Nick and Pete recap the Ottawa Senators coaching hire, two extensions, the latest rumors and the 2019 Western Conference Final while teasing their 2019 Stanley Cup Final preview.
Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Boston Bruins returned home for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday night and promptly beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, at TD Garden– eight days after the two teams collided for a thrilling (and controversial) battle in San Jose.
Boston swept the season series with the Sharks, 2-0-0, after Tuesday’s win and Feb. 18th’s, 6-5, victory in overtime.
Jaroslav Halak (17-9-4 record, 2.29 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 32 games played) made 19 saves on 20 shots against for a .950 SV% in the win for the B’s.
Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (29-13-5, 2.95 GAA, .875 SV% in 48 GP), stopped 28 out of 32 shots faced for an .875 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 23-1-3 when leading after two periods and 10-0-2 in the month of February.
Boston also improved to 37-17-9 (83 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while San Jose fell to 37-19-8 (82 points) on the season, but still in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
Johansson was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Monday prior to the league’s trade deadline in exchange for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 4th round pick. He is the first player in franchise history to wear No. 90.
The Bruins also signed Lee Stempniak to a one-year, $650,000 contract on Sunday and formally assigned the veteran NHL winger to the Providence Bruins (AHL).
Boston General Manager Don Sweeney provided an update on David Pastrnak (left thumb) during his press conference after the trade deadline on Monday and announced Pastrnak would be in a cast for about two more weeks, then he’d need to get a splint and a sense as to his measure of comfort for his eventual return to the lineup.
Bruce Cassidy kept his usual first and fourth lines together, as well as his first two defensive pairings, while adjusting his second and third lines to account for the additions of Johansson and Coyle.
Johansson suited up to the right side of Krejci and DeBrusk, while Coyle centered the third line with David Backes on his right wing and Joakim Nordstrom returning to the lineup as the left wing (Nordstrom was a healthy scratch in St. Louis).
Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Tuesday with Miller and Pastrnak out of the lineup due to injury.
Early in the first period, Justin Braun slashed Coyle as the Bruins center was in the midst of a scoring chance at 5:41.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play and instead committed the game’s next infraction, when Matt Grzelcyk hooked Michael Haley at 11:58 of the first period.
Less than a minute into San Jose’s first power play of the night, Couture (23) banked one off of Halak’s leg pad and squeezed the puck between Halak’s pad and the inner post.
Couture’s power play goal was unassisted and gave the Sharks the lead, 1-0, at 12:47 of the opening frame.
Less than two minutes later, Timo Meier caught DeBrusk with a high-stick and drew some blood. As a result, Meier was assessed a double-minor penalty at 14:29.
Just ten seconds into the resulting 5-on-4 advantage for the next four minutes, Boston worked the puck around the umbrella setup, yielding a one-timer from Krejci (15) that blew past Jones to tie the game, 1-1.
Torey Krug (38) and Marchand (48) notched the assists on Krejci’s power play goal at 14:39.
Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Bruins led the Sharks in shots on goal (16-8). The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (8-4), hits (11-3) and face-off win percentage (68-32).
San Jose was 1/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Erik Karlsson had battled a groin injury earlier in the month of February and missed the last time these two teams went toe-to-toe on Feb. 18th, but he was on the ice for a grueling effort.
Early in the middle frame, Karlsson tried to defend McAvoy in the Sharks’ defensive zone, but appeared to have overexerted himself and tweaked something in his leg.
Karlsson went to the dressing room and returned later in the period, only to once again make an exit after Marchand danced around the Sharks defender for a shorthanded goal later in the period.
The veteran blue liner did not return for the third period of action.
Meanwhile, almost halfway through the second period, McAvoy (5) sniped a wrist shot past Jones’ blocker on a give-and-go from Marchand after the feisty Bruin received a pass from Danton Heinen entering the zone.
Marchand (49) and Heinen (13) tallied the assists on what would become the game-winning goal at 9:09 of the second period and the Bruins had their first lead of the night, 2-1.
A mere 37 seconds later, DeBrusk (20) reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career as Boston entered the attacking zone on a three-on-one with tremendous puck movement.
Krejci (40) and Johansson (16) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 9:46, as the Bruins led, 3-1.
With the assist on the goal, Johansson picked up his first point as a member of Boston.
While shorthanded, Marchand (25) received a pass and broke free from Karlsson and the rest of the Sharks to dangle and get a shot off with the backhand through the five-hole on the San Jose netminder to make it, 4-1, for Boston at 12:28 of the middle frame.
Marchand’s shorthanded goal was the 25th of his career and tied Rick Middleton for the most in Bruins franchise history.
Late in the period, Evander Kane tried to fight Kuraly, but the linesmen intervened as Kuraly had not had the chance to take off his gloves.
Kane received two roughing minors to Kuraly’s one roughing infraction, leaving the Sharks shorthanded at 14:55. Kevin Labanc served Kane’s extra minor.
Goodrow and Wagner both received five-minute major penalties for fighting at 17:54.
Less than a minute after that, Moore was penalized for cross-checking Meier at 18:25.
San Jose did not score on the ensuing power play and both teams went into the second intermission with Boston leading on the scoreboard, 4-1, and in shots on goal, 24-12.
The B’s also led in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (6-5), giveaways (11-9), hits (18-16) and face-off win% (58-42) as they continued to flat-out dominate the Sharks on home ice.
Boston was 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose was 1/3 heading into the third period.
Early in the third period, while going hard for the puck, Zdeno Chara caught an elbow on Kane, which led to Kane pulling down the 6-foot-9 captain of the B’s from behind and throwing a couple punches.
Chara, in return, got back to his feet and was willing to fight a fair fight. He promptly delivered several well placed punches as Kane hunched over to avoid an otherwise surefire death sentence from the tallest player in NHL history in his 2nd fight in 44 games this season.
Kane received an instigating penalty on top of his five-minute major for fighting. As such, he automatically was charged with a ten-minute misconduct, while Chara picked up two minutes for elbowing and a five-minute major for fighting.
As a result of Kane’s instigating penalty, the Sharks were left shorthanded at 3:22 of the third period.
Almost 30 seconds later, Kane received a game misconduct for his continued verbal argument with the refs at 3:51.
Seconds after the ensuing face-off Haley didn’t even bother to make a play and instead dropped the gloves with Backes as the game further descended into chaos.
After Backes and Haley were sent to the sin bin– each with five-minute majors for fighting– at 3:56 of the third period, neither team scored a goal, nor committed another infraction.
By the final horn, Boston had secured the win, 4-1, over San Jose and dominated shots on goal, 32-20.
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-7) and face-off win% (58-42), while the Sharks finished the action ahead in giveaways (15-13) and hits (27-21).
Boston finished Tuesday’s action 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose went 1/3 on the skater advantage.
The B’s finish off the month of February with a Thursday night matchup against the league leading, Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston then sets its sights on the month of March as their six-game homestand continues against the Devils on Saturday and the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday (March 5th).
Next Thursday (March 7th), the Florida Panthers visit Boston, followed by the Ottawa Senators (March 9th), before the Bruins hit the road in Pittsburgh (March 10th) for their first road trip since the trade deadline.
Last season, the Winnipeg Jets added Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues for their deep run into the 2018 Western Conference Finals.
Though things came up short in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights– who would go on to sign Stastny in free agency– the Jets are ready to go at it again and push further.
The Jets’ 2019 1st round pick in the trade is Top-3 lottery protected on the off chance Winnipeg skids off the runway to the postseason over the next month. If that happens, the Rangers will receive Winnipeg’s 2020 1st round pick instead.
If the Jets win the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then New York will receive Winnipeg’s 2022 4th round pick.
Hayes, 26, is a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts and has 14 goals and 28 assists (42 points) in 51 games this season for the Rangers. Hs has 87-129–216 totals in 361 career games with New York and was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round (24th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Hayes is a pending-UFA at season’s end with a cap hit of $5.175 million.
Lemieux, 22, has nine goals and two assists (11 points) in 44 games with the Jets this season and currently leads NHL rookies in penalty minutes with 64.
Originally drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2nd round (31st overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Lemieux made his NHL debut with the Jets on Oct. 20, 2017 after previously being dealt to Winnipeg on Feb. 11, 2015 as part of the Sabres/Jets Tyler Myers–Evander Kane trade.
In 53 career games, Lemieux has 10-2–12 totals with a plus-12 rating and 85 penalty minutes. He is a pending-RFA at the end of the season.
New York currently has five picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
The St. Louis Blues just keep on winning (11 straight, to be exact). Can they win it all? The Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup favorites according to Nick– nobody is! Did the Edmonton Oilers win a trade? Cory Schneider won a game! and other milestones from the last week, as well as whatever happened in the Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks game on Monday.
Messy officiating was a theme of the night, but at the end of the night, Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning overtime goal to lift the Boston Bruins over the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, on Monday night at SAP Center.
San Jose’s ageless wonder, 39-year-old Joe Thornton had his fifth career hat trick (and first since Oct. 27, 2010) and united the hockey world in his quest for four goals in one game that was ultimately unsuccessful due to the loss.
Tuukka Rask (20-8-4 record, 2.45 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 38 shots against for an .868 SV% in the overtime win for Boston.
Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (28-11-5, 2.95 GAA, .896 SV% in 45 GP) turned aside 14 out of 20 shots faced for a .700 SV% in the overtime loss.
The B’s improved to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Sharks fell to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and stayed in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
Boston improved to 23-4-5 when scoring first this season and 11-2-3 when tied after two periods. San Jose fell to 4-4-3 when tied after two periods this season.
In addition, the Bruins are now 14-10-5 on the road this season and 3-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.
The Bruins are also on a six-game winning streak (their longest of the season) and are now 8-0-1 in the month of February.
Peter Cehlarik did not take part in morning skate on Monday, as Bruce Cassidy reassured reporters after practice that Cehalrik sustained a lower body injury in Saturday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and would be out against San Jose.
Karson Kuhlman took over Cehlarik’s spot on the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while David Backes took Kuhlman’s spot from Saturday on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Trent Frederic.
Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer rejoined the NHL club in San Jose on a recall after a three-game conditioning stint with Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
From puck drop to the first whistle, the Bruins and Sharks played a consecutive span of 10:13– negating the first media timeout altogether.
In fact, the networks carrying the game Monday night couldn’t even go to break after the first whistle as it came on an icing call.
As the frantic postseason-infused pace settled in, San Jose defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved the puck from crossing the line just in the nick of time. Or did he?
An overhead view from the crossbar might have indicated that Boston was robbed of a goal, but since the call on the ice was “no goal” and the other camera angles were inconclusive– the original call stood.
While shorthanded, Evander Kane broke free from the Bruins blue liners, beat Rask and rang the post with his shot.
Moments later, after killing off the Hertl infraction, Kane got a stick up high on Grzelcyk, sending the B’s back on the power play at 13:04 of the opening frame.
After failing to generate any offense on their first power play chance of the night, Boston capitalized on their second extra skater advantage.
45 seconds into their second power play, Krug (6) blasted a slap shot while moving into the face-off dot to Jones’ right side, while Erik Karlsson partially screened his own goaltender, as the puck went high, glove side, into the twine.
Krejci (36) and Patrice Bergeron (35) tallied the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 13:49 as Boston jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.
With his assist on the goal, Krejci became the fourth Bruin to reach at least 50 points this season.
A few minutes later, Kuraly won a face-off in the attacking zone back to Zdeno Chara (6) whereby the 6-foot-9 defender rocketed his patented slap shot past Jones for his 199th career goal.
Kuraly (11) had the only assist on Chara’s goal at 16:26 and the Bruins led, 2-0.
Less than two minutes later, Boston continued to strangle the momentum pendulum into their metaphorical side.
DeBrusk lobbed an aerial pass on a two-on-one to Kuhlman (1) as Jones was caught behind the play, giving Kuhlman his first career NHL goal and a three-goal lead for the Bruins.
Kuhlman’s goal was assisted by DeBrusk (9) and Krejci (37) at 18:24 of the first period as Boston led, 3-0.
As the seconds ticked down before the first intermission, Joe Thornton (11) put the Sharks on the scoreboard to make it a two-goal game.
Joe Pavelski had the initial shot on goal, but Thornton found the rebound in the crease and sent it home to make it, 3-1, Boston at 19:57 of the first period.
Pavelski recorded his 22nd assist of the season on Thornton’s first goal of the game.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but both teams recorded eight shots on goal aside.
The B’s led in takeaways (3-2), hits (8-6) and face-off win percentage (63-37), while the Sharks led in blocked shots (4-2) and giveaways (4-2) after one period of play. San Jose had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Miller sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty– leaving Boston shorthanded at 1:40 of the second period.
Almost 30 seconds later, Pavelski (32) redirected an initial shot from the point off Rask, whereby the Bruins goaltender made the initial save, but the puck took an odd bounce and went over his shoulder and into the four-by-six frame behind him.
Couture followed up his assist on Pavelski’s goal with a hooking penalty at 4:43.
Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, DeBrusk (18) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway with speed and beat Jones to make it, 4-2, Bruins.
In the last four games, DeBrusk has 4-4–8 totals.
Danton Heinen (11) and Backes (9) notched the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 6:30 of the second period.
Wagner and Braun tussled for a few seconds with the gloves off before the linesmen got in-between the two and separated them.
Despite not actually fighting, Wagner and Braun each received five-minute majors for doing more than what otherwise would have been considered roughing at 10:25.
Late in the second period, whatever tilt in the ice there was took a tank (at the Shark Tank, get it?) as San Jose made it a one-goal game at 16:03, thanks to another garbage goal collected by Thornton (12).
For the second time of the night, Thornton banged home the rebound to record his first two-goal game in his 51st game this season and fourth since 2013.
Shortly thereafter, Thornton took a trip to the penalty box for high-sticking Bruins winger, Brad Marchand.
While shorthanded, Couture split the Boston defense and charged into the offensive zone while the B’s were caught changing lines.
As Couture neared Rask, Marchand hooked the Sharks forward and the puck didn’t cross the goal line, despite the quick string of confusing signals indicated by the referee.
Instead of waving off the goal that wasn’t (alas, the puck almost reached the goal line), then pointing towards the center-ice face-off dot to award the ensuing penalty shot, the ref closest to the goal appeared to change his mind and indicated a goal had been scored.
Except he hadn’t, technically.
To the dismay of those in attendance, the ref had simply misdirected his followup signal to the washout and should have pointed towards center-ice as Couture was to follow up with a penalty shot, regardless.
The official call was that Rask had made the save on the initial breakaway while Marchand had hooked Couture, illegally disrupting the scoring chance and thus resulting in a penalty shot.
On the ensuing penalty shot, Couture (22) fired one into the twine at 19:35 of the second period, resulting in yet another last minute goal for San Jose– this time tying the game, 4-4.
As a result, Couture became just the fourth player in Sharks franchise history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal.
Through 40 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 4-4, on the scoreboard, despite San Jose’s distinct advantage in shots on goal in the middle frame alone (14-4).
Entering the second intermission, San Jose led in shot on goal (22-12), blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (7-3) and hits (20-17), while Boston led in face-off win% (54-47). Both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.
The Sharks were 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
After not changing lines quick enough, the refs decided to charge the Bruins with a bench minor for delay of game at 1:57 of the third period.
Sure, that’s an actual thing, but given the standard (or lack thereof) of the night, well…
Too many men on the ice was something that went overlooked and two goals (one that was that wasn’t and one that wasn’t that was) were both miscalled as some of the bigger takeaways for next season’s “what not to do” officiating training video.
Jokes aside, it was a poorly officiated game.
Backes served the delay of game bench minor for Boston, but the Sharks weren’t able to capitalize on the power play.
Finally, in a moment the hockey world had been waiting to see in almost nine years, Thornton (13) scored his third goal of the game, notching a hat trick on the first lead change of the night.
San Jose led, 5-4, at 13:32 of the third period.
Pavelski (23) and Braun (13) tallied the assist’s on Thornton’s goal as the game’s momentum completely shifted to the Sharks’ favor.
Chara and Pavelski exchanged pleasantries and slashed each other with their sticks, yielding matching slashing minors at 15:42.
Late in the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Carlo sent a shot on goal that rebounded high into the air.
Wagner (8) batted the puck down with a seemingly high stick, then swung his stick along the ice at the puck tying the game, 5-5.
That’s right, Wagner scored the game-tying goal after playing the puck with a high stick.
Going to review is not an option for a goal that is thought to be scored as a result of knocking the puck down with a high stick, then scoring the goal from a legal elevation.
The problem with the goal was that the play should’ve been whistled dead as soon as Wagner knocked the puck out of the air with his stick above his shoulder.
Whether it was seen or not from the angle on the ice, we’ll never know (it’s not the NHL’s nature to make refs explain why a call was made or not– in fact, it’s never happened for anything that’s not reviewable).
Carlo (4) and Noel Acciari (4) had the assists on Wagner’s goal, which set a new career-high in goals in a season for the Walpole, Massachusetts native at 17:11 of the third period.
At the end of regulation, the Bruins and Sharks were tied, 5-5.
San Jose led in shots on goal (33-19) and in blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-5), hits (23-22) and face-off win% (54-46) after three periods of play.
Both teams had ten takeaways aside. The Sharks finished the night 1/2 on the skater advantage as Boston went 2/4 on the power play.
Peter DeBoer was coaching in his 800th career game on Monday and rolled out line after line of All-Star quality 3-on-3 overtime lines, especially after Cassidy started Kuraly, Grzelcyk and McAvoy in the five-minute overtime period.
Trouble is, one of those starters actually turned out to be the right one. *foreshadowing*
After Kane entered the zone with a virtual 3-on-0 for San Jose, the play was blown dead as the net behind Rask had come off its moorings and was not properly fixed even though the ref behind the play should have gone over and readjusted it while the puck was at the opposite end of the ice.
It’s either the goaltender’s responsibility or the referee’s job to fix the net if it’s off its pegs, but not enough to immediately disrupt play.
If it’s fixable, the ref must fix it as long as the puck is completely out of the zone.
Officiating be damned, Kane’s surefire scoring chance was killed.
On a 3-on-2 back the other way, DeBrusk worked the puck to Krejci for the perfect pass to McAvoy (4), who ripped a bullet past Jones to win the game for Boston, 6-5, in overtime.
Krejci (38) and DeBrusk (10) collected the assists on McAvoy’s game-winning goal at 3:59 of the overtime period, as the Bruins improved to 7-6 in overtime this season.
The Sharks fell to 6-5 past the 60-minute mark, but before having to go to a shootout, this season, despite finishing Monday night’s action with the advantage in shots on goal (38-20, including a 5-1 advantage in overtime alone), giveaways (10-6) and face-off win% (52-48).
Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (11-8).
Both teams recorded 24 hits aside.
The Bruins travel to Las Vegas for a Wednesday night battle with the Vegas Golden Knights before finishing up their current five-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues. Boston returns home to close out February with a Tuesday (Feb. 26th) night matchup with the Sharks and a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 28th.
It’s the final week before the All-Star Break that features all 31 teams in action!
Let’s take a look at the schedule:
|NHL SCHEDULE: January 14-20|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, January 14|
|7 p.m.||Chicago||New Jersey||5-8|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Washington||4-1|
|7:30 p.m.||Montréal Canadiens||Boston Bruins||3-2 (OT)|
|Tuesday, January 15|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis Blues||New York Islanders||1-2 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Carolina Hurricanes||New York Rangers||2-6|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Columbus||1-4|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Minnesota||2-3 (SO)|
|8:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Dallas||2-0|
|10 p.m.||Pittsburgh||San Jose||2-5|
|Wednesday, January 16|
|9:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Calgary||4-3 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Edmonton||Vancouver||3-2 (SO)|
|10 p.m.||San Jose||Arizona||3-6|
|Thursday, January 17|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Boston||2-5|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey Devils||New York Islanders||1-4|
|7 p.m.||Chicago Blackhawks||New York Rangers||3-4|
|7:30 p.m.||Toronto||Tampa Bay||4-2|
|8:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Dallas||2-1|
|Friday, January 18|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Washington Capitals||2-0|
|9 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Arizona||3-2 (OT)|
|Saturday, January 19|
|1 p.m.||Anaheim||New Jersey||SN|
|3 p.m.||Los Angeles||Colorado|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||St. Louis||CITY|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Boston Bruins||NHLN|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia||Montréal||CBC, ESPN+, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Tampa Bay|
|10 p.m.||Calgary Flames||Edmonton Oilers||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, January 20|
|12:30 p.m.||Washington||Chicago||NBC, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||Anaheim Ducks||New York Islanders||SN1|
|7 p.m.||Arizona||Toronto||NHLN, SN|
|9:30 p.m.||Carolina||Edmonton||SN1, SN360|
If rivalries are your jam, you’ve loved this week’s schedule since there’s at least one rivalry being played every day except Sunday. Monday saw the Habs make a trip to the Hub, followed the next day by the Ducks in Detroit (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). The Bruins were back at it Wednesday in the City of Brotherly Love, while another Original Six tilt took place Thursday with the Blackhawks visiting the Broadway Blueshirts. Speaking of New York, the Islanders headed to D.C. yesterday to take on the Caps, while two sets of arch-rivals square off this evening: the frequently-featured Rangers and Bruins wage war at 7 p.m., followed by the Battle of Alberta at 10.
If playoff rematches are more your speed, you preferred Winnipeg’s schedule. The Jets hosted Vegas Tuesday, followed two days later by a trip to Nashville.
Finally, there’s more than a few major homecomings happening this week, the biggest of which is 10-year veteran D Adam McQuaid‘s first game in Boston wearing a crest other than the Spoked B when the Rangers come to town tonight.
Also making returns were W Magnus Paajarvi (now a Senator, he called St. Louis home for five seasons), David Quinn (the Rangers hired him from Boston University where he’d been the head coach for five seasons) and Barry Trotz (after winning the Stanley Cup in his fourth year at Washington’s helm, Trotz signed with the Islanders this offseason).
While many of these tilts are exciting, the game that really sticks out to me involves two of the top teams in their respective conferences that were Stanley Cup favorites entering the campaign.
If not for Wednesday’s 6-3 loss in Glendale to the Coyotes, the 28-14-7 Sharks would be considered the hottest team in the NHL. They entered that tilt riding a seven game winning streak and have posted a dominant 9-2-2 mark in their last 13 outings.
There’s no doubt that Tampa Bay (tonight’s opponent) and division-rival Calgary boast two of the NHL’s best offenses. However, San Jose’s 3.57 goals per game for the entire 2018-19 season ranks third best in the league, and that attack only looks stronger when we focus on this 13 game run. Since December 22, the Sharks have averaged a whopping 4.31 goals per game, which ties the Flames for tops in the league.
Spearheading that onslaught of offense is none other than D Erik Karlsson, the man supposedly suffering a down season. His personal goal count may not be as high as he’d like (he’s registered only three through 47 outings this season), but struggles are otherwise few and far between nowadays considering he’s posted 1-18-19 totals in his past 11 games.
Of course, Karlsson isn’t San Jose’s only blue liner that likes to get involved in the offensive zone. D Brent Burns – a favorite for the Norris Trophy at the midway point of the season – is only a point behind Karlsson since December 22, posting 5-13-18 marks.
I’m of the opinion that the primary responsibility of a team’s defensive efforts is to limit opposing shots on goal, so – in a way – this dominant offense that maintains extended possessions is also performing marvelously well for 22-8-4 G Martin Jones. The Sharks have allowed only 28.31 shots against per game since December 22, the fourth-best mark in the NHL in that stretch.
As for actual defensive efforts, it’s hard not to have been impressed by Burns (team-leading 19 takeaways) and Kane (2.9 hits per game) during this run.
Of course, no matter how well the Sharks have been playing lately, there’s few that would argue that tonight’s hosts, the 36-10-2 Tampa Bay Lightning, are the best team the National Hockey League has to offer. The Bolts have a seven-point advantage in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, and they haven’t lost back-to-back games since November 10 and 13.
The reason that’s an important note is due to Tampa Bay’s 4-2 home loss at the hands of the Maple Leafs Thursday night, dropping their record since November 15 to 24-5-1.
During that dominant run, the Bolts have boasted the league’s top offense, averaging a whopping 4.23 goals per game – many of which have involved Art Ross-leader RW Nikita Kucherov. In Tampa’s last 30 games, Kucherov has notched dominant 15-43-58 totals – five points better than the NHL’s second-best player in that time.
Another player worth mentioning is surely 19-6-2 G Andrei Vasilevskiy, tonight’s likely starter considering this is Tampa’s last game until January 30’s tilt against Pittsburgh. In his past 14 starts, Vasilevskiy has managed an outstanding .922 save percentage and 2.65 GAA, a slight decline from his season marks of .925 and 2.48 due to the defense in front of him allowing 32.73 shots against per game since November 15, the seventh-worst mark in the NHL in that time.
There’s no doubt these offenses are capable of taking a game over, but both of them playing in the same game will certainly be either club’s greatest challenge they’ve faced in a while.
In my opinion, this game boils down to the opposing goaltenders. If that is the case, the Lightning have a clear advantage, as Jones’ .903 season save percentage and corresponding 2.72 GAA pale in comparison to Vasilevskiy’s.
As a result, I think the Bolts can come away from tonight’s tilt with a two or three-goal victory to further cement themselves as the league’s best club.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?
Folks, it’s no longer October.
You can once again begin asking the question “is it October yet?” without facing any legal ramifications, despite the fact that the 2018-19 regular season is very much alive and in effect.
Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, but for all of you urban legend believers in postseason fate, American Thanksgiving has yet to pass– meaning every team’s playoff hopes is still technically alive. The majority of teams in playoff position by American Thanksgiving– in this case, Nov. 22nd– make the playoffs.
If you’re new to hockey, this is a thing, but it’s not set in stone. There’s always that one or two teams that sneak their way in from outside the picture frame. Likewise, there’s always that team that blows it down the stretch.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a hot start, working their way to 1st place in the Atlantic Division by the end of October, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins hot on their tail just as we all expected.
Though the Maple Leafs have a fiery offense and solid goaltending, defense has been the most apparent area for improvement. In Boston, depth scoring, injuries and a slow start in net for Tuukka Rask have held the Bruins back from realizing their full potential, but the depth of their defenders and backup netminder Jaroslav Halak have kept them in good-standing.
In the surprise of the month for the Atlantic Division, the Montreal Canadiens sit 4th and the Buffalo Sabres sit 5th– both with 14 points on the season so far. Meanwhile, to no surprise the Ottawa Senators are 6th, the Detroit Red Wings are in a rebuild and the Florida Panthers simply haven’t played as many games as their opponents.
Taking a look at the Metropolitan Division and you won’t be surprised to see the Pittsburgh Penguins back in control with Sidney Crosby at the steering wheel, but you might be surprised by the other current divisional playoff spot holders.
The New York Islanders are 2nd and the Carolina Hurricanes are 3rd after the Hurricanes led the division for most of the month, only to begin a recent skid.
Just on the outskirts of a wild card spot are the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils.
Washington’s off to a slower start than expected, but overall not feeling as bad as a Stanley Cup hangover as it could’ve been– given how many fountains around D.C. they dove in and the number of beers consumed.
Columbus is just over .500 and the Devils have also played fewer games than anyone in their division, much like the Panthers.
The Philadelphia Flyers sit 7th in the Metropolitan Division in a tight race, but have shown weaknesses on the blue line and in the blue paint (goaltending, again) and the New York Rangers are in a full-scale rebuild to start things off this season.
In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are staking a case for defending their President’s Trophy season last year currently sitting atop the Central Division, as well as the league.
Filling out the remaining Central Divisions spots, last season’s biggest improvers, the Colorado Avalanche sit 2nd with the Minnesota Wild in 3rd. There’s two wild card berth in the Central Division, currently held by the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks(!?!)– that’s right, last season’s division bottom feeders are able to keep their heads barely above the surface with Corey Crawford back in the net.
The Dallas Stars sit 6th and the St. Louis Blues have had the wheels fall off in just a month’s time.
In the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks lead the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights and the 31st place team in the league– the Los Angeles Kings.
Yes, the Pacific Division is that wide-open so far with legitimate playoff contenders from last season (San Jose, Anaheim, Vegas and Los Angeles) all over the place. The Sharks haven’t hit their stride, the Ducks are suffering from injuries and defensive breakdowns, while the Golden Knights are looking for last season’s inaugural season magic.
Oh and the Kings? Yeah, everything’s pretty bad right now and Jonathan Quick‘s out indefinitely.
Meanwhile, pleasant surprises in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Arizona are being led by… youth?
Nothing makes sense anymore.
Luckily, that’s just a quick recap of the first month in about as bland an outlook as you can get when the meat of this post is really about what’s to come. That’s right, everything above? Forget most of it. Let’s use a little foresight and figure out how November through April should go.
2018-19 Projected Standings after One Month
- y-Boston Bruins, 104 points (12 GP so far)
- x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 103 points (11 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 94 points (12 GP so far)
- wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 93 points (11 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 84 points (9 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 84 points (11 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 81 points (12 GP so far)
- Buffalo Sabres, 76 points (12 GP so far)
What’s bound to happen in the Atlantic?
The forecast is so close between the top-three teams in the division that none of their positions in the standings are truly set in stone, unlike how the Red Wings will undoubtedly land somewhere in the bottom-three spots in the Atlantic.
There’s a chance the Panthers never get off the ground and there’s a chance the Sabres are able to continue turning heads around the league by not currently being in the basement of the division. However, since this forecast takes into consideration recent seasons in addition to current gameplay…
Check back in another month.
(Is it too early to do one of these? Yeah, probably.)
- p-Washington Capitals, 107 points (10 GP so far)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 106 points (10 GP so far)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points (11 GP so far)
- wc2- New York Islanders, 89 points (11 GP so far)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (12 GP so far)
- New York Rangers, 89 points (12 GP so far)
- New Jersey Devils, 87 points (9 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 85 points (12 GP so far)
The biggest takeaway from the Metropolitan forecast is after the top-two teams, anything goes.
Washington will be able to right the ship and land in a divisional spot– whether that’s top-dog or behind the Penguins remains to be seen. Columbus should even out as they’ve been doing as of late and settle in for another First Round exit (probably).
But between the Islanders, Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Hurricanes? Yeah, anything goes.
The Islanders are better than the Rangers, but the Rangers might somehow be better than the Flyers. Meanwhile, if New Jersey can get things going like they did last season, they’ve got a chance to box out the competition. Plus, Carolina remains unpredictable and foreseeably within striking range of a wild card spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Again, it’s only been one month. There’s still a little more than five months left in the regular season.
- z-Nashville Predators, 105 points (12 GP so far)
- x-Minnesota Wild, 100 points (12 GP so far)
- x-Chicago Blackhawks, 98 points (13 GP so far)
- wc1-St. Louis Blues, 96 points (10 GP so far)
- wc2-Winnipeg Jets, 94 points (12 GP so far)
- Dallas Stars, 90 points (11 GP so far)
- Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (12 GP so far)
In the Central Division, the Nashville Predators continue to reign supreme. Cool.
Minnesota, Chicago and St. Louis are all somehow destined for the postseason. This, after the Wild make it every year, Crawford’s return lifts the Blackhawks over the competition and supposedly the Blues will figure things out.
Wait, the Avalanche can’t be that bad.
Once again, it’s an extremely early forecast that takes into account recency bias from the last few seasons. Colorado won’t be last. Winnipeg shouldn’t be a wild card team.
But Dallas? Yeah, they’re definitely not making the playoffs if they keep playing like they have been.
- y-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (12 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 98 points (13 GP so far)
- x-Calgary Flames, 89 points (13 GP so far)
- Los Angeles Kings, 87 points (11 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 84 points (14 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (11 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 77 points (11 GP so far)
- Vegas Golden Knights, 75 points (12 GP so far)
By now everything you’ve read should indicate what’s going to be written below.
San Jose? Good team. No surprise, given Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are on the blue line with Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Evander Kane at forward. Oh and Martin Jones in net.
Anaheim? If they can whether the storm, they can make it in one of the most unpredictable divisions based on how bad the other teams are or should be.
Calgary? Bill Peters finally coaches a team to a playoff berth? Yeah. That should happen.
The Kings can recover from this slow start– if they don’t mess things up in November.
As for the Canucks, Oilers, Coyotes and Golden Knights, well, Vancouver might make some noise. Edmonton could be a pretender as long as Connor McDavid is a contender. Arizona remains to be seen and the situation looks like it’s only going to get worse for Vegas before anything gets better– if it even does.