Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

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.

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DTFR Podcast #177- And A Dollar Short

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

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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.

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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.

DTFR Podcast #157- Play Gloria, You Jerks

Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

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

Pastrnak, Bruins pull off, 4-3, win in Game 5, can advance in Columbus

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Boston Bruins’ first line got the job done again in Game 5, as the B’s topped the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, at TD Garden on Saturday night.

After blowing a two-goal lead in the final ten minutes of the game, Boston overcame incredible shifts in momentum to give themselves the series lead, 3-2, heading back to Nationwide Arena for Game 6 on Monday.

Tuukka Rask (7-5 record, 2.19 goals against average, .932 save percentage in 12 games played this postseason) turned aside 33 out of 36 shots faced (.917 SV%) for the win.

Columbus goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-3, 2.33 GAA, .928 SV% in nine games played this postseason) had 32 saves on 36 shots against (.889 SV%) in the loss.

John Moore (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup on Saturday, while Noel Acciari (undisclosed) was a game-time decision and did not dress for action.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, replaced Acciari on the fourth line right wing with Chris Wagner and did not make any other adjustments to his lineup.

Wagner was a healthy scratch for the last two games.

Boston had a plethora of healthy scratches to go with Moore, Miller and Acciari in the press box for Game 5, including 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.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella dressed seven defenders– including Vladislav Gavrikov, who made his NHL debut as a result– and scratched Alexandre Texier for Game 5.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Cam Atkinson slashed Marcus Johansson at 9:03 of the first period and the Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night.

The B’s failed to convert on the skater advantage opportunity.

After killing off Atkinson’s minor infraction, Columbus found themselves rewarded with a power play of their own seconds later when Charlie McAvoy slashed Boone Jenner at 11:35 of the first period.

The Blue Jackets did not capitalize on their first power play of the game and shortly followed things up with another penalty of their own– this time a bench minor for too many men on the ice.

Gavrikov was sent to the box to serve the infraction at 13:43 and the Bruins went back on the skater advantage.

Entering the first intermission, the game remained tied, 0-0, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 9-8.

Boston also held the advantage in hits, 14-13, while Columbus led in just about every other category, including blocked shots (6-2), takeaways (6-1), giveaways (5-4) and face-off win percentage (62-39).

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

Early in the middle frame, the pace of play quickened as both teams jumped out of the gate– yielding end-to-end action.

While on a rush up the ice, David Backes dropped a pass back to Jake DeBrusk, who then sent the puck cross-ice to David Krejci as the veteran center for Boston trailed the play.

Krejci (3) settled the puck and trickled an off-speed shot through Bobrovksy’s five-hole to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 1:39 of the second period.

DeBrusk (2) and Backes (3) notched the assists on the goal.

As the midpoint of the night approached, Torey Krug held Nick Foligno inside the B’s crease and was charged with a holding minor at 9:52 of the second period.

Columbus did not convert on their ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 23-21, in shots on goal.

The Blue Jackets maintained their dominance in every statistical category, leading in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (11-2), giveaways (8-4), hits (31-23) and face-off win% (52-48) after two periods.

Both clubs were 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period.

Boston started things off with strong possession in the final frame of regulation and worked their way to scoring chance after scoring chance on Bobrovsky.

It wasn’t long before Brad Marchand (5) got his own rebound from close range– after the Columbus goaltender made the initial glove save– and fired the puck into the twine to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

Connor Clifton (1) and Patrice Bergeron (3) were credited with the assists on Marchand’s goal at 4:51 of the third period as the Bruins extended their lead to, 2-0.

With the primary assist on the goal, Clifton earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in his seventh career postseason game.

Midway through the third period, Seth Jones (3) squeaked a puck between Rask’s pad and inside the post to cut the Bruins’ lead in half, 2-1, at 10:33.

The goal was originally reviewed and confirmed as a good goal more than a few minutes after the play itself occurred.

Zach Werenski (5) and Atkinson (6) had the assists on the goal after the official timeout helped wake up tired legs on both squads.

David Pastrnak (5) broke the other way after a Columbus scoring chance was denied and sent a shot past Bobrovsky’s blocker side to give Boston the lead, 3-1, at 11:16 of the third period.

Marchand (7) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal.

Not even a quick response was enough to stop the freight train of goals scored by both clubs in the final ten minutes of regulation, as after the B’s answered back in a hurray, the Blue Jackets replied.

Matt Duchene setup Ryan Dzingel (1) for a one-timer that Dzingel elevated through the roof of the twine to bring Columbus back to within one-goal at 12:07.

Duchene (5) and David Savard (2) had the primary and secondary assists respectively.

Just over a minute later, Dean Kukan (1) scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal as the Blue Jackets defender blasted a shot from the slot over Rask’s glove without a body in the shooting lane to tie the game, 3-3, at 13:58.

Both Artemi Panarin (6) and Josh Anderson (2) had an assist on Kukan’s goal.

Late in the period, Marchand worked up ice with Pastrnak and threw a pass across the slot for Pastrnak (6) to redirect behind Bobrovsky to put Boston ahead, 4-3, at 18:32.

Marchand (8) and Brandon Carlo (1) had the assists on what would become Pastrnak’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff game-winning goal.

Tortorella had no choice but to pull Bobrovsky for an extra attacker with 1:21 remaining in regulation and the Blue Jackets threw the kitchen sink at the Bruins.

Duchene redirected a shot off the post behind Rask and Columbus nearly scored when Atkinson hacked away at a loose puck while Rask was desperate to get back across the crease less than a minute later.

Finally, after McAvoy extended his leg to block a shot with his foot in the closing seconds of the game, the Bruins came away with the victory, 4-3, on home ice.

Boston finished the night tied in shots on goal with Columbus, 36-36, and trailed in every other stat, including blocked shots (18-15), giveaways (11-4), hits (42-32) and face-off win% (54-46).

Both teams finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins improved to 7-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.

The B’s take a 3-2 series lead to Columbus with the chance to punch their ticket to the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and host the Carolina Hurricanes in the next round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win on Monday.

Puck drop is set for a little after 7 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action. Fans in Canada will have the choice between CBC, SN and TVAS for their viewing pleasure.