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NHL Nick's Net

Varlamov, Islanders shutout Bruins, 1-0

Semyon Varlamov earned his league-leading 2nd shutout this season in as many games as the New York Islanders beat the Boston Bruins, 1-0, Monday night at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Varlamov (2-0-0, 0.00 goals against average, 1.000 save percentage in two games played) made 27 saves en route to the shutout win for New York.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-1-0, 1.46 GAA, .923 SV% in two games played) stopped 16 out of 17 shots faced for a .941 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 1-1-1 (three points) on the season and dropped to a tie for 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Islanders improved to 2-1-0 on the season (four points) and moved up to a tie for 2nd place with the Philadelphia Flyers– at least temporarily, as the Flyers were in action Monday night.

Boston also fell to 18-3-1 in their last 22 games against New York in the regular season.

Prior to puck drop, the Islanders aired a National Hockey League produced video on the Jumbotron celebrating the 63rd anniversary of when Willie O’Ree broke the league’s color barrier on Jan. 18, 1958, with the Bruins.

All 31 teams have been sporting O’Ree decals on their helmets with the words “Celebrating Equality” emblazoned on a profile of O’Ree wearing his famous fedora for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend.

O’Ree will have his No. 22 retired by Boston ahead of their matchup with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 18th this season. They will honor him again as soon as possible whenever fans will be allowed at TD Garden.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few changes to his lineup with Ondrej Kase (upper body) out against the Islanders on Monday.

Patrice Bergeron centered the first line with Brad Marchand in his usual spot on the left wing, while Jake DeBrusk was moved up to the first line right wing.

Nick Ritchie took DeBrusk’s usual spot on the second line left wing with David Krejci at center and Jack Studnicka on the right wing.

Charlie Coyle centered the third line with Anders Bjork to his left and Craig Smith to his right, while the fourth line remained untouched.

On defense, Jeremy Lauzon and Charlie McAvoy remained paired, while Matt Grzelcyk was partnered with Brandon Carlo and Jakub Zboril had Kevan Miller by his side.

Monday night marked 300 career NHL games for Carlo and 200 career NHL games for Grzelcyk. Both defenders have spent their entire careers with Boston thus far.

Kase missed his first game this season due to injury after taking a stick up high in Saturday afternoon’s, 2-1, overtime loss in New Jersey, while David Pastrnak missed his third straight game and is yet to make his season debut after offseason hip surgery.

Pastrnak remains ahead of schedule, however, and is likely to return before his original prognosis of Feb. 16th.

Greg McKegg, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton and Dan Vladar were in the press box as healthy scratches and taxi squad members Monday night.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Carlo cross checked Matt Martin and presented the first power play of the evening to the Islanders at 7:25 of the first period.

New York wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Isles forward, Casey Cizikas, knocked down Coyle without the puck and earned a trip to the penalty box for interference at 16:40.

Boston was not able to score on the resulting power play.

Entering the first intermission, the game remained tied, 0-0, while the Bruins were leading in shots on goal, 11-3.

New York held the advantage in blocked shots (7-3), takeaways (3-1) and hits (9-6), while both teams had three giveaways each, were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage and 0/1 on the power play after 20 minutes on Monday.

Adam Pelech was guilty of holding Marchand 53 seconds into the second period and presented the Bruins with their second power play opportunity of the night.

Boston’s skater advantage was cut short, however, as Ritchie slashed Scott Mayfield and earned a trip to the sin bin at 1:43 of the middle frame.

New York earned a short power play after an abbreviated 4-on-4 sequence, but the Isles still weren’t able to score on the power play.

The Islanders lost count at one point and had too many skaters on the ice, resulting in a bench minor that was served by Jordan Eberle at 6:53.

Boston’s power play was powerless and New York got by unscathed.

Late in the period, Smith clipped Varlamov in the skate with his stick, which Varlamov embellished for dramatic affect, but was goaltender interference nonetheless.

The Islanders went back on the power play with Smith in the box for goaltender interference at 15:45, but Boston’s penalty kill held their ground.

Through 40 minutes of action on Monday, the game was still tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins outshooting the Islanders, 17-10.

New York, however, actually led in shots on goal in the second period alone, 7-6, as well as in blocked shots (11-10), takeaways (7-1), giveaways (8-4), hits (20-15) and faceoff win% (60-40) heading into the second intermission.

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play prior to the final frame of regulation.

Marchand cross-checked Eberle to kick things off with a trip to the penalty box at 1:17 of the third period.

Once again, though, Boston’s penalty kill did not concede to New York’s power play.

Moments later, Eberle tripped Grzelcyk while the two players were tied up– causing Grzelcyk to fall awkwardly to the ice and leave the game with an upper body injury (he was favoring his left arm, for the record).

Trent Frederic served Grzelcyk’s interference infraction, while Eberle was assessed a tripping minor at 5:43, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes early in the period.

Late in the period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1) hit a home run on a puck that was floating in mid-air as Pelech fired a shot that deflected off of Bergeron’s stick before Pageau whacked it into the twine above Rask’s blocker side.

Pelech (1) and Ryan Pulock (1) tallied the assists on the game’s first and only goal at 15:51 of the third period.

The Islanders took the, 1-0, lead and that was enough for the final result on Monday.

Less than a minute later, McAvoy was called for holding against Anthony Beauvillier at 16:07, but once again New York’s power play was powerless.

With 1:35 remaining in the game, Rask vacated his net for an extra attacker.

The Bruins used their timeout after a stoppage with 51.4 seconds left in the action, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, the Islanders had won, 1-0, and Varlamov recorded the shutout.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 27-17, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone, while New York wrapped up Monday night’s action leading in blocked shots (17-12), hits (31-26) and faceoff win% (51-49).

The Bruins held the final advantage in giveaways (10-9) on Monday.

The Islanders finished the game 0/5 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins finished their three-game road trip 1-1-1 to start the 2020-21 56-game regular season.

Boston returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and Saturday for their first two home games of the season at TD Garden. The B’s then host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 26th and 28th before hitting the road again.

For the first time since Nov. 2, 2013, the Islanders beat the Bruins on home ice. New York beat Boston, 3-1, that day.

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NHL Nick's Net

Sharangovich’s 1st lifts Devils over Bruins in overtime, 2-1

You always remember your first time and Yegor Sharangovich will certainly always remember his first career National Hockey League goal, since he scored it with about two seconds left in overtime on Saturday to give the New Jersey Devils a, 2-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center.

New Jersey goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood (1-0-1, 1.85 goals against average, .954 save percentage in two games played), made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 SV% in the overtime win.

Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (0-0-1, 1.85 GAA, .954 SV% in one game played) stopped 29 out of 31 shots faced for a .935 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 1-0-1 (three points) on the season and remains tied for 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division with New Jersey– now 1-0-1 on the season (also three points).

The Bruins dropped to 14-6-4 all time in 24 games at Prudential Center, outscoring the Devils, 69-48, in that span.

Bruce Cassidy made a few lineup changes as Craig Smith made his Bruins debut after missing the season opener on Thursday night in New Jersey due to a lower body injury.

Smith was placed in his expected role on the third line right wing with Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle, while Anders Bjork was moved up to the first line right wing with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

As a result, Jack Studnicka was a healthy scratch on Saturday afternoon.

No other lineup changes were made, leaving Studnicka in the press box with Greg McKegg, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar and David Pastrnak (hip).

Kevan Miller and Miles Wood exchanged fisticuffs just 19 seconds into the action on Saturday afternoon as Wood was expected to respond for running into Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, twice on Thursday night.

Cassidy made it clear to his team that he didn’t want to see opponents start a trend of getting friendly with his goaltender, so Miller was compelled to exchange pleasantries with the Devils forward.

Both players received fighting majors– the first fight of the season for Boston and the first fight for Miller since Jan. 29, 2019, when No. 86 in black and gold fought Winnipeg Jets center, Adam Lowry.

About five minutes later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Jack Hughes and was assessed a minor penalty at 5:45 of the first period, yielding the first power play of the game to New Jersey.

The Devils were not able to convert on their first skater advantage of the afternoon.

Moments later, Matt Tennyson was called for holding against Coyle at 9:02 and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the game.

Boston’s power play spent more time chasing the puck outside of their attacking zone than they did at setting up anything on the ensuing power play.

Late in the opening frame, Ty Smith fired a shot from the point that Wood (2) tipped while screening Halak in the slot to give the Devils the, 1-0, lead.

Smith (1) and Hughes (3) tallied the assists on Wood’s goal at 16:15.

With the primary assist, Smith became the fourth defender in New Jersey’s franchise history to record a point in each of his first two career games, joining Viacheslav Fetisov (1989-90), Les Auge (1980-81) and Barry Beck (1977-78) in the process.

About a minute later, Sean Kuraly and Kyle Palmieri exchanged slashes and receiving minor penalties, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes at 17:34.

Entering the first intermission, the Devils led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 8-7, in shots on goal.

New Jersey held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (4-3) and hits (10-3), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (65-35) after 20 minutes of action Saturday afternoon.

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot that Ritchie redirected past Blackwood, but the would-be goal was immediately waved off due to incidental contact with the New Jersey goaltender.

Smith appeared to bump into Blackwood, despite Boston’s protest as Cassidy used a coach’s challenge on the grounds that he thought his player was pushed by a Devils defender into Blackwood.

Nevertheless, the call on the ice stood. The Bruins hadn’t scored and were instead assessed a bench minor for delay of game.

Jake DeBrusk served the infraction against Boston at 16:01 of the second period, but New Jersey wasn’t able to score on the ensuing power play.

Instead, the Bruins worked a little magic while shorthanded.

Marchand worked his way around Palmieri and into the attacking zone before setting up Bergeron (1) for his 18th career shorthanded goal.

Marchand (2) had the only assist on Bergeron’s snap shot goal as the B’s tied the game, 1-1, at 17:16 of the second period.

At some point in the middle frame, Ondrej Kase took a stick up high from Wood in a corner battle and did not return to the action.

Entering the second intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins outshooting the Devils, 20-16, including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.

New Jersey led in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (5-3), giveaways (9-5) and hits (17-11), while Boston led in faceoff win% (64-36).

The Devils were 0/2 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play after 40 minutes of action.

Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, P.K. Subban held and wrestled Trent Frederic to the ground resulting in a minor infraction for holding 28 seconds into the third period.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Grzelcyk hooked Janne Kuokkanen and cut a rut to the penalty box at 18:36. The Devils used their timeout to draw up a game-winning plan on the power play, but it was to no avail.

New Jersey couldn’t score before the horn, which meant they would have a 4-on-3 skater advantage to begin what would usually be five minutes of sudden death 3-on-3 overtime.

After 60 minutes of gameplay, the score remained tied, 1-1, with the Devils outshooting the Bruins, 27-25, including an, 11-5, advantage in the third period alone for New Jersey.

The Bruins had taken control of blocked shots (9-7), but the Devils still held the advantage in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (13-5) and hits (23-14).

Boston continued to dominate faceoff win% (64-36), however.

As no penalties were called in overtime, New Jersey finished the afternoon 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Cassidy rolled out Bergeron, McAvoy and Miller to start overtime while on the penalty kill.

Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, started Hughes, Palmieri, Damon Severson and Subban.

Neither team could score until Sharangovich (1) ended it in the dying seconds after the Devils forced a turnover in the attacking zone and Sharangovich broke free from Coyle and Grzelcyk while the two Bruins were rushing back to defend.

Sharangovich slid the puck through Halak’s gaping five-hole and won the game at 4:58 of the overtime period.

Severson (1) and Palmieri (1) had the assists on Sharangovich’s first career NHL goal as the 22-year-old forward continued an impressive start to a decent 2020-21 season in professional hockey.

He had 17-8–25 totals in 34 games with Dinamo Minsk (KHL) prior to quarantining for the NHL’s 56-game season with New Jersey.

The Devils finished the afternoon with the, 2-1, overtime victory while leading in shots on goal, 31-28, including a, 4-3, advantage in the extra frame alone.

New Jersey wrapped up Saturday’s action with the advantage in giveaways (13-6) and hits (23-15), while Boston left town with the advantage in blocked shots (10-7) and faceoff win% (65-35).

The Devils improved to 1-0 in overtime this season as the B’s fell to 1-0 in OT.

Both teams are now 1-1 past regulation this season.

Boston is now 0-0-1 when trailing after the first period, 0-0-1 when tied after the second period and 0-0-1 when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

The Bruins wrap up their three-game road trip (1-0-1) to start the 2020-21 season at Nassau Coliseum on Monday against the New York Islanders. Boston returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 21st for their first home game of the season at TD Garden.

There will be no fans in attendance in Boston for the foreseeable future as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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NHL Nick's Net

Marchand helps Bruins beat Devils, 3-2, in shootout victory

The Boston Bruins kicked off the 2020-21 regular season with a, 3-2, shootout win against New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday night.

Tuukka Rask (1-0-0, 1.85 goals against average, .909 save percentage in one game played, one start) made 20 saves on 22 shots faced in the shootout win for the Bruins.

Mackenzie Blackwood (0-0-1, 1.85 goals against average, .946 save percentage in one game played, one start) turned aside 35 out of 37 shots against in the shootout loss for the Devils.

Boston improved to 1-0-0 (two points) on the season, while New Jersey fell to 0-0-1 (one point) on the season.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, improved to 162-66-34 in 262 games with Boston.

Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, kicked off his new gig with a shootout loss as both teams will face each other seven more times this season in the temporarily realigned MassMutual NHL East Division for the 2020-21 season.

For the first time in franchise history (97 seasons), the Bruins will not face the Montreal Canadiens at all in the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting temporary division realignment with the United States’ border with Canada currently closed.

Prior to Thursday night’s action in New Jersey, Patrice Bergeron was named the 20th captain in franchise history on Jan. 6th, replacing Zdeno Chara, who served as the club’s captain from 2006-20, before departing for the Washington Capitals in free agency on Dec. 30, 2020.

David Krejci and Brad Marchand will serve as alternate captains for Boston this season.

Krejci has been an alternate captain since the 2013-14 season, while Marchand has worn an “A” on his jersey off-and-on since the 2018-19 season.

As a result of the ongoing global pandemic, teams are allowed to carry extra players on a “taxi squad” that will not count against their daily salary cap limit.

The Bruins have not announced who they will utilize on their “taxi squad” this season, but Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, Dan Vladar and Greg McKegg all made the trip to New Jersey with the team.

David Pastrnak (hip surgery in the offseason) was out of the lineup against the Devils Thursday night, but is expected to return to play ahead of schedule since his original prognosis when he underwent a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16th.

Craig Smith (lower body injury) missed Thursday night’s action and is yet to make his B’s debut since signing a three-year contract worth $3.100 million per season on Oct. 10th.

Cassidy made a few adjustments to his lines as a result of the injuries and free agency departures in the offseason.

The first line consisted of Marchand at left wing, Bergeron at center and Studnicka on right wing.

Rounding out the top-six forwards on the second line were Ondrej Kase, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

Charlie Coyle centered the third line with Nick Ritchie at his left side and Anders Bjork on his right side, while Sean Kuraly centered the fourth line with Frederic and Chris Wagner as his wings.

On defense, Cassidy started Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller– honoring Miller in his first game back in 651 days since multiple knee injuries dating back to April 2019.

Jeremy Lauzon was paired with Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril was partnered with Brandon Carlo.

Karson Kuhlman remains in COVID protocol, while Par Lindholm, John Moore and Connor Clifton were healthy scratches. Smith and Pastrnak were out of the lineup due to their injuries.

Early in the opening frame, Jesper Boqvist slashed Frederic and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night at 6:14 of the first period.

Boston’s skater advantage didn’t last long as Grzelcyk caught Yegor Sharangovich with a slash at 7:16.

After an abbreviated period of 4-on-4 action followed by a short New Jersey power play, neither team could muster anything on the scoresheet.

McAvoy laid out Sharangovich with a crushing hit at 13:19, but was too far from the puck and assessed a minor infraction for interference.

The Devils were not successful on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the first frame, Miles Wood collided with Rask and cut a rut to the box with a goaltender interference infraction at 17:02.

Boston didn’t waste much time getting to work on the resulting power play as Marchand (1) one-timed a redirection past Blackwood from just outside the crease to give the Bruins the first lead of the night, 1-0.

Krejci (1) and Bergeron (1) notched the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal at 17:40 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were dominating in possession, on the scoreboard, 1-0, and in shots on goal, 16-4.

The B’s also held the advantage in faceoff win percentage, 67-33.

New Jersey, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (8-2) and hits (12-5), while both teams had one takeaway each in the first 20 minutes of game action.

The Devils were 0/2 and the Bruins were 1/2 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Kuraly tripped Sharangovich at 2:41 of the second period and presented New Jersey with an early skater advantage in the period, but Boston’s penalty kill remained strong.

McAvoy was guilty of hooking Janne Kuokkanen at 7:56, but once again New Jersey’s power play couldn’t score.

Midway through the game, the Devils committed a bench minor for too many skaters on the ice at 10:53.

Newcomer, Andreas Johnsson, (acquired in the offseason via a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs) served the penalty while Boston’s power play went powerless.

Through 40 minutes of play on Thursday, the Bruins held onto the, 1-0, lead and led in shots on goal, 26-11– including a, 10-7, advantage in the second period alone.

New Jersey led in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (6-2), giveaways (16-4) and hits (20-8), while Boston led in faceoff win% (63-37) after two periods.

The Devils were 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/3 entering the dressing room for the second intermission.

Kuokkanen was penalized for holding Kuraly and yielded another power play to Boston at 6:18 of the third period.

Shortly after killing off the infraction, Wood (1) broke free from the Bruins’ defense and snapped a shot over Rask’s blocker side to tie the game, 1-1, at 8:51 of the final frame of regulation.

Jack Hughes (1) had the only assist on Wood’s goal.

Moments later, Krejci hooked Travis Zajac and was sent to the sin bin at 10:14, but New Jersey’s power play didn’t last long as Wood ran into Rask again and picked up another goaltender interference infraction at 11:13.

The two clubs had about a minute of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play followed for the Bruins.

Ritchie (1) scored a close range goal similar to Marchand’s to put the B’s back on top, 2-1, with a power-play goal of his own.

Marchand (1) and Grzelcyk (1) tallied the assists on Ritchie’s goal at 13:12, but Boston didn’t hold the lead for long as they surrendered a wacky goal 34 seconds later.

Ty Smith (1) scored his first career National Hockey League goal as the last Devils player to touch the puck before it bounced off of McAvoy, then Lauzon, Lauzon’s stick, McAvoy again and finally floated over Rask and into the twine.

The fluke goal tied the game, 2-2, and was assisted by Matt Tennyson (1) and Hughes (2) at 13:46 of the third period.

At the end of regulation, the score remained even, despite Boston outshooting the Devils, 35-18.

The Bruins had a, 9-7, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone, while New Jersey led in blocked shots (13-6), takeaways (11-3), giveaways (19-6) and hits (26-13) after regulation.

Boston led in faceoff win%, 58-42, entering overtime.

As no penalties were called in the extra frame, the Bruins finished the night 2/5 on the power play, while the Devils went 0/5 on the skater advantage.

The two teams swapped chances in overtime– including a couple of heart-stopping moments where the Devils nearly completed the comeback, but neither side could seal the deal on an overtime win.

Despite Cassidy’s best efforts starting Coyle, DeBrusk and McAvoy in overtime, as well as Ruff’s lineup of Hughes, Kyle Palmieri and P.K. Subban in 3-on-3 OT, a shootout was necessary.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 37-22, despite being outshot, 4-2, in overtime alone.

New Jersey finished Thursday’s effort leading in blocked shots (14-7), giveaways (19-6) and hits (26-13), while the Bruins settled for the final advantage in faceoff win% (57-43).

The Devils elected to shoot first in the shootout and sent Nikita Gusev out to get the job in round one, but Rask stoned him cold as Gusev attempted to go five-hole on the veteran netminder.

Coyle was denied by Blackwood with a pad save as the Bruins forward tried to pull the New Jersey goaltender out of position.

Boqvist was stopped by Rask in a routine save while Kase couldn’t sneak one past Blackwood’s blocker side in the second round of the shootout.

After Hughes lost the puck while attempting to dangle his way into the low slot, Cassidy sent Marchand to try to get the win for Boston.

Marchand came through for his coach and the rest of the Bruins with an off-tempo shot through Blackwood’s five-hole after getting the New Jersey goaltender to commit to his fake handiwork before taking the shot.

The Bruins won the shootout, 1-0, after three rounds and clinched the, 3-2, shootout victory over the Devils to start the 2020-21 season.

It was Boston’s first shootout win since Feb. 20, 2019, when the B’s downed the Vegas Golden Knights on the road in what was also a, 3-2, shootout victory.

With the win, the Bruins improved to 1-0-0 when leading after the first period, 1-0-0 when leading after the second period, 1-0-0 when scoring the game’s first goal and 1-0 in shootouts (1-0 past regulation) this season.

Boston continues their three-game road trip on Saturday afternoon with a rematch against the Devils in New Jersey at 1 p.m. ET before heading to Nassau Coliseum on Monday (Jan. 18th) for a game with the New York Islanders.

The Bruins return to Boston for their home opener at TD Garden on Jan. 21st against the Philadelphia Flyers.

There will be no fans in attendance in Boston due to COVID-19 restrictions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #215- Willie!/2020-21 Season Preview: East Division

The Boston Bruins have finally decided to retire Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 on Feb. 18th. A bunch of signings, waiver transactions and retirements were announced in the last week. Patrice Bergeron is now captain of the Bruins and we preview the East Division for the 2020-21 season.

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

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Numbers Game: 2020-21 Season Standings Projections

As the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 at midnight while New Year’s Eve turned into New Year’s Day, the ongoing global pandemic continued without a second thought despite the world’s optimism for the New Year and, thus, shifted the 2020-21 National Hockey League season into an abbreviated 56-game schedule from Jan. 13th through the first week of May.

Usually, it’d be fine to present divisional projections in accordance with a normal 82-game expected points total formula, but the aforementioned 56-game season schedule would render those numbers inaccurate from the beginning.

82 games is 26 games too many this season.

It would be fine to run a “what if the 2020-21 season were a regular-length season?” piece, but it’s more fun to tackle a challenge when everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

Seriously, don’t look into this too much unless you’re an employee of a team looking to hire someone right now, in which case please ignore the “C” I had in Intro to Stats in college.

Anyway, I’ve taken the liberties of calculating what an 82-game 2020-21 season would’ve looked like, then based the projections for what the 56-game 2020-21 season could look like using this little thing called “pace”.

That’s right. Points pace.

You know, like “if a team earned two points with a win in their first game in an 82-game season, they’d be on a 164-point pace for the season”.

In actuality, the team could go 3-6-1 over their first ten games, yielding seven points on the season through that span and being on a 57.4-point pace over the course of an 82-game season.

If this is too much math you can just tell me to shut up and get to the graphs.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things might go in each division for the upcoming 2020-21 season.

Starting with the NHL’s all-Canadian North Division for the 2020-21 regular season, there’s a few things that jump out immediately as a result of the current projections.

Did realignment have any impact on what the projections look like?

No. For the record, this season’s temporary realignment had no impact on any of the divisions other than how they’re organized.

Instead of seeing the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division, the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division and the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division– they’re all just in the same division.

The expected points total is calculated by first adding marginal goals for and marginal goals against, then multiplying that result by league points per goal.

Divide the number of points expected based on the formula’s derived for what an 82-game season in 2020-21 would’ve looked like by 82 games, then multiply that result by 56 (the number of games in actuality for 2020-21) and you get… …the same exact results you would’ve had for each team if the divisions hadn’t been realigned.

So Montreal would’ve still had an expected points total of 52 points regardless of being in the Atlantic Division or North Division.

The schedule plays no impact on the expected points model.

So every team is just going to earn about a point-a-game?

Not necessarily.

Either all the Canadian teams are playing at about the same level of intensity, which makes for great parity– especially in a division solely comprised of Canadian market clubs.

Or they just would’ve been wherever they would’ve been within their own usual division, but when they’re thrown together it looks… …worse?

In a non-pandemic timeline, the Canadian clubs would be scattered all over the standings with the Oilers competing for the top spot in the Pacific Division with the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Senators would likely be bottom dwellers in the Atlantic.

With the all-Canadian North Division, the best teams could really run away with things or all seven teams could eat each other alive in the division.

What’s the good news then?

At least one Canadian team will make it into the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal, since the first two rounds will be intra-divisional matchups.

Under the current projection, Winnipeg would face Vancouver in the First Round, while Edmonton would take on Toronto in the First Round.

In the West Division, the Colorado Avalanche are the team to beat. The Avs are hungry to avenge their Second Round exit against the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they can stay healthy and bring the Cup back to Denver for the first time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues might have some questions surrounding their goaltending, but the additions of Mike Hoffman and Torey Krug greatly outweigh the subtraction of Alex Pietrangelo– at least when it comes to regular season production.

In terms of experience and leadership, the Vegas Golden Knights picked up Pietrangelo’s talents via free agency and should be in contention for home ice advantage if they’re able to overcome St. Louis’ projected standing.

What about the meat of the order?

Both the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes are in a lot better shape than the Californian hockey teams.

The Wild have Kaapo Kähkönen coming down the pipeline in the crease and depending on how soon he can arrive might influence their final standing compared to Arizona.

Whereas Minnesota must rely on aging veterans, Cam Talbot and Alex Stalock in net, the Coyotes have Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta– a serviceable tandem for Arizona’s needs.

Mikko Koivu was sent out to find a new home as an influx of youth should make the Wild more competitive, but how much will Arizona’s playoff experience play into their drive for making at least another First Round appearance this season– despite losing Carl Söderberg in free agency to the Chicago Blackhawks and trading Derek Stepan to the Ottawa in the offseason.

Time will tell.

Is this the weakest division?

The all-Canadian North Division has the advantage of playing each other and sorting things out themselves instead of spreading their Canadian talents (or lack thereof depending on the team) throughout the league, so yes, the West Division is likely the weakest.

The Los Angeles Kings have some growing pains and salary cap hell to sort out. The Anaheim Ducks are a young team that’s finding their chemistry and building their experience, but are one or two years away from playoff contention.

Finally, the San Jose Sharks have an ever-regressing duo of Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk in the crease to go along with whatever’s left on their blue line that’s not named Brent Burns and (a supposedly 100% healthy) Erik Karlsson.

At least the Sharks brought back Patrick Marleau (third time’s a charm) and other than that, they don’t have that bad of a forward group.

In the 2012-13 lockout shortened 48-game season, 20 out of the league’s then 30 teams at the time finished with at least 49 points or more in the season.

The 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks finished 19 points away from a perfect 96-point season– amassing 77 points in 48 games with a 36-7-5 record.

Chicago is going through a rebuild without Jonathan Toews for possibly an extended period of time and with Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia in the crease.

The good news? They’ll likely end up with a solid lottery pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

The bad news? They’re not going to find themselves having a repeat of their 2013 Stanley Cup championship.

Will any team from the Central Division be like those 2012-13 Blackhawks though?

It’s funny that you ask, because the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning would have to win at least 75% of their games if they want to be anything like the 2012-13 Blackhawks.

Whereas Chicago won 36 out of 48, Tampa would have to win 42 out of 56 games.

It’s not that the Lightning can’t reach 84 points in the 2020-21 season– especially since the Blackhawks almost reached 80 in a shorter span, but rather how good will the rest of the Central Division be and how will the intra-divisional games only schedule impact, well, everything?

Tampa is projected as the regular season division winners with 66 points on the season.

The formula doesn’t take into account the loss of Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette in a trade with the Senators or the loss of Nikita Kucherov for the regular season due to an injury.

It doesn’t take into consideration the intra-divisional schedule, other injuries that are sure to occur, transactions, acts of The Hockey Gods, etc.

The 2012-13 Blackhawks had the advantage of facing mostly regular opponents over 48 games, then progressing through the old format of the playoffs where teams were seeded 1-8 among six divisions of five teams.

Tampa just has to be one of the top-four teams in their division over 56 games against all too familiar faces from night-to-night, then emerge victorious out of the Central to defend their title.

Anything is possible.

Can the Florida Panthers really be a playoff team?

Yes, the expected points model seems to indicate that the Florida Panthers were pretty good at finding the net in the regular season last year and that they should improve their standing, at least.

It doesn’t, however, determine whether or not Sergei Bobrovsky returns to form in quality starts, shutouts, etc.

New Panthers General Manager, Bill Zito, has added Markus Nutivaara and Radko Gudas to the blue line, as well as Anthony Duclair and Patric Hörnqvist to the forwards, so they should definitely be harder to play than in years past.

Gut feeling says three-time Stanley Cup champion head coach, Joel Quenneville, can make something more out of the pieces he’s been handed this season than in 2019-20.

Are the Detroit Red Wings really that bad?

No, but they didn’t do themselves any favors when it comes to utilizing last season’s data for determining this season’s expected points total.

Marginal goals for and marginal goals against can be a cruel animal, but it’s one of the best things to take into account of recency bias.

Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman added Vladislav Namestnikov, Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, Alex Biega and Thomas Greiss to his team, so they won’t at least be intentional pushovers like last season.

The loss of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug in the offseason for the Boston Bruins comes with a price– having to face Chara eight times in the regular season, then possibly Krug and the St. Louis Blues in a 2019 Stanley Cup Final rematch in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Just kidding, the window appears mostly shut in the Hub.

It’s not that Boston can’t win, but rather that they have a bit of an uphill battle to get there.

Yes, their defense is younger, but it’s also more inexperienced. Yes, they added Craig Smith for goal scoring power, but it’s no Mike Hoffman.

At least David Pastrnak is looking to make a return ahead of schedule from his offseason surgery, but don’t be fooled by their six-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the East Division projection.

Every second matters in a 56-game season. If they get off to a rocky start, they risk going from a surefire playoff contender (for at least another year or two) to missing out on the 2021 postseason.

The Buffalo Sabres added Taylor Hall, what gives?

Again, if you haven’t learned by now, expected points totals do not take signing the 2017-18 Hart Memorial Trophy winner to a one-year, $8.000 million contract into account.

Hall could be the winger Jack Eichel needs to convince him not to ask for a trade request as much as Eichel could be what Hall needs for a little rejuvenation and to be convinced to stay longer in his reunion with Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger.

No matter what, though, the addition of Eric Staal and more in Buffalo means there’s sure to be improvement this season.

If it was the regular Atlantic Division, the Sabres might be looking at a wild card situation.

But since it’s the temporarily realigned East Division for 2020-21, yeah, there’s a lot more harder competition. Take the Hall pass and try again next season (maybe you’ll get the 1st overall pick).

Explain to me how the New York Rangers and New York Islanders miss the playoffs?

This one is fairly simple.

The East Division is just six teams out of the regular Metropolitan Division, plus the Bruins (pretty good) and Sabres (pretty bad).

As such, it’s almost as if nothing ever happened in terms of the compete level of the overall division, but the playoff format yields only the top-four teams from each division for 2020-21.

Instead of getting, say, seven Metropolitan teams (impossible, yes, but let’s pretend) in the upcoming postseason, you can only have four.

If the B’s are taking one of those spots like they are in this projection, that limits the usual Metropolitan contenders to three leftover playoff berths.

If anything, the Pittsburgh Penguins are at the greatest risk of sliding out of the postseason picture with Tristan Jarry as their starting goaltender and Casey DeSmith as their backup after trading Matt Murray to Ottawa in the offseason.

That’s good news for the Islanders, probably, though the Rangers have more talent on paper (especially if Mathew Barzal isn’t re-signed when the puck drops on Jan. 13th).


So that’s it.

If you’ve made it this far and read every word– congrats, it’s probably time for puck drop already. Surely the calendar must read Jan. 13th by now and you can get back to watching that game you just tuned into.

Stay tuned for more forecasts and (un)related things that don’t have anything to do with expected points totals.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #214- 2020-21 Season Preview: West Division

Zdeno Chara signed with the Washington Capitals, the AHL announced plans for the 2020-21 season, the NHL divisions are sponsored for 2020-21, what’s going on with the New York Islanders, Pierre-Luc Dubois wants out (maybe) and we preview the West Division for the 2020-21 season.

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

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #213- 2020-21 Season Preview: Central Division

The Ottawa Senators did the Tampa Bay Lightning a huge favor. About a $17 million favor, when all is said and done. Meanwhile, a bunch of contracts were signed, we finally know an answer to the Mike Hoffman question, Craig Anderson signed a PTO and might replace Henrik Lundqvist as the Washington Capitals’ backup goaltender and we preview the Central Division for the 2020-21 season.

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

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #212- Let’s Make A Date!

The NHL and NHLPA agreed to a deal on a 56-game season, realignment for 2020-21, dates and more. A bunch of players were signed in the last week, Ryan O’Reilly was named captain of the St. Louis Blues and Henrik Lundqvist will not suit up for the Washington Capitals this season.

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

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Chara, Hoffman and now this?

The Boston Bruins’ long-time captain since the 2006-07 season, 43-year-old Zdeno Chara remains unsigned as the end of the calendar year, 2020, draws near.

Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, has been reported as noting that the defender has had contact from more than 20 teams this offseason, but is focused on re-signing with the Bruins if there’s a deal to be had.

Of course, he could also just flat-out retire.

It’s not that Boston couldn’t use the services of their longtime cornerstone on the blue line, but the Bruins are shaking things up this offseason on defense– partially because of necessity and partially because that’s just how time works.

Torey Krug left for the St. Louis Blues in free agency and guys like Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton and Urho Vaakanainen are all vying for potentially the same couple of spots.

Kevan Miller was brought back on a one-year, $1.250 million deal and John Moore is still on the books through the 2022-23 season at a $2.750 million cap hit.

With a little under $3.000 million in available cap room, the B’s could be looking to sign Chara to a short-term league minimum contract– one-year, $700,000– and present themselves with at least $2.300 million to offer someone like Mike Hoffman or lure back Carl Soderberg into the mix for added scoring touch or depth, respectively.

If they can’t land Hoffman, then Soderberg is likely the best consolation prize as the offseason drags on and two-week quarantine periods might affect how call-ups from the Providence Bruins (AHL) work.

That’s the latest on how AHL roster transactions might be handled this season, by the way. It all depends on what your state, province or region (if short-term bubbles get involved) has to say about moving players within your own organization.

Soderberg might not be better than playing Jack Studnicka every night, but in a pinch he’d be better than nothing.

After all, he did have 35 points in 70 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season and that’s nothing to sneeze at for a bottom-six forward.

As for Chara, it might be a matter of swallowing a little pride.

He certainly is deserving of almost whatever he wants for the career he’s had and role he’s played in Boston’s leadership for almost 15 years.

But if he’s wanting $1.000 million or more for what’s likely his last season in the league, then the Bruins would be smart to bow out unless they’re able to trade someone like Moore and find a durable top-four defender while convincing Chara to minimize his minutes as a bottom-six defender.

Yet that’d mean they wouldn’t be able to find a guy to play on David Krejci’s wing. You know, kind of what they’ve needed since 2015.

As for Hoffman, the one-time 30-goal scorer has reached the 50-point plateau in the last five seasons and somehow remains on the free agent market.

Whereas the Columbus Blue Jackets have about $9.200 million to spend, how much is Hoffman willing to pull a move similar to Taylor Hall’s one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres and try to match Hall’s $8.000 million cap hit this season?

Columbus could be a great landing spot for the 31-year-old winger, but would the Blue Jackets be spurned by yet another player in free agency next offseason? Especially if John Tortorella is what could be holding players up from staying long-term?

To play with the Blue Jackets you have to be a 200-foot player in accordance with Tortorella’s style. That’s likely to keep Hoffman from possibly capitalizing on short-term monetary gain with limited options elsewhere unless he can do more than just score.

He might be the one-dimensional sniper Columbus needs, but not if General Manager, Jarmo Kekäläinen, and Tortorella can’t see eye-to-eye on the team’s plan.

For the Bruins to sign Hoffman and bring his 29-30–59 totals in 69 games with the Florida Panthers last season to the Hub of the Universe, Boston would have to shed some salary in a swap for either a defender as they’re reportedly looking for or some draft picks.

That’s where Anders Bjork could be a suitable asset to send to a team in return for, like, a third round pick or something.

Nevertheless, Boston’s not the “Cup contenders” that they were going into last season.

They might figure out a way to win the East Division regular season standings or they could finish fourth in the division and barely make their way into the postseason.

Regardless, the Bruins need to land a top-six forward if Craig Smith is to settle in and get comfy on the third line and patch the defense for a short term fix if management thinks otherwise about the team’s “Cup contender” status.

It’s this year or bust– and in a 56-game regular season every early season game matters that much more.

Getting off on the right foot without Brad Marchand (possibly) and David Pastrnak on opening night (and missing Pastrnak for at least a month) is vital.

It’s crunch time.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Assessing the Vegas market for Krejci’s wing

While the season’s upon us, there are still a few decisions to made regarding current unsigned free agents and more. Several teams are over the National Hockey League’s $81.5 million salary cap and will need to be compliant before the season begins on Jan. 13th.

One of those teams is the Vegas Golden Knights, who currently sit over the cap at $82,474,104.

Max Pacioretty’s name has come up in the latest round of trade rumors, but he’ll be the first to admit that’s nothing new, since he was subject to many rumors in his time with the Montreal Canadiens for about a decade before the Habs shipped him to Vegas on Sept. 10, 2018, for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick (that originally belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets and was later flipped to the Los Angeles Kings).

Pacioretty carries a $7.000 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season and has a modified no-trade clause.

Considering his longstanding disdain for the Boston Bruins as an opponent, as well as the fact that Boston doesn’t really have the workable cap space (about $3.000 million) to take on Pacioretty without giving up part of the core, the B’s aren’t likely to take a flyer unless they’re bold enough to go all-in on “win now” mode.

There’s actually something most of the Golden Knights core has in common, however– they all have modified no-trade clauses except for defender, Shea Theodore, who just had a bit of a breakout year (13-33–46 totals in 71 games last season).

It’s not likely that Vegas will shift from scooping up William Karlsson, making him into a 40-goal scorer in their inaugural season, then sending him packing in only their fourth season of existence, but they could try to move someone that’s a little more cap friendly by about $900,000 in annual cap hit.

Jonathan Marchessault has come up in the rumor mill and would be a quality second line asset for the Bruins to inquire about.

He reached the 30-goal plateau in 75 games with the Florida Panthers in 2016-17– his first full season– and has put up three consecutive seasons of 20 goals or more since with the Golden Knights, recording career-highs in assists (48) and points (75) in 77 games with Vegas in 2017-18.

At 29-years-old, Marchessault is in the midst of his prime, can play left or right wing and carries a $5.000 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season.

Though David Krejci is in the final year of his current contract, the Bruins wouldn’t just be looking to land someone that’s compatible with No. 46 on their roster, but rather someone that’s reliable for if and when Krejci moves on and someone like Charlie Coyle or Jack Studnicka slots into the second line center role.

There’s one more familiar face Boston could consider asking Vegas about, though he might have to fight Greg McKegg to get his old number back.

It’s Reilly Smith.

At 29, Smith is also in the midst of his prime and carries a cap hit worth $5.000 million per season through 2021-22, with a modified no-trade clause to boot.

Since departing the Bruins in a trade with the Panthers on July 1, 2015, Smith has become a consistent playoff performer, recording eight points in six games with Florida in 2016, 22 points with Vegas in 20 games en route to losing in five games to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, six points in Vegas’ seven-game run in 2019 and 14 points in 20 games with the Golden Knights in the 2020 postseason.

Smith’s numbers in the regular season have also been pretty good– reaching at least 40 points in six out of his seven full seasons, including five seasons of 50 or more points and setting a career-high in goals last season with 27 in 71 games.

Since their inaugural season in 2017-18, Smith has worn an “A” on his Golden Knights jersey.

Vegas also presented Pacioretty with an “A” last season, but has never given Marchessault the designation as an alternate captain.

Not that that’s really too much to look into or anything, but all signs seem to indicate it’d be harder to pry one someone from the Golden Knights’ leadership group, let alone their core rather than Marchessault and his versatile style.

Of course, Vegas would also have to be convinced to take something on from Boston and the Bruins wouldn’t exactly be giving Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon and their head coach, Peter DeBoer, much to work with other than cap space.

Anders Bjork signed a three-year extension on July 29th with the Bruins that carries a cap hit of $1.600 million through 2022-23.

He’ll be a pending-restricted free agent by the end of his current deal, which might be incentive for Vegas to latch onto him in any potential trade, but Bjork has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t exactly dazzled pro scouts with 9-10–19 totals in 58 games last season for the B’s.

Again, though, if Vegas is trying to save money, they might be convinced to take on a reclamation project with a prospect or two and/or a draft pick invovled.

At 24-years-old, Bjork might just need a change of scenery if he can’t tap into his scoring ways with Boston.

Of course, most Bruins fans would like to see Boston’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, try to sell high on Nick Ritchie while he still can– to put it lightly.

Ritchie had 21 points last season in 48 games split between the Anaheim Ducks and Bruins, is 25-years-old and has a $1,498,925 cap hit, which is somehow better than Bjork’s production and value.

He only has one-year left on his current contract, so he’ll be a pending-restricted free agent at season’s end.

But then, of course, there’s a few problems for Boston with trying to move Bjork or Ritchie.

Players are expendable components of the business side of hockey, but they’re human and humans like a little loyalty in their relationships– business or otherwise.

To be signed to an extension over the summer, then dealt to another team before the new season begins or to be acquired at last season’s deadline and moved so early on in your tenure in a new market might put a damper on Boston’s reputation as a free agent destination.

It could also backfire among players with modified no-trade clauses or that are willing to nullify their NTC or no-movement clause, but might reconsider if the Bruins come up in the conversation if that player’s looking for their next stop to have a little more longevity to it.

Oh and there’s the general fact that a team isn’t likely to just hand you a good player for bits and pieces, so Boston could still be working from behind on any potential trades with Vegas.