Nick and Pete preview the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.
Did you think I’d forgotten? We still need a Game of the Week! Let’s take a look at this edition’s options:
|NHL SCHEDULE: February 11-17|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, February 11|
|7 p.m.||Los Angeles||Washington||4-6|
|10 p.m.||San Jose||Vancouver||7-2|
|Tuesday, February 12|
|7 p.m.||New York Islanders||Buffalo Sabres||1-3|
|7:30 p.m.||Calgary||Tampa Bay||3-6|
|8 p.m.||New Jersey||St. Louis||3-8|
|8 p.m.||New York Rangers||Winnipeg Jets||3-4|
|Wednesday, February 13|
|Thursday, February 14|
|7 p.m.||Calgary||Florida||2-3 (SO)|
|7 p.m.||New York Islanders||Columbus Blue Jackets||3-0|
|7:30 p.m.||Dallas||Tampa Bay||0-6|
|8:30 p.m.||New Jersey||Chicago||2-5|
|9 p.m.||St. Louis||Arizona||4-0|
|10:30 p.m.||Vancouver||Los Angeles||4-3 (SO)|
|10:30 p.m.||Washington||San Jose||5-1|
|Friday, February 15|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Buffalo Sabres||6-2|
|8:30 p.m.||New Jersey||Minnesota||5-4 (OT)|
|Saturday, February 16|
|1 p.m.||Detroit||Philadelphia||5-6 (OT)|
|3 p.m.||St. Louis||Colorado||3-0|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||Winnipeg||4-3 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||Tampa Bay||0-3|
|7 p.m.||Edmonton Oilers||New York Islanders||2-5|
|10 p.m.||Vancouver||San Jose||2-3|
|10:30 p.m.||Boston||Los Angeles||4-2|
|Sunday, February 17|
|12:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Pittsburgh Penguins||NBC, SN, TVAS|
|3 p.m.||St. Louis||Minnesota||NBC, SN|
|6 p.m.||Buffalo||New Jersey|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||Florida||RDS, SN|
With the trade deadline looming just around the corner, it’s been another exciting week in the NHL. After all, another edition of the Battle of the Keystone State was waged on Monday, followed the next day by two more rivalries featuring Arizona, Boston, Chicago and Vegas.
Tuesday also saw the Blue Jackets and Capitals reignite last season’s First Round playoff bout, with Columbus winning 3-0 in what just might be a preview of another playoff series to come this April.
As for the biggest player homecoming on this week’s calendar, that title belongs to F Chris Wagner of the Boston Bruins. Wagner spent four seasons with the Ducks (2014-18), appearing in 133 games and registering 12-12-24 totals. He was shipped to the Islanders at last season’s trade deadline before signing with the Atlantic Division’s current second-best team – not to mention his hometown club – this offseason. His Bruins beat Anaheim 3-0 on Friday.
Today is Hockey Day in America, but DtFR is holding off on the celebration until this evening before the Capitals-Ducks game to take in D Scott Niedermayer‘s jersey retirement ceremony.
Niedermayer may have only spent five seasons in Anaheim, but there’s no doubt he plays an integral role in the Ducks’ history. He joined the then Mighty Ducks in 2005-06 after 13 seasons and three Stanley Cups in New Jersey, signing as an unrestricted free agent to a four-year, $27 million contract to join forces with RW Teemu Selanne, F Andy McDonald and brother F Rob Niedermayer and serve as their captain.
Named a First Team All-Star for the second consecutive season and finishing second in Norris Trophy voting behind D Nicklas Lidstrom, Niedermayer and his 13-50-63 totals was just the addition the Mighty Ducks needed on their blue line to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2003’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final – you know, the one where Niedermayer’s Devils beat Anaheim in Game 7. Despite qualifying as the six seed, the Mighty Ducks took advantage of a wildly unpredictable Western Conference playoff to advance all the way to the Conference Finals before falling in five games to Edmonton.
For a champion like Niedermayer, falling short in the Conference Finals was unacceptable, as he elevated his game to even better 15-54-69 totals during the 2006-07 season to notch career-highs in all three statistics as well as propel the Ducks (the new and less-mighty edition) all the way to the West’s second seed.
Though that impressive effort was good enough to earn Niedermayer his third-consecutive First Team All-Star selection, he still had his eye on a fourth Stanley Cup. Despite registering only 3-8-11 marks in the Ducks’ 21 postseason games (second-best among Ducks defensemen despite playing two more games than D Chris Pronger), Niedermayer’s two game-winners (one was the series-clincher against Vancouver in double-overtime, the other the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Western Finals) and his power play goal to force overtime against the Red Wings in Game 5 of the Conference Finals was enough to win him the Conn Smythe Trophy and Anaheim’s first title in any sport since the Angels’ 2002 World Series win. The Ducks’ lone Stanley Cup is still the city’s most recent title.
The remaining three years of Niedermayer’s tenure in Anaheim paled in comparison to his first two. The Ducks didn’t make it past the Conference Semifinals in 2008 or 2009 (in fact, they lost in the first round the season after winning the Stanley Cup) and failed to qualify for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs; Niedermayer didn’t win anymore hardware, nor did he reach the 60-point plateau again.
However, Niedermayer’s mission when he signed with Anaheim had been accomplished. He’d won his fourth title without the help of his dominant Devils teammates, and he’d helped his brother earn his first ring. He’d helped the Ducks to a then franchise-record 48 wins
And it is for that championship and his career-defining seasons that the Hall of Famer is being honored tonight. Having already seen his No. 27 hoisted to the Prudential Center rafters, he’ll receive that same recognition tonight at Honda Center.
Unfortunately for the Ducks faithful, The Pond’s good vibes might find a quick end after Niedermayer’s ceremony. After all, the 22-27-9 Anaheim Ducks are riding an infamous 3-16-4 skid that dates all the way back to December 18. This torrid run has seen the Ducks drop all the way from a playoff position to fourth-to-last in the NHL, earning Randy Carlyle an early offseason.
It comes as no surprise that a squad that has struggled as much as the Ducks is finding almost no success in any phase of the game. Anaheim’s offense has ranked dead last in the NHL since December 18, accounting for only 1.52 goals per game in that time – a full six-tenths of a goal worse than Dallas.
Of course, even when the Ducks were having success earlier in the season, offense was in no way their game. They were averaging only 2.57 goals per game through their first 35 outings – a mark that would rank 29th among teams’ current season averages.
Instead, the biggest reason for this decline is the breakdown on the defensive end. In their past 23 games, the Ducks have allowed an average of 3.7 goals per game, the second-worst mark in the NHL in that time (fellow Pacific Division member Edmonton’s 3.92 goals against per game takes credit for worst in the league since December 18). However, only one facet of the defense is truly at fault.
Whether it is 1-1-0 G Kevin Boyle or 4-2-1 G Ryan Miller that receives the nod tonight (17-19-8 G John Gibson and 0-5-0 G Chad Johnson are both on injured reserve with respective back and head injuries) is still unknown.
Despite his rookie status behind a porous defense (more on that in a moment), Boyle has been far from the problem for the Ducks lately, as he boasts a .955 save percentage and 1.51 GAA for his short, three-game NHL career. Meanwhile, Miller has only recently been cleared to resume action. If he were to take to the crease tonight, it would be his first appearance since December 9 – a 6-5 shootout home victory over the New Jersey Devils that he did not finish.
For what it’s worth, Miller is riding a personal two-game win streak and three-game point streak.
As mentioned before, what makes the youngster’s solid stats even more impressive is he’s getting absolutely no help from his skaters. Since December 18, Anaheim has allowed a whopping 32.91 shots against per game – the seventh-worst mark in the league in that time.
Making the trip to Orange County are the 32-19-7 Washington Capitals, the Metropolitan Division’s second-best team.
In their last six games, the Caps have managed a solid record of 4-1-1 – more than good enough to hold on to their current position in the standings against the middling Metro teams. In particular, this surge has been spearheaded by Washington’s dominant offense, which has been rattling off 3.67 goals per game since February 5 – the (t)seventh-best mark in the league in that time.
Leading this attack has been none other than Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Capitals’ top-line center. In his past six outings, Kuznetsov has registered dominant 5-6-11 totals, including an amazing 2-2-4 performance against the Ducks’ arch-rivals in D.C. on Monday. On the season, Kuznetsov now has 15-39-54 marks in 52 appearances.
Washington has also boasted a decent effort on the defensive end, allowing only three goals per game during this six-game run – the (t)12th-best mark in the NHL in that time. Despite managing only a .908 save percentage and 2.99 GAA for the season, 20-14-4 G Braden Holtby has been on a tear lately, boasting a .917 save percentage and 2.51 GAA for his last four starts.
It’s hard to see a way the Ducks escape with a win tonight. Washington has been rolling lately, and the Ducks offense in particular simply do not have an answer for the Caps’ attack. Unless C Ryan Getzlaf can add at least four points to his total tonight, Washington should pull back within three points of New York for the Metro lead.
With the win, Rask (14-8-3 record, 2.42 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 25 games played) tied Tiny Thompson for the most career wins in Bruins franchise history as he earned his 252nd win in a Boston sweater.
Rask made 28 saves on 30 shots against for a .933 SV% on Thursday night en route to victory.
Blues goaltender, Jake Allen (15-15-4, 3.04 GAA, .897 SV% in 36 GP), stopped 22 out of 26 shots faced for an .846 SV% in the loss.
St. Louis is now 4-1-1 in their last six road games as Boston rebounded from a, 4-3, loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center.
The B’s improved to 17-4-3 when scoring first this season and are now 27-16-5 (59 points) overall on the season– good enough to remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division. The Blues fell to 20-21-5 (45 points) and remained in 6th place in the Central Division.
Cassidy also put John Moore back alongside Kevan Miller on the third defensive pairing, but after the two were on the ice for both St. Louis goals, the Bruins head coach limited their time on ice for the third period– sitting both defenders for about the final 15 minutes of action.
As a result of his lineup decisions, Matt Grzelcyk and Noel Acciari joined Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches for Boston on Thursday, while Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remains out of the lineup due to injury.
St. Louis did not convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.
Late in the opening period, after being on the receiving end of a couple of big hits– including one on Charlie McAvoy— Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, decided he’d take matters into his own hands to defend his teammates who were taking a bit of a beating in the physical department.
Chara dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs with Patrick Maroon at 17:30 of the first period and successfully got the take down to the eruption of the home crowd.
It was the first fight of the season for No. 33 in black-and-gold (Chara last fought on March 1, 2018) and his 1,452 career NHL game– surpassing Teemu Selanne for 3rd all-time among European born NHL players.
The Bruins and Blues went into their dressing rooms for the first intermission tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard.
Boston held the advantage in shots on goal (13-9) after one period of play, while St. Louis led in giveaways (11-3) and hits (17-8). Both teams had four blocked shots each, five takeaways each and were 50-50 in face-off win percentage through 20 minutes of play.
The Blues were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Peter Cehlarik got his stick between the legs of Ryan O’Reilly and tripped up the St. Louis forward. Cehlarik was sent to the sin bin with a minor penalty for tripping at 1:01 of the second period.
St. Louis did not convert on their second skater advantage of the night.
Shortly after killing off Cehlarik’s minor, Boston capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Krejci found Torey Krug (5) wide open in the slot where the B’s defender had worked his way in to send a wrist shot past Allen, giving the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 3:31.
Krejci (28) and Cehlarik (1) notched the assists on Krug’s first goal in 13 games.
The young Boston defenseman now has 20 points in his last 20 games, while Cehlarik has three points (two goals, one assist) in his first two games this season after making his 2018-19 season debut Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
Just 52 seconds after Boston got on the scoreboard first, St. Louis responded with a goal of their own.
O’Reilly (17) pocketed one on a mostly empty net as Rask made the initial couple of saves– including one in desperation– while his teammates were scrambling in their own zone.
Boston descended into a bit of a lull in the middle frame as St. Louis emerged as a more dominant team in possession and shots on goal through the second period.
Carl Gunnarsson (1) ripped a shot past Rask’s glove side after another defensive breakdown in the Bruins own zone led to the first lead change of the night as the Blues took the lead, 2-1, at 13:36.
Less than a minute later, Robert Bortuzzo cross-checked Sean Kuraly and was penalized at 14:03.
The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night, entering Thursday with the 2nd best power play completion percentage in the league at 28%, despite going 1/4 against the Flyers on Wednesday.
Late in their skater advantage, Chara blasted a shot from the point that deflected off of Backes (5) and into the net behind Allen while Backes was taking the brunt of a check in front of the goal.
Backes’ goal tied the game, 2-2, at 16:00 of the second period and was assisted by Chara (3) and Krejci (29).
Wagner took a quick trip to the penalty box for (wait for it) tripping Schwartz at 16:40, but the ensuing power play for the Blues was short lived as St. Louis was penalized for too many men on the ice at 18:11.
After about 25 seconds of 4-on-4 action, the Bruins would have an abbreviated power play that’d barely extended into the third period. Spoiler alert, Boston did not convert on the abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.
Entering the second intermission, the game was tied, 2-2, and the Bruins led in shots on goal, 21-20, despite being outshot by St. Louis, 11-8, in the second period alone.
The B’s led in blocked shots (12-7) and face-off win% (59-41) after two periods, while the Blues led in takeaways (12-10), giveaways (14-8) and hits (23-19).
Since there were no penalties called in the third period, St. Louis finished the night 0/3 on the power play after 40 minutes, while Boston went 1/2.
Wagner (6) dangled the puck to his backhand, fooling Allen and forcing the Blues goaltender to commit to his right side, before pulling the puck back to his forehand and scoring on a largely open net to put the Bruins ahead, 3-2.
Forsbacka Karlsson (5) had the only assist on Wagner’s goal at 5:27 of the third period.
About eight minutes later, Brad Marchand (18) found a rebound on his stick and put it in the back of the twine to give Boston a two-goal lead, making it, 4-2 at 13:12.
McAvoy (11) and Patrice Bergeron (26) had the assists on the goal after Bergeron won the face-off in the offensive zone and McAvoy wrapped around the net and fired the shot that rebounded off of Allen’s pads to Marchand’s stick for the goal.
With about 3:20 remaining in regulation, Craig Berube pulled his netminder for an extra skater in a last ditch effort to score two quick goals and tie the game.
After a stoppage with 1:46 remaining, Berube used his team’s timeout, but it was too little, too late.
Kuraly (6) fixed what Wagner couldn’t complete on two chances on the empty net in Boston’s offensive zone (Wagner almost pulled a Patrik Stefan— look it up, it’s worth your time).
Krejci (30) and Wagner (5) collected the assists on Kuraly’s empty net goal that made it, 5-2, at 19:08.
At the final horn, Boston had beaten St. Louis, 5-2, despite being outshot, 30-27.
The Bruins finished the night leading in blocked shots (15-11) and face-off win% (54-46), while the Blues led in giveaways (25-13) and hits (29-23).
Rask improved to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts with the win and will likely get the start in Boston’s next game.
The Bruins take on the New York Rangers Saturday night on home ice in their final game before going on their bye week and the All Star break. David Pastrnak is the only representative from the team with the spoked-B at the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend festivities at SAP Center in San Jose this year.
Boston resumes play after the break on Tuesday, January 29th against the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden before closing out the month of January with another home game on the 31st against the Flyers.
Sean Couturier recorded his first career hat trick in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 4-3, victory Wednesday night over the Boston Bruins on home ice.
Carter Hart (5-5-1 record, 2.72 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 11 games played) made 39 saves on 42 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win for Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (13-8-2, 2.46 GAA, .920 SV% in 25 GP) turned aside just 15 out of 19 shots faced for a .789 SV% in the loss and allowed four or more goals in his fourth straight appearance.
With his goal in the first period, Pastrnak surpassed Barry Pederson for the most goals in Bruins franchise history by a player prior to his 23rd birthday.
As a result of the loss, Boston is now 16-4-3 when scoring first this season.
The B’s fell to 26-15-5 (57 points) on the season and remained 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while the Flyers improved to 18-23-6 (42 points) and now trail the New Jersey Devils by one point for 7th in the Metropolitan Division. In other words, Philadelphia is still last in the Metro.
After Colby Cave was claimed off waivers by the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the Bruins brass called up 23-year-old, Peter Cehlarik, from the Providence Bruins (AHL).
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, assured reporters prior to Wednesday night’s battle that Cehlarik would be inserted on the second line, sliding in to the left of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, with David Backes as the odd forward out of the lineup.
Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup.
Cehlarik riled up the Wells Fargo Center crowd when he boarded Travis Konecny at 1:25 into the first period– even more so when the Flyers weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.
It only took 15 seconds on the power play for the Bruins to crack the code on Hart as Torey Krug sent a cross-ice pass to Pastrnak (27) for the one-timer from one knee near the side of the goal to give Boston the lead, 1-0.
Pastrnak’s 13th power play goal leads the NHL in that stat category and was assisted by Krug (26) and Brad Marchand (33) at 4:39 of the first period.
Moments later, Cehlarik (1) followed up with his first goal of the season in his 2018-19 debut as Boston entered the zone on a rush led by DeBrusk that began with a pass from Krejci through the neutral zone.
Similar to Pastrnak’s goal, Cehlarik received a pass on the open weak side for the one-timer, but from the opposite side of the ice from where Pastrnak scored his goal from.
DeBrusk (4) and Krejci (27) were credited with the assists on Cehlarik’s first goal of the night and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 9:12.
A few minutes later, Philadelphia answered back on the scoreboard with a similar rush going the opposite way resulting in Lindblom (5) firing a shot past Halak’s blocker side on the short side to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 12-7, in shots on goal.
Boston also held onto the advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (12-6), while Philly led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (7-2). Both teams were 50-50 in face-off win percentage, while the Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/1 on the skater advantage through one period.
Early in the second period, with momentum going their way, the Flyers pounced early on a shot by Jakub Voracek that was tipped in by Couturier (17) to tie the game, 2-2, at 5:32 of the middle frame.
Voracek (27) and Travis Sanheim (11) notched the assists on the goal and less than a minute later, Philadelphia had a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the scoreboard on the power play after Patrice Bergeron tripped up Couturier at 6:10.
Just 37 seconds into the ensuing skater advantage for the Flyers, after Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner failed to convert on a shorthanded bid and were caught up ice, Philadelphia raced back the other way– catching the Bruins lagging behind the play.
With the B’s severely outnumbered, Couturier (18) rocketed home a one-timer goal past Halak to give the Flyers their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 6:47 of the second period.
Wayne Simmonds (8) and Giroux (38) had the assists on Philadelphia’s power play goal and first lead of the night.
Late in the second period, Lehtera hit Ryan Donato from behind and drove Donato’s face into the boards right where the glass meets the dasher, leaving Donato bloodied and headed for the dressing room as per concussion protocol.
Lehtera was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 16:48, resulting in a power play for Boston that would carry into the third period.
The B’s failed to convert on their longest– guaranteed– extra skater advantage of the night.
After 40 minutes of play, Philadelphia held onto the lead, 3-2, despite being outshot by Boston, 29-14 (17-7 in the second period alone for the Bruins).
The Flyers dominated blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (9-7) and giveaways (10-5) through two periods as the Bruins entered the second intermission leading in hits (17-13) and face-off win% (58-42).
Both teams were 1/2 on the power play entering the third period.
Early in the final frame, Philadelphia was caught up in a poor line change, resulting in an automatic bench minor penalty for too many men on the ice.
Flyers head coach, Scott Gordon, sent Konecny to serve the minor penalty at 3:39 and Philadelphia killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid.
Scott Laughton hooked Pastrnak at 12:00 of the third period, but the Bruins did not score on the resulting power play opportunity.
Having killed off Laughton’s minor infraction, the Flyers went for the jugular in the vulnerable minute after a power play.
From the face-off dot to the right of Halak, Couturier (19) unloaded a wrist shot that Halak got a chunk of– but not enough of– as the puck twirled past the Boston goaltender and into the twine for Couturier’s first career hat trick at 13:53 of the third period.
Philadelphia led, 4-2, thanks to Couturier’s three goals and Lindblom (9) and Provorov (13) recorded the assists on his third goal Wednesday night.
With under two minutes to go in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for the extra attacker.
Boston was able to bring the game back to within one-goal as Marchand threw the puck towards net from almost the goal line for Cehlarik (2) to redirect for his second goal of the night at 18:54.
Marchand (34) and Krug (27) tallied the assists as the Bruins trailed, 4-3.
While attempting to disrupt an otherwise surefire empty net goal for the Flyers, Krejci interfered with Couturier at 19:44 and was surprisingly handed a two-minute minor penalty instead of automatically awarding Couturier with his fourth goal of the night.
The Bruins finished the game shorthanded as the final horn sounded on Philadelphia’s, 4-3, victory.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-19), hits (18-17) and face-off win% (57-43), while the Flyers led in blocked shots (30-8) and giveaways (13-10).
The B’s went 1/4 on the power play Wednesday night, while Philly was 1/3.
For the first time since March 3-8, 1999, a player (Couturier) registered a hat trick in the National Hockey League in six consecutive days.
Boston heads back home to take on the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and finish up three games in four nights with a matchup on Saturday against the New York Rangers at TD Garden.
Saturday’s game is also the last game before the All-Star break for the Bruins. Pastrnak is the lone representative for the B’s that will be heading to SAP Center in San Jose, California for the weekend of festivities.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.
It’s time for another DtFR Game of the Week!
First and foremost, let’s take a look at all the games I neglected earlier this week:
|NHL SCHEDULE: OCTOBER 15-21|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, October 15|
|7:30 p.m.||Los Angeles||Toronto||1-4|
|Tuesday, October 16|
|7 p.m.||Dallas||New Jersey||0-3|
|7 p.m.||Colorado||New York Rangers||2-3 (SO)|
|7 p.m.||Florida||Philadelphia||5-6 (SO)|
|7 p.m.||Vancouver||Pittsburgh||3-2 (OT)|
|7:30 p.m.||Carolina||Tampa Bay||2-4|
|8 p.m.||Edmonton||Winnipeg||5-4 (OT)|
|Wednesday, October 17|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Montréal||2-3|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Washington||3-4 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||New York Islanders||Anaheim||1-4|
|Thursday, October 18|
|7 p.m.||Colorado||New Jersey||5-3|
|7:30 p.m.||Detroit||Tampa Bay||1-3|
|9 p.m.||Boston||Edmonton||2-3 (OT)|
|10:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||Los Angeles||7-2|
|10:30 p.m.||Buffalo||San Jose||1-5|
|Friday, October 19|
|7 p.m.||Florida||Washington||6-5 (SO)|
|saturday, October 20|
|1 p.m.||New Jersey||Philadelphia||2-5|
|3:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Los Angeles||5-1|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Toronto||4-1|
|7 p.m.||Montréal||Ottawa||3-4 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Detroit||Florida||4-3 (OT)|
|8 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Minnesota||4-5 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Boston||Vancouver||1-2 (OT)|
|10:30 p.m.||New York Islanders||San Jose||1-4|
|SunDay, October 21|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Chicago||NHLN, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Calgary||New York Rangers||SN1|
This schedule was a little bit fuller than last week’s offerings, as there’s a solid 44 games I had to choose from as compared to last week’s 42.
While there were certainly some worthy candidates in terms of rivalries (Detroit at Montréal, Edmonton at Winnipeg, New York at Washington, New Jersey at Philadelphia and Montréal at Ottawa all took place this week) and player returns (D Marc Methot made his first trip back to Ottawa since being selected during the Vegas expansion draft and later traded to the Stars, four former Blackhawks – five if you include RW Marian Hossa – returned to the Madhouse on Madison as members of the Coyotes and C Tyler Bozak wore white in Toronto for the first time in his career playing for St. Louis), one game sticks out above all the rest even though I’m more concerned about what will be hanging above the ice than what will be taking place on it.
Without a doubt, the Ducks are having one of the better and more unexpected starts to the season. Meanwhile, the Sabres are trying their hardest to keep pace with the rest of the white-hot Atlantic Division that enters the day with five teams in playoff position (an extremely important accolade in October, to be sure).
But what really drew me to tonight’s tilt is the pregame festivities involving LW Paul Kariya, as his No. 9 is going to be retired and sent where it belongs – hanging above the Honda Center ice opposite RW Teemu Selanne‘s No. 8.
The fourth-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Kariya joined the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim just in time for the 1994-95 season (well, if it had started on time, that is), signing a three-year deal on August 31, 1994.
Though the Mighty Ducks struggled before Selanne was brought on board via trade during the 1995-96 season, that’s not to say Kariya – who just celebrated his 44th birthday on Tuesday – was playing poorly. He posted 18-21-39 totals his 47-game debut season, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team and finishing third in Calder voting behind Quebec’s C Peter Forsberg and Washington’s G Jim Carey.
Oh yeah, speaking of that 1995-96 campaign, Kariya’s second season ended with him boasting career-best numbers in goals (50, three of which were overtime game-winners – an Anaheim single-season record) and points (108) after a full 82-game schedule. That dominant performance earned him his first of three First All-Star Team accolades, his first of back-to-back Lady Byng Trophies and his first of seven appearances at the All-Star Game.
I guess he never heard of the sophomore slump.
Named the Mighty Ducks’ third captain in franchise history during the offseason (a title he held for a franchise-record eight years), Kariya barely missed a second-straight season hitting the 100-point plateau in 1996-97 as a result of missing 13 games with an upper-body injury and unrelated concussion, but a 44-55-99 performance in 69 games played qualifies as the best season of his career on a points-per-game standpoint. The 1.43 points per game he managed narrowly beats out his 1.41 in 1997-98 – another season hampered by concussion, as well as a contract dispute that lasted into December, limiting him to only 22 games played. Additionally, his +36 for the 1996-97 campaign is still an Anaheim single-season record.
Of course, the most important mark about the 1996-97 season for Kariya is not only his dazzling performance, but also the fact that Anaheim qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Mighty Ducks fought past the Phoenix Coyotes in seven games before getting swept by the eventual champion Red Wings in the second round of their postseason debut. Kariya posted 7-6-13 marks in those 11 games, including the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 against Phoenix that forced Game 7.
To be certain, the most productive years of Kariya’s career were his first seven campaigns. In all, he played 442 regular season games for the Mighty Ducks from 1995-2001, managing 243-288-531 totals to average 1.2 points per game – not to mention his 8-9-17 marks in 14 career playoff games to that point.
However, that’s not to say the captain still wasn’t a guiding hand on his team. Kariya managed 57-81-138 totals in his final two seasons with the Mighty Ducks, and he led Anaheim all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002-03 where his squad lost a hard-fought, seven-game series to the New Jersey Devils.
That Game 7 proved to be Kariya’s last with Anaheim, as he and Selanne both headed for the supposedly greener pastures of Denver (the Avs, of course, fell in the second round in Kariya and Selanne’s only season with the club) for the 2003-04 season. Kariya played five more seasons after that – two with Nashville and three with St. Louis – before retiring during the 2011 offseason as a result of the six concussions he sustained over the course of his 16-year, 15-season professional career.
Having been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last summer, there are few awards left to be bestowed upon Karyia (provided he doesn’t get involved in coaching or management). However, this one will surely elicit quite the response from one of the greatest to have ever worn the eggplant and jade.
Of course, once the ceremony is complete, there’s still a hockey game to be played. Both of tonight’s squads were in action last night, with Buffalo besting Los Angeles 5-1 at Staples Center and Anaheim falling in Vegas 3-1.
The 4-4-0 Sabres entered today’s action in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but only one point behind Ottawa for fifth place in the Atlantic Division and the second wild card.
Gotta love early season standings.
Perhaps the brightest spot for Buffalo so far this season has been the outstanding play of 2-0-0 G Linus Ullmark, who has allowed only one goal in his two starts and boasts a .982 save percentage and .5 GAA that is best in the league among netminders with at least 33 minutes played.
While his emergence as a potential star is an encouraging sign for a franchise that has missed the playoffs for seven-straight seasons, the fact that he was the goalie in net for Buffalo yesterday up the road in Tinseltown has all signs pointing towards 2-4-0 G Carter Hutton manning the posts this evening.
Whether he’s being compared to Ullmark or his performance last season, Hutton is already drawing the ire of Upstate New Yorkers. Having signed a three-year, $2.75 million AAV contract this summer after posting a dominating .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA with the St. Louis Blues last season, Hutton has managed only a .906 save percentage and 3.27 GAA so far this year.
Considering his offense has averaged only 2.25 goals per game thus far into the season (the fifth-worst mark in the NHL despite F Jeff Skinner‘s hat trick yesterday), Hutton is going to need to improve in a hurry if the Sabres want to stay in playoff contention much longer.
That being said, it should be acknowledged that Buffalo hasn’t exactly played incredible defense in front of Hutton. The Sabres’ 32.63 shots against-per-game is 12th-worst in the league, and that number climbs to 33.67 when Hutton is in net.
Considering former defenseman Phil Housley is the team’s head coach and the fact that the organization took D Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick, surely that number has to improve sooner or later? Right?
Consider me a doubter of Housley’s until it does.
One final note I have about the Sabres is in regard to their special teams. It was only a few seasons ago that Buffalo’s power play – led by C Jack Eichel – was among the most dangerous in the league. However, that has not been the case this season, as the Sabres’ 13.3 percent success rate with the man-advantage has been eighth-worst in the league through the first few weeks of the season. The penalty kill has also struggled, as Buffalo’s 69.2 kill percentage is third-worst in the NHL.
The Sabres have a lot of problems to figure out, but the best way to fix the special teams while they’re still on the road just might be to avoid the penalty box all together.
Did you hear that, RW Kyle Okposo? Stay out of trouble!
As for tonight’s hosts, the 5-2-1 Ducks have yet to see too many troubles so far this season, as they’re leading the division despite many fans and pundits pegging San Jose and Vegas as the Pacific’s powerhouses.
But how are they doing it?
Just like Buffalo, Anaheim’s best player to start the season has been none other than its goaltender, 4-2-1 G John Gibson. The 2016 Jennings Trophy winner (o.k., he shared it with G Frederik Andersen, now of the Toronto Maple Leafs) has been dynamite right out of the gates this season, as he has a solid .949 save percentage and 1.91 GAA to show for his first seven starts of the season.
However, to continue the comparisons to Buffalo, Gibson was also in net last night against the Golden Knights, so it looks like it could be none other than 1-0-0 G Ryan Miller, the winner of the 2010 Vezina Trophy, manning the crease this evening against his former club.
Though he is clearly the backup in Anaheim, Miller is in no way any easier to score upon than Gibson. With two appearances so far this year, Miller has a .946 save percentage and 1.51 GAA – all this despite a Ducks defense that allows an average of 37 shots against per game, the worst in the NHL.
Despite the backups being the logical starters tonight, this game has all the makings of a goaltending duel considering the struggles of both offenses and defenses. If that is the case, I’ll certainly take the Ducks to successfully honor Kariya and earn two points tonight. Miller is undoubtedly better than Hutton this year, and he has the benefit of special teams that will easily dominate the Sabres.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete announce their top-10 right wingers of their lifetimes while Connor mails it in and Nick reads his list (somebody has to do work around here). Keeping with tradition, all of Thursday’s big news was announced during or shortly after recording.
The theme of aquatic birds continues in DtFR’s offseason preview series, as it’s time to tackle the Anaheim Ducks’ priorities regarding their pending free agents.
Featuring a playoff roster with an average age of 28.5-years-old, logic would indicate the Ducks are in their prime. However, even though they’ve qualified for the postseason for six-straight seasons, they’ve failed to advance beyond the first round in half of those appearances – including a four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks this April.
One of the biggest concerns about this Anaheim club is it plays an old-fashioned, grind-it-out style that simply doesn’t mesh well against the increasingly quicker and technically-sound opponents.
In simpler terms, the Ducks need to get younger and faster.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
One of the easiest ways to get younger is with a solid draft class, and Anaheim will have that opportunity with the 23rd-overall selection.
If one of the mock drafts I’ve compiled (all of which are available at Elite Prospects) are correct, I’d bet on General Manager Bob Murray selecting D Alexander Alexeyev (Red Deer Rebels), C Ryan McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), D Rasmus Sandin (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) or D Bode Wilde (USNTDP) with his first round selection.
If there’s one thing the Ducks’ scouts know, it’s definitely defense. Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are all solid blueliners 26-years-old or younger that will service this organization for years to come, and I’d only expect Alexeyev, Sandin or Wilde to join the group if they’re deemed truly worthy.
That’s what makes McLeod such an attractive option. Even though the 18-year-old is all but ensured at least one more season with the Steelheads, Anaheim’s deep defense gives it the opportunity to invest in restocking its attack.
McLeod had a breakout season in 2017-18, registering 26-44-70 totals in 68 games played (1.03 points per game), followed by 2-3-5 marks in his six postseason appearances. If he can take command of the club following the potential departure of brother F Michael McLeod (12th-overall pick by New Jersey in 2016) and lead Mississauga on a deep playoff run, Anaheim could happen into a stellar young forward.
Pending free agents
Let’s tackle Anaheim’s easiest position first: goaltending. G John Gibson and G Ryan Miller are both under contract for one more season, so the Ducks will likely make no moves in this department. The most important note here is making sure Murray reserves money on the back burner for Gibson next summer (he’ll be an RFA, for those that care about those sorts of things). He currently has a touch over $9 million in cap space this season and a whopping $23 million to play with in 2019-20.
Montour’s 20:28 time on ice per game was fourth on the team, and the same can be said for his .4 points per game. At 24-years-old, he’ll be worth every penny of any contract he receives to play an imposing presence as a top-four defenseman.
Having just turned 37-years-old Saturday following a 0-8-8, -13 season in 59 games played, it’s hard to see a way Bieksa returns to Anaheim for a fourth season. That makes signing Welinski – the Ducks’ third-round pick in 2011 – to a low-cost, two-way contract all the easier to swallow.
Instead, the toughest decisions for Anaheim will be made in the forwards room. RW J.T. Brown, W Jason Chimera, C Derek Grant, W Ondrej Kase, F Chris Kelly, LW Nick Ritchie and F Antoine Vermette are all looking for contracts this summer, with all but Kase and Ritchie being of the UFA variety.
Regardless of type, Kase is by far the most important free agent on Anaheim’s plate this summer. He reached the 20-goal plateau in his second season in the NHL, and he needed only 66 games to do it. He may not compare to RW Teemu Selanne (I mean, the Finnish Flash did score 76 goals in his rookie season compared to Kase’s five), but I believe he’s fully ready to climb into a top-six position with F Rickard Rakell to lead this Ducks team when F Ryan Kesler and C Ryan Getzlaf depart.
In a similar fashion, fellow 22-year-old Ritchie should also receive a fresh deal to keep him in Orange County. While not quite the scorer Kase is (he managed only 10-17-27 totals in 76 games played this season), Ritchie is an excellent third-liner that still has more than enough time to develop into a real weapon from his position. Get him a bridge deal for a cap hit under $1.25 million and move on.
Anaheim’s most important UFA is Grant, a player that provided 12-12-24 totals in 66 appearances this season from his position on the fourth line. Coming off a one-year, $650 thousand deal, he’ll likely sign for cheap to give the Ducks four solid centers.
The rest of the UFAs (Brown – 27, Chimera – 39, Kelly – 37, Vermette – 35) either don’t fit with the “get younger” plan or simply aren’t worth the money (looking at you, Brown). Anaheim can either promote a forward from its organization (I like pending RFA F Kalle Kossila) or acquire another from outside to fill its 13th forward position.
Game 3 was a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks after losing two games at home to the San Jose Sharks. The embarrassing 8-1 lost showed a tale of two California teams–one finally moving beyond the team helmed by Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton for the past decade and the other desperate to relive their past glory from 2007. The team that has moved on from its past appears to be the team that will move on to Round 2, while the team trying to relive its past is learning a hard lesson–the NHL is not the same as it was in 2007.
When the Ducks brought back Randy Carlyle, the thought was that his discipline was what was needed to get the team to the next level. If this is what discipline looks like, I’d hate to see what anarchy would look like for this team. 10 penalties, including four from Captain Ryan Getzlaf (including a misconduct), who should know better.
The Sharks breakaway speed has been a problem for the Ducks the entire series, and it was again in Game 3. The Sharks started to break it open in the second period when two quick goals gave them a 3-1 lead. The first of those two goals was scored by Joonas Donskoi on a nice feed from, who else, Evander Kane and the second saw Donskoi setting up Marcus Sorensen on another breakaway. It went downhill from there as John Gibson couldn’t bail out the Ducks and the score was 5-1 by the time the third period began, leading to the Ducks going to Ryan Miller in desperation. It didn’t matter, despite a solid season, Miller would give up 3 goals in the third period.
I don’t know if the Sharks are good enough for Buffalo to get that first round pick from the Kane deal, but it is clear that Kane fits right in on the team. The Sharks don’t appear to be missing either Marleau or Thornton. Without Jumbo out there, they are able to take advantage of their speed against a team like the Ducks. This is the way hockey is played in 2018.
The Ducks, on the other hand, are playing with a team built literally and figuratively for 2007. Francois Beauchemin. Jason Chimera. Ryan Kesler. Miller. This doesn’t even include some of the guys not currently playing for the Ducks such as Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette, Jared Boll and Chris Kelly. Beauchemin played nearly 20 minutes, so its not as if he was a rarely-used third pairing defenseman.
Some of that was certainly the result of injuries. But the Ducks, in general, need to do what San Jose has done this year and start moving on from the past. This isn’t Getzlaf and Corey Perry‘s team any more than the 2007 Ducks were Teemu Selanne‘s team–its Rickard Rakell‘s team. Its Jakob Silfverberg‘s team. Its Ondrej Kase‘s team. Yes, Perry and Getzlaf will continue to be important, but their role should be a supporting role the way Selanne’s role was when he returned to Anaheim. This is a young man’s league and you can’t build a team in this league around a core of 30-somethings.
You also can’t build the team the Ducks need to build with Carlyle at the helm. Bob Murray needs to learn from the mistakes of his mentor, Brian Burke. When Burke got nostalgic and brought in Todd Bertuzzi, he messed with the chemistry he had created in Anaheim. Murray needs to abandon nostalgia and build around youth and speed with Perry and Getzlaf there to provide just enough grit and physicality to balance things.
The Ducks will have at least one more game in 2017-18. Hopefully it is the end of an era and the beginning of a bright future. They have the young players and prospects to do it, but they need to have faith to hand the team over to them.
As for the Sharks, it is going to be fun to see what this team can do in the rest of the post-season, particularly as the next round is shaping up to be against the team with the Midas Touch, the Vegas Golden Knights.