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NHL Nick's Net

Bergeron’s hat trick in Swayman’s 40-save NHL debut lead Bruins over Flyers, 4-2

Jeremy Swayman (1-0-0, 2.01 goals-against average, .952 save percentage in one game played) made 40 saves on 42 shots against in his National Hockey League debut, while Patrice Bergeron surpassed 900 career points with a hat trick in a, 4-2, victory for the Boston Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

Swayman went 8-1-0 in nine games played for the Providence Bruins (AHL) this season with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in that span prior to being called up on Monday due to Boston’s starting and backup goaltenders being out of the lineup.

He made his NHL debut nine games after Dan Vladar made his NHL debut in net for Boston in a, 2-1, win at Pittsburgh on March 16th.

The last time the Bruins had two rookie goaltenders play at least one game was in 2016-17, when Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre suited up in one and eight games, respectively, that season.

The last two Bruins goalies to make their NHL debut in the same season was back in 2005-06, when Hannu Toivonen and Jordan Sigalet did just that.

Bergeron, in the meantime, became the fourth Bruin in franchise history to record at least 900 points with the club, joining Ray Bourque (1,506 points with Boston), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012) as the only players to do so in the spoked-B.

Philadelphia goaltender, Carter Hart (8-10-4, 3.88 goals-against average, .871 save percentage in 24 games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced for an .880 save percentage in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 20-10-6 (46 points) overall and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual East Division, while separating themselves a bit from the now 18-15-5 Flyers (41 points) who remain 5th in the division.

Boston also improved to 6-0-1 against Philadelphia this season.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (upper body) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Kevan Miller returned after missing his 20th game this season due to a nagging lower body injury that he re-aggravated on Feb. 18th against the New Jersey Devils.

With Miller back and McAvoy out of the lineup as a late scratch due to injury, B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, jumbled his lineup a bit.

Karson Kuhlman moved up to the right side of the third line, while Chris Wagner rejoined the lineup in his usual role as the fourth line right wing as Zach Senyshyn served as a healthy scratch.

On defense, Matt Grzelcyk suited up alongside Miller on the first pairing, while Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton rounded out the top-four.

Jakub Zboril was partnered with Steven Kampfer on the third defensive pairing.

With Rask and Halak out, Vladar served as Swayman’s backup goaltender, while Anders Bjork, Senyshyn, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Halak, McAvoy, Anton Blidh and Jarred Tinordi made up Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Bergeron (13) corralled a rebound and wrapped the puck around Hart’s outstretched leg to give the Bruins the game’s first goal.

Craig Smith (11) and Brad Marchand (25) tallied the assists and the B’s led, 1-0, at 7:09 of the first period.

With his first goal of the night, Bergeron reached the 900-point plateau in his career. By the end of the night, he had 367-535–902 totals in 1,125 career games (all with Boston).

Midway through the first period, Grzelcyk was penalized for hooking James van Riemsdyk, but Philly wasn’t able to muster anything on their first power play of the night at 10:15.

Moments later, the Bruins went on the power play after Nicolas Aube-Kubel was called for holding against David Krejci at 16:38.

The Bruins made quick work of their first skater advantage of the game, working the puck around the zone from Marchand to David Pastrnak to Bergeron (14) for one of his standard catch and release power-play goals from the bumper– giving Boston a two-goal lead in the process.

Pastrnak (16) and Marchand (26) had the assists on Bergeron’s second goal of the night at 17:31 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Philadelphia, 13-11, in shots on goal.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (7-5) and hits (11-7), while Philly led in takeaways (2-0), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period of play.

The Flyers were 0/1 and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Jakub Voracek (6) redirected a shot pass from Travis Konecny past Swayman from the edge of the crease to cut Boston’s lead in half and put Philadelphia on the scoreboard, 2-1.

Konecny (17) had the only assist in the goal at 1:33 of the second period.

Philly tied things up, 2-2, with a pair of goals in a span of 2:30 thanks to Shayne Gostisbehere’s (6) catch and release shot over Swayman at 4:03.

Voracek (25) and Ivan Provorov (15) tallied the assists on Gostisbehere’s goal.

Midway through the middle frame, Trent Frederic cut a rut to the penalty box for roughing at 11:14, but the Flyers weren’t able to take advantage of the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action on Tuesday night, the Bruins and Flyers were tied, 2-2, despite Philadelphia outshooting Boston, 38-18, in shots on goal, including a, 25-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Philly also held the advantage in giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (57-44), while the B’s led in hits (17-15) after two periods.

Both teams had 14 blocked shots and four takeaways each, while Philadelphia was 0/2 and Boston was 1/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Miller tripped Nolan Patrick at 7:25 of the third period and presented the Flyers with another power play.

This time, however, Boston’s penalty kill turned the tables on Philadelphia when Lauzon sprung out of his own zone with the puck, generated a 2-on-1 in the attacking zone and sent a pass to Marchand (18) for the extra drag before sliding the puck through Hart’s five-hole.

It was the sixth shorthanded goal for the Bruins this season and the 29th of Marchand’s career, while Lauzon (4) and Clifton (5) tabbed the assists as Boston pulled ahead, 3-2, at 8:21.

It was also Marchand’s 48th career shorthanded point, which broke a tie with Eddie Westfall and Bobby Orr for the most in Bruins history.

About a minute later, Konecny slashed Miller, who delivered a swift cross check in return and the two players drew minor infractions at 9:59.

The two teams skated 4-on-4 for two minutes before returning to regular even strength action.

Moments later, Samuel Morin roughed Frederic along the wall and was sent to the sin bin at 13:12, but Boston’s power play unit was unable to convert on the skater advanatage.

With 1:57 remaining in the game, Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault, pulled Hart for an extra attacker and used his only timeout to draw up a strategy for Philadelphia to tie the game once more.

Instead, Bergeron (15) scored an empty net goal– completing the hat trick with his third goal of the game in the process.

Marchand (27) and Wagner (3) had the assists as the Bruins extended their lead, 4-2, at 19:37 on Bergeron’s sixth career hat trick and first since a, 7-4, victory at the New York Rangers on Oct. 27, 2019.

Bergeron tied Adam Oates, Herb Cain, Dit Clapper, Wayne Cashman and Barry Pederson for the ninth most hat tricks while in a Bruins uniform in franchise history.

At the final horn, Swayman made the most saves (40) by a B’s netminder in his first start since Bernie Parent had 44 saves in his NHL debut with Boston in 1965, as he and the Bruins downed the Flyers, 4-2.

Boston finished the night with the advantage in blocked shots (19-16) and hits (31-19), though they trailed Philadelphia in shots on goal (42-26), giveaways (11-8) and faceoff win% (57-44).

The Flyers finished Tuesday’s action 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2.

Boston improved to 13-3-3 (7-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season, as well as 10-0-2 (5-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 5-4-3 (5-3-2 on the road) when tied after two periods in 2020-21.

Philadelphia, in the meantime, fell to 6-11-2 (2-6-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, 8-2-1 (5-2-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 6-3-2 (2-2-2 at home) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins continue their three-game road trip (1-0-0) with a stop in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals on Thursday prior to returning to Philadelphia for a matchup with the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Boston returns home next Sunday to host the Capitals to kick off a five-game homestand on April 11th.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning shutout Stars in Game 6, win 2nd Cup in franchise history

For the first time since 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions.

Gone are the days of choking in the 2015 Final, the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Final or being swept in the 2019 First Round.

Open a window– make it a championship window– and see just how long the good times will last (there’s going to be some salary cap stuff to figure out for 2020-21 and beyond, but worry about that later).

For now, raise a socially distant glass on Zoom or whatever and celebrate responsibly as the Bolts downed the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win the series 4-2 and bring the Cup back to Tampa for the second time in franchise history.

Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the first period held up to be the game-winning, Stanley Cup clinching goal as Blake Coleman added an insurance marker in the middle frame.

Victor Hedman became the second player in Lightning franchise history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 postseason’s most valuable player.

Hedman’s also the third player from Sweden to win the Conn Smythe and the 10th different defender to win it in league history, joining Duncan Keith (2015), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Stevens (2000), Brian Leetch (1994), Al MacInnis (1989), Larry Robinson (1978), Bobby Orr (1970 and 1972) and Serge Savard (1969) in the process.

He also had 10 goals in the 2020 postseason, which were the most by a defender since Leetch had 11 in 23 games with the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-7, 1.90 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 25 games this postseason) earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in his 58th career postseason appearance– stopping all 22 shots faced en route to winning the Cup Monday night.

Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (14-10, 2.69 GAA, .917 SV% in 25 games this postseason) had 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the loss.

Dallas interim head coach, Rick Bowness, didn’t change a thing from his lineup after winning in double overtime, 3-2, in Game 5 on Saturday to Monday night’s action in Game 6.

As a result, Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea remained out of the lineup due to injury or otherwise.

Prior to Game 6 on Monday, Steven Stamkos was ruled out of the rest of the Final by the Lightning on Sunday.

Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, inserted Alexander Volkov on Stamkos’ slot on the fourth line right wing (where Carter Verhaeghe played in Game 5 after Stamkos returned for Game 4 before re-aggravating an injury forced him out of the lineup).

On defense, Kevin Shattenkirk was bumped up to the first pairing with Hedman, while Jan Rutta joined the list of scratches as Zach Bogosian took over Shattenkirk’s role on the third pairing with Ryan McDonagh.

Everything else was the same for the Bolts.

Tampa’s list of scratches on Monday included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Scott Wedgewood, Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Stamkos.

Early in the opening frame, Andrew Cogliano tripped up Point and was assessed a minor infraction at 6:32 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night, but soon found themselves back on the skater advantage at 11:58, after John Klingberg tripped Volkov.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Point (14) gathered his own rebound and scored on the far side while Khudobin was caught thinking the puck was trapped between his arm and his body.

Nikita Kucherov (27) and Hedman (12) tallied the assists on Point’s power-play goal at 12:23 of the first period and the Lightning led, 1-0.

The goal was Point’s fifth of the series and set a franchise record for the most goals in one postseason by a Tampa player as Point surpassed Tyler Johnson’s previous mark of 13 goals in Tampa’s 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, which ended in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that year– the most recent time the Bolts made the Final before beating Dallas in six games on Monday night.

Kucherov’s primary assist on the goal also assured him of the fifth most assists (27) in a playoff year in NHL history, trailing Wayne Gretzky (31 assists in 1988), Gretzky again (30 assists in 1985), Gretzky for a third time (29 in 1987) and Mario Lemieux (28 in 1991).

Late in the first period, Hedman interfered with Stars forward, Corey Perry, and received a minor penalty at 18:36, but Dallas’ first power play opportunity did not go well.

Through one period of action in Edmonton on Monday night, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-4, in shots on goal.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (1-0), hits (18-12) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

The Stars, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (8-5) and giveaways (7-5).

Tampa was 1/2 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Coleman (5) received a pass through the high slot from Cedric Paquette and fired a one-timer past Khudobin to extend Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Paquette (3) and Pat Maroon (5) notched the assists on the goal and the Lightning led, 2-0, at 7:01 of the second period.

About a minute later, Tampa defender, Ryan McDonagh was penalized for interference after colliding with Dallas forward, Tyler Seguin at 8:02.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play was powerless and, in fact, cut shot when Perry bumped into Vasilevskiy yielding a penalty for goaltender interference at 9:22.

Tampa’s ensuing abbreviated power play after a little 4-on-4 action did not result in a difference on the scoreboard as both teams eventually entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission with the Bolts still in command, 2-0.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led in shots on goal, 21-8– including a, 10-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), hits (31-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Stars led in giveaways (9-8).

Both teams had 13 blocked shots aside after two periods.

Tampa was 1/3 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/2 heading into the final frame of regulation.

Not much happened in the final period as the Stars rallied to a, 14-8, shots on net in the third period alone advantage– despite ultimately failing to score and finishing the night trailing, 29-22, in total shots on goal.

Dallas played desperate and had one final chance to cut the lead in half on the power play at 15:27 of the third period when McDonagh tripped Joel Kiviranta, but the Stars just couldn’t get any offense on the board.

With 1:44 remaining in the season, Bowness pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker in an attempt to muster just about anything by that point to spur his team for one last chance at forcing a Game 7.

This time, their heroic comeback moment did not come as the Lightning bolted down their defense and struck the Stars with a, 2-0, shutout at the final horn.

Tampa emerged with the 4-2 series win and their first Stanley Cup championship since 2004– their second Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Dallas fell to 1-2 in three Stanley Cup Final appearances overall, having won in six games in 1999, against the Buffalo Sabres, and losing in six games in 2000, against the New Jersey Devils.

Six games is all it takes, apparently, for better or worse for the Stars in the Final.

Meanwhile, it’s all the Lightning needed to complete a redemption arc from losing in six games to Chicago in 2015, and the ensuing bouts of embarrassment since then until the stars aligned for Tampa on Monday.

Tampa finished Game 6 leading in blocked shots (22-16), hits (40-37) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Dallas exited the bubble with the advantage in giveaways (11-9) in their final game.

The Lightning finished 1/3 on the power play as the Stars finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.

As the Bolts skated around with Lord Stanley’s mug, Cooper had completed the achievement of winning a championship at every level of hockey that he has coached– a feat that is by no means easy to accomplish, even though he did so while only 53-years-old (which is relatively young for a head coach).

Tampa became the first team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and be swept in the First Round the year before winning the Cup in the following season as the Columbus Blue Jackets ousted the Lightning in four games in the 2019 First Round.

The Lightning, fun fact, overcame Columbus in five games in the 2020 First Round before defeating the Boston Bruins in five games in the Second Round and the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Maroon became the eighth player in history– and first since former Lightning player, Cory Stillman– to win back-to-back Cups with different teams in consecutive seasons.

Stillman won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, before winning it again in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes (the NHL had a lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season in between), while Maroon won the Cup last year with the St. Louis Blues– his hometown team– before raising the Cup again in 2020 with Tampa.

Vasilevskiy set an NHL record for minutes played by a goaltender in a postseason with 1,708:12 time on ice.

He also became the 10th different netminder since the league expanded prior to the 1967-68 season to appear in every game en route to the Cup, joining Corey Crawford (with Chicago in 2013), Jonathan Quick (with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012), Tim Thomas (with Boston in 2011), Martin Brodeur (with New Jersey in 2000), Ed Belfour (with Dallas in 1999), Grant Fuhr (with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988), Patrick Roy (with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986), Ken Dryden (five times with Montreal from 1971-78) and Bernie Parent (with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974) in the process.

Bowness fell to 15-13 with Dallas in the postseason (all-time) as the Stars fell to 15-13 in the 2020 postseason as a whole, while Cooper improved to 54-29 behind the bench in the postseason with Tampa.

The Lightning finished 18-7 in the bubble in postseason action– capitalizing their longest postseason (25 games) with a Cup win.

Meanwhile, the NHL as a whole was able to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic with zero positive tests in Phase 4 of their Return to Play plan– which deserves a banner in its own right– having “administered 33,174 tests to club Personnel, including Players” from the beginning of Phase 4 through September 26th, according to a statement released by the league prior to the game on Monday.

Kudos to the NHL, NHLPA, Gary Bettman and all of the public health and local Canadian government officials that were able to make this happen.

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NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #105- Lateral Postseason

Nick and Connor roadmap the offseason for Pittsburgh and Boston, figure out why Washington has been so good (and Tampa), pick a winner in tonight’s Game 7 (WPG @ NSH) and explain how Vegas is going to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Also discussed, Jim Montgomery, Rod Brind’Amour, Don Waddell, the Charlotte Checkers (so Carolina as a whole) and Mark Hamill.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

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Daily Matchup

January 18 – Day 103 – The House that Lindros Built

As usual, Thursday is the best day of the work week for hockey, as we have 10 games on the schedule.

As it usually does, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. this evening with four tilts (Washington at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders [SN360], Toronto at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Dallas at Columbus), trailed half an hour later by another trio (Buffalo at the New York Rangers [NBCSN], St. Louis at Ottawa [RDS] and Vegas at Tampa Bay). Arizona at Nashville is the next fixture up at 8 p.m., followed an hour later by San Jose at Colorado and tonight’s nightcap – Pittsburgh at Los Angeles (NBCSN/SN360) – at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.

Teams on the bye: Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Even with eight teams on the bye, there’s still more than a few games on the schedule today that deserve attention. However, all pale to today’s action at… Wells Fargo Center?

 

G Bernie Parent‘s number 1. D Mark Howe‘s 2. D Barry Ashbee, LW Bill Barber and C Bobby Clarke‘s numbers – 4, 7 and 16, respectively – have all been honored too.

And tonight, the Flyers add C Eric Lindros‘ number 88 to the list of retired numbers now hanging in their arena’s rafters.

Only the best get away with controlling their fate before even signing their first contract, so Lindros was building his resume before even taking to the NHL ice. He was drafted by the Québec Nordiques in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, but insisted that he would never play for the Northmen.

Once Nordiques’ owner Marcel Aubut finally got the message after Lindros continued to play for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL and joined Team Canada for the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in France, the centerman was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for four players, the rights to C Peter Forsberg, a first-round pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft and $15 million.

Adding a bit of levity to the situation, G Ron Hextall – the Flyers’ current general manager – was one of the players traded to Québec for Lindros… #awkward.

Anyways, Lindros was an incredible rookie, posting 41-34-75 totals in 61 games played to finish fourth in 1993 Calder Trophy voting behind RW Teemu Selanne, C Joe Juneau and G Felix Potvin. Lindros also placed ninth in Hart Trophy voting – an award he eventually won in 1995 alongside the Pearson Trophy following a 29-41-70 46-game season.

In terms of total production, Lindros reached his ultimate form during the 1995-’96. In 73 games played, The Big E scored 47 goals en route to 155 points – both career highs. It was Year 3 of four of Lindros averaging 1.5 points per game.

Unfortunately, the closest Lindros came to getting back to that production was in 1998-’99 when he posted 1.31 points per game over 71 contests. Beyond the first five seasons of his career, Lindros’ career was an almost constant downhill slide due to the multiple serious injuries he sustained. Among other injuries, four concussions, a collapsed lung and a torn ligament in his wrist led to Lindros retiring following the 2007 season.

Those setbacks – in addition to a bad relationship with General Manager Bobby Clarke – led to his rights being traded to the Rangers (Lindros wanted to be traded to Toronto, but Clarke wouldn’t complete the deal. Lindros protested and did not sign a two-way contract for the 2000-’01 season, leaving him on the couch.) before the 2001-’02 season. Lindros would play three seasons with the Rangers, the 2005-’06 campaign with Toronto and 49 games during the 2006-’07 season with Dallas before retiring.

However, that tumultuous end to his career doesn’t blemish what he achieved while playing in Philadelphia, posting one of the best opening five seasons of a career. According to his Wikipedia page, Lindros needed the fourth-fewest games to reach the 300 (210 games) and 400 (277) point plateaus, the fifth-fewest to reach 500 points (352) and the sixth-fewest to reach 600 points (429).

For fans of teams that were regularly downed by the Flyers during Lindros’ tenure, it’s scary to think about that team with an uninjured Big E for more than his eight-year tenure.

It may be hard to believe considering the Flyers are currently in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, but 20-16-8 Philadelphia is actually rolling lately. Before Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Madison Square Garden, Philly had won four-straight contests.

When the Flyers are winning (like they are right now), the offense is the biggest driver in their success. Even adding in Tuesday’s loss, Philadelphia has managed a second-best 4.4 goals per game since January 4.

Five players are averaging at least a point-per-game to propel this run, but no player has been better over Philly’s last five games than C Sean Couturier. He’s posted incredible 7-2-9 totals since January 4 (25-20-45 overall) to lead the NHL in goals in that time. Of course, someone has to set him up for those goals, and that’s usually been linemate F Claude Giroux (1-7-8 totals during this run, team-leading 14-40-54 overall), who’s provided the primary assist on three of Couturier’s seven most-recent tallies.

Of course, by focusing only on those two, Toronto runs the risk of ignoring RW Jakub Voracek. That would be extremely unwise, as Voracek’s 45 assists on the season (he has 8-45-53 totals overall) are the best in the NHL. In fact, Couturier, Giroux and Voracek all rank in the top 10 of the NHL in at least one statistic, including the Captain’s second-most assists, which explains why Vorcek has been assigned to the second line to promote more offense with F Valtteri Filppula and W Michael Raffl.

While the 25-17-4 Maple Leafs – who are in third place in the Atlantic Division – are also riding a streak of earning points in four of their last five games, it hasn’t been anywhere near as pleasant an experience. With the exception of last Wednesday’s 4-3 regulation loss against the Senators, all four of the remaining games have required extra time, and that pill is made even harder to swallow by Toronto winning only two of those – both in the shootout.

To put it lightly, Toronto is doing the bare minimum right now as far as the standings are concerned. The same could be said for its offense, which has averaged only two goals-per-game over its last five outings – the (t)third-worst mark since January 5.

But this offensive drought has nothing do with effort – in fact, quite the opposite. 16 of the 19 skaters the Maple Leafs have employed since January 5 have at least one point to their credit, and both C Tyler Bozak and F William Nylander have posted 1-3-4 totals.

I would argue the biggest problem is C Auston Matthews is having just a little slump. Though he has scored two goals in his last five games, he’s currently riding a three-game goalless skid. Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but the Leafs also haven’t won a game during that skid.

I think not.

Tonight’s game completes the three-game series between the Flyers and Leafs, and if history is any indicator, this tilt will end with a 4-2 score just like the previous two matchups. Led by Jakub Voracek, the Flyers invaded Toronto on October 28, and then matched that effort on December 12 in a home contest dominated by Giroux.

Considering the positive mojo the Flyers have in their back pockets, the excitement around the Lindros number retirement ceremony and Matthews’ struggles, it’s hard to pick against the hosts this evening.


Habs-turned-Bruins-turned-Habs Head Coach Claude Julien didn’t get the result he wanted in his first return to TD Garden, as the Boston Bruins beat his Montréal Canadiens 4-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though it wasn’t the best of showings by Montréal, it did manage to take an early lead in the contest courtesy of D Jakub Jerabek‘s (W Charles Hudon and F Paul Byron) first career goal. He struck his tip-in 31 seconds into the game. However, that lead would only last 6:19 before RW David Pastrnak (First Star of the Game C Patrice Bergeron and Second Star LW Brad Marchand) leveled the game with a wrist shot.

That 1-1 tie held until the 2:37 mark of the second period. That’s when F Ryan Spooner (C David Krejci and LW Jake DeBrusk) got lucky and banked a centering pass to either DeBrusk or D Matt Grzelcyk through G Carey Price‘s crease off F Jonathan Drouin‘s right skate and into the back of the net. His pass-turned-backhanded shot proved to be the game-winning marker, his third such goal of the season.

Boston tacked on two insurance tallies in the third period, one a power play wrister by Marchand (Bergeron and D Torey Krug) 3:40 into the frame and another a wrister by Krejci (F David Backes) into an empty net with 3:14 remaining in the contest.

Third Star G Tuukka Rask saved 21-of-22 shots faced (.955 save percentage) in the victory, leaving Price – who saved 28-of-31 (.903) – with the loss.

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day are starting to resume command of the series. The 57-34-12 hosts have won three of the past four contests and extended their lead over the visitors to 22 points.

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NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #86- Best Misnomers of 2017

Nick and Connor pick apart the Central Division, provide injury updates, preview the 2018 Winter Classic and discuss the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship so far.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

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Daily Matchup

April 3 – Day 166 – One more! For Queen Elizabeth!

Seven more days of the regular season remain, making this the last Monday of the NHL year. I know it’s difficult, but enjoy it as best as you can.

To help you do that, there’s three games on the schedule tonight. A pair of those (Toronto at Buffalo [NHLN/SN/TVAS] and Ottawa at Detroit [RDS2]) drop the puck at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by Montréal at Florida (RDS) – tonight’s early nightcap. All times eastern.

Since none of these games are matchups of playoff teams, what better contest to watch than the Battle for the Queen Elizabeth Way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though divided by a national border, the fact that these towns are separated by only 89 miles/145 kilometers has yielded quite the rivalry. That hatred has only increased this season as both the Maple Leafs and Sabres are returning to form and promise to be strong clubs next season and for years to come.

The future has come early in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs have a 38-24-15 record that is good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. Winners of their past three games, the Leafs have been especially good since March 16, as they’ve gone 7-1-1 since then, which ties for the fourth-best run in the league in that time.

Just like it’s been all season, the reason for Toronto‘s success over this run has been its incredible offense. The Leafs have scored 32 goals since mid-March, a total that ties for second-most in the league in that time.

The man behind this attack? Exactly who it’s been all year: rookie phenom Auston Matthews. Not only has the kid scored seven goals for 11 points in the last nine games, but he’s also tied at 38 with Nikita Kucherov for third-most tallies all season.

It goes without saying, but this Leaf is absolutely special. He is the number one reason Toronto is currently in playoff position going to be in the playoffs, and potentially could be reasons two and three as well.

Reason four just might be Toronto‘s power play. Converting 30.4% of  their opportunities of late, the Maple Leafs‘ man-advantage has been fourth-best in the NHL since March 16. While Matthews has been effective during this specific stretch (he’s scored three power play goals for four points in his last nine games), fellow rookie William Nylander has been the true stud on the man-advantage. He’s notched 25 points with the extra man all season, nine of which have been tallies off his stick, to lead all first-year players.

To complete our perfunctory list, reason number five has to be Toronto‘s penalty kill. Thanks in large part to 32-15-14 Frederik Andersen and his .897 power play save percentage (fourth best in the league among the 37 netminders with at least 32 appearances), the Maple Leafs have rejected 83% of opposing man-advantages to rank eighth-best in the NHL.

Don’t tell anybody, but that lone regulation loss Toronto has suffered recently came at the hands of the 32-34-12 Sabres, the second-worst team in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, that win is one of only four the Sabres have earned in their past seven games.

You’ve got to score to win, and that’s been Buffalo‘s main struggle of late. Although Jack Eichel has averaged a point-per-game over this stretch (including three goals) to lead the team, he and Ryan O’Reilly (six points) have been the only two forwards really contributing to the attack lately.

Of course, that’s looking at the offense as a whole. When you start breaking things down, you find Buffalo‘s problem truly lies in even-strength play, as its power play has been the best in the league since mid-March.

Yes, even better than Washington‘s vaunted attack.

The Sabres have converted 46.7% of their man-advantage opportunities in the last two weeks, and it is on this assault where more of the team has participated. 15 different players have contributed at least a point on even-strength play since March 17, compared to 10 on the power play in that time.

Five more players were involved? Great! Bottom line, it means the Sabres are scoring!

True, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. Buffalo has spent a combined 22:16 on the man-advantage over 15 opportunities in its past seven games. Both those totals are the lowest in the league over that stretch. That means much of the team has effectively wasted the remaining (approximately) 400 minutes they’ve played, as they’ve only scored nine goals during five-on-five play, or a goal every 44 minutes.

One goal per 44 minutes of even-strength play does not win hockey games. If that’s not apparent by Buffalo‘s recent record, I don’t know what is.

Fortunately, the Sabres have remained competitive due to performing the opposite special team as well as they execute the power play. 22-24-8 Robin Lehner deserves much of the credit for that success, as his .926 power play save percentage ranks sixth-best in the NHL among the 39 goalies with at least four appearances since March 17.

Though the Sabres will miss the postseason for the sixth-straight season, this is an important game for Buffalo. Due to their two-game winning streak against Toronto, the Sabres have tied the season series against the Maple Leafs at 2-2-0, making this contest a true rubber match.

They last squared off on March 25 at the KeyBank Center – the same site of tonight’s game – where the Sabres won 5-2 on Eichel’s two-goal, three-point night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Lehner (.921 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (32 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league], including four shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]), Jake Gardiner (+26 [10th-best in the league]) and Matthews (38 points [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Uh oh, that’s not good for the home team. Vegas has marked this game with a +140 line, meaning the odds-makers favor the Leafs. Unfortunately for the Sabres, so do I. While both clubs are almost evenly matched on special teams, the Toronto‘s offense is far superior at even-strength, which is where they should earn the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ray Getliffe (1914-2008) – Though originally a Bruin, this forward spent most of his 10-year career in Montréal. A two-time Stanley Cup champion, he hoisted the trophy once with both clubs.
  • Bernie Parent (1945-) – Another player to start his career in Boston, this Hall-of-Fame goaltender played most of his 13 NHL seasons with the Flyers. He was a five-time All Star and won two Conn Smythes, Vezinas and – most importantly – Stanley Cups.
  • Brent Gilchrist (1967-) – Drafted by Montréal 79th-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing  played 15 seasons in the league – most of which with the Stars organization. He hoisted his lone Stanley Cup in 1998 with the Red Wings.
  • Shawn Bates (1975-) – The Boston-theme continues with this center, as the Bruins selected him in the fourth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He actually spent most of his 10-year career with the Islanders, with whom he notched 170 of his 198 career points.
  • Stephen Weiss (1983-) – The fourth-overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this center spent all but two of his 13 seasons with the Panthers. He notched 423 points before hanging up his skates, including 156 goals.

The Predators had the chance to not only clinch their postseason berth with a victory, but also surpass the Blues for third place in the Central Division. Instead, St. Louis beat Nashville 4-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

St. Louis didn’t wait long to get on the board, courtesy of a Vladimir Tarasenko (Jaden Schwartz and First Star of the Game David Perron) wrist shot 5:22 after the initial puck drop. Ryan Johansen (Filip Forsberg and P.K. Subban) and the Preds responded exactly six minutes later to tie the game at one-all with a power play wrister, the score that held into the first intermission.

Alex Steen (Perron) provided the game-winner early in the second period. He buried a wrister only 55 seconds after resuming play from the first intermission, followed only 5:52 later by a Perron (Alex Pietrangelo) wrister. Those tallies set the score at 3-1, which held into the second intermission.

The lone score of the third belonged to Third Star Joel Edmundson, an unassisted wrister 8:11 into the frame.

Second Star Jake Allen saved 35-of-36 shots faced (97.2%) to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Juuse Saros, who saved 21-of-25 (84%).

Nashville did qualify for the playoffs yesterday by virtue of Arizona beating ninth-place Los Angeles.

For four straight days now, home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have earned two points in the standings. Within the series, that has given hosts a 85-58-25 record, five points better than the roadies.

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Nick's Net

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Philadelphia Flyers

By: Nick Lanciani

What will retired numbers look like around the league in the future? While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

With that in mind, I explore what each team around the NHL might do in the coming seasons. Feel free to speak your mind and drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers

Current Retired Numbers- 1 Bernie Parent, 2 Mark Howe, 4 Barry Ashbee, 7 Bill Barber, 16 Bobby Clarke

Recommended Numbers to Retire

10 John LeClair

The Philadelphia Flyers really have some catching up to do when it comes to their retired numbers. For starters there’s the Legion of Doom line left winger, John LeClair, who spent ten years of his career with the Flyers, which included two consecutive 97-point seasons from 1995-1996 to 1996-1997. LeClair would reach the 90 point plateau for the third time in four seasons in the 1998-1999 season.

So, umm, yeah, why exactly haven’t you sent his number to the rafters, Philadelphia? I’ll speak from a completely biased perspective for a moment- John LeClair was one of my favorite players to try to emulate while growing up and playing street hockey in my neighborhood.

88 Eric Lindros

The center from the famous Legion of Doom line, Eric Lindros is well known for having been oft injured and the reason why the Québec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche had one of the greatest Swedish forwards of the game. But in his time well spent in Philadelphia, one season in particular, stands out for Lindros- his 115 point season in 1995-1996. Lindros only broke the 90-point plateau three times in his career, all as a member of the Flyers.

He only barely missed never having a season in Philadelphia with less than 60 points total, but in 1999-2000, Lindros came up just short, with 59 points, after only having played in 55 games due to injury. So again, why haven’t the Flyers done anything to immortalize his career with Philadelphia?

8 Mark Recchi

Recchi had two very successful stints with the Flyers over his 22-year career. In the 1992-1993 season, Recchi had 53-70-123 totals in 84 games played. From a scoring point, that was his best year ever in his career, but his success didn’t end there.

Although he won a Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991, before joining the inner state rival, Philadelphia Flyers, and went on to win a second Cup with Carolina in 2006, and his third with Boston in 2011, Mark Recchi will- rest assured- always be one of the greatest Philadelphia wingers in franchise history. Recchi was a centerpiece in the trade with Montreal that brought LeClair to the City of Brotherly Love and he was one of the reasons why playing with the Flyers in NHL 2001 was so great, for the record.

Again I must ask the question, why haven’t you done anything yet, Philadelphia Flyers organization?

12 Simon Gagné

Gagné spent eleven years of his remarkable career with the Flyers and scored some of the biggest goals in franchise history, including the one in 2010 that completed the seven game series comeback from being down in a 3-0 hole to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Whether he is able to make a return to play since taking a personal leave of absence 23 games into his short tenure with the Bruins, or whether he’s forced to retire, the Flyers should do the right thing with his jersey number and send it to the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

28 Claude Giroux

Giroux is the best player on the Flyers roster currently and will likely spend the majority of his career in Philadelphia black, white, and orange. After his career is over, the Flyers will no doubt bestow him the greatest honor from an organization and remove number 28 from circulation on the back of any Flyers jersey.

93 Jakub Voracek

The Flyers will need at least another eight years of Voracek to really determine if retiring his number is worthy of consideration one day, but we might as well include him in the conversation for the future.