Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.

Or maybe you won’t.

Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Bruins went 2-1-0 against the Blue Jackets in the regular season and matched Columbus’ intensity at times throughout all three games in the season series.

Boston is coming off a seven game series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second year in a row and is getting more than enough production from their bottom six forwards as of late.

Charlie Coyle has consistently been the best player on the ice for the B’s– going hard to the corners and dirty areas, carrying the puck and adding 3-1–4 totals (tied for 5th on the roster in scoring).

As usual, Brad Marchand leads the Bruins this postseason in goals, assists and points with 4-5–9 totals entering the Second Round, while the rest of the first line– Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak— has five and six points, respectively.

But wait, what’s that? Bruce Cassidy moved Pastrnak to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and promoted Danton Heinen to the first line right wing?

Yes, short of Krejci and Pastrnak’s performance in the First Round matchup, the B’s are looking to get a little more from DeBrusk (one goal against Toronto) against Columbus.

Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) has been solid in his last few starts and looks to maintain momentum as things get going with the Blue Jackets.

For the first time in franchise history, Columbus advanced past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Not only that, but they rocketed past the Tampa Bay Lightning– sweeping the 2018-19 President’s Trophy winners with the best regular season record of 62-16-4 (tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins in a season) in just four postseason games.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, is quite familiar with what it takes to knockoff one of the best teams already heading into the Second Round and he has a Stanley Cup championship to his name with the (you guessed it) 2004 Lightning.

Columbus is led by trade deadline acquisition, Matt Duchene, in scoring with sevens points (three goals, four assists) in four games this postseason.

Pending-UFA this July, Artemi Panarin, is 2nd on the roster with 2-3–5 totals, followed by a three-way tie for 3rd between Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seth Jones with four points.

The Blue Jackets have a lot of speed and firepower and they have guys like, former Bruin, Riley Nash on their penalty kill.

Though he finished the regular season with a career-worst 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 78 games played (ignoring his nine points in 32 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and previous one point in five games in 2011-12), Nash has reached the back of the twine once already in the playoffs.

After recording a career-high and league-best nine shutouts in the regular season, Sergei Bobrovsky (4-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .932 SV% in four games this postseason) has the upper hand in goaltending– statistically speaking, of course.

He is in the midst of his postseason career-best performance, but he has faced the Bruins before in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. That year, Boston swept Philly and went on to win the Cup, while Bobrovsky suffered two losses in three starts (six games played) and amassed a 3.23 GAA and .877 SV%.

He was just a rookie, but if anyone’s done their research on how to beat Bobrovsky it might just be the Bruins. In his two starts against Boston this season (March 12th and April 2nd) he allowed four goals in each game.

Granted, the playoffs are a different breed from the regular season, Boston should still find a way to deal with Tortorella’s all-in crew in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

6-2 BOS at Nationwide Arena on April 2nd, 2-1 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 16th, 7-4 CBJ at Nationwide Arena on March 12th

Schedule:

4/25- Game 1 CBJ @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/27- Game 2 CBJ @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/30- Game 3 BOS @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/2- Game 4 BOS @ CBJ 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/4- Game 5 CBJ @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, TVAS*

5/6- Game 6 BOS @ CBJ*

5/8- Game 7 CBJ @ BOS*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

New York went 3-1-0 against Carolina in the regular season, but don’t let that influence anything.

The Islanders split their games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season, then went on to sweep them in the First Round and the Hurricanes lost every game against the Washington Capitals in the regular season, but defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.

Welcome to the playoffs.

Barry Trotz is in his first season behind the bench of the Islanders and brought his usual anchor of a defensive style, while General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought some stability to the front office, as well as the roster as New York said “goodbye” to John Tavares last July.

The Isles led the Metropolitan Division at times this season, but faltered late in February and March to 2nd place in the division standings.

Yet, this team has almost always performed better when just about everyone is counting them out.

When Tavares left, many experts didn’t see anything that could make up for the hole in the roster.

When the puck dropped against the Penguins in the First Round, many thought Pittsburgh’s three Cups in the last ten years would have brought more than enough experience to outperform the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

New York has been led by Jordan Eberle in scoring this postseason as the former Edmonton Oiler has amassed a goal a game and six points (four goals, two assists) in four playoff games this year.

As for Mathew Barzal? He leads the team in assists with five.

Josh Bailey and Valtteri Filppula each have four points through four games.

In goal, Robin Lehner (4-0-0, 1.47 GAA, .956 SV% in four games played this postseason) is blazing through his prior struggles in the crease in his first postseason as a starting goaltender.

It’s a team effort that’s gotten the Isles this far. But it’s also a team effort that’s let the Hurricanes into the Second Round.

Making their first postseason appearance since 2009, Carolina entered Game 7 in Washington boasting a 4-0 record in such games since relocating from Hartford.

The Canes trailed 2-0, and 3-1, but they forced overtime and won the game, 4-3, in double overtime– improving to 5-0, since the Whalers last existed, in Game 7s and knocking off Alex Ovechkin and his pals.

For the 19th time in the last 20 postseasons, there won’t be a repeat champion.

Rod Brind’Amour won a Cup with Carolina as player in 2006. He’s in his first season behind the bench as the Hurricanes head coach and joined Dallas Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, as the only rookie coaches this season to advance to the Second Round.

Brind’Amour’s lineup has been led from the back-end out with Jaccob Slavin leading in scoring with nine assists in seven postseason games.

Warren Foegele leads the team in goals with four and is tied for 2nd in scoring with Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton on the roster. Each player has six points this postseason.

The man that scored the series clinching goal against the Caps, Brock McGinn, has 2-3–5 totals, as does Sebastian Aho, in seven games.

In the crease, Petr Mrazek (4-3-0, 2.53 GAA, .899 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has battened down the hatches for the Canes.

The last time Carolina won a Game 7 on the road in overtime, they beat the Boston Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. There’s no reason not to believe in a team after what we’ve witnessed from that said organization which has promised others to Take Warning all season long.

It’s ten years in the making, but the Hurricanes will get back to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since they last appeared in that round against the Penguins in 2009 (Pittsburgh swept the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final).

Carolina will defeat the Islanders in six games and meet up with the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

PNC Arena is louder than Barclays Center– and overall better– and it’s shame the Islanders can’t just keep using the NYCB Live for the Second Round.

#CanesIn6

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 CAR at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 8th, 4-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 24th, 2-1 NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 28th, 2-1 F/OT NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/26- Game 1 CAR @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/28- Game 2 CAR @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/1- Game 3 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/3- Game 4 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/5- Game 5 CAR @ NYI*

5/7- Game 6 NYI @ CAR*

5/8- Game 7 CAR @ NYI*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

*cue Andy Williams*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).

In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.

This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.

Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.

A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.

Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.

The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).

Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.

Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.

Columbus was all over the Metropolitan Division this season, but went all-in at the trade deadline, adding Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for the stretch run.

Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.

Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.

Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.

In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.

While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.

After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.

That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS

4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*

4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*

4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*

*If necessary

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)

For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.

Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.

Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.

The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).

Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.

The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.

Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.

Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million boy wonder man.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.

Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.

Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.

To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*

4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*

4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*

*If necessary

M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?

Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.

After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.

Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.

Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).

The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).

Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.

The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.

Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.

Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.

Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.

Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.

Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.

This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2

4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS

4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*

4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*

4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)

Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.

That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.

New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).

Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.

That same trap won the Cup last season.

This season, Trotz has Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee as his main attractions instead of names like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.

Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?

Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.

Patric Hornqvist is also another silent killer option for Sullivan when his team needs a clutch goal– and that’s on top of Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel throughout the rest of the lineup.

The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.

How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?

Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*

4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*

4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering April

There’s only one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, so let’s make this quick. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 10th.

The stretch run is almost complete. If you’re mathematically alive, you still have a chance. Already clinched a playoff berth? Isn’t a great feeling to be ahead of things for once?

If you’re not, then there’s a good chance you’re looking forward to the 2019 NHL Draft lottery (unless you’re the Ottawa Senators– you see, they traded their 2019 1st round pick last season to the Colorado Avalanche after opting to keep their 2018 1st round pick instead– it’s a long story).

Without further ado, here’s the latest standings forecast through the end of March 31, 2019– keeping in mind this is not an exact science.

Given recent and season long trends, as well as records from the last few seasons, the forecasted standings that appear below are only an educated guess.

Anything can happen (for teams that aren’t otherwise already elimination from postseason contention and/or division, conference of President’s Trophy winners).

Projected Standings After Six Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 126 points (78 games played entering April 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 110 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 100 points (78 GP)
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. Florida Panthers, 87 points (79 GP)
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 75 points (79 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 74 points (79 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 65 points (78 GP)

To no surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy in real life and come close to a 130-point season. Though the Bolts didn’t set an NHL record for “best regular season ever”, they did become the third team in league history to amass 60-plus wins in a season.

Also, sorry Nikita Kucherov, but you can’t spread out your 120-plus points over the course of the playoffs. Everything is reset to “zero” as if it’s a new season within a season altogether.

Is this the year Steven Stamkos records a point in a Game 7?

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs keep running into each other as Toronto is looking to avenge last postseason’s seven-game series loss to the Bruins.

Unless David Pastrnak has anything to say about that on the scoreboard.

The Montreal Canadiens come up short of a playoff berth thanks to the current tiebreaker format, whereby both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes had more regulation-plus-overtime wins. If anything, there’s more hope for next season than this time around last season in Montreal.

And if you’re a Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings fan, for some reason you still think your teams are on the cusp of playoff contention– especially now that you’ve already reset your focus on being tied with all 31-NHL teams for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff action.

However, unless the Panthers make some serious moves in the offseason, the Sabres find a system (and goaltender) and stick with it and the Red Wings try to speed up their rebuild, it might be Groundhog Day for another season or two.

Finally, Ottawa Senators fans, you exist. You’re real fans.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 105 points (79 GP)
  2. x-New York Islanders, 102 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Carolina Hurricanes, 95 points (79 GP)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 83 points (79 GP)
  7. New York Rangers, 77 points (78 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 70 points (79 GP)

In the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals found a way to once-again reign as the division winner heading into the postseason.

After the New York Islanders charged out of the gate on the heels of Barry Trotz’s defensive masterplan and stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, things have started to slide in Long Island.

The good news? Trotz is their head coach and is the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

The bad news? They’ll suit up against the Pittsburgh Penguins– annual Stanley Cup contenders as long as Sidney Crosby is still playing and Mike Sullivan is within his five-year window of being the game’s best coach in the playoffs– and that’s just the First Round.

In the Eastern Conference wild card race, Columbus entered April with 44 regulation-plus-overtime wins, leading the Hurricanes (41) and Canadiens (40).

Given the forecasted tie and methods in which each team would need to reach 95 points on the season, it appears as though nothing is going to change over the last week of the season.

Nothing should change anyway.

Not to jinx them or anything, but Carolina is looking to end the longest postseason drought in the major four North American professional sports. The Canes haven’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, there’s 1) maybe a goaltender you can rely on, 2) a goaltender who still hasn’t won a Cup and is sticking with a team that’s rebuilding and 3) a goaltender that finally won a game this season (Cory Schneider) and a goaltender that should be your starter next season (Mackenzie Blackwood).

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (78 GP)
  2. x-Winnipeg Jets, 98 points (78 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 97 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Dallas Stars, 93 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Colorado Avalanche, 89 points (78 GP)
  6. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (79 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points (78 GP)

Ever hear of a team going from worst to first? Now have you ever heard of a team doing that in the same season? Because the St. Louis Blues are that team this season (at least in the Central Division alone).

However, the point spread in the expected forecast from 1st to 3rd in the Central is only a two-point difference, which means it’s still anybody’s guess as to who will come out with the top-seed in the division.

Should the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators end up in a First Round rematch of last season’s Second Round battle, then you can expect the Jets to take flight. Just a hunch.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference wild card race came down to the wire and– you guessed it– another tiebreaker.

While the Dallas Stars laid claim to the first wild card spot, the Colorado Avalanche came out on top of the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot by virtue of having won their regular season series, 2-1-0.

Things didn’t go so well for the Minnesota Wild this season, both because of injuries and because of a lot of inconsistency (so… injuries?).

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the season started in October, not January.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 109 points (79 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 95 points (79 GP)
  4. Arizona Coyotes, 89 points (79 GP)
  5. Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (78 GP)
  6. Anaheim Ducks, 80 points (80 GP)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 80 points (79 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 70 points (78 GP)

The Calgary Flames clinched the best record in the Western Conference for the first time in almost 30 years. Conveniently, the Flames last won the Cup 30 years ago.

Guess it’s about time for another repeat of 2004, even though goal line technology could surely keep that from ever happening again whether you believe it was in or not.

Things are looking like business as usual for the San Jose Sharks as they gear up for another taxing First Round battle– this time around in a rematch from last year’s Second Round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights, by the way, are the 7th team to reach the postseason in their first two seasons of existence.

It’s too bad the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t pull off an incredible run, despite losing their starting goaltender to injury for the season before American Thanksgiving.

The fact that they’re not in the Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko conversation is about as close as you can come to winning the Cup this season when you’ve relied on Darcy Kuemper for over 20-consecutive starts.

That’s not a shot at Kuemper. That’s just [heck-]ing incredible (pardon my French).

Back up north in Edmonton, the Oilers are gearing up for another rebuild? Is it that time already? Probably not, but if it’s what Connor McDavid wants… (it’s not).

Thanks to that good old ROW tiebreaker, the Anaheim Ducks managed to climb above the Vancouver Canucks in the standings. That’s not saying much.

Vancouver should be this season’s Arizona, next season (minus the injuries). If that makes sense.

Anaheim, on the other hand, should sell, sell, sell this summer.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings were crowned 2014 Stanley Cup champions for the 5th year in-a-row and finished in the basement of the Pacific.

Lightning strike three times in the third, beat B’s, 5-4

A three-goal third period comeback punctuated the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 win over the Boston Bruins on Monday night at Amalie Arena after Tampa originally allowed three goals against in the second period.

Steven Stamkos had a pair of goals and Anthony Cirelli had the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation, while Andrei Vasilevskiy (37-9-4 record, 2.36 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 50 games played) stopped 13 out of 17 shots faced (.765 SV%) in the win for the Lightning.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (26-11-5, 2.42 GAA, .915 SV% in 43 GP) made 23 saves on 28 shots against (.821 SV%) in the loss.

Boston fell to 46-21-9 (101 points) on the season, but remained in command of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Tampa improved to 59-14-4 (122 points) on the season and in command of the entire league, having already clinched the President’s Trophy this season.

The B’s fell to 28-2-3 when leading after two periods, 8-4-0 in the month of March and 18-14-6 on the road this season as a result of the loss– just their seventh in regulation since Jan. 1st.

Kevan Miller (upper body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body), Torey Krug (concussion) and Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) all remained out of the lineup, despite Johansson being a game-time decision.

As a result, Karson Kuhlman remained on the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci since his emergency recall from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Saturday.

Bruce Cassidy left the rest of his lineup the same as in Saturday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.

Stamkos (40) tipped momentum in favor of the Lightning after blasting one of his patented one-timers past Rask at 6:42 of the first period to give Tampa the lead, 1-0.

Ryan Callahan (10) and Mikhail Sergachev (21) tallied the assists on the goal.

Less than a minute later, Tampa’s leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov hooked David Pastrnak and was assessed a minor penalty at 7:28.

While on the power play, the Bruins tied the game with a power play goal from Brad Marchand (33) while Vasilevksiy dove in desperation thanks, in part, to a blind pass through traffic from Pastrnak to Marchand for the one-timer after Pastrnak received the puck from Patrice Bergeron.

Pastrnak (38) and Bergeron (43) had the assists on Marchand’s goal at 8:32 of the first period and the B’s tied the game, 1-1.

With his assist on the goal, Bergeron established a new career-high in points in a season with 74 points in 60 personal games played this season– surpassing his previous career-high of 73 points in 81 games in 2005-06.

Bergeron’s new career-high in points, of course, comes at the youthful age of 33-years-old.

Late in the opening frame, Stamkos (41) added his second goal of the game on a nearly identical one-timer from his usual spot on the ice to give Tampa the lead, 2-1.

Victor Hedman (42) and Sergachev (22) notched the assists on Stamkos’ second goal at 14:58 of the first period.

Shortly thereafter, Bruins defender, John Moore was crumpled by Adam Erne on a hit that left Moore favoring his left arm as he went down the tunnel to the visiting dressing room.

He did not return to Monday night’s action and was ruled out by the Bruins communication staff early in the second period.

J.T. Miller hooked Danton Heinen at 17:45 and Alex Killorn tripped Bergeron at 18:32, leaving Boston with an abbreviated 5-on-3 skater advantage for about 1:14 until a regular power play would resume.

The B’s did not convert on either power play opportunity.

Through one period, Tampa led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 9-4. The Bolts also led in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (4-2) and hits (15-10), while the B’s managed an advantage in giveaways (2-1) and face-off win percentage (55-46).

The Lightning did not see any time on the power play entering the first intermission, while the Bruins were 1/3 on the skater advantage.

Kuhlman received a two-minute minor infraction for holding Sergachev at 5:05 of the second period, sending the Lightning on their first power play of the night.

Tampa did not convert on the ensuing opportunity.

Moments later, Charlie Coyle (12) tied the game, 2-2, after David Backes stole the puck in the offensive and fed Coyle with the puck on his stick.

Coyle deked and scored on the backhand at 8:42 of the second period with Backes (13) yielding the only assist on the goal.

Boston began to unwind over the course of the second and third period in discipline as Zdeno Chara hooked Kucherov at 9:46 of the middle frame, but the Bolts were powerless on the power play.

Brandon Carlo (2) sniped a shot past Vasilevksiy’s glove side for his first goal in 44 games at 13:41 of the second period.

Krejci (46) and DeBrusk (13) were credited with the assists as the Bruins led for the first time of the night, 3-2.

About a minute later, Marchand (34) rocketed a one-timer wide of the goal that caromed off the glass and bounced off of Vasilevskiy’s skate and trickled into the net.

Pastrnak (39) and Bergeron (44) had the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the night and the Bruins had scored three unanswered goals to lead, 4-2, at 14:32 of the second period.

After 40 minutes of play, Boston led on the scoreboard, 4-2, but trailed Tampa in shots on goal, 19-12.

The Lightning also led in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (6-5), hits (24-15) and face-off win% (51-49), while the B’s led in giveaways (3-2).

Tampa was 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.

The Lightning thundered their way back into the game with three unanswered goals of their own in the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit and beat the Bruins.

Hedman (12) kicked things off with a goal at 5:36 of the third period to bring Tampa within one, 4-3, after he followed through on Stamkos’ shot that went wide and redirected off the end boards behind the net.

Stamkos (51) and Miller (31) had the assists on Hedman’s goal and the Bolts set the tone for the final frame of regulation.

The comeback was imminent.

Pastrnak caught Ryan McDonagh with a high-stick and was assessed a four-minute double minor penalty at 6:45.

Boston successfully managed to go unscathed during their extended penalty kill, but couldn’t muster anything past Vasilevskiy.

Midway through the third period, Kucherov (38) pounced on an odd-skater advantage that fell flat for the Bruins and wristed a shot past Rask after Stamkos led the charge the other way.

Stamkos (52) had the only assist on Kucherov’s goal at 13:50 and the game was tied, 4-4.

Charlie McAvoy hooked Brayden Point at 17:02 and presented the Lightning with yet another power play.

Though the B’s managed to kill the penalty off, they were trapped in the vulnerable minute thereafter and failed to clear the puck out of their own zone.

Instead, Tampa kept the pressure on Boston and forced the puck to Cirelli (18) in the high-slot for the goal that gave the Bolts the lead, 5-4, at 19:07 of the third period.

Mathieu Joseph (12) and McDonagh (33) had the assists on the game-winning goal with 52.2 seconds left in regulation.

Cassidy used his timeout after Cirelli’s goal to try to draw up a plan, but his efforts were thwarted after Marchand picked up an interference penalty at 19:22.

For the first time since Jan. 14th in Philadelphia against the Flyers, the Bruins had blown a two-goal lead to lose in regulation.

At the final horn, Tampa had won, 5-4, and finished the night leading in shots on goal (28-17), blocked shots (11-10), hits (33-22) and face-off win% (54-46).

The B’s led in giveaways (5-4) and went 1/3 on the power play, while the Lightning finished Monday night 0/6 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins return home– after going 3-1-0 on their four-game road trip– to face the New York Rangers on March 27th, then host the Florida Panthers on March 30th before traveling to Detroit on the 31st to close out the month.

Boston finishes the season swinging through Columbus on April 2nd, making a stop in Minnesota on April 4th and wrapping up the regular season on April 6th at home against the Lightning.

Bruins at Lightning Preview: 3/25/2019

The Boston Bruins (46-20-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) visit the Tampa Bay Lightning (58-14-4, 120 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division) in their final visit to Amalie Arena in the 2018-19 regular season.

Boston is 1-1-0 against Tampa this season with their most recent matchup being a, 4-1, victory on home ice on Feb. 28th and their loss to the Lightning coming at the hands of a, 3-2, defeat in Tampa on Dec. 6th.

The two teams battled in the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Bolts advancing in five games.

Both clubs have already clinched a spot in the 2019 postseason with the Lightning holding home ice advantage throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of having won the President’s Trophy.

The highest the Bruins can finish at the end of this current regular season is 2nd in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.

The B’s enter Tampa on a four-game win streak (including a 3-0-0 record on their current four-game road trip) and might be getting back another player from injury Monday night.

Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) joined the club in Florida last Friday and is a game-time decision according to Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy.

Kevan Miller (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) and Torey Krug (concussion) remain traveling with the team, but will not be back in the lineup.

Additionally, Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) remains out for approximately four weeks.

Chris Wagner had a maintenance day at practice on Sunday, but should be good to go on the third line with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle against the Lightning.

If Johansson does return to the lineup against Tampa, he’ll play on the right side of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.

Karson Kuhlman will likely be the odd forward out of the lineup as a healthy scratch on Monday.

Cassidy is expected to start Tuukka Rask (26-10-5 record, 2.35 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 42 games played) in net against the Lightning.

Tampa head coach, Jon Cooper, is expected to rely on his usual starter, Andrei Vasilevskiy (36-9-4, 2.33 GAA, .928 SV% in 49 GP)– in the midst of a career-year and what should be a Vezina Trophy winning performance this season– against Boston.

Yanni Gourde is serving the second game of his two-game suspension and will not be in the lineup for the Lightning. As such, Ryan Callahan will participate in his third consecutive game.

Dan Girardi will also miss Monday night’s matchup and may miss the remainder of the regular season for Tampa.

The Bruins are 8-3-0 in the month of March, while the Bolts are 9-2-0 so far this month with a, 3-0, loss against the Minnesota Wild on March 7th and a, 4-3, loss in St. Louis against the Blues on March 23rd.

Both teams face each other one more time at TD Garden on April 6th, which is the final day of the 2018-19 NHL regular season.


Boston defeated the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at BB&T Center in a blowout victory, 7-3, as the Bruins clinched a playoff berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result of the win.

Jaroslav Halak (20-10-4, 2.31 GAA, .924 SV% in 37 GP) made 31 saves on 34 shots against for a .912 SV% in the effort for the B’s, while Florida goaltender, Sam Montembeault (4-3-1, 3.02 GAA, .893 SV% in eight GP) stopped 32 out of 38 shots faced in the loss for the Panthers.

Halak joins Tuukka Rask with 20 or more wins this season for Boston. It marks the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Bruins have two goaltenders with at least 20 wins on the season (Andy Moog, 24 wins in 1989-90, and Reggie Lemelin, 22).

Noel Acciari, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron had the goals for the Bruins, while Jayce Hawryluk, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck scored for Florida.

Chara’s goal was the 200th goal of his NHL career. He is just the 22nd defender in league history to amass 200 or more goals in his career.

Boston surpassed the 100-point total on the season for a league-leading 23rd time in franchise history and clinched a playoff berth for the third season in a row under Bruce Cassidy’s reign behind the bench.

It is the 10th playoff appearance in the last 12 seasons for the Bruins.

DTFR Podcast #150- Improper Twelve

The DTFR Duo runs through some Tampa Bay Lightning franchise records, Conor McGregor reactions, hands out more awards, fixes the NHL and takes a look at how things are shaping up in the Pacific Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show onPatreon.

Jenner’s hat trick downs Bruins, 7-4, in Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets dealt the Boston Bruins their first back-to-back losses since late December with a, 7-4, victory at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.

Boone Jenner had a hat trick for Columbus as Boston lost in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 23rd (at Carolina) and Dec. 27th (versus New Jersey) after their 19-game point streak was snapped on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Sergei Bobrovsky (30-22-1 record, 2.76 goals against average, .906 save percentage in 53 games played) made 27 saves on 31 shots against for an .871 SV% in the win for the Blue Jackets.

Before being replaced in the second period, Tuukka Rask (24-9-5, 2.41 GAA, .918 SV% in 39 GP) stopped 19 out of 24 shots faced in the loss, while Jaroslav Halak (18-10-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV% in 35 GP) made nine saves on 10 shots against in relief of Rask for the B’s.

Boston fell to 42-19-9 (93 points) on the season, but remained in control of 2nd place in the Atlantic, while Columbus improved to 39-28-3 (81 points) and remained 5th in the Metropolitan, as well as in command of the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins fell to 27-6-5 when scoring first in a game this season and 15-12-6 on the road.

Bruce Cassidy made a few adjustments to his lineup with Kevan Miller (upper body), David Pastrnak (left thumb), Jake DeBrusk (lower body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) all out due to injury.

With Lee Stempniak reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL), Trent Frederic was recalled on emergency basis.

Charlie Coyle moved up to David Krejci’s right wing with Peter Cehlarik at left wing on the second line, while Joakim Nordstrom slid down to the third line left wing with Frederic at center and David Backes on the right side in his usual role.

Since Grzelcyk was out due to injury, Steven Kampfer suited up alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing.

Early into the action, Brandon Carlo was penalized for interference at 3:29 of the first period and gave the Blue Jackets their first power play of the night.

Nearly 30 seconds into the ensuing power play for Columbus, the Bruins caught the Blue Jackets on a turnover and charged down the ice on a shorthanded bid.

Brad Marchand tossed the puck over to Patrice Bergeron (26) for his 4th shorthanded goal of the season and 3rd SHG this week.

Boston grabbed the, 1-0, lead at 4:00 of the first period with Marchand (55) tallying the only assist on Bergeron’s goal.

Shortly after the B’s went ahead, Josh Anderson (23) showed off his speed and caught the Bruins in a line change. Anderson deked and scored on a breakaway with ease and tied the game, 1-1.

Zach Werenski (28) and Ryan Dzingel (26) had the assists on Anderson’s goal at 7:19.

Almost seven minutes later, Dzingel (23) scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket after following up on a rebound generated by Werenski (and the following second and third chances until Dzingel banked the puck off Rask and in)– making it, 2-1, Columbus.

Werenski (29) and Seth Jones (32) were credited with the assists on Dzingel’s goal at 14:18 of the first period.

Late in the period, Columbus committed a rash of penalties with Jenner sent to the box for tripping Bergeron at 17:34 and Nick Foligno closing his hand on the puck at 18:56, resulting in 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Boston.

It did not go well for the Bruins.

Shortly after emerging from the box, Jenner (13) crashed the slot on another breakaway by Anderson and pocketed the rebound to give the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead.

Anderson (15) had the only assist on Jenner’s first goal of the night t 19:54 of the first period and Columbus led, 3-1, heading into the first intermission.

It was the 13th shorthanded goal allowed by the Bruins this season.

The Blue Jackets dominated in shots on goal (13-4), blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (70-30) entering the second period, while Boston led in hits (9-2).

Both teams had three takeaways each, while the Blue Jackets were 0/1 on the power play. The B’s were 0/2 on the skater advantage after 20 minutes of play.

Cassidy juggled his second and third lines to start the middle frame, but things started to slide almost halfway into the period.

Matt Duchene (29) scored on a backhand pass from Dzingel while sneaking into the slot after Columbus sustained pressure in the attacking zone to make it, 4-1, Blue Jackets.

Dzingel (27) and Anderson (16) had the assists at 7:09 of the second period.

Jenner (14) added his second goal of the night– and his 100th career NHL goal– a minute later with Riley Nash (8) and Foligno (14) receiving credit for the assists.

Columbus led, 5-1, at 8:09 of the second period and Cassidy had watched his crew let down his goaltender enough. It was time for a change, so he pulled Rask in favor of Halak.

Things started to click for the B’s as Marchand (29) answered on the scoreboard at 13:07 of the middle frame.

Charlie McAvoy (18) and Backes (11) notched the assists as Boston pulled to within three goals.

A mere 14 seconds after Marchand’s goal, McAvoy and Artemi Panarin got into a scrap and exchanged fisticuffs for the 1st time this season (and 2nd time in their careers) at 13:21.

As an aside, McAvoy’s last fight (and first of his career) also came against the Blue Jackets last season (against Pierre-Luc Dubois).

McAvoy also picked up an extra minor penalty for slashing, so Cassidy sent Danton Heinen to serve the penalty while the Bruins were shorthanded.

Boston had a little more fight in them– in part because of McAvoy’s actual fight– and sustained an attack as the period ticked by.

Chris Wagner (12) broke free from the Blue Jackets blue liners and slipped the puck past Bobrovsky on a breakaway at 15:36 of the second period.

Heinen (20) had the only assist as the “Mayor of Walpole” made it a two-goal game. Columbus’ lead was whittled down to, 5-3.

Late in the middle frame, Marchand (30) tabbed his second goal of the game off a face-off from point blank.

Bergeron (39) had the only assist and the Bruins trailed, 5-4, at 18:37 of the second period.

Marchand has reached the 30-goal plateau for the 4th consecutive season and has at least 85 points in his last three seasons.

Columbus also only had four skaters on the ice– after a stoppage in play that resulted in a face-off in their own zone– for the goal against.

They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Heading into the second intermission, Columbus led, 5-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 28-17. The Blue Jackets also led in blocked shots (11-5), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (70-30).

Boston led in hits (18-9) after 40 minutes of play, while both clubs were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.

Kampfer cut a rut to the penalty box for slashing Anderson at 1:43 of the third period, but the Blue Jackets did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Panarin slashed Torey Krug at 10:08, but Boston didn’t capitalized on the skater advantage. Despite nearly completing a comeback in the second period– the Bruins failed to score in the final frame.

Heinen hooked David Savard at 10:49 of the third period and Columbus went back on the power play.

Late on the ensuing advantage, Werenski (10) wired a shot into the twine from the point past Halak after the Bruins nearly capitalized on a couple quality shorthanded chances.

Panarin (49) and Anderson (17) notched the assists on Werenski’s goal at 12:21 of the third period and the Blue Jackets led, 6-4.

With less than 90 seconds left in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker to no avail.

Jenner (15) completed his first career hat trick with a shot at the empty net from his own end at 19:13. Nash (9) and Werenski (30) had the assists and the Blue Jackets led, 7-4.

Columbus finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-31), blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (7-5) and face-off win% (64-36).

The Blue Jackets went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston finished Tuesday night leading in hits (22-18) and went 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins are currently 0-2-0 on their three-game road trip that wraps up Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Boston returns home to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday before hitting the road against next Tuesday (March 19th) against the New York Islanders.

After the B’s take on the Isles, they swing through New Jersey on March 21st, Florida on March 23rd and Tampa on March 25th.


Bruins at Penguins Preview: 3/10/2019

The Boston Bruins (42-17-9, 93 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) look to extend their points streak to 20 games Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-23-9, 81 points, 4th in the Metropolitan Division) at PPG Paints Arena.

Boston is 1-1-0 against Pittsburgh this season, having won their first matchup, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden on Nov. 23rd and lost, 5-3, in Pittsburgh on Dec. 14th.

The Bruins went 6-4-3 in November and 7-7-0 in December this season and have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 19th. They are currently 4-0-0 in the month of March and on a six-game winning streak.

The Penguins went 4-7-3 in November and 11-3-1 in December this season and are 8-3-2 in their last 13 games. They are currently 3-1-1 in March and in command of the 1st wild card spot in the Eastern Conference entering Sunday.

A win for the Pens would put them into a divisional spot in the Metropolitan playoff picture, while a loss would keep them on edge, pending the final results of Columbus’ game on Monday against the New York Islanders and Montreal’s game on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Both the Blue Jackets and the Canadiens are within striking distance of bumping the Penguins outside the playoff cutoff.

Jake DeBrusk (lower body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion), David Pastrnak (left thumb) and Kevan Miller (upper body) all remain out of the lineup for the Bruins on Sunday, while Jaroslav Halak (18-9-4, 2.31 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 33 games played) gets the start in the crease for Boston.

Birthday boy, Tuukka Rask will get the night off on as he turns 32-years-old.

Johansson and DeBrusk may join the Bruins on their road trip, but Pastrnak and Miller will not, per B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy.

Cassidy is expected to make some adjustments to his forward lines on Sunday as Peter Cehlarik will be reunited with David Krejci on Krejci’s left side, while Lee Stempniak will remain on the right wing for Boston’s second line.

Sean Kuraly will join Charlie Coyle and David Backes on the third line and Joakim Nordstrom will drop down to the fourth line with Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner.

Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, will start Matt Murray (22-11-3, 2.80 GAA, .916 SV% in 37 GP) in goal in back-to-back nights coming off of Saturday night’s, 4-1, loss in Columbus.

Boston is coming off another victory in the final minute of regulation with a, 3-2, win at home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering March

Happy Meteorological Spring (and when the time comes, actual Spring too as the Spring Equinox falls on… well, it’s written on the calendar in your office somewhere).

Of course, the only day that really matters in March is the 18th (you thought I was going to say the 17th, but we can’t all pretend to be Irish now, can we?).

If you’re new to the sport, that’s the day the Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the idea of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup back in 1892 and thus the Stanley Cup was first played for and awarded in 1893.

The original Cup resides in an old bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and was purchased for ten guineas, which was $48.67 at the time or almost $1,400 in contemporary times.

Anyway, March is a pretty important month.

Teams have added or subtracted to their rosters from the trade deadline and are looking to go down the stretch without any additional injuries or worries heading into the postseason (or for some, the offseason).

Feeling lucky? Is this the year your bracket won’t be busted in the First Round? Let the madness begin with a look at the latest standings forecast* across the league based on all 31 NHL teams’ performances through February 28, 2019.

*Standard disclaimer: This forecast is not an exact science, but rather an educated guess among recent and season long trends, with a foundation steeped in recent records over the last few seasons.

In simple terms, just focus on the standing within the division and less on the point spread. A team isn’t eliminated from postseason contention until they are mathematically eliminated.

Anything can still happen (relatively, of course).

Projected Standings After Five Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 121 points (65 games played entering March 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 115 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (64 GP)
  4. wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 103 points (64 GP)
  5. wc2-Buffalo Sabres, 90 points (63 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 82 points (63 GP)
  7. Ottawa Senators, 61 points (64 GP)
  8. Detroit Red Wings, 60 points (64 GP)

In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still on pace for what could almost be the best regular season in league history. Their franchise record ten-game winning streak was halted by the re-hot Boston Bruins on Feb. 28th.

Tampa should still lock up the division (if not the President’s Trophy) with ease, though they are beatable– as proven by the Bruins recent win (ignoring the back-to-back games), as well as the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 overtime victory on Feb. 7th (more on the Blues later).

Boston, meanwhile, is surging at the right time. After going 7-7-0 in December and 6-3-3 in January, the B’s went without a regulation loss in the month of February, finishing with an 11-0-2 record.

It was the 9th time in franchise history and first time since November 2011, that the Bruins went without a regulation loss in an entire calendar month.

Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very alive and well in a divisional spot and for the second straight season appear destined to battle the Bruins in a First Round rematch from last season.

At least one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be filled by an Atlantic Division team– the first of which being the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs are in the hunt and could knock the Maple Leafs out of the last divisional spot with a good run down the stretch, while the second wild card spot is a little harder to project.

It could be the Buffalo Sabres or it could very well be a team that’s surging in the Metropolitan Division.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-New York Islanders, 113 points (63 GP)
  2. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 101 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Washington Capitals, 92 points (64 GP)
  4. Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (63 GP)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins, 87 points (63 GP)
  6. New York Rangers, 77 points (63 GP)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 74 points (64 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 61 points (64 GP)

John Tavares wasn’t well-received in his first trip back to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders for the Leafs in free agency last July, however, Barry Trotz has been adored by Isles fans as the coach of the Metropolitan Division’s best team.

Despite adding a lot of firepower leading up to the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t quite a surefire powerhouse in the division, but they should be good enough for home ice advantage in the First Round and a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals.

It’s a wide-open race for two or three potential playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division, as the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins all have their sights set on one of two remaining divisional spots or at least one wild card spot in the postseason.

Despite the Capitals edging the Hurricanes and Penguins in this forecast, gut feeling indicates there’s sure to be an upset before the brackets are even finalized.

Carolina is playing really well lately and as those bunch of jerks have shown all season long– you can’t count them out. They also reached 70 points in 61 games played for just the second time in franchise history this season.

The last time they did that was in the 2005-06 season– you know, the one they went on to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

As for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, well, there’s always a chance things go south for some of the teams ahead of them– except the Rangers are rebuilding and the Flyers have gone zero weeks without an injury to one of the eight goaltenders they’ve used this season.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-Winnipeg Jets, 104 points (63 GP)
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 93 points (66 GP)
  4. wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (64 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (64 GP)
  6. Dallas Stars, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (64 GP)

The Western Conference as a whole has been weaker than the Eastern Conference this season, but no division has been quite as lively as the Central Division.

While the Winnipeg Jets soar into the postseason as the top-team in the Central, the St. Louis Blues are attempting to go from last to first– and then some.

St. Louis might not stop at potentially leading the Central Division by the time the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin– they could just very well go on to win the Cup. The Blues are that hot.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators added a lot of grit leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Cody McLeod, Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to bolster their crunch to go along with new addition, Mikael Granlund‘s scoring ability.

Anyway, they’ve been slipping as of late and appear destined to miss out on home ice advantage in what will likely be a First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Finally, one of the Western wild cards will surely come from the Central Division teams. Whether that’s the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars will depend on how hot Colorado’s first line is and/or how injured the Wild and Stars are.

Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for setting the second half of the season ablaze, though not nearly as mightily as the Blues have, but they’ll still end up last in the Central, but about mid-pack league-wide.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 111 points (64 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 107 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (65 GP)
  4. wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 91 points (64 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (65 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Anaheim Ducks, 75 points (64 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 68 points (64 GP)

In the most disappointing division of the season, the Calgary Flames have risen a cut above the rest in the West. Not only do they look to lead the conference, but they look to do so in style.

The Flames are a team that’s destined for a deeper run than just a First or Second Round exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how much will recent playoff experience for the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights play into Calgary’s chances of going far?

Vegas hasn’t been as dominant as they were in their inaugural season, however the Sharks have also had a few slip ups in the last month.

Both teams are looking like they’ll meet in the First Round– a round sooner than their Second Round matchup last postseason. It’s a rematch for the ages for the Golden Knights, as the young franchise looks to continue to add to the nearly 30 years of dismal playoff failure for San Jose.

One of the biggest– and most pleasant– surprises in the Western Conference? The Arizona Coyotes.

The team is destined for a wild card spot this season and just might spoil the party for more than just who they cut out of the playoff picture.

For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a battle until the end. They might make it, they might not, but next season should be better– just stay the course.

And if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and/or the Los Angeles Kings, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 60 Games

The Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL are nearing the annual trade deadline. Through 60 games played, the Bruins are currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division with a 35-17-8 record (78 points) behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (46-11-4, 96 points).

Wednesday night, the B’s will play their 61st game of the season when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights (new forecast coming soon for that club too), but before they do that, here’s a quick review and a glimpse of what could be based on this latest forecast with 22 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season for Boston.

After getting off to a quick start in October, despite a blowout on Opening Night, the Bruins fell into a bit of a lull in November and December.

Jaroslav Halak (15-9-4 record, 2.35 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 30 games played) helped carry the weight through November, before regressing towards the end of December into January. As long as the wins rolled in, the team was making progress.

Tuukka Rask (20-8-4, 2.45 GAA, .918 SV% in 33 GP) has not lost in regulation in his last 15 starts as the B’s carry a six-game winning streak into Vegas for Wednesday night’s matchup.

Though Halak is expected to start against the Golden Knights, Rask and his counterpart have formed a solid 1A/1B option for the Bruins all season long– considering league scoring is up and the B’s have allowed the 3rd fewest goals against (155) in the league, behind only the New York Islanders (138) and Dallas Stars (154).

The Bruins went 7-7-0 in December and improved to 6-3-3 in January.

Yes, I know that’s still a .500 win-percentage, but points percentage wise, that’s 14 out of 28 possible points in December and 15 out of a possible 24 points in January (progress!).

Yet, by the end of January and through all of February thus far, the B’s have been starting to reach another gear.

The first line has been consistent all year, while General Manager Don Sweeney is in search of the last missing piece among top-six forwards to complete the second line.

Meanwhile, Sweeney was working the trade deals on Wednesday, acquiring Charlie Coyle (10-18–28 totals in 60 games played this season, 91-151–242 totals in 479 career games) from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato (3-6–9 totals in 34 games, 11-7–18 totals in 46 career NHL games) and a conditional 2019 5th round pick.

If the Bruins advance to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, then the 5th round pick becomes a 2019 4th round pick (originally belonging to the New York Rangers, previously acquired by the Bruins along with Steven Kampfer in exchange for Adam McQuaid on Sept. 11, 2018).

Coyle will boost Boston’s third line and can play second line minutes if necessary, but isn’t the end-all, be-all solution for a Cup run.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the latest Bruins forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will change things, like injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is a glimpse at expected outcomes.

If a player does better, then they exceeded expectations. If said player does worse, then they didn’t meet expectations (for one reason or another).

My degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.

Whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends that can be deciphered to make educated guesses.

Boston Bruins Forecast Through 60 Games Played (20 Games Remaining)
I really miss the days of making a nice gallery, but WordPress messed around with that feature…

First, I know what you’re thinking, “but Nick, how come you still have Donato on the roster still and haven’t included Coyle?”

There’s two parts to my answer: 1) I ran this forecast after the conclusion of Monday night’s, 6-5, overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, so 2) the Coyle-Donato trade was made early in the writing of this post, so Coyle’s forecast will be reflected at a later date.

Second, I know you’re also looking at Jake DeBrusk’s expected stats saying “uh, there’s only 20 games left, he can’t possibly score 21 more goals and amass 16 more assists for a total of 65 points this season” and you’re right.

With DeBrusk’s recent scoring stretch over the last 20 games, his latest forecast gives a bit of a look at what could have been if he hadn’t been going through streaks like he has.

The same can be applied to David Pastrnak’s expected 32-37–69 totals. Prior to getting injured, Pastrnak’s last forecast had him around the 40-goal plateau.

After his left thumb surgery– in addition to having missed the last few games, as well as his recent decline in goal scoring over the last 20 games– his numbers are more in line with what to expect when he returns, whenever that is.

At best, Pastrnak misses the “at least” two weeks he was supposed to miss, makes his return and picks up as close to where he left off as possible.

At worst, he only scores a few more goals this season after returning later than expected (in the best-case scenario), but is back to being his normal self in a postseason run.

Anyway, Boston’s offense looks like it’ll be led by Brad Marchand with 85 points on the season. Marchand also looks to lead the team in assists with 58 expected apples, topping Patrice Bergeron (49 expected assists), Torey Krug (48) and David Krejci (47).

In goal scoring, Pastrnak remains supreme with 32 expected goals, leading Bergeron (28 expected goals), Marchand (27) and Krejci (16).

On defense, Krug (9-48–57 expected totals) dominates the two-way aspect of the game from the blue line, despite missing a chunk of time due to injury earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy (7-22–29 expected totals) and Matt Grzelcyk (2-18–20 expected totals) continue to be vital assets alongside their captain and anchor, 41-year-old (soon to be 42-years-old on March 18th), Zdeno Chara (5-11–16).

In goal, Rask is destined to settle in with a 2.37 GAA and a .921 SV%, while Halak backstops the team to a 2.40 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% himself.

That’s some consistent goaltending in the crease and plenty to smile about if Sweeney can add more offensive prowess in secondary scoring and perhaps add a depth blue line asset for the playoffs.