Tag Archives: Tyler Bozak

What a trip, Blues win, 2-1, can win Cup in Game 6

The St. Louis Blues are one win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup after a controversial non-call tipped the scales in their, 2-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Thursday night.

Jordan Binnington (15-9 record, 2.46 goals against average, .913 save percentage in 22 games played this postseason) stopped 38 out of 39 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-8, 1.97 GAA, .937 SV% in 22 GP this postseason), made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.

Binnington has now tied the NHL rookie record for most wins in a playoff year with his 15th victory this postseason, joining Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Patrick Roy and Matt Murray as the only rookie goaltenders to amass 15 wins in a playoff year.

St. Louis is one road win away from tying the NHL record for most road wins in a single postseason (10, set by the 1995 New Jersey Devils, 2000 Devils, 2004 Calgary Flames, 2012 Los Angeles Kings and 2018 Washington Capitals– all but the Flames won the Cup that year).

The Blues, of course, lead the series 3-2 and will have a chance to win the Cup for the first time in franchise history on home ice at Enterprise Center in Game 6.

The winner of Game 5 has won the Cup about 72% of the time with an 18-7 series record overall since the introduction of the best-of-seven game series format in 1939.

Bruce Cassidy scratched David Backes and went with seven defenders in Game 5, inserting Steven Kampfer on the blue line with Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Connor Clifton.

Chara was on the bench for the entire third period of Game 4 after reportedly sustaining a broken jaw due to an errant puck that deflected off his own stick. He was a game-time decision, but took part in warmups and started Game 5 without any interruption.

With Backes out of the lineup, Boston’s second line right wing was rotated among the remainder of forwards in the action.

As with the last few games, Chris Wagner (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) and Kevan Miller (lower body) were out due to injury.

Grzelcyk was not cleared from concussion protocol for Game 5, but may be a factor on Boston’s defense in Game 6.

Cassidy’s long list of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Backes, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Robert Bortuzzo was inserted into Craig Berube’s lineup for St. Louis, while Joel Edmundson was scratched on the blue line.

Derek Sanderson and Bobby Orr were Boston’s “Fan Banner Captains” prior to Game 5.

A rowdy crowd at TD Garden erupted in cheers for their Bruins captain as Chara was announced as a starter in Game 5, then the fans kept the noise going as the action progressed.

Blues defender, Vince Dunn, sent the puck out of the playing surface while trying to make a clearing attempt and was instead charged with a minor penalty for delay of game at 6:27 of the first period.

Boston did not convert on the first power play of the game.

Late in the opening frame, Brad Marchand went for a loose puck and got a stick on Binnington while the ref blew a quick whistle. Marchand was also penalized for slashing at 17:22 of the first period and St. Louis went on the power play for the first time of the night.

The Blues did not capitalize on their initial skater advantage on Thursday.

For the first time in the series, the two teams remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission.

The B’s outshot the Blues, 17-8, after one period of play and led in takeaways (5-1) and hits (23-18). Meanwhile, St. Louis held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6), giveaways (3-0) and face-off win percentage (75-25) through 20 minutes played.

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play as the second period got underway.

In the opening minute of the middle frame, St. Louis does what St. Louis has done best in the series– force the Bruins out of position and behind the play.

While both defenders were pressing along the wall, Jake DeBrusk was the closest forward to the low slot and perhaps should’ve been in front of Ryan O’Reilly (6) as O’Reilly received a pass from Zach Sanford and fired a backhand shot over Rask’s glove from point blank.

Sanford (3) and Alex Pietrangelo (14) notched the assists on O’Reilly’s third goal in the last two games and the Blues led, 1-0, 55 seconds into the second period on road ice.

Blues pinch, B’s can’t clear. Rinse, repeat.

Midway through the second period, David Perron was assessed a minor infraction for interference against David Pastrnak at 9:25.

Boston didn’t convert on their second power play of the night.

Through 40 minutes of play, after David Krejci made a save in the final seconds while the Bruins scrambled in their own zone, St. Louis held the, 1-0, lead entering the second intermission.

Boston was still outshooting the Blues, 25-14, and had an, 8-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone. The B’s also led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (7-6) and hits (35-29) after two periods, while the Notes led in giveaways (6-3) and face-off win% (62-39).

The Blues were 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period.

Alexander Steen kicked things off in the final frame of regulation with an interference penalty at 3:09 of the third period.

For the third time of the night, Boston failed to convert on the power play.

Cassidy started to experiment with his lines, placing Charlie Coyle on the first line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and downgrading Pastrnak full-time to the second line right wing with Krejci and Marcus Johansson (in place of DeBrusk).

With 13 minutes left on the clock, after Binnington froze the puck, the officials gathered and summoned an official review to confirm that the puck had, in fact, not crossed the goal line completely on a last ditch effort by Krejci.

Midway through the third period, Tyler Bozak tripped Noel Acciari, but neither ref on the ice made a call– even as the ref behind the net was looking right at the play– leaving many scratching their heads as the Blues kept possession and managed to slip a puck through Rask’s five-hole as the Bruins goaltender was left playing defense for his defenders that had blown coverage.

The non-call left Cassidy irate in his postgame press conference and Berube had the gall to say he’s “not here to judge the officials” in his podium address following Game 5– after complaining about calls made earlier in the series.

But enough about everything you already know if you’ve been watching the entire 2019 postseason.

Perron (7) was credited with the goal that made it, 2-0, St. Louis at 10:36 of the third period, while O’Reilly (14) and Bozak (8) picked up the assists.

Moments later, DeBrusk (4) blasted a shot over Binnington’s blocker side on a delayed call against the Blues for high-sticking and Boston cut St. Louis’ lead in half, 2-1.

Krug (15) had the only assist on DeBrusk’s first goal of the series at 13:32 of the third period.

Despite the being caught in the face with a high-stick, Krug was not bleeding and thus both teams remained even-strength as deemed by the rulebook when a team scores on a delayed call against the other team.

Since there was no double-minor and DeBrusk scored, there was no need to send a St. Louis skater to the penalty box. The action, therefore, resumed.

With about a minute remaining in the game, Rask vacated the crease for an extra attacker as Boston looked to tie the game and force overtime, but it was too little, too late as the seconds ticked off the clock.

At the final horn, the Blues took home the, 2-1, win on the road and took charge of the 3-2 series lead with a chance to win their first Cup in franchise history in front of their home crowd on Sunday.

St. Louis finished the night leading on the scoreboard despite trailing the B’s in shots on goal, 39-21, after 60 minutes of play in Game 5.

Boston finished the night leading in hits (43-34), while the Notes held the advantage in giveaways (7-4) and face-off win% (59-41). Both teams had 15 blocked shots aside.

The Blues went 0/1 on the skater advantage and the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play in Game 5.

With the 3-2 series lead, St. Louis heads home with the chance to officially eliminate Boston from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and win the Cup in front of a packed crowd donning the Blue Note crest on Sunday.

St. Louis improved to 9-3 on the road this postseason, while Boston fell to 5-2 in games after a loss this postseason. The Bruins are now 7-5 at home and are facing elimination for the first time since Game 6 in the First Round in Toronto.

The winner of the last three games in the series also scored the game’s first goal.

Game 6 is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET Sunday night at Enterprise Center and fans in the United States can tune in on NBC. Viewers in Canada have a plethora of options to choose from to watch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

If Boston is able to hold off elimination and force a Game 7, the finale of the Final would be next Wednesday night back at TD Garden.

The Blues have never won the Cup on home ice, while the Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis at the old Boston Garden in 1970.

Krug, Bruins, rout Blues, 7-2, in Game 3

Torey Krug had a four-point night (goal, three assists)– setting a franchise record for most points in a Stanley Cup Final game– and Patrice Bergeron had a three-point night (goal, two assists) as the Boston Bruins stomped the St. Louis Blues, 7-2, in Game 3 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.

Boston improved to 7-2 on the road this postseason and established a franchise record for most wins on the road in a playoff year.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (14-6 record, 1.91 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played this postseason) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced (.931 SV%) in the win at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Blues starting goaltender, Jordan Binnington (13-9, 2.54 GAA, .909 SV% in 22 games played this postseason) turned aside 14 shots out of 19 shots against (.737 SV%) before being replaced by Jake Allen after 32:12 TOI.

Allen (0-0, 2.50 GAA, .750 SV% in one game played this postseason) made three saves on four shots against for no decision in relief for the first time this postseason for St. Louis.

The Bruins lead the series 2-1 for the fourth time in franchise history in the Final, winning two of their previous three such instances.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, replaced Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) with John Moore on the left side of the third defensive pairing, while keeping the rest of his lineup intact from Games 1 and 2.

Grzelcyk is day-to-day and joins Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) as the only Boston skaters out of the lineup due to injury.

The B’s long list of healthy scratches for Game 3 included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Craig Berube inserted Zach Sanford into his lineup in place of Oskar Sundqvist– who served a one-game suspension in Game 3 for his hit on Grzelcyk in Game 2.

Jake DeBrusk was first to put his name on the even sheet for kneeing Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, at 1:02 of the first period. St. Louis did not convert on the ensuing power play, despite mustering four shots on goal during the skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, David Perron was penalized for interference at 10:26 of the first period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on their first power play of the night as Krug fired a pass from the point that Bergeron (9) redirected over Binnington’s glove and into the twine for his 7th power play goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Krug (12) and DeBrusk (6) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 10:47 of the first period.

The goal was also Bergeron’s 100th career playoff point (all with Boston)– joining current teammate, David Krejci, as the only other Bruin to do so this postseason.

Bergeron’s 100th career postseason point also tied him for 4th in franchise history with John Bucyk and Rick Middleton. He added a pair of assists thereafter to move into a tie with Phil Esposito for 2nd place in franchise history in Stanley Cup Playoff points (102).

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play, Ivan Barbashev and Connor Clifton exchanged pleasantries, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction for Barbashev and a roughing minor for Clifton at 14:22.

Both teams skated at even-strength, 4-on-4, for two minutes before resuming 5-on-5 action.

Charlie Coyle resurrected the puck from his own zone and started a breakout the other way for Boston, leading Danton Heinen with a pass into the attacking zone.

Heinen dropped the puck back to Marcus Johansson, who flipped it over to Coyle (8) who settled the puck and sent a shot past Binnington’s glove side for the two-goal lead.

Johansson (7) and Heinen (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 17:40 of the first period.

A couple minutes later, Joakim Nordstrom tied up a St. Louis skater from clearing the zone enough for Sean Kuraly (4) to swoop in, pick up the puck and fire one by the blocker side of the Blues goaltender.

Nordstrom (4) had the only assist on Kuraly’s goal at 19:50 and Boston led, 3-0.

Berube used his coach’s challenge, asking for an official review of the goal for a potential offside, but the video review determined that Joel Edmundson was the last to touch the puck as it re-entered Boston’s offensive zone– thereby lending the play onside leading up to Kuraly’s goal.

As a result of the failed coach’s challenge, St. Louis was charged with a bench minor for delay of game.

Perron served the Blues’ bench infraction at 19:50 and the power play would carry over into the second period for Boston.

After one period of action, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-8, in shots on goal– including three goals on their last four shots to finish the first period.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (4-2), hits (16-14) and face-off win percentage (60-40) through 20 minutes of play, while the Blues led in takeaways (5-3) and giveaways (4-0).

St. Louis was 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/2 on the power play heading into the second period.

While still on the power play from the end of the first period, the Bruins worked the puck deep into the low slot whereby David Pastrnak (8) dragged the rubber biscuit to his backhand and elevated the puck over Binnington’s leg pad for Boston’s second power play goal of the night.

Krug (13) and Bergeron (6) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 4-0, 41 seconds into the second period.

Pastrnak’s goal marked four goals on their last six shots for Boston.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Charlie McAvoy slashed Brayden Schenn and Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon received matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 7:37 of the second period.

As a result, the Blue Notes were on the regular 5-on-4 power play and were not able to score on the skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Sanford found Barbashev (3) as Barbashev crashed the low slot, point blank, for a one-timer off of McAvoy’s skate and into the twine to put St. Louis on the scoreboard.

Sanford (1) and Alexander Steen (3) notched the assists on the goal and the Blues cut the lead to, 4-1, at 11:05. With the primary assist on Barbashev’s goal, Sanford recorded his first career Stanley Cup Final point in his first career Stanley Cup Final game.

Less than a minute later, Colton Parayko caught Brad Marchand with a high-stick at 11:41 and took a trip to the sin bin, giving the Bruins their third power play opportunity Saturday night.

It didn’t take long for Krug (2) to riffle a shot off of Jay Bouwmeester’s skate and behind Binnington’s glove to give Boston another power play goal and the four-goal lead once again.

Marchand (12) and Bergeron (7) had the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 12:12 and the B’s led, 5-1.

As a result, Berube pulled Binnington for the first time this postseason (as well as the first time in his NHL career) and replaced the St. Louis starter with Allen.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 5-1, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal– despite trailing the Blues, 10-8, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The B’s led in blocked shots (11-5) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while St. Louis led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (5-4) and hits (27-25).

The Blues were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period, while the Bruins were 3/3.

Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, Perron piled up another couple of penalty minutes for roughing Rask 54 seconds into the third period.

Not to be outdone, however, in the ensuing scrum after the whistle, Clifton picked up a minor infraction for cross-checking, resulting in 4-on-4 action that was shortlived Brandon Carlo cut a rut to the penalty box for interference at 1:31 of the third period.

As a result, St. Louis had an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play for about 1:23, then a short, 5-on-4, regular power play.

The Blues did not convert on either skater advantage, but had another chance on the advantage moments later when Chara roughed Carl Gunnarsson at 5:18 of the third period.

Six seconds into the ensuing power play, Parayko (2) blasted a shot that deflected off Carlo and over Rask’s shoulder into the twine to give St. Louis their first power play goal of the series and cut the lead to three goals.

Ryan O’Reilly (13) and Tyler Bozak (7) had the assists on Parayko’s goal at 5:24, and the Blues trailed, 5-2.

Almost a minute later, DeBrusk sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 6:04.

This time, St. Louis had nothing going on while on the power play.

With 5:31 remaining in regulation, Berube pulled Allen for an extra attacker, then pulled him again with about 4:00 to go after a defensive zone face-off.

As the clock ticked under two minutes left in the game, Noel Acciari (2) received a pass through the neutral zone from Nordstrom and buried the puck into the empty net to give the B’s the four-goal lead once again.

Nordstrom (5) and Coyle (7) tallied the assists on Acciari’s empty net goal and the Bruins led, 6-2, at 18:12 of the third period.

While scoring the empty net goal, Acciari was slashed by Pietrangelo, yielding the fourth power play of the night for Boston.

Johansson (4) scored on a one-timer off a give-and-go along the point to Krug and back– beating Allen on the short side– to extend the lead to five goals, 7-2, for the Bruins.

Krug (14) and Clifton (3) had the assists on Johansson’s power play goal at 18:35 as the B’s notched seven goals on their last 15 shots on goal in Game 3.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-2, and taken the 2-1 series lead on road ice, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-24.

St. Louis also led in giveaways (7-4) and hits (35-29), while the B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (19-7) and face-off win% (56-44).

The Blues finished Saturday night 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Meanwhile, the Bruins went 4/4 on the power play in Game 3 and have scored a power play goal in seven straight games (tying a franchise record– 10 power play goals in seven games this postseason, eight PPGs in seven games in 1999, 11 PPGs in seven games in 1988 and 12 PPGs in seven games in 1958).

Though he blocked a shot late in the third period and went down the tunnel, McAvoy is fine, according to Cassidy.

The four power play goals for Boston in Game 3 were the most in a Stanley Cup Final game since the Colorado Avalanche scored four power play goals in Game 2 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final in Denver against the Florida Panthers.

The team that scored first lost in Game 1 and 2. That wasn’t the case in Game 3 as the Bruins improved to 12-0 when leading after two periods this postseason.

Puck drop for Game 4 at Enterprise Center on Monday is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC and those in Canada have an array of options to choose from, including CBC, SN and TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final Preview

If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.

Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.

The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.

Anybody see that coming? No?

But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.

Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.

The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.

As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.

St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.

They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.

Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.

Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.

Sound familiar?

That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.

This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.

Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?

There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.

San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.

But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.

Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.

General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.

Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.

DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.

San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.

Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).

Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.

St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.

Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.

Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.

Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.

Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.

Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.

Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.

The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.


The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.

Though Donskoi hasn’t scored as much, the Sharks have a deeper team than in 2016 and are a younger bunch– what with the lack of Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on their roster– this time around.

St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.

That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.

This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.

Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th

Schedule:

5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS

5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*

5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS

*If necessary

DTFR Podcast #149- SnapFace with Zach Boychuk

We’re less than a month away from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so let’s take a gander at how things should shape up for the Central Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning clinched the first postseason berth this season, Quinn Hughes signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, Shane Wright was granted exceptional status and the DTFR Duo presented the first few individual season awards.

*Zach Boychuk wasn’t actually on… …this time around, anyway.*

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show onPatreon.

Boston’s singing the Blues, lose 2-1 in shootout to St. Louis

Two red-hot teams collided at Enterprise Center on Saturday afternoon, whereby the home team, St. Louis Blues topped the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in a shootout. The Blues have won 12 out of their last 13 games and the Bruins’ seven-game winning streak was snapped.

Jordan Binnington (14-2-1 record, 1.70 goals against average, .934 save percentage in 19 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the shootout victory for St. Louis, while Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (20-8-5, 2.40 GAA, .920 SV% in 34 GP) turned aside 28 out of 29 shots faced (.966 SV%) in the loss.

Binnington is the sixth goaltender in NHL history to earn wins in each of his first six-plus career regular season home starts (joining Martin Jones, 6-0-0 with the Los Angeles Kings from Dec. 3-21, 2013, Bob Froese, 6-0-0 with the Philadelphia Flyers from Jan. 8-27, 1983, Wayne Thomas, 7-0-0 with the Montreal Canadiens from Jan. 14-27, 1973, Ken Dryden, 8-0-0 with the Canadiens from March 14-April 3, 1971 and Frank McCool, 8-0-0 with the Toronto Maple Leafs from Oct. 28-Nov. 11, 1944).

Boston’s seven-game winning streak was their longest stretch of consecutive victories since 2013-14 (12-0-0). The Bruins are now 9-0-2 in the month of February and finished their five-game Western Conference road trip, 4-0-1, earning nine out of a possible ten points in the standings.

The B’s fell to 36-17-9 (81 points) on the season, but remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Blues improved to 33-23-5 (71 points) this year and remain 3rd in the Central Division.

Charlie Coyle made his debut for the Bruins since being acquired on Wednesday from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 2019 5th round pick and Ryan Donato.

Coyle centered the third line as Bruce Cassidy inserted Peter Cehlarik to the left of Coyle and David Backes on his right. Cehlarik returned to the lineup for the first time after missing the last two games with a lower body injury and was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday.

Trent Frederic was reassigned to Providence in Cehlarik’s place after Cehlarik was originally sent down on Wednesday to accommodate the acquisition of Coyle’s cap hit.

Cassidy left the rest of his lines the same, as Joakim Nordstrom joined John Moore and Steven Kampfer as the B’s healthy scratches. David Pastrnak (left thumb) remains out of the lineup, but is progressing well, according to Cassidy.

Almost midway through the first period, Alex Steen (7) capitalized on a give-and-go off a Bruins turnover and fired a shot past Rask to give St. Louis the lead, 1-0.

Oskar Sundqvist (12) had the only assist on Steen’s goal at 7:15 of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Colton Parayko slashed Jake DeBrusk and sent Boston onto their first power play of the afternoon at 18:16. The B’s skater advantage was cut short after Torey Krug tripped up Ivan Barbashev at 19:29.

An abbreviated 4-on-4 scenario unfolded heading into the second period, whereby a short power play would commence for the Blues thereafter.

Through one period of play, St. Louis led Boston, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-8, in shots on goal. The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (10-9), while the Blues led in takeaways (7-1), giveaways (2-0) and face-off win percentage (58-42).

Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission and St. Louis had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, after killing off Krug’s minor, the Bruins caught the Blues behind the play as Krug dished a pass up-ice to Kevan Miller through the neutral zone.

Miller found Chris Wagner (9) bolting down the right side in open ice and connected with the B’s winger on a tape-to-tape pass. Wagner promptly fired a shot past Binnington’s short side to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:12 of the second period.

Miller (6) and Krug (37) notched the assists on Wagner’s third goal in his last seven shots.

Moments later, Coyle was penalized for hooking St. Louis’ top star, Vladimir Tarasenko, at 7:28 of the second period. Boston killed off the penalty with ease as the Blues failed to convert on the skater advantage.

Late in the second frame, Brad Marchand took a trip to the penalty box for holding Ryan O’Reilly and St. Louis went back on the power play at 15:32.

The Blues did not convert on their third power play of the evening, but still fired four shots on goal.

After 40 minutes of play, the score remained tied, 1-1, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal (19-16) and blocked shots (15-4). St. Louis held onto the lead in takeaways (12-4), giveaways (6-0), hits (16-14) and face-off win% (63-38).

Boston was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Blues were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second intermission.

Though the game was still tied in the third period, only one event was noted on the scoresheet– a penalty against Boston at 11:57. Brandon Carlo received a two-minute minor for tripping Sammy Blais– the eventual shootout game-winning goal scorer.

Through regulation, the Bruins led in shots on goal (30-23) and blocked shots (22-6), while the Blues led in takeaways (14-6), giveaways (10-1), hits (29-17) and face-off win% (54-46).

St. Louis finished the game 0/4 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage. No penalties were called in the overtime period.

Speaking of overtime, Cassidy started Sean Kuraly, Coyle and Charlie McAvoy, while Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube, sent out Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Parayko to kick off the five-minute, 3-on-3, action.

Cassidy soon was quickly rotating two defenders and one forward as the Bruins were trapped in their own zone, playing for a shootout. Rask made six saves in overtime, including a few heartbeat elevating stops on Tarasenko and gifted scorers for St. Louis.

After overtime wasn’t enough to settle a, 1-1, game, things would be decided with a shootout.

But first, a quick– final– review… Boston led in shots on goal (32-29) after 65 minutes of play and in blocked shots (23-6), while St. Louis led in giveaways (10-1), hits (30-17) and face-off win% (54-46).

In the first round of the shootout, Bozak scored high, blocker side, on Rask after flying in with speed, then slowing himself down to snipe his shot.

DeBrusk, on the other hand, was stopped by Binnington– in fitting fashion, after his five-game goal scoring streak was snapped once time expired in overtime.

Tarasenko’s backhand shot went wide in the second round of the shootout, while Marchand straight-up missed the net with his own backhand.

O’Reilly was stopped with the first shot of the third round, but Coyle scored after deking Binnington out of position and sliding the puck just past his outstretched leg pad to force the shootout into extra, sudden death, rounds.

Steen, David Backes, Robert Thomas and Patrice Bergeron were all stopped by their opposing goaltender, while Blais roofed the puck into the twine in the sixth round after Rask sprawled to make a poke-check in desperation.

With the game on his stick, Danton Heinen, had to score. Instead, he rushed his shot entering the zone and firing wide of the net to drop to 0-for-5 in his shootout career.

St. Louis had won the shootout, 2-1, after six rounds and took home the extra point, as well as the final score, 2-1.

For the fifth time in the last eight games for Boston, bonus hockey had been required. The Bruins fell to 2-3 in shootouts this season, while the Blues improved to 1-1.

Boston fell to 12-2-4 when tied after two periods this season, but earned nine out of a possible ten points on their five-game road trip (4-0-1) as St. Louis has now won 12 out of their last 13 games.
The Bruins return home with a 4-0-1 record on their five-game road trip and take on the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday to wrap up their schedule in the month of February.

Game of the week: October 15-21

It’s time for another DtFR Game of the Week!

First and foremost, let’s take a look at all the games I neglected earlier this week:

NHL SCHEDULE: OCTOBER 15-21
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, October 15
7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Toronto 1-4
7:30 p.m. Detroit Montréal 3-7
7:30 p.m. Dallas Ottawa 1-4
8 p.m. Minnesota Nashville 2-4
Tuesday, October 16
7 p.m. Dallas New Jersey 0-3
7 p.m. Colorado New York Rangers 2-3 (SO)
7 p.m. Florida Philadelphia 5-6 (SO)
7 p.m. Vancouver Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Carolina Tampa Bay 2-4
8 p.m. Arizona Minnesota 1-2
8 p.m. Edmonton Winnipeg 5-4 (OT)
10 p.m. Buffalo Vegas 1-4
Wednesday, October 17
7 p.m. St. Louis Montréal 2-3
7 p.m. New York Rangers Washington 3-4 (OT)
9:30 p.m. Boston Calgary 2-5
10 p.m. New York Islanders Anaheim 1-4
Thursday, October 18
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Toronto 3-0
7 p.m. Colorado New Jersey 5-3
7 p.m. Philadelphia Columbus 3-6
7:30 p.m. Detroit Tampa Bay 1-3
8 p.m. Vancouver Winnipeg 1-4
8:30 p.m. Arizona Chicago 4-1
9 p.m. Boston Edmonton 2-3 (OT)
10:30 p.m. New York Islanders Los Angeles 7-2
10:30 p.m. Buffalo San Jose 1-5
Friday, October 19
7 p.m. Florida Washington 6-5 (SO)
8 p.m. Minnesota Dallas 3-1
9 p.m. Nashville Calgary 5-3
saturday, October 20
1 p.m. New Jersey Philadelphia 2-5
1 p.m. Colorado Carolina 3-1
3:30 p.m. Buffalo Los Angeles 5-1
4 p.m. Arizona Winnipeg 3-5
7 p.m. St. Louis Toronto 4-1
7 p.m. Montréal Ottawa 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Detroit Florida 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Chicago Columbus 4-1
8 p.m. Tampa Bay Minnesota 4-5 (OT)
10 p.m. Boston Vancouver 1-2 (OT)
10 p.m. Anaheim Vegas 1-3
10 p.m. Nashville Edmonton 3-0
10:30 p.m. New York Islanders San Jose 1-4
SunDay, October 21
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Chicago NHLN, TVAS
7 p.m. Calgary New York Rangers SN1
8 p.m. Buffalo Anaheim

This schedule was a little bit fuller than last week’s offerings, as there’s a solid 44 games I had to choose from as compared to last week’s 42.

While there were certainly some worthy candidates in terms of rivalries (Detroit at Montréal, Edmonton at Winnipeg, New York at Washington, New Jersey at Philadelphia and Montréal at Ottawa all took place this week) and player returns (D Marc Methot made his first trip back to Ottawa since being selected during the Vegas expansion draft and later traded to the Stars, four former Blackhawks – five if you include RW Marian Hossa – returned to the Madhouse on Madison as members of the Coyotes and C Tyler Bozak wore white in Toronto for the first time in his career playing for St. Louis), one game sticks out above all the rest even though I’m more concerned about what will be hanging above the ice than what will be taking place on it.

 

Without a doubt, the Ducks are having one of the better and more unexpected starts to the season. Meanwhile, the Sabres are trying their hardest to keep pace with the rest of the white-hot Atlantic Division that enters the day with five teams in playoff position (an extremely important accolade in October, to be sure).

But what really drew me to tonight’s tilt is the pregame festivities involving LW Paul Kariya, as his No. 9 is going to be retired and sent where it belongs – hanging above the Honda Center ice opposite RW Teemu Selanne‘s No. 8.

The fourth-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Kariya joined the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim just in time for the 1994-95 season (well, if it had started on time, that is), signing a three-year deal on August 31, 1994.

Though the Mighty Ducks struggled before Selanne was brought on board via trade during the 1995-96 season, that’s not to say Kariya – who just celebrated his 44th birthday on Tuesday – was playing poorly. He posted 18-21-39 totals his 47-game debut season, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team and finishing third in Calder voting behind Quebec’s C Peter Forsberg and Washington’s G Jim Carey.

Oh yeah, speaking of that 1995-96 campaign, Kariya’s second season ended with him boasting career-best numbers in goals (50, three of which were overtime game-winners – an Anaheim single-season record) and points (108) after a full 82-game schedule. That dominant performance earned him his first of three First All-Star Team accolades, his first of back-to-back Lady Byng Trophies and his first of seven appearances at the All-Star Game.

I guess he never heard of the sophomore slump.

Named the Mighty Ducks’ third captain in franchise history during the offseason (a title he held for a franchise-record eight years), Kariya barely missed a second-straight season hitting the 100-point plateau in 1996-97 as a result of missing 13 games with an upper-body injury and unrelated concussion, but a 44-55-99 performance in 69 games played qualifies as the best season of his career on a points-per-game standpoint. The 1.43 points per game he managed narrowly beats out his 1.41 in 1997-98 – another season hampered by concussion, as well as a contract dispute that lasted into December, limiting him to only 22 games played. Additionally, his +36 for the 1996-97 campaign is still an Anaheim single-season record.

Of course, the most important mark about the 1996-97 season for Kariya is not only his dazzling performance, but also the fact that Anaheim qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Mighty Ducks fought past the Phoenix Coyotes in seven games before getting swept by the eventual champion Red Wings in the second round of their postseason debut. Kariya posted 7-6-13 marks in those 11 games, including the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 against Phoenix that forced Game 7.

To be certain, the most productive years of Kariya’s career were his first seven campaigns. In all, he played 442 regular season games for the Mighty Ducks from 1995-2001, managing 243-288-531 totals to average 1.2 points per game – not to mention his 8-9-17 marks in 14 career playoff games to that point.

However, that’s not to say the captain still wasn’t a guiding hand on his team. Kariya managed 57-81-138 totals in his final two seasons with the Mighty Ducks, and he led Anaheim all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002-03 where his squad lost a hard-fought, seven-game series to the New Jersey Devils.

That Game 7 proved to be Kariya’s last with Anaheim, as he and Selanne both headed for the supposedly greener pastures of Denver (the Avs, of course, fell in the second round in Kariya and Selanne’s only season with the club) for the 2003-04 season. Kariya played five more seasons after that – two with Nashville and three with St. Louis – before retiring during the 2011 offseason as a result of the six concussions he sustained over the course of his 16-year, 15-season professional career.

Having been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last summer, there are few awards left to be bestowed upon Karyia (provided he doesn’t get involved in coaching or management). However, this one will surely elicit quite the response from one of the greatest to have ever worn the eggplant and jade.

Of course, once the ceremony is complete, there’s still a hockey game to be played. Both of tonight’s squads were in action last night, with Buffalo besting Los Angeles 5-1 at Staples Center and Anaheim falling in Vegas 3-1.

The 4-4-0 Sabres entered today’s action in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but only one point behind Ottawa for fifth place in the Atlantic Division and the second wild card.

Gotta love early season standings.

Perhaps the brightest spot for Buffalo so far this season has been the outstanding play of 2-0-0 G Linus Ullmark, who has allowed only one goal in his two starts and boasts a .982 save percentage and .5 GAA that is best in the league among netminders with at least 33 minutes played.

While his emergence as a potential star is an encouraging sign for a franchise that has missed the playoffs for seven-straight seasons, the fact that he was the goalie in net for Buffalo yesterday up the road in Tinseltown has all signs pointing towards 2-4-0 G Carter Hutton manning the posts this evening.

Whether he’s being compared to Ullmark or his performance last season, Hutton is already drawing the ire of Upstate New Yorkers. Having signed a three-year, $2.75 million AAV contract this summer after posting a dominating .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA with the St. Louis Blues last season, Hutton has managed only a .906 save percentage and 3.27 GAA so far this year.

Considering his offense has averaged only 2.25 goals per game thus far into the season (the fifth-worst mark in the NHL despite F Jeff Skinner‘s hat trick yesterday), Hutton is going to need to improve in a hurry if the Sabres want to stay in playoff contention much longer.

That being said, it should be acknowledged that Buffalo hasn’t exactly played incredible defense in front of Hutton. The Sabres’ 32.63 shots against-per-game is 12th-worst in the league, and that number climbs to 33.67 when Hutton is in net.

Considering former defenseman Phil Housley is the team’s head coach and the fact that the organization took D Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick, surely that number has to improve sooner or later? Right?

Consider me a doubter of Housley’s until it does.

One final note I have about the Sabres is in regard to their special teams. It was only a few seasons ago that Buffalo’s power play – led by C Jack Eichel – was among the most dangerous in the league. However, that has not been the case this season, as the Sabres’ 13.3 percent success rate with the man-advantage has been eighth-worst in the league through the first few weeks of the season. The penalty kill has also struggled, as Buffalo’s 69.2 kill percentage is third-worst in the NHL.

The Sabres have a lot of problems to figure out, but the best way to fix the special teams while they’re still on the road just might be to avoid the penalty box all together.

Did you hear that, RW Kyle Okposo? Stay out of trouble!

As for tonight’s hosts, the 5-2-1 Ducks have yet to see too many troubles so far this season, as they’re leading the division despite many fans and pundits pegging San Jose and Vegas as the Pacific’s powerhouses.

But how are they doing it?

Just like Buffalo, Anaheim’s best player to start the season has been none other than its goaltender, 4-2-1 G John Gibson. The 2016 Jennings Trophy winner (o.k., he shared it with G Frederik Andersen, now of the Toronto Maple Leafs) has been dynamite right out of the gates this season, as he has a solid .949 save percentage and 1.91 GAA to show for his first seven starts of the season.

However, to continue the comparisons to Buffalo, Gibson was also in net last night against the Golden Knights, so it looks like it could be none other than 1-0-0 G Ryan Miller, the winner of the 2010 Vezina Trophy, manning the crease this evening against his former club.

Though he is clearly the backup in Anaheim, Miller is in no way any easier to score upon than Gibson. With two appearances so far this year, Miller has a .946 save percentage and 1.51 GAA – all this despite a Ducks defense that allows an average of 37 shots against per game, the worst in the NHL.

Despite the backups being the logical starters tonight, this game has all the makings of a goaltending duel considering the struggles of both offenses and defenses. If that is the case, I’ll certainly take the Ducks to successfully honor Kariya and earn two points tonight. Miller is undoubtedly better than Hutton this year, and he has the benefit of special teams that will easily dominate the Sabres.

Toronto Maple Leafs 2018-2019 Season Preview

Toronto Maple Leafs

49-26-7, 105 points, third in the Atlantic Division

Lost in First Round to Boston, 4-3

Additions: RW Adam Cracknell, F Tyler Ennis, C Josh Jooris, C Par Lindholm, G Eamon McAdam, D Igor Ozhiganov, D Jordan Subban, C John Tavares

Subtractions: F Miro Aaltonen (signed with Vityaz Podolsk, KHL), RW Kyle Baun (signed with Belfast Giants, EIHL), C Tyler Bozak (signed with STL), W Martins Dzierkals (signed with Dinamo Riga, KHL), F Colin Greening (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Leo Komarov (signed with NYI), W Matt Martin (traded to NYI), C Tomas Plekanec (signed with MTL), D Roman Polak (signed with DAL), F Ben Smith (signed with Adler Mannheim, DEL), LW James van Riemsdyk (signed with PHI), LW Nolan Vesey (traded to EDM)

Offseason Analysis: Let’s just get this out of the way early: Johnny T is coming home!

I’m not even a Maple Leafs fan and that gets me mildly excited.

After all, Tavares is departing a team that qualified for the playoffs only thrice during his nine-year tenure and joining one that scored a (t)third-best 270 goals last season without his offensive acumen. With Tavares’ 272-349-621 career totals effectively replacing Bozak’s 136-229-365 marks in just as many seasons (the only difference being Tavares will play no lower than on the second line, while Bozak was the Leafs’ third-line center), it’s safe to say Toronto’s offense – which was already stacked by simply mentioning C Auston Matthews‘ name – is now rivaled only by Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg.

So, that means the Leafs are locks for the Stanley Cup, right? I mean, that’s what all the Toronto fans have been telling me…

Regrettably, I must poke a hole in that balloon, at least until the squad proves me wrong in the first month or so of the regular season.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts about the Leafs’ offense. Few are going to keep up with Toronto’s attack, which may very well be capable of flirting with the 300-goal mark this year (that’s 3.66 goals per game, Leafs fans).

Instead, my concerns reside along Toronto’s blue line, and I’m sure G Frederik Andersen agrees with me. With Andersen in net last season, the Maple Leafs allowed at least 30 shots on goal 44 times.

He started 66 games last campaign.

For those struggling to do the math, Andersen – who started 80 percent of the Maple Leafs’ games last season and accrued 3889 minutes – faced at least 10 shots per period in two-thirds of his appearances.

Talk about a heavy workload.

To Andersen’s credit, he posted five shutouts and a solid .918 save percentage last season, so he performed marvelously given the immense pressure on him. However, there’s no doubt he would have preferred to see fewer than the 33.9 shots against per game coming his way, a regression from the 32.6 shots the Leafs allowed in 2016-2017.

In my last season preview, I mentioned how Pittsburgh might be a team looking to trade a defenseman should Juuso Riikola continue to impress. If that proves to be the case, General Manager Kyle Dubas would be wise to get in contact with counterpart Jim Rutherford to at least inquire about an asking price, as the Pens have exactly what the Leafs are in the market for: an established, NHL-ready defenseman with significant playoff experience.

The asking price would likely be high considering both are expected to be major players in the Eastern Conference. However, with visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their dreams, the initial cost of addressing the Maple Leafs’ defensive deficiencies likely pale in comparison to the time wasted in a contention window with a porous blue line.

Offseason Grade: B+

Yes, the Maple Leafs landed Tavares. As a result, they automatically earn better than a passing grade. However, doing little to improve a blue line that allowed the fourth-most shots has me very concerned that this club won’t see much of an improvement on that end of the ice. Dubas had better have a plan to address that issue soon, as Matthews’ contract next summer is not going to be cheap, which will make it difficult to retool the defense. In the meantime, hopefully the offense will meet or exceed expectations, as Scotiabank Arena could see more than a few high-scoring games this year.

2018-19 Projected Standings

It’s still way too early to make these bold claims, but let’s do it anyway.

Using marginal goals for and marginal goals against from the 2017-18 regular season– let’s assume there were no roster, coaching or front office changes this summer that would otherwise flip everything upside-down– here are expected points totals for all 31 National Hockey League teams for the 2018-19 season.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. z-Tampa Bay Lightning, 114 points
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 113 points
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 108 points
  4. Florida Panthers, 92 points
  5. Detroit Red Wings, 77 points
  6. Montreal Canadiens, 71 points
  7. Ottawa Senators, 65 points
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 61 points

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Pittsburgh Penguins, 100 points
  2. x-Washington Capitals, 99 points
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 96 points
  4. x-Philadelphia Flyers, 95 points
  5. x-New Jersey Devils, 93 points
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 81 points
  7. New York Islanders, 79 points
  8. New York Rangers, 78 points

2018-19 Eastern Conference Outlook

Not much is different in the Atlantic Division heading into 2018-19.

The top teams are the top teams, regardless of their additions (John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs) or subtractions (uhh, James van Riemsdyk from the Maple Leafs?) and there’s going to be a little movement in the Metropolitan Division (most notably, a new division leader from 2017-18 to 2018-19).

Carolina’s revamped defense and the Rangers post-trade deadline to present overhaul are wild cards to watch for any surprises in the standings.

2017-18 Eastern Conference Expected Points Totals vs. (What Actually Happened)

Atlantic Division

  1. y-Montreal Canadiens, 102 points (z-Tampa Bay Lightning, 113 points)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 101 points (x-Boston Bruins, 112 points)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 95 points (x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points)
  4. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 95 points (Florida Panthers, 96 points)
  5. Ottawa Senators, 91 points (Detroit Red Wings, 73 points)
  6. Florida Panthers, 81 points (Montreal Canadiens, 71 points)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 77 points (Ottawa Senators, 67 points)
  8. Buffalo Sabres, 77 points (Buffalo Sabres, 62 points)

What happened in the Atlantic? Injuries and age slowed the Canadiens way, way down, while Tampa reemerged as one of the top teams in the NHL, appearing in their third Eastern Conference Final in four years (despite losing to the Washington Capitals in seven games).

Boston proved to be ahead of schedule in their plan, while the Leafs were right on track. Meanwhile, the floor fell out from underneath the Senators and a new head coach didn’t bring the expected progress in development for the Sabres.

Florida turned a few heads, though ultimately proved to be a non-contender, missing the playoffs by a point (Columbus and New Jersey locked up the Eastern Conference wild cards with 97 points on the season), while Detroit fell within the expected margin of error (anywhere from 72-82 points on the season).

Metropolitan Division

  1. p-Washington Capitals, 125 points (y-Washington Capitals, 105 points)
  2. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 114 points (x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 100 points)
  3. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 111 points (x-Philadelphia Flyers, 98 points)
  4. x-New York Rangers, 106 points (x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 97 points)
  5. New York Islanders, 91 points (x-New Jersey Devils, 97 points)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 85 points (Carolina Hurricanes, 83 points)
  7. Carolina Hurricanes, 83 points (New York Islanders, 80 points)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 67 points (New York Rangers, 77 points)

What happened in the Metropolitan? Sometimes it’s not about the number of points, but rather, the divisional standing that matters.

Washington may have surprised some experts by finishing 1st in their division in 2017-18 (then going on to win the Cup), but to us it wasn’t (the division win, not the Cup). The rest was a crapshoot. Three teams (Washington, Columbus and Pittsburgh) made the playoffs from our predictions heading into last season, while one (N.Y. Rangers) fell flat and hit the reset button.

New Jersey had one of the biggest improvements from 2016-17 to 2017-18, while the Carolina Hurricanes hit the nail on the head (albeit one position higher than our prediction) with 83 points in 2017-18.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Winnipeg Jets, 114 points
  2. x-Nashville Predators, 113 points
  3. x-Minnesota Wild, 99 points
  4. x-Colorado Avalanche, 99 points
  5. Dallas Stars, 95 points
  6. St. Louis Blues, 93 points
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 108 points
  2. x-Los Angeles Kings, 105 points
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
  4. x-Anaheim Ducks, 99 points
  5. Edmonton Oilers, 81 points
  6. Calgary Flames, 80 points
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 74 points
  8. Arizona Coyotes, 73 points

2018-19 Western Conference Outlook

Before the additions of Ryan O’Reilly (via trade), Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon (via free agency), the St. Louis Blues were destined to slide through another season of mediocrity. Now, they’re the most unpredictable team of the Central Division– and, yes, that’s even acknowledging what kind of season Jake Allen has in net.

Allen could make or break St. Louis’s season, though Mike Yeo will have to balance Allen’s starting time with Chad Johnson‘s play as a solid backup, but enough about the Blues (for now).

Everything else looks just the same in the Central with Colorado, Minnesota and Dallas as the teams that are most likely to change places and hit or miss one of the last playoff spots in the West.

In the Pacific, the arms race for the top of the division rages on with the Golden Knights, Kings and Sharks auditioning for the role of top-dog and the Ducks bumbling their way into a wild card spot.

It’s status quo in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, with the Arizona Coyotes entering the 2018-19 season as the biggest underdogs (hint, if they had played the way they did from February through April 2018 all season last season, they would be a lot higher up in these expected totals).

2017-18 Western Conference Expected Points Totals vs. (What Actually Happened)

Central Division

  1. z-Minnesota Wild, 115 points (p-Nashville Predators, 117 points)
  2. x-Chicago Blackhawks, 104 points (x-Winnipeg Jets, 114 points)
  3. x-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (x-Minnesota Wild, 101 points)
  4. x-Nashville Predators, 98 points (x-Colorado Avalanche, 95 points)
  5. Winnipeg Jets, 89 points (St. Louis Blues, 94 points)
  6. Dallas Stars, 76 points (Dallas Stars, 92 points)
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 47 points (Chicago Blackhawks, 76 points)

What happened in the Central? Simply put, the stars aligned.

The Blackhawks were kept far away from the 90-point plateau (and a playoff spot) by virtue of injuries to their starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, while the anemic offense of the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche was no more in 2017-18.

Both are surprises– by definition, given expected points totals are driven by an equation that takes last season’s offense into account for the following season– but any inherent intuition would show that Colorado was destined to improve (by that much, perhaps not).

St. Louis fell out of the race while Connor Hellebuyck backstopped the Winnipeg Jets to a 50-plus win season and the Wild surged quietly. The Stars were thought to be further off the path back to the playoffs than they turned out, but alas, Dallas was still 6th in the division at season’s end.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 106 points (y-Vegas Golden Knights, 109 points)
  2. x-Edmonton Oilers, 106 points (x-Anaheim Ducks, 101 points)
  3. x-Anaheim Ducks, 101 points (x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points)
  4. x- San Jose Sharks, 100 points (x-Los Angeles Kings, 98 points)
  5. Calgary Flames, 94 points (Calgary Flames, 84 points)
  6. Los Angeles Kings, 90 points (Edmonton Oilers, 78 points)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 67 points (Vancouver Canucks, 73 points)
  8. Arizona Coyotes, 66 points (Arizona Coyotes, 70 points)

What happened in the Pacific? One of the best things about making predictions using a set of data is the outliers that cause some people to doubt all of math in its entirety. Nothing is concrete in the world of projections and expectations. The 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers are a great example of that.

Based on a spectacular breakout 2016-17 season, the Oilers should’ve done a lot more than *checks notes* leave Cam Talbot in the net for too many games, facing too many shots, while Milan Lucic exerts some type of energy in the midst of another 100-point season by Connor McDavid only to miss the playoffs (by a lot) and still receive enough pity votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy to finish 5th in the voting. Hmm.

One player does not make a team. One expected points total before a single puck drops on the regular season does not guarantee anything.

Meanwhile, Vegas surprised everyone, Anaheim and San Jose hit their expected points totals, Los Angeles was ahead of schedule (though the core is still aging), Calgary regressed and the rest was as expected (again, given the margin of error– about +/- 5 points).

St. Louis Blues 2018-2019 Season Preview

St. Louis Blues

44-32-6, 94 points, fifth in the Central Division

Additions: C Tyler Bozak, F Brian Flynn, G Chad Johnson, D Joey LaLeggia, LW Patrick Maroon, D Niko Mikkola, F Jordan Nolan, F Ryan O’Reilly, W David Perron, D Tyler Wotherspoon

Subtractions: RW Beau Bennett (signed with Dinamo Minsk, KHL), F Patrik Berglund (traded to BUF), C Kyle Brodziak (signed with EDM), G Carter Hutton (signed with BUF), D Petteri Lindbohm (signed with Lausanne, NL), C Wade Megan (signed with DET), F Vladimir Sobotka (traded to BUF), F Tage Thompson (traded to BUF)

Offseason Analysis: The best metaphor for the Blues’ offseason just might be a fishing analogy.

While there was certainly a big fish to be caught (for those still in the dark, Toronto signing C John Tavares is by far the catch of the summer), General Manager Doug Armstrong won the volume competition, as he cast a wide net and brought in at least four offensive additions that should see significant playing time this season.

And that’s not to say Armstrong simply acquired anyone willing to move to the Gateway to the West. To continue our fishing analogy, Armstrong’s nets had large holes to grab only the biggest of names available this summer.

Bozak and Perron represent St. Louis’ primary signings from the summer’s free agency frenzy. Bozak, a player coming off posting 11-32-43 totals in Toronto last season, and Perron, who scored 16-50-66 marks (by far a career-high in assists) with the Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights, were both signed on July 1 and would have represented an excellent offseason simply between themselves.

Maroon, who has posted more than 40 points in both of his last two seasons, was signed nine days later to a one-year deal, but it was really the July 1 trade with the Sabres for O’Reilly that set the Blues apart and set such high expectations. For the price of two bottom-nine forwards, a prospect, and two draft picks (a first in 2019 and a second in 2021), the Blues added a legitimate top-six center that has posted at least 55 points in six of his last seven seasons (an injury limited his action to only 29 games in 2012-13).

Fifty-five points, with his best being a 64-point effort in 2013-14? Aren’t expectations a little high that he’ll be the one to propel the Notes back into the playoffs?

We need to remember that O’Reilly has only played for Colorado (2009-2015) and Buffalo (2015-2018) during his career – neither of which I would say were exactly abounding in talent during his tenures. Should he earn the role of starting center (as many expect he will) over F Brayden Schenn, he’ll be playing alongside one of the best right wings in the league in Vladimir Tarasenko and up-and-coming 26-year-old F Jaden Schwartz, who posted 14-21-35 totals in 30 games to open the season before suffering a lower-body injury that sidelined him for more than a month.

If we’re looking for something that smells fishy, I’d sooner look to St. Louis’ goaltending situation. Far and away, the Notes’ best netminder last season was Hutton with his 17-7-3 record on a .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA. Instead of resigning him, Armstrong allowed him to take his talents to the Queen City, leading to former Sabres goalie Johnson making his way to the Gateway City.

With no new starter in sight (23-year-old G Ville Husso still needs more time in the AHL to develop), that means G Jake Allen (who just yesterday was reported to be struggling with back spasms that will keep him off the ice for much of training camp) will regain his starting job even though he managed only a 27-25-3 record on an abysmal .906 save percentage and 2.75 GAA last season.

For at least the last two campaigns, Allen has made a horrendous habit of falling into cold streaks that extend longer than a month. In 19 appearances between December 12 and March 8 last season, Allen managed a terrible 2-14-0 record on a .897 save percentage and 3.17 GAA.

For a team with aspirations as high as the Blues’, I’m surprised this issue was not given more attention to result in a better acquisition than Johnson. While the goalie free agent market was fairly lean, Armstrong showed he was willing to make a blockbuster trade when he made the O’Reilly deal. Instead, this entire season rests firmly on Allen’s shoulders, as his incredible defense (the Blues’ 29.7 shots allowed last season was best in the Western Conference) can do only so much before he has to make a save.

Offseason Grade: B+

There’s no doubt the Blues were unhappy missing the playoffs last season. However, while they certainly did more than enough to improve an attack that already boasted three 20-goal scorers (Tarasenko, Schenn and Schwartz), I have major concerns with Allen getting handed the reins after being arguably the biggest problem last season. If he can’t rise to the challenge and return to his 2015-2016 form that led the Notes to second in the Central Division (remember, G Brian Elliott was in net when that team went all the way to the Western Finals), all this offseason work was for naught.


As a bonus interesting note, Perron has never signed a contract with any club other than the St. Louis Blues, even though he’s worn four other crests in his career and is embarking upon his third stint with the organization.

I don’t know how important that is, but now you’ll have an answer if you’re ever posed with that trivia question at your local watering hole.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #113- We’re Still UFAs for the Record

Nick and Connor discuss John Tavares signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Crosby/Malkin vs. Tavares/Matthews argument, best and worst free agency signings and more. At this point, we’re also strangely optimistic about the St. Louis Blues.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.