NHL Nick's Net

Grzelcyk ensures overtime victory for Bruins on the road in Chicago

Matt Grzelcyk ended a 21-game goal-scoring drought with his game-winning goal in overtime as the Boston Bruins beat Chicago, 2-1, Tuesday night at United Center.

Linus Ullmark (18-9-2, 2.75 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in 30 games played) made 19 saves on 20 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Chicago netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury (19-20-5, 2.85 goals-against average, .909 save percentage in 44 games played), turned aside 46 out of 48 shots faced in the overtime loss.

Boston improved to 37-18-5 (79 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins are also two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 3rd in the Atlantic.

Chicago fell to 22-30-9 overall (53 points) and stuck in 7th place in the Central Division as a result of the overtime loss.

With the win on Tuesday, Boston swept Chicago 2-0-0 in their 2021-22 regular season series after last meeting in 2019-20, when the Bruins went 1-0-1 against Chicago.

The B’s were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Urho Vaakanainen (undisclosed) on Tuesday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from Saturday night’s, 3-2, victory against the Arizona Coyotes to Tuesday night’s action in Chicago.

Nick Foligno suited up for his 1,000th career National Hockey League game– becoming the 364th player in league history to do so and the second father-son duo, as well, since Mike Foligno’s NHL career spanned 1,018 games.

Foligno’s younger brother, Marcus, has played in 658 games entering Tuesday split between the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild.

Nick, meanwhile, has played in 351 games with the Ottawa Senators, 599 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets, seven games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 43 games with the Bruins so far.

Boston announced that they’d honor Foligno for his 1,000th career NHL game on April 2nd prior to their matchup against the Blue Jackets at TD Garden.

Meanwhile, Tuesday night in Chicago, Jack Ahcan and Anton Blidh served as healthy scratches for the Bruins.

Before scoring the game-winning goal Tuesday night, Grzelcyk was penalized for interference at 5:02 of the first period and presented Chicago with the first power play opportunity of the game.

Chicago did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, and followed up with a penalty of their own when Dylan Strome tripped Brad Marchand– giving Boston their first chance on the power play at 10:26.

Entering the first intermission, however, the score remained tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins outshooting Chicago, 14-4.

Chicago held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1) and giveaways (4-2), while the B’s led in takeaways (4-3), hits (15-11) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Patrick Kane caught Charlie McAvoy with a high stick and gave Boston another chance on the skater advantage at 3:05 of the second period, but once again the Bruins’ power play was powerless.

Late in the period, Sam Lafferty cut a rut to the sin bin for interference at 16:22, but Boston followed their power play with a penalty kill of their own when Mike Reilly tripped Brandon Hagel at 19:15.

Chicago failed to capitalize on their skater advantage, which extended into the final frame of regulation as the horn signaled the end of the second period and the commencement of the second intermission.

The score was still, 0-0, despite the Bruins outshooting Chicago, 35-11, including, 21-7, in the second period alone.

Boston held the advantage in takeaways (7-6), giveaways (6-4), hits (22-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while Chicago led in blocked shots (10-7).

Chicago was 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/3 on the skater advantage through 40 minutes of action.

Calvin de Haan tripped Curtis Lazar and presented Boston with their fourth power play opportunity of the game at 2:34 of the third period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster a shot past Fleury while on the advantage.

Instead, however, the B’s caught Chicago in the vulnerable minute after special teams play, as Marchand picked a rebound out of the air after Fleury swatted the puck away from the crease– that’s when Patrice Bergeron (17) ultimately came in and cleaned up the home run– batting the puck into the twine from mid-air after Marchand kept it free.

Marchand (35) and Taylor Hall (31) notched the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 4:43 of the third period.

Hall briefly received some glue on the bench after catching a close shave by a skate in the scramble in front of the net in the lead-up to Bergeron’s goal.

Moments later, despite scoring first, Boston couldn’t hold onto the momentum as Chicago led a charge into their attacking zone and worked the puck around until Caleb Jones sent a shot from the point to the slot where Hagel (21) tipped the rubber biscuit past Ullmark.

Jones (8) and Jake McCabe (12) tallied the assists as Chicago tied the game, 1-1, at 9:36 of the third period.

Late in the period, the Bruins thought they scored a beautiful goal as Charlie Coyle followed a rebound with a spin-o-rama shot past Fleury’s glove side while crashing the net, but the would-be go-ahead goal was immediately waved off for incidental goaltender intererence.

The only problem was that– despite Craig Smith’s net front presence– there was no overt goaltender interference to be seen within reason to believe that there had, in fact, been an infraction prior to the goal.

Thus, Cassidy used a coach’s challenge on the basis that there was not enough evidence to support the call on the ice and it should therefore be overturned as Chicago’s own defender, Riley Stillman, had knocked over his own goaltender and Smith battled someone in front of the crease– barely getting his skate into the blue paint on the opposite side from where Fleury was standing.

No, apparently that meant nothing in the long run– or rather, perhaps that’s why the on-ice officials made the call in the first place because it was reminiscent of the controversial conclusion to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.

Ask any Buffalo Sabres fan if Brett Hull’s foot was in the crease and then ask any Dallas Stars fan if Hull’s foot even mattered, I’ll wait.

Meanwhile in Chicago, Cassidy’s challenge was no good and the call on the ice stood as “no goal”.

As a result, Boston was assessed a bench minor for delay of game at 15:13 of the third period with Smith sent across the sheet of ice to the box to serve the penalty.

The Bruins managed to make the kill and in the closing minutes of regulation had a couple quality chances turned aside by Fleury– necessitating overtime (at the very least) to determine a winner.

After 60 minutes of action, the two teams were tied, 1-1, despite the B’s outshooting Chicago, 46-20, overall– including an, 11-9, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston held the advantage in giveaways (8-7) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Chicago led in blocked shots (18-14) and hits (29-28).

Both teams had nine takeaways each.

As there were no penalties called in overtime, Chicago finished the night 0/3 on the power play, while Boston went 0/4.

In overtime, Cassidy started Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy for Boston, while Derek King countered with Jonathan Toews, Hagel and Seth Jones for Chicago.

The two teams skated up and down the ice a couple times before the Bruins controlled possession in the attacking zone.

Hall faked retreating back into the neutral zone for a different play and sent a pass over to David Pastrnak at the point before Pastrnak dropped the puck back to Hall, whereby Hall pushed towards the net as Kane and Alex DeBrincat bought what Hall was originally selling and chased after Pastrnak.

Hall then worked a pass to Grzelcyk through the slot while Chicago’s only defender tried to block the passing lane, but Grzelcyk (3) settled the puck on a catch and release blast before wiring it behind Fleury for the game-winning goal at 1:40 of the overtime period.

Hall (32) and Pastrnak (28) had the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal– giving Hall two assists on the night and the 400th of his NHL career as a result.

With the, 2-1, overtime win, the B’s improved to 10-1-1 in their last 12 games and left United Center leading in shots on goal, 48-20, including a, 2-0, advantage in the extra frame.

Boston also left the ice leading in blocked shots (19-14), giveaways (9-8) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Chicago exited their own building leading in hits (30-28).

The Bruins improved to 5-3 in overtime this season and 7-5 overall past regulation, while Chicago dropped to 4-7 in the extra frame and 6-9 past 60 minutes in 2021-22.

Boston also improved to 10-5-2 (6-2-1 on the road) when tied after the first period, 8-3-0 (3-2-0 on the road) when tied after the second period and 27-7-2 (15-3-1 on the road) when scoring first this season.

Chicago fell to 10-13-4 (6-10-3 at home) when tied after one, 5-3-3 (2-1-3 at home) after two and 5-24-6 (2-13-4 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal in 2021-22.

The Bruins continue their four-game road trip (1-0-0) Wednesday night in Minnesota before venturing to Winnipeg on Friday and Montréal next Monday, which also coincides with the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline (March 21st).

Boston returns home to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 24th.

NHL Nick's Net

Pastrnak scores game-winner for Boston with 17 seconds left

Sometimes The Hockey Gods work a little poetic justice into an ultimately meaningless game.

Thursday night at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins beat Chicago, 4-3, courtesy of a game-winning goal from David Pastrnak with 17.2 seconds remaining in the third period– you know, about the same timespan it took Chicago to score a pair of goals in the third period of Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final to clinch the series in Boston.

In the grand scheme of things, Chicago won the Cup in 2013, whereas Boston only got two points in the win column towards the regular season standings in 2022, and it doesn’t even matter that much between the clubs since the two teams play in opposite conferences.

Regardless, Jeremy Swayman (16-7-3, 2.06 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in 27 games played) made 22 saves on 25 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Chicago goaltender, Kevin Lankinen (3-7-4, 3.60 goals-against average, .885 save percentage in 16 games played), stopped 32 out of 36 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 35-18-5 (75 points) on the season and the B’s remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, as well as the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference– trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by four points for 3rd in the Atlantic and Tampa Bay Lightning by five points for 2nd in the Atlantic.

The Bruins are currently 10 points behind the Florida Panthers for the top spot in their division.

Meanwhile, Chicago fell to 21-30-8 overall (50 points) and stuck in 7th place in the Central Division– 10 points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes from the basement in their division.

Boston and Chicago met for the first time in the regular season since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Bruins won, 2-1, in overtime at United Center on Feb. 5, 2020, in Chicago in their last meeting.

The B’s are now 1-0-0 against Chicago this season and can sweep the 2021-22 regular season series on the road in Chicago on March 15th.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Urho Vaakanainen (undisclosed) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) on Thursday.

Vaakanainen may return to the lineup on Saturday, while Grzelcyk remains day-to-day.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lines and defensive pairings from Monday night’s, 3-2, overtime loss against Los Angeles to Thursday night’s win against Chicago.

Jesper Frödén and Anton Blidh served as the only healthy scratches for the Bruins on Thursday.

Charlie McAvoy hooked Alex DeBrincat and presented Chicago with the night’s first power play 28 seconds into the first period, but Boston’s penalty killing units did their job as McAvoy was released from the box without issue at 2:28.

Less than a few minutes later, Connor Clifton pinched in from the point and entered the slot for a shot with purpose on goal that rebounded off of Lankinen to the right dot where Charlie Coyle (13) swooped in and buried the loose puck to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead.

Clifton (3) had the only assist on Coyle’s goal at 4:12 of the first period.

Boston didn’t hold the lead for long as the year of Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong, will go wrong) continued to follow Brandon Carlo as the veteran blue liner pinched at the attacking blue line and was caught between the uprights on a Chicago rush the other direction– leading to a 4-on-1 with Jack Ahcan as the only defender left standing in front of Swayman.

Patrick Kane tossed a pass over to DeBrincat (34) for the one-timer goal as Chicago evened things up, 1-1, at 6:41.

Kane (46) had the only assist on the goal as Chicago answered back 2:29 after the Bruins took the first lead of the night. His assist also marked his 1,153rd career National Hockey League point– tying Kane for the second-most points in Chicago’s history and trailing only Stan Mikita’s 1,467 points in a Chicago uniform in the process.

Late in the period, Trent Frederic cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 14:43, but Boston managed to kill off the minor infraction.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while Chicago outshot the Bruins, 10-8, despite Boston holding a clear advantage in faceoff win percentage, 58-42.

Early in the middle frame, Chicago took their first lead of the night, 2-1, after Nick Foligno chipped the puck inadvertently off of a linesman in the neutral zone– forcing a turnover to Brandon Hagel in the process.

Hagel (19) entered the attacking zone with speed and wrapped the puck around Swayman at 4:12 of the second period, while Jonathan Toews (17) and Kirby Dach (14) were credited with the assists on Hagel’s first goal of the game on just the second shot on net in the second period alone.

About a couple minutes later, Henrik Borgström hooked Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 6:55 of the second period.

Boston’s power play was powerless, but they got another chance at the skater advantage when Jake McCabe caught Taylor Hall with a high stick at 10:02.

This time the B’s were successful in their quest for a power-play goal.

Ahcan (1) pounced on a loose puck and poked it around a Chicago skater while maintaining possession and entering the slot before wiring a shot past Lankinen for his first career NHL goal (and point in the process) in just his eight career NHL game.

Brad Marchand (34) and Pastrnak (27) tallied the assists on Ahcan’s power-play goal as the Bruins tied the game, 2-2, at 11:57 of the second period as a result.

Moments later, Connor Murphy cut a rut to the sin bin for interference at 14:31.

Boston went to work on the power play once again and made quicker work of their efficiency on the skater advantage– this time with McAvoy working the rubber biscuit down deep along the wall before sending a pass through the slot to Pastrnak (32) for a one-timer from his usual spot at the dot.

McAvoy (29) and Patrice Bergeron (27) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal and the B’s took the lead, 3-2, at 15:23 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 17-13, in shots on goal– including a, 9-3, advantage in the second period alone. Boston also maintained the advantage in faceoff win%, 51-49.

Chicago was 0/2 and Boston was 2/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Coyle hooked Dylan Strome to kick things off at 1:25 of the third period by handing a power play to Chicago with relatively fresh ice from the second intermission still intact.

Chicago rushed up the ice as Kane worked the puck to Strome, who passed it to the other wing where DeBrincat fired a shot at Swayman that dropped to the ice in front of the crease.

Swayman bungled the puck while trying to cover it with his glove and instead sent a rebound to Hagel as Hagel (20) crashed the net and pocketed the puck on a chip shot power-play goal at 3:24 of the third period.

DeBrincat (21) and Strome (16) had the assists on Hagel’s second goal of the game– tying things up, 3-3, with plenty of time left in regulation.

Moments later, the Bruins recorded their first shot on goal in the third period right about at the 7:47 mark.

Alec Regula tripped up Hall at 11:56 of the third period, but wasn’t the only skater heading to the box as Hall was assessed a minor infraction for embellishment– yielding 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes past the midpoint of the final frame.

Neither team could score despite Boston generating momentum as the period continued.

Chicago iced the puck in the dying minute of the third period.

Ryan Carpenter won the ensuing faceoff in his own defensive zone and kicked the puck to the corner where Hall stepped in between his opponent and the puck– thereby winning the resulting battle along the boards and working a solid bounce to Pastrnak in the slot.

Pastrnak (33) chipped it past Lankinen to put the Bruins ahead, 4-3, at 19:42 of the third period. Hall (30) had the only assist on what would be the game-winning goal with 17.2 seconds remaining in the action.

Chicago’s interim head coach, Derek King, used his timeout to draw up a last-ditch effort, but despite pulling the goalie with 17.2 seconds left there would be no repeat of a miracle in Boston for Chicago.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-3, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-25, including a, 19-12, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston also held an advantage in faceoff win%, 52-48, while Chicago led in every other category including blocked shots (12-11), giveaways (6-5) and hits (28-26).

Chicago finished the night 1/3 on the power play, while the Bruins left their own ice 2/3 on the skater advantage Thursday.

With the win, the B’s improved to 8-1-1 in their last ten games while Swayman picked up his eighth win in his last nine games.

Boston also improved to 25-7-2 (11-4-1 at home) when scoring first, 9-5-2 (4-3-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 24-1-3 (9-1-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Chicago fell to 4-24-5 (2-12-2 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 10-13-3 (4-3-1 on the road) when tied after one and 2-25-3 (0-12-1 on the road) when trailing through the second period in 2021-22.

The Arizona Coyotes visit TD Garden on Saturday before the Bruins hit the road for a four-game road trip through Chicago next Tuesday (March 15th), Minnesota next Wednesday (March 16th), Winnipeg next Friday (March 18th) and Montréal on March 21st.

NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

NHL Nick's Net Previews

Chicago Blackhawks 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-25-7, 55 points

6th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Tyler Johnson (acquired from TBL), F Jujhar Khaira, D Caleb Jones (acquired from EDM), D Seth Jones (acquired from CBJ), D Jake McCabe, G Marc-Andre Fleury (acquired from VGK)

Subtractions: F Josh Dickinson (signed with Toledo Walleye, ECHL), F Mikael Hakkarainen (traded to VGK), F Vinnie Hinostroza (signed with BUF), F David Kampf (signed with TOR), F John Quenneville (expansion, SEA), F Tim Soderlund (traded to EDM), F Pius Suter (signed with DET), D Adam Boqvist (traded to CBJ), D Duncan Keith (traded to EDM), D Anton Lindholm (KHL), D Brent Seabrook (contract traded to TBL), D Nikita Zadorov (traded to CGY), G Matt Tomkins (SHL)

Still Unsigned: F Brandon Pirri, F Zack Smith

Re-signed: F Mackenzie Entwistle, F Adam Gaudette, F Brandon Hagel, F Mike Hardman, F Alex Nylander

Offseason Analysis: Stan Bowman has been busy this offseason, though he shouldn’t be able to carry out his duties as General Manager like normal these days and if you’ve been under a rock, TSN‘s Rick Westhead has lots more, and more, and so much more— in addition to another lawsuit against Chicago that’s been resolved over the use of facial recognition software at United Center.

There’s been a few changes to the roster as Chicago moves on from their near-dynasty (remember, the definition of a dynasty is three championships in a four-year span– Chicago won three Stanley Cups in five years, 2010, 2013 and 2015).

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (his contract, anyway) both departed the organization this offseason– first with Keith and Tim Soderlund having been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for defender, Caleb Jones, and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick on July 12th, then Seabrook later that month.

If the Oilers make the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and Keith is in the top-four in postseason time on ice on the roster during the first three rounds, then Edmonton will give Chicago a 2022 2nd round pick instead of a 2022 3rd round pick.

Keith broke into the NHL with Chicago in the 2005-06 season and amassed 105-520–625 totals in 1,192 games since then. Now at 38-years-old, he’s about to embark on a new season with a new team– one that’s closer to home, as he’s desired to be nearer to family after spending most of the last 12 months isolated in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols– with two years remaining on his contract.

Caleb Jones, meanwhile, joins Chicago as the younger brother of Seth Jones, who was acquired ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23.

Seth was acquired with a 2021 1st round pick (originally belonging to the Tampa Bay Lightning– 32nd overall, Nolan Allan) and a 2022 6th round pick in exchange for young defender, Adam Boqvist, a 2021 1st round pick (12th overall, Cole Sillinger) and a 2021 2nd round pick (later traded by Columbus to the Carolina Hurricanes– 44th overall, Aleksi Heimosalmi).

The older Jones signed an eight-year extension through the 2029-30 season worth $9.500 million per season, despite his decline since setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (41) and points (57) in 78 games with Columbus in 2017-18.

Since then, Seth’s production dropped to 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists) in 75 games in 2018-19, then 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in an injury filled 56-game 2019-20 season and 5-23–28 totals in 56 games last season.

Caleb, meanwhile, had four assists in 33 games with Edmonton last season and is signed through 2022-23.

On July 27th, Chicago acquired goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the Vegas Golden Knights for forward, Mikael Hakkarainen.

At 36-years-old and not wanting to be traded from the Golden Knights, Fleury contemplated retiring, despite having one season left on his current contract with a $7.000 million cap hit.

After consulting with Chicago about the organization’s future plans and city life, Fleury is “refreshed and ready” to lead from the crease and mentor Kevin Lankinen, while Lankinen, Colin Delia and Malcolm Subban compete for the backup job.

Last season, Fleury went 26-10-0 in 36 games– recording a 1.98 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts in that span, en route to winning his first Vezina Trophy in his 17-year NHL career.

Since breaking into the league in the 2003-04 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins after he was the 1st overall pick for Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Draft, he’s amassed a 492-276-2-80 record in 883 career NHL games for the Penguins and Golden Knights.

Though he won the Vezina last season and posted a 2.04 goals-against average in 16 playoff games in 2021, Fleury had a goals-against average of 2.50 or more in three out of the four prior seasons, so it’d be wise to balance his workload with whoever wins the backup job.

As Chicago is hungry for one last run at the Cup with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in a Chicago uniform, you can’t risk running Fleury into the ground– especially if this is his last season.

Chicago also added Tyler Johnson and a 2023 2nd round pick in a separate trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 27th in exchange for the Seabrook’s contract.

Seabrook’s career-ending hip injury will help Tampa utilize cap relief via the same long-term injured reserve clause in the collective bargaining agreement that drove some fans around the NHL nuts while the Lightning stockpiled their weapons for their back-to-back Cup championship run.

Meanwhile, Johnson carries a $5.000 million cap hit through 2023-24, and his 8-14–22 totals in 55 games as a 31-year-old last season into Chicago’s middle-six meat of the lineup.

A day later, Chicago traded the rights to Nikita Zadorov to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 3rd round pick after Zadorov spent one season in Chicago and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games after reaching double-digit points in four out of five prior seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.

Zadorov was rewarded with a one-year deal in Calgary worth $3.750 million, which was $3.750 million more than Chicago wanted to spend on a primarily physical game– and physical game only– defender.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s forward, Andrew Shaw, is heading to the long-term injured reserve for salary cap relief of about $3.900 million in the final year of his contract– forced into retirement due to multiple concussions sustained over his 10-year career.

Offseason Grade: C

Johnson and Fleury bring name brand recognition to a lineup that’s remained mostly unchanged from last season to this season– even with the addition of Seth Jones to the defense in light of Keith’s planned departure.

Pius Suter put up 14-13–27 totals in 55 games in an impressive NHL debut for a 25-year-old last season and Chicago chose not to tender him a qualifying offer– allowing Suter to walk and sign with the Detroit Red Wings for a little more than half of what Chicago is paying Johnson for about the same results.

Chicago took a risk this offseason as they’re desperate for Toews and Kane to remain in good faith with the organization– with Toews returning to the lineup after missing all of the 2020-21 season due to a bout with a chronic illness– as both players could leave the organization for greener pastures after the 2022-23 season when their matching eight-year contracts with $10.500 million cap hits expire.

The fact of the matter is that Chicago took their foot off the gas after winning it all for the third time in five years in 2015.

There’s no clear “goaltender of the future” and the prospect pool is being restocked after years of sustained success depleted it.

After the Nashville Predators swept Chicago in the 2017 First Round, Bowman could’ve made sweeping moves to keep Chicago competitive– a la the Pittsburgh Penguins for the greater part of the last 15 years– but he didn’t having over-relied on what was familiar, like most NHL GMs.

Then again, inaction when the situation necessitates action seems like it’s on brand for Bowman and the organization.

NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

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.


DTFR Podcast #213- 2020-21 Season Preview: Central Division

The Ottawa Senators did the Tampa Bay Lightning a huge favor. About a $17 million favor, when all is said and done. Meanwhile, a bunch of contracts were signed, we finally know an answer to the Mike Hoffman question, Craig Anderson signed a PTO and might replace Henrik Lundqvist as the Washington Capitals’ backup goaltender and we preview the Central Division for the 2020-21 season.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.


DTFR Podcast #205- Flaming Out (feat. Jess Belmosto)

Jess Belmosto joins the show to talk about Tuukka Rask, Game 6 between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars, First Round eliminations and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

Subscribe to Garden Gals as well as Locked on Flames and read Jess’ work at Couch Guy Sports and PuckerUp Sports by clicking on any of the hyperlinks we have just provided for you.


DTFR Podcast #204- Late For Everything!

Nick and Colby talk about what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams eliminated in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier, as well as preview the already in progress 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.

All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.

(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.

The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.

2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.

That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.

Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.

Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:

(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)

Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.

In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.

The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.

Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.

Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.

That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.

2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.

For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.

For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.

In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.

Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.

Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.

Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.

Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.

What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.

This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.

It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.

Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.

Regular season outcomes:

3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th


8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.

Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.

He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.

It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.

Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).

Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.

Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.

Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.

This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.

The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.

Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.

Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.

Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.

He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.

Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.

Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).

Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.

In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.

If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.

Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.

Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.

Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.

But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.

The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.

If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.

If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.

At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.

Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd


8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360

8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360

8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360

8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.

As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.

Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.

Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.

Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.

Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.

For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.

The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.

Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.

Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.

In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.

Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.

Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.

Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.

The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th


8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD

8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.

He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.

Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.

Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.

In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.

Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.

Alright, let’s check the backup…

Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.

Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?

The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.

Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.

Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.

Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.

Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.

Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.

This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.

In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.

2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.

Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).

Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.

The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.

That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.

Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!

The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.

They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).

If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.

Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.

Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th


8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*

*If necessary

2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.

St. Louis Blues

42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW

Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW

Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD


DTFR Podcast #202- What Are Your Qualifications?/Let’s Get Kraken

Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.