Tag Archives: Bruce Cassidy

Numbers Game: Boston Bruins 2017-2018 Projected Stats

Let’s ignore the first two games of the season that the Boston Bruins have already played and reset the clock to zero, because here’s a look at what is (was?) to be expected heading into this season for every player on the Bruins*.

*With some exceptions of course.

Unknown-7After being eliminated by the Ottawa Senators in the First Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston is looking for a deeper playoff run on the wings of the experience gained from those six extra games in April for David Pastrnak and the rest of their young crew.

Gut feeling dictates that Pastrnak and Brad Marchand will be as much of an offensive force as they were last season for Boston heading into this season, but what does the forecasting function in Microsoft Excel have to say about any of those bold predictions from this offseason on our podcast or otherwise?

As is tradition, my Bruins projections are presented below based on how every player on the roster has performed in their career leading up to this season. Players that have yet to play a game a regular season NHL game are not included in this first round of projections (denoted with “N/A” in most columns), but their stats will be included and accounted for about a quarter of the way through the regular season (roughly 20 games).

Yes, Charlie McAvoy played in the playoffs last season, but the fact of the matter is there is no true way to measure how his regular season will go based off of six career playoff games, wherein the pace of the game and many other variables are inherently different from regular season game-flow.

Or just give me some more time to come up with an excuse a more viable solution for projecting rookie’s stats prior to them taking the ice for the first time at the NHL level.

Sample size must always be kept in mind when glancing over these projections. A player who’s never played more than three career games (like Tommy Cross, for example) will reflect a tremendous value in projected assists if they’ve recorded even just one assist (again, like Providence Bruins all-time leader in games played, Tommy Cross) in those three games. This will fluctuate pending more appearances and/or throughout the season on its own (usually in the downward trend, unless said AHL player cracks the NHL roster full-time).

But for all the jokes, Tommy Cross is an excellent depth-defenseman/top-pair defenseman in the AHL to have. Shouts to him.

Additionally, please remember that my degree is in communication, not math, so I am by no means a wizard with numbers in Microsoft Excel and I’m sure my Corsi is terrible. Plus, you’re probably not a front office member or anyone who might have some credibility for statistical reasoning and advanced stats analysis in hockey, so take everything with a grain of salt before you complain that math is ruining “your” sport.

Unless you are some Corsi-god/NHL front office member and you’ve stumbled upon this, in which case, let’s start over. Hello, please ignore the last paragraph, my name is Nick and I’d like a job. Thanks.


On offense, the usual suspects for the Boston Bruins will remain the core components that push the team forward night-in and night-out. Patrice Bergeron should amass another 60-plus point season after having a “down year” last season with only 53 points in 2016-2017.

Pastrnak will lead the Bruins in points according to the latest models with 31-33-64 totals.

While Brad Marchand’s expected 31-29-60 totals this season rank fourth on the team’s projected scoring leaders behind Pastrnak (64), David Krejci (63) and Bergeron (62), it’s easy to imagine Marchand improving from his career best 39 goals, 46 assists (85 points) season last season and shattering his season-entering projections.

Gut Feeling 2.0 seems to point in the direction of Marchand leading in points, based off of last season, and Pastrnak leading in goals (as is shown in these numbers with Pastrnak and Marchand tied for the lead on the Bruins roster with 31 projected goals each this season).

Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano should each right their ships this season coming off of not-so-easy to return from leg injuries last season. Beleskey’s expected 14-16-30 totals would rank as his 3rd best season in his NHL career– with room to gain more ground– since appearing in two games with the Anaheim Ducks in 2008-2009.

Meanwhile, Vatrano (29 points projected in 2017-18), barring another injury, should finally partake in a full-season and become the glue-guy on the third line that he’s been expected to become after being a goal-a-game AHL player in his short career with Providence.

The Boston blue line looks retooled, restocked and ready to go.

Gone are John-Michael Liles, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow; in are the likes of Charlie McAvoy and Paul Postma. Liles has moved on to become a TV analyst for Altitude and Colorado Avalanche broadcasts while still technically an unrestricted free agent. Colin Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft and Morrow signed with the rival Montreal Canadiens this offseason after not being tendered a qualifying offer.

McAvoy’s rookie season numbers will come fruition in the next 20 games or so, please give some time for an update on his projections, but until then, know this– he’s the real deal.

Nobody can possibly be the next Bobby Orr for Boston, since there’s only one Bobby Orr after all, but McAvoy likes to move the puck like Orr once did for the Bruins in the late 1960s and 1970s. And McAvoy’s got a tough element to his game too, like legendary Bruins defenseman, Eddie Shore, McAvoy can hit.

Postma is mainly an afterthought, but provides much needed depth for the long run.

Brandon Carlo looks to make an impact in his sophomore season and should continue to absorb any and all knowledge from 40-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara, as a shut-down pair. Yes, Chara is still a good defenseman. He’ll max out around 40 points this season with Carlo carrying more weight and the Bruins offense doing their part in keeping the puck out of the defensive zone to begin with.

Meanwhile, Torey Krug should an average year with 10 goals and 35 assists (45 points). Even an average year for Krug is still a better year than most defensemen.

And in other news, Tuukka Rask is still the number one goaltender for obvious reasons. He’s good.

More on Boston’s goalies as a whole in later posts throughout the season.

For now, Bruce Cassidy‘s Bruins are ready to fly– mostly because of Cassidy’s coaching style that emphasizes going full throttle all the time and not because bears have sprouted wings or anything.

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Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

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

Down the Frozen River Podcast #73- Jagr Signs! (Kind Of)

Our hearts go out to everyone in Las Vegas as well as the family of Dave Strader. Jaromir Jagr watch comes to an end (sort of) and Nick and Connor have already moved on to the next guy. It’s Phil Kessel‘s birthday and two members of the Original Trio discuss training camp cut/non-cut surprises.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

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

Boston Bruins 2017-2018 Season Preview

Unknown-7Boston Bruins

44-31-7, 95 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Ottawa

Additions: F Kenny Agostino, D Paul Postma, F Teddy Purcell (PTO), F Jordan Szwarz

Subtractions: D Linus Arnesson (signed with Örebro HK, SHL),  D Chris Casto (signed with VGK), F Colton Hargrove (signed with Providence Bruins, AHL), F Jimmy Hayes (signed a PTO with NJ after being bought out by BOS), F Brian Ferlin (signed with EDM), D Alex Grant (signed with MIN), D Colin Miller (claimed by VGK at the Expansion Draft), F Dominic Moore (signed with TOR), D Joe Morrow (signed with MTL), F Tyler Randell (signed with OTT), F Zac Rinaldo (signed with ARI), F Drew Stafford (signed with NJ)

Still Unsigned: D John-Michael Liles

Offseason Analysis: The last branches of the Tyler Seguin trade wilted this offseason for the Boston Bruins after defenseman, Joe Morrow, was not tendered a qualifying offer, therefore making him an unrestricted free agent (who ended up signing with the enemy, the Montreal Canadiens– reuniting with head coach, Claude Julien), and forward, Jimmy Hayes, was the victim of a buyout entering the final year of his contract (and now has a PTO with the New Jersey Devils).

Morrow, of course, was part of the original acquisition for Seguin, while Hayes came along after the Bruins flipped Reilly Smith (along with the contract of Marc Savard) to the Florida Panthers in the 2015 offseason.

But none of that matters now. The Seguin deal was done and over with the moment it happened.

Regardless of the debate surrounding whether it was the worst move or not by the organization, one thing is clear– the current rendition of the Boston Bruins are Don Sweeney‘s Boston Bruins. Let’s move on from the Peter Chiarelli Era highs and lows.

These Bruins have something to prove and are ready to show it.

Whether things go their way all comes down to the way the puck bounces.

Forwards Austin Czarnik and Tim Schaller were re-signed this offseason. Czarnik’s transition to the NHL proved helpful to the organization in times of automatic depth necessity (injury) and Schaller surpassed all previous expectations in a breakout season (seven goals, seven assists in 59 games played).

Alas, the words “breakout season” are intrinsically connected to the words “sample size”, as Schaller had only played 35 career games in two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres (amassing 2-3-5 totals from 2014-2016) as a bottom-six forward.

With Sean Kuraly‘s postseason emergence as the double overtime hero in Game 5 of the Bruins First Round Atlantic Division matchup with the Ottawa Senators in Boston’s short-lived 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, Czarnik’s got some competition for a spot on the fourth line.

But enough about the “glue guys” for a moment. Let’s turn our attention to David Pastrnak, shall we?

The 70-point scorer last season reached the end of his entry-level contract on July 1st and became a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.

After watching fellow young and talented scorers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl receive massive pay raises, the 21-year-old winger from the Czech Republic was left wondering just how high his stock could go.

Agent, J.P. Barry, kept the hockey world on edge, as Pastrnak was reported to have considered a venture to the KHL if no common ground with the Bruins could be found, after NHL Network analyst, Brian Lawton, had already scared diehard Boston fans by surmising that Pastrnak would likely be traded.

Fans around the league thought they’d seen this before with Boston (remember Phil Kessel or Dougie Hamilton? Yeah, those guys were also represented by Barry during their tumultuous fallouts with the Bruins).

But analysts and fans league-wide were wrong. Kind of.

They had seen something just like this before– except it was with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

Krug and Smith had held out all summer long in 2014, coming off of their then-best career seasons, on the heels of a President’s Trophy winning 2013-2014 Bruins squad. They were RFAs, they were young and they were looking to get paid.

Deals sometimes take time and their extension negotiations caused them to miss the first day of training camp in September 2014.

Enter David Pastrnak and the 2017 offseason.

Boston’s best scorer on the same line as Boston’s other best scorer (Brad Marchand), together encompassing Boston’s best two-way forward (Patrice Bergeron) was due his lion’s share.

Tweets came from all sources and reporters drew the lines. Pastrnak and Sweeney were engaged in a standoff.

Except it was all just a numbers game.

McDavid’s 8-year, $100 million contract extension ($12.500 million cap hit) and Draisaitl’s  8-year, $68 million extension ($8.500 million cap hit) with Edmonton were worth aiming for, but when Bo Horvat struck a 6-year, $33 million deal ($5.500 million cap hit), Pastrnak’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat salary demands faltered a bit.

There was never any question as to whether Pastrnak was worth upwards of $7.000 almost $8.000 million a season, but trends in the market ultimately dictate one way or another how internal negotiations go.

So Sweeney pulled off an extremely club friendly $6.667 million cap hit on a 6-year, $40 million contract extension for Pastrnak. This, one season after extending Marchand for another eight years at only $6.125 million AAV, is some serious cap management at its best, almost impossible dream.

Especially when one considers that McDavid and Draisaitl are a costly $21 million-a-season for the next eight seasons in Edmonton (which is about 28% of the Oilers total player’s payroll).

Marchand and Pastrnak will cost the Bruins a combined $12.792 million-a-season for the next six years. Add Bergeron’s $6.875 million cap hit to that total and they’re still $1.333 million under 2/3’s of Edmonton’s best line ($19.667 million a year for Boston’s first line for the next six seasons, compared to the $21 million for McDavid and Draisaitl alone– Milan Lucic’s current cap hit is $6.000 million, if you were wondering).

Sweeney’s commitment to the core in Boston and letting his prospects develop may pan out this season with a longer run than last season’s First Round exit.

Adding Anders Bjork to the mix and a full season of Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, as well as Charlie McAvoy, is sure to make this year’s Bruins team a fun one to watch.

It’s not about the main additions of Kenny Agostino and Paul Postma to the black and gold, but rather how far will the kids go?

They’re not the young, talented, and once-in-a-generation skillful Toronto Maple Leafs, per se, but Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins might be able to skate with them this season.

Offseason Grade: B

Grading the 2017 offseason for the Bruins wasn’t contingent upon re-signing David Pastrnak or adding a top-notch *cough cough overpaid because of a lack of available good free agents* free agent– it involved a thoughtfully calculated formula of “did they do anything stupid?” and “did they continue to make a commitment to their youth infused core, moving forward?” (the answers, of course, are “no” and “yes”– don’t be a dummy, trust Don Sweeney on this one, for once).

Extra credit for not shelling out $6 million on an over 30-year-old forward for the next five or six years (maybe David Backes will rebound this season– hopefully). Don’t stray from the formula (they didn’t).

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round- April 21

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

UnknownWashington Capitals Logo

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 5

By: Connor Keith

First Star of the Game Justin Williams proved he’s more than Mr. Game 7 by burying a wrist shot only 1:04 into overtime to lead Washington to a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs at the Verizon Center, which pulls it within a win of a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Semifinals.

The play started with a face-off in the Capitals’ defensive zone. Few were better in this game at the dot than Jay Beagle, and he proved that by winning what proved to be the final scrum of the contest. Matt Niskanen ended up with the puck and advanced it to the red line before dumping it into the Caps’ attacking third. Marcus Johansson was the first reach the puck behind Third Star Frederik Andersen’s net and he immediately passed to Evgeny Kuznetsov between the near face-off circle and the goal line. The Russian one-touched a centering pass for a crashing Williams, who slammed home his shot from the deep slot between Andersen’s wickets.

As evidenced by the score, this was a very defensive matchup following Wednesday’s 5-4 thrilling Game 4. Second Star Braden Holtby faced only 25 shots and saved 24 (96%) for the victory, while Andersen rejected all but two of the 28 shots (92.9%) that reached his crease.

Part of the reason for the low shot totals was actual defensive play, as evidenced by John Carlson’s five shot blocks and William Nylander’s three takeaways – both game-highs. The other was simply all the penalties in the second period that slowed the game down. A total of 22 penalty minutes were served in this game, led by Tom Wilson’s eight.

Usually when it’s said that an athlete plays like a man possessed, it’s a good thing. Wilson did, but he was border-line insane. He received four penalties over the course of the game – including three in the middle frame.

Then again, this situation is not that simple. The reason Wilson and the Capitals were so angry is due to a check by Nazem Kadri that sent Alex Ovechkin violently crashing to the ice with 2:28 remaining in the first period. Though Kadri did serve two minutes in the penalty box for tripping, Washington made sure to remind the entire Leafs team what happens when they try to hurt its star.

And don’t be alarmed Capitals fans: Ovechkin returned to the ice for the second period.

Speaking of Kadri’s tripping penalty, it is that power play opportunity that yielded Washington’s regulation tally. T.J. Oshie (Nicklas Backstrom and Kevin Shattenkirk) provided the goal with 105 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Toronto answered only 7:45 later when Auston Matthews (Nylander and Zach Hyman) buried a wrister at the six-minute mark of the second.

Game 6 will take place at the Air Canada Centre at 7 p.m. Eastern time this Sunday. Americans will be able to view the Capitals’ first opportunity to clinch a 2017 semifinals berth on NBCSN, while Canadians can see if Toronto can force a Game 7 on SN or TVAS.

Unknown-7Unknown-6

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 5

Sean Kuraly and the Boston Bruins stole Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in double overtime, forcing a Game 6 against the Ottawa Senators on home ice at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask made 41 saves on 43 shots faced for a .953 save percentage in 90:19 time on ice for the win, while Senators goalie, Craig Anderson made 36 saves on 39 shots against for a .923 SV% in the loss.

Mark Stone (1) started things off with a breakaway goal at 11:19 of the 1st period. Stone received a stretch pass from Mike Hoffman and brought the puck into the offensive zone, where he dangled past a sprawling Rask and flipped the puck in the net with a backhand. Hoffman (1) and Derick Brassard (4) assisted on the goal— Stone’s first of the 2017 postseason.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1) quickly gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead, 30 seconds into the 2nd period on yet another breakaway goal after both Boston defensemen were caught pressing in the neutral zone. Pageau’s goal beat Rask’s five-hole and was assisted by Viktor Stalberg (2) and Alexandre Burrows (1).

The Senators began to protect their two-goal lead with tactically smart possession, until David Pastrnak (2) received a pass from Brad Marchand and sent the puck behind Anderson to cut the lead in half 8:40 into the 2nd. Marchand (1) wrapped around the net on a pass from Patrice Bergeron (2) before delivering the puck to Pastrnak for the goal.

Late in the 2nd period, Kuraly (1) scored his first career NHL goal (and first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal, at that) on a fluke pay in which Kuraly received a pass behind the net from David Backes and bounced the puck off of Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman and into the goal. Regardless, Backes (2) and Joseph Morrow (1) collected the primary and secondary assists and the game was tied, 2-2 at 17:05 of the 2nd.

No goals were scored in the 3rd period, which meant that the next goal in the game would end it in sudden death overtime.

Boston thought they had scored on a play in which Kuraly moved in on Anderson on a breakaway and made incidental contact with the goaltender, as Noel Acciari found the loose puck and sent it to the twine. While their was no call immediately on the ice, the officials determined that there had been goaltender interference on the play, while the league in Toronto reviewed the play. The call on the ice was confirmed and thus, Boston had not ended it.

The Bruins then thought they had a chance for an automatic penalty shot moments later when Pageau collapsed on the puck behind Anderson in the crease, while batting the puck away from the goal line. Yet again, the officials on the ice saw it differently and assessed no penalty on the play.

In the long run, whether you had the Bruins having had two could have been goals already on the scoreboard, you technically wouldn’t have been wrong when Kuraly (2) ended it 10:19 into the second overtime. 

Charlie McAvoy shot the rubber biscuit from the point off of a face-off, which Backes deflected and through a short series of bounces, the unsuspecting Anderson was far enough out of position as Kuraly found the puck in the low slot. A quick backhander aimed at the gaping four-by-six frame was enough to end the game, 3-2 in favor of Boston.

Backes (3) and McAvoy (2) tabbed the assists on the game winning goal as Kuraly became the first Bruins rookie to score an overtime game winning goal since Matt Fraser did so in a 1-0 overtime victory on May 8, 2014 in Montreal.

In a game where David Krejci was forced out by virtue of a knee on knee collision with Senators defenseman Wideman, Kuraly came up big in his two-goal effort. Additionally, Kuraly was originally inserted in the lineup in place of Ottawa native, Ryan Spooner, who was a healthy scratch.

Boston’s interim head coach, Bruce Cassidy commented on Krejci’s status as day-to-day after the game and would not give any indication as to whether or not Spooner would be back in the lineup if Krejci is unavailable for Sunday’s matinee.

The Senators now lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC while Canadian fans can catch the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

A dozen games are on the schedule today, so let’s hop right in with our list!

A pair of games (Vancouver at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Columbus [NHLN/SN1]) get the action underway at 2 p.m., followed by seven (Calgary at St. Louis [CITY], Toronto at Buffalo [CBC], Ottawa at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Chicago at Florida [NHLN], Carolina at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders and Arizona at Washington) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck an hour later, followed by Colorado at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. Finally, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Buffalo: Only two more editions of the Battle of the QEW go down this season, and one is tonight.
  • Ottawa at Montréal: Speaking of rivalries, this one is kind of important since it could determine who raises an Atlantic Division banner.
  • Chicago at Florida: For five seasons, Brian Campbell was a member of the Panthers‘ blueline. This offseason, he decided to return to the Windy City.
  • Boston at New York: These clubs are currently tied for the second wildcard, but they won’t be after tonight.
  • San Jose at Nashville: Remember last year’s Western Semifinals? The Predators would probably like to exact some revenge tonight.

Since both the Canadiens and Senators are all but locks to for this year’s postseason, let’s head back to Brooklyn with the Islanders for their wildly important matchup with Boston.

 

The 38-30-6 Bruins have been in the playoff picture – or right outside it – for almost the entire season. A mistimed four-game losing skid (then again, when does a four-game losing skid ever come at an appropriate time?) has felled them to the second of those two categories.

Of course, this is not the first position Boston has lost in the last month. For a long while, the Bruins actually had command of third place in the Atlantic Division, but they ceded that too to a Maple Leafs team that has won seven of its last 10 games.

The main reason for this fall from grace? I’d argue sub-par play in net by 33-20-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s been in net for all four of these contests, and the Bruins have allowed an average of five goals against. In fact, his .842 save percentage and 4.53 GAA from March 16 through last night’s action is the fifth and second-worst efforts in the NHL, respectively, in that time span.

“But Rask is a great goaltender!” said Bruins fans.

And I agree; yes, he is great. He’s also no spring chicken anymore. Rask just celebrated his 30th birthday not too long ago, which makes him older than the average goaltender throughout the 2000s (per Quant Hockey), whether by mean (28.81) or median (28.3).

Whether you’re in the camp of believing Bruce Cassidy needs to play 5-5-1 Anton Khudobin more often or Don Sweeney needs to provide a better backup than a nearly 31-year-old Russian is inconsequential to the fact that Rask needs more breaks. With 59 starts, Rask has played the third-most games in a NHL crease this season, and the other two goalies with more starts are younger than him (though not by much in Cam Talbot‘s case).

Making the exhausted netminder’s demise even more troublesome is that the defense playing in front of him is one of the better – and improving – corps in the league. Over this sour stretch, they’ve allowed only 117 shots to reach his net (29.25 per game), which is barely worse than their 25.6 average allowed per game for the entire season that ranks second-best in the league.

He doesn’t wear the Bruins‘ “C” for nothing. Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that effort with his team-leading 124 shot blocks, followed closely behind by Adam McQuaid‘s 122. Center Patrice Bergeron has also been very impressive on the defensive front, as his 59 takeaways are second-most on the club. Brad Marchand has one more for the squad lead, but he also tops (Or would it be bottoms?) the team in the opposite statistic with his 74 turnovers.

When looking at the season as a whole, Boston usually finds more than enough success on the penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is sixth-best in the league. Of course, this rough patch hasn’t been so kind. The Bruins have allowed seven power play goals against (you guessed it, most in the league in this time-span) for a measly 63.1% kill rate.

One thing that has gone Boston‘s way over the past 10 days has been their power play. Co-led by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner‘s three man-advantage points, as well as David Krejci and David Pastrnak‘s two man-advantage goals, the Bruins have scored on 35.7% of their opponents’ penalties – the best mark in the league in that span. That’s not exactly a surprise though. Boston has been successful on 21.2% of their power plays all year, the eighth-best rate in the league.

First it was the Leafs taking advantage of the Bruins‘ fall from grace. Now it’s the 35-26-12 Islanders, a team riding a two-game winning streak.

This success is a far cry from where New York was before Doug Weight took command of the ship. Former head coach Jack Capuano had only managed a 17-17-8 record – the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Isles have gone on an 18-9-4 run to climb back into the eighth place in the East. In fact, that’s the fifth-best record in the league since Capuano’s firing, better even than teams like Columbus and Nashville.

The main reason for that improvement is New York‘s potent offense. The Islanders have buried 96 goals under Weight, which ties for the fourth-highest total in the league since January 17. Behind that effort is none other than John Tavares, who’s registered 32 of his 64 points on the campaign. Anders Lee also came alive, as he’s registered 13 goals to lead the team during the Weight-era.

Ready to be even more impressed by the Islanders‘ resurgent offense? They do it almost exclusively at even-strength. In fact, New York‘s power play is borderline atrocious, as they only convert 15.8% of their opportunities – the fifth-worst rate in the league.

If recent history is any indicator, it looks like the Bruins are on their way to their fifth-straight loss, as they have yet to beat New York this year in their previous two meetings. The last time these clubs ran into each other was January 16 in Boston. Between Nikolai Kulemin‘s two-goal night (one-sixth of his season total!) and Thomas Greiss‘ 32-save shutout, the Islanders walked out of the TD Garden with a 4-0 victory.

Ironically, that was Capuano’s last game as head coach of the Isles. My, how the story has come full circle.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

Though they might be a little tired from their shootout victory in Pittsburgh last night, I’m inclined to pick the Islanders right now. Something tells me that only one day off is not enough for Rask, and everything seems to be going New York‘s way right now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Wregget (1964-) – Toronto selected this goaltender 45th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Penguins. By the time his career was through, he’d earned a 225-248-53 record and hoisted the 1992 Stanley Cup.
  • Ladislav Benysek (1975-) – This defensemen was selected in the 11th round by Edmonton in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his four-year career in the league with Minnesota. Over 161 games in the NHL, he accumulated only 15 points for a -28 rating.

With their 4-3 shootout victory against Pittsburgh in the DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have improved to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

With six goals in regulation, you’d figure there’d be two a period, right? Not last night. Instead, five were struck in the second frame, and another in the third.

The scoring started 1:54 after beginning the second period when Third Star of the Game Cameron Gaunce (Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel) buried a slap shot for the second goal of his career. 2:54 later, Second Star Brock Nelson (Joshua Ho-Sang and Alan Quine) tied the game at one-all, the score that held until Lee (Bailey and First Star Tavares) scored a wrist shot to give New York the lead 4:30 later. Now it was Pittsburgh‘s turn to pull even, and Sidney Crosby (Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary) was up to the task with 6:19 remaining in the frame. With five seconds remaining before the second intermission, Casey Cizikas (Tavares) found the back of the net to send the Isles to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.

After all that action, the final goal of regulation wasn’t struck until 6:10 remained in regulation. Cullen (Gaunce and Kessel) scored his wrister to tie the game at three-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five minute three-on-three overtime period.

Looks like this one will have to be decided in the shootout. The Pens elected to go second…

  1. …meaning Anthony Beauvillier was up first. He scored on Marc-Andre Fleury, giving New York an early shootout lead.
  2. Kessel had the chance to tie the shootout, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task and made the save.
  3. Weight called Tavares’ number next as if he knew the captain would score him another goal. With a 2-0 shootout lead, the Pens were in a miss-and-lose situation.
  4. Speaking of captains, that’s exactly who took Pittsburgh‘s next shootout attempt. Crosby had better luck than Kessel and scored his shot to keep the Penguins alive.
  5. Andrew Ladd took what proved to be the Islanders‘ final shootout attempt, but was unable to beat Fleury to win the game.
  6. Instead, Halak provided the victory by saving Nick Bonino‘s shot.

Halak saved 37-of-40 shots faced (92.5%) for the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Fleury after he stopped 43-of-46 (93.5%).

It was the second-straight DtFR Game of the Day to be decided by shootout, but the fact that this one was decided by the 80-56-23 visitors gives them a one-point advantage over the road teams in the series.

March 21 – Day 153 – So much Atlantic, so little time

Monday is over, so that means one of the busier days in the week is today. In total, 11 games will be played tonight, starting with four (Ottawa at Boston [RDS2], Pittsburgh at Buffalo, the New York Rangers at New Jersey and Calgary at Washington) at 7 p.m. and three more (Detroit at Montréal [RDS], Arizona at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Carolina at Florida) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Philadelphia at Winnipeg, with a pair of contests (San Jose at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Vancouver at Chicago) waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. St. Louis at Colorado acts as tonight’s nightcap, starting at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Ottawa at Boston: Chris Kelly spent six seasons with the Bruins, but returned to Ottawa for this season.
  • New York at New Jersey: The Battle of the Hudson River rages on tonight in Newark.
  • Detroit at Montréal: For those that love Original Six rivalries, here’s your game of the night.
  • Vancouver at Chicago: Remember when this was a heated rivalry? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

As someone who is not a fan of any teams in the Atlantic Division, I can understand why regular readers might be annoyed by tonight’s featured matchup. But we must simply focus on the Senators‘ first visit of the season to Boston, as it will act as a playoff preview  and have huge implications on determining home ice when they meet.

 

 

 

 

 

This is actually Kelly’s second stint with the Senators, as he was selected by the club in the third round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. His first tenure lasted 463 games over seven seasons between 2003-2011, and he registered 188 points.

In mid-February of the 2010-’11 campaign, the wing was shipped off to Boston for a draft pick that became Shane Prince (currently playing for the Islanders). It proved to be an effective swap for the Bruins, as he provided 13 points, including five goals (tied for sixth-most on the squad) in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs en route to Boston‘s first title in almost 40 years.

He was originally expected to become a free agent in the 2012 offseason, but instead signed a four-year extension to stay in Boston. In all, he registered 101 points over his six seasons with the Bruins, including his career-best 20-goal, 39-point effort in 2011-’12.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s career with the Bruins ended with a tremendous dud. In only his 11th game last season, his season came crashing to an end when he broke his femur. Making matters worse, it was a contract year for the then 35-year-old skater. Not surprisingly, the Bruins were cautious about offering a contract to an aging player coming off rehab, so Kelly entered free agency for the first time of his career.

Kelly and Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz seem to share one main mantra: “There’s no place like home.” Kelly returned to Ottawa this season on a one-year contract, but to limited success. Although he’s played every game this year, he’s managed only 12 points – easily the worst production of his career.

Kelly’s 39-24-8 Senators currently occupy second place in the Atlantic, trailing the division-leading Canadiens by the exact total they lead third-place Boston: four points (Ottawa has a game-in-hand to boot, so keep that in mind as the last couple weeks of the season play out).

The Senators‘ claim to fame this year is goaltending, even though it has not been an easy season in the slightest for 21-9-2 Craig Anderson. It’s an impressive record in its own right, but when the situation regarding his wife’s cancer treatment is added in, it’s arguably among one of the best performances in the NHL this season (hint: I like him to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this year). He’s marked a .928 season save percentage and 2.3 GAA – the fifth and (t)13th-best performances, respectively, among the 54 goalies with at least 16 appearances.

Not to keep heaping the praise on Anderson, but he’s been stellar this year even in light of a below-average defense playing in front of him. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s league-leading 194 shot blocks, the Sens have allowed 30.4 shots-per-game to reach Andreson’s crease, which ties for the 13th-highest rate in the league.

In addition to struggling defensively, the power play has also not been a strong point for the Senators this year. Successful on only 17.6% of its attempts, Ottawa ranks 10th-worst in the league. Although both Mike Hoffman and Karlsson have 23 power play points to their credit, goals have been hard to come by. Hoffman is the biggest contributor in that department, with 12 on the man-advantage to lead the team, but that total doubles the second-best scorer. In essence, the next step for the Sens this offseason is to develop or add another scoring threat to make their power play less predictable.

Losers of their past two games, the 38-28-6 Bruins are trying to both keep pace with the Senators as well as fend off the Maple Leafs (that didn’t go so well for them last night, as you’ll see below).

When Boston has been at its best this season, it’s been when the defense and goaltender are playing lights out. As indicated by his record, that’s been more often than not for 33-17-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s marked a .912 season save percentage and 2.32 GAA, the (t)25th and (t)10th-best efforts, respectively, among the 38 goalies with at least 28 appearances.

A poor save percentage but an excellent GAA? Looks like the mark of a solid defense. That’s exactly what you’ll find wearing the black-and-gold this evening, as Captain Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid have paired to block a total of 238 shots and limit Rask’s workload to only 26.6 shots-per-game, the second-lowest mark in hockey.

As you’d expect, that adds up to a solid penalty kill. Led mostly by Rask and his .894 save percentage when his club is shorthanded (that ties for the seventh-best effort in the NHL), the Bruins have effectively neutralized 85.2% of their opponent’s power plays to rank second-best in the league.

Boston‘s power play is also one that strikes fear into their foes. Led by Torey Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak‘s 21 power play points apiece, the Bruins have registered a goal on 20.7% of their man-advantages to rank 10th-best in the NHL. Pastrnak has been exceptional on the power play with his team-leading nine extra-man tallies.

The Bruins hope that bringing this series to the TD Garden will yield better results, as both their visits to Ottawa have resulted in losses. The Senators last hosted Boston to a 4-2 victory on March 6.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [second-most in the NHL] for 79 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (.928 save percentage [third-best in the NHL] for a 2.3 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) or Mike Condon (five shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) and Karlsson (51 assists [third-most in the league]).

Given the fact that the Bruins just played last night on the road in a tight game, I’m worried about their chances tonight – and that doesn’t even factor in the success the Senators have had against them this year. If Ottawa doesn’t win tonight, I’ll be surprised.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ryan Callahan (1985-) – In his fourth season with the Lightning (although he had surgery on his hip and is not expected to return this year), this right wing was part of the Martin St. Louis trade in 2014 after being selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Erik Johnson (1988-) – St. Louis selected this defenseman with the top-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s spent most of his career with his current club: Colorado. Johnson is another player who’s had a tough go this season, as he broke his fibula in early December and missed at least 2.5 months of action.

Don’t let the 4-2 final score deceive you, yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day between Boston and Toronto was played by two fantastic goaltenders.

Although they ended up losing the game, David Backes (Marchand) got the Bruins on the board first with a snap shot 7:26 after the game began. They couldn’t get to the first intermission with the lead though, as Morgan Rielly (Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk) scored with 4:55 remaining to tie the game at one-all.

Although not the game-winner, a Second Star of the Game Tyler Bozak (van Riemsdyk and Nikita Zaitsev) power play goal with 1:57 remaining in regulation was the tally that tipped the scales in the favor of the Maple Leafs. Since it was scored so late in the game, it forced Bruce Cassidy to pull Third Star Rask for an extra attacker.  That strategy did not work last night for the Bruins, as William Nylander (Auston Matthews) and Nazem Kadri (Connor Brown and Roman Polak) both scored on the empty net in the span of 22 seconds to set the score at 4-1. Dominic Moore (Noel Acciari) scored a snapper with 10 seconds left in the game, but it was too little, too late to impact the final result – a Toronto victory.

First Star Frederik Andersen saved 33-of-35 shots faced (94.3%) to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Rask after he saved 26-of-28 (92.9%).

For the fourth game in a row in the DtFR Game of the Day series, the home team has earned at least a point. That streak has pulled homers within a point of the 78-55-22 roadies.

March 6- Day 138- Battle Br[uin] in Ottawa

Four games are on the docket for Monday night and if you’re a fan of split screen viewing, then this night is for you. The puck drops in three cities at 7:30 p.m. with the fourth game getting underway at 8 p.m. If you’re a remote, brace yourself for some serious channel flipping.

The action starts simultaneously at 7:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers at the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars at Washington Capitals (NBCSN/CSN-DC). Half an hour later, things kick off at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba for the San Jose Sharks and the Winnipeg Jets. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at Ottawa: With a win in regulation the Bruins can tie the Senators for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division in perhaps the closest battle for a playoff spot in the shootout era of the NHL. Also, I’ll be working, so there’s that.
  • Dallas at Washington: The visiting Capitals beat the Stars 4-3 in overtime on January 21st in an entertaining matchup. Dallas makes their annual visit to Washington this time around.

For the second day in a row, I’m in charge of today’s DTFR Game of the Day Matchup and as such, I can pick whoever I want without repercussion since Connor isn’t coming back until Tuesday (that’s tomorrow, for those of you that didn’t already know).

So let’s take a trip to Kanata, Ontario just outside of Canada’s capital city where the Boston Bruins are in town to take on the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.

Unknown-7The visiting Bruins are 4-1-0 in their last five games having outscored their opponents 18-9 in that span. Since naming Bruce Cassidy as their interim head coach on February 7th, Boston is 8-2-0. Currently third in the Atlantic Division with 74 points on the season, the Bruins are 34-25-6 after 65 games played.

Boston has had a bit of a turnaround to say the least since relieving Claude Julien from his duties as head coach. Whether or not that was the spark that ignited the team as of late remains to be seen over the course of the next month, however, the Bruins have improved in several areas of the ice.

Under Cassidy’s reign, the Bruins have generated a lot of offense, improving their power play to a 19.8% completion rate (good enough for 13th in the league) while improving their goal differential to a +10. The B’s penalty kill (86.0%), by the way, is 2nd best in the league behind the Florida Panthers (86.1%).

Veteran winger Brad Marchand (29-38-67 totals in 65 GP) is tied for 4th in league scoring with San Jose’s Brent Burns. Marchand’s name, as well as Burns and others, are certainly worthy of consideration for Hart Trophy talk.

David Pastrnak is tied for 26th in the league alongside Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson. Pastrnak is in the midst of a breakout season in just his third year in the league and has 26 goals and 28 assists, good enough for 54 points in 58 games played this season.

On defense, the Bruins have relied on the likes of Zdeno Chara, Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and the gang for added depth scoring and shutdown play from time to time. Krug is two points shy (6-36-42 totals in 2016-2017) from tying a career high in points set last season (4-40-44 totals in 2015-2016). For the record, Krug has appeared in all 65 games so far this season, compared to 81 games last season.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask is tied for 5th in wins with Martin Jones. Both goalies have 30 wins in 51 and 52 games played, respectively. Rask has a .913 SV% in that time and a 2.26 goal against average, good enough for 8th in the league among active goalies with 25 or more games played.

Unknown-6The hometown Ottawa Senators roll into Monday night 3-2-0 in their last five games having been outscored 12-8 by their opponents in that span. The Sens are currently 2nd place in the Atlantic Division after 63 games played with a 35-22-6 record and 76 points on the season.

Their power play ranks 24th in the league with a success rate of 16.8% and their penalty kill is operating at 11th in the league, having successfully killed off 82.1% of penalties against this season.

Unlike their opponent, Ottawa is not much of an offensive powerhouse as they’ve only amassed a +1 goal differential, having scored 166 goals for and let in 165 goals against. Additionally, the Senators are 6-4-0 in their last ten games, showing some signs of slowing down, thanks in part, due to injuries.

Defenseman Erik Karlsson is tied for 17th in scoring with 11 goals and 45 assists for 56 points. The only other Senator in the top-50 is right winger Mark Stone (tied for 37th overall) with 48 points on the season.

Ottawa’s goaltending duo of Craig Anderson (18-8-1 in 27 games played) and Mike Condon (17-11-5 in 35 games played with PIT and OTT) has proven to be good enough to keep the Senators in the quest for the top of the Atlantic Division. Anderson’s 2.25 GAA is 7th among goalies with 25 or more games played this year, while his .930 SV% ranks 4th, in the midst of his incredible run in the face of his wife, Nicholle’s courageous battle with cancer.

Condon, by the way is tied for 15th in goals against average with a 2.54 and tied for 26th in save percentage with a.911 among goalies who have played at least 25 games this season.

The addition of Alex Burrows from the Vancouver Canucks prior to the trade deadline will anger most Bruins fans who recall Burrows as the infamous biter of Patrice Bergeron’s finger in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Besides the obvious battle in the standings, an interesting aside for this game will be how receptive Boston is to having to see Burrows more often in their own division.

Ottawa defeated Boston, 3-1, on November 24, 2016 on home ice. Monday night is just the 2nd of four meetings this season between the clubs. Whatever the outcome tonight, the Senators will have to face the Bruins in Boston on the 21st of this month and on April 6th.

In light of their recent run, the Bruins should be a much more competitive team against the Senators this time around. Then again, Ottawa is a team that played a huge role in keeping Boston out of the playoffs in 2015 and could make life nearly as difficult this season. Despite everything, Boston is retooled and ready to go this time around.

Again, ignore whatever Vegas is saying– your pal, Nick, is here to tell you who will win. I’m picking Boston in a close one that’ll come down to a “stand on his head” performance from Rask and a strong game from one of Boston’s leading scorers (either Marchand or Pastrnak, flip a coin– I’m just covering my bases here). Then again, Ryan Spooner is an Ottawa native and always seems to play well for the Bruins in front of his friends and family…

Hockey Birthday

Daniel Winnik (3/6/1985-)– Winnik seems as though he’s been everywhere in the league, although there is one team that’s certain to be keeping an eye on him as a low cost, high reward variety player this June– the Vegas Golden Knights. Since he is the head of his class of current and former NHL players born on March 6th, I decided to give him this special little feature.

The gritty glue guy has played in 699 career NHL games to date, amassing 72 goals and 150 assists for 222 points. Winnik’s career began in the 2007-2008 season with the team formerly known as the Phoenix Coyotes (now Arizona Coyotes) where he had 11-15-26 totals in 79 games played. Over the years, Winnik has played for the Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and currently, the Washington Capitals.

Joe Matte (1893-1961), George Redding (1903-1974), Andy Aitkenhead (1904- 1968), Buzz Boll (1911-1990), Paul Gauthier (1915-), Bill Shill (1923-1998), Reg Sinclair (1925-2013), Pete Goegan (1934-2008), Vic Venasky (1951-), Fred Arthur (1961-), Darrell May (1962-), Dan Bourbonnais (1962-), Peter Allen (1970-), Patrick Labrecque (1971-), Chris Taylor (1972-), Lubomir Vaic (1977-), Allan Rourke (1980-), Steve Wagner (1984-), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (1985-), Chris Mueller (1986-), Mario Bliznak (1987-), Rhett Rakhshani (1988-), Eric Wellwood (1990-), Kevin Gravel (1992-), Louis Domingue (1992-), Nicklas Jensen (1993-)


Sunday’s DTFR Game of the Day Matchup featured the San Jose Sharks at the Minnesota Wild and first place was on the line for one team at Xcel Energy Center. A win would move the Wild past the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division and a win is just what Minnesota got.

Unknown-2Eric Staal’s two-goal effort and Devan Dubnyk’s 20 saves on 21 shots against led the Wild to a 3-1 victory over San Jose on Sunday. Minnesota’s win snapped the Sharks’s three game winning streak and handed a loss to Martin Jones who made 25 saves on 28 shots faced.

Zach Parise returned to the lineup after missing three games due to the mumps and came in clutch on the power play, scoring a goal at 11:06 of the 1st period to kickstart the Wild with a 1-0 lead on home ice. Parise’s power play goal was Minnesota’s 16th goal on the power play in the last 16 games. Jason Pominville (29) and Ryan Suter (26) collected the assists on Parise’s 15th goal of the season.

Staal made it 2-0 with his 18th goal of the year, assisted by Matt Dumba (18) at 15:24 of the 1st period. Melker Karlsson put the Sharks on the board with a redirection and cut the lead in half prior to the first intermission, scoring his 9th goal of the year with less than two minutes to go in the opening period. Michael Haley (9) and Justin Braun (7) were credited with the assists on Karlsson’s goal.

Finally, Staal put the game away with his 19th of goal of the year, which gave the Wild a 3-1 lead at 18:11 of the 3rd period. Recent acquisition, Martin Hanzal (13) picked up the only assist on Staal’s second goal of the night.

February 12 – Day 116 – Atlantic animosity

It’s Sunday Funday! Six fixtures are on tap today, starting with San Jose at New Jersey (SN1/SN360) at 12:30 p.m. Detroit at Minnesota (NBC) drops the puck at 3 p.m., followed three hours later by the final two matinees of the day (Dallas at Nashville [TVAS] and Colorado at the New York Islanders). Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps (Montréal at Boston [NBCSN/RDS/SN] and Vancouver at Buffalo) drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. to finish up the day. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • San Jose at New Jersey: Last season, David Schlemko played for the Devils, but now he visits the Prudential Center wearing white.
  • Detroit at Minnesota: Thomas Vanek is also making his first return to a former home arena today, but he spent two seasons with the Wild.
  • Montréal at Boston: Oh yeah, there’s also arguably the most important rivalry in hockey being played tonight.

Take a guess which game we’re focusing on.

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The rivalry between these two doesn’t need to be set up; each game simply adds to the history.

The Canadiens come into tonight’s game with a 31-18-8 record, good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division (shh, we’re not talking about how Ottawa only trails them by six points with four games in hand). Although they’ve been exemplary on both ends of the ice, it’s been their offense that has truly been impressive. The Habs have registered 164 tallies this season, which ties for sixth-most in the league.

The man leading that charge is none other than Captain Max Pacioretty, as his 50 points are eight more than second-place Alexander Radulov. Pacioretty also claims the scoring title, and by an even wider margin: his 28 tallies are double those of Paul Byron and Radulov.

Much of that success stems from a dominant power play. Scoring on 22.1% of attempts, the Canadiens tie for the fifth-best effort in the NHL. While Pacioretty commands the even-strength play, Shea Weber has taken the man-advantage to heart with his team-leading 18 power play points. 10 of those have been goals, which is also the team-high with the extra-man.

If there’s one place the Habs should try to improve before the trade deadline, it should be their penalty kill. Even with Weber’s team-leading 32 shorthanded shot blocks, Montréal stops only 79.2% of opposing power plays – the ninth-worst rate in the league.

Every time I think about writing off the 28-23-6 Bruins, they go and do something like the two-game winning streak they’re riding right now. When Boston has found success this season, it’s been on the offensive end where they’ve notched 151 tallies, which ties for 14th-most in the league.

Brad Marchand has been at the middle of it all this season, as his 57 points are tops in New England. For those that are good at math, they’ll note that’s a point-per-game; he’s one of seven players with at least 47 games played that can stake that claim. That being said, it’s been youngster David Pastrnak that has turned the most heads this year with his team-leading 25 goals.

Even more impressive than the Bruins‘ offense has been their penalty kill. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 27 shorthanded shot blocks, Boston stops 85.9% of opposing power plays – the second-best rate in the league.

It’s hard to argue that Montréal doesn’t have the Bruins‘ number this season. In their last three meetings, the Habs have accumulated a 2-0-1 record, including a 4-2 victory the last time they met in the TD Garden. Boston‘s best effort against the Canadiens was the last time they played, when they forced overtime before falling 2-1 at the Bell Center.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (57 points [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]), Pastrnak (25 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (five shutouts [tied for third-most in the NHL] among 26 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] on a 2.32 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the NHL]) & Montréal‘s Pacioretty (28 goals [third-most in the league]) and Carey Price (24 wins [ninth-most in the NHL]).

Vegas trusts Boston to earn a home victory this evening, marking them with a -135 line. The Bruins certainly have new life under Bruce Cassidy and are riding their winning streak, but I’ve grown leery when they’re playing at home given they’re only 14-13-0 at the TD Garden. I suppose I’ll take the Bruins to win, but the Habs will probably still force overtime.

Hockey Birthday

  • Owen Nolan (1972-) – Even though he hasn’t played since 2010, this right wing is still the third-most recent United Kingdom-native to play in the NHL. He was the first overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Quebec, but the five-time All Star played most of his career in San Jose.
  • Jonas Hiller (1982-) – Although this goaltender’s most recent NHL club was the Flames, he’s spent most of his career in Anaheim. He has a career 197-140-37 record in 374 starts.

Yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day featured one of the four upsets of the day when the Sabres bested Toronto 3-1 at the Air Canada Centre.

Buffalo employed an impressive blitz technique, scoring three goals in the first period before the Maple Leafs had a chance to think. First Star of the Game Evander Kane (Sam Reinhart and Third Star Jack Eichel) takes credit for the first tally with a snap shot only 4:13 after the initial puck drop, followed 55 seconds later by Reinhart’s (Kyle Okposo and Eichel) game-winning power play snap shot. Kane (Eichel and Justin Falk) also took credit for Buffalo‘s final tally of the game, a snap shot with 1:58 remaining in the frame.

Mitch Marner (Tyler Bozak and Nikita Zaitsev) was the lone Leaf to get on the scoreboard, scoring a power play wrap-around shot with 4:03 remaining in the second period, but Toronto could not find another tally before the final horn.

Second Star Robin Lehner earns the victory after saving an incredible 43-of-44 shots faced (97.7%), leaving the loss to Frederik Andersen, who saved 20-of-23 (87%).

The Sabres‘ win is the second-straight by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which pulls the visitors within six points of the 61-39-18 season mark by home teams.

February 9 – Day 113 – Back in the saddle again

The NHL is trying to make up for scheduling only one game yesterday with 11 today.

I think I accept it’s apology.

Like it usually does, the action starts tonight at 7 p.m. with six games (San Jose at Boston [SN360/TVAS], Anaheim at Buffalo, Nashville at the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Detroit at Washington and Vancouver at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (St. Louis at Toronto, Dallas at Ottawa [RDS2] and Los Angeles at Florida). Only one more time-slot exists this evening, and it holds two games (Pittsburgh at Colorado and Montréal at Arizona [RDS]) as co-nightcaps at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Whether he deserved it or not, Claude Julien was handed a pink slip Tuesday after 10 years of service to the Bruins organization. Tonight, it will be Bruce Cassidy making his first appearance as head man behind Boston‘s bench, although it’s not his first head coaching job in the NHL.

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419 victories. Four division titles. A Presidents’ Trophy and a Stanley Cup.

The club may get to keep the hardware and banners, but Julien was the one to lead them there.

That being said, he’s been under fire for almost this entire season, and part of last year as well. Even though he’s the winningest coach in Bruins history and got the team into the playoffs in all but two seasons (hint: the last two) under his command, it’s that very fact that became his downfall. Even with some great players on his roster, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Bruins haven’t tasted the postseason since 2014 and are in danger of making it three years in a row should the standings remain as they currently are.

That’s what prompted Don Sweeney to make the change to Cassidy. The interim head coach is remembered most from his days behind the Capitals‘ bench, a job he held from 2002-’03. He was in command for the entire 2002-’03 campaign and led Washington to second place in the Southeastern Division. That success didn’t continue in the playoffs, as the Caps were eliminated in the Eastern Quarterfinals.

That elimination marked the beginning of the end of Cassidy’s tenure in the capital. Washington started the 2003-’04 season with an 8-16-1 record, which was not good enough for George McPhee and resulted in Cassidy being relieved of his duties.

He began his time with the Bruins‘ organization in 2008 as an assistant coach in Providence, but he was the man in charge by the 2011-’12 season. During his tenure as skipper, the Bruins went a combined 207-128-45, include a Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy-winning (effectively the Presidents’ Trophy, but in the AHL) 50-21-5 record in 2012-’13.

He was rewarded for that success this season with a promotion to assistant coach in Boston (Come to think of it, it seems Sweeney had this whole thing planned out, didn’t he?). A former defenseman, his addition has certainly been noticed on the ice. Last season, Boston allowed 30.4 shots to reach Rask’s crease per game. This season? That number is down to 26.4, an impressive improvement.

Cassidy takes command of a 26-23-6 Bruins team that is riding a two-game losing skid and currently occupies fourth place in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, missing out on a playoff position by one point technically two points to avoid losing a games-played tiebreaker to Philadelphia.

As stated before, the Bruins have certainly improved on the defensive end. Unfortunately, they didn’t plan for the offensive regression they’re experiencing this year. A season ago, Boston scored 236 goals – the fifth-most in the NHL. Nowadays, they’ve only managed 141 tallies in 55 games, the 10th-worst rate in the league.

That regression can’t be pinned on Marchand, though, as his 55 points are tops on the team. Making that number even more impressive is the fact that he personally takes credit for 23 goals, which is also the best in Beantown.

Fortunately for the Bruins, the penalty kill has been topnotch this year, stopping 86% of opposing power plays – the second-best rate in the league. The sick Zdeno Chara has been a major part of that success with his 27 shorthanded blocks, but is still unknown if he’ll play this evening. If he doesn’t, Adam McQuaid and his 24 penalty kill blocks will be called upon to fill the captain’s role when down a skater.

The Sharks make their annual visit to the TD Garden with a 33-17-4 record, more than good enough for the lead in the Pacific Division even if they have lost their last two games in overtime. The defense leads the way in San Jose, as the Sharks have allowed only 125 goals in 54 games this season, the second-best effort in the NHL.

Have you ever met someone who is really good at their job? Martin Jones is one of those people. His .917 season save percentage and 2.25 GAA are (t)12th and fifth-best in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with at least 23 appearances.

Of course, it’s easy to be good when you have a defense like Jones does. Led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s 100 shot blocks, San Jose allows only 27.3 shots to reach Jones’ crease per game, the third-best rate in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (55 points [fourth-most in the league], including 23 goals [10-most in the NHL]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] among 25 wins [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] on a 2.31 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & San Jose‘s Brent Burns (57 points [third-most in the NHL], including 35 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Jones (27 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL] on a 2.25 GAA [sixth-best in the league]).

Boston has been marked with a -123 favorite by Vegas, and if I were a gambling man I’d bet lots of money on the Sharks spoiling that this evening. Not only are the Sharks exceptional at preventing something the Bruins have had little success doing (scoring), Boston is also not kind to the home team. The Bruins are only 12-13-0 on their home surface. San Jose should exploit that and take this contest easily.

Hockey Birthday

  • Chris Nilan (1958-) – He may have only been a 19th-rounder in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft by Montréal, but this right wing enjoyed a 13-year career. The highlight of his career came in 1986 when he was a member of the Canadiens team that hoisted the Stanley Cup.
  • Andre Burakovsky (1995-) – Selected by Washington with the 23rd-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing is certainly making a name for himself. His 11 tallies tie for seventh-most on the team.

It took overtime, but the Blackhawks don’t mind as they earned their first victory over Minnesota in the last nine tries in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Chicago came to play, and they proved it with a tally with 9:06 remaining in the first period, compliments of Ryan Hartman (Vinnie Hinostroza and Duncan Keith). It was the lone tally of the frame, giving the Hawks a one-goal lead going into the first intermission.

If you like scoring, the second period was easily the most exciting – at least in regulation. Four goals were scored, starting with Nick Schmaltz‘ (First Star of the Game Jonathan Toews and Third Star Richard Panik) only 1:09 after returning to the ice, but Second Star Jared Spurgeon (Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter) apparently took exception to that and pulled the Wild back within a tally only 37 seconds later. With a wrister, Zach Parise (Charlie Coyle and Jason Pominville) leveled the game at two-all at the 7:15 mark, but a Panik (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Toews) wrister with 2:36 remaining in the frame returned a one-goal lead to the Blackhawks going into the second intermission.

Only one goal was scored in the third period, but it was one that blew the roof off the Xcel Energy Center. With 3:03 remaining in regulation, Erik Haula (Marco Scandella and Niederreiter) buried his wrister to level the game for Minnesota at three-all. Neither club could break the knot in the remaining time, forcing five minutes of three-on-three sudden-death overtime.

There is nothing more damning than committing an overtime penalty. Just ask Ryan Suter, who was caught holding Marian Hossa at the midway point of the frame. Only 39 seconds later, Toews (Patrick Kane and Keith) was able to capitalize on the man-advantage to seal the Hawks‘ victory.

Corey Crawford earns the victory after saving 35-of-38 shots faced (92.1%), forcing Darcy Kuemper to take the overtime loss, saving 28-of-32 (87.5%).

Chicago‘s victory is the fourth in the last five games by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling the visitors within eight points of the 60-37-18 hosts.