Categories
NHL Nick's Net

B’s and Habs reignite rivalry for first time since pandemic

It had been 641 days since the Boston Bruins last met the Montréal Canadiens in the regular season on Feb. 12, 2020. Less than a month after the Bruins beat the Habs, 4-1, that night at TD Garden, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.

The rest of the 2019-20 regular season was canceled after before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were held in a bubble about five months later. The entire 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games and temporarily realigned to create an all-Canadian division to comply with COVID-19 public health accommodations across Canada.

The Bruins were eliminated in the 2021 Second Round by the New York Islanders and watched as Montréal went all the way to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– only to lose in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sunday night in Boston, the B’s met the Canadiens for the first time during the ongoing pandemic and came from behind to beat their longest, most storied rival, 5-2, on home ice.

17,850 fans in attendance packed TD Garden with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test and masks required for entry.

The “Olé Olé Olé” chant was sung sarcastically in the third period as the Bruins pulled ahead and a Massachusetts native had a pair of goals in the victory.

A few things look different than in 2020.

Carey Price is on a personal leave of absence, while Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned and just started skating last week in an attempt to return from major hip surgery in the offseason.

Both goaltenders in Sunday night’s matchup made their Boston vs. Montréal debuts.

Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0, 2.16 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in seven games played) came out on top with the win for the B’s and made 27 saves on 29 shots faced in the effort.

Canadiens goaltender, Sam Montembeault (0-3-1, 3.78 goals-against average, .890 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 36 out of 40 shots against in the loss.

Boston improved to 8-5-0 (16 points) overall and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Montréal dropped to 4-11-2 (10 points) on the season and stuck in 7th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins were once again without the services of Trent Frederic (upper body) on Sunday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple of minor changes to his lineup from Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory in New Jersey to Sunday night’s matchup with Montréal.

Karson Kuhlman was placed on the right side of Erik Haula with Anton Blidh at left wing, while Oskar Steen entered the lineup on the “fourth” line with Tomáš Nosek at center and Jake DeBrusk at left wing.

Steen replaced Curtis Lazar, who joined Mike Reilly and Craig Smith on Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against the Canadiens.

Josh Anderson kicked the night off with a cross checking infraction against Brad Marchand at 3:20 of the first period, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after controlling possession in the attacking zone, Boston was caught with a defender pinching in as Connor Clifton raced to get back to his spot as Montréal started a rush the other way leading to a 2-on-1.

Instead of passing the puck, however, Joel Armia (1) ripped a shot over Swayman’s glove on the short side to give the Canadiens the night’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:09 of the first period.

Artturi Lehkonen (5) had the only assist on Armia’s first goal of the season as the Habs struck first.

The two teams had a little string of penalties as the first intermission drew near.

Late in the opening frame, Jake Evans tripped Marchand at 15:35, but Boston couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage– nor could they do much on the power play at 18:23, when Brendan Gallagher went to the box for slashing Blidh, though that was more so due to the fact that the advantage was cut short when Marchand tripped Lehkonen at 18:59.

For the next 1:24, the two teams skated at 4-on-4, prior to yielding an abbreviated power play to Montréal that extended into the middle frame.

After one period, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 12-11.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while the Habs led in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-10).

Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, heading into the first intermission.

Montréal was 0/1 and Boston was 0/3 on the power play through 20 minutes.

Jakub Zboril snaked his way through the neutral zone while working a pass to lead Taylor Hall into the attacking zone on his 30th birthday almost midway through the second period.

Hall sent a shot on goal that rebounded off Montembeault and almost landed in the right spot for Nick Foligno to get his stick on the loose puck, but not before Charlie McAvoy (2) pinched in from the point, crashed the slot and sent the rubber biscuit past the Canadiens netminder on the low blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 8:27 of the second period.

Hall (5) and Zboril (1) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s first goal of the night.

Late in the period, however, Zboril missed an open ice hit fresh from the bench off of a line change, leading to an overabundance of Montréal skaters getting into their attacking zone before Boston could catch up.

A shot from the Canadiens pinballed off of Swayman, might have hit a Bruin and slipped through to the back of the twine– giving Montréal a, 2-1, lead and Michael Pezzetta (1) his first career National Hockey League goal in the process.

Adam Brooks (1) and Anderson (4) had the assists on Pezzetta’s goal at 16:25 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston controlling shots on goal, 31-22, including a, 20-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6) and giveaways (6-5), while Montréal led in takeaways (3-2), as well as faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had 23 hits each, while the Habs were 0/1 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Jeff Petry was assessed a holding infraction at 1:25 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a power play as a result.

It didn’t take long for Boston to be successful on their fourth skater advantage of the night as Marchand setup McAvoy (3) for the wrist shot from the high slot over Montembeault’s glove through traffic– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Marchand (11) had the only assist on McAvoy’s power-play goal as the B’s tied things up, 2-2, on the scoreboard and McAvoy earned his first career two-goal game in the process at 2:14 of the third period.

A few minutes later– with a surge in momentum– Charlie Coyle sent a pass back to David Pastrnak for a shot that rebounded off of Montembeault prior to Petry getting a stick on it and attempting to clear it from the slot.

Petry, instead, inadvertently sent the puck off of Coyle’s (4) head and into Montréal’s own net, giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, on Coyle’s unintentional individual effort at 5:58.

Right place, right time (depending on how you look at it).

Between McAvoy’s second goal and Coyle’s first of the night, Boston rallied for two goals in a span of 3:34.

It wasn’t that much longer before the Bruins scored again as Coyle (5) won a race off the boards into the attacking zone on a chip-in indirect pass from DeBrusk and crashed the net before roofing the rubber biscuit on the short side.

DeBrusk (1) and Steen (2) tallied the assists on Coyle’s second goal of the game and the Bruins pulled ahead, 4-2, at 9:05 of the third period.

Coyle’s pair of goals were scored almost three minutes apart from one another in a span of 3:07 before things settled down until late in the final frame.

With his team trailing by two goals, Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker with about 2:30 remaining on the clock.

Things didn’t go as planned for Montréal, however.

An errant attempt to get the puck out of his own zone from Brandon Carlo hit a linesman before Pastrnak scooped it up, brought it into the attacking zone and sent it over to Hall (4) for the empty net goal at 18:02.

Pastrmak (9) and Carlo (1) were credited with the assists as Hall’s birthday goal sealed the deal on a, 5-2, win for Boston.

Canadiens defender, Chris Wideman, was given a misconduct after the goal at 18:02 and got an early ticket out of the rink to the dressing room as a result.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s wrapped up Sunday night leading in blocked shots (10-7) and hits (31-29), while Montréal left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Habs finished Sunday’s effort 0/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston also improved to 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-3-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Canadiens dropped to 2-4-2 (1-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 3-3-2 (1-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins have five days off before hitting the road to face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (Nov. 20th).

The B’s return home next Sunday to host the Calgary Flames.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Montréal Canadiens 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points

4th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa

Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)

Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven

Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.

The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.

Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.

Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.

Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.

Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.

They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.

They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.

Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.

Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.

Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.

The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.

Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.

It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.

Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.

The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.

The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.

Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.

Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.

After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.

As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.

Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.

As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.

Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.

Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.

Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.

Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.

In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.

While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.

Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.

By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.

Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?

Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).

A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.

The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.

It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.

After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.

The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.

Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.

Offseason Grade: C

It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.

It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.

The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.

At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.

Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.

Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.

The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #231- Be More Pacific (feat. Jess Belmosto)

Jess joins the show to talk all things Calgary Flames and preview the Pacific Division for the 2021-22 season. She also rescues Cam in this week’s “Off the Cuff”.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyAmazon Music and/or Audible.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Seattle Kraken 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 0-0-0, 0 points

Making their debut in the Pacific Division

Newest expansion team entering their 1st season

Additions: F Mason Appleton (from WPG), F Nathan Bastian (from NJD), F Colin Blackwell (from NYR), F Joonas Donskoi (from COL), F Jordan Eberle (from NYI), F Yanni Gourde (from TBL), F Morgan Geekie (from CAR), F Luke Henman, F Calle Järnkrok (from NSH), F Marcus Johansson (UFA from MIN), F Jared McCann (from TOR), F Jaden Schwartz (UFA from STL), F Brandon Tanev (from PIT), F Alexander Wennberg (UFA from FLA), D Connor Carrick (UFA from NJD), D Mark Giordano (from CGY), D Haydn Fleury (from ANA), D Adam Larsson (from EDM), D Jeremy Lauzon (from BOS), D Jamie Oleksiak (from DAL), D Gustav Olofsson (UFA from MTL), D Carson Soucy (from MIN), G Antoine Bibeau (UFA from COL), G Joey Daccord (from OTT), G Chris Driedger (from FLA), G Philipp Grubauer (UFA from COL)

Subtractions: F Tyler Pitlick (traded to CGY), F John Quenneville (NL), D Gavin Bayreuther (signed with CBJ), D Kurtis MacDermid (traded to COL), G Vitek Vanecek (traded to WSH)

Still Unsigned: D Dennis Cholowski (from DET)

Re-signed: F Kole Lind (from VAN), F Alexander True (from SJS), F Carsen Twarynski (from PHI), D Will Borgen (from BUF), D Vince Dunn (from STL), D Cale Fleury (from MTL)

Offseason Analysis: The NHL’s newest franchise is set to take to the ice for their first season on Oct. 12th as the Kraken pay a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights to kickoff a five-game road trip before hosting the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 16th in the first home game in the freshly renovated Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

Vegas didn’t do Seattle any favors in terms of establishing new-age expansion team expectations, since the Golden Knights found a way to make the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first season, but Kraken fans are just happy to have a professional hockey team competing for the Cup back in the city for the first time since the Seattle Metropolitans folded in 1924.

The Kraken are going to draw many comparisons to the Golden Knights despite adopting different strategies in roster compesition.

Vegas hit the ground running with a “win now” mentality, while Seattle’s built to grind their opponents down by rolling four lines similar to how the New York Islanders play a modified version of “the trap”.

Kraken General Manager, Ron Francis, has a great scouting department down the hall and knows how to construct a foundation for the future.

Francis’ track record as the General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes prior to Don Waddell’s arrival saw the likes of Martin Neceas, Morgan Geekie, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, Nicolas Roy, Haydn Fleury, Alex Nedeljkovic, Warren Foegele, Lucas Wallmark, Elias Lindholm, Brett Pesce, Brock McGinn and Jaccob Slavin rise through the ranks to the NHL– whether they still remain in a Canes uniform or not.

The future is bright for Seattle, while Dave Hakstol is getting a second chance behind the bench of an NHL team after a brief stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs most recently.

Hakstol’s time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers followed the rollercoaster that the organization’s been stuck in since Ron Hextall vacated the net.

One year showed promise, the next year was average, but then Hakstol and the team found another gear and were on the rise again– finishing 3rd in the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18, before his ultimate downfall and firing– though Philadelphia’s revolving door of goaltenders may have been a contribution.

Yanni Gourde had 17-19–36 totals in 56 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

He will miss the start of the 2021-22 season, though, which could put a damper on the expectations that he’ll be a breakout player in a Kraken uniform.

That said, glue guys like Joonas Donskoi, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Tanev and Mason Appleton should compliment the roster well and help fill the void, while Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz work on solidifying a top-six forward group.

On defense, Mark Giordano provides a touch of leadership and experience with Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson on an otherwise young blue line filled with the likes of Will Borgen, Vince Dunn, Haydn Fleury and Jeremy Lauzon.

In the crease, Seattle signed Philipp Grubauer after selecting Chris Driedger, Vitek Vanecek (later traded back to the Washington Capitals) and Joey Daccord in the expansion draft.

Driedger was the expected starter until Grubauer came along and left the Colorado Avalanche after the last three seasons.

Grubauer had seven shutouts to go with his 30-9-1 record in 40 games played last season, as well as a 1.95 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in that span.

While Driedger’s 2.07 goals-against average and .927 save percentage was pretty great for the Florida Panthers last season, his 14-6-3 record and three shutouts pale in comparison to Grubauer.

That said, the two should make a dynamic duo as one of the most promising goaltending tandems on paper entering the 2021-22 season.

Seattle may or may not make the playoffs in their first season, but they’re sure to be better than a lot of expansion teams before the Golden Knights came around and flipped the script.

Offseason Grade: B-

Both the Golden Knights and the Kraken benefitted from some of the most generous expansion draft rules in league history– though Seattle dealt with the aftermath of Vegas’ wrath in swindling other teams via side deals in 2017, and couldn’t make a trade at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft itself as a result.

Admit it, you would’ve taken Alex Ovechkin, Carey Price, Gabriel Landeskog and Vladimir Tarasenko if they were made available to you in an NHL 22 fantasy draft– salary cap be damned.

But that’s just it– a fantasy.

Even Vegas was laughed at for some of their expansion draft choices, but both the Golden Knights and Kraken experienced quite a turnover between when they filled out a roster for the first time on paper and when they hit the ice.

For having to put together a team from scratch, Francis didn’t do a bad job. For trying to win a Cup in their first season, well, the jury’s still out on that one, Seattle.

In any case, the city has more Stanley Cup rings before the Kraken even existed than 11 other current NHL teams thanks to the Metropolitans winning it all as the first American team to win the Cup in 1917.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Let’s pretend to be the Seattle Kraken

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft welcomes the Seattle Kraken to the league as its 32nd member club Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the United States and Sportsnet in Canada.

Because of a lot going on right now, this mock expansion draft got delayed until the day of the actual draft and ultimately is arbitrary. If there’s even one prediction right here, then Kraken General Manager, Ron Francis, apparently reads DTFR.

We’ll make that assumption, thank you very much.

Seattle has run numerous mock drafts at this point and gone through many scenarios, but who would’ve imagined that players like Alex Ovechkin, Ondrej Palat and more would be available?

Of course, keep in mind that the Kraken have to spend between 60-100% of the previous season’s salary cap ($81.500 million).

For the sake of keeping things simple here, we’ve provided some built-in scenarios that would allow Seattle to be cap compliant as a result of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

The Kraken will be selecting one player from 30 NHL clubs as the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt from this round of expansion. The 30 other teams had the option to protect seven forwards, three defenders and one goaltender or any combination of eight skaters and one goaltender.

For more on the protection and exposure requirements, check out the protected lists and 2021 NHL Expansion Draft rules.

The majority of this was written before the leaked selections were revealed, so let’s just pretend we’re all in an alternate universe for a bit longer.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

LD/RD Haydn Fleury

25-years-old, 1 year left, $1.300 million cap hit

Fleury was dealt to Anaheim at the trade deadline as the Carolina Hurricanes feared they would probably lose him anyway to former Canes GM Ron Francis at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Turns out their fears were based in reality as the Ducks experience déjà vu that harkens back to when they lost Shea Theodore to the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.

Fleury had 3-1–4 totals in 47 games for Anaheim and Carolina in 2020-21.

ARIZONA COYOTES

RW/LW Christian Fischer

24, 1 year left, $1.000 million cap hit

Fischer (3-8–11 totals in 52 games) is a safe bet for Seattle as he’s entering his prime and carries a low-risk, high-reward type of contract with the expectation that he could blossom into an attractive bottom-six forward.

It’s either that, or he’ll be a sweetener in another transaction as the deadline approaches if there’s a team looking to bolster their depth.

BOSTON BRUINS

LD/RD Connor Clifton

26, 2 years left, $1.000 million cap hit

Boston is more than likely going to lose a defender– whether it’s Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon or Jakub Zboril– rather than a forward, like Nick Ritchie, for example. Between Clifton and Lauzon, the Kraken can’t go wrong.

If they’d prefer the younger of the two, then Lauzon is your choice. Of course, if Seattle is looking for an NHL ready bottom-pairing and/or seventh defender, then look no further than the hard-hitting Clifton (1-6–7 totals in 44 games) despite his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame.

BUFFALO SABRES

LD Jake McCabe

27, pending-unrestricted free agent, $2.850 million cap hit in 2020-21

Like more than a few players in Buffalo this offseason, McCabe could benefit from a change of scenery and can be best utilized as a bottom-pairing or depth defender.

Perhaps the Kraken can’t come to an agreement on a new contract or they find a way to flip him at the Expansion Draft– ether way, Seattle’s looking to get more out of his 1-2–3 totals in 13 games in 2020-21.

CALGARY FLAMES

LD Mark Giordano

37, 1 year remaining, $6.750 million cap hit

Though Seattle wouldn’t go wrong with either Milan Lucic or Giordano in terms of drafting leadership out of the Flames’ dressing room, it turns out the Kraken liked the Golden Knights’ model enough and pried a veteran defender out of Calgary to lead the first generation Kraken roster.

With 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 56 games in 2020-21, a Mark Messier Leadership Award and a James Norris Memorial Trophy under his belt in 2019-20 and 2018-19, respectively, Giordano’s had a late career resurgence and could prove to be an effective piece on Seattle’s blue line.

CAROLINA HURRICANES

RD Dougie Hamilton

28, pending-UFA, $5.750 million cap hit in 2020-21

Hamilton arrived to Carolina after Francis left the organization, but that doesn’t rule out the six degrees of Kevin Bacon factor here, which allows the Kraken to select the right-shot defender that had 10-32–42 totals in 55 games this season.

Though he’s a pending-UFA, Seattle has the space to get creative with either a new contract or the ability to trade his negotiating rights for more assets before free agency begins on July 28th.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

LD/RD Calvin de Haan

30, 1 year left, $4.550 million cap hit

de Haan’s (1-9–10 totals in 44 games) been a journeyman for three out of the last four seasons having gone from the New York Islanders in 2017-18, to the Hurricanes in 2018-19, then Chicago from 2019-present.

He’d either play a bigger role with Seattle or would continue wracking up the airline rewards points by being used as trade bait for another club in the offseason similar to how the Golden Knights used Marc Methot and David Schlemko in their Expansion Draft year.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

LW/C Gabriel Landeskog

28, pending-UFA, $5.571 million cap hit in 2020-21

Vegas was wheeling and dealing at the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and Seattle will likely be doing the same in this year’s 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, so why not take a chance on Landeskog and see what happens?

At best, he sticks around. At worst, you trade his negotiating rights before July 28th or play it safe and claim Joonas Donskoi instead to provide yourself with some quality top-nine forward depth.

Landeskog, however, brings his 20-32–52 totals in 54 games this season, as well as his leadership qualities as the current captain in Colorado to Seattle if he were to sign a long-term extension to guide the Kraken through their formative years. He’d be the surefire captain for the new club, no doubt.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

C/LW Max Domi

26, 1 year left, $5.300 million cap hit

Columbus took a gamble and it didn’t pay off as Domi’s 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 71 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2019-20, faltered to 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 54 games with the Blue Jackets in 2020-21.

As such, Domi was exposed to the elements and that’s where the Kraken come in to take a flyer on a top-six forward looking for the right system and something to be built around. If all else fails, it’s only one season to get Seattle off the ground and provide a spark.

DALLAS STARS

LD/RD Andrej Sekera

35, 1 year left, $1.500 million cap hit

Sekera’s five points (three goals, two assists) in 46 games won’t be attracting any buyers for his offensive capabilities from the point, but if it’s a shutdown defender that can play throughout the lineup you need, then he’ll come in handy as a Swiss Army knife of sorts.

If the Kraken trade from the rest of their plethora of defenders and Sekera remains, it’s not the end of the world. If Seattle sends him packing after claiming him from Dallas, then the Stars won’t have lost that much for nothing with bigger fish to fry.

Either that or the Kraken could just snag Jamie Oleksiak and call it a day.

DETROIT RED WINGS

RW/LW/C Vladislav Namestnikov

28, 1 year left, $2.000 million cap hit

Remember when Namestnikov was a household name in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform? Or when he was a New York Ranger? These days, it seems like he’s been everywhere– especially since he’s suited up for the Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Colorado Avlanche and Red Wings in the last two seasons.

His best season came in 2017-18, when he amassed 48 points between the Lightning and Rangers in 81 games played, but Namestnikov only managed 8-9–17 totals in 53 games with Detroit this season.

At $2.000 million for one season, he’s a suitable asset in your bottom-six forward group with a low-cost, high-reward 30-40 point potential at best or easy to move at the deadline at worst.

EDMONTON OILERS

RD Adam Larsson

28, pending-UFA, $4.167 million cap hit in 2020-21

Larsson (4-6–10 totals in 56 games) is sure to hit the open market on July 28th, but if the Kraken find themselves in position to stake their claim to his negotiating rights and sign him before anyone else can even submit an offer it wouldn’t be unwise.

At best, Seattle lands a top-four defender. At worst, they avoid having to take something else from the Oilers. James Neal likely isn’t getting another call from an expansion team this time around and Kyle Turris might be the only decent cheap contract if he can find his game again.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

G Chris Driedger

27, pending-UFA, $850,000 cap hit in 2020-21

Seattle was enchanted by his emergence in the last couple of seasons and with Spencer Knight coming out of the shadows behind Sergei Bobrovksy’s contract in Florida, Driedger finds himself hitting the open waters of Puget Sound and/or free agency.

Whether or not Driedger’s 14-6-3 record, 2.07 goals-against average and .9217 save percentage in 23 games (23 starts, three shutouts) is a promising sign of things to come or simply a solid mark of defensive work in front of him remains to be seen.

That said, Driedger is one of the better goaltenders on the open market– if he even makes it there first.

LOS ANGELES KINGS 

RW/LW Austin Wagner

24, 2 years left, $1.133 million cap hit

Despite having one of the best prospect pools in the league right now, the Kings don’t have too much to offer via expansion, so the Kraken will have to settle for a fourth-liner that has yet to reveal whether or not this is really all that there is to his game.

Wagner had 4-4–8 totals in 44 games with Los Angeles in 2020-21.

MINNESOTA WILD

G Kaapo Kähkönen

24, 1 year left, $725,000

The Wild chose to protect Cam Talbot over their future potential starting goaltender in Kähkönen which is good news for Kraken fans and bad news for Minnesota fans.

Unless Seattle has a deal in place to acquire assets from the Wild to not select Kähkönen, this is a dangerous game for Minnesota GM, Bill Guerin, to play– but then again, he’s put an emphasis on change at the forefront of his tenure in Minnesota’s front office.

Meanwhile, Kähkönen went 16-8-0 in 24 games (23 starts, two shutouts) and had a 2.88 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage in that span in 2020-21.

MONTRÉAL CANADIENS

G Carey Price

33, 5 years left, $10.500 million cap hit

Whether or not Price is even being considered by the Kraken hinges upon two things 1) his health and 2) if Seattle and Montréal have already worked out some sort of trade.

The league has already informed the clubs that they would be circumventing the salary cap if the Kraken select Price, retain 50% of his salary and deal him back to Montréal.

But, Seattle could take the 2021 Stanley Cup Final runner-up goaltender that amassed a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts, one shutout) in the regular season and had a 2.64 goals-against average, as well as a .901 save percentage in that span and play him, place him on long-term injured reserve or eat some salary and trade him elsewhere.

In any case, Price to Seattle would be as big a deal as Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas in 2017.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

LD Mark Borowiecki

32, 1 year left, $2.000 million cap hit

Borowiecki’s 2020-21 campaign was cut short and limited to 22 games due to injury, but don’t let his one assist fool you– he’s a physical defender that will do anything to make a hit, block a shot and lead in the dressing room when he’s not on the ice.

If he’s healthy, he’d be effective in Seattle as the Kraken look to establish their workplace culture and team identity.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

LW/RW Andreas Johnsson

26, 2 years left, $3.400 million cap hit

Johnsson had 43 points in 73 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first full season at the NHL level in 2018-19. He then had just 21 points in 43 games with the Leafs in 2019-20 and 5-6–11 totals in 50 games with the Devils this season.

In the right situation, he could bounce back. In New Jersey, it doesn’t look like that’d be happening anytime soon– regardless of Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes’ emergence with Ty Smith and Yegor Sharangovich playing a part in the club’s turnaround.

Some, however, have Mackenzie Blackwood pegged as being selected by the Kraken as they certainly have plenty of goaltenders to choose from and trade thereafter.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

RW/LW Josh Bailey

31, 3 years left, $5.000 million cap hit

Bailey had 8-27–35 totals in 54 games with the Islanders this season and would provide some meat in the middle of our hypothetical Kraken roster.

Between Bailey and Jordan Eberle, however, Seattle can’t go wrong. The former tends to score clutch goals in the playoffs and has a cap hit that’s $500,000 less than the latter, though that’s not much to worry about.

NEW YORK RANGERS

RW Julien Gauthier

23, 1 year left, $775,000 cap hit

It’s not always about size, but having the option to use a 6-foot-4, 227-pound winger in your lineup certainly will help the Kraken in the physical elements of the game– especially against their rivals in the Pacific Division.

Gauthier had 2-6–8 totals in 30 games with the Rangers in 2020-21.

OTTAWA SENATORS

G Joey Daccord

24, 2 years left, $750,000 cap hit

Daccord appeared in eight games (six games) this season as the Senators struggled to stay healthy in the crease and went on to amass a 1-3-1 record in the process with a 3.27 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage in that span– revealing two things 1) he’s a young goaltender and 2) the Sens really need a better roster in front of any and all of their goaltenders.

But choosing Daccord is O.K. for Seattle since he’ll develop in due time and it takes care of having to pick something else from Ottawa’s scraps.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

RW/LW Jakub Voracek

31, 3 years left, $8.250 million cap hit

Want to get messy? Let’s have the Kraken select Voracek from the Flyers and see what happens!

No, this isn’t about postgame press conference outbursts or anything (though Voracek was in the right in that regard), but rather, there’s a lot of teams that would take Voracek at a reduced rate and Seattle could make bank off trading him.

Or they could keep the guy that had 9-34–43 totals in 53 games in 2020-21 and see what happens in 2021-22, but Francis isn’t likely going to take on that big of a contract unless it’s a free agent signing.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

RW/LW Brandon Tanev

29, 4 years left, $3.500 million cap hit

Tanev can skate, hit and compete, so… …in other words, he’s a hockey player. He’s also got the long hair to go with it.

In 2020-21, he had 7-9–16 totals in 32 games in his second season with the Penguins. Though he was on the cusp of the 30-point plateau with the Winnipeg Jets in 2018-19, Tanev’s career-high 29 points is about the most Seattle could get out of him, but that’s fine for the meat of their lineup.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

C Dylan Gambrell

24, 1 year left, $1.100 million cap hit

Be honest, did you really want to have to take anything from the Sharks?

Gambrell matched his career-high in goals (five) and set career-highs in assists (seven) and points (12) in 49 games with San Jose this season, but aside from being young, he’s still very much a fourth liner in the NHL, so the Kraken have that going for them, at least.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

RW Vladimir Tarasenko

29, 2 years left, $7.500 million cap hit

Name brand power. Seattle would assure themselves of having some top jersey sales if they’d just take Tarasenko and keep him on the roster.

Then again, he’s missed significant portions of the last two seasons and already wants out of St. Louis, so what’s not to say he won’t be disgruntled about going to a completely new franchise and any growing pains?

With 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21, and 442 points in 531 career NHL games, it’s probably worth at least being in control of his next destination– whether that’s the Kraken or elsewhere.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

C/LW/RW Yanni Gourde

29, 4 years left, $5.167 million cap hit

Gourde is an affordable player to build a brand new roster around, but just how far up the lineup can he play? Will Seattle try to make him like William Karlsson in Vegas’ first year and demand first line minutes or are they comfortable with taking a more conservative approach and, say, making him a second liner at best?

In any case, 17-19–36 totals in 56 games en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup rings with the Lightning brings the right amount of depth scoring and valuable playoff experience to the Kraken’s roster.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

LW/C Jared McCann

25, 1 year left, $2.940 million cap hit

There was a reason why the Maple Leafs went out and got McCann in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins ahead of the expansion draft, but it clearly wasn’t as an insurance plan in the event that Seattle took Alexander Kerfoot and Toronto needed a new third line center or something.

Instead, the Leafs left both available and the Kraken took the guy with the better offensive production in 2020-21, as McCann had 14-18–32 totals in 43 games with Pittsburgh, while Kerfoot had 8-15–23 totals in 56 games with Toronto.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

C/RW Zack MacEwen

25, 1 year left, $825,000

All of Vancouver’s bad contracts are coming to bite them just as everyone expected. Sure, some attractive salary cap hits were available if the Kraken needed a boost, but for the point scoring output, none of them would’ve made sense in a million years– even as a favor to the Canucks, you know, the closest geographical rival to Seattle.

Thus, MacEwen’s taking his talents and 1-1–2 totals in 34 games with the Canucks this season to the Kraken, where he’ll become intertwined with some semblance of depth.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

G Vitek Vanecek

25, 1 year left, $716,667

Yeah, there’s no way around it, really, but this is the worst thing that could happen for the Capitals short of the Kraken getting bold and taking Alex Ovechkin.

Vanecek (21-10-4 in 37 games, 36 starts, 2.69 goals-against average, .908 save percentage, two shutouts) provides a great 1A/1B punch with Ilya Samsonov as both goaltenders develop, but since Washington couldn’t get a deal done with the team that plays in Washington (state, that is), then it’s a solid grab for Seattle.

Whether or not they keep Vanecek in the mix with all the other goaltenders (or any of the other goaltenders, for that matter) remains to be seen.

WINNIPEG JETS

RD Dylan DeMelo

28, 3 years left, $3.000 million

It’s simple, draft DeMelo from Winnipeg and either end up with a decent top-4 defender or use him as trade bait a la the Vegas way in 2017.

Nine assists in 52 games won’t get you much offense from the point when DeMelo is on the ice, but his shutdown style and decent cap hit is attractive around the league.


Total Cap Hit (excluding players already on SEA roster): $80,681,666

Average age: 27.7 years old

Seattle won’t actually be spending to the cap from the expansion draft alone kind of like how the Golden Knights did in 2017, but in this mock draft, let’s get crazy.

Spend every penny and sell high, why not!?!

Yes, Price carries a hefty price tag, but that doesn’t have to be your problem if you find a team desperate enough for goaltending. Imagine trading Price to the Maple Leafs and watching all of Québec sit through the uneasiness of another Toronto-Montréal matchup in the postseason by the time his contract expires.

Or just imagine all of the possible side deals from taking a team that’s loaded with talent and stripping it down to the essentials, plus a foundation for the future.

Ron Francis is kind of good at that.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions in Game 5 shutout

Ross Colton’s goal was more than enough to seal the deal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in a, 1-0, shutout victory on home ice over the Montréal Canadiens as he became the first goaltender since legendary Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to play in every playoff game en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup rings.

It was also the 5th shutout (6th of his postseason career) for Vasilevskiy this postseason as the Lightning goaltender became the first in league history to win all four series clinching games in a shutout.

He’s also won his last five consecutive playoff series’ in shutout fashion as Tampa shutout the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before going on their 2021 run by shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 6 of Tampa’s 2021 First Round matchup, eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, in Game 5 in the 2021 Second Round and beating the New York Islanders and Canadiens, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, respectively.

Colton was also the fourth rookie to score a Stanley Cup clinching goal since 1927, in Wednesday night’s effort.

The Bolts are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, as the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2016 and 2017.

Tampa also did so in a span of about 10 months, since the ongoing global pandemic altered the National Hockey League’s postseason calendar for 2020, and shortened the 2020-21 league calendar to 56 games in the regular season, followed by a postseason that began in May and ended in the first week of July.

Last year, the Lightning raised the Cup as the designated road team at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta at a neutral site as the NHL played through the COVID-19 pandemic in a bubble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Bolts raised the Cup in front of their home fans as 2004 Stanley Cup champion with Tampa, Dave Andreychuk, watched along in attendance to cap the 2020-21 Lightning’s run.

In 2004, NHL on ESPN and NHL on ABC coverage had come to an end with the conclusion of Tampa’s Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 2004-05 season-long lockout that ultimately canceled all NHL action for the year meant that ESPN could punt their broadcasting rights to the 2005-06 season or opt out altogether.

They chose the latter.

That’s when NBC stepped in and the NHL had games on Outdoor Life Network, then Versus, NBC Sports Network (which shortly rebranded as NBCSN), as well as on NBC.

In 2021, NHL on NBC signed off for the final time as the league shifts its focus back to ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports for the next seven seasons in the United States starting with the 2021-22 season (the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be on ESPN2 this month, if you’re wondering).

Back at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage in 23 games played) made 22 saves on 22 shots against en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (13-9, 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 22 games) stopped 29 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, improved to 9-0 all time in a series when leading 2-0, while the Bolts became the first team to raise the Cup on home ice since Chicago did so in 2015.

Pat Maroon, meanwhile, also became the first player (and fourth overall) since Ed Litzenberger to win three consecutive Cups with two different teams as Litzenberger won with Chicago in 1961, as well as Toronto from 1962-64.

Neither Habs head coach, Dominique Ducharme, nor Cooper, made a change to their lineups for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Alex Killorn remained out of the lineup for the Lightning for fourth game in-a-row after blocking a shot in Game 1. He told reporters after the game that he suffered a broken left fibula in Game 1 and wanted to suit up again if he could play.

Corey Perry kicked things off in Game 5 with a hooking infraction as Perry impeded Mathieu Joseph’s play and presented the Lightning with the game’s first power play at 3:21 of the first period.

Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, the Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Jan Rutta cross checked Artturi Lehkonen at 7:19.

Montréal’s time on the advantage was unchanged as Erik Cernak earned an interference minor and Perry was assessed an embellishment infraction almost a minute after Rutta cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:15.

About 30 seconds after Cernak and Perry went to the sin bin, though, Josh Anderson hooked Blake Coleman and joined his teammates in Montréal’s box at 8:43 of the opening frame.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for 37 seconds before Tampa had an abbreviated power play thereafter.

Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Bolts were outshooting the Habs, 11-2, with 9:53 remaining in the opening period– reminiscent of how the Lightning outshot the Canadiens, 11-1, through the first half of the first period in Game 4.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, despite Tampa outshooting Montréal, 13-4.

The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (2-1) and hits (25-16), while the Habs led in faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period.

Both teams had three giveaways each while the Canadiens were 0/1 and the Lightning were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

David Savard sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play and received an automatic minor 21 seconds into the second period, but the Habs couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Almost midway through the second frame, Mikhail Sergachev tripped up Nick Suzuki and presented the Canadiens with another power play that went by the wayside at 8:32.

Moments later in Tampa’s attacking zone, Ryan McDonagh made a lateral pass along the blue line to Savard, who promptly crashed the slot and slid a shot pass towards the crease for Colton (4) to redirect into the twine.

Savard (5) and McDonagh (8) had the assists on Colton’s goal as the Lightning took a, 1-0, lead at 13:27 of the second period.

Keeping in the trend with the rest of the series– the team that scored first in each game won the game.

Late in the period, Ben Chiarot yanked Brayden Point down on a breakaway, yielding a power play to the Bolts as a result as Chiarot was assessed with a holding infraction at 19:22.

Though the ensuing skater advantage spanned the end of the second period and the start of the final frame of regulation, the Bolts couldn’t find a way to solve Montréal’s penalty kill.

After 40 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, the Lightning lead the Canadiens, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Habs, 19-14, despite Montréal holding a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Tampa held the lead in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (7-3), giveaways (10-3) and hits (44-35), while the Canadiens led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final period.

Early in the third period, Nikita Kucherov had a great chance to score, but Price stood tall and shut him down while losing his stick and making desperation saves.

Montréal responded with a breakaway as Anderson burst into the zone with tremendous speed, was denied by Vasilevskiy and ultimately crashed back-first into the post and briefly went down the tunnel before returning for the rest of the game.

With 1:51 remaining in the third period, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker, but after a stoppage resulted in neutral zone faceoff, the Habs sent Price back into the crease for a few seconds to ensure a little security between the pipes if they lost the draw.

Montréal won the ensuing faceoff as Price once again sprinted for the bench with 1:36 remaining, but Tampa’s defense was too much for the Canadiens– though the Lightning’s offense couldn’t put an exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal.

The Habs used their timeout with 1:24 remaining as assistant coach, Alex Burrows, tried to rally his players for one last push.

At the final horn, Vasilevskiy and the Bolts earned a, 1-0, shutout in Game 5 and clinched their second-straight Stanley Cup ring in as many years.

Wednesday night marked the third time that Tampa won the Cup in franchise history.

The Bolts also improved to 17-3 all time when scoring first in series-clinching games.

Tampa finished Game 5 leading in shots on goal, 30-22, including an, 11-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning dominated in just about everything else at the end of the night, leading in giveaways (11-6), hits (56-48) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots each.

Montréal exited the building 0/3 on the power play, but then again, Tampa also struggled on the skater advantage in the action– going 0/3 on Wednesday night as well.

Tampa finished the 2021 postseason 16-7 overall, while the Habs went 13-9.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Habs hold off elimination in overtime victory at home

For the first time since 1993, the Montréal Canadiens won a game in the Stanley Cup Final as Josh Anderson scored the game-winning goal almost four minutes into overtime to lift the Habs over the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, on Monday night at Bell Centre.

As a result of the loss, the Lightning hold onto a 3-1 series lead with their next chance to clinch back-to-back Cups on Wednesday night in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena in Game 5.

Carey Price (13-8, 2.34 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 21 games played) stopped 32 out of 34 shots faced in the win for Montréal.

Tampa goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-7, 1.99 goals-against average, .935 save percentage in 22 games played), made 18 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, replaced Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson in his lineup with Jake Evans, Alex Romanov and Brett Kulak.

Ducharme put Romanov on the left side of Kulak on the third defensive pairing and switched up his top-nine forwards– promoting Tyler Toffoli to the left side of the first line with Phillip Danault at center and Brendan Gallagher on right wing, while Anderson was promoted to the second line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield remaining in place.

Meanwhile, Evans took over at center on the third line with Paul Byron on his left wing and Artturi Lehkonen on his right side.

Alex Killorn entered Monday night as a “game-time decision” according to Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, and took part in warmup for the Lightning– but did not take part in any line rushes, so Cooper made no changes to his lineup from Game 3.

Attendance at Bell Centre was once again limited by the Québec provincial government and local health administrations and officially read as 3,500 fans for Game 4 as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues around the globe.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Tampa led Montréal in shots on goal, 10-1.

Unfortunately for the Lightning’s potent offense and shutdown defense, the Canadiens’ second shot on net was a goal.

The Bolts botched an effort to move the puck out of their own zone, while the Habs sustained pressure leading to a give-and-go for Suzuki and Caufield, whereby Suzuki then rid himself of the puck on a pass to Anderson (4) through the low slot from the trapezoid for a one-timer goal and the, 1-0, lead.

Suzuki (9) and Caufield (7) tallied the assists on Anderson’s goal as the Canadiens struck first at 15:39 of the first period and their first at any point in the series– ending a span of 255:39 without trailing for the Lightning since Game 7 against the New York Islanders in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals round.

Less than a minute later, Evans and Brayden Point were off to the penalty box together as Evans was assessed an interference infraction and Point was given two-minutes for roughing at 16:33 of the first period.

The two clubs almost got through a pair of minutes at 4-on-4 without any issue before Joel Edmundson caught Blake Coleman with a slash at 17:59, yielding a 4-on-3 advantage for Tampa for 34 seconds before the remainder of an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage for the Lightning would commence.

While on the ensuing power play, Point rang the post as the Bolts tried to even things up, but failed to convert on the advantage.

At the horn, both benches converged at center ice as the players were about to go back to the dressing rooms for the first intermission, but first exchanged some pleasantries.

Pat Maroon and Edmundson both received unsportsmanlike minors at 20:00 of the first period, which resulted in 4-on-4 action to start the middle frame.

After one period, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Tampa holding a, 12-5, advantage in shots on goal.

The Habs led in blocked shots (5-3) and giveaways (7-2), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (3-1), hits (15-13) and faceoff win percentage (79-21).

Tampa had the only skater advantage in the opening frame and went 0/1, while Montréal had yet to see time on the power play.

The Canadiens got their first chance on the skater advantage at 5:50 of the second period as Point caught Lehkonen with a high stick and cut a rut to the sin bin as a result.

The Habs failed to convert on the power play.

Moments later, Corey Perry cut a rut to the box for hooking Tyler Johnson at 9:43, but once again the Lightning couldn’t muster anything on the advantage.

Nor could the Bolts get anything going when Joel Armia tripped up Mathieu Joseph at 14:28 and presented Tampa with another power play as a result– despite Victor Hedman ringing the iron on a heavy shot.

Late in the period, Jeff Petry failed to clear the zone on a pass that was broken up by Ryan McDonagh.

The puck deflected off of McDonagh’s stick and sailed through the air to Coleman who worked it to McDonagh in the slot on a short pass as the Tampa defender pinched and dropped the rubber biscuit back to Barclay Goodrow (2) for the one-timer past Price while the Canadiens goaltender was out of position.

McDonagh (7) and Coleman (8) notched the assists as the Lightning tied it, 1-1, at 17:20 of the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bolts and Habs were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Tampa leading in shots on net, 20-14, through 40 minutes of action.

Montréal, however, held the advantage in shots in the second period alone, 9-8, and led in giveaways (14-7), while the Lightning led in hits (30-28) after two periods.

Both teams had six blocked shots each, three takeaways each and split faceoff win%, 50-50, entering the final frame of regulation.

Tampa was 0/3 and Montréal was 0/1 on the power play heading into the third frame.

Almost midway into the final frame of regulation, Petry, Ben Chiarot, Anderson, Goodrow, Coleman and Yanni Gourde all received matching roughing minors for a scrum after the whistle at 7:42 of the third period.

The six skaters wouldn’t come out of the box for over six minutes as there weren’t many stoppages before their penalties expired.

About a minute after the six skaters went into the box, Romanov (1) wired a shot through traffic into the twine over Vasilevskiy’s blocker and just under the bar as Lehkonen skated by the Tampa netminder acting as a screen.

Evans (1) had the only assist on Romanov’s goal and the Habs took a, 2-1, lead at 8:48 of the third period, while Romanov became the youngest (21 years, 180 days) Canadiens defender in franchise history to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.

About five minutes later, Joseph led Maroon on a rush the other way from their own blue line into the attacking zone whereby Joseph setup Maroon (2) for a shot pass redirection goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:47.

Joseph (2) and Johnson (3) had the assists on Maroon’s goal.

Moments later, Nikita Kucherov hit the post– the third time of the night that Tampa registered a shot attempt off the iron– as the Bolts almost took the lead for the first time of the night.

Late in the period, off an attacking zone faceoff, Shea Weber caught Ondrej Palat with a stick to the face and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at 18:59 of the third period.

Tampa’s advantage would spill over into the overtime period, but like the rest of the night, the Lightning couldn’t score on the skater advantage.

After regulation the Bolts and Habs were knotted up, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Tampa holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-19, including a, 10-5, advantage in the third period alone.

Montréal held the lead in blocked shots (17-15), takeaways (7-4), giveaways (19-13) and faceoff win% (55-46), while Tampa led in hits (36-34).

As there were no penalties called in overtime, the Lightning finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0/1.

Tampa nearly allowed a shorthanded goal when Hedman blew a tire along the blue line and failed to keep the puck in the attacking zone while Danault and Suzuki were off to the races and generated a one-timer on Vasilevskiy that the Lightning goaltender turned aside.

As the Habs surged in momentum and the Bolts got off to a slow start in the extra frame, Cooper used his timeout after a stoppage with 17:33 remaining in overtime.

Shortly thereafter, Anderson beat Jan Rutta and led a rush the other way with Caufield before the two kept hacking away at the loose puck on a rebound until Anderson (5) slipped it past Vasilevskiy on the short side.

Caufield (8) had the only assist on the goal at 3:57.

Montréal took Game 5, 3-2, in overtime and cut Tampa’s series lead to 3-1 as a result.

Despite losing, the Lightning finished the night with more shots on goal– leading the Canadiens, 34-21, in that department, including a, 4-2, advantage in overtime alone.

The Habs finished Monday night’s effort leading in blocked shots (19-16), giveaways (20-13) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Tampa exited the building leading in hits (36-35).

The Bolts are 1-3 in their first attempts to close out a playoff series this postseason– only beating the Carolina Hurricanes on their first try in Game 5 of their Second Round matchup.

Tampa also had two losses in overtime in games when they had a chance to finish the series, including Game 6 on Long Island against the New York Islanders.

The Lightning are now 0-4 in overtime this postseason, while Montréal improved to 6-1 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs– winning their first game in a Stanley Cup Final when facing elimination for the 12th time in franchise history and first since Game 7 against Chicago in the 1971 Stanley Cup Final.

Road teams are now 50-41-3 in a Stanley Cup Final game that required overtime after Monday night’s win for the home team Canadiens.

The most recent team to trail in the Final 3-0 to force a Game 5 was in 2014, when the New York Rangers forced the Los Angeles Kings to a Game 5 at Staples Center that the Kings ended up winning and taking home their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

On Wednesday, the Lightning attempt to repeat Los Angeles’ success in a Game 5 on home ice as they’ll host Montréal at Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning one win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from sweeping the Montréal Canadiens– and winning their third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in the process– after defeating the Canadiens, 6-3, at Bell Centre on Friday night in Game 3.

Friday night marked the first Stanley Cup Final game in Montréal since the Habs won it all in Game 5 of their series against the Los Angeles Kings on June 9, 1993.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .938 save percentage in 21 games played) made 32 saves on 35 shots against in the win for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-8, 2.36 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 20 games played) stopped 24 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.

Jon Cooper made no changes to his lineup for the Lightning while Alex Killorn remained out of commission due to an undisclosed injury that he sustained while blocking a shot in Game 1.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, was back behind the bench for the Habs after testing positive for COVID-19 in the last playoff round against the Vegas Golden Knights and self-isolating.

Ducharme made no adjustments to his lineup, while Luke Richardson returned to his usual role as an assistant coach for Montréal after serving as their temporary leader for the last six games.

The Québec provincial government made 3,500 seats available for Bell Centre’s seating capacity for Game 3, though it looked like more fans found a way in somehow on the television broadcast.

Jan Rutta (2) kicked things off with a shot from the point that floated over Price’s shoulder on the blocker side into the twine– giving Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 1:52 of the first period in the process and becoming the first player in NHL history to score a goal (regular season or playoffs) in the month of July.

Ondrej Palat (7) and Victor Hedman (16) tallied the assists on Rutta’s goal.

About a minute later, Eric Staal sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 2:54, yielding the night’s first power play to the Lightning in the process.

It didn’t take the Bolts that long on the skater advantage to convert with a power-play goal from Hedman (2) as the Lightning worked the puck around the attacking zone and back to the defender wearing No. 77.

He sent a slap shot off of Price, under the glove and into the back of the net to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead at 3:27 of the first period, while Nikita Kucherov (24) and Anthony Cirelli (7) picked up the assists.

Hedman became the first player in league history to record at least one goal in all 12 calendar months, while Montréal used their timeout to gather their composure.

Moments later, Blake Coleman went down awkwardly after missing Joel Edmundson on a hit attempt in open ice, but got up under his own power after a whistle and continued to play unscathed for the rest of the night.

Shortly thereafter, Cole Caufield sniped a shot off of the left post behind Vasilevskiy– beating the Lightning goaltender on the lower right pad– but the puck came back out of the crease and away from the attacking zone.

Midway through the first period, Phillip Danault (1) held the puck as he entered the zone and sent a shot off of Vasilevskiy that bounced off the left post and right post before finding its way into the net.

Shea Weber (5) had the only assist on Danault’s goal at 11:16 as the Canadiens cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1.

Late in the period, Mikhail Sergachev caught Artturi Lehkonen away from the puck just far enough from being considered a net front presence to yield an interference infraction at 17:29.

The Habs were not able to muster anything on the ensuing power play– their first skater advantage of the night.

Through 20 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Canadiens holding a, 17-12, advantage in shots on goal.

Montréal also led in blocked shots (5-4), while Tampa led in giveaways (5-4), hits (21-19) and faceoff win percentage (52-48) entering the first intermission.

Neither team had recorded a takeaway through one period of play, while the Bolts were 1/1 and the Habs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Just like how they got off to a quick start in the first period, the Lightning got off to a fast start in the second period as the Bolts caught the Habs on a poor line change with the long change playing into the end result.

The Canadiens failed to get the puck deep while trying to change things up, which led to a 2-on-0 heading back the other way for Tampa as Palat setup Kucherov (8) for the backhand redirection goal to make it, 3-1, Lightning at 1:40 of the second period.

Palat (8) and Erik Cernak (9) tallied the assists on Kucherov’s goal.

Almost two minutes later, Mathieu Joseph generated a rebound off Price that bounced off of Joseph’s skate right to his teammate in Tyler Johnson as Johnson crashed the net.

Johnson (3) got a backhand shot on the puck and fluttered the rubber biscuit past Price while the Habs goaltender reacted in desperation.

Joseph (1) and David Savard (4) notched the assists on Johnson’s goal as the Lightning extended their lead to, 4-1, at 3:33 of the second period.

Moments later, Cernak sent a shot off the post in the same end that Caufield rang the iron in the opening frame.

Late in the period, Nick Suzuki (7) went end-to-end with speed and sent a shot under Vasilevskiy’s right leg pad from just inside the faceoff dot on a soft goal to cut Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Jeff Petry (6) and Caufield (6) had the helpers on Suzuki’s goal as the Canadiens trailed the Lightning, 4-2, on the scoreboard at 18:04 of the second period.

Tampa entered the second intermission leading, 4-2, despite trailing in shots on goal to the Habs, 25-21. The Bolts held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, however, as they outshot Montréal, 9-8, in the middle frame.

The Canadiens led in giveaways (15-9), while Tampa dominated in everything else– leading in blocked shots (11-8), takeaways (1-0), hits (36-33) and faceoff win% (54-46) after 40 minutes of action on Friday.

As there were no penalties called in the second period, the Habs remained 0/1 on the power play, while the Bolts were 1/1 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

There were no penalties called in the final frame and the action picked up late in the period as Johnson (4) scored on another rebound while crashing the net– shoveling the puck into the twine on Price’s blocker side to make it, 5-2, for the Lightning at 15:19 of the third period.

Johnson’s second goal of the game was unassisted.

With 4:12 remaining in the game, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker and the Habs went to work on cutting into Tampa’s lead.

Corey Perry (4) patiently carried the puck from the corner in the attacking zone to between the goal line and inside the faceoff dot, where he wired a shot over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder on the short side under the bar to bring the Canadiens to within two goals.

Brendan Gallagher (4) and Ben Chiarot (1) had the assists on Perry’s 45th career postseason goal as the Lightning led, 5-3, at 15:58 of the third period.

Once more, Price vacated the net for an extra attacker, but this time Tampa took full advantage of the open frame in the crease as Barclay Goodrow forced Caufield to turn the puck over off of Petry’s skate whereby Coleman (3) scooped up the loose puck and buried it for an empty net goal.

Goodrow (4) had the only assist on Coleman’s goal as the Bolts pulled ahead, 6-3, and sealed the deal on their Game 3 victory at 16:48 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Lightning had taken a 3-0 series lead with a, 6-3, victory despite trailing in shots on goal, 35-30, including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone for the Canadiens.

Montréal wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in giveaways (26-15), while Tampa held the advantage in blocked shots (13-11), hits (46-38) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Each team had one opportunity on the power play on Friday with the Lightning going 1/1 and the Canadiens finishing 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bolts became the fourth team in the Expansion Era (since 1967-68) to win the first three games in a Stanley Cup Final without trailing, joining the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and the 1977, as well as 1969 Canadiens in doing so.

Los Angeles went on to eliminate the New Jersey Devils in six games in 2012, to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, while Montréal swept the Boston Bruins in the 1977 Stanley Cup Final and the St. Louis Blues in 1969.

Tampa can become the first team to sweep their opponent in the Final since the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals in 1998.

The Lightning can win their third Stanley Cup ring in Game 4 on Monday night at Bell Centre in Montréal as the Canadiens look to avoid being eliminated on home ice.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning yield commanding 2-0 series lead in, 3-1, victory

Though they were outshot, 43-23, on the night, Blake Coleman’s eventual game-winning goal with only seconds to spare in the second period and Ondrej Palat’s insurance marker thereafter in the third period were enough to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a, 3-1, win over the Montréal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (14-6, 1.89 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played) made 42 saves on 43 shots against in the Game 2 victory for the Lightning as the Bolts took a 2-0 series lead in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-7, 2.23 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in 19 games played), stopped 20 out of 23 shots faced in the loss.

Joel Armia returned to the lineup for Montréal on the Canadiens’ fourth line alongside Eric Staal and Corey Perry after missing Game 1. Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday and flew in a private jet to Tampa and was not quite ready to go ahead of the, 5-1, loss in Game 1.

That was the only change to the lineup for Luke Richardson as Richardson remained at the reigns of the Habs on Wednesday.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, is expected to return behind the bench on Friday in time for Game 3 at Bell Centre in Montréal, where Ducharme has been isolating since testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

At the other end of the rink, Alex Killorn missed Game 2 after blocking a shot in Game 1 and playing in limited ice time thereafter. Tyler Johnson was promoted to Tampa’s second line, while Jon Cooper inserted Mathieu Joseph on the Lightning’s fourth line as a result.

The Bolts hosted 18,600 fans in attendance on Wednesday, which was up from Monday night’s capacity limit of 16,300.

The Québec provincial government informed the Canadiens on Wednesday night that Bell Centre would be limited to 3,500 fans for Game 3 on Friday– despite the large crowd that is sure to gather outside the arena anyway during the game.

Habs defender, Jeff Petry, tripped Brayden Point and presented the Lightning with the night’s first power play at 5:29 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on the skater advantage, however.

The Bolts had another unsuccessful power play moments later when Paul Byron cut a rut to the penalty box for catching Steven Stamkos with a slash at 9:57.

Once more, however, Tampa couldn’t score on the advantage.

Byron later returned to the sin bin for slashing once more at 17:27 of the first period, only this time he took Lightning defender, Erik Cernak, with him as Cernak was assessed a retaliatory cross checking infraction.

Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh had caught Phillip Danault with a high stick and drew blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at the same time.

As a result, Montréal went on a 4-on-3 power play for a pair of minutes before the Canadiens had a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 skater advantage for the remainder of McDonagh’s minor (which would spill into the middle frame).

Neither team found the back of the net prior to the first horn of the night to signal the start of the first intermission.

The score remained, 0-0, despite the Canadiens leading in shots on goal, 13-6.

The Habs led in blocked shots (8-1), hits (14-11) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (5-1) and giveaways (3-1).

Both teams went 0/2 on the power play through one period on Wednesday.

Tampa was the first to get on the scoreboard as Johnson worked the puck back to Anthony Cirelli at the point whereby Cirelli (5) sent a floating shot from almost downtown through traffic off of Price’s blocker and under the Canadiens’ goaltender’s arm into the twine.

Johnson (2) and Jan Rutta (1) tallied the assists on Cirelli’s goal as the Lightning pulled ahead, 1-0, at 6:40 of the second period.

Cirelli’s goal was just the second shot on net for the Bolts in a span of almost 16 minutes.

Moments later, Mikhail Sergachev was penalized for interference at 10:03 and presented the Canadiens with another power play.

This time, Montréal made quick work of the skater advantage– in part, due to a couple lucky bounces.

Nick Suzuki (6) flipped a backhand shot towards the net as the puck bounced off the ice, caught McDonagh’s stick, changed direction and slipped through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole as Perry acted as a screen in front of the Tampa netminder.

Suzuki’s power-play goal was unassisted and tied the game, 1-1, at 10:36 of the second period.

Late in the period, Armia caught Coleman with a high stick at 16:38 and presented the Lightning with another power play.

Though Tampa wouldn’t score on the skater advantage, they would catch the Canadiens in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as the Habs turned the puck over in the neutral zone.

Barclay Goodrow chipped the rubber biscuit to himself around Ben Chiarot and entered the attacking zone on a rush with Coleman.

Goodrow then sent a backhand pass to Coleman (2) for the one-timed swing while diving to reach the puck– connecting on the mid-air rubber and scoring in the process to give the Lightning a, 2-1, lead at 19:58 of the second period.

It was the first goal for Coleman in 19 games as Goodrow (3) and McDonagh (6) picked up the assists and the Bolts entered the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes, Tampa led, 2-1, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-13. Montréal held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Habs also led in blocked shots (9-6) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Lightning led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (4-1) and hits (28-24).

The Canadiens were 1/3 on the power play and the Bolts were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Joel Edmundson sent a reverse pass off the boards behind his own net intended for Petry, but Palat (5) intercepted the puck and banked it off of Price into the back of the net as the Canadiens defenders miscommunication proved costly at 15:42 of the third period.

Palat’s unassisted goal gave the Lightning a, 3-1, lead and secured the victory as such.

Moments later, Montréal pulled Price for an extra skater with about two minutes remaining in the game and used their timeout after a stoppage with 46.7 seconds to go, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, Tampa had won, 3-1, and taken a 2-0 series lead as a result.

The two teams exchanged further pleasantries, yielding a cross checking minor and a misconduct for Cirelli at 20:00 of the third period, as well as a roughing minor and a misconduct for Perry at the same time.

Montréal finished the night leading in shots on goal, 43-23, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Habs exited the building leading in faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bolts wrapped up Wednesday night leading in blocked shots (14-10), giveaways (6-2) and hits (40-36).

Despite each team receiving a couple infractions to finish off the night, the Canadiens finished 1/3 and the Lightning went 0/3 on the power play in Game 2.

For the first time in four Stanley Cup Final appearances, Tampa had a 2-0 series lead and didn’t split the series 1-1 through Games 1 and 2.

Another interesting stat from the night relates to the fact that the Habs fell to 10-4 this postseason when not giving up a goal in the first period. They dominated in shots on goal and have been the best at comebacks this postseason and yet…

Just not enough on Wednesday, apparently.

The series shifts to Bell Centre in Montréal on Friday night where the Lightning look to go up 3-0 in the series, while the Canadiens look to win Game 3 and cut Tampa’s series lead to 2-1.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning rout Canadiens in Game 1 victory at home

Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning cruised to a, 5-1, victory over the Montréal Canadiens Monday night at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in 19 games) made 18 saves on 19 shots against in the win as the Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in the Final.

Habs netminder, Carey Price (12-6, 2.18 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in 18 games played), stopped 22 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

Jake Evans returned to the lineup for the Canadiens for the first time since sustaining a concussion on a charge from Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of Montréal’s Second Round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Evans missed the last nine games for the Habs.

Meanwhile, Joel Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday, flew in a private jet to Tampa and participated in warmup, but was not ready to go as a game-time decision.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, will return to his regular role behind the bench in Montréal for Game 3, since testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18th and self-isolating.

In accordance with Canadian regulations, Ducharme will did not travel to the United States for Games 1 and 2 in Tampa, so he won’t have to quarantine for another 14 days when the series shifts to Montréal for Games 3 and 4.

Luke Richardson remains in command for the Habs until Bell Centre hosts its first Stanley Cup Final game.

16,300 fans filled Amalie Arena on Monday night as Tampa continues to loosen indoor COVID-19 restrictions in attendance in accordance with the NHL’s protocols. It was the largest crowd for a Lightning game since last season.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, rolled out Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Kucherov on his first line, while completing his top-six forward group with Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos on the second line.

Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman comprised Tampa’s third line, while Pat Maroon, Tyler Johnson and Ross Colton carried the fourth line.

On defense, Cooper paired Victor Hedman with Jan Rutta as he’s done all postseason, while Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak served as his second pairing and Mikhail Sergachev was partnered with David Savard on the third defensive pair.

Richardson countered with Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on his first line, while Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield rounded out Montréal’s top-six forward group.

Paul Byron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Josh Anderson skated together on the third line, while Evans, Eric Staal and Corey Perry slotted in on the fourth line.

On defense, Ben Chiarot suited up alongside Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson was paired with Jeff Petry and Erik Gustafsson skated with Jon Merrill on the third defensive pair for the Habs.

Cernak (1) opened the series’ scoring with a shot pass redirection goal over Price’s glove to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 6:19 of the first period.

Palat (6) and Point (7) tallied the assists on Cernak’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in his 46th career postseason game.

Late in the period, Goodrow cross checked Gallagher and presented the Canadiens with the first power play of the series at 15:21 of the first period.

Montréal didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, as the Lightning remained in command on the scoreboard.

Tampa got a power play at 19:14 after Chiarot roughed up Kucherov, but the Bolts couldn’t muster anything on the power play despite the split ends of the advantage over the remaining time in the first period and a little more than the opening minute of the middle frame.

After one period, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 7-5.

Tampa also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), while Montréal led in giveaways (3-1), hits (26-19) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams managed to have three blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Chiarot sent a shot attempt at the goal frame that deflected off of something and caught the iron to the right of Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, but the Bolts remained in command uninterrupted.

Moments later, Gallagher turned the puck over in Montréal’s attacking zone, leading to a rush for the Lightning heading back the other way, whereby Goodrow sent a shot that was blocked before Coleman pounced on the loose puck and threw a shot towards the net.

Coleman’s shot went through Merrill and caught a piece of Gourde (6) as he stood in front of the crease acting as a screen before the rubber biscuit had eyes and made its way through Price’s five-hole to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead.

Coleman (7) and Goodrow (2) notched the assists on the goal as the Bolts took a two-goal lead at 5:47 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Chiarot played a little pinball after Tampa turned it over and the Habs worked the puck around the attacking zone.

Chiarot (1) unloaded on a slap shot that deflected off of Cirelli, then McDonagh and slipped behind Vasilevskiy to cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 17:40.

Kotkaniemi (3) and Weber (4) were credited with the helpers on Chiarot’s first goal of the 2021 postseason for the Canadiens.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-14, in shots on goal, including a, 12-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Montréal led in hits (44-41).

As there were no penalties called in the second period, both teams remained 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Kucherov (6) threw the puck into the slot early in the final frame and Chiarot smacked it out of the air with his glove, but somehow the puck managed to float over Price’s glove and under the bar to give the Lightning a, 3-1, lead at 2:00 of the third period.

Sergachev (3) had the only assist on Kucherov’s first goal of the night.

Minutes later, Staal and Cernak exchanged pleasantries after a stoppage and received roughing minors at 6:30, resulting in a pair of minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Midway through the third period, Kucherov (7) received a pass from Point on an attacking zone faceoff win and sent a laser of a shot past Price high on the glove side to extend Tampa’s lead to three-goals.

Point (8) had the only assist on Kucherov’s second goal of the game as the Bolts made it, 4-1, at 11:25 of the third period.

About a couple minutes later, Coleman took off Gallagher’s helmet after Price froze the puck in Montréal’s own zone and slammed Gallagher into the ice face first, resulting in a bit of a bloody gash on Gallagher’s forehead and yielding a power play to the Canadiens as a result.

Coleman cut a rut to the box for roughing at 13:42, but the Habs weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Coleman’s minor infraction, the Bolts went on the power play as Kotkaniemi retaliated with a high stick on Cernak at 15:51.

Edmundson joined Kotkaniemi in the box late in the resulting power play for roughing Gourde at 17:20, yielding a 5-on-3 advantage to the Lightning as a result, whereby Cooper sent out five forwards to make the Habs pay on the scoreboard.

About 90 seconds later, Tampa struck on the power play when Stamkos (8) blasted a one-timer from his usual spot in the faceoff dot to beat Price on the short side.

Kucherov (23) and Point (9) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ power-play goal and the Lightning extended their lead, 5-1, at 18:50 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa had taken a 1-0 series lead with a, 5-1, victory over Montréal in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bolts finished Monday night’s effort leading in shots on goal, 27-19, including an, 8-5, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning also wrapped up Game 1 leading in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (9-3), while the Canadiens finished the night leading in hits (58-57).

Faceoff win% was split evenly, 50-50, while the Habs went 0/2 and the Bolts went 1/3 on the power play.

Tampa has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead and Montréal’s got a chance to even the series 1-1 on Wednesday night in Game 2 from Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.