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NHL Nick's Net

Ducks down Bruins in first meeting since 2019

Hampus Lindholm had three assists in a, 5-3, victory for the Anaheim Ducks as they beat the Boston Bruins on the road Monday night at TD Garden.

John Gibson (14-10-6, 2.55 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in 30 games played) made 23 saves on 26 shots faced in the win for Anaheim.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (2-2-0, 4.29 goals-against average, .844 save percentage in four games played), stopped 22 out of 27 shots against in the loss in his first consecutive start of the season.

The Bruins fell to 24-13-2 (50 points) overall, but remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Ducks improved to 21-16-7 (49 points) and took command of 2nd place in the Pacific Division.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the two clubs hadn’t played each other prior to Monday night since Oct. 14, 2019, when David Pastrnak scored all four goals in a, 4-2, win for Boston on home ice.

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Trent Frederic (upper body), John Moore (upper body), Anton Blidh (upper body) and Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) on Monday.

Moore and Blidh took part in morning skate ahead of the game, but were not well enough for game action.

Meanwhile, Mike Reilly returned from the league’s COVID-19 protocol and was utilized in his usual spot on the second defensive pairing alongside Brandon Carlo.

As a result of Grzelcyk being out and Reilly returning, Urho Vaakanainen was promoted to the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.

Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other changes to his lineup from Saturday afternoon’s, 3-2, win against the Winnipeg Jets to Monday night’s action.

Frederic, Moore, Steven Fogarty (taxi squad), Jesper Frödén (taxi squad), Grzelcyk, Tyler Lewington (taxi squad), Zboril and Blidh comprised the long list of Bruins that were out of the lineup for one reason or another against the Ducks.

Less than a minute into the opening frame, McAvoy hooked Rickard Rakell and presented Anaheim with the night’s first power play as a result 44 seconds into the first period.

The Ducks weren’t successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

About midway through the opening period, Oskar Steen checked Nicolas Deslauriers with force from behind at an awkward angle, yielding a five-minute major for boarding initially.

In accordance with league rules, the on-ice officials reviewed the play and rescinded Steen’s major and instead issued a minor infraction on the play– yielding a two-minute power play to Anaheim as a result at 9:09 of the first period.

50 seconds into the skater advantage, Ryan Getzlaf unloaded on a blast from outside the faceoff circle to the left of Rask that was tipped by Derek Grant (7) in the slot to give the Ducks a, 1-0, lead.

Getzlaf (23) and Lindholm (12) tallied the assists on Grant’s power-play goal at 9:59.

Anaheim’s goal marked just the eight shot combined on the night as the Ducks held a, 7-1, advantage in shots on net as Grant opened the scoring.

Heading into the first intermission, the Ducks led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and held an, 11-5, advantage in shots on goal.

Anaheim also led in blocked shots (6-1), while Boston led in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (5-2), hits (11-8) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

The Ducks were 1/2 on the power play after one period and the B’s had yet to see any action on the skater advantage. That would change quickly in the middle frame.

Trevor Zegras slashed Patrice Bergeron and worked his way over to the penalty box as the Bruins went on their first power play of the night 17 seconds into the second period.

Unfortunately for Boston, the ensuing skater advantage was not kind to them.

Isac Lundeström (9) broke free and crashed the net on a breakaway, sliding the puck under Rask either via the five-hole or under a leg where Rask couldn’t quite get a feel for it as the rubber biscuit trickled through and made its way over the goal line.

Lindholm (13) tallied the only assist on Lundeström’s shorthanded goal and the Ducks led, 2-0, at 1:28 of the second period.

Almost midway through the period, Tomáš Nosek worked a pass across the slot to Pastrnak (20) for a one-timer goal that cut Anaheim’s lead in half, 2-1.

Nosek (6) and Nick Foligno (6) were credited with the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 7:47 as No. 88 in black and gold reached the 20-goal plateau for his sixth consecutive season– tying Bobby Orr for the most consecutive 20-goal seasons (six) under the age of 25 in Bruins franchise history.

Overall, Pastrnak is tied for the eighth-most consecutive 20-goal seasons, trailing Johnny Bucyk (10), Rick Middleton (nine), Brad Marchand (nine), Phil Esposito (eight), Bergeron (8), Peter McNab (seven) and Orr (seven).

Marchand reached his ninth consecutive 20-goal season this season and Bergeron currently has 12 goals in 2021-22.

Less than a minute later, during a commercial break, Gibson shoved Foligno as the Bruins forward appeared to have been chirping the Anaheim bench.

A scrum ensued, though nobody received any minor infractions.

Shortly after play resumed, Foligno and Sam Carrick exchanged fisticuffs as the Ducks defended their goaltender.

Both players received fighting majors at 8:55 of the second period.

Foligno and Carrick’s fight marked the 14th fight this season for Boston and the eighth since Jan. 1st.

Moments later, Getzlaf (3) entered the attacking zone and ripped a shot over Carlo, as well as over Rask’s right shoulder on the blocker side to extend Anaheim’s lead, 3-1, at 11:04 of the second period.

Rakell (9) and Lindholm (14) had the assists on Getzlaf’s goal as the Ducks retook a two-goal lead.

A few minutes later, Josh Mahura hooked Steen at 14:59 and presented Boston with another power play.

This time the Bruins were sure to take advantage of the skater advantage as Marchand sent a shot pass to the slot where Taylor Hall (9) redirected the puck off the far right post and into the twine behind Gibson.

Marchand (25) and Bergeron (20) notched the assists as Hall’s power-play goal brought Boston back to within one– trailing, 3-2, at 15:52 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Ducks led the Bruins, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 20-15, in shots on goal, despite Boston amassing a, 10-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Anaheim held the advantage in blocked shots (11-1), giveaways (10-7) and hits (19-16), while Boston led in takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Vaakanainen caught Rakell with a high stick 26 seconds into the third period and presented the Ducks with another chance on the power play, but Boston made the kill.

Moments later, Troy Terry (23) entered the attacking zone before curling and dragging the puck for a snap shot over Rask’s blocker side to give Anaheim another two-goal lead, 4-2, at 6:12 of the third period.

Kevin Shattenkirk (16) and Cam Fowler (16) had the assists on Terry’s goal as the Ducks continued to dominate the evening.

Midway through the period, Mahura lost an edge while chasing a loose puck in the low slot and crashed into the left post– requiring an extra minute or two with the assistance of a trainer to get off the ice.

With about 13 minutes left in the game, the Bruins tweeted that Foligno would not return to the action with an upper body injury, joining Deslauriers and Mahura in the pile of injuries on the night.

Greg Pateryn (1) blasted a shot from the point over Rask’s blocker side with traffic in front of the net to make it a four-goal lead for the Ducks at 10:58 of the third period.

Zegras (20) and Rakell (10) had the assists on Pateryn’s goal– his first in 44 games– as Anaheim extended their lead, 5-1.

Erik Haula (4) answered back late in the third with a one-timer goal courtesy of 49 seconds worth of zone time in Boston’s attacking zone as Pastrnak worked the puck deep to Reilly for the backhand behind the back pass through the slot to Haula to bring the Bruins to within two goals.

Reilly (6) and Pastrnak (17) tallied the assists on Haula’s goal and the B’s trailed, 5-3, at 16:28.

With 3:02 remaining in the action, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker.

After a stoppage with 15.1 seconds left on the clock, Cassidy used his timeout to rally his players for a chance at a double-miracle that ultimately went by the wayside.

At the final horn, the Ducks had won, 5-3, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 27-26– despite Boston holding an, 11-7, advantage in the third period alone.

Anaheim left TD Garden with the advantage in blocked shots (23-3) in addition to two points in the win column, while the Bruins exited their own arena leading in giveaways (13-11), hits (30-25) and faceoff win% (59-41).

The Ducks went 1/3 and the B’s went 1/2 on the power play on Monday.

The Bruins fell to 9-8-2 (6-5-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-8-1 (4-5-1 at home) when trailing after one period and 3-10-2 (3-6-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Anaheim, meanwhile, improved to 17-6-3 (6-4-1 on the road) when scoring first, 14-1-2 (4-1-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 15-2-1 (5-2-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

Boston went 5-2-0 in their seven-game homestand and will hit the road to finish the month of January with a three-game road trip.

The B’s visit the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET on TNT), Arizona Coyotes on Friday and Dallas Stars on Sunday before returning home to host the Seattle Kraken in their first ever matchup on Feb. 1st.

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NHL Nick's Net

Hurricanes storm Bruins, 7-1, in road victory

Nearly 11 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Willie O’Ree was called up from the Québec Aces minor professional hockey team and suited up for the Boston Bruins at Montréal Forum in what became a, 3-0, shutout for the Bruins against the Montréal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958.

The next day, O’Ree read in the paper that he had been the first Black player in National Hockey League history.

He played in the following game with Boston, a 6-2, loss to Montréal in his Boston Garden debut before he was sent back to the minors for the remainder of the 1957-58 season.

In a, 3-2, win against the Canadiens on Jan. 1, 1961, at Boston Garden, O’Ree scored his first career NHL goal– the eventual game-winner at 10:07 of the third period.

In total, O’Ree amassed 14 points (four goals, ten assists) in 45 career NHL games with the Bruins from 1958-61– paving the way for many Black players since then while being subjected to the brunt of racial epithets from fans, players and coaches alike.

In some tragic sense, not much has changed within the culture of the sport and society at large.

No one is a product of their time. Ignorance, inequality and racism are always ignorance, inequality and racism.

O’Ree’s hero, Herb Carnegie, was never given a proper chance at making the NHL.

Carnegie received a similar sham of a tryout that the Boston Red Sox gave Robinson on April 16, 1945, only this time it was at training camp in a different sport with the New York Rangers in Sept. 1948– a little more than one year after Robinson first played for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

In 1998, O’Ree was hired by the NHL as a Diversity Ambassador, having given many speeches since to kids and adults alike– those that play the game, those that have played the game and anyone that will listen in-between.

In 2018, O’Ree was finally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as a Builder.

Also in 2018, the NHL first presented the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award, which is presented annually “to an individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society,” as voted on by a fan vote in combination with weighted votes from O’Ree himself, the NHL and the award’s presenting sponsor, MassMutual.

Fans can submit candidates every year before the field is narrowed to three finalists that are then voted on to select a winner.

O’Ree is also a member of the Order of Canada, has a statue in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. and is awaiting the result of the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act in the United States Congress on Wednesday.

Oh, and, one more thing, O’Ree played his entire professional career spanning from the 1950s through the 1970s legally blind in his right eye after sustaining an injury in Junior hockey.

On Tuesday night, 64 years to the day that he made his NHL debut with Boston, the Bruins retired O’Ree’s No. 22 in front of 17,850 fans in attendance at TD Garden prior to a, 7-1, loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

O’Ree became just the 12th player in franchise history to have his number retired, joining the likes of Eddie Shore (No. 2), Lionel Hitchman (No. 3), Bobby Orr (No. 4), “Dit” Clapper (No. 5), Phil Esposito (No. 7), Cam Neely (No. 8), John Bucyk (No. 9), Milt Schmidt (No. 15), Rick Middleton (No. 16), Terry O’Reilly (No. 24) and Ray Bourque (No. 77) in the rafters of TD Garden.

He read a speech from his home in San Diego, California via Zoom before former Bruin and current NHL on TNT analyst, Anson Carter, as well as members of the S.C.O.R.E. Boston Youth Hockey program raised O’Ree’s No. 22 banner to thunderous applause.

Now all that’s needed is another statue outside the building next to Orr’s “The Goal” in The Hub on Causeway.

Or maybe the City of Boston can put it next to City Hall near Bill Russell’s statue.

Tuesday night in Carolina’s, 7-1, victory, Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a pair of goals while Jaccob Slavin and Tony DeAngelo each had four-point nights from the Hurricanes’ defense.

Frederik Andersen (20-6-0, 2.03 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 26 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots faced in the win for the Canes.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-1-0, 5.25 goals-against average, .821 save percentage in two games played) made seven saves on 12 shots against before being replaced after one period with his team trailing, 5-1– though in large part through no fault of his own for the lack of effort team-wide in the loss.

Linus Ullmark (13-5-0, 2.52 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 19 games played) made 20 saves on 22 shots in relief of Rask for no decision.

As a result of Tuesday night’s loss, the Bruins are 0-2-0 against the Hurricanes this season.

Boston fell to 22-12-2 (46 points) overall, but the B’s remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division.

Meanwhile, Carolina now sits atop the Metropolitan Division with a 26-8-2 record (54 points) thus far in 2021-22.

Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk were back from the league’s COVID-19 protocol for Boston, while Mike Reilly was placed in the aforementioned protocol ahead of the game on Tuesday.

In addition to Reilly, the Bruins were also without Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Nick Foligno (lower body), Trent Frederic (upper body) and John Moore (upper body) against Carolina.

With Clifton and Grzelcyk back, head coach Bruce Cassidy, adjusted his defensive pairing accordingly– partnering Grzelcyk with his usual suspect on the first defensive pairing alongside Charlie McAvoy, while Clifton went back to his third pairing role with Derek Forbort.

Urho Vaakanainen covered Reilly’s role on the second pair with Brandon Carlo.

On Monday, Karson Kuhlman, was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Kraken– signaling an end to his Bruins career as a result.

The 26-year-old undrafted forward made his NHL debut with Boston in the 2018-19 season and spent parts of four seasons with the B’s in 75 games, amassing 7-8–15 totals in that span.

On Tuesday, goaltender, Kyle Keyser, and forward, Steven Fogarty, were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) and assigned to Boston’s taxi squad.

Reilly, Frederic, Foligno, Moore, Fogarty, Tyler Lewington (the only healthy scratch), Zboril and Keyser were all out of the lineup against Carolina for one reason or another.

Less than four minutes into the action, Slavin sent a pass across the slot to Teuvo Teräväinen (11) for a one-timer goal on Rask’s glove side as the Bruins netminder was forced to sprawl across the crease.

Slavin (18) and DeAngelo (20) tallied the assists on Teräväinen’s goal and the Hurricanes jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 3:44 of the first period.

A little more than a couple of minutes later, Kotkaniemi (8) wrapped a rebound around Rask’s right leg pad from the doorstep to give Carolina a two-goal lead at 6:03 of the first period.

Andrei Svechnikov (17) and Nino Niederreiter (8) notched the assists as the Canes pulled ahead to a, 2-0, lead with a pair of goals in a span of 2:19.

Midway through the opening frame, Svechnikov was assessed an interference minor at 9:48, yielding the night’s first power play to the Bruins.

Boston took advantage of the ensuing skater advantage on a deflection goal from Patrice Bergeron (12) to cut Carolina’s lead in half, 2-1, at 11:13 of the first period.

David Pastrnak (16) recorded the primary assist with the no-look shot pass off of Bergeron’s skate and into the twine, while McAvoy (19) picked up the secondary assist.

Just 13 seconds later, Kotkaniemi (9) got a stick on a shot from the point by Slavin and deflected the rubber biscuit over Rask’s shoulder to give Carolina another two-goal lead, 3-1.

Slavin (19) and Derek Stepan (5) had the assists on Kotkaniemi’s second goal of the game at 11:26 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Clifton cut a rut to the sin bin for cross checking at 12:11, but the Hurricanes were not successful on the resulting power play– at least not yet on the night’s list of skater advantage opportunities.

Late in the opening frame, Seth Jarvis (7) waltzed around Clifton and crashed the net on an individual effort for an unassisted goal to give the Canes a, 4-1, lead at 16:01.

56 seconds after that, Stepan (5) scored a goal while crashing the slot as Jordan Martinook took a hit and freed the puck to his teammate in a high danger scoring area.

Martinook (6) had the only assist on Stepan’s goal as Carolina took a, 5-1, lead at 16:57 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Hurricanes had a, 5-1, lead on the scoreboard and a, 12-10, advantage in shots on goal as Boston had allowed five or more goals for the first time in any first period since March 3, 2008, when they gave up six goals to the Washington Capitals in a, 10-2, loss at the then known as Verizon Center.

Alex Ovechkin had a first period hat trick, Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich each had a pair of goals in that game, while all four dressed netminders made an appearance.

Tim Thomas got the start for Boston and was pulled twice after a brief relief appearance by Alex Auld, while Cristobal Huet started the game for the Capitals, but was yanked from the crease with back spasms and replaced by Olaf Kölzig.

Truly, it was the definition of insanity.

The Bruins had goals from Dennis Wideman and Marco Sturm that night, if you’re wondering, while notorious enemy of the Commonwealth, Matt Cooke, opened the night’s scoring.

Meanwhile, Nicklas Bäckström and Donald Brashear also pocketed goals for the Capitals in that wild game from almost 14 years ago.

Back at TD Garden on Tuesday night, while losing, 5-1, after one period, the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-3) and giveaways (4-2) as the Hurricanes also maintained the advantage in takeaways (3-1), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).

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

The second period was relatively tame as no goals were scored by either team and a string of penalties opened the ice for lots of skating.

Ullmark replaced Rask before the period began and Brendan Smith caught Craig Smith (no relation) with a high stick at 6:55.

Boston’s power play came up short, however, and would do so again at 10:38 when Sebastian Aho cut a rut for high sticking at 10:38 of the second period.

The Bruins also couldn’t score on an abbreviated 5-on-3 advantage at 11:30 when Ian Cole tripped up McAvoy.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Hurricanes still led, 5-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston, 23-20, in shots on goal as the Bruins rallied to outshoot Carolina, 13-8, in the second period alone.

The Canes led in blocked shots (13-5) and takeaways (12-2), while the B’s led in giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Both teams had 21 hits aside, while the Hurricanes were still 0/1 and the Bruins were now 1/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Vincent Trocheck cross checked Erik Haula 33 seconds into the third period, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short when McAvoy and Aho collided near the blue line by the Bruins’ attacking zone– resulting in an interference minor for No. 73 in black and gold at 1:13 of the final frame.

After 80 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Hurricanes went on an abbreviated power play, but it didn’t take them long for Slavin (2) to riffle a shot from inside the faceoff circle over Ullmark’s blocker on the short side to give Carolina a, 6-1, lead.

DeAngelo (21) and Teräväinen (19) tallied the assists on Slavin’s power-play goal at 3:05 of the third period and the Hurricanes had a five-goal lead as a result.

Haula later caught Slavin with a high stick at 6:04 and presented Carolina with another power play for good measure.

The Hurricanes got their money’s worth as Svechnikov (13) stayed aggressive on a loose puck in the slot and elevated the rubber biscuit over Ullmark as the Bruins goaltender was down.

Aho (23) and DeAngelo (22) notched the assists on Svechnikov’s power-play goal and Carolina continued to blow Boston out of their own building, 7-1, at 7:48 of the third period.

After that nothing else happened.

There were no more goals, nor penalties, as fans left TD Garden early either to make the trains out of North Station due to the later than usual start as a result of the night’s opening ceremonies or simply to avoid watching the seconds tick down while lackluster entertainment continued on the ice.

At the final horn, Carolina had won, 7-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-23, including a, 14-9, advantage in the third period– tied for the second-most shots allowed in any third period by Boston this season.

The Bruins had previously given up 14 shots against in the third period on Opening Night against the Dallas Stars in a, 3-1, win on Oct. 16th at TD Garden and gave up a season-worst 16 shots against in the third period alone twice within a span of a week apart– once on Dec. 2nd in a, 2-0, shutout win in Nashville and again on Dec. 9th in a, 3-2, win in Edmonton.

Tuesday night didn’t have the same end result for Boston, despite being badly outshot in the third period.

The Hurricanes exited the building with the all-important victory and led the night in blocked shots (16-9), while the Bruins left their own ice leading in giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had 26 hits aside.

Carolina went 2/3 on the power play, while the B’s finished the night’s action 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Boston fell to 7-7-2 (4-4-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-7-1 (3-4-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-9-2 (3-5-1 at home) when trailing after the second period this season.

Carolina, meanwhile, improved to an impressive 17-2-1 (10-1-1 on the road) when scoring first, 15-1-0 (7-1-0 on the road) when leading after one and 17-1-1 (7-0-1 on the road) when leading after two in 2021-22.

The Bruins continue their seven-game homestand (3-1-0) against the Washington Capitals on Thursday before the Winnipeg Jets visit Boston on Saturday.

The B’s are currently scheduled to wrap things up at on this current homestand next Monday against the Anaheim Ducks before hitting the road for three games with stops in Colorado, Arizona and Dallas to close out the month of January– at least until the remaining condensed schedule is announced on Wednesday, that is.

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NHL Nick's Net

Flurry of offense propels Boston to, 5-3, victory against New Jersey

Oskar Steen scored his first career National Hockey League goal and David Pastrnak ended a drought as the Boston Bruins defeated the New Jersey Devils, 5-3, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Linus Ullmark (9-5-0, 2.58 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 14 games played) made 23 saves on 26 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Devils goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood (8-7-3, 3.32 goals-against average, .895 save percentage) stopped 29 out of 34 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 17-10-2 (36 points) overall and in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division– one point ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while New Jersey fell to 13-16-5 (31 points) on the season and trapped in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Bruins were without the services of Karson Kuhlman (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Jakub Zboril (ACL, right knee) on Tuesday night as DeBrusk joined Kuhlman in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol hours ahead of hte game.

Curtis Lazar returned to action after missing Sunday’s, 5-1, matinée win in Detroit, while Steen was promoted to the third line right wing with Nick Foligno taking over DeBrusk’s slot at left wing.

As a result of DeBrusk’s absence and Steen’s promotion, Lazar was back in his regular role on the fourth line.

Anton Blidh was the only healthy scratch with John Moore on Boston’s taxi squad.

Tuesday night marks the first time this season that Steen is making an appearance in consecutive games since being recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL). He appeared in back-to-back games on March 16th and 18th after being recalled last season.

Though he’s only appeared in seven career NHL games, the 23-year-old native of Sweden has three assists in four games this season entering Tuesday.

Three members of the Bruins’ staff joined DeBrusk and Kuhlman in COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday, including assistant coach, Kevin Dean.

As a result, Joe Sacco was in charge of the defenders against New Jersey.

Tuesday night also marked Military Appreciation Night at TD Garden as several Boston players contributed to more than $25,000 in donations for tickets that were given to active military members and their families in accordance with the Bruins “Seats for Soldiers” campaign.

According to a release from the club, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Charlie Coyle, Foligno, Derek Forbort, Trent Frederic, Matt Grzelcyk, Kuhlman, Charile McAvoy, Mike Reilly, Craig Smith and Jeremy Swayman all offered donations.

Early in the opening frame, Lazar (3) got a lucky break and strode towards the net before flinging a fluke shot through Blackwood’s five-hole as the Devils’ goaltender shifted his leg pad at just the right time.

The Bruins led, 1-0, as a result of Lazar’s individual effort at 2:53 of the first period.

Midway through the first period, Andreas Johnsson took an errant puck off of his face on an inadvertent flip pass attempt from Carlo intended for Taylor Hall.

Johnsson returned to action without issue.

Boston led, 1-0, heading into the first intermission and held a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal.

The B’s also led in faceoff win percentage (62-38), while the Devils held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (11-9).

There were no penalties called in the opening frame, so both New Jersey and Boston had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the middle period.

Nathan Bastian spent enough time in Seattle for a cup of coffee with the Kraken (12 games) before he was claimed off waivers and returned to New Jersey (the team that had left him exposed at the 2021 Expansion Draft in July).

Tuesday night, in his 16th game with the Devils this season, he was the beneficiary of a timely poke check to breakup a pass attempt from Carlo to Pastrnak– breaking free in the process while both Bruins skaters trailed helplessly.

Bastian (5) beat Ullmark under the glove to tie the game, 1-1, on a great individual effort 57 seconds into the second period.

Less than a minute later, the Bruins took the lead back with a wacky goal.

Foligno sent a shot off of Blackwood that floated up the New Jersey netminder’s shoulder before rolling on top of the net whereby Steen (1) popped it up from beneath the crossbar as he battled a Devils defender in the crease and deflected it off of Blackwood’s back and into the twine– rather, under the twine.

Though everyone may have been perplexed as to the legality of the goal when they saw it in real time, Steen’s stick never touched the puck above the bar, technically speaking.

Besides, it deflected off of Blackwood before crossing the line too, so it’s not like Steen really meant to send the puck into the net as much as he was simply trying to keep it in play.

Foligno (5) and Forbort (2) tallied the assists on Steen’s first career NHL goal and the B’s took a, 2-1, lead at 1:17 of the second period.

New Jersey answered back in a hurry with a garbage goal of their own after Jack Hughes sent a shot on goal that rebounded to some open ice in the slot where Tomáš Tatar (7) buried the loose puck on the doorstep– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Hughes (9) and Jesper Bratt (21) were credited with the assists on Tatar’s goal at 3:05 of the second period.

The two teams combined for three goals in a span of 2:08.

That soon became four goals combine in a span of 8:45 as Frederic (2) banked a backhand shot off of Blackwood on the short side to put the Bruins up, 3-2, at 9:42 of the second period.

Lazar (4) had the only assist on the goal.

A few minutes later, Dawson Mercer took a puck off the face as McAvoy tried to flip the puck into the attacking zone. Mercer returned shortly thereafter.

Midway through the middle frame, the night’s first penalty was assessed as Hall tripped up Ryan Graves, yielding the Devils their first and only power play opportunity of the night at 13:45.

New Jersey didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 25-17, including a, 15-11, advantage in the second period alone.

The Devils held the lead in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (8-2) and giveaways (10-5), while Boston led in hits (22-17) and faceoff win% (67-33).

As only one penalty was called up through the second intermission, only New Jersey had seen any time on the skater advantage and the Devils were 0/1. Meanwhile, the Bruins remained 0/0 as they had yet to be presented with a power play opportunity.

That power play presented itself early in the third period– at 5:28 to be exact– when Damon Severson was assessed a holding infraction.

But Boston didn’t capitalize on their only skater advantage of the night.

Instead, Severson (5) exited the box to an aerial pass through the neutral zone from Michael McLeod and promptly scored on a breakaway on Ullmark’s short side to knot the game up, 3-3, at 7:36 of the third period.

The Bruins had been caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams action.

Midway through the final frame, however, Pastrnak got to a dump-in first in the corner from Hall and cut back to the slot– wrapping the puck with him for a shot on Blackwood.

Pastrnak (7) gathered the ensuing rebound and elevated a quick reactionary shot over Blackwood’s glove to end a 10-game scoring drought and put Boston ahead once more for good, 4-3, at 14:11.

Hall (11) and Erik Haula (5) tallied the assists as the new-formed second line continued to strengthen their chemistry together.

With 1:46 remaining in the action, Devils acting head coach (as head coach, Lindy Ruff, is currently in COVID protocol), Alain Nasreddine, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was ultimately to no avail.

New Jersey iced the puck with 52.1 seconds remaining and Blackwood was forced to return to the crease as the Devils would rather not give up a cheap goal in their own zone.

Except that’s what ultimately happened.

Boston forechecked and fought along the boards well enough to kill some time until the puck was freed and sent along the blue line where Tomáš Nosek found Carlo (3) for a wrist shot that deflected off of Mercer and squibbed through Blackwood’s five-hole to extend the Bruins’ lead to two-goals.

Nosek (4) had the only assist on Carlo’s goal at 19:37 of the third period as the B’s sealed the deal on what became a, 5-3, victory Tuesday night on home ice.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-26, despite both teams amassing nine shots each in the third period alone.

The Devils exited TD Garden with the advantage in blocked shots (13-9) and giveaways (15-10), while the Bruins wrapped up Tuesday’s action leading in hits (29-25) and faceoff win% (64-46).

Both teams finished 0/1 on the power play.

For the second time this season, the B’s have won three consecutive games– with New Jersey having been one of the three teams they’ve defeated in each three-game win streak.

Boston is 2-0-0 against the Devils in their regular season series with one final meeting remaining currently scheduled for March 31st at TD Garden.

The Bruins improved to 11-4-0 (5-2-0 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 12-0-0 (5-0-0 at home) when leading after the first period and 12-1-0 (4-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

New Jersey dropped to 5-12-2 (3-7-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-11-2 (1-6-0 on the road) when trailing after one and 2-16-2 (1-9-1 on the road) when trailing through the second period in 2021-22.

Fresh off of their, 6-4, loss in the 2022 Winter Classic at Target Field, the Minnesota Wild pay a visit to Boston on Thursday before the Bruins hit the road for a pair of games on Saturday in Tampa and next Monday in Washington, D.C.

The B’s return home after visiting the Capitals to kickoff a seven-game homestand on Jan. 12th against the Montréal Canadiens in a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Montréal before the rise of the Omicron variant restricted indoor venue attendance across Canada.

Tickets for Boston’s game against the Habs on March 21st will be honored on Jan. 12th as the game has been moved up in the schedule.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Islanders down Bruins, 3-1, Varlamov makes 40 saves

Cal Clutterbuck had a pair of goals, while Semyon Varlamov made a season-high 40 saves en route to his first win of the season as the New York Islanders defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-1, at UBS Arena on Thursday.

Varlamov (1-5-1, 2.99 goals-against average, .900 save percentage in eight games played) turned aside 40 out of 41 shots faced in the win, while Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (7-5-0, 2.52 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 12 games played) made 25 saves on 27 shots against in the loss.

Boston fell to 14-10-2 (30 points) on the season and remained in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while New York improved to 8-12-5 (21 points) overall and stuck in 8th place in the Metropolitan Division.

The B’s visited UBS Arena for the first time since it opened last month and will visit one more arena that’s new to the National Hockey League circuit when they visit the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on Feb. 24th.

Jakub Zboril (lower body) remained out of the lineup while Brad Marchand and Craig Smith were joined in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol by Patrice Bergeron, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh, Jeremy Swayman and Oskar Steen, as well as two team staff members.

The Bruins announced Steen’s addition to the league COVID protocol as both clubs started warming up on Thursday night.

Due to salary cap constraints, defender, John Moore, was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday, while Jesper Frödén and Kyle Keyser were recalled from Providence on Thursday.

Bruce Cassidy was forced to make several lineup changes as Boston went with 11 forwards as a result of losing seven players to COVID protocol ahead of Thursday night’s action.

Charlie Coyle centered the first line with Taylor Hall at left wing and David Pastrnak at right wing, while Tomáš Nosek centered the second line with Erik Haula and Nick Foligno on his wings.

Jack Studnicka centered the third line and was flanked by Jake DeBrusk as well as Frödén, who made his NHL debut in the process.

On the fourth line, Curtis Lazar and Karson Kuhlman took shifts with a rotating cast of wingers to complete the line.

With Moore out of the lineup, Mike Reilly returned to the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton.

In net, Keyser served as Ullmark’s backup with Swayman in COVID protocol and Tuukka Rask still unsigned as an unrestricted free agent that’s recovering from major offseason hip surgery.

Boston’s long list of scratches on Thursday included Swayman, Frederic, Smith, Bergeron, Steen, Marchand, Zboril and Blidh.

Early in the opening frame Kyle Palmieri slashed Derek Forbort and cut a rut to the penalty box as a result, yielding the night’s first power play to the Bruins at 5:23 of the first period.

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

Midway through the first period, Matt Martin won a battle along the endboards– utilizing a strong forecheck to free the puck on a turnover from the trapezoid to Clutterbuck (4), who was standing in the right place at the right time in the slot to bury the rubber biscuit and give the Islanders a, 1-0, lead at 11:47.

Clutterbuck’s first goal of the game was unassisted.

Less than a minute later, Haula caught Isles defender, Andy Greene with a high stick, but New York failed to capitalize on the resulting power play at 12:00 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the Islanders led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and held a, 10-9, advantage in shots on goal.

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (1-0), giveaways (11-4) and hits (13-11), while both teams managed to split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, and went 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Forbort caught Clutterbuck with a high stick six seconds into the second period and it didn’t take the Isles long to score on the resulting power play.

Anthony Beauvillier (4) sent a shot that might have deflected off of a Bruins skater’s stick and over Ullmark’s glove– just under the bar– to extend New York’s lead to two-goals.

Robin Salo (1) and Justin Bailey (9) tallied the assists– marking the first career point in just his seventh NHL game for Salo, while giving the Islanders a, 2-0, lead on Beauvillier’s power-play goal at 1:44 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Foligno and Martin became entangled and exchanged fisticuffs resulting in five-minute majors for each of them, as well as an extra two minutes for Foligno for roughing at 9:22.

Frödén served Foligno’s minor infraction and Boston suffered no consequences on the resulting penalty kill.

Through 40 minutes of action at UBS Arena on Thursday, the Islanders led, 2-0, on the scoreboard despite being outshot by the Bruins, 29-22, including a, 21-12, advantage for Boston in the second period alone.

The B’s led in blocked shots (10-5), takeaways (3-1), giveaways (13-8) and hits (20-16), while New York led in faceoff win% (55-46).

The Isles were 1/3 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Early in the third period, Zdeno Chara tripped Hall and presented Boston with another power play at 3:25, but the Bruins’ advantage was short lived.

A minute after Chara skated to the sin bin, his former defensive partner, Charlie McAvoy, cut a rut to the opposing team’s box for cross checking at 4:25.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for a minute before the Islanders went on an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play.

New York couldn’t muster anything past Ullmark and, instead, took another penalty when Brock Nelson hooked Matt Grzelcyk at 5:27.

After a short stint at 4-on-4, Boston had another abbreviated power play that went by the wayside.

Moments later, Grzelcyk went to the box for interference at 10:25, but the Isles failed to convert on the resulting power play.

With 2:55 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as it didn’t take long for Anders Lee to send a pass across the neutral zone to Clutterbuck (5) for an empty net goal after he crossed into the attacking zone.

Lee (1) had the only assist on Clutterbuck’s second goal of the game and the Islanders led, 3-0, at 17:43 of the third period.

In the dying minute of the night’s action, Reilly (3) pinched in from the point and sent a shot over Varlamov’s high glove side after it deflected off of Scott Mayfield– cutting New York’s lead back to two goals.

Brandon Carlo (3) and Ullmark (1) recorded the assists on Reilly’s goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-1, at 19:06 of the third period.

With 37.2 seconds remaining in regulation, Ullmark skated to the bench for an extra attacker.

Clutterbuck sent a shot attempt towards the empty frame that just went wide as it hit the post and prevented hats from raining down from the stands.

At the final horn, New York had won, 3-1, despite being outshot by Boston, 41-28, including a, 12-6, advantage for the Bruins in the third period alone.

The B’s exited the building leading in blocked shots (13-11), giveaways (17-12) and hits (26-22), while the Isles led in faceoff win% (58-42).

New York finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while Boston went powerless on the skater advantage, 0/3.

The B’s fell to 4-6-2 (1-3-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-5-1 (0-3-0 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 2-7-2 (0-4-1 on the road) when losing after two periods this season.

The Islanders, on the other hand, improved to 7-4-4 (1-1-1 at home) when scoring first, 5-1-1 (1-0-0 at home) when leading after one and 8-1-1 (2-0-0 at home) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

As of now, the Bruins are scheduled to travel to Montréal to square off with the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday before venturing to Kanata, Ontario to take on the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday. 

Boston returns home next Tuesday to host the Carolina Hurricanes before taking on the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 23rd in their final game before the league’s three-day Christmas break.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Miller and Horvat sink Bruins in shootout, 2-1

J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat had the only goals past regulation in a, 2-1, shootout victory for the Vancouver Canucks against the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at Rogers Arena.

Thatcher Demko (10-11-1, 2.73 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 22 games played) made 35 saves on 36 shots faced in the shootout win for Vancouver.

Boston netminder, Jeremy Swayman (7-4-2, 2.15 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 13 games played) stopped 31 out of 32 shots against in the shootout loss.

The Bruins fell to 12-8-2 (26 points) overall and remain in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Canucks improved to 10-15-2 (22 points) and moved into 7th place in the Pacific Division– ahead of the Seattle Kraken by two points out of the division basement.

The B’s went 1-0-1 in their regular season series with Vancouver in 2021-22.

Anton Blidh (upper body) took part in morning skate for Boston in a regular practice jersey, but isn’t quite ready to resume in-game action just yet.

Blidh was joined by Jakub Zboril (lower body) and Tomáš Nosek (non-COVID related illness) among the Bruins that weren’t able to compete on Wednesday night due to injury or illness.

Zboril will be re-evaluated in two weeks, while Nosek did not travel with the team to Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy was back in the lineup after missing one game due to a non-COVID related illness and Brad Marchand returned from his three-game suspension.

As a result, acting head coach, Joe Sacco, made a number of changes to his lines– reuniting Marchand with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on the first line, while relegating Taylor Hall back to his normal spot on the second line left wing with Charlie Coyle at center and Craig Smith at right wing.

Trent Frederic centered the third line with Erik Haula to his left and Nick Foligno on his right side, while Curtis Lazar shifted over to the fourth line center role with Nosek out on Wednesday.

Jake DeBrusk flanked Lazar’s left side and Oskar Steen took on right wing duties on the fourth line after he was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Tuesday.

In addition to Steen, Boston recalled Jack Ahcan and John Moore, who joined Karson Kuhlman in the press box as healthy scratches for the B’s in Vancouver.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol and likely won’t be back before the Bruins return from their Western Canada road trip.

Midway through the opening frame, McAvoy was assessed a holding minor when he got tied up with Jason Dickinson at 12:30 of the first period.

The Canucks, however, were not able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Vancouver got another chance on the power play in the dying seconds of the first period as Foligno was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor at 19:57.

The Bruins would be shorthanded for about 1:58 to kick things off in the middle frame as a result.

After one period of play at Rogers Arena, Boston and Vancouver were tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard and even in shots on goal, 8-8.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), giveaways (4-3) and hits (14-4), while the Canucks led in takeaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (54-46).

Only Vancouver had seen any action on the power play heading into the first intermission and the home team was 0/2 thus far.

Tyler Myers knocked Smith around without the puck and received an interference minor as a result– yielding Boston their first power play of the night at 8:14 of the second period.

The Bruins couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage however.

Boston thought they had scored the game’s first goal when Haula received a pass on a breakaway entering the attacking zone before deking and scoring on a backhand shot that was elevated over Demko’s outstretched right pad, but the call on the ice was overturned as a result of Canucks head coach, Bruce Boudreau, using a coach’s challenge.

Boudreau argued that the Bruins had, in fact, not scored because Haula was offside prior to bringing the puck into Vancouver’s own zone.

Video review confirmed that Haula had both skates over the plane along the blue line while the rubber biscuit was still in the neutral zone along the line– negating the would-be goal.

Instead of a, 1-0, lead for Boston, later in the period Marchand was assessed an interference minor for a light collision with Dickinson away from the play at 14:27.

Whether the penalty was justified or not, it came back to bite the Bruins as Miller flung a shot pass towards the slot whereby Brock Boeser (6) redirected the puck past Swayman for the game’s first official goal.

Miller (17) and Quinn Hughes (19) tallied the assists to give the Canucks a, 1-0, lead on Boeser’s power-play goal at 15:01 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action at Rogers Arena, Vancouver led, 1-0, on the scoreboard despite trailing Boston, 17-16, in shots on net– including a, 9-8, advantage for the Bruins in the second period alone.

The B’s also led in blocked shots (14-10), giveaways (5-4) and hits (20-12) entering the second intermission, while the Canucks maintained an advantage in takeaways (5-2) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Vancouver was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

Juho Lammiko slashed Pastrnak to kick things off in the third period with a power play for the Bruins at 3:26.

Boston went on the two-skater advantage after Miller tripped up Swayman while passing through the crease at 4:42 of the second period– presenting the Bruins with 45 seconds of prime real estate in the attacking zone.

The B’s made quick work of the 5-on-3 advantage as they wrapped the puck around the zone prior to Pastrnak sending a shot pass in from the point to Bergeron (9) in the bumper for the redirection off of Demko’s left pad and under the bar.

Pastrnak (12) and Coyle (7) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power-play goal and the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 4:51 of the third period.

Moments later, Boston had another chance on the power play when Tanner Pearson sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic minor at 7:22, but the B’s weren’t able to put the go-ahead goal on the board– especially not after Bergeron cut down Dickinson with a trip in the neutral zone while trying to steal the puck at 7:36, yielding a span of 1:46 at 4-on-4.

Vancouver didn’t convert on their abbreviated power play upon Pearson’s re-emergence from the box.

At the horn, the two teams required overtime to settle a, 1-1, score.

Boston led in shots on goal, 33-29, including a, 16-13, advantage in the third period alone, while also maintaining an advantage in blocked shots (19-15) and hits (27-19).

Meanwhile, the Canucks amassed a lead in takeaways (7-3), and giveaways (10-5) as both teams split faceoff win%, 50-50, entering the extra frame.

As there were no penalties called in overtime, both teams finished the night 1/4 on the power play.

Sacco sent out Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the 3-on-3 overtime action, while Boudreau countered with Horvat, Dickinson and Myers.

Despite swapping chances and a few great saves by each goaltender, neither team could top the other in overtime, yielding a shootout and finalizing the stat lines at a, 36-32, total shots advantage for Boston (each team had three shots on goal in overtime alone).

The Bruins also wrapped up Wednesday night’s action before the shootout leading in blocked shots (19-15), hits (28-20) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Vancouver, meanwhile, finished the night leading in giveaways, 11-6, after 65 minutes wasn’t enough.

Boudreau sent out Elias Pettersson with the first shot attempt in the first round of the shootout, but Swayman poke checked the puck away as Pettersson tried a serpentine route towards the net.

Next, Pastrnak drew close to the net from a wide approach before sending a shot off of Demko’s glove and wide of the goal frame.

In the second round of the shootout, Miller started things with a wide skate towards the slot before cutting in and wrapping the puck around Swayman as Miller sold a fake and the Bruins netminder bought it.

Miller put the Canucks up, 1-0, in the shootout with Coyle designated as Boston’s second shooter.

Coyle came right at Demko and fired a shot off of the Canucks goaltenders’ blocker– low on the short side.

All Horvat had to do was score and the game would be over before the Bruins even had a third attempt.

Horvat curled towards the slot and beat Swayman high on the glove side with a clean shot– giving Vancouver the, 2-0, advantage in the shootout and a, 2-1, win on the final scoreboard as a result.

The Canucks improved to 2-1 in shootouts this season, while the Bruins fell to 1-1 in the shootout in 2021-22.

Boston also fell to 1-5-1 (0-2-1 on the road) when tied after the first period, 4-4-2 (1-2-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal and 2-5-2 (0-3-1 on the road0 when trailing after two periods this season.

Vancouver, meanwhile, improved to 6-7-0 (3-3-0 at home) when tied after one period, 6-4-0 (3-0-0 at home) when scoring first and 8-1-0 (4-0-0 at home) when leading after two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins continue their road trip (0-0-1) through Western Canada with a matchup against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, followed by a visit to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

Boston returns home to host the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 14th before another three-game road trip thereafter.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Slightly late, but better than never 2021-22 standings forecast

Every year on DTFR you may recall seeing division standings forecasts for the National Hockey League from month-to-month and, well, I didn’t forget about it this year, don’t worry.

When the Vegas Golden Knights joined the league in 2017-18, the initial forecast entering October was infused with an educated guess (*ahem*, gut feeling) for each and every team– but especially Vegas since they had never played before– in addition to the usual arithmetic utilized to compile the average of three different forecasts ranging from the last 10, five and three seasons.

Entering the 2021-22 National Hockey League calendar, with the inaugural season of Seattle Kraken hockey set to begin, I shifted my focus on a “gut feeling” projection for the Kraken to that of the standings projections that I’ve done for at least the last few seasons now.

In other words, the forecast you’re about to see uses the forecast function in your spreadsheet of choice (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets), whereas the standings projections in the link above is based on an expected points totals model using last season’s offense and a whole bunch of other things I won’t bore you with.

As such, Seattle received a projected points total based on the loosely projected offense using a composite of what the Kraken could have had, if every player on their roster entering training camp had scored goals last season for Seattle instead of their respective teams.

But for this edition of standings predictions– using the forecast function– since the Kraken never played a game entering October 2021, they were given an 8th place standing in the Pacific Division with an asterisk– signifying that their results are incomplete until they hit the ice.

Now, of course, entering November, the Kraken have played some games, so the forecast reflects that (albeit limited in the variance of possible outcomes, since they don’t have quite the same backlog as the 31 other NHL franchises).

If you’re confused, let’s move on and talk about how things looked entering October for each division and whether or not things have changed that much entering November– keeping in mind that all 32 teams played anywhere from as few as seven games to as many as 10 games in October.

And remember, my degree is in communication, not statistics.


Entering October, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning were a safe bet to lead the Atlantic Division standings over the course of a return to the usual 82-game schedule.

The Boston Bruins, who made quite a few moves in the offseason, would do their usual thing under head coach, Bruce Cassidy, and display a strong effort, though how realistic is this expectation, you ask?

Probably not as spot on as you’d think.

Last season’s temporarily realigned divisions– featuring intra-divisional play only– helped teams like the Bruins beat teams like the Philadelphia Flyers almost every time they squared off.

This season, Boston will have to face a stronger than ever before– if not as good as they were in 1995-96– Florida Panthers roster, for example, which is more likely to be reflected in a later forecast after a couple of months are in the record books.

So that’s actually a perfect explanation for why the Toronto Maple Leafs and Panthers don’t look quite as dominant as they were last season in the forecast entering October.

The reduced schedule alone yielded similar point totals to regular-length seasons in the past, which downplays this year’s projected outcome, logically, right?

Keep that in mind for the Colorado Avalanche later, though there may be more to it than just the fact that the 2016-17 season is still accounted for in both the 10-year and five-year models, which drags down the average.

Anyway, the Montréal Canadiens aren’t a playoff team and the spread between the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres reveals each of those three teams is likely to be more competitive than in season’s past, but like Montréal likely on the outside looking in.

Entering November, the Bruins and Senators have played the fewest games in the division (seven games each), resulting in not that much change, while Florida gained seven points in the current forecast– moving themselves into a divisional playoff berth in the process.

Should the Panthers’ success be of concern to Leafs fans if Toronto isn’t in the top-3 in the Atlantic Division?

No.

The Lightning haven’t had as much spark as they usually do, which can be attributed to the price of winning back-to-back Cups in a span of, what, like, 10 months?

They’re tired, but not too tired, because Jon Cooper will ensure his team bounces back when the real season starts as the trade deadline approaches and the push for the playoffs begins.

Though the Sabres are quick out of the gate, reality should set in as the calendar flips to December and Buffalo will slip out of playoff contention and into being surprisingly somewhere in the middle.

That isn’t to say that Ottawa and Detroit have been that much worse than the Sabres to start the 2021-22 season, but, yeah, things are better than last season for Buffalo, at least.

If you’re going to put stock into anything, invest in the Panthers rising to 1st or 2nd place in the Atlantic by season’s end.

Taking a look at the Metropolitan Division entering the 2021-22 season, it seems like it’s more of the same for the last four or five seasons now.

Somehow the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins win the division, while the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes upset either team in the First Round. I don’t make the rules.

While there’s a lot of optimism for the Islanders to make a significant jump in the standings given their recent runs to the Eastern Conference Final, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re like the Lightning and take a little dip in just about everything.

It’s not a reset, but a refresh with high expectations for a big 2022-23 season to finally get over the hump and reach their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.

Maybe by then Tampa will have succumbed to the salary cap era, so they won’t be in New York’s way in the postseason.

As for the other New York team, well, the Rangers are sure to frustrate more than just their own fans as they’ll agitate their opponents, sure, but won’t play much of a spoiler in their quest for whatever it is James Dolan has told General Manager, Chris Drury, to do this offseason.

At the very least, the fact that the Metropolitan Division is a close spread reveals what we already know– that it’s truly anyone’s guess as to who will make the playoffs this year.

The last decade has conditioned us to expect Pittsburgh or Washington to be the top team, but the Philadelphia Flyers or New Jersey Devils could sneak in and disrupt things enough for the Hurricanes to run away with the Metropolitan title in the regular season.

Though the Columbus Blue Jackets are forecasted to have the same number of points as the Flyers in both October and November, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia is forecasted to amass 29 regulation wins to Columbus’ 23 regulation wins in the latest projection, so yeah, they’re a team.

The Blue Jackets could be within striking distance of a playoff spot or they could simply be better than the Rangers and Devils and that’s about it in their attempt to do something.

Is it a rebuild or are they just holding out for the right offseason moves? Time will tell, but the time may be ticking on prolonged irrelevance.

Anyway, Washington and Pittsburgh have cooled off as Carolina got out to the best start among all 32 teams, which, given the eight points between 1st and 3rd in the November forecast, could indicate that the Hurricanes will usurp the Capitals and Penguins for division control.

Meanwhile, the longer the Islanders go without setting a tone, the better chance the Flyers have at making the postseason.

In the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are expected to return to form entering October from a pure forecast standpoint.

Is it realistic? Probably not, though St. Louis should be better than their 2021 First Round exit in four games at the hands of the Avalanche.

That said, Colorado may surprise you being so low in this forecast.

Again, remember that it’s an average of models based on the last decade, five seasons and three seasons, so the Avs rise to division dominance in recent years is better reflected on the contingency that they continue to play well.

Right now, they aren’t playing that well, but again the graphic above reads “entering October” not “entering November”, so perhaps I should’ve saved that tidbit for a minute.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild have all been consistent enough in recent years to earn better praise entering the 2021-22 calendar, but at least one of those teams is sure to reveal themselves as a pretender by about the quarter-mark of the season.

As for the Dallas Stars, Chicago and the Arizona Coyotes, well, if Dallas can stay healthy, they should improve. Chicago hasn’t done themselves any favors in terms of roster makeup and the Coyotes are intentionally steering the ship aground for a top lottery draft pick in 2022.

Not much has changed after one month of NHL action in the Central Division forecast, though it should be noted just how quickly Arizona’s fallen off (even though they were already expected to be a basement team given the immense roster turnover over the summer).

The Wild and Jets flipped positions courtesy of Minnesota gaining a point between October and November’s forecast, as well as the regulation win tiebreaker (entering November, the Wild are forecasted to have 36 regulation wins, while the Jets are forecasted to finish with 31).

The Blues have had a hot start and, as a result, remain atop the Central forecast while nearly every expert analyst’s Stanley Cup favorite not named the Lightning (Colorado) remains in 5th.

Weird times!

Entering the 2021-22 season, the Vegas Golden Knights made a big trade, but looked to be on the verge of contending for the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back seasons.

Though they lost the Presidents’ race to the Avalanche last season on a tiebreaker, the Golden Knights could benefit from an overall weaker division they’re in. And yet… (keep reading)

The Calgary Flames are surprisingly hot in the Pacific forecast entering October, but considering the three California teams, the uncertainty of Seattle and the volatile wishy-washiness of the Vancouver Canucks, it kind of makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the Edmonton Oilers– with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on their roster– seated in 5th place in the Pacific Division.

Then again, to repeat myself, this forecast is an average based on the last 10, five and three seasons, so the Oilers have really only been a consistent playoff contender for the last five seasons or so, which means that they won’t rise in the forecasted standings quite as fast as you’d hope.

It pays to be consistently good over a longer period of time in this model.

Finally, after their first nine games in NHL history, the Kraken have entered the chat in the 2021-22 forecast entering November, but they’re forecasted for a league-worst 64 points.

Seattle isn’t bad, necessarily, they’re just figuring out the chemistry on the ice, in the room and giving Philipp Grubauer plenty of time to learn the system and get acquainted with being the No. 1 goaltender on a new team– both in the brand new expansion team sense and since leaving the Avalanche for the Kraken in free agency.

The Flames are continuing to turn heads by being within striking range of taking the forecasted division lead from Vegas– especially as the Golden Knights roll slowly out of the gate.

Meanwhile, Edmonton’s on course for significant gains in the next forecast entering December, while everything else looks to be about the same because, after all, it is the Pacific Division.

It’s not great!


If you’ve read every word of this, congrats. Give yourself a sticker or something.

Stay tuned for the next forecast in about a month. It should be a little quicker to update the stats, write a few words and hit “publish” than it took this time around.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #232- Participation Trophies After One Game/One Week (Part VI) (feat. Chris Gere)

The 2021-22 season is well underway, so let’s bring back our 6th Annual Participation Trophies After One Game awards ceremony!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyAmazon Music and/or Audible.

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Your Team Will Rise/Fail: 2021-22 Standings Projections

It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.

Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.

And then Wednesday’s games happened too.

Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.

Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.

The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).

A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.

Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.

In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.

Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.

In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.

However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.

As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.

We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.

For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.

The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).

Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?

Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:

No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?

The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.

Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.

Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.

The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.

Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.

Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?

The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.

Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.

As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.

Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?

I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.

You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.

If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.

The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.

Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.

Can Arizona avoid the basement?

Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.

That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).

Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.

Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?

Yes, really.

The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.

That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.

It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.

Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.

Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?

The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.

Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.

Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.

If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.

That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.

Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.

Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?

Eh, it’s hard to say.

The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.

Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.

Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.

It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.

Is this the toughest division to project?

Absolutely.

The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.

The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.

The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.

What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?

They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.

There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?

What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?

I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.

Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.

Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.

First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.

The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.

No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.

A lot and not a lot has changed since then.

Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.

So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.

That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.

Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?

No. Let’s be realistic here.

The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.

In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.

In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.

That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.

Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.

Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.

A little more patience won’t hurt them.

The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.

It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…

At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.

Hopefully.

Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?

Probably not.

I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.

The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.

That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.


Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.

Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Montréal Canadiens 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points

4th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa

Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)

Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven

Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.

The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.

Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.

Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.

Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.

Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.

They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.

They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.

Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.

Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.

Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.

The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.

Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.

It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.

Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.

The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.

The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.

Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.

Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.

After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.

As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.

Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.

As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.

Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.

Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.

Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.

Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.

In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.

While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.

Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.

By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.

Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?

Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).

A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.

The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.

It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.

After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.

The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.

Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.

Offseason Grade: C

It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.

It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.

The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.

At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.

Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.

Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.

The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.