Nick and Pete recap the Ottawa Senators coaching hire, two extensions, the latest rumors and the 2019 Western Conference Final while teasing their 2019 Stanley Cup Final preview.
Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.
Or maybe you won’t.
Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)
The Bruins went 2-1-0 against the Blue Jackets in the regular season and matched Columbus’ intensity at times throughout all three games in the season series.
Boston is coming off a seven game series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second year in a row and is getting more than enough production from their bottom six forwards as of late.
Charlie Coyle has consistently been the best player on the ice for the B’s– going hard to the corners and dirty areas, carrying the puck and adding 3-1–4 totals (tied for 5th on the roster in scoring).
As usual, Brad Marchand leads the Bruins this postseason in goals, assists and points with 4-5–9 totals entering the Second Round, while the rest of the first line– Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak— has five and six points, respectively.
Yes, short of Krejci and Pastrnak’s performance in the First Round matchup, the B’s are looking to get a little more from DeBrusk (one goal against Toronto) against Columbus.
Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) has been solid in his last few starts and looks to maintain momentum as things get going with the Blue Jackets.
For the first time in franchise history, Columbus advanced past the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Not only that, but they rocketed past the Tampa Bay Lightning– sweeping the 2018-19 President’s Trophy winners with the best regular season record of 62-16-4 (tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most wins in a season) in just four postseason games.
Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, is quite familiar with what it takes to knockoff one of the best teams already heading into the Second Round and he has a Stanley Cup championship to his name with the (you guessed it) 2004 Lightning.
Columbus is led by trade deadline acquisition, Matt Duchene, in scoring with sevens points (three goals, four assists) in four games this postseason.
The Blue Jackets have a lot of speed and firepower and they have guys like, former Bruin, Riley Nash on their penalty kill.
Though he finished the regular season with a career-worst 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 78 games played (ignoring his nine points in 32 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season and previous one point in five games in 2011-12), Nash has reached the back of the twine once already in the playoffs.
After recording a career-high and league-best nine shutouts in the regular season, Sergei Bobrovsky (4-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .932 SV% in four games this postseason) has the upper hand in goaltending– statistically speaking, of course.
He is in the midst of his postseason career-best performance, but he has faced the Bruins before in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2011 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. That year, Boston swept Philly and went on to win the Cup, while Bobrovsky suffered two losses in three starts (six games played) and amassed a 3.23 GAA and .877 SV%.
He was just a rookie, but if anyone’s done their research on how to beat Bobrovsky it might just be the Bruins. In his two starts against Boston this season (March 12th and April 2nd) he allowed four goals in each game.
Granted, the playoffs are a different breed from the regular season, Boston should still find a way to deal with Tortorella’s all-in crew in six games.
Regular season outcomes:
6-2 BOS at Nationwide Arena on April 2nd, 2-1 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 16th, 7-4 CBJ at Nationwide Arena on March 12th
4/25- Game 1 CBJ @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/27- Game 2 CBJ @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/30- Game 3 BOS @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/2- Game 4 BOS @ CBJ 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/4- Game 5 CBJ @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, TVAS*
5/6- Game 6 BOS @ CBJ*
5/8- Game 7 CBJ @ BOS*
M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)
New York went 3-1-0 against Carolina in the regular season, but don’t let that influence anything.
The Islanders split their games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season, then went on to sweep them in the First Round and the Hurricanes lost every game against the Washington Capitals in the regular season, but defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.
Welcome to the playoffs.
Barry Trotz is in his first season behind the bench of the Islanders and brought his usual anchor of a defensive style, while General Manager Lou Lamoriello brought some stability to the front office, as well as the roster as New York said “goodbye” to John Tavares last July.
The Isles led the Metropolitan Division at times this season, but faltered late in February and March to 2nd place in the division standings.
Yet, this team has almost always performed better when just about everyone is counting them out.
When Tavares left, many experts didn’t see anything that could make up for the hole in the roster.
When the puck dropped against the Penguins in the First Round, many thought Pittsburgh’s three Cups in the last ten years would have brought more than enough experience to outperform the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.
New York has been led by Jordan Eberle in scoring this postseason as the former Edmonton Oiler has amassed a goal a game and six points (four goals, two assists) in four playoff games this year.
As for Mathew Barzal? He leads the team in assists with five.
In goal, Robin Lehner (4-0-0, 1.47 GAA, .956 SV% in four games played this postseason) is blazing through his prior struggles in the crease in his first postseason as a starting goaltender.
It’s a team effort that’s gotten the Isles this far. But it’s also a team effort that’s let the Hurricanes into the Second Round.
Making their first postseason appearance since 2009, Carolina entered Game 7 in Washington boasting a 4-0 record in such games since relocating from Hartford.
The Canes trailed 2-0, and 3-1, but they forced overtime and won the game, 4-3, in double overtime– improving to 5-0, since the Whalers last existed, in Game 7s and knocking off Alex Ovechkin and his pals.
For the 19th time in the last 20 postseasons, there won’t be a repeat champion.
Rod Brind’Amour won a Cup with Carolina as player in 2006. He’s in his first season behind the bench as the Hurricanes head coach and joined Dallas Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, as the only rookie coaches this season to advance to the Second Round.
Brind’Amour’s lineup has been led from the back-end out with Jaccob Slavin leading in scoring with nine assists in seven postseason games.
In the crease, Petr Mrazek (4-3-0, 2.53 GAA, .899 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has battened down the hatches for the Canes.
The last time Carolina won a Game 7 on the road in overtime, they beat the Boston Bruins in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. There’s no reason not to believe in a team after what we’ve witnessed from that said organization which has promised others to Take Warning all season long.
It’s ten years in the making, but the Hurricanes will get back to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since they last appeared in that round against the Penguins in 2009 (Pittsburgh swept the series to advance to the Stanley Cup Final).
Carolina will defeat the Islanders in six games and meet up with the Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
PNC Arena is louder than Barclays Center– and overall better– and it’s shame the Islanders can’t just keep using the NYCB Live for the Second Round.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 CAR at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Jan. 8th, 4-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 24th, 2-1 NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 28th, 2-1 F/OT NYI at PNC Arena on Oct. 4th
4/26- Game 1 CAR @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/28- Game 2 CAR @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/1- Game 3 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/3- Game 4 NYI @ CAR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/5- Game 5 CAR @ NYI*
5/7- Game 6 NYI @ CAR*
5/8- Game 7 CAR @ NYI*
Patrice Bergeron opened the game’s scoring while crashing the net on a rebound and closed the game’s scoring with an empty net goal, while Peter Cehlarik took home the game-winning goal in the Boston Bruins’, 3-1, victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
It was the 53rd game of the 2018-19 regular season for the Bruins and the 1,000th regular season game in Bergeron’s career.
An alternate captain for the Bruins playing in his 15th NHL season, Bergeron became the 53rd player in NHL history to score a goal in his 1,000th game and the 3rd to do so in a Boston uniform (joining Johnny Bucyk on Dec. 10, 1970 and Jean Ratelle on March 23, 1977).
Bergeron also became the 6th player in league history to score multiple goals in his 1,000th game.
Tuukka Rask (16-8-4 record, 2.30 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 29 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for the .966 SV% in the win for Boston– his 254th of his career.
In his last 11 starts, Rask is now 8-1-2 with a 1.42 GAA and .945 SV%. Boston is 9-3-3 in their last 15 games as a result.
Robin Lehner (16-8-4, 2.02 GAA, .932 SV% in 29 GP) turned aside 24 out of 26 shots faced for a .923 SV% in the loss for New York.
The Islanders’ eight-game point streak came to an end as a result of the loss in regulation to Boston on Tuesday.
The Bruins improved to 29-17-7 (65 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Islanders fell to 30-16-6 (66 points), but stayed in command of the Metropolitan Division.
Boston also improved to 19-4-5 when scoring first this season and 2-0-0 in the month of February.
Bergeron and Rask were each honored with their own standing ovations during stoppages in the first period for reaching their own milestones (Bergeron, 1,000 games and Rask, 253 wins as a Bruins goaltender– a new franchise record, set on Sunday in Washington in a, 1-0, shutout against the Capitals).
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to the B’s lineup among his forwards, but switched up his defensive pairings– placing Zdeno Chara with Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug with Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk alongside Charlie McAvoy.
Just 18 seconds into the action on Tuesday, David Backes sent the puck over the glass and out of the rink for an automatic delay of game penalty.
The Isles did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Almost midway through the first period, Brock Nelson hooked Carlo and the Bruins went on the power play for their first time in the game at 9:43.
Boston did not capitalize on their first skater advantage of the night, nor did they find a way to crack the code all night on the power play, as the B’s went 0/3 on the night after Ryan Pulock‘s slashing minor at 11:51 and Scott Mayfield‘s cross-checking infraction at 15:04.
Entering the first intermission, the game was still tied, 0-0, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 10-7, and in face-off win percentage (67-33). New York led in blocked shots (7-3) and takeaways (4-3) after 20 minutes of play.
Both teams had four giveaways each and nine hits aside, while the Islanders went 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/3.
Marchand flipped a pass over to the 22-year-old Boston winger for the one-timer, but Lehner made the initial save. He also gave up a rebound.
While crashing the net, Bergeron (17) found the loose puck and buried it in the twine to give the B’s the lead, 1-0, at 2:32 of the second period.
Pastrnak (33) and Marchand (39) notched the assists as Marchand quickly skated after the puck and collected it for Bergeron’s mantle at home, having scored in his 1,000th game.
As a result of the goal, Pastrnak had been involved either directly by scoring or indirectly by assisting on eight straight goals for the Bruins, but fell shy of the team record of nine straight goals later in the game.
Almost a minute into the power play while Wagner was in the box, Jordan Eberle (12) squeaked a shot past Rask on the short side from about the goal line at 16:40 to tie the game, 1-1.
Mathew Barzal (32) and Nelson (16) had the assists on Eberle’s power play goal.
Both teams entered the dressing room for the 2nd intermission tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, but Boston led in shots on goal, 19-18, despite being outshot by New York, 11-9, in the middle frame alone.
The Isles led in takeaways (8-5), as well as giveaways (8-5), through two periods, while the B’s led in face-off win% (54-46). Both teams had 12 blocked shots and 17 hits each through 40 minutes of action.
Entering the third period, New York was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston remained 0/3.
Cal Clutterbuck thought he gave the Islanders their first lead of the night at 4:52 of the third period with snipe past Rask, however, Cassidy used his coach’s challenge wisely and sent the play to review.
After review, it was determined the Devon Toews and Clutterbuck connected on the play while offside, meaning the call on the ice was overturned and the Islanders hadn’t actually scored. No goal.
A couple minutes later, Cehlarik (3) followed up on a rebound and banked the puck off Lehner and in the net as the New York goaltender dove across the crease in desperation after turning aside the initial shot.
Miller (4) had the only assist on Cehlarik’s goal at 6:34 of the third period and the Bruins led, 2-1.
Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Grzelcyk was charged with two minor penalties against Eberle– one for slashing and another for tripping– resulting in a rare four-minute power play for the Isles.
Rask and his penalty killers stood tall, limiting New York to just three shots on goal through the first half of the extended power play opportunity and successfully killing off Grzelcyk’s minors.
Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, pulled his goaltender with about 1:15 left in regulation for an extra attacker to try to tie the game, 2-2, but it just wasn’t written in the cards on an otherwise beautifully scripted night for Boston sports fans (the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots were honored for their, 13-3, win in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams and participated in a ceremonial puck drop prior to Tuesday night’s action).
Marchand sent a pass to Pastrnak as No. 88 broke free of the New York defenders and entered the attacking zone with an empty 4-by-6 frame in front of him and the chance to put the game away.
Instead, Pastrnak unselfishly looked behind himself and dropped the puck back to an approaching Bergeron (18) for his second goal of the game and the empty net goal that secured the, 3-1, victory for Boston at 19:05 of the third period.
Pastrnak (34) and Marchand (40) were tabbed with the assists on the goal.
With his second assist of the night, Marchand reached the 40-assist plateau for the third consecutive season as the usual scoring suspect for Boston has reshaped his game into scoring goals and being a playmaker.
At the final horn, the Bruins won, 3-1, and led in blocked shots (17-15) and hits (25-23) after 60 minutes of action. The Islanders led in shots on goal (29-27) and giveaways (15-9), while both teams were 50-50 in face-off win%.
New York finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/3.
In his last six games, Bergeron has 4-3–7 totals with 21 shots on goal and a plus-two rating. He ranks 5th in games played in franchise history behind Ray Bourque (1,518 games played in a Bruins sweater), Bucyk (1,436), current General Manager Don Sweeney (1,052) and Wayne Cashman (1,027).
Current teammate and captain, Chara is 6th in franchise history with 927 games played on the Boston blue line.
Bergeron is just the 5th player to reach 1,000 games played with the franchise and 12th player this season to reach the milestone. He has 307 goals and 473 assists (780 points) in that span.
Among the four major North American men’s professional leagues, only Tom Brady of the Patriots has played in more seasons in New England than Bergeron.
Brady’s 19 seasons tops the list among all four organizations with Bergeron (15) 2nd, Boston Red Sox player Dustin Pedroia 3rd (13) and Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart (5) rounding out the list.
Boston travels to Madison Square Garden for an 8 p.m. ET puck drop against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night before returning home for a 1:00 p.m. ET matinee matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and another afternoon battle with the Colorado Avalanche (3 p.m. ET) on Sunday in back-to-back games on back-to-back days.
The Bruins wrap up their short three-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks next Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Bergeron will be honored with a pregame ceremony prior to the game on Saturday against Los Angeles.
The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.
There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the New York Islanders and their outlook for the summer.
The 2017-18 New York Islanders were a vast disappointment. They went 35-37-10 for 80 points on the season and finished 7th in the Metropolitan Division under head coach and former Islanders star, Doug Weight.
John Tavares is the hotly contested prize this summer on the free agent market– if he makes it to the open market by July 1st.
Meanwhile, New York’s owner Jon Ledecky did not “Weight” around as Garth Snow and Weight were removed from their positions with the organization last month.
After jumping ship from the Toronto Maple Leafs– having completed his three years as General Manager– Lou Lamoriello was hired by the Isles and ultimately promoted to the GM position. The search for a new head coach is ongoing after Weight joined the team midseason in 2016-17 and missed the playoffs both years with the club.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Lamoriello holds on to the 11th and 12th overall picks in the 2018 Draft currently.
If the Islanders are looking to move forward, they’ve got a few players to let go this offseason and a couple, like Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, that could be traded in a miracle maneuver by Lamoriello in an attempt to protect the future with guys like Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle as pending free agents in 2019 looking for a raise.
Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Kupari, Adam Boqvist, Isac Lundestrom, Joel Farabee, Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joseph Veleno will likely be availble around the 11th and 12th overall picks and by that point New York would be wise to select the best available.
It’s not a full-on rebuild, but Lamoriello has a bit of a mess on his hands– too much, perhaps, to fix in one offseason, but if Tavares is willing to stick around…
Pending free agents
New York has about $28.300 million to spend this summer with the 27-year-old Tavares likely to take up almost $10.000 million AAV on his next deal– if he re-signs with the Islanders.
Past that, Lamoriello has to contemplate where Chris Wagner, 27, and Nikolai Kulemin, 31, fit in with the organization (if they do) as pending-UFA forwards and Ross Johnston, 24, Brock Nelson, 26, Alan Quine, 25, and Shane Prince, 25, sort themselves out as pending-RFA forwards.
Johnson had six points in 24 games. Wagner had 16 points in 79 games. The former shouldn’t be re-signed if you’re expecting him to be an NHLer next season, whereas Wagner could hold his own on the fourth line.
Kulemin spent most of 2017-18 with an upper body injury that limited his totals to one goal and two assists (three points) in 13 games. He’s been stagnant around 20-points on a good year and could play a role as a bottom-6 forward, provided he signs for a lot less than what he was making ($4,187,500) the last four seasons.
While attracting another top-six forward would certainly sell Tavares on sticking around (hello, Ilya Kovalchuk), Nelson is a key part of New York’s top-two lines, having amassed 40-plus points in three out of his five career seasons in the league.
Yes, he only had 19-16–35 totals in 82 games this season, but the overall production of the Isles was down. Keep him around.
Quine and Prince present challenges to Lamoriello’s overarching plan for the organization. Both players had five goals and 13 assists (18 points) in 2016-17. Quine did so in 61 games, while Prince did it in 50 games played.
This season, Quine had three assists in 21 games and Prince had one goal and one assist (two points) in 14 appearances. Both players are 25-years-old and running out of time as NHLers that have never cracked the 20-point plateau. Make of that what you want.
Along with the Tavares decision, the biggest questions for the Islanders reside on the blueline and in net.
de Haan will see something around $3.300 million (what he made on his one-year bridge deal this season) despite injuries, while Hickey could rival Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy money (somewhere in the range of $5.000-6.500 million).
That could force Lamoriello to trade the aging Boychuk, if the 34-year-old would agree to waive his no-movement clause, or Lamoriello would have to send Leddy packing.
Brandon Davidson, 26, and Ryan Pulock, 23, are the only pending-RFA defenders. Pulock has to be kept while Davidson might see the door as a journeyman making the rounds between Edmonton and Montreal, then back and forth again before landing in Brooklyn.
So that’s the defense, then there’s the goaltending.
Jaroslav Halak, 33, is a pending-UFA coming off a 20-26-6 season in 54 games played with a 3.19 goals against average and .908 save percentage. Not great.
Thomas Greiss, 32, has two-years remaining on his current contract with a $3.333 million cap hit and a 3.82 GAA and .892 SV% in 27 games played in 2017-18. Also not great.
Halak’s four seasons with the Islanders have ranged in goals against average and save percentage with a 2.43 and .914 in 2014-15 (59 games played), 2.30 and .919 in 2015-16 (36 GP), 2.80 and .915 in 2016-17 (28 GP) and his 2017-18 results.
Greiss has posted similar numbers with New York with a 2.36 and .925 in 2015-16 (41 GP), 2.69 and .913 in 2016-17 (51 GP) and his 2017-18 stat line. His best season came as a backup in 25 games played with the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2013-14, compiling a 2.29 GAA and amassing a .920 SV%.
The answer is clear. Find a legitimate goaltender.
Despite brief stints as a starting goaltender, Greiss cannot maintain quality play over the course of a season and unless Lamoriello mends the wounds with Halak and rebuilds his confidence magically over the summer (while also providing him with a defense that limits shot attempts against), then Halak’s out of town and New York is desperate.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
For those of you who expected less cringe-inducing puns with @connorzkeith on the IR, these past 3 days have surely been painful. My gracious cohorts have blessed me with the weekend’s slimmest pickings on this 4-game Sunday, so let’s just have a rundown of the games on the slate, shall we?
At 12:30pm EST (so that’s 11:30am local, on the morning of the time change, so let’s see how well the legs get moving at a typical morning skate timeslot on short rest) we have the scorching-hot Boston Bruins taking on 2003’s Chicago Blackhawks (for those of us who can remember a time where they were a bad team). An Original 6 matchup at the Madhouse on Madison would normally get the nod for Game of the Day (NBC gave it to them) but the Hawks are a shell of their former selves and are limping home to lick their wounds in the offseason while Boston runs roughshod over nearly every opponent they come into contact with. I’m not expecting a barnburner here.
At 7:30pm EST we have a tilt that could be fun, with two high-flying offenses squaring off in Pittsburgh as the Penguins host the Dallas Stars. The Penguins’ balanced attack will attempt to counter the OP Benn-Seguin-Radulov combo in a showdown that wouldn’t actually shock me if the final score was 9-8. But the possibility of a blowout snoozer (in either direction) definitely persists with a pair of teams that occasionally lay absolute eggs defensively, so I’m going to pass on this one for today’s honor.
At 9:00pm EST we have the very, very bad Arizona Coyotes hosting the ‘so bad we traded Thomas Vanek for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte‘ Vancouver Canucks in the ‘Duel for Dahlin’. I…I just cannot be bothered to care about this game.
So then we are left with just one option, and the matchup that has earned the nomination for my first (and hopefully only) Game of the Day matchup:
Yes the old bitter rivalry between the Islanders and Flames is well-documented, and this one should live up to all the hype! [/sarcasm]
Alright, but really, this has the potential to actually be sort of fun.
Calgary is returning home after winning two straight on the road (a 5-1 thumping of Buffalo and a 2-1 victory over the Sens) for the start of a brief homestand, and are currently neck-deep in an absolute knock-down, drag-out, bare-knuckle brawl for the Western Conference wild card spots (5 points seperate 5 teams) and also trail San Jose and Anaheim by just 3 and 2 points respectively for 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific division.
Meanwhile, in Long Island (Brooklyn), the Isles are clinging desperately to their playoff dreams, as they haven’t won a game since February 16th, but have managed to snag pity points in 4 of the 8 losses. They’re a solid distance off of the final wild card spot, but the Devils team they’re chasing has been a bit shaky recently, and with their next 4 games against divisional opponents, with 3 coming on home ice (in fact they play 7 of 10 at Barclays to close out March), they desperately need to use this game to grab some momentum if they hope to mount any sort of a charge at sneaking into the postseason.
In the ‘fun-to-watch’ department, both of these squads give you no shortage of reasons to tune into this tilt. Calgary boasts a trio of 20-goal men in Michael Ferlund, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk, along with 30-goal scorer Sean Monahan. The latter is probably the most underrated pure sniper in the league today, possessing the kind of shot that leaves jaws agape and goaltenders waving hopelessly at thin air. Gaudreau is as shifty and entertaining as anyone, and routinely makes plays that make you question his relationship with physics. Throw in the young trio of offensively talented spark plugs in Ferlund, Tkachuk, and Sam Bennett (55 goals, 111 points, and 134 penalty minutes between them), and you have a fun group up front.
Even on defense the Flames have no shortage of entertainers. Captain Mark Giordano continues to make his case for the best defenseman in the league that no one has heard of, joining the flashy TJ Brodie and power play specialist Dougie Hamilton as Calgary’s trio of 30+ point d-men. Plus you can always count on some bone-jarring hits from Travis Hamonic to liven things up.
For the Islanders, the offense borders on the overpowering. New York has 3 players at point-per-game paces (okay, fine, Tavares has 67 in 68 games, whatever) and a host of others scoring more than their fair share. Captain John Tavares and linemate Anders Lee are both sitting on 31 goals this year, with Tavares’ aforementioned 67 points slightly overshadowing Lee’s 51. Josh Bailey continues his breakout campaign posting 65 points in 64 games, while new addition Jordan Eberle has posted 47 points so far, himself. But the biggest story is without a doubt rookie sensation Mathew Barzal. The diminutive youngster has posted 69 points in 68 games and is the hands-down favorite for the Calder Trophy this year.
The Isles can’t boast the same defensive firepower as Calgary, but Nick Leddy‘s 38 points outdo any single member of the Flames’ big three (although his Mike Commodore ‘Green Jacket’-worthy -33 rating beggars belief). Ryan Pulock and his 105mm Howitzer of a point shot come 2nd on the team at 21 points, but possibly most impressive has been young Thomas Hickey, who’s 20 points are accompanied by a +15 rating. On a team with a -24 goal differential, that’s immensely impressive.
The biggest divider between the two squads comes in net.
Mike Smith has been everything the Flames and their flashy-but-risky style of play could have hoped for. Posting a .921 save percentage and 2.53 GAA on the year, he has been just the steadying influence the Flames have asked him to be.
Now…for the Islanders…basically the entirety of their problems can be traced to their goaltending situation. As I wrote in my season preview article many months ago, for New York it was going to come down to either Jaroslav Halak takes over the net and leads them to success, or they’re going to have a bad time.
They’re having a bad time.
Halak has managed just a .908 save percentage with a 3.23 GAA in 47 contests this year, and while backup Thomas Greiss does possess a seemingly-fine 11-7-2 record, many of his appearances have been in relief and his numbers are even more abysmal at .891 and 3.84. If the Islanders had even average goaltending, that offense would have them firmly in the playoff picture. Instead, they’re clinging to hopes and dreams.
Two hungry teams with flashy offenses and risky styles of play should make for a fun game, so I’ll put my stamp on Islanders @ Flames for today’s DTFR Game of the Day.
In yesterday’s Game of the Day segment, @nlanciani53 told you that you should watch the Washington Capitals attempt to right the ship on their west coast swing against the San Jose Sharks.
I assume he’d like me to apologize for that.
On a day full of fun games, the Sharks and Caps played to a bit of a snoozer, with Washington eventually winning 2-0 in the Shark Tank.
Philipp Grubauer managed a 23-save shutout, but teammate Alex Ovechkin was also shutout once again in his pursuit of 600 career goals. In fact, aside from Nick Backstrom tally in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd period, nobody managed to beat a goaltender the entire game, as Lars Eller‘s 2-0 dagger was scored into an empty net in the 3rd.
Thursdays in the NHL never disappoint, as there’s a whopping 12 games on the slate this evening!
Like most nights, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. this evening with three games (Philadelphia at Boston [NHLN/SN], Winnipeg at New Jersey and Colorado at Columbus), followed half an hour later by four more (Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS2], Vegas at Detroit, the New York Rangers at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Montréal at Florida [RDS]). Next up is Anaheim at Nashville, which drops the puck at 8 p.m. and is trailed half an hour later by Carolina at Chicago and the New York Islanders at Edmonton at 9 p.m. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – Washington at Los Angeles (SN) and St. Louis at San Jose – drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close the evening out. All times Eastern.
More than a few of tonight’s games were circled on my calendar at the start of the year, including…
- Philadelphia at Boston: The Flyers are playing their second rivalry game in as many days, traveling into snow-covered Boston.
- Buffalo at Ottawa: The Sabres and Senators enjoyed a healthy rivalry in the mid-2000s. Let’s see if it gets revived tonight.
- Vegas at Detroit: After spending his first seven seasons in Hockeytown, F Tomas Tatar is making his return with the Golden Knights tonight.
- New York at Tampa Bay: Another deadline deal sent F Vladislav Namestnikov from Tampa – where he’s spent the first five seasons of his NHL career – to the Rangers.
- Anaheim at Nashville: If playoff rematches get you excited, this is the game for you. The Predators beat the Ducks in six games last May.
- Carolina at Chicago: G Scott Darling and D Trevor van Riemsdyk were both Blackhawks last season, but tonight they’ll be wearing white at United Center.
- New York at Edmonton: D Brandon Davidson and RW Jordan Eberle swapped in their blue-and-orange Oilers sweaters for blue-and-orange Islanders sweaters.
What a selection of games! However, only one can be our focus tonight. Since the postseason is just around the corner, let’s look back to the Ducks and Predators’ playoff matchup from a season ago just in case it gets repeated this year.
If you’ll remember, Bridgestone Arena was an impassable fortress in favor of the Predators last postseason. They won both home games in the first round to complete their sweep of the Blackhawks and followed it up with three more wins – including the series-clinching Game 6 – against St. Louis to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Then Anaheim showed up and spoiled the fun.
Though they’d surely heard the
whispers roars about The Stone, the Ducks didn’t seem too daunted by one of the most impressive home ice advantages in recent memory. Having split the opening two games at Honda Center, the Ducks and Predators played a tight Game 3 to a 2-1 Nashville victory that saw D Roman Josi score the game-winner with 2:43 remaining in regulation, setting up an extremely important Game 4.
In that tilt, Anaheim survive a two-goal third period comeback (capped by F Filip Forsberg‘s game-tying marker with 36 seconds remaining in regulation) by Nashville that eventually led to a W Corey Perry overtime goal that snapped Nashville’s home winning streak and leveled the series at two games apiece.
A home loss like that can take the legs out from under a team, or it can reignite the fire in their competitive drive. It did the latter for the Predators in the conference final, as they headed back west to win 3-1 in Anaheim and pull within a victory of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Home ice didn’t disappoint for the Predators in Game 6, as they cruised to a 6-3 victory on the back of a C Colton Sissons hat trick.
That dominance that got 43-14-9 Smashville to the championship round a season ago is in full swing right now, as the Predators are currently riding an impressive nine-game winning streak.
It’s hard to argue with the offense Nashville has been exhibiting during this winning streak. Since February 19, the Predators have averaged a whopping 4.33 goals per game, the best mark in the NHL.
Managing 6-6-12 marks over this run to improve his season totals to 24-25-49, W Viktor Arvidsson has been a major part of this Nashville attack. However, he’s also had the support of the injured Josi (1-11-12 totals in his last six games played) and D Ryan Ellis (3-8-11 since February 19), as all three are currently averaging at least a point per game.
It is here where we find the dominance of the Predators, as only three of Ellis’ last 12 points have coincided with Arvidsson getting on the scorecard, meaning these two players have played in a combined 21 goals in the past nine games.
Talk about the entire team getting involved on the offensive attack.
Of course, all those goals do no good if the opposition can keep up on the scoreboard. Fortunately for Nashville, it has 36-9-4 G Pekka Rinne at its disposal.
Even though he’s been faced with an average of 32 shots per game during this run (16th in the NHL since February 19), Rinne has performed phenomenally to keep opposing offenses under his thumb. The Finn has posted an incredible .942 save percentage and 1.86 GAA in his last seven starts, improving his season marks to a .928 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.
However, Nashville is not the only team in tonight’s game currently riding a win streak. The 34-21-12 Ducks are rolling too, as they’ve won their last three games and have earned points in four-straight.
Just like with the Preds’ winning streak, Anaheim’s has also been sparked by some stellar offense. In all, seven players have averaged at least a point per game since February 25 – none of which have been better than C Ryan Getzlaf, who’s posted unbelievable 1-8-9 totals in his last three games played (he missed Friday’s win over the Blue Jackets due to illness) to average three points per game during this run. Linemate F Rickard Rakell has also been exemplary lately, as his 6-2-8 totals average out to two points per game in his last four showings.
In all, the 4.75 goals per game Anaheim has averaged since February 25 is tops in the NHL in that time.
The similarities between tonight’s opponents continues when we look towards the goal crease, as 25-15-6 G John Gibson has been in peak form in his last three starts. Since last Sunday, Gibson has posted an incredible .955 save percentage for a 1.67 GAA in spite of a defense that has allowed a dismal 38.5 shots against per game (third-worst in the NHL since February 25), improving his season marks to a .927 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.
Even though the Ducks will be in action again tomorrow night in Dallas, it has to be all but assured that Head Coach Randy Carlyle will deploy his best netminder against the best team in the Western Conference and save 8-5-6 G Ryan Miller for the Stars.
Much to the pleasure of the Ducks, who have yet to beat Nashville this season, tonight’s matchup is the finale of the three-game series between these clubs. Their first meeting was on November 3 at Honda Center, where the Preds won 5-3 in large part due to Josi’s one-goal, two-point night. Smashville followed up that victory with a much more competitive 3-2 shootout win at Bridgestone Arena, the site of tonight’s game, on December 2 (W Kevin Fiala took First Star honors).
With the top seed in the Western Conference (and therefore the Central Division) currently in their grasp, there is only one thing left for the Predators to compete for: the Presidents’ Trophy. Nashville’s 95 points are only one point fewer than Tampa’s, and the Preds have a game in hand. In other words, hold off on inscribing this year’s regular-season champion into the record books.
The Ducks could care less about a trophy they’ve never seen, as their sole focus is on holding on to second place in the Pacific Division. Four teams (Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Calgary) are competing for two division spots and are separated by only four points entering tonight’s action, and the Ducks have no wiggle room given the Sharks and Kings both have a game in hand on the team from Orange County.
This preview started with a recap about home dominance, and I think that’s where the preview must also end. Though the Ducks have been playing well lately – well enough, in fact, to upset many good teams in their own barns – Smashville is an entirely different animal. With their fans behind them, the Predators will simply be too strong tonight for the Ducks to beat them.
With a three-assist night from First Star of the Game C Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 at Wells Fargo Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Even though a total of seven goals were struck in this game, only one was registered in the first period. It belonged to RW Phil Kessel (F Evgeni Malkin and Crosby) and was a power play wrist shot with 1:25 remaining in the frame.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, the Flyers pulled back even 2:07 into the second period when Third Star RW Jakub Voracek (F Nolan Patrick) scored a tip-in, followed only 3:52 later by F Travis Konecny (F Claude Giroux and D Andrew MacDonald) setting the score at 2-1 with a wrister.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, that was all the offense it could muster, meaning D Jamie Oleksiak‘s (D Justin Schultz and F Jake Guentzel) slap shot at the 9:24 mark leveled the game at 2-2. 5:01 later, Pittsburgh found its game-winner courtesy of Second Star W Conor Sheary (Crosby and Oleksiak).
After Oleksiak slung a pass his way from the left face-off circle in his own zone, Crosby did most of the work setting up a two-on-one advantage while advancing into the Flyers’ zone. The captain fired an initial wrister that G Petr Mrazek blocked, but Sheary was there to collect the rebound and complete the play with a backhanded shot.
The third period ended with a 4-2 score when Sheary (Guentzel and Crosby) scored a wrister 40 seconds before the second intermission. Malkin (LW Carl Hagelin and C Riley Sheahan) completed the game’s scoring with 1:41 remaining in regulation by burying a wrister into an empty net.
G Tristan Jarry earned the victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (.929 save percentage), leaving the loss to Mrazek, who saved 23-of-27 (.852).
Pittsburgh’s road victory snapped a seven-game winning streak by the 81-48-19 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The hosts now have only a 29-point advantage in the series.