Tag Archives: Colorado Avalanche

2019-20 Atlantic Division Outlook

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

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Atlantic Division

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

Tampa Bay Lightning: Pros and Cons

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

You know what they say when you assume.

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

Nothing is willed without hard work and humility.

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

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

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

How would the Lightning fail?

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

Boston Bruins: Pros and Cons

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

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

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

Injuries come and go.

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

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

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

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

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

How would the Bruins fail?

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

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pros and Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would the Leafs fail?

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

Florida Panthers: Pros and Cons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would the Panthers fail?

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

Montreal Canadiens: Pros and Cons

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

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

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

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

That’s not a bad thing.

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

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

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

How would the Canadiens fail?

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

Detroit Red Wings: Pros and Cons

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

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

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

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

How would the Red Wings fail?

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

Ottawa Senators: Pros and Cons

The Senators are looking to spend ba-by.

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

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

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

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

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

How would the Senators fail?

More importantly, how would Ottawa succeed?

Buffalo Sabres: Pros and Cons

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

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

Pro: Only eight skaters are under contract next season.

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

Pro: Marcus Johansson!

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

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

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

Pro: Royal blue in 2020!

Con: It’s not until 2020.

How would the Sabres fail?

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

DTFR Podcast #165- Where’s My Cottage Invite?

Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.

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DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

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DTFR Podcast #163- Cap’n Crunch

The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.

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DTFR Podcast #161- Battle For Gloria (Part Three- The Games Are Happening Part)

The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.

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Krug, Bruins, rout Blues, 7-2, in Game 3

Torey Krug had a four-point night (goal, three assists)– setting a franchise record for most points in a Stanley Cup Final game– and Patrice Bergeron had a three-point night (goal, two assists) as the Boston Bruins stomped the St. Louis Blues, 7-2, in Game 3 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.

Boston improved to 7-2 on the road this postseason and established a franchise record for most wins on the road in a playoff year.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (14-6 record, 1.91 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played this postseason) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced (.931 SV%) in the win at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Blues starting goaltender, Jordan Binnington (13-9, 2.54 GAA, .909 SV% in 22 games played this postseason) turned aside 14 shots out of 19 shots against (.737 SV%) before being replaced by Jake Allen after 32:12 TOI.

Allen (0-0, 2.50 GAA, .750 SV% in one game played this postseason) made three saves on four shots against for no decision in relief for the first time this postseason for St. Louis.

The Bruins lead the series 2-1 for the fourth time in franchise history in the Final, winning two of their previous three such instances.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, replaced Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) with John Moore on the left side of the third defensive pairing, while keeping the rest of his lineup intact from Games 1 and 2.

Grzelcyk is day-to-day and joins Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) as the only Boston skaters out of the lineup due to injury.

The B’s long list of healthy scratches for Game 3 included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Craig Berube inserted Zach Sanford into his lineup in place of Oskar Sundqvist– who served a one-game suspension in Game 3 for his hit on Grzelcyk in Game 2.

Jake DeBrusk was first to put his name on the even sheet for kneeing Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, at 1:02 of the first period. St. Louis did not convert on the ensuing power play, despite mustering four shots on goal during the skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, David Perron was penalized for interference at 10:26 of the first period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on their first power play of the night as Krug fired a pass from the point that Bergeron (9) redirected over Binnington’s glove and into the twine for his 7th power play goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Krug (12) and DeBrusk (6) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 10:47 of the first period.

The goal was also Bergeron’s 100th career playoff point (all with Boston)– joining current teammate, David Krejci, as the only other Bruin to do so this postseason.

Bergeron’s 100th career postseason point also tied him for 4th in franchise history with John Bucyk and Rick Middleton. He added a pair of assists thereafter to move into a tie with Phil Esposito for 2nd place in franchise history in Stanley Cup Playoff points (102).

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play, Ivan Barbashev and Connor Clifton exchanged pleasantries, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction for Barbashev and a roughing minor for Clifton at 14:22.

Both teams skated at even-strength, 4-on-4, for two minutes before resuming 5-on-5 action.

Charlie Coyle resurrected the puck from his own zone and started a breakout the other way for Boston, leading Danton Heinen with a pass into the attacking zone.

Heinen dropped the puck back to Marcus Johansson, who flipped it over to Coyle (8) who settled the puck and sent a shot past Binnington’s glove side for the two-goal lead.

Johansson (7) and Heinen (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 17:40 of the first period.

A couple minutes later, Joakim Nordstrom tied up a St. Louis skater from clearing the zone enough for Sean Kuraly (4) to swoop in, pick up the puck and fire one by the blocker side of the Blues goaltender.

Nordstrom (4) had the only assist on Kuraly’s goal at 19:50 and Boston led, 3-0.

Berube used his coach’s challenge, asking for an official review of the goal for a potential offside, but the video review determined that Joel Edmundson was the last to touch the puck as it re-entered Boston’s offensive zone– thereby lending the play onside leading up to Kuraly’s goal.

As a result of the failed coach’s challenge, St. Louis was charged with a bench minor for delay of game.

Perron served the Blues’ bench infraction at 19:50 and the power play would carry over into the second period for Boston.

After one period of action, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-8, in shots on goal– including three goals on their last four shots to finish the first period.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (4-2), hits (16-14) and face-off win percentage (60-40) through 20 minutes of play, while the Blues led in takeaways (5-3) and giveaways (4-0).

St. Louis was 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/2 on the power play heading into the second period.

While still on the power play from the end of the first period, the Bruins worked the puck deep into the low slot whereby David Pastrnak (8) dragged the rubber biscuit to his backhand and elevated the puck over Binnington’s leg pad for Boston’s second power play goal of the night.

Krug (13) and Bergeron (6) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 4-0, 41 seconds into the second period.

Pastrnak’s goal marked four goals on their last six shots for Boston.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Charlie McAvoy slashed Brayden Schenn and Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon received matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 7:37 of the second period.

As a result, the Blue Notes were on the regular 5-on-4 power play and were not able to score on the skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Sanford found Barbashev (3) as Barbashev crashed the low slot, point blank, for a one-timer off of McAvoy’s skate and into the twine to put St. Louis on the scoreboard.

Sanford (1) and Alexander Steen (3) notched the assists on the goal and the Blues cut the lead to, 4-1, at 11:05. With the primary assist on Barbashev’s goal, Sanford recorded his first career Stanley Cup Final point in his first career Stanley Cup Final game.

Less than a minute later, Colton Parayko caught Brad Marchand with a high-stick at 11:41 and took a trip to the sin bin, giving the Bruins their third power play opportunity Saturday night.

It didn’t take long for Krug (2) to riffle a shot off of Jay Bouwmeester’s skate and behind Binnington’s glove to give Boston another power play goal and the four-goal lead once again.

Marchand (12) and Bergeron (7) had the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 12:12 and the B’s led, 5-1.

As a result, Berube pulled Binnington for the first time this postseason (as well as the first time in his NHL career) and replaced the St. Louis starter with Allen.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 5-1, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal– despite trailing the Blues, 10-8, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The B’s led in blocked shots (11-5) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while St. Louis led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (5-4) and hits (27-25).

The Blues were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period, while the Bruins were 3/3.

Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, Perron piled up another couple of penalty minutes for roughing Rask 54 seconds into the third period.

Not to be outdone, however, in the ensuing scrum after the whistle, Clifton picked up a minor infraction for cross-checking, resulting in 4-on-4 action that was shortlived Brandon Carlo cut a rut to the penalty box for interference at 1:31 of the third period.

As a result, St. Louis had an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play for about 1:23, then a short, 5-on-4, regular power play.

The Blues did not convert on either skater advantage, but had another chance on the advantage moments later when Chara roughed Carl Gunnarsson at 5:18 of the third period.

Six seconds into the ensuing power play, Parayko (2) blasted a shot that deflected off Carlo and over Rask’s shoulder into the twine to give St. Louis their first power play goal of the series and cut the lead to three goals.

Ryan O’Reilly (13) and Tyler Bozak (7) had the assists on Parayko’s goal at 5:24, and the Blues trailed, 5-2.

Almost a minute later, DeBrusk sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 6:04.

This time, St. Louis had nothing going on while on the power play.

With 5:31 remaining in regulation, Berube pulled Allen for an extra attacker, then pulled him again with about 4:00 to go after a defensive zone face-off.

As the clock ticked under two minutes left in the game, Noel Acciari (2) received a pass through the neutral zone from Nordstrom and buried the puck into the empty net to give the B’s the four-goal lead once again.

Nordstrom (5) and Coyle (7) tallied the assists on Acciari’s empty net goal and the Bruins led, 6-2, at 18:12 of the third period.

While scoring the empty net goal, Acciari was slashed by Pietrangelo, yielding the fourth power play of the night for Boston.

Johansson (4) scored on a one-timer off a give-and-go along the point to Krug and back– beating Allen on the short side– to extend the lead to five goals, 7-2, for the Bruins.

Krug (14) and Clifton (3) had the assists on Johansson’s power play goal at 18:35 as the B’s notched seven goals on their last 15 shots on goal in Game 3.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-2, and taken the 2-1 series lead on road ice, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-24.

St. Louis also led in giveaways (7-4) and hits (35-29), while the B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (19-7) and face-off win% (56-44).

The Blues finished Saturday night 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Meanwhile, the Bruins went 4/4 on the power play in Game 3 and have scored a power play goal in seven straight games (tying a franchise record– 10 power play goals in seven games this postseason, eight PPGs in seven games in 1999, 11 PPGs in seven games in 1988 and 12 PPGs in seven games in 1958).

Though he blocked a shot late in the third period and went down the tunnel, McAvoy is fine, according to Cassidy.

The four power play goals for Boston in Game 3 were the most in a Stanley Cup Final game since the Colorado Avalanche scored four power play goals in Game 2 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final in Denver against the Florida Panthers.

The team that scored first lost in Game 1 and 2. That wasn’t the case in Game 3 as the Bruins improved to 12-0 when leading after two periods this postseason.

Puck drop for Game 4 at Enterprise Center on Monday is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC and those in Canada have an array of options to choose from, including CBC, SN and TVAS.

DTFR Podcast #159- Battle For Gloria (Part One)

Nick and Pete recap the Ottawa Senators coaching hire, two extensions, the latest rumors and the 2019 Western Conference Final while teasing their 2019 Stanley Cup Final preview.

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

DTFR Podcast #157- Play Gloria, You Jerks

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

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

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.

The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.

Anybody see that coming? No?

But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.

Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.

The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.

As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.

St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.

They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.

Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.

Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.

Sound familiar?

That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.

This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.

Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?

There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.

San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.

But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.

Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.

General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.

Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.

DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.

San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.

Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).

Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.

St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.

Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.

Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.

Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.

Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.

Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.

Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.

The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.


The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.

Though Donskoi hasn’t scored as much, the Sharks have a deeper team than in 2016 and are a younger bunch– what with the lack of Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on their roster– this time around.

St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.

That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.

This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.

Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th

Schedule:

5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS

5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*

5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS

*If necessary

DTFR Podcast #156- Second Round Surge

Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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