After being shutout, 1-0, on Sunday by the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, the Boston Bruins got split their two games in the “Steel City” with a, 3-1, win on Tuesday night.
Tuukka Rask (12-4-2, 2.29 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 20 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots faced in the win for Boston.
Pittsburgh netminder, Tristan Jarry (21-9-3, 2.71 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in 34 games played) made 28 saves on 31 shots against in the loss.
The Bruins are now 28-14-6 (62 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins fell to 32-15-3 (67 points) overall and dropped to 2nd place in the division.
Boston won the regular season series against Pittsburgh (5-3-0) in 2020-21’s 56-game schedule due to the ongoing global pandemic.
The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Brandon Carlo (upper body) on Tuesday, while Trent Frederic returned to the lineup for the first time in 11 games after recovering from a non-COVID protocol related illness.
Frederic joined the fourth line alongside Curtis Lazar at center and Chris Wagner on right wing, while Sean Kuraly was promoted to the third line center with Charlie Coyle moved to the right wing and Jake DeBrusk serving as a healthy scratch.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, also re-inserted Connor Clifton o the blue line in place of Steven Kampfer, while Jaroslav Halak served as Rask’s backup with Jeremy Swayman earning the night off.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Swayman, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Kampfer, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Jarred Tinordi.
Mike Reilly cut a rut to the penalty box early in the action on Tuesday night as he was assessed a minor infraction for holding the stick while falling near the endboards in a tangle with Jared McCann at 1:32 of the first period.
Pittsburgh’s ensuing power play was powerless, however, as Boston’s penalty kill stood tall.
Midway through the opening frame, the Bruins had too many skaters on the ice resulting in a bench minor at 10:18.
Taylor Hall served the penalty in the box while the B’s penalty kill successfully held the Penguins off the scoreboard during the special teams action.
After one period of play on Tuesday, the Bruins and Penguins were tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard, despite Boston holding a, 14-11, advantage in shots on goal.
The B’s led in blocked shots (10-4), takeaways (4-1), hits (14-7) and faceoff win percentage (80-20), while the Pens held the advantage in giveaways (3-1).
Pittsburgh was 0/2 on the power play, while Boston had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.
Kevan Miller slashed Jason Zucker and went to the box at 5:13 of the second period, presenting the Penguins with a power play as a result.
Once more, however, Boston’s penalty kill managed to kill the minor with ease.
Late in the period, the Bruins’ power play units got their first shift of the night as Evan Rodrigues went to the box for roughing at 15:41.
Despite not scoring on the power play, Boston caught Pittsburgh in the vulnerable minute afterward, whereby Charlie McAvoy worked a roughly 200-foot effort down the ice to David Krejci (7) for a backhand shot over Jarry’s pad, but under the Pens goaltender’s glove to make it, 1-0, for the B’s.
McAvoy (22) and Rask (2) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 18:10 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of play on Tuesday, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 22-17, in shots on goal, including an, 8-6, advantage in the second period alone.
The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (16-5), hits (32-19) and faceoff win% (72-28), while the Penguins led in takeaways (9-5) and giveaways (5-2).
Pittsburgh was 0/3 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.
Early in the final frame, Jeremy Lauzon and Teddy Blueger exchanged fisticuffs and received fighting majors at 6:38 of the third period as a result.
It was the 13th fight of the season for Boston and the first since Miller fought Tage Thompson on April 13th vs. Buffalo.
Moments later, Brad Marchand (26) buried a rebound to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
David Pastrnak (24) had the initial shot that forced a rebound to Marchand for the goal, while Curtis Lazar (6) had the secondary assist as the B’s took a, 2-0, lead at 9:11 of the third period.
About a few minutes later, Hall (6) strolled into the slot after deking past Sidney Crosby and snapped a shot over Jarry’s blocker to make it, 3-0, Boston at 12:18.
Krejci (25) and Reilly (24) tallied the assists on Hall’s goal at 12:18.
Late in the frame, Jeff Carter (11) sent a rocket past Rask’s blocked side to put Pittsburgh on the scoreboard with an old school slap shot from the faceoff dot.
Kris Letang (33) and Kasperi Kapanen (16) had the assists on Carter’s goal as the Penguins trailed the Bruins, 3-1, at 17:39.
With two minutes left in regulation, Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled Jarry for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the B’s shut Pittsburgh’s 6-on-5 advantage down and pulled off the, 3-1, victory at the final horn.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-26), blocked shots (21-7), hits (50-25) and faceoff win% (57-43).
Pittsburgh wrapped up the night with the advantage in giveaways (5-3), while the Penguins went 0/3 and the Bruins went 0/1 on the power play.
The B’s improved to 7-6-2 (4-3-0 on the road) when tied after the first period, 20-5-3 (11-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal and 19-0-2 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
The Pens fell to 7-3-1 (4-3-1 at home) when tied after one period, 12-11-1 (8-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal and 4-11-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.
The Bruins went 3-2-0 on their five-game road trip and head home to finish the month of April and start the month of May with a pair of games against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and Saturday.
It’s June October and the Stanley Cup has been awarded and already cleaned more than a few times from all of the beer and other things that the Tampa Bay Lightning have done with it, which means it’s the perfect time to gather in a city around your TV screen and be ready to throw on any of the 31 National Hockey League team draft hats (excluding the Seattle Kraken– we’ll deal with them next season) when your name is called.
Well, if you’re one of the 31 prospects lucky enough to go in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Tuesday night, at least. Rounds 2-7 will take place Wednesday, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET as always– kind of.
For the first time in NHL history, this year’s draft is virtual thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Montreal was set to play host to the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Centre back on June 26th and 27th, but it’s 2020 and with the global pandemic still going on, the league originally postponed the event back on March 25th before announcing it as a virtual draft at a later date (this week).
It’s also the first time that the draft is being held outside of June since the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, which was held at the Westin Hotel Ottawa in Canada’s capital city– Ottawa, Ontario– on July 30th of that year and it’s the first time that the draft is being held completely on weekday(s) for the first time since the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in Hartford, Connecticut, which was on Tuesday, June 28th of that year (remember the Whalers?).
The projected first overall pick– Alexis Lafrenfière– will get his moment in the spotlight sometime once the 2020-21 regular season begins, but until then he’ll have to settle for whatever lights his parents have in the living room.
Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.
1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski, (QMJHL)
Considered the best player to come out of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League since Sidney Crosby– who also played for Rimouski Océanic back in his Junior days– Lafrenière is a no-brainer for the New York Rangers.
He might be the best player in the draft since Connor McDavid was selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, and for good reason.
Lafrenière had 35 goals and 77 assists (112 points) in 52 games for Rimouski this season until the rest of the regular season, as well as all of the postseason and Memorial Cup were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.
There’s nothing wrong with the Rangers stacking up on talent on the left side with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider already in play. Simply put Lafrenière on the third line if you must and watch the forward depth lead the club into a playoff contender.
2. Los Angeles Kings–>C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)
Byfield had 32-50–82 totals in 45 games with the Ontario Hockey Leagues’s Sudbury Wolves this season. His 6-foot-4 , 215-pound frame will help ease the transition for the Los Angeles Kings from Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter down the middle to whatever’s next with Byfield taking center stage.
His speed and skating ability is already a cut above the rest in the draft and having a two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (Kopitar) as a teammate should further elevate Byfield’s game into one of the better two-way centers as he’ll be sure to learn a thing or two from him.
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–>C/LW Tim Stützle, Mannheim(DEL)
The best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl, Stützle amassed 7-27–34 totals in 41 games with Adler Mannheim in the DEL last season. He’s a dynamic forward that plays a mature game for his age, which is a promising sign for the Ottawa Senators that ensured they’d be having “unparalleled success from 2021-25”.
It’s not off to that promising of a start for the Sens, but with their rebrand, Stützle at 3rd overall and the 5th overall pick at their hands, Ottawa’s brighter days are ahead if not now. They’ll just need to find a new starting goaltender to really make them a playoff contender with Craig Anderson’s departure as part of Ottawa’s plan.
4. Detroit Red Wings–>D Jamie Drysdale, Erie (OHL)
While Detroit Red Wing General Manager, Steve Yzerman, could make a splash later in the week trying to attract Alex Pietrangelo or Michigan native, Torey Krug, to Detroit’s blue line, it’s about time the Red Wings took another defender to potentially anchor the defensive zone in the future with last year’s first round pick, Moritz Seider.
Drysdale checks off all the boxes for the Red Wings as the best defender in the draft and you know what wins championships in “Hockeytown”? Defense.
That said, he had 9-38–47 totals in 49 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20 and is capable of utilizing his 5-foot-11, 175-pound build to his advantage in a two-way game.
5. Ottawa Senators–>RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda (SHL)
Everybody loves Raymond and his playmaking abilities– drawing comparisons to Ottawa’s intra-province rival, Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, according to scouts and mock draft experts alike.
His skill, two-way style and high hockey IQ are what sets him apart from other players his age and pairs well with Stützle in the picture for the Sens as a pair of players that could change the face of a franchise on their own. In 33 games last season with Frölunda HC, Raymond had 10 points (four goals, six assists) playing as a teenager among men in the SHL.
He has one goal and one assist (two points) in four games this season already.
The Anaheim Ducks need some scoring power as they stockpile youth on the roster and Perfetti brings the right amount of scoring prowess combined with an all-around ability that sets him apart as a forward.
Perfetti’s vision is one that will generate scoring chances– whether for himself or a teammate– as he amassed 37 goals and 74 assists (111 points) with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) in 61 games last season.
At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, he’s not flashy, but he creates space for his own game and that’ll compliment well with Anaheim’s need for a true top-six forward in the coming years– be it first or second line center or just a solid option at left wing.
7. New Jersey Devils–>C Marco Rossi, Ottawa (OHL)
Like the Senators, the New Jersey Devils have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft and if everything goes according to plan, the Devils will make off with a pretty solid core of forwards to intersperse among their organizational depth.
Rossi lit up the OHL in scoring last season with 39 goals and 81 assists (120 points) in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s, while drawing comparisons to that of Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, he could join the likes of Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and others as one of few Austrian born players to be drafted in the first round.
8.Buffalo Sabres–>C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)
Lundell had 10-18–28 totals in 44 games with HIFK last season in Finland’s top professional league (Liiga) and has a knack for protecting the puck rather well.
One of the better two-way centers in the draft, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound 19-year-old has some room to grow into a top-six role with the Buffalo Sabres in the near future– especially if Casey Mittelstadt and/or Tage Thompson can’t solidify their game in terms of a long-term second line center companion to Jack Eichel’s standout status as the first line center.
The Sabres need to shore up their strength down the middle– regardless of Eric Staal’s presence for this season on the second or third line.
Jarvis had 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season before the pandemic cut things short.
He’s a crafty new-age center that has room to grow and has shown he can be more of a second-half of the season player that could one day peak at the right time for something the Minnesota Wild haven’t seen in a while– a deep playoff run.
With the Wild moving on from Mikko Koivu, Minnesota will need to replenish the pipeline down the middle both in the immediate and for the future.
10. Winnipeg Jets–>D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)
Sanderson could go higher in the draft or lower reminiscent of how Cam Fowler fell from 5th in the final rankings coming into the 2010 NHL Draft to being selected 12th overall by the Ducks.
He plays with aggression and has a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame that could make losing Dustin Byfuglien prior to last season a little bit easier for the Jets– though Sanderson has big shoes to fill on a diminished Winnipeg blue line, unless GM Kevin Cheveldayoff flips Patrik Laine for an incredible return to shore up some own zone help for 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.
With some polishing of his skills at the University of North Dakota whenever the 2020-21 season is expected to begin, Sanderson could improve from his 7-22–29 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program into a power play specialist that loves to use the body.
11. Nashville Predators–>D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert (WHL)
One of David Poile’s strengths as Nashville Predators GM has long been drafting defenders and Guhle is no exception to the rule. At 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, he could fit in with reigning Norris Trophy winner, Roman Josi, as well as Mattias Ekholm and friends on the blue line.
With 11-29–40 totals in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL last season, Guhle is a consummate two-way defender that can grind his way out of battles and move the puck out of his own zone– a strong suit of Nashville’s defensive core for at least the last 15 years.
12. Florida Panthers–>RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens (SHL)
Holtz had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 35 games with Djurgårdens IF last season in the SHL as a pure goal scorer that’s waiting to emerge with a plethora of shots to take.
He led players 18 and under in Sweden’s top league in scoring and has decent size (6-foot, 192-pounds) to go with adapting well to the increased intensity of NHL-level hockey in due time, though he’ll probably use another season to develop as a more prominent scorer with Djurgårdens in 2020-21.
That said, new Florida Panthers GM, Bill Zito, will take to stocking up prospects in Florida’s new affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with pleasure if the American Hockey League is able to make a season happen in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–>RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa (OHL)
Though the Carolina Hurricanes could go with taking a goaltender in the first round, GM Don Waddell just might be satisfied enough with how Alex Nedeljkovic continues to develop with Carolina’s new AHL affiliate– the Chicago Wolves– and instead opt for the next best available player in Quinn.
Carolina is much more satisfied crafting a plan via free agency or through a trade to add a goaltender this offseason for what could hopefully bolster their chances as a Cup contender– that’s right, it’s time for the Canes to unleash a storm on the rest of the league as a big improvement from last season to this season.
Quinn was one of two 50-goal scorers in the OHL last season as he finished the year with 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games. He’s also one of eight OHL players to score at least 50 goals in their first NHL draft eligible season since 2000-01.
You know who else did that? Guys like Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and Alex DeBrincat. Not too shabby.
14. Edmonton Oilers–>G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
The best goaltender in the draft, Askarov had a 12-3 record in 18 games in Russia’s second-tier league last season. He amassed a 2.45 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in the process and has a .974 SV%, as well as a 0.74 GAA through three games with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL this season.
As the Edmonton Oilers continue to find their way while trying to avoid wasting the primes of once in a generation talents like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’d make perfect sense for the Oilers to nail down a solid goaltending prospect for once.
Especially as there’s an immediate need for someone to replace Mikko Koskinen and/or whoever Edmonton chases after in free agency.
While the team that beat the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final passed over him in this hypothetical mock first round, Edmonton was sure to snag Askarov before anyone else could.
15. Toronto Maple Leafs(from Pittsburgh Penguins)–>D Braden Schneider, Brandon (WHL)
While serving as an alternate captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) for the second year of his three full Junior seasons thus far, Schneider brought forth a solid two-way game to contribute to his team on the ice in addition to his leadership in the dressing room.
He had 7-35–42 totals in 60 games last season with the Wheat Kings, while utilizing his 6-foot-2, 202-pound body to shutdown opponents with his two-way game.
Schneider won’t be ready to hit the NHL ice in 2020-21, but he should be able to slide into a prominent role with the Toronto Maple Leafs in due time.
16. Montreal Canadiens–>C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Mercer is a versatile forward that could be beneficial to fitting in with the Montreal Canadiens current game plan– find as many Nick Suzuki’s as possible among their forwards and roll four lines while hoping for the best in Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and others on defense, as well as Carey Price in goal.
The Habs are at a transition point from their old core to a new-age dynamic with the added bonus of head coach, Claude Julien, reconstructing his coaching strategies to propel the Canadiens forward from their .500 season in 2019-20, to hopefully a more legitimate standing as a playoff team in 2020-21.
Mercer amassed 60 points between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 42 games in the OHL last season and should be able to add a little bit of a power forward component to Montreal’s roster in the near future.
17. Chicago Blackhawks–>D Justin Barron, Halifax (QMJHL)
Barron missed a chunk of time last season with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) due to a blood clot issue, but still managed to put up 4-15–19 totals in 34 games from the blue line while playing an efficient physical game.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a solid group of young forwards emerging that it’s about time they start focusing a little more on developing a defense– whether it’s from within by selecting Barron or through free agency and making trades. In either case, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren’t getting any younger and they can’t play forever.
18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–>RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia (OHL)
With their second pick in the first round, New Jersey snags a versatile winger with a knack for shooting the puck and scoring. Perreault had 39-31–70 totals in 57 games with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) last season and should be ready to make an impact on the Devils’ NHL roster sooner rather than later.
He also led Sarnia with 15 power-play goals last season and could help load up New Jersey’s talent pool on the special teams.
19. Calgary Flames–>C Connor Zary, Kamloops (WHL)
If the Calgary Flames are serious about making some big changes to their core, they’re going to need to find a long-term solution down the middle and, luckily, Zary brings just that.
A dynamic skater with decent hands, he had 38 goals and 48 assists (86 points) in 57 games with the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) last season and lends himself to a suitable role as a team player with his 6-foot, 178-pound build at center.
20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–>C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Upper body injuries limited Lapierre to 19 games last season, but he managed to put up 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in that span as one of the better playmakers his age.
The Devils complete their trifecta of first round picks with a bit of a gamble, but a high upside if everything works out and Lapierre’s health doesn’t end up being a concern. New Jersey’s influx of speed, skill and youth should be able to get them to attract some key role players in the coming years to fill out bottom-six roles on a playoff contending roster.
21. Columbus Blue Jackets–>C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin (NCAA)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken to college hockey players with a lot of love in recent years and there’s no love lost for scooping up Holloway and his 6-foot, 203-pound frame as either a center or left wing in the near future in Flavortown.
He had 8-9–17 totals in 35 games in his freshman year with the Wisconsin Badgers and will likely need at least one more year under his belt in the college program before making the jump, but with the addition of Max Domi via trade ahead of the draft on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets can take their time to craft a heavy hitting lineup down the middle.
22. New York Rangers (from Carolina Hurricanes)–>C Ridly Greig, Brandon (OHL)
Despite being 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, Greig can play in any role and has a good hockey IQ that comes in handy at both ends of the rink. His 26-34–60 totals in 56 games with the Wheat Kings last season should be decent enough for the Rangers to supplement their first round choice in Lafrenière in due time.
23. Philadelphia Flyers–>C Brendan Brisson, Chicago (USHL)
Brisson had 24-35–59 totals in 45 games with the Chicago Steel (USHL) last season and will be attending the University of Michigan to further develop his two-way game.
His consistency should only improve, as well as his scoring ability, which is promising for the Philadelphia Flyers as Claude Giroux peaks in his prime about the time Brisson could make his NHL debut.
24. Washington Capitals–>LW Rodion Amirov, Ufa (KHL)
In what’s not a surprise to anyone, the Washington Capitals aren’t afraid to take a shot on a Russian forward as Amirov had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in Russia’s second-tier league last season. His shot and playmaking skills are good, but he’ll need a little time to develop and get stronger before hitting the ice at the NHL level.
At 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, Foerster brings some size to the Colorado Avalanche’s pool of prospects to go along with his 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games last season with the Barrie Colts (OHL). He’s also a decent playmaker, which fits right in with the team mentality of the Avs in their current era.
26. St. Louis Blues–>LW John-Jason Peterka, München (DEL)
Peterka led Germany with four goals in seven games at the 2020 World Junior Championship and has an impressive skating ability for his age, which lends itself to playing amongst the professionals in the DEL. He had 7-4–11 totals in 42 games with EHC München last season and is expected to continue to develop his game and work on using his size (5-foot-11, 192-pounds) to his advantage.
27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–>D Jérémie Poirier, Saint John (QMJHL)
With their second pick in the first round, the Ducks don’t mind taking a defender and letting him take his time to get better in his own zone before making an impact in Anaheim. Poirier had 20 goals and 33 assists (53 points) in 64 games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and plays a “live by the sword, die by the sword” game that can really come into its own as a shutdown defender with some more development.
28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–>D Helge Grans, Malmö (SWE J20)
Grans is a right-shot defender that has a great understanding of the game and decent vision to go along with his 4-23–27 totals in 27 games in Sweden’s junior lead last season, as well as one goal and two assists for Malmö in 21 games in the SHL last season.
He impressed coaches enough to begin the 2020-21 season in Sweden’s top league and should round out a great first round draft for the Senators.
29. Vegas Golden Knights–>D Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
A two-way defender, O’Rourke has a good hockey sense and had 7-30–37 totals in 54 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) last season. The Vegas Golden Knights already have a solid defensive core, but would be establishing an even better foundation for the future by taking the 6-foot, 178-pound defender.
30. Dallas Stars–>C Thomas Bordeleau, USA U-18 (USHL)
Bordeleau had 16-30–46 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program last season and has room to grow, but has time to develop within the Stanley Cup runners’ up, Dallas Stars’, system. A native of Texas, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan this fall.
31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–>D William Wallinder, MoDo (SWE J20)
Rounding out the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the San Jose Sharks the 31st overall pick for Barclay Goodrow back when the global pandemic hadn’t put an early end to the regular season and before the Bolts won the Cup. As a result, the Sharks have the last pick in the first round since they traded their 2020 1st round pick to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.
As such, it’s only fitting that San Jose continue to build up their defense with Wallinder as a solid option for moving the puck out of his own zone– either by carrying it on his own or finding an open teammate, while shutting down opponents with his 6-foot-4, 191-pound build.
Anze Kopitar’s game-winning goal in overtime lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Boston Bruins, 4-3, on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Jonathan Quick (10-12-2 record, 3.05 goals against average, .893 save percentage in 24 games played) made 37 saves on 40 shots against (.925 SV%) in the win for the Kings.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (13-4-4, 2.31 GAA, .923 SV% in 21 games played) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced in the overtime loss.
Boston fell to 21-7-7 (49 points) on the season, but remained in command of the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Los Angeles improved to 15-18-3 (33 points) and moved to 7th place in the Pacific Division.
The Bruins fell to 12-1-6 at home this season, while the Kings improved to 5-12-3 on the road this season.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Tuesday.
Kuhlman and Anton Blidh (shoulder) skated on their own on Monday as the two work to get back into their respective lineups (Kuhlman likely with Boston, while Blidh is rehabbing an injury sustained in the preseason and would likely be assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) when he is reactivated).
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from last Saturday night’s, 4-2, victory in Florida.
Once more, Connor Clifton, Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie comprised of Boston’s healthy scratches.
The Bruins had too many skaters on the ice exactly one minute into the first period and presented Los Angeles with their first power play opportunity of the night.
The Kings took full advantage as Jeff Carter rocketed an intentionally wide shot to Blake Lizotte (4) for the redirection into the twine, giving Los Angeles the, 1-0, lead at 2:17 of the first period.
Carter (6) and Tyler Toffoli (12) had the assists on Lizotte’s power play goal as the Bruins gave up the game’s first goal on home ice for the 11th time this season.
Late in the opening frame, Kyle Clifford knocked down Chris Wagner while the B’s forward didn’t have possession of the puck and received an interference infraction as a result at 18:14.
Boston capitalized on their first power play of the game as Danton Heinen (6) redirected the puck into the net with his right skate– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.
Heinen’s power play goal was reviewed for a distinct kicking motion, but the call on the ice stood.
Brad Marchand (33) and David Pastrnak (21) notched the assists on Heinen’s goal at 19:01.
Pastrnak surpassed Barry Pederson for sole possession of the 4th most points by a Bruins player before the age of 24 with the secondary assist on Heinen’s goal.
Only Bobby Orr (507 points from 1966-72), Ray Bourque (399 points from 1979-84) and Joe Thornton (348 points from 1997-2003) had more points with Boston than Pastrnak (333) before turning 24-years-old.
After one period of play Tuesday night at TD Garden, the B’s and Kings were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Boston outshooting Los Angeles, 11-7.
Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while Los Angeles led in blocked shots (4-3) and takeaways (5-4).
Both teams had eight hits aside and were 1/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.
Trevor Lewis hooked Jake DeBrusk and was sent to the penalty box at 1:59 of the second period as the Kings kicked off the middle frame with an infraction.
While on the power play, the Bruins couldn’t manage to keep the puck in the attacking zone as Los Angeles worked a quick break turned shorthanded breakaway attempt for Adrian Kempe heading the other way.
Kempe (5) slid a backhand shot through Rask’s five-hole for the third shorthanded goal allowed this season by Boston, as well as the third shorthanded goal for Los Angeles this season.
Kempe’s shorthanded goal gave the Kings a, 2-1, lead and was unassisted at 2:45 of the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Patrice Bergeron (11) fired a wrist shot from the high slot off the post and in behind Quick with traffic in front of the net to tie the game, 2-2.
Torey Krug (19) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal at 10:44.
Late in the period, Dustin Brown slashed Charlie McAvoy’s stick out of the Boston defender’s hands and received a minor penalty for his action at 16:07.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing power play.
The two clubs entered the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 21-17, through 40 minutes.
Both teams had 10 shots on net in the second period alone.
Meanwhile, the Bruins led in giveaways (10-4), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (64-36) and the Kings led in blocked shots (9-5) and takeaways (11-6) entering the third period.
Los Angeles was 1/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/3 on the power play.
Brandon Carlo (3) snapped a 23-game goalless drought after he floated a soft goal past Quick from the point to give the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 1:24 of the third period.
DeBrusk (9) and Heinen (9) had the assists on Carlo’s goal.
There were no penalties called in the third period.
With 2:08 remaining in regulation, Kings head coach, Todd McLellan, pulled Quick for an extra skater. It didn’t take long for Los Angeles to capitalize and tie the game.
Matt Roy (4) sent a shot from the point that had eyes and almost was tipped by Carter before reaching the back of the net at 17:59– tying the game, 3-3.
Nikolai Prokhorkin (4) had the only assist on Roy’s goal as the Kings forced overtime with their first shot on goal in a 10:04 span.
At the end of regulation, the Bruins led the Kings in shots on goal, 37-25– including a, 16-8, advantage in the third period alone.
Boston held the advantage in giveaways (11-9), hits (24-22) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Los Angeles led in takeaways (12-8).
Both teams had ten blocked shots each.
Los Angeles finished the night 1/1 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 1/3 on the power play as there were no penalties called in the third period or overtime.
Cassidy started Bergeron, Marchand and Krug in the extra frame, while McLellan opted for Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Drew Doughty.
The Bruins surged with a couple of breakaways– one from Anders Bjork that was poke checked away by Quick and the other from Bergeron that was sent wide of the goal– but they were no match for Los Angeles’ quick break the other way as Kopitar (14) put the final nail in the coffin.
The Kings had defeated the Bruins, 4-3, at 3:23 of the overtime period with Doughty (17) tallying the only assist.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (40-27), giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (63-38), while both teams managed to amass ten blocked shots aside and 24 hits each.
Los Angeles improved to 4-2 in overtime this season, while the B’s fell to 2-3 in the extra frame thus far.
The Kings are now 3-0-0 when scoring a shorthanded goal in a game this season, while the Bruins fell to 5-1-4 when tied after one period and 5-2-2 when tied after two periods this season.
Boston continues their four-game homestand (0-0-1) on Thursday night against the New York Islanders before hosting the Nashville Predators on Saturday and wrapping up before the holiday break next Monday against the Washington Capitals.
Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal late in the third period on a tremendous give-and-go as the Boston Bruins defender snuck in from the point en route to Boston’s, 4-2, win over the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on Saturday.
Tuukka Rask (19-8-4 record, 2.37 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 32 games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Los Angeles goaltender, Jack Campbell (7-10-0, 2.23 GAA, .928 SV% in 19 GP), stopped 20 out of 24 shots faced for an .833 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 34-17-8 (76 points) on the season and surpassed the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings. The Kings fell to 23-29-6 (52 points) and remained in 8th place in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 22-4-5 when scoring first this season and 22-1-3 when leading after two periods. Los Angeles stumbled to 1-23-1 when trailing after 40 minutes of play this season.
The B’s are now 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip and 7-0-1 in the month of February.
With the win on Saturday night, the Bruins have matched their longest winning streak of the season (five games), while handing the Kings their fourth-straight loss.
Two skaters made their NHL debuts in Saturday night’s matchup as Karson Kuhlman took part in his first career NHL game for the Bruins, while Matt Roy participated in his first NHL game with the Kings.
Moore, Backes, Steven Kampfer (healthy scratch, AHL conditioning loan) and David Pastrnak (left thumb) were all out of the lineup for the B’s against the Kings.
Jeff Carter returned to Los Angeles’ lineup for the first time in five games, while Jonathan Quick was slated to get the nod in goal, but did not appear in warmups.
Instead, Quick received medical attention for “flu-like symptoms” and was sent home, leaving Willie Desjardins with no choice but to start Campbell and with an emergency goaltender as his potential backup.
Rask got the start on Saturday night after Jaroslav Halak posted a 30-save shutout against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
Grzelcyk kicked off the action with a high-sticking infraction against Austin Wagner at 2:59 of the first period. Los Angeles did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the evening.
Moments later, Jake DeBrusk (17) sent the puck past Campbell to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 5:31 of the opening frame thanks to a great pass from Peter Cehlarik.
Cehlarik (2) and David Krejci (34) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s goal as No. 74 in black-and-gold set a new career-high in goals in a season with his 17th in his 50th game played (DeBrusk had 16 goals in 70 games played last season, his rookie year).
DeBrusk also has scored at least a goal in Boston’s last three games (he has 3-3–6 totals since Feb. 12th).
Past the midpoint of the first period, Roy interfered with Brad Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:25. The Bruins did not convert on their first skater advantage of the night.
Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard as both teams each recorded eight shots on goal in the first period. The B’s led in blocked shots (6-4), giveaways (4-0) and face-off win percentage (59-41) after 20 minutes of play, while the Kings led in takeaways (3-1) and hits (14-6).
Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Carl Hagelin hooked Marchand at 5:26 of the second period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster a goal on the power play.
Shortly after the skater advantage ended for Boston, McAvoy hooked Wagner and sent Los Angeles on the power play at 8:55 of the middle frame.
Late in the ensuing power play, Ilya Kovalchuk (12) held the puck and worked his magic, firing a shot past Rask’s glove side as a teammate was screening the Bruins goaltender to tie the game, 1-1, at 10:37.
Zdeno Chara followed up McAvoy’s penalty with a holding penalty of his own against Kopitar at 12:22, but the Kings couldn’t convert on their second-straight power play opportunity.
Shortly after killing off Chara’s minor, the Bruins gave up a two-on-one, leaving Alex Iafallo with a surefire high-quality scoring chance that Rask denied while sprawling in desperation– kicking the puck out of mid-air with his leg pad extended while on his back.
On a face-off win in the attacking zone by Patrice Bergeron, the puck ended up on Marchand’s stick as the Bruins winger sent a rocket of a wrist shot past Campbell’s glove side from the face-off dot.
Marchand (23) gave Boston the lead, 2-1, with Bergeron (34) tabbing the only assist at 16:15 of the second period.
About 90 seconds later, Noel Acciari high-sticked Kovalchuk and was assessed a minor infraction. Los Angeles did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed the Kings, 19-17, in shots on goal. Boston led in blocked shots (15-6), giveaways (7-2) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while Los Angeles held the advantage in takeaways (4-2) and hits (21-11).
The Kings were 1/4 on the power play through two periods, while the Bruins finished 0/2 on the skater advantage on the night as Los Angeles did not take another penalty in the third period.
Late in the third period, a flurry of goals made Saturday night’s hockey game feel like the last few minutes of a basketball game as Iafallo (12) collected a rebound to set a new career-high in goals and tie the game, 2-2.
Paul LaDue (1) and Adrian Kempe (12) had the assists on Iafallo’s goal at 15:37 of the third period.
Less than a minute later, Marchand went to the penalty box for hooking Carter at 16:00. Boston’s penalty killing units successfully killed off the minor infraction and caught the Kings in the vulnerable minute after Los Angeles’ power play.
McAvoy (3) dished the puck to DeBrusk while penetrating the attacking zone and kickstarted the give-and-go as he entered the slot to receive the pass back from DeBrusk and riffled a shot into the twine behind Campbell.
DeBrusk (8) and Krejci (35) picked up the assists on McAvoy’s goal at 18:47 of the third period as Boston took the lead, 3-2, with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
In the final minute of the game, Bergeron (21) one-handed a loose puck past Campbell with an almost poke-check maneuver to secure the victory for Boston, 4-2.
Bergeron’s goal was unassisted at 19:23 of the final frame.
Boston swept the Kings in their season series, 2-0-0, with the, 4-2, victory on Saturday night despite trailing in shots on goal, 25-24.
The Bruins finished the night with the advantage in blocked shots (17-9), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40), while Los Angeles led in hits (29-19).
The Kings went 1/5 on the power play Saturday night, while the B’s finished 0/2.
The Bruins continue their five-game road trip Monday night against the San Jose Sharks before journeying to visit the Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 20th) and St. Louis Blues (Feb. 23rd). Boston is 2-0-0 on their current road trip and plays their next home game this month on Feb. 26th against the Sharks.
Nick and Connor review the Vegas Golden Knights draft history, praise Carter Hart’s NHL debut, talk about Scott Gordon’s introduction as interim head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as the Patrik Berglund situation, Whalers Night and a teaser 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship preview.
The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.
No, not that forward thinking.
Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).
Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.
At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.
In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem.
The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.
The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.
Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.
Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.
Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.
In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.
When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.
The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.
It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).
Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.
Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).
Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).
And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.
Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.
Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.
Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.
Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.
In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.
Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.
In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.
When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.
In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.
Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.
Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.
Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.
For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?
Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.
This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.
His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.
He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.
Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.
Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.
If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.
Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.
Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that, he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.
The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.
Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.
Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.
Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.
But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).
Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.
He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.
Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.
(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)
Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.
Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.
Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?
Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.
It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.
Offseason Analysis: Cash-strapped in the era of the salary cap and nearing the end of their Stanley Cup contention window, the Los Angeles Kings went out and signed 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal worth $6.250 million per season.
Normally, $6.250 million per season isn’t a terrible deal, especially on a three-year contract for a player that’s over 30. One of the problems with this deal, however, is that Kovalchuk is 35.
By the end of his current contract he’ll be 38.
With just over $2.100 million in cap space right now, the Kings have all but sealed their fate to a rebuild after Kovalchuk’s playing days are done– assuming he’s going to retire for the second time after the 2020-21 season.
Anze Kopitar (31) isn’t getting any younger, despite being under contract at $10.000 million through 2023-24. Dustin Brown (33) is signed for the next four-years and the same goes for Jeff Carter (33). Los Angeles’s core group of forwards is aging– and aging fast without anything screaming up the depth charts.
Don’t worry, Kings fans, General Manager Rob Blake took care of any doubts about Doughty’s future by signing the star defender to an eight-year extension beginning in 2019-20 at $11.000 million per season.
That raise of $4.000 million? Yeah, that doesn’t help the cap situation. No amount of Norris Trophy’s or Selke Trophy’s can counteract rising salaries– in fact, they don’t help negotiations from a general manager’s perspective.
But why worry about the future when Los Angeles is trying to win one more Cup now?
After all, starting goaltender Jonathan Quick is 32-years-old and on a friendly $5.800 million per season through 2022-23. When things start to tumble, the Kings can flip Quick and retain some salary to… well, let’s not think about that– let’s assume Quick will be a King for life.
There’s no bright scenario on the horizon for Los Angeles. Time is ticking away.
While head coach John Stevens looks to improve from last season’s 45-29-8 record (98 points) on the season, he’s looking at doing so with an aging core and on the backs of a 32-year-old starting goalie and 36-year-old backup (Peter Budaj). Unless Jack Campbell, 26, is finally ready to emerge as an NHL backup.
Oh and Stevens is at the helm of a team in California (did anybody see the Erik Karlsson trade the other day? The San Jose Sharks got a lot better, like, as good as– if not better than– the Nashville Predators defense)– let alone the rest of the Pacific Division (hello Vegas Golden Knights).
But less about the worries for the Kings and more about just what will Kovalchuk do in his NHL return?
He last had a 31-point season (11 goals, 20 assists) for the New Jersey Devils in 37 games during the lockout shortened 48-game 2012-13 season. Prior to that Kovalchuk had 37-46–83 totals in 77 games with the Devils in 2011-12, which was, oh yeah that season New Jersey went on to face the Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final (he had one point in that series).
Then came the summer of 2012 when “Kovy” retired. This, of course, came two-years into his 17-year (whoops, cap circumvention) 15-year, $100 million contract that he signed with New Jersey in 2010.
Devils fans felt cheated, not that Atlanta Thrashers fans had already felt betrayed by Kovalchuk leaving their team for New Jersey in the first place.
Kovalchuk returned to Russia, signing a four-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), where he went on to have 16-24–40 totals in 45 games in 2013-14, then 55 points (54 games played) in 2014-15 , 49 points (50 GP) in 2015-16, 78 points (60 GP) in 2016-17 and 31-32–63 totals (53 GP) in 2017-18 with the club.
So he hasn’t lost his scoring touch.
At least, that’s what Stevens and Blake are hoping. A lot has changed in the NHL since his departure, namely speed and skill. It’s not a question of whether Kovalchuk can put pucks in the net, but rather, can he skate with the rest of the league’s teams zooming around on the ice?
Especially as the Kings continue to rely on a burly version of the game– one that still emphasized more physicality than other teams, despite Stevens’s refined approach last season.
Keeping a watchful eye on the stars in Los Angeles isn’t an uncommon thing. For Kovalchuk, it’s about to be part of his life again, but on a bigger scale than Atlanta or New Jersey.
Offseason Grade: B-
By default, landing one of 2018’s top unrestricted free agents not named John Tavares means the Los Angeles Kings improved and deserve an “above-average” rating for their offseason marks. But the Kings didn’t get any younger and let some expendable assets (Tobias Rieder, Kevin Gravel and Christian Folin) walk that helped spread a little depth down the lineup when necessary.
This season and next offseason are crucial to the future direction of the organization, what with Adrian Kempe, 22, entering the final year of his entry-level contract this season and that salary cap thing again. Things cannot remain stagnant for too long.
Or else the Kings might be the next Chicago Blackhawks.
The longest Stanley Cup Playoff game in franchise history— no, not just Vegas Golden Knights history, but for the Los Angeles Kings too— ended shortly after 95 minutes of play.
Erik Haula scored the game-winning goal at 15:23 of double overtime to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 victory in Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday and a 2-0 series lead heading into Games 3 and 4 at Los Angeles.
Vegas goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, made 29 saves on 30 shots against for a .967 save percentage in 95:11 time on ice in the win. Meanwhile, Kings goalie, Jonathan Quick, stopped 54 shots out of 56 shots faced for a .964 SV% in 95:16 TOI in the loss.
It almost took 13 minutes, but at 12:51 of the first period, the first penalty was called in the game after both teams swapped pleasantries that went “unnoticed” leading up to Kyle Clifford’s goaltender interference minor. The Golden Knights went on their first power play of the night.
While on the power play, Reilly Smith found Jonathan Marchessault open in the slot and sent a pass that Marchessault then translated to a shot just wide of the net. The puck caromed off the boards to the right of Quick and Alex Tuch (1) caught the puck on his stick and fired it into the net before Quick could get into position.
Marchessault (1) and Smith (1) notched the assists on Tuch’s power play goal and the Golden Knights broke out with a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
With 2:02 remaining in the period, Marchessault caught Los Angeles forward, Jeff Carter, with a slash and served some time in the penalty box. The Kings were not able to convert on the ensuing power play.
Vegas led 1-0 on the scoreboard and 12-5 in shots on goal after 20 minutes of play.
The Golden Knights emerged from the first intermission refreshed and ready to go— controlling the game as much as they had been in the first period— but were unable to capitalize on two straight power plays in the first half of the second period. Dion Phaneuf and Trevor Lewis served minor penalties for roughing and tripping, respectively, at 3:51 and 10:12 of the second period.
And then things looked a little different.
Golden Knights defenseman, Brayden McNabb, got his stick caught up in Dustin Brown’s legs, resulting in a tripping penalty and a power play for the Kings at 14:19.
It didn’t take long for Los Angeles to convert on the resulting man advantage and tie the game.
Paul LaDue (1) fired a shot that deflected off of Vegas defenseman, Deryk Engelland, past Fleury at 15:55 of the second period to even the game, 1-1. Phaneuf (1) and Michael Amadio (1) had the assists on LaDue’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in just his second career NHL postseason game. Amadio’s assist on the goal was his first career Stanley Cup point.
After 40 minutes of play at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights and Kings were tied, 1-1.
Vegas was outshooting Los Angeles, 26-12, and led in takeaways, 10-6. Meanwhile, the Kings led in hits (47-34), giveaways (8-3) and controlling the faceoff dot, winning 64-36% of faceoffs through two periods. Both teams had blocked 10 shots each and converted on one of their power plays (LA was 1/2, VGK was 1/3 through two periods).
The third period brought more end-to-end action lots of offensive zone dominance by Vegas. Los Angeles kept stockpiling the hit total (68-45 after 60 minutes). Vegas led in shots on goal, 35-20, after regulation.
There were no penalties called in the third period and no goals were scored, so it was on to sudden death overtime for the first time in Golden Knights history.
Overtime started as all Stanley Cup Playoff overtime games do— at a frantic pace.
Almost halfway through the first overtime, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare attempted to clear the puck, but instead sent it clear over the glass. An automatic two-minute minor penalty for delay of game was assessed.
The Golden Knights penalty kill stood tall and killed it off, even having pressured Los Angeles on a shorthanded breakout.
After 80 minutes of play, the score was still tied 1-1.
Vegas was leading in shots on goal (47-27) and takeaways (19-11), but the Kings were leading in blocked shots (27-21), hits (75-50) and faceoff win% (56-44). Both teams were 1/3 on the power play through regulation-plus-one-overtime period.
Double overtime started with a much slower frenzy than the first overtime. The fans at T-Mobile Arena were as loud as ever and waiting to burst with euphoria should their team win.
Entering the second overtime, Vegas had 90 shot attempts. Los Angeles had 61.
Tanner Pearson broke up a pass from Marchessault intended for Smith that would have surely beaten Quick on a redirect towards the goal, but the game continued. That wasn’t the only scare for the Kings though.
Phaneuf found himself on the wrong end of a break-in as Tomas Nosek was racing to the goal. As a result, Phaneuf hooked Nosek to negate any offense and was penalized as such— two minutes for hooking.
After a brief stoppage on the ensuing power play, Golden Knights head coach, Gerard Gallant, called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining on the man advantage. Both benches were beyond fatigued, but the Golden Knights just kept coming.
Los Angeles killed the remainder of Phaneuf’s penalty and resumed even strength play— even almost sneaking a soft shot past Fleury.
But it was the Golden Knights that were victorious after grinding down the Kings all night long.
The visiting team cracked the 30-shot plateau past the 93-minute mark of the game after chaos in their defensive zone. Quick had lost his stick while making a save and Trevor Lewis lost his stick when he blocked a shot, briefly limped in a circle and nearly cost the Kings the game right then and there.
Instead, Erik Haula (1) had just enough a couple of minutes later to put home a loose puck and lift the home team past Los Angeles, 2-1, in double overtime.
James Neal (1) and Shea Theodore (1) were credited with the assists on Haula’s game winning goal in what was the longest game for a team in its inaugural season— as well as the longest game in Kings’s franchise history, topping Game 5 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final versus the New York Rangers, which went into double overtime on June 13, 2014.
With the win, seven of the last 10 NHL expansion teams have now won their first playoff overtime game in their franchise history with Vegas also becoming the fifth franchise in NHL history to win each of their first 2-plus playoff games. The Golden Knights are just the second team to do so in their inaugural season (only their current playoff rival, Los Angeles Kings were able to go 2-0 to start their 1968 playoff run).
Vegas finished the night with 56 shots on goal to Los Angeles’s 30 shots. The Kings led in blocked shots (35-24), hits (80-56), giveaways (13-8) and faceoff win% (55-45). Los Angeles was 1/3 in power play opportunities on the night, while the Golden Knights were only 1/4 on the man advantage.
Kings defenseman, Alec Martinez, led his team among skaters in time-on-ice (44:51), while Golden Knights blue liner, Nate Schmidt, led the home team with 37:19 TOI as a skater.
Fleury and the rest of his Vegas teammates shift their focus to winning at least one of the next two games on the road. Meanwhile, Quick and the Kings look to regroup in the comforts of home at Staples Center for Games 3 and 4.
Puck drop in Game 3 is set for Sunday night at 10:30 p.m. ET. National viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN, while fans in Canada can watch the game on CBC or TVAS.
One thing has been for sure through two games in Vegas this postseason; the house always wins.