Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.
Patrice Bergeron was part of the Hart Trophy conversation last season until he was sidelined by injuries late in the year, but he’s making himself an early Hart Trophy favorite this season with his 4th career hat trick on the tails of a four-point afternoon for the Boston Bruins in Monday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.
It’s only October, of course.
In the calendar year, 2018, Bergeron has three hat tricks alone– including two last season (January 6th vs. Carolina– he had four goals that night, actually– and January 18th at N.Y. Islanders) and Monday afternoon’s matinee matchup. It was also his first hat trick against the Senators since January 11, 2011.
Bergeron wasn’t the only storyline for the Bruins against Ottawa, as David Pastrnak also had a four-point game, notching two goals and two assists. Brad Marchand had three assists in the effort as Boston’s first line led the offensive effort for the Bruins.
The two players with four-points in the game (Bergeron and Pastrnak) marked the first time in franchise history that multiple players recorded at least four points in Boston’s home opener.
Condon made his first career start at TD Garden for the Senators. His previous start “in Boston” was actually in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Walpole, Massachusetts native, Chris Wagner, made his home debut with his new club in Boston, as did defender John Moore. Joakim Nordstrom was a healthy scratch for the Bruins and Jaroslav Halak served as the backup on the bench.
One more debut Monday afternoon was made by Senators forward– and 4th overall pick in the 2018 Draft– Brady Tkachuk in his NHL debut. Tkachuk played college hockey at Boston University and is the son of former NHLer and Melrose, Massachusetts native, Keith Tkachuk. Despite being born in Scottsdale, Arizona, the younger Tkachuk spent plenty of time growing up in and around Boston (as well as St. Louis, Missouri).
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy juggled the lines a bit between last Thursday’s shutout victory in Buffalo and Monday’s matinee, putting David Backes at center on the third line in place of Nordstrom and moving Anders Bjork up a line into Backes’s right wing slot.
It didn’t take long for Boston’s offense to strike as Bergeron (2) found a rebound and slid it under Condon while falling to the ice 30 seconds into the action to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Pastrnak (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on the goal.
The Senators failed to convert on the ensuing power play as Boston continued to do a better job of controlling the overall game flow, even through chaos at times where Backes was left to make a desperation save on a shot block midway through the period.
Mark Borowiecki tripped Brandon Carlo at 11:21 of the first period and gave the Bruins their first power play of the afternoon. Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage, but would connect on the power play the second time around when Colin White took a hooking penalty against Acciari at 15:31.
Standing from his stereotypical bumper position in the low slot, Marchand sent a pass to Bergeron (3) for the one-timer power play goal past Condon for a 2-0 lead. Marchand (5) and Pastrnak (2) notched the assists on Bergeron’s second goal of the day at 17:12 of the first period.
After 20 minutes, the Bruins led 2-0 and led in shots on goal, 15-9. Ottawa dominated in blocked shots (8-3) and takeaways (4-3), while Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (55-45). Through one period, hits were even, 5-5, and the Senators were 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/2.
Ryan Dzingel (1) opened scoring in the second period and got the Sens on the scoreboard, cutting Boston’s lead in half to make it 2-1. Mark Stone (1) and Zack Smith (3) had the assists on Dzingel’s goal as Stone found Dzingel creeping down the middle to find a loose puck in the slot and beat Rask at 2:21 of the second period.
Ottawa came out of the first intermission with a lot of moxie, spending more time in the offensive zone than they did in their own end and in the first period. In fact, the Senators wound up outshooting the Bruins, 12-6, in the second period as part of their offensive display.
Moments after Dzingel made it a one-goal game, Charlie McAvoy fired a shot that was redirected by Chris Wagner (1) for his first goal of the season and his first with his hometown team since joining the Bruins via free agency in July after splitting last season with the Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders.
McAvoy (3) and Kuraly (1) were credited with the assists at 7:08 and Boston led, 3-1.
Nearly four minutes later, while McAvoy fumbled a wrap around the boards in his own end, Dzingel (2) pounced on the loose puck and threw it on goal from halfway between the point and the face-off circle along the wall, squeaking one past Rask– as Zdeno Chara partially screened his own goaltender– and again pulling Ottawa within one to make it, 3-2.
Through two periods, Boston led, 3-2, and shots on goal were tied, 21-21. The Senators domination of the second period pulled them to within a goal and gave them the advantage in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40). Both teams had six giveaways through 40 minutes and hits were even, 14-14.
Bergeron (4) opened scoring in the third period with his hat trick goal at 4:38. His third goal of the afternoon deflected off of Sens defender Cody Ceci and past Condon after Bergeron initially tried to send the puck to Pastrnak in the slot.
Marchand (6) and McAvoy (4) picked up the assists on Bergeron’s third goal of the day that made it 4-2 Boston.
A couple minutes later, Alex Formenton crashed the net and ran into the Bruins goaltender as Rask aggressively played the puck outside his crease and tripped up Formenton– sending the Ottawa forward airborne over Rask.
Bruins defender, John Moore, didn’t take too kindly to his own teammate’s antics and received a minor penalty for roughing Formenton at 6:42 of the third period.
While on the penalty kill, Bergeron attempted to clear the puck down the frozen river and instead sent the rubber biscuit over the glass and out of the playing surface. He was given a delay of game minor penalty and Ottawa went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 7:26 of the third.
The Bruins killed off both minor penalties.
David Pastrnak (2) added his second goal of the season late in the third period and made it a three-goal game for Boston. Bergeron (2) and Zdeno Chara (1) had the assists and the Bruins had a 5-2 lead at 16:31.
Less than a minute later, Bobby Ryan (1) deflected a shot from DeMelo through traffic and past Rask to bring the Senators to within two goals and make it 5-3 at 17:03 of the third period.
DeMelo (2) and Chris Tierney (3) recorded the assists on Ryan’s first goal of the season and Ottawa can thank the Erik Karlsson trade for the pair of former San Jose Sharks members that led to Ryan’s goal.
With 1:50 remaining in regulation, Sens head coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as 28 seconds later Pastrnak (3) added an empty net goal to make it, 6-3, Boston.
Marchand (7) recorded his third assist of the afternoon on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins went on to walk away from their home opener with a 6-3 victory.
Ottawa finished Monday afternoon leading in shots on goal (31-30), blocked shots (14-8), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (57-43). Boston finished the afternoon with the win and leading in hits (18-17). The Senators were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2.
Among some other stats from the matinee game…
Moore led all Bruins with four hits on the afternoon, while Boston’s fourth line combined for seven hits in the game with Wagner and Acciari each leading the Bruins forwards with three hits apiece (Kuraly had one hit).
Speaking of Bergeron, his first goal of the day marked the third fastest to begin a home-opening game in franchise history. Bergeron’s goal 30 seconds into the game trails Brad Boyes (18 seconds on October 19, 2006) and Terry O’Reilly (23 seconds on October 8, 1981).
98.5 The Sports Hub Bruins beat reporter, Ty Anderson, noted Bergeron’s hat trick was the first home opener hat trick since Cam Neely‘s 1995 home opener hat trick and The Boston Globe‘s Matt Porter followed that up with all of the home opener hat tricks for Boston since 1967, including Phil Esposito (October 10, 1973), Rick Middleton (October 7, 1976), Neely (October 7, 1995) and Bergeron (October 8, 2018).
Middleton’s No. 16 will be retired this November, joining Esposito’s No. 7 and Neely’s No. 8 (among others) in the rafters of TD Garden, so surely this means Bergeron’s No. 37 is a shoe-in to be retired someday.
The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 on the season and are currently tied for 1st place in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Each team has four points on the season.
Boston takes on the visiting Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at TD Garden.
The 2018-19 regular season has started, so let’s overreact and hand out the regular season awards already! It’s our 3rd Annual Participation Trophies After One Game presented by Nick and Connor.
Shouldn’t have to write this, really, but Bruins fans, calm down.
It’s not unlike Bruce Cassidy‘s Bruins to get off on a sour note out of the gate, though Boston has never seen quite a blowout game like this to start a regular season in their 95-year franchise history dating back to 1924.
Boston dropped Wednesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals, 7-0, on the road at Capital One Arena– much to the pleasure of the Caps fans cheering their team on louder than ever for becoming “defending Stanley Cup champions” for the first time in franchise history as the night was marked by Washington’s banner raising ceremony.
Braden Holtby had a 25 save shutout for the Capitals, who won their 13th straight regular season matchup against Boston. The Bruins are now 0-10-3 against Washington since last defeating the Capitals in a 4-2 victory on March 29, 2014.
Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask stopped 14 out of 19 shots faced for a .737 save percentage before being pulled in the second period (27:28 time on ice). Jaroslav Halak made his Bruins debut and turned aside 16 of the 18 shots he faced in the remaining 32:32 of the game for an .889 SV%.
No, this does not mean there’s a goaltending controversy in Boston. It was one game. The first one. Relax. Even the San Jose Sharks lost Wednesday night, 5-2, to the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose has Martin Jones— in addition to Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic on defense, in case you haven’t already heard that enough in the offseason.
Patrice Bergeron made his regular season debut despite not participating in a preseason game, but nothing else made waves for Boston in the headlines.
Boston’s effort in the first period dominated the face-off dot, winning 82% of the faceoffs drawn, but their penalty kill suffered.
A little over a minute later, Sean Kuraly tripped up Lars Eller in Boston’s defensive zone, putting Washington on the power play for the first time on the night at 1:45 of the first period. Two seconds was all it took for Evgeny Kuznetsov (1) to win the faceoff and fire a shot past the Bruins netminder to give Washington a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the 2018-19 regular season.
Jakub Vrana tripped Ryan Donato at 8:26 of the period and gave the Bruins their first man advantage of the night, but it was to no avail as Boston’s power play unit could not establish zone time in the offensive end.
After 20 minutes of play, the Capitals looked as though they hadn’t been diving in fountains around D.C. all offseason, while the Bruins looked like a team that was jet-lagged.
Perhaps from their trip to China as part of the NHL China Games this preseason. Not that it goes without saying that the lack of effort in the first period got even worse in the second and third period to the extent that upon Rask’s replacement with Halak, the Bruins backup goaltender was making every other save in desperation.
Entering the first intermission, Washington was outshooting Boston, 13-9.
Brad Marchand tripped Vrana early in the second period and the Bruins would be shorthanded once again.
Just 1:16 into the power play, Backstrom faked a shot then slid a pass over to Alex Ovechkin (1) in his stereotypical spot on the power play unit, slapping one past Rask from the faceoff circle and giving the Capitals a commanding 3-0 lead at 4:17 of the 2nd period. Backstrom (2) and Oshie (1) had the assists on the goal.
Ovechkin’s first goal of the season sparked a run of three goals on three shots in a span of 3:11 for Washington as Nic Dowd (1) and Kuznetsov (2) added a pair of goals to make it 4-0 and 5-0, respectively for the Capitals.
Dowd scored his first in a Washington sweater at 6:13 of the second period after the Bruins failed to clear the puck out of the zone and Washington got a shot off that was blocked by Boston defender, Matt Grzelcyk.
Finding the loose puck, while going through with a backhand shot on a spin-o-rama through Kevan Miller‘s legs and behind Rask, Dowd scored his first of the year with assists from Nathan Walker (1) and Devante Smith-Pelly (1).
Between Dowd’s goal and Kuznetsov’s second of the night, Kuraly dropped the gloves with young Capitals blue liner, Madison Bowey, resulting in five-minute major penalties for fighting at 6:45 of the 2nd period.
Kuznetsov pocketed his second goal of the game less than a minute later with John Carlson (1) and Braden Holtby (1) notching their first assists of the season. His soft goal on the short side of Rask was more than enough to convince Cassidy to replace the struggling netminder with Halak.
Carlson (1) took full advantage of a slap-pass from Ovechkin across the ice to the point and wired a clapper high-left side past Halak to make it 6-0 for the Capitals. Ovechkin (1) and Backstrom (3) picked up the assists on the Washington number one defender’s goal.
Through 40 minutes, Boston trailed 6-0 and in shots on goal 25-15 (including a 12-6 advantage for Washington in the 2nd period). The Bruins, however, were leading the night in physical play with a 25-12 advantage in hits (as is often the case of a losing team trying to pry the puck away from the other team in control of the scoreboard).
Washington was 4/5 on the power play through two periods and the B’s were 0/1.
Bowey opened the action in the 3rd period with a cross-check to Marchand at 8:25, giving Boston their second opportunity on the skater advantage for the night. They did not convert on ensuing the power play.
Instead, shortly after killing off Bowey’s minor, Lars Eller (1) found a way to sneak past Brandon Carlo and Noel Acciari— rushing back to bail out his defender– and into a one-on-one with Jaroslav Halak.
Eller fired the puck behind the Boston netminder for the point-after-touchdown goal giving Washington a 7-0 lead at 10:52 of the 3rd period. Eller’s ensuing celebration would irk the Bruins brass as he proceeded to wave his hand in a motion that seemed to signal for Boston to leave the rink.
Needless to say, some weren’t pleased– like Brad Marchand, who would drop the gloves with Eller moments later– but before that, a quick note on Eller’s goal as Chandler Stephenson (1) and Brooks Orpik (1) were credited with the assists on the quick transition that led to a breakaway conversion.
Marchand got a few good punches on Eller, leaving the Capitals third-line center bloodied, and picked up two minutes for instigating, as well as a 10-minute misconduct. The Bruins winger ended his night with a 2+5=10 effort at 13:54 of the 3rd period.
Eller received a five-minute major for fighting, as well, and got some attention to stop the bleeding before heading for the penalty box.
Washington finished off Boston as time expired, 7-0, and ended the night with a 37-25 shots on goal advantage. The Capitals also led in blocked shots (15-12) and giveaways (10-3), while the Bruins led in hits (28-16) and faceoff win% (68-32).
The Caps finished the night 4/6 on the power play, while Boston went 0/2.
To summarize, the Bruins effort was non-existent past the first line, especially after the first 20 minutes of the game. Kuraly led the way with four hits, while Chris Wagner and David Backes each had three apiece and Acciari had two. Fourth line winger, Joakim Nordstrom debuted in a Bruins uniform with one hit on the night and a largely forgettable appearance on the ice.
While Boston turns their attention to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at KeyBank Center, expert eyes of the fans, TV analysts and coaches will be paying attention to what kind of changes Cassidy makes to shake up his bottom-six depth and lackadaisical efforts on the blue line, while hopefully generating more offense– let alone a goal.
Except for Jake DeBrusk ringing the post in the first period, Boston’s effort was largely quiet.
It’s only one game, but it was not the game that set the tone for this 2018-19 Bruins team yet.
I never thought I’d be doing this again, yet here we are. It’s time to begin the continuation of a now annual tradition around here at DTFR. It’s time to rank the NHL mascots.
For the first time since January 2017, here’s the latest look at things. Be sure to check out the last couple of days ranking’s (31st-21st and 20th-11th).
10) Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens) Last year’s ranking 6th
Youppi! is slipping as the Expos become even more of a distant memory with the passing of time. Adopted by the Canadiens after Montreal’s MLB team went to Washington, D.C. and rebranded as the Washington Nationals, Youppi! is still receiving pity votes because he doesn’t belong at an ice rink. He belongs in a field of dreams. Plus his distant cousin (we’re pretty sure), Gritty is way hotter. Step your game up, Youppi!
Homme, femme, ou mascotte, tous sont les bienvenus aujourd’hui au défilé de la #fiertéMTL, Demandez à Youppi!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) August 19, 2018
9) Chance (Vegas Golden Knights) Last year’s ranking 31st (despite not having a mascot at the time)
It took a little time for everyone to give chance a Chance, but he’s here to stay like the Golden Knights– and they mean business. Chance is just lovable enough to see himself bolt into the top-10 in this year’s power rankings, but a continued effort in the community could see him in the top-5 next year. Or maybe just more mean tweet videos. That was pretty good last season, you have to admit.
— Chance (@ChanceNHL) August 6, 2018
8) Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins) Last year’s ranking 5th
Boston is bringing back a little more brown to their color palette this season with their 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic sweater, which will undoubtedly really bring out Blades’ fur and eyes. Until then, he’s only slipping a little because the Bruins don’t have an alternate sweater this season and the competition got tougher.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 14, 2018
7) Fin (Vancouver Canucks) Last year’s ranking 10th
Fin is slowly working his way up towards the top of this list– fittingly at a time when it appears he’ll soon have a neighboring rival in Seattle. We’ll see if he can take a bite out of the competition like how killer whales eat penguins. Wait!?! That should actually deduct some points. At least Vancouver has this whole “turn your logo into a three-dimensional costumed character” down-pat.
— FIN (@CanucksFIN) September 15, 2018
6) Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres) Last year’s ranking 8th
Did you see how Buffalo’s 2018 Winter Classic sweater looked on this tiger? No? Well, you need to get out more, because Sabretooth certainly did. He strut his stuff all over the community looking fashionable in royal blue and it’s a shame the Sabres don’t resort to that color full-time.
Sporting the 🔥🔥 Winter Classic threads tonight 😻 pic.twitter.com/J1W8wuN0Mq
— Sabretooth (@Sabretooth_NHL) April 4, 2018
5) Slapshot (Washington Capitals) Last year’s ranking 4th
Slapshot won the Cup last season with the Capitals, but didn’t surface on the Internet anywhere in any fountains around D.C. What a shame. Washington did bring back their original sweater as an alternate once again and we all know Slapshot looks better in that than he does in their current red, white and blue threads.
— Slapshot (@Caps_Slapshot) September 28, 2018
4) Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers) Last year’s ranking 29th (even though Philly didn’t have a mascot since 1976)
What do you mean you didn’t know about Gritty? Have you even been on the Internet, seen TV or anything this week? Gritty is all the rage. Gritty is here and now. Gritty is here to stay. Like him or not– he’s got (gr)it. And googly eyes (bonus points!).
Goodnight, internet. pic.twitter.com/gx2Pbxfcds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 25, 2018
3) Bailey (Los Angeles Kings) Last year’s ranking 1st
Last year’s winner of our mascot power rankings is this year’s second-runner up. It’s through no fault of his own, really, just time to pass the Kings (get it?) crown on to someone else. Fear not though, Bailey can crawl into the arms of Ilya Kovalchuk this season and be just fine.
— Bailey LA Kings (@BaileyLAKings) September 19, 2018
2) S.J. Sharkie (San Jose Sharks) Last year’s ranking 2nd
What’s not to love about a lovable loser? Not that I’m implying S.J. Sharkie is a loser, but he does live near the Charles M. Schultz Museum, so he’s got a little Charlie Brown in him. It just happens. But hey, Erik Karlsson’s on the Sharks now, so maybe this is their year!*
*He says, every year.
— #SJSharkie (@sjsharkie) September 18, 2018
1) Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins) Last year’s ranking 7th
What makes Iceburgh No. 1 this year? Just look at him. He’s always well-dressed, though that might have something to do with the built-in formal look of penguins, Iceburgh is one hot mascot. He ages like a fine wine. Unlike Sidney Crosby’s playoff beard, which has somehow gotten worse the older “Sid the Kid” gets (I’m joking, it’s actually improved too).
It’s 92° and our friend Iceburgh is very toasty.
Headed downtown? Be sure to check out the “Public Art with a Purpose” exhibit which features a Penguins-themed globe to help raise awareness for climate change. 🌎 pic.twitter.com/9AXlJszHTD
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 18, 2018
In all seriousness though, all of the league’s mascots do an amazing job cheering up kids in visits around their community, entertaining their fans and rooting for their respective teams, so hats off to the people living inside of the sweaty costumes (actually, some are air-conditioned, so let’s maybe not give them that much credit for having a cooler job than the rest of us. Get it?).
Vegas Golden Knights
51-24-7, 109 points, 1st in the Pacific Division
Lost in Stanley Cup Final to WSH, 4-1
Subtractions: D Philip Holm (signed, KHL), F James Neal (signed with CGY), F David Perron (signed with STL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (signed, KHL), D Luca Sbisa (signed with NYI), F Nick Suzuki (traded to MTL), F Tomas Tatar (traded to MTL), F Paul Thompson (signed with FLA)
Offseason Analysis: Only one team in the NHL’s more than a century of existence has ever won the Cup in their inaugural season. The 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights almost joined the 1917-18 Toronto Arenas as the only teams to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Toronto beat the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s (PCHA) Vancouver Millionaires 3-2 in a best of five-game series.
Vegas came up three wins short of winning it all in the modern-day best-of-seven game series against the Washington Capitals that the Stanley Cup Final has become.
The Golden Knights didn’t have an unfair advantage in the 2017 Expansion Draft. General Manager George McPhee worked the trade market to his advantage, primarily building the inaugural season’s core group of players through acquisitions.
Owner Bill Foley has touted the “Cup-in-three” mantra, meaning it’s his goal as an organization to win the Cup in their first three years of existence. Upon league expansion in 1967, it took the Philadelphia Flyers seven years to win their first Cup.
Foley wants to do it in half the time.
McPhee’s already gone to work on improving his roster from year one to year two. He’s added Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
Stastny, 32, joins the Golden Knights after spending last season with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. In 82 games split between the Blues and Jets, Stastny had 16-37–53 totals.
A deadline acquisition by Winnipeg, he had 13 points down the stretch in the remaining 19 games of the regular season, then had his best career performance in the postseason (15 points in 17 games) en route to the Western Conference Final against (his now current team) Vegas.
Despite Stastny’s playmaking style and ability to elevate the players around him in Patrik Laine and friends in Winnipeg, the Jets were no match for the hard-charging Golden Knights.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
The old saying rings true for Stastny, despite Winnipeg’s intentions on re-signing the veteran NHL center entering his 13th season in the league. He’ll slide in on Vegas’ second line behind William Karlsson and play alongside one of his best friends since they played together at the 2010 Winter Games, Max Pacioretty.
Yes, that’s right, Pacioretty is a Golden Knight– in case you’ve been under a rock since training camp.
At its surface, the price of the Pacioretty trade is one well spent for both teams. Vegas acquired Pacioretty in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick. That’s right about what you’d expect as a going rate for a top-six scorer– one current roster player, a prospect and a draft pick.
But for all that McPhee dealt to the Detroit Red Wings to add Tatar at the trade deadline last season, this Pacioretty deal carries a hefty trade-tree baggage, whereby a lot of assets were ultimately tossed in the pot for Pacioretty’s services.
At the very least, McPhee not only added a five-time 30-goal scorer, but he signed him to a four-year extension right away too. So if things don’t work out this season, the Golden Knights will remain in the hunt for the next few years.
On top of their solid core group of forwards, Vegas has a crafty defense that’s capable of doing more than turning heads like they did last season. There’s just one catch though– they’ll have to do it without Nate Schmidt for the first quarter of the regular season.
Schmidt will be serving a 20-game suspension for a performance enhancing drug, leaving Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to do the bulk of the work with Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland rounding out the rest of the top-four defenders.
Brad Hunt and Nick Holden, in the meantime, seek to use the first 20 games as an audition for the sixth defenseman role upon Schmidt’s return to the lineup.
Miller signed a four-year extension this summer and Theodore signed a seven-year deal worth $5.200 million per season. While seven years might be a bit more than the Golden Knights can chew if Theodore’s play heads south, at least he’s signed to a manageable $5.200 million cap hit– up to 50% of which can be retained in a trade.
With an immense top-nine group of forwards and questions surrounding who will step up on defense in Schmidt’s absence, head coach Gerard Gallant must adjust accordingly as he’s always done– on-the-fly and with the complete buy-in of the dressing room.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury— now signed through the 2021-22 season, thanks to a three-year extension this summer on top of the remaining year on his current contract– must find a way to continue his rejuvenated play in net. Last season’s 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage are more than likely unattainable in back-to-back seasons.
One thing working in Fleury’s favor is his reduced workload. In his second-straight season under 50 games played, Fleury appeared in 46 games last season after battling a concussion.
Malcolm Subban (2.68 GAA, .910 SV% in 22 games played last season) is still in line to become the next Golden Knights starting netminder in the post-Fleury era, but he undoubtedly must see an increase in playing time this season.
It’s not quite a 1A, 1B option for Vegas, but rather a precaution for Fleury and a means of keeping their starter fresh for what could be another long postseason run.
Unless any of the other Pacific Division teams have anything to say about it.
Offseason Grade: B+
McPhee bolstered his top-six forward group this offseason with two simple moves, while preserving the large-scale depth of the Golden Knights prospect pool. They didn’t land Erik Karlsson, John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk, but they did get Max Pacioretty.
And they still have quite an impressive amount of cap space to work with next offseason as the franchise continues to settle into existence.
I never thought I’d be doing this again, yet here we are. It’s time to begin the continuation of a now annual tradition around here at DTFR. It’s time to rank the NHL mascots.
For the first time since January 2017, here’s the latest look at things.
31) New York Rangers Last year’s ranking 30th
They don’t have a mascot, which the old me would’ve said “that’s OK for a franchise that’s over 90-years-old and has one of the easiest nicknames to create a mascot for”, but the new me says “why wouldn’t they want to get in on the post-Gritty hype-train newscycle?” Petition to make Henrik Lundqvist the mascot when he retires someday? Who says “no”?
30) Al the Octopus (Detroit Red Wings) Last year’s ranking 26th
I understand the tradition (8 wins used to win you the Cup back in the day), but 1) inflation exists (it takes 16 wins now to take home the Cup) and 2) it’s a lot easier to make an octopus costume than it is to raise and lower a giant octopus from the rafters every night. I’m just saying.
29) Sparky the Dragon (New York Islanders) Last year’s ranking 25th
Seriously, I still don’t get why they haven’t switched things up to the Gorton’s Fisherman™. Sparky was once the mascot for the Islanders and the New York Dragons (makes sense) Arena Football team until 2009.
28) Nordy (Minnesota Wild) Last year’s ranking 24th
Nordy just has a lot going on around the eyes and on the back of his jersey. 18,001? I feel bad for the poor equipment manager that has to iron that on all the sweaters Nordy goes through in a season. Also, he’s got a mullet– this isn’t the Minnesota North Stars, it’s the Wild. I don’t care what you say, I will never be a fan of that hairstyle unless it’s Jaromir Jagr.
— Nordy Minnesota Wild (@NordyWild) September 20, 2018
27) Howler (Arizona Coyotes) Last year’s ranking 21st
Unlike how his team should be rising in the standings this season, Howler’s stock is falling. At least temporarily. It’ll be fun to see Howler in a kachina sweater every Saturday of the regular season, but that’s about it.
— Howler Coyote (@HowlerCoyote) September 9, 2018
26) Hunter (Edmonton Oilers) Last year’s ranking 23rd
Hunter was named after the original owner of the Oilers, William Hunter, and wears No. 72 in reference to the team’s founding as the Alberta Oilers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). He’s a Canadian lynx, so that’s cool, I guess. Other than that, he scares people.
#Oilers fans, retweet this photo of Hunter & Dr. PatchUp for your chance to score a signed @RNH_93 jersey! Purchase your @MightyStollery tix via https://t.co/MNrD4e5WyK by midnight Friday for your chance to win 2018-19 season seats plus a brand new Ford F-150 & $10k cash. pic.twitter.com/eSUAEalJsC
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) September 28, 2018
25) Stanley C. Panther/Viktor E. Ratt (Florida Panthers) Last year’s ranking 20th
Not many fans outside of Sunrise, Florida might realize that yes, the Panthers have two official mascots. There’s Stanley C. Panther, which, if you look deep enough into his eyes you’ll start hearing a Sarah McLachlan song for some reason and Viktor E. Ratt, who… exists. 1996 was a weird time.
— Stanley C. Panther (@StanleyCPanther) September 25, 2018
24) Stormy (Carolina Hurricanes) Last year’s ranking 28th
Be on the lookout for Stormy to take the world by… storm. Since the Hurricanes updated their home jerseys to one of the best in the league, Stormy’s appearance on the outside has improved drastically. Aside from asking the important question, will Stormy wear a Whalers sweater on Whalers Night or will Pucky the Whale make a return to his former franchise? Let’s not negate the fact Stormy likes to roll around in the mud all day.
— Stormy (@NHLStormy) February 17, 2018
23) Harvey the Hound (Calgary Flames) Last year’s ranking 18th
As the league’s oldest mascot, there’s a certain charm to the nostalgia of his look. He’s also the only mascot in the league to not be wearing a jersey, excluding Al the Octopus, which shouldn’t really even technically count as a mascot, Detroit. Harvey’s great, but have you seen what googly eyes can do for you these days? Or at least give the poor hound a sweater– preferably one of those sweet alternates the Flames are bringing back.
— Harvey The Hound (@HarveyTheHound_) March 23, 2017
22) Bernie the St. Bernard (Colorado Avalanche) Last year’s ranking 22nd
The ADIZERO jersey style brought back the mountain design to the Avalanche’s sweaters and that’s improved Bernie’s overall aesthetic, but part of me still misses Howler the Yeti. But hey, dogs like kids, kids like dogs and even cranky old adults (so everyone that’s not a kid) like dogs that save people from avalanches.
— Bernie (@AvsBernie) September 22, 2018
21) Spartacat (Ottawa Senators) Last year’s ranking 9th
Spartacat’s fell on hard times and it’s not just because of the Erik Karlsson trade and full-on rebuild in Ottawa. It’s occurred to me since last year nobody’s gotten around to giving his hair a good washing and he doesn’t even have whiskers. So yeah, Spartacat took a fall in the rankings and didn’t land on all-fours, contrary to that myth about cats.
CATch me this Sunday @saundersfarm one of my all-time favourite places to throw a B-DAY bash! Kids 14 & under can join my Cub Club to receive a very SENSational party offer for you & your adults (Sep 30th only) https://t.co/A61eX7pnip pic.twitter.com/1tU28z2zy0
— Spartacat (@REAL_Spartacat) September 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning
54-23-5, 113 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Lost in the Eastern Conference Final to WSH, 4-3
Subtractions: F Carter Ashton (signed, KHL), D Mathew Bodie (signed, KHL), G Peter Budaj (traded to LA), F Erik Condra (signed with DAL), F Alex Gallant (signed with VGK), F Chris Kunitz (signed with CHI), F Matthew Peca (signed with MTL), D Andrej Sustr (signed with ANA)
Still Unsigned: D Jamie McBain
Offseason Analysis: The 2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning had their best season in franchise history. Well, regular season, that is. Jon Cooper led his team from behind the bench to a 54-23-5 record (113 points) and the first seed in the Eastern Conference all the way to the 2018 Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals– their former division rival in what was once the Southeast Division.
It was their first postseason meeting since 2011 and the Bolts had home ice advantage in a Game 7. What could possibly go wrong? Washington was never supposed to get past the Second Round, let alone beat the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to landing in the Eastern Conference Final– plus Alex Ovechkin was always criticized for his Game 7 play in his career– and the Lightning had all of their offensive weapons, including Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
But Stamkos had no points in Game 7 against Washington, similar to the last five Game 7s he’s played. In six career Game 7s, Stamkos is pointless. Both literally and figuratively, if you may.
Tampa was shutout on home ice and their 2018 postseason run came to a crashing halt, one win shy of reaching their second Stanley Cup Final in three years.
For a team that’s made the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four calendar years (2015, 2016 and 2018)– they’ve only gotten better, yet they haven’t had the results they’ve wanted (or expected) by now.
Steve Yzerman walked into the Lightning front office with Stamkos and Victor Hedman already on the roster, he left its day-to-day duties having drafted Kucherov (2011) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (2012), while signing an undrafted Tyler Johnson and acquiring Ryan Callahan, Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller over the years.
Yzerman’s seamless transition from Tampa’s face of the franchise star in Martin St. Louis to Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. was destined to win a Cup while the former face of the Detroit Red Wings superstar was at the helm of operations.
BriseBois’ transition to power will be peaceful, as Yzerman was sure to lock up core members of the roster in Kucherov and McDonagh to extensions beginning in the 2019-20 season this offseason.
It’d be unfair to grade BriseBois’ offseason maneuvers over the last 16 days at the same weight as the rest of the GMs in the league, but it’s worth noting– neither Yzerman nor BriseBois were able to snag Erik Karlsson in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.
Instead, the biggest prize on the trading block this offseason went to the San Jose Sharks– a team the Lightning can only face in the postseason in the Stanley Cup Final. If they make it that far.
Yzerman chose not to re-sign Chris Kunitz and Andrej Sustr, seeing the former as too old for Tampa’s core and the latter as an expendable asset that was a healthy scratch most nights. He did, however, re-sign glue guy forwards Adam Erne and Cedric Paquette, as well as defender Slater Koekkoek to one-year bridge deals.
Their successful roster is largely intact, despite trading backup goaltender Peter Budaj to the Los Angeles Kinds for forward Andy Andreoff early this summer, but as Cooper seeks to decrease Vasilevskiy’s workload, Budaj’s 3.77 goals against average and .876 save percentage in eight games last season weren’t going to cut it– even with his injuries.
Meanwhile, Louis Domingue looks to improve on his 2.89 GAA and .914 SV% in 12 appearances with the Lightning last season, after going winless in seven appearances with the Arizona Coyotes (4.33 GAA, .856 SV%) before being acquired by Tampa.
Budaj’s eight appearances and Domingue’s 12 games in a Bolts uniform left Vasilevskiy to suit up for a career-high 65 games last season. He had a 2.62 GAA and a career-high .920 SV% in what was a Vezina Trophy finalist year with a 44-17-3 record.
While Vasilevskiy is one of the top-starting netminders in the league, 65 games played in the regular season, plus a maximum 28 potential games in the postseason is nearly 100 games of hockey. Multiply that by 60 minutes and, well, you get the point (hopefully).
Cooper has to rely on Domingue and his defense to reduce the minutes Vasilevskiy has to stand on his feet (or head) in order to keep his number one goaltender from getting fatigued.
Goaltending is all about finding that sweet spot– both in the rhythm of the game while making saves and in the ebbs and flows of the season-long schedule (including the possibility of a deep postseason run).
Offseason Grade: C+
So that’s it really.
Tampa didn’t create a mega-defense, because they didn’t get Karlsson. San Jose did.
They didn’t cause a disturbance in the Force with two potential No. 91s that would’ve seen John Tavares assume a new identity on the roster, because the Toronto Maple Leafs signed the biggest free agent on the market.
And that’s okay.
For Tampa, an “average” offseason meant sticking with their guys– the ones that reached the Final in 2015, almost reached it in 2016 and were brought in for the Conference Final run in 2018. Other than nailing down a backup goalie, the Bolts are ready to defend their top of the table standing in the Atlantic Division.