Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins force Game 7 with commanding, 5-2, victory at home

For the 29th time in franchise history (a National Hockey League leading postseason stat), the Boston Bruins are going to a Game 7 in a best-of-seven series after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, Thursday night at TD Garden.

Whereas recent memory conjures images of Boston’s 2019 Stanley Cup Final Game 7 loss on home ice to the visiting St. Louis Blues, this time around the Bruins will look to be a spoiler on the road in Raleigh, North Carolina and become the first wild card team since the NHL adopted its current playoff format in 2014, to usurp a division winner in their non-traditional division.

See, the B’s belong to the league’s Atlantic Division, while the Canes exist in the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina, meanwhile, will have home ice in their first Game 7 against Boston since the Hurricanes upset the Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal.

It will also be Carolina’s first Game 7 appearance since they beat the Washington Capitals on the road in their 2019 First Round matchup.

The last Game 7 victory on home ice for the Hurricanes was, of course, the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

Jeremy Swayman (3-1, 2.51 goals-against average, .913 save percentage in four games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against in the win for Boston Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Hurricanes goaltender, Antti Raanta (2-2, 2.46 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 29 out of 33 shots faced in the loss.

Once more, the Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) Thursday night, while Hampus Lindholm returned to the lineup after missing the last few games with an upper body injury.

Down 3-2 in the series entering Thursday and with Lindholm’s return to action, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, restructured his lines and defensive pairings to a more familiar look around the trade deadline when the B’s were surging in the regular season.

Jake DeBrusk went back to the first line right wing with Patrice Bergeron at center and Brad Marchand on left wing, while David Pastrnak was reunited with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula on the second line.

Trent Frederic returned to the lineup on the third line with Charlie Coyle at center– flanked by Frederic and Craig Smith on his wings.

Meanwhile, Nick Foligno, Tomáš Nosek and Curtis Lazar returned to their usual roles on the fourth line with Chris Wagner joining the short list of healthy scratches in the press box at TD Garden for Game 6.

On defense, Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy were reunited, while Mike Reilly suited up alongside Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton’s third pairing went unchanged.

Wagner and Matt Grzelcyk joined Jack Studnicka, Marc McLaughlin, Steven Fogarty, Troy Grosenick, Josh Brown, Joona Koppanen, Cameron Hughes, Jack Ahcan, Tyler Lewington, Oskar Steen, Nick Wolff, Anton Blidh, Kyle Keyser and Jakub Lauko as Boston’s healthy scratches on Thursday.

Sebastian Aho kicked things off with a hooking infraction at 12:44 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

Neither team could score, nor did either club score a goal in the opening frame, rendering it, 0-0, entering the first intermission despite Carolina holding an, 11-8, advantage in shots on goal.

Boston led in blocked shots (6-3), giveaways (4-0) and faceoff win percentage (62-39), while the Hurricanes held the advantage in hits (22-11).

Both teams had three takeaways each and had yet to see time on the power play entering the middle frame.

It didn’t take long for the B’s to jump out ahead first as Marchand (4) received a pass and entered the attacking zone along his off wing before sending a wrist shot high on the short side over Raanta’s glove and under the bar to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead 46 seconds into the second period.

Clifton (1) and Coyle (4) notched the assists as Boston scored the game’s first goal for the first time in the series.

Less than a few minutes later, however, Clifton kicked off a string of penalties for the Bruins when he was assessed a holding minor at 3:23, but Boston made the kill.

Carolina got a second chance on the power play at 9:08, however, when Frederic tripped Brett Pesce and even had 54 seconds on a 5-on-3 advantage when McAvoy cut a rut to the sin bin hooking Vincent Trocheck at 10:15 of the second period.

The Canes, however, failed to convert on the two power plays.

Haula caught Jesperi Kotkaniemi with a high stick at 13:36 of the second period and presented another power play opportunity that went by the wayside for Carolina.

At 16:58, Pesce was assessed a holding minor and yielded Boston their second power play of the night.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, the B’s worked the puck around the zone enough before Marchand dished a pass back to Pastrnak for a shot attempt from the point that was blocked by a Hurricane before rebounding to Coyle (2) in the slot for the doorstep goal on the forehand.

Pastrnak (3) and Marchand (7) tallied the assists on Coyle’s power-play goal at 18:04 of the second period and the Bruins had a, 2-0, lead as a result.

Through 40 minutes of play, the B’s held a two-goal lead going into the second intermission and led, 19-17, in shots on goal, including an, 11-6, advantage in shots in the middle frame alone.

Boston also dominated in blocked shots (15-9), takeaways (6-3) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Carolina led in giveaways (5-4) and hits (27-21).

The Hurricanes were 0-for-4 and the Bruins were 1-for-2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Carolina struck first in the final frame as Seth Jarvis setup Andrei Svechnikov (2) for a catch and release goal high on the short side past Swayman’s blocker to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1.

Jarvis (2) had the only assist on Svechnikov’s first goal of the game at 3:24 of the third period.

Less than four minutes later, however, the Bruins responded and re-extended their lead to two-goals after Haula (1) redirected a shot pass into the far corner of the net behind Raanta for a, 3-1, lead at 7:08 of the third period.

McAvoy (3) had the only assist on Haula’s first goal of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Midway through the third period, Forbort (1) flung a shot from the point with eyes that may have tipped off of a Canes skaters’ stick under Raanta’s blocker side while the Carolina netminder was temporarily without a stick– having dropped it seconds prior.

Nosek (1) had the only assist on Forbort’s first goal– regular season or playoffs– since Nov. 20th and the Bruins had a, 4-1, lead as a result at 10:43.

Jaccob Slavin sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play at 12:01, but the B’s failed to capitalize on their last power play opportunity of the night.

With 4:33 remaining in the action, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it wasn’t long before Lazar (1) floated a shot from the red line into the empty twine to give Boston a, 5-1, advantage.

Foligno (1) and Nosek (2) tallied the assists on Lazar’s empty net goal at 15:43 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Marchand was assessed a four-minute double-minor penalty for spearing Kotkaniemi while skating past the Carolina forward at 16:20.

The Hurricanes made relatively quick work of the first power play as Slavin sent the puck to Martin Nečas, who fed Svechnikov (3) for another one-timer goal– this time cutting the deficit from four goals to three.

Nečas (3) and Slavin (4) had the assists on Svechnikov’s power-play goal– his second goal of the game– at 17:30 of the third period.

The Bruins killed off the rest of Marchand’s penalty and went on to win, 5-2, at the final horn.

At the end of the night, Boston left their own ice leading in shots on goal, 34-25, including a, 15-8, advantage in the third period alone, while Carolina dominated in everything else, including blocked shots (18-12), giveaways (10-5), hits (42-34) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Hurricanes finished the night 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1-for-3 on the skater advantage.

The B’s are now 13-14 all time in a Game 6 when trailing in a series 3-2 and are looking to win a best-of-seven series for just the third time in 29 instances of at one point trailing 2-0 in the series heading into Game 3.

Game 7 is back at PNC Arena in Raleigh Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET with the winner clinching the series 4-3 and advancing to the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Viewers in the United States can tune to ESPN, while those in Canada can catch the action on SN360, SNE, SNW, SNP and TVAS.

Local markets can also watch the game on their corresponding regional networks if so desired.

Boston will be making their 29th appearance in a Game 7 and enters Saturday with a 15-13 record in 28 prior Game 7 efforts, having most recently lost in a Game 7 on home ice to the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins lead in Game 7 appearances (28) and are tied with the Montréal Canadiens for the most wins (15), as well as with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most losses (13).

Carolina is entering their eighth appearance in a Game 7 Saturday afternoon with a 5-3 record in seven prior instances of a Game 7, having most recently beaten the Washington Capitals on the road in Game 7 of their 2019 First Round series in double overtime.

The Hurricanes last hosted a Game 7 on home ice in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers to clinch the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

The Canes are 5-0 in a Game 7 since relocating from Hartford and previously defeated the Bruins on the road in Game 7 of their 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal series in overtime.

Coincidentally, that game was also held on May 14th.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Marchand notches five points in, 5-2, victory in Game 4

For the 34th time since making his postseason debut in 2011, Brad Marchand had a multi-point Stanley Cup Playoff game as he amassed 2-3–5 totals in a, 5-2, win for the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday afternoon in Game 4 at TD Garden.

Among active players, only Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Nikita Kucherov, has more multi-point postseason games in that span with 37.

Jeremy Swayman (2-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in two games played) made 24 saves on 26 shots against in the win for Boston.

Carolina netminder, Antti Raanta (1-1, 2.40 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in three games played), stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

As a result of Sunday’s win in Game 4, the Bruins tied the series 2-2 heading back to PNC Arena Tuesday night for Game 5.

With a five-point effort– including a pair of goals– for Marchand and three points (one goal, two assists) for Patrice Bergeron on Sunday, the Boston duo continued to climb the ranks of Bruins franchise postseason records.

Bergeron is second in club goals in Stanley Cup Playoff history with 49, while Marchand usurped Phil Esposito for sole possession of the third-most with 48.

Bergeron now has 77 postseason assists– good enough for the third-most in team history– while Marchand jumped Bobby Orr for the fourth-most with 68 to Orr’s 66.

Bergeron (126) also surpassed David Krejci (124) for the second-most postseason points in Boston’s franchise history trailing only Ray Bourque (161) for the most overall.

The B’s were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Jesper Frödén (lower body), Hampus Lindholm (upper body) and Charlie McAvoy (COVID-19 protocol) in the, 5-2, win against the Canes– prompting head coach, Bruce Cassidy, to make a few changes among his defensive pairings due to McAvoy’s late removal from the lineup.

Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo were promoted to the first pairing with Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton filling out the rest of the top-four defenders.

Mike Reilly suited up alongside Josh Brown on the third defensive pairing as a result with Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh and Kyle Keyser comprising the short list of healthy scratches for Boston in Game 4.

Reilly caught Max Domi with a high stick and presented the afternoon’s first power play to the Hurricanes as a result at 2:24 of the first period.

The Bruins made the kill on the ensuing special teams play, however.

Midway through the opening frame, Curtis Lazar was penalized for interference at 11:44, but once more Carolina failed to convert on the resulting skater advantage.

The Canes caught Boston in the vulnerable minute after special teams action, though, as Jordan Staal sent a pass to Brett Pesce (1) in the slot as the Carolina defender pinched in from the point and buried the rubber biscuit on Swayman’s five-hole.

Staal (2) and Domi (1) had the assists on Pesce’s goal and the Hurricanes jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 14:06.

Carolina’s scored first in every game so far this series, but Boston answered back in a hurry about a couple minutes later when Bergeron (3) snuck a shot through Raanta’s five-hole from the doorstep to tie the game, 1-1, at 16:09.

David Pastrnak (2) and Marchand (4) tallied the assists on the goal as the Bruins evened things up 2:03 after Pesce’s goal.

About a minute later, Staal cut a rut to the sin bin for hooking and presented Boston with another power play at 17:25.

The B’s time on the skater advantage was cut short, however, when Taylor Hall tripped Vincent Trocheck at 17:48 of the first period resulting in 1:38 of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for Carolina in the remainder.

Entering the first intermission, though, the Bruins and Hurricanes were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with the Canes leading in shots on goal, 10-6, after 20 minutes.

Carolina also led in blocked shots (4-2), giveaways (4-2), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (62-38), while both teams managed two takeaways aside.

The Hurricanes were 0-for-3 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

The Canes wrapped the puck around the attacking zone quickly in the middle frame before Nino Niederreiter found Staal (1) for a one-timer goal from the slot to give Carolina a, 2-1, lead 33 seconds into the second period.

Niederreiter (1) and Tony DeAngelo (5) had the assists on the goal.

Less than a minute later, Andrei Svechnikov was given an interference infraction at 59 seconds of the second period and the Bruins went on the power play.

Boston’s 5-on-4 quickly became a 5-on-3 skater advantage when Trocheck sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play at 1:37 of the second period, yielding an abbreviated two-skater advantage to Boston for a span of 1:23.

The Bruins, however, did not convert on the power play opportunity.

Teuvo Teräväinen hooked Pastrnak at 13:40, but Carolina’s penalty kill managed to get their job done without issue.

Late in the period, however, Niederreiter tripped Craig Smith at 17:35 and presented the B’s with another skater advantage.

This time, Raanta made a save on a shot by Marchand before the puck dropped to the ice and sat in the crease at the Hurricanes netminder’s feet prior to Jake DeBrusk (1) burying it on the far side with one quick swoop.

Carolina’s head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, challenged the call on the ice on the basis that he believed DeBrusk made enough contact with his stick on Raanta prior to the goal to overturn the call, however the official review deemed DeBrusk’s play to be concurrent with the rulebook in terms of how a player is allowed to go after a loose puck in the crease.

The call on the ice stood. Good goal.

Boston tied it, 2-2, while Marchand (5) and Bergeron (2) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s power-play goal at 18:44 of the second period.

As a result of the unsuccessful challenge, the Hurricanes were assessed a bench minor and Niederreiter went back to the sin bin to serve the infraction at 18:44.

The Bruins wound up with another 5-on-3 advantage after Sebastian Aho caught Bergeron with a high stick near the Boston captain’s eye and drew blood.

Aho was charged with a four-minute double minor for high sticking at 19:35 of the second period and the B’s went on the 5-on-3 advantage for the next 68 seconds– spilling over into the final frame as a result.

Through 40 minutes of action, Boston and Carolina were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 19-16, including a, 13-6, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Canes held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the B’s led in takeaways (4-3).

Both teams had 24 hits aside heading into the second intermission.

Entering the final frame, the Hurricanes were 0-for-3 and the Bruins were 1-for-7 on the power play.

Cassidy sent out five forwards to start the third period as the Bruins had time remaining on the power play with Aho in the box for Carolina.

It didn’t take Boston long to pull ahead of the Hurricanes.

Charlie Coyle found Marchand in the high slot by the top of the right circle where Marchand (2) riffled a shot over Raanta’s glove side to give the Bruins their first lead of the afternoon, 3-2, 44 seconds into the third period.

Coyle (2) and DeBrusk (2) notched the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal.

A couple minutes later, Grzelcyk caught Brady Skjei with a high stick and yielded 52 seconds of 4-on-4 action at 2:46 of the third period as a result before an abbreviated power play for Carolina would commence.

The Bruins managed to kill off Grzelcyk’s minor without issue.

Early in the final frame, Bergeron won an attacking zone faceoff over to Marchand before Marchand setup Pastrnak (2) for the catch and release goal from point blank on the low glove side while Raanta dove across the crease.

Marchand (6) and Bergeron (3) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the Bruins extended their lead to two-goals, 4-2, at 5:41 of the third period.

DeAngelo cross checked Lazar in the face at the midpoint of the final frame and presented Boston with another power play at 10:00, but the Bruins failed to convert on the advantage while the Carolina defender was in the box.

With 3:48 remaining in the action, Brind’Amour used his timeout and pulled Raanta for an extra attacker.

Shortly thereafter, Marchand (3) buried the puck in the empty net to secure a, 5-2, win for Boston at 19:25 of the third period.

Coyle (3) and Carlo (1) had the assists on the goal as the B’s extended their lead to three-goals.

In the dying seconds of the action, Nick Foligno flipped the puck over the glass for an automatic delay of game minor at 19:57.

The Hurricanes did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage as the final horn sounded on a resounding victory for the Bruins in Game 4– tying the series 2-2 in the process.

Boston left their own ice leading in shots on goal, 28-26, despite trailing Carolina, 10-9, in shots on net in the third period alone.

The B’s also led in hits (37-29), while the Canes left TD Garden leading in blocked shots (15-6) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams had six giveaways aside and the Hurricanes were 0-for-5, while the Bruins were 2-for-9 on the power play on Sunday.

Boston improved to 2-1 when tied after the first period and 1-0 when tied after the second period this postseason, while Carolina fell to 1-2 when tied after one and 0-1 when tied after two in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins tied the series 2-2 as a result of their win in Game 4, which means a 3-2 series lead is up for grabs for either team Tuesday night at PNC Arena in Raleigh in Game 5.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on ESPN in the United States, as well as SN360 and TVAS in Canada.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Boston takes Game 3 with, 4-2, victory on home ice

Four different players scored for the Boston Bruins in their, 4-2, win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of their 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup Friday night at TD Garden.

Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall each had a goal for Boston in their first victory against Carolina since Dec. 3, 2019 (regular season and postseason).

Jeremy Swayman (1-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in one game played) made his first postseason start and picked up the win with a 25-save effort on 27 shots faced.

Swayman became the fourth Bruins rookie goaltender to make their first career playoff start on home ice and win, joining Tiny Thompson (Game 1 of the 1929 Semifinal against Montréal), Mike Moffat (Game 1 of the 1982 Adams Division Semifinal against Buffalo) and Andrew Raycroft (Game 1 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against Montréal) in the process.

Hurricanes goaltender, Pyotr Kochetkov (1-1, 3.30 goals-against average, .900 save percentage in two games played), made 24 saves on 28 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins trail in the series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Sunday afternoon in Boston.

The B’s were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Jesper Frödén (lower body) and Hampus Lindholm (upper body) on Friday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup.

First, Cassidy reunited Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak on the first line, while moving Jake DeBrusk to the second line right wing with Hall at left wing and Erik Haula at center.

Tomáš Nosek was promoted to the third line left wing with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith in their usual roles, while Nick Foligno, Curtis Lazar and Chris Wagner made up the fourth line.

On defense, Mike Reilly went in for Lindholm alongside Charlie McAvoy while Lindholm was out due to injury.

Trent Frederic joined Josh Brown, Anton Blidh and Kyle Keyser among Boston’s healthy scratches for Game 3.

Jordan Martinook caught Hall with a high stick at 4:47 of the first period, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on their first power play of the night.

Less than five minutes later, Brendan Smith kept the puck in the attacking zone and threw a shot towards the net before Vincent Trocheck (2) corralled the puck and wrapped it around Swayman with a change of pace.

Smith (1) had the only assist on Trocheck’s goal and the Hurricanes took a, 1-0, lead at 9:17 of the first period as a result.

Moments later, Martinook cut a rut back to the sin bin for hooking Lazar at 13:10.

Once more, however, Boston wasn’t able to muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage.

Instead, the B’s presented Carolina with their first power play of the night at 16:07 of the first period after Haula hauled down Jesper Fast with a trip.

The Canes didn’t convert on the power play and, worse, gave up a shorthanded goal against in the process.

DeBrusk broke into the attacking zone and connected with Coyle (1) on a tape-to-tape pass that Coyle batted out of mid-air to beat Kochetkov to tie the game, 1-1, at 17:16.

DeBrusk (1) had the only assist on Coyle’s shorthanded goal.

Late in the period, Marchand slashed the Tony DeAngelo’s stick out of his hands and took a trip to the sin bin as a result at 19:25.

Boston’s penalty kill would spill over into the middle frame unscathed, however.

The score was tied, 1-1, after 20 minutes of action, with the Hurricanes leading the Bruins in shots on goal, 11-8.

Carolina also dominated in blocked shots (7-3) and takeaways (7-0), while the B’s led in giveaways (3-2), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Marchand (1) cut to the slot reminiscent of a prominent scoring move in EA Sports’ NHL 94, settled the puck and buried the rubber biscuit in the back of the twine to give Boston their first lead against Carolina all year (regular season and postseason combined) at 5:41 of the second period.

Bergeron (1) had the only assist on Marchand’s tally as the Bruins took a, 2-1, lead on the scoreboard.

About a minute later, Connor Clifton cross checked Martinook and presented the Canes with a power play at 6:48, but Carolina couldn’t muster a goal on the resulting skater advantage.

Less than a minute later, DeAngelo and Marchand exchanged pleasantries by the benches and received roughing and interference infractions, respectively, at 7:44.

Shortly thereafter, Martinook tried to hit Hall in the neutral zone and ended up taking the worst of it– colliding and landing awkwardly, while sustaining a lower body injury in the process.

Moments later, Ian Cole interfered with Lazar and yielded another power play to Boston at 12:36.

It quickly became a two-skater advantage at 13:05, when Trocheck hooked Marchand and presented the Bruins with a 5-on-3 power play as a result for about 1:31.

The Hurricanes killed Cole’s minor, but couldn’t keep Boston’s power play off the board as Pastrnak (1) snapped a shot from the right dot past Kochetkov’s short side to extend the lead to two-goals.

Marchand (2) and Coyle (1) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal and the B’s led, 3-1, at 14:53 of the second period.

While the 17,850 in attendance celebrated the goal, however, a pane of glass came crashing down on timeout coordinator, Joe Foley, in Boston’s penalty box requiring medical assistance from both trainers and in-arena staff.

Foley was stretchered off the ice and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for observation and should be fine, NHL spokesperson, John Dellapina, told The Associated Press.

After a seven-minute delay, play resumed and Clifton cut a rut to the box shortly thereafter for roughing, which was briefly reviewed by the on-ice officials as Brendan Smith’s visor cut the Hurricanes defender and drew blood at 15:41.

The Bruins made the kill on Clifton’s infraction.

Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 21-19, in shots on goal.

The B’s had a, 13-8, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone and led in hits (21-19), blocked shots (19-8), as well as faceoff win% (56-44) after 40 minutes of play.

Carolina held the advantage in takeaways (7-3) and giveaways (9-6), while the Hurricanes went 0-for-4 on the power play through two periods.

Boston was 1-for-4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Prior to the third period, the Canes tweeted that Martinook would not return to the night’s action with a lower body injury and head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, told reporters after the game that Martinook’s prognosis didn’t look good.

Meanwhile, Trocheck tripped Nosek at 3:49 of the third period and yielded another power play to Boston.

The Bruins made quick work of the resulting skater advantage with Hall (2) dishing a pass across the slot to Pastrnak before receiving a setup in return for a one-timer goal from the doorstep of the crease as Kochetkov fell behind going from right to left.

Pastrnak (1) and Marchand (3) had the assists on Hall’s power-play goal and the B’s had a, 4-1, lead at 4:08 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Foligno was penalized for cross checking at 4:48, but Carolina couldn’t muster a power-play goal.

Midway through the third, however, Jaccob Slavin (1) lobbed a shot from the point with eyes past Swayman on the glove side to make it a two-goal deficit.

Slavin’s goal was unassisted as the Hurricanes trailed, 4-2, at 11:30 of the third period.

With 2:42 remaining in regulation, Brind’Amour pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

He later used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:36 left on the clock, but Boston stood tall and continued to block shots to the very end of the night with Derek Forbort tying a team-record for most blocked shots in a single postseason game (9), done twice before by Dennis Seidenberg in 2013, and the late Steve Montador in 2009.

At the final horn, the Bruins had taken Game 3 by a final score of, 4-2, and cut the series lead down to 2-1 in favor of the Hurricanes.

Boston left their own ice leading in shots on goal, 28-27, despite Carolina outshooting the Bruins, 8-7, in the third period alone.

The B’s also wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in blocked shots (29-12) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the Canes left TD Garden leading in giveaways (12-7) and hits (40-33) after Game 3.

The Hurricanes went 0-for-5 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2-for-5 on the power play on Friday.

The Bruins improved to 14-15 all time in Game 3s when trailing 2-0 in a best-of-seven series, as well as 1-1 when tied after the first period and 1-0 when leading after the second period this postseason.

Carolina, meanwhile, fell to 1-1 when tied after one and 0-1 when trailing through two periods in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the loss in Game 3, the Hurricanes now lead the series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

Puck drop in Boston is set for 12:30 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on ESPN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada.

Carolina can take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Raleigh for Game 5 while the B’s could even the series 2-2 with another win in Game 4.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Hurricanes take 1-0 series lead with, 5-1, victory against Boston

Two goals late in the second period set the momentum in motion for the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night as they opened up their 2022 First Round series against the Boston Bruins with a, 5-1, win in Game 1 at PNC Arena.

Antti Raanta (1-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .972 save percentage in one game played) made 35 saves on 36 shots against in the win for Carolina in his first career start in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Boston goaltender, Linus Ullmark (0-1, 4.07 goals-against average, .833 save percentage in one game played), stopped 20 out of 24 shots faced in the loss in his postseason debut.

The Bruins are meeting the Hurricanes for the seventh time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history with Boston holding an all-time series advantage, 5-1.

The two clubs are facing each other for the third time in four years with the B’s having most recently defeated the Canes in the 2020 First Round in five games while the league held its Eastern Conference playoff bubble in Toronto due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that summer.

Carolina won all three games against Boston in the 2021-22 regular season with 16 goals for and one goal against over the course of the year.

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Monday as the two players missed a combined 69 games in the regular season due to injuries.

Jack Studnicka, Marc McLaughlin, Jack Ahcan and Oskar Steen were all reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) prior to Game 1 against Carolina as Providence is set to take on the Bridgeport Islanders in their 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs First Round series.

Kyle Keyser was recalled from Providence to serve as Boston’s third goaltender at practice this postseason.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, reunited his lines from the penultimate game in the regular season for Game 1 against Carolina, rendering Mike Reilly, Chris Wagner, Josh Brown, Anton Blidh and Keyser as healthy scratches for the B’s.

Brady Skjei sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 3:00 of the first period, but Boston’s power play failed to convert on the skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, Jordan Staal’s stick work pushed the puck over the line while pushing Ullmark’s pad through the crease in the process and was deemed incidental goaltender interference.

As a result, the Hurricanes were not penalized and the call on the ice (no goal) stood.

Moments later, Erik Haula cut a rut to the box for holding and presented the Canes with their first power play of the night at 13:53, but Boston’s penalty kill stood tall and made the kill.

Patrice Bergeron presented Carolina with their second skater advantage of the night for tripping Staal at 16:42, but the Hurricanes failed to capitalize on the resulting skater advantage.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 14-10.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), while the Canes led in takeaways (7-4), giveaways (6-5), hits (22-12) and faceoff win percentage (57-43)– reflecting the momentum of the opening frame where Boston got out to a hot start for about 10 minutes before Carolina rocketed to the intermission.

The Hurricanes were 0-for-2 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway through the second period, Ian Cole tripped Trent Frederic at 8:15, but Boston couldn’t muster a shot past Raanta on the ensuing power play.

In another surge in momentum late in the period, Jaccob Slavin riffled a shot from the point that Seth Jarvis (1) tipped through Ullmark’s five-hole to give Carolina the first goal of the game at 16:28 of the second period.

Slavin (1) and Cole (1) tallied the assists on Jarvis’ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Hurricanes led, 1-0.

Carolina scored a pair of goals in a span of 2:10 when Nino Niederreiter (1) sent a shot past Ullmark on the glove side from just outside the faceoff circles in the attacking zone.

Tony DeAngelo (1) and Martin Nečas (1) notched the assists as the Hurricanes grabbed a, 2-0, lead at 18:38.

Heading into the second intermission, the Canes led, 2-0, on the scoreboard despite trailing the Bruins, 25-19, in shots on goal.

Boston held an advantage in shots in the middle frame alone, 11-9, while Carolina led in blocked shots (13-10), takeaways (11-6), giveaways (14-9), hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play through 40 minutes of play Monday night at PNC Arena.

Taylor Hall (1) fluttered a catch and release shot past Raanta to cut Carolina’s lead in half at 2:53 of the third period and the Bruins trailed, 2-1, early in the final frame as a result.

Haula (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) had the assists on Hall’s goal.

Moments later– after Hall rang the post at the other end of the rink– Teuvo Teräväinen (1) scored on a 2-on-1 while Matt Grzelcyk got caught out of position while trying to pinch, leaving Brandon Carlo to defend on his own.

Vincent Trocheck (1) had the only assist on Teräväinen’s goal to give the Hurricanes a, 3-1, lead at 7:02 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame, Brendan Smith interfered with Craig Smith at 10:00, but the B’s failed to convert on the resulting skater advantage.

Late in the period, Trocheck (1) waltzed right into the attacking zone and cut to the net before flipping the puck over Ullmark as the Bruins goaltender tried to make a save with his mask.

Max Domi (1) and Brett Pesce (1) had the assists on Trocheck’s goal and the Hurricanes took a, 4-1, lead at 16:58 of the third period.

Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 2:54 remaining in the action to rally his skaters with an extra attacker, but Sebastian Aho quickly received a pass from Aho and selflessly setup Andrei Svechnikov (1) for the empty net goal to give Carolina a, 5-1, lead at 17:59.

Aho (1) and Jarvis (1) tallied the assists on Svechnikov’s goal.

A couple minutes later, Frederic exchanged pleasantries with Smith after a brief stoppage and received a roughing minor as well as a ten-minute misconduct at 19:53 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Hurricanes won, 5-1, and took a 1-0 series lead in their 2022 First Round matchup with Boston.

The Bruins exited the ice leading in shots on goal, 36-25, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots, 17-16, while Carolina left their own building leading in giveaways (20-10), hits (48-42) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play on Monday.

The Hurricanes take a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 at PNC Arena Wednesday night.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on ESPN in the United States, as well as SN360 and TVAS2 in Canada.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Marchand nets hat trick in, 5-1, victory over Montréal

Brad Marchand scored a hat trick, while Curtis Lazar had three points (two goals, one assist) and Linus Ullmark made 24 saves in a, 5-1, win for the Boston Bruins over the Montréal Canadiens Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Ullmark (12-5-0, 2.48 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 17 games played) turned aside 24 out of 25 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Montréal starter, Jake Allen (5-16-2, 3.15 goals-against average, .901 save percentage in 24 games played), made five saves on seven shots against before an injury forced him out of the game in the loss.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, replaced Allen with Sam Montembeault (1-6-2, 3.99 goals-against average, .895 save percentage in 12 games played) 17:11 into the action.

Montembeault made 31 saves on 34 shots for no decision.

The Bruins improved to 20-11-2 (42 points) overall and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Habs fell to 7-24-4 (18 points) on the season and stuck in 8th place (last) in the Atlantic.

The B’s are now 2-0-0 against the Canadiens this season in their regular season series with a pair of games left to play in Montréal.

Tuukka Rask served as the backup goaltender for Boston on Wednesday after recovering from offseason hip surgery and signing a one-year contract with a cap hit of $1.000 million ($545,000 in actual salary given the time of the signing) on Tuesday.

Rask went 15-5-2 in 24 games last season with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in that span, as well as two shutouts.

In 560 career National Hockey League games since making his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season, Rask has 306 wins, a career 2.27 goals-against average, a career .921 save percentage and 52 shutouts.

He holds Bruins franchise records in games played by a goalie (560), wins (306), shots against (15,485), saves (14,269), save percentage (.922) and minutes (32,206) and ranks second in goals-against average (2.27, trailing Tiny Thompson’s 1.99 career GAA in a B’s sweater), as well as shutouts (52, trailing Thompson’s 74).

As a result of Rask’s signing, Jeremy Swayman was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) as Swayman is not eligible for the NHL’s taxi squad designation.

Boston Sports Journal‘s Conor Ryan noted in a tweet on Tuesday that Rask “was assigned to Providence 10 times between Sept. 2007 and Feb. 2009 before finally carving out an NHL spot. One of those assignments was two days after a 21-year-old Rask had a 35-save shutout against NYR. It’s part of the process,” in an effort to quell feelings of uneasiness watching Swaymen get sent down among Bruins fans.

B’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, informed reporters on Tuesday that Swayman, while disappointed, understands the organization’s decision and shows the drive to get back to the NHL level if an injury or otherwise should occur and necessitate another call-up.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Nick Foligno (lower body), Connor Clifton (COVID-19 protocol), Derek Forbort (COVID-19 protocol) and Trent Frederic (upper body) on Wednesday night.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters ahead of the game against Montréal that Frederic would miss the next two games– at least– while Foligno could return to action next week.

Meanwhile, Jake DeBrusk and Tomáš Nosek returned from the league’s COVID-19 protocol and were re-inserted in the lineup against the Canadiens.

DeBrusk suited up on the third line in his usual spot at left wing with Charlie Coyle at center and Oskar Steen at right wing, while Nosek resumed his regular role as the fourth line center– flanked by Anton Blidh and Lazar on the wings.

On defense, Cassidy left his pairings alone from Monday night’s, 7-3, win in Washington, D.C. despite Boston having called up Tyler Lewington on an emergency basis.

Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore, Troy Grosenick and Steven Fogarty were reassigned to Providence on Tuesday in what was simply a paper transaction for Vaakanainen and Moore (the pair were recalled prior to facing the Canadiens), while Grosenick and Fogarty remained with the P-Bruins on Wednesday.

Boston’s long list of players out of the lineup against Montréal included Frederic (upper body), Foligno (lower body), Forbort (COVID-19 protocol), Lewington (taxi squad), Zboril (right ACL), Clifton (COVID-19 protocol) and Karson Kuhlman (healthy scratch).

Prior to the singing of the anthems, the Bruins held a moment of silence to honor the life of Teddy Balkind, a 16-year-old hockey player from Connecticut that was killed as a result of an injury that he sustained in a game last week.

Midway through the opening frame, Jeff Petry had his helmet knocked off by Blidh and kept on playing as if nothing had happened. Except that’s a penalty these days.

Petry cut a rut to the box for playing without a helmet and presented the Bruins with the night’s first power play at 9:22 of the first period, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

Late in the period, Marchand snuck onto the ice in the midst of a line change and stood open on the left side of the net on the doorstep as Nosek sent a shot-pass to Marchand (17) for the redirection behind Allen.

The Bruins led, 1-0, as Nosek (5) and Lazar (6) notched the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the night at 14:43 of the first period.

A mere 15 seconds later, Marchand (18) one-timed the puck out of mid-air through Allen’s five-hole after the rubber biscuit was initially shot by Craig Smith off of a Montréal defender— high and wide before bouncing off the glass over the net to Marchand.

Smith (8) and Patrice Bergeron (16) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the game and Boston led, 2-0, at 14:58.

Marchand, as a result, became the first Bruin to score a pair of goals in 15 seconds since Milan Lucic notched a pair en route to scoring a hat trick against the Florida Panthers in a, 4-0, win on Nov. 18, 2010, at TD Garden.

Coincidentally, Marchand would later complete a hat trick of his own in Wednesday night’s victory.

After giving up two goals that were 15 seconds apart, Allen spoke with a Canadiens athletic trainer and was taken out of the game.

Late in the period, DeBrusk sent a shot towards the net looking for an intentional deflection off of Lazar’s (4) foot and into the twine.

DeBrusk (5) and Matt Grzelcyk (12) earned the assists as the Bruins took a, 3-0, lead at 19:10 of the first period.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 13-6, in shots on goal.

The B’s also led in faceoff win percentage (59-41), while the Canadiens dominated in blocked shots (7-1), takeaways (5-1), giveaways (2-0) and hits (14-12).

Montréal had yet to see any action on the skater advantage, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Bergeron slashed Jonathan Drouin to avoid giving up a quick goal in the second period, but was sent to the box at 3:19 anyway– yielding a power play to the Canadiens as a result.

Montréal couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but got another chance at 6:41 of the second period when Erik Haula was assessed a hooking minor for yanking on Mike Hoffman with his stick.

The Canadiens were subsequently embarrassed on the ensuing special teams play, however, as Marchand (19) scored a shorthanded goal to complete his hat trick and give Boston a, 4-0, lead at 7:10.

Moore (1) and Bergeron (17) had the assists as Marchand picked out a hat from the ice to give to an equipment manager on the Bruins’ bench for safekeeping until after the game.

For the fifth time in his career, Marchand had scored a hat trick and became just the second Bruin to amass three goals in a game this season as Bergeron had previously done so in a, 5-1, win against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 4, 2021.

Less than a minute later, Ben Chiarot was sent to the box for roughing at 7:50, but Boston couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.

Moments later, Michael Pezzetta (2) received a pass from Brett Kulak and spun around before flinging the puck on Ullmark’s short side– scoring a goal as the Bruins failed to clear the zone and broke down in their own end.

Kulak (7) had the only assist as the Canadiens trailed, 4-1, at 10:46 of the second period.

A minute later, Bergeron went back to the box for roughing at 11:49 as he retaliated for a hit behind his own net that he didn’t like when a Montréal player took down Grzelcyk below the goal line.

Montréal’s power play was cut short as Nick Suzuki was penalized for holding at 13:41, resulting in a little 4-on-4 action for nine seconds before an abbreviated power play for Boston began.

Finally, at 19:10 of the second period, Kulak cut a rut to the sin bin for slashing, but the Bruins wouldn’t convert on the skater advantage even as it bled into the final frame of regulation.

Through 40 minutes of play, the B’s led, 4-1, on the scoreboard and dominated in shots on goal, 28-15, including a, 15-9, advantage in the middle frame alone.

The Habs, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (10-3), takeaways (6-2), giveaways (5-4) and hits (22-17), as Boston controlled faceoff win%, 53-47.

Montréal was 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Prior to the start of the third period, the Bruins tweeted that Moore would not return to the night’s action with an upper body injury.

Smith tripped Joel Armia 47 seconds into the third period and yielded 26 seconds of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for Montréal as a result.

The Canadiens didn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Marchand took down Suzuki as the Canadiens forward almost had his stick on the puck resulting in an interference minor for Marchand at 5:48 of the third period.

It wasn’t that much longer before things started to get chippy on the ice between the two rival clubs.

A scrum after a whistle at 6:57 of the third period quickly descended into an exchange of forceful shoves and move as Pezzetta and Carlo received roughing minors while Chris Wideman head-butted Haula– further escalating the situation.

Haula received a minor for roughing, while Wideman was assessed two minutes for roughing as well as an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction.

Both teams skated at 4-on-4 for a little longer before resuming full even strength, resulting in a dominant possession for the Bruins at the other end.

Vaakanainen blasted a shot from the point that deflected off of Lazar’s (5) blade and flew under Montembeault’s blocker to give Boston another four-goal lead at 10:19 of the third period.

Vaakanainen (3) and Blidh (6) tallied the assists on Lazar’s second goal of the game and the Bruins led, 5-1.

Minutes later, Ullmark and Laurent Dauphin exchanged pleasantries leading a quick chop that went uncalled as Ullmark instead received an interference minor and Dauphin was handed an embellishment infraction.

Taylor Hall served Ullmark’s penalty while Dauphin had to answer Haula in an exchange of fisticuffs as the boiling point had been reached at 15:o5 of the third period in just the ninth fighting major this season for the Bruins.

The action simmered down afterwards and remained relatively calm as the final minutes winded down and the final horn sounded.

Boston had won, 5-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-25.

Montréal left TD Garden with the advantage in blocked shots (10-4), giveaways (10-5) and hits (29-21), while the Bruins exited their own ice leading in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams went 0/5 on the power play on Wednesday as the B’s earned their third three-game win streak of the season.

Boston improved to 13-5-0 (6-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 14-0-0 (6-0-0 at home) when leading after one period and 15-1-0 (5-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, fell to 2-20-1 (0-11-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-13-2 (0-9-2 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 1-20-2 (0-11-2 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins (1-0-0) continue their seven-game homestand on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) before hosting the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks will also visit Boston before the B’s hit the road on Jan. 26th in Colorado.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Minnesota Wild 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-16-5, 75 points

3rd in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Vegas

Additions: F Frédérick Gaudreau, F Dominic Turgeon, D Jordie Benn, D Kevin Czuczman, D Alex Goligoski, D Joe Hicketts, D Dmitry Kulikov, D Jon Lizotte, D Jon Merrill

Subtractions: F Nick Bonino (signed with SJS), F Gabriel Dumont (signed with TBL), F Marcus Johansson (signed with SEA), F Luke Johnson (signed with WPG), F Gerald Mayhew (signed with PHI), F Zach Parise (buyout, signed with NYI), F Dmitry Sokolov (NMHL), D Matt Bartkowski (signed to a PTO with PIT), D Louie Belpedio (signed with MTL), D Ian Cole (signed with CAR), D Brad Hunt (signed with VAN), D Brennan Menell (traded to TOR), D Carson Soucy (expansion, SEA), D Ryan Suter (buyout, signed with DAL)

Still Unsigned: D Ian McCoshen

Re-signed: F Will Bitten, F Nick Bjugstad, F Joseph Cramarossa, F Brandon Duhaime, F Joel Eriksson Ek, F Kevin Fiala, F Kirill Kaprizov, F Kyle Rau, F Mason Shaw, D Dakota Mermis, G Andrew Hammond

Offseason Analysis: It took all summer, but it didn’t linger into the fall as Wild General Manager, Bill Guerin, and forward, Kirill Kaprizov, were able to hammer out a five-year extension worth $9.000 million per season– forcing this entire offseason recap/season preview to be re-written.

Going into Tuesday, Minnesota was bound to receive a letter grade in the “D” range for failing to secure Kaprizov before training camp, despite a few other moves that have actually been pretty good for them– salary cap penalties via buyouts aside.

Late Tuesday, Kaprizov re-signed and all is just about forgiven for the Wild.

Since joining the league as an expansion team in 2000, Minnesota has rarely had a competitive team that can make a deep run into the postseason. They’ve consistently been good, but never good enough.

Marian Gaborik came and went, Mikko Koivu stayed loyal until he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets for a brief stint last season prior to retiring less than a month into the 2020-21 schedule and then the dawn of the Kaprizov Era began.

After spending time in the Kontinental Hockey League for his early development, Kaprizov amassed 27-24–51 totals in 55 games in his debut season with Minnesota as a 24-year-old left wing.

He’s the real deal and the Wild are leaning into it.

Though Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson and others weren’t re-signed as part of Minnesota’s depth that got them all the way to a Game 7 at T-Mobile Arena against the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2021 First Round, Guerin held things down where it counts– the core.

Joel Eriksson Ek signed an eight-year extension worth $5.250 million per season after a breakout season with 30 points (19 goals, 11 assists) in 56 games last season after amassing 8-21–29 totals in 62 games in 2019-20.

If the last two seasons are an indication of what’s to come, then the Wild have a steal of a deal in Eriksson Ek’s cap hit as the 24-year-old emerges in his prime.

Guerin brought back Kevin Fiala on a one-year extension worth $5.100 million– retaining restricted-free agency status over the 25-year-old forward heading into next offseason– after putting up 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) in 133 games with the Wild in parts of three seasons since he was acquired on Feb. 25, 2019.

In parts of five seasons with the Nashville Predators from 2014-15 through 2018-19, Fiala had 45-52–97 totals in 204 games.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken, because clearly something is clicking in Minnesota and the Wild are reaping the benefits.

Alex Goligoski and Jon Merrill are fine additions to the defense, though as for how efficient they’ll be compared to the loss of Ryan Suter remains to be seen.

Guerin bought out the remainder of Zach Parise and Suter’s matching contracts on July 13, 2021, and in doing so saved Minnesota some valuable cap space to sign Kaprizov and build off of the new core.

That said, Parise and Suter will cost the Wild about $4.744 million in dead cap space for 2021-22, then $12.744 million in dead cap space in 2022-23, before the buyout penalties reach a crescendo with a combined $14.744 million in dead cap money from 2023-24 through 2024-25 before Parise and Suter’s penalties taper off with a combined cost of $1.667 million in 2025-26, as well as 2026-27.

This offseason might have been a breeze, but next offseason is a different story– especially as building and maintaining contender status gets difficult in the next few seasons too.

Ultimately, the cost of buying out Parise and Suter may or may not even be a headache for Guerin to deal with. It all depends on how the team performs between now and a couple of seasons from now.

For now, Guerin has about $3.215 million in cap space to play with for the 2021-22 season.

Over the summer, the Seattle Kraken formed their first roster and did Minnesota a favor without asking.

Seattle could’ve selected Kaapo Kähkönen, since the Wild protected Cam Talbot, but the Kraken went in a different direction and snagged Carson Soucy from Minnesota’s depth on the blue line.

Offseason Grade: B+

Though it took a little longer than both sides had probably hoped– and with more frustration than expected– Guerin re-signed his No. 1 priority in Kaprizov before the start of training camp.

The biggest challenge for Minnesota– other than improving on last season’s success before a First Round exit– is finding a way to keep the band together next offseason, when Fiala, Jordan Greenway and Kähkönen are on the short list of important pending-restricted free agents.

Meanwhile, guys like Victor Rask, Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, Nico Sturm, Goligoski, Jordie Benn and Merrill have a little more flexibility to come and go as they please– assuming there’s enough cap space in face of the Parise and Suter buyout penalty crunch on top of what might still be a flat cap for the 2022-23 season due to the ongoing pandemic.

At the very least, 2023-24 should be a bit more optimistic with the latest U.S. broadcasting rights deals for ESPN and Turner Sports inflating league revenue all-around and likely bumping up the salary cap as a result.

For now, Minnesota’s transition continues, but for once there’s a sense of stability given their best players are 25 and under and enjoy being in a Wild uniform.

Though they didn’t bring the alleged “State of Hockey” a Stanley Cup championship in their tenure, Parise and Suter made playing for Minnesota cool as the franchise found its footing now entering its second generation.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions in Game 5 shutout

Ross Colton’s goal was more than enough to seal the deal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in a, 1-0, shutout victory on home ice over the Montréal Canadiens as he became the first goaltender since legendary Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to play in every playoff game en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup rings.

It was also the 5th shutout (6th of his postseason career) for Vasilevskiy this postseason as the Lightning goaltender became the first in league history to win all four series clinching games in a shutout.

He’s also won his last five consecutive playoff series’ in shutout fashion as Tampa shutout the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before going on their 2021 run by shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 6 of Tampa’s 2021 First Round matchup, eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, in Game 5 in the 2021 Second Round and beating the New York Islanders and Canadiens, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, respectively.

Colton was also the fourth rookie to score a Stanley Cup clinching goal since 1927, in Wednesday night’s effort.

The Bolts are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, as the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2016 and 2017.

Tampa also did so in a span of about 10 months, since the ongoing global pandemic altered the National Hockey League’s postseason calendar for 2020, and shortened the 2020-21 league calendar to 56 games in the regular season, followed by a postseason that began in May and ended in the first week of July.

Last year, the Lightning raised the Cup as the designated road team at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta at a neutral site as the NHL played through the COVID-19 pandemic in a bubble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Bolts raised the Cup in front of their home fans as 2004 Stanley Cup champion with Tampa, Dave Andreychuk, watched along in attendance to cap the 2020-21 Lightning’s run.

In 2004, NHL on ESPN and NHL on ABC coverage had come to an end with the conclusion of Tampa’s Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 2004-05 season-long lockout that ultimately canceled all NHL action for the year meant that ESPN could punt their broadcasting rights to the 2005-06 season or opt out altogether.

They chose the latter.

That’s when NBC stepped in and the NHL had games on Outdoor Life Network, then Versus, NBC Sports Network (which shortly rebranded as NBCSN), as well as on NBC.

In 2021, NHL on NBC signed off for the final time as the league shifts its focus back to ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports for the next seven seasons in the United States starting with the 2021-22 season (the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be on ESPN2 this month, if you’re wondering).

Back at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage in 23 games played) made 22 saves on 22 shots against en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (13-9, 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 22 games) stopped 29 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, improved to 9-0 all time in a series when leading 2-0, while the Bolts became the first team to raise the Cup on home ice since Chicago did so in 2015.

Pat Maroon, meanwhile, also became the first player (and fourth overall) since Ed Litzenberger to win three consecutive Cups with two different teams as Litzenberger won with Chicago in 1961, as well as Toronto from 1962-64.

Neither Habs head coach, Dominique Ducharme, nor Cooper, made a change to their lineups for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Alex Killorn remained out of the lineup for the Lightning for fourth game in-a-row after blocking a shot in Game 1. He told reporters after the game that he suffered a broken left fibula in Game 1 and wanted to suit up again if he could play.

Corey Perry kicked things off in Game 5 with a hooking infraction as Perry impeded Mathieu Joseph’s play and presented the Lightning with the game’s first power play at 3:21 of the first period.

Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, the Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Jan Rutta cross checked Artturi Lehkonen at 7:19.

Montréal’s time on the advantage was unchanged as Erik Cernak earned an interference minor and Perry was assessed an embellishment infraction almost a minute after Rutta cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:15.

About 30 seconds after Cernak and Perry went to the sin bin, though, Josh Anderson hooked Blake Coleman and joined his teammates in Montréal’s box at 8:43 of the opening frame.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for 37 seconds before Tampa had an abbreviated power play thereafter.

Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Bolts were outshooting the Habs, 11-2, with 9:53 remaining in the opening period– reminiscent of how the Lightning outshot the Canadiens, 11-1, through the first half of the first period in Game 4.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, despite Tampa outshooting Montréal, 13-4.

The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (2-1) and hits (25-16), while the Habs led in faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period.

Both teams had three giveaways each while the Canadiens were 0/1 and the Lightning were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

David Savard sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play and received an automatic minor 21 seconds into the second period, but the Habs couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Almost midway through the second frame, Mikhail Sergachev tripped up Nick Suzuki and presented the Canadiens with another power play that went by the wayside at 8:32.

Moments later in Tampa’s attacking zone, Ryan McDonagh made a lateral pass along the blue line to Savard, who promptly crashed the slot and slid a shot pass towards the crease for Colton (4) to redirect into the twine.

Savard (5) and McDonagh (8) had the assists on Colton’s goal as the Lightning took a, 1-0, lead at 13:27 of the second period.

Keeping in the trend with the rest of the series– the team that scored first in each game won the game.

Late in the period, Ben Chiarot yanked Brayden Point down on a breakaway, yielding a power play to the Bolts as a result as Chiarot was assessed with a holding infraction at 19:22.

Though the ensuing skater advantage spanned the end of the second period and the start of the final frame of regulation, the Bolts couldn’t find a way to solve Montréal’s penalty kill.

After 40 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, the Lightning lead the Canadiens, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Habs, 19-14, despite Montréal holding a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Tampa held the lead in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (7-3), giveaways (10-3) and hits (44-35), while the Canadiens led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final period.

Early in the third period, Nikita Kucherov had a great chance to score, but Price stood tall and shut him down while losing his stick and making desperation saves.

Montréal responded with a breakaway as Anderson burst into the zone with tremendous speed, was denied by Vasilevskiy and ultimately crashed back-first into the post and briefly went down the tunnel before returning for the rest of the game.

With 1:51 remaining in the third period, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker, but after a stoppage resulted in neutral zone faceoff, the Habs sent Price back into the crease for a few seconds to ensure a little security between the pipes if they lost the draw.

Montréal won the ensuing faceoff as Price once again sprinted for the bench with 1:36 remaining, but Tampa’s defense was too much for the Canadiens– though the Lightning’s offense couldn’t put an exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal.

The Habs used their timeout with 1:24 remaining as assistant coach, Alex Burrows, tried to rally his players for one last push.

At the final horn, Vasilevskiy and the Bolts earned a, 1-0, shutout in Game 5 and clinched their second-straight Stanley Cup ring in as many years.

Wednesday night marked the third time that Tampa won the Cup in franchise history.

The Bolts also improved to 17-3 all time when scoring first in series-clinching games.

Tampa finished Game 5 leading in shots on goal, 30-22, including an, 11-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning dominated in just about everything else at the end of the night, leading in giveaways (11-6), hits (56-48) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots each.

Montréal exited the building 0/3 on the power play, but then again, Tampa also struggled on the skater advantage in the action– going 0/3 on Wednesday night as well.

Tampa finished the 2021 postseason 16-7 overall, while the Habs went 13-9.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #222- Habs And Hab Nots

The Montréal Canadiens are going to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993, and the Vegas Golden Knights were eliminated in six games as a result. Plus, the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Islanders in a Game 7 to decide which team will have home ice advantage against Montréal in the Final! Oh and did we mention the Seattle Kraken hired their first head coach? Because that happened too.

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

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Pacioretty or Suzuki, hope you made the right choice in 2018

There are four teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and for the first time since 1981, there are no Conference Finals going on.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the National Hockey League was forced to temporarily realign the divisions and get rid of conferences for a season as the league and it’s players’ union did what they could to get an abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule and a full Stanley Cup Playoffs experience in the history books.

In May, ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski reported that the league would not award the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the victors of the equivalent third round, but after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in six games to conclude the Second Round of this year’s postseason last Thursday, the league apparently changed its mind.

With a regular all-Eastern Conference matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as well as 50% of the teams representing the Western Conference in the other Semifinal series, both trophies will be awarded to the third round series winners after all.

The winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will take home the Prince of Wales Trophy, while either the Golden Knights or the Montréal Canadiens will win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

Montréal can join a short list of teams to have won both trophies in franchise history, as only the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Islanders have won each before.

How is this possible, you ask?

Well, for starters, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was introduced in the 1967-68 season and awarded to the team that finished with the best regular season record in the West Division (the precursor to the Western Conference in the modern era), while the Prince of Wales Trophy dates back to the 1925-26 season and, you guessed it, eventually became the East Division (pre-Eastern Conference days) equivalent.

Ahead of the 1981-82 season, however, the league changed its postseason to include a Conference Finals round, thus involving these trophies in the playoffs and eventually leading to the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the best regular season record since the 1985-86 season.

So anyway, the teams mentioned above that won both have changed conferences and divisions over time.

Now let’s talk about the other half of the Semifinal matchups– the Golden Knights and the Canadiens.

(1) Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2, 82 points) vs (4) Montréal Canadiens (24-21-11, 59 points)

Vegas: 56 games played, .732 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Montréal: 56 games played, .527 points percentage, 20 regulation wins.

The Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Minnesota Wild in seven games (4-3) in the First Round before ousting the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy winning, Colorado Avalanche, in six games (4-2) in the Second Round to advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals as the representative club from the Honda NHL West Division.

Vegas is making their second appearance in the third round of the playoffs– their first since 2018– and is in search of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup ring in just their fourth season of existence.

Mark Stone (21-40–61 totals in 55 games) lead the Golden Knights in team scoring in the regular season and was named a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, while Max Pacioretty (24-27–51 totals in 48 games) and Jonathan Marchessault (18-26–44 totals in 55 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring on the roster.

Through 13 postseason games thus far, William Karlsson leads the Golden Knights in playoff scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in that span.

Marchessault, Stone, Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo are tied for the second-most points in the playoffs for Vegas so far with eight points each in 13 games (except for Pacioretty, who has eight points in seven games).

Alex Tuch, Mattias Janmark and Reilly Smith are tied for the sixth-most points on the roster in postseason scoring with seven points each.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury led the way with a 26-10-0 record in 36 games played (36 starts) in the regular season, as well as a 1.98 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts in that span.

Meanwhile, Robin Lehner amassed a 13-4-2 record in 19 games (19 starts) to go with a 2.29 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and one shutout.

Oscar Dansk even made an appearance with a 1-0-0 record in one game (one start), as well as a 3.93 goals-against average and an .862 save percentage, while Logan Thompson made a relief appearance in one game, earned no decision and had a 1.000 save percentage as a result.

Fleury’s gone on to have an 8-4 record in 12 games (12 stars) this postseason, as well as a 1.91 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout entering the Semifinals.

Meanwhile, Lehner made one appearance (one start) thus far in the playoffs and went 0-1 with a 7.03 goals-against average and an .811 save percentage.

At the other end of the rink, the Montréal Canadiens were the winners of the Scotia NHL North Division, having overcome a 3-1 series deficit in seven games (4-3) against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round prior to sweeping the Winnipeg Jets (4-0) in the Second Round to advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Poised as Canada’s team, the Habs have not won the Cup since 1993, and were last in the third round in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final– losing to the New York Rangers in six games (4-2) in the process.

The Canadiens haven’t even been back to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, when they defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in five games (4-1).

Tyler Toffoli (28-16–44 totals in 52 games) led the way for Montréal in team scoring this season in a prolific display of offensive prowess over a shorter than normal regular season schedule.

Jeff Petry chipped in 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) from the defense in 55 games and Nick Suzuki (15-26–41 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in Canadiens scoring in 2020-21.

Thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Toffoli’s continued to lead his teammates with 4-6–10 totals in 11 games, while Suzuki has eight points (four goals, four assists) in that span.

Joel Armia and Eric Staal are each tied for the third-most points on the Habs’ postseason roster, notching seven points through 11 games for Armia and 10 games for Staal.

In the crease, Jake Allen actually played in more games than Carey Price as Price dealt with injuries throughout the season.

Allen amassed an 11-12-5 record in 29 games (27 starts) and had a 2.68 goals-against average, as well as a .907 save percentage in the process, while Price managed to put up a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts) and had a 2.64 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Cayden Primeau also had some action in the crease for Montréal this season, recording a 1-2-1 record in four games (four starts), as well as a 4.16 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage.

Thus far in the playoffs, it’s been all Price for Montréal as the Canadiens longtime starter has an 8-3 record in 11 games (11 starts), a 1.97 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and one shutout in that span.


These two teams– the oldest in the league that predates the NHL (Montréal) and the new kids on the block (Vegas) at least until the Seattle Kraken pick players for their team next month in the 2021 Expansion Draft– are meeting for the first time in a playoff series in what is sure to be more than just an incredible experience.

They also didn’t get to play each other in the regular season because of the league’s temporary realignment, let alone the fact that the United States and Canadian border was closed.

It’ll be the first international matchup in the league this season with the Canadian government providing an exemption for games at Bell Centre.

Now, for starters, there’s the obvious “this would never happen regularly at least until the Stanley Cup Final” factor, but there’s also a shared history that has these clubs intertwined– the Max Pacioretty trade.

On Sept. 10, 2018, the Golden Knights made a splash by trading their second-highest drafted player in franchise history– Nick Suzuki at 13th overall in 2017– along with Tomas Tatar and a 2019 2nd round pick originally belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canadiens for Pacioretty.

Vegas may have stumbled into “win now” mode to the average eye, but Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley, has long intended to replicate– if not beat– the Philadelphia Flyers’ emergence on the Stanley Cup scene.

Foley cried out for his team’s first Cup ring within three years of existence and something had to be done to spruce up their top-six forward group.

Enter Pacioretty, the longtime Canadien and former captain in Montréal in a bit of a disagreement regarding whether or not he and Habs General Manager, Marc Bergevin, could ever reach terms of a deal on an extension.

So Bergevin got bold.

He dealt Montréal’s most recognizable skater (not goaltender named “Price”, mind you) to Vegas for a high-caliber prospect, Tatar and a second round pick that he later flipped.

At the time, the Golden Knights claimed victory in the trade– acquiring the biggest star in the here and now, though they’re still searching for that elusive first Cup– while Canadiens fans lamented the loss of their prolific scorer in Pacioretty, but remained hopeful for the future with Suzuki coming into the fold as the team had just drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi 3rd overall in the 2018 Draft in June.

Three years later, the Habs are a Cinderella team, while Vegas is right where they expected to be– except neither expected to play each other before the Stanley Cup Final, which only amplifies the magnitude of the Pacioretty trade even more.

Oh, then there’s the battle of Fleury and Price in net too, which by now, is worth pointing out that we haven’t even gotten into how each team could win the series.

For the Golden Knights, it’s their potent offense that’s generated throughout the lineup.

Vegas head coach, Peter DeBoer, rolls four lines and three defensive pairings and any and all players on the ice can find a way to wire a puck into the twine one way or another.

For the Canadiens, it all comes down to Price as the team’s offense has mostly relied upon a top-heavy approach.

That’s not to say that Corey Perry or Staal can’t be a determining factor in the clutch, but rather that in a standard “which team has the better offense, better defense and/or better goaltending” checklist, well, Vegas has scored 40 goals this postseason to Montréal’s 28 goals for.

Price should help the Canadiens steal a game or two in the series, but unless their miracle run finds a way to continue, the Golden Knights should wrap things up in six games.

Schedule:

6/14- Game 1 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/16- Game 2 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/18- Game 3 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/20- Game 4 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/22- Game 5 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS*

6/24- Game 6 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/26- Game 7 MTL @ VGK 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Lightning seeking back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final

There are four teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and for the first time since 1981, there are no Conference Finals going on.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the National Hockey League was forced to temporarily realign the divisions and get rid of conferences for a season as the league and it’s players’ union did what they could to get an abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule and a full Stanley Cup Playoffs experience in the history books.

In May, ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski reported that the league would not award the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the victors of the equivalent third round, but after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in six games to conclude the Second Round of this year’s postseason on Thursday, the league apparently changed its mind.

With a regular all-Eastern Conference matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as well as 50% of the teams representing the Western Conference in the other Semifinal series, both trophies will be awarded to the third round series winners after all.

The winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will take home the Prince of Wales Trophy, while either the Golden Knights or the Montréal Canadiens will win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

Montréal can join a short list of teams to have won both trophies in franchise history, as only the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Islanders have won each before.

How is this possible, you ask?

Well, for starters, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was introduced in the 1967-68 season and awarded to the team that finished with the best regular season record in the West Division (the precursor to the Western Conference in the modern era), while the Prince of Wales Trophy dates back to the 1925-26 season and, you guessed it, eventually became the East Division (pre-Eastern Conference days) equivalent.

Ahead of the 1981-82 season, however, the league changed its postseason to include a Conference Finals round, thus involving these trophies in the playoffs and eventually leading to the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the best regular season record since the 1985-86 season.

So anyway, the teams mentioned above that won both have changed conferences and divisions over time.

Now let’s talk about one-half of the Semifinal matchups– the Lightning and the Islanders.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (36-17-3, 75 points) vs (3) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

Tampa: 56 games played, .670 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Florida Panthers in six games (4-2) in the First Round before taking care of the Carolina Hurricanes in a five-game upset (4-1) to represent the Discover NHL Central Division in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

They’re also the defending Stanley Cup champions looking to be the first team to repeat as such since the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.

The Bolts have followed the league’s salary cap rules to a “T”, which enabled them to spend almost $99 million as the playoffs began because Nikita Kucherov had been on the long term injured reserve all season long and due to the fact that the cap ceiling disappears for the postseason.

Brayden Point led the Lightning in the regular season with 23-25–48 totals in 56 games, while Ondrej Palat (15-31–46 totals in 55 games) and Victor Hedman (9-36–45 totals in 54 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring on the roster in 2020-21.

Through 11 games this postseason, Kucherov hasn’t missed a beat, leading his teammates with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in that span.

Tampa’s captain, Steven Stamkos, missed the last part of the regular season, but returned in time for the playoffs and has not missed any action due to injury.

As a result, he’s had 5-8–13 totals in 11 games– good enough for the second-most points by a Lightning skater in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Point (8-4–12 totals in 11 games) and Alex Killorn (6-6–12 totals in 11 games) are tied for the third-most on the postseason roster.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevskiy led Tampa’s netminders with a 31-10-1 record in 42 games played (42 starts), yielding a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in the process.

Curtis McElhinney served as Vasilevskiy’s backup and amassed a 4-6-2 record in 12 games (12 starts), as well as a 3.09 goals-against average, an .875 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Christopher Gibson even got a little time in net, recording a 1-1-0 record in two games (two starts), as well as a 2.65 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

Thus far in the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has yet to be chased from the crease– putting up an 8-3 record in 11 games (11 starts) to go with his 2.24 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Oh and he’s more than doubled his career postseason shutout total– recording two so far in Tampa’s quest for back-to-back rings.

At the other end of the rink, the New York Islanders beat two teams they’re used to beating in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs– defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games (4-2) in the First Round and the Boston Bruins in six games (4-2), as well, in the Second Round to reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals as the MassMutual NHL East Division’s representation.

Head coach, Barry Trotz, is still using his modified trap, though New York’s potent offense is actually leading the way in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 43 goals for thus far.

Vegas is second with 40 goals for, while Tampa sits third with 38 goals for and the best goal differential in the postseason so far with a plus-12 differential.

Mathew Barzal (17-28–45 totals in 55 games) led the Isles in scoring in the regular season. Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games), Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 gmaes) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in team scoring in 2020-21.

Through 12 games this postseason, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has emerged at peak performance at the right time of the year to be on top of one’s game, leading the Islanders in playoff scoring with 3-10–13 totals.

Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier each have 11 points in 12 games, while Nelson has the fourth-most points on the playoff roster with 6-4–10 totals in that span.

In net, Semyon Varlamov led the way as New York’s starter, amassing a 19-11-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), as well as a 2.04 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and tied for the league lead in shutouts with Colorado Avalanche netminder, Philipp Grubauer, blanking opponents on the scoreboard seven times each this season.

Ilya Sorokin’s first season in the NHL was served in a backup role, going 13-6-3 in 22 games (21 starts) and accruing a 2.17 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

Though Sorokin ultimately helped the Islanders get over the Penguins in the First Round, his Game 1 performance against Boston left something to be desired, forcing Trotz to hand the keys to the crease back to Varlamov.

Varlamov’s gone on to post a 4-3 record in seven games (seven starts) this postseason, notching a 2.62 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in the process.

Sorokin, meanwhile, has a 4-1 record in five games (five starts), as well as a 2.32 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

With the way Varlamov’s been playing as of late– recording 40 saves against the Bruins some nights– it’s not likely that Sorokin will see any action against the Bolts.

Unlike how the Lightning got a key component of their roster in Kucherov back in time for when it counts, New York’s captain, Anders Lee, remains sidelined until the 2021-22 season with a knee injury.


These two teams are meeting for the fourth time in a playoff series, with the Lightning holding a 3-0 all time advantage, having defeated the Islanders in five games (4-1) in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, in five games (4-1) again in the 2016 Second Round, as well as in six games (4-2) in the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.

For the second year in a row, these two clubs are squaring off in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but unlike last year’s neutral site at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, the home crowds may be a factor in 2021.

What’s more, these two teams have yet to play each other thanks to the temporary division realignment for 2020-21, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If history is any indicator, it’s that Tampa should win the series and extend their all time advantage to 4-0, but New York presented a challenge to the Bolts last year that is sure to be amplified by both rosters’ familiarity with each other, as well as the fact that the Lightning will have to go through the ringer that is known as Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

This isn’t to say that the fans in attendance at Amalie Arena won’t be just as boisterous, but there’s something to be said about a Long Island crowd this time of year– especially one that’s been longing for their first Stanley Cup title since 1983.

Not only that, but it’d be a great way to send the building off into retirement as the Islanders move into their new home in Elmont, New York at UBS Arena next season.

That said, the Lightning have home-ice advantage in this series for the first time this postseason and they’ve been pretty good at stealing games on the road– winning two out of three games in the First Round at BB&T Center against Florida and all three games held at PNC Arena in their Second Round series with Carolina.

2020 Stanley Cup winning head coach, Jon Cooper, pitted against 2018 Stanley Cup winning head coach in Trotz (then of the Washington Capitals)– this rematch is sure to be one hell of a battle.

Though the Lightning have cruised thus far, there’s something to be said about the tenacity of the Islanders and the way momentum seems to be working in their favor.

For the first time, it looks like New York will come out on top against Tampa and they’ll likely do it over seven games of some of the best hockey fans desire leading up to the Stanley Cup Final.

If it’s anything shorter, it’ll be because Vasilevskiy continued to stay hot and the Islanders gave up too many power plays to the Lightning, but New York was one of the least penalized teams in the regular season.

If the offense doesn’t sputter, the Isles have their best chance at getting back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1984, when they lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers.

Schedule:

6/13- Game 1 NYI @ TBL 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/15- Game 2 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/17- Game 3 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/19- Game 4 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/21- Game 5 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/23- Game 6 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/25- Game 7 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary