Tag Archives: Nino Niederreiter

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.

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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.

DTFR Podcast #142- Chia’s Pets

The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.

There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.

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Bruins score wild goals in 4-0 win over Minnesota

Don’t look now, but the Boston Bruins are on a five-game winning streak after shutting out the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, Tuesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins haven’t lost since Dec. 29th’s, 3-2, comeback win in overtime against the Sabres in Buffalo.

Boston improved to 15-3-2 when scoring first this season, as Danton Heinen recorded the game’s first goal. Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron each added goals of their own in the Bruins’ win.

Tuukka Rask (12-8-2 record, 2.43 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 22 games played) made 24 saves on 24 shots against for the win and his first shutout of the season.

Rask’s last shutout came on March 17, 2018 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tuesday night’s shutout was the 42nd of his career.

Alex Stalock (5-4-0, 2.75 GAA, .894 SV% in 11 GP) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss for the Wild.

The B’s improved to 25-14-4 (54 points) on the season and remain 3rd in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place and two points ahead of the 4th place Sabres.

Minnesota fell to 21-18-3 (45 points) and remained 5th place in the Central Division.

Bruce Cassidy left his lines alone for Boston with Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibular fracture) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) still out of the lineup due to injury and Colby Cave, as well as Steven Kampfer, as the only healthy scratches Tuesday.

Heinen (5) notched the game’s first goal early in the first period after Torey Krug went d-to-d with a pass across the point to John Moore.

Moore fired a shot that Heinen tipped in past Stalock at 5:23 to give Boston the, 1-0, lead with Moore (6) and Krug (23) tallying the assists.

Moments later, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, cut a rut to the penalty box after being penalized for interference, having bumped into Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway without the puck at 7:00 of the first period.

The Bruins successfully killed off Chara’s minor infraction and momentum further swung to their side as almost a few minutes after the Wild’s power play failed, Marchand was in the right place at the right time.

Moore worked the puck over to Bergeron, who then fired a shot that went wide of the goal and caromed off the end-boards to Marchand as No. 63 in black-and-gold crashed the net.

Marchand (16) put home the rebound as Stalock was moving a step behind across the crease, giving Moore his first two-point game in a Bruins uniform.

Bergeron (23) and Moore (7) were credited with the assists at 11:29.

Late in the opening frame, the B’s and Wild swapped minor penalties with Kevan Miller going to the box first for holding Nino Niederreiter at 16:16, then Minnesota’s Eric Staal following up with a tripping minor against Rask at 17:42.

After an abbreviated 4-on-4 sequence, the Bruins went on an abbreviated power play that yielded their third goal of the period and first of two power play goals on the night.

Bergeron fired a shot towards the goal that deflected off of DeBrusk’s (14) chest and went past Stalock to give Boston a three-goal lead.

Bergeron (24) and Marchand (30) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 19:15 of the first period and the B’s led, 3-0.

DeBrusk has four goals and one assist (five points) in his six games since returning from concussion-like symptoms.

Entering the first intermission, Boston was ahead by three goals and led in shots on goal, 15-6. Minnesota led in blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (13-9) after 20 minutes, while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (67-33).

Both teams had two takeaways each through one period as the Wild went 0/2 on the power play and the B’s went 1/1.

Early in the second period, Zach Parise tripped Bergeron just past the six-minute mark of the middle frame and the Bruins went back on the power play.

Less than 20 seconds later, Bergeron (14) got his revenge on the scoreboard, redirecting a shot past Stalock for the power play goal at 6:24 of the second period.

Marchand (31) and Krug (24) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 4-0.

Almost midway through the second period, with the pace in play rather deflated, Moore was charged with interference against Luke Kunin, resulting in the Wild’s final power play of the night and last chance to muster anything resembling the commencement of a comeback.

Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of play at TD Garden, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal. Minnesota actually outshot Boston, 12-5, in the second period alone, but the Wild couldn’t get past the brick wall of Rask in Boston’s crease.

The B’s led in blocked shots (13-5) and face-off win% (59-41) after two periods. Minnesota led in takeaways (6-3), giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16), while finishing the night 0/3 on the power play.

The Bruins went 2/2 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.

There were no penalties and there was no scoring in the third period from either club as the Bruins secured the, 4-0, victory and finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-24), blocked shots (18-9), giveaways (12-11) and face-off win% (54-46).

The Wild finished the night leading in hits (28-21).

Boston hosts the Washington Capitals this Thursday night at the Garden before traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.

The Bruins return home for a Monday night (Jan. 14th) rivalry matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, before traveling to Philadelphia for the first of back-to-back games on the road at Wells Fargo Center against the Flyers next Wednesday (Jan. 16th) and at home against the St. Louis Blues next Thursday (Jan. 17th).

They’ll play one more game after that against the New York Rangers at home next Saturday (Jan. 19th) before the All-Star break and bye week begins for Boston.

DTFR Podcast #139- They Ran Out Of Beer!

A bunch of minor trades were made in the last week, the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game rosters were released, as well as the 2019-20 outdoor game schedule. Nick and Connor also discuss the legacy that was the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 IIHF World Junior Quarterfinal upsets.

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

*Editor’s Note: Of course, after recording this week’s episode, the Philadelphia Flyers claimed G Mike McKenna off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.

Whiteout Whitewashing: Jets take the series with Game 5 shutout victory

 

For the first time since the birth of the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise 19 years ago, the team will see the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the city of Winnipeg, a 31-year wait has ended with thunderous applause.

For Minnesota, however, an arduous struggle has ended in back-to-back blankings at the hands of a Jets squad that far outclassed them. The Wild fought as best they could, but with the absence of Ryan Suter on defense, and the loss of Zach Parise after Game 3, the tools for them to compete with a stacked Winnipeg roster just weren’t there. Pile on some notably lackluster performances from key players like Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle (all held scoreless in the series) and there was really no hope to overcome the juggernaut Jets.

The Wild knew to have any shot at surviving Game 5 they’d need to play the perfect road game and try to keep the Jets from building momentum and getting the raucous crowd involved. This strategy lasted all of 31 seconds.

A strong opening shift was capped off when Jacob Trouba received a cross-ice pass from Mark Scheifele at the top of the right circle, took a few strides towards the net and ripped a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk to ignite Bell MTS Place in the first minute.

A Winnipeg penalty shortly after the goal threatened to kill the energy, but strong work on the PK kept the tide in the Jets’ favor, and shortly after the conclusion of the penalty Trouba (who had himself a game) nearly scored on an odd-man rush, before nearly tipping home a follow-up shot right after. Dubnyk was trying desperately to keep his team alive and settle things down.

Unfortunately for the Minnesota netminder, his efforts were for nothing, as on the following faceoff Dustin Byfuglien let go a wrist shot from the right point that Bryan Little redirected beautifully past an unsuspecting Dubnyk for the 2-0 lead, still just 5:42 into the game.

Still the Jets kept coming, and the Wild had no answer. A Brandon Tanev shot nearly went in off the skate of Dubnyk after bouncing off of the end boards. Then Niederreiter tried to create a scoring opportunity by dancing around one Winnipeg defender only to get blown up by Big Buff as he attempted to let the shot go. Then Tanev, apparently upset at his previous failure, stripped a fumbling Jonas Brodin of the puck at his defensive blueline and fired a quick turnaround wrister through Dubnyk before he had time to react, Winnipeg taking a 3-0 lead with 8:50 to play. Tanev’s first career playoff goal.

Just 49 seconds later things went from calamity to catastrophe when an initial attempt from Andrew Copp rebounded out high to a locked and loaded Byfuglien, who proceeded to unload a bomb that redirected off of Joel Armia (his first playoff goal, just to stick with the theme) and into the net.

It was now 4-0 with 8:01 to play in the first period, and a mercy pulling was in order. Bruce Boudreau sent Alex Stalock in to relieve Dubnyk of his nightmare, and he returned to the bench to a standing reception from his teammates. Captain Mikko Koivu walked down to the end of the bench after Dubnyk sat down, seemingly to say “We’re sorry, this is on us.” to his visibly emotional goaltender.

Winnipeg fans, however, did not share in Koivu’s sympathies, as a chant of “We Want Dubnyk” rang out not long after the resumption of play. Apparently even after a long, cold winter, Winnipeg still has plenty of salt to go around.

The period ended with the Jets outshooting Minnesota 13-7, but the play was even more lopsided than that would indicate.

Early in the second Minnesota got their proverbial “This one just isn’t going to go your way” sign from the hockey gods, as a Mikael Granlund rush drew Connor Hellebuyck out of his net, giving Granlund an open cage to tuck a wraparound into, only to see the puck sail across the crease along the goal line and bounce off of multiple Winnipeg skates just inches from paydirt, only to be cleared away.

Minnesota did finally gain some offensive traction to their credit, though the second notable opportunity was a Niederreiter rush that was met with a shot block and subsequent leveling hit by Trouba. Ironically even though they controlled a lot of the play early in the second, the Wild would not record a shot for nearly eight minutes of play.

The game’s only real notable save came from the left pad of Stalock who denied a seemingly sure-thing one-timer right on the doorstep at the bottom of the left circle from Scheifele just past the game’s halfway mark.

A Wild power play around the 11:00 mark brought some more offensive traction to the visitors, who had a few quality chances on the power play followed up by a Niederreiter breakaway all turned aside. Jason Zucker found iron on a later power play, but Hellebucyk simply couldn’t be solved.

The Jets put a stamp on the game just 32 seconds into the third with a beautiful high-low-high passing sequence from Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny, and Scheifele capped off by a beautiful one-time rip from #55 into the net from the low slot.

Sensing victory was now firmly in hand, the Winnipeg Whiteout crowd started to take over the third period. Multiple renditions of Bananarama’s ‘Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye’ were belted out in perfect harmony at numerous points in the frame, starting with the initial performance just after the puck had dropped following the 5-0 goal.

When Hellebucyk made a great stop on Matt Cullen off of a Marcus Foligno rebound, the crowd responded with the wave, then some more Bananarama.

Blake Wheeler nearly made it 6-0 on a beautiful backhand tip of a Scheifele centering pass, but the hockey gods had decided enough was enough, so it found the crossbar and vacated the goal crease without further incident.

‘We Want Nashville!’ is now the chant. Bold, Winnipeg. Bold.

Later in the period a fan took a deflected puck to the face, only to be tossed a towel by Matt Hendricks (making his series debut) and signal to everyone in attendance that they were still very much alive, drawing a rousing round of applause.

The standing ovation started with 2:30 to play, and was only interrupted by an obligatory singalong to ‘Sweet Caroline’ at 2:10. The final minute of play was basically just one long explosion of noise as the city erupted into a party that I assume will still be occurring when the sun rises. On Monday.

In the end, Connor Hellebucyk posted his second-consecutive shutout to seal the series, and the Parise-less Wild fail to score a single goal. It’s hard for Minnesota to argue that injuries were the only reason they couldn’t climb this mountain, as Winnipeg faced games without Tyler Myers, Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey among others, and played the entire series without Toby Enstrom. It just speaks to their incredible depth that even when missing key contributors they could still trounce Minnesota with relative ease.

Now with a long rest ahead of them to get healthy before a likely (at least as of this writing) Second Round matchup for the ages with Nashville, the Jets have a little time to celebrate before looking towards what lay ahead.

Special shoutout to 20-year veteran and three-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Cullen, who may have just played the final game of a fantastic career.

Snowed Under: Wild fall 2-0 to Jets, face 3-1 series defecit

 

In the midst of a Minnesota snowstorm, the hometown crowd watched their hopes all but buried as the Wild were simply unable to overcome their laundry list of injuries and a suffocating Winnipeg defense.

Already without Ryan Suter, the Wild took another hammering blow late in Game 3 when Zach Parise got sandwiched by Mark Scheifele and Ben Chiarot and suffered a fractured sternum (side note: ouch) that rules him out of the rest of the playoffs. Parise’s spot in the lineup would be filled by Tyler Ennis, seeing his first NHL playoff action since 2011 when the diminutive forward was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Winnipeg was not without their own injury problems, losing Tyler Myers after an awkward collision with Marcus Foligno in Game 3. Though not as key an element to his team as Parise is to the Wild, Myers still eats a lot of quality minutes on the Winnipeg blueline. Young Tucker Poolman would taste his first ever playoff action as he filled in for the towering Myers.

The game started much the same as it ended…and middle-d…you know what I mean.

Tight checking, excellent stick position, and a near-complete lack of offensive chances were a theme in this one. Not to say that there wasn’t action, as from the opening puck drop the two teams continued the series’ main theme: That is, both teams spent every shift actively trying to kill each other. Arguably 2018’s roughest series so far, it isn’t even so much the quantity of hits we’ve seen in this one, but moreso that every hit we do see is thrown with seemingly as much force as it can possibly be delivered with. No great wonder why so many players are nursing injuries.

Other than a brief flurry by Winnipeg that Devan Dubnyk answered with three or four quality stops about 8:30 into the frame, the opening 10 minutes had little to speak of in terms of scoring opportunities.

Finally it was Minnesota who started to find some traction, first coming from an unlikely source in their fourth line of Foligno – Joel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik, who deployed an effective dump and chase strategy, sending two forecheckers in hard and fast to get the Winnipeg defense in deep, then working the puck free to a second wave usually of the third forward and a pinching defenseman. All Minnesota lines adopted the strategy for a solid few minutes in the late first, and all had decent chances, including Nino Niederreiter feeding Eric Staal right in the goal mouth, only to have an excellent backhand chance waffled away by Connor Hellebuyck. Shortly after, Minnesota’s sustained pressure forced the Jets into a penalty, and on the resulting power play Josh Morrissey got away with an egregious cross-check to the face/neck of Staal, who lay on the ice for a few seconds before slowly making his was to the bench all while play continued around him. The Minnesota crowd was…less than pleased.

To continue their displeasure, shortly after the penalty concluded, it would be Morrissey starting a breakout to Scheifele, who played a give-and-go with Kyle Connor beautifully, taking Connor’s drop pass in the low slot and ripping a snapshot through traffic and over Dubnyk with just 28 seconds left to play, sending the Minnesota crowd into a symphony of boos so loud I think P.K. Subban actually might have heard them.

Minnesota ended the period leading 10-7 in shots, but down on the board. Shot blocking was a major theme of the first period, and the game, really. It also contributed to the growing list of banged up players, as both Mathew Dumba and Dustin Byfuglien left the ice at different points in the first because of shot blocks.

The second started with a bang, as on the opening shift the Wild jumped on a turnover by Jacob Trouba and flew up the ice on a three-on-one lead by Mikael Granlund. #64 in green showed Hellebucyk shot all the way, but with just inches to spare sent a pass across the crease to Dumba who looked to have a sure goal, before the glove of Hellebucyk robbed him blind. A few minutes later Jonas Brodin sprung Niederreiter on a breakaway with an unbelievable stretch pass (that frankly I have no idea how Nino even managed to corral on his stick) but just before he could get the shot off a desperate Morrissey poked the puck off of his stick and clear of danger.

Dubnyk would see little action of serious consequence in the middle frame, a few whacks at a centered puck in the blue paint by Adam Lowry the only real threat of the second 20 minutes. The Wild did, however, lose Granlund for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, but he would return to finish the game. Also of note was Dumba taking a run at Byfuglien, which worked out about as well as you’d expect.

Late in the period Brodin nearly played hero himself, absolutely dancing a Winnipeg defender at the blueline and walking in to label a wrist shot for the high blocker side of Hellebucyk, but the newly-elected Vezina candidate had the answer, as was the case all night.

By the end of the second the Wild lead 20-19 on the shot clock, but struggled to find room to construct any serious chances.

The Jets took the attack to Minnesota for stretches of the third, attempting to prevent them from even having the chance to tie the game. An early chance by Joe Morrow found a goal post, and later Scheifele found one of his own, which created some chaos around the Wild goal that Dubnyk had to tidy up. Laine then got a breakaway opportunity in the dying minutes of the third that was harassed just enough by Spurgeon to allow Dubnyk to poke the puck away before any harm could come.

It took Minnesota until just under two minutes remaining to gain enough solid puck possession to get Dubnyk off, but the extra attacker still couldn’t help them solve the labyrinth that was Winnipeg’s defensive scheme, and Scheifele buried the 2-0 dagger with 10 seconds remaining to seal Minnesota’s fate.

Outshot 30-28, the Jets took the first road victory of the series, giving them the chance to win the first playoff series in franchise history in front of what will surely be a raucous Winnipeg Whiteout crowd on Friday night (DTFR coverage brought to you again by yours truly).

How Minnesota finds a way to extend this series is beyond me. The injuries to key players just seem to be too much for them to overcome. They’ll need nothing short of a miracle to make it back to Xcel Energy Center for Game 6.

November 30 – Day 57 – Ain’t no Haulaback girl

Nothing is better than Thursday night in the NHL! Grab your favorite brew and head to the rink to watch your favorite crew!

That may have been forced, but I don’t really care.

Anyways, the NHL has lined up seven games for our viewing pleasure this evening, starting with Los Angeles at Washington at 7 p.m. and Montréal at Detroit (RDS/TSN2) half an hour later. Two more contests (Vancouver at Nashville and Vegas at Minnesota) drop the puck at 8 p.m., while Dallas at Chicago gets underway 30 minutes after. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps (Arizona at Calgary [SN360] and Toronto at Edmonton [TVAS]) see the green light at 9 p.m. to close out the night’s – and the month’s – action. All times Eastern.

Like I usually do, let’s highlight a couple of the games that might strike your fancy:

  • Montréal at Detroit: Did someone say Original Six?
  • Vegas at Minnesota: It’ll be a trip down memory lane tonight for F Erik Haula, as he’s returning to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since being picked by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

The Stars-Blackhawks game also merits considerable attention since they’re tied for fourth place in the Central Division, but it’s not being considered for Game of the Day status due to Chicago being featured nine times already this season – as recently as two days ago.

As such, let’s make the trip to St. Paul and see if the Wild can do anything to slow down the best offense in the Western Conference.

 

 

 

 

 

Before we get started, I know what you’re thinking: no, I’m not all that interested in the game between the Maple Leafs and Oilers. I get that C Auston Matthews and C Connor McDavid are squaring off, but I don’t have it in me to make my loyal readers watch the Oil’s horrendous defense. That game will probably end with some ridiculous 7-3 score or something like that.

Instead, let’s focus in on Minnesota’s defense that is only a little bit better!

Ok, more on that in a minute. First, let’s recap the first four years of Haula’s NHL career.

The Finn was a seventh-round selection from the USHL’s Omaha Lancers by the Wild in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t start his NHL rookie season until the 2013-’14 campaign after a year with the Lancers, three seasons at the University of Minnesota and 37 games in the AHL.

Of Haula’s four campaigns with the Wild, his latter two were easily the most successful of his Minnesotan tenure. During the 2015-’16 season, he posted a career-high in points with 14-20-34 totals, and followed that up last campaign with a 15-11-26 effort – the most goals he’s scored in a season since his junior year of college.

Playing between RW Nino Niederreiter and RW Jason Pominville, Haula completed the Wild’s solid third line in what proved to be his final season with the club. Unfortunately, the good work that trio did was not enough to keep Haula on the squad, as General Manager Chuck Fletcher arranged a deal with Vegas GM George McPhee to ensure Haula would be selected during the expansion draft.

While his selection may have been choreographed to ensure Minnesota retained all the pieces it wanted, selecting Haula has only come up spades for the 15-7-1 Golden Knights. Haula has been promoted from lowly third-liner to Vegas’ top center and acclimated very well to his new role, averaging a career-high .68 points-per-game on the season with his 7-6-13 totals.

Of course, it’s hard to struggle with a linemate like W James Neal (12-7-19 totals), especially when they have the luxury of W Reilly Smith (6-13-19), C William Karlsson (13-9-22) and F Jon Marchessault (8-13-21) playing behind them as a brilliant second line. As such, the Pacific Division-leading Knights sport a nasty 3.52 goals-per-game average that trails only the Islanders and Lightning for best in the NHL.

Given the unenviable task of trying to slow down Vegas’ attack is 11-10-3 Minnesota, the worst team in the Central Division and third-worst in the Western Conference.

Hinted at before, the Wild’s biggest struggle this season has been keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. They allow 3.04 goals against-per-game, the (t)11th-worst effort in the NHL. Since I’m struggling to determine if responsibility for this issue falls on G Devan Dubnyk or his defense, I’m led to believe both share in the blame.

Let’s start with Dubnyk, who’s struggling to replicate last season’s .923 season save percentage and 2.25 GAA that earned him the fifth-most votes towards the Vezina Trophy. So far this year, he’s managed a .911 season save percentage and 2.85 GAA, which are 17th- and 14th-worst, respectively, among the 34 goaltenders with at least 10 starts (read: Dubnyk’s been average).

Unfortunately, he’s not getting all that much help from his d-corps. Even with LW Marcus Foligno‘s three hits-per-game, C Mikko Koivu‘s team-leading 18 takeaways and D Jared Spurgeon‘s 2.2 blocks-per-game, Minnesota is allowing a 12th-worst 32.2 shots against-per-game.

It is probably very telling that D Jonas Brodin, the team’s leader in individual goal-differential with a +8, is the only blueliner with a +/- better than +1. Meanwhile, defensemen like Spurgeon and Ryan Suter that have at least 14 points to their name have been neglecting their defensive duties, as neither have positive goal-differentials even though they’re among the Wild’s top-six point earners.

Unless Dubynk stands on his head – which is something he hasn’t done since his 30-for-30 performance against Philadelphia over two weeks ago – it’s hard to believe that the Wild will have much luck slowing down the Golden Knights’ offense.


With two goals in the span of 2:20, the Montréal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at the Bell Centre in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Senators had a hot start to this game, as Second Star of the Game RW Mark Stone scored an unassisted shorthanded backhanded shot only 4:36 into the contest to quiet the loudest arena in the NHL.

Ottawa’s lead lasted until the 2:56 mark of the second period. That’s when First Star F Jonathan Drouin scored his fifth goal of the season, a penalty shot that pinged off G Mike Condon‘s right goalpost. 2:18 later, F Phillip Danault (F Andrew Shaw and LW Max Pacioretty) set the 2-1 final score with a wrist shot.

This goal was a result of some lightning-fast puck movement. Pacioretty and Shaw were busy behind Condon’s net, scrapping with C Derick Brassard and D Cody Ceci for possession. The moment Shaw had the opportunity, he forced the puck back above the goal line to Danault, who was screaming towards Condon’s right goalpost. Before the goalkeeper could get turned the right way, Danault sent his one-timer into the back of the net.

Though I was unable to watch the game, I’m led to believe that Third Star D Karl Alzner played a major role in keeping the Sens off the scoreboard after Stone’s first period tally. In 21 minutes of ice time, he threw three hits, blocked four shots and tacked on an additional takeaway to help the Habs earn two points.

G Carey Price earned the victory (his third-straight since returning from injury) after saving 27-of-28 shots faced (.964 save percentage), leaving the loss to Condon, who saved 29-of-31 (.935).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are on quite the roll, as they’ve won the last five games. Tonight’s victory improves their record to 32-19-6, 15 points better than the roadies’ effort.

WHL Draft-Eligible Players to Watch

The Western Hockey League had a banner year in the 2017 NHL Draft. Not only was Nolan Patrick in the conversation to go number one overall from the beginning of the 2016-17 season until draft day (ultimately being taken second overall by the Flyers), but three of the first ten picks came from the league and the league had seven total first round picks.

For comparison, the Ontario Hockey League, which tends to get a lot more publicity because of its geographic location, only had one player taken in the top ten picks and had just five players taken in the first round.  WHL alumnus Kailer Yamamoto, taken with the 22nd pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, has managed to stick with the Edmonton Oilers out of camp though the question remains whether he will stay past the 9-game mark, burning a year off his entry-level contract in the process.

While the Western Hockey League was typically known for a more physical and defensive-minded style of play than the junior leagues back east, as hockey has evolved, so too has the WHL. The league that gave us Cam Neely, Marian Hossa, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Byfuglien continues to churn out quality defensemen like Seth Jones, Ivan Provorov and Morgan Rielly, but it has also produced players like Tyler Johnson, Nino Niederreiter, and Yamamoto who don’t necessarily fit the WHL’s rough and tumble image.

NHL scouts are working day-in and day-out to find the next player that can be a difference-maker for their franchise, seeing 6-7 games a week. More and more they are also looking at advanced stats to supplement their knowledge base and provide them additional data points, though the data at the junior level isn’t always of a consistently high quality.  By the time the season is over, these scouts will have spent enough time with the players to better understand their personalities off-ice in addition to recognizing a player from a passing glance at his skating stride.

So, what players should you be paying attention to now that the 2017-2018 WHL season is underway? Who are the players making a name for themselves out West that might have their name called by your favorite team next June?  While the WHL isn’t likely to repeat last year’s draft performance, there are still some players to pay attention to as the year progresses.  Defensemen Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs is clearly at the top of this WHL draft class, and is a possible top 10 in the NHL Draft.  Smith is a bit on the small side, but moves the puck well and is always thinking a step ahead of the play.  What sets him apart is his hockey sense.  Smith has come out of the gates strong with 12 points in his first 11 games.

Outside of Smith, there are a few other players who might be first round material. They include Jett Woo of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Riley Sutter of the Everett Silvertips, and Alexander Alexeyev of the Red Deer Rebels. Woo is another defenseman who already is close to the playing weight he’ll need to be to compete at the next level and he’s a sound positional player.  He’s very competitive and plays a physical game.  Like Smith, he’s putting up good numbers to start the season with 9 points including an impressive 4 goals in his first 10 games of the season.  He’s also a right-handed shot, which could help his stock.

Sutter is a big right wing at 6’3” and 205 pounds. The last name, no doubt, looks familiar to you and, yes, he is from that Sutter family.  Specifically, he is the son of Ron Sutter.  What was interesting, in speaking with one scout, was that Riley’s personality and playing style don’t necessarily match the expectations you might have based on his size and family name.  He is a quiet, cerebral player who knows where to be on the ice and by the time the game is over you look down and notice that he’s had one of the best games of any of the players on the ice.  In the early going, he has 11 points in 12 games including a team-leading seven goals.  I’m hoping to get a chance to see Sutter play in person later this month.

Alexeyev is another right-handed defenseman, but he has the size that neither Smith nor Woo have at this point, standing 6’3” tall. He has an incredibly accurate point shot and, like Woo, he’s right handed.  The biggest concern with the talented rearguard is how he comes back from a knee injury that required surgery and cost him half of the 2016-17 season.  Further complicating things, an upper body injury has cost him several games this season, but when he has been healthy, he’s managed 3 assists in 4 games played.  It will be interesting to see if his draft stock slips if injury keeps him off the ice for a substantial period of time.

It is still very early in the junior season and teams and players are still figuring things out. Beyond the four players I mentioned above, there are others who may seemingly come out of nowhere.  Last year’s initial Central Scouting rankings didn’t have Cody Glass going in the first round, let alone the top 10.  As the season progresses, I will be looking to see other players that emerge as NHL talents and to see how Smith, Woo, Sutter and Alexeyev perform.