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NHL Nick's Net

Palmieri nets two as Devils defeat Bruins, 3-2

Kyle Palmieri scored a pair of goals as the New Jersey Devils beat the Boston Bruins, 3-2, at TD Garden on Thursday night in Boston.

Mackenzie Blackwood (4-0-1, 1.94 goals against average, .945 save percentage in five games played) made 25 saves on 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the win for New Jersey.

Boston netminder, Jaroslav Halak (4-1-1, 1.66 GAA, .928 SV% in six games played) stopped 23 out of 26 shots against (.885 SV%) in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 10-3-2 (22 points) on the season, but remained in command of the MassMutual NHL East Division lead, while the Devils improved to 6-3-2 (14 points) overall and stagnant in 6th place in the division.

Once more, the Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body) and Matt Grzelcyk (lower body), but Jakub Zboril (upper body) joined the pair of injured teammates in the press box on Thursday night– missing his first game of the season due to an injury sustained on Feb. 13th in the, 4-2, loss at the Islanders.

Kase missed his 13th game due to an injury sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey, while Grzelcyk missed his ninth game due to an injury originally sustained on Jan. 21st against Philadelphia, then re-aggravated on Jan. 28th against Pittsburgh and on Feb. 10th in New York (against the Rangers).

As a result of the injuries and more, Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, jumbled his lines.

Jake DeBrusk replaced David Pastrnak on the first line right wing with Brad Marchand at left wing and captain, Patrice Bergeron, at center.

Pastrnak was “demoted” to the second line with Nick Ritchie and David Krejci, while Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith were reunited on the third line.

Anders Bjork, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner made up the fourth line.

On defense, Cassidy left Jeremy Lauzon with Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing, while John Moore filled in Grzelcyk’s usual role on the second pairing with Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton was slotted into Zboril’s spot alongside Kevan Miller.

Greg McKegg, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen, Callum Booth and Karson Kuhlman made up Boston’s taxi squad on Thursday, while Anton Blidh was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday and Par Lindholm had his contract terminated by the club on Monday after being placed on waivers for the purpose of terminating his deal on Sunday.

Lindholm signed a multiyear contract with Skellefteå AIK in his return to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

Not much happened in the first period. In fact, so much not much that the only event on the scoresheet was a penalty against Wagner for tripping Devils forward, Miles Wood, at 10:29.

New Jersey did not convert on the ensuing power play.

After one period of action Thursday night at TD Garden, the game was tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 7-7.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4) and giveaways (5-3), while New Jersey led in hits (9-8).

Both teams managed three takeaways aside and split faceoff win percentage (50-50).

The Devils were 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle period, Jack Hughes pulled both Boston defenders out of position before dropping a pass to Palmieri (1) for the wrist shot goal over Halak’s glove side.

Hughes (6) had the only assist on Palmieri’s first goal of the night as the Devils took the lead, 1-0, at 1:34 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, Palmieri cut a rut to the penalty box with McAvoy after the two players roughed each other up a bit after a stoppage in play, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes at 2:14 of the middle frame.

Moments later, Moore tripped Jesper Bratt and was sent to the sin bin at 8:01, yielding a power play to New Jersey in the process.

Once again the Devils weren’t able to convert on the skater advantage, however, as P.K. Subban caught Bjork with a high stick and drew blood at 9:05 of the second period, resulting in a four-minute double minor penalty on Subban.

The two clubs shared 56 seconds of 4-on-4 action before the Bruins began an extended power play for a span of 3:04.

While shorthanded, the Devils forced a turnover in the neutral zone, presenting Palmieri (2) with a clear lane to the net for his second goal of the night on a similar shot to his first goal of the game.

Damon Severson (5) and Bratt (3) tallied the assists on Palmieri’s shorthanded goal as New Jersey led, 2-0, at 10:39 of the second period.

In the waning minute of their power play, DeBrusk (1) found a loose puck in the slot and buried a shot over Blackwood’s blocker side to cut New Jersey’s lead in half, 2-1, and give Boston their first goal of the night.

DeBrusk’s power-play goal was unassisted at 12:36.

Moments later, the Bruins tweeted that Krejci (lower body) would not return to the night’s action– necessitating some changes to Cassidy’s in-game lineup.

Late in the period, Nathan Bastian and Coyle received matching roughing minors after yet another post-whistle scrum at 15:08.

On the ensuing 4-on-4 action, New Jersey worked the puck in the offensive zone while Moore and Carlo struggled to remain in proper positioning in their own end.

Andreas Johnsson sent a pass to Pavel Zacha (4) for a one-timer goal over Halak’s blocker from the inside circle to the Bruins netminder’s right side.

Johnsson (2) and Will Butcher (1) notched the assists on Zacha’s goal and the Devils led, 3-1, at 15:37 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of play on Thursday, New Jersey led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 18-15, in shots on goal, including an, 11-8, advantage in the second period alone while Boston struggled on home ice.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (11-8), giveaways (8-6) and faceoff win% (58-43), while the Devils led in takeaways (5-4) and hits (16-15).

New Jersey was 0/2 on the power play, while Boston was 1/2 on the skater advantage entering the final frame of regulation.

The Bruins found themselves shorthanded when Lauzon tripped Palmieri at 7:01 of the third period, but made matters worse when Marchand caught Hughes with a high stick at 7:36 and presented the Devils with a two-skater advantage for 1:25.

Boston’s penalty kill got the job done, however.

Late in the final frame, Ty Smith sent an errant puck clear over the glass and received a minor infraction for delay of game at 17:49, presenting the B’s with a power play that– if they couldn’t score– would expire with 11 seconds left in the game.

Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker to make it a 6-on-4 advantage for Boston.

About a minute into the ensuing power play, Pastrnak fired a shot from the point that McAvoy (2) deflected while battling Dmitry Kulikov in the slot to pull Boston to within one goal.

Pastrnak (6) and Ritchie (6) were credited with the assists on the power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-2, at 18:54 of the third period.

With 1:06 to go, Cassidy used his timeout to rally Boston for another goal, but it was too little, too late as the final horn sounded 66 seconds later.

New Jersey emerged victorious, 3-2, as time expired.

The Bruins finished with the advantage in shots on goal, 27-26, including a, 12-8, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone.

Boston also wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (16-13), giveaways (11-9) and faceoff win% (61-39), while the New Jersey finished the night leading in hits (24-21).

The Devils went 0/4 on the skater advantage while the B’s converted on 2/3 power play opportunities.

The B’s fell to 3-2-0 (1-1-0 at home) when tied after the first period, 2-1-1 (1-1-0 at home) when trailing after two periods and 4-2-2 (1-1-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

New Jersey, meanwhile, improved to 2-1-1 (2-0-1 on the road) when tied after the first period, 4-0-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods and 6-1-0 (4-0-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season.

The Bruins hit the road for a home game outdoors at Lake Tahoe against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC) before returning to the road for a three-game road trip against the New York Islanders on Feb. 25th and New York Rangers on Feb. 26th, as well as Feb. 28th.

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Daily Matchup

March 12 – Day 152 – Roll low to Fly high

First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank @jdettro, @nlanciani53 and @vanekatthedisco for manning the “Game of the Day” post while I was – as Pete put it – on IR recovering from oral surgery. I strive to keep this series as lively and up to date as possible, and they performed those tasks marvelously. Hats off to them!

I must admit, I also earned the golden opportunity to return to the series on an action-packed day, as the NHL has scheduled a solid eight games for our viewing pleasure.

The festivities begin, like they do most weeknights, at 7 p.m. with four tilts (Carolina at the New York Rangers, Vegas at Philadelphia [SN], Winnipeg at Washington [TVAS] and Montréal at Columbus [RDS/TSN2]), followed half an hour later by Ottawa at Florida (RDS2). The next wave of games doesn’t start until 10 p.m. when St. Louis at Anaheim drops the puck, while tonight’s co-nightcaps – Vancouver at Los Angeles and Detroit at San Jose – wait 30 minutes before completing the night’s slate. All times Eastern.

Since F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare spent his first three NHL seasons in the City of Brotherly Love before being selected by Vegas in the Expansion Draft, we’ll head to Eastern Pennsylvania to take in a tilt between two teams expecting to play more than 82 games this season.

 

 

 

 

 

Hailing from Le Blanc-Mensil, France (a suburb northeast of Paris), Bellemare was not one of the highly touted European prospects in his draft class. Instead, his story is one of paying his dues and climbing the ladder all the way from Ligue Magnus – the top hockey league in France – all the way to the best team in the Pacific Division.

Bellemare’s professional career began with French side Dragons de Rouen way back during the 2002-’03 season when he was 17-years old, albeit he won the Jean-Pierre Graff Trophy (Ligue Magnus’ Calder Trophy) during the 2004-’05 season. His tenure with the Dragons was capped by a dominant 2005-’06 season that saw him score a then career-high 12 goals and 29 points to lead the club to first place in the regular season, as well as an undefeated run to the Magnus Cup. In three best-of-five playoff rounds (nine games total), Bellemare averaged a point-per-game with 2-7-9 marks.

That success earned Bellemare the opportunity to climb the professional ranks into the more competitive HockeyAllsvenskan, the second-best league in Sweden, with Leksands IF.

Similar to Bellemare’s tenure with Rouen, Leksand only showed improvement while he was on the roster. In three seasons with the club, it finished third, first and first in the regular season, but could never advance out of Kvalserien to earn promotion into Elitserien (the top league in the country, renamed the Swedish Hockey League in 2013).

During his 2008-’09 campaign with Leksand, Bellemare discovered the best scoring form of his career. He scored incredible 31-18-49 totals in 41 regular season games, and followed that up by posting 5-5-10 marks in the 10-game Kvalserien round robin.

Since it was obvious Bellemare was worthy of playing in a better league, he joined Skellefteå AIK in the SEL at the start of the 2009-’10 season, the club he would spend five seasons with. It took Bellemare a couple seasons to adjust to playing against the best competition he’d ever faced on a nightly basis, but he rediscovered his scoring touch by the 2011-’12 campaign to register 19-17-36 totals in 55 games played. Skellefteå advanced to the championship series that season before falling to W Jakob Silfverberg‘s Brynäs IF in six games.

After Bellemare’s first 20-goal season in 2013-’14 since his final year in HockeyAllsvenskan (Skellefteå won the regular season and lost only two games en route to its second of four-consecutive Le Mat Trophies, for those that are wondering), he finally earned the promotion many hockey players only dream of: at 29-years-old, he signed a one-year, $600 thousand NHL contract with the Flyers.

The Frenchman didn’t exactly light North America on fire when he showed up, posting only 6-6-12 marks in 81 games played during his “rookie” season, but Philadelphia was obviously impressed enough to sign him to two more seasons on a $1.425 million contract. Bellemare rewarded the Flyers’ loyalty in 2015-’16 by improving his performance to 7-7-14 totals in only 74 games played, but he regressed last season to lowly 4-4-8 marks even though he didn’t miss a game.

Even still, the Flyers extended his contract another two seasons, locking him up through the 2018-’19 season for $2.9 million on March 1, 2017.

Though Philadelphia had signed that extension, it was a no-brainer why the 32-year-old was left exposed for the Expansion Draft. Bellemare’s production on the offensive end was far from awe-inspiring, as his tenure in the NHL had become most known for his defensive play (he finished 48th in Selke voting in 2016-’17).

Leave it to Head Coach Gerard Gallant and General Manager George McPhee to have a plan for that defensive effort, and of course that plan came up spades for the Golden Knights.

Even at 33-years-old (he just celebrated his anniversaire on March 6), Bellemare is easily having his best season in the NHL with his new team. With only 59 games played, the Frenchman has posted 5-8-13 totals and a +6 rating, his first positive goal-differential since joining the NHL – due in large part to career-high 43 takeaways in the league. He’s also enjoying an impressive 51.3 face-off win percentage.

If I had to guess as to why Bellemare is finding so much success in Vegas, I’d argue Gallant’s system fits his style of play far better than Head Coach Dave Hakstol’s. Fitting the French stereotype to a T, Bellemare’s talent is found in his quality stick work and heady play – a style that is far different than the brash shot-blocking, hit-throwing strategy employed by the Broad Street Bullies. The more Bellemare got away from that style in Philadelphia, the more success he found. Now that his defensive responsibilities have completely changed, he’s showing why he was brought to the NHL in the first place.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be playing on McPhee’s incredibly constructed brainchild known as the 44-19-5 Golden Knights. After a three-game losing skid, Vegas is back in the swing of things having posted a 3-1-0 record over its last four showings, all of which have been on the road.

Perhaps its just coincidence on a day where we’re featuring the defensively-minded Bellemare, but it’s been the Golden Knights’ effort in their own that has resulted in their turnaround. Whether it’s been the excellent play of C Cody Eakin (averaging one takeaway per game since March 4), D Deryk Engelland (1.5 blocks per game in his last four showings) or D Brayden McNabb (4.3 hits per game over this run), Vegas has limited 24-9-3 G Marc-Andre Fleury‘s workload to only 29 shots per game during this road trip, the ninth-best mark in the NHL since March 4.

Oh yeah: Fleury has been pretty incredible lately as well (in other news, grass is green). Taking advantage of his defense’s effort, Fleury has managed a solid .948 save percentage and 1.48 GAA over his last four starts, improving his season marks to unbelievable .929 and 2.16 heights.

Between Fleury and the Vegas defense, the Golden Knights have allowed only 1.75 goals per game since March 4, the (t)third-lowest  mark in the NHL in that time.

Meanwhile, the 35-23-11 Flyers are in a bit of a slump right now, as they’ve managed only a 1-4-1 record over their past six outings, though they might have turned a corner Saturday when they beat the visiting Jets 2-1.

The injuries to Philadelphia’s two primary goaltenders are absolutely driving it into the ground, because the Flyers are completely altering the style that has brought them so much success this season to sell out on the defensive end.

That’s not to say the Flyers aren’t playing defense well. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as F Valtteri Filppula (seven takeaways in his last six games) and D Radko Gudas (3.7 hits and 2.2 blocks per game since March 1) have performed phenomenally to limit 12-10-4 G Petr Mrazek‘s workload to only 29.83 shots per game in the month of March, the (t)ninth-best mark in the league in that time.

However, that commitment to excellent defense has come at the cost of the Flyers’ usually imposing offense. For the entire regular season, Philly has averaged a solid 2.91 goals per game – the 13th-best mark in the league. However, that number has dropped to only 2.33 goals per game in March to be the sixth-worst mark in the NHL over the past 11 days.

To keep piling on the Flyers, it’s not like their defensive success has really slowed down opposing offenses all that much. With the exception of his 27-for-28 performance Saturday against Winnipeg, Mrazek has been rather uninspiring in his last five starts, posting a combined .874 save percentage and 3.75 GAA. With 21-11-7 G Brian Elliott and 8-7-3 G Michal Neuvirth no closer to returning to action, Mrazek needs to get his act in shape before he single-handedly destroys the Flyers’ playoff hopes.

With the Stanley Cup playoffs less than a month away, the Flyers’ future is still as cloudy as a smoggy Philadelphia day. In fact, though they’re currently in third place in the Metropolitan Division with a three-point edge on fourth-place New Jersey, only six points separate the Flyers from ninth-place Florida. As such, a win tonight could be very important – especially paired with a Capitals loss to Winnipeg, as it would pull Philly into a tie for second place that it would lose by only one more game played, keeping the pressure squarely on Washington to keep finding wins. Should the Flyers lose, they give the Devils a game in hand – a dangerous weapon should Mrazek continue playing the way he is.

As for Vegas, the top seed in the Western Conference has all but slipped out of its fingers considering the Predators have a five-point lead in 68 games played – one fewer than Vegas after tonight’s action. However, the Knights still have yet to lock up the Pacific Division, as the Sharks and Ducks are lurking with 81 and 80 points, respectively. As long as Vegas wins at least seven more games before the end of the regular season, it should clinch its first division title.

The way things have gone for the Golden Knights this season, I don’t think 14 points will be hard to come by.

We’ve heard stories of celebrities and bachelor parties trashing hotel rooms while in Vegas, and that’s kind of what the Flyers did when they visited T-Mobile Arena on February 11. Led in large part by C Sean Couturier‘s three-point night that included a game-winning assist in the second period, Philadelphia came away from the Silver State with a 4-1 victory.

Based on recent trends, this game is screaming to be two points for the Golden Knights. If Mrazek can build off Saturday’s victory and the Flyers can return to playing some solid offense, Philadelphia certainly has a shot at winning. However, I have my doubts about that happening considering the Golden Knights have F Jon Marchessault (22-43-65 totals), C William Karlsson (35-26-61) and W David Perron (16-45-61) at their disposal. Vegas should come away with the victory.


The New York Islanders showed no mercy in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 at Scotiabank Saddledome.

By scoring three goals in the third period, the Isles registered their game-winning goal before departing for their dressing room for the first intermission. D Nick Leddy (C Casey Cizikas) opened the scoring with a wrist shot at the 2:14 mark, and Second Star of the Game D Johnny Boychuk (Cizikas and LW Ross Johnston) followed that up only 18 seconds later to give New York a 2-0 advantage.

Though LW Johnny Gaudreau (C Sean Monahan) was able to bury a wrister at the 7:29 mark to pull Calgary back within a score, RW Jordan Eberle (Boychuk and C John Tavares) apparently remembered his days with the Oilers and wanted to ensure he nipped any Flames comeback in the bud.

Only 3:02 after the horn stopped blaring for Gaudreau, Boychuk centered a pass from the left point to Eberle, who was camping in the slot in front of G Mike Smith‘s crease. Though the goaltender was able to make the initial save on Eberle’s initial redirection, he wasn’t able to catch up with the right wing’s recollect-turned-backhanded shot as he continued driving through the slot.

Though Eberle takes credit for the game-winning blow, F Anders Lee‘s (Boychuk and Leddy) clapper 50 seconds into the second period might have been the final blow to knockout the Flames. He set the score at 4-1, making any Calgary comeback a tall order.

Third Star D Mark Giordano (D Dougie Hamilton and Gaudreau) tried to get that comeback started at the 7:24 mark of the third period, but First Star G Christopher Gibson stopped the remaining 18 shots he faced in the third period to keep the Flames’ goal total at two. Lee (Tavares) capped the Isles’ scoring with with 11 seconds remaining in the game, burying a wrister into an empty net.

Gibson earned the victory after saving 50-of-52 shots faced (.962 save percentage), leaving the loss to Smith, who saved 22-of-26 (.846).

It’s been a bit of a resurgence of the road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day during my absence, as the past two featured tilts have gone the way of the squads wearing white. Because of that, the 83-49-19 hosts now have only a 31-point advantage in the series.