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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins lose big in, 7-2, blowout to Islanders

The New York Islanders erupted for seven goals on home ice in their, 7-2, victory over the Boston Bruins at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night.

Semyon Varlamov (9-4-2, 2.06 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 34 out of 36 shots faced for a .944 SV% in the win for the Isles.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (4-2-1, 2.42 GAA, .903 SV% in seven games played) made 30 saves on 37 shots against for an .811 SV% in the loss.

The former Islanders goaltender was visibly frustrated and broke his stick against the post after allowing four goals.

Boston fell to 11-4-2 (24 points) on the season, but remained in command of the MassMutual NHL East Division standings.

New York improved to 10-6-3 (23 points) overall and jumped from 5th in the division to 3rd place in the standings.

Thursday night marked the 400th career National Hockey League game (all with Boston) for David Pastrnak. Entering Thursday, he had 393 points (189 goals, 204 assists) in 399 games, including 9-5–14 totals in nine games this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (lower body), David Krejci (lower body), Kevan Miller (knee) and Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand) against the Islanders Thursday night.

Boston did, however, see the return of Jakub Zboril to the blue line after Zboril missed the last two games with an upper body injury sustained on Feb. 13th at the Islanders.

Grzelcyk, meanwhile, skated on Thursday morning and may make his return to the lineup on Friday or Sunday in Manhattan against the New York Rangers. He has missed 11 games so far this season due to a recurring lower body injury originally sustained on Jan. 21st vs. Philadelphia, then re-aggravated on Jan. 28th vs. Pittsburgh and again on Feb. 10th at the Rangers.

The newest member of Boston’s long list of injuries– Lauzon– played 34 seconds in the 2021 NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe game against the Flyers and will be out for approximately four weeks with a fractured left hand.

Krejci and Miller did not travel with the team to New York for the current three-game road trip.

Halak earned his first start against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum since 2014, while Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy made no adjustments to his forward lines, but played with his defensive pairings from Sunday’s, 7-3, win over the Flyers outdoors to Thursday night’s battle indoors on Long Island.

Urho Vaakanainen earned first pairing minutes with Charlie McAvoy to start the action, while Zboril was placed on the left side of Brandon Carlo on the second defensive pairing.

Meanwhile, John Moore and Connor Clifton rounded out the six dressed defenders.

Kase, Krejci, Grzelcyk, Lauzon, Karson Kuhlman, Miller, Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer and Callum Booth made up Boston’s long list of injuries, healthy scratches and taxi squad members on Thursday.

Nick Ritchie (7) kicked things off by redirecting a pass through the low slot past Varlamov to give the Bruins the game’s first goal 62 seconds into the action.

Zboril (3) and Charlie Coyle (3) tallied the assists as Boston led, 1-0, at 1:02 of the first period.

The B’s didn’t lead for long before Adam Pelech (1) pocketed a rebound past Halak’s blocker side while crashing the net for his first goal in 42 games.

Pelech’s goal was unassisted as the Islanders tied the game, 1-1, at 3:16 of the opening frame.

A couple of minutes past the midpoint of the first period, Mathew Barzal (7) burst into the attacking zone with speed and sniped a shot over Halak’s glove side to put New York ahead, 2-1, at 12:39.

Nick Leddy (10) and Varlamov (1) had the assists on Barzal’s goal as the two teams got off to a fast pace on Thursday.

Entering the first intermission, New York led Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Bruins holding the, 15-10, advantage in shots on goal.

The B’s also led in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (53-47) after one period, while the Isles led in giveaways (5-1) and hits (12-5).

Neither team had seen any action on the skater advantage entering the middle frame.

Anthony Beauvillier tripped Pastrnak at 1:01 of the second period and yielded the game’s first power play to Boston, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Craig Smith cut a rut to the sin bin for the B’s after hooking Leddy, but the Islanders didn’t capitalize on their first power play of the night as a result.

In the vulnerable minute after special teams action, Boston capitalized on a shift in momentum when Smith redirected the puck behind his back to his stick with a free hand– never closing his hand on the puck in the process– in the neutral zone before skating into the attacking zone and sending a pass towards Jack Studnicka as Studnicka crashed the net.

There was just one problem, however, as the puck deflected off of Matt Martin’s stick and fluttered over Varlamov and into the twine– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Smith (4) was credited with the goal while Jake DeBrusk (3) and Vaakanainen (2) earned the assists at 11:36 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the scoreboard was even, 2-2, but the Bruins were leading in shots on goal, 28-19, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s also led in blocked shots (12-5) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the New York led in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (9-3) and hits (20-14).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Beauvillier (1) kicked things off in the third period with the eventual game-winning goal for the Islanders after stealing the puck right off of Trent Frederic’s stick and slipping the rubber biscuit through Halak to give New York a, 3-2, lead at 5:41.

Then it started.

The Islanders began an offensive onslaught, first when Barzal sent a pass to Jordan Eberle leading Halak to drop down into the splits while Eberle (8) roofed the puck over Halak’s glove and into the net.

Barzal (10) and Anders Lee (4) notched the assists on Eberle’s goal and New York took a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 10:45 of the third period.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Casey Cizikas sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game infraction at 12:04, but Boston’s power play was once again powerless and instead gave up an ensuing shorthanded goal against.

That’s right, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (8) emerged with a quick breakout from his own zone that translated into a breakaway into the attacking zone before scoring top-shelf over Halak’s glove side to make it, 5-2, Islanders at 12:24.

Pelech (4) had the only assist on Pageau’s shorthanded goal as the New York forward scored his third goal in three games against Boston this season.

About two minutes later, a wacky deflection off of Clifton, then Halak, then Vaakanainen and the post (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter that much) left a loose puck with eyes finding its way to Lee’s stick for Lee (9) to pot his team leading ninth goal of the season to make it a four-goal game.

Noah Dobson (7) and Leddy (11) had the assists on Lee’s goal and the Isles led, 6-2, at 14:44 of the third period.

Again, less than two minutes later, after Halak made an initial stop with his shoulder, the puck flew back into the slot whereby Oliver Wahlstrom (2) was waiting and anticipating burying the rebound to make it, 7-2, for New York– capping off five unanswered goals in a span in the third period alone for the Islanders.

Ryan Pulock (8) and Cizikas (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 16:33.

About a minute later, Frederic delivered a swift cross check to Lee after a stoppage in play and was dealt a minor infraction for cross checking as well as a game misconduct at 17:53.

Smith served Frederic’s minor as Boston’s penalty kill managed to go unscathed on the final special teams appearance of the night.

At the final horn, the Islanders handed the Bruins their worst loss of the season thus far on the scoreboard, 7-2.

It was Boston’s first game since beating the Flyers, 7-3, outdoors, so at least the Bruins managed consecutive games with at least seven goals scored by the winning team– just on both sides of the final result.

New York finished night leading in shots on goal, 37-36, including an, 18-8, advantage in the third period alone– the most shots allowed by Boston in any third period this season so far.

The B’s finished the game with the advantage in blocked shots (16-8) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Isles managed the advantage in giveaways (13-6) and hits (26-24).

Both clubs went 0/2 on the power play on Thursday.

Thursday night’s game also marked just the second time this season that Boston lost by more than one goal. Coincidentally, the last time the Bruins did that this season was back on Feb. 13th against the Islanders on Long Island in a, 4-2, loss.

The Bruins fell to 7-2-0 (3-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first game, while the Islanders improved to 3-5-2 (3-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

Boston also fell to 2-2-2 (2-2-2 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 3-3-1 (3-3-1 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

New York, conversely, improved to 7-1-1 (4-0-1 at home) when leading after the first period and 6-2-2 (5-0-1 at home) when tied after two periods this season.

The Bruins are now 1-3-0 in their last four games and continue their three-game road trip (0-1-0) to close out the month of February (6-3-0) with a pair of games at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced earlier on Thursday that fans will be allowed at TD Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium at about 12% seating capacity as of March 22nd, which means Boston’s first home game with fans at TD Garden is currently scheduled for March 23rd against the Islanders.

Information regarding ticket sales and more is coming soon. Check your local listings (nhl.com/bruins, preferably).

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NHL Nick's Net

Islanders beat Bruins, 4-2, B’s five-game win streak ends

After winning their last five games (and on the road, too), the Boston Bruins fell to the New York Islanders, 4-2, on Saturday night at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov (6-2-2, 1.98 goals against average, .930 save percentage in ten games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in the win.

Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask (6-2-1, 2.51 GAA, .906 SV% in nine games played) made 38 saves on 42 shots against for a .905 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 10-2-2 (22 points) on the season, but remained in 1st place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while New York improved to 6-4-3 (15 points), but stuck in 4th place in the division.

Ondrej Kase (upper body) missed his 12th game this season due to an injury sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey, while Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) missed his eighth game of the season due to a lingering injury originally sustained on Jan. 21st against Philadelphia, then re-aggravated on Jan. 28th against Pittsburgh and again on Feb. 10th in New York (against the Rangers).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup from Friday night’s, 1-0, win against the Rangers, replacing Connor Clifton on the second defensive pairing with John Moore, who made his season debut.

Par Lindholm, Clifton, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer and Callum Booth served as Boston’s healthy scratches and/or taxi squad members on Saturday night.

Midway through the opening frame, Brad Marchand (9) fired the puck past Varlamov on the blocker side from the slot on a catch and release shot after Patrice Bergeron fed Marchand with a pass.

Bergeron (11) and David Pastrnak (4) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led, 1-0, at 8:41 of the first period.

Boston earned a little over a minute of consecutive attacking zone time leading up to Marchand’s goal in a dominant display of possession as Saturday night’s action got going.

A few minutes later, Islanders defender, Ryan Pulock fed the slot where Jean-Gabriel Pageau hacked at the puck before Leo Komarov (1) put the finishing touch on it– sneaking the puck behind Rask and tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Pageau (4) and Pulock (5) notched the assists on Komarov’s first goal of the season at 11:36.

Almost four minutes later, New York took the lead on a tremendous momentum swing whereby Jordan Eberle (6) rocketed an old-school blast from the faceoff circle off of Rask’s leg pad and through the five-hole at 15:16 of the first period.

Brock Nelson (3) and Scott Mayfield (1) had the assists on Eberle’s goal and the Islanders led, 2-1.

Entering the first intermission, New York had the lead on the scoreboard, as well as shots on goal, 15-7.

The Isles also dominated in blocked shots (6-2) and hits (15-13), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (65-35).

Both clubs had two takeaways and two giveaways each after one period of action and had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.

Prior to the start of the middle period, the Bruins tweeted that defender, Jakub Zboril, would not return to Saturday night’s game with an upper body injury.

Almost midway through the second period, Adam Pelech cross checked Pastrnak and received a minor infraction at 7:47.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play– the first skater advantage of the night.

Late in the period, Pastrnak worked the puck up to Marchand through the neutral zone, whereby Marchand then setup Bergeron (7) for another catch and release goal over Varlamov’s blocker side at 16:51.

Marchand (9) and Pastrnak (5) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

Through 40 minutes of action at the Coliseum, the score was tied, 2-2, despite the Islanders holding a, 30-16, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 15-9, advantage in just the second period alone.

New York also led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (5-2) and hits (29-23), while the B’s led in giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (62-38).

Boston was 0/1 on the power play, while the Isles had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second intermission.

Pastrnak hooked Mathew Barzal at 4:09 of the third period and the penalty proved to be costly for the Bruins as New York took full advantage of their only power play of the night.

Barzal (6) gave the Islanders a go-ahead power-play goal on a one-timer that sailed over Rask’s blocker side from close range.

Anders Lee (3) and Eberle (3) had the assist’s on Barzal’s goal as the Islanders took a, 3-2, lead at 5:30 of the third period.

Past the midpoint of the final frame, Eberle caught Jeremy Lauzon with a high stick at 13:37, but the Bruins were no match for New York’s penalty kill.

In fact, Boston’s power play gave up a goal as Komarov fed Pageau (4) with a short breakaway, leading to a shot past Rask’s glove side into the back of the twine to make it, 4-2, for the Islanders.

Komarov (2) had the only assist on Pageau’s shorthanded insurance goal at 14:32.

It was the first shorthanded goal against allowed by Boston this season.

With 2:40 remaining in Saturday night’s action, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Islanders defense stood tall against Boston’s last-ditch effort.

At the final horn, New York had won, 4-2.

The Islanders finished the night leading in shots on goal, 42-30, despite trailing, 14-12, in shots in the third period alone.

The Isles also wrapped up the night leading in blocked shots (13-12) and hits (36-27), while Boston finished the effort leading in giveaways (14-11) and faceoff win% (64-37).

New York went 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins finished 0/2 on the skater advantage– reminiscent of their 0-2-0 record on Long Island this season.

Both of Boston’s regulation losses this season have been against the Islanders at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Bruins fell to 6-1-0 (3-1-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, while the Islanders improved to 1-3-2 (1-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

Boston also fell to 2-1-2 when trailing after the first period, as well as 3-2-1 when tied after two periods this season.

New York, meanwhile, improved to 4-1-1 when leading after the first period and 4-1-2 when tied after two periods this season.

The B’s were scheduled to face the New Jersey Devils at home on Monday (Feb. 15th), but that game has been postponed due to many of the Devils players being in COVID protocol recently.

New Jersey is scheduled to return to practice on Monday, which means next Thursday (Feb. 18th) remains on tap for Boston’s next home game (unless it, too, becomes postponed). Boston then travels to Lake Tahoe for an outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 21st.

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NHL Nick's Net

Varlamov, Islanders shutout Bruins, 1-0

Semyon Varlamov earned his league-leading 2nd shutout this season in as many games as the New York Islanders beat the Boston Bruins, 1-0, Monday night at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Varlamov (2-0-0, 0.00 goals against average, 1.000 save percentage in two games played) made 27 saves en route to the shutout win for New York.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-1-0, 1.46 GAA, .923 SV% in two games played) stopped 16 out of 17 shots faced for a .941 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 1-1-1 (three points) on the season and dropped to a tie for 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Islanders improved to 2-1-0 on the season (four points) and moved up to a tie for 2nd place with the Philadelphia Flyers– at least temporarily, as the Flyers were in action Monday night.

Boston also fell to 18-3-1 in their last 22 games against New York in the regular season.

Prior to puck drop, the Islanders aired a National Hockey League produced video on the Jumbotron celebrating the 63rd anniversary of when Willie O’Ree broke the league’s color barrier on Jan. 18, 1958, with the Bruins.

All 31 teams have been sporting O’Ree decals on their helmets with the words “Celebrating Equality” emblazoned on a profile of O’Ree wearing his famous fedora for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend.

O’Ree will have his No. 22 retired by Boston ahead of their matchup with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 18th this season. They will honor him again as soon as possible whenever fans will be allowed at TD Garden.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few changes to his lineup with Ondrej Kase (upper body) out against the Islanders on Monday.

Patrice Bergeron centered the first line with Brad Marchand in his usual spot on the left wing, while Jake DeBrusk was moved up to the first line right wing.

Nick Ritchie took DeBrusk’s usual spot on the second line left wing with David Krejci at center and Jack Studnicka on the right wing.

Charlie Coyle centered the third line with Anders Bjork to his left and Craig Smith to his right, while the fourth line remained untouched.

On defense, Jeremy Lauzon and Charlie McAvoy remained paired, while Matt Grzelcyk was partnered with Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril had Kevan Miller by his side.

Monday night marked 300 career NHL games for Carlo and 200 career NHL games for Grzelcyk. Both defenders have spent their entire careers with Boston thus far.

Kase missed his first game this season due to injury after taking a stick up high in Saturday afternoon’s, 2-1, overtime loss in New Jersey, while David Pastrnak missed his third straight game and is yet to make his season debut after offseason hip surgery.

Pastrnak remains ahead of schedule, however, and is likely to return before his original prognosis of Feb. 16th.

Greg McKegg, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton and Dan Vladar were in the press box as healthy scratches and taxi squad members Monday night.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Carlo cross checked Matt Martin and presented the first power play of the evening to the Islanders at 7:25 of the first period.

New York wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Isles forward, Casey Cizikas, knocked down Coyle without the puck and earned a trip to the penalty box for interference at 16:40.

Boston was not able to score on the resulting power play.

Entering the first intermission, the game remained tied, 0-0, while the Bruins were leading in shots on goal, 11-3.

New York held the advantage in blocked shots (7-3), takeaways (3-1) and hits (9-6), while both teams had three giveaways each, were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage and 0/1 on the power play after 20 minutes on Monday.

Adam Pelech was guilty of holding Marchand 53 seconds into the second period and presented the Bruins with their second power play opportunity of the night.

Boston’s skater advantage was cut short, however, as Ritchie slashed Scott Mayfield and earned a trip to the sin bin at 1:43 of the middle frame.

New York earned a short power play after an abbreviated 4-on-4 sequence, but the Isles still weren’t able to score on the power play.

The Islanders lost count at one point and had too many skaters on the ice, resulting in a bench minor that was served by Jordan Eberle at 6:53.

Boston’s power play was powerless and New York got by unscathed.

Late in the period, Smith clipped Varlamov in the skate with his stick, which Varlamov embellished for dramatic affect, but was goaltender interference nonetheless.

The Islanders went back on the power play with Smith in the box for goaltender interference at 15:45, but Boston’s penalty kill held their ground.

Through 40 minutes of action on Monday, the game was still tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins outshooting the Islanders, 17-10.

New York, however, actually led in shots on goal in the second period alone, 7-6, as well as in blocked shots (11-10), takeaways (7-1), giveaways (8-4), hits (20-15) and faceoff win% (60-40) heading into the second intermission.

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play prior to the final frame of regulation.

Marchand cross-checked Eberle to kick things off with a trip to the penalty box at 1:17 of the third period.

Once again, though, Boston’s penalty kill did not concede to New York’s power play.

Moments later, Eberle tripped Grzelcyk while the two players were tied up– causing Grzelcyk to fall awkwardly to the ice and leave the game with an upper body injury (he was favoring his left arm, for the record).

Trent Frederic served Grzelcyk’s interference infraction, while Eberle was assessed a tripping minor at 5:43, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes early in the period.

Late in the period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1) hit a home run on a puck that was floating in mid-air as Pelech fired a shot that deflected off of Bergeron’s stick before Pageau whacked it into the twine above Rask’s blocker side.

Pelech (1) and Ryan Pulock (1) tallied the assists on the game’s first and only goal at 15:51 of the third period.

The Islanders took the, 1-0, lead and that was enough for the final result on Monday.

Less than a minute later, McAvoy was called for holding against Anthony Beauvillier at 16:07, but once again New York’s power play was powerless.

With 1:35 remaining in the game, Rask vacated his net for an extra attacker.

The Bruins used their timeout after a stoppage with 51.4 seconds left in the action, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, the Islanders had won, 1-0, and Varlamov recorded the shutout.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 27-17, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone, while New York wrapped up Monday night’s action leading in blocked shots (17-12), hits (31-26) and faceoff win% (51-49).

The Bruins held the final advantage in giveaways (10-9) on Monday.

The Islanders finished the game 0/5 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins finished their three-game road trip 1-1-1 to start the 2020-21 56-game regular season.

Boston returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and Saturday for their first two home games of the season at TD Garden. The B’s then host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 26th and 28th before hitting the road again.

For the first time since Nov. 2, 2013, the Islanders beat the Bruins on home ice. New York beat Boston, 3-1, that day.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 3 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow exchanged fisticuffs after a faceoff with 27.2 seconds left in the third period after the New York Islanders scored an empty net goal to seal the deal on a, 5-3, victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.

In short, we have a series and the powder keg just might be ready to explode.

Oh yeah and Brock Nelson scored the game-winning goal late in the third period before Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an insurance goal with the empty net tally while he was hooked and slashed by Lightning forward, Nikita Kucherov.

Game 4 should contain a little bit of everything and a lot of excitement if things keep trending in the direction of a budding rivalry as Tampa leads the series 2-1. Puck drop on Sunday is set for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

1. Can’t give Tampa an inch.

The Islanders have made a habit in the last couple of games where, despite playing more to the beat of their own drum, New York can’t seem to hold a lead on prevent defense alone.

If New York is going to win more games, they’re going to need more offensive outbursts like they had– if you can call it that– in Game 3.

The Isles are going to need their defenders to defend, their two-way bottom-six players to contribute 100% and their top-six forwards to outscore the Lightning who can, in fact, score from any position in their lineup.

Well, we haven’t seen Bolts goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, score yet, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Tampa is in the midst of one of those “anything is possible” postseasons and if New York wants to take control of that narrative– they can’t let the Lightning play their game.

2. Matchups.

A common theme from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the First Round to the Boston Bruins in the Second Round to, yes, even the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final is that they simply don’t have the right matchups to go against the big scary, nasty, Lightning.

New York’s head coach, Barry Trotz, scratched Casey Cizikas and Andrew Ladd for Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle.

While Brassard’s (three hits, one blocked shot in 10:32 time on ice, 54 seconds of time on the power play) impact can be felt as a glue guy with a more well-rounded approach to today’s game– especially against Tampa– more so than a guy like Ladd, Trotz has kept Dal Colle’s time limited (9:54 TOI in Game 3).

Nonetheless, Leo Komarov centering the fourth line with Brasard and Dal Colle is a significant improvement in speed and mustering the puck where you want it to go while giving your top forwards some time to recover before going over the boards to generate more offense.

It should be ride or die with this fourth line for the time being.

3. More of the same, kind of.

The Islanders trailed the Lightning in shots on goal, 37-35, but stymied Tampa with some solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov (10-5 in 17 games played, 16 starts, 2.26 goals against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts) and the overall schematics interwoven in Trotz’s game plan.

New York really wore Tampa down as the game progressed and capitalized on their chances, but the backdoor was left open for large stretches of the game, which the Bolts took full advantage of– tying the game, 1-1, at 16:31 of the first period, courtesy of Mikhail Sergachev’s second goal this postseason and even pulled even after trailing by two-goals, 3-1, entering the third period.

Ondrej Palat (7) scored a power-play goal at 2:32 and Tyler Johnson (4) tied the game, 3-3, at 12:04 of the third period.

Now, it’s important to note that Game 3 was more of the same for New York until they realized they needed a 60-minute effort and that nothing about Game 3 was the same for Tampa, since Brayden Point was not in the lineup due to injury.

Yes, the Lightning did not have the services of their leading scorer and head coach, Jon Cooper, wouldn’t provide much of an update (if even an update at all, really) ahead of Friday night’s action.

4. Nikita Kucherov has his moments. Don’t take the bait.

Kucherov hooked and slashed Pageau while skating towards and immediately as/after he shot the rubber biscuit into the empty twine to secure the, 5-3, win for the Isles.

Pageau took exception to what Kucherov was already going to be penalized for had Pageau inexplicably missed the open net and caused a scrum instead of a proper goal celebration at 19:24 of the third period.

Kucherov has been suspended in the past– specifically for an illegal hit to the head last postseason– and shouldn’t distract the Islanders from stooping to his level when he crosses a line.

The goal should always be to get your revenge on the scoreboard– especially if the officials on the ice are making the right call in accordance with the rule book.

Otherwise, the Islanders don’t need to amass any retaliation penalties for what’s either an invite to the descent into an ugly outing or simply the overt frustrations of a player that has shown an intent to injure and should be reprimanded as such.

None of that takes away from Kucherov’s ability to score, as long as he isn’t out of the lineup due to his own on-ice behavior.

5. Is somebody getting the best, the best, the best of you?

Don’t let emotions get in the way of the game.

You could argue this goes hand-in-hand with the takeaway above, but 1) all five takeaways are pretty similar after Game 3 and 2) this one has more to do with the toughness of each team’s lineup.

For the Islanders, there’s no need to fear Tampa’s tough guys. New York didn’t need to add any toughness at the trade deadline– they already had Martin, Komarov and crew.

The Lightning did.

They got Blake Coleman and Goodrow, which makes them tougher, but cannot negate the cohesion that Islanders General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, has planned since day one.

As long as the Isles play their cards right, Tampa’s style might take them over the edge and into undisciplined turmoil.

As always, make them pay on the scoreboard and in good, clean, hits.

That goes for both teams, in case Lightning fans were thinking this was solely about New York.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Eastern Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference Qualifiers, while the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers sort themselves out.

All Eastern Conference games will be at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario until the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final (both of which will be held in Edmonton, Alberta at Rogers Place).

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points) vs (12) Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 69 games played, .623 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montreal: 71 games played, .500 points percentage, 19 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were 5th in the Eastern Conference at the time of the pause and being led by Evgeni Malkin with 74 points in 55 games played, while Bryan Rust (56 points in 55 games) and Sidney Crosby 47 points in 41 games) trailed the Russian star on the roster. 

Yes, Malkin missed 14 games and still amassed 74 points in a season for the Penguins, while Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, carefully charted the course through a bevy of injuries to bring his team within striking range of the Metropolitan Division lead had the regular season seen its full conclusion.

The Washington Capitals topped the Metropolitan Division with 90 points. The Philadelphia Flyers had 89. Pittsburgh had 86.

An annual Stanley Cup contender since Sullivan led the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017 (their second and third since 2009– fourth and fifth in franchise history), Pittsburgh’s goaltending might be the only thing that holds them back from their 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Murray had a down year with a 2.87 goals against average and an .899 save percentage in 38 games played– his worst goals against average since he had a 2.92 GAA in 49 games in 2017-18 and his worst-career save percentage in a season. Murray finished the shortened season with a 20-11-5 record and one shutout in 38 starts.

Backup netminder, Tristan Jarry, went 20-12-1 in 33 games played (31 starts) and had a 2.43 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% and three shutouts.

Murray’s leash through the exhibition games should be a short one, despite his career 2.16 GAA and .921 SV% in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His goals against average reached a career-low 1.70 in 11 games en route to Pittsburgh’s Cup win in 2017, but rose to a 2.43 in 2018 (12 games) and a 3.02 in 2019 (four games) as the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in last year’s First Round.

It’s not that he can’t bounce back, but rather that Sullivan should ride the hotter goaltender and force a little healthy competition if it yields the best in Murray’s game. If not, it’ll either be sink or swim with Jarry in the crease.

At the other end of the rink, the Montreal Canadiens went .500 this season and were mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at the stoppage with what looked like little hope for a late season surge into the postseason, despite leading scorer, Tomas Tatar (22-39–61 totals in 68 games played) and starting goaltender, Carey Price’s best efforts.

Phillip Danault had the second-most points on the Habs roster this season with 13 goals and 34 assists (47 points) in 71 games played, while Max Domi was third in scoring on the team with 44 points in 71 games.

Price led Montreal in net with a 27-25-6 record in 58 games played (58 starts), a 2.79 GAA, a .909 SV% and four shutouts this season. Since his 2.23 GAA and .923 SV% in 62 games in 2016-17, Price has not had a goals against average below 2.30 or a save percentage better than .920. He had a 3.11 GAA and a .900 SV% in 49 games in 2017-18, as well as a 2.49 GAA and a .918 SV% in 66 games last season.

As he approaches his mid-30s and the league shifts more and more towards tandem goaltending, Price shouldn’t be playing more than 50 games in a regular season, but the Canadiens struggled with finding a backup this season.

Charlie Lindgren went 2-4-0 in six games (six starts) and had a 3.33 GAA, as well as an .888 SV%. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau went 1-1-0 in two games (both starts) and had a 2.52 GAA and a .931 SV%.

Keith Kinkaid also made an appearance with six games played (five starts), a 1-1-3 record, a 4.24 GAA and an .875 SV%.

Claude Julien has over 400 regular season wins as the head coach of the Boston Bruins and won the Cup with the B’s in 2011, but that was nine years ago and he’s three full seasons into his second stint behind the bench as head coach of the Canadiens.

His teams aren’t known for keeling over and being swept out of the playoffs, so they’ll likely be able to win one as Montreal scratches and claws their way to victory in classic Julien-style blue-collar work ethic fashion, but can he get it done against Pittsburgh in today’s NHL?

Especially when falling behind the eight ball is even more significant in a best-of-five series than it is in a best-of-seven.

Price might be fresh, but Pittsburgh’s got an offense and a defense. Plus the Penguins did win two out of their three regular season matchups and Crosby and Malkin are ready to make yet another postseason appearance– regardless of how far things will actually go.

It’s not out of the question that the Habs will be able to steal a game, but the Penguins should have this series wrapped up in four games and punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 MTL at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 10th, 3-2 F/OT PIT at Bell Centre on Jan. 4th, 4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 14th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 PIT @ MTL in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 PIT @ MTL in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 MTL @ PIT in Toronto*

*If necessary

(6) Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points) vs (11) New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points)

Carolina: 68 games played, .596 points percentage, 27 regulation wins

N.Y. Rangers: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 31 regulation wins

Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes have their work cut out for them in what just might be the only series that would be an upset if the higher seed wins. The Hurricanes lost all four regular season matchups against the Rangers, despite Sebastian Aho’s team-leading 66 points in 68 games on the season.

Aho set a new career-high in goals (38) and had a pair of goals against New York this season, but fell shy of establishing a new career-high in points after putting up 83 points in 82 games last season. Of course, a pandemic shortened regular season will have something to do with that.

Regardless, he was on pace for about 80 points at the time the NHL season was paused.

Teuvo Teravainen continued to show that he’s one of the most consistent performers in the league with a respectable 48 assists and 63 points in 68 games played as one of Carolina’s more “veteran” players, despite only being 25-years-old.

Meanwhile, Andrei Svechnikov scored two lacrosse goals this season and managed to improve on all fronts from his rookie season (20-17–37 totals in 82 games last season) with 24 goals and 37 assists (61 points) in 68 games in 2019-20. He was on pace for almost 30 goals and around 73 points in his sophomore season had the pandemic not called it short.

In goal, David Ayres led the way with– just kidding– Petr Mrazek went 21-16-2 in 40 games this season (38 starts) and had a 2.69 GAA, as well as a .905 SV% and three shutouts. Not great, but not the worst entering the Qualifiers.

He’ll have to do much better than his 2.73 GAA and .894 SV% in 11 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if he has any hopes of catapulting his team over the Rangers and backstopping them to a deep playoff run like last year.

That said, Curtis McElhinney was the one that replaced him against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Mrazek allowed ten goals against in the series, compared to McElhinney’s five.

The good news for the Hurricanes, however, is that McElhinney’s numbers have been way off the mark this season and he’s the current backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Plus James Reimer exists in Carolina.

Reimer went 14-6-2 in 25 games for the Canes this season and had a 2.66 GAA, as well as a .914 SV% and three shutouts– so basically he’s the same as Mrazek, only Reimer’s looking for a bigger redemption arc in the postseason than being remembered as the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender in Boston’s epic, 5-4, overtime comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

That wasn’t even Reimer’s last appearance in the playoffs, however, as he had a brief stint (29 minutes) with the San Jose Sharks en route to their 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Brind’Amour might be wise to use his best defensive game and start Reimer in Game 1 against the Rangers, except Mrazek had an .861 SV% against New York in three games this season, while Reimer had a .792 SV%.

Advantage… …Mrazek? But on a short leash?

On the other hand, the New York Rangers enter their Qualifier matchup with the Hurricanes two points behind Carolina in the season standings and three spots behind them in the Metropolitan Division standings that are virtually obsolete this postseason.

The Hurricanes had 81 points. The Rangers had 79 points. First place through seventh place in the division was separated by 11 points at the time of the stoppage.

And at that point, 2019-20 Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Artemi Panarin, had already amassed 32-63–95 totals in 69 games for New York.

He had nine points (three goals, six assists) against the Hurricanes this season, while Mika Zibanejad sat 20 points behind Panarin in team scoring with 41 goals and 34 assists (75 points) in 57 games– including four goals and three assists against Carolina this season.

Ryan Strome carried third place honors for the Rangers in scoring this season with 18-41–59 totals in 70 games.

Rangers head coach, David Quinn, also doesn’t have an easy decision to make with his goaltenders heading to Toronto for their series against Carolina.

Henrik Lundqvist made three starts against the Canes and went 3-0-0, while stopping 125 shots out of 132 shots against (.947 SV%) in that span.

Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in his one start and one win against Carolina this season.

Lundqvist went 10-12-3 on the season in 30 games played (26 starts) with a 3.16 GAA, a .905 SV% and one shutout.

Shesterkin went 10-2-0 in 12 games played (12 starts) and had a 2.52 GAA, as well as a .932 SV%.

Oh yeah, and Alexandar Georgiev went 17-14-2 in 34 games (32 starts) while putting up a 3.04 GAA, a .910 SV% and two shutouts.

One thing is clearer now more than ever before– “King Henrik” is no longer king in “The Big Apple”.

Shesterkin should receive the nod for the playoffs, but this is just the Qualifier. It technically doesn’t count unless you win three out of the next possible five games.

In that case, Quinn could rely on Lundqvist to get the job done, then give Shesterkin his first real taste of the NHL’s toughest job– being a goaltender in the playoffs– since Lundqvist has a history for seemingly always having Carolina’s number when it matters most for the Hurricanes.

Regardless of who’s in net, New York holds all the advantages coming into this series.

The Rangers scored 17 goals for against Hurricanes and allowed nine goals against over their four games against one another.

Carolina threw the kitchen sink at New York on net– totaling 161 shots on goal in their four regular season matchups with the Blue Shirts– but Lundqvist was the key difference maker.

That said, the Hurricanes knocked off the then defending Cup champion Washington Capitals in seven games in last year’s First Round.

But can Brind’Amour motivate his players enough to get the job done more efficiently when the series is only a best-of-five instead of having the luxury to drag things out all seven games like they did against the Caps?

And with back-to-back games incorporated in the schedule, conditions are clearly unfavorable for the Hurricanes in their David and Goliath matchup (again, despite being the higher seed).

One thing that works in their favor? There’s no travel outside the bubble to and from the games, so that’s a plus.

Knowing how The Hockey Gods work, it’d be foolish not to believe this series won’t go all five games just because. Either that or Carolina will pull off the three-game sweep of the Rangers after losing every single regular season game against New York in 2019-20.

Flip a coin and that’s your winner– this series might just be a lot closer and more intense than you think.

Rangers in five, but don’t be surprised if/when Carolina defeats them.

Sit back and enjoy.

Regular season outcomes:

4-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Nov. 7th, 3-2 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27th, 5-3 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27th, 5-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Feb. 21st

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/4- Game 3 CAR @ NYR in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

8/6- Game 4 CAR @ NYR in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 NYR @ CAR in Toronto*

*If necessary

(7) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) vs (10) Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points)

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins

Florida: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 30 regulation wins

Barry Trotz is still coaching the trap in today’s NHL, which, honestly, you have to hand it to him. His defense first mindset has turned the New York Islanders into a playoff contender since his arrival last season.

The only bad thing that’s come with Trotz’s arrival and John Tavares’ departure– a lack of goal scoring.

It’s no secret that to win games, your team must score more goals than the other team, whether it’s a, 10-9, high-scoring victory or a, 1-0, shutout.

Unfortunately for Trotz, the Isles ranked ninth in fewest goals for this season with 192, which is the worst among all the Qualifier team. Yes, even Montreal and Chicago each had 212 goals for this season, despite their minus-6 and minus-9 goal differentials, respectively.

At least the Islanders only allowed one more goal than they scored in the pandemic shortened regular season.

Anyway, Mathew Barzal led the charge for New York this season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games played, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) and Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) followed suit.

Barzal was on pace for 23 goals and 72 points this season, which would’ve been a career-high in goals in a season for the young forward only having just completed his third full season. Nevertheless, scoring at least 60 points in three consecutive seasons is respectable.

Nelson scored 26 goals this season, which marked back to back seasons of at least 20 goals for the 28-year-old. He was on pace for 31 goals in what was already a career-season in the making.

Lee was on pace for 52 points after putting up 20-23–43 totals in 68 games, which would have given him four consecutive seasons of 50-plus points.

But it’s not all about what would’ve been for the Islanders, because the future is here in goaltender Ilya Sorokin– oh wait, he can’t play in the 2020 postseason due to the NHL’s Return to Play rulings, which is fine– just means that next year’s looking good for the Isles.

In net, Semyon Varlamov amassed a 19-14-6 record in 45 games played (39 starts) with a 2.62 GAA and a .914 SV%, as well as two shutouts to go with it.

Ideally, you’d like a starting goaltender in the NHL to be closer to 2.50, maybe even 2.30 in goals against average and around a .920 in save percentage, but we addressed some of New York’s shortcomings this season– a lack of offense and injuries on defense with Adam Pelech limited to 38 games.

Thomas Greiss had a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts) with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process.

It’s likely his last season on Long Island/in Brooklyn with Sorokin signed for the next couple of seasons, so if he sees any ice time in the series, he’ll have to be better in order to prove his next payday at the expense of another team via free agency in November.

New York brought in Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick (can become a 2021 1st round pick if the Islanders lose in the Qualifier and win the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft–a.k.a. top-3 lottery protected), a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick (if New York wins the Cup in 2020), then signed Pageau to a six-year extension worth $5.000 million per season.

Though it was all too short to effectively judge Pageau in an Islanders sweater, it’s worth noting he scored two goals in seven games so far. That’s it.

A boost for the third line, sure, but his effectiveness in a new surrounding remains to be seen, which could be a key to New York defeating the Florida Panthers who lack an important figure in Vincent Trocheck since trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen at the deadline on Feb. 24th.

Speaking of the Panthers, Florida was led by Jonathan Huberdeau in scoring this season with 23 goals and 55 assists (78 points) in 69 games this season.

Aleksander Barkov had his fifth consecutive 20-goal season– one season removed from his career-high 35 goals (and 96 points!) last season– and was on pace for 25 tallies this season at the stoppage.

And bringing up the rear in Florida’s top-three scorers this season was Mike Hoffman with 29 goals and 30 assists (59 points) in 69 games. Hoffman finished one goal shy of back to back 30-goal seasons and was on pace to match his career-high 70 points in a season had the regular season been uninterrupted.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky probably wishes he could ask for a mulligan this season after going 23-19-6 in 50 games played (49 starts) and amassing a 3.23 GAA, as well as a .900 SV% and one shutout.

Yes, you read that right– one shutout this season. After leading the league with nine shutouts last season, Bobrovsky was far beyond a disappointment in his first year of a seven-year, $70 million contract.

Meanwhile, Sam Montembeault (5-5-1) started the season as Florida’s backup, but things took a turn after his 3.34 GAA and .890 SV% in 14 games played (nine starts) were no better than Bobrovsky’s career-worst season as a starter.

Alas, Chris Driedger was called up from the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL) and put up a 7-2-1 record in 12 games played with a 2.05 GAA, a .938 SV% and one shutout in that span.

The Islanders beat the Panthers in all three regular season matchups this season, but New York has yet to face Driedger.

A word to the wise for Florida’s head coach, Joel Quenneville– what more could you lose by starting Driedger in Game 1?

Bobrovsky hasn’t had the form all season and isn’t going into the playoffs as your surefire starter– $10.000 million cap hit or not. Pray he returns to his two-time Vezina Trophy winning ability in time for 2020-21, but for now he hasn’t earned starter duties and your main focus is on winning three games, let alone going for the Cup with whatever you have for a roster.

The Islanders scored eight goals in their three games against the Panthers this season. They allowed four goals against, while Florida– to their credit– forced New York to a shootout in their first meeting back on Oct. 12th.

New York had 94 total shots on goal against Florida this season.

The Panthers had 108 shots against the Islanders.

It should be a close battle with each team ravaged in some manner– whether by injuries that plagued them all season or lackluster goaltending, neither club is exactly turning heads out there.

The Panthers lost in six games to the Islanders in the 2016 First Round, but this time around it’s a best of five.

New York should win in four games as Trotz has more recent playoff success and the more recent playoff experienced roster to go off of than, yes, Quenneville’s three Stanley Cup Rings from the last ten years.

It’s not that Quenneville can’t pull off the upset, but rather that the Panthers aren’t ready to make a dent in the postseason picture without all the necessary pieces.

The good news for them, at least, is they have a tried and true coach to guide them through what for now will be some growing pains.

Unless 20-goal scorer Noel Acciari pockets a hat trick in three straight games, which sounds quite plausible these days, so who knows!?

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12th, 2-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 9th, 3-1 NYI at BB&T Center on Dec. 12th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN1, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 NYI @ FLA in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 NYI @ FLA in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 FLA @ NYI in Toronto*

*If necessary

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points) vs (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points)

Toronto: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 28 regulation wins

Columbus: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 25 regulation wins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have home ice advantage and– well, technically, the Qualifier isn’t considered part of the playoffs and there’s a pandemic going on, so no fans are allowed inside the bubble.

But hey, at least there’s hockey in Canadian New York City, so we’ll take it!

The Leafs were led by Auston Matthews in scoring this season as the 22-year-old center finished third in the NHL in goals with 47 of them in 70 games played. He had 80 points overall, which established career-highs in both goals and points in his fourth NHL season– and fourth consecutive season with at least 30 goals.

Oh and for the second time in his young career, Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau and was on the cusp of 50 had it not been for the ongoing pandemic cutting things short. He was on pace for 55 goals at the stoppage.

Mitchell Marner was second on the Leafs roster in scoring with 16-51–67 totals in 59 games played– surpassing the 50-assist plateau for the second straight season and further proving his vital role as a playmaker on the roster.

Meanwhile, John Tavares had 26 goals and 34 assists (60 points) in 63 games, which was down from his 47-41–88 totals last season, but then again, he was on pace for 78 points this season had the regular season seen its proper conclusion, so really he wasn’t all that far off from a typical Tavares year.

As it is, the only time Tavares has ever had less than 50 points in a season was in the lockout shortened, 48-game, 2012-13 season, in which he had 47 points in all 48 games.

Yeah, he’s pretty good.

In the crease, the Maple Leafs were led by Frederik Anderson (29-13-7 record in 52 games played, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%, three shutouts), but hold the phone! What’s this? Toronto acquired a legitimate backup netminder during the season!?!

That’s right, Jack Campbell (3-2-1 in six games with Toronto, six starts, 2.63 GAA, .915 SV% in that span) is a Maple Leaf and– heaven forbid– is more than capable of bailing out Toronto if things get dire with Andersen.

Oh and Sheldon Keefe is in charge behind the bench.

Plus there’s a wild card this year for Toronto that the rest of the league has yet to see– Nick Robertson. You know, the forward that had 55-31–88 totals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes (OHL) this season and brings both even more speed and skill to the Maple Leafs lineup.

At the other side of the rink, the Columbus Blue Jackets were battered all season and had a trio of goaltenders at one point as a result, yet somehow, here they are to the surprise of all the experts that had them pegged for 8th place in the Metropolitan Division heading into the 2019-20 season after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency.

It’s all just part of the plan.

Many had them out against the Lightning last year and, well, the Blue Jackets brought the thunder in that series.

Unfortunately for CBJ fans, they couldn’t bring the cannon through customs, but they were able to bring their leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and his 18-31–49 totals in 70 games this season.

Gustav Nyquist had a respectable 42-point season (15 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games with Columbus after being brought in via free agency, while Zach Werenski was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) from the blue line in 63 games.

Columbus has the better defense on paper, but Toronto’s offense has more than enough firepower to outmatch the Blue Jackets’ best efforts.

In goal, however, emerged the rise of a new king (but not of rock)– Elvis Merzlikins. Though Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5, 2.60 GAA, .911 SV%, two shutouts) played in more games (37 played, 35 starts) than Merzlikins, No. 90 in red, white and blue had the better numbers with a 13-9-8 record in 33 games played (31 starts), as well as a 2.35 GAA, a .923 SV% and five shutouts.

It’s the dawn of a new age in Columbus as a hot, young, goaltending tandem has arrived with the departure of Bobrovsky.

It’ll be Merzlikins’ biggest test, but the Blue Jackets just might be a lot better off now more than ever riding the hot goaltender.

Plus they struck down the dragon last spring and made it out of the First Round for the first time in franchise history, so now anything’s possible moving forward.

On paper this is the most even matchup as both teams finished with 81 points, had 70 games played and went won one out of the two games they played against one another before the pandemic shortened the regular season, but it’s hard to ignore one thing– Tortorella.

Once more Tortorella is a Jack Adams Award finalist and, oh yeah, he’s kind of responsible for figuring out how to not only beat, but sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 First Round– you know, last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners.

But a newcomer has entered the chat and that’s Keefe. He led the Toronto Marlies (AHL) to the 2018 Calder Cup championship and many of the players in the Leafs system have encountered his touch in recent years.

Is Keefe the answer to Toronto’s prayers or will yet another team that’s come into the league since their last Cup in 1967 raise Lord Stanley’s mug over their heads while the Maple Leafs are off somewhere preparing for next season?

The good news, this isn’t technically the playoffs yet, so that means Toronto’s got a better chance off the bat.

There’s not as much of a distraction surrounding their opponent (*ahem* for once, it’s not Boston!– yet, anyway), let alone the “hasn’t made it out of the First Round since before the 2004-05 season-long lockout” specter that shadows the Leafs.

The bad news, they’re the Maple Leafs. Of course only something like a pandemic would throw off any momentum they had going into a possible playoff run, etc.

Imagine if the Chicago Cubs didn’t win in 2016, or the Boston Red Sox didn’t win in 2004– yeah, that’s how most Toronto fans feel day-in and day-out– no matter how confident– no matter how much belief they have in the team.

There’s always that chance that something something goes wrong and the curse or whatever remains hanging over the Maple Leafs dressing room and front office.

Leafs in five, then we’ll see what happens, but Tortorella’s teams aren’t easy to knock off their game. This alone might be Toronto’s greatest test in the Matthews, Marner and Co. Era.

Mike Babcock’s gone. They’re playing the “new age” game. Can they get it done?

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 TOR at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4th, 4-3 F/OT CBJ at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 21st

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 CBJ @ TOR 8 PM ET on NHLN, SN, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 CBJ @ TOR 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/6- Game 3 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto TBD

8/7- Game 4 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 CBJ @ TOR*

*If necessary


2020 Eastern Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Eastern Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Eastern Conference are in Toronto this year and all times Eastern.

Boston Bruins

44-14-12, 100 points, 70 GP, .714 PTS%, 38 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. PHI in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 5th vs. TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 9th @ WSH in Toronto, TBD

Tampa Bay Lightning

43-21-6, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 35 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. WSH in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 5th @ BOS in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 8th vs. PHI in Toronto, TBD

Washington Capitals

41-20-8, 90 points, 69 GP, .652 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 3rd @TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 6th @ PHI in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. BOS in Toronto, TBD

Philadelphia Flyers

41-21-7, 89 points, 69 GP, .645 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 2nd @ BOS in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 6th vs. WSH in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 8th @ TBL in Toronto, TBD

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #199- Cheese!

Colby’s back, Jack.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

Categories
Deadline Deals NHL

Analysis: Islanders add much-needed scoring punch with Pageau

Lou Lamoriello made his third trade as General Manager of the New York Islanders when he acquired Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators for a a conditional 2020 1st round pick, a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick.

Pageau, 27, is in the midst of a career-year with a career-high in goals (24) in 60 games so far with the Senators. He has 24-16–40 totals this season and 182 points (87 goals, 95 assists) in 428 career NHL games (all with Ottawa).

The Ottawa, Ontario native has 12 goals and four assists (16 points) in 35 career postseason games and was originally drafted by the Sens in the fourth round (96th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.

Ottawa will receive New York’s 2020 1st round pick, unless it becomes a top-three selection in the 2020 Draft, in which case, the Sens will receive New York’s 2021 1st round pick.

The Senators receive the Islanders’ 2022 3rd round pick if the Isles win the Stanley Cup this season.

The Sens currently hold 22 draft picks over the next two drafts.

Categories
Deadline Deals NHL

2020 NHL Trade Deadline Recap

Below is a quick recap of all the trades that officially occurred on Monday prior to the National Hockey League’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.


The Edmonton Oilers kicked things off early Monday morning by sending F Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 2020 4th round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for D Mike Green.

Edmonton surrenders their 4th round pick in the deal unless the Oilers advance to the Western Conference Final with Green playing in 50 percent of the playoff games in the first two rounds combined, in which case, Detroit would then receive Edmonton’s 2021 3rd round pick.

Detroit retained 50% of Green’s salary in the transaction. MORE

The Colorado Avalanche traded a 2021 4th round pick to the Ottawa Senators for F Vladislav Namestnikov. MORE

F Jean-Gabriel Pageau was traded by the Ottawa Senators to the New York Islanders for a conditional 2020 1st round pick, a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick.

If the 2020 1st round pick is in the top-3 overall selections, then Ottawa receives the Islanders’ 2021 1st round pick. If New York wins this Stanley Cup this year, then Ottawa receives the Islanders’ 2022 3rd round pick. MORE

The Carolina Hurricanes traded F Erik Haula, F Lucas Wallmark, F Eetu Luostarinen and D Chase Priskie to the Florida Panthers for F Vincent Trocheck. MORE

F Nate Thompson was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2021 5th round pick. MORE

The San Jose Sharks traded F Patrick Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional 2021 3rd round pick.

If Pittsburgh wins the Cup, then San Jose receives a 2021 2nd round pick instead. MORE

D Calle Rosen was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Toronto Maple Leafs for G Michael Hutchinson. MORE

The Philadelphia Flyers acquired Derek Grant from the Anaheim Ducks for Kyle Criscuolo and a 4th round pick. MORE

F Wayne Simmonds was traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2021 5th round pick. The Devils retained 50% of Simmonds’ salary ($2.500 million) in the trade. MORE

F Danton Heinen was traded by the Boston Bruins to the Anaheim Ducks for F Nick Ritchie. MORE

The Montreal Canadiens traded F Matthew Peca to the Ottawa Senators for F Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 7th round pick.

The Detroit Red Wings traded F Andreas Athanasiou and F Ryan Kuffner to the Edmonton Oilers for F Sam Gagner, a 2020 2nd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick.

F Tyler Ennis was traded by the Ottawa Senators to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2021 5th round pick. MORE

The Calgary Flames acquired D Derek Forbort from the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional 2021 4th round pick.

F Evan Rodrigues and F Conor Sheary were traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the Pittsburgh Penguins for F Dominik Kahun.

The Dallas Stars traded D Emil Djuse to the Florida Panthers for a 2020 6th round pick (originally belonging to the Buffalo Sabres).

D Sami Vatanen was traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Carolina Hurricanes for F Janne Kuokkanen, D Fredrik Claesson and a conditional 2020 4nd round pick.

If Vatanen plays a certain number of games, then the pick can become a 3rd round pick.

G Robin Lehner was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Chicago Blackhawks, then was flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights in a three-team trade.

Toronto acquired a 2020 5th round pick from Vegas, while retaining a portion of Lehner’s salary to complete the trade.

Chicago acquired G Malcolm Subban, D Slava Demin and a 2020 2nd round pick (originally belonging to Pittsburgh) from Vegas.

Vegas acquired Lehner and and F Martins Dzierkals.

The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired F Devin Shore from the Anaheim Ducks for F Sonny Milano.

The Carolina Hurricanes acquired D Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 1st round pick.

D Erik Gustafsson was traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Calgary Flames for a 2020 3rd round pick.

F Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 3rd round pick (originally acquired from Philadelphia) were traded by the San Jose Sharks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2020 1st round pick and F Anthony Greco.

The New Jersey Devils traded G Louis Domingue to the Vancouver Canucks for G Zane McIntyre.

D Brandon Davidson was traded by the Calgary Flames to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations.

The Anaheim Ducks traded D Korbinian Holzer to the Nashville Predators for D Matt Irwin and a 2022 6th round pick.

D Christian Djoos was traded by the Washington Capitals to the Anaheim Ducks for F Daniel Sprong.

F Nick Cousins was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2021 4th round pick.

The Philadelphia Flyers traded D T.J. Brennan to the Chicago Blackhawks for F Nathan Noel.

In a minor trade, the New York Islanders sent F Matt Lorito to the Toronto Maple Leafs for D Jordan Schmaltz.

The Columbus Blue Jackets traded F Markus Hannikainen to the Arizona Coyotes for a conditional 2020 7th round pick.

G Angus Redmond and a conditional 2022 7th round pick were traded by the Anaheim Ducks to the Edmonton Oilers for D Joel Persson.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #181- Hall-iday Shopping

What’s the right price to pay for Taylor Hall? Plus, Cap’n Cornelius joins the show to talk about new NHL policies and coaching changes.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Duclair scores twice in Sens, 5-2, victory over B’s

The Boston Bruins kicked off a four-game road trip with a, 5-2, loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night at Canadian Tire Centre.

Anders Nilsson (8-8-1 record, 3.03 goals against average, .913 save percentage in 17 games played) made 38 saves on 40 shots against (.950 SV%) in the win for the Senators.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (13-3-3, 2.19 GAA, .927 SV% in 19 GP) stopped 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 20-5-6 (46 points) on the season, but remains atop the Atlantic Division, while Ottawa improved to 13-17-1 (27 points) and stayed in 7th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s fell to 8-4-1 on the road as a result of Monday night’s loss.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Monday, while Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup since missing the last seven games with a lower body injury.

As a result of Bergeron’s return, B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few corresponding adjustments to his lineup from Saturday night’s, 4-1, loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Bergeron was reunited with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as his first line wingers, while David Krejci returned to his role as Boston’s second line center with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and Danton Heinen at right wing.

Charlie Coyle resumed his third line center duties with Anders Bjork at his left side and Brett Ritchie on his right side, while the fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner went untouched.

On defense, the Bruins placed Steven Kampfer on waivers Sunday for the purpose of assignment to the Providence Bruins (AHL). The 31-year-old defender cleared waivers Monday afternoon and was assigned to Providence without issue.

With John Moore back in the lineup in his regular role as a top-six blue liner, Connor Clifton remained a healthy scratch for the B’s on Monday.

Clifton was joined by David Backes and Par Lindholm in the press box on Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against Ottawa.

Artem Anisimov (4) caught the Bruins on a bad line change and charged into the attacking zone, firing the puck past Rask at 1:35 of the first period– giving Ottawa the early, 1-0, lead.

Dylan DeMelo (5) and Thomas Chabot (16) had the assists on Anisimov’s goal.

Late in the opening frame, a wacky bounce off the glass behind the Boston net caught Moore off-guard as the puck ended up on Senators forward, Chris Tierney’s stick.

Tierney quickly flipped the puck to Anthony Duclair (14) for the goal as the Sens forward was streaking into the slot– giving Ottawa a two-goal lead, 2-0.

Duclair’s first goal of the game was assisted by Tierney (12) at 15:44.

Roughly a couple minutes later, Marchand sent Pastrnak up-ice on a rush with Bergeron as the Bruins duo broke-in on an unguarded scoring opportunity.

Pastrnak sent a pass to Bergeron (9) for the one-timer goal in his first game back from injury while Nilsson dove in desperation.

Bergeron’s goal cut the Senators lead in half, 2-1, and was assisted by Pastrnak (19) and Marchand (27) at 17:48.

Nevertheless, Ottawa entered the first intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, 2-1, and dominating in shots on goal (14-8), blocked shots (9-2), takeaways (5-2), giveaways (11-4), hits (11-8) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

There were no penalties called in the first period.

The Senators struck once again early in the period when Rask mishandled the puck behind the net and ended up turning possession over to Vladislav Namestnikov.

Namestnikov slipped the puck over to Tierney (4) for a mostly empty net goal, giving Ottawa a, 3-1, lead at 1:21 of the second period.

Namestnikov (8) had the only assist on Tierney’s goal.

About a minute later, Coyle tripped Senators forward, Logan Brown, and was sent to the penalty box at 2:33, presenting Ottawa with the first power play of the night.

The Sens didn’t convert on their first skater advantage and took a penalty of their own in the vulnerable minute after when Namestnikov tripped Coyle at 5:21.

Ottawa then took a pair of penalties of their own at 13:08, when DeMelo caught Pastrnak with a high stick and at 17:53, when DeMelo tripped Marchand.

In both cases, the Bruins failed to convert on the power play.

Through 40 minutes of action in Ottawa, the Senators led the B’s, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite an impressive, 16-9, shots on net in the second period alone advantage for Boston.

The Bruins led in total shots on goal, 24-23, after two periods, while the Sens led in every other statistical category, including blocked shots (16-3), takeaways (8-2), giveaways (13-7), hits (15-14) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Ottawa was 0/1 on the power play entering the third period, while Boston was 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Midway through the final frame, Boston’s Brandon Carlo tripped Tyler Ennis and was sent to the sin bin at 9:35 of the third period.

Ottawa’s ensuing power play didn’t last for long as Chabot caught Charlie McAvoy with a high stick at 9:58, resulting in a 1:37 span of 4-on-4 action for the two clubs, followed by an abbreviated skater advantage for Boston.

Moments later, Pastrnak tripped Jean-Gabriel Pageau and was charged with a minor in fraction at 14:46.

Ottawa’s power play was halfway over when Colin White tripped Carlo and presented both teams with another span of 4-on-4 for one minute at 15:46.

While on the power play with 3:13 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker.

Seconds later, Pageau (16) notched a shorthanded empty net goal to make it, 4-1, for the Senators.

Namestnikov (9) and Ron Hainsey (5) had the assists on the goal at 17:02.

Less than a minute later, DeBrusk (7) slid a loose puck into the net from point blank as both teams scrambled in front of Nilsson at 17:45.

DeBrusk’s power play goal cut Ottawa’s lead to two-goals and was assisted by Pastrnak (20) and Marchand (28).

Once more, Boston resorted to pulling their goaltender for an extra skater.

It did not go well as Duclair (15) tallied his second goal of the night– and second empty net goal for the Sens– officially at 19:59 (but actually with less than one-second left on the clock) of the third period.

DeMelo (6) and Tierney (13) had the assists as the Senators finished off the Bruins, 5-2.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-28, including a, 16-5, advantage in the third period alone, while Ottawa led in everything else– except for hits, which were tied, 20-20– including blocked shots (29-6), giveaways (17-9) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Senators finished Monday night 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins went 1/5 on the power play.

As a result of the loss, Boston is now on a three-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, in the last four games, Pastrnak has three assists and no goals.

The Bruins are now 4-4-3 when trailing after two periods this season.

Boston faces the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and in Tampa on Thursday before wrapping up their four-game road trip (0-1-0) in Sunrise, Florida on Saturday in a duel with the Florida Panthers.