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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins lose close one to Wild on home ice, 3-2

Two quick power play goals on a 5-on-3 advantage turned Thursday night’s action 180-degrees in favor of the Minnesota Wild in their eventual, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Wild goaltender, Kaapo Kähkönen (5-2-1, 2.60 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 38 shots against in the win.

Boston netminder, Jeremy Swayman (8-6-2, 2.26 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 16 games played) turned aside 27 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 17-11-2 (36 points) overall, but remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the 2nd wild card in Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Minnesota improved to 20-10-2 (42 points) on the season and in control of the 1st wild card in the Western Conference, while sitting in 4th place in the Central Division (behind the Colorado Avalanche only in tiebreaker, as the Avs have four more regulation wins than the Wild).

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Tomáš Nosek (COVID protocol) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask signed a PTO (player training operative) with the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday in an attempt to play at least one game before signing an NHL deal with Boston and returning to action after rehabbing offseason hip surgery.

Providence’s weekend matchups against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were postponed, which could put a wrench in Rask’s return to Boston plans if the B’s aren’t quite ready to go with three goaltenders for the time being.

That said, they did recall and assign Urho Vaakanainen, Steven Fogarty and Troy Grosenick from Providence to the taxi squad– the latter being a goaltender ahead of Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota.

With McAvoy and Nosek out of the lineup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor tweaks to his lines and defensive pairings.

John Moore returned to action alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the first pairing, while Trent Frederic went from playing wing to centering the fourth line in place of Nosek with Anton Blidh in his usual role at left wing.

Vaakanainen, Fogarty and Grosenick served as healthy scratches on the taxi squad against the Wild.

Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi made their National Hockey League debuts for the Wild, while defender, Jonas Brodin returned to Minnesota’s lineup after a stint in the league’s COVID protocol.

Less than half a minute into the action, Mike Reilly tripped up Rossi and cut a rut to the box– presenting the Wild with the first power play of the game 23 seconds into the first period.

Minnesota failed to convert on their first skater advantage of the night, but it wouldn’t be long before Boston’s undisciplined play came back to bite them.

Early in the action, Kevin Fiala slashed Brad Marchand before Matt Dumba hooked David Pastrnak while falling and attempting to clear the crease as the Bruins forward crashed the net.

Boston went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 4:36, but couldn’t muster anything past Kähkönen before Patrice Bergeron tripped Frederick Gaudreau at 6:11– yielding a 4-on-3 power play for the Bruins for about 26 seconds before the Wild earned an abbreviated advantage.

It didn’t take the B’s long to capitalize on all of the open ice as Erik Haula worked the puck back to Reilly in the high slot diamond formation prior to feeding Taylor Hall (7) with a perfect pass for a one-timer power-play goal off of Brodin’s leg and through Kähkönen’s five-hole.

Reilly (4) and Haula (6) tallied the assists as Hall’s goal put Boston on top, 1-0, at 6:35 of the third period.

The Bruins managed to escape Bergeron’s minor unscathed thereafter.

Late in the period, however, the tides began to turn as a surge in momentum featured dominant possession and rising shot totals for Minnesota.

As the Bruins trailed the play, Marchand yielded a holding infraction, while Brandon Carlo interfered with Mats Zuccarello at 14:49.

The Wild went on a two-skater advantage and didn’t waste time on the 5-on-3 power play– capitalizing on both opportunities they were presented with.

First, Zuccarello sent a pass through the slot to Kirill Kaprizov (14) for a one-timer blast on the power play reminiscent of Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin, or even Pastrnak’s craft.

Zuccarello (18) and Fiala (15) were credited with the assists on Kaprizov’s power-play goal that knotted things up, 1-1, at 15:25 of the first period.

About a minute later, Nico Sturm (6) deflected a shot from the point by Brodin as Connor Dewar and other traffic screened Swayman.

Sturm’s deflection rose over Swayman’s glove side and put the Wild ahead, 2-1, at 16:48 of the first period.

Brodin (12) and Dewar (1) recorded the assists. Dewar’s secondary assist marked his first career NHL point in the process.

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play Kaprizov and Blidh got into a bit of a shoving match– exchanging pleasantries and picking up roughing minors– while Trent Frederic tried to engage Zuccarello before pulling Zuccarello’s helmet off and yielding an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

Minnesota, as a result, went on the power play at 18:12 of the first period and would start the middle frame on the skater advantage as the special teams action blended through the first intermission.

After one period, the Wild led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-10, in shots on goal.

Minnesota also held the advantage in hits (13-10), while Boston led in blocked shots (2-0), takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Both teams managed to have one giveaway each entering the first intermission, while the Wild were 2/5 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.

Alex Goligoski picked up an interference infraction at 4:27 of the second period, but Boston’s power play went by the wayside without tying things up.

Midway through the period, Kaprizov tried to free the puck from near the boards out of his own zone before bumping into Grzelcyk, causing Kaprizov to fall into a vulnerable position before Frederic came along and made a check that was a bit too strong to cash.

Kaprizov crashed into the boards awkwardly and skated off with the help of a trainer while his right arm remained pretty limp. He would not return for the night with an upper body injury, as the Wild PR team later tweeted.

Frederic was assessed a boarding minor (that Craig Smith ended up serving) and a five-minute major for fighting as Dmitry Kulikov stood up for his fallen teammate and exchanged fisticuffs in what was Boston’s seventh fighting major of the 2021-22 season.

The Bruins’ penalty kill stood tall until they were caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Marcus Foligno and Boldy played a little catch as Boldy (1) dished the puck to Foligno entering the zone before receiving a pass back and burying a shot on Swayman’s blocker side to extend Minnesota’s lead.

Foligno (8) and Brodin (13) tallied the assists on Boldy’s first career NHL goal with lots of family and former Boston College teammates in attendance at TD Garden.

The Wild led, 3-1, at 12:26 of the second period as a result.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron made his way to the box for the second time in the game– this time for interference at 13:03.

Shortly after Minnesota’s power play came to an end, however, the Wild ended up shorthanded as Dumba caught Reilly without the puck and picked up an interference minor of his own at 15:10.

This time, the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing power play.

Marchand sent a shot attempt towards the net that was blocked before the B’s continued to work the puck around the attacking zone.

Suddenly, Bergeron made a no-look pass from the slot to where he expected Marchand to be and Marchand (12) buried a one-timer from the dot to bring Boston to within one goal.

Bergeron (14) and Grzelcyk (7) nabbed the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 15:35 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, the Wild led on the road, 3-2, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 24-21, despite trailing, 11-10, in the second period alone.

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (6-2), hits (25-16) and faceoff win% (58-42), while both teams had four takeaways and three giveaways each.

Minnesota was 2/7 on the power play and Boston was 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

After injuring Kaprizov and drawing the ire of the Wild, Frederic had to confront Minnesota’s Foligno brother in an exchange of fisticuffs at 1:12 of the third period.

The trouble is that Frederic couldn’t help himself in making his case any easier for him as he also drew a high sticking minor in addition to the five-minute major– totaling minutes in penalties on Thursday.

It was the second fight of the night and decisively shorted than the first with Foligno getting the takedown and five minutes worth of a fighting major of his own.

Minnesota’s ensuing power play was cut short when Rossi tripped Carlo at 1:24, but Boston couldn’t score during the ensuing abbreviated power play.

In fact, neither team could put one up on the scoreboard in the third period as time ticked away, Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 1:28 to go, used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:23 remaining, then the final horn sounded– signaling a Wild victory.

Minnesota won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-30, as Boston amassed a, 17-6 advantage in shots in the third period alone.

The Wild exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), while the B’s left their own building with the advantage in giveaways (7-5), hits (33-23) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Minnesota finished the night 2/8 on the power play, while Boston went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins dropped to 11-5-0 (5-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 3-6-1 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-8-2 (3-4-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Wild improved to 7-8-1 (3-5-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 13-0-1 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 12-0-1 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for a quick two-game trip through Tampa, Florida against the Lightning on Saturday and Washington, D.C. against the Capitals next Monday (Jan. 10th). 

Boston will return home to host the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally slated to be at Bell Centre prior to the rise of the Omicron variant prompting the NHL to move up Boston and Montréal’s March 21st game scheduled at TD Garden to Jan. 12th– kicking off a seven-game homestand for the B’s as a result.

Tickets for March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th and the original game that was slated to be in Montréal is postponed to a later date (TBA).

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #152- One Week Left

The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #130- Boo: A Very Merry Boone Jenner Halloween (Part II: Pierre-Luc DuBOOis)

Injuries are scaring the masses across the league, while old ghosts haunt Colorado (then lose), the Los Angeles Kings’ reign of terror is spooked, Mark Borowiecki is back again, Nick and Connor do their best to talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets and the thing that goes bump in the night? That’s the Tampa Bay Lightning thundering their way to the top. We also reviewed Bohemian Rhapsody before it comes out.

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

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College Hour

A Beginner’s Guide to NCAA Hockey; 2017-2018 Season Preview

The NCAA Hockey season is upon us once again. The cries of “Is it October yet?” have almost been answered. Many teams will begin playing exhibition games this weekend and their seasons will officially drop the puck one week later. College hockey, or #cawlidgehawkey if you want to be like John Buccigross, is becoming an increasingly deep source of professional prospects. Although playing in Major Juniors still seems to be the predominant route to the NHL, collegiate players are no joke. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at this quick list:

Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Brian Dumoulin, Jake Guentzel, Carl Hagelin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary

If you haven’t figured this one out yet, these are all former NCAA Hockey players who have become Stanley Cup Champions with the Pittsburgh Penguins (many of them more than once).

Even if you don’t follow along with college-level puck, check your NHL squad’s roster and I would almost guarantee a few players have come out of the NCAA. The developmental AHL and ECHL are also filled with former college hockey players trying to work their way up the ladder.

If you’re not into NCAA Hockey, it’s totally understandable. There are six different leagues, 60 different teams and over 1,200 individual players (and that’s just at the D-1 level). It may be difficult to dive into at first, but I can assure you it is worth your while. If you want to see grit, speed, talent and passion for the game of hockey all wrapped into one, attend any NCAA game.

Whether this is your first rodeo with college hockey or if you have been around the block a few times, the 2017-2018 season is about to begin. Here is a season preview for the upcoming campaign, which highlights each of the six leagues, as well as lists my predictions for the regular season champions of each organization. Read, enjoy and drop that puck!

Atlantic Hockey

Teams – AIC, Air Force, Army, Bentley, Canisius, Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Niagara, RIT and Robert Morris

Without putting it bluntly, Atlantic Hockey has struggled since its 2004 founding. They are largely undeveloped unlike many other NCAA Hockey leagues, and many of the teams in this league haven’t been able to find much success – especially against out-of-conference opponents.

That being said, there is typically one team every year that appears to be poised to make a good run. This year, that is likely to be either Robert Morris or Air Force. Both squads return quality players and will try to build upon the growth they showed during the previous season. The Colonials will return team leader Brady Ferguson, who put up an impressive stat line of 24-34-58 last year. Meanwhile, Air Force earned a spot in the preseason polls, coming in at 17th. Although this is a positive sign, they will have to prove their worth when the puck drops.

Preseason Favorite – Air Force Falcons

Big10

Teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin

The Big Ten Conference is still very new to the NCAA Hockey scene, but it has already shown signs of success. After Penn State made the decision to form a D-1 hockey program, the Big Ten decided it was time to flex its muscles a bit and commit to creating a private league for its member universities. Although it was a shame to see the CCHA disband, it was seemingly bound to happen eventually.

This league boasts historic programs such as Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota, but the past isn’t worth more than memories (we don’t need to talk about all of the championships they have won… it’s a lot). This year, the Big Ten Conference will attempt to prove they are a dominate group among the NCAA. With Notre Dame joining as an affiliate member, the league now has seven teams. Five of those seven teams earned preseason rankings in the top 20, with Minnesota coming in at number three. Could this be the year a National Champion is crowned out of the Big Ten?

Preseason Favorite – Penn State Nittany Lions

ECAC

Teams – Brown, Clarkson, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Quinnipiac, RPI, St. Lawrence, Union and Yale

ECAC Hockey (also referred to as the smarty-pants schools) has been able to stay in the spotlight over the past several years. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Union and Yale hoisted the NCAA Championship in back-to-back years. Cornell, Harvard and Quinnipiac are always strong contenders, while the other schools in the league are respectful in their own right.

It will be interesting to see how well Harvard recharges the batteries after facing key losses this offseason. Graduated seniors Tyler Moy and Alex Kerfoot both chipped in 45 points last season, with the remaining 2017 grads collectively contributing 41 goals, which is a lot of firepower to replace internally. With that said, Harvard should still compete well, but other conference opponents could take advantage of any offensive woes.

Preseason Favorite – Quinnipiac Bobcats

HockeyEast

Teams – Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, Merrimack, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Providence and Vermont 

Hockey East Association once again enters the season with very high expectations. They have two teams, Boston University and UMass-Lowell, ranked in the top-five of the preseason poll. Hockey East is a conference that has and will continue to put quality programs in the mix for an NCAA Championship. Many consider this to be the best conference in college hockey, but the emergence of the NCHC has provided some stiff competition.

Make no mistake, Hockey East is still an amazingly talented league. Boston College, Boston University and Providence alone have combined for five championships over the past ten years. The demographics of college hockey are simply changing and other parts of the country, such as Denver and North Dakota, are seeing great success. We will see how this impacts Hockey East teams down the road, but for now, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Preseason Favorite – Boston University Terriers

NCHC

Teams – Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan

As a college hockey fan, you either love the NCHC or you hate it. One way or the other, you must recognize the level of talent they acquired when they emerged as an NCAA Hockey league. They have five teams represented in the preseason poll, with Denver taking home top honors (if you consider a preseason ranking an honor). They have also brought home two NCAA Championships in as many years courtesy of Denver and North Dakota.

To put it simply, these teams are good.

No, they are great. There is no tip-toeing around the subject. The NCHC did exactly what they set out to do, which was create the most highly skilled, competitive and talented league in the NCAA. Are they the best? That is up for you as a fan to decide, but their early body of work speaks for itself. Keep an eye on the National Collegiate Hockey Conference to see if their master plan will continue to be a success or if they will take a step back this season.

Preseason Favorite – Denver Pioneers

WCHA_2

Teams – Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan

Last, but certainly not least, the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference. As a graduate of Bowling Green State University, I can assure you I am very well-rounded in my knowledge of this league. The WCHA is probably one of the most divided leagues in the NCAA. Any given season, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State are prepared to make strong postseason runs. Other teams in the league, such as Bowling Green, have the potential, but have never taken a serious step forward. On the other side of the coin, both Alaskan schools continually struggle and Alabama-Huntsville is still trying to turn in a successful season after their move to the D-1 level.

The last time a current member of the WCHA won a national championship was Lake Superior back in 1994… I don’t want to upset Lake Superior fans, but they are not the team they once were. Then again, you could say the same for Bowling Green, Ferris State, or Northern Michigan. I have a soft spot for the WCHA and hopefully a few of the teams at the top can regain some national prominence for the entire league.

Preseason Favorite – Minnesota State Mavericks