Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.
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.
Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
- wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
- wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
- New York Rangers, 89 points
- Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
- New Jersey Devils, 84 points
Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons
Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.
The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.
Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.
After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.
Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)
Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.
With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.
At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.
How would the Capitals fail?
Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons
Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.
Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.
If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.
As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.
If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.
This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.
But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.
How would the Penguins fail?
Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons
All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.
The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.
Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.
But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.
Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.
Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.
And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.
Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.
It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.
How would the Blue Jackets fail?
The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.
New York Islanders: Pros and Cons
Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.
But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the
Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.
New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.
Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?
Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.
Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?
Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?
It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.
How would the Islanders fail?
It’s [the] trap!
Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons
Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.
Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.
Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!
Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.
The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!
Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.
All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.
How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?
How would the Flyers fail?
Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.
New York Rangers: Pros and Cons
The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.
Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.
It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.
Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.
The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).
Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.
But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.
Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.
The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).
Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.
Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.
Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.
How would the Rangers fail?
Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.
Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons
Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.
Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.
Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.
Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.
If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina
Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.
Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).
The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.
Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.
In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.
Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?
How would the Hurricanes fail?
The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).
New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons
The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.
New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.
Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.
Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.
Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.
Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.
Now for the good news.
Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.
How would the Devils fail?
If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.
There’s only one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, so let’s make this quick. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 10th.
The stretch run is almost complete. If you’re mathematically alive, you still have a chance. Already clinched a playoff berth? Isn’t a great feeling to be ahead of things for once?
If you’re not, then there’s a good chance you’re looking forward to the 2019 NHL Draft lottery (unless you’re the Ottawa Senators– you see, they traded their 2019 1st round pick last season to the Colorado Avalanche after opting to keep their 2018 1st round pick instead– it’s a long story).
Without further ado, here’s the latest standings forecast through the end of March 31, 2019– keeping in mind this is not an exact science.
Given recent and season long trends, as well as records from the last few seasons, the forecasted standings that appear below are only an educated guess.
Anything can happen (for teams that aren’t otherwise already elimination from postseason contention and/or division, conference of President’s Trophy winners).
Projected Standings After Six Months
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 126 points (78 games played entering April 1st)
- x-Boston Bruins, 110 points (79 GP)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 100 points (78 GP)
- Montreal Canadiens, 95 points (79 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 87 points (79 GP)
- Buffalo Sabres, 75 points (79 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 74 points (79 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 65 points (78 GP)
To no surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy in real life and come close to a 130-point season. Though the Bolts didn’t set an NHL record for “best regular season ever”, they did become the third team in league history to amass 60-plus wins in a season.
Also, sorry Nikita Kucherov, but you can’t spread out your 120-plus points over the course of the playoffs. Everything is reset to “zero” as if it’s a new season within a season altogether.
Is this the year Steven Stamkos records a point in a Game 7?
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs keep running into each other as Toronto is looking to avenge last postseason’s seven-game series loss to the Bruins.
Unless David Pastrnak has anything to say about that on the scoreboard.
The Montreal Canadiens come up short of a playoff berth thanks to the current tiebreaker format, whereby both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes had more regulation-plus-overtime wins. If anything, there’s more hope for next season than this time around last season in Montreal.
And if you’re a Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings fan, for some reason you still think your teams are on the cusp of playoff contention– especially now that you’ve already reset your focus on being tied with all 31-NHL teams for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff action.
However, unless the Panthers make some serious moves in the offseason, the Sabres find a system (and goaltender) and stick with it and the Red Wings try to speed up their rebuild, it might be Groundhog Day for another season or two.
Finally, Ottawa Senators fans, you exist. You’re real fans.
- y-Washington Capitals, 105 points (79 GP)
- x-New York Islanders, 102 points (79 GP)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP)
- wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 95 points (79 GP)
- wc2-Carolina Hurricanes, 95 points (79 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 83 points (79 GP)
- New York Rangers, 77 points (78 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 70 points (79 GP)
In the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals found a way to once-again reign as the division winner heading into the postseason.
After the New York Islanders charged out of the gate on the heels of Barry Trotz’s defensive masterplan and stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, things have started to slide in Long Island.
The good news? Trotz is their head coach and is the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.
The bad news? They’ll suit up against the Pittsburgh Penguins– annual Stanley Cup contenders as long as Sidney Crosby is still playing and Mike Sullivan is within his five-year window of being the game’s best coach in the playoffs– and that’s just the First Round.
In the Eastern Conference wild card race, Columbus entered April with 44 regulation-plus-overtime wins, leading the Hurricanes (41) and Canadiens (40).
Given the forecasted tie and methods in which each team would need to reach 95 points on the season, it appears as though nothing is going to change over the last week of the season.
Nothing should change anyway.
Not to jinx them or anything, but Carolina is looking to end the longest postseason drought in the major four North American professional sports. The Canes haven’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, there’s 1) maybe a goaltender you can rely on, 2) a goaltender who still hasn’t won a Cup and is sticking with a team that’s rebuilding and 3) a goaltender that finally won a game this season (Cory Schneider) and a goaltender that should be your starter next season (Mackenzie Blackwood).
- y-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (78 GP)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 98 points (78 GP)
- x-Nashville Predators, 97 points (79 GP)
- wc1-Dallas Stars, 93 points (79 GP)
- wc2-Colorado Avalanche, 89 points (78 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (79 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points (78 GP)
Ever hear of a team going from worst to first? Now have you ever heard of a team doing that in the same season? Because the St. Louis Blues are that team this season (at least in the Central Division alone).
However, the point spread in the expected forecast from 1st to 3rd in the Central is only a two-point difference, which means it’s still anybody’s guess as to who will come out with the top-seed in the division.
Should the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators end up in a First Round rematch of last season’s Second Round battle, then you can expect the Jets to take flight. Just a hunch.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference wild card race came down to the wire and– you guessed it– another tiebreaker.
While the Dallas Stars laid claim to the first wild card spot, the Colorado Avalanche came out on top of the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot by virtue of having won their regular season series, 2-1-0.
Things didn’t go so well for the Minnesota Wild this season, both because of injuries and because of a lot of inconsistency (so… injuries?).
For the Chicago Blackhawks, the season started in October, not January.
- z-Calgary Flames, 109 points (79 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP)
- x-Vegas Golden Knights, 95 points (79 GP)
- Arizona Coyotes, 89 points (79 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (78 GP)
- Anaheim Ducks, 80 points (80 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 80 points (79 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 70 points (78 GP)
The Calgary Flames clinched the best record in the Western Conference for the first time in almost 30 years. Conveniently, the Flames last won the Cup 30 years ago.
Guess it’s about time for another repeat of 2004, even though goal line technology could surely keep that from ever happening again whether you believe it was in or not.
Things are looking like business as usual for the San Jose Sharks as they gear up for another taxing First Round battle– this time around in a rematch from last year’s Second Round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights, by the way, are the 7th team to reach the postseason in their first two seasons of existence.
It’s too bad the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t pull off an incredible run, despite losing their starting goaltender to injury for the season before American Thanksgiving.
The fact that they’re not in the Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko conversation is about as close as you can come to winning the Cup this season when you’ve relied on Darcy Kuemper for over 20-consecutive starts.
That’s not a shot at Kuemper. That’s just [heck-]ing incredible (pardon my French).
Back up north in Edmonton, the Oilers are gearing up for another rebuild? Is it that time already? Probably not, but if it’s what Connor McDavid wants… (it’s not).
Thanks to that good old ROW tiebreaker, the Anaheim Ducks managed to climb above the Vancouver Canucks in the standings. That’s not saying much.
Vancouver should be this season’s Arizona, next season (minus the injuries). If that makes sense.
Anaheim, on the other hand, should sell, sell, sell this summer.
Finally, the Los Angeles Kings were crowned 2014 Stanley Cup champions for the 5th year in-a-row and finished in the basement of the Pacific.