Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk had the only shootout goals as the Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Jeremy Swayman (3-1-0, 2.21 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in four games played) made 21 saves on 23 shots faced in the win for Boston.
Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (9-6-3, 2.63 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 20 games played) made three saves on three shots against prior to exiting the game early in the first period due to an undisclosed injury.
Dustin Tokarski (0-4-2, 3.55 goals-against average, .905 save percentage in six games played) replaced Ullmark and stopped 29 out of 31 shots faced in the shootout loss for the Sabres.
The Bruins improved to 22-12-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-26-6 (26 points) overall and stuck in last place in the division.
The B’s are now 3-0-0 against Buffalo this season.
Boston was without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informer reporters after morning skate that Rask practiced with the team on Tuesday morning and is expected to return on Thursday against the New York Islanders.
Meanwhile, Frederic skated on Tuesday and could be available on Thursday.
Charlie McAvoy and new acquisition, Curtis Lazar, were game-time decisions and in the lineup on Tuesday night against Buffalo.
Kevan Miller also returned to action after missing Sunday’s, 8-1, loss to the Washington Capitals.
After Sunday’s loss, Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, traded a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators for defender, Mike Reilly. Hours later, the Bruins dealt Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd round pick to Buffalo for Taylor Hall and Lazar.
All three new Bruins members were in the lineup against the Sabres on Tuesday, as Cassidy reunited his regular first line centered by Patrice Bergeron and flanked by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the wings.
Hall suited up on the second line left wing with David Krejci at center and Craig Smith on the right wing in his 700th career NHL game.
Coyle centered the third line with Nick Ritchie on his left and DeBrusk on his right, while Lazar was slotted into the fourth line center role with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on his wings.
On defense, McAvoy was paired with Jeremy Lauzon on the first defensive pairing, while Reilly suited up alongside Miller.
Jarred Tinordi took part in his 100th career NHL game alongside Connor Clifton on the third pairing.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Halak, Steven Kampfer, Grzelcyk, Jack Ahcan, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman.
B’s newcomers Reilly, Lazar and Hall will wear No.’s 6, 20 and 71 respectively.
Former Bruin defender, Colin Miller (4) blasted a one-timer from the point with Bjork screening Swayman– beating the Boston netminder and hitting the twine in the process to make it a, 1-0, game at 1:52 of the first period for the Sabres.
Dylan Cozens (4) and Bjork (4) recorded the assists on Miller’s goal as Buffalo jumped out with the first lead of the night.
About five minutes into the action, however, Tokarski replaced Ullmark after Ullmark made a save on a shot from the point by Reilly then appeared to be in discomfort while getting up.
Midway through the first period, Krejci (3) pocketed a rebound on a shot by Lauzon from the point to tie things up, 1-1, at 13:20.
Lauzon (5) and Smith (15) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal as the Bruins surged in momentum, but not for long.
Ritchie boarded Rasmus Dahlin at 14:32 and presented Buffalo with the night’s first power play.
Shortly after making the kill on Ritchie’s minor, DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking Sam Reinhart at 16:51.
The Sabres earned an abbreviated 5-on-3 advantage when Lazar caught former teammate, Tage Thompson, with a high stick at 18:23 for his first penalty of the season in just his 34th game of the 2020-21 56-game regular season.
Buffalo did not convert on the advantage, however.
Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins outshooting the Sabres, 11-5, in shots on goal.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (3-2) and hits (7-6), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3).
Both teams were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage, while the Sabres were 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
Ritchie dropped the gloves with Matt Irwin at 2:46 of the second period in what was Boston’s 11th fight of the season and first since Wagner fought Brenden Dillon on April 11th against Washington.
Smith (9) sent a loose puck past Tokarski’s stick side off of a botched pass that was broken up by a Sabres defender at 5:29 of the second period and the Bruins took their first lead of the night, 2-1.
The goal was unassisted, though Hall had entered the zone and intended a pass for Krejci through the slot, but Smith was in the right place at the right time after Buffalo had inadvertently knocked the rubber biscuit to his blade.
Moments later, Miller fought Thompson in the second scrap of the night after Miller caught Rasmus Asplund with a bit of a high hit in Boston’s defensive zone.
Miller and Thompson received fighting majors in what was the 12th fight of the season for the B’s at 9:14 of the second period.
Late in the period, Irwin was called for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the power play at 16:29.
Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led the Sabres, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-12, in shots on goal, including a, 13-7, advantage in the second period alone.
The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (11-9) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Buffalo led in giveaways (9-6) and hits (18-16).
Both teams had seven takeaways, while the Sabres remained 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.
Dahlin (4) tied the game midway through the third period with a shot from the point that took a wacky bounce off the ice in front of Swayman and might have deflected off of the Bruins netminder’s blocker into the twine.
Henri Jokiharju (4) and Jeff Skinner (4) had the assists on Dahlin’s goal and the game was tied, 2-2, at 11:53 of the third period.
There were no more goals scored, nor any penalties called in the final frame of regulation as the two sides needed overtime, at least, to determine a winner.
With the scoreboard reading, 2-2, the Bruins led the Sabres in shots on goal, 31-22, despite Buffalo outshooting Boston, 10-7, in the third period alone.
The Sabres led in takeaways (11-10), giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-25) entering overtime, while the B’s led in faceoff win% (54-46).
Both teams had 16 blocked shots each, while Buffalo remained 0/3 and Boston remained 0/1 on the power play.
Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, elected to start Casey Mittelstadt, Skinner and Dahlin in the overtime period, while Cassidy countered with Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the 3-on-3 action.
Cozens thought he had scored a last minute overtime goal, but the ref waved it off immediately and a quick review confirmed that the Sabres forward had batted the puck out of mid-air with a high stick over the crossbar.
The game went on with end-to-end action, but neither team could score as Hall made a last second defensive effort to breakup a play for Buffalo and was tripped by Mittelstadt in the process.
Though Mittelstadt was charged with a minor infraction at 5:00 of the overtime period, Boston would not get another power play in the action as the game was headed to a shootout with the score still tied, 2-2.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-23, including a, 3-1, advantage in overtime alone.
Meanwhile, the Sabres wrapped up Tuesday night’s game action leading in giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-26) as both teams had 16 blocked shots aside.
Buffalo finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/1.
Granato elected to send Victor Olofsson out to lead the shootout, but Olofsson was denied by Swayman with a glove save.
Coyle countered with a shot off of Tokarski’s stick paddle and through the Sabres goaltender’s five-hole to give Boston a, 1-0, advantage in the best-of-three shootout.
Thompson skated in to take the second shot for Buffalo, but was turned aside with another routine glove save for Swayman.
DeBrusk skated down the ice with a chance to win it for Boston and lobbed a shot top-shelf over Tokarski’s blocker to give the Bruins the, 2-0, advantage in the shootout and secure the, 3-2, win for the B’s on the final scoreboard.
Boston improved to 4-2 in shootouts and 7-6 past regulation this season, while Buffalo fell to 3-3 in shootouts and 3-7 past 60 minutes.
The Bruins also improved to 8-8-3 (5-6-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 6-4-2 (3-3-2 at home) when tied after the first period and 13-0-2 (8-0-2 at home) when leading after two periods this season.
The Sabres dropped to 5-6-4 (3-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 4-8-2 (2-4-1 on the road) when tied after the first period and 1-22-1 (0-10-0 on the road) when trailing after two periods this season.
The Bruins take on the New York Islanders on Thursday and Friday before wrapping up their five-game homestand (1-1-0) against the Washington Capitals on Sunday (April 18th).
The Boston Bruins extended the Buffalo Sabres’ current losing streak to 17 games after Craig Smith capped a, 3-2, comeback with his game-winning goal in the third period Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
Dan Vladar (2-0-0, 1.51 goals-against average, .952 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots against for a .926 save percentage in the win for the Bruins.
Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (5-5-2, 2.49 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 13 games played), returned from injury and made 33 saves on 36 shots faced for a .917 save percentage in the loss.
Boston improved to 17-8-5 (39 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 6-23-4 (16 points) and stuck in last place in the division.
The B’s improved to 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season and 8-3-2 at home in 2020-21.
The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (hip), Tuukka Rask (upper body), Karson Kuhlman (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Brad Marchand (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.
Kase missed his 28th game this season due to an injury that he sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey. Though he is skating before practice, there is no timetable for his return.
Miller and Carlo have been skating as well.
Moore underwent a hip arthroscopy and labral repair on March 22nd in New York City and will miss the rest of the season as recovery time is expected to be five to six months.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, ruled Rask out for the weekend due to a lingering injury that was re-aggravated in Thursday night’s, 4-3, overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
With Kuhlman awaiting results of an MRI after blocking a shot in the third period against the Islanders on Thursday night and Marchand entering COVID protocol, Zach Senyshyn returned to action for Boston for the first time since missing the last five games with an upper body injury.
Trent Frederic suited up on the first line with Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, at center and David Pastrnak on right wing.
Cassidy left his second line intact while Senyshyn was inserted on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle sporting an “A” at center in light of Marchand’s absence.
Greg McKegg slid over to the left side of the fourth line while Jack Studnicka centered the line and Chris Wagner remained at right wing.
On defense, Cassidy made one change, replacing Jarred Tinordi with Jeremy Lauzon on the third pairing alongside Steven Kampfer.
Lauzon made his return to the lineup for the first time since being injured in the 2021 NHL Outdoors matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21st. He missed 13 games between his 34-second shift outdoors and Saturday afternoon.
Jaroslav Halak served as Vladar’s backup on Saturday and is expected to get the start on Sunday against New Jersey.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, injured players, COVID protocol and taxi squad members on Saturday afternoon included Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Kuraly, Marchand, DeBrusk, Tinordi, Miller, Jack Ahcan and Kuhlman.
Callum Booth was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) from Boston’s taxi squad on Saturday.
Connor Clifton opened the game’s action with an elbowing infraction against Sabres forward, Jeff Skinner, at 1:16 of the first period.
Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Buffalo capitalized on a giveaway when Vladar misplayed the puck and sent a pass right to Sam Reinhart’s tape from the trapezoid.
Reinhart (12) cut to the front of the empty net while Vladar chased the play and scored a power-play goal to give the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 2:01 of the first period.
Reinhart’s goal was unassisted.
About a couple minutes later, Brandon Montour tripped Senyshyn and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the afternoon.
Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.
Late in the period, Casey Mittelstadt hooked Pastrnak at 14:59 and Pastrnak tripped Dylan Cozens at 18:54, but neither team was successful on the resulting special teams action.
Entering the first intermission, the Sabres led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 13-10.
The B’s led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-2), hits (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (63-38).
Buffalo was 1/2 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Coyle caught Skinner with a high stick midway through the second period and presented the Sabres with a power play at 7:15, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the resulting advantage.
Moments later, Matt Grzelcyk (2) skated along the blue line in the attacking zone and fired a wrist shot from the high slot– beating Ullmark on the glove side, while Coyle screened the Sabres netminder in front of the crease.
Pastrnak (13) and Bergeron (16) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 11:41 of the second period.
With the secondary assist on the goal, Bergeron pulled to within three points of tying Rick Middleton for the fourth most in a B’s uniform in franchise history. Bergeron currently has 895 career points with Boston, while Middleton had 898.
The game wasn’t tied for long before Kyle Okposo (2) pocketed a rebound into the twine for his second goal of the season in as many games against the Bruins this season.
Henri Jokiharju (2) and Rasmus Dahlin (11) had the assists on Okposo’s goal as the Sabres pulled ahead, 2-1, at 14:12.
Less than a minute later, Jean-Sebastien Dea caught Coyle with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 15:00 of the second period.
Boston failed to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.
Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the Sabres led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-21, in shots on goal, including a, 14-8, advantage in the second period alone.
The Bruins led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (8-3), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had seven blocked shots aside.
Buffalo was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.
Early in the third period, Nick Ritchie (9) pocketed a loose puck from the doorstep behind Ullmark after Charlie McAvoy impressed the fans in attendance with an incredible display of skill– skating around the attacking zone prior to setting up Ritchie for the goal.
McAvoy (17) and Grzelcyk (9) notched the assists on Ritchie’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 2-2, at 5:22 of the final frame.
Moments later, Montour hooked Smith and was sent to the sin bin at 9:38, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.
Late in the period, Smith (6) buried a short pass from David Krejci in the low slot over Ullmark’s glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.
Krejci (17) and Ritchie (8) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal at 16:10 of the third period as the Bruins completed the comeback and held onto the victory at the final horn after Rasmus Ristolainen picked up a goaltender interference minor at 19:35.
Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with 1:43 remaining, used his timeout after a stoppage with 40 seconds left and pulled his netminder again to even things up 5-on-5 while Ristolainen was in the box in the dying seconds, but Buffalo was no match for Boston in the end.
The Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-27, incluidng a, 15-3, advantage in the third period alone.
Buffalo finished the game leading in blocked shots (11-9), while Boston wrapped up the afternoon leading in hits (23-15) and faceoff win% (57-44).
Both teams finished with eight giveaways each, while the Sabres went 1/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s finished 0/5 on the power play.
Vladar became the eighth goaltender in franchise history to win each of his first two career appearances with the Bruins, joining Rask (2007-08), Tim Thomas (2002-03), Blaine Lacher (1994-95), Mike Moffat (1981-82), John Adams (1972-73), Andre Gill (1967-68) and Frank Brimsek (1938-39) in doing so.
Buffalo, meanwhile, suffered their 17th consecutive loss, which tied the second-most consecutive losses in National Hockey League history, joining the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks in trailing the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins for the most consecutive losses in a row (18) in NHL history.
The Sabres face the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Monday, March 29th and look to avoid tying the 2003-04 Penguins for the most consecutive losses.
Cassidy told reporters after the game that Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean was not behind the bench on Saturday due to coming in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.
Dean will not be joining his colleagues behind the bench on Sunday, as well.
Boston improved to 5-5-2 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while Buffalo fell to 4-4-2 (3-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season in the process.
The B’s also improved to 3-5-2 (1-1-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-4-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.
The Sabres dropped to 2-3-2 (2-3-1 on the road) when leading after one period and 4-1-2 (3-1-1 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2020-21.
The Bruins welcome the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET puck drop) before closing out the month of March against the Devils on Tuesday. Boston begins April with a pair of home games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Boston is 1-0-1in their current seven-game homestand.
For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins pay a visit to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo.
Last season, Boston went 3-0-0 against Buffalo in the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season, winning all three of their matchups, 3-2, on Nov. 21st in Boston, 3-0, on Dec. 27th in Buffalo and, 3-2, on Dec. 29th in Boston.
After Thursday night’s matchup, the two clubs will meet seven more times in 2020-21, including their next meeting on Saturday.
A couple of previous matchups against the Sabres were postponed to later dates in the season due to a plethora of Buffalo players in COVID protocol last month.
A coaching staff member for Buffalo and a Boston skater (Sean Kuraly) were placed in COVID protocol Thursday morning, resulting in both pregame skates being cancelled, but the game remains on schedule through contact tracing, etc.
The Sabres return home after a, 3-2, loss to the Devils in New Jersey and without their now former head coach, Ralph Krueger, who was fired on Wednesday.
Interim head coach Dom Granato was promoted from his position as an assistant coach in Buffalo, where he was hired in that role in 2019. He will be making his National Hockey League head coaching debut on Thursday.
Granato previously served as the head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL, 1997-99), head coach of the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL, 1999-2000), head coach of the Worcester IceCats (AHL, 2000-05), an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues (2005-06), head coach of the Chicago Wolves (AHL, parts of two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10), head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-16), assistant coach with the Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA, 2016), assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks (2016-19).
Buffalo, of course, is without their captain, Jack Eichel, due to injury.
Boston, meanwhile, is suffering from a plethora of injuries, rendering Tuukka Rask unavailable for the last five games, which meant that Dan Vladar got his first career NHL start on Tuesday after Jaroslav Halak was handed a, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.
Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots to backstop the Bruins to a, 2-1, victory against the Penguins in his regular season debut in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is likely to tweak his lineup depending on player availability, as well as whether or not Rask will be good to go after missing six games this season due to an undisclosed injury.
Rask did travel with the team as part of their four-game road trip (1-1-0).
Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon, at least, as Kase has no timetable for a return, Miller is skating back in Boston and Lauzon is approaching one month since sustaining a fractured left hand, which takes four-to-six weeks recovery time.
Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn will also be out of the lineup for Boston, while Jarred Tinordi is likely to miss Thursday night’s game in Buffalo as well after sustaining an upper body injury on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev that resulted in a boarding major, as well as a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for Boston.
Thursday marks the halfway point for the Bruins, who are 15-8-4 overall (34 points) and currently 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres begin the second half of their season with a 6-18-4 record (16 points, last in the division).
Boston is 3-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (5-4 past regulation) this season, while Buffalo is 0-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (2-4 past regulation) thus far in 2020-21.
Boston is also 8-5-3 in 16 games on the road this season, including a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games, while Buffalo is 2-10-2 on home ice and 0-9-1 in their last ten games.
The B’s are 142-113-29-12 in 296 all-time regular season matchups against Buffalo with 949 goals for and 926 goals against in that span.
The Bruins are also 29-25-1-7 in 62 regular season games at KeyBank Center, though the Sabres have outscored Boston, 175-157, in that span.
Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-21–33 totals in 27 games, while Patrice Bergeron is second with 25 points in 27 games and David Pastrnak is third with 24 points in 20 games, while leading his teammates in goals scored (13).
Marchand has a team-leading plus-nine rating in 27 games, while Chris Wagner is a minus-eight in 23 games this season.
Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson lead the Sabres in scoring with 19 points in 26 and 28 games, repsectively. Eichel (18 in 21 games) ranks third in scoring, while Reinhart leads the roster in goals scored with 11.
Jake McCabe is a plus-two in 13 games, while Rasmus Dahlin is a minus-27 in 28 games thus far.
If Rask gets the start for Boston, he is one win away from his 300th career NHL win, which would also make him the first goaltender in a Bruins uniform to reach the 300-win plateau.
David Krejci is one point away from his 700th career point and currently eighth all-time in scoring in a Bruins uniform with 699 career points.
Wayne Cashman (793 points) is seventh in all-time scoring with Boston.
Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron (894 points) is four points away from tying Rick Middleton (898) for the fourth most points in a Boston uniform in franchise history.
The Bruins wrap up their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee (1 p.m. ET puck drop) in Buffalo before returning home on March 23rd against the New York Islanders in what will be Boston’s first game at TD Garden to feature fans since the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic began last year.
TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.
Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)
Jeremy Swayman, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (lower body), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Urho Vaakanainen, Jarred Tinordi (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee)
13 Tobias Rieder 12 Eric Staal 23 Sam Reinhart
4 Taylor Hall 15 Riley Sheahan 72 Tage Thompson
53 Jeff Skinner 27 Curtis Lazar 37 Casey Mittelstadt
68 Victor Olofsson 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo
78 Jacob Bryson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
44 Matt Irwin 62 Brandon Montour
26 Rasmus Dahlin 33 Colin Miller
40 Carter Hutton
34 Jonas Johansson
Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)
Jack Eichel, Henri Jokiharju, Dylan Cozens
Goaltending stats entering Thursday
1 Jeremy Swayman 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO
40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO
41 Jaroslav Halak 6-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.15 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO
80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO
31 Dustin Tokarski 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO
34 Jonas Johansson 0-5-1 in 7 GP, 3.79 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO
35 Linus Ullmark 5-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO
40 Carter Hutton 1-9-1 in 11 GP, 3.43 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO
It’s June October and the Stanley Cup has been awarded and already cleaned more than a few times from all of the beer and other things that the Tampa Bay Lightning have done with it, which means it’s the perfect time to gather in a city around your TV screen and be ready to throw on any of the 31 National Hockey League team draft hats (excluding the Seattle Kraken– we’ll deal with them next season) when your name is called.
Well, if you’re one of the 31 prospects lucky enough to go in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Tuesday night, at least. Rounds 2-7 will take place Wednesday, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET as always– kind of.
For the first time in NHL history, this year’s draft is virtual thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Montreal was set to play host to the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Centre back on June 26th and 27th, but it’s 2020 and with the global pandemic still going on, the league originally postponed the event back on March 25th before announcing it as a virtual draft at a later date (this week).
It’s also the first time that the draft is being held outside of June since the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, which was held at the Westin Hotel Ottawa in Canada’s capital city– Ottawa, Ontario– on July 30th of that year and it’s the first time that the draft is being held completely on weekday(s) for the first time since the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in Hartford, Connecticut, which was on Tuesday, June 28th of that year (remember the Whalers?).
The projected first overall pick– Alexis Lafrenfière– will get his moment in the spotlight sometime once the 2020-21 regular season begins, but until then he’ll have to settle for whatever lights his parents have in the living room.
Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.
1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski, (QMJHL)
Considered the best player to come out of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League since Sidney Crosby– who also played for Rimouski Océanic back in his Junior days– Lafrenière is a no-brainer for the New York Rangers.
He might be the best player in the draft since Connor McDavid was selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, and for good reason.
Lafrenière had 35 goals and 77 assists (112 points) in 52 games for Rimouski this season until the rest of the regular season, as well as all of the postseason and Memorial Cup were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.
There’s nothing wrong with the Rangers stacking up on talent on the left side with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider already in play. Simply put Lafrenière on the third line if you must and watch the forward depth lead the club into a playoff contender.
2. Los Angeles Kings–>C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)
Byfield had 32-50–82 totals in 45 games with the Ontario Hockey Leagues’s Sudbury Wolves this season. His 6-foot-4 , 215-pound frame will help ease the transition for the Los Angeles Kings from Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter down the middle to whatever’s next with Byfield taking center stage.
His speed and skating ability is already a cut above the rest in the draft and having a two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (Kopitar) as a teammate should further elevate Byfield’s game into one of the better two-way centers as he’ll be sure to learn a thing or two from him.
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–>C/LW Tim Stützle, Mannheim(DEL)
The best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl, Stützle amassed 7-27–34 totals in 41 games with Adler Mannheim in the DEL last season. He’s a dynamic forward that plays a mature game for his age, which is a promising sign for the Ottawa Senators that ensured they’d be having “unparalleled success from 2021-25”.
It’s not off to that promising of a start for the Sens, but with their rebrand, Stützle at 3rd overall and the 5th overall pick at their hands, Ottawa’s brighter days are ahead if not now. They’ll just need to find a new starting goaltender to really make them a playoff contender with Craig Anderson’s departure as part of Ottawa’s plan.
4. Detroit Red Wings–>D Jamie Drysdale, Erie (OHL)
While Detroit Red Wing General Manager, Steve Yzerman, could make a splash later in the week trying to attract Alex Pietrangelo or Michigan native, Torey Krug, to Detroit’s blue line, it’s about time the Red Wings took another defender to potentially anchor the defensive zone in the future with last year’s first round pick, Moritz Seider.
Drysdale checks off all the boxes for the Red Wings as the best defender in the draft and you know what wins championships in “Hockeytown”? Defense.
That said, he had 9-38–47 totals in 49 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20 and is capable of utilizing his 5-foot-11, 175-pound build to his advantage in a two-way game.
5. Ottawa Senators–>RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda (SHL)
Everybody loves Raymond and his playmaking abilities– drawing comparisons to Ottawa’s intra-province rival, Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, according to scouts and mock draft experts alike.
His skill, two-way style and high hockey IQ are what sets him apart from other players his age and pairs well with Stützle in the picture for the Sens as a pair of players that could change the face of a franchise on their own. In 33 games last season with Frölunda HC, Raymond had 10 points (four goals, six assists) playing as a teenager among men in the SHL.
He has one goal and one assist (two points) in four games this season already.
The Anaheim Ducks need some scoring power as they stockpile youth on the roster and Perfetti brings the right amount of scoring prowess combined with an all-around ability that sets him apart as a forward.
Perfetti’s vision is one that will generate scoring chances– whether for himself or a teammate– as he amassed 37 goals and 74 assists (111 points) with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) in 61 games last season.
At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, he’s not flashy, but he creates space for his own game and that’ll compliment well with Anaheim’s need for a true top-six forward in the coming years– be it first or second line center or just a solid option at left wing.
7. New Jersey Devils–>C Marco Rossi, Ottawa (OHL)
Like the Senators, the New Jersey Devils have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft and if everything goes according to plan, the Devils will make off with a pretty solid core of forwards to intersperse among their organizational depth.
Rossi lit up the OHL in scoring last season with 39 goals and 81 assists (120 points) in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s, while drawing comparisons to that of Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, he could join the likes of Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and others as one of few Austrian born players to be drafted in the first round.
8.Buffalo Sabres–>C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)
Lundell had 10-18–28 totals in 44 games with HIFK last season in Finland’s top professional league (Liiga) and has a knack for protecting the puck rather well.
One of the better two-way centers in the draft, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound 19-year-old has some room to grow into a top-six role with the Buffalo Sabres in the near future– especially if Casey Mittelstadt and/or Tage Thompson can’t solidify their game in terms of a long-term second line center companion to Jack Eichel’s standout status as the first line center.
The Sabres need to shore up their strength down the middle– regardless of Eric Staal’s presence for this season on the second or third line.
Jarvis had 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season before the pandemic cut things short.
He’s a crafty new-age center that has room to grow and has shown he can be more of a second-half of the season player that could one day peak at the right time for something the Minnesota Wild haven’t seen in a while– a deep playoff run.
With the Wild moving on from Mikko Koivu, Minnesota will need to replenish the pipeline down the middle both in the immediate and for the future.
10. Winnipeg Jets–>D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)
Sanderson could go higher in the draft or lower reminiscent of how Cam Fowler fell from 5th in the final rankings coming into the 2010 NHL Draft to being selected 12th overall by the Ducks.
He plays with aggression and has a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame that could make losing Dustin Byfuglien prior to last season a little bit easier for the Jets– though Sanderson has big shoes to fill on a diminished Winnipeg blue line, unless GM Kevin Cheveldayoff flips Patrik Laine for an incredible return to shore up some own zone help for 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.
With some polishing of his skills at the University of North Dakota whenever the 2020-21 season is expected to begin, Sanderson could improve from his 7-22–29 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program into a power play specialist that loves to use the body.
11. Nashville Predators–>D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert (WHL)
One of David Poile’s strengths as Nashville Predators GM has long been drafting defenders and Guhle is no exception to the rule. At 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, he could fit in with reigning Norris Trophy winner, Roman Josi, as well as Mattias Ekholm and friends on the blue line.
With 11-29–40 totals in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL last season, Guhle is a consummate two-way defender that can grind his way out of battles and move the puck out of his own zone– a strong suit of Nashville’s defensive core for at least the last 15 years.
12. Florida Panthers–>RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens (SHL)
Holtz had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 35 games with Djurgårdens IF last season in the SHL as a pure goal scorer that’s waiting to emerge with a plethora of shots to take.
He led players 18 and under in Sweden’s top league in scoring and has decent size (6-foot, 192-pounds) to go with adapting well to the increased intensity of NHL-level hockey in due time, though he’ll probably use another season to develop as a more prominent scorer with Djurgårdens in 2020-21.
That said, new Florida Panthers GM, Bill Zito, will take to stocking up prospects in Florida’s new affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with pleasure if the American Hockey League is able to make a season happen in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–>RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa (OHL)
Though the Carolina Hurricanes could go with taking a goaltender in the first round, GM Don Waddell just might be satisfied enough with how Alex Nedeljkovic continues to develop with Carolina’s new AHL affiliate– the Chicago Wolves– and instead opt for the next best available player in Quinn.
Carolina is much more satisfied crafting a plan via free agency or through a trade to add a goaltender this offseason for what could hopefully bolster their chances as a Cup contender– that’s right, it’s time for the Canes to unleash a storm on the rest of the league as a big improvement from last season to this season.
Quinn was one of two 50-goal scorers in the OHL last season as he finished the year with 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games. He’s also one of eight OHL players to score at least 50 goals in their first NHL draft eligible season since 2000-01.
You know who else did that? Guys like Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and Alex DeBrincat. Not too shabby.
14. Edmonton Oilers–>G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
The best goaltender in the draft, Askarov had a 12-3 record in 18 games in Russia’s second-tier league last season. He amassed a 2.45 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in the process and has a .974 SV%, as well as a 0.74 GAA through three games with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL this season.
As the Edmonton Oilers continue to find their way while trying to avoid wasting the primes of once in a generation talents like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’d make perfect sense for the Oilers to nail down a solid goaltending prospect for once.
Especially as there’s an immediate need for someone to replace Mikko Koskinen and/or whoever Edmonton chases after in free agency.
While the team that beat the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final passed over him in this hypothetical mock first round, Edmonton was sure to snag Askarov before anyone else could.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs(from Pittsburgh Penguins)–>D Braden Schneider, Brandon (WHL)
While serving as an alternate captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) for the second year of his three full Junior seasons thus far, Schneider brought forth a solid two-way game to contribute to his team on the ice in addition to his leadership in the dressing room.
He had 7-35–42 totals in 60 games last season with the Wheat Kings, while utilizing his 6-foot-2, 202-pound body to shutdown opponents with his two-way game.
Schneider won’t be ready to hit the NHL ice in 2020-21, but he should be able to slide into a prominent role with the Toronto Maple Leafs in due time.
16. Montreal Canadiens–>C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Mercer is a versatile forward that could be beneficial to fitting in with the Montreal Canadiens current game plan– find as many Nick Suzuki’s as possible among their forwards and roll four lines while hoping for the best in Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and others on defense, as well as Carey Price in goal.
The Habs are at a transition point from their old core to a new-age dynamic with the added bonus of head coach, Claude Julien, reconstructing his coaching strategies to propel the Canadiens forward from their .500 season in 2019-20, to hopefully a more legitimate standing as a playoff team in 2020-21.
Mercer amassed 60 points between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 42 games in the OHL last season and should be able to add a little bit of a power forward component to Montreal’s roster in the near future.
17. Chicago Blackhawks–>D Justin Barron, Halifax (QMJHL)
Barron missed a chunk of time last season with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) due to a blood clot issue, but still managed to put up 4-15–19 totals in 34 games from the blue line while playing an efficient physical game.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a solid group of young forwards emerging that it’s about time they start focusing a little more on developing a defense– whether it’s from within by selecting Barron or through free agency and making trades. In either case, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren’t getting any younger and they can’t play forever.
18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–>RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia (OHL)
With their second pick in the first round, New Jersey snags a versatile winger with a knack for shooting the puck and scoring. Perreault had 39-31–70 totals in 57 games with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) last season and should be ready to make an impact on the Devils’ NHL roster sooner rather than later.
He also led Sarnia with 15 power-play goals last season and could help load up New Jersey’s talent pool on the special teams.
19. Calgary Flames–>C Connor Zary, Kamloops (WHL)
If the Calgary Flames are serious about making some big changes to their core, they’re going to need to find a long-term solution down the middle and, luckily, Zary brings just that.
A dynamic skater with decent hands, he had 38 goals and 48 assists (86 points) in 57 games with the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) last season and lends himself to a suitable role as a team player with his 6-foot, 178-pound build at center.
20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–>C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Upper body injuries limited Lapierre to 19 games last season, but he managed to put up 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in that span as one of the better playmakers his age.
The Devils complete their trifecta of first round picks with a bit of a gamble, but a high upside if everything works out and Lapierre’s health doesn’t end up being a concern. New Jersey’s influx of speed, skill and youth should be able to get them to attract some key role players in the coming years to fill out bottom-six roles on a playoff contending roster.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets–>C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin (NCAA)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken to college hockey players with a lot of love in recent years and there’s no love lost for scooping up Holloway and his 6-foot, 203-pound frame as either a center or left wing in the near future in Flavortown.
He had 8-9–17 totals in 35 games in his freshman year with the Wisconsin Badgers and will likely need at least one more year under his belt in the college program before making the jump, but with the addition of Max Domi via trade ahead of the draft on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets can take their time to craft a heavy hitting lineup down the middle.
22. New York Rangers (from Carolina Hurricanes)–>C Ridly Greig, Brandon (OHL)
Despite being 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, Greig can play in any role and has a good hockey IQ that comes in handy at both ends of the rink. His 26-34–60 totals in 56 games with the Wheat Kings last season should be decent enough for the Rangers to supplement their first round choice in Lafrenière in due time.
23. Philadelphia Flyers–>C Brendan Brisson, Chicago (USHL)
Brisson had 24-35–59 totals in 45 games with the Chicago Steel (USHL) last season and will be attending the University of Michigan to further develop his two-way game.
His consistency should only improve, as well as his scoring ability, which is promising for the Philadelphia Flyers as Claude Giroux peaks in his prime about the time Brisson could make his NHL debut.
24. Washington Capitals–>LW Rodion Amirov, Ufa (KHL)
In what’s not a surprise to anyone, the Washington Capitals aren’t afraid to take a shot on a Russian forward as Amirov had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in Russia’s second-tier league last season. His shot and playmaking skills are good, but he’ll need a little time to develop and get stronger before hitting the ice at the NHL level.
At 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, Foerster brings some size to the Colorado Avalanche’s pool of prospects to go along with his 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games last season with the Barrie Colts (OHL). He’s also a decent playmaker, which fits right in with the team mentality of the Avs in their current era.
26. St. Louis Blues–>LW John-Jason Peterka, München (DEL)
Peterka led Germany with four goals in seven games at the 2020 World Junior Championship and has an impressive skating ability for his age, which lends itself to playing amongst the professionals in the DEL. He had 7-4–11 totals in 42 games with EHC München last season and is expected to continue to develop his game and work on using his size (5-foot-11, 192-pounds) to his advantage.
27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–>D Jérémie Poirier, Saint John (QMJHL)
With their second pick in the first round, the Ducks don’t mind taking a defender and letting him take his time to get better in his own zone before making an impact in Anaheim. Poirier had 20 goals and 33 assists (53 points) in 64 games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and plays a “live by the sword, die by the sword” game that can really come into its own as a shutdown defender with some more development.
28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–>D Helge Grans, Malmö (SWE J20)
Grans is a right-shot defender that has a great understanding of the game and decent vision to go along with his 4-23–27 totals in 27 games in Sweden’s junior lead last season, as well as one goal and two assists for Malmö in 21 games in the SHL last season.
He impressed coaches enough to begin the 2020-21 season in Sweden’s top league and should round out a great first round draft for the Senators.
29. Vegas Golden Knights–>D Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
A two-way defender, O’Rourke has a good hockey sense and had 7-30–37 totals in 54 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) last season. The Vegas Golden Knights already have a solid defensive core, but would be establishing an even better foundation for the future by taking the 6-foot, 178-pound defender.
30. Dallas Stars–>C Thomas Bordeleau, USA U-18 (USHL)
Bordeleau had 16-30–46 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program last season and has room to grow, but has time to develop within the Stanley Cup runners’ up, Dallas Stars’, system. A native of Texas, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan this fall.
31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–>D William Wallinder, MoDo (SWE J20)
Rounding out the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the San Jose Sharks the 31st overall pick for Barclay Goodrow back when the global pandemic hadn’t put an early end to the regular season and before the Bolts won the Cup. As a result, the Sharks have the last pick in the first round since they traded their 2020 1st round pick to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.
As such, it’s only fitting that San Jose continue to build up their defense with Wallinder as a solid option for moving the puck out of his own zone– either by carrying it on his own or finding an open teammate, while shutting down opponents with his 6-foot-4, 191-pound build.
Longest active playoff drought, last playoff appearance was 2011
Additions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea, F Marcus Johansson, F Curtis Lazar, F Jimmy Vesey (acquired from NYR), D John Gilmour, D Henri Jokiharju (acquired from CHI), D Colin Miller (acquired from VGK), G Andrew Hammond
Subtractions: F Eric Cornel (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Kyle Criscuolo (signed with PHI), F Taylor Leier (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Matt Moulson (signed with Hershey, AHL), F Alexander Nylander (traded to CHI), F Danny O’Regan (signed with NYR), F Kevin Porter (signed with Rochester, AHL), D Jack Dougherty (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Brycen Martin (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NJD), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with TBL), G Adam Wilcox (signed with San Antonio, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Jason Pominville
Re-signed: F Remi Elie, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Johan Larsson, F Evan Rodrigues, F C.J. Smith, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark
Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres are looking to be last season’s Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season and, in the process, end the current longest active playoff drought in the NHL.
Buffalo hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.
The Sabres only have four forwards under contract after this season.
Of the remaining nine forwards currently under contract, three are pending-restricted free agents (Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Mittelstadt) and six are pending-unrestricted free agents (Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson).
Thankfully, new addition to their top-nine forwards– and likely to start the season on the first or second line– Marcus Johansson (13-17–30 totals in 58 games played) signed a two-year, $9.000 million ($4.500 million cap hit) contract in free agency after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils prior to being traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.
Sabres General Manager, Jason Botterill, reworked the defense through the acquisition of Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.
Miller has three-years left at $3.875 million per season and is a quality top-six defender addition to the team facing the uncertainty after this season, whereby half of the current defenders on the roster are set to become free agents.
Buffalo has three pending-UFA defenders (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson) and one pending-RFA blue liner (Brandon Montour– acquired around last season’s deadline from the Anaheim Ducks).
With no cap room available currently and a tighter wallet thanks to Jeff Skinner’s eight-year, $72 million extension ($9.000 million cap hit), the Sabres are going to be hard pressed to try to keep the band together.
Thankfully, a little relief will come via the long-term injured reserve at the likely career-ending expense of Matt Hunwick and his ongoing neck condition that Hunwick sustained last season, missed the first two months because of and was limited to 14 games.
The 34-year-old defender’s $2.250 million cap hit will be relieved thanks to the LTIR option, but still Botterill will have to press on to utilize his best penny pinching calculator when it comes time to ice a full-time roster by puck drop next month.
Oh yeah and Linus Ullmark only has a year on his contract, so before anyone can get comfortable with what’s likely the foreseeable future in the crease for the Sabres…
While Botterill also brought in the likes of Vesey (17-18–35 totals in 81 games played) in a trade with the New York Rangers that saw Buffalo give up a 2021 3rd round pick and trading Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju, there’s yet another new face behind the bench in upstate New York.
Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach in the 48-game lockout shortened 2012-13 season, is in charge of Jack Eichel and crew.
Nobody fully knows what to expect out of the coach that went 19-22-7 with Edmonton before being replaced by Oilers management after one season.
On paper, this is Buffalo’s best chance in at least the last few seasons– if not more– to contend for a wild card spot or better in the Atlantic Division.
The only problem is that everyone else is getting better just the same, even as Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a puck moving, gifted two-way defender.
Offseason Grade: B+
The wild card factor of Krueger behind the bench takes off a few points until proven otherwise, but the Sabres did a really nice job of cleaning up guys who need a second (or third) chance (Miller) and what was better of the more affordable free agents (Johansson) to help fill out a fuller roster than ever before.
Buffalo took a gamble with Skinner’s extension, but knows they finally have a winger locked up for Eichel. Now they just have to win.
Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.
The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Buffalo Sabres were the lucky team that got to draft franchise-changing defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first-overall pick. He automatically improves the team before stepping on the ice for his first NHL game.
But, the Sabres – a team that was dead-last in the league in three out of the last five seasons – need more than just Dahlin to turn the ship around . They need to keep improving through trades like the one GM Jason Botterill made with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick in exchange for a conditional 4th round pick.
Sheary, the major point of the trade, has had some solid years playing alongside one of the league’s best players in Sidney Crosby. In the 2016-17 season that saw him spend extended time on Pittsburgh’s top line, Sheary posted 23-30-53 totals, but those numbers dipped to 18 goals, 12 assists and 30 points last year while he floated between the top-three units.
The belief in Buffalo is that Sheary has the pace to skate with Jack Eichel, so he could be first-line LW this coming season.
Free agency is another way for Botterill to strengthen this team. The Sabres have roughly $18 million in cap space.
Now time to have some fun and share my projected lines for the upcoming season.
The left wing is a major void on the Sabres’ roster. Botterill tried to fill that void by acquiring Sheary, but there is still a decent hole in the left wing that they need to figure out.
In the System
If the hole can be filled from within the organization, they will do it. There are two names that stand a chance for me in this position: C.J. Smith and Victor Olofsson.
Smith had a great rookie season down in the AHL, registering 17-27-44 marks with the Rochester Americans. In fact, his campaign was so good, he would’ve been a favorite for the American League’s Rookie of the Year if he hadn’t gotten hurt and missed a couple months.
Meanwhile, Olofsson led the SHL in goals this past season as a 22-year-old. He has one of the best shots in the system, and the Sabres hope it can translate into the NHL.
Honorable mention: If Alexander Nylander has a good camp and preseason, he stands a chance for the spot. His style seems to fit the NHL more than AHL as proven in his couple games last season in the blue and gold.
Now to show my cards before I get into free agents: I hate overpaying guys on July 1 and weigh risk and reward more than anything.
Anthony Duclair is one of my ideal targets. He has to prove himself with his next contract/organization or he will be AHL-bound. Last season, he put up 11 goals and 12 assists between Chicago and Arizona.
Tobias Rieder is a fast-paced winger who could add speed to a very slow Buffalo Sabres team. He didn’t have very good numbers last year, with 12 goals and 13 assists again between two organizations (Arizona and LA).
Matthew Peca, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, never got a chance to be a regular with the Bolts as they are a loaded organization at wing. He posted 2 goals and 3 assist in 10 games played.
All of these guys won’t require big contracts, but if they work out, Botterill would look like a genius for finding a gem.
The second-line center only becomes available if Ryan O’Reilly gets traded. There is a lot of speculation around him being moved, but the Sabres could move him and bump Casey Mittelstadt to the second-line if they feel he is ready. Other than him, Buffalo doesn’t have anyone ready for their second-line center position.
I have said many times that if the Sabres trade O’Reilly, Bozak could be a good replacement. Bozak and Ryan are players you use as the second-line center for half the season until Mittlestadt is ready to take over that role.
Stastny is a little different: if the Sabres overpay Stastny, which they would to land him, then he becomes theirr second-line center for a couple years.
Stat line comparison:
Stastny 16 G 37 A 53 P
Ryan 15 G 23 A 38 P
Bozak 11 G 31 A 42 P
Within the organization, this position is the total opposite of second-line center. The Sabres have this player in the system and don’t need to waste money on a free agent.
This position is either Justin Bailey‘s or Nicholas Baptiste‘s. Both guys have been trying to become NHL regulars and this is the season to do it. I favor Bailey over Baptiste, but I think either player complements Evan Rodrigues and Mittelstadt well and the pace of this line will be fun to watch night in and out.
It was no surprise to see Robin Lehner not get qualified after another poor year in the crease. Botterill says Ullmark will start off the season as the number two goalie. So, who’s the number one?
I feel goaltending this offseason is horrible as a whole; every team needed to land one of three goalies: Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier or Petr Mrazek. All three have had a lot of interest and I feel Hutton and Bernier will get overpaid. I also find it hard to believe two players from good teams last year would want to sign with the last-place team in the league.
So that leaves me with Mrazek, and I feel it’s not a bad thing. Mrazek posted a 14-13-6 record between Detroit and Philadelphia with a 0.902 save percentage and 3.03 goals against average. Ullmark will take the number one spot from him halfway through the year and, if all goes well, he won’t lose it from there.
Ideally, this is how I hope the Sabres’ lineup opening night against the Bruins.