Nick reacts to coaching changes, the draft lottery and the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs already in progress while providing an update.
The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The DTFR Duo breaks down Jimmy Howard’s one-year extension with the Detroit Red Wings, Gritty’s allegiance in the 2019 NHL Global Series, the New York Islanders’ bottom-six dilemma, Ilya Kovalchuk’s relationship with the Los Angeles Kings, more awards and a look at how things should stack up in the Metropolitan Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
Nick and Connor talk the latest trades, Torts drama (and latest record), Casey DeSmith’s extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as a tribute to the careers of Rick Nash and Josh Gorges who both announced their retirement this week.
Additionally, what’s up with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues this season and why can’t they just pick a side? Plus, it’s time to hand out awards for being slightly more than halfway through the 2018-19 regular season. #FlamingNotToFlamingHot
For the first time since Oct. 4-14th (2018), the Boston Bruins are on a four-game winning streak thanks to their, 2-1, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night.
Chris Wagner opened the game’s scoring for Boston in the first period before David Backes‘ eventual defactogame winning goal in the second frame, while Tuukka Rask (11-8-2 record, 2.55 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 21 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the win.
Rasmus Ristolainen had Buffalo’s only goal with 2:38 remaining in regulation.
Linus Ullmark (9-2-3, 2.69 GAA, .924 SV% in 15 GP) turned aside 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.
Boston improved to 24-14-4 (52 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 22-14-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic.
The B’s take on the Wild next Tuesday at home, while the Sabres head back to KeyBank Center to face the New Jersey Devils.
Minnesota comes to Boston on the second night of back-to-back road games with a stop in Montreal to face the Canadiens on Monday.
Saturday night was the final game of the regular season between the Bruins and the Sabres with Boston winning the season series, 2-1-1, and outscoring Buffalo, 11-7.
Jack Eichel (5-6–11 totals in 13 career games against the Bruins) was out of Buffalo’s lineup for the second straight game due to his ongoing injury (upper body).
Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, did not provide an update on when his captain would return, though he was scheduled to miss at least two games (Thursday against the Florida Panthers and Saturday in Boston).
Cassidy inserted Backes on the second line to the right side of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while keeping his first and fourth lines the same.
Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Ryan Donato were reunited on the third line with their stellar, youth-infused, chemistry that yielded a couple quality scoring chances, but nothing on the scoresheet Saturday night.
Boston’s defensive pairings were left untouched with Rask getting the start in net over Jaroslav Halak.
About 20 seconds into the first period, Wagner thought he had scored the game’s first goal after following up on a rebound and burying the puck in the back of the largely open net as Ullmark was pulled out of position.
Wagner’s goal was immediately waved off by the officials and deemed “no goal” on account of Sean Kuraly falling and barreling into Ullmark as Ullmark was pushing away from the center of the crease to deny Kuraly’s initial shot that generated the rebound for Wagner to cash in on in the first place.
Cassidy used his coach’s challenge for further review, but the call on the ice was confirmed and the score remained, 0-0, with the Bruins losing their timeout less than half-a-minute into the game.
Moments later, Remi Elie was penalized for interference at 6:32, sending Boston on their first power play of the night.
The B’s were not able to generate a successful offense on the skater advantage and the Sabres killed off Elie’s minor.
Past the halfway mark of the first period, Wagner (5) scored a goal that actually counted this time after Rasmus Dahlin turned the puck over to Noel Acciari and Acciari slid the puck to Wagner for the twine seeking missile.
Acciari (2) had the only assist on Wagner’s goal at 10:10 of the first period and the Bruins led, 1-0.
The goal was Wagner’s first in his first game since his grandfather’s passing, leaving some comfort for the Boston forward in the face of such a tremendous loss outside of the game.
Through one period of play, the B’s led, 1-0, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 13-10. The Sabres entered the first intermission with the lead in takeaways (7-3) and hits (16-10), while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (68-32).
Both teams had three blocked shots aside and seven giveaways each after 20 minutes of play and Boston was 0/1 on the power play.
A couple minutes into the second period, Backes (4) tallied a goal to make it, 2-0, Bruins on a rush the other way after Rask stopped a quality chance by Buffalo.
Backes sniped his shot past Ullmark’s glove side and rang the rear crossbar of the net at 2:00 of the second frame. Rask (1) had the only assist on the goal, giving the Bruins goaltending tandem four assists on the season.
After 40 minutes of play, Boston led by two goals and in shots on goal, 28-20, while the Sabres led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (18-8) and hits (22-21).
The B’s also led in face-off win% (63-37) heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, while both teams had eight giveaways each.
Buffalo did not convert on the skater advantage.
Moments later, Jake McCabe tripped Donato and Boston went back on the power play for the second time of the night at 12:39 of the third period. The B’s did not capitalize on the 5-on-4 advantage.
Late in the final frame, Rasmus Ristolainen (5) put a shot past Rask, high on the short-side, that was unassisted at 17:22 to make it a one-goal game and put the Sabres on the scoreboard, 2-1.
With about 1:44 remaining in regulation, Housley pulled Ullmark for an extra attacker, but it was too little too late– even after Buffalo used their only timeout after a stoppage with 1:17 left in the game.
The Sabres failed to register a shot on goal after Ristolainen’s goal as time expired and the Bruins won, 2-1.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-31) and face-off win% (56-44), while Buffalo ended the night leading in giveaways (16-8) and hits (32-26). Both teams had 11 blocked shots.
Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston finished 0/2 on the power play Saturday night.
The B’s improved to 14-3-2 when scoring first this season and take on the Wild on Tuesday at TD Garden before hosting the Washington Capitals next Thursday, then traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a one-game road trip to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs next Saturday.
Jack Eichel (2-2–4 totals) and Jeff Skinner (2-0–2) led the Buffalo Sabres past the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at TD Garden Sunday evening.
Linus Ullmark (7-1-3 record, 2.94 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 12 games played) made 35 saves on 37 shots against for a .946 SV% in the win, wile Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-7-2, 2.57 GAA, .915 SV% in 17 GP) turned aside 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in the loss.
Boston fell to 17-12-4 (38 points) on the season and remained 5th place in the Atlantic Division as a result, while the Sabres jumped past the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic with a 20-9-5 (25 points) record.
Prior to Sunday evening’s matchup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy provided updates on Jake DeBrusk, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Urho Vaakanainen.
DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup and out of practice, while Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Chara (knee, left MCL), Miller (larynx) and Vaakanainen (concussion) all skated Sunday morning.
Bergeron could join the full group for practice on Wednesday and may return sometime thereafter, while Chara is still a bit further off in his return to the lineup.
Cassidy kept the same lineup as the other night, meaning all of the injured B’s, plus Gemel Smith (healthy scratch) and Jeremy Lauzon (healthy scratch) would be watching the game from the press box.
Jaroslav Halak is likely to get the start in Montreal on Monday night with Rask having played Sunday against the Sabres.
Johan Larsson hooked David Pastrnak early in the first period, sending the Bruins on the power play at 3:47. Boston was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage and returned the favor for the Sabres about ten minutes later.
Joakim Nordstrom tripped up Conor Sheary at 13:33 of the first period and Buffalo went on the power play, but was not able to score as the B’s killed off Nordstrom’s infraction.
Moments later, Matt Hunwick tripped up Ryan Donato on a scoring opportunity, yielding the rare penalty shot for Donato.
Ullmark was unfazed by Donato’s deke and made the pad save as the Bruins forward approached the crease and lost an edge on the penalty shot.
After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, and the Bruins held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 12-10.
Boston also led in blocked shots (3-2), while the Sabres led in takeaways (8-6), giveaways (4-2), hits (11-7) and face-off win percentage (56-44).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.
Early in the second period, Buffalo’s first line went right to work on jumping ahead with the game’s first goal.
Jack Eichel worked the puck behind the net and sent a drop pass back to Jeff Skinner (23) for the top-shelf snipe as Rask went from one side of the net to the other.
Eichel (30) and Rasmus Dahlin (15) earned the assists on Skinner’s goal at 3:18 of the second period and the Sabres led, 1-0.
A couple minutes later, Steven Kampfer (1) responded for Boston, accepting a pass from Nordstrom and sending a wrist shot through the roof behind Ullmark to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:18.
Nordstrom (2) and David Backes (4) had the primary and secondary assists on Kampfer’s first goal in 48 games (and first with the Bruins since March 3, 2011).
After being burned by another early whistle for the second game in a row, the Bruins went into the dressing room for the second intermission tied with the Sabres, 1-1, and leading in shots on goal, 24-19.
Both teams had five blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (16-13) and face-off win% (53-47). The B’s led in giveaways (8-7) and hits (19-17) after 40 minutes of play.
For the second period in a row, the Sabres got off to a hot start with their first line generating a rush that sent Eichel into the attacking zone without any pressure from Boston’s blue liners.
Eichel (13) subsequently sent a wrist shot, high, glove-side past the Bruins netminder to give Buffalo their second lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:43 of the third period.
Sam Reinhart (22) and Dahlin (16) had the assists on the goal.
Past the midway point in the third period, Brendan Guhle was penalized for holding Pastrnak, resulting in Boston’s second power play of the night at 11:08.
With 39 seconds remaining on the power play and due to a stoppage in play, Cassidy used his only timeout to try to organize a plan on an otherwise powerless power play.
Though the timeout did not yield a goal on the skater advantage, shortly after it ended, Torey Krug (3) pinched in from the point on a play set up by David Krejci and blasted a shot past Ullmark to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:21 of the third period.
Krejci (23) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2) had the assists on Krug’s goal.
A few minutes later, Skinner (24) scored his second goal of the night thanks, in part, to another ridiculous move Eichel made entering the zone to throw-off Charlie McAvoy, while catching Matt Grzelcyk and Colby Cave out of position for Skinner to scoop up the loose puck and score.
Eichel (31) and Reinhart (23) had the assists at 16:29.
With 2:02 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Bruins couldn’t will a puck past Ullmark as time ticked down.
Krug rocketed a slap shot that was blocked by Zemgus Girgensons and the puck bounced out of the B’s offensive zone.
While in the neutral zone, Reinhart took a stab at the empty net, but was unsuccessful. Finally, Eichel (14) floated one into the vacant four-by-six frame for his second goal of the game and made it, 4-2, Sabres.
Reinhart (24) and Girgensons (5) had the assists at 19:35.
At the final horn, Buffalo completed the, 4-2, victory on the road and handed Boston its second loss in-a-row. The Sabres improved to 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.
The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-27), hits (27-23) and face-off win% (54-46), while Buffalo capped off the evening with the lead in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (11-10).
Boston finished the night 0/2 on the power play and last scored a power play goal in Ottawa on Dec. 9th, while Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins travel to Bell Centre for a Monday night matchup against the Montreal Canadiens before heading back home for a two-game homestand starting Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding Saturday against the Nashville Predators.
Boston wraps up their action before the Christmas break with a road game in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes next Sunday.
Carolina will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys as part of Whalers Night at PNC Arena.
We’re just over a week into December, I know, but let’s all hop in the time machine and take a retroactive look at how the rest of the season should pan out based on how the league standings were through November 30, 2018.
Things have started to cool in places around the league (like Carolina), while other clubs (like Buffalo) have heated up to become serious playoff contenders– so let’s take a look at how everything should shake out between now and the first couple of weeks of April.
There’s no guarantees with any forecast, but general indications start to get a little clearer once the season’s hit the quarter-mark and American Thanksgiving has come and gone.
Realistically, if your team is anywhere between 1st and 5th in your division, you’re in for the ride of your life still from now through the end of the regular season. If you’re 6th, 7th or 8th, well, it’s never too early to start thinking about the Draft lottery (plus the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship’s coming up at the end of the month, so that’s exciting too) or about how many games it would take to go on an incredibly hot streak and jump back into the playoff picture.
Without further ado, it’s time to glance around the league and breakdown some of the unforeseen circumstances that are yet to come.
Projected Standings After Two Months
- y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 108 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Boston Bruins, 104 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 101 points (26 GP so far)
- wc1-Buffalo Sabres, 91 points (27 GP so far)
- Montreal Canadiens, 91 points (25 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 85 points (25 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 84 points (24 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 83 points (26 GP so far)
The Tampa Bay Lightning rightfully lay claim to the crown as the leader of the Atlantic Division at regular season’s end. It doesn’t matter that Steven Stamkos has yet to record a point in six career Game 7s. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point on a line of their own. They don’t even need Stamkos.
Just kidding, they still do, because that other No. 91 signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the offseason and just think how explosive a playoff matchup of Tampa and Toronto could be in the Battle of John Tavares Signed Where Leafs Fans Wanted Steven Stamkos To Sign Just A Couple Of Offseasons Ago, But Didn’t Because He Stayed With The Lightning.
You know it’s going to happen.
Actually, in the latest forecast entering December, the Boston Bruins slide out of the top spot, because injuries continue to plague their season. However, if they can recover to full health, there’s a good chance they might usurp the Maple Leafs and finish 2nd in the division, unlike what current standings dictate.
But regaining full health is a major stipulation and part of the reason why– while Toronto is 3rd in this forecast– there’s a good chance the Bruins might (probably will) slip further as January’s forecast nears.
This is about the time where it’s important to note the overarching focus on this forecast should be on where each team is positioned and how close in points they are to those above and below before placing any concrete emphasis on how things play out from now through the first week of April 2019.
The Buffalo Sabres make the biggest gain in the Atlantic Division, jumping up four spots in the division standings from the basement to 4th place and a playoff berth (albeit a wild card spot).
The Sabres 10-game winning streak– combined with the additions of Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner in the offseason– proved to be a season-defining stretch of games as Buffalo returns to Stanley Cup Playoff action for the first time since 2011 (despite the current 0-3-2 run in their last five games).
On the outside looking in, the Montreal Canadiens slipped a spot and might be a pretender– especially if Carey Price (11-8-4 record, 2.92 goals against average, .902 save percentage in 23 games played) continues to struggle. To his credit, his GAA is under three now, so there’s that.
The Detroit Red Wings gained some traction with the ongoing lack of focus in Ottawa Senators video reviews and the Florida Panthers injuries.
- p-Washington Capitals, 108 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 99 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 98 points (24 GP so far)
- wc2-New York Rangers, 92 points (26 GP so far)
- New York Islanders, 90 points (24 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points (25 GP so far)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 86 points (24 GP so far)
- New Jersey Devils, 81 points (24 GP so far)
The Washington Capitals remain in control of the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in tow.
Of course, Columbus and Pittsburgh are worth keeping a close eye on as the Blue Jackets have been all over the place near the top and the Penguins have yet to be in playoff position since– actually, pretty much never so far this season.
Plus there’s the whole “second-half of the season surge” we’re still waiting to see from Mike Sullivan’s bunch. That’ll almost assure Pittsburgh of a playoff berth, if not in a divisional spot, at least.
The New York Rangers gained two spots since entering November, which means the rebuild’s over!
Look how close the Rangers, New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes are forecasted to be in points. Even the Philadelphia Flyers have a chance– mathematically speaking, of course.
The battle for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is going to come down to one of the teams in the Big Apple and Carolina, especially since the rest of the division lacks clarity.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils are in the dumps. Taylor Hall isn’t a flash in the pan, but the rest of the Devils are, it appears.
- z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Minnesota Wild, 98 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points (24 GP so far)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- wc2-Dallas Stars, 90 points (26 GP so far)
- St. Louis Blues, 88 points (24 GP so far)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (26 GP so far)
Both the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild remain in the 1-2 spots in the latest forecast. Despite the current hot streak from the Calgary Flames, the Predators are going to be the best team in the conference by the end of the regular season.
The Winnipeg Jets are starting to become like the Penguins under Sullivan’s reign in that Paul Maurice is bound to lead his team to a second-half of the season surge into a divisional spot (or higher).
Of course, there’s always a wild card– both in the literal wild card berth and dark horse standpoint– and that’s the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs have a great chance at jumping up into a divisional spot, since they’ve gained three positions from the previous forecast entering November to the current forecast entering December. The fact of the matter is the Avalanche are a playoff contender– like last season– but with the added improvement of having built on last season’s experience.
Then there’s the Dallas Stars, who might find themselves landing in a wild card position by circumstance (have you even seen the Pacific Division?) and by luck in Jim Montgomery’s first season behind the bench.
Towards the cellar of the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are bad, but not as bad as they are currently, which isn’t great news if you’re trying to lose for Jack Hughes.
But if you’re a Blues fan who hates rivals more than losing, there’s a positive takeaway– the Chicago Blackhawks are destined to finished last in the Central. They’re bad. Very bad.
- y-San Jose Sharks, 97 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 97 points (28 GP so far)
- x-Calgary Flames, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- Vegas Golden Knights, 85 points (27 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (25 GP so far)
- Los Angeles Kings, 79 points (26 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points (24 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 78 points (28 GP so far)
The San Jose Sharks’ grasp on the Pacific Division is loosening as the Anaheim Ducks are heating up as one of the hottest teams out west– and that’s not including the one with fire in their name.
San Jose should– should— hit their stride at some point and have everything click into place, but if they don’t the Ducks are hot on their tail. How close? Close enough to show there’s no difference in their forecast total points in the standings by the end of the regular season.
The Sharks could be first or they could be second. Perhaps the Calgary Flames have something to say about that.
It’s anybody’s game in the Pacific Division playoff berths, but one thing’s for sure, there’s not going to be a wild card team coming out of the Pacific.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, that means they’re really going to have to soar and never let their foot off the gas. Vegas only survived so much without Nate Schmidt in the lineup on their blue line– they can’t afford any more major bumps in the road.
The Edmonton Oilers have Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and while they might appear to be gaining ground, they’re sure to be just outside of the playoff window looking in like how Hitchcock’s Stars were last season. Just wait for the implosion.
In the bottom three, the Los Angeles Kings might not be as terrible as they have been if 1) Marco Sturm gets named head coach and Willie Desjardins’ interim basis comes to a close and 2) the Kings light a fire under their grizzled veterans and revive whatever’s left of them this season.
The Arizona Coyotes are on par with how Arizona’s been the last few seasons. Not great, but not terrible and sometimes downtrodden due to injury.
The hype surrounding the Vancouver Canucks in October and early November was just that– hype. No amount of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser can compensate for the holes on the blue line and lack of goaltending. It’s almost as if Canucks General Manager Jim Benning has been living a Groundhog Day career from year-to-year with Vancouver.
Their offense is good, their defense is suspect and their goaltending isn’t starter quality.
The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.
Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.
Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?