Injuries are scaring the masses across the league, while old ghosts haunt Colorado (then lose), the Los Angeles Kings’ reign of terror is spooked, Mark Borowiecki is back again, Nick and Connor do their best to talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets and the thing that goes bump in the night? That’s the Tampa Bay Lightning thundering their way to the top. We also reviewed Bohemian Rhapsody before it comes out.
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.
49-26-7, 105 points, third in the Atlantic Division
Lost in First Round to Boston, 4-3
Subtractions: F Miro Aaltonen (signed with Vityaz Podolsk, KHL), RW Kyle Baun (signed with Belfast Giants, EIHL), C Tyler Bozak (signed with STL), W Martins Dzierkals (signed with Dinamo Riga, KHL), F Colin Greening (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Leo Komarov (signed with NYI), W Matt Martin (traded to NYI), C Tomas Plekanec (signed with MTL), D Roman Polak (signed with DAL), F Ben Smith (signed with Adler Mannheim, DEL), LW James van Riemsdyk (signed with PHI), LW Nolan Vesey (traded to EDM)
Offseason Analysis: Let’s just get this out of the way early: Johnny T is coming home!
I’m not even a Maple Leafs fan and that gets me mildly excited.
After all, Tavares is departing a team that qualified for the playoffs only thrice during his nine-year tenure and joining one that scored a (t)third-best 270 goals last season without his offensive acumen. With Tavares’ 272-349-621 career totals effectively replacing Bozak’s 136-229-365 marks in just as many seasons (the only difference being Tavares will play no lower than on the second line, while Bozak was the Leafs’ third-line center), it’s safe to say Toronto’s offense – which was already stacked by simply mentioning C Auston Matthews‘ name – is now rivaled only by Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg.
So, that means the Leafs are locks for the Stanley Cup, right? I mean, that’s what all the Toronto fans have been telling me…
Regrettably, I must poke a hole in that balloon, at least until the squad proves me wrong in the first month or so of the regular season.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts about the Leafs’ offense. Few are going to keep up with Toronto’s attack, which may very well be capable of flirting with the 300-goal mark this year (that’s 3.66 goals per game, Leafs fans).
Instead, my concerns reside along Toronto’s blue line, and I’m sure G Frederik Andersen agrees with me. With Andersen in net last season, the Maple Leafs allowed at least 30 shots on goal 44 times.
He started 66 games last campaign.
For those struggling to do the math, Andersen – who started 80 percent of the Maple Leafs’ games last season and accrued 3889 minutes – faced at least 10 shots per period in two-thirds of his appearances.
Talk about a heavy workload.
To Andersen’s credit, he posted five shutouts and a solid .918 save percentage last season, so he performed marvelously given the immense pressure on him. However, there’s no doubt he would have preferred to see fewer than the 33.9 shots against per game coming his way, a regression from the 32.6 shots the Leafs allowed in 2016-2017.
In my last season preview, I mentioned how Pittsburgh might be a team looking to trade a defenseman should Juuso Riikola continue to impress. If that proves to be the case, General Manager Kyle Dubas would be wise to get in contact with counterpart Jim Rutherford to at least inquire about an asking price, as the Pens have exactly what the Leafs are in the market for: an established, NHL-ready defenseman with significant playoff experience.
The asking price would likely be high considering both are expected to be major players in the Eastern Conference. However, with visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their dreams, the initial cost of addressing the Maple Leafs’ defensive deficiencies likely pale in comparison to the time wasted in a contention window with a porous blue line.
Offseason Grade: B+
Yes, the Maple Leafs landed Tavares. As a result, they automatically earn better than a passing grade. However, doing little to improve a blue line that allowed the fourth-most shots has me very concerned that this club won’t see much of an improvement on that end of the ice. Dubas had better have a plan to address that issue soon, as Matthews’ contract next summer is not going to be cheap, which will make it difficult to retool the defense. In the meantime, hopefully the offense will meet or exceed expectations, as Scotiabank Arena could see more than a few high-scoring games this year.
Nick, Colby and Connor talk the Max Pacioretty trade, Eugene Melnyk’s latest antics, John Tortorella’s extension, Adam McQuaid and Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa. Also in this episode– DTFR’s official 2018-19 Atlantic Division preview.
New York Islanders
35-37-10, 80 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division
Offseason Analysis: The New York Islanders were in the spotlight as soon as the offseason began. What would John Tavares do? Would he re-sign? Where would he land?
The Islanders knew changes would need to be made to stand a chance at keeping their franchise player. They started by bringing the well-experienced Lou Lamoriello as General Manager to try and fix things. But Lamoriello can’t fix everything and it wasn’t too shocking to see Tavares find a new home with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So what now? How do you replace your franchise player?
Short answer, you don’t.
Lamoriello started planning and made a trade to acquire Matt Martin from his former employer. He continued to try and toughen the team up by adding Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula. Neither of them are flashy and they will grind to make plays and can pop in some goals.
The question mark addition is the addition of Robin Lehner. It’s unclear if Lehner or Thomas Greiss will be the starting goalie. As a Sabres fan, I understand Lehner is not a number one goalie. If New York plans on using him as their starting netminder behind an inexperienced team– they could be in trouble.
A lot of this season rides on the shoulders of Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier. The two of them had a strong season last year, but with Tavares gone they’ll be in charge of carrying the load this year.
Offseason Grade: C-
It doesn’t look good for the Islanders this season.
They may need to take a few seasons to get some decent draft picks, then push for playoffs again. Lamoriello has a proven track record with rebuilds, as he turned the Maple Leafs around in a few seasons.
That may be the best option for Islanders going forward.
Overall the offseason wasn’t good for the Islanders but Lamoriello brought in pieces to prepare for a rebuild.
Thursdays in the NHL are some of the best days of the week, and the first such iteration of 2018 doesn’t disappoint with
a dozen 11 games on the schedule.
The action starts – as it usually does – at 7 p.m. with the puck drop of
four three games ( Florida at Boston [SN360/TVAS], San Jose at Toronto, the New York Islanders at Philadelphia and Carolina at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by Tampa Bay at Montréal (RDS/TSN2). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of a pair of tilts (Vegas at St. Louis and Buffalo at Minnesota), while New Jersey at Dallas waits 30 minutes before getting underway. Finally, the role of tonight’s nightcap is split between four games (Columbus at Colorado, Los Angeles at Calgary, Anaheim at Edmonton and Nashville at Arizona) that all drop the puck at 9 p.m. All times Eastern.
You’ll notice there were a few edits in the above section. With the Nor’easter blatantly attacking New England today, the NHL has elected to postpone the Panthers’ visit to TD Garden. The game has yet to be rescheduled.
As regular readers have come to expect, here’s my list of quick headlines surrounding some of tonight’s matchups:
- Vegas at St. Louis: In two stints, W David Perron played 422 with the Blues. Tonight marks his first return to Scottrade Center as a Golden Knight.
- Buffalo at Minnesota: Speaking of returns, RW Jason Pominville and D Marco Scandella played a combined 700 games with the Wild over seven seasons. They’re back in Xcel Energy Center tonight, but as members of the visiting club.
- Anaheim at Edmonton: No returns here. Just a good, old-fashioned rematch from last year’s Western Semifinals.
Of course, that list ignores two of the three games being contested by squads currently in playoff position, so there’s lots of great action happening throughout the league this evening.
One of those games between current playoff qualifiers is taking place in Air Canada Centre, and I – with a little help from @nlanciani53 – have decided that I want to feature that contest. Such is the privilege of authorship!
That was a tough decision. There’s so many good and important games today.
Things haven’t been going so well for the the 23-16-2 Maple Leafs of late. Though they’re still holding on to third place in the Atlantic Division (they shouldn’t fall any lower considering they have a nine-point advantage on Florida and Detroit), the Leafs are currently riding a three-game losing skid that has seen them earn only one point in an overtime loss at Colorado last Friday.
An offense that usually manages a fifth-best 3.24 goals-per-game scoring only six goals in three games is obviously a problem, but that issue is trivial in comparison to the terrible play going on in Toronto’s defensive zone over this skid. The Leafs’ 12 goals against since December 29 is the third-most in the NHL in that time.
Let’s start with the easiest position to pick apart when issues like this arise: the goaltender. 20-12-1 G Frederik Andersen is actually having one of the best years of his career posting a .921 save percentage and 2.69 GAA (his 20 wins are fourth-most in the NHL, and his three shutouts are also tied for fourth), but you wouldn’t know it from his last two games. In those contests, he managed only a .894 save percentage and 3.61 GAA.
Given, he did play at Vegas and against the Lightning, but this Toronto defense is – in my opinion – nowhere near capable of slowing down offenses of that magnitude.
However, that’s not giving the defensive corps a pass. Over its past three games, Toronto has allowed 95 shots against (31.67 per game), which is somehow an improvement on its season rate of 33.83 shots against per game. This defense simply needs more than what D Ron Hainsey (1.97 blocks per game), F Mitch Marner (37 takeaways) and W Matt Martin (3.07 hits per game) have provided so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see General Manager Lou Lamoriello find a way to add a solid defenseman before February 26’s trade deadline.
The return of D Nikita Zaitsev (2.76 blocks per game), who’s been on injured reserve since December 17 with a lower-body injury, will also be beneficial, but it’s unknown when he’ll be fit for action.
Meanwhile, the 21-12-4 Sharks have been playing extremely well lately to hold on to their third-place spot in the Pacific Division over the surging Ducks. They’ve gone 4-1-0 since December 21, and it’s all been because of some impressive defensive play. San Jose has allowed only 13 goals against over this run, the 12th-fewest in the league.
Just as it’s easiest to pick on a netminder while his team is not playing well, G Martin Jones earns a lot of the praise for a winning Sharks team. He’s started three of San Jose’s last five games and posted a solid .928 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Those solid outings have improved his season numbers to a .914 save percentage and 2.57 GAA.
Just like Andersen, Jones has three shutouts to his credit on the season (tied for fourth-most in the league), but he has the luxury of a solid defense playing in front of him. On the season, the Sharks have allowed only 30.08 shots against per game, the fifth-fewest in the NHL.
Defensemen Brent Burns (40 takeaways), Brenden Dillon (2.75 hits per game) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (1.91 blocks per game) have been the biggest players for this corps, but there’s been significant contributions from almost the entire squad. Three players average more than 1.5 blocks per game
What Toronto has going in its favor is the fact that the Sharks’ offense is borderline miserable, averaging only 2.7 goals-per-game – the worst of any team currently qualifying for the playoffs. Though San Jose was able to beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in The Tank on October 30, I think Toronto can defend Air Canada Centre this evening with the return of its usually dominant offense.
The Chicago Blackhawks ended their six-game road trip on a high note in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat the New York Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.
Though the final score doesn’t indicate it, this was a very competitive contest to the bitter end. Both the first and second periods ended with a tied score, and the Hawks managed to score not one, but two empty net goals to inflate their goal differential.
First-liner F Vinnie Hinostroza (Second Star of the Game C Jonathan Toews and D Jordan Oesterle) opened the scoring with 3:51 remaining in the first period by burying a slap shot, but New York was able to level the game exactly two minutes later courtesy of a D Nick Holden (F Paul Carey and F Boo Nieves) clapper.
Chicago once again took a one-goal lead 8:56 into the second period thanks to C Nick Schmaltz‘ (Third Star F Patrick Kane and W Ryan Hartman) deflection, but the Rangers were equally up to the task. With D Brent Seabrook and F Lance Bouma both in the penalty box (Seabrook for cross checking W Mats Zuccarello and Bouma serving G Jeff Glass‘ delay of game penalty), C Mika Zibanejad (W Pavel Buchnevich and Zuccarello) took advantage of a five-on-three opportunity to level the score for the Blueshirts with a clapper.
The third period proved to be the deciding frame, and it was First Star F Patrick Sharp (F David Kampf and W Alex DeBrincat) who provided the deciding goal. 2:24 into the period, he ripped a snap shot high cheese over G Henrik Lundqvist‘s glove hand to set the score at 3-2.
Try as they might, the Rangers couldn’t find a way to level the game for a third time. They fired 11 shots at Glass in the third period, but to no avail. As time was winding down, Head Coach Alain Vigneault pulled Lundqvist to try and tilt the scales in his club’s favor.
Glass earned the victory after saving 23-of-25 shots faced (.92 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lundqvist, who saved 30-of-33 (.909).
Chicago’s victory is the second by a road team in the last three DtFR Game of the Days. The series still favors hosts however, as home teams have a 50-28-11 record that is 23 points superior to the roadies’.
30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.
The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
To recap, here’s all of the protected players:
Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette
Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm
Goaltender: John Gibson
Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder
Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn
Goaltender: Chad Johnson
Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller
Goaltender: Tuukka Rask
Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo
Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen
Goaltender: Robin Lehner
Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan
Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton
Goaltender: Mike Smith
Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen
Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy
Goaltender: Scott Darling
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews
Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Goaltender: Corey Crawford
Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto
Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov
Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov
Columbus Blue Jackets
Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg
Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard
Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky
Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza
Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell
Goaltender: Ben Bishop
Detroit Red Wings
Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg
Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen
Goaltender: Jimmy Howard
Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera
Goaltender: Cam Talbot
Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck
Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle
Goaltender: James Reimer
Los Angeles Kings
Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli
Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin
Goaltender: Jonathan Quick
Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker
Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter
Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk
Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw
Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber
Goaltender: Carey Price
Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen
Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban
Goaltender: Pekka Rinne
New Jersey Devils
Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac
Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
New York Islanders
Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares
Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock
Goaltender: Thomas Greiss
New York Rangers
Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello
Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal
Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist
Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris
Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf
Goaltender: Craig Anderson
Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek
Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning
Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin
Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz
Goaltender: Matt Murray
San Jose Sharks
Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney
Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Goaltender: Martin Jones
St. Louis Blues
Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko
Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo
Goaltender: Jake Allen
Tampa Bay Lightning
Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos
Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman
Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Toronto Maple Leafs
Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk
Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly
Goaltender: Frederik Andersen
Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter
Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev
Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom
Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson
Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov
Goaltender: Braden Holtby
Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler
Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba
Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck
For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise – is Connor Keith.
Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 2
By: DtFR Staff
After trailing 3-1 in 3rd period, the Ottawa Senators completed the comeback with a 4-3 victory on an overtime goal from Dion Phaneuf shortly after the Boston Bruins killed off a delay of game penalty against captain Zdeno Chara.
Still tied 0-0 entering the 2nd period, the Bruins struck first on a goal from Drew Stafford (1) at 9:47 of the period. Stafford’s goal was challenged by the Senators, who thought it was offsides, but after review it was determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice. David Backes (1) and Chara (1) tallied the assists on Stafford’s goal.
Clarke MacArthur (1) hit the twine for his first playoff goal since his comeback from injury (and first in two years) on a power play at 10:57 of the 2nd period. MacArthur’s goal tied the game, 1-1, and was assisted by the hot hands of Bobby Ryan (1) and Derick Brassard (1).
Tim Schaller (1) picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a shorthanded opportunity at 12:39 in just his 2nd career NHL playoff appearance to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Dominic Moore (1) recorded the only assist on Schaller’s goal.
With 3:59 remaining in the 2nd period, it looked like Boston had the game all but put away as Patrice Bergeron (1) redirected a shot from David Pastrnak past Anderson for a two-goal lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak (2) and Ryan Spooner (1) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s goal.
Boston went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead, but came out looking flat for the final twenty minutes of regulation. And it ultimately cost them.
Chris Wideman (1) fired a shot past Rask— who had been partially screened by his own rookie defenseman, Charlie McAvoy— to make it a one goal game just 5:28 into the 3rd period. Phaneuf (1) had the only assist on the goal and recorded his first point of a three-point night (one goal, two assists).
A mere 2:20 later, Brassard (1) received a pass from Erik Karlsson and sent it behind Rask on a one-timer goal. Karlsson (2) and Phaneuf (2) notched the assists on the game-tying tally not even halfway into the final period of regulation.
After Chara sent the puck over the glass and earned an automatic two-minute minor penalty for delay of game, the Bruins managed to kill off 1:48 of the remaining time on the penalty kill that had carried over into overtime.
Eleven seconds later, it was all over, however, as the B’s were caught in their own zone, while the Sens pressured their will onto their opponent.
Phaneuf (1) sent one behind Rask on a pass from Mark Stone (1) almost two minutes into overtime and tied the series 1-1 with his game winning overtime goal.
The series shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Monday night with Games 3 and 4 hosted by the Bruins before the now necessary Game 5 will occur in Ottawa on Friday, April 21st.
Again, Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally on CNBC in the United Stats and SN/TVAS in Canada.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 2
Led by First Star of the Game Kasperi Kapanen‘s two-goal night, the Maple Leafs were able to level their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Captials at one-all with a 4-3 double-overtime victory at the Verizon Center.
When a playoff game requires overtime, some believe that most of the regulation action doesn’t matter. Kapanen probably doesn’t prescribe to that theory, as his first career postseason goal was almost as important as his second.
With 5:35 remaining in the second period, the rookie right wing (Matt Martin and Brian Boyle) scored a turn-around backhander five-hole on Braden Holtby from right in front of his crease. That tally pulled then the Leafs even at two-goals apiece.
Of course, the one he’ll remember for a long time is the first game-winner of his short NHL career – playoffs or otherwise. To beat the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, you have to be quick, and that’s exactly what Kapanen and co. were. The play started when Martin won a battle near the far corner behind Holtby’s net. He managed to force a pass behind the goal to Boyle, who one-touched the puck with a backhander back towards to far post. Kapanen was streaking towards the crease, so he was more than able to collect the pass and pound it home behind an unsuspecting Holtby, who thought Boyle still had the puck.
This series is turning nasty in a hurry. Though it’s only two games deep, 32 penalty minutes have been served between these two clubs – 24 of which were Saturday night.
All those opposing power plays put pressure on goaltenders, but both Frederik Andersen and Holtby performed rather amicably. Andersen saved 47-of-50 (94%) on the night for the victory, leaving the overtime loss to Holtby, who stopped 47-of-51 (92.2%).
Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 2
As far as seeding is concerned, the Central Division is an absolute mess in the first round, as the Predators beat Chicago 5-0 Saturday at the United Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup as the series transitions to Nashville.
Nashville is playing the Blackhawks like a fiddle right now. Led by Austin Watson and his eight blows, the Predators threw 48 hits to get under the top seed in the West’s skin. And as you’d expect, that’s yielded penalties, and lots of them. The Hawks served 16 penalty minutes – almost all of them in the all-important third period.
Nashville was able to convert one of its three power plays into a goal, though it was the ultimately unimportant fifth goal – a Kevin Fiala (Second Star of the Game Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban) wrist shot from the far face-off dot to beat Corey Crawford stick-side with 107 seconds remaining in the game.
No, the winner came off Third Star Ryan Ellis‘ (Johansen and Roman Josi) stick. Only 3:44 into the contest, he fired a one-timer from the blueline so hard the rebound off Crawford’s pad came right back to him. If at first you don’t succeed… Ellis went right back to work, firing another slap shot to beat the netminder glove side.
Even when Chicago was able to run its offense, it ran into one major problem: First Star Pekka Rinne. The goaltender saved all 30 shots he faced for the third postseason shutout of his career, and second straight.
Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2
Thanks to a power play tally late in the third period, Anaheim beat the Flames 3-2 at the Honda Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup.
No penalty is a good penalty when it turns into a power play goal. Just ask Dougie Hamilton, who was caught holding Corey Perry‘s stick with 5:27 remaining in regulation. Only 41 seconds later, First Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf (Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves) miraculously ricocheted a pass-turned-shot off Lance Bouma‘s skate for the freak game-winning goal.
Those Calgary mistakes were further compounded when T.J. Brodie cross-checked Kesler with 2:38 remaining in regulation. Though Mikael Backlund (Michael Frolik) managed to bury a shorthanded wrist shot with 96 seconds remaining in the first period to then pull Calgary back within a 2-1 deficit, goals while down a skater are tough to come by – especially at the end of games.
If not for their 17 penalty minutes and miserable 41% face-off percentage, the Flames were doing a lot of the right things to win. They matched the Ducks’ physicality by throwing 34 hits to their 38, while also managing almost 40 shots on goal. Though it has yet to win a game, Calgary still is a dangerous foe for the Pacific champions.
It’s Thursday once again, my favorite day of the week. There’s a dozen games taking place tonight, starting with five (Philadelphia at New Jersey [TVAS], Winnipeg at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Washington [NHLN], Minnesota at Carolina and Florida at Columbus [TVAS]) at 7 p.m. Another pair of contests (Chicago at Ottawa [RDS] and Toronto at Tampa Bay) drop the puck half an hour later, followed by Boston at Edmonton at 9 p.m. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with two matches (Dallas at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona), followed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Buffalo at Los Angeles and St. Louis at San Jose. All times eastern.
- Philadelphia at New Jersey: It’s the second rivalry game in as many nights for the Flyers.
- Toronto at Tampa Bay: Not only is it the return of Brian Boyle to Amalie Arena, but it’s also an important game in the race for the Eastern Conference’s second wildcard.
- St. Louis at San Jose: These teams combined to create a thrilling six-game series for the Campbell Bowl last postseason.
To put things simply, there’s a lot on the line in the Toronto–Tampa game that we just can’t miss.
Although Philadelphia‘s victory over the Penguins last night gave the Flyers a bit of playoff hope, it’s really a three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card going into the final 14-ish games of the season.
After last night’s action, the Isles have a one-point lead on 10th-place Toronto, and win the regulation+overtime victories tiebreaker against ninth-place Tampa Bay.
To keep math simple in regards to how tonight’s featured matchup effects the standings, know this: As long as the Islanders don’t beat Winnipeg tonight, the winner of this game will move into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference – at least for a day.
Even if all three clubs finish the night with 78 points (that happens if the Isles and Lightning both fall in overtime), Toronto takes over eighth-place with a game in-hand. In that situation, New York and Tampa Bay would remain in the order they’re in right now, but fall a step in the standings.
Clear as mud? Good.
With the most to gain this evening, the Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with a 31-23-14 record, which is already the most wins they’ve had since their 38-36-8 season in 2013-’14 (man, the East was stacked that year too). The main reason Toronto is having to work so hard for a playoff spot is due to its lackluster defense, which has allowed 198 goals against in 68 games – the seventh-worst rate in the NHL.
More often than not, 27-15-13 Frederik Andersen has been the man between the pipes for the Leafs, and he’s done a better job than his .916 season save percentage and 2.73 GAA indicate. Although those statistics rank only (t)13th and (t)29th in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with at least 28 appearances, he’s performed well under the circumstances.
Those circumstances being, of course, a defense that allows 32.7 shots against per game, the third-highest rate in the entire NHL and worst among playoff hopefuls.
If there’s anything to get excited about regarding Toronto‘s defensive corps, its that Nikita Zaitsev, one of the seven rookies on the roster that gets regular playing time, is the leading shot blocker on the team, having registered 117 already this season. Not only will the 25-year-old continue to develop, but more high-class free agents will be attracted to Toronto this offseason to better bolster the blueline.
That being said, the Leafs‘ defense repeatedly shows they’re potential when they’re forced into a shorthanded situation. By rejecting 82.9% of opposing power plays, Toronto ranks eighth-best in the league on the penalty kill. Much of that credit belongs to Roman Polak, who leads the team with 31 shorthanded blocks.
Given the fact that the Maple Leafs drafted potentially the next greatest player in hockey (or at least the next greatest forward), it’s no surprise that they’re really, really good on the power play. What is surprising, though, is that it’s not Auston Matthews heading that attack. Instead, it’s fellow rookie William Nylander, whose team-leading 22 power play points have sparked a 23.5% penalty-conversion rate, the second-best mark in the NHL. Nazem Kadri has been responsible for a bunch of those goals – 11, to be accurate, which is the most in Toronto.
With arguably the most to lose tonight, Tampa Bay plays host this evening with a 34-26-9 record. Just like with Toronto, there is one main reason Tampa finds itself on the outside of playoff picture looking in – but it’s on the opposite end of the ice (or the same end, depending on how you look at it). Winners of their last four, the Lightning‘s biggest worry is offense, as they have managed only 187 goals this season – the 13th-fewest in the league.
No matter how hard Nikita Kucherov tries, he just can’t seem to pull the Bolts along. He’s having a solid season with his team-leading 69 points and 31 goals (both totals already career highs with 13 games to go), but his team simply will not follow him.
The fact that Tyler Johnson is the second-best forward on the team is all the proof I need: behind Kucherov, his 44 points and 19 goals are most in Tampa Bay. Those totals do not even break into the top-50 in the NHL. Simply put, more than one player needs to provide offense for a club to find true success, and I don’t trust Johnson to truly step up to fill that secondary role.
Of course, I can rail against the Bolts‘ offense all I want, but it’s hard to argue with a power play that is successful on 22.4% of attempts (fourth-best in the league). Kucherov is at the head of that attack too with his 14 goals, but it’s actually Victor Hedman who leads the team in power play points with 27 to his credit.
For division rivals (we’re using that term loosely right now), it’s surprising this is only the third meeting of the season between these two clubs. With both teams beating the other once this season, the Bolts have a slight edge in the series due to forcing overtime in their 3-2 loss on December 29 – the last time they met the Leafs.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [second-most in the league] and a 2.15 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] for 28 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hedman (45 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Kucherov (31 goals for 69 points [both tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Toronto‘s Jake Gardiner (+25 [leads the team]), Mitch Marner (37 assists [leads the team]) and Matt Martin (254 hits [leads the team]).
With a -128 line, Vegas seems reasonably confident that the Lightning will pull out a victory this evening with home ice. I don’t feel as confident in that pick, since I believe Toronto‘s offense is superior to Tampa‘s defense. It’ll be a good contest, but I like to Leafs to earn the victory.
- Roger Crozier (1942-1996) – The first two years of this goaltender’s 14-year career were phenomenal. Making his debut in Detroit in the 1963-’64 season, he won the 1965 Calder Trophy on a 2.42 GAA, followed a year later by hoisting the Conn Smythe with seven shutouts.
- Duane Sutter (1960-) – Players selected 17th-overall are expected to produce. By winning four Stanley Cups in a row for the Islanders, this right wing did just that. He marked 45 points in those four Cup runs, including 20 goals.
- Riley Cote (1982-) – This right wing appeared in four NHL seasons – all with the Flyers. An enforcer by trade, he now earns his paycheck as an assistant coach with Philadelaphia‘s AHL farm team.
- Brandon Prust (1984-) – Calgary selected this left wing 70th-overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but his longest tenured team is the Rangers. He is still playing hockey professionally, but with Nürnberg in the DEL.
Scoring a goal every 10 minutes is usually a good way to earn a victory. That’s what the Bruins did for the final two periods to beat Calgary 5-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. That loss snaps Calgary‘s 10-game winning streak.
It was actually the Flames that opened the scoring, courtesy of an Alex Chiasson (Lance Bouma and Matt Stajan) wrist shot 9:23 into the game. Third Star of the Game David Pastrnak (Zdeno Chara) pulled Boston even 2:24 later with a wrister that proved to be the final tally of the opening frame.
6:04 after returning from the break, the score read 2-1 in favor of the visitors. First Star Brad Marchand continued his impressive season by scoring his 36th goal of the year, an unassisted backhanded shot. 70 seconds later, Dougie Hamilton scored an unassisted marker of his own, a wrister, to once again tie the score. Yet it proved to be Calgary‘s final goal of the night, meaning David Backes‘ (David Krejci) wrister with 8:57 remaining in the second period proved to be the winning-tally.
The back-and-forth between home and away teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series continues. After tonight’s victory by the club in white, the 75-53-22 road teams now have a one-point lead over the hosts in the series.