Tag Archives: Carolina Hurricanes

DTFR Podcast #145- We Plan To Be Good In 2021-25

Evgeni Malkin did a bad thing, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game broke attendance records and more trades happened in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron reached 1,000 games and David Pastrnak is injured for the Boston Bruins leaving Nick in a glass case of emotion.

Plus, Eugene Melnyk plans to spend money, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a new alternate sweater, Randy Carlyle was fired and Scott Niedermayer will have his number retired (again) this week. Finally, Connor has a new segment.

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

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering February

Whether you’re looking for love or looking to win the Stanley Cup, February is an active month.

Some teams are buying in on false promises that will ultimately end in heartbreak. Others are selling and living the single life.

In either case, most teams will be suited for a stretch run– ’til death do [them] part (or they miss out on the playoffs altogether or are eliminated in the postseason).

So let’s see if it’s a match between your team and finishing first in the divisional standings in this new forecast based on how the league standings were through January 31, 2019.

Before you scroll down to the tinder box that is known as the comment section and go bumbling on how wrong these numbers will be, keep in mind there’s no guarantees with any forecast.

It’s not always about the exact number of points expected on the season, but rather the general trends indicated or “educated” guesses that are shown.

The focus might be on the spread or positioning in the standings more than any specifics. Context is key and nothing’s impossible until it’s mathematically impossible.

Without further ado, it’s time to take a look at the potential dates available for this season.

Projected Standings After Two Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 130 points (50 GP entering Feb. 1st)
  2. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 110 points (49 GP)
  3. x-Montreal Canadiens, 104 points (51 GP)
  4. wc1-Buffalo Sabres, 102 points (50 GP)
  5. wc2-Boston Bruins, 97 points (51 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 77 points (48 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 67 points (51 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 66 points (50 GP)

In the Atlantic Division the Tampa Bay Lightning are flirting with the President’s Trophy and a 130 point season. But can they take home the best looking person in school or will the Calgary Flames have anything to say about it and steal their date? (more on that later)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are smitten with 2nd place in their division, but searching for the one to take them all the way (to the Cup). Is this the year that it finally happens?

While the Boston Bruins have been coming up short in sealing the deal (they went 6-3-3 in January, which was a marginal improvement from 7-7-0 in December), the Montreal Canadiens have been eyeing the last divisional spot in the Atlantic.

If the Buffalo Sabres can get over their recent dry spell, they’re sure to rebound well and land with the first wild card in the Eastern Conference– successfully reaching the postseason for the first time since 2011.

At the bottom of the division, it’s more of the same– the exact same (standings-wise) from last month.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-New York Islanders, 113 points (49 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (50 GP)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 98 points (50 GP)
  4. Washington Capitals, 93 points (50 GP)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (50 GP)
  6. New York Rangers, 79 points (50 GP)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 73 points (51 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 68 points (50 GP)

Things are looking up for the New York Islanders as they continue to hookup with some top-notch strategy put forth by head coach, Barry Trotz. Robin Lehner has been stellar and everyone’s buying in on being accountable as a team.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in a long-term committed relationship with making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but will this one bring another ring to it?

“Don’t go breaking my heart//I wouldn’t if I [actually] tried,” said Sergei Bobrovsky as he let down Columbus Blue Jackets fans with subpar goaltending, despite somehow clinching the last playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Stanley Cup looks like it will be in another’s arms given the recent stretch of play from the Washington Capitals as the team goes through a breakup with the postseason for 2019.

If things get steamy it’s only because the Carolina Hurricanes are storming and desperately making a charge to quench their postseason thirst.

There’s not much to be said about the bottom three teams in this division either. Even if Carter Hart is stealing hearts in the City of Brotherly Love. Swipe left.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-Winnipeg Jets, 116 points (51 GP)
  2. x-Nashville Predators, 96 points (52 GP)
  3. x-Dallas Stars, 86 points (50 GP)
  4. Minnesota Wild, 86 points (50 GP)
  5. Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (50 GP)
  6. St. Louis Blues, 77 points (49 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 66 points (51 GP)

The Winnipeg Jets are soaring on cloud nine with the Central Division title this season as the Nashville Predators have hit some bumps in the road throughout the season.

It’s a rocky relationship for the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche in terms of playoff berths. The spread between the three teams in the latest forecast indicates it’s still anybody’s game and though the Stars are tagged as being above the cutoff line in this display, they aren’t safe and sound.

The St. Louis Blues are creeping their way into a playoff spot in reality, but things could very well go back to the way it was before Jordan Binnington came along as the right man to be number one in Blues fans’ hearts.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks might as well consciously uncouple with their expendable assets by the end of the month– if not before.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 123 points (51 GP)
  2. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 108 points (52 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 103 points (52 GP)
  4. wc1-Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (51 GP)
  5. wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 87 points (50 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 79 points (50 GP)
  7. Anaheim Ducks, 74 points (51 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 65 points (50 GP)

Things are heating up in Calgary as the Flames have not just been good– they’re really good. Calgary continues to surge into a definite number one seed in not just the Pacific Division, but the Western Conference as a whole.

What’s more impressive? The Flames are closing in on the Bolts in the President’s Trophy race. A few odd puck bounces going either way could really hamper what everyone thought Tampa’s all season long.

Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights are feeling lucky as a rematch with the San Jose Sharks is looking more and more like it’s going to happen.

It’s a wild race for the wild card berths in the Western Conference, which means that the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes could end up on either side of the fence, depending on what kind of dance partner they’re interested in acquiring at the trade deadline.

Is it time to buy, sell or continue to rebuild?

For the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, it’s time to rekindle the spark in their lives.

Game of the week: February 4-10

Now that all the bye weeks are behind us, the next big event on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline at the end of the month. The activity leading up to that date will be majorly influenced by the next couple weeks’ games, including these tilts:

NHL SCHEDULE: February 4-10
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, February 4
7 p.m. Anaheim Toronto 1-6
7 p.m. Los Angeles Kings New York Rangers 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Vancouver Philadelphia 1-2
8:30 p.m. Arizona Dallas 4-5
Tuesday, February 5
7 p.m. New York Islanders Boston Bruins 1-3
7 p.m. Minnesota Buffalo 4-5 (SO)
7 p.m. St. Louis Florida 3-2
7 p.m. Los Angeles New Jersey 5-1
7 p.m. Carolina Pittsburgh 4-0
7 p.m. Vancouver Washington 2-3
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Montréal 1-4
7:30 p.m. Vegas Tampa Bay 3-2 (SO)
8 p.m. Arizona Nashville 2-5
8 p.m. San Jose Winnipeg 3-2 (OT)
9 p.m. Columbus Colorado 6-3
9 p.m. Chicago Edmonton 6-2
Wednesday, February 6
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Toronto 4-5
8 p.m. Boston Bruins New York Rangers 3-4 (SO)
Thursday, February 7
7 p.m. Carolina Buffalo  
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Florida  
7 p.m. New York Islanders New Jersey Devils  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Philadelphia  
7 p.m. Colorado Washington ESPN+
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Montréal RDS, TSN2
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Ottawa RDS2
7:30 p.m. Vegas Detroit  
7:30 p.m. St. Louis Tampa Bay  
8 p.m. Dallas Nashville  
8 p.m. Edmonton Minnesota  
8:30 p.m. Vancouver Chicago  
9 p.m. San Jose Calgary ESPN+, SN1
9 p.m. Columbus Arizona  
Friday, February 8
8 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes New York Rangers NHLN, SN
Saturday, February 9
1 p.m. Los Angeles Boston  
1 p.m. Detroit Buffalo  
1 p.m. Minnesota New Jersey  
1 p.m. Colorado Avalanche New York Islanders  
1 p.m. Anaheim Philadelphia  
2 p.m. Nashville St. Louis  
2 p.m. Winnipeg Jets Ottawa Senators CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS
4 p.m. Dallas Arizona  
7 p.m. San Jose Edmonton SN, SN360
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs Montréal Canadiens CBC, CITY, SN1, TVAS
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Tampa Bay NHLN
7 p.m. Florida Washington ESPN+
10 p.m. Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
10 p.m. Columbus Vegas ESPN+
Sunday, February 10
12:30 p.m. St. Louis Nashville NBC, TVAS
3 p.m. Detroit Chicago  
3 p.m. Colorado Boston SN1, TVAS
3 p.m. Winnipeg Buffalo ESPN+
3 p.m. Carolina New Jersey  
3 p.m. Minnesota Wild New York Islanders  
6 p.m. Tampa Bay Florida  
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs New York Rangers NBCSN, SN, TVAS

This week has more than its fair share of derbies with seven on the schedule spread across four days. First up are both of Wednesday’s tilts (the Battle of Ontario and an Original Six tilt between the Bruins and Rangers), followed this evening by Vancouver visiting Chicago (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). Toronto keeps the Original Six fever going into the weekend when it visits Montréal, then continues the trend into Sunday by visiting the Rangers. Joining the Leafs and Blueshirts in rivalry action to close the week will be Tampa Bay and Florida contesting another round of the Governor’s Cup.

In the player homecoming category, there was none bigger than F Jay Beagle‘s trip back to the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Beagle spent 10 seasons with the Caps, departing for the Pacific Northwest after winning the Stanley Cup last summer.

Also making major returns are G Philipp Grubauer and F Nick Bjugstad, both of whom spent six seasons with the Capitals and Panthers, respectively. These homecomings are especially significant for both, as Grubauer will be collecting his Stanley Cup ring and Bjugstad will probably be snagging some more clothes and household items for his new apartment in the Steel City after being traded there Friday.

However, to keep with tradition, let’s totally disregard those tilts and focus on a totally different fixture – specifically, the one featuring F Jeff Skinner taking on his former team.

Boasting a 4-1-1 record in their past six games (including a dominant 4-0 shutout win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday), the 26-21-6 Carolina Hurricanes have pulled within three points of the East’s second wild card with 29 games to play.

After more than half the season has gone by, there’s no surprises any more in the Canes’ style: they play an upbeat style of offense that stresses shots on goal, hoping to wear down opposing goaltenders simply by the mass volume of stops they have to make.

While that strategy has had varied levels of success throughout the campaign, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour‘s crew has certainly been making magic lately, as they’ve been led by their offense averaging 4.33 goals per game during this run – the second-best in the entire NHL since January 20.

Leading that charge is none other than the 35th-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, F Sebastian Aho. With 3-6-9 totals in his last six appearances, he’s continued his insane scoring pace to elevate his season marks to 24-36-60 in 53 appearances, putting him only five points away from matching last season’s career-highs in goals and points.

Joining Aho in averaging at least a point per game during this six-game run are F Teuvo Teravainen (2-5-7), D Jaccob Slavin (0-7-7) and new addition W Nino Niederreiter (5-1-6). With Niederreiter’s goal-scoring showing up in Raleigh on January 18, perhaps it’s no mere coincidence the offense has taken off and the Hurricanes are enjoying more of their patented “Carolina Surge” celebrations. Of course, the Canes might be just as surprised with Niederreiter’s success as he is – after all, he only scored nine goals in 46 games with the Wild this season. Since donning Carolina red, he’s already lit the lamp five times in only seven appearances.

But the Hurricanes haven’t been just another pretty offense during this winning run. They’ve also played incredibly well on the defensive end too.

Thanks to the excellent play of late by D Justin Faulk (two blocks per game since January 20) and W Micheal Ferland (3.5 hits per game in his last four outings), the Canes have also boasted the league’s third-best defense as measured by shots against per game, as they’ve allowed only 25.33 per game during this six-game span.

And not surprisingly, that solid defensive work has translated incredibly to the scoreboard. Carolina has allowed only 2.5 goals against per game during this run, the (t)10th-best in the league since January 20. While 11-11-3 G Petr Mrazek‘s (.894 save percentage and 2.83 GAA on the season) stats have been far from incredible during this stretch – he’s actually performed below his already below-average season marks, managing an .874 save percentage and 3.28 GAA behind this defense – the fact that he’s earned five of a possible eight points in his last four appearances indicates he’s doing enough to help the Canes win.

With Carolina heading to Manhattan tomorrow to take on a less offensively-talented Rangers team, it seems likely Mrazek will be in net tonight. Should Brind’Amour instead give 12-6-1 G Curtis McElhinney the nod, he’ll hope to improve on his .918 season save percentage and corresponding 2.37 GAA.

Speaking of New York-based teams, the 26-20-6 Buffalo Sabres also find themselves trailing eighth-place Columbus by three points, but they currently lead the Hurricanes in the standings by virtue of playing one fewer game so far this campaign.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, that is where the positive marks end for a moment, as they’ve had the misfortune of stumbling into a 3-6-0 rut over their past nine games.

The biggest reason for this slump? Struggling goaltending.

Due in large part to an offense that is providing only three goals per game (tied for 13th-fewest in the NHL since January 11) and a defense yielding 31.11 shots against per game (15th-worst in the league in their past nine outings) during this stretch, 11-5-3 G Linus Ullmark has been forced to shoulder the brunt of the Sabres’ mistakes for the past few weeks and has struggled mightily under the pressure.

Despite owning a solid .914 save percentage and 2.93 GAA for the season, Ullmark’s stats in his last seven appearances (of which only five were starts, meaning 15-15-3 G Carter Hutton is struggling even more than Ullmark) have showcased just how much Buffalo has been struggling in the middle of the season. Ullmark has only an .882 save percentage and 3.53 GAA in these games, a far cry from the performance Head Coach Phil Housley has come to expect.

Hutton has an even worse .832 save percentage and 5.59 GAA in his last four starts (of which he’s only won one), so I’d be surprised if the 33-year-old is in net tonight against the Canes’ rolling offense.

Regardless of who’s in net, I have a hard time seeing the Sabres breaking out of their funk against the red-hot Hurricanes. With everything coming up Carolina’s way in it’s last few outings, the Canes should escape the Queen City with two more points in their possession.

DTFR Podcast #144- (The Other) Auston City Limits

Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.

The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.

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

DTFR Podcast #142- Chia’s Pets

The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.

There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.

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Lundqvist passes Sawchuk in Rangers, 3-2, win over Bruins

Mika Zibanejad scored two goals (including the game-winner) and Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves in the New York Rangers, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Zibanejad became the second player in Rangers history to score the game-winning goal in three consecutive games, joining Rod Gilbert as the only players to do so in franchise history (Gilbert did so in 1966).

Meanwhile, Lundqvist (15-12-7 record, 3.01 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 35 games played this season) turned aside 27 out of 29 shots faced for a .931 SV% in the win and surpassed Terry Sawchuk for 5th in the NHL’s all-time wins list by a goaltender with his 446th career victory.

Tuukka Rask (14-8-3, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV% in 26 GP) made six saves on seven shots against (.857 SV%) before exiting the game with a concussion after a wicked collision with New York forward, Filip Chytil, as Chytil crashed the net on his game-tying goal in the first period.

Charlie McAvoy bumped into the Rangers forward, sending him into Rask with a “Bobby Orr effect” manner as Chytil tried to hurdle out of the way and instead crashed into Rask’s head with the full-force of his body, knocking off Rask’s mask and leaving the Boston netminder stunned until he was helped off the ice.

Jaroslav Halak (13-9-2, 2.47 GAA, .919 SV% in 26 GP) replaced Rask at 18:32 of the first period and made 11 saves on 13 shots faced for an .846 SV% in the loss for the Bruins.

Boston is now 27-17-5 (59 points) this season and still 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while the Rangers improved to 21-20-7 (49 points) on the season– good enough to remain in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division, but tied in points with the Carolina Hurricanes for 5th (Carolina has one game in-hand).

Bruce Cassidy inserted Noel Acciari back into the lineup, centering the third line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner as his wings, while also re-inserting Matt Grzelcyk on the third defensive pairing and sitting John Moore.

David Backes was downgraded to the fourth line with Danton Heinen at left win and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson as the center.

Ryan Donato and Moore joined Steven Kampfer as the only healthy scratches. Joakim Nordstrom remained out of the lineup due to his non-displaced fibula fracture.

Heinen (6) put the Bruins up, 1-0, at 17:28 in the first period.

For the second consecutive game at home, Boston blew a 1-0 lead as Chytil (9) scored at 18:32 and Zibanejad (16) tallied his first goal of the night at 5:22 of the second period.

Trailing, 2-1, into the third period, Brad Marchand (19) one-timed a redirection past Lundqvist to tie the game, 2-2, but the Rangers fought back and went ahead by a goal almost midway through the final frame of regulation for the final nail on the coffin on an otherwise disastrous night for the B’s with Rask diagnosed with a concussion.

Zibanejad (17) tallied his second goal of the game while the Rangers were on the power play at 9:05 of the third period on a shot that wobbled past Halak as the Bruins goaltender was being screened by his own defender and a New York forward.

Adam McQuaid was welcomed back to Boston for his first visit as a Ranger with a tribute video in the first period after McQuaid was traded to New York this fall after playing for the Bruins from 2009-18– winning the Stanley Cup in 2011.

He also was the third man in on a fight with Wagner in the third period, though the official penalties read as two minutes for roughing for Wagner and two, two-minute roughing minors for McQuaid, yielding a Boston power play.

The Rangers finished the night with the, 3-2, win, despite being outshot by the Bruins, 29-20.

The B’s also led in giveaways (14-12) and face-off win percentage (64-36), while New York led in blocked shots (12-3) and hits (24-20). The Rangers went 1/3 on the night on the power play and Boston went 0/5 with the extra skater advantage.

With the loss, the Bruins are now 17-5-3 when scoring first this season as they enter their bye week and All-Star break. David Pastrnak is the only representative from Boston traveling to participate in the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend festivities in San Jose.

Boston returns to action on January 29th with a home game against the Winnipeg Jets before closing out the month January hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on the 31st.

DTFR Podcast #141- The Midseasonies

Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.

Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot

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

DTFR Podcast #140- All-Star Finnish Trivia

Thoughts on the conclusion and controversies of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, as well as a look at the schedule around the league as we near the All-Star Weekend festivities and bye week(s). Nick puts Connor on the spot and asks him some trivia questions that only went so well.

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

DTFR Podcast #139- They Ran Out Of Beer!

A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.

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

*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering January

Happy New Year!

It’s time to figure out whether or not your team has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup, making the playoffs, being a seller at the trade deadline or a basement dwelling rebuilder in desperate need of anything but what is happening right now.

Teams have begun to reach the official halfway point in the regular season (41 games played out of an 82-game schedule) as the calendar flips from 2018 to 2019.

Here’s a glance at the latest forecast based on how the league standings were through December 31, 2018.

Keeping in mind, there’s no guarantees with any forecast, but rather general trends and “educated” guesses. It’s not always about the exact number of points expected on the season. Sometimes the focus is on the spread or each team’s positioning in the standings.

There’s always context. Plus, nothing’s impossible until it’s mathematically impossible.

So let’s take a look around the league and figure out the future– well, rest of this season, at least.

Projected Standings After Two Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 125 points (40 GP entering Jan. 1st)
  2. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 111 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (39 GP)
  4. wc2-Montreal Canadiens, 97 points (40 GP)
  5. Buffalo Sabres, 96 points (40 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 84 points (38 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (41 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 72 points (40 GP)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the dominant team in the NHL right now. There’s no other comparison. They’re in a league of their own.

Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have surged into one of the league’s most prominent teams this season, they’re no match for the Lightning in the regular season standings Atlantic Division race.

The postseason might be another story– too bad we won’t get to see these teams meet up in the Eastern Conference Final with the current playoff format.

For the Boston Bruins, a lackluster 7-7-0 month of December has taken a toll on their outlook. Sure, winning five out of their last seven games is a good sign and all, but missed opportunities and blown chances regardless of the injury status of many of their players this season has brought them back to Earth this season.

Regression in hockey, however, is to be expected– even for teams that outperformed expectations. Last season was just that– exceeded expectations in the regular season for Boston.

How will Bruce Cassidy jumpstart scoring depth throughout his lineup if General Manager Don Sweeney doesn’t do anything to add? Time will tell.

But they’re running out of time as long as Claude Julien and Phil Housley are in consideration for some Jack Adams Award nominations.

Though the Buffalo Sabres have slumped a bit in the last month, the Montreal Canadiens have solidified themselves as a potential spoiler in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If it’s not them, it’s definitely Buffalo for sure.

The race for the Eastern Conference wild card spots should come down to three teams– Buffalo, Montreal and the New York Islanders (unless the Islanders snag a divisional spot in the Metropolitan Divsion– more on that later).

Look, as good as some players on the Florida Panthers are, it’s not happening this year.

And for all the hype regarding the Detroit Red Wings early in the season? Yeah, it’s the same as last year. They’re not doing so hot either.

There’s some good news if you’re an Ottawa Senators fan– wait, they traded their 2019 1st round pick in the draft to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the three-team Matt Duchene trade and didn’t protect it (because they chose to protect 2018’s 1st round pick and offer up 2019’s instead)? Oh. Never mind.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 109 points (38 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 103 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 102 points (39 GP)
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 98 points (38 GP)
  5. New York Rangers, 90 points (38 GP)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 80 points (38 GP)
  7. New Jersey Devils, 80 points (38 GP)
  8. Philadelphia Flyers, 78 points (38 GP)

As we get closer to “the stretch” things are heating up in the Metropolitan Division, which might not be as full of garbage as once thought earlier in the year.

For now, the Washington Capitals appear to be in a serious “defend the castle” mood. They’re the defending champions and they’re pretty hard to beat.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins are surging. The Pens are on a seven-game winning streak and they’re outscoring their opponents, 28-9, during that span.

What’s necessary to take into account in the divisional spots in the Metropolitan Division is not that the Capitals should lead the way, but rather, that Washington only has a six-point lead in the current forecast over the Penguins– and seven points over the Columbus Blue Jackets (who somehow find themselves in the “top dog” conversation?)– therefore, anything is up for grabs.

If the Islanders don’t scratch and claw their way into a divisional spot, they’ll be a wild card team.

It’s not a completely lost season for the New York Rangers, but it’s not one that’ll end with a playoff berth either.

The same could almost be said for the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, except one’s a little more inconsistent (and worse off), while the other’s just worse.

Sure, the Devils are nowhere to be found this season, but Mackenzie Blackwood could change that outlook next year.

And if Carter Hart‘s ready to take on the full-time role of starting netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers that probably wouldn’t do much for them this season, but it’s promising moving forward.

This year’s Flyers team just goes to show that the problem’s beyond a GM and coaching change, so don’t be surprised to see some roster turnover.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Winnipeg Jets, 107 points (39 GP)
  2. x-Nashville Predators, 96 points (40 GP)
  3. x-Colorado Avalanche, 91 points (40 GP)
  4. wc2-Dallas Stars, 89 points (40 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 87 points (38 GP)
  6. St. Louis Blues, 81 points (37 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 77 points (41 GP)

The Winnipeg Jets are one of two teams in serious contention for the Western Conference regular season title– and the Nashville Predators won’t even get to raise a banner next season for it.

Nashville’s been on shaky ground for the last month and, as a result, it shows in the latest forecast. Inadequacy ruptures standards or expectations.

Anyway, between Winnipeg and the Calgary Flames one of those teams will be the best in the West at the end of the regular season.

It says something as a whole about the Central Division when the Colorado Avalanche are currently forecasted to slip into a divisional spot in the postseason with 91 points in the standings.

Usually about 95 points puts you within the wild card range and anything 98 or above brings you into serious contention for a divisional berth.

What all of this means is there’s a lot of uncertainty from the Avs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild in terms of where they end up, ultimately.

All three teams have been all over the place– at times– this season.

Fear not, though, they’re nothing like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing makes sense in St. Louis, short of obvious locker room problems and a lack of leadership.

Whereas, in Chicago, the game plan was already reset to “longterm” last season by default (having finished last in the division). Jeremy Colliton‘s job security is safe for now.

There weren’t high expectations coming into the season for the Blackhawks and there weren’t immediate expectations for Colliton in their transition from Joel Quenneville to their 33-year-old head coach.

Essentially, firing Quenneville when they did was an easy way out of having to make things more awkward(?) with a rebuild, but it kind of was anyway given when they did it.

At least they’re not their rivals in St. Louis– let alone the Los Angeles Kings– where expectations were high after reaping some rewards in the offseason.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Calgary Flames, 103 points (40 GP)
  2. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (42 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 98 points (41 GP)
  4. wc1-Anaheim Ducks, 92 points (41 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points (42 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (39 GP)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 76 points (39 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 75 points (40 GP)

The Flames are red hot. Can they make 2019 more like 1989 and less like 2004? Does having a goaltender even matter any more?

Luck’s starting to turn in Vegas as the Golden Knights have come alive and look to make a serious claim at potentially knocking Calgary off from the Pacific Division lead– if they can catch them first.

Despite their ups and downs, the San Jose Sharks are still a divisional playoff berth kind of team. Expect them to be out of the playoffs before the Western Conference Final though. Surely Martin Jones‘ below average season has to catch up to him at some point, regardless of scoring power.

With no real competition below them, the Anaheim Ducks are a wild card team that will likely continue to live in the First Round elimination hell until John Gibson single handedly plays every position for the club.

The Vancouver Canucks have Elias Pettersson and look ready to bring up Thatcher Demko for a full-time role in net, so it’s kind of on, but a little late. Next season!

Everyone said Ken Hitchcock would turn around the Edmonton Oilers and was dancing in the streets when his first half-dozen games brought the Oilers back into being relevant.

Well, everyone, except me. Hitchcock’s shtick isn’t fit for the contemporary NHL anymore and his last (and only) Cup win came 20 years ago.

Sure he might impart some lessons on leadership, but as long as Peter Chiarelli is trading away Drake Caggiula for Brandon Manning and ensuring guys like Milan Lucic are part of the longterm vision…

The Arizona Coyotes haven’t panned out and it’s not the numbers that have been lying to them. Dylan Strome, their 3rd overall pick in 2015, didn’t develop as planned– whether through the fault of the Coyotes or not– and they traded him.

That draft was four years ago and Mitch Marner was selected after Strome by the Maple Leafs. Hindsight is 20/20, but still.

If it’s any consolation, Mikko Rantanen was selected by Colorado, 10th overall, so Carolina, New Jersey, Philly, Columbus and San Jose all missed out on one of the current leaders in scoring.

Scouting’s not Arizona’s strong-suit from year-to-year, or rather, asset management as a whole it’s just… …not there.

Finally, Los Angeles, the Grim Reaper’s at the door. Bring out your dead (Cup hopes and dreams for 2019). It’s time to rebuild.