Tag Archives: Justin Braun

San Jose Sharks 2019-20 Season Preview

San Jose Sharks

46-27-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the Western Conference Final by St. Louis

Additions: F Jonny Brodzinski, D Trevor Carrick (acquired from CAR), D Nicolas Meloche (acquired from COL), D Dalton Prout

Subtractions: F Joonas Donskoi (signed with COL), F Micheal Haley (signed to a PTO with NYR), F Jonathon Martin (signed with Tucson, AHL), F Gustav Nyquist (signed with CBJ), F Joe Pavelski (signed with DAL), F Francis Perron (traded to VAN), F Tom Pyatt (SHL), F Alex Schoenborn (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Justin Braun (traded to PHI), D Michael Brodzinski (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Cody Donaghey (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Cavan Fitzgerald (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Joakim Ryan (signed with LAK), D Kyle Wood (re-signed, then traded to CAR), G Antoine Bibeau (traded to COL)

Still Unsigned: F Rourke Chartier, F Tim Clifton

Re-signed: F Kevin Labanc, F Maxim Letunov, F Timo Meier, F Antti Suomela, F Joe Thornton, D Nick DeSimone, D Tim Heed

Offseason Analysis: After making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016, the San Jose Sharks were looking to capitalize on their momentum from their miraculous comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their First Round matchup.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, sometimes injuries pile up and get in the way of forward progress.

Though they lost to the St. Louis Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final, the mere fact San Jose made it that far after nearly blowing it against Vegas is impressive– especially considering how close of a series their Second Round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche was, which also went seven games.

Whether they were exhausted from multiple overtimes, one long series after another, the Sharks found themselves with a longer than anticipated offseason to rest and recover.

In the meantime, General Manager, Doug Wilson, had his work cut out for him.

Wilson signed Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension worth $11.500 million per season, making Karlsson the highest paid defender in the league.

The Sharks GM also managed to re-sign 22-year-old star in the making, Timo Meier, to a four-year contract worth $6.000 million per season. By the end of the deal, Meier will still have one year of restricted free agency left, which really speaks to the fact that it’s a great– team friendly– extension at an affordable price with the future in mind.

Last season, Meier had 30-36–66 totals in 78 games. He had 21 goals and 15 assists (36 points) in his first full season (81 games played) in 2017-18.

But the cost of re-signing key pieces of San Jose’s core comes with a price– losing depth.

First, Joe Pavelski priced himself out of the Sharks, in part, thanks to his consistent scoring and 38 goals last season at 35-years-old, as well as San Jose’s cap crunch thanks to Karlsson’s pay raise.

Pavelski signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars worth $7.000 million per season, but it’s not about the money for San Jose (even though it was)– it’s about having to make up for a 38-goal deficit heading into this season.

Second, to get themselves squared away with the salary cap, Wilson had to move one of his durable top-four defenders via a trade, sending Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 18th for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick.

Trading Braun left Wilson with no choice but to sign Dalton Prout as a cheap replacement and to perform this season’s Micheal Haley duties. Haley, himself, signed a PTO with the New York Rangers in hopes of filling New York’s Cody McLeod/Tanner Glass role opening.

On the plus side, the Sharks will be able to replenish their pool of prospects with the transaction. On the other hand, Braun was a versatile component when others (like Karlsson) were injured.

Even with the additional $3.800 million addition in cap space, San Jose was not able to convince Joonas Donskoi to stay in town, regardless of whether or not Wilson had any plans for the top-nine forward.

Instead, Donskoi joined the Colorado Avalanche on a four-year deal worth $3.900 million per season– providing both job security and a chance to win the Cup, since the Avs are on the rise.

Sharks fans were hoping to see a reunion of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton back on the same team, but Wilson guaranteed Marleau wouldn’t be signed as long as Thornton was back for his 22nd season in the National Hockey League.

The good news? “Jumbo Joe” isn’t going anywhere– take that Father Time!

The bad news? Marleau isn’t going anywhere in free agency (yet) either.

It’s a good move for the Sharks though, as their younger players did exactly what Wilson explained– they played better and worked their way up the lineup to where Marleau had been prior to his departure to join the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2, 2017.

San Jose has something special in Meier, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow and even Dylan Gambrell, meanwhile Logan Couture was named captain in wake of Pavelski’s departure– fully cementing the Logan Couture Era legacy in Sharks history.

Head coach, Peter DeBoer, will have a lot of leadership in the dressing room to rely on with Couture as captain and Karlsson, Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns serving as alternate captains throughout the season.

Offseason Grade: C-

Considering Karlsson’s cap hit, it would’ve been a “D+” if it weren’t for the redeeming qualities of Meier’s contract. Other than that, the Sharks are destined to be a divisional berth in the Pacific Division as recent history has dictated, but they don’t seem to have what it takes on paper to be leapfrogging over the competition.

Oh, and there’s the near 3.00 goals against average of both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell to consider from last season. That’s terrible for a team with or without Karlsson and Burns on the defense.

DTFR Podcast #169- 2019-20 Season Preview: Metropolitan Division

Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.

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DTFR Podcast #168- 2019-20 Season Preview: Pacific Division

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).

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Philadelphia Flyers 2019-20 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers

37-37-8, 82 points, 6th in the Metropolitan Division

Only misses the postseason in odd years (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019)

Additions: F Andy Andreoff, F Kyle Criscuolo, F Kurtis Gabriel, F Kevin Hayes (acquired from WPG), F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from DAL), D Chris Bigras, D Justin Braun (acquired from SJS), D Matt Niskanen (acquired from WSH), D Nate Prosser, D Andy Welinski, D Tyler Wotherspoon, G Jean-Francois Berube

Subtractions: F Justin Bailey (signed with VAN), F Cole Bardreau (signed with NYI), F Greg Carey (signed with Lehigh Valley, AHL), F Byron Froese (signed with CGY), F Tyrell Goulbourne (signed with VGK), F Ryan Hartman (traded to DAL, signed with MIN), F Corban Knight (KHL), F Jori Lehtera (KHL), F Roman Lyubimov (KHL), F Phil Varone (signed with MTL), F Mike Vecchione (signed with STL), D Radko Gudas (traded to WSH), G Mike McKenna (retired), G Michal Neuvirth (signed a PTO with TOR), G Cam Talbot (signed with CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Travis Konecny, D Jacob Graves, D Ivan Provorov

Re-signed: F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F Scott Laughton

Offseason Analysis: It’s the dawn of a new age for the Philadelphia Flyers. Gone are the days (hopefully) of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers sweater as Carter Hart’s first full season is about to get underway– and with a stable defense in front of him too.

Last season, Philadelphia set an NHL record for the most goaltenders used in a season with seven different netminders.

This season, Philadelphia’s looking to set a record for the most current/former head coaches to be behind the bench at any given time as Alain Vigneault is the new head coach, while Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien are playing supporting roles as assistants.

General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, nabbed Kevin Hayes in June in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets– sending a 2019 5th round pick to the Jets in return.

Shortly after acquiring Hayes, the Flyers “re-signed” him to a seven-year, $50 million contract worth $7.143 million per season. He’s never scored more than 25 goals in a season and just had a career-high 55 points in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg last season.

While Hayes certainly isn’t a standout superstar, he does solidify the top-six forward group and provides a long-term foundation for Philadelphia’s core with his seven-year deal.

Claude Giroux is only 31-years-old and signed through 2021-22 at $8.275 million per season and Jakub Voracek, 30, is signed through 2023-24 at $8.250 million per season.

Any contract with a cap hit under $9 million for your best players is considered a steal in today’s NHL, but not all “steals” are good contracts.

Regardless, Philadelphia has a versatile group of forwards and upgraded their defense over the offseason– something that was badly needed to help lessen the load on a high turnover of goaltenders over recent years.

Radko Gudas was traded to the Washington Capitals in a one-for-one deal that sent Matt Niskanen to the Flyers. Though Philadelphia retained 30% of Gudas’ salary ($1.005 million) in the deal, they did not keep any of his future suspensions in the transaction.

While Niskanen alone isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, adding Justin Braun to the mix that includes Niskanen, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin certainly is.

Provorov is still an unsigned restricted free agent with training camp opening later this week.

Braun was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade with the San Jose Sharks in which Fletcher gave up a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick to get the top-four defender while the Sharks were looking to unload salary now that they’ve locked up Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension.

The Flyers have made themselves into serious playoff contenders on paper, but the hard part still remains in front of them– actually making it.

Luckily for them, Vigneault has been to the Stanley Cup Final more recently than Philadelphia has as an organization.

Vigneault made it to the Final behind the bench of the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 and New York Rangers in 2014. His team lost in seven games in 2011 and in five games in 2014.

The Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

To win the Cup– sometimes– it takes a couple of hardships first before the sweet taste of victory.

Philadelphia’s in “win now” mode. Future be damned.

They have $13.417 million in cap space with Travis Konecny and Provorov to re-sign, plus Nolan Patrick in the final year of his entry-level contract this season.

Offseason Grade: A-

Sure Hayes is overpaid and Vigneault, Yeo and Therrien are behind the bench, but Fletcher built a legitimate defense, a mix of youth and quality players in their prime, plus he has a dark horse in net.

How far can Philadelphia go? That remains to be seen, especially as some of the younger players don’t have a lot of playoff experience– if any at all. However, the Flyers are playoff contenders nonetheless and as long as you make the postseason, you have a chance of winning the Cup.

2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

DTFR Podcast #163- Cap’n Crunch

The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.

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DTFR Podcast #159- Battle For Gloria (Part One)

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.

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Bruins take bite out of the Sharks, 4-1

The Boston Bruins returned home for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday night and promptly beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, at TD Garden– eight days after the two teams collided for a thrilling (and controversial) battle in San Jose.

Boston swept the season series with the Sharks, 2-0-0, after Tuesday’s win and Feb. 18th’s, 6-5, victory in overtime.

David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Brad Marchand had goals for the Bruins, while Logan Couture had the only goal for the Sharks.

Jaroslav Halak (17-9-4 record, 2.29 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 32 games played) made 19 saves on 20 shots against for a .950 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (29-13-5, 2.95 GAA, .875 SV% in 48 GP), stopped 28 out of 32 shots faced for an .875 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 23-1-3 when leading after two periods and 10-0-2 in the month of February.

Boston also improved to 37-17-9 (83 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while San Jose fell to 37-19-8 (82 points) on the season, but still in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.

Weymouth, Massachusetts native, Charlie Coyle, made his home debut for Boston and Marcus Johansson made his debut (at home and for the team) with the Bruins on Tuesday.

Johansson was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Monday prior to the league’s trade deadline in exchange for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 4th round pick. He is the first player in franchise history to wear No. 90.

The Bruins also signed Lee Stempniak to a one-year, $650,000 contract on Sunday and formally assigned the veteran NHL winger to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

Upon the acquisition of Johansson, the B’s re-assigned Karson Kuhlman and Peter Cehlarik to Providence to keep them eligible for the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Boston General Manager Don Sweeney provided an update on David Pastrnak (left thumb) during his press conference after the trade deadline on Monday and announced Pastrnak would be in a cast for about two more weeks, then he’d need to get a splint and a sense as to his measure of comfort for his eventual return to the lineup.

With Kevan Miller (upper body) day-to-day after blocking a shot up high in Vegas against the Golden Knights, John Moore was inserted on the third defensive pairing.

Bruce Cassidy kept his usual first and fourth lines together, as well as his first two defensive pairings, while adjusting his second and third lines to account for the additions of Johansson and Coyle.

Johansson suited up to the right side of Krejci and DeBrusk, while Coyle centered the third line with David Backes on his right wing and Joakim Nordstrom returning to the lineup as the left wing (Nordstrom was a healthy scratch in St. Louis).

Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Tuesday with Miller and Pastrnak out of the lineup due to injury.

Early in the first period, Justin Braun slashed Coyle as the Bruins center was in the midst of a scoring chance at 5:41.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play and instead committed the game’s next infraction, when Matt Grzelcyk hooked Michael Haley at 11:58 of the first period.

Less than a minute into San Jose’s first power play of the night, Couture (23) banked one off of Halak’s leg pad and squeezed the puck between Halak’s pad and the inner post.

Couture’s power play goal was unassisted and gave the Sharks the lead, 1-0, at 12:47 of the opening frame.

Less than two minutes later, Timo Meier caught DeBrusk with a high-stick and drew some blood. As a result, Meier was assessed a double-minor penalty at 14:29.

Just ten seconds into the resulting 5-on-4 advantage for the next four minutes, Boston worked the puck around the umbrella setup, yielding a one-timer from Krejci (15) that blew past Jones to tie the game, 1-1.

Torey Krug (38) and Marchand (48) notched the assists on Krejci’s power play goal at 14:39.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Bruins led the Sharks in shots on goal (16-8). The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (8-4), hits (11-3) and face-off win percentage (68-32).

San Jose was 1/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Erik Karlsson had battled a groin injury earlier in the month of February and missed the last time these two teams went toe-to-toe on Feb. 18th, but he was on the ice for a grueling effort.

Early in the middle frame, Karlsson tried to defend McAvoy in the Sharks’ defensive zone, but appeared to have overexerted himself and tweaked something in his leg.

Karlsson went to the dressing room and returned later in the period, only to once again make an exit after Marchand danced around the Sharks defender for a shorthanded goal later in the period.

The veteran blue liner did not return for the third period of action.

Meanwhile, almost halfway through the second period, McAvoy (5) sniped a wrist shot past Jones’ blocker on a give-and-go from Marchand after the feisty Bruin received a pass from Danton Heinen entering the zone.

Marchand (49) and Heinen (13) tallied the assists on what would become the game-winning goal at 9:09 of the second period and the Bruins had their first lead of the night, 2-1.

A mere 37 seconds later, DeBrusk (20) reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career as Boston entered the attacking zone on a three-on-one with tremendous puck movement.

Krejci (40) and Johansson (16) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 9:46, as the Bruins led, 3-1.

With the assist on the goal, Johansson picked up his first point as a member of Boston.

Less than a minute later, Sean Kuraly tripped up Joe Thornton and took a trip to the penalty box at 10:29.

While shorthanded, Marchand (25) received a pass and broke free from Karlsson and the rest of the Sharks to dangle and get a shot off with the backhand through the five-hole on the San Jose netminder to make it, 4-1, for Boston at 12:28 of the middle frame.

Marchand’s shorthanded goal was the 25th of his career and tied Rick Middleton for the most in Bruins franchise history.

Of course, Patrice Bergeron (36) had the primary assist on Marchand’s goal, while Brandon Carlo (5) had the secondary assist.

Late in the period, Evander Kane tried to fight Kuraly, but the linesmen intervened as Kuraly had not had the chance to take off his gloves.

Kane received two roughing minors to Kuraly’s one roughing infraction, leaving the Sharks shorthanded at 14:55. Kevin Labanc served Kane’s extra minor.

A few minutes later, Barclay Goodrow and Chris Wagner got tangled up in front of the benches and exchanged brief fisticuffs before the linesmen got in the way and ended the fight early.

Goodrow and Wagner both received five-minute major penalties for fighting at 17:54.

Less than a minute after that, Moore was penalized for cross-checking Meier at 18:25.

San Jose did not score on the ensuing power play and both teams went into the second intermission with Boston leading on the scoreboard, 4-1, and in shots on goal, 24-12.

The B’s also led in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (6-5), giveaways (11-9), hits (18-16) and face-off win% (58-42) as they continued to flat-out dominate the Sharks on home ice.

Boston was 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose was 1/3 heading into the third period.

Early in the third period, while going hard for the puck, Zdeno Chara caught an elbow on Kane, which led to Kane pulling down the 6-foot-9 captain of the B’s from behind and throwing a couple punches.

Chara, in return, got back to his feet and was willing to fight a fair fight. He promptly delivered several well placed punches as Kane hunched over to avoid an otherwise surefire death sentence from the tallest player in NHL history in his 2nd fight in 44 games this season.

Kane received an instigating penalty on top of his five-minute major for fighting. As such, he automatically was charged with a ten-minute misconduct, while Chara picked up two minutes for elbowing and a five-minute major for fighting.

As a result of Kane’s instigating penalty, the Sharks were left shorthanded at 3:22 of the third period.

Almost 30 seconds later, Kane received a game misconduct for his continued verbal argument with the refs at 3:51.

Seconds after the ensuing face-off Haley didn’t even bother to make a play and instead dropped the gloves with Backes as the game further descended into chaos.

After Backes and Haley were sent to the sin bin– each with five-minute majors for fighting– at 3:56 of the third period, neither team scored a goal, nor committed another infraction.

By the final horn, Boston had secured the win, 4-1, over San Jose and dominated shots on goal, 32-20.

The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-7) and face-off win% (58-42), while the Sharks finished the action ahead in giveaways (15-13) and hits (27-21).

Boston finished Tuesday’s action 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

The B’s finish off the month of February with a Thursday night matchup against the league leading, Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston then sets its sights on the month of March as their six-game homestand continues against the Devils on Saturday and the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday (March 5th).

Next Thursday (March 7th), the Florida Panthers visit Boston, followed by the Ottawa Senators (March 9th), before the Bruins hit the road in Pittsburgh (March 10th) for their first road trip since the trade deadline.

Thornton’s hat-trick measures short, B’s beat Sharks, 6-5, in OT

Messy officiating was a theme of the night, but at the end of the night, Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning overtime goal to lift the Boston Bruins over the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, on Monday night at SAP Center.

San Jose’s ageless wonder, 39-year-old Joe Thornton had his fifth career hat trick (and first since Oct. 27, 2010) and united the hockey world in his quest for four goals in one game that was ultimately unsuccessful due to the loss.

Tuukka Rask (20-8-4 record, 2.45 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 38 shots against for an .868 SV% in the overtime win for Boston.

Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (28-11-5, 2.95 GAA, .896 SV% in 45 GP) turned aside 14 out of 20 shots faced for a .700 SV% in the overtime loss.

The B’s improved to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Sharks fell to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and stayed in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.

Boston improved to 23-4-5 when scoring first this season and 11-2-3 when tied after two periods. San Jose fell to 4-4-3 when tied after two periods this season.

In addition, the Bruins are now 14-10-5 on the road this season and 3-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

The Bruins are also on a six-game winning streak (their longest of the season) and are now 8-0-1 in the month of February.

Peter Cehlarik did not take part in morning skate on Monday, as Bruce Cassidy reassured reporters after practice that Cehalrik sustained a lower body injury in Saturday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and would be out against San Jose.

Karson Kuhlman took over Cehlarik’s spot on the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while David Backes took Kuhlman’s spot from Saturday on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Trent Frederic.

Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer rejoined the NHL club in San Jose on a recall after a three-game conditioning stint with Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins.

Other changes to Cassidy’s lineup included swapping Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller on the second and third defensive pairings, respectively.

Carlo took the ice alongside Torey Krug, while Miller laced them up with Matt Grzelcyk.

Cehlarik (lower body), John Moore (healthy scratch), Kampfer (healthy scratch) and David Pastrnak (left thumb) were the only Bruins out of the lineup against the Sharks on Monday.

From puck drop to the first whistle, the Bruins and Sharks played a consecutive span of 10:13– negating the first media timeout altogether.

In fact, the networks carrying the game Monday night couldn’t even go to break after the first whistle as it came on an icing call.

As the frantic postseason-infused pace settled in, San Jose defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved the puck from crossing the line just in the nick of time. Or did he?

An overhead view from the crossbar might have indicated that Boston was robbed of a goal, but since the call on the ice was “no goal” and the other camera angles were inconclusive– the original call stood.

Midway through the first period, Tomas Hertl was penalized for high-sticking Sean Kuraly at 10:56.

While shorthanded, Evander Kane broke free from the Bruins blue liners, beat Rask and rang the post with his shot.

Moments later, after killing off the Hertl infraction, Kane got a stick up high on Grzelcyk, sending the B’s back on the power play at 13:04 of the opening frame.

After failing to generate any offense on their first power play chance of the night, Boston capitalized on their second extra skater advantage.

45 seconds into their second power play, Krug (6) blasted a slap shot while moving into the face-off dot to Jones’ right side, while Erik Karlsson partially screened his own goaltender, as the puck went high, glove side, into the twine.

Krejci (36) and Patrice Bergeron (35) tallied the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 13:49 as Boston jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.

With his assist on the goal, Krejci became the fourth Bruin to reach at least 50 points this season.

A few minutes later, Kuraly won a face-off in the attacking zone back to Zdeno Chara (6) whereby the 6-foot-9 defender rocketed his patented slap shot past Jones for his 199th career goal.

Kuraly (11) had the only assist on Chara’s goal at 16:26 and the Bruins led, 2-0.

Less than two minutes later, Boston continued to strangle the momentum pendulum into their metaphorical side.

DeBrusk lobbed an aerial pass on a two-on-one to Kuhlman (1) as Jones was caught behind the play, giving Kuhlman his first career NHL goal and a three-goal lead for the Bruins.

Kuhlman’s goal was assisted by DeBrusk (9) and Krejci (37) at 18:24 of the first period as Boston led, 3-0.

As the seconds ticked down before the first intermission, Joe Thornton (11) put the Sharks on the scoreboard to make it a two-goal game.

Joe Pavelski had the initial shot on goal, but Thornton found the rebound in the crease and sent it home to make it, 3-1, Boston at 19:57 of the first period.

Pavelski recorded his 22nd assist of the season on Thornton’s first goal of the game.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but both teams recorded eight shots on goal aside.

The B’s led in takeaways (3-2), hits (8-6) and face-off win percentage (63-37), while the Sharks led in blocked shots (4-2) and giveaways (4-2) after one period of play. San Jose had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, Miller sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty– leaving Boston shorthanded at 1:40 of the second period.

Almost 30 seconds later, Pavelski (32) redirected an initial shot from the point off Rask, whereby the Bruins goaltender made the initial save, but the puck took an odd bounce and went over his shoulder and into the four-by-six frame behind him.

Brent Burns (54) and Logan Couture (33) picked up the assists on Pavelski’s power play goal at 2:24 of the second period.

Couture followed up his assist on Pavelski’s goal with a hooking penalty at 4:43.

Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, DeBrusk (18) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway with speed and beat Jones to make it, 4-2, Bruins.

In the last four games, DeBrusk has 4-4–8 totals.

Danton Heinen (11) and Backes (9) notched the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 6:30 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Justin Braun caught Kuraly with a clean hit along the boards that Chris Wagner did not view as clean as it was.

Wagner and Braun tussled for a few seconds with the gloves off before the linesmen got in-between the two and separated them.

Despite not actually fighting, Wagner and Braun each received five-minute majors for doing more than what otherwise would have been considered roughing at 10:25.

Late in the second period, whatever tilt in the ice there was took a tank (at the Shark Tank, get it?) as San Jose made it a one-goal game at 16:03, thanks to another garbage goal collected by Thornton (12).

For the second time of the night, Thornton banged home the rebound to record his first two-goal game in his 51st game this season and fourth since 2013.

Shortly thereafter, Thornton took a trip to the penalty box for high-sticking Bruins winger, Brad Marchand.

While shorthanded, Couture split the Boston defense and charged into the offensive zone while the B’s were caught changing lines.

As Couture neared Rask, Marchand hooked the Sharks forward and the puck didn’t cross the goal line, despite the quick string of confusing signals indicated by the referee.

Instead of waving off the goal that wasn’t (alas, the puck almost reached the goal line), then pointing towards the center-ice face-off dot to award the ensuing penalty shot, the ref closest to the goal appeared to change his mind and indicated a goal had been scored.

Except he hadn’t, technically.

To the dismay of those in attendance, the ref had simply misdirected his followup signal to the washout and should have pointed towards center-ice as Couture was to follow up with a penalty shot, regardless.

The official call was that Rask had made the save on the initial breakaway while Marchand had hooked Couture, illegally disrupting the scoring chance and thus resulting in a penalty shot.

On the ensuing penalty shot, Couture (22) fired one into the twine at 19:35 of the second period, resulting in yet another last minute goal for San Jose– this time tying the game, 4-4.

As a result, Couture became just the fourth player in Sharks franchise history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal.

Through 40 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 4-4, on the scoreboard, despite San Jose’s distinct advantage in shots on goal in the middle frame alone (14-4).

Entering the second intermission, San Jose led in shot on goal (22-12), blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (7-3) and hits (20-17), while Boston led in face-off win% (54-47). Both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.

The Sharks were 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.

After not changing lines quick enough, the refs decided to charge the Bruins with a bench minor for delay of game at 1:57 of the third period.

Sure, that’s an actual thing, but given the standard (or lack thereof) of the night, well…

Too many men on the ice was something that went overlooked and two goals (one that was that wasn’t and one that wasn’t that was) were both miscalled as some of the bigger takeaways for next season’s “what not to do” officiating training video.

Jokes aside, it was a poorly officiated game.

Backes served the delay of game bench minor for Boston, but the Sharks weren’t able to capitalize on the power play.

Finally, in a moment the hockey world had been waiting to see in almost nine years, Thornton (13) scored his third goal of the game, notching a hat trick on the first lead change of the night.

San Jose led, 5-4, at 13:32 of the third period.

Pavelski (23) and Braun (13) tallied the assist’s on Thornton’s goal as the game’s momentum completely shifted to the Sharks’ favor.

Chara and Pavelski exchanged pleasantries and slashed each other with their sticks, yielding matching slashing minors at 15:42.

Late in the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Carlo sent a shot on goal that rebounded high into the air.

Wagner (8) batted the puck down with a seemingly high stick, then swung his stick along the ice at the puck tying the game, 5-5.

That’s right, Wagner scored the game-tying goal after playing the puck with a high stick.

Going to review is not an option for a goal that is thought to be scored as a result of knocking the puck down with a high stick, then scoring the goal from a legal elevation.

The problem with the goal was that the play should’ve been whistled dead as soon as Wagner knocked the puck out of the air with his stick above his shoulder.

Whether it was seen or not from the angle on the ice, we’ll never know (it’s not the NHL’s nature to make refs explain why a call was made or not– in fact, it’s never happened for anything that’s not reviewable).

Carlo (4) and Noel Acciari (4) had the assists on Wagner’s goal, which set a new career-high in goals in a season for the Walpole, Massachusetts native at 17:11 of the third period.

At the end of regulation, the Bruins and Sharks were tied, 5-5.

San Jose led in shots on goal (33-19) and in blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-5), hits (23-22) and face-off win% (54-46) after three periods of play.

Both teams had ten takeaways aside. The Sharks finished the night 1/2 on the skater advantage as Boston went 2/4 on the power play.

Peter DeBoer was coaching in his 800th career game on Monday and rolled out line after line of All-Star quality 3-on-3 overtime lines, especially after Cassidy started Kuraly, Grzelcyk and McAvoy in the five-minute overtime period.

Trouble is, one of those starters actually turned out to be the right one. *foreshadowing*

After Kane entered the zone with a virtual 3-on-0 for San Jose, the play was blown dead as the net behind Rask had come off its moorings and was not properly fixed even though the ref behind the play should have gone over and readjusted it while the puck was at the opposite end of the ice.

It’s either the goaltender’s responsibility or the referee’s job to fix the net if it’s off its pegs, but not enough to immediately disrupt play.

If it’s fixable, the ref must fix it as long as the puck is completely out of the zone.

Officiating be damned, Kane’s surefire scoring chance was killed.

On a 3-on-2 back the other way, DeBrusk worked the puck to Krejci for the perfect pass to McAvoy (4), who ripped a bullet past Jones to win the game for Boston, 6-5, in overtime.

Krejci (38) and DeBrusk (10) collected the assists on McAvoy’s game-winning goal at 3:59 of the overtime period, as the Bruins improved to 7-6 in overtime this season.

The Sharks fell to 6-5 past the 60-minute mark, but before having to go to a shootout, this season, despite finishing Monday night’s action with the advantage in shots on goal (38-20, including a 5-1 advantage in overtime alone), giveaways (10-6) and face-off win% (52-48).

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (11-8).

Both teams recorded 24 hits aside.

The Bruins travel to Las Vegas for a Wednesday night battle with the Vegas Golden Knights before finishing up their current five-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues. Boston returns home to close out February with a Tuesday (Feb. 26th) night matchup with the Sharks and a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 28th.

Game of the week: December 17-23

The holiday break is so close we can almost taste it, but there’s still a little more work to be done before the NHL begins its three-day break on Monday. Without further ado, this week’s offerings include:

NHL SCHEDULE: December 17-23
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 17
7 p.m. Anaheim Pittsburgh 4-2
7 p.m. Vegas Columbus 0-1
7:30 p.m. Boston Montréal 4-0
7:30 p.m. Nashville Ottawa 3-4 (OT)
9 p.m. New York Islanders Colorado Avalanche 4-1
Tuesday, December 18
7 p.m. Florida Buffalo 5-2
7 p.m. Toronto New Jersey 7-2
7 p.m. Anaheim Ducks New York Rangers 1-3
7 p.m. Detroit Philadelphia 2-3
8 p.m. San Jose Minnesota 4-0
8:30 p.m. Nashville Chicago 1-2
8:30 p.m. Calgary Dallas 0-2
9 p.m. St. Louis Edmonton 4-1
9 p.m. New York Islanders Arizona Coyotes 3-1
10 p.m. Tampa Bay Vancouver 5-2
10:30 p.m. Winnipeg Los Angeles 1-4
Wednesday, December 19
8 p.m. Pittsburgh Washington 2-1
8:30 p.m. Montréal Colorado 1-2
Thursday, December 20
7 p.m. Anaheim Boston SN360
7 p.m. Florida Toronto TVAS
7 p.m. Nashville Philadelphia ESPN+
7 p.m. Minnesota Pittsburgh
7 p.m. Detroit Carolina
7 p.m. New Jersey Columbus
8:30 p.m. Chicago Dallas
9 p.m. Tampa Bay Calgary
9 p.m. Montréal Arizona RDS, TSN2
10 p.m. St. Louis Vancouver ESPN+
10 p.m. New York Islanders Vegas Golden Knights SN360
10:30 p.m. Winnipeg San Jose
Friday, December 21
7 p.m. Ottawa New Jersey RDS
7 p.m. Buffalo Washington NBCSN, SN, TVAS
9 p.m. Chicago Colorado ESPN+, SN360
Saturday, December 22
1 p.m. Nashville Boston NHLN, SN, SN1
1 p.m. Columbus Philadelphia ESPN+
2 p.m. Florida Detroit
4 p.m. Montréal Vegas RDS, TSN2
4 p.m. Los Angeles San Jose NBCSN, SN1
4 p.m. St. Louis Calgary
7 p.m. Colorado Arizona
7 p.m. Anaheim Buffalo
7 p.m. New York Rangers Toronto Maple Leafs CBC, NHLN, SN, SN1
7 p.m. Washington Ottawa CITY, SN360, TVAS
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Carolina
8 p.m. Dallas Minnesota
10 p.m. Winnipeg Vancouver CBC, SN360
10 p.m. Tampa Bay Edmonton CITY, ESPN+, SN1
Sunday, December 23
12:30 p.m. Columbus New Jersey SN
5 p.m. Boston Carolina SN1
7 p.m. Florida Chicago ESPN+
7 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers New York Rangers NHLN
7:30 p.m. Detroit Toronto SN, SN360, TVAS
8 p.m. Los Angeles Vegas
8 p.m. Arizona San Jose
8 p.m. New York Islanders Dallas Stars

For those that didn’t keep count, that’s a healthy 55 tilts to keep us entertained while family members you simply adore ask a multitude of questions you’d rather they not.

In the rivalries department, the NHL loaded us up with six showdowns this week, including Boston at Montréal, Pittsburgh at Washington, Los Angeles at San Jose, the Rangers at Toronto, Philadelphia at the Rangers and Detroit at Toronto.

Two rematches from this spring’s edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will also take place: the previously mentioned Pens-Caps game and Los Angeles’ trip to Sin City Sunday night.

Finally, the biggest player return of the week will take place tonight when F Max Domi makes his first trip back to Glendale to take on the Coyotes, the club that drafted him 12th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

However, of all those games highlighted, there’s still another tonight that will have my full attention. Both the Jets and Sharks entered this season with high expectations, but only one has truly flexed its muscles thus far this season. Perhaps that will be just the motivation San Jose needs to find its next gear.

Currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, the 22-10-2 Winnipeg Jets are technically the top team by playing one fewer game than both the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators.

Winnipeg’s last outing wasn’t exactly one to be proud of (the Jets fell 4-1 in Los Angeles to the lowly Kings on Tuesday), but it had been riding a five-game winning streak coming into that game. In fact, in their past 11 games, the Jets boast a 9-2-0 record that includes five overtime or shootout victories.

To the surprise of none, Winnipeg’s greatest strength is undoubtedly its offense. Having averaged 3.56 goals per game for the entire season (the fourth-best mark in the NHL), Head Coach Peter DeBoer will certainly have a plan for how he wants his team to slow down the impressive talents of C Mark Scheifele (21-25-46 points) and RW Blake Wheeler (5-39-44) on Winnipeg’s top line.

However, that will be a difficult task to pull off because the Jets’ attack has been even more potent than usual during this 11-game run. Since November 29, the Jets have averaged an outstanding four goals per game, which is tied with, coincidentally, San Jose for third best in the league in that time.

The previously mentioned Scheifele and Wheeler have certainly had their fingerprints all over that dynamic attack, as they’ve posted respective 8-12-20 and 1-14-15 totals in their last 11 outings. However, they’ve also been joined by LW Nikolaj Ehlers (7-5-12), D Josh Morrissey (3-8-11 in nine games) and D Dustin Byfuglien (1-8-9 in seven games) in averaging at least a point per game during this run, creating a defensive nightmare for most teams not as talented as the Sharks on the blue line.

The San Jose Sharks were supposed to already be atop the Western Conference – if not the entire NHL – according to many preseason reports, yet they find themselves stuck with a 19-11-5 record good enough for only second place in the Pacific Division.

But don’t read that as the Sharks being a bad team. They’re riding a five-game winning streak and have posted a 7-1-0 record in their past eight outings, so it seems like the team is finally starting to realize its potential. The next question, of course, is just how good can this team be, but that’s an answer the Jets would rather not answer tonight.

During this eight-game run, San Jose has been clicking on all cylinders; literally everything is gelling, and the numbers are showing just that.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Sharks’ game right now is their attack. Currently in a tie with Ottawa for eighth-best offense on the season by averaging 3.31 goals per game, the Sharks’ effort since December 2 has made all but Tampa Bay jealous. Led by F Logan Couture‘s impressive 5-6-11 totals in the last eight games, San Jose has managed a dominant 4.25 goals per game during this run.

Joining Couture in averaging at least a point per game since the beginning of the month are RW Timo Meier (5-5-10 in seven games played), F Tomas Hertl (4-5-9) and D Erik Karlsson (0-8-8).

That’s right, the same Karlsson that looked like he wasn’t panning out in Silicon Valley is on a bit of a hot streak of late. His goal scoring may be down from his Ottawa days (last season’s nine goals in 71 appearances was a poor season for him, and this year’s pace has him set to register only five markers), but the 10-year NHL veteran is still making his presence known on the scorecard.

In addition to scoring, this dynamic offense has also had some incredible influence on the defensive zone by maintaining elongated possessions. During this eight-game run, San Jose has allowed only 27.88 shots against per game, the fifth-best mark in the NHL since December 2 and only two shots worse than the Islanders’ league-leading pace set in that same time span.

Of course, D Justin Braun (2.3 blocks per game since December 2), D Brenden Dillon (2.8 hits per game during this run) and Karlsson (11 takeaways in his past eight outings) have certainly done their fair share on the defensive end as well.

If anyone is appreciative of that effort, it’s surely 14-7-3 G Martin Jones, tonight’s starter. Though he’s struggled for much of the season (made evident by his unusually low .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA for the campaign), he’s shown signs of improvement lately. He’s earned five of the Sharks’ last seven wins, posting a much more familiar .936 save percentage and 1.94 GAA in his last seven starts.

If Jones has finally rounded into form for the year, this Sharks blue line will truly begin to influence play in the offensive zone, which should be a very scary proposition for the entire Western Conference.

When two high powered offenses are going at it, I usually side with the better of the two goaltenders to determine the game’s winner. In his past eight starts, 15-9-1 G Connor Hellebuyck has earned six wins on the back of a .91 save percentage and 2.72 GAA (both nominal improvements on his .908 season save percentage and associated 2.9 GAA).

Compare that to Jones’ numbers, and the answer is obvious: the Sharks should come away winners tonight and send the home fans happy.