Tag Archives: Claude Julien

Backes’ return sparks B’s in, 3-1, win over Habs

David Backes scored the game-winning goal in his first game back from injury since Nov. 2nd as the Boston Bruins rallied in the third period to a, 3-1, comeback win over the Montreal Canadiens Sunday night at TD Garden.

Tuukka Rask (13-2-2 record, 2.04 goals against average, .933 save percentage in 17 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win for Boston.

Montreal netminder, Carey Price (10-9-3, 3.18 GAA, .898 SV% in 22 GP) stopped 31 out of 34 shots faced for a .912 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 19-3-5 (43 points) on the season and maintained their lead on the Atlantic Division, as well as the entire league– having played one fewer game than the Washington Capitals.

The Habs fell to 11-10-6 (28 points) and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division while also falling to 0-5-3 in their last eight games.

Prior to Sunday night, Montreal hadn’t lost eight-straight games since the 1939-40 season (in which the Canadiens lost nine-straight games at one point).

Meanwhile, Boston is on an 11-game point streak, including their current seven-game winning streak and improved to 11-0-4 on home ice this season.

Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Zach Senyshyn (lower body), Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) were all out of commission for the Bruins on Sunday against Montreal.

Moore, however, was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Providence’s matinee matchup with the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum as part of a long-term injured conditioning stint (meaning he’s likely to be back up in Boston and rejoining the B’s lineup in the near future).

Jack Studnicka was also reassigned to Providence after playing in two NHL games with Boston while multiple forwards were injured.

Studnicka recorded one assist in that span.

Backes returned to full practice on Saturday and returned to the lineup Sunday night against the Canadiens after missing the last 13 games since being hurt on Nov. 2nd against the Ottawa Senators.

With Backes available, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, switched up his lines from Friday afternoon’s, 3-2, overtime victory over the New York Rangers.

Cassidy kept his first line the same with Brad Marchand at left wing, David Krejci at center and David Pastrnak on the right wing.

On the second line, Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle back to his usual spot at center with Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on his left and right sides, respectively.

Sean Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Chris Wagner at right wing.

Finally, Par Lindholm centered Joakim Nordstrom in his usual role as the fourth line left wing and Backes on the right wing.

Connor Clifton went back in the lineup on the third defensive pairing alongside Matt Grzelcyk, while Steven Kampfer joined Brendan Gaunce in the press box as Boston’s only healthy scratches.

The Bruins wore their new alternate sweater for the second-straight game since debuting them on the ice against the Rangers in the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

Joel Armia (10) stole the puck right in front of the Boston goal and sent a backhand shot off the crossbar and in over Rask’s glove side on fluke soft goal to kick things off at 1:58 of the first period.

Armia’s goal was unassisted and gave Montreal a, 1-0, lead in what was just the 9th instance of the Bruins giving up the game’s first goal on home ice this season– and the 4th consecutive home game in doing so.

Late in the period, Charlie McAvoy caught Charles Hudon with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 14:38.

The Canadiens did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Entering the first intermission, the Habs led the B’s, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-10, in shots on goal.

Montreal also held the advantage in takeaways (11-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41), while Boston led in blocked shots (4-1).

Both teams had three giveaways aside and 12 hits each, meanwhile the Canadiens were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

The Bruins had yet to see any time on the skater advantage after the first 20 minutes of action Sunday night.

Boston turned their burners on as the second period was nearing a close, but not before the two teams got into a bit of a scrum at center ice that resulted in the first power play opportunity of the night for the Bruins.

Shea Weber was called for interference against Pastrnak at 17:13 of the second period, but was joined in the penalty box by his teammate, Brendan Gallagher, after Gallagher got into a wrestling match with DeBrusk– who also cut a rut to the sin bin, but for the B’s.

As a result, the Bruins went on a 5-on-4 skater advantage and couldn’t muster a power play goal in the vulnerable minutes before the middle frame came to a close.

The score remained unchanged after 40 minutes of action with the Canadiens leading the Bruins, 1-0, but Boston jumped ahead of Montreal in the shot department– leading, 20-19, in shots on goal after two periods thanks to their, 10-8, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The B’s led in blocked shots (10-6) and hits (25-20) entering the second intermission, while the Habs led in takeaways (12-6), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win% (52-48).

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

Early in the final frame, Bjork worked an indirect pass up the boards to Pastrnak that led Pastrnak into the attacking zone.

The league’s leading goal scorer, Pastrnak (25), blasted a rocket from the hashmarks off the far post and in on Price’s blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 6:16 of the third period.

Bjork (3) and Brandon Carlo (8) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as No. 88 in black-and-gold became the 11th player in league history to score 25 or more goals in a season through games played on Dec. 1st, as well as the first player to do so since Mario Lemieux scored 29 goals through Dec. 1st in the 1992-93 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

About a couple minutes later, Nick Cousins received a holding infraction for tying up Torey Krug in Montreal’s offensive zone.

Boston went on the power play for the second time of the night at 8:38 of the third and made sure to capitalize on the skater advantage in the dying seconds of the power play opportunity.

Grzelcyk worked the puck from the point to Krejci as the Bruins center brought the puck down low.

Krejci then sent a pass to Backes (1) in the slot where the veteran NHLer was acting as a bumper and one-timed a shot into the twine to give Boston their first lead of the night, 2-1.

The Bruins didn’t score in the first 40 minutes of the game Sunday night, but they fired off two goals in a span of 4:13 in the third period to turn the game on its head.

Krejci (15) and Grzelcyk (6) had the assists on Backes’ goal at 10:29 and the B’s had momentum on their side.

In a similar manner, but from the reverse angle, Heinen broke into the zone with possession and briefly lost the puck before DeBrusk scooped it up and gave it to Coyle.

The Weymouth, Massachusetts native brought the rubber biscuit behind the net, then tossed a pass to DeBrusk (6) that the Bruins winger one-timed over Price’s glove from point blank while being knocked to the ice– giving Boston a two-goal lead, 3-1.

Coyle (10) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s goal at 13:27 and the Bruins completed their three unanswered goal comeback over Montreal in a 7:11 span in the third period.

The goal was DeBrusk’s 6th point in his last five games.

With 2:33 remaining in regulation, Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, pulled Price for an extra attacker.

After icing the puck and mishandling a breakout, the Habs ended up with too many skaters on the ice at 18:09 and sent Cousins to the box to serve their bench minor.

Though Boston did not score on their third power play of the game, they did walk away with the most important thing– the win– at the final horn.

The Bruins finished off the Canadiens, 3-1, and ended the night with the advantage in shots on goal (34-29), blocked shots (16-12) and hits (32-28).

Montreal, meanwhile, left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-4) and faceoff win% (59-41) on Sunday.

The Habs finished the night 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins are now 7-1-2 when allowing the game’s first goal at home this season and 4-2-2 when trailing after two periods.

Boston continues their current five-game home stand (2-0-0) on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and finishing up their homestand on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. The B’s then begin a four-game road trip thereafter.

Pastrnak scores hat trick as B’s light up Habs, 8-1

Eight is great and eight is the number of goals the Boston Bruins scored en route to their, 8-1, victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

Oh and by the way, David Pastrnak had a hat trick.

Jaroslav Halak (5-1-3 record, 2.40 goals against average, .930 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 37 shots against for a .973 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Canadiens starter, Carey Price (10-7-3, 3.09 GAA, .900 SV% in 20 games played) turned aside six out of ten shots faced for a .545 SV% before being replaced by Keith Kinkaid (1-1-2, 4.29 GAA, .877 SV% in five games played) in the loss.

Kinkaid made ten saves on 13 shots against (.769 SV%) for no decision.

Boston improved to 16-3-5 (37 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division– in command of 1st place of not just the division, but 1st place in the entire league by virtue of holding a game-in-hand over the Washington Capitals.

Montreal, meanwhile, fell to 11-8-5 (27 points) on the season and stuck in 3rd in the Atlantic.

The Bruins extended their current winning streak to four games and are now 7-3-1 on the road this season.

They’re now also 10-0-2 when leading after two periods, 11-1-0 when leading after one period and 12-2-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.

Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) remained out of the lineup for Boston with Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) joining the long list of injured Bruins for at least the next two games (Tuesday night in Montreal, Wednesday night in Ottawa).

As a result of Bergeron and Ritchie’s injuries, Boston recalled Brendan Gaunce and Jack Studnicka from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.

Gaunce, 25, has six goals and five assists (11 points) in 14 games with Providence this season and signed with Boston on July 1, 2019 as a free agent after spending 2015-19 with the Vancouver Canucks organization.

Studnicka, 20, leads Providence in scoring with nine goals and nine assists (18 points), as well as a plus-seven rating in 21 games with the “Baby Bruins” this season. The 6’2″, 175-pound center was drafted by Boston in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

He made his NHL debut Tuesday night in Montreal, joining Cameron Hughes as the only other Bruin to make their NHL debuts this season.

Par Lindholm returned to action after missing the last game while resting up after sustaining a cut in last Thursday’s, 3-2, win over the Buffalo Sabres.

With Bergeron and Ritchie out, Bruce Cassidy made some adjustments to his lineup, starting Studnicka as the second line center with Jake DeBrusk on his left wing and Charlie Coyle on his right wing.

David Krejci, in the meantime, was promoted to the first line center role with Brad Marchand and Pastrnak in their usual roles.

Sean Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen as his wingers, while Lindholm centered the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner.

Cassidy made one change to his defense, replacing Steven Kampfer with Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing after keeping Kampfer fresh while in his role as the seventh defender for the B’s.

Gaunce and Kampfer served as healthy scratches for the Bruins on Tuesday.

Early in the opening frame, Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher tripped up Pastrnak while trailing the Boston forward behind his own net and was sent to the penalty box at 6:10 of the first period.

Krejci sent Kuraly deep into the offensive zone on the ensuing power play, whereby Kuraly connected DeBrusk with a bump pass as DeBrusk (5) crashed the slot and sent a shot into the back of the twine to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead on a power play goal.

Kuraly (4) and Krejci (12) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 8:03.

The Canadiens responded with a goal of their own a little over a few minutes later on a three-on-two rush up the ice that left Shea Weber (8) wide open for a quick one-timer that beat Halak’s blocker side at 12:41.

Gallagher (9) and Tomas Tatar (14) had the assists on Weber’s goal, tying the game, 1-1, midway through the first period.

The score wasn’t tied for long before Nate Thompson “tripped” Clifton at 13:56 and was assessed an infraction for what appeared to be a phantom call.

Boston went on the power play for the second time of the night and quickly converted on the skater advantage with a trademark one-timer blast from Pastrnak (21) at 14:24.

Coyle (8) and Marchand (24) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s first goal of the night as the B’s regained the lead, 2-1.

Eight seconds later, Charlie McAvoy was penalized for interference against Nick Suzuki at 14:32, presenting Montreal with their first power play of the night.

The Habs did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

With less than a minute remaining in the first period, Marchand (17) snagged a loose puck that floated off of Coyle’s stick while the Bruins forward attempted a wraparound, then elevated a backhand shot over Price while the Canadiens goaltender dove in effort to make a save.

As a result, Coyle (9) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal at 19:23 and the Bruins led, 3-1, entering the first intermission.

The goal marked Marchand’s 600th NHL point– becoming the 11th player in Bruins franchise history to record 600 points in a B’s sweater, joining Terry O’Reilly, Krejci, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Bergeron, Bobby Orr, Rick Middleton, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk and Ray Bourque (per Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub).

Marchand’s also just the 4th Bruins player in the last 45 years to record his 40th point in 24 games or fewer, joining Adam Oates (24 games played in 1992-93), Esposito (22 GP in 1974-75) and Orr (21 GP in 1974-75).

After one period in Montreal, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 13-8, in shots on net.

The B’s led in blocked shots (6-5) and giveaways (11-8), while the Habs led in hits (14-8) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

Both teams had three takeaways aside.

The Canadiens were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 entering the second period.

Pastrnak (22) entered the attacking zone off the draw, deked past a Montreal defender and sniped a shot over Price’s blocker on the short side to give Boston a three-goal lead eight seconds into the second period.

Marchand (25) and Zdeno Chara (7) had the assists on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins led, 4-1.

Boston added another goal to their immense lead when Bjork (4) capitalized on a breakaway, sending a shot into the twine past Price’s glove side to make it, 5-1, for Boston at 1:10 of the second period.

Kuraly (5) had the only assist on the goal.

The Bruins had a pair of goals in a span of 62 seconds to chase Price out of the crease as Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, replaced his starter with Kinkaid after Bjork made it, 5-1.

Pastrnak (23) finalized his hat trick less than halfway through the game with a shot that beat Kinkaid at 9:06 of the second period– scoring his 2nd hat trick of the season and 6th of his career.

Brandon Carlo (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s hat trick goal as Boston made it, 6-1, in Montreal.

The 23-year-old right winger for the Bruins, Pastrnak, leads the NHL with 23 goals in 24 team games– the most by any player within 25 team games since the 2005-06 season, when Simon Gagne had 23 goals through this point in the season with the Philadelphia Flyers.

A few minutes later, Clifton caught Tatar with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 12:43, but the Habs didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of play at Bell Centre, the Bruins led, 6-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Canadiens, 27-15, in shots on goal.

Montreal held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone (14-7) and led in hits (23-15), while Boston had the advantage in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (18-16) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Both teams had six takeaways aside, while the Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were still 2/2 on the skater advantage (only one penalty was called in the second period and it was against Boston).

Almost midway through the final frame of regulation, Kuraly worked the puck to Torey Krug as Krug broke into the zone heading for the net, before dropping a pass back to Coyle (5) for the one-timer from the slot that beat Kinkaid to make it, 7-1, for Boston.

Krug (14) and Kuraly (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal at 8:26 of the third period.

Midway through the third, Studnicka reacted to a cross check from Max Domi and the two were sent to the box– Studnicka for rouding and Domi for cross checking at 15:38.

Just 20 seconds after both teams resumed full strength action, Studnicka sent a pass from the trapezoid to Heinen in the slot, whereby Heinen (5) one-timed a shot past Kinkaid.

Studnicka (1) collected the primary assist and his first career NHL point– in his first career game, nonetheless– and Krug (15) tallied the secondary assist on Heinen’s goal as the Bruins led, 8-1, at 17:58.

At the final horn, Boston had finished off Montreal, 8-1, in their first eight-goal game at Bell Centre since Oct. 28, 1998 (a, 9-2, win), as well as their first eight-goal game against the Habs in general since Feb. 9, 2011 (an, 8-6, win at TD Garden).

The Canadiens finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-24)– including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone– and in hits (34-19).

The B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-12) and giveaways (24-18), while both teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.

Montreal finished the night 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/2 on the power play.

The last time a Bruin scored a hat trick in Montreal was on Nov. 30, 1987, when Steve Kasper notched three goals in a, 6-4, loss at Montreal Forum.

Boston finishes their quick two-game road trip (1-0-0) with a Wednesday night matchup in Ottawa against the Senators after traveling by train from Montreal overnight on Tuesday.

The B’s return home after completing games in back-to-back nights with a Black Friday matinee against the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 2019 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown.

Boston will debut their new third jersey in Friday’s matchup.

DTFR Podcast #180- Turning Over A New Leaf

The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.

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Mike Babcock Fired: What Does This Mean for The– Bruins?

Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).

It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.

Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.

Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.

It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.

For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.

But that’s a separate discussion entirely.

For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.

The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.

Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.

From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.

This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.

Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.

He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.

Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.

Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).

Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.

In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.

That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.

They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.

Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.

Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.

Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.

Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.

Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.

In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.

It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.

Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.

They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.

In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.

So, what does this mean for the Bruins?

A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.

First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.

The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).

Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.

This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.

Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.

Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.

There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.

Now for the advantages for Boston.

History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.

Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).

This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.

Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.

This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.

History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.

Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.

As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.

Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).

But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).

Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).

In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.

Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.

As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).

Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).

Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.

Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.

Bruins fans be worried or not.

DTFR Podcast #178- Another Day, Another Dollar

Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.

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Habs end B’s winning streak at six, beat Boston, 5-4

The Montreal Canadiens eked out a, 5-4, win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night at Bell Centre thanks to an overturned goal in the third period– snapping Boston’s six-game win streak in the process.

Goaltending was optional as Montreal’s Carey Price (7-4-1 record, 2.75 goals against average, .883 save percentage in 12 games played) made 21 saves on 25 shots against for an .840 SV% in the win.

Meanwhile, Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (7-1-1, 1.88 GAA, .936 SV% in nine games played), stopped 26 out of 31 shots faced for an .839 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 11-2-2 (24 points) on the season, but remained in control of 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while the Canadiens improved to 8-5-2 (18 points) and tied the Florida Panthers for 4th in the Atlantic in points (though the Panthers hold the tiebreaker, having played in one fewer game than Montreal).

Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) have yet to debut this season for the Bruins as both missed their 15th game Tuesday night due to lingering injuries from last spring.

Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Joakim Nordstrom (infection), Par Lindholm (upper body) and David Backes (upper body) were all still out against Montreal, with Lindholm as the latest Bruin to join the injured reserve prior to Tuesday’s matchup.

Despite sustaining a nasty cut in Monday night’s, 6-4, win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Charlie McAvoy was in the lineup against the Canadiens, as was Torey Krug (who caught a skate up high and drew some blood Monday night as well).

Zach Senyshyn was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) and inserted into the lineup on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle.

Senyshyn has three points (two goals, one assist) in 12 games with Providence this season and one goal in two career NHL games (made his NHL debut last season).

With Senyshyn entering the lineup, Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, bumped Brett Ritchie down to the fourth line right wing with Chris Wagner returning to the left side of Sean Kuraly.

After making his NHL debut against Pittsburgh on Monday, Cameron Hughes joined Steven Kampfer as Boston’s only healthy scratches on Tuesday.

B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, played in his 1,500th career game and became just the 21st player and sixth defender in league history to play in 1,500 or more games in their career.

Chara joined Chris Chelios (1,651 career games), Scott Stevens (1,635), Larry Murphy (1,615), Ray Bourque (1,612) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564) as the only defenders to play in 1,500 or more games.

Habs head coach, Claude Julien, reached the 1,200th game of his career behind the bench on Tuesday as well.

Julien won the Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and received an ovation from the Bell Centre crowd before Chara’s milestone was acknowledged at the following media timeout in the first period.

Victor Mete (2) kicked things off with a quick start for Montreal as the Canadiens defender jumped at the perfect opportunity to collect the game’s first goal after the puck deflected off of a teammate in front of the goal and rebounded into the low slot unattended.

Mete’s goal was assisted by Joel Armia (4) and Jeff Petry (7) at 1:13 of the first period and the Habs jumped ahead with the, 1-0, lead.

Late in the period, Mete hooked Senyshyn and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 14:49 of the first period.

Boston only needed six seconds on the power play for Patrice Bergeron to win the faceoff back to Krug, then slide the puck over to David Pastrnak (15) for the one-timer slap shot power play goal.

Krug (10) and Bergeron (9) tallied the assists as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 14:55.

With the goal, Pastrnak extended his current point streak to 13 games– setting a new career-high in the process. He also became the first Bruin to score 15 goals in their first 15 games of the season since Peter McNab did so in 1976-77.

A couple of minutes later, Tomas Tatar (5) sent a shot off of Rask’s glove and into the twine to put the Canadiens ahead, 2-1.

Brendan Gallagher (6) and Ben Chiarot (2) had the assists on Tatar’s goal at 16:45.

Less than a minute after retaking the lead, Montreal extended their lead to two goals as Paul Byron (1) barely kept the puck in the attacking zone and succeeded on an individual effort– sending a shot through Rask’s five-hole– for his first goal of the season.

Byron’s goal was unassisted at 17:16 of the first period and the Habs led, 3-1.

Entering the first intermission, Montreal led Boston, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 13-6, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), while the Bruins led in giveaways (10-9), hits (12-11) and faceoff win percentage (67-33).

Both teams had two takeaways aside and the B’s were 1/1 on the power play, while the Habs had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Less than a minute into the middle frame, Bergeron hooked Phillip Danault and presented the Canadiens with a power play 50 seconds into the second period.

Boston killed Bergeron’s minor infraction without any issue, but followed up the special teams action with another hooking infraction– this time for Pastrnak against Shea Weber at 3:58.

Montreal didn’t capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the period, Ryan Poehling blocked a shot by Krug that rocketed off of the side of Poehling’s helmet, sending the Montreal forward to the ice before the whistle was blown for the injured skater to head down the tunnel under his own power.

While Poehling went down with an injury, so did Petry as the Canadiens defender caught the ice in an awkward manor with his leg.

Petry returned from the dressing room shortly thereafter and had no issues. Poehling returned to the action too without any major damage.

Connor Clifton (1) walzted around two Canadiens players, held the puck and sniped a shot over Price’s glove while Coyle screened the Montreal goaltender at 7:17 of the second period, bringing the Bruins to within one goal.

Clifton’s unassisted effort cut Montreal’s lead to, 3-2, and was his first career regular season NHL goal in just his 32nd career game.

Late in the period, Bjork (2) slid a rebound under Price’s pad from point blank to tie the game, 3-3.

McAvoy (4) had the only assist on the goal at 18:13, but the game wouldn’t remain tied for long.

Almost 40 seconds later, Mete (3) tucked in his 2nd goal of the ngiht with a shot from the point that floated over Rask, top-shelf, as Chara bumped Montreal center, Nate Thompson, into the Boston goaltender.

Artturi Lehkonen (4) and Petry (8) collected the assists on Mete’s goal at 18:55 and the Canadiens regained the lead, 4-3.

Through 40 minutes of action in Montreal, the Habs led the B’s, 4-3, on the scoreboard and, 25-15, in shots on goal (including a, 12-9, advantage for Montreal in the second period alone).

The Canadiens also led in blocked shots (14-7) and takeaways (7-5), while the Bruins led in giveaways (16-15), hits (25-22) and faceoff win% (62-38) entering the second intermission.

Montreal was 0/2 and Boston was still 1/1 on the power play heading into the third period.

Weber caught Brad Marchand with a high stick 14 seconds into the third period and was sent to the sin bin for a minor penalty, but the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on the ensuing power play.

Instead, in the vulnerable minute after special teams action, Boston’s fourth line went to work with Wagner dishing a quick pass to Kuraly (1) for the fourth line center to bank the puck off of Price’s skate and into the net– tying the game, 4-4, at 3:03 of the third period.

Wagner (4) had the only assist on the goal and the B’s had momentum on their side.

Moments later, after Coyle thought he had scored by redirecting a pass from Senyshyn through Price’s five-hole while the Habs goaltender was without his stick, Julien used his coach’s challenge arguing that the Bruins had originally entered the zone offside.

After review, it was determined that Coyle had just barely entered the zone by about half a skate ahead of the puck and was offside prior to the play that led to the goal and the call on the ice was overturned at 5:23.

Instead of rallying against the overturned call, Boston went into a hole and found themselves clamoring towards the end of games in back-to-back nights.

Chiarot (2) sent a shot of Rask’s glove and into the back of the net to give the Canadiens the lead once more, 5-4, at 9:06 of the third period after Montreal sustained tremendous pressure in the attacking zone.

Weber (8) and Tatar (8) each had an assist on the game-winning goal as the Canadiens never looked back for the remaining half-a-period.

After Boston iced the puck with 58.5 seconds remaining, Julien used his timeout to rally his attackers for one last push for a goal before the Bruins could pull their goaltender for an extra skater.

Neither team could score as time expired and the final horn sounded at Bell Centre.

The Canadiens had finished Boston’s six-game winning streak with a, 5-4, victory on home ice.

Montreal wrapped up Tuesday night’s contest leading in shots on goal (31-25), blocked shots (27-11) and giveaways (24-19), while Boston led in shots on net in the third period alone (10-6), hits (36-31) and faceoff win% (60-40).

The Canadiens went 0/2 on the power play and the B’s finished the game 1/2 on the skater advantage.

Boston is now 4-2-1 on the road this season and 1-1-1 when trailing after two periods.

The Bruins face the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at Little Caesars Arena. Boston returns home on Nov. 10th for a two-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers (Nov. 10th) and Florida (Nov. 12th).

2019-20 League Forecast Entering November

For the first time this season, the calendar is flipped to a new month– and with a new month comes new expectations.

All 31 National Hockey League teams are starting to find a rhythm– for better or worse– and it’s time to acknowledge the general trends of what to expect based on what’s already happened for the first 1/8th of the season (approximately).

American Thanksgiving is still around the corner, which means that any team in a playoff position by Nov. 28th is more likely to qualify for the playoffs by April 4th.

There’s enough time between now and then for a lot to change.

As always, that means it’s time for a new forecast based on what we’ve seen so far and what we may see in the future.

In other words, here’s an educated guess based on a formulaic approach thanks to the wonderful world of spreadsheets.

This isn’t an exact science. It takes into account everything from the last few seasons, as well as every little detail through the end of Oct. 31, 2019.

Anything can happen. It’s a long road to April.

Projected Standings After One Month

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Boston Bruins, 110 points (12 games played entering November 1st)
  2. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (12 GP)
  3. x-Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (13 GP)
  4. Florida Panthers, 91 points (13 GP)
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points (14 GP)
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 82 points (13 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 79 points (13 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 74 points (11 GP)

The Boston Bruins are off to a hot start thanks to Tuukka Rask’s stellar goaltending (6-0-1 record, 1.42 goals against average, .951 save percentage in seven games played) and David Pastrnak’s hot stick (12-12–24 totals in 12 games played).

Bruce Cassidy’s leadership behind the bench has steered the B’s away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance hangover and towards another playoff berth for what would be the fourth year in-a-row.

Meanwhile, after a slow start to their season, Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning casually waltz into home ice advantage in at least the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Claude Julien re-enters the postseason frame with the Montreal Canadiens as if it’s 2004 again (granted, Julien and the Habs made it in 2017, but only after Julien replaced Michel Therrien as head coach for the second time).

Joel Quenneville’s first season as head coach of the Florida Panthers led to an improvement, but not quite enough to get them back into the postseason, while another Stanely Cup winning coach took his team in a different direction.

That coach is Mike Babcock and that team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who trudged through the middle of the road all season and ended up just outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (unless Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan decide to stray from the “Shanaplan”).

Though the Buffalo Sabres are hot right now, it seems history repeats itself. Buffalo’s great October, November and/or December wasn’t enough to sustain themselves through the winer months of January, February and March, but overall the team improved and should be a playoff contender next season.

At least the Sabres aren’t the Detroit Red Wings (still a few years away from being a contender) or the Ottawa Senators (they say they’ll spend money in 2021, but…).

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 110 points (14 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (13 GP)
  3. x-New York Islanders, 95 points (11 GP)
  4. wc1-Carolina Hurricanes, 92 points (12 GP)
  5. wc2-Columbus Blue Jackets, 91 points (12 GP)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (11 GP)
  7. New York Rangers, 87 points (10 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 81 points (10 GP)

Alex Ovechkin continues his annual quest for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and likely succeeds unless Pastrnak has anything to say about it.

In the meantime, the Washington Capitals continue to take home the regular season crown in the Metropolitan Division because somehow they always seem to do that no matter the postseason outcome.

The Pittsburgh Penguins avoid major missteps without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup for most of October due to injury and turned things on for the duration of the second half of the season as they always do, yielding 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.

Barry Trotz’s leadership with the New York Islanders has keep things tight-knit and playoff bound, but unless every 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff home game for the Isles is played at NYCB Live/Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, then it’s not worth it.

Rod Brind’Amour is the best coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and he continues to climb the ranks of “best head coaches in franchise history” with another wild card appearance, at least, and what should be yet another thrilling playoff run for the Canes.

Meanwhile, somehow the Columbus Blue Jackets pieced together enough wins to snag the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference before bowing out in the First Round due to a lack of depth.

Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are all near the bottom of the division, but only with a few points spread between them– meaning that anything after 1st or 2nd place in the division is realistically up for grabs as long as a team goes on a perfectly timed run.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (13 GP)
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 101 points (13 GP)
  3. x-Winnipeg Jets, 93 points (13 GP)
  4. wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (12 GP)
  5. Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (11 GP)
  6. Dallas Stars, 86 points (14 GP)
  7. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (13 GP)

In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are going to pounce on the competition as the leaders of the West in the regular season. The only trouble is, they still might blow it in the last second of overtime or something.

The defending champion St. Louis Blues are content to finish 2nd in the Central Division, but remain hungry in their quest for another Cup.

After a slow start to the season, Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets somehow right the ship and earned themselves the last divisional spot in the Central Division.

But the Colorado Avalanche hold a wild card spot in the latest forecast as the real wild card of the entire Western Conference. Injuries could hold them back in the regular season, but they’ve shown they can make noise in the playoffs last spring.

Otherwise, if the Avs can stay healthy for longer periods of time, then Colorado could climb in the standings.

Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks are still trending in the wrong direction– facing the existential crisis of holding onto the old guard or continuing to dismantle their Cup-winning core– while the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild compete for the worst of the former and/or current Minnesota franchises this season.

Spoiler alert, it’s the Wild.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points (14 GP)
  2. x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points (14 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 92 points (13 GP)
  4. wc2-Calgary Flames, 91 points (15 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 89 points (12 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (14 GP)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 82 points (12 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 82 points (13 GP)

Nothing is going how things were expected to go in the Pacific Division and as a result, there’s still no conclusive results.

The Vegas Golden Knights are good and could likely win the Pacific Division regular season title, but the Anaheim Ducks aren’t bowing out of playoff contention just yet.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks are as bad as the Los Angeles Kings, so this forecast will be further fine-tuned next month as the Sharks continue to slip from dominant to dormant in the standings.

The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers all might take a stab at playoff contention, yet the Arizona Coyotes are on the rise.

At the very least, this is the most unpredictable division in the league that not even our current forecast can make any definitive claims.

Check back next month for further separation in the spread, as well as a more realistic view of where each team should likely land within the range of standings.

DTFR Podcast #174- Coaching Conundrums

Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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.