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Marchand’s hat trick lifts Bruins over Penguins, 7-5

Brad Marchand had a hat trick to go along with his four-point afternoon in the Boston Bruins’, 7-5, victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden on Saturday.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals and David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron set career milestones in the process, while Jaroslav Halak (9-5-3, 2.44 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in 17 games played) made 23 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh netminder, Casey DeSmith (9-4-0, 2.13 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 15 games played), stopped 21 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 19-10-5 (43 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins dropped to 24-12-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the same division.

The B’s improved to 4-2-0 against the Pens this season with the win.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

As a result, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup from Thursday night’s, 4-1, loss against Pittsburgh.

Cassidy swapped his first and second line right wings, placing Craig Smith alongside Marchand and Bergeron, while uniting Pastrnak with Nick Ritchie and Krejci.

Sean Kuraly was back in the lineup for the first time since being placed in COVID protocol on March 18th. He was taken off the league’s COVID protocol list prior to Thursday night’s loss, but did not suit up against the Penguins until Saturday.

Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle at right wing.

Jack Studnicka, meanwhile, centered the fourth line with Trent Frederic to his left and Zach Senyshyn to his right.

On defense, Cassidy paired former Boston University teammates, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing.

Jakub Zboril suited up alongside Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi was back in the lineup with Connor Clifton after Tinordi was as a healthy scratch since March 25th.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday afternoon included Chris Wagner, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Miller and Callum Booth.

Mike Matheson sent a shot towards the goal off of an attacking zone faceoff that tipped off of Coyle’s stick, then Mark Jankowski’s, over Halak’s shoulder, off the crossbar and under into the back of the twine.

As Jankowski (3) was the last to touch the rubber biscuit, the goal was his and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 3:24 of the first period.

Matheson (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Shortly after the midpoint in the opening frame until late in the first period, the two clubs engaged in a span of 8:05 of consecutive action.

Heading into the first intermission, Pittsburgh led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-6, in shots on goal.

The Pens held the advantage in giveaways (5-1), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while both teams had four takeaways each.

Neither team had seen any time on the power play entering the middle frame.

Just 11 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (11) capitalized on a rebound from his usual spot in the bumper to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted effort.

Bergeron tied Rick Middleton for the fourth most points (898) in a Bruins uniform in franchise history as a result of his goal. In 1,123 career games, Bergeron has 363-535–898 totals– all with Boston– while Middleton recorded 402-496–898 totals in 881 games as a Bruin from 1976-88.

34 seconds later, Pastrnak (15) buried a shot from the slot after the puck bounced off of Ritchie due to an initial shot by Krejci from the point to give the B’s their first lead of the afternoon, 2-1.

Ritchie (9) and Krejci (21) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal 45 seconds into the second period.

As a result of his secondary assist on the goal, Krejci reached 500 career NHL assists in his 941st game (all with Boston). Pastrnak made sure the puck was delivered to the Bruins’ bench for future display purposes in the Krejci household.

The Bruins did not hold the lead for long, however, as Jake Guentzel (16) scored on a close-range one-timer as he was fed by a backhand pass from Sidney Crosby while the Penguins captain was skating behind the net in “Gretzky’s office”.

Crosby (27) and Brian Dumoulin (5) tabbed assists on Guentzel’s goal as the score was evened, 2-2, at 2:45 of the second period.

On an ensuing play in Boston’s defensive zone, McAvoy closed his hand on the puck in the crease and received an automatic delay of game minor infraction for (you guessed it) closing his hand on the puck at 4:45.

Pittsburgh’s first power play of the afternoon went right to work as Crosby setup Guentzel into the slot who then passed the puck to Jared McCann (9) for the one-timer past Halak’s blocker side as the Bruins goaltender dove from left to right in the crease.

Guentzel (21) and Crosby (28) had the assists on McCann’s power-play goal at 5:11 and the Pens grabbed a, 3-2, lead in the action.

Midway through the period, Pittsburgh and Boston swapped penalties when Sam Lafferty caught Clifton with an elbow at 9:59 and Grzelcyk tripped Cody Ceci at 10:20, resulting in 1:40 of 4-on-4 action before the Penguins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

Neither team scored on the special teams play.

Moments later, however, the Bruins rallied when Marchand (15) sent a catch and release shot while cutting a quick turn in front of DeSmith in the low slot– elevating the puck top-shelf in the process– to tie the game, 3-3, at 14:56.

Grzelcyk (9) and Smith (9) had the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the afternoon.

After a stoppage in play resulted in a slashing minor for Marchand against Kris Letang and a roughing infraction for Letang against Marchand at 15:10, the two clubs resumed 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes, though that didn’t last long.

Boston went on the 4-on-3 advantage when Evan Rodrigues hooked Pastrnak at 16:53.

The Bruins then had 18 seconds on the unconventional 4-on-3 power play before yielding an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

While on the ensuing power play, Boston whipped the puck around the zone before Pastrnak sent it to Marchand who whizzed a shot pass through the slot to Krejci (2) for the redirection from the edge of the crease to the left of DeSmith.

The Bruins re-took the lead, 4-3, as Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (14) were credited with assists on Krejci’s power-play goal at 18:29.

Boston was not done scoring, however, as Marchand (16) received an indirect pass from McAvoy from the slot off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone that bounced from Smith to No. 63 in black and gold (or, gold and black, as it were, since the Bruins donned their Reverse Retro jerseys on Saturday), before sending another catch and release shot past DeSmith.

Smith (10) and McAvoy (18) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the afternoon and the Bruins led, 5-3, at 19:40– marking three unanswered goals for Boston to finish off the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Penguins, 18-17, in shots on goal, despite holding an, 11-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (9-7), hits (23-17) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and giveaways (10-2) through 40 minutes of action.

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Ceci (3) opened the scoring in the third period after Boston failed to clear their own zone and Jankowski sent a pass to the wide-open Penguins defender to bring Pittsburgh to within one at 4:38.

Jankowski (4) and Lafferty (5) had the assists as the Pens trailed, 5-4.

Midway through the final frame, Ritchie made a hit at the attacking zone blue line to take possession of the puck and generate a 2-on-1 advantage for the Bruins on the break-in.

Ritchie fed Pastrnak (16) a pass across the slot for another catch and release goal– this time over DeSmith’s glove side to make it, 6-4, for Boston.

Ritchie (10) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game at 13:28 of the third period.

With 2:25 remaining in the action, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Letang, in the meantime, had other ideas and hooked Pastrnak and cut a rut to the penalty box at 17:49.

After clearing their own zone, Pittsburgh once again pulled DeSmith for an extra skater, whereby Crosby (15) mustered a soft goal through Halak to pull the Penguins to within one goal once more at 18:45.

Guentzel (22) had the only assist on Crosby’s shorthanded goal and the Pens trailed, 6-5.

Sullivan used his timeout on the ensuing stoppage with 1:15 remaining in the action to drum up a plan.

On the resulting center-ice faceoff, Bergeron may have caught Crosby in the sternum with an inadvertent butt-end while pulling the puck back from the dot as Crosby brushed Bergeron’s visor before Bergeron made the turn.

Crosby whipped his head back and fell to the ice, perhaps embellishing (depending on which team you cheer for) what resulted in a four-minute double minor for high sticking for Bergeron, despite no evidence of an injury or blood drawn, while nobody seemed to notice Krejci’s errant stick to McCann’s face that was quite evident in the replay and review of whether or not Bergeron touched Crosby.

Regardless, Bergeron skated to the box at 18:49 and the Penguins went on the power play.

This time, however, Pittsburgh’s power play was powerless as they once again pulled DeSmith for a de facto two-skater advantage, but Marchand (17) sealed the deal on the game’s fate with an empty net goal– scoring a hat trick in the process.

Coyle (5) had the only assist on Marchand’s third goal of the afternooon– marking his first hat trick of the season and his fourth overall in his NHL career– at 18:59 and the B’s led, 7-5.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-5, and finished even in total shots on goal, 28-28, despite leading, 11-10, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the afternoon leading in blocked shots (8-7), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (60-40), while the Penguins finished Saturday’s effort leading in giveaways (12-3).

Both teams finished 1/3 on the power play in the matinée action.

The Bruins improved to 7-7-2 (4-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Penguins fell to 13-4-1 (5-3-0 on the road) when scoring first in 2020-21.

Boston also improved to 5-6-2 (3-2-0 at home) when trailing after one and 11-0-1 (7-0-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh dropped to 12-3-1 (2-2-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 4-8-1 (2-7-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

The Bruins wrap up their seven-game homestand (3-2-1) next Monday (April 5th) against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for a three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia again.

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DeSmith, Pens, down B’s, 4-1

Casey DeSmith backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to a, 4-1, victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at TD Garden in what was Pittsburgh’s first win in Boston since Nov. 24, 2014.

DeSmith (9-3-0, 1.84 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in 14 games played) made 30 saves on 31 shots against in the win for the Penguins.

Bruins goaltender, Dan Vladar (2-1-0, 2.05 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 19 out of 22 shots faced in the loss.

Pittsburgh improved to 24-11-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Boston dropped to 18-10-5 (41 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the division.

The Bruins also fell to 3-2-0 against the Pens this season.

Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Thursday, while Sean Kuraly was removed from league protocol on Wednesday and took part in an optional morning skate on Thursday.

Kase also took part in the optional morning skate, while DeBrusk skated on his own at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday morning for the first time since entering COVID protocol on March 19th.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, left his lines intact from Tuesday night’s, 5-4, shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils, rendering Kuraly as a healthy scratch, along with Chris Wagner, Jack Studnicka, Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi.

Moore, Kase, Rask, DeBrusk and Miller remained out due to injury, while Callum Booth was part of Boston’s taxi squad.

Greg McKegg, meanwhile, was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday with Jeremy Swayman, who was briefly called up to the taxi squad and reassigned.

Brian Dumoulin delivered a cross check to David Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with the first power play of the night at 10:59 of the first period.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and neither team was penalized further, nor scored a goal in the opening frame.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led in shots on goal, 7-2, while the scoreboard was even at, 0-0.

The B’s led in blocked shots (8-6), hits (12-6) and faceoff win percentage (55-45), while the Pens led in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (3-1) after 20 minutes of play.

Pittsburgh had yet to see any action on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

The Bruins tweeted prior to puck drop on the second period that defender, Brandon Carlo, would not return to Thursday night’s game with an upper body injury.

Carlo had missed 10 games this season with an upper body injury that he sustained on March 5th against the Washington Capitals prior to returning to the lineup in Tuesday night’s win against New Jersey.

Jeremy Lauzon was also not on the bench to start the middle period, but returned shortly after the second period was underway after being cut by a skate late in the opening frame.

Meanwhile, early in the period, Zach Aston-Reese (8) capitalized on a rush– redirecting a pass from Brandon Tanev past Vladar low on the glove side.

Tanev (9) and Frederick Gaudreau (3) tallied the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 2:01 of the second period.

Midway through the period, Mike Matheson (3) went post-to-post on a wraparound break-in and gave Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Anthony Angello (2) and Cody Ceci (6) had the assists on Matheson’s goal and the Pens led, 2-0, at 13:12.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday night, Pittsburgh was in command, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 17-15, in shots on goal, despite Boston leading, 13-10, in shots in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), hits (27-13) and faceoff win% (55-45), while the Penguins led in takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (5-3).

Boston was still 0/1 on the power play, while Pittsburgh awaited their first taste of the skater advantage in the action.

The Penguins went on the power play when Lauzon caught Bryan Rust without the puck and was assessed an interference minor 31 seconds into the third period.

Though Brad Marchand and Kris Letang exchanged pleasantries about half-a-minute later, Marchand’s ensuing roughing infraction was matched by Letang’s holding minor, thereby leaving the Pens on the 5-on-4 advantage at 1:03 of the final frame.

Pittsburgh did not score on the skater advantage.

Matt Grzelcyk went down the tunnel after catching an errant puck off the helmet with 13:24 remaining in the action.

Moments later, Marchand (14) scored a one-timer off of a pass that deflected off of Ceci’s stick from Patrice Bergeron through the slot.

Bergeron (18) and Jakub Zboril (7) had the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins trailed, 2-1, at 11:14 of the third period.

Less than two minutes later– in a span of 1:53, to be exact– Jason Zucker (5) put the Penguins ahead by two-goals once again after Pastrnak’s self-pass in traffic in the neutral zone was botched and led to a turnover, yielding a one-timer for Zucker while Grzelcyk (back from his trip down the tunnel) pressured Evan Rodrigues and Vladar was caught a little too far out of the crease in effort to cut down on Rodrigues’ shooting angle.

Instead, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, on Zucker’s goal with assists from Rodrigues (4) and Marcus Pettersson (3) at 13:07.

With 3:09 remaining in the game, Cassidy pulled Vladar for an extra attacker.

It wasn’t long before Jake Guentzel (15) used geometry to his advantage and angled the puck off of the boards and into the open twine from about the center red line.

Letang (22) and Sidney Crosby (26) had the assists on Guentzel’s empty net goal and the Penguins led, 4-1, at 17:51/

Mark Jankowski was penalized for holding at 18:44, yielding one final power play to Boston, but despite pulling their netminder once again with 1:16 remaining in the game, the Bruins fell flat.

At the final horn, Pittsburgh had won, 4-1, despite trailing Boston in the final shot total, 31-23, including a, 16-6, advantage for the B’s in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the night leading in blocked shots (15-12), hits (35-29) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the Penguins led in giveaways (7-5).

Pittsburgh finished 0/1 and Boston finished 0/2 on the power play on Thursday.

The Bruins dropped to 5-4-1 (2-3-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 4-6-1 (3-4-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh improved to 6-2-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when tied after one period and 14-1-0 (4-0-0 on the road) when leading after the two periods this season.

Boston fell to 6-7-2 (3-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Pens improved to 13-3-1 (5-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal in 2020-21.

The Bruins take on the Penguins once again on Saturday before wrapping up their seven-game homestand (2-2-1) next Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for three games.

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Bergeron notches pair in Boston’s, 4-1, win against Penguins

Patrice Bergeron had a pair of goals to provide some insurance for the Boston Bruins in their, 4-1, win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at TD Garden.

Jaroslav Halak (2-0-1, 1.30 goals against average, .938 save percentage in three games played) made 16 saves on 17 shots against for a .941 SV% in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh goaltender, Tristan Jarry (2-3-1, 3.93 GAA, .859 SV% in six games played), stopped 16 out of 20 shots faced for an .800 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 5-1-1 (11 points) on the season, while the Penguins fell to 4-3-1 (nine points) overall. Boston remained in command of 2nd place, while Pittsburgh remained 4th in the MassMutual NHL East Division.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup from Tuesday night’s, 3-2, overtime win against Pittsburgh.

With Jake DeBrusk (lower body) out of the lineup due to injury, Craig Smith took over the first line right wing spot, while Charlie Coyle moved up to the second line right wing.

Par Lindholm made his season debut on the third line with Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka, while Anders Bjork and Chris Wagner were remained on the wings of Sean Kuraly’s fourth line.

On defense, Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) returned to the second defensive pairing with Brandon Carlo after Grzelcyk missed the last two games due to an injury he sustained on Jan. 21st against the Flyers.

In net, Halak got the start as expected, while Dan Vladar served as Boston’s backup with Tuukka Rask (lower body) in the press box for a night after laboring a bit, but playing through the rest of Tuesday night’s game.

Once more, David Pastrnak (hip) and Ondrej Kase (upper body) missed Thursday night’s action, though the former may make his season debut on Saturday at the earliest.

Pastrnak, Kase, DeBrusk and Rask were out of the lineup due to injury, while John Moore, Connor Clifton, Greg McKegg, Urho Vaakanainen and Callum Booth were all listed as healthy scratches and/or taxi squad members against the Penguins on Thursday.

Jarry tripped up Patrice Bergeron 52 seconds into the first period as the Penguins goaltender reached outside his crease and caught the Bruins captain with his stick while Bergeron was chasing a loose puck in the near vicinity.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Wagner (1) buried a rebound to give the Bruins the, 1-0, lead at 6:10 of the first period. Wagner’s goal was unassisted.

Less than a minute later, Coyle was guilty of holding against Penguins defender, John Marino, and presented Pittsburgh with their first power play opportunity of the night.

The Pens were not successful on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the opening frame, Cody Ceci (1) worked his way into the attacking zone and fired a shot past Halak’s blocker side from the slot to tie the game, 1-1.

Bryan Rust (4) and Teddy Blueger (3) tallied the assists on Ceci’s goal at 15:03 of the first period as the Penguins breathed a sign of life.

It did not last that long.

Bjork sent a chip shot off of Blueger that led to a wacky bounce through Pittsburgh defender, Kevin Czuczman’s legs, before redirecting off of Kuraly and into the twine.

Kuraly (1) was credited with his first goal of the season– having been the last Bruin to touch the rubber biscuit before it ended up in the back of the net– while Bjork (1) had the only assist as the B’s retook the lead, 2-1, at 18:53.

After one period of action in Boston on Thursday, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 9-6, in shots on goal.

The B’s also held the advantage in faceoff win percentage (67-33), while the Pens led in blocked shots (6-3), giveaways (7-2), as well as hits (12-7).

Both teams had two takeaways and were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Bergeron (4) slipped a backhand shot under Jarry’s blocker side while falling to his knees from point blank to extend Boston’s lead to two-goals.

Grzelcyk (3) and Coyle (2) had the assists on Bergeron’s first goal of the night and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 8:13 of the second period.

Moments later, Jeremy Lauzon was called for interference as he knocked Drew O’Connor into Halak away from the puck at 13:40.

Pittsburgh’s power play was powerless as Boston’s penalty kill got the job done.

Grzelcyk cut a rut to the sin bin at 18:35 of the second period after earning an infraction for holding Jake Guentzel.

The Bruins defender went to the box to serve his minor penalty, but would not return for the third period of play, as Boston later tweeted that Grzelcyk would not return to the action with a lower body injury.

Through 40 minutes of play on Thursday, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 16-11, in shots on goal, including a, 7-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (67-33) after two periods, while Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (9-5) and hits (21-15).

The two clubs each had nine giveaways entering the second intermission, while the Penguins were 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins were still 0/1 on the skater advantage.

Less than a minute into the final frame, Marino was assessed an interference minor for tying up Smith away from the puck 55 seconds into the third period.

Late in the ensuing power play, the Bruins worked the puck around the attacking zone in an umbrella formation– Charlie McAvoy to David Krejci, Krejci back to McAvoy, McAvoy to Brad Marchand and finally Marchand to Bergeron at the bumper.

Bergeron (5) one-timed a shot past Jarry to give the Bruins a three-goal lead with a power-play goal at 1:40 of the third period.

Marchand (6) and McAvoy (5) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s power-play goal as the Bruins took a, 4-1, lead in Bergeron’s 47th career two-goal game.

Shots were in short supply in the third period, as was just about everything else on the event sheet as time winded down and the final horn sounded.

Boston won, 4-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 20-17, despite trailing Pittsburgh in shots on goal in the third period alone, 6-4.

The Penguins left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (14-10) and hits (26-20), while the Bruins departed with the victory and the advantage in faceoff win% (63-37).

Both teams had nine blocked shots each after 60 minutes of action.

Pittsburgh finished the night 0/3 on the power play, while Boston went 1/2 on the skater advantage on Thursday.

With the victory assured, the Bruins improved to 4-0-0 when leading after the first period, 4-0-0 when leading after the second period and 4-0-0 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.

Boston is now on a four-game winning streak coinciding with their four-game homestand (4-0-0). The B’s hit the road for a four-game road trip in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia starting on Saturday when they take on former captain, Zdeno Chara, and the Washington Capitals.

The Bruins face the Caps again on Feb. 1st before venturing to the “City of Brotherly Love” to face the Flyers on Feb. 3rd and Feb. 5th.

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Trading Frederik Andersen is the wrong idea

Something’s brewing in Toronto and it’s the annual “let’s talk trading Frederik Andersen because surely he’s the reason for a lack of playoff success as a team in recent years”. Ah, the sight of Maple Leafs in the fall.

Andersen is entering the final year of his five-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs that he signed back on June 20, 20216– shortly after his rights were traded to Canada’s largest city by the Anaheim Ducks for a 2016 1st round pick (Sam Steel) and a conditional 2017 2nd round pick (Maxime Comtois).

His cap hit is a reasonable $5.000 million, but on a roster that’s currently projected to spend $82,549,325– which, you know, is slightly over the league’s $81.5 million upper limit– something’s got to give.

If Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was serious about trading Andersen heading into the season, he likely would’ve found a partner by now and made a deal– regardless of stagnant revenue streams due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But sure, let’s say the Leafs are set on trading Andersen in order to become cap compliant.

First of all, who are you going to get in return?

And second, the playoffs would be out of the picture altogether.

The answer to the first question is easy since most of the free agent goaltenders have been scooped up and Toronto’s not likely to take a flyer on Cory Schneider, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard or Ryan Miller.

In 2010, maybe. In 2020, definitely not.

None of those goalies had a goals against average better than 3.10 or a save percentage better than a .907.

One of those goalies, however, had those stats exactly and it’s the one that spent last season as a backup in 23 games with the Anaheim Ducks (Miller).

Naturally, Dubas would have to look to trade Andersen instead, which means you might be looking at a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights for Marc-Andre Fleury or (let’s get crazy) send Andersen back to the team that originally drafted him before he re-entered the draft and was taken by the Ducks in the 3rd round (87th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft– the Carolina Hurricanes.

Why the Hurricanes? Because James Reimer, of course.

Andersen had a 29-13-7 record in 52 games last season (all starts), while amassing a 2.85 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and three shutouts in the process.

Though he recorded two more shutouts in 2019-20 than he did in 2018-19, his goals against average and save percentage were worse than his 2.77 GAA and .917 SV% in 60 games two season’s ago.

It’s important to remember, however, that in Toronto had guys like Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev on the blue line to help suppress the oncoming attack in 2018-19.

Hainsey joined the Ottawa Senators in free agency on July 1, 2019, while Zaitsev was packaged with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with (you guessed it) the Senators on the same day for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick that originated from the Columbus Blue Jackets (Alex Laferriere).

The Leafs made the trade to save $4.500 million in cap space that they then turned around and gave to Ceci. Kind of.

Trading Zaitsev wasn’t necessarily about saving money in the immediate future as much as it was about lopping off his contract from the books before his modified no-trade clause kicked in.

The now 29-year-old Russian defender is under contract through the 2023-24 season with Ottawa, whereas Ceci was a restricted free agent at the time and agreed to a one-year deal with the Leafs.

Dubas had to protect his club’s ability to integrate young prospects on the blue line and remain competitive in future trade or free agent markets, so Zaitsev was a casualty of league parity.

That, or fans, coaches and media members alike were tired of watching him in Toronto.

Meanwhile, the Leafs went in a different direction for their blue line last season with the additions of Ceci in the Zaitsev trade and Tyson Barrie at a discount as their alleged biggest prize in the Nazem Kadri trade with the Colorado Avalanche.

While Sens fans knew what Toronto was getting themselves into with Ceci’s playing ability as a bottom-pairing defender, Barrie experienced a significant drop-off in his game.

Barrie amassed 14-45–59 points in 78 games with Colorado in back-to-back seasons with at least 55 points before the trade and was a minus-3 in 2018-19. He put up 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with Toronto and was a minus-7.

For the record, Ceci had 7-19–26 totals in 74 games with the Sens and was a minus-22 in 2018-19, then mustered eight points (one goal, seven asissts) in 56 games with the Leafs– but at least he was a plus-7.

So it’s not entirely Andersen’s fault for instability in front of him.

The defensive depth wasn’t the same from 2018-19 to 2019-20 in front of Andersen, and, of course, Toronto fired Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe as head coach after Fleury made a big save on Nov. 19, 2019 in Vegas.

Which is actually the perfect segue back to what it would mean for the Leafs to trade Andersen.

If Dubas flipped Andersen to the Golden Knights for Fleury strictly because of the “playoff experience” narrative, well, it’s worth noting that despite his improved performance from 2019’s 3-4 record, 2.70 GAA, .909 SV% and one shutout in seven games to 2020’s 3-1 record, 2.27 GAA and .910 SV% in four games, Robin Lehner still outperformed Fleury.

Lehner amassed a 9-7 record in 16 games for Vegas in the 2020 postseason with a 1.99 GAA, a .917 SV% and four shutouts in that span.

Andersen is 31, while Fleury is 36.

In simple terms, one is still in their goaltending prime and the other is in the twilight of his playing days– even if he is able to return to form after the second-straight season of faltering numbers.

Fleury’s first season in Vegas saw him rock a 29-13-4 record in 46 games with a 2.24 GAA, .927 SV% and four shutouts despite missing time due to injury.

In 2018-19, Fleury was overplayed. He notched a respectable 35-21-5 record, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% and eight shutouts in 61 games, but couldn’t remain hot enough against the San Jose Sharks in the 2019 First Round.

In 2019-20, Gerard Gallant and, later, Peter DeBoer handled his number of games better, playing Fleury 49 times, but the 36-year-old netminder amassed a 27-16-5 record with a 2.77 GAA, .905 SV% and five shutouts.

Season-by-season, Fleury has shown signs of regressing.

Even if he is able to win one more Cup, his role on that team is likely best suited as the backup, if not at least in the 1B role of a 1A/1B tandem.

In his last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Fleury faced 4,677 shots against and made 4,292 saves (.918 SV%) while amassing 16 shutouts from 2014-17.

In his first three seasons with the Golden Knights, Fleury’s faced 4,520 shots and made 4,135 saves (.915 SV%) while racking up 17 shutouts.

The ageless wonder would be a great addition to the Maple Leafs if Toronto could only have Andersen and Fleury.

But there’s a little pesky number that ruins any hope of swinging a deal unless Dubas is willing to part with larger pieces in a true “hockey trade”.

It’s Fleury’s cap hit.

He carries a price tag of $7.000 million against the salary cap through next season (2021-22) and, like Andersen, has a modified no-trade clause.

Vegas is also feeling the stress of the salary cap, considering they’re currently on the books for $82,474,104 and need to dump salary before the season can likely begin in January.

No, Max Pacioretty’s $7.000 million cap hit or Jonathan Marchessault’s $5.000 million cap hit won’t do the Leafs any favors if Toronto somehow decided they’d be fine with Dubas including a piece of their core– like Mitch Marner’s $10.893 million cap hit, for example– in the hypothetical transaction.

Both teams would still be over the cap unless they’d be able to make separate trades elsewhere to shed salary.

Even still, if someone is trying to pry Fleury from Vegas, they’re likely asking the Golden Knights to retain some salary or involve a third team in the deal for that sole purpose.

So if Fleury’s out, what about Reimer? You know, the last guy to bring “stability” to the crease in Toronto before Andersen.

Reimer hasn’t posted a sub-2.50 goals against average since his 2.49 with the Maple Leafs in 32 games prior to being traded to the Sharks ahead of the 2016 trade deadline.

He also hasn’t bested his .918 SV% from the time he spent with the Leafs that season.

It might be tempting to resort to Reimer as a starter, but he’s been worse than Andersen at a fraction of the workload that the current Leafs starter gets from year-to-year.

Thanks to the pandemic shortened regular season last year, Andersen played under 60 games for the first time since his days in Anaheim.

Toronto’s defense is nothing like Carolina’s defense.

Despite Reimer’s impressive 14-6-2 record in 25 games with the Hurricanes last season, there’s no guarantees he’d be able to match that or better with Morgan Rielly taking on the roles of Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and Co. combined for the Maple Leafs.

Besides, Jack Campbell’s 3-2-1 record in six games with Toronto last season came with a 2.63 GAA and a .915 SV%, which, on its own is about the same as Reimer’s 2.66 GAA and .914 SV% with the Canes last season, but at a cheaper price for a backup caliber goaltender (Campbell is signed through 2021-22 at $1.650 million per season, while Reimer is a pending-UFA at season’s end with a $3.400 million cap hit).

But remember Campbell spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings and Maple Leafs and finished 2019-20 with a combined 11-12-3 record in 26 games for Los Angeles and Toronto, while amassing a 2.80 GAA and a .904 SV% in the process.

Unless Dubas signed Michael Hutchinson and Aaron Dell to compete with Campbell and (hypothetically) Reimer to save some money by trading Andersen this season, then Toronto’s goaltending woes would only get worse.

That’s right, we haven’t even started talking about who the eventual “goalie of the future” might be for the Leafs, but that’s a subject for another time (spoiler alert: the jury is out on that one for now).

It’s ride or die with Andersen this season.

And next summer’s free agent goalie market doesn’t look like it’s any better.

Unless a familiar Maple Leafs draft pick returns to Toronto, but he still wears No. 40 on the Boston Bruins for now.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #204- Late For Everything!

Nick and Colby talk about what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams eliminated in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier, as well as preview the already in progress 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round.

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Podcasts

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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Podcasts

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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Podcasts

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.

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Podcasts

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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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Toronto Maple Leafs 2019-20 Season Preview

Toronto Maple Leafs

46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Boston

Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)

Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)

Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy

Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson

Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.

Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.

Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.

This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.

Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.

At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.

Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.

Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.

Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.

Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.

He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.

Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.

Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.

Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.

In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.

In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.

Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.

As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.

Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.

For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.

Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.

The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.

And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.

But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.

The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.

To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.

Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.

Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.

But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.

The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.

One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…

At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.

Offseason Grade: B-

The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.

Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.