Tag Archives: Garnet Hathaway

Bruins capitalize on, 7-3, win over Washington

The Boston Bruins routed the Washington Capitals, 7-3, on Monday night at TD Garden after scoring four goals in the first period on 11 shots.

Tuukka Rask (14-4-5 record, 2.32 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 23 games played) turned aside 39 out of 42 shots faced for a .929 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby (17-5-4, 2.87 GAA, .907 SV% in 27 games played) made seven saves on 11 shots against (6.36 SV%) before being replaced after the first period in the loss.

Ilya Samsonov (9-2-1, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 13 games played) stopped three out of four shots faced (.750 SV%) for no decision after replacing Holtby for the final 40 minutes of action on Monday.

Boston improved to 22-7-9 (53 points) on the season and remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Washington fell to 26-7-5 (57 points) on the season and remained in 1st place in the
Metropolitan Division.

The B’s also improved to 13-1-8 at home this season with the victory.

Monday night marked the first time that the Bruins beat the Capitals at home since March 6, 2014. Gregory Campbell, Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand each had a goal in Boston’s, 3-0, win that night.

Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zdeno Chara (infection) on Monday.

Miller missed his 38th game this season and has yet to make his season debut, while Kuhlman missed his 30th consecutive game since being injured in Toronto on Oct. 19th.

Chara, on the other hand, missed his 1st game this season due to injury after requiring surgery to take out the plates that were put in his jaw after originally breaking his jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final last June.

As a result, John Moore returned to the lineup and took over the left side of the top defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy after missing the last two games with an illness.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made minor adjustments to his lineup, re-inserting Joakim Nordstrom on the fourth line while scratching Chris Wagner as a result.

Nordstrom returned to his fourth line left wing role, while Sean Kuraly moved up to the left side of the third line and Anders Bjork took over on the third line right wing with Wagner scratched.

Wagner and David Backes were the only healthy scratches for the B’s on Monday.

Nick Jensen caught Kuraly with a high stick and presented Boston with their first power play of the night at 1:30 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Radko Gudas hooked Marchand at 5:28 of the opening frame and the B’s went back on the power play.

Nine seconds into the ensuing skater advantage, Jake DeBrusk (9) slid a rebound through Holtby’s five-hole to give Boston their first power play goal of the night and the, 1-0, lead at 5:37.

David Krejci (18) and Matt Grzelcyk (8) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal.

For the third time this season, the Bruins scored first against the Capitals. Boston went 0-1-1 in their previous meetings with Washington entering Monday.

Almost midway through the first period, McAvoy tripped Lars Eller and received a minor penalty at 8:54.

The Caps couldn’t convert on the resulting skater advantage.

Less than five minutes later, Marchand (19) followed up on a rebound and pocketed the puck in the twine for his first goal in 12 games at 13:29.

David Pastrnak (24) and McAvoy (13) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins extended their lead to, 2-0.

Boston scored again, 27 seconds later, when Bjork (6) fired a one-timer through Holtby’s seven-hole to give Boston a three-goal lead.

Charlie Coyle (12) tallied the only assist on Bjork’s goal at 13:56 and the B’s led, 3-0.

Less than a minute later, Connor Clifton and Garnet Hathaway both skated to the penalty box at 14:46, presenting both clubs with two minutes of 4-on-4 action while Clifton was in the sin bin for slashing and Hathaway was in the box for cross checking.

A few minutes later, Washington found themselves on the penalty kill once again– only this time the Capitals were going to be short by two skaters.

Boston had a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play as a result of Jakub Vrana tripping Pastrnak and Evgeny Kuznetsov slashing Krejci at 17:25 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Patrice Bergeron (14) tipped in a shot from Pastrnak over Holtby’s blocker and gave the Bruins a four-goal lead.

Pastrnak (25) and Krejci (19) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal at 18:57 and the B’s led, 4-0.

Bergeron’s goal marked the first time that the Bruins had a four-goal lead over Washington since Oct. 30, 2002– when Cassidy was then head coach of the Capitals– according to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s, Ty Anderson.

It was also the first four-goal first period this season for Boston.

After one period of play on Monday, Boston led Washington, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-8, in shots on goal.

The Bruins also held the advantage in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (5-2) and faceoff win percentage (64-36), while the Caps led in blocked shots (7-2) and hits (12-8) entering the first intermission.

Washington was 0/1 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 2/4 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Capitals head coach, Todd Reirden, replaced Holtby with Samsonov to start the second period and Washington limited Boston’s chances to score for the remainder of the night.

DeBrusk slashed Gudas at 2:05 of the second period and was sent to the penalty box as a result, but the Caps didn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

After killing off DeBrusk’s minor, Krejci was the next Bruin to take a skate to the sin bin and serve a minor infraction for tripping Dmitry Orlov at 5:06.

Wes McCauley blew the whistle to make the call despite Boston not having possession of the puck and a would be Washington own goal taking place at the same time, but the league ruled the play “not reviewable”.

In the meantime, Bruins defender, Torey Krug, quietly exited the game down the tunnel after taking a huge hit from Tom Wilson. Krug did not return in the third period and was ruled out for the night with an upper body injury as Boston later tweeted.

While shorthanded, Marchand sent Coyle (7) on a breakaway whereby the B’s third liner scored on Samsonov’s glove side for his 100th career NHL goal.

Marchand (34) had the only assist on Coyle’s shorthanded goal and the Bruins led, 5-0, at 6:55 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Alex Ovechkin (23) wired a shot over Rask’s blocker with traffic in front of the net to disrupt Rask’s shutout attempt and cut Boston’s lead to four goals.

Wilson (14) and John Carlson (35) had the assists as Washington trailed, 5-1, at 14:35.

Less than 20 seconds later, Carlson slashed Kuraly and was assessed a minor infraction at 14:53, but the B’s did not capitalize on the resulting power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Monday, Boston led Washington, 5-1, on the scoreboard and trailed the Caps, 25-13, in shots on goal as Washington outshot Boston, 17-2, in the second period alone.

The Capitals also held the advantage in takeaways (8-7) and hits (25-16), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (10-8), giveaways (9-2) and faceoff win% (54-46) heading into the final frame of regulation.

Washington was 0/3 on the power play and Boston was 2/5.

Ovechkin kicked things off with a holding penalty at 4:59 of the third period, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing power play and was caught with too many men on the ice in the vulnerable minute after their advantage ended at 7:28.

The Capitals, however, couldn’t score on the power play while DeBrusk served the bench minor.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Wilson hit Pastrnak, then speared him, which led to the two players exchanging pleasantries near the benches and an ensuing scrum at center ice began between the two clubs.

Wilson and Pastrnak each received roughing minors at 13:26, but Wilson earned an extra misconduct for his actions.

Meanwhile, Boston had ended up with too many skaters as a result of a line change as things escalated between Pastrnak and Wilson, so Washington ended up with a power play opportunity as DeBrusk went back to the box to serve the Bruins’ bench minor.

Lars Eller (8) redirected Vrana’s shot under Rask’s glove and brought the Capitals to within three goals at 15:29.

Vrana (16) and Gudas (10) collected the assists on Eller’s goal as Washington trailed, 5-2, with less than five minutes left in the action.

Reirden pulled Samsonov for an extra attacker with about 3:40 remaining in regulation, but Krejci (8) tallied an empty net goal shortly thereafter once Kuraly picked off Ovechkin’s attempt to send the puck out of Washington’s defensive zone.

Kuraly (10) had the only assist on Krejci’s goal and the B’s led, 6-2, at 16:50 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Hathaway (6) cleaned up a mishap to cut Boston’s lead to two goals as Jonas Siegenthaler bounced the puck off the endboards and Hathaway pounced on the loose puck for the goal.

Rask misread the play as his defenders opted not to reach for the puck thinking their goaltender would get it, but Rask thought his defense would get it instead and thus– Washington collected a goal as Boston was stuck in no man’s land.

Siegenthaler (6) had the only assist on Hathaway’s goal at 17:47 and the Bruins led, 6-3.

With 2:07 remaining in the game, Samsonov once again vacated the goal for an extra attacker, but Boston made sure to put the game away as Bergeron (15) collected his second goal of the game– this time on an empty net.

Bergeron’s empty net goal was assisted by Marchand (35) and Pastrnak (26) at 19:32 of the third period and sealed the deal on a, 7-3, victory for the Bruins.

This, after T.J. Oshie leveled McAvoy along the benches, ending the young defender’s night early, but avoiding any major injury as Cassidy indicated to reporters after the game.

Boston finished the night trailing Washington in shots on goal, 42-17, but led in blocked shots (13-10) and giveaways (10-8).

Meanwhile, the Capitals held the advantage in hits (40-19) and were even with the Bruins in faceoff win% (50-50) at the end of the game.

Washington went 0/5 and Boston went 2/6 on the power play on Monday.

The Bruins improved to 15-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal, 13-3-1 when leading after the first period and 12-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston finished their four-game homestand (1-0-3) and enters the holiday break 21-7-9 overall on the season. The Bruins travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres in a home-and-home on Dec. 27th before hosting Jack Eichel and his teammates on Dec. 29th. The B’s finish off the month of December in New Jersey on Dec. 31st.

Caps beat B’s, 3-2, in D.C.

John Carlson scored the game-winning goal moments after the Boston Bruins tied the game in the third period Wednesday night as the Washington Capitals defeated the B’s, 3-2, at Capital One Arena.

Braden Holtby (16-3-4 record, 2.80 goals against average, .911 save percentage in 24 games played) made 30 saves on 32 shots against for a .938 SV% in the win for the Capitals.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (7-3-3, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 13 games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced for an .880 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 20-6-6 (46 points) on the season, but remains in command of 1st place in the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, Washington improved to 23-5-5 (51 points) and remained atop the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins fell to 8-5-1 on the road this season and are now on a four-game losing streak.

Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) against Washington on Wednesday.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor changes to his lineup from Monday night’s, 5-2, loss in Ottawa.

First, Cassidy swapped Brett Ritchie with Danton Heinen on the third line– reuniting Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Heinen on the third line, while promoting Ritchie to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and David Krejci at center.

Finally, on defense, Connor Clifton went back into the lineup on the third pairing in place of John Moore.

Moore was joined by Par Lindholm and David Backes as Boston’s healthy scratches on Wednesday.

Midway through the opening frame, David Pastrnak (26) scored the game’s first goal after not scoring in his last four games.

Charlie McAvoy (10) and Brad Marchand (29) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the NHL’s leading goal scorer went off the bar and in over Holtby’s glove at 9:36 of the first period to give the Bruins the, 1-0, lead.

Less than a minute later, after Tom Wilson got a cross check up high on Zdeno Chara, the B’s captain dropped the gloves with the Caps winger and landed a few big blows before wrestling the forward to the ice.

Chara and Wilson each received five-minute majors for fighting at 10:14, while Wilson received an additional two-minute minor for cross checking that was served by Brendan Leipsic.

It was the 6th fight this season for Boston and the first since Moore fought Zack Smith against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 5th.

The Bruins did not score on the ensuing power play.

Jakub Vrana tripped up Torey Krug moments later at 14:17 and the B’s went back on the skater advantage for the second time of the night.

Boston thought they scored and had made it a two-goal game when Patrice Bergeron received a quick drop pass from DeBrusk and pocketed the rubber biscuit in the twine while Holtby outstretched his paddle, but Washington’s head coach, Todd Reirden, used his coach’s challenge to determine whether or not the Bruins entered the zone offside.

After review, it was determined that DeBrusk had entered the zone with his skate in the air over the blue line– something that’s not good enough for now in the current interpretation of the rule, but perhaps going to be resolved next season– and the call on the ice was overturned. No goal. Do not pass “go”. Do not collect $200.

In the final minute of the period, Joakim Nordstrom caught Nicklas Backstrom with a high stick at 19:26.

Washington’s power play carried over into the second period as the Capitals couldn’t convert on the skater advantage with 34 seconds left before the first intermission.

After 20 minutes of action in D.C., the B’s led the Caps, 1-0, on the scoreboard.

Shots on goal were even, 8-8, but the Bruins had the slight advantage over the Capitals in all the other major statistical categories, leading in blocked shots (7-4), giveaways (3-2) and faceoff win percentage (58-42).

Washington led in takeaways (7-3) and hits (11-9) heading into the second period.

The Caps were 0/1 on the power play, while Boston was 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Early in the middle frame, Washington had too many skaters on the ice, yielding a bench minor in the process at 1:31 of the second period.

Once more, the Bruins were held powerless on the power play, however.

Seconds after their legal skater advantage ended, Chris Wagner was charged with interference at 3:48 and the Capitals went on the power play.

T.J. Oshie (12) followed a rebound and poked the puck into the net while Halak reached behind himself in desperation.

Oshie’s goal tied the game, 1-1, and was assisted by Carlson (33) at 4:35 of the second period.

Less than four minutes later, Oshie (13) again broke free of Boston’s defense by deking through Clifton and scoring a backhand goal over Halak’s blocker side to give the Capitals their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 8:05.

Evgeny Kuznetsov (19) and Vrana (13) had the assists on Oshie’s 2nd goal of the game.

Late in the period, Coyle was assessed a holding penalty at 17:28, but the Bruins managed to kill off the minor and escaped without harm while Washington was on the skater advantage.

Through two periods of play, the Capitals led the Bruins, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite the B’s advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone, 15-6.

Boston led in total shots on net, 23-14, as well as blocked shots (12-8), giveaways (7-4) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Meanwhile, Washington led in takeaways (11-5) and hits (28-12).

The Caps were 1/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/3 heading into the third period.

Wilson interfered with Pastrnak 19 seconds into the third period and was penalized as such, but the Bruins didn’t score on the power play.

Less than a minute after their power play expired, the B’s found the back of the net and tied the game, 2-2, when Krug fired a shot from the point off a faceoff that Sean Kuraly (3) deflected from the faceoff dot to the right of Holtby.

Krug (16) had the only assist on Kuraly’s goal at 2:53 of the third period and surpassed Glen Wesley for 5th place in overall scoring for a Bruins defender in franchise history.

Ray Bourque leads all Boston defenders with 1,506 career points in a B’s sweater, followed by Bobby Orr (888), Chara (479), Brad Park (417) and Krug (308).

The game wasn’t tied for long before Carlson (12) blasted a one-timer while pinching in from the point to give the Capitals a, 3-2, lead at 4:42.

Backstrom (16) and Wilson (10) had the assists on Carlson’s goal and Washington never looked back for the rest of the game.

Though Carlsson was penalized for tripping Pastrnak at 6:04, Boston’s power play had nothing going for it and once again was unsuccessful.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Ritchie got tangled up with Garnet Hathaway after a whistle and the two players received roughing minors at 10:13– resulting in two-minutes of 4-on-4 action.

With 1:43 remaining in the game, Cassidy utilized his timeout and pulled Halak for an extra attacker after a stoppage in play.

The Bruins were not successful in tying the game and forcing overtime as the final horn sounded– sealing the deal on Washington’s, 3-2, victory.

Boston finished the night with the advantage in shots on goal, 32-25, despite trailing in the third period alone, 11-9, to Washington.

The B’s finished Wednesday night leading in blocked shots (18-15), giveaways (15-9) and faceoff win% (59-41), while the Caps led in hits (40-20).

Washington went 1/3 on the skater advantage, while Boston finished the night 0/5 on the power play.

The Bruins have lost 16 out of their last 17 games against Washington, while the Capitals are 24-0-0 in games against Boston when Backstrom earns at least a point since he entered the league in the 2007-08 season.

The Bruins are now 11-2-0 when leading after the first period and 13-4-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season. They are also 4-5-3 when trailing after two periods thus far.

Boston continues their four-game road trip (0-2-0) Thursday in Tampa with a matchup against the Lightning before wrapping up their current road trip in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday against the Panthers

DTFR Podcast #180- Turning Over A New Leaf

The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.

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Calgary Flames 2019-20 Season Preview

Calgary Flames

50-25-7, 107 points, 1st in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Byron Froese, F Justin Kirkland, F Milan Lucic (acquired from EDM), D Brandon Davidson, G Cam Talbot

Subtractions: F Tyler Graovac (signed with VAN), F Garnet Hathaway (signed with WSH), F Curtis Lazar (signed with BUF), F James Neal (traded to EDM), F Anthony Peluso (signed with Bakersfield, AHL), F Brett Pollock (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Kerby Rychel (KHL), F Linden Vey (KHL), D Oscar Fantenberg (signed with VAN), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), D Marcus Hogstrom (SHL), D Dalton Prout (signed with SJS), G Mason McDonald (signed with Colorado, AHL), G Mike Smith (signed with EDM)

Still Unsigned: F Spencer Foo (KHL, CGY reserve list), D Matt Taormina

Re-signed: F Sam Bennett, F Ryan Lomberg, F Andrew Mangiapane, F Matthew Tkachuk, D Rinat Valiev, G David Rittich

Offseason Analysis: After taking home the first overall seed in the Western Conference in the regular season, the Calgary Flames proceeded to burnout in five games against the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What are they doing to prevent another embarrassment?

They traded James Neal.

Flames GM, Brad Treliving, traded Neal to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick. Calgary receives the 3rd round pick if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal this season. Very specific!

Aside from losing other depth pieces (Garnet Hathaway) in free agency, Treliving is fully prepared to send out his core on the ice for head coach, Bill Peters, to play as he sees fit.

The Flames weren’t bad all season until March last year, then they started losing games they shouldn’t have and went on to back themselves into the postseason without any moxie.

As such, the Avs rolled right over them.

For now, Treliving has put off the inevitable pay raise for Matthew Tkachuk.

Tkachuk signed a three-year extension worth $7.000 million per season earlier this week, which may seem like a steal for Calgary, until one considers Tkachuk’s third year salary ($9.000 million).

His next qualifying offer will at least be $9.000 million and he’s bound for a significant raise by that point if his production continues to grow, so even though he said he’s signing for less right now so his teammates don’t have to worry about not being re-signed by the Flames due to cap constraints, things may still get hairy by 2022.

For now, the Flames are the closest to returning to the Stanley Cup Final than they have ever been since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in 2004.

They just have to get out of the First Round to make critics start to believe that their regular season success was not a fluke.

Offseason Grade: C-

Trading Neal for Lucic isn’t a spectacular deal, but the Flames somehow convinced the Oilers to retain some of Lucic’s salary, meaning Edmonton didn’t do themselves any favors as they had hoped to in getting rid of the veteran winger.

Fans in Calgary have come to expect uneventful offseasons, but at least the city and the franchise agreed to a new arena to get everyone even more excited about the future.

Washington Capitals 2019-20 Season Preview

Washington Capitals

48-26-8, 104 points, 1st in the Metropolitan Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina

Additions: F Garnet Hathaway, F Brendan Leipsic, F Philippe Maillet, F Richard Panik, D Radko Gudas (acquired from PHI)

Subtractions: F Riley Barber (signed with MTL), F Mathias Bau (EBEL), F Andre Burakovsky (traded to COL), F Brett Connolly (signed with FLA), F Hampus Gustafsson (SHL), F Dmitrij Jaskin (KHL), F Jayson Megna (signed with COL), F Mason Mitchell (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Devante Smith-Pelly (signed to a PTO with CGY), F Nathan Walker (signed with STL), D Aaron Ness (signed with ARI), D Matt Niskanen (traded to PHI), D Brooks Orpik (retired), G Parker Milner (signed with Hershey, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Scott Kosmachuk (rights acquired from COL)

Re-signed: F Chandler Stephenson, F Jakub Vrana, D Christian Djoos, D Colby Williams, G Vitek Vanecek

Offseason Analysis: The Washington Capitals have earned themselves a little grace period after winning the Cup in 2018, but don’t let that fool you from some of the poor choices they made this offseason.

Whether or not they would’ve had the money to keep Brett Connolly from joining the Florida Panthers in free agency after posting a career year with 22-24–46 totals in 81 games is besides the point.

The Caps made a lot of odd decisions.

For starters, they signed Garnet Hathaway (19 points in 76 games for Calgary last season), Brendan Leipsic (23 points in 62 games with Vancouver and Los Angeles) and Richard Panik (33 points in 75 gamed for Arizona).

Sure, Hathaway and Panik are durable top-nine forwards that are likely to see an increase in their offensive numbers by virtue of being on the same team as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but to have them for four years as your mid-range forwards with Carl Hagelin and Lars Eller might just catch up to you at some point.

At least Leipsic has always been in demand on waivers and is a good option to plug somewhere in the lineup or send down to the Hershey Bears (AHL).

Meanwhile, Capitals General Manager, Brian MacLellan, worked the phones this summer to trade Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas in a one-for-one swap and dealt Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche for Scott Kosmachuk (unsigned), a 2020 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick.

It might seem like an overpay for Avalanche GM, Joe Sakic, but Burakovsky’s looking to prove himself in the biggest role he’s ever had and it wouldn’t hurt Washington to restock their prospect pool as a result.

In the meantime, Gudas is almost assured of doing something to yield a suspension, which may or may not hurt the Capitals more than Evgeny Kuznetsov’s three-game suspension to start the regular season may already do.

Kuznetsov was suspended by the league for “inappropriate conduct”, in which he failed a drug test and was banned from international competition by the International Ice Hockey Federation for four years.

The NHL, on the other hand, doesn’t have a policy for testing positive for cocaine.

Washington’s head coach, Todd Reirden, is entering his second season at the reigns behind the bench and has plenty of fresh faces to utilize in effort to avoid another seven-game First Round elimination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Don’t get too comfortable in Washington as Braden Holtby is due for an extension by season’s end or else he may walk in free agency.

Offseason Grade: D+

The Capitals could contend for another Cup in the next few years or they could continue to slide towards irrelevancy faster than the current trend the Pittsburgh Penguins are on.

Neither fan base wants to hear that, let alone be compared to one another in such a similar manner, but it’s true. None of their free agent additions even remotely scream “decent depth signing” or anything.

DTFR Podcast #169- 2019-20 Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.

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2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Game of the week: February 25-March 3

With the trade deadline passing by on Monday, there’s only one important date remaining this regular season: April 6, the season’s finale.

However, we’re not quite focused on that date yet. Instead, let’s see what games this week had to offer:

NHL SCHEDULE: February 25-March 3
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)VISITORHOSTNATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, February 25
7 p.m.BuffaloToronto3-5
7 p.m.MontréalNew Jersey1-2
7:30 p.m.Los AngelesTampa Bay3-4 (SO)
8 p.m.EdmontonNashville2-3 (SO)
9 p.m.FloridaColorado4-3 (OT)
10 p.m.AnaheimVancouver0-4
Tuesday, February 26
7 p.m.San JoseBoston1-4
7 p.m.Calgary FlamesNew York Islanders3-1
7 p.m.BuffaloPhiladelphia2-5
7 p.m.OttawaWashington2-7
7 p.m.Los AngelesCarolina1-6
7 p.m.PittsburghColumbus5-2
7:30 p.m.MontréalDetroit8-1
8 p.m.NashvilleSt. Louis0-2
8 p.m.MinnesotaWinnipeg3-2
9 p.m.FloridaArizona3-4 (SO)
10 p.m.DallasVegas1-4
Wednesday, February 27
7 p.m.EdmontonToronto2-6
7 p.m.CalgaryNew Jersey2-1
7:30 p.m.Tampa Bay LightningNew York Rangers4-3 (OT)
9:30 p.m.VancouverColorado2-3 (SO)
10 p.m.ChicagoAnaheim4-3
Thursday, February 28
7 p.m.Toronto Maple LeafsNew York Islanders1-6
7 p.m.PhiladelphiaColumbus3-4 (OT)
7:30 p.m.Tampa BayBoston1-4
7:30 p.m.EdmontonOttawa4-2
9 p.m.VancouverArizona2-5
10 p.m.FloridaVegas5-6 (SO)
10:30 p.m.DallasLos Angeles4-3 (OT)
Friday, March 1
7 p.m.PittsburghBuffalo3-4 (OT)
7 p.m.PhiladelphiaNew Jersey6-3
7 p.m.Washington CapitalsNew York Islanders3-1
7 p.m.Montréal CanadiensNew York Rangers4-2
7:30 p.m.St. LouisCarolina2-5
8 p.m.NashvilleWinnipeg3-5
10 p.m.VegasAnaheim3-0
10:30 p.m.ColoradoSan Jose3-4
Saturday, March 2
1 p.m.EdmontonColumbus 
4 p.m.ChicagoLos AngelesNHLN
7 p.m.New JerseyBoston 
7 p.m.BuffaloTorontoCBC, NHLN, SN1
7 p.m.PittsburghMontréalSN360, TVAS
7 p.m.OttawaTampa BayCITY, TVAS2
7 p.m.CarolinaFlorida 
8 p.m.DetroitArizona 
8 p.m.DallasSt. Louis 
10 p.m.Minnesota WildCalgary FlamesCBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, March 3
12:30 p.m.Washington CapitalsNew York RangersNBC, TVAS
3 p.m.Philadelphia FlyersNew York IslandersSN1, TVAS
4 p.m.VancouverVegas 
4 p.m.ColoradoAnaheim 
5 p.m.OttawaFloridaRDS2
7 p.m.WinnipegColumbusSN
7:30 p.m.NashvilleMinnesotaNBCSN
10 p.m.ChicagoSan Jose 

There were rivalries galore to choose from this week – nine, if you want to be precise. Buffalo and Toronto waged two editions of the Battle of the QEW, with the Leafs hosting on Monday and the Sabres returning the favor tonight.

In between those meetings, the Penguins made their first visit of the season to Columbus and the Habs squared off against the Wings (both on Tuesday) and Friday featured Montréal visiting the Rangers, the Caps visiting the Islanders and the Battle of the Turnpikes. Joining Toronto and Buffalo in rivalry action today are the Blackhawks and Kings, while the Caps and Blueshirts are waiting until tomorrow to stage their derby.

In a similar strain as rivalries, we were also privy to three rematches from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota and Winnipeg rekindled their First Round animosity on Tuesday, ending with the Wild exacting revenge for their early playoff exit. The Bolts and Bruins were at it Thursday (with Boston pulling off the 4-1 victory), while Nashville and Winnipeg scrapped for first place in the Central Division last night (the Jets recaptured the division lead with a 5-3 win).

Finally, I always try to point out the biggest homecomings, and there were three this week. Of course, none was more anticipated than C John Tavares making his first trip to Nassau Coliseum as a member of the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Tavares enjoyed nine seasons with the Islanders, including five as the club’s 14th captain. His 621 points scored while wearing blue and orange ranks fifth in franchise history, but don’t let that fool you – Islanders fans did not treat him to a warm welcome.

Also making notable homecomings were current Penguin D Jack Johnson returning to Columbus on Tuesday and current Predator F Mikael Granlund returning to St. Paul tomorrow (considering he just experienced the birth of his child, there’s actually a chance he never left Minnesota in the first place). Both spent seven seasons with their respective former clubs before joining their current organizations (Johnson via free agency this summer and Granlund via deadline trade).

However, all of those things having been listed, there’s still one more event that demands our attention. For the third week in a row, a former great of the game is seeing his number raised to the rafters. Tonight, the Calgary Flames honor RW Jarome Iginla.

It can be easily forgotten that Iginla was not drafted by the Flames, but instead by the Dallas Stars. Only two seasons removed from their departure from the State of Hockey, the Stars selected the Kamloops Blazer 11th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.

Knowing what we know now, how Iginla fell all the way to 11th is hard to fathom. Only 10 total players from this 234-player draft class were ever named to even one NHL All-Star Game, of which only Iginla and nine-year teammate G Miikka Kiprusoff ever received end-of-season All-Star Team nods.

Regardless, Iginla likely never even thought about shopping for a Dallas apartment, as he was traded alongside C Corey Millen to Calgary (coincidentally in the same province as the city that hosted that edition of the draft: Edmonton, Iginla’s hometown) five months later for the rights to C Joe Nieuwendyk.

Nieuwendyk would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 – scoring two game-winning overtime goals on the way, including one in triple-overtime against former rival Edmonton – so perhaps this was a fair trade all-in-all.

Iginla made his NHL debut during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs (he registered 1-1-2 totals in two games played) after the Blazers lost to Spokane in the WHL’s West Division Finals 4-2. As the reigning WHL Player of the Year, Iginla registered 1-1-2 totals in his first two postseason appearances before the Flames were swept by Chicago in the Western Quarterfinals.

Iginla played all 82 games of his rookie campaign in 1996-97, registering impressive 21-29-50 totals (including three game-winning goals) to finish second in Calder voting behind fellow traded 1995 pick D Bryan Berard of the New York Islanders (he was originally drafted first-overall by Ottawa).

Like many outstanding youths, Iginla faced a rather severe sophomore slump. The winger posted only 13-19-32 marks in 70 games played, but he hopped right back on his horse for Season 3 to reemerge as a 50-point player and start a run of scoring at least 50 points in 15 of 16 seasons (interrupted only by the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign) from 1998-2015, a run that extended beyond his time in Calgary.

Of course, implying that the Flames could only count on 50 points from Iginla is undoubtedly doing his reputation a major disservice. The 51 points he scored in the 1998-99 season was only the beginning of his meteoric rise. He notched 63 points at the turn of the millennium, followed by 71 in 2000-01.

Iggy’s sixth season (2001-02) saw him set his career-high in goals with 52-44-96 totals, and everyone in the league took notice. Not only did Iginla earn his first of three First All-Star Team honors, but he also brought home more than his fair share of hardware from the NHL Awards, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award).

Of course, all that hardware didn’t make up for one major hole in Iginla’s resume. Not only had he not yet won a playoff game, he hadn’t even made a playoff appearance since his NHL debut.

That changed in a massive way in 2004, Iginla’s first season as the Flames’ 18th captain in franchise history. With a 41-32-73 season that earned Iginla his first King Clancy Award and second Richard Trophy, he led the Flames to a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference and their first playoff appearance in eight seasons.

The success didn’t end there though: the Flames defeated all three of the West’s division champions, including the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings in the conference semifinals, to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the East’s top seed.

As for Iginla, he hadn’t yet scored all the goals for his campaign, as he added 13 goals and 22 points in his 26 playoff games – including outstanding 5-3-8 totals in the quarterfinals against Vancouver. His 13 markers were the most by any player in the 2004 playoffs, but his side fell to the Bolts in seven games.

Iginla’s Flames would qualify for the next four playoffs after their Stanley Cup Final appearance (skipping, of course, the 2004-05 lockout-cancelled season), but each time they failed to advance beyond the First Round. During that run, the captain earned his last two nominations to the NHL’s First All-Star team, doing it consecutively in 2008 and 2009 with respective 50-48-98 and 35-54-89 seasons.

Iginla’s Flames career would end on March 28, 2013 when he was traded as a rental to Pittsburgh for LW Kenny Agostino, RW Ben Hanowski and a 2013 first-round pick that would eventually become LW Morgan Klimchuk. He would go on to play for the Bruins, Avs and Kings before being forced to hang up his skates after the 2016-17 season.

With 525-570-1095 totals in 1219 career games played for Calgary, Iginla holds franchise records for appearances, goals, points, power play goals (161) and game-winning goals (83). In terms of league records, Iginla is one of only seven players to score 30 or more goals in 11-straight seasons (all of which were with Calgary, and a streak that could have been longer if not for the 2012-13 lockout), one of 20 to reach the 600-goal plateau and one of 34 to manage at least 1300 points.

For these reasons, as well as every other detail and fact listed above, Iginla is bypassing Calgary’s “Forever a Flame” program (in which a player is honored, but his number not retired) and seeing his No. 12 rightfully join RW Lanny McDonald‘s No. 9 and G Mike Vernon‘s No. 30 as the team’s third (fourth if that Oiler’s No. 99 is included) sweater retired from circulation.

What a time to be a member of the C of Red, no? Not only is the organization honoring one of, if not the greatest to ever don the Flaming C (no disrespect intended to D Al MacInnis, McDonald and his mustache or Vernon), but this year’s team is also pretty darn exciting. They boast a 41-16-7 record that that leads San Jose for the Western Conference lead, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down with their seven-game win streak and eight-game point streak – both the best currently active in the NHL.

Dating back to Valentine’s Day, the Flames have played to a 7-0-1 record (they dropped a point to the Panthers in a shootout), largely as a result of their incredible defensive play. Entering play Friday (all stats will not take into account March 1’s eight games due to my work schedule), no team has allowed fewer shots than Calgary in the past 14 days. The Flames have allowed only 214 shots against in their past eight outings, which averages out to 26.75 shots against per game.

Leading that defensive charge has been none other than Calgary’s resident 3-H Club: D Noah Hanifin, who’s 10 takeaways since February 14 lead the team; D Travis Hamonic, who tops the squad by averaging two blocks per game during this run; and W Garnet Hathaway, the Flames’ leading body checker in the past 14 days by averaging three hits per game.

As would be expected, the most prominent place this solid defensive work is showing up is on the scoreboard, as the Flames have allowed a (t)fourth-best 1.75 goals against per game since February 14. As a result, 19-11-2 G Mike Smith has been having an easy go of it lately, made evident by his combined .93 save percentage and 1.98 GAA for his past six starts.

On the season, Smith boasts an .897 save percentage and 2.89 GAA, but his recent run of success means he’ll likely be in the crease this evening. Smith has a not-so-great 6-11-2 all-time record against the Wild, but he stopped all 31 shots faced the last time he saw them on December 6 to improve his career statistics against Minnesota to a .921 save percentage and 2.18 GAA.

Speaking of the Wild, they’re currently on a bit of a run themselves.

On the back of a four-game win streak (including wins against the Blues and Jets), Minnesota has amassed a 31-27-6 record that is currently (well, as of Friday morning) good enough for the Western Conference’s second wild card.

The main player in this recent success has undoubtedly been 25-21-5 G Devan Dubnyk, Smith’s former battery-mate with the Coyotes. Though he’s certainly received help from his defense (the Wild have allowed an average of 30.5 shots against per game in their last four outings, the 12th-best mark in the NHL in that time), he’s played lights out to allow only 1.5 goals against per tilt in his last four starts – the fourth-best mark in the league since February 21.

What makes this streak so impressive is that Dubnyk has been only a little better than average this season with his .912 save percentage and 2.59 GAA on the campaign. However, he’s elevated his game to his 2014-15 level in his last four outings to post a combined .951 save percentage and 1.49 GAA.

Impressive stuff.

Over his 10-year career, Dubnyk has squared off against Calgary 26 times and can boast a solid 11-8-4 record against the Flames. Combined, he’s managed a .923 save percentage and 2.7 GAA against Alberta’s southern franchise.

So if we’re in line for a goaltending duel, which will emerge with two points?

Personally, I like the Flames this evening. They have the advantage of playing at home with an excited C of Red behind them, as well as a better defense and more talented offense. Dubnyk might continue to stand on his head, but I think the Flames can find a way to sneak one more goal past him.

I’ll take Calgary 2-1.

Game of the week: December 3-9

It’s time once again for DtFR’s weekly featured matchup! Let’s take a gander at the NHL’s offerings for this edition, shall we?

NHL SCHEDULE: December 3-9
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 3
7 p.m. Tampa Bay New Jersey 5-1
8 p.m. Buffalo Nashville 1-2
8:30 p.m. Edmonton Dallas 1-4
Tuesday, December 4
7 p.m. Boston Florida 0-5
7 p.m. Winnipeg Jets New York Islanders 3-1
7 p.m. Colorado Pittsburgh 3-6
7 p.m. Calgary Columbus 9-6
7:30 p.m. Toronto Buffalo 4-3 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Montréal 2-5
7:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Detroit 6-5 (SO)
10 p.m. Minnesota Vancouver 3-2
10 p.m. Washington Vegas 3-5
10:30 p.m. Arizona Los Angeles 2-1
Wednesday, December 5
8 p.m. Edmonton St. Louis 3-2 (SO)
10:30 p.m. Chicago Anaheim 2-4
10:30 p.m. Carolina San Jose 1-5
Thursday, December 6
7 p.m. Detroit Toronto 5-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Colorado Florida 5-2
7 p.m. Columbus Philadelphia 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. New York Islanders Pittsburgh Penguins 2-6
7:30 p.m. Montréal Ottawa 5-2
7:30 p.m. Boston Tampa Bay 2-3
9 p.m. Minnesota Calgary 0-2
9 p.m. Washington Arizona 4-2
10 p.m. Nashville Vancouver 3-5
10 p.m. Chicago Vegas 3-4
10:30 p.m. New Jersey Los Angeles 6-3
Friday, December 7
8 p.m. San Jose Dallas 2-3
8 p.m. St. Louis Winnipeg 1-0
9 p.m. Minnesota Edmonton 2-7
10 p.m. Carolina Anaheim 4-1
Saturday, December 8
1 p.m. Philadelphia Buffalo 6-2
4 p.m. Vegas Los Angeles 1-5
7 p.m. Toronto Boston 3-6
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Ottawa 1-2 (OT)
7 p.m. New York Islanders Detroit Red Wings 3-2
7 p.m. Colorado Tampa Bay 1-7
7 p.m. New York Rangers Florida Panthers 5-4 (SO)
7 p.m. Washington Columbus 4-0
8 p.m. San Jose Arizona 5-3
10 p.m. Nashville Calgary 2-5
Sunday, December 9
3 p.m. Vancouver St. Louis
3 p.m. Philadelphia Winnipeg TVAS
5 p.m. Boston Ottawa RDS2
6 p.m. Montréal Canadiens Chicago Blackhawks NHLN, RDS, SN, SN1
8 p.m. New Jersey Anaheim
9 p.m. Dallas Vegas
9 p.m. Calgary Edmonton SN, SN1

This week’s rivalries included the Battle of the QEW (Toronto at Buffalo), Ottawa at Montréal, Detroit at Toronto, the Islanders at Pittsburgh, Montréal at Ottawa, Toronto at Boston, Montréal at Chicago and the Battle of Alberta (Calgary at Edmonton).

In a similar strain, there were also more than a few rematches of playoff fixtures from last spring. Tampa Bay continued its beat down of New Jersey on Monday, while Vegas exacted some revenge against Washington on Tuesday. The Bolts then headed home to host Boston on Wednesday, winning 3-2. Vegas is heading to Los Angeles this afternoon looking for its fifth-straight victory against the Kings, followed by tonight’s tilt between the Capitals and Blue Jackets.

Finally, in the “player returns” department, only two really stuck out among this week’s tilts. Now a member of the Avalanche, D Ian Cole made his first trip back to Pittsburgh Tuesday to take on the club he was a member of for the past four seasons. Then, Wednesday night, C Kyle Brodziak made his first return to St. Louis as a member of a visiting team, having spent three seasons with the Blues.

Of all those, the one I’m most interested in is the Battle of Alberta, so pack your coat and start heading to the City of Champions!

Don’t everyone look all at once (it’ll make the team self-conscious), but with last night’s 5-2 win over Nashville, the 19-9-2 Calgary Flames have claimed a one-point lead for first place in the Western Conference.

Not the Pacific Division, mind you. The Flames have been running that show for about a month now. We’re talking about the entire conference.

I guess Head Coach Bill Peters knows a bit more than we give him credit for around here.

A major reason Calgary is in the position it’s in right now is due to the impressive 9-1-1 record it’s riding right now – a stretch that started with a 4-2 victory over the Oilers on November 17.

A solid argument could be made that no team in the NHL has been better than the Flames in the past three weeks, as they are among the top-three in the league in goals per game, goals against per game and shots against per game.

Starting with the offense (a stat in which Calgary ranks sixth on the entire season, averaging 3.47 goals per game), the Flames have been the class of the conference since November 17, as their 4.45 goals per game in their past 11 outings tops the West and ranks second in the NHL, trailing only Tampa Bay’s 4.58 goals per game.

Leading the charge with 6-14-20 totals in those 11 games is exactly who you expected: LW Johnny Gaudreau. Only RW Nikita Kucherov (5-18-23) has registered more points in the past 22 days than Johnny HockeyTM , but he’s also had the benefit of one extra game played.

But don’t think Gaudreau has been doing it all on his own. C Sean Monahan (9-7-16), F Elias Lindholm (7-8-15), LW Matthew Tkachuk (4-8-12), suspended D Mark Giordano (1-10-11 in 10 games played) and even fourth-liner C Alan Quine (he scored a goal in his season debut last night) are all averaging a point per game or better over this run.

Defense has been a major strength of Calgary’s all season long (the Flames’ 28 shots against per game for the entire campaign ranks third-best in the NHL), and the same can be said for the Flames’ last 11 games. Led by D Rasmus Andersson and D Travis Hamonic (both averaging 1.5 blocks per game since November 17), RW Garnet Hathaway (2.6 hits per game in the past 22 days) and Monahan (his 16 takeaways in the past 11 games lead the club), the Flames have allowed only 27.18 shots against per game since November 17- the third-lowest mark in both the Western Conference and NHL in that time.

While Peters might say he appreciates that solid defensive play, no one is happier for the Flames’ success than 11-7-1 G Mike Smith. And even though the blue line is making his job easy, Smith is putting together one of the best runs of his season so far – especially in light of his season stats.

On the campaign as a whole, Smith boasts a lowly .894 save percentage and 2.88 GAA – both stats considerably worse than backup 8-2-1 G David Rittich’s .919 and 2.39, to the point that there were more than a few calling for the Czech to assume starting duties.

However, Smith’s past six appearances have been reminiscent of his incredible 2011-12 season with the Coyotes (he posted a .93 save percentage and 2.21 GAA and led the team to the Western Final), as he’s won six-straight games with a dominant .936 save percentage and 1.59 GAA in those showings.

Having been in net for last night’s home win over Nashville, Smith will likely ride the pine this evening with Rittich getting the start.

Though the 15-12-2 Edmonton Oilers currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, they only trail the second wild card Vegas Golden Knights by a point (with two games in hand, no less), so it is possible for tonight’s hosts to force themselves into the playoff picture with as little as an overtime or shootout loss.

Wait, I thought the Oilers were back to being bad again. I’m so confused.

Sometimes a change of voice from behind the bench is exactly what a team needs to get in shape, because the Oilers have been playing some solid hockey since hiring Head Coach Ken Hitchcock on November 20. Before Hitchcock arrived in Northern Alberta, the Oil boasted a record of 9-10-1, but they’ve gone on a solid 6-2-1 record since then to position themselves right on the playoffs’ doorstep.

Considering Hitchcock’s history, it wasn’t unexpected that his first goal upon taking over Edmonton was teaching his club how to play defense. Instead, the bigger surprise is that the team – one rarely known for its defensive play for its entire history – actually responded and is finding success.

Under Hitchcock, the Oilers have allowed only 29.11 shots against per game, the seventh-best mark in the NHL since November 20. Injured F Drake Caggiula (averaging 4.3 hits per game during this run), D Oscar Klefbom (averaging 2.6 blocks per game in the last 20 days) and C Connor McDavid (his 12 takeaways in his last eight appearances pace the team) have all been integral in leading this strategic shift, and the results are clearly showing in the standings.

Both G Mikko Koskinen and G Cam Talbot have shown considerable improvement playing behind this revamped defense, but Koskinen seems to have gained Hitchcock’s favor as the Oilers’ starting goaltender – at least for the time being. Though he has managed a decent .925 save percentage and 2.23 GAA for the entire season, Koskinen has posted a solid .934 save percentage and 1.82 GAA in his last six starts and will get the nod tonight.

For those wondering, Talbot’s .895 save percentage and 3.12 GAA for the season have been steadily improving under Hitch as well, as he’s managed a .925 save percentage and 2.29 GAA in his last three starts.

So, it’s time for that priceless question: who wins tonight?

With both defenses playing as well as they are right now, my immediate reaction is to pick the team with the superior offense. As that is not the style Hitchcock is having the Oilers play, that leads me to lean towards Calgary earning two points despite playing yesterday and having to travel last night/this morning.

However, with so much for Edmonton to play for and the fact that this is one of the better rivalries in the league, the only thing we can truly predict is unpredictability!