Tag Archives: Michael Matheson

Krug’s rocket leads Bruins to, 2-1, win in OT in Florida

Torey Krug and the Boston Bruins pulled off a, 2-1, comeback win in overtime against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at BB&T Center.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6 record, 2.39 goals against average, .919 save percentage in 31 games played), made 32 saves on 33 shots against for a .970 SV% in the win.

Florida netminder, Chris Driedger (5-2-1, 2.29 GAA, .932 SV% in 10 games played) stopped 26 out of 28 shots faced for a .929 SV% in the overtime loss.

The B’s improved to 43-13-12 (98 points) on the season and remain in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Panthers fell to 33-26-8 (74 points) and stuck in 4th place in the Atlantic.

Boston improved to 21-10-3 on the road this season, as well.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Thursday night, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup among his forwards– moving Sean Kuraly back to center the fourth line with Anders Bjork replacing Par Lindholm at left wing.

Lindholm was joined by John Moore, Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman in the press box as Boston’s healthy scratches in Florida.

Midway through the opening frame, Ondrej Kase awkwardly collided with Evgenii Dadonov, leaving Kase on his hands and knees and (somehow) a minor penalty for tripping Dadonov at 11:41 of the first period.

Florida did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

A few minutes later, after Nick Ritchie tried to mix things up with Dadonov for the incidental contact with Kase that sent Kase down the tunnel before re-emerging from Boston’s dressing room moments after Jake DeBrusk served Kase’s minor for tripping Dadonov– Ritchie went square dancing with Riley Stillman.

The two players exchanged fisticuffs and received five-minute majors for fighting at 14:35 in what was the 18th fight this season for Boston– and the 11th since Jan. 1st.

It was Ritchie’s first fight in 46 personal games played this season and Stillman’s second fighting major in 33 personal games this season.

Less than a minute to go in the first period, Mike Matheson tripped up Brad Marchand and was sent to the penalty box as a result at 19:01.

Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage of the night.

Heading into the first intermission, the game was still tied, 0-0, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 12-4.

The Panthers held the advantage in takeaways (8-4), hits (9-6) and faceoff win percentage (67-33), while the B’s led in giveaways (6-4).

Both teams had six blocked shots aside and were 0/1 on the power play.

Early in the middle frame, MacKenzie Weegar (6) kicked things off with a one-timer from the point that beat Halak over the blocker with net front screen by Lucas Wallmark.

Brett Connolly (14) and Wallmark (13) had the assist’s on Weegar’s goal and Florida jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 6:55 of the second period.

Moments later, Dadonov threw an errant elbow on a reverse check in the corner, leaving Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo dazed as he was helped off the ice.

Carlo did not return to the game and was ruled out by Boston’s public relations team with an upper body in a tweet during the third period.

Dadonov was originally assessed a five-minute major penalty on the play, but a review lessened the infraction to two-minutes for elbowing at 10:46 of the second period.

The 30-year-old forward is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and has 25-21–46 totals in 67 games with the Panthers this season and has never been fined or suspended in his National Hockey League career (2009-12, 2017-present).

As a result of Thursday night’s loss, Florida is still four points outside of a playoff spot.

Boston’s power play unit didn’t take long while Dadonov was in the box to capitalize on the skater advantage as Krug rocketed a shot from the point that Patrice Bergeron (30) tipped in to reach the 30-goal plateau for the sixth time in his career (2003-present).

In doing so, Bergeron became the sixth Bruin in franchise history to record at least six 30-goal seasons, joining Phil Esposito (eight 30-goal seasons with Boston), Rick Middleton (eight), Johnny Bucyk (seven), Cam Neely (six) and Peter McNab (six).

Krug (39) and Marchand (57) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power play tally at 11:00 of the middle frame and the Bruins tied the game, 1-1.

Less than a minute later, Boston was back on the power play as Aleksander Barkov tripped up DeBrusk at 11:48, but the B’s weren’t able to convert on their third power play of the night.

Shortly after the Panthers killed off Barkov’s infraction, Florida went on the power play after Marchand caught Mike Hoffman with a hook at 15:06.

The Panthers didn’t score on the advantage, however.

With 1:59 remaining in the period, Anton Stralman took a puck to the face off an inadvertent deflection, but remained in the game.

Through 40 minutes of action at BB&T Center, the Bruins and Panthers were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Florida holding an edge in shots on goal, 19-17.

Boston led in blocked shots (10-8), hits (16-14) and faceoff win% (57-43), while Florida led in takeaways (10-8) and giveaways (11-9).

The Panthers were 0/2 on the advantage, while the Bruins were 1/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Frank Vatrano slashed Jeremy Lauzon at 2:04 of the third period and was sent to the sin bin as a result, but Boston’s power play was cut short when Charlie Coyle tripped Stralman at 2:58.

The two sides escaped 4-on-4 action unharmed, but upon Vatrano’s re-admittance to the game, No. 77 in Panthers red and blue played the puck while one of his legs was still in the penalty box– resulting in an automatic interference minor penalty at 4:06.

Once more, the two clubs skated at 4-on-4 even strength until David Pastrnak got his stick between the legs of Barkov and brought down the Florida captain at 4:54 of the third period.

The Panthers emerged with an abbreviated power play after the two sides went through 4-on-4 action again, but Florida remained powerless on the power play.

At the end of regulation, the score remained tied, 1-1, and the Panthers led in shots on goal, 31-24.

Florida maintained the advantage in takeaways (12-10) and hits (24-21), while Boston led in faceoff win% (53-48).

Both teams had 14 blocked shots and 14 giveaways aside.

As there were no penalties called in overtime, the Panthers finished the night 0/4 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/4.

In overtime, Florida’s head coach, Joel Quenneville, opted to start Barkov, Hoffman and Aaron Ekblad, while Cassidy countered the Panthers’ trio with Coyle, DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy.

Late in the five-minute overtime period, after both teams swapped chance for chance, Pastrnak worked to retrieve a puck along the end boards that was sent in by Krug.

No. 88 in black and gold sent a pass back to Krug at the point, where No. 47 then wound up and blasted a slap shot past Driedger to end the game in overtime.

Krug’s (9) goal was assisted by Pastrnak (46) and David Krejci (29) at 4:08 of the overtime period and lifted the Bruins over the Panthers, 2-1.

Boston finished the game with victory on the scoreboard, but trailed Florida in shots on goal, 33-28.

The Panthers also held the advantage in giveaways (15-14) and hits (24-22), while the Bruins led in faceoff win% (52-48).

Both teams finished with 14 blocked shots each.

Florida fell to 2-4 in overtime this season and 4-8 overall past regulation, while Boston improved to 6-2 in overtime and 6-12 past 60 minutes overall in the regular season.

The Bruins improved to 13-2-6 (6-1-0 on the road) when tied after the first period, 18-6-4 (8-5-1 on the road) when giving up the game’s first goal and 11-2-2 (6-2-0 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

Meanwhile, the Panthers fell to 11-9-4 (4-5-2 at home) when tied after the first period, 25-5-4 (14-2-3 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal and 2-4-4 (0-3-2 at home) when tied after two periods this season.

Boston wrapped up their three-game road trip (3-0-0) on Thursday and plays host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden on Saturday.

DTFR Podcast #173- Rage Against The Other Team

The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Luongo backstops Panthers to, 4-1, win in Boston

Chris Wagner received NESN’s annual 7th Player Award as voted on by Boston Bruins fans prior to Saturday’s, 4-1, loss to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Oh yeah, there was a game after Wagner got his picture with the award.

Roberto Luongo (17-16-4 record, 3.10 goals against average, .900 save percentage in 41 games played) made 30 saves on 31 shots against for a .968 SV% in the win for Florida.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (26-12-5, 2.43 GAA, .914 SV% in 44 GP) made 19 saves on 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss.

Riley Sheahan, Evgenii Dadonov (two goals) and Troy Brouwer had goals for the Panthers, while Noel Acciari scored the lone goal for Boston.

The B’s fell to 47-22-9 (103 points) on the season, but remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division.

Florida improved to 35-32-12 (82 points) and 5th in the Atlantic.

Boston is now 9-5-0 in the month of March and 26-8-5 since Jan. 1st.

Bruce Cassidy indicated to reporters prior to Saturday’s matinee matchup that Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) would be back in the lineup against the Panthers and Kevan Miller (upper body) would return to game action on Sunday in Detroit.

Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and John Moore (upper body) remain week-to-week, while Steven Kampfer (healthy scratch) was the only other roster player out of Saturday’s action.

Cassidy kept David Pastrnak with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on his second line, while moving Marcus Johansson to the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

Grzelcyk suited up alongside Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing in the only other lineup adjustment.

Midway through the first period, DeBrusk tripped Aaron Ekblad and sent the Panthers on their first power play of the afternoon at 11:36 of the opening frame.

One second after the B’s killed off DeBrusk’s minor, Sheahan (9) capitalized on the vulnerable minute after a skater advantage and made it, 1-0, Florida at 13:37 of the first period.

Dryden Hunt (6) and Keith Yandle (51) had the assists.

A little over two minutes later, Dadonov (27) buried a rebound for his first goal of the day and extended the Panthers’ lead to two-goals.

Ekblad (24) and Jonathan Huberdeau (60) tallied the assists on Dadonov’s goal at 15:44 and Florida led, 2-0.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were outshooting the Panthers, 16-8, but trailed on the scoreboard, 2-0.

Midway through the second period, Acciari (6) answered on the scoreboard and provided a spark for Boston– cutting the lead in half, 2-1, but it was short-lived.

Torey Krug (45) and Joakim Nordstrom (5) had the assists on Acciari’s goal at 13:12 of the second period.

Nearly 30 seconds later, Huberdeau was penalized for interference at 13:43 and the Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the afternoon.

It did not go well.

After failing to convert on a rush, Brouwer (11) took the puck the other way on a pass from Mike Matheson to score on a breakaway and make it, 3-1, Panthers.

Matheson (18) had the only assist on Brouwer’s shorthanded goal at 14:19 of the second period.

Late in the period, Sheahan slashed Johansson and took a trip to the penalty box at 17:21.

Boston did not capitalize on the ensuing power play to close out the middle frame.

Entering the third period, the Bruins trailed, 3-1, on home ice despite leading in shots on goal, 24-14.

There were no penalties called in the third period and Boston was forced to pull their goaltender late in the period in an attempt to tie the game.

Shortly after pulling Rask for an extra attacker, Aleksander Barkov worked the puck to Huberdeau into Florida’s offensive zone, whereby Huberdeau set up Dadonov (28) for his second goal of the afternoon on the empty net.

Huberdeau (61) and Barkov (57) collected the assists at 17:41 of the third period as the Panthers sealed the deal on their, 4-1, victory.

At the final horn, Florida won the game and finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (20-8) and face-off win percentage (54-46), while Boston finished with the lead in shots on goal (31-23) and giveaways (11-5).

Both teams recorded 21 hits aside. The Panthers went 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins went 0/2.

As a result of the loss, Boston’s 12-game winning streak at home came to an end as the B’s also lost their first game in regulation at home since Jan. 19th’s, 3-2, loss to the New York Rangers.

The Bruins travel to Detroit for a primetime matchup on Sunday to close out the month.

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

Panthers pounce on Bruins, 5-0

Aleksander Barkov had three assists and Mike Hoffman had two goals in the Florida Panthers sunset cruise over the Boston Bruins in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday night. The Panthers won, 5-0, thanks to Roberto Luongo‘s 33 save shutout– good enough for his 77th career shutout in 1,011 NHL games played.

Luongo (5-3-0, 2.71 goals against average, .914 save percentage in ten games played), stopped 33 shots against for a 1.000 SV% in the win, while Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (8-4-2, 2.55 GAA, .932 SV% in 16 GP) made 39 saves on 44 shots against (.886 SV%) in the loss.

Boston fell to 14-9-4 (32 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Panthers jumped up to 7th place with a 11-10-5 record and 27 points on the season. Florida has a game in-hand on the Ottawa Senators and trails the Detroit Red Wings for 6th place by one point.

The B’s are one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and may soon be in danger of falling further in the standings with Montreal having the chance to surpass Boston on Thursday night with a Bruins loss in regulation in Tampa and a Canadiens win any fashion in Ottawa.

Torey Krug was in the lineup for Boston, despite taking a maintenance day on Monday, though his minus-three rating in Tuesday night’s action may say otherwise.

Bruce Cassidy provided an update on Charlie McAvoy, indicating the young defender will be back in the lineup soon, but not expected to play on this two-game road trip in the Sunshine State. McAvoy returned to full-contact practice this week.

Cassidy made no lineup changes, despite the poor efforts in three out of the last four games now.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Steven Kampfer were the healthy scratches for the Bruins on Tuesday, while Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) remain injured.

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Joakim Nordstrom hooked Dryden Hunt late in the first period at 15:34 and gave the Panthers their first power play of the night, but the Bruins were able to kill off Nordstrom’s minor and save themselves from one of the many chances Florida’s deadly power play would have on the night.

Mark Pysyk interfered with David Krejci at 17:41 of the first period and put Boston on the power play for the first time in the game, but the Bruins were unable to convert on any of their skater advantages on the night. Boston failed to record a shot on goal on the power play while Pysyk was in the box.

After one period, the score was still tied, 0-0, with Florida outshooting Boston, 13-7. The Panthers also led in giveaways, 8-6, after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (1-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48). Hits were even, 10-10, and both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

With both teams coming out of the dressing room after playing on sloppy ice and lacking effort at establishing some sort of pace, the Bruins continued to struggle to establish a zone time presence and got outrun numerous times in the second period as the Panthers came back ready to play.

Seriously.

First Colton Sceviour banked a shot off of the back of Halak’s leg, leading to a loose puck in the crease for Mike Hoffman (13) to just tap it in and give the Panthers the 1-0 lead. Scevious (4) and Jonathan Huberdeau (23) had the assists on Hoffman’s goal at 4:21 of the second period.

Jared McCann took a trip to the penalty box shortly after his teammate gave Florida the lead. McCann’s infraction was for hooking Bruins blue liner, John Moore, at 5:30.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Almost midway in the second period, Michael Matheson (2) went 200-feet down the frozen river from one end of the ice to the other and scored an unassisted goal past Halak’s blocker side at 7:13 of the middle frame. Florida led, 2-0.

The Bruins were 0-7 when trailing by two goals entering Tuesday and they left BB&T Center 0-8 at the final horn.

Michael Haley caught Halak with a high-stick at 14:04, but the B’s power play was short-lived– 16 seconds, in fact– as David Pastrnak was penalized for holding at 14:20.

While in the midst of the 4-on-4 action, Huberdeau (7) fired one of his accurate wrist shots into the back of the twine at 15:14 of the second period. Keith Yandle (20) and Aleksander Barkov (14) were tabbed with the assists and the Panthers led, 3-0.

Hunt was charged with interference at 17:51, but Pastrnak received a matching minor penalty for embellishment, yielding no skater advantage for the Bruins.

Jake DeBrusk cut a rut to the sin bin at 19:00 of the second period for slashing Sceviour and the Panthers went on a rare 4-on-3 power play.

With seconds remaining on the clock before the second intermission, Hoffman (14) emulated Matheson’s goal, but with the help of Barkov (15) and Yandle (21) to give Florida a four-goal lead at 19:56.

As a result of Hoffman’s second goal of the game, the Panthers have now scored at least one power play goal in 16 out of the last 17 games.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Panthers led the Bruins, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 33-23, in shots on goal. Florida also dominated in blocked shots (8-4) and takeaways (6-4), while Boston led in giveaways (15-10) and face-off win% (60-40). Hits were even, 18-18.

Florida was 1/3 on the power play and the B’s were 0/3 after two periods.

Nick Bjugstad was called for holding Sean Kuraly at 5:20 of the third period and the Bruins went to the power play for the fourth and final time of the night. They did not score on the ensuing advantage.

Moore went to the penalty box for hooking former Bruin, Frank Vatrano, at 9:10 of the third period and Chris Wagner shortly followed to the sin bin at 10:49 for tripping Bjugstad.

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Connor Clifton launched himself into a high hit on Bjugstad with about eight minutes remaining in regulation. Bjugstad took his time getting up and had to go through concussion protocol, but Clifton was not penalized on the play.

The rookie Bruins defender filling in while blue line regulars like Chara, McAvoy and Miller are out of the lineup received an earful for the remainder of the game from unhappy Panthers players, but wasn’t challenged to fight.

Instead, while on the power play as a result of Brandon Carlo cross-checking Vatrano at 13:02 of the third period, the Panthers collected another power play goal thanks to the relentless effort of Evgenii Dadonov (13) collecting the garbage in the low slot.

Barkov (16) had the only assist on Dadonov’s goal at 14:26 and the Panthers sealed their Tuesday night victory with a 5-0 lead.

At the final horn, Florida finished the night outshooting Boston, 44-33, and leading in blocked shots (16-8). The Bruins led in giveaways (19-15), hits (26-22) and face-off win% (56-44)– two of the three don’t equal scoring prowess.

Giving the puck away is problematic and usually teams that lead in hits lacked puck control to begin with, which was evident in the lack of sustained attacking zone time from Cassidy’s crew.

Florida finished the night 2/6 on the power play and Boston went 0/4.

The Bruins head to Amalie Arena for a Thursday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning before returning home Saturday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boston has a quick turnaround back to the road on Sunday with a game in Ottawa against the Senators, before coming back home for next Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

In fact, including Thursday night’s game in Tampa, Boston alternates between road and home games for the next seven games until their short two-game home-stand from December 20-22.

The Bruins face five opponents in the next seven games from the Atlantic Division in addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins (Eastern Conference rival) and Coyotes (inter-conference action).

DTFR Podcast #132- Hall of Guardians and Turtlenecks

The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Class was inducted on Monday, plus we remember the NHL Guardians and celebrate Joe Thornton’s milestones. Tomas Plekanec retired– leaving us a turtleneck to pass on ceremoniously– and Milan Lucic was fined $10,000.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ plight comes with an extension for General Manager Jim Rutherford, while the Los Angeles Kings battle the injury bug in net (we finished recording before Wednesday’s trade between the two clubs).

Meanwhile, Tom Wilson is back, a concussion lawsuit was settled, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game was announced, Jakob Chychrun got a six-year extension and Nick and Connor discuss when they’ll eventually let their kids (if they ever have any) play contact sports.

Support the show on Patreon.

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

DTFR Podcast #128- Celebration Hardcore Brother (a.k.a. Celly Hard Bro)

Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.

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

Florida Panthers 2018-19 Season Preview

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Florida Panthers

44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Additions: F Mike Hoffman (acquired from SJ), G Michael Hutchinson, D Jacob MacDonald, F Paul Thompson

Subtractions: F Chase Balisy (signed with OTT), F Connor Brickley (signed with NSH), F Gregory Chase (signed with Wichita Thunder, ECHL), F Alexandre Grenier (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), D Linus Hulstrom (signed, SHL), G Harri Sateri (signed with DET), D Edward Wittchow (signed, Liiga), F Curtis Valk (signed, KHL), F Radim Vrbata (retired)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Jared McCann, D Alexander Petrovic, F Frank Vatrano, D MacKenzie Weegar

Offseason Analysis: Despite losing their leading scorers from 2016-17 after trading Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights and leaving Jonathan Marchessault exposed in the expansion draft, the 2017-18 Florida Panthers almost made the playoffs. Almost.

The 44-30-8 Panthers earned 96 points on the regular season and finished one-point shy of a wild card spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida tied the record set by the 2014-15 Boston Bruins for the team with the most regular season points to miss the postseason.

General Manager Dale Tallon replaced Marchessault’s scoring ability this offseason by acquiring Mike Hoffman and a 2018 7th round pick (207th overall, Santtu Kinnunen) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick (123rd overall, Jack Gorniak– drafted by MTL), a 2018 5th round pick (139th overall, Mikael Hakkarainen– drafted by CHI) and a 2019 2nd round pick. The Sharks subsequently flipped the fourth and fifth round picks at the draft.

Hoffman had 22-34–56 totals in 82 games for the Ottawa Senators last season– his third straight season of 50 or more points– before it was revealed that his fiancée allegedly harassed Erik and Melinda Karlsson on social media.

Ottawa General Manager Pierre Dorion specifically did not want to trade within the division, so he sent Hoffman to San Jose, where Sharks GM Doug Wilson was more than happy to flip the offensively gifted forward to the Panthers right back in– you guessed it– the Atlantic Division.

Tallon’s not concerned about any potential locker room quarrels and Hoffman’s already texted all of his new teammates asking if they’d be okay with him wearing No. 68– last worn by Jaromir Jagr in a Panthers uniform.

While Hoffman remains Tallon’s biggest prize and boost to Florida’s offense, Michael Hutchinson, 28, was brought in as a candidate for the backup goaltending job that is all but assured to be James Reimer‘s, unless Hutchinson can do anything about that.

Yes, it was Reimer’s inability to remain a stable starting goaltender (2.99 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in 44 games played last season, 22-14-6 record) that pushed 39-year-old Roberto Luongo (2.47 GAA, .929 SV% in 35 GP, 18-11-2 record) into not only saving the season, but nearly bringing the Panthers into the playoffs on his back.

The future of goaltending in Florida remains shrouded as Luongo is under contract at $4.533 million per season through 2021-22 (by then Luongo will be 43 at season’s end), Reimer, 30, is signed through 2020-21 at $3.400 million and Hutchinson (the youngest goaltender of the three) is on a one-year deal.

But Florida’s top-six forward core is stacked with Evgenii Dadonov, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad on the prospective first line and Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Hoffman filling out line two. That leaves February acquisition from the Bruins who’s looking to prove himself in a full-time role with the Panthers, Frank Vatrano on the third line.

Right about where he was on Boston’s depth chart before their youth movement– yes a youth movement, despite Vatrano only being 24– forced him out of the lineup.

Despite the existence of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle on the blue line, Tallon still has work to do in finding another legitimate top-four defender, let alone fixing the drastic drop-off in talent from Ekblad and Yandle to MacKenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen likely on the third pair.

Then again, it’s really head coach Bob Boughner‘s job to figure out the right matchups to maximize potential and win games, so perhaps Michael Matheson or Mark Pysyk will be paired with better suitors as the season progresses.

Overall, between the defense and goaltending, the Panthers have to improve their plus-two goal differential from 2017-18 to be a lot more in the black.

Florida’s on the cusp of making the playoffs and turning a few heads, but they really aren’t built for a Cup run. They might be ahead of last season’s Eastern Conference wild card teams (the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils) in both development and talent, but they don’t have all the pieces as thing stand to go against the powerhouses in the league– including their intrastate rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Offseason Grade: B-

The Panthers didn’t yield a huge harvest in the offseason, but they certainly got the most out of filling their need for a top-six forward in Mike Hoffman on the second line.

While Tallon was rumored to have had conversations with Montreal regarding Max Pacioretty (now traded to the Golden Knights) prior to acquiring Hoffman, Florida made the better move for their organization in that they didn’t have to give up any current or future roster pieces for the services of a goal-scorer.

External factors might have driven Hoffman’s price down, but a prospective deal with the Canadiens for Pacioretty would have meant parting with a guy like Huberdeau and that cannot happen if the Panthers are serious about making a playoff run.

2018 Offseason Preview: Florida Panthers

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Florida Panthers and their outlook for the summer.

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Despite coming and going all season long, the Florida Panthers quietly made a run from February down the stretch that came up a little bit short and turned some heads that were otherwise focused all season long on the money-puck driven Carolina Hurricanes.

Florida almost pulled it off– well, almost made the postseason, that is– but with a record of 44-30-8 and 96 points on the season, the 4th place team in the Atlantic Division was no match for the stacked Metropolitan Division and finished one-point shy of a wild card spot (both the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils finished with 97 points on the year and both Eastern Conference wild cards).

One thing that was apparent from the 2017 Expansion Draft where the Vegas Golden Knights claimed last season’s leading scorer for Florida, Jonathan Marchessault, and acquired Reilly Smith in a deal to protect some other Panthers roster player not named Marchessault, well…

Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith don’t grow on trees (but having at least one of them would have helped Florida’s 2017-18 cause).

2018 NHL Entry Draft

General Manager Dale Tallon has the 15th overall pick in the 2018 Draft to select one of the best available players in his selection standing in either Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jack McBain, Grigori Denisenko, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac or Ryan Merkley.

Or Tallon could trade the pick for an asset that’d help his roster in the here and now as part of what would likely be a larger deal.

Pending free agents

Tallon has about $9.000 million as things stand right now to spread over his pending free agents and/or talent acquisitions outside of the organization’s current depth chart.

The good news is the cap ceiling is expected to rise, so the Panthers should have at least $2.000 million more to utilize.

Pending-UFA Connor Brickley, 26, resurrected his professional career with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) in 2016-17 to go on and produce 4-8–12 totals in 44 games with the Florida Panthers after being claimed by Vegas, not re-signed and subsequently reuniting with the Panthers last summer.

He’s a low-cost, potentially high-reward player, if you value some production on your fourth line.

In his first nearly full season in the NHL, Jared McCann, 22, posted nine goals and 19 assists (28 points) as a playmaker in 68 games with Florida. There’s no easy one offseason fix for the Panthers– being so tight against the cap and all– that they have to hope McCann can keep improving with more minutes.

Frank Vatrano, 24, had two goals with the Boston Bruins in 25 games prior to being traded for a 2018 third round pick this season. Since the deal was made, Vatrano notched five goals and three assists (eight points) with Florida in 16 games played.

For a small sample size in a larger role, that’s promising, given he wasn’t going to get a chance on Boston’s second line (too much depth down the left for the Bruins, a la Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk) and should be a left wing lock on the second line heading into 2018-19 for Florida.

He won’t see a raise immediately, but likely should sign on to a bridge deal before cashing in on a larger piece of the pie.

Both McCann and Vatrano are pending-RFA forwards for Florida.

Alex Petrovic, 26, is in his final year of pending-RFA eligibility and has a role as a bottom-pair defender.

For around $1.000 million, Tallon should keep him around another year, realizing his defense won’t improve on its own without A) more offensive support, B) better goaltending or C) some different coaching strategies.

MacKenzie Weegar, 24, is also a pending-RFA blueliner in the Sunshine State with 2-6–8 totals in his first almost full NHL season (60 games played). Despite first impressions, that’s respectable for a top-six defender coming into his own in the early onset/middle of his prime.

He’ll also be inexpensive to keep around if Tallon can move some bigger pieces around after realizing he gave Michael Matheson such a generous pay raise over eight-years ($4.875 million AAV) for a *checks notes* 27-point season after Matheson put up 17 points in his rookie year.

There’s a reason why prolific scorers like Marchessault and Smith were squeezed out, left exposed and traded to Vegas, respectively.

Finally, in goal for the Panthers, 39-year-old Roberto Luongo is signed through the 2021-22 season with a cap hit of $4.533 million on the books. Likewise, 30-year-old backup goaltender, James Reimer, is on the books through 2020-21 at $3.400 million AAV.

Wait, but Luongo only played 35 games, you say?

Yes, it’s true, Luongo took a backseat to Reimer this season and posted a 2.47 goals against average with a .929 save percentage compared to Reimer’s 2.99 GAA and .913 SV% in 44 games played. Oof.

The saying “what did you do for me yesterday” doesn’t make Reimer look good in the long run.

Surely you can just call someone up– oh.

Florida should at least roadmap a blueprint of what the future in goal looks like, because Luongo’s not getting any younger– despite the future Hall of Famer that he is– and Reimer is well, at it again with the whole “not a legitimate starting goaltender” thing.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Edward Wittchow (RFA), Curtis Valk (RFA), Harri Sateri (UFA), Linus Hultstrom (RFA), Alexandre Grenier (UFA), Chase Balisy (UFA), Gregory Chase (RFA)

Dead cap space: Jussi Jokinen ($1.333 million through 2018-19– buyout), Jason Demers ($562,500 through 2020-21, retained salary)

March 11 – Day 143 – Governor’s Cup

As we get closer to the conclusion of the regular season, every Saturday gets more intense.

Of course, Saturdays are some of the busiest days in the league schedule, and today is no different. 11 games will be played today, starting with Philadelphia at Boston (NHLN/SN360) at 1 p.m. The other afternoon matinee drops the puck three hours later with Nashville at San Jose (SN). With both of those contests out of the way, five matchups (Ottawa at Colorado [CITY/TVAS], Calgary at Winnipeg [SN], Columbus at Buffalo, Florida at Tampa Bay and Toronto at Carolina [CBC]) get started at the usual 7 p.m., followed an hour later by two more (New Jersey at Arizona and the New York Islanders at St. Louis [NHLN]). Today’s festivities start wrapping up at 10 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Vancouver (CBC/SN), and that sets up tonight’s 10:30 p.m. nightcap – Washington at Los AngelesAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Nashville at San Jose: It’s a rematch of one of last season’s Western Semifinals, and it seems like the streaky Predators are on one of their down-swings.
  • Calgary at Winnipeg: Rivalry night in Manitoba should be jumping since the Jets are still in the playoff fight.
  • Florida at Tampa Bay: Speaking of playoff implications, the Governor’s Cup should be an exciting game too, hearkening back to the last season’s Sunshine State series.
  • Pittsburgh at Vancouver: Tom Sestito could have made his first return to Rogers Arena tonight after three seasons of service to the Canucks, but a boarding suspension will delay that until at least next season.

Neither may currently be qualifying for the postseason right now, but I expect the Governor’s Cup to provide one of the best games of the night. To Amalie Arena we go!

 

Things looked dire at one point this season, yet both the Sunshine State-based clubs have fought back within range of playoff contention. Even if Florida, the worse of these two clubs in the standings, trails the Islanders by six points for eighth in the Eastern Conference, things were far worse at one point this season.

At the midway point of their season, the Panthers had a 17-16-8 record. Since then, they’ve improved to 29-26-11  – good enough for sixth in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. It sounds bad, but Florida did break into a playoff spot for a day or two, yet was unable to maintain that spot due to its anemic offense – which is also the reason for its three-game losing skid.

The Panthers have scored only 162 goals in 66 games, which ties for the sixth-worst scoring rate in the NHL. Vincent Trocheck has tried to pull his club along with his team-leading 47 points, but to no avail. That’s part of the reason his 22 goals leads the squad: nobody else on the team has had much success burying the puck. Only three skaters have more than 14 goals, an alarming number for a team that considered itself a buyer at the trade deadline.

The Panthers‘ offensive inefficiencies are no more apparent than when they’re on the power play. Successful on only 17% of attempts, Florida is the sixth-worst in the league with the man-advantage. When Florida does manage to convert an opponent’s penalty into a goal, Jon Marchessault is usually involved in the play. Normally a third-liner, he gets promoted to the first power play unit where he’s been involved in 16 scores to lead the team. Similar to Trocheck, Marchessault does a lot of his own work, as he also leads the squad in power play goals with seven.

Where the Panthers fail on the power play, they more than make up for it on the penalty kill. Led by Mark Pysyk‘s 17 shorthanded shot blocks, Florida properly defends 86.6% of their penalties – the best mark in the league.

Florida‘s comeback has been good, but Tampa‘s has been better. After their 41st game, the Lightning had a 19-18-4 record. Nowadays, they’re 31-26-9, which is good enough for fifth in the Atlantic and 10th in the East.

The similarities continue when we analyze the weakness of Tampa Bay‘s team: it’s their offense. The Bolts have managed only 179 goals so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL. That’s what happens when both Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos – who combined for 46 goals and 92 points a season ago – have been sidelined for almost the entire year.

Nikita Kucherov has tried to take responsibility of the team during Stamkos’ absence, and he’s done a good job of it. He leads the side with 30 goals and 66 points, but has struggled to find a consistent dance partner. The injured Tyler Johnson has the second-most goals on the squad, but his total of 19 tallies is indicative of what the rest of the offense behind him provides.

No matter how good the Panthers are at defending against the extra attacker, they’d be wise not to push their luck with Tampa‘s power play. Headlined by Victor Hedman‘s 26 power play points, the Bolts have scored on 22.3% of their man-advantages – the fourth-best rate in the NHL. Per the usual, Kucherov has been the one scoring most the goals: he’s buried 13 power play markers.

Although they trail in the standings, the Panthers actually have the lead in the race for the 2016-’17 Governor’s Cup, as they have a 2-0-1 record against Tampa Bay. These clubs last met on January 26 and played to a 2-1 overtime game decided by Florida‘s Marchessault.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Michael Matheson (91 blocks [leads the team]), Trocheck (22 goals for 47 points [both lead the team]) and Keith Yandle (30 assists [leads the team]) & Tampa Bay‘s Peter Budaj (seven shutouts [second-most in the NHL] and a 2.16 GAA [fifth-best in the league] for 27 wins [ninth-most in the NHL]), Hedman (44 assists [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Kucherov (30 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL] for 66 points [10th-most in the league]).

I don’t know about you, but everything’s coming up Tampa Bay for me. While not exactly a model offense, it is better than Florida‘s, and the addition of Budaj has been fantastic in bolstering their defensive team. I think  the Bolts win by at least two goals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Martin Rucinsky (1971-) – Although selected 20th-overall by Edmonton in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing played most of his career in Montréal. A journeyman that wore eight crests with seven organizations (he moved with the Nordiques to Colorado), he earned one All-Star appearance over his 16 seasons.
  • Paul Bissonnette (1985-) – A fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing played all but 15 of his 202 career games with the Coyotes. Currently playing for Los Angeles‘ AHL team, he hasn’t made an NHL appearance since the 2013-’14 season.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani (1987-) – This defenseman was selected 87th-overall by Buffalo in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s spent most of his career. Currently playing in the KHL, his best NHL season was in 2011-’12 when he notched 15 points between the Sabres and Canucks.

They may have needed a shootout to get it done, but the Penguins earned a 3-2 victory in Edmonton in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Both of Pittsburgh‘s goals were struck in the first period. Nick Bonino (Scott Wilson and Justin Schultz) takes credit for the first, a wrist shot 5:42 into the game. Evgeni Malkin doubled the Pens‘ differential to two by burying his shot 2:35 before the end of the period.

The Oilers‘ comeback began 4:55 into the second period when David Desharnais (Zack Kassian and Kris Russell) scored his fifth goal of the season, a wrister. That was the only tally of the frame, leaving the score at 2-1 going into the second intermission.

Edmonton finally pulled even with 7:15 remaining in regulation, and it’s partially Chad Ruhwedel‘s fault. He committed a hooking penalty to end up in the sin bin, setting up First Star of the Game Connor McDavid (Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl) for a power play snap shot to force a scoreless three-on-three overtime period.

That left us with only one way to determine a winner: the shootout.

  1. As the home team, Edmonton‘s Draisaitl took the first shot. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t find the back of Second Star Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net.
  2. Of course, his effort was a little better than Malkin’s. The Penguins didn’t even test Third Star Cam Talbot as his shot bounced off the post.
  3. Mark Letestu was next up for the Oil, but his attempt found the same fate as his teammates.
  4. Sidney Crosby was the first to score in the shootout, beating Talbot. That forced a miss-and-lose situation for Edmonton.
  5. He may only be an NHL sophomore, but McDavid doesn’t shy away from pressure. He found the back of Fleury’s net to prolong the shootout.
  6. The shootout turned out to last only one more shot, as Phil Kessel provided the game-winner.

Fleury earned the victory after saving 40-of-42 shots faced (95.2%), leaving the shootout loss to Talbot, who saved 28-of-30 (93.3%).

Pittsburgh‘s victory is yet another for the 73-50-22 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Due to that, visitors in the series now have a three-point lead on the hosts.

December 20 – Day 69 – Getting Kul in Florida

As usual, you’d better have your remote ready for tonight’s onslaught of games, because there’s a bunch of good ones. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. with four games (the New York Islanders at Boston [SN], Nashville at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh and Los Angeles at Columbus), followed half an hour later by another trio of contests (Anaheim at Montréal [RDS], Detroit at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Buffalo at Florida). Colorado at Minnesota drops the puck at the top of the hour, and a pair of games (Ottawa at Chicago [RDS2] and St. Louis at Dallas) wait until 8:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Vancouver gets the West Coast involved at 10 p.m., with our nightcap – Calgary at San Jose – waiting 30 minutes before getting underway.

Short list:

  • New York at Boston: Dennis Seidenberg called the TD Garden home for seven seasons, but he’s gotten a new start in Brooklyn.
  • New York at Pittsburgh: An important duel in the Metropolitan Division is also a rematch of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.
  • Detroit at Tampa Bay: Another Eastern Quarterfinals rematch, but last season’s success is still eluding both these clubs.
  • Buffalo at Florida: Dmitry Kulikov is in the same homecoming boat as Seidenberg. He returns to his old stomping grounds of seven years with his new club.
  • St. Louis at Dallas: Yet another rematch, but this matchup occurred in the Western Semifinals.

I’m torn between featuring Kulikov or Seidenberg, as both spent considerable portions of their careers in the building they’ll be playing in this evening. Since the game in the Sunshine State will probably be much more competitive, we’ll focus on Kulikov.

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With the 14th-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers selected Dmitry Kulikov from Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

That was the last the Voltigeurs saw of the defenseman, as he signed a contract with the Panthers the following September to begin play in the NHL only a month later.

Barring the 2012-13 lockout season, Kulikov has played at least 58 games in each of the remaining six seasons of his career. While he’s been unable to fully maintain his scoring reputation from his junior days (his 138 points are 75th-most among the 603 defensemen to appear in a game since he’s joined the league), he’s still been very effective for his club as the second-highest points earner among Panthers blueliners.

Leading that group of defensemen from 2009-’16 was Brian Campbell, whose 175 points were 37 more than the Russian’s in 84 fewer games (he joined Florida before the 2011-’12 season). Both skaters notched 28 goals during their tenure with the Panthers.

Kulikov began making his way to the KeyBank Center during this season’s draft. He and Vancouver‘s second round pick that was in the Panthers‘ possession was exchanged with Buffalo for Mark Pysyk, Buffalo‘s second round pick and St. Louis‘ third round pick then in possession of the Sabres.

It’s proven to be a tough transition for Kulikov. He has yet to even notch an assist this season, much less a goal, due in part to injuring his back during the preseason. He played 12 games before taking a leave of absence that left him out of the lineup for a month. Tonight’s game is only his fifth contest back in the lineup, and he’ll certainly want to score on the team that didn’t value him enough to keep him off the trading block.

The Sabres enter tonight’s game with a 12-11-7 record to sit in last place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve gotten in that position by playing some very poor offense that has scored only 65 goals – tying with Colorado for fewest in the NHL.

Hurling insults at the Sabres offense is a difficult thing to do given Jack Eichel was injured for nearly two months. That being said, the offense did not gel without him and has put the Sabres in a tough spot to start the season. Kyle Okposo, with his 22 points to lead the team, and Rasmus Ristolainen effectively carried the team on their backs, as they are the only two skaters with more than 18 points to their credit. Okposo especially deserves credit, as his nine tallies are the most on the team.

One part of Buffalo‘s game where they did not suffer during Eichel’s absence was their man-advantage. Led by Okposo and Ristolainen’s dozen power play points, the Sabres have converted 22.9% of their advantageous opportunities, the third-best rate in the league.

As good as the power play has been, the penalty kill has been the reverse. Even with Josh Gorges‘ 14 shorthanded shot blocks (which ties him for 22nd-most in the league), the Sabres have prevented their opposition from scoring only 73.6% of the time, the worst effort in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 14-13-5 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division. Just like Buffalo, their struggles are found on the offensive end of the ice, where their 75 total goals are sixth-fewest in the NHL.

The similarities between tonight’s clubs continue. Just like the Sabres, Florida has two players who have stood out among a mediocre offense. Aleksander Barkov (22) and Jon Marchessault (20) are the only two players with more than 17 points to their credit so far this season. Marchessault has been especially impressive, as his 10 goals are also the best on the squad.

The power play has really suffered during this season’s scoring slump. Florida has only potted 14.8% of their man-advantage opportunities, the seventh-worst rate in the NHL. Marchessault has been active in this situation too. His seven power play points are most on the team.

Before we go any further, there’s one more matter we need to address: Marchessault, as great has he’s been, is currently listed on the Panthers’ injury report. He’s missed the last two games with a lower body injury, and hasn’t played since last Tuesday in Minnesota.

If anything has gone right for Florida, it’s been their defense – specifically their penalty kill. Successful on 86% of attempts, the Panthers are the fifth-best team when down a man, led by Michael Matheson‘s seven shorthanded blocks.

These squads have already met up once this season at the KeyBank Center. It was a very successful night for the Sabres, as they kept the Panthers off the board, compliments of Anders Nilsson, en route to a 3-0 victory. Johan Larsson‘s first goal of the season was the winner.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Nilsson (.933 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Florida‘s Barkov (15 assists among 22 points [both lead the team]).

Florida has a -150 next to their name, which is bad news for the Sabres. It’s tough not to side with the Panthers given the fact that they’re at home. Regardless of who wins, you can certainly assume it will be a low-scoring affair.

Hockey Birthday

  • Cory Stillman (1973-) – The sixth-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this left wing played 1025 games over 16 seasons. He spent most of his days with the club that drafted him but won a Stanley Cup with both Tampa Bay (2004) and Carolina (2006).
  • Andrei Markov (1978-) – This defenseman was selected by Montréal in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s played with the Canadiens ever since. Tonight could mark his 960th career game, provided his lower body injury sustained Sunday in Washington isn’t too severe.

It took a two-goal third period for the Ducks to knock-off the Maple Leafs, winning 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It took 27:27 before Third Star of the Game Auston Matthews (Nikita Zaitsev and Zach Hyman) scored a tip-in goal to give Toronto a 1-0 advantage, but Anaheim was able to level with 1:59 remaining in the frame. Ryan Getzlaf‘s (Sami Vatanen and First Star Cam Fowler) snapper was aided by the fact that Zaitsev was serving two minutes in the penalty box for roughing.

The Ducks when right back to work upon returning from the second intermission. 1:21 after taking the ice for the third period, Nick Ritchie (Ondrej Kase) fired a wrister to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. It lasted 10:21 before Nazem Kadri (Matt Hunwick) scored a wrister of his own to once again level the contest. With 6:52 remaining in regulation, Fowler (Ryan Kesler) buried a power play snapper to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead they would not yield.

Second Star John Gibson saved 33-of-35 (94.3%) shots faced for the victory, leaving the loss to Frederik Andersen, saving 25-of-28 (89.3%) in the loss.

Anaheim’s victory pulls the road teams within five points of the hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series, who have a 37-23-11 record.