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NHL Nick's Net

Hurricanes take 2-0 series lead, lose Raanta in Game 2

Sebastian Aho tied a franchise record with his fourth multi-goal game in a, 5-2, victory for the Carolina Hurricanes as they beat the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup Wednesday night at PNC Arena.

Meanwhile, each team lost a key player to an injury and there were 14 combined power plays in a game that had a little bit of everything good, bad and ugly.

Antti Raanta (1-0, 0.88 goals-against average, .978 save percentage in two games played) made six saves on six shots against before he was taken out of the game due to injury, while Pyotr Kochetkov (1-0, 2.31 goals-against average, .938 save percentage in one game played) turned aside 30 out of 32 shots faced in the win for the Hurricanes.

Bruins goaltender, Linus Ullmark (1-1, 4.17 goals-against average, .860 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 32 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins were without the services of Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Wednesday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one change to his lineup– promoting Matt Grzelcyk to the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and relegating Hampus Lindholm to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo.

Boston’s list of healthy scratches went untouched from Game 1 to Game 2 with Mike Reilly, Chris Wagner, Josh Brown, Anton Blidh and Kyle Keyser watching from the press box at PNC Arena.

Nino Niederreiter tripped Carlo and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 3:17 of the first period, but the B’s weren’t able to convert on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Tony DeAngelo checked Erik Haula without the puck and cut a rut to the sin bin for interference as a result at 7:28, but Boston’s ensuing power play was cut short about 19 seconds later.

David Pastrnak caught Raanta with a forearm to the head while trying to avoid a major collision with the goaltender as Raanta worked to clear the puck outside the crease and Pastrnak tried to come to a stop without bowling over the netminder– completely flattening him in the process.

That said, the on-ice officials ruled it a five-minute major for goaltender interference before reducing Pastrnak’s infraction to a minor penalty upon video review.

Raanta was bleeding from a cut on his face and took some time to be helped off the ice by a trainer, but was Pastrnak’s force enough to cause the inside of Raanta’s mask to cut the goaltender or Vincent Trocheck’s accidental bump in the side of his teammate’s head as he skated by while Raanta was down on the ice pulling his mask off do more damage on top of the incidental contact with Pastrnak?

This is the type of thing that’s going on inside the minds of the on-ice officials alongside their interpretation of the rulebook.

Carolina replaced Raanta with Kochetkov and the Bruins managed to kill Pastrnak’s minor for goaltender interference at 7:47 of the first period.

A little past the midpoint of the opening frame, however, Jordan Staal broke free from Derek Forbort and sent a pass across the ice through the slot to Jesper Fast (1) for a one-timer goal– giving the Hurricanes a, 1-0, lead as a result at 13:03 of the first period.

Staal (1) and Jaccob Slavin (2) tallied the assists on Fast’s goal.

A couple minutes later, Aho (1) tipped a shot from the point by DeAngelo past Ullmark on the stick side to extend the Canes’ lead to two-goals.

DeAngelo (2) and Slavin (3) notched the assists and the Hurricanes led, 2-0, at 15:30.

Patrice Bergeron cut a rut to the sin bin for slashing at 18:54 and the Bruins managed to make the kill on the infraction.

Late in the period, however, Charlie Coyle and Niederreiter went to the box with coincidental minors at 19:53, followed by a scrum as the first intermission began– yielding roughing minors for Haula, Carlo and Seth Jarvis at 20:00.

Boston would be shorthanded to begin the middle frame.

Carolina, meanwhile, led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-10, in shots on goal after 20 minutes of action.

The Hurricanes also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (5-0), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win percentage (59-41), while the Bruins led in hits (18-16) entering the first intermission.

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play heading into the middle period.

Carolina confirmed that Raanta (upper body) would not return to the night’s action with a tweet prior to the start of the middle frame.

While on the power play, Aho (2) blasted a one-timer past Ullmark low on the glove side to give the Hurricanes a, 3-0, lead at 1:10 of the second period.

DeAngelo (3) and Teuvo Teräväinen (1) had the assists on Aho’s power-play goal– giving the Finnish forward his fourth career multi-goal postseason game– tying Kevin Dineed for the most in Hartford Whalers/Hurricanes franchise history in the process.

Trent Frederic checked Teräväinen shortly thereafter in frustration and picked up an interference minor at 3:39, though the Canes failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage this time around.

Andrei Svechnikov was penalized for holding at 14:36 and it didn’t take Boston long to get on the scoreboard with a power-play goal from Bergeron (1) after he sent the puck back to the point whereby a shot attempt went wide, caromed off the glass back to Brad Marchand in the slot before Bergeron got a piece of it from close range.

Marchand (1) had the only assist on Bergeron’s 16th career postseason power-play goal– tying him for the third-most in Bruins franchise history with Johnny Bucyk in the process– and Boston trailed, 3-1, at 14:36 of the second period as a result.

A few minutes later, Svechnikov made a big hit behind the goal line on Lindholm– knocking the Bruins defender to the ice and leaving him in a daze as he was assisted by a trainer and teammate, Jake DeBrusk, to the tunnel.

Carlo went after Svechnikov in defense of his injured blue line partner and picked up a pair of roughing minors, while Svechnikov only received two minutes for roughing at 17:11 of the second period, rendering Carolina on the power play as a result.

Less than a minute later, Marchand and Kochetkov exchanged pleasantries and yielded slashing penalties at 17:52, followed by a holding infraction on Forbort at 18:07.

Carolina’s ensuing 5-on-3 advantage didn’t last long as Niederreiter (2) had just enough mustard on a shot that it trickled through the crease and over the goal line to give the Hurricanes another three-goal lead, 4-1, at 18:52.

Trocheck (2) and DeAngelo (4) tallied the assists on Niederreiter’s power-play goal and the Canes took their, 4-1, lead into the second intermission after 40 minutes of play.

Carolina led in shots on goal, 25-21, including a, 14-11, advantage in the second period alone, while dominating in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (7-5), giveaways (10-5) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Boston, on the other hand, led in hits, 31-30, after two periods on Wednesday.

The Hurricanes were 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0-for-3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Early in the final frame, Svechnikov and McAvoy collided in the open ice and rendered the Bruins defender to his knees amid a brief stoppage.

He did not miss any shifts, however, as DeBrusk received a roughing minor for expressing his displeasure with Svechnikov and the B’s tweeted that Lindholm (upper body) would not return to the night’s action at 1:52 of the third period.

Carolina had another brief 5-on-3 advantage after Forbort caught Teräväinen with a high stick and drew blood at 3:04.

Forbort skated to the box with a double-minor penalty and Boston somehow made the kill.

Moments later, the Hurricanes had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor at 8:27, but the B’s couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play.

Midway through the third period, however, Bergeron (2) notched his second goal of the game on an inadvertent deflection off of his right skate behind Kochetkov on a shot by McAvoy from the top of the left circle.

McAvoy (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Bruins trailed, 4-2, at 12:21 of the third period, while Bergeron (47) surpassed Phil Esposito (46) for the second-most postseason goals in franchise history– trailing only Cam Neely (55) for first overall in a Boston uniform.

With about 4:30 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled a page out of the book of head coaching as taught by Patrick Roy and yanked Ullmark out of the crease for an extra attacker.

Brett Pesce caught Marchand with a high stick at 15:49 and the B’s went on a power play as a result, but the Hurricanes’ penalty kill came and went unscathed and unchallenged.

After a stoppage with 1:15 remaining, Cassidy used his timeout to rally his skaters, but it was to no avail.

Carolina picked up a rebound that made its way all the way into their attacking zone and Niederreiter (3) put the icing on the cake with his second goal of the game– this time on an empty net to make it, 5-2, for the Hurricanes at 19:19.

Svechnikov (1) had the only assist on the goal.

At the final horn, another scrum ensued and only Forbort was dealt a roughing minor at 20:00 of the third period, but it didn’t matter in the end result as Carolina pulled off a, 5-2, victory and a 2-0 series lead.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-34, and had a, 17-9, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (13-10) and hits (45-33), while the Hurricanes left their own ice leading in giveaways (12-7) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Carolina went 2-for-9 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 1-for-5 on the power play Wednesday night in Game 2.

For the first time since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins trail 2-0 in a series heading back to home ice for Game 3.

Teams that lead a best-of-seven series 2-0 go on to win the series about 87% of the time per Hockey-Reference.

The Hurricanes take a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden in Boston. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on TNT in the United States, as well as SN360 and TVAS2 in Canada.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Hurricanes take 1-0 series lead with, 5-1, victory against Boston

Two goals late in the second period set the momentum in motion for the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night as they opened up their 2022 First Round series against the Boston Bruins with a, 5-1, win in Game 1 at PNC Arena.

Antti Raanta (1-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .972 save percentage in one game played) made 35 saves on 36 shots against in the win for Carolina in his first career start in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Boston goaltender, Linus Ullmark (0-1, 4.07 goals-against average, .833 save percentage in one game played), stopped 20 out of 24 shots faced in the loss in his postseason debut.

The Bruins are meeting the Hurricanes for the seventh time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history with Boston holding an all-time series advantage, 5-1.

The two clubs are facing each other for the third time in four years with the B’s having most recently defeated the Canes in the 2020 First Round in five games while the league held its Eastern Conference playoff bubble in Toronto due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that summer.

Carolina won all three games against Boston in the 2021-22 regular season with 16 goals for and one goal against over the course of the year.

The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Monday as the two players missed a combined 69 games in the regular season due to injuries.

Jack Studnicka, Marc McLaughlin, Jack Ahcan and Oskar Steen were all reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) prior to Game 1 against Carolina as Providence is set to take on the Bridgeport Islanders in their 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs First Round series.

Kyle Keyser was recalled from Providence to serve as Boston’s third goaltender at practice this postseason.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, reunited his lines from the penultimate game in the regular season for Game 1 against Carolina, rendering Mike Reilly, Chris Wagner, Josh Brown, Anton Blidh and Keyser as healthy scratches for the B’s.

Brady Skjei sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 3:00 of the first period, but Boston’s power play failed to convert on the skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, Jordan Staal’s stick work pushed the puck over the line while pushing Ullmark’s pad through the crease in the process and was deemed incidental goaltender interference.

As a result, the Hurricanes were not penalized and the call on the ice (no goal) stood.

Moments later, Erik Haula cut a rut to the box for holding and presented the Canes with their first power play of the night at 13:53, but Boston’s penalty kill stood tall and made the kill.

Patrice Bergeron presented Carolina with their second skater advantage of the night for tripping Staal at 16:42, but the Hurricanes failed to capitalize on the resulting skater advantage.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal, 14-10.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), while the Canes led in takeaways (7-4), giveaways (6-5), hits (22-12) and faceoff win percentage (57-43)– reflecting the momentum of the opening frame where Boston got out to a hot start for about 10 minutes before Carolina rocketed to the intermission.

The Hurricanes were 0-for-2 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway through the second period, Ian Cole tripped Trent Frederic at 8:15, but Boston couldn’t muster a shot past Raanta on the ensuing power play.

In another surge in momentum late in the period, Jaccob Slavin riffled a shot from the point that Seth Jarvis (1) tipped through Ullmark’s five-hole to give Carolina the first goal of the game at 16:28 of the second period.

Slavin (1) and Cole (1) tallied the assists on Jarvis’ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and the Hurricanes led, 1-0.

Carolina scored a pair of goals in a span of 2:10 when Nino Niederreiter (1) sent a shot past Ullmark on the glove side from just outside the faceoff circles in the attacking zone.

Tony DeAngelo (1) and Martin Nečas (1) notched the assists as the Hurricanes grabbed a, 2-0, lead at 18:38.

Heading into the second intermission, the Canes led, 2-0, on the scoreboard despite trailing the Bruins, 25-19, in shots on goal.

Boston held an advantage in shots in the middle frame alone, 11-9, while Carolina led in blocked shots (13-10), takeaways (11-6), giveaways (14-9), hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play through 40 minutes of play Monday night at PNC Arena.

Taylor Hall (1) fluttered a catch and release shot past Raanta to cut Carolina’s lead in half at 2:53 of the third period and the Bruins trailed, 2-1, early in the final frame as a result.

Haula (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) had the assists on Hall’s goal.

Moments later– after Hall rang the post at the other end of the rink– Teuvo Teräväinen (1) scored on a 2-on-1 while Matt Grzelcyk got caught out of position while trying to pinch, leaving Brandon Carlo to defend on his own.

Vincent Trocheck (1) had the only assist on Teräväinen’s goal to give the Hurricanes a, 3-1, lead at 7:02 of the third period.

Midway through the final frame, Brendan Smith interfered with Craig Smith at 10:00, but the B’s failed to convert on the resulting skater advantage.

Late in the period, Trocheck (1) waltzed right into the attacking zone and cut to the net before flipping the puck over Ullmark as the Bruins goaltender tried to make a save with his mask.

Max Domi (1) and Brett Pesce (1) had the assists on Trocheck’s goal and the Hurricanes took a, 4-1, lead at 16:58 of the third period.

Cassidy pulled his goaltender with about 2:54 remaining in the action to rally his skaters with an extra attacker, but Sebastian Aho quickly received a pass from Aho and selflessly setup Andrei Svechnikov (1) for the empty net goal to give Carolina a, 5-1, lead at 17:59.

Aho (1) and Jarvis (1) tallied the assists on Svechnikov’s goal.

A couple minutes later, Frederic exchanged pleasantries with Smith after a brief stoppage and received a roughing minor as well as a ten-minute misconduct at 19:53 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Hurricanes won, 5-1, and took a 1-0 series lead in their 2022 First Round matchup with Boston.

The Bruins exited the ice leading in shots on goal, 36-25, including an, 11-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots, 17-16, while Carolina left their own building leading in giveaways (20-10), hits (48-42) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Both teams went 0-for-3 on the power play on Monday.

The Hurricanes take a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 at PNC Arena Wednesday night.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. ET and viewers outside of the local markets can catch the action on ESPN in the United States, as well as SN360 and TVAS2 in Canada.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: MassMutual NHL East Division

Nobody’s perfect.

Both in First Round prediction outcomes and in trying (and failing) to deliver predictions for each First Round series ahead of time.

The short excuse is that the overlap of the 2020-21 regular season and the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs made it difficult to finish compiling stats, writing game recaps and subsequently writing previews for each series that hadn’t already started.

Then it’s a matter of catching up.

Plus there’s a few other projects being worked on right now that you’ll hopefully get to see soon.

Granted, there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this it’s because 1) you’re somehow an oddly dedicated fan of my random musings, 2) you’ve accidentally stumbled upon this blog or 3) you’re a potential employer trying to get a read on if this guy is actually desirable.

Anyway, the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is mostly over as only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens have yet to sort out who will be taking on the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round of Scotia NHL North Division action.

For now, let’s just keep it simple with the MassMutual NHL East Division on the docket for Saturday and the Discover NHL Central Division and Honda NHL West Division on the calendar for Sunday, then we’ll go from there.

(3) Boston Bruins (33-16-7, 73 points) vs (4) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

Boston: 56 games played, .652 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Boston Bruins eliminated the Washington Capitals in five games (4-1) in the First Round and are poised to be in command of home ice advantage in their Second Round series matchup with the New York Islanders by virtue of being the higher seed as both MassMutual NHL East Division First Round matchups technically resulted in upset victories by the “underdogs”.

Sure, Boston has had a bit of recent playoff success riding the momentum of their last four consecutive seasons with at least one playoff series victory and New York improved to 5-1 all time against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, but that’s besides the point.

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2019-20, having recorded the league’s best regular season record at the time of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, well, officially being declared a pandemic and cutting last year’s regular season short.

They entered 2020-21 as favorites to not only lead their division at season’s end, but contend for the Presidents’ Trophy in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.

That… didn’t pan out, but it might actually be a benefit to the current roster to not be seen as the clear cut favorites on paper.

To remind everyone that didn’t read the First Round preview for Boston, the Bruins were led by Brad Marchand (29-40–69 totals in 53 games played) in the regular season, with Patrice Bergeron (23-25–48 totals in 54 games) and David Pastrnak (20-28–48 totals in 48 games) rounding out the top-three scorers on the team.

Through five games this postseason, the B’s look like they could be on the verge of something special as a plausible last hurrah for their current core with David Krejci and Tuukka Rask set to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end and Father Time™️ eventually going to become a factor and catch up with the ageless wonders that are Bergeron and Marchand.

It’s likely that Rask will be back for another season or two to serve as a mentor for current backup goaltender, Jeremy Swayman, like how Tim Thomas played that role for the franchise’s all-time winningest goaltender in the regular season and playoffs.

Or if you’re from outside the Boston market– think like what Pekka Rinne just did for the last two seasons in Nashville as Juuse Saros gradually took over as the starter for the Predators.

Krejci, on the other hand, has a bit more of a clouded future.

Bruins president, Cam Neely, told reporters earlier in the week that the organization has shelved talks of extensions with Rask and Krejci for after the postseason (a standard for the industry, especially with an expansion draft looming for the Seattle Kraken), but Neely was open to the idea of the two “one team” players spending their entire NHL careers in Boston.

That said, there’s always the possibility for retirement for Krejci or that he might go spend a few seasons in Czech Republic while winding down the twilight of his professional playing days.

None of that is relevant for the here and now, however.

Right now, the Bruins are focused on getting past the Islanders in the Second Round– a team that’s given them a bit of an inconsistent ride to say the least this season.

Boston dropped the first five games against New York, but won the last three meetings between the two clubs in the regular season.

That doesn’t actually say as much as one would think, since the Capitals had more recent success as the season progressed against Boston.

But then again, Washington did lose.

It’s also not like the B’s didn’t get better as the season went on– especially since they added Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar and Mike Reilly ahead of the trade deadline in April.

Boston has a legitimate top-six forward group and interchangeable components that can get the job done in the bottom-six, as well as a defense that has a mix of youth and experience– sans Kevan Miller for Game 1, at least, as Miller is out with an upper body injury, though Jarred Tinordi did fine for a bottom-pairing role in Game 5 against Washington.

Rask’s save percentage has gone up in each of his first five postseason games so far.

Through five games in the 2021 postseason, Pastrnak leads the team in scoring with six points (two goals, four assists), while bona fide stallion , Charlie McAvoy, has five assists and Bergeron (3-1–4 totals in five games) round out the top-three in postseason production thus far.

In the regular season, Rask led the way in the crease for the B’s with a 15-5-2 record in 24 games (24 starts), a 2.28 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage, as well as a pair of shutouts in that span.

Jaroslav Halak started the season as Boston’s backup, but ended it as the third string netminder with a 9-6-4 record in 19 games (17 starts) for the Bruins with a 2.53 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts in 2020-21.

Swayman emerged as Rask and Halak spent time out of the lineup due to injury, as well as an extended stay in COVID protocol for the latter goaltender (perhaps affecting Halak’s performance as a result).

But before Swayman amassed a 7-3-0 record in 10 games (10 starts), as well as a 1.50 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and two shutouts, Dan Vladar made five appearances (all starts) and earned a 2-2-2-1 record to go along with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage.

Don’t let Vladar’s numbers fool you, however, as one desperate start on the second night of a back-to-back against the Capitals sank otherwise decent stats for the projected backup to Swayman someday on Boston’s depth chart.

In the postseason, Rask has put up a 4-1 record in five games with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

So in other words, it’s midseason form for No. 40 for the black and gold.

Gerry Cheevers has faith in Rask.

At the other end of the rink, the Islanders utilized head coach, Barry Trotz’s, patented trap to stupefy Pittsburgh’s potent offense in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while also appearing to not really have to do that much to beat Tristan Jarry in the crease in six games (4-2).

This time we mean it. Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is on its last legs.

Next season, the Isles will be opening up their new home at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York– making the “long” trek from Uniondale, New York to their new address.

Both TD Garden and the Coliseum are expected to have near full capacity crowds for the entirety of the series, so if you already couldn’t stand Boston and Long Island enough for some reason, expect the crowds to be as loud and as obnoxious as ever.

That said, we could all use a good laugh and some release from the last year and a half of pain, grief and suffering. Hopefully the cheers and jeers do not veer into the distasteful.

It is, after all, just a game.

Anyway, the Islanders were led by Mathew Barzal (17-28–45 totals in 55 games) this season, while Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games), Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 games) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in team scoring in 2020-21.

In the crease, Semyon Varlamov led the way with a 19-11-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), as well as a 2.04 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and seven shutouts in the regular season.

Ilya Sorokin was the backup netminder for New York and amassed a 13-6-3 record in 22 games (21 starts) and had a 2.17 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts in the process.

Through six postseason games, Anthony Beauvillier (3-4–7 totals) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1-6–7 totals) are tied for the team lead in playoff scoring, while Bailey and Nelson rank tied for third on the roster with six points (three goals, three assists for each player).

Varlamov’s gone 0-2 in two games (two starts) and has a 3.61 goals-against average, as well as a .903 save percentage, while Sorokin has taken over with the hot hands in net– amassing a 4-0 record in four games (four starts) and an equally impressive goal against average (1.95) and save percentage (.943) as Rask’s numbers for Boston thus far in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Isles captain Anders Lee remains out of the lineup with a lower body injury that ended his season after 27 games in 2020-21.


These two teams are meeting for the third time in a series, with the Islanders holding a 2-0 all time record, having defeated the Bruins in five games (4-1) in the 1980 Quarterfinal and in six games (4-2) in the 1983 Wales Conference Final.

Both times that New York defeated Boston, the Isles went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In the 2020-21 regular season, however, the Bruins went 3-3-2 in eight games against New York, while the Islanders went 5-2-1 against Boston.

New York outscored Boston, 21-18, in that span, though the Bruins held the advantage in total shots on goal over the course of their regular season series, 269-216.

Stellar goaltending has been a constant for both teams, outside of the odd, 7-2, win for the Islanders on Feb. 25th against the B’s.

The Bruins have Hall, the Islanders have Kyle Palmieri.

Depth scoring is paramount, especially if New York’s trap can get to Boston’s first line as effective as they were against Pittsburgh’s first line.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is a dynamic coach, however, while Trotz might continue to go back to the well even if it’s starting to run dry– simply out of the comfort and ease of familiarity.

This series has all the makings of being a long, grueling battle that could see Boston victorious over the Islanders for the first time in the postseason in seven games when all is said and done.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 18th

4-2 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 13th

7-2 NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 25th

2-1 F/SO NYI at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 9th

4-3 F/OT NYI at TD Garden on March 25th

4-1 BOS at TD Garden on April 15th

3-0 BOS at TD Garden on April 16th

3-2 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on May 10th

Schedule:

5/29- Game 1 NYI @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, SN360, TVAS2

5/31- Game 2 NYI @ BOS 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN1, TVAS

Games 3 and 4, as well as 5 through 7 (if necessary) have yet to be announced by the league at the time of this writing.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Vegas’ five unanswered goals lead comeback victory in Game 3

The Vegas Golden Knights gave up two goals in the first period, then scored five unanswered goals over the remaining 40 minutes to complete a, 5-2, comeback victory on the road at Xcel Energy Center in Game 3 of their 2021 First Round series with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

Marc-Andre Fleury (2-1, 1.32 goals against average, .951 save percentage in three games played) made 14 saves on 16 shots faced in the win for Vegas.

Minnesota netminder, Cam Talbot (1-2, 2.32 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in three games played), turned aside 35 out of 39 shots against in the loss.

The Golden Knights were once again without Max Pacioretty as they took a 2-1 series lead in their first road game of the 2021 postseason as Fleury posted his 12th consecutive win with two or fewer goals allowed in the playoffs en route to his 83rd career Stanley Cup Playoff win on Thursday.

Kirill Kaprizov fed Ryan Hartman (1) for a one-timed redirection in the slot to give the Wild a, 1-0, lead at 2:16 of the first period.

Karpizov (1) and Jonas Brodin (2) had the assists on Hartman’s goal as Minnesota got off to a quick start.

Less than a minute later, however, Wild defender, Matt Dumba, was sent to the penalty box for holding, presenting the game’s first power play to Vegas at 2:43 of the first period.

The Golden Knights couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Almost midway into the opening frame, Joel Eriksson Ek (2) made it a, 2-0, game for Minnesota as Marcus Foligno (2) and Dumba (1) picked up the assists on Eriksson Ek’s goal at 8:30 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Jonathan Marchessault interfered with Kevin Fiala and handed the Wild their first power play of the night at 9:14, but Minnesota couldn’t capitalize on the 5-on-4 advantage.

Moments later, Hartman slashed Golden Knights defender, Shea Theodore, and cut a rut to the sin bin at 13:31, but Vegas was unsuccessful on the power play.

Heading into the first intermission, the Wild led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 7-4, in shots on goal.

Minnesota also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), takeaways (3-2) and hits (13-12), while both teams had two giveaways each and were, 50-50, in faceoff win percentage after 20 minutes of action.

Vegas was 0/2 on the power play while the Wild were 0/1 on the skater advantage entering the middle frame.

Mark Stone (1) caught a pass in the slot from Chandler Stephenson and released a shot in catch-and-release fashion as the Golden Knights cut Minnesota’s lead in half, 2-1, at 8:39 of the second period.

Stephenson (2) and Brayden McNabb (1) notched the assists on Stone’s goal.

About half a minute later, Ian Cole tripped McNabb and presented Vegas with another power play that ultimately went by the wayside for the Golden Knights at 9:09.

Nick Holden sent an intentional shot wide of the net as the puck caromed off the endboards to Patrick Brown in the slot whereby Brown (1) hacked away until he sent the rubber biscuit floating behind Talbot to tie the game, 2-2, at 15:19 of the middle period.

Holden (1) and William Carrier (1) tallied the assists on Brown’s goal.

About two minutes later, Vegas took the lead for the first time of the night and never looked back as Reilly Smith (1) got a deflection, then his own rebound to make it, 3-2, Golden Knights at 17:33.

Holden (2) and William Karlsson (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

Karpizov then finished the second period with a tripping infraction as Alex Tuch went for a fall at 19:49. Vegas’ ensuing power play would spillover into the final frame.

After 40 minutes, however, the Golden Knights led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 26-12, in shots on goal, including an astounding, 22-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Minnesota still dominated in blocked shots (15-12), takeaways (8-4), hits (23-20) and faceoff win% (53-48) despite the Vegas onslaught.

Both teams had three giveaways each, while the Golden Knights were 0/4 and the Wild were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

After the Wild successfully killed off Kaprizov’s minor, they got a chance on the power play when Tuch interfered with Cole at 2:42 of the third period.

Minnesota, however, couldn’t get anything going as the Golden Knights continued to dominate the game flow.

Vegas couldn’t convert on a power play at 11:18 of the third period when the Wild were handed a bench minor for too many skaters on the ice, but it was of no matter to the Golden Knights as they simply scored later in the period.

First, when Karlsson (1) sent a wrist shot under the bar on the short side with assists from Smith (2) and Fleury (1) at 17:36 and again when Stone (2) pocketed his second goal of the game on an unassisted effort into the empty net at 19:01 of the third period.

The pair of goals had made it, 5-2– giving Vegas five unanswered goals as the final horn sounded and the Golden Knights had won, securing a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 on Saturday in Minnesota.

The Wild wrapped up Thursday night’s loss leading in hits (31-29), while the Golden Knights dominated in shots on goal, 40-16, including a, 14-4, advantage in the third period alone.

Vegas also held the lead in blocked shots (20-18) and faceoff win% (53-47), while both teams managed three giveaways aside in Game 3.

The Golden Knights finished 0/5 and the Wild went 0/2 on the power play on Thursday.

Game 4 is scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Viewers in the United States can watch on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from SN360 or TVAS2.

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Panthers complete, 6-5, OT comeback in Game 3 win on the road

Ryan Lomberg emerged as an unlikely protagonist– scoring the game-winning goal early in overtime at Amalie Arena on Thursday– while Sergei Bobrovsky looked solid in relief of Chris Driedger as the Florida Panthers staged a third period comeback capped by a, 6-5, overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their 2021 First Round series.

Bobrovsky (1-1, 3.53 goals-against average, .898 save percentage in two games played) stopped all nine shots that he faced in relief (25:56 time on ice) en route to the victory for the Panthers.

Meanwhile, Driedger (0-1, 4.29 goals-against average, .860 save percentage in two games played) stopped 17 out of 22 shots faced for no decision in 40:00 time on ice.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (2-1, 3.57 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in three games played), made 41 saves on 47 shots against in the loss.

Keith Yandle was a healthy scratch for Florida and Sam Bennett returned from his one game suspension for a hit from behind on Blake Coleman in Game 1.

Bennett (1) sent a one-timed redirection on the backhand past Vasilevskiy to give Florida an early, 1-0, lead at 4:31 of the first period.

Jonathan Huberdeau (3) and Owen Tippett (2) tallied the assists as the Panthers jumped on the scoreboard first while on the road.

Less than a few minutes later, Radko Gudas (1) stayed on the puck after his initial shot was blocked and wired the rubber biscuit past Vasilevskiy’s glove side to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Gustav Forsling (1) and Huberdeau (4) had the assists on Gudas’ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and Florida led, 2-0, at 7:05 of the opening frame.

There were no penalties in the first period, so after 20 minutes of action, the Panthers led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-10, in shots on goal entering the first intermission.

Florida also held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while Tampa led in takeaways (4-0), giveaways (3-1), hits (20-15) and faceoff win percentage (58-42).

Anthony Cirelli (1) buried a rebound from point blank to cut Florida’s lead in half, 2-1, and put the Lightning on the scoreboard as Victor Hedman (4) and Alex Killorn (2) tabbed the assists on Cirelli’s goal at 1:57 of the second period.

Moments later, Ross Colton (1) won a battle in the attacking zone and sent a shot over Driedger’s glove with Yanni Gourde acting as a screen on the doorstep for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Coleman (1) had the only assist on Colton’s goal as the Bolts tied the game, 2-2, at 5:46 of the middle frame.

Tampa took control of the game (at least for the time being) with their third unanswered goal in a span of 6:41 as Steven Stamkos (2) sent a redirection from the low slot past Driedger after Ryan McDonagh snagged a turnover and entered the zone, setting up Stamkos with the primary assist on the goal– his third helper of the postseason.

Stamkos’ goal at 8:38 put the Bolts ahead, 3-2.

Tampa defender, Jan Rutta, presented Florida with the night’s first power play after interfering with Forsling away from the puck, but the Panthers couldn’t muster anything on the resulting skater advantage at 10:38.

Coleman and Bennett tangled up with one another and each received roughing minors at 11:17, but the number of skaters on the ice was unaffected.

Late in the Panthers’ power play, Alex Wennberg (1) sent a shot off of Hedman that squeaked past Vasilevskiy’s glove side to even things up, 3-3, at 12:34.

MacKenzie Weegar (1) and Tippett (3) tallied the assists on Wennberg’s goal, but the action didn’t remain tied for long.

Mason Marchment hooked Stamkos at 13:46 and presented the Lightning with their first power play of the night.

The Bolts capitalized on the resulting skater advantage as Brayden Point (3) let go of a one-timer off the iron and in from the bumper to make it.

Nikita Kucherov (3) and Hedman (5) had the assists on Point’s power-play goal and Tampa pulled ahead, 4-3, at 14:17 of the second period.

Almost two-and-a-half minutes later, Gudas hooked Ondrej Palat and presented the Lightning with another power play at 16:48.

Once again, late in the ensuing skater advantage the Bolts pocketed a power-play goal as Killorn (1) caught a pass from Hedman and slid the rubber biscuit underneath Driedger’s paddle to make it, 5-3, Tampa at 18:17.

After two periods of action in Tampa, the Lightning led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, despite the Panthers outshooting the Bolts, 29-22, including a, 17-12, advantage in the second period alone.

The Lightning held the lead in blocked shots (9-8), takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win% (58-42), while Florida led in hits (36-28).

Both teams had four giveaways each, while the Panthers were 1/1 and the Bolts were 2/2 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Panthers head coach, Joel Quenneville, replaced Driedger with Bobrovsky for the third period as Driedger allowed five goals on 22 shots.

Needless to say, while Bobrovsky stopped all nine shots that he would face in the remainder of the night’s action– Florida’s defense tightened up and suppressed the Lightning’s attack.

Palat boarded Marchment 41 seconds into the third period and the Panthers went on the power play early in the final frame of regulation as a result.

It didn’t take long for Huberdeau to get a shot towards the net that Patric Hornqvist (1) unintentionally redirected with his skate to bring Florida within one.

Huberdeau (5) and Aleksander Barkov (3) had the assists on Hornqvist’s power-play goal as the Panthers trailed, 5-4, at 1:45 of the third period.

Late in the period, Hedman turned the puck over to the point, whereby Hornqvist dished it to Wennberg, then Forsling (1) who threw it through Vailevskiy’s five-hole for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal– tying the game, 5-5, in the process.

Wennberg (1) and Hornqvist (1) notched the assists on Forsling’s goal at 16:53 of the third period.

Despite their surge in momentum, Florida had to kill off a minor infraction for cross checking when Anthony Duclair got tangled up with Killorn at 19:37.

Tampa’s power play would carry over into the extra frame, but ultimately was powerless as the Panthers killed it off.

Through 60 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, the Panthers and Lightning were tied, 5-5, on the scoreboard, despite Florida leading in shots on goal, 43-28, including a, 14-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Panthers led a complete shutdown of Tampa’s potent offense in the final 20-minutes and then some.

The Bolts still led in blocked shots (14-8), takeaways (7-5) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Florida held the advantage in hits (46-38).

Both teams managed four giveaways each heading into overtime.

As there were no penalties called in the extra period, Florida finished 2/2 and Tampa went 2/3 on the power play in Game 3.

Early in the extra frame, Florida won a faceoff in their own zone and worked the puck from Gudas to Frank Vatrano, then hit up Lomberg as he broke through Tampa’s defense and emerged with a quick breakaway as he was running out of runway.

Lomberg (1) shot the puck through Vasilevskiy– under the Tampa netminder’s glove– and into the back of the twine for his first career postseason goal and the game-winner in overtime.

Vatrano (1) and Gudas (1) earned the assists on Lomberg’s game-winner at 5:56 of the overtime period as the Panthers won, 6-5.

Florida cut Tampa’s series lead in half, 2-1, as a result as Lomberg– who scored two goals in 34 games with the Panthers in regular season– earned First Star honors for the night.

The Panthers finished Thursday night leading in shots on goal, 47-31, including a, 4-3, advantage in the overtime period alone.

Tampa finished the action leading in blocked shots (16-9), giveaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Florida wrapped things up with the lead in hits (46-40).

The Lightning have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on home ice in Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 12:30 p.m. ET and viewers looking for national coverage in the United States can tune to CNBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on SN or TVAS2.

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MacKinnon’s hat trick gives Avs 2-0 series lead

Nathan MacKinnon scored a hat trick as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues, 6-3, in Game 2 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round series on Wednesday, but that’s not the only big thing to have happened in the matchup.

Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, is likely to face supplemental discipline from the league’s Department of Player Safety for his high, blindside, hit on Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in the third period of Wednesday night’s action at Ball Arena.

Kadri has not been suspended since the 2019 First Round when he retaliated– then as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs– with a cross check to the face of Boston Bruins forward, Jake DeBrusk.

He has faced numerous fines and suspensions before prior to the DeBrusk incident– though in accordance with the league’s 18-month timeline for repeat offenders it’s more than likely that Kadri won’t be defined as one in whatever additional discipline he’s about to face.

Nevertheless, the hit was bad.

Whether Kadri will be back at all in this series or at all in the remainder of the 2021 postseason remains to be seen.

Philipp Grubauer (2-0, 2.00 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in two games played) made 32 saves on 35 shots against in the win for Colorado.

St. Louis goaltender, Jordan Binnington (0-2, 4.07 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in two games played), made 29 saves on 33 shots faced in the loss.

David Perron remained on the league’s COVID protocol list as the Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and a few other teams across the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball had an issue with COVID testing at a lab.

Though Perron was unaffected by the mass false positive tests produced, the Blues and Golden Knights were promptly retested and cleared to play.

Joonas Donskoi (1) kicked things off with a deflection goal 35 seconds into the first period as the Avs went up, 1-0, on the scoreboard thanks to his presence in front of the net while Ryan Graves got a shot off from the point.

Graves (1) and Kadri (1) had the assists on Donskoi’s first goal of the night and the Avalanche got off to a hot start– wasting little time to pull ahead of the Blues on home ice.

Late in the period, St. Louis’ Robert Thomas sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty and presenting Colorado with the night’s first chance on the power play at 17:35.

It took the Avalanche less than a minute to dominate on the skater advantage and capitalize on their first power play of the game as MacKinnon (3) cut to the middle of the point with heavy traffic in front of Binnington before firing a shot through the legs of a Blues defender, as well as MacKinnon’s own teammate, Gabriel Landeskog, and into the twine.

Cale Makar (1) and Donskoi (1) notched the assists on MacKinnon’s power-play goal and the Avs led, 2-0, at 18:05.

After one period of action, Colorado led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 19-6, in shots on goal.

The Avalanche also dominated in blocked shots (7-6), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-0) and faceoff win percentage (70-30), while St. Louis held the advantage in hits (13-8).

The Blues had yet to see time on the power play, while the Avs were already 1/1 heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Ivan Barbashev hooked MacKinnon and presented the Avalanche with a power play at 2:48 of the second period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing skater advantage, MacKinnon sent a shot from the point that Donskoi (2) deflected while acting as a screen in the slot with Landeskog.

MacKinnon (2) and Mikko Rantanen (3) picked up the assists on Donskoi’s power-play goal as the Avalanche extended their lead to, 3-0, at 3:14 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Sammy Blais (1) sent the puck off of Grubauer from about the goal line as the rubber biscuit had eyes and trickled through the Colorado netminder’s five-hole and into the net.

Kyle Clifford (1) and Torey Krug (1) recorded their first assists of the postseason on Blais’ goal as the Blues cut Colorado’s lead to two-goals, 3-1, at 16:17.

Though the Avs led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-20, in shots on goal after two periods, St. Louis held the advantage in second period shots alone, 14-9.

The Blue Notes also led in blocked shots (11-8) and hits (23-16) after 40 minutes, while the Avalanche maintained an advantage in takeaways (8-3), giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (68-33).

Colorado was 2/2 on the power play heading into the final period as the Blues had still yet to encounter a legal skater advantage in the action.

Then it happened.

Early in the third period, Kadri hit Faulk from a blindside angle, right to the head.

Faulk was visibly unwell and laying facedown on the ice– the CNBC broadcast briefly showed Faulk motionless on the ice, looking dazed and– even to the untrained eye– clearly unconscious as a scrum gathered along the side boards closest to the penalty benches.

Kadri was given a five-minute major for an illegal hit to the head, which was reviewed and confirmed. He was also given a match penalty at 6:30 of the third period.

St. Louis was already down a skater in Robert Bortuzzo– who had taken something up high earlier in the night– and was now short Faulk on the bench for the remainder of Wednesday’s action.

Late in the five-minute power play, Brayden Schenn (1) buried a rebound off of a rush that he generated with Tyler Bozak entering the zone– with Bozak firing the initial shot before Schenn collected the garbage.

Bozak (1) and Krug (2) had the assists on Schenn’s power-play goal as the Blues pulled to within one, 3-2, at 10:07 of the third period.

About five minutes later, however, Colorado answered.

MacKinnon (4) sent another shot from the point over Binnington’s blocker side with traffic in front of the net.

Devon Toews (1) and Landeskog (3) collected the assists as the Avalanche bumped their lead back to two-goals, 4-2, at 15:25.

But 15 seconds later, Mike Hoffman (1) had a quick breakout the other way and sent one of his patented quick-release shots off of Grubauer under his blocker side and into the top left corner of the goalframe.

Niko Mikkola (1) and Thomas (2) had the assists on Hoffman’s goal as the Blues pulled back to within one, 4-3, at 15:40.

St. Louis’ head coach, Craig Berube, pulled Binnington for an extra attacker with about 2:18 remaining in the game.

It didn’t take long for Colorado to score.

Brandon Saad (1) simply cleared the puck from behind the red line into the open 4×6 net as Tyson Jost (1) and Toews (2) picked up the assists to make it, 5-3, Colorado at 17:51.

Once more the Blue Notes pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker after getting possession deep into the attacking zone.

Though the Avalanche would also once again capitalize on the empty net– this time as MacKinnon (5) completed his hat trick with the assists going to Rantanen (4) and Landeskog (4) as the Avs pulled ahead, 6-3, at 19:48.

At the final horn, the Avalanche secured a 2-0 series lead with a commanding, 6-3, victory in Game 2 at Ball Arena in Denver.

Colorado finished the night leading in blocked shots (17-14), giveaways (11-5) and faceoff win% (64-36), while St. Louis exited the building leading in hits (26-19).

Both teams finished with 35 shots apiece, though the Blues led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 15-7.

St. Louis went 1/2 on the skater advantage while Colorado was a perfect 2/2 on the power play on Wednesday.

The Avs lead the series 2-0 as the venue shifts to Enterprise Center for Game 3 in St. Louis on Friday.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to national coverage on USA Network, while those in Canada can watch the action on SN360 or TVAS2.

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Aho and Nedeljkovic power Canes to, 3-0, shutout

Sebastian Aho scored a pair of goals as Alex Nedeljkovic made 32 saves in a, 3-0, shutout win for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their 2021 First Round series with the Nashville Predators at PNC Arena on Wednesday.

Nedeljkovic (2-0, 1.01 goals-against average, .964 save percentage in two games played) became the second rookie goaltender in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers franchise history to record a postseason shutout, joining Cam Ward in doing so.

Ward notched a pair of shutouts in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs en route to leading Carolina to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship.

Meanwhile, Predators goaltender, Juuse Saros (0-2, 3.08 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in two games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

The Hurricanes were without Jaccob Slavin on the blue line, so Jake Gardiner was dressed for Carolina.

Meanwhile, Predators head coach, John Hynes, had replaced Calle Jarnkrok (illness), Mathieu Olivier and Ben Harpur with Eeli Tolvanen, Brad Richardson and Matt Benning in the lineup on Wednesday.

Early in the action, former Carolina forward, Erik Haula, got tangled up with Martin Necas and received a minor infraction for roughing– yielding the game’s first power play to the Hurricanes at 2:02 of the first period.

The Canes were not successful on their first skater advantage of the game.

Moments later, Nashville defender, Mattias Ekholm, tripped Warren Foegele and presented Carolina with another power play at 7:17 of the opening frame.

The Hurricanes wouldn’t waste much time on the ensuing skater advantage before Aho (1) received a pass from Andrei Svechnikov through the high slot and one-timed the puck into the back of the twine.

Svechnikov (1) and Dougie Hamilton (1) had the assists on Aho’s power-play goal and Carolina took a, 1-0, lead at 8:03.

The Predators got their first skater advantage of the night at 8:47 when Vincent Trocheck roughed up Benning, but the Preds weren’t able to convert on the power play.

Nor did Nashville have any success on the skater advantage moments later when Hamilton was penalized for interference at 13:04.

No, the Preds also didn’t score on the power play at 15:59 when Aho roughed Haula and again the Predators were powerless on the advantage at 19:03 when Jordan Staal cut a rut to the sin bin for interference.

Heading into the first intermission, the Hurricanes led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting Nashville, 10-9.

Carolina also led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (5-3) and hits (20-18), while the Predators dominated the faceoff dot in faceoff win percentage (57-44).

Nashville was 0/4 and the Canes were 0/2 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Ryan Johansen got tangled up with Svechnikov as the two forwards exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 4:16 of the second period.

After two minutes of 4-on-4 action, the two teams resumed full strength with cooler heads (for a few minutes anyway).

Brett Pesce was penalized for holding at 8:34, but Nashville continued to struggle on the power play as Nedeljkovic stood tall in the crease for Carolina.

Viktor Arvidsson took a trip to the box at 9:38 for interference, but the Hurricanes couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Shortly thereafter, Benning and Jordan Martinook got into a heated exchange, yielding roughing minors at 12:03 of the second period and plunging the game into another pair of minutes at 4-on-4.

Late in the period, Nino Niederreiter hooked Richardson, but the Preds couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing power play at 16:37.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Hurricanes held onto their, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard despite Nashville pulling ahead in shots on goal, 24-20, including a, 15-10, advantage in the second period alone.

Carolina held the lead in blocked shots (10-6), giveaways (11-10) and hits (36-32), while the Predators had the advantage in takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win% (56-44).

Nashville was 0/6 on the power play, while the Canes were 1/3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Foegele sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game infraction almost midway through the third period at 9:24.

The Preds couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.

Late in the period, Hynes pulled Saros for an extra attacker, but Carolina worked to clear the puck out of their own zone.

Pesce dumped the puck deep– missing the empty net– but didn’t ice the puck as Aho (2) charged into the attacking zone, pounced on the loose puck and buried the rubber biscuit into the net to give Carolina a two-goal lead.

Pesce (3) had the only assist on Aho’s second goal of the night and the Hurricanes led, 2-0, at 19:07 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, Foegele (1) worked the puck behind the goal line and wrapped around the net, sending an errant puck off of Ryan Ellis’ skate and through Saros for a three-goal lead.

Jesper Fast (1) had the only assist on Foegele’s insurance goal as the Canes made it, 3-0, at 19:32.

At the final horn, Carolina had secured a 2-0 series lead with a, 3-0, win as Nedeljkovic recorded the shutout– his first career postseason shutout.

The Predators finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-31, despite Carolina leading in shots on goal in the third period alone, 11-8.

Nashville also wrapped up Wednesday night’s action with the lead in giveaways (19-16) and faceoff win% (53-48), while the Canes finished the night leading in blocked shots (17-10) and hits (52-39).

The Preds went 0/7 and the Canes went 1/3 on the power play in Game 2.

The Hurricanes lead the series 2-0 as the venue shifts to Bridgestone Arena for Game 3 in Nashville on Friday. Puck drop is expected a little after 7 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to national coverage on USA Network, while those in Canada can watch the action on FXX-Canada or TVAS2.

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Tuch ties series against former team in, 3-1, Vegas victory

Alex Tuch had a pair of goals– including the game-winner– as the Vegas Golden Knights tied their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup with the Minnesota Wild in a, 3-1, win at T-Mobile Arena in Game 2.

The series is now tied 1-1 as Marc-Andre Fleury (1-1, 0.98 goals-against average, .969 save percentage in two games played) made 34 saves on 35 shots faced in the win for Vegas on Tuesday.

Wild goaltender, Cam Talbot (1-1, 1.48 goals-against average, .957 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 25 out of 28 shots against in the loss.

Once more, the Golden Knights were without the services of Max Pacioretty on Tuesday.

No goals were scored in the opening frame, but there was one thing on the event sheet thanks to Alec Martinez’s hooking penalty at 4:13 of the first period.

Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing power play, however.

After 20 minutes of action, the score still read, 0-0, while the Wild led in shots on goal, 17-10.

The Golden Knights held the advantage in takeaways (4-2), giveaways (3-2), hits (20-14) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Minnesota led in blocked shots (6-5).

Only the Wild had seen any time on the skater advantage, though they were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Midway through the middle frame, Matt Dumba (1) opened the game’s scoring with a shot from the point that beat Fleury over the blocker while Marcus Foligno acted as a screen in front of the crease.

Jonas Brodin (1) and Jordan Greenway (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Dumba’s goal as the Wild jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 12:07 of the second period.

It wasn’t long before Vegas evened things up, however.

In fact, just 18 seconds after Dumba notched his fourth career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal, the Golden Knights shifted momentum their way as Reilly Smith fed Jonathan Marchessault while entering the zone.

Marchessault (1) snapped a shot over Talbot’s glove, off the post and into the back of the twine to tie the game, 1-1, at 12:25.

Smith (1) and William Karlsson (1) had the assists on Marchessault’s goal.

Less than a few minutes later, Ian Cole tripped William Carrier and presented the Golden Knights with their first power play of the night at 15:04 of the second period. Vegas did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Minnesota was caught in the vulnerable minute after special teams play, though, as Alex Pietrangelo kickstarted a rush, whereby Mattias Janmark found Tuch (1) for his first goal of the night– giving the Golden Knights their first lead thus far in the series.

Janmark (1) and Pietrangelo (1) had the assists as Vegas took the lead, 2-1, on Tuch’s first goal of the game at 17:19.

Heading into the second intermission, the Golden Knights led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 27-22, in shots on goal (Vegas had the advantage in second period shots on goal alone, though, 12-10).

The Wild led in blocked shots (21-10), while Vegas dominated in takeaways (8-4), giveaways (8-5), hits (44-32) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the final frame Tuesday night.

Dumba and Pietrangelo got tangled up almost midway through the third period and received roughing infractions at 7:50 of the final frame, yielding 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes.

With 1:53 left in the action, Wild head coach, Dean Evason, pulled Talbot for an extra attacker only to lose the 6-on-5 advantage shortly thereafter when Kirill Kaprizov got a stick underneath Marchessault and tripped up the Golden Knights forward at 18:30 of the third period.

It didn’t take Vegas long for Chandler Stephenson to to pinch along the boards, work the puck below the goal line, then send a pass to Tuch (2) in the low slot for a one-timer off of Talbot’s pad and through the short side.

Stephenson (1) and Mark Stone (1) tallied the assists on Tuch’s power-play goal and the Golden Knights led, 3-1, at 19:07.

Talbot vacated the crease once again with 52.3 seconds left but it was to no avail as the seconds ticked down until the final horn sounded and Vegas had officially sealed the deal on a, 3-1, win in Game 2– tying their best-of-seven series with Minnesota 1-1.

The Wild finished the night leading in shots on goal, 35-28, including an, 8-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Minnesota also held the advantage in blocked shots (26-20), while the Golden Knights dominated in just about every other category, including giveaways (11-7), hits (63-46) and faceoff win% (60-40).

Vegas finished 1/2 on the power play, while the Wild went 0/1 on the skater advantage on Tuesday.

The series is tied 1-1 heading into Minnesota for Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 9:30 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for national coverage, while those in Canada can catch the action on SN360 or TVAS2.

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Nick's Net

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.

In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.

P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”

Only kidding.

Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.

Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.

Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.

Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.

For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.

Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.

Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.

Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.

In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.

Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.

Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?

Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2

4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*

4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*

4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*

*If necessary

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)

The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.

Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.

There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.

Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.

Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.

Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.

Reilly Smith put up 53 points in a “down” season, but Alex Tuch (20-32–52 totals) had a breakout year, so everything evens out in the end.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.

For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.

The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.

But this time around feels different.

San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*

4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*

4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*

*If necessary

C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.

It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.

For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).

Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.

Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

Their offense was led by Ryan Johansen (14-50–64 totals in 80 GP) this season with Filip Forsberg chipping in 50 points and Viktor Arvidsson reaching the 30-goal plateau (he finished with 34).

Their goaltending… oh. Is this when Juuse Saros (17-10-2, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% in 31 GP) takes over for Pekka Rinne (30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV% in 56 GP) as the regular starter?

Oh. Again. Never mind.

While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.

In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.

Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.

This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?

Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.

On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.

Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.

But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.

Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.

As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.

Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.

Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.

It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2

4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*

4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*

4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*

*If necessary

C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.

This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.

Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.

Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.

On defense, Jacob Trouba picked up the slack with 8-42–50 totals from the blue line while Dustin Byfuglien was limited to 42 games and 31 points due to injury.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).

Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.

Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.

Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.

However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.

The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.

This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.

Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.

Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).

Don’t try to mess with what’s working.

Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.

Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.

For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.

Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3

4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2

4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*

4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*

4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*

*If necessary

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Nick's Net

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Eastern Conference

*cue Andy Williams*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have returned and all is right with the world (unless your team missed the postseason).

In the past, we here at Down the Frozen River have covered every game of every series.

This year, we’re mixing it up a bit– starting with this preview of every First Round series in the Eastern Conference, continuing with a followup preview of every First Round series in the Western Conference and as much analysis as possible on the DTFR Podcast in addition to the blog.

Ch-ch-ch-changes are inevitable and yours truly cannot cover all 16 teams in the postseason alone.

A1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-14-6, 128 points) vs EWC2 Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4, 98 points)

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the President’s Trophy (for the first time in franchise history) by mid-March and finished with the 4th most points in a season in NHL history, while star forward, Nikita Kucherov, amassed 128 points (the most by a Russian born player in a season) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4 record, 2.40 goals against average, .925 save percentage in 53 games played) turned in a Vezina Trophy worthy performance in the crease.

Oh yeah and Steven Stamkos had 45 goals.

The Bolts also tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in a regular season (62).

Backup goaltender, Louis Domingue (21-5-0, 2.88 GAA, .908 SV% in 26 GP) posted respectable numbers as well in the Lightning’s thunderous run through the season.

Tampa has home ice throughout the playoffs and kicks things off with a First Round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who punched their ticket to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a, 3-2, shootout victory over the New York Rangers last Friday– eliminating the Montreal Canadiens from postseason contention in the process.

Columbus was all over the Metropolitan Division this season, but went all-in at the trade deadline, adding Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid for the stretch run.

Duchene and Dzingel quickly fit in to their respective top-nine roles, while McQuaid struggled to find a suitor on the blue line at first in his return to the organization that originally drafted him 55th overall in the 2005 NHL Draft before he was traded to the Boston Bruins and broke into the league with the B’s in 2009-10.

Kinkaid was added solely for goaltending depth as pending-unrestricted free agent, Sergei Bobrovsky (37-24-1, 2.58 GAA, .913 SV% in 62 GP) led the league with nine shutouts on the season.

Blue Jackets backup goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo (10-7-3, 2.95 GAA, .897 SV% in 27 GP) hit some rough patches at times, but found a way to dig his team out from the backend when necessary.

In the grand scheme of things, the Bolts won the season series, 3-0-0, and outscored Columbus, 17-3, in that span.

While many consider Columbus as a Stanley Cup Playoffs pushover– given the franchise has never won a series– Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella always poses a tough challenge that can wear down his opponent.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, earns his own merit in his ability to keep his players cool, calm, collected and always in comeback mode, but it’s not unfathomable to see the Blue Jackets pestering Tampa about as much– if not more than– Columbus did to Washington in last season’s First Round matchup.

After all, the Blue Jackets did lead that series, 2-0.

That said, this is Tampa’s year for a Cup run or bust. The Lightning should win the series in six games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-1 TBL at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 18th, 4-0 TBL at Amalie Arena on Jan. 8th, 8-2 TBL at Amalie Arena on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on USA , SN360, TVAS

4/12- Game 2 CBJ @ TBL 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 TBL @ CBJ 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN360, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 CBJ @ TBL*

4/21- Game 6 TBL @ CBJ*

4/23- Game 7 CBJ @ TBL*

*If necessary

A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs A3 Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8, 100 points)

For the second season in a row, the Boston Bruins are hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite being without Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara at one point this season, the Bruins rallied from their 12th defenseman on up through the rest of the lineup to finish one win shy of consecutive 50-win seasons in Bruce Cassidy‘s third season (second full season) as head coach.

Speaking of Bergeron, however, the perfect two-way center finished the season with a career-high in points (79) and matched his career-high in goals (32) while battling injury early in the season. Bergeron’s 32-47–79 totals came in just 65 games. That’s only one more game played than last season for No. 37 in black-and-gold.

Meanwhile, his linemates, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each reached milestones of their own. Marchand reached the 100-point plateau this season and became the first Bruin to do so since Joe Thornton recorded 101 points in 2002-03.

The “Little Ball of Hate” also set a career-high in assists (64) and was not suspended in 79 games played this season (he was rested for the final two games in the regular season and missed one game due to injury).

Pastrnak set a career-high in goals (38) and points (81) despite missing time due to a left thumb injury and being limited to 66 games played.

The B’s were led in net this season by Tuukka Rask (27-13-5, 2.48 GAA, .912 SV% in 46 GP) and Jaroslav Halak (22-11-4, 2.34 GAA, .922 SV% in 40 GP) in a 1A/1B scenario. For the first time since the 1989-90 season, Boston had two goaltenders with 20-plus wins.

Back north in Toronto, the Maple Leafs added a formidable center in John Tavares in free agency and his presence was immediate, notching career-highs in goals (47 ) and points (88) in 82 games.

Auston Matthews (37-36–73 totals in 68 games) and Mitch Marner (26-68–94 totals in 82 games) continued to their thing as the $11.634 million man (starting next season) and the soon to be at least $10.000 million boy wonder man.

Maple Leafs General Manager, Kyle Dubas, added Jake Muzzin in January in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in effort to shore up his blue line, however, questions remain as to how head coach, Mike Babcock will limit time on ice for veterans, like Ron Hainsey, and mix in more opportunities for Morgan Rielly (20-52–72 totals in 82 games) in his breakout season.

Boston won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring Toronto, 16-10, in that span.

Some experts are picking the Bruins in five games. They also said similar things in 2013 and 2018. This series is going six games (at least), with Boston overcoming the Maple Leafs defense in Game 7, once again.

To their credit, Toronto always makes things interesting in what’s likely to be the most unpredictable First Round matchup.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 BOS at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 12th, 6-3 BOS at TD Garden on Dec. 8th, 4-2 TOR at Scotiabank Arena on Nov. 26th, 5-1 BOS at TD Garden on Nov. 10th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 TOR @ BOS 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 TOR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 BOS @ TOR 7 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 TOR @ BOS*

4/21- Game 6 BOS @ TOR*

4/23- Game 7 TOR @ BOS*

*If necessary

M1 Washington Capitals (48-26-8, 104 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)

Just as everyone expected, the Washington Capitals led the Metropolitan Division with 104 points after Barry Trotz left for the head coaching job on Long Island. Did I mention the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions?

Anyway, Alex Ovechkin scored 51 goals and collected his 8th career Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as a result– though Edmonton Oilers forward, Leon Draisaitl, was hot on his tail with 50 goals this season.

After the New York Islanders led the Metropolitan Division for what seemed like forever, it’s important to note the Metro was actually anybody’s game from puck drop in October. Here’s the thing, the Carolina Hurricanes were near the top of the division– they’ve been surging all season.

Speaking of surging, Carolina introduced their “Storm Surge” post-win celebration and the Caniacs loved it.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the club in Raleigh, Brett Pesce is good. Also, Sebastian Aho (30-53–83 totals in 82 GP), Andrei Svechnikov (20-17–37 totals in 82 GP) and Teuvo Teravainen (21-55–76 totals in 82 games)– they’re pretty good too.

Washington was led by Braden Holtby (32-19-5, 2.82 GAA, .911 SV% in 59 GP) between the pipes this season and is comforted to know Pheonix Copley (16-7-3, 2.90 GAA, .905 SV% in 27 GP) is quite capable of playing this season’s role of Philipp Grubauer (since traded to the Colorado Avalanche after last season’s Cup celebrations).

The Canes were led by a duo of goaltenders who were once thought of as an after thought in Curtis McElhinney (20-11-2, 2.58 GAA, .912 SV% in 33 GP) and Petr Mrazek (23-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 SV% in 40 GP).

Though his record might not show it, Mrazek has been hitting his stride for the last month and is locked in. Ride that wave until it crests.

The Hurricanes had a league-leading ten skaters play in all 82 games. There’s no such thing as playing too much hockey– especially when it’s the first postseason appearance since 2009.

Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets gave the Caps some interruptions coming out of the gate.

Despite Washington having swept the season series, 4-0-0, the Hurricanes kept things close in their most recent matchup with a, 3-2, loss at PNC Arena on March 28th.

Carolina almost pulled off the victory in a shootout on Dec. 14th, but lost, 6-5, on home ice to the Capitals.

Washington is beatable. Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour knows that, his team just hasn’t done it yet. Caps head coach, Todd Reirden, is also making his postseason debut at the reigns behind the bench for his respective team.

Though they won the Cup last season– that was then. This is now.

This series is going seven games and the Hurricanes will make sure there’s no repeat Cup winner this year.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 WSH at PNC Arena on March 28th, 4-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on March 26th, 3-1 WSH at Capital One Arena on Dec. 27th, 6-5 F/SO WSH at PNC Arena on Dec. 14th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 CAR @ WSH 7:30 PM ET on USA, SN360, TVAS2

4/13- Game 2 CAR @ WSH 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/18- Game 4 WSH @ CAR 7 PM ET on TBD, SN360, TVAS

4/20- Game 5 CAR @ WSH*

4/22- Game 6 WSH @ CAR*

4/24- Game 7 CAR @ WSH*

*If necessary

M2 New York Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins (44-26-12, 100 points)

Barry Trotz figured out how to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Trotz is the key. Trotz knows the secret stuff to beat Mike Sullivan and his Penguins.

That’s why the William M. Jennings Trophy winning duo of Robin Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .930 SV% in 46 GP) and Thomas Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% in 43 GP) will backstop the New York Islanders past Pittsburgh in their First Round matchup in six games.

Am I getting ahead of myself? Probably.

New York split the season series with the Pens, 2-1-1, with their most recent result against Pittsburgh coming in a, 2-1, shootout loss on Dec. 10th at NYCB Live (that’s the Nassau Coliseum, if you haven’t already heard. The Isles will host their First Round games there).

Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello put together a team without John Tavares. Trotz figured out how to get the most out of his players– guys like Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Casey Cizikas and even Andrew Ladd (until Ladd got injured)– while playing the trap.

That same trap won the Cup last season.

This season, Trotz has Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee as his main attractions instead of names like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Long Island residents have long memories– the Penguins are one of their greatest rivals– and the added energy of Tavares’ departure has only fueled more passion all season long.

Can New York flip the switch from their late season bumps in the road?

Obviously, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby. They also have Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are ready to go for another deep postseason run after watching their biggest rival not only beat them in the Second Round last year, but go on to take the Cup out of the hands of the Penguins’ recent streak of dominance in 2016 and 2017.

Patric Hornqvist is also another silent killer option for Sullivan when his team needs a clutch goal– and that’s on top of Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel throughout the rest of the lineup.

The Penguins were led in the crease by Matt Murray (29-14-6, 2.69 GAA, .919 SV% in 50 GP) this season with some helpful bailout backup goaltending from Casey DeSmith (15-11-5, 2.75 GAA, .916 SV% in 36 GP). If Murray shows any signs of wavering, Sullivan shouldn’t have a hard time going to DeSmith to push his team over the edge.

How will Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann play into the fold as Jim Rutherford‘s biggest prize acquisitions this season? Who might be the breakout star for Pittsburgh that outshines Crosby in the Conn Smythe Trophy vote?

Aren’t these questions supposed to be answered in an editorial preview? Sure.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/SO PIT at NYCB Live on Dec. 10th, 6-2 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 6th, 3-2 F/SO NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 1st, 6-3 NYI at PPG Paints Arena on Oct. 30th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 PIT @ NYI 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 NYI @ PIT 12 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 NYI @ PIT 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 PIT @ NYI*

4/20- Game 6 NYI @ PIT*

4/22- Game 7 PIT @ NYI*