Tag Archives: Martin Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except he hadn’t, technically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jokes aside, it was a poorly officiated game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both teams recorded 24 hits aside.

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

DTFR Podcast #145- We Plan To Be Good In 2021-25

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.

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

Game of the week: January 14-20

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)/
Result
Monday, January 14
7 p.m. Colorado Toronto 6-3
7 p.m. Chicago New Jersey 5-8
7 p.m. Minnesota Philadelphia 4-7
7 p.m. St. Louis Washington 4-1
7:30 p.m. Montréal Canadiens Boston Bruins 3-2 (OT)
9 p.m. Buffalo Edmonton 2-7
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
7:30 p.m. Florida Montréal 1-5
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Detroit 1-3
8 p.m. Washington Nashville 2-7
8 p.m. Los Angeles Minnesota 2-3 (SO)
8 p.m. Vegas Winnipeg 1-4
8:30 p.m. Tampa Bay Dallas 2-0
10 p.m. Pittsburgh San Jose 2-5
Wednesday, January 16
7 p.m. Colorado Ottawa 2-5
7:30 p.m. Boston Philadelphia 3-4
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 p.m. Winnipeg Nashville 5-1
8 p.m. Anaheim Minnesota 3-0
8:30 p.m. Los Angeles Dallas 2-1
Friday, January 18
7 p.m. Toronto Florida 1-3
7 p.m. Montréal Columbus 4-1
7:30 p.m. New York Islanders Washington Capitals 2-0
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Carolina 4-1
9 p.m. Detroit Calgary 4-6
9 p.m. Pittsburgh Arizona 3-2 (OT)
10 p.m. Buffalo Vancouver 3-4
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. Winnipeg Dallas SN360
7 p.m. New York Rangers Boston Bruins NHLN
7 p.m. Philadelphia Montréal CBC, ESPN+, TVAS
7 p.m. San Jose Tampa Bay  
8 p.m. Florida Nashville  
9 p.m. Columbus Minnesota  
10 p.m. Pittsburgh Vegas ESPN+
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
4 p.m. Detroit Vancouver ESPN+
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.

The defensemen are joined by LW Evander Kane (6-10-16 totals since December 22) and F Tomas Hertl (9-5-14) in averaging over a point per game during the Sharks’ outstanding winning run.

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.

Joining Kucherov in averaging over a point per game since November 15 are F Brayden Point (21-23-44 totals) and C Steven Stamkos (18-21-39).

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.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering January

Happy New Year!

It’s time to figure out whether or not your team has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup, making the playoffs, being a seller at the trade deadline or a basement dwelling rebuilder in desperate need of anything but what is happening right now.

Teams have begun to reach the official halfway point in the regular season (41 games played out of an 82-game schedule) as the calendar flips from 2018 to 2019.

Here’s a glance at the latest forecast based on how the league standings were through December 31, 2018.

Keeping in mind, there’s no guarantees with any forecast, but rather general trends and “educated” guesses. It’s not always about the exact number of points expected on the season. Sometimes the focus is on the spread or each team’s positioning in the standings.

There’s always context. Plus, nothing’s impossible until it’s mathematically impossible.

So let’s take a look around the league and figure out the future– well, rest of this season, at least.

Projected Standings After Two Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 125 points (40 GP entering Jan. 1st)
  2. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 111 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (39 GP)
  4. wc2-Montreal Canadiens, 97 points (40 GP)
  5. Buffalo Sabres, 96 points (40 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 84 points (38 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (41 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 72 points (40 GP)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the dominant team in the NHL right now. There’s no other comparison. They’re in a league of their own.

Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have surged into one of the league’s most prominent teams this season, they’re no match for the Lightning in the regular season standings Atlantic Division race.

The postseason might be another story– too bad we won’t get to see these teams meet up in the Eastern Conference Final with the current playoff format.

For the Boston Bruins, a lackluster 7-7-0 month of December has taken a toll on their outlook. Sure, winning five out of their last seven games is a good sign and all, but missed opportunities and blown chances regardless of the injury status of many of their players this season has brought them back to Earth this season.

Regression in hockey, however, is to be expected– even for teams that outperformed expectations. Last season was just that– exceeded expectations in the regular season for Boston.

How will Bruce Cassidy jumpstart scoring depth throughout his lineup if General Manager Don Sweeney doesn’t do anything to add? Time will tell.

But they’re running out of time as long as Claude Julien and Phil Housley are in consideration for some Jack Adams Award nominations.

Though the Buffalo Sabres have slumped a bit in the last month, the Montreal Canadiens have solidified themselves as a potential spoiler in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If it’s not them, it’s definitely Buffalo for sure.

The race for the Eastern Conference wild card spots should come down to three teams– Buffalo, Montreal and the New York Islanders (unless the Islanders snag a divisional spot in the Metropolitan Divsion– more on that later).

Look, as good as some players on the Florida Panthers are, it’s not happening this year.

And for all the hype regarding the Detroit Red Wings early in the season? Yeah, it’s the same as last year. They’re not doing so hot either.

There’s some good news if you’re an Ottawa Senators fan– wait, they traded their 2019 1st round pick in the draft to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the three-team Matt Duchene trade and didn’t protect it (because they chose to protect 2018’s 1st round pick and offer up 2019’s instead)? Oh. Never mind.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 109 points (38 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 103 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 102 points (39 GP)
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 98 points (38 GP)
  5. New York Rangers, 90 points (38 GP)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 80 points (38 GP)
  7. New Jersey Devils, 80 points (38 GP)
  8. Philadelphia Flyers, 78 points (38 GP)

As we get closer to “the stretch” things are heating up in the Metropolitan Division, which might not be as full of garbage as once thought earlier in the year.

For now, the Washington Capitals appear to be in a serious “defend the castle” mood. They’re the defending champions and they’re pretty hard to beat.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins are surging. The Pens are on a seven-game winning streak and they’re outscoring their opponents, 28-9, during that span.

What’s necessary to take into account in the divisional spots in the Metropolitan Division is not that the Capitals should lead the way, but rather, that Washington only has a six-point lead in the current forecast over the Penguins– and seven points over the Columbus Blue Jackets (who somehow find themselves in the “top dog” conversation?)– therefore, anything is up for grabs.

If the Islanders don’t scratch and claw their way into a divisional spot, they’ll be a wild card team.

It’s not a completely lost season for the New York Rangers, but it’s not one that’ll end with a playoff berth either.

The same could almost be said for the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, except one’s a little more inconsistent (and worse off), while the other’s just worse.

Sure, the Devils are nowhere to be found this season, but Mackenzie Blackwood could change that outlook next year.

And if Carter Hart‘s ready to take on the full-time role of starting netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers that probably wouldn’t do much for them this season, but it’s promising moving forward.

This year’s Flyers team just goes to show that the problem’s beyond a GM and coaching change, so don’t be surprised to see some roster turnover.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Winnipeg Jets, 107 points (39 GP)
  2. x-Nashville Predators, 96 points (40 GP)
  3. x-Colorado Avalanche, 91 points (40 GP)
  4. wc2-Dallas Stars, 89 points (40 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 87 points (38 GP)
  6. St. Louis Blues, 81 points (37 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 77 points (41 GP)

The Winnipeg Jets are one of two teams in serious contention for the Western Conference regular season title– and the Nashville Predators won’t even get to raise a banner next season for it.

Nashville’s been on shaky ground for the last month and, as a result, it shows in the latest forecast. Inadequacy ruptures standards or expectations.

Anyway, between Winnipeg and the Calgary Flames one of those teams will be the best in the West at the end of the regular season.

It says something as a whole about the Central Division when the Colorado Avalanche are currently forecasted to slip into a divisional spot in the postseason with 91 points in the standings.

Usually about 95 points puts you within the wild card range and anything 98 or above brings you into serious contention for a divisional berth.

What all of this means is there’s a lot of uncertainty from the Avs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild in terms of where they end up, ultimately.

All three teams have been all over the place– at times– this season.

Fear not, though, they’re nothing like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing makes sense in St. Louis, short of obvious locker room problems and a lack of leadership.

Whereas, in Chicago, the game plan was already reset to “longterm” last season by default (having finished last in the division). Jeremy Colliton‘s job security is safe for now.

There weren’t high expectations coming into the season for the Blackhawks and there weren’t immediate expectations for Colliton in their transition from Joel Quenneville to their 33-year-old head coach.

Essentially, firing Quenneville when they did was an easy way out of having to make things more awkward(?) with a rebuild, but it kind of was anyway given when they did it.

At least they’re not their rivals in St. Louis– let alone the Los Angeles Kings– where expectations were high after reaping some rewards in the offseason.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Calgary Flames, 103 points (40 GP)
  2. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (42 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 98 points (41 GP)
  4. wc1-Anaheim Ducks, 92 points (41 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points (42 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (39 GP)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 76 points (39 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 75 points (40 GP)

The Flames are red hot. Can they make 2019 more like 1989 and less like 2004? Does having a goaltender even matter any more?

Luck’s starting to turn in Vegas as the Golden Knights have come alive and look to make a serious claim at potentially knocking Calgary off from the Pacific Division lead– if they can catch them first.

Despite their ups and downs, the San Jose Sharks are still a divisional playoff berth kind of team. Expect them to be out of the playoffs before the Western Conference Final though. Surely Martin Jones‘ below average season has to catch up to him at some point, regardless of scoring power.

With no real competition below them, the Anaheim Ducks are a wild card team that will likely continue to live in the First Round elimination hell until John Gibson single handedly plays every position for the club.

The Vancouver Canucks have Elias Pettersson and look ready to bring up Thatcher Demko for a full-time role in net, so it’s kind of on, but a little late. Next season!

Everyone said Ken Hitchcock would turn around the Edmonton Oilers and was dancing in the streets when his first half-dozen games brought the Oilers back into being relevant.

Well, everyone, except me. Hitchcock’s shtick isn’t fit for the contemporary NHL anymore and his last (and only) Cup win came 20 years ago.

Sure he might impart some lessons on leadership, but as long as Peter Chiarelli is trading away Drake Caggiula for Brandon Manning and ensuring guys like Milan Lucic are part of the longterm vision…

The Arizona Coyotes haven’t panned out and it’s not the numbers that have been lying to them. Dylan Strome, their 3rd overall pick in 2015, didn’t develop as planned– whether through the fault of the Coyotes or not– and they traded him.

That draft was four years ago and Mitch Marner was selected after Strome by the Maple Leafs. Hindsight is 20/20, but still.

If it’s any consolation, Mikko Rantanen was selected by Colorado, 10th overall, so Carolina, New Jersey, Philly, Columbus and San Jose all missed out on one of the current leaders in scoring.

Scouting’s not Arizona’s strong-suit from year-to-year, or rather, asset management as a whole it’s just… …not there.

Finally, Los Angeles, the Grim Reaper’s at the door. Bring out your dead (Cup hopes and dreams for 2019). It’s time to rebuild.

Game of the week: December 17-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.

No, not that forward thinking.

Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).

Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.

At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.

In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem. 

The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.

The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.

Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.

Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.

Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.

In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.

When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.

The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.

It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).

Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.

Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).

Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).

And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.

Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.

Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.

Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.

Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.

In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.

When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.

In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.

Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes  (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.

Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.

Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.

For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?

Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.

This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.

His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.

He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.

Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.

Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.

If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.

Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.

Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that,  he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.

The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.

Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.

Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.

Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).

Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.

He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.

Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.

(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)

Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.

Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.

Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?

Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.

It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

DTFR Podcast #134- Slinging First Round Picks

The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.

Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.

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

Numbers Game 2018-19: One Month Down

Folks, it’s no longer October.

You can once again begin asking the question “is it October yet?” without facing any legal ramifications, despite the fact that the 2018-19 regular season is very much alive and in effect.

Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, but for all of you urban legend believers in postseason fate, American Thanksgiving has yet to pass– meaning every team’s playoff hopes is still technically alive. The majority of teams in playoff position by American Thanksgiving– in this case, Nov. 22nd– make the playoffs.

If you’re new to hockey, this is a thing, but it’s not set in stone. There’s always that one or two teams that sneak their way in from outside the picture frame. Likewise, there’s always that team that blows it down the stretch.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a hot start, working their way to 1st place in the Atlantic Division by the end of October, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins hot on their tail just as we all expected.

Though the Maple Leafs have a fiery offense and solid goaltending, defense has been the most apparent area for improvement. In Boston, depth scoring, injuries and a slow start in net for Tuukka Rask have held the Bruins back from realizing their full potential, but the depth of their defenders and backup netminder Jaroslav Halak have kept them in good-standing.

In the surprise of the month for the Atlantic Division, the Montreal Canadiens sit 4th and the Buffalo Sabres sit 5th– both with 14 points on the season so far. Meanwhile, to no surprise the Ottawa Senators are 6th, the Detroit Red Wings are in a rebuild and the Florida Panthers simply haven’t played as many games as their opponents.

Taking a look at the Metropolitan Division and you won’t be surprised to see the Pittsburgh Penguins back in control with Sidney Crosby at the steering wheel, but you might be surprised by the other current divisional playoff spot holders.

The New York Islanders are 2nd and the Carolina Hurricanes are 3rd after the Hurricanes led the division for most of the month, only to begin a recent skid.

Just on the outskirts of a wild card spot are the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils.

Washington’s off to a slower start than expected, but overall not feeling as bad as a Stanley Cup hangover as it could’ve been– given how many fountains around D.C. they dove in and the number of beers consumed.

Columbus is just over .500 and the Devils have also played fewer games than anyone in their division, much like the Panthers.

The Philadelphia Flyers sit 7th in the Metropolitan Division in a tight race, but have shown weaknesses on the blue line and in the blue paint (goaltending, again) and the New York Rangers are in a full-scale rebuild to start things off this season.

In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators are staking a case for defending their President’s Trophy season last year currently sitting atop the Central Division, as well as the league.

Filling out the remaining Central Divisions spots, last season’s biggest improvers, the Colorado Avalanche sit 2nd with the Minnesota Wild in 3rd. There’s two wild card berth in the Central Division, currently held by the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks(!?!)– that’s right, last season’s division bottom feeders are able to keep their heads barely above the surface with Corey Crawford back in the net.

The Dallas Stars sit 6th and the St. Louis Blues have had the wheels fall off in just a month’s time.

In the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks lead the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights and the 31st place team in the league– the Los Angeles Kings.

Yes, the Pacific Division is that wide-open so far with legitimate playoff contenders from last season (San Jose, Anaheim, Vegas and Los Angeles) all over the place. The Sharks haven’t hit their stride, the Ducks are suffering from injuries and defensive breakdowns, while the Golden Knights are looking for last season’s inaugural season magic.

Oh and the Kings? Yeah, everything’s pretty bad right now and Jonathan Quick‘s out indefinitely.

Meanwhile, pleasant surprises in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Arizona are being led by… youth?

Nothing makes sense anymore.

Luckily, that’s just a quick recap of the first month in about as bland an outlook as you can get when the meat of this post is really about what’s to come. That’s right, everything above? Forget most of it. Let’s use a little foresight and figure out how November through April should go.

2018-19 Projected Standings after One Month

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. y-Boston Bruins, 104 points (12 GP so far)
  2. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 103 points (11 GP so far)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 94 points (12 GP so far)
  4. wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 93 points (11 GP so far)
  5. Florida Panthers, 84 points (9 GP so far)
  6. Ottawa Senators, 84 points (11 GP so far)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 81 points (12 GP so far)
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 76 points (12 GP so far)

What’s bound to happen in the Atlantic?

The forecast is so close between the top-three teams in the division that none of their positions in the standings are truly set in stone, unlike how the Red Wings will undoubtedly land somewhere in the bottom-three spots in the Atlantic.

There’s a chance the Panthers never get off the ground and there’s a chance the Sabres are able to continue turning heads around the league by not currently being in the basement of the division. However, since this forecast takes into consideration recent seasons in addition to current gameplay…

Check back in another month.

(Is it too early to do one of these? Yeah, probably.)

Metropolitan Division

  1. p-Washington Capitals, 107 points (10 GP so far)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 106 points (10 GP so far)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points (11 GP so far)
  4. wc2- New York Islanders, 89 points (11 GP so far)
  5. Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (12 GP so far)
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points (12 GP so far)
  7. New Jersey Devils, 87 points (9 GP so far)
  8. Carolina Hurricanes, 85 points (12 GP so far)

The biggest takeaway from the Metropolitan forecast is after the top-two teams, anything goes.

Washington will be able to right the ship and land in a divisional spot– whether that’s top-dog or behind the Penguins remains to be seen. Columbus should even out as they’ve been doing as of late and settle in for another First Round exit (probably).

But between the Islanders, Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Hurricanes? Yeah, anything goes.

The Islanders are better than the Rangers, but the Rangers might somehow be better than the Flyers. Meanwhile, if New Jersey can get things going like they did last season, they’ve got a chance to box out the competition. Plus, Carolina remains unpredictable and foreseeably within striking range of a wild card spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Again, it’s only been one month. There’s still a little more than five months left in the regular season.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Nashville Predators, 105 points (12 GP so far)
  2. x-Minnesota Wild, 100 points (12 GP so far)
  3. x-Chicago Blackhawks, 98 points (13 GP so far)
  4. wc1-St. Louis Blues, 96 points (10 GP so far)
  5. wc2-Winnipeg Jets, 94 points (12 GP so far)
  6. Dallas Stars, 90 points (11 GP so far)
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 85 points (12 GP so far)

In the Central Division, the Nashville Predators continue to reign supreme. Cool.

Minnesota, Chicago and St. Louis are all somehow destined for the postseason. This, after the Wild make it every year, Crawford’s return lifts the Blackhawks over the competition and supposedly the Blues will figure things out.

Wait, the Avalanche can’t be that bad.

Once again, it’s an extremely early forecast that takes into account recency bias from the last few seasons. Colorado won’t be last. Winnipeg shouldn’t be a wild card team.

But Dallas? Yeah, they’re definitely not making the playoffs if they keep playing like they have been.

Pacific Division

  1. y-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (12 GP so far)
  2. x-Anaheim Ducks, 98 points (13 GP so far)
  3. x-Calgary Flames, 89 points (13 GP so far)
  4. Los Angeles Kings, 87 points (11 GP so far)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 84 points (14 GP so far)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (11 GP so far)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 77 points (11 GP so far)
  8. Vegas Golden Knights, 75 points (12 GP so far)

By now everything you’ve read should indicate what’s going to be written below.

San Jose? Good team. No surprise, given Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are on the blue line with Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Evander Kane at forward. Oh and Martin Jones in net.

Anaheim? If they can whether the storm, they can make it in one of the most unpredictable divisions based on how bad the other teams are or should be.

Calgary? Bill Peters finally coaches a team to a playoff berth? Yeah. That should happen.

The Kings can recover from this slow start– if they don’t mess things up in November.

As for the Canucks, Oilers, Coyotes and Golden Knights, well, Vancouver might make some noise. Edmonton could be a pretender as long as Connor McDavid is a contender. Arizona remains to be seen and the situation looks like it’s only going to get worse for Vegas before anything gets better– if it even does.

DTFR Podcast #129- Top Line Stars

Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.

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DTFR Podcast #127- Tip Of The Hat(s)

John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.

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