The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.
In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.
In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.
P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)
The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.
Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”
Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.
Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.
Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.
Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.
For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.
Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.
Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.
Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.
Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.
In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.
Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.
Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?
Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th
4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2
4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*
4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*
4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)
The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.
Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.
There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.
Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.
Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.
Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.
In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.
For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.
The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.
But this time around feels different.
San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th
4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*
4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*
4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*
C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)
A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.
It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.
For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).
Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.
Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.
Oh. Again. Never mind.
While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.
In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.
Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.
This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?
Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.
On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.
Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.
But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.
Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.
As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.
Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.
Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.
It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.
Regular season outcomes:
5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th
4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2
4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*
4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*
4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*
C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.
This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.
Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.
Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.
In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).
Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.
Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.
Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.
However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.
The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.
This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.
Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.
Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).
Don’t try to mess with what’s working.
Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.
Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.
For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.
Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.
Regular season outcomes:
1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th
4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3
4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2
4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS
4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*
4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*
4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*
Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.
These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.
Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.
Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.
While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.
Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).
Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.
Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.
Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.
This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.
If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.
On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.
At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?
If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.
Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.
Now what about Karlsson?
Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.
Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.
Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.
While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.
That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.
Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).
On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).
In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.
But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.
If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.
Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.
Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.
Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.
David Backes scored the game-winning shootout goal in the sixth round to lift the Boston Bruins over the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.
As a result, the Bruins are 4-0-0 on their current five-game road trip and a seven-game winning streak.
Jaroslav Halak (16-9-4 record, 2.33 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 31 games played) made 31 saves on 33 shots against for a .939 SV% in the shootout victory for the B’s.
Vegas goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5, 2.60 GAA, .908 SV% in 52 GP) stopped 25 out of 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the shootout loss.
The Bruins improved to 36-17-8 (80 points) on the season and remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Golden Knights fell to 32-25-5 (69 points) and remained 3rd in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 9-0-1 in the month of February.
Prior to puck drop in Wednesday night’s action, the Bruins completed a trade with the Minnesota Wild, sending Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 5th round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Charlie Coyle. If Boston advances to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the conditional 5th round pick becomes a 2019 4th round pick (originally from the New York Rangers).
As a result of the acquisition, since the Bruins were already at the 23-player roster limit, Peter Cehlarik was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) during the first intermission of Boston’s Wednesday night battle with Vegas (at which point, the trade was officially announced).
Bruce Cassidy kept the same lines from Monday night’s, 6-5, overtime win over the San Jose Sharks, while Kampfer joined John Moore as the only official healthy scratches at the arena (as Coyle had yet to join the team and Cehlarik was assigned).
David Pastrnak remains out of the lineup due to surgery on his left thumb.
Early in the first period, Schmidt was penalized for high-sticking when he got his stick up in Marchand’s face at 4:58 of the first period. Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Midway through the first period, DeBrusk (19) struck first on the scoreboard after receiving a pass from David Krejci, spinning past a defending Golden Knight skater and scoring from the low slot to make it, 1-0, Bruins.
Krejci (39) and Karson Kuhlman (1) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s fifth goal in the last five games at 11:17.
Moments later, Danton Heinen tripped up Vegas defender, Jon Merrill, sending the Golden Knights on the power play at 14:24 of the first period.
Vegas did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Two minutes after the Bruins killed off Heinen’s minor infraction, the Golden Knights were pressing with a shot from the point that rebounded off of Halak’s leg pad.
Smith (10) jumped at the loose puck and pocketed his first goal in 13 games, tying the game, 1-1, at 18:24.
Cody Eakin (17) and Merrill (8) notched the assists on the goal.
After one period, the game was tied, 1-1, despite Vegas leading in shots on goal, 10-6. Boston led in blocked shots (9-6) entering the first intermission, while the Golden Knights led in takeaways (7-2), giveaways (4-2), hits (15-5) and face-off win% (57-44).
Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Vegas was caught with too many men on the ice early in the second period and was charged with a bench minor. Gerard Gallant sent Oscar Lindberg to serve the penalty and the Golden Knights’ penalty kill successfully thwarted Boston’s power play advances.
Through 40 minutes of play, the score was still tied, 1-1, with the Golden Knights outshooting the Bruins, 22-14.
The B’s led in blocked shots (14-13) and giveaways (8-7) after two periods, while Vegas led in takeaways (14-4), hits (28-16) and face-off win% (52-48).
Entering the third period the Golden Knights were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/3.
Just 69 seconds into the third period, Marchand (24) ripped a one-timer past Fleury to give Boston the lead, 2-1, early in the final frame.
Heinen (12) and Charlie McAvoy (14) had the assists on Marchand’s fifth goal in the last seven games for the Bruins.
A mere 27 seconds after Marchand put the B’s ahead, Schmidt (7) waltzed past the B’s defense and roofed the puck past Halak’s glove side to tie the game, 2-2.
Smith (24) and Jonathan Marchessault (22) had the assists on Schmidt’s goal at 1:36 of the third period.
There were no other events on the scoresheet until the final horn in regulation.
With the score knotted up at two goals aside, overtime would commence after the Golden Knights led in shots on goal (30-26) through 60 minutes of play. Vegas also led in blocked shots (18-17), takeaways (15-6), giveaways (12-9) and hits (37-24).
Entering the five-minute, 3-on-3 overtime period, Boston led in face-off win% (53-47).
After Boston was sluggish getting out of their own zone almost midway through overtime, they finally managed to change their forwards, leaving Krug behind the play.
While Krug took his time getting off the ice, McAvoy jumped onto the playing surface and received a pass, but the whistle was blown– the Bruins had too many men on the ice.
Cassidy sent Heinen to the penalty box to serve the bench minor at 2:14 of the overtime and Boston dug in deep to kill of the penalty.
After 65 minutes of action, the score was still, 2-2, but the Golden Knights led in shots on goal, 33-27 (3-1 in OT).
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-18) and face-off win% (52-48), while Vegas led in giveaways (12-9) and hits (38-24).
Vegas went 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage Wednesday night.
Gallant elected to have his team shoot first in the ensuing shootout, sending Brandon Pirri to the net against Halak with the first shot.
Halak made the save.
DeBrusk kicked things off in the shootout for Boston with a soft handed shot elevated just enough to ring the crossbar on its way into the net behind Fleury, giving the Bruins the lead in the shootout, 1-0, after one round.
Alex Tuch and Marchand were both denied in the third round. The same went for Marchessault and Heinen in the fourth round.
Gallant and Cassidy sent out their defenders in the fifth round, with Theodore getting a chance (denied) and Krug getting a shot off on Fleury (easy save).
In the sixth round, Gallant sent out Lindberg’s skilled hands, but Halak kept the paddle down to block his five-hole and make the save.
Finally, Backes emerged from the Bruins bench and made his way towards the net with the puck casually on his stick.
He unloaded a wrist shot up high on Fleury and scored the game-winning shootout goal, notching the, 3-2, victory for Boston in the sixth round of the shootout.
Boston’s point streak was extended to 12 games as the B’s improved to 2-2 in shootouts this season. Vegas fell to 2-2 in shootouts and lost on home ice for the first time to the Bruins in Golden Knights franchise history.
The Bruins improved to 24-4-5 when scoring first this season and improved to 15-10-5 on the road. They have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 19th.
Boston travels to St. Louis to wrap up their five-game road trip on Saturday against the Blues. Coyle is expected to make his Bruins debut with the team on the road before his homecoming debut at TD Garden next Tuesday (Feb. 26th) against the team that originally drafted him, the San Jose Sharks.
The B’s close out the month of February with a home matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning next Thursday (Feb. 28th).
It’s not the most recent forecast, since the Vegas Golden Knights played Game 41 of their 2018-19 regular season on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Nevertheless, it’s time to take a quick check of the pulse of the Golden Knights– how their season has progressed so far and where it appears to be going from here.
Thanks to some extenuating circumstances, perhaps Vegas fans will forgive me for not being able to get around to their quick forecasted glance after 20 games played this season.
Why? Because it would’ve been pretty dismal and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
Although, now at the halfway mark (officially after the game against the Kings, technically unofficially as of this forecast), things have improved, but with a few concerns remaining.
Nate Schmidt served his 20 game suspension for a performance enhancing drug and for the most part, Vegas’ blue line got the job done.
The team’s record wasn’t desirable, but guys like Shea Theodore and Colin Miller continued to rise past expectations in their ability– even more so now that Schmidt is back and solidified the defensive zone for the Golden Knights.
One thing that has plagued the team all season is subpar goaltending.
Managing playing time in the crease is something to keep in mind and we’ll take a closer look in a minute.
For now, Vegas stands in a divisional spot in the playoffs in the Pacific. Not nearly as dominant as last season, but keeping up with the legitimate(?) playoff contenders in an otherwise weaker division compared to the rest of the league.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the remaining 42 games (now 41) on the season and what to expect from the latest forecast.
Keep in mind, there are many variables that can and will change what goes down from now through the end of the regular season in April, like trades, injuries, general lineup changes, roster moves and anything else unbeknownst to the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that generates this forecast.
My degree is in communication– not math. It’s “not my fault”.
If a player meets the forecasted stats, then they’ve met expectations. If they exceed their forecasted stats, then they’ve exceed expectations.
And of course, if a player does not live up to the latest forecast, then something went awry (the player could’ve been injured, been unlucky or regressed– a.k.a. didn’t meet expectations).
Puck luck cannot be predicted, but general trends and estimated gut feelings can indicate a sense of what’s to come based on the results of each and every scoresheet night-in and night-out.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)
Every set of blessings comes with a set of curses and this year, that rings truer more than ever before for the Golden Knights. Of course, it’s only their second season in franchise history, but it’s still true.
William Karlsson (24-26–50 expected totals) is having a “down” year compared to last season’s breakout career-year of 43 goals and 35 assists (78 points). Reaching the 50-point plateau is still respectable, but doesn’t scream any guarantees of being on the first line should the postseason roll around.
Head coach, Gerard Gallant, has enough top-six forward depth to play around with if Karlsson starts to head south, considering Alex Tuch‘s expected 22-28–50 totals, Paul Stastny‘s expected 14-22–36 totals and Max Pacioretty‘s expected 21-22–43 totals.
Despite the ever-consistent qualities of Jonathan Marchessault (27-33–60 expected totals) and Reilly Smith (17-32–49 expected totals), this year’s Golden Knights team point spread is more spread out.
As it is, while Marchessault should lead in goals (27), assists (30) and points (60) and Karlsson should be second in goals (24) and points (50), one would think Smith would be second or third in whatever stats Marchessault and Karlsson aren’t leading in.
However, Tuch’s expected point outcome (50) is tied with Karlsson for the second-most points behind Marchessault and Tuch is expected to rank third on Vegas’ roster in goals behind Marchessault and Karlsson with Smith a distant 5th behind Pacioretty’s 21 expected goals this season.
While the offense isn’t as impactful from the forwards, the blue line has really come into its own in Vegas.
Shea Theodore’s expected 8-29–37 totals will be the best of his teammates and fellow defenders in a Golden Knights uniform, leading Colin Miller (5-27–32 expected totals) and Nick Holden (7-17–24 expected totals).
Nick Holden. That’s right. Holden is ahead of Nate Schmidt (5-18–23 expected totals) in the latest forecast.
But that speaks to Holden’s resiliency in his career and the chemistry Gallant has found in his pairing every night– coupled, of course, with the fact that Holden is seeing more time on the ice (in the literal “games played” sense) than he has the last couple of seasons with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.
He is a durable top-four defender that’s still in his athletic prime and it is exactly that kind of depth that can take teams deep into a Stanley Cup Final run.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should land around a 2.61 goals against average and .911 save percentage in a season in which he has been overworked thus far.
He will continue to be overworked unless Malcolm Subban regains his footing, Gallant argues for calling someone up from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee makes an acquisition for a suitable backup option if all else fails.
Fleury has played in 35 of the 40 games up to this forecast. He’s since played in 35 out of the 41 games played by the club this season.
Subban has played in six games and is 0-5-0 in that span. His expected outcomes are a 2.76 GAA and .907 SV%– both below average goaltending the backup role.
Whereas if Vegas wanted to try Oscar Dansk or Maxime Lagace without the pressures of coming into the dressing room in an emergency recall situation– unlike last season– a little healthy competition for the backup role might nudge Subban in the right direction and take off some of Fleury’s workload.
It’s not that Fleury can’t handle 50-plus games anymore as a starting goaltender, but rather, it’s just that he shouldn’t be relied on for about 85% of the games in the regular season as is his current going rate.
Secondary scoring had its fair share Sunday night at TD Garden, but league leader in goals, David Pastrnak is not done producing by any means as he added a goal and an assist in the Boston Bruins, 4-1, winning effort against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Jaroslav Halak (6-1-2, 1.72 goals against average, .945 save percentage in 11 games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against (.974 SV%) in the win for Boston, while Malcolm Subban (2-1-0, 3.17 GAA, .885 SV% in 4 GP) turned aside 33 out of 37 shots faced for an .892 SV% in the loss for Vegas.
Both teams were playing their second game in two nights, with the Bruins having hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Golden Knights having visited the Montreal Canadiens as part of their four-game road trip.
Boston finished their four-game homestand, 3-1-0, while Vegas went 1-3-0 on their Eastern Conference swing.
The Bruins improved to 10-5-2 (22 points) on the season, good enough for 3rd in the Atlantic Division– tied in points for 2nd place with Toronto, but trailing by one regulation-plus-overtime win.
The Golden Knights fell to 7-10-1 (15 points) so far this season and remained in 7th place in the Pacific Division with the loss– four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings from the basement of the division.
Bruce Cassidy made two changes to his lineup on the blue line as a result of an injury, but didn’t mix things up among the forwards. Cassidy announced Sunday morning that Brandon Carlo was “questionable” and would be a game-time decision with an upper body injury.
Jeremy Lauzon was an emergency recall on Sunday and would be in the lineup in place of Carlo if No. 25 in black-and-gold wasn’t ready to go.
Cassidy also indicated that he expected to talk with Tuukka Rask about his return from a personal leave of absence with a decision in place by Tuesday before the Bruins hit the road for a four-game road trip. Cassidy suspects Rask will rejoin the team on Tuesday, but wouldn’t commit to a definitive answer until having the appropriate time and place discussion with the goaltender.
Rushing through the neutral zone early in the first period, Danton Heinen worked the puck to Anders Bjork as the Bruins forwards entered the attacking zone. Bjork flipped the puck back to Heinen (2) for the game’s first goal as No. 43 tipped a redirection past Subban to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 2:54 of the first period.
Bjork (2) had the only assist on the goal.
Fellow third liner– and centering the line for the second straight game– Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a run in with the penalty calling threshold after he got his stick between the legs of Golden Knights forward and former Bruin, Reilly Smith.
Forsbacka Karlsson went to the box for tripping at 5:43 and Vegas went on the power play for the first time of the night. The Golden Knights failed to convert on the skater advantage.
Almost four minutes later, Pastrnak hooked Jonathan Marchessault and was sent to the sin bin at 9:27 of the first period. Vegas failed to score on the ensuing power play.
For the fifth time in three games, Kampfer found his way to the box with a tripping minor against Ryan Carpenter at 11:55, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to make the Bruins brass pay on the resulting skater advantage.
Late in the first period the Golden Knights caught Halak out of position and sent a chance through the slot that was intercepted by Moore as the Bruins defender was in the right place at the right time with his stick.
Moore then sent Sean Kuraly on rush back the other way and with a dump into the corner and Lauzon chasing, Subban came out of his crease to make a play on the loose puck– except Subban overcommitted.
With a gift sent by the hockey gods themselves, Lauzon (1) had the easiest conversion on his first career National Hockey League goal at 17:51 of the first period. Kuraly (2) and Moore (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively.
Not to be outdone, while on a rush to the net, Brad Marchand got tripped by Subban in front of the goal, yielding a 5-on-3 skater advantage for Boston at 18:58 that would extend into the second period if the Bruins didn’t score by the end of the first.
Krejci dove to keep the puck in the zone as time was expiring in the opening frame and generated one last chance before the first intermission on all-around dominant 5-on-3 opportunity to close out the period.
After 20 minutes of game action, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and trailed the Golden Knights, 15-11, in shots on goal. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (5-4) and face-off win percentage (81-19). Vegas led in hits (11-6) after one period and both teams had one giveaway each.
Entering the dressing room for the first intermission the Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/2. That would change in the first minute of the second period.
Patrice Bergeron sent a pass to Pastrnak that got bent out of shape just enough by a Vegas defender for Pastrnak’s only option in the low slot to be to send the vulcanized piece of rubber back to Bergeron off a body.
From there, Marchand (6) was in front of the goal at the right time to receive a quick bumper pass from Bergeron and redirect the puck with elevation into the twine just as the power play was expiring.
Bergeron (16) and Pastrnak (7) had the assist’s on Marchand’s goal at 58 seconds of the second period and the Bruins led, 3-0.
Midway through the middle frame, Alex Tuch stripped Moore of the puck in front of the Boston goal and prior to breaking into the trapezoid, Tuch slid a one-handed pass back to Cody Eakin (5) for a one-timer that beat Halak as Krug was out of position behind the play.
Vegas was on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two-goals as the B’s led, 3-1. Tuch (5) had the only assist on Eakin’s goal at 10:55 of the second period.
Late in the second period, Vegas again gave Boston a 5-on-3 power play for 42 seconds after Brayden McNabb was penalized for holding Marchand at 15:05 and Tomas Nosek was called for tripping Bergeron at 16:24.
The B’s did not convert on either power play opportunity.
Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-27, in shots on goal. Vegas had an advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (17-13), while the Bruins led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (7-3) and face-off win% (63-38). The Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play after 40 minutes and Boston was 0/4.
Vegas notched another penalty as a team at 6:42 of third period having sustained a delay of game face-off violation bench minor infraction. Tomas Hyka served the penalty for the Golden Knights and the Bruins went on the power play.
The B’s did not convert on the ensuing advantage.
Moments later, Kuraly exchanged words with former teammate and current Golden Knights defender, Colin Miller, at 12:04 of third period and earned himself a minor penalty for roughing. Vegas did not score on the resulting power play.
Late in the third, the Golden Knights sent themselves back in momentum with two consecutive tripping penalties being called at the same time thanks to Max Pacioretty tripping Bergeron and Deryk Engelland subsequently getting his stick between the legs of Marchand and bringing the Bruins forward down at 15:40.
Boston converted on the 5-on-3 power play after working the puck around from Pastrnak to Krejci, then across the point to Krug for a bumper pass back to Pastrnak (16) whereby the league’s leading goal scorer one-timed a shot past Subban to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.
Krug (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 16:08 of the third period and Boston led, 4-1.
At the final horn, the Bruins solidified a 4-1 victory with a 7-0-1 record when scoring first this season. Boston also improved to 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.
The B’s led in face-off win% 58-42 and the Golden Knights dominated just about every other statistical category after 60 minutes. Vegas led in shots on goal (38-37), blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-8) and hits (25-20).
Boston finished the night 1/7 on the power play, while the Golden Knights were powerless on the skater advantage, finishing 0/4 on Sunday night.
One consolation prize for the Vegas franchise is that through 100 regular season games in franchise history, the Golden Knights have the most wins among all expansion franchises in their first 100 regular season games with 58.
Sunday night was former Montreal Canadien and noted Bruins mood-killer, Max Pacioretty’s first matchup against the Bruins since being traded to Vegas, while it was also Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly’s 100th career NHL games.
The Bruins carry a two-game winning streak heading onto the road for a four-game road trip beginning in Colorado (Nov. 14th) and swinging through Dallas (Nov. 16th), Arizona (Nov. 17th) and Detroit (Nov. 21st) before returning home for Black Friday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.
It’s forecasting season, well, actually it’s the regular season and I’m just a little behind, but until I pointed that out, you didn’t know I was behind on my little passion project here, did you?
I know I wrote “[i]n the coming days I’ll reveal what teams I’ll be forecasting/tracking all season long, so stay tuned because it’s about to get messier than ever before and I’m up for the challenge,” in my Boston Bruins 2018-19 forecast, but life and the fact that I’m moving all my data into a new format has slowed my turnaround for the time being.
Nevertheless, my Vegas Golden Knights forecast for 2018-19 is here and let’s pretend the first week of the regular season hasn’t already happened or something.
Additionally, if you’re wondering what other teams I’m preparing to post (before we get too far into the first quarter of the season) they are the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.
I always keep tabs on the Bruins every year because I grew up a Boston fan and I decided to track Vegas last season because there hadn’t been nearly as much hype surrounding an expansion team since Columbus and the Minnesota Wild in 2000. Additionally, I’ve previously tracked the Arizona Coyotes simply because they follow us on Twitter (and I’ll get back around to them hopefully before season’s end, if you’re interested).
But I’m adding Carolina and Columbus to my forecast portfolio this season because 1) the Hurricanes are supposed to be better than last season, plus they have some exciting youth in the lineup and 2) a lot of Blue Jackets fans are also fans of our brand around here, so shouts 5th Liners.
Please be patient on the timeline for when I’ll get my Hurricanes and Blue Jackets forecasts posted– it’ll be by the end of the month for sure.
Anyway, on with the Golden Knights, shall we?
Vegas is coming off of their inaugural season having finished 1st in the Pacific Division with 109 points and a 51-24-7 record under head coach Gerard Gallant. Not only did they finish at the top of their division in their first season, but they did so with over 100 points and a 50-plus win season.
Oh yeah and they played the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Despite the loss in five games to Washington, the Golden Knights were and still are well ahead of owner Bill Foley’s “Cup in three [seasons]” masterplan– what with General Manager George McPhee‘s offseason additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty and everything.
This year, of course, the competition has gotten a lot tougher. There are expectations now when opponents play the Golden Knights.
Gallant and his Vegas lineup are going to have to get more creative than ever before in franchise history to avoid the hangover of a Stanley Cup Final appearance run and to avoid getting too predictable.
Things are different now. They’re no longer the new kids on the block. They’re the 2018 Western Conference champions and a team to beat.
As always, I’d like to remind you my degree is in communication– not math– therefore anything that looks wrong is either adjusted with a little gut-feeling and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault. My expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers on a spreadsheet.
These forecasted stats are to be seen as an utopian perspective, as though nothing bad could happen this season at any point to any player– where every player at least lives up to their forecast and then some.
Some will pan out and some will fall flat. It’s a suggested outcome for a sport that’s played on ice in a highly unpredictable collective environment of action and sheer puck luck.
Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
After a breakout 78-point season (43 goals, 35 assists) for William Karlsson, the Golden Knights number-one center is prime for a respectable 41-point season as part of the natural regression of the game– unless Karlsson is truly an outlier, like he was coming from Columbus to Vegas last season.
Meanwhile, Reilly Smith (19-27–46 expected totals) and Jonathan Marchessault (28-35–63 expected totals) bolster the Golden Knights first line with respectable performances of their own, while the point spread has really been shared with the second line.
Newcomers Paul Stastny (22-43–65 expected totals) and Max Pacioretty (33-30–63 expected totals) are set to become the key contributors to the fiery Vegas offense in their first season with the club.
The Golden Knights top-six core of forwards is deeper than last season, whereas the majority of their offense was reliant upon Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith. This year there’s more emphasis on Alex Tuch and Erik Haula inside the top-nine.
On defense, Gallant’s crew will have to do without Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games of the season while Schmidt serves a suspension for a performance enhancing drug.
Luckily, Brad Hunt, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore are prime for an uptick in time-on-ice and production, with Hunt and Miller expected to reach the 30-point plateau, while offseason addition, Nick Holden should see a pleasant rebound from his 17 points split between the Bruins and New York Rangers last season to a 25-point effort in 2018-19 with Vegas, provided he can remain in the top-six on the depth chart.
Upon Schmidt’s return, he should still have 4-23–27 totals from the blue line, which is not great like last season’s 5-31–36 totals, but not terrible for a top-four defender.
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to return to Earth from his superhuman season last year (a 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage in 46 games) to a 2.49 GAA and .913 SV% in 2018-19. As the Golden Knights starter continues to get older, limiting his workload to keep him fresher for the postseason is the way to go.
Granted, Fleury’s playing time was limited last season due to a concussion, he still went on to have solid regular season numbers and an impeccable 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff run up until the Stanley Cup Final.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Subban‘s 2.68 GAA and .910 SV% in 22 games played look to be improved upon to a 2.65 GAA and .911 SV% in somewhere around 30 appearances as the backup netminder for Vegas.
As always, we’ll get more into the goalies once the team has played through a quarter of the season.
Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Subtractions: F Chase Balisy (signed with OTT), F Connor Brickley (signed with NSH), F Gregory Chase (signed with Wichita Thunder, ECHL), F Alexandre Grenier (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), D Linus Hulstrom (signed, SHL), G Harri Sateri (signed with DET), D Edward Wittchow (signed, Liiga), F Curtis Valk (signed, KHL), F Radim Vrbata (retired)
Still Unsigned: None
Offseason Analysis: Despite losing their leading scorers from 2016-17 after trading Reilly Smith to the Vegas Golden Knights and leaving Jonathan Marchessault exposed in the expansion draft, the 2017-18 Florida Panthers almost made the playoffs. Almost.
The 44-30-8 Panthers earned 96 points on the regular season and finished one-point shy of a wild card spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Florida tied the record set by the 2014-15 Boston Bruins for the team with the most regular season points to miss the postseason.
General Manager Dale Tallon replaced Marchessault’s scoring ability this offseason by acquiring Mike Hoffman and a 2018 7th round pick (207th overall, Santtu Kinnunen) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick (123rd overall, Jack Gorniak– drafted by MTL), a 2018 5th round pick (139th overall, Mikael Hakkarainen– drafted by CHI) and a 2019 2nd round pick. The Sharks subsequently flipped the fourth and fifth round picks at the draft.
Hoffman had 22-34–56 totals in 82 games for the Ottawa Senators last season– his third straight season of 50 or more points– before it was revealed that his fiancée allegedly harassed Erik and Melinda Karlsson on social media.
Ottawa General Manager Pierre Dorion specifically did not want to trade within the division, so he sent Hoffman to San Jose, where Sharks GM Doug Wilson was more than happy to flip the offensively gifted forward to the Panthers right back in– you guessed it– the Atlantic Division.
Tallon’s not concerned about any potential locker room quarrels and Hoffman’s already texted all of his new teammates asking if they’d be okay with him wearing No. 68– last worn by Jaromir Jagr in a Panthers uniform.
While Hoffman remains Tallon’s biggest prize and boost to Florida’s offense, Michael Hutchinson, 28, was brought in as a candidate for the backup goaltending job that is all but assured to be James Reimer‘s, unless Hutchinson can do anything about that.
Yes, it was Reimer’s inability to remain a stable starting goaltender (2.99 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in 44 games played last season, 22-14-6 record) that pushed 39-year-old Roberto Luongo (2.47 GAA, .929 SV% in 35 GP, 18-11-2 record) into not only saving the season, but nearly bringing the Panthers into the playoffs on his back.
The future of goaltending in Florida remains shrouded as Luongo is under contract at $4.533 million per season through 2021-22 (by then Luongo will be 43 at season’s end), Reimer, 30, is signed through 2020-21 at $3.400 million and Hutchinson (the youngest goaltender of the three) is on a one-year deal.
But Florida’s top-six forward core is stacked with Evgenii Dadonov, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad on the prospective first line and Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck and Hoffman filling out line two. That leaves February acquisition from the Bruins who’s looking to prove himself in a full-time role with the Panthers, Frank Vatrano on the third line.
Right about where he was on Boston’s depth chart before their youth movement– yes a youth movement, despite Vatrano only being 24– forced him out of the lineup.
Despite the existence of Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle on the blue line, Tallon still has work to do in finding another legitimate top-four defender, let alone fixing the drastic drop-off in talent from Ekblad and Yandle to MacKenzie Weegar and Ian McCoshen likely on the third pair.
Then again, it’s really head coach Bob Boughner‘s job to figure out the right matchups to maximize potential and win games, so perhaps Michael Matheson or Mark Pysyk will be paired with better suitors as the season progresses.
Overall, between the defense and goaltending, the Panthers have to improve their plus-two goal differential from 2017-18 to be a lot more in the black.
Florida’s on the cusp of making the playoffs and turning a few heads, but they really aren’t built for a Cup run. They might be ahead of last season’s Eastern Conference wild card teams (the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils) in both development and talent, but they don’t have all the pieces as thing stand to go against the powerhouses in the league– including their intrastate rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Panthers didn’t yield a huge harvest in the offseason, but they certainly got the most out of filling their need for a top-six forward in Mike Hoffman on the second line.
While Tallon was rumored to have had conversations with Montreal regarding Max Pacioretty (now traded to the Golden Knights) prior to acquiring Hoffman, Florida made the better move for their organization in that they didn’t have to give up any current or future roster pieces for the services of a goal-scorer.
External factors might have driven Hoffman’s price down, but a prospective deal with the Canadiens for Pacioretty would have meant parting with a guy like Huberdeau and that cannot happen if the Panthers are serious about making a playoff run.