Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
*cue Andy Williams*
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).
In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.
This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.
Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.
A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.
Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.
The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).
Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.
Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.
Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.
Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.
Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.
In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.
While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.
Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.
After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.
That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.
Regular season outcomes:
5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th
4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS
4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS
4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*
4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*
4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)
For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.
Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.
Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.
The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).
Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.
The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.
Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.
Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million
boy wonder man.
Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.
Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.
Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.
To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th
4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*
4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*
4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*
M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)
Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?
Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.
After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.
Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.
Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).
The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).
Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.
The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.
Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.
Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.
Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.
Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.
Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.
This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th
4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2
4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS
4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2
4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS
4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*
4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*
4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*
M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)
Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.
That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.
New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).
Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.
That same trap won the Cup last season.
Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.
Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?
Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.
The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.
How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?
Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.
Regular season outcomes:
2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th
4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2
4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*
4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*
4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*
The Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL record for the most wins in a season (62, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings) with their, 6-3, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.
Legendary Red Wings captain and former Lightning General Manager, Steve Yzerman can technically lay claim to being part of both seasons, as he was responsible for the makeup of Tampa’s roster before current Bolts GM Julien BriseBois took over prior to the start of the 2018-19 regular season (Yzerman stepped down citing a desire to spend more time with family).
Edward Pasquale (2-1-0 record, 3.96 goals against average, .882 save percentage in three games played) made 30 saves on 33 shots against for a .909 SV% in the win for the Lightning.
Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) stopped 16 out of 21 shots faced in the loss for the B’s.
Boston fell to 49-24-9 (107 points) on the season, but already clinched 2nd place in the Atlantic Division prior to Saturday’s loss.
Tampa improved to 62-16-4 (128 points) and finished 1st in the Atlantic Division (as well as the entire NHL, finishing with the 4th most points in league history).
Bruce Cassidy rested some players on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild and did so once again against the Lightning on Saturday, sitting Brandon Carlo, Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Noel Acciari, Brad Marchand, while Chris Wagner (lower body), John Moore (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and Kevan Miller (lower body) missed Saturday’s action due to injury.
Moore and Kuraly are likely to miss Game 1 of Boston’s First Round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but will otherwise be considered day-to-day.
Miller is expected to participate in full practice on Monday.
Cassidy kept Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak as his top line with Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle— suiting up in his 500th career NHL game– and Zach Senyshyn rounding out his top-six forwards.
Prior to puck drop, the Bruins honored several of their players with end of season awards.
DeBrusk was named the 2018-19 Eddie Shore Award winner, presented by the “Gallery Gods” for exceptional hustle and determination.
Marchand was named the 2018-19 Elizabeth Dufresne Award winner, determined by the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for outstanding performance during home games.
Chara won the 2018-19 John P. Bucyk Award, chosen by John Bucyk himself for the greatest off-ice charitable contributions during the season.
Finally, Pastrnak (Third Star), Bergeron (Second Star) and Marchand (First Star) took home the end of season Bruins Three Stars (top performers at home games in 2018-19), chosen by 98.5 The Sports Hub– the flagship radio station of Boston Bruins radio broadcasts.
In addition to the season awards, Rask was honored for breaking the Bruins franchise record for most wins by a goaltender on Feb. 3rd in Washington and presented with a painting. He has 265 career NHL wins in 495 career appearances (all with Boston).
Krejci (20) opened the scoring at 14:38 of the first period after batting a loose puck out of the air and into the twine to give the Bruins a, 1-0, lead.
How did it happen?
McAvoy tried to work a pass over to Krejci on a two-on-one, but Braydon Coburn denied the passing lane, yielding a rebound off his body back to McAvoy for the forward progression towards the goal, whereby Krejci swatted the puck out of the air and into the net behind Pasquale.
Krejci’s goal was assisted by McAvoy (21) and Pastrnak (42). The goal also gave Boston their fifth 20-goal scorer this season (Pastrnak, 38, Marchand, 36, Bergeron, 32, DeBrusk, 27 and Krejci, 20).
Late in the period, Heinen (11) sent a wrist shot past Pasquale while Kuhlman was screening the Lightning goaltender to make it, 2-0, Bruins at 19:40.
Kampfer (3) recorded the only assist on the goal.
Entering the first intermission, Boston led on the scoreboard, 2-0, and in shots on goal, 11-7. The B’s also led in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (6-4) and hits (10-9), while the Bolts led in giveaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (83-17).
Neither team had yet to see any action on the skater advantage entering the second period.
Early in the second period, Nordstrom slashed Steven Stamkos and sent the Lightning on the game’s first power play of the afternoon at 2:48.
In the waning seconds of the power play, Erik Cernak (5) cut the lead in half, 2-1, with a power play goal at 4:41 of the second period.
Coburn later high-sticked Nordstrom at 12:44 and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the day, but things did not go well on the skater advantage.
For the (league leading) 15th time this season, Boston allowed a shorthanded goal against after Stamkos (45) scooped up the puck and broke into the Lightning’s offensive zone on his own and beat Rask through the five-hole to tie the game, 2-2, at 12:52.
Worse, the Bruins butchered an attempt to clear the puck out of their own zone moments later and Anthony Cirelli (19) let go of a shot from the face-off circle that deflected off of Heinen’s stick past the Boston netminder.
Miller (34) and Coburn (19) had the assists on Cirelli’s goal at 16:59 and Tampa led, 3-2, for the first time of the afternoon.
Boston challenged the call on the ice for goaltender interference, as Alex Killorn had briefly ventured into Rask’s crease, but the call on the ice was not overturned as Killorn did not inhibit Rask’s ability to make a save.
Cassidy lost his timeout as a result of the failed challenge and the score remained, 3-2, for the Lightning.
After Mathieu Joseph delivered a hit on Krejci late in the period, Pastrnak took exception to Joseph’s efforts and offered to exchange fisticuffs.
Instead, Pastrnak received a two-minute minor for roughing at 17:47. Tampa did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 18-17, in shots on goal (including an, 11-6, advantage in the second period alone).
Boston held onto the advantage in blocked shots (8-5) and takeaways (7-6), while Tampa led in giveaways (8-5), hits (22-18) and face-off win% (68-32) after two periods.
The Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the B’s were 0/1 heading into the third period.
Less than a minute into the third period, Nikita Kucherov (41) wrong-footed Rask and scored on the backhand after breaking through Boston’s defense.
Ryan McDonagh (37) had the only assist on Kucherov’s goal 53 seconds into the third period and the Lightning led, 4-2.
With the goal, Kucherov tied, Alexander Mogilny for the most points in a season by a Russian born player (set in 1992-93). He would later add another point in the form of an assist to set the new record for the most points (128) by a Russian born player in a single season.
Tyler Johnson tripped Clifton at 5:12 and the Bruins went on the power play for their second time of the afternoon. Tampa’s penalty kill matched Boston’s power play efforts and the B’s were not able to capitalize on the skater advantage.
After Clifton delivered a clean hip-check on Joseph, Joseph retaliated and initiated a scrum in front of the benches about a minute later, resulting in matching minor penalties for cross-checking at 13:04 by Backes (against McDonagh) and Joseph (against Clifton).
Cernak and Frederic each received a ten-minute misconduct and were sent to their respective dressing rooms early.
While even strength at 4-on-4, Grzelcyk (3) sent a one-timer top-shelf past Pasquale to bring the Bruins to within one-goal at 14:03 of the third period.
Pastrnak (43) and Krejci (53) recorded the assists and Boston trailed, 4-3.
With the secondary assist on Grzelcyk’s goal, Krejci tied a career-high in points (73) set in 2008-09.
Just 13 seconds after Grzelcyk pulled his team to within one, Coburn (4) floated a shot glove side from the blue line past Rask to make it, 5-3, Lightning at 14:16.
Cirelli (20) and Girardi (12) tallied the assists on the goal.
With 2:56 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.
Johnson (29) collected the empty net goal for the Bolts at 18:34 and made it an insurmountable, 6-3, lead for the Lightning.
Ondrej Palat (26) and Kucherov (87) had the assists on Johnson’s goal and Kucherov set the all-time record for points in a season by a Russian born player (41-87–128 totals).
At the final horn, the President’s Trophy winning, Tampa Bay Lightning finished the 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, Boston Bruins, 6-3, at TD Garden.
Boston finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (33-22– including a, 16-4, advantage in the third period alone) and blocked shots (9-8), while Tampa ended the afternoon leading in takeaways (10-9), giveaways (14-8), hits (27-25) and face-off win% (64-36).
The Bolts finished Saturday afternoon 1/3 on the power play and the B’s went 0/2.
The Bruins fell to 34-7-5 when scoring first this season and 2-1-0 in the month of April, while only losing ten games in regulation since Jan. 1st.
The DTFR Duo talk a little college hockey, other stats from the week, the CWHL folding and NWHL expansion opportunities, as well as hand out more awards and a look at how things should sort out in the Atlantic Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There’s only one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, so let’s make this quick. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 10th.
The stretch run is almost complete. If you’re mathematically alive, you still have a chance. Already clinched a playoff berth? Isn’t a great feeling to be ahead of things for once?
If you’re not, then there’s a good chance you’re looking forward to the 2019 NHL Draft lottery (unless you’re the Ottawa Senators– you see, they traded their 2019 1st round pick last season to the Colorado Avalanche after opting to keep their 2018 1st round pick instead– it’s a long story).
Without further ado, here’s the latest standings forecast through the end of March 31, 2019– keeping in mind this is not an exact science.
Given recent and season long trends, as well as records from the last few seasons, the forecasted standings that appear below are only an educated guess.
Anything can happen (for teams that aren’t otherwise already elimination from postseason contention and/or division, conference of President’s Trophy winners).
Projected Standings After Six Months
- p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 126 points (78 games played entering April 1st)
- x-Boston Bruins, 110 points (79 GP)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 100 points (78 GP)
- Montreal Canadiens, 95 points (79 GP)
- Florida Panthers, 87 points (79 GP)
- Buffalo Sabres, 75 points (79 GP)
- Detroit Red Wings, 74 points (79 GP)
- Ottawa Senators, 65 points (78 GP)
To no surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy in real life and come close to a 130-point season. Though the Bolts didn’t set an NHL record for “best regular season ever”, they did become the third team in league history to amass 60-plus wins in a season.
Also, sorry Nikita Kucherov, but you can’t spread out your 120-plus points over the course of the playoffs. Everything is reset to “zero” as if it’s a new season within a season altogether.
Is this the year Steven Stamkos records a point in a Game 7?
Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs keep running into each other as Toronto is looking to avenge last postseason’s seven-game series loss to the Bruins.
Unless David Pastrnak has anything to say about that on the scoreboard.
The Montreal Canadiens come up short of a playoff berth thanks to the current tiebreaker format, whereby both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes had more regulation-plus-overtime wins. If anything, there’s more hope for next season than this time around last season in Montreal.
And if you’re a Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings fan, for some reason you still think your teams are on the cusp of playoff contention– especially now that you’ve already reset your focus on being tied with all 31-NHL teams for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff action.
However, unless the Panthers make some serious moves in the offseason, the Sabres find a system (and goaltender) and stick with it and the Red Wings try to speed up their rebuild, it might be Groundhog Day for another season or two.
Finally, Ottawa Senators fans, you exist. You’re real fans.
- y-Washington Capitals, 105 points (79 GP)
- x-New York Islanders, 102 points (79 GP)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP)
- wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 95 points (79 GP)
- wc2-Carolina Hurricanes, 95 points (79 GP)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 83 points (79 GP)
- New York Rangers, 77 points (78 GP)
- New Jersey Devils, 70 points (79 GP)
In the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals found a way to once-again reign as the division winner heading into the postseason.
After the New York Islanders charged out of the gate on the heels of Barry Trotz’s defensive masterplan and stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, things have started to slide in Long Island.
The good news? Trotz is their head coach and is the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.
The bad news? They’ll suit up against the Pittsburgh Penguins– annual Stanley Cup contenders as long as Sidney Crosby is still playing and Mike Sullivan is within his five-year window of being the game’s best coach in the playoffs– and that’s just the First Round.
In the Eastern Conference wild card race, Columbus entered April with 44 regulation-plus-overtime wins, leading the Hurricanes (41) and Canadiens (40).
Given the forecasted tie and methods in which each team would need to reach 95 points on the season, it appears as though nothing is going to change over the last week of the season.
Nothing should change anyway.
Not to jinx them or anything, but Carolina is looking to end the longest postseason drought in the major four North American professional sports. The Canes haven’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, there’s 1) maybe a goaltender you can rely on, 2) a goaltender who still hasn’t won a Cup and is sticking with a team that’s rebuilding and 3) a goaltender that finally won a game this season (Cory Schneider) and a goaltender that should be your starter next season (Mackenzie Blackwood).
- y-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (78 GP)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 98 points (78 GP)
- x-Nashville Predators, 97 points (79 GP)
- wc1-Dallas Stars, 93 points (79 GP)
- wc2-Colorado Avalanche, 89 points (78 GP)
- Minnesota Wild, 85 points (79 GP)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points (78 GP)
Ever hear of a team going from worst to first? Now have you ever heard of a team doing that in the same season? Because the St. Louis Blues are that team this season (at least in the Central Division alone).
However, the point spread in the expected forecast from 1st to 3rd in the Central is only a two-point difference, which means it’s still anybody’s guess as to who will come out with the top-seed in the division.
Should the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators end up in a First Round rematch of last season’s Second Round battle, then you can expect the Jets to take flight. Just a hunch.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference wild card race came down to the wire and– you guessed it– another tiebreaker.
While the Dallas Stars laid claim to the first wild card spot, the Colorado Avalanche came out on top of the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot by virtue of having won their regular season series, 2-1-0.
Things didn’t go so well for the Minnesota Wild this season, both because of injuries and because of a lot of inconsistency (so… injuries?).
For the Chicago Blackhawks, the season started in October, not January.
- z-Calgary Flames, 109 points (79 GP)
- x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP)
- x-Vegas Golden Knights, 95 points (79 GP)
- Arizona Coyotes, 89 points (79 GP)
- Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (78 GP)
- Anaheim Ducks, 80 points (80 GP)
- Vancouver Canucks, 80 points (79 GP)
- Los Angeles Kings, 70 points (78 GP)
The Calgary Flames clinched the best record in the Western Conference for the first time in almost 30 years. Conveniently, the Flames last won the Cup 30 years ago.
Guess it’s about time for another repeat of 2004, even though goal line technology could surely keep that from ever happening again whether you believe it was in or not.
Things are looking like business as usual for the San Jose Sharks as they gear up for another taxing First Round battle– this time around in a rematch from last year’s Second Round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights, by the way, are the 7th team to reach the postseason in their first two seasons of existence.
It’s too bad the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t pull off an incredible run, despite losing their starting goaltender to injury for the season before American Thanksgiving.
The fact that they’re not in the Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko conversation is about as close as you can come to winning the Cup this season when you’ve relied on Darcy Kuemper for over 20-consecutive starts.
That’s not a shot at Kuemper. That’s just [heck-]ing incredible (pardon my French).
Back up north in Edmonton, the Oilers are gearing up for another rebuild? Is it that time already? Probably not, but if it’s what Connor McDavid wants… (it’s not).
Thanks to that good old ROW tiebreaker, the Anaheim Ducks managed to climb above the Vancouver Canucks in the standings. That’s not saying much.
Vancouver should be this season’s Arizona, next season (minus the injuries). If that makes sense.
Anaheim, on the other hand, should sell, sell, sell this summer.
Finally, the Los Angeles Kings were crowned 2014 Stanley Cup champions for the 5th year in-a-row and finished in the basement of the Pacific.
A three-goal third period comeback punctuated the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 win over the Boston Bruins on Monday night at Amalie Arena after Tampa originally allowed three goals against in the second period.
Steven Stamkos had a pair of goals and Anthony Cirelli had the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation, while Andrei Vasilevskiy (37-9-4 record, 2.36 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 50 games played) stopped 13 out of 17 shots faced (.765 SV%) in the win for the Lightning.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (26-11-5, 2.42 GAA, .915 SV% in 43 GP) made 23 saves on 28 shots against (.821 SV%) in the loss.
Boston fell to 46-21-9 (101 points) on the season, but remained in command of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Tampa improved to 59-14-4 (122 points) on the season and in command of the entire league, having already clinched the President’s Trophy this season.
The B’s fell to 28-2-3 when leading after two periods, 8-4-0 in the month of March and 18-14-6 on the road this season as a result of the loss– just their seventh in regulation since Jan. 1st.
Kevan Miller (upper body), Marcus Johansson (lung contusion), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body), Torey Krug (concussion) and Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) all remained out of the lineup, despite Johansson being a game-time decision.
Bruce Cassidy left the rest of his lineup the same as in Saturday night’s matchup against the Florida Panthers.
Stamkos (40) tipped momentum in favor of the Lightning after blasting one of his patented one-timers past Rask at 6:42 of the first period to give Tampa the lead, 1-0.
While on the power play, the Bruins tied the game with a power play goal from Brad Marchand (33) while Vasilevksiy dove in desperation thanks, in part, to a blind pass through traffic from Pastrnak to Marchand for the one-timer after Pastrnak received the puck from Patrice Bergeron.
Pastrnak (38) and Bergeron (43) had the assists on Marchand’s goal at 8:32 of the first period and the B’s tied the game, 1-1.
With his assist on the goal, Bergeron established a new career-high in points in a season with 74 points in 60 personal games played this season– surpassing his previous career-high of 73 points in 81 games in 2005-06.
Bergeron’s new career-high in points, of course, comes at the youthful age of 33-years-old.
Late in the opening frame, Stamkos (41) added his second goal of the game on a nearly identical one-timer from his usual spot on the ice to give Tampa the lead, 2-1.
Victor Hedman (42) and Sergachev (22) notched the assists on Stamkos’ second goal at 14:58 of the first period.
He did not return to Monday night’s action and was ruled out by the Bruins communication staff early in the second period.
J.T. Miller hooked Danton Heinen at 17:45 and Alex Killorn tripped Bergeron at 18:32, leaving Boston with an abbreviated 5-on-3 skater advantage for about 1:14 until a regular power play would resume.
The B’s did not convert on either power play opportunity.
Through one period, Tampa led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 9-4. The Bolts also led in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (4-2) and hits (15-10), while the B’s managed an advantage in giveaways (2-1) and face-off win percentage (55-46).
The Lightning did not see any time on the power play entering the first intermission, while the Bruins were 1/3 on the skater advantage.
Kuhlman received a two-minute minor infraction for holding Sergachev at 5:05 of the second period, sending the Lightning on their first power play of the night.
Tampa did not convert on the ensuing opportunity.
Coyle deked and scored on the backhand at 8:42 of the second period with Backes (13) yielding the only assist on the goal.
Boston began to unwind over the course of the second and third period in discipline as Zdeno Chara hooked Kucherov at 9:46 of the middle frame, but the Bolts were powerless on the power play.
Brandon Carlo (2) sniped a shot past Vasilevksiy’s glove side for his first goal in 44 games at 13:41 of the second period.
Krejci (46) and DeBrusk (13) were credited with the assists as the Bruins led for the first time of the night, 3-2.
About a minute later, Marchand (34) rocketed a one-timer wide of the goal that caromed off the glass and bounced off of Vasilevskiy’s skate and trickled into the net.
Pastrnak (39) and Bergeron (44) had the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the night and the Bruins had scored three unanswered goals to lead, 4-2, at 14:32 of the second period.
After 40 minutes of play, Boston led on the scoreboard, 4-2, but trailed Tampa in shots on goal, 19-12.
The Lightning also led in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (6-5), hits (24-15) and face-off win% (51-49), while the B’s led in giveaways (3-2).
Tampa was 0/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
The Lightning thundered their way back into the game with three unanswered goals of their own in the third period to overcome a two-goal deficit and beat the Bruins.
Hedman (12) kicked things off with a goal at 5:36 of the third period to bring Tampa within one, 4-3, after he followed through on Stamkos’ shot that went wide and redirected off the end boards behind the net.
Stamkos (51) and Miller (31) had the assists on Hedman’s goal and the Bolts set the tone for the final frame of regulation.
The comeback was imminent.
Pastrnak caught Ryan McDonagh with a high-stick and was assessed a four-minute double minor penalty at 6:45.
Boston successfully managed to go unscathed during their extended penalty kill, but couldn’t muster anything past Vasilevskiy.
Midway through the third period, Kucherov (38) pounced on an odd-skater advantage that fell flat for the Bruins and wristed a shot past Rask after Stamkos led the charge the other way.
Stamkos (52) had the only assist on Kucherov’s goal at 13:50 and the game was tied, 4-4.
Though the B’s managed to kill the penalty off, they were trapped in the vulnerable minute thereafter and failed to clear the puck out of their own zone.
Instead, Tampa kept the pressure on Boston and forced the puck to Cirelli (18) in the high-slot for the goal that gave the Bolts the lead, 5-4, at 19:07 of the third period.
Mathieu Joseph (12) and McDonagh (33) had the assists on the game-winning goal with 52.2 seconds left in regulation.
Cassidy used his timeout after Cirelli’s goal to try to draw up a plan, but his efforts were thwarted after Marchand picked up an interference penalty at 19:22.
For the first time since Jan. 14th in Philadelphia against the Flyers, the Bruins had blown a two-goal lead to lose in regulation.
At the final horn, Tampa had won, 5-4, and finished the night leading in shots on goal (28-17), blocked shots (11-10), hits (33-22) and face-off win% (54-46).
The B’s led in giveaways (5-4) and went 1/3 on the power play, while the Lightning finished Monday night 0/6 on the skater advantage.
The Bruins return home– after going 3-1-0 on their four-game road trip– to face the New York Rangers on March 27th, then host the Florida Panthers on March 30th before traveling to Detroit on the 31st to close out the month.
Boston finishes the season swinging through Columbus on April 2nd, making a stop in Minnesota on April 4th and wrapping up the regular season on April 6th at home against the Lightning.
The DTFR Duo runs through some Tampa Bay Lightning franchise records, Conor McGregor reactions, hands out more awards, fixes the NHL and takes a look at how things are shaping up in the Pacific Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.
The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.
*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*
Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.
The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.
The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped familiar assets, while the Toronto Maple Leafs added a defender in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Red Kelly’s number is going to be retired (again– this time by the Detroit Red Wings) and we now know the opponents in the 2020 Winter Classic and 2020 Stadium Series games.