The 2018-19 regular season has started, so let’s overreact and hand out the regular season awards already! It’s our 3rd Annual Participation Trophies After One Game presented by Nick and Connor.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Colorado Avalanche and their outlook for the summer.
The 2017-18 Colorado Avalanche came off of the worst season in the salary cap era with a 43-30-9 record and 95-point performance on the year, finishing 4th in the Central Division and clinching the final wild card spot in the 2018 postseason with a win in their final game of the regular season against the St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis entered that game in April, in fact, ahead of the Avs in the standings by a point with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators in the First Round.
Not only did Colorado win, but they completed an unthinkable turnaround.
This, after trading the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Matt Duchene, to the Ottawa Senators as part of a three team trade that saw the Avalanche flip Kyle Turris to the Nashville Predators, collecting a large package combined that included rookie defender Samuel Girard.
While one trade alone doesn’t put General Manager Joe Sakic in the hunt for the NHL’s GM of the Year award, the incredible turnaround in on-ice performance led by head coach, Jared Bednar, put Bednar in consideration for the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Sakic currently holds onto the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and two second round picks (Colorado’s own and one from the Predators as part of the Duchene trade).
While the conditional 2018 1st round pick from the Ottawa Senators in the Duchene deal was top-10 protected, the Sens will surrender a 2019 first round pick to the Avalanche instead.
Regardless, Sakic and his scouting crew will have plenty of attractive “best available” talent to choose from in the middle of the first round (namely, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno, Jack McBain, Jared McIsaac and others).
Pending free agents
Colorado has about $22.900 million to spend this summer with Blake Comeau, Matt Nieto and Nail Yakupov as the only current-NHL roster pending free agent forwards.
Comeau, 32, is a pending-UFA that bounced back from 2016-17’s down year (remember when Carl Soderberg had 14 points that season? Carl. Soderberg.), with an average of 30 points in his three seasons in the Mile High city.
He’s been around the league a bit in his career, but he resurfaced as a durable forward on an otherwise young roster, amassing 13-21–34 totals in 79 games played with the Avalanche this season.
Nieto, 25, is a pending-RFA that was claimed off waivers last season by Colorado and had his best season since 2014-15 with the San Jose Sharks, scoring 15 goals and 11 assists (26 points) in 74 games for the Avs in 2017-18.
The biggest difference maker for the Avalanche this offseason is not messing things up. Keeping Nieto isn’t harmful to the team’s future as their younger players come into their own and a small term deal won’t hurt as the younger players gain experience.
In short, there’s nothing for Sakic to lose in building a roster that makes the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Not many expected them to be at the point of playoff contention this season, so any step forward is better than a step backward as Colorado continues to retool for a Cup run (someday).
If there’s one pending-RFA Sakic should have an easy time letting go of, it’s Nail Yakupov.
The 24-year-old 1st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Enty Draft signed a one-year deal with Colorado in attempt to resurrect his career. It did not go as planned, despite scoring often and scoring early in the regular season.
Yakupov produced nine goals and seven assists (16 points) in 58 games with the Avalanche in the regular season and was scratched for their entire 2018 postseason run.
That alone is an indication.
While he almost doubled his offensive production this season compared to his final year with the St. Louis Blues (3-6–9 totals in 40 games in 2016-17), it doesn’t appear he can be part of an NHL lineup with enough consistency.
At best, Yakupov is the one you least expect to score, but then surprises everyone with the occasional goal. At worst, he’s just taking up a roster spot you could be giving to someone else.
Sakic already tried the low-risk, high-reward with Yakupov. It’s best to move on.
On defense, Patrik Nemeth, 26, and Duncan Siemens, 24, are both pending-RFAs.
Nemeth was claimed off waivers early last October from the Dallas Stars and scored his first career NHL goal with Colorado (and then two more) this season. He first broke into the league with Dallas in the 2013-14 season and had 3-12–15 totals in 68 games with the Avs in 2017-18.
He’s a low cost top-6 blueliner on a roster with about 10 NHL caliber defensemen. Whether Nemeth returns or not comes down to how Sakic envisions the roster– with Nikita Zadorov entering a contract year and Tyson Barrie potentially hitting the open market in July 2020– and how Bednar thinks he’s going to play everyone.
The 11th overall pick of the Avalanche in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Siemens scored his first NHL goal and recorded his first career assist in 16 games played. That’s the most he’s played in a season after appearing in his first career game in 2014-15.
There’s nothing holding him back from leaving the organization in search of a place that’ll give him more of a chance, but if he’s comfortable enough in Colorado, that’s fine too. Realistically speaking, he won’t be back with an NHL job in Denver, though.
In goal, the Avalanche have on goaltender under contract for 2018-19 and it’s 30-year-old Semyon Varlamov.
With a $5.900 million cap hit, Varlamov isn’t all that bad– as trade bait. But who would buy an oft-injured goaltender plateauing past his prime?
Injuries once again plagued the veteran starter down the stretch, but his numbers technically improved. Again, it’s an almost automatic technicality coming off of 2016-17, but Varlamov did produce a 2.68 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 51 games this season (which was close to his 2.56 GAA and .921 SV% in 57 games in 2014-15 with Colorado).
His next game will be his 400th career NHL game and if Sakic tosses around the idea of retaining some salary, the Avalanche could possibly find a new home for the goaltender, while seeking a legitimate number one.
Spencer Martin, 23, is a pending-RFA that last played at the NHL level in 2016-17. He is 0-2-1 in his short three game NHL career with a 4.35 GAA and an .865 SV% in the worst season for the franchise since moving to Denver.
Backup goalie, Jonathan Bernier, 29, is a pending-UFA that in 37 games with the Avs this season, amassed a 2.85 GAA and .913 SV% with a 19-13-3 record. That’s down from his 2.50 GAA, .915 SV% and 21-7-4 record in 39 games with the Anaheim Ducks in 2016-17– ignoring the experience along the blueline Anaheim’s defense has over Colorado’s.
The problem with Bernier is that while he’s a backup goaltender, he’s been subpar with average teams. In 2015-16 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bernier was once again relegated to being a backup goalie for the first time since his breakout days behind Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings.
In 20 fewer games than 2014-15 (his last as a starter, in which he had a 2.87 GAA and .912 SV%), Bernier posted a 12-21-3 record with a 2.88 GAA and .908 SV% in 38 games with Toronto. Yikes.
Could the Avalanche take a stab at trying to acquire pending-RFA Philipp Grubauer from the Washington Capitals?
Sure, but let’s remember, they tried getting a Washington goaltender (in Varlamov) before to be their number one, so there’s no guarantees.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Rocco Grimaldi (UFA), Felix Girard (RFA), Jesse Graham (RFA), Joe Cannata (UFA), Mason Geertsen (RFA), Joe Colborne (UFA), Ryan Graves (RFA), Andrew Hammond (UFA), Reid Petryk (RFA), Trent Vogelhuber (UFA)
Continuing our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams, today we begin with the Ottawa Senators and continue working our way through the 2018 NHL Entry Draft order (if every team still had their first round pick).
After reaching the 2017 Eastern Conference Final and succumbing to the eventual 2017 Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins, in double-overtime in Game 7, the 2017-18 Senators were quite a disappointment.
Ottawa was one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history and first time in ten years, but Chris Kunitz‘s game-winning goal ended the Sens magical 2017 postseason run.
A rocky start in October led to a dismal November after acquiring the services of Matt Duchene.
Though the team’s effort was not Duchene’s fault alone, trading away Kyle Turris in the three-team Duchene deal– and later sending Derick Brassard to the
Vegas Golden Knights Pittsburgh Penguins (after making a pitstop in Vegas) as part of a three-team deal leading up to the 2018 trade deadline– didn’t do much to help Ottawa’s cause as Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 was ripped to shreds on a night-to-night basis.
The Sens finished 2017-18 with a 28-43-11 record, notching 67 points and finishing 7th in the Atlantic Division.
Erik Karlsson‘s displeasure with the organization has the trade rumor mill searching for a new home for the defender with one-year remaining on his current contract, while Thomas Chabot and Filip Gustavsson show promise for a hopeful future on the current roster and in the system, respectively.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Between Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, there’s bound to be a top-quality prospect that could make quite a world of change for the organization. Zadina or Tkachuk could very well be selected 3rd overall by the Montreal Canadiens leaving the Senators with the next best available player to select.
But anything’s possible, as we’ve come to see time and time again in the draft.
Ottawa could trade their pick, take someone off the board that they’re more comfortable and confident with or be predictable and select the “best available” player.
Despite this year’s draft being deeper than recent drafts, one player alone isn’t going to fix the Senators (on-ice product, at least– we’ll save their front office for another day).
Pending free agents
With almost $15 million in cap space this offseason, Ottawa has a chance to make a dent at attracting one of the better players testing the market this July. However, the Senators have a couple of important names that are worth holding onto in Mark Stone (a pending-RFA) and Chris Wideman (a pending-UFA).
Other pending free agents currently on the NHL roster in Canada’s capital include the likes of Fredrik Claesson and Cody Ceci. Both are pending-RFA blueliners that are arbitration eligible if they are not tendered qualifying offers or already re-signed by July 1st.
In terms of priorities, keeping Stone and Wideman could play vital roles for Ottawa’s second/third line (Stone) and top-4 defensemen (Wideman). Neither are stellar standouts so somewhere around $3.000- 4.000 million AAV deals seem reasonable– at most– considering the 2019 crop of pending free agents Ottawa will have (including Duchene, Karlsson and others).
But Ottawa has bigger needs with six forwards over the age of 30 and nobody to match Karlsson’s playing style on the first defensive pair.
It wouldn’t be unwise for General Manager Pierre Dorion to find some trading partners to take on 37-year-old Alex Burrows, 36-year-old Marian Gaborik and the contract of Clarke MacArthur (if MacArhtur’s playing days are indeed over and the Senators no longer wish to place him on the long term injured reserve from season-to-season).
If Karlsson is to be traded, then the Senators will have to hit a home run on the package in return. But the real home run for the organization might be finding someone to take on Bobby Ryan‘s $7.250 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season in a trade, as Ottawa’s owner, Eugene Melnyk dreams.
The Sens need to get younger, more skilled and faster. They’re almost figuring that out on the blueline, but even then, they’ve got some decisions to make– keep either Claesson or Ceci and find a new defender or two via trade or free agency.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
For the first time since February 27th, the Winnipeg Jets have lost a home game. Interestingly enough, that was also a Nashville Predators win.
Nashville evened their Second Round series matchup with the Jets in a 2-1 victory on Thursday night at Bell MTS Place.
Predators netminder, Pekka Rinne, made 32 saves on 33 shots against for a .970 save percentage in the win, while Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck had 27 saves on 29 shots faced for a .931 SV% in 58:09 time on ice.
On a delayed penalty to Roman Josi for cross checking Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine retaliated and received a roughing minor at 3:46 of the first period. As such, what was going to be a power play for Winnipeg suddenly evaporated into matching minors.
Shortly thereafter, while the Jets were racking up scoring chance after scoring chance, Rinne— in desperation— stopped a shot with the knob of his stick and the game remained tied, 0-0.
Late in the first period on a faceoff win in the offensive zone, Ryan Hartman (2) made Winnipeg pay on an individual effort for the game’s first goal. Nashville led, 1-0, at 17:20 of the first period.
Through one period of action in Game 4, the Predators were leading, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailing, 12-9, in shots on goal. Winnipeg led in blocked shots (2-1), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Nashville held an advantage in hits (12-10) and takeaways (4-2).
Both teams had yet to appear on the power play entering the first intermission, though Craig Smith’s minor penalty for tripping Winnipeg defender, Adam Lowry, at 20:00 of the first period meant that the Jets would begin their first power play of the night starting from puck drop in the second period.
The two Western Conference powerhouses swapped scoring chance for scoring chance in the second period after the Preds killed off Smith’s minor penalty, but the scoreboard did not change until Nashville got their first power play opportunity of the night.
Filip Forsberg worked the puck back to the point where P.K. Subban (3) shot a rocket of a slap shot past Hellebuyck as the Winnipeg netminder was being screened by Viktor Arvidsson in front of the goal.
Forsberg (7) and Ryan Johansen (6) notched the assists on Subban’s goal at 14:36 of the second period and the Predators amassed a two-goal lead.
Late in the second, Lowry hooked Kyle Turris and Nashville went back on the power play, but the Predators were not able to score on the ensuing advantage heading into the second intermission. They did, however, have 39 seconds remaining on the power play to start the third period.
After 40 minutes of play, the Nashville Predators led the Winnipeg Jets, 2-0. Winnipeg held a slight advantage in shots on goal (23-22), blocked shots (6-4) and giveaways (13-9). The Predators held an advantage in hits (20-17) and takeaways (6-2), while the Jets led in faceoff win percentage (53-47).
Nashville was 1/2 on the power play while the Jets were 0/1 after two periods.
The Predators held onto their 2-0 lead deep into the third period and were approaching a mark not seen in Winnipeg since March 11, 2017. That mark, of course, being the last time the Jets were shutout on home ice— regular season or postseason.
With a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation, Paul Maurice pulled his goaltender for an extra skater. Shortly thereafter, things went from 6-on-5 to 6-on-4 for Winnipeg as Subban was penalized for cross checking Scheifele at 17:58 of the third period.
Scheifele fanned on a one-timer on the ensuing power play and almost redeemed himself on a follow up, but Rinne worked his magic once again and covered it up with about a minute left in regulation.
That’s when Maurice used his timeout to draw up a plan to avoid being shutout and attempt to score two quick goals.
Paul Stastny won the ensuing faceoff back to Laine (3), who fired a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle through Rinne’s five-hole as the puck deflected off of a chunk of the Finnish goaltender.
Stastny (7) had the only assist on Laine’s power play goal at 19:09 of the third period and Winnipeg cut the Predators lead in half, 2-1.
After a couple more stoppages in play and a timekeeping adjustment, the Jets had an offensive faceoff with 1.2 seconds left in the game— plenty of time to win a faceoff and score a goal if they were to execute the perfect play.
It did not go as perfect.
Stastny won the attacking zone faceoff back to Laine, but Laine’s shooting lane was jammed, so the Jets winger had to throw the puck in front of the net as fast as possible as time expired and the Nashville Predators evened the series, 2-2.
After 60 minutes, the Predators won the game, 2-1, and led in blocked shots (9-6) and hits (27-23). Meanwhile, Winnipeg led in shots on goal (33-29), giveaways (19-12) and faceoff win percentage (58-42). Both teams were 1/2 on the power play.
With the series tied, 2-2, the series shifts back to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET for Game 5. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN, while fans in Canada can tune in on CBC or TVAS. Game 6 will be back in Winnipeg on Monday night.
Kevin Fiala scored the game-winning overtime goal at 5:37 of the second overtime period Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Predators topped the Winnipeg Jets, 5-4, in Game 2. The Second Round series is now tied, 1-1, heading into Game 3 on Tuesday.
Predators netminder, Pekka Rinne had 46 saves on 50 shots against for a .920 save percentage in 85:37 time on ice in the win, while Jets goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck, made 36 saves on 41 shots against for an .878 SV% in 84:50 TOI in the loss.
Getting the first goal in a Stanley Cup Playoff game means (almost) everything. Ryan Johansen (3) scored the game’s first goal just 27 seconds into the action and the Predators had a 1-0 lead. Filip Forsberg (3) and P.K. Subban (4) had the assists.
Matt Hendricks bumped into Rinne past the seven minute mark in the first period and received the game’s first penalty as Nashville went on the power play. The Preds did not convert on the man advantage.
Moments later, Ryan Hartman tripped Paul Stastny and the Jets went on their first power play of the night. Winnipeg’s power play was short lived, though, as Blake Wheeler promptly tripped Colton Sissons 52 seconds into Winnipeg’s man advantage opportunity.
As Nashville’s abbreviated power play was wrapping up, Viktor Arvidsson, was guilty of a minor penalty for interference.
Seconds later, after winning a faceoff in the offensive zone, the Jets worked the puck along the wall, around the boards and back to the point, where Dustin Byfuglien was sneaking his way in towards the goal.
Byfuglien (1) fired a shot from close range and snuck the puck through Rinne’s five-hole for his first goal of the postseason and tied the game, 1-1. Mark Scheifele (2) had the only assist on the goal at 12:47 of the first period.
Just 29 seconds after Byfuglien scored, Winnipeg converted on their abbreviated power play with Arvidsson in the box for Nashville.
Scheifele (7) was in the right place at the right time as Stastny collected a rebound that caromed off the glass behind the net and dished a pass to the young Jets forward standing point blank in the slot. Stastny (4) and Patrik Laine (4) notched the assists on the goal that made it, 2-1, Winnipeg at 13:16.
As momentum shifted in Winnipeg’s favor, Laine rang the post about a minute later and almost had what would’ve been three unanswered goals for the Jets.
Instead, after 20 minutes of play, Winnipeg had a one-goal lead as shots on goal were even, 9-9. The Jets led in blocked shots (9-7) and takeaways (4-2), while the Preds led in hits (9-7) and giveaways (3-2). Winnipeg was 1/2 on the power play and Nashville was 0/2 after one period.
Bryan Little tripped up Sissons 4:01 into the second period and the Predators went on the power play for the third time Sunday night.
Subban (1) fired a clapper past Hellebuyck while Arvidsson provided the perfect jump screen in front of the goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 5:04 of the second period. Forsberg (4) and Arvidsson (2) amassed the assists on Subban’s goal.
Mattias Ekholm slashed Wheeler almost midway into the second period, but the Jets were not able to score on the ensuing power play. Neither did the Predators on their own power play six minutes later when Hendricks took another trip to the sin bin for interference.
On a burst of speed into the offensive zone Arvidsson (3) let go of a cannon of a shot that beat Hellebuyck to give Nashville a, 3-2, lead at 18:41 of the second period. Forsberg (5) and Ryan Ellis (5) had the assists on the goal.
At the end of the period, Ellis delivered a cross check to Scheifele in the midst of a scrum and Nick Bonino mixed things up a bit with Scheifele himself. Three penalties were assessed at 20:00 minutes of the second period; Ellis (a minor for cross checking), Bonino (roughing, minor) and Scheifele (roughing, minor).
Through 40 minutes of play, the Preds led the Jets, 3-2, on the scoreboard and were outshot, 22-18, by Winnipeg. Nashville led in hits (18-10) and giveaways (13-7), while Winnipeg led in blocked shots (18-11) and takeaways (8-7). The Jets were 1/3 on the power play and the Predators were 1/4 on the man advantage after two periods.
Brandon Tanev (3) forced his way through the neutral zone on a chip pass from Little and beat Rinne on a breakaway, tying the game, 3-3 at 5:11 of the third period. Little (3) had the only assist on Tanev’s goal.
Johansen (4) scored on a breakaway of his own— destroying Toby Enstrom with one move and beating Hellebuyck bar-down— 34 seconds later, giving the Predators the one-goal lead, once again. Arvidsson (3) had the only assist on Johansen’s second goal of the game and Nashville led, 4-3, at 5:45.
For the longest time, the Predators were leading, 4-3, in the third period, but Paul Maurice’s Winnipeg Jets had more fight in them as time ticked down. Maurice pulled his goaltender for an extra skater with under two minutes remaining in regulation and it quickly paid off as Scheifele (8) nabbed his second goal of the night.
Wheeler (6) and Byfuglien (6) notched the primary and secondary assists on the game-tying goal at 18:55 of the third period.
With the score tied, 4-4, after 60 minutes of regulation, Game 2 went into overtime.
Entering overtime, Winnipeg was leading in shots on goal (36-25), while Nashville led in hits (21-19), takeaways (11-9) and giveaways (15-11). Both teams were 1/4 on the power play.
The Predators peppered the Hellebuyck with a ton of shots in the first half of the first overtime period and were in complete control of the chaotic flow of the game. Then Winnipeg caught the Jetstream and hightailed the rest of the period, generating numerous scoring chances that were tossed aside by Rinne.
After 20 minutes of overtime and 80 minutes of play, the score remained, 4-4, but the Jets led in shots on goal (48-38) and blocked shots (28-26). Nashville kept up with their physical play, leading in hits (26-23) and controlled the faceoff dot— winning 61 percent of all faceoffs taken after the first overtime.
Winnipeg had surpassed their previous longest postseason game in franchise history (dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers) and would quickly pass the record for longest postseason game by any Winnipeg NHL franchise (new or old— a.k.a. the current day Arizona Coyotes) in the second overtime period.
Another milestone passed by the Jets that’s not to be overlooked (given the emergence/existence of the Vegas Golden Knights in Vegas’s inaugural season/postseason) is the fact that entering Sunday night, Winnipeg/Atlanta was the only active NHL franchise that had yet to play a game that required multiple overtimes.
Anyway, Kevin Fiala (3) converted in a two-on-one whereby Craig Smith tossed the puck across the ice, Fiala received it, stickhandled, made Hellebuyck commit, then pulled the puck to his backhand and scored on a largely left open 4×6 frame.
Smith (1) and Kyle Turris (3) had the assists on Fiala’s second career postseason overtime goal and the Predators had won, 5-4, at 5:37 of the second overtime.
Winnipeg finished the night leading in shots on goal (50-41) and blocked shots (30-26). Nashville led in the final scoreboard, 5-4, and in hits (26-23) after 85:37 elapsed time.
With the win, Rinne is now 7-6 all-time in postseason overtime games and Hellebuyck is 0-1 in his first career overtime Stanley Cup Playoff game.
The series is tied, 1-1, heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Viewers in the United States can tune to CNBC at 8 p.m. ET, while fans in Canada can catch the action on CBC or TVAS.
With 47 saves from First Star of the Game and Vezina finalist G Connor Hellebuyck, the Winnipeg Jets beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal.
Hockey is a bizarre, incredible game in that one side can absolutely dominate play by out-shooting the opposition 20-4 (yes, you read that correctly: only four shots on goal) in one period, yet it only takes one player to completely neutralize that assault.
Enter Hellebuyck, who came into the Second Round on the coattails of two consecutive shutouts to close out the Jets’ series against Minnesota.
Admittedly, he benefited from the Predators failing to connect on at least two passes that would have provided the recipient a prime scoring opportunity on an open net, but it could also be argued that the Jets defense, though porous, did stand up at the biggest moments to help Hellebuyck keep the Preds at bay – especially by clearing most rebounds off the netminder’s pads.
Making things even better for the Jets, their fourth shot on goal of the game ended up being the first marker of this highly anticipated Central Division showdown series. With 5:09 remaining in the frame, W Brandon Tanev (F Bryan Little) collected the rebound of Little’s shot off G Pekka Rinne‘s stick and right skate, beating the netminder’s blade to the near post to give the Jets a one-goal lead.
A similar storyline continued in the second period. Hellebuyck was charged with making 16 more saves after the first intermission, and he performed beautifully – albeit with the help of his right post when F Filip Forsberg should have buried a power play slap shot on a gaping cage.
And just like in the first frame, the Jets rewarded him with goals at the other end of the rink. 9:01 into the second period, C Paul Stastny (RW Patrik Laine and Ehlers) completed Ehlers’ powerful drive into the offensive zone by scrapping out a wrister in the slot after two Rinne saves.
And only 1:22 after Forsberg missed his opportunity to snap Hellebuyck’s shutout, C Mark Scheifele (RW Blake Wheeler and LW Kyle Connor) turned Winnipeg’s successful penalty kill into a wrister with 2:09 remaining in the period. This goal was a stellar example of Winnipeg’s counterattack, as Wheeler sped into the offensive zone to give the Jets a three-on-three opportunity. After dropping a pass to Scheifele, it was all the center could do but rip his wrister past Rinne’s blocker for the Jets’ third goal.
Following the second intermission, Head Coach Peter Laviolette elected to lift Rinne – who’d saved 13-of-16 shots faced (.813 save percentage) through two periods – in favor of G Juuse Saros to try and send a message to his club.
That message was more than received, as Fiala (C Kyle Turris and D Ryan Ellis) finally squeaked a wrister past Hellebuyck 1:23 into the third frame to end his perfect run. Fiala was the recipient of a stellar centering touch pass from Turris along the goal line, quickly potting his second goal of this postseason to set the score at 3-1.
However, Nashville couldn’t build any positive energy from that tally. Even though the Preds fired another 10 shots at Hellebuyck in the remaining 18:37 of regulation, they simply couldn’t replicate that winning formula to pull any closer to Winnipeg.
That led to Saros departing his crease for an extra attacker, which allowed Scheifele (Wheeler) to close out the match by burying an empty-netter with 36 seconds remaining in regulation.
Statistically, there’s few things the Predators did wrong in this game. They dominated the face-off dot (Nashville won 66 percent of draws) and threw more hits (29-22) even though they easily out-shot Winnipeg 48-19.
Instead, Nashville’s focus should be on duplicating Fiala’s goal if it wants any chance of besting Hellebuyck and his 47-of-48 (.979 save percentage) in Game 2.
Speaking of, that contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, April 29. For those that don’t have the pleasure of being in attendance at Bridgestone Arena that night, they may view the game on CBC, NBCSN and TVAS.
Nick Bonino and the Nashville Predators reached the top of the mountain in their series with the Colorado Avalanche, defeating their opponent, 5-0, in Game 6 and, 4-2, in the series to advance to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne, stopped all 22 shots he faced for a shutout in the win, while Colorado netminder, Andrew Hammond, made 32 saves on 37 shots against for an .865 save percentage in the loss.
For the second game in a row in the series, the Predators got on the scoreboard first. Even after they thought they had scored, but it was waved off.
With a little over 13 minutes remaining in the first period, Nashville thought they had made it, 1-0, after a puck got past Hammond. But in the eyes of the officials, Kyle Turris was guilty of having interfered with Hammond’s ability to get back and make a save— even though Hammond was outside of the crease and Turris was nudged by Colorado blueliner, Samuel Girard.
The call on the ice was confirmed after review. No goal. No penalty. No harm, no foul. Except for the loss of a timeout for the Predators, since it was technically a coach’s challenge on behalf of Peter Laviolette.
Nonetheless, Nashville didn’t back down.
Just 16 seconds later, Mattias Ekholm (1) fired a slap shot past Hammond and gave the Predators their first legitimate 1-0 lead of the night. Ekholm’s goal was the first by a Preds defender in the series and came as Austin Watson was screening Hammond.
Colton Sissons (3) and Nick Bonino (2) notched the assists on the goal after Sissons found Ekholm in open ice for the shot.
A few minutes later, the Sissons-Bonino-Watson line was making waves again for the road team.
Hammond challenged Sissons and dove to poke check the puck away, but the Avalanche netminder’s futile efforts resulted in Sissons easily wrapping himself around the outstretched goalie with a wide open net to aim for.
Sissons hit the post, but Watson (4) buried the rebound and Nashville went up, 2-0. Sissons (4) and Bonino (3) each picked up their second assists of the night on the goal at 10:19 of the first period.
Late in the period, Colorado captain, Gabriel Landeskog was guilty of slashing Predators defender, P.K. Subban. Nashville went on their first power play of the night that would last into the second period, given the official assessment of the penalty at 18:07 of the first period.
After one period, the Predators led, 2-0. Nashville also led in shots on goal (14-7), blocked shots (8-3) and faceoff win percentage (58-42). Colorado finished the first period leading in takeaways (2-1) and had yet to see any time on the power play. The Preds were 0/1 on the man advantage through 20 minutes played.
Colorado successfully killed off the minor penalty to Landeskog seven seconds into the second period, but then allowed Filip Forsberg and the Predators to enter the offensive zone on a two-on-one.
Forsberg (4) sent a laser of a shot past Hammond for his fourth goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, 38 seconds into the second period. Nashville went ahead, 3-0, as a result of Forsberg’s unassisted goal.
Shortly thereafter, Nikita Zadorov was penalized for interfering with Nashville forward, Viktor Arvidsson. Sven Andrighetto swiftly cross checked Arvidsson after the whistle and Arvidsson received a minor penalty for embellishment. Zadorov’s penalty was questionable, considering the timing and where the puck was relevant to Arvidsson, but Andrighetto’s cross check was rather balatant.
All three penalties were assessed at 6:13 of the second period and the Predators ended up with a power play as a result. Nashville failed to convert on the man advantage.
Bonino (2) wired one into the twine 13 seconds after the power play concluded for the Preds and gave Nashville a four-goal lead. Calle Jarnkrok (1) and Ryan Ellis (3) had the assists on the goal that made it, 4-0, Predators at 8:26 of the second period.
Zadorov thought he scored with a little over two minutes remaining in the period, but Carl Soderberg had entered the crease well ahead of the puck and the goal was waved off immediately.
Avalanche head coach, Jared Bednar, used his coach’s challenge, but the call on the ice was confirmed after review. No goal, no penalty. Colorado lost their timeout. Rinne’s ongoing shutout remained in tact.
Ellis tripped Mikko Rantanen in a leg-on-leg collision with 29 seconds left in the second period and was promptly jumped by Zadorov after the whistle. In addition to a roughing minor, Zadorov received a ten-minute misconduct at 19:31 of the second period.
Instead of being on the power play, Colorado ended up on the penalty kill.
After 40 minutes of play, the Predators led, 4-0, on the scoreboard. Nashville also led in shots on goal (25-16), blocked shots (11-9), hits (28-26), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (68-32). The Avs had not been on the man advantage through two periods and the Preds were 0/2.
Arvidsson (2) caught an aerial pass from Subban at center ice and drove to the net, scoring a highlight reel goal, given his low placement of his hands on the stick (as though it were a mini-stick game in someone’s basement). Subban (3) picked up the only assist on the goal that made it 5-0 Nashville at 2:36 of the third period.
At the final horn, the Predators had won the game, 5-0, and led in shots on goal, 37-22. Blocked shots were even at 13 blocked shots apiece. Meanwhile, Nashville finished the night leading in hits (36-30) and faceoff win percentage (63-37). Neither team was successful on their respective special teams play after 60 minutes (Colorado finished 0/1 on the power play and Nashville went 0/3).
With the First Round series win, the Nashville Predators will play host to the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The old saying goes that a team is never behind in a playoff series until it loses a home match. With that in mind, the Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 to win Game 3 and pull within a victory of leveling their First Round series.
The good news for the Predators is that G Juuse Saros saved all 18 shots he faced in his 33:34 of action.
The bad news is, of course, that he didn’t start the game.
Instead, that honor was bestowed upon G Pekka Rinne, who saved only 11-of-15 (.733 save percentage) before being lifted at the 4:25 mark of the second period.
Going back to the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals, this was the third-consecutive road playoff game that saw Rinne get chased from the crease, not to mention his fourth-consecutive road playoff loss.
The Avs have made a living in this series pouncing on Rinne early, and that trend was only magnified with the luxury of home ice when they buried three markers before the first intermission.
Just like in Games 1 and 2, the Avs scored the first goal when Third Star of the Game W Blake Comeau (F Carl Soderberg and W Matthew Nieto) buried a tip-in only 1:50 into play – Colorado’s first shot on net in the contest. That advantage doubled to two goals with 6:36 remaining in the frame when W Gabriel Bourque (D Patrik Nemeth and F J.T. Compher) scored another tip-in from a similar position as Comeau’s tally: right in front of Rinne’s crease.
Not to be outdone by his own bottom-six, First Star F Nathan MacKinnon made sure to get on the scoreboard 4:43 after Bourque’s marker by scoring a wrist shot with a breakaway-springing assist from Second Star LW Gabriel Landeskog.
MacKinnon’s next act not only proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Rinne, but it also ended up as the game-winning goal by the time the Predators’ comeback attempt was said and done.
4:22 into the second period, RW Mikko Rantanen did his best Serge Savard spin-o-rama impression to fire a centering pass from along the goal line. However, Landeskog was not able to corral the pass and the puck trickled towards the high slot. C Kyle Turris had an opportunity to take possession of the loose puck, but it bounced over his stick to MacKinnon, who was sure to pocket his wrister over Rinne’s right shoulder.
Now with a comfortable 4-0 advantage, Colorado made it its job to weather whatever resurgence Nashville was going to assuredly muster up. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work to perfection when Nemeth and D Nikita Zadorov were both sent to the penalty box at the 9:27 mark of the second frame for respective cross checking and hooking penalties.
Handed a full two minutes of five-on-three play, the Preds did exactly what any good squad would do and took advantage of that opportunity. Nashville finally got on the scoreboard with 9:37 remaining in the second period to pull within a 4-1 deficit courtesy of a F Ryan Johansen (F Filip Forsberg and D Ryan Ellis) wrister.
While Nemeth was serving up the remainder of his penalty, G Jonathan Bernier decided it would be really neat to make a save with his neck. Ellis’ shot rode up on him and would have sneaked by had the netminder not squeezed the puck between his head and shoulder pads. As would be expected, Bernier took a second to recover from the play, but he stayed in the game.
Even though no more scoring occurred in the second frame after Johansen’s marker, Pepsi Center’s scoreboard operator still had much to do. Four more penalties occurred before the second intermission. Three of those infractions were against the Predators, including negating holding penalties between MacKinnon and D P.K. Subban. What doesn’t make the scorecard is why MacKinnon was holding Subban in the first place, as the Nova Scotian was on the receiving end of a questionable elbow. These teams are growing increasingly displeased with each other, and that is made even more apparent when the heavily-favored Predators struggle to get past Bernier and the Avs.
The closest Nashville got to a third period comeback occurred at the 7:12 mark when F Colton Sissons (D Roman Josi and Ellis) buried a wrister, but the Predators couldn’t make anything more out of that positive energy. That forced Head Coach Peter Laviolette to pull Saros for an extra attacker, allowing Landeskog (Rantanen and D Mark Barberio) to score an empty-netter with 1:36 remaining in regulation.
F Austin Watson did score a wrister 21 seconds later that was challenged for goaltender interference, but Toronto ruled it to be a good goal. Of course, it didn’t ultimately matter, as the Predators were unable to score two goals to level the game.
The Avalanche’s comeback is far from done, however. Game 4 is still an important match in this playoff series, as the Predators could go home with either a 2-2 tie or needing only one more win to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. Game 4 is scheduled for 10 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 18 at Pepsi Center. Fans can catch the game on NBCSN, SN and TVAS.
While the National Hockey League may, in fact, be getting younger, the Nashville Predators do not care. Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville beat the youngest team in the league in their first-ever postseason matchup, defeating the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 5-2 in Game 1 of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round best-of-seven game series.
Filip Forsberg’s two-goal third period effort yielded the game winning goal as well as some Predators franchise history as Pekka Rinne recorded 25 saves on 27 shots faced for a .926 save percentage en route to the win. Forsberg’s 17-11—28 career Stanley Cup Playoff totals tied Nashville’s franchise record for most career playoff points with the Preds.
Avalanche goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, turned aside 26 shots out of 30 shots against for an .867 SV% in the loss.
Nikita Zadorov (1) kicked off the game’s scoring with his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 6:36 of the first period, giving Colorado an early 1-0 lead, surprising everyone but the Predators faithful at Bridgestone Arena, given Nashville’s sheer dominance at home in the regular season as well as their numerous comebacks at home in last year’s edition of the playoffs.
Despite many attempts to put the puck past Bernier, this season’s President’s Trophy winners were held scoreless through 20 minutes of play. If that’s not surprising enough, Nashville’s sloppy start resulted in two minor penalties near the end of the first period, though Colorado was unable to convert on their man advantages.
Early in the second period, however, Nashville came alive.
But not even two minutes later, the Predators found themselves in a hole when a Carl Soderberg shot was redirected by Blake Comeau (1) past Rinne at 4:51. Comeau’s goal put the Avs back in front, 2-1, and was assisted by Soderberg (1) and Matt Nieto (1).
Almost midway through the second period, Hart Trophy candidate, Nathan MacKinnon was called for slashing Preds defenseman, P.K. Subban.
It only took ten seconds for Nashville to convert on the power play.
Craig Smith (1) made it a 2-2 game with a power play goal and threw momentum by the wayside. Johansen (2) notched his second assist of the night as the Predators began to dominate the action.
After 40 minutes of play, with the score tied, 2-2, Nashville was leading in shots on goal 21-17 and was 1/1 on the power play.
Just past six minutes into the third period, Filip Forsberg (1) scored a nifty goal to put the Predators ahead for the first time in the game, 3-2. Preds captain, Roman Josi (1), and forward, Viktor Arvidsson (1) assisted on Forsberg’s first goal of the night.
Then Forsberg wowed everyone.
First he put the puck between his own legs and then he went through the legs of Samuel Girard and beat Bernier with a good shot. It’s worth mentioning that Forsberg was moving at full speed, too, making Girard look like molasses. The irony, of course, is that Girard was part of Nashville’s package sent to Colorado in the three-team Matt Duchene trade back in November.
Forsberg notched his 2nd goal of the night on a beautiful individual effort and made it 4-2 Nashville with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Kyle Turris (another product of the aforementioned Duchene trade) was guilty of a slashing penalty (against Girard, no less) 12 seconds after Forsberg’s goal, but at that point everything was coming up Predators.
With time ticking down, Avalanche head coach, Jared Bednar, pulled his goaltender for an extra skater. Sadly it was too little, too late.
Colton Sissons (1) put home the empty net goal at 18:03 of the third period to solidify the victory for Nashville. Watson (1) snagged the only assist on the goal that made it 5-2.
At the final horn Arvidsson played until the end, firing a shot a second too late— or rather, not to Zadorov’s liking, as Zadorov swiftly gave him a cross check and was assessed two penalties at the conclusion of the game, as is an annual tradition (always) somewhere in playoff hockey.
Zadorov’s cross checking minor and misconduct penalties read as being handed out at 20:00 of the third period. Not enough time to see what else Nashville could have done, given there was no time left on the clock.
Nashville finished the game leading in shots on goal (31-27), blocked shots (18-17), hits (36-24) and giveaways (9-7). Colorado led in faceoff win percentage, 53-47%. The Avalanche were unsuccessful on the power play all night (0/3) and Nashville went 1/2 on the man advantage.
The Predators take their 5-2 victory in Game 1 and 1-0 series lead into Game 2 on Saturday afternoon for a 3 p.m. ET puck drop at Bridgestone Arena. Depending on your location, United States national viewers can tune to NBC or CNBC for coverage, meanwhile fans in Canada can flip to SNW, SNP or TVAS.
Shortly after their last game of the season on Saturday, the New York Rangers relieved Alain Vigneault of his head coaching duties. In his fifth year with the organization, the Rangers went 34-39-9 (77 points) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
It was Vigneault’s worst year in the Big Apple. It was a transition year for a team retooling on the fly– trading away Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and others for centerpieces in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov (among other assets).
Now it’s time for someone else to take the reins behind the bench of King Henrik’s team.
The clock is ticking in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist‘s quest for his first Stanley Cup. Vigneault was almost the man to do it having brought the Rangers all the way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in his first season with New York.
That was the closest Lundqvist has ever been– just three wins away– but the Los Angeles Kings had other plans, given it only took them five games to beat New York for the Los Angeles’s second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
It was the closest the Rangers had come to winning its first Cup since defeating the Vancouver Canucks in 1994.
The 2014-15 season witnessed a franchise record 113 points in the regular season– good enough to notch the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best record that year. Vigneault’s team knocked out Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the First Round in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then New York got behind in the Second Round series with the Washington Capitals, 3-1. Chris Kreider tied Game 5, McDonagh scored the game winner in overtime and the Rangers rallied back in the series to force the first Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks.
For the first time in Stanley Cup Playoff history, the Rangers were to battle the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.
Despite a decisive 7-3 victory in Game 6 on the road at Amalie Arena, New York was shutout, 2-0, in Game 7 on home ice.
They wouldn’t get another chance to come that close to the Stanley Cup Final with Vigneault behind the bench.
The 2015-16 Rangers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points and battled Mike Sullivan‘s Penguins in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It only took five games for the Rangers to be eliminated in Pittsburgh’s tear through the playoffs to their first Cup since 2009.
In 2016-17, New York regrouped with a 102-point season, but was cursed by the NHL’s current playoff format.
The Rangers were relegated to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference since three teams finished ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division with at least 108 points or more.
New York had four more points in the regular season than the Ottawa Senators (98 points)– who finished second in the Atlantic Division– and seven more points than the Boston Bruins (95 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) and Toronto Maple Leafs (95 points, second wild card in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having three fewer regulation-plus-overtime wins than Boston).
Vigneault’s team got by Michel Therrien’s Montreal Canadiens in six games of the First Round in what was touted as a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.
Then they ran into the streaking Senators who had beaten the Bruins in their own six game series.
Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 series lead with home ice advantage– despite having the worse of the two teams’s regular season records, but the Rangers seemed unfazed having won Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden 4-1 and 4-1, respectively.
Kyle Turris ended Game 5 almost six-and-a-half minutes into overtime at Canadian Tire Centre and the Rangers found themselves in a 3-2 series hole heading home for Game 6.
Senators captain, Erik Karlsson, had a goal and an assist in Ottawa’s decisive 4-2 victory on road ice and New York hit the golf course after just two rounds of the 2017 postseason.
Time kept ticking. Lundqvist got older.
Management grew more frustrated with the lack of a direction.
Dead last in the Metropolitan Division after all 82 games this season and under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Vigneault’s dismissal comes as no surprise.
It’s what is expected of any organization that expects to finish first, but fails in a rather large fashion.
Even more so with the league getting younger, skaters getting faster and teams placing more of an emphasis on a constant attack, a constant barrage of offense.
Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Spooner, Namestnikov and crew have already showcased a new face of the game in “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, while Vigneault’s systems might have been the only thing slowing them down in the waning days of the season.
It was time to shake things up and head in that new face of the game’s direction.
For the first time since the 1967-68 season only one coach was fired in-season (thanks to Mother Nature having played a part in extending the season by a day due to Boston’s rescheduled matchup from January with the Florida Panthers).
Unfortunately for Vigneault, he was that coach.
New York will be just fine.
They’re stockpiled with prospects and have already integrated youth, skill and speed into their lineup.
Now general manager Jeff Gorton will look to patch the blue line and give Lundqvist a high-caliber backup goaltender to ease the workload of the grueling regular season schedule.
It might not be the quickest turnaround, but it shouldn’t turn out to become an annual groan-fest watching the Blueshirts next season.
For Vigneault, there will be other opportunities.
He led Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in the midst of President’s Trophy seasons. He led New York back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in a generation. He’ll be studying hard, but he’s still in demand.
Somewhere there’s a team looking for his veteran coaching presence– like Buffalo– or a team that just missed the cut this season, but is on the brinks of a breakout year that very well might end up with their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970– like St. Louis.
But alas, this is all merely speculation.
More coaches will be fired for their team’s shortcomings (of their own fault or otherwise) this offseason upon diligent review in front office’s league-wide.
Rangers fans may be glad and it should be a mutual feeling of respect and good luck. They had a good run that lasted a while, but ultimately came up empty handed. Times have changed, players moved on and the game evolved.
Somewhere, Vigneault is that missing piece a franchise is looking for and it won’t just be a team finally getting over that mountain, but a head coach too.