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NHL Nick's Net

Hurricanes take 2-0 series lead, lose Raanta in Game 2

Sebastian Aho tied a franchise record with his fourth multi-goal game in a, 5-2, victory for the Carolina Hurricanes as they beat the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup Wednesday night at PNC Arena.

Meanwhile, each team lost a key player to an injury and there were 14 combined power plays in a game that had a little bit of everything good, bad and ugly.

Antti Raanta (1-0, 0.88 goals-against average, .978 save percentage in two games played) made six saves on six shots against before he was taken out of the game due to injury, while Pyotr Kochetkov (1-0, 2.31 goals-against average, .938 save percentage in one game played) turned aside 30 out of 32 shots faced in the win for the Hurricanes.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (1-1, 4.17 goals-against average, .860 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 32 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Wednesday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup– promoting Matt Grzelcyk to the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and relegating Hampus Lindholm to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo.

Boston’s list of healthy scratches went untouched from Game 1 to Game 2 with Mike Reilly, Chris Wagner, Josh Brown, Anton Blidh and Kyle Keyser watching from the press box at PNC Arena.

Nino Niederreiter tripped Carlo and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 3:17 of the first period, but the B’s weren’t able to convert on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Tony DeAngelo checked Erik Haula without the puck and cut a rut to the sin bin for interference as a result at 7:28, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short about 19 seconds later.

David Pastrnak caught Raanta with a forearm to the head while trying to avoid a major collision with the goaltender as Raanta worked to clear the puck outside the crease and Pastrnak tried to come to a stop without bowling over the netminder– completely flattening him in the process.

That said, the on-ice officials ruled it a five-minute major for goaltender interference before reducing Pastrnak’s infraction to a minor penalty upon video review.

Raanta was bleeding from a cut on his face and took some time to be helped off the ice by a trainer, but was Pastrnak’s force enough to cause the inside of Raanta’s mask to cut the goaltender or Vincent Trocheck’s accidental bump in the side of his teammate’s head as he skated by while Raanta was down on the ice pulling his mask off do more damage on top of the incidental contact with Pastrnak?

This is the type of thing that’s going on inside the minds of the on-ice officials alongside their interpretation of the rulebook.

Carolina replaced Raanta with Kochetkov and the Bruins managed to kill Pastrnak’s minor for goaltender interference at 7:47 of the first period.

A little past the midpoint of the opening frame, however, Jordan Staal broke free from Derek Forbort and sent a pass across the ice through the slot to Jesper Fast (1) for a one-timer goal– giving the Hurricanes a, 1-0, lead as a result at 13:03 of the first period.

Staal (1) and Jaccob Slavin (2) tallied the assists on Fast’s goal.

A couple minutes later, Aho (1) tipped a shot from the point by DeAngelo past Ullmark on the stick side to extend the Canes’ lead to two-goals.

DeAngelo (2) and Slavin (3) notched the assists and the Hurricanes led, 2-0, at 15:30.

Patrice Bergeron cut a rut to the sin bin for slashing at 18:54 and the Bruins managed to make the kill on the infraction.

Late in the period, however, Charlie Coyle and Niederreiter went to the box with coincidental minors at 19:53, followed by a scrum as the first intermission began– yielding roughing minors for Haula, Carlo and Seth Jarvis at 20:00.

Boston would be shorthanded to begin the middle frame.

Carolina, meanwhile, led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-10, in shots on goal after 20 minutes of action.

The Hurricanes also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (5-0), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win percentage (59-41), while the Bruins led in hits (18-16) entering the first intermission.

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play heading into the middle period.

Carolina confirmed that Raanta (upper body) would not return to the night’s action with a tweet prior to the start of the middle frame.

While on the power play, Aho (2) blasted a one-timer past Ullmark low on the glove side to give the Hurricanes a, 3-0, lead at 1:10 of the second period.

DeAngelo (3) and Teuvo Teräväinen (1) had the assists on Aho’s power-play goal– giving the Finnish forward his fourth career multi-goal postseason game– tying Kevin Dineed for the most in Hartford Whalers/Hurricanes franchise history in the process.

Trent Frederic checked Teräväinen shortly thereafter in frustration and picked up an interference minor at 3:39, though the Canes failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage this time around.

Andrei Svechnikov was penalized for holding at 14:36 and it didn’t take Boston long to get on the scoreboard with a power-play goal from Bergeron (1) after he sent the puck back to the point whereby a shot attempt went wide, caromed off the glass back to Brad Marchand in the slot before Bergeron got a piece of it from close range.

Marchand (1) had the only assist on Bergeron’s 16th career postseason power-play goal– tying him for the third-most in Bruins franchise history with Johnny Bucyk in the process– and Boston trailed, 3-1, at 14:36 of the second period as a result.

A few minutes later, Svechnikov made a big hit behind the goal line on Lindholm– knocking the Bruins defender to the ice and leaving him in a daze as he was assisted by a trainer and teammate, Jake DeBrusk, to the tunnel.

Carlo went after Svechnikov in defense of his injured blue line partner and picked up a pair of roughing minors, while Svechnikov only received two minutes for roughing at 17:11 of the second period, rendering Carolina on the power play as a result.

Less than a minute later, Marchand and Kochetkov exchanged pleasantries and yielded slashing penalties at 17:52, followed by a holding infraction on Forbort at 18:07.

Carolina’s ensuing 5-on-3 advantage didn’t last long as Niederreiter (2) had just enough mustard on a shot that it trickled through the crease and over the goal line to give the Hurricanes another three-goal lead, 4-1, at 18:52.

Trocheck (2) and DeAngelo (4) tallied the assists on Niederreiter’s power-play goal and the Canes took their, 4-1, lead into the second intermission after 40 minutes of play.

Carolina led in shots on goal, 25-21, including a, 14-11, advantage in the second period alone, while dominating in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (7-5), giveaways (10-5) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Boston, on the other hand, led in hits, 31-30, after two periods on Wednesday.

The Hurricanes were 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0-for-3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Early in the final frame, Svechnikov and McAvoy collided in the open ice and rendered the Bruins defender to his knees amid a brief stoppage.

He did not miss any shifts, however, as DeBrusk received a roughing minor for expressing his displeasure with Svechnikov and the B’s tweeted that Lindholm (upper body) would not return to the night’s action at 1:52 of the third period.

Carolina had another brief 5-on-3 advantage after Forbort caught Teräväinen with a high stick and drew blood at 3:04.

Forbort skated to the box with a double-minor penalty and Boston somehow made the kill.

Moments later, the Hurricanes had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor at 8:27, but the B’s couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play.

Midway through the third period, however, Bergeron (2) notched his second goal of the game on an inadvertent deflection off of his right skate behind Kochetkov on a shot by McAvoy from the top of the left circle.

McAvoy (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Bruins trailed, 4-2, at 12:21 of the third period, while Bergeron (47) surpassed Phil Esposito (46) for the second-most postseason goals in franchise history– trailing only Cam Neely (55) for first overall in a Boston uniform.

With about 4:30 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled a page out of the book of head coaching as taught by Patrick Roy and yanked Ullmark out of the crease for an extra attacker.

Brett Pesce caught Marchand with a high stick at 15:49 and the B’s went on a power play as a result, but the Hurricanes’ penalty kill came and went unscathed and unchallenged.

After a stoppage with 1:15 remaining, Cassidy used his timeout to rally his skaters, but it was to no avail.

Carolina picked up a rebound that made its way all the way into their attacking zone and Niederreiter (3) put the icing on the cake with his second goal of the game– this time on an empty net to make it, 5-2, for the Hurricanes at 19:19.

Svechnikov (1) had the only assist on the goal.

At the final horn, another scrum ensued and only Forbort was dealt a roughing minor at 20:00 of the third period, but it didn’t matter in the end result as Carolina pulled off a, 5-2, victory and a 2-0 series lead.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-34, and had a, 17-9, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (13-10) and hits (45-33), while the Hurricanes left their own ice leading in giveaways (12-7) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Carolina went 2-for-9 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 1-for-5 on the power play Wednesday night in Game 2.

For the first time since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins trail 2-0 in a series heading back to home ice for Game 3.

Teams that lead a best-of-seven series 2-0 go on to win the series about 87% of the time per Hockey-Reference.

The Hurricanes take a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden in Boston. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on TNT in the United States, as well as SN360 and TVAS2 in Canada.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa repeats in preview of 2021 Stanley Cup Final

For 29 (soon to be 30) franchises, the calendar’s already flipped from 2020-21 to 2021-22, but for two teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs there’s still one goal– winning the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

At one end of the rink, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2016 and 2017.

Lightning forward, Pat Maroon, is seeking to become the first player in the Expansion Era (since 1967) to win three consecutive Cup rings in as many seasons among two different franchises, having won his first with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, and his second last year with Tampa.

Maroon can also be the first player to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons in general since a bunch of players on the New York Islanders did so during the Isles’ dynasty from 1980-83.

At the other end of the rink, the Montréal Canadiens are seeking to win their first Stanley Cup– and 25th in franchise history– since 1993, which also happens to be the last time a Canadian club won the Cup.

The Habs were the last team to clinch a spot in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and yet, here they are.

Corey Perry lost to the Lightning as a member of the Dallas Stars in six games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and has made it back to the Final for the third time in his career, while Eric Staal is back in Cup contention for the first time since 2006, when he won it all as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Perry won his first Stanley Cup ring with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Meanwhile, Carey Price is making his Stanley Cup Final debut as the greatest goaltender in Canadiens history since some guy named Patrick Roy won it all three years before demanding a trade out of Montréal.

It all comes down to this– four more wins and one team will be crowned as this year’s Stanley Cup champion.

For the first time since 2009, all games in the Stanley Cup Final will be played in the Eastern Time Zone. It’ll also be the first time that Stanley Cup Final games are held in July, much like how last year marked the first time the Final was held in September due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s also the first Stanley Cup Final since 1980, to feature teams that are normally in the same conference.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the league temporarily realigned to four divisions and no conferences for a 56-game regular season schedule, featuring the top-four teams in each division qualifying for the postseason and no international travel between the United States and Canada until the Semifinals round– which was held in place of the usual Conference Finals round.

Monday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the 2021 Stanley Cup Final gets underway. Here’s a quick review and more on how each team got here since the dawn of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(3) Tampa Bay Lightning (40-14-2, 82 points) vs (4) Montréal Canadiens (24-21-11, 59 points)

Tampa: 56 games played, .670 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montréal: 56 games played, .527 points percentage, 20 regulation wins.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to go back-to-back as they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games (4-2) in the First Round, eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games (4-1) in the Second Round and finished off the New York Islanders in seven games (4-3) in the Semifinals before reaching their second-straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

Led by Brayden Point in regular season scoring with 23-35–48 totals in 56 games, teammates Ondrej Palat (15-31-46 totals in 55 games) and Victor Hedman (9-36–45 totals in 54 games) rounded out the top-three in Bolts scoring for 2020-21, while Nikita Kucherov spent the entire regular season on long term injured reserve.

It’s a legal loophole in the salary cap, whether it was exploited or not, Kucherov’s hip needed the time off while the Lightning stockpiled in unlimited playoff salary as the cap ceiling gets turned off when the postseason starts.

Kucherov’s play hasn’t skipped a beat as he leads Tampa with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 18 games thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Point trails Kucherov with 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 18 games, followed by Alex Killorn (8-9–17 totals in 18 games), Steven Stamkos (7-10–17 totals in 18 games) and Hedman (1-15–16 totals in 18 games) to round out the top-five in team postseason scoring.

The Lightning can strike more than twice per game– in fact, they’re scoring about 3.22 goals for per game thus far, trailing only the eliminated Colorado Avalanche (3.80) for the most goals for per game this postseason.

Tampa trails the Toronto Maple Leafs– who were ousted in the First Round by Montréal in seven games– for the fewest goals against per game. The Bolts have allowed 2.06 goals against per game in 18 contests, while the Leafs had 2.00 in their seven-game postseason stretch.

In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy served as the Lightning’s starting goaltender in both the regular season and playoffs– amassing a 31-10-1 record in 42 games played (42 starts), as well as a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

A Vezina Trophy Finalist for 2020-21, Vasilevskiy has previously won the award for his 2018-19 season performance.

Curtis McElhinney served as Tampa’s primary backup this season and went 4-6-2 in 12 games (12 starts) with a 3.09 goals-against average, an .875 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Christopher Gibson played in two games (two starts) for the Bolts in the regular season and went 1-1-0 with a 2.65 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

Entering the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Vasilevskiy is 12-6 in 18 games (18 starts), has four shutouts and has a 1.99 goals-against average, as well as a .936 save percentage so far.

He earned his first career postseason shutout in Tampa’s, 2-0, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final– clinching the franchise’s second Stanley Cup ring in the process– and has since become the first goaltender in NHL history to record three shutouts in three series clinching games in one postseason in the Lightning’s ongoing quest for a 2021 Stanley Cup ring.

The Montréal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games (4-3) in the First Round, then swept the Winnipeg Jets in four games (4-0) in the Second Round before upsetting the Vegas Golden Knights in six games (4-2) in the Semifinals to make their 37th appearance in the Stanley Cup Final (including their days before the NHL’s existence).

Tyler Toffoli led the way for the Habs in the regular season in scoring with 28 goals and 16 assists (44 points) in 52 games, while Jeff Petry (12-30–42 totals in 55 games) and Nick Suzuki (15-26–41 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in points on the roster for 2020-21.

Leading up to the trade deadline, Montréal added some depth and veteran experience that’s paid off with some clutch goals in their 2021 postseason run thus far.

Toffoli leads the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 5-9–14 totals in 17 games thus far, while Suzuki (5-8–13 totals in 17 games), Cole Caufield (4-5–9 totals in 15 games), Perry (3-6–9 totals in 17 games), Joel Armia (5-3–8 totals in 17 games) and Staal (2-6–8 totals in 16 games) round out the top-five in points on Montréal’s playoff roster.

In the crease, Jake Allen actually had more playing time than Carey Price in the regular season due to Price having battled a couple of injuries throughout the season.

Allen went 11-12-5 in 29 games (27 starts), amassing a 2.68 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in the process as the expected backup for the Canadiens, while Price produced a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts), as well as one shutout, a 2.64 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in the regular season.

Cayden Primeau appeared in four games (four starts) for the Habs and went 1-2-1 in that span, recording a 4.16 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage in the process.

Since the start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Price has not come out of Montréal’s crease to be replaced by another goaltender and has been lights out for the Canadiens in their run to the Final.

Price has a 12-5 record in 17 games (17 starts) thus far and has recorded one shutout, as well as a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in that span.


The Canadiens have had no problem upsetting teams thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and– as long as they survive the first 10 minutes of each game and are able to get a lead– have been able to steal pivotal games and suck the life out of their opponents.

The Lightning have thundered their way back to the Final after winning it all last year and are capable of completely dominating games on the scoreboard and stifling the other team’s offensive production– limiting shots on goal and shot attempts in the process.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Monday night will be the first time these two teams have seen each other in the league’s 2020-21 calendar year.

It’ll also be the 64th unique Stanley Cup Final in league history.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, is in search of solidifying his place as the greatest at his job behind the bench in Tampa’s history, while Dominique Ducharme is trying to nail down the title as Montréal’s next official head coach– despite the fact that he won’t be back until Game 3 after testing positive for COVID-19 during the last series against Vegas.

Luke Richardson’s waited things out in the American Hockey League for several years and already served well as an assistant coach for the Canadiens, but continues to make a well-rounded argument for staking a claim to the Habs’ coaching job on his own.

Montréal won’t only be without Ducharme for the start of the series, however, as Armia also tested positive ahead of Game 1 for the Final and may not be available while the Canadiens are in Tampa.

UPDATE: Armia cleared COVID protocol on Monday and was en route to Tampa via a private jet and will be a game time decision for Game 1.

Not that it’s a big advantage for the Lightning, since the two teams are of great contrast in playing style thus far.

Tampa can out skate, out hit and out score their opponent.

Montréal can defend, latch on and if they’re able to withhold the sustained pressure from the Bolts (and not take any penalties) they’ll get the necessary goaltending out of Price.

That said, Vasilevskiy is equally, if not more so, locked in right now.

Both goaltenders have won the Vezina before and will be the first pair of Vezina Trophy winners to square off in the Final since the days of Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour in, what, 1999?

The Canadiens have been on a Cinderella run, but they’re running into the Lightning– the Lightning— of all teams now.

They might have stood a chance against the Islanders, but Tampa is on another level.

That said, my recent predictions have been the wrong team, but the right number of games, so it looks like the Habs would have to be taking it all right now in five games.

But the Bolts are just too good. It’s their time to shine– as it has been for the last season already. They might not be dynasty material, but they’re pretty close to it and going back-to-back is within reach.

If they lose, it’ll be their own fault.

Tampa has something else on their side and it’s the fact that their Semifinals round lasted one game longer against New York than Montréal’s six-game series against the Golden Knights.

In recent years, the team that’s played more hockey in the round leading up to the Final has won the Final more often than not.

Just going back to 2015, both Chicago and Tampa won their Conference Finals rounds in seven games (Chicago won the Cup). In 2016, Pittsburgh advance in seven, while the San Jose Sharks won in six– the Penguins went on to win the Cup.

In 2017, it was more of the same– the Pens in seven, the Nashville Predators won in six games, but Pittsburgh won the Cup.

In 2018, the Golden Knights beat the Jets in five games, while the Washington Capitals defeated the Lightning in seven games before going on to win the Cup.

In 2019, the St. Louis Blues advanced in six games, while the Boston Bruins swept the Hurricanes. The Blues went on to win the Cup.

And in 2020, the Stars won in five games, but the Bolts advanced in six games and went on to beat Dallas in the Final.

It’s just science.

Besides, the Lightning are 2-1 in all time playoff series’ against the Canadiens, sweeping the Habs in the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinal, losing to Montréal in four games in the 2014 First Round and beating Montréal in six games in the 2015 Second Round.

Tampa is repeating as your Stanley Cup champion in 2020 and 2021, and this time they’ll do it in five games.

Schedule:

6/28- Game 1 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/30- Game 2 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/2- Game 3 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/5- Game 4 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/7- Game 5 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/9- Game 6 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/11- Game 7 MTL @ TBL 7 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Rantanen lifts Avs over Golden Knights, 3-2, in OT

Mikko Rantanen drew a penalty less than a minute into the extra frame before scoring on the ensuing power play to give the Colorado Avalanche a, 3-2, win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of their 2021 Second Round matchup at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Philipp Grubauer (6-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Avs while becoming just the 10th goaltender in National Hockey League history to earn 10 consecutive postseason victories.

In addition, the Avalanche took command of a 2-0 series lead over the Golden Knights in light of Wednesday night’s win.

Meanwhile, Vegas netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury (4-4, 1.86 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in eight games played), stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.

With the start in Game 2, Fleury joined Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders in league history to face 20 different postseason opponents.

Logan Thompson suited up as Vegas’ backup, while Robin Lehner (undisclosed) was given the night off and did not dress– not even for warmup.

Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri continued to serve his eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 of Colorado’s First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Kadri has four games remaining in his suspension.

Ryan Reaves was out of the lineup for the Golden Knights– serving the first half of his two-game suspension for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct against Ryan Graves in Game 1 against the Avs.

Brandon Saad (5) kicked off the night’s scoring after fanning on a shot that ended up trickling over the goal line through Fleury’s five-hole to give Colorado a, 1-0, lead early in the opening frame.

Samuel Girard (4) and Graves (5) notched the assists on Saad’s goal at 3:39 of the first period as No. 20 in burgundy and blue extended his goal scoring streak to five games.

Moments later, Nicolas Hague cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 6:13, presenting the game’s first power play to the Avalanche, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Hague’s minor, Vegas exchanged their penalty kill unit for their power play unit as Alex Newhook was assessed a holding minor at 8:36 of the first period.

It didn’t take the Golden Knights long to score on the power play as Alec Martinez (2) sent a one-timer past Grubauer’s glove side— tying the game, 1-1, at 9:32.

Max Pacioretty (2) and Shea Theodore (3) had the assists on Martinez’s power-play goal as Vegas looked much more competitive than they had been in Game 1.

Pacioretty cut a rut to the box for holding at 11:45, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault slashed Nathan MacKinnon and took a seat in the sin bin at 15:38 of the first period as a result.

The Avs nearly used up the entire length of the ensuing skater advantage, but pulled ahead, 2-1, on a power-play goal from Tyson Jost (2) at 17:08.

Girard (5) and Devon Toews (4) notched the assists on Jost’s tally.

The Avalanche got another chance on the power play at 17:50 when Theodore cleared the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game infraction, but Colorado struggled to get anything else on the scoreboard as the advantage expired and— shortly thereafter— the first period itself.

After 20 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Wednesday, the Avs were in command, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 11-9, in shots on goal.

Vegas led in blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (1-0), hits (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (74-26), while both teams amassed one takeaway each.

The Golden Knights were 1/1 on the power play, while Colorado was 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Midway through the middle frame, Reilly Smith (2) broke through Girard and Graves after Vegas forced a turnover before deking and elevating a backhand shot over Grubauer’s glove to tie the game, 2-2.

Marchessault (2) and Theodore (4) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal for the Golden Knights at 10:28 of the second period.

About a few minutes later, Patrik Nemeth caught Marchessault with a slash at 13:05, but Vegas was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.

The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission, with the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal, 25-17, including an impressive, 16-6, advantage in the second period alone.

Vegas managed to dominate in blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (4-2), hits (19-18) and faceoff win% (63-38), while Colorado led in giveaways (5-1) after two periods.

The Golden Knights were 1/2 and the Avs were 1/4 on the power play through 40 minutes of play.

Alex Tuch slashed MacKinnon midway through the final frame of regulation, but the Avalanche were powerless on the power play at 10:08 of the third period.

Toews tripped Alex Pietrangelo at 16:39, but Vegas couldn’t get another one last Grubauer as their skater advantage came and went late in the period— despite using their timeout with 3:21 remaining to draw up a potentially game-winning play.

At the horn, the Avalanche and Golden Knights were heading for overtime in Denver as Wednesday night drifted into Thursday morning on the East Coast.

Vegas continued to lead in shots on goal, 40-23, through 60 minutes, including a, 15-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Meanwhile, Colorado led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (22-21) after three periods and the Golden Knights held the advantage in blocked shots (27-17) and faceoff win% (58-42).

Both teams managed to have five takeaways aside heading into the extra frame.

Vegas was 1/3 and Colorado was 1/5 on the power play after regulation.

44 seconds into overtime, Smith slashed Rantanen with a soft one-handed chop that might otherwise be seen as a “soft” call, depending on your vantage point as a fan.

Nevertheless, Colorado went on the power play less than a minute into overtime.

A little more than a minute later, after working the puck around the attacking zone and ringing the iron, Cale Makar sent the puck to MacKinnon for a spin move to throw off William Karlsson from making a defensive play in his own zone.

The Avalanche phenom then sent the puck across the slot to Rantanen (3) for the catch and release past Fleury’s short side— over the left shoulder of the Golden Knights goaltender and into the twine— to secure the victory for Colorado.

MacKinnon (5) and Makar (6) had the assists on Rantanen’s game-winning power-play goal in overtime at 2:07 of the extra frame.

The goal lifted Colorado over Vegas, 3-2, and marked the second career overtime winner for Rantanen in the playoffs, as well as his fourth career postseason game-winning goal.

Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-25, despite trailing Colorado, 2-1, in overtime alone.

The Golden Knights also exited Ball Arena with the advantage in blocked shots (28-17) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Avs led in giveaways (8-3) and hits (22-21).

Vegas went 1/3, while Colorado went 2/6 on the power play in Game 2.

The Avalanche improved to 6-0 in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and matched a franchise record for the longest winning streak at any point in the postseason, a club record previously set by the 1987 Québec Nordiques.

The Avs also became the third Presidents’ Trophy winner to start the postseason at least 6-0, joining the 1994 New York Rangers and 1999 Dallas Stars in doing so.

The Rangers went 7-0 to begin their quest for the Cup in 1994, while the Stars went 6-0 en route to winning their first Stanley Cup ring in 1999.

Colorado is in good company if they are to continue the trend, leading their Second Round series 2-0 heading into Vegas for Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBCSN, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS with puck drop expected a little after 10 p.m. ET.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Habs upset Leafs in Game 7: Three reasons why

For just the second time in the 104-year-old history of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, the club squared off with the Montréal Canadiens in a Game 7.

Back in 1964, the Leafs came out on top, 3-1, at the Montreal Forum. Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, history repeated itself. Almost.

Though the final score was the same, 3-1, it was Montréal that found a way to steal the victory on the road this time around– becoming just the second team in National Hockey League history to win a Game 7 in Toronto, joining the 1993 Los Angeles Kings in doing so.

Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring in the second period for the Habs before Corey Perry’s power-play goal went on to become eventual game-winner later in that same middle frame.

Tyler Toffoli completed the run of three unanswered goals for the Canadiens late in the third period with an empty net goal before William Nylander ended Carey Price’s bid for a shutout about a minute later.

But enough about the game itself, since it’s been a couple of days now– let’s get into some reasons why Montréal won, why Toronto didn’t and where the Leafs can go from here, if it’s even possible to still win with this core.

Why Montréal won

The Price is right: Carey Price managed to amass a 2.24 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in the seven games against the Maple Leafs, which is a pleasant surprise given Price’s bleaker regular season numbers in an injury plagued 2020-21 season (2.64 goals-against average, .901 save percentage in 25 games).

Price’s career 2.50 goals-against average in 707 games from the 2007-08 season through 2020-21 is better than Patrick Roy’s 2.78 goals-against average in Roy’s 551-game tenure with the Habs, fun fact.

Consistency: Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens in scoring in the regular season with 28-16–44 totals in 52 games, while Nick Suzuki was third in team scoring with 41 points (15 goals, 26 assists) in 56 games.

Corey Perry chipped in 9-12–21 totals in 49 games and even Jesperi Kotkaniemi, despite a slow start, managed to amass 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 56 games.

In the First Round, Toffoli led the Habs with 2-3–5 totals in seven games, Perry, Suzuki, Joel Armia and Eric Staal managed to score four points and Kotkaniemi had three goals in six games after serving as a healthy scratch in Game 1.

The Habs played their game– the long game– throughout the series, built on wearing down their opponent on the forecheck in the attacking zone and really just keeping things as simple as they come.

It doesn’t always work, but in this case it did! Good for them.

Seconds: At one point, Montréal had a minus-seven goal differential in the second period alone in the series. That was entering Game 5, when the Maple Leafs held a 3-1 series lead.

They brought it up to a minus-five by the end of the series, which, albeit still leaves more to be desired from their effort in the middle frame as they approach the Second Round against the Winnipeg Jets, but goes to show that in low-scoring affairs, goal scoring is paramount in a 60-minute effort.

Kind of obvious, right?

The Canadiens scored more than three goals in a game just once in the series when they won, 4-3, in overtime in Game 5.

Why Toronto lost and what now

Lineups: Losing John Tavares in Game 1 limited Maple Leafs head coach, Sheldon Keefe, in his options when it came time to try something new to get anything going, but it still should’ve been explored.

How many times did Toronto go back to the well with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner on the same line?

Between the two players, the Leafs had 1-8–9 totals combined.

Assists are nice because it means that at least somebody scored for your team, but if given the chance, Toronto probably should’ve bumped Marner down to the second line while giving William Nylander more of a chance to shine on the first line– at least for a period, if not just to spark Matthews’ play at 5-on-5.

If anything, Tavares’ injury revealed a desperate need for the Maple Leafs in the offseason– a third line center.

Marner musings: Alright, before everyone starts arguing over whether or not to trade the best playmaker in Toronto not named “Joe Thornton”, let’s assess the feasibility of moving a guy with a $10.903 million cap hit through the 2024-25 season in a flat cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Marner was on pace for about 98 points in an 82-game season, had 2020-21 not been condensed into a 56-game schedule.

That said, he still managed to equal his scoring output from last season in fewer games– 67 points in 55 games this season, 67 points in 59 games last season while battling injury.

For the third time in his career, Marner had at least 20 goals in a season and he has 358 points (103 goals, 255 assists) in 355 career games.

If Matthews (the goal scorer) and Marner (the playmaker) are to Toronto what Patrick Kane (a goal scorer) and Jonathan Toews (a playmaker) are to the Chicago Blackhawks, then Marner is doing pretty fine.

Toews had 144-180–324 totals in his first five seasons (361 games).

But– and it’s a pretty big one– Kane and Toews won the Stanley Cup twice before signing matching extensions worth $10.500 million per season through 2022-23, that, at the time of their signing on July 9, 2014, didn’t go into effect until the 2015-16 season, so… after the duo ended up winning their third Cup ring with Chicago in 2015.

Sure, Chicago hasn’t won a playoff series since then, but they did end their longest drought before (over)paying their core– and at the very least, they made sure to commit to no more than two players at that rate.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, has spent about half of his salary cap on Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander alone.

Trading Marner would probably mean parting with a high value draft pick or prospect if there’s no salary retained in the transaction and moving Matthews or Tavares wouldn’t make sense because Toronto needs a first and second line center to remain central to their core.

If Dubas is confident in Marner being able to find that elusive second-gear in the postseason– along with Matthews– then the team’s in the odd position of moving someone like Nylander, who’s shown an ability to produce in the second-half of the season, as well as the playoffs, instead.

The intangibles: Yes, having the veteran leadership of guys like Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and more is good in keeping the day-to-day vibe nice and relaxed as a long, grueling, regular season goes on, but did anyone do their research on past postseason performances or… …lack thereof from guys like Spezza, Thornton, Nick Folingo and others?

Foligno was hampered by injury, which gets somewhat of a pass, Spezza finished tied for third in team scoring in the playoffs with three goals and two assists (five points) in seven games from the fourth line, while Thornton managed to score a goal in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Alex Galchenyuk is not a long term solution, but a quick bandage for larger problems.

Wayne Simmonds’ offensive production was almost nowhere to be found and if you’re using Simmonds solely for the energy that he can provide, then adding Foligno at the cost spent in April does not merit enough of a return on investment for one, if not both, of essentially the same player.

Especially when you’re left trying to rotate Simmonds, Foligno, Thornton, Spezza and guys like, Riley Nash (another deadline acquisition), on the fourth line on any given night, while trying to balance some youth and speed in ongoing projects in Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev.

And that’s not to mention wherever Alexander Kerfoot fits in on all of this when Tavares isn’t injured.

Sometimes it’s not about buying in bulk, but buying the right component at a discount or on the clearance rack to solidify, well, mostly that third line.

It’s fine to have three, four or five guys that are expendable and being rotated on the fourth line throughout the season, then narrowed down for situations in the postseason.

It’s not necessarily recommended to have seven, eight or nine players vying for the same roles in the bottom-six– with tryouts lingering into the playoffs and results mixed as though the team had two fourth lines instead.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning shutout Stars in Game 6, win 2nd Cup in franchise history

For the first time since 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions.

Gone are the days of choking in the 2015 Final, the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Final or being swept in the 2019 First Round.

Open a window– make it a championship window– and see just how long the good times will last (there’s going to be some salary cap stuff to figure out for 2020-21 and beyond, but worry about that later).

For now, raise a socially distant glass on Zoom or whatever and celebrate responsibly as the Bolts downed the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win the series 4-2 and bring the Cup back to Tampa for the second time in franchise history.

Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the first period held up to be the game-winning, Stanley Cup clinching goal as Blake Coleman added an insurance marker in the middle frame.

Victor Hedman became the second player in Lightning franchise history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 postseason’s most valuable player.

Hedman’s also the third player from Sweden to win the Conn Smythe and the 10th different defender to win it in league history, joining Duncan Keith (2015), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Stevens (2000), Brian Leetch (1994), Al MacInnis (1989), Larry Robinson (1978), Bobby Orr (1970 and 1972) and Serge Savard (1969) in the process.

He also had 10 goals in the 2020 postseason, which were the most by a defender since Leetch had 11 in 23 games with the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-7, 1.90 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 25 games this postseason) earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in his 58th career postseason appearance– stopping all 22 shots faced en route to winning the Cup Monday night.

Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (14-10, 2.69 GAA, .917 SV% in 25 games this postseason) had 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the loss.

Dallas interim head coach, Rick Bowness, didn’t change a thing from his lineup after winning in double overtime, 3-2, in Game 5 on Saturday to Monday night’s action in Game 6.

As a result, Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea remained out of the lineup due to injury or otherwise.

Prior to Game 6 on Monday, Steven Stamkos was ruled out of the rest of the Final by the Lightning on Sunday.

Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, inserted Alexander Volkov on Stamkos’ slot on the fourth line right wing (where Carter Verhaeghe played in Game 5 after Stamkos returned for Game 4 before re-aggravating an injury forced him out of the lineup).

On defense, Kevin Shattenkirk was bumped up to the first pairing with Hedman, while Jan Rutta joined the list of scratches as Zach Bogosian took over Shattenkirk’s role on the third pairing with Ryan McDonagh.

Everything else was the same for the Bolts.

Tampa’s list of scratches on Monday included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Scott Wedgewood, Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Stamkos.

Early in the opening frame, Andrew Cogliano tripped up Point and was assessed a minor infraction at 6:32 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night, but soon found themselves back on the skater advantage at 11:58, after John Klingberg tripped Volkov.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Point (14) gathered his own rebound and scored on the far side while Khudobin was caught thinking the puck was trapped between his arm and his body.

Nikita Kucherov (27) and Hedman (12) tallied the assists on Point’s power-play goal at 12:23 of the first period and the Lightning led, 1-0.

The goal was Point’s fifth of the series and set a franchise record for the most goals in one postseason by a Tampa player as Point surpassed Tyler Johnson’s previous mark of 13 goals in Tampa’s 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, which ended in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that year– the most recent time the Bolts made the Final before beating Dallas in six games on Monday night.

Kucherov’s primary assist on the goal also assured him of the fifth most assists (27) in a playoff year in NHL history, trailing Wayne Gretzky (31 assists in 1988), Gretzky again (30 assists in 1985), Gretzky for a third time (29 in 1987) and Mario Lemieux (28 in 1991).

Late in the first period, Hedman interfered with Stars forward, Corey Perry, and received a minor penalty at 18:36, but Dallas’ first power play opportunity did not go well.

Through one period of action in Edmonton on Monday night, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-4, in shots on goal.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (1-0), hits (18-12) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

The Stars, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (8-5) and giveaways (7-5).

Tampa was 1/2 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Coleman (5) received a pass through the high slot from Cedric Paquette and fired a one-timer past Khudobin to extend Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Paquette (3) and Pat Maroon (5) notched the assists on the goal and the Lightning led, 2-0, at 7:01 of the second period.

About a minute later, Tampa defender, Ryan McDonagh was penalized for interference after colliding with Dallas forward, Tyler Seguin at 8:02.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play was powerless and, in fact, cut shot when Perry bumped into Vasilevskiy yielding a penalty for goaltender interference at 9:22.

Tampa’s ensuing abbreviated power play after a little 4-on-4 action did not result in a difference on the scoreboard as both teams eventually entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission with the Bolts still in command, 2-0.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led in shots on goal, 21-8– including a, 10-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), hits (31-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Stars led in giveaways (9-8).

Both teams had 13 blocked shots aside after two periods.

Tampa was 1/3 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/2 heading into the final frame of regulation.

Not much happened in the final period as the Stars rallied to a, 14-8, shots on net in the third period alone advantage– despite ultimately failing to score and finishing the night trailing, 29-22, in total shots on goal.

Dallas played desperate and had one final chance to cut the lead in half on the power play at 15:27 of the third period when McDonagh tripped Joel Kiviranta, but the Stars just couldn’t get any offense on the board.

With 1:44 remaining in the season, Bowness pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker in an attempt to muster just about anything by that point to spur his team for one last chance at forcing a Game 7.

This time, their heroic comeback moment did not come as the Lightning bolted down their defense and struck the Stars with a, 2-0, shutout at the final horn.

Tampa emerged with the 4-2 series win and their first Stanley Cup championship since 2004– their second Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Dallas fell to 1-2 in three Stanley Cup Final appearances overall, having won in six games in 1999, against the Buffalo Sabres, and losing in six games in 2000, against the New Jersey Devils.

Six games is all it takes, apparently, for better or worse for the Stars in the Final.

Meanwhile, it’s all the Lightning needed to complete a redemption arc from losing in six games to Chicago in 2015, and the ensuing bouts of embarrassment since then until the stars aligned for Tampa on Monday.

Tampa finished Game 6 leading in blocked shots (22-16), hits (40-37) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Dallas exited the bubble with the advantage in giveaways (11-9) in their final game.

The Lightning finished 1/3 on the power play as the Stars finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.

As the Bolts skated around with Lord Stanley’s mug, Cooper had completed the achievement of winning a championship at every level of hockey that he has coached– a feat that is by no means easy to accomplish, even though he did so while only 53-years-old (which is relatively young for a head coach).

Tampa became the first team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and be swept in the First Round the year before winning the Cup in the following season as the Columbus Blue Jackets ousted the Lightning in four games in the 2019 First Round.

The Lightning, fun fact, overcame Columbus in five games in the 2020 First Round before defeating the Boston Bruins in five games in the Second Round and the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Maroon became the eighth player in history– and first since former Lightning player, Cory Stillman– to win back-to-back Cups with different teams in consecutive seasons.

Stillman won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, before winning it again in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes (the NHL had a lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season in between), while Maroon won the Cup last year with the St. Louis Blues– his hometown team– before raising the Cup again in 2020 with Tampa.

Vasilevskiy set an NHL record for minutes played by a goaltender in a postseason with 1,708:12 time on ice.

He also became the 10th different netminder since the league expanded prior to the 1967-68 season to appear in every game en route to the Cup, joining Corey Crawford (with Chicago in 2013), Jonathan Quick (with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012), Tim Thomas (with Boston in 2011), Martin Brodeur (with New Jersey in 2000), Ed Belfour (with Dallas in 1999), Grant Fuhr (with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988), Patrick Roy (with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986), Ken Dryden (five times with Montreal from 1971-78) and Bernie Parent (with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974) in the process.

Bowness fell to 15-13 with Dallas in the postseason (all-time) as the Stars fell to 15-13 in the 2020 postseason as a whole, while Cooper improved to 54-29 behind the bench in the postseason with Tampa.

The Lightning finished 18-7 in the bubble in postseason action– capitalizing their longest postseason (25 games) with a Cup win.

Meanwhile, the NHL as a whole was able to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic with zero positive tests in Phase 4 of their Return to Play plan– which deserves a banner in its own right– having “administered 33,174 tests to club Personnel, including Players” from the beginning of Phase 4 through September 26th, according to a statement released by the league prior to the game on Monday.

Kudos to the NHL, NHLPA, Gary Bettman and all of the public health and local Canadian government officials that were able to make this happen.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #206- What’s Kapanen, My Dudes?

The DTFR Duo discuss Photoshop, Todd Reirden’s firing, Arizona Coyotes draft violations, the Kasperi Kapanen trade back to Pittsburgh and the Second Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Colorado Avalanche (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Colorado Avalanche might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of Pepsi Center someday.

Colorado Avalanche Current Retired Numbers

19 Joe Sakic

21 Peter Forsberg

23 Milan Hejduk

33 Patrick Roy

52 Adam Foote

77 Ray Bourque

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Milan Hejduk’s No. 23 was rightfully retired on Jan. 6, 2018. He had 375 goals and 430 assists (805 points) in 1,020 career NHL games (all with the Avalanche), won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2002-03 with 50 goals and won a Cup with Colorado in 2001. Much like Colorado’s first line these days, you can’t forget the forward trio that preceded them in an Avalanche sweater of Sakic, Forsberg and Hejduk. 

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

6 Erik Johnson

Johnson’s been around in Denver for parts of ten seasons and counting these days after being traded to the Avalanche from the St. Louis Blues during the 2010-11 season. He was drafted by St. Louis 1st overall in the 2006 NHL Draft, but made his league debut with the Blues in the 2007-08 season to the tune of five goals and 28 assists (33 points) in 69 games. 

In his 2009-10 sophomore campaign, Johnson’s totals increased to 10-29–39 in 79 games before splitting the 2010-11 season with St. Louis and Colorado and amassing eight goals and 21 assists (29 points) in 77 games with the two teams.

He didn’t shake the Earth when he broke into the league, but he’s managed to have the staying power and a dressing room presence for the Avs over the years.

Johnson has put up 60 goals and 152 assists (212 points) in 573 games for Colorado– or roughingly .370 points per game as an Av.

Meanwhile, former captain and current retired jersey number recipient in Avalanche franchise history, Adam Foote, had 259 points in 967 games for the Québec Nordiques/Avalanche franchise. That’s .268 points per game in Foote’s time with Québec/Colorado.

If Foote can have his number retired for almost reaching 1,000 games with the team, then Johnson can surely have the same honor for producing more in almost half the time– except by the time he hangs up the skates, he’ll likely play in almost 1,000 games for Colorado and have even more points by then, so yeah, the logic is still sound here.

You don’t always have to be a superstar in the league to be honored by a team for putting in the work and dedication to an organization.

29 Nathan MacKinnon

The 1st overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, MacKinnon won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year in 2013-14, with 24 goals and 39 assists (63 points) in 82 games with the Avalanche.

The following season, MacKinnon’s production dropped to 14 goals and 24 assists (38 points) in 64 games in 2014-15. He then had back-to-back seasons of at least 50 points in 2015-16 and 2016-17 as the Avs floundered through the beginning of the second half of the 2010s.

Just as most experts began to rule out MacKinnon’s ability to be a franchise changing impact player, Colorado General Manager, Joe Sakic, helped create the foundation for a better roster for years to come and MacKinnon broke out of his shell with 39 goals and 58 assists (97 points) in 74 games in 2017-18.

Last season, MacKinnon almost reached the century mark with 99 points in 82 games, while setting a career-high in goals (41) and tying his career-high in assists (58).

This season, he had 35 goals and 58 assists (93 points) in 69 games and was on pace for about 111 points had the regular season not come to an abrupt end due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With 495 points in 525 career games so far, MacKinnon is destined to be an Avalanche player for life and rise in all-time franchise glory. As it is, he currently sits 7th in the most points in Nordiques/Avalanche franchise history, with Anton Stastny sitting ahead of him in 6th by 141 points.

92 Gabriel Landeskog

Landeskog was drafted by Colorado 2nd overall in 2011, and had 22 goals and 30 assists (52 points) in 82 games in his rookie season (2011-12). Despite 9-8–17 totals in 36 games in his sophomore season– don’t let the numbers fool you, that was only a result of the lockout shortened 2012-13 season– the 2011-12 Calder Memorial Trophy winner has long been an underrated mark of consistency even as players like MacKinnon came to the team and emerged as one of the game’s superstars.

The following year, Landeskog scored 26 goals and notched 39 assists for 65 points in 81 games under head coach, Patrick Roy, en route to Colorado’s 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance that collapsed in seven games to the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 First Round.

He followed suit with back-to-back 50-point seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16, then dropped to 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 72 games in 2016-17– a season that, until the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings happened, was the worst performance by a team in the salary cap era.

In 2017-18, Landeskog had 62 points. Last season he set career-highs in goals (34), assists (41) and points (75) in 73 games played.

This season, he had 21 goals and 23 assists (44 points) through 54 games until the ongoing pandemic put an early end to the regular season. He was on pace for about 67 points despite being injured for part of the 2019-20 season.

The current captain of the Avalanche, Landeskog fits Colorado’s image well as the quintessential power forward in franchise history. He has 198 goals and 262 assists (460 points) in 633 career NHL games thus far and, like MacKinnon, will probably never play anywhere else in the league before he retires.

It’s safe to assume both Nos. 29 and 92 are not only the inverse of each other, but will be going to the rafters of Pepsi Center together.

96 Mikko Rantanen

Rantanen was drafted by the Avs 10th overall in 2015, then made a brief NHL debut in nine games in the ensuing 2015-16 season. He was a minus-seven and recorded no points in that span.

Then came the 2016-17 season, in which Rantanen was the only bright spot for an otherwise horrendous season for the club. In his rookie season (first full season, anyway), Rantanen had 20 goals and 18 assists (38 points) in 75 games, despite having a career-low, minus-25 rating.

His sophomore campaign only got better with 29 goals and 55 assists (84 points) in 81 games in 2017-18, followed by career-highs in goals (31), assists (56) and points (87) in 74 games last season while battling injury.

This year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic cutting the regular season short, Rantanen’s regular season action was almost completely derailed by long term injuries. Nevertheless, he managed to put up 19-22–41 totals in 42 games and was on pace for 80 points had he managed to avoid injury.

Regardless, Rantanen’s quickly amassed 250 points (99 goals, 151 assists) in 281 career NHL games thus far and is sure to be a member of the Avalanche for a long time– if not his entire career– as he gets healthy and things continue to be on the up and up for one of the most dominant teams in the Western Conference these days.

Final Thoughts

It might just be that since the Avalanche have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for three consecutive seasons after only making the postseason twice in a span of nine seasons from 2008-09 through 2016-17, but it feels like Colorado’s in a renaissance these days and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

Yes, especially more so when you consider the team friendly contracts that Sakic has been able to convince his players to sign. Even in the salary cap age, the Avs have found a way to compile a roster full of talent and depth. Now if only they could convince Roy to come out of retirement and play goaltender (I’m sure he’d still be fine and settle, once and for all, the Patrick Roy vs. Martin Brodeur “Best Goaltender of All Time” argument).

Anyway, there’s at least two or three players that’ll see their legacy take permanent residency in the rafters of Pepsi Center some day, but that’s not even counting what Cale Makar could be capable of in his career.

Makar is one of this year’s finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year and could make a claim to having his No. 8 retired one day by the Avs.

Likewise, since the Avs retired Foote’s No. 52 and acknowledged Hejduk’s contributions to the team by retiring his No. 23 in 2018, there’s a chance someone with 167 goals and 321 assists (488 points) in 598 games with Colorado could also see his number rise to the rafters– but which one would Alex Tanguay rather see hanging from the ceiling, No. 18 or No. 40?

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NHL Nick's Net

Why the Boston Bruins Might Never Retire No. 30

For a lot of Boston Bruins fans, the term “goalie controversy” often draws up images of people shouting at each other on Twitter about Tim Thomas vs. Tuukka Rask– yes, even to this day, despite the fact that 1) Thomas was traded to the New York Islanders in 2013 and 2) that he effectively retired after the 2013-14 season split between the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars (he never announced his retirement officially, anyway). 

Both have a Stanley Cup ring to their names as they were members of the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Bruins roster, with Thomas leading the way to Boston’s first championship since 1972, while Rask was biding his time as the team’s backup before taking over as the full-time B’s starter since the 2012-13 season– racking up multiple franchise records in the process and two more Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2013 and 2019.

But this “goalie controversy” has nothing to do with the galaxy brain Thomas vs. Rask arguments on Twitter.

This is about the “controversial” debate that rages surrounding retiring No. 30 in Boston and the controversies that surround two of its most prominent Bruins to wear it.

When considering whether or not to retire a number in Bruins lore, first consider what other Original Six teams have done, since they’re the only comparable franchises with almost as many– if not more– years of history than Boston.

Then consider the fact that Boston has never retired a number for a goalie. For quick reference, retired numbers of goalies are in bold.

Boston Bruins retired numbers

  • 2 Eddie Shore
  • 3 Lionel Hitchman
  • 4 Bobby Orr
  • 5 “Dit” Clapper
  • 7 Phil Esposito
  • 8 Cam Neely
  • 9 Johnny Bucyk
  • 15 Milt Schmidt
  • 16 Rick Middleton
  • 24 Terry O’Reilly
  • 77 Ray Bourque

Chicago Blackhawks retired numbers

  • 1 Glenn Hall
  • 3 Keith Magnuson/Pierre Pilote
  • 9 Bobby Hull
  • 18 Denis Savard
  • 21 Stan Mikita
  • 35 Tony Esposito

Detroit Red Wings retired numbers

  • 1 Terry Sawchuk
  • 4 Red Kelly
  • 5 Nicklas Lidstrom
  • 7 Ted Lindsay
  • 9 Gordie Howe
  • 10 Alex Delvecchio
  • 12 Sid Abel
  • 19 Steve Yzerman

Montreal Canadiens retired numbers

  • 1 Jacques Plante
  • 2 Doug Harvey
  • 3 Emile Bouchard
  • 4 Jean Beliveau
  • 5 Bernie Geoffrion/Guy Lapointe
  • 7 Howie Morenz
  • 9 Maurice Richard
  • 10 Guy Lafleur
  • 12 Yvan Cournoyer/Dickie Moore
  • 16 Henri Richard/Elmer Lach
  • 18 Serge Savard
  • 19 Larry Robinson
  • 23 Bob Gainey
  • 29 Ken Dryden
  • 33 Patrick Roy

New York Rangers retired numbers

  • 1 Eddie Giacomin
  • 2 Brian Leetch
  • 3 Harry Howell
  • 7 Rod Gilbert
  • 9 Andy Bathgate/Adam Graves
  • 11 Vic Hadfield/Mark Messier
  • 19 Jean Ratelle
  • 35 Mike Ritcher

Toronto Maple Leafs retired numbers

  • 1 Turk Broda/Johnny Bower
  • 4 Hap Day/Red Kelly
  • 5 Bill Barilko
  • 6 Irvine “Ace” Bailey
  • 7 King Clancy/Tim Horton
  • 9 Ted Kennedy/Charlie Conacher
  • 10 Syl Apps/George Armstrong
  • 13 Mats Sundin
  • 14 Dave Keon
  • 17 Wendell Clark
  • 21 Borje Salming
  • 27 Frank Mahovlich/Darryl Sittler
  • 93 Doug Gilmour

There’s not many retired goalie numbers among Original Six teams, let alone the rest of the NHL. Plus Boston hasn’t even retired No. 1 for Cecil “Tiny” Thompson and/or Frank Brimsek.

Next, think about Hockey Hall of Fame status, as well as career longevity (in Boston and outside of Boston).

Especially since there is no “Boston Bruins Hall of Fame” (which is a shame, really– they built The Hub on Causeway and they couldn’t dedicate more to team history/histories (if you include the NBA’s Boston Celtics) than just the entrance to the old Boston Garden standing inside of Banners Kitchen & Tap?).

Sure there’s The Sports Museum inside TD Garden, but the Montreal Canadiens have a Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame underneath Bell Centre. Your move, Mr. Jacobs.

Cam Neely– He didn’t play nearly enough games for his era due to Ulf Samuelsson, but Neely is a Hockey Hall of Fame member.

Rick Middleton– He played a lot, scored a ton, but Middleton isn’t a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Terry O’Reilly– He was like Milt Schmidt in that he did a lot for the Bruins organization (player and later coach), but O’Reilly isn’t a Hockey Hall of Fame member.

As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule and O’Reilly and Middleton are deservingly so in their own right.

Gerry Cheevers is a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender. Tim Thomas is a U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender. He’s still eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he hasn’t gotten in and there’s no guarantees that he’ll make it.

Interestingly enough, however, while Thomas might never be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Cheevers made it in 1985, but never won a Vezina (Thomas has two, 2008-09 and 2010-11) and was never named to an All-Star Team at season’s end (Thomas was named to two, 2008-09 and 2010-11).

Then think about how they left Boston.

In 1972, the World Hockey Association (WHA) came into fruition as a direct rival of the National Hockey League (NHL). The WHA promised better pay for players and the same– if not better– experience for fans.

It was created by a pair of American promoters who also made the American Basketball Association (ABA), which, if you’re a fan of basketball, you already know the ABA merger story with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to form the National Basketball Association (NBA, 1976-present).

From the onset, the ABA was poised to one day merge with the NBA in its efforts for success a la the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) merger prior to the 1970 NFL season.

The WHA was all about what the NHL wasn’t about.

They wanted to capitalize on markets where hockey could flourish, but were otherwise overlooked by the NHL, as well as attract the best players in the game by paying more than what NHL teams would– especially attracting European talent whereas the NHL was stuck as a “North American” game at the time. 

Free agency was a new concept for professional sports in the 1970s and it reigned supreme in the emerging shift towards player’s rights and the evolution of players’ associations.

The NHL’s reserve clause at the time meant players couldn’t become the equivalent of today’s unrestricted free agent until they were 31-years-old. These days, there’s restricted free agency, unrestricted free agency, as well as one-way and two-way contracts to worry about, but that’s another topic for another day.

Cheevers left the Bruins for the WHA, which was deplorable in the eyes of the NHL back then as much as it is now. 

Though fans might have loved seeing the Cleveland Crusaders jerseys, NHL owners hated them. 

Though players loved making more money at a time when all the other major professional sports were seeing significant raises, NHL owners hated them. 

Though WHA franchises thought they’d be on the fast track to continuing operations in the NHL after the WHA ceased to exist, the NHL went all out to slash and burn the remnants of the WHA. 

Seriously though, when the WHA initiated discussions for a merger in 1977, NHL owners voted down a plan to merge six WHA teams into the NHL.

The Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Cincinnati Stingers, Houston Aeros and Winnipeg Jets wanted out of a league that was hemorrhaging money and into the safe arms of the NHL and its tradition. 

By 1976, there were 32 major professional hockey teams between the NHL and WHA, which diluted the talent pool of a sport that was nowhere near the numbers of popularity and youth through junior league development as it is today.

When it came time to re-negotiate a merger in 1978, Houston was no longer in the plan, since the Aeros ended up having to fold.

The Indianapolis Racers folded in the middle of December 1978, which set the final nail in the merger. Cincinnati and the Birmingham Bulls would each be compensated to disband elsewhere, while Edmonton, New England, Quebec and Winnipeg would join the NHL at the WHA’s insistence.

Except it wasn’t that easy for the Oilers, Whalers, Nordiques and Jets. 

Each team would be stripped of its history– rendering them as NHL expansion teams for the start of the 1979-80 season, subject to expansion fees, an expansion draft and penalizing them by allowing NHL teams to reclaim players that jumped ship to the WHA.

Additionally, the Bruins petitioned the “New England Whalers” moniker, resulting in the Whalers having to drop “New England” in favor of “Hartford” since Boston didn’t want any confusion that the Whalers were playing on their turf (despite Massachusetts and Connecticut both being part of New England). 

The Bruins owned New England. 

That only strengthened the underdog status of the Whalers and the hatred between the two clubs in their Adams Division rivalry after realignment for the 1981-82 season (Hartford kicked things off in their NHL tenure in the Norris Division from 1979-81).

Anyway, back to Cheevers and his departure from the Hub.

After winning his second Cup with Boston in 1972, Cheevers jumped at the opportunity Cleveland created to make a lot more money than what the Bruins were offering their two-time Stanley Cup winning goaltender. 

Cheevers lasted parts of three seasons as a Crusader from 1972-73 to 1975-76, when a financial dispute with Cleveland’s management resulted in Cheevers jumping back into the NHL fold with Boston in the middle of the 1975-76 season.

Since becoming a starting goaltender in the 1967-68 season through Boston’s 1971-72 Cup winning season, Cheevers amassed a 126-52-40 record in 221 games with a 2.72 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in that span, as well as 15 shutouts.

Prior to his departure from the Bruins for Cleveland, he had a career best 2.50 GAA and .920 SV% in 41 games in the 1971-72 season alone as a 31-year-old goaltender (he wouldn’t turn 32 until Dec. 7, 1972).

Though Cheevers returned in 1975-76, things never were really the same.

His WHA tenure racked up a 99-78-9 record in 191 career games for the Crusaders from 1972 through part of the 1975-76 season– with a 3.12 GAA and 14 shutouts in that span.

On Jan. 27, 1976, he returned to Boston as a free agent after being released by Cleveland– two days after the Crusaders suspended him for not showing up and refusing to play.

By that point, Cheevers was 35-years-old and finished off the 1975-76 NHL season with an 8-2-5 record, as well as a 2.74 GAA and a .900 SV% in 15 games played for the Bruins.

In his full seasons for Boston that followed from 1976-77 to his retirement after the 1979-80 season, Cheevers went 87-35-24 in 151 games, with a 2.96 GAA, an .878 SV% and nine shutouts in that span.

Though the emergence of Wayne Gretzky to the NHL scene may have shifted the offensive output across the league since 1979, Cheevers’ NHL playing days only coincided with Gretzky in Gretzky’s rookie season (1979-80).

Though Cheevers had a .524 winning percentage in his first NHL stint with Toronto (two games)  and Boston (250 games) from 1961-72 and a .572 winning percentage after his WHA days in 166 games with Boston from 1976-80, his goals against average and save percentage suffered dramatically from a 2.85 GAA and a .911 SV% in 1961-72 to a 2.94 GAA and an .880 SV% from 1976-80.

Of course, age and the inevitable “wall” that players hit at the twilight of their prime is likely a factor here.

Still, the fact remains the same.

Despite leading the Bruins as a head coach after his retirement as a player from 1980-85, his defection from the NHL to the WHA crushed his immediate chances at being honored for his work on the ice in a sweater with the spoked-B on the front and the No. 30 on the back.

And all these years later, he might still be paying for it.

Thomas, on the other hand, chose to sit out the 2012-13 season, citing a need for more connection to his faith, family and friends.

Though it’s certainly understandable these days, given the presumptive hell he must have gone through with all of his concussions and finding the love for the game again– albeit watching as a fan these days– since his retirement from the NHL after the 2013-14 season, Thomas’ 2012-13 plans weren’t the first time he angered the Bruins fanbase, let alone, Boston’s front office.

After winning the Cup in 2011, he skipped out on the team’s White House invitation— citing (to paraphrase) that both major political parties are at fault for the federal government’s overbearance on its citizens.

Other than that, there’s his staunch– if not, outlandish at times– political views that cannot be overlooked (his support for Chick-fil-A amidst the company’s anti-equal marriage stance) in a day and age where Hockey Is (supposed to be) For Everyone.

Like the rest of us, however, Thomas is human– complex, contradicting, well-defined and unique as an individual. We all struggle through our own cognitive dissonance through life. 

For some, his on-ice performance can be separated from what his private off-ice personal life ensues. 

For others, he might not be as high on the pedestal of Boston sports lore due to his complicated nature– one that contradicts research and the science behind traumatic brain injuries, therapy and experimental treatments with conspiracy theories related to climate change, among other things.

All of this begs the question “should there be a character component to retiring numbers,” which could lead to further discussion surrounding whether or not teams should permanently unretire numbers when legendary players don’t live up to being role models off the ice (see, Bobby Hull and the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes). 

Likewise, the same argument could be applied to hall of fame inductions, but both are discussions for another time.

But Thomas’ decision to sit out the 2012-13 season with one-year remaining on his contract and a $5.000 million cap hit in a time when Boston was built for contending for another Cup run while spending $8.500 million combined between Thomas and Tuukka Rask in the crease as the team sat uncomfortably below the salary cap at about $68.868 million out of the $70.200 million ceiling, struck a nerve with then General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, and Co.

Oh and to further add to the uncertainty, the league hit a lockout prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, which saw the usual 82-game schedule reduced to 48 games that season once play resumed in January.

On Feb. 7, 2013, the Bruins traded Thomas to the New York Islanders to free up much needed cap space in an attempt to re-sign Rask, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, Anton Khudobin, Jaromir Jagr and others in the 2013 offseason after losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Only Rask remained as Ference’s free agent status priced himself out of Boston, Jagr was deemed “too old” (joke’s on them!) and Horton left for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shroud of “word on the street” rumors. Khudobin, meanwhile, went to the Carolina Hurricanes on a one-year, $800,000 deal after Boston signed Chad Johnson for $200,000 less to be Rask’s backup for the 2013-14 season.

Thomas returned to the NHL for the 2013-14 season with the Florida Panthers after signing a one-year deal on Sept. 26, 2013, before later being traded to the Dallas Stars on March 5, 2014– one day after Florida re-acquired Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks.

His comeback season didn’t go well (posting a 16-20-3 record, a 2.87 goals against average and a .909 save percentage in 40 games with the Panthers, as well as a 2-4-1 record, a 2.97 GAA and a .902 SV% in eight games with the Stars) and Thomas rode off into the sunset after Dallas was eliminated in six games in the 2014 First Round by the Anaheim Ducks.

The Bruins may let bygones be bygones and welcome Thomas with open arms for a “Tim Thomas Night” or special ceremony one day in the future, but it likely won’t be before Rask retires.

As it is, Thomas isn’t planning on traveling much outside of his Washington, D.C. appearance for his induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Dec. 2019.

So, what goaltender could have their number retired by Boston?

If there’s one Bruins goaltender that will have his number retired sooner rather than later, it’s Rask.

His current contract expires at the end of next season and Rask has expressed he might retire, but he also might not.

There’s three probable options for Rask when all is said and done in 2021;

1) to sign a short term deal and remain with Boston for his entire NHL career,

2) to sign a contract elsewhere or

3) to retire– finishing his career as one of the greatest goaltenders in Bruins history as he currently ranks 1st in wins (291– Tiny Thompson is 2nd with 252), 1st in games played (536– Thompson is 2nd with 468), 1st in saves (13,711– Eddie Johnston is 2nd with 12,375), 1st in save percentage among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played as a Bruin (.922– Thomas is 2nd with a .921), 1st in goals against average among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played for Boston (2.26– Byron Dafoe is 2nd with a 2.30), 2nd in shutouts among goalies with a minimum 100 games played for Boston (50– Thompson leads with 74) and– as a bonus– Rask leads with the most points by a goaltender with the Bruins (15, all assists– Cheevers is 2nd with 11, also all assists).

That’s no slouch and not just a result of suiting up in a bunch of games for one team without any real success whatsoever.

That same 2011 Stanley Cup championship year for the Bruins?

Rask was part of that.

Doesn’t matter if you’re the starter or the backup when your name goes on the Cup for a job well done as one of the best goaltending tandems that season. Besides, in today’s NHL, there’s an ever increasing importance for a 1A/1B solution in the crease.

Rask also backstopped the team to two more Stanley Cup Final appearances since then in 2013 and 2019.

He also won the Vezina Trophy in 2014 and was likely on track to pick up his second Vezina this season– number of games played compared to his peers, like Andrei Vasilevskiy, be damned– at its pause due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with a 2.12 GAA and a .929 SV%, as well as a 26-8-6 record in 41 games played.

No. 40 in black and gold led the NHL in goals against average this season and was second in save percentage, while sharing second place in shutouts with five.

Whether he wins this season’s Vezina Trophy or not, he’ll still have a consolation prize shared with his backup, Jaroslav Halak, as the duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the 2019-20 season as the goaltender(s) that have played a minimum of 25 games in a season for the team(s) with the fewest goals scored against it.

Rask and Halak allowed 174 goals this season in 70 games played, whereas Ben Bishop and Khudobin allowed 177 goals against for the Stars in 69 games.

This season’s hardware is Rask’s first Jennings Trophy win and Halak’s second career Jennings honors after previously sharing the title with Brian Elliott in the 2011-12 season with the Blues.

As for Rask’s jersey retirement case, it helps that he is tied for the best save percentage in league history (.922) with Dominik Hasek and 11th overall in the NHL’s all-time goals against averages with a 2.26 in his career.

Oh and the B’s have won the Presidents’ Trophy twice with Rask in the crease (2013-14 and 2019-20), something Thomas never did in his tenure with Boston and Cheevers could never do, since the award wasn’t presented for the first time until the 1985-86 season.

It’s possible the Bruins retire No. 40 before they make up for lost time and retire No. 30 for two players, like how the Toronto Maple Leafs retired No. 1 twice (Turk Broda and Johnny Bower).

After all, if you’re worried about running out of numbers that are typically used by a goaltender, Nos. 1, 29, 31, 35, 45 and any other number that isn’t already or won’t be retired by the time Boston gets around to retiring a goaltender’s jersey number (assuming the B’s retire No. 33 for Zdeno Chara, No. 37 for Patrice Bergeron, No. 46 for David Krejci and perhaps No. 63 and No. 88 by that time) will still be available.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #174- Coaching Conundrums

Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.

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NHL Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

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