Tag Archives: Kevin Shattenkirk

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.

Pastrnak scores hat trick in Boston’s, 6-3, win over Rangers

David Pastrnak had a five-point night (three goals, two assists) as he led the Boston Bruins to a, 6-3, victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday at TD Garden.

Brad Marchand had three assists in the effort and Jake DeBrusk, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy also had goals for Boston in the win.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (21-10-4 record, 2.33 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 38 games played), made 20 saves on 23 shots faced for an .870 SV% in the winning effort, while New York’s Henrik Lundqvist (18-21-10, 3.05 GAA, .907 SV% in 50 GP) stopped 26 out of 32 shots faced for an .813 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 47-21-9 (103 points) on the season and remain in command of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Rangers fell to 29-34-17 (71 points) and stuck in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division.

Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) returned to the second line right wing after missing the last ten games and Torey Krug (concussion) returned to action alongside Brandon Carlo on the second defensive pair after missing the last six games.

Meanwhile, Kevan Miller (upper body) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) were ruled out of the action on Wednesday by Bruce Cassidy, but likely to return to full contact practice on Friday.

Cassidy also provided an update on John Moore (upper body) and indicated the defender would be out “week-to-week”, joining Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) on the longer prognosis for a return to the lineup.

With Johansson and Krug back in the lineup, Karson Kuhlman was the only healthy scratch (and later reassigned to Providence (AHL) during the second intermission).

Connor Clifton shifted down to the third defensive pairing with Steven Kampfer in place of the injured Moore.

The Rangers had slight miscalculation with the number of skaters allowed on the ice at one time while their goaltender was still in the crease.

As a result, Pavel Buchnevich served New York’s bench minor for too many on the ice at 2:29 of the first period.

Boston went on the power play for the first time Wednesday evening and the first time with Krug back in the lineup on the power play unit.

It only took the B’s 19 seconds on the ensuing power play to convert on the scoreboard.

Marchand received a give-and-go from Bergeron and threw the puck over to Pastrnak (34) for the one-timer from one knee and Pastrnak’s first goal of the evening at 2:48 of the first period.

Boston led, 1-0, thanks to Pastrnak’s power play goal, with the assists credited to Marchand (61) and Bergeron (45).

Late in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara sent the puck over the glass and was automatically charged with a delay of game minor infraction at 14:51.

Boston’s penalty killing unit almost killed off Chara’s minor, but was bitten late in New York’s first power play of the night as Mika Zibanejad (29) tied the game, 1-1.

Ryan Strome (14) and Buchnevich (16) tallied the assists on Zibanejad’s first goal of the night at 16:29.

After one period of play, the Bruins and Rangers were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, while Boston led in shots on goal (13-10) and blocked shots (5-4).

New York led in takeaways (3-1), giveaways (4-3), hits (12-8) and face-off win percentage (74-26) heading into the dressing room for the first intermission.

Both teams were 1/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Jimmy Vesey tripped Pastrnak to kick things off in the middle frame at 1:46 of the second period. The Bruins did not convert on the resulting power play.

Almost midway through the second period, after Cassidy adjusted his lines, David Krejci worked a backhand pass over to Pastrnak (35) for the one-timer in the low slot and the B’s took the lead once again, 2-1, at 9:15.

Krejci (47) and Krug (43) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s second goal of the night as Pastrnak tied his career-high in goals.

With an assist on the goal, Krug amassed his 284th career point (all with Boston), which is the most by an American-born player in Bruins franchise history.

Moments later, Pastrnak hooked Kevin Shattenkirk at 13:12 and McAvoy followed suit hooking Shattenkirk almost a minute after Pastrnak was released from the penalty box at 15:58.

The Rangers did not capitalize on either power play opportunity.

Late in the period, Lias Andersson delivered a back-check to Bergeron along the boards in the corner of the B’s attacking zone where Bergeron’s career nearly came to an end on Oct. 27, 2007 thanks to then Philadelphia Flyers defender, Randy Jones, delivering a hit from behind that left Bergeron with a broken nose and a major concussion.

History aside, Andersson left his feet as he backed into Bergeron’s face with an elbow and Bergeron did not take exception to the incident.

The Bruins veteran and alternate captain immediately began to rough up Andersson as the two tangled to the ice, leaving Andersson with two roughing penalties and Bergeron with one minor for roughing– yielding a power play for Boston at 18:29.

Though the skater advantage would carryover into third period, Boston did not score on the resulting power play while Andersson was in the box.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 22-16, in shots on goal.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), while the Rangers maintained the lead in takeaways (5-4), giveaways (9-6), hits (19-16) and face-off win% (57-43).

Each club was 1/3 on the power play entering the third period.

DeBrusk (24) made it a two-goal game for the Bruins at 3:19 of the third period with his one-timer goal on a no-look pass from Pastrnak through the low slot while Lundqvist was behind the play.

Pastrnak (40) and Krejci (48) tabbed the assists on DeBrusk’s goal.

Almost two minutes later, Strome (16) answered back in a hurry.

While Boston’s defense was outnumbered in the slot, Strome banked a shot off of Halak’s pad and through the five-hole to make it a one-goal game once again.

Brett Howden (14) and Brady Skjei (17) had the assists as New York trailed, 3-2, at 5:43 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Strome was penalized for holding at 12:38.

Less than a minute into the power play, Pastrnak (36) completed his 4th career regular season hat trick (and 3rd this season) as he blasted a shot past Lundqvist on the short side over his blocker.

Krug (44) and Marchand (62) had the assists as hats fell upon the ice at TD Garden at 12:52.

With his third goal of the game, Pastrnak established a new career-high in goals with 36 goals in 61 games played this season (he had 35 goals in 82 games last season).

Moments later, New York was called for too many men for the second time of the night at 15:03.

Vinni Lettieri served the bench minor for the Rangers, which quickly became a 5-on-3 power play for Boston after Brendan Smith high-sticked Charlie Coyle at 15:34.

While on the two-skater advantage, Bergeron (32) redirected a shot from Pastrnak past Lundqvist to give the Bruins a three-goal lead at 16:23.

Pastrnak (41) and Marchand (63) collected the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 5-2, as Pastrnak picked up his 5th point of the night.

The 22-year-old winger joined Barry Pederson (3x), Jason Allison (2x) and Bobby Orr (2x) as the only Bruins players with multiple five-point games in their careers (regular season or playoffs) before the age of 23.

McAvoy (7) followed Bergeron’s goal with one of his own on a twine-seeking missile at 17:12 to give Boston a four-goal lead, 6-2.

Chara (9) and Coyle (21) had the assists on McAvoy’s power play goal as the Bruins notched three goals on four shots in the span of their two-skater advantage.

About a minute later, Andersson found himself tangled up again with a Bruins veteran– this time, David Backes— as the two players each received roughing minors.

Backes earned an additional roughing penalty that was served by Johansson at 18:10 as the Rangers went on the power play for the last time on Wednesday.

While on the skater advantage, New York generated a rebound off Halak and Zibanejad (30) buried the puck in the net with Halak in desperation to cut the lead to a deficit of three goals at 19:56.

Vladislav Namestnikov (18) and Tony DeAngelo (25) notched the assists as the Rangers trailed, 6-3.

At the final horn, Boston had beaten New York, 6-3, and finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-23) and hits (27-24).

The Rangers finished Wednesday night’s action leading in giveaways (12-10) and face-off win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots apiece.

New York went 2/4 on the power play and the Bruins went 4/6 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins host the Florida Panthers on Saturday before traveling to Detroit on Sunday to close out the month of March.

Boston finishes the season swinging through Columbus on April 2nd, making a stop in Minnesota on April 4th and wrapping up the regular season on April 6th at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Halak, Bruins let another one slip away, 4-3, in shootout

The New York Rangers took home the, 4-3, shootout victory on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden after allowing three unanswered goals in the second period.

New York mounted a comeback in the third period to tie the game, 3-3, then after an entertaining, high-action, three-on-three overtime period was not enough, the Rangers put it away in seven rounds of a shootout.

Alexandar Georgiev (7-9-0 record, 3.24 goals against average, .897 save percentage in 18 games played) made 27 saves on 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the shootout win as the Rangers improved to 9-1-0 in their last 10 regular season battles with Boston.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (13-9-4, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV% in 28 GP) recorded 36 saves on 39 shots against for a .923 SV% in the shootout loss and fell to 18-8-1 in his career against the Rangers.

Boston fell to 19-2-1 when leading after two periods this season and is now 2-0-1 so far in February.

The B’s fell to 29-17-8 (66 points) on the season, but improved to 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Rangers improved to 23-22-8 (54 points), but remain in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, juggled his lines– reinserting Danton Heinen on the fourth line in place of David Backes, but later jumbling every forward line except for the Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner trio.

By the end of the night, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Heinen made up the first line with Peter Cehlarik, David Krejci and David Pastrnak filling out the top-six forwards.

Joakim Nordstrom, Trent Frederic and Jake DeBrusk were relegated to fourth line duties with Nordstrom coming up strong in breaking up some crucial plays in overtime.

Cassidy kept his same defensive pairings from Tuesday, with John Moore, Backes and Steven Kampfer serving as the B’s healthy scratches on Wednesday.

Given it was the second night of back-to-back games, Halak got the start in goal over Tuukka Rask, who picked up the, 3-1, win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Bergeron tripped up Rangers forward, Mika Zibanejad at 1:11 of the first period and handed New York their first power play opportunity of the night early in the action.

The Rangers did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and followed up with a penalty of their own– Marc Staal for cross-checking Kuraly– at 13:39.

Boston did not succeed in their first skater advantage opportunity of the night.

Moments later, Zibanejad (22) let go of a snipe-shot from the point that had eyes and beat Halak to give New York the lead, 1-0.

Mats Zuccarello (21) recorded the only assist on Zibanejad’s goal at 17:45.

Will less than a minute remaining in the opening frame, Kuraly bumped into Boo Nieves while both players weren’t looking at each other and drew the ire of Jimmy Vesey at 19:08.

Vesey was dealt a cross-checking minor against Wagner, while Kuraly received a roughing minor against Nieves. Both penalties were handed out with 51 seconds remaining until the first intermission and would yield 4-on-4 action into the second period.

After one period of play, the Rangers led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 12-9.

Boston maintained the advantage in blocked shots (5-4) and takeaways (6-3), while New York led in giveaways (5-4), hits (15-10) and face-off win percentage (55-46).

Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play entering the 2nd period.

Kevan Miller cross-checked Vladislav Namestnikov at 2:16 of the second period, but the Rangers didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Cassidy restructured his lines almost midway through the middle frame and it provided instant results.

On a face-off in the offensive zone, Marchand worked the puck back to Matt Grzelcyk for the shot towards the goal that was tipped by Heinen (7) for his first goal in his first game back since being a healthy scratch for the last few games.

Grzelcyk (13) and Marchand (41) tallied the assists on Heinen’s goal at 10:37 of the second period and the game was tied, 1-1.

Just 72 seconds later, Pastrnak (31) redirected a pass from Krejci behind Georgiev to give the Bruins their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 11:49 of the middle frame.

Krejci (31) and Miller (5) were tabbed with the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Less than 30 seconds later, Bergeron took his second trip to the penalty box– this time for slashing Zuccarello– at 12:12.

Shortly after New York’s power play expired, Tony DeAngelo was guilty of tripping Bergeron at 14:22, resulting in a power play for Boston.

Less than a minute into the skater advantage, Bergeron (19) tipped a shot from Torey Krug past the right leg of the Rangers goaltender as Georgiev attempted to make a butterfly save.

Krug (31) and Marchand (42) had the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal at 15:11 of the second period and the B’s led, 3-1.

Late in the period, Brandon Carlo and Zuccarello got tangled up with each other and received matching roughing minors at 16:34.

Entering the dressing room after 40 minutes of action, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed New York, 22-20, in shots on goal. The Bruins did, however, lead in second period shots on goal alone– with a slight advantage– 11-10.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (7-6), while the Rangers led in just about everything else, including takeaways (10-9), giveaways (12-6) and hits (30-16) entering the final frame of regulation.

Both teams went 50-50 in face-off win% after two periods and the Rangers were 0/3 on the power play entering the third period. Boston was 1/2 on the skater advantage.

Kevin Hayes (12) made it a one-goal game at 9:24 of the third period.

Pavel Buchnevich received a pass up the middle and threw a shot on goal that Vesey chased down the rebound for in order to send the puck to Hayes for the goal.

Vesey (14) and Buchnevich (8) had the assists and the Rangers trailed, 3-2.

Charlie McAvoy took a horrendous boarding penalty at 12:05 of the third period. It was horrendous, because it ultimately proved costly.

Filip Chytil (10) pocketed a rebound that Halak failed to control after Buchnevich fired the initial shot.

Buchnevich (9) and DeAngelo (10) had the assists on Chytil’s power play goal for New York at 12:42 and the Rangers tied the game, 3-3.

Through 60 minutes of regulation, both teams were still tied, 3-3, on the scoreboard, despite the Rangers leading in shots on goal (33-29), blocked shots (10-9), giveaways (20-11) and hits (41-25).

Boston, in the meantime, escaped regulation with the lead in takeaways (13-11) and face-off win% (53-47).

The Rangers finished the night 1/4 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2 as no penalties were called in the five-minute, three-on-three overtime period.

Cassidy started Pastrnak, Krejci and Krug in overtime for the Bruins as both teams got off to a frantic pace, leading to chance after chance and save after save.

Eventually, both teams attempted their fair share of trick shots and odd banks off of pads, sticks and whatever they could find to try to will the puck into the twine.

But, Georgiev and Halak stood tall, leading to a shootout after five minutes of overtime was not enough.

As an aside, the Rangers had six shots on goal in overtime, compared to Boston’s one shot on net (officially).

New York finished the night leading in shots on goal (39-30), blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (21-11) and hits (42-26), while the Bruins led in face-off win% (55-45).

In the shootout, David Quinn elected to have his home team Rangers shoot first on Halak, but Zuccarello was denied by the outer post.

Cassidy sent out Cehlarik as his first shooter, but Georgiev made the save.

Kevin Shattenkirk was denied by Halak, as Pastrnak failed to muster a shot off his stick in the second round of the shootout.

Zibanejad deked and roofed the puck to give New York the, 1-0, advantage in the third round of the shootout, but was matched by Marchand’s nifty dangle-turned-five hole squib-shot to even it, 1-1, after three rounds.

Hayes was turned aside by Halak and McAvoy had the puck poke checked away by the Rangers netminder in the fourth round.

Chytil rang the post and DeBrusk’s shot was saved by Georgiev in the fifth round.

Vesey nailed the crossbar and Heinen was stopped in the sixth round.

Finally, DeAngelo mustered enough stick work on the puck to get Halak to commit to a sprawling position, as DeAngelo then elevated the puck for what became the game-winning shootout goal in the seventh round after Krejci fired his shot wide.

New York improved to 6-2 in shootouts on the season, while Boston fell to 1-2 past overtime this season.

The Rangers had won, 4-3, officially on the scoreboard after the shootout and stole the extra point past regulation.

Call it Adam McQuaid‘s revenge or whatever, but Wednesday night’s game was the 54th game of the regular season for Boston.

The Bruins venture back home for a three-game homestand at TD Garden starting Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET with a matchup against the Los Angeles Kings.

Boston will honor Bergeron prior to puck drop for participating in his 1,000th career regular season NHL game on Tuesday.

Sunday afternoon, the B’s take on the Colorado Avalanche, then wrap things up at home with a tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks next Tuesday.

Cassidy’s crew swings through the three teams in California, the Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues on a roadtrip from Feb. 15th through the 23rd.

DTFR Podcast #136- We’ve Got The Future Blues

More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.

Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.

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

2018 Offseason Preview: St. Louis Blues

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the St. Louis Blues and their outlook for the summer.

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One game. One game made all the difference for the St. Louis Blues in making or missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and you’ll never guess what happened.

They lost.

Yes, after compiling a 44-31-6 record, the Blues were ahead of the Colorado Avalanche by one point in the wild card race to secure the last spot in the postseason.

Despite a season-long lackluster performance in goal from Jake Allen (a career worst 2.75 goals against average and second worst .906 save percentage in 59 games played), St. Louis needed a win in any fashion in the final game of the regular season against the Avs to go up against the Nashville Predators in the First Round.

Instead, the club finished 44-32-6 on the season with 94 points– one point out of the wild card spot– and 5th in the Central Division.

Mike Yeo missed the playoffs in his first year as head coach of the Blues without any assistance from Ken Hitchcock and General Manager Doug Armstrong was left scratching his head.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

Fans were left scratching their heads after Armstrong traded hometown hero Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets in a surprise move at the trade deadline in exchange for a 2018 first round pick (29th overall) and prospect Erik Foley.

Stastny’s dad, Peter– the famous Québec Nordique– was left stunned.

Armstrong replaced the first round pick that he swapped with the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2017 Draft as part of the Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first round pick and a conditional 2018 first round pick for Brayden Schenn transaction, but at the cost of one of the better faceoff-winning centers in the league.

With the 29th overall selection in this year’s draft, Armstrong will be left picking the best available or surprising everyone– yet again– and going off the board.

Hopefully for the better, considering the organization is teetering on the edge of a retooling/rebuild.

Pending free agents

What else is there to expect from a front office that’s had to move Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie, while letting David Backes walk in free agency in years past, thanks to a tight salary cap situation?

Armstrong can make some sweeping changes by figuring out the future of St. Louis’s crease protection plan (more on that later), but he can also restructure the team’s offensive outlook by ridding themselves of some underperforming second through fourth liners.

Thankfully, the Blues have about $12.900 million to spend with the cap expected to rise this summer.

That’s not a lot to work with, but it can bring in a difference maker, while still providing enough room to work a deal that might send Vladimir Sobotka and his $3.500 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season (or an equivalent) packing via a trade.

Both pending unrestricted free agent forwards, Scottie Upshall and Kyle Brodziak are 34-years-old with one trending in opposite directions of the other.

Upshall has loved St. Louis and its fans have responded in kind, but the time is now for the Blues to make a clean break in this relationship. He’s averaged 17 points over the last three seasons. That’s not great with an aging roster.

Brodziak, on the other hand, has bounced back from shortened seasons due to injury and doubled his point total from 15 points (69 games played) in 2016-17 to 33 points (81 GP) this season.

At first look, keeping a 34-year-old that was trending in the wrong direction when he came to St. Louis in 2015-16 isn’t great, but Brodziak is proving people wrong as part of a comeback tour with the Blues (albeit lasting three seasons). If you don’t re-sign Upshall, you can at least afford to bring back Brodziak.

But we’ll see what kind of logic Armstrong is working with this offseason.

Then there’s pending restricted free agent forwards, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Oskar Sundqvist and Nikita Soshnikov.

Fabbri, 22, had 11-18–29 totals in 51 GP, down from his 18-19–37 totals in 72 games in 2016-17. That’s still respectable as a bottom-six forward, however.

Jaskin, 25, had six more points this season in 25 more games played than in 2016-17. That means he had 17 points in 76 GP this season and 11 points in 51 GP last season. The Blues can move on if they’d like.

Sundqvist, 24, was acquired last June along with a first round pick as part of the Ryan Reaves trade and had one goal and four assists (five points) in 42 games for St. Louis this season. That’s not great, but he finally played the most games he’s ever seen in one season, since breaking into the NHL in 2015-16 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Soshnikov, 24, had one goal and one assist (two points) in 12 games with the Blues after being acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also had no points in three games with Toronto this season and has 8-8–16 totals in 82 career NHL games since 2015-16.

Unless Yeo can perform a miracle as a head coach, there’s no point in seeing if anything’s left in the potential tank.

The Blues have two pending-RFA defenders in Jordan Schmaltz and Joel Edmundson. Both are 24-years-old.

Schmaltz had one assist in 13 games this season. He clearly isn’t part of St. Louis’s current plan, leaving one of two options– stick around as a depth blueliner or not return.

Edmundson set a career-high in goals (7) and points (17) in 69 games played this season. Nice. He’s a top-six defender and should see another year or two in a sweater with a giant blue music note on it.

If anyone’s willing to take on all or some of Jay Bouwmeester‘s $5.400 million cap hit with one year remaining– provided the 34-year-old defenseman waives his no-trade-clause– then St. Louis should pursue that avenue.

Okay, now for the future of St. Louis’s goaltending.

Jordan Binnington, 24, is a pending-RFA and should get a chance at the NHL level.

Then again, Carter Hutton, 32, is a pending-UFA and outplayed the 27-year-old starter, Jake Allen at times this season.

If St. Louis is fine staying the course as a middle of the road team that’ll come up short for a year or two, then there’s no need to worry and Hutton should be re-signed and see more time in net to offset Allen’s workload.

But if any of that clashes with what Armstrong and the rest of his front office envisions for the club, well… that’s the million dollar question.

A rebuild is not out of the question, but certainly frowned upon, given how star-forward, Vladimir Tarasenko is in his prime now.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Justin Selman (RFA), Beau Bennett (RFA), Mackenzie MacEachern (RFA), Thomas Vannelli (RFA), Jordan Binnington (RFA), Petteri Lindbohm (RFA), Wade Megan (UFA)

March 17 – Day 157 – No green here

Top o’ the mornin’ to you, or whatever people say today to fool themselves into believing they’re Irish.

I’m obviously infatuated with the holiday.

One thing I actually enjoy is hockey, and I think that’s something we can all get behind. A perfect 10 games are on today’s schedule, starting with Chicago at Buffalo (NHLN) at 1 p.m. and Edmonton at Florida an hour later. 4 p.m. marks the puck drop of New Jersey at Los Angeles, the last matinee of the day. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it four tilts (Montréal at Toronto [CBC/NHLN/SN/TVAS], Boston at Tampa Bay, Philadelphia at Carolina and Ottawa at Columbus [CITY/TVAS2]), while the New York Rangers at St. Louis waits an hour before getting underway. Minnesota at Arizona’s puck drop is scheduled for 9 p.m., and San Jose at Vancouver (CBC/SN) – tonight’s nightcap – sees the green light 60 minutes later. All times Eastern.

Two games stuck out to me at the start of this season, including…

  • Montréal at Toronto: Who cares that the Habs have no shot at winning this game? It’s Original Six action!
  • New York at St. Louis: D Kevin Shattenkirk has played over seven seasons’ worth of games at Scottrade Center, but tonight will be his first in the arena as a visitor. Of note, he won’t be wearing normal road attire tonight, as the Notes are electing to sport their white sweaters at home this evening. Guess that shows how well I’ve paid attention to the Rangers during their decline – Shattenkirk has been sidelined with a knee injury since mid-January.

However, there’s no way anyone can miss the potential title fight going down in Florida this evening.

 

Ooh boy, what a showdown we have today!

Let’s start with the 48-18-4 Lightning, who have sat atop the Eastern Conference for almost every day of the 2017-’18 season. Though it’s been a wee bit stressful (seven of the Bolts’ last 11 games have required extra time), things have been looking up for Tampa Bay lately, as it has earned an impressive 9-1-1 record.

Now, before I jump in talking about how great the Lightning have been lately, we do need to acknowledge there’s a major reason for their offensive explosion. Tampa has allowed a miserable 3.55 goals against per game over its last 11 showings, which just so happens to be the fourth-worst mark in the NHL since February 20. The defense has been abysmal by allowing 35.27 shots against per game ([t]fifth-worst in the league) since February 20, and even the greatness that is 40-13-3 G Andrei Vasilevskiy cannot keep up with that kind of nightly assault.

Fortunately for the Lightning, there’s two ends of the ice and they’re really, really good on that end. Specifically, they have the luxury of employing C Steven Stamkos, who just so happens to be one of those guys that’s pretty good at his job.

Not only has Stamkos posted impressive 27-55-82 totals on the season – already locking himself in as a point-per-game scorer a year removed from a 17-game campaign – but he’s also managed team-leading 3-11-14 marks since February 20.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the weapons Stamkos does as linemates, as both RW Nikita Kucherov and F J.T. Miller have also been stellar lately. With respective 3-11-14 and 5-4-9 totals, both join Stamkos in averaging a point-per-game since February 20 (Kucherov has played only eight games, and Miller seven with Tampa). The Lightning’s current top line has accounted for 10 of the club’s last 42 goals, just short of 25 percent.

Talk about an offensive presence, especially considering the pressure they’ve been under during this defensive lapse. Even with their backs against the wall, the Lightning have managed a (t)second-best goals per game since February 20 with 3.82.

Of course, Tampa is not the only team in the Atlantic Division that knows how to win. Second place 44-17-8 Boston is pretty good in its own right, made evident by its 7-2-0 record in its last nine showings.

What makes this game fun is that the Bruins are effectively a mirror image of the Bolts lately. Though the defensive end has had its lapses lately (Boston has allowed a 13th-worst 3.22 goals per game since February 27), the Bruins have scored an impressive 4.11 goals per game in their past nine games to lead the league since February 27.

Beloved he may not be, but there’s no denying LW Brad Marchand‘s ability to create offense. In his last eight games, Marchand has posted impressive 6-8-14 totals to elevate his season marks to team-leading 30-42-72 numbers.

Joining him in averaging at least a point per game since February 27 are RW David Pastrnak (5-8-13), D Torey Krug (3-7-10), F Riley Nash (3-7-10) and the injured LW Jake Debrusk (2-7-9). With a top line of Marchand, Nash and Pastrnak lining up against Tampa’s best in Miller, Stamkos and Kucherov, it’s hard to tell which team has the upper hand – and that’s even without the help of Boston’s C Patrice Bergeron.

With the Bruins trailing only Tampa in the Eastern standings, the potential playoff implications of this game are pretty easy to discuss.

While the Lightning are the only team in the conference with 100 points to their credit, Boston – which trails by four points – is actually neck-and-neck in the race for home ice through the conference tournament due to its fewer games played. Should the Bruins earn the win tonight, they’ll pull within two points of Tampa Bay with two more tilts against the Bolts and a game in hand.

There’s a major difference between playing the Maple Leafs in the first round and the whichever team ends up as the second wild card, so it goes without saying that both sides in tonight’s game want to emerge victorious.

Even though the end of the regular season is only a few weeks away, tonight’s meeting between the Bolts and Bruins is only their second of the year. The first tilt occurred way back on November 29 at TD Garden, and it went the way of the hosts as Boston survived to earn a 3-2 victory (Krug posted the eventual game-winning goal in the second period when he set the score at 3-0).

If this matchup strikes your fancy, you’re in luck: Boston and Tampa will meet two more times before the year is through. They’ll square off again at TD Garden on March 29, followed six days later by a final southern showdown.

Whether these teams square off in the second round of the postseason or not, this game is definitely a preview of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs as a whole.

But that’s a month from now – who wins today?

I’m leaning towards the Bruins for the simple fact that Boston’s unstoppable offense has the chance to play against a slumping defense. While I don’t expect Tampa to be a pushover at home, the Bruins should come away with two points tonight – even if the game requires more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.


For a game expected to be a defensive matchup, there were a whole lotta goals scored at Scotiabank Saddledome in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as the San Jose Sharks beat the Calgary Flames 7-4.

This tilt started innocently enough, as only one goal apiece was struck in the first period. First Star of the Game LW Evander Kane (W Jannik Hansen) got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a wrist shot 6 minutes into the game, but W Troy Brouwer (F Curtis Lazar and C Matt Stajan) leveled the game 10:42 later with a snap shot.

Instead, it was the second period where this game took a turn towards the insane with a whopping combined six markers. Calgary took its first lead of the game 2:10 into the period when C Mark Jankowski (RW Garnet Hathaway) scored a wrister, but that advantage lasted only 4:19 before Kane (D Dylan DeMelo and D Brenden Dillon) scored his second of the game to pull San Jose even at 2-2.

Next up on the scorecard is LW Johnny Gaudreau (Third Star W Micheal Ferland and D Michael Stone), who returned another one-goal advantage to the Flames with 9:44 remaining in the period, but RW Kevin Labanc (D Brent Burns) needed only 1:26 before he matched Gaudreau’s tally.

Things started tilting in San Jose’s favor with 3:28 remaining in the second frame, as that’s when Kane (C Chris Tierney) completed his hat trick to give the Sharks their first lead since scoring the opening goal. 1:30 after Kane’s marker, Second Star F Tomas Hertl (D Justin Braun and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic) provided what proved to be the game-winning goal.

There’s pretty goals, and then there’s goals like Hertl’s. Braun advanced the puck into the offensive zone along the right boards before attempting a quick shot to the far post from the face-off circle. G Mike Smith was able to make that save, but Hertl jammed the rebound through the netminder’s legs to set give San Jose a two-goal advantage.

As if a hat trick isn’t enough, Kane (F Joe Pavelski) posted a four-goal night with a tip-in 1:02 into the third period to set the score at 6-3. Ferland (C Sean Monahan and D Dougie Hamilton) was able to strike back with 5:35 remaining in regulation, but the Flames couldn’t muster a fifth – much less a game-tying sixth – goal. That forced Head Coach Glen Gulutzan to pull G David Rittich for an extra attacker, allowing F Eric Fehr (Hertl) to score his second goal of the season on an empty net with 3:58 remaining in the game.

What might be most unbelievable about this final score is that none of these 11 goals were scored with the man-advantage. Talk about some serious five-on-five offense.

G Martin Jones escaped with the victory after saving 30-of-34 shots faced (.882 save percentage), leaving the well-deserved loss to Smith, who saved only 14-of-20 (.7). Smith was lifted following Kane’s third period goal in favor of Rittich, who saved all seven shots he faced for no decision.

San Jose’s victory marks the seventh-straight win by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series. As such, the 87-51-19 hosts now have only a 34-point advantage in the series.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #95- Call The Ex-Sturm-inator

Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #94- Twenty Years Golden

The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #91- Our USA Wins Gold

After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games, Nick and Connor decided to create USA rosters with NHL players anyway. Also discussed, All-Star weekend, Jaromir Jagr and the Winnipeg Jets.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 15

Skater of the Week: Brad Marchand

You may not (probably don’t) like him, but the Little Ball of Hate doesn’t give a damn about what you like. He’s gonna score on your team, and you’re gonna deal with it.

The league’s premiere super-pest tallied two goals and five assists in four contests this week, made arguably more impressive by the fact that he started the week being held scoreless against Dallas before recording three consecutive multi-point games to close the week. Burning arch-rival Montreal for a goal and assist in the first meeting, then adding two helpers in the rematch, together with a three-point night against the Islanders, the former unheralded third round pick continues to prove all the critics wrong, as he’s currently on pace to shatter his breakout 85-point performance from last season.

Marchand’s 48 points in 37 games is good for 16th in league scoring, having played no less than seven-fewer games than any player ahead of him, and his performance over the last seven days is good for this award.

Tendy of the Week: Jonathan Bernier

Yeah, I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either.

Bernier’s NHL career has been a well-documented roller coaster of epic proportions, and the former 11th-overall pick has often seen the ‘Bust’ label floating near his name. But he seems to have really found a home with the upstart Avs this season.

In three starts this week, Bernier faced a ridiculous 110 shots and turned aside 105 of them to pick up three victories. On Monday he stopped 33-of-34 to down the Ducks, on Saturday he stifled 27-of-28 against the Rangers, and even when he gave up three to the Sharks, he managed a .938 save percentage on 48 shots faced. Of the Avs’ strengths, the defense is not high on the list.

Bernier is still shaking off some shaky performances earlier in the year, but in 21 appearances his 13-7-1 record, 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage are more than respectable behind the run-and-gun Avs. If he continues this sort of play, the Avs could potentially use Semyon Varlamov as trade bait to solidify their D-corps come the deadline.

Game of the Week: Washington Capitals 3 @ New Jersey Devils 4 (OT), Thursday January 18th, 2018

A showdown between the top 2 teams in the stacked Metropolitan Division lived up to the hype, delivering seven goals, 51 shots, 48 hits, and 36 penalty minutes.

Drew Stafford would get things rolling 8:01 into the game, taking advantage of a misplay at the blueline by Dmitry Orlov to flee the zone and receive a breakout pass courtesy of Marcus Johansson, fighting off the back-checking Devante Smith-Pelly and going forehand-backhand-roof on Braden Holtby to give the Devils the early lead. Brett Connolly, who was stifled on a golden opportunity just seconds after the Stafford goal, would get his revenge and even the score at the 12:10 mark, pouncing on a long wrister from T.J. Oshie that deflected off of the skate of Jersey d-man Will Butcher right to his tape and burying it past Keith Kinkaid to give us a 1-1 game after one.

The second saw both the scoring and intensity ramp up, started off by Devils captain Andy Greene (playing in his 750th game) scoring on an almost-identical play to the Connolly goal, this time a Taylor Hall effort from the left point deflecting off the stick of Matt Niskanen and coming right to Greene who was just able to squeeze the shot between the left arm and torso of a sliding Holtby to regain the Jersey lead 3:33 into the frame. Then at the 8:33 mark came some shenanigans. Tom Wilson laid a hammering hit on Brian Gibbons along the boards in the neutral zone, leading Brian Boyle to come to the defense of his teammate and earn himself a misconduct and extra minor for instigating. I could go on a tangent about clean hits leading to fights (Gibbons himself appeared to try to wave off Boyle as he approached Wilson), but I’ll save that for another day.

Further into the secnd we go, and the Devils capitalize (see what I did there?) on another breakout pass, this time with Miles Wood sneaking behind the Washington defense and receiving some airmail from Sami Vatanen before getting one through five-hole of Holtby to give New Jersey the 3-1 edge at the 10:55 mark. But just 14 seconds later Dmitry Orlov would collect a long rebound off the boards and spanked the ‘Made In Slovakia’ lettering right off of the puck as it screamed past Kinkaid into the back of the net, sending us into the final frame with a 3-2 Devils lead after some strong netminding by Holtby in the closing stages of the middle frame.

Kinkaid and the Devils would hold the fort for most of the third, but finally with just 3:48 remaining it would be Connolly (who had himself a very good game, I might add) who collected a terrific Evgeny Kuznetsov feed from below the goal line and slid the puck right underneath the left pad of Kinkaid to knot the score at three and send the game to overtime (though not before Kinkaid would shake off a ‘Nisk-cannon’ to the noggin that removed his mask in the dying seconds).

The crowd at ‘The Rock’ would have little to fret over, though, as just 34 seconds into the extra frame it would be Taylor Hall receiving a chip pass from Sami Vatanen, before giving himself a second chip pass to get around Kuznetsov and streaking in on Holtby, roofing a quick wrister over the glove hand and sending the Jersey-faithful into a frenzy.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

The Golden Knights are, at the time of this writing, the #1 team in the NHL. I don’t actually have anything clever prepared for this, I just wanted to say it out loud.

A couple of high-profile injuries struck this week, with Edmonton losing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a hand injury for at least a month, and the Rangers losing Kevin Shattenkirk to a meniscus tear, an injury that could sideline the defenseman for quite some time.

The Senators have supposedly made it their #1 organizational goal to re-sign Erik Karlsson. I’m not sure how much money it will take to keep him with a franchise that doesn’t appear to be set up for major success any time soon, but if anyone has any suggestions for convoluted schemes to marry into his family, I’m all ears.

Dustin Brown was fined (but not suspended) for brutally cross-checking a helpless Justin Schultz face-first into the boards, in a move the Department of Player Safety referred to as “We have no idea who this Andrew Cogliano person you speak of is, and we’re not sure what two-game suspension you could be referring to.”

The Colorado Avalanche have won nine consecutive games, which might be the only thing less people would have bet on at the beginning of the year than Vegas spending time at #1 in the league.

Rene Rancourt has announced that he will retire from his position as the Bruins’ longtime anthem singer. Personally, I never actually thought he was that good of a singer, but his showmanship has always been absolutely second-to-none, and anyone legendary enough to be referenced in a Dropkick Murphy’s song gets a pass in my book, so congrats to Rene on an incredible career and best of luck in retirement.

Finally, I’ll close on two sombering notes. First, I extend my sincerest condolences to Matthew Murray and his family, as the Pittsburgh goaltender has taken a leave of absence from the team to mourn the passing of his father, and I’ll repeat the sentiment to the family of USA Hockey executive and two-time Olympian Jim Johannson, who passed Sunday morning at just 53 years of age.