The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.
Columbus Blue Jackets
47-31-4, 98 points, 5th in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by Boston
Additions: F Marko Dano, F Gustav Nyquist
Subtractions: F Matt Duchene (signed with NSH), F Ryan Dzingel
(signed with CAR), F Mark Letestu (signed with WPG), F Artemi Panarin (signed with NYR), F Lukas Sedlak (KHL), F Sam Vigneault (signed with Cleveland, AHL), D Tommy Cross (signed with FLA), G Jean-Francois Berube (signed with PHI), G Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with FLA), G Keith Kinkaid (signed with MTL)
Still Unsigned: D Adam McQuaid
Re-signed: F Ryan MacInnis, F Sonny Milano, F Justin Scott, D Scott Harrington, D Ryan Murray, D Zach Werenski, G Joonas Korpisalo
Offseason Analysis: After going all-in at the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets went all-out on trying to keep their recently acquired talent in town– as well as their biggest stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky from leaving altogether.
Unfortunately for Columbus, that “high-end” talent had “high-rise” on the mind and then some.
Bobrovsky informed General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, that he didn’t intend to re-sign with the club early in the season, Panarin turned down more money for The Big Apple, Matt Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway and Ryan Dzingel fell victim to coaching decisions that limited his playing time.
All of them left the Blue Jackets.
Whether you believe in their core (Pierre-Luc Dubois for Leader of the Free Universe!) or not, Columbus is going to face a setback this season.
Head coach, John Tortorella, is right in his analysis of the team in that the roster had something going en route to their playoff run that was cut short in the Second Round by the Boston Bruins.
Columbus was shaping up for something special– their first playoff series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, at least– if not more this season and in the coming years.
As much as fans like Tortorella’s approach to speak his mind about everything, there are times when it backfires.
Dzingel didn’t betray the Blue Jackets organization by signing with the Carolina Hurricanes when he wasn’t getting ice time in the first place. Plus, he didn’t technically leave a “winning” team to go elsewhere to win if the team that he signed with (Carolina) made it further in the postseason than Columbus did.
The Hurricanes made the Eastern Conference Final. The Blue Jackets did not.
Sure, Panarin joined the New York Rangers and Bobrovsky joined the Florida Panthers, but both of those teams missed the playoffs altogether last season. Tortorella has a point to be made about those two players, however, his point is that of a TV analyst’s mindset.
When the Blue Jackets broadcast approaches Bobrovsky’s exit, they can talk about how he betrayed a “culture that was committed to Columbus/winning the Cup this season” or whatever.
They get paid to do that– to please the watchful eyes in Columbus’ ownership box.
When the mantra comes from Tortorella, he is seen as out of touch with his players– that he couldn’t get them to “buy-in” and win, not that he couldn’t communicate with them and coach them effectively for better or worse.
It’s bulletin board material that makes sports fans tune in to ESPN for other sports and NBC between periods.
What did Stephen A. Smith say now? Why does Mike Milbury look like he wants to punch Jeremy Roenick in the face?
Because of their opinions, their “hot takes” and their ability to sway fan bases to and from narratives driven by ratings, owners and us and them mentality.
Tortorella had a stint with NHL Network before becoming head coach in Columbus. He’s a quintessential analyst that’s deserving of respect for his musings.
But sometimes his coaching style intersects with his analytical mind.
Sometimes his brash statements don’t translate well with his message, the medium it’s on (TV, Twitter or the like) and sometimes we forget how Toe Blake, Scotty Bowman, Punch Imlach or Art Ross utilized their power to drum up the local media, verbally abuse their players, etc. from a different era.
Because it’s Tortorella, because he has a fire to win, because he’s already won it before and wants to win it again– there’s a whole host of reasons why people often react with such strong visceral opinions the way they do to Tortorella, Mike Babcock and others in the league.
Columbus has one thing on their mind from this offseason– moving forward.
Offseason Grade: F
Last season might have been one last hurrah for the Blue Jackets’ current setup. Kekalainen gave Tortorella all the pieces to push for a deep run, Tortorella botched the lineup at times, certain players couldn’t elevate their game at other times– it was all too soon for an organization and fans that have been yearning for playoff success for almost 20 years.
They didn’t make any changes behind the bench and Kekalainen still has his job. It was a risk worth taking, but now there’s consequences to pay at this season’s end if ownership doesn’t see growth in what’s left behind. Columbus failed to retain what could’ve been this offseason and their consolation prize was Gustav Nyquist.
A one-year setback won’t hurt them. Two years might.
The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).
Friday afternoon the National Hockey League’s PR department released a statement on behalf of League Commissioner Gary Bettman indicating the NHL is not utilizing an early termination clause in their current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA).
In short, though the league has concerns of their own, it is ultimately beneficial “to operate under the terms of the current CBA– while working with the [NHLPA] to address our respective concerns…” the statement read in part, adding that the “[benefits] far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating [the CBA] following the upcoming season.”
Bettman’s statement read in full,
“Based on the current state of the game and the business of the game, the NHL believes it is essential to continue building upon the momentum we have created with our Players and, therefore, will not exercise its option to reopen the CBA.
“Rather, we are prepared to have the current CBA remain in effect for its full term– three more seasons through the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. It is our hope that a continued, sustained period of labor peace will enable us to further grow the game and benefit all constituent groups: NHL Players, Clubs, our business partners and, most important, our fans.
“In any CBA, the parties can always identify issues they are unhappy with and would like to see changed. This is certainly true from the League’s standpoint. However, our analysis makes clear that the benefits of continuing to operate under the terms of the current CBA– while working with the Players’ Association to address our respective concerns– far outweigh the disruptive consequences of terminating it following the upcoming season.”
The two sides have been meeting regularly throughout the offseason to discuss a possible extension of the current CBA and talks have been “productive and cordial” as noted by both sides in the NHL’s press release.
While the NHL would certainly like to see a larger cut of the revenue from all streams (what owner wouldn’t?), the league would also like to push forward with further cementing its image as a global brand.
A couple hours before Bettman’s statement was released, the NHLPA made it known in a media release of their own that the NHL had informed them the league would not be using its opt-out to terminate the current CBA next year.
The union has until Sept. 15th to reopen the current CBA, giving both sides a year to negotiate an agreement (either a new CBA or an extension on the current CBA) before it expires.
For those that are dying to know, the earliest possible date of a work stoppage would be the 2020-21 season.
But there’s reason to believe there won’t be any such interruption in the business and game fans enjoy.
Yes, the NHLPA would like to rework the current frameworks surrounding escrow, Olympic participation (specifically in the upcoming 2022 Winter Games) and the overall split of hockey-related revenue.
Those things have been long-known since (in order) escrow was introduced in the last decade, the players weren’t able to participate in the 2018 Winter Games and, finally, forever.
Both sides are wanting more international competition and are communicating about the possibility to hold another World Cup of Hockey as early as February 2021, following the cancellation of the 2020 World Cup of Hockey announced back in January.
Some players are worried the salary cap is inflating too fast and isn’t sustainable given current revenues.
However, there’s two reasonable methods of dealing with this and one additional method both sides would’ve done in the past (*ahem* work stoppage).
First, under the current escrow stipulations, a small percentage of players salaries is withheld by the league in a trust setup to account for “unexpected” expenses, such that, if the league revenue isn’t as much as owners had hoped, then the money in the trust goes back to boost the owners wallets.
It’s not terrible– in concept– however, the current escrow situation for the league and players is that the percentage fluctuates from year-to-year, let alone financial quarter-to-quarter.
As such, players can miss out on a variable amount of salary, because the league can (and will) sometimes fudge the numbers in revenue growth to show that the league needs the money more and can therefore boost the salary cap the following season.
It’s a way of dangling bait in the water for the larger fish (pending-UFAs) to potentially make more on their next contract in total salary, cap hit, etc., but they might not actually make that much since the escrow exists.
In other words, $10.000 million cap hits can be handed out like candy under the current rules because owners know they won’t actually end up shelling out $10.000 million a year to their best player(s).
It’s the union’s interest to benefit not just the top-end players, but all players– as they’re all union members (see, that’s how unions work).
The salary cap was $79.500 million in 2018-19– up $4.500 million from 2017-18– but only raised to $81.500 million for the 2018-19 season.
While general managers continue to handout bad contracts on July 1st as they always do, the intent is worth more than the bad asset management that may or may not have played out for your favorite team this summer.
A lower raise in the salary cap means that there might be a lower escrow withheld from player’s salaries, which means everyone makes more money.
Owners don’t have to spend to the (would be more expensive) ceiling and the lower limit doesn’t go up as much as a league-wide mandatory minimum payment (*ahem* Eugene), while players take home more of what they were signed for.
If both sides continue to keep escrow low and barely raise the salary cap from year-to-year under the current CBA, then both sides just might be happier in the long-run.
Then there’s the second option, which is really just an extension of the first option, but with the mutual understanding of what’s down the road.
The current United States national broadcasting rights deal with NBC Universal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season– coinciding with the current CBA’s expiration date (as long as the NHLPA doesn’t enact their early termination clause).
Not that all parties involved have to wait until the last minute on everything, but if escrow is lowered and the salary cap isn’t increased as much from season-to-season for the next three seasons, then by the next US broadcasting rights contract, everyone will make out a winner.
The current deal brought in $2 billion ($200 million per season) between NBC and NBCSN in the United States and CBC/Sportsnet in Canada.
Most major professional North American sports leagues are now seeing at least double that total amount for the same timeframe– meaning it’s quite possible the NHL will add close to a billion, if not at least a billion, dollars per season to the league’s total revenue.
Even if the NHLPA gave up a percentage of their current revenue split with the league, just about any percentage out of a billion US dollars per season is worth more than the current percentage out of $200 million per season.
If both sides can keep escrow low, keep the cap from inflating too much and wait three seasons, then it’s a surefire cash cow as the demand for sports on major networks increases in the States.
But wait, what about streaming?
It’s true– streaming live sports is a growing industry and that can all be attached or sold separately by the league in the next media package.
Speaking of which, it might be time to return to two major US networks in favor of even bigger gains…
Regardless, both the NHL and the NHLPA are in much better shape than the last couple of CBA negotiations.
This time around– provided everyone is patient and actually understands the reasoning behind the careful decision making– it’s really a no brainer.
There’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Of note, the NHLPA’s executive board is scheduled to meet in Chicago on Wednesday. There’s been a work stoppage prior to the ratifying of the past three CBAs, yielding a 48-game season in 1994-95, the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season and 48-game season in 2012-13.
But the league isn’t falling on economically hard times in nearly half of its franchises (like in the 1990s), the salary cap was created (and a necessity) out of the 2004-05 lockout and the initial “growing pains” of the salary cap era seem to have sorted themselves out since 2012.
For the first time since 2011, there will be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final as a result of the Boston Bruins’, 5-1, victory over the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Sunday.
Boston has never hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final since the adoption of the best-of-seven format in the Final in 1939.
The Bruins last defeated the Vancouver Canucks on the road in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and have not won the Cup at home since beating the Blues in 1970.
Tuukka Rask (15-8 record, 1.93 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) made 28 saves on 29 shots against (.966 SV%) in the win for the B’s.
Rask entered Game 6 with a 5-5 record in 10 career games when facing elimination (2.64 GAA, .899 SV%)– including a 2-0 mark during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (1.50 GAA, .947 SV%).
He’s made 145 saves on 149 shots faced in five elimination games this postseason for a .973 SV% and improved to 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .953 SV% when facing elimination this spring.
The Boston goaltender also became the 19th NHL goaltender to record 50 career playoff wins.
Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington (15-10, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV% in 25 GP this postseason) stopped 27 out of 31 shots faced (.871 SV%) in the loss.
He is 13-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and postseaosn this year.
St. Louis finished 6-7 at home this postseason, while Boston finished 8-3 on the road. The Blues are a league-best 9-3 on the road this postseason as the series heads back to TD Garden.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted rookie winger, Karson Kulhman, on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while reverting back to 12 forwards and six defenders in the lineup.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included Chris Wagner, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, David Backes, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh and Trent Frederic.
Wagner returned to practice on Saturday for the B’s, but was ruled “doubtful” to return to game action for the first time since blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Matt Grzelcyk was not medically cleared and remains in concussion protocol, while Kevan Miller (lower body) is still out.
Blues head coach, Craig Berube added Robert Thomas back into his lineup for the first time since Game 1 in the series, while Ivan Barbashev served his one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Bruins forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.
Sean Kuraly sent the puck over the glass and out of the playing surface 2:42 into the first period and was charged with an automatic delay of game minor penalty.
St. Louis did not convert on their first power play of the night and followed up with a penalty of their own– Brayden Schenn for boarding Joakim Nordstrom at 7:17 of the first period.
The Blues held a, 4-1, advantage in shots on goal at the time of their first penalty and killed off five-straight penalties through the last two games in the series.
A little over a minute later, Ryan O’Reilly sent the puck out of play and received an automatic infraction, yielding a two-skater advantage to the Bruins at 8:19.
It was Boston’s first 5-on-3 advantage this postseason and the B’s weren’t going to go quietly on the power play for long.
Almost 20 seconds after the 5-on-3 began, Torey Krug worked the puck over to David Pastrnak at the point, whereby No. 88 in black-and-gold sent a pass across the ice to Brad Marchand (9) for the one-timer over Binnington’s glove– giving Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.
Pastrnak (10) and Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s power play goal at 8:40 of the first period.
The goal was Boston’s 24th power play goal this postseason– tying their franchise record set in 1991. It was also Marchand’s 7th career goal in the Stanley Cup Final (19 games)– tying for 2nd with Wayne Cashman (7 Stanley Cup Final goals in 26 games).
Only Bobby Orr (16 games) and Johnny Bucyk (24 games) had more goals in the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins with eight.
Late in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara was tied up with David Perron in front of the goal and received the only minor penalty from their net front fracas– a two-minute minor for interference at 18:21.
St. Louis’ ensuing power play would extend into the second period after the Blues failed to capitalize on the skater advantage by the first intermission.
After one period of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-9, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (10-9), while St. Louis led in takeaways (6-1), giveaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (59-41).
The Notes were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period and the B’s were 1/2.
With 21 seconds left to kill on Chara’s minor, Boston began the second period shorthanded. The Bruins successfully killed off the remainder of Chara’s penalty.
Midway through the middle frame, Marchand tripped Alex Pietrangelo and sent the Blues on the power play at 9:11 of the second period.
Though St. Louis didn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play, they did send five shots on goal, including one that rang the post and off of Rask’s back as the Bruins goaltender reached around his back to guide the puck with his glove hand while twirling out of the crease.
Moments later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Vladimir Tarasenko and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 13:43 of the second period.
Once again, Boston killed off the penalty.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-19, in shots on goal– despite St. Louis’, 10-8, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (12-7) heading into the second intermission, while the Blues led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (9-3), hits (23-19) and face-off win% (56-44).
Heading into the third period, the Notes were 0/4 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were still 1/2 on the power play.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Brandon Carlo (2) let go of a floater from the point that Vesa Toskala’ed Binnington on an odd bounce (the puck bounced off his blocker and into the twine) to make it, 2-0, Bruins.
DeBrusk (7) had the only assist on Carlo’s goal at 2:31 of the third period.
The goal would become the eventual game-winner and Carlo’s first career game-winning postseason goal.
Midway through the third, Kuhlman (1) unloaded a wrist shot from the face-off dot to the left of the Blues goaltender and sent the puck over Binnington’s blocker to give Boston a three-goal lead.
Krejci (11) had the only assist on Kuhlman’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal at 10:15 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-0.
As a result of his goal, Kuhlman became the 21st Bruin to score a goal in the postseason– tying the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the most goal scorers by a team in one postseason.
Less than a couple minutes later, O’Reilly (7) squeaked a one-timer just past the goal line after the puck bounced off of Rask’s leg pad and out.
Video review determined O’Reilly had indeed scored at 12:01 of the third period and cut Boston’s lead to two-goals with Pietrangelo (15) and Perron (8) tallying the assists on O’Reilly’s goal.
Rather than backing down, the Bruins pressed forward as Kuraly used the body to free the puck along the end boards and work a short pass to Marchand in the low slot.
No. 63 in black-and-gold pushed the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the drag and top-shelf goal while Binnington dove to poke-check the puck off of Pastrnak’s stick in desperation.
Marchand (14) and Kuraly (6) were credited with the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 14:06 and Boston led, 4-1, after amassing three goals on their last nine shots including Pastrnak’s goal.
With about 4:12 remaining in the action, Berube pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.
Shortly thereafter, Chara (2) flipped the puck from his own face-off circle to the left of Rask into the empty twine at 17:41.
The 42-year-old captain became the 2nd oldest goal scorer in the Stanley Cup Final in Bruins franchise history since Mark Recchi (43 in 2011).
In the closing seconds of the game, Sammy Blais slashing Connor Clifton and the two engaged in a shoving match resulting in two minor penalties for Blais (slashing and roughing) and a minor penalty for Clifton (roughing) at 19:38.
Five seconds later, after a face-off in Boston’s attacking zone, Robert Bortuzzo cross checked Noel Acciari and picked up a minor infraction as well as a ten-minute misconduct at 19:43.
The Bruins finished the action with a 5-on-3 advantage as the final horn sounded on Boston’s, 5-1, victory in Game 6.
Boston finished the night with the series tied 3-3 and leading in shots on goal (32-29), as well as blocked shots (16-9).
St. Louis led in giveaways (12-4), hits (29-27) and face-off win% (59-41) in their final home game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues went 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/2 on the skater advantage Sunday night.
Boston improved to 25-1 all-time in the postseason when Marchand has a goal and 8-0 this postseason when Marchand scores.
The team that scored first in this series has won Games 3, 4, 5 and 6.
The Bruins forced a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final for the 17th time in league history and first since their Cup-clinching victory in 2011.
The Bruins have also faced a 3-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series 25 times in franchise history– winning four of their 24 prior instances, including the 1941 Semifinal, 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2019 First Round.
Puck drop for Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final is slated for a little after 8 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.
It’ll be the 2nd Game 7 of the postseason for both clubs and 6th Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs– tied for the 2nd most Game 7s in one postseason in league history.