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2019-20 Metropolitan Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 107 points
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 102 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 93 points
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 91 points
  5. wc2-Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  6. New York Rangers, 89 points
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

Washington Capitals: Pros and Cons

Year after year, Washington finds themselves at the top of the Metropolitan Division with or without any sort of logical explanation.

The last time the Capitals didn’t finish 1st in the division? It was the 2014-15 season when the New York Rangers followed up a 2014 Stanley Cup Final appearance with 113 points and the President’s Trophy.

Once again, the Caps will find a way to turn things on late into the season and manage the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they’ll be doing so without a long list of members from their 2018 Stanley Cup championship roster.

After matching his regular season goal scoring total in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Devante Smith-Pelly wasn’t able to get back to form and subsequently reassigned to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears during the 2018-19 season.

Now, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Also departing Washington this summer were the likes of Brett Connolly (signed with Florida), Andre Burakovsky (traded to Colorado for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a 3rd round pick in 2020), Nathan Walker (signed with St. Louis), Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia in exchange for Radko Gudas) and Brooks Orpik (retired)

Madison Bowey was traded to Detroit in February. Jakub Jerabek left via free agency last season and is now playing in the KHL. Philipp Grubauer was traded to the Avalanche last June. Jay Beagle signed with the Vancouver Canucks last July. Alex Chiasson joined the Edmonton Oilers last October.

With such a quick turnover in the makeup of their lineup, the Capitals’ championship window may already be closing– and fast.

At least Garnet Hathaway, Richard Panik and Carl Hagelin all signed four-year contracts with cap hits under $3.000 million.

How would the Capitals fail?

Radko Gudas and Tom Wilson end up suspended for the entire season somehow and get the rest of the Capitals in trouble for something.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Pros and Cons

Phil Kessel is signed through 2021-22 at $6.800 million per season. Alex Galchenyuk is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $4.900 million.

Using the money saved from trading Kessel to Arizona and hoping Galchenyuk will suddenly become a 30 or 40 goal scorer simply because he’s now on the same roster as Sidney Crosby, Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, figured it’d be a smart move to lock up Brandon Tanev in free agency with a six-year contract at $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause one offseason removed from signing Jack Johnson.

If there’s any positives for Pittsburgh, it’s that Crosby still exists and Mike Sullivan remains the head coach. Oh and Evgeni Malkin exists too, though some would find it hard to believe, since he wasn’t included in the top-100 players of the last century list.

As long as Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith can weather the storm of an insufficient defense, injuries and inadequacy from last season, then there’s a good chance the current longest active playoff appearance streak remains alive.

If not, well, just look for Rutherford to continue to move chairs around on the Titanic.

This team is starting to spring a leak. If they’re not careful, they’ll sink in the standings.

But since the season really doesn’t start until January anyway for the Pens, they’ll work their way into a playoff berth as they’ve done for the last dozen years or so.

How would the Penguins fail?

Rutherford trades another goal scorer for a “glue guy” and clones Tanev and/or Johnson. Realistically, Murray continues to cool down from his meteoric rise a couple of seasons ago and won’t cost too much as a pending-RFA.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Pros and Cons

All my ex’s live in… everywhere but Columbus.

The Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers, Sergei Bobrovsky to the Florida Panthers, Matt Duchene to the Nashville Predators and Ryan Dzingel to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they brought in Gustav Nyquist and brought back Marko Dano via free agency.

Yeah, ok, so it wasn’t a great summer for Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Blue Jackets fans– even if they knew at least one of their big names (Bobrovsky) was never going to re-sign.

But while a lot of armchair GMs think the Blue Jackets are destined for a rebuild, there’s a glimmer of optimism if Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can carry the weight of the crease, while younger players like Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continue to emerge.

Making it as far as they did into the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was vital to the experience gained by Columbus’ core.

Though they’re likely not going to a be a dominant force in 2019-20, they should be in contention for what would be a fifth playoff berth in seven years under Kekalainen’s reign.

And if they turn heads again like they did when they swept the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the First Round, then there’s sure to be some interest in lacing up the skates for the Blue Jackets in the future.

Then again, it could be tank city until Korpisalo or Merzlikins becomes a legitimate starter and somebody becomes an 80-point scorer again.

It just takes some time… Oh and someone should probably re-sign Zach Werenski while you’re at it.

How would the Blue Jackets fail?

The Union doesn’t lose. Ok, if everybody leaves, then it might.

New York Islanders: Pros and Cons

Having Lou Lamoriello as your General Manager means some players are going to love him (if they’ve already been with him for many years before) and some players are going to be chased out of the city when they are told they are going in a different direction, but then don’t quite land who they think they’re getting, only to leave you once again for… well, Semyon Varlamov isn’t really an upgrade at this point.

But Robin Lehner’s gone after winning the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with the Rangers Islanders last season after having a remarkable career-year in the face of addiction and other struggles.

New York’s only getting older and Anders Lee took a “hometown discount” to stay on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, is it too early to start construction on the Belmont Park arena yet?

Something has to distract everyone from the undercutting of several prospect’s development– whether they’ve rightfully had a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level or not.

Barry Trotz is a great head coach, but how much more can he do with a middle of the road team that gives up on prospects too early?

Get them back to the Second Round only to be crushed by a team that’s mixing youth, speed, skill, grit and actually playing 21st century hockey?

It’s almost as though the Islanders learned nothing from 1995-2006.

How would the Islanders fail?

It’s [the] trap!

Philadelphia Flyers: Pros and Cons

Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, actually hasn’t had that bad of an offseason– at least when it comes to tweaking his roster.

Sure Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are both 32-years-old, but they’re decent top-4 defenders that should be able to lead from the back end with Shayne Gostisbehere as Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov come into their own.

Speaking of Provorov, he’s still an unsigned-RFA and Philadelphia has more than enough money (about $13.400 million in cap space) to get some sort of a deal done right now. Why wait until the last minute? What’s that? Travis Konecny needs a contract right now too? Oh never mind. Let’s make things complicated!

Besides giving Kevin Hayes a seven-year contract worth $7.143 million per season with a no-movement clause, the Flyers should have– a lot of explaining to do when their experiment doesn’t work out.

The Hayes contract is bad, but just how bad can things get with Hayes back on a team that’s coached by… Alain Vigneault!?!

Vigneault’s the real wild card here as the jury is still out on whether or not his style still fits the game or if the Rangers were just that bad in his final year with New York.

All things considered, Philadelphia should be back into playoff contention. Just not Cup contention in 2019-20.

How much more of this can Claude Giroux take?

How would the Flyers fail?

Alain Vigneault, Mike Yeo and Michel Therrien can’t figure out who is actually the head coach on a night-to-night basis even though Vigneault technically owns the job (Yeo and Therrien are assistant coaches for the Flyers, if you haven’t heard). Oh and goaltending if Carter Hart gets injured.

New York Rangers: Pros and Cons

The Rangers landed the biggest prize in free agency, signing Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract worth $11.643 million per season.

Though they are still in a rebuild, Panarin’s addition to the roster helps make New York more of an attractive destination and speeds things up in the overall plan.

It doesn’t hurt that GM Jeff Gorton had the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft too. Kaapo Kakko is ready for the limelight in Manhattan as Henrik Lundqvist’s reign is in its twilight days.

Lundqvist is under contract through the 2020-21 season and at 37-years-old– it’d take a miracle for the Rangers to win him a Cup at this point.

The Rangers only have one forward over the age of 30 (Matt Beleskey’s 31) and two defenders 30 or older as well (Brendan Smith, 30, and Marc Staal, 32).

Beleskey is likely to bounce around the organization between New York and Hartford (AHL), while there’s a good chance Smith could be buried as well.

But their “veteran presence” is valuable to time on ice management among the younger skaters that might not be quite as NHL ready as Kakko and friends.

Jacob Trouba is new to the Rangers and destined to anchor their new-age defense from the top pairing, while Kevin Shattenkirk joins the long list of buyouts in recent years by New York.

The Rangers are short almost $5.400 million in dead cap space thanks to Shattenkirk, Dan Girardi and Ryan Spooner’s buyouts around the league (Shattenkirk and Girardi were Rangers buyouts, but Spooner had retained salary and was bought out by the Vancouver Canucks this offseason).

Next year, New York faces almost $7.500 million in cap penalties from the trio of buyouts before Spooner comes off the books entirely and the number dips down to about $2.544 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23.

Also another Harvard product– Adam Fox– is the new Jimmy Vesey experiment, but on the blue line. And Vesey? He was traded to Buffalo.

Panarin and Kakko are worth watching this season, while the rest of the team remains to be seen.

How would the Rangers fail?

Henrik Lundqvist stops looking so good all of a sudden. That man is stunning.

Carolina Hurricanes: Pros and Cons

Though the forecast says otherwise, Carolina should actually be closer to playoff contention than you may think coming off their 2019 Eastern Conference Final appearance.

Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, has weathered the storm this offseason. Actually, his job was made pretty easy when the Montreal Canadiens signed Sebastian Aho to a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season.

Considering the value Aho brings and the potential that’s still there– that’s a steal.

Though a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses through the first two years is considered a “hefty” price for an owner to pay, let’s remember that we’re talking about professional sports.

If Montreal really wanted to make things difficult for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, then they should’ve offered something with a larger cap hit, but that would’ve meant a steeper price to pay in compensation had Carolina not matched the deal. #AdvantageCarolina

Aho will be 27 by the time his new contract runs out, which means he’ll be a pending-UFA in 2024, but there’s plenty of time to worry about the next contract when the time comes.

Right now, the Hurricanes have added some much needed top-six/top-nine forward depth in Erik Haula (acquired from Vegas) and Ryan Dzingel (signed via free agency), while adding a 1st round pick in 2020 (or 2021 if Toronto’s 2020 1st rounder is a top-10 overall selection) and swapping Calvin de Haan with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling (there were other pieces involved, like Anton Forsberg going to Carolina too).

The average age of Carolina’s skaters? 25.

Considering how far the core went in 2018-19, that’s beyond impressive and it’s a testament to head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.

In July, Petr Mrazek re-signed with the Hurricanes on a two-year deal and James Reimer was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers as Curtis McElhinney signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Though Alex Nedeljkovic might be another year out from competing for the starting job, the crease is Mrazek’s to lose once again with Reimer looking to rebound from a dismal time in Florida.

Carolina is poised for another deep run, but how soon will it be given the fact that their emergence as a contender means that every other team wants to beat them that much more from night-to-night?

How would the Hurricanes fail?

The Canes have a strong analytics department, so the only thing that could naturally disrupt their plans? Regression (and no WiFi).

New Jersey Devils: Pros and Cons

The Devils won the draft lottery and procured Jack Hughes with the 1st overall pick in June.

New Jersey was third-to-last in overall standings last season.

Though they added P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators in June, drafted Hughes and have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Will Butcher on their roster, the Devils still need a lot of pieces to improve.

Hall’s a pending-UFA at season’s end. His next deal– whether it’s with New Jersey or not– determines the fate of this team.

Cory Schneider’s still under contract through 2021-22 and Mackenzie Blackwood is only 22-years-old.

Goaltenders are rarely superstars when they’re that young, so while Blackwood may be the starter heading into the season and goalie of the future for the organization– it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ups and downs before the dust settles.

Now for the good news.

Nikita Gusev was acquired in a trade with the Golden Knights and Ray Shero doesn’t have a lot of no-trade clauses to deal with if the Devils look to sell at the trade deadline.

How would the Devils fail?

If they somehow lose the Taylor Hall trade a few years after winning it.

Flyers extend win streak to six games, beat Bruins, 3-2 in OT

Travis Sanheim ended things in overtime with his fifth goal of the season as the Philadelphia Flyers cruised to their sixth win in-a-row over the Boston Bruins, 3-2, on Thursday night at TD Garden.

Carter Hart (8-5-0 record, 2.48 goals against average, .922 save percentage in 14 games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against (.920 SV%) in the overtime win for the Flyers and became the 10th different goalie in National Hockey League history to record a personal win streak of at least five games before his 21st birthday.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-8-4, 2.45 GAA, .920 SV% in 27 GP) turned aside 38 out of 41 shots against for a .927 SV% in the overtime loss and remains tied with Tiny Thompson for the most wins by a goaltender in Boston’s franchise history (252 wins).

The Bruins fell to 27-17-7 (61 points) on the season, but improved to 3rd place in the Atlantic Division.

Boston is tied with the Montreal Canadiens in points (61) and regulation-plus-overtime wins (26), but leads the Canadiens in standings as a result of having attained a greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs (Boston went 2-1-1 in the season series against Montreal, thereby yielding the Bruins five points in the standings to Montreal’s four points in the standings in games against each other).

If that doesn’t make sense, hopefully things will be clearer after both teams play their next game (the Canadiens play on Saturday, B’s play on Sunday).

Philadelphia improved to 22-23-6 (50 points) on the season and remain 7th in the Metropolitan Division standings. In addition, the Flyers extended their current win streak to six games.

Boston finished the month of January with a 6-3-3 record (15 points out of a possible 28 points, .538 points percentage).

While David Backes (900 career games) and Brandon Carlo (200 career games) both reached milestones Thursday night, Bruce Cassidy celebrated the return of Joakim Nordstrom to the lineup for the first time since the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

Nordstrom missed the last 11 games with a non-displaced fractured fibula he sustained against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1st, but he didn’t miss a shift outdoors in true hockey player fashion.

Rask was also back in action after missing one game due to a concussion sustained on Jan. 19th against the New York Rangers. As a result, Zane McIntyre was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) prior to puck drop against the Flyers.

John Moore was inserted back into the lineup in place of Matt Grzelcyk, having been a healthy scratch for the last few games.

Joining Grzelcyk in the press box on Thursday were Noel Acciari (out of the lineup due to Nordstrom’s return) and Steven Kampfer (the de facto depth defender since being re-acquired by the Bruins in the Adam McQuaid trade in October).

Nordstrom suited up to the left of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the fourth line, while Cassidy juggled his defensive pairings, placing Torey Krug alongside Kevan Miller to round out the top-four blue liners with Zdeno Chara paired with Charlie McAvoy.

Moore slid in as the left shot defender on the third pairing with Carlo to his right side.

Cassidy did not make any adjustments to his first three forward lines.

Almost two minutes into the game, Claude Giroux got his stick between the legs of David Pastrnak and brought the young Boston winger down to the ice.

Giroux was assessed a minor penalty for tripping at 1:47 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first– and only– time of the night.

As the seconds ticked away on the ensuing skater advantage, Boston sustained a level of pressure on the special teams that had been seen in Tuesday night’s, 4-3, shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets– it was only a matter of time before the Bruins would strike.

Brad Marchand worked the puck back to the point to Krug, whereby the Boston defender sent a pass across the slot to Pastrnak (29) for the one-timer past Hart while falling to one knee, giving the B’s the, 1-0, lead.

Krug (29) and Marchand (38) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Pastrnak’s goal at 3:05.

In the final minute of the opening frame, Giroux (15) tied things up, 1-1, on a breakaway goal that he fired past Rask’s glove-side. Jakub Voracek (30) was tabbed with the only assist on the goal at 19:16 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, both teams were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 10-8.

Both teams were also tied in blocked shots (4-4), takeaways (4-4) and face-off win percentage (50-50), while the Flyers led in giveaways (4-2) and hits (7-4) after 20 minutes of play. Boston was 1/1 on the power play, while Philadelphia had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

Pastrnak (30) gave Boston the lead, 2-1, for the second time of the night at 5:11 of the second period when the young Bruins winger redirected a shot past Hart that originally came off Patrice Bergeron’s blade from the face-off dot to the Flyers netminder’s right side.

Bergeron (28) and Chara (4) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the 22-year-old Pastrnak became the first Bruin to reach the 30-goal plateau in a season before the month of February since Cam Neely did so in the 1993-94 season (Neely had 36-11–47 totals in 31 games played entering February 1994).

With his second goal of the game, Pastrnak surpassed Neely, Bobby Orr and Barry Pederson for sole possession of first place in franchise history for having three consecutive seasons of at least 30 goals prior to turning 23.

Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Flyers, 25-17, in shots on goal. Philadelphia outshot the B’s, 17-7, in the middle frame alone.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (14-9) after 40 minutes of play, while the Flyers went into the dressing room after two periods with the lead in takeaways (9-6), hits (13-10) and face-off win% (52-49). Both teams had eight giveaways each and the B’s were still 1/1 on the power play.

As a matter of fact, Boston would finish the night 1/1 on the power play, while Oskar Lindblom would be the one to notch Philadelphia’s first power play goal of the night on their only power play opportunity in the third period (more on that in a minute).

Early in the final frame of regulation, Scott Laughton had a clean break with Moore and Carlo trailing.

Moore tied up Laughton with his stick, hooking the Flyers forward and preventing a scoring chance, yielding a penalty shot for the Philadelphia forward.

Laughton’s penalty shot was denied by Rask with a blocker save, leaving the Flyers forward 0-for-2 in his career on penalty shots.

Kuraly was penalized for holding the stick of Sean Couturier at 8:46 of the third period, sending Philadelphia on their first power play of the night.

With 10 seconds remaining on the power play, the Flyers net front presence led to a redirection that squeaked past Rask at 10:36 to tie the game, 2-2, thanks to Lindblom’s 7th goal of the season.

Voracek (31) and Sanheim (12) had the assists Lindblom’s power play goal.

With the score knotted at two goals apiece, the Bruins and Flyers were headed for overtime at the final horn of regulation. Philadelphia held the advantage in shots on goal (36-25) through 60 minutes of the Thursday’s effort.

Less than a minute into overtime, Marchand tripped up Travis Konecny 57 seconds into the 3-on-3 action.

Philadelphia head coach, Scott Gordon, followed the stoppage in play for the delayed call against Boston by using his team’s timeout to draw up a soon to be game-winning game plan.

Just like their first power play goal of the game, with one second remaining on the skater advantage, Sanheim (5) fired a wrist shot past the Bruins goaltender as his own defender (Miller) and Flyers forward, Wayne Simmonds, screened Rask’s view of the puck.

Couturier (22) and Konecny (16) had the assists on Sanheim’s game-winning power play goal at 2:56 of the overtime period, snatching the, 3-2, victory for Philadelphia on the road.

Philly finished the game leading in shots on goal (41-25)– including the 5-0 shots on goal advantage in overtime– as well as hits (18-13) and face-off win% (63-37).

Meanwhile, Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-18) and giveaways (13-10).

The Flyers finished the night 2/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/1.

Despite scoring the game’s first goal in their last six games, the Bruins are 1-2-3 in that span– including their current three-game losing skid.

Boston is now 4-6 in overtime (1-1 in shootouts) this season, while the Flyers improved to 2-6 (2-0 in shootouts) past the 60-minute mark this season.

Boston travels to Washington, D.C. for a Sunday matinee matchup with the Capitals this weekend before heading back home to host the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The B’s travel to Madison Square Garden for a Wednesday night battle with the New York Rangers before hosting the Los Angeles Kings next Saturday (Feb. 9th) afternoon.

Couturier nets hat trick against Bruins, Flyers win, 4-3

Sean Couturier recorded his first career hat trick in the Philadelphia Flyers’, 4-3, victory Wednesday night over the Boston Bruins on home ice.

Oscar Lindblom had the only other goal for the Flyers, while David Pastrnak and Peter Cehlarik (two goals) did the scoring for Boston.

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.

Pastrnak has 121 career goals, while Pederson notched 120 before turning 23 (3rd-5th, Bobby Orr, 113 goals, Joe Thornton, 101 and Tom Fergus, 98).

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.

Backes joined John Moore and Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches out of the lineup against Philadelphia, while Joakim Nordstrom remains sidelined with a non-displaced fibula fracture.

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.

A few minutes later, Jori Lehtera took a skate to the sin bin for tripping Boston defender, Brandon Carlo, at 4:14.

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.

Claude Giroux (37) and Ivan Provorov (12) had the assists on Lindblom’s goal for the Flyers at 12:44.

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.

Of note, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara tied Teemu Selanne for the 3rd most regular season games played by a European born player in league history, reaching his 1,451st career game on Wednesday.

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.

Halak records 2nd shutout this season in Bruins 3-0 win

Zdeno Chara kicked off Thursday night’s scoring for the Boston Bruins against the Philadelphia Flyers on home ice and Chara ended scoring too. Jake DeBrusk added a power play goal in between Chara’s goals as Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins shutout the Flyers, 3-0, at TD Garden.

Boston improved to 6-2-2 (14 points) on the season with the win– good enough for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, despite being tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1st on points (Toronto has one more regulation-plus-overtime win than the Bruins, yielding the tiebreaker).

Philadelphia fell to 4-6-0 (8 points) through their first 10 games, currently sitting 6th in the Metropolitan Division.

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Halak (3-0-2, .945 save percentage, 1.43 goals against average in 6 games played) made 26 saves on 26 shots faced for a 1.000 SV% and his 2nd shutout of the season in the win, while Flyers netminder, Brian Elliott (2-5-0, .912 SV%, 3.38 GAA in 8 GP), stopped 22 out of 24 shots faced for a .917 SV% in the loss.

After ending a three-game losing streak in Ottawa, the Bruins now have back-to-back wins with a chance of extending their current winning streak to three games against their arch-rival– the Montreal Canadiens– Saturday night on home ice.

Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, didn’t make any changes to his lineup, save for the National Hockey League debut of Bruins defender, Jeremy Lauzon, out of necessity. Lauzon laced up on the third defensive pair alongside Steven Kampfer in place of the most-recently injured Bruins blue liner, Urho Vaakanainen (concussion).

David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (lower body), Charlie McAvoy (upper body) and Kevan Miller (hand) also remained out of the lineup Thursday night, though Krug has begun practicing and should return to action next week.

Meanwhile, Lauzon became the first Bruin to wear No. 79 in a regular season game since current defender in the Colorado Avalanche organization (and Marshfield, Massachusetts native), David Warsofsky, did so in the 2014-15 season.

David Pastrnak and Gritty’s favorite Flyer, Claude Giroux, were given matching minor penalties 7:11 into the first period as the opening frame featured largely dull action.

Robert Hagg was guilty of slashing Brad Marchand at 11:27 of the first period and the Bruins went on their first power play of the night, but they failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the first period, Chara sent the puck over the glass and received a delay of game minor. The timing of the penalty came at 18:05 of the first period, so the ensuing Flyers power play would carryover into the first five seconds of the second period (unless Philadelphia scored before the end of the period).

After 20 minutes of play, the score remained tied, 0-0, with both teams amassing seven shots on goal. Boston had the advantage in takeaways (7-4), giveaways (2-1) and hits (6-5) entering the first intermission, while both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

The pace of play picked up in the second period, as both Elliott and Halak found themselves locked into a goaltending battle– in which the Bruins netminder made several impressive saves on 2-on-1 opportunities for the Flyers.

Halak’s strong performance (and eventual shutout) serves as a reminder that while there is no goalie controversy in the Hub (Tuukka Rask is the long-term starter), Cassidy’s decision making in determining which goaltender to play any given night (for now) continues to get tougher. It’s generally advisable to go with the hotter hand until one can’t any longer.

That said, Cassidy remained firm on his plans to start Rask Saturday night against the Canadiens after Thursday’s win.

Time (and stats) will tell after that. A little competition is a healthy thing– especially if the team is still able to put up “W’s” in the “win” column.

A little past midway in the second period, Danton Heinen worked the puck back to the point to Chara. The Bruins captain fired a slap shot– from just about the blue line in Boston’s attacking zone– high glove side past Elliott to give the B’s a 1-0 lead while David Krejci tried to screen the Philadelphia goalie from the slot.

The goal was Chara’s 2nd of the season and assisted by Heinen (3) at 13:00 of the second period.

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Shortly thereafter, Philadelphia’s bench bungled a line change and was handed a two-minute minor penalty for too many men at 15:32. Travis Konecny served the penalty.

Late into the ensuing power play, the Bruins extended their lead on the scoreboard as Krejci threw a saucer pass to Jake DeBrusk (3) for the redirection from point blank and a 2-0 lead.

Krejci (7) and Kampfer (1) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 17:28. Kampfer’s assist was his first point for Boston since being re-acquired by the Bruins in September and his first point in a black-and-gold sweater in over six years (he had two assists in 10 games for the Bruins in the 2011-12 season prior to being traded).

Through two periods, Boston led Philadelphia, 2-0. Shots on goal were even, 18-18, while the Flyers led in blocked shots (12-9) and face-off win percentage (65-35). The Bruins held onto the advantage in takeaways (11-8) and hits (12-9) after 40 minutes of play.

Both teams had five giveaways each entering the second intermission, while the Flyers were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2.

Early in the third period, tempers started to flare as they usually do when the Big Bad Bruins square off with the Broad Street Bullies as Steven Kampfer and Scott Laughton got into a kerfuffle. Wayne Simmonds even jumped in as a third-man in and penalties soon followed.

Despite clearly attempting to fight with his gloves off, Kampfer was handed a four-minute double minor penalty for roughing, while Laughton received a two-minute roughing penalty.

Simmonds also received a roughing minor at 6:38 of the third period, resulting in a power play for the Flyers, thanks to Kampfer’s four-minute double minor.

Ryan Donato served one of Kampfer’s penalties in the box.

Late in the penalty kill for Boston, Chara tripped up Konecny and was sent to the box on a minor penalty for tripping (of course) at 8:34. The Flyers would have four seconds on a two-skater advantage before resuming play under a normal 5-on-4 power play scenario.

Philadelphia did not convert on either power play opportunity.

At 14:30 of the third period, Konecny himself was summoned to the sin bin for tripping Bruins forward, David Pastrnak.

Just under two minutes later, while on the power play, DeBrusk got into a shoving match with Flyers defender, Andrew MacDonald.

DeBrusk was going to be penalized for interference, while MacDonald received a slashing minor after a quick conference held by the refs once things settled down after the whistle.

Why did it take so long in comparison to the other penalties? Well, a scrum ensued and a slew of penalties followed in the same stoppage as the original DeBrusk retaliation call based on MacDonald’s infraction.

Laughton received another roughing minor– this time against DeBrusk– and was sent to the locker room early on a ten-minute misconduct. This additional two-minute penalty against the Flyers resulted in an abbreviated 5-on-3 power play for Boston for about 27 seconds, while Oskar Lindblom served Laughton’s penalty at 16:03 of the third period.

As time expired on Lindblom’s time in the box, the door opened and the puck rolled right by as a Bruins player was chasing it down.

Lindblom tried to play the puck while still in the penalty box. His feet had not set foot on the ice, thereby resulting in an automatic interference penalty and Boston went back on the power play at 18:06.

With less than a minute remaining in regulation, Flyers head coach, Dave Hakstol pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker. Things didn’t go as planned.

Halak sent the puck from the trapezoid to his captain along the boards behind the goal line, where Chara (3) then flung the puck through the air and into the empty net at the other end of the ice for the empty net power play goal at 19:37.

That’s right, Chara scored from the endboards in his own zone for what’s undoubtedly the longest empty net power play goal in NHL history. For all intents and purposes, he could’ve been having a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry in the North End and hit the net.

Halak (1) picked up his first point as a Bruin in the form of an assist on Chara’s goal and Boston secured the 3-0 victory at the final horn.

The Bruins finished the night ahead on the scoreboard, but trailed the Flyers in shots on goal (26-25), blocked shots (14-13), giveaways (9-7), hits (17-16), penalty minutes (26-12) and face-off win% (60-40). Philadelphia went 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 2/5 on Thursday.

Among other stats…

Chara (41 years, 221 days) became the third defender in the NHL to score multiple goals in a game at 41 years of age or older, joining Tim Horton (41 years, 277 days) and Nicklas Lidstrom (41 years, 191 days).

Despite winning, 3-0, no Bruins skater was more than a plus-one in plus/minus Thursday night. Heinen, Krejci, DeBrusk, Chara and John Moore were all plus-one, while Chara led the way for Boston in shots on goal with five.

Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak and DeBrusk were the next highest with three shots on net.

Noel Acciari led the B’s in the physical department with three hits and Brandon Carlo led his team in blocked shots with four.

Nolan Patrick, Laughton, Jakub Voracek, MacDonald and Shayne Gostisbehere were all minus-ones for the Flyers, while Claude Giroux led his teammates with five shots on goal. Travis Sanheim was the next closest with four.

Gostisbehere, Hadd and Corban Knight each recorded two hits for Philadelphia and Gostisbehere led his teammates in blocked shots with four.

The Bruins take on the Canadiens Saturday night on home ice for their next matchup before venturing out on the road to visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 30th and the Nashville Predators on Nov. 3rd as part of a quick, two-game, road trip.

Broad Street Broadsided: In pivotal Game 4, Flyers decimated with ease

 

That one hurt to watch.

A game that should have been Philadelphia’s chance to take a stand and show they weren’t going away ended up in a more lopsided loss than even the 5-0 final score would indicate.

Yes, the Flyers were without top center Sean Couturier, who was injured in practice this week in a collision with teammate Radko Gudas (because it’s always Gudas), and the hole he left in the Philly lineup was significant. But the lack of effort shown by the Flyers in the face of adversity was frankly just sad.

In an attempt to indicate to those who didn’t watch just how little the Flyers cared throughout the game, I will attempt to recap the game in accordance with how much effort they were showing in their play at coinciding points in the game.

First period:

Wells Fargo Center is rocking. Sidney Crosby can’t touch the puck without being showered in boos. Philadelphia rookie Nolan Patrick starts the opening shift off by laying a hit on the Pittsburgh captain, much to the delight of the home crowd. Brian Elliott starts the game off strong with a great save on a bang-bang play between Tom Kuhnhackl and Zach Aston-Reese, giving his team some confidence in their goaltender, much like they had in Game 2 when they beat up the Pens.

Then just 4:33 into the frame the wheels came right off when Crosby sent a backhand pass directly between the legs of Brandon Manning to the tape of Evgeni Malkin who buried the easy one-timer on the power play to put the Penguins up 1-0.

But it’s okay, right? Just a one-goal deficit early in the first period. Elliott makes a great glove save on a labeled wrister from Phil Kessel less than two minutes later and the tide starts to turn again. First it’s Michael Raffl nearly scoring on the doorstep after receiving a pass from behind the net, then comes a near-two minute complete domination shift by the Philadelphia top line that creates numerous high-quality chances, but all are answered by Matt Murray.

Then just after that shift ends it would be Malkin jumping on a turnover and leading a breakout with Kessel. Travis Sanheim is unable to match the speed of Kessel, and Malkin gets him the puck in stride allowing him to bury the 2-0 goal just under the arm of Elliott, effectively erasing any positives the Flyers had going for them and completely vacuuming the life out of the arena.

Philadelphia managed to kill off a penalty (a rarity for them in this series) and Claude Giroux finds Travis Konecny right out of the box for a clean breakaway, but Murray calmly blockers the attempt away, leaving Konecny infuriated as he returned to the bench. Olli Maatta accidentally clears the puck over the glass when cleaning up the Konecny rebound, giving the Flyers a power play of their own, that Wayne Simmonds promptly ends with a slash just seven seconds into the man advantage. This basically seemed to kill any idea of a comeback that the Flyers might have had.

Second period:

The first eight minutes are completely meaningless, then at 8:04 Kris Letang fires a wrister off of the stick of Andrew MacDonald and past Elliott, who looked none-too-happy about his own defenseman aiding in his demise. Dave Hakstol decided he had seen enough and pulled Elliott (for the second time in four games) in favor of just-returned Michal Neuvirth, hoping to spark his team. It would be another minute of play before the Flyers even managed their first shot on goal of the frame.

Less than three minutes after the goaltending switch Crosby became the Penguins’ all-time leading playoff scorer, breaking his 172-point tie with Mario Lemieux with a goal scored off of a forced turnover by Jake Guentzel behind the net, who quickly handed it over to Crosby who tucked it in the net before Neuvirth had even realized the puck had been turned over. 30 seconds later Conor Sheary got a breakaway, but Neuvirth decided he should stop it for some reason.

The Flyers closed the period by doing literally nothing of any consequence on a four-minute power play (high sticking on Malkin) and basically showing everyone they’d rather be golfing.

Third period:

Nolan Patrick gets a breakaway on the opening shift, but Murray turns it aside (obviously).

Some hockey things happen for a while.

Riley Sheahan decides he’s bored and would like to score a playoff goal, taking a misplayed puck from Konecny, walking in alone and beating Neuvirth high stick side.

The game ends. Matt Murray posts his sixth shutout in 36 playoff games.

(That third period summary was only slightly lazier than the third period play of the Flyers)

This one is over and done with before the puck drops in Game 5. The Flyers have completely mailed it in at this point, and are being firmly outclassed by the Pens in every measurable aspect. Possibly the craziest thing to me in this series is the almost complete lack of any hint of the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia rivalry. Little physicality, almost no scrums or pushback to speak of. Just the Penguins running through a Flyers team that looks completely undeserving of their playoff spot. Sorry, Florida Panthers, you probably should have been given Philly’s place in the show.

Crosby, Malkin & Co. Shine in Game 3

The Penguins stars were out in full effect during Game 3 in Philadelphia. Sidney Crosby had a four-point night with one goal and three assists. Evgeni Malkin wasn’t too far behind Crosby with a goal and assist as well. Matt Murray also had a great game, stopping 26-of-27 on the night. It was all Pittsburgh in Philadelphia.

The first period saw the Flyers feeding off the home crowd, as they were moving their feet well and getting into dangerous positions. They had a majority of the chances early on with the Penguins’ netminder Murray standing tall. Nolan Patrick had a great chance when he blew by the Penguins defensemen, but couldn’t find the net.

The Penguins were struggling to get chances or even establish pressure on the Flyers. About halfway through the first, the Penguins forced a turnover off the forecheck and Sidney Crosby capitalized with his fourth goal of the playoffs on a wraparound goal. Patric Hornqvist, a new linemate to Crobsy, picked up the lone assist on the goal.

The goal didn’t seem to faze Philly’s momentum however, as they continued to battle and look to beat the stellar Murray. They ended the period without the goal but clearly dominating them with an 11-4 shot lead.

The second period started with the Flyers hoping to continue the strong play and finally beat Murray. But they came out undisciplined and took a penalty just over a minute into the period. The penalty proved to be costly as Derick Brassard took a nice pass from Phil Kessel and beat Brian Elliott bar down. It was Brassard’s first goal of the playoffs, giving Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead.

The Penguins took over from there and after a coincidental penalty to both teams, Jakub Voracek took a high sticking penalty for some good ole fashion four-on-three power play for the Penguins. The Penguins had the big guns out as Crosby got in the zone and dropped it to Kris Letang. Letang slid the puck over to Evgeni Malkin for a one timer slapper past Elliott. It was Malkin’s second goal of the playoffs seven minutes into the second period.

It got worse from there. In the opening face-off after the goal, Crosby won in forward, got into the zone and hit a drop pass to Brian Dumolin, who scored the biggest five-hole since goalies started using butterfly style. The Penguins scored both goals five seconds apart, giving them a 4-0 lead.

The Flyers did finally beat Murray, as Travis Sanheim let a wrister go from the point, and the puck had eyes finding the back of the net. It was Sanheim’s first career playoff goal and Nolan Patrick and Voracek picked up the assists on the goal with just six minutes left in the second period.

The third period saw similar outcomes as Philly continued to take bad penalties and again Pittsburgh took advantage. Justin Schultz hammered a one-time by Elliott on the power play. Malkin and Crosby picked up the assist on the third power play goal of the game. Pittsburgh turned on cruise control and proceeded to get the puck in deep and be defensively sound to see out the end of the game.

Game four will be Wednesday, April 18th in Philadelphia on CBC, NBCSN and TVAS at 7:00 pm EDT.