Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.
In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.
P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)
The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”
Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.
Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.
Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.
Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.
For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.
Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.
Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.
Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.
In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.
Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.
Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?
Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th
4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2
4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*
4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*
4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)
The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.
Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.
There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.
Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.
Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.
Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.
In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.
For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.
The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.
But this time around feels different.
San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th
4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*
4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*
4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*
C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)
A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.
It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.
For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).
Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.
Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.
Oh. Again. Never mind.
While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.
In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.
Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.
This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?
Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.
On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.
Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.
But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.
Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.
As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.
Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.
Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.
It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th
4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2
4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*
4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*
4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*
C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.
This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.
Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.
Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.
In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).
Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.
Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.
Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.
However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.
The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.
This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.
Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.
Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).
Don’t try to mess with what’s working.
Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.
Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.
For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.
Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.
Regular season outcomes:
1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th
4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3
4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2
4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*
4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*
4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*
Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee made the biggest splash at the annual NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Erik Brannstrom, Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the Dallas Stars).
In the grand scheme of things, Ottawa completes the circle of assets for Marc Methot, as the Golden Knights claimed the defender from the Senators in the 2017 Expansion Draft, then traded Methot to the Stars for Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 2nd round pick.
Oh, also, the Sens got rid of their top three scorers in a span of three days leading up to and including the deadline day itself.
But for Vegas, Stone, 26, joins the Golden Knights riding a career-high 28 goals and 34 assists (62 points) in 59 games played this season. He’s reached the 20-goal plateau in five consecutive seasons and had a career-high 42 assists last season, amassing 20-42–62 totals in 58 games.
Short of Alex Ovechkin‘s ability to score almost 50 goals a season for the last decade (basically), Stone is perhaps the most consistent goal scorer– and he’s only just reaching the arch of his prime.
As such, Vegas was quick to get Stone to agree to terms on a contract extension that he cannot technically sign until March 1st. The expected deal will be an eight-year contract worth $9.500 million per season, as first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Stone has 123-188–311 totals in 366 career NHL games with Ottawa and five goals and eight assists (13 points) in 27 career postseason games. He was originally drafted by the Senators in the 6th round (178th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
He’ll immediately make an impact on the first line alongside Jonathan Marchessault and, pending-RFA, William Karlsson, while Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch continue to round-out Vegas’ top-six forwards.
Should the Golden Knights start to peak at the right time, they’ll look to be as much of a force– if not better– than they were last season in their run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Tobias Lindberg, meanwhile, rejoins the Golden Knights family after previously being acquired by Vegas– along with a 2018 6th round pick– in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Calvin Pickard on Oct. 6, 2017.
The 23-year-old spent the entire 2017-18 season with the Chicago Wolves (AHL), but was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23, 2018. On Dec. 5, 2018, Lindberg was once again on the move, this time being traded to the Senators.
He has appeared in six career NHL games with the Maple Leafs during the 2015-16 season and recorded two assists in that span. He had 5-7–12 totals in 34 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Belleville Senators this season.
While Oscar Lindberg, 27, is a current NHL roster player in the deal, the biggest piece in return to the Senators is Brannstrom.
The 19-year-old defender was drafted by the Golden Knights in the 1st round (15th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and recorded seven goals and 21 assists (28 points) in 41 games with the Wolves this season.
He also had 2-2–4 totals in five preseason games for Vegas this season and most recently captained Team Sweden in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship to a perfect 4-0-0-0 preliminary round record, while leading all defenders in the tournament in scoring with four goals in five games.
In the long run, Brannstrom might be the perfect replacement for Erik Karlsson (traded in the offseason to the San Jose Sharks) on Ottawa’s blue line as a puck moving, offensive minded, defender.
The elder Lindberg, on the other hand, is in his sixth professional season, having recorded 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 35 games this season for the Golden Knights.
In his career, Lindberg has 34-37–71 totals in 232 games with Vegas and the New York Rangers. He was claimed from the Rangers in the 2017 Expansion Draft by the Golden Knights and has three goals and two assists (five points) in 17 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He was originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes (now Arizona Coyotes) in the 2nd round (57th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
While Sens fans may be disappointed to see the last of their top scorers be dealt to a playoff contender, at least the return on the Stone deal was close to what it should’ve actually been compared to previous high-profile trades out of Ottawa.
Though they really could’ve gotten at least another draft pick, if not a first round pick in this deal for someone of Stone’s caliber.
Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.
These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.
Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.
Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.
While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.
Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).
Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.
Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.
Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.
This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.
If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.
On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.
At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?
If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.
Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.
Now what about Karlsson?
Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.
Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.
Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.
While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.
That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.
Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).
On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).
In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.
But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.
If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.
Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.
Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.
Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.
David Backes scored the game-winning shootout goal in the sixth round to lift the Boston Bruins over the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.
As a result, the Bruins are 4-0-0 on their current five-game road trip and a seven-game winning streak.
Jaroslav Halak (16-9-4 record, 2.33 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 31 games played) made 31 saves on 33 shots against for a .939 SV% in the shootout victory for the B’s.
Vegas goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5, 2.60 GAA, .908 SV% in 52 GP) stopped 25 out of 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the shootout loss.
The Bruins improved to 36-17-8 (80 points) on the season and remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Golden Knights fell to 32-25-5 (69 points) and remained 3rd in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 9-0-1 in the month of February.
Prior to puck drop in Wednesday night’s action, the Bruins completed a trade with the Minnesota Wild, sending Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 5th round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Charlie Coyle. If Boston advances to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the conditional 5th round pick becomes a 2019 4th round pick (originally from the New York Rangers).
As a result of the acquisition, since the Bruins were already at the 23-player roster limit, Peter Cehlarik was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) during the first intermission of Boston’s Wednesday night battle with Vegas (at which point, the trade was officially announced).
Bruce Cassidy kept the same lines from Monday night’s, 6-5, overtime win over the San Jose Sharks, while Kampfer joined John Moore as the only official healthy scratches at the arena (as Coyle had yet to join the team and Cehlarik was assigned).
David Pastrnak remains out of the lineup due to surgery on his left thumb.
Early in the first period, Schmidt was penalized for high-sticking when he got his stick up in Marchand’s face at 4:58 of the first period. Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Midway through the first period, DeBrusk (19) struck first on the scoreboard after receiving a pass from David Krejci, spinning past a defending Golden Knight skater and scoring from the low slot to make it, 1-0, Bruins.
Krejci (39) and Karson Kuhlman (1) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s fifth goal in the last five games at 11:17.
Moments later, Danton Heinen tripped up Vegas defender, Jon Merrill, sending the Golden Knights on the power play at 14:24 of the first period.
Vegas did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Two minutes after the Bruins killed off Heinen’s minor infraction, the Golden Knights were pressing with a shot from the point that rebounded off of Halak’s leg pad.
Smith (10) jumped at the loose puck and pocketed his first goal in 13 games, tying the game, 1-1, at 18:24.
Cody Eakin (17) and Merrill (8) notched the assists on the goal.
After one period, the game was tied, 1-1, despite Vegas leading in shots on goal, 10-6. Boston led in blocked shots (9-6) entering the first intermission, while the Golden Knights led in takeaways (7-2), giveaways (4-2), hits (15-5) and face-off win% (57-44).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Vegas was caught with too many men on the ice early in the second period and was charged with a bench minor. Gerard Gallant sent Oscar Lindberg to serve the penalty and the Golden Knights’ penalty kill successfully thwarted Boston’s power play advances.
Through 40 minutes of play, the score was still tied, 1-1, with the Golden Knights outshooting the Bruins, 22-14.
The B’s led in blocked shots (14-13) and giveaways (8-7) after two periods, while Vegas led in takeaways (14-4), hits (28-16) and face-off win% (52-48).
Entering the third period the Golden Knights were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/3.
Just 69 seconds into the third period, Marchand (24) ripped a one-timer past Fleury to give Boston the lead, 2-1, early in the final frame.
Heinen (12) and Charlie McAvoy (14) had the assists on Marchand’s fifth goal in the last seven games for the Bruins.
A mere 27 seconds after Marchand put the B’s ahead, Schmidt (7) waltzed past the B’s defense and roofed the puck past Halak’s glove side to tie the game, 2-2.
Smith (24) and Jonathan Marchessault (22) had the assists on Schmidt’s goal at 1:36 of the third period.
There were no other events on the scoresheet until the final horn in regulation.
With the score knotted up at two goals aside, overtime would commence after the Golden Knights led in shots on goal (30-26) through 60 minutes of play. Vegas also led in blocked shots (18-17), takeaways (15-6), giveaways (12-9) and hits (37-24).
Entering the five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period, Boston led in face-off win% (53-47).
After Boston was sluggish getting out of their own zone almost midway through overtime, they finally managed to change their forwards, leaving Krug behind the play.
While Krug took his time getting off the ice, McAvoy jumped onto the playing surface and received a pass, but the whistle was blown– the Bruins had too many men on the ice.
Cassidy sent Heinen to the penalty box to serve the bench minor at 2:14 of the overtime and Boston dug in deep to kill of the penalty.
After 65 minutes of action, the score was still, 2-2, but the Golden Knights led in shots on goal, 33-27 (3-1 in OT).
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-18) and face-off win% (52-48), while Vegas led in giveaways (12-9) and hits (38-24).
Vegas went 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage Wednesday night.
Gallant elected to have his team shoot first in the ensuing shootout, sending Brandon Pirri to the net against Halak with the first shot.
Halak made the save.
DeBrusk kicked things off in the shootout for Boston with a soft handed shot elevated just enough to ring the crossbar on its way into the net behind Fleury, giving the Bruins the lead in the shootout, 1-0, after one round.
Alex Tuch and Marchand were both denied in the third round. The same went for Marchessault and Heinen in the fourth round.
Gallant and Cassidy sent out their defenders in the fifth round, with Theodore getting a chance (denied) and Krug getting a shot off on Fleury (easy save).
In the sixth round, Gallant sent out Lindberg’s skilled hands, but Halak kept the paddle down to block his five-hole and make the save.
Finally, Backes emerged from the Bruins bench and made his way towards the net with the puck casually on his stick.
He unloaded a wrist shot up high on Fleury and scored the game-winning shootout goal, notching the, 3-2, victory for Boston in the sixth round of the shootout.
Boston’s point streak was extended to 12 games as the B’s improved to 2-2 in shootouts this season. Vegas fell to 2-2 in shootouts and lost on home ice for the first time to the Bruins in Golden Knights franchise history.
The Bruins improved to 24-4-5 when scoring first this season and improved to 15-10-5 on the road. They have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 19th.
Boston travels to St. Louis to wrap up their five-game road trip on Saturday against the Blues. Coyle is expected to make his Bruins debut with the team on the road before his homecoming debut at TD Garden next Tuesday (Feb. 26th) against the team that originally drafted him, the San Jose Sharks.
The B’s close out the month of February with a home matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning next Thursday (Feb. 28th).
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.
*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s not the most recent forecast, since the Vegas Golden Knights played Game 41 of their 2018-19 regular season on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Nevertheless, it’s time to take a quick check of the pulse of the Golden Knights– how their season has progressed so far and where it appears to be going from here.
Thanks to some extenuating circumstances, perhaps Vegas fans will forgive me for not being able to get around to their quick forecasted glance after 20 games played this season.
Why? Because it would’ve been pretty dismal and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Although, now at the halfway mark (officially after the game against the Kings, technically unofficially as of this forecast), things have improved, but with a few concerns remaining.
Nate Schmidt served his 20 game suspension for a performance enhancing drug and for the most part, Vegas’ blue line got the job done.
The team’s record wasn’t desirable, but guys like Shea Theodore and Colin Miller continued to rise past expectations in their ability– even more so now that Schmidt is back and solidified the defensive zone for the Golden Knights.
One thing that has plagued the team all season is subpar goaltending.
Managing playing time in the crease is something to keep in mind and we’ll take a closer look in a minute.
For now, Vegas stands in a divisional spot in the playoffs in the Pacific. Not nearly as dominant as last season, but keeping up with the legitimate(?) playoff contenders in an otherwise weaker division compared to the rest of the league.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the remaining 42 games (now 41) on the season and what to expect from the latest forecast.
Keep in mind, there are many variables that can and will change what goes down from now through the end of the regular season in April, like trades, injuries, general lineup changes, roster moves and anything else unbeknownst to the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that generates this forecast.
My degree is in communication– not math. It’s “not my fault”.
If a player meets the forecasted stats, then they’ve met expectations. If they exceed their forecasted stats, then they’ve exceed expectations.
And of course, if a player does not live up to the latest forecast, then something went awry (the player could’ve been injured, been unlucky or regressed– a.k.a. didn’t meet expectations).
Puck luck cannot be predicted, but general trends and estimated gut feelings can indicate a sense of what’s to come based on the results of each and every scoresheet night-in and night-out.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
Every set of blessings comes with a set of curses and this year, that rings truer more than ever before for the Golden Knights. Of course, it’s only their second season in franchise history, but it’s still true.
William Karlsson (24-26–50 expected totals) is having a “down” year compared to last season’s breakout career-year of 43 goals and 35 assists (78 points). Reaching the 50-point plateau is still respectable, but doesn’t scream any guarantees of being on the first line should the postseason roll around.
Head coach, Gerard Gallant, has enough top-six forward depth to play around with if Karlsson starts to head south, considering Alex Tuch‘s expected 22-28–50 totals, Paul Stastny‘s expected 14-22–36 totals and Max Pacioretty‘s expected 21-22–43 totals.
Despite the ever-consistent qualities of Jonathan Marchessault (27-33–60 expected totals) and Reilly Smith (17-32–49 expected totals), this year’s Golden Knights team point spread is more spread out.
As it is, while Marchessault should lead in goals (27), assists (30) and points (60) and Karlsson should be second in goals (24) and points (50), one would think Smith would be second or third in whatever stats Marchessault and Karlsson aren’t leading in.
However, Tuch’s expected point outcome (50) is tied with Karlsson for the second-most points behind Marchessault and Tuch is expected to rank third on Vegas’ roster in goals behind Marchessault and Karlsson with Smith a distant 5th behind Pacioretty’s 21 expected goals this season.
While the offense isn’t as impactful from the forwards, the blue line has really come into its own in Vegas.
Shea Theodore’s expected 8-29–37 totals will be the best of his teammates and fellow defenders in a Golden Knights uniform, leading Colin Miller (5-27–32 expected totals) and Nick Holden (7-17–24 expected totals).
Nick Holden. That’s right. Holden is ahead of Nate Schmidt (5-18–23 expected totals) in the latest forecast.
But that speaks to Holden’s resiliency in his career and the chemistry Gallant has found in his pairing every night– coupled, of course, with the fact that Holden is seeing more time on the ice (in the literal “games played” sense) than he has the last couple of seasons with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
He is a durable top-four defender that’s still in his athletic prime and it is exactly that kind of depth that can take teams deep into a Stanley Cup Final run.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should land around a 2.61 goals against average and .911 save percentage in a season in which he has been overworked thus far.
He will continue to be overworked unless Malcolm Subban regains his footing, Gallant argues for calling someone up from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee makes an acquisition for a suitable backup option if all else fails.
Fleury has played in 35 of the 40 games up to this forecast. He’s since played in 35 out of the 41 games played by the club this season.
Subban has played in six games and is 0-5-0 in that span. His expected outcomes are a 2.76 GAA and .907 SV%– both below average goaltending the backup role.
Whereas if Vegas wanted to try Oscar Dansk or Maxime Lagace without the pressures of coming into the dressing room in an emergency recall situation– unlike last season– a little healthy competition for the backup role might nudge Subban in the right direction and take off some of Fleury’s workload.
It’s not that Fleury can’t handle 50-plus games anymore as a starting goaltender, but rather, it’s just that he shouldn’t be relied on for about 85% of the games in the regular season as is his current going rate.
Secondary scoring had its fair share Sunday night at TD Garden, but league leader in goals, David Pastrnak is not done producing by any means as he added a goal and an assist in the Boston Bruins, 4-1, winning effort against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Jaroslav Halak (6-1-2, 1.72 goals against average, .945 save percentage in 11 games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against (.974 SV%) in the win for Boston, while Malcolm Subban (2-1-0, 3.17 GAA, .885 SV% in 4 GP) turned aside 33 out of 37 shots faced for an .892 SV% in the loss for Vegas.
Both teams were playing their second game in two nights, with the Bruins having hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Golden Knights having visited the Montreal Canadiens as part of their four-game road trip.
Boston finished their four-game homestand, 3-1-0, while Vegas went 1-3-0 on their Eastern Conference swing.
The Bruins improved to 10-5-2 (22 points) on the season, good enough for 3rd in the Atlantic Division– tied in points for 2nd place with Toronto, but trailing by one regulation-plus-overtime win.
The Golden Knights fell to 7-10-1 (15 points) so far this season and remained in 7th place in the Pacific Division with the loss– four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings from the basement of the division.
Bruce Cassidy made two changes to his lineup on the blue line as a result of an injury, but didn’t mix things up among the forwards. Cassidy announced Sunday morning that Brandon Carlo was “questionable” and would be a game-time decision with an upper body injury.
Jeremy Lauzon was an emergency recall on Sunday and would be in the lineup in place of Carlo if No. 25 in black-and-gold wasn’t ready to go.
Cassidy also indicated that he expected to talk with Tuukka Rask about his return from a personal leave of absence with a decision in place by Tuesday before the Bruins hit the road for a four-game road trip. Cassidy suspects Rask will rejoin the team on Tuesday, but wouldn’t commit to a definitive answer until having the appropriate time and place discussion with the goaltender.
Rushing through the neutral zone early in the first period, Danton Heinen worked the puck to Anders Bjork as the Bruins forwards entered the attacking zone. Bjork flipped the puck back to Heinen (2) for the game’s first goal as No. 43 tipped a redirection past Subban to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 2:54 of the first period.
Bjork (2) had the only assist on the goal.
Fellow third liner– and centering the line for the second straight game– Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a run in with the penalty calling threshold after he got his stick between the legs of Golden Knights forward and former Bruin, Reilly Smith.
Forsbacka Karlsson went to the box for tripping at 5:43 and Vegas went on the power play for the first time of the night. The Golden Knights failed to convert on the skater advantage.
Almost four minutes later, Pastrnak hooked Jonathan Marchessault and was sent to the sin bin at 9:27 of the first period. Vegas failed to score on the ensuing power play.
For the fifth time in three games, Kampfer found his way to the box with a tripping minor against Ryan Carpenter at 11:55, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to make the Bruins brass pay on the resulting skater advantage.
Late in the first period the Golden Knights caught Halak out of position and sent a chance through the slot that was intercepted by Moore as the Bruins defender was in the right place at the right time with his stick.
Moore then sent Sean Kuraly on rush back the other way and with a dump into the corner and Lauzon chasing, Subban came out of his crease to make a play on the loose puck– except Subban overcommitted.
With a gift sent by the hockey gods themselves, Lauzon (1) had the easiest conversion on his first career National Hockey League goal at 17:51 of the first period. Kuraly (2) and Moore (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively.
Not to be outdone, while on a rush to the net, Brad Marchand got tripped by Subban in front of the goal, yielding a 5-on-3 skater advantage for Boston at 18:58 that would extend into the second period if the Bruins didn’t score by the end of the first.
Krejci dove to keep the puck in the zone as time was expiring in the opening frame and generated one last chance before the first intermission on all-around dominant 5-on-3 opportunity to close out the period.
After 20 minutes of game action, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and trailed the Golden Knights, 15-11, in shots on goal. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (5-4) and face-off win percentage (81-19). Vegas led in hits (11-6) after one period and both teams had one giveaway each.
Entering the dressing room for the first intermission the Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/2. That would change in the first minute of the second period.
Patrice Bergeron sent a pass to Pastrnak that got bent out of shape just enough by a Vegas defender for Pastrnak’s only option in the low slot to be to send the vulcanized piece of rubber back to Bergeron off a body.
From there, Marchand (6) was in front of the goal at the right time to receive a quick bumper pass from Bergeron and redirect the puck with elevation into the twine just as the power play was expiring.
Bergeron (16) and Pastrnak (7) had the assist’s on Marchand’s goal at 58 seconds of the second period and the Bruins led, 3-0.
Midway through the middle frame, Alex Tuch stripped Moore of the puck in front of the Boston goal and prior to breaking into the trapezoid, Tuch slid a one-handed pass back to Cody Eakin (5) for a one-timer that beat Halak as Krug was out of position behind the play.
Vegas was on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two-goals as the B’s led, 3-1. Tuch (5) had the only assist on Eakin’s goal at 10:55 of the second period.
Late in the second period, Vegas again gave Boston a 5-on-3 power play for 42 seconds after Brayden McNabb was penalized for holding Marchand at 15:05 and Tomas Nosek was called for tripping Bergeron at 16:24.
The B’s did not convert on either power play opportunity.
Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-27, in shots on goal. Vegas had an advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (17-13), while the Bruins led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (7-3) and face-off win% (63-38). The Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play after 40 minutes and Boston was 0/4.
Vegas notched another penalty as a team at 6:42 of third period having sustained a delay of game face-off violation bench minor infraction. Tomas Hyka served the penalty for the Golden Knights and the Bruins went on the power play.
The B’s did not convert on the ensuing advantage.
Moments later, Kuraly exchanged words with former teammate and current Golden Knights defender, Colin Miller, at 12:04 of third period and earned himself a minor penalty for roughing. Vegas did not score on the resulting power play.
Late in the third, the Golden Knights sent themselves back in momentum with two consecutive tripping penalties being called at the same time thanks to Max Pacioretty tripping Bergeron and Deryk Engelland subsequently getting his stick between the legs of Marchand and bringing the Bruins forward down at 15:40.
Boston converted on the 5-on-3 power play after working the puck around from Pastrnak to Krejci, then across the point to Krug for a bumper pass back to Pastrnak (16) whereby the league’s leading goal scorer one-timed a shot past Subban to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.
Krug (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 16:08 of the third period and Boston led, 4-1.
At the final horn, the Bruins solidified a 4-1 victory with a 7-0-1 record when scoring first this season. Boston also improved to 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.
The B’s led in face-off win% 58-42 and the Golden Knights dominated just about every other statistical category after 60 minutes. Vegas led in shots on goal (38-37), blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-8) and hits (25-20).
Boston finished the night 1/7 on the power play, while the Golden Knights were powerless on the skater advantage, finishing 0/4 on Sunday night.
One consolation prize for the Vegas franchise is that through 100 regular season games in franchise history, the Golden Knights have the most wins among all expansion franchises in their first 100 regular season games with 58.
Sunday night was former Montreal Canadien and noted Bruins mood-killer, Max Pacioretty’s first matchup against the Bruins since being traded to Vegas, while it was also Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly’s 100th career NHL games.
The Bruins carry a two-game winning streak heading onto the road for a four-game road trip beginning in Colorado (Nov. 14th) and swinging through Dallas (Nov. 16th), Arizona (Nov. 17th) and Detroit (Nov. 21st) before returning home for Black Friday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.