Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
The Detroit Red Wings have not won in Boston in five years. Even worse, the Red Wings are 0-9-0 at TD Garden in their last nine visits as a result of Saturday afternoon’s 8-2 loss to the Bruins.
Detroit’s last win in the Hub came on October 14, 2013.
David Pastrnak (3-0–3 totals) recorded his second career hat trick (third if you include his postseason hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs last April) as Boston won their fourth game in-a-row since losing 7-0 to the Washington Capitals on the road to start the season.
The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 (8 points) on the season, while the Red Wings fell to 0-3-2 (2 points) in their first five games.
Boston has a plus-13 goal differential through the first five games of the regular season and has outscored their opponents 22-6 in the last four games since being shutout by Washington on the road to start the 2018-19 regular season.
The Bruins are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1st place in the Atlantic Division, at least until the Leafs take on the Capitals Saturday night.
Detroit has a minus-12 goal differential through their first five games this season and is one point ahead of the Florida Panthers (0-0-1, 1 point) from the basement of the Atlantic Division. Florida is in action Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
Rask got the start Saturday afternoon for Boston after Jaroslav Halak backstopped the B’s to a 4-1 victory Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Bruce Cassidy inserted Ryan Donato back into his lineup in place of Danton Heinen (scratched Saturday after no points in four games) on the third line and kept Joakim Nordstrom on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk.
Late in the first period, Pastrnak (5) went end-to-end with the puck on his stick and fired a snap shot, high-glove side, past Bernier to open Saturday’s scoring for the Bruins, 1-0. Brandon Carlo (1) and Chris Wagner (1) picked up their first assists of the season on Pastrnak’s goal at 19:09.
After attempting to check Noel Acciari and instead reverberating off of Acciari’s solid frame, Dylan Larkin kept pressuring Acciari to crack. Instead, after the third attempt at a hit that included a quick left handed shove, Acciari dropped the gloves expecting Larkin to do the same.
He did not.
So both Larkin and Acciari received roughing minor penalties, with Larkin earning an extra one for good measure, giving Boston their first power play of the night at 19:44 of the first period.
The skater advantage would carry over into the second period, but the Bruins failed to convert on the advantage.
Through 20 minutes of play, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard, despite the Red Wings leading in shots on goal, 12-8.
Detroit also led in blocked shots (5-2), hits (13-8) and face-off win percentage (64-36) after one period, while the Bruins led in takeaways (7-5) and giveaways (4-3). The Red Wings had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.
Early in the second period on a face-off in the offensive zone, Bergeron won the draw back to McAvoy (1) who fired a shot from the face-off circle that deflected off an opponent in front of the goal past Bernier to make it 2-0 Bruins.
Bergeron (4) had the only assist on McAvoy’s first goal of the season at 4:44 of the second period. Boston did not let off the gas pedal the rest of the way.
DeBrusk (1) was sent into the attacking zone on a breakaway and slid the puck underneath Bernier’s pad– just squeaking the rubber biscuit past the goal line, but enough for the nearest ref to see the whole thing– to make it 3-0 Bruins.
Krejci (3) had the only assist on the DeBrusk’s first of the year at 11:26.
Moments later, Christoffer Ehn caught McAvoy with a high-stick and gave the Bruins their second power play of the afternoon 16 minutes into the second period.
Boston’s first power play unit only needed 20 seconds to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as Pastrnak (6) scored his second goal of the game on a one-timed slap shot. Bergeron (5) and Marchand (8) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal– the 100th of his career– at 16:20 and the B’s led, 4-0.
Late in the second frame, the Bruins were guilty of minor penalties less than a minute apart. First, DeBrusk was sent to the box for tripping Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou at 18:17. Then Marchand took a trip to the sin bin for sending the puck over the glass on a delay of game minor at 19:00.
The Red Wings would have 1:17 on the 5-on-3 advantage that would spillover into the third period.
After 40 minutes of play, No. 40 in the home goal (Rask) and the Bruins led 4-0. Boston recovered from trailing in shots on goal in the first period, 12-8, to leading in shots on goal, 23-20 after two periods. The Bruins outshot the Red Wings, 15-8, in the second frame.
Detroit led in blocked shots (10-4) and hits (18-14), while Boston held an advantage in takeaways (13-12), giveaways (7-6) and face-off win% (60-40) entering the second intermission. The Red Wings were 0/2 on the power play (but not for long) and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the final frame.
Filip Hronek (1) fired a clapper from the point 21 seconds into the third period as the first penalty expired for Boston, yielding a 5-on-4 power play goal and his first career NHL goal to put Detroit on the scoreboard, 4-1.
Just 1:44 after the Red Wings scored, David Pastrnak (7) completed his hat trick on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand in the offensive zone.
Pastrnak rushed in on a pass from Patrice Bergeron, giving the puck to Marchand, before No. 63 returned the vulcanized rubber to its sender for the snipe past Bernier. Marchand (9) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s third goal of the game and the Bruins led, 5-1.
It was Pastrnak’s first regular season hat trick since recording his first career hat trick in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13, 2018 (he had 3-1–4 totals that night) and it was his first hat trick since his 6-point effort against Toronto in Game 2 of the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Dylan Larkin (3) fired a wrist shot past Rask for his third goal of the season at 8:23 and brough the Red Wings to within three, making it a 5-2 game with plenty of time left in the final period of regulation.
Less than a couple minutes later, the Bruins responded.
Anders Bjork (1) scored his first goal of the season– and the first of his sophomore campaign since his rookie season ended prematurely due to left-shoulder injury.
Bjork’s goal was unassisted at 10:12 of the third period after No. 10 in black-and-gold was credited with a takeaway in the neutral zone and burst into the attacking zone with Donato on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing, Bjork sniped a wrist shot past Bernier to make it, 6-2, Boston.
Mantha and McAvoy received roughing minors for some extracurricular activity after the whistle at 13:57 of the third period and two minutes of 4-on-4 action resulted.
That’s about the time when DeBrusk sent a pass to Krejci on the left side, before the Czech center lobbed a pass to Brandon Carlo pinching in from the point, whereby Carlo found DeBrusk (2) in the low slot for the redirection past Bernier to make it 7-2 Boston at 15:15.
In the final minute of regulation, Detroit defender, Nick Jensen caught Ryan Donato with a shoulder to the head and Bruins fourth liner, Chris Wagner, immediately responded.
Though Wagner and Jensen had the gloves off and exchanged fisticuffs, both received unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalties, with Wagner serving two and Jensen picking up one unsportsmanlike conduct call and an illegal check to the head minor penalty at 19:35 of the third period.
In the closing seconds of the game, Sean Kuraly (1) added his first goal of the season and the Bruins sealed an 8-2 victory with 1.3 seconds remaining on the game clock. Kevan Miller (1) and Bjork (1) were tabbed with the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 19:58 (officially) of the third period.
The Bruins finished the night with the 8-2 win and leading in shots on goal (39-34), as well as, face-off win% (52-49), while going 1/3 on the power play. Detroit ended the game leading in blocked shots (12-9) and was 1/3 on the skater advantage, as well. Both teams finished Saturday’s matinee matchup with 21 hits.
Among other stats…
Miller was a plus-four for the Bruins, as only Wagner (even) and Acciari (minus-one) finished the game without a positive plus/minus for Boston.
Moore led the B’s in shots on goal with five, while Chara, DeBrusk, Nordstrom and Pastrnak all recorded four shots on net.
Acciari led the Bruins in hits with four. Carlo, Miller and Nordstrom each had three.
David Pastrnak is the third fastest to reach 100 career goals in franchise history for Boston, doing so in his 259th career game– trailing only Barry Pederson (100 goals in 187 games) and Dit Clapper (100 goals in 247 games). He also became the third fastest Czech-born player to score 100 goals, behind Petr Klima (231) and Jaromir Jagr (245).
Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist and Frans Nielsen were minus-three on Saturday for Detroit. Filip Hronek not only scored his first career goal, but led the Red Wings in shots on goal with six from the blue line (Nyquist was second on the team with five). Joe Hicketts led the Red Wings in hits with five and Nick Jensen led Detroit in blocked shots with four.
The Bruins take on the Calgary Flames on the road on Wednesday, before facing the Oilers on Thursday and rounding out their Western Canada portion of the upcoming four-game road trip on October 20th against the Vancouver Canucks.
Boston travels to Ottawa for a matchup with the Senators on the 23rd before returning home to face the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden on the 25th.
John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.
Patrice Bergeron was part of the Hart Trophy conversation last season until he was sidelined by injuries late in the year, but he’s making himself an early Hart Trophy favorite this season with his 4th career hat trick on the tails of a four-point afternoon for the Boston Bruins in Monday’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators.
It’s only October, of course.
In the calendar year, 2018, Bergeron has three hat tricks alone– including two last season (January 6th vs. Carolina– he had four goals that night, actually– and January 18th at N.Y. Islanders) and Monday afternoon’s matinee matchup. It was also his first hat trick against the Senators since January 11, 2011.
Bergeron wasn’t the only storyline for the Bruins against Ottawa, as David Pastrnak also had a four-point game, notching two goals and two assists. Brad Marchand had three assists in the effort as Boston’s first line led the offensive effort for the Bruins.
The two players with four-points in the game (Bergeron and Pastrnak) marked the first time in franchise history that multiple players recorded at least four points in Boston’s home opener.
Condon made his first career start at TD Garden for the Senators. His previous start “in Boston” was actually in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Gillette Stadium for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Walpole, Massachusetts native, Chris Wagner, made his home debut with his new club in Boston, as did defender John Moore. Joakim Nordstrom was a healthy scratch for the Bruins and Jaroslav Halak served as the backup on the bench.
One more debut Monday afternoon was made by Senators forward– and 4th overall pick in the 2018 Draft– Brady Tkachuk in his NHL debut. Tkachuk played college hockey at Boston University and is the son of former NHLer and Melrose, Massachusetts native, Keith Tkachuk. Despite being born in Scottsdale, Arizona, the younger Tkachuk spent plenty of time growing up in and around Boston (as well as St. Louis, Missouri).
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy juggled the lines a bit between last Thursday’s shutout victory in Buffalo and Monday’s matinee, putting David Backes at center on the third line in place of Nordstrom and moving Anders Bjork up a line into Backes’s right wing slot.
It didn’t take long for Boston’s offense to strike as Bergeron (2) found a rebound and slid it under Condon while falling to the ice 30 seconds into the action to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Pastrnak (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) had the assists on the goal.
The Senators failed to convert on the ensuing power play as Boston continued to do a better job of controlling the overall game flow, even through chaos at times where Backes was left to make a desperation save on a shot block midway through the period.
Mark Borowiecki tripped Brandon Carlo at 11:21 of the first period and gave the Bruins their first power play of the afternoon. Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage, but would connect on the power play the second time around when Colin White took a hooking penalty against Acciari at 15:31.
Standing from his stereotypical bumper position in the low slot, Marchand sent a pass to Bergeron (3) for the one-timer power play goal past Condon for a 2-0 lead. Marchand (5) and Pastrnak (2) notched the assists on Bergeron’s second goal of the day at 17:12 of the first period.
After 20 minutes, the Bruins led 2-0 and led in shots on goal, 15-9. Ottawa dominated in blocked shots (8-3) and takeaways (4-3), while Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and face-off win percentage (55-45). Through one period, hits were even, 5-5, and the Senators were 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s were 1/2.
Ryan Dzingel (1) opened scoring in the second period and got the Sens on the scoreboard, cutting Boston’s lead in half to make it 2-1. Mark Stone (1) and Zack Smith (3) had the assists on Dzingel’s goal as Stone found Dzingel creeping down the middle to find a loose puck in the slot and beat Rask at 2:21 of the second period.
Ottawa came out of the first intermission with a lot of moxie, spending more time in the offensive zone than they did in their own end and in the first period. In fact, the Senators wound up outshooting the Bruins, 12-6, in the second period as part of their offensive display.
Moments after Dzingel made it a one-goal game, Charlie McAvoy fired a shot that was redirected by Chris Wagner (1) for his first goal of the season and his first with his hometown team since joining the Bruins via free agency in July after splitting last season with the Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders.
McAvoy (3) and Kuraly (1) were credited with the assists at 7:08 and Boston led, 3-1.
Nearly four minutes later, while McAvoy fumbled a wrap around the boards in his own end, Dzingel (2) pounced on the loose puck and threw it on goal from halfway between the point and the face-off circle along the wall, squeaking one past Rask– as Zdeno Chara partially screened his own goaltender– and again pulling Ottawa within one to make it, 3-2.
Through two periods, Boston led, 3-2, and shots on goal were tied, 21-21. The Senators domination of the second period pulled them to within a goal and gave them the advantage in blocked shots (11-6), takeaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40). Both teams had six giveaways through 40 minutes and hits were even, 14-14.
Bergeron (4) opened scoring in the third period with his hat trick goal at 4:38. His third goal of the afternoon deflected off of Sens defender Cody Ceci and past Condon after Bergeron initially tried to send the puck to Pastrnak in the slot.
Marchand (6) and McAvoy (4) picked up the assists on Bergeron’s third goal of the day that made it 4-2 Boston.
A couple minutes later, Alex Formenton crashed the net and ran into the Bruins goaltender as Rask aggressively played the puck outside his crease and tripped up Formenton– sending the Ottawa forward airborne over Rask.
Bruins defender, John Moore, didn’t take too kindly to his own teammate’s antics and received a minor penalty for roughing Formenton at 6:42 of the third period.
While on the penalty kill, Bergeron attempted to clear the puck down the frozen river and instead sent the rubber biscuit over the glass and out of the playing surface. He was given a delay of game minor penalty and Ottawa went on a 5-on-3 advantage at 7:26 of the third.
The Bruins killed off both minor penalties.
David Pastrnak (2) added his second goal of the season late in the third period and made it a three-goal game for Boston. Bergeron (2) and Zdeno Chara (1) had the assists and the Bruins had a 5-2 lead at 16:31.
Less than a minute later, Bobby Ryan (1) deflected a shot from DeMelo through traffic and past Rask to bring the Senators to within two goals and make it 5-3 at 17:03 of the third period.
DeMelo (2) and Chris Tierney (3) recorded the assists on Ryan’s first goal of the season and Ottawa can thank the Erik Karlsson trade for the pair of former San Jose Sharks members that led to Ryan’s goal.
With 1:50 remaining in regulation, Sens head coach Guy Boucher pulled Condon for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as 28 seconds later Pastrnak (3) added an empty net goal to make it, 6-3, Boston.
Marchand (7) recorded his third assist of the afternoon on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game and the Bruins went on to walk away from their home opener with a 6-3 victory.
Ottawa finished Monday afternoon leading in shots on goal (31-30), blocked shots (14-8), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (57-43). Boston finished the afternoon with the win and leading in hits (18-17). The Senators were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins went 1/2.
Among some other stats from the matinee game…
Moore led all Bruins with four hits on the afternoon, while Boston’s fourth line combined for seven hits in the game with Wagner and Acciari each leading the Bruins forwards with three hits apiece (Kuraly had one hit).
Speaking of Bergeron, his first goal of the day marked the third fastest to begin a home-opening game in franchise history. Bergeron’s goal 30 seconds into the game trails Brad Boyes (18 seconds on October 19, 2006) and Terry O’Reilly (23 seconds on October 8, 1981).
98.5 The Sports Hub Bruins beat reporter, Ty Anderson, noted Bergeron’s hat trick was the first home opener hat trick since Cam Neely‘s 1995 home opener hat trick and The Boston Globe‘s Matt Porter followed that up with all of the home opener hat tricks for Boston since 1967, including Phil Esposito (October 10, 1973), Rick Middleton (October 7, 1976), Neely (October 7, 1995) and Bergeron (October 8, 2018).
Middleton’s No. 16 will be retired this November, joining Esposito’s No. 7 and Neely’s No. 8 (among others) in the rafters of TD Garden, so surely this means Bergeron’s No. 37 is a shoe-in to be retired someday.
The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 on the season and are currently tied for 1st place in the Atlantic Division with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs. Each team has four points on the season.
Boston takes on the visiting Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at TD Garden.
The 2018-19 regular season has started, so let’s overreact and hand out the regular season awards already! It’s our 3rd Annual Participation Trophies After One Game presented by Nick and Connor.
Noted playmaking forward Brad Marchand had four assists en route to the Boston Bruins 4-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on the road at KeyBank Center. 2018 1st overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, finished the night as a minus-1 and recorded two hits in his NHL debut.
Jaroslav Halak picked up his first shutout of the season in his first start and his first win as a Bruin, amassing 32 saves on 32 shots against in the victory.
Boston improved to 1-1-0 (two points) on the season and currently sits in 2nd in the Atlantic Division to the Toronto Maple Leafs with all but the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning having formally kicked off their 2018-19 regular season action.
Thursday night’s start was much better for the Bruins than Wednesday night’s 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara (1) kicked off 2018-19 regular season scoring for the B’s at 6:33 of the first period on a rush into the offensive zone, whereby the 41-year-old defender snuck in from the point and received a pass from Brad Marchand in the high slot that Chara wired past Hutton with a snap shot.
Marchand (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) notched the assists on Chara’s goal. The 6-foot-9 defender has scored at least once in 20 of his 21 NHL seasons, joining seven other defensemen in NHL history to do so– Ray Bourque (22), Scott Stevens (22), Al MacInnis (21), Chris Chelios (21), Harry Howell (21), Larry Murphy (21) and current Sabres head coach, Phil Housley (21).
Chara (41-years, 200 days) also passed Jaromir Jagr as the third-oldest player in franchise history to score a regular season goal for Boston. Mark Recchi (13 goals) and Johnny Bucyk (one goal) are the only other Bruins to have scored at an older age.
Both Bucyk and Recchi played until they were 43-years-old, with Bucyk retiring in 1978 and Recchi doing so after winning the Cup with Chara and Boston in 2011.
Former Bruin (2007-10), Vladimir Sobotka slashed David Pastrnak at 13:58 of the first period and sent Boston on the power play for the first time of the night. The Bruins were 0/2 on the skater advantage Wednesday night in Washington, but they wouldn’t remain scoreless on the power play for long.
At 15:34 of the first period, Ryan Donato (1) one-timed a shot past Hutton to score Boston’s first power play goal of the year and make it a 2-0 game for the Bruins. Donato originally sent the puck to Patrice Bergeron, who in turn sent it along to Brad Marchand in transition, then Marchand dished it back to Donato to complete the scoring opportunity.
Marchand (2) and Bergeron (1) picked up their first power play points of the season in the form of assists on the first power play unit.
Unlike Wednesday night, Boston had offensive zone time and more control of the game in its overall flow– at both ends of the ice, as the fourth line of Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly and Anders Bjork worked effectively at clearing the puck from their own zone and transitioning it up the ice.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy juggled the lines a bit from Wednesday to Thursday, inserting Bjork in the lineup in place of Chris Wagner alongside Kuraly and Heinen, while placing Donato on the second line and Noel Acciari centering the third line surrounded by David Backes and Joakim Nordstrom at the wings.
After 20 minutes, Boston led, 2-0 on the scoreboard and in shots on goal (11-6). Buffalo had an advantage in blocked shots (2-1), giveaways (6-4) and face-off win% (57-44). The Bruins were 1/1 on the power play and the Sabres had yet to see time on the skater advantage.
Heinen slashed Casey Nelson and was sent to the penalty box at 2:47 of the second period, but Buffalo was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Despite a heavy offensive effort by Boston, the Sabres were able to remain in a tight, 2-0 battle until late in the middle frame.
Marchand worked to keep the puck in the zone for the Bruins, while Krejci forced a pass through the low slot for an easy one-timed redirection from Pastrnak (1) into the twine as Hutton was diving across the crease to catch up with the quick puck movement. Pastrnak’s goal gave Boston a commanding, 3-0, lead at 16:16 of the second period and was assisted by Krejci (1) and Marchand (3).
With less than two minutes left in the period, McAvoy took a shot off the inside of the leg and required assistance skating off the ice and heading to the dressing room, but he would return to action in time for the third period.
After two periods of play, Boston led by three (3-0) and outshot the Sabres (21-17), while Buffalo led in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (9-6) and was 0/1 on the power play.
The third period saw a heavy presence in Boston’s defensive zone, but Halak stood tall as did his defenders, who did a much better job of pressuring their opponent and taking away the puck Thursday night than they did on Wednesday.
Housley pulled his goaltender with 4:30 remaining in regulation for an extra skater, but the Sabres couldn’t muster a goal, while the Bruins kept icing the puck.
After taking a hit from Sobotka behind the net in the final minute of regulation, McAvoy was looking to stand up for himself and eventually dropped the gloves with the Sabres forward in the corner to the right side of Halak.
This, of course, all after Chara tried getting to Sobotka first and received a roughing minor as play was stopped for the fisticuffs that ensued.
Buffalo would finish the game on a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Bruins scored an empty net, shorthanded goal, thanks to Patrice Bergeron (1) with the sole assist on the goal from Marchand (4), completing No. 63’s four-point night.
The Sabres finished the night outshooting Boston (32-26) and outhitting the Bruins (25-13), but Boston led the scoreboard, 4-0, after 60 minutes. The B’s also finished with more blocked shots than Buffalo (13-8) and trailed in the face-off dot (57%-43%).
After opening the season on the road for two games at .500, Boston heads home for an Opening Day matinee matchup against the Ottawa Senators on Monday from TD Garden.
I never thought I’d be doing this again, yet here we are. It’s time to begin the continuation of a now annual tradition around here at DTFR. It’s time to rank the NHL mascots.
For the first time since January 2017, here’s the latest look at things. Be sure to check out yesterday’s ranking (31st-21st) and stay tuned for tomorrow’s top-10.
20) Tommy Hawk (Chicago Blackhawks) Last year’s ranking 14th
The Blackhawks jersey is a timeless classic, but time has been catching up on Tommy Hawk. First of all, he’s a hawk that looks more like a penguin and second, he’s now been traded to the Arizona Coyotes for cap relief purposes, I’m being told by my producer.
— Tommy Hawk (@BhawkTommyHawk) February 6, 2018
19) Gnash (Nashville Predators) Last year’s ranking 17th
Gnash isn’t that bad looking, but Nashville’s home jersey lost its edge in the transition from Reebok EDGE 2.0 to ADIZERO technology. Because of that, we get a pretty average looking mascot that has many talents including entertaining the Tennessee Titans when they aren’t chugging beers and swinging catfish around at a playoff game.
— Gnash (@Gnash00) August 17, 2018
18) Thunderbug (Tampa Bay Lightning) Last year’s ranking 15th
Thunderbug may lay claim to having a dominant team on the ice in front of him, but that doesn’t ignore his electrifying averageness. That’s right, Thunderbug is average. He’s cute and cuddly, but he’s cuter in cartoon form on one of those pamphlets at the All-Star Game promoting the mascots game or whatever.
— ThunderBug (@ThunderBugTBL) September 18, 2018
17) Wild Wing (Anaheim Ducks) Last year’s ranking 3rd
The Ducks introduced their one-year only third jerseys for 2018-19 and it cost them. Not necessarily on the ice– as a regular season game has yet to have been played– but it cost them in this mascot ranking because Wild Wing shouldn’t have to wear a sweater that screams “all 25 years of the franchise in one shirt”. Next!
As you all know, we play plenty of Sunday games during the season.
Wild Wing has something VERY special planned for those nights.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) September 23, 2018
16) Mick E. Moose (Winnipeg Jets) Last year’s ranking 11th
Winnipeg may be flying high, but like the Anaheim Ducks, the Jets introduced some sub-par alternate sweaters to the world this season. Now, they aren’t as bad as Anaheim’s, but something tells me Thrasher would look better in baby blue rather than Mick E. Moose.
It’s been a GREAT morning at the Manitoba Stampede Parade in Morris! pic.twitter.com/BqCMOyViQl
— Mick E Moose (@MickEMoose_00) July 21, 2018
15) Stinger (Columbus Blue Jackets) Last year’s ranking 27th
After careful consideration, Stinger’s moved up above a lot of the competition, but still has higher to climb. Another year has passed since Boomer working the mascot tandem with Stinger and the Blue Jackets brought back their quality third jerseys (albeit with the new-age number font and everything that they currently have on their home and road sweaters). It’s a redemptive year for Stinger, even though Columbus has still yet to win a playoff series.
Have you donated equipment towards the @CBJfoundation Equipment Sale yet? The green net is at the Easton Chiller, send in photos of you donating to be our next big winner!! #NHLGreen #CBJ https://t.co/28LspK9lsU pic.twitter.com/1JVo3w2nMg
— Stinger (@StingerCBJ) August 10, 2018
14) Louie (St. Louis Blues) Last year’s ranking 12th
There’s nothing to complain about a plain looking bear, but Louie is kind of a Carlton the Bear knockoff. Nobody tell the Toronto Maple Leafs that though. It’s just another average year unless the Blues really wow him on the ice and finally win a Cup. Regardless, Louie puts on a smile every night and goes to work knowing one of these years Doug Armstrong will probably trade him and take the offseason to make the team that much better.
— LouieSTLBlues (@LouieSTLBlues) September 22, 2018
13) N.J. Devil (New Jersey Devils) Last year’s ranking 16th
Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy last season as one of the hottest players on the ice, but there’s something even hotter in Jersey. It’s the Devil himself. Well, the N.J. Devil, that is. He’s on the rise and could be in the top-10 in 2019’s rankings depending on how he takes care of division rival, Gritty, trying to steal his spotlight. We’ll leave it up to his devilish plans.
— NJ Devil (@NJDevil00) September 27, 2018
12) Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars) Last year’s ranking 19th
A star is rising in the big-D and it’s not just Tyler Seguin’s cap hit beginning in the 2019-20 season thanks to his extension he signed with the Stars this month. Victor E. Green’s starting to take on more of the role of a veteran mascot, what with Chance and Gritty having been introduced after him now.
🎉🎉🎉STARS WIN!!!🎉🎉🎉 pic.twitter.com/7a4aQv9NdS
— Victor E. Green (@VictorEGreen) September 25, 2018
11) Carlton the Bear (Toronto Maple Leafs) Last year’s ranking 13th
John Tavares signed with the Leafs for $11.000 million a year through the 2024-25 season, so it’s fitting that Carlton finished 11th in this year’s ranking. Symbolism or something. Enough said.
— CarltonTheBear (@CarltonTheBear) September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning
54-23-5, 113 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Lost in the Eastern Conference Final to WSH, 4-3
Subtractions: F Carter Ashton (signed, KHL), D Mathew Bodie (signed, KHL), G Peter Budaj (traded to LA), F Erik Condra (signed with DAL), F Alex Gallant (signed with VGK), F Chris Kunitz (signed with CHI), F Matthew Peca (signed with MTL), D Andrej Sustr (signed with ANA)
Still Unsigned: D Jamie McBain
Offseason Analysis: The 2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning had their best season in franchise history. Well, regular season, that is. Jon Cooper led his team from behind the bench to a 54-23-5 record (113 points) and the first seed in the Eastern Conference all the way to the 2018 Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals– their former division rival in what was once the Southeast Division.
It was their first postseason meeting since 2011 and the Bolts had home ice advantage in a Game 7. What could possibly go wrong? Washington was never supposed to get past the Second Round, let alone beat the Pittsburgh Penguins en route to landing in the Eastern Conference Final– plus Alex Ovechkin was always criticized for his Game 7 play in his career– and the Lightning had all of their offensive weapons, including Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
But Stamkos had no points in Game 7 against Washington, similar to the last five Game 7s he’s played. In six career Game 7s, Stamkos is pointless. Both literally and figuratively, if you may.
Tampa was shutout on home ice and their 2018 postseason run came to a crashing halt, one win shy of reaching their second Stanley Cup Final in three years.
For a team that’s made the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four calendar years (2015, 2016 and 2018)– they’ve only gotten better, yet they haven’t had the results they’ve wanted (or expected) by now.
Steve Yzerman walked into the Lightning front office with Stamkos and Victor Hedman already on the roster, he left its day-to-day duties having drafted Kucherov (2011) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (2012), while signing an undrafted Tyler Johnson and acquiring Ryan Callahan, Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller over the years.
Yzerman’s seamless transition from Tampa’s face of the franchise star in Martin St. Louis to Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. was destined to win a Cup while the former face of the Detroit Red Wings superstar was at the helm of operations.
BriseBois’ transition to power will be peaceful, as Yzerman was sure to lock up core members of the roster in Kucherov and McDonagh to extensions beginning in the 2019-20 season this offseason.
It’d be unfair to grade BriseBois’ offseason maneuvers over the last 16 days at the same weight as the rest of the GMs in the league, but it’s worth noting– neither Yzerman nor BriseBois were able to snag Erik Karlsson in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.
Instead, the biggest prize on the trading block this offseason went to the San Jose Sharks– a team the Lightning can only face in the postseason in the Stanley Cup Final. If they make it that far.
Yzerman chose not to re-sign Chris Kunitz and Andrej Sustr, seeing the former as too old for Tampa’s core and the latter as an expendable asset that was a healthy scratch most nights. He did, however, re-sign glue guy forwards Adam Erne and Cedric Paquette, as well as defender Slater Koekkoek to one-year bridge deals.
Their successful roster is largely intact, despite trading backup goaltender Peter Budaj to the Los Angeles Kinds for forward Andy Andreoff early this summer, but as Cooper seeks to decrease Vasilevskiy’s workload, Budaj’s 3.77 goals against average and .876 save percentage in eight games last season weren’t going to cut it– even with his injuries.
Meanwhile, Louis Domingue looks to improve on his 2.89 GAA and .914 SV% in 12 appearances with the Lightning last season, after going winless in seven appearances with the Arizona Coyotes (4.33 GAA, .856 SV%) before being acquired by Tampa.
Budaj’s eight appearances and Domingue’s 12 games in a Bolts uniform left Vasilevskiy to suit up for a career-high 65 games last season. He had a 2.62 GAA and a career-high .920 SV% in what was a Vezina Trophy finalist year with a 44-17-3 record.
While Vasilevskiy is one of the top-starting netminders in the league, 65 games played in the regular season, plus a maximum 28 potential games in the postseason is nearly 100 games of hockey. Multiply that by 60 minutes and, well, you get the point (hopefully).
Cooper has to rely on Domingue and his defense to reduce the minutes Vasilevskiy has to stand on his feet (or head) in order to keep his number one goaltender from getting fatigued.
Goaltending is all about finding that sweet spot– both in the rhythm of the game while making saves and in the ebbs and flows of the season-long schedule (including the possibility of a deep postseason run).
Offseason Grade: C+
So that’s it really.
Tampa didn’t create a mega-defense, because they didn’t get Karlsson. San Jose did.
They didn’t cause a disturbance in the Force with two potential No. 91s that would’ve seen John Tavares assume a new identity on the roster, because the Toronto Maple Leafs signed the biggest free agent on the market.
And that’s okay.
For Tampa, an “average” offseason meant sticking with their guys– the ones that reached the Final in 2015, almost reached it in 2016 and were brought in for the Conference Final run in 2018. Other than nailing down a backup goalie, the Bolts are ready to defend their top of the table standing in the Atlantic Division.
49-26-7, 105 points, third in the Atlantic Division
Lost in First Round to Boston, 4-3
Subtractions: F Miro Aaltonen (signed with Vityaz Podolsk, KHL), RW Kyle Baun (signed with Belfast Giants, EIHL), C Tyler Bozak (signed with STL), W Martins Dzierkals (signed with Dinamo Riga, KHL), F Colin Greening (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Leo Komarov (signed with NYI), W Matt Martin (traded to NYI), C Tomas Plekanec (signed with MTL), D Roman Polak (signed with DAL), F Ben Smith (signed with Adler Mannheim, DEL), LW James van Riemsdyk (signed with PHI), LW Nolan Vesey (traded to EDM)
Offseason Analysis: Let’s just get this out of the way early: Johnny T is coming home!
I’m not even a Maple Leafs fan and that gets me mildly excited.
After all, Tavares is departing a team that qualified for the playoffs only thrice during his nine-year tenure and joining one that scored a (t)third-best 270 goals last season without his offensive acumen. With Tavares’ 272-349-621 career totals effectively replacing Bozak’s 136-229-365 marks in just as many seasons (the only difference being Tavares will play no lower than on the second line, while Bozak was the Leafs’ third-line center), it’s safe to say Toronto’s offense – which was already stacked by simply mentioning C Auston Matthews‘ name – is now rivaled only by Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg.
So, that means the Leafs are locks for the Stanley Cup, right? I mean, that’s what all the Toronto fans have been telling me…
Regrettably, I must poke a hole in that balloon, at least until the squad proves me wrong in the first month or so of the regular season.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts about the Leafs’ offense. Few are going to keep up with Toronto’s attack, which may very well be capable of flirting with the 300-goal mark this year (that’s 3.66 goals per game, Leafs fans).
Instead, my concerns reside along Toronto’s blue line, and I’m sure G Frederik Andersen agrees with me. With Andersen in net last season, the Maple Leafs allowed at least 30 shots on goal 44 times.
He started 66 games last campaign.
For those struggling to do the math, Andersen – who started 80 percent of the Maple Leafs’ games last season and accrued 3889 minutes – faced at least 10 shots per period in two-thirds of his appearances.
Talk about a heavy workload.
To Andersen’s credit, he posted five shutouts and a solid .918 save percentage last season, so he performed marvelously given the immense pressure on him. However, there’s no doubt he would have preferred to see fewer than the 33.9 shots against per game coming his way, a regression from the 32.6 shots the Leafs allowed in 2016-2017.
In my last season preview, I mentioned how Pittsburgh might be a team looking to trade a defenseman should Juuso Riikola continue to impress. If that proves to be the case, General Manager Kyle Dubas would be wise to get in contact with counterpart Jim Rutherford to at least inquire about an asking price, as the Pens have exactly what the Leafs are in the market for: an established, NHL-ready defenseman with significant playoff experience.
The asking price would likely be high considering both are expected to be major players in the Eastern Conference. However, with visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their dreams, the initial cost of addressing the Maple Leafs’ defensive deficiencies likely pale in comparison to the time wasted in a contention window with a porous blue line.
Offseason Grade: B+
Yes, the Maple Leafs landed Tavares. As a result, they automatically earn better than a passing grade. However, doing little to improve a blue line that allowed the fourth-most shots has me very concerned that this club won’t see much of an improvement on that end of the ice. Dubas had better have a plan to address that issue soon, as Matthews’ contract next summer is not going to be cheap, which will make it difficult to retool the defense. In the meantime, hopefully the offense will meet or exceed expectations, as Scotiabank Arena could see more than a few high-scoring games this year.