Tag Archives: Gerry Cheevers

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.

Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.

For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.

Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.

Marcus Johansson suffered a lung contusion after Micheal Ferland delivered a check days after Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline in March.

If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.

The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.

Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.

Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.

Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.

When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.

Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.

Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.

Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.

Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.

Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.

Former Hurricane, Joakim Nordstrom, and Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly, each have a pair of goals in 12 and nine games played, respectively.

Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.

Usual playoff performers, David Krejci (4-6–10 totals in 13 games) and Patrice Bergeron (5-3–8 totals in 13 games) are right where you’d expect them to be at this time of the year.

Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.

Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.

He also just tied Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd most postseason shutouts in Bruins franchise history with his 6th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout against Columbus in Game 6.

Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.

Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.

In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.

But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.

No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.

Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.

Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.

On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.

Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.

Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.

Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.

That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.

Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.


The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.

When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.

The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).

Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.

Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.

That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*

5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*

*If necessary

Bruins shutout Blue Jackets, 3-0, advance to 2019 Eastern Conference Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Eastern Conference Final after a, 3-0, shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Game 6 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.

Boston will host the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Tuukka Rask (8-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason) made 39 saves on 39 shots against to record his 6th career postseason shutout and tie Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd-most Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts in Bruins franchise history.

Gerry Cheevers leads the club with eight postseason shutouts in his career with the B’s.

Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-4, 2.41 GAA, .925 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept his lineup the same from Game 5 to Game 6, while John Moore (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) sat out due to injury.

Once again, Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Early in the opening frame of the game, Pierre-Luc Dubois went hard into Rask and was assessed with a goaltender interference minor penalty. Boston went on the power play for the first time of the night at 6:46 of the first period.

Seconds after Columbus killed off Dubois’ minor, the Bruins thought they had a goal when Sean Kuraly appeared to pocket the puck in the open twine.

However, Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella used his coach’s challenge to send the call on the ice to a review, in which it was determined that Joakim Nordstrom was not pushed into Bobrovsky by a Columbus defender and instead had collided with the Columbus goaltender by his own merit.

As a result, the call on the ice was overturned. No goal.

The game remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 12-10.

Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (60-40). Meanwhile, Columbus led in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (24-8). Both teams had one takeaway each and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

David Pastrnak tripped up Cam Atkinson and was sent to the penalty box at 2:42 of the second period as the Blue Jackets went on the skater advantage for the first time Monday night.

Columbus did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Midway through the period, Brad Marchand slashed the stick of Seth Jones and was sent to the box with a slashing minor at 9:22 of the second period.

The Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on their second power play of the game and the Bruins took advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams play.

Jake DeBrusk rang the crossbar and David Krejci (4) blasted the rebound under Bobrovsky’s blocker to give the B’s the lead, 1-0, at 12:13.

DeBrusk (3) and Connor Clifton (2) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal.

In the final minute of the period, Charlie McAvoy charged Josh Anderson along the boards and led with his shoulder directly into the head of the Columbus forward.

McAvoy received a two-minute minor for an illegal hit to the head at 19:40, leaving fans inside the arena, at bars and on their couches at home confused as to why it was not a five-minute major infraction.

Regardless, McAvoy should expect to receive a phone call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, at the very least. Warnings can still be a thing, even if a player can or cannot be suspended.

Anderson did return from the second intermission for the third period.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailed, 27-17, in shots on goal after the Blue Jackets had a, 17-5, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-7) and hits (36-17), while the Bruins led in giveaways (6-5) and face-off win% (53-48) after two periods.

Both teams had four takeaways aside. The Blue Jackets were 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.

Though they had a few shots on net while McAvoy was in the box with time remaining on his penalty to start the third period, Columbus did not score on the power play.

Nordstrom slashed Dubois at 4:48 of the third period and sent the Blue Jackets back on the power play early in the final frame of regulation.

Once again, the Blue Jackets failed to hit the back of the twine on the skater advantage.

A little over a couple of minutes after killing Nordstrom’s penalty, Boston’s bottom-six forwards went to work and hooked up Marcus Johansson (2) with a quick break-in and shot that popped off Bobrovsky and carried itself over the goal line with just enough momentum on the puck.

Johaonsson’s goal was assited by Charlie Coyle (3) and Danton Heinen (4) as the Bruins took a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:58 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Krejci worked a pass to Torey Krug, whereby Krug turned and flung the puck towards David Backes (1) for the redirection past the Columbus goaltender and the, 3-0, lead.

Krug (7) and Krejci (6) were tabbed with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 10:39.

As a result of his two-point effort in Game 6, Krejci is now three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with Boston). He’s seeking to become the 5th Bruin to reach 100 postseason points with the franchise.

With no other choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker, Tortorella exercised his right with 3:30 remaining in regulation, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t maintain enough offensive zone pressure to muster a comeback.

Nor could the Bruins tally an empty net goal, but by the final horn none of that mattered.

Boston had defeated Columbus, 3-0, in Game 6 and won the series 4-2.

The B’s finished Monday night leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the Blue Jackets gave their home crowd a solid performance– despite the loss– leading in shots on goal (39-29), giveaways (10-7), hits (43-19) and face-off win% (51-49).

You can’t say Columbus didn’t try.

Neither team scored a goal on the skater advantage in Game 6 as the Blue Jackets went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins went 0/1.

The Bruins improved to 8-0 when leading after two periods this postseason as Rask picked up his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout since 2014.

For the first time since they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, Boston will host the Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

Carolina last appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 and lost in four games to the Penguins.

But that same Hurricanes team also defeated the Bruins in their last series matchup in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Scott Walker had the series clinching goal in overtime against Thomas to lift the Canes over the B’s, 3-2, at the then branded TD Banknorth Garden in Game 7 of that series.

Boston holds a 3-1 series record all-time against the Hurricanes including two postseason matchups with the Hartford Whalers before they relocated to North Carolina in 1997.


Down the Frozen River Podcast #91- Our USA Wins Gold

After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games, Nick and Connor decided to create USA rosters with NHL players anyway. Also discussed, All-Star weekend, Jaromir Jagr and the Winnipeg Jets.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

DTFR Overtime: Just Killing Prime

On the most recent episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, @connorzkeith expressed the sentiment that the Boston Bruins have been wasting the prime of their core group of players– not including David Pastrnak, or really anyone since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft currently on the roster.

Rather, Connor suggested that the Bruins were once a dominant team of the early 2010s with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask that’s still very much left intact from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but that they’ve been wasting the arc of the aforementioned players’s prime.

Luckily, Down the Frozen River has an in-house Boston historian and I am here to set the record straight. This is DTFR Overtime and what I’ve thought about after recording the last podcast.


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Hockey is a game of inches and odd puck bounces. It’s a collective game of skill with an over-reliance on luck. Whatever you believe, you better believe in the Hockey Gods. It’s only fate, destiny and just a game at the end of the day, right?

Wrong.

The business of hockey has played a huge part in impacting the game of hockey as we know it– impacting teams and how rosters are constructed, directly through the introduction of a salary cap as of the last full-season lockout in 2004-2005 and indirectly, through many other external factors (family, injuries, et cetera).

It was because of league expansion in the 1970s and because of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) that Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the Bruins didn’t nail down a dynasty. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens also played a part in it in 1971, 1977 and 1978, but the B’s lost star goaltender, Gerry Cheevers, to the Cleveland Crusaders of WHA from 1972 through 1976– right after winning the Cup in 1972 and during Boston’s appearance and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.

Cheevers alone wasn’t the only difference maker in a Bruins uniform that left the black and gold for the higher paying WHA.

Sanderson jettisoned Boston for the Philadelphia Blazers in the summer of ’72 for a $2.600 million contract that made him the highest paid athlete in the world at the time, though he went on to only play in eight games with the Blazers due to injury and returned to Boston after the WHA’s 1972-1973 season on a $1 million deal. From 1972 through 1974 with the Bruins, Sanderson only played 54 out of 156 games and was sent down to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League before being traded to the New York Rangers in June 1974.

John “Pie” McKenzie, a gifted point scorer known by his unconventional nickname left the Bruins for the WHA’s Blazers as a player-coach after the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and never returned to the NHL. McKenzie finished his playing days with the New England Whalers in 1979.

In the 1980s and early 90s, injuries and the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers as a top team in the National Hockey League plagued the primes of Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Cam Neely and the Big Bad Bruins.

Boston lost the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals to the Oilers. Boston lost the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston Garden itself was closed in 1995– and then Boston missed the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 30 years.

Good teams aren’t meant to remain on top forever.

There’s a reason why the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports.

Claude Julien, the winningest coach (419 wins) in Bruins franchise history– having surpassed Art Ross‘s 387 wins mark with the team during his tenure in Boston– led the black and gold to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and one President’s Trophy (just the second in franchise history during the 2013-2014 campaign).

In 2011, the Bruins rode the backs of Nathan Horton, Marchand and Tim Thomas‘s insanity in goal. In 2013, a more experienced Boston team rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and charged all the way to a six game series battle with the Chicago Blackhawks that ultimately ended in defeat.

Thomas was no longer part of the story after 2012. Rask took over the reigns and never looked back. Jaromir Jagr came and went in a largely forgettable time in the spoked-B.

But the Bruins could skate with the best. Until they missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

In the Salary Cap Era, teams are built up and ripped to shreds by massive longterm contracts and dollars being improperly allocated throughout the roster.

Peter Chiarelli got the Bruins in a salary cap hell, what with their fourth line center, Chris Kelly, making $3.000 million in his final years as a Bruin. In the broad scope of things, that was the least of Chiarelli’s mismanagement that ultimately ended his time in Boston. Neither the Tyler Seguin trade nor the Johnny Boychuk trade alone could be what led to the Bruins going from a top team deep in every roster spot to a team outside the playoff picture looking in with some mediocre placeholders.

Brett Connolly and Max Talbot didn’t yield the same results in Chiarelli’s last season with the Bruins– tangible or intangible– than any of the bottom-six forwards (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Kelly and Michael Ryder) provided for the 2011.

Just one year removed from a President’s Trophy season that ended with an early First Round exit to Montreal, the Bruins found themselves on the verge of an uncomfortable position that they hadn’t been in since missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. They went on to miss the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

So the Bruins did the only thing they’ve ever known. They reset themselves while still carrying a core group of players.

In the 70s, Boston rebuilt themselves around Orr, Esposito and friends when Sanderson left (then returned and left again via trade), Cheevers departed and McKenzie stormed off to the WHA. They drafted Terry O’Reilly in 1971, Stan Johnathan in 1975 and acquired Peter McNab from the Buffalo Sabres after the 1975 Stanley Cup Final.

The new identity Bruins flipped Esposito along with Carol Vadnais during the 1975-76 season to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi and still had Orr until his departure via free agency in 1976.

Boston still had Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge and Don Marcotte as key aspects of their 70s rosters.

They could have dismantled a team that won two Stanley Cups (and should have won more, if it weren’t for the WHA) after the franchise’s slow start in 1975. They didn’t.

Hockey has never been kind to good teams with the right players at what seems like it’s the right time (just ask last year’s Washington Capitals). But that’s the nature of the sport. No matter how much of a powerhouse you build– with or without a salary cap, with or without expansion or injuries– you can’t control the way the puck bounces.

Some players stick around in the league for long enough to become seasoned veterans of the NHL and never sniff a Stanley Cup Final appearance, let alone the postseason. It took Ron Hainsey until just last year with the Penguins to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and it took Bourque and Dave Andreychuk at least a couple of decades each to win it all.

Just because Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask only have a 2011 Stanley Cup championship together doesn’t mean they’ve been wasting their time, killing the prime of their careers.

For Boston, they ended a 39-year Stanley Cup-less drought.

They’ve already won once more than thousands of others who were lucky enough to make it to the NHL.

And they’ve forever cemented themselves in the history of the franchise, as well as the City of Boston as adopted sons and representatives of the Hub everywhere they go and in everything they do related to the sport or not.

Fans want rings and that’s one thing, but to say they’ve wasted their primes is another. They’ve contributed so much on and off the ice for the youth movement once again creeping up on the Bruins. Pastrnak is destined for stardom. Charlie McAvoy is an apprentice to Chara as Bourque was to Park in 1979.

Even Kevan Miller‘s found a bit of a resurgence in his offensive game, going end-to-end to throw the puck in front of the net to find Danton Heinen like Orr did with anyone.

The torch gets passed on. We’re all in for the ride.

And you pray to the Hockey Gods that they’ll let you win at least once.

December 7 -Day 56 – If bears could vote…

There’s only four games occurring tonight, but they all look to be good ones. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Minnesota at Toronto (SN), followed half an hour later by Boston at Washington (NBCSN/TVAS). Later, the co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. (Carolina at Anaheim and Ottawa at San Jose [RDS]). All times eastern.

I know we’ve been in the Eastern Conference for the last four days, but the game I’m most interested in is going down in the Verizon Center. Off to the capital we go!

Unknown-7Washington Capitals Logo

 

Jumping right in, 15-10-1 Boston – currently riding a three-game winning streak – is the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, thanks in most part to a defense and goaltending that has allowed only 57 goals so far this season, the fifth-fewest in the league. That stat is made only more impressive by the fact that the Bruins allowed 228 goals a season ago, the tying for 11th-most.

Much of that improvement can be attributed to the 14-4-1 Tuukka Rask, whose .939 save percentage and 1.68 GAA – which rank fourth and second-best in the league, respectively, among goalies with 10 or more appearances – are vastly better than his efforts a season ago (.915 and 2.56) that rank among the worst campaigns of his 10-season career.

Rask doesn’t get to take all the credit though. Last season, his defense allowed 30.4 shots-per-game to reach his crease, the 13th-most in the league. Nowadays, that number is down to 27.7, the fifth-best. Taking responsibility for that change is rookie Brandon Carlo, who’s 45 blocks is a greater total than even the likes of Captain Zdeno Chara (43), Adam McQuaid (37) and John-Michael Liles (28).

That success has followed the Bruins to the penalty kill, where their 86.4% kill rate is the third-best in the league. Carlo has led that charge as well, with 15 shorthanded blocks on his young NHL resume.

Boston‘s Achilles heel continues to be their power play, which ranks fourth-worst at 13.8%. Two of the Davids (David Krejci and David Pastrnak, to be exact) have five power play points to co-lead the team, but I’d argue Pastrnak has been the most vital with four extra-man goals.

*Seriously, count up how many Davids are on the Bruins‘ roster. Last I checked, there’s three active right now.*

Hosting Boston this evening are the 14-7-3 Capitals, who currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. Just like the Bruins, Washington has found most of their success by being a strong defensive team, allowing only 53 goals – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Last year’s Vezina Trophy-winning Braden Holtby currently has an 11-6-2 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.14 GAA – the 16th and 10th-best efforts among netminders with 10 or more appearances.

Much of the reason Holtby has been able to maintain his stellar play from a season ago has been due to the impressive defense playing in front of him that has allowed only 28.2 shots-per-game to reach his crease – effectively identical to last season’s Presidents’ Trophy-clinching effort.  Brooks Orpik has led the blueline with 39 blocks, but four total defensemen (Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Orpik) already have more than 30 shot blocks on the year.

Surprisingly, the power play has let Washington down thus far into the season. Even with Nicklas Backstrom‘s nine power play points and Alex Ovechkin‘s four power play goals, the Caps‘ 15.2% success rate is ninth-worst in the NHL. Part of the reason for that decline might be due to T.J. Oshie being sidelined since November 19 with an upper body-injury, one would expect a potent Capitals offense to overcome that setback.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Boston‘s Pastrnak (+15 on 15 goals [both tied for third-most in the league]) and Rask (14 wins [tied for most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league], on a 1.68 GAA [second-best in the NHL] and a .939 save percentage [fourth-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (2.14 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Ovechkin (12 goals [10th-most in the league]).

Vegas thinks Washington is the favorite tonight, marking them with a -145. Since the Capitals are on home ice, I also like Washington to pull out the victory in what should be a good game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gerry Cheevers (1940-) – How funny we’d feature the Bruins on 12-year Bostonian goaltender Cheevers’ birthday! Up until the 2011 championship, this netminder had been responsible for the Bruins‘ previous two Stanley Cup titles.
  • Garry Unger (1947-) –  A long-time Blue, this center was an seven-time All-Star and notched 804 points over his 16-season career.
  • Peter Laviolette (1964-) – Currently the head coach in Nashville, this skipper’s crowning achievement of his 15-season coaching career is still the Stanley Cup he won in 2006 with Carolina.
  • Georges Laraque (1976-) – The 31st-overall selection in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing spent most of his time with Edmonton, the club that drafted him. Twice he made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but both times his club failed to hoist the Cup.
  • Milan Michalek (1984) – This left wing was the sixth-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, but he played most of his days in Ottawa.

It’s the games I’m most confident in that are getting the best of me. I assumed the Rangers would have no problem beating the Islanders, but once again a good rivalry game turned the tables as the home Isles bested the Blueshirts 4-2.

The first goal of the night was a special one for the Islanders. Struck 7:03 into the game, Third Star of the Game Scott Mayfield‘s (Cal Clutterbuck and Anders Lee) slap shot was his first goal of the season, and only the second of his 14-game NHL career. Jason Chimera (Brock Nelson) backed that tally up with one of his own with 2:36 remaining in the frame to give the Islanders a two-goal lead going into the first intermission.

The Rangers‘ incredible offense finally got on the board 56 seconds into the second period with a Jimmy Vesey (Rick Nash) wrister, but Andrew Ladd (Shane Prince) notched the eventual game-winner only 1:22 later with a snap shot. The Rangers fought back within a goal at the 8:54 mark via a Marc Staal (J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider) wrister, but it was the last tally they could manage, both in the second period and regulation.

Second Star John Tavares (Josh Bailey and Nick Leddy) scored an insurance goal with 8:47 remaining in the game to seal the Islanders’ victory in the Battle of New York.

First Star Jaroslav Halak earns the victory after saving 36-of-38 shots faced (94.7%), forcing Henrik Lundqvist to take the loss, saving 28-of-32 (87.5%).

The second straight win by the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series has improved their record to 31-19-8 and expended their lead over the roadies to six points.

Numbers Game: Look to the Rafters- Boston Bruins

By: Nick Lanciani

I continue to explore an important element of the game and what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.

Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.

For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.

UnknownBoston Bruins

Current Retired Numbers- 2 Eddie Shore, 3 Lionel Hitchman, 4 Bobby Orr, 5 Dit Clapper, 7 Phil Esposito, 8 Cam Neely, 9 John Bucyk, 15 Milt Schmidt, 24 Terry O’Reilly, 77 Ray Bourque

Recommended Numbers to Retire-

16 Derek Sanderson

Honestly, there’s got to be somebody out there wondering why the Bruins haven’t retired Sanderson’s number 16 yet, despite his short tenure with the Bruins (and overall short NHL career). If anything, his off the ice story is the ultimate combination of tragic and inspirational- and the work he does now is remarkable. Wouldn’t it be great to say one day to your kids at the TD Garden “and there’s number 16, which was worn by Derek Sanderson, a man who overcame many things, just like how you can overcome anything and make your dreams come true if you work hard enough and never give up hope.”

Sanderson was sensational on the ice, having won two Stanley Cups with the Bruins in 1970 and 1972. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1968 and had a career high 146 penalty minutes in his 2nd season with Boston in the 1968-1969 season as the ultimate definition of tough in the spoked-B.

His fast track to success was marred by his equally fast track to nearly destroying his life. If it weren’t for his new found faith and good friend Bobby Orr, Sanderson would be a distant memory in a tragic loss of superstar talent.

Since he turned his life around, Sanderson has become a financial advisor and a mentor to many young athletes in the sport as well as an immortal legend in Boston for his time spent with NESN alongside Fred Cusick in the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s.

It’s time the Bruins truly honored Sanderson for the remarkable man that he’s become off the ice. Sanderson and Orr defined not only a decade in hockey, but an entire era and playing style. It’s only fitting that they are equally honored by Boston.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron just turned 30- hard to believe- and has already spent a little over a decade in the league. It’s looking like Bergeron will be another legendary player in the category of “spent all of his time with one organization,” so it will be deserving of the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin.

Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)
Patrice Bergeron is the current definition of what it means to be a Bruin and what it means to be part of Boston sports lore. (Getty Images)

While he’s not Milt Schmidt, Bergeron could share the “Mr. Bruin” nickname with Schmidt by the end of his career.

Bergeron became the 25th member of the Triple Gold Club, having completed the trifecta in 2011 after having won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. He’s won three Selke Trophies, a King Clancy Memorial Trophy, and the NHL Foundation Player Award in his career thus far.

The two-time member of Team Canada in the Winter Olympics has also won two gold medals in 2010 and 2014. The only question for Bergeron someday will be, what hasn’t he done or been a part of?

Bergeron is adored by Boston fans for every little thing he does in what could otherwise be best summed up as perfection.

The perfect leader, the perfect teammate, the perfect two-way center, and even the perfect well respected rival- when it comes to facing the Montreal Canadiens. His impact on the franchise is insurmountable, considering he was barely penciled in on the roster, at 18 years old, for the 2003-2004 season.

33 Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in the locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Zdeno Chara should see his number 33 raised to the rafters of the TD Garden as one of the best defensemen and leaders in Boston’s locker room in franchise history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Chara often gets a bad rap for no reason from some Boston fans. The fact of the matter is that Chara is one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s a six-time Norris Trophy Finalist (2004, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014) having won in 2009.

If it weren’t for Niklas Lidstrom’s swan song season, Chara would have at least another Norris Trophy. Do I need to mention he’s the current record holder of the Hardest Shot competition with a blistering 108.8 mph slap shot?

Aside from being able to speak seven languages and sell real estate in the State of Massachusetts, Chara was the first player born inside the Iron Curtain to captain his team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

Without a doubt, there is no question surrounding his leadership off the ice and in the locker room. On the ice he’s well respected by league officials, perhaps supplemented by his 6’9” (7’0” on skates), 255-pound, stature.

He’s aging, yes, but what player doesn’t age after every season? He’s still insanely fit and athletic and capable of holding his own as a top-2 defenseman for the Boston Bruins. While it might take some convincing of Boston fans currently, Zdeno Chara absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Bruins someday. He remains an influential piece to their turnaround and run to the Cup from 2006 to 2011 and leadership in their current roster and front office transition.

Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tim Thomas will be best remembered for chasing a dream and reaching its mountaintop. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images
Gerry Cheevers backstopped some legendary teams in Boston and had the mask to match their toughness. (Photo: Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honorable Mention

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

By this point, it’s probably a long shot for the Bruins to retire number 30 out of respect for Gerry Cheevers. He played remarkably well for a dominate Boston team in the 1970s and if it weren’t for the World Hockey Association having diluted the NHL’s talent pool, probably would’ve led the Bruins to some more greatness.

Likewise, Tim Thomas overcame a lot of doubt to be at the top of the NHL mountain as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and 2011 Stanley Cup champion. It would certainly be a classy move by the organization, but one that likely will never happen for either (or both) former sensational Boston goaltenders.

Other Notes

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to setting aside Mark Recchi’s number 28. Not necessarily retiring it, but only using it for special players, which I guess is kind of the reason why nobody has been assigned number 28 on the Bruins since Recchi retired. Same goes with Marc Savard’s number 91.

It’s a shame that good players don’t always get to have extravagant careers. Players like Savard or Norm Léveillé will always be remembered for how they played on the ice by diehard Boston fans.