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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins’ best home winning streak to start a season in 30 years ends

The Edmonton Oilers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to rout the Boston Bruins, 5-3, at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Leon Draisaitl scored the game-tying and game-winning goals before Cody Ceci added an insurance marker for good measure, while Mikko Koskinen (8-1-0, 2.59 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in nine games played) made 26 saves on 29 shots against in the win for the Oilers.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (3-3-0, 3.01 goals-against average, .903 save percentage in six games played) turned aside 23 out of 28 shots faced in the loss.

Boston fell to 6-5-0 (12 points) overall and stuck in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton remained atop the Pacific Division with a 10-2-0 record and 20 points on the season.

Nick Foligno and Anton Blidh returned from their upper-body injuries that kept Foligno out for the last eight games and Blidh out for the last seven games, respectively.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted Foligno on the second line right wing slot– bumping Craig Smith down to the third line with Jack Studnicka having been reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) for a little seasoning.

Blidh, meanwhile, was slotted into the fourth line left wing role in place of Trent Frederic (upper body) who missed Thursday’s action as a result of an injury sustained in Tuesday night’s, 3-2, win against the Ottawa Senators.

Jakub Zboril and Karson Kuhlman served as Boston’s healthy scratches against the Oilers.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored Colby Cave (1994-2020) with a tribute video and a moment of silence before Emily Cave dropped the ceremonial first puck and administered long hugs for each team’s captain before hugging a few more Oilers players and the entire Bruins bench.

About a minute into Thursday night’s action, Draisaitl tripped Brad Marchand and presented the Bruins with the first power play opportunity of the game at 1:02 of the first period.

Boston didn’t convert on the skater advantage, however, but took advantage of the vulnerable minute after as Patrice Bergeron sent a tape-to-tape pass to David Pastrnak, leading Pastrnak (4) into the attacking zone with Oilers defender, Duncan Keith, trailing before firing a shot from the dot through Koskinen’s five-hole to put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.

Bergeorn (5) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s goal at 4:45 of the first period.

The lead didn’t last long for the B’s as Evan Bouchard (2) snuck in from the point and wired a shot from the slot over Ullmark’s glove, off the bar and in– tying the game, 1-1, in the process 44 seconds after Pastrnak scored for Boston.

Draisaitl (14) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (15) tallied the assists on Bouchard’s goal at 5:29 of the first period.

Midway through the period, Connor Clifton sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction while trying to clear his own zone at 10:50.

Edmonton did not score on the ensuing power play, however.

Late in the period, Slater Koekkoek cut a rut to the sin bin for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage at 17:30.

Heading into the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Oilers led in shots on goal, 9-7.

Edmonton also held the advantage in takeaways (4-2), while Boston led in blocked shots (4-1), hits (19-9) and faceoff win percentage (73-27). Both teams had three giveaways each.

The Oilers were 0/1 and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play after one period.

Pastrnak protected the puck in the attacking zone early in the middle period before sending an attempted pass for Bergeron through the slot, but the play was broken up by Bouchard before bouncing to Marchand (6), who promptly pounced on the loose puck and scored from the low slot.

Bergeron (6) and Pastrnak (6) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-1, at 5:06 of the second period.

The goal moved Marchand (731) into sole possession of the eighth-most points scored in a Bruins uniform, surpassing David Krejci (730) in the process.

Wayne Cashman (793 points with Boston) is seventh on the list ahead of Marchand.

Just like they did in the first period, though, the Oilers found a way to score within a minute after the Bruins pulled ahead– only this time Edmonton did it 24 seconds after Marchand’s goal as Zach Hyman (8) received a pass from Connor McDavid, skated past three Bruins players and scored on a quick flip to tie the game.

McDavid (15) had the only assist as Edmonton tied it, 2-2, at 5:30 of the second period.

A few minutes later, Koekkoek went back to the box– this time for tripping Marchand– at 8:42, but the B’s didn’t score on the resulting power play.

Late in the middle frame, Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff and sent the puck back to Matt Grzelcyk at the point.

Grzelcyk sent a “D-to-D” pass along the blue line to Brandon Carlo (1), who rocketed a slap shot off of Koskinen’s glove and into the twine to give the Bruins a, 3-2, lead at 17:14.

Grzelcyk (2) and Bergeron (6) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s first goal of the season.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 18-16, in shots on goal, including an, 11-7, advantage in the second period alone.

Boston also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (27-25) and faceoff win% (67-33), while the Oilers led in giveaways (6-4). Both teams had four takeaways each.

Edmonton was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/3 on the skater advantage.

Marchand held Darnell Nurse and was sent to the box at 1:28 of the third period as a result, but the Oilers couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Edmonton started to capitalize on a shift in momentum, plus quite a few defensive lapses in Bruins players’ judgment.

Carlo lost the rubber biscuit while second-guessing a pass to his defensive partner– softly giving the puck away to Draisaitl (11) instead for an unassisted goal from close range as No. 29 in an Oilers road jersey buried a shot past Ullmark’s glove with a blast.

Draisaitl’s first goal of the game tied things up, 3-3, at 6:22 of the third period.

About a few minutes later, Edmonton won an attacking zone faceoff back to the point where Keith tossed the puck to Ceci as he crept in before sending a shot pass for Draisaitl (12) to redirect from the slot to give the Oilers their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 9:26 of the third period.

Ceci (2) and Keith (3) had the assists as Edmonton tied the game and took the lead in a span of 3:04.

In the closing minutes of Thursday night’s action, Ullmark sent the puck along the boards up to Clifton around the goal line, whereby Clifton promptly banked it inadvertently off of Bouchard, resulting in a mad scramble in front of Boston’s own net.

Though Ullmark made the initial save, a rebound that no Bruin could settle on their stick and clear the zone led to Ceci (1) waltzing in with an easy shot from the point at a mostly empty net to cement Edmonton’s victory with a, 5-3, lead.

Ceci’s goal was unassisted at 17:41 of the third period.

With less than two minute remaining in the action, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but it was all for naught as the final horn sounded– signaling a, 5-3, win for the Oilers, despite Boston finishing the night leading in shots on goal, 29-28.

Edmonton held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone, 12-11, and exited the building leading in blocked shots (8-7), while the Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in giveaways (9-8), hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (67-33).

The Oilers finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage.

The B’s fell to 5-3-0 (4-1-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 0-3-0 (0-1-0 at home) when tied after the first period and 4-1-0 (3-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Edmonton, meanwhile, improved to 4-2-0 (2-1-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-0-0 (2-0-0 on the road) when tied after one and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins travel to Prudential Center for a Saturday matinee road game against the New Jersey Devils before returning home to host the Montréal Canadiens on Sunday for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Boston then has five days off before their next road game in Philadelphia on Nov. 20th.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-19-2, 72 points

2nd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Winnipeg

Additions: F Warren Foegele (acquired from CAR), F Zach Hyman, F Brendan Perlini, F Derek Ryan, F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO), F Tim Soderlund (acquired from CHI), D Cody Ceci, D Duncan Keith (acquired from CHI)

Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Tyler Ennis (signed to a PTO with OTT), F Joseph Gambardella (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Gaëtan Haas (NL), F Dominik Kahun (NL), F Jujhar Khaira (signed with CHI), F James Neal (buyout), F Joakim Nygård (SHL), F Alan Quine (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Patrick Russell (SHL), F Anton Slepyshev (KHL), D Ethan Bear (traded to CAR), D Caleb Jones (traded to CHI), D Dmitry Kulikov (signed with MIN), D Adam Larsson (expansion, SEA), D Theodor Lennström (KHL), G Dylan Wells (traded to CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Alex Chiasson

Re-signed: F Tyler Benson, F Cooper Marody, F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F Devin Shore, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Tyson Barrie, D Slater Koekkoek, G Stuart Skinner, G Mike Smith

Offseason Analysis: The second-best team in the Scotia NHL North Division would’ve been the fourth-best team in the other three divisions last season.

No matter what, the Oilers would’ve been a playoff team in 2020-21, but it’s the embarrassment that came with being swept in the 2021 First Round by the Winnipeg Jets and subsequent offseason moves that have left many scratching their heads.

Instead of overreacting and making big, sweeping, changes, Edmonton went for a big piece and a few smaller moves that still ate up their valuable cap space in the midst of a flat salary cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

So really it’s just more of the same from the Oilers.

Let’s start with the good news…

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie are back and solidify some semblance of depth for Edmonton with Nugent-Hopkins on an affordable eight-year extension worth $5.125 million per season– the Oilers will have a surefire center on the second or third line for years to come.

The 28-year-old was Edmonton’s 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games last season after reaching the 60-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2018-19 through 2019-20.

Had there been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, Nugent-Hopkins likely would’ve at least eclipsed the 50-point mark.

At 5-foot-8, 135-pounds, Yamamoto has a lot in common with guys like Martin St. Louis in his stature and– like St. Louis– is better off developing on his own as he had 8-13–21 totals in 52 games in his first full season run with the Oilers last season.

Though he made his league debut in 2017-18, Yamamoto has only been utilized by Edmonton sparingly in parts of three seasons leading up to his full-time status in 2020-21.

His game should be fine in due time, though offering him a supporting cast (a theme for the Oilers in general) would be fine.

After he had 59 points in 78 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19, Barrie was shipped as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that, well, didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations in Toronto.

Barrie’s production from the point plummeted to 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.

He joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last October and bounced back with an admirable 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 56 games.

He had 25 points on the power play in his last season in Colorado, then just 12 points as a quarterback on Toronto’s power play unit before rebounding with 23 points from the blue line while on the skater advantage last season for Edmonton.

For his efforts, Barrie was rewarded with a sweet three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and at 29-years-old that’s about right for a defender on the cusp of beginning the eventual decline from a defensive prime.

Zach Hyman joins the Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season, which isn’t completely terrible for a 29-year-old forward in his prime that had 15-18–33 totals in 43 games with the Maple Leafs last season and has reached the 40-point plateau twice before.

As a top-six forward, Hyman is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Art Ross Trophy-winning powerhouse offense (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).

An additional positive from this offseason?

Edmonton’s rid themselves of James Neal via a buyout. Granted, he’ll still be on the books through the 2024-25 season at about a $1.917 million cap penalty, but after parts of two seasons with the Oilers since being acquired for Milan Lucic, at least that branch of franchise history has come to a close.

Neal had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games last season after bouncing back from 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 to 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games for Edmonton in 2019-20.

He’s a shell of his former self, but on a low-risk contract, he could fit in fine just about anywhere else that needs a touch of veteran experience.

Now for the bad stuff that… …isn’t necessarily that bad, it’s just disappointing from the Oilers (who seemingly have chosen to make the Buffalo Sabres look good for at least being salary cap smart this offseason and that’s about it).

At 39-years-old, Mike Smith could’ve called it a career, but when Jimmy Howard turned down Oilers General Manager, Ken Holland, Smith was rewarded with two-year (not just one-year!) extension worth $2.200 million per season.

The cap hit is fine, considering he recored a goals-against average under 2.50 for the first time since the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Back then, in 67 games with Phoenix, Smith had a 38-18-10 record, a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts en route to backstopping the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, where the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Phoenix in five games.

Last season with the Oilers, Smith went 21-6-2 in 32 games, had three shutouts and amassed a 2.31 goals-against average as well as a .923 save percentage.

In 2019-20, he had a 19-12-6 record in 39 games, one shutout, a .902 save percentage and a whopping 2.95 goals-against average.

Whether it’s the introduction of Barrie to Edmonton’s defense that helped singlehandedly reduce the workload Smith faced or not– Smith had a fantastic season in 2020-21.

However, time stops for nobody and with an average age of 35.3 between Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock as reliable options in the crease under contract at the NHL level, well, it’s easy to feel uneasy about Edmonton’s chances at stopping the puck from night-to-night as their bodies collectively wear down through an 82-game schedule.

Then again, they are athletes and you and I are not.

Yet, it’s worth noting since unlike Smith, Koskinen went from an 18-13-3 record in 38 games with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20 with the Oilers to a dismal 13-13-0 record in 26 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 2020-21.

For all the good that Barrie and Co. on Edmonton’s blue line have done, there’s two new additions that, uh, might undo some of the forward progress.

Connor McDavid (ever heard of him?) vouched for Holland to acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago and then Holland went along and signed Cody Ceci in free agency.

Though Keith recorded 6-34–40 totals in 82 games in 2018-19 with Chicago, he’s been in decline, notching 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 61 games in 2019-20 and just 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 54 games last season.

The 38-year-old defender would’ve accepted any trade to a team close to the pacific northwest as he expressed a desire to be closer to family, having been isolated playing hockey for a living for most of the time during the ongoing pandemic and spending roughly five months combined with his son prior to being traded to Edmonton.

In 1,192 career NHL games, he’s won three Stanley Cup rings, was named playoff MVP in 2015, and has 105-520–625 totals in the regular season.

With two years left on his contract, Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit is a bit steep for what could be a defensive liability as the aging process continues and– turns out– Holland could’ve done better by waiting another day and signing Keith Yandle for much less after the Florida Panthers bought him out. Who knew?!

Though the Internet likes to make fun of Ceci, the 27-year-old defender really hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 53 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season isn’t great, but he’s not expected to be a top-four defender– or at least he shouldn’t be.

Mistakes and weird things will happen. Sometimes you’re just unlucky like that.

Wait, Holland gave him four-years at $3.250 million per season? Yikes.

And to put the icing on the cake, Holland traded Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele. Not that Foegele’s bad, but for a team that could use a better defense, Bear fit in pretty well.

Has this McDavid guy ever tried watching the Oilers?

Offseason Grade: C+

For the Nugent-Hopkins extension, sensible new deal for Barrie and Yamamoto bridge contract, Holland deserves some praise for keeping the right pieces happy and on the roster heading into 2021-22.

That said, he also made some errors in judgment acquiring Keith at the price he paid, as well as handing out Ceci a contract with a steep cap hit and term for a guy that’s probably not that good.

In other words, it was just another normal offseason for the Oilers.

Edmonton made some smart moves, but then overreacted in other areas, while still searching for the second coming of Andy Moog in net or whatever.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bruins rout Caps, 5-1, lose Carlo to head injury

The Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals, 5-1, Friday night at TD Garden after Capitals forward, Tom Wilson, delivered an unpenalized hit to the head of Bruins defender, Brandon Carlo, sparking an electric response on the scoreboard for Boston.

Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic each had a scrap with Wilson in a bout of “vigilante justice” because of one player that showed a lack of respect for “the code” and has once again threatened the career of another player with what is likely a head injury.

Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, had some strong words regarding Wilson’s hit during the first intermission, leading the New England Sports Network (NESN) to have to utilize a couple of drops to avoid facing scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

NESN aired Marchand’s interview in full after coming back from a break in the second period after the production truck had enough time to mute a pair of expletives.

Meanwhile, Jarsolav Halak (5-2-1, 2.24 goals against average, .913 save percentage in eight games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against for a .969 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Capitals goaltender, Vitek Vanecek (10-5-3, 2.83 GAA, .906 SV% in 19 games played) stopped 14 out of 18 shots faced for a .778 SV% in 35:43 time on ice before being replaced by Ilya Samsonov (2-0-1, 2.87 GAA, .877 SV% in four games played) made six saves on seven shots against (.857 SV%) for no decision in relief of Vanecek.

The Bruins improved to 13-5-3 (29 points) and moved into 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Caps fell to 13-6-4 (30 points) and 2nd place in the division.

Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand) on Friday.

Charlie Coyle, however, made his return from COVID protocol and as a result was reunited on the third line with Frederic on his left wing and Craig Smith on his right wing.

Jake DeBrusk was promoted to the right side of the second line, while Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner made up the fourth line.

Sean Kuraly joined John Moore as a healthy scratch, while Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen and Callum Booth were listed on the taxi squad.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his defense.

Early in the opening frame, Charlie McAvoy tried to hit Garnet Hathaway, but bounced off the Washington forward as Hathaway anticipated and met McAvoy with an equal and opposing force.

McAvoy slammed against he boards by the bench and smacked the ice, yielding a quick trip down the tunnel for a cut above his right eye likely caused by his visor.

Late in the period, Marchand (11) snuck into the low slot and received a pass from Patrice Bergeron before sending a backhand shot over Vanecek’s glove to give Boston the game’s first goal.

Bergeron (13) and McAvoy (13) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 14:21 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Coyle yielded the first power play of the game to the Capitals after he caught Dmitry Orlov with a slash at 14:42.

Washington was not able to convert on their first skater advantage of the night.

Moments later, Wilson made a couple of runs at Frederic, catching the ire of the young Bruins forward.

Then Wilson caught Carlo up high in the corner to Rask’s right side behind the goal line with enough force to bash Carlo’s head off the glass before Jakub Vrana delivered a shift cross check above the shoulders while Carlo immediately clutched the sides of his head and collapsed in a heap.

Wagner grabbed Wilson as every remaining skater one the ice paired up.

There was no penalty on the call, which left Cassidy visibly irate on the bench and others on Boston’s bench audibly displeased.

Wilson was a free man and the threshold– as well as potential for more chaos– was established. In simple terms, it was the most glaring example of what not to do as an on-ice official.

It might not have been charging, but it could’ve been boarding.

It might not have been immediately clear that there was head contact or that Carlo was in a vulnerable position– let alone that Wilson had plenty of time and space to deliver and proper body check, but instead the refs made no call and implied that, in return, Wilson was free game.

Not only was player safety compromised for Carlo, but it would be compromised for Wilson too in the eyes of retribution if it had reared its head.

Let alone the next player Wilson might go on to hit.

Regardless, the Bruins entered the first intermission taking not only a hit to their defense, but a dent in their momentum, despite leading, 1-0, on the scoreboard.

Washington led, 12-8, in shots on goal, as well as in giveaways (5-2) and hits (12-6), while Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3).

Both teams had three takeaways. The two clubs were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage.

The Capitals were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Boston tweeted that Carlo (upper body) would not return to Friday night’s action before the second period began.

Brenden Dillon was penalized for roughing 20 seconds into the second period after a stoppage in play and presented the Bruins with their first power play opportunity of the night.

Boston did not score on the resulting skater advantage.

Moments later, Tinordi squared off in an exchange of fisticuffs with Wilson– marking the first of two fights of the night featuring No. 43 in a Capitals road uniform.

Each player received five-minute fighting majors at 6:12 of the second period.

It was the eighth fight this season for Boston and the first since Nick Ritchie fought Brendan Lemieux at 20:00 of the third period at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on Feb. 28th.

While Wilson was in the box, Frederic (3) redirected a shot pass from McAvoy into the open twine as Vanecek was screened by net front traffic.

McAvoy (14) and Smith (5) tallied the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to two-goals, 2-0, at 6:43 of the second period.

Wilson was still in the box as Boston’s first line worked its magic on a “tic-toc-goal” at 9:01, extending their lead to three-goals thanks to Bergeron (9).

David Pastrnak (10) and Marchand (15) notched the assists on Bergeron’s goal as the B’s took a, 3-0, lead.

Late in the period, Marchand (12) added his second goal of the game while on the doorstep of the crease behind the Washington netminder as Vanecek wasn’t able to track another close range shot pass that made it, 4-0, Boston.

Matt Grzelcyk (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s second of the night at 14:58.

Caps head coach, Peter Laviolette, made the decision to replace Vanecek with Samsonov thereafter.

The Bruins went into the second intermission with a four-goal lead and a, 10-8, advantage in shots in the second period alone, despite trailing the Capitals, 20-18, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.

Boston led in blocked shots (8-6) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Washington held the advantage in takeaways (8-7), giveaways (11-6) and hits (25-18).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the final frame.

David Krejci found Ritchie (8) for a one-timer goal past Samsonov’s glove to kick things off at 1:05 of the third period, extending Boston’s lead to five-goals.

Krejci (11) and DeBrusk (4) tabbed the assists as the Bruins led, 5-0.

Seconds later, Frederic and Wilson dropped the gloves with the first-year Boston forward wracking up an instigator minor and an automatic 10-minute misconduct to go along with his five-minute fighting major.

Wilson managed to accrue fewer penalty minutes for knocking someone out of the game with a high hit to the head (zero) than he did in his second fight of the night (five).

Smith served Frederic’s instigating minor at 1:12 of the third period and the Capitals did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Wilson and Frederic’s fight marked the ninth fighting major of the season for Boston.

Moments later, T.J. Oshie caught Pastrnak with a high stick at 3:27, but the B’s did not score on the resulting 5-on-4 advantage.

A little past the midpoint of the third period, Vrana (8) sniped a shot from the faceoff dot on a catch and release play past Halak’s blocker side disrupting the shutout in the process.

Nicklas Backstrom (16) and Oshie (10) nabbed the assists as the Capitals trailed, 5-1, at 13:36 of the third period.

Backstrom, meanwhile, earned his 700th career assist with the primary assist on the goal and became the first player in Washington’s franchise history to reach the 700-assist plateau.

No. 19 for the Caps was a first-year player back in 2007-08, and has spent his entire 979-game career with Washington– the team that drafted him 4th overall in the 2006 NHL Draft.

After another scrum that featured current Capitals defender, Zdeno Chara, being restrained by current Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, Wagner caught No. 33 for the Caps with a slash at 18:40 in the dying minutes of Friday night’s action.

Wagner cut a rut to the penalty box, while Washington couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage to close out the game.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 5-1, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 32-25, including a, 12-7, advantage in the third period alone for Washington.

The Bruins also wrapped up the night’s action leading in blocked shots (9-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).

The Capitals ended the 60-minute effort leading in giveaways (15-8) and hits (34-22).

Washington went 0/3 and Boston went 0/2 on the power play on Friday as the Bruins handed the Caps their most lopsided loss of the season– snapping the Capitals’ four-game winning streak in the process.

Carlo was taken to a local hospital by ambulance after being hit by Wilson.

After the game, Cassidy offered his thoughts on Wilson’s hit.

“You can see it,” he told reporters via Zoom, “He hits him in the head. [It was a] [p]redatory hit from a player who’s done that before.”

Cassidy continued, “We felt it was completely unnecessary, dirty,” and added that he didn’t know whether Carlo was going to stay overnight in the hospital or even if he had been concussed at that point.

“You can probably make your own call on that one, considering the hit was directly to his head.”

Laviolette offered a different point of view, explaining (neither in defense, nor in terms of throwing his own player under the bus),

“I saw the hit. His feet were on the ice, he stayed down with everything. Just looked like a hard hit in the corner. Not exactly sure what happened, but to me, it looked like just a hit.”

Laviolette also mentioned after the game that he hadn’t received any indication that the league would be wanting to talk to Wilson about the hit on Carlo.

Bruins newcoming defender in just his second game with the club since being claimed off waivers on Sunday, Tinordi called the hit “risky” and added, “You’ve got to hold up there.”

“That’s what I noticed about this team as soon as I got here. The boys are playing for each other night in and night out,” Tinordi observed of his new teammates, remarking on Bergeron’s tap of the glass in front of him after scoring a goal while Tinordi sat in the penalty box having just fought Wilson.

“We did the job and took care of business on the ice,” Marchand told reporters after the game.

“If the refs are able to look at [Wilson’s hit on Carlo on video review], that’s a suspension and he’s gone from the game,” Marchand continued, “We can review if a guy’s foot is half an inch offside, but we can’t review a headshot.”

“I’ve been guilty of it in the past. But it is something you don’t wanna see happen. But he was in a bad spot and Wilson took advantage.”

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak, meanwhile, have 437-563–1,003 combined totals in the last five years– becoming just one of two trios in the league in that span to collect over 1,000 combined points, joining Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers in doing so.

The Bruins improved to 9-2-1 (5-0-1 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal this season, while the Capitals fell to 5-3-2 (2-2-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal in 2020-21.

The B’s also improved to 7-0-0 (4-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 8-0-0 (5-0-0 at home) when leading after the second period this season.

Washington, meanwhile, fell to 2-4-1 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 1-4-0 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

Boston finishes up their three-game homestand (1-0-1) on Sunday against the New Jersey Devils before hitting the road for one game on Long Island next Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.

All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.

(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.

The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.

2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.

That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.

Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.

Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:

(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)

Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.

In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.

The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.

Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.

Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.

That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.

2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.

For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.

For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.

In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.

Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.

Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.

Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.

Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.

What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.

This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.

It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.

Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.

Regular season outcomes:

3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.

Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.

He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.

It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.

Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).

Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.

Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.

Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.

This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.

The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.

Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.

Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.

Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.

He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.

Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.

Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).

Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.

In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.

If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.

Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.

Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.

Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.

But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.

The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.

If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.

If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.

At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.

Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360

8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360

8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360

8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.

As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.

Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.

Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.

Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.

Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.

For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.

The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.

Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.

Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.

In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.

Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.

Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.

Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.

The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD

8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.

He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.

Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.

Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.

In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.

Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.

Alright, let’s check the backup…

Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.

Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?

The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.

Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.

Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.

Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.

Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.

Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.

This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.

In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.

2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.

Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).

Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.

The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.

That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.

Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!

The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.

They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).

If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.

Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.

Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*

*If necessary


2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.

St. Louis Blues

42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW

Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW

Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #202- What Are Your Qualifications?/Let’s Get Kraken

Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Pastrnak, Bruins, beat Oilers, 2-1, in OT

David Pastrnak lifted the Boston Bruins over the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, in overtime with his game-winning breakaway goal about a minute into the extra frame at Rogers Place on Wednesday night.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (23-5-6 record, 2.04 goals against average, .932 save percentage in 35 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for a .966 SV% in the win.

Oilers goaltender, Mike Smith (16-10-5 record, 2.89 GAA, .905 SV% in 33 games played), stopped 32 shots out of 34 shots faced for a .941 SV% in the overtime loss.

Boston improved to 38-11-12 (88 points) on the season and maintained their dominance atop the Atlantic Division, while Edmonton fell to 32-21-7 (71 points), but remained in command of the Pacific Division.

With the win, the Bruins have now won 11 out of their last 13 games (including ten out of their last 11 games) and improved to 17-9-3 on the road this season.

Boston was without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body/AHL conditioning loan) on Wednesday, while Par Lindholm, John Moore and Anton Blidh served as healthy scratches for the B’s.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from Sunday afternoon’s, 3-1, victory in New York against the Rangers.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Pastrnak worked the puck to Brad Marchand as the veteran winger brought the rubber biscuit into the attacking zone along the boards.

Marchand flipped a quick pass to Patrice Bergeron (27) in the slot, whereby Bergeron deked and got a forehand shot around Smith to give Boston the game’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:28 of the first period.

Bergeron’s goal was assisted by Marchand (52) and Pastrnak (41) as No. 37 in black and gold amassed his fifth goal in his last six games.

About 90 seconds later, Ethan Bear slashed Marchand and was assessed a minor infraction, yielding the game’s first power play to the Bruins at 10:56.

Boston did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.

A few minutes after the Oilers killed off Bear’s minor, Joakim Nordstrom tripped up Gaetan Haas and presented Edmonton with their first power play of the night at 15:12, but the Oilers’ skater advantage was short lived.

Kailer Yamamoto caught Charlie Coyle with a high stick at 16:07 of the first period and drew some blood– resulting in a four-minute double minor infraction assessed to Yamamoto and 4-on-4 action for a span of 1:05 before Boston had an abbreviated extended power play.

After 20 minutes of action in Edmonton, the Bruins were leading the Oilers, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 10-2, in shots on goal.

Edmonton held the advantage in blocked shots (10-4), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (67-33), while Boston led in takeaways (5-4) and hits (9-7).

The Oilers were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/3 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Adam Larsson slashed Marchand and was sent to the sin bin at 3:37 of the second period.

Boston did not score on the ensuing power play– a trend which lasted the entire night for the Bruins.

Moments later, Torey Krug tripped up Haas and cut a rut to the penalty box at 6:49, but Edmonton didn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.

Just past the midpoint of Wednesday night’s action, Bergeron was called for hooking Bear at 10:56 as Boston was forced to kill off back-to-back penalties.

While on the power play, Oilers forward, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was penalized for holding the stick while tying up Coyle from entering the neutral zone and assessed a minor penalty at 12:15– resulting in 41 seconds of 4-on-4 action before the Bruins had an abbreviated power play.

Through two periods of play at Rogers Place, Boston still held a, 1-0, lead over Edmonton, despite trailing the Oilers, 20-19, in shots on goal heading into the second intermission.

Edmonton actually held an, 18-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone, while also leading in blocked shots (16-9), takeaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (64-36) after 40 minutes of action.

Boston held the advantage in giveaways (10-9) and hits (18-15) as neither team had mustered a power play goal– with the Oilers operating at 0/3 and the B’s at 0/5 on the skater advantage.

Karson Kuhlman tripped Caleb Jones at 1:59 of the third period and presented Edmonton with a power play early in the final frame.

This time the Oilers took advantage of their skater advantage as Bear wired a shot from the point that Sam Gagner (5) deflected over Rask’s glove from in front of the net.

Bear (14) and Nugent-Hopkins (30) were credited with the primary and secondary assists as the Oilers tied the game, 1-1, with Gagner’s power play goal at 3:42 of the third period.

Less than a couple minutes later, Edmonton had too many skaters on the ice at what was supposed to be regular 5-on-5 action. As a result, the Oilers were charged with a bench minor for too many men at 5:25 and Yamamoto was elected to serve the infraction.

Moments later, after failing to capitalize on their legal skater advantage, the Bruins found themselves shorthanded once again as Nordstrom was dealt a roughing minor at 9:34 after a fracas developed behind the Boston net.

Edmonton didn’t score on the resulting power play and, in fact, cut short their own skater advantage when Darnell Nurse slashed Coyle to breakup a shorthanded breakaway for the Bruins center.

Nurse was sent to the box at 11:10 and the two teams skated 4-on-4 once more for 24 seconds before Boston went on an abbreviated power play.

Late in the period, Pastrnak tripped up William Lagesson and was sent to the box at 17:30, but the Oilers weren’t able to score on their last power play of the night.

At the end of regulation, the game was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins holding the advantage in shots on goal, 33-29.

Edmonton led in blocked shots (17-12), takeaways (8-7) and faceoff win% (62-28), while both teams had 15 giveaways and 22 hits aside.

As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, the Oilers finished 1/6 and the Bruins finished 0/7 on the power play.

Cassidy started Coyle, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy in overtime, while Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, opted for Leon Draisaitl, Yamamoto and Bear.

A little over a minute into the extra action, David Krejci sent Pastrnak on a breakaway into the attacking zone with a lead pass through the neutral zone.

Pastrnak (43) deked and sent a backhand shot through Smith’s five-hole– clinching the game-winning overtime goal in the process– and lifting the Bruins over the Oilers, 2-1, in overtime.

Krejci (27) and Krug (32) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 1:14 of the overtime period.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (34-29), while Edmonton wrapped up Wednesday night with the advantage in blocked shots (19-12), giveaways (16-15) and faceoff win% (62-38).

Both teams finished the night with 22 hits each, while the Oilers fell to 3-5 in overtime this season.

Boston, in the meantime, improved to 5-5 in overtime this season, while Pastrnak recorded his 25th multi-point game this season with a goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s effort.

The Bruins improved to 23-7-8 when scoring the game’s first goal, 22-5-3 when leading after the first period and 23-1-6 when leading after two periods this season.

The B’s also improved to 5-5 in overtime this season and 5-12 past regulation overall.

Boston continues their four-game road trip (2-0-0) with stops against the Calgary Flames on Friday and Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

The Bruins return home for a two-game homestand on Feb. 25th and Feb. 27th for meetings with the Flames and Dallas Stars, respectively, before wrapping up the month of February with a road game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 29th.

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