Colby’s back, Jack.
The new format of the DTFR Podcast is introduced as Dustin Byfuglien is out for an extended period of time, Louis Domingue was traded, Scott Sabourin suffered a scary injury and the New York Islanders are on a nine-game winning streak.
Tuukka Rask picked up his first shutout of the season, while Brad Marchand had a milestone night at TD Garden in the Boston Bruins’, 3-0, victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Rask (3-0-0, 1.33 goals against average, .957 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 31 shots out of the 31 shots he faced for his 1st shutout of the season and 46th of his career.
New Jersey netminder, Cory Schneider (0-2-0, 3.31 GAA, .897 SV% in three games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against (.906 SV%) in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 (8 points) and moved into sole possession of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Devils fell to 0-3-2 (2 points) on the season and 8th place in the Metropolitan Division.
Boston also improved to 14-2-1 in their last 17 home games against New Jersey.
Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were the only Bruins skaters out of the lineup due to injury.
Meanwhile, Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, reinserted Brett Ritchie on the third line with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle, while scratching David Backes in the process.
Backes joined Par Lindholm and Steven Kampfer as the B’s trio of healthy scratches in the press box.
Early in the first period, Marchand (4) gave the Bruins with the game’s first goal with a shot off from the point that deflected off of Devils defender, Damon Severson, and went past Schneider while Patrice Bergeron was screening the New Jersey goaltender.
David Pastrnak (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 3:33 of the first period.
Just past the midpoint of the opening frame, Joakim Nordstrom (1) tallied his first goal of the season in just his second game of the year since returning from injury.
Chris Wagner got a piece of the puck in the low slot, but it bounced off his stick towards Nordstrom, whereby the left winger pocketed the loose puck to give Boston a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 11:22.
Wagner (1) and Sean Kuraly (2) had the assists on Nordstrom’s goal.
Moments later, Kuraly went to the penalty box for hooking Devils forward, Miles Wood, at 15:24, but New Jersey wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.
With less than 20 seconds left in the period, New Jersey defender, Mirco Mueller, was penalized for interference against Coyle and the Bruins went on their first power play of the night at 19:43.
Boston’s skater advantage, however, would extend into the second period as the B’s weren’t able to capitalize on the power play by the end of the first 20 minutes.
After one period of play, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 15-10, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2) and hits (11-2), while New Jersey led in takeaways (5-4).
Both teams had two giveaways each and were split in faceoff win percentage, 50-50.
The Devils and B’s were both 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Connor Carrick kicked things off in the middle frame with a tripping minor after the New Jersey defender brought down Karson Kuhlman at 6:12 of the second period.
Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage and followed things up with a penalty of their own at 9:19, as Brandon Carlo was caught behind the play and hooked Jack Hughes.
The Devils were powerless on their second power play of the night.
Midway through the second period, Pastrnak served Boston’s bench minor for a faceoff violation delay of game penalty at 13:52.
New Jersey couldn’t muster anything on the resulting skater advantage and Pastrnak was freed from the box without any issue.
Late in the period, Kyle Palmieri tripped Charlie McAvoy and was sent to the sin bin with an infraction for tripping at 18:59.
Less than 20 seconds into their third power play of the night, Boston scored as Bergeron (1) scored his first game of the season, following up on a loose puck from point blank with a backhand tap-in after Jake DeBrusk got the initial chance that rebounded.
DeBrusk (1) and Marchand (3) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal, giving Marchand 300 assists in his career as a result.
Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 3-0, while the Devils led in shots on goal, 25-24, including a, 15-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
Boston led in every other statistical category entering the second intermission, including blocked shots (8-6), takeaways (8-7), giveaways (9-4), hits (21-8) and faceoff win% (55-45).
New Jersey was 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
Aside from Kevin Rooney going over the boards and into Boston’s bench after missing a hit on DeBrusk early in the third period, not much happened in the third period.
Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, was penalized for holding against Nico Hischier at 11:15 of the third, but the Devils failed to capitalize on the power play yet again.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-31, including an, 8-6, advantage in the third period alone), blocked shots (13-11), giveaways (10-7), hits (23-11) and faceoff win% (54-46).
New Jersey went 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/3 on special teams with the skater advantage.
Chara played in the 1,490th game of his NHL career, passing Wayne Gretzky for 23rd all time. Phil Housley is next on the list with 1,495 career NHL games played.
Rask became the first goaltender to record a shutout in Boston’s home opener since Gilles Gilbert on Oct. 11, 1979 and just the fourth netminder to do so in franchise history, while recording the most saves in a shutout performance by a Bruins goaltender in a home opener since the statistic began being tracked in the 1955-56 season.
The B’s host the Anaheim Ducks Monday afternoon in Boston’s first matinee meeting of the season, then the Tampa Bay Lightning pay their first visit to TD Garden on Thursday before the Bruins travel to Toronto for a home and home series on Oct. 19th in Toronto and Oct. 22nd in Boston.
44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Riley Barber, F Nick Cousins, F Phil Varone, D Ben Chiarot, G Keith Kinkaid
Subtractions: F Daniel Audette (signed with Springfield, AHL), F Nicolas Deslauriers (traded to ANA), F Andrew Shaw (traded to CHI), F Hunter Shinkaruk (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Jordie Benn (signed with VAN), D Brett Lernout (signed with VGK), G Antti Niemi (KHL)
Still Unsigned: None
Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Charles Hudon, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael McCarron
Offseason Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens didn’t even get a meeting with John Tavares last offseason and they tried to ask out a couple of potential suitors to the prom this offseason, but were ultimately rejected.
Before Habs fans try to claim that technically Sebastian Aho accepted their offer, but was then taken back by his… still current romantic partner (Carolina), let’s remember that this is only a terrible attempt at a metaphor or whatever.
The bottom line is Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, wanted to get Matt Duchene in free agency this offseason, but lost out to the Nashville Predators– which was inevitable given Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway.
Then Bergevin turned to his next option– becoming the “villain” among his peers by submitting an offer sheet to another team’s restricted free agent.
That RFA happened to be Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes forward who remains a Carolina Hurricanes forward after signing a five-year, $8.454 million per season offer sheet from the Habs that was officially matched by the Canes about a week later.
If Bergevin was really comfortable with paying a steep compensation price, he likely offered more in cap hit, length of the deal and, well, just about everything else.
Instead, Carolina wasn’t fazed by the $8.454 million annual cap hit, despite a little more than $21 million front loaded in the deal in signing bonuses and Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, simply wrote a cheque for Aho to cash in and avoid a long offseason of “uncertainty” as many other RFAs faced around the league.
While Bergevin may have done the Hurricanes a favor, Tampa Bay Lightning center, Brayden Point is still unsigned, so…
Actually, on second thought, Montreal only has about $4.045 million in cap space now since missing out on Aho and signing defender, Ben Chiarot, to a consolation prize, three-year, $3.500 million per season contract.
It’s not that Chiarot isn’t a durable defender, but rather, that the Canadiens really could use a young, promising forward to shore up a legitimate top-six– especially with pending-RFA Max Domi in a contract year.
Montreal wants to get back into the postseason, but they don’t just want to make it– they want to make a splash and go on a deep run. Especially since they’re the most recent Canadian team to win the Cup, having done so in 1993, which seems like ages ago, right?
Seven teams have joined the league since a Canadian market last hoisted the Cup high above their heads in a celebratory skate.
Head coach, Claude Julien, transitioned his style from a more veteran dependent coaching style to a more contemporary “play the kids” approach last season and it got Montreal to finish two points outside of the playoffs thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ defeat of the New York Rangers in the last weekend of the regular season.
The good news for Julien? His roster is about the same, so there’s a lot of familiarity in the room in their quest for progress.
Keith Kinkaid signed a one-year, $1.750 million deal to backup Carey Price this season and can be useful in offsetting Price’s workload, though Kinkaid’s looking to bounce back from a dismal year with the New Jersey Devils last season.
Kinkaid amassed a 3.36 goals against average and an .891 save percentage in 41 games played while New Jersey transitioned from Cory Schneider to Mackenzie Blackwood (when healthy) in the crease as their starter.
One thing’s for sure for the Habs this season– if they don’t make it back to the playoffs in 2020, there’s going to be some change coming.
There just has to be.
Offseason Grade: C
Nothing spectacular walked into Bell Centre in the offseason and nothing spectacular walked out. That’s not terrible, but might not be up to the expectations of a fanbase and front office that expects to win every season.
That said, Montreal is due for a resurgence in the standings sooner, rather than later. It’s just going to take a little more work than… whatever was done this offseason.
Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.
New Jersey Devils
31-41-10, 72 points, 8th in the Metropolitan Division
Missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons
Additions: F Nikia Gusev (acquired from VGK), F John Hayden (acquired from CHI), F Wayne Simmonds, F Ben Street, D Dakota Mermis, D P.K. Subban (acquired from NSH), D Matt Tennyson
Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (signed with TOR), F Kurtis Gabriel (signed with PHI), F Adam Helewka (KHL), F Nick Lappin (signed with STL), F Stefan Noesen (signed a PTO with DAL), F Blake Pietila (signed with ANA), F John Quenneville (traded to CHI), F Eric Tangradi (KHL), D Jeremy Davies (traded to NSH), D Ryan Murphy (KHL), D Steven Santini (traded to NSH), D John Ramage (KHL), D Egor Yakovlev (KHL), G Cam Johnson (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)
Still unsigned: F Drew Stafford, F Pavel Zacha, D Eric Gryba, G Eddie Lack
Re-signed: F Brandon Baddock, D Will Butcher, D Connor Carrick, D Josh Jacobs, D Mirco Mueller
Offseason Analysis: Ray Shero is an active General Manager and he was quite the active dealer this offseason– most recently acquiring Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2020 3rd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick, while also sending Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick to the Nashville Predators to acquire P.K. Subban in June.
Gusev signed a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season to begin his NHL career at the age of 27, while Subban joins New Jersey with three years remaining on his eight-year, $72 million contract that he originally signed as an extension with the Montreal Canadiens on August 2, 2014 before being traded to Nashville in June 2016.
Shero then went on to sign Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5.000 million contract in free agency in an effort to bolster New Jersey’s top-six forwards.
Taylor Hall is a pending-unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
It’s not known whether or not the 2018 Hart Trophy winner has any desire to stay with the Devils or not, but Shero’s making every effort to keep his team relevant for what’s likely to be the rest of Hall’s prime.
Adding Jack Hughes with the 1st overall selection in the 2019 Draft is sure to help, while Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt come into their own among the forwards and Will Butcher (signed to a three-year extension this offseason worth $3.733 million per season) and Subban lead the new-age Devils blue line from the backend.
Pavel Zacha, the 22-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, scored 24 points in 70 games in his rookie season of 2016-17 and 25 points in each of the last two seasons (8-17–25 totals in 69 games in 2017-18 and 13-12–25 totals in 61 games in 2018-19).
Zacha is currently an unsigned-restricted free agent who should fit under New Jersey’s $8.712 million in currently available cap space, but shouldn’t be more than a one or two-year bridge deal as he has yet to prove himself of a larger role and the Devils are looking to avoid restricting themselves from next summer’s negotiations with Hall, Simmonds and others.
The one thing Shero hasn’t touched– mostly because he can’t– is goaltending.
Cory Schneider has a $6.000 million cap hit and three-years remaining on his contract and is coming off a career-worst, 3.06 goals against average and .903 save percentage in 26 games played as an NHL regular goaltender.
Mackenzie Blackwood emerged with a hot start to the season in 2018-19, but was limited both by the lack of protection in front of him, as well as injury, to just 23 games and a 2.61 GAA and a .918 SV% in his rookie campaign.
Blackwood’s .918 SV% is promising, but his 2.61 GAA is more endemic of an anemic defense the Devils are looking to get more out of– hence the addition of Subban.
Offseason Grade C+
New Jersey played it safe this offseason by not overpaying for a free agent (Simmonds), while keeping the term short and sweet– leaving the door open for further relations if it is mutually beneficial, but also at risk of being left for someone else if Simmonds looks to cash-in on a superb 2019-20 season elsewhere.
Shero bolstered his defense out of necessity, but might not have a playoff-ready roster without more work to be done. If the Devils were a yearly playoff contender, this offseason would look much better than it actually is. Sadly, it’s just a little above average for a team in transition from free-fall to “stable” rebuilder.