NHL Nick's Net

Bruins strike quick in, 4-2, victory against Panthers

Though Jake DeBrusk had the eventual game-winning goal in the second period, Erik Haula and Taylor Hall stole the show within a six-second span back in the first period as the Boston Bruins beat the Florida Panthers, 4-2, Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Linus Ullmark (25-10-2, 2.51 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 40 games played) made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the win for Boston.

Florida goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (39-7-3, 2.67 goals-against average, .912 save percentage in 54 games played), stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 50-25-5 (105 points) on the season and remain in command of the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, as well as 4th in the Atlantic Division.

The Panthers fell to 57-17-6 (120 points) overall, but sit atop the Eastern Conference, as well as the Atlantic, having clinched the best record this side of the Mississippi River however many days ago now.

Florida is also still in command of the Presidents’ Trophy race with the Colorado Avalanche (56-18-6, 118 points) just two points behind. Both teams have two games remaining on their schedules.

The B’s, meanwhile reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since 2017-18 and finished their regular season series against the Panthers with a 2-1-0 record over three matchups in 2021-22.

Boston went 2-0-1 against Florida in 2019-20, and did not face the Panthers in 2020-21, due to the temporarily realigned divisions amidst the condensed 56-game schedule in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Tuesday, while David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm returned to action after serving as healthy scratches in Sunday night’s, 5-3, victory in Montréal.

Pastrnak was back in his regular role on the second line with Marc McLaughlin coming out of the lineup and Tomáš Nosek reverting back to his fourth line center spot.

Meanwhile, Lindholm suited up alongside Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk went back to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo with Mike Reilly joining McLaughlin, Josh Brown and Anton Blidh on the list of healthy scratches against Florida.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins presented their 2021-22 team awards as McAvoy was named this year’s Eddie Shore Award winner, Pastrnak took home the Elizabeth Dufresne Award honors for 2021-22 and Nick Foligno was named the recipient of the John P. Bucyk Award.

Patrice Bergeron (Third Star), Brad Marchand (Second Star) and Pastrnak (First Star) were named the 98.5 The Sports Hub Three Star Award winners for the season.

Thursday night before the B’s host the Buffalo Sabres, Boston– together with NESN– will present the NESN 7th Player Award as voted on by the fans to this year’s winner.

After Tuesday night’s win, fans in attendance witnessed a modified version of the annual “Shirts Off Our Backs” ceremony with players skating to a team representative, taking off their jersey, signing it and having said representative bring it over to the lucky winner from the crowd.

Early in the opening frame, Haula cross checked Anthony Duclair and presented the Panthers with the first power play of the night at 5:41 of the first period.

Florida didn’t convert on the skater advantage, but they were able to capitalize in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Gustav Forsling (10) flung a shot with eyes towards the net and past Ullmark on the glove side to give the Panthers a, 1-0, lead at 8:00 of the first period.

Forsling’s goal was unassisted.

Late in the opening frame, Hall fed Pastrnak with a lead pass into the attacking zone before Pastrnak drove the rubber biscuit to the net, deked and sent a backhand pass through the slot to Haula as the center was crashing the high slot from the right side.

Haula (18) blasted a one-timer past Bobrovsky and tied the game, 1-1, at 16:18, while Pastrnak (35) and Hall (40) notched the assists.

Six seconds after the ensuing faceoff– which the Panthers won, mind you– Pastrnak intercepted a pass and sent Hall (19) into the offensive zone on a breakaway where No. 71 in black and gold promptly beat Bobrovsky on the glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Pastrnak (36) had the only assist on Hall’s goal at 16:18 of the first period and Haula and Hall combined for a pair of goals in a span of six seconds– marking the second-fastest two-goal span in franchise history, trailing Ray Getliffe and Leroy Goldsworthy’s pair of goals five seconds apart on Jan. 4, 1938, in a, 6-3, win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Garden.

A couple minutes later, a scrum ensued after a stoppage, yielding minor infractions for roughing for Joe Thornton, Nosek, Derek Forbort and Patric Hornqvist.

There was no ensuing skater advantage for either team, however.

About a minute later, though, Carlo slashed Duclair and cut a rut to the penalty box at 19:50.

Florida’s power play didn’t take long before Sam Reinhart (32) sent a puck off the iron before collecting his own rebound and slidding it behind Ullmark while the Bruins goaltender was momentarily confused and searched behind his leg pads for the puck that was now already in the back of the twine.

Claude Giroux (44) and Duclair (26) tallied the assists on Reinhart’s power-play goal as the Panthers tied the game, 2-2, at 19:59 of the opening frame.

Heading into the first intermission, the score was tied, 2-2, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 13-11.

Florida held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), while the Bruins led in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).

Both teams managed 11 hits apiece, while only the Panthers had seen any time on the skater advantage– having gone 1-for-2 on the power play through one period.

Early in the middle frame, Bergeron worked a pass up along the boards to Marchand, who fired a quick shot on goal that generated a rebound for DeBrusk as he crashed the net.

DeBrusk (24) buried the loose puck and gave Boston a, 3-2, lead at 4:59 of the second period as a result.

Marchand (46) and Bergeron (38) were credited with the assists on the tally.

Moments later, Thornton tripped McAvoy and presented the Bruins with their first power play as a result at 11:49 of the second period.

Boston promptly failed to convert on the skater advantage and fell to 0-for-34 on their last 34 power play opportunities.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led the Panthers, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 22-18, in shots on goal, including a, 9-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also led in faceoff win% (59-42), while Florida took control in blocked shots (7-4), takeaways (7-5) and giveaways (7-4).

Both teams had 21 hits aside, while the Panthers were 1-for-2 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Early in the third period, the Panthers tweeted that Anton Lundell (upper body) and Radko Gudas (lower body) would not return to the night’s action due to injuries.

Forsling sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play at 6:46 of the third period and received an automatic delay of game infraction as a result.

Boston, however, failed to convert on the resulting power play and would do so once more when Sam Bennett hooked Lindholm and cut a rut to the box at 8:49.

Despite special teams continuing to fall by the wayside (the Bruins are 0-for-36 on their last 36 power plays), the B’s managed to limit Florida to just three shots on goal in the third period alone.

Panthers interim head coach, Andrew Brunette, pulled his goaltender with 3:24 remaining in the action to muster some semblance of an effort in the offensive zone with a 6-on-5 advantage.

Marchand (32), however, had other ideas and ended a 12-game goalless drought– tallying the 793rd point of his NHL career in the process and tying Wayne Cashman for the seventh-most points in Bruins franchise history as a result on an empty net goal at 16:55.

Bergeron (39) had the only assist and Boston took a, 4-2, lead with only minutes to spare in Tuesday night’s action.

Brunette used his timeout with 1:36 remaining and pulled Bobrovsky for an extra attacker again shortly thereafter, but the B’s kept the Panthers from cutting into the lead and the final horn sounded with a resounding, 4-2, victorious effort for the Bruins.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-21, including a, 16-3, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s also led in blocked shots (12-5) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Florida left TD Garden leading in giveaways (9-5) and hits (30-27).

The Panthers went 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Bruins went 0-for-3 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.

Boston has now won five out of their last six games and is on a three-game winning streak as a result.

The B’s improved to 14-16-3 (8-8-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 16-6-2 (7-3-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 32-1-3 (15-1-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Florida fell to 33-8-2 (14-5-2 on the road) when scoring first, 15-9-2 (7-5-2 on the road) when tied after one and 11-15-1 (4-9-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night in the final home game of the regular season before visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night on the road.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on May 2nd with the First Round schedule yet to be announced.

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Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-14-7, 77 points

1st in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Montréal

Additions: F Michael Amadio, F Michael Bunting, F Kurtis Gabriel, F Joshua Ho-Sang (signed to a PTO), F David Kämpf, F Ondrej Kaše, F Nikita Gusev (signed to a PTO), F Nick Ritchie, F Brett Seney, D Alex Biega, D Carl Dahlström, D Brennan Menell, G Petr Mrázek

Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (KHL), F Nick Foligno (signed with BOS), F Alex Galchenyuk (signed to a PTO with ARI), F Zach Hyman (signed with EDM), F Denis Malgin (NL), F Jared McCann (acquired from PIT, expansion, SEA), F Riley Nash (signed with WPG), F Joe Thornton (signed with FLA), D Zach Bogosian (signed with TBL), G Frederik Andersen (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: D Ben Hutton

Re-signed: F Wayne Simmonds, F Jason Spezza, D Travis Dermott, D Joseph Duszak, G Joseph Woll

Offseason Analysis: Whereas the Maple Leafs loaded up on veterans you may have heard of before last offseason in Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and others, then acquired Nick Foligno and Riley Nash at the trade deadline, this year’s approach for Toronto has gone in a different direction.

This year, Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, is signing guys you might not even know exist, plus a few underdogs.

Michael Bunting and David Kämpf might not be the first players you think of when you think about quality depth down the lineup, but Toronto is out to prove the naysayers wrong this season and show forward progress in the postseason– at the very least, if not win it all.

Though it’s a small sample size, Bunting had 10-3–13 totals in 21 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season. In 26 career NHL games, he has 11-3–14 totals, but again, that was with players not of the same caliber as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander.

Now he finds himself in competition for a top-six role– if he can beat his competition in Nick Ritchie and Ilya Mikheyev among top-nine forwards on the left wing.

Kämpf, meanwhile, can switch out with Jason Spezza at center on the fourth line and amassed 1-11-12 totals with Chicago in 56 games last season.

In 2019-20, Kämpf had 8-8–16 totals in 70 games– three points shy of his career-high 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 63 games in 2018-19 with Chicago.

Playing alongside Simmonds and Spezza should make Toronto’s fourth line more competitive with Kurtis Gabriel rotated in for some added oomph.

Speaking of Ritchie, however, Leafs-centric media might have you thinking he’s the next Matthews, but buyer beware– his 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 56 games with the Boston Bruins last season wasn’t so much of a breakout or a fluke as it was a return to his expectations.

Ritchie played up in Boston’s lineup due to injury and became a unique piece of their power play at one point in that (strangely enough) it worked.

He spent pretty much the first half of last season playing with David Krejci at center and that’s not to say Matthews isn’t as skilled or better than Krejci, but rather a testament to Krejci’s status as a playmaker that elevates all around him.

Luckily for Toronto, Krejci’s gone back to Czechia to play in front of family and friends in his home country, so the Maple Leafs are better matched down the middle against the Bruins.

Yet, Ritchie’s impressive first half of the season regressed to the norm by the second half and down the stretch. He’s no Zach Hyman, but anything over 30 points in the upcoming season is a success for a player that had 9-22-31 totals with the Anaheim Ducks in 60 games in the 2018-19 season.

At the very least, Ritchie’s two-year deal worth $2.500 million per season is manageable. In fact, it’s the most Dubas spent on a skater this offseason.

If you can’t beat them– steal them.

Former Bruin, Ondrej Kaše, also joins Ritchie as a new Leaf and Kaše’s really looking to turn over a new leaf, since he’s coming off of a season in which he played three games and was sidelined by a concussion between Game 2 and Game 55 of a 56-game regular season.

In nine games as a Bruin, Kaše amassed one point, an assist, after he was acquired by Boston for David Backes, Axel Andersson and a 2020 1st round pick on Feb. 21, 2020.

Whether or not Kaše can get back up to speed– let alone continue his career– remains to be seen, but for now he’s signed to a one-year deal worth $1.250 million per season.

The defense is the same, Alexander Kerfoot did not get selected by the Seattle Kraken at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and Toronto essentially traded goaltenders with the Carolina Hurricanes without actually making a trade.

No, David Ayres isn’t taking his talents to Scotiabank Arena in a Leafs uniform, but Petr Mrázek is on a three-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

At 29-years-old, he’s the same age as Jack Campbell and signed through 2023-24, whereas Campbell is a pending-unrestricted free agent as of July 2022.

Mrázek was limited to 12 games due to injury last season and went 6-2-3 with three shutouts, a 2.06 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in that span.

It was his best performance in three seasons with the Canes, though in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, he played in 40 games, so was last season just a testament to Carolina’s defense or….

Nevertheless, when the Hurricanes faced the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Second Round, Mrázek was called upon to replace Alex Nedeljkovic for a pair of starts.

Though he extended Carolina’s postseason to a Game 5 against Tampa in the Second Round, Mrázek went 1-1 with a 3.90 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage.

So it appears as though there’ll be healthy competition for the starting job– at least come time for the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs as it wasn’t entirely Campbell’s fault the Leafs blew a 3-1 series lead against a low-scoring Montréal Canadiens offense.

Anyway, Frederik Andersen left for the Hurricanes– the team that originally drafted him in the 7th round (187th overall) in 2010, before he re-entered the draft and was selected in the 3rd round (87th overall) by Anaheim in 2012.

Before we grade the Toronto’s offseason, let’s review a pair of trades that Dubas made this summer.

First, on July 17th, he dealt Filip Hallander and a 2023 7th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jared McCann, who was then left exposed for the Kraken to take over Kerfoot. Whoops.

Then on July 26th, James (J.D.) Greenway was traded to Boston for future considerations.

Maybe that’s all it takes to get out of the First Round for the first time since 2004.

Offseason Grade: B-

With about $80,200 in cap space, the Maple Leafs aren’t doing themselves any favors if they’re looking to add without subtracting around the 2022 trade deadline.

That said, Dubas would likely have to get creative if things are dire anyway, since the runway is getting shorter and shorter year-by-year.

Nylander is not the problem when a trio of players are getting paid more than him against the cap and producing… …not as much.

Sometimes points per dollar in the playoffs should be accounted for more than points per game in the regular season or something like that– not looking to stir up any more arguments than there already are on Leafs Twitter.

Though it may not look it on paper like last season, Toronto has made improvements where it counts and trimmed the excess where it dragged them down in crucial moments, but if all else fails yet again this season– they still need to resolve a true “goaltender of the future” problem, tweak the defense and make some big, bold, moves.

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Florida Panthers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 37-14-5, 79 points

2nd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Tampa

Additions: F Zac Dalpe, F Maxim Mamin, F Sam Reinhart (acquired from BUF), F Joe Thornton, G Christopher Gibson

Subtractions: F Alexander Wennberg (signed with SEA), D Vladislav Kolyachonok (traded to ARI), D Anton Strålman (traded to ARI), D Keith Yandle (buyout), G Chris Driedger (expansion, SEA), G Devon Levi (traded to BUF)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Sam Bennett, F Anthony Duclair, F Juho Lammikko, F Carter Verhaeghe, D Lucas Carlsson, D Kevin Connauton, D Gustav Forsling, D Noah Juulsen, D Brandon Montour, D Chase Priskie, G Sam Montembeault

Offseason Analysis: The Panthers made the playoffs in 1996 and 1997, then spent quite a few years in-between without playing a postseason game in back-to-back years before making the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier (losing in four games in a best-of-five series to the New York Islanders) and taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 First Round.

Florida hasn’t won a playoff series since they eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the 1996 Eastern Conference Final.

Unlike the time between then and now, the Panthers are legitimately on the rise.

Head coach, Joel Quenneville, has a tendency to keep a team’s composure together and make them competitive from year-to-year on the ice, but General Manager, Bill Zito, has the tough job of ensuring the chemistry works off the ice and under the salary cap too.

Luckily for him, all he had to do this summer was stay the course.

Though they lost in six games to the Lightning in the first ever “Battle of Florida”, the Panthers got a taste of what makes champions, champions, and gained valuable experience in the postseason department.

Zito bought out Keith Yandle, brought in Joe Thornton for the bottom-six via free agency, acquired Sam Reinhart (and signed him to an extension) and traded Anton Strålman to the Arizona Coyotes in his biggest moves of the summer.

The emergence of Mackenzie Weegar and the return of Aaron Ekblad pre-empted a spot in the top-six for Yandle with Brandon Montour, Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas garnering more time under Quenneville’s masterplan.

Meanwhile, Strålman’s departure opened up $5.500 million in cap space for Zito to spend elsewhere– like on Reinhart’s three-year extension worth $6.500 million per season, for example.

Reinhart was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 2022 1st round pick and goalie, Devon Levi, on July 24th– two days before Zito flipped Strålman with Vladislav Kolyachonok to the Coyotes for a 2023 7th round pick.

Despite a horrible 2020-21 season for the Sabres as a whole, Reinhart chipped in 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 54 games as one of the bright spots in an otherwise dreary year.

One season in Toronto was enough for Thornton as his Maple Leafs tenure produced 5-15–20 totals in 44 games. At least now that he’s in Florida it’ll be 1) warmer for surfing year-round and 2) better overall.

With about $1.330 million in cap space, Zito has room to keep adding the missing link (if there even is one) by the time the trade deadline rolls around.

Offseason Grade: A-

Hockey is weird in that once a team starts showing signs of forward progress sometimes they go off the deep end and make tons of moves that make no sense from season-to-season.

Zito is sharp enough to stay the course and add– bolstering his top-six forward group with Reinhart and providing Florida with the best chance to succeed for the first time this millennium.

That said, there’s always the Sergei Bobrovsky factor, but Spencer Knight should help ease Bobrovsky’s workload if he isn’t already the starting goaltender to begin with for the Panthers in 2021-22.

Chris Driedger leaving for the Seattle Kraken was inevitable, but Florida was wise enough to stockpile goaltending depth in Sam Montembeault and Knight over the last couple of seasons.

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Habs upset Leafs in Game 7: Three reasons why

For just the second time in the 104-year-old history of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, the club squared off with the Montréal Canadiens in a Game 7.

Back in 1964, the Leafs came out on top, 3-1, at the Montreal Forum. Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, history repeated itself. Almost.

Though the final score was the same, 3-1, it was Montréal that found a way to steal the victory on the road this time around– becoming just the second team in National Hockey League history to win a Game 7 in Toronto, joining the 1993 Los Angeles Kings in doing so.

Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring in the second period for the Habs before Corey Perry’s power-play goal went on to become eventual game-winner later in that same middle frame.

Tyler Toffoli completed the run of three unanswered goals for the Canadiens late in the third period with an empty net goal before William Nylander ended Carey Price’s bid for a shutout about a minute later.

But enough about the game itself, since it’s been a couple of days now– let’s get into some reasons why Montréal won, why Toronto didn’t and where the Leafs can go from here, if it’s even possible to still win with this core.

Why Montréal won

The Price is right: Carey Price managed to amass a 2.24 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in the seven games against the Maple Leafs, which is a pleasant surprise given Price’s bleaker regular season numbers in an injury plagued 2020-21 season (2.64 goals-against average, .901 save percentage in 25 games).

Price’s career 2.50 goals-against average in 707 games from the 2007-08 season through 2020-21 is better than Patrick Roy’s 2.78 goals-against average in Roy’s 551-game tenure with the Habs, fun fact.

Consistency: Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens in scoring in the regular season with 28-16–44 totals in 52 games, while Nick Suzuki was third in team scoring with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 56 games.

Corey Perry chipped in 9-12–21 totals in 49 games and even Jesperi Kotkaniemi, despite a slow start, managed to amass 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 56 games.

In the First Round, Toffoli led the Habs with 2-3–5 totals in seven games, Perry, Suzuki, Joel Armia and Eric Staal managed to score four points and Kotkaniemi had three goals in six games after serving as a healthy scratch in Game 1.

The Habs played their game– the long game– throughout the series, built on wearing down their opponent on the forecheck in the attacking zone and really just keeping things as simple as they come.

It doesn’t always work, but in this case it did! Good for them.

Seconds: At one point, Montréal had a minus-seven goal differential in the second period alone in the series. That was entering Game 5, when the Maple Leafs held a 3-1 series lead.

They brought it up to a minus-five by the end of the series, which, albeit still leaves more to be desired from their effort in the middle frame as they approach the Second Round against the Winnipeg Jets, but goes to show that in low-scoring affairs, goal scoring is paramount in a 60-minute effort.

Kind of obvious, right?

The Canadiens scored more than three goals in a game just once in the series when they won, 4-3, in overtime in Game 5.

Why Toronto lost and what now

Lineups: Losing John Tavares in Game 1 limited Maple Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe, in his options when it came time to try something new to get anything going, but it still should’ve been explored.

How many times did Toronto go back to the well with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner on the same line?

Between the two players, the Leafs had 1-8–9 totals combined.

Assists are nice because it means that at least somebody scored for your team, but if given the chance, Toronto probably should’ve bumped Marner down to the second line while giving William Nylander more of a chance to shine on the first line– at least for a period, if not just to spark Matthews’ play at 5-on-5.

If anything, Tavares’ injury revealed a desperate need for the Maple Leafs in the offseason– a third line center.

Marner musings: Alright, before everyone starts arguing over whether or not to trade the best playmaker in Toronto not named “Joe Thornton”, let’s assess the feasibility of moving a guy with a $10.903 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season in a flat cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Marner was on pace for about 98 points in an 82-game season, had 2020-21 not been condensed into a 56-game schedule.

That said, he still managed to equal his scoring output from last season in fewer games– 67 points in 55 games this season, 67 points in 59 games last season while battling injury.

For the third time in his career, Marner had at least 20 goals in a season and he has 358 points (103 goals, 255 assists) in 355 career games.

If Matthews (the goal scorer) and Marner (the playmaker) are to Toronto what Patrick Kane (a goal scorer) and Jonathan Toews (a playmaker) are to the Chicago Blackhawks, then Marner is doing pretty fine.

Toews had 144-180–324 totals in his first five seasons (361 games).

But– and it’s a pretty big one– Kane and Toews won the Stanley Cup twice before signing matching extensions worth $10.500 million per season through 2022-23, that, at the time of their signing on July 9, 2014, didn’t go into effect until the 2015-16 season, so… after the duo ended up winning their third Cup ring with Chicago in 2015.

Sure, Chicago hasn’t won a playoff series since then, but they did end their longest drought before (over)paying their core– and at the very least, they made sure to commit to no more than two players at that rate.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, has spent about half of his salary cap on Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander alone.

Trading Marner would probably mean parting with a high value draft pick or prospect if there’s no salary retained in the transaction and moving Matthews or Tavares wouldn’t make sense because Toronto needs a first and second line center to remain central to their core.

If Dubas is confident in Marner being able to find that elusive second-gear in the postseason– along with Matthews– then the team’s in the odd position of moving someone like Nylander, who’s shown an ability to produce in the second-half of the season, as well as the playoffs, instead.

The intangibles: Yes, having the veteran leadership of guys like Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and more is good in keeping the day-to-day vibe nice and relaxed as a long, grueling, regular season goes on, but did anyone do their research on past postseason performances or… …lack thereof from guys like Spezza, Thornton, Nick Folingo and others?

Foligno was hampered by injury, which gets somewhat of a pass, Spezza finished tied for third in team scoring in the playoffs with three goals and two assists (five points) in seven games from the fourth line, while Thornton managed to score a goal in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alex Galchenyuk is not a long term solution, but a quick bandage for larger problems.

Wayne Simmonds’ offensive production was almost nowhere to be found and if you’re using Simmonds solely for the energy that he can provide, then adding Foligno at the cost spent in April does not merit enough of a return on investment for one, if not both, of essentially the same player.

Especially when you’re left trying to rotate Simmonds, Foligno, Thornton, Spezza and guys like, Riley Nash (another deadline acquisition), on the fourth line on any given night, while trying to balance some youth and speed in ongoing projects in Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev.

And that’s not to mention wherever Alexander Kerfoot fits in on all of this when Tavares isn’t injured.

Sometimes it’s not about buying in bulk, but buying the right component at a discount or on the clearance rack to solidify, well, mostly that third line.

It’s fine to have three, four or five guys that are expendable and being rotated on the fourth line throughout the season, then narrowed down for situations in the postseason.

It’s not necessarily recommended to have seven, eight or nine players vying for the same roles in the bottom-six– with tryouts lingering into the playoffs and results mixed as though the team had two fourth lines instead.

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Habs steal Game 1 on the road, 2-1, Leafs lose Tavares to injury

Paul Byron scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as the Montréal Canadiens beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1, on the road at Scotiabank Arena in Game 1 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup on Thursday.

Maple Leafs captain, John Tavares, suffered an upper body injury and was hospitalized as a result of a freak accident about midway into the first period.

Ben Chiarot hit Tavares in the open ice as Tavares was entering the neutral zone, before Corey Perry inadvertently clipped Tavares in the head as the Leafs forward’s body bounced along the ice like a rag-doll from Chiarot’s initial check.

Perry had leapt to avoid making a major collision with Tavares, but everything had happened so quickly that Perry might have made things worse– if not just as bad as they would’ve been had he not attempted to bail out with nowhere else to go at the last second.

Toronto’s medical staff assisted Tavares– being deliberate and careful with every move due to the immediate uncertainty of the severity of Tavares’ injury.

The Leafs captain tried to get up and nearly fell backwards head first onto the ice if it weren’t for Toronto’s trainers grabbing hold of their injured player.

As Tavares was being placed on the stretcher, visibly shaken shots of Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, Joe Thornton, other teammates and the Canadiens bench were interspersed on the national broadcast with too many cuts of the hit and subsequent second impact on replay.

Tavares gave his teammates a thumbs up as he was stretchered off the ice and was “communicating well,” at a local hospital according to Maple Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe, after the game. His initial tests were clear.

Perry and Tavares are good friends and were teammates on Canada’s national team several times over their careers and the Habs forward wished Tavares well with a pat as Tavares was stretchered off the ice and thoughtful remarks after the game for the best possible outcome.

Though Nick Foligno and Perry fought after the ensuing faceoff, it cannot be stressed enough that Perry had no malicious intent in the unfortunate circumstance that led to Tavares’ injury.

Known as a power forward for much of his career, Perry’s offensive talent has waned over the years as last season’s Dallas Stars and this year’s Canadiens have relied on his presence more so for his big frame and grit.

He was most recently suspended five games for elbowing Nashville Predators defender, Ryan Ellis, in the 2020 Winter Classic as a member of the Stars and received a major, as well as a match penalty as a result of the injury to Ellis.

Unlike the supplemental discipline that awaits Colorado Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, on Wednesday night, Perry’s knee to Tavares’ head on Thursday was not a deliberate act to injure.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (1-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .972 save percentage in one game played), made 35 saves on 36 shots against in the win for Montréal.

Jack Campbell (0-1, 2.07 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in one game played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss for Toronto.

For the first time since 1979, the Maple Leafs and Canadiens are facing each other in a postseason series. Montréal swept Toronto in four games in the 1979 Quarterfinals, while the last time the Leafs beat the Habs in a playoff series was back in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final (Toronto won in six games).

Riley Nash made his Leafs debut on Thursday after being acquired ahead of the trade deadline and immediately being placed on the long term injured reserve.

After Tavares’ injury, Foligno and Perry dropped the gloves at 10:30 of the first period and received five-minute major penalties for fighting.

Almost two minutes later, Josh Anderson (1) had a breakaway and fired a wrist shot over Campbell’s glove to give the Canadiens a, 1-0, lead at 12:08 of the first period.

Eric Staal (1) and Tyler Toffoli (1) tallied the assists on Anderson’s goal.

Late in the opening frame, Toffoli hooked Zach Hyman and presented the Maple Leafs with the night’s first power play at 18:43.

Toronto did not capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.

Entering the first intermission, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trialing the Maple Leafs, 14-13, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), hits (28-13) and faceoff win percentage (72-28), while Toronto led in takeaways (3-1).

Both teams had four giveaways each, while only the Leafs had encountered a skater advantage and were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Montréal got a taste of a power play at 1:25 of the second period when Justin Holl sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game minor penalty as a result.

The Habs weren’t able to convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Morgan Rielly sent a shot on Price that generated a rebound whereby William Nylander (1) collected the garbage from aside the crease– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Rielly (1) and Holl (1) had the assists on Nylander’s goal at 4:28 of the second period.

A couple minutes later, Chiarot was assessed a roughing minor at 6:43, but the Canadiens managed to kill off the penalty without issue.

Late in the period, Montréal got another chance on the power play at 14:35, after Jason Spezza hooked Nick Suzuki, but the Habs couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action, the score was tied, 1-1, despite Toronto leading in shots on goal, 22-20, including an, 8-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal led in blocked shots (9-5), hits (44-19) and faceoff win% (59-42), while Toronto held the advantage in takeaways (9-5) and giveaways (11-8) entering the second intermission.

Both teams were 0/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Marner sent an errant puck over the glass at 2:48 and presented Montréal with another power play at 2:48 of the third period.

Nylander did the same at 7:15.

Both times the Canadiens failed to score on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Tomas Tatar caught Jake Muzzin with a high stick at 11:29 of the third period, leading to a power play for the Leafs.

About a minute later, however, the Habs capitalized on the penalty kill as Joel Armia poked the puck off of Thornton’s blade, leading to a quick breakout for Byron that turned into a short breakaway for the Habs forward.

Byron (1) was tripped before chipping the puck over Campbell’s glove side– negating a delayed penalty– and giving the Canadiens a, 2-1, lead at 12:44 of the third period.

Armia (1) had the only assist on the goal that would go on to be the game-winner as the clock eventually ticked down to zero.

Spezza tripped Shea Weber at 13:54, but the Habs failed to convert on the ensuing power play.

Phillip Danault tripped Hyman at 16:42, but the Leafs couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Keefe pulled Campbell for an extra attacker with about 2:15 remaining in the game, but it was to no avail– even after Toronto drew up plans to tie the game after a stoppage in play led to Keefe using his timeout with 1:51 remaining in regulation.

At the final horn, the Canadiens had won, 2-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead.

The Maple Leafs finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-30, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Habs wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (13-10), hits (55-27) and faceoff win% (56-44), while both teams had 16 giveaways each.

Montréal finished the night 0/5 on the power play and Toronto went 0/4 on the skater advantage in Game 1.

Montréal has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead on the road Saturday night in Toronto.

Puck drop at Scotiabank Arena is expected to be a little after 7 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to CNBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.


What to expect from the San Jose Sharks this season

The offseason has been long, very long for Sharks fans. But, the wait is finally over… almost! The last time the Sharks played a game was on March 11th, a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. But, that’s a thing of the past. Let’s get ready for this season, shall we?

The Sharks made some moves this offseason trading for goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild for a fifth round pick in the 2022 draft. They also acquired forward Ryan Donato in a seprate trade with the Wild, giving away a third round pick.

In free agency, the Sharks were able to resign Kevin Labanc and bring back Patrick Marleau once again. The other notable free agents that signed with San Jose are Stefan Noesen and Matt Nieto. In simple terms, the Sharks offseason was uneventful for the most part.

The Sharks have a tough opening stretch to start off the season. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in the Santa Clara County, there is chance the Sharks will have to play their home games elsewhere. With that being said, the season starts in Arizona on January 14th. This is the first of an eight game road trip to start the season. Yes, San Jose opens up with an eight game road trip.

The first home game isn’t until February 1st against the Vegas Golden Knights. Again, there’s a chance that this game isn’t even played in San Jose. So what are the options for the Sharks this year for where they can play their home games?

The Sharks could make the trip to Los Angeles and share the ice with the Kings, or make a trip down to Arizona (where they held training camp) and share the ice with the Coyotes.

So what can fans expect on the ice this year? Well, fans sadly will no longer see Joe Thornton. Thornton took his talents to Toronto in the offseason hoping to win one more championship before he retires. Good luck with that Joe!

As for everyone else, it’ll be a rough start. It’s been awhile since the players have played a meaningful game. But, expect to see leadership from Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. With Thornton gone, there is a giant hole to fill in leadership. Don’t expect Logan Couture to take on that responsibility. If anything, it’ll be both Burns and Karlsson.

Last season before the season got cut short, Burns had 12 goals and 33 assists. Don’t expect to see 33 assists. Expect more. Other than being a great defenceman, he sets up goals. It’s what he does best. Burns needs to step up in a leadership role this year, now that big Joe is gone.

Then, there’s Karlsson, the other gem of the Sharks defencemen. His only issue is that he he cannot stay healthy. However, in an injury riddled shortened season, Karlsson managed to score six goals and have 34 assists. Just like Burns, expect Karlsson’s numbers to go up this season.

A dark horse player everyone should keep their eyes on this year is Tomas Hertl. Hertl only played in 48 games last year netting 16 goals and 20 assists. Expect him to take his game to the next level this year. Hertl is a young explosive player who can score. Last season’s seasons numbers don’t do him justice. It shouldn’t be surpirisng if at the end of the season, Hertl is the team leader in goals this year.

So, with all of that being said, it will be an up and down year for San Jose. But, fans get excited, the Sharks are finally back. Who knows, maybe with the new format for this year, the Sharks could be this year’s surprise team. Welcome back Sharks, the fans missed you.


DTFR Podcast #214- 2020-21 Season Preview: West Division

Zdeno Chara signed with the Washington Capitals, the AHL announced plans for the 2020-21 season, the NHL divisions are sponsored for 2020-21, what’s going on with the New York Islanders, Pierre-Luc Dubois wants out (maybe) and we preview the West Division for the 2020-21 season.

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Free Agency NHL

The Sharks Actually Did Something

Yes you read that right. The San Jose Sharks actually did something on the first day of free agency. No it’s not one of the top free agents in this year’s class. But it’s someone they wanted back. No, not Joe Thornton. It’s Stefan Noesen! He has re-signed with the Sharks on a one year deal worth $925,000.

In his first season in San Jose, Noesen scored six goals, with two assists for eight points in 34 games played. Not the flashiest kind of stats, but he did show positive flashes before the season shutdown last year.

Sharks fans, just be happy that something happened today. With the trades of Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Donato, there was a real chance San Jose was going to be quiet this weekend. But alas, maybe Doug Wilson has a plan and is not done yet this weekend.


DTFR Podcast #200- 200th Episode Celebration

To mark 200 episodes of the DTFR Podcast, Nick and Colby talk about the origin story of DTFR, give podcast advice and share some of their favorite memories from the show or otherwise from the last six years of Down the Frozen River. Also, Lindy Ruff is the new head coach of the New Jersey Devils, more Florida Panthers talk and extended CBA musings.

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DTFR Podcast #183- Loyalty Loyalty Loyalty

Nick talks a little about why Joe Thornton didn’t get traded and the moves the Boston Bruins made leading to the trade deadline.

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