Tag Archives: Elvis Merzlikins

2019-20 NHL Mascot Power Rankings

Back by popular demand– though a few months later than last season– it’s once again time to rank the NHL mascots.

In January 2017, DTFR began a new tradition of giving props for great efforts made in the community, laughs shared, smiles brought to everyone’s faces and (most importantly) character displayed by every mascot in the National Hockey League.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

31) New York Rangers 31st in 2018-19, 30th in 2017-18

The Rangers still don’t have a mascot, which in today’s day and age is a crime. Just march Brian Leetch around Madison Square Garden once in a while or something. Maybe even let Henrik Lundqvist become the team’s first mascot once he retires.

30) Al the Octopus (Detroit Red Wings) 30th in 2018-19, 26th in 2017-18

It’s a yearly tradition at this point to mention how awesome any Al the Octopus plush toy is and that it’s a shame the Red Wings never made Al the Octopus into a real thing instead of just a prop that ended up being sold for $7,700 at an auction in 2017 after Joe Louis Arena was closed and Detroit moved into their current home, Little Caesars Arena.

29) Spartacat (Ottawa Senators) 21st in 2018-19, 9th in 2017-18

Just like the Senators, Spartacat has fallen on hard times and really needs someone to love him. Unfortunately for Spartacat, he probably needs a haircut first or at least that rebrand to finally come around and give Ottawa a fresh look all-around (with new jerseys, new logos and new players).

28) Thunderbug (Tampa Bay Lightning) 18th in 2018-19, 15th in 2017-18

Being as cute as a bug no longer cuts it when you have Gritty running around causing chaos, plus other mascots really drumming up their personality bits. Perhaps Thunderbug has gotten too casual in recent years and that’s the reason why the Lightning haven’t won the Cup since 2004.

27) Nordy (Minnesota Wild) 28th in 2018-19, 24th in 2017-18

Like Minnesota sports as a whole, Nordy is just comfortable where he’s at. Nobody’s really sure whether he’s a fox, a wolf or some hybrid northern animal native to the wild, but the Wild’s mascot might also be on General Manager, Bill Guerin’s, list of assets to move at this year’s trade deadline if he’s not careful.

26) Wild Wing (Anaheim Ducks) 17th in 2018-19, 3rd in 2017-18

Wild Wing would be the perfect mascot for a roller hockey team, which is fitting for his location in southern California– where you could play roller hockey year-round. What might be a better option for the Ducks, however, would be to have legendary surfer, Rob Machado, make more appearances at Honda Center in an Anaheim sweater.

25) Sparky the Dragon (New York Islanders) 29th in 2018-19, 25th in 2017-18

With a new arena in Belmont Park looming, one would think the Islanders would make the natural switch to a horse-based mascot because, you know, horse racing and stuff. Either that or just give Sparky the Dragon a more fish-based appearance. Just add a few cuddly scales or perhaps give him a fishing rod that can also double as a hockey stick. Props go a long way at improving ratings.

24) Tommy Hawk (Chicago Blackhawks) 20th in 2018-19, 14th in 2017-18

Something about Tommy Hawk just feels off these days. Perhaps his contract will be traded in the offseason too while the Blackhawks adjust from their decade of dominance in the early 2010s to life in the 2020s.

23) Stanley C. Panther/Viktor E. Ratt (Florida Panthers) 25th in 2018-19, 20th in 2017-18

The Panthers have what some might call the “Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly of mascots”. Sure their early works were great, but their recent comedy has shown their age. Florida should put all of their focus in on one or the other– or at least give Olli Jokinen a proper display case inside BB&T Center.

22) Hunter (Edmonton Oilers) 26th in 2018-19, 23rd in 2017-18

Hunter’s redeeming quality this year is the new alternate threads for the Oilers. Edmonton’s new third sweaters help take away the scary qualities of this lovable lynx if you could only see through his otherwise terror inducing mane.

21) Howler (Arizona Coyotes) 27th in 2018-19, 21st in 2017-18

The Coyotes are embracing their kachina sweaters like never before and we can only hope that Howler will have to wear them full-time in the near future. If not, he’ll continue to be average in ranking. Your move, Arizona.

20) Bernie the St. Bernard (Colorado Avalanche) 22nd in 2018-19, 22nd in 2017-18

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Bernie the St. Bernard, since St. Bernard dogs are usually the go-to rescue animals in the event of an avalanche in the real world, but it’s just a little too on the nose compared to the Yeti that once walked the corridors of Pepsi Center.

It was as close to a Sasquatch as you’d see in an NHL arena– until Seattle joins the fray in 2021, that is (hopefully they take our suggestion for a mascot). So yeah… the Avalanche have an average mascot.

19) Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens) 10th in 2018-19, 6th in 2017-18

Look, there’s nothing bad about Youppi!, but has anyone heard from him lately? I mean, is everything ok? First the Tampa Bay Rays jettison their plans for a potential split-season between St. Petersburg and Montreal, then the Canadiens just seem to have really overlooked how much he means to the mascot world lately.

Fear not, this may be a down year in the rankings, but Youppi! should bounce back once the Expos return from their quick run to get bread and milk.

18) Bailey (Los Angeles Kings) 3rd in 2018-19, 1st in 2017-18

Cranky mascots on Twitter is getting kind of old. We’re just putting Bailey here so he can tweet at us and change our minds.

17) Harvey the Hound (Calgary Flames) 23rd in 2018-19, 18th in 2017-18

Put a shirt on for heaven’s sake. It’s winter! Canadians, man. They’re an interesting breed.

16) Chance (Vegas Golden Knights) 9th in 2018-19, 31st* in 2017-18

We gave Chance a chance, but now the Golden Knights’ mascot just seems average, if not just old news thanks to something we call “the Gritty Factor” in the industry. A good performance at the 2020 NHL Mascot Showdown could boost his ranking.

15) Mick E. Moose (Winnipeg Jets) 16th in 2018-19, 11th in 2017-18

Mick E. Moose looked stunning in Winnipeg’s 2019 Heritage Classic sweater, but unfortunately for the Jets mascot, there’s not much else going for him these days. Maybe next year.

14) Gnash (Nashville Predators) 19th in 2018-19, 17th in 2017-18

Gnash gets some bonus points for Nashville’s 2020 Winter Classic sweater, but he hasn’t done anything out of this world lately to try to capture a few more spots.

13) Slapshot (Washington Capitals) 5th in 2018-19, 4th in 2017-18

Once a rising star in the mascot ranking world, Slapshot lost a little of his edge while the Capitals roll right along with the Metropolitan Division lead. Another Stanley Cup Final run could be the cure for his ails.

12) Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars) 12th in 2018-19, 19th in 2017-18

We’re over the moon for this huggable alien in his Stars 2020 Winter Classic threads. Victor E. Green’s also still got those cute hockey stick ears going for him, but could use another viral video or two to really move him up the ranks. Anyone know if he’s on TikTok?

11) Stinger (Columbus Blue Jackets) 15th in 2018-19, 27th in 2017-18

Stinger’s quips with Greg Wyshynski are amusing and have us concerned about just how sentient all NHL mascots have become in today’s world. We’d hate for him to sting us next. The Blue Jackets, in the meantime, are slowly being forgiven over the years for the mistake that was Boomer. Meanwhile, Elvis Merzlikins’ post-win celebrations might merit their own felt-based mascot sometime soon.

10) Louie (St. Louis Blues) 14th in 2018-19, 12th in 2017-18

The Blues win one Cup in 52 years and everyone loses their minds except one being– Louie. Louie will never give you up. He’s never going to let you down (anymore). He’s never going to run around and desert you. Also, he’s just really nice, so let’s reward him with Top-10 status this season.

9) Stormy (Carolina Hurricanes) 24th in 2018-19, 28th in 2017-18

Our biggest improvement this season belongs to none other than Stormy. It may or may not have something to do with him rocking Hartford Whalers gear on Whalers Night for the past two seasons, but the Hurricanes mascot is looking fine as ever in every thread that covers that hog body.

Plus we’ll give bonus points for Hamilton the Pig and free street-cred to the wonderful fans that own and care for Hamilton.

8) Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins) 8th in 2018-19, 5th in 2017-18

The Bruins almost saw Blades fall in this year’s rankings if it weren’t for how well he’s able to pull off that “B” on their new alternate jerseys. It seems fitting that Blades wears the first letter of his name big and bright on his jersey once in a while. Now if only we could get him to do a backflip or something.

7) Carlton the Bear (Toronto Maple Leafs) 11th in 2018-19, 13th in 2017-18

The Maple Leafs mascot is in the Top-10 for the first time in our ranking and he is looking classier than ever before for some reason. Did someone say “everything old is new again”? Because he’s old, but never going out of style. Alexa, play “Style” by Taylor Swift while we jam with Carlton the Bear and his friends.

6) Fin (Vancouver Canucks) 7th in 2018-19, 10th in 2017-18

Slow but steady has been the progress of the Canucks over the last few years that this season they might make the playoffs and next season Fin just might make the Top-5 in our mascot ranking. Unfortunately for Vancouver’s favorite orca, he’s just one spot shy of being a certified superstar in the making.

5) Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers) 4th in 2018-19, 29th* in 2017-18 (pre-Gritty)

We swear we didn’t take the easy way out by picking Gritty as this year’s top 5th place mascot, but would you honestly blame us if we did? We are all gritizens these days anyway and Gritty rules us all. It certainly helps that the Flyers introduced their “Disassembly Room” and continue to go all-in on the chaos that Gritty brings everywhere he goes.

Plus, look at all the props, costumes and sheer grit that Philly’s orange monster has for each and every event, game and everything in between.

(We also wrote this before learning of the current allegations against Philadelphia’s beloved orange ball of fur.)

4) Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins) 1st in 2018-19, 7th in 2017-18

Iceburgh won top-dog– er, penguin– in last season’s mascot ranking, but things have cooled off for a bit while the Penguins mascot comes down from the many highs of being the No. 1 mascot. He’s ready to settle down and chill in his nest for a while, then go right back for the krill next year.

3) Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres) 6th in 2018-19, 8th in 2017-18 

Just look at how phenomenal the Sabres’ 50th anniversary sweaters are, then look how much they bring out all the best qualities in Sabretooth to the forefront of this rising mascot in the ranking.

Sabretooth’s a shoe-in for Runner-Up or First Place next season when Buffalo goes back to royal blue as their primary color. The question is, will Sabretooth’s stripes change accordingly?

2) S.J. Sharkie (San Jose Sharks) 2nd in 2018-19, 2nd in 2017-18

For the third year in-a-row, S.J. Sharkie came in 2nd in our ranking. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that we think Sharkie won’t be able to win this competition like how the Sharks always find a way to disappoint their fans before (or during) the Final.

One of these years, San Jose. One of these years. Unfortunately it won’t be this year, as the Sharks are likely to miss the postseason and don’t even have their first round pick.

1) N.J. Devil (New Jersey Devils) 13th in 2018-19, 16th in 2017-18

What’s hotter than hell these days? The N.J. Devil himself.

Seriously, just look at this gorgeous mascot and you too will start questioning if you’re really that attracted to his facial hair or the fact that this guy can bench more than your cousin Tony. New Jersey, your next reason to shutdown your beaches is right in front of you and it looks way hotter.

Also, has there ever been a more relatable mascot that loves pizza just like us?


In all seriousness though, all of the league’s mascots do a great job of being an entertaining part of the game, as well as wonderful ambassadors for spreading kindness and cheer in their community.

Hats off to the people living inside the sweaty costumes and the marketing teams behind them.

Rask injured in, 3-0, shutout in Columbus

Three players scored their 4th goal of the season as the Columbus Blue Jackets shutout the Boston Bruins, 3-0, Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.

Elvis Merzlikins (6-6-4 record, 2.53 goals against average, .921 save percentage in 18 games played) made 34 saves on 34 shots against for his 2nd consecutive shutout– becoming the first rookie Blue Jackets goaltender since Steve Mason to record back-to-back shutouts in consecutive appearances (Dec. 27-31, 2008).

Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (17-4-6, 2.27 GAA, .925 SV% in 28 games played) was injured 1:12 into the action after Emil Bemstrom delivered an elbow to Rask’s head.

Rask sustained a concussion on the play and was replaced by Jaroslav Halak (10-5-6, 2.49 GAA, .925 SV% in 27 games played), who made 24 saves on 27 shots faced for an .889 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 27-9-12 (66 points) on the season, but remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while Columbus improved to 23-16-8 (54 points) on the season and remained steady in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins also fell to 12-7-3 on the road this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Tuesday night as Boston visited Columbus for the first time since defeating the Blue Jackets in Game 6 of their 2019 Second Round matchup.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his forwards, but replaced Matt Grzelcyk with Steven Kampfer on the blue line alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing.

Par Lindholm and David Backes joined Grzelcyk as healthy scratches for the B’s in Columbus, while David Krejci tied Terry O’Reilly for the 7th most games played as a Bruin in franchise history (891 games).

Rask was replaced by Halak at 1:12 of the first period after Bemstrom struck the Bruins goaltender with an errant elbow.

Moments later, Pierre-Luc Dubois was sent to the penalty box with a cross checking infraction, yielding the first power play of the night to Boston at 5:53.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the opening frame, David Savard thought he scored a goal when he crashed the net and bumped into Halak, but the play was blown dead and there was no goal as a result due to goaltender interference that occurred.

Some harm, no foul– in a way. No goal, but no minor penalty either.

Past the midpoint of the first period, Alexander Wennberg (4) let go of a weak shot that slipped through Halak’s five-hole and reached the back of the twine– giving the Blue Jackets a, 1-0, lead.

Wennberg’s soft goal was assisted by Vladislav Gavrikov (5) and Nathan Gerbe (4) at 13:27.

Late in the period, Charlie McAvoy was guilty of holing against Gustav Nyquist and Columbus received their first power play opportunity at 18:59.

The Blue Jackets did not score on the resulting advantage, despite the fact that the power play overlapped into the second period.

After one period in Columbus, the Blue Jackets led the Bruins, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-7, in shots on goal.

The B’s led in takeaways (2-1), hits (11-7) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Blue Jackets had the advantage in blocked shots (5-4).

Both teams had two giveaways aside and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Boston announced that Rask would not return to the game in a tweet after the puck dropped on the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Gavrikov held Anders Bjork and was sent to the sin bin with a minor infraction at 9:36 of the second period.

Boston’s power play was powerless as Columbus killed off Gavrikov’s minor with ease.

A few minutes later, Joakim Nordstrom tried to engage Bemstrom in response for his elbow to Rask’s head that knocked Boston’s starting goaltender out of action, but Dubois stepped in between the two skaters and both Nordstorm and Dubois ended up receiving roughing minors at 12:35.

After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams resumed full strength play for the remainder of the period.

Through 40 minutes at Nationwide Arena, Columbus still held onto their, 1-0, lead over Boston and a, 22-21, advantage in shots on goal– despite the Bruins leading in second period shots alone, 14-13.

The Blue Jackets led in blocked shots (14-6), takeaways (7-1) and giveaways (7-3), while the B’s led in hits (19-14) and faceoff win% (56-44).

Columbus was 0/1 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Sonny Milano slashed Charlie Coyle at 1:34 of the third period and presented the Bruins with another power play that did not yield a goal on the advantage.

A few minutes later, Brad Marchand caught Gavrikov with a high stick at 4:41 and presented Columbus with a skater advantage.

About a minute into the ensuing power play, Kevin Stenlund (4) blasted a one-timer over Halak’s blocker side and gave the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead with a power play goal.

Nick Foligno (14) and Bemstrom (7) notched the assists on Stenlund’s goal at 5:46 of the third period and Columbus led, 2-0.

Three seconds after resuming play, Eric Robinson interfered with Bjork off the ensuing faceoff and was sent to the penalty box at 5:49.

Midway through the third period, Riley Nash (4) capitalized on an individual effort and gave the Blue Jackets a, 3-0, lead on an unassisted goal over Halak’s blocker side at 13:05.

At the final horn, Columbus had won, 3-0, despite trailing in shots on goal, 34-27.

Though Boston had held the advantage in third periods shots on net alone, 13-5, the Bruins failed to find the back of the net on any of their shots.

The Blue Jackets finished Tuesday night with the advantage in blocked shots (19-8) and giveaways (10-7), while the B’s left Nationwide Arena with the advantage in hits (28-17) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Blue Jackets went 1/2 on the power play on the night and the Bruins finished 0/4.

Columbus handed Boston their first shutout of the season as the Bruins fell to 1-4-3 when trailing after one period and 4-7-4 when trailing after two periods this season.

Boston finished their three-game road trip (1-1-1) and returns home for a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday at TD Garden and Sunday in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena.

After the Bruins swing through Pittsburgh, the B’s finish their game action before the All-Star break with a home game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 21st. 

Dubois lifts Columbus over Boston, 2-1, in OT

The Columbus Blue Jackets came back to beat the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden on Thursday in their first meeting with Boston since being eliminated by the Bruins in the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Elvis Merzlikins (2-4-4 record, 2.92 goals against average, .905 save percentage in 12 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots against for a .962 SV% in the win for Columbus.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (15-4-6, 2.30 GAA, .923 SV% in 25 games played) stopped 31 out of 33 shots faced for a .939 SV% in the overtime loss.

Boston fell to 24-7-11 (59 points) on the season, but remained atop the Atlantic Division, while Columbus improved to 19-14-8 (46 points) and remained in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins also fell to 14-1-9 at home this season and are now on a two-game losing streak.

Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Thursday. Miller has yet to make his season debut and Clifton was ruled out of the two-game homestand after being injured against Buffalo on Dec. 29th.

That was the only bad news for the Bruins heading into Thursday night’s matchup with the Blue Jackets as Torey Krug (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (lower body) and David Krejci (lower body) all returned to the lineup.

McAvoy was a game-time decision, but took part in full practice on Thursday and was on the ice for warmups– indicating that his return was imminent.

Due to all the returns, Jeremy Lauzon was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday and Anton Blidh was assigned to Providence on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Blidh was injured in the second-to-last preseason game for Boston and has yet to make his season debut within the Bruins’ organization (Boston or Providence).

Bruce Cassidy made some changes to his lineup against Columbus since Tuesday’s, 3-2, shootout loss in New Jersey, moving Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing slot with Jake DeBrusk and Krejci, while bumping up Sean Kuraly to center the third line with Anders Bjork on his left side and Danton Heinen on his right side.

The fourth line comprised of Joakim Nordstrom at left wing, Par Lindholm at center and Chris Wagner at right wing.

On defense, McAvoy and Krug went back to their usual roles while Matt Grzelcyk slid over to the right side of the third pairing with John Moore on his left.

Brett Ritchie, David Backes and Steven Kampfer were all healthy scratches for Boston on Thursday night.

At puck drop, B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, became the 12th player in NHL history to play in at least one game across four decades.

San Jose Sharks forwards, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau became the 13th and 14th players in league history to do the same thing upon puck drop between the Sharks and the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Gustav Nyquist thought he scored off a rebound 17 seconds into the game, but Cassidy used a coach’s challenge to review the call on the ice (goal) on the basis that Rask was actually interfered with as Boone Jenner appeared to be in the crease before the puck crossed the blue paint.

Upon review, it was determined that Jenner did, in fact, more than just encroach Rask’s territory, but had actually bumped into the goaltender– impeding his reaction to the play and thereby causing goaltender interference.

The call on the ice was overturned and the score reverted back to, 0-0.

It was the first time the Bruins challenged a call this season, as well as their first successful coach’s challenge this season.

Boston has had five calls overturned on six prior challenges against them thus far, which leads the league.

After Nyquist had a goal overturned, nothing else happened for the rest of the first period. Seriously.

There were no goals and no penalties called in the opening frame and both teams spent the last 7:10 span of the period uninterrupted.

Through one period of play on Thursday, the Bruins and Blue Jackets were tied, 0-0, with Columbus leading in shots on goal, 9-8.

Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (6-4) and hits (14-9), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (67-33).

Early in the middle frame, Nick Foligno hooked Brad Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty at 4:48 of the second period.

The Bruins did not convert on their first power play of the night, but got a second chance on the skater advantage at 11:02 when Dean Kukan tripped DeBrusk.

This time around, however, Boston capitalized on the power play five seconds into the skater advantage– winning the ensuing faceoff back to the point, then sliding a pass over to David Pastrnak (30) for the one-timer that went off Blue Jackets forward, Riley Nash, and over Merzlikins’ glove to give the B’s the first lead of the night.

Krug (22) and Patrice Bergeron (19) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 11:07 of the second period and the Bruins led, 1-0.

With his 30th goal of the season, Pastrnak became the first Bruin in franchise history to score 30 or more goals in four of his first six seasons, as well as the fastest Bruin to score 30 goals (in 42 games) since Cam Neely scored 30 goals in 27 games in the 1993-94 season.

Almost 90 seconds later, McAvoy was caught interfering with Kevin Stenlund and subsequently sent to the penalty box at 12:36, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t muster anything on the power play.

Columbus had one more chance on the skater advantage at 19:15 as Chara cut a rut to the sin bin for holding against Nyquist, but the Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on the power play once again– even though the skater advantage was split over the course of the final seconds of the second period and the opening minute of the third period.

The Bruins have killed off 21 consecutive penalties as a result of killing off Chara’s minor.

After 40 minutes in Boston, the Bruins led the Blue Jackets, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Columbus maintaining the advantage in shots on goal, 23-20– including a, 14-12, advantage in the second period alone.

The Blue Jackets also led in blocked shots (12-1) and hits (23-15) entering the second intermission and the Bruins led in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (10-6) and faceoff win% (70-30).

As there were no more penalties called for the rest of the night, Boston finished 1/2 on the power play and Columbus went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Sonny Milano (4) pounced on a turnover by Coyle, then fired a shot with purpose from the goal line along the boards that deflected off of Grzelcyk and dipped through Rask’s five-hole– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Nathan Gerbe (2) and Alexander Wennberg (12) tallied the assists on Milano’s goal at 2:06 of the third period and there were no more goals scored until overtime.

At the end of regulation, the Blue Jackets led in shots on goal, 32-26, but were even on the scoreboard with the Bruins, 1-1.

Columbus held the advantage in blocked shots (15-2) and hits (32-25), while Boston led in giveaways (13-8) and faceoff win% (65-35).

Both teams had six takeaways aside heading into overtime.

Cassidy started Krejci, Pastrnak and McAvoy for the B’s and Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, opted for Nyquist, Jenner and Seth Jones for the opening faceoff before quickly replacing Jenner with Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Just 52 seconds into the ensuing extra frame, Dubois and Jones entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1 and made McAvoy look foolish before Jones sent the puck to Dubois (14) for the one-timer goal from close range.

Jones (19) had the only assist on Dubois’ game-winning overtime goal and the Blue Jackets took home the, 2-1, win in Boston.

Columbus finished the night with the advantage in shots on goal (33-26), blocked shots (15-2) and hits (33-25), while the Bruins ended Thursday’s effort with the lead in giveaways (14-8) and faceoff win% (66-34).

The Bruins fell to 5-1-6 when tied after one period, 13-0-5 when leading after two periods and 17-5-7 when scoring the game’s first goal this season. The B’s also fell to 2-5 in overtime this season.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets improved to 6-6 in ovetime this season and 11-5-3 when tied after one period.

Boston concludes their two-game homestand (0-0-1) against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before traveling to Nashville to face the Predators next Tuesday.

The Bruins return home for a Thursday night (Jan. 9th) matchup with the Winnipeg Jets before venturing on the road to visit the New York Islanders on Jan. 11th, the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13th and the Blue Jackets on Jan. 14th.

2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

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.

Bruins at Blue Jackets Preview: 4/2/2019

As the Boston Bruins (47-23-9, 103 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) continue their three-game road trip (0-1-0) with a visit to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-4, 94 points, 4th in the Metropolitan Division), they will do so without the services of Danton Heinen in the lineup.

Heinen is out Tuesday with an illness and will be replaced by Chris Wagner on the third line with Marcus Johnansson at left wing and Charlie Coyle at center.

Boston enters Columbus 18-15-6 on the road this season– coming off a, 6-3, loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday– tied in the season series, 1-1-0, with the Blue Jackets after suffering a, 7-4, loss on March 12th last time in Columbus and winning, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden on March 16th.

The Bruins finished the month of March, 9-6-0, while the Blue Jackets– winners of their last five games– went 9-6-1 last month.

Columbus returns home Tuesday night after a, 4-0, shutout victory– Sergei Bobrovsky‘s league-leading 9th shutout of the season– over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Sunday.

The B’s have lost nine games in regulation since Jan. 1st and are looking to clinch home ice in their First Round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a win against Columbus and a loss for Toronto in any fashion against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday or an overtime/shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs lose in regulation on Tuesday.

If Boston doesn’t clinch home ice on Tuesday, their next chance to do so would be Thursday night. More on that as it develops.

With the exception of Wagner in for Heinen, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, isn’t expected to make any other lineup changes despite the current two-game losing streak Boston is on.

Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer remain healthy scratches, while John Moore (upper body) and Sean Kuraly (right hand fracture) are still out due to injury.

Tuukka Rask (26-12-5 record, 2.43 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 44 games played) will get the start in the crease for Boston against Columbus.

The Blue Jackets can clinch a playoff berth with a win Tuesday night in their final home game of the regular season and a Montreal Canadiens loss in regulation against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Columbus has the tiebreaker in regulation-plus-overtime wins over the Canadiens and Hurricanes with 44 ROWs to Carolina’s 41 and Montreal’s 40 this season.

Former Bruin, Adam McQuaid (day-to-day), remains out of the lineup for the Blue Jackets since being injured on an interference penalty by Canadiens forward, Andrew Shaw, on March 28th.

Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak, Eric Robinson, Adam Clendening, Andrew Peeke, Keith Kinkaid and Elvis Merzlikins are all expected to be scratches as well for Columbus against Boston.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, will go with Bobrovsky (36-23-1, 2.55 GAA, .914 SV% in 60 GP) in net as the two clubs close out their regular season series.

Pre-Draft Grab Bag

We’re just a few hours away from the NHL Draft, so I thought I would put together a few quick hits to tide you over before Gary Bettman gets up to say “we have a trade to announce” for the first time and every NHL GM talks about how wonderful Dallas is as a city.

At the beginning of the junior hockey season, I highlighted four draft-eligible players from the WHL–Ty Smith, Jett Woo, Riley Sutter and Alexander Alexeyev.  So, how did there season go and where might you see them go tonight?  Smith, the left-handed defenseman from Spokane, finished the year with 73 points in 69 games and another 7 points in 7 playoff games.  Central Scouting had him ranked 14th among North American Skaters and that is also where he finished the season.  ISS had him ranked at 19th at the end of the season.  Some rankings have him as high as #8 and others in the mid-late 20’s.  That is the nature of this year’s draft though–there is some depth in the draft and a wide variance in rankings outside of the top 2-3 picks.

Jett Woo really fell off the radar as the year went on.  Missing 28 games with an upper-body injury in your draft year will do that.  Some early rankings had him as a mid-late first round pick, but Central Scouting had him as the 28th best North American skater and ISS didn’t have him ranked in the first round.  His 25 points in 44 games wasn’t particularly remarkable and his playoff performance–3 points in 14 games–certainly didn’t help things.  Based on how the season went, I’d say Woo projects more as a dependable, second pairing defenseman who is good all around, but not stellar in the offensive zone.  There are enough positives that he will probably go in the first half of the second round.

Riley Sutter finished the season with a solid, but not spectacular, 53 points in 68 games.  He had a very good stint in the playoffs with 19 points in 21 games.  Sutter will probably still be on the board after the second round.  A solid two-way player, who plays the center position, has size, pedigree and plays his best hockey in the playoffs…some GM could get bold and take him in the second round.  In all likelihood, he projects as a very good third line center that can occasionally slot in on the second line.

Alexander Alexeyev put up 37 points in 45 games this season and followed it up with 5 points in 3 playoff games.  Like Woo, he’s had injury issues, but, when healthy, he’s been looked to contribute more than Woo, routinely logging 20 plus minutes a night.  Like Woo, he’s a solid, two-way defenseman, but, to this point, he’s had more offensive upside.  So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Alexeyev has been ranked higher than Woo, showing up at 24th on the final ISS rankings and 22nd on Central Scouting’s North American skater list.  There is a lot of risk in picking Alexeyev in the first round, but given the importance of defense, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team take him with one of the last ten picks in the first round.

If somehow Ty Smith was still on the board at 18, I’d be stoked to see the Jackets get him, though they are more likely to prioritize a forward and the odds of Smith slipping that far seem low given the number of teams in need of a defenseman picking ahead of Columbus.

Quick Hits

  • It wouldn’t be the offseason without some sort of contract drama for the Jackets.  Last year we saw Josh Anderson‘s contract negotiations draft out until the fall.  This year, drama regarding the extension of Artemi Panarin has come a year early after the 2019 UFA-to-be stated he was not yet ready to sign an extension come July 1.  Jarmo Kekalainen was, predictably, calm about the situation, but he’s also going to spend the weekend seeing what the market is for the dynamic wing, which is the smart thing to do.  Despite the gloom and doom from certain local beat writers, Panarin isn’t going anywhere unless someone wants to overpay the Jackets.
  • Interestingly, Kekaleinen made a comment that what went for Panarin, also went for Sergei Bobrovsky, which was largely ignored as people focused on the Panarin rumors.  The Jackets didn’t have an easy go the last time they had to negotiate an extension with Bobrovsky, but their internal options to replace Bobrovsky next year are uncertain at best given the season Joonas Korpisalo had and the fact that Elvis Merzlikins has yet to play in North America.  The fact that Bobrovsky will likely be looking for a raise and a long-term deal when he is already making over $7 million/season is a concern for the Jackets going forward.  Something to watch.
  • As always, there are a lot of rumors out there about potential trade bait.  Ryan O’Reilly is a player Buffalo would like to move before his bonus payment on July 1, but doing so may require them accepting a lesser haul than they would get after July 1.  After the second pick in the draft, it wouldn’t be a shock to see any team move down.  Carolina is looking to move Jeff Skinner and, potentially, Elias LindholmCraig Anderson and, perhaps, Erik Karlsson could be on the move for Ottawa, which begs the question whether Matt Duchene might also be on the move again with only 1 year left on his deal on yet another team that doesn’t seem to be a contender.  The Habs are looking to move Max Pacioretty, and also to finally get a second line center.  So, could be a lot of busy real estate agents this weekend.
  • Get ready for the annual Ilya Kovalchuk tease.  Los Angeles and Vegas seem to be the leaders, but you should probably expect him to sign with a Russian team when it is all said and done because that’s how he rolls.