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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins lose close one to Wild on home ice, 3-2

Two quick power play goals on a 5-on-3 advantage turned Thursday night’s action 180-degrees in favor of the Minnesota Wild in their eventual, 3-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Wild goaltender, Kaapo Kähkönen (5-2-1, 2.60 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in nine games played) made 36 saves on 38 shots against in the win.

Boston netminder, Jeremy Swayman (8-6-2, 2.26 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 16 games played) turned aside 27 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 17-11-2 (36 points) overall, but remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the 2nd wild card in Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Minnesota improved to 20-10-2 (42 points) on the season and in control of the 1st wild card in the Western Conference, while sitting in 4th place in the Central Division (behind the Colorado Avalanche only in tiebreaker, as the Avs have four more regulation wins than the Wild).

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Tomáš Nosek (COVID protocol) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask signed a PTO (player training operative) with the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday in an attempt to play at least one game before signing an NHL deal with Boston and returning to action after rehabbing offseason hip surgery.

Providence’s weekend matchups against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were postponed, which could put a wrench in Rask’s return to Boston plans if the B’s aren’t quite ready to go with three goaltenders for the time being.

That said, they did recall and assign Urho Vaakanainen, Steven Fogarty and Troy Grosenick from Providence to the taxi squad– the latter being a goaltender ahead of Thursday night’s loss to Minnesota.

With McAvoy and Nosek out of the lineup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor tweaks to his lines and defensive pairings.

John Moore returned to action alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the first pairing, while Trent Frederic went from playing wing to centering the fourth line in place of Nosek with Anton Blidh in his usual role at left wing.

Vaakanainen, Fogarty and Grosenick served as healthy scratches on the taxi squad against the Wild.

Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi made their National Hockey League debuts for the Wild, while defender, Jonas Brodin returned to Minnesota’s lineup after a stint in the league’s COVID protocol.

Less than half a minute into the action, Mike Reilly tripped up Rossi and cut a rut to the box– presenting the Wild with the first power play of the game 23 seconds into the first period.

Minnesota failed to convert on their first skater advantage of the night, but it wouldn’t be long before Boston’s undisciplined play came back to bite them.

Early in the action, Kevin Fiala slashed Brad Marchand before Matt Dumba hooked David Pastrnak while falling and attempting to clear the crease as the Bruins forward crashed the net.

Boston went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 4:36, but couldn’t muster anything past Kähkönen before Patrice Bergeron tripped Frederick Gaudreau at 6:11– yielding a 4-on-3 power play for the Bruins for about 26 seconds before the Wild earned an abbreviated advantage.

It didn’t take the B’s long to capitalize on all of the open ice as Erik Haula worked the puck back to Reilly in the high slot diamond formation prior to feeding Taylor Hall (7) with a perfect pass for a one-timer power-play goal off of Brodin’s leg and through Kähkönen’s five-hole.

Reilly (4) and Haula (6) tallied the assists as Hall’s goal put Boston on top, 1-0, at 6:35 of the third period.

The Bruins managed to escape Bergeron’s minor unscathed thereafter.

Late in the period, however, the tides began to turn as a surge in momentum featured dominant possession and rising shot totals for Minnesota.

As the Bruins trailed the play, Marchand yielded a holding infraction, while Brandon Carlo interfered with Mats Zuccarello at 14:49.

The Wild went on a two-skater advantage and didn’t waste time on the 5-on-3 power play– capitalizing on both opportunities they were presented with.

First, Zuccarello sent a pass through the slot to Kirill Kaprizov (14) for a one-timer blast on the power play reminiscent of Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin, or even Pastrnak’s craft.

Zuccarello (18) and Fiala (15) were credited with the assists on Kaprizov’s power-play goal that knotted things up, 1-1, at 15:25 of the first period.

About a minute later, Nico Sturm (6) deflected a shot from the point by Brodin as Connor Dewar and other traffic screened Swayman.

Sturm’s deflection rose over Swayman’s glove side and put the Wild ahead, 2-1, at 16:48 of the first period.

Brodin (12) and Dewar (1) recorded the assists. Dewar’s secondary assist marked his first career NHL point in the process.

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play Kaprizov and Blidh got into a bit of a shoving match– exchanging pleasantries and picking up roughing minors– while Trent Frederic tried to engage Zuccarello before pulling Zuccarello’s helmet off and yielding an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

Minnesota, as a result, went on the power play at 18:12 of the first period and would start the middle frame on the skater advantage as the special teams action blended through the first intermission.

After one period, the Wild led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-10, in shots on goal.

Minnesota also held the advantage in hits (13-10), while Boston led in blocked shots (2-0), takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Both teams managed to have one giveaway each entering the first intermission, while the Wild were 2/5 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.

Alex Goligoski picked up an interference infraction at 4:27 of the second period, but Boston’s power play went by the wayside without tying things up.

Midway through the period, Kaprizov tried to free the puck from near the boards out of his own zone before bumping into Grzelcyk, causing Kaprizov to fall into a vulnerable position before Frederic came along and made a check that was a bit too strong to cash.

Kaprizov crashed into the boards awkwardly and skated off with the help of a trainer while his right arm remained pretty limp. He would not return for the night with an upper body injury, as the Wild PR team later tweeted.

Frederic was assessed a boarding minor (that Craig Smith ended up serving) and a five-minute major for fighting as Dmitry Kulikov stood up for his fallen teammate and exchanged fisticuffs in what was Boston’s seventh fighting major of the 2021-22 season.

The Bruins’ penalty kill stood tall until they were caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Marcus Foligno and Boldy played a little catch as Boldy (1) dished the puck to Foligno entering the zone before receiving a pass back and burying a shot on Swayman’s blocker side to extend Minnesota’s lead.

Foligno (8) and Brodin (13) tallied the assists on Boldy’s first career NHL goal with lots of family and former Boston College teammates in attendance at TD Garden.

The Wild led, 3-1, at 12:26 of the second period as a result.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron made his way to the box for the second time in the game– this time for interference at 13:03.

Shortly after Minnesota’s power play came to an end, however, the Wild ended up shorthanded as Dumba caught Reilly without the puck and picked up an interference minor of his own at 15:10.

This time, the Bruins capitalized on the ensuing power play.

Marchand sent a shot attempt towards the net that was blocked before the B’s continued to work the puck around the attacking zone.

Suddenly, Bergeron made a no-look pass from the slot to where he expected Marchand to be and Marchand (12) buried a one-timer from the dot to bring Boston to within one goal.

Bergeron (14) and Grzelcyk (7) nabbed the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 15:35 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, the Wild led on the road, 3-2, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 24-21, despite trailing, 11-10, in the second period alone.

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (6-2), hits (25-16) and faceoff win% (58-42), while both teams had four takeaways and three giveaways each.

Minnesota was 2/7 on the power play and Boston was 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

After injuring Kaprizov and drawing the ire of the Wild, Frederic had to confront Minnesota’s Foligno brother in an exchange of fisticuffs at 1:12 of the third period.

The trouble is that Frederic couldn’t help himself in making his case any easier for him as he also drew a high sticking minor in addition to the five-minute major– totaling minutes in penalties on Thursday.

It was the second fight of the night and decisively shorted than the first with Foligno getting the takedown and five minutes worth of a fighting major of his own.

Minnesota’s ensuing power play was cut short when Rossi tripped Carlo at 1:24, but Boston couldn’t score during the ensuing abbreviated power play.

In fact, neither team could put one up on the scoreboard in the third period as time ticked away, Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 1:28 to go, used his timeout after a stoppage with 1:23 remaining, then the final horn sounded– signaling a Wild victory.

Minnesota won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 38-30, as Boston amassed a, 17-6 advantage in shots in the third period alone.

The Wild exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), while the B’s left their own building with the advantage in giveaways (7-5), hits (33-23) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Minnesota finished the night 2/8 on the power play, while Boston went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins dropped to 11-5-0 (5-3-0 at home) when scoring first, 3-6-1 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-8-2 (3-4-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Wild improved to 7-8-1 (3-5-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 13-0-1 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 12-0-1 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for a quick two-game trip through Tampa, Florida against the Lightning on Saturday and Washington, D.C. against the Capitals next Monday (Jan. 10th). 

Boston will return home to host the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally slated to be at Bell Centre prior to the rise of the Omicron variant prompting the NHL to move up Boston and Montréal’s March 21st game scheduled at TD Garden to Jan. 12th– kicking off a seven-game homestand for the B’s as a result.

Tickets for March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th and the original game that was slated to be in Montréal is postponed to a later date (TBA).

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 37-16-3, 77 points

1st in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Eliminated in the First Round by N.Y. Islanders

Additions: F Brian Boyle (signed to a PTO), F Michael Chaput, F Filip Hållander (acquired from TOR), F Danton Heinen, F Brock McGinn, F Dominik Simon, D Matt Barkowski (signed to a PTO), D Taylor Fedun, G Louis Domingue

Subtractions: F Pontus Åberg (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Josh Currie (KHL), F Frederick Gaudreau (signed with MIN), F Mark Jankowski (signed to a PTO with NJD), F Jared McCann (traded to TOR), F Sam Miletic (signed with Chicago Wolves, AHL), F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO with EDM), F Brandon Tanev (expansion, SEA), D Lukas Bengtsson (KHL), D Cody Ceci (signed with EDM), D Kevin Czuczman (signed with MIN), D Jesper Lindgren (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Andrey Pedan (KHL), D Zach Trotman (retired), D Yannick Weber (NL), G Maxime Lagacé (signed with TBL), G Emil Larmi (Liiga)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Zach Aston-Reese, F Kasper Björkqvist, F Teddy Blueger, F Evan Rodrigues, F Radim Zohorna

Offseason Analysis: Penguins General Manager, Ron Hextall, had a realtively quiet offseason outside of the announcements that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would miss some action to start the 2021-22 season.

After making some depth signings, Pittsburgh is left with about $121,800 in cap space. In other words, it might be a little bumpy out of the gate without Crosby and Malkin– especially since the Pens dealt Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Filip Hallander and a 2023 7th round pick ahead of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

In retrospect, perhaps it would’ve been worth keeping McCann and convincing the Seattle Kraken to take almost anyone else– there’s still a chance they would’ve taken Brandon Tanev anyway, especially if Pittsburgh had crafted a deal with the Kraken to agree to not select McCann in exchange for some draft picks or something.

Nevertheless, Hextall made a conscious decision to move on from McCann’s 14-18–32 totals in 43 games last season and Tanev’s 7-9–16 totals in 32 games with the Penguins in 2020-21 and live with the consequences of his own actions. At least there’s Jeff Carter.

At some point, the magic will wear out in Pittsburgh.

Though the Penguins may have calmed the waters of the Malkin trade rumors under the previous regime ruled by Jim Rutherford, there’s the reality of a post-Crosby and Malkin era soon to sink in.

Malkin is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and Crosby is under contract through the 2024-25 season.

If the Penguins aren’t able to escape the First Round in 2022, and Malkin determines there’s no future in sight for success in a Pittsburgh jersey, there’s a good chance he could leave– not in search of a big cheque, but rather another chance at one more Cup ring on a contender’s roster.

But let’s not get too bogged down by the grips of reality.

Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, has some juggling to do with the lineup– like always– and with a new cast of characters that includes Hållander, Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn and the return of Dominik Simon– there’s a lot of depth to go around.

At 21-years-old, Hållander might be ready for some NHL action, whether out of necessity or to simply prove his skill level.

Heinen, meanwhile, is looking for a fresh start after the Anaheim Ducks chose not to tender him a qualifying offer, leading him to sign a one-year deal with the Penguins worth $1.100 million.

In 43 games with the Ducks last season, Heinen had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists), scoring fewer points than he had in the previous season for third-straight season since he broke out with 16-31–47 totals in 77 games for the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.

McGinn was due for a payday and cashed in on a longer contract than he could’ve expected from the Carolina Hurricanes, signing a four-year deal worth $2.750 million per season with Pittsburgh this summer.

In 345 career NHL games, McGinn’s had 51-55–106 totals, including 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 37 games while battling injury last season.

He remains to be an effective penalty killing fourth liner and should fit Sullivan’s mold well as a means of ensuring his top-six forwards are rested and ready to go between shifts.

Simon begins his second stint with the Penguins after taking part in 11 games with the Calgary Flames last season and yielding four shots on goal, as well as no points in that span.

As for the biggest question mark entering the 2021-22 season for Pittsburgh, can Tristan Jarry come into his own as a starting goaltender?

Last season, Jarry went 25-9-3 in 39 games, which at first glance is great! He had 25 wins in almost 40 games played in the midst of a 56-game regular season schedule– backstopping Pittsburgh to a postseason appearance before losing in six games to the New York Islanders.

But in 39 games last season, Jarry had a 2.75 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts in that span, whereas he went 20-12-1 in 33 games with a 2.43 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 2019-20.

In his most recent season as Pittsburgh’s backup, Jarry has a goals-against average below 2.50 and a stellar save percentage over .920, but in all his other cumulative appearances each season since breaking into the league with a game in 2016-17, he’s been all over the place statistically speaking.

Casey DeSmith, meanwhile, broke into the league in 2017-18, and went 6-4-1 in 14 games with a 2.40 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and one shutout– following things up with a 15-11-5 record in 36 games played in 2018-19, when he had a 2.75 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and three shutouts.

Last season, DeSmith was back as the backup goaltender to Jarry and posted an 11-7-0 record in 20 games with a 2.54 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and two shutouts.

At 30-years-old, it’s likely that DeSmith won’t have as high of a ceiling as Jarry, who’s only 26, but then again goaltenders vary in the crux of their prime.

For Jarry, he may soon start to peak, while DeSmith may simply be an outlier as one of those goaltenders that comes into fruition later than even the most “average” of delayed primes for goalies.

In either case, it’s certainly not an enviable position to be in for Sullivan to have to figure out.

Offseason Grade: C

Let’s be real here, the Penguins didn’t go out and attract any stars and they didn’t lose that much (though McCann was a great piece of depth and Tanev probably exceeded his expectations due to the “Crosby factor”, both should make fine additions to the Kraken).

Pittsburgh had an average offseason for an average team that made the playoffs and had an average early ending.

They’re not a dominant force, though they finished atop the MassMutual NHL East Division last season. Sullivan has his ways of commanding his team in the regular season, but the roster lacks something to drag them across the line in the postseason these days– to take their play up a notch and crank it at 11.

The Pens aren’t as much of a concern for missing out on the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division race this season, but it should be harder to compete for dominance with the sustained improvement from the Islanders and the emergence of another team like the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils that could breakout and play spoiler among the division leaders.

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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.

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Free Agency NHL Nick's Net

2021 NHL Free Agency Signings Quick Recap

This post will be updated as signings are officially announced. Be sure to check our Twitter account (@DtFrozenRiver) for all of the latest signings, news, and analysis.

Free agency begins at noon (technically 12:01 PM ET) on July 28th.

For the second-straight year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the schedule a bit for the National Hockey League, but after the free agency signing period opens to kickoff the 2021-22 league calendar year, things will be back on track for a full 82-game schedule (albeit about a week later than usual).

All that is known is shown and will be updated throughout the day. More analysis will come as we play catch-up.

ESPN+ is streaming TSN’s coverage of free agency from 11 a.m. ET onward and NHL Network has the Sportsnet/their own feed, probably (we like the former, in all partiality).

Reported free agent signings

These are reported agreements in place that are yet to be confirmed and/or announced by a playing club.

F Kyle Palmieri has likely re-signed with the New York Islanders.

Announced free agent signings

These are confirmed/announced signings by playing clubs.

F Carter Verhaeghe signed a three-year extension worth about $4.167 million per season with the Florida Panthers that goes into effect starting with the 2022-23 season.

The Edmonton Oilers re-signed D Tyson Barrie to a three-year contract worth $4.500 million per season.

The Vegas Golden Knights signed D Alec Martinez to a three-year extension worth $5.250 million per season.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed G Frederik Andersen to a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season.

G Petr Mrazek signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $3.800 million per season.

F Nick Bonino agreed to a two-year contract with the San Jose Sharks.

F Brandon Sutter signed a one-year extension worth $1.125 million with the Vancouver Canucks.

G Antti Raanta reportedly signed a two-year deal worth $2.000 million per season with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Los Angeles Kings re-signed F Andreas Athanasiou to a one-year deal worth $2.700 million.

D Dougie Hamilton signed a seven-year contract worth $9.000 million per season with the New Jersey Devils.

F Blake Coleman signed a six-year deal worth $4.900 million per season with the Calgary Flames.

The Montréal Canadiens signed D David Savard to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season.

G Brian Elliott signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

D Tucker Poolman agreed to a four-year contract worth $2.500 million per season with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Dallas Stars signed F Luke Glendening to a two-year deal worth $1.500 million per season.

D Andreas Borgman signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Dallas Stars.

D Travis Hamonic signed a two-year extension worth $3.000 million per season with the Vancouver Canucks.

F Dominik Simon signed a one-year, two-way contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

F Charles Hudon signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

D Zach Bogosian signed a three-year contract worth $850,000 per season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The San Jose Sharks signed F Andrew Cogliano to a one-year contract worth $1.000 million.

The Montréal Canadiens signed F Cedric Paquette to a one-year contract worth $950,000.

D Brady Keeper signed a two-year deal worth $762,500 per season with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Vegas Golden Knights signed G Laurent Brossoit to a two-year deal worth $2.325 million per season.

F Jean-Sébastien Dea signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 with the Montréal Canadiens.

The San Jose Sharks signed G James Reimer to a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season.

F Michael Bunting signed a two-year deal worth $900,000 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

D Patrik Nemeth signed a three-year contract worth $2.500 million per season with the New York Rangers.

F Maxim Mamin signed a one-year deal worth $975,000 with the Florida Panthers.

D Louis Belpedio signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 with the Montréal Canadiens.

The Vancouver Canucks signed F Danila Klimovich to a three-year entry-level contract worth $886,667 per season.

The Dallas Stars signed D Alex Petrovic to a one-year, two-way contract.

F Michael Amadio signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Vancouver Canucks signed D Luke Schenn to a two-year contract worth $850,000 per season.

F Josh Leivo has signed a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Carolina Hurricanes signed D Ian Cole to a one-year, $2.900 million deal.

F Nic Petan signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Vancouver Canucks.

D Jake McCabe signed a four-year contract with Chicago worth $4.000 million per season.

The Detroit Red Wings signed D Jordan Oesterle to a two-year deal worth $1.350 million per season.

F Andrew Agozzino signed a two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.

D Adam Clendening signed a two-way deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.

D Ryan Murphy signed a two-way contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Los Angeles Kings have signed D Alex Edler to a one-year contract worth $3.500 million per season.

The Boston Bruins signed F Erik Haula to a two-year deal worth $2.375 million per season.

F Tomas Nosek signed a two-year contract worth $3.500 million per season with the Boston Bruins.

F Phil Di Giuseppe signed a two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season.

F Matt Luff signed a one-year, two-way, $750,000 deal with the Nashville Predators.

F Jon Lizotte signed a one-year, two-way, contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Minnesota Wild.

F Ryan Getzlaf agreed to a one-year extension with the Anaheim Ducks worth $4.500 million.

F Ryan Dzingel signed a one-year, $1.100 million deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

D Matt Tennyson signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Nashville Predators.

F Mattias Janmark reached an agreement on an extension with the Vegas Golden Knights.

F Josh Ho-Sang signed a PTO with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

F Mike Hoffman signed a three-year deal with the Montréal Canadiens worth $4.500 million per season.

G Linus Ullmark signed a four-year deal worth $5.000 million per season with the Boston Bruins.

G Garret Sparks reached an agreement on a one-year, two-way contract with the Los Angeles Kings worth $750,000 at the NHL level.

F Sam Gagner agreed to an extension with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Red Wings also agreed to an extension with G Calvin Pickard.

D Ryan Suter signed a four-year deal worth $3.650 million per season with the Dallas Stars.

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed F Boone Jenner to a four-year extension.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed F Evan Rodrigues to a one-year extension worth $1.000 million.

F Patrik Laine signed his qualifying offer with the Columbus Blue Jackets and will make $7.500 million on a one-year deal as a result.

F Eric Robinson agreed to terms on a two-year extension worth $3.200 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed D Keith Yandle to a one-year deal worth $900,000.

D Alex Goligoski signed a one-year deal worth $5.000 million with the Minnesota Wild.

G Braden Holtby signed a one-year contract worth $2.000 million with the Dallas Stars.

The Minnesota Wild signed F Frederick Gaudreau to a two-year deal worth $1.200 million per season.

D Jarred Tinordi signed a two-year deal worth $900,000 per season with the New York Rangers.

F Justin Bailey signed a one-year, two-way contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks.

The Vegas Golden Knights signed F Sven Baertschi to a one-year, two-way, contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed F Gabriel Dumont, D Darren Raddysh, D Andrej Sustr and G Maxime Lagacé to one-year, two-way contracts.

F Gage Quinney signed a one-year, two-way contract extension with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Ottawa Senators signed D Michael Del Zotto to a two-year contract worth $2.000 million per season.

Chicago signed F Jujhar Khaira to a two-year deal worth $975,000 per season.

F Alexander Wennberg agreed to a three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken.

The Nashville Predators signed F Anthony Richard to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level.

F Phillip Danault signed a six-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Seattle Kraken reached an agreement with F Jaden Schwartz on a five-year deal worth $5.500 million per season.

F Michael McCarron signed a two-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Nashville Predators.

G Martin Jones signed a one-year, $2.000 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

F Nate Thompson signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

G Philipp Grubauer is signed a six-year deal worth $5.900 million per season with the Seattle Kraken.

F Greg McKegg signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the New York Rangers.

F Dryden Hunt signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers.

The Florida Panthers signed D Brandon Montour to a three-year contract worth $3.500 million per season.

D Chris Wideman signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 with the Montréal Canadiens.

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed F Sean Kuraly to a four-year contract worth $2.500 million per season.

The San Jose Sharks signed F Lane Pederson to a two-year contract worth $750,000 per season.

D Tony DeAngelo signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes worth $1.000 million.

D Gavin Bayreuther signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Edmonton Oilers signed D Cody Ceci to a four-year deal worth $3.250 million per season.

F Kurtis Gabriel signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

F Zachary L’Heureux signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Nashville Predators.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed F David Kampf to a two-year contract worth $1.500 million per season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed F Brock McGinn to a four-year contract worth $2.750 million per season.

The Arizona Coyotes signed F Dmitrij Jaškin to a one-year contract.

The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed F Jordan Martinook to a three-year contract worth $1.800 million per season.

F Juho Lammikko signed a one-year extension with the Florida Panthers.

G Jonathan Bernier signed a two-year deal worth $4.125 million per season with the New Jersey Devils.

The Buffalo Sabres signed F Vinnie Hinostroza to a one-year contract worth $1.050 million.

F Zach Hyman reached an agreement with the Edmonton Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season.

G Filip Lindberg signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

F Brayden Point signed an eight-year extension worth $9.500 million per season with the Tampa Bay Lightning that goes into effect starting with the 2022-23 season.

The Boston Bruins agreed to a three-year deal with D Derek Forbort worth $3.000 million per season.

The Boston Bruins signed F Nick Foligno to a two-year deal.

G David Rittich agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.250 million with the Nashville Predators.

G Carter Hutton signed a one-year deal worth $750,000 with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Colorado Avalanche signed D Roland McKeown to a one-year contract.

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed F Alexandre Texier to a two-year contract extension worth $3.050 million.

F C.J. Smith signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level with the Carolina Hurricanes.

G Chris Gibson signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Florida Panthers.

The Detroit Red Wings signed F Pius Suter to a two-year contract.

D Brandon Davidson signed a one-year contract extension worth $750,000 with the Buffalo Sabres.

The Nashville Predators re-signed F Mikael Granlund to a four-year contract worth $5.000 million per season.

The Calgary Flames signed F Trevor Lewis to a one-year deal worth $800,000.

G Jaroslav Halak agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.500 million with the Vancouver Canucks.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Islanders can advance to the Second Round at home after, 3-2, 2OT victory in Game 5

The New York Islanders can eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice in Game 6 of their 2021 First Round matchup thanks to an error by Tristan Jarry in double overtime that Josh Bailey capitalized on– scoring the game-winning goal 51 seconds into the fifth frame– to win Game 5 on the road, 3-2, at PPG Paints Arena on Monday night.

On the same day that the Islanders scored in overtime to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4, in overtime for their first of four-straight Stanley Cup titles in 1980, New York put themselves one step closer to punching their ticket to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ilya Sorokin (3-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .951 save percentage in three games played) made 48 saves on 50 shots against in the win for New York.

He also became the first goaltender in Isles franchise history to win each of his first three career playoff games.

Jarry (2-3, 2.85 goals-against average, .901 save percentage in five games played) stopped 25 out of 28 shots faced in the loss for Pittsburgh.

Neither Barry Trotz, nor Mike Sullivan made any adjustments to their Islanders and Penguins lineups, respectively, for Game 5.

At puck drop, Kris Letang took sole possession of the third-most career postseason games in Pittsburgh’s franchise history as he skated in his 141st career Stanley Cup Playoffs game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr (140 career playoff games with the Penguins) in the process.

Almost midway into the opening frame, Bailey caught Kasperi Kapanen with a slash and presented the Pens with the night’s first power play at 7:47 of the first period.

It didn’t take Pittsburgh long to capitalize on the skater advantage as Evgeni Malkin (1) sent a shot over Sorokin’s blocker side to make it, 1-0, for the Penguins while Scott Mayfield inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

Letang (3) and Bryan Rust (1) tallied the assists on Malkin’s power-play goal at 8:20 of the opening frame.

With the goal, Malkin tied Denis Potvin for most all time playoff power-play goals in league history and tied Mario Lemieux for the second-most postseason points in a Penguins uniform.

Lemieux amassed 76-96–172 totals in 107 career postseason games, while Malkin had 64-108–172 totals in 169 playoff games at the time of the goal.

Late in the period, Bailey sent Anthony Beauvillier into the zone with speed, whereby Beauvillier (2) managed to deke around Jake Guentzel and elevated a shot over Jarry’s blocker to tie the game, 1-1, with a short breakaway goal.

Bailey (1) and Nick Leddy (2) notched the assists on Beauvillier’s goal at 19:05 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Penguins were leading in shots on goal, 12-10.

New York held the advantage in blocked shots (4-0), giveaways (2-1), hits (19-17) and faceoff win percentage (60-40), while both teams had two takeaways aside through 20 minutes of action.

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

Malkin hooked Leddy at 4:39 of the second period to kickoff the middle period on Monday– giving the Islanders their first power play of the night in the process.

New York did not convert on the skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby dropped a pass back to Rust (2) for a one-timer blast from the point over Sorokin’s blocker side to make it, 2-1, Pittsburgh at 7:37 of the second period.

Crosby (1) and Letang (4) had the assists on Rust’s goal.

Less than a few minutes later, Andy Greene caught Guentzel with a high stick and the Isles defender cut a rut to the penalty box as a result at 10:14.

The Penguins failed to capitalize on the resulting power play, though.

Pittsburgh led New York, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 32-14, in shots on goal, including a, 20-4, advantage in the second period alone through 40 minutes of action at PPG Paints Arena on Monday.

The Isles led in blocked shots (7-3), takeaways (5-4) and hits (28-27), while the Pens led in giveaways (3-2) and faceoff win% (52-48) entering the second intermission.

The Islanders were 0/1 and the Penguins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Jordan Eberle (2) tied the game, 2-2, at 8:50 of the third period after Jean-Gabriel Pageau worked hard on the forecheck to free the puck from Penguins defender, Brian Dumoulin, as Leo Komarov pounced on the loose puck and worked it to Eberle in the slot.

Eberle slid the puck underneath Jarry as the Pittsburgh netminder dove across the crease.

Komarov (1) and Pageau (4), meanwhile, picked up the helpers on Eberle’s goal.

Moments later, Oliver Wahlstrom was checked by Mike Matheson as Matheson held his stick high and caused a whiplash-esque effect while Wahlstrom’s head snapped back and forth due to the nature of the collision.

Though Wahlstrom never made head contact with the boards, he needed assistance getting off the ice. Meanwhile, there was no penalty on the play and the game continued shortly thereafter.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Frederick Gaudreau tripped Brock Nelson and presented the Islanders with a power play at 14:03, but New York couldn’t convert in the dying minutes of the third.

After 60 minutes of play, the Penguins and Islanders were deadlocked, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite Pittsburgh holding an advantage in shots on goal, 41-20, including a, 9-6, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Pens also held the lead in hits (40-39) and faceoff win% (51-49), while the Isles led in blocked shots (9-6) and takeaways (7-6). Both teams had six giveaways each heading into overtime.

The Islanders finished 0/2 and the Penguins went 1/2 on the power play as there were no penalties called in the extra frames.

There were no goals and no calls made in the first overtime, which resulted in the score still knotted, 2-2, while the Penguins led in shots on goal, 49-27, including an, 8-7, advantage in the first overtime alone.

New York led in blocked shots (13-9), and hits (47-46), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in faceoff win% (51-49) heading into the second overtime.

Both teams had eight takeaways and 11 giveaways entering double overtime.

Less than a minute into the fifth period of the night, Jarry turned the puck over with a tape-to-tape pass to the other team as Bailey (3) corralled the rubber biscuit, skated further into the zone and chipped a shot past Jarry’s glove to give the Islanders a, 3-2, victory 51 seconds into double overtime.

Bailey’s effort was unassisted and gave New York a 3-2 series lead heading home for Game 6 on Wednesday, but first the Penguins finished Monday night leading in shots on goal, 50-28, despite losing Game 5 in double overtime.

Both teams had one shot on net in the second overtime alone, while the Isles wrapped up Monday’s effort leading in blocked shots (13-9) and hits (47-46).

The Pens finished the night leading in giveaways (12-11) and faceoff win% (53-48).

The Islanders lead the series 3-2 heading home for Game 6 at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

Puck drop is expected around 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night and fans in the United States can catch national coverage on NBCSN, while those in Canada can feel inclined to choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Islanders defend the Coliseum with, 4-1, win in Game 4

The New York Islanders will play at least one more game at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before moving to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, on Saturday in Game 4 of their 2021 First Round series.

Islanders goaltender, Ilya Sorokin (2-0, 1.76 goals-against average, .944 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 30 shots faced in the win as four of his teammates each had a goal on the afternoon to tie the series 2-2.

Tristan Jarry (2-2, 3.05 goals-against average, .904 save percentage in four games played) stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced in the loss for the Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin and Cal Clutterbuck exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 4:07 of the first period.

Moments later, Malkin dug deeper in the rut to the penalty box as he caught Kyle Palmieri with a high stick and returned to the sin bin at 7:47– presenting New York with their first power play of the day as a result.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while both teams fired eight shots on net apiece.

The Islanders held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Penguins led in takeaways (3-1), giveaways (6-3) and hits (13-11).

Pittsburgh had yet to see any time on the skater advantage, while New York was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway into the second period, Josh Bailey (2) sent a shot from the faceoff dot past Jarry while Kris Letang pushed Anthony Beauvillier into his own goaltender.

Brock Nelson (2) and Beauvillier (2) had the assists on Bailey’s goal as the Islanders jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:07 of the second period.

Late in the period, Ryan Pulock (1) one-timed a shot past Jarry’s right pad to extend New York’s lead to two-goals.

Oliver Wahlstrom (2) and Nick Leddy (1) tallied the assists on Pulock’s goal as the Isles pulled ahead, 2-0, at 14:51.

Almost three minutes later, Malkin tripped Wahlstrom and was sent to the box at 17:55, but the Islanders couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Saturday, New York led Pittsburgh, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Pens, 20-17, in shots on goal. The Penguins even had a, 12-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Pittsburgh held the advantage in takeaways (6-1), giveaways (9-6) and hits (27-24), while New York led in faceoff win% (71-29).

Both teams had ten blocked shots aside as the Isles were 0/2 on the power play and the Pens have yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

Scott Mayfield obstructed Sidney Crosby from making a play with a hold and was assessed a holding infraction at 4:04 of the third period.

Pittsburgh’s ensuing power play didn’t last long as Jason Zucker tripped Adam Pelech 30 seconds later to commence a span of 1:31 at 4-on-4 at 4:34.

The Penguins gifted the Islanders a rare 4-on-3 advantage for 49 seconds when Letang interfered with Pelech at 5:15 of the third period.

New York wasted no time on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage after Mayfield returned to the action as Wahlstrom (1) fired a shot that rebounded off of Jarry before Teddy Blueger accidentally knocked the puck into his own net.

Mathew Barzal (3) and Pulock (2) notched the assists on Wahlstrom’s power-play goal as the Isles extended their lead, 3-0, at 6:04 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Barzal setup Jordan Eberle (1) for a catch-and-release goal over Jarry’s glove side from the slot to make it, 4-0, Islanders.

Barzal (4) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (3) had the assists on Eberle’s goal at 6:28.

Late in the period, Jake Guentzel cross checked Nelson and presented New York with one last power play for the afternoon at 15:33 of the third period.

Things did not go quite as planned for the Islanders as the Penguins managed to score a shorthanded goal when Zach Aston-Reese (1) buried a rebound while crashing the net off of a shot from Brian Dumoulin.

Dumloulin (2) and Frederick Gaudreau (2) had the assists on Aston-Reese’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Penguins trailed, 4-1, at 17:25.

At the final horn, the Islanders had won, 4-1, and evened the series 2-2, despite trailing in shots on goal, 30-26.

Pittsburgh wrapped up the action leading in giveaways (9-8) and hits (34-31), while New York finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (14-11) and faceoff win% (66-34).

The Isles went 2/5 and the Pens went 0/1 on the power play in Game 4.

With the series tied 2-2, one team will emerge with a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 back in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Puck drop at PPG Paints Arena is set for 7 p.m. ET. Viewers living in the United States can tune to NBC for the action, while those in Canada have the option to choose from SN1 or TVAS.

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Previews

Nashville Predators 2018-19 Season Preview

Nashville Predators

53-18-11, 117 points, Presidents’ Trophy winners

Lost in the Second Round to Winnipeg (4-3)

Additions: C Colin Blackwell, LW Connor Brickley, RW Rocco Grimaldi, D Dan Hamhuis, C Zachary Magwood, LW Zac Rinaldo, D Jarred Tinordi

Subtractions: C Cody Bass, LW Brandon Bollig, D Stefan Elliott, D Alexei Emelin, C Mike Fisher, D Petter Granberg, LW Scott Hartnell, G Anders Lindback, C Mark McNeil, G Matt O’Connor, D Rick Pinkston, D John Ramage, C Trevor Smith, D Scott Valentine, LW Harry Zolnierczyk

Re-signed: D Ryan Ellis, RW Ryan Hartman, W Miikka Salomaki, G Juuse Saros

Offseason Analysis: The Predators had all the ingredients of a Stanley Cup winner last year. The offense was solid, the defense was stifling, and the goaltending was world-class. They boasted largely the same group that had made it all the way to the Final in 16-17, so now they had the experience and know-how that allows teams to get to the promised land. They dominated the regular season and walked into the playoffs with a Vince McMahon-like strut. Mike Fisher was so confident in their abilities to win a Cup that he quite literally decided he’d rather get back into hockey shape and unretire to join them for the playoffs rather than stay home and be Carrie Underwood’s husband (she never did return my letters about being her fill-in husband while he was away).

After dispatching of the Avs in the First Round, though, the Preds encountered a problem. They encountered (arguably) the one team that was capable of beating them: the Winnipeg Jets. The knock-down, drag-out playoff matchup hockey fans and media were begging for was to be the downfall of the Preds. Winnipeg’s unrelenting physicality, superior offensive firepower and the shattering of Pekka Rinne‘s confidence were too much for the Preds to overcome, and they’d fall unceremoniously in a 5-1 home loss after managing to force a Game 7.

Luckily for the Nashville brass, the offseason they faced wasn’t supremely daunting. Apart from a few young RFA’s and some aging role players (plus the re-retirement of Fisher), they had no real NHL-level contract concerns. The core of the team was secure heading into the 18-19 campaign. But still the sting of defeat in back-to-back potential Cup-winning years hurt, and efforts to counter a potential third year of the same had to be made.

With no draft picks until the fourth round, GM David Poile instead focused on free agency to bring immediate help to his team. When things opened up on July 1, he first tasked himself with helping them from within, re-signing wingers Miikka Salomaki (two years, $750 thousand per) and Ryan Hartman (one year, $875 thousand) and young stud No. 2 goaltender Juuse Saros (three years, $1.5 million per) to very reasonable deals. He then snagged one of his former draft picks in Dan Hamhuis, inking the 35-year-old to a two-year, $2.5 million contract to replace the departed Alexei Emelin and solidify the defense. Poile then knocked a big task off of next year’s to-do list when he signed defenseman Ryan Ellis to an eight-year, $50 million contract extension ($6.25 million cap hit) that takes hold next summer. Ellis has grown into one of the Preds’ most versatile and reliable defenders, and Poile saw no reason to wait on locking him up for the foreseeable future.

Few other signings were notable names, mostly organizational depth, although newcomers Rocco Grimaldi, Zac Rinaldo, Colin Blackwell, and AHL-contracted Brian Cooper have made noise to this point in training camp and are all still on the preseason roster heading into the final days/cuts.

Up front, the lineup will look largely unchanged from last year’s group, with really only depth positions likely up for grabs. Winger Scott Hartnell was the only full-timer from last year to depart, and 2017 first round pick Eeli Tolvanen looks poised to inherit his place in the lineup. While lacking Hartnell’s snarl, Tolvanen is a deadly shooter and spent last year lighting up the Finnish Elite League as a rookie fresh out of the USHL. With success in a men’s league and experience on North American ice, Tolvanen should be ready for an NHL roster spot. The only other notable absence, at least to start the season, will be the lack of power forward winger Austin Watson. The 26-year-old was suspended for the first 27 games of the season after pleading no contest to charges of domestic battery over the summer. It comes after Watson finally solidified his place in the Predators lineup last season, and they’ll have to make due without his size and physicality for at least the first few months of the year.

In Watson’s absense, I have the opening night forward group looking like:
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Fiala – Turris – Smith
Tolvanen – Bonino – Sissons
Salomaki – Jarnkrok – Hartman
Extra forwards Grimaldi and Frederick Gaudreau

The defense also only lost one regular from last year, and Hamhuis should step right into that slot. Really only the No. 6 slot to his right remains a question, and while Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto are more than capable, they both have an uphill battle to unseat Yannick Weber based solely upon the fact that he’s the only right handed shot among them. The only problem facing the Preds here is that none of the three are on two-way contracts, so basically they get to decide who they’re most comfortable putting on waivers. In the end I think Irwin’s NHL experience could give him the edge in that decision.

Defensive lineup should look like:
Josi – Ellis
Ekholm – Subban
Hamhuis – Weber
Extra defender Irwin

In goal, it’s Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros. Sorry I couldn’t make that any more entertaining.

Er, well, it is a contract year for Rinne. So… umm… that’ll be interesting, I guess.

Offseason Grade: B

Less really was more, here.

Poile played it smart, as he often does. He kept his spending to a minimum (the Preds should enter the season with a smidge north of $8 million to play with) and used the depth he’s accumulated to still ice one of the better lineups in the league.

The defense is arguably the best (or at least top three) in the league, and none of the top seven are in contract years. (In fact, only four forwards likely to make the NHL club are to see free agency next year, and every one of them is still RFA eligible)

Rinne is likely looking at his last shot at a Cup as a No. 1 guy (he’ll turn 36 this year), so he’ll be leaving nothing on the table.

The forward group is solid, if not spectacular. But with all that aforementioned cap space available, scoring punch can certainly be brought in sometime before the deadline if it proves to be a concern heading towards the playoffs.

We haven’t seen the last of Smashville playoff runs.

Categories
Playoff Recaps

Preds’ counterattack levels Cup Finals

2017 Stanley Cup Finals – Game 4

 

After losing the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, Nashville has done exactly what it needed to do by beating the Penguins 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena in Game 4 to level the series at two games apiece.

Entering Monday’s match, the Predators had averaged 32.3 shots-on-goal per game in the Finals, a lofty number compared to the Pens’ 22.3 average.

Even though it didn’t quite reach that number Monday, three offerings proved extremely important for Nashville in the 15th minute of the first period. The first was an Austin Watson wrist shot fired on Matthew Murray‘s net from beyond the far face-off circle with 5:11 remaining in the frame. The netminder was able to make the stop, but he couldn’t contain the rebound.

That’s where Calle Jarnkrok (Craig Smith and Watson) comes into play only two seconds later. He and Smith both crashed Murray’s crease to collect the rebound. Smith was the first to the loose puck and bat the puck out of the air over the goalie’s left leg. Murray deflected that offering too, but he couldn’t stop the third: a Jarnkrok wrister from the near corner of the crease to give the Preds a 1-0 lead.

Mike Sullivan elected to challenge the play for goaltender interference, but Toronto correctly ruled that Smith’s follow-through, though it made obvious contact with Murray, did not occur before  before the puck had entered the net.

Beyond that marker, offense – specifically offensive possession – was at a premium in Game 4. Don’t let a 4-1 final score fool you, as both clubs managed only 26 and 24 shots, respectively, due in large part to the strong defensive efforts by both squads.

Pittsburgh preferred to keep Murray’s workload to a minimum by blocking shots before they reached his crease. In total, the Penguins blocked 18 Nashville attempts, including an impressive four rejections by Brian Dumoulin.

Meanwhile, the Predators played with a bit more finesse in front of First Star of the Game Pekka Rinne, preferring to force and capitalize on turnovers. Not only did Matt Irwin lead that charge with two of the Preds’ eight takeaways, Nashville was a bigger beneficiary of the Penguins’ sloppy handling. Pittsburgh gave the puck away 16 times, including a miserable four by Ron Hainsey.

Regardless of how either team decided to play, this type of game makes a club’s ability to counter-strike paramount to its success.

The first of those breakaway tallies was struck only 66 seconds after Jarnkrok had finished celebrating his second goal of the playoffs, courtesy of Sidney Crosby (Dumoulin).

Given the events late in Game 3 and their interactions over the first 15:57 of play, P.K. Subban was definitely under Crosby’s skin early in the contest. Anytime they came in close contact, Crosby made sure to give the defenseman an extra shove.

But being under Crosby’s skin does not mean he cannot score. After Dumoulin laced a blue line-to-blue line pass to him at the top of his offensive zone, Pittsburgh’s captain took advantage of his one-on-one matchup with Rinne to patiently wait until the netminder committed to a forehand deke. Crosby then pulled the puck across to his backhand side to bounce the puck off the far post and then off the netminder’s left skate to level the game.

The score read 1-1 for the remainder of the opening frame, but the counterattack theme continued in the second period. This time, both goaltenders were up to the task… at least at first glance.

First up was Rinne, who saved a breakaway wrister fired from the crease by Chris Kunitz at the 3:29 mark. That attempt was followed only 16 seconds later by Murray batting Third Star Frederick Gaudreau‘s wrap-around offering back towards center ice just before it crossed the goal line.

Or so it seemed.

None in the building noticed it, but someone in Toronto did. From approximately 770 miles away, the NHL stopped play almost a full minute later to force a review of Murray’s seemingly miracle save. Video showed that the puck did barely completely cross the red goal line before Murray sent it the other way, meaning the Predators earned a 2-1 lead. Ryan Ellis and Harry Zolnierczyk provided the assists on Gaudreau’s tie-breaking – and what proved to be game-winning – tally.

Yet another Predators breakaway opportunity formed with seven minutes remaining before the second intermission. It started in Nashville’s defensive zone along the far boards when Roman Josi forced the puck towards the blue line. Though Ian Cole tried to separate James Neal from the puck, the former Penguin forced his way past the defenseman to advance it into the neutral zone to Second Star Mike Fisher. Fisher’s adversary was Evgeni Malkin, who knocked the Predators’ captain to the ice – but not before he batted a puck towards Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson beat Justin Schultz to the pass, and in doing so set up a one-on-one matchup with Murray. Arvidsson took the opportunity to line up a wrister towards the far post to beat the goalie’s suspect glove.

Trailing by two goals in the final period, the Penguins managed the best offense they could muster in attempts of tying the game. Even then, their 10 shots were not enough to get past Rinne. To further tilt the tables in its favor, Pittsburgh pulled Murray with 3:31 remaining before the final horn. The Pens were rewarded for that decision only eight seconds later when Filip Forsberg (Mattias Ekholm and Subban) scored a wrister from his defensive face-off circle to set the 4-1 final score.

The Stanley Cup Finals, now a best-of-three series, will recommence following a 90-minute flight from the Music City to the City of Bridges. Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time at PPG Paints Arena and may be viewed on NBC in the United States and CBC, SN or TVAS in Canada.

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Playoff Recaps

Preds’ power play perplexes Pens

2017 Stanley Cup Final – Game 3

 

After returning home to the friendlier environment of Bridgestone Arena, Nashville dominated the Penguins Saturday night with a 5-1 victory to pull within a game of leveling the Stanley Cup Finals.

One of the biggest story lines coming into Game 3 was which goaltender Peter Laviolette would play: usual starter Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros, who played the remaining 16:32 of Game 2. It should have been no surprise that Rinne maintained his position between the pipes, just as it was no surprise that the Penguins tried to test him early.

Though Pittsburgh fired only a half-dozen first period shots at Rinne, none were better than Jake Guentzel‘s (Ian Cole and Sidney Crosby) wrist shot 2:46 into the contest. The lone goal of the first period, he took advantage of Rinne being unable to contain the rebound off Cole’s slap shot from the near point and squeezed his five-hole attempt underneath the netminder for an early Pens lead.

With his 13th tally since April 12, Guenztel has surpassed Jeremy Roenick for second-most playoff markers by a rookie is only a goal short of tying Dino Ciccarelli‘s record for most all-time.

It was only Rinne’s second shot faced of the night and gave an early impression that he was still fighting the same demons he was in the Steel City. As it would turn out, he was more than deserving of his First Star of the Game honor.

Following the rough start to the evening, Rinne would save 26-straight Penguins shots to close the remaining 57:14 of play with an overall .964 save percentage.

But after allowing a goal early in the game, it does not matter how well a goalie performs if his offense cannot find the back of the opposition’s net.

Then again, who needs an offense when Nashville has such a productive defense?

With Justin Schultz in the penalty box for holding Harry Zolnierczyk at the 4:13 mark of the second period, Second Star Roman Josi (Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm) fired a slap shot from the far face-off circle with 22 seconds remaining in the man advantage to level the game with the first of the game – but certainly not the last – to beat Matthew Murray‘s glove.

That power play goal, paired with the rejuvenated support from Nashville’s “Seventh Man,” proved to be exactly the spark the Preds needed. Only 42 seconds after Josi’s game-tying marker, Third Star Frederick Gaudreau (Austin Watson and Josi) found what proved to be the game-winner: a breakaway wrister that turned a defending Cole into a screen against his own netminder to beat him – once again – glove side.

The second period couldn’t end quickly enough for Pittsburgh, but it couldn’t get to the dressing room before getting officially reacquainted with an old friend. With 23 seconds remaining before the second intermission, former Penguin James Neal (Viktor Arvidsson and Josi) completed the Predators’ fantastic frame by banking an insurance wrister off the back of Murray’s glove and into the net.

Just as the night’s scoring began for the Predators, it would also find its conclusion on the power play. This time, Crosby (for boarding Ryan Ellis), Filip Forsberg (for cross checking Evgeni Malkin) and Malkin (for cross checking Forsberg) were all in their respective penalty boxes to set up a five-on-four opportunity for Nashville. Ekholm (Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons) waited only 27 seconds before ripping a slap shot top shelf over Murray’s stick shoulder.

Though Ekholm’s marker would prove to be the last yielded by Murray, the damage was more than done. He saved only 23-of-26 shots faced (.848 save percentage) for five goals allowed, but his most striking statistic is his performance against the power play.

Even though Murray faced only two shots while short a skater, both offerings found their way past him. The fact that the Penguins penalty kill allowed only two shots on three Predators power plays proves that it is Murray that needs to improve on this aspect of his game before Game 4.

Not all of Murray’s goals allowed were directly his fault though. The goaltender was able to stop the Preds’ first breakaway opportunity in the third period – an offering by Gaudreau 2:27 into the period – but he couldn’t save the second. After Chris Kunitz bounced the puck off Phil Kessel‘s skate to give it to Craig Smith at center ice, it was all the wing could do but attack Murray’s unreliable glove side with a wrister from between the face-off circles to set the score at 4-1 with 15:06 remaining.

Offensively for the Penguins, it should be very concerning to Mike Sullivan that his primary striking corps of Crosby, Kessel and Malkin managed only three shots on goal among them (all by Kessel). Though the story of Guentzel is exciting, it is these men that are expected to spearhead their club – not the rookie. If the Penguins cannot get this issue resolved, they could find the same fate awaiting them in Game 4.

If the Penguins did anything well, it was block shots. Though the Predators led the shots-on-goal statistic 33-28, that differential could have been much higher if not for Pittsburgh’s impressive 20 rejections. In particular, Olli Maatta stood out from the rest by leading his club with three blocks – a total matched in Game 3 only by Nashville’s Ellis.

Bridgestone Arena will come alive once again this Monday – country singers, catfish and all –  at 8 p.m. Eastern time. For those that don’t have tickets, you’re encouraged to tune your television to NBC if you reside in the United States or CBC, SN or TVAS in Canada.

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Playoff Recaps

Penguins trounce Predators 5-3 in Game 1

2017 Stanley Cup Final– Game One Recap

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Comebacks are a bit of Peter Laviolette’s specialty. That is until Monday night when Nashville Predators head coach, Laviolette, faced fellow Massachusetts native and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan in Game 1 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Sullivan coaxed his Penguins to the 5-3 victory on home ice— staving off a looming Predators comeback at PPG Paints Arena.

Jake Guentzel scored the game winning goal late in the 3rd period before Nick Bonino added an empty net goal for good measure, securing the win for Pittsburgh goaltender Matthew Murray.

Murray made 23 saves on 26 shots against for an .885 save percentage in the win, while Nashville’s Pekka Rinne stopped 7 out of 11 shots faced for a .636 SV% in the loss.

This year’s Stanley Cup Final begins with controversy, though of a different kind from what you’re probably thinking about (a borderline hit, a blown call or whatever). No, this year’s Stanley Cup Final began with a coach’s challenge that drastically turned the momentum of Game 1 on its side.

P.K. Subban thought he had scored his 3rd goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs early in the 1st period, but after Sullivan challenged the call on the ice, the refs determined that prior to the puck entering the net, the Predators had entered the zone offside.

The review lasted 4:12 and was the 19th coach’s challenge of the 2017 postseason. It was only the 5th to result in the call on the ice being overturned.

Sullivan, of note, is 2-for-2 in the successful outcome of having utilized his coach’s challenge this postseason.

With 6:10 to go in the 1st period, Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal took coinciding minor penalties for interference and cross checking, respectively, resulting in a 5-on-3 power play for the Penguins.

It didn’t take long for Pittsburgh to capitalize on the two man advantage, as Evgeni Malkin (8) opened up scoring on a power play goal. Trevor Daley (3) and Sidney Crosby (14) assisted the goal that made it 1-0 Penguins.

Conor Sheary (1) followed suit with a goal of his own less than a minute later on a tremendous no look pass from Chris Kunitz. Sheary’s one timer goal from the side of the net made it a 2-0 game and was assisted by Kunitz (4) and Crosby (15).

Bonino (3) capped off the three goal 1st period for Pittsburgh, scoring his first of two goals on the night with 17 seconds left in the period after throwing a shot near Nashville’s goal before it deflected off of Predators defenseman, Mattias Ekholm, and in. Brian Dumoulin (3) collected the only assist on Bonino’s goal.

After 20 minutes of play, the Penguins led 3-0 on the scoreboard, while the Predators led in just about every other category, including shots on goal (11-8).

Nashville was unsuccessful on their first power play opportunity of the night almost four minutes into the 2nd period, but they wouldn’t be fooled again for the rest of the night on the man advantage.

Almost a minute after the Penguins killed off Olli Maatta’s interference minor, Ian Cole was sent to the penalty box for roughing Jarnkrok after a stoppage in play.

With Viktor Arvidsson screening Pittsburgh’s net minder, Ryan Ellis (5) unloaded a shot past Murray with 18 seconds left on the ensuing power play and cut the lead to two. Subban (9) and Mike Fisher (1) recorded the assists on the power play goal, which made it 3-1. Fisher’s assist snapped a career worst 16-games without a point in the playoffs.

Entering the 2nd intermission, the Predators trailed 3-1 despite outshooting the Penguins 20-8 in the game and 9-0 in the 2nd period alone. That’s right, Pittsburgh failed to record a shot on goal in the 2nd period. Nashville became the first team to hold an opponent to 0 shots on goal in a period in a Stanley Cup Final game since the NHL officially began tracking the stat in the 1957-1958 season.

Mounting a comeback effort in the 3rd period, Colton Sissons (6) redirected a shot behind Murray on a power play with 9:54 to go in regulation. Roman Josi found a loose puck as a result of a botched pass attempt from Jarnkrok and fired the puck on goal after Nashville won the offensive zone face-off on a power play, thanks to Malkin’s slashing minor against Subban. Josi (6) and Jarnkrok (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists.

Trailing by a goal, the last thing the Preds wanted to do was take a stupid penalty. Thankfully, the Penguins weren’t able to convert on Subban’s delay of game minor penalty for sending the puck over the glass.

Shortly after killing off Subban’s penalty, Frederick Gaudreau (1) notched his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and tied the game, 3-3, with 6:31 to go in regulation.

The assists on Gaudreau’s goal went to Austin Watson (3) and Fisher (2).

Exactly 37 minutes after Bonino made it a 3-0 game, the Pittsburgh Penguins recorded their 9th shot on goal. And it wasn’t just any shot from the Pens. It was also a goal, this time on a wrist shot from the rookie, Guentzel (10) with 3:17 to go in the 3rd period. Again, that’s two shots in a span of 37 minutes between the 1st period and the 3rd period (and both shots were goals).

Matt Cullen (6) and Justin Schultz (8) picked up the assists on Guentzel’s game winning goal that had made it a 4-3 game.

Prior to becoming the hero of Game 1, Guentzel had “been getting really frustrated lately” as a result of his recent point skid— or more accurately, his recent goal skid— which put him in the fourth line spot that he was playing on Monday night, per our in house Penguins beat Down the Frozen River contributor, Connor Keith.

Finally, Bonino (4) doused the hopes of yet another rallying effort by Nashville with an empty net goal at 18:58 of the 3rd period. Kunitz (5) had the only assist on the goal that made it an untouchable 5-3 game.

At the final horn, the Penguins held on to win Game 1, despite trailing in nearly every important statistical category not including the final score. Nashville outshot Pittsburgh 26-12, led in blocked shots, 14-9, and hits, 37-31. The Penguins dominated the face-off dot on the night winning 58% of face-offs taken.

Pittsburgh finished the night 1/3 on the power play, while Nashville had marginally better success, converting on two of their three (2/3) man advantage opportunities on Monday.

The Penguins take a 1-0 series lead heading into Wednesday night for Game 2 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final on home ice. Puck drop at PPG Paints Arena is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in to NBCSN for coverage, while Canadian viewers have their choice of CBC, SN or TVA Sports.