (retired), F Maxim Mamin (KHL), F Vincent Praplan (NLA), F Riley Sheahan (signed with EDM), D Ludwig Bystrom (Liiga), D Michael Downing (signed with Florida, ECHL), D Jacob MacDonald (traded to COL), D Julian Melchiori (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Scott Darling (acquired from CAR, then bought out), G Roberto Luongo (retired), G James Reimer (traded to CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Jamie McGinn

Re-signed: F Troy Brouwer (signed to a PTO), F Anthony Greco, F Jayce Hawryluk, F Dryden Hunt, F Denis Malgin, D Ian McCoshen, D Thomas Schemitsch, D MacKenzie Weegar, G Sam Montembeault

Offseason Analysis: The rules of the offseason are pretty simple. Don’t be that person that overpays.

But for Florida Panthers General Manager, Dale Tallon, apparently the rules don’t apply.

Yes, fixing the hole in the net left behind by Roberto Luongo’s decision to retire was a good idea. No, signing Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract isn’t a steal.

A $10.000 million cap hit for a goaltender that’s 30-years-old and only getting older won’t exactly look too great by the fourth year of the deal, but by then it might not even be Tallon’s problem.

Tallon is in “win now” mode.

The Panthers haven’t been back to the Stanley Cup Final since their lone appearance in 1996, in which they were swept in four games– the final two on home ice– by the Colorado Avalanche.

As it is, Florida hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2016’s First Round loss to the New York Islanders in six games.

So they’ve bolstered their roster with Bobrovsky in the crease and three other players that were signed on July 1st– Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman.

Acciari’s a bottom-six forward who likes to hit and can hit clean, but at three-years and $1.667 million per season, might be a bit much to pay for someone who only had 14 points last season. Sure it was career-year, but his goal scoring production was down from 10 goals in 2017-18 to six goals in 2018-19.

Connolly signed a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and with a Stanley Cup championship to his name with the Washington Capitals in 2018, he brings more than just winning pedigree– he had career-highs in goals (22), assists (24) and points (46) in 81 games for the Caps last season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 6th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft is finally coming around to his potential at age 27. Better late than never and that’s why the Panthers are taking this gamble.

An improved offense in the top-nine forwards to go with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, Evgeni Dadonov, Vincent Trocheck and Frank Vatrano, as well as an addition to the blue line in Anton Stralman’s three-year contract worth $5.500 million per season has the Panthers with high hopes for the 2019-20 season.

Especially when you consider the fact that their new head coach behind the bench is three-time Stanley Cup champion, Joel Quenneville.

Tallon, Quenneville and Florida’s roster don’t just have their sights set on a First Round appearance.

What if they don’t pull things off right away and age catches up to their free agent signings from this offseason? Is it right back to square one as an older, slower, knock-off version of their intra-state rival up in Tampa?

Ten players on the current NHL roster are pending free agents of the unrestricted and restricted variety after this season.

Florida currently has about $781,330 in cap space with Hoffman and Dadonov as their biggest pending-UFAs next July.

Thanks to Luongo’s early retirement, the Panthers will be stifled with a cap recapture penalty that’s not as significant as the one the Vancouver Canucks will face, but nonetheless costing Florida $1,094,128 per season through 2021-22.

But Tallon is used to maxing out the books to put his team in a position to win sooner rather than later– just ask the Chicago Blackhawks how their Cup winning core worked out for them.

Offseason Grade: B

Florida going “all-in” in free agency is out of character for their franchise history, it would seem. While nabbing top-end talent at a premium price lands the Panthers as a winner of the bidding war for free agents, there’s a lot of risk involved.

Long-term growth may have been stalled by short-term planning for gains that may or may not pan out as the season has yet to begin. As such, Tallon’s offseason was “above average”, but now comes the time to prove whether it was all worth it or else risk becoming the more expensive version of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2019 trade deadline.

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 Season Preview

Buffalo Sabres

33-39-10, 76 points, 6th in the Atlantic Division

Longest active playoff drought, last playoff appearance was 2011

Additions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea, F Marcus Johansson, F Curtis Lazar, F Jimmy Vesey (acquired from NYR), D John Gilmour, D Henri Jokiharju (acquired from CHI), D Colin Miller (acquired from VGK), G Andrew Hammond

Subtractions: F Eric Cornel (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Kyle Criscuolo (signed with PHI), F Taylor Leier (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Matt Moulson (signed with Hershey, AHL), F Alexander Nylander (traded to CHI), F Danny O’Regan (signed with NYR), F Kevin Porter (signed with Rochester, AHL), D Jack Dougherty (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Brycen Martin (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NJD), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with TBL), G Adam Wilcox (signed with San Antonio, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Jason Pominville

Re-signed: F Remi Elie, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Johan Larsson, F Evan Rodrigues, F C.J. Smith, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark

Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres are looking to be last season’s Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season and, in the process, end the current longest active playoff drought in the NHL.

Buffalo hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

The Sabres only have four forwards under contract after this season.

Of the remaining nine forwards currently under contract, three are pending-restricted free agents (Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Mittelstadt) and six are pending-unrestricted free agents (Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson).

Thankfully, new addition to their top-nine forwards– and likely to start the season on the first or second line– Marcus Johansson (13-17–30 totals in 58 games played) signed a two-year, $9.000 million ($4.500 million cap hit) contract in free agency after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils prior to being traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.

Sabres General Manager, Jason Botterill, reworked the defense through the acquisition of Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.

Miller has three-years left at $3.875 million per season and is a quality top-six defender addition to the team facing the uncertainty after this season, whereby half of the current defenders on the roster are set to become free agents.

Buffalo has three pending-UFA defenders (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson) and one pending-RFA blue liner (Brandon Montour– acquired around last season’s deadline from the Anaheim Ducks).

With no cap room available currently and a tighter wallet thanks to Jeff Skinner’s eight-year, $72 million extension ($9.000 million cap hit), the Sabres are going to be hard pressed to try to keep the band together.

Thankfully, a little relief will come via the long-term injured reserve at the likely career-ending expense of Matt Hunwick and his ongoing neck condition that Hunwick sustained last season, missed the first two months because of and was limited to 14 games.

The 34-year-old defender’s $2.250 million cap hit will be relieved thanks to the LTIR option, but still Botterill will have to press on to utilize his best penny pinching calculator when it comes time to ice a full-time roster by puck drop next month.

Oh yeah and Linus Ullmark only has a year on his contract, so before anyone can get comfortable with what’s likely the foreseeable future in the crease for the Sabres…

While Botterill also brought in the likes of Vesey (17-18–35 totals in 81 games played) in a trade with the New York Rangers that saw Buffalo give up a 2021 3rd round pick and trading Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju, there’s yet another new face behind the bench in upstate New York.

Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach in the 48-game lockout shortened 2012-13 season, is in charge of Jack Eichel and crew.

Nobody fully knows what to expect out of the coach that went 19-22-7 with Edmonton before being replaced by Oilers management after one season.

On paper, this is Buffalo’s best chance in at least the last few seasons– if not more– to contend for a wild card spot or better in the Atlantic Division.

The only problem is that everyone else is getting better just the same, even as Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a puck moving, gifted two-way defender.

Offseason Grade: B+

The wild card factor of Krueger behind the bench takes off a few points until proven otherwise, but the Sabres did a really nice job of cleaning up guys who need a second (or third) chance (Miller) and what was better of the more affordable free agents (Johansson) to help fill out a fuller roster than ever before.

Buffalo took a gamble with Skinner’s extension, but knows they finally have a winger locked up for Eichel. Now they just have to win.

Detroit Red Wings 2019-20 Season Preview

Detroit Red Wings

32-40-10, 74 points, 7th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the playoffs for the third straight season

Additions: F Adam Erne (acquired from TBL), F Valtteri Filppula, D Patrik Nemeth, G Calvin Pickard

Subtractions: F Louis-Marc Aubry (DEL), D Jake Chelios (KHL), F Martin Frk (signed with LAK), F Axel Holmstrom (SHL), F Wade Megan (retired), F Dylan Sadowy (signed with Utica, AHL), D Niklas Kronwall (retired), D Libor Sulak (KHL), D Luke Witkowski (signed with TBL), G Patrik Rybar (Liiga), G Harri Sateri (KHL)

Still unsigned: F Thomas Vanek

Re-signed: F Dominic Turgeon, D Joe Hicketts

Offseason Analysis: The Red Wings have a new General Manager in Steve Yzerman and with that, an entirely new outlook on their rebuild, as well as internal philosophy.

Yzerman is a proactive general manager, identifying and fixing holes before, during and after they occur, as well as assembling his own crew inside the front office and around the world in scouts.

Though Detroit isn’t expected to smash through the roof of annual Cup contenders this season, Yzerman is determined to bring the team he spent 22 seasons playing for back into relevancy.

Yes, that’s right, relevancy.

The Red Wings have missed the playoffs for the last three straight seasons and haven’t had an easy time adjusting to life in the salary cap era since winning the Cup in 2008 with a core largely built of players before the salary cap existed.

There have been a lot of smaller departures this offseason, but Yzerman’s brought in a familiar face from his days at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, acquiring bottom-six forward, Adam Erne, from the Bolts in exchange for a 2020 4th round pick and the return of former Red Wing, turned Lightning, Philadelphia Flyer and most recently New York Islander, Valtteri Filppula via free agency.

Durable top-six defender, Patrik Nemeth was poached from the Colorado Avalanche in free agency and brings his up-and-down the defensive pairings style to an otherwise aging and oft-injured blue line.

Yzerman doesn’t get to lay claim to drafting Filip Zadina or Joseph Veleno, but he does get to reap the benefits of bringing them into the lineup.

One question that remains while the new regime in the front office continues to revaluate the situation and the long-term plan– what’s to become of current head coach, Jeff Blashill?

In four seasons with Detroit– albeit with a lackluster roster– Blashill has never led his team to higher than a 3rd place finish in the Atlantic Division and has a 1-4 record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs– dating back to his only appearance with the Red Wings in their First Round matchup with the Lightning in 2016.

There’s five pending-unrestricted free agents and seven pending-restricted free agents at season’s end, so things are very fluid in the Red Wings organization– especially with Yzerman in charge.

Offseason Grade: B

Detroit would have almost gotten an “A” grade for hiring Yzerman alone, but the fact that we have to consider the current roster and less than stellar free agent acquisitions– though still malleable and fitting for a team looking to speed up their transition from the basement back to the top– the Red Wings had a little bit of an “above average” offseason.

Ottawa Senators 2019-20 Season Preview

Ottawa Senators

29-47-6, 64 points, 8th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Artem Anisimov (acquired from CHI), F Ryan Callahan (acquired from TBL), F Tyler Ennis, F Jordan Szwarz, D Ron Hainsey, D Nikia Zaitsev (acquired from TOR)

Subtractions: F Chase Balisy (DEL), F Brian Gibbons (signed with CAR), F Oscar Lindberg (NLA), F Aaron Luchuk (traded to TOR), F Jim O’Brien (DEL), F Zack Smith (traded to CHI), D Cody Ceci (traded to TOR), D Stefan Elliott (KHL), D Ben Harpur (traded to TOR), G Mike Condon (traded to TBL)

Still unsigned: F Darren Archibald, F Magnus Paajarvi, F Adam Tambellini, D Erik Burgdoerfer, D Justin Falk

Re-signed: F Michael Carcone (rights acquired in a trade with TOR, then re-signed), F Nick Paul, F Brady Tkachuk, F Colin White, D Christian Wolanin

Offseason Analysis: Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, promised roster turnover in that awkward video with defender, Mark Borowiecki, last season and boy what a turnover the Sens have had since last year.

Bobby Ryan’s $7.250 million cap hit is still the highest on the team, despite Melnyk’s well-known intention on trading his biggest contract remaining– even though General Manager, Pierre Dorion, can’t even find a team that’s looking to get to the salary cap floor to send him to.

Meanwhile, Ottawa has $15.325 million in dead cap space on the long-term injured reserve (Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Clarke MacArthur), though knowing Melnyk, he won’t bother to urge Dorion to place his assets on the long term injured reserve and would rather shelf the cap space for the sake of keeping the payroll down.

There’s nothing else to say about this organization.

It’s explicitly out there that they’re not even going to give a sniff of an effort until at least “2021” when they plan on being competitive for a period of about four years.

On the bright side, Colin White signed a six-year extension worth $4.750 million per season, which will take him right up to unrestricted free agency after the 2024-25 season.

If he’s not traded before then, he’s at least provided himself with just enough insurance to get through the first chapter of his career as a Senator.

Dorion traded Cody Ceci as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs and is looking to recreate the Dion Phaneuf trade from the Leafs to Ottawa, in which Phaneuf’s career was rejuvenated before later being traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

This time around, Nikita Zaitsev is looking for a turnaround at 27-years-old, but he won’t be doing it without any familiar company as 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was not kept around in Toronto and joined the Sens this July.

Even D.J. Smith is jumping ship as a Maple Leafs assistant coach and taking up his first NHL head coaching job behind the bench for the Senators this season.

Ottawa’s defense is still hurting after trading away Erik Karlsson last September, however this season’s defensive pairings with Zaitsev and Hainsey joining Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros and perhaps Erik Brannstrom throughout the full season will only help improve the younger blue liners in the long-run.

In the grand scope of things, the Senators are going to need to find Craig Anderson’s replacement as the 38-year-old starting goaltender intends to finish his career in Ottawa, but has one-year remaining on his current contract.

If there’s any positive takeaway from last season, it’s that despite finishing last in the overall league standings, the Sens managed to have only the second-worst goal differential with a minus-60.

They also were the only team without 30 or more wins last season.

Offseason Grade: D+

The defense is better than it was last season, but it’s not the greatest in the league. The addition of Artem Anisimov from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Zack Smith strengthens the Senators down the middle, but for how long (Anisimov is signed through 2020-21 and currently 31-years-old). Even with Brady Tkachuk and a plethora of youth in the system– good or bad– there’s still a general sense of existential dread in Ottawa.

Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for an intentionally drawn out rebuild with no legitimate end goal in sight. It’s like they’re trying to be the Detroit Lions of the NHL.

2019-20 Atlantic Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
  4. Florida Panthers, 89 points
  5. Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
  6. Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
  7. Ottawa Senators, 78 points
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 71 points

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons

The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.

You know what they say when you assume.

Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.

Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.

That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.

They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.

The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How would the Lightning fail?

Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.

Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons

The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.

Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.

Injuries come and go.

If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.

With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.

David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.

General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.

But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.

How would the Bruins fail?

There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons

Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.

That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.

Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).

Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.

By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.

The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.

How would the Leafs fail?

They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.

Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons

The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.

They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.

While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.

Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.

Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.

Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.

At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).

Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.

How would the Panthers fail?

Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?

Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons

Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.

That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.

Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?

The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.

That’s not a bad thing.

Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).

But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.

At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.

How would the Canadiens fail?

Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.

Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons

Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.

Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.

Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.

It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.

How would the Red Wings fail?

Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.

Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons

The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.

Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?

But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.

Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.

For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.

Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!

How would the Senators fail?

More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?

Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons

Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.

Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).

Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.

Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.

Pro: Marcus Johansson!

Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)

Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.

Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.

Pro: Royal blue in 2020!

Con: It’s not until 2020.

How would the Sabres fail?

If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.

Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.

For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.

Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.

Marcus Johansson suffered a lung contusion after Micheal Ferland delivered a check days after Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline in March.

If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.

The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.

Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.

Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.

Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.

When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.

Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.

Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.

Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.

Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.

Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.

Former Hurricane, Joakim Nordstrom, and Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly, each have a pair of goals in 12 and nine games played, respectively.

Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.

Usual playoff performers, David Krejci (4-6–10 totals in 13 games) and Patrice Bergeron (5-3–8 totals in 13 games) are right where you’d expect them to be at this time of the year.

Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.

Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.

He also just tied Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd most postseason shutouts in Bruins franchise history with his 6th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout against Columbus in Game 6.

Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.

Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.

In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.

But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.

No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.

Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.

Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.

On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.

Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.

Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.

Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.

That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.

Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.


The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.

When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.

The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).

Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.

Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.

That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*

5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.

Or maybe you won’t.

Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Bruins went 2-1-0 against the Blue Jackets in the regular season and matched Columbus’ intensity at times throughout all three games in the season series.

Boston is coming off a seven game series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second year in a row and is getting more than enough production from their bottom six forwards as of late.

Charlie Coyle has consistently been the best player on the ice for the B’s– going hard to the corners and dirty areas, carrying the puck and adding 3-1–4 totals (tied for 5th on the roster in scoring).

As usual, Brad Marchand leads the Bruins this postseason in goals, assists and points with 4-5–9 totals entering the Second Round, while the rest of the first line– Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak— has five and six points, respectively.

But wait, what’s that? Bruce Cassidy moved Pastrnak to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and promoted Danton Heinen to the first line right wing?

Yes, short of Krejci and Pastrnak’s performance in the First Round matchup, the B’s are looking to get a little more from DeBrusk (one goal against Toronto) against Columbus.

Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) has been solid in his last few starts and looks to maintain momentum as things get going with the Blue Jackets.

For the first time in franchise history, Columbus advanced past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Not only that, but they rocketed past the Tampa Bay Lightning– sweeping the 2018-19 President’s Trophy winners with the best regular season record of 62-16-4 (tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins in a season) in just four postseason games.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, is quite familiar with what it takes to knockoff one of the best teams already heading into the Second Round and he has a Stanley Cup championship to his name with the (you guessed it) 2004 Lightning.

Columbus is led by trade deadline acquisition, Matt Duchene, in scoring with sevens points (three goals, four assists) in four games this postseason.

Pending-UFA this July, Artemi Panarin, is 2nd on the roster with 2-3–5 totals, followed by a three-way tie for 3rd between Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seth Jones with four points.

The Blue Jackets have a lot of speed and firepower and they have guys like, former Bruin, Riley Nash on their penalty kill.

Though he finished the regular season with a career-worst 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 78 games played (ignoring his nine points in 32 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and previous one point in five games in 2011-12), Nash has reached the back of the twine once already in the playoffs.

After recording a career-high and league-best nine shutouts in the regular season, Sergei Bobrovsky (4-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .932 SV% in four games this postseason) has the upper hand in goaltending– statistically speaking, of course.

He is in the midst of his postseason career-best performance, but he has faced the Bruins before in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. That year, Boston swept Philly and went on to win the Cup, while Bobrovsky suffered two losses in three starts (six games played) and amassed a 3.23 GAA and .877 SV%.

He was just a rookie, but if anyone’s done their research on how to beat Bobrovsky it might just be the Bruins. In his two starts against Boston this season (March 12th and April 2nd) he allowed four goals in each game.

Granted, the playoffs are a different breed from the regular season, Boston should still find a way to deal with Tortorella’s all-in crew in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

6-2 BOS at Nationwide Arena on April 2nd, 2-1 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 16th, 7-4 CBJ at Nationwide Arena on March 12th

Schedule:

4/25- Game 1 CBJ @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/27- Game 2 CBJ @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/30- Game 3 BOS @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/2- Game 4 BOS @ CBJ 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/4- Game 5 CBJ @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, TVAS*

5/6- Game 6 BOS @ CBJ*

5/8- Game 7 CBJ @ BOS*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

New York went 3-1-0 against Carolina in the regular season, but don’t let that influence anything.

The Islanders split their games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season, then went on to sweep them in the First Round and the Hurricanes lost every game against the Washington Capitals in the regular season, but defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.

Welcome to the playoffs.

Barry Trotz is in his first season behind the bench of the Islanders and brought his usual anchor of a defensive style, while General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought some stability to the front office, as well as the roster as New York said “goodbye” to John Tavares last July.

The Isles led the Metropolitan Division at times this season, but faltered late in February and March to 2nd place in the division standings.

Yet, this team has almost always performed better when just about everyone is counting them out.

When Tavares left, many experts didn’t see anything that could make up for the hole in the roster.

When the puck dropped against the Penguins in the First Round, many thought Pittsburgh’s three Cups in the last ten years would have brought more than enough experience to outperform the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

New York has been led by Jordan Eberle in scoring this postseason as the former Edmonton Oiler has amassed a goal a game and six points (four goals, two assists) in four playoff games this year.

As for Mathew Barzal? He leads the team in assists with five.

Josh Bailey and Valtteri Filppula each have four points through four games.

In goal, Robin Lehner (4-0-0, 1.47 GAA, .956 SV% in four games played this postseason) is blazing through his prior struggles in the crease in his first postseason as a starting goaltender.

It’s a team effort that’s gotten the Isles this far. But it’s also a team effort that’s let the Hurricanes into the Second Round.

Making their first postseason appearance since 2009, Carolina entered Game 7 in Washington boasting a 4-0 record in such games since relocating from Hartford.

The Canes trailed 2-0, and 3-1, but they forced overtime and won the game, 4-3, in double overtime– improving to 5-0, since the Whalers last existed, in Game 7s and knocking off Alex Ovechkin and his pals.

For the 19th time in the last 20 postseasons, there won’t be a repeat champion.

Rod Brind’Amour won a Cup with Carolina as player in 2006. He’s in his first season behind the bench as the Hurricanes head coach and joined Dallas Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, as the only rookie coaches this season to advance to the Second Round.

Brind’Amour’s lineup has been led from the back-end out with Jaccob Slavin leading in scoring with nine assists in seven postseason games.

Warren Foegele leads the team in goals with four and is tied for 2nd in scoring with Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton on the roster. Each player has six points this postseason.

The man that scored the series clinching goal against the Caps, Brock McGinn, has 2-3–5 totals, as does Sebastian Aho, in seven games.

In the crease, Petr Mrazek (4-3-0, 2.53 GAA, .899 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has battened down the hatches for the Canes.

The last time Carolina won a Game 7 on the road in overtime, they beat the Boston Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. There’s no reason not to believe in a team after what we’ve witnessed from that said organization which has promised others to Take Warning all season long.

It’s ten years in the making, but the Hurricanes will get back to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since they last appeared in that round against the Penguins in 2009 (Pittsburgh swept the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final).

Carolina will defeat the Islanders in six games and meet up with the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

PNC Arena is louder than Barclays Center– and overall better– and it’s shame the Islanders can’t just keep using the NYCB Live for the Second Round.

#CanesIn6

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 CAR at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 8th, 4-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 24th, 2-1 NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 28th, 2-1 F/OT NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/26- Game 1 CAR @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/28- Game 2 CAR @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/1- Game 3 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/3- Game 4 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/5- Game 5 CAR @ NYI*

5/7- Game 6 NYI @ CAR*

5/8- Game 7 CAR @ NYI*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

*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.

Columbus was all over the Metropolitan Division this season, but went all-in at the trade deadline, adding Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for the stretch run.

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

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.

This season, Trotz has Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee as his main attractions instead of names like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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.

Patric Hornqvist is also another silent killer option for Sullivan when his team needs a clutch goal– and that’s on top of Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel throughout the rest of the lineup.

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

Schedule:

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*

Bolts tie 1995-96 Red Wings, win, 6-3, in Boston

The Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record for the most wins in a season (62, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings) with their, 6-3, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.

Legendary Red Wings captain and former Lightning General Manager, Steve Yzerman can technically lay claim to being part of both seasons, as he was responsible for the makeup of Tampa’s roster before current Bolts GM Julien BriseBois took over prior to the start of the 2018-19 regular season (Yzerman stepped down citing a desire to spend more time with family).

Edward Pasquale (2-1-0 record, 3.96 goals against average, .882 save percentage in three games played) made 30 saves on 33 shots against for a .909 SV% in the win for the Lightning.

Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) stopped 16 out of 21 shots faced in the loss for the B’s.

Boston fell to 49-24-9 (107 points) on the season, but already clinched 2nd place in the Atlantic Division prior to Saturday’s loss.

Tampa improved to 62-16-4 (128 points) and finished 1st in the Atlantic Division (as well as the entire NHL, finishing with the 4th most points in league history).

Bruce Cassidy rested some players on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and did so once again against the Lightning on Saturday, sitting Brandon Carlo, Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Noel Acciari, Brad Marchand, while Chris Wagner (lower body), John Moore (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and Kevan Miller (lower body) missed Saturday’s action due to injury.

Moore and Kuraly are likely to miss Game 1 of Boston’s First Round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but will otherwise be considered day-to-day.

Miller is expected to participate in full practice on Monday.

With all the scratches for Saturday, Anton Blidh and Jeremy Lauzon were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Saturday’s matinee.

Cassidy kept Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak as his top line with Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle— suiting up in his 500th career NHL game– and Zach Senyshyn rounding out his top-six forwards.

Blidh skated on the left wing of the third line, centered by Trent Frederic with David Backes at right wing.

Danton Heinen, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman filled out the fourth line for Boston.

On defense, Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy returned as the first defensive pair after both defenders got the night off in Minnesota.

Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton made up the second pair on the blue line and Lauzon suited up alongside Steven Kampfer.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored several of their players with end of season awards.

DeBrusk was named the 2018-19 Eddie Shore Award winner, presented by the “Gallery Gods” for exceptional hustle and determination.

Marchand was named the 2018-19 Elizabeth Dufresne Award winner, determined by the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for outstanding performance during home games.

Chara won the 2018-19 John P. Bucyk Award, chosen by John Bucyk himself for the greatest off-ice charitable contributions during the season.

Finally, Pastrnak (Third Star), Bergeron (Second Star) and Marchand (First Star) took home the end of season Bruins Three Stars (top performers at home games in 2018-19), chosen by 98.5 The Sports Hub– the flagship radio station of Boston Bruins radio broadcasts.

In addition to the season awards, Rask was honored for breaking the Bruins franchise record for most wins by a goaltender on Feb. 3rd in Washington and presented with a painting. He has 265 career NHL wins in 495 career appearances (all with Boston).

Krejci (20) opened the scoring at 14:38 of the first period after batting a loose puck out of the air and into the twine to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead.

How did it happen?

McAvoy tried to work a pass over to Krejci on a two-on-one, but Braydon Coburn denied the passing lane, yielding a rebound off his body back to McAvoy for the forward progression towards the goal, whereby Krejci swatted the puck out of the air and into the net behind Pasquale.

Krejci’s goal was assisted by McAvoy (21) and Pastrnak (42). The goal also gave Boston their fifth 20-goal scorer this season (Pastrnak, 38, Marchand, 36, Bergeron, 32, DeBrusk, 27 and Krejci, 20).

Late in the period, Heinen (11) sent a wrist shot past Pasquale while Kuhlman was screening the Lightning goaltender to make it, 2-0, Bruins at 19:40.

Kampfer (3) recorded the only assist on the goal.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-0, and in shots on goal, 11-7. The B’s also led in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (6-4) and hits (10-9), while the Bolts led in giveaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (83-17).

Neither team had yet to see any action on the skater advantage entering the second period.

Early in the second period, Nordstrom slashed Steven Stamkos and sent the Lightning on the game’s first power play of the afternoon at 2:48.

In the waning seconds of the power play, Erik Cernak (5) cut the lead in half, 2-1, with a power play goal at 4:41 of the second period.

J.T. Miller (33) and Yanni Gourde (26) tallied the assists and Tampa started swinging momentum in their favor.

Coburn later high-sticked Nordstrom at 12:44 and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the day, but things did not go well on the skater advantage.

For the (league leading) 15th time this season, Boston allowed a shorthanded goal against after Stamkos (45) scooped up the puck and broke into the Lightning’s offensive zone on his own and beat Rask through the five-hole to tie the game, 2-2, at 12:52.

Worse, the Bruins butchered an attempt to clear the puck out of their own zone moments later and Anthony Cirelli (19) let go of a shot from the face-off circle that deflected off of Heinen’s stick past the Boston netminder.

Miller (34) and Coburn (19) had the assists on Cirelli’s goal at 16:59 and Tampa led, 3-2, for the first time of the afternoon.

Boston challenged the call on the ice for goaltender interference, as Alex Killorn had briefly ventured into Rask’s crease, but the call on the ice was not overturned as Killorn did not inhibit Rask’s ability to make a save.

Cassidy lost his timeout as a result of the failed challenge and the score remained, 3-2, for the Lightning.

After Mathieu Joseph delivered a hit on Krejci late in the period, Pastrnak took exception to Joseph’s efforts and offered to exchange fisticuffs.

Instead, Pastrnak received a two-minute minor for roughing at 17:47. Tampa did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 18-17, in shots on goal (including an, 11-6, advantage in the second period alone).

Boston held onto the advantage in blocked shots (8-5) and takeaways (7-6), while Tampa led in giveaways (8-5), hits (22-18) and face-off win% (68-32) after two periods.

The Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the B’s were 0/1 heading into the third period.

Less than a minute into the third period, Nikita Kucherov (41) wrong-footed Rask and scored on the backhand after breaking through Boston’s defense.

Ryan McDonagh (37) had the only assist on Kucherov’s goal 53 seconds into the third period and the Lightning led, 4-2.

With the goal, Kucherov tied, Alexander Mogilny for the most points in a season by a Russian born player (set in 1992-93). He would later add another point in the form of an assist to set the new record for the most points (128) by a Russian born player in a single season.

Tyler Johnson tripped Clifton at 5:12 and the Bruins went on the power play for their second time of the afternoon. Tampa’s penalty kill matched Boston’s power play efforts and the B’s were not able to capitalize on the skater advantage.

After Clifton delivered a clean hip-check on Joseph, Joseph retaliated and initiated a scrum in front of the benches about a minute later, resulting in matching minor penalties for cross-checking at 13:04 by Backes (against McDonagh) and Joseph (against Clifton).

Cernak and Frederic each received a ten-minute misconduct and were sent to their respective dressing rooms early.

While even strength at 4-on-4, Grzelcyk (3) sent a one-timer top-shelf past Pasquale to bring the Bruins to within one-goal at 14:03 of the third period.

Pastrnak (43) and Krejci (53) recorded the assists and Boston trailed, 4-3.

With the secondary assist on Grzelcyk’s goal, Krejci tied a career-high in points (73) set in 2008-09.

Just 13 seconds after Grzelcyk pulled his team to within one, Coburn (4) floated a shot glove side from the blue line past Rask to make it, 5-3, Lightning at 14:16.

Cirelli (20) and Girardi (12) tallied the assists on the goal.

With 2:56 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.

Johnson (29) collected the empty net goal for the Bolts at 18:34 and made it an insurmountable, 6-3, lead for the Lightning.

Ondrej Palat (26) and Kucherov (87) had the assists on Johnson’s goal and Kucherov set the all-time record for points in a season by a Russian born player (41-87–128 totals).

At the final horn, the President’s Trophy winning, Tampa Bay Lightning finished the 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, Boston Bruins, 6-3, at TD Garden.

Boston finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (33-22– including a, 16-4, advantage in the third period alone) and blocked shots (9-8), while Tampa ended the afternoon leading in takeaways (10-9), giveaways (14-8), hits (27-25) and face-off win% (64-36).

The Bolts finished Saturday afternoon 1/3 on the power play and the B’s went 0/2.

The Bruins fell to 34-7-5 when scoring first this season and 2-1-0 in the month of April, while only losing ten games in regulation since Jan. 1st.

Lightning at Bruins Preview: 4/6/2019

The Boston Bruins (49-23-9, 107 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) close out their 2018-19 regular season on home ice at TD Garden against the Tampa Bay Lightning (61-16-4, 126 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division) Saturday afternoon.

Boston is looking to even the season series (1-2-0) against the Lightning after losing, 3-2, in Tampa on Dec. 6th, winning, 4-1, in Boston on Feb. 28th and allowing three unanswered goals in the third period of March 25th’s, 5-4, loss at Amalie Arena.

The Bolts are seeking to tie an NHL record set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a season (62), while the B’s are looking to finish the season with at least 50 wins in consecutive seasons since they did so from 1970-71 to 1973-74.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters prior to Saturday’s matinee meeting with Tampa that none of his players willingly wanted to come out of the lineup in Thursday night’s, 3-0, shutout of the Minnesota Wild or Saturday.

Having already clinched home ice in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Cassidy will role with Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak on his first line, while Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle and Zach Senyshyn will fill out the rest of the top-six forwards.

Anton Blidh and Jeremy Lauzon were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Saturday’s game and will suit up for Boston while some of the veterans get the afternoon off.

Blidh will be the third line left wing with Trent Frederic at center and David Backes on the right wing and Lauzon will be paired with Steven Kampfer on the third defensive pairing.

Danton Heinen, Joakim Nordstrom and Karson Kuhlman will comprise the fourth line against the Lightning.

Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy return to the action after resting on Thursday. They will be the first defensive pairing, but likely not see much ice time, while Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton anchor the second pair on the blue line for Boston.

Chris Wagner (lower body), Brandon Carlo (healthy scratch), John Moore (upper body), Patrice Bergeron (healthy scratch), Torey Krug (healthy scratch), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand), Noel Acciari (healthy scratch), Brad Marchand (healthy scratch) and Kevan Miller (lower body) will all be out against the Bolts.

Kuraly skated on his own at TD Garden on Saturday morning and Miller is expected to participate at full practice on Monday.

Tuukka Rask (27-12-5 record, 2.42 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 45 games played) will get the final start of the regular season for Boston.

Tampa head coach, Jon Cooper, is without the services of Louis Domingue (lower body, day-to-day) and Victor Hedman (upper body, day-to-day) against the Bruins.

Edward Pasquale (1-1-0, 4.43 GAA, .870 SV% in two games played) will tend the net for the Lightning.