Tag Archives: John Tavares

DTFR Podcast #144- (The Other) Auston City Limits

Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.

The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.

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DTFR Podcast #143- Overage Fees

The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped familiar assets, while the Toronto Maple Leafs added a defender in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Red Kelly’s number is going to be retired (again– this time by the Detroit Red Wings) and we now know the opponents in the 2020 Winter Classic and 2020 Stadium Series games.

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DTFR Podcast #141- The Midseasonies

Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.

Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot

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Second period comeback, defense, solidifies B’s, 3-2, victory in Toronto

After defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night, the Boston Bruins are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games– including five straight wins from their starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask.

David Pastrnak scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second period as Sean Kuraly had his first career three-point night with a goal and two assists in his fourth career multi-point game.

Rask (13-8-2 record, 2.41 goals against average, .921 save percentage in 23 games played) made 30 saves on 32 shots against for a .921 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Michael Hutchinson (3-4-2, 3.27 GAA, .887 SV% in nine GP) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced for an .897 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 16-3-2 when scoring first this season and beat Toronto in their season series, 3-1-0, outscoring the Leafs, 16-10, in that span. Boston also improved to 26-14-4 (56 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.

The Maple Leafs fell to 28-14-2 (58 points) so far this season and continue to hold a two-point lead over the Bruins for 2nd place in the Atlantic.

With Charlie McAvoy back in the lineup for the first time since missing the last seven games due to a lower body injury, Bruce Cassidy‘s only lineup change was to his defensive corps.

McAvoy suited up alongside Zdeno Chara on the first pairing, with Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo shutting down the remainder of the top-four defensemen.

Matt Grzelcyk was paired on the third defensive pairing with Kevan Miller as Cassidy made John Moore a healthy scratch. This decision would prove to be helpful upon what was an otherwise surefire goal, only to be blocked by Grzelcyk, later in the game.

Cassidy made no other changes and went with Rask in goal as opposed to Jaroslav Halak as Rask has won back his starting job for the time being.

Joining Moore in the press box on the shortlist of healthy scratches were Colby Cave and Steven Kampfer, while Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remained in Boston for the duration of this short road trip.

Late in the first period, David Krejci (9) blasted a shot past Hutchinson to open up the game’s scoring, 1-0, for Boston at 18:21.

Kuraly (7) and Zdeno Chara (2) had the assists on Krejci’s goal.

About a minute later, John Tavares was sent to the penalty box for hooking Pastrnak at 19:38, but the Bruins couldn’t convert on the power play heading into the first intermission– even though it would overlap the start of the second period.

After one period, Boston held onto a, 1-0, lead, despite being outshot by Toronto, 15-9. The Maple Leafs dominated possession in the first period, leading in takeaways (2-0), giveaways (8-4) and face-off win percentage (59-41), as well.

The B’s led in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (13-10) entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Andreas Johnsson was guilty of boarding Carlo at 2:40, resulting in Boston’s second power play of the night. The Bruins couldn’t muster anything on the power play, as momentum started to swing more in Toronto’s favor.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Johnsson (10) redeemed himself with a goal that took an odd bounce from up high, down low and through Rask’s five-hole to tie the game, 1-1, at 7:37 of the second period.

Kasperi Kapanen (12) and Auston Matthews (20) had the assists on Johnsson’s goal.

Less than a minute later, Miller cut a rut to the sin bin for holding William Nylander at 8:59 and the Maple Leafs went on their first power play of the night.

It only took about 30 seconds for Mitch Marner (17) to unload his cannon of a shot on Rask and beat the Bruins netminder cleanly, giving Toronto its first lead of the night.

Marner’s goal was assisted by Nazem Kadri (17) and Kapanen (13) at 9:30 of the middle frame and was the first lead change in the season series between Boston and Toronto this season.

In all three games entering Saturday night, the team that scored first went on to win the game.

The Bruins made sure to make that stat ring true, rendering it four-for-four with their comeback late in the second frame.

Late in the period, Kuraly (5) finagled his way to the low slot as Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner freed the puck to the eventual Boston goal scorer that made it, 2-2, at 14:47.

Wagner (4) and Acciari (3) were credited with the assists.

Kuraly now has four goals in his last 10 games (he had four goals in 84 games prior to this recent stretch).

Less than two minutes later, Patrice Bergeron bungled a clearing attempt and sent the puck clear over the glass, resulting in an automatic delay of game penalty and putting the Maple Leafs back on the power play for the second time of the night.

This time, Rask and his penalty killing unit in front of him stood tall and killed off Bergeron’s minor.

As the seconds were ticking off the clock in the second period, Kuraly worked the puck to Pastrnak in the low slot after capitalizing on a weak pass attempt from one Maple Leafs skater to another.

Pastrnak (26) buried the puck behind Hutchinson at 19:45 and gave the B’s the lead, 3-2.

Kuraly (8) had the only assist on the goal and earned himself a three-point night.

With the goal, Pastrnak tied Barry Pederson for the most career goals (with 120) in Bruins franchise history by a player before their 23rd birthday.

Heading into the second intermission, Boston led Toronto, 3-2, on the scoreboard, despite the Maple Leafs holding an advantage in shots on goal (26-19).

The Leafs also led in takeaways (5-1), giveaways (14-9) and face-off win% (55-46) prior to the start of the third period, while the B’s led in blocked shots (11-9) and hits (23-19).

Both teams would stay out of the box for the final period of play, resulting in Toronto’s final power play stat line reading as 1/2 and Boston’s skater advantage going 0/2.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, pulled his netminder with about two minutes remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but unlike his own skaters on the ice, the Bruins brass played tight defense in their own zone.

The final horn sounded and Boston had sealed the deal on a 3-2 victory, despite trailing in shots on goal (32-29), giveaways (18-12) and face-off win% (52-48).

The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-11) and hits (29-28) with Rask picking up his fifth straight win and 251st career win with Boston as both teams played the final 5:56 of regulation without a stoppage.

Rask is one win shy of tying Tiny Thompson‘s franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in Bruins history with 252. Frank Brimsek, the goaltender who upended Thompson from his job with Boston in the 1938-39 season, is third on the list with 230 career wins as a Bruin.

The Bruins return home to take on the Montreal Canadiens Monday night at TD Garden before traveling to Philadelphia for a Wednesday night matchup with the Flyers in the first of back-to-back game days.

Boston hosts the St. Louis Blues on Thursday before facing the New York Rangers next Saturday in the B’s final game before the All-Star break.

DTFR Podcast #139- They Ran Out Of Beer!

A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.

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*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.

Kuraly leaps Bruins over Blackhawks, 4-2, in 2019 Winter Classic

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.

Once again, Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo were paired together on the blue line, with Torey Krug playing alongside John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk with Kevan Miller.

With Backes suspended and McAvoy out of the lineup due to a lower body injury, only Ryan Donato and Steven Kampfer took in the game from Notre Dame’s press box as Boston’s healthy scratches.

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.

Pastrnak now has 11 power play goals this season and remains in the top-five in goals scored this season (tied with Jeff Skinner at 24 and trailing Alex Ovechkin, 29, and John Tavares, 26).

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.

Midway through the period, Erik Gustafsson fired a shot from the point that was redirected by Dominik Kahun (5) past Rask and into the net, giving the ‘Hawks a 2-1 lead at 11:24 of the middle frame.

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.

DTFR Podcast #138- 2019’s Already Going Down

Nick and Connor recap and react to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship so far, review the latest suspensions and injuries, look to the future of the NHL in 2019 and beyond, discuss 2019 All-Star Game captains, Jake Guentzel’s new extension and Jim Lites’ quotes on Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #137- His Hart Grew Three Sizes That Day

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.

Merry Gritmas.

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*Editor’s note: Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Games and Los Angeles is hosting the 2028 Summer Games. The 2026 and 2030 Winter Games host cities have yet to be selected.

Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

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.

Game of the week: December 10-16

With the holiday season and the league’s December 19 roster freeze on the horizon, the NHL schedule rages on with 51 fixtures scheduled for this week.

NHL SCHEDULE: December 10-16
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 10
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Penguins New York Islanders 2-1 (SO)
7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Detroit 1-3
7:30 p.m. New York Rangers Tampa Bay Lightning 3-6
10:30 p.m. New Jersey San Jose 2-5
Tuesday, December 11
7 p.m. Arizona Boston 3-4
7 p.m. Los Angeles Buffalo 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Toronto Carolina 4-1
7 p.m. Vancouver Columbus 3-2
7:30 p.m. Detroit Washington 2-6
8 p.m. Florida St. Louis 3-4
8 p.m. Ottawa Nashville 1-3
8 p.m. Montréal Minnesota 1-7
8 p.m. Chicago Winnipeg 3-6
9 p.m. Edmonton Colorado 6-4
Wednesday, December 12
7 p.m. Vegas Golden Knights New York Islanders 3-2
8 p.m. Pittsburgh Chicago 3-6
8:30 p.m. Philadelphia Calgary 5-6 (OT)
10 p.m. Dallas Anaheim 3-6
Thursday, December 13
7 p.m. Arizona Buffalo  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Columbus  
7:30 p.m. Carolina Montréal RDS, TSN2
7:30 p.m. Toronto Tampa Bay TVAS
8 p.m. Vancouver Nashville  
8 p.m. Florida Minnesota  
8 p.m. Edmonton Winnipeg  
10:30 p.m. Dallas San Jose SN1
Friday, December 14
7 p.m. Vegas New Jersey  
7 p.m. Arizona Coyotes New York Rangers  
7 p.m. Boston Pittsburgh TVAS
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Detroit RDS
7:30 p.m. Washington Carolina  
8 p.m. Colorado St. Louis  
8:30 p.m. Winnipeg Chicago  
9 p.m. Philadelphia Edmonton  
Saturday, December 15
1:30 p.m. Calgary Minnesota  
7 p.m. Ottawa Montréal SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Toronto Florida CBC, CITY, SN1
7 p.m. Detroit Red Wings New York Islanders  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Pittsburgh NHLN
7 p.m. Buffalo Washington  
7 p.m. Anaheim Columbus  
8 p.m. New Jersey Nashville  
9 p.m. Dallas Colorado  
10 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers Vancouver Canucks CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, December 16
12:30 p.m. Vegas Golden Knights New York Rangers NHLN, SN
1 p.m. Arizona Carolina  
3 p.m. Calgary St. Louis  
5 p.m. Buffalo Boston NHLN
7 p.m. San Jose Chicago  
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Winnipeg SN, TVAS
10 p.m. Edmonton Vancouver  

In terms of rivalries, playoff rematches and player returns, this is a quiet week in the NHL. Only four rivalries will be contested – highlighted by the Penguins visiting the Islanders on Monday and Edmonton at Winnipeg tonight.

Speaking of the Islanders, they’re heading back to Nassau Coliseum for two of their three games this week. The previously mentioned tilt against fellow Metropolitan Division side Pittsburgh will take place in the old barn, as will Saturday’s matchup against Detroit.

Finally, the weekly homecoming list is headlined by D Mike Reilly making his first trip back to St. Paul on Tuesday since being traded to Montréal on February 26.

Considering Reilly is a third-pair defenseman, that might be a liberal use of the word “headlined.”

Instead, I’m immensely more interested in tonight’s game from Florida that features the top two teams from the Atlantic Division.

Ontario’s (wait, you’re telling me there’s another team in the same province?) beloved Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 21-9-1 record good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

News flash for those that have been living under a rock for the last six months: yeah, the Leafs are legit.

The Maple Leafs boast a solid 6-1-1 record in their past eight showings, including impressive victories over the Bruins and Sharks – not to mention a thrilling overtime win in Buffalo on December 4.

With the defense blatantly struggling during this run (Toronto has allowed 36.38 shots against per game since November 24, the second-worst mark in the NHL behind Ottawa’s 37.22 in that time), the offense has taken full command of Head Coach Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs’ game plan.

On the season, Toronto averages 3.65 goals per game – the third-highest mark in the league. Most teams would be happy maintaining that success, but the Leafs have found an even higher gear of late, averaging 4.38 goals per game in their last eight showings.

Leading that charge has been exactly who you’d expect: C Auston Matthews. While his 6-5-11 totals since November 24 technically trail F Mitch Marner’s 13 assists (Marner, of course, ranks second in the league with 35 assists and is tied with Tampa’s F Brayden Point for sixth in points with 41 apiece), it must be remembered that Matthews has only played six games in that time as compared to his teammate’s eight.

Joining Marner and Matthews in averaging a point per game or better during this eight-game run are W Andreas Johnsson (5-5-10 totals) and D Jake Gardiner (1-7-8). And, don’t forget about C John Tavares, whose 19 goals are tied for ninth-most in the NHL with Colorado’s LW Gabriel Landeskog.

A final note in regards to Toronto’s attack is in regards to its deadly power play. For the season, the Leafs rank seventh best in the league with a 25.9 percent success rate. However, goals have been coming far more often since November 24, as they have lit the lamp on six of their last 18 man-advantage situations for a 33.3 percent power play that ties Tampa Bay for second-best in the NHL in that time.

Tonight’s game against Toronto is the finale of a four-game home stand for the 24-7-1 Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL’s top team. Not only are the Bolts attempting to win all four of those games at their barn, but they’re also trying to continue their current seven-game winning streak that started on November 29 against the Sabres.

Notable victories during this winning streak came against the aforementioned Sabres, Bruins and Avalanche.

Just like the Leafs, the key to Tampa Bay’s domination is its overpowering offense. During this winning streak, the Bolts have scored an average of 5.14(!) goals per game, far and away the best in the league in that time and a massive improvement on the league-leading four goals per game they’ve averaged for the entire season.

Every skater that has taken to the ice during this winning streak has at least two points to his credit, but only four have averaged at least a point per game. C Steven Stamkos (8-4-12 totals since November 29) leads that group, joined by RW Nikita Kucherov (3-9-12), Point (3-6-9) and D Victor Hedman (0-7-7).

Of course, it’s not as if its any surprise which players are leading the charge for the Lightning. Point’s 21 goals on the season are tied for second-most in the league, while Kucherov’s 33 assists and 45 points are both third-most in the NHL.

An added benefit of the Bolts’ commanding offense is its impact on the defensive end of the ice. While D Dan Girardi (1.7 blocks per game since November 29), Kucherov (six takeaways in his last seven showings) and F Cedric Paquette (3.9 hits per game during this winning streak) should certainly be commended for their defensive efforts – especially in light of 9-3-1 G Andrei Vasilevskiy’s foot injury that had kept him out of the crease since November 10 – the fact that they are leading the team in their statistics with average numbers shows just how much the Lightning are dominating possession. During this winning run, Tampa Bay has allowed only 27.29 shots against per game, the sixth-lowest mark in the league in that time.

With Vasilevskiy returning to the ice tonight, it goes without saying that he’d likely appreciate that trend continuing while he gets back into the swing of play.

So who wins this clash of offensive titans?

For me, this game boils down to the goaltenders. How well Vasilevskiy performs in his first action in a month will be a major factor. Before going down with injury, he was managing a solid .927 save percentage and 2.29 GAA. While he does have the benefit of playing behind a solid team, the Leafs are good enough on the attack that they will still be able to test him significantly throughout this game.

Meanwhile, 17-8-0 G Frederik Andersen will not have the benefit of any solid defense playing in front of him this evening, but that has not been a problem yet this year. Despite facing an average of 33.12 shots against per appearance (compared to Vasilevskiy’s 31.69), Andersen has still posted a .928 save percentage and 2.44 GAA to earn the second-most wins in the NHL.

With that in mind, I’m leaning towards the Leafs taking this one in a wildly back-and-forth barn-burner of a game. I think Vasilevskiy will show just enough rust that Toronto can escape Tampa Bay with a 4-3 victory.