Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!
Six different players scored goals in the Boston Bruins’, 6-2, victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
B’s netminder, Tuukka Rask (16-4-6 record, 2.29 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 26 games played) stopped 33 out of 35 shots faced for a .943 SV% in the win.
Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne (14-9-3, 3.06 GAA, .894 SV% in 26 games played) made 30 saves on 35 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss.
Boston remained in command of the Atlantic Division with a 25-8-11 record this season and 61 points. Meanwhile, Nashville fell to 19-16-7 (45 points), but remained in 6th place in the Central Division.
The Bruins improved to 11-6-2 on the road this season and snapped a three-game losing streak.
Kevan Miller (knee) has yet to make his season debut and missed his 44th game this season due to complications stemming from an injury last season.
Meanwhile, the Bruins were also without the services of Connor Clifton (upper body) and Joakim Nordstrom (illness) against the Predators.
Steven Kampfer was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Sunday before being recalled on Monday likely for cap reasons and as a result of Clifton’s extended stay in the press box with an injury.
Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few minor moves to his lineup entering Tuesday night in Nashville– most notably moving up Anders Bjork to the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk at left wing and David Krejci at center.
Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie comprised of the third line, while Sean Kuraly moved over to the left wing of the fourth line with Par Lindholm at center and Chris Wagner on the right side.
On defense, Zdeno Chara remained paired with Charlie McAvoy on the top pairing, while Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo rounded out the top-four defenders as usual.
John Moore was back on the left side of the third pairing with Matt Grzelcyk on his right side.
David Backes and Kampfer were the only healthy scratches for the B’s on Tuesday.
While Boston made line changes, Nashville made a head coaching change prior to their meeting with the Bruins.
After losing to the Ducks, 5-4, in a shootout on Sunday night in Anaheim, the Predators fired Peter Laviolette on Monday and hired John Hynes as just their third head coach in franchise history Tuesday afternoon.
Kevin McCarthy was also let go by the Preds and Rob Scuderi was hired as an assistant coach in place of McCarthy.
Brad Marchand cross checked Viktor Arvidsson 14 seconds into the first period, but Arvidsson also cut a rut to the penalty box for embellishment on the delayed call.
The two teams played 4-on-4 for two minutes and were almost unscathed except for when David Pastrnak (32) glided through the neutral zone, skated around Calle Jarnkrok and blasted a shot past Rinne just a couple of feet after entering the offensive zone to give Boston the, 1-0, lead at 1:36 of the first period.
McAvoy (14) and Grzelcyk (10) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal.
Moments later, Kuraly hit Matt Duchene from behind along the glass and received a two-minute minor for boarding at 6:10.
Nashville did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Predators, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 13-8, in shots on goal.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Preds led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (8-2).
Both teams had four takeaways aside and the Predators were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame. Boston had yet to see any action on the power play.
Nashville thought they had tied the game up 61 seconds into the second period when Nick Bonino batted the puck out of the air and over the goal line while the net was knocked off its moorings, but after review it was determined that the actions of a Predators player had caused the net to come off– therefore negating the goal.
Rocco Grimaldi bumped McAvoy and sent the Bruins defender barreling into the post– knocking the net off its pegs as Bonino worked his magic.
The score remained, 1-0, for Boston at 1:01 of the second period.
About a minute later, the B’s had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor penalty that was served by Ritchie.
Once more the Preds couldn’t convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.
Almost midway through the second period, Heinen (7) sniped a shot over Rinne’s blocker side and into the corner pocket of the twine to score his first goal in eight games and give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
Grzelcyk (11) and Coyle (14) tallied the assists on Heinen’s goal at 8:21 of the second period and Boston led, 2-0.
But less than a minute later the Bruins found themselves shorthanded yet again as Carlo tripped Arvidsson at 9:01– resulting in a 5-on-4 advantage for Nashville.
Things escalated to a 5-on-3 power play for the Predators after Grzelcyk caught Craig Smith with a high stick at 10:28.
A short, 33-second, two-skater advantage would be followed by an abbreviated standard power play, but the Preds didn’t need that long to connect on the 5-on-3 advantage.
A bang-band play led to Filip Forsberg (15) rocketing the puck behind Rask with assists from Duchene (20) and Roman Josi (31).
With the secondary assist on Forsberg’s power play goal, Josi extended his scoring streak to 11-games and Nashville cut Boston’ lead in half, 2-1, at 10:54 of the second period.
The B’s escaped the remainder of the penalty kill unharmed.
Late in the middle frame, Nashville lost track of basic numbers and had too many skaters on the ice at 16:29.
Kyle Turris took the long skate across the ice to serve the bench minor infraction and the Bruins capitalized on their first power play of the night.
Patrice Bergeron (18) followed up on a second-effort and sent a shot over Rinne’s blocker to once again give the Bruins a two-goal lead.
DeBrusk (10) and Marchand (41) had the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and Boston led, 3-1, at 17:42.
Through 40 minutes of play in Nashville, the Bruins (and their moms– as it was Boston’s moms trip) led the Preds, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 26-24, in shots on goal despite trailing in the second period shots on net alone– 16-13.
Boston also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-2), takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (51-49).
Nashville led in giveaways (5-3) and hits (13-6).
The Predators were 1/4 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were a perfect 1/1 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Wagner (4) kicked off the third period with a quick goal as he unintentionally redirected a shot after he was pushed by a Predators defender into Rinne at 2:51.
Lindholm (1) and Krug (24) notched the assists on Wagner’s goal and the Bruins extended their lead, 4-1.
Almost a minute later, Grimaldi tripped Chara and was assessed a minor infraction at 3:52 of the third period.
Boston’s ensuing power play was not successful.
Midway through the third period, Yakov Trenin tried to engage Chara in a fight and got the Bruins captain to exchange fisticuffs at 11:40.
Chara received an extra minor for roughing while both received majors for fighting and thus the Predators were headed on the power play after just the 8th fight this season for Boston– and 3rd in a row for their captain.
Four seconds later, Moore hooked Arvidsson and joined Ritchie (serving Chara’s roughing minor) and Chara in the box as the B’s faced Nashville’s 5-on-3 advantage at 11:44.
The Predators weren’t able to get anything done with the two-skater advantage and took a penalty of their own at 15:38 when Josi hooked Lindholm.
Shortly after Boston’s resulting power play expired, Coyle tripped Mikael Granlund at 17:46 and presented the Preds with their seventh power play opportunity of the night.
Just as the saying goes “the seventh time’s a charm”, the Predators managed to squib a puck through Rask and just over the line while chaos ensued in the crease at 18:06.
Granlund (7) notched the power play goal for Nashville and the Preds cut the lead back to, 4-2. Mattias Ekholm (19) and Forsberg (15) had the assists on Granlund’s goal.
With 1:07 remaining in the game, Hynes pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but things didn’t go quite as planned when Krejci (9) received the puck on a pass from Rask and fired the rubber biscuit into the empty goal frame about 170-feet away from where he was standing at 19:05.
Rask (1) picked up his first assist of the season and the only assist on Krejci’s empty net goal as Boston all but confirmed the win, 5-2.
It only took another 22 seconds for the Bruins to rub salt in the wounds of Smashville– adding one more tic-toc-goal from Coyle (8) at 19:27 as Boston pulled ahead to a four-goal lead with seconds remaining in the action.
Ritchie (4) and Heinen (10) were credited with the assists on Coyle’s goal and the B’s sealed the deal on a, 6-2, win in Nashville.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-35), blocked shots (15-6) and faceoff win% (56-44), while Nashville wrapped up the night with the advantage in giveaways (7-3) and hits (15-8).
The Predators wrapped up Tuesday night’s action 2/7 on the power play and the B’s finished the game 1/3 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins improved to 16-4-2 when leading after the first period, 14-0-5 when leading after two periods and 18-6-7 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Boston returns home to face the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday before venturing on the road to visit the New York Islanders on Jan. 11th, the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 13th and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 14th.
Roman Josi and Patrice Bergeron scored a pair of goals for their respective teams, but Ryan Ellis scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Nashville Predators topped the Boston Bruins, 4-3, at TD Garden on Saturday night.
Pekka Rinne (12-5-3 record, 2.98 goals against average, .895 save percentage in 20 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in Nashville’s win.
Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (8-3-4, 2.37 GAA, .924 SV% in 15 games played) stopped 25 out of 29 shots faced (.862 SV%) in the overtime loss.
The Bruins fell to 21-7-9 (51 points) on the season, but remained in command of 1st place in the Atlantic Division.
Meanwhile, the Predators improved to 17-12-6 (40 points) on the season and moved into 5th place in the Central Division.
Boston fell to 12-1-8 at home this season as a result of the loss.
Once more the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) on Saturday.
John Moore was also out of the lineup for the second game in a row after missing Thursday night’s, 3-2, shootoutloss to the New York Islanders with an illness.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, opted to keep Connor Clifton in the lineup in place of Moore, while switching up his entire fourth line– scratching Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes in exchange for Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie.
Lindholm centered the fourth line while Sean Kuraly slid over to the left wing and Ritchie fit in on the right side.
Nordstrom, Backes and Moore made up Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against Nashville.
Less than a minute into the action on Saturday night, Viktor Arvisson was penalized for holding against Brad Marchand in Arvidsson’s first game back since missing the last 12 games with an injury.
Boston’s first power play of the night at 26 seconds of the first period was unsuccessful.
Almost midway through the opening frame, Anders Bjork slashed Ellis and presented Nashville with their first power play opportunity of the night at 7:13.
The Predators did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and the Bruins managed to kill off Bjork’s minor.
Late in the period, David Krejci tripped up Matt Duchene and was charged with an infraction at 15:10, but Nashville’s power play was powerless through one period.
After 20 minutes of action on Saturday, the Bruins and Predators entered the first intermission tied, 0-0, with Boston leading in shots on goal, 11-8.
Nashville was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Dan Hamhuis jumpstarted the middle frame with a tripping minor at 4:23 of the second period, but the Bruins couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.
Boston did catch Nashville in the vulnerable minute after special teams play, however, as Lindholm (2) bumped into a loose puck off a rebound while being checked by a Predators defender and the rubber biscuit tumbled into the twine.
Ritchie (3) and Kuraly (9) had the assists on Lindholm’s first goal in 16 games as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead at 7:30 of the second period.
Midway through the second period, Matt Grzelcyk slashed Duchene and presented the Predators with another power play at 10:19.
Nashville’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Craig Smith tripped up Boston blue liner, Brandon Carlo, at 11:27.
The two clubs played 52 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey before the Bruins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.
Shortly after making the kill, the Preds capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Josi (12) snaked his way from the point to the slot and let go of a backhand shot that floated past Halak as Arvidsson acted as a fly-by screen in front of the Boston netminder.
Ryan Johansen (15) had the only assist on Josi’s first goal of the game at 12:14 and the Predators tied the game, 1-1.
Moments later, Filip Forsberg was penalized for roughing at 17:56 and the Bruins went back on the power play.
Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Bergeron (12) acted as the bumper and one-timed a shot past Rinne from point blank to give Boston the lead with a power play goal.
Torey Krug (20) had the only assist on Bergeron’s first goal of the night at 19:12 and the B’s led, 2-1.
Heading into the second intermission, Boston was ahead in the scoreboard, 2-1, but tied in shots on goal, 19-19, after Nashville rallied to an, 11-8, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (11-10) and hits (22-14), while Nashville led in takeaways (14-5), giveaways (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (62-38).
The Predators were 0/3 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 1/4 on the power play heading into the third period.
Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Preds took the game by storm.
Forsberg (13) poked home a loose puck through Halak’s short side while on a delayed call against Boston (that was ultimately negated by Nashville’s goal) and tied the game in the process, 2-2, at 7:35 of the third period.
Johansen (16) and Mattias Ekholm (14) notched the assists on Forsberg’s goal.
Just 35 seconds later, Josi (13) added his second goal of the night on an unassisted effort when Halak skated out of his crease and misplayed the puck in the high slot, effectively turning the rubber biscuit over to the Predators captain– leaving an empty goal frame for Josi to bury the puck in.
Josi’s goal at 8:10 of the third period gave Nashville their first lead of the night, 3-2, but the Bruins wouldn’t go down without a fight just yet.
After using his timeout after the Josi goal mishap, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about two minutes left in regulation.
David Pastrnak unloaded a shot towards the goal that Bergeron (13) redirected for his second goal of the game– tying the game, 3-3, in the process.
Pastrnak (23) and Marchand (34) tallied the assists as Boston evened things up at 18:55 of the third period.
At the horn, the Bruins required extra time for the ninth time in their last 13 games as Boston and Nashville were knotted, 3-3, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 30-26, after regulation.
Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (12-10) and hits (28-23), while Nashville led in takeaways (15-8) and faceoff win% (53-47).
There were no penalties called in the third period or overtime period, so the Preds finished 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 1/4 on the power play Saturday night.
In overtime, Peter Laviolette, started Duchene, Mikael Granlund and Josi for the Predators while Cassidy opted for Charlie Coyle, Bjork and Charlie McAvoy.
With less than a minute separating the two teams from going to a shootout, Nashville pounced on a wacky bounce in the attacking zone while the Bruins scrambled out of position.
Johansen flipped a quick pass to Ellis (6) as the Predators defender snuck in unnoticed and wired a one-timer into the twine– winning the game in the process.
Johansen (17) and Kyle Turris (11) notched the assists as the Preds picked up the, 4-3, overtime victory at 4:05 of the overtime period.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (32-29), blocked shots (15-14), giveaways (13-10) and hits (29-24), while Nashville left the Hub with the advantage in faceoff win% (52-48) and the final result.
The Predators improved to 2-4 in overtime this season, while the Bruins fell to 2-4.
Boston has lost eight of their last nine games and are 1-4-4 in that span. But the B’s still have a nine-point lead over 2nd place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bruins fell to 5-1-5 when tied after one period, 14-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal and 11-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.
They have now lost eight out of their last nine games and are 1-4-4 in that span.
Boston wraps up their four-game homestand (0-0-3) on Monday night (Dec. 23rd) as they host the Washington Capitals before the league-wide holiday break kicks in from Dec. 24th through the 26th.
The Bruins travel to Buffalo to take on the Sabres in a home-and-home on Dec. 27th before hosting Jack Eichel and his teammates on Dec. 29th. The B’s finish off the month of December in New Jersey on Dec. 31st.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
- wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
- Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
- Dallas Stars, 92 points
- Colorado Avalanche, 86 points
Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons
Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.
Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?
That’s to be determined.
Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.
Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.
The good news?
The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.
How would the Predators fail?
Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.
St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons
Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.
But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?
Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.
St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.
When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?
How would the Blues fail?
The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.
Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons
The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.
Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).
Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.
Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.
How would the Jets fail?
If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.
Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons
What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.
First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.
Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.
At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.
Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.
Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.
Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.
How would the Wild fail?
If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).
Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons
Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.
In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.
While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.
That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.
Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.
Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.
Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).
How would the Blackhawks fail?
Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.
Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons
The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?
But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).
On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.
The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.
Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.
That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).
Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.
How would the Stars fail?
Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.
Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons
Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.
Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.
Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.
Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).
Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!
Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.
Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.
Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.
Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.
Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.
How would the Avalanche fail?
By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?
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*
The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The DTFR Duo runs through some Tampa Bay Lightning franchise records, Conor McGregor reactions, hands out more awards, fixes the NHL and takes a look at how things are shaping up in the Pacific Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
|NHL SCHEDULE: January 21-27|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/ Result|
|Monday, January 21|
|4 p.m.||St. Louis||Los Angeles||3-4|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Florida||2-6|
|Tuesday, January 22|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Washington||7-6 (OT)|
|8:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Chicago Blackhawks||2-3 (SO)|
|9 p.m.||Carolina||Calgary||2-3 (OT)|
|Wednesday, January 23|
|7:30 p.m.||Washington Capitals||Toronto Maple Leafs||NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS|
|7:30 p.m.||Arizona||Montréal||RDS, SN1|
|10 p.m.||St. Louis||Anaheim|
|Thursday, January 24|
|No games scheduled – All-Star Break|
|Friday, January 25|
|No games scheduled – All-Star Break|
|Saturday, January 26|
|NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif.|
|Sunday, January 27|
|No games scheduled – All-Star Break|