Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!
Six different players scored goals in the Boston Bruins’, 6-2, victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
B’s netminder, Tuukka Rask (16-4-6 record, 2.29 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 26 games played) stopped 33 out of 35 shots faced for a .943 SV% in the win.
Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne (14-9-3, 3.06 GAA, .894 SV% in 26 games played) made 30 saves on 35 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss.
Boston remained in command of the Atlantic Division with a 25-8-11 record this season and 61 points. Meanwhile, Nashville fell to 19-16-7 (45 points), but remained in 6th place in the Central Division.
The Bruins improved to 11-6-2 on the road this season and snapped a three-game losing streak.
Kevan Miller (knee) has yet to make his season debut and missed his 44th game this season due to complications stemming from an injury last season.
Meanwhile, the Bruins were also without the services of Connor Clifton (upper body) and Joakim Nordstrom (illness) against the Predators.
Steven Kampfer was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Sunday before being recalled on Monday likely for cap reasons and as a result of Clifton’s extended stay in the press box with an injury.
Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor moves to his lineup entering Tuesday night in Nashville– most notably moving up Anders Bjork to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and David Krejci at center.
Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie comprised of the third line, while Sean Kuraly moved over to the left wing of the fourth line with Par Lindholm at center and Chris Wagner on the right side.
On defense, Zdeno Chara remained paired with Charlie McAvoy on the top pairing, while Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo rounded out the top-four defenders as usual.
John Moore was back on the left side of the third pairing with Matt Grzelcyk on his right side.
David Backes and Kampfer were the only healthy scratches for the B’s on Tuesday.
While Boston made line changes, Nashville made a head coaching change prior to their meeting with the Bruins.
After losing to the Ducks, 5-4, in a shootout on Sunday night in Anaheim, the Predators fired Peter Laviolette on Monday and hired John Hynes as just their third head coach in franchise history Tuesday afternoon.
Kevin McCarthy was also let go by the Preds and Rob Scuderi was hired as an assistant coach in place of McCarthy.
Brad Marchand cross checked Viktor Arvidsson 14 seconds into the first period, but Arvidsson also cut a rut to the penalty box for embellishment on the delayed call.
The two teams played 4-on-4 for two minutes and were almost unscathed except for when David Pastrnak (32) glided through the neutral zone, skated around Calle Jarnkrok and blasted a shot past Rinne just a couple of feet after entering the offensive zone to give Boston the, 1-0, lead at 1:36 of the first period.
McAvoy (14) and Grzelcyk (10) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal.
Moments later, Kuraly hit Matt Duchene from behind along the glass and received a two-minute minor for boarding at 6:10.
Nashville did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Predators, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 13-8, in shots on goal.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Preds led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (8-2).
Both teams had four takeaways aside and the Predators were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame. Boston had yet to see any action on the power play.
Nashville thought they had tied the game up 61 seconds into the second period when Nick Bonino batted the puck out of the air and over the goal line while the net was knocked off its moorings, but after review it was determined that the actions of a Predators player had caused the net to come off– therefore negating the goal.
Rocco Grimaldi bumped McAvoy and sent the Bruins defender barreling into the post– knocking the net off its pegs as Bonino worked his magic.
The score remained, 1-0, for Boston at 1:01 of the second period.
About a minute later, the B’s had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor penalty that was served by Ritchie.
Once more the Preds couldn’t convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.
Almost midway through the second period, Heinen (7) sniped a shot over Rinne’s blocker side and into the corner pocket of the twine to score his first goal in eight games and give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
Grzelcyk (11) and Coyle (14) tallied the assists on Heinen’s goal at 8:21 of the second period and Boston led, 2-0.
But less than a minute later the Bruins found themselves shorthanded yet again as Carlo tripped Arvidsson at 9:01– resulting in a 5-on-4 advantage for Nashville.
Things escalated to a 5-on-3 power play for the Predators after Grzelcyk caught Craig Smith with a high stick at 10:28.
A short, 33-second, two-skater advantage would be followed by an abbreviated standard power play, but the Preds didn’t need that long to connect on the 5-on-3 advantage.
A bang-band play led to Filip Forsberg (15) rocketing the puck behind Rask with assists from Duchene (20) and Roman Josi (31).
With the secondary assist on Forsberg’s power play goal, Josi extended his scoring streak to 11-games and Nashville cut Boston’ lead in half, 2-1, at 10:54 of the second period.
The B’s escaped the remainder of the penalty kill unharmed.
Late in the middle frame, Nashville lost track of basic numbers and had too many skaters on the ice at 16:29.
Kyle Turris took the long skate across the ice to serve the bench minor infraction and the Bruins capitalized on their first power play of the night.
Patrice Bergeron (18) followed up on a second-effort and sent a shot over Rinne’s blocker to once again give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
DeBrusk (10) and Marchand (41) had the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and Boston led, 3-1, at 17:42.
Through 40 minutes of play in Nashville, the Bruins (and their moms– as it was Boston’s moms trip) led the Preds, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 26-24, in shots on goal despite trailing in the second period shots on net alone– 16-13.
Boston also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-2), takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Nashville led in giveaways (5-3) and hits (13-6).
The Predators were 1/4 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were a perfect 1/1 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Wagner (4) kicked off the third period with a quick goal as he unintentionally redirected a shot after he was pushed by a Predators defender into Rinne at 2:51.
Lindholm (1) and Krug (24) notched the assists on Wagner’s goal and the Bruins extended their lead, 4-1.
Almost a minute later, Grimaldi tripped Chara and was assessed a minor infraction at 3:52 of the third period.
Boston’s ensuing power play was not successful.
Midway through the third period, Yakov Trenin tried to engage Chara in a fight and got the Bruins captain to exchange fisticuffs at 11:40.
Chara received an extra minor for roughing while both received majors for fighting and thus the Predators were headed on the power play after just the 8th fight this season for Boston– and 3rd in a row for their captain.
Four seconds later, Moore hooked Arvidsson and joined Ritchie (serving Chara’s roughing minor) and Chara in the box as the B’s faced Nashville’s 5-on-3 advantage at 11:44.
The Predators weren’t able to get anything done with the two-skater advantage and took a penalty of their own at 15:38 when Josi hooked Lindholm.
Shortly after Boston’s resulting power play expired, Coyle tripped Mikael Granlund at 17:46 and presented the Preds with their seventh power play opportunity of the night.
Just as the saying goes “the seventh time’s a charm”, the Predators managed to squib a puck through Rask and just over the line while chaos ensued in the crease at 18:06.
Granlund (7) notched the power play goal for Nashville and the Preds cut the lead back to, 4-2. Mattias Ekholm (19) and Forsberg (15) had the assists on Granlund’s goal.
With 1:07 remaining in the game, Hynes pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but things didn’t go quite as planned when Krejci (9) received the puck on a pass from Rask and fired the rubber biscuit into the empty goal frame about 170-feet away from where he was standing at 19:05.
Rask (1) picked up his first assist of the season and the only assist on Krejci’s empty net goal as Boston all but confirmed the win, 5-2.
It only took another 22 seconds for the Bruins to rub salt in the wounds of Smashville– adding one more tic-toc-goal from Coyle (8) at 19:27 as Boston pulled ahead to a four-goal lead with seconds remaining in the action.
Ritchie (4) and Heinen (10) were credited with the assists on Coyle’s goal and the B’s sealed the deal on a, 6-2, win in Nashville.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-35), blocked shots (15-6) and faceoff win% (56-44), while Nashville wrapped up the night with the advantage in giveaways (7-3) and hits (15-8).
The Predators wrapped up Tuesday night’s action 2/7 on the power play and the B’s finished the game 1/3 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins improved to 16-4-2 when leading after the first period, 14-0-5 when leading after two periods and 18-6-7 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Boston returns home to face the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday before venturing on the road to visit the New York Islanders on Jan. 11th, the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13th and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 14th.
Roman Josi and Patrice Bergeron scored a pair of goals for their respective teams, but Ryan Ellis scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Nashville Predators topped the Boston Bruins, 4-3, at TD Garden on Saturday night.
Pekka Rinne (12-5-3 record, 2.98 goals against average, .895 save percentage in 20 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in Nashville’s win.
Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (8-3-4, 2.37 GAA, .924 SV% in 15 games played) stopped 25 out of 29 shots faced (.862 SV%) in the overtime loss.
The Bruins fell to 21-7-9 (51 points) on the season, but remained in command of 1st place in the Atlantic Division.
Meanwhile, the Predators improved to 17-12-6 (40 points) on the season and moved into 5th place in the Central Division.
Boston fell to 12-1-8 at home this season as a result of the loss.
Once more the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) on Saturday.
John Moore was also out of the lineup for the second game in a row after missing Thursday night’s, 3-2, shootoutloss to the New York Islanders with an illness.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, opted to keep Connor Clifton in the lineup in place of Moore, while switching up his entire fourth line– scratching Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes in exchange for Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie.
Lindholm centered the fourth line while Sean Kuraly slid over to the left wing and Ritchie fit in on the right side.
Nordstrom, Backes and Moore made up Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against Nashville.
Less than a minute into the action on Saturday night, Viktor Arvisson was penalized for holding against Brad Marchand in Arvidsson’s first game back since missing the last 12 games with an injury.
Boston’s first power play of the night at 26 seconds of the first period was unsuccessful.
Almost midway through the opening frame, Anders Bjork slashed Ellis and presented Nashville with their first power play opportunity of the night at 7:13.
The Predators did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and the Bruins managed to kill off Bjork’s minor.
Late in the period, David Krejci tripped up Matt Duchene and was charged with an infraction at 15:10, but Nashville’s power play was powerless through one period.
After 20 minutes of action on Saturday, the Bruins and Predators entered the first intermission tied, 0-0, with Boston leading in shots on goal, 11-8.
Nashville was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Dan Hamhuis jumpstarted the middle frame with a tripping minor at 4:23 of the second period, but the Bruins couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.
Boston did catch Nashville in the vulnerable minute after special teams play, however, as Lindholm (2) bumped into a loose puck off a rebound while being checked by a Predators defender and the rubber biscuit tumbled into the twine.
Ritchie (3) and Kuraly (9) had the assists on Lindholm’s first goal in 16 games as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead at 7:30 of the second period.
Midway through the second period, Matt Grzelcyk slashed Duchene and presented the Predators with another power play at 10:19.
Nashville’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Craig Smith tripped up Boston blue liner, Brandon Carlo, at 11:27.
The two clubs played 52 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey before the Bruins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.
Shortly after making the kill, the Preds capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Josi (12) snaked his way from the point to the slot and let go of a backhand shot that floated past Halak as Arvidsson acted as a fly-by screen in front of the Boston netminder.
Ryan Johansen (15) had the only assist on Josi’s first goal of the game at 12:14 and the Predators tied the game, 1-1.
Moments later, Filip Forsberg was penalized for roughing at 17:56 and the Bruins went back on the power play.
Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Bergeron (12) acted as the bumper and one-timed a shot past Rinne from point blank to give Boston the lead with a power play goal.
Torey Krug (20) had the only assist on Bergeron’s first goal of the night at 19:12 and the B’s led, 2-1.
Heading into the second intermission, Boston was ahead in the scoreboard, 2-1, but tied in shots on goal, 19-19, after Nashville rallied to an, 11-8, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (11-10) and hits (22-14), while Nashville led in takeaways (14-5), giveaways (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (62-38).
The Predators were 0/3 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into the third period.
Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Preds took the game by storm.
Forsberg (13) poked home a loose puck through Halak’s short side while on a delayed call against Boston (that was ultimately negated by Nashville’s goal) and tied the game in the process, 2-2, at 7:35 of the third period.
Johansen (16) and Mattias Ekholm (14) notched the assists on Forsberg’s goal.
Just 35 seconds later, Josi (13) added his second goal of the night on an unassisted effort when Halak skated out of his crease and misplayed the puck in the high slot, effectively turning the rubber biscuit over to the Predators captain– leaving an empty goal frame for Josi to bury the puck in.
Josi’s goal at 8:10 of the third period gave Nashville their first lead of the night, 3-2, but the Bruins wouldn’t go down without a fight just yet.
After using his timeout after the Josi goal mishap, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about two minutes left in regulation.
David Pastrnak unloaded a shot towards the goal that Bergeron (13) redirected for his second goal of the game– tying the game, 3-3, in the process.
Pastrnak (23) and Marchand (34) tallied the assists as Boston evened things up at 18:55 of the third period.
At the horn, the Bruins required extra time for the ninth time in their last 13 games as Boston and Nashville were knotted, 3-3, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 30-26, after regulation.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (12-10) and hits (28-23), while Nashville led in takeaways (15-8) and faceoff win% (53-47).
There were no penalties called in the third period or overtime period, so the Preds finished 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 1/4 on the power play Saturday night.
In overtime, Peter Laviolette, started Duchene, Mikael Granlund and Josi for the Predators while Cassidy opted for Charlie Coyle, Bjork and Charlie McAvoy.
With less than a minute separating the two teams from going to a shootout, Nashville pounced on a wacky bounce in the attacking zone while the Bruins scrambled out of position.
Johansen flipped a quick pass to Ellis (6) as the Predators defender snuck in unnoticed and wired a one-timer into the twine– winning the game in the process.
Johansen (17) and Kyle Turris (11) notched the assists as the Preds picked up the, 4-3, overtime victory at 4:05 of the overtime period.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-29), blocked shots (15-14), giveaways (13-10) and hits (29-24), while Nashville left the Hub with the advantage in faceoff win% (52-48) and the final result.
The Predators improved to 2-4 in overtime this season, while the Bruins fell to 2-4.
Boston has lost eight of their last nine games and are 1-4-4 in that span. But the B’s still have a nine-point lead over 2nd place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins fell to 5-1-5 when tied after one period, 14-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal and 11-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.
They have now lost eight out of their last nine games and are 1-4-4 in that span.
Boston wraps up their four-game homestand (0-0-3) on Monday night (Dec. 23rd) as they host the Washington Capitals before the league-wide holiday break kicks in from Dec. 24th through the 26th.
The Bruins travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres in a home-and-home on Dec. 27th before hosting Jack Eichel and his teammates on Dec. 29th. The B’s finish off the month of December in New Jersey on Dec. 31st.
Happy Meteorological Spring (and when the time comes, actual Spring too as the Spring Equinox falls on… well, it’s written on the calendar in your office somewhere).
Of course, the only day that really matters in March is the 18th (you thought I was going to say the 17th, but we can’t all pretend to be Irish now, can we?).
If you’re new to the sport, that’s the day the Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the idea of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup back in 1892 and thus the Stanley Cup was first played for and awarded in 1893.
The original Cup resides in an old bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and was purchased for ten guineas, which was $48.67 at the time or almost $1,400 in contemporary times.
Anyway, March is a pretty important month.
Teams have added or subtracted to their rosters from the trade deadline and are looking to go down the stretch without any additional injuries or worries heading into the postseason (or for some, the offseason).
Feeling lucky? Is this the year your bracket won’t be busted in the First Round? Let the madness begin with a look at the latest standings forecast* across the league based on all 31 NHL teams’ performances through February 28, 2019.
*Standard disclaimer: This forecast is not an exact science, but rather an educated guess among recent and season long trends, with a foundation steeped in recent records over the last few seasons.
In simple terms, just focus on the standing within the division and less on the point spread. A team isn’t eliminated from postseason contention until they are mathematically eliminated.
Anything can still happen (relatively, of course).
Projected Standings After Five Months
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 121 points (65 games played entering March 1st)
- x-Boston Bruins, 115 points (64 GP)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (64 GP)
- wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 103 points (64 GP)
- wc2-Buffalo Sabres, 90 points (63 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 82 points (63 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 61 points (64 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 60 points (64 GP)
In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still on pace for what could almost be the best regular season in league history. Their franchise record ten-game winning streak was halted by the re-hot Boston Bruins on Feb. 28th.
Tampa should still lock up the division (if not the President’s Trophy) with ease, though they are beatable– as proven by the Bruins recent win (ignoring the back-to-back games), as well as the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 overtime victory on Feb. 7th (more on the Blues later).
Boston, meanwhile, is surging at the right time. After going 7-7-0 in December and 6-3-3 in January, the B’s went without a regulation loss in the month of February, finishing with an 11-0-2 record.
It was the 9th time in franchise history and first time since November 2011, that the Bruins went without a regulation loss in an entire calendar month.
Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very alive and well in a divisional spot and for the second straight season appear destined to battle the Bruins in a First Round rematch from last season.
At least one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be filled by an Atlantic Division team– the first of which being the Montreal Canadiens.
The Habs are in the hunt and could knock the Maple Leafs out of the last divisional spot with a good run down the stretch, while the second wild card spot is a little harder to project.
It could be the Buffalo Sabres or it could very well be a team that’s surging in the Metropolitan Division.
- y-New York Islanders, 113 points (63 GP)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 101 points (63 GP)
- x-Washington Capitals, 92 points (64 GP)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (63 GP)
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 87 points (63 GP)
- New York Rangers, 77 points (63 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 74 points (64 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 61 points (64 GP)
John Tavares wasn’t well-received in his first trip back to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders for the Leafs in free agency last July, however, Barry Trotz has been adored by Isles fans as the coach of the Metropolitan Division’s best team.
Despite adding a lot of firepower leading up to the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t quite a surefire powerhouse in the division, but they should be good enough for home ice advantage in the First Round and a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals.
It’s a wide-open race for two or three potential playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division, as the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins all have their sights set on one of two remaining divisional spots or at least one wild card spot in the postseason.
Despite the Capitals edging the Hurricanes and Penguins in this forecast, gut feeling indicates there’s sure to be an upset before the brackets are even finalized.
Carolina is playing really well lately and as those bunch of jerks have shown all season long– you can’t count them out. They also reached 70 points in 61 games played for just the second time in franchise history this season.
The last time they did that was in the 2005-06 season– you know, the one they went on to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
As for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, well, there’s always a chance things go south for some of the teams ahead of them– except the Rangers are rebuilding and the Flyers have gone zero weeks without an injury to one of the eight goaltenders they’ve used this season.
- y-Winnipeg Jets, 104 points (63 GP)
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points (63 GP)
- x-Nashville Predators, 93 points (66 GP)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (64 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (64 GP)
- Dallas Stars, 84 points (64 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (64 GP)
The Western Conference as a whole has been weaker than the Eastern Conference this season, but no division has been quite as lively as the Central Division.
While the Winnipeg Jets soar into the postseason as the top-team in the Central, the St. Louis Blues are attempting to go from last to first– and then some.
St. Louis might not stop at potentially leading the Central Division by the time the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin– they could just very well go on to win the Cup. The Blues are that hot.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators added a lot of grit leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Cody McLeod, Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to bolster their crunch to go along with new addition, Mikael Granlund‘s scoring ability.
Anyway, they’ve been slipping as of late and appear destined to miss out on home ice advantage in what will likely be a First Round matchup with St. Louis.
Finally, one of the Western wild cards will surely come from the Central Division teams. Whether that’s the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars will depend on how hot Colorado’s first line is and/or how injured the Wild and Stars are.
Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for setting the second half of the season ablaze, though not nearly as mightily as the Blues have, but they’ll still end up last in the Central, but about mid-pack league-wide.
- z-Calgary Flames, 111 points (64 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 107 points (64 GP)
- x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (65 GP)
- wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 91 points (64 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (65 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (64 GP)
- Anaheim Ducks, 75 points (64 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 68 points (64 GP)
In the most disappointing division of the season, the Calgary Flames have risen a cut above the rest in the West. Not only do they look to lead the conference, but they look to do so in style.
The Flames are a team that’s destined for a deeper run than just a First or Second Round exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how much will recent playoff experience for the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights play into Calgary’s chances of going far?
Vegas hasn’t been as dominant as they were in their inaugural season, however the Sharks have also had a few slip ups in the last month.
Both teams are looking like they’ll meet in the First Round– a round sooner than their Second Round matchup last postseason. It’s a rematch for the ages for the Golden Knights, as the young franchise looks to continue to add to the nearly 30 years of dismal playoff failure for San Jose.
One of the biggest– and most pleasant– surprises in the Western Conference? The Arizona Coyotes.
The team is destined for a wild card spot this season and just might spoil the party for more than just who they cut out of the playoff picture.
For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a battle until the end. They might make it, they might not, but next season should be better– just stay the course.
And if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and/or the Los Angeles Kings, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.
With the trade deadline passing by on Monday, there’s only one important date remaining this regular season: April 6, the season’s finale.
However, we’re not quite focused on that date yet. Instead, let’s see what games this week had to offer:
|NHL SCHEDULE: February 25-March 3|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/|
|Monday, February 25|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||New Jersey||1-2|
|7:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Tampa Bay||3-4 (SO)|
|8 p.m.||Edmonton||Nashville||2-3 (SO)|
|9 p.m.||Florida||Colorado||4-3 (OT)|
|Tuesday, February 26|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Boston||1-4|
|7 p.m.||Calgary Flames||New York Islanders||3-1|
|7 p.m.||Los Angeles||Carolina||1-6|
|8 p.m.||Nashville||St. Louis||0-2|
|9 p.m.||Florida||Arizona||3-4 (SO)|
|Wednesday, February 27|
|7 p.m.||Calgary||New Jersey||2-1|
|7:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay Lightning||New York Rangers||4-3 (OT)|
|9:30 p.m.||Vancouver||Colorado||2-3 (SO)|
|Thursday, February 28|
|7 p.m.||Toronto Maple Leafs||New York Islanders||1-6|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia||Columbus||3-4 (OT)|
|7:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Boston||1-4|
|10 p.m.||Florida||Vegas||5-6 (SO)|
|10:30 p.m.||Dallas||Los Angeles||4-3 (OT)|
|Friday, March 1|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Buffalo||3-4 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia||New Jersey||6-3|
|7 p.m.||Washington Capitals||New York Islanders||3-1|
|7 p.m.||Montréal Canadiens||New York Rangers||4-2|
|7:30 p.m.||St. Louis||Carolina||2-5|
|10:30 p.m.||Colorado||San Jose||3-4|
|Saturday, March 2|
|4 p.m.||Chicago||Los Angeles||NHLN|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Boston|
|7 p.m.||Buffalo||Toronto||CBC, NHLN, SN1|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Montréal||SN360, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||Tampa Bay||CITY, TVAS2|
|8 p.m.||Dallas||St. Louis|
|10 p.m.||Minnesota Wild||Calgary Flames||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, March 3|
|12:30 p.m.||Washington Capitals||New York Rangers||NBC, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||Philadelphia Flyers||New York Islanders||SN1, TVAS|
|10 p.m.||Chicago||San Jose|
There were rivalries galore to choose from this week – nine, if you want to be precise. Buffalo and Toronto waged two editions of the Battle of the QEW, with the Leafs hosting on Monday and the Sabres returning the favor tonight.
In between those meetings, the Penguins made their first visit of the season to Columbus and the Habs squared off against the Wings (both on Tuesday) and Friday featured Montréal visiting the Rangers, the Caps visiting the Islanders and the Battle of the Turnpikes. Joining Toronto and Buffalo in rivalry action today are the Blackhawks and Kings, while the Caps and Blueshirts are waiting until tomorrow to stage their derby.
In a similar strain as rivalries, we were also privy to three rematches from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota and Winnipeg rekindled their First Round animosity on Tuesday, ending with the Wild exacting revenge for their early playoff exit. The Bolts and Bruins were at it Thursday (with Boston pulling off the 4-1 victory), while Nashville and Winnipeg scrapped for first place in the Central Division last night (the Jets recaptured the division lead with a 5-3 win).
Finally, I always try to point out the biggest homecomings, and there were three this week. Of course, none was more anticipated than C John Tavares making his first trip to Nassau Coliseum as a member of the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Tavares enjoyed nine seasons with the Islanders, including five as the club’s 14th captain. His 621 points scored while wearing blue and orange ranks fifth in franchise history, but don’t let that fool you – Islanders fans did not treat him to a warm welcome.
Also making notable homecomings were current Penguin D Jack Johnson returning to Columbus on Tuesday and current Predator F Mikael Granlund returning to St. Paul tomorrow (considering he just experienced the birth of his child, there’s actually a chance he never left Minnesota in the first place). Both spent seven seasons with their respective former clubs before joining their current organizations (Johnson via free agency this summer and Granlund via deadline trade).
However, all of those things having been listed, there’s still one more event that demands our attention. For the third week in a row, a former great of the game is seeing his number raised to the rafters. Tonight, the Calgary Flames honor RW Jarome Iginla.
It can be easily forgotten that Iginla was not drafted by the Flames, but instead by the Dallas Stars. Only two seasons removed from their departure from the State of Hockey, the Stars selected the Kamloops Blazer 11th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.
Knowing what we know now, how Iginla fell all the way to 11th is hard to fathom. Only 10 total players from this 234-player draft class were ever named to even one NHL All-Star Game, of which only Iginla and nine-year teammate G Miikka Kiprusoff ever received end-of-season All-Star Team nods.
Regardless, Iginla likely never even thought about shopping for a Dallas apartment, as he was traded alongside C Corey Millen to Calgary (coincidentally in the same province as the city that hosted that edition of the draft: Edmonton, Iginla’s hometown) five months later for the rights to C Joe Nieuwendyk.
Nieuwendyk would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999 – scoring two game-winning overtime goals on the way, including one in triple-overtime against former rival Edmonton – so perhaps this was a fair trade all-in-all.
Iginla made his NHL debut during the 1996 Stanley Cup Playoffs (he registered 1-1-2 totals in two games played) after the Blazers lost to Spokane in the WHL’s West Division Finals 4-2. As the reigning WHL Player of the Year, Iginla registered 1-1-2 totals in his first two postseason appearances before the Flames were swept by Chicago in the Western Quarterfinals.
Iginla played all 82 games of his rookie campaign in 1996-97, registering impressive 21-29-50 totals (including three game-winning goals) to finish second in Calder voting behind fellow traded 1995 pick D Bryan Berard of the New York Islanders (he was originally drafted first-overall by Ottawa).
Like many outstanding youths, Iginla faced a rather severe sophomore slump. The winger posted only 13-19-32 marks in 70 games played, but he hopped right back on his horse for Season 3 to reemerge as a 50-point player and start a run of scoring at least 50 points in 15 of 16 seasons (interrupted only by the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign) from 1998-2015, a run that extended beyond his time in Calgary.
Of course, implying that the Flames could only count on 50 points from Iginla is undoubtedly doing his reputation a major disservice. The 51 points he scored in the 1998-99 season was only the beginning of his meteoric rise. He notched 63 points at the turn of the millennium, followed by 71 in 2000-01.
Iggy’s sixth season (2001-02) saw him set his career-high in goals with 52-44-96 totals, and everyone in the league took notice. Not only did Iginla earn his first of three First All-Star Team honors, but he also brought home more than his fair share of hardware from the NHL Awards, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award).
Of course, all that hardware didn’t make up for one major hole in Iginla’s resume. Not only had he not yet won a playoff game, he hadn’t even made a playoff appearance since his NHL debut.
That changed in a massive way in 2004, Iginla’s first season as the Flames’ 18th captain in franchise history. With a 41-32-73 season that earned Iginla his first King Clancy Award and second Richard Trophy, he led the Flames to a sixth-place finish in the Western Conference and their first playoff appearance in eight seasons.
The success didn’t end there though: the Flames defeated all three of the West’s division champions, including the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings in the conference semifinals, to advance all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the East’s top seed.
As for Iginla, he hadn’t yet scored all the goals for his campaign, as he added 13 goals and 22 points in his 26 playoff games – including outstanding 5-3-8 totals in the quarterfinals against Vancouver. His 13 markers were the most by any player in the 2004 playoffs, but his side fell to the Bolts in seven games.
Iginla’s Flames would qualify for the next four playoffs after their Stanley Cup Final appearance (skipping, of course, the 2004-05 lockout-cancelled season), but each time they failed to advance beyond the First Round. During that run, the captain earned his last two nominations to the NHL’s First All-Star team, doing it consecutively in 2008 and 2009 with respective 50-48-98 and 35-54-89 seasons.
Iginla’s Flames career would end on March 28, 2013 when he was traded as a rental to Pittsburgh for LW Kenny Agostino, RW Ben Hanowski and a 2013 first-round pick that would eventually become LW Morgan Klimchuk. He would go on to play for the Bruins, Avs and Kings before being forced to hang up his skates after the 2016-17 season.
With 525-570-1095 totals in 1219 career games played for Calgary, Iginla holds franchise records for appearances, goals, points, power play goals (161) and game-winning goals (83). In terms of league records, Iginla is one of only seven players to score 30 or more goals in 11-straight seasons (all of which were with Calgary, and a streak that could have been longer if not for the 2012-13 lockout), one of 20 to reach the 600-goal plateau and one of 34 to manage at least 1300 points.
For these reasons, as well as every other detail and fact listed above, Iginla is bypassing Calgary’s “Forever a Flame” program (in which a player is honored, but his number not retired) and seeing his No. 12 rightfully join RW Lanny McDonald‘s No. 9 and G Mike Vernon‘s No. 30 as the team’s third (fourth if that Oiler’s No. 99 is included) sweater retired from circulation.
What a time to be a member of the C of Red, no? Not only is the organization honoring one of, if not the greatest to ever don the Flaming C (no disrespect intended to D Al MacInnis, McDonald and his mustache or Vernon), but this year’s team is also pretty darn exciting. They boast a 41-16-7 record that that leads San Jose for the Western Conference lead, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down with their seven-game win streak and eight-game point streak – both the best currently active in the NHL.
Dating back to Valentine’s Day, the Flames have played to a 7-0-1 record (they dropped a point to the Panthers in a shootout), largely as a result of their incredible defensive play. Entering play Friday (all stats will not take into account March 1’s eight games due to my work schedule), no team has allowed fewer shots than Calgary in the past 14 days. The Flames have allowed only 214 shots against in their past eight outings, which averages out to 26.75 shots against per game.
Leading that defensive charge has been none other than Calgary’s resident 3-H Club: D Noah Hanifin, who’s 10 takeaways since February 14 lead the team; D Travis Hamonic, who tops the squad by averaging two blocks per game during this run; and W Garnet Hathaway, the Flames’ leading body checker in the past 14 days by averaging three hits per game.
As would be expected, the most prominent place this solid defensive work is showing up is on the scoreboard, as the Flames have allowed a (t)fourth-best 1.75 goals against per game since February 14. As a result, 19-11-2 G Mike Smith has been having an easy go of it lately, made evident by his combined .93 save percentage and 1.98 GAA for his past six starts.
On the season, Smith boasts an .897 save percentage and 2.89 GAA, but his recent run of success means he’ll likely be in the crease this evening. Smith has a not-so-great 6-11-2 all-time record against the Wild, but he stopped all 31 shots faced the last time he saw them on December 6 to improve his career statistics against Minnesota to a .921 save percentage and 2.18 GAA.
Speaking of the Wild, they’re currently on a bit of a run themselves.
On the back of a four-game win streak (including wins against the Blues and Jets), Minnesota has amassed a 31-27-6 record that is currently (well, as of Friday morning) good enough for the Western Conference’s second wild card.
The main player in this recent success has undoubtedly been 25-21-5 G Devan Dubnyk, Smith’s former battery-mate with the Coyotes. Though he’s certainly received help from his defense (the Wild have allowed an average of 30.5 shots against per game in their last four outings, the 12th-best mark in the NHL in that time), he’s played lights out to allow only 1.5 goals against per tilt in his last four starts – the fourth-best mark in the league since February 21.
What makes this streak so impressive is that Dubnyk has been only a little better than average this season with his .912 save percentage and 2.59 GAA on the campaign. However, he’s elevated his game to his 2014-15 level in his last four outings to post a combined .951 save percentage and 1.49 GAA.
Over his 10-year career, Dubnyk has squared off against Calgary 26 times and can boast a solid 11-8-4 record against the Flames. Combined, he’s managed a .923 save percentage and 2.7 GAA against Alberta’s southern franchise.
So if we’re in line for a goaltending duel, which will emerge with two points?
Personally, I like the Flames this evening. They have the advantage of playing at home with an excited C of Red behind them, as well as a better defense and more talented offense. Dubnyk might continue to stand on his head, but I think the Flames can find a way to sneak one more goal past him.
I’ll take Calgary 2-1.
Below is a quick recap of all the trades that officially occurred on Monday prior to the National Hockey League’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
Early Monday morning the San Jose Sharks acquired F Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick. The 2020 3rd round pick becomes a 2nd round pick if the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final or Nyquist re-signs.
Detroit retained 30% of Nyquist’s salary in the transaction. MORE
Winnipeg’s 2019 1st round pick in the trade is Top-3 lottery protected. MORE
The Florida Panthers traded F Tomas Jurco to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations.
F Cliff Pu was traded by the Carolina Hurricanes to the Florida Panthers for future considerations.
F Derick Brassard was traded by the Florida Panthers along with a conditional 2020 6th round pick to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a 2020 3rd round pick.
If Brassard re-signs with the Avalanche, Colorado will not receive Florida’s 6th round pick. MORE
The Calgary Flames acquired D Oscar Fantenberg from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional 2020 4th round pick.
Stone has agreed on an eight-year extension with Vegas worth $9.500 million per season, but cannot sign it until March 1st. MORE
If Nashville wins one round of the playoffs, the pick becomes a 2020 3rd round pick.
D Michael Del Zotto was traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a 2019 6th round draft pick in return to the Anaheim Ducks.
F Marcus Johansson was shipped from the New Jersey Devils to the Boston Bruins in exchange for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 4th round pick. New Jersey retained 40% of Johansson’s salary in the trade.
The Winnipeg Jets traded a 2020 7th round pick to the Minnesota Wild for F Matt Hendricks.
D Nathan Beaulieu was traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the Winnipeg Jets for a 6th round pick.
Winnipeg also traded a 2021 7th round pick to the Florida Panthers for D Bogdan Kiselevich.
The San Jose Sharks sent F Linus Karlsson to the Vancouver Canucks for F Jonathan Dahlen.
F Alex Broadhurst was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Nashville Predators for future considerations.
It’s once again time for the DtFR Game of the Week. Let’s take a look at our options for these seven days:
|NHL SCHEDULE: November 12-18|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, November 12|
|7 p.m.||Vancouver Canucks||New York Rangers||1-2|
|7 p.m.||Chicago||Carolina||2-3 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Nashville||Anaheim||1-2 (SO)|
|Tuesday, November 13|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh||New Jersey||2-4|
|7 p.m.||Vancouver Canucks||New York Islanders||2-5|
|7:30 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Buffalo||1-2|
|10:30 p.m.||Toronto||Los Angeles||5-1|
|10:30 p.m.||Nashville||San Jose||4-5|
|Wednesday, November 14|
|8 p.m.||St. Louis||Chicago||0-1|
|Thursday, November 15|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||New York Islanders|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Philadelphia|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Pittsburgh||TVAS|
|9 p.m.||Montréal||Calgary||RDS, TSN2|
|10:30 p.m.||Toronto||San Jose|
|Friday, November 16|
|8:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Chicago||NHLN|
|10 p.m.||St. Louis||Vegas|
|saturday, November 17|
|1 p.m.||Detroit||New Jersey|
|1 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Philadelphia||NHLN, SN|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||Vancouver||CBC, SN1, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Pittsburgh||Ottawa||CITY, SN|
|7 p.m.||Florida Panthers||New York Rangers||NHLN|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Nashville|
|10 p.m.||Edmonton||Calgary||CBC, SN, SN1|
|10:30 p.m.||St. Louis||San Jose|
|Sunday, November 18|
|1 p.m.||Dallas Stars||New York Islanders||SN|
|5 p.m.||New Jersey||Carolina|
|8 p.m.||Vegas||Edmonton||SN, TVAS|
As I point out every in every column, there were more than a few superb offerings in this week’s NHL schedule. There were a solid half-dozen rivalries (St. Louis at Chicago, New York at New York, New Jersey at Philadelphia, Los Angeles at Chicago, Edmonton at Calgary and Minnesota at Chicago) to choose from, not to mention a long list of players returning to their former stomping grounds (G Cam Ward heading back to Raleigh – his former team of 13 seasons – headlined that list, though the “homecoming” of D Brooks Orpik to Denver will surely generate at least a few conversations).
However, this week’s selection has nothing to do with any sort of rivalry or player return. Instead, this week’s brightest matchup features two teams having unexpected success to start the season squaring off in what could end up being an important tie-breaking game should they be competing for wild card spots this spring.
We first turn our attention to tonight’s visitors, the 10-8-2 Vancouver Canucks. To the surprise of many, British Columbia’s beloved hockey side finds itself in second place in the Pacific Division, a far cry from last year’s position in the table (second to last in the Western Conference).
In particular, the biggest story coming out of the Canucks so far this season has been the exciting play of their forward corps, specifically that of youngster F Elias Pettersson. In only 14 games played, he’s already hung up 10-7-17 totals to lead all rookies in goals and points (he’s tied with Chicago’s F Dominik Kahun for second in assists behind leader D Henri Jokiharju – also of Chicago).
Led by Pettersson (not to mention C Bo Horvat, who has a matching 17 points to his credit), the Canucks’ offense currently ranks 13th-worst in the NHL, averaging 3.1 goals per game.
13th-worst and 3.1 goals per game may not sound like much, but the smart Canucks fans are excited by the growth they’ve seen from this year’s edition of the team It should be remembered, of course, that last year’s roster only scored 218 goals, or 2.66 goals per game (the Canucks are currently on pace for 254 this season).
Unfortunately for Vancouver, its hot start looks like it could be coming to an end as a result of the disastrous six-game eastern road trip (I suppose all road trips for the Canucks are eastern, aren’t they…) it’s finishing tonight. In their last five games, the Canucks have posted only a 1-2-2 record – posting both regulation losses in their last two outings – and have ceded control of the division to San Jose. That being said, Vancouver could jump back into first place in the Pacific with a win tonight and a regulation loss by the Sharks to Toronto.
While the Canucks might be cooling down, nothing has been able to stop the 11-5-2 Minnesota Wild just yet this season, as they’ve soared all the way into second place in the Central Division after many pegged them to miss the playoffs this season altogether.
Offense is the name of the game for the team in white, but Minnesota has found much of its success in its own zone.
While the defense does deserve some credit (the Wild have allowed 31.6 shots against per game this season, the 14th-highest average in the league), it’s specifically been the play of 8-4-2 G Devan Dubnyk that has made them so dominant. Dubnyk has posted a .927 save percentage and 2.34 GAA in 14 starts this season, both of which are top-six in the NHL among the 25 goalies with at least 10 starts.
The Wild just finished up an extended West Coast road trip of their own, going 5-2-0 (including a 5-2 loss at Vancouver on October 29) before returning home and losing to the Capitals on Tuesday, snapping a three-game win streak.
If tonight’s game becomes a battle of special teams, look for the Wild to take control easily. While both teams have comparable power plays (both convert under 19 percent of their extra-man opportunities), Minnesota boasts a penalty kill far superior to that of Vancouver. The Wild’s penalty kill escapes unscathed a division-leading 85.7 percent of the time, while Vancouver can only make that claim after 80.3 percent of its penalties (14th-worst in the NHL).
Even if this game doesn’t boil down to special team situations, I’m still leaning towards the Wild claiming two points tonight. The Canucks are tired from their long road trip, not to mention the fact that G Richard Bachman making his season debut this evening. Look for the Wild’s offense (led by F Mikael Granlund‘s 10-8-18 totals) to pounce early and put the pressure on Vancouver’s young, tired offense.
For the first time since the birth of the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise 19 years ago, the team will see the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the city of Winnipeg, a 31-year wait has ended with thunderous applause.
For Minnesota, however, an arduous struggle has ended in back-to-back blankings at the hands of a Jets squad that far outclassed them. The Wild fought as best they could, but with the absence of Ryan Suter on defense, and the loss of Zach Parise after Game 3, the tools for them to compete with a stacked Winnipeg roster just weren’t there. Pile on some notably lackluster performances from key players like Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle (all held scoreless in the series) and there was really no hope to overcome the juggernaut Jets.
The Wild knew to have any shot at surviving Game 5 they’d need to play the perfect road game and try to keep the Jets from building momentum and getting the raucous crowd involved. This strategy lasted all of 31 seconds.
A strong opening shift was capped off when Jacob Trouba received a cross-ice pass from Mark Scheifele at the top of the right circle, took a few strides towards the net and ripped a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk to ignite Bell MTS Place in the first minute.
A Winnipeg penalty shortly after the goal threatened to kill the energy, but strong work on the PK kept the tide in the Jets’ favor, and shortly after the conclusion of the penalty Trouba (who had himself a game) nearly scored on an odd-man rush, before nearly tipping home a follow-up shot right after. Dubnyk was trying desperately to keep his team alive and settle things down.
Unfortunately for the Minnesota netminder, his efforts were for nothing, as on the following faceoff Dustin Byfuglien let go a wrist shot from the right point that Bryan Little redirected beautifully past an unsuspecting Dubnyk for the 2-0 lead, still just 5:42 into the game.
Still the Jets kept coming, and the Wild had no answer. A Brandon Tanev shot nearly went in off the skate of Dubnyk after bouncing off of the end boards. Then Niederreiter tried to create a scoring opportunity by dancing around one Winnipeg defender only to get blown up by Big Buff as he attempted to let the shot go. Then Tanev, apparently upset at his previous failure, stripped a fumbling Jonas Brodin of the puck at his defensive blueline and fired a quick turnaround wrister through Dubnyk before he had time to react, Winnipeg taking a 3-0 lead with 8:50 to play. Tanev’s first career playoff goal.
Just 49 seconds later things went from calamity to catastrophe when an initial attempt from Andrew Copp rebounded out high to a locked and loaded Byfuglien, who proceeded to unload a bomb that redirected off of Joel Armia (his first playoff goal, just to stick with the theme) and into the net.
It was now 4-0 with 8:01 to play in the first period, and a mercy pulling was in order. Bruce Boudreau sent Alex Stalock in to relieve Dubnyk of his nightmare, and he returned to the bench to a standing reception from his teammates. Captain Mikko Koivu walked down to the end of the bench after Dubnyk sat down, seemingly to say “We’re sorry, this is on us.” to his visibly emotional goaltender.
Winnipeg fans, however, did not share in Koivu’s sympathies, as a chant of “We Want Dubnyk” rang out not long after the resumption of play. Apparently even after a long, cold winter, Winnipeg still has plenty of salt to go around.
The period ended with the Jets outshooting Minnesota 13-7, but the play was even more lopsided than that would indicate.
Early in the second Minnesota got their proverbial “This one just isn’t going to go your way” sign from the hockey gods, as a Mikael Granlund rush drew Connor Hellebuyck out of his net, giving Granlund an open cage to tuck a wraparound into, only to see the puck sail across the crease along the goal line and bounce off of multiple Winnipeg skates just inches from paydirt, only to be cleared away.
Minnesota did finally gain some offensive traction to their credit, though the second notable opportunity was a Niederreiter rush that was met with a shot block and subsequent leveling hit by Trouba. Ironically even though they controlled a lot of the play early in the second, the Wild would not record a shot for nearly eight minutes of play.
The game’s only real notable save came from the left pad of Stalock who denied a seemingly sure-thing one-timer right on the doorstep at the bottom of the left circle from Scheifele just past the game’s halfway mark.
A Wild power play around the 11:00 mark brought some more offensive traction to the visitors, who had a few quality chances on the power play followed up by a Niederreiter breakaway all turned aside. Jason Zucker found iron on a later power play, but Hellebucyk simply couldn’t be solved.
The Jets put a stamp on the game just 32 seconds into the third with a beautiful high-low-high passing sequence from Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny, and Scheifele capped off by a beautiful one-time rip from #55 into the net from the low slot.
Sensing victory was now firmly in hand, the Winnipeg Whiteout crowd started to take over the third period. Multiple renditions of Bananarama’s ‘Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye’ were belted out in perfect harmony at numerous points in the frame, starting with the initial performance just after the puck had dropped following the 5-0 goal.
Blake Wheeler nearly made it 6-0 on a beautiful backhand tip of a Scheifele centering pass, but the hockey gods had decided enough was enough, so it found the crossbar and vacated the goal crease without further incident.
‘We Want Nashville!’ is now the chant. Bold, Winnipeg. Bold.
Later in the period a fan took a deflected puck to the face, only to be tossed a towel by Matt Hendricks (making his series debut) and signal to everyone in attendance that they were still very much alive, drawing a rousing round of applause.
The standing ovation started with 2:30 to play, and was only interrupted by an obligatory singalong to ‘Sweet Caroline’ at 2:10. The final minute of play was basically just one long explosion of noise as the city erupted into a party that I assume will still be occurring when the sun rises. On Monday.
In the end, Connor Hellebucyk posted his second-consecutive shutout to seal the series, and the Parise-less Wild fail to score a single goal. It’s hard for Minnesota to argue that injuries were the only reason they couldn’t climb this mountain, as Winnipeg faced games without Tyler Myers, Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey among others, and played the entire series without Toby Enstrom. It just speaks to their incredible depth that even when missing key contributors they could still trounce Minnesota with relative ease.
Now with a long rest ahead of them to get healthy before a likely (at least as of this writing) Second Round matchup for the ages with Nashville, the Jets have a little time to celebrate before looking towards what lay ahead.
Special shoutout to 20-year veteran and three-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Cullen, who may have just played the final game of a fantastic career.