Categories
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

Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 37-16-3, 77 points

1st in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Eliminated in the First Round by N.Y. Islanders

Additions: F Brian Boyle (signed to a PTO), F Michael Chaput, F Filip Hållander (acquired from TOR), F Danton Heinen, F Brock McGinn, F Dominik Simon, D Matt Barkowski (signed to a PTO), D Taylor Fedun, G Louis Domingue

Subtractions: F Pontus Åberg (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Josh Currie (KHL), F Frederick Gaudreau (signed with MIN), F Mark Jankowski (signed to a PTO with NJD), F Jared McCann (traded to TOR), F Sam Miletic (signed with Chicago Wolves, AHL), F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO with EDM), F Brandon Tanev (expansion, SEA), D Lukas Bengtsson (KHL), D Cody Ceci (signed with EDM), D Kevin Czuczman (signed with MIN), D Jesper Lindgren (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Andrey Pedan (KHL), D Zach Trotman (retired), D Yannick Weber (NL), G Maxime Lagacé (signed with TBL), G Emil Larmi (Liiga)

Still Unsigned: None

Re-signed: F Zach Aston-Reese, F Kasper Björkqvist, F Teddy Blueger, F Evan Rodrigues, F Radim Zohorna

Offseason Analysis: Penguins General Manager, Ron Hextall, had a realtively quiet offseason outside of the announcements that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would miss some action to start the 2021-22 season.

After making some depth signings, Pittsburgh is left with about $121,800 in cap space. In other words, it might be a little bumpy out of the gate without Crosby and Malkin– especially since the Pens dealt Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Filip Hallander and a 2023 7th round pick ahead of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

In retrospect, perhaps it would’ve been worth keeping McCann and convincing the Seattle Kraken to take almost anyone else– there’s still a chance they would’ve taken Brandon Tanev anyway, especially if Pittsburgh had crafted a deal with the Kraken to agree to not select McCann in exchange for some draft picks or something.

Nevertheless, Hextall made a conscious decision to move on from McCann’s 14-18–32 totals in 43 games last season and Tanev’s 7-9–16 totals in 32 games with the Penguins in 2020-21 and live with the consequences of his own actions. At least there’s Jeff Carter.

At some point, the magic will wear out in Pittsburgh.

Though the Penguins may have calmed the waters of the Malkin trade rumors under the previous regime ruled by Jim Rutherford, there’s the reality of a post-Crosby and Malkin era soon to sink in.

Malkin is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and Crosby is under contract through the 2024-25 season.

If the Penguins aren’t able to escape the First Round in 2022, and Malkin determines there’s no future in sight for success in a Pittsburgh jersey, there’s a good chance he could leave– not in search of a big cheque, but rather another chance at one more Cup ring on a contender’s roster.

But let’s not get too bogged down by the grips of reality.

Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, has some juggling to do with the lineup– like always– and with a new cast of characters that includes Hållander, Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn and the return of Dominik Simon– there’s a lot of depth to go around.

At 21-years-old, Hållander might be ready for some NHL action, whether out of necessity or to simply prove his skill level.

Heinen, meanwhile, is looking for a fresh start after the Anaheim Ducks chose not to tender him a qualifying offer, leading him to sign a one-year deal with the Penguins worth $1.100 million.

In 43 games with the Ducks last season, Heinen had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists), scoring fewer points than he had in the previous season for third-straight season since he broke out with 16-31–47 totals in 77 games for the Boston Bruins in 2017-18.

McGinn was due for a payday and cashed in on a longer contract than he could’ve expected from the Carolina Hurricanes, signing a four-year deal worth $2.750 million per season with Pittsburgh this summer.

In 345 career NHL games, McGinn’s had 51-55–106 totals, including 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 37 games while battling injury last season.

He remains to be an effective penalty killing fourth liner and should fit Sullivan’s mold well as a means of ensuring his top-six forwards are rested and ready to go between shifts.

Simon begins his second stint with the Penguins after taking part in 11 games with the Calgary Flames last season and yielding four shots on goal, as well as no points in that span.

As for the biggest question mark entering the 2021-22 season for Pittsburgh, can Tristan Jarry come into his own as a starting goaltender?

Last season, Jarry went 25-9-3 in 39 games, which at first glance is great! He had 25 wins in almost 40 games played in the midst of a 56-game regular season schedule– backstopping Pittsburgh to a postseason appearance before losing in six games to the New York Islanders.

But in 39 games last season, Jarry had a 2.75 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts in that span, whereas he went 20-12-1 in 33 games with a 2.43 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 2019-20.

In his most recent season as Pittsburgh’s backup, Jarry has a goals-against average below 2.50 and a stellar save percentage over .920, but in all his other cumulative appearances each season since breaking into the league with a game in 2016-17, he’s been all over the place statistically speaking.

Casey DeSmith, meanwhile, broke into the league in 2017-18, and went 6-4-1 in 14 games with a 2.40 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and one shutout– following things up with a 15-11-5 record in 36 games played in 2018-19, when he had a 2.75 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and three shutouts.

Last season, DeSmith was back as the backup goaltender to Jarry and posted an 11-7-0 record in 20 games with a 2.54 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and two shutouts.

At 30-years-old, it’s likely that DeSmith won’t have as high of a ceiling as Jarry, who’s only 26, but then again goaltenders vary in the crux of their prime.

For Jarry, he may soon start to peak, while DeSmith may simply be an outlier as one of those goaltenders that comes into fruition later than even the most “average” of delayed primes for goalies.

In either case, it’s certainly not an enviable position to be in for Sullivan to have to figure out.

Offseason Grade: C

Let’s be real here, the Penguins didn’t go out and attract any stars and they didn’t lose that much (though McCann was a great piece of depth and Tanev probably exceeded his expectations due to the “Crosby factor”, both should make fine additions to the Kraken).

Pittsburgh had an average offseason for an average team that made the playoffs and had an average early ending.

They’re not a dominant force, though they finished atop the MassMutual NHL East Division last season. Sullivan has his ways of commanding his team in the regular season, but the roster lacks something to drag them across the line in the postseason these days– to take their play up a notch and crank it at 11.

The Pens aren’t as much of a concern for missing out on the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division race this season, but it should be harder to compete for dominance with the sustained improvement from the Islanders and the emergence of another team like the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils that could breakout and play spoiler among the division leaders.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: MassMutual NHL East Division

Nobody’s perfect.

Both in First Round prediction outcomes and in trying (and failing) to deliver predictions for each First Round series ahead of time.

The short excuse is that the overlap of the 2020-21 regular season and the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs made it difficult to finish compiling stats, writing game recaps and subsequently writing previews for each series that hadn’t already started.

Then it’s a matter of catching up.

Plus there’s a few other projects being worked on right now that you’ll hopefully get to see soon.

Granted, there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this it’s because 1) you’re somehow an oddly dedicated fan of my random musings, 2) you’ve accidentally stumbled upon this blog or 3) you’re a potential employer trying to get a read on if this guy is actually desirable.

Anyway, the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is mostly over as only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens have yet to sort out who will be taking on the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round of Scotia NHL North Division action.

For now, let’s just keep it simple with the MassMutual NHL East Division on the docket for Saturday and the Discover NHL Central Division and Honda NHL West Division on the calendar for Sunday, then we’ll go from there.

(3) Boston Bruins (33-16-7, 73 points) vs (4) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

Boston: 56 games played, .652 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Boston Bruins eliminated the Washington Capitals in five games (4-1) in the First Round and are poised to be in command of home ice advantage in their Second Round series matchup with the New York Islanders by virtue of being the higher seed as both MassMutual NHL East Division First Round matchups technically resulted in upset victories by the “underdogs”.

Sure, Boston has had a bit of recent playoff success riding the momentum of their last four consecutive seasons with at least one playoff series victory and New York improved to 5-1 all time against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, but that’s besides the point.

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2019-20, having recorded the league’s best regular season record at the time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, well, officially being declared a pandemic and cutting last year’s regular season short.

They entered 2020-21 as favorites to not only lead their division at season’s end, but contend for the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.

That… didn’t pan out, but it might actually be a benefit to the current roster to not be seen as the clear cut favorites on paper.

To remind everyone that didn’t read the First Round preview for Boston, the Bruins were led by Brad Marchand (29-40–69 totals in 53 games played) in the regular season, with Patrice Bergeron (23-25–48 totals in 54 games) and David Pastrnak (20-28–48 totals in 48 games) rounding out the top-three scorers on the team.

Through five games this postseason, the B’s look like they could be on the verge of something special as a plausible last hurrah for their current core with David Krejci and Tuukka Rask set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end and Father Time™️ eventually going to become a factor and catch up with the ageless wonders that are Bergeron and Marchand.

It’s likely that Rask will be back for another season or two to serve as a mentor for current backup goaltender, Jeremy Swayman, like how Tim Thomas played that role for the franchise’s all-time winningest goaltender in the regular season and playoffs.

Or if you’re from outside the Boston market– think like what Pekka Rinne just did for the last two seasons in Nashville as Juuse Saros gradually took over as the starter for the Predators.

Krejci, on the other hand, has a bit more of a clouded future.

Bruins president, Cam Neely, told reporters earlier in the week that the organization has shelved talks of extensions with Rask and Krejci for after the postseason (a standard for the industry, especially with an expansion draft looming for the Seattle Kraken), but Neely was open to the idea of the two “one team” players spending their entire NHL careers in Boston.

That said, there’s always the possibility for retirement for Krejci or that he might go spend a few seasons in Czech Republic while winding down the twilight of his professional playing days.

None of that is relevant for the here and now, however.

Right now, the Bruins are focused on getting past the Islanders in the Second Round– a team that’s given them a bit of an inconsistent ride to say the least this season.

Boston dropped the first five games against New York, but won the last three meetings between the two clubs in the regular season.

That doesn’t actually say as much as one would think, since the Capitals had more recent success as the season progressed against Boston.

But then again, Washington did lose.

It’s also not like the B’s didn’t get better as the season went on– especially since they added Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar and Mike Reilly ahead of the trade deadline in April.

Boston has a legitimate top-six forward group and interchangeable components that can get the job done in the bottom-six, as well as a defense that has a mix of youth and experience– sans Kevan Miller for Game 1, at least, as Miller is out with an upper body injury, though Jarred Tinordi did fine for a bottom-pairing role in Game 5 against Washington.

Rask’s save percentage has gone up in each of his first five postseason games so far.

Through five games in the 2021 postseason, Pastrnak leads the team in scoring with six points (two goals, four assists), while bona fide stallion , Charlie McAvoy, has five assists and Bergeron (3-1–4 totals in five games) round out the top-three in postseason production thus far.

In the regular season, Rask led the way in the crease for the B’s with a 15-5-2 record in 24 games (24 starts), a 2.28 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage, as well as a pair of shutouts in that span.

Jaroslav Halak started the season as Boston’s backup, but ended it as the third string netminder with a 9-6-4 record in 19 games (17 starts) for the Bruins with a 2.53 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts in 2020-21.

Swayman emerged as Rask and Halak spent time out of the lineup due to injury, as well as an extended stay in COVID protocol for the latter goaltender (perhaps affecting Halak’s performance as a result).

But before Swayman amassed a 7-3-0 record in 10 games (10 starts), as well as a 1.50 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and two shutouts, Dan Vladar made five appearances (all starts) and earned a 2-2-2-1 record to go along with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage.

Don’t let Vladar’s numbers fool you, however, as one desperate start on the second night of a back-to-back against the Capitals sank otherwise decent stats for the projected backup to Swayman someday on Boston’s depth chart.

In the postseason, Rask has put up a 4-1 record in five games with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

So in other words, it’s midseason form for No. 40 for the black and gold.

Gerry Cheevers has faith in Rask.

At the other end of the rink, the Islanders utilized head coach, Barry Trotz’s, patented trap to stupefy Pittsburgh’s potent offense in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while also appearing to not really have to do that much to beat Tristan Jarry in the crease in six games (4-2).

This time we mean it. Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is on its last legs.

Next season, the Isles will be opening up their new home at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York– making the “long” trek from Uniondale, New York to their new address.

Both TD Garden and the Coliseum are expected to have near full capacity crowds for the entirety of the series, so if you already couldn’t stand Boston and Long Island enough for some reason, expect the crowds to be as loud and as obnoxious as ever.

That said, we could all use a good laugh and some release from the last year and a half of pain, grief and suffering. Hopefully the cheers and jeers do not veer into the distasteful.

It is, after all, just a game.

Anyway, the Islanders were led by Mathew Barzal (17-28–45 totals in 55 games) this season, while Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games), Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 games) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in team scoring in 2020-21.

In the crease, Semyon Varlamov led the way with a 19-11-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), as well as a 2.04 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and seven shutouts in the regular season.

Ilya Sorokin was the backup netminder for New York and amassed a 13-6-3 record in 22 games (21 starts) and had a 2.17 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts in the process.

Through six postseason games, Anthony Beauvillier (3-4–7 totals) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1-6–7 totals) are tied for the team lead in playoff scoring, while Bailey and Nelson rank tied for third on the roster with six points (three goals, three assists for each player).

Varlamov’s gone 0-2 in two games (two starts) and has a 3.61 goals-against average, as well as a .903 save percentage, while Sorokin has taken over with the hot hands in net– amassing a 4-0 record in four games (four starts) and an equally impressive goal against average (1.95) and save percentage (.943) as Rask’s numbers for Boston thus far in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Isles captain Anders Lee remains out of the lineup with a lower body injury that ended his season after 27 games in 2020-21.


These two teams are meeting for the third time in a series, with the Islanders holding a 2-0 all time record, having defeated the Bruins in five games (4-1) in the 1980 Quarterfinal and in six games (4-2) in the 1983 Wales Conference Final.

Both times that New York defeated Boston, the Isles went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In the 2020-21 regular season, however, the Bruins went 3-3-2 in eight games against New York, while the Islanders went 5-2-1 against Boston.

New York outscored Boston, 21-18, in that span, though the Bruins held the advantage in total shots on goal over the course of their regular season series, 269-216.

Stellar goaltending has been a constant for both teams, outside of the odd, 7-2, win for the Islanders on Feb. 25th against the B’s.

The Bruins have Hall, the Islanders have Kyle Palmieri.

Depth scoring is paramount, especially if New York’s trap can get to Boston’s first line as effective as they were against Pittsburgh’s first line.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is a dynamic coach, however, while Trotz might continue to go back to the well even if it’s starting to run dry– simply out of the comfort and ease of familiarity.

This series has all the makings of being a long, grueling battle that could see Boston victorious over the Islanders for the first time in the postseason in seven games when all is said and done.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 18th

4-2 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 13th

7-2 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 25th

2-1 F/SO NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 9th

4-3 F/OT NYI at TD Garden on March 25th

4-1 BOS at TD Garden on April 15th

3-0 BOS at TD Garden on April 16th

3-2 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on May 10th

Schedule:

5/29- Game 1 NYI @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, SN360, TVAS2

5/31- Game 2 NYI @ BOS 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN1, TVAS

Games 3 and 4, as well as 5 through 7 (if necessary) have yet to be announced by the league at the time of this writing.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Islanders can advance to the Second Round at home after, 3-2, 2OT victory in Game 5

The New York Islanders can eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice in Game 6 of their 2021 First Round matchup thanks to an error by Tristan Jarry in double overtime that Josh Bailey capitalized on– scoring the game-winning goal 51 seconds into the fifth frame– to win Game 5 on the road, 3-2, at PPG Paints Arena on Monday night.

On the same day that the Islanders scored in overtime to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4, in overtime for their first of four-straight Stanley Cup titles in 1980, New York put themselves one step closer to punching their ticket to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ilya Sorokin (3-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .951 save percentage in three games played) made 48 saves on 50 shots against in the win for New York.

He also became the first goaltender in Isles franchise history to win each of his first three career playoff games.

Jarry (2-3, 2.85 goals-against average, .901 save percentage in five games played) stopped 25 out of 28 shots faced in the loss for Pittsburgh.

Neither Barry Trotz, nor Mike Sullivan made any adjustments to their Islanders and Penguins lineups, respectively, for Game 5.

At puck drop, Kris Letang took sole possession of the third-most career postseason games in Pittsburgh’s franchise history as he skated in his 141st career Stanley Cup Playoffs game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr (140 career playoff games with the Penguins) in the process.

Almost midway into the opening frame, Bailey caught Kasperi Kapanen with a slash and presented the Pens with the night’s first power play at 7:47 of the first period.

It didn’t take Pittsburgh long to capitalize on the skater advantage as Evgeni Malkin (1) sent a shot over Sorokin’s blocker side to make it, 1-0, for the Penguins while Scott Mayfield inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

Letang (3) and Bryan Rust (1) tallied the assists on Malkin’s power-play goal at 8:20 of the opening frame.

With the goal, Malkin tied Denis Potvin for most all time playoff power-play goals in league history and tied Mario Lemieux for the second-most postseason points in a Penguins uniform.

Lemieux amassed 76-96–172 totals in 107 career postseason games, while Malkin had 64-108–172 totals in 169 playoff games at the time of the goal.

Late in the period, Bailey sent Anthony Beauvillier into the zone with speed, whereby Beauvillier (2) managed to deke around Jake Guentzel and elevated a shot over Jarry’s blocker to tie the game, 1-1, with a short breakaway goal.

Bailey (1) and Nick Leddy (2) notched the assists on Beauvillier’s goal at 19:05 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Penguins were leading in shots on goal, 12-10.

New York held the advantage in blocked shots (4-0), giveaways (2-1), hits (19-17) and faceoff win percentage (60-40), while both teams had two takeaways aside through 20 minutes of action.

Pittsburgh was 1/1 on the power play, while the Isles had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Malkin hooked Leddy at 4:39 of the second period to kickoff the middle period on Monday– giving the Islanders their first power play of the night in the process.

New York did not convert on the skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby dropped a pass back to Rust (2) for a one-timer blast from the point over Sorokin’s blocker side to make it, 2-1, Pittsburgh at 7:37 of the second period.

Crosby (1) and Letang (4) had the assists on Rust’s goal.

Less than a few minutes later, Andy Greene caught Guentzel with a high stick and the Isles defender cut a rut to the penalty box as a result at 10:14.

The Penguins failed to capitalize on the resulting power play, though.

Pittsburgh led New York, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 32-14, in shots on goal, including a, 20-4, advantage in the second period alone through 40 minutes of action at PPG Paints Arena on Monday.

The Isles led in blocked shots (7-3), takeaways (5-4) and hits (28-27), while the Pens led in giveaways (3-2) and faceoff win% (52-48) entering the second intermission.

The Islanders were 0/1 and the Penguins were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Jordan Eberle (2) tied the game, 2-2, at 8:50 of the third period after Jean-Gabriel Pageau worked hard on the forecheck to free the puck from Penguins defender, Brian Dumoulin, as Leo Komarov pounced on the loose puck and worked it to Eberle in the slot.

Eberle slid the puck underneath Jarry as the Pittsburgh netminder dove across the crease.

Komarov (1) and Pageau (4), meanwhile, picked up the helpers on Eberle’s goal.

Moments later, Oliver Wahlstrom was checked by Mike Matheson as Matheson held his stick high and caused a whiplash-esque effect while Wahlstrom’s head snapped back and forth due to the nature of the collision.

Though Wahlstrom never made head contact with the boards, he needed assistance getting off the ice. Meanwhile, there was no penalty on the play and the game continued shortly thereafter.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Frederick Gaudreau tripped Brock Nelson and presented the Islanders with a power play at 14:03, but New York couldn’t convert in the dying minutes of the third.

After 60 minutes of play, the Penguins and Islanders were deadlocked, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite Pittsburgh holding an advantage in shots on goal, 41-20, including a, 9-6, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Pens also held the lead in hits (40-39) and faceoff win% (51-49), while the Isles led in blocked shots (9-6) and takeaways (7-6). Both teams had six giveaways each heading into overtime.

The Islanders finished 0/2 and the Penguins went 1/2 on the power play as there were no penalties called in the extra frames.

There were no goals and no calls made in the first overtime, which resulted in the score still knotted, 2-2, while the Penguins led in shots on goal, 49-27, including an, 8-7, advantage in the first overtime alone.

New York led in blocked shots (13-9), and hits (47-46), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in faceoff win% (51-49) heading into the second overtime.

Both teams had eight takeaways and 11 giveaways entering double overtime.

Less than a minute into the fifth period of the night, Jarry turned the puck over with a tape-to-tape pass to the other team as Bailey (3) corralled the rubber biscuit, skated further into the zone and chipped a shot past Jarry’s glove to give the Islanders a, 3-2, victory 51 seconds into double overtime.

Bailey’s effort was unassisted and gave New York a 3-2 series lead heading home for Game 6 on Wednesday, but first the Penguins finished Monday night leading in shots on goal, 50-28, despite losing Game 5 in double overtime.

Both teams had one shot on net in the second overtime alone, while the Isles wrapped up Monday’s effort leading in blocked shots (13-9) and hits (47-46).

The Pens finished the night leading in giveaways (12-11) and faceoff win% (53-48).

The Islanders lead the series 3-2 heading home for Game 6 at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

Puck drop is expected around 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night and fans in the United States can catch national coverage on NBCSN, while those in Canada can feel inclined to choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Islanders defend the Coliseum with, 4-1, win in Game 4

The New York Islanders will play at least one more game at Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before moving to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, on Saturday in Game 4 of their 2021 First Round series.

Islanders goaltender, Ilya Sorokin (2-0, 1.76 goals-against average, .944 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 30 shots faced in the win as four of his teammates each had a goal on the afternoon to tie the series 2-2.

Tristan Jarry (2-2, 3.05 goals-against average, .904 save percentage in four games played) stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced in the loss for the Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin and Cal Clutterbuck exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 4:07 of the first period.

Moments later, Malkin dug deeper in the rut to the penalty box as he caught Kyle Palmieri with a high stick and returned to the sin bin at 7:47– presenting New York with their first power play of the day as a result.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while both teams fired eight shots on net apiece.

The Islanders held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4) and faceoff win percentage (63-38), while the Penguins led in takeaways (3-1), giveaways (6-3) and hits (13-11).

Pittsburgh had yet to see any time on the skater advantage, while New York was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway into the second period, Josh Bailey (2) sent a shot from the faceoff dot past Jarry while Kris Letang pushed Anthony Beauvillier into his own goaltender.

Brock Nelson (2) and Beauvillier (2) had the assists on Bailey’s goal as the Islanders jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:07 of the second period.

Late in the period, Ryan Pulock (1) one-timed a shot past Jarry’s right pad to extend New York’s lead to two-goals.

Oliver Wahlstrom (2) and Nick Leddy (1) tallied the assists on Pulock’s goal as the Isles pulled ahead, 2-0, at 14:51.

Almost three minutes later, Malkin tripped Wahlstrom and was sent to the box at 17:55, but the Islanders couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Saturday, New York led Pittsburgh, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Pens, 20-17, in shots on goal. The Penguins even had a, 12-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Pittsburgh held the advantage in takeaways (6-1), giveaways (9-6) and hits (27-24), while New York led in faceoff win% (71-29).

Both teams had ten blocked shots aside as the Isles were 0/2 on the power play and the Pens have yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

Scott Mayfield obstructed Sidney Crosby from making a play with a hold and was assessed a holding infraction at 4:04 of the third period.

Pittsburgh’s ensuing power play didn’t last long as Jason Zucker tripped Adam Pelech 30 seconds later to commence a span of 1:31 at 4-on-4 at 4:34.

The Penguins gifted the Islanders a rare 4-on-3 advantage for 49 seconds when Letang interfered with Pelech at 5:15 of the third period.

New York wasted no time on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage after Mayfield returned to the action as Wahlstrom (1) fired a shot that rebounded off of Jarry before Teddy Blueger accidentally knocked the puck into his own net.

Mathew Barzal (3) and Pulock (2) notched the assists on Wahlstrom’s power-play goal as the Isles extended their lead, 3-0, at 6:04 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Barzal setup Jordan Eberle (1) for a catch-and-release goal over Jarry’s glove side from the slot to make it, 4-0, Islanders.

Barzal (4) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (3) had the assists on Eberle’s goal at 6:28.

Late in the period, Jake Guentzel cross checked Nelson and presented New York with one last power play for the afternoon at 15:33 of the third period.

Things did not go quite as planned for the Islanders as the Penguins managed to score a shorthanded goal when Zach Aston-Reese (1) buried a rebound while crashing the net off of a shot from Brian Dumoulin.

Dumloulin (2) and Frederick Gaudreau (2) had the assists on Aston-Reese’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Penguins trailed, 4-1, at 17:25.

At the final horn, the Islanders had won, 4-1, and evened the series 2-2, despite trailing in shots on goal, 30-26.

Pittsburgh wrapped up the action leading in giveaways (9-8) and hits (34-31), while New York finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (14-11) and faceoff win% (66-34).

The Isles went 2/5 and the Pens went 0/1 on the power play in Game 4.

With the series tied 2-2, one team will emerge with a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 back in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Puck drop at PPG Paints Arena is set for 7 p.m. ET. Viewers living in the United States can tune to NBC for the action, while those in Canada have the option to choose from SN1 or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Playoff Recaps

Pittsburgh’s Elite Offense Shuts Down Islanders

Yet another overtime game unraveled, this time on Long Island. Heavy in hits and penalty minutes, these teams would not let up until the clock hit 0:00. Jeff Carter has returned to his early LA Kings days while Mat Barzal has been relatively silent with just two points through three. 

Evgeni  Malkin returned to the lineup for Pittsburgh and had himself a two point night. The Penguins and Islanders couldn’t keep their hands off each other or pucks out of the net. The Penguins now lead the series 2-1. 

The series has been inconsistent in terms of who looks like the better team. There were periods where the Islanders looked like the better team but the tables would turn. The Islanders outshot the Penguins 30-27 and threw 47 hits compared to their 29. 

The Penguins dominated offensively, having 4 goals through 40 compared to New York’s 1. Chaos unfolded in the third period where the starting lineup for Pittsburgh was in the penalty box. New York also had a full penalty box. There was a moment or three where neither team could keep their hands off each other and would end up paying for it. New York tied the game up with two goals from Cal Clutterbuck and one from Anthony Beauvillier. I’m not sure how Jeff Carter does it but he earned himself a hat trick. Why would any team trade Jeff Carter? 

In true 2021 playoff fashion, the teams took it to overtime. This time it’d be Brandon Tanev scoring the game-winner, looking ghostly in his celebration. 

Game 4 is a Saturday matinee on Long Island. It’s crunch time for New York as Pittsburgh could capitalize on the momentum of two straight wins. Goaltending and defense need to be tighter on both ends. High scoring games are bound to happen when you have elite forwards but there is certainly a way to limit their success.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: MassMutual NHL East Division

Sometime in the last however many days (or perhaps years, maybe even centuries, for some, as it felt) the calendar went from reading “March 2020” to “March 2021”, then April and now May.

Between then and now, the Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup champions in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final over the Dallas Stars in six games after last year’s playoffs were held inside a bubble (well, technically two bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto before coming together in the former).

Then a somewhat regular-looking 56-game 2020-21 season took place as the National Hockey League and the rest of the world started returning to a sense of normalcy from January through now– getting vaccinated and seeing the light at the end of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic tunnel.

Resiliency in life cannot be understated.

That– even after so much loss and millions of deaths around the world– the course of nature goes on.

There is still a lot of grieving to be done, a pandemic ongoing and tensions rising around the globe, yet here we are, arguing over who will win one game– the next four games, a series– the Stanley Cup.

We, as hockey fans, have regressed to the mean. Our veins are pulsing as we hit “tweet” arguing between Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens fans for the first time since 1979.

Our humanity goes on.

Make no qualms about it, the 2020-21 season was one of the hardest seasons on all of the players in the NHL.

Their seemingly lavish lifestyles were disrupted by isolation on road trips, isolation in COVID protocol and isolation from so many family members and friends that may not have been able to go see them play or be around at home due to local rules, regulations or the mere fact that a player is single and living on their own.

No, there are no heroes. Only people.

Even hockey players.

As the dawn of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs arises, we’ll call their clutch goals, big hits and key saves “heroic”, but after all, we’re just watching 10 skaters and two goalies on the ice at any given time play a game at the highest level that so few are ever so privileged to play.

They’re making memories among their teammates on the ice that we’ll never be able to experience.

We’ll never be able to see it from their eyes– until, at least, nano camera technology that can be worn in a contact lens becomes mainstream in sports anyway– but we’ll watch the game with our own eyes and try to memorize every little detail of a play as we try to recreate it in driveways, streets and ice rinks in our own town or others.

It’s time.

Let’s hockey together, friends.


Four teams in each division made the postseason.

The best team facing the fourth best team, the second best team taking on the third best team– the winners of the First Round will face each other in the Second Round staying within their own division as they’ve done through 56 regular season games.

Each division will produce one winner heading to the Stanley Cup Semifinal in light of a Conference Finals round in usual years.

The Semifinal will reseed based on how the four remaining teams finished in regular season points standings with the first best team taking on the fourth, as well as the second best team facing the third best team in a series narrowing down the field to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finalists as a result.

Neither the Prince of Wales Trophy nor the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl will be awarded this year.

No trophies, just vibes (until the Stanley Cup, that is).


(1) Pittsburgh Penguins (37-16-3, 77 points) vs (4) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 56 games played, .688 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders are facing each other for the sixth time in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series with the Islanders holding the lead in all time series wins, 4-1.

New York beat Pittsburgh in seven games (4-3) in the 1975 Wales Conference Quarterfinal, in five games (3-2) in the 1982 Patrick Division Semifinal, in seven games (4-3) in the 1993 Patrick Division Final and in four games (4-0) in the 2019 First Round.

The Penguins beat the Islanders in six games (4-2) in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quaterfinal, meanwhile.

The Pens are making their 36th postseason appearance, while the Isles enter their 27th postseason in franchise history.

Pittsburgh was led by Sidney Crosby (24-38–62 totals in 55 games played) in the regular season, with Jake Guentzel (23-34–57 totals in 56 GP) and Kris Letang (7-38–45 totals in 55 GP) rounding out the top-three scorers on the Penguins’ roster in 2020-21.

Crosby and the Pens cruised to an 8-2-0 record in their last 10 games and an impressive 22-4-2 record on home ice this season, which bodes well for their return to the playoffs after missing out on First Round action last season thanks to an early exit on behalf of the Canadiens in four games (3-1) in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier.

Among active members of the current roster, Crosby leads the Penguins with 68-121–189 totals in 168 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, while Evgeni Malkin– suffering from a lower body injury as of late– has 63-106–169 totals in 166 career postseason games.

Letang brings up the rear to round-out the top-three playoff performers currently on the roster with 80 points (21 goals, 59 assists) in 136 playoff games.

In the regular season, Pittsburgh relied on Tristan Jarry for a 25-9-3 record as a starter in 39 games played (38 starts) and two shutouts, as well as a 2.75 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Casey DeSmith (11-7-0 in 20 games, 17 starts, 2.54 goals-against average, .912 save percentage, two shutouts) served as Jarry’s backup and even Maxime Lagacé made an appearance, recording a win in his only start, as well as a shutout.

When it comes to playoff experience, only Jarry has ever touched the ice in a Stanley Cup Playoff game– earning one start in a loss, as well as a 1.02 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage.

At the other end of the rink, the Islanders were led by Mathew Barzal in scoring with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in 55 games, as Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games) trailed the prolific 23-year-old center with the second-most points on the team in the 2020-21 regular season.

Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 games) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) were tied for the third-most points in team scoring for New York.

Isles captain, Anders Lee, had his season cut short by a knee injury that will keep him out of contention through the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Islanders went 3-4-3 in their last 10 games as they backed themselves into the postseason.

Among active players on New York’s current roster, Bailey leads his teammates in postseason scoring with 10-27–37 totals in 52 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, while Nelson (16-13–29 in 48 games) and newcomer, Travis Zajac (11-17–28 totals in 57 games) round out the top-three playoff performers entering the Islanders’ 2021 postseason run.

Zajac was acquired along with Kyle Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils ahead of the 2021 trade deadline back in April.

In the crease, Semyon Varlamov led the way for the Islanders with a Vezina Trophy worthy season, amassing a 19-11-4 record in 36 games played (35 starts) to go with seven shutouts, a 2.04 goals-against average a .929 save percentage.

Varlamov and Colorado Avalanche netminder, Philipp Grubauer, led the league in shutouts in 2020-21, while Vegas Golden Knights duo, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner took home the William M. Jennings Trophy, having allowed the fewest goals against this season.

Meanwhile, Ilya Sorokin served as Varlamov’s backup in his first NHL season and had a 13-6-3 record in 22 games played (21 starts), as well as three shutouts, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

As Sorokin just completed his first season at the game’s highest level of competition, only Varlamov has had postseason experience and is expected to be New York’s starter in their 2021 First Round matchup with Pittsburgh.

Varlamov has a 24-20 record in 46 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (44 starts), as well as four shutouts, a 2.38 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in that span.


The Penguins went 6-2-0, while the Islanders went 2-4-2 in their eight games against one another this season with Pittsburgh outscoring New York, 26-19, in that span.

That alone should give a good indication of how Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, is back on his regular routine and how Isles head coach, Barry Trotz, will need to get crafty to drag Pittsburgh’s offense down a bit more to the level of New York’s “defense first” mentality.

Though it might be easier to slow down Crosby’s game than it is to ease Edmonton Oilers phenom, Connor McDavid, from his carousel around opponents, Pittsburgh has a deeper roster than New York’s stagnant core.

Jeff Carter alone has made a bigger impact on the Pens so far than Palmieri and Zajac combined for the Islanders.

That said, New York has the historical high ground over the Penguins in the playoffs– especially in light of their 2019 First Round sweep.

This time around, however, expect Pittsburgh to get the job done in six games– just long enough to get a rhythm going into an epic clash with either the Washington Capitals or Boston Bruins in the Second Round.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 6th

4-3 F/SO PIT at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 11th

4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 18th

3-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 20th

4-3 F/OT PIT at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 27th

2-0 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 28th

6-3 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on March 27th

2-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on March 29th

Schedule:

5/16- Game 1 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

5/18- Game 2 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/20- Game 3 PIT @ NYI 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

5/22- Game 4 PIT @ NYI 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

5/24- Game 5 NYI @ PIT*

5/26- Game 6 PIT @ NYI*

5/28- Game 7 NYI @ PIT*

*If necessary

(2) Washington Capitals (36-15-5, 77 points) vs (3) Boston Bruins (33-16-7, 73 points)

Washington: 56 games played, .688 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Boston: 56 games played, .652 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins are meeting each other in a playoff series for the fourth time with the Capitals holding the lead in all time series wins, 2-1.

Washington beat Boston in six games (4-2) in the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal and in seven games (4-3) in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final.

Prior to the last two postseason series meetings between the two clubs, the Bruins swept the Capitals (4-0) in the 1990 Wales Conference Final.

The Caps are making their 31st appearance, while the B’s are set to embark on their 74th appearance in the postseason in franchise history.

Washington was led by Nicklas Backstrom (15-38–53 totals in 55 games played) in scoring this season, while John Carlson had the second-most points and T.J. Oshie rounded out the top-three in team scoring.

Carlson had 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) in 52 games, while Oshie notched 22-21–43 totals in 53 games for the Capitals in 2020-21.

While battling injury at times this season, Washington captain, Alex Ovechkin, and Co. went 7-2-1 in their last 10 games of the regular season, amassing a 17-8-3 record on home ice.

Ovechkin leads his current teammates in active career postseason scoring with 69-62–131 totals in 136 Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with the Capitals), while Backstrom is second and former Bruin captain, turned Washington defender, Zdeno Chara, has the third-most career Stanley Cup Playoff points on the Capitals’ current roster.

Backstrom has 107 points (36 goals, 71 assists) in 128 career playoff games, while Chara has 18-52–70 totals in 195 career postseason games between the Ottawa Senators (45 games) and Boston (150 games).

In the regular season, Washington relied on the emergence of Vitek Vanecek as their starter with Ilya Samsonov serving as the Caps backup and Craig Anderson getting a handful of appearances mixed in.

Vanecek led the team with a 21-10-4 record in 37 games (36 starts), two shutouts, a 2.70 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage, while Samsonov amassed a 13-4-1 record in 19 games (18 starts) as Vanecek’s backup.

Samsonov had a 2.69 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage to go along with a pair of shutouts, while Anderson went 2-1-0 in four games played (two starts) and yielded a 2.13 goals-against average, as well as a .915 save percentage in that span.

Though Anderson is the only goaltender on the roster with previous playoff experience– including a 23-22 record in 46 games (46 starts) to go along with four shutouts, a 2.35 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage in the process– Vanecek will likely be the starter for the Caps for the foreseeable future.

Especially with Samsonov still in COVID protocol on Friday (at the time of this writing).

Brad Marchand led the Bruins in scoring with 29-40–69 totals in 53 games this season, while Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were tied for the second-most points with 48 points each.

Bergeron had 23-25–48 totals in 54 games, while Pastrnak had 20-28–48 totals in 48 games after getting a late start to the season due to offseason surgery.

Meanwhile, David Krejci, for those wondering, had 8-36–44 totals in 51 games and had the fourth-most points on the roster this season.

Boston’s current career postseason scoring leaders shapes up to be exactly what you expect– Krejci leads over Bergeron and Marchand.

Krejci has 40-75–115 totals in 145 career Stanley Cup Playoff games entering 2021, while Bergeron has 111 points (42 goals, 69 assists) in 149 playoff games and Marchand has 95 points (37 goals, 58 assists) in 121 postseason games.

The trio of Bruins define an era of consistent success not seen since the days of Phil Esposito in the spoked-B and are in search of their second Stanley Cup ring.

Boston utilized four goaltenders this season due to injury and COVID protocol effecting the season as Tuukka Rask led the team with a 15-5-2 record in 24 games (24 starts)– amassing a 2.28 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in the process.

Rask’s “average” season was balanced out by Jaroslav Halak’s “average” season as a backup– posting a 9-6-4 record in 19 games (17 starts), as well as a 2.53 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and two shutouts in that span.

Despite Halak’s best efforts, the emergence of Jeremy Swayman has led to Swayman moving up in the depth charts from surefire starter in Providence (AHL) to current NHL backup (with the ultimate goal of taking over for Rask someday as the Bruins transition from their franchise goaltender to their 22-year-old first year professional).

Swayman had a 7-3-0 record in 10 games (10 starts) and put up a 1.50 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .945 save percentage in his first taste of the NHL.

Dan Vladar, meanwhile, contributed where it mattered most and, despite one, 8-1, loss on the second night of back-to-back games against Washington, managed to have a 2-2-1 record in five games played (five starts) with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage for Boston.

With Halak relegated to the third string goaltender role, his 17-20 record in 39 postseason games (37 starts) and 2.48 goals-against average, as well as his .919 career playoff save percentage should remain untouched.

Sure, Vladar made a relief appearance in the 2020 Second Round, but Rask is Boston’s starter, after all.

And for good reason too– since Rask has a 51-42 record in 93 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (93 starts), as well as seven shutouts, a 2.20 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in that span.

No. 40 in black and gold is two wins away from tying Gerry Cheevers for the most postseason wins in franchise history (53).


The Capitals went 4-4-0, while the Bruins went 4-2-2 in their eight games against one another this season with Boston outscoring Washington, 26-25, in that span.

As noted, don’t let too many results in their head-to-head matchups from this season fool you.

The Bruins dressed the equivalents of their AHL affiliate (Providence Bruins) about two times against the Capitals this season.

The first time was due to a ton of injuries and the second time happened to be another final night of a back-to-back matchup in Boston’s schedule and the end of the regular season with both teams having clinched a playoff berth and not eligible for mobility in the standings.

That said, the B’s and Caps are pretty evenly matched.

Vanecek has the chance to ride the waves of his breakout season, while Rask is the steady hand that’s been the model of consistency in the crease this time of year.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, should get the most out of Krejci, Craig Smith and Taylor Hall to round out his top-six forwards, while Peter Laviolette can rely on Chara’s past knowledge of Boston’s systems to utilize as a strength for Washington.

That said, the Bruins should try to wrap things up in six games and move on to the Second Round before worrying about what a Game 7 would look like on the road for the first time since 2011.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT WSH at Capital One Arena on Jan. 30th

5-3 BOS at Capital One Arena on Feb. 1st

2-1 F/SO WSH at TD Garden on March 1st

5-1 BOS at TD Garden on March 5th

4-2 BOS at Capital One Arena on April 8th

8-1 WSH at TD Garden on April 11th

6-3 BOS at TD Garden on April 18th

2-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on May 11th

Schedule:

5/15- Game 1 BOS @ WSH 7:15 PM ET on NBC, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/17- Game 2 BOS @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVAS

5/19- Game 3 WSH @ BOS 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVAS

5/21- Game 4 WSH @ BOS 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVAS

5/23- Game 5 BOS @ WSH*

5/25- Game 6 WSH @ BOS*

5/27- Game 7 BOS @ WSH*

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins bounce back with, 3-1, win in Pittsburgh

After being shutout, 1-0, on Sunday by the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena, the Boston Bruins got split their two games in the “Steel City” with a, 3-1, win on Tuesday night.

Tuukka Rask (12-4-2, 2.29 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 20 games played) made 25 saves on 26 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh netminder, Tristan Jarry (21-9-3, 2.71 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in 34 games played) made 28 saves on 31 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins are now 28-14-6 (62 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins fell to 32-15-3 (67 points) overall and dropped to 2nd place in the division.

Boston won the regular season series against Pittsburgh (5-3-0) in 2020-21’s 56-game schedule due to the ongoing global pandemic.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Brandon Carlo (upper body) on Tuesday, while Trent Frederic returned to the lineup for the first time in 11 games after recovering from a non-COVID protocol related illness.

Frederic joined the fourth line alongside Curtis Lazar at center and Chris Wagner on right wing, while Sean Kuraly was promoted to the third line center with Charlie Coyle moved to the right wing and Jake DeBrusk serving as a healthy scratch.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, also re-inserted Connor Clifton o the blue line in place of Steven Kampfer, while Jaroslav Halak served as Rask’s backup with Jeremy Swayman earning the night off.

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

Mike Reilly cut a rut to the penalty box early in the action on Tuesday night as he was assessed a minor infraction for holding the stick while falling near the endboards in a tangle with Jared McCann at 1:32 of the first period.

Pittsburgh’s ensuing power play was powerless, however, as Boston’s penalty kill stood tall.

Midway through the opening frame, the Bruins had too many skaters on the ice resulting in a bench minor at 10:18.

Taylor Hall served the penalty in the box while the B’s penalty kill successfully held the Penguins off the scoreboard during the special teams action.

After one period of play on Tuesday, the Bruins and Penguins were tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard, despite Boston holding a, 14-11, advantage in shots on goal.

The B’s led in blocked shots (10-4), takeaways (4-1), hits (14-7) and faceoff win percentage (80-20), while the Pens held the advantage in giveaways (3-1).

Pittsburgh was 0/2 on the power play, while Boston had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Kevan Miller slashed Jason Zucker and went to the box at 5:13 of the second period, presenting the Penguins with a power play as a result.

Once more, however, Boston’s penalty kill managed to kill the minor with ease.

Late in the period, the Bruins’ power play units got their first shift of the night as Evan Rodrigues went to the box for roughing at 15:41.

Despite not scoring on the power play, Boston caught Pittsburgh in the vulnerable minute afterward, whereby Charlie McAvoy worked a roughly 200-foot effort down the ice to David Krejci (7) for a backhand shot over Jarry’s pad, but under the Pens goaltender’s glove to make it, 1-0, for the B’s.

McAvoy (22) and Rask (2) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 18:10 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play on Tuesday, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 22-17, in shots on goal, including an, 8-6, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (16-5), hits (32-19) and faceoff win% (72-28), while the Penguins led in takeaways (9-5) and giveaways (5-2).

Pittsburgh was 0/3 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Early in the final frame, Jeremy Lauzon and Teddy Blueger exchanged fisticuffs and received fighting majors at 6:38 of the third period as a result.

It was the 13th fight of the season for Boston and the first since Miller fought Tage Thompson on April 13th vs. Buffalo.

Moments later, Brad Marchand (26) buried a rebound to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

David Pastrnak (24) had the initial shot that forced a rebound to Marchand for the goal, while Curtis Lazar (6) had the secondary assist as the B’s took a, 2-0, lead at 9:11 of the third period.

About a few minutes later, Hall (6) strolled into the slot after deking past Sidney Crosby and snapped a shot over Jarry’s blocker to make it, 3-0, Boston at 12:18.

Krejci (25) and Reilly (24) tallied the assists on Hall’s goal at 12:18.

Late in the frame, Jeff Carter (11) sent a rocket past Rask’s blocked side to put Pittsburgh on the scoreboard with an old school slap shot from the faceoff dot.

Kris Letang (33) and Kasperi Kapanen (16) had the assists on Carter’s goal as the Penguins trailed the Bruins, 3-1, at 17:39.

With two minutes left in regulation, Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled Jarry for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the B’s shut Pittsburgh’s 6-on-5 advantage down and pulled off the, 3-1, victory at the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-26), blocked shots (21-7), hits (50-25) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Pittsburgh wrapped up the night with the advantage in giveaways (5-3), while the Penguins went 0/3 and the Bruins went 0/1 on the power play.

The B’s improved to 7-6-2 (4-3-0 on the road) when tied after the first period, 20-5-3 (11-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal and 19-0-2 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

The Pens fell to 7-3-1 (4-3-1 at home) when tied after one period, 12-11-1 (8-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal and 4-11-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins went 3-2-0 on their five-game road trip and head home to finish the month of April and start the month of May with a pair of games against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and Saturday.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Jarry earns shutout in, 1-0, win for Pens over Bruins

Tristan Jarry led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a, 1-0, shutout over the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena– earning his first shutout of the season in a 30-save effort.

Jarry (21-8-3, 2.70 goals-against average, .911 save percentage in 33 games played) stopped all 30 shots that he faced en route to his sixth career shutout for the Penguins.

Bruins goaltender, Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0, 1.57 goals-against average, .946 save percentage in seven games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the loss.

Boston fell to 27-14-6 (60 points) on the season, but in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Pittsburgh improved to 32-14-3 (67 points) overall and in command of the division standings (1st place).

The B’s also fell to 4-3-0 against the Pens this season and are now 13-8-3 on the road in 2020-21.

After a, 6-4, loss to the Buffalo Sabres on the road on Friday, the Bruins shifted their focus to Pittsburgh for a pair of games against the Penguins.

Boston was without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness) on Sunday, but witnessed the return of Patrice Bergeron to the lineup after their captain had missed Friday night’s loss in Buffalo with a lower body injury.

As a result of Bergeron’s return, Charlie Coyle went back to his usual role centering the third line, while Sean Kuraly and Curtis Lazar returned to the fourth line as left wing and center, respectively.

Anton Blidh was the only forward to come out of the lineup, while Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his defensive pairings against the Penguins.

In the crease, Jaroslav Halak served as Swayman’s backup on Sunday with Tuukka Rask earning the afternoon off in the press box as a healthy scratch.

Rask was joined by a long list of names including healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players such as Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Connor Clifton, Blidh, Karson Kuhlman and Jarred Tinordi.

Not much happened in the opening frame on Sunday.

In fact, neither team scored a goal, nor was there a penalty in the first period as the two teams entered the first intermission tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 10-10.

Boston, however, held the advantage in blocked shots (6-0) and giveaways (3-2), while Pittsburgh led in takeaways (1-0), hits (14-9) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

As there were no penalties called in the first period, both clubs were 0/0 on the power play.

Nothing happened in the second period either, except for a bunch of saves for each goaltender.

Through 40 minutes of play, Swayman had stopped all 21 shots faced, while Jarry made 18 saves on 18 shots as the Penguins led the Bruins, 21-18, in shots on goal, including an, 11-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The scoreboard still read, 0-0, as Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (10-6) and Pittsburgh led in giveaways (7-4), hits (23-21) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had four takeaways each and were 0/0 on the power play as no penalties were called in the action entering the second intermission.

Jake Guentzel (21) fired a one-timer from the faceoff dot over Swayman’s glove side to give the Penguins the game’s first goal, while Sidney Crosby (36) and Brian Dumoulin (10) recorded the assists as Pittsburgh took a, 1-0, lead at 4:03 of the third period.

It turned out to be the only goal of the afternoon.

With less than two minutes left in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra skater, but while Boston was defending their own zone, Bergeron caught Guentzel with a high stick and received the game’s first and only infraction at 18:32.

The Bruins used their timeout to come up with a strategy to handle both being shorthanded and what to do should they get possession in the attacking zone and even things up at 5-on-5 with Swayman heading for the bench, but it was to no avail.

The Pens did not convert on the ensuing power play, however.

Time simply ran out for Boston and Pittsburgh as Jarry and the Penguins secured the, 1-0, victory, despite trailing in shots on goal, 30-29, on the afternoon.

Boston held the advantage in shots in the third period alone, 12-8, as well as in blocked shots (14-8), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (11-7) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The two teams finished the afternoon even in hits, 33-33, while only the Penguins had a power play on the afternoon– going 0/1 on the skater advantage in the process.

The Bruins fell to 8-9-3 (3-3-2 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 6-6-2 (3-3-0 on the road) when tied after one period and 5-6-3 (5-5-2 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, improved to 20-4-2 (12-1-2 at home) when scoring the game’s first goal, 7-2-1 (4-2-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 7-3-1 (5-1-1 at home) when tied after the second period in 2020-21.

The B’s close out their five-game road trip (2-2-0) with another matchup in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Tuesday. Boston finished the month of April at home on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Marchand’s hat trick lifts Bruins over Penguins, 7-5

Brad Marchand had a hat trick to go along with his four-point afternoon in the Boston Bruins’, 7-5, victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden on Saturday.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals and David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron set career milestones in the process, while Jaroslav Halak (9-5-3, 2.44 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in 17 games played) made 23 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh netminder, Casey DeSmith (9-4-0, 2.13 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 15 games played), stopped 21 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 19-10-5 (43 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins dropped to 24-12-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the same division.

The B’s improved to 4-2-0 against the Pens this season with the win.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

As a result, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup from Thursday night’s, 4-1, loss against Pittsburgh.

Cassidy swapped his first and second line right wings, placing Craig Smith alongside Marchand and Bergeron, while uniting Pastrnak with Nick Ritchie and Krejci.

Sean Kuraly was back in the lineup for the first time since being placed in COVID protocol on March 18th. He was taken off the league’s COVID protocol list prior to Thursday night’s loss, but did not suit up against the Penguins until Saturday.

Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle at right wing.

Jack Studnicka, meanwhile, centered the fourth line with Trent Frederic to his left and Zach Senyshyn to his right.

On defense, Cassidy paired former Boston University teammates, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing.

Jakub Zboril suited up alongside Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi was back in the lineup with Connor Clifton after Tinordi was as a healthy scratch since March 25th.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday afternoon included Chris Wagner, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Miller and Callum Booth.

Mike Matheson sent a shot towards the goal off of an attacking zone faceoff that tipped off of Coyle’s stick, then Mark Jankowski’s, over Halak’s shoulder, off the crossbar and under into the back of the twine.

As Jankowski (3) was the last to touch the rubber biscuit, the goal was his and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 3:24 of the first period.

Matheson (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Shortly after the midpoint in the opening frame until late in the first period, the two clubs engaged in a span of 8:05 of consecutive action.

Heading into the first intermission, Pittsburgh led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-6, in shots on goal.

The Pens held the advantage in giveaways (5-1), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while both teams had four takeaways each.

Neither team had seen any time on the power play entering the middle frame.

Just 11 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (11) capitalized on a rebound from his usual spot in the bumper to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted effort.

Bergeron tied Rick Middleton for the fourth most points (898) in a Bruins uniform in franchise history as a result of his goal. In 1,123 career games, Bergeron has 363-535–898 totals– all with Boston– while Middleton recorded 402-496–898 totals in 881 games as a Bruin from 1976-88.

34 seconds later, Pastrnak (15) buried a shot from the slot after the puck bounced off of Ritchie due to an initial shot by Krejci from the point to give the B’s their first lead of the afternoon, 2-1.

Ritchie (9) and Krejci (21) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal 45 seconds into the second period.

As a result of his secondary assist on the goal, Krejci reached 500 career NHL assists in his 941st game (all with Boston). Pastrnak made sure the puck was delivered to the Bruins’ bench for future display purposes in the Krejci household.

The Bruins did not hold the lead for long, however, as Jake Guentzel (16) scored on a close-range one-timer as he was fed by a backhand pass from Sidney Crosby while the Penguins captain was skating behind the net in “Gretzky’s office”.

Crosby (27) and Brian Dumoulin (5) tabbed assists on Guentzel’s goal as the score was evened, 2-2, at 2:45 of the second period.

On an ensuing play in Boston’s defensive zone, McAvoy closed his hand on the puck in the crease and received an automatic delay of game minor infraction for (you guessed it) closing his hand on the puck at 4:45.

Pittsburgh’s first power play of the afternoon went right to work as Crosby setup Guentzel into the slot who then passed the puck to Jared McCann (9) for the one-timer past Halak’s blocker side as the Bruins goaltender dove from left to right in the crease.

Guentzel (21) and Crosby (28) had the assists on McCann’s power-play goal at 5:11 and the Pens grabbed a, 3-2, lead in the action.

Midway through the period, Pittsburgh and Boston swapped penalties when Sam Lafferty caught Clifton with an elbow at 9:59 and Grzelcyk tripped Cody Ceci at 10:20, resulting in 1:40 of 4-on-4 action before the Penguins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

Neither team scored on the special teams play.

Moments later, however, the Bruins rallied when Marchand (15) sent a catch and release shot while cutting a quick turn in front of DeSmith in the low slot– elevating the puck top-shelf in the process– to tie the game, 3-3, at 14:56.

Grzelcyk (9) and Smith (9) had the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the afternoon.

After a stoppage in play resulted in a slashing minor for Marchand against Kris Letang and a roughing infraction for Letang against Marchand at 15:10, the two clubs resumed 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes, though that didn’t last long.

Boston went on the 4-on-3 advantage when Evan Rodrigues hooked Pastrnak at 16:53.

The Bruins then had 18 seconds on the unconventional 4-on-3 power play before yielding an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

While on the ensuing power play, Boston whipped the puck around the zone before Pastrnak sent it to Marchand who whizzed a shot pass through the slot to Krejci (2) for the redirection from the edge of the crease to the left of DeSmith.

The Bruins re-took the lead, 4-3, as Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (14) were credited with assists on Krejci’s power-play goal at 18:29.

Boston was not done scoring, however, as Marchand (16) received an indirect pass from McAvoy from the slot off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone that bounced from Smith to No. 63 in black and gold (or, gold and black, as it were, since the Bruins donned their Reverse Retro jerseys on Saturday), before sending another catch and release shot past DeSmith.

Smith (10) and McAvoy (18) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the afternoon and the Bruins led, 5-3, at 19:40– marking three unanswered goals for Boston to finish off the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Penguins, 18-17, in shots on goal, despite holding an, 11-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (9-7), hits (23-17) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and giveaways (10-2) through 40 minutes of action.

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

Ceci (3) opened the scoring in the third period after Boston failed to clear their own zone and Jankowski sent a pass to the wide-open Penguins defender to bring Pittsburgh to within one at 4:38.

Jankowski (4) and Lafferty (5) had the assists as the Pens trailed, 5-4.

Midway through the final frame, Ritchie made a hit at the attacking zone blue line to take possession of the puck and generate a 2-on-1 advantage for the Bruins on the break-in.

Ritchie fed Pastrnak (16) a pass across the slot for another catch and release goal– this time over DeSmith’s glove side to make it, 6-4, for Boston.

Ritchie (10) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game at 13:28 of the third period.

With 2:25 remaining in the action, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Letang, in the meantime, had other ideas and hooked Pastrnak and cut a rut to the penalty box at 17:49.

After clearing their own zone, Pittsburgh once again pulled DeSmith for an extra skater, whereby Crosby (15) mustered a soft goal through Halak to pull the Penguins to within one goal once more at 18:45.

Guentzel (22) had the only assist on Crosby’s shorthanded goal and the Pens trailed, 6-5.

Sullivan used his timeout on the ensuing stoppage with 1:15 remaining in the action to drum up a plan.

On the resulting center-ice faceoff, Bergeron may have caught Crosby in the sternum with an inadvertent butt-end while pulling the puck back from the dot as Crosby brushed Bergeron’s visor before Bergeron made the turn.

Crosby whipped his head back and fell to the ice, perhaps embellishing (depending on which team you cheer for) what resulted in a four-minute double minor for high sticking for Bergeron, despite no evidence of an injury or blood drawn, while nobody seemed to notice Krejci’s errant stick to McCann’s face that was quite evident in the replay and review of whether or not Bergeron touched Crosby.

Regardless, Bergeron skated to the box at 18:49 and the Penguins went on the power play.

This time, however, Pittsburgh’s power play was powerless as they once again pulled DeSmith for a de facto two-skater advantage, but Marchand (17) sealed the deal on the game’s fate with an empty net goal– scoring a hat trick in the process.

Coyle (5) had the only assist on Marchand’s third goal of the afternooon– marking his first hat trick of the season and his fourth overall in his NHL career– at 18:59 and the B’s led, 7-5.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-5, and finished even in total shots on goal, 28-28, despite leading, 11-10, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the afternoon leading in blocked shots (8-7), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (60-40), while the Penguins finished Saturday’s effort leading in giveaways (12-3).

Both teams finished 1/3 on the power play in the matinée action.

The Bruins improved to 7-7-2 (4-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Penguins fell to 13-4-1 (5-3-0 on the road) when scoring first in 2020-21.

Boston also improved to 5-6-2 (3-2-0 at home) when trailing after one and 11-0-1 (7-0-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh dropped to 12-3-1 (2-2-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 4-8-1 (2-7-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

The Bruins wrap up their seven-game homestand (3-2-1) next Monday (April 5th) against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for a three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia again.