Tag Archives: Nikita Zaitsev

KREJCI PASSES NEELY, BRUINS BEAT LEAFS, 6-3

David Krejci (1-1–2 totals) surpassed Cam Neely for 10th place in the Boston Bruins all-time scoring list with his 591st and 592nd career points with Boston in Saturday night’s, 6-3, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Jaroslav Halak (9-4-2, 2.30 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 17 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen (16-8-0, 2.50 GAA, .926 SV% in 24 GP) made 22 saves on 28 shots faced (.786 SV%) in 46:10 time on ice in the loss.

Garret Sparks (4-1-1, 2.84 GAA, .913 SV% in seven GP) replaced Andersen almost midway through the third period for Toronto and turned aside all four shots he faced in the remaining 13:47 TOI.

Boston improved to 15-10-4 (34 points) on the season and leapt back over the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs fell to 20-9-1 (41 points) on the season and remain 2nd in the Atlantic Division– six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead.

With the win on Saturday, the Bruins are now 1-3-0 in the month of December and are being outscored, 15-10, in that four-game span.

Bruce Cassidy informed reporters prior to Saturday night’s matchup that Jake DeBrusk will miss the weekend’s games at home and in Ottawa as the young Bruins forward has “not [been] feeling well.”

DeBrusk had taken a puck to the back of the head on a shot from his own teammate on Nov. 26th in Toronto, which might be contributing to his current ailment, though it was not confirmed.

As a result of DeBrusk’s injury, Cassidy indicated Saturday night would mark Gemel Smith’s debut (and home debut) as a Bruin.

With DeBrusk out of the equation on the second line, Cassidy juggled the lines to keep Brad Marchand, Krejci and David Pastrnak together on the first line and Colby Cave centering Danton Heinen and David Backes to round out the top-six forwards.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson started the game on the third line between Ryan Donato and Joakim Nordstrom, while Smith slid in on the left side of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.

On defense, Torey Krug was paired with Brandon Carlo on the top defensive pair, with Matt Grzelcyk alongside his Boston University teammate, Charlie McAvoy.

John Moore and Steven Kampfer filled out the bottom defensive pairing for the Bruins with Halak getting the start in goal and Tuukka Rask likely to play Sunday in Ottawa.

Noel Acciari and Jeremy Lauzon were healthy scratches on Saturday, joining Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) in the press box.

McAvoy was penalized 13 seconds into the game for cross checking Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, and the Leafs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Toronto did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Both teams continued to trade chances until midway in the first period when Krejci and Jake Gardiner got tangled up and received matching roughing minors at 10:07.

While on the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Pastrnak sent a shot towards the goal for Forsbacka Karlsson to redirect, but Andersen made the initial save– that is, until he let up a rebound, which Forsbacka Karlsson (3) followed up on and poked the puck through the Maple Leafs goaltender to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Pastrnak (13) and Grzelcyk (8) had the assists on the goal at 11:20 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead, while Toronto led in shots on goal, 11-8. The Leafs also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (13-3) and hits (11-8), meanwhile the B’s had the advantage in giveaways (4-2) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Tyler Ennis kicked the action off in the second period with a tripping infraction as Smith went down to the ice at 6:14 of the middle frame. Boston couldn’t convert on the power play, but got a second chance on the skater advantage in the same period about 20 seconds after the first advantage expired.

Nazem Kadri caught Krejci with a stick and brought the veteran Bruins forward down at 8:34 and the Bruins went back on the power play.

Just 20 seconds into the ensuing advantage, Backes (3) fired a wrist shot past Andersen’s glove side to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:54 of the second period.

This, of course, after a mad scramble that led to Marchand (18) and Krug (13) being credited with the primary and secondary assists. 

John Tavares was guilty of slashing Gryzelcyk at 10:06, but the 5-on-4 power play for Boston wouldn’t last long as Backes hooked Maple Leafs defender, Nikita Zaitsev at 11:02.

For the next 1:05, both teams would play 4-on-4 action– at least, until  Gardiner boarded Krejci at 11:33 of the second period and sent the B’s on a rare 4-on-3 power play for 34 seconds.

As the string of soft calls started winding down, tempers started to flare on the ice.

Before long, Carlo and Nazem Kadri were at each other’s throats after a stoppage in play, which led to the exchanging of fisticuffs at 14:32.

The fight was just the 2nd fighting major of the season for the Maple Leafs, while it was both Kadri and Carlo’s first fight of the season.

Recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks, forward Josh Leivo  had the other fight for Toronto this season, while Carlo was involved in just the third fight of his young career (about one-a-season, so far).

Toronto began a short onslaught, but Halak stood tall and momentum swung Boston’s way as the Bruins sustained some attacking zone time and capitalized with a goal from the point.

Krug (1) wired a wrist shot past Andersen for his first goal of the season– and first goal in 25 games– to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.

Marchand (19) and Krejci (18) picked up the assists to make it, 3-0, Boston at 17:45 of the second period, marking the first time since Nov. 24th (against the Montreal Canadiens) that the B’s had tallied at least three goals in a game.

With his assist on the play, Krejci officially surpassed Neely for 10th place on the all-time scoring list in Bruins franchise history. Krejci would add another point in the form of a goal in the third period to further pull away from the current Bruins president’s historical marker of 590 career points with Boston.

Krejci now has 592 and counting.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 23-20, after outshooting the Maple Leafs, 15-9, in the second period alone.

Toronto led in blocked shots (7-5) and takeaways (23-7) through two periods, while the B’s dominated in giveaways (7-3), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (52-48)

The Maple Leafs were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission and the Bruins were 1/4.

Heinen (3) kicked off a chaotic third period with his first point in 12 games in the form of a goal at 1:47 into the final frame of regulation.

Donato (1) and Moore (4) tallied the assists and the Bruins led, 4-0.

Moments later, Travis Dermott (2) wired a back-footed snap shot from the point past Halak, high-glove side at 4:03 of the third period to put Toronto on the scoreboard, 4-1.

Auston Matthews (10) and Gardiner (14) had the assists on Dermott’s goal and the Leafs cut the lead to three.

A mere, 34 seconds later, Krejci (4) collected his second goal in two games on a rush and a give-and-go with Pastrnak to make it, 5-1, Boston.

Pastrnak (14) and Marchand (20) were tabbed with the assists at 4:37.

Less than two minutes later, Donato (3) added a goal while being held by Matthews in front of the net and pounding his own rebound behind Andersen to make it, 6-1, Bruins.

Heinen (4) and Krug (14) had the assists at 6:13 of the third period and Mike Babcock replaced his starting goaltender with Sparks.

Andersen’s night was done after allowing six goals.

But the zany game on ice has its ways as Matthews (16) riffled a shot past Halak after Andreas Johnsson freed a loose puck from Carlo to Matthews to make it, 6-2.

Johnsson (6) and Morgan Reilly (23) had the assists on the goal that made it a four-goal game at 9:30 of the third period.

Then, 23 seconds later, Zach Hyman delivered a high, late hit, with the elbow to McAvoy behind the play and Grzelcyk, along with the rest of the Bruins took notice.

Grzelcyk immediately challenged Hyman in effort to standup for his teammate who had just returned this week from a concussion and the two exchanged blows.

The penalty minutes officially read, Grzelcyk (fighting, major) and a game misconduct at 9:53, while Hyman received a fighting major, a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

Despite Hyman’s interference major, the Bruins were not given a power play advantage.

This, coupled with soft calls and blown calls from 13 seconds into the game through this point in the third period led to chaos.

Barely a minute later in playing time, Wagner glided into a high hit on Patrick Marleau in the neutral zone.

Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, immediately challenged the Bruins winger to a duel of fists and the two squared off with Wagner getting the wrestling takedown.

Only Wagner was officially penalized, however, with a minor penalty for charging and a misconduct at 10:55 of the third period.

As a result, the Bruins would be shorthanded and neither bench was very pleased. Both coaches were furious, but the game continued as the refs failed to contain the emotions of the game.

Donato served Wagner’s minor penalty, but it wasn’t long before Johnsson (7) capitalized on a deflection that yielded a rebound and collected a power play goal at 12:22.

Marleau (10) and Gardiner (15) had the assists and the Leafs trailed, 6-3.

With about two minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy returned to the Bruins bench after going through concussion protocol.

At the final horn, Boston had defeated Toronto, 6-3, and improved to 10-2-2 when scoring first this season.

Both teams finished the night with 32 shots on goal, while the B’s led in blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (12-9) and hits (24-21). The Maple Leafs finished Saturday night ahead in face-off win% (53-47) and were 1/2 on the power play, while Boston was 1/4.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet once more this season in Toronto on January 12, 2019.

Until then, Boston travels to Canadian Tire Centre for a Sunday matinee (5 p.m. ET puck drop) with the Ottawa Senators before traveling back home for a Tuesday night matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Bruins follow up Tuesday’s matchup with another rumble on the road at PPG Paints Arena next Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Marner’s three assists, Leivo’s GWG beat Bruins, 4-2

Mitch Marner led the way with three assists for the Toronto Maple Leafs– sans Auston Matthews for the 14th time this season due to his shoulder injury– as Josh Leivo had the game-winning goal late in the second period to defeat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at Scotiabank Arena Monday night.

Frederik Andersen (13-7-0, .932 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average in 20 games played) had 38 saves on 40 shots against for a .950 SV% in the win for Toronto, while Jaroslav Halak (8-3-2, .936 SV%, 2.05 GAA in 15 GP) made 27 saves on 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the loss.

Patrick Marleau participated in his 1,600th career NHL game Monday night– becoming the 11th player in league history to reach 1,600 games, joining Gordie Howe (1,767 games played), Mark Messier (1,756 GP), Jaromir Jagr (1,733 GP), Ron Francis (1,731 GP), Mark Recchi (1,652 GP), Chris Chelios (1,651 GP), Dave Andreychuk (1,639 GP), Scott Stevens (1,635 GP), Larry Murphy (1,615 GP) and Ray Bourque (1,612 GP).

Among active NHLers, Marleau leads San Jose’s Joe Thornton (1,508 games played), Pittsburgh’s Matt Cullen (1,463 GP), Boston’s Zdeno Chara (1,411 GP) and Carolina’s Justin Williams (1,185 GP).

Marleau was originally drafted 2nd overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks and signed a three-year contract with Toronto on July 2, 2017 after spending 1997-2017 with San Jose.

And if you’ve been under a rock since the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares this summer, William Nylander is still unsigned and has until *checks calendar* 5 p.m. ET Saturday to sign a deal and participate in the 2018-19 season.

Anyway, with the win on Monday, Toronto improved to 17-8-0 (34 points) on the season and remained 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while Boston fell to a 13-7-4 record (30 points) and stayed in 4th in the Atlantic.

Bruce Cassidy juggled his bottom-six forwards and defensive pairs Monday night with Anders Bjork back in the lineup on the third line to the left of Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari after having been a healthy scratch since Nov. 23rd.

Colby Cave began the night centering the fourth line with Sean Kuraly joining Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches against Toronto.

John Moore started the night on the first defensive pair as the left shot to Kevan Miller‘s right shot on the blue line with Torey Krug remaining partners with Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon on the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk.

Brandon Carlo (upper body), Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion) remained sidelined due to injury, though Carlo and McAvoy could be back as early as this week.

A tight goaltending battle began to unwind late in the first period as the Bruins couldn’t clear their own zone and the Maple Leafs capitalized on their chances.

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Travis Dermott (1) notched his first goal of the season to give Toronto the 1-0 lead at 17:44 of the first period. Marner (25) had the only assist on the goal.

Miller took an errant puck to the throat area prior to the goal and went down the tunnel to the dressing room. Boston later tweeted during the second intermission that he would not return to Monday night’s action.

After one period the Leafs held onto a, 1-0, lead, while trailing in shots on goal to the Bruins, 10-9. The B’s had an advantage in blocked shots (6-4), but Toronto dominated just about every other stat category entering the first intermission leading in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (5-4), hits (8-7) and face-off win percentage (72-28). Neither team had yet to see any action on the extra skater advantage on the power play.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was removed from the first line to start the second period as Cave earned a promotion in-game between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak that would soon pay off.

Par Lindholm hooked Moore early in the middle frame and the Bruins had their first power play of the night at 1:55 of the second period.

On the ensuing power play, Marchand worked a pass through the crease to Pastrnak (18) on the right side of Andersen for the shot on goal from close range that hit the twine, yielding a power play goal and tying the game, 1-1.

Marchand (16) and Krug (9) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 3:39 of the second period and Boston came to life for a few moments thanks to the swing in momentum.

Toronto followed up Lindholm’s penalty with a minor infraction for too many men on the ice at 10:48. The bench minor was served by Frederik Gauthier and the B’s did not convert on the resulting power play.

Instead, Gauthier played a key role fresh out of the box while the Bruins skaters still on the ice from the advantage in strength had tired legs and the Maple Leafs made them pay.

Igor Ozhiganov (1) notched his first career National Hockey League goal off the right post and past Halak at 13:06 of the second period. Marner (26) and Gauthier (3) had the assists and the Leafs once again had a one-goal lead, 2-1.

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Just over a minute later, Pastrnak (19) worked his magic again thanks to a slap pass from Krug to the young Bruins winger in front of the goal, whereby Pastrnak deked enough for Andersen to overcommit and give way to a mostly empty goal for Pastrnak to slip the puck past the Toronto netminder and into the twine.

Boston tied the game, 2-2, on Pastrnak’s second goal of the night– assisted by Krug (10) and Marchand (17)– at 14:22.

With the Bruins mounting a crescendo in the middle period, the Maple Leafs worked to play smarter, not harder as Toronto started to regain dominant control of zone time possession and drew a penalty after Bjork was sloppy with his stick and tripped up Tyler Ennis at 16:58 of the second period.

If Boston could’ve held off the Leafs onslaught on the power play for just 20 more seconds things might have been different, but an inexperienced penalty killing unit allowed Toronto to waltz into the attacking zone with ease and set up Leivo (4) for the power play goal and eventual game-winner at 18:38.

Ennis (3) and Marleau (9) had the assists and Toronto led, 3-2.

Heading into the second intermission, the Bruins trailed by a goal, but led in shots on goal, 28-18. Boston had 18 shots on goal in the second period, which was a season high for the club in one period.

Toronto led in takeaways (5-3), giveaways (10-5), hits (19-14) and face-off win% (55-45), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (13-12). The Maple Leafs were 1/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/2.

Midway through the third period, Jake DeBrusk had a brush with near-injury after he was pushed down in front of the goal by Nikita Zaitsev while Danton Heinen unloaded a one-timed shot on goal, hitting DeBrusk square in the back of the head.

It appeared the puck caught nothing but helmet, but DeBrusk felt the vulcanized rubber biscuit nonetheless and took a second to get up before continuing to play after a quick stoppage.

With 2:37 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Toronto took their time to wait it out and gather the puck before sending Zach Hyman (4) in all alone for the empty net goal at 18:25 of the third period.

Tavares (13) and Marner (27) had the assists on the insurance goal for the Leafs, as Toronto put away the Bruins, 4-2.

At the final horn, Boston suffered the loss while outshooting Toronto, 40-31, after 60 minutes of play. The Maple Leafs actually led in shots on goal in the third period alone, however, 13-12, and maintained the advantage in blocked shots (22-17), giveaways (16-11), hits (23-19) and face-off win% (57-43).

The Leafs finished the night 1/1 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/2.

The Maple Leafs improved to 11-0-0 when scoring first this season and 12-0-0 when leading after two periods. Boston is now 0-6-1 when trailing after 40 minutes this season.

After going 1-1-0 on their two-game road swing through Montreal and Toronto, the Bruins return home to TD Garden for a matchup against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Boston will retire Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 sweater before the game and fans are asked to be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. ET to witness the ceremony and jersey retirement.

Maple Leafs force Game 7 after emotional win

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The City of Toronto has all our love after the tragic event on Monday.

For the first time since that game in 2013, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will face each other in a Game 7 thanks to Toronto’s 3-1 victory on home ice in Game 6.

Frederik Andersen made 32 saves on 33 shots faced for a .970 save percentage as the Air Canada Centre crowd backed up their goaltender with enthusiasm all night. Boston’s Tuukka Rask turned aside 27 out of 29 shots against for a .931 SV% in the loss.

Both teams had great scoring chances in the first period— Brad Marchand even beat Andersen through the five-hole, but the puck deflected wide of the goal after catching some leg pad on its way through— but none of them changed the scoreboard from zeros.

Jake DeBrusk attempted to clear the puck out of the defensive zone around the halfway point of the opening period, but he got a little too much under the puck and sent it over the glass for an automatic delay of game penalty. The Maple Leafs were not able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Later in the period, Andersen made an acrobatic save while the puck was mid-air, having swatted it like a fly with the paddle of his stick to kill Boston’s chances at a rebound goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins were outshooting Toronto, 17-10, and led in hits (11-8), as well as takeaways (4-1). The Leafs led in giveaways (3-2) and were 0/1 on the power play. Both teams had five blocked shots in the first period.

DeBrusk (3) got the Bruins on the board first with his third goal of the postseason 1:02 into the second period. David Krejci (3) picked up the only assist after winning a faceoff in the offensive zone after Toronto iced the puck. Krejci won the draw, got it back to DeBrusk at the top of the faceoff circle, who then promptly fired the puck through traffic and past Andersen.

Just 35 seconds later, Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander (1), tied the game, 1-1.

Nikita Zaitsev (1) and Jake Gardiner (2) were credited with the assists on Nylander’s goal at 1:37 of the second period after the Leafs beat the Bruins once again by virtue of the stretch pass.

Toronto thought they had the first lead change of the series when it appeared they had scored again moments later, but Zach Hyman had skated through the crease, taking Rask’s stick with him as the Bruins netminder was attempting to make a poke check.

The call on the ice was a goal, but Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, used his coach’s challenge, asking for the play to be reviewed for goaltender interference.

Upon video review, the officials concluded that Hyman had reached the crease before the puck and interfered with Rask, thereby reversing the original call on the ice and reverting the score to a tie, 1-1.

Mitch Marner (2) would give the Maple Leafs the first official lead change of the series on a backhand goal at 13:25 of the second period. The goal did not come without controversy, however, as it appears Tomas Plekanec may have been offside entering the zone. Nonetheless, there was no review and the score remained, 2-1, for Toronto.

Plekanec (2) and Ron Hainsey (1) notched the assists on the goal.

Shortly thereafter, Kevan Miller, picked up a roughing minor against Kasperi Kapanen and the Maple Leafs went on their second power play of the night at 14:19 of the second period. Boston effectively killed the penalty and resumed even strength play.

Nazem Kadri slashed Riley Nash with about 10 seconds left in the second period, so the Bruins wound up with about 1:50 of their ensuing power play carrying over into the third period.

After 40 minutes of play, Toronto led, 2-1, on the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Boston led in shots on goal (26-22) and faceoff win percentage (64-36). The Leafs led in blocked shots (12-5), hits (19-16) and giveaways (11-10) entering the second intermission. The B’s were 0/1 on the man advantage and the Maple Leafs were 0/2.

Roman Polak and David Backes mixed things up a bit early in the third period as Backes was attempting to deflect the puck past Andersen. Backes caught Andersen with an elbow to the mask, but only matching roughing minor penalties were handed out to Polak and the Bruins forward at 1:53 of the third period.

Toronto ended up with a rare 4-on-3 power play after Charlie McAvoy served a minor penalty for tripping Kadri. The Leafs were not able to convert on the two-man advantage.

The Bruins ended up on their final power play of the night at 14:17 of the third period after Marner sent the puck over the glass and out of play for a delay of game penalty. Boston did not convert on their special teams opportunity and gave up a couple of tremendous shorthanded scoring chances for the Maple Leafs.

Auston Matthews moved in on Rask in the midst of a two-on-one, but was denied by a vintage-looking poke check whereby Rask slid across the crease on his stomach.

Cassidy pulled his netminder with 80 seconds remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but things went sour fast.

Four seconds after Rask vacated the goal, Plekanec (2) forced a turnover while Patrick Marleau delivered a check to Backes behind the play. Plekanec pocketed the empty net goal that sealed the deal, 3-1, for Toronto. Marner (6) and Zaitsev (2) were credited with the assists on the empty net goal at 18:46 of the third period.

The Bruins pulled their goaltender for an extra skater again with around a minute remaining in regulation, but could not muster any legitimate scoring opportunities.

After the final horn had sounded, the Maple Leafs celebrated their Game 6 victory, while Boston lamented outshooting Toronto, 33-30, but trailing in blocked shots (23-6). Hits were even (23-23), as were giveaways (11-11), but the Bruins also led in faceoff win percentage (63-37), despite losing.

Neither team scored a power play goal as Boston finished 0/2 and Toronto went 0/3 on the night.

For the first time in the series, the team that scored the first goal of the game did not win.

Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday night at TD Garden in Boston. Puck drop is set for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers can tune in on NBCSN in the United States, as well as CBC, Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

In 2013, it was the Bruins overcoming a 4-1 deficit in the third period for a 5-4 victory in overtime of a Game 7 less than a month after the 2013 Boston Marathon— and having led the series 3-1 before losing Games 5 and 6.

In 2018, it’s the Maple Leafs on the verge of making what could become a deep playoff run after a horrific event took place in their city before Game 6. Once again, Boston had a 3-1 series lead entering Game 5.

For the last series remaining in the First Round— and only one to go seven games— it’s anybody’s game. And Wednesday night, it’s game on.

Pastrnak propels Bruins to 3-1 win in Game 4

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David Pastrnak’s two-assist night contributed to the Boston Bruins 3-1 victory in Game 4 on Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Boston holds a 3-1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into Game 5 Saturday night on home ice.

Tuukka Rask made 31 saves on 32 shots faced for a .969 save percentage in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen stopped 18 shots out of 21 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss for Toronto.

The City of Boston and the rest of New England collectively held its breath as Patrice Bergeron was not on the ice for warmups prior to Game 4 in Toronto. The Bruins tweeted that Bergeron would be out of Thursday night’s action and listed as “day-to-day” with an “[u]pper body” injury.

With Tommy Wingels back in the lineup, Riley Nash moved into the first line center role alongside Brad Marchand and Pastrnak.

Nash won the opening faceoff and the Bruins entered the offensive zone. Pastrnak worked the puck from along the right side boards back to Kevan Miller at the point. Miller then slid a pass to his fellow blueliner, Torey Krug (1), who then fired a shot past Andersen as Nash was screening the Toronto netminder.

Krug’s goal, his first of the postseason, came 28 seconds into the matchup and was assisted by Miller (1) and Pastrnak (6).

Entering Thursday, the team that scored first in each game went on to win that game in the series. 

Shortly thereafter, things started to go Toronto’s way as Mitch Marner entered the offensive zone on a two-on-one with Patrick Marleau. Marner sauced a pass over Boston defender Charlie McAvoy’s stick and Marleau got off a one-timer that was denied by Rask.

Almost midway through the first period, Marner and Marleau played a vital role to Tomas Plekanec (1) scoring his first of the series. Marner stripped Riley Nash of the puck and moved it to Marleau.

The veteran NHLer in his first postseason with the Maple Leafs quickly moved the puck to Plekanec who fired a one-timer past Rask’s blocker side as the Bruins netminder was moving right to left.

Marleau (1) and Marner (4) were credited with the assists on the goal that tied the game, 1-1, at 7:43 of the first period.

Jake DeBrusk was guilty of the only penalty of the game when he hooked Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander, at 15:08 of the first period. Toronto failed to convert on the ensuing power play.

Boston and Toronto were tied, 1-1, entering the first intermission with the Maple Leafs leading in shots on goal (12-7), takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (5-1). The Bruins led in hits (18-13) and had yet to see time on the man advantage. Toronto was 0/1 on the power play.

Midway through the second period, Marner had a breakaway with speed and all but certainty of scoring a goal, except for the fact that his backhand shot was stopped by Rask.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins were the ones on the charge after winning a faceoff near the end of a shift on an icing in their own defensive zone. Adam McQuaid cleared the puck off the wall and up to Pastrnak with Toronto defender, Jake Gardiner, overcommitting, Pastrnak burst through the neutral zone on a two-on-one with Marchand on his wing.

Nikita Zaitsev went to play the puck and disrupt a pass from Pastrnak but couldn’t get a handle on it as the young Bruins winger sent the puck across ice to Marchand.

With Andersen in desperation and fully committed to stopping what he thought would’ve been an oncoming shot from Pastrnak, Marchand (2) fired a shot into the gapping net behind the Maple Leafs goaltender and gave Boston a 2-1 lead at 16:55 of the second period.

The goal was Marchand’s second of the postseason and was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and McQuaid (1).

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, as well as in blocked shots (13-7) and hits (32-20). Toronto led in shots on goal (22-16), takeaways (7-2) and giveaways (10-8) after two periods and had a slight advantage in faceoff win percentage (53-47). Boston still hadn’t seen any time on the power play and the Leafs were still 0/1 from their man advantage back in the first period.

After David Krejci broke up a play in Boston’s defensive zone, the Bruins were on a quick breakout reminiscent of Marner and Marleau’s two-on-one for Toronto back in the first period— only this time it was Krejci and DeBrusk for Boston.

Krejci sent a saucer pass to DeBrusk as Andersen again fell victim to making the first move and DeBrusk (2) fired a shot into the back of the net to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Krejci (2) had the only assist on the goal that made it 3-1 for Boston at 4:17 of the third period.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, tried double shifting Auston Matthews throughout the remainder of the game and pulled his goaltender for an extra skater with about two minutes left in regulation. Toronto’s last ditch effort was to no avail, however, as the Bruins defense— and Rask— proved to be too much.

The final horn sounded at Air Canada Centre and Boston had won the game, 3-1.

Toronto finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-21) and faceoff win percentage (63-37), but Boston had the final result on the scoreboard, as well as the lead in blocked shots (27-9) and hits (40-26).

The Bruins now lead the series 3-1 heading back to TD Garden for Game 5 on Saturday night. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers can tune in on NBC in the United States and CBC, SN or TVAS across Canada.

In 2013, Boston went up 3-1 in the series before the Leafs stormed back to force a decisive Game 7 that culminated in a third period comeback by the Bruins leading to Patrice Bergeron’s game-winning goal in overtime to defeat Toronto, 5-4.

The Bruins hold an all-time series record of 18-2 when leading a series 3-1.

David is Goliath: Pastrnak’s hat trick; 6 points too much for Leafs

 

 

 

 

 

If Pastafarianism wasn’t already a religion, Boston would definitely be trying to make it one. (But seriously, it is already a religion. Look it up. It’s a hoot.)

It was a rocking night at TD Garden, with Rene Rancourt bringing his two-game fist pump totals to 8 (kid’s on a roll) and the Boston crowd (that included our own @nlanciani53) was thunderous.

After having the proverbial sand kicked in their faces in Game 1, it was expected that Toronto would come into Game 2 looking for redemption, and prove they were the threat they were made out to be. Sure they’d have to do it without Nazem Kadri (serving the first of his 3 game suspension, replaced by Andreas Johnsson playing his first career NHL playoff game) in the lineup, but Boston would be without Tommy Wingels (the one who received the suspension-worthy hit, replaced by Ryan Donato also playing his first career NHL playoff game) so that should even things up, right?

It, uh…it didn’t.

The first solid action kicked off just 1:30 into the game, as Jake DeBrusk sprung Rick Nash on a breakaway with a beautiful stretch pass, but Nash would fire just wide of the net.

Soon after, it was Tuukka Rask making the game’s first notable stop, grabbing a redirect off the stick of William Nylander. On the following shift Rask covered up another puck and took a snow shower from young Kasperi Kapanen, drawing the ire of…basically everyone wearing black and gold. This seemed to be when the troubles really started for the Leafs, actually.

First it was Kevan Miller absolutely freight train-ing James van Riemsdyk in the corner to Rask’s right, igniting the Boston crowd and giving a jolt of energy to his team.

Just over 30 seconds after the big hit, the Bruins’ top line started zipping the puck around, capped off by Torey Krug firing a hard pass to a streaking David Pastrnak. The pass caught a Toronto stick and deflected up in the air, but Pastrnak somehow managed to corral the puck and settle it on his tape while doing a 360 past a Leafs defender and tucking a backhand past the outstretched pad of Frederik Andersen to take the 1-0 lead at 5:26. If you haven’t seen this goal yet, go find it.

Krug would make the church bells ring a few minutes later, firing one off of the post, shortly before Toronto took a penalty. Early in the penalty kill it looked like Toronto was going to tie the game, as Kapanen broke in alone and deked Rask out of his pants, but fired the puck right off the post and sent the play in the other direction where shortly after DeBrusk would tip in a centering feed from Krug (who had pinched all the way to the goal line on the right wing boards) to score Boston’s 4th power play goal of the series to put his team up 2-0 9:46 into the game.

Less than two and a half minutes later Boston would find the back of the net again, with another defenseman, this time being Kevan Miller from the left wing boards, would fire a pass to the middle of the ice from along the goal line. Miller’s pass hit the skate of Leafs defender Nikita Zaitsev and beat Andersen, putting Boston up 3-0 with 7:47 to play in the first.

Mike Babcock decided he had seen enough, and rather than burning a valuable timeout, he chose to make a goaltending switch to get the attention of his team, pulling Andersen in favor of Curtis McElhinney, who made just the second playoff appearance of his entire career.

Unfortunately for Babcock and the Leafs, the Bruins were having none of this attempt to slow things down. Tim Schaller made sure the building stayed in it by flattening Mitch Marner on the forecheck, leading to a fight with Ron Hainsey.

On the power play resulting from Hainsey’s instigator penalty, the Bs extra man unit improved to five-for-eight in the series when Rick Nash cleaned up the garbage from a ricocheting Pastrnak shot just 11 seconds into the man advantage, giving the Bruins a 4-0 lead at the 15:00 mark.

Toronto did manage to somewhat stop the bleeding for the final five minutes, and mounted a bit of a counter-attack, but never got a serious scoring opportunity out of it and went to the room trailing by four with little in the way of positives to build on. Boston scored four goals on eight shots, including the last three on consecutive shots.

Early in the second, Toronto finally found life, with Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner pouncing on a David Krejci turnover to set up a two-on-one, where Marner would bang in the back door goal to make it 4-1 just 1:22 into the middle frame.

Again, it took no time at all for Boston to push Toronto’s faces right back in the dirt, coming out on the very next shift and responding with two thundering hits. First it was David Backes stapling Zaitsev to the end boards behind his own net, then just a few seconds later Leo Komarov tried to step into Miller and instead ended up laying on the ice seemingly unsure of his whereabouts. Or identity. (He’d return only briefly on a power play shift a few minutes later, taking the ice for about 10 seconds before immediately returning to the locker room and never reappearing)

Then just 2:24 after the Marner goal, it would be Krejci making amends for his costly turnover by tipping a Pastrnak shot past McElhinney as he skated across the front of the net, restoring Boston’s four-goal lead 3:46 into the second.

The Leafs would get a power play soon after, but the only real opportunity they’d have was a hard wrist shot by Auston Matthews labeled for the glove side corner that Rask seemingly lackadaisically snagged out of the air.

Rick Nash and Auston Matthews traded breakaway opportunities, both on terrific power moves through defenders, but both were turned aside by the respective netminders.

Toronto again pulled within 3 when Tyler Bozak tipped home a nice spinning feed from below the goal line by Connor Brown with 10:57 remaining. They managed to build a little momentum off of this, having a few good scoring chances (Gardiner one-timer out of a netfront scramble, Marleau getting his own rebound off the end boards and nearly beating an off-balance Rask) turned aside in the next few minutes. Rask continued to be the story for most of the dying minutes, making two of his best stops with just over 4 to play, first on Matthews walking out from behind the net, then stretching out the opposite side pad to deny Patrick Marleau on the rebound. Shots were evened up at 22 at the end of the second period.

Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk spent the last part of the second and the third period nursing an apparent leg injury of some sort, often limping noticeably, but finished the game.

The early minutes of the third passed without incident, until Brown and Tomas Plekanec jumped on a loose puck after Charlie McAvoy tripped near his own blueline for a two-on-one, but Rask again turned it aside. On the following shift at the opposite end it would be McElhinney stopping a Patrice Bergeron one-timer on a feed by Brad Marchand.

With 8:26 remaining Boston would strike again, Marchand turning the puck over from Gardiner and walking in on a breakaway that Gardiner somehow managed to get back and poke check away at the last second, but before Toronto could regroup Bergeron had already retrieved the puck in the corner and handed it to Pastrnak, who walked to the front of the net almost uncontested and roofed a shot over the blocker side of McElhinney for the 6-2 lead.

JVR managed to again cut the defecit to 3 with 5:07 to play when he banged home a rebound past Rask, who had little help on the play, after a hard forecheck by Bozak caused Zdeno Chara to lose his stick, leaving him unable to tie up van Riemsdyk in front of the net.

Just to make sure the winning margin was four goals, and just because he could, Pastrnak took a Marchand pass from behind the goal line, toe dragged it between his own legs, then backhanded the puck into the net past a prone McElhinney to scored the hat trick, bring his point total to six on the night (nine in the first two games of the series), and drive the dagger firmly into the hearts of the Toronto faithful with 1:36 to play. ‘Pasta’ became the first player in franchise history to score 3+ points in each of the team’s first two playoff games of the year.

The simple fact in this series is that Toronto has yet to find any answer for the Bruins’ top line (14 points between them in Game 2). Should they be able to, they could find success, as the rest of the Boston lineup is not supremely dangerous (New Jersey has found a way to keep the Miller/Stamkos/Kucherov line quiet, but can’t match the Bolts’ ridiculous depth). But the Toronto defense looks almost helpless at times, and Rask has simply been too good for Toronto to rely upon their offense to solve all their problems.

Mike Babcock and his team will search hard for an answer, I’m sure, and will hope for a little reinvigorating energy from an energetic home crowd at the ACC. Game 3 will come to you on Monday night at 7 p.m. Eastern with DTFR coverage brought to you by shameless Boston homer @nlanciani53

March 14 – Day 154 – Somebody’s gotta win

We’re reaching the midway point of March, meaning there’s only a few weeks separating us from playoff hockey! It’s time to get excited, fans!

Arenas start coming to life at 7 p.m. this evening with Dallas at Toronto (SN/TVAS), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers (NBCSN). San Jose at Edmonton (SN1) drops the puck at 9:30 p.m., while tonight’s co-nightcaps – New Jersey at Vegas and Vancouver at Anaheim – wait half an hour before wrapping up the night’s events. All times Eastern.

When the schedule was released before this season, I was most excited for the action in Alberta this evening since it was a rematch of a Western Quarterfinal matchup from a year ago. However, the game that must attract our attention is the other tilt taking place in Canada tonight.

 

The past two weeks have not been a stellar run for the 40-22-7 Maple Leafs, as they’ve posted a lowly 1-2-2 record over their past five games after rattling off a four-game winning streak.

For me, what has been really disappointing about Toronto – both lately and, really, for the entire season as a whole – has been its performance on the defensive end. Over their last five games, the Leafs have allowed 34.2 shots against per game, the ninth-most in the NHL since February 26. F Leo Komarov (3.6 hits per game since February 26), F William Nylander (eight takeaways in his past five games) and D Nikita Zaitsev (1.8 blocks per game in his last four showings [he missed Saturday’s home game against the Penguins with the flu]) have stood out lately, but the Maple Leafs just don’t seem to be getting consistent production in their own zone from the entire roster.

However, that is just a microcosm of Toronto’s season as a whole. In terms of shots against, the Leafs have been the fourth-worst team in the NHL having yielded 34 pucks per game. As Head Coach Mike Babcock’s side is quickly learning, Komarov (three hits per game for the season), F Mitch Marner (team-leading 66 takeaways in 69 games played) and Zaitsev (2.5 blocks per game all season) cannot carry this club on their own defensively.

What makes this current defensive play all the more glaring is the recent struggles of 33-18-5 G Frederik Andersen. Having managed a .919 save percentage and 2.76 GAA for the entire season, those numbers have dropped to an .885 save percentage and 4.21 GAA in his past four starts.

This is not an attack on Andersen, because his decline in play has to be related to the pure exhaustion of facing over 1900 shots this year. In fact, it’s almost entirely because of him that Toronto has allowed only 2.83 goals all season, the (t)12th-best mark in the NHL. Fortunately, he’s played only two games in the past 10 days and is coming off a 5-2 win in his past outing, so he should be well rested entering tonight’s affair.

Speaking of teams currently in playoff position not playing necessarily well right now, Toronto is hosting the 38-26-6 Stars this evening, a club that has posted only a 1-3-1 record in its last five games.

While Toronto has struggled on the defensive end lately, all of the Stars’ issues have occurred when they have the puck on their own sticks. Dallas has averaged only 1.4 goals per game since March 5, a mark that is tied with Vancouver for worst in the league in that time.

However, that’s not to say none of the Stars are finding success. In fact, with 2-3-5 totals during this run, F Tyler Seguin has managed to average a point per game since March 5 to elevate his season totals to 36-29-65, far and away the best marks on the club.

Unfortunately, it’s the rest of the team that is putting Seguin at risk of delaying his sixth playoff appearance by at least a season. Besides the three-point efforts of stellar linemates (at least as of puck drop last night) LW Jamie Benn and RW Alexander Radulov (with 2-1-3 and 1-2-3 totals, respectively), no Stars have registered more than two points over this five-game stretch.

One source of offensive production that has fallen quiet lately is D John Klingberg. Having posted 7-50-57 totals for the season, he’s managed only two assists in his past six showings. Whether he focuses on creating plays for the Benn-Seguin-Radulov super line or increasing the potency of the other three trios, he’ll be a big key in getting this Stars team back on track.

I have a hard time believing a team in any sport has nothing to play for when it steps onto its playing surface, but the Leafs have literally nothing to play for as far as the standings are concerned. Toronto trails second-place Boston by nine points, and the Bruins will have two games in hand after tonight’s events. Even if the Maple Leafs win out starting tonight, the Bruins would need only 18 points (nine victories) in their remaining 14 games to hold on to home ice in the first round of the playoffs. I just don’t see Boston dropping that many games in regulation, especially since it can still grasp the Eastern Conference’s top seed.

“Well,” you say, “maybe the Maple Leafs could still lose third place in the division?”

Yeah, that’s not happening either. Florida is in fourth place in the Atlantic, and it trails the Leafs by a dozen points. Even with the Panthers’ two games in hand – which will increase to three following tonight’s tilt – the bottom is going to need to drop out on Toronto for it to become a wild card.

Instead, this game – and every other one until the end of the regular season – is effectively a live practice situation. The Maple Leafs should take these opportunities to get healthy, work out any kinks in their game and prepare for the return of C Auston Matthews and the postseason.

The same cannot be said for the Stars, as this is a very important game for them. After losing last night in Montréal in regulation, Dallas has fallen behind Colorado and is currently the Western Conference’s second wild card. Mix in the fact that three teams trail the Stars by a maximum of only three points, and Dallas is in desperate need of a victory tonight.

When the Leafs made their annual trip to Dallas on January 25, 7-4-1 G Curtis McElhinney stole headlines with his dazzling 39-save performance. Pairing that with a two-goal performance by C Nazem Kadri, Toronto earned two points with a 4-1 victory.

There’s been a few games this season where I’ve felt so confident in a prediction that I’d consider betting the house. Today is one of those times. Dallas’ offense is anemic right now, and it is coming off a miserable 4-2 performance against a bad Canadiens team last night. Mix in the fact that the Stars have a lowly 14-16-3 record on the road, and this has the clear appearance of a Toronto victory.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Colorado Avalanche earned a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at Xcel Energy Center.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it’s probably no secret which club it belonged to. With 3:38 remaining in the frame, Second Star of the Game F J.T. Compher (D David Warsofsky) buried a wrist shot to give the Avs a 1-0 advantage.

The second period was a far more evenly-matched affair, as both sides came away with a marker. The first belonged to Third Star C Mikko Koivu (F Charlie Coyle) and the Wild, as he registered a wrister with 6:04 remaining in the period to level the game at 1-1. However, that scoreline lasted only 59 seconds before D Nikita Zadorov (W Blake Comeau) provided what proved to be Colorado’s game-winning goal.

Playing under four-on-four conditions due to LW Gabriel Landeskog and D Nate Prosser taking matching roughing penalties 25 seconds before Koivu’s marker, excellent forechecking by the Avalanche created this goal. Comeau initially advanced play into his offensive zone, but a sloppy pass to F Carl Soderberg resulted in F Mikael Granlund possessing the puck in the corner to G Devan Dubnyk‘s right. However, Colorado wasn’t ready to give up on the play yet, as Soderberg engaged the Finn to dislodge possession and allow Comeau a second chance at glory. He didn’t miss, as he centered a pass to Zadorov that was one-timed past Dubnyk’s glove, off the right post and into the net.

The pattern of scoring the same quantity of goals as the period’s number reached its trifecta in the final frame, as Colorado laid it on Minnesota with three markers. Having been held off the scorecard so far, F Nathan MacKinnon (D Patrik Nemeth) scored a wrister only 11 seconds into the period to give Colorado a two-goal advantage. He was followed by Compher (D Samuel Girard and W Sven Andrighetto) and F Tyson Jost (D Tyson Barrie and RW Mikko Rantanen) later in the frame, both with power play goals to set the 5-1 final score.

First Star G Semyon Varlamov earned the victory after saving 33-of-34 shots faced (.971 save percentage), leaving the loss to Dubnyk, who saved 17-of-22 (.773).

Though they would have obviously preferred to earn two points last night, the Wild are probably the happiest of the two teams coming out of this game because they know they won’t see the Avalanche again this regular season. In four meetings, Colorado dropped only one point to dominate Minnesota all year.

Things have been looking up for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series lately. Colorado’s victory was the fourth consecutive by a visitor in the series, meaning the 86-49-19 hosts’ lead has been trimmed to 37 points (Yes, those numbers don’t line up with yesterday’s. I discovered some clerical errors that have now been resolved.).

Hey, why isn’t (insert NHL team here) playing?

Still trying to figure out why your favorite team has games all next week, but your rival gets to take five-straight days off? Or maybe you’re most concerned about your fantasy hockey team? Either way, *NSYNC has the answer:

The NHL is in Year 2 of its experiment with bye weeks. Some things – like the average length of each team’s break – stayed the same. 19 of the 31 clubs are taking the minimum five days off, while 11 others get an extra sixth before returning to action. Of course, the winners of the bye week lottery are the Ottawa Senators, who get a whopping seven days to rest, regroup and rediscover the art of ice hockey before hosting St. Louis.

But there are a few differences from last year, most notably where these breaks occur within the league schedule. Last season when the bye weeks debuted, the Islanders and Penguins had already started and finished their breaks by now, while others wouldn’t see the gap in their schedule until well beyond the All-Star Break or even the trade deadline. In fact, the Ducks didn’t take their week off until the beginning of March.

It was probably because Anaheim is on Pacific Time. That’s how time zones work, right?

Anyways, all 31 bye weeks this season – whether five, six or seven days – will start and end in the span of the 18 days between today and January 19.

Though initial thoughts were that the bye weeks were consolidated in anticipation of the NHL potentially releasing its players to their respective national federations for the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, it instead will simply be an opportunity for the league’s scheduler to determine which format is better for business.

But we’re not worried about attendance, advertising dollars or TV ratings here at Down the Frozen River (actually, that’s a lie: we love to talk about that stuff during podcasts). Let’s talk about who’s going to be off when. Teams are presented in order of the league table as it stands entering play January 7, and you might find some notes from myself and @nlanciani53.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

29-9-3, 61 points, leading Presidents’ Trophy race

Final game before the bye: Hosts Calgary on January 11

Bye week: January 12-17 (six days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Vegas on January 18

Nick’s Notes: A hot team must cool off a bit and then play the Vegas Golden Knights on their first night back to action? Talk about a prison sentence. At least they’ve still got the Presidents’ Trophy (lead) as consolation.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

28-10-2, 58 points, leading the Western Conference

Final game before the bye: Hosts the NY Rangers on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Edmonton on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Son, where the Golden Knights are from, they don’t need no breaks. Polar opposites of the Tampa Bay Lightning bye week, Vegas plays a good team before taking time off. Then they play Edmonton. Next!

Connor’s Notes: That may be true, but there’s surely some concern among Gerard Gallant and his staff that the Knights just might lose some of this positive energy over the break. They’ve posted a 9-1-0 record over their last 10, and it’d be a shame if the only reason this club drops from Cloud 9 to Cloud 8 is just five little days off.

WINNIPEG JETS

24-11-7, 55 points, leading the Central Division

Final game before the bye: At Minnesota on January 13

Bye week: January 14-19 (six days)

First game out of the bye: At Calgary on January 20

Nick’s Notes: The Winnipeg Jets are vying for first place in the Central Division this season after missing the playoffs last year. Their second best point-scorer (that’s right, point-scorer, not goal-scorer, Patrik Laine), Mark Scheifele‘s been nursing an upper body injury and this break won’t hurt the team for a week while he remains out of the lineup.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

24-11-6, 54 points, second in the Central Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Edmonton on January 9

Bye week: January 10-15

First game out of the bye: Hosts Vegas on January 16

Nick’s Notes: Most people think the party never stops in Vegas, but they’re wrong. The party never stops in Smashville and let’s just hope none of the Predators players get carried away on Broadway in their week off.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

26-16-2, 54 points, third in the Central Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Florida on January 9

Bye week: January 10-15 (six days)

First game out of the bye: At Toronto on January 16

Connor’s Notes: Any way to avoid playing games while Jaden Schwartz‘ ankle is still healing is a good thing. While he won’t be ready to go until the end of the month, the Blues will hope to get out of a rut that has led to them posting a 4-6-0 record over their last 10 games entering Sunday.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

25-13-3, 53 points, leading the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: At Carolina on January 12

Bye week: January 13-17 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At New Jersey on January 18

Nick’s Notes: It’s not that Braden Holtby‘s been bad, but he’s having his worst season since 2013-14, so like, maybe send him to a remote mountain top or whatever it takes for Holtby to regain his form and focus (a water bottle usually does the trick). Seriously though, his 2.68 GAA and .917 save percentage is not great, Bob.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

24-13-5, 53 points, second in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: Hosted Nashville on January 6, lost 4-3

Bye week: January 7-12 (six days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Anaheim on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Best of luck to the Los Angeles Kings who will smash bodies against the boards with Nashville leading into their bye week and then smash bodies all over again with the Anaheim Ducks fresh off their vacations. It’s a grueling game. Ice those bruises.

BOSTON BRUINS

23-10-6, 52 points, second in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: At Pittsburgh on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At Montréal on January 13

Connor’s Notes: Similar to Vegas’ current run of success, with an 8-0-2 record over their last 10 games played entering Sunday, the Bruins arguably have the most positive energy to lose by going on break of any team in the Eastern Conference. Fortunately for them, they’ll play in what I expect to be a rivalry game that’s even more heated than usual given the Habs’ position in the standings to get right back into the swing of things.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

25-16-2, 52 points, third in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Ottawa on January 10

Bye week: January 11-15 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts St. Louis on January 16

Connor’s Notes: While the Leafs aren’t currently certain he’ll be ready to go by then, the original hope was that sophomore defenseman Nikita Zaitsev‘s lower-body injury would be healed by the time Toronto returned to action against the Notes. If St. Louis’ offense is ticking that day, his presence in the defensive zone will be a big help to Frederik Andersen

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

22-11-7, 51 points, second in the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: At the NY Islanders on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Philadelphia January 13

Nick’s Notes: The New Jersey Devils have been quietly good as of late. They’re this year’s biggest surprise outside of the Golden Knights. Nico Hischier just turned 19, so unless he’s going outside of the United States for his break, he can’t (legally) party hard.

DALLAS STARS

24-16-3, 51 points, fourth in the Central Division – first wild card

Final game before the bye: Hosted Edmonton on January 6, won 5-1

Bye week: January 7-12 (six days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Colorado on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Wouldn’t it be mean if nobody tells Kari Lehtonen when the break is so he just drives up to the practice rink on the first day like “where’d everybody go”? Just a thought.

NEW YORK RANGERS

22-14-5, 49 points, third in the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: At Vegas on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts the NY Islanders on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Great, another week off means Henrik Lundqvist has to wait even longer for a Stanley Cup.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

23-16-3, 49 points, fourth in the Metropolitan Division – first wild card

Final game before the bye: Hosts Vancouver on January 12

Bye week: January 13-17 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Dallas on January 18

Nick’s Notes: The Columbus Blue Jackets have been the St. Louis Blues of the Eastern Conference this season. One week they’re amazing, the next week they’re losing. A lot.

Connor’s Notes: Nick is right, and the Jackets are in one of their losing funks right now. Entering Sunday, they’ve posted a 3-5-2 record over their last 10 games played. They won’t regain any of their four injured players during the break, but perhaps John Tortorella can find a way to regroup his troops before they lose any more ground in the Metro.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

21-12-6, 48 points, third in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: At Winnipeg on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Arizona on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Joe Thornton should use this break to regrow that part of his beard that got torn off his face by Nazem Kadri in Toronto.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

22-16-3, 47 points, fifth in the Central Division – second wild card

Final game before the bye: Hosted Minnesota on January 6, won 7-2

Bye week: January 7-12 (six days)

First game out of the bye: At Dallas on January 13

Connor’s Notes: Goaltender Semyon Varlamov should be prepared to return to action following the bye week after suffering a lower body injury on January 2, and there’s a possibility J.T. Compher get back into the lineup too. However, considering the Avs’ unbelievable position in the standings, does Jared Bednar even think about pulling Jonathan Bernier?

MINNESOTA WILD

22-17-3, 47 points, sixth in the Central Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Vancouver on January 14

Bye week: January 15-19

First game out of the bye: Hosts Tampa Bay on January 20

Nick’s Notes: Oft-injured and finally healthy, the Minnesota Wild should place everyone in bubblewrap for their bye week. Just a suggestion.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

19-15-9, 47 points, fourth in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: At Calgary on January 6, lost 3-2

Bye week: January 7-12

First game out of the bye: At Los Angeles on January 13

Connor’s Notes: With Corey Perry returning to action last night against the Flames, Anaheim is effectively at 100 percent once again after losing basically every star at one point or another this season. After seeing what an injured Ducks team was capable of, the Pacific Division should get ready, because a rested and healthy Ducks team just might wreck havoc against weak competition.

CALGARY FLAMES

21-16-4, 46 points, fifth in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: At Carolina on January 14

Bye week: January 15-19 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Winnipeg on January 20

Nick’s Notes: Whoever’s running the airport gates in Calgary should make sure that wherever the player’s are going doesn’t actually say “Seattle” on their ticket. Unless the gate agent is originally from Seattle. *dramatic Twin Peaks music plays in the background*

CAROLINA HURRICANES

19-14-8, 46 points, fifth in the Metropolitan Division – second wild card

Final game before the bye: Hosts Calgary on January 14

Bye week: January 15-19 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At Detroit on January 20

Nick’s Notes: One thing’s for sure, even with their potential new majority owner, none of the Carolina Hurricanes players are going back to Hartford for their break. What a shame.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

21-19-3, 45 points, sixth in the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Boston on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Detroit on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Phil Kessel doesn’t like time off (remember the 2016 World Cup of Hockey?) and Matthew Murray should probably go to the same place as Braden Holtby for a week. Murray’s goals-against average is almost a 3.0.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

19-15-6, 44 points, last in the Central Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Detroit on January 14

Bye week: January 15-19 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts the NY Islanders on January 20

Nick’s Notes: Jeff Glass is the feel good story of 2018 so far, so why would anyone want to see him take five nights off? *Checks standings* Oh, right, this team isn’t in playoff worthy right now.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

18-15-8, 44 points, seventh in the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Buffalo on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At New Jersey on January 13

Nick’s Notes: Someone make sure the Philadelphia Flyers don’t try to move to the Atlantic Division over their bye week. They’ll do anything to make the playoffs this season.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

20-18-4, 44 points, last in the Metropolitan Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts New Jersey on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At the NY Rangers on January 13

Connor’s Notes: The reason the Islanders have been making by with their horrendous defense, which was made worse by Calvin de Haan requiring a season-ending shoulder surgery, has been their explosive offense. Josh Bailey should be back at 100 percent following New York’s bye to reunite the BLT Line, allowing the Isles to get back to their version of Russian Roulette: finding out which goaltender is going to allow just one more goal than the other.

DETROIT RED WINGS

17-16-7, 41 points, fourth in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Tampa Bay on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At Pittsburgh on January 13

Nick’s Notes: If the Detroit Red Wings were a young, rebuilding, team I’d recommend a five-day long pizza party at The Pizza Box (Little Caesar’s Arena). Maybe they can figure out the right way to tank during their time off instead of winning a lot before the break.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

17-18-5, 39 points, fifth in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Calgary on January 12

Bye week: January 13-18 (six days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Vegas on January 19

Connor’s Notes: Just as James Reimer is beginning to run out of steam, Roberto Luongo is expected to return to the Panthers’ crease with his club seven points outside playoff position. Whether he resumes his starting job before or after the bye, the break allows both of them to be fully rested.

EDMONTON OILERS

18-21-3, 39 points, sixth in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: At Vegas on January 13

Bye week: January 14-19 (six days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Vancouver on January 20

Nick’s Notes: Peter Chiarelli can’t possibly figure out how he’s going to save his team in six days when he spent $21 million on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in about that amount of time over the summer.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

16-19-6, 38 points, seventh in the Pacific Division

Final game before the bye: At Minnesota on January 14

Bye week: January 15-19 (five days)

First game out of the bye: At Edmonton on January 20

Nick’s Notes: Like Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets, Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks haven’t seen each other in a little while due to injury. Take some time and rest up.

MONTRÉAL CANADIENS

17-20-4, 38 points, sixth in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: Hosts Vancouver on January 7

Bye week: January 8-12 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Boston on January 13

Nick’s Notes: I’m pretty sure you can’t trade players during your bye week, so don’t try to move Max Pacioretty while nobody’s paying attention, Montreal.

OTTAWA SENATORS

14-17-9, 37 points, seventh in the Atlantic Division

Final game before the bye: At Toronto on January 10

Bye week: January 11-17 (seven days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts St. Louis on January 18

Nick’s Notes: The Ottawa Senators will find a way to lose games over their seven day break. Meanwhile, Eugene Melnyk will have just enough time to figure out an escape plan while nobody’s at Canadian Tire Centre.

BUFFALO SABRES

10-22-9, 29 points, last in the Eastern Conference

Final game before the bye: Hosts Columbus on January 11

Bye week: January 12-17 (six days)

First game out of the bye: At the NY Rangers on January 18

Nick’s Notes: The Sabres should hold an exhibition matchup with some bantam teams while on their break. You know, so they can get better.

ARIZONA COYOTES

10-27-6, 26 points, last in the NHL

Final game before the bye: Hosted the NY Rangers on January 6, won 2-1 in a shootout

Bye week: January 7-11 (five days)

First game out of the bye: Hosts Edmonton on January 12

Nick’s Notes: Wait, you mean Arizona hasn’t already been taking time off all season?


Final notes: I strongly dislike how the NHL is abandoning entire markets for a week at a time. This is most noticeable in the United States’ two biggest cities: New York and Los Angeles. All five teams that play in those markets will be dormant for the same five days (January 8-12). Why didn’t they stagger these byes so those important markets would still have at least one squad active at all times? After all, if there’s one thing Devils fans love to see as much as a Jersey win, it’s a Rangers loss. Whether they take in that loss at Madison Square Garden or from their couch doesn’t ultimately matter. The fact that those markets could turn their attention away from the NHL to either the Clippers, Knicks or Friends reruns on TBS does.

But this extends further. The entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be shut off from NHL hockey from January 8-12 (The same days as New York and Los Angeles? Who is making these decisions?), as neither the Flyers nor Penguins will be in action. Boston and Montréal? Nope, they’re both on the bye at the same time too (you guessed it, January 8-12). The Blues and Predators can vacation together as well – though I doubt they’d want to – as they are both out of action from January 10-15.

I’m sure the league’s competition committee is going to claim that they’re trying to reduce the possibility of one particular team getting too much of an advantage, but this just seems silly from a business perspective. If that is truly the case, perhaps one day when the league reaches 32 teams it will simply shut down an entire conference for five days and then the other (the odd number of teams right now makes scheduling a little… interesting in that scenario), or – the more likely of these two options – perchance expand the distribution of byes over the course of three weeks instead of just two. Who knows?

Beyond this issue, while I don’t necessarily like where it is in the schedule, I do like that the NHL has condensed the time period for bye weeks in the season. Keeping track of which teams had and hadn’t taken their week off last season was a bother, and this system eliminates that. Of course, we’ll know how NBC and Sportsnet react based on how these byes are arranged next year.

As for my final complaint, the byes have the possibility of creating a very staggered January. We just got out of the three-day holiday break 12 days ago. Each team has played an average of only 5.4 games since then. Now we have these bye weeks of at least five days, and the four-day All-Star Break (January 26-29) is only 20 days out. If those sentences were confusing, I’m concerned that’s how the month of January is going to feel – scattered hockey thoughts until Groundhog’s Day.

The NHL Players’ Association demanded these bye weeks in return for the league turning the All-Star Game into the divisional three-on-three format we have had for the past two years. They’re not going anywhere: the players obviously like the idea of getting some time off, and putting it near the midway point of the season seems like a logical idea.

However, how this change is impacting the league’s product is still being understood. Unless we could see a plausible situation where bye weeks don’t happen until the end of February or March (remember, that’s likely after the trade deadline), the existence of the midway-point byes could be yet another reason the NHL could axe the All-Star Game, eliminating that break altogether.

Throw in the fact that the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement could expire as soon as 2020’s offseason – should either party opt out early – and no later than the summer of 2022 and we could be looking at a whole heap of changes  – or a whole heap of no hockey – within the next four years.

January 4 – Day 89 – Dangerous waters

Thursdays in the NHL are some of the best days of the week, and the first such iteration of 2018 doesn’t disappoint with a dozen 11 games on the schedule.

The action starts – as it usually does – at 7 p.m. with the puck drop of four three games (Florida at Boston [SN360/TVAS], San Jose at Toronto, the New York Islanders at Philadelphia and Carolina at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by Tampa Bay at Montréal (RDS/TSN2). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of a pair of tilts (Vegas at St. Louis and Buffalo at Minnesota), while New Jersey at Dallas waits 30 minutes before getting underway. Finally, the role of tonight’s nightcap is split between four games (Columbus at Colorado, Los Angeles at Calgary, Anaheim at Edmonton and Nashville at Arizona) that all drop the puck at 9 p.m. All times Eastern.

You’ll notice there were a few edits in the above section. With the Nor’easter blatantly attacking New England today, the NHL has elected to postpone the Panthers’ visit to TD Garden. The game has yet to be rescheduled.

As regular readers have come to expect, here’s my list of quick headlines surrounding some of tonight’s matchups:

  • Vegas at St. Louis: In two stints, W David Perron played 422 with the Blues. Tonight marks his first return to Scottrade Center as a Golden Knight.
  • Buffalo at Minnesota: Speaking of returns, RW Jason Pominville and D Marco Scandella played a combined 700 games with the Wild over seven seasons. They’re back in Xcel Energy Center tonight, but as members of the visiting club.
  • Anaheim at Edmonton: No returns here. Just a good, old-fashioned rematch from last year’s Western Semifinals.

Of course, that list ignores two of the three games being contested by squads currently in playoff position, so there’s lots of great action happening throughout the league this evening.

One of those games between current playoff qualifiers is taking place in Air Canada Centre, and I – with a little help from @nlanciani53 – have decided that I want to feature that contest. Such is the privilege of authorship!

 

That was a tough decision. There’s so many good and important games today.

Things haven’t been going so well for the the 23-16-2 Maple Leafs of late. Though they’re still holding on to third place in the Atlantic Division (they shouldn’t fall any lower considering they have a nine-point advantage on Florida and Detroit), the Leafs are currently riding a three-game losing skid that has seen them earn only one point in an overtime loss at Colorado last Friday.

An offense that usually manages a fifth-best 3.24 goals-per-game scoring only six goals in three games is obviously a problem, but that issue is trivial in comparison to the terrible play going on in Toronto’s defensive zone over this skid. The Leafs’ 12 goals against since December 29 is the third-most in the NHL in that time.

Let’s start with the easiest position to pick apart when issues like this arise: the goaltender. 20-12-1 G Frederik Andersen is actually having one of the best years of his career posting a .921 save percentage and 2.69 GAA (his 20 wins are fourth-most in the NHL, and his three shutouts are also tied for fourth), but you wouldn’t know it from his last two games. In those contests, he managed only a .894 save percentage and 3.61 GAA.

Given, he did play at Vegas and against the Lightning, but this Toronto defense is – in my opinion – nowhere near capable of slowing down offenses of that magnitude.

However, that’s not giving the defensive corps a pass. Over its past three games, Toronto has allowed 95 shots against (31.67 per game), which is somehow an improvement on its season rate of 33.83 shots against per game. This defense simply needs more than what D Ron Hainsey (1.97 blocks per game), F Mitch Marner (37 takeaways) and W Matt Martin (3.07 hits per game) have provided so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see General Manager Lou Lamoriello find a way to add a solid defenseman before February 26’s trade deadline.

The return of D Nikita Zaitsev (2.76 blocks per game), who’s been on injured reserve since December 17 with a lower-body injury, will also be beneficial, but it’s unknown when he’ll be fit for action.

Meanwhile, the 21-12-4 Sharks have been playing extremely well lately to hold on to their third-place spot in the Pacific Division over the surging Ducks. They’ve gone 4-1-0 since December 21, and it’s all been because of some impressive defensive play. San Jose has allowed only 13 goals against over this run, the 12th-fewest in the league.

Just as it’s easiest to pick on a netminder while his team is not playing well, G Martin Jones earns a lot of the praise for a winning Sharks team. He’s started three of San Jose’s last five games and posted a solid .928 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Those solid outings have improved his season numbers to a .914 save percentage and 2.57 GAA.

Just like Andersen, Jones has three shutouts to his credit on the season (tied for fourth-most in the league), but he has the luxury of a solid defense playing in front of him. On the season, the Sharks have allowed only 30.08 shots against per game, the fifth-fewest in the NHL.

Defensemen Brent Burns (40 takeaways), Brenden Dillon (2.75 hits per game) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (1.91 blocks per game) have been the biggest players for this corps, but there’s been significant contributions from almost the entire squad. Three players average more than 1.5 blocks per game

What Toronto has going in its favor is the fact that the Sharks’ offense is borderline miserable, averaging only 2.7 goals-per-game – the worst of any team currently qualifying for the playoffs. Though San Jose was able to beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in The Tank on October 30, I think Toronto can defend Air Canada Centre this evening with the return of its usually dominant offense.


The Chicago Blackhawks ended their six-game road trip on a high note in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat the New York Rangers 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.

Though the final score doesn’t indicate it, this was a very competitive contest to the bitter end. Both the first and second periods ended with a tied score, and the Hawks managed to score not one, but two empty net goals to inflate their goal differential.

First-liner F Vinnie Hinostroza (Second Star of the Game C Jonathan Toews and D Jordan Oesterle) opened the scoring with 3:51 remaining in the first period by burying a slap shot, but New York was able to level the game exactly two minutes later courtesy of a D Nick Holden (F Paul Carey and F Boo Nieves) clapper.

Chicago once again took a one-goal lead 8:56 into the second period thanks to C Nick Schmaltz‘ (Third Star F Patrick Kane and W Ryan Hartman) deflection, but the Rangers were equally up to the task. With D Brent Seabrook and F Lance Bouma both in the penalty box (Seabrook for cross checking W Mats Zuccarello and Bouma serving G Jeff Glass‘ delay of game penalty), C Mika Zibanejad (W Pavel Buchnevich and Zuccarello) took advantage of a five-on-three opportunity to level the score for the Blueshirts with a clapper.

The third period proved to be the deciding frame, and it was First Star F Patrick Sharp (F David Kampf and W Alex DeBrincat) who provided the deciding goal. 2:24 into the period, he ripped a snap shot high cheese over G Henrik Lundqvist‘s glove hand to set the score at 3-2.

Try as they might, the Rangers couldn’t find a way to level the game for a third time. They fired 11 shots at Glass in the third period, but to no avail. As time was winding down, Head Coach Alain Vigneault pulled Lundqvist to try and tilt the scales in his club’s favor.

Instead, all it did was allow Toews (W Brandon Saad and F Tommy Wingels) and Kane (Hartman and Schmaltz) to score empty netters to set the 5-2 final score.

Glass earned the victory after saving 23-of-25 shots faced (.92 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lundqvist, who saved 30-of-33 (.909).

Chicago’s victory is the second by a road team in the last three DtFR Game of the Days. The series still favors hosts however, as home teams have a 50-28-11 record that is 23 points superior to the roadies’.

October 23 – Day 20 – There will be goals

Another Monday, another start to the work week. It’s the same for hockey players, which is good for us; there’s nothing better than sitting back and taking in a game after a day’s work.

For those planning on doing just that this evening, you’ll have to games to choose from – both dropping the puck at 7 p.m. Eastern time. It’s two West vs. East matchups, as Los Angeles makes its annual trip to Toronto (TVAS) and San Jose takes on the New York Rangers (NHLN/SN).

With the Rangers and Sharks both off to slow starts this season, we have to turn our attention to the Air Canada Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When two of the current top-five teams in the league square off, it’s must-watch TV.

If it’s possible to be hotter than a 6-0-1 record indicates, the Kings have discovered how as they’re riding a four-game winning streak coming into tonight’s game.

Los Angeles has a long history of being a defensively-minded club, and this year is no different. Allowing an average of only two goals against-per-game, LA might as well be playing with the Great Wall of China in front of its net.

That wall has a name though, and it’s G Jonathan Quick. Having already earned a 5-0-1 record, Quick has returned to the elite status every fan at the Staples Center was hoping for following his lower body injury, as he’s rocking an impressive .938 save percentage and 1.99 GAA, numbers that pale only in comparison to Chicago’s G Corey Crawford (.945, 1.86).

To continue my analogy (because why not?), the wall alone was not expected to be the nation’s lone defender. Similarly, the Kings don’t rely only on Quick, as their defense is also 13th-best in the NHL in the shots-against category, allowing only an average of 31.4 per game. Two defensemen that deserve a lot of the credit are Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez, as both have blocked 16 shots this season, and C Anze Kopitar leads the team with eight takeaways. Martinez’ effort has been particularly exemplary, as he’s amassed his shot blocks in only four games played.

I need to admit something to you: I may have lied when I said this season has been no different in regards to the Kings’ defensive gusto. That part is true, but Los Angeles has also been one of the best offenses in the game, averaging 3.86 goals-per-game to rank third-best in the NHL.

The top line – especially W Dustin Brown and Kopitar – has been nearly unstoppable in the Kings’ first seven games played. Brown and Kopitar have posted almost identical numbers en route to their 11-point efforts, as the captain has managed 6-5-11 totals while Brown has produced a 5-6-11 contribution.

If the Maple Leafs want to win this game, their defense had better make a point of shutting those two down and instead take their chances with the bottom-nine.

Playing decent defense shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Toronto, which allows a 14th-fewest 32 shots against-per-game. Blocking 3.4 shots-per-game, D Nikita Zaitsev has been a mastermind at keeping pucks off G Frederik Andersen (he averages 3.4 blocks-per-game to lead the team), which has proven necessary given Andersen’s inconsistent play.

5-2-0 Andersen has started all but one game for Toronto this season, and for good reason – he’s definitely better than G Curtis McElhinney. Then again, that’s not exactly all that hard to do, as McElhinney allowed three goals Wednesday to a Detroit team that looks to be trending in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, Andersen has managed only an .892 save percentage and 3.41 GAA, marking him the second-worst goaltender in the league with at least five starts to his credit.

Maybe that explains Toronto’s (t)eighth-worst 3.5 goals against-per-game, huh?

As you might guess with Toronto’s goaltending situation, there’s a lot of pressure on the offense to keep the Leafs competitive. Fortunately for them, they drafted that C Auston Matthews guy last year, who’s absolutely perfect for the job. Just like we all expected, the sophomore from Arizona has been among the best scorers in the league to start the season, as he’s already registered 7-5-12 totals in eight games.

But what might be Matthews’ most important statistic coming into tonight’s game is his shooting percentage. He’s a managed a goal on 31.8 percent of his shots, which is best on the team among those that have fired the puck more than 10 times.

Remember Quick’s godlike .938 save percentage? Goals will not be easily earned, meaning a pure shot like Matthews’ will be necessary to earn victory.

Now’s the time to make a pick, which is very tough given the Maple Leafs’ solid 3-1-0 record at home. That being said, I have full faith in Quick and his offense to invade the Air Canada Centre and earn two points for the Kings.


With a dominant three-goal second period, the Vancouver Canucks beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

This contest remained scoreless until First Star of the Game LW Sven Baertschi (Third Star C Bo Horvat and RW Brock Boeser) buried a backhanded shot with 5:26 remaining remaining in the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. The Canucks almost took that advantage into the first intermission if not for a snap shot by W Anthony Mantha (F Gustav Nyquist and D Mike Green), buried with 92 seconds remaining in the frame.

Since Mantha’s marker was the only goal Detroit could muster, W Derek Dorsett‘s (Horvat and D Derrick Pouliot) wrist shot 8:30 into the second period proved to be the Canucks’ game-winning goal.

The play that led to this goal looks to be something Head Coach Travis Green has been running in practice, as the Canucks ran it to perfection. From his own defensive zone, Pouliot banked a blue line-to-blue line pass off the far boards to Horvat to set up Vancouver’s attack. As that was happening, Dorsett started streaking up the ice towards G Jimmy Howard‘s glove side. Almost immediately upon receiving Pouliot’s pass, Horvat sent a centering pass towards Dorsett, which he quickly put on net. Howard made the initial save with his left shoulder, but the puck bounced into the air and eventually rolled down his back into the goal.

That was Dorsett’s fifth goal and sixth point of the year. After starting the season on the fourth line, he’s earned himself a promotion to a top-six position in the Canucks’ lineup and is certainly one of the most exciting stories in Vancouver.

Baertschi (F Alexander Burmistrov) and Second Star RW Jake Virtanen (LW Daniel Sedin) provided Vancouver’s two insurance goals in the remaining time of the second period, and the Canucks limited the Red Wings to only six shots on goal in the third to ensure the victory.

G Jacob Markstrom earned the victory after saving 20-of-21 shots faced (.952 save percentage), leaving the loss to Howard, who saved 33-of-37 (.892).

In the last four games in the DtFR Game of the Day series, all of them have come back as wins for the road teams. With this run of success, visitors in the series have pulled within two points of the 10-6-4 hosts.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-2018 Season Preview

UnknownToronto Maple Leafs

40-27-15, 95 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Washington

Additions: D Ron Hainsey, D Vincent LoVerde, F Patrick Marleau, F Dominic Moore, F Chris Mueller

Subtractions: G Antoine Bibeau (signed with SJ), F Brian Boyle (signed with NJ), D Andrew Campbell (signed with ARI), F Seth Griffith (signed with BUF), F Teemu Hartikainen (signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL), D Matt Hunwick (signed with PIT), F Sergey Kalinin (signed with SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), F Brooks Laich (signed a PTO with LA), D Steve Oleksy (signed with ANA), D Stephane Robidas (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Milan Michalek, D Roman Polak

Offseason Analysis: The Kids Revival Era in Toronto led to a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance for the first time since 2013 and sooner than anyone could have ever expected last October. Unfortunately, all good runs must come to an end and the youthful Leafs were unable to defeat the Second Round pros (the Washington Capitals) in a back-and-forth six-game battle in the First Round.

Fear not, Toronto, your team will be just fine.

Maple Leafs general manager, Lou Lamoriello, hasn’t had much to do this offseason. Lamoriello’s additions of Ron Hainsey, Patrick Marleau and Dominic Moore bring veteran leadership of the highest quality to the locker room full of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander‘s scoring capabilities (and that’s ignoring the fact that James van Riemsdyk exists altogether).

Hainsey, 36, is in search of his second Stanley Cup after finally appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the 2017 champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As Connor Carrick, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev delve into the prime of their careers, Hainsey’s guidance on the blue line will balance the workload and make it easier for Toronto’s head coach, Mike Babcock, to make crucial decisions regarding defensive pairings and special teams.

While Lamoriello landed star playmaker, Patrick Marleau, to transform the rest of the top-9 forwards into a shot attempts for, offense generating machine, the skilled forward comes in past the plateau of his prime at 37-years-old and down significantly from his consistent 70-plus point seasons in scoring.

Although his 27-19-46 totals in all 82 games last season with the San Jose Sharks were impressive for his age, he’s likely to see less goal scoring and more emphasis than ever before on passing the puck to linemates far faster than him on the ice.

If Toronto wins the Cup in the next year or two, there’s a good chance his 3-year, $18.750 million contract ($6.250 million cap hit) will be forgiven given his age and the cap overage that the Maple Leafs are currently facing (they’re about $4.600 million over the $75 million salary cap ceiling).

In perhaps the best signing of adding a more veteran punch to the roster, Dominic Moore’s 1-year, $1.000 million contract should pay off in spades for the Maple Leafs.

Moore bounced back from a 15-point season (six goals, nine assists) in 80 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-2016 with a 25-point year (11 goals, 14 assists) in all 82 games with the Boston Bruins last season. His power play specialty alone bolster’s Toronto’s firing power on the man advantage, let alone the fact that he’s a top-notch bottom-six center as a 37-year-old in search for his first Stanley Cup.

A Cup win would cap off a happy homecoming for the native of Thornhill, Ontario.

Any other team that adds three players over the age of 35 in one offseason would be considered insane, yet here we are praising Toronto for finding the right guys, making the right deals (well, two out of three ain’t bad) and improving their team while only losing NHL caliber talents such in Seth Griffith (okay, maybe a fourth liner/top-6 AHLer), Matt Hunwick (signed with Pittsburgh, which, good for him) and Brooks Laich (had been buried in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and currently looking for a revival on a PTO with Los Angeles).

Okay, fine, not to overlook the loss of Brian Boyle to New Jersey via free agency, but Boyle’s 25 points in scoring last season, split between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto in 76 games combined was the same offensive output as Moore, minus the face-off winning abilities and special teams impact.

In fact, Boyle notched 22 of his 25 points on the season with Tampa in 48 games prior to being traded to Toronto two days before the trade deadline. Chemistry and sample size aside, Moore is a better replacement for Boyle’s inept scoring prowess (three points in 21 games with Toronto).

To summarize, Lamoriello didn’t have to do anything to an already stacked team, but he added without subtracting anyway. Oh yeah, and the Leafs will totally finish 2nd or 3rd in the Atlantic this season. Maybe 1st.

Offseason Grade: B+

Patrick Marleau shouldn’t be getting more than a two-year contract at this point, but the Maple Leafs will own up to paying more than they’d probably like to because of the over-35-years-old compliance with the CBA. Speaking of the CBA, the league still needs to figure out that whole “over the salary cap limit, while also probably going to utilize the LTIR on at least one player (namely Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton) a la the Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks situation with Marian Hossa before the season begins” thing.