Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.
The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.
The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.
A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
We’re just over a week into December, I know, but let’s all hop in the time machine and take a retroactive look at how the rest of the season should pan out based on how the league standings were through November 30, 2018.
Things have started to cool in places around the league (like Carolina), while other clubs (like Buffalo) have heated up to become serious playoff contenders– so let’s take a look at how everything should shake out between now and the first couple of weeks of April.
There’s no guarantees with any forecast, but general indications start to get a little clearer once the season’s hit the quarter-mark and American Thanksgiving has come and gone.
Realistically, if your team is anywhere between 1st and 5th in your division, you’re in for the ride of your life still from now through the end of the regular season. If you’re 6th, 7th or 8th, well, it’s never too early to start thinking about the Draft lottery (plus the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship’s coming up at the end of the month, so that’s exciting too) or about how many games it would take to go on an incredibly hot streak and jump back into the playoff picture.
Without further ado, it’s time to glance around the league and breakdown some of the unforeseen circumstances that are yet to come.
Projected Standings After Two Months
- y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 108 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Boston Bruins, 104 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 101 points (26 GP so far)
- wc1-Buffalo Sabres, 91 points (27 GP so far)
- Montreal Canadiens, 91 points (25 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 85 points (25 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 84 points (24 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 83 points (26 GP so far)
The Tampa Bay Lightning rightfully lay claim to the crown as the leader of the Atlantic Division at regular season’s end. It doesn’t matter that Steven Stamkos has yet to record a point in six career Game 7s. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point on a line of their own. They don’t even need Stamkos.
Just kidding, they still do, because that other No. 91 signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the offseason and just think how explosive a playoff matchup of Tampa and Toronto could be in the Battle of John Tavares Signed Where Leafs Fans Wanted Steven Stamkos To Sign Just A Couple Of Offseasons Ago, But Didn’t Because He Stayed With The Lightning.
You know it’s going to happen.
Actually, in the latest forecast entering December, the Boston Bruins slide out of the top spot, because injuries continue to plague their season. However, if they can recover to full health, there’s a good chance they might usurp the Maple Leafs and finish 2nd in the division, unlike what current standings dictate.
But regaining full health is a major stipulation and part of the reason why– while Toronto is 3rd in this forecast– there’s a good chance the Bruins might (probably will) slip further as January’s forecast nears.
This is about the time where it’s important to note the overarching focus on this forecast should be on where each team is positioned and how close in points they are to those above and below before placing any concrete emphasis on how things play out from now through the first week of April 2019.
The Buffalo Sabres make the biggest gain in the Atlantic Division, jumping up four spots in the division standings from the basement to 4th place and a playoff berth (albeit a wild card spot).
The Sabres 10-game winning streak– combined with the additions of Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner in the offseason– proved to be a season-defining stretch of games as Buffalo returns to Stanley Cup Playoff action for the first time since 2011 (despite the current 0-3-2 run in their last five games).
On the outside looking in, the Montreal Canadiens slipped a spot and might be a pretender– especially if Carey Price (11-8-4 record, 2.92 goals against average, .902 save percentage in 23 games played) continues to struggle. To his credit, his GAA is under three now, so there’s that.
The Detroit Red Wings gained some traction with the ongoing lack of focus in Ottawa Senators video reviews and the Florida Panthers injuries.
- p-Washington Capitals, 108 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 99 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 98 points (24 GP so far)
- wc2-New York Rangers, 92 points (26 GP so far)
- New York Islanders, 90 points (24 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points (25 GP so far)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 86 points (24 GP so far)
- New Jersey Devils, 81 points (24 GP so far)
The Washington Capitals remain in control of the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in tow.
Of course, Columbus and Pittsburgh are worth keeping a close eye on as the Blue Jackets have been all over the place near the top and the Penguins have yet to be in playoff position since– actually, pretty much never so far this season.
Plus there’s the whole “second-half of the season surge” we’re still waiting to see from Mike Sullivan’s bunch. That’ll almost assure Pittsburgh of a playoff berth, if not in a divisional spot, at least.
The New York Rangers gained two spots since entering November, which means the rebuild’s over!
Look how close the Rangers, New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes are forecasted to be in points. Even the Philadelphia Flyers have a chance– mathematically speaking, of course.
The battle for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is going to come down to one of the teams in the Big Apple and Carolina, especially since the rest of the division lacks clarity.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils are in the dumps. Taylor Hall isn’t a flash in the pan, but the rest of the Devils are, it appears.
- z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Minnesota Wild, 98 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points (24 GP so far)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- wc2-Dallas Stars, 90 points (26 GP so far)
- St. Louis Blues, 88 points (24 GP so far)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (26 GP so far)
Both the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild remain in the 1-2 spots in the latest forecast. Despite the current hot streak from the Calgary Flames, the Predators are going to be the best team in the conference by the end of the regular season.
The Winnipeg Jets are starting to become like the Penguins under Sullivan’s reign in that Paul Maurice is bound to lead his team to a second-half of the season surge into a divisional spot (or higher).
Of course, there’s always a wild card– both in the literal wild card berth and dark horse standpoint– and that’s the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs have a great chance at jumping up into a divisional spot, since they’ve gained three positions from the previous forecast entering November to the current forecast entering December. The fact of the matter is the Avalanche are a playoff contender– like last season– but with the added improvement of having built on last season’s experience.
Then there’s the Dallas Stars, who might find themselves landing in a wild card position by circumstance (have you even seen the Pacific Division?) and by luck in Jim Montgomery’s first season behind the bench.
Towards the cellar of the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are bad, but not as bad as they are currently, which isn’t great news if you’re trying to lose for Jack Hughes.
But if you’re a Blues fan who hates rivals more than losing, there’s a positive takeaway– the Chicago Blackhawks are destined to finished last in the Central. They’re bad. Very bad.
- y-San Jose Sharks, 97 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 97 points (28 GP so far)
- x-Calgary Flames, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- Vegas Golden Knights, 85 points (27 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (25 GP so far)
- Los Angeles Kings, 79 points (26 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points (24 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 78 points (28 GP so far)
The San Jose Sharks’ grasp on the Pacific Division is loosening as the Anaheim Ducks are heating up as one of the hottest teams out west– and that’s not including the one with fire in their name.
San Jose should– should— hit their stride at some point and have everything click into place, but if they don’t the Ducks are hot on their tail. How close? Close enough to show there’s no difference in their forecast total points in the standings by the end of the regular season.
The Sharks could be first or they could be second. Perhaps the Calgary Flames have something to say about that.
It’s anybody’s game in the Pacific Division playoff berths, but one thing’s for sure, there’s not going to be a wild card team coming out of the Pacific.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, that means they’re really going to have to soar and never let their foot off the gas. Vegas only survived so much without Nate Schmidt in the lineup on their blue line– they can’t afford any more major bumps in the road.
The Edmonton Oilers have Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and while they might appear to be gaining ground, they’re sure to be just outside of the playoff window looking in like how Hitchcock’s Stars were last season. Just wait for the implosion.
In the bottom three, the Los Angeles Kings might not be as terrible as they have been if 1) Marco Sturm gets named head coach and Willie Desjardins’ interim basis comes to a close and 2) the Kings light a fire under their grizzled veterans and revive whatever’s left of them this season.
The Arizona Coyotes are on par with how Arizona’s been the last few seasons. Not great, but not terrible and sometimes downtrodden due to injury.
The hype surrounding the Vancouver Canucks in October and early November was just that– hype. No amount of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser can compensate for the holes on the blue line and lack of goaltending. It’s almost as if Canucks General Manager Jim Benning has been living a Groundhog Day career from year-to-year with Vancouver.
Their offense is good, their defense is suspect and their goaltending isn’t starter quality.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?
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.
Saturday night at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in overtime thanks to a little puck luck all night.
Brandon Sutter snuck the puck past Jaroslav Halak early in the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. Joakim Nordstrom tied the game in the third period and Bo Horvat worked a little magic to ding the post and trickle the biscuit past Halak in overtime for the game-winning goal.
Halak (2-0-2, 1.74 goals against average, .933 save percentage) stopped 20 out 22 shots faced for a .909 SV% Saturday night in the loss, while Jacob Markstrom (2-2-0, 3.22 GAA, .903 SV%) made 30 saves on 31 shots against for a .968 SV% in the win.
The Bruins (4-2-2, 10 points) were looking to end a two-game losing streak and instead came out of Vancouver with a three-game skid. They are now 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip which ends Tuesday night in Kanata, Ontario against the Ottawa Senators (4-2-1, 9 points).
Vancouver improved to 5-3-0 (10 points) on the season, good enough for 2nd place in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks by one point in the division standings.
Urho Vaakanainen made his National Hockey League debut for Boston after being recalled on emergency basis when the Bruins announced that they had sent defenders Kevan Miller and Charlie McAvoy back to Boston for further evaluation pertaining to Miller’s hand injury sustained while blocking a shot against the Oilers on Thursday and McAvoy (undisclosed, though likely upper body).
The 19-year-old, Vaakanainen was drafted by the Bruins in the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Draft (18th overall) and played for the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday before hopping on a flight to Vancouver prior to Saturday’s action. He wore No. 58 for the black-and-gold and played 12:26 time on ice, recording one shot on goal while being paired with Steven Kampfer and Matt Grzelcyk at times.
Kampfer returned to the Bruins lineup for the first time since being re-acquired in the Adam McQuaid preseason trade with the New York Rangers. Kampfer last played for Boston in 2012 and had three hits in Saturday’s action.
David Backes wasn’t feeling well and became a late scratch, having not participated in warmups, so Bruce Cassidy planned on having Nordstrom center the third line with Ryan Donato to his left side and Anders Bjork at right wing.
Wagner, Nordstrom and Bjork would later become an effective matchup of their own in the game– leading to Nordstrom’s game-tying goal in the third period– while Cassidy juggled the lines.
With Miller and McAvoy out on the blue line, Zdeno Chara laced up alongside Brandon Carlo, with John Moore starting the game with Kampfer on the second defensive pair. Vaakanainen and Grzelcyk filled out the remainder of the top-six.
Of note, only Patrice Bergeron, Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask remain on the Bruins roster from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks. Alex Edler is the only connection to that series against Boston for Vancouver.
Brandon Sutter (3) kicked off scoring early in the first period when he snuck the puck underneath Halak for a soft opening goal to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Jake Virtanen (2) and Troy Stecher (2) had the assists at 3:40.
Erik Gudbranson was penalized for tripping Kuraly at 11:13 of the first period, but the Bruins brass was unable to convert on the ensuing power play.
Chara went to the box to serve a tripping minor of his own for pulling down Brock Boeser at 13:37 and the Canucks failed to convert on their only power play of the night.
After one period, Vancouver held on to a 1-0 lead, while also leading in shots on goal, 8-5. The Canucks also led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (9-4), while the B’s led in face-off win percentage (54-46). Blocked shots were even (3-3), as well as takeaways (2-2) after 20 minutes of play and both teams were 0/1 on the skater advantage.
Noel Acciari took exception to a clean hit by Bo Horvat delivered on Joakim Nordstrom as Nordstrom was attempting to play the puck out of mid-air and the two exchanged fisticuffs at 2:14 of the second period.
Acciari and Horvat were handed fighting majors, while Acciari received some slight medical attention for a cut on the left side of his face.
It was the second career fight for Horvat and fourth fight of the season for the Bruins.
Markstrom made a spectacular save without his stick moments later, while sprawling in the crease to recover the puck from going past the goal line, then rolling away on his back to keep it out.
Despite Canucks head coach, Travis Green‘s best intentions, Vancouver was called for too many men on the ice at 5:19 of the second period and Virtanen served the bench minor while the Bruins went on the power play.
Boston did not convert on the advantage.
Markus Granlund committed the final penalty of the game by slashing Bruins forward, Jake DeBrusk at 16:07. Once again, Boston’s power play was power-less.
Through 40 minutes of game action, the Canucks held onto a 1-0 lead, while Boston was outshooting Vancouver, 20-13 (and 15-5 in the second period alone). The Canucks had an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (18-7), while the Bruins maintained dominance on the face-off dot, winning 54% of the face-offs entering the second intermission.
Vancouver was 0/1 on the power play and Boston was 0/3 entering the third period.
The quest for the Canucks first regular season home shutout against the Bruins in franchise history continues as Joakim Nordstrom (2) sniped a snap shot past Markstrom at 7:45 of the third period to tie the game, 1-1.
John Moore (1) collected the primary assist– and his 100th career NHL point– on the goal, while Matt Grzelcyk (4) notched the secondary helper.
Nordstrom’s goal was high-glove side off of a solid breakout through the neutral zone and matched his total goal-scoring output from last season (two goals in 75 games for the Carolina Hurricanes) in just his seventh game this season.
With the score tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation, 3-on-3 overtime was to commence at Rogers Arena late Saturday night.
The Bruins were outshooting Vancouver, 30-19, after 60 minutes of play– including a 10-6 shots on goal advantage in the third period alone.
But the Canucks got the last laugh as Boston was unable to generate any sustainable pressure in the offensive zone in overtime, especially after Brandon Carlo bungled a play to stay onside and lost the puck to Brock Boeser in the neutral zone.
Boeser moved in with Horvat on a two-on-one with Carlo in desperation to get back, while Patrice Bergeron attempted to make a last-ditch effort.
The Vancouver forwards toyed with the puck long enough for Carlo to stumble to the ice in front of his own net and let Horvat (5) deke and send one off the iron and bouncing past Halak for the game-winning goal in overtime.
Boeser (3) had the only assist on the goal at 3:12.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-22, though the Canucks led in shots, 3-1, in overtime. Vancouver also ended the night leading in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (8-4) and hits (26-11), while Boston led in face-off win% (56-44).
Among other stats…
Krejci, Acciari, Marchand, Carlo and Vaakanainen were all minus-one for Boston in the loss, while Bjork (plus-one) and Moore (plus-one) were the only positive plus/minus skaters for the Bruins.
Kampfer led the B’s in the physicality department without Backes, McAvoy and Miller in the lineup, with three hits on the night, while Nordstrom and Kuraly were the next closest (each with two).
Wagner and David Pastrnak led Boston in shots on goal with five each.
Chara and Nordstrom each had two blocked shots as Nordstrom was the most complete all-around skater for Boston Saturday night.
Boeser, Horvat, Virtanen and Chris Tanev were all plus-one for the Canucks. Edler and Gudbranson recorded a team-high four hits apiece for Vancouver in the victory, while Edler also led in blocked shots with three.
Sven Baertschi led the Canucks in shots on goal with three on Saturday.
The Bruins fell to 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip, swinging through Ottawa on Oct. 23rd before returning to TD Garden in Boston for a matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 25th.
Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.