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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins’ best home winning streak to start a season in 30 years ends

The Edmonton Oilers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to rout the Boston Bruins, 5-3, at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Leon Draisaitl scored the game-tying and game-winning goals before Cody Ceci added an insurance marker for good measure, while Mikko Koskinen (8-1-0, 2.59 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in nine games played) made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the win for the Oilers.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (3-3-0, 3.01 goals-against average, .903 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 23 out of 28 shots faced in the loss.

Boston fell to 6-5-0 (12 points) overall and stuck in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton remained atop the Pacific Division with a 10-2-0 record and 20 points on the season.

Nick Foligno and Anton Blidh returned from their upper-body injuries that kept Foligno out for the last eight games and Blidh out for the last seven games, respectively.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted Foligno on the second line right wing slot– bumping Craig Smith down to the third line with Jack Studnicka having been reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) for a little seasoning.

Blidh, meanwhile, was slotted into the fourth line left wing role in place of Trent Frederic (upper body) who missed Thursday’s action as a result of an injury sustained in Tuesday night’s, 3-2, win against the Ottawa Senators.

Jakub Zboril and Karson Kuhlman served as Boston’s healthy scratches against the Oilers.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored Colby Cave (1994-2020) with a tribute video and a moment of silence before Emily Cave dropped the ceremonial first puck and administered long hugs for each team’s captain before hugging a few more Oilers players and the entire Bruins bench.

About a minute into Thursday night’s action, Draisaitl tripped Brad Marchand and presented the Bruins with the first power play opportunity of the game at 1:02 of the first period.

Boston didn’t convert on the skater advantage, however, but took advantage of the vulnerable minute after as Patrice Bergeron sent a tape-to-tape pass to David Pastrnak, leading Pastrnak (4) into the attacking zone with Oilers defender, Duncan Keith, trailing before firing a shot from the dot through Koskinen’s five-hole to put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.

Bergeorn (5) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal at 4:45 of the first period.

The lead didn’t last long for the B’s as Evan Bouchard (2) snuck in from the point and wired a shot from the slot over Ullmark’s glove, off the bar and in– tying the game, 1-1, in the process 44 seconds after Pastrnak scored for Boston.

Draisaitl (14) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (15) tallied the assists on Bouchard’s goal at 5:29 of the first period.

Midway through the period, Connor Clifton sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction while trying to clear his own zone at 10:50.

Edmonton did not score on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the period, Slater Koekkoek cut a rut to the sin bin for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage at 17:30.

Heading into the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Oilers led in shots on goal, 9-7.

Edmonton also held the advantage in takeaways (4-2), while Boston led in blocked shots (4-1), hits (19-9) and faceoff win percentage (73-27). Both teams had three giveaways each.

The Oilers were 0/1 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play after one period.

Pastrnak protected the puck in the attacking zone early in the middle period before sending an attempted pass for Bergeron through the slot, but the play was broken up by Bouchard before bouncing to Marchand (6), who promptly pounced on the loose puck and scored from the low slot.

Bergeron (6) and Pastrnak (6) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-1, at 5:06 of the second period.

The goal moved Marchand (731) into sole possession of the eighth-most points scored in a Bruins uniform, surpassing David Krejci (730) in the process.

Wayne Cashman (793 points with Boston) is seventh on the list ahead of Marchand.

Just like they did in the first period, though, the Oilers found a way to score within a minute after the Bruins pulled ahead– only this time Edmonton did it 24 seconds after Marchand’s goal as Zach Hyman (8) received a pass from Connor McDavid, skated past three Bruins players and scored on a quick flip to tie the game.

McDavid (15) had the only assist as Edmonton tied it, 2-2, at 5:30 of the second period.

A few minutes later, Koekkoek went back to the box– this time for tripping Marchand– at 8:42, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting power play.

Late in the middle frame, Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff and sent the puck back to Matt Grzelcyk at the point.

Grzelcyk sent a “D-to-D” pass along the blue line to Brandon Carlo (1), who rocketed a slap shot off of Koskinen’s glove and into the twine to give the Bruins a, 3-2, lead at 17:14.

Grzelcyk (2) and Bergeron (6) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s first goal of the season.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 18-16, in shots on goal, including an, 11-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (27-25) and faceoff win% (67-33), while the Oilers led in giveaways (6-4). Both teams had four takeaways each.

Edmonton was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Marchand held Darnell Nurse and was sent to the box at 1:28 of the third period as a result, but the Oilers couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Edmonton started to capitalize on a shift in momentum, plus quite a few defensive lapses in Bruins players’ judgment.

Carlo lost the rubber biscuit while second-guessing a pass to his defensive partner– softly giving the puck away to Draisaitl (11) instead for an unassisted goal from close range as No. 29 in an Oilers road jersey buried a shot past Ullmark’s glove with a blast.

Draisaitl’s first goal of the game tied things up, 3-3, at 6:22 of the third period.

About a few minutes later, Edmonton won an attacking zone faceoff back to the point where Keith tossed the puck to Ceci as he crept in before sending a shot pass for Draisaitl (12) to redirect from the slot to give the Oilers their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 9:26 of the third period.

Ceci (2) and Keith (3) had the assists as Edmonton tied the game and took the lead in a span of 3:04.

In the closing minutes of Thursday night’s action, Ullmark sent the puck along the boards up to Clifton around the goal line, whereby Clifton promptly banked it inadvertently off of Bouchard, resulting in a mad scramble in front of Boston’s own net.

Though Ullmark made the initial save, a rebound that no Bruin could settle on their stick and clear the zone led to Ceci (1) waltzing in with an easy shot from the point at a mostly empty net to cement Edmonton’s victory with a, 5-3, lead.

Ceci’s goal was unassisted at 17:41 of the third period.

With less than two minute remaining in the action, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but it was all for naught as the final horn sounded– signaling a, 5-3, win for the Oilers, despite Boston finishing the night leading in shots on goal, 29-28.

Edmonton held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone, 12-11, and exited the building leading in blocked shots (8-7), while the Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in giveaways (9-8), hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (67-33).

The Oilers finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

The B’s fell to 5-3-0 (4-1-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 0-3-0 (0-1-0 at home) when tied after the first period and 4-1-0 (3-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Edmonton, meanwhile, improved to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when tied after one and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins travel to Prudential Center for a Saturday matinee road game against the New Jersey Devils before returning home to host the Montréal Canadiens on Sunday for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Boston then has five days off before their next road game in Philadelphia on Nov. 20th.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-19-2, 72 points

2nd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Winnipeg

Additions: F Warren Foegele (acquired from CAR), F Zach Hyman, F Brendan Perlini, F Derek Ryan, F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO), F Tim Soderlund (acquired from CHI), D Cody Ceci, D Duncan Keith (acquired from CHI)

Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Tyler Ennis (signed to a PTO with OTT), F Joseph Gambardella (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Gaëtan Haas (NL), F Dominik Kahun (NL), F Jujhar Khaira (signed with CHI), F James Neal (buyout), F Joakim Nygård (SHL), F Alan Quine (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Patrick Russell (SHL), F Anton Slepyshev (KHL), D Ethan Bear (traded to CAR), D Caleb Jones (traded to CHI), D Dmitry Kulikov (signed with MIN), D Adam Larsson (expansion, SEA), D Theodor Lennström (KHL), G Dylan Wells (traded to CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Alex Chiasson

Re-signed: F Tyler Benson, F Cooper Marody, F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F Devin Shore, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Tyson Barrie, D Slater Koekkoek, G Stuart Skinner, G Mike Smith

Offseason Analysis: The second-best team in the Scotia NHL North Division would’ve been the fourth-best team in the other three divisions last season.

No matter what, the Oilers would’ve been a playoff team in 2020-21, but it’s the embarrassment that came with being swept in the 2021 First Round by the Winnipeg Jets and subsequent offseason moves that have left many scratching their heads.

Instead of overreacting and making big, sweeping, changes, Edmonton went for a big piece and a few smaller moves that still ate up their valuable cap space in the midst of a flat salary cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

So really it’s just more of the same from the Oilers.

Let’s start with the good news…

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie are back and solidify some semblance of depth for Edmonton with Nugent-Hopkins on an affordable eight-year extension worth $5.125 million per season– the Oilers will have a surefire center on the second or third line for years to come.

The 28-year-old was Edmonton’s 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games last season after reaching the 60-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2018-19 through 2019-20.

Had there been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, Nugent-Hopkins likely would’ve at least eclipsed the 50-point mark.

At 5-foot-8, 135-pounds, Yamamoto has a lot in common with guys like Martin St. Louis in his stature and– like St. Louis– is better off developing on his own as he had 8-13–21 totals in 52 games in his first full season run with the Oilers last season.

Though he made his league debut in 2017-18, Yamamoto has only been utilized by Edmonton sparingly in parts of three seasons leading up to his full-time status in 2020-21.

His game should be fine in due time, though offering him a supporting cast (a theme for the Oilers in general) would be fine.

After he had 59 points in 78 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19, Barrie was shipped as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that, well, didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations in Toronto.

Barrie’s production from the point plummeted to 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.

He joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last October and bounced back with an admirable 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 56 games.

He had 25 points on the power play in his last season in Colorado, then just 12 points as a quarterback on Toronto’s power play unit before rebounding with 23 points from the blue line while on the skater advantage last season for Edmonton.

For his efforts, Barrie was rewarded with a sweet three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and at 29-years-old that’s about right for a defender on the cusp of beginning the eventual decline from a defensive prime.

Zach Hyman joins the Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season, which isn’t completely terrible for a 29-year-old forward in his prime that had 15-18–33 totals in 43 games with the Maple Leafs last season and has reached the 40-point plateau twice before.

As a top-six forward, Hyman is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Art Ross Trophy-winning powerhouse offense (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).

An additional positive from this offseason?

Edmonton’s rid themselves of James Neal via a buyout. Granted, he’ll still be on the books through the 2024-25 season at about a $1.917 million cap penalty, but after parts of two seasons with the Oilers since being acquired for Milan Lucic, at least that branch of franchise history has come to a close.

Neal had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games last season after bouncing back from 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 to 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games for Edmonton in 2019-20.

He’s a shell of his former self, but on a low-risk contract, he could fit in fine just about anywhere else that needs a touch of veteran experience.

Now for the bad stuff that… …isn’t necessarily that bad, it’s just disappointing from the Oilers (who seemingly have chosen to make the Buffalo Sabres look good for at least being salary cap smart this offseason and that’s about it).

At 39-years-old, Mike Smith could’ve called it a career, but when Jimmy Howard turned down Oilers General Manager, Ken Holland, Smith was rewarded with two-year (not just one-year!) extension worth $2.200 million per season.

The cap hit is fine, considering he recored a goals-against average under 2.50 for the first time since the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Back then, in 67 games with Phoenix, Smith had a 38-18-10 record, a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts en route to backstopping the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, where the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Phoenix in five games.

Last season with the Oilers, Smith went 21-6-2 in 32 games, had three shutouts and amassed a 2.31 goals-against average as well as a .923 save percentage.

In 2019-20, he had a 19-12-6 record in 39 games, one shutout, a .902 save percentage and a whopping 2.95 goals-against average.

Whether it’s the introduction of Barrie to Edmonton’s defense that helped singlehandedly reduce the workload Smith faced or not– Smith had a fantastic season in 2020-21.

However, time stops for nobody and with an average age of 35.3 between Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock as reliable options in the crease under contract at the NHL level, well, it’s easy to feel uneasy about Edmonton’s chances at stopping the puck from night-to-night as their bodies collectively wear down through an 82-game schedule.

Then again, they are athletes and you and I are not.

Yet, it’s worth noting since unlike Smith, Koskinen went from an 18-13-3 record in 38 games with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20 with the Oilers to a dismal 13-13-0 record in 26 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 2020-21.

For all the good that Barrie and Co. on Edmonton’s blue line have done, there’s two new additions that, uh, might undo some of the forward progress.

Connor McDavid (ever heard of him?) vouched for Holland to acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago and then Holland went along and signed Cody Ceci in free agency.

Though Keith recorded 6-34–40 totals in 82 games in 2018-19 with Chicago, he’s been in decline, notching 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 61 games in 2019-20 and just 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 54 games last season.

The 38-year-old defender would’ve accepted any trade to a team close to the pacific northwest as he expressed a desire to be closer to family, having been isolated playing hockey for a living for most of the time during the ongoing pandemic and spending roughly five months combined with his son prior to being traded to Edmonton.

In 1,192 career NHL games, he’s won three Stanley Cup rings, was named playoff MVP in 2015, and has 105-520–625 totals in the regular season.

With two years left on his contract, Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit is a bit steep for what could be a defensive liability as the aging process continues and– turns out– Holland could’ve done better by waiting another day and signing Keith Yandle for much less after the Florida Panthers bought him out. Who knew?!

Though the Internet likes to make fun of Ceci, the 27-year-old defender really hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 53 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season isn’t great, but he’s not expected to be a top-four defender– or at least he shouldn’t be.

Mistakes and weird things will happen. Sometimes you’re just unlucky like that.

Wait, Holland gave him four-years at $3.250 million per season? Yikes.

And to put the icing on the cake, Holland traded Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele. Not that Foegele’s bad, but for a team that could use a better defense, Bear fit in pretty well.

Has this McDavid guy ever tried watching the Oilers?

Offseason Grade: C+

For the Nugent-Hopkins extension, sensible new deal for Barrie and Yamamoto bridge contract, Holland deserves some praise for keeping the right pieces happy and on the roster heading into 2021-22.

That said, he also made some errors in judgment acquiring Keith at the price he paid, as well as handing out Ceci a contract with a steep cap hit and term for a guy that’s probably not that good.

In other words, it was just another normal offseason for the Oilers.

Edmonton made some smart moves, but then overreacted in other areas, while still searching for the second coming of Andy Moog in net or whatever.

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NHL Nick's Net

Let’s pretend we have any say in jersey sponsors

Apparently the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors were up to something this month as it was reported by Sportico on Tuesday that the Board unanimously approved ads on the front of NHL jerseys beginning with the 2022-23 season.

The ads will be no bigger than a 3-inch-by-3.5-inch rectangle, which is slightly larger than the ads featured on the front of National Basketball Association (NBA) jerseys.

It was only a matter of time before the NHL followed the NBA in generating additional revenue by doing what professional hockey leagues outside of North America have been doing for many years, as well as what’s been done for at least a few seasons now in the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL minor league levels on this side of the pond.

As always, hockey Twitter is taking the news well.

Let’s embrace the chaos for a moment and pick some sponsors for all 32 NHL teams that would make so much sense they’ll obviously be overlooked for, well, actual revenue generating streams instead.

Anaheim Ducks

What we want: Disney+ or TCL
What we’ll get: Honda

The Ducks play at Honda Center and, yeah, there’s really nothing besides Disney swooping in and sponsoring the team that they used to own as a means of cross promoting both the Ducks and The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers on Disney+, so we’re stuck with a Honda logo at center ice and on the front of Anaheim’s jerseys.

In any case, Honda’s red logo works pretty well with the Orange County orange featured as an accent color on Anaheim’s home and road jerseys.

NHL teams have a tendency to go back to the well with their partners– think of how many teams have either the same helmet sponsor as another team or just slapped on the same brand as their venue’s naming rights deal– but if we want to expand the playground a little bit perhaps TCL could be of interest for the Ducks.

Come to think of it, that’s probably a better option.

*Opens up Photoshop*

Arizona Coyotes

What we want: P.F. Chang’s or Cold Stone Creamery
What we’ll get: Fry’s or something, probably

Believe it or not the Los Angeles Chargers won’t be the only team tweeting about P.F. Chang’s for long as the restaurant chain was founded in 1993, and opened their first location in Scottsdale, Arizona, so it only makes sense to go back to their roots and toss an ad on the Coyotes’ jersey.

Also founded in Arizona– Cold Stone Creamery.

We figured that’d probably make sense on an AHL team’s jersey, though, despite the obvious cold ice, cold ice cream connection.

The Coyotes had Mountain America on their helmets at home and Dignity Health on their road helmets in 2020-21, so in reality we’ll probably get one of those two on the front of their jerseys in 2022-23.

Boston Bruins

What we want: Dunkin’ or bust
What we’ll get: TD Bank or O.R.G. Packaging, probably

What could possibly be more Boston than a Bruins jersey with a Dunkin’ logo on it?

Their AHL affiliate– the Providence Bruins– already play in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Rhode Island and have a Dunkin’ ad patch on their jerseys. Why not call it up to the major league?

That said, with some NBA teams earning up to about $20 million in jersey ad space revenue, the B’s likely will reach for a brand with deeper pockets than doughnuts and coffee.

Delaware North likes their relationship with a certain bank from Toronto (TD Bank) and has had one of the league’s longest relationships with a Chinese company (O.R.G. Packaging) as part of the NHL’s intended growth beyond the continents of North America and Europe, so one of the two brands is more likely to appear on a Bruins jersey.

Buffalo Sabres

What we want: Super Chexx
What we’ll get: KeyBank

The Sabres could use some fun in their lives these days and you know what really helps put the mind at ease? Bubble hockey.

That’s right, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, Inc. (ICE)– the manufacturers of the popular bar and arcade classic, Super Chexx, that your rich friend down the street growing up also had in the comforts of their home– is based outside Buffalo and would be a match made in heaven right about now.

Especially as Sabres fans are looking for something to do while the game’s on TV.

So yeah, we’re definitely going to get KeyBank, Tim Horton’s or something else entirely instead.

Calgary Flames

What we want: WestJet or Duraflame
What we’ll get: Scotiabank

If you, as an American, can name any other Canadian airline other than Air Canada, then congratulations. If you can’t, then may I introduce you to WestJet?

WestJet’s headquarters are next to Calgary International Airport and it’d be nice to prove to the world that Canada is more than just a land of Tim Horton’s, Roots, Canadian Tire, Rogers, Scotiabank and Mr. Sub.

If Duraflame isn’t available, then you might as well dip into the low-cost airline industry as a means of attracting tourists to Banff National Park, Calgary Stampede or whatever it is that sets Calgary apart from the rest of Alberta (so… not being Edmonton).

Carolina Hurricanes

What we want: Surge
What we’ll get: PNC, Diehard, maybe Cheerwine or something else

This should be obvious, but if you haven’t paid attention to the Hurricanes for at least the last few seasons now they do a “Storm Surge” celebration after every win on home ice in the regular season (and sometimes playoffs).

Surge (the soda) is one of those drinks that makes headlines every few years for being pulled straight out of the vault and placed back on grocery store shelves– speaking of which, does anyone know if it’s currently available?

If not, it’ll definitely be back by the 2022-23 season.

Yes, it’s hard to envision where an ad will be placed on the road jersey as the prime real estate is used up by the diagonal “CANES” letters and– for a few players– the captain’s “C” or alternate captain’s “A”.

Chicago

What we want: Portillo’s
What we’ll get: United

Look, between Walgreens, Sears and Portillo’s there’s a few legendary brands that Chicago could partner with as their first jersey ad in franchise history (not including practice jerseys).

Obviously only one of the three mentioned above is the right choice and its the one that might lead you to Walgreens later if you have a weak stomach. Besides, Sears is fading from our collective memory whether it is out of business already or not.

Clark Griswold would be proud of Portillo’s proudly being displayed on a, well, if a WHL team can rebrand, so can you, Chicago.

Colorado Avalanche

What we want: Chipotle or Coors
What we’ll get: Ball

Look, whether or not Nathan MacKinnon eats Chipotle is a debate for another day, but one thing’s for sure– both Chipotle and MacKinnon started their careers in Colorado.

Though Coors or Coors Light would make more sense, we have to consider the fact that kids might be wearing these jerseys to the game and we haven’t heard whether or not the jerseys that are sold in the proshops in 2022-23 and beyond will include the front jersey ad or not.

If they do, then we probably can’t market beer to children.

I’m pretty sure there’s a law about that and it’s also the reason why all my 1:64 scale diecast Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. cars from when I was a kid said “Team Rusty” and “Dale Jr.” on them, respectively, instead of Miller Lite and Budweiser.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What we want: Wendy’s
What we’ll get: Nationwide

Coinciding with the uptick in Columbus born and raised players on the Blue Jackets roster, it would be a great idea to add Wendy’s– which was founded in Columbus in 1969– to the team in such a way that perhaps Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly star in local commercials to the Blue Jackets viewing area during the 2022-23 season.

I know that’s assuming Roslovic signs an extension, but the pending-restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season helped facilitate the Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patrik Laine trade with the Winnipeg Jets by forcing Winnipeg into trading him to his hometown team.

Unlike several recent stars that left the city via free agency, Roslovic will stick around for the long term.

Especially if there’s some goods in kind involved with a Wendy’s sponsorship. I mean, I would at least.

Dallas Stars

What we want: Whataburger
What we’ll get: AT&T

Though Whataburger would be a welcome party in the burger wars when Columbus and Dallas would “meat” up, there’s no beef to be found in this hypothetical because AT&T has already made that decision for us.

Sometimes you just can’t think too hyperlocal and AT&T fetches a more national audience than a regional chain that primarily serves Texas.

Besides, if you go to Dallas for a Stars game, you can always just get Whataburger then. It’s not like they’re going to send you a meal with a jersey if ads are on the jerseys sold to fans in 2022-23.

Detroit Red Wings

What we want: Little Caesars
What we’ll get: Little Caesars

The last few teams have all involved food and we’re going to be stuck on this theme for at least one more team after this.

Both the Red Wings and Little Caesars are owned by the Ilitch family and if you think adding one more connection between Detroit and pizza is a bad thing then you clearly don’t understand the marketing behind this.

Kids love pizza. Adults love pizza. There’s a lot of good memories involving pizza.

Plus, with General Manager, Steve Yzerman, in charge, the Red Wings are on the rise, which will only further tap into the nostalgia from when Detroit was doing what the Tampa Bay Lightning are currently doing to the rest of the league.

Edmonton Oilers

What we want: Boston Pizza
What we’ll get: Rogers

Edmonton thought they could replicate the success Ken Holland had in Detroit by hiring Holland as their General Manager and when they see that we’ve got a pizza establishment heading for the front of the Red Wings’ jersey, then the Oilers will think it’s also a good idea to snag a slice.

That’s where Boston Pizza comes in.

Whether or not they’ll get Connor McDavid to do an ad read or be left with whatever scraps surround him on the Oilers roster remains to be seen.

In all likelihood, Rogers Communications will probably just get to slap their logo on another element of Edmonton’s brand.

Florida Panthers

What we want: Royal Caribbean International
What we’ll get: Baptist Health or something

The Blockbuster guy (the late Wayne Huizenga) founded the team and almost named them the “Florida Block Busters”, so it’d be neat to incorporate an homage to the days of Blockbuster (rest in peace) with the almost Blockbuster-like colors of Royal Caribbean International on the jersey.

Plus, who among us hasn’t uttered the words “I need a vacation from my vacation” before?

If you’re an out of town fan visiting the Panthers in Florida or watching the Panthers come to your town— there’s a cruise line for you even if you wouldn’t go remotely near a cruise before the ongoing pandemic began.

Los Angeles Kings

What we want: Dollar Shave Club
What we’ll get: Anschutz Entertainment Group

Never doubt for a second that a team owner wouldn’t give up the chance to toot their own horn, which is why it’s quite possible that one of the world’s biggest entertainment entities would slap their own logo on the front of a Kings jersey.

If you’re not able to finagle a way to write things off as a deduction, then Dollar Shave Club presents a unique opportunity despite the fact that shaving isn’t something that’s in Drew Doughty’s vernacular (or any hockey player, for that matter, when the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around).

Manscaped could also make a run here and in any case, fine.

Minnesota Wild

What we want: Target or General Mills
What we’ll get: Xcel Energy

When you think of Minnesota what’s the first thing you think about?

That’s right, the very place where you could be standing right now reading this while you’re waiting for a cash register to open up or aimlessly perusing the aisles for those impulse purchases you somehow always make at Target.

It fits the Wild color scheme well and if we’re not going to get General Mills involved then at least getting more than the standard 5% discount for having a Target RedCard via goods in kind might be enough to convince Kirill Kaprizov to stay in Minnesota long-term.

Montréal Canadiens

What we want: CCM and/or Molson
What we’ll get: Bell

CCM makes more than just jerseys, but it’s not like adidas would be just fine with a CCM logo appearing on the front of an adidas ADIZERO jersey.

So, we’re left with two obvious choices– Molson or Bell.

If there’s nothing against a Canadian team bearing an alcoholic beverage on the front of their jersey with the potential for that brand to be marketed towards kids, then perhaps Molson– whose family ties own the Habs– might make an appearance near the crest.

That or we’ll just get more airtime for Bell. Either way, MontrĂ©al would be attractive enough as a franchise to bring in more than one jersey ad sponsor if the league doesn’t have any specific rules outside of the size of the ad.

Nashville Predators

What we want: Curb Records or CMT
What we’ll get: Fifth Third Bank

The music city could attract a music label if they wanted to, but Fifth Third Bank loves investing in Nashville for some reason– like, a lot, despite being headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio and primarily serving Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida more than all of Tennessee.

In any case, good for the Predators. They’ll have some deep pockets to reach into while other teams surely will have to squabble for seven figures related to the going rate for the prime ad space.

Still feels like we’d be missing out on a sweet Curb Records patch close enough to the guitar pick on the right shoulder though.

New Jersey Devils

What we want: Honestly, just Prudential is fine
What we’ll get: Prudential

The Devils are overlooked and let’s admit it, you couldn’t think of something distinctly New Jersey either– besides not being allowed to fill your own gas tank.

Bruce Springsteen is not sponsoring the Devils alone.

Whether it’s settling on an old reliable or simply making use of what’s trustworthy and already available, Prudential and New Jersey just seem like a good fit.

New York Islanders

What we want: Gorton’s
What we’ll get: Not Gorton’s

“We want fishsticks!”

O.K., you got them. Take that, Rangers fans. The Islanders are cool now because they’re steering into the skid.

They just won’t go as far as bringing back the fisherman jersey from the dead, but alas, they’ll show a spark of creativity and even crack a smile on Lou Lamoriello’s face with the real Gorton’s fisherman making an appearance on the jersey.

Obviously this will never happen.

New York Rangers

What we want: Liberty Mutual if they’re bringing back the “Lady Liberty” jerseys as an alternate
What we’ll get: Chase for sure, maybe New York Life too

Liberty Mutual (a Boston company) on the “Lady Liberty” jersey would be a sight to see, but New York will never let it happen.

Instead, Chase, which already has quite a great partnership with the team, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, etc. will likely just step up and foot the bill for one– if not all– of the jerseys in full.

That’s fine. The Rangers will suffer the same consequences of having a diagonal wordmark on their jersey like Carolina’s road jersey, but at least New York’s pretty much always been this way so they should have some ideas of how to work around that.

Ottawa Senators

What we want: Canada Post
What we’ll get: Bell, Scotiabank or Canadian Tire

Canada’s capital city gets the honor of having Canada Post on their jerseys because it breaks up the trend of having the same three or four companies sponsoring all seven Canadian teams (like how their helmets were for 2020-21).

In reality, we’ll probably get more of the same from the Sens and either Bell, Canadian Tire or Scotiabank will make an appearance on Ottawa’s jersey.

At the very least, Canada’s postal service sponsoring a team is more economically viable than the United States Postal Service sponsoring a team.

Philadelphia Flyers

What we want: Wawa or Audacy
What we’ll get: Comcast or GlaxoSmithKline

Remember how I said you don’t want to go too local for a jersey ad? Well, Wawa on a Flyers jersey is an exception.

That said, it probably wouldn’t have the staying power to work on a road jersey too, so Philadelphia could tap into the artist formerly known as Entercom, since rebanded as Audacy, for more.

Audacy maintained their Philadelphia headquarters and covers a broad range of Internet radio, digital content, regular radio and podcasting platforms, plus their logo is orange which fits the Flyers brand.

It’s either that or Comcast will slap their own logo on the jersey or something.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What we want: Duolingo
What we’ll get: PPG Industries

Duolingo is headquartered in Pittsburgh and as a website and mobile app, every sports league with ads on jerseys needs at least one that makes you scratch your head at first before realizing the connection between the company and the city.

The dating app, Bumble, once was featured on the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers jerseys prior to the Clippers replacing Bumble with their more jersey ad with the online browser extension coupon company, Honey.

Dating and living expenses in Los Angeles are probably harder than learning a few new languages through Duolingo, so combining Duolingo with the Penguins makes perfect sense since hockey players can come from all over and speak many languages.

Besides, it might give your team an advantage if they can communicate with one another in a setting that is more comfortable for them.

St. Louis Blues

What we want: Busch
What we’ll get: Enterprise

I know we’ve been over the whole “can they market beer to kids with these jerseys” thing, but St. Louis is the city of Anheuser-Busch, so it’s only fitting that the Blues get a jersey ad that 1) is Anheuser-Busch related and 2) works with their color palette.

If Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals play in Busch Stadium and get Budweiser by default with red as a primary color for the ball club, then the Blues naturally get Busch blue and Busch beer. I don’t make the rules.

Plus Midwesterners really like the stuff.

San Jose Sharks

What we want: Adobe
What we’ll get: SAP or Zoom

Look, we weren’t going to get away with making these in Photoshop and not having to give Adobe something— and with headquarters in San Jose it only made sense.

The Sharks have a deep relationship with SAP, though, so it’s more likely than not that the team will just go further with the brand that also is featured on their helmets at home and holds the current naming rights for SAP Center.

Plus with the uptick in the use of Zoom, San Jose could double-dip and match SAP on the home jersey with SAP stickers on their helmets with Zoom covering the road set (jersey ad and helmet ads).

Seattle Kraken

What we want: Boeing
What we’ll get: Alaska Airlines

The Kraken already have a deal with Alaska Airlines as the official airline of the franchise, but what’s bigger than an airline itself?

That’s right, Boeing, the company that makes a lot of planes and other aerospace stuff, was founded in Seattle and still has a major presence in Washington as the largest private employer in the state.

Want to see your newest expansion team take flight? Just add some Boeing engineering to the jerseys.

You might have thought Microsoft would make sense for a Seattle-based team, but the league’s agreement with Apple probably puts a quick end to that.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What we want: Accusoft
What we’ll get: DEX Imaging

Every sport with ads on jerseys has that one company that nobody’s really sure what they do, but they appreciate that they’re spending their money on their favorite team.

That just might be Accusoft’s relationship with the Lightning come time for ads on jerseys in 2022-23.

The private computer software company is headquartered in Tampa and was founded back in 1991, as Pegasus Imaging– one year prior to the Lightning’s debut season as an NHL team in 1992-93.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What we want: Swiss Chalet, Sun Life Financial
What we’ll get: Scotiabank, Sun Life Financial

Scotiabank already has a stronghold on Toronto both financially and in the sense that the Maple Leafs play inside Scotiabank Arena and proudly display Scotiabank’s logo on their helmets, so it seems inevitable that Scotiabank would also make an appearance on the Leafs jersey.

But Toronto is strong enough to maximize the value of a 3-by-3.5-inch ad and capitalize on the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) brand.

MLSE already has an agreement with Sun Life Financial on their NBA team’s jerseys and the Toronto Raptors were able to go on to win their first championship in 2019.

Perhaps the key to ending the Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup drought lies within attracting Sun Life Financial to an NHL jersey ad.

Vancouver Canucks

What we want: Hootsuite
What we’ll get: Rogers

Remember when you’d see Hootsuite on just about every tweet with a photo? Am I the only one imagining that?

In any case, Hootsuite was founded and is based in Vancouver and still plays a major role in social media management for brands.

Whereas Rogers is accessible to most every day Canadians, Hootsuite would be more of a “corporate” target audience and you need sponsors at all levels to attract a wide base of potential clients, fans, etc.

That said, the Canucks have had a long relationship with Rogers in that they play in Rogers Arena, so it’s probably going to be Rogers.

Vegas Golden Knights

What we want: Zappos.com
What we’ll get: MGM Resorts International or Allegiant Air

Want to have fun with a local Nevada brand? Zappos is the way to go!

Want to be realistic and attract out of town fans to a destination like Las Vegas? MGM Resorts International is your sponsor and with Allegiant Air as an ultra-low cost airline that’ll gladly bring you to Vegas for a Golden Knights game…

Yeah, it’s inevitable that between MGM and Vegas’ current road helmet sponsor (Allegiant) that there’d quickly be no room for a company like Zappos.

Credit One Bank is on the home helmets for the Golden Knights, so don’t be surprised if they’re a wild card for a jersey ad too.

Washington Capitals

What we want: Marriott International
What we’ll get: Capital One, Custom Ink

Sportswriters rejoice! Your Marriott points may soon reward you with a Capitals jersey or something like that.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Marriott International would make sense from a local and international brand recognition stance.

But you know what we’re probably going to get instead? Sheer confusion as Capital One places an ad on front of a jersey that already says “Washington Capitals”. The Capital One Washington Capitals– live at Capital One Arena!

Either that or Caps owner, Ted Leonsis, might like to make a connection between making custom jerseys for local adult league co-ed softball teams or something and, well, Custom Ink’s logo appearing on Capitals jerseys.

Winnipeg Jets

What we want: A&W or SkipTheDishes
What we’ll get: Canada Life or Bell

A&W was founded in Winnipeg, while SkipTheDishes is headquartered in Winnipeg.

Since it’s 2021, and not 1956, we’re more than likely to see SkipTheDishes on a Jets jersey, but if their helmet ads from 2020-21 are any indication for 2022-23 and beyond, then Bell is probably going to land a spot near Winnipeg’s crest.

Canada Life is taking over as the new naming rights holder for Canada Life Centre where the Jets play, so there’s always a chance they’ll end up with their logo on the front of the jersey too.

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NHL Playoff Recaps

Winnipeg Sweep The Oilers With 3OT Winner

After a night of triple overtime, the Winnipeg Jets secured their tickets to the next round defeating the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Kyle Connor sent the Oilers packing with his second goal of the postseason. The Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets saw overtime 3 out of 4 times this series. Two of those games being played back to back. 

It was a late night regardless of the coast you were on. We were tired just watching from the comfort of our own homes. I can’t imagine actually playing in a 4 hour and nineteen minute hockey game. 

Darnell Nurse broke Chris Pronger’s TOI record with a whopping 62:07. If you remember last postseason, Seth Jones of the Columbus Blue Jackets played 65:06 in that 5OT game against Tampa Bay. Nurse is now 9th all-time in TOI. Seth Jones remains number one. 

Josh Morrisey led the Jets in TOI behind Connor Hellbuyck with 41:52 minutes. 

 The Oilers looked to avoid elimination It started with the Oilers announcing Mike Smith would start. It appeared that would wrap up the series and Winnipeg would skate away with their brooms out. Edmonton was not going down without a fight. It appeared we saw a different Oilers team through regulation. While there were plenty of missed calls on Connor McDavid, the team seemed to be playing a more physical game. This might come to a surprise to you, but your superstar cannot be the only one pulling the weight. Secondary scoring appeared to be there but it wasn’t enough to stay alive.

The first 20 was welcomed by three goals. Unlike the other North Division game, the special teams showed up to play. Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, who missed last year’s postseason due to an unfortunate in-game injury in game 1 against Calgary, got the Jets on the board with a power play goal. Oilers Captain Connor McDavid looked nothing shy of dejected after last night’s loss. A new day and a new game means another chance to stay in it. McDavid found his playoff stride, earning Edmonton’s first goal of the night. The game was not knotted at one for long. Mason Appleton earned his first career playoff goal, giving the Jets the lead as they wrapped up the first period. 

It was a two goal period for the Oilers as they earned their first lead of the night. 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent Hopkins tied it back up, 3 minutes into the second frame. RNH had 16 goals in 52 games. The Jets’ penalty kill could not stop Alex Chiasson from cleaning up a loose puck in front of the net. The Oilers had a one goal lead and a little bit of confidence before they were down to the final buzzer.

Scheifele tied it up at 3 with an absolute snipe from where his first goal was scored from. The cameras panned to McDavid on the bench and his face said it all. You’ve got to feel bad for him. He’s the greatest hockey player of all time trapped on a team that can’t win. The biggest travesty in hockey history would be not seeing him lift the cup in his playing career. Amidst the frustration of a tied game in the third period, Blake Wheeler got a puck to the groin. He was doubled over in pain as he raced right to the room. He would return to the bench for overtime.

Triple overtime. That’s what it took to settle the score. 

You have to give both goaltenders credit. They’d both stood on their head through the series and were now trapped in another overtime game. Mike Smith is no spring chicken at the age of 39. Edmonton’s defense was playing peak a boo at times but he still held down the fort for as long as he could. Connor Hellebuyck was nothing shy of his Veznia Trophy winning self. He had a .950SV% through the series.

The Jets can sit back and recover while they wait to see who their opponent will be. Will it be the Toronto Maple Leafs who haven’t seen the second round since 2004 or the slow and uncertain about everything Montreal Canadiens?

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NHL Playoff Recaps

The Jets Touch Down in Overtime to Secure a 3-0 Lead Over Oilers

The Winnipeg Jets are one step close to moving on as they beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 in overtime. Nikolaj Ehlers’ made his return to the Jets’ lineup in the best way possible. The game-winner belonged to him. The Oilers’ goaltending crumbled in true Oilers fashion, letting go of a 4-1 lead.

McDavid had a 3 point game with just assists. The Captain was goalless once again. Leon Draisaitl was responsible for the first 2 Oilers’ goals as he earned his first goal of the postseason six and a half minutes into it. Less than three minutes later, he earned the second of his night. The Jets were woken up in the second period with Ehlers’ first goal of the night.  Ehlers’ made his return to the Winnipeg lineup and let it be known. This would not be enough for the Jets to take off as Zack Kassian scored about a minute later. It wasn’t until the third period where the Jets fired up their engines. After Jujuhar Kharia scored Edmonton’s fourth and final of the night, the Jets were ready for take off. Mathieu Perrault, Blake Wheeler, and Josh Morrisey responded and stopped Edmonton right in their tracks.

Nothing will ever go down smoothly for Connor McDavid. I can only imagine the phone calls made after the game went to overtime and then after Ehlers scored his second goal of the night, giving the Jets a 3-0 series lead. The Jets have a chance to advance tomorrow night. Will Mike Smith start between the pipes or will Mikko Koskinen make an appearance in an attempt to keep the Oilers a float? 

The Oilers outshot the Jets 48-37 but failed to succeed in faceoffs, getting demolished 63- 37% at the dot. Special teams rose to the occasion with 2 goals on the Jets’ powerplay and 1 goal for the Oilers. 

There is a lot at stake for the Oilers and I don’t think it’s just the series. Tomorrow night the team makes a last ditch effort to save themselves from this healthy Jets team.

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NHL Playoff Recaps

McDavid Silenced for a Second Game in a Row as Winnipeg Jets Take 2 Game Lead

Paul Stastny gave the Winnipeg Jets a 2-0 series lead with an overtime goal against the Edmonton Oilers. Connor McDavid was silenced again as the Oilers could not get anything by Connor Hellebuyck who earned his third career postseason shutout.
Pierre-Luc Dubious returned to the lineup in game 2. The forward played a total of 13:05 minutes in his first postseason game with the Jets.  The teams were hanging together through sixty. Mike Smith was in rare form for the Oilers making 35 saves. Hellebuyck stopped 38 shots faced. The Oilers won 57% of the faceoffs. Both teams were successful in killing their respective penalties. 

McDavid has 0 points through two games. That’s not something you would expect from someone who had 105 points through 56 games. Is Winnipeg his Kryptonite? He had 22 points against the Jets during the regular season. The healthy Jets team is actually a threat to the North Division. Last season the team was all banged up and without their star players, losing to the Calgary Flames in the play-in series. Paul Maurice said that Nikolaj Ehlers could play on Sunday. Ehlers missed the end of the season with a lower-body injury.

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NHL Playoff Recaps

Winnipeg Jets Dominate Edmonton Oilers in Series Opener

The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers kicked off the Scotia NHL North Division’s postseason Wednesday night. No overtime was needed here as the Jets crushed the Oilers, 4-1 after sixty.

The Jets were without Pierre-Luc Dubois ( 8 goals, 12 assists ) and Nikolaj Ehlers ( 21 goals, 25 assists ) for game one. PLD missed the final game of the season with an undisclosed injury. Ehlers has been sidelined since mid April due to an upper body injury.

The offense would not skip a beat without the pair, scoring 4 goals on the Oilers in sixty minutes.

Jesse Puljujarvi opened up the the battle, scoring the only Oilers goal of the evening. Puljujarvi had 15 goals and 10 assists through 55 games.

Tucker Poolman tied it in the first period and the offense was grounded until the final 20. Dominic Toninato had the go ahead goal and from there, the Jets took off. Kyle Connor and Blake Wheeler both had empty net goals, cementing the first win of the series.

2021 Art Ross Trophy Winner, Connor McDavid did not have a single point. This isn’t a cause for concern because he could turn around and have a five point game. This Oilers team is different from the ones we’ve seen in years past. McDavid isn’t carrying this team by himself. If he does have a quiet night, you can count on players like Tyson Barrie to push the puck toward the net.

Comparing the Oilers’ goaltending to Winnipeg’s seems a bit like comparing apples and oranges. While Mike Smith is not the same Mike Smith from the past, he is certainly not Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck.

The pair face off again on Friday where Edmonton looks to even the series. Will PLD and Ehlers return to the lineup or will Paul Maurice keep the winning lineup the way it is?

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: MassMutual NHL East Division

Sometime in the last however many days (or perhaps years, maybe even centuries, for some, as it felt) the calendar went from reading “March 2020” to “March 2021”, then April and now May.

Between then and now, the Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup champions in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final over the Dallas Stars in six games after last year’s playoffs were held inside a bubble (well, technically two bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto before coming together in the former).

Then a somewhat regular-looking 56-game 2020-21 season took place as the National Hockey League and the rest of the world started returning to a sense of normalcy from January through now– getting vaccinated and seeing the light at the end of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic tunnel.

Resiliency in life cannot be understated.

That– even after so much loss and millions of deaths around the world– the course of nature goes on.

There is still a lot of grieving to be done, a pandemic ongoing and tensions rising around the globe, yet here we are, arguing over who will win one game– the next four games, a series– the Stanley Cup.

We, as hockey fans, have regressed to the mean. Our veins are pulsing as we hit “tweet” arguing between Toronto Maple Leafs and MontrĂ©al Canadiens fans for the first time since 1979.

Our humanity goes on.

Make no qualms about it, the 2020-21 season was one of the hardest seasons on all of the players in the NHL.

Their seemingly lavish lifestyles were disrupted by isolation on road trips, isolation in COVID protocol and isolation from so many family members and friends that may not have been able to go see them play or be around at home due to local rules, regulations or the mere fact that a player is single and living on their own.

No, there are no heroes. Only people.

Even hockey players.

As the dawn of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs arises, we’ll call their clutch goals, big hits and key saves “heroic”, but after all, we’re just watching 10 skaters and two goalies on the ice at any given time play a game at the highest level that so few are ever so privileged to play.

They’re making memories among their teammates on the ice that we’ll never be able to experience.

We’ll never be able to see it from their eyes– until, at least, nano camera technology that can be worn in a contact lens becomes mainstream in sports anyway– but we’ll watch the game with our own eyes and try to memorize every little detail of a play as we try to recreate it in driveways, streets and ice rinks in our own town or others.

It’s time.

Let’s hockey together, friends.


Four teams in each division made the postseason.

The best team facing the fourth best team, the second best team taking on the third best team– the winners of the First Round will face each other in the Second Round staying within their own division as they’ve done through 56 regular season games.

Each division will produce one winner heading to the Stanley Cup Semifinal in light of a Conference Finals round in usual years.

The Semifinal will reseed based on how the four remaining teams finished in regular season points standings with the first best team taking on the fourth, as well as the second best team facing the third best team in a series narrowing down the field to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finalists as a result.

Neither the Prince of Wales Trophy nor the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl will be awarded this year.

No trophies, just vibes (until the Stanley Cup, that is).


(1) Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3, 77 points) vs (4) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 56 games played, .688 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders are facing each other for the sixth time in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series with the Islanders holding the lead in all time series wins, 4-1.

New York beat Pittsburgh in seven games (4-3) in the 1975 Wales Conference Quarterfinal, in five games (3-2) in the 1982 Patrick Division Semifinal, in seven games (4-3) in the 1993 Patrick Division Final and in four games (4-0) in the 2019 First Round.

The Penguins beat the Islanders in six games (4-2) in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quaterfinal, meanwhile.

The Pens are making their 36th postseason appearance, while the Isles enter their 27th postseason in franchise history.

Pittsburgh was led by Sidney Crosby (24-38–62 totals in 55 games played) in the regular season, with Jake Guentzel (23-34–57 totals in 56 GP) and Kris Letang (7-38–45 totals in 55 GP) rounding out the top-three scorers on the Penguins’ roster in 2020-21.

Crosby and the Pens cruised to an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games and an impressive 22-4-2 record on home ice this season, which bodes well for their return to the playoffs after missing out on First Round action last season thanks to an early exit on behalf of the Canadiens in four games (3-1) in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier.

Among active members of the current roster, Crosby leads the Penguins with 68-121–189 totals in 168 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, while Evgeni Malkin– suffering from a lower body injury as of late– has 63-106–169 totals in 166 career postseason games.

Letang brings up the rear to round-out the top-three playoff performers currently on the roster with 80 points (21 goals, 59 assists) in 136 playoff games.

In the regular season, Pittsburgh relied on Tristan Jarry for a 25-9-3 record as a starter in 39 games played (38 starts) and two shutouts, as well as a 2.75 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Casey DeSmith (11-7-0 in 20 games, 17 starts, 2.54 goals-against average, .912 save percentage, two shutouts) served as Jarry’s backup and even Maxime LagacĂ© made an appearance, recording a win in his only start, as well as a shutout.

When it comes to playoff experience, only Jarry has ever touched the ice in a Stanley Cup Playoff game– earning one start in a loss, as well as a 1.02 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage.

At the other end of the rink, the Islanders were led by Mathew Barzal in scoring with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 55 games, as Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games) trailed the prolific 23-year-old center with the second-most points on the team in the 2020-21 regular season.

Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 games) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) were tied for the third-most points in team scoring for New York.

Isles captain, Anders Lee, had his season cut short by a knee injury that will keep him out of contention through the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Islanders went 3-4-3 in their last 10 games as they backed themselves into the postseason.

Among active players on New York’s current roster, Bailey leads his teammates in postseason scoring with 10-27–37 totals in 52 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, while Nelson (16-13–29 in 48 games) and newcomer, Travis Zajac (11-17–28 totals in 57 games) round out the top-three playoff performers entering the Islanders’ 2021 postseason run.

Zajac was acquired along with Kyle Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils ahead of the 2021 trade deadline back in April.

In the crease, Semyon Varlamov led the way for the Islanders with a Vezina Trophy worthy season, amassing a 19-11-4 record in 36 games played (35 starts) to go with seven shutouts, a 2.04 goals-against average a .929 save percentage.

Varlamov and Colorado Avalanche netminder, Philipp Grubauer, led the league in shutouts in 2020-21, while Vegas Golden Knights duo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner took home the William M. Jennings Trophy, having allowed the fewest goals against this season.

Meanwhile, Ilya Sorokin served as Varlamov’s backup in his first NHL season and had a 13-6-3 record in 22 games played (21 starts), as well as three shutouts, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

As Sorokin just completed his first season at the game’s highest level of competition, only Varlamov has had postseason experience and is expected to be New York’s starter in their 2021 First Round matchup with Pittsburgh.

Varlamov has a 24-20 record in 46 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (44 starts), as well as four shutouts, a 2.38 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in that span.


The Penguins went 6-2-0, while the Islanders went 2-4-2 in their eight games against one another this season with Pittsburgh outscoring New York, 26-19, in that span.

That alone should give a good indication of how Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, is back on his regular routine and how Isles head coach, Barry Trotz, will need to get crafty to drag Pittsburgh’s offense down a bit more to the level of New York’s “defense first” mentality.

Though it might be easier to slow down Crosby’s game than it is to ease Edmonton Oilers phenom, Connor McDavid, from his carousel around opponents, Pittsburgh has a deeper roster than New York’s stagnant core.

Jeff Carter alone has made a bigger impact on the Pens so far than Palmieri and Zajac combined for the Islanders.

That said, New York has the historical high ground over the Penguins in the playoffs– especially in light of their 2019 First Round sweep.

This time around, however, expect Pittsburgh to get the job done in six games– just long enough to get a rhythm going into an epic clash with either the Washington Capitals or Boston Bruins in the Second Round.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 6th

4-3 F/SO PIT at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 11th

4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 18th

3-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 20th

4-3 F/OT PIT at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 27th

2-0 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 28th

6-3 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on March 27th

2-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on March 29th

Schedule:

5/16- Game 1 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 2 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/20- Game 3 PIT @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

5/22- Game 4 PIT @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

5/24- Game 5 NYI @ PIT*

5/26- Game 6 PIT @ NYI*

5/28- Game 7 NYI @ PIT*

*If necessary

(2) Washington Capitals (36-15-5, 77 points) vs (3) Boston Bruins (33-16-7, 73 points)

Washington: 56 games played, .688 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Boston: 56 games played, .652 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins are meeting each other in a playoff series for the fourth time with the Capitals holding the lead in all time series wins, 2-1.

Washington beat Boston in six games (4-2) in the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and in seven games (4-3) in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final.

Prior to the last two postseason series meetings between the two clubs, the Bruins swept the Capitals (4-0) in the 1990 Wales Conference Final.

The Caps are making their 31st appearance, while the B’s are set to embark on their 74th appearance in the postseason in franchise history.

Washington was led by Nicklas Backstrom (15-38–53 totals in 55 games played) in scoring this season, while John Carlson had the second-most points and T.J. Oshie rounded out the top-three in team scoring.

Carlson had 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) in 52 games, while Oshie notched 22-21–43 totals in 53 games for the Capitals in 2020-21.

While battling injury at times this season, Washington captain, Alex Ovechkin, and Co. went 7-2-1 in their last 10 games of the regular season, amassing a 17-8-3 record on home ice.

Ovechkin leads his current teammates in active career postseason scoring with 69-62–131 totals in 136 Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with the Capitals), while Backstrom is second and former Bruin captain, turned Washington defender, Zdeno Chara, has the third-most career Stanley Cup Playoff points on the Capitals’ current roster.

Backstrom has 107 points (36 goals, 71 assists) in 128 career playoff games, while Chara has 18-52–70 totals in 195 career postseason games between the Ottawa Senators (45 games) and Boston (150 games).

In the regular season, Washington relied on the emergence of Vitek Vanecek as their starter with Ilya Samsonov serving as the Caps backup and Craig Anderson getting a handful of appearances mixed in.

Vanecek led the team with a 21-10-4 record in 37 games (36 starts), two shutouts, a 2.70 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage, while Samsonov amassed a 13-4-1 record in 19 games (18 starts) as Vanecek’s backup.

Samsonov had a 2.69 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage to go along with a pair of shutouts, while Anderson went 2-1-0 in four games played (two starts) and yielded a 2.13 goals-against average, as well as a .915 save percentage in that span.

Though Anderson is the only goaltender on the roster with previous playoff experience– including a 23-22 record in 46 games (46 starts) to go along with four shutouts, a 2.35 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in the process– Vanecek will likely be the starter for the Caps for the foreseeable future.

Especially with Samsonov still in COVID protocol on Friday (at the time of this writing).

Brad Marchand led the Bruins in scoring with 29-40–69 totals in 53 games this season, while Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were tied for the second-most points with 48 points each.

Bergeron had 23-25–48 totals in 54 games, while Pastrnak had 20-28–48 totals in 48 games after getting a late start to the season due to offseason surgery.

Meanwhile, David Krejci, for those wondering, had 8-36–44 totals in 51 games and had the fourth-most points on the roster this season.

Boston’s current career postseason scoring leaders shapes up to be exactly what you expect– Krejci leads over Bergeron and Marchand.

Krejci has 40-75–115 totals in 145 career Stanley Cup Playoff games entering 2021, while Bergeron has 111 points (42 goals, 69 assists) in 149 playoff games and Marchand has 95 points (37 goals, 58 assists) in 121 postseason games.

The trio of Bruins define an era of consistent success not seen since the days of Phil Esposito in the spoked-B and are in search of their second Stanley Cup ring.

Boston utilized four goaltenders this season due to injury and COVID protocol effecting the season as Tuukka Rask led the team with a 15-5-2 record in 24 games (24 starts)– amassing a 2.28 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in the process.

Rask’s “average” season was balanced out by Jaroslav Halak’s “average” season as a backup– posting a 9-6-4 record in 19 games (17 starts), as well as a 2.53 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and two shutouts in that span.

Despite Halak’s best efforts, the emergence of Jeremy Swayman has led to Swayman moving up in the depth charts from surefire starter in Providence (AHL) to current NHL backup (with the ultimate goal of taking over for Rask someday as the Bruins transition from their franchise goaltender to their 22-year-old first year professional).

Swayman had a 7-3-0 record in 10 games (10 starts) and put up a 1.50 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .945 save percentage in his first taste of the NHL.

Dan Vladar, meanwhile, contributed where it mattered most and, despite one, 8-1, loss on the second night of back-to-back games against Washington, managed to have a 2-2-1 record in five games played (five starts) with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage for Boston.

With Halak relegated to the third string goaltender role, his 17-20 record in 39 postseason games (37 starts) and 2.48 goals-against average, as well as his .919 career playoff save percentage should remain untouched.

Sure, Vladar made a relief appearance in the 2020 Second Round, but Rask is Boston’s starter, after all.

And for good reason too– since Rask has a 51-42 record in 93 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (93 starts), as well as seven shutouts, a 2.20 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in that span.

No. 40 in black and gold is two wins away from tying Gerry Cheevers for the most postseason wins in franchise history (53).


The Capitals went 4-4-0, while the Bruins went 4-2-2 in their eight games against one another this season with Boston outscoring Washington, 26-25, in that span.

As noted, don’t let too many results in their head-to-head matchups from this season fool you.

The Bruins dressed the equivalents of their AHL affiliate (Providence Bruins) about two times against the Capitals this season.

The first time was due to a ton of injuries and the second time happened to be another final night of a back-to-back matchup in Boston’s schedule and the end of the regular season with both teams having clinched a playoff berth and not eligible for mobility in the standings.

That said, the B’s and Caps are pretty evenly matched.

Vanecek has the chance to ride the waves of his breakout season, while Rask is the steady hand that’s been the model of consistency in the crease this time of year.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, should get the most out of Krejci, Craig Smith and Taylor Hall to round out his top-six forwards, while Peter Laviolette can rely on Chara’s past knowledge of Boston’s systems to utilize as a strength for Washington.

That said, the Bruins should try to wrap things up in six games and move on to the Second Round before worrying about what a Game 7 would look like on the road for the first time since 2011.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT WSH at Capital One Arena on Jan. 30th

5-3 BOS at Capital One Arena on Feb. 1st

2-1 F/SO WSH at TD Garden on March 1st

5-1 BOS at TD Garden on March 5th

4-2 BOS at Capital One Arena on April 8th

8-1 WSH at TD Garden on April 11th

6-3 BOS at TD Garden on April 18th

2-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on May 11th

Schedule:

5/15- Game 1 BOS @ WSH 7:15 PM ET on NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/17- Game 2 BOS @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/19- Game 3 WSH @ BOS 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVAS

5/21- Game 4 WSH @ BOS 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVAS

5/23- Game 5 BOS @ WSH*

5/25- Game 6 WSH @ BOS*

5/27- Game 7 BOS @ WSH*

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins rout Caps, 5-1, lose Carlo to head injury

The Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals, 5-1, Friday night at TD Garden after Capitals forward, Tom Wilson, delivered an unpenalized hit to the head of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, sparking an electric response on the scoreboard for Boston.

Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic each had a scrap with Wilson in a bout of “vigilante justice” because of one player that showed a lack of respect for “the code” and has once again threatened the career of another player with what is likely a head injury.

Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, had some strong words regarding Wilson’s hit during the first intermission, leading the New England Sports Network (NESN) to have to utilize a couple of drops to avoid facing scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

NESN aired Marchand’s interview in full after coming back from a break in the second period after the production truck had enough time to mute a pair of expletives.

Meanwhile, Jarsolav Halak (5-2-1, 2.24 goals against average, .913 save percentage in eight games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against for a .969 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Capitals goaltender, Vitek Vanecek (10-5-3, 2.83 GAA, .906 SV% in 19 games played) stopped 14 out of 18 shots faced for a .778 SV% in 35:43 time on ice before being replaced by Ilya Samsonov (2-0-1, 2.87 GAA, .877 SV% in four games played) made six saves on seven shots against (.857 SV%) for no decision in relief of Vanecek.

The Bruins improved to 13-5-3 (29 points) and moved into 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Caps fell to 13-6-4 (30 points) and 2nd place in the division.

Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand) on Friday.

Charlie Coyle, however, made his return from COVID protocol and as a result was reunited on the third line with Frederic on his left wing and Craig Smith on his right wing.

Jake DeBrusk was promoted to the right side of the second line, while Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner made up the fourth line.

Sean Kuraly joined John Moore as a healthy scratch, while Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen and Callum Booth were listed on the taxi squad.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his defense.

Early in the opening frame, Charlie McAvoy tried to hit Garnet Hathaway, but bounced off the Washington forward as Hathaway anticipated and met McAvoy with an equal and opposing force.

McAvoy slammed against he boards by the bench and smacked the ice, yielding a quick trip down the tunnel for a cut above his right eye likely caused by his visor.

Late in the period, Marchand (11) snuck into the low slot and received a pass from Patrice Bergeron before sending a backhand shot over Vanecek’s glove to give Boston the game’s first goal.

Bergeron (13) and McAvoy (13) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 14:21 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Coyle yielded the first power play of the game to the Capitals after he caught Dmitry Orlov with a slash at 14:42.

Washington was not able to convert on their first skater advantage of the night.

Moments later, Wilson made a couple of runs at Frederic, catching the ire of the young Bruins forward.

Then Wilson caught Carlo up high in the corner to Rask’s right side behind the goal line with enough force to bash Carlo’s head off the glass before Jakub Vrana delivered a shift cross check above the shoulders while Carlo immediately clutched the sides of his head and collapsed in a heap.

Wagner grabbed Wilson as every remaining skater one the ice paired up.

There was no penalty on the call, which left Cassidy visibly irate on the bench and others on Boston’s bench audibly displeased.

Wilson was a free man and the threshold– as well as potential for more chaos– was established. In simple terms, it was the most glaring example of what not to do as an on-ice official.

It might not have been charging, but it could’ve been boarding.

It might not have been immediately clear that there was head contact or that Carlo was in a vulnerable position– let alone that Wilson had plenty of time and space to deliver and proper body check, but instead the refs made no call and implied that, in return, Wilson was free game.

Not only was player safety compromised for Carlo, but it would be compromised for Wilson too in the eyes of retribution if it had reared its head.

Let alone the next player Wilson might go on to hit.

Regardless, the Bruins entered the first intermission taking not only a hit to their defense, but a dent in their momentum, despite leading, 1-0, on the scoreboard.

Washington led, 12-8, in shots on goal, as well as in giveaways (5-2) and hits (12-6), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3).

Both teams had three takeaways. The two clubs were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage.

The Capitals were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Boston tweeted that Carlo (upper body) would not return to Friday night’s action before the second period began.

Brenden Dillon was penalized for roughing 20 seconds into the second period after a stoppage in play and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night.

Boston did not score on the resulting skater advantage.

Moments later, Tinordi squared off in an exchange of fisticuffs with Wilson– marking the first of two fights of the night featuring No. 43 in a Capitals road uniform.

Each player received five-minute fighting majors at 6:12 of the second period.

It was the eighth fight this season for Boston and the first since Nick Ritchie fought Brendan Lemieux at 20:00 of the third period at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Feb. 28th.

While Wilson was in the box, Frederic (3) redirected a shot pass from McAvoy into the open twine as Vanecek was screened by net front traffic.

McAvoy (14) and Smith (5) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to two-goals, 2-0, at 6:43 of the second period.

Wilson was still in the box as Boston’s first line worked its magic on a “tic-toc-goal” at 9:01, extending their lead to three-goals thanks to Bergeron (9).

David Pastrnak (10) and Marchand (15) notched the assists on Bergeron’s goal as the B’s took a, 3-0, lead.

Late in the period, Marchand (12) added his second goal of the game while on the doorstep of the crease behind the Washington netminder as Vanecek wasn’t able to track another close range shot pass that made it, 4-0, Boston.

Matt Grzelcyk (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s second of the night at 14:58.

Caps head coach, Peter Laviolette, made the decision to replace Vanecek with Samsonov thereafter.

The Bruins went into the second intermission with a four-goal lead and a, 10-8, advantage in shots in the second period alone, despite trailing the Capitals, 20-18, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.

Boston led in blocked shots (8-6) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Washington held the advantage in takeaways (8-7), giveaways (11-6) and hits (25-18).

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

David Krejci found Ritchie (8) for a one-timer goal past Samsonov’s glove to kick things off at 1:05 of the third period, extending Boston’s lead to five-goals.

Krejci (11) and DeBrusk (4) tabbed the assists as the Bruins led, 5-0.

Seconds later, Frederic and Wilson dropped the gloves with the first-year Boston forward wracking up an instigator minor and an automatic 10-minute misconduct to go along with his five-minute fighting major.

Wilson managed to accrue fewer penalty minutes for knocking someone out of the game with a high hit to the head (zero) than he did in his second fight of the night (five).

Smith served Frederic’s instigating minor at 1:12 of the third period and the Capitals did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Wilson and Frederic’s fight marked the ninth fighting major of the season for Boston.

Moments later, T.J. Oshie caught Pastrnak with a high stick at 3:27, but the B’s did not score on the resulting 5-on-4 advantage.

A little past the midpoint of the third period, Vrana (8) sniped a shot from the faceoff dot on a catch and release play past Halak’s blocker side disrupting the shutout in the process.

Nicklas Backstrom (16) and Oshie (10) nabbed the assists as the Capitals trailed, 5-1, at 13:36 of the third period.

Backstrom, meanwhile, earned his 700th career assist with the primary assist on the goal and became the first player in Washington’s franchise history to reach the 700-assist plateau.

No. 19 for the Caps was a first-year player back in 2007-08, and has spent his entire 979-game career with Washington– the team that drafted him 4th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft.

After another scrum that featured current Capitals defender, Zdeno Chara, being restrained by current Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, Wagner caught No. 33 for the Caps with a slash at 18:40 in the dying minutes of Friday night’s action.

Wagner cut a rut to the penalty box, while Washington couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage to close out the game.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-1, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 32-25, including a, 12-7, advantage in the third period alone for Washington.

The Bruins also wrapped up the night’s action leading in blocked shots (9-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).

The Capitals ended the 60-minute effort leading in giveaways (15-8) and hits (34-22).

Washington went 0/3 and Boston went 0/2 on the power play on Friday as the Bruins handed the Caps their most lopsided loss of the season– snapping the Capitals’ four-game winning streak in the process.

Carlo was taken to a local hospital by ambulance after being hit by Wilson.

After the game, Cassidy offered his thoughts on Wilson’s hit.

“You can see it,” he told reporters via Zoom, “He hits him in the head. [It was a] [p]redatory hit from a player who’s done that before.”

Cassidy continued, “We felt it was completely unnecessary, dirty,” and added that he didn’t know whether Carlo was going to stay overnight in the hospital or even if he had been concussed at that point.

“You can probably make your own call on that one, considering the hit was directly to his head.”

Laviolette offered a different point of view, explaining (neither in defense, nor in terms of throwing his own player under the bus),

“I saw the hit. His feet were on the ice, he stayed down with everything. Just looked like a hard hit in the corner. Not exactly sure what happened, but to me, it looked like just a hit.”

Laviolette also mentioned after the game that he hadn’t received any indication that the league would be wanting to talk to Wilson about the hit on Carlo.

Bruins newcoming defender in just his second game with the club since being claimed off waivers on Sunday, Tinordi called the hit “risky” and added, “You’ve got to hold up there.”

“That’s what I noticed about this team as soon as I got here. The boys are playing for each other night in and night out,” Tinordi observed of his new teammates, remarking on Bergeron’s tap of the glass in front of him after scoring a goal while Tinordi sat in the penalty box having just fought Wilson.

“We did the job and took care of business on the ice,” Marchand told reporters after the game.

“If the refs are able to look at [Wilson’s hit on Carlo on video review], that’s a suspension and he’s gone from the game,” Marchand continued, “We can review if a guy’s foot is half an inch offside, but we can’t review a headshot.”

“I’ve been guilty of it in the past. But it is something you don’t wanna see happen. But he was in a bad spot and Wilson took advantage.”

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, meanwhile, have 437-563–1,003 combined totals in the last five years– becoming just one of two trios in the league in that span to collect over 1,000 combined points, joining Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers in doing so.

The Bruins improved to 9-2-1 (5-0-1 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal this season, while the Capitals fell to 5-3-2 (2-2-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal in 2020-21.

The B’s also improved to 7-0-0 (4-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 8-0-0 (5-0-0 at home) when leading after the second period this season.

Washington, meanwhile, fell to 2-4-1 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-0 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

Boston finishes up their three-game homestand (1-0-1) on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils before hitting the road for one game on Long Island next Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

2020 Mock Draft: The Complete First Round

It’s June October and the Stanley Cup has been awarded and already cleaned more than a few times from all of the beer and other things that the Tampa Bay Lightning have done with it, which means it’s the perfect time to gather in a city around your TV screen and be ready to throw on any of the 31 National Hockey League team draft hats (excluding the Seattle Kraken– we’ll deal with them next season) when your name is called.

Well, if you’re one of the 31 prospects lucky enough to go in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Tuesday night, at least. Rounds 2-7 will take place Wednesday, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET as always– kind of.

For the first time in NHL history, this year’s draft is virtual thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL

Montreal was set to play host to the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Centre back on June 26th and 27th, but it’s 2020 and with the global pandemic still going on, the league originally postponed the event back on March 25th before announcing it as a virtual draft at a later date (this week).

It’s also the first time that the draft is being held outside of June since the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, which was held at the Westin Hotel Ottawa in Canada’s capital city– Ottawa, Ontario– on July 30th of that year and it’s the first time that the draft is being held completely on weekday(s) for the first time since the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in Hartford, Connecticut, which was on Tuesday, June 28th of that year (remember the Whalers?).

The projected first overall pick– Alexis Lafrenfière– will get his moment in the spotlight sometime once the 2020-21 regular season begins, but until then he’ll have to settle for whatever lights his parents have in the living room.

Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.

1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski, (QMJHL)

Considered the best player to come out of the QuĂ©bec Major Junior Hockey League since Sidney Crosby– who also played for Rimouski OcĂ©anic back in his Junior days– Lafrenière is a no-brainer for the New York Rangers.

He might be the best player in the draft since Connor McDavid was selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, and for good reason.

Lafrenière had 35 goals and 77 assists (112 points) in 52 games for Rimouski this season until the rest of the regular season, as well as all of the postseason and Memorial Cup were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

There’s nothing wrong with the Rangers stacking up on talent on the left side with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider already in play. Simply put Lafrenière on the third line if you must and watch the forward depth lead the club into a playoff contender.

2. Los Angeles Kings–> C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)

Byfield had 32-50–82 totals in 45 games with the Ontario Hockey Leagues’s Sudbury Wolves this season. His 6-foot-4 , 215-pound frame will help ease the transition for the Los Angeles Kings from Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter down the middle to whatever’s next with Byfield taking center stage.

His speed and skating ability is already a cut above the rest in the draft and having a two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (Kopitar) as a teammate should further elevate Byfield’s game into one of the better two-way centers as he’ll be sure to learn a thing or two from him.

3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–> C/LW Tim Stützle, Mannheim (DEL)

The best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl, StĂĽtzle amassed 7-27–34 totals in 41 games with Adler Mannheim in the DEL last season. He’s a dynamic forward that plays a mature game for his age, which is a promising sign for the Ottawa Senators that ensured they’d be having “unparalleled success from 2021-25”.

It’s not off to that promising of a start for the Sens, but with their rebrand, StĂĽtzle at 3rd overall and the 5th overall pick at their hands, Ottawa’s brighter days are ahead if not now. They’ll just need to find a new starting goaltender to really make them a playoff contender with Craig Anderson’s departure as part of Ottawa’s plan.

4. Detroit Red Wings–> D Jamie Drysdale, Erie (OHL)

While Detroit Red Wing General Manager, Steve Yzerman, could make a splash later in the week trying to attract Alex Pietrangelo or Michigan native, Torey Krug, to Detroit’s blue line, it’s about time the Red Wings took another defender to potentially anchor the defensive zone in the future with last year’s first round pick, Moritz Seider.

Drysdale checks off all the boxes for the Red Wings as the best defender in the draft and you know what wins championships in “Hockeytown”? Defense.

That said, he had 9-38–47 totals in 49 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20 and is capable of utilizing his 5-foot-11, 175-pound build to his advantage in a two-way game.

5. Ottawa Senators–> RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda (SHL)

Everybody loves Raymond and his playmaking abilities– drawing comparisons to Ottawa’s intra-province rival, Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, according to scouts and mock draft experts alike.

His skill, two-way style and high hockey IQ are what sets him apart from other players his age and pairs well with Stützle in the picture for the Sens as a pair of players that could change the face of a franchise on their own. In 33 games last season with Frölunda HC, Raymond had 10 points (four goals, six assists) playing as a teenager among men in the SHL.

He has one goal and one assist (two points) in four games this season already.

6. Anaheim Ducks–> C/LW Cole Perfetti, Saginaw (OHL)

The Anaheim Ducks need some scoring power as they stockpile youth on the roster and Perfetti brings the right amount of scoring prowess combined with an all-around ability that sets him apart as a forward.

Perfetti’s vision is one that will generate scoring chances– whether for himself or a teammate– as he amassed 37 goals and 74 assists (111 points) with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) in 61 games last season.

At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, he’s not flashy, but he creates space for his own game and that’ll compliment well with Anaheim’s need for a true top-six forward in the coming years– be it first or second line center or just a solid option at left wing.

7. New Jersey Devils–> C Marco Rossi, Ottawa (OHL)

Like the Senators, the New Jersey Devils have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft and if everything goes according to plan, the Devils will make off with a pretty solid core of forwards to intersperse among their organizational depth.

Rossi lit up the OHL in scoring last season with 39 goals and 81 assists (120 points) in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s, while drawing comparisons to that of Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, he could join the likes of Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and others as one of few Austrian born players to be drafted in the first round.

8. Buffalo Sabres–> C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)

Lundell had 10-18–28 totals in 44 games with HIFK last season in Finland’s top professional league (Liiga) and has a knack for protecting the puck rather well.

One of the better two-way centers in the draft, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound 19-year-old has some room to grow into a top-six role with the Buffalo Sabres in the near future– especially if Casey Mittelstadt and/or Tage Thompson can’t solidify their game in terms of a long-term second line center companion to Jack Eichel’s standout status as the first line center.

The Sabres need to shore up their strength down the middle– regardless of Eric Staal’s presence for this season on the second or third line.

9. Minnesota Wild–> C/RW Seth Jarvis, Portland (WHL)

Jarvis had 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season before the pandemic cut things short.

He’s a crafty new-age center that has room to grow and has shown he can be more of a second-half of the season player that could one day peak at the right time for something the Minnesota Wild haven’t seen in a while– a deep playoff run.

With the Wild moving on from Mikko Koivu, Minnesota will need to replenish the pipeline down the middle both in the immediate and for the future.

10. Winnipeg Jets–> D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)

Sanderson could go higher in the draft or lower reminiscent of how Cam Fowler fell from 5th in the final rankings coming into the 2010 NHL Draft to being selected 12th overall by the Ducks.

He plays with aggression and has a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame that could make losing Dustin Byfuglien prior to last season a little bit easier for the Jets– though Sanderson has big shoes to fill on a diminished Winnipeg blue line, unless GM Kevin Cheveldayoff flips Patrik Laine for an incredible return to shore up some own zone help for 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.

With some polishing of his skills at the University of North Dakota whenever the 2020-21 season is expected to begin, Sanderson could improve from his 7-22–29 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program into a power play specialist that loves to use the body.

11. Nashville Predators–> D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert (WHL)

One of David Poile’s strengths as Nashville Predators GM has long been drafting defenders and Guhle is no exception to the rule. At 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, he could fit in with reigning Norris Trophy winner, Roman Josi, as well as Mattias Ekholm and friends on the blue line.

With 11-29–40 totals in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL last season, Guhle is a consummate two-way defender that can grind his way out of battles and move the puck out of his own zone– a strong suit of Nashville’s defensive core for at least the last 15 years.

12. Florida Panthers–> RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens (SHL)

Holtz had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 35 games with DjurgĂĄrdens IF last season in the SHL as a pure goal scorer that’s waiting to emerge with a plethora of shots to take.

He led players 18 and under in Sweden’s top league in scoring and has decent size (6-foot, 192-pounds) to go with adapting well to the increased intensity of NHL-level hockey in due time, though he’ll probably use another season to develop as a more prominent scorer with DjurgĂĄrdens in 2020-21.

That said, new Florida Panthers GM, Bill Zito, will take to stocking up prospects in Florida’s new affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with pleasure if the American Hockey League is able to make a season happen in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–> RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa (OHL)

Though the Carolina Hurricanes could go with taking a goaltender in the first round, GM Don Waddell just might be satisfied enough with how Alex Nedeljkovic continues to develop with Carolina’s new AHL affiliate– the Chicago Wolves– and instead opt for the next best available player in Quinn.

Carolina is much more satisfied crafting a plan via free agency or through a trade to add a goaltender this offseason for what could hopefully bolster their chances as a Cup contender– that’s right, it’s time for the Canes to unleash a storm on the rest of the league as a big improvement from last season to this season.

Quinn was one of two 50-goal scorers in the OHL last season as he finished the year with 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games. He’s also one of eight OHL players to score at least 50 goals in their first NHL draft eligible season since 2000-01.

You know who else did that? Guys like Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and Alex DeBrincat. Not too shabby.

14. Edmonton Oilers–> G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

The best goaltender in the draft, Askarov had a 12-3 record in 18 games in Russia’s second-tier league last season. He amassed a 2.45 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in the process and has a .974 SV%, as well as a 0.74 GAA through three games with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL this season.

As the Edmonton Oilers continue to find their way while trying to avoid wasting the primes of once in a generation talents like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’d make perfect sense for the Oilers to nail down a solid goaltending prospect for once.

Especially as there’s an immediate need for someone to replace Mikko Koskinen and/or whoever Edmonton chases after in free agency.

While the team that beat the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final passed over him in this hypothetical mock first round, Edmonton was sure to snag Askarov before anyone else could.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins)–> D Braden Schneider, Brandon (WHL)

While serving as an alternate captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) for the second year of his three full Junior seasons thus far, Schneider brought forth a solid two-way game to contribute to his team on the ice in addition to his leadership in the dressing room.

He had 7-35–42 totals in 60 games last season with the Wheat Kings, while utilizing his 6-foot-2, 202-pound body to shutdown opponents with his two-way game.

Schneider won’t be ready to hit the NHL ice in 2020-21, but he should be able to slide into a prominent role with the Toronto Maple Leafs in due time.

16. Montreal Canadiens–> C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

Mercer is a versatile forward that could be beneficial to fitting in with the Montreal Canadiens current game plan– find as many Nick Suzuki’s as possible among their forwards and roll four lines while hoping for the best in Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and others on defense, as well as Carey Price in goal.

The Habs are at a transition point from their old core to a new-age dynamic with the added bonus of head coach, Claude Julien, reconstructing his coaching strategies to propel the Canadiens forward from their .500 season in 2019-20, to hopefully a more legitimate standing as a playoff team in 2020-21.

Mercer amassed 60 points between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi SaguenĂ©ens in 42 games in the OHL last season and should be able to add a little bit of a power forward component to Montreal’s roster in the near future.

17. Chicago Blackhawks–> D Justin Barron, Halifax (QMJHL)

Barron missed a chunk of time last season with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) due to a blood clot issue, but still managed to put up 4-15–19 totals in 34 games from the blue line while playing an efficient physical game.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a solid group of young forwards emerging that it’s about time they start focusing a little more on developing a defense– whether it’s from within by selecting Barron or through free agency and making trades. In either case, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren’t getting any younger and they can’t play forever.

18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–> RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia (OHL)

With their second pick in the first round, New Jersey snags a versatile winger with a knack for shooting the puck and scoring. Perreault had 39-31–70 totals in 57 games with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) last season and should be ready to make an impact on the Devils’ NHL roster sooner rather than later.

He also led Sarnia with 15 power-play goals last season and could help load up New Jersey’s talent pool on the special teams.

19. Calgary Flames–> C Connor Zary, Kamloops (WHL)

If the Calgary Flames are serious about making some big changes to their core, they’re going to need to find a long-term solution down the middle and, luckily, Zary brings just that.

A dynamic skater with decent hands, he had 38 goals and 48 assists (86 points) in 57 games with the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) last season and lends himself to a suitable role as a team player with his 6-foot, 178-pound build at center.

20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–> C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

Upper body injuries limited Lapierre to 19 games last season, but he managed to put up 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in that span as one of the better playmakers his age.

The Devils complete their trifecta of first round picks with a bit of a gamble, but a high upside if everything works out and Lapierre’s health doesn’t end up being a concern. New Jersey’s influx of speed, skill and youth should be able to get them to attract some key role players in the coming years to fill out bottom-six roles on a playoff contending roster.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets–> C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin (NCAA)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken to college hockey players with a lot of love in recent years and there’s no love lost for scooping up Holloway and his 6-foot, 203-pound frame as either a center or left wing in the near future in Flavortown.

He had 8-9–17 totals in 35 games in his freshman year with the Wisconsin Badgers and will likely need at least one more year under his belt in the college program before making the jump, but with the addition of Max Domi via trade ahead of the draft on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets can take their time to craft a heavy hitting lineup down the middle.

22. New York Rangers (from Carolina Hurricanes)–> C Ridly Greig, Brandon (OHL)

Despite being 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, Greig can play in any role and has a good hockey IQ that comes in handy at both ends of the rink. His 26-34–60 totals in 56 games with the Wheat Kings last season should be decent enough for the Rangers to supplement their first round choice in Lafrenière in due time.

23. Philadelphia Flyers–> C Brendan Brisson, Chicago (USHL)

Brisson had 24-35–59 totals in 45 games with the Chicago Steel (USHL) last season and will be attending the University of Michigan to further develop his two-way game.

His consistency should only improve, as well as his scoring ability, which is promising for the Philadelphia Flyers as Claude Giroux peaks in his prime about the time Brisson could make his NHL debut.

24. Washington Capitals–> LW Rodion Amirov, Ufa (KHL)

In what’s not a surprise to anyone, the Washington Capitals aren’t afraid to take a shot on a Russian forward as Amirov had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in Russia’s second-tier league last season. His shot and playmaking skills are good, but he’ll need a little time to develop and get stronger before hitting the ice at the NHL level.

25. Colorado Avalanche–> RW Tyson Foerster, Barrie (OHL)

At 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, Foerster brings some size to the Colorado Avalanche’s pool of prospects to go along with his 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games last season with the Barrie Colts (OHL). He’s also a decent playmaker, which fits right in with the team mentality of the Avs in their current era.

26. St. Louis Blues–> LW John-Jason Peterka, München (DEL)

Peterka led Germany with four goals in seven games at the 2020 World Junior Championship and has an impressive skating ability for his age, which lends itself to playing amongst the professionals in the DEL. He had 7-4–11 totals in 42 games with EHC MĂĽnchen last season and is expected to continue to develop his game and work on using his size (5-foot-11, 192-pounds) to his advantage.

27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–> D Jérémie Poirier, Saint John (QMJHL)

With their second pick in the first round, the Ducks don’t mind taking a defender and letting him take his time to get better in his own zone before making an impact in Anaheim. Poirier had 20 goals and 33 assists (53 points) in 64 games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and plays a “live by the sword, die by the sword” game that can really come into its own as a shutdown defender with some more development.

28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–> D Helge Grans, Malmö (SWE J20)

Grans is a right-shot defender that has a great understanding of the game and decent vision to go along with his 4-23–27 totals in 27 games in Sweden’s junior lead last season, as well as one goal and two assists for Malmö in 21 games in the SHL last season.

He impressed coaches enough to begin the 2020-21 season in Sweden’s top league and should round out a great first round draft for the Senators.

29. Vegas Golden Knights–> D Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

A two-way defender, O’Rourke has a good hockey sense and had 7-30–37 totals in 54 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) last season. The Vegas Golden Knights already have a solid defensive core, but would be establishing an even better foundation for the future by taking the 6-foot, 178-pound defender.

30. Dallas Stars–> C Thomas Bordeleau, USA U-18 (USHL)

Bordeleau had 16-30–46 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program last season and has room to grow, but has time to develop within the Stanley Cup runners’ up, Dallas Stars’, system. A native of Texas, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan this fall.

31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–> D William Wallinder, MoDo (SWE J20)

Rounding out the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the San Jose Sharks the 31st overall pick for Barclay Goodrow back when the global pandemic hadn’t put an early end to the regular season and before the Bolts won the Cup. As a result, the Sharks have the last pick in the first round since they traded their 2020 1st round pick to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.

As such, it’s only fitting that San Jose continue to build up their defense with Wallinder as a solid option for moving the puck out of his own zone– either by carrying it on his own or finding an open teammate, while shutting down opponents with his 6-foot-4, 191-pound build.