Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!
The Colorado Avalanche extended their winning streak to six games with a, 4-1, win over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday night.
Ian Cole scored the game-winning goal in the second period of his 500th career NHL game, while Philipp Grubauer (10-5-2 record, 2.76 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 18 games played) made three saves on four shots on goal (.750 SV%) before being replaced by Pavel Francouz (7-2-0, 2.25 GAA, .931 SV% in 11 GP) late in the first period due to an injury.
Francouz stopped all 16 shots that he faced en route to the win for the Avs.
B’s goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (7-2-3, 2.22 GAA, .930 SV% in 12 GP) stopped 16 out of 19 shots faced (.842 SV%) in the loss.
The Bruins fell to 20-4-6 (46 points) on the season, but remain in command of the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, the Avalanche climbed to 19-8-2 (40 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Central Division.
Boston is now 12-1-5 at home this season.
Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Zach Senyshyn (lower body) and Patrice Bergeron (lower body) remained out of the lineup on Saturday.
Bergeron is likely to return on the B’s road trip.
Meanwhile, Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup after missing the last seven games (and 12 out of the last 16) with an elbow infection.
As a result, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, adjusted his lines.
For his first line, Cassidy reunited Brad Marchand with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, while moving Jake DeBrusk back to the second line with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen.
Ritchie was inserted on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Par Lindholm at center, while the trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner was reunited.
On defense, John Moore remained in the lineup on the third pairing with Matt Grzelcyk, while Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer joined David Backes in the press box as Boston’s only healthy scratches.
Midway through the opening frame, Moore shot the puck from the point as Wagner (3) skated through the low slot and tipped in the rubber biscuit behind Grubauer to give the Boston the first goal of the game at 13:14 of the first period.
Moore (1) and Bjork (4) had the assists on Wagner’s goal and the Bruins led, 1-0.
The B’s didn’t lead for long, however, as Valeri Nichushkin (4) pulled a loose puck to his backhand and snuck it behind Halak’s extended pad– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 17:25.
Matt Nieto (8) and Tyson Jost (5) tallied the assists on Nichushkin’s goal.
Upon tying the game, Avalanche head coach, Jared Bednar, switched out his goaltenders after Grubauer showed signs of discomfort after making a save only moments prior.
After one period in Boston, the B’s and Avs were tied, 1-1, with the Avalanche leading in shots on goal, 9-4.
Colorado led in takeaways (6-2), giveaways (4-2) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (5-4) and hits (18-11) entering the first intermission.
There were no penalties called in the first period as the action carried over into the middle frame.
Midway through the second period, Boston couldn’t clear their own zone.
As a result, the Avalanche went right to work on a forced turnover and zipped the puck around the horn, finally finding its way to Cole at the point whereby Cole (1) skated up to the faceoff dot and rocketed a slap shot over Halak’s glove to give Colorado their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Mark Barberio (1) and Joonas Donskoi (12) had the assists on Cole’s goal at 9:17 of the second period.
A little over nine minutes later, after Boston sustained pressure in the attacking zone for what seemed like a potentially momentum shifting couple of minutes, Colorado got a break the other direction and scored.
Andre Burakovsky (12) broke free from his own zone and sent a snap shot over Halak’s glove to make it a two-goal game at 18:21 of the second period.
Nathan MacKinnon (27) and Donskoi (13) collected the assists as the Avalanche collected a, 3-1, lead heading into the second intermission.
Through 40 minutes of play, Colorado led Boston, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-8, in shots on goal– including a, 5-4, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
The Avs held the advantage in blocked shots (11-10), takeaways (10-7), giveaways (12-3) and faceoff win% (54-46) entering the third period, while the Bruins led in hits (27-23).
Once more, both clubs remained 0/0 on the power play as the first penalty of the night wasn’t called until the third period.
Early in the final frame of the game, Ryan Graves caught Kuraly with a high stick and was sent to the box at 5:54 of the third period.
Boston’s power play was powerless and the Avs killed off Graves’ minor infraction without any issues as Graves was hooked by Marchand seconds after emerging from the box and receiving a breakaway opportunity in the attacking zone.
Marchand cut a rut to the sin bin at 8:02, but Colorado’s skater advantage didn’t last long as Donskoi clipped Zdeno Chara with a high stick at 8:27 and presented both teams with 4-on-4 action for a span of 1:35 before an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage would begin for the Bruins.
Neither team capitalized on the special teams play.
Late in the period, Avalanche captain, Gabriel Landeskog, caught Pastrnak in the face with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 17:39.
With 2:21 remaining in the game and the start of yet another power play, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker– effectively making it a two-skater advantage with Landeskog in the box.
Upon exiting the box, Landeskog (5) pocketed an empty net goal, giving Colorado a three-goal lead to seal the deal on their win.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (5) had the only assist on Landeskog’s empty netter that made it, 4-1, at 19:57.
Colorado finished the night with the advantage on the scoreboard, but both teams actually tied in shots on goal, 20-20, as Boston rallied to a, 12-6, advantage in the third period alone.
Meanwhile, the Avalanche finished the night leading in blocked shots (21-10), giveaways (13-7) and faceoff win% (60-41).
Boston ended the night with the lead in hits (36-34) and went 0/3 on the power play. The Avs went 0/1.
Colorado hasn’t lost a game in regulation in Boston since March 30, 1998. The Avs are now 12-0-2 in their last 14 games in Boston.
The Avalanche ended Boston’s 17-game point streak.
As a result of the loss, the B’s are now 13-3-3 when scoring the game’s first goal this season and 4-3-3 when trailing after two periods.
The Bruins are now 1-6 in their last seven games against Colorado, including Boston’s, 4-2, loss at Pepsi Center on Oct. 10th.
Boston finished their five-game homestand 3-1-1 and will begin a four-game road trip on Monday with a matchup against the Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins then face the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday and in Tampa on Thursday before wrapping up their road trip in Sunrise, Florida next Saturday in a duel with the Florida Panthers.
Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.
The Colorado Avalanche handed the Boston Bruins their first loss of the season as the Avs downed the B’s, 4-2, at Pepsi Center Thursday night.
Andre Burakovsky scored the game-winning goal in the third period for Colorado after two goals by Boston were overturned by virtue of the coach’s challenge early in the second period and early in the third period.
Philipp Grubauer (3-0-0, 2.33 goals against average, .931 save percentage in three games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against for a .951 SV% in the win for the Avalanche.
Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (1-1-0, 1.53 GAA, .957 SV% in two games played) stopped 32 out of 35 shots faced (.914 SV%) in the loss.
Boston fell to 3-1-0 (6 points) on the season and remained tied for 2nd in the Atlantic Division with the Detroit Red Wings (though Detroit holds the tiebreaker not in games played or record this season versus Boston, but in goal differential).
Meanwhile, Colorado improved to 3-0-0 (6 points) and remained tied for 2nd in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets (Colorado holds the tiebreaker, having played fewer games than the Preds and Jets).
Bruce Cassidy moved David Backes up a line from the fourth line right wing to the third line right wing alongside Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle as a result of Joakim Nordstrom making his season debut.
Nordstrom returned from a foot injury and took his usual spot on the fourth line left wing with Sean Kuraly at center and Chris Wagner on the right side.
Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were still out of the lineup due to injury on Thursday, while Brett Ritchie joined Par Lindholm and Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches for Boston.
Almost midway through the first period, Brad Marchand wrapped around the net and tossed the puck to David Pastrnak (1) for a one-timer from the low slot that beat Grubauer and gave the Bruins the first lead of the night.
Marchand (2) and David Krejci (1) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston led, 1-0, at 7:58 of the first period.
With the primary assist on the goal, Marchand pulled to within one assist from 300 assists in his career.
Late in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara (1) rocketed a slap shot from the point that deflected off of Avalanche forward, Gabriel Landeskog’s stick and found its way behind the Colorado netminder to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
Pastrnak (3) and Patrice Bergeron (3) recorded the assists on Chara’s goal at 15:34 and the B’s led, 2-0.
Shortly after Chara’s goal, the Bruins botched a line change and had too many skaters on the ice.
Boston’s bench was assessed a minor penalty at 18:28 and the Avs went on the power play for the first time of the night.
Less than a minute into the ensuing skater advantage for Colorado, Landeskog waltzed into the attacking zone and rang a shot off the post on Halak’s short side– generating enough of a rebound for Nathan MacKinnon (1) to tap home with his stick and cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 19:04.
MacKinnon’s goal was assisted by Landeskog (2) and Cale Makar (3) and gave the Avalanche at least one goal in seven consecutive periods this season.
After one period in Denver, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 15-12.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-3) and faceoff win percentage (52-48), while Colorado led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (9-6).
Each team had three takeaways aside entering the first intermission, while the Avalanche were 1/1 on the power play.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Karson Kuhlman thought he scored his first goal of the season after sniping a shot off the bar and in, but Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, used his coach’s challenge to argue that Krejci had interfered with Grubauer prior to the goal.
After review, it was determined that Krejci had indeed given Grubauer’s left leg the slightest tap with his stick and the call on the ice was overturned– no goal.
Moments later, Backes tripped Avs forward, Tyson Jost, and was sent to the penalty box as a result at 6:19 of the second period.
Colorado failed to convert on their second power play of the night, but caught Boston in the vulnerable minute after special teams play.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2) scored on a loose puck that was redirected in the low slot– catching Halak out of position.
Matt Calvert (3) had the only assist on Bellemare’s goal at 9:43, as the Avalanche extended their record for goals in consecutive periods to eight periods thus far this season.
In the final seconds of the middle frame, Nikita Zadorov was penalized for inference when he collided with Jake DeBrusk at 19:41.
Through 40 minutes of action in Colorado, the score was tied, 2-2, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 29-24 (including a second period shots on goal advantage of 14-11).
Boston also maintained an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), hits (14-11) and faceoff win% (60-40), while the Avalanche led in giveaways (12-7).
Both teams had six takeaways aside as Colorado was 1/2 on the skater advantage and the B’s were 0/1 on the power play heading into the third period.
DeBrusk thought he had scored after roofing a shot past Grubauer’s glove side while the Avalanche goaltender dove from one side of the crease to the other, but despite his best efforts, Colorado utilized another coach’s challenge to argue the call on the ice (goal) was incorrect as the Bruins had entered the attacking zone offside.
After review– and for the second time of the night– the call on the ice was overturned. No goal.
One of the four Bruins entering the offensive zone had been just ahead of the puck and therefore offside, thus the Avs succeeded in yet another coach’s challenge.
Midway through the third period, Burakovsky (1) snatched a loose puck in Colorado’s attacking zone, then fired a shot off the far post to Halak’s left side and in while Burakovsky’s teammate, Joonas Donskoi, was acting as a screen in front of the Boston goaltender.
Burakovsy’s goal was unassisted at 12:54 of the third period and gave Colorado their first lead of the night, 3-2.
The goal also extended the Avs’ consecutive periods with a goal streak to nine.
With a little over 90 seconds left in the action, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.
Landeskog (2) pocketed the empty net goal at 18:59 to seal the deal on a two-goal lead, 4-2, and the victory for the Avalanche.
Mikko Rantanen (2) and MacKinnon (4) had the assists on the goal.
At the final horn, the Avalanche had won, 4-2, despite trailing in the final shots on goal total, 41-36.
Both teams had 12 shots on net in the third period, while the Bruins finished Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (13-11), hits (19-13) and faceoff win% (57-43).
Colorado finished the night leading in giveaways (13-8) and 1/2 on the power play. The B’s went 0/1 on the skater advantage.
Boston finished their four-game road trip to start the season 3-1-0 and haven’t started a season 4-0-0 since the 1990-91 season (4-1 win vs. PHI, 7-1 win vs. QUE, 5-2 win @ QUE, 4-2 win @ WPG).
The Bruins face 2019 1st overall pick, Jack Hughes, and the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night in Boston’s first home game of the season.
San Jose Sharks
46-27-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division
Eliminated in the Western Conference Final by St. Louis
Additions: F Jonny Brodzinski, D Trevor Carrick (acquired from CAR), D Nicolas Meloche (acquired from COL), D Dalton Prout
Subtractions: F Joonas Donskoi (signed with COL), F Micheal Haley (signed to a PTO with NYR), F Jonathon Martin (signed with Tucson, AHL), F Gustav Nyquist (signed with CBJ), F Joe Pavelski (signed with DAL), F Francis Perron (traded to VAN), F Tom Pyatt (SHL), F Alex Schoenborn (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Justin Braun (traded to PHI), D Michael Brodzinski (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Cody Donaghey (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Cavan Fitzgerald (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Joakim Ryan (signed with LAK), D Kyle Wood (re-signed, then traded to CAR), G Antoine Bibeau (traded to COL)
Still Unsigned: F Rourke Chartier, F Tim Clifton
Re-signed: F Kevin Labanc, F Maxim Letunov, F Timo Meier, F Antti Suomela, F Joe Thornton, D Nick DeSimone, D Tim Heed
Offseason Analysis: After making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016, the San Jose Sharks were looking to capitalize on their momentum from their miraculous comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their First Round matchup.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, sometimes injuries pile up and get in the way of forward progress.
Though they lost to the St. Louis Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final, the mere fact San Jose made it that far after nearly blowing it against Vegas is impressive– especially considering how close of a series their Second Round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche was, which also went seven games.
Whether they were exhausted from multiple overtimes, one long series after another, the Sharks found themselves with a longer than anticipated offseason to rest and recover.
In the meantime, General Manager, Doug Wilson, had his work cut out for him.
Wilson signed Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension worth $11.500 million per season, making Karlsson the highest paid defender in the league.
The Sharks GM also managed to re-sign 22-year-old star in the making, Timo Meier, to a four-year contract worth $6.000 million per season. By the end of the deal, Meier will still have one year of restricted free agency left, which really speaks to the fact that it’s a great– team friendly– extension at an affordable price with the future in mind.
Last season, Meier had 30-36–66 totals in 78 games. He had 21 goals and 15 assists (36 points) in his first full season (81 games played) in 2017-18.
But the cost of re-signing key pieces of San Jose’s core comes with a price– losing depth.
First, Joe Pavelski priced himself out of the Sharks, in part, thanks to his consistent scoring and 38 goals last season at 35-years-old, as well as San Jose’s cap crunch thanks to Karlsson’s pay raise.
Pavelski signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars worth $7.000 million per season, but it’s not about the money for San Jose (even though it was)– it’s about having to make up for a 38-goal deficit heading into this season.
Second, to get themselves squared away with the salary cap, Wilson had to move one of his durable top-four defenders via a trade, sending Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 18th for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick.
Trading Braun left Wilson with no choice but to sign Dalton Prout as a cheap replacement and to perform this season’s Micheal Haley duties. Haley, himself, signed a PTO with the New York Rangers in hopes of filling New York’s Cody McLeod/Tanner Glass role opening.
On the plus side, the Sharks will be able to replenish their pool of prospects with the transaction. On the other hand, Braun was a versatile component when others (like Karlsson) were injured.
Even with the additional $3.800 million addition in cap space, San Jose was not able to convince Joonas Donskoi to stay in town, regardless of whether or not Wilson had any plans for the top-nine forward.
Instead, Donskoi joined the Colorado Avalanche on a four-year deal worth $3.900 million per season– providing both job security and a chance to win the Cup, since the Avs are on the rise.
Sharks fans were hoping to see a reunion of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton back on the same team, but Wilson guaranteed Marleau wouldn’t be signed as long as Thornton was back for his 22nd season in the National Hockey League.
The good news? “Jumbo Joe” isn’t going anywhere– take that Father Time!
The bad news? Marleau isn’t going anywhere in free agency (yet) either.
It’s a good move for the Sharks though, as their younger players did exactly what Wilson explained– they played better and worked their way up the lineup to where Marleau had been prior to his departure to join the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2, 2017.
San Jose has something special in Meier, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow and even Dylan Gambrell, meanwhile Logan Couture was named captain in wake of Pavelski’s departure– fully cementing the Logan Couture Era legacy in Sharks history.
Head coach, Peter DeBoer, will have a lot of leadership in the dressing room to rely on with Couture as captain and Karlsson, Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns serving as alternate captains throughout the season.
Offseason Grade: C-
Considering Karlsson’s cap hit, it would’ve been a “D+” if it weren’t for the redeeming qualities of Meier’s contract. Other than that, the Sharks are destined to be a divisional berth in the Pacific Division as recent history has dictated, but they don’t seem to have what it takes on paper to be leapfrogging over the competition.
Oh, and there’s the near 3.00 goals against average of both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell to consider from last season. That’s terrible for a team with or without Karlsson and Burns on the defense.
38-30-14, 90 points, 5th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by San Jose
Additions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Andre Burakovsky (acquired from WSH, then re-signed), F Joonas Donskoi, F Nazem Kadri (acquired from TOR), F Jayson Megna, F Valeri Nichushkin, F T.J. Tynan, D Kevin Connauton (acquired from ARI), D Jacob MacDonald (acquired from FLA), D Dan Renouf, D Calle Rosen (acquired from TOR)
Subtractions: F Andrew Agozzino (signed with PIT), F Sven Andrighetto (KHL), F Gabriel Bourque (signed with WPG), F Derick Brassard (signed with NYI), F Alexander Kerfoot (traded to TOR), F Scott Kosmachuk (traded to WSH), F Max McCormick (signed with CAR), F Julien Nantel (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Carl Soderberg (traded to ARI), F Dominic Toninato (traded to FLA), D Tyson Barrie (traded to TOR), D Mason Geertsen (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with DET), D David Warsofsky (signed with PIT), G Joe Cannata (Sweden), G Spencer Martin (signed with TBL), G Semyon Varlamov (signed with NYI)
Still Unsigned: F Mikko Rantanen
Re-signed: F J.T. Compher, F Sheldon Dries, F A.J. Greer, F Vladislav Kamenev, F Colin Wilson, D Ryan Graves, D Anton Lindholm, D Nikita Zadorov
Offseason Analysis: Pencil in Joe Sakic for General Manager of the Year 2019-20, because the Colorado Avalanche are a legit team on paper.
Sakic still has about $15.615 million in cap space, but even that should be enough to satisfy– current restricted free agent– Mikko Rantanen’s needs and then some.
Regardless, Sakic went to work on improving a roster that was one win away from the franchise’s first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002.
First, Colorado traded Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for Kevin Connauton and a 2020 3rd round pick on June 25th.
Then the Avs followed it up by acquiring Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2020 2nd round pick and the 2020 3rd round pick previously acquired in the Soderberg trade on June 28th.
Burakovsky was quickly signed to a one-year deal worth $3.250 million as a “prove it” contract. The 24-year-old winger is finally free from the shadows of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Co., but now he can’t hide anymore.
It’s a make or break year as he’s never scored more than 38 points in a season.
Sakic made a minor move with the Florida Panthers a day after the Burakovsky trade, then made a big splash on July 1st and it wasn’t of the free agent variety.
Colorado shipped Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick.
The Avalanche retained 50% of Barrie’s salary ($2.750 million) in the transaction, leaving Toronto with the uneasy task of balancing their checkbooks now that Mitch Marner is re-signed.
Barrie is a versatile defender that will give the Maple Leafs some added flavor to their special teams, but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at season’s end. That’s not Sakic’s problem, however.
Instead, Sakic is focused on continuing to trust in Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, and Bednar’s process.
Bednar has a plethora of new faces that he’ll have to get onboard with his plan.
For starters, Kadri won’t have to face the Boston Bruins in the First Round (assuming Colorado makes the playoffs in 2020, which is a pretty safe bet), so Bednar shouldn’t have too much of a problem reigning him in.
Overall the Avs are relying on their youth, a revamped defense and a stronger top-nine presence with Joonas Donskoi having signed a four-year deal at $3.900 million per season in addition to Sakic’s trade work.
Some experts are picking the Avalanche to win the Cup in 2020, but that might be too much of a stretch too soon.
Colorado is starting to open a championship window, however, so it’d be a major disappointment if they don’t at least get to the Stanley Cup Final in the coming years.
Offseason Grade: A
If there’s a team that’s a dark horse to win the Cup this season out of all the playoff teams from last season, it’s the Avalanche, for sure. That said, Sakic’s moves in the offseason may take a full year to gel (a la Erik Karlsson’s transition from Ottawa to San Jose– East to West), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Colorado’s knocked out before the Final.
But in terms of fixing holes and building off of what’s already on the roster, Sakic hit it out of the park. The Avs are good and should be good as long as they don’t have to rely solely on goaltending (Philipp Grubauer is one deep postseason run away from proving his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL).
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
- wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
- Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
- Dallas Stars, 92 points
- Colorado Avalanche, 86 points
Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons
Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.
Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?
That’s to be determined.
Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.
Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.
The good news?
The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.
How would the Predators fail?
Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.
St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons
Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.
But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?
Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.
St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.
When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?
How would the Blues fail?
The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.
Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons
The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.
Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).
Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.
Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.
How would the Jets fail?
If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.
Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons
What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.
First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.
Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.
At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.
Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.
Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.
Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.
How would the Wild fail?
If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).
Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons
Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.
In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.
While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.
That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.
Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.
Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.
Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).
How would the Blackhawks fail?
Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.
Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons
The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?
But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).
On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.
The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.
Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.
That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).
Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.
How would the Stars fail?
Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.
Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons
Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.
Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.
Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.
Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).
Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!
Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.
Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.
Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.
Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.
Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.
How would the Avalanche fail?
By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?