Tag Archives: Nino Niederreiter

DTFR Podcast #173- Rage Against The Other Team

The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?

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DTFR Podcast #171- 2019-20 Season Preview: Central Division

All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.

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DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

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Bruins downgrade Hurricanes, advance to Stanley Cup Final

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Final– and for the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice advantage in the Final– after their, 4-0, victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.

The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the series 4-0 to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– their 20th appearance in the Final in franchise history.

Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) made 24 saves on 24 shots against to record the shutout win for Boston.

He made 109 saves on 114 shots faced in the entire series against the Canes.

Hurricanes goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced (.864 SV%) in the loss.

Carolina finished the postseason 5-2 on home ice and 2-1 when facing elimination, while the Bruins improved to 11-0 when leading after two periods this season.

Boston also improved to 20-1 all time when leading a series 3-0.

The Hurricanes became the first team since the 1992 Bruins to sweep the Second Round, then be swept in the Eastern Conference Final.

Boston swept the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, then got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Eastern Conference Final– en route to Pittsburgh’s 1992 Cup run.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to injury, replacing Chris Wagner (upper body) with Noel Acciari on the fourth line right wing after Wagner blocked a shot and left Game 3, as well as Zdeno Chara (undisclosed) with John Moore for Game 4.

Moore was placed on the left side of the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Matt Grzelcyk took Chara’s place on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.

Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo suited up as normal on the second pairing.

Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Aside from Chara, Wagner and Kevan Miller (lower body), Boston’s usual crew of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Carolina had an early power play after Grzelcyk tripped Nino Niederreiter at 1:18 of the first period, but the Hurricanes did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Midway through the opening frame, Niederreiter skated to the penalty box with a minor infraction of his own for slashing Boston’s Brad Marchand at 10:35 of the first period.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their skater advantage and Charlie Coyle was penalized with about 20 seconds left on the power play– resulting in a short 4-on-4 even strength opportunity before an abbreviated power play for the Canes at 12:19.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, with the Hurricanes leading in shots on goal, 13-11.

The Canes also led in blocked shots (6-5) after one period, while the B’s led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (57-44). Both teams had seven giveaways each.

Heading into the second period, Carolina was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

Early in the middle frame, the Hurricanes botched a line change as the puck came out of their attacking zone and the Carolina bench was caught with too many men on the ice.

Justin Williams served the bench minor penalty at 4:28 of the second period.

Shortly thereafter, Marchand led Boston on a break in on the power play and sent a pass to the slot whereby David Pastrnak (7) redirected the puck behind McElhinney to give the B’s the first goal of the game, 1-0.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Marchand (11) and Krug (11) at 4:46 of the second period.

Late in the period, Greg McKegg bumped into Rask while going hard to the crease, yielding a goaltender interference minor penalty at 18:10.

While on the ensuing power play, Patrice Bergeron (7) worked a give-and-go to Pastrnak and sneaked his way to the bumper to receive the pass back from his winger to rip the one-timer past McElhinney and give Boston a two-goal lead.

Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and extended the Bruins lead to, 2-0, at 18:34 of the second period. The goal also moved Bergeron past Phil Esposito, John Bucyk and Jean Ratelle for the 2nd most power play goals by a Bruin in a postseason.

Cam Neely holds the franchise record with nine power play goals in a single playoff year.

Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 19-17, including an, 8-4 advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s also held the advantage in face-off win% (52-48), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (10-7) and hits (19-15) after two periods. Entering the second intermission, both teams had 14 blocked shots aside and 11 giveaways each.

Carolina was 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period, while Boston was 2/3 on the skater advantage.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Selke Trophy finalist, Bergeron forced a turnover to Pastrnak in the attacking zone.

Pastrnak worked the puck back to Bergeron (8) along the goal line near the short side whereby the veteran Bruin blasted a one-timer past the Carolina goaltender to give Boston a three-goal lead.

With his second assist of the night, Pastrnak (8) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal and notched his third point of the evening (1-2–3 totals) at 10:32 of the third period as the Bruins led, 3-0.

As time ticked down in the third period, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 5:22 to go in regulation.

Shortly thereafter, Bergeron freed the puck through the neutral zone to Marchand (7) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-0, Bruins.

Bergeron (5) and David Krejci (10) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 17:43 of the third period.

With the primary assist on the goal, Bergeron tallied a three-point night (two goals, one assist) as Boston closed out the series.

At the final horn, the Bruins completed the sweep with a, 4-0, win and finished the night leading in blocked shots (23-16) and face-off win% (53-47).

Carolina wrapped up their season leading in shots on goal (24-23), giveaways (15-14) and hits (33-17).

The Canes went 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/3 on the power play on Thursday night.

For the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice in the Stanley Cup Final as they await the winner of the 2019 Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.

San Jose currently leads the series 2-1 over the Blues.

This will be the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for David Backes– who spent 10 seasons with St. Louis before signing with Boston in free agency on July 1, 2016.

It’s also Cassidy’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance as a head coach.

It will be the third time the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, joining the Chicago Blackhawks as the only team to reach the Final in three or more appearances since 2010.

Chicago made (and won) the Final in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

(For those wondering, the Penguins made the Cup Final in 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017.)

Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask are the only Bruins to have been part of all three Stanley Cup Final appearances for Boston since 1990 (2011, 2013 and 2019).

Bruins, Rask, one win away from sweeping Hurricanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina did not convert on the opportunity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The call on the ice was confirmed. No goal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruins score four in the third, beat Hurricanes, 5-2, in Game 1

Four unanswered goals in the third period propelled the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-2, in Game 1 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Thursday.

Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal while on the power play in the third period before the B’s added two more goals for good measure as the Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 series lead.

Tuukka Rask (9-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) made 29 saves on 31 shots against (.935 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Carolina goaltender, Petr Mrazek (5-4, 2.40 GAA, .907 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.

Mrazek was back for the Hurricanes for the first time since leaving Game 2 against the New York Islanders in the Second Round with a lower body injury.

John Moore (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Noel Acciari (upper body) missed the action in Game 1 for Boston, while B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted Steven Kampfer on his blue line while Charlie McAvoy served his one game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 at Columbus in the Second Round.

Cassidy bumped up Connor Clifton to the right side of Zdeno Chara on the first defensive pairing and slid Kampfer in on the right of the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk.

He made no other changes to his lineup.

Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman made up the long list of healthy scratches for the Bruins.

Boston is making their eighth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final since the format was introduced in 1982. The B’s last made the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (also 1983, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2011). The Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in 2013.

Carolina is making their fourth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final and first since 2009 (also 2002, 2006). The Hurricanes were swept by the Penguins in 2009.

Kicking things off with the first goal of the series was Kampfer (1) in just his second career Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Kampfer scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 2:55 of the first period after Marcus Johansson slipped through the neutral zone with speed and dropped the puck back to Kampfer as the Bruins defender pinched in from the point.

Johansson (4) had the only assist as Boston jumped out to the, 1-0, lead.

But the B’s lead was shortlived as Sean Kuraly picked up a roughing minor against Brock McGinn at 3:39 of the first period, yielding the first power play of the series to the Hurricanes.

Just 47 seconds after Boston took the lead, Carolina tied the game with a tip-in past Rask as Sebastian Aho (5) skated through the low slot– point blank– while Andrei Svechnikov threw the rubber biscuit on goal.

Svechnikov (2) and Jordan Staal (6) notched the assists on Aho’s goal at 3:42 and the Canes tied the game, 1-1.

Late in the period, Charlie Coyle hooked Teuvo Teravainen and was sent to the penalty box at 14:37, but the Canes did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Shortly after killing off Coyle’s minor, Boston found themselves going on the power play after Nino Niederreiter slashed Brad Marchand at 16:55.

The Bruins did not capitalize on their first skater advantage Thursday night.

After one period, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal (10-8), giveaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (61-39).

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), as well as takeaways (3-2) entering the first intermission.

Carolina was 1/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, Kuraly got a stick up high on Calvin de Haan and went back to the sin bin for his second time of the night at 4:08 of the second period.

The Canes fired five shots on goal– including an impressive one-timer from Teravainen that was denied by Rask as the Bruins goaltender went from post-to-post– but couldn’t wire the puck into the back of the twine on the skater advantage.

Nonetheless, moments later, Greg McKegg (2) charged into the offensive zone, crashed the net and scored while bowling into the Boston netminder.

Carolina led for the first time of the night, 2-1, thanks to McKegg’s goal. Jordan Martinook (4) and Micheal Ferland (1) tallied the assists at 9:18 of the second period.

Boston had not trailed in a game for a span of 210:42 since Game 3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Second Round prior to McKegg’s goal.

Late in the period, Ferland’s name popped up again on the event sheet– this time for interference against David Krejci— and the Hurricanes forward took a seat in the penalty box with a minor penalty at 16:56.

Boston’s power play could not convert on the late skater advantage as time dwindled down in the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 25-18 (including a, 15-10, advantage in the second period alone).

Carolina also led in blocked shots (10-8), giveaways (7-6), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (57-43), while both teams had four takeaways each after two periods.

The Canes were 1/3 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period.

In the final frame of regulation, Staal boarded Chris Wagner 49 seconds into the third period and yielded a power play for the Bruins.

Late on the ensuing skater advantage, Marchand unloaded on a shot and generated a rebound for Johansson (3) to settle in the slot and bury the loose puck after elevating it over Mrazek’s pads to tie the game, 2-2, with a power play goal at 2:26 of the third period.

Marchand (9) and Krejci (7) had the assists on the goal. With the secondary assist on Johansson’s goal, Krejci is now two points away from 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points.

Less than a minute after allowing a power play goal against, the Hurricanes took another penalty when former Bruins defender, Dougie Hamilton, roughed former Carolina forward, Joakim Nordstrom, at 2:41.

Just 13 seconds into the ensuing power play, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Jake DeBrusk worked the puck from the wall to Marchand across the slot, whereby Marchand found Bergeron (6) acting as the bumper in front of the net for the one-timer past Mrazek.

Marchand (10) and DeBrusk (4) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal at 2:54 of the third period and the B’s amassed two power play goals in a span of 28 seconds to lead, 3-2, with plenty of time left in the final frame.

Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour used his timeout after Bergeron’s goal to put his players at ease and motivate them to get back on the scoreboard, but the Canes couldn’t muster the confidence– especially after Hamilton went back to the penalty box for interference at 5:29.

Though the Bruins didn’t score on the resulting power play, they did maintain solid puck possession on the skater advantage.

As the clock continued to tick away Carolina pulled their goaltender with 2:38 remaining in regulation to try to knot things up.

Shortly after Mrazek got to the bench, the Bruins cleared the puck from their own blue line as Brandon Carlo got a double deflection off of Niederreiter then his own teammate in Coyle as the puck trickled with enough momentum into the open goal frame for the empty net goal.

Coyle (6) was credited with the marker as Boston went ahead, 4-2, at 17:47. Carlo (2) and Kuraly (2) had the assists on Coyle’s goal.

Wagner (1) got a breakaway 11 seconds later, deked and slipped the puck through Mrazek’s five-hole to give the B’s a three-goal lead, 5-2, at 17:58 of the third period.

The Hurricanes only allowed five goals in four games against the New York Islanders in the Second Round, but they allowed five goals against in Game 1 against Boston as time expired in the series opener.

The Bruins had won, 5-2, and grabbed the 1-0 series lead on Thursday.

Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-28), giveaways (11-7), hits (27-25) and face-off win% (53-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (11-10) after the dust settled.

Both teams found some success on the power play in Game 1 as the Canes went 1/3 and the B’s went 2/5 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins lead the series, 1-0, and host Game 2 Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. Puck drop is expected for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC to catch the action. Fans in Canada can follow along on CBC, SN or TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.

Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.

For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.

The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.

Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.

Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.

Marcus Johansson suffered a lung contusion after Micheal Ferland delivered a check days after Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline in March.

If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.

The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.

Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.

Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.

Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.

When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.

Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.

Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.

Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.

Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.

Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.

Former Hurricane, Joakim Nordstrom, and Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly, each have a pair of goals in 12 and nine games played, respectively.

Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.

Usual playoff performers, David Krejci (4-6–10 totals in 13 games) and Patrice Bergeron (5-3–8 totals in 13 games) are right where you’d expect them to be at this time of the year.

Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.

Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.

He also just tied Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd most postseason shutouts in Bruins franchise history with his 6th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout against Columbus in Game 6.

Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.

Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.

In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.

But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.

No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.

Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.

Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.

Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.

On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.

Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.

Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.

Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.

That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.

Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.


The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.

When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.

The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).

Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.

Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.

Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.

That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*

5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*

*If necessary

Krejci and DeBrusk’s chemistry shines in B’s, 4-3, OT win

An incredible pass from Jake DeBrusk to David Krejci harpooned the Carolina Hurricanes’ chances of emerging victorious– clad in Hartford Whalers throwback sweaters– at TD Garden on Tuesday as the Boston Bruins won, 4-3, in overtime.

Jaroslav Halak (18-9-4 record, 2.31 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 33 games played) made 34 saves on 37 shots against for a .919 SV% in the overtime win for the Bruins.

Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (17-7-2, 2.31 GAA, .921 SV% in 26 GP) stopped 34 out of 38 shots faced for an .895 SV% in the overtime loss.

Sebastian Aho had two goals for the Hurricanes, while Justin Williams also had a goal for Carolina.

Chris Wagner, DeBrusk, Patrice Bergeron and Krejci had goals for the B’s.

Boston improved to 40-17-9 (89 points) and remained 2nd in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Hurricanes fell to 36-23-7 (79 points), but remained 3rd in the Metropolitan Division.

Carolina is tied in points with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but leads in regulation-plus-overtime wins (35-34 this season over Pittsburgh).

The Bruins have only dropped three games in regulation since the start of 2019 and have not lost in regulation since Jan. 19th. In fact, since Jan. 1st, the Bruins are 19-3-5 (Carolina is 20-6-2 in that same span).

The B’s are 4-0-0 on their current six-game homestand and 2-0-0 in the month of March. They’re also 8-0-0 in their last eight home games dating back to Feb. 5th.

Kevan Miller remains out of the lineup and is now week-to-week with an upper body injury, while David Pastrnak (left thumb) started skating with a stick in his hands at practice. Pastrnak is closer to a return, but still not yet available for the Bruins.

Sean Kuraly (concussion protocol), in the meantime, is progressing well and should take part in Wednesday’s practice before likely returning to action Thursday night against the Florida Panthers for Boston.

Those updates were provided by B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, prior to Tuesday night’s matchup with the Hurricanes.

Cassidy made no adjustments to his lineup from Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils as Miller (upper body), Pastrnak (left thumb) and Kuraly (concussion protocol) remained out of the lineup due to injury and Steven Kampfer was the only healthy scratch.

Things started to look like an old Adams Division rivalry matchup when Carolina forward Micheal Ferland laid out a massive hit on Bruins winger Marcus Johansson.

Johansson was leveled by the clean hit and nursing his shoulder as he struggled to get up and was helped off the ice by Boston’s athletic trainer, Don DelNegro, about three minutes into the game.

Less than a minute later, David Backes stood up for his fallen teammate and fought Ferland. Both received five-minute major penalties for fighting at 3:53 and Ferland actually left the game with an upper body injury as a result of the fight.

It was Backes’ 3rd fighting major in 54 games this season– including three fights in his last four games.

Things did not settle down after the fisticuffs, however, as both teams exchanged pleasantries during play and after the whistle throughout the remainder of the first period.

Calvin de Haan intentionally fired a shot off of Aho (28) in front of the goal, seeking a deflection and gave the Hurricanes the first lead of the night, 1-0.

Aho’s goal was assisted by de Haan (12) and Trevor van Riemsdyk (11) at 6:30 of the first period.

Having misread the numbers on the back of a Hurricanes sweater, John Moore took out his frustrations less than a minute later on Brock McGinn with a cross check that was penalized at 7:02.

Carolina went on their first power play of the night, but it was short lived after Williams hooked Brandon Carlo at 7:44 of the opening frame.

The soon-to-be abbreviated power play for Boston after Moore’s minor was set to expire didn’t come to fruition as Charlie McAvoy tripped up Warren Foegele during the 4-on-4 action at 8:27.

The Canes still couldn’t convert on the resulting skater advantage and didn’t take full advantage of Boston’s bench minor for too many men on the ice at 13:49.

After 20 minutes of play, the Hurricanes led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while the Bruins led, 12-11, in shots on goal.

Entering the first intermission, Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3) and giveaways (6-5), while Carolina led in takeaways (6-4) and hits (13-8). Both teams were even in face-off win percentage (50-50), while the Hurricanes were 0/3 on the power play.

Aho (29) had a breakaway about 70 seconds into the second period and pulled Halak far enough out of the crease to expose his five-hole, thereby slipping the puck through the goaltender to give Carolina a two goal lead at 1:10 of the middle frame.

Nino Niederreiter (24) and Justin Faulk (18) tallied the assists on the goal as Aho picked up his eighth point in his last six games.

Prior to trailing, 2-0, on Tuesday, the last time the Bruins trailed by multiple goals in a game this season was on Jan. 16th.

Moments after the Canes scored, Bergeron tripped up Jaccob Slavin and was assessed a minor infraction at 3:50 of the second period.

Jordan Staal followed up with a slashing penalty of his own against Bergeron at 9:43 and the Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night. They did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Boston did respond in the vulnerable minute after special teams play, however, as Carlo threw the puck on goal to generate a rebound while Wagner (10) collected the garbage in the low slot to but the B’s on the board and cut the lead in half, 2-1.

Carlo (6) had the only assist on the goal at 12:28 of the second period.

Wagner now has four goals in his last nine games for Boston.

Late in the period, Krejci moved the puck through the neutral zone and forced a rebound for DeBrusk (22) to bury behind McElhinney and tie the game, 2-2, at 18:12.

Krejci (41) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s goal.

Through two periods of play, the game was tied, 2-2, while the Bruins led in shots on goal (27-21). Boston also led in blocked shots (9-6), while Carolina led in giveaways (14-11), hits (21-13) and face-off win% (52-48).

Both teams had nine takeaways aside, while the Hurricanes were 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.

The Bruins were again penalized for too many men on the ice at 2:14 of the third period.

While shorthanded, Brad Marchand led a two-on-one with Bergeron, whereby Marchand sent a quick pass over to the 15-year NHL veteran for the one-timer goal from one knee.

Bergeron (23) had given Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 2:45 of the third period while shorthanded. The goal was Boston’s fourth shorthanded goal this season (two for Bergeron and two for Marchand).

Marchand (50) had the only assist on the effort and reached the 50-assist plateau for the 2nd consecutive season.

As for Bergeron, the goal was his 794th career point with the Bruins, putting him in sole command of 6th all-time in Bruins franchise history in points ahead of Wayne Cashman (793 points with Boston).

Next on the list to reach for Bergeron is 5th place, Bobby Orr, who had 888 career points in the spoked-B.

Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Williams (19) sent a shot from the face-off circle to left of Halak past the Bruins goaltender as Halak was deep in the crease and certainly not square enough to the shooter.

Jordan Martinook (6) and Brett Pesce (14) had the assists on Williams’ game-tying goal at 12:17.

At the end of regulation, the game remained tied, 3-3, with shots on goal even at 36-36.

Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour sent out Teuvo Teravainen, Staal and Slavin to begin the overtime period, while Cassidy matched Carolina with Charlie oyle, Wagner and Moore.

Almost two minutes into the 3-on-3 overtime period, DeBrusk shook off a Canes defender, then worked a spin move pass over to Krejci as No. 46 in black-and-gold was crashing the slot– catching McElhinney in desperation.

Krejci (16) deked and pocketed the puck in the empty twine with McElhinney fully out of position to give Boston the overtime victory, 4-3.

DeBrusk (12) had the only assist on the goal at 1:46 of overtime.

At the final horn, the Bruins won the game and finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-37), blocked shots (14-9) and giveaways (16-15). Carolina led the night in hits (28-24) and face-off win% (52-49).

The Hurricanes finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1.

Boston improved to 8-6 on the season in overtime and Carolina fell to 4-5 in games that end before a shootout– but past regulation– this season.

The Hurricanes’ five-game winning streak was snapped and the club fell to 27-6-3 when scoring first this season as Boston overcame a two-goal deficit to win in overtime.

The Bruins improved to 13-2-4 when tied after two periods this season.

Boston continues their six-game homestand on Thursday against the Florida Panthers. Boston wraps up their homestand with a Saturday night matchup against the Ottawa Senators before traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The B’s take on the Columbus Blue Jackets next Tuesday (March 12th) and Winnipeg Jets next Thursday (March 14th) before returning home to face Columbus on March 16th.

DTFR Podcast #147- Trade The Whole Team

It’s the DTFR 2019 Trade Deadline recap! Plus a few other notes from the last week around the NHL.

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

Game of the week: February 4-10

Now that all the bye weeks are behind us, the next big event on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline at the end of the month. The activity leading up to that date will be majorly influenced by the next couple weeks’ games, including these tilts:

NHL SCHEDULE: February 4-10
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, February 4
7 p.m. Anaheim Toronto 1-6
7 p.m. Los Angeles Kings New York Rangers 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Vancouver Philadelphia 1-2
8:30 p.m. Arizona Dallas 4-5
Tuesday, February 5
7 p.m. New York Islanders Boston Bruins 1-3
7 p.m. Minnesota Buffalo 4-5 (SO)
7 p.m. St. Louis Florida 3-2
7 p.m. Los Angeles New Jersey 5-1
7 p.m. Carolina Pittsburgh 4-0
7 p.m. Vancouver Washington 2-3
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Montréal 1-4
7:30 p.m. Vegas Tampa Bay 3-2 (SO)
8 p.m. Arizona Nashville 2-5
8 p.m. San Jose Winnipeg 3-2 (OT)
9 p.m. Columbus Colorado 6-3
9 p.m. Chicago Edmonton 6-2
Wednesday, February 6
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Toronto 4-5
8 p.m. Boston Bruins New York Rangers 3-4 (SO)
Thursday, February 7
7 p.m. Carolina Buffalo  
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Florida  
7 p.m. New York Islanders New Jersey Devils  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Philadelphia  
7 p.m. Colorado Washington ESPN+
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Montréal RDS, TSN2
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Ottawa RDS2
7:30 p.m. Vegas Detroit  
7:30 p.m. St. Louis Tampa Bay  
8 p.m. Dallas Nashville  
8 p.m. Edmonton Minnesota  
8:30 p.m. Vancouver Chicago  
9 p.m. San Jose Calgary ESPN+, SN1
9 p.m. Columbus Arizona  
Friday, February 8
8 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes New York Rangers NHLN, SN
Saturday, February 9
1 p.m. Los Angeles Boston  
1 p.m. Detroit Buffalo  
1 p.m. Minnesota New Jersey  
1 p.m. Colorado Avalanche New York Islanders  
1 p.m. Anaheim Philadelphia  
2 p.m. Nashville St. Louis  
2 p.m. Winnipeg Jets Ottawa Senators CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS
4 p.m. Dallas Arizona  
7 p.m. San Jose Edmonton SN, SN360
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs Montréal Canadiens CBC, CITY, SN1, TVAS
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Tampa Bay NHLN
7 p.m. Florida Washington ESPN+
10 p.m. Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
10 p.m. Columbus Vegas ESPN+
Sunday, February 10
12:30 p.m. St. Louis Nashville NBC, TVAS
3 p.m. Detroit Chicago  
3 p.m. Colorado Boston SN1, TVAS
3 p.m. Winnipeg Buffalo ESPN+
3 p.m. Carolina New Jersey  
3 p.m. Minnesota Wild New York Islanders  
6 p.m. Tampa Bay Florida  
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs New York Rangers NBCSN, SN, TVAS

This week has more than its fair share of derbies with seven on the schedule spread across four days. First up are both of Wednesday’s tilts (the Battle of Ontario and an Original Six tilt between the Bruins and Rangers), followed this evening by Vancouver visiting Chicago (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). Toronto keeps the Original Six fever going into the weekend when it visits Montréal, then continues the trend into Sunday by visiting the Rangers. Joining the Leafs and Blueshirts in rivalry action to close the week will be Tampa Bay and Florida contesting another round of the Governor’s Cup.

In the player homecoming category, there was none bigger than F Jay Beagle‘s trip back to the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Beagle spent 10 seasons with the Caps, departing for the Pacific Northwest after winning the Stanley Cup last summer.

Also making major returns are G Philipp Grubauer and F Nick Bjugstad, both of whom spent six seasons with the Capitals and Panthers, respectively. These homecomings are especially significant for both, as Grubauer will be collecting his Stanley Cup ring and Bjugstad will probably be snagging some more clothes and household items for his new apartment in the Steel City after being traded there Friday.

However, to keep with tradition, let’s totally disregard those tilts and focus on a totally different fixture – specifically, the one featuring F Jeff Skinner taking on his former team.

Boasting a 4-1-1 record in their past six games (including a dominant 4-0 shutout win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday), the 26-21-6 Carolina Hurricanes have pulled within three points of the East’s second wild card with 29 games to play.

After more than half the season has gone by, there’s no surprises any more in the Canes’ style: they play an upbeat style of offense that stresses shots on goal, hoping to wear down opposing goaltenders simply by the mass volume of stops they have to make.

While that strategy has had varied levels of success throughout the campaign, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour‘s crew has certainly been making magic lately, as they’ve been led by their offense averaging 4.33 goals per game during this run – the second-best in the entire NHL since January 20.

Leading that charge is none other than the 35th-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, F Sebastian Aho. With 3-6-9 totals in his last six appearances, he’s continued his insane scoring pace to elevate his season marks to 24-36-60 in 53 appearances, putting him only five points away from matching last season’s career-highs in goals and points.

Joining Aho in averaging at least a point per game during this six-game run are F Teuvo Teravainen (2-5-7), D Jaccob Slavin (0-7-7) and new addition W Nino Niederreiter (5-1-6). With Niederreiter’s goal-scoring showing up in Raleigh on January 18, perhaps it’s no mere coincidence the offense has taken off and the Hurricanes are enjoying more of their patented “Carolina Surge” celebrations. Of course, the Canes might be just as surprised with Niederreiter’s success as he is – after all, he only scored nine goals in 46 games with the Wild this season. Since donning Carolina red, he’s already lit the lamp five times in only seven appearances.

But the Hurricanes haven’t been just another pretty offense during this winning run. They’ve also played incredibly well on the defensive end too.

Thanks to the excellent play of late by D Justin Faulk (two blocks per game since January 20) and W Micheal Ferland (3.5 hits per game in his last four outings), the Canes have also boasted the league’s third-best defense as measured by shots against per game, as they’ve allowed only 25.33 per game during this six-game span.

And not surprisingly, that solid defensive work has translated incredibly to the scoreboard. Carolina has allowed only 2.5 goals against per game during this run, the (t)10th-best in the league since January 20. While 11-11-3 G Petr Mrazek‘s (.894 save percentage and 2.83 GAA on the season) stats have been far from incredible during this stretch – he’s actually performed below his already below-average season marks, managing an .874 save percentage and 3.28 GAA behind this defense – the fact that he’s earned five of a possible eight points in his last four appearances indicates he’s doing enough to help the Canes win.

With Carolina heading to Manhattan tomorrow to take on a less offensively-talented Rangers team, it seems likely Mrazek will be in net tonight. Should Brind’Amour instead give 12-6-1 G Curtis McElhinney the nod, he’ll hope to improve on his .918 season save percentage and corresponding 2.37 GAA.

Speaking of New York-based teams, the 26-20-6 Buffalo Sabres also find themselves trailing eighth-place Columbus by three points, but they currently lead the Hurricanes in the standings by virtue of playing one fewer game so far this campaign.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, that is where the positive marks end for a moment, as they’ve had the misfortune of stumbling into a 3-6-0 rut over their past nine games.

The biggest reason for this slump? Struggling goaltending.

Due in large part to an offense that is providing only three goals per game (tied for 13th-fewest in the NHL since January 11) and a defense yielding 31.11 shots against per game (15th-worst in the league in their past nine outings) during this stretch, 11-5-3 G Linus Ullmark has been forced to shoulder the brunt of the Sabres’ mistakes for the past few weeks and has struggled mightily under the pressure.

Despite owning a solid .914 save percentage and 2.93 GAA for the season, Ullmark’s stats in his last seven appearances (of which only five were starts, meaning 15-15-3 G Carter Hutton is struggling even more than Ullmark) have showcased just how much Buffalo has been struggling in the middle of the season. Ullmark has only an .882 save percentage and 3.53 GAA in these games, a far cry from the performance Head Coach Phil Housley has come to expect.

Hutton has an even worse .832 save percentage and 5.59 GAA in his last four starts (of which he’s only won one), so I’d be surprised if the 33-year-old is in net tonight against the Canes’ rolling offense.

Regardless of who’s in net, I have a hard time seeing the Sabres breaking out of their funk against the red-hot Hurricanes. With everything coming up Carolina’s way in it’s last few outings, the Canes should escape the Queen City with two more points in their possession.