Tag Archives: Claude Julien

DTFR Podcast #170- 2019-20 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.

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Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 Season Preview

Montreal Canadiens

44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Riley Barber, F Nick Cousins, F Phil Varone, D Ben Chiarot, G Keith Kinkaid

Subtractions: F Daniel Audette (signed with Springfield, AHL), F Nicolas Deslauriers (traded to ANA), F Andrew Shaw (traded to CHI), F Hunter Shinkaruk (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Jordie Benn (signed with VAN), D Brett Lernout (signed with VGK), G Antti Niemi (KHL)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Charles Hudon, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael McCarron

Offseason Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens didn’t even get a meeting with John Tavares last offseason and they tried to ask out a couple of potential suitors to the prom this offseason, but were ultimately rejected.

Before Habs fans try to claim that technically Sebastian Aho accepted their offer, but was then taken back by his… still current romantic partner (Carolina), let’s remember that this is only a terrible attempt at a metaphor or whatever.

The bottom line is Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, wanted to get Matt Duchene in free agency this offseason, but lost out to the Nashville Predators– which was inevitable given Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway.

Then Bergevin turned to his next option– becoming the “villain” among his peers by submitting an offer sheet to another team’s restricted free agent.

That RFA happened to be Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes forward who remains a Carolina Hurricanes forward after signing a five-year, $8.454 million per season offer sheet from the Habs that was officially matched by the Canes about a week later.

If Bergevin was really comfortable with paying a steep compensation price, he likely offered more in cap hit, length of the deal and, well, just about everything else.

Instead, Carolina wasn’t fazed by the $8.454 million annual cap hit, despite a little more than $21 million front loaded in the deal in signing bonuses and Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, simply wrote a cheque for Aho to cash in and avoid a long offseason of “uncertainty” as many other RFAs faced around the league.

While Bergevin may have done the Hurricanes a favor, Tampa Bay Lightning center, Brayden Point is still unsigned, so…

Actually, on second thought, Montreal only has about $4.045 million in cap space now since missing out on Aho and signing defender, Ben Chiarot, to a consolation prize, three-year, $3.500 million per season contract.

It’s not that Chiarot isn’t a durable defender, but rather, that the Canadiens really could use a young, promising forward to shore up a legitimate top-six– especially with pending-RFA Max Domi in a contract year.

Montreal wants to get back into the postseason, but they don’t just want to make it– they want to make a splash and go on a deep run. Especially since they’re the most recent Canadian team to win the Cup, having done so in 1993, which seems like ages ago, right?

Seven teams have joined the league since a Canadian market last hoisted the Cup high above their heads in a celebratory skate.

Head coach, Claude Julien, transitioned his style from a more veteran dependent coaching style to a more contemporary “play the kids” approach last season and it got Montreal to finish two points outside of the playoffs thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ defeat of the New York Rangers in the last weekend of the regular season.

The good news for Julien? His roster is about the same, so there’s a lot of familiarity in the room in their quest for progress.

Keith Kinkaid signed a one-year, $1.750 million deal to backup Carey Price this season and can be useful in offsetting Price’s workload, though Kinkaid’s looking to bounce back from a dismal year with the New Jersey Devils last season.

Kinkaid amassed a 3.36 goals against average and an .891 save percentage in 41 games played while New Jersey transitioned from Cory Schneider to Mackenzie Blackwood (when healthy) in the crease as their starter.

One thing’s for sure for the Habs this season– if they don’t make it back to the playoffs in 2020, there’s going to be some change coming.

There just has to be.

Offseason Grade: C

Nothing spectacular walked into Bell Centre in the offseason and nothing spectacular walked out. That’s not terrible, but might not be up to the expectations of a fanbase and front office that expects to win every season.

That said, Montreal is due for a resurgence in the standings sooner, rather than later. It’s just going to take a little more work than… whatever was done this offseason.

DTFR Podcast #169- 2019-20 Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.

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2019-20 Atlantic Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 109 points
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 105 points
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points
  4. Florida Panthers, 89 points
  5. Montreal Canadiens, 89 points
  6. Detroit Red Wings, 84 points
  7. Ottawa Senators, 78 points
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 71 points

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons

The Lightning are annual favorites among the experts to win the Stanley Cup, so it’s no surprise, really, that they haven’t yet. There’s either too many expectations to live up to or there’s too much of a casual atmosphere from season-to-season.

You know what they say when you assume.

Just like the Washington Capitals and their 2018 Stanley Cup championship, it’s better for the Bolts if nobody is talking about them. Prior to the Caps winning in 2018, there was a “Cup or bust” mantra that just didn’t work.

Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.

That’s not to say Tampa doesn’t work hard or isn’t humble, but rather, they must lose on the big stage repetitively until everyone expects them to fail. That’s when they’ll go on a run.

They’ve managed to keep their roster together (granted, RFA center, Brayden Point, is still unsigned) while trimming the fat (gone are the days of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi on the blue line) and are still Stanley Cup front-runners, but they likely won’t get back to the 60-win plateau in back-to-back seasons.

The Lightning will still get to 50 wins for the third season in-a-row, have Nikita Kucherov set the league on fire in scoring and yield out-of-this-world goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the real season starts– the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How would the Lightning fail?

Everyone keeps talking about the Lightning as if they’re some godsend (too much hype, remember?). That, or General Manager Julien BriseBois blows up the roster and/or Jon Cooper is fired as head coach.

Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons

The Bruins core remains strong among their forwards and as long as they’re able to negotiate an extension with RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without any bumps in the road, then their defense is pretty sound too.

Jaroslav Halak signed a two-year deal last summer, so the 1A/1B tandem of Tuukka Rask and Halak in the crease seems fine for another run in 2019-20.

Boston exceeded expectations in 2017-18 and went under the radar in 2018-19– though they managed to amass only 10 losses in regulation since Jan. 1st, which means they were actually pretty loud in the points percentage column.

Injuries come and go.

If the Bruins are able to stay healthy instead of dropping like flies to their 12th defenseman on the depth chart, they might actually pick up a few more points than they did last season.

With Bruce Cassidy as head coach, things should remain status quo in the regular season, but Boston still needs to address their top-six forward problem.

David Pastrnak can play on the first or second line, but on any given night that leaves one of their top two lines in need of a scoring winger.

General Manager Don Sweeney managed to patch a hole at the third line center– acquiring Charlie Coyle as last season’s trade deadline loomed– and Coyle was one of their better players in their 2019 Stanley Cup Final postseason run.

But with a couple of depth signings for bottom six roles in the offseason (Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie), everyone getting another year older and David Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit through 2020-21 still on the books, Boston’s hands are tied.

How would the Bruins fail?

There’s enough bark in the regular season, but not enough bite for a deep postseason run. It’s harder than ever before to make it back to the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back seasons– and that’s before you consider age, injuries and regression.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons

Toronto has Auston Matthews as their second best center. Yes. Second best. Why? Because John Tavares enters the second year of his long-term seven-year deal that he signed last July.

That alone will continue to keep the Leafs afloat with a strong 1-2 duo down the middle.

Regardless of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations (or lack thereof), the Maple Leafs are just fine with their forwards– having traded Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche and acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the process (Calle Rosen and Tyson Barrie were also swapped in the deal).

Patrick Marleau is gone and it only cost Toronto a conditional 2020 1st round pick (top-10 lottery protected) and a 2020 7th round pick in the process, but an affordable Jason Spezza at league minimum salary ($700,000) on a one-year deal for fourth line minutes will do just fine.

By puck drop for the 2019-20 season, the Leafs will save $10.550 million in cap space thanks to David Clarkson (yes, his contract’s back after a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights that sent Garret Sparks the other way) and Nathan Horton’s placement on the long-term injured reserve.

The stars are aligning for Toronto to still need to get past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

With Kadri gone, however, perhaps they will be able to do so with or without Boston in the equation.

How would the Leafs fail?

They don’t sign Marner and they lose in another Game 7 because of it. There’s a lot of turbulence ahead for Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas considering the Leafs have one defender under contract after 2019-20. If the team doesn’t breakout in the postseason, it’s really just status quo until proven otherwise.

Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons

The Panthers are beginning to ripen with a mix of youth and experience among their forwards, plus a defense that quietly does their job.

They also added Noel Acciari, Brett Connolly, Anton Stralman and (most importantly) Sergei Bobrovsky to the mix.

While Acciari’s $1.667 million cap hit through 2021-22 is a slight overpay for a fourth line center, at least it could be worse. Connolly’s making $3.500 million for the next four years and even Stralman has a cap hit of $5.500 million through 2021-22 when he’ll be turning 36 on August 1, 2022.

Ok, so it was an expensive offseason for Florida– and that’s before you add the $10.000 million price tag for the next seven years of Bobrovsky in the crease.

Yes, despite landing one of the better goaltenders in the league in free agency, General Manager Dale Tallon managed to make matters complicated after, say, the fourth year of Bobrovsky’s contract.

Bobrovsky will be roughly 37-years-old by the time his contract with the Panthers expires and not everyone can be like Dwayne Roloson in the net forever.

At least they drafted Spencer Knight (in the first round– a goaltending prospect curse).

Though they missed the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by 12 points for an Eastern Conference wild card spot, the Panthers are in a position to gain more than a few wins with new head coach (and three-time Stanley Cup champion) Joel Quenneville behind the bench.

How would the Panthers fail?

Florida’s already landed the biggest prize in head coaching free agency with Quenneville reuniting with Tallon in Sunrise. What could possibly go wrong (besides Tallon being replaced by a clone of Stan Bowman and then the Panthers go on to win three Cups without Tallon in command)?

Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons

Montreal didn’t get Matt Duchene or Sebastian Aho in free agency, so they got the next best thing– not overspending on July 1st.

That’s not to say Duchene and Aho aren’t quality players, but rather just an observation of cap concerns for the Habs with Max Domi as a pending-RFA in July 2020 and the rest of Montreal’s future core (Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Victor Mete, Cayden Primeau and Jesperi Kotkaniemi) to consider going down the road.

Granted, Aho could’ve sped the process up a bit if it weren’t for those pesky RFA rights and compensation in the CBA, right Montreal?

The Canadiens need a legitimate number one center, but General Manager Marc Bergevin has been preoccupied restructuring the defense in the meantime.

That’s not a bad thing.

Shea Weber is 34 and under contract through the 2025-26 season, though after 2021-22, his base salary drops to $3.000 million in 2022-23 and $1.000 million from 2023-26 (meaning he could be traded with ease in a few years, despite his $7.857 million cap hit).

But Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry are both over 30 and have no-trade and/or no-movement clauses in their contracts.

At least free agent addition, Ben Chiarot, is 28-years-old, but he also carries a no-trade clause as part of his three-year deal.

How would the Canadiens fail?

Claude Julien inexplicably reverts back to his old ways and doesn’t play the kids, Carey Price is injured for most of the season and/or Bergevin overcompensates in a trade because of his failure to secure a free agent center.

Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons

Steve Yzerman has come home and is rightfully the General Manager for the Red Wings, but as we’ve seen in Tampa, his masterplan takes a little time.

Detroit is four or five years out from being an annual Cup contender, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings haven’t already sped things up in their rebuild.

Trading for Adam Erne isn’t a grand-slam, but it does make the average age of the roster a tad younger.

It also means that the Red Wings now have seven pending-RFAs on their NHL roster and roughly $37.000 million to work with in July 2020.

How would the Red Wings fail?

Having Yzerman in the front office at Little Caesars Arena is like adding all of the best toppings to a pizza. The only downside is that leftover pineapple is still on the pizza from all of the no-trade clauses delivered by the last guy.

Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons

The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.

Just kidding, they don’t plan on being good until 2021, so does that mean starting with the 2020-21 season or the following year in 2021-22?

But they do have a ton of draft picks stockpiled including two in the 1st round in 2020, three in the 2nd round, one in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, a pair in the 6th and one in the 7th.

Plus they have roughly $15.600 million in cap space currently and eight players under contract for next season that aren’t on the injured reserve.

For some reason (Eugene Melnyk) current-RFA Colin White is still unsigned and 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was signed in free agency, but at least Cody Ceci is a Maple Leaf now.

Oh and former Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith is Ottawa’s head coach now. That’ll show them!

How would the Senators fail?

More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?

Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons

Pro: The Sabres will probably be better than last season.

Con: Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s new head coach and nobody knows what to expect (he went 19-22-7 in the lockout shortened 48-game season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13).

Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.

Con: Only eight skaters are under contract next season, including Rasmus Ristolainen and nobody is sure whether or not the club is trying to trade him.

Pro: Marcus Johansson!

Con: Jimmy Vesey! (Only cost Buffalo two third round picks over three years to get him.)

Pro: The average age of the roster is about 26.

Con: Matt Hunwick is the oldest player at 34-years-old, followed by Carter Hutton at 33 and Vladimir Sobotka at 32.

Pro: Royal blue in 2020!

Con: It’s not until 2020.

How would the Sabres fail?

If Buffalo actually finishes last in the division, instead of any improvement whatsoever.

DTFR Podcast #157- Play Gloria, You Jerks

Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

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DTFR Podcast #149- SnapFace with Zach Boychuk

We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.

*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*

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Petry petrifies Bruins in OT, Habs win, 3-2

Jeff Petry batted in his game-winning goal in overtime just 15 seconds into the five-minute, 3-on-3, overtime period to secure the, 3-2, victory for the Montreal Canadiens over the Boston Bruins Monday night at TD Garden.

Carey Price (18-13-4 record, 2.65 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 36 games played) made 41 saves on 43 shots against for a .953 SV% in the win for the Habs.

Tuukka Rask (13-8-3, 2.44 GAA, .919 SV% in 24 GP) turned aside 19 out of 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss for Boston.

The Bruins fell to 26-14-5 (57 points) on the season and remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Canadiens remain in 4th with a 25-17-3 record (55 points).

Boston fell to 16-3-3 when scoring first this season as Brad Marchand had opened the game’s scoring in the first period before Montreal added two unanswered goals.

It was the final regular season matchup between these two rival clubs, with the Bruins having won eight of the last nine games against Montreal entering Monday night.

Boston placed Colby Cave on waivers for the purpose of assigning the young center to Providence (AHL) prior to the game on Monday as Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup with Steven Kampfer and John Moore serving as his only healthy scratches and Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) still out due to injury.

Despite the loss, one Bruins player reached a milestone in the action with David Pastrnak having appeared in his 300th career NHL game.

For just the second time since being fired by the Bruins, Monreal head coach, Claude Julien beat his former team (that he previously beat a bunch of times in his first stint with the Habs).

Mike Reilly tripped up Marchand at 8:16 of the first period and provided the Bruins their first power play of the night. Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Zdeno Chara interfered with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who– as a result– tripped up Charlie McAvoy while falling.

Both Chara and Kotkaniemi were sent to the box at 13:46, leaving Boston and Montreal at even strength, 4-on-4, for the next two minutes.

While both teams were short a skater, Marchand (17) received an exceptional pass from Patrice Bergeron, then skated past Shea Weber and sniped a wrist shot past Price’s glove side a la Joe Sakic on any goaltender in his prime.

Bergeron (25) and Matt Grzelcyk (12) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 14:09 of the first period and the B’s led, 1-0.

Moments later, tempers flared as Kevan Miller and Nicolas Deslauriers dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs. Both players received five-minute majors for fighting at 16:10 as Miller perhaps sought revenge for his shoulder injury that he suffered back in the day when Deslauriers was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Is it your modern day Milan Lucic vs. Mike Komisarek matchup? No, but it was a great fight nonetheless and we’ll take it considering the B’s and Habs rivalry.

Late in the first period on a face-off in Montreal’s offensive zone, Phillip Danault won the draw back to Petry for the shot from the point that Brendan Gallagher (18) tipped with incredible hand-eye coordination through Rask’s five-hole.

Petry (23) and Danault (24) had the assists on Gallagher’s goal at 18:27 and the Canadiens had tied the game, 1-1.

Heading into the dressing room for the first intermission, the Bruins led in shots on goal (11-6), blocked shots (8-3) and takeaways (9-6), while Montreal led in giveaways (3-2), hits (14-9) and face-off win percentage (57-44).

The Habs had yet to see any time on the power play– and, in fact, wouldn’t see any skater advantage opportunities all night as it was a relatively quiet night for penalties– while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Late in the second period, Victor Mete hooked Miller at 16:16 and the ensuing skater advantage for Boston did not go as the B’s had planned.

Less than a minute into their power play, the Bruins turned the puck over as Paul Byron (10) went unchallenged, breaking into Montreal’s offensive zone with speed and beating Rask with an elevated backhander to give the Canadiens the lead, 2-1, at 17:09.

Byron’s shorthanded goal was unassisted and was the league-leading 10th shorthanded goal allowed by Boston this season.

In the final minute of the middle frame, a scrum ensued post whistle, whereby Max Domi sought out Jake DeBrusk and everyone pulled on a member of the opposing team’s sweater.

Brandon Carlo received a two-minute minor for roughing, as did Domi, and the two players were sent to their dressing rooms early as the period was coming to a close.

Through 40 minutes of play, Montreal led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Boston led, 26-17, in shots on goal.

The Bruins maintained an advantage in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (11-10) and giveaways (7-4) after two periods, while the Canadiens led in hits (22-17). Both teams were 50-50 in face-off win% heading into the third period and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play.

Boston couldn’t put anything past Price as the Habs struggled to generate shots on goal in the third period.

Late in the third, Michael Chaput sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game minor at 17:55.

Cassidy pulled his netminder with about 1:35 remaining in regulation while on the power play to try to tie the game and force overtime.

As the seconds were ticking down– both in the power play and in the game itself– David Krejci (10) found himself with ample opportunity to unload a wrist shot past the blocker side of Price while the Montreal goaltender was screened by DeBrusk in front of the goal.

Krejci’s power play goal tied the game, 2-2, and was assisted by Marchand (32) and Pastrnak (28) at 19:22 of the third period.

At the end of regulation, the Bruins led in shots on goal, 43-21, despite the scoreboard only reading, 2-2.

It took 15 seconds after puck drop in the overtime period for the Habs to work the puck in the offensive zone, generate a shot on goal and a rebound that Petry (10) batted out of the air for the odd, sheer good puck luck, overtime game-winning goal.

Domi (26) and Byron (7) were credited with the assists as the Canadiens defeated the Bruins, 3-2.

Upon the final horn, Montreal had stolen the extra point on the road, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal (43-22), blocked shots (14-11), giveaways (13-7) and face-off win% (53-47).

Montreal finished the night leading in hits (29-23) and never had a power play opportunity. Meanwhile, Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins embark on three games in four nights with a game in Philadelphia against the Flyers on Wednesday, then back home at TD Garden for a matchup Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues and finish off their third game in four nights with their final game before the All-Star break on Saturday against the New York Rangers.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering January

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Standings After Three Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Metropolitan Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Western Conference

Central Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DTFR Podcast #137- His Hart Grew Three Sizes That Day

Nick and Connor review the Vegas Golden Knights draft history, praise Carter Hart’s NHL debut, talk about Scott Gordon’s introduction as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Patrik Berglund situation, Whalers Night and a teaser 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship preview.

Merry Gritmas.

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

*Editor’s note: Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Games. The 2026 and 2030 Winter Games host cities have yet to be selected.

Halak blanks Habs at old home, B’s win, 4-0

Colby Cave (1-1–2 totals), Charlie McAvoy (0-2–2) and David Pastrnak (0-2–2) led the Boston Bruins and their offensive charge as Jaroslav Halak stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout in Boston’s, 4-0, victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

Joakim Nordstrom, David Krejci and Brad Marchand (PP) also had goals for the Bruins, while Halak (10-5-2 record, 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage in 19 games played) picked up the 22-save shutout win in the building he used to call home from 2006-10.

Halak picked up his third shutout of the season and went 56-34-7 (2.62 GAA, .919 SV%, 5 SO) in his career with the Canadiens.

Carey Price (13-9-4, 2.94 GAA, .901 SV% in 27 GP) will have to wait another day for his 300th career victory in a Habs sweater, as the Montreal netminder made 31 saves on 35 shots against for an .886 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 5-0-0 in their last five road games against the Canadiens, dating back to Dec. 12, 2016 (Montreal is 0-3-2 in that span) and set a new franchise record in doing so for their longest regular season win streak versus Montreal (previous, 4-0-0 from Jan. 11-Dec. 20, 1941).

Boston improved to 18-12-4 (40 points) on the season and surpassed the Canadiens for 4th in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while Montreal fell to 17-12-5 (39 points) and 5th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins take on the Anaheim Ducks this Thursday at TD Garden, while Montreal ventures out to Denver, Colorado for a Wednesday night matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to the Bruins lineup on Monday– save for the goaltender, starting Halak over Tuukka Rask (since Rask played on Sunday)– rolling with the same lines and defensive pairs as the last couple of games with Gemel Smith and Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches.

Smith and Lauzon remained out of the lineup alongside Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Jake DeBrusk (concussion) and Kevan Miller (larynx) on Sunday with Bergeron nearing an expected full return to practice on Wednesday.

No. 37 in black-and-gold may return to the lineup in time for Saturday or Sunday’s action against Nashville or in Carolina, respectively.

Nordstom (5) scored the game’s first goal at 2:21 of the first period after the B’s third line worked the puck down low, around the boards and forced a quality backcheck to yield a Canadiens turnover in the attacking zone for David Backes to connect with Nordstrom.

Backes (5) and Cave (3) had the assists on the goal and Boston led, 1-0.

About half-a-minute later, Marchand caught Phillip Danault with a high-stick and was sent to the penalty box while the Habs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Montreal’s power play entering the game on Sunday was 0/22 in the last seven games and did not convert on the skater advantage opportunity while Marchand was in the box.

The Bruins made the kill.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Noel Acciari sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 13:32 of the first period.

The Canadiens did not score on the ensuing power play and followed up with a minor infraction of their own at 16:56, when Danault tripped up Pastrnak.

Boston was unsuccessful on their first power play of the evening and went into the first intermission with the, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and the advantage in shots on goal, 13-5.

Montreal led in blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (14-1) and hits (14-7) after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in takeaways (5-1) and face-off win percentage (60-40). The Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/1 in the first period.

Early in the second period, Montreal was guilty of too many men on the ice, so Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, did the only logical thing to do– send your youngest (and perhaps fastest skater) to the box to serve the penalty and hope for a timely breakaway by the end of the penalty kill.

Things did not go as planned.

At 4:29 of the second period, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi emerged from the sin bin, the Canadiens couldn’t connect.

Instead, both teams continued a string of penalties through the middle frame of the game, with Pastrnak cutting a rut to the penalty box at 11:57 for sending the puck over the glass (Boston’s second automatic delay of game infraction of the night) and a pair of matching minors at 17:48 that sent Sean Kuraly and Kotkaniemi to the box.

Kuraly was handed a holding minor, while Kotkaniemi received a minor infraction for interference and the Bruins and Canadiens would play 4-on-4 for two minutes until just about the end of the second period.

In the final minute of the middle frame, Pastrnak worked the puck back to McAvoy as the Bruins defender worked the puck deep into the attacking zone.

As McAvoy was cruising into the zone, he sent a pass back to Cave in the slot whereby Cave (1) pocketed his first career National Hockey League goal in just his 16th career NHL game.

Cave’s goal was assisted by McAvoy (7) and Pastrnak (19) and gave the B’s a, 2-0, lead over the Habs at 19:34 of the second period.

As both teams entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission, Boston had doubled their lead on the scoreboard, 2-0, and their shots on goal from 13 in the first period to 26 shots after 40 minutes of play.

The Bruins led in shots on goal (26-12), takeaways (7-3) and face-off win% (53-47) after two periods, while Montreal led in blocked shots (14-7), giveaways (18-6) and hits (23-21).

The Habs were 0/3 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2 prior to the start of the third period.

A mere 46 seconds into the third period, Krejci (6) capitalized on a botched attempt at everything from Montreal to put the Bruins ahead, 3-0.

That’s right, everything was botched on the play leading up to Krejci’s goal.

First the Canadiens were slow-footed out of the gate to start the third period, then they were caught in a line change, which led to a Habs blue liner flying in, colliding and tumbling with Tomas Tatar in the low slow as Pastrnak and Marchand worked the puck to each other in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile, with Price in desperation and the puck finding its way to the Price’s right side, McAvoy found Krejci from the side of the goal to bury the puck in the twine.

McAvoy (8) had his second assist of the night on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins had a three-goal lead.

Montreal defender, Mike Reilly, roughed Pastrnak moments later and was assessed a minor penalty at 3:55 of the third period.

Late in the power play for Boston, the Canadiens had another circus clown act in front of their own goal as one of their defenders bumped Pastrnak while the young Bruins forward deked and sent a quick pass to Marchand.

With Pastrnak and one of Montreal’s own colliding with Price, Marchand (11) pocketed the puck in the de facto empty net for a, 4-0, lead and Boston’s fourth power play goal in the month of December.

Pastrnak (20) and Torey Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 5:06.

At the final horn, the Bruins had beaten Montreal, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 35-22, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens finished the night leading in blocked shots (18-17), giveaways (24-11) and hits (46-32), while the B’s led in face-off win% (56-44).

Montreal went 0/3 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

As a result, the Habs are now 0/25 on the power play in their last eight games and 5/58 in their last 19.

Boston improved to 11-2-2 when scoring first this season and heads back home for a quick, two-game, homestand starting Thursday night against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks and ending with a Saturday matinee against the Nashville Predators.

The B’s head to PNC Arena on Sunday for a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Whalers Night in Raleigh. The Hurricanes will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys in both teams’ final game before the league’s mandatory three-day Christmas break.