Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

Lightning strike three times in, 3-2, win against Boston

Is it really August or is it actually just Groundhog Day for the Boston Bruins? The B’s dropped another one, 3-2, to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in their second game of the Round Robin tournament to determine the No. 1-4 seeds for the Eastern Conference in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (2-0-0, 1.92 goals against average, .933 save percentage in two games) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the win for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (0-1-0, 3.10 GAA, .914 SV% in one game) made 32 saves on 35 shots against for a .914 SV% in the loss at the NHL’s Eastern Conference bubble– Scotiabank Arena– in Toronto, Ontario.

Entering Wednesday, Patrice Bergeron had a day off at practice on Monday, which Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, later clarified to reporters was just a maintenance day, while Rask was back to practice on Monday and returned to the lineup against the Lightning.

Rask mentioned at his media conference call after Monday’s practice that he spent a couple of days quarantined in his hotel room after having a cough and needed to have two negative tests for COVID-19 in order to return.

“I had a cough so I just clicked ‘yes’ on the app and then all kinds of red lights started blinking so I was quarantined for two days. They wanted to do two negative tests after that,” Rask explained to reporters via Zoom.

Nick Ritchie was also back in the lineup after missing last Sunday’s, 4-1, loss against the Philadelphia Flyers, while Ondrej Kase was ruled out of Wednesday’s action against Tampa, but should be good to go against Washington, according to Cassidy.

As a result, Cassidy switched up his middle lines from last Sunday’s matchup with the Flyers to Wednesday’s meeting with the Lightning.

Ritchie took to David Krejci’s left wing with Karson Kuhlman on the other side, while Anders Bjork was on the left side of Charlie Coyle on the third line– with Jake DeBrusk serving as the right winger.

The Bruins made no other changes to their lineup.

Meanwhile, Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Kase, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar and Trent Frederic served as Boston’s scratches.

Jon Cooper’s Lightning were without their captain, Steven Stamkos, in the lineup once again. Stamkos has yet to make his Round Robin debut for the Bolts (with their last matchup before the First Round against Philadelphia set for Saturday).

Less than a minute into the action, Jeremy Lauzon was caught trailing Blake Coleman and hooked the Lightning forward, resulting in a power play for the Bolts 43 seconds into the first period.

Tampa was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Brayden Point (2) slipped a loose puck through Rask’s five-hole after Rask made the initial save and follow up stop, while the Bruins scrambled to defender after blowing a pair of chances to score at the other end.

Ondrej Palat (1) and Nikita Kucherov (1) tallied the assists on Point’s goal and the Lightning led, 1-0, at 7:33 of the first period.

A few minutes later, the Bruins had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor for doing so at 10:19. Ritchie served the bench infraction, but Tampa’s power play struck fast.

Alex Killorn (1) redirected a shot with the back of his skate blade after the puck deflected off of Sean Kuraly’s stick initially off a shot from teh point by Lightning defender, Victor Hedman.

Hedman (1) and Tyler Johnson (1) notched the assists on the goal and the Bolts led, 2-0, at 10:32.

Late in the period, chaos ensued as both teams took issue with one another– culminating in Torey Krug and Coleman exchanging fisticuffs at 17:07, and continuing almost 90 seconds later when Point and Charlie McAvoy shared an embrace and with it roughing minor penalties.

Point earned two roughing infractions, while McAvoy was only charged with one at 18:25, yielding the first power play of the game for Boston, but the Bruins couldn’t hit the twine in the dying minutes of the opening frame.

After one period of play, the Lightning led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, but the B’s held the advantage in shots on goal, 9-8.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-2), but Tampa had the edge in just about every other statistical category, including takeaways (4-1), hits (13-11) and faceoff win percentage (61-39).

Both teams had one giveaway aside, while the Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the B’s were 0/1 heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Coleman was penalized for interference when he brought down Kuraly while crashing the net at 4:37 of the second period, but (in what was a trend for the afternoon) Boston’s power play wasn’t able to convert on the advantage.

Late in the period McAvoy (1) one-timed a shot from the point on a pass from Krug off a faceoff win by Bergeron and cut Tampa’s lead in half.

Boston was on the board, 2-1, while Krug (1) and Bergeron (1) picked up their first points of the Round Robin games at 16:43.

Entering the second intermission, Tampa was ahead, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-18, in shots on goal– including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Lightning led in blocked shots (11-7) and takeaways (5-3) after 40 minutes of action, while the Bruins held the advantage in giveaways (7-3), hits (26-19) and faceoff win% (63-38).

Tampa remained 1/2 on the power play, while Boston dropped to 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Chris Wagner (2) tapped in a loose puck after Zdeno Chara fired a shot that leaked through Vasilevskiy at 1:47 of the third period and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

Chara (1) and Kuraly (1) had the assists on Wagner’s goal and Boston swung momentum in their favor– only until about the midpoint of the final frame.

Kucherov tripped Wagner at 5:13 of the third period, but the Bruins didn’t convert on the skater advantage.

Midway through the third, Barclay Goodrow caught Bjork with a charge and was assessed a minor penalty at 10:19. Once more, Boston’s power play couldn’t get anything going and did not convert on the advantage.

From there, momentum shifted back to Tampa as the Bruins let rush after rush enter their own zone.

Yanni Gourde threw the puck on net, Rask made an initial pad save, but Johnson (1) scored on the rebound while Brandon Carlo was trailing behind the play and Krug was defending the other side where the Lightning entered the zone.

Gourde (1) and Killorn (1) collected the assists on Johnson’s game-winning goal and the Bolts grabbed the, 3-2, lead at 18:33 of the third period– with just enough time to hold off any last ditch efforts from Boston.

Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with about 1:15 remaining, but it was to no avail as the final horn sounded and the Lightning won, 3-2.

The Bolts finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (35-27) and blocked shots (16-10), while the B’s finished with the advantage in giveaways (11-10), hits (31-28) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Tampa finished 1/2 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/4 on the power play on Wednesday.

The Bruins fell to 0-2-0 in the Round Robin action and can finish no better than 3rd in the seeding with a win against the Washington Capitals in any fashion on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Lightning can all but assure themselves of the No. 1 seed with a win in any fashion against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Eastern Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference Qualifiers, while the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers sort themselves out.

All Eastern Conference games will be at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario until the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final (both of which will be held in Edmonton, Alberta at Rogers Place).

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points) vs (12) Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 69 games played, .623 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montreal: 71 games played, .500 points percentage, 19 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were 5th in the Eastern Conference at the time of the pause and being led by Evgeni Malkin with 74 points in 55 games played, while Bryan Rust (56 points in 55 games) and Sidney Crosby 47 points in 41 games) trailed the Russian star on the roster. 

Yes, Malkin missed 14 games and still amassed 74 points in a season for the Penguins, while Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, carefully charted the course through a bevy of injuries to bring his team within striking range of the Metropolitan Division lead had the regular season seen its full conclusion.

The Washington Capitals topped the Metropolitan Division with 90 points. The Philadelphia Flyers had 89. Pittsburgh had 86.

An annual Stanley Cup contender since Sullivan led the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017 (their second and third since 2009– fourth and fifth in franchise history), Pittsburgh’s goaltending might be the only thing that holds them back from their 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Murray had a down year with a 2.87 goals against average and an .899 save percentage in 38 games played– his worst goals against average since he had a 2.92 GAA in 49 games in 2017-18 and his worst-career save percentage in a season. Murray finished the shortened season with a 20-11-5 record and one shutout in 38 starts.

Backup netminder, Tristan Jarry, went 20-12-1 in 33 games played (31 starts) and had a 2.43 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% and three shutouts.

Murray’s leash through the exhibition games should be a short one, despite his career 2.16 GAA and .921 SV% in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His goals against average reached a career-low 1.70 in 11 games en route to Pittsburgh’s Cup win in 2017, but rose to a 2.43 in 2018 (12 games) and a 3.02 in 2019 (four games) as the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in last year’s First Round.

It’s not that he can’t bounce back, but rather that Sullivan should ride the hotter goaltender and force a little healthy competition if it yields the best in Murray’s game. If not, it’ll either be sink or swim with Jarry in the crease.

At the other end of the rink, the Montreal Canadiens went .500 this season and were mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at the stoppage with what looked like little hope for a late season surge into the postseason, despite leading scorer, Tomas Tatar (22-39–61 totals in 68 games played) and starting goaltender, Carey Price’s best efforts.

Phillip Danault had the second-most points on the Habs roster this season with 13 goals and 34 assists (47 points) in 71 games played, while Max Domi was third in scoring on the team with 44 points in 71 games.

Price led Montreal in net with a 27-25-6 record in 58 games played (58 starts), a 2.79 GAA, a .909 SV% and four shutouts this season. Since his 2.23 GAA and .923 SV% in 62 games in 2016-17, Price has not had a goals against average below 2.30 or a save percentage better than .920. He had a 3.11 GAA and a .900 SV% in 49 games in 2017-18, as well as a 2.49 GAA and a .918 SV% in 66 games last season.

As he approaches his mid-30s and the league shifts more and more towards tandem goaltending, Price shouldn’t be playing more than 50 games in a regular season, but the Canadiens struggled with finding a backup this season.

Charlie Lindgren went 2-4-0 in six games (six starts) and had a 3.33 GAA, as well as an .888 SV%. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau went 1-1-0 in two games (both starts) and had a 2.52 GAA and a .931 SV%.

Keith Kinkaid also made an appearance with six games played (five starts), a 1-1-3 record, a 4.24 GAA and an .875 SV%.

Claude Julien has over 400 regular season wins as the head coach of the Boston Bruins and won the Cup with the B’s in 2011, but that was nine years ago and he’s three full seasons into his second stint behind the bench as head coach of the Canadiens.

His teams aren’t known for keeling over and being swept out of the playoffs, so they’ll likely be able to win one as Montreal scratches and claws their way to victory in classic Julien-style blue-collar work ethic fashion, but can he get it done against Pittsburgh in today’s NHL?

Especially when falling behind the eight ball is even more significant in a best-of-five series than it is in a best-of-seven.

Price might be fresh, but Pittsburgh’s got an offense and a defense. Plus the Penguins did win two out of their three regular season matchups and Crosby and Malkin are ready to make yet another postseason appearance– regardless of how far things will actually go.

It’s not out of the question that the Habs will be able to steal a game, but the Penguins should have this series wrapped up in four games and punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 MTL at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 10th, 3-2 F/OT PIT at Bell Centre on Jan. 4th, 4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 14th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 PIT @ MTL in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 PIT @ MTL in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 MTL @ PIT in Toronto*

*If necessary

(6) Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points) vs (11) New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points)

Carolina: 68 games played, .596 points percentage, 27 regulation wins

N.Y. Rangers: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 31 regulation wins

Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes have their work cut out for them in what just might be the only series that would be an upset if the higher seed wins. The Hurricanes lost all four regular season matchups against the Rangers, despite Sebastian Aho’s team-leading 66 points in 68 games on the season.

Aho set a new career-high in goals (38) and had a pair of goals against New York this season, but fell shy of establishing a new career-high in points after putting up 83 points in 82 games last season. Of course, a pandemic shortened regular season will have something to do with that.

Regardless, he was on pace for about 80 points at the time the NHL season was paused.

Teuvo Teravainen continued to show that he’s one of the most consistent performers in the league with a respectable 48 assists and 63 points in 68 games played as one of Carolina’s more “veteran” players, despite only being 25-years-old.

Meanwhile, Andrei Svechnikov scored two lacrosse goals this season and managed to improve on all fronts from his rookie season (20-17–37 totals in 82 games last season) with 24 goals and 37 assists (61 points) in 68 games in 2019-20. He was on pace for almost 30 goals and around 73 points in his sophomore season had the pandemic not called it short.

In goal, David Ayres led the way with– just kidding– Petr Mrazek went 21-16-2 in 40 games this season (38 starts) and had a 2.69 GAA, as well as a .905 SV% and three shutouts. Not great, but not the worst entering the Qualifiers.

He’ll have to do much better than his 2.73 GAA and .894 SV% in 11 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if he has any hopes of catapulting his team over the Rangers and backstopping them to a deep playoff run like last year.

That said, Curtis McElhinney was the one that replaced him against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Mrazek allowed ten goals against in the series, compared to McElhinney’s five.

The good news for the Hurricanes, however, is that McElhinney’s numbers have been way off the mark this season and he’s the current backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Plus James Reimer exists in Carolina.

Reimer went 14-6-2 in 25 games for the Canes this season and had a 2.66 GAA, as well as a .914 SV% and three shutouts– so basically he’s the same as Mrazek, only Reimer’s looking for a bigger redemption arc in the postseason than being remembered as the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender in Boston’s epic, 5-4, overtime comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

That wasn’t even Reimer’s last appearance in the playoffs, however, as he had a brief stint (29 minutes) with the San Jose Sharks en route to their 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Brind’Amour might be wise to use his best defensive game and start Reimer in Game 1 against the Rangers, except Mrazek had an .861 SV% against New York in three games this season, while Reimer had a .792 SV%.

Advantage… …Mrazek? But on a short leash?

On the other hand, the New York Rangers enter their Qualifier matchup with the Hurricanes two points behind Carolina in the season standings and three spots behind them in the Metropolitan Division standings that are virtually obsolete this postseason.

The Hurricanes had 81 points. The Rangers had 79 points. First place through seventh place in the division was separated by 11 points at the time of the stoppage.

And at that point, 2019-20 Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Artemi Panarin, had already amassed 32-63–95 totals in 69 games for New York.

He had nine points (three goals, six assists) against the Hurricanes this season, while Mika Zibanejad sat 20 points behind Panarin in team scoring with 41 goals and 34 assists (75 points) in 57 games– including four goals and three assists against Carolina this season.

Ryan Strome carried third place honors for the Rangers in scoring this season with 18-41–59 totals in 70 games.

Rangers head coach, David Quinn, also doesn’t have an easy decision to make with his goaltenders heading to Toronto for their series against Carolina.

Henrik Lundqvist made three starts against the Canes and went 3-0-0, while stopping 125 shots out of 132 shots against (.947 SV%) in that span.

Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in his one start and one win against Carolina this season.

Lundqvist went 10-12-3 on the season in 30 games played (26 starts) with a 3.16 GAA, a .905 SV% and one shutout.

Shesterkin went 10-2-0 in 12 games played (12 starts) and had a 2.52 GAA, as well as a .932 SV%.

Oh yeah, and Alexandar Georgiev went 17-14-2 in 34 games (32 starts) while putting up a 3.04 GAA, a .910 SV% and two shutouts.

One thing is clearer now more than ever before– “King Henrik” is no longer king in “The Big Apple”.

Shesterkin should receive the nod for the playoffs, but this is just the Qualifier. It technically doesn’t count unless you win three out of the next possible five games.

In that case, Quinn could rely on Lundqvist to get the job done, then give Shesterkin his first real taste of the NHL’s toughest job– being a goaltender in the playoffs– since Lundqvist has a history for seemingly always having Carolina’s number when it matters most for the Hurricanes.

Regardless of who’s in net, New York holds all the advantages coming into this series.

The Rangers scored 17 goals for against Hurricanes and allowed nine goals against over their four games against one another.

Carolina threw the kitchen sink at New York on net– totaling 161 shots on goal in their four regular season matchups with the Blue Shirts– but Lundqvist was the key difference maker.

That said, the Hurricanes knocked off the then defending Cup champion Washington Capitals in seven games in last year’s First Round.

But can Brind’Amour motivate his players enough to get the job done more efficiently when the series is only a best-of-five instead of having the luxury to drag things out all seven games like they did against the Caps?

And with back-to-back games incorporated in the schedule, conditions are clearly unfavorable for the Hurricanes in their David and Goliath matchup (again, despite being the higher seed).

One thing that works in their favor? There’s no travel outside the bubble to and from the games, so that’s a plus.

Knowing how The Hockey Gods work, it’d be foolish not to believe this series won’t go all five games just because. Either that or Carolina will pull off the three-game sweep of the Rangers after losing every single regular season game against New York in 2019-20.

Flip a coin and that’s your winner– this series might just be a lot closer and more intense than you think.

Rangers in five, but don’t be surprised if/when Carolina defeats them.

Sit back and enjoy.

Regular season outcomes:

4-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Nov. 7th, 3-2 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27th, 5-3 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27th, 5-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Feb. 21st

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/4- Game 3 CAR @ NYR in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

8/6- Game 4 CAR @ NYR in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 NYR @ CAR in Toronto*

*If necessary

(7) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) vs (10) Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points)

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins

Florida: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 30 regulation wins

Barry Trotz is still coaching the trap in today’s NHL, which, honestly, you have to hand it to him. His defense first mindset has turned the New York Islanders into a playoff contender since his arrival last season.

The only bad thing that’s come with Trotz’s arrival and John Tavares’ departure– a lack of goal scoring.

It’s no secret that to win games, your team must score more goals than the other team, whether it’s a, 10-9, high-scoring victory or a, 1-0, shutout.

Unfortunately for Trotz, the Isles ranked ninth in fewest goals for this season with 192, which is the worst among all the Qualifier team. Yes, even Montreal and Chicago each had 212 goals for this season, despite their minus-6 and minus-9 goal differentials, respectively.

At least the Islanders only allowed one more goal than they scored in the pandemic shortened regular season.

Anyway, Mathew Barzal led the charge for New York this season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games played, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) and Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) followed suit.

Barzal was on pace for 23 goals and 72 points this season, which would’ve been a career-high in goals in a season for the young forward only having just completed his third full season. Nevertheless, scoring at least 60 points in three consecutive seasons is respectable.

Nelson scored 26 goals this season, which marked back to back seasons of at least 20 goals for the 28-year-old. He was on pace for 31 goals in what was already a career-season in the making.

Lee was on pace for 52 points after putting up 20-23–43 totals in 68 games, which would have given him four consecutive seasons of 50-plus points.

But it’s not all about what would’ve been for the Islanders, because the future is here in goaltender Ilya Sorokin– oh wait, he can’t play in the 2020 postseason due to the NHL’s Return to Play rulings, which is fine– just means that next year’s looking good for the Isles.

In net, Semyon Varlamov amassed a 19-14-6 record in 45 games played (39 starts) with a 2.62 GAA and a .914 SV%, as well as two shutouts to go with it.

Ideally, you’d like a starting goaltender in the NHL to be closer to 2.50, maybe even 2.30 in goals against average and around a .920 in save percentage, but we addressed some of New York’s shortcomings this season– a lack of offense and injuries on defense with Adam Pelech limited to 38 games.

Thomas Greiss had a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts) with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process.

It’s likely his last season on Long Island/in Brooklyn with Sorokin signed for the next couple of seasons, so if he sees any ice time in the series, he’ll have to be better in order to prove his next payday at the expense of another team via free agency in November.

New York brought in Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick (can become a 2021 1st round pick if the Islanders lose in the Qualifier and win the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft–a.k.a. top-3 lottery protected), a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick (if New York wins the Cup in 2020), then signed Pageau to a six-year extension worth $5.000 million per season.

Though it was all too short to effectively judge Pageau in an Islanders sweater, it’s worth noting he scored two goals in seven games so far. That’s it.

A boost for the third line, sure, but his effectiveness in a new surrounding remains to be seen, which could be a key to New York defeating the Florida Panthers who lack an important figure in Vincent Trocheck since trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen at the deadline on Feb. 24th.

Speaking of the Panthers, Florida was led by Jonathan Huberdeau in scoring this season with 23 goals and 55 assists (78 points) in 69 games this season.

Aleksander Barkov had his fifth consecutive 20-goal season– one season removed from his career-high 35 goals (and 96 points!) last season– and was on pace for 25 tallies this season at the stoppage.

And bringing up the rear in Florida’s top-three scorers this season was Mike Hoffman with 29 goals and 30 assists (59 points) in 69 games. Hoffman finished one goal shy of back to back 30-goal seasons and was on pace to match his career-high 70 points in a season had the regular season been uninterrupted.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky probably wishes he could ask for a mulligan this season after going 23-19-6 in 50 games played (49 starts) and amassing a 3.23 GAA, as well as a .900 SV% and one shutout.

Yes, you read that right– one shutout this season. After leading the league with nine shutouts last season, Bobrovsky was far beyond a disappointment in his first year of a seven-year, $70 million contract.

Meanwhile, Sam Montembeault (5-5-1) started the season as Florida’s backup, but things took a turn after his 3.34 GAA and .890 SV% in 14 games played (nine starts) were no better than Bobrovsky’s career-worst season as a starter.

Alas, Chris Driedger was called up from the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL) and put up a 7-2-1 record in 12 games played with a 2.05 GAA, a .938 SV% and one shutout in that span.

The Islanders beat the Panthers in all three regular season matchups this season, but New York has yet to face Driedger.

A word to the wise for Florida’s head coach, Joel Quenneville– what more could you lose by starting Driedger in Game 1?

Bobrovsky hasn’t had the form all season and isn’t going into the playoffs as your surefire starter– $10.000 million cap hit or not. Pray he returns to his two-time Vezina Trophy winning ability in time for 2020-21, but for now he hasn’t earned starter duties and your main focus is on winning three games, let alone going for the Cup with whatever you have for a roster.

The Islanders scored eight goals in their three games against the Panthers this season. They allowed four goals against, while Florida– to their credit– forced New York to a shootout in their first meeting back on Oct. 12th.

New York had 94 total shots on goal against Florida this season.

The Panthers had 108 shots against the Islanders.

It should be a close battle with each team ravaged in some manner– whether by injuries that plagued them all season or lackluster goaltending, neither club is exactly turning heads out there.

The Panthers lost in six games to the Islanders in the 2016 First Round, but this time around it’s a best of five.

New York should win in four games as Trotz has more recent playoff success and the more recent playoff experienced roster to go off of than, yes, Quenneville’s three Stanley Cup Rings from the last ten years.

It’s not that Quenneville can’t pull off the upset, but rather that the Panthers aren’t ready to make a dent in the postseason picture without all the necessary pieces.

The good news for them, at least, is they have a tried and true coach to guide them through what for now will be some growing pains.

Unless 20-goal scorer Noel Acciari pockets a hat trick in three straight games, which sounds quite plausible these days, so who knows!?

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12th, 2-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 9th, 3-1 NYI at BB&T Center on Dec. 12th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN1, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 NYI @ FLA in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 NYI @ FLA in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 FLA @ NYI in Toronto*

*If necessary

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points) vs (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points)

Toronto: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 28 regulation wins

Columbus: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 25 regulation wins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have home ice advantage and– well, technically, the Qualifier isn’t considered part of the playoffs and there’s a pandemic going on, so no fans are allowed inside the bubble.

But hey, at least there’s hockey in Canadian New York City, so we’ll take it!

The Leafs were led by Auston Matthews in scoring this season as the 22-year-old center finished third in the NHL in goals with 47 of them in 70 games played. He had 80 points overall, which established career-highs in both goals and points in his fourth NHL season– and fourth consecutive season with at least 30 goals.

Oh and for the second time in his young career, Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau and was on the cusp of 50 had it not been for the ongoing pandemic cutting things short. He was on pace for 55 goals at the stoppage.

Mitchell Marner was second on the Leafs roster in scoring with 16-51–67 totals in 59 games played– surpassing the 50-assist plateau for the second straight season and further proving his vital role as a playmaker on the roster.

Meanwhile, John Tavares had 26 goals and 34 assists (60 points) in 63 games, which was down from his 47-41–88 totals last season, but then again, he was on pace for 78 points this season had the regular season seen its proper conclusion, so really he wasn’t all that far off from a typical Tavares year.

As it is, the only time Tavares has ever had less than 50 points in a season was in the lockout shortened, 48-game, 2012-13 season, in which he had 47 points in all 48 games.

Yeah, he’s pretty good.

In the crease, the Maple Leafs were led by Frederik Anderson (29-13-7 record in 52 games played, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%, three shutouts), but hold the phone! What’s this? Toronto acquired a legitimate backup netminder during the season!?!

That’s right, Jack Campbell (3-2-1 in six games with Toronto, six starts, 2.63 GAA, .915 SV% in that span) is a Maple Leaf and– heaven forbid– is more than capable of bailing out Toronto if things get dire with Andersen.

Oh and Sheldon Keefe is in charge behind the bench.

Plus there’s a wild card this year for Toronto that the rest of the league has yet to see– Nick Robertson. You know, the forward that had 55-31–88 totals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes (OHL) this season and brings both even more speed and skill to the Maple Leafs lineup.

At the other side of the rink, the Columbus Blue Jackets were battered all season and had a trio of goaltenders at one point as a result, yet somehow, here they are to the surprise of all the experts that had them pegged for 8th place in the Metropolitan Division heading into the 2019-20 season after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency.

It’s all just part of the plan.

Many had them out against the Lightning last year and, well, the Blue Jackets brought the thunder in that series.

Unfortunately for CBJ fans, they couldn’t bring the cannon through customs, but they were able to bring their leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and his 18-31–49 totals in 70 games this season.

Gustav Nyquist had a respectable 42-point season (15 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games with Columbus after being brought in via free agency, while Zach Werenski was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) from the blue line in 63 games.

Columbus has the better defense on paper, but Toronto’s offense has more than enough firepower to outmatch the Blue Jackets’ best efforts.

In goal, however, emerged the rise of a new king (but not of rock)– Elvis Merzlikins. Though Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5, 2.60 GAA, .911 SV%, two shutouts) played in more games (37 played, 35 starts) than Merzlikins, No. 90 in red, white and blue had the better numbers with a 13-9-8 record in 33 games played (31 starts), as well as a 2.35 GAA, a .923 SV% and five shutouts.

It’s the dawn of a new age in Columbus as a hot, young, goaltending tandem has arrived with the departure of Bobrovsky.

It’ll be Merzlikins’ biggest test, but the Blue Jackets just might be a lot better off now more than ever riding the hot goaltender.

Plus they struck down the dragon last spring and made it out of the First Round for the first time in franchise history, so now anything’s possible moving forward.

On paper this is the most even matchup as both teams finished with 81 points, had 70 games played and went won one out of the two games they played against one another before the pandemic shortened the regular season, but it’s hard to ignore one thing– Tortorella.

Once more Tortorella is a Jack Adams Award finalist and, oh yeah, he’s kind of responsible for figuring out how to not only beat, but sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 First Round– you know, last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners.

But a newcomer has entered the chat and that’s Keefe. He led the Toronto Marlies (AHL) to the 2018 Calder Cup championship and many of the players in the Leafs system have encountered his touch in recent years.

Is Keefe the answer to Toronto’s prayers or will yet another team that’s come into the league since their last Cup in 1967 raise Lord Stanley’s mug over their heads while the Maple Leafs are off somewhere preparing for next season?

The good news, this isn’t technically the playoffs yet, so that means Toronto’s got a better chance off the bat.

There’s not as much of a distraction surrounding their opponent (*ahem* for once, it’s not Boston!– yet, anyway), let alone the “hasn’t made it out of the First Round since before the 2004-05 season-long lockout” specter that shadows the Leafs.

The bad news, they’re the Maple Leafs. Of course only something like a pandemic would throw off any momentum they had going into a possible playoff run, etc.

Imagine if the Chicago Cubs didn’t win in 2016, or the Boston Red Sox didn’t win in 2004– yeah, that’s how most Toronto fans feel day-in and day-out– no matter how confident– no matter how much belief they have in the team.

There’s always that chance that something something goes wrong and the curse or whatever remains hanging over the Maple Leafs dressing room and front office.

Leafs in five, then we’ll see what happens, but Tortorella’s teams aren’t easy to knock off their game. This alone might be Toronto’s greatest test in the Matthews, Marner and Co. Era.

Mike Babcock’s gone. They’re playing the “new age” game. Can they get it done?

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 TOR at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4th, 4-3 F/OT CBJ at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 21st

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 CBJ @ TOR 8 PM ET on NHLN, SN, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 CBJ @ TOR 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/6- Game 3 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto TBD

8/7- Game 4 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 CBJ @ TOR*

*If necessary


2020 Eastern Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Eastern Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Eastern Conference are in Toronto this year and all times Eastern.

Boston Bruins

44-14-12, 100 points, 70 GP, .714 PTS%, 38 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. PHI in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 5th vs. TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 9th @ WSH in Toronto, TBD

Tampa Bay Lightning

43-21-6, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 35 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. WSH in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 5th @ BOS in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 8th vs. PHI in Toronto, TBD

Washington Capitals

41-20-8, 90 points, 69 GP, .652 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 3rd @TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 6th @ PHI in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. BOS in Toronto, TBD

Philadelphia Flyers

41-21-7, 89 points, 69 GP, .645 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 2nd @ BOS in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 6th vs. WSH in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 8th @ TBL in Toronto, TBD

Rask enters “Save of the Year” contention in Boston’s, 3-2, win over Buffalo

A pair of goals from Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak’s 20th goal of the season and one game-changing save from Tuukka Rask catapulted the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Thursday.

Rask (10-2-2 record, 2.05 goals against average, .931 save percentage in 14 games played) made a season-high 36 saves on 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (4-5-1, 3.01 GAA, .910 SV% in 10 games played) turned aside 24 shots on 27 shots against for an .889 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 14-3-5 (33 points) and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-9-3 (23 points) and stuck in 4th place in the Atlantic as the Toronto Maple Leafs were in action in Arizona against the Coyotes (a win in any fashion for the Leafs would drop Buffalo to 5th in the Atlantic Division standings).

Boston is 8-0-4 at home this season in 12 games, which is the longest home point streak since the 1973-74 season. 

Meanwhile, Pastrnak is the fourth different player in Bruins history to reach the 20-goal mark in 22 or fewer games, becoming the fifth fastest behind Phil Esposito (20 goals in 18 games in 1973-74), Cam Neely (20 goals in 19 games in 1993-94), Herb Cain (20 goals in 20 games in 1943-44) and Esposito again (20 goals in 21 games in 1974-75).

The B’s are now on a two-game winning streak and have won three out of their last four games, while the Sabres dropped to 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.

One more, the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Thursday.

Re-joining the long list of injured B’s was Brett Ritchie (upper body), as announced by Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, earlier in the day prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Sabres.

Ritchie’s infection was reaggravated and kept him out of his 7th game due to injury this season.

Patrice Bergeron was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. He returned to his usual spot as the first line center with Marchand on his left wing and Pastrnak on his right wing.

Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing with David Krejci resuming his role as the No. 2 center and Jake DeBrusk remaining on the left side.

Par Lindholm was left as the third line center with Anders Bjork on his left wing and Danton Heinen on his right wing.

Cassidy left his fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner alone, as well as his defensive pairings in the same shape as they’ve been with Krug out due to injury.

Steven Kampfer remained Boston’s only healthy scratch on Thursday.

Early in the period, Lindholm went down the tunnel with an injury after it appeared he might have been cut by a skate in a collision with Rasmus Asplund. He returned to the bench by the end of the period, but only played 20 seconds in his first shift of the night.

Lindholm later returned to the ice in the second period and resumed his usual duties.

Moments later, Kuraly tripped Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues and was sent to the penalty box at 5:05 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to the Sabres.

Buffalo’s power play unit worked quickly and effectively as Rasmus Ristolainen (1) pocketed a rebound into the back of the net from right in the crease after Rask made the initial save.

Jack Eichel (13) and Victor Olofsson (9) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s power play goal that made it, 1-0, Sabres at 5:25.

It was just the 6th time in 22 games that the Bruins allowed the game’s first goal.

What was more troubling for the B’s wasn’t that they were down early, but rather that they didn’t record their first shot on net until 12:11.

About a couple minutes later, Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that Marchand (14) tipped in from the low slot, tying the game, 1-1, on Boston’s 2nd shot of the night at 13:52.

Chara (5) and Pastrnak (16) had the assists on Marchand’s goal.

Less than a minute later, after a scrum in front of the net followed a puck frozen by a goaltender, Wagner dropped the gloves with Curtis Lazar in what was just Boston’s 3rd fight of the season (and first since Marchand fought Filip Hronek on Nov. 8th in Detroit).

Both players also received matching roughing minors at 14:14, resulting in no skater advantages.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Sabres leading in shots on goal, 17-4.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (6-4) and hits (8-7), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4) after one period.

The two teams had a pair of giveaways and were 50-50 in faceoff winning percentage.

Heading into the second period, Buffalo was 1/1 on the power play, while the B’s had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.

Buffalo’s 17 shots on goal in the first period were the 2nd most shots allowed in a period by Boston this season. The most shots against in one period for the Bruins thus far is 18 on Nov. 16th on home ice against the Washington Capitals.

Early in the middle frame, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Zemgus Girgensons and was sent to the box at 4:44 of the second period.

The Sabres didn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Midway through the period, Asplund held Krejci and was assessed with a minor at 13:15– presenting Boston with their first power play opportunity of the night.

It only took the Bruins 90 seconds to capitalize on the power play as Marchand (15) caught a rebound and slid the puck under Ullmark for the power play goal at 14:45.

Grzelcyk (5) and Heinen (6) had the assists on the goal as the B’s took their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Coyle took a trip to the sin bin for hooking Eichel at 15:16. Boston killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid with ease.

In the final minute of the second period, Ullmark denied DeBrusk with a sprawling leg pad save while DeBrusk entered the attacking zone on a breakaway, before crashing into the boards and heading right down the tunnel to the dressing room for a head start on the second intermission.

He returned for the third period without any issues.

After 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Sabres, 24-18, in shots on goal, despite having a, 14-7, shots on net advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s held the lead in blocked shots (10-9), hits (14-12) and faceoff win% (51-49), however, while Buffalo led in takeaways (10-6) and giveaways (8-4).

Heading into the third period, the Sabres were 1/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/1.

Jake McCabe opened up the final frame of regulation with a minor penalty for holding against Heinen 32 seconds into the third period.

While on the power play, Pastrnak (20) gathered a rebound and slipped the puck underneath Ullmark’s elevated leg pad and scored his 20th goal of the season– becoming the first NHL player to reach the 20-goal plateau this season.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Heinen (7) and Bergeron (12) at 1:56 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-1.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Nordstrom was sent to the box for tripping Rasmus Dahlin at 3:33.

Rodrigues thought he had a surefire power play goal for the Sabres as Buffalo pressured the Bruins into near submission, but Rask made a no-stick, inside of the blocker save, while diving across the crease.

Boston killed off Nordstrom’s minor as a result.

Midway through the third period, Brandon Montour (2) blasted a one-timer into the twine from the point, cutting Boston’s lead in half, 3-2, at 12:58.

Conor Sheary (3) and Dahlin (13) tallied the assists on Montour’s goal as the Sabres pressed, but couldn’t complete a third period comeback over the Bruins.

With 1:19 remaining in the game, Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but couldn’t muster a 6-on-5 goal– even after using his timeout with 39.8 seconds left to drum up the perfect plan.

At the final horn, Boston sealed the deal on a, 3-2, victory over Buffalo– improving to 10-0-2 when leading after two periods in the process.

The Sabres finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-27) and giveaways (14-4), while the Bruins walked away with the advantage in blocked shots (17-11), hits (20-14) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Buffalo finished Thursday’s action 1/4 on the skater advantage as the B’s went 2/2 on the power play.

Boston finishes their two-game homestand (1-0-0) against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.

Mike Babcock Fired: What Does This Mean for The– Bruins?

Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).

It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.

Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.

Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.

It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.

For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.

But that’s a separate discussion entirely.

For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.

The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.

Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.

From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.

This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.

Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.

He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.

Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.

Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).

Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.

In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.

That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.

They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.

Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.

Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.

Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.

Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.

Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.

In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.

It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.

Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.

They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.

In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.

So, what does this mean for the Bruins?

A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.

First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.

The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).

Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.

This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.

Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.

Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.

There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.

Now for the advantages for Boston.

History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.

Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).

This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.

Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.

This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.

History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.

Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.

As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.

Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).

But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).

Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).

In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.

Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.

As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).

Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).

Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.

Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.

Bruins fans be worried or not.

DTFR Podcast #179- Short and Sweet Power Rankings

This week’s DTFR Power Rankings are here! A quick look at the standings and a few tidbits of news from the week.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #177- And A Dollar Short

2020 Winter Classic sweater reviews, a standings update and Top-10 NHL power rankings.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

2019-20 League Forecast Entering November

For the first time this season, the calendar is flipped to a new month– and with a new month comes new expectations.

All 31 National Hockey League teams are starting to find a rhythm– for better or worse– and it’s time to acknowledge the general trends of what to expect based on what’s already happened for the first 1/8th of the season (approximately).

American Thanksgiving is still around the corner, which means that any team in a playoff position by Nov. 28th is more likely to qualify for the playoffs by April 4th.

There’s enough time between now and then for a lot to change.

As always, that means it’s time for a new forecast based on what we’ve seen so far and what we may see in the future.

In other words, here’s an educated guess based on a formulaic approach thanks to the wonderful world of spreadsheets.

This isn’t an exact science. It takes into account everything from the last few seasons, as well as every little detail through the end of Oct. 31, 2019.

Anything can happen. It’s a long road to April.

Projected Standings After One Month

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Boston Bruins, 110 points (12 games played entering November 1st)
  2. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (12 GP)
  3. x-Montreal Canadiens, 92 points (13 GP)
  4. Florida Panthers, 91 points (13 GP)
  5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 91 points (14 GP)
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 82 points (13 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 79 points (13 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 74 points (11 GP)

The Boston Bruins are off to a hot start thanks to Tuukka Rask’s stellar goaltending (6-0-1 record, 1.42 goals against average, .951 save percentage in seven games played) and David Pastrnak’s hot stick (12-12–24 totals in 12 games played).

Bruce Cassidy’s leadership behind the bench has steered the B’s away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance hangover and towards another playoff berth for what would be the fourth year in-a-row.

Meanwhile, after a slow start to their season, Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning casually waltz into home ice advantage in at least the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Claude Julien re-enters the postseason frame with the Montreal Canadiens as if it’s 2004 again (granted, Julien and the Habs made it in 2017, but only after Julien replaced Michel Therrien as head coach for the second time).

Joel Quenneville’s first season as head coach of the Florida Panthers led to an improvement, but not quite enough to get them back into the postseason, while another Stanely Cup winning coach took his team in a different direction.

That coach is Mike Babcock and that team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who trudged through the middle of the road all season and ended up just outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (unless Kyle Dubas and Brendan Shanahan decide to stray from the “Shanaplan”).

Though the Buffalo Sabres are hot right now, it seems history repeats itself. Buffalo’s great October, November and/or December wasn’t enough to sustain themselves through the winer months of January, February and March, but overall the team improved and should be a playoff contender next season.

At least the Sabres aren’t the Detroit Red Wings (still a few years away from being a contender) or the Ottawa Senators (they say they’ll spend money in 2021, but…).

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 110 points (14 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points (13 GP)
  3. x-New York Islanders, 95 points (11 GP)
  4. wc1-Carolina Hurricanes, 92 points (12 GP)
  5. wc2-Columbus Blue Jackets, 91 points (12 GP)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (11 GP)
  7. New York Rangers, 87 points (10 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 81 points (10 GP)

Alex Ovechkin continues his annual quest for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and likely succeeds unless Pastrnak has anything to say about it.

In the meantime, the Washington Capitals continue to take home the regular season crown in the Metropolitan Division because somehow they always seem to do that no matter the postseason outcome.

The Pittsburgh Penguins avoid major missteps without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup for most of October due to injury and turned things on for the duration of the second half of the season as they always do, yielding 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.

Barry Trotz’s leadership with the New York Islanders has keep things tight-knit and playoff bound, but unless every 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff home game for the Isles is played at NYCB Live/Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, then it’s not worth it.

Rod Brind’Amour is the best coach for the Carolina Hurricanes and he continues to climb the ranks of “best head coaches in franchise history” with another wild card appearance, at least, and what should be yet another thrilling playoff run for the Canes.

Meanwhile, somehow the Columbus Blue Jackets pieced together enough wins to snag the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference before bowing out in the First Round due to a lack of depth.

Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are all near the bottom of the division, but only with a few points spread between them– meaning that anything after 1st or 2nd place in the division is realistically up for grabs as long as a team goes on a perfectly timed run.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (13 GP)
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 101 points (13 GP)
  3. x-Winnipeg Jets, 93 points (13 GP)
  4. wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (12 GP)
  5. Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (11 GP)
  6. Dallas Stars, 86 points (14 GP)
  7. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (13 GP)

In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are going to pounce on the competition as the leaders of the West in the regular season. The only trouble is, they still might blow it in the last second of overtime or something.

The defending champion St. Louis Blues are content to finish 2nd in the Central Division, but remain hungry in their quest for another Cup.

After a slow start to the season, Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets somehow right the ship and earned themselves the last divisional spot in the Central Division.

But the Colorado Avalanche hold a wild card spot in the latest forecast as the real wild card of the entire Western Conference. Injuries could hold them back in the regular season, but they’ve shown they can make noise in the playoffs last spring.

Otherwise, if the Avs can stay healthy for longer periods of time, then Colorado could climb in the standings.

Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks are still trending in the wrong direction– facing the existential crisis of holding onto the old guard or continuing to dismantle their Cup-winning core– while the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild compete for the worst of the former and/or current Minnesota franchises this season.

Spoiler alert, it’s the Wild.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points (14 GP)
  2. x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points (14 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 92 points (13 GP)
  4. wc2-Calgary Flames, 91 points (15 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 89 points (12 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (14 GP)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 82 points (12 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 82 points (13 GP)

Nothing is going how things were expected to go in the Pacific Division and as a result, there’s still no conclusive results.

The Vegas Golden Knights are good and could likely win the Pacific Division regular season title, but the Anaheim Ducks aren’t bowing out of playoff contention just yet.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks are as bad as the Los Angeles Kings, so this forecast will be further fine-tuned next month as the Sharks continue to slip from dominant to dormant in the standings.

The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers all might take a stab at playoff contention, yet the Arizona Coyotes are on the rise.

At the very least, this is the most unpredictable division in the league that not even our current forecast can make any definitive claims.

Check back next month for further separation in the spread, as well as a more realistic view of where each team should likely land within the range of standings.

DTFR Podcast #170- 2019-20 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Bruins downgrade Hurricanes, advance to Stanley Cup Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Final– and for the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice advantage in the Final– after their, 4-0, victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the series 4-0 to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– their 20th appearance in the Final in franchise history.

Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) made 24 saves on 24 shots against to record the shutout win for Boston.

He made 109 saves on 114 shots faced in the entire series against the Canes.

Hurricanes goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced (.864 SV%) in the loss.

Carolina finished the postseason 5-2 on home ice and 2-1 when facing elimination, while the Bruins improved to 11-0 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston also improved to 20-1 all time when leading a series 3-0.

The Hurricanes became the first team since the 1992 Bruins to sweep the Second Round, then be swept in the Eastern Conference Final.

Boston swept the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, then got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Eastern Conference Final– en route to Pittsburgh’s 1992 Cup run.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to injury, replacing Chris Wagner (upper body) with Noel Acciari on the fourth line right wing after Wagner blocked a shot and left Game 3, as well as Zdeno Chara (undisclosed) with John Moore for Game 4.

Moore was placed on the left side of the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Matt Grzelcyk took Chara’s place on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo suited up as normal on the second pairing.

Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Aside from Chara, Wagner and Kevan Miller (lower body), Boston’s usual crew of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Carolina had an early power play after Grzelcyk tripped Nino Niederreiter at 1:18 of the first period, but the Hurricanes did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Midway through the opening frame, Niederreiter skated to the penalty box with a minor infraction of his own for slashing Boston’s Brad Marchand at 10:35 of the first period.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their skater advantage and Charlie Coyle was penalized with about 20 seconds left on the power play– resulting in a short 4-on-4 even strength opportunity before an abbreviated power play for the Canes at 12:19.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, with the Hurricanes leading in shots on goal, 13-11.

The Canes also led in blocked shots (6-5) after one period, while the B’s led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (57-44). Both teams had seven giveaways each.

Heading into the second period, Carolina was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

Early in the middle frame, the Hurricanes botched a line change as the puck came out of their attacking zone and the Carolina bench was caught with too many men on the ice.

Justin Williams served the bench minor penalty at 4:28 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, Marchand led Boston on a break in on the power play and sent a pass to the slot whereby David Pastrnak (7) redirected the puck behind McElhinney to give the B’s the first goal of the game, 1-0.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Marchand (11) and Krug (11) at 4:46 of the second period.

Late in the period, Greg McKegg bumped into Rask while going hard to the crease, yielding a goaltender interference minor penalty at 18:10.

While on the ensuing power play, Patrice Bergeron (7) worked a give-and-go to Pastrnak and sneaked his way to the bumper to receive the pass back from his winger to rip the one-timer past McElhinney and give Boston a two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and extended the Bruins lead to, 2-0, at 18:34 of the second period. The goal also moved Bergeron past Phil Esposito, John Bucyk and Jean Ratelle for the 2nd most power play goals by a Bruin in a postseason.

Cam Neely holds the franchise record with nine power play goals in a single playoff year.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 19-17, including an, 8-4 advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s also held the advantage in face-off win% (52-48), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (10-7) and hits (19-15) after two periods. Entering the second intermission, both teams had 14 blocked shots aside and 11 giveaways each.

Carolina was 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period, while Boston was 2/3 on the skater advantage.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Selke Trophy finalist, Bergeron forced a turnover to Pastrnak in the attacking zone.

Pastrnak worked the puck back to Bergeron (8) along the goal line near the short side whereby the veteran Bruin blasted a one-timer past the Carolina goaltender to give Boston a three-goal lead.

With his second assist of the night, Pastrnak (8) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal and notched his third point of the evening (1-2–3 totals) at 10:32 of the third period as the Bruins led, 3-0.

As time ticked down in the third period, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 5:22 to go in regulation.

Shortly thereafter, Bergeron freed the puck through the neutral zone to Marchand (7) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-0, Bruins.

Bergeron (5) and David Krejci (10) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 17:43 of the third period.

With the primary assist on the goal, Bergeron tallied a three-point night (two goals, one assist) as Boston closed out the series.

At the final horn, the Bruins completed the sweep with a, 4-0, win and finished the night leading in blocked shots (23-16) and face-off win% (53-47).

Carolina wrapped up their season leading in shots on goal (24-23), giveaways (15-14) and hits (33-17).

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

For the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice in the Stanley Cup Final as they await the winner of the 2019 Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

San Jose currently leads the series 2-1 over the Blues.

This will be the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for David Backes– who spent 10 seasons with St. Louis before signing with Boston in free agency on July 1, 2016.

It’s also Cassidy’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance as a head coach.

It will be the third time the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, joining the Chicago Blackhawks as the only team to reach the Final in three or more appearances since 2010.

Chicago made (and won) the Final in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

(For those wondering, the Penguins made the Cup Final in 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017.)

Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask are the only Bruins to have been part of all three Stanley Cup Final appearances for Boston since 1990 (2011, 2013 and 2019).

Bruins storm Hurricanes, 6-2, in Game 2

The Boston Bruins third line dominated scoring on Sunday as the B’s defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 6-2, at TD Garden in Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

Charlie Coyle (three assists), Danton Heinen (goal, two assists) and Marcus Johansson (two assists) led the way for the Bruins while Torey Krug (three assists) chipped in from the blue line in the dominant display of offensive secondary scoring.

Tuukka Rask (10-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .937 save percentage in 15 games played this postseason) made 21 saves on 23 shots against (.913 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Hurricanes goaltender, Petr Mrazek (5-5, 2.72 GAA, .894 SV% in 11 GP this postseason) stopped 19 out of 25 shots faced for a .760 SV% in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, had Charlie McAvoy back in his lineup alongside Zdeno Chara on the first defensive pairing after McAvoy served his one-game suspension in Game 1.

As a result, Steven Kampfer rejoined the long list of healthy scratches (including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman), while John Moore (upper body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) remain day-to-day. Kevan Miller (lower body) is still out.

Midway through the opening course of the action, Chara tripped up Hurricanes forward, Andrei Svechnikov, and was sent to the penalty box at 11:56 of the first period.

Carolina was not able to convert on the ensuing power play– their first of the afternoon on Sunday.

Less than two minutes after killing off Chara’s minor, the Bruins rallied with a scoring chance of their own after maintaining possession deep in the offensive zone.

Coyle worked the puck back to the point where Johansson flipped a pass over to Matt Grzelcyk as the Boston defender pinched near the face-off circle to the right of Mrazek.

Grzelcyk (2) fired a shot past the Carolina goaltender’s blocker on the short side and the puck trickled past the goal line to give the B’s the lead, 1-0.

Johansson (5) and Coyle (4) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal at 15:22 of the first period.

A few minutes later, Justin Williams interfered with Heinen in front of the Canes net and was sent to the box at 18:26 with a minor infraction.

Six seconds into the power play, David Pastrnak ripped a shot from the point that Jake DeBrusk (3) tipped on Mrazek, collected his own rebound and pocketed the loose puck into the twine to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Pastrnak (6) and Krug (8) had the assists on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 18:32 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.

Heading into the first intermission, the B’s led on the scoreboard, 2-0, and in shots on goal, 11-6.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2), giveaways (4-2), hits (20-14) and face-off win percentage (62-38), while Carolina led in takeaways (4-2).

The Hurricanes were 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Patrice Bergeron opened the second period with a tripping penalty 69 seconds into the middle frame and Carolina went on the power play for the second time of the afternoon. They did not score on the resulting skater advantage.

Less than a minute after killing off Bergeron’s minor, the Bruins caught the Hurricanes in the “vulnerable minute” after special teams play as Johansson worked a pass that almost got blown up by Greg McKegg over to Connor Clifton as the Boston defender worked his way in from the point.

Clifton (1) buried the puck in the open net as Mrazek was left diving in desperation across the crease at 3:46 of the second period.

Johansson (6) and Heinen (5) had the assists on Clifton’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Bruins led, 3-0.

As a result of his goal, Clifton became the 19th different goal scorer for Boston this postseason– tying their franchise record for most in a single playoff run set in 1988.

Chris Wagner tied up Williams behind the Boston goal midway through the second period and was assessed a minor penalty at 13:36.

Carolina did not score on the following penalty and followed up their skater advantage with a skater disadvantage of their own as Williams held Brad Marchand at 16:07 of the second period.

Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, Krug sent Coyle up ice with a lead pass that led to a drop pass back to Grzelcyk (3) whereby the Bruins defender pulled the puck to his backhand and released a shot past the glove side of Mrazek for his second goal of the afternoon.

Coyle (5) and Krug (9) were credited with their second assists of the afternoon– joining Johansson in the two-assist department for Boston– and the B’s led, 4-0, at 17:56 of the second period thanks to Grzelcyk’s power play goal.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 21-17, in shots on goal– though the Hurricanes held the second period advantage by itself, 11-10.

Boston dominated every other statistical category after two periods, leading in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (8-4), giveaways (8-4), hits (28-26) and face-off win% (54-46).

Entering the third period, Carolina was 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2– having scored a goal on four out of their last five power plays in Games 1 and 2.

Boston came out of the second intermission with an early attack and tapped in yet another goal as David Backes (2) scooped up a loose puck and buried it into an empty frame while Mrazek was out of position after David Krejci slid a pass through the crease to Backes.

Krejci (8) and Krug (10) notched the assists on Backes’ goal at 1:10 of the third period and the Bruins led, 5-0.

As a result of the secondary assist on Backes’ goal, Krug tabbed his third helper of the afternoon.

He became the fifth defender in Bruins franchise history to record three assists in a playoff game in multiple outings and joined Ray Bourque (5x), Bobby Orr (5x), Brad Park (3x) and Carol Vadnais (2x) as the only members to do so in a Boston sweater.

About a minute later, Bergeron tripped up Williams and was sent to the box at 2:22 of the third period.

After killing off the penalty, Bergeron was freed from the box and received a lead pass from Coyle, then swerved the puck around former Bruins defender, Dougie Hamilton, and tossed the rubber biscuit to Heinen (2) for the short side goal on a backhand shot while unopposed.

Bergeron (4) and Coyle (6) had the assists on Heinen’s goal and Boston led, 6-0, while Coyle tabbed his third assist on the afternoon at 4:32 of the third period.

Midway through the third period, Williams freed the puck from behind the net in Carolina’s offensive zone and worked it back to the point whereby Justin Faulk unloaded on a shot that Williams (4) deflected to rob Rask of the shutout.

The Hurricanes cut Boston’s lead to five as Faulk (6) and Sebastian Aho (6) picked up assists to trail, 6-1, at 11:17 of the third period.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Rask skated out of his crease to clear the puck, but gave it away to Teuvo Teravainen (7) who pounced on the botched clearing attempt and wired the puck into the empty net as Rask couldn’t get back fast enough at 17:32.

The Hurricanes trailed, 6-2, and that’s all that was written from TD Garden in Game 2.

Boston finished the afternoon with the, 6-2, win and 2-0 series lead, while dominating in shots on goal (25-23), blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (11-7), hits (35-27) and face-off win% (59-42).

Carolina went 0/4 on the power play on Sunday, while the Bruins finished 2/2 on the skater advantage.

The Canes have allowed 11 goals against through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final (they only allowed five goals against in their Second Round sweep of the New York Islanders).

The B’s have won five-straight games and improved to 9-0 when leading after two periods this postseason.

Boston leads the series 2-0 as the 2019 Eastern Conference Final swings to Raleigh, North Carolina for Games 3 and 4 at PNC Arena.

Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday night with puck drop a little after 8:00 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN, while those in Canada can tune in on CBC, SN or TVAS.