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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

The calendar flipped to September and it’s time to gear up for preseason hockey— I mean the Conference Finals!

Yes, for the first time in recorded history, the National Hockey League is hosting both the Western Conference Final and the Eastern Conference Final in one hub city as Edmonton, Alberta plays host to the third round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, but we’ll get there in a moment.

First, there’s a little leftover business to take care of and that’s figuring out which of the two Eastern Conference finalists will emerge victorious at Rogers Place and remain in the bubble to contend for what every NHL player dreams of– raising Lord Stanley’s mug high over their shoulders and going for a skate.

Though they were at first excluded from the bubble, some family members will be allowed to partake in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final festivities as long as they are Canadian citizens that are currently in Canada, but they have to self-isolate at home for seven days and produce three negative COVID-19 tests before traveling.

Then, of course, they’ll have to remain in quarantine in a separate hotel room in the bubble and produce four more negative tests before they can interact with the players.

The NHL is still waiting for clearance from the Canadian government, as well as the provincial government in Alberta, with regards to allowing citizens from outside of Canada into the Edmonton bubble and remains in ongoing discussions with the NHLPA, as well as the respective governments to work on a plan.

ESPN‘s, Emily Kaplan, goes into great detail to explain the precautions, plans and policies the entities are creating, working through and dealing with in the face of the pandemic with regards to allowing families into the bubble.

And no, none of the family members and/or romantic partners of any the players are a distraction.

If anything, they are a welcome sense of normalcy while the four remaining teams, staff and workers in the bubble have been isolated from the outside world for the last six weeks.

For now, let’s get back to breaking down the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and trying to predict a winner in some number of games.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) vs (6) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points)

Tampa: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 35 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been Stanley Cup contenders for the last six or seven seasons, but have yet to capture their first Cup since 2004.

This year, as the Lightning make their sixth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in franchise history, Tampa is poised for their best chance at winning the Cup despite not having the services of their captain, Steven Stamkos, since mid-March.

After avenging their 2019 First Round exit at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in four games, the Bolts beat the Blue Jackets in five games in 2020. Then they had a repeat of their 2018 Second Round matchup with the Boston Bruins and ousted the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winning team in five games– just like they did two years ago.

Now the Lightning are set to face the New York Islanders and their head coach, Barry Trotz, the one man with a masterplan that beat the Bolts in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final while he was then the head coach of the Washington Capitals.

Nikita Kucherov led Tampa in regular season scoring with 33-52–85 totals in 68 games played, while Stamkos amassed 66 points in 57 games and Brayden Point had 64 points in 66 games.

Kucherov and Point continue to lead the way for the Lightning, while trade deadline acquisitions, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow have brought Tampa’s game to another dimension.

Point leads the Lightning in postseason scoring with 6-12–18 totals in 13 games, while Kucherov is second on the roster with 16 points in 13 games.

On the blue line, Victor Hedman is tied with glue-guy, Ondrej Palat, for the third most points on the team in the 2020 postseason as each player has five goals and four assists (nine points) in 13 games.

Palat tied a franchise record with Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis for the most consecutive postseason games with at least one goal (four games), while Hedman had the game-winning, series-clinching goal in double overtime against Boston in Game 5 of their Second Round series.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevksiy earned Vezina Trophy finalist honors for the 2019-20 season after amassing a 35-14-3 record in 52 games (52 starts) with a 2.56 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

Tampa’s backup, Curtis McElhinney, produced an 8-7-3 record in 18 appearances with a 2.89 GAA, a .906 SV% and one shutout this season.

In the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has been the only goaltender to appear in game action for the Lightning, yielding a 10-3 record in 13 games with a 1.91 GAA and a .931 SV% in that span.

For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Final. 27 years ago the Isles lost to the eventual 1993 Stanley Cup champion, Montreal Canadiens in five games, and no Canadian team has won the Cup since.

That trend will continue– even though the Cup will be awarded in Canada this year for the first time since 2011– as all four teams remaining in the Edmonton bubble are based in the United States.

New York finished off the Florida Panthers in four games in their best-of-five game Qualifier, then took care of the Washington Capitals in five games in the First Round before overcoming the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the Second Round to make this year’s Eastern Conference Final.

Mathew Barzal led the Islanders in the regular season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) had the second-most for New York in 2019-20.

Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) and Josh Bailey (14-29–43 totals in 68 games) were tied for the third most points on the roster prior to the pandemic shortening the regular season.

Entering the Eastern Conference Final, Bailey leads the Islanders with 2-15–17 totals in 16 games, while Nelson has 15 points in 16 postseason games and Barzal has 13 points in 16 playoff games for the Islanders this postseason.

Anthony Beauvillier leads in goal-scoring for New York in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals in 16 games as the Islanders play a more “defense first” mindset– shutting down and trapping star players from opposing teams to will the game the way of the Trotz’s plan.

Semyon Varlamov went 19-14-6 in 45 games (39 starts) in the regular season, amassing a 2.62 GAA, a .914 SV% and two shutouts in the process in the regular season, while Thomas Greiss went 16-9-4 in 31 games (29 starts) and had a 2.74 GAA, as well as a .913 SV% prior to the stoppage.

In the postseason, Varlamov has gotten more starts with a 9-4 record in 14 games and has a 2.00 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in the process, but Greiss earned the Game 7 win against Philadelphia and is 2-1 in three games (two starts) with a 1.08 GAA, a .960 SV% and one shutout in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Should Greiss get more action in the Eastern Conference Final?

It remains a possibility as Trotz hasn’t given any indication as to who he’s starting in Game 1.

New York went 2-1-0 against the Lightning this season, while Tampa was 1-2-0 against the Islanders in the regular season.

The Isles had 11 goals for in the season series and six goals against, despite the Bolts holding the combined shots on goal advantage, 97-68.

Greiss and Varlamov each had a win against the Lightning, while the Bolts opted to start McElhinney in their second matchup of the season, which resulted in a, 5-1, win for the Islanders on Dec. 9th at Amalie Arena.

It’s a good thing for the Lightning that Vasilevskiy likely won’t be getting chased anytime soon– unless the Islanders somehow muster enough courage to score more than enough goals to not have to fallback on “prevent defense”.

Nonetheless, Tampa is hot and when you’re hot, you’re… hot. Duh.

But if there’s one thing we learned about these playoffs, it’s that being hot doesn’t mean anything to the Islanders– they beat the Flyers after all, and Philly had the best stretch from February until the pause, then won the first seed in the East honors via the Round Robin tournament.

The Lightning are beatable, but they’re not easy.

It’ll be a long and grueling battle– a series that likely plays one way in one game and completely the opposite in the next.

Tampa is well rested, while New York just eliminated Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Bolts are also 2-0 all time against the Isles in postseason series matchups– winning in five games in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, as well as in five games in the 2016 Second Round.

The third time’s a charm, though, and the Islanders should pull off yet another upset in seven games and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 1st, 5-1 NYI at Amalie Arena on Dec. 9th, 3-1 TBL at Amalie Arena on Feb. 8th

Schedule:

9/7- Game 1 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/9- Game 2 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

9/11- Game 3 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/13- Game 4 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/15- Game 5 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/17- Game 6 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/19- Game 7 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 7:30 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

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2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

The turnaround from the Qualifier to the First Round was too quick to get this out of the way (other than on the podcast), but at least the league and broadcasting partners gave us all a day or two between the First and Second Round– oh.

By the time that you’ll be reading this, all four Second Round series’ will have played at least one game, while some might have already played through two games.

Fear not, though, the series winner and other basic notes entering the Second Round were written down before puck drop and before the rest of the words in this post were filled around them.

Once again, this postseason is unpredictable– and that’s besides whatever happens on the ice.

At any point in time things could be shutdown again, because– you know– of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The players, coaches, team and league staff, as well as broadcasting crews and essential arena/hotel employees have all been in the bubble for almost a month now.

There aren’t enough words to express how taxing on the mind the isolation really is, despite teammates being in the bubble together, etc.

None on the league staff or team staff will see their families, romantic partners, roommates back home, etc. until they’re either eliminated or heading home with the Stanley Cup in their arms *fingers crossed*.

Luckily, the league’s made it this far into Phase 4 with no positive tests for COVID-19 out of the thousands of tests they’ve conducted.

For one reason or another (TV broadcast deals, probably), they’ve decided to make the Second Round feature a multitude of “back-to-backs”– that’s two games in two nights, whereas normally by this point in the playoffs there’s always (except for extenuating arena availability circumstances) a day off between each game in a series.

Alas, being in two bubble cities (Edmonton and Toronto), the league can do whatever it wants.

For now, let’s focus on the Eastern Conference teams in the Second Round.

As a reminder, the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, if everything goes according to plan. All Eastern Conference games before then, however, will take place at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.

Sadly, families won’t allowed to join the players in the Conference Finals and beyond as was first anticipated at the beginning of the bubble.

(1) Philadelphia Flyers (41-21-7, 89 points) vs (6) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points)

Philadelphia: 69 games played, .645 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

In his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, Alain Vigneault led the team from finishing in fourth place in the Eastern Conference by points percentage at the stoppage to securing the top seed in the East as a result of an undefeated Round Robin performance in what can only be described as wild a ride as the year 2020 has been.

No, the Flyers haven’t had as many lows as what 2020 has brought to the world, but they’ve been on fire as of late– since February, really– so maybe the universe is collapsing only because Philadelphia has what might be their greatest chance at winning the Cup for the first time since 1975.

Oh and they have a legitimate goaltender, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens in six games in the First Round to advance to their Second Round matchup with the New York Islanders and– as has been the trend with 2020– nobody quite knows what to expect going into this series.

Travis Konecny led Philly in scoring in the regular season with 24-37–61 totals in 66 games before the ongoing pandemic shortened the season. Sean Couturier had the second-most points with 59 in 69 games and Jakub Voracek was third on the roster in scoring with 56 points in 69 games.

Thus far in the postseason, Voracek leads the team entering the Second Round with eight points (four goals, four assists) in eight games. Kevin Hayes has 1-6–7 totals in nine games, while Scott Laughton and Couturier each have five points entering Philly’s matchup with the Islanders.

In the regular season, Carter Hart led the way in the crease with a 24-13-3 record in 43 games (40 starts), one shutout, as well as a 2.42 goals against average and a .914 save percentage in that span.

Brian Elliott forged a 16-7-4 record in 31 games (27 starts), with a 2.87 GAA, an .899 SV% and two shutouts as Philadelphia’s backup, while Alex Lyon made three appearances (two starts) and had a 3.55 GAA, as well as an .890 SV% in the process.

Entering the Second Round, Hart has a 6-2-0 record in eight games with a 1.71 GAA, a .943 SV% and two shutouts in the process, while Elliott made one start and one relief appearance (two games) for a 1-0-0 record with a 1.47 GAA and a .913 SV%.

At the other end of the ice, the New York Islanders overcame the Florida Panthers in four games (3-1) in their best of five Qualifier series, then defeated the Washington Capitals in five games (4-1) in the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to line themselves up with the Flyers in the Second Round.

Mathew Barzal led the charge for the Isles with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games this season with Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games), Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) and Josh Bailey (43 points in 68 games) at the forefront of New York’s offense in 2019-20.

Thus far in the postseason, Bailey’s emerged as the Islanders’ points leader with 2-8–10 totals in nine games, while Anthony Beauvillier entered Game 1 against Philadelphia hot on his tail with 6-3–9 totals in nine games.

Meanwhile, Nelson and Barzal each had seven points in nine games for the third most points on the team in the 2020 postseason.

In the crease, Semyon Varlamov went 19-14-6 in 45 games (39 starts) in the regular season with a 2.62 GAA and a .914 SV%, as well as two shutouts in that span, while Thomas Greiss backed Varlamov up with a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts), a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Varlamov has a 7-2 record in nine games entering the Second Round with one shutout, as well as a 1.67 GAA and a .934 SV% in that span.

The Flyers went 0-2-1 in the regular season against the Islanders and– despite being the hottest team since February– now have to face one of the best teams at shutting things down on a night-to-night basis.

Barry Trotz’ defensive scheme is a game plan for success with the Isles’ makeup, so the Flyers are going to have to pull them away from their go-to lanes.

Plus there’s the lack of offense to worry about for Philadelphia from their First Round matchup with the Canadiens that, if any of it is leftover for the Second Round, could spell trouble for Philly’s Cup hopes.

Meanwhile, despite Varlamov’s consistency this postseason, the Flyers have the upper hand in the crease with Hart getting into a rhythm and hitting his stride when it counts.

This is the fifth time these two clubs have met in the postseason and the Flyers hold the, 3-1, advantage in all time series meetings prior, but there’s a chance New York gets revenge on Philadelphia for the first time since 1980.

As much as New York could pull off the upset (based on seeding only and disregarding regular season head-to-head performance), the Flyers should be able to put it together and advance to their first Eastern Conference Final since 2010, by wrapping things up in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 27th, 4-3 F/SO NYI at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 16th, 5-3 NYI at Barclays Center on Feb. 11th

Schedule:

8/24- Game 1 NYI @ PHI in Toronto 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/26- Game 2 NYI @ PHI in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBCN, SN, TVAS

8/27- Game 3 PHI @ NYI in Toronto 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/29- Game 4 PHI @ NYI in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

8/31- Game 5 NYI @ PHI in Toronto*

9/2- Game 6 PHI @ NYI in Toronto*

9/3- Game 7 NYI @ PHI in Toronto*

*If necessary

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) vs (4) Boston Bruins (44-14-12, 100 points)

Tampa: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 35 regulation wins.

Boston: 70 games played, .714 points percentage, 38 regulation wins.

Despite the Boston Bruins clinching the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record in the 2019-20 shortened regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have the higher seed thanks to a better performance in the 2020 Round Robin.

Tampa avenged their elimination from last year’s First Round in four games by beating the Columbus Blue Jackets in the five games (4-1) in the 2020 First Round, which included a 5OT victory in Game 1 and a commanding overtime win in Game 5 (that ultimately ended the series, because that’s how a best-of-seven works).

Nikita Kucherov led the Lightning in the regular season with 33-52–85 totals in 68 games played, while Steven Stamkos had the second-most points on the team (66) despite being limited to 57 games due to injury.

Brayden Point, meanwhile, had the third most points on the team in the regular season with 25-39–56 totals in 66 games.

Entering the Second Round, however, Point was in command of Tampa’s scoring leaders with 5-5–10 totals in eight games, while Kucherov had nine points in eight games and a three-way tie for the third most between Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde had yet to be resolved as each had four points prior to Tampa’s series matchup with Boston.

Oh and nobody knows how long Stamkos will be out since having core muscle surgery in March, then leaving practice in July after supposedly recovering in the allotted six to eight weeks post operation.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevskiy led the charge with a 35-14-3 record in 52 games played (all starts), as well as three shutouts, a 2.56 GAA and a .917 SV% in that span.

His backup, Curtis McElhinney, posted an 8-7-3 record in 18 games with a 2.89 GAA, a .906 SV% and one shutout this season.

Entering the Second Round, Vasilevskiy was 6-2 in eight games with a 1.98 GAA and a .927 SV%.

The Lightning have a lot of fire power and a defense that’s good enough to help inflate their goaltender’s win column, regardless of his status as a Vezina Trophy finalist this season– it certainly helps win some games every now and then when the rest of your teammates are limiting your workload for you.

At the other end of the ice, the Boston Bruins went winless in the Round Robin and failed to record a point in the tournament while Chris Wagner led the team in scoring with a pair of goals over the three Round Robin games.

Then they flipped the switch and beat the Carolina Hurricanes in five games (4-1) to advance to the Second Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and, well, here they are.

David Pastrnak shared the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy honors with Alex Ovechkin in 2019-20, as both players scored 48 goals before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic cut the regular season short.

Pastrnak also led the Bruins in scoring with 48-47–95 totals in 70 games.

Brad Marchand was second on the roster with 28-59–87 totals and Patrice Bergeron completed the first line, as well as the top-three trio in scoring with 31-25–56 totals in 61 games in the regular season.

In the postseason so far, the re-emergence of David “Playoff Krech” Krejci has come to fruition as No. 46 in black-and-gold leads his teammates in playoff scoring with 3-6–9 totals in eight games entering the Second Round.

Marchand (3-4–7 totals in eight games) and Bergeron (2-4–6 totals in eight games) are second and third on the roster, respectively, in scoring prior to their series matchup with Tampa.

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak combined efforts to take home the William M. Jennings Trophy having allowed the fewest combined goals against (174) among goaltender(s) with a minimum of 25 games played in 2019-20.

Rask finished the regular season with a Vezina Trophy finalist nomination, as well as a 26-8-6 record in 41 games (41 starts), a 2.12 GAA, a .929 SV% and five shutouts in that span.

Halak went 18-6-6 in 31 games (29 starts) and had a 2.39 GAA, a .919 SV% and three shutouts prior to the pandemic cutting the regular season short.

Prior to opting out of the rest of the 2020 postseason due to a family medical emergency involving one of his daughters, Rask had a 1-3-0 record in four games (four starts) in the bubble with a 2.57 GAA and a .904 SV% in that span.

There is no blame for being a good parent and knowing that the right thing to always do is take care of your family first– even if your team is in the middle of what could be their last chance to win a Cup with their current core group of players.

The last time the league participated in a postseason in a pandemic, several players contracted the flu and one (Montreal Canadiens star, Joe Hall) died a few days after the 1919 Stanley Cup Final was called off from pneumonia as a complication from influenza.

Have some compassion, for once.

Halak, in the meantime, enters the Second Round as Boston’s starting goaltender with a 3-1-0 record in four games (four starts), as well as a 2.29 GAA and a .912 SV% in that span.

In the regular season, the Bruins went 1-2-1 against the Lightning, while the Bolts held a 3-1-0 record against Boston in the season series (their first game back on Oct. 17th being a, 4-3, shootout victory for Tampa).

Scoring was pretty even at a, 13-10, advantage for the Lightning across all four meetings, despite the Bruins outshooting the Bolts, 139-113, in the four games combined.

The two clubs are 1-1 all time in two previous postseason meetings, where Boston eliminated Tampa in seven games in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final and the Bolts returned the favor to the Bruins in five games in the 2018 Second Round.

Two years removed from Boston’s collapsed hopes of a deep run at the hands of the Lightning, the B’s made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, thanks to the Blue Jackets sweeping the Lightning in the 2019 First Round, then bowing out to Boston in six games in the 2019 Second Round.

These two Atlantic Division teams are more intertwined than average fan might think and a rivalry has sprung as of, well, really since that 2011 series.

The Bruins have struggled to handle the Lightning– especially within the last few seasons, at least.

With everything in mind, it’s also important to remember just how hard it is to go all the way back to the Stanley Cup Final after making it in the previous year– let alone make it out of the First Round after having five months off due to a pandemic.

If anything, it’s not that Bruins are an “aging team”– so are the Lightning at their core with each and every passing year that Stamkos and Co. have not won a Cup ring.

If anything, it’s that the Lightning simply are Boston’s Kryptonite like how the Montreal Canadiens once were before the 21st century.

Boston might be able to win a game or two, but Tampa should really have this series taken care of in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/SO TBL at TD Garden on Oct. 17th, 3-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Dec. 12th, 2-1 BOS at Amalie Arena on March 3rd, 5-3 TBL at TD Garden on March 7th

Schedule:

8/23- Game 1 BOS @ TBL in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/25- Game 2 BOS @ TBL in Toronto 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/26- Game 3 TBL @ BOS in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/28- Game 4 TBL @ BOS in Toronto 7:30 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/30- Game 5 BOS @ TBL in Toronto*

9/1- Game 6 TBL @ BOS in Toronto*

9/2- Game 7 BOS @ TBL in Toronto*

*If necessary

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Rask’s 35 saves and Bergeron’s OT winner secure, 3-2, win for Boston against Isles

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning power play goal in overtime as the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Islanders, 3-2, at Barclays Center on Saturday night.

With the goal, the Bruins set a new franchise record for most consecutive games with at least one power play goal (13)– surpassing the previous record (12) set in the 1987-88 season.

Tuukka Rask (17-4-6 record, 2.27 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 27 games played) made 35 saves on 37 shots against for a .946 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Islanders goaltender, Semyon Varlamov (15-5-4, 2.33 GAA, .923 SV% in 28 games played) stopped 30 out of 33 shots faced for a .909 SV% in the overtime loss.

Boston improved to 27-8-11 (65 points) and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while New York fell to 27-12-4 (58 points) and stagnant in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins improved to 12-6-2 on the road this season in what was Torey Krug’s 500th career NHL game and Sean Kuraly’s 200th career NHL game.

Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) were the only Bruins out of the lineup due to injury, while Zdeno Chara made his return after missing the last game due to his lingering jaw recovery.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change among his forwards– swapping David Backes with Brett Ritchie on the third line.

Backes, Par Lindholm and Steven Kampfer served as Boston’s healthy scratches against the Isles.

Early in the opening frame, Mathew Barzal sent the puck back to the point whereby Scott Mayfield (5) sniped a shot into the corner of the twine over Rask’s glove to give the Islanders the first lead of the night, 1-0.

Barzal (20) and Noah Dobson (3) had the assists on Mayfield’s goal at 4:36 of the first period as New York dominated the first period in shots on net.

Midway through the opening period, Charlie McAvoy hooked Brock Nelson and was assessed a minor infraction at 12:31.

The Islanders did not convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Entering the first intermission, New York led, 1-0, despite dominating in shots on goal, 14-5.

The Isles also led in giveaways (10-7) and hits (10-9), while the Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2). Both teams had three takeaways aside as the Islanders were the only team to see any time on the skater advantage and went 0/1 through 20 minutes.

After taking an errant stick down low from Derick Brassard in the first period, Matt Grzelcyk was ruled “unlikely to return to the game” as announced by Boston on their Twitter account early in the middle frame.

Moments later, the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, on a whacky play whereby Jake DeBrusk (14) poked at a loose puck over Varlamov that had rebounded off of someone in front of the net after McAvoy’s initial shot was blocked.

Anders Bjork (6) and McAvoy (16) were credited with the assists as Boston evened the score at 8:33 of the second period.

Late in the period, Mayfield was penalized for roughing against Charlie Coyle, but Boston was not successful on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Through 40 minutes at Barclays Center, the Bruins and Islanders were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard and, 11-11, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

New York held the total shots on goal advantage (25-16) and led in faceoff win percentage (52-49).

Boston held the lead in blocked shots (12-9) and takeaways (4-3), while both teams had 14 giveaways and 17 hits each.

Heading into the third period, each team was 0/1 on the power play as well.

John Moore (2) rocketed a shot from the point that redirected off of the skate of former Bruins defender turned current Islanders defender, Johnny Boychuk, and behind Varlamov while Ritchie acted as a screen in front of the goal.

Danton Heinen (11) and Coyle (15) tallied the assists on Moore’s first goal in 11 games as Boston took their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:48 of the third period.

Less than four minutes later, Barzal (17) deflected the puck through Rask’s five-hole on a slap pass from Josh Bailey– tying the game in the process.

Bailey (16) had the only assist on Barzal’s goal at 9:33 and the Islanders knotted things up, 2-2.

With about five minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy blocked his second Boychuk slap shot of the night and skated off slowly before returning to action.

The stinger caused a brief scare for the Bruins– having already lost Grzelcyk for the night in the first period on the blue line.

After 60 minutes of regulation, the game went to overtime with the score tied, 2-2, and New York leading in shots on goal (37-30), despite Boston holding the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone (14-12).

The Islanders led in hits (30-29) and faceoff win% (52-48) heading into overtime, while the Bruins led in blocked shots (18-17) and giveaways (20-17).

Both teams had five takeaways and were 0/1 on the power play entering the extra frame.

Cassidy elected to start David Krejci, Brad Marchand and McAvoy in overtime, while Isles head coach, Barry Trotz, went with Anthony Beauvillier, Nelson and Nick Leddy.

Just 40 seconds into the overtime period, Nelson trailed Marchand and tripped up the Bruins winger, yielding a power play to Boston and the 4-on-3 advantage for the B’s as a result.

While on the ensuing power play, Casey Cizikas blocked a shot from David Pastrnak and went down only for play to continue a few more seconds before the officials determined a stoppage was necessary to tend to the injured Cizikas.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins worked back into the attacking zone on the skater advantage after New York cleared the puck down the length of the ice.

Krug fed Bergeron (19) in his usual bumper role as No. 37 in black and gold scored the game-winner at 1:33 of the overtime period.

Krug (26) and Rask (2) had the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal as the Bruins took home the, 3-2, victory on the road in the first game at Barclays Center in about six weeks.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal in the overtime period, 3-0, but trailing to New York in the final shot totals, 37-33.

The Islanders managed to finish the night leading in blocked shots (19-18), hits (31-29) and faceoff win% (54-46) despite the overtime loss. They also went 0/1 on their only skater advantage opportunity of the game.

The B’s wrapped up Saturday night with the advantage in giveaways (20-17) and went 1/2 on the power play.

New York fell to 7-3 overall in overtime this season.

The Bruins improved to 1-3-3 when trailing after the first period and 8-2-3 when tied after two periods this season as a result of the win. The B’s are now 3-4 in overtime this season.

Boston continues their three-game road trip (1-0-0) on Monday (Jan. 13th) in Philadelphia for a meeting with the Flyers before finishing up their current road trip in Columbus on Tuesday (Jan. 14th).

The Bruins return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 16th before facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh for the second game their home-and-home matchup and finish up their game action before the All-Star break with a home game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 21st.

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NHL Nick's Net

Varlamov robs B’s in Isles, 3-2, shootout win

After trailing early in the first period, New York Islanders came back to pull off a, 3-2, shootout victory at TD Garden over the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Semyon Varlamov (12-3-2 record, 2.34 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 20 games played) made 27 saves on 29 shots against for a .931 SV% in the win for the Islanders.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (13-4-5, 2.29 GAA, .922 SV% in 22 games played) stopped 19 out of 21 shots faced (.905 SV% in the shootout loss).

It was the second fewest saves on the second fewest shots against that Rask has faced this season.

Boston fell to 21-7-8 (50 points) this season, but remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while New York improved to 23-8-2 (48 points) and stayed in 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins are now 12-1-7 at home this season and 1-4-3 in their last eight games.

It was also the first time that the Islanders beat the B’s in their last eight meetings.

Kevan Miller (knee) and Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) were out of the lineup once again Thursday night for Boston.

Miller has yet to make his season debut and has missed the first 36 games this season, while Kuhlman has been out for 28 consecutive games since being injured in Toronto on Oct. 19th.

Zach Senyshyn (lower body) was reactivated from long-term injured reserve and assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday. Senyshyn had been out of the lineup since being injured against the Florida Panthers on Nov. 12th.

Bruce Cassidy announced earlier in the day on Thursday that Connor Clifton would be back in the lineup on the blue line with Matt Grzelcyk on the third defensive pairing while John Moore is out sick.

Cassidy made a few minor changes to his forward lines at morning skate– moving Danton Heinen up to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and David Krejci at center, while bumping Charlie Coyle back to his third line center role.

Coyle was flanked by Anders Bjork on his left side and Chris Wagner on his right side with Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and David Backes comprising the fourth line.

Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm were the only healthy scratches in the press box for the Bruins against the Islanders.

Bjork (5) kicked things off with an early goal at 1:58 of the first period, giving Boston the, 1-0, lead after the winger scored his first goal in 12 games on a snap shot over Varlamov’s blocker.

Coyle (11) had the only assist on Bjork’s goal.

Moments later, New York had too many skaters on the ice and was assessed a bench minor as a result. Jordan Eberle served the penalty for the Islanders at 6:00 of the first period.

Boston couldn’t convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.

About a minute after the power play expired for the Bruins, the B’s went on the penalty kill for the first time Thursday night after Clifton caught Anders Lee with a stick and tripped the Isles’ captain at 9:09.

New York was not successful on their first power play of the night.

In the final minute of the opening frame, Casey Cizikas tripped up the NHL’s leading goal scorer, David Pastrnak, at 19:13 and presented the Bruins with another power play that would carry over into the second period if the B’s couldn’t score by the end of the period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, but trailed New York, 4-3, in shots on goal.

The Islanders also led in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (6-3) and hits (13-8), while the Bruins led in giveaways (6-4) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

New York was 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the second period.

Former Bruin turned Islanders defender, Johnny Boychuk (2) blasted one of his patented slap shots from the point that beat Rask on the short side with a screen in front of the net.

Eberle (10) and Lee (10) notched the assists on Boychuk’s goal as the Islanders tied the game, 1-1, at 3:26 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Derick Brassard caught Clifton with a high stick and cut a rut to the penalty box at 12:24. Once more, however, the Bruins were unsuccessful on the power play.

Late in the period, Varlamov robbed Bjork on a one-timer opportunity with a diving glove save across the crease to keep the game tied with 3:33 remaining in the period.

About a minute later, Mathew Barzal (14) scored a one-timer of his own after DeBrusk couldn’t score on a breakaway in Boston’s attacking zone.

Barzal stood inside the low slot and went unnoticed by the B’s defense as the Bruins turned the puck over in New York’s attacking zone and Boychuk faked a shot, then fired a hard pass to Barzal for the go-ahead goal.

For the first time of the night, the Islanders led, 2-1, with Boychuk (7) notching the only assist on Barzal’s goal at 18:26 of the second period.

About a minute later, Brandon Carlo tripped up Eberle and went to the box at 19:44.

The Isles did not convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of play, New York led Boston, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite shots on net being even, 10-10.

The Islanders held the advantage in blocked shots (13-7), takeaways (12-5) and hits (24-14), while the Bruins led in giveaways (12-6) and faceoff win% (53-47).

New York was 0/2 and Boston was 0/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Adam Pelech caught Brad Marchand with a high stick at 6:32 of the third period and the Bruins went on the power play early in the final frame of regulation.

It wasn’t long before the skater advantage became a two-skater advantage as Brock Nelson sent the puck clear over the glass and yielded an automatic delay of game penalty at 7:16.

Boston went on the 5-on-3 power play for a span of 1:16, unless they scored before the advantage expired.

Eight seconds after Nelson was sent to the box, the Bruins won the ensuing faceoff back to Torey Krug, whereby the defender worked the puck to Pastrnak, then back to Krug, at which point No. 47 in black-and-gold flipped the puck down low to Krejci.

Krejci finally sent a pass back to Krug (5) for the one-timer as the Bruins defender moved in from the point to tie the game, 2-2, at 7:24 of the third period.

Krejci (17) and Pastrnak (22) picked up the assists on Boston’s first power play goal in five power play opportunities of the night.

Both teams swapped chance after chance, but no penalties and no goals were scored thereafter as the horn sounded on regulation with the game heading to overtime– knotted up, 2-2.

Boston led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 16-9– increasing their total advantage to, 26-19.

Meanwhile New York held the advantage in blocked shots (17-8), takeaways (17-7) and hits (35-22). The Bruins led in giveaways (13-10) and faceoff win% (59-41) after regulation.

The Islanders were 0/2 and the B’s were 1/5 on the power play heading into overtime.

In overtime, both teams swapped a few high quality scoring chances and let thing slip away as Krejci blew a pass at one point and Devon Toews lost control of the puck at another point.

Rask and Varlamov matched each other’s efforts with save after save from the third period throughout overtime.

After five minutes of play in the extra frame, the two teams needed to declare a winner and squared off in a shootout.

Cassidy started Coyle, Bjork and Krug in overtime, while Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, opted for Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier and Nick Leddy.

There were no goals and no penalties in overtime, but the Bruins outshot the Islanders, 3-2, in the extra frame alone– bringing their final total advantage to, 29-21.

New York finished the effort leading in blocked shots (19-9) and hits (39-24), while Boston held the advantage in giveaways (14-11) and faceoff win% (59-41).

The Isles finished the night 0/2 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 1/5 on the power play Thursday night.

Boston opted to shoot second in the shootout, thereby giving Trotz the first option to kick things off in the shootout.

First up for the Islanders, Eberle deked and scored with a wrist shot over Rask’s blocker.

In response, Cassidy sent out Coyle who stickhandled the puck and sent a shot off the post over Varlamov’s glove side.

Barzal kicked off the second round of the shootout with a big, sweeping deke, then wired the puck off the cross bar and in over Rask’s glove, but the Bruins wouldn’t go down without a fight just yet.

Needing to score to keep the shootout alive, Pastrnak approached the net with speed and creativity– pulling Varlamov out of the crease before deking one final time and finishing his shot on the forehand while wrapping the puck around Varlamov’s outstretched leg pad and into the twine.

Rask needed to make a save to give his team a third and possibly final shot if the Bruins couldn’t score and Rask came up big as he aggressively stayed square to the shooter– Josh Bailey– and made a pad save.

Finally, with the game on his stick– score and continue the shootout in “sudden death” or be denied in any way and go home– Marchand skated in on Varlamov and had the New York goaltender committed to a hybrid stance and an aggressive maneuver, but Marchand chose to go five-hole and was denied.

If only Marchand had elevated the puck in any way.

The Islanders improved to 3-0 in shootouts this season with the, 3-2, shootout victory in Boston.

Meanwhile, the Bruins fell to 0-5 in shootouts this season as a result of the loss.

The B’s also fell to 12-3-1 when leading after the first period this season, 14-5-4 when scoring the game’s first goal this season and 4-5-4 when trailing after two periods this season.

Boston continues their four-game homestand (0-0-2) on Saturday night against the Nashville Predators before finishing it off with their last game before the holiday break against the Washington Capitals on Monday (Dec. 23rd).

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #177- And A Dollar Short

2020 Winter Classic sweater reviews, a standings update and Top-10 NHL power rankings.

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

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

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

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NHL Nick's Net

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Eastern Conference

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.

But wait, what’s that? Bruce Cassidy moved Pastrnak to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci and promoted Danton Heinen to the first line right wing?

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.

Pending-UFA this July, Artemi Panarin, is 2nd on the roster with 2-3–5 totals, followed by a three-way tie for 3rd between Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Seth Jones with four points.

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

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.

Josh Bailey and Valtteri Filppula each have four points through four games.

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.

Warren Foegele leads the team in goals with four and is tied for 2nd in scoring with Jordan Staal and Dougie Hamilton on the roster. Each player has six points this postseason.

The man that scored the series clinching goal against the Caps, Brock McGinn, has 2-3–5 totals, as does Sebastian Aho, in seven 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.

#CanesIn6

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

Categories
Nick's Net

That was Nifty! B’s retire Middleton’s No. 16, win in shootout, 2-1 over Islanders

Brad Marchand tied the game on the power play in the second period and Ryan Donato had the only goal in the shootout to secure the 2-1 victory for the Boston Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden against the New York Islanders.

Tuukka Rask (6-4-2, 2.54 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 12 games played) turned aside 28 out of 29 shots against (.966 SV%) in regulation and all four shots he faced in the shootout in the win for the Bruins.

Meanwhile, Robin Lehner (4-6-1, 2.79 GAA, .918 SV% in 12 GP) made 35 saves on 36 shots against in regulation (.972 SV%) and went three-for-four on shots against in the shootout in New York’s loss.

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Prior to Thursday night’s matchup, Boston retired Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 and raised his jersey banner to the rafters in a ceremony that pushed back puck drop about an hour later than usual.

Middleton is the 11th player to have his jersey number retired by the Bruins, joining Nos. 2 (Eddie Shore), 3 (Lionel Hitchman), 4 (Bobby Orr), 5 (“Dit” Clapper), 7 (Phil Esposito), 8 (Cam Neely), 9 (Johnny Bucyk), 15 (Milt Schmidt), 24 (Terry O’Reilly) and 77 (Ray Bourque) in the rafters at TD Garden.

He ranks 3rd all-time in franchise history in goals (402) and 4th all-time in assists (898) with the Bruins, while leading the club record in shorthanded goals with 25 (Derek Sanderson had 24, Brad Marchand has 23) and spent 12 seasons with Boston from 1976-88 after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers.

One of the many highlights of the ceremony was when Middleton quipped in his speech about not inviting a lot of former teammates to his special night because he didn’t want to have too many men on the ice again (Middleton then gave a glance over to former Bruins head coach, Don Cherry, who was in attendance).

B’s fans alive during the 1979 Stanley Cup Playoffs will remember. Keep reading on if you don’t and/or weren’t alive then.

With Thursday night’s shootout victory, the Bruins improved to a 14-7-4 record (32 points) on the season. The Islanders fell to 12-9-3 (27 points) on the year.

Prior to the matchup, Ryan Donato was recalled from a stint with the Providence Bruins (AHL), while Anders Bjork was assigned to Boston’s AHL affiliate after his less than stellar play just over a quarter of the way through the regular season.

Kevan Miller will be reevaluated after five weeks, having sustained a cartilage injury to the larynx, per Bruce Cassidy earlier in the week and Brandon Carlo may rejoin the Bruins blue line on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Charlie McAvoy remains out with a concussion, but participated in Thursday’s morning skate in a red non-contact sweater.

Cassidy inserted Donato on the third line in place of Bjork alongside Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari, while the rest of the forwards remained unchanged.

On defense, however, Torey Krug was paired with Connor Clifton on the first pairing, John Moore played alongside Steven Kampfer and Jeremy Lauzon was matched with Matt Grzelcyk on the bottom defensive pair.

Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) joined Carlo, McAvoy and Miller in the press box up on level nine out of the lineup with injuries.

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Anders Lee (8) kicked off the game’s scoring past the midpoint of the first period, giving the Islanders a, 1-0, lead on a garbage goal in stereotypical fashion from Lee after an odd carom off the end boards went his way into the low slot.

Mathew Barzal (18) and Scott Mayfield (8) had the assists on Lee’s goal at 12:17 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were outshooting New York, 13-7, and held an advantage in blocked shots (8-7), hits (15-13) and face-off win percentage (56-44). The Islanders led in takeaways (6-5) and both teams had three giveaways each.

Almost midway through the second period, Acciari tripped up Islanders forward, Anthony Beauvillier, and gave New York their first and only power play of the night at 8:05 of the second period. It was not successful.

Moments later, Nick Leddy, caught David Backes with a stick up high and received a minor infraction for high-sticking at 11:43. Boston converted on the ensuing power play thanks to the quick work of Krug to David Pastrnak and a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand (7) for the one-timer past Lehner at 12:09 of the second period.

Marchand’s power play goal ended a seven-game goalless drought for No. 63 in black-and-gold and tied the game, 1-1. Pastrnak (10) and Krug (11) were credited with the assists and the score remained tied throughout the remainder of the period.

Heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, and the Bruins led in shots on goal (25-16), as well as face-off win% (61-39). The Islanders had the advantage in takeaways (14-8), giveaways (9-7) and hits (26-22), while both teams had 11 blocked shots apiece.

New York went 0/1 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/1.

Neither team could breakthrough on the scoreboard in the third period– or in overtime, for that matter– so here’s a quick glance at the stats from the back-and-forth battle over the final 20 minutes of regulation, plus five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.

After Three: Shots on Goal, 34-27 BOS (9-7 in the 3rd period alone for BOS), Blocked Shots, 16-16, Takeaways, 23-12 NYI, Giveaways 11-8, NYI, Hits 35-30 NYI, Face-off Win% 61-39 BOS

After Overtime: SOG (36-29 BOS, 6-2 in OT for NYI), BS 16-16, Takeaways (27-12 NYI), Giveaways (11-8 NYI), Hits (35-32 NYI), Face-off Win% (62-39 BOS)

In the shootout Barzal shot first for the Islanders and was denied by Rask. Jake DeBrusk had the first attempt for Boston and was denied by Lehner. The remaining rounds went as such:

Round 2: NYI, Brock Nelson (saved), BOS, Pastrnak (hit post)– (0-0 after two rounds of the shootout)

Round 3: NYI, Valtteri Filppula (saved), BOS, Marchand (saved)– (0-0 after three rounds)

Round 4: NYI, Josh Bailey (saved), BOS, Donato (goal)– (1-0 BOS after four rounds)– Bruins win shootout, 1-0, and the game, 2-1

The shootout victory was Boston’s first shootout win of the season in their first shootout appearance of the regular season– in just their 25th game on the schedule.

Boston takes on the Red Wings on home ice this Saturday before traveling to Sunrise, Florida for the start of a quick, two-game, road trip against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (Dec. 4th) and heading up to Tampa, Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning next Thursday (Dec. 6th).

Categories
Daily Matchup

March 11 – Day 151 – I’Monahan-d it to ya, today’s slate would be more interesting after a few glasses of Bailey’s.

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.

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Weekly Bumblings

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 18

Skater of the Week: Connor McDavid

It feels sort of wrong that he hadn’t won this until now. Just doesn’t seem possible, right?

Likely a byproduct of the abysmal season Edmonton is having, McDavid has been enjoying a solid if less-than-stellar season (he’s still put up 64 points in 54 games, we’re just talking about the arguable best player in the world) and hadn’t made this esteemed list until now. But with eight points in four games this week (including a four-goal, five-point performance against the almighty Lightning), Edmonton’s lord and savior has claimed the throne.

McDavid saw a five-game point scoring streak (seven goals, 11 points) come to an end in Edmonton’s final game of the week, but managed to put up eight points in the week’s three prior contests, so he definitely is worthy of the nod.

Tendy of the Week: Devan Dubnyk

In a week of slim standout goaltending performances (apart from Andrei Vasilevskiy making what might actually be the greatest save in the history of hockey), Dubnyk’s 2-0-1 record manages to stand out, particularly paired with his .950 save percentage and 1.96 GAA.

Apart from giving up four goals in the overtime loss to Arizona (which came on 40 shots, allowing Dubnyk to still manage a .900 save percentage), Dubnyk backstopped two victories over division rivals to cap a stellar week, turning aside 35-of-37 shots faced against St. Louis, and posting a 44-save blanking of Chicago.

The lanky Saskatchawinian (I have no idea if that’s a real word, but it was fun to say) hasn’t quite matched his ridiculous numbers from last season to this point, but he’s still been more than solid and has the Wild poised for another playoff run.

*Editor’s note: It’s “Saskatchewanian,” Pete. But close enough.*

Game of the Week: Detroit Red Wings 6 @ New York Islanders 7 (OT), Friday February 9th, 2018

Someone pick up the damn phone, the 1980s are calling.

This was one of those games that just made you laugh, because nothing about it made any sense. Three goaltenders played in the game, none of them posting a save percentage higher than .857 (Petr Mrazek had a frankly disturbing .759 and played for the team that DIDN’T switch goaltenders). Nine, count them, nine skaters had multi-point games, including a hat trick for Brock Nelson, a four-point outing for Henrik Zetterberg, and Mathew Barzal‘s five-assist performance making him the first rookie in 100 years to post three five-point games in a season.

But perhaps the zaniest stat of all was the way the goals were posted.

Detroit was all over the Isles early, dominating the first period and taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room. New York could only answer one time in the second period, before drawing to within one early in the third, only to have the Wings score twice more in a 2:12 span to regain a three-goal lead. But with about six minutes to play, Tyler Bertuzzi would attempt to chop off the leg of Cal Clutterbuck, giving the Islanders a five-minute major power play opportunity. An opportunity they would capitalize upon thoroughly.

Brock Nelson. 5-3. Anders Lee. 5-4. Nick Leddy. Tie game. Josh Bailey. The Isles now somehow lead this game 6-5 with 1:49 to play after scoring four times on a single power play. Who could have predicted this? Who could even believe this? Who is writing the script for this movie? Who’s got Mike Green in the slot? Oh, nobody does, and with 29 seconds to play the Red Wings complete the circus act to tie the game at six and force overtime.

Nelson would complete his hat trick to finally end the chaos 3:15 into the extra frame, but if we’re honest, everyone who watched this game were the real winners*.

*Except my father, who is still questioning how his team could score six goals and lose a hockey game.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Sidney Crosby scored the 400th goal of his career on Sunday against the Blues. I can only speak positively of him for so long at any given time, so I’ll just end this right here.

Lars Eller got himself a five-year, $17.5M extension with the Capitals, making him probably the highest-paid person in the world named Lars that doesn’t play drums.

Alexandre Burrows decided not to appeal his 10-game suspension for being an absolute piece of…err…I mean kneeing Taylor Hall in the head…a lot. Personally, I was really hoping he would appeal the suspension, and the league would respond by making it an 11-game suspension, just because it’s Alex Burrows.

Mark Scheifele is back off of IR, adding even more firepower to a Jets squad that might just screw around and grab a Presidents’ Trophy.

The Rangers basically announced in a letter to their fans that they are dropping the franchise on a landmine and starting over, which is probably disheartening to the fanbase, but New York was only one point behind my Blue Jackets when the letter was published so, like, I’m definitely not thinking about that when I try to go to sleep or anything.

Jack Eichel is out for at least a month after suffering a high-ankle sprain. This is devastating news for the Sabres, as they lose a key piece in their pursuit of a playoff spot. (Nobody say anything and let’s see if any Buffalo fans know that was sarcasm)