Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Eastern Conference Final after a, 3-0, shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Game 6 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.
Boston will host the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Tuukka Rask (8-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason) made 39 saves on 39 shots against to record his 6th career postseason shutout and tie Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd-most Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts in Bruins franchise history.
Gerry Cheevers leads the club with eight postseason shutouts in his career with the B’s.
Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-4, 2.41 GAA, .925 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.
Once again, Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Early in the opening frame of the game, Pierre-Luc Dubois went hard into Rask and was assessed with a goaltender interference minor penalty. Boston went on the power play for the first time of the night at 6:46 of the first period.
Seconds after Columbus killed off Dubois’ minor, the Bruins thought they had a goal when Sean Kuraly appeared to pocket the puck in the open twine.
However, Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella used his coach’s challenge to send the call on the ice to a review, in which it was determined that Joakim Nordstrom was not pushed into Bobrovsky by a Columbus defender and instead had collided with the Columbus goaltender by his own merit.
As a result, the call on the ice was overturned. No goal.
The game remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 12-10.
Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (60-40). Meanwhile, Columbus led in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (24-8). Both teams had one takeaway each and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.
Columbus did not convert on the ensuing power play.
The Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on their second power play of the game and the Bruins took advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams play.
DeBrusk (3) and Connor Clifton (2) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal.
McAvoy received a two-minute minor for an illegal hit to the head at 19:40, leaving fans inside the arena, at bars and on their couches at home confused as to why it was not a five-minute major infraction.
Regardless, McAvoy should expect to receive a phone call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, at the very least. Warnings can still be a thing, even if a player can or cannot be suspended.
Anderson did return from the second intermission for the third period.
Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailed, 27-17, in shots on goal after the Blue Jackets had a, 17-5, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-7) and hits (36-17), while the Bruins led in giveaways (6-5) and face-off win% (53-48) after two periods.
Both teams had four takeaways aside. The Blue Jackets were 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.
Though they had a few shots on net while McAvoy was in the box with time remaining on his penalty to start the third period, Columbus did not score on the power play.
Nordstrom slashed Dubois at 4:48 of the third period and sent the Blue Jackets back on the power play early in the final frame of regulation.
Once again, the Blue Jackets failed to hit the back of the twine on the skater advantage.
A little over a couple of minutes after killing Nordstrom’s penalty, Boston’s bottom-six forwards went to work and hooked up Marcus Johansson (2) with a quick break-in and shot that popped off Bobrovsky and carried itself over the goal line with just enough momentum on the puck.
Less than a couple minutes later, Krejci worked a pass to Torey Krug, whereby Krug turned and flung the puck towards David Backes (1) for the redirection past the Columbus goaltender and the, 3-0, lead.
Krug (7) and Krejci (6) were tabbed with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 10:39.
As a result of his two-point effort in Game 6, Krejci is now three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with Boston). He’s seeking to become the 5th Bruin to reach 100 postseason points with the franchise.
With no other choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker, Tortorella exercised his right with 3:30 remaining in regulation, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t maintain enough offensive zone pressure to muster a comeback.
Nor could the Bruins tally an empty net goal, but by the final horn none of that mattered.
Boston had defeated Columbus, 3-0, in Game 6 and won the series 4-2.
The B’s finished Monday night leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the Blue Jackets gave their home crowd a solid performance– despite the loss– leading in shots on goal (39-29), giveaways (10-7), hits (43-19) and face-off win% (51-49).
You can’t say Columbus didn’t try.
Neither team scored a goal on the skater advantage in Game 6 as the Blue Jackets went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins went 0/1.
The Bruins improved to 8-0 when leading after two periods this postseason as Rask picked up his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout since 2014.
For the first time since they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, Boston will host the Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
Carolina last appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 and lost in four games to the Penguins.
But that same Hurricanes team also defeated the Bruins in their last series matchup in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Scott Walker had the series clinching goal in overtime against Thomas to lift the Canes over the B’s, 3-2, at the then branded TD Banknorth Garden in Game 7 of that series.
Boston holds a 3-1 series record all-time against the Hurricanes including two postseason matchups with the Hartford Whalers before they relocated to North Carolina in 1997.
The Boston Bruins forced their way back into the series with a, 4-1, win on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena in Game 4 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As a result of their win, the series is tied, 2-2, heading back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.
Tuukka Rask (6-5 record, 2.11 goals against average, .933 save percentage in 11 games played this postseason) made 39 saves on 40 shots against for the .975 SV% in the win for the B’s.
Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-2, 2.13 GAA, .933 SV% in eight games played this postseason) stopped 42 out of 46 shots faced for a .913 SV% in the loss.
Bruce Cassidy tweaked his lines from Tuesday night’s, 2-1, loss in Game 3 to Thursday night’s Game 4 action– re-inserting David Backes into the lineup on the second line right wing in place of Karson Kuhlman.
John Moore (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remain out of the lineup for Boston due to injury, while Chris Wagner, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer and Kuhlman joined the long list of healthy scratches at this time of the postseason.
McAvoy (5) had the only assist on the goal and for the first time this postseason, Columbus trailed on home ice as the Bruins jumped out to the, 1-0, lead at 3:33 of the first period.
While on the power play, the B’s gave up a shorthanded opportunity to Blue Jackets forward, Boone Jenner, who was promptly brought down by a trip from Marchand at 6:52.
As a result of being tripped while on the breakaway, Jenner received a penalty shot attempt that was denied by Rask.
Less than a minute later, Bergeron (4) ripped a shot past Bobrovsky’s glove side for the power play goal and gave the Bruins a two-goal lead.
Bergeron’s goal was assisted by Marchand (6) and Krug (5) at 7:18 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0, 26 seconds after Jenner’s penalty shot.
About a minute later, after the puck hit the netting above the glass and technically had gone out of play, Columbus capitalized on a missed call by the on-ice officials and pocketed a goal from Artemi Panarin (5) to cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 8:46.
Not even the official review of every goal in the postseason could overturn an otherwise non-reviewable play as the coach’s challenge only pertains to offside and goaltender interference calls.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (3) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (3) notched the assists on Panarin’s goal– the second goal to be scored after the puck hit the netting above the glass in Columbus since the last time the Blue Jackets also tabbed a goal in similar fashion on Dec. 27, 2014 against– you guessed it– the Bruins.
Nine seconds later, Josh Anderson hooked Pastrnak and skated his way over to the penalty box to serve a two-minute minor infraction. Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
The Bruins would fail to score once more on a power play after Dean Kukan elbowed Backes in the face at 12:30 of the opening frame.
Moments later, while struggling to clear the puck from their own zone, Marchand flung the puck over the glass and out of play for the automatic delay of game minor penalty at 16:00 of the first period.
Columbus did not score on the resulting skater advantage.
Through 20 minutes of the action in Game 4, the B’s led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed the Blue Jackets, 15-13, in shots on goal. Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (5-1), giveaways (3-2) and hits (20-10), while Boston led in face-off win percentage (63-38).
The Blue Jackets were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission and the Bruins were 1/3.
Columbus did not convert on their second power play opportunity of the night and failed to record a shot on goal on the skater advantage while Clifton was in the box.
Moments later, Clendening interfered with Backes and was sent to the box with a minor penalty at 12:06. Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
After killing off the Clendening minor, Anderson cut a rut to the penalty box for interfering with McAvoy at 14:19 of the second period.
For the fifth time of the night, the Bruins went on the power play, but for the fourth consecutive power play, Boston did not capitalize on the scoreboard.
Late in the period, Marchand inadvertently tripped up Cam Atkinson in the neutral zone and was charged with a minor penalty at 18:01– leaving one second remaining on the power play for the Blue Jackets entering the third period.
After two periods of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed Columbus, 27-25, in shots on goal– despite splitting shots on goal in the second period, 12-12.
The Blue Jackets maintained the advantage in blocked shots (7-6), takeaways (8-2) and hits (28-16), while the B’s led in face-off win% (62-38) heading into the second intermission.
Both teams had five giveaways apiece after 40 minutes of action and Columbus was 0/3 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/5 on the power play heading into the third period.
Midway through the third period, Dublin, Ohio native, Sean Kuraly (2) scored on the intentional carom off the endboards set up by Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, to give Boston a two-goal lead once again.
Chara (2) and Backes (2) were credited with the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 8:40 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-1.
Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Jake DeBrusk tripped Bjorkstrand and was sent to the box at 12:12.
Despite firing off four shots on goal on the resulting power play, the Blue Jackets were not able to get one past Rask.
Shortly after having the skater advantage, Columbus found themselves on the skater disadvantage when Dubois held Brandon Carlo at 15:59 of the third period.
For the sixth time of the night, Boston went on the power play.
This time, they capitalized.
Pastrnak received a pass from Krug and rocketed a shot off of Bobrovsky, yielding just enough of a rebound for Bergeron (5) to pot into the twine from just outside the crease to give the Bruins a, 4-1, lead with his second goal of the night at 17:30.
Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (5) and Krug (6) and helped No. 37 in black and gold surpass Bobby Orr for 6th all-time in Bruins franchise history in Stanley Cup Playoff points.
The longest-tenured assistant captain in the NHL, Bergeron has 36-57–93 totals in 123 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. Orr had 22-66–92 totals in 74 postseason games with Boston.
At the final horn, Columbus’ cannon was silenced as the Bruins won Game 4 by a score of, 4-1.
The B’s finished the night leading in shots on goal (46-40) and face-off win% (59-41), while the Blue Jackets exited the building leading in blocked shots (15-13), giveaways (8-6) and hits (30-25).
Columbus finished Thursday night’s action 0/4 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/6 on the power play and improved to 6-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.
For the first time in the series, a game was decided by more than a one-goal differential.
Game 5 is back in Boston at TD Garden on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:15 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC. Canadian fans can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.
The Columbus Blue Jackets dealt the Boston Bruins their first back-to-back losses since late December with a, 7-4, victory at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.
Boone Jenner had a hat trick for Columbus as Boston lost in back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 23rd (at Carolina) and Dec. 27th (versus New Jersey) after their 19-game point streak was snapped on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Sergei Bobrovsky (30-22-1 record, 2.76 goals against average, .906 save percentage in 53 games played) made 27 saves on 31 shots against for an .871 SV% in the win for the Blue Jackets.
Before being replaced in the second period, Tuukka Rask (24-9-5, 2.41 GAA, .918 SV% in 39 GP) stopped 19 out of 24 shots faced in the loss, while Jaroslav Halak (18-10-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV% in 35 GP) made nine saves on 10 shots against in relief of Rask for the B’s.
Boston fell to 42-19-9 (93 points) on the season, but remained in control of 2nd place in the Atlantic, while Columbus improved to 39-28-3 (81 points) and remained 5th in the Metropolitan, as well as in command of the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins fell to 27-6-5 when scoring first in a game this season and 15-12-6 on the road.
Bruce Cassidy made a few adjustments to his lineup with Kevan Miller (upper body), David Pastrnak (left thumb), Jake DeBrusk (lower body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) all out due to injury.
With Lee Stempniak reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL), Trent Frederic was recalled on emergency basis.
Charlie Coyle moved up to David Krejci’s right wing with Peter Cehlarik at left wing on the second line, while Joakim Nordstrom slid down to the third line left wing with Frederic at center and David Backes on the right side in his usual role.
Since Grzelcyk was out due to injury, Steven Kampfer suited up alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing.
Early into the action, Brandon Carlo was penalized for interference at 3:29 of the first period and gave the Blue Jackets their first power play of the night.
Nearly 30 seconds into the ensuing power play for Columbus, the Bruins caught the Blue Jackets on a turnover and charged down the ice on a shorthanded bid.
Brad Marchand tossed the puck over to Patrice Bergeron (26) for his 4th shorthanded goal of the season and 3rd SHG this week.
Boston grabbed the, 1-0, lead at 4:00 of the first period with Marchand (55) tallying the only assist on Bergeron’s goal.
Shortly after the B’s went ahead, Josh Anderson (23) showed off his speed and caught the Bruins in a line change. Anderson deked and scored on a breakaway with ease and tied the game, 1-1.
Zach Werenski (28) and Ryan Dzingel (26) had the assists on Anderson’s goal at 7:19.
Almost seven minutes later, Dzingel (23) scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket after following up on a rebound generated by Werenski (and the following second and third chances until Dzingel banked the puck off Rask and in)– making it, 2-1, Columbus.
Werenski (29) and Seth Jones (32) were credited with the assists on Dzingel’s goal at 14:18 of the first period.
Late in the period, Columbus committed a rash of penalties with Jenner sent to the box for tripping Bergeron at 17:34 and Nick Foligno closing his hand on the puck at 18:56, resulting in 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play for Boston.
It did not go well for the Bruins.
Shortly after emerging from the box, Jenner (13) crashed the slot on another breakaway by Anderson and pocketed the rebound to give the Blue Jackets a two-goal lead.
Anderson (15) had the only assist on Jenner’s first goal of the night t 19:54 of the first period and Columbus led, 3-1, heading into the first intermission.
It was the 13th shorthanded goal allowed by the Bruins this season.
The Blue Jackets dominated in shots on goal (13-4), blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (70-30) entering the second period, while Boston led in hits (9-2).
Both teams had three takeaways each, while the Blue Jackets were 0/1 on the power play. The B’s were 0/2 on the skater advantage after 20 minutes of play.
Cassidy juggled his second and third lines to start the middle frame, but things started to slide almost halfway into the period.
Matt Duchene (29) scored on a backhand pass from Dzingel while sneaking into the slot after Columbus sustained pressure in the attacking zone to make it, 4-1, Blue Jackets.
Dzingel (27) and Anderson (16) had the assists at 7:09 of the second period.
Jenner (14) added his second goal of the night– and his 100th career NHL goal– a minute later with Riley Nash (8) and Foligno (14) receiving credit for the assists.
Columbus led, 5-1, at 8:09 of the second period and Cassidy had watched his crew let down his goaltender enough. It was time for a change, so he pulled Rask in favor of Halak.
Things started to click for the B’s as Marchand (29) answered on the scoreboard at 13:07 of the middle frame.
Charlie McAvoy (18) and Backes (11) notched the assists as Boston pulled to within three goals.
A mere 14 seconds after Marchand’s goal, McAvoy and Artemi Panarin got into a scrap and exchanged fisticuffs for the 1st time this season (and 2nd time in their careers) at 13:21.
As an aside, McAvoy’s last fight (and first of his career) also came against the Blue Jackets last season (against Pierre-Luc Dubois).
McAvoy also picked up an extra minor penalty for slashing, so Cassidy sent Danton Heinen to serve the penalty while the Bruins were shorthanded.
Boston had a little more fight in them– in part because of McAvoy’s actual fight– and sustained an attack as the period ticked by.
Chris Wagner (12) broke free from the Blue Jackets blue liners and slipped the puck past Bobrovsky on a breakaway at 15:36 of the second period.
Heinen (20) had the only assist as the “Mayor of Walpole” made it a two-goal game. Columbus’ lead was whittled down to, 5-3.
Late in the middle frame, Marchand (30) tabbed his second goal of the game off a face-off from point blank.
Bergeron (39) had the only assist and the Bruins trailed, 5-4, at 18:37 of the second period.
Marchand has reached the 30-goal plateau for the 4th consecutive season and has at least 85 points in his last three seasons.
Columbus also only had four skaters on the ice– after a stoppage in play that resulted in a face-off in their own zone– for the goal against.
They wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
Heading into the second intermission, Columbus led, 5-4, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 28-17. The Blue Jackets also led in blocked shots (11-5), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (70-30).
Boston led in hits (18-9) after 40 minutes of play, while both clubs were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.
Kampfer cut a rut to the penalty box for slashing Anderson at 1:43 of the third period, but the Blue Jackets did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Panarin slashed Torey Krug at 10:08, but Boston didn’t capitalized on the skater advantage. Despite nearly completing a comeback in the second period– the Bruins failed to score in the final frame.
Heinen hooked David Savard at 10:49 of the third period and Columbus went back on the power play.
Late on the ensuing advantage, Werenski (10) wired a shot into the twine from the point past Halak after the Bruins nearly capitalized on a couple quality shorthanded chances.
Panarin (49) and Anderson (17) notched the assists on Werenski’s goal at 12:21 of the third period and the Blue Jackets led, 6-4.
With less than 90 seconds left in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker to no avail.
Jenner (15) completed his first career hat trick with a shot at the empty net from his own end at 19:13. Nash (9) and Werenski (30) had the assists and the Blue Jackets led, 7-4.
Columbus finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-31), blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (7-5) and face-off win% (64-36).
The Blue Jackets went 1/4 on the skater advantage.
Boston finished Tuesday night leading in hits (22-18) and went 0/3 on the power play.
The Bruins are currently 0-2-0 on their three-game road trip that wraps up Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Boston returns home to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday before hitting the road against next Tuesday (March 19th) against the New York Islanders.
After the B’s take on the Isles, they swing through New Jersey on March 21st, Florida on March 23rd and Tampa on March 25th.
It’s hard to believe, but there’s less than one month remaining in the regular season. 16 clubs are none too concerned about that, but with the exception of Tampa Bay, we don’t officially know yet which teams those are.
Take a look at this week’s schedule that got us a little closer to figuring out the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
|NHL SCHEDULE: March 4-10|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, March 4|
|Tuesday, March 5|
|7 p.m.||Carolina||Boston||3-4 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Columbus||New Jersey||2-1 (SO)|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa Senators||New York Islanders||4-5 (SO)|
|7 p.m.||Florida||Pittsburgh||2-3 (OT)|
|7:30 p.m.||Winnipeg||Tampa Bay||2-5|
|8 p.m.||Minnesota||Nashville||4-5 (SO)|
|8:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Dallas Stars||0-1|
|9 p.m.||Detroit||Colorado||3-4 (OT)|
|10:30 p.m.||Montréal||Los Angeles||3-1|
|Wednesday, March 6|
|9 p.m.||Toronto||Vancouver||2-3 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||St. Louis||Anaheim||5-4|
|Thursday, March 7|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Ottawa Senators||4-2|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Detroit Red Wings||2-3 (SO)|
|7:30 p.m.||Minnesota||Tampa Bay||3-0|
|8:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Chicago||4-5 (SO)|
|10:30 p.m.||St. Louis||Los Angeles||4-0|
|10:30 p.m.||Montréal||San Jose||2-5|
|Friday, March 8|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Washington||0-3|
|Saturday, March 9|
|4 p.m.||St. Louis||San Jose||NHLN|
|7 p.m.||Toronto||Edmonton||CBC, NHLN, SN|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||Boston||CITY, SN1, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Detroit||Tampa Bay|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia Flyers||New York Islanders|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey Devils||New York Rangers|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Arizona|
|10 p.m.||Vegas||Vancouver||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1|
|Sunday, March 10|
|7:30 p.m.||Boston||Pittsburgh||NBCSN, TVAS|
|10 p.m.||Los Angeles||Anaheim||NBCSN|
As always, this week’s NHL schedule did not disappoint. We were given our regular serving of rivalries, starting with a throwback in Denver when Detroit visited Colorado on Tuesday. Wednesday also featured a derby, this one involving the Capitals heading to the City of Brotherly Love.
Columbus and Pittsburgh will square off twice this week, with the Pens taking Game 1 on Thursday before heading to Ohio for Game 2 this evening. Speaking of Thursday, the Rangers and Red Wings also matched up and honored Ted Lindsay with an extremely competitive game.
Finally, this weekend also features the previously-mentioned Penguins-Blue Jackets tilt and the Battle of the Hudson River today followed by the Freeway Face-Off tomorrow night.
In regards to momentous homecomings this week, there weren’t any. By my estimation, the most important was Kevin Fiala‘s return to Nashville. Fiala played 204 games with the Predators since being drafted by the organization in 2014 before being traded to Minnesota at this year’s deadline.
As to which game takes our attention this week, I’ve been drawn to the Columbus-Pittsburgh series. With six teams (Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Capitals, Hurricanes, Islanders and Penguins) fighting for five spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, one good side is going to see its season end at 82 games.
While not a season-ender, this series is a major step for both Columbus and Pittsburgh in determining their postseason fates. With two points already in the Pens’ pockets, how will tonight’s tilt go down?
Coming into tonight’s game with a 36-22-9 record, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently holding down third place in the Metropolitan Division.
While that is certainly an improvement from where this team was just a few weeks ago, the Pens’ job is still not finished as they only have a four-point cushion separating them from ending their season at 82 games.
Pittsburgh isn’t looking back these days, though. It’s riding a solid six-game point streak (4-0-2) that includes two wins against tonight’s opponent (more on that later) and a 5-1 victory in Québec.
Pittsburgh fans will know that this string of games started with the Stadium Series overtime loss in Philadelphia. That was a game that cost the Penguins two defensemen (D Brian Dumoulin has since returned to action on Tuesday) and has forced them to reexamine their defensive game, involving each and every skater on the ice.
Despite the new defensive strategies, Pittsburgh is still yielding an average of 31 shots per game during this run – the NHL’s middle-of-the-road since February 23. Despite that, the Penguins are also yielding an average of only 2.17 goals against per game, the fifth-best mark in that time.
Murray has been in net for all of the Penguins’ last six games and claims a commanding .93 save percentage and associated 2.12 GAA for those outings (both eighth-best in the league among the 28 netminders with at least four starts since February 23). Those outstanding numbers boost his season statistics to a .916 save percentage and 2.79 GAA, the 10th and 19th-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 43 goaltenders with at least 24 starts to their credit.
With a home game against the Bruins tomorrow night, it remains to be seen which goaltender Sullivan starts this evening. If I had my druthers, Murray would be in action this evening considering the importance of beating a division rival in a tightly contested playoff race. With 12 points (and two games-in-hand against the Habs) separating Boston from the a wildcard spot, Pittsburgh cannot worry about the Bruins until it runs into them in a potential playoff matchup (whether that would be the Conference Semifinals or Final remains to be seen).
Of course, it would be highly irresponsible to talk about the Penguins and not mention their potent offense. Averaging 3.45 goals per game for the season, Pittsburgh has been operating at a slightly higher level lately, as it has averaged 3.67 goals per game during this six-game run (again, I emphasize slightly) – the (t)sixth-best mark in the league since February 23.
Pittsburgh’s top line has carried most of that charge, which of course means C Sidney Crosby has been the star of the show. In his past six games, the captain has managed an outstanding 6-8-14 effort to lead the league in scoring in that time (well, he’s technically tied with Florida’s F Jonathan Huberdeau on points, but Crosby has played fewer games and scored more goals to take the title in my book).
Since all of 37-27-3 Columbus’ moves at the trade deadline, everything it has done from then until the end of the season has taken on a new life.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, that new light isn’t all that positive, as they’ve gone on a 2-4-0 run since then to find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, trailing Montréal by two points for the East’s second wild card.
Though Columbus has struggled to keep opponents off the board during this six-game run (the Jackets have allowed 3.5 goals against per game since February 26, the eighth-worst mark in the NHL in that time), an even bigger problem has been its offense.
With the exception of fellow Metropolitan member New Jersey, no team has struggled more on the attack since the trade deadline than Columbus. The Blue Jackets are averaging only 1.5 goals per game in their last six outings, compared to the 11th-best 3.04 they’ve averaged for the season.
Surely, much of this can be attributed to all of the Jackets’ deadline additions. In fact, the second line has been entirely revamped and now features Oliver Bjorkstrand and former-Senators Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (who’s celebrating his 27th birthday today). Fortunately for Columbus, Duchene and Dzingel regularly played together in Ottawa, so it is just a matter of Head Coach John Tortorella finding the right person to complete their line.
However, a lack of familiarity cannot be the excuse for Columbus’ top line, as Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin have spent the entire season together. Instead, all three combine for only 3-6-9 totals in the past six games.
Dubois in particular is struggling the most. He’s only registered one assist since the trade deadline, well off the .81 points per game average he’s managed for the entire season. As his club’s top center, Dubois’ performance can often dictate his team’s success. The sooner he breaks out of his funk, the sooner, Columbus will begin finding success once again.
In addition to cleaning up Columbus and Pittsburgh’s home-and-home, tonight’s game also concludes the four-game regular season series between the two clubs. The Penguins have won the first three meetings 4-2 on November 24, 5-2 on February 26 and 3-0 on Thursday.
Unfortunately for Columbus, I don’t see that script changing tonight. The Penguins have been playing incredibly well lately now that they’ve bought into their new strategy, and that doesn’t pair well with the Blue Jackets’ offensive struggles.
I don’t think the Jackets will be shutout for the second game in a row, but I do think the Pens will win 3-1.
It’s past the quarter mark of the 2018-19 regular season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but thanks to the way the calendar (and life) works out, I’m a few games behind on presenting my latest forecast for Columbus.
Thankfully, the Blue Jackets have a couple of days between their game on Monday (a 7-5 victory against Detroit) and their next matchup against Minnesota on Thursday.
As such, here’s a quick look at what to expect through the remaining 58 games this season.
Keep in mind, there’s many unknown variables that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, roster moves and whatever else Microsoft Excel doesn’t already know. My degree is in communication– not math– and I’d like to keep things as brief as I can in John Tortorella fashion so you can look things over, get a gist of it and go back to watching the game.
If a player meets the forecasted stats I’ve updated, they’ve met the latest expectations. If they do better, they’ve exceeded expectations. Of course, if they do worse– they just didn’t live up to expectations– it’s that simple. Well, either that or they missed a lot of action due to injury or something.
Anyway, you can’t forecast puck luck, but you can indicate general trends and estimated hunches based on what the scoresheet indicates each night.
Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 24 Games (58 Games Remaining)
Good news, Blue Jackets fans, Artemi Panarin should reach the 80-point plateau this season. Bad news, Blue Jackets fans, Panarin’s still a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and still doesn’t seem intent on sticking around in Columbus.
Other than that, Cam Atkinson is expected to amass 62 points this season (35 expected goals, 27 expected assists) and lead the team in goals, while Pierre-Luc Dubois sits one goal shy of reaching 30 this season.
Newcomer Anthony Ducliar continues his career revival with respectable 19-18–37 expected totals and Zach Werenski should lead all defenders in expected goals (14), assists (32) and points (46).
Meanwhile, noted top-pairing blue liner Seth Jones, should amass 10-28–38 totals from the point with Werenski beating out Jones in goals from the blue line by four.
Scott Harrinton’s expected 18 points fit perfectly behind Ryan Murray (30), Markus Nutivaara (25) and David Savard (24) as the Blue Jackets defensive corps continues to improve at moving the puck out of their own zone and into quality scoring opportunities.
Other than Panarin’s uncertain future, the only other concern for Columbus revolves around the franchise’s stability in net.
Sergei Bobrovsky‘s expected goals against average has worsened after the first quarter of the season. It’s now set to be a 2.46 GAA by season’s end. Yeah, that’s not great.
In fact, it would be Bobrovsky’s worst GAA since he posted a 2.75 in 37 games played in 2015-16. To begin with, he’s at a 2.74 currently with a .912 save percentage in 16 games this season.
At least Bobrovsky’s save percentage is expected to improve to a .920 SV% by the time 2018-19 wraps up.
Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo should end up with a 2.61 GAA and .919 SV% by season’s end, which would be significant improvements from last season’s 3.32 GAA and .897 SV% in 18 games.
As is it, Korpisalo has a 3.73 GAA and .886 SV% through nine games played this season, so things can only get… better? That’s the hope anyway.
Columbus has to work on suppressing shot attempts against, let alone shots on goal, since they’re evidently overworking their goaltenders and it’s showing (remember, a goalie has to move around and “make the save” regardless of whether or not the puck actually hits the net as an official shot on goal).
It’s either that or maybe Bobrovsky isn’t worth as much as some might think he is (because he’s also a pending-UFA in July)– especially in a contract year.
Somehow the Blue Jackets find themselves 2nd in the Metropolitan Division with 30 points on the season and a 14-8-2 record on the season and a plus-six goal differential.
So has Columbus been under the radar and quietly good? Or are they just quietly lucky and surviving in a volatile division (whereby the Pittsburgh Penguins– remember them? they won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017– are currently 6th in the division outside the playoff picture)?
Time will tell or @capncornelius and/or @vanekatthedisco might fill you in on their outlook sometime.
Pekka Rinne signed a two-year extension, John Stevens and Joel Quenneville were fired, Willie Desjardin’s back and there’s a new guy in Chicago (Jeremy Colliton), Philadelphia Flyers goaltending is in the news again, people in Ottawa are fired up about Uber, Lou Lamoriello reached 2,400 games as a GM as the New York Islanders lead the Metropolitan Division and is Halloween the new Thanksgiving? Nick and Connor discuss.
Injuries are scaring the masses across the league, while old ghosts haunt Colorado (then lose), the Los Angeles Kings’ reign of terror is spooked, Mark Borowiecki is back again, Nick and Connor do their best to talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets and the thing that goes bump in the night? That’s the Tampa Bay Lightning thundering their way to the top. We also reviewed Bohemian Rhapsody before it comes out.
Hello Columbus Blue Jackets fans, I’m not Cap’n Cornelius, but since we know each other and I visited your wonderful city in August, I was determined to deliver some Blue Jackets forecasted stats throughout the season.
Alas, the regular season started almost a month ago, but I promised I’d have some forecasted stats for Columbus’ entire roster for the entire season by the end of the month and I have finally gotten around to it.
These things take time when you’re transferring data into a new system and trying to watch every game on TV, as well as exist on Earth among its people.
For now, let’s pretend the season hasn’t started or that we’ve all jumped into a time machine and gone back to October 1st. How would things play out for the Blue Jackets this season?
Based on last season’s results– a 45-30-7 record, good enough for 97 points on the season and 4th place in the Metropolitan Division as the first wild card team in the Eastern Conference– Columbus is poised for a bit of a bounce-back in the division standings.
Why? Because the other teams ahead of them got worse– namely the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
The Flyers are
off to their usual slow start (wait, I forgot, we’ve time travelled back to the beginning of October) just overall worse and the Capitals look to be dethroned by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan crown at the end of the regular season.
Last season’s Blue Jackets won two playoff games on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champions, then lost the next four games to extend Columbus’ misery as the only NHL franchise without a playoff series win.
That’s the major storyline to the Blue Jackets this year– will it be one last hurrah or will Panarin and/or Bobrovsky leave the city in the dust among the cornfields on its outskirts in what might become the franchise’s greatest departure(s) since trading Rick Nash to the New York Rangers in 2012?
If this season is a failure, is it head coach, John Tortorella’s fault, a roster problem or General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen‘s inability to construct the necessary components of a successful organization?
Critics will be sure to point out all the flaws that mar the franchise, but one thing’s for certain– there’s a lot of expectations.
One way to generate an unnecessary buzz about expectations is to believe your educated guesses about how players should perform this season makes any difference to what actually goes on the ice.
Fear not, for I am about to do just that.
Before I do, however, I’d like to remind those of you in the audience that are familiar with my roster forecasts before and inform those of you that are new here for the first time of my actual area of expertise.
It’s words. My degree is in communication.
There’s nothing that I will present here that you cannot do yourself, better and/or read anywhere else. All of this is an educated guess– an educated expectation– thanks to one of my sport management classes from college.
A player who performs better than their expected outcomes here is merely exceeding these presented expectations. A player who doesn’t meet the expectations could’ve been injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak that’s technically unpredictable.
Anything else is just an error outside my expertise and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault.
That, or there’s a little gut-feeling added for players with substantially fewer career NHL games played than the rest of the data shows (basically, if someone’s projected to score 100 goals and has only played in nine games, I might tweak the result until they’ve played a quarter of the season and have either proven themselves as Wayne Gretzky 2.0 or nothing like “the Great One”).
Take a look at the charts below as though everything were to fall in line and nothing bad could ever happen– an utopian view, if you will. Some things may pan out, some things may not– it’s just a suggested (expected) outcome in a sport that’s highly unpredictable thanks to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Columbus Blue Jackets Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
As has been the custom since his arrival via trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, Artemi Panarin is expected to lead the Blue Jackets in points with 30-49–79 expected totals. The next best player on the team? Cam Atkinson.
Atkinson’s bound for 27 goals and 24 assists (51 points) this season, while the third best forward on the team, Pierre-Luc Dubois, is expected to match his rookie season totals with another 48-point season, at least.
In the meantime several other forwards fall within the 40-point range, while free agent signing, Riley Nash isn’t expected to break into the 30-point plateau after amassing a career-high 41-point season with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.
Werenski’s expected totals tops Jones (9-28–37 expected totals) by seven points and is in a league of his own compared to his teammates on the blue line.
In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky is looking for redemption with an expected goals against average of 2.37 and an expected save percentage of .923 over the course of 2018-19. Backup netminder, Joonas Korpisalo seeks to provide healthy competition with an expected 2.68 GAA and .917 SV% prior to puck drop on the season.
Of course, now that we’re a month into the regular season, it’ll be time to update this entire forecast once Columbus is about a quarter of the way through their 82-game schedule.
Nick and Connor talk Alex Tuch’s extension with the Vegas Golden Knights, superstars Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, as well as Charlie McAvoy extension options, the New York Rangers, Boston’s first line vs. Colorado’s top line and the week’s biggest matchup.