Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Brad Marchand tied the game on the power play in the second period and Ryan Donato had the only goal in the shootout to secure the 2-1 victory for the Boston Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden against the New York Islanders.
Tuukka Rask (6-4-2, 2.54 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 12 games played) turned aside 28 out of 29 shots against (.966 SV%) in regulation and all four shots he faced in the shootout in the win for the Bruins.
Meanwhile, Robin Lehner (4-6-1, 2.79 GAA, .918 SV% in 12 GP) made 35 saves on 36 shots against in regulation (.972 SV%) and went three-for-four on shots against in the shootout in New York’s loss.
Prior to Thursday night’s matchup, Boston retired Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 and raised his jersey banner to the rafters in a ceremony that pushed back puck drop about an hour later than usual.
Middleton is the 11th player to have his jersey number retired by the Bruins, joining Nos. 2 (Eddie Shore), 3 (Lionel Hitchman), 4 (Bobby Orr), 5 (“Dit” Clapper), 7 (Phil Esposito), 8 (Cam Neely), 9 (Johnny Bucyk), 15 (Milt Schmidt), 24 (Terry O’Reilly) and 77 (Ray Bourque) in the rafters at TD Garden.
He ranks 3rd all-time in franchise history in goals (402) and 4th all-time in assists (898) with the Bruins, while leading the club record in shorthanded goals with 25 (Derek Sanderson had 24, Brad Marchand has 23) and spent 12 seasons with Boston from 1976-88 after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers.
One of the many highlights of the ceremony was when Middleton quipped in his speech about not inviting a lot of former teammates to his special night because he didn’t want to have too many men on the ice again (Middleton then gave a glance over to former Bruins head coach, Don Cherry, who was in attendance).
B’s fans alive during the 1979 Stanley Cup Playoffs will remember. Keep reading on if you don’t and/or weren’t alive then.
With Thursday night’s shootout victory, the Bruins improved to a 14-7-4 record (32 points) on the season. The Islanders fell to 12-9-3 (27 points) on the year.
Prior to the matchup, Ryan Donato was recalled from a stint with the Providence Bruins (AHL), while Anders Bjork was assigned to Boston’s AHL affiliate after his less than stellar play just over a quarter of the way through the regular season.
Kevan Miller will be reevaluated after five weeks, having sustained a cartilage injury to the larynx, per Bruce Cassidy earlier in the week and Brandon Carlo may rejoin the Bruins blue line on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
Charlie McAvoy remains out with a concussion, but participated in Thursday’s morning skate in a red non-contact sweater.
On defense, however, Torey Krug was paired with Connor Clifton on the first pairing, John Moore played alongside Steven Kampfer and Jeremy Lauzon was matched with Matt Grzelcyk on the bottom defensive pair.
Anders Lee (8) kicked off the game’s scoring past the midpoint of the first period, giving the Islanders a, 1-0, lead on a garbage goal in stereotypical fashion from Lee after an odd carom off the end boards went his way into the low slot.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were outshooting New York, 13-7, and held an advantage in blocked shots (8-7), hits (15-13) and face-off win percentage (56-44). The Islanders led in takeaways (6-5) and both teams had three giveaways each.
Almost midway through the second period, Acciari tripped up Islanders forward, Anthony Beauvillier, and gave New York their first and only power play of the night at 8:05 of the second period. It was not successful.
Moments later, Nick Leddy, caught David Backes with a stick up high and received a minor infraction for high-sticking at 11:43. Boston converted on the ensuing power play thanks to the quick work of Krug to David Pastrnak and a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand (7) for the one-timer past Lehner at 12:09 of the second period.
Marchand’s power play goal ended a seven-game goalless drought for No. 63 in black-and-gold and tied the game, 1-1. Pastrnak (10) and Krug (11) were credited with the assists and the score remained tied throughout the remainder of the period.
Heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, and the Bruins led in shots on goal (25-16), as well as face-off win% (61-39). The Islanders had the advantage in takeaways (14-8), giveaways (9-7) and hits (26-22), while both teams had 11 blocked shots apiece.
New York went 0/1 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/1.
Neither team could breakthrough on the scoreboard in the third period– or in overtime, for that matter– so here’s a quick glance at the stats from the back-and-forth battle over the final 20 minutes of regulation, plus five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime.
After Three: Shots on Goal, 34-27 BOS (9-7 in the 3rd period alone for BOS), Blocked Shots, 16-16, Takeaways, 23-12 NYI, Giveaways 11-8, NYI, Hits 35-30 NYI, Face-off Win% 61-39 BOS
After Overtime: SOG (36-29 BOS, 6-2 in OT for NYI), BS 16-16, Takeaways (27-12 NYI), Giveaways (11-8 NYI), Hits (35-32 NYI), Face-off Win% (62-39 BOS)
In the shootout Barzal shot first for the Islanders and was denied by Rask. Jake DeBrusk had the first attempt for Boston and was denied by Lehner. The remaining rounds went as such:
Round 2: NYI, Brock Nelson (saved), BOS, Pastrnak (hit post)– (0-0 after two rounds of the shootout)
Round 3: NYI, Valtteri Filppula (saved), BOS, Marchand (saved)– (0-0 after three rounds)
Round 4: NYI, Josh Bailey (saved), BOS, Donato (goal)– (1-0 BOS after four rounds)– Bruins win shootout, 1-0, and the game, 2-1
The shootout victory was Boston’s first shootout win of the season in their first shootout appearance of the regular season– in just their 25th game on the schedule.
Boston takes on the Red Wings on home ice this Saturday before traveling to Sunrise, Florida for the start of a quick, two-game, road trip against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday (Dec. 4th) and heading up to Tampa, Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning next Thursday (Dec. 6th).
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the New York Islanders and their outlook for the summer.
The 2017-18 New York Islanders were a vast disappointment. They went 35-37-10 for 80 points on the season and finished 7th in the Metropolitan Division under head coach and former Islanders star, Doug Weight.
John Tavares is the hotly contested prize this summer on the free agent market– if he makes it to the open market by July 1st.
Meanwhile, New York’s owner Jon Ledecky did not “Weight” around as Garth Snow and Weight were removed from their positions with the organization last month.
After jumping ship from the Toronto Maple Leafs– having completed his three years as General Manager– Lou Lamoriello was hired by the Isles and ultimately promoted to the GM position. The search for a new head coach is ongoing after Weight joined the team midseason in 2016-17 and missed the playoffs both years with the club.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Lamoriello holds on to the 11th and 12th overall picks in the 2018 Draft currently.
If the Islanders are looking to move forward, they’ve got a few players to let go this offseason and a couple, like Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, that could be traded in a miracle maneuver by Lamoriello in an attempt to protect the future with guys like Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle as pending free agents in 2019 looking for a raise.
Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Kupari, Adam Boqvist, Isac Lundestrom, Joel Farabee, Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joseph Veleno will likely be availble around the 11th and 12th overall picks and by that point New York would be wise to select the best available.
It’s not a full-on rebuild, but Lamoriello has a bit of a mess on his hands– too much, perhaps, to fix in one offseason, but if Tavares is willing to stick around…
Pending free agents
New York has about $28.300 million to spend this summer with the 27-year-old Tavares likely to take up almost $10.000 million AAV on his next deal– if he re-signs with the Islanders.
Past that, Lamoriello has to contemplate where Chris Wagner, 27, and Nikolai Kulemin, 31, fit in with the organization (if they do) as pending-UFA forwards and Ross Johnston, 24, Brock Nelson, 26, Alan Quine, 25, and Shane Prince, 25, sort themselves out as pending-RFA forwards.
Johnson had six points in 24 games. Wagner had 16 points in 79 games. The former shouldn’t be re-signed if you’re expecting him to be an NHLer next season, whereas Wagner could hold his own on the fourth line.
Kulemin spent most of 2017-18 with an upper body injury that limited his totals to one goal and two assists (three points) in 13 games. He’s been stagnant around 20-points on a good year and could play a role as a bottom-6 forward, provided he signs for a lot less than what he was making ($4,187,500) the last four seasons.
While attracting another top-six forward would certainly sell Tavares on sticking around (hello, Ilya Kovalchuk), Nelson is a key part of New York’s top-two lines, having amassed 40-plus points in three out of his five career seasons in the league.
Yes, he only had 19-16–35 totals in 82 games this season, but the overall production of the Isles was down. Keep him around.
Quine and Prince present challenges to Lamoriello’s overarching plan for the organization. Both players had five goals and 13 assists (18 points) in 2016-17. Quine did so in 61 games, while Prince did it in 50 games played.
This season, Quine had three assists in 21 games and Prince had one goal and one assist (two points) in 14 appearances. Both players are 25-years-old and running out of time as NHLers that have never cracked the 20-point plateau. Make of that what you want.
Along with the Tavares decision, the biggest questions for the Islanders reside on the blueline and in net.
de Haan will see something around $3.300 million (what he made on his one-year bridge deal this season) despite injuries, while Hickey could rival Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy money (somewhere in the range of $5.000-6.500 million).
That could force Lamoriello to trade the aging Boychuk, if the 34-year-old would agree to waive his no-movement clause, or Lamoriello would have to send Leddy packing.
Brandon Davidson, 26, and Ryan Pulock, 23, are the only pending-RFA defenders. Pulock has to be kept while Davidson might see the door as a journeyman making the rounds between Edmonton and Montreal, then back and forth again before landing in Brooklyn.
So that’s the defense, then there’s the goaltending.
Jaroslav Halak, 33, is a pending-UFA coming off a 20-26-6 season in 54 games played with a 3.19 goals against average and .908 save percentage. Not great.
Thomas Greiss, 32, has two-years remaining on his current contract with a $3.333 million cap hit and a 3.82 GAA and .892 SV% in 27 games played in 2017-18. Also not great.
Halak’s four seasons with the Islanders have ranged in goals against average and save percentage with a 2.43 and .914 in 2014-15 (59 games played), 2.30 and .919 in 2015-16 (36 GP), 2.80 and .915 in 2016-17 (28 GP) and his 2017-18 results.
Greiss has posted similar numbers with New York with a 2.36 and .925 in 2015-16 (41 GP), 2.69 and .913 in 2016-17 (51 GP) and his 2017-18 stat line. His best season came as a backup in 25 games played with the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2013-14, compiling a 2.29 GAA and amassing a .920 SV%.
The answer is clear. Find a legitimate goaltender.
Despite brief stints as a starting goaltender, Greiss cannot maintain quality play over the course of a season and unless Lamoriello mends the wounds with Halak and rebuilds his confidence magically over the summer (while also providing him with a defense that limits shot attempts against), then Halak’s out of town and New York is desperate.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
For those of you who expected less cringe-inducing puns with @connorzkeith on the IR, these past 3 days have surely been painful. My gracious cohorts have blessed me with the weekend’s slimmest pickings on this 4-game Sunday, so let’s just have a rundown of the games on the slate, shall we?
At 12:30pm EST (so that’s 11:30am local, on the morning of the time change, so let’s see how well the legs get moving at a typical morning skate timeslot on short rest) we have the scorching-hot Boston Bruins taking on 2003’s Chicago Blackhawks (for those of us who can remember a time where they were a bad team). An Original 6 matchup at the Madhouse on Madison would normally get the nod for Game of the Day (NBC gave it to them) but the Hawks are a shell of their former selves and are limping home to lick their wounds in the offseason while Boston runs roughshod over nearly every opponent they come into contact with. I’m not expecting a barnburner here.
At 7:30pm EST we have a tilt that could be fun, with two high-flying offenses squaring off in Pittsburgh as the Penguins host the Dallas Stars. The Penguins’ balanced attack will attempt to counter the OP Benn-Seguin-Radulov combo in a showdown that wouldn’t actually shock me if the final score was 9-8. But the possibility of a blowout snoozer (in either direction) definitely persists with a pair of teams that occasionally lay absolute eggs defensively, so I’m going to pass on this one for today’s honor.
At 9:00pm EST we have the very, very bad Arizona Coyotes hosting the ‘so bad we traded Thomas Vanek for Jussi Jokinen and Tyler Motte‘ Vancouver Canucks in the ‘Duel for Dahlin’. I…I just cannot be bothered to care about this game.
So then we are left with just one option, and the matchup that has earned the nomination for my first (and hopefully only) Game of the Day matchup:
Yes the old bitter rivalry between the Islanders and Flames is well-documented, and this one should live up to all the hype! [/sarcasm]
Alright, but really, this has the potential to actually be sort of fun.
Calgary is returning home after winning two straight on the road (a 5-1 thumping of Buffalo and a 2-1 victory over the Sens) for the start of a brief homestand, and are currently neck-deep in an absolute knock-down, drag-out, bare-knuckle brawl for the Western Conference wild card spots (5 points seperate 5 teams) and also trail San Jose and Anaheim by just 3 and 2 points respectively for 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific division.
Meanwhile, in Long Island (Brooklyn), the Isles are clinging desperately to their playoff dreams, as they haven’t won a game since February 16th, but have managed to snag pity points in 4 of the 8 losses. They’re a solid distance off of the final wild card spot, but the Devils team they’re chasing has been a bit shaky recently, and with their next 4 games against divisional opponents, with 3 coming on home ice (in fact they play 7 of 10 at Barclays to close out March), they desperately need to use this game to grab some momentum if they hope to mount any sort of a charge at sneaking into the postseason.
In the ‘fun-to-watch’ department, both of these squads give you no shortage of reasons to tune into this tilt. Calgary boasts a trio of 20-goal men in Michael Ferlund, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk, along with 30-goal scorer Sean Monahan. The latter is probably the most underrated pure sniper in the league today, possessing the kind of shot that leaves jaws agape and goaltenders waving hopelessly at thin air. Gaudreau is as shifty and entertaining as anyone, and routinely makes plays that make you question his relationship with physics. Throw in the young trio of offensively talented spark plugs in Ferlund, Tkachuk, and Sam Bennett (55 goals, 111 points, and 134 penalty minutes between them), and you have a fun group up front.
Even on defense the Flames have no shortage of entertainers. Captain Mark Giordano continues to make his case for the best defenseman in the league that no one has heard of, joining the flashy TJ Brodie and power play specialist Dougie Hamilton as Calgary’s trio of 30+ point d-men. Plus you can always count on some bone-jarring hits from Travis Hamonic to liven things up.
For the Islanders, the offense borders on the overpowering. New York has 3 players at point-per-game paces (okay, fine, Tavares has 67 in 68 games, whatever) and a host of others scoring more than their fair share. Captain John Tavares and linemate Anders Lee are both sitting on 31 goals this year, with Tavares’ aforementioned 67 points slightly overshadowing Lee’s 51. Josh Bailey continues his breakout campaign posting 65 points in 64 games, while new addition Jordan Eberle has posted 47 points so far, himself. But the biggest story is without a doubt rookie sensation Mathew Barzal. The diminutive youngster has posted 69 points in 68 games and is the hands-down favorite for the Calder Trophy this year.
The Isles can’t boast the same defensive firepower as Calgary, but Nick Leddy‘s 38 points outdo any single member of the Flames’ big three (although his Mike Commodore ‘Green Jacket’-worthy -33 rating beggars belief). Ryan Pulock and his 105mm Howitzer of a point shot come 2nd on the team at 21 points, but possibly most impressive has been young Thomas Hickey, who’s 20 points are accompanied by a +15 rating. On a team with a -24 goal differential, that’s immensely impressive.
The biggest divider between the two squads comes in net.
Mike Smith has been everything the Flames and their flashy-but-risky style of play could have hoped for. Posting a .921 save percentage and 2.53 GAA on the year, he has been just the steadying influence the Flames have asked him to be.
Now…for the Islanders…basically the entirety of their problems can be traced to their goaltending situation. As I wrote in my season preview article many months ago, for New York it was going to come down to either Jaroslav Halak takes over the net and leads them to success, or they’re going to have a bad time.
They’re having a bad time.
Halak has managed just a .908 save percentage with a 3.23 GAA in 47 contests this year, and while backup Thomas Greiss does possess a seemingly-fine 11-7-2 record, many of his appearances have been in relief and his numbers are even more abysmal at .891 and 3.84. If the Islanders had even average goaltending, that offense would have them firmly in the playoff picture. Instead, they’re clinging to hopes and dreams.
Two hungry teams with flashy offenses and risky styles of play should make for a fun game, so I’ll put my stamp on Islanders @ Flames for today’s DTFR Game of the Day.
In yesterday’s Game of the Day segment, @nlanciani53 told you that you should watch the Washington Capitals attempt to right the ship on their west coast swing against the San Jose Sharks.
I assume he’d like me to apologize for that.
On a day full of fun games, the Sharks and Caps played to a bit of a snoozer, with Washington eventually winning 2-0 in the Shark Tank.
Philipp Grubauer managed a 23-save shutout, but teammate Alex Ovechkin was also shutout once again in his pursuit of 600 career goals. In fact, aside from Nick Backstrom tally in the final 2 minutes of the 2nd period, nobody managed to beat a goaltender the entire game, as Lars Eller‘s 2-0 dagger was scored into an empty net in the 3rd.
The Ottawa Senators are doing the Pokka. No, not the polka, the Pokka. You heard that right.
On Thursday, Ottawa sent F Christopher DiDomenico to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for D Ville Pokka.
DiDomenico, 28, broke into the NHL last season appearing in three games with the Senators before playing in 24 more this season. He has six goals and four assists (10 points) in 27 career NHL games and recorded a career-long three game point streak (2-3–5 totals) in late October.
The Woodbridge, Ontario native has split time with the Belleville Senators and Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League (AHL) this season, notching six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 28 AHL games.
He was a 6th round pick (164th overall) of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2007 and will report to the Rockford IceHogs where he will have a homecoming of sorts, having played in 74 games with Rockford from 2010-12.
In fact, DiDomenico was previously acquired by the Blackhawks (along with Viktor Stalberg and Philippe Paradis) in a trade with the Maple Leafs on June 30, 2010. Chicago sent Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt in return.
Pokka, 23, has yet to appear in an NHL game and had 28-99–127 totals in 266 games with the IceHogs from 2014-18.
A native of Tornio, Finland, Pokka was drafted by the New York Islanders in the 2nd round (34th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He was originally traded to Chicago as part of the Nick Leddy trade on October 4, 2014, in which the Blackhawks acquired Pokka, T.J. Brennan and the rights to Anders Nilsson in exchange for Leddy.
Skater of the Week: Connor McDavid
Likely a byproduct of the abysmal season Edmonton is having, McDavid has been enjoying a solid if less-than-stellar season (he’s still put up 64 points in 54 games, we’re just talking about the arguable best player in the world) and hadn’t made this esteemed list until now. But with eight points in four games this week (including a four-goal, five-point performance against the almighty Lightning), Edmonton’s lord and savior has claimed the throne.
McDavid saw a five-game point scoring streak (seven goals, 11 points) come to an end in Edmonton’s final game of the week, but managed to put up eight points in the week’s three prior contests, so he definitely is worthy of the nod.
Tendy of the Week: Devan Dubnyk
In a week of slim standout goaltending performances (apart from Andrei Vasilevskiy making what might actually be the greatest save in the history of hockey), Dubnyk’s 2-0-1 record manages to stand out, particularly paired with his .950 save percentage and 1.96 GAA.
Apart from giving up four goals in the overtime loss to Arizona (which came on 40 shots, allowing Dubnyk to still manage a .900 save percentage), Dubnyk backstopped two victories over division rivals to cap a stellar week, turning aside 35-of-37 shots faced against St. Louis, and posting a 44-save blanking of Chicago.
The lanky Saskatchawinian (I have no idea if that’s a real word, but it was fun to say) hasn’t quite matched his ridiculous numbers from last season to this point, but he’s still been more than solid and has the Wild poised for another playoff run.
*Editor’s note: It’s “Saskatchewanian,” Pete. But close enough.*
Game of the Week: Detroit Red Wings 6 @ New York Islanders 7 (OT), Friday February 9th, 2018
Someone pick up the damn phone, the 1980s are calling.
This was one of those games that just made you laugh, because nothing about it made any sense. Three goaltenders played in the game, none of them posting a save percentage higher than .857 (Petr Mrazek had a frankly disturbing .759 and played for the team that DIDN’T switch goaltenders). Nine, count them, nine skaters had multi-point games, including a hat trick for Brock Nelson, a four-point outing for Henrik Zetterberg, and Mathew Barzal‘s five-assist performance making him the first rookie in 100 years to post three five-point games in a season.
Detroit was all over the Isles early, dominating the first period and taking a 3-0 lead into the locker room. New York could only answer one time in the second period, before drawing to within one early in the third, only to have the Wings score twice more in a 2:12 span to regain a three-goal lead. But with about six minutes to play, Tyler Bertuzzi would attempt to chop off the leg of Cal Clutterbuck, giving the Islanders a five-minute major power play opportunity. An opportunity they would capitalize upon thoroughly.
Brock Nelson. 5-3. Anders Lee. 5-4. Nick Leddy. Tie game. Josh Bailey. The Isles now somehow lead this game 6-5 with 1:49 to play after scoring four times on a single power play. Who could have predicted this? Who could even believe this? Who is writing the script for this movie? Who’s got Mike Green in the slot? Oh, nobody does, and with 29 seconds to play the Red Wings complete the circus act to tie the game at six and force overtime.
Nelson would complete his hat trick to finally end the chaos 3:15 into the extra frame, but if we’re honest, everyone who watched this game were the real winners*.
*Except my father, who is still questioning how his team could score six goals and lose a hockey game.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Sidney Crosby scored the 400th goal of his career on Sunday against the Blues. I can only speak positively of him for so long at any given time, so I’ll just end this right here.
Lars Eller got himself a five-year, $17.5M extension with the Capitals, making him probably the highest-paid person in the world named Lars that doesn’t play drums.
Alexandre Burrows decided not to appeal his 10-game suspension for being an absolute piece of…err…I mean kneeing Taylor Hall in the head…a lot. Personally, I was really hoping he would appeal the suspension, and the league would respond by making it an 11-game suspension, just because it’s Alex Burrows.
Mark Scheifele is back off of IR, adding even more firepower to a Jets squad that might just screw around and grab a Presidents’ Trophy.
The Rangers basically announced in a letter to their fans that they are dropping the franchise on a landmine and starting over, which is probably disheartening to the fanbase, but New York was only one point behind my Blue Jackets when the letter was published so, like, I’m definitely not thinking about that when I try to go to sleep or anything.
Jack Eichel is out for at least a month after suffering a high-ankle sprain. This is devastating news for the Sabres, as they lose a key piece in their pursuit of a playoff spot. (Nobody say anything and let’s see if any Buffalo fans know that was sarcasm)
It’s the first Friday of 2018! Whether you worked all week or haven’t started back yet, you deserve to watch some hockey tonight!
The festivities begin at 7 p.m. when Pittsburgh visits the New York Islanders (SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (San Jose at Ottawa [RDS2] and Florida at Detroit). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Buffalo at Winnipeg, while tonight’s nightcap – Vegas at Chicago (SN1) – waits 30 minutes before getting underway. All times Eastern.
There’s only one rivalry game on the schedule today, and with both participants having fallen outside the playoff picture, it should be an exceptionally competitive and important matchup. We’re off to Brooklyn!
Oh boy, where to start with this game? Both clubs have had reason for optimism at different points this season, yet – if things stay the way they currently stand – they could be scheduling tee times on April 8.
Of course, after winning two consecutive titles, 20-19-3 Pittsburgh figured to be in far better position than 10th in the Eastern Conference. Playoff qualification was supposed to be a given! Adding insult to injury, if they had simply beat Carolina at home last night instead of lose 4-0, the Pens would at least be in the postseason picture as the second wild card.
There’s reasons galore for why the reigning champs find themselves in the position they do, ranging from front office decisions to injuries and performance to plain bad luck, but we don’t have time to tackle all those things.
The biggest thing that is missing from this Penguins team is the very thing that has made the club so dominant for the last decade: offense. Pittsburgh averages only 2.71 goals per game through 42 games, the 10th-worst in the NHL.
However, the issue isn’t that simple. This offense has proved it is still capable of figuring things out, because the Penguins’ power play is actually the best in the league. Similar to the Sabres of the last two years, Pittsburgh can convert when the game is supposedly at its easiest – converting 25.7 percent of its man-advantage opportunities – but has only a league-worst 56 five-on-five goals to its credit.
That’s right, the Penguins were just compared to the Sabres. That hasn’t happened since the ’90s, and it was a compliment then.
So where did the offense go?
The easiest person to point at is C Sidney Crosby and his 14-22-36 totals. Managing only .857 points per game (regardless of the number of players on the ice), he’s on pace for the worst season of his career. Even his 36-49-85 effort in 2015-’16 season is superior, as he managed 1.06 points per game that year.
Oh yeah, and the Pens did more than simply qualify for the playoffs that year.
So far this season, Crosby has posted 17 points at even-strength and another 19 on the power play. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not too far off the pace of RW Phil Kessel, who’s managed 17-27-44 totals to lead the team. 19 of Kessel’s points have come at even-strength (only two more than Crosby’s) and 25 on the power play, a total that actually leads the league.
But points are very different than goals, and that’s where Crosby has slipped. He’s scored only eight goals at even-strength (compared to Kessel’s 11), a total that is tied with F Jake Guentzel for third-most on the team (13-10-23 totals) and one fewer than W Conor Sheary‘s – who’s having an absolutely miserable 11-5-16 third year while occupying a spot on the top line – nine.
Before we pick on the Islanders, don’t think F Evgeni Malkin escapes judgement. He’s posted 14-24-38 totals through 38 games played this season, which in and of itself is stellar. Averaging at least a point-per-game is the goal of all elite players in this league.
However, when we start breaking his stats down, he follows the same trend as Crosby. Eight of Malkin’s 14 tallies have been struck on the power play, meaning he’s scored only six times at even-strength. Centering Kessel’s second line has elevated his even-strength point total (20 of his points have come in five-on-five situations), but the fact that both of Pittsburgh’s franchise players aren’t finding the back of the net in the very situation most of the game is played is having ripple effects throughout the roster.
Road trips are hard, and the 20-17-4 Islanders – who currently sit in ninth place and two points outside playoff position – just got back from a tough one. New York has played three of its last four games away from the comforts of Barclays Center, and it returns home riding a four-game losing skid.
For most of the season, the Isles’ top line of F Josh Bailey (12-38-50 totals), F Anders Lee (24-15-39) and C John Tavares (22-28-50) has worked miracles to cover for the sins of their teammates, but it seems even they have run out of whatever secret sauce was keeping them on the scorecard.
Now that they aren’t bearing the load as well, New York’s atrocious defense is getting lit up. Since December 29, the Islanders have allowed a league-high 155 shots against, and that’s resulted in a whopping 21 goals against in four games played (5.25 per game), far and away the worst effort over that stretch.
It’s hard to blame 11-11-2 G Jaroslav Halak for his poor performance of late considering his insane workload, but he hasn’t been able to keep the Isles competitive during this run, managing only a .881 save percentage and 4.94 GAA in his last three starts.
What’s truly alarming about New York’s defense is that four defensemen – Thomas Hickey, Nick Leddy, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech – are managing at least two blocks-per-game over this losing skid. If I were Halak, I’d be truly frightened imagining my workload without their efforts.
Tonight’s tilt is the second in a four-game season series. Game 1 on December 7 went the way of the Penguins, who needed an overtime goal from D Matt Hunwick to beat New York 4-3 at PPG Paints Arena. Meetings 3 and 4 won’t take place until March, so both clubs will want to leave a positive impression on the other before diverging paths for two months.
Who wins a game between a sputtering offense and an anemic defense? Probably the team that can find success on the other end of the ice. Given the Isles’ home ice and their usually dynamic offense, I wouldn’t be surprised to see New York earn two points in the standings tonight.
Though they needed the shootout to get it done, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 at Air Canada Centre in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Though two goals were struck in the first period, they were both scored in the last two minutes before intermission. The first tally belonged to First Star of the Game C Auston Matthews (D Connor Carrick and F William Nylander) with 1:23 remaining on the clock, followed only 31 seconds later by D Brenden Dillon (D Brent Burns and W Timo Meier) leveling the game with a snap shot, his first goal of the season.
Two more tallies were struck in the second period, but C Nazem Kadri (F Mitch Marner and D Morgan Rielly) didn’t wait until until the end of the frame to make his mark. He buried a power play tip-in with 7:20 remaining before intermission to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. However, San Jose would once again manage to find a leveling goal, this one courtesy of C Chris Tierney taking advantage of Second Star G Frederik Andersen misplaying the puck in front of his crease 5:38 later.
As no goals were struck in the third period or three-on-three overtime, the game was thrust into the shootout. As hosts, the Maple Leafs elected to go first.
- Who else is Head Coach Mike Babcock to send out than Matthews? The second-year stud converted the fourth shootout opportunity of his career, setting his mark as a pro at 4-for-12.
- Facing an early hole, F Logan Couture was the first Shark to participate. However, his backhanded shot was saved by Andersen, giving Toronto a 1-0 advantage through the first round.
- With the opportunity to force a miss-and-lose situation for San Jose, Marner’s wrist shot was saved by Third Star G Martin Jones.
- Unfortunately for the Sharks, F Joe Pavelski‘s wrister met the same fate: saved by Andersen. Toronto led 1-0 through two rounds.
- What a weird situation for F Patrick Marleau to be in: if he scored a goal, he’d defeat the very club he played with for 19 years. Whether he wanted that honor or not, he found iron, giving San Jose the opportunity to continue the shootout.
- And that’s exactly what RW Kevin Labanc did. He beat Andersen to tie the shootout 1-1 through three rounds, forcing extra frames.
- You probably noticed that the goaltenders played pretty well tonight. That trend continued when Jones saved Nylander’s wrister.
- With his back against a wall, Andersen duplicated Jones’ performance by saving RW Joonas Donskoi‘s wrister to maintain the 1-1 tie.
- Consider this a ditto for Jones, but this time against a LW James van Riemsdyk wrister.
- Make it a double for Andersen as well, as he saved Burns’ wrister to extend the shootout to six rounds.
- Finally someone found the back of the net! C Tyler Bozak sneaked his shot past Jones to force a sudden death situation for San Jose.
- Tierney came as close as he could to continuing the shootout, but his attempt found iron to give the bonus point to Toronto.
Both goaltenders performed marvelously, but only one could come away with the victory. That proved to be Andersen, as he saved 33-of-35 (.943 save percentage) through 65 minutes of play. That left Jones with the shootout loss after he stopped 26-of-28 (.929).
Home ice has been a big deal in the DtFR Game of the Day series this year, as the 51-28-11 hosts, who have earned points in seven of the last eight games, have a 24-point advantage on the visitors in the series.
Given what day this is of the season and the number of games on today’s schedule, there’s only one thing that can be said:
You know what, I’ll let you figure it out.
Anyways, there’s nine contests on the slate for today, beginning with five (Ottawa at Buffalo [RDS], Los Angeles at New Jersey, Toronto at Philadelphia [TVAS], Colorado at Washington and Edmonton at Columbus) at the usual 7 p.m. start time. Next up are the two 8 p.m. games (Tampa Bay at St. Louis [NBCSN] and Calgary at Minnesota), followed by Florida at Chicago (SN) half an hour later. Finally, Carolina makes its first annual trip to Vegas at 10 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.
There were two games I had circled at the beginning of the season…
- Ottawa at Buffalo: It’s rivalry night in the Queen City between the Eastern Conference’s two worst teams! Get excited Upstate!
- Carolina at Vegas: For a combined three days, C Marcus Kruger and D Trevor van Riemsdyk were Golden Knights. Does this count as a homecoming?
… but they pale in comparison to tonight’s action in the Gateway to the West.
What a gauntlet the league-leading 21-6-2 Lightning have faced of late. It was only Saturday that they escaped with an overtime victory against an impressive Jets squad that plays a similar style to them.
There’s no denying how dominant the Bolts have been through their first 29 games, and that’s especially apparent when they have the puck on their own sticks. Tampa averages 3.75 goals-per-game to lead the league, thanks in large part to the incredible efforts of its top line. RW Nikita Kucherov (20-21-41 totals), F Vladislav Namestnikov (12-15-27) and C Steven Stamkos (12-30-42) have been nothing short of incredible, and it doesn’t hurt that they have F Brayden Point (12-14-26) and company backing them on the second line.
As I pointed out this weekend, this offense is also acting as the Lightning’s best defense, because it’s keeping pucks off 19-4-1 G Andrei Vasilevskiy – not that he needs much help, as his .93 season save percentage and 2.24 GAA are both among the top four performances of any goaltender in the league with at least nine starts.
But we discussed all this this weekend. Let’s talk about Tampa’s special teams, which – as you would probably guess – are among the best in the NHL.
The Lightning are the league’s deadliest when they have the man-advantage, as they convert a 28.44 percent of opposing penalties into goals, a mark that is over two percent better than Nashville’s second-best effort.
Just as they do at even strength, Kucherov, Namestnikov and Stamkos have led the charge on the power play with their combined 46 extra-man points. Makhail Sergachev has also made his presence known on the Bolts’ second unit, as he’s managed 2-8-10 totals – the fourth-best effort on the team.
Perhaps one of Tampa’s biggest weaknesses is when it is on the penalty kill. If that is the case the rest of the league should be alarmed, because the Lightning successfully defend 82.6 percent of their infractions to rank eighth-best in the NHL. Vasilevskiy in particular has performed spectacularly when his club is shorthanded, managing a .924 save percentage against the power play to rank (t)fourth-best among the 32 goaltenders with at least 14 starts.
Before we jump into talking about the 21-8-2 Blues, it needs to be noted that they’ll be without three players this evening. In addition to D Jay Bouwmeester missing tonight’s game to rest an injury, F Jaden Schwartz and D Alex Pietrangelo are both on injured reserve with respective ankle and lower body injuries suffered blocking shots.
It certainly wouldn’t be without reason if the Notes’ offense struggles with these injuries, as they average a 3.29 goals-per-game average that ranks sixth-best in the league.
On that end, the biggest injury is certainly to Schwartz, who is posting career-best 12-21-35 totals. In his place, RW Vladimir Tarasenko moves up onto the top line with F Vladimir Sobotka and
Vladimir C Paul Stastny. While Schwartz is a tough act to follow, there’s little reason to believe Tarasenko won’t thrive in that role, as his 14-19-33 performance from playing on the second line is already the third-best on the team. Instead, I’ll be interested to see if F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis’ leading scorer with a 16-37-37 effort, can turn W Dmitrij Jaskin (4-7-11) into a real scoring threat while filling in for Tarasenko.
Of course, this offense is not simply reliant on spectacular play from its forwards. Pietrangelo is also very active in the attacking zone, as his 7-16-23 totals are not only the most among St. Louis blueliners, but also the fourth-best marks on the entire team. In fact, Pietrangelo ranks fifth in defensive scoring across the league, behind only the likes of Drew Doughty, John Klingberg, Kris Letang and Nick Leddy (for what its worth, the Blue Notes’ captain has scored more goals than any of those players).
Fortunately for St. Louis, it has just the player to slide into his role as the top two-way defenseman on the team: D Colton Parayko. Currently owning 3-14-17 marks, the third-year player has put his arguable sophomore slump behind him and is well on his way to surpassing his solid 9-24-33 rookie performance. Should he continue on his current pace, Parayko is on track to post 8-37-45 totals that would exceed Pietrangelo’s effort in his third year in the league (yes, that was the lockout season – we’re going off points-per-game in this instance).
As far as defense, not much should change for the team that features the reigning Second Star of the Week in 17-6-2 G Jake Allen. Allen is riding a four-game winning streak and has not lost in regulation since December 1 against the Kings, posting a .939 save percentage over the five games since then. As long as the Blues don’t see a significant drop in its defense that has allowed an average of only 29.45 shots against-per-game (the third-fewest in the NHL), Allen should be able to keep his end of the ice under control.
Now, what makes this contest extremely exciting is that the winner will take the lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. Both are tied at 44 points currently, but the Bolts do own a “games played” tiebreaker, having laced up their skates two fewer times than St. Louis. Considering the Lightning already beat the Blues 2-1 on October 14, St. Louis will no doubt want to exact revenge on home ice.
As for if that actually happens, I’m having a tough time making that prediction. With their injuries, I’m concerned the Blues’ lackluster special teams will take too much of a hit this evening, so I think Tampa Bay will come away with the road victory.
The New York Islanders exploded out of the gates to beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 at the Barclays Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
When facing a goaltender of the likes of G Braden Holtby, quick passes become a necessity. That’s exactly what provided Ladd the opportunity for his eighth goal of the season. de Haan collected a drop pass from Eberle at the blue line and began crashing towards the goal line. But, instead of throwing a wrist shot on Holtby from an angle with low odds of success, he instead slid a centering pass across the crease to Ladd, who was camping out near the left goal post. Before the netminder could slide across his crease, Ladd had already buried his wrister.
The Capitals finally got on the scoreboard at the 8:23 mark of the third period courtesy of D Dmitry Orlov (F Chandler Stephenson and F Jay Beagle), but they couldn’t claw any further back into the game before the end of regulation.
First Star G Jaroslav Halak earned the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (.969 save percentage), leaving the loss to Holtby, who saved nine-of-12 (.75) before being pulled following Tavares’ tally. G Philipp Grubauer saved all 17 shots he faced for no decision.
New York’s regulation win is the first in six games in the DtFR Game of the Day series, snapping a five-game run of contests requiring more than 60 minutes. Hosts in the series now own a 39-22-8 record that is 17 points better than the roadies’ efforts.
30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.
The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
To recap, here’s all of the protected players:
Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette
Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm
Goaltender: John Gibson
Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder
Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn
Goaltender: Chad Johnson
Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner
Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller
Goaltender: Tuukka Rask
Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo
Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen
Goaltender: Robin Lehner
Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan
Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton
Goaltender: Mike Smith
Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen
Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy
Goaltender: Scott Darling
Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews
Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Goaltender: Corey Crawford
Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto
Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov
Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov
Columbus Blue Jackets
Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg
Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard
Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky
Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza
Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell
Goaltender: Ben Bishop
Detroit Red Wings
Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg
Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen
Goaltender: Jimmy Howard
Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera
Goaltender: Cam Talbot
Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck
Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle
Goaltender: James Reimer
Los Angeles Kings
Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli
Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin
Goaltender: Jonathan Quick
Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker
Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter
Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk
Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw
Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber
Goaltender: Carey Price
Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen
Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban
Goaltender: Pekka Rinne
New Jersey Devils
Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac
Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson
Goaltender: Cory Schneider
New York Islanders
Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares
Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock
Goaltender: Thomas Greiss
New York Rangers
Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello
Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal
Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist
Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris
Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf
Goaltender: Craig Anderson
Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek
Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning
Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz
Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin
Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz
Goaltender: Matt Murray
San Jose Sharks
Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney
Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Goaltender: Martin Jones
St. Louis Blues
Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko
Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo
Goaltender: Jake Allen
Tampa Bay Lightning
Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos
Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman
Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Toronto Maple Leafs
Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk
Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly
Goaltender: Frederik Andersen
Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter
Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev
Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom
Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson
Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov
Goaltender: Braden Holtby
Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler
Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba
Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck