Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.
36-34-12, 84 points, 6th in the Central Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Ryan Carpenter, F Alexander Nylander (acquired from BUF), F John Quenneville (acquired from NJD), F Aleksi Saarela (acquired from CAR), F Andrew Shaw (acquired from MTL), F Zack Smith (acquired from OTT), D Calvin de Haan (acquired from CAR), D Philip Holm, D Olli Maatta (acquired from PIT), G Robin Lehner
Subtractions: F Artem Anisimov (traded to OTT), F Victor Ejdsell (SHL), F John Hayden (traded to NJD), F Peter Holland (KHL), F Dominik Kahun (traded to PIT), F Marcus Kruger (NLA), F Chris Kunitz (retired), F Luke Johnson (signed with MIN), F Anthony Louis (signed with Charlotte, AHL), F Andreas Martinsen (signed with ANA), F Jordan Schroeder (KHL), F Tyler Sikura (signed with Rockford, AHL), F Spencer Watson (signed with Indy, ECHL), D Brandon Davidson (signed with CGY), D Gustav Forsling (traded to CAR), D Blake Hillman (signed with Toledo, ECHL), D Henri Jokiharju (traded to BUF), G Anton Forsberg (traded to CAR), G Cam Ward (retired)
Still Unsigned: F Andrew Campbell
Re-signed: F David Kampf, F Brendan Perlini
Offseason Analysis: Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman, had a busy offseason making six trades that involved players and navigating a transition period for the franchise that has won three Stanley Cup championships in the last decade, but found themselves outside of the playoffs for the last two seasons.
First, Bowman dealt forward, Dominik Kahun, and a 2019 5th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defender, Olli Maatta, on June 15th, then the Blackhawks GM followed things up with a minor swap with the New Jersey Devils a week later.
Acquiring Maatta wasn’t the only adjustment made to Chicago’s blue line as Bowman traded Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg to the Carolina Hurricanes for Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela on June 24th.
By the end of the month, Bowman was reunited with former Blackhawk turned current Blackhawk once more– Andrew Shaw– in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens involving draft picks and Shaw.
Maatta brings a $4.083 million cap hit, de Haan carries a $4.550 million cap hit and Shaw costs $3.900 million per season. All three players are under contract through the 2021-22 season.
On July 1st, the Blackhawks strengthened their crease by signing Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5.000 million contract. The 28-year-old Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner is slated to backup 34-year-old, Corey Crawford, but could easily split time with the two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Lehner could also become a valuable option if Crawford misses any time due to injury.
Both goaltenders are in contract years.
One (Crawford) is getting older and may not be able to keep playing indefinitely and the other (Lehner) just signed his one-year deal with the possibility of cashing in if Crawford cannot continue to be the goaltender for Chicago, let alone an NHL starter.
Crawford managed a 14-18-5 record in 39 games played last season– while battling injuries– with a 2.93 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. In 2011-12, Crawford had a 2.72 GAA and a .903 SV% in 57 games as a starter.
Lehner amassed a 25-13-5 record in 46 games last season with a 2.13 GAA and a .930 SV% en route to splitting the William M. Jennings Trophy honors for 2018-19 with his backup on the New York Islanders, Thomas Greiss.
It’s no easy task to replace Crawford with the next goaltender in the post-Cup dynasty era, but Bowman’s already strategizing for the inevitable as time doesn’t wait for anyone.
On July 9th, Bowman continued his offseason moves and dealt Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres for Alexander Nylander– a player who’s yet to make an impact at the NHL level and looking for a change in scenery (you know, like how Dylan Strome turned things around after the Arizona Coyotes sent him to Chicago).
Finally, Bowman completed his offseason trading with another one-for-one swap, sending Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for Zack Smith, saving the Blackhawks $1.300 million in the process for a durable third line center.
Head coach, Jeremy Colliton, has a lot of new puzzle pieces to play with and figure out what’s the best fit.
With an aging core, new acquisitions and plenty of fresh, young, faces emerging, Chicago is under no pressure to win it all in 2020, but they are hoping to make a serious dent in the regular season and make it back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Offseason Grade: A-
The Blackhawks didn’t overpay anyone in free agency, but they did trade a 2020 2nd round pick, a 2020 7th round pick and a 2021 3rd round pick to the Canadiens for Shaw and a 2021 7th round pick. That’s… not ideal.
Drafting Kirby Dach 3rd overall in June is sure to help speed up Chicago’s transition and avoid a rebuild, plus Bowman is remaining active in his roster construction with the future in mind instead of getting too attached to components from their Cup winning days.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
- wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
- Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
- Dallas Stars, 92 points
- Colorado Avalanche, 86 points
Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons
Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.
Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?
That’s to be determined.
Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.
Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.
The good news?
The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.
How would the Predators fail?
Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.
St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons
Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.
But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?
Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.
St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.
When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?
How would the Blues fail?
The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.
Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons
The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.
Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).
Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.
Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.
How would the Jets fail?
If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.
Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons
What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.
First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.
Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.
At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.
Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.
Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.
Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.
How would the Wild fail?
If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).
Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons
Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.
In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.
While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.
That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.
Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.
Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.
Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).
How would the Blackhawks fail?
Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.
Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons
The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?
But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).
On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.
The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.
Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.
That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).
Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.
How would the Stars fail?
Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.
Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons
Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.
Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.
Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.
Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).
Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!
Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.
Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.
Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.
Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.
Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.
How would the Avalanche fail?
By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?
The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.
The DTFR Duo breaks down Jimmy Howard’s one-year extension with the Detroit Red Wings, Gritty’s allegiance in the 2019 NHL Global Series, the New York Islanders’ bottom-six dilemma, Ilya Kovalchuk’s relationship with the Los Angeles Kings, more awards and a look at how things should stack up in the Metropolitan Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As we inch ever closer to Decision Day, every game takes on even more importance. Whether clubs are battling for seeding or their playoff lives, there’s been much excitement to be had this week.
Speaking of, here’s the NHL’s slate of games for this week:
|NHL SCHEDULE: March 18-24|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, March 18|
|7:30 p.m.||Arizona||Tampa Bay||1-4|
|8:30 p.m.||Vancouver||Chicago||3-2 (OT)|
|10:30 p.m.||Winnipeg||Los Angeles||3-2|
|10:30 p.m.||Vegas||San Jose||7-3|
|Tuesday, March 19|
|7 p.m.||Boston Bruins||New York Islanders||5-0|
|7 p.m.||Detroit Red Wings||New York Rangers||3-2|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Carolina||2-3 (SO)|
|7:30 p.m.||Washington||New Jersey||4-1|
|8 p.m.||Edmonton||St. Louis||2-7|
|Wednesday, March 20|
|7:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Washington||5-4 (OT)|
|Thursday, March 21|
|7 p.m.||Boston||New Jersey||5-1|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Carolina||6-3|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Montréal Canadiens||0-4|
|8 p.m.||Detroit||St. Louis||2-5|
|8 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Nashville||2-1 (SO)|
|10:30 p.m.||San Jose||Los Angeles||2-4|
|Friday, March 22|
|10 p.m.||San Jose||Anaheim||3-4 (OT)|
|Saturday, March 23|
|1 p.m.||Arizona||New Jersey|
|1 p.m.||New York Islanders||Philadelphia Flyers||NHLN|
|3 p.m.||Chicago||Colorado||ESPN+, SN1|
|7 p.m.||Nashville||Winnipeg||ESPN+, SN360|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Toronto Maple Leafs||CBC, NHLN, SN1|
|7 p.m.||Buffalo||Montréal||CITY, TVAS|
|8 p.m.||Tampa Bay||St. Louis|
|10 p.m.||Calgary Flames||Vancouver Canucks||CBC, CITY, ESPN+, SN, SN1, SN360|
|10:30 p.m.||Anaheim||Los Angeles|
|Sunday, March 24|
|12:30 p.m.||Philadelphia||Washington||NBC, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||Arizona Coyotes||New York Islanders||SN|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||Carolina||ESPN+, RDS, SN|
There’s no shortage of fun tilts taking place this week, even if we look beyond the standings.
For instance, Vancouver and Chicago squared off on Monday to rekindle their former hatred from the last decade, followed the next day by an Original Six tilt between the Red Wings and Rangers.
Wednesday saw another edition of the Battle of the QEW, while the Wings were back at it in St. Louis on Thursday. Speaking of Thursday, the Battle of California also took place that night to springboard the Sharks into their Friday tilt against the Ducks.
Today’s rivalry action once again features the Rangers in an Original Six bout, this time squaring off against Toronto. Once that game is through, the Freeway Face-Off will be played for the second-to-last time this season, while Philadelphia and Washington’s derby will wait until tomorrow afternoon.
As for playoff rematches of almost a year ago, we saw San Jose get whipped by Vegas once again on Monday, Tampa Bay barely escaped Washington with an overtime victory on Wednesday, Vegas beat the Jets on Thursday and the aforementioned Sharks-Ducks game last night. One more rematch is on the schedule this weekend, as the Predators and Jets will square off tonight in a game that could determine the fate of the Central Division.
As for player returns, there weren’t many that qualified in any way as significant. As a matter of fact, D John Moore‘s return to New Jersey, his former home of three seasons, is the week’s biggest homecoming.
Now, as fun as it would have been to do a big write-up on Moore’s time with the Devils, I thought this weekend’s home-and-home series featuring two Central Division clubs fighting to qualify for the playoffs was a bit more important.
Coming into the weekend with a 32-31-10 record, the Chicago Blackhawks currently occupy seventh place in the Central Division and 11th in the Western Conference, but they’re still very much in the playoff race since they trail the Minnesota Wild by only five points and have two games in hand.
Of course, this is not news to the Hawks, as they were on quite a tear before dropping their last two games. Chicago was on a five-game winning streak before losing 3-2 in overtime at home to the Canucks on Monday, and that six-game point streak was snapped Thursday with a 3-1 home loss to the Flyers.
Just like the good ol’ days, one of the Hawks’ most potent weapons during this surge has undoubtedly been their impressive offense. Chicago has averaged 3.29 goals per game since March 7, the fourth-best mark in the Western Conference and seventh-best in the league.
As would be expected, F Patrick Kane has been one of the most important players during this effort, as he’s posted solid 1-6-7 marks in his last seven outings to average a point-per-game. However, he’s been clearly outplayed by second-liner W Brendan Perlini (the Blackhawks’ return alongside C Dylan Strome for trading C Nick Schmaltz to Arizona in November) and his outstanding 6-2-8 effort in that time.
Perhaps it is simply coincidence, but Perlini has not registered a point in his last two games – the same two games Chicago has most recently lost. Whether he buys into the correlation or not, Head Coach Jeremy Colliton certainly won’t complain if Perlini can get back to work this weekend.
Another facet of Chicago’s play that has been absolutely incredible lately has been its goaltending. Despite playing behind a defense that has yielded 35.43 shots per game since March 7 (the fourth-worst in the league in that time), the Blackhawks have allowed only 2.29 goals in that same time frame – the seventh-best in the NHL.
12-16-3 G Corey Crawford has been absolutely fantastic in his last seven starts. He’s posted a .945 save percentage and 1.79 GAA during this run by the Hawks despite playing behind their shoddy defense, and he will be the one that deserves the most praise should Chicago extend its season beyond 82 games.
Just like the Blackhawks, the 33-29-12 Colorado Avalanche are still on the outside of the playoff bubble and looking in, but they can see their path to the postseason even easier than their brethren from the Windy City.
Colorado enters the weekend trailing eighth-place Minnesota by only one point – an incredibly manageable deficit considering the Avs hold a game-in-hand on the Wild.
However, it is that game-in-hand that makes this weekend’s series against Chicago so important for the Avalanche. Since Minnesota is only playing one tilt this weekend, Sunday’s game will spend that game-in-hand.
Coming into Saturday’s tilt, the Avalanche boast a three-game winning streak, including road victories against current playoff teams in Minnesota and Dallas.
The backbone of this three-game run has undoubtedly been 14-9-3 G Philipp Grubauer as, despite playing behind a defense that has allowed an average of 34.67 shots against per game since March 17, he and the Avs have yielded only two goals in their past three games.
Despite boasting only a .911 save percentage and 2.77 GAA for the season, Grubauer has managed an unbelievable .981 save percentage and 0.67 GAA in his last three outings. Of course, New Jersey, Minnesota and Dallas do not boast the offenses that Chicago do, so he will need to be totally on his game either today or tomorrow when he gets his nod.
The German has faced Chicago only twice in his entire career, earning a 0-1-0 record in those outings. Against the Blackhawks, he owns a career .923 save percentage and 2.27 GAA. His last outing against the franchise was on December 21 of this season, and the Avs played to a 2-1 home loss.
So, who wins this weekend’s series?
Though they’re riding a two-game losing skid, I like the Blackhawks in this home-and-home. Though Grubauer has been incredible lately, the fact that Crawford has such a strong offense playing in front of him is certainly in his favor. Additionally, offense will be even more important when the backups earn the nod, which should make the ice tilt Chicago’s way even more.
The DTFR Duo honors Ted Lindsay, addresses a potential outdoor game hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, talk John Tavares’ “welcome” back to Long Island, can’t figure out the Ottawa Senators coaching change circus and more.
Happy New Year!
It’s time to figure out whether or not your team has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup, making the playoffs, being a seller at the trade deadline or a basement dwelling rebuilder in desperate need of anything but what is happening right now.
Teams have begun to reach the official halfway point in the regular season (41 games played out of an 82-game schedule) as the calendar flips from 2018 to 2019.
Here’s a glance at the latest forecast based on how the league standings were through December 31, 2018.
Keeping in mind, there’s no guarantees with any forecast, but rather general trends and “educated” guesses. It’s not always about the exact number of points expected on the season. Sometimes the focus is on the spread or each team’s positioning in the standings.
There’s always context. Plus, nothing’s impossible until it’s mathematically impossible.
So let’s take a look around the league and figure out the future– well, rest of this season, at least.
Projected Standings After Three Months
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 125 points (40 GP entering Jan. 1st)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 111 points (39 GP)
- x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (39 GP)
- wc2-Montreal Canadiens, 97 points (40 GP)
- Buffalo Sabres, 96 points (40 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 84 points (38 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (41 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 72 points (40 GP)
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the dominant team in the NHL right now. There’s no other comparison. They’re in a league of their own.
Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have surged into one of the league’s most prominent teams this season, they’re no match for the Lightning in the regular season standings Atlantic Division race.
The postseason might be another story– too bad we won’t get to see these teams meet up in the Eastern Conference Final with the current playoff format.
For the Boston Bruins, a lackluster 7-7-0 month of December has taken a toll on their outlook. Sure, winning five out of their last seven games is a good sign and all, but missed opportunities and blown chances regardless of the injury status of many of their players this season has brought them back to Earth this season.
Regression in hockey, however, is to be expected– even for teams that outperformed expectations. Last season was just that– exceeded expectations in the regular season for Boston.
Though the Buffalo Sabres have slumped a bit in the last month, the Montreal Canadiens have solidified themselves as a potential spoiler in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If it’s not them, it’s definitely Buffalo for sure.
The race for the Eastern Conference wild card spots should come down to three teams– Buffalo, Montreal and the New York Islanders (unless the Islanders snag a divisional spot in the Metropolitan Divsion– more on that later).
Look, as good as some players on the Florida Panthers are, it’s not happening this year.
And for all the hype regarding the Detroit Red Wings early in the season? Yeah, it’s the same as last year. They’re not doing so hot either.
There’s some good news if you’re an Ottawa Senators fan– wait, they traded their 2019 1st round pick in the draft to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the three-team Matt Duchene trade and didn’t protect it (because they chose to protect 2018’s 1st round pick and offer up 2019’s instead)? Oh. Never mind.
- y-Washington Capitals, 109 points (38 GP)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 103 points (39 GP)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 102 points (39 GP)
- wc1-New York Islanders, 98 points (38 GP)
- New York Rangers, 90 points (38 GP)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 80 points (38 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 80 points (38 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 78 points (38 GP)
As we get closer to “the stretch” things are heating up in the Metropolitan Division, which might not be as full of garbage as once thought earlier in the year.
For now, the Washington Capitals appear to be in a serious “defend the castle” mood. They’re the defending champions and they’re pretty hard to beat.
But the Pittsburgh Penguins are surging. The Pens are on a seven-game winning streak and they’re outscoring their opponents, 28-9, during that span.
What’s necessary to take into account in the divisional spots in the Metropolitan Division is not that the Capitals should lead the way, but rather, that Washington only has a six-point lead in the current forecast over the Penguins– and seven points over the Columbus Blue Jackets (who somehow find themselves in the “top dog” conversation?)– therefore, anything is up for grabs.
If the Islanders don’t scratch and claw their way into a divisional spot, they’ll be a wild card team.
It’s not a completely lost season for the New York Rangers, but it’s not one that’ll end with a playoff berth either.
The same could almost be said for the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, except one’s a little more inconsistent (and worse off), while the other’s just worse.
Sure, the Devils are nowhere to be found this season, but Mackenzie Blackwood could change that outlook next year.
And if Carter Hart‘s ready to take on the full-time role of starting netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers that probably wouldn’t do much for them this season, but it’s promising moving forward.
This year’s Flyers team just goes to show that the problem’s beyond a GM and coaching change, so don’t be surprised to see some roster turnover.
- z-Winnipeg Jets, 107 points (39 GP)
- x-Nashville Predators, 96 points (40 GP)
- x-Colorado Avalanche, 91 points (40 GP)
- wc2-Dallas Stars, 89 points (40 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 87 points (38 GP)
- St. Louis Blues, 81 points (37 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 77 points (41 GP)
The Winnipeg Jets are one of two teams in serious contention for the Western Conference regular season title– and the Nashville Predators won’t even get to raise a banner next season for it.
Nashville’s been on shaky ground for the last month and, as a result, it shows in the latest forecast. Inadequacy ruptures standards or expectations.
Anyway, between Winnipeg and the Calgary Flames one of those teams will be the best in the West at the end of the regular season.
It says something as a whole about the Central Division when the Colorado Avalanche are currently forecasted to slip into a divisional spot in the postseason with 91 points in the standings.
Usually about 95 points puts you within the wild card range and anything 98 or above brings you into serious contention for a divisional berth.
What all of this means is there’s a lot of uncertainty from the Avs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild in terms of where they end up, ultimately.
All three teams have been all over the place– at times– this season.
Fear not, though, they’re nothing like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing makes sense in St. Louis, short of obvious locker room problems and a lack of leadership.
Whereas, in Chicago, the game plan was already reset to “longterm” last season by default (having finished last in the division). Jeremy Colliton‘s job security is safe for now.
There weren’t high expectations coming into the season for the Blackhawks and there weren’t immediate expectations for Colliton in their transition from Joel Quenneville to their 33-year-old head coach.
Essentially, firing Quenneville when they did was an easy way out of having to make things more awkward(?) with a rebuild, but it kind of was anyway given when they did it.
At least they’re not their rivals in St. Louis– let alone the Los Angeles Kings– where expectations were high after reaping some rewards in the offseason.
- y-Calgary Flames, 103 points (40 GP)
- x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (42 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 98 points (41 GP)
- wc1-Anaheim Ducks, 92 points (41 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 83 points (42 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (39 GP)
- Arizona Coyotes, 76 points (39 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 75 points (40 GP)
The Flames are red hot. Can they make 2019 more like 1989 and less like 2004? Does having a goaltender even matter any more?
Luck’s starting to turn in Vegas as the Golden Knights have come alive and look to make a serious claim at potentially knocking Calgary off from the Pacific Division lead– if they can catch them first.
Despite their ups and downs, the San Jose Sharks are still a divisional playoff berth kind of team. Expect them to be out of the playoffs before the Western Conference Final though. Surely Martin Jones‘ below average season has to catch up to him at some point, regardless of scoring power.
With no real competition below them, the Anaheim Ducks are a wild card team that will likely continue to live in the First Round elimination hell until John Gibson single handedly plays every position for the club.
Everyone said Ken Hitchcock would turn around the Edmonton Oilers and was dancing in the streets when his first half-dozen games brought the Oilers back into being relevant.
Well, everyone, except me. Hitchcock’s shtick isn’t fit for the contemporary NHL anymore and his last (and only) Cup win came 20 years ago.
The Arizona Coyotes haven’t panned out and it’s not the numbers that have been lying to them. Dylan Strome, their 3rd overall pick in 2015, didn’t develop as planned– whether through the fault of the Coyotes or not– and they traded him.
That draft was four years ago and Mitch Marner was selected after Strome by the Maple Leafs. Hindsight is 20/20, but still.
If it’s any consolation, Mikko Rantanen was selected by Colorado, 10th overall, so Carolina, New Jersey, Philly, Columbus and San Jose all missed out on one of the current leaders in scoring.
Scouting’s not Arizona’s strong-suit from year-to-year, or rather, asset management as a whole it’s just… …not there.
Finally, Los Angeles, the Grim Reaper’s at the door. Bring out your dead (Cup hopes and dreams for 2019). It’s time to rebuild.
Outlined against a grey-cloudy New Year’s Day sky, the Four Horsemen looked on with the Hockey Gods as the Boston Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2, at Notre Dame Stadium in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
From now on in Bruins lore four names will replace Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Sean Kuraly and Brad Marchand instead as all four contributed the necessary amount of goals to secure the victory in the home of the Fighting Irish– in the first non-football sports event at the stadium in its history.
Kuraly’s game-winning goal came with 9:40 remaining in the third period and gave the Bruins their first lead of the afternoon, 3-2.
Temperature at puck drop was a balmy 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit as Tuukka Rask (10-8-2 record, 2.63 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 20 games played) turned aside 36 out of 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for Boston.
Chicago goalkeeper, Cam Ward (6-7-4, 3.85 GAA, .888 SV% in 18 GP), made 32 saves on 35 shots against for a .914 SV% in the Blackhawks loss.
The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 in their all-time Winter Classic record, while the Blackhawks stumbled to 0-4-0 in the NHL’s New Year’s Day tradition.
Boston also surpassed the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres in the standings with the win, improving to 22-14-4 (48 points) on the season– good enough for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings.
All three teams are in action Thursday night with the Bruins hosting the Calgary Flames, Buffalo hosting the Florida Panthers and Montreal hosting the Vancouver Canucks as the Atlantic Division playoff position battle rages on.
The Blackhawks, in the meantime, fell to 15-21-6 (36 points) on the season and remain 6th in the Central Division– two points ahead of the last place in the division, St. Louis Blues– heading on the road to take on the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Tuesday’s Winter Classic was the 26th regular season outdoor game in league history, 6th outdoor game for Chicago (1-5-0) and 3rd outdoor game for Boston (2-1-0) overall.
Prior to Tuesday’s Winter Classic, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy confirmed Brad Marchand’s return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s action with an upper body injury, as well as Charlie McAvoy‘s status out of the lineup.
McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve last Friday and may return to action in time for Thursday night’s matchup in Boston against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.
With David Backes serving the 2nd game of his thee-game suspension, Cassidy juggled the lines past his usual first line trio of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Cassidy’s second line featured Jake DeBrusk to the left of David Krejci and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson on Krejci’s right side, with Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the third line in addition to Joakim Nordstrom, Colby Cave and Noel Acciari rounding out the fourth line.
Rask got the start in net for his second career appearance (previous, 2016 at Gillette Stadium, 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens) in a Winter Classic game, as well as his 469th career game in a Bruins uniform– surpassing Cecil “Tiny” Thompson in franchise history for most games played as a goaltender.
He was the backup goaltender to Tim Thomas‘ impressive win in net in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park.
The atmosphere was palpable as the game got underway in front of a sellout crowd of 76,126 people in the 2nd most attended Winter Classic with a 1930s flair, as the visiting Bruins obtained the first penalty of the game early in the first period.
Carlo was sent to the box with a holding infraction against Jonathan Toews at 5:52 and Chicago couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.
In the vulnerable moment after the skater advantage, after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, David Kampf helped slide the puck from Dylan Sikura to Brendan Perlini (5) for the 1-0 lead thanks to Perlini’s one-timed shot past Rask as the Bruins defensive coverage was nowhere to be seen.
Krug had his stick lifted as Krejci was turning the puck over and Moore was out of position to the right of the net instead of attempting to thwart any chances through the slot.
Kampf (10) and Sikura (3) had the assists on Perlini’s goal at 8:30 of the opening period.
Thanks to Perlini’s goal, Chicago now has the game’s first goal in eight of their last ten games, despite the outcome of Tuesday afternoon’s matchup.
Artem Anisimov tripped Nordstrom at 12:05 and sent the Bruins on their first power play of the day– yielding a power play goal just 23 seconds on the skater advantage.
Bergeron worked the puck to Pastrnak (24) who then waited for Ward to make the first move as Pastrnak scored from point blank, tying the game, 1-1, at 12:38.
An elated Pastrnak spread his wings as part of his celebration, while Bergeron (20) recorded the only assist on the goal.
Late in the opening frame, Grzelcyk was guilty of high-sticking Chicago’s Andreas Martinsen and served a two-minute minor in the penalty box at 17:03.
The Blackhawks didn’t score on the ensuing power play.
After 20 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 1-1. Boston led in shots on goal (14-12) and takeaways (6-2) after one period, while Chicago held onto an advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (11-10) and face-off win percentage (53-47).
Both teams had five giveaways each entering the first intermission and the Blackhawks were 0/2 on the power play. The B’s were 1/1 after one.
Early in the second period, Kuraly hooked Perlini and gave Chicago their third power play of the day. Once again, the Blackhawks were unable to score as the Bruins killed off Kuraly’s minor.
Thank you to the 76,126 who joined us for today’s #WinterClassic!— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 1, 2019
That’s the largest #Blackhawks home game in franchise history, and the second-largest crowd in @NHL history. pic.twitter.com/RUzOK0QlKP
Gustafsson (14) and Toews (20) had the assists on the goal for Chicago.
Moments later, Gustafsson was penalized for roughing Nordstrom and the Bruins went on the power play for the second time of the afternoon at 17:57.
Less than a minute into the power play, Bergeron (13) walked into the low slot without pressure and sent a backhand shot over Ward to tie the game, 2-2, at 18:48.
Pastrnak (26) and Krug (20) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal.
Just over a minute later– in the closing seconds of the second period– Grzelcyk hooked Patrick Kane at 19:50.
Chicago’s ensuing power play would spill over into the third period as both teams went back into the dressing room for the second intermission, tied, 2-2.
Through 40 minutes of play, Chicago was outshooting Boston, 21-20, and led in takeaways (8-7), hits (21-20), as well as face-off win% (56-44). The B’s led in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (9-7) heading into the third period.
The Blackhawks went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 through two periods.
Getting off on the right foot while resuming play on the power play in the third period was not Chicago’s specialty as Kane caught Miller with a high-stick at 1:03.
Less than a minute later, the 4-on-4 action became 4-on-3 when Anisimov tripped Miller at 1:42 of the third period.
For nine seconds, Boston had a 4-on-3 power play, then an abbreviated 5-on-3, followed by a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 power play. Despite the length and skater strength advantages, the Bruins did not convert on their extra skater opportunities early in the third.
Moments later, Gustav Forsling hooked Kuraly and the B’s couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing power play at 4:56.
Just past the midpoint of the third period, Kuraly (4) got his revenge on the scoreboard as a shot from the point bounced off Wagner and rebounded to No. 52 in black-and-gold before Kuraly tapped in a backhander into the open twine.
The Dublin, Ohio native then did his trademark “Kura-leap” into the glass, having given Boston their first lead of the day, 3-2, at 10:20.
Wagner (3) and Grzelcyk (10) had the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s goal.
The fourth liner now has three goals in his last five games.
With 1:38 remaining in regulation, Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, pulled Ward for an extra attacker. About 36 seconds later, after Bruins defender, Kevan Miller sent the puck off glass and out, Colliton used his timeout to rally his troops for Chicago.
Facing immense pressure on the heels of a big save and coverup from Rask, Cassidy used his timeout for Boston with 39.2 seconds left in regulation.
Finally, after Krejci worked to clear the the defensive zone and was tripped up at the blue line, Marchand (13) took the loose puck down the ice and buried an empty net goal to seal the deal on Boston’s, 4-2, win at 19:27.
Krejci (24) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal.
At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, despite being outshot by the Blackhawks, 38-36. Boston finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (19-13), giveaways (12-10) and hits (30-25), while Chicago finished the day leading in face-off win% (56-44).
Entering Tuesday, the Blackhawks had five power play goals in their last three games. After Tuesday, the Blackhawks went 0/4 on the skater advantage in the Winter Classic and had five power play goals in their last four games.
The B’s finished the afternoon 2/5 on the power play.
Of note, Kuraly’s game-winning goal was his second straight game-winning goal as he had scored the overtime winning goal in Buffalo last Saturday.
And Pastrnak’s 1-1–2 totals in Tuesday’s affair made him the 6th Bruins player since 1984-85 to require 40 or fewer games to reach the 50-point mark in a season (with the most recent being Marc Savard scoring 50 points in 39 games in 2006-07).
Boston has now won five out of their last seven games.
For the 12th time in 26 outdoor games, the team that won overcame a deficit en route to victory.
The Bruins take on the Flames on Thursday back home at TD Garden, then play host to the Sabres on Saturday (Jan. 5th), the Minnesota Wild next Tuesday (Jan. 8th) and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.
Next year’s Winter Classic heads to the Cotton Bowl where the Dallas Stars will play host to an opponent that is to be determined by the Stars, NHL and NBC.