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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins beat Jets in first matchup in almost two years

The last time the Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets faced each other, Canada Life Centre was still known as Bell MTS Place and the World Health Organization (WHO) was still a little over a month away from declaring the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (also known as COVID-19) a global pandemic.

Seriously, it’s been that long.

722 days since they last played each other to be exact.

Saturday afternoon at TD Garden in Boston, the Bruins beat the Jets, 3-2, courtesy of a game-winning power-play goal for David Pastrnak in a game that had a little bit of everything.

Tuukka Rask (2-1-0, 3.86 goals-against average, .857 save percentage in three games played) made 22 saves on 24 shots against for a .917 SV% in the win for Boston.

Winnipeg goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck (14-12-5, 2.83 goals-against average, .912 save percentage in 31 games played), stopped 29 out of 32 shots faced for a .906 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 24-12-2 (50 points) overall and– prior to Toronto’s win later Saturday evening– were temporarily one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.

Instead, the B’s remain 4th in the division, but in command of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, the Jets fell to 17-14-6 (40 points) this season and remain in 6th place in the Central Division. Winnipeg is four points behind the San Jose Sharks for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Though he missed most of Thursday night’s, 4-3, win against the Washington Capitals after sustaining an upper body injury, Brad Marchand took part in warmup and did not skip a beat as Bruce Cassidy made a few minor changes to his lineup.

With Anton Blidh (upper body) fresh out of the action due to an injury against the Capitals, Oskar Steen went back in on the third line with Jake DeBrusk on the opposite wing and Charlie Coyle centering the two.

Meanwhile, Nick Foligno slotted in on the fourth line in Blidh’s usual role at left wing with Tomáš Nosek at center and Curtis Lazar at right wing.

Boston was without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Trent Frederic (upper body), John Moore (upper body), Mike Reilly (COVID-19 protocol) and Blidh (upper body) on Saturday.

Moore practiced with the team on Friday and is close to returning to the action if Cassidy is to make any changes to his defensive pairings between now and then.

Steven Fogarty and Jesper Frödén were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Saturday’s matinée and assigned to the taxi squad with the expectation that Fogarty would make his Boston debut if Marchand wasn’t ready to go.

Looks like Fogarty is waiting to don the Spoked-B in a National Hockey League game another day.

Fogarty and Frödén were joined by Tyler Lewington in the press box on Saturday.

Dominic Toninato dropped a pass back to Jansen Harkins (4), who snuck a shot off of Rask’s arm and under the glove side to give Winnipeg a, 1-0, lead at 2:46 of the first period.

Toninato (3) had the only assist on the goal as the Bruins gave up a goal on their opponents’ first shot of the game for the second consecutive game.

About a few minutes later, Connor Clifton dropped the gloves with Harkins and exchanged fisticuffs in what was Clifton’s second fight of the season and Harkins’ first.

Both players received five-minute fighting majors at 5:19 of the opening frame.

Shortly thereafter, Pierre-Luc Dubois sent Matt Grzelcyk awkwardly into the boards from behind, leaving the Bruins defender struggling to make his way down the tunnel.

Grzelcyk would return for the second period, however.

Midway through the first period, DeBrusk worked the puck deep in the attacking zone and sent a pass to Coyle, who one-touch redirected it over to Steen (2) for a spin, sweep and throw goal.

Coyle (9) and DeBrusk (7) tallied the assists on Steen’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 11:37.

Almost two minutes later, Brandon Carlo and Austin Poganski exchanged pleasantries behind the Boston net yielding fighting majors in the process at 13:07.

Six seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Derek Forbort caught Dubois with a high stick and cut a rut to the penalty box at 13:13.

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

Instead, the Jets sustained the pressure as they had been doing virtually the entire period.

Mark Scheifele sent a shot towards the slot that caught a double deflection– first off of his own teammate, Andrew Copp’s, skate and then again off of the skate of Boston defender, Urho Vaakanainen before making its way to the back of the twine.

Copp (11) gave Winnipeg a, 2-1, lead courtesy of being in the right place a the right time and with a little more luck than just that at 19:34 of the first period.

Scheifele (17) had the only assist on the goal as the Jets took a, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard, as well as an, 11-4, advantage in shots on net into the first intermission.

It was the worst offensive output for the Bruins so far this season as they only managed four shots on net in the first period.

That said, the B’s led in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (5-3) and hits (13-11), while the Jets led in giveaways (4-1).

Both teams split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, while only Winnipeg had witnessed any action on the power play– going 0/1 in the process– entering the middle frame.

Forbort blasted a shot from the point that likely was going for Hellebuyck’s five-hole early in the second period had it not been for Coyle’s (9) excellent hand-eye coordination to tip the puck past the Winnipeg goaltender’s right pad instead.

Forbort (4) had the only assist on Coyle’s goal as the Bruins tied things up, 2-2, at 2:31 of the second period.

A few minutes later, Boston got their first chance on the power play courtesy of an interference minor against Toninato at 5:15, but the B’s were powerless on their first skater advantage of the night.

Nobody else scored and nobody else took a trip to the penalty box for the rest of the second period as the two teams were tied, 2-2, after 40 minutes of action with the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 20-17– rallying for a, 16-6, advantage in shots in the second period alone.

Boston also held the lead in blocked shots (13-9), hits (21-20) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Winnipeg led in takeaways (9-6) and giveaways (8-2).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Dubois checked Coyle early in the final frame and popped a pane of glass out behind the Winnipeg net.

The TD Garden “Bull Gang” (rink crew) quickly put it back in place and made the necessary repairs in about 90 seconds before play resumed.

Adam Lowry tripped up Coyle at 2:27 of the third period to the dismay of his father and Jets interim head coach, Dave Lowry– presenting another power play to Boston in the process.

A blocked shot found its way back to the point as Grzelcyk corralled the loose puck as the Bruins established an umbrella setup in the attacking zone.

Grzelcyk worked the puck over to Pastrnak (19) for a one-timer blast from his usual spot at the faceoff circle to give the B’s their first lead of the afternoon, 3-2, at 3:59 of the third period.

Grzelcyk (14) and Marchand (24) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal that became the game-winning goal on account of the fact that no one else scored afterwards.

Steen cut a rut to the sin bin for catching Dubois with a high stick at 5:19 of the third period, but the Bruins killed off the minor infraction.

Boston stood tall once again on the penalty kill when Rask sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty that was served by Taylor Hall at 8:15.

With 1:49 remaining in regulation and down by a goal, Winnipeg used their timeout to draw up a plan to try to tie the game at the very least and force overtime.

Hellebuyck vacated the crease with 1:34 remaining for an extra attacker, which quickly became a de facto two skater advantage for the Jets as Nosek caught Copp with a high stick and was sent to the box at 18:33.

Winnipeg had a 6-on-4 opportunity, but Boston kept blocking shots mixed in with a few more clutch saves from Rask as time winded down and the final horn sounded.

The Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 32-24– including a, 12-7, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s left their own building with the advantage in blocked shots (17-13), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Jets left Boston holding the advantage in giveaways (9-8).

Winnipeg went 0/4 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2 on the skater advantage Saturday afternoon.

Boston improved to 9-7-2 (6-4-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-7-1 (4-4-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 5-2-0 (5-1-0 at home) when tied after two periods this season.

The Jets fell to 12-4-3 (5-3-3 on the road) when scoring first, 6-3-1 (3-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 3-3-5 (3-2-4 on the road) when tied after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins (5-1-0) conclude their seven-game homestand against the Anaheim Ducks next Monday before hitting the road for a few games in Colorado next Wednesday (Jan. 26th), Arizona next Friday (Jan. 28th) and Dallas next Sunday (Jan. 30th) to close out the month of January.

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Hall caps Bruins, 4-3, OT victory over Predators

The Boston Bruins have won eight out of their last nine games and knocked off the top team in the Western Conference with a, 4-3, overtime victory courtesy of Taylor Hall’s game-winning goal Saturday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

Boston jumped out to a two-goal lead early in the first period thanks to Craig Smith and Mike Reilly before Nashville tied things up midway through the second period.

Both teams swapped goals almost three minutes apart in the third period as regulation gave way to overtime.

Linus Ullmark (13-5-0, 2.51 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 18 games played) made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the win for the Bruins– extending their winning streak to five games (their longest of the season).

Predators goaltender, Juuse Saros (20-10-2, 2.35 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in 32 games played), stopped 40 out of 44 shots faced in the overtime loss.

The B’s improved to 22-11-2 (46 points) and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Preds fell to 24-12-3 (51 points)– still leading the Central Division at the time of this writing.

Boston finished their season series 2-0-0 against Nashville, outscoring the Predators, 6-3, in that span.

Derek Forbort returned from the league’s COVID-19 protocol and was paired with Charlie McAvoy to start the afternoon, while Urho Vaakanainen was partered with Tyler Lewington on the third defensive pairing.

With Forbort back in the lineup, Jack Ahcan was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Nick Foligno (lower body), Connor Clifton (COVID protocol), Trent Frederic (upper body), John Moore (upper body) and Matt Grzelcyk (COVID protocol) remained out of the lineup on Saturday.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other adjustments from Thursday night’s, 3-2, win against Philadelphia to Saturday’s matinée with Nashville.

Karson Kuhlman was the only healthy scratch for Boston.

Brad Marchand skated into the attacking zone and sent a pass through the middle of the ice to Patrice Bergeron for a one-touch redirection pass over to Smith as Boston’s first line skated towards the net early in the opening frame.

Smith (5) sent a catch and release wrist shot over Saros’ glove on the short side– bar down– to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead at 3:20 of the first period.

Bergeron (18) and Marchand (23) tallied the assists on the goal.

Moments later, Erik Haula slipped a pass to Reilly (4) as the Bruins defender pinched in from the point and went to the net, holding the puck on his stick before sending a backhand shot over Saros’ leg pad and under the glove for a two-goal lead at 7:37.

Haula (9) and Hall (17) notched the assists on Reilly’s goal and the B’s led, 2-0, before the midpoint of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Colton Sissons (5) riffled a shot from the high slot between the hash marks off of Ullmark’s arm on the blocker side and into the back of the twine.

Dante Fabbro (10) had the only assist as the Predators cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, at 14:30.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 10-6, while Nashville held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (68-32).

Boston also led in his (19-14), but both teams split takeaways, 4-4, and giveaways, 4-4, as well.

Neither team had seen any action on the power play heading into the middle period.

Forbort and Michael McCarron exchanged pleasantries and dropped the gloves after a stoppage at 3:43 of the second period, resulting in the 11th fighting major for Boston this season.

Less than a minute later, Brandon Carlo was penalized for cross checking and presented the Predators with the first power play of the afternoon at 4:15 of the second period.

The Preds, however, couldn’t convert on the skater advantage.

Instead, Nashville pounced in the vulnerable minute after special teams play– tying the game, 2-2, at 7:32 of the second period thanks to a goal from Luke Kunin (8) outside the faceoff circle– beating Ullmark on the blocker side as Carlo may have inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

Nick Cousins (7) and Mark Borowiecki (2) had the assists on Kunin’s goal.

Through 40 minutes of action Saturday afternoon, the Bruins and Predators were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Boston holding a, 28-17, advantage in shots on goal– including an, 18-11, advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s controlled blocked shots (6-5) and hits (37-35) after two periods, while Nashville led in takeaways (6-5) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Both teams had six giveaways each, while only Nashville had witnessed any time on the power play and went 0/1 heading into the second intermission.

Tanner Jeannot hooked Forbort at 2:07 of the third period and yielded a power play to Boston for the first and only time Saturday afternoon as a result.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as the B’s worked the puck around the attacking zone umbrella formation.

McAvoy sent a pass to Marchand along the wall before Marchand (20) unloaded a wrist shot off of Saros’ glove and into the top corner on the short side– giving No. 63 in black and gold his ninth consecutive season with at least 20 goals.

McAvoy (18) and Bergeron (19) were credited with the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal as the Bruins pulled ahead, 3-2, at 3:50 of the third period.

Boston didn’t hold onto the lead for long, however, as Nashville responded on the scoreboard 2:36 later with a goal from their captain.

David Pastrnak misplayed the puck along the boards in his own zone– botching a flip pass in the process to Roman Josi’s lucky fortune as Josi (13) ripped a shot off of Ullmark’s glove and into the twine– tying the game, 3-3, in the process.

Philip Tomasino (7) tallied the only assist on Josi’s goal at 6:26 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Marchand made a big hit behind Nashville’s net, sending Fabbro down the tunnel briefly, clutching his shoulder.

Minutes later, Vaakanainen got his stick in the wrong place at the wrong time as Matt Duchene went sailing (perhaps partially of his own effort to draw a penalty).

Nevertheless, Vaakanainen cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping at 13:34.

The Bruins managed to kill off the ensuing minor, however, giving them a bit of a momentum swing as the minutes ran off the clock.

After 60 minutes, Boston and Nashville were knotted up on the scoreboard, 3-3, despite the B’s holding a, 41-28, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 13-11, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins dominated in blocked shots (12-7), while the Predators led in takeaways (7-6), hits (46-44) and faceoff win% (60-40) after regulation.

Both teams had nine giveaways aside as the Preds finished the afternoon 0/2 on the power play and the B’s went 1/1 (as there were no penalties called in the overtime period).

Cassidy started Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy in the extra frame, while Predators head coach, John Hynes, matched with Ryan Johansen, Duchene and Josi.

Duchene rang the a shot attempt off the crossbar early in overtime before Jake DeBrusk had a breakaway going the other direction.

DeBrusk too, however, rang the iron on Saros’ right side before dialing down the effort on the loose puck in the crease and gliding away amidst the chaos.

Less than a minute later, Hall (8) scored while fighting and falling for another loose puck on the doorstep after Pastrnak ripped a shot on goal.

Pastrnak (15) and Vaakanainen (4) had the assists on Hall’s game-winning overtime goal and the Bruins took a, 4-3, victory on home ice against Nashville as a result at 1:41 of the overtime period.

Boston left their own building leading in shots on goal, 44-29– including a, 3-1, advantage in overtime alone– while also leading in blocked shots (12-8) on Saturday afternoon.

Nashville finished the game leading in hits (46-45) and faceoff win% (61-39), while both teams wrapped up the effort with nine giveaways each.

The Bruins improved to 2-1 in overtime (3-2 past regulation overall) this season and the Predators fell to 5-2 in overtime (6-3 past regulation overall) as a result.

Boston also improved to 15-5-0 (8-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 16-0-0 (8-0-0 at home) when leading after one period and 3-2-0 (3-1-0 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22.

Nashville fell to 5-10-2 (3-5-2 on the road) when allowing the first goal, 2-10-1 (1-4-1 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 4-3-2 (3-1-2 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins host the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday and will retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 prior to the game in a ceremony that is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET. O’Ree and his family will attend virtually from their home in San Diego.

On Jan. 18, 1958, O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier as the first Black player to suit up in a game.

Though he only played in 45 career games in parts of two seasons with the Bruins, O’Ree had 4-10–14 totals and played– unbeknownst to the team at the time– blind in his right eye after suffering an injury in Junior hockey.

O’Ree spent many years in the minor leagues before and after his Bruins tenure in a career that spanned from 1950-51 through 1978-79.

Gary Bettman was named NHL Commissioner in 1993, and five years later, named O’Ree as an NHL Diversity Ambassador in 1998.

Together, O’Ree and the NHL have brought the game to thousands of kids that might have otherwise never had the chance to play or learn from one of the greatest figures in league history.

In 2018, O’Ree was finally inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and the NHL created the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, which is presented annually to “an individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society.”

Each year, fans submit candidates for the award with O’Ree (joined by the league) in narrowing the field to three finalists.

The award winner is ultimately determined by a fan vote with weighted votes from O’Ree, the NHL and presenting sponsor, MassMutual.

After retiring O’Ree’s No. 22 and playing the Hurricanes next Tuesday, Boston will also host the Washington Capitals next Thursday and Winnipeg Jets next Saturday before the Anaheim Ducks swing through town before the B’s hit the road on Jan. 26th in Colorado.

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Bruins lose close one to Wild on home ice, 3-2

Two quick power play goals on a 5-on-3 advantage turned Thursday night’s action 180-degrees in favor of the Minnesota Wild in their eventual, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Wild goaltender, Kaapo Kähkönen (5-2-1, 2.60 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 38 shots against in the win.

Boston netminder, Jeremy Swayman (8-6-2, 2.26 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 16 games played) turned aside 27 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 17-11-2 (36 points) overall, but remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the 2nd wild card in Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Minnesota improved to 20-10-2 (42 points) on the season and in control of the 1st wild card in the Western Conference, while sitting in 4th place in the Central Division (behind the Colorado Avalanche only in tiebreaker, as the Avs have four more regulation wins than the Wild).

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Tomáš Nosek (COVID protocol) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask signed a PTO (player training operative) with the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday in an attempt to play at least one game before signing an NHL deal with Boston and returning to action after rehabbing offseason hip surgery.

Providence’s weekend matchups against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were postponed, which could put a wrench in Rask’s return to Boston plans if the B’s aren’t quite ready to go with three goaltenders for the time being.

That said, they did recall and assign Urho Vaakanainen, Steven Fogarty and Troy Grosenick from Providence to the taxi squad– the latter being a goaltender ahead of Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota.

With McAvoy and Nosek out of the lineup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor tweaks to his lines and defensive pairings.

John Moore returned to action alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the first pairing, while Trent Frederic went from playing wing to centering the fourth line in place of Nosek with Anton Blidh in his usual role at left wing.

Vaakanainen, Fogarty and Grosenick served as healthy scratches on the taxi squad against the Wild.

Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi made their National Hockey League debuts for the Wild, while defender, Jonas Brodin returned to Minnesota’s lineup after a stint in the league’s COVID protocol.

Less than half a minute into the action, Mike Reilly tripped up Rossi and cut a rut to the box– presenting the Wild with the first power play of the game 23 seconds into the first period.

Minnesota failed to convert on their first skater advantage of the night, but it wouldn’t be long before Boston’s undisciplined play came back to bite them.

Early in the action, Kevin Fiala slashed Brad Marchand before Matt Dumba hooked David Pastrnak while falling and attempting to clear the crease as the Bruins forward crashed the net.

Boston went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 4:36, but couldn’t muster anything past Kähkönen before Patrice Bergeron tripped Frederick Gaudreau at 6:11– yielding a 4-on-3 power play for the Bruins for about 26 seconds before the Wild earned an abbreviated advantage.

It didn’t take the B’s long to capitalize on all of the open ice as Erik Haula worked the puck back to Reilly in the high slot diamond formation prior to feeding Taylor Hall (7) with a perfect pass for a one-timer power-play goal off of Brodin’s leg and through Kähkönen’s five-hole.

Reilly (4) and Haula (6) tallied the assists as Hall’s goal put Boston on top, 1-0, at 6:35 of the third period.

The Bruins managed to escape Bergeron’s minor unscathed thereafter.

Late in the period, however, the tides began to turn as a surge in momentum featured dominant possession and rising shot totals for Minnesota.

As the Bruins trailed the play, Marchand yielded a holding infraction, while Brandon Carlo interfered with Mats Zuccarello at 14:49.

The Wild went on a two-skater advantage and didn’t waste time on the 5-on-3 power play– capitalizing on both opportunities they were presented with.

First, Zuccarello sent a pass through the slot to Kirill Kaprizov (14) for a one-timer blast on the power play reminiscent of Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin, or even Pastrnak’s craft.

Zuccarello (18) and Fiala (15) were credited with the assists on Kaprizov’s power-play goal that knotted things up, 1-1, at 15:25 of the first period.

About a minute later, Nico Sturm (6) deflected a shot from the point by Brodin as Connor Dewar and other traffic screened Swayman.

Sturm’s deflection rose over Swayman’s glove side and put the Wild ahead, 2-1, at 16:48 of the first period.

Brodin (12) and Dewar (1) recorded the assists. Dewar’s secondary assist marked his first career NHL point in the process.

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play Kaprizov and Blidh got into a bit of a shoving match– exchanging pleasantries and picking up roughing minors– while Trent Frederic tried to engage Zuccarello before pulling Zuccarello’s helmet off and yielding an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

Minnesota, as a result, went on the power play at 18:12 of the first period and would start the middle frame on the skater advantage as the special teams action blended through the first intermission.

After one period, the Wild led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-10, in shots on goal.

Minnesota also held the advantage in hits (13-10), while Boston led in blocked shots (2-0), takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Both teams managed to have one giveaway each entering the first intermission, while the Wild were 2/5 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.

Alex Goligoski picked up an interference infraction at 4:27 of the second period, but Boston’s power play went by the wayside without tying things up.

Midway through the period, Kaprizov tried to free the puck from near the boards out of his own zone before bumping into Grzelcyk, causing Kaprizov to fall into a vulnerable position before Frederic came along and made a check that was a bit too strong to cash.

Kaprizov crashed into the boards awkwardly and skated off with the help of a trainer while his right arm remained pretty limp. He would not return for the night with an upper body injury, as the Wild PR team later tweeted.

Frederic was assessed a boarding minor (that Craig Smith ended up serving) and a five-minute major for fighting as Dmitry Kulikov stood up for his fallen teammate and exchanged fisticuffs in what was Boston’s seventh fighting major of the 2021-22 season.

The Bruins’ penalty kill stood tall until they were caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Marcus Foligno and Boldy played a little catch as Boldy (1) dished the puck to Foligno entering the zone before receiving a pass back and burying a shot on Swayman’s blocker side to extend Minnesota’s lead.

Foligno (8) and Brodin (13) tallied the assists on Boldy’s first career NHL goal with lots of family and former Boston College teammates in attendance at TD Garden.

The Wild led, 3-1, at 12:26 of the second period as a result.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron made his way to the box for the second time in the game– this time for interference at 13:03.

Shortly after Minnesota’s power play came to an end, however, the Wild ended up shorthanded as Dumba caught Reilly without the puck and picked up an interference minor of his own at 15:10.

This time, the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing power play.

Marchand sent a shot attempt towards the net that was blocked before the B’s continued to work the puck around the attacking zone.

Suddenly, Bergeron made a no-look pass from the slot to where he expected Marchand to be and Marchand (12) buried a one-timer from the dot to bring Boston to within one goal.

Bergeron (14) and Grzelcyk (7) nabbed the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 15:35 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, the Wild led on the road, 3-2, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 24-21, despite trailing, 11-10, in the second period alone.

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (6-2), hits (25-16) and faceoff win% (58-42), while both teams had four takeaways and three giveaways each.

Minnesota was 2/7 on the power play and Boston was 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

After injuring Kaprizov and drawing the ire of the Wild, Frederic had to confront Minnesota’s Foligno brother in an exchange of fisticuffs at 1:12 of the third period.

The trouble is that Frederic couldn’t help himself in making his case any easier for him as he also drew a high sticking minor in addition to the five-minute major– totaling minutes in penalties on Thursday.

It was the second fight of the night and decisively shorted than the first with Foligno getting the takedown and five minutes worth of a fighting major of his own.

Minnesota’s ensuing power play was cut short when Rossi tripped Carlo at 1:24, but Boston couldn’t score during the ensuing abbreviated power play.

In fact, neither team could put one up on the scoreboard in the third period as time ticked away, Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 1:28 to go, used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:23 remaining, then the final horn sounded– signaling a Wild victory.

Minnesota won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-30, as Boston amassed a, 17-6 advantage in shots in the third period alone.

The Wild exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), while the B’s left their own building with the advantage in giveaways (7-5), hits (33-23) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Minnesota finished the night 2/8 on the power play, while Boston went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins dropped to 11-5-0 (5-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 3-6-1 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-8-2 (3-4-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Wild improved to 7-8-1 (3-5-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 13-0-1 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 12-0-1 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for a quick two-game trip through Tampa, Florida against the Lightning on Saturday and Washington, D.C. against the Capitals next Monday (Jan. 10th). 

Boston will return home to host the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally slated to be at Bell Centre prior to the rise of the Omicron variant prompting the NHL to move up Boston and Montréal’s March 21st game scheduled at TD Garden to Jan. 12th– kicking off a seven-game homestand for the B’s as a result.

Tickets for March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th and the original game that was slated to be in Montréal is postponed to a later date (TBA).

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NHL Nick's Net

Swayman earns shutout in Boston’s, 2-0, win on the road

Jake DeBrusk scored the game’s first goal, which went on to become the eventual game-winning goal thanks to Jeremy Swayman’s 42-save shutout effort Thursday night in a, 2-0, win for the Boston Bruins over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Swayman (7-4-0, 2.20 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 11 games played) stopped all 42 shots that he faced in the shutout win for Boston.

Nashville netminder, Juuse Saros (10-8-1, 2.34 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 19 games played) made 31 saves on 33 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 12-8-0 (24 points) on the season and remain in 5th place in the Atlantic Division– three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for 4th.

Meanwhile, the Predators dropped to 12-10-1 (25 points) overall and fell to 5th place in the Central Division by virtue of a tiebreaker to the Colorado Avalanche (in which the Avs have the advantage in accordance with games in-hand).

Entering Thursday night, the last time the B’s and Preds faced each other was on Jan. 7, 2020, at Bridgestone Arena.

Boston won, 6-2, as Tuukka Rask made 34 saves on the road.

The two teams did not meet last season due to the temporarily realigned divisions for the condensed 56-game regular season and 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff format.

The Bruins were without the services of Anton Blidh (upper body) and Brad Marchand (suspension) on the roster against the Predators Thursday night, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remained in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol.

Joe Sacco, as a result, made a minor change to his lines after Tuesday night’s, 2-1, loss to the Red Wings– moving Erik Haula to the second line left wing with Charlie Coyle at center and Craig Smith on right wing, while relegating Nick Foligno to the third line with Trent Frederic in the middle and Karson Kuhlman on the opposite wing.

Sacco made no other changes among his skaters, while Linus Ullmark served as Swayman’s backup in Nashville.

Thursday night marked Smith and Haula’s return to Bridgestone Arena since the two last played for the Predators.

Smith spent nine seasons as a Pred from 2011-20, prior to signing his current three-year contract with the Bruins ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Haula, meanwhile, spent all of last season with the Predators prior to joining Boston in free agency on July 28th.

Connor Clifton was the only healthy scratch for Boston, while Taylor Hall took part in his 700th career NHL game.

Midway through the opening frame, Yakov Trenin interfered with Jakub Zboril, yielding the night’s first power play for the Bruins at 12:39 of the first period, but not before Trent Frederic and Mark Borowiecki exchanged some shoves that resulted in matching roughing minors.

Boston had a 5-on-4 advantage for a pair of minutes and used up almost all of the time on the power play before hitting the back of the net.

Smith fed the puck to DeBrusk (4) for the shot from the faceoff circle over Saros’ blocker and under the bar to give the B’s a, 1-0, lead.

Smith (3) and Coyle (6) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s power-play goal at 14:38 of the first period.

Despite being outshot for a large part of the first period, the Bruins entered the first intermission with the, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and a, 15-12, advantage in shots on net.

Boston also led in blocked shots (5-3), while Nashville controlled the flow of the game in takeaways (3-0) and hits (6-5). Both teams had three giveaways each and split faceoff winning percentage, 50-50, through 20 minutes of play.

The Predators had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Less than a minute into the second period, Coyle won a battle along the boards, which freed up a loose puck on a turnover to Haula before Haula passed it back to Brandon Carlo as Carlo snuck in from the point to the high slot.

Carlo (2) blasted a shot while Smith screened Saros and the rubber biscuit found its way to the back of the twine to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Haula (3) was Carlo’s only teammate to record an assist on the goal as Boston jumped ahead, 2-0, 30 seconds into the second period.

With the assist on the goal, however, Haula reached the 200-point plateau in his NHL career.

Moments later, Zboril was injured on a routine hit along the boards, in which Tanner Jeannot didn’t do anything wrong.

Zboril’s right knee took the brunt of the force as his body collided with the boards in the neutral zone, leaving Zboril to be helped off the ice by a teammate after the whistle.

The Bruins tweeted early in the third period that Zboril would not return to the night’s action with a lower body injury.

Meanwhile, back in the tail-end of the middle frame, Mattias Ekholm tripped up Kuhlman at 19:40 and cut a rut to the sin bin as a result.

Boston’s ensuing power play would spill into the final frame as the horn signaled the end of the second period.

The Bruins led, 2-0, despite trailing in shots on goal, 26-24.

Nashville led in shots on net in the second period alone, 14-9, as well as in takeaways (4-2) and hits (21-11), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (10-6), giveaways (7-4) and faceoff win% (59-41).

The Predators had yet to see any action on the skater advantage through 40 minutes, while the B’s were 1/2 on the power play entering the third period.

Coyle roughed up Nick Cousins and cut a rut to the penalty box as a result at 6:04 of the third period, presenting the Preds with their first power play of the night.

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

Midway through the final frame, Filip Forsberg was sent to the box for holding at 10:18, followed by Borowiecki for high sticking at 12:02, resulting in a two-skater advantage for Boston for about 16 seconds before an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.

The Bruins weren’t able to muster anything past Saros this time around, however, as neither team scored a goal in the third period.

With about 2:30 remaining in the action, Pred head coach, John Hynes, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

After a stoppage with 1:57 left on the clock, Hynes used his team’s timeout to rally his skaters, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 2-0, as Swayman picked up his first shutout of the season– the third overall in his short NHL career thus far.

Swayman joined the likes of Bill Ranford (3x), Tim Thomas (2x) and Jonas Gustavsson to become the fourth goaltender in Bruins history to notch a shutout with 42 or more saves.

The Bruins left Bridgestone Arena with the advantage in blocked shots (20-11), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win% (51-49), while the Predators wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in shots (42-33)– including a, 16-9, advantage in the third period alone, as well as the led in hits (24-13).

Nashville went 0/1 and Boston went 1/4 on the power play.

The B’s improved to 8-4-0 (4-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 9-0-0 (5-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 8-1-0 (5-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

The Preds fell to 3-8-1 (2-4-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-8-0 (1-5-0 at home) when trailing after one and 2-8-0 (2-3-0 at home) when trailing after two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home for a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday before hitting the road through Western Canada next Wednesday (Dec. 8th), Thursday (Dec. 9th) and Saturday (Dec. 11th) in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, respectively.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Slightly late, but better than never 2021-22 standings forecast

Every year on DTFR you may recall seeing division standings forecasts for the National Hockey League from month-to-month and, well, I didn’t forget about it this year, don’t worry.

When the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league in 2017-18, the initial forecast entering October was infused with an educated guess (*ahem*, gut feeling) for each and every team– but especially Vegas since they had never played before– in addition to the usual arithmetic utilized to compile the average of three different forecasts ranging from the last 10, five and three seasons.

Entering the 2021-22 National Hockey League calendar, with the inaugural season of Seattle Kraken hockey set to begin, I shifted my focus on a “gut feeling” projection for the Kraken to that of the standings projections that I’ve done for at least the last few seasons now.

In other words, the forecast you’re about to see uses the forecast function in your spreadsheet of choice (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets), whereas the standings projections in the link above is based on an expected points totals model using last season’s offense and a whole bunch of other things I won’t bore you with.

As such, Seattle received a projected points total based on the loosely projected offense using a composite of what the Kraken could have had, if every player on their roster entering training camp had scored goals last season for Seattle instead of their respective teams.

But for this edition of standings predictions– using the forecast function– since the Kraken never played a game entering October 2021, they were given an 8th place standing in the Pacific Division with an asterisk– signifying that their results are incomplete until they hit the ice.

Now, of course, entering November, the Kraken have played some games, so the forecast reflects that (albeit limited in the variance of possible outcomes, since they don’t have quite the same backlog as the 31 other NHL franchises).

If you’re confused, let’s move on and talk about how things looked entering October for each division and whether or not things have changed that much entering November– keeping in mind that all 32 teams played anywhere from as few as seven games to as many as 10 games in October.

And remember, my degree is in communication, not statistics.


Entering October, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning were a safe bet to lead the Atlantic Division standings over the course of a return to the usual 82-game schedule.

The Boston Bruins, who made quite a few moves in the offseason, would do their usual thing under head coach, Bruce Cassidy, and display a strong effort, though how realistic is this expectation, you ask?

Probably not as spot on as you’d think.

Last season’s temporarily realigned divisions– featuring intra-divisional play only– helped teams like the Bruins beat teams like the Philadelphia Flyers almost every time they squared off.

This season, Boston will have to face a stronger than ever before– if not as good as they were in 1995-96– Florida Panthers roster, for example, which is more likely to be reflected in a later forecast after a couple of months are in the record books.

So that’s actually a perfect explanation for why the Toronto Maple Leafs and Panthers don’t look quite as dominant as they were last season in the forecast entering October.

The reduced schedule alone yielded similar point totals to regular-length seasons in the past, which downplays this year’s projected outcome, logically, right?

Keep that in mind for the Colorado Avalanche later, though there may be more to it than just the fact that the 2016-17 season is still accounted for in both the 10-year and five-year models, which drags down the average.

Anyway, the Montréal Canadiens aren’t a playoff team and the spread between the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres reveals each of those three teams is likely to be more competitive than in season’s past, but like Montréal likely on the outside looking in.

Entering November, the Bruins and Senators have played the fewest games in the division (seven games each), resulting in not that much change, while Florida gained seven points in the current forecast– moving themselves into a divisional playoff berth in the process.

Should the Panthers’ success be of concern to Leafs fans if Toronto isn’t in the top-3 in the Atlantic Division?

No.

The Lightning haven’t had as much spark as they usually do, which can be attributed to the price of winning back-to-back Cups in a span of, what, like, 10 months?

They’re tired, but not too tired, because Jon Cooper will ensure his team bounces back when the real season starts as the trade deadline approaches and the push for the playoffs begins.

Though the Sabres are quick out of the gate, reality should set in as the calendar flips to December and Buffalo will slip out of playoff contention and into being surprisingly somewhere in the middle.

That isn’t to say that Ottawa and Detroit have been that much worse than the Sabres to start the 2021-22 season, but, yeah, things are better than last season for Buffalo, at least.

If you’re going to put stock into anything, invest in the Panthers rising to 1st or 2nd place in the Atlantic by season’s end.

Taking a look at the Metropolitan Division entering the 2021-22 season, it seems like it’s more of the same for the last four or five seasons now.

Somehow the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins win the division, while the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes upset either team in the First Round. I don’t make the rules.

While there’s a lot of optimism for the Islanders to make a significant jump in the standings given their recent runs to the Eastern Conference Final, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re like the Lightning and take a little dip in just about everything.

It’s not a reset, but a refresh with high expectations for a big 2022-23 season to finally get over the hump and reach their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.

Maybe by then Tampa will have succumbed to the salary cap era, so they won’t be in New York’s way in the postseason.

As for the other New York team, well, the Rangers are sure to frustrate more than just their own fans as they’ll agitate their opponents, sure, but won’t play much of a spoiler in their quest for whatever it is James Dolan has told General Manager, Chris Drury, to do this offseason.

At the very least, the fact that the Metropolitan Division is a close spread reveals what we already know– that it’s truly anyone’s guess as to who will make the playoffs this year.

The last decade has conditioned us to expect Pittsburgh or Washington to be the top team, but the Philadelphia Flyers or New Jersey Devils could sneak in and disrupt things enough for the Hurricanes to run away with the Metropolitan title in the regular season.

Though the Columbus Blue Jackets are forecasted to have the same number of points as the Flyers in both October and November, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia is forecasted to amass 29 regulation wins to Columbus’ 23 regulation wins in the latest projection, so yeah, they’re a team.

The Blue Jackets could be within striking distance of a playoff spot or they could simply be better than the Rangers and Devils and that’s about it in their attempt to do something.

Is it a rebuild or are they just holding out for the right offseason moves? Time will tell, but the time may be ticking on prolonged irrelevance.

Anyway, Washington and Pittsburgh have cooled off as Carolina got out to the best start among all 32 teams, which, given the eight points between 1st and 3rd in the November forecast, could indicate that the Hurricanes will usurp the Capitals and Penguins for division control.

Meanwhile, the longer the Islanders go without setting a tone, the better chance the Flyers have at making the postseason.

In the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are expected to return to form entering October from a pure forecast standpoint.

Is it realistic? Probably not, though St. Louis should be better than their 2021 First Round exit in four games at the hands of the Avalanche.

That said, Colorado may surprise you being so low in this forecast.

Again, remember that it’s an average of models based on the last decade, five seasons and three seasons, so the Avs rise to division dominance in recent years is better reflected on the contingency that they continue to play well.

Right now, they aren’t playing that well, but again the graphic above reads “entering October” not “entering November”, so perhaps I should’ve saved that tidbit for a minute.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild have all been consistent enough in recent years to earn better praise entering the 2021-22 calendar, but at least one of those teams is sure to reveal themselves as a pretender by about the quarter-mark of the season.

As for the Dallas Stars, Chicago and the Arizona Coyotes, well, if Dallas can stay healthy, they should improve. Chicago hasn’t done themselves any favors in terms of roster makeup and the Coyotes are intentionally steering the ship aground for a top lottery draft pick in 2022.

Not much has changed after one month of NHL action in the Central Division forecast, though it should be noted just how quickly Arizona’s fallen off (even though they were already expected to be a basement team given the immense roster turnover over the summer).

The Wild and Jets flipped positions courtesy of Minnesota gaining a point between October and November’s forecast, as well as the regulation win tiebreaker (entering November, the Wild are forecasted to have 36 regulation wins, while the Jets are forecasted to finish with 31).

The Blues have had a hot start and, as a result, remain atop the Central forecast while nearly every expert analyst’s Stanley Cup favorite not named the Lightning (Colorado) remains in 5th.

Weird times!

Entering the 2021-22 season, the Vegas Golden Knights made a big trade, but looked to be on the verge of contending for the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back seasons.

Though they lost the Presidents’ race to the Avalanche last season on a tiebreaker, the Golden Knights could benefit from an overall weaker division they’re in. And yet… (keep reading)

The Calgary Flames are surprisingly hot in the Pacific forecast entering October, but considering the three California teams, the uncertainty of Seattle and the volatile wishy-washiness of the Vancouver Canucks, it kind of makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the Edmonton Oilers– with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on their roster– seated in 5th place in the Pacific Division.

Then again, to repeat myself, this forecast is an average based on the last 10, five and three seasons, so the Oilers have really only been a consistent playoff contender for the last five seasons or so, which means that they won’t rise in the forecasted standings quite as fast as you’d hope.

It pays to be consistently good over a longer period of time in this model.

Finally, after their first nine games in NHL history, the Kraken have entered the chat in the 2021-22 forecast entering November, but they’re forecasted for a league-worst 64 points.

Seattle isn’t bad, necessarily, they’re just figuring out the chemistry on the ice, in the room and giving Philipp Grubauer plenty of time to learn the system and get acquainted with being the No. 1 goaltender on a new team– both in the brand new expansion team sense and since leaving the Avalanche for the Kraken in free agency.

The Flames are continuing to turn heads by being within striking range of taking the forecasted division lead from Vegas– especially as the Golden Knights roll slowly out of the gate.

Meanwhile, Edmonton’s on course for significant gains in the next forecast entering December, while everything else looks to be about the same because, after all, it is the Pacific Division.

It’s not great!


If you’ve read every word of this, congrats. Give yourself a sticker or something.

Stay tuned for the next forecast in about a month. It should be a little quicker to update the stats, write a few words and hit “publish” than it took this time around.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins open 2021-22 season with, 3-1, victory over Dallas

Brad Marchand kicked things off with a rare feat in the National Hockey League– opening a season with a penalty shot goal– before adding a late empty net goal for insurance in the Boston Bruins’, 3-1, win against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Saturday.

For the first time in nine years, a goaltender other than Tuukka Rask served as the starter for Boston on Opening Night, while Jeremy Swayman also became the first Bruins rookie to earn the start since Blaine Lacher did just that on Jan. 22, 1995, in the lockout shortened 48-game 1994-95 season.

Swayman (1-0-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .964 save percentage in one game played) turned aside 27 out of 28 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Meanwhile, Stars netminder, Braden Holtby (0-1-0, 2.26 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in two games played), made 37 saves on 39 shots against for a .949 save percentage in the loss.

With the win, the Bruins kicked off their season 1-0-0 (2 points) and moved into a tie for sixth place in the Atlantic Division with the Ottawa Senators, while Dallas fell to 1-1-0 (4 points) and tied for third in the Central Division with the Colorado Avalanche.

Curtis Lazar (upper body) missed the Opening Night action as he remains week-to-week since sustaining an injury during the preseason.

Boston captain, Patrice Bergeron, centered the first line in his usual role between Marchand and David Pastrnak on his wings, while Taylor Hall and Craig Smith surrounded Charlie Coyle on the second line.

Bruins newcomers, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno were slotted on the third line at center and right wing, respectively, while Jake DeBrusk suited up at left wing.

Tomas Nosek centered the fourth line in his Boston debut with Trent Frederic on his left and Karson Kuhlman on his right side.

Derek Forbort made his Bruins debut on the first defensive pairing alongside the newly extended, $76 million richer, Charlie McAvoy, while Mike Reilly was paired with Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk suited up alongside Connor Clifton.

In the crease, Linus Ullmark served as Swayman’s backup.

John Moore, Jakub Zboril and Anton Blidh joined Lazar on the short list of healthy scratches and injured players for Boston.

Not much was happening until about midway through the opening frame as the Bruins dominated in shots on goal, while end-to-end play ensued.

Then, at 9:35 of the first period, former Minnesota Wild turned Stars defender, Ryan Suter, hooked DeBrusk and was assessed a minor infraction.

Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short, however, as Smith tripped up Andrej Sekera along the endboards at 10:58.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for about 37 seconds before Dallas earned an abbreviated power play that went by the wayside.

Late in the period, Marchand skated towards Holtby on a breakaway with Suter hot on his tail, whereby Suter promptly held Marchand’s stick denying No. 63 in black and gold of a scoring opportunity while on the breakaway– yielding a penalty shot for Boston at 17:38.

Marchand (1) skated towards the crease with speed and beat Holtby with a clean shot above the pad, but under the blocker to give the Bruins the, 1-0, lead on a penalty shot goal.

It was the first penalty shot goal in a season opener for Boston since now current assistant coach, Chris Kelly, scored on a penalty shot goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 3, 2013.

Marchand’s penalty shot goal in a season opener was also just the third instance of such an Opening Night goal in league history as Mats Sundin had done so first with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 4, 2006, prior to Kelly’s penalty shot goal in 2013, and Marchand’s on Saturday night.

About a minute later, Roope Hintz caught a skate to the face and bled profusely as he skated off the ice and went down the tunnel. Hintz later returned to the game after the first intermission.

The Bruins presented the Stars with another power play opportunity to close out the opening frame as McAvoy smothered the puck with his hand, yielding a delay of game infraction at 19:08.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play unit couldn’t get anything going as the horn sounded to signal the end of the first period with Boston ahead on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 17-4.

The Bruins also held the advantage in hits (15-14), while the Stars led in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (54-46).

Dallas was 0/2 on the power play while the B’s were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Jacob Peterson caught Pastrnak away from the puck and was sent to the penalty box with an interference minor to kick things off at 4:51 of the second period, but Boston’s power play– like Dallas’ special teams– couldn’t get anything past Holtby on the skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Luke Glendening (1) capitalized on some open space in the slot where he received a pass from Tanner Kero before wiring a shot past Swayman to tie the game, 1-1, after the Bruins botched a clearing attempt in their own zone.

Kero (1) had the only assist on Glendening’s first goal in a Stars uniform at 9:15 of the second period.

Almost two minutes later, Jamie Benn cross checked Smith and cut a rut to the sin bin at 11:29, but Boston’s resulting power play was cut short by a hook when McAvoy tugged his stick around Glendening at 12:40.

Once more, the two teams skated at 4-on-4 before a brief power play for the Stars– which later turned into a short 5-on-3 advantage for Dallas as Marchand tripped Esa Lindell behind the Stars’ own net at 14:30.

Dallas couldn’t send another puck behind Swayman, however.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday night, the Bruins and Stars were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 28-14, including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Dallas led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (4-3), hits (25-19) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Boston led in giveaways (7-6) after two periods.

The Stars were 0/4 and the Bruins were 0/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Early in the final frame, Haula rushed into the attacking zone before dropping a pass for Foligno, whereby the Bruins winger flung the rubber biscuit towards the net as DeBrusk cycled down low.

Foligno’s initial attempt couldn’t get through, but DeBrusk (1) collected the loose puck and slipped it through Holtby to give Boston a, 2-1, lead at 4:43 of the third period, as well as Foligno (1) and Haula (1) their first points in a Bruins uniform with the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Midway through the period, Foligno interfered with Alexander Radulov, but the Stars couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play opportunity at 11:12.

Hintz hooked Forbort at 14:25, but Boston’s bench miscalculated the number of skaters on the ice and was assessed a bench minor for too many men at the whistle, resulting in two minutes of 4-on-4 action.

With 2:05 remaining in the game, Stars head coach, Rick Bowness, pulled Holtby for an extra attacker, but it wasn’t enough to keep the puck in Dallas’ possession for a late comeback as Marchand (2) emerged from the neutral zone with plenty of space and time to assure the Bruins of the victory with an empty net goal at 18:23 of the third period.

Pastrnak (1) had the only assist on the goal as Marchand made it, 3-1, Boston.

Holtby vacated his crease for an extra skater with about 1:14 remaining and then again with about 38.3 seconds left in the game as Reilly sent the puck out of play for an automatic delay of game penalty at 19:21.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-28, despite Dallas leading a valiant effort in the third period with a, 14-12, advantage in shots on goal in the final frame alone.

The Stars left Boston leading in blocked shots (11-8), giveaways (11-7), hits (33-25) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Dallas went 0/6, while the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play in their season opener.

The B’s improved to 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when tied after two periods in 2021-22.

The Stars, meanwhile, fell to 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when trailing after one period and 1-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins hit the road for their first road trip of the 2021-22 season with a pair of games next week.

Boston heads to Wells Fargo Center next Wednesday to take on the Philadelphia Flyers before venturing up to KeyBank Center to square off with the Buffalo Sabres next Friday.

The B’s return home to TD Garden on Oct. 24th against the San Jose Sharks.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Your Team Will Rise/Fail: 2021-22 Standings Projections

It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.

Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.

And then Wednesday’s games happened too.

Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.

Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.

The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).

A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.

Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.

In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.

Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.

In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.

However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.

As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.

We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).

Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?

Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:

No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?

The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.

Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.

Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.

The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.

Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.

Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?

The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.

Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.

As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.

Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?

I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.

You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.

If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.

The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.

Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.

Can Arizona avoid the basement?

Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.

That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).

Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.

Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?

Yes, really.

The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.

That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.

It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.

Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.

Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?

The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.

Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.

Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.

If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.

That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.

Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.

Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?

Eh, it’s hard to say.

The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.

Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.

Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.

It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.

Is this the toughest division to project?

Absolutely.

The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.

The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.

The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.

What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?

They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.

There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?

What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?

I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.

Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.

Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.

First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.

The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.

No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.

A lot and not a lot has changed since then.

Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.

So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.

That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.

Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?

No. Let’s be realistic here.

The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.

In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.

In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.

That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.

Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.

Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.

A little more patience won’t hurt them.

The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.

It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…

At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.

Hopefully.

Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?

Probably not.

I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.

The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.

That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.


Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.

Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #230- Are The Avs The New Caps?

We preview the Central Division for the 2021-22 season and draw comparisons between recent teams that we’ve said “they should win this year” for quite some time until they finally won after we stopped talking about them.

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

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Colorado Avalanche 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 39-13-4, 82 points

1st in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Vegas

Additions: F Darren Helm, F Mikhail Maltsev (acquired from NJD), F Dylan Sikura, D Jordan Gross, D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO), D Kurtis MacDermid (acquired from SEA), D Stefan Matteau, D Roland McKeown, D Ryan Murray, G Darcy Kuemper (acquired from ARI)

Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with TBL), F Matt Calvert (retired), F Joonas Donskoi (expansion, SEA), F Sheldon Dries (signed with VAN), F Ty Lewis (retired), F Liam O’Brien (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Brandon Saad (signed with STL), F Miikka Salomäki (SHL), F Carl Söderberg (SHL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with WSH), D Kyle Burroughs (signed with VAN), D Ryan Graves (traded to NJD), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with DET), D Conor Timmins (traded to ARI), G Philipp Grubauer (signed with SEA), G Peyton Jones (signed with Colorado Eagles, AHL), G Adam Werner (signed with CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Travis Barron, G Devan Dubnyk

Re-signed: F Tyson Jost, F Gabriel Landeskog, F Jayson Megna, F Kiefer Sherwood, D Dennis Gilbert, D Cale Makar, G Jonas Johansson

Offseason Analysis: If next spring doesn’t bring the desired results to Colorado, it’ll be 20 years since the Avalanche last made an appearance in the Western Conference Final.

Back in 2002, the Detroit Red Wings were in the prime of their dominance and the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry was red hot as the two teams went at it for not only regular season titles, but Stanley Cup rings as well.

Colorado had won in 1996 and 2001, Detroit won in 1997, 1998 and would do so again in 2002, as well as 2008– five years after Patrick Roy played his last National Hockey League game.

In the 2002 Western Conference Final, the defending Stanley Cup champion Avs were once again the team to beat, but the Red Wings took the series in seven games and went on to win the Cup.

Since then, both teams have had a bit of a falling out.

When Joe Sakic took over as General Manager of the Avalanche, the goal was simple– return the franchise to its glory days.

The bump in the road that was the 2016-17 season brought the team the 4th overall pick after losing in the draft lottery, yet at 4th overall in 2017, Colorado selected their biggest game-changing defender since the acquisition of Ray Bourque in Cale Makar.

Sakic turned his attention to a Makar extension when it seemed like things had gone south with keeping captain, Gabriel Landeskog, in town.

The 22-year-old defender signed a six-year extension worth $9.000 million per season after finishing second in Norris Trophy voting to New York Rangers defender, Adam Fox, for the 2020-21 season.

Makar had 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists) in 44 games– exactly a point-a-game in his sophomore campaign, limited again due to injury after amassing 12-38–50 totals in 57 games in his first NHL season in 2019-20.

Sakic signed Makar to an extension on July 24th and then in the 11th hour as free agency drew near, signed Landeskog to an eight-year extension worth $7.000 million per season.

The 28-year-old captain was Colorado’s 2011 1st round pick (2nd overall) and has 218-294–512 totals in 687 games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with the Avs.

Landeskog had a promising 52-point season (22 goals, 30 assists) in 82 games in his first year in the league, then the 2012-13 48-game lockout shortened season kept him to 9-8–17 totals in 36 games.

The Avalanche missed out on the playoffs from 2011-13, but in 2014, Colorado squared off against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round– only to lose in seven games.

That playoff series, however, was the first taste of playoff hockey for Nathan MacKinnon and went decently for Landeskog as well.

After amassing 65 points (26 goals, 39 assists) in 81 games in the regular season, Landeskog had 3-1–4 totals in the seven-game series against the Wild.

Then his production dropped to 59 points in 82 games in 2014-15, and 53 points in 75 games in 2015-16– coinciding with Colorado’s fall from grace.

In the dismal 2016-17 campaign for the Avalanche, in which the team amassed 48 points on the season with a 22-56-4 record, Landeskog had just 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) and had a minus-25 rating.

But the Avs have made the playoffs every season since then– succumbing to the Nashville Predators in six games in the 2018 First Round, bowing out to the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the 2019 Second Round, losing to the Dallas Stars in seven games in the 2020 Second Round and dropping out in six games against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 Second Round.

In that span, Landeskog’s had a career resurgence. He had 62 points in 78 games in 2017-18, 75 points in 73 games in 2018-19, 44 points in 54 games while battling injury and the COVID-19 pandemic shortened regular season in 2019-20, as well as 52 points in 54 games in last season’s 56-game regular season schedule.

Some say his resurgence can be accredited to the emergence of Colorado’s dominant first line with MacKinnon at center, Landeskog at left wing and Mikko Rantanen at right wing, but then how can that attribute to his own individual playoff success?

Landeskog had seven points (four goals, three assists) in six postseason games in 2018, 3-5–8 totals in Colorado’s 12-game 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff experience, 2-11–13 totals in 14 games during their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff bubble run and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in ten games in the Avalanche’s 2021 postseason run.

It’s plain to see that whereas MacKinnon is the superstar forward, Landeskog is the lifeblood of the organization– both as the captain and as a clutch performer when it matters most.

Landeskog’s reasonable cap hit should take some pressure off of Sakic as he negotiates extensions with MacKinnon after the 2022-23 season and Rantanen after the 2024-25 season, when the salary cap ceiling is expected to have risen due to the increased revenue from the current U.S. broadcasting rights packages.

Two big pieces were taken care of, so naturally Sakic set his sights on Philipp Grubauer… …who chose to leave for the Seattle Kraken in free agency.

Grubauer signed a six-year contract worth $5.900 million per season with the Kraken on July 28th– the day that free agency began and a week after Seattle claimed Joonas Donskoi from the Avs in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Last season, Grubauer went 30-9-1 in 40 games played, had seven shutouts (tied for the most with New York Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov) and amassed a 1.95 goals-against average, as well as a .922 save percentage in that span.

It was a breakout year for the 29-year-old goaltender, so why not cash in while you can?

The downside for Colorado, however, is that it left them briefly with uncertainty in the crease until they acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes later that same day.

Sakic worked the phones quite a bit this summer between agents and fellow general managers.

On July 15th, Colorado swapped defender, Ryan Graves, with the New Jersey Devils for forward, Mikhail Maltsev, and a 2021 2nd round pick (from NYI via NJD- 61st overall, Sean Behrens).

On July 27th, Sakic sent a 2023 4th round pick to the Kraken for defender, Kurtis MacDermid, whose father, Paul, played for the Québec Nordiques from 1993-95.f

After losing Grubauer to Seattle in free agency, Sakic dealt defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick to the Coyotes for Kuemper.

Much like Linus Ullmark going from the Buffalo Sabres to the Boston Bruins via free agency this summer, it’s hard to tell what to expect out of Kuemper in an Avalanche uniform.

He should be better considering the overall quality and depth of defenders on Colorado’s blue line a la Ullmark’s upgrade from Buffalo’s defense to Boston’s defense in front of him.

That said, Kuemper hasn’t really been a starting goaltender for long. It’s a risk, like when Colorado sought after Grubauer in the first place from the Washington Capitals a few summers ago.

In his first season as a starter, Kuemper went 27-20-8 in 55 games with Arizona– notching five shutouts and recording a 2.33 goals-against average, as well as a .925 save percentage. Good stuff.

In 2019-20, he went 16-11-2 in 29 games, had two shutouts and yielded a 2.22 goals-against average, as well as a .928 save percentage.

Last season, he went 10-11-3 in 27 games, dropping to a 2.56 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and once again recording two shutouts.

Kuemper is 31-years-old and made his league debut with the Minnesota Wild back in the 2012-13 season– the same season that Grubauer broke into the league with the Capitals, albeit two years younger in age.

How will a full 82-game schedule as the starting netminder with Pavel Francouz returning from an injury that prevented him from being the backup in Colorado last season impact Kuemper’s performance in the crease?

There’s kind of a lot at stake here. No pressure or anything, but the Avalanche are trying to win the Cup now rather than later.

Speaking of “win-now” mode, the loss of Donskoi, Brandon Saad and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare puts Colorado in a difficult spot.

They don’t have the dominant bottom-six players on paper that they had last season that made them as much of a threat as the Golden Knights or Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead, they’ll be relying on the emergence of youth in Alex Newhook, Logan O’Connor and Maltsev mixed with a combination of young players getting better in Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher, as well as a veteran in Darren Helm.

Much like how Saad brought in Cup winning experience to the dressing room last season, however, Helm is doing so for the Avs this season as he happened to be on the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings– appearing in seven games in the 2007-08 regular season, then 18 postseason games for Detroit in their 2008 Cup run.

It was Helm’s first taste of NHL action and he already was on top of the mountain. Now 34, he’s looking for more.

Offseason Grade: B-

Sakic has a way of taking reclamation projects and maximizing their production in Colorado, though we’ll see if the same effect can be applied to Stefan Matteau and Ryan Murray on the blue line, as well as other moves already mentioned.

The Avalanche have depth, but do they have enough depth?

Despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, Colorado finished the 2020-21 regular season with 39 wins– one shy of Vegas (40 wins) for the most in the league– and eliminated in the Second Round by that same Golden Knights team (the Avs won the tiebreaker with 35 regulation wins to Vegas’ 30).

That said most of the Avalanche roster remains the same and there’s the feeling that one of these year’s they’ll get over the hump and back into the later end of the postseason.

Super teams don’t always win, but having a (super) consistent performance down the stretch and in the playoffs does and that’s what the Lightning have done best for the last two years– turning it on when it counts and sustaining the pressure.