Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.
In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.
P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)
The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”
Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.
Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.
Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.
Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.
For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.
Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.
Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.
Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.
In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.
Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.
Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?
Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th
4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2
4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*
4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*
4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)
The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.
Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.
There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.
Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.
Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.
Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.
In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.
For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.
The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.
But this time around feels different.
San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th
4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*
4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*
4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*
C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)
A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.
It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.
For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).
Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.
Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.
Oh. Again. Never mind.
While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.
In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.
Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.
This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?
Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.
On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.
Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.
But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.
Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.
As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.
Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.
Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.
It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th
4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2
4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*
4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*
4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*
C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.
This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.
Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.
Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.
In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).
Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.
Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.
Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.
However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.
The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.
This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.
Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.
Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).
Don’t try to mess with what’s working.
Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.
Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.
For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.
Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.
Regular season outcomes:
1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th
4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3
4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2
4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*
4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*
4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
The Boston Bruins returned home for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday night and promptly beat the San Jose Sharks, 4-1, at TD Garden– eight days after the two teams collided for a thrilling (and controversial) battle in San Jose.
Boston swept the season series with the Sharks, 2-0-0, after Tuesday’s win and Feb. 18th’s, 6-5, victory in overtime.
Jaroslav Halak (17-9-4 record, 2.29 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 32 games played) made 19 saves on 20 shots against for a .950 SV% in the win for the B’s.
Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (29-13-5, 2.95 GAA, .875 SV% in 48 GP), stopped 28 out of 32 shots faced for an .875 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 23-1-3 when leading after two periods and 10-0-2 in the month of February.
Boston also improved to 37-17-9 (83 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings, while San Jose fell to 37-19-8 (82 points) on the season, but still in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
Johansson was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Monday prior to the league’s trade deadline in exchange for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 4th round pick. He is the first player in franchise history to wear No. 90.
The Bruins also signed Lee Stempniak to a one-year, $650,000 contract on Sunday and formally assigned the veteran NHL winger to the Providence Bruins (AHL).
Boston General Manager Don Sweeney provided an update on David Pastrnak (left thumb) during his press conference after the trade deadline on Monday and announced Pastrnak would be in a cast for about two more weeks, then he’d need to get a splint and a sense as to his measure of comfort for his eventual return to the lineup.
Bruce Cassidy kept his usual first and fourth lines together, as well as his first two defensive pairings, while adjusting his second and third lines to account for the additions of Johansson and Coyle.
Johansson suited up to the right side of Krejci and DeBrusk, while Coyle centered the third line with David Backes on his right wing and Joakim Nordstrom returning to the lineup as the left wing (Nordstrom was a healthy scratch in St. Louis).
Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Tuesday with Miller and Pastrnak out of the lineup due to injury.
Early in the first period, Justin Braun slashed Coyle as the Bruins center was in the midst of a scoring chance at 5:41.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play and instead committed the game’s next infraction, when Matt Grzelcyk hooked Michael Haley at 11:58 of the first period.
Less than a minute into San Jose’s first power play of the night, Couture (23) banked one off of Halak’s leg pad and squeezed the puck between Halak’s pad and the inner post.
Couture’s power play goal was unassisted and gave the Sharks the lead, 1-0, at 12:47 of the opening frame.
Less than two minutes later, Timo Meier caught DeBrusk with a high-stick and drew some blood. As a result, Meier was assessed a double-minor penalty at 14:29.
Just ten seconds into the resulting 5-on-4 advantage for the next four minutes, Boston worked the puck around the umbrella setup, yielding a one-timer from Krejci (15) that blew past Jones to tie the game, 1-1.
Torey Krug (38) and Marchand (48) notched the assists on Krejci’s power play goal at 14:39.
Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Bruins led the Sharks in shots on goal (16-8). The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (8-4), hits (11-3) and face-off win percentage (68-32).
San Jose was 1/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Erik Karlsson had battled a groin injury earlier in the month of February and missed the last time these two teams went toe-to-toe on Feb. 18th, but he was on the ice for a grueling effort.
Early in the middle frame, Karlsson tried to defend McAvoy in the Sharks’ defensive zone, but appeared to have overexerted himself and tweaked something in his leg.
Karlsson went to the dressing room and returned later in the period, only to once again make an exit after Marchand danced around the Sharks defender for a shorthanded goal later in the period.
The veteran blue liner did not return for the third period of action.
Meanwhile, almost halfway through the second period, McAvoy (5) sniped a wrist shot past Jones’ blocker on a give-and-go from Marchand after the feisty Bruin received a pass from Danton Heinen entering the zone.
Marchand (49) and Heinen (13) tallied the assists on what would become the game-winning goal at 9:09 of the second period and the Bruins had their first lead of the night, 2-1.
A mere 37 seconds later, DeBrusk (20) reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career as Boston entered the attacking zone on a three-on-one with tremendous puck movement.
Krejci (40) and Johansson (16) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 9:46, as the Bruins led, 3-1.
With the assist on the goal, Johansson picked up his first point as a member of Boston.
While shorthanded, Marchand (25) received a pass and broke free from Karlsson and the rest of the Sharks to dangle and get a shot off with the backhand through the five-hole on the San Jose netminder to make it, 4-1, for Boston at 12:28 of the middle frame.
Marchand’s shorthanded goal was the 25th of his career and tied Rick Middleton for the most in Bruins franchise history.
Late in the period, Evander Kane tried to fight Kuraly, but the linesmen intervened as Kuraly had not had the chance to take off his gloves.
Kane received two roughing minors to Kuraly’s one roughing infraction, leaving the Sharks shorthanded at 14:55. Kevin Labanc served Kane’s extra minor.
Goodrow and Wagner both received five-minute major penalties for fighting at 17:54.
Less than a minute after that, Moore was penalized for cross-checking Meier at 18:25.
San Jose did not score on the ensuing power play and both teams went into the second intermission with Boston leading on the scoreboard, 4-1, and in shots on goal, 24-12.
The B’s also led in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (6-5), giveaways (11-9), hits (18-16) and face-off win% (58-42) as they continued to flat-out dominate the Sharks on home ice.
Boston was 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose was 1/3 heading into the third period.
Early in the third period, while going hard for the puck, Zdeno Chara caught an elbow on Kane, which led to Kane pulling down the 6-foot-9 captain of the B’s from behind and throwing a couple punches.
Chara, in return, got back to his feet and was willing to fight a fair fight. He promptly delivered several well placed punches as Kane hunched over to avoid an otherwise surefire death sentence from the tallest player in NHL history in his 2nd fight in 44 games this season.
Kane received an instigating penalty on top of his five-minute major for fighting. As such, he automatically was charged with a ten-minute misconduct, while Chara picked up two minutes for elbowing and a five-minute major for fighting.
As a result of Kane’s instigating penalty, the Sharks were left shorthanded at 3:22 of the third period.
Almost 30 seconds later, Kane received a game misconduct for his continued verbal argument with the refs at 3:51.
Seconds after the ensuing face-off Haley didn’t even bother to make a play and instead dropped the gloves with Backes as the game further descended into chaos.
After Backes and Haley were sent to the sin bin– each with five-minute majors for fighting– at 3:56 of the third period, neither team scored a goal, nor committed another infraction.
By the final horn, Boston had secured the win, 4-1, over San Jose and dominated shots on goal, 32-20.
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-7) and face-off win% (58-42), while the Sharks finished the action ahead in giveaways (15-13) and hits (27-21).
Boston finished Tuesday’s action 1/4 on the power play, while San Jose went 1/3 on the skater advantage.
The B’s finish off the month of February with a Thursday night matchup against the league leading, Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston then sets its sights on the month of March as their six-game homestand continues against the Devils on Saturday and the Carolina Hurricanes next Tuesday (March 5th).
Next Thursday (March 7th), the Florida Panthers visit Boston, followed by the Ottawa Senators (March 9th), before the Bruins hit the road in Pittsburgh (March 10th) for their first road trip since the trade deadline.
Two red-hot teams collided at Enterprise Center on Saturday afternoon, whereby the home team, St. Louis Blues topped the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in a shootout. The Blues have won 12 out of their last 13 games and the Bruins’ seven-game winning streak was snapped.
Jordan Binnington (14-2-1 record, 1.70 goals against average, .934 save percentage in 19 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the shootout victory for St. Louis, while Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (20-8-5, 2.40 GAA, .920 SV% in 34 GP) turned aside 28 out of 29 shots faced (.966 SV%) in the loss.
Binnington is the sixth goaltender in NHL history to earn wins in each of his first six-plus career regular season home starts (joining Martin Jones, 6-0-0 with the Los Angeles Kings from Dec. 3-21, 2013, Bob Froese, 6-0-0 with the Philadelphia Flyers from Jan. 8-27, 1983, Wayne Thomas, 7-0-0 with the Montreal Canadiens from Jan. 14-27, 1973, Ken Dryden, 8-0-0 with the Canadiens from March 14-April 3, 1971 and Frank McCool, 8-0-0 with the Toronto Maple Leafs from Oct. 28-Nov. 11, 1944).
Boston’s seven-game winning streak was their longest stretch of consecutive victories since 2013-14 (12-0-0). The Bruins are now 9-0-2 in the month of February and finished their five-game Western Conference road trip, 4-0-1, earning nine out of a possible ten points in the standings.
The B’s fell to 36-17-9 (81 points) on the season, but remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Blues improved to 33-23-5 (71 points) this year and remain 3rd in the Central Division.
Charlie Coyle made his debut for the Bruins since being acquired on Wednesday from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 2019 5th round pick and Ryan Donato.
Coyle centered the third line as Bruce Cassidy inserted Peter Cehlarik to the left of Coyle and David Backes on his right. Cehlarik returned to the lineup for the first time after missing the last two games with a lower body injury and was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday.
Trent Frederic was reassigned to Providence in Cehlarik’s place after Cehlarik was originally sent down on Wednesday to accommodate the acquisition of Coyle’s cap hit.
Cassidy left the rest of his lines the same, as Joakim Nordstrom joined John Moore and Steven Kampfer as the B’s healthy scratches. David Pastrnak (left thumb) remains out of the lineup, but is progressing well, according to Cassidy.
Almost midway through the first period, Alex Steen (7) capitalized on a give-and-go off a Bruins turnover and fired a shot past Rask to give St. Louis the lead, 1-0.
Oskar Sundqvist (12) had the only assist on Steen’s goal at 7:15 of the first period.
Late in the opening frame, Colton Parayko slashed Jake DeBrusk and sent Boston onto their first power play of the afternoon at 18:16. The B’s skater advantage was cut short after Torey Krug tripped up Ivan Barbashev at 19:29.
An abbreviated 4-on-4 scenario unfolded heading into the second period, whereby a short power play would commence for the Blues thereafter.
Through one period of play, St. Louis led Boston, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-8, in shots on goal. The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (10-9), while the Blues led in takeaways (7-1), giveaways (2-0) and face-off win percentage (58-42).
Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission and St. Louis had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, after killing off Krug’s minor, the Bruins caught the Blues behind the play as Krug dished a pass up-ice to Kevan Miller through the neutral zone.
Miller found Chris Wagner (9) bolting down the right side in open ice and connected with the B’s winger on a tape-to-tape pass. Wagner promptly fired a shot past Binnington’s short side to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:12 of the second period.
Miller (6) and Krug (37) notched the assists on Wagner’s third goal in his last seven shots.
Moments later, Coyle was penalized for hooking St. Louis’ top star, Vladimir Tarasenko, at 7:28 of the second period. Boston killed off the penalty with ease as the Blues failed to convert on the skater advantage.
Late in the second frame, Brad Marchand took a trip to the penalty box for holding Ryan O’Reilly and St. Louis went back on the power play at 15:32.
The Blues did not convert on their third power play of the evening, but still fired four shots on goal.
After 40 minutes of play, the score remained tied, 1-1, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal (19-16) and blocked shots (15-4). St. Louis held onto the lead in takeaways (12-4), giveaways (6-0), hits (16-14) and face-off win% (63-38).
Boston was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Blues were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second intermission.
Though the game was still tied in the third period, only one event was noted on the scoresheet– a penalty against Boston at 11:57. Brandon Carlo received a two-minute minor for tripping Sammy Blais– the eventual shootout game-winning goal scorer.
Through regulation, the Bruins led in shots on goal (30-23) and blocked shots (22-6), while the Blues led in takeaways (14-6), giveaways (10-1), hits (29-17) and face-off win% (54-46).
St. Louis finished the game 0/4 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage. No penalties were called in the overtime period.
Speaking of overtime, Cassidy started Sean Kuraly, Coyle and Charlie McAvoy, while Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube, sent out Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Parayko to kick off the five-minute, 3-on-3, action.
Cassidy soon was quickly rotating two defenders and one forward as the Bruins were trapped in their own zone, playing for a shootout. Rask made six saves in overtime, including a few heartbeat elevating stops on Tarasenko and gifted scorers for St. Louis.
After overtime wasn’t enough to settle a, 1-1, game, things would be decided with a shootout.
But first, a quick– final– review… Boston led in shots on goal (32-29) after 65 minutes of play and in blocked shots (23-6), while St. Louis led in giveaways (10-1), hits (30-17) and face-off win% (54-46).
In the first round of the shootout, Bozak scored high, blocker side, on Rask after flying in with speed, then slowing himself down to snipe his shot.
DeBrusk, on the other hand, was stopped by Binnington– in fitting fashion, after his five-game goal scoring streak was snapped once time expired in overtime.
Tarasenko’s backhand shot went wide in the second round of the shootout, while Marchand straight-up missed the net with his own backhand.
O’Reilly was stopped with the first shot of the third round, but Coyle scored after deking Binnington out of position and sliding the puck just past his outstretched leg pad to force the shootout into extra, sudden death, rounds.
Steen, David Backes, Robert Thomas and Patrice Bergeron were all stopped by their opposing goaltender, while Blais roofed the puck into the twine in the sixth round after Rask sprawled to make a poke-check in desperation.
With the game on his stick, Danton Heinen, had to score. Instead, he rushed his shot entering the zone and firing wide of the net to drop to 0-for-5 in his shootout career.
St. Louis had won the shootout, 2-1, after six rounds and took home the extra point, as well as the final score, 2-1.
For the fifth time in the last eight games for Boston, bonus hockey had been required. The Bruins fell to 2-3 in shootouts this season, while the Blues improved to 1-1.
Boston fell to 12-2-4 when tied after two periods this season, but earned nine out of a possible ten points on their five-game road trip (4-0-1) as St. Louis has now won 12 out of their last 13 games.
The Bruins return home with a 4-0-1 record on their five-game road trip and take on the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday to wrap up their schedule in the month of February.
The St. Louis Blues just keep on winning (11 straight, to be exact). Can they win it all? The Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup favorites according to Nick– nobody is! Did the Edmonton Oilers win a trade? Cory Schneider won a game! and other milestones from the last week, as well as whatever happened in the Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks game on Monday.
Messy officiating was a theme of the night, but at the end of the night, Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning overtime goal to lift the Boston Bruins over the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, on Monday night at SAP Center.
San Jose’s ageless wonder, 39-year-old Joe Thornton had his fifth career hat trick (and first since Oct. 27, 2010) and united the hockey world in his quest for four goals in one game that was ultimately unsuccessful due to the loss.
Tuukka Rask (20-8-4 record, 2.45 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 38 shots against for an .868 SV% in the overtime win for Boston.
Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (28-11-5, 2.95 GAA, .896 SV% in 45 GP) turned aside 14 out of 20 shots faced for a .700 SV% in the overtime loss.
The B’s improved to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Sharks fell to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and stayed in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
Boston improved to 23-4-5 when scoring first this season and 11-2-3 when tied after two periods. San Jose fell to 4-4-3 when tied after two periods this season.
In addition, the Bruins are now 14-10-5 on the road this season and 3-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.
The Bruins are also on a six-game winning streak (their longest of the season) and are now 8-0-1 in the month of February.
Peter Cehlarik did not take part in morning skate on Monday, as Bruce Cassidy reassured reporters after practice that Cehalrik sustained a lower body injury in Saturday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and would be out against San Jose.
Karson Kuhlman took over Cehlarik’s spot on the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while David Backes took Kuhlman’s spot from Saturday on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Trent Frederic.
Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer rejoined the NHL club in San Jose on a recall after a three-game conditioning stint with Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
From puck drop to the first whistle, the Bruins and Sharks played a consecutive span of 10:13– negating the first media timeout altogether.
In fact, the networks carrying the game Monday night couldn’t even go to break after the first whistle as it came on an icing call.
As the frantic postseason-infused pace settled in, San Jose defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved the puck from crossing the line just in the nick of time. Or did he?
An overhead view from the crossbar might have indicated that Boston was robbed of a goal, but since the call on the ice was “no goal” and the other camera angles were inconclusive– the original call stood.
While shorthanded, Evander Kane broke free from the Bruins blue liners, beat Rask and rang the post with his shot.
Moments later, after killing off the Hertl infraction, Kane got a stick up high on Grzelcyk, sending the B’s back on the power play at 13:04 of the opening frame.
After failing to generate any offense on their first power play chance of the night, Boston capitalized on their second extra skater advantage.
45 seconds into their second power play, Krug (6) blasted a slap shot while moving into the face-off dot to Jones’ right side, while Erik Karlsson partially screened his own goaltender, as the puck went high, glove side, into the twine.
Krejci (36) and Patrice Bergeron (35) tallied the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 13:49 as Boston jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.
With his assist on the goal, Krejci became the fourth Bruin to reach at least 50 points this season.
A few minutes later, Kuraly won a face-off in the attacking zone back to Zdeno Chara (6) whereby the 6-foot-9 defender rocketed his patented slap shot past Jones for his 199th career goal.
Kuraly (11) had the only assist on Chara’s goal at 16:26 and the Bruins led, 2-0.
Less than two minutes later, Boston continued to strangle the momentum pendulum into their metaphorical side.
DeBrusk lobbed an aerial pass on a two-on-one to Kuhlman (1) as Jones was caught behind the play, giving Kuhlman his first career NHL goal and a three-goal lead for the Bruins.
Kuhlman’s goal was assisted by DeBrusk (9) and Krejci (37) at 18:24 of the first period as Boston led, 3-0.
As the seconds ticked down before the first intermission, Joe Thornton (11) put the Sharks on the scoreboard to make it a two-goal game.
Joe Pavelski had the initial shot on goal, but Thornton found the rebound in the crease and sent it home to make it, 3-1, Boston at 19:57 of the first period.
Pavelski recorded his 22nd assist of the season on Thornton’s first goal of the game.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but both teams recorded eight shots on goal aside.
The B’s led in takeaways (3-2), hits (8-6) and face-off win percentage (63-37), while the Sharks led in blocked shots (4-2) and giveaways (4-2) after one period of play. San Jose had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Miller sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty– leaving Boston shorthanded at 1:40 of the second period.
Almost 30 seconds later, Pavelski (32) redirected an initial shot from the point off Rask, whereby the Bruins goaltender made the initial save, but the puck took an odd bounce and went over his shoulder and into the four-by-six frame behind him.
Couture followed up his assist on Pavelski’s goal with a hooking penalty at 4:43.
Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, DeBrusk (18) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway with speed and beat Jones to make it, 4-2, Bruins.
In the last four games, DeBrusk has 4-4–8 totals.
Danton Heinen (11) and Backes (9) notched the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 6:30 of the second period.
Wagner and Braun tussled for a few seconds with the gloves off before the linesmen got in-between the two and separated them.
Despite not actually fighting, Wagner and Braun each received five-minute majors for doing more than what otherwise would have been considered roughing at 10:25.
Late in the second period, whatever tilt in the ice there was took a tank (at the Shark Tank, get it?) as San Jose made it a one-goal game at 16:03, thanks to another garbage goal collected by Thornton (12).
For the second time of the night, Thornton banged home the rebound to record his first two-goal game in his 51st game this season and fourth since 2013.
Shortly thereafter, Thornton took a trip to the penalty box for high-sticking Bruins winger, Brad Marchand.
While shorthanded, Couture split the Boston defense and charged into the offensive zone while the B’s were caught changing lines.
As Couture neared Rask, Marchand hooked the Sharks forward and the puck didn’t cross the goal line, despite the quick string of confusing signals indicated by the referee.
Instead of waving off the goal that wasn’t (alas, the puck almost reached the goal line), then pointing towards the center-ice face-off dot to award the ensuing penalty shot, the ref closest to the goal appeared to change his mind and indicated a goal had been scored.
Except he hadn’t, technically.
To the dismay of those in attendance, the ref had simply misdirected his followup signal to the washout and should have pointed towards center-ice as Couture was to follow up with a penalty shot, regardless.
The official call was that Rask had made the save on the initial breakaway while Marchand had hooked Couture, illegally disrupting the scoring chance and thus resulting in a penalty shot.
On the ensuing penalty shot, Couture (22) fired one into the twine at 19:35 of the second period, resulting in yet another last minute goal for San Jose– this time tying the game, 4-4.
As a result, Couture became just the fourth player in Sharks franchise history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal.
Through 40 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 4-4, on the scoreboard, despite San Jose’s distinct advantage in shots on goal in the middle frame alone (14-4).
Entering the second intermission, San Jose led in shot on goal (22-12), blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (7-3) and hits (20-17), while Boston led in face-off win% (54-47). Both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.
The Sharks were 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
After not changing lines quick enough, the refs decided to charge the Bruins with a bench minor for delay of game at 1:57 of the third period.
Sure, that’s an actual thing, but given the standard (or lack thereof) of the night, well…
Too many men on the ice was something that went overlooked and two goals (one that was that wasn’t and one that wasn’t that was) were both miscalled as some of the bigger takeaways for next season’s “what not to do” officiating training video.
Jokes aside, it was a poorly officiated game.
Backes served the delay of game bench minor for Boston, but the Sharks weren’t able to capitalize on the power play.
Finally, in a moment the hockey world had been waiting to see in almost nine years, Thornton (13) scored his third goal of the game, notching a hat trick on the first lead change of the night.
San Jose led, 5-4, at 13:32 of the third period.
Pavelski (23) and Braun (13) tallied the assist’s on Thornton’s goal as the game’s momentum completely shifted to the Sharks’ favor.
Chara and Pavelski exchanged pleasantries and slashed each other with their sticks, yielding matching slashing minors at 15:42.
Late in the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Carlo sent a shot on goal that rebounded high into the air.
Wagner (8) batted the puck down with a seemingly high stick, then swung his stick along the ice at the puck tying the game, 5-5.
That’s right, Wagner scored the game-tying goal after playing the puck with a high stick.
Going to review is not an option for a goal that is thought to be scored as a result of knocking the puck down with a high stick, then scoring the goal from a legal elevation.
The problem with the goal was that the play should’ve been whistled dead as soon as Wagner knocked the puck out of the air with his stick above his shoulder.
Whether it was seen or not from the angle on the ice, we’ll never know (it’s not the NHL’s nature to make refs explain why a call was made or not– in fact, it’s never happened for anything that’s not reviewable).
Carlo (4) and Noel Acciari (4) had the assists on Wagner’s goal, which set a new career-high in goals in a season for the Walpole, Massachusetts native at 17:11 of the third period.
At the end of regulation, the Bruins and Sharks were tied, 5-5.
San Jose led in shots on goal (33-19) and in blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-5), hits (23-22) and face-off win% (54-46) after three periods of play.
Both teams had ten takeaways aside. The Sharks finished the night 1/2 on the skater advantage as Boston went 2/4 on the power play.
Peter DeBoer was coaching in his 800th career game on Monday and rolled out line after line of All-Star quality 3-on-3 overtime lines, especially after Cassidy started Kuraly, Grzelcyk and McAvoy in the five-minute overtime period.
Trouble is, one of those starters actually turned out to be the right one. *foreshadowing*
After Kane entered the zone with a virtual 3-on-0 for San Jose, the play was blown dead as the net behind Rask had come off its moorings and was not properly fixed even though the ref behind the play should have gone over and readjusted it while the puck was at the opposite end of the ice.
It’s either the goaltender’s responsibility or the referee’s job to fix the net if it’s off its pegs, but not enough to immediately disrupt play.
If it’s fixable, the ref must fix it as long as the puck is completely out of the zone.
Officiating be damned, Kane’s surefire scoring chance was killed.
On a 3-on-2 back the other way, DeBrusk worked the puck to Krejci for the perfect pass to McAvoy (4), who ripped a bullet past Jones to win the game for Boston, 6-5, in overtime.
Krejci (38) and DeBrusk (10) collected the assists on McAvoy’s game-winning goal at 3:59 of the overtime period, as the Bruins improved to 7-6 in overtime this season.
The Sharks fell to 6-5 past the 60-minute mark, but before having to go to a shootout, this season, despite finishing Monday night’s action with the advantage in shots on goal (38-20, including a 5-1 advantage in overtime alone), giveaways (10-6) and face-off win% (52-48).
Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (11-8).
Both teams recorded 24 hits aside.
The Bruins travel to Las Vegas for a Wednesday night battle with the Vegas Golden Knights before finishing up their current five-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues. Boston returns home to close out February with a Tuesday (Feb. 26th) night matchup with the Sharks and a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 28th.
Evgeni Malkin did a bad thing, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game broke attendance records and more trades happened in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron reached 1,000 games and David Pastrnak is injured for the Boston Bruins leaving Nick in a glass case of emotion.
Plus, Eugene Melnyk plans to spend money, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a new alternate sweater, Randy Carlyle was fired and Scott Niedermayer will have his number retired (again) this week. Finally, Connor has a new segment.
It’s the final week before the All-Star Break that features all 31 teams in action!
Let’s take a look at the schedule:
|NHL SCHEDULE: January 14-20|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, January 14|
|7 p.m.||Chicago||New Jersey||5-8|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Washington||4-1|
|7:30 p.m.||Montréal Canadiens||Boston Bruins||3-2 (OT)|
|Tuesday, January 15|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis Blues||New York Islanders||1-2 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Carolina Hurricanes||New York Rangers||2-6|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Columbus||1-4|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Minnesota||2-3 (SO)|
|8:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Dallas||2-0|
|10 p.m.||Pittsburgh||San Jose||2-5|
|Wednesday, January 16|
|9:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Calgary||4-3 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Edmonton||Vancouver||3-2 (SO)|
|10 p.m.||San Jose||Arizona||3-6|
|Thursday, January 17|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Boston||2-5|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey Devils||New York Islanders||1-4|
|7 p.m.||Chicago Blackhawks||New York Rangers||3-4|
|7:30 p.m.||Toronto||Tampa Bay||4-2|
|8:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Dallas||2-1|
|Friday, January 18|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Washington Capitals||2-0|
|9 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Arizona||3-2 (OT)|
|Saturday, January 19|
|1 p.m.||Anaheim||New Jersey||SN|
|3 p.m.||Los Angeles||Colorado|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||St. Louis||CITY|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Boston Bruins||NHLN|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia||Montréal||CBC, ESPN+, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Tampa Bay|
|10 p.m.||Calgary Flames||Edmonton Oilers||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, January 20|
|12:30 p.m.||Washington||Chicago||NBC, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||Anaheim Ducks||New York Islanders||SN1|
|7 p.m.||Arizona||Toronto||NHLN, SN|
|9:30 p.m.||Carolina||Edmonton||SN1, SN360|
If rivalries are your jam, you’ve loved this week’s schedule since there’s at least one rivalry being played every day except Sunday. Monday saw the Habs make a trip to the Hub, followed the next day by the Ducks in Detroit (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). The Bruins were back at it Wednesday in the City of Brotherly Love, while another Original Six tilt took place Thursday with the Blackhawks visiting the Broadway Blueshirts. Speaking of New York, the Islanders headed to D.C. yesterday to take on the Caps, while two sets of arch-rivals square off this evening: the frequently-featured Rangers and Bruins wage war at 7 p.m., followed by the Battle of Alberta at 10.
If playoff rematches are more your speed, you preferred Winnipeg’s schedule. The Jets hosted Vegas Tuesday, followed two days later by a trip to Nashville.
Finally, there’s more than a few major homecomings happening this week, the biggest of which is 10-year veteran D Adam McQuaid‘s first game in Boston wearing a crest other than the Spoked B when the Rangers come to town tonight.
Also making returns were W Magnus Paajarvi (now a Senator, he called St. Louis home for five seasons), David Quinn (the Rangers hired him from Boston University where he’d been the head coach for five seasons) and Barry Trotz (after winning the Stanley Cup in his fourth year at Washington’s helm, Trotz signed with the Islanders this offseason).
While many of these tilts are exciting, the game that really sticks out to me involves two of the top teams in their respective conferences that were Stanley Cup favorites entering the campaign.
If not for Wednesday’s 6-3 loss in Glendale to the Coyotes, the 28-14-7 Sharks would be considered the hottest team in the NHL. They entered that tilt riding a seven game winning streak and have posted a dominant 9-2-2 mark in their last 13 outings.
There’s no doubt that Tampa Bay (tonight’s opponent) and division-rival Calgary boast two of the NHL’s best offenses. However, San Jose’s 3.57 goals per game for the entire 2018-19 season ranks third best in the league, and that attack only looks stronger when we focus on this 13 game run. Since December 22, the Sharks have averaged a whopping 4.31 goals per game, which ties the Flames for tops in the league.
Spearheading that onslaught of offense is none other than D Erik Karlsson, the man supposedly suffering a down season. His personal goal count may not be as high as he’d like (he’s registered only three through 47 outings this season), but struggles are otherwise few and far between nowadays considering he’s posted 1-18-19 totals in his past 11 games.
Of course, Karlsson isn’t San Jose’s only blue liner that likes to get involved in the offensive zone. D Brent Burns – a favorite for the Norris Trophy at the midway point of the season – is only a point behind Karlsson since December 22, posting 5-13-18 marks.
I’m of the opinion that the primary responsibility of a team’s defensive efforts is to limit opposing shots on goal, so – in a way – this dominant offense that maintains extended possessions is also performing marvelously well for 22-8-4 G Martin Jones. The Sharks have allowed only 28.31 shots against per game since December 22, the fourth-best mark in the NHL in that stretch.
As for actual defensive efforts, it’s hard not to have been impressed by Burns (team-leading 19 takeaways) and Kane (2.9 hits per game) during this run.
Of course, no matter how well the Sharks have been playing lately, there’s few that would argue that tonight’s hosts, the 36-10-2 Tampa Bay Lightning, are the best team the National Hockey League has to offer. The Bolts have a seven-point advantage in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, and they haven’t lost back-to-back games since November 10 and 13.
The reason that’s an important note is due to Tampa Bay’s 4-2 home loss at the hands of the Maple Leafs Thursday night, dropping their record since November 15 to 24-5-1.
During that dominant run, the Bolts have boasted the league’s top offense, averaging a whopping 4.23 goals per game – many of which have involved Art Ross-leader RW Nikita Kucherov. In Tampa’s last 30 games, Kucherov has notched dominant 15-43-58 totals – five points better than the NHL’s second-best player in that time.
Another player worth mentioning is surely 19-6-2 G Andrei Vasilevskiy, tonight’s likely starter considering this is Tampa’s last game until January 30’s tilt against Pittsburgh. In his past 14 starts, Vasilevskiy has managed an outstanding .922 save percentage and 2.65 GAA, a slight decline from his season marks of .925 and 2.48 due to the defense in front of him allowing 32.73 shots against per game since November 15, the seventh-worst mark in the NHL in that time.
There’s no doubt these offenses are capable of taking a game over, but both of them playing in the same game will certainly be either club’s greatest challenge they’ve faced in a while.
In my opinion, this game boils down to the opposing goaltenders. If that is the case, the Lightning have a clear advantage, as Jones’ .903 season save percentage and corresponding 2.72 GAA pale in comparison to Vasilevskiy’s.
As a result, I think the Bolts can come away from tonight’s tilt with a two or three-goal victory to further cement themselves as the league’s best club.