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Bergeron’s game-winner lifts B’s over Canes, 4-3, in 2OT

Patrice Bergeron ended things much earlier on Wednesday than the National Hockey League’s 4th longest playoff game Tuesday night, but it took double overtime to reach the, 4-3, victory for the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.

Tuukka Rask (1-2 in three games played, 2.41 goals against average, .909 save percentage this postseason) made 25 saves on 28 shots against for an .893 SV% in the double overtime win for the Bruins at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario.

Hurricanes goaltender, Petr Mrazek (2-1 in three games played, 2.09 GAA, .922 SV% this postseason) stopped 36 out of 40 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the loss.

Game 1 for Boston and Carolina was delayed from Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET until Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. ET due to Tuesday afternoon’s Game 1 matchup between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning requiring five overtime’s to determine a winner (Lightning, 3-2– puck drop was at 3:00 p.m. ET, but the game ended at 9:22 p.m. ET).

The Hurricanes were without Justin Williams and Sami Vatanen in their lineup as both players were ruled “unfit to play” by Carolina’s head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, about 20 minutes before puck drop.

On a positive note for Canes fans, Dougie Hamilton was back in action for Carolina after sustaining an injury that kept him out of Carolina’s Qualifier between breaking his left fibula in Columbus on Jan. 16th and Wednesday’s Game 1 against Boston.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from last Sunday’s, 2-1, loss to the Washington Capitals in Boston’s final Round Robin game to Game 1 against Carolina, while Brad Marchand took sole possession of seventh place in franchise history for most playoff games as a Bruin in his 112th career playoff game– surpassing Rick Middleton– at puck drop.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches on Wednesday included Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Boston and Carolina are meeting for the sixth time in the postseason. The Bruins hold the all time series advantage, 4-1, with 19 wins and 11 losses in the process entering Wednesday.

The B’s beat the Hartford Whalers in seven games in the 1990 Adams Division Semifinal and in six games in the 1991 Adams Division Semifinal, then beat the Hurricanes after the Whalers relocated to North Carolina in six games in the 1999 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

In the last 20 years, however, the Hurricanes defeated the Bruins in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinal, while Boston swept Carolina in four games in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

The Hurricanes made the playoffs after sweeping the New York Rangers in three games in their 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier series– marking back-to-back postseason appearances for Carolina for the first time since 2001-2002.

The B’s beat the Canes in the season series 1-0-0 in one prior meeting (a, 2-0, shutout victory for Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins on Dec. 3rd) before the ongoing pandemic shortened the 2019-20 regular season.

Nino Niederreiter caught Torey Krug with an elbow and presented the Bruins with the game’s first power play at 3:24 of the first period.

Carolina’s penalty killing unit successfully kept Boston off the scoreboard, however, and did not allow a power-play goal against.

Almost midway into the opening frame, the Bruins recorded the first shot on goal of the game at 7:03.

A couple of minutes later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Morgan Geekie and presented the Hurricanes with a power play opportunity at 9:25, but the Canes did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Fear not, however, as Carolina had swung enough momentum in their favor for the game’s first goal after Warren Foegele broke into the attacking zone.

Foegele moved the puck to Sebastian Aho, who then cycled it over to Teuvo Teravainen before No. 86 in white and red set up Joel Edmundson (1) for the one-timer goal as Rask had to work laterally across the crease while his Bruins teammates lacked pressure in front of him and gave up the, 1-0, lead to the Hurricanes.

Teravainen (2) and Aho (6) notched the assists on Edmundson’s first goal of the postseason at 13:02 of the first period.

Late in the period, however, Bergeron won a faceoff back to Marchand in the offensive zone, whereby Marchand cycled the puck around the faceoff dot before making a quick pass to David Pastrnak (1) for a redirection in the slot past Mrazek– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Marchand (1) and Bergeron (2) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 17:45.

After 20 minutes of play, the the score was tied, 1-1, with the Bruins outshooting the Hurricanes, 9-4.

Carolina held the advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (1-0) and hits (18-11), however, while Boston led in giveaways (7-2) and faceoff win percentage (63-37) entering the first intermission.

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

Ondrej Kase was assessed a minor penalty for holding against Hamilton at 1:42 of the second period and sent the Hurricanes back on the power play early in the middle frame.

Once more, however, the Canes didn’t convert on the skater advantage, however– a pattern that became a trend all afternoon for both teams.

Moments later, Charlie Coyle (1) buried a loose puck from point blank to give Boston a, 2-1, lead at 4:38 of the second period, except there was just one thing– nobody knew if there had been goaltender interference, a hand pass or if Mrazek had frozen the puck.

Brind’Amour made it clear to Hurricanes beat reporters after his media availability that no official had clarified what was or wasn’t called on the ice and offered Carolina’s head coach to “pick one” if he was interested in challenging the ruling on the ice.

After a failed coach’s challenge by Brind’Amour for a “missed stoppage in the offensive zone”, the call on the ice (goal) was upheld and the Hurricanes were assessed a bench minor for delay of game.

Brind’Amour’s comments regarding the “joke” of a league earned him a $25,000 fine from the NHL, by the way.

In his defense, the league’s policy for clearly indicating and communicating what decision(s) have been made on calls by officials needs work (like, for instance, definitively making a call and alerting both coaches of exactly what call was made and options thereafter).

While shorthanded, however, the Hurricanes benefitted from a blown play from Pastrnak when he tried to force a pass through the neutral zone that Brock McGinn (1) intercepted, made his own breakaway, waltzed into the attacking zone and scored on a backhand over Rask’s glove while Boston’s power play unit trailed behind.

McGinn’s shorthanded goal tied the game, 2-2, at 4:59 of the second period– 21 seconds after Boston had taken their first lead since arriving in the bubble.

Midway through the middle period, Andrei Svechnikov caught Pastrnak with a slash and was sent to the sin bin for two minutes at 11:54, but the Bruins didn’t score on the resulting power play.

Shortly after returning to even strength action, the two teams dropped down to 4-on-4 play for a couple minutes after Jordan Staal and Coyle each received high sticking infractions for antagonizing one another at 14:07.

Neither team had any issue and resumed full strength action at 16:07.

Through 40 minutes of play, the score was tied, 2-2, while the Bruins were leading in shots on goal, 21-9.

Boston held a, 12-5, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone and continued to lead in giveaways (12-6) and faceoff win% (63-37), while Carolina led in blocked shots (16-14), takeaways (5-2) and hits (28-17) entering the second intermission.

The Hurricanes were 0/2 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Less than a minute into the third period, David Krejci (1) received a pass, deked and reached around Mrazek to put the Bruins back into the lead, 3-2.

Kase (2) and McAvoy (2) collected the assists on Krejci’s goal at 59 seconds of the third period.

Less than five minutes later, Jeremy Lauzon was guilty of holding against Niederreiter and was assessed a minor infraction at 5:12, but the Hurricanes were powerless on the ensuing skater advantage and couldn’t storm their way to a goal before Lauzon was released from the box.

They did, however, swing momentum in their favor with sustained pressure in the third period and a shot from Haydn Fleury (1) that had eyes from the point and hit the twine while Carolina worked to screen Rask– tying the game, 3-3, at 9:49 of the third period.

Vincent Trocheck (1) had the only assist on the goal and the score remained even at, 3-3, through the end of regulation.

After 60 minutes of play– and for the second consecutive game in the Toronto bubble– overtime was necessary.

The Bruins were outshooting the Hurricanes, 28-21, and leading in blocked shots (23-20), giveaways (17-9) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Carolina held the advantage in takeaways (8-4) and hits (39-24), as well as shots on goal in the third period alone (12-7).

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the first overtime period.

Midway through the first overtime, McAvoy briefly headed down the tunnel after an awkward collision and fall to the ice, but the Bruins defender made his return and missed little action in the extra frames.

After letting the players play for quite some time, an official made a call against Carolina when Brady Skjei brought down Coyle with a hold at 18:24 of the overtime period.

Boston’s power play would extend 24 seconds into the second overtime period, however, as the first overtime came to a close with no final result.

The two clubs remained tied, 3-3, on the scoreboard, while the B’s led in shots on goal (39-27)– including an, 11-6, advantage in the first overtime alone– as well as blocked shots (29-28), giveaways (22-14) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Meanwhile, Carolina continued to hold the advantage in takeaways (9-8) and hits (51-32) through 80 minutes of hockey.

As there were no more penalties called in the game thereafter– and with Boston going scoreless on the power play that extended into the second overtime– the Canes finished 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins went 0/4 on the afternoon in power play tries.

Shortly after Carolina killed off Skjei’s minor, however, the Bruins struck fast and ended the game with a quick zone entry from Marchand led to a pass to Pastrnak who then dished a backhand drop pass to Bergeron (1) for the shot that beat Mrazek on the far side, blocker side, and sealed the deal on a victory for Boston in Game 1.

Pastrnak (1) and Marchand (2) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s game-winning double overtime goal that made the final result read, 4-3, in favor of the Bruins at 1:13 of the second overtime.

The goal was Bergeron’s fourth career Stanley Cup Playoff overtime goal– the second most among active NHL players (Patrick Kane leads Bergeron with five playoff overtime goals)– and Bergeron’s first since double overtime in Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 5, 2013.

No. 37 in black and gold is now tied with 15 other NHLers for the fifth most career playoff overtime goals, while Joe Sakic’s eight Stanley Cup Playoff overtime goals remain the most all time (Maurice Richard had six and is second, while Glenn Anderson and Kane are tied for third with five).

Bergeron also established a record for the most playoff overtime goals in Bruins franchise history, surpassing Mel Hill and Terry O’Reilly, who each had three Stanley Cup Playoff overtime goals in their careers with Boston.

The league’s current longest tenured alternate captain also passed Johnny Bucyk for fourth among Bruins franchise leaders in all time playoff goals scored with 41.

Cam Neely (55 playoff goals with Boston), Phil Esposito (46) and Rick Middleton (45) sit ahead of Bergeron in that statistical category.

The Bruins finished the afternoon with the lead in shots on goal (40-28), blocked shots (30-28), giveaways (22-14) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Hurricanes ended the game with the advantage in hits (51-32).

Boston took the, 1-0, series lead with Game 2 scheduled for Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario as part of the NHL’s Phase 4 Return to Play Eastern Conference bubble.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune in on NBCSN, NESN or Fox Sports Carolinas, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SportsNet or TVAS.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.

All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.

(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.

The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.

2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.

That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.

Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.

Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:

(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)

Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.

In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.

The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.

Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.

Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.

That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.

2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.

For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.

For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.

In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.

Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.

Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.

Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.

Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.

What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.

This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.

It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.

Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.

Regular season outcomes:

3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.

Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.

He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.

It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.

Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).

Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.

Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.

Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.

This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.

The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.

Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.

Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.

Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.

He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.

Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.

Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).

Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.

In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.

If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.

Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.

Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.

Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.

But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.

The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.

If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.

If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.

At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.

Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360

8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360

8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360

8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.

As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.

Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.

Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.

Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.

Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.

For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.

The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.

Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.

Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.

In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.

Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.

Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.

Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.

The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD

8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.

He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.

Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.

Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.

In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.

Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.

Alright, let’s check the backup…

Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.

Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?

The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.

Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.

Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.

Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.

Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.

Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.

This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.

In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.

2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.

Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).

Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.

The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.

That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.

Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!

The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.

They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).

If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.

Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.

Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*

*If necessary


2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.

St. Louis Blues

42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW

Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW

Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Eastern Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference Qualifiers, while the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers sort themselves out.

All Eastern Conference games will be at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario until the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final (both of which will be held in Edmonton, Alberta at Rogers Place).

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points) vs (12) Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 69 games played, .623 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montreal: 71 games played, .500 points percentage, 19 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were 5th in the Eastern Conference at the time of the pause and being led by Evgeni Malkin with 74 points in 55 games played, while Bryan Rust (56 points in 55 games) and Sidney Crosby 47 points in 41 games) trailed the Russian star on the roster. 

Yes, Malkin missed 14 games and still amassed 74 points in a season for the Penguins, while Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, carefully charted the course through a bevy of injuries to bring his team within striking range of the Metropolitan Division lead had the regular season seen its full conclusion.

The Washington Capitals topped the Metropolitan Division with 90 points. The Philadelphia Flyers had 89. Pittsburgh had 86.

An annual Stanley Cup contender since Sullivan led the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017 (their second and third since 2009– fourth and fifth in franchise history), Pittsburgh’s goaltending might be the only thing that holds them back from their 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Murray had a down year with a 2.87 goals against average and an .899 save percentage in 38 games played– his worst goals against average since he had a 2.92 GAA in 49 games in 2017-18 and his worst-career save percentage in a season. Murray finished the shortened season with a 20-11-5 record and one shutout in 38 starts.

Backup netminder, Tristan Jarry, went 20-12-1 in 33 games played (31 starts) and had a 2.43 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% and three shutouts.

Murray’s leash through the exhibition games should be a short one, despite his career 2.16 GAA and .921 SV% in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His goals against average reached a career-low 1.70 in 11 games en route to Pittsburgh’s Cup win in 2017, but rose to a 2.43 in 2018 (12 games) and a 3.02 in 2019 (four games) as the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in last year’s First Round.

It’s not that he can’t bounce back, but rather that Sullivan should ride the hotter goaltender and force a little healthy competition if it yields the best in Murray’s game. If not, it’ll either be sink or swim with Jarry in the crease.

At the other end of the rink, the Montreal Canadiens went .500 this season and were mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at the stoppage with what looked like little hope for a late season surge into the postseason, despite leading scorer, Tomas Tatar (22-39–61 totals in 68 games played) and starting goaltender, Carey Price’s best efforts.

Phillip Danault had the second-most points on the Habs roster this season with 13 goals and 34 assists (47 points) in 71 games played, while Max Domi was third in scoring on the team with 44 points in 71 games.

Price led Montreal in net with a 27-25-6 record in 58 games played (58 starts), a 2.79 GAA, a .909 SV% and four shutouts this season. Since his 2.23 GAA and .923 SV% in 62 games in 2016-17, Price has not had a goals against average below 2.30 or a save percentage better than .920. He had a 3.11 GAA and a .900 SV% in 49 games in 2017-18, as well as a 2.49 GAA and a .918 SV% in 66 games last season.

As he approaches his mid-30s and the league shifts more and more towards tandem goaltending, Price shouldn’t be playing more than 50 games in a regular season, but the Canadiens struggled with finding a backup this season.

Charlie Lindgren went 2-4-0 in six games (six starts) and had a 3.33 GAA, as well as an .888 SV%. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau went 1-1-0 in two games (both starts) and had a 2.52 GAA and a .931 SV%.

Keith Kinkaid also made an appearance with six games played (five starts), a 1-1-3 record, a 4.24 GAA and an .875 SV%.

Claude Julien has over 400 regular season wins as the head coach of the Boston Bruins and won the Cup with the B’s in 2011, but that was nine years ago and he’s three full seasons into his second stint behind the bench as head coach of the Canadiens.

His teams aren’t known for keeling over and being swept out of the playoffs, so they’ll likely be able to win one as Montreal scratches and claws their way to victory in classic Julien-style blue-collar work ethic fashion, but can he get it done against Pittsburgh in today’s NHL?

Especially when falling behind the eight ball is even more significant in a best-of-five series than it is in a best-of-seven.

Price might be fresh, but Pittsburgh’s got an offense and a defense. Plus the Penguins did win two out of their three regular season matchups and Crosby and Malkin are ready to make yet another postseason appearance– regardless of how far things will actually go.

It’s not out of the question that the Habs will be able to steal a game, but the Penguins should have this series wrapped up in four games and punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 MTL at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 10th, 3-2 F/OT PIT at Bell Centre on Jan. 4th, 4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 14th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 PIT @ MTL in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 PIT @ MTL in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 MTL @ PIT in Toronto*

*If necessary

(6) Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points) vs (11) New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points)

Carolina: 68 games played, .596 points percentage, 27 regulation wins

N.Y. Rangers: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 31 regulation wins

Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes have their work cut out for them in what just might be the only series that would be an upset if the higher seed wins. The Hurricanes lost all four regular season matchups against the Rangers, despite Sebastian Aho’s team-leading 66 points in 68 games on the season.

Aho set a new career-high in goals (38) and had a pair of goals against New York this season, but fell shy of establishing a new career-high in points after putting up 83 points in 82 games last season. Of course, a pandemic shortened regular season will have something to do with that.

Regardless, he was on pace for about 80 points at the time the NHL season was paused.

Teuvo Teravainen continued to show that he’s one of the most consistent performers in the league with a respectable 48 assists and 63 points in 68 games played as one of Carolina’s more “veteran” players, despite only being 25-years-old.

Meanwhile, Andrei Svechnikov scored two lacrosse goals this season and managed to improve on all fronts from his rookie season (20-17–37 totals in 82 games last season) with 24 goals and 37 assists (61 points) in 68 games in 2019-20. He was on pace for almost 30 goals and around 73 points in his sophomore season had the pandemic not called it short.

In goal, David Ayres led the way with– just kidding– Petr Mrazek went 21-16-2 in 40 games this season (38 starts) and had a 2.69 GAA, as well as a .905 SV% and three shutouts. Not great, but not the worst entering the Qualifiers.

He’ll have to do much better than his 2.73 GAA and .894 SV% in 11 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if he has any hopes of catapulting his team over the Rangers and backstopping them to a deep playoff run like last year.

That said, Curtis McElhinney was the one that replaced him against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Mrazek allowed ten goals against in the series, compared to McElhinney’s five.

The good news for the Hurricanes, however, is that McElhinney’s numbers have been way off the mark this season and he’s the current backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Plus James Reimer exists in Carolina.

Reimer went 14-6-2 in 25 games for the Canes this season and had a 2.66 GAA, as well as a .914 SV% and three shutouts– so basically he’s the same as Mrazek, only Reimer’s looking for a bigger redemption arc in the postseason than being remembered as the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender in Boston’s epic, 5-4, overtime comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

That wasn’t even Reimer’s last appearance in the playoffs, however, as he had a brief stint (29 minutes) with the San Jose Sharks en route to their 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Brind’Amour might be wise to use his best defensive game and start Reimer in Game 1 against the Rangers, except Mrazek had an .861 SV% against New York in three games this season, while Reimer had a .792 SV%.

Advantage… …Mrazek? But on a short leash?

On the other hand, the New York Rangers enter their Qualifier matchup with the Hurricanes two points behind Carolina in the season standings and three spots behind them in the Metropolitan Division standings that are virtually obsolete this postseason.

The Hurricanes had 81 points. The Rangers had 79 points. First place through seventh place in the division was separated by 11 points at the time of the stoppage.

And at that point, 2019-20 Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Artemi Panarin, had already amassed 32-63–95 totals in 69 games for New York.

He had nine points (three goals, six assists) against the Hurricanes this season, while Mika Zibanejad sat 20 points behind Panarin in team scoring with 41 goals and 34 assists (75 points) in 57 games– including four goals and three assists against Carolina this season.

Ryan Strome carried third place honors for the Rangers in scoring this season with 18-41–59 totals in 70 games.

Rangers head coach, David Quinn, also doesn’t have an easy decision to make with his goaltenders heading to Toronto for their series against Carolina.

Henrik Lundqvist made three starts against the Canes and went 3-0-0, while stopping 125 shots out of 132 shots against (.947 SV%) in that span.

Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in his one start and one win against Carolina this season.

Lundqvist went 10-12-3 on the season in 30 games played (26 starts) with a 3.16 GAA, a .905 SV% and one shutout.

Shesterkin went 10-2-0 in 12 games played (12 starts) and had a 2.52 GAA, as well as a .932 SV%.

Oh yeah, and Alexandar Georgiev went 17-14-2 in 34 games (32 starts) while putting up a 3.04 GAA, a .910 SV% and two shutouts.

One thing is clearer now more than ever before– “King Henrik” is no longer king in “The Big Apple”.

Shesterkin should receive the nod for the playoffs, but this is just the Qualifier. It technically doesn’t count unless you win three out of the next possible five games.

In that case, Quinn could rely on Lundqvist to get the job done, then give Shesterkin his first real taste of the NHL’s toughest job– being a goaltender in the playoffs– since Lundqvist has a history for seemingly always having Carolina’s number when it matters most for the Hurricanes.

Regardless of who’s in net, New York holds all the advantages coming into this series.

The Rangers scored 17 goals for against Hurricanes and allowed nine goals against over their four games against one another.

Carolina threw the kitchen sink at New York on net– totaling 161 shots on goal in their four regular season matchups with the Blue Shirts– but Lundqvist was the key difference maker.

That said, the Hurricanes knocked off the then defending Cup champion Washington Capitals in seven games in last year’s First Round.

But can Brind’Amour motivate his players enough to get the job done more efficiently when the series is only a best-of-five instead of having the luxury to drag things out all seven games like they did against the Caps?

And with back-to-back games incorporated in the schedule, conditions are clearly unfavorable for the Hurricanes in their David and Goliath matchup (again, despite being the higher seed).

One thing that works in their favor? There’s no travel outside the bubble to and from the games, so that’s a plus.

Knowing how The Hockey Gods work, it’d be foolish not to believe this series won’t go all five games just because. Either that or Carolina will pull off the three-game sweep of the Rangers after losing every single regular season game against New York in 2019-20.

Flip a coin and that’s your winner– this series might just be a lot closer and more intense than you think.

Rangers in five, but don’t be surprised if/when Carolina defeats them.

Sit back and enjoy.

Regular season outcomes:

4-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Nov. 7th, 3-2 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27th, 5-3 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27th, 5-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Feb. 21st

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/4- Game 3 CAR @ NYR in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

8/6- Game 4 CAR @ NYR in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 NYR @ CAR in Toronto*

*If necessary

(7) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) vs (10) Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points)

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins

Florida: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 30 regulation wins

Barry Trotz is still coaching the trap in today’s NHL, which, honestly, you have to hand it to him. His defense first mindset has turned the New York Islanders into a playoff contender since his arrival last season.

The only bad thing that’s come with Trotz’s arrival and John Tavares’ departure– a lack of goal scoring.

It’s no secret that to win games, your team must score more goals than the other team, whether it’s a, 10-9, high-scoring victory or a, 1-0, shutout.

Unfortunately for Trotz, the Isles ranked ninth in fewest goals for this season with 192, which is the worst among all the Qualifier team. Yes, even Montreal and Chicago each had 212 goals for this season, despite their minus-6 and minus-9 goal differentials, respectively.

At least the Islanders only allowed one more goal than they scored in the pandemic shortened regular season.

Anyway, Mathew Barzal led the charge for New York this season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games played, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) and Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) followed suit.

Barzal was on pace for 23 goals and 72 points this season, which would’ve been a career-high in goals in a season for the young forward only having just completed his third full season. Nevertheless, scoring at least 60 points in three consecutive seasons is respectable.

Nelson scored 26 goals this season, which marked back to back seasons of at least 20 goals for the 28-year-old. He was on pace for 31 goals in what was already a career-season in the making.

Lee was on pace for 52 points after putting up 20-23–43 totals in 68 games, which would have given him four consecutive seasons of 50-plus points.

But it’s not all about what would’ve been for the Islanders, because the future is here in goaltender Ilya Sorokin– oh wait, he can’t play in the 2020 postseason due to the NHL’s Return to Play rulings, which is fine– just means that next year’s looking good for the Isles.

In net, Semyon Varlamov amassed a 19-14-6 record in 45 games played (39 starts) with a 2.62 GAA and a .914 SV%, as well as two shutouts to go with it.

Ideally, you’d like a starting goaltender in the NHL to be closer to 2.50, maybe even 2.30 in goals against average and around a .920 in save percentage, but we addressed some of New York’s shortcomings this season– a lack of offense and injuries on defense with Adam Pelech limited to 38 games.

Thomas Greiss had a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts) with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process.

It’s likely his last season on Long Island/in Brooklyn with Sorokin signed for the next couple of seasons, so if he sees any ice time in the series, he’ll have to be better in order to prove his next payday at the expense of another team via free agency in November.

New York brought in Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick (can become a 2021 1st round pick if the Islanders lose in the Qualifier and win the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft–a.k.a. top-3 lottery protected), a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick (if New York wins the Cup in 2020), then signed Pageau to a six-year extension worth $5.000 million per season.

Though it was all too short to effectively judge Pageau in an Islanders sweater, it’s worth noting he scored two goals in seven games so far. That’s it.

A boost for the third line, sure, but his effectiveness in a new surrounding remains to be seen, which could be a key to New York defeating the Florida Panthers who lack an important figure in Vincent Trocheck since trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen at the deadline on Feb. 24th.

Speaking of the Panthers, Florida was led by Jonathan Huberdeau in scoring this season with 23 goals and 55 assists (78 points) in 69 games this season.

Aleksander Barkov had his fifth consecutive 20-goal season– one season removed from his career-high 35 goals (and 96 points!) last season– and was on pace for 25 tallies this season at the stoppage.

And bringing up the rear in Florida’s top-three scorers this season was Mike Hoffman with 29 goals and 30 assists (59 points) in 69 games. Hoffman finished one goal shy of back to back 30-goal seasons and was on pace to match his career-high 70 points in a season had the regular season been uninterrupted.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky probably wishes he could ask for a mulligan this season after going 23-19-6 in 50 games played (49 starts) and amassing a 3.23 GAA, as well as a .900 SV% and one shutout.

Yes, you read that right– one shutout this season. After leading the league with nine shutouts last season, Bobrovsky was far beyond a disappointment in his first year of a seven-year, $70 million contract.

Meanwhile, Sam Montembeault (5-5-1) started the season as Florida’s backup, but things took a turn after his 3.34 GAA and .890 SV% in 14 games played (nine starts) were no better than Bobrovsky’s career-worst season as a starter.

Alas, Chris Driedger was called up from the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL) and put up a 7-2-1 record in 12 games played with a 2.05 GAA, a .938 SV% and one shutout in that span.

The Islanders beat the Panthers in all three regular season matchups this season, but New York has yet to face Driedger.

A word to the wise for Florida’s head coach, Joel Quenneville– what more could you lose by starting Driedger in Game 1?

Bobrovsky hasn’t had the form all season and isn’t going into the playoffs as your surefire starter– $10.000 million cap hit or not. Pray he returns to his two-time Vezina Trophy winning ability in time for 2020-21, but for now he hasn’t earned starter duties and your main focus is on winning three games, let alone going for the Cup with whatever you have for a roster.

The Islanders scored eight goals in their three games against the Panthers this season. They allowed four goals against, while Florida– to their credit– forced New York to a shootout in their first meeting back on Oct. 12th.

New York had 94 total shots on goal against Florida this season.

The Panthers had 108 shots against the Islanders.

It should be a close battle with each team ravaged in some manner– whether by injuries that plagued them all season or lackluster goaltending, neither club is exactly turning heads out there.

The Panthers lost in six games to the Islanders in the 2016 First Round, but this time around it’s a best of five.

New York should win in four games as Trotz has more recent playoff success and the more recent playoff experienced roster to go off of than, yes, Quenneville’s three Stanley Cup Rings from the last ten years.

It’s not that Quenneville can’t pull off the upset, but rather that the Panthers aren’t ready to make a dent in the postseason picture without all the necessary pieces.

The good news for them, at least, is they have a tried and true coach to guide them through what for now will be some growing pains.

Unless 20-goal scorer Noel Acciari pockets a hat trick in three straight games, which sounds quite plausible these days, so who knows!?

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12th, 2-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 9th, 3-1 NYI at BB&T Center on Dec. 12th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN1, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 NYI @ FLA in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 NYI @ FLA in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 FLA @ NYI in Toronto*

*If necessary

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points) vs (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points)

Toronto: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 28 regulation wins

Columbus: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 25 regulation wins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have home ice advantage and– well, technically, the Qualifier isn’t considered part of the playoffs and there’s a pandemic going on, so no fans are allowed inside the bubble.

But hey, at least there’s hockey in Canadian New York City, so we’ll take it!

The Leafs were led by Auston Matthews in scoring this season as the 22-year-old center finished third in the NHL in goals with 47 of them in 70 games played. He had 80 points overall, which established career-highs in both goals and points in his fourth NHL season– and fourth consecutive season with at least 30 goals.

Oh and for the second time in his young career, Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau and was on the cusp of 50 had it not been for the ongoing pandemic cutting things short. He was on pace for 55 goals at the stoppage.

Mitchell Marner was second on the Leafs roster in scoring with 16-51–67 totals in 59 games played– surpassing the 50-assist plateau for the second straight season and further proving his vital role as a playmaker on the roster.

Meanwhile, John Tavares had 26 goals and 34 assists (60 points) in 63 games, which was down from his 47-41–88 totals last season, but then again, he was on pace for 78 points this season had the regular season seen its proper conclusion, so really he wasn’t all that far off from a typical Tavares year.

As it is, the only time Tavares has ever had less than 50 points in a season was in the lockout shortened, 48-game, 2012-13 season, in which he had 47 points in all 48 games.

Yeah, he’s pretty good.

In the crease, the Maple Leafs were led by Frederik Anderson (29-13-7 record in 52 games played, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%, three shutouts), but hold the phone! What’s this? Toronto acquired a legitimate backup netminder during the season!?!

That’s right, Jack Campbell (3-2-1 in six games with Toronto, six starts, 2.63 GAA, .915 SV% in that span) is a Maple Leaf and– heaven forbid– is more than capable of bailing out Toronto if things get dire with Andersen.

Oh and Sheldon Keefe is in charge behind the bench.

Plus there’s a wild card this year for Toronto that the rest of the league has yet to see– Nick Robertson. You know, the forward that had 55-31–88 totals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes (OHL) this season and brings both even more speed and skill to the Maple Leafs lineup.

At the other side of the rink, the Columbus Blue Jackets were battered all season and had a trio of goaltenders at one point as a result, yet somehow, here they are to the surprise of all the experts that had them pegged for 8th place in the Metropolitan Division heading into the 2019-20 season after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency.

It’s all just part of the plan.

Many had them out against the Lightning last year and, well, the Blue Jackets brought the thunder in that series.

Unfortunately for CBJ fans, they couldn’t bring the cannon through customs, but they were able to bring their leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and his 18-31–49 totals in 70 games this season.

Gustav Nyquist had a respectable 42-point season (15 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games with Columbus after being brought in via free agency, while Zach Werenski was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) from the blue line in 63 games.

Columbus has the better defense on paper, but Toronto’s offense has more than enough firepower to outmatch the Blue Jackets’ best efforts.

In goal, however, emerged the rise of a new king (but not of rock)– Elvis Merzlikins. Though Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5, 2.60 GAA, .911 SV%, two shutouts) played in more games (37 played, 35 starts) than Merzlikins, No. 90 in red, white and blue had the better numbers with a 13-9-8 record in 33 games played (31 starts), as well as a 2.35 GAA, a .923 SV% and five shutouts.

It’s the dawn of a new age in Columbus as a hot, young, goaltending tandem has arrived with the departure of Bobrovsky.

It’ll be Merzlikins’ biggest test, but the Blue Jackets just might be a lot better off now more than ever riding the hot goaltender.

Plus they struck down the dragon last spring and made it out of the First Round for the first time in franchise history, so now anything’s possible moving forward.

On paper this is the most even matchup as both teams finished with 81 points, had 70 games played and went won one out of the two games they played against one another before the pandemic shortened the regular season, but it’s hard to ignore one thing– Tortorella.

Once more Tortorella is a Jack Adams Award finalist and, oh yeah, he’s kind of responsible for figuring out how to not only beat, but sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 First Round– you know, last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners.

But a newcomer has entered the chat and that’s Keefe. He led the Toronto Marlies (AHL) to the 2018 Calder Cup championship and many of the players in the Leafs system have encountered his touch in recent years.

Is Keefe the answer to Toronto’s prayers or will yet another team that’s come into the league since their last Cup in 1967 raise Lord Stanley’s mug over their heads while the Maple Leafs are off somewhere preparing for next season?

The good news, this isn’t technically the playoffs yet, so that means Toronto’s got a better chance off the bat.

There’s not as much of a distraction surrounding their opponent (*ahem* for once, it’s not Boston!– yet, anyway), let alone the “hasn’t made it out of the First Round since before the 2004-05 season-long lockout” specter that shadows the Leafs.

The bad news, they’re the Maple Leafs. Of course only something like a pandemic would throw off any momentum they had going into a possible playoff run, etc.

Imagine if the Chicago Cubs didn’t win in 2016, or the Boston Red Sox didn’t win in 2004– yeah, that’s how most Toronto fans feel day-in and day-out– no matter how confident– no matter how much belief they have in the team.

There’s always that chance that something something goes wrong and the curse or whatever remains hanging over the Maple Leafs dressing room and front office.

Leafs in five, then we’ll see what happens, but Tortorella’s teams aren’t easy to knock off their game. This alone might be Toronto’s greatest test in the Matthews, Marner and Co. Era.

Mike Babcock’s gone. They’re playing the “new age” game. Can they get it done?

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 TOR at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4th, 4-3 F/OT CBJ at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 21st

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 CBJ @ TOR 8 PM ET on NHLN, SN, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 CBJ @ TOR 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/6- Game 3 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto TBD

8/7- Game 4 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 CBJ @ TOR*

*If necessary


2020 Eastern Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Eastern Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Eastern Conference are in Toronto this year and all times Eastern.

Boston Bruins

44-14-12, 100 points, 70 GP, .714 PTS%, 38 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. PHI in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 5th vs. TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 9th @ WSH in Toronto, TBD

Tampa Bay Lightning

43-21-6, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 35 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. WSH in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 5th @ BOS in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 8th vs. PHI in Toronto, TBD

Washington Capitals

41-20-8, 90 points, 69 GP, .652 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 3rd @TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 6th @ PHI in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. BOS in Toronto, TBD

Philadelphia Flyers

41-21-7, 89 points, 69 GP, .645 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 2nd @ BOS in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 6th vs. WSH in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 8th @ TBL in Toronto, TBD

DTFR Podcast #168- 2019-20 Season Preview: Pacific Division

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).

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

DTFR Podcast #167- And Now We Wait

Nick talks a little about the state of the league, plus retirements and other news around the league.

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

Nothing to see here, folks: The NHL isn’t opting out

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.

2019 NHL Awards Ceremony: DTFR Live Blog

While everyone awaits the dawn of the 2019-20 season, it’s time to wrap up the 2018-19 season with some wholesome family fun on a Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

Yes, it’s once again time for the National Hockey League to present its season awards to its members and gather around for an evening of B-list entertainment.

If– for some odd reason– you’re busy on a Wednesday night in June and can’t get your hockey fix– we’re here for you. Just follow along as we update the list of award winners as they’re announced.

And if you can tune in on TV, viewers in the United States can catch the 2019 NHL Awards Ceremony live from Las Vegas on NBCSN, while those in Canada can watch on Sportsnet at 8 p.m. ET.

Calder Memorial Trophy- Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks

Other Finalists: Jordan Binnington (STL) and Rasmus Dahlin (BUF)

(best rookie/rookie of the year)

Art Ross Trophy- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Other Finalists: Sean Monahan (CGY) and Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

(sportsmanship and ability, a.k.a. this player didn’t take a lot of penalties)

NHL General Manager of the Year Award- Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins

Other Finalists: Doug Armstrong (STL) and Don Waddell (CAR)

(best GM)

King Clancy Memorial Trophy- Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Other Finalists: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI) and Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)

(humanitarian/volunteering award)

Ted Lindsay Award- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Patrick Kane (CHI) and Connor McDavid (EDM)

(basically the “M.V.P.” as voted on by the NHLPA, a.k.a. the players)

James Norris Memorial Trophy- Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

Other Finalists: Victor Hedman (TBL) and Brent Burns (SJS)

(best defender)

EA SPORTS NHL 20® Cover Athlete- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Other Finalists: None

(not actually a curse)

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy– Robin Lehner, New York Islanders

Other Finalists: Nick Foligno (CBJ) and Joe Thornton (SJS)

(perseverance and dedication to the sport)

Frank J. Selke Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Other Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Mark Stone (VGK)

(best defensive forward)

Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy– Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)

Jack Adams Award– Barry Trotz, New York Islanders

Other Finalists: Craig Berube (STL) and Jon Cooper (TBL)

(best head coach)

Vezina Trophy– Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Ben Bishop (DAL) and Robin Lehner (NYI)

(best goaltender)

William M. Jennings Trophy– Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders

(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award– Wayne Simmonds, Nashville Predators

Other Finalists: Mark Giordano (CGY) and Justin Williams (CAR)

(something related to leadership and growing the game that Mark Messier picks)

Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award– Rico Phillips

Other Finalists: Anthony Benavides and Tammi Lynch

(presented to an “individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society[,]” as described by the NHL)

Hart Memorial Trophy– Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Other Finalists: Sidney Crosby (PIT) and Connor McDavid (EDM)

(regular season M.V.P.)

2018-19 Team and 2019 Postseason Awards 

President’s Trophy– Tampa Bay Lightning

(best record in the regular season, 2018-19)

Prince of Wales Trophy– Boston Bruins

(2019 Eastern Conference Champions)

Clarence S. Campbell Bowl– St. Louis Blues

(2019 Western Conference Champions)

Conn Smythe Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

(Stanley Cup Playoffs M.V.P. as determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Stanley Cup– St. Louis Blues

(league champion, winner of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final)

Kuraly leaps Bruins over Blues, 4-2, in Game 1

For the first time since the 1974 Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins won Game 1 in a Stanley Cup Final as the Bruins scored four unanswered goals to win in a comeback, 4-2, over the St. Louis Blues.

Boston leads the series 1-0 thanks to Sean Kuraly’s game-winning goal in the third period and Brad Marchand’s empty net insurance goal thereafter.

Tuukka Rask (13-5 record, 1.85 goals against average, .940 save percentage in 18 games played this postseason) made 18 saves on 20 shots against (.900 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.

St. Louis goaltender, Jordan Binnington (12-8, 2.40 GAA, .915 SV% in 20 GP) stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced (.919 SV%) in the loss, which was the Blues’ ninth-straight loss to the B’s in a playoff series.

The Bruins improved to 9-0 in nine all-time playoff contests against St. Louis, joining the Edmonton Oilers (16-0 against the original Winnipeg Jets from 1983 to 1988) and Montreal Canadiens (12-0 against the Blues from 1968 to 1977) as the third team in NHL history to win each of its first nine-plus playoff games against one opponent.

Since the best-of-seven series format was adopted for the Stanley Cup Final in 1939, the team that won Game 1 went on to win the Cup in 61 out of 79 series’ (a 77.2% success rate).

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, kept his lineup the same from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in Carolina to Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.

Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Marchand were all good to go after missing practice time for various reasons, while Kevan Miller (lower body) and Chris Wagner (upper body) are out for the Final.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches this time of year included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, John Moore, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

St. Louis head coach, Craig Berube, was without the service of Vince Dunn (upper body) for Game 1. In addition, the Blues had a long list of healthy scratches of their own, including Robby Fabbri, Michael Del Zotto, Zach Sanford, Mackenzie MacEachern, Chris Thorburn and Ville Husso.

A little over a few minutes into the opening frame, Kuraly tripped up Brayden Schenn– catching a skate behind his leg– yielding the first power play of the series to St. Louis at 3:37 of the first period.

The Blues did not convert on their first skater advantage opportunity.

A couple of minutes after killing off Kuraly’s minor infraction, the Bruins couldn’t clear their own zone as the Blues sneaked their way around the attacking zone with ease.

Charlie McAvoy dove to block a shot that Schenn (3) ripped over the blocker side of Rask for the first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– and first Stanley Cup Final for the Blues since 1970.

St. Louis’ leading scorer, Jaden Schwartz (5), had the primary assist, while Jay Bouwmeester (6) picked up the secondary assist on Schenn’s goal at 7:23 of the first period. The Blues led, 1-0.

Past the midpoint of the first period, David Perron tripped Danton Heinen and was sent to the penalty box at 13:15.

Boston was not able to capitalize on their first power play of the night, despite Marcus Johansson ringing the far right post on an individual scoring chance.

Late in the period, Robert Thomas hooked Patrice Bergeron and sent the Blues back on the penalty kill at 16:45.

This time on the power play, the B’s struggled to maintain offensive zone time, but mustered a quick one-timer opportunity in the closing seconds of the skater advantage that Marchand fanned on while Binnington was behind the play.

Through one period of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, St. Louis led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while both teams had eight shots on goal aside.

Boston led in blocked shots (5-2), while the Blues led in takeaways (5-3), giveaways (4-3), hits (12-11) and face-off win percentage (57-43).

Neither team had found the back of the net on the power play, as St. Louis went 0/1 in the first period and the Bruins went 0/2.

One minute into the middle frame, Vladimir Tarasenko (9) received a pass while breaking into the slot and one-time a wrist shot past Rask after David Pastrnak botched a play behind the net intended for one of his defenders.

Instead, Pastrnak’s turnover went right to Schenn then Tarasenko to make it, 2-0, St. Louis at 1:00 of the second period. Schenn (6) had the only assist on the goal.

A little over a minute later, Boston answered back in a hurry and cut the Blues’ lead in half, 2-1, with a one-timed tip-in of their own from Connor Clifton (2) on a pass through the slot from Kuraly while Binnington was left in the dust behind the play– reaching around with his blocker in desperation.

Kuraly (4) and Joakim Nordstrom (3) had the assists on Clifton’s goal at 2:16 of the second period and the Bruins were on the scoreboard.

Moments later, Joel Edmundson caught former Blues captain, David Backes, with a high-stick to the face and presented the B’s with their third power play opportunity of the night at 5:25.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Past the midpoint of regulation, Oskar Sundqvist cross-checked Clifton in front of the Bruins bench at 11:04 and was sent to the sin bin for his deed.

Late in the ensuing power play, McAvoy waltzed in through the neutral zone after St. Louis barely cleared the zone and broke through the penalty killers.

McAvoy (2) ripped a shot past Binnington’s glove side through the seven-hole to tie the game, 2-2, with an unassisted power play goal at 12:41.

After 40 minutes of play, the scoreboard remained tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission. The Bruins led in shots on goal, 26-11, and had an, 18-3, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (7-6) and giveaways (8-7), while St. Louis led in face-off win% (53-47). Both teams had seven blocked shots and 21 hits aside.

The Blues were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the third period, while the B’s were 1/4 on the power play.

About a quarter of a way into the third period, Kuraly (3) stashed the puck into the back of the net after receiving a pass off his right leg and kicking the puck to his stick.

Noel Acciari (2) and Chara (3) tallied the assists on Kuraly’s would-be game-winning goal at 5:21 of the third period after both Bruins worked hard to keep the puck in the attacking zone.

Chara became the first Bruin age 42 or older to record a point in the Stanley Cup Final since Mark Recchi did so in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final at the age of 43. Recchi had 3-4–7 totals in seven games en route to Boston defeating the Vancouver Canucks.

Almost 90 seconds later, Krejci clipped Sammy Blais with an unintentional elbow to the head while Blais lost his balance and was falling in the neutral zone.

Nevertheless, by the book, it was the right call as Krejci took a short skate to the penalty box at 6:55 of the third period.

Blais was drafted by the Blues in the 6th round (176th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft after St. Louis acquired what was originally a conditional 7th round pick in 2014 from Boston in exchange for defenseman, Wade Redden, on April 3, 2013.

The Blues had one shot on goal on the resulting power play.

After being on the receiving end of a penalty, Blais put his name on the event sheet with an interference minor of his own at 13:28, yielding the fifth power play of the night for the Bruins.

Boston did not score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the final frame of regulation, after a stoppage of play with 2:13 remaining on the clock, Berube used his timeout and had his assistant coach, Steve Ott, draw up a way to try to tie the game.

Prior to play resuming, Berube pulled Binnington for an extra attacker.

It did not take St. Louis long to lose possession of the puck as Marchand started heading through the neutral zone, dumping the puck just wide of the empty net, whereby Krejci chased it down and the Blues tried to bail out of their own zone.

Marchand (8) came up with the rubber biscuit and pocketed an empty net goal to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 18:11.

St. Louis pulled their goaltender once more with about 1:28 left on the clock in regulation, but it was too little, too late as time expired and the Bruins won Game 1.

Boston finished the night dominating in shots on goal (38-20), blocked shots (12-7) and face-off win% (54-46), while the Blues led in hits (33-32).

Each team had 10 giveaways aside, the Notes went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins finished Monday night 1/5 on the power play.

As a result of their win, the B’s have now won eight consecutive postseason games– their third longest playoff winning streak in franchise history (behind runs of 10-0 in 1970 and 9-0 in 1972). Boston is outscoring their opponent, 32-11, in the current streak.

Kuraly’s game-winning goal was the 28th time the Bruins won a playoff game in which they trailed by two-plus goals– and the first time they did so in the Final.

Game 1 also marked the 5th time that Boston had multiple defenders score a goal (Clifton and McAvoy) in a Stanley Cup Final game– and the first time since Game 2 (Ray Bourque and Greg Hawgood) of the 1990 Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton.

The B’s trailed more in Game 1 against St. Louis than they did in their entire series against the Carolina Hurricanes (13:08) and pulled off the first multi-goal comeback win in the Stanley Cup Final since the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers, 5-4, in double overtime in Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

Monday night marked the 100th game of the regular season and playoffs for Boston.

The Bruins are hosting the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990, as the series shifts to Game 2 on Wednesday. Puck drop at TD Garden is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBCSN. Canadian fans have an array of options to choose from to catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Final Preview

After what seems like an eternity has passed (drop the puck already), the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Eastern Conference champion, Boston Bruins, and the Western Conference champion, St. Louis Blues, kicks off Monday night at TD Garden.

Here’s a look at how the best-of-seven series should pan out.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

Boston is making their third appearance in the Final in the last eight years– winning the Cup against the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in 2011 and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in 2013.

St. Louis is making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 49 years– losing in four games to the Bruins in 1970.

Regardless of the series outcome– history will be made.

The Bruins outlasted the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round, bested the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round and swept the “Bunch of Jerks” known as the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Blues grounded the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round, beat the Dallas Stars in seven games in the Second Round and took a bite out of the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Final.

Both teams have incredible depth scoring, solid defense and out-of-this-world goaltending.

Only one team can win it all, however.

Both cities have met in all four major North American professional sports championship games and/or series, with St. Louis last beating Boston in the 1967 World Series as the Cardinals defeated the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox.

Since then, the B’s beat the Blue Notes in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final as Bobby Orr soared through the air after scoring “The Goal”, the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams (R.I.P.) in Super Bowl XXXVI and the Red Sox beat the Cardinals twice in 2004 and 2013.

Brad Marchand led his team in scoring in the regular season with 100 points and his 18 points in 17 games played this postseason lead David Pastrnak (15 points), David Krejci (14), Patrice Bergeron (13), Charlie Coyle (12), Torey Krug (12) and the rest of the Bruins.

Bergeron leads his roster in goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight, including a postseason leading six power play goals– the most by a Bruin since Cam Neely scoring nine goals on the power play in 1991.

Marchand is tied with Pastrnak for the second-most goals for Boston, trailing Bergeron with seven goals each, followed by Coyle (six) and Krejci (four).

The only Bruins without a goal this postseason are Brandon Carlo (a lineup regular), John Moore (primarily a scratch throughout this postseason) and Karson Kuhlman (appeared in six games in the First and Second Round before David Backes took over in each round on the second line right wing).

There have been 19 different scorers for Boston in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

General Manager, Don Sweeney, addressed his apparent lack of secondary scoring with the acquisitions on Coyle (6-6–12 totals in 17 games this postseason) and Marcus Johansson (3-6–9 totals in 15 games) leading up to the trade deadline.

Head coach, Bruce Cassidy, has adjusted his game on-the-fly, mixing up the lines when necessary to rejuvenate the scoring touch of “The Perfection Line” (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak), while lighting a fire under the annual playoff performer in Krejci and his wingers Jake DeBrusk and Backes.

Marchand and Krug are tied for the lead in assists with 11, while defender and captain, Zdeno Chara, leads his crew in plus/minus with a plus-11 rating in 16 games played this postseason.

Chara, 42, missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in Carolina, but is ready and refreshed to try to earn four more wins against St. Louis and join Johnny Bower (42, 1967), Dominik Hasek (43, 2008), Mark Recchi (43, 2011) and Chris Chelios (46, 2008) as the only players to win the Cup at the age of 42 or older.

The rest of the B’s defenders have played a shutdown style that has led to the Bruins in control of all the important statistical categories at the end of the night– the final score.

Boston is 11-0 when leading after two periods this postseason and has only trailed in 9.9% of their minutes played since the start of the Second Round.

They’re also on a seven-game winning streak– their third longest in franchise history in the postseason– behind only runs of 10-0 in 1970 and 9-0 in 1972.

Both of those years, the Bruins won the Cup.

Though Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) are out for the remainder of the playoffs, the next man up mentality has landed Noel Acciari a spot on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly in place of Walpole, Massachusetts native Wagner, as well as regular time for Connor Clifton on the blue line in place of Miller.

Coyle, Wagner and defender, Matt Grzelcyk, are seeking to join Myles Lane as the only Massachusetts-born players to win a Cup with the Bruins. Lane did so in Boston’s first Stanley Cup championship back in 1929.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) is having a Conn Smythe worthy performance in the net for the B’s.

Rask’s stats are better than his 1.88 GAA and .940 SV% in 22 games played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and better than Tim Thomas’ 1.98 GAA and .940 SV% in 25 games played en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.

The B’s have gone ten full days without a game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Rask as his workload was reduced with the help of backup goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, in the regular season.

Sweeney and Cassidy and wanted a dynamic duo of goaltenders that would let their starter in Rask find his groove and work efficiently.

There’s no better efficiency than the way he’s playing right now.

With the shutout in Game 4 against the Hurricanes, Rask improved to 8-0 in eight career appearances in the Conference Finals, as well as franchise record holder for most series-clinching shutouts in Bruins history with three (surpassing Gerry Cheevers and Thomas’ previous mark of two series-clinching shutouts).

Boston held an intra-squad scrimmage last Thursday to keep the game-flow going and charged fans $20 to attend and see their players in action that they might not otherwise be able to afford to see (with Stanley Cup Final tickets on the secondary market going for $1,000).

Every dollar went to the Boston Bruins Foundation, which redistributes funds to charities throughout New England that help enrich the lives of children in the region.

The Bruins are facing the St. Louis Blues for the 3rd time in a playoff series (previous, 1972 Semifinals, BOS W, 4-0). Boston also swept St. Louis in the 1970 SCF.

St. Louis is well-familiar with “The Hub of the Universe”. They were swept by Boston in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final– the Blues third appearance in their first three years of existence as a franchise in the Final.

Then the two clubs met again in the 1972 Semifinals. Once more, the Blues were swept by the Bruins.

The team with a blue music note with wings for a crest has yet to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final. 1968, 1969 and 1970 resulted in 12 straight Stanley Cup Final losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Boston.

A lot of franchise history has passed for St. Louis and names like Wayne Gretzky have even gone through the club (albeit for 31 games in the regular season and playoffs in 1996).

49 years later, hometown heroes, like Pat Maroon, and adopted hometown heroes, like David Perron (in his third stint with the organization) have led from the back-end of the top-nine group of forwards out.

Jaden Schwartz leads St. Louis in scoring with 12 goals– the second most in franchise history in a postseason, trailing Brett Hull’s 13 goals in 12 games played in the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs– and 16 points in 19 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Schwartz even has two hat tricks this postseason and is the first NHLer to record two hat tricks in one postseason since Johan Franzen did so with the Detroit Red Wings en route to their 2008 Stanley Cup championship.

Offseason acquisition, Ryan O’Reilly, has proven General Manager, Doug Armstrong, worthy of being named a finalist for GM of the Year this season, as O’Reilly has 3-11–14 totals in 19 games

Vladimir Tarasenko– St. Louis’ regular star– has eight goals and five assists (13 points) and is tied for third in scoring on the roster with Perron (6-7–13 totals) and Alex Pietrangelo (2-11–13 totals).

All of the Blues are in search of their first Stanley Cup championship ring and must face former captain and current Bruin, David Backes. After 10 years with the organization, Backes joined Boston on July 1, 2016. In his 13th career season, he’ll face his former team for the Cup.

St. Louis has had helping hands on the blue line in Pietrangelo’s 13 points and Colton Parayko’s 11 points this postseason.

Among their regulars, only Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson have yet to score a goal in this year’s playoffs (Zach Sanford also hasn’t recorded a point in three games played).

Backes’ storyline isn’t the only familiarity with the Blues, however.

Rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington (12-7, 2.37 GAA, .914 SV% in 19 GP) holds the franchise record for most wins in a postseason by a rookie netminder, but spent last season on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

If there’s team with more internal notes on the goaltender that they’re facing in this year’s Stanley Cup Final– it’s the Boston Bruins.

But Binnington’s not nervous– he hasn’t been all postseason long, en route to eliminating the Jets, Stars and Sharks.

He is, however, about to face his biggest challenge yet in the Bruins, unless Craig Berube finds a way to coach his team into taming the bears charging at them down the ice.

While Robert Thomas is likely good to go in Boston for Game 1, Vince Dun will be out of the lineup and day-to-day.

That’s no worry for the cool, calm and collected Berube– who’s guided his team from 31st (dead last) in the league on the morning of Jan. 3rd to the Stanley Cup Final after being named interim head coach back in November, replacing Mike Yeo.


Ten out of the last 13 Cup winners have had the shorter turnaround from the Conference Finals to the Stanley Cup Final, but we’re talking a difference of a few days as opposed to an average of just over a week for the two opponents this year.

The winner of Game 1– since the best-of-seven series format was adopted for the Final in 1939– has gone on to win the Cup in 61 out of 79 series’ (77.2% success rate).

Though both teams expect to play sloppy coming out of the gate, it is vital for Cassidy to keep his players on edge at the top of their game.

Play your game and you control the game. Play the Blues’ game and you’ll fall behind.

Berube managed to frustrate the Jets and Stars, while St. Louis lucked out against a battered Sharks roster.

That’s not to say the Blues are any less dangerous this time of year. In fact, they’re quite good. They won the Western Conference.

However, this time of year is both a sprint and a marathon. How fast can you skate up and down the ice for a full 60-minute (sometimes more) effort and can you maintain that for up to seven games?

Boston is a team with enough experience to go the distance, but St. Louis is a team with enough history to overcome.

In the end, the Bruins should be the ones raising the Cup above their heads for what might the be final time in their current core group of players’ careers as Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Marchand and Rask continue to leave their mark on franchise history– defining careers worthy of recognition in the rafters of TD Garden.

Time will tell over six games in the series as the events unfold.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/SO STL at Enterprise Center on Feb. 23rd, 5-2 BOS at TD Garden on Jan. 17th

Schedule:

5/27- Game 1 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/29- Game 2 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/1-Game 3 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/3- Game 4 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/6- Game 5 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/9- Game 6 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/12- Game 7 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

Bruins, Rask, one win away from sweeping Hurricanes

The “Mayor of Walpole” initiated scoring, the “Little Ball of Hate” scored the eventual game winner and Tuukka “Mr. Steal Yo’ Game” Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a, 2-1, win at PNC Arena in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boston leads the series 3-0 and is one win away from sweeping the Eastern Conference Final.

Tuukka Rask (11-5 record, 1.96 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 16 games played this postseason) turned aside 35 out of 36 shots faced for the .972 SV% in the win. He’s also made 85 saves on 90 shots faced through three games in this series.

Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-1, 1.70 GAA, .943 SV% in four games played this postseason), made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% in the loss.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup while John Moore (upper body), Noel Acciari (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remain out due to injury.

Acciari resumed skating with full-contact on Tuesday, but was a coach’s decision and did not suit up for Game 3.

The long list of healthy scratches in the playoffs continued Tuesday night for Boston– including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Meanwhile, Carolina head coach, Rod Brind’Amour relied on McElhinney for Game 3 in the crease in place of Games 1 and 2 starting goaltender, Petr Mrazek.

Almost a minute into Game 3, Brandon Carlo sent the puck over the glass in his own zone and received an automatic delay of game penalty, yielding the first power play of the game to the Hurricanes.

Carolina did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but continued to dominated possession in their attacking zone.

After saying he wasn’t going to play like poop again, Justin Williams didn’t play a disciplined game in the first period. Williams was sent to the penalty box on three separate occasions prior to the first intermission.

First, Williams and Torey Krug received matching roughing minor infractions, leading to a solid two minutes of 4-on-4 action at 6:23 of the first period.

The Canes were outshooting the Bruins, 11-1, by the time both players reached the sin bin to serve their minors.

Midway through the opening frame, Williams went back to the box for holding the stick at 10:41 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston’s power play was shortlived, however, as Jake DeBrusk slashed Jaccob Slavin at 11:26 and David Krejci followed things up with a high-sticking minor of his own at 11:32 after Sebastian Aho got a quick cross check to Krejci’s midsection that went uncalled.

Needless to say, discipline was an issue at both ends of the rink and the Hurricanes found themselves with an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play that became a short 5-on-3 skater advantage.

Carolina did not convert on the opportunity.

A few minutes later, after Rask froze the puck, a crowd gathered and Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Krug all went to the box with roughing minors at 14:19.

The Hurricanes didn’t score on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play.

Late in the period, Williams amassed his third penalty of the night after he elbowed Krug at 18:27. Though the power play overlapped into the second period, Boston did not muster a goal on the skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal, 20-6.

Carolina also held the advantage in takeaways (7-6), giveaways (7-4) and hits (12-8) as Boston dominated in blocked shots (5-1) and face-off win percentage (61-39) after one period.

The Canes were 0/4 on the skater advantage and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period.

Rask became the first Bruins goaltender to make 20 or more saves in a period since Tim Thomas did so in the third period of Game 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals (Thomas made 22 saves).

Almost 90 seconds into the middle frame, Sean Kuraly kept the puck in the offensive zone and worked it deep to Joakim Nordstrom along the boards.

Nordstrom threw a shot towards the slot for Chris Wagner (2) to redirect past McElhinney at 1:21 of the second period to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.

The former Hurricane, Nordstrom (2) picked up the primary assist, while Kuraly (3) was tabbed with the secondary assist on Wagner’s goal.

Moments late, Niederreiter went to the box for high-sticking Krejci at 4:47 of the second period.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Brad Marchand (6) let go of a backhand shot from the low slot that deflected off of Carolina defender, Calvin de Haan, and through McElhinney’s five-hole into the twine.

Krejci (9) and Charlie McAvoy (6) had the assists on Marchand’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 6:28 of the second period.

With the primary assist on Marchand’s goal, Krejci reached the 100-point plateau in his postseason career points totals and became just the 5th Bruin in franchise history to do so. He also tied Rick Middleton and John Bucyk for 3rd all-time in postseason scoring for Boston.

Phil Esposito is 2nd all-time in Bruins franchise history with 102 postseason points for the B’s. Ray Bourque has the most Stanley Cup Playoff points while wearing a Bruins sweater with 161.

Near the midpoint of regulation, Micheal Ferland got a stick up high on David Backes and was assessed minor infraction for high-sticking at 9:53 of the second period.

Boston did not score on the resulting power play and the Canes utilized the momentum of the penalty kill to muster a couple of great one-timer opportunities in the vulnerable minute thereafter, but Rask made a couple great saves across the crease.

Off of an offensive zone face-off win for Carolina, the Hurricanes worked the puck “D-to-D” along the blue line for the blast from de Haan (1) that squibbed through the leg pads of the Bruins goaltender for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Justin Faulk (7) and Aho (7) notched the assists on de Haan’s goal at 13:48 and the Hurricanes cut the B’s lead in half, 2-1.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed, 26-24, in shots on goal– despite outshooting the Hurricanes, 18-6, in the second period alone.

Carolina maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (11-9), giveaways (11-5) and hits (28-19), while Boston led in face-off win% (61-39).

The Canes were 0/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage entering the third period.

de Haan tripped Marchand at 3:43 of the third period to grace Boston with an early power play to begin the final frame of regulation.

While on the power play, the Bruins thought they scored when Krug fired a shot from the point that deflected off of Slavin and went behind McElhinney as the Hurricanes goaltender was being screened by DeBrusk, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact with the goaltender (goaltender interference).

As such, Cassidy challenged the call on the ice, but his coach’s challenge was to no avail because– even after it appeared DeBrusk was bumped by Slavin and tried to get out of the way of McElhinney as the Canes goaltender skated out of his crease into the oncoming Bruin on his own merit– this is what happens when a coach’s challenge is a thing.

The call on the ice was confirmed. No goal.

Can’t just enjoy a call– blown or otherwise– like the good ol’ days, right? (Standard disclaimer, not all video review is bad, folks.)

Anyway, Boston lost their timeout and followed things up with a penalty of their own as Matt Grzelcyk was caught behind the play and interfered with Brock McGinn at 5:38 of the third period.

The Hurricanes did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Despite pulling McElhinney for an extra attacker with about 2:04 remaining in regulation, Carolina was not able to slip a puck past Rask and the Bruins managed to defend their way to the, 2-1, win at the final horn.

The Canes finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-31), giveaways (15-5) and hits (35-24), while the B’s finished Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-13) and face-off win% (57-43).

Carolina went 0/5 on the power play and Boston went 1/5 on the skater advantage, while taking command of a 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday.

The Bruins are 19-1 all-time when leading a series 3-0 and have won seven straight Eastern Conference Final games dating back to their last appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (a 4-0 series sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Boston is also on a six game winning streak in the postseason for the first time since 1978, and improved to 10-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.

The Hurricanes fell to 5-1 on home ice in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and are looking to avoid elimination Thursday night at PNC Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN. Fans in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS for the game.