Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Forbort scores pair in, 5-2, win for Boston

Derek Forbort notched his first career two-goal game and earned his second career game-winning goal in the process, while leading the Boston Bruins to a, 5-2, win over the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Linus Ullmark (4-3-0, 2.86 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in seven games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the win for Boston.

Philadelphia goaltender, Martin Jones (3-2-0, 2.82 goals-against average, .920 save percentage in five games played), stopped 39 out of 44 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 9-5-0 (18 points) on the season and remain 5th in the Atlantic Division, while the Flyers fell to 8-5-3 (19 points) overall and stuck in 4th place in the Metropolitan Division.

As a result of Saturday night’s win, the B’s are now 1-1-0 against Philadelphia this season and will face the Flyers once more in the 2021-22 regular season schedule on Jan. 13th at TD Garden.

Trent Frederic (upper body) remained out of the lineup for Boston, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lines with Craig Smith and Curtis Lazar returning to action.

Smith took to the third line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and Erik Haula at center, while Lazar was inserted on the fourth line right wing with Anton Blidh to the left of Tomáš Nosek.

On defense, Mike Reilly was back after serving as a healthy scratch in Boston’s, 5-2, victory over the Montréal Canadiens last Sunday.

Reilly suited up on the left side of the third defensive pairing with Jakub Zboril as his partner and Connor Clifton joining Karson Kuhlman in the press box on the short list of healthy scratches for the Bruins.

Oskar Steen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Monday.

Taylor Hall tripped up Claude Giroux to present the Flyers with their first power play of the night at 4:36 of the first period, but Philadelphia wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, Giroux tripped Brandon Carlo and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the evening at 10:19.

The Bruins even had a 5-on-3 advantage for 12 seconds when Justin Braun tripped David Pastrnak at 12:07, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on either power play.

Late in the period, Lazar went deep on a forecheck and ensured that a puck chipped in from Matt Grzelcyk would find its way onto another Bruins skater’s stick.

Blidh sent a quick pass to Nosek from the trapezoid to the slot where Nosek (2) elevated a backhand shot under the bar from close range to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0, at 18:25 of the first period.

Blidh (2) and Lazar (3) tallied the assists on Nosek’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and outshot the Flyers, 21-8.

The B’s also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2) and hits (9-7), while Philly led in blocked shots (3-1), giveaways (4-2) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

Philadelphia was 0/1 on the power play, while Boston was 0/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

It didn’t take the Bruins long to extend their lead to two-goals as Forbort (3) sent a blast from the point that may have tipped off of Braun’s stick and floated over Jones’ blocker side to make it, 2-0, 30 seconds into the second period.

Brad Marchand (12) and Pastrnak (10) recorded the assists on Forbort’s first goal of the night.

Less than a minute later, however, Boston gave up a goal as Cam Atkinson won a race to a loose puck in the trapezoid and bounced a shot off of Ullmark before Derick Brassard (3) scooped up the rebound goal while crashing the net– cutting Boston’s lead in half.

Atkinson (3) and Rasmus Ristolainen (4) had the assists on the goal and the Flyers trailed, 2-1, at 1:22 of the second period.

About a couple minutes later, Forbort tripped Joel Farabee and was sent to the penalty box at 3:42, but Philadelphia wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Marchand cut a rut to the sin bin after a post-whistle scrum resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction at 8:30.

It didn’t take the Flyers long to convert on the power play as Brassard (4) received a pass that deflected off of Lazar’s stick and buried a catch and release goal– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Giroux (8) and Ivan Provorov (4) tabbed the assists on Brassard’s power-play goal at 9:25 of the second period.

About a minute later, Charlie McAvoy took exception to Farabee’s aggressive play and the two exchanged fisticuffs– yielding five-minute majors for fighting at 10:32, as a result.

Late in the period, Smith setup Forbort (4) for a snap shot over Jones’ glove and under the bar to put Boston ahead, 3-2, on what became the eventual game-winning goal.

Smith (1) and DeBrusk (2) had the assists on Forbort’s second goal of the game as the Bruins defender doubled his career-high goals in a season (four) in just his 14th game with Boston at 16:27 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 34-19, including a, 13-11, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston led in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (5-4), hits (25-18) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.

Philadelphia was 1/3 on the power play, while the Bruins remained 0/2 on the skater advantage entering the final frame.

Early in the final frame, Haula fed Smith with a lead pass into the zone before Smith (1) beat Jones on the short side to give Boston another two-goal lead.

Haula (2) and DeBrusk (3) tallied the assists on Smith’s first goal of the season and the Bruins led, 4-2, at 1:28 of the third period.

Oskar Lindblom was sent to the sin bin for hooking at 4:11, but Boston’s power play didn’t last long as Patrice Bergeron cut a rut in Lindblom’s wake with a hooking infraction of his own at 4:29.

After a span of 1:42 at 4-on-4, the Flyers had an abbreviated power play, but couldn’t muster anything past Ullmark.

Carlo went to the box for tripping Brassard at 11:54 and Philadelphia was set to begin a power play on an offensive zone faceoff– except Brassard got thrown out before the draw, so Giroux glided in to take the faceoff against Bergeron, but then the resulting redo was botched.

Bergeron might have accidentally nudged the linesman, but officials on the ice determined it was Giroux– for some unexplained reason– that had committed a faceoff violation and (seeing as it was Philadelphia’s second violation on the same faceoff) resulted in an automatic bench minor for delay of game.

Giroux protested to no avail as Zack MacEwen skated to the box at 11:54– negating Philly’s power play for 4-on-4 action instead.

Less than a minute later, Pastrnak sent a pass back to Zboril in the attacking zone whereby Zboril was patient with the puck before giving it back to his fellow Czechia native.

Pastrnak (5) then held the rubber biscuit while cutting through the slot before wrapping the puck high behind Jones’ glove into the open twine.

Zboril (2) and Charlie Coyle (4) were credited with the assists as the Bruins took a, 5-2, lead at 12:47 of the third period.

Finally, in the last entry on the event sheet for the night, Forbort hooked MacEwen and was assessed a minor infraction at 14:20, but the Flyers couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 44-31, despite trailing Philadelphia, 12-10, in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins exited the building leading in blocked shots (9-8), giveaways (7-5), hits (33-29) and faceoff win% (51-49).

The Flyers finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while the B’s left Wells Fargo Center 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Boston improved to 7-3-0 (3-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 7-0-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 6-1-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, dropped to 2-5-1 (1-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 1-3-1 (1-2-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-4-2 (0-2-1 on home ice) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins return home on Sunday to host the Calgary Flames before hitting the road to face the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center next Wednesday (Nov. 24th) prior to closing out November with a three-game homestand including next Friday’s (Nov. 26th) matinee matchup with the New York Rangers– which will air nationally on ABC at 1 p.m. ET as part of the 2021 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Flyers ground Bruins in, 6-3, loss on the road

Despite outshooting the Philadelphia Flyers, 40-25, the Boston Bruins lost, 6-3, on the road at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night in front of a national TV audience in their first regular season matchup on TNT.

Martin Jones (1-0-0, 3.00 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in one game played) made 37 saves on 40 shots against en route to the win in his Flyers debut.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Swayman (1-1-0, 3.03 goals-against average, .885 save percentage in two games played) stopped 19 out of 24 shots faced for Boston in the loss.

Cam Atkinson had a pair of goals, while Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Derick Brassard and Keith Yandle each had a pair of points in Philadelphia’s victory.

The Bruins fell to 1-1-0 (two points) on the season and remain 7th in the Atlantic Division standings, while Philly improved to 2-0-1 (five points) and jumped into a three-way tie for 2nd in the Metropolitan Division.

Once again, Curtis Lazar (upper body) was out of the lineup for Boston as head coach, Bruce Cassidy, declined to make any adjustments to his group of forwards and defenders after opening the season with a, 3-1, win against the Dallas Stars last Saturday.

As such, John Moore, Jakub Zboril and Anton Blidh joined Lazar in the press box as healthy scratches.

As a result of the loss, the Bruins are 0-1-0 against the Flyers so far this season. Boston went 6-1-1 against Philadelphia in 2020-21, and 1-0-2 against Philly in 2019-20.

Atkinson (2) kicked things off on a 2-on-1, where instead of passing the puck, he faked a pass and fired a shot off of Swayman’s glove side and into the twine to give the Flyers a, 1-0, lead.

Brassard (3) and Justin Braun (2) tallied the assists on Atkinson’s first goal of the game at 8:08 of the first period.

Moments later, Rasmus Ristolainen cut a rut to the penalty box for interference away from the rubber biscuit as he tied up and took down Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, at 13:52.

Boston’s ensuing power play couldn’t get anything going on the skater advantage, but took advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Trent Frederic sent a shot inadvertently off of a Philadelphia defender before Karson Kuhlman (1) sent the rolling puck under Jones’ blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Frederic (1) and Tomas Nosek (1) notched the assists on Kuhlman’s goal at 16:48.

Less than a couple of minutes later, however, Charlie Coyle tripped up Travis Sanheim and was sent to the sin bin with a minor infraction at 18:25.

Philadelphia didn’t waste too much time on the ensuing skater advantage as Ryan Ellis sent a shot from the point off of Brassard before Farabee (3) banked it in off of Swayman’s paddle while the B’s netminder reached in desperation for the puck.

Farabee’s power-play goal put the Flyers back on top, 2-1, at 19:51 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins trailed, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite leading in shots on goal, 10-7.

Philadelphia held the advantage in blocked shots (10-6), takeaways (3-1), giveaways (6-1), hits (13-9) and faceoff win percentage (60-40) after 20 minutes.

Philly was 1/1 on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Yandle sent a dump pass off the endboards indirectly to James van Riemsdyk whereby No. 25 on the Flyers flung a shot on goal that rebounded to Scott Laughton in the slot.

Laughton (1) capitalized on the errant puck and hit the twine to give Philadelphia a two-goal lead, 3-1, at 1:58 of the second period.

van Riemsdyk (2) and Yandle (5) were credited with the assists.

Almost midway through the middle period, Charlie McAvoy sent Taylor Hall up through the neutral zone into the attacking zone on a breakaway whereby Hall (1) beat Jones with an elevated shot under the bar on Jones’ glove side.

McAvoy (1) had the only assist on Hall’s first goal of the season as Boston pulled to within one– trailing, 3-2, at 8:38 of the second period.

With about a minute left on the clock until the second intermission, McAvoy worked the puck low into the attacking zone to David Pastrnak behind the net.

Pastrnak wrapped the rubber biscuit around the goal frame before slipping the puck through the crease to Brad Marchand (3) for a bit of slight redirection goal, tying the game, 3-3, in the process.

Pastrnak (2) and McAvoy (2) notched the assists at 19:00.

With a pair of assists on the night, McAvoy reached a career milestone of 100 assists in 237 career NHL games since making his league debut with the Bruins in the 2017-18 season.

Doesn’t sound too bad for a defender that just signed an eight-year extension worth $9.500 million per season that starts next season.

Through 40 minutes of action, the game was tied, 3-3, despite Boston outshooting the Flyers, 28-17, including an, 18-10, advantage in the second period alone.

Philadelphia, however, still dominated in just about everything else, including blocked shots (17-15), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (9-4) and hits (24-19), while both teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.

As there were no penalties called in the middle frame, the Flyers remained 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were still 0/1.

Less than a minute into the final frame, Farabee set up Atkinson (3) for a one-timed redirection goal past Swayman’s pad to give the Flyers the advantage on the scoreboard once more.

Farabee (3) had the only assists on what turned out to be the game-winning goal 58 seconds into the third period as Philadelphia emerged with a, 4-3, lead.

Midway through the final period, Couturier dropped a pass back to Travis Konecny (3) for an easy shot over Swayman’s glove and under the bar from about mid-range.

Couturier (3) and Claude Giroux (1) had the assists as the Flyers pulled ahead, 5-3, at 11:17 of the third.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins tweeted that forward, Nick Foligno, would not return to Wednesday night’s action with an upper-body injury.

Late in the period, Brandon Carlo took a roughing minor and was sent to the box at 17:43.

With 1:18 remaining in the action, Swayman vacated his crease for an extra attacker while shorthanded.

Yandle worked the puck to Couturier (1) who flung a clearing attempt towards the empty net for the empty net power-play goal– sealing the deal on Philadelphia’s, 6-3, victory at 19:01 of the third period.

Yandle (5) had the only assist on Couturier’s goal from way downtown where Ben Simmons normally misses three pointers– further than that really.

At the final horn, the Flyers had won, 6-3, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 40-25.

Boston held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone (12-8), while Philadelphia left their own building leading in blocked shots (23-18), giveaways (12-6), hits (35-32) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Flyers went 2/2 on the power play on Wednesday, while the Bruins went 0/1.

The B’s fell to 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 0-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 1-1-0 (0-1-0 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

Philly, meanwhile, improved to 2-0-1 (2-0-1 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 2-0-1 (2-0-1 at home) when leading after the first period and 1-0-0 (1-0-0 at home) when tied after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins wrap up their two-game road trip on Friday at KeyBank Center against the Buffalo Sabres before returning home on Sunday to host the San Jose Sharks.

The B’s travel again for another two-game road trip next week on Wednesday at FLA Live Arena against the Florida Panthers and Thursday at PNC Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes before closing out the month of October at home against the Panthers on next Saturday (Oct. 30th).

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 25-23-8, 55 points

6th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Cam Atkinson (acquired from CBJ), F Derick Brassard, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Gerry Mayhew, F Nate Thompson, D Adam Clendening, D Ryan Ellis (acquired from NSH), D Rasmus Ristolainen (acquired from BUF), D Nick Seeler, D Keith Yandle, D Cooper Zech, G Martin Jones

Subtractions: F David Kase (ELH), F Pascal Laberge (signed with Maine Mariners, ECHL), F Nolan Patrick (traded to NSH, flipped to VGK), F Carsen Twarynski (expansion, SEA), F Jakub Voracek (traded to CBJ), D Chris Bigras (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, AHL), D Shayne Gostisbehere (traded to ARI), D Robert Hagg (traded to BUF), D Philippe Myers (traded to NSH), D Matt Niskanen (retired prior to 2020-21, contract officially expired), D Derrick Pouliot (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), G Brian Elliott (signed with TBL), G Alex Lyon (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Andy Andreoff, D Nate Prosser, D Tyler Wotherspoon

Re-signed: F Connor Bunnaman, F German Rubstov, F Linus Sandin, D Samuel Morin, D Travis Sanheim, G Carter Hart, G Felix Sandström

Offseason Analysis: Not satisfied with their disappointing 2020-21 performance, Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, knew something would have to change.

Jakub Voracek broke into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008-09 season after the Blue Jackets drafted him in the 1st round (7th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft and spent three seasons in Columbus before being packaged with a 2011 1st round pick and a 2011 3rd round pick in a trade with Philadelphia for Jeff Carter on June 23, 2011.

In 968 career NHL games, Voracek has 214-520–734 totals, including 601 points (176 goals and 425 assists) in 727 games with the Flyers from 2011-21.

That 2011 1st round pick became Sean Couturier and the 3rd round pick was used to select Nick Cousins as Philadelphia was one-year removed from making the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Adding Voracek was to provide a spark for a player in need of a change of scenery and provide Philly’s top-six forward group with a better fit.

After serving primarily as a playmaker for a decade of waffling in and out of the playoffs, the Flyers dealt Voracek back to Columbus for Cam Atkinson, who proudly wore his wife’s Gritty t-shirt in his introductory Zoom with media members after the trade on July 24th.

Atkinson joins Philadelphia after amassing 213-189–402 totals in 627 games with the Blue Jackets since the 2011-12 season after Columbus drafted him in the 6th round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

But that’s not the only trade that Fletcher made to supplment his new-age core as Couturier, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov and their teammates seek the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship since 1975.

Fletcher kicked the summer off by trading Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick to the Nashville Predators for defender, Ryan Ellis, on July 17th.

Nashville flipped Patrick after the deal in a separate trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, while Philadelphia added Ellis to bolster their top-four defenders.

For the first time in his career this October, Ellis will don a uniform that isn’t Predators marigold, but rather Flyers orange.

After being drafted in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2009, by Nashville, Ellis emerged in the 2011-12 season, putting up 3-8–11 totals in 32 games as he broke into the league. Since then, he’s produced 270 points (75 goals, 195 assists) in 562 games from parts of the 2011-12 season through 2020-21.

Due to an upper body injury, Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and only had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) from the blue line, but his ability to move the puck out of his own zone and start a rush is important as the Flyers try to balance out Provorov’s prowess with someone that can keep up on his pairing.

Five days after acquiring Ellis, Fletcher dumped Shayne Gostisbehere’s $4.500 million cap hit in the Arizona desert with a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 7th round pick also going to the Coyotes for future considerations to make room for Ellis’ $6.250 million cap hit through the 2026-27 season.

Then Fletcher did something unprompted and– depending if you’re a Flyers fan or not– unhinged as he made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, though not for Jack Eichel as Philly fans can only dream of to compete with Couturier for the first line center job, while Hayes would likely be demoted to the third line.

Rather, the Flyers traded Robert Hagg’s $1.600 million cap hit, a 2021 1st round pick (14th overall, Isak Rosén) and a 2023 2nd round pick to the Sabres for Rasmus Ristolainen and his $5.400 million cap hit on July 23rd.

Hagg managed 2-3–5 totals and was a minus-3 in 34 games last season with Philadelphia, while Ristolainen had 4-14–18 totals in 49 games and, uh, was a minus-18 to match Buffalo’s 18-game losing streak at one point last season.

Some would argue the points are an upgrade, but at what cost when it seems to be live by the sword, die by the sword.

Then Fletcher acquired Atkinson and free agency began on July 28th.

Seeking veteran experience to aid the younger players in making a long run, Fletcher signed Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard and took a chance on Martin Jones, while also brining back Nate Thompson for another stint with the Flyers in the bottom-six.

Yandle was bought out by the Florida Panthers and can command a power-play unit while not having missed a game since the 2008-09 season.

He had 3-24–27 totals with the Panthers after Joel Quenneville utilized him as an afterthought and nearly scratched the 35-year-old defender.

Brassard earned a one-year, $825,000 contract late in the summer on Aug. 25th as a low-risk, high-reward move as a recent league-journeyman that had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 53 games with Arizona last season after a career-resurgence with the New York Islanders (32 points in 66 games) in 2019-20.

At the very least, he’ll give Philadelphia depth down the middle in the top-nine.

Jones, meanwhile, was bought out by the San Jose Sharks and is looking to salvage whatever’s left of his career as the presumptive backup to Carter Hart on a one-year, $2.000 million contract.

The 31-year-old Canadian goaltender went 15-13-4 in 34 games last season and had a 3.28 goals-against average, as well as an .896 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Brian Elliott departed for the Tampa Bay Lightning– replacing Curtis McElhinney as the Bolts’ backup.

McElhinney went 4-6-2 in 12 games last season for Tampa and had a 3.09 goals-against average as well as an .875 save percentage and one shutout.

Elliott had a 15-9-2 record in 30 games last season and sustained a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in that span with the Flyers.

Hart, meanwhile, had a disastrous run.

In 27 games played, the 23-year-old netminder went 9-11-5, had one shutout and amassed a 3.67 goals-against average, as well as an .877 save percentage– one season removed from going 24-13-3 in 43 games with a 2.42 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20.

He earned a three-year extension worth $3.979 per season as a bridge contract with a lot to prove to get back to his once promising form.

Finally, Fletcher locked down Couturier and Farabee with long-term extensions that won’t begin until the 2022-23 season.

Couturier’s earned an eight-year deal worth $7.750 million per season, while Farabee’s nailed a six-year contract with a $5.000 million cap hit– presenting the Flyers with their greatest challenge yet– being tight against the cap and having high expectations.

Offseason Grade: B

It kind of feels like a “make or break” year for Philadelphia, even though there’s no way of really knowing what’s in store for the Flyers.

Fletcher made some admirable moves signing veterans that Philly could use in top-nine or specialty roles, but it’s also a risk to take on Jones while Hart is already on shaky ground heading into the 2021-22 season.

If the ghost of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers uniform is to be kept out of Wells Fargo Center, then Philadelphia’s going to need to hope their goaltending coach is ready with a plan that’s different from whatever happened last season.

Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault, can bring immediate success to an organization and make them hard to play against, but he tends to carry a time limit in the modern NHL as the game continues to evolve.

With about $381,500 left in cap space entering this season, Philadelphia had to move out at least one big contract in favor of something smaller– though they’ve taken on Ellis with term and Giroux is due for an extension unless he decides to walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

The Flyers may have almost $15.6 million to spend next offseason, but they need to show forward progress, if not win now.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Buffalo Sabres 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 15-34-7, 37 points

8th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the 10th-straight year

Additions: F John Hayden, F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Will Butcher (acquired from NJD), D Robert Hagg (acquired from PHI), D Ethan Prow, G Craig Anderson, G Aaron Dell, G Devon Levi (acquired from FLA)

Subtractions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea (signed with MTL), F Steven Fogarty (signed with BOS), F Sam Reinhart (traded to FLA), F C.J. Smith (signed with CAR), D Will Borgen (expansion, SEA), D Matt Irwin (signed with WSH), D Jake McCabe (signed with CHI), D Casey Nelson (retired), D Rasmus Ristolainen (traded to PHI), G Michael Houser (signed with Rochester, AHL), G Carter Hutton (signed with ARI), G Stefanos Lekkas (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), G Linus Ullmark (signed with BOS)

Still Unsigned: F Dawson Dipietro, F Casey Mittelstadt (RFA), F Tobias Rieder, F Riley Sheahan, D Rasmus Dahlin (RFA), D Henri Jokiharju (RFA)

Re-signed: F Rasmus Asplund, D Brandon Davidson, D Casey Fitzgerald

Offseason Analysis: Apparently the Buffalo Sabres have never heard the phrase “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” except in this case it’s not even about making the playoffs– it has everything to do with the makeup of their roster this offseason.

For starters, the 1st overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Owen Power, is sticking around at the University of Michigan for another season, which is honestly for the better. He can develop as a defender at his own pace and avoid wracking up an insurmountable minus-rating.

When it seemed like Sabres General Manager, Kevyn Adams, could count on somebody, anybody, wanting to stay in Buffalo, well…

Turns out after an 18-game losing streak last season, a lot of players don’t want to be back.

After a disastrous 2020-21 season that featured six goaltenders making at least one appearance in a Sabres uniform, including Linus Ullmark, Michael Houser, Carter Hutton, Dustin Tokarski, Jonas Johansson and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Adams was left with some difficult decisions to make as only one goaltender recorded a goals-against average below a 3.00.

Ullmark had the only winning record for the Sabres last season– amassing a 9-6-3 record in 20 games, while posting a 2.63 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in that span.

He was interested in signing an extension during the season, despite Buffalo’s defensive struggles and offensive inefficiency, but the Sabres wouldn’t budge and opted to kick the can down the road for a renewal in the offseason.

Adams didn’t want contract negotiations to distract his only productive goaltender, it seemed.

That didn’t sit well with Ullmark, though, as the Boston Bruins courted him away on a four-year contract worth $20 million shortly after Hutton departed Buffalo for the Arizona Coyotes on a one-year, $750,000 deal earlier in the day when free agency opened on July 28th.

Going into free agency, the Sabres could afford to lose Hutton as he struggled through 13 games in 2020-21, with a 3.47 goals-against average, an .886 save percentage and a 1-10-1 record in that span.

Hutton never really made the jump from being a backup with the St. Louis Blues to being a legitimate starting goaltender for Buffalo, but with Luukkonen as the “goaltender of the future” for the franchise, Adams probably thought he could lose Hutton and keep Ullmark around for the transition of power in the crease– until they couldn’t.

With Hutton and Ullmark now out of the picture, Adams passed on re-signing Houser, who made his NHL debut and played similar to Hutton in that he had a 3.46 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage– though Houser had a better record (2-2-0) in four games played.

Houser will still be in upstate New York for the 2021-22 season, though, as he signed an AHL contract with the Rochester Americans.

Johansson was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche ahead of the trade deadline and Tokarski couldn’t hold things down in the NHL, but still has a year left on his contract with the Sabres.

The Seattle Kraken landed Philipp Grubauer. The Avalanche traded for Darcy Kuemper. Toronto and Carolina swapped goaltenders even though it wasn’t a trade– it was just a product of free agency!

But don’t worry, the Sabres didn’t forget to sign a goalie in the offseason– they actually remembered to sign two goaltenders.

Both received one-year deals worth $750,000 and one of them put off retirement to play for Buffalo.

That’s right, Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell are the new guys in the crease for the Sabres for 2021-22.

At 40-years-old, Anderson isn’t as limber as he used to be, but he managed to put up a 2-1-0 record in four games played with the Washington Capitals last season. He also had a 2.13 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in that span.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Dell had a rough time rotating as the third-string goaltender with the New Jersey Devils last season– amassing a 1-5-0 record in seven games and a 4.14 goals-against average, as well as an .857 save percentage.

Given the league’s COVID-19 protocols and taxi squad rules for last season, both goalies were a safety net option in the event of an injury or COVID-19 outbreak.

The two goaltenders played a combined 11 games last season in a 56-game schedule and that’s the only big story out of the Sabres this offseason.

Yep. Nothing else going on between the end of 2020-21 and the start of 2021-22.

Surely Jack Eichel is happy with– wait, what?

That’s right, Buffalo still has to work on trading Eichel– their once cornerstone player turned injured and fed up modern-day Matt Duchene at the end of his tenure with Colorado saga (part 2, kind of).

Plus, Adams shipped out Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers and Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers via trades this offseason.

Reinhart became a casualty of a rebuilding team still going through another rebuild, but at least the Panthers gave Buffalo a 2022 1st round pick and goaltending prospect, Devon Levi, in return.

Ristolainen had been wanting out of Buffalo for at least a year or two now and finally got his wish, while helping the Sabres rob the Flyers of a 2021 1st round pick (Isak Rosén), a 2023 2nd round pick and defender, Robert Hagg.

Draft day trades and free agent defenders went for a premium this year.

The Sabres also added Will Butcher and a 2022 5th round pick in a salary cap dump move from the Devils in exchange for future considerations while New Jersey went on to sign Dougie Hamilton to a long-term deal in free agency.

Butcher should be an upgrade on the blue line (think Colin Miller, but better), though there’s not much else around him– especially with Rasmus Dahlin still waiting on a new contract.

Offseason Grade: D

The Sabres should receive an “F” for not having cashed in on Eichel yet, but the return on Reinhart and Ristolainen in separate trades is promising.

At the very least, Adams knows he can command a high-value yield for young players that have shown NHL-caliber talent (at the very least) and are in demand– albeit Ristolainen in Philadelphia is a reclamation project, but we’ll save that for the Flyers preview.

Since Eichel is a star player, Buffalo automatically loses out on an inevitable trade, but anything less than what they got for Reinhart or Ristolainen is worthy of firing Adams this early in his tenure as GM.

Nothing– absolutely nothing– went well for the Sabres last season. An 18-game losing streak will do that to you.

The good news is that it appears they’ve reached rock bottom. The bad news is that they could still be at rock bottom this season.

Buffalo can only go up, but it’s a question of when.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

2021 NHL Entry Draft Round 1 Recap

Round 1 of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft was held virtually Friday night for the second-straight year as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic delayed the league’s plans for a draft at Bell Centre in Montréal until 2022 at the earliest.

Coverage of this year’s first round began Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. ET on NHLN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada.

As always, there were plenty of surprises and (possibly) a lack of trades. Here’s how it all went down.

2021 NHL Entry Draft Round 1

1.Buffalo Sabres –>  D Owen Power, Michigan (NCAA)

2. Seattle Kraken –> C Matthew Beniers, Michigan (NCAA)

3. Anaheim Ducks –> C Mason McTavish, Peterborough Petes (OHL)

4. New Jersey Devils –> D Luke Hughes, USA-U18 (USHL)

5. Columbus Blue Jackets –> C Kent Johnson, Michigan (NCAA)

6. Detroit Red Wings –> D Simon Edvinsson, Frölunda HC (SHL)

7. San Jose Sharks –> LW William Eklund, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

8. Los Angeles Kings –> D Brandt Clarke, Barrie Colts (OHL)

9. Arizona Coyotes (from Vancouver Canucks) –> RW Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

10. Ottawa Senators –> RW Tyler Boucher, USA-U18 (USHL)

11. Arizona Coyotes –> Forfeited pick

12. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Chicago) –> C Cole Sillinger, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)

13. Calgary Flames –> RW Matthew Coronato, Chicago Steel (USHL)

14. Buffalo Sabres (from Philadelphia Flyers) –> RW Isak Rosen, Leksands IF (SHL)

15. Detroit Red Wings (from Dallas Stars) –> G Sebastian Cossa, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

16. New York Rangers –> LW Brennan Othmann, EHC Olten (Swiss League)

17. St. Louis Blues –> C Zachary Bolduc, Rimouski Océanic (QMJHL)

18. Winnipeg Jets –> C Chaz Lucius, USA-U18 (USHL)

19. Nashville Predators –> C Fedor Svechkov, HC Lada Togliatti (VHL)

20. Minnesota Wild (from Edmonton Oilers) –> G Jesper Wallstedt, Luleå HF (SHL)

21. Boston Bruins –> RW Fabian Lysell, Luleå HF (SHL)

22. Edmonton Oilers (from Minnesota Wild) –> C Xavier Bourgault, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

23. Dallas Stars (from Washington Capitals via Detroit Red Wings) –> C Wyatt Johnston, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

24. Florida Panthers –> RW Mackie Samoskevich, Chicago Steel (USHL)

25. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Toronto Maple Leafs) –> D Corson Ceulemans, Brooks Bandits (AJHL)

26. Minnesota Wild (from Pittsburgh Penguins) –> D Carson Lambos, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)

27. Nashville Predators (from Carolina Hurricanes) –> LW Zachary L’Heureux, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

28. Colorado Avalanche –> RW Oskar Olausson, HV71 (SHL)

29. New Jersey Devils (from New York Islanders) –> RW Chase Stillman, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

30. Vegas Golden Knights –> C Zach Dean, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

31. Montréal Canadiens –> D Logan Mailloux, SK Lejon

32. Chicago (from Tampa Bay Lightning via Columbus Blue Jackets) –> D Nolan Allan, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Trades made during the first round of the draft:

  • The Dallas Stars traded the 15th overall pick to the Detroit Red Wings for the 23rd overall pick, 48th overall pick and 138th overall pick in this year’s draft.
  • The Edmonton Oilers traded the 20th overall pick to the Minnesota Wild for the 22nd overall pick and 90th overall pick in this year’s draft.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes traded the 27th overall pick to the Nashville Predators for the 40th overall and 51st overall picks in this year’s draft.

Trades made earlier in the day prior to the first round of the draft:

  • The Buffalo Sabres traded D Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers for D Robert Hagg, a 2021 1st round pick (14th overall) and a 2023 2nd round pick.
  • F Pavel Buchnevich was traded by the New York Rangers to the St. Louis Blues for F Sammy Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick.
  • The Arizona Coyotes acquired F Antoine Roussel, F Jay Beagle, F Loui Eriksson, a 2021 1st round pick (9th overall), a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 7th round pick from the Vancouver Canucks for D Oliver Ekman-Larsson and F Conor Garland. Arizona retained 12% of Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit (about $990,000) in the deal.
  • Chicago traded D Adam Boqvist, a 2021 1st round pick (12th overall), a 2021 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 1st round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for D Seth Jones, a 2021 1st round pick (32nd overall) and a 2022 6th round pick. If Chicago wins one of the 2022 draft lotteries, the conditional 2022 1st round pick becomes a 2023 1st round pick in the transaction.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes dealt D Jake Bean to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to Chicago).
Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins down Sabres, 5-2, extend gap with Rangers

The Boston Bruins got the most out of their top-six forwards on Thursday night in a, 5-2, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden as Tuukka Rask (13-4-2, 2.27 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 21 games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots faced in the win.

Sabres netminder, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1-2-0, 3.75 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in three games), had 35 saves on 39 shots against in the loss.

Boston improved to 29-14-6 (64 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division– six points ahead of the New York Rangers, who remain on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture.

Buffalo fell to 13-31-7 (33 points) overall and stagnant in 8th place (last) in the division.

The B’s are now 6-1-0 against the Sabres this season with one more game remaining in their regular season series on Saturday afternoon.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), and Brandon Carlo (upper body) on Thursday, while Craig Smith was a game-time decision due to an issue that was resolved prior to warmup with his COVID testing.

As Smith’s issue was absolved, Jake DeBrusk remained a healthy scratch, while B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made minor adjustments among his forwards.

Trent Frederic, Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle made up the third line, while Nick Ritchie, Curtis Lazar and Chris Wagner comprised the fourth line.

Jaroslav Halak served as Rask’s backup with Jeremy Swayman earning the night off.

Meanwhile, Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players including, Swayman, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Steven Kampfer, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Jarred Tinordi.

Jack Ahcan was sent to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday, while Urho Vaakanainen was also reassigned to Providence on Thursday ahead of Boston’s game against the Sabres.

The P-Bruins season is winding down and will not feature a postseason following it as the American Hockey League announced on Thursday that for the second straight year, there would be no traditional Calder Cup Playoffs.

Only the AHL’s Pacific Division elected to have a playoff tournament to determine a division champion, while the rest of the AHL’s division title winners will simply default to the team that finishes the season with the best regular season record.

Providence is currently 1st in the Atlantic Division with a 14-6-1-1 record on the season.

Meanwhile, starting May 10th (vs. N.Y. Islanders), TD Garden will increase their limited seating capacity from 12% to 25% in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 reopening plans.

A little over a minute into the action on Thursday night, David Pastrnak (19) rocketed a one-timer past Luukkonen from his typical spot near the faceoff dot on a pass from across the slot to make it, 1-0, Boston at 1:16 of the first period.

Patrice Bergeron (24) and Brad Marchand (33) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s 199th career National Hockey League goal.

Late in the period, Casey Mittelstadt (10) buried a rebound after the Bruins turned the puck over in their own defensive zone and were caught behind the play.

Arttu Ruotsalainen (1) and Rasmus Asplund (3) notched the assists on Mittelstadt’s goal as the Sabres tied the game, 1-1, at 14:09.

Moments later, Buffalo forward, Sam Reinhart, tripped Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 18:05.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, as the final second on the clock was winding down prior to the first intermission, David Krejci (8) sent a one-timer off the post that had eyes off of Luukkonen’s back and trickled into the net to give Boston a, 2-1, lead heading into the first intermission.

Charlie McAvoy (23) and Smith (18) had the primary and secondary assists on Krejci’s power-play goal at 19:59.

After one period, the B’s led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and held the advantage in shots on goal, 13-11.

Meanwhile, Buffalo held the advantage in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (4-3), hits (13-9) and faceoff win percentage (59-41). Both teams had two blocked shots apiece while the Sabres had yet to appear on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Lazar interfered with Reinhart and presented the Sabres with their first power play of the night at 5:36 of the second period, but Boston’s penalty kill did its job and went unscathed on the scoreboard.

Late in the middle frame, Rasmus Dahlin hooked Marchand and cut a rut to the penalty box at 14:50, but Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday, Boston led Buffalo, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-22, in shots on goal, including a, 15-11, advantage in the second period alone.

The Sabres maintained a hold in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (8-4), hits (22-17), while the Bruins led in giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win% (63-37).

Buffalo was 0/1 and Boston was 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Reinhart (23) tied the action, 2-2, with a quick release from the slot, while Victor Olofsson (17) and Jeff Skinner (6) worked the puck deep into the zone and earned the assists on Reinhart’s goal at 1:43 of the third period.

Almost midway through the final frame, Coyle (6) stole the rubber biscuit in the neutral zone and charged up the ice– forcing his own breakaway into fruition while Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen trailed on his back– before roofing the puck top-shelf for his first goal in 28 games.

Coyle’s individual effort was unassisted and ended the longest scoring drought in his career thus far (nine years) and made it, 3-2, for Boston at 7:58 of the third period.

Moments later, Krejci and Dahlin got tangled up in a bit of a heated exchange in which Krejci was handed a minor for interference and Dahlin received a holding infraction, yielding two minutes of 4-on-4 action at 13:30.

Just as the two clubs resumed 5-on-5 play, Smith worked the puck to Krejci while No. 46 in black and gold broke into the attacking zone by deking around Dahlin, then toe-dragging around Henri Jokiharju before setting up Taylor Hall (7) for the one-timer goal at 16:43.

Hall’s goal gave Boston some insurance with a, 4-2, lead, while Krejci (26) and Smith (19) had the assists.

About a minute later, Connor Clifton, slashed former teammate, Anders Bjork, and presented Buffalo with a power play at 17:47.

Sabres interim head coach, Don Granato, pulled Luukkonen for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Marchand (27) sent the puck into the open net from his own end on a floater of a shot just under the bar for his 31st career shorthanded goal.

Marchand’s empty net goal was unassisted at 18:26 and the Bruins secured the, 5-2, victory as a result at the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-31, including a, 12-9, advantage in the third period alone.

Buffalo finished the night leading in his (30-24), while the B’s wrapped up Thursday’s action with the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), giveaways (10-8) and faceoff win% (59-41).

The Sabres went 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins finished 1/2 on the skater advantage.

Boston improved to 21-5-3 (10-0-2 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 17-0-2 (9-0-1 at home) when leading after the first period and 20-0-2 (12-0-2 at home) when leading after two periods in 2020-21.

Buffalo, meanwhile, fell to 6-26-2 (3-11-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-20-0 (2-8-0 on the road) when trailing after one and 1-26-2 (0-11-1 on the road) when losing after the second period this season.

The Bruins face the Sabres to kick off the month of May on Saturday afternoon before hitting the road for a pair of games next week in New Jersey against the Devils. Boston went 11-5-1 in the month of April.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Preview: Game 46- Bruins @ Sabres

Friday night at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, the Boston Bruins face the Buffalo Sabres in the second night of back-to-back games while Boston vies for a seventh-straight win in their current winning streak.

The Bruins enter Friday having beaten the Sabres twice this week, most recently on Thursday night in a, 5-1, victory. Buffalo has yet to beat Boston this season as the two teams square off for the sixth time in 2020-21.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, indicated that defender, Kevan Miller, would make a return to the lineup in place of Connor Clifton, while Tuukka Rask would get the start in net on Friday.

Jaroslav Halak is expected to serve as Rask’s backup with Jeremy Swayman earning the night off in the press box as a healthy scratch after making 29 saves on 30 shots against in Thursday’s win.

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Brandon Carlo, John Moore, Trent Frederic and Patrice Bergeron as Kase and Carlo did not travel with the team for their current road trip, Moore is out for the rest of the season due to a hip injury and Frederic is still recovering from a non-COVID protocol related illness.

Bergeron was withheld from pregame warmup with a lower body injury.

Cassidy told reporters earlier in the week that while Kase is not regressing, he has still yet to return to full capacity at practice and would require some game action before making any swift lineup adjustments down the stretch as the Bruins are inside of 10 games remaining in the regular season after Friday night’s action.

The B’s (27-12-6, 60 points) are 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division entering their 46th game of this season’s 56-game schedule, while Buffalo is last in the division with a 12-28-7 record (31 points).

Boston is 13-6-3 on the road this season and 8-2-0 in their last ten games, while the Sabres are 5-16-4 on home ice and 4-5-1 in their last ten games.

The Bruins are 147-113-29-12 in 301 regular season meetings against the Sabres all time with 966 goals for and 932 goals against in that span.

Boston is 32-25-1-7 in 65 games at KeyBank Center since the building was opened in 1996, though Buffalo has outscored the Bruins, 177-168, in that span.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 25-32–57 totals in 43 games, while Bergeron (18-23–41 totals in 48 games) and David Pastrnak (18-23–41 totals in 38 games) round out the top-three in team scoring this season.

Pastrnak is two goals away from his 200th career NHL goal. He has 198-222–420 totals in 428 career NHL games since being drafted by Boston in the 1st round (25th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Sam Reinhart leads the Sabres in scoring with 17-13–30 totals in 45 games this season, while Victor Olofsson (12-15–27 totals in 47 games) and Rasmus Dahlin (4-16–20 totals in 47 games) rank second and third in scoring for Buffalo.

Rask (11-4-2, 2.22 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 18 games played) is expected to get the start for the Bruins after having Thursday night off. He had a 32-save shutout in Boston’s, 2-0, win in Buffalo on Monday.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is set to make his National Hockey League debut in the crease for the Sabres since he was drafted in the 2nd round (54th overall) by Buffalo in 2017.

He posted a 1.80 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in six games for Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior tournament and has a 3.60 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage in 14 games for the Rochester Americans (AHL) this season.

Boston is currently 2-0-0 on their five-game road trip with a pair of games in Pittsburgh after Friday night’s action in Buffalo before returning home to face the Sabres to close out the month of April.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 13 Charlie Coyle 88 David Pastrnak

71 Taylor Hall 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

21 Nick Ritchie 20 Curtis Lazar 74 Jake DeBrusk

81 Anton Blidh 52 Sean Kuraly 14 Chris Wagner

48 Matt Grzlecyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

6 Mike Reilly 86 Kevan Miller (A)

55 Jeremy Lauzon 44 Steven Kampfer

40 Tuukka Rask

41 Jaroslav Halak

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic (illness), Greg McKegg, Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (hip), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Connor Clifton, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi, Kevan Miller (right knee)

Buffalo Sabres

53 Jeff Skinner 23 Sam Reinhart 68 Victor Olofsson

74 Rasmus Asplund 37 Casey Mittelstadt 72 Tage Thompson

96 Anders Bjork 24 Dylan Cozens 25 Arttu Ruotsalainen

13 Tobias Rieder 15 Riley Sheahan 91 Drake Caggiula

54 Mattias Samuelsson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

26 Rasmus Dahlin 10 Henri Jokiharju

78 Jacob Bryson 3 Will Borgen

1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

31 Dustin Tokarski

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jack Eichel (lower body), Cody Eakin, Colin Miller, Linus Ullmark, Carter Hutton, Matt Irwin

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

1 Jeremy Swayman 5-1-0 in 6 GP, 1.65 GAA, .943 SV%, 1 SO

40 Tuukka Rask 10-4-2 in 17 GP, 2.35 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 9-5-3 in 17 GP, 2.44 GAA, .910 SV%, 2 SO

70 Callum Booth 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

80 Dan Vladar 2-2-1 in 5 GP, 3.40 GAA, .886 SV%, 0 SO

Buffalo Sabres

1 Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

31 Dustin Tokarski 2-7-2 in 11 GP, 3.23 GAA, .914 SV%, 0 SO

32 Michael Houser 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

35 Linus Ullmark 9-6-3 in 20 GP, 2.63 GAA, .917 SV%, 0 SO

40 Carter Hutton 1-10-1 in 13 GP, 3.47 GAA, .886 SV%, 0 SO

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins rout Sabres, 5-1, in Buffalo

Five different scorers led the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres in a, 5-1, victory at KeyBank Center on Thursday night as the B’s extended their winning streak to six games.

Jeremy Swayman (5-1-0, 1.65 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 29 saves on 30 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Dustin Tokarski (2-7-2, 3.23 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 11 games played) turned aside 33 out of 38 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 27-12-6 (60 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 12-28-7 (31 points) overall and stagnant in last place in the same division.

The B’s are now 5-0-0 against the Sabres this season.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness) and Kevan Miller (undisclosed) on Thursday, while Jaroslav Halak returned from the league’s COVID protocol and served as Swayman’s backup goaltender for the night.

Tuukka Rask, as a result, was made a healthy scratch for the evening, joining the likes of Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller on the long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Meanwhile, Steven Kampfer was reinserted in the lineup in place of Zboril on the third defensive pairing. Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other changes to his lineup on Thursday.

Rasmus Ristolainen kicked off the game’s action on the event sheet with a boarding minor at 8:13 of the first period, presenting the Bruins with the game’s first power play as a result.

Boston was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Brad Marchand (25) flipped the puck into the open net on a catch and release pass from Patrice Bergeron through the slot while Tokarski lunged across the crease in desperation but couldn’t come up with the save.

Bergeron (23) and Mike Reilly (23) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 12:36 of the first period.

About a couple minutes later, Charlie McAvoy hooked Dylan Cozens and cut a rut to the penalty box, yielding a power play to Buffalo for the first time on Thursday at 14:25.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the resulting power play, however.

The two teams finished the first period at 4-on-4 as Marchand and Casey Mittelstadt received matching roughing minors at 18:18, extending the 4-on-4 action into the second period as a result.

Through 20 minutes of action in Buffalo, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-7, in shots on goal.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Buffalo led in takeaways (3-0) and hits (11-4) heading into the first intermission.

Entering the middle frame, both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Ristolainen kicked off the second period’s action with a holding infraction at 1:49, but the B’s couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Moments later, Arttu Ruotsalainen (3) tied the game, 1-1, on a one-timer from Anders Bjork at 5:27 of the second period.

Bjork (6) and Cozens (8) tallied the assists as the Sabres had a small shift in momentum in the grand scheme of things.

Less than a minute later, David Pastrnak was penalized for boarding at 5:48, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the ensuing power play, nor could the Sabres take advantage of Kampfer’s interference minor at 8:56.

Midway through the middle frame, the Bruins won an attacking zone faceoff and worked the puck around the blue line to Matt Grzelcyk (4) for a wrist shot off of Tokarski’s glove and into the net for the eventual game-winning goal.

McAvoy (20) and Pastrnak (23) were credited with the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as Boston went ahead, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 12:50 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron was sent to the sin bin after hooking Sabres forward, Tobias Rieder, at 13:11.

Buffalo couldn’t convert on Bergeron’s minor, nor McAvoy’s slashing infraction at 16:26, as Boston entered the second intermission ahead on the scoreboard, 2-1.

The Bruins held the advantage in shots on goal, 26-20, despite trailing the Sabres in shots on net in the second period alone, 13-12.

Boston led in blocked shots (9-5) and giveaways (5-4), while Buffalo dominated in takeaways (5-1), hits (14-9) and faceoff win% (59-42) after two periods.

As there were no penalties called in the final frame, the Sabres finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.

Pastrnak (18) extended Boston’s lead after working his way around Rasmus Dahlin prior to sniping a shot past Tokarski’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Marchand (32) and Grzelcyk (11) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston led, 3-1, at 4:54 of the third period.

About a minute later, Nick Ritchie (11) notched his first goal in 13 games on a short side shot to make it, 4-1, and give the B’s a three-goal lead.

Jake DeBrusk (6) and Charlie Coyle (10) had the assists– marking 300 career points for Coyle with the secondary assist in the process– on Ritchie’s goal at 6:01.

Late in the game, David Krejci (6) buried a rebound to assure Boston of a, 5-1, victory at 18:02 of the third period, while Jeremy Lauzon (6) and Taylor Hall (19) picked up the assists.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-30, including a, 12-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (12-9) and giveaways (7-6), while the Sabres finished the action leading in hits (18-17) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Boston improved to 19-4-3 (10-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 16-0-2 (8-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 18-0-2 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo fell to 5-23-2 (2-15-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-18-0 (1-12-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-24-2 (1-15-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins face the Sabres again on Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Rask earns 51st career shutout in, 2-0, win in Buffalo

Brad Marchand and Connor Clifton scored the only goals while Tuukka Rask (11-4-2, 2.22 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 18 games played) made 32 saves in a, 2-0, shutout win for the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night at KeyBank Center.

Rask picked up his first shutout of the season and 51st of his career, while Dustin Tokarski (2-6-2, 3.05 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 10 games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 save percentage in the loss for Buffalo.

The Bruins improved to 26-12-6 (58 points) on the season and in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 12-27-7 (31 points) overall and in last place in the same division.

The B’s also improved to 4-0-0 against Buffalo this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Kevan Miller (undisclosed) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Kase and Carlo did not travel with the team for their five-game road trip, while Miller traveled with the club and is “better” according to head coach, Bruce Cassidy.

After missing 18 games this season, most recently due to an upper body injury sustained on April 10th in Philadelphia, Matt Grzelcyk returned to the lineup on defense.

Jakub Zboril was back too after missing a game due to a non-COVID protocol related illness.

Cassidy made no changes among his forwards, while slotting Grzelcyk in on the left side of the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and moving Jeremy Lauzon to the third pairing with Zboril.

Mike Reilly and Clifton remained paired on the second defensive pairing while Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer joined Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Halak, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Tinordi and Miller on Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Ahcan and Vaakanainen were recalled to the taxi squad depending on your source for American Hockey League transactions (CapFriendly, the AHL transactions page itself, TSN or CBS Sports), meanwhile Zach Senyshyn was sent to the Providence Bruins (AHL) over the weekend with Dan Vladar.

Editor’s note: Also apparently McKegg’s been erroneously forgotten from the taxi squad in these lineup notes/recaps since early April. My bad. Please forgive me, Greg.

Midway through the opening frame, Marchand (24) backhanded a rebound over Tokarski while the Sabres goaltender reached to trap the loose puck.

David Pastrnak (22) and Reilly (22) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:06 of the first period.

Moments later, Jake DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking former teammate turned newest skater in Buffalo, Anders Bjork at 11:17.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

There were no more goals or penalties as the first period came to a close with Boston ahead, 1-0, on the scoreboard and both teams tied, 9-9, in shots on goal.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (3-2), while the B’s had the advantage in hits (7-3) and faceoff win percentage (69-31) after one period.

Both teams had five blocked shots each, while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage.

Early in the middle frame, Clifton (1) threw a shot on goal from the point that trickled through Tokarski and was kicked in by the Buffalo netminder, giving Boston a two-goal lead.

Sean Kuraly (3) and Curtis Lazar (5) had the assists on Clifton’s first goal since Nov. 19, 2019, and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 3:03 of the second period.

Midway through the middle period, Marchand elbowed Henri Jokiharju and received a minor infraction at 11:04 as a result.

Buffalo’s power play was short lived, however, as Rasmus Ristolainen laid out Lauzon in front of the net for no apparent reason at 12:10, resulting in 4-on-4 action for about 56 seconds before the B’s had an abbreviated power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Tuesday, Boston led Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard, as well as in shots on goal, 27-15, including an, 18-6, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in hits (13-6) and faceoff win% (65-35), while the Sabres led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (7-4) and giveaways (6-4).

Buffalo was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

There were no goals scored in the third period, though there were plenty of chances to score on the skater advantage as multiple penalties were called on both clubs in the final frame.

Drake Caggiula interfered with Pastrnak and presented Boston with the first power play of the third period at 1:05, but the Bruins were unsuccessful in assuring themselves of complete dominance over the Sabres.

Instead, McAvoy roughed Jeff Skinner at 8:03, but Buffalo’s power play was cut short when Sam Reinhart tripped Clifton and sent the Bruins defender face first into the boards as a result.

The two squads skated at 4-on-4 for a little under 90 seconds as Reinhart cut a rut to the sin bin at 8:30 of the third period.

Moments later, Craig Smith caught Mattias Samuelsson with a high stick at 12:41, but Buffalo couldn’t muster anything on the power play.

Nor could the Sabres score when Nick Ritchie slashed Jacob Bryson at 16:59 and Lauzon followed his teammate in the box at 17:26 for roughing Victor Olofsson along the wall.

No, Buffalo, despite having a 6-on-3 advantage– having pulled Tokarski for an extra attacker– could not establish much of an attacking zone presence while on the power play late in the game.

The team looked all but defeated before they were, in fact, actually defeated.

At the final horn, not only had the Bruins killed off their minors, but they actually were on the power play as time expired since the Sabres had seven skaters on the ice while in possession of the puck at 19:06– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty for too many skaters.

At the final horn, Boston shutout Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-32, as well, despite the Sabres leading in shots in the third period alone, 17-14.

Buffalo finished the action leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in hits (15-9) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Both teams had seven giveaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/6 and the Bruins were 0/4 on the power play.

Boston improved to 18-4-3 (9-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 15-0-2 (7-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 17-0-2 (6-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo dropped to 5-22-2 (2-14-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-17-0 (1-11-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-23-2 (1-14-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins take on the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday and Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 1-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

Categories
Deadline Deals NHL

Analysis: Montour bolsters Panthers depth on defense

The Florida Panthers acquired defender, Brandon Montour, from the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in exchange for a 2021 3rd round pick.

After Bill Zito cleared Brett Connolly’s cap hit from the books in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, the Panthers General Manager went to work on solidifying his defense in the wake of Aaron Ekblad’s season-ending injury.

It’s not that Florida is done adding by any means, but they’ll have to continue to get crafty in saving cap space in order to finagle any larger moves.

Montour at least gives them some comfort in the event of a further tattered lineup potentially interfering with what’s shaping up to be their best chance at a deep playoff run in a generation.

Meanwhile, Sabres General Manager, Kevyn Adams, kicked off what’s expected to be a bit of a fire sale for the organization by Monday’s trade deadline.

Montour, 27, had 5-9–14 totals in 38 games with Buffalo this season at the time of the trade on Saturday. He was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round (55th overall) of the 2014 Draft and made his league debut with Anaheim in the 2016-17 season.

He set career highs in goals (9), assists (23) and points (32) in 80 games with the Ducks in 2017-18, and has 29-76–105 totals in 281 career NHL games with Anaheim and Buffalo.

The 6-foot, 194-pound native of Brantford, Ontario has eight points in 21 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with Anaheim) and spent parts of his first three seasons with the Ducks until he was traded to the Sabres in the 2018-19 season, where he spent parts of the last three seasons until being traded to the Panthers on Saturday.

Montour carries a $3.850 million cap hit and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

For Buffalo, the 2021 3rd round pick will come in handy either in July at the draft or as part of a package for a bigger and better trade acquisition before then.

Adams now must shift his attention to pieces of his roster like Taylor Hall– a pending-unrestricted free agent with a manageable $8.000 million cap hit that the Sabres could retain 50% of in a deal and try to maximize the hell out of his 2010 1st overall pick value.

Oh and Hall’s a 2017-18 Hart Memorial Trophy winner, despite his 2-17–19 totals in 37 games with Buffalo this season.

The Sabres are terrible all around. That’s not his fault.

But asking for top-notch material in exchange for Hall’s talents based on this season alone is a hard bargain to market for Adams.

Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen is soldiering on in the upstate New York tundra that is Buffalo these days.