The DTFR Duo honors Ted Lindsay, addresses a potential outdoor game hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, talk John Tavares’ “welcome” back to Long Island, can’t figure out the Ottawa Senators coaching change circus and more.
Evgeni Malkin did a bad thing, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game broke attendance records and more trades happened in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron reached 1,000 games and David Pastrnak is injured for the Boston Bruins leaving Nick in a glass case of emotion.
Plus, Eugene Melnyk plans to spend money, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a new alternate sweater, Randy Carlyle was fired and Scott Niedermayer will have his number retired (again) this week. Finally, Connor has a new segment.
The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.
There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.
Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.
Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot
Nick and Connor review the Vegas Golden Knights draft history, praise Carter Hart’s NHL debut, talk about Scott Gordon’s introduction as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Patrik Berglund situation, Whalers Night and a teaser 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship preview.
*Editor’s note: Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Games. The 2026 and 2030 Winter Games host cities have yet to be selected.
With the holiday season and the league’s December 19 roster freeze on the horizon, the NHL schedule rages on with 51 fixtures scheduled for this week.
|NHL SCHEDULE: December 10-16|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, December 10|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh Penguins||New York Islanders||2-1 (SO)|
|7:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Detroit||1-3|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Tampa Bay Lightning||3-6|
|10:30 p.m.||New Jersey||San Jose||2-5|
|Tuesday, December 11|
|7 p.m.||Los Angeles||Buffalo||3-4 (OT)|
|8 p.m.||Florida||St. Louis||3-4|
|Wednesday, December 12|
|7 p.m.||Vegas Golden Knights||New York Islanders||3-2|
|8:30 p.m.||Philadelphia||Calgary||5-6 (OT)|
|Thursday, December 13|
|7 p.m.||Los Angeles||Columbus|
|7:30 p.m.||Carolina||Montréal||RDS, TSN2|
|7:30 p.m.||Toronto||Tampa Bay||TVAS|
|10:30 p.m.||Dallas||San Jose||SN1|
|Friday, December 14|
|7 p.m.||Vegas||New Jersey|
|7 p.m.||Arizona Coyotes||New York Rangers|
|8 p.m.||Colorado||St. Louis|
|Saturday, December 15|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||Montréal||SN, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Toronto||Florida||CBC, CITY, SN1|
|7 p.m.||Detroit Red Wings||New York Islanders|
|7 p.m.||Los Angeles||Pittsburgh||NHLN|
|8 p.m.||New Jersey||Nashville|
|10 p.m.||Philadelphia Flyers||Vancouver Canucks||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, December 16|
|12:30 p.m.||Vegas Golden Knights||New York Rangers||NHLN, SN|
|3 p.m.||Calgary||St. Louis|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Chicago|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Winnipeg||SN, TVAS|
In terms of rivalries, playoff rematches and player returns, this is a quiet week in the NHL. Only four rivalries will be contested – highlighted by the Penguins visiting the Islanders on Monday and Edmonton at Winnipeg tonight.
Speaking of the Islanders, they’re heading back to Nassau Coliseum for two of their three games this week. The previously mentioned tilt against fellow Metropolitan Division side Pittsburgh will take place in the old barn, as will Saturday’s matchup against Detroit.
Finally, the weekly homecoming list is headlined by D Mike Reilly making his first trip back to St. Paul on Tuesday since being traded to Montréal on February 26.
Considering Reilly is a third-pair defenseman, that might be a liberal use of the word “headlined.”
Instead, I’m immensely more interested in tonight’s game from Florida that features the top two teams from the Atlantic Division.
Ontario’s (wait, you’re telling me there’s another team in the same province?) beloved Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 21-9-1 record good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.
News flash for those that have been living under a rock for the last six months: yeah, the Leafs are legit.
The Maple Leafs boast a solid 6-1-1 record in their past eight showings, including impressive victories over the Bruins and Sharks – not to mention a thrilling overtime win in Buffalo on December 4.
With the defense blatantly struggling during this run (Toronto has allowed 36.38 shots against per game since November 24, the second-worst mark in the NHL behind Ottawa’s 37.22 in that time), the offense has taken full command of Head Coach Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs’ game plan.
On the season, Toronto averages 3.65 goals per game – the third-highest mark in the league. Most teams would be happy maintaining that success, but the Leafs have found an even higher gear of late, averaging 4.38 goals per game in their last eight showings.
Leading that charge has been exactly who you’d expect: C Auston Matthews. While his 6-5-11 totals since November 24 technically trail F Mitch Marner’s 13 assists (Marner, of course, ranks second in the league with 35 assists and is tied with Tampa’s F Brayden Point for sixth in points with 41 apiece), it must be remembered that Matthews has only played six games in that time as compared to his teammate’s eight.
Joining Marner and Matthews in averaging a point per game or better during this eight-game run are W Andreas Johnsson (5-5-10 totals) and D Jake Gardiner (1-7-8). And, don’t forget about C John Tavares, whose 19 goals are tied for ninth-most in the NHL with Colorado’s LW Gabriel Landeskog.
A final note in regards to Toronto’s attack is in regards to its deadly power play. For the season, the Leafs rank seventh best in the league with a 25.9 percent success rate. However, goals have been coming far more often since November 24, as they have lit the lamp on six of their last 18 man-advantage situations for a 33.3 percent power play that ties Tampa Bay for second-best in the NHL in that time.
Tonight’s game against Toronto is the finale of a four-game home stand for the 24-7-1 Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL’s top team. Not only are the Bolts attempting to win all four of those games at their barn, but they’re also trying to continue their current seven-game winning streak that started on November 29 against the Sabres.
Notable victories during this winning streak came against the aforementioned Sabres, Bruins and Avalanche.
Just like the Leafs, the key to Tampa Bay’s domination is its overpowering offense. During this winning streak, the Bolts have scored an average of 5.14(!) goals per game, far and away the best in the league in that time and a massive improvement on the league-leading four goals per game they’ve averaged for the entire season.
Every skater that has taken to the ice during this winning streak has at least two points to his credit, but only four have averaged at least a point per game. C Steven Stamkos (8-4-12 totals since November 29) leads that group, joined by RW Nikita Kucherov (3-9-12), Point (3-6-9) and D Victor Hedman (0-7-7).
Of course, it’s not as if its any surprise which players are leading the charge for the Lightning. Point’s 21 goals on the season are tied for second-most in the league, while Kucherov’s 33 assists and 45 points are both third-most in the NHL.
An added benefit of the Bolts’ commanding offense is its impact on the defensive end of the ice. While D Dan Girardi (1.7 blocks per game since November 29), Kucherov (six takeaways in his last seven showings) and F Cedric Paquette (3.9 hits per game during this winning streak) should certainly be commended for their defensive efforts – especially in light of 9-3-1 G Andrei Vasilevskiy’s foot injury that had kept him out of the crease since November 10 – the fact that they are leading the team in their statistics with average numbers shows just how much the Lightning are dominating possession. During this winning run, Tampa Bay has allowed only 27.29 shots against per game, the sixth-lowest mark in the league in that time.
With Vasilevskiy returning to the ice tonight, it goes without saying that he’d likely appreciate that trend continuing while he gets back into the swing of play.
So who wins this clash of offensive titans?
For me, this game boils down to the goaltenders. How well Vasilevskiy performs in his first action in a month will be a major factor. Before going down with injury, he was managing a solid .927 save percentage and 2.29 GAA. While he does have the benefit of playing behind a solid team, the Leafs are good enough on the attack that they will still be able to test him significantly throughout this game.
Meanwhile, 17-8-0 G Frederik Andersen will not have the benefit of any solid defense playing in front of him this evening, but that has not been a problem yet this year. Despite facing an average of 33.12 shots against per appearance (compared to Vasilevskiy’s 31.69), Andersen has still posted a .928 save percentage and 2.44 GAA to earn the second-most wins in the NHL.
With that in mind, I’m leaning towards the Leafs taking this one in a wildly back-and-forth barn-burner of a game. I think Vasilevskiy will show just enough rust that Toronto can escape Tampa Bay with a 4-3 victory.
More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.
Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.
David Krejci (1-1–2 totals) surpassed Cam Neely for 10th place in the Boston Bruins all-time scoring list with his 591st and 592nd career points with Boston in Saturday night’s, 6-3, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.
Jaroslav Halak (9-4-2, 2.30 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 17 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen (16-8-0, 2.50 GAA, .926 SV% in 24 GP) made 22 saves on 28 shots faced (.786 SV%) in 46:10 time on ice in the loss.
Garret Sparks (4-1-1, 2.84 GAA, .913 SV% in seven GP) replaced Andersen almost midway through the third period for Toronto and turned aside all four shots he faced in the remaining 13:47 TOI.
Boston improved to 15-10-4 (34 points) on the season and leapt back over the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Maple Leafs fell to 20-9-1 (41 points) on the season and remain 2nd in the Atlantic Division– six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead.
With the win on Saturday, the Bruins are now 1-3-0 in the month of December and are being outscored, 15-10, in that four-game span.
Bruce Cassidy informed reporters prior to Saturday night’s matchup that Jake DeBrusk will miss the weekend’s games at home and in Ottawa as the young Bruins forward has “not [been] feeling well.”
DeBrusk had taken a puck to the back of the head on a shot from his own teammate on Nov. 26th in Toronto, which might be contributing to his current ailment, though it was not confirmed.
As a result of DeBrusk’s injury, Cassidy indicated Saturday night would mark Gemel Smith’s debut (and home debut) as a Bruin.
With DeBrusk out of the equation on the second line, Cassidy juggled the lines to keep Brad Marchand, Krejci and David Pastrnak together on the first line and Colby Cave centering Danton Heinen and David Backes to round out the top-six forwards.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson started the game on the third line between Ryan Donato and Joakim Nordstrom, while Smith slid in on the left side of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.
On defense, Torey Krug was paired with Brandon Carlo on the top defensive pair, with Matt Grzelcyk alongside his Boston University teammate, Charlie McAvoy.
John Moore and Steven Kampfer filled out the bottom defensive pairing for the Bruins with Halak getting the start in goal and Tuukka Rask likely to play Sunday in Ottawa.
Noel Acciari and Jeremy Lauzon were healthy scratches on Saturday, joining Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) in the press box.
McAvoy was penalized 13 seconds into the game for cross checking Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, and the Leafs went on the power play for the first time of the night.
Toronto did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Both teams continued to trade chances until midway in the first period when Krejci and Jake Gardiner got tangled up and received matching roughing minors at 10:07.
While on the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Pastrnak sent a shot towards the goal for Forsbacka Karlsson to redirect, but Andersen made the initial save– that is, until he let up a rebound, which Forsbacka Karlsson (3) followed up on and poked the puck through the Maple Leafs goaltender to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Pastrnak (13) and Grzelcyk (8) had the assists on the goal at 11:20 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead, while Toronto led in shots on goal, 11-8. The Leafs also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (13-3) and hits (11-8), meanwhile the B’s had the advantage in giveaways (4-2) and face-off win percentage (56-44).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.
Tyler Ennis kicked the action off in the second period with a tripping infraction as Smith went down to the ice at 6:14 of the middle frame. Boston couldn’t convert on the power play, but got a second chance on the skater advantage in the same period about 20 seconds after the first advantage expired.
Nazem Kadri caught Krejci with a stick and brought the veteran Bruins forward down at 8:34 and the Bruins went back on the power play.
Just 20 seconds into the ensuing advantage, Backes (3) fired a wrist shot past Andersen’s glove side to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:54 of the second period.
This, of course, after a mad scramble that led to Marchand (18) and Krug (13) being credited with the primary and secondary assists.
John Tavares was guilty of slashing Gryzelcyk at 10:06, but the 5-on-4 power play for Boston wouldn’t last long as Backes hooked Maple Leafs defender, Nikita Zaitsev at 11:02.
For the next 1:05, both teams would play 4-on-4 action– at least, until Gardiner boarded Krejci at 11:33 of the second period and sent the B’s on a rare 4-on-3 power play for 34 seconds.
As the string of soft calls started winding down, tempers started to flare on the ice.
Before long, Carlo and Nazem Kadri were at each other’s throats after a stoppage in play, which led to the exchanging of fisticuffs at 14:32.
The fight was just the 2nd fighting major of the season for the Maple Leafs, while it was both Kadri and Carlo’s first fight of the season.
Recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks, forward Josh Leivo had the other fight for Toronto this season, while Carlo was involved in just the third fight of his young career (about one-a-season, so far).
Toronto began a short onslaught, but Halak stood tall and momentum swung Boston’s way as the Bruins sustained some attacking zone time and capitalized with a goal from the point.
Krug (1) wired a wrist shot past Andersen for his first goal of the season– and first goal in 25 games– to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.
Marchand (19) and Krejci (18) picked up the assists to make it, 3-0, Boston at 17:45 of the second period, marking the first time since Nov. 24th (against the Montreal Canadiens) that the B’s had tallied at least three goals in a game.
With his assist on the play, Krejci officially surpassed Neely for 10th place on the all-time scoring list in Bruins franchise history. Krejci would add another point in the form of a goal in the third period to further pull away from the current Bruins president’s historical marker of 590 career points with Boston.
Krejci now has 592 and counting.
After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 23-20, after outshooting the Maple Leafs, 15-9, in the second period alone.
Toronto led in blocked shots (7-5) and takeaways (23-7) through two periods, while the B’s dominated in giveaways (7-3), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (52-48)
The Maple Leafs were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission and the Bruins were 1/4.
Heinen (3) kicked off a chaotic third period with his first point in 12 games in the form of a goal at 1:47 into the final frame of regulation.
Donato (1) and Moore (4) tallied the assists and the Bruins led, 4-0.
Moments later, Travis Dermott (2) wired a back-footed snap shot from the point past Halak, high-glove side at 4:03 of the third period to put Toronto on the scoreboard, 4-1.
Auston Matthews (10) and Gardiner (14) had the assists on Dermott’s goal and the Leafs cut the lead to three.
A mere, 34 seconds later, Krejci (4) collected his second goal in two games on a rush and a give-and-go with Pastrnak to make it, 5-1, Boston.
Pastrnak (14) and Marchand (20) were tabbed with the assists at 4:37.
Less than two minutes later, Donato (3) added a goal while being held by Matthews in front of the net and pounding his own rebound behind Andersen to make it, 6-1, Bruins.
Heinen (4) and Krug (14) had the assists at 6:13 of the third period and Mike Babcock replaced his starting goaltender with Sparks.
Andersen’s night was done after allowing six goals.
But the zany game on ice has its ways as Matthews (16) riffled a shot past Halak after Andreas Johnsson freed a loose puck from Carlo to Matthews to make it, 6-2.
Johnsson (6) and Morgan Reilly (23) had the assists on the goal that made it a four-goal game at 9:30 of the third period.
Then, 23 seconds later, Zach Hyman delivered a high, late hit, with the elbow to McAvoy behind the play and Grzelcyk, along with the rest of the Bruins took notice.
Grzelcyk immediately challenged Hyman in effort to standup for his teammate who had just returned this week from a concussion and the two exchanged blows.
The penalty minutes officially read, Grzelcyk (fighting, major) and a game misconduct at 9:53, while Hyman received a fighting major, a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.
Despite Hyman’s interference major, the Bruins were not given a power play advantage.
This, coupled with soft calls and blown calls from 13 seconds into the game through this point in the third period led to chaos.
Barely a minute later in playing time, Wagner glided into a high hit on Patrick Marleau in the neutral zone.
Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, immediately challenged the Bruins winger to a duel of fists and the two squared off with Wagner getting the wrestling takedown.
Only Wagner was officially penalized, however, with a minor penalty for charging and a misconduct at 10:55 of the third period.
As a result, the Bruins would be shorthanded and neither bench was very pleased. Both coaches were furious, but the game continued as the refs failed to contain the emotions of the game.
Donato served Wagner’s minor penalty, but it wasn’t long before Johnsson (7) capitalized on a deflection that yielded a rebound and collected a power play goal at 12:22.
Marleau (10) and Gardiner (15) had the assists and the Leafs trailed, 6-3.
With about two minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy returned to the Bruins bench after going through concussion protocol.
At the final horn, Boston had defeated Toronto, 6-3, and improved to 10-2-2 when scoring first this season.
Both teams finished the night with 32 shots on goal, while the B’s led in blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (12-9) and hits (24-21). The Maple Leafs finished Saturday night ahead in face-off win% (53-47) and were 1/2 on the power play, while Boston was 1/4.
The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet once more this season in Toronto on January 12, 2019.
Until then, Boston travels to Canadian Tire Centre for a Sunday matinee (5 p.m. ET puck drop) with the Ottawa Senators before traveling back home for a Tuesday night matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Bruins follow up Tuesday’s matchup with another rumble on the road at PPG Paints Arena next Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
If you’re the proud owner of an NHL-themed Advent calendar, hopefully you’ve got it ready to go for the official first day of the Christmas season this Sunday. As for the rest of us that don’t have such a beautiful possession, we’ll just have to use the NHL’s schedule.
Speaking of, here’s this week’s offerings:
|NHL SCHEDULE: November 26-December 2|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, November 26|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Florida||3-4 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Washington Capitals||New York Islanders||4-1|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa Senators||New York Rangers||2-4|
|Tuesday, November 27|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Buffalo||2-3 (OT)|
|7:30 p.m.||Anaheim||Tampa Bay||3-1|
|9 p.m.||Dallas||Edmonton||0-1 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Los Angeles||Vancouver||2-1 (OT)|
|Wednesday, November 28|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Detroit||3-4|
|7:30 p.m.||San Jose||Toronto||3-5|
|9 p.m.||Dallas||Calgary||4-3 (OT)|
|Thursday, November 29|
|7 p.m.||New York Islanders||Boston Bruins||1-2 (SO)|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Ottawa Senators||0-3|
|7:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Tampa Bay||4-5|
|9 p.m.||Los Angeles||Edmonton||2-3|
|Friday, November 30|
|7 p.m.||Buffalo||Florida||2-3 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Washington||3-6|
|7:30 p.m.||Anaheim||Carolina||2-1 (OT)|
|9 p.m.||St. Louis||Colorado||3-2 (OT)|
|9 p.m.||Los Angeles||Calgary||1-4|
|Saturday, December 1|
|1 p.m.||San Jose||Ottawa||TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Toronto||Minnesota||CBC, SN1|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Montréal Canadiens||SN, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Florida|
|7 p.m.||Winnipeg||New Jersey||CITY, SN360|
|7 p.m.||Columbus Blue Jackets||New York Islanders|
|8 p.m.||St. Louis||Arizona|
|10 p.m.||Vegas Golden Knights||Edmonton Oilers||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, December 2|
|6 p.m.||Winnipeg Jets||New York Rangers|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Montréal||RDS, SN, SN1|
|10:30 p.m.||Carolina||Los Angeles|
Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like a good rivalry, and there was more than a few of those to choose from this week. A total of three Original Six matchups were contested (Boston at Toronto, Detroit at Boston and the Rangers at Montréal), not to mention six more feuds with slightly little less history (Washington at the Islanders, St. Louis at Detroit, Los Angeles at Edmonton, Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay at Florida and Colorado at Detroit).
In a similar strain, there were also three rematches from last season’s playoffs. Beyond the already mentioned rivalries that were contested last postseason, Colorado made the trip to Nashville in a rematch of the Western Quarterfinals on Tuesday, avenging their series loss with a 3-2 victory.
For those that get excited about player returns, no game is bigger than the Sharks’ trip to Ottawa this afternoon, as D Erik Karlsson will be making his premier visit back the arena he called home for the first nine seasons of his career.
Finally, two numbers are being retired this week, both by teams in the Eastern Conference. On Thursday, the Boston Bruins hoisted RW Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 to the TD Garden rafters before their game against the Islanders, while the New York Rangers are extending the same honor to LW Vic Hadfield‘s No. 11 before tomorrow’s tilt against Winnipeg.
As usual, there’s more than a few excellent options for this week’s featured contest. As to not slight either Hadfield or Middleton, we’ll intentionally show no preference to one or the other. Instead, I think we’ll make a trip to the Big Apple for a homecoming of a different variety to Karlsson’s.
Before you start scouring the Blue Jackets’ roster for players that have donned blue and orange in the past (spoiler alert: no active Jackets have played for the Isles), I should probably let you know that this matchup is not being featured for any sort of player return.
Instead, we’re more worried about the Islanders returning to Nassau Coliseum (officially NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but that’s an obnoxious mouthful that I’m not willing to type again), their original home arena from 1972-2015.
The list of Islanders events the Coliseum has witnessed is surely a long list, but nothing shines quite as bright as New York’s four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. In fact, the Isles boast an unbelievable 11-1 record at the Coliseum in Stanley Cup Finals games, surely among the league’s best of any team at any particular arena.
The Coliseum has seen some real greats of the game take to its ice. RW Mike Bossy, LW Clark Gillies, RW Bob Nystrom, D Denis Potvin, G Billy Smith and C Bryan Trottier were all members of the Isles’ Stanley Cup-winning rosters, not to mention fellow Hall of Famer C Pat LaFontaine, who donned the blue-and-orange from 1983-91.
The club has run into more than its fair share of troubles – including attendance, a stat in which the Islanders rank dead-last in the NHL by almost 2000 patrons – during its tenure at Barclays Center, but I’m optimistic that the team’s most devoted fans will have no trouble filling the almost 14,000-seat barn they used to call home.
However, one aspect where New York was expected to struggle this season was in its play on the ice. Without C John Tavares, the Islanders were expected to set up camp at the bottom of the NHL standings in a season focused on “Losing for Hughes.” Instead, new Head Coach Barry Trotz has led his team to a surprising 12-9-3 record that trails the rival Rangers by only one point (the Isles have two games in hand) for the East’s second wild card.
Looking more closely at their play over the last week (New York has posted a 2-1-1 record in its last four outings), the Islanders’ best player has been none other than 8-4-1 G Thomas Greiss. While his record may pale in comparison to 14-7-0 G Frederik Andersen‘s, Greiss boasts a .925 save percentage and 2.45 GAA for the entire season as a whole, not to mention managing a .924 save percentage and 2.31 GAA in his last three starts despite playing behind a defense that has yielded a (t)15th-worst 32.25 shots against per game since November 23.
Greiss owns a career 5-6-3 record against the Blue Jackets, due in large part to the current 0-3-1 skid he’s riding against tonight’s opposition dating back to February 25, 2017.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, they enter tonight’s game with a solid 15-8-2 record that’s good enough for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus has been riding high for the past month, as it has managed an impressive 8-2-2 record since November 4.
The main reason for that outstanding play has been the Jackets’ great defensive work. Led by RW Josh Anderson (2.9 blocks per game since November 4) and D Seth Jones (2.1 blocks per game during this run) – both of whom are tied at 10 takeaways apiece since November 4 – Columbus’ blue line has allowed only 30.42 shots against per game in its last 12 games, the 10th-best mark in the NHL in the past 27 days.
As might be expected, none are happier about that defensive play than 10-7-0 G Sergei Bobrovsky (yes, the goaltender is more appreciative than Head Coach John Tortorella – believe me). Behind this solid defense, Bobrovsky has posted a 7-1-0 record with an impressive .932 save percentage and 2.01 GAA – both numbers far better than his season marks of a .912 save percentage and 2.7 GAA.
This is the part where I usually pick my winner, but it should probably be stated that the real winners tonight are the Islanders fans getting to see a game in a historic venue designed to host an ice hockey game.
As for who will walk away with two points tonight, I’m strongly leaning towards Columbus. Both have netminders playing in peak form right now, but the Jackets boasting a defense keeping all but the best offerings away from Bobrovsky will likely be a major benefit to them this evening. Pair in the Jackets averaging 3.52 goals per game this season (compared to New York’s three goals per game), and any traveling fans from Ohio should leave happy.
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.