Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
First Star of the game, Jake DeBrusk (2-0—2 totals), and the Boston Bruins are moving on to the Second Round after a thrilling 7-4 victory in Game 7 on Wednesday night. The TD Garden crowd was roaring throughout the game as Boston eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tuukka Rask made 20 saves on 24 shots against for an .833 save percentage in the win, while Toronto’s Frederik Andersen stopped 29 out of 35 shots faced for an .829 SV% in the loss. Rask improved to 2-2 all-time in a Game 7, as Andersen remains winless (0-3) in his career Game 7 action.
Perhaps a bit too much for the Bruins, however, as Kuraly was penalized on a controversial tripping minor against Toronto defender, Jake Gardiner, 30 seconds into the action.
While Boston was struggling to settle their jitters, the Leafs pounced.
Gardiner fired a shot from the point into heavy traffic where Marleau used his stealthy hand-eye coordination to redirect the puck past Rask.
Entering Wednesday night, the team that scored first won five out of the six prior games in the series. In games where Toronto has led this series, they’ve won. All of that would mean nothing by the end of the night.
Morgan Rielly followed up with a minor penalty of his own, giving the Bruins their first power play, as the Maple Leafs blueliner was sent to the penalty box for delay of game (puck over glass) three minutes into the period.
As was tradition in the regular season, Boston’s power play had several chances, but could not capitalize on the man advantage until late in the power play.
After David Krejci kept the puck in the zone on a Toronto clearing attempt, the veteran Czech forward sent it to his fellow countryman, David Pastrnak, who quickly fired a purposeful shot looking for DeBrusk in front of the goal to redirect it. And that’s exactly what happened.
DeBrusk (4) redirected the shot into the net and the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, on a power play goal at 4:47 of the first period. Pastrnak (8) and Krejci (4) notched the assists on the goal.
The game wouldn’t be tied for long, however, as Marleau (4) scored his second goal of the night on a wicked wrist shot that beat Rask blocker side. Mitch Marner (7) had the only assist on the goal, having been responsible for the reverse pivot— fake shot on goal, turned pass— that was enough to sell Rask just out of position to stop Marleau’s shot.
Just over six minutes into the first period, the Maple Leafs had a 2-1 lead. It was the third time in three games that Boston allowed a goal about a minute after scoring.
Almost three minutes later, Danton Heinen (1), who had returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for part of the series, rocketed a shot past Andersen to knot things up, 2-2. Krejci (5) and Rick Nash (1) assisted on the goal at 9:10 of the first period.
Halfway through the opening frame of Game 7, there were 11 combined shots on goal. Four of them were goals.
Past the halfway mark, Leafs defender, Morgan Rielly took a shot up high— just above his upper lip— that caused a stoppage in play while the blueliner was attended to by Toronto’s athletic trainer.
The Bull Gang scrapped off the blood on the ice and play continued. Rielly would return for the second period after getting stitched up.
Rick Nash caught Zach Hyman with a high-stick at 11:30 of the first period and sent Boston on a penalty kill. The ensuing effort by both Toronto’s special teams and the Bruins penalty killers did not result in any goals allowed and Boston once again swung momentum in their direction, feeding off of the home crowd.
With less than a minute remaining in the opening period, the Bruins worked the puck into the offensive zone, whereby David Backes worked the puck back to Kevan Miller and the Bruins defender took full advantage of everything he had.
Miller shot the puck intentionally wide to attain a carom off the boards on the far side. The plan worked flawlessly as Patrice Bergeron (1) was crashing the net and put home the rebound off the boards to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.
The assists went to Miller (2) and Backes (1) at 19:23 of the first period.
Through 20 minutes of Game 7, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and 12-10 in shots on goal. Boston also led in blocked shots (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (52-48), while Toronto led in takeaways (6-3) and giveaways (4-3). Both teams had 12 hits aside and one power play goal, as the Maple Leafs were 1/2 on the man advantage and Boston was 1/1 heading into the first intermission.
The Maple Leafs became the first team in NHL history to blow two separate first period leads in a Game 7, but fear not, that provided just enough motivation to take back the game’s momentum in the second frame.
Toronto stormed out of the gates to start the second period as Travis Dermott (1) converted on a Bruins turnover to tie the game, 3-3, just 2:07 into the period.
Roman Polak (1) and Nylander (3) picked up the assists on the goal as the B’s started a tumultuous period of sloppy play all over the ice.
Tomas Plekanec knocked down Brad Marchand away from the play at 4:56 of the second period and was assessed a minor penalty for interference. Boston’s power play proved to be powerless, especially after Torey Krug failed to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
With Marchand chasing after the puck, Kasperi Kapanen (1) stripped the Bruins winger of the rubber biscuit and dangled one past Rask on a beautiful individual effort for a short-handed goal to give Toronto the 4-3 lead just over six minutes into the period.
Boston allowed two goals on two shots on net to start the second period and were snake bitten leading up to the second intermission.
After 40 minutes of play, Toronto held a one goal lead— leading, 4-3 heading into the third period. Boston led in shots on goal (25-16), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42) after two periods and the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9), hits (26-22) and takeaways (14-4). Both teams were 1/2 on the power play.
Krejci and Hyman took matching roughing penalties about a minute into the third period, resulting in 4-on-4 action, early in the final frame of regulation.
Four seconds later, Krug (2) redeemed his poor second period play with a one-timer goal that beat Andersen after the Bruins won an offensive zone faceoff. Miller (3) and Bergeron (6) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on the goal that tied the game, 4-4, just 1:10 into the third period.
Moments later, Tyler Bozak and Rick Nash couldn’t keep their hands off of each other as Bozak interfered with the Bruins winder and Nash retaliated.
Boston was pressing harder than they had in the end-to-end action that concluded the first period. The Bruins were looking to be the ones to score the next goal and they did just that, thanks to one of their rookies.
After working the puck up the boards, Krejci sent a quick, short, pass to DeBrusk (5) who bolted into the offensive zone, slide the puck under Gardiner’s stick, while taking a hit and went five-hole on Andersen to give Boston their second lead of the night, 5-4, at 5:25 of the third period.
Krejci (6) had the only assist on the goal.
Six minutes later, after surviving counter attacks from the Maple Leafs, the Bruins were on the prowl again, working the puck deep into the offensive zone, where Marchand slid the puck to Bergeron.
Boston’s alternate captain tossed the puck to Pastrnak (5) in the low slot and the 21-year-old star held onto the puck just long enough to let Andersen overcommit and leave a gapping net open.
Pastrnak hit the twine and the Bruins had the first two-goal lead of the night, 6-4, at 11:39 of the third period.
With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Babcock pulled his goaltender for an extra skater and the Leafs went on the assault for a solid minute and a half until Riley Nash skated the puck out of the defensive zone and up to Marchand.
Marchand (3) brought it in just far enough to seal the deal with an empty net goal and gave Boston a three-goal lead with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Riley Nash (1) notched his first point of the series and the Bruins led, 7-4.
At the final horn, Boston had finished the Toronto in seven games— leading, 7-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal (36-24), hits (33-31) and faceoff win percentage (57-43). Despite the loss, the Maple Leafs led in blocked shots (10-9). Both teams scored one goal each on the power play, as Toronto finished the night 1/2 and the Bruins finished 1/3 on the man advantage.
Bruce Cassidy completed his first series win as a head coach and is now 1-0 in Game 7s for Boston, while Mike Babcock fell to 3-6 all time in Game 7s, split between Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto.
The Bruins are now 3-1 all-time in Game 7s against Toronto, having last beaten them, 5-4 in overtime, in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Boston improved to 14-12 in Game 7s all-time, tying an NHL record for most Game 7 wins (14) with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. Wednesday night’s game was also the 26th Game 7 appearance in franchise history for the Bruins, surpassing Detroit’s 25 appearances for the league lead.
As a result of the win, the Bruins are moving on to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the Bolts won the Atlantic Division and secured the best record in the Eastern Conference, Tampa will have home ice in the series and Game 1 is set for Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena.
Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC. Canadian viewers can follow the action on Sportsnet or TVA Sports.
A full 60-minute effort led to the Boston Bruins 5-1 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup at TD Garden on Thursday.
First Star of the game, Brad Marchand, opened scoring on a multipoint night, while Torey Krug, David Pastrnak and David Krejci each had multipoint nights of their own. Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask had 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .963 save percentage in the win.
Toronto goaltender, Frederik Andersen, stopped 35 out of 40 shots faced for an .875 SV% in the loss.
After James van Riemsdyk took a trip to the penalty box for hooking Bruins forward, Rick Nash, Boston’s power play did not take long to convert on their first man-advantage opportunity of the night. Brad Marchand (1) received a pass from Torey Krug and fired a shot past Frederik Andersen to give Boston a 1-0 lead on a power play goal at 5:28 of the first period. Krug (1) and David Pastrnak (1) were credited with the assists on Marchand’s goal.
Shortly thereafter, David Krejci was called for hooking Maple Leafs forward, Nazem Kadri, and Toronto would see their first power play of the night.
The Maple Leafs man advantage was no match for the pure puck possession dominance of Marchand and his linemate, Patrice Bergeron, as the two Boston forwards had a couple of tremendous short handed scoring chances that were turned aside by Andersen.
With 3:08 remaining in the first period, Zach Hyman (1) burst past Krejci through the neutral zone, got ahead of Bruins defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, deked and flipped a backhander past Rask to tie the game 1-1 on a breakaway goal. Hyman’s goal was assisted by Connor Brown (1) and Morgan Rielly (1).
After twenty minutes of action, the Bruins and Maple Leafs exited the ice to a 1-1 tie with Boston leading 9-7 in shots on goal and hits (20-18). Toronto led in blocked shots (5-1), while both teams had a pair of takeaways. The Leafs were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission, while the B’s were a perfect 1/1 thanks to Marchand’s goal.
Only 59 seconds into the second period, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, was guilty of a minor penalty for holding the stick of Zach Hyman. Toronto failed to convert on the ensuing power play and Boston resumed even strength activity with no issue.
Danton Heinen followed up Chara’s minor penalty with a penalty of his own for slashing, giving Boston two consecutive penalties to kill in almost six minutes apart. Unfortunately for Toronto, Boston’s penalty killing unit was on its game.
Patrick Marleau tripped Jake DeBrusk in the Bruins offensive zone at 13:59 of the second period and Boston went on the power play for just the second time of the night.
After every player touched the puck on a fast moving power play, David Krejci tossed the puck over to David Backes (1) who then kicked it upon reception from his left skate to his stick blade and roofed the twine for his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Krejci (1) and McAvoy (1) snagged the assists on the goal.
Backes’s power play goal gave Boston a 2-1 lead at 15:43 of the second period and the Bruins never looked back.
With under a minute remaining in the period, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak were working the cycle. Pastrnak fired a shot that was denied by Andersen, but Andersen left a gaping rebound for Marchand to scoop up, shake off an opponent and send the puck right back to Pastrnak.
The 21-year-old forward dragged the puck on his blade and ripped a shot past Andersen to give the Bruins a two-goal lead and make it 3-1. The goal was Pastrnak’s (1) first of the postseason and just his 3rd career Stanley Cup Playoff goal. Marchand (1) had the primary assists while Bergeron (1) was credited with the hockey assist.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led 3-1 on the scoreboard and 25-18 in shots on goal. Boston also had a dominant 57-43 faceoff win percentage, while Toronto led in blocked shots (11-7), takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (6-5). Hits were even at 29 aside and the Maple Leafs were 0/3 on the power play. Boston was 2/2 on the man advantage after two periods.
Toronto was guilty of a bench minor for too many men almost two minutes into the third period, but the Bruins were unable to convert on the ensuing power play.
With 15:16 remaining in the game, Nazem Kadri caught Tommy Wingels along the wall and was sent to the box with a minor penalty for boarding.
About a minute after the power play, Sean Kuraly (1) collected the puck off a Pastrnak shot that rang the post and batted it out of mid-air while jumping over a sprawling Andersen to make it 4-1 Boston. Pastrnak (2) and Chara (1) had the assists on Kuraly’s highlight reel goal, which was his 3rd in his last three Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Less than a minute later, Kadri again found himself the center of attention for the wrong reason.
After finishing a hit on Mitch Marner, Wingels fell to his knees before Kadri came in late, with speed, and made contact with Wingels’s head on a hit from behind.
The refs debated and handed Kadri a five-minute major penalty for charging, as well as a game misconduct. Wingels did not return to the game after being helped off the ice by Bruins trainer, Don DelNegro.
David Krejci (1) banked a shot off Andersen and into the net on the long power play for Boston and made it a 5-1 game with 8:31 remaining. Jake DeBrusk (1) notched his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point and Krug (2) picked up his second assist of the game.
The goal was Krejci’s 30th career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
Boston finished the game leading on the scoreboard 5-1 and leading in shots on goal 40-27. Toronto finished the night leading in blocked shots (15-8), giveaways (11-7) and hits (42-37). Both teams split faceoff wins evenly at 50-50%. The Leafs went 0/3 on man advantage and the Bruins matched their 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs power play goals total (3/16 in six games) in one night. Boston was 3/6 on the power play in Game 1.
The Bruins take a 1-0 series lead into Saturday night’s primetime matchup at TD Garden for Game 2 of this First Round series. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC. Fans in Canada can view the game on CBC or TVAS.
Originally left as an off day in preparation for the postseason, a nasty Nor’easter on January 4 has turned Florida at Boston’s (NHLN/SN/SN360) showdown, postponed until tonight at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, into the NHL’s regular season finale.
With Philadelphia eliminating the 43-30-8 Panthers from playoff contention yesterday, this game is all about the 50-19-12 Bruins and their ability to claim first place in the Eastern Conference.
Thanks to the Lightning losing in overtime yesterday to the Hurricanes, a win of any variety tonight earns Boston home ice throughout the Eastern playoffs and a date with the New Jersey Devils in the first round.
Inversely, a loss of any variety tonight leaves the Bruins in second place in the Atlantic Division with a first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though an overtime or shootout loss would tie the Bruins with Tampa Bay at 113 points, the fact that the Bolts currently have one more regulation+overtime victory means they would hold on to their spot atop the conference.
For Boston to claim that coveted spot atop the Eastern mountain, it needs to keep playing like it did yesterday instead of continuing in the form its assumed for the rest of April. The Bruins have posted only a 1-2-1 record since Easter Sunday, a run that surely doesn’t inspire confidence going into the playoffs.
Offense has not been the Bruins’ friend since since flipping the calendar to April. Even though Boston managed five goals in yesterday’s victory over the Senators, it has still averaged only 2.5 goals per game since April 1, the fifth-worst mark in the NHL in that time.
Boston’s struggles are certainly not the fault of F Danton Heinen. The rookie has played exceptionally from the second line over his last four games, posting 2-2-4 totals to improve his season marks to 16-31-47. Additionally, F David Backes has also been well outperforming his 13-19-32 season numbers in these last four outings, as he has 1-2-3 marks to show for his month of April.
Instead, I’m much more concerned with the scoring struggles of LW Brad Marchand (34-51-85 season totals), C David Krejci (17-26-43) and LW Jake Debrusk (16-27-43). All three skaters rank among the Bruins’ seven best point producers, yet they combine for only three points over these last four games – none of which were goals, an especially important note in regards to Marchand, who’s 34 markers tie RW David Pastrnak for most on the team.
If there’s any team in the NHL primed to play spoiler, it’s the Panthers, who are riding a four-game winning streak.
There may not be a hotter goaltender in the NHL right now than 18-11-2 G Roberto Luongo. Even though the defense in front of him has allowed a whopping 36 shots against per game since April 2 – a mark that’s (t)fourth-worst in the NHL in that time – the Panthers have allowed only two goals against per game during that run to rank (t)second-best in the league.
Considering his stats in his last three starts (he didn’t play in yesterday’s game against the Sabres), Luongo is the only reason for Florida’s defensive success lately – and really for the season as a whole. Since April 2, the Montréal native has managed a stellar .951 save percentage and 1.67 GAA, both marks that are well superior to his .929 save percentage and 2.48 GAA on the year.
If there’s any concern this team won’t have the heart to compete tonight after their impressive playoff qualification run came up just short, those doubts were squashed in last night’s 4-3 home victory over the Sabres. The only reason the score ended so close is because Buffalo scored three goals on 21 shots (not a surprise considering the Panthers’ previously mentioned horrid defense) on 21-14-6 G James Reimer‘s goal in the third period, but the Panthers made sure to reward their fans for their support with two points.
Even if a few Panthers are held out of this effectively meaningless game due to some lingering injuries that are no longer worth playing through, I don’t expect Florida’s competitive drive to dull.
So far this season, home ice has played a pivotal role in determining a winner between these clubs. In the two games it hosted at BB&T Center, Florida earned two points apiece, starting with March 15’s 3-0 victory (Reimer earned the shutout with a perfect 46-save performance). Most recently, the Panthers claimed a 3-2 win on April 5 (C Jared McCann provided the game-winner in the third period).
However, the Bruins’ den – better known as TD Garden – was not a friendly environment for the Panthers last weekend, as Boston took a dominant 5-1 decision on March 31 (DeBrusk’s two-goal, three-point effort led the way for the Bruins).
It’s never a good thing for a struggling offense to be going up against a red-hot goaltender, especially one that has a Jennings Trophy on his résumé. Even though the games between these sides have favored the team playing at home, there’s a real chance Luongo could keep the Bruins from claiming first in the conference.
With a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Pepsi Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the Colorado Avalanche clinched their first playoff berth in four seasons.
In the first period, no one stole the show quite like G Jake Allen. He very nearly saved all 12 shots he faced in the period – many of which were reminiscent of his 2015-16 campaign. However, with 46 seconds remaining in the first period, First Star of the Game D Samuel Girard (W Blake Comeau and F Carl Soderberg) got the Avalanche on the scoreboard with a slap shot.
Colorado didn’t take nearly as long to find its second goal, as D Tyson Barrie (RW Mikko Rantanen and Second Star LW Gabriel Landeskog) buried a power play clapper 6:11 into the second period that, though it was challenged for offsides, doubled the Avs’ advantage. After killing off the delay of game penalty resulting from the failed challenge, F Jaden Schwartz (D Alex Pietrangelo and F Brayden Schenn) scored a power play tip-in of his own with 7:32 remaining in the period to pull St. Louis back within a one-goal deficit. However, Schwartz’ tally didn’t prove to be the final goal of the second frame, and the one that was ended up being the all-important game-winner.
Entering this game, F Nathan MacKinnon had been riding a nine-game goalless skid. That all changed 3:02 before the second intermission, as he (Landeskog) took advantage of the open space caused by four-on-four play to beat Allen bar down to the far post with a wrist shot from below the left face-off dot.
With only 4:35 remaining in the Blues’ season, Head Coach Mike Yeo was forced to pull Allen for an extra attacker. 1:12 later, Landeskog (MacKinnon) scored a wrister on an empty net to set the score at 4-1. With nothing left to lose, Allen departed the ice once again with 3:16 remaining in regulation, with Schenn (Schwartz and F Patrik Berglund) finding success this time to pull St. Louis back within two goals. However, W Matt Nieto’s (Soderberg) wrister on an empty net with nine seconds remaining in the game set the 5-2 final score.
Third Star G Jonathan Bernier earned the victory after saving 32-of-34 shots faced (.941 save percentage), leaving the loss to Allen, who saved 34-of-37 (.919).
Perhaps its no surprise the Avalanche won the game considering how well home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have been performing lately. Having earned points in six-straight games, the 103-54-22 hosts now have a 53-point advantage on the roadies in the series.
Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.
Thanks to a nor’easter back in January that postponed a Boston Bruins-Florida Panthers matchup to the very last day of the regular season in April, the Bruins have passed the 60 game mark just in time for the trade deadline to have come and gone.
In other words, thanks to the day off between Sunday’s game in Buffalo and Tuesday night’s matchup on home ice against Carolina, I was able to put together projections for all of the new additions to the roster from the last week or two (Brian Gionta, Rick Nash, Tommy Wingels and Nick Holden).
Anyway, through 60 games of the 2017-18 season, the Boston Bruins have faltered as of late to 3rd place in the Atlantic Division with five games in hand on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nothing to worry about– what’s that, Patrice Bergeron‘s out for at least two weeks?
Okay, still nothing to worry about. The Bruins have a secret weapon with the last name “Nash”. No, his first name’s not “Rick”, though Rick Nash could really bring this team to the next level as a result of his acquisition. The secret weapon is Riley Nash.
Yes, Riley Nash.
He’s having a career season that could result in 13-23–36 totals when all is said and done. Even with his current 10-18–28 totals in 59 games played, he’s set new career highs in all offensive categories. Imagine what an additional three goals and five assists over the next 22 games could do for Boston as they head down the stretch with some unprecedented depth-scoring.
But enough about Riley Nash, let’s take a look at the rest of the roster, shall we?
Take a look at the latest forecast for the Bruins in the charts below. As always, please keep in mind that my degree is in communication and not math or anything to do with numbers, really. My expertise is in words so if anything looks out-of-whack– it’s Microsoft Excel’s fault.
I’m just kidding.
There’s outliers in everything and not every prediction pans out. Again, these charts are only a utopian view on things– ignoring injuries, healthy scratches, sickness, bad hair days or anything else.
Boston Bruins Projections Through 60 Games (22 Games Remaining)
Rick Nash should fit right in alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line for Boston. In turn, the second line’s offense should breakout once the chemistry of a few games together is in flawless rhythm. Rick Nash just might end up with 40 points on the season, thanks to Krejci’s golden passes.
Hopefully that means another contract at the end of the season for the pending-UFA wearing No. 61.
Brad Marchand should top the scoring list for the Bruins for yet another year, surpassing the 70-point plateau with an expected 30-44–74 totals by the end of the regular season. Fellow linemates, Bergeron and David Pastrnak should also see some fantastic results over the next 22 games.
Even with his current injury– a fractured right foot– Bergeron should be able to set a new career high in goals (33). Meanwhile, Pastrnak should cruise past the 60-point plateau, primarily setting up helpers on Marchand’s gifted offense.
Boston’s answer to their opponent’s third line on any given night? Danton Heinen.
The rookie should amass 16 goals and 36– 36!– assists (52 points) in his first full NHL season.
Looking further down the lines, Tim Schaller should reach the 20-point plateau. As a fourth liner. The rest of the fourth line? Sean Kuraly should reach 15 points. Noel Acciari should notch 11 points.
Krug is on pace for 51 points this season, which would match his career year of… …last season. The only problem is when he has a bad night, he has a bad night. Still, his scoring and puck moving abilities far outweigh some of his drawbacks. His counterpart, however, is in the midst of a sophomore slump.
Brandon Carlo hasn’t been great. Fear not though, he’s still a top-four defenseman moving forward. The future of the Bruins blue line is contingent upon McAvoy leading the charge with Carlo developing more of a shutdown style. Though he is only projected to score one goal this season, his offense isn’t the main focus.
His plus-minus, however, should be. Carlo has a plus-11 entering Tuesday night. He’s projected to be a plus-14. For someone that’s averaging almost 20 minutes a night a plus-3 differential in the last 22 games of the season should be a bit of a concern considering Boston’s overall improvement in goal scoring from last season to this season.
In goal, Tuukka Rask is best limited to between 55-60 games and it’s looking like this year will keep him in that sweet spot. You’ve been warned, other 30 teams in the NHL.
Rask’s projected 2.21 goals against average and .927 save percentage rank 2nd and 3rd in his career in seasons with at least 41 games played.
Meanwhile, the real Anton Khudobin has decided to show up again. He’s a backup goaltender disguising himself as “having a ridiculous season”, well, until recently at least. A forecasted 2.44 GAA and .920 SV% isn’t the worst thing for a backup goaltender, but it doesn’t scream “is there a goaltending controversy in Boston?” (which, for the record, there never was since Tim Thomas‘s departure).
Khudobin filled in well at the beginning of the season when it mattered, but his luck has slowed. He’s performed his role well enough to earn another year in black-and-gold if Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, chooses to send him a new contract for another year while Zane McIntyre and Dan Vladar develop in the system (or Jeremy Swayman down the road).
Nick ventures down to Charlotte to hang out with Connor and record the first podcast in person with another member of the DTFR crew in over a year. We tried to stay on topic, but eventually delved into some Charlotte Hornets talk after discussing Willie O’Ree, Rene Rancourt, the Boston Bruins and more.
Only two games are on the schedule today, but they both have serious potential to be stellar television.
The action begins at 7:30 when Montréal pays a visit to Boston (NBCSN/RDS/SN), and it will be followed by Pittsburgh at Anaheim (NBCSN/SN/SN360) at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.
Teams on the bye: Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg.
Though the Ducks and Penguins are separated by only two points in the table, there’s no way we can miss what’s going down in Beantown.
Of these two bitter rivals, the 24-10-8 Bruins are easily having the better season. They currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and third place in the Eastern Conference.
While Boston has been in playoff position for a while now (approximately a month), it has surged past the Maple Leafs in the last three weeks by earning points in 13 consecutive games with a 9-0-4 record.
It could be argued that Boston has been the best team in the NHL since December 16, as the Bruins have posted a
n incredible wicked 3.92 goals per game over their last 13.
No Bruin has been hotter during this run than LW Brad Marchand, which is the same it’s been all season. He’s posted 6-9-15 totals over his last 15 games to pad his team-leading 18-23-41 stats. However, he’s not alone in averaging at least a point-per-game lately. F David Backes (6-7-13), C Patrice Bergeron (9-4-13) and F Danton Heinen (4-10-14) are all matching the feat, even though Backes and Heinen are on the third line. Of note, Bergeron is still getting work done in the defensive end with his (t)eighth-best +19 on the season, but his consistent offensive production never hurts.
But that offense isn’t just showing up on the TD Garden scoreboard for the Bruins. With the offense possessing the puck so well, opposing defenses are having a hard time of earning their own strikers an opportunity to play with the puck. As a result, the Bruins have allowed an eighth-fewest 29.77 shots against per game since December 16, a mark that tops the Atlantic Division. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have D Zdeno Chara ([t]fourth-best +21 in the league) managing the defensive zone with his team-leading 74 blocks on the season.
Of course, that still means 15-8-4 G Tuukka Rask has had some work to do, but he’s been up to the task every night he takes to the crease. Though he had his struggles early in the season – to the point of temporarily losing his starting job to backup 9-2-4 G Anton Khudobin – Rask has joined his team in playing spectacularly over the past month. In his last nine starts, he’s posted a solid .93 save percentage and 1.95 GAA, pulling his season marks up to a .919 save percentage and (t)third-best in the league 2.26 GAA.
It’s a tall task the 18-30-6 Habs face – and that’d be true even if they were among the league’s elite this season. However, that is not the case for Montréal this campaign, as it currently sits third from the bottom in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole.
While the season as a whole may be a bit of doom and gloom for The City of Saints, 2018 has not been all bad. In fact, the Canadiens have earned points in all four of their previous games, and it’s all been on the back of their incredible goaltender.
It usually goes without saying that 13-14-4 G Carey Price is one of the best netminders – if not players overall – in this league. This little run the Habs are on has absolutely proved it, as the defense has allowed an eighth-worst 34.25 shots against per game since January 4. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Price has posted a .92 save percentage and 2.63 GAA under those trying circumstances, both of which are better than the .908 and 2.95 he’s posted on the season.
With Price playing in top form like he is right now, he offers his offense – which has managed a (t)12th-best 3.25 goals per game during this run – the opportunity to succeed even though they aren’t among the league’s best forwards. LW Max Pacioretty has been the Habs’ best striker of late, as he’s riding a four-game goal streak. With him, F Alex Galchenyuk (2-2-4) and D Jeff Petry (0-4-4) all averaging a point-per-game, Montréal’s offense could be a tougher out tonight than the Bruins might expect.
These squads have squared off only once this season so far, and that game took place this last Saturday. Though they needed a shootout goal from Marchand, the Bruins were able to win Round 1 with a 4-3 victory.
With the Bruins’ having already won in Bell Centre not even a week ago and owning home ice this evening, it’s hard to pick against them to beat the Habs tonight. Of course, this rivalry almost always produces tight, competitive affairs, so anything can truly happen tonight.
The Nashville Predators avoided getting swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in their season series, as they defended Bridgestone Arena to a 1-0 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Without a doubt, the brightest star in this contest was First Star of the Game G Juuse Saros, who saved all 43 shots he faced for his third shutout victory of the season and fourth of his career.
G Marc-Andre Fleury also some deserves credit for allowing only one goal against (more on that in a moment) on 27 shots faced (.963 save percentage), but it’s his defense that really deserves the most praise. Led by D Brayden McNabb‘s four hits and three blocks, the Knights limited Nashville to a lowly 27 shots on goal (it averages 30.4 per game for the season), including two frames the Preds were held to single-digit successful shot attempts.
Fleury may have been the only goaltender to blink, but it took him a long time to do it. At exactly the 48 minute mark of the game (eight minutes into the third period), Third Star D P.K. Subban fired a slap shot that – thanks to McNabb – never reached Fleury.
However, it’s that shot block that came to be the Golden Knights’ downfall. Since Fleury wasn’t the one to block the puck, he didn’t know where it went. It was his second or two of confusion that allowed Second Star W Kevin Fiala (Subban and F Colton Sissons) to tuck a wrist shot under the bar into a gaping cage for the game-winner.
Nashville’s victory gives home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series a 56-34-12 record that is exactly 20 points superior to the road teams’ effort.
As the calendar flips from 2017 to 2018 the NHL’s regular season keeps rolling along. Having played 40 games so far this season, the Boston Bruins are now in the midst of their bye week 2nd in the Atlantic Division (53 points)– ten points behind the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Plenty of teams have been pleasant surprises, namely, the Vegas Golden Knights and the New Jersey Devils through the first half of the season. To say the Golden Knights are merely on a hot start is a major understatement– there’s a legitimate chance Vegas will not only make the playoffs, but compete with the Lightning and Winnipeg Jets in what’s shaping up to be a competitive three-way battle for the 2017-18 President’s Trophy.
Regardless, Boston has not been a pleasant surprise. No.
If you’ve been tracking Don Sweeney‘s every move since becoming general manager in 2015, then you aren’t surprised at all to see that this year’s Bruins squad is playing on another level and turning heads around the hockey world.
It’s a very methodic approach– one that takes its time while patience wears thin among fans that demand excellence every shift in the Hub– but the Boston Bruins are ready for a breakout performance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (barring a second half of the season collapse).
While many are busy trying to come up with a nickname for Boston’s fourth line of Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari— I recommend either “The 50s Line” (since Schaller, Kuraly and Acciari wear No.’s 59, 52 and 55 respectively) or “The B52 Line” (an ode to the music group, sure, but also a nod to Kuraly’s stellar anchor as the center)– it’s a shame no one’s come up with anything for the legend that is the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak line.
Usually it’s just “the Bergeron line”, but if you’ve seen the production from this line, you might just think back to the days of “The Uke Line”, “The Kraut Line” or “The Dynamite Line”– all of which were historic lines in Bruins franchise history.
Anyway, on with the show…
Through 40 games played this season, here’s a look at how every player on Boston’s roster should pan out for the remaining 42 games. Please remember my degree is in communication– not math– so any miscalculations are Microsoft Excel’s fault.
Boston Bruins Projections Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
At this point in the season everything begins to look more realistic. Unless you’re still looking at Tommy Cross‘s projected stats. Again, that’s a product of forecasting a season for a player based on every career NHL game that player has played. Cross has yet to appear in an NHL game since the 2015-16 season; because of this, his numbers look more promising based on the formula alone than they actually probably would be, unless he knows something about his game we don’t.
Until a player like Cross (or other players with few career NHL games played) suits up in the 2017-18 season, that players numbers are reflective of a more “idealistic” season. In other words, it’s a pipe dream (until it actually happens).
The Bruins finally have a healthy lineup. Well, kind of.
Matt Grzelcyk‘s emerged from the shadows of the last couple of seasons– in which he made his professional debut and NHL debut. He’s solidified himself as a top-6 defenseman, capable of earning his ice time and/or McQuaid’s job at less than half the price (at least until this offseason, when Grzelyck’s entry-level contract is set to expire).
Grzelyck, 24, is seven-years younger than McQuaid and could provide the same amount of offensive production or more down the road. By default, Grzelcyk’s offensive game is better than McQuaid’s this season.
Of course, there’s some things working in McQuaid’s favor in his ability to block shots, use his body and throw punches when “the code of hockey” needs to be enforced.
Though, again, there is a younger blue liner– albeit by a year and at $250,000 less– that could carry the weight of the tough guy on Boston’s defense. That guy is Kevan Miller, 30, who’s having what’s poised to equal or surpass his career year of 2015-16 in points (18), while teaching Grzelyck the ways of a bottom-pair defenseman.
Brandon Carlo has yet to score this season and is– by all considerations– in a sophomore slump. But he is only 21-years-old and destined to solidify as a top-4 defenseman in his career. He’s no Charlie McAvoy, but it wouldn’t make sense to punish a young player for showing his youth in his errors that he’s made at times through the year.
Before you know it, McQuaid could be the next Paul Postma on the Bruins as another healthy scratch on a night-to-night basis– though providing much needed depth when one of the regular guys goes down with an injury.
The Bruins have a plus-29 goal differential after 40 games this season, which is seven more than they had at the end of last season.
It seems promising that Boston will continue to only get better offensively down the stretch with David Pastrnak seeking to best his career high in assists while amassing almost 70 points on the season. That’s just 1/3 of the Bergeron line.
Brad Marchand should easily reach the 70-point plateau for not only the second time in his career– but the second year in a row– as Patrice Bergeron continues to swing the momentum around in his scoring projections (expected to surpass at least 60 points this season).
Rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen will each have respectable numbers that should flirt with the 50-point plateau. DeBrusk may only end up with 20-26-46 totals, but Heinen should continue to charge down the stretch reaching 22-43–65 totals in his own spectacular rookie season.
It’s not Earth-shattering by any means, but it is highly underrated. Especially with a guy like David Backes on the same line.
Backes, in his own right, is bringing some extra bang for his buck this season. Having missed almost half of the season with diverticulitis and recovering from the surgical removal of part of his colon, Backes is lighter and better than ever.
And one more thing for the haters…
Tuukka Rask is back. This could be a Vezina Trophy winning season, if not more, for the Finnish goaltender.