Tag Archives: Tyler Ennis

Bruins beat Leafs, 5-1, advance to Second Round

Depth scoring was ridiculed all season for the Boston Bruins, but the bottom six forwards got the job done in Boston’s, 5-1, win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.

The Bruins improved to 4-1 in Game 7s against Toronto and have now won the last six consecutive series meetings between the two franchises dating back to 1969.

Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, fell to 3-7 all-time in Game 7s (0-2 with Toronto), while Boston’s bench boss, Bruce Cassidy, improved to 2-0 in Game 7s (both with the Bruins).

B’s goaltender, Tuukka Rask (4-3-0 record, 2.31 goals against average, .928 save percentage in seven games this postseason) made 32 saves on 33 shots against (.970 SV%) in the win.

Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (3-4-0, 2.75 GAA, ,922 SV% in seven games played this postseason) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced (.900 SV%) in the loss.

The B’s clinched the series, 4-3, and advance to the Second Round of the postseason for the second year in a row.

Zdeno Chara tied Scott Stevens and Patrick Roy for the most career Game 7 appearances all-time with his 13th on Tuesday. Patrice Bergeron is the next highest on the Bruins with 11 Game 7 appearances.

With Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) still out of the lineup due to injury, Cassidy made no changes to his lineup from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday night.

Zane McIntyre was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL)– while his teammate, Dan Vladar, tends to the crease for Providence in their First Round Calder Cup Playoff matchup with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL)– and served as a healthy scratch on the depth chart for Boston.

McIntyre joined Chris Wagner, Paul Carey, David Backes and Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches for the home team on Tuesday.

Toronto dominated possession through the first half of the opening period, but Boston was first to get on the scoreboard late in the opening frame.

Joakim Nordstrom (2) followed up on a rebound from point blank and pocketed the puck short side on Andersen and into the twine to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, after the B’s sustained solid pressure in the offensive zone.

Matt Grzelcyk (4) and Sean Kuraly (1) recorded the assists on Nordstrom’s goal at 14:29 of the first period.

Moments later, Marcus Johansson (1) picked up a loose puck behind the net and wrapped around the frame to fire a shot off the far post and in while Charlie Coyle was screening the Maple Leafs goaltender.

Johansson’s goal was unassisted and gave Boston the two-goal lead, 2-0, at 17:46 of the first period.

The Bruins amassed two goals in a span of 3:17 as they entered the first intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, but trailed Toronto in shots on goal, 12-11.

Toronto also held the advantage in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-9), while Boston led in blocked shots (6-1), giveaways (6-4) and face-off win percentage (54-46) after one period.

Entering the second period, both teams had yet to see any time on the power play.

Early in the middle frame, Tyler Ennis worked the puck out from deep in the attacking zone and dropped it back to John Tavares, whereby Tavares (2) sniped a wrist shot past Rask from close range to cut the lead in half, 2-1.

Ennis (2) had the only assist on Tavares’ goal at 3:54 of the second period.

Almost midway through the period, Brandon Carlo cross checked Andreas Johnsson and was assessed a minor penalty at 8:22. Toronto did not convert on their first skater advantage of the night.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and the Maple Leafs led, 25-19, in shots on goal– including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.

Heading into the second intermission, Boston led in blocked shots (14-2), giveaways (15-9) and face-off win% (57-44), while Toronto led in takeaways (7-5) and hits (25-15).

The Leafs were 0/1 on the power play after two periods and the B’s had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the third period.

After knocking the puck out of his own zone with his stick, Kuraly (1) slipped through the neutral zone and fired a shot past Andersen from the face-off circles in Boston’s attacking zone to give the Bruins another two-goal lead.

Noel Acciari (1) and Nordstrom (1) tabbed the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 2:40 of the third period and the B’s led, 3-1.

Moments later, Boston’s fourth line was on the ice again, but so was David Pastrnak and the home team’s bench was charged with a minor penalty for too many men at 5:19 of the third period.

Pastrnak served the infraction in the box, while the Maple Leafs went back on the power play for the second time of the night.

Once again, Toronto couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage.

With a little over three minutes remaining in regulation, Babcock pulled Andersen for an extra attacker. It backfired.

David Krejci worked the puck deep in the offensive zone and over to Coyle (3) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-1, Bruins at 17:26. Boston’s bottom-six forwards had scored four goals in a game after facing scrutiny in the regular season for their lack of depth scoring.

Meanwhile, Krejci (3) notched the only assist on Coyle’s goal.

With about two minutes remaining in the game, Toronto pulled their goaltender again, then shortly thereafter iced the puck and had to pull Andersen all over again about a minute later.

This time, as the final second ticked off the clock, Bergeron (3) had the final say as he so often does for Boston against Toronto with the Bruins’ second empty net goal of the night to clinch the victory, 5-1, at 19:59.

At the final horn, the Leafs had been eliminated and their 15-year streak of failing to advanced past the First Round of the playoffs extended.

Toronto finished Tuesday night leading in shots on goal, 33-32, as well as in hits, 32-26, while the B’s finished off Game 7 leading in blocked shots (17-4) and giveaways (17-13).

Both teams went 50-50 in face-off win% and the Maple Leafs finished the night (0/2) with the only power play opportunities in the game.

The team that scored the first goal in a Game 7 improved to 129-44 (.746) all-time, while Boston also improved to 15-12 overall (14-8 at home) in an NHL record 27 Game 7s.

Toronto fell to 12-12 in franchise history in Game 7s and 5-11 while on the road for the seventh and deciding game in that span.

The Boston Bruins will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have home ice advantage for as long as they remain in Cup contention.

It will be the first time both clubs face each other in the postseason.

Game 1 is Thursday at TD Garden with the rest of the Second Round schedule to be officially announced upon the conclusion of all the First Round matchups.

Bruins force Game 7 with, 4-2, win in Toronto

For the second time in as many years, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are going to a Game 7 at TD Garden after the Bruins defeated the Leafs, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at Scotiabank Arena.

Jake DeBrusk scored the defacto game-winning goal midway through the second period, while Tuukka Rask (3-3-0 record, 2.54 goals against average, .921 save percentage in six games this postseason) made 22 saves on 24 shots against (.917 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen (3-3-0, 2.70 GAA, .925 SV% in six games this postseason) stopped 37 out of 40 shots faced (.925 SV%) in the loss.

The two franchises are just the third pair in NHL history to require a Game 7 in three consecutive head-to-head postseason matchups (2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2018 First Round and 2019 First Round).

Additionally, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, is set to take part in his 13th career Game 7 appearance, tying Scott Stevens for the most all-time.

Boston has won the last five postseason series matchups against Toronto. The Maple Leafs last defeated the Bruins in the 1959 Stanley Cup Playoffs Semifinal– yes, back when the league had six economically stable franchises.

Connor Clifton (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup due to injury for Game 6, while Bruce Cassidy juggled his bottom-six forwards– inserting Karson Kuhlman on the third line right wing and moving Sean Kuraly to center on the fourth line, with Joakim Nordstrom back in the lineup on the left wing after being a healthy scratch for Game 5.

Noel Acciari slid over to the right wing on the fourth line, with David Backes and Chris Wagner joining Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer and Dan Vladar as the healthy scratches for the Bruins in Game 6.

Early in the first period, Chara sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 5:21.

Toronto did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after the Maple Leafs kept the puck in the attacking zone on a turnover by the Bruins, Morgan Rielly (1) blasted a shot from the point past Rask as the Boston goaltender was screened by Leafs forward, Connor Brown, at 9:42 of the first period.

William Nylander (2) and Patrick Marleau (2) tallied the assists on Rielly’s first goal of the postseason and Toronto led, 1-0.

Less than a minute later, Tyler Ennis took a trip to the penalty box for holding at 10:25 of the first period.

Almost a minute into the resulting skater advantage for Boston, Patrice Bergeron won a face-off to the right of Andersen and squibbed the puck over to Brad Marchand (3) for the shot on goal that deflected off of Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, and slid through the five-hole of Andersen.

Bergeron (2) had the only assist on Marchand’s power play goal at 11:23 of the first period and the game was tied, 1-1.

While being brought down in the corner over a minute later, Nordstrom got a stick up high on Travis Dermott and was assessed a high-sticking infraction at 12:37.

The B’s managed to kill off the penalty with ease and resumed even strength action without difficulty.

About a minute after their power play, Toronto found themselves going down a skater thanks to Dermott’s tripping infraction against DeBrusk at 15:36.

Late in the power play, Boston worked the puck around the horn and back across the ice to Torey Krug (1) for the one-timer rocket that beat Andersen for the game’s first lead change.

The Bruins led, 2-1, with David Pastrnak (3) and Marchand (5) earning the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 17:02.

After one period of play, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 14-6, in shots on goal. The B’s also led in hits (13-9) and face-off win percentage (57-44), while the Maple Leafs led in takeaways (4-3) and giveaways (5-4).

Both clubs managed seven blocked shots aside entering the first intermission, while Toronto was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 2/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Almost midway through the second period, after a hairy couple of minutes in their own zone, the Bruins went back the other way on the attack with DeBrusk sending the puck across to David Krejci for the give-and-go back to DeBrusk (1) for the redirection into the twine.

Krejci (2) and Pastrnak (4) notched the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 7:57 of the second period and Boston led, 3-1.

Almost a minute later, Charlie Coyle tripped up Frederik Gauthier at 8:47, but the Leafs were not able to capitalize on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of play the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and outshot the Maple Leafs, 2:1, with a, 30-15, advantage in shots on goal.

Toronto maintained an advantage in blocked shots (17-11) and hits (29-22), while Boston led in face-off win% (58-43). Both teams amassed seven takeaways each and ten giveaways aside.

The Leafs entered the third period 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s were 2/2 on the skater advantage.

After returning to the ice for the final frame of regulation with an extra skip and a jump in their step, the Maple Leafs won a face-off in the offensive zone and worked the puck around to Auston Matthews (5) for the wrist shot goal– off the far post and in– to cut Boston’s lead to one-goal.

Jake Gardiner (2) and Dermott (2) had the assists on Matthews’ goal at 4:15 of the third period and Toronto trailed, 3-2.

Save after save was made all night by both goaltenders, leaving Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock, with no choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Perhaps, though, pulling Andersen with 2:04 remaining in regulation left too much time for those pesky, Big Bad Bruins.

After jumping on a puck in his own zone, Marchand (4) worked it loose and fired away from the neutral zone to pocket the empty net goal to seal the deal on the, 4-2, victory for Boston at 18:06 of the third period.

Chara (1) and Charlie McAvoy (2) tallied the assists on the goal as the B’s assured themselves of a Game 7 on Tuesday.

Andersen vacated the crease once more with about 1:42 to go in the game, but Toronto could not find a way to score two quick goals to tie and force overtime.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (41-24) and face-off win% (52-48). The Maple Leafs wrapped up Sunday afternoon with the advantage in blocked shots (19-15), giveaways (19-16) and hits (40-34).

There were no penalties called in the final frame, leaving Toronto 0/3 on the power play for the day and Boston, 2/2, on the skater advantage.

For the third time in their last three series matchups against each other, Boston and Toronto will square off in a decisive Game 7 at TD Garden. Puck drop is expected a little after 7 p.m. on Tuesday and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN.

Canadian residents can watch the game on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Maple Leafs edge out Bruins, 3-2, in Game 3

Some nights it’s a 60-minute effort. Other nights all of the scoring occurs in the second period, en route to a, 3-2, victory by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena in Game 3 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup.

Oh and Toronto still produced a 60-minute effort.

Frederik Andersen (2-1-0 record, 2.33 goals against average, .947 save percentage in three games played this postseason) made 34 saves on 36 shots faced (.944 SV%) in the win for Toronto.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-2-0, 2.36 GAA, .928 SV% in three games played this postseason) stopped 31 out of 34 shots faced (.912 SV%) in the loss.

The Maple Leafs hold a, 2-1, series lead for the third time in the last 15 years. Toronto led the Ottawa Senators, 2-1, in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quaterfinals and the Washington Capitals, 2-1, in the 2017 First Round.

After winning, 4-1, in Game 2 at TD Garden on Saturday, the Bruins tied the series, 1-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, Danton Heinen and Patrice Bergeron had goals for Boston in Saturday night’s win.

Toronto’s Nazem Kadri scored the only goal for the Leafs in Game 2, but was suspended for the remainder of the First Round for cross-checking Jake DeBrusk in the head.

Heading into Game 3 on Monday, Bruce Cassidy indicated Torey Krug and DeBrusk would be good to go in Toronto (despite both players looking as though they would need to remain in concussion protocol– Krug left Saturday night’s action and DeBrusk looked “off” according to most beat reporters after the game).

Steven Kampfer was inserted on the third defensive pairing with Connor Clifton (upper body) out of commission for Monday night as a result of an injury sustained in Game 2.

As a result, Kampfer made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut for the first time after spending parts of seven seasons in the NHL. Originally drafted 93rd overall in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks, Kampfer was previously acquired by the Bruins and made his NHL debut in the 2010-11 season.

After suiting up in 10 games for Boston in 2011-12, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild where he went on to play in 13 games before resurfacing at the NHL level with the Florida Panthers in the 2014-15 season.

In 2016-17, Kampfer was traded from the Panthers to the New York Rangers, where he spent time as a depth defender until Sept. 11, 2018, when he was reacquired by the B’s in the Adam McQuaid trade.

The 30-year-old blue liner has 13-19–32 totals in 201 career regular season games in the NHL.

Joining Clifton in the press box at Scotiabank Arena on Monday were John Moore (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and Dan Vladar (healthy scratch).

Moore participated in morning skate in a full-contact jersey, but was not ready to return to game action.

Kevan Miller (upper body) and Marcus Johansson (illness) did not travel with the club for Game 3, but Johansson may return for Game 4 and should likely join the team by Wednesday.

Cassidy kept Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak as his first line with DeBrusk, David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman filling out the remainder of his top-six forwards.

With Johansson still out of the lineup, Heinen suited up to the left of Coyle with David Backes on the right wing of the third line and Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner comprising of the fourth line trio.

On defense, Zdeno Chara remained paired with Charlie McAvoy, while Krug and Brandon Carlo filled out the top-four blue liners.

Matt Grzelcyk played alongside Kampfer on the third pairing.

Late in the first period, Ron Hainsey was penalized for interference at 16:36, resulting in the first power play of the game for Boston.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and took a penalty of their own at 19:21 of the first period, as McAvoy was assessed a holding the stick infraction against Frederik Gauthier.

Toronto failed to capitalize on their first power play opportunity.

Entering the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, as Boston led in shots on goal, 15-10.

The B’s also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4), takeaways (2-1) and giveaways (4-2), while the Maple Leafs led in hits (19-16) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, the Leafs fired a shot on goal that squeaked through Rask and was left sitting in the crease behind the Boston goaltender, while Krug was out of position on defense.

Trevor Moore (1) pounced on the loose puck and picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal to give Toronto the lead, 1-0, at 2:38 of the second period.

Morgan Rielly (1) and Tyler Ennis (1) tabbed the assists on the goal.

Despite allowing the game’s first goal, the Bruins rallied and tied the game 52 seconds later after working the puck down low, then back into the slot for DeBrusk to keep the play alive and generate a rebound.

Upon finding the puck in the low slot, Krejci (1) pocketed it into the twine at 3:30 of the second period.

DeBrusk (1) and Kuhlman (1) had the assists on the goal and the game was tied, 1-1. With the secondary assist on the goal, Kuhlman picked up the first career point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Shortly thereafter, while attempting to clearJohn Tavares from the slot, McAvoy checked the Maple Leafs forward into his own goaltender– leaving Rask slow to get up, but the Bruins netminder did not come out of the game.

Right at the midpoint of the period, Backes caught Kasperi Kapanen with a high-stick and served a two-minute minor in the penalty box at 10:00 of the second period.

Toronto’s ensuing power play only needed 12 seconds to convert on the skater advantage as the Maple Leafs won the ensuing offensive zone face-off, sent the puck around the boards and quickly back through the slot from Andreas Johnsson to Auston Matthews (1) for the power play goal.

Johnsson (1) and Mitch Marner (1) were credited with the assists on the goal at 10:12 and the Leafs led, 2-1.

Moments later, Grzelcyk cut a rut to the sin bin for hooking Patrick Marleau at 15:59.

Late on the resulting power play, Johnsson (1) sent a backhanded shot over Rask’s glove side after sneaking in on a loose puck while Kampfer left his post as the sole defender responsible for the front of Boston’s net while his partner was off fighting for the puck in the corner.

Johnsson’s power play goal made it, 3-1, Toronto at 17:12 and was assisted by Tavares (2) and Matthews (1).

Less than a minute later, Jake Muzzin was penalized for holding Heinen at 17:45 and the Bruins went on the power play.

Boston was sure to convert on the resulting skater advantage, thanks to Coyle’s (2) effort on a rebound– with Andersen down and out of position– in the lot slot to cut the Maple Leafs lead to one-goal.

Heinen (1) and Grzelcyk (2) notched the assists on Coyle’s power play goal– his second goal in two games– at 19:22 of the second period.

Toronto led, 3-2, entering the second intermission as both teams were even in shots on goal, 26-26.

The Maple Leafs held the advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone (16-11), as well as the lead in hits (34-27) and face-off win% (60-40) through two periods of action.

After 40 minutes of play, Boston led in blocked shots (10-6) and giveaways (6-5), while both teams had three takeaways aside.

The Leafs were 2/3 on the power play and the B’s were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

There were no goals scored in the third period, but Nikita Zaitsev sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game penalty at 5:01.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.

With about 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his goaltender for the extra attacker and even used his only timeout after a stoppage with 65 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Bruins were not able to utilize their skater advantage and tie the game as Toronto ate up every chance Boston put forward and time expired in the action.

At the sound of the final horn on Monday, the Maple Leafs had won, 3-2, and finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-14), hits (42-33) and face-off win% (56-44). Toronto went 2/3 on the power play.

Across the sheet of ice at Scotiabank Arena, the Bruins wrapped up Monday night’s action leading in shots on goal (36-34) and giveaways (14-11) and finished 1/3 on the power play.

Toronto leads the series, 2-1, heading into Game 4 at home on Wednesday, while Boston fell to 0-2-0 when trailing after two periods this postseason.

Puck drop on Wednesday is scheduled for a little after 7:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune into the action on NBCSN, while Canadian viewers can tune to CBC or TVAS.

KREJCI PASSES NEELY, BRUINS BEAT LEAFS, 6-3

David Krejci (1-1–2 totals) surpassed Cam Neely for 10th place in the Boston Bruins all-time scoring list with his 591st and 592nd career points with Boston in Saturday night’s, 6-3, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden.

Jaroslav Halak (9-4-2, 2.30 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 17 games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against for a .906 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Frederik Andersen (16-8-0, 2.50 GAA, .926 SV% in 24 GP) made 22 saves on 28 shots faced (.786 SV%) in 46:10 time on ice in the loss.

Garret Sparks (4-1-1, 2.84 GAA, .913 SV% in seven GP) replaced Andersen almost midway through the third period for Toronto and turned aside all four shots he faced in the remaining 13:47 TOI.

Boston improved to 15-10-4 (34 points) on the season and leapt back over the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs fell to 20-9-1 (41 points) on the season and remain 2nd in the Atlantic Division– six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the division lead.

With the win on Saturday, the Bruins are now 1-3-0 in the month of December and are being outscored, 15-10, in that four-game span.

Bruce Cassidy informed reporters prior to Saturday night’s matchup that Jake DeBrusk will miss the weekend’s games at home and in Ottawa as the young Bruins forward has “not [been] feeling well.”

DeBrusk had taken a puck to the back of the head on a shot from his own teammate on Nov. 26th in Toronto, which might be contributing to his current ailment, though it was not confirmed.

As a result of DeBrusk’s injury, Cassidy indicated Saturday night would mark Gemel Smith’s debut (and home debut) as a Bruin.

With DeBrusk out of the equation on the second line, Cassidy juggled the lines to keep Brad Marchand, Krejci and David Pastrnak together on the first line and Colby Cave centering Danton Heinen and David Backes to round out the top-six forwards.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson started the game on the third line between Ryan Donato and Joakim Nordstrom, while Smith slid in on the left side of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner.

On defense, Torey Krug was paired with Brandon Carlo on the top defensive pair, with Matt Grzelcyk alongside his Boston University teammate, Charlie McAvoy.

John Moore and Steven Kampfer filled out the bottom defensive pairing for the Bruins with Halak getting the start in goal and Tuukka Rask likely to play Sunday in Ottawa.

Noel Acciari and Jeremy Lauzon were healthy scratches on Saturday, joining Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) in the press box.

McAvoy was penalized 13 seconds into the game for cross checking Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, and the Leafs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Toronto did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Both teams continued to trade chances until midway in the first period when Krejci and Jake Gardiner got tangled up and received matching roughing minors at 10:07.

While on the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Pastrnak sent a shot towards the goal for Forsbacka Karlsson to redirect, but Andersen made the initial save– that is, until he let up a rebound, which Forsbacka Karlsson (3) followed up on and poked the puck through the Maple Leafs goaltender to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

Pastrnak (13) and Grzelcyk (8) had the assists on the goal at 11:20 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead, while Toronto led in shots on goal, 11-8. The Leafs also led in blocked shots (6-3), takeaways (13-3) and hits (11-8), meanwhile the B’s had the advantage in giveaways (4-2) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Tyler Ennis kicked the action off in the second period with a tripping infraction as Smith went down to the ice at 6:14 of the middle frame. Boston couldn’t convert on the power play, but got a second chance on the skater advantage in the same period about 20 seconds after the first advantage expired.

Nazem Kadri caught Krejci with a stick and brought the veteran Bruins forward down at 8:34 and the Bruins went back on the power play.

Just 20 seconds into the ensuing advantage, Backes (3) fired a wrist shot past Andersen’s glove side to give the B’s a two-goal lead, 2-0, at 8:54 of the second period.

This, of course, after a mad scramble that led to Marchand (18) and Krug (13) being credited with the primary and secondary assists. 

John Tavares was guilty of slashing Gryzelcyk at 10:06, but the 5-on-4 power play for Boston wouldn’t last long as Backes hooked Maple Leafs defender, Nikita Zaitsev at 11:02.

For the next 1:05, both teams would play 4-on-4 action– at least, until  Gardiner boarded Krejci at 11:33 of the second period and sent the B’s on a rare 4-on-3 power play for 34 seconds.

As the string of soft calls started winding down, tempers started to flare on the ice.

Before long, Carlo and Nazem Kadri were at each other’s throats after a stoppage in play, which led to the exchanging of fisticuffs at 14:32.

The fight was just the 2nd fighting major of the season for the Maple Leafs, while it was both Kadri and Carlo’s first fight of the season.

Recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks, forward Josh Leivo  had the other fight for Toronto this season, while Carlo was involved in just the third fight of his young career (about one-a-season, so far).

Toronto began a short onslaught, but Halak stood tall and momentum swung Boston’s way as the Bruins sustained some attacking zone time and capitalized with a goal from the point.

Krug (1) wired a wrist shot past Andersen for his first goal of the season– and first goal in 25 games– to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.

Marchand (19) and Krejci (18) picked up the assists to make it, 3-0, Boston at 17:45 of the second period, marking the first time since Nov. 24th (against the Montreal Canadiens) that the B’s had tallied at least three goals in a game.

With his assist on the play, Krejci officially surpassed Neely for 10th place on the all-time scoring list in Bruins franchise history. Krejci would add another point in the form of a goal in the third period to further pull away from the current Bruins president’s historical marker of 590 career points with Boston.

Krejci now has 592 and counting.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 23-20, after outshooting the Maple Leafs, 15-9, in the second period alone.

Toronto led in blocked shots (7-5) and takeaways (23-7) through two periods, while the B’s dominated in giveaways (7-3), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (52-48)

The Maple Leafs were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission and the Bruins were 1/4.

Heinen (3) kicked off a chaotic third period with his first point in 12 games in the form of a goal at 1:47 into the final frame of regulation.

Donato (1) and Moore (4) tallied the assists and the Bruins led, 4-0.

Moments later, Travis Dermott (2) wired a back-footed snap shot from the point past Halak, high-glove side at 4:03 of the third period to put Toronto on the scoreboard, 4-1.

Auston Matthews (10) and Gardiner (14) had the assists on Dermott’s goal and the Leafs cut the lead to three.

A mere, 34 seconds later, Krejci (4) collected his second goal in two games on a rush and a give-and-go with Pastrnak to make it, 5-1, Boston.

Pastrnak (14) and Marchand (20) were tabbed with the assists at 4:37.

Less than two minutes later, Donato (3) added a goal while being held by Matthews in front of the net and pounding his own rebound behind Andersen to make it, 6-1, Bruins.

Heinen (4) and Krug (14) had the assists at 6:13 of the third period and Mike Babcock replaced his starting goaltender with Sparks.

Andersen’s night was done after allowing six goals.

But the zany game on ice has its ways as Matthews (16) riffled a shot past Halak after Andreas Johnsson freed a loose puck from Carlo to Matthews to make it, 6-2.

Johnsson (6) and Morgan Reilly (23) had the assists on the goal that made it a four-goal game at 9:30 of the third period.

Then, 23 seconds later, Zach Hyman delivered a high, late hit, with the elbow to McAvoy behind the play and Grzelcyk, along with the rest of the Bruins took notice.

Grzelcyk immediately challenged Hyman in effort to standup for his teammate who had just returned this week from a concussion and the two exchanged blows.

The penalty minutes officially read, Grzelcyk (fighting, major) and a game misconduct at 9:53, while Hyman received a fighting major, a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct.

Despite Hyman’s interference major, the Bruins were not given a power play advantage.

This, coupled with soft calls and blown calls from 13 seconds into the game through this point in the third period led to chaos.

Barely a minute later in playing time, Wagner glided into a high hit on Patrick Marleau in the neutral zone.

Toronto defender, Ron Hainsey, immediately challenged the Bruins winger to a duel of fists and the two squared off with Wagner getting the wrestling takedown.

Only Wagner was officially penalized, however, with a minor penalty for charging and a misconduct at 10:55 of the third period.

As a result, the Bruins would be shorthanded and neither bench was very pleased. Both coaches were furious, but the game continued as the refs failed to contain the emotions of the game.

Donato served Wagner’s minor penalty, but it wasn’t long before Johnsson (7) capitalized on a deflection that yielded a rebound and collected a power play goal at 12:22.

Marleau (10) and Gardiner (15) had the assists and the Leafs trailed, 6-3.

With about two minutes remaining in regulation, McAvoy returned to the Bruins bench after going through concussion protocol.

At the final horn, Boston had defeated Toronto, 6-3, and improved to 10-2-2 when scoring first this season.

Both teams finished the night with 32 shots on goal, while the B’s led in blocked shots (13-8), giveaways (12-9) and hits (24-21). The Maple Leafs finished Saturday night ahead in face-off win% (53-47) and were 1/2 on the power play, while Boston was 1/4.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs will meet once more this season in Toronto on January 12, 2019.

Until then, Boston travels to Canadian Tire Centre for a Sunday matinee (5 p.m. ET puck drop) with the Ottawa Senators before traveling back home for a Tuesday night matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Bruins follow up Tuesday’s matchup with another rumble on the road at PPG Paints Arena next Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Marner’s three assists, Leivo’s GWG beat Bruins, 4-2

Mitch Marner led the way with three assists for the Toronto Maple Leafs– sans Auston Matthews for the 14th time this season due to his shoulder injury– as Josh Leivo had the game-winning goal late in the second period to defeat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at Scotiabank Arena Monday night.

Frederik Andersen (13-7-0, .932 save percentage, 2.22 goals against average in 20 games played) had 38 saves on 40 shots against for a .950 SV% in the win for Toronto, while Jaroslav Halak (8-3-2, .936 SV%, 2.05 GAA in 15 GP) made 27 saves on 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the loss.

Patrick Marleau participated in his 1,600th career NHL game Monday night– becoming the 11th player in league history to reach 1,600 games, joining Gordie Howe (1,767 games played), Mark Messier (1,756 GP), Jaromir Jagr (1,733 GP), Ron Francis (1,731 GP), Mark Recchi (1,652 GP), Chris Chelios (1,651 GP), Dave Andreychuk (1,639 GP), Scott Stevens (1,635 GP), Larry Murphy (1,615 GP) and Ray Bourque (1,612 GP).

Among active NHLers, Marleau leads San Jose’s Joe Thornton (1,508 games played), Pittsburgh’s Matt Cullen (1,463 GP), Boston’s Zdeno Chara (1,411 GP) and Carolina’s Justin Williams (1,185 GP).

Marleau was originally drafted 2nd overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks and signed a three-year contract with Toronto on July 2, 2017 after spending 1997-2017 with San Jose.

And if you’ve been under a rock since the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares this summer, William Nylander is still unsigned and has until *checks calendar* 5 p.m. ET Saturday to sign a deal and participate in the 2018-19 season.

Anyway, with the win on Monday, Toronto improved to 17-8-0 (34 points) on the season and remained 3rd in the Atlantic Division, while Boston fell to a 13-7-4 record (30 points) and stayed in 4th in the Atlantic.

Bruce Cassidy juggled his bottom-six forwards and defensive pairs Monday night with Anders Bjork back in the lineup on the third line to the left of Joakim Nordstrom and Noel Acciari after having been a healthy scratch since Nov. 23rd.

Colby Cave began the night centering the fourth line with Sean Kuraly joining Steven Kampfer as the healthy scratches against Toronto.

John Moore started the night on the first defensive pair as the left shot to Kevan Miller‘s right shot on the blue line with Torey Krug remaining partners with Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon on the third pair with Matt Grzelcyk.

Brandon Carlo (upper body), Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion) remained sidelined due to injury, though Carlo and McAvoy could be back as early as this week.

A tight goaltending battle began to unwind late in the first period as the Bruins couldn’t clear their own zone and the Maple Leafs capitalized on their chances.

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Travis Dermott (1) notched his first goal of the season to give Toronto the 1-0 lead at 17:44 of the first period. Marner (25) had the only assist on the goal.

Miller took an errant puck to the throat area prior to the goal and went down the tunnel to the dressing room. Boston later tweeted during the second intermission that he would not return to Monday night’s action.

After one period the Leafs held onto a, 1-0, lead, while trailing in shots on goal to the Bruins, 10-9. The B’s had an advantage in blocked shots (6-4), but Toronto dominated just about every other stat category entering the first intermission leading in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (5-4), hits (8-7) and face-off win percentage (72-28). Neither team had yet to see any action on the extra skater advantage on the power play.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was removed from the first line to start the second period as Cave earned a promotion in-game between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak that would soon pay off.

Par Lindholm hooked Moore early in the middle frame and the Bruins had their first power play of the night at 1:55 of the second period.

On the ensuing power play, Marchand worked a pass through the crease to Pastrnak (18) on the right side of Andersen for the shot on goal from close range that hit the twine, yielding a power play goal and tying the game, 1-1.

Marchand (16) and Krug (9) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 3:39 of the second period and Boston came to life for a few moments thanks to the swing in momentum.

Toronto followed up Lindholm’s penalty with a minor infraction for too many men on the ice at 10:48. The bench minor was served by Frederik Gauthier and the B’s did not convert on the resulting power play.

Instead, Gauthier played a key role fresh out of the box while the Bruins skaters still on the ice from the advantage in strength had tired legs and the Maple Leafs made them pay.

Igor Ozhiganov (1) notched his first career National Hockey League goal off the right post and past Halak at 13:06 of the second period. Marner (26) and Gauthier (3) had the assists and the Leafs once again had a one-goal lead, 2-1.

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Just over a minute later, Pastrnak (19) worked his magic again thanks to a slap pass from Krug to the young Bruins winger in front of the goal, whereby Pastrnak deked enough for Andersen to overcommit and give way to a mostly empty goal for Pastrnak to slip the puck past the Toronto netminder and into the twine.

Boston tied the game, 2-2, on Pastrnak’s second goal of the night– assisted by Krug (10) and Marchand (17)– at 14:22.

With the Bruins mounting a crescendo in the middle period, the Maple Leafs worked to play smarter, not harder as Toronto started to regain dominant control of zone time possession and drew a penalty after Bjork was sloppy with his stick and tripped up Tyler Ennis at 16:58 of the second period.

If Boston could’ve held off the Leafs onslaught on the power play for just 20 more seconds things might have been different, but an inexperienced penalty killing unit allowed Toronto to waltz into the attacking zone with ease and set up Leivo (4) for the power play goal and eventual game-winner at 18:38.

Ennis (3) and Marleau (9) had the assists and Toronto led, 3-2.

Heading into the second intermission, the Bruins trailed by a goal, but led in shots on goal, 28-18. Boston had 18 shots on goal in the second period, which was a season high for the club in one period.

Toronto led in takeaways (5-3), giveaways (10-5), hits (19-14) and face-off win% (55-45), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (13-12). The Maple Leafs were 1/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/2.

Midway through the third period, Jake DeBrusk had a brush with near-injury after he was pushed down in front of the goal by Nikita Zaitsev while Danton Heinen unloaded a one-timed shot on goal, hitting DeBrusk square in the back of the head.

It appeared the puck caught nothing but helmet, but DeBrusk felt the vulcanized rubber biscuit nonetheless and took a second to get up before continuing to play after a quick stoppage.

With 2:37 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Toronto took their time to wait it out and gather the puck before sending Zach Hyman (4) in all alone for the empty net goal at 18:25 of the third period.

Tavares (13) and Marner (27) had the assists on the insurance goal for the Leafs, as Toronto put away the Bruins, 4-2.

At the final horn, Boston suffered the loss while outshooting Toronto, 40-31, after 60 minutes of play. The Maple Leafs actually led in shots on goal in the third period alone, however, 13-12, and maintained the advantage in blocked shots (22-17), giveaways (16-11), hits (23-19) and face-off win% (57-43).

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

The Maple Leafs improved to 11-0-0 when scoring first this season and 12-0-0 when leading after two periods. Boston is now 0-6-1 when trailing after 40 minutes this season.

After going 1-1-0 on their two-game road swing through Montreal and Toronto, the Bruins return home to TD Garden for a matchup against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Boston will retire Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 sweater before the game and fans are asked to be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. ET to witness the ceremony and jersey retirement.

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.

Snowed Under: Wild fall 2-0 to Jets, face 3-1 series defecit

 

In the midst of a Minnesota snowstorm, the hometown crowd watched their hopes all but buried as the Wild were simply unable to overcome their laundry list of injuries and a suffocating Winnipeg defense.

Already without Ryan Suter, the Wild took another hammering blow late in Game 3 when Zach Parise got sandwiched by Mark Scheifele and Ben Chiarot and suffered a fractured sternum (side note: ouch) that rules him out of the rest of the playoffs. Parise’s spot in the lineup would be filled by Tyler Ennis, seeing his first NHL playoff action since 2011 when the diminutive forward was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Winnipeg was not without their own injury problems, losing Tyler Myers after an awkward collision with Marcus Foligno in Game 3. Though not as key an element to his team as Parise is to the Wild, Myers still eats a lot of quality minutes on the Winnipeg blueline. Young Tucker Poolman would taste his first ever playoff action as he filled in for the towering Myers.

The game started much the same as it ended…and middle-d…you know what I mean.

Tight checking, excellent stick position, and a near-complete lack of offensive chances were a theme in this one. Not to say that there wasn’t action, as from the opening puck drop the two teams continued the series’ main theme: That is, both teams spent every shift actively trying to kill each other. Arguably 2018’s roughest series so far, it isn’t even so much the quantity of hits we’ve seen in this one, but moreso that every hit we do see is thrown with seemingly as much force as it can possibly be delivered with. No great wonder why so many players are nursing injuries.

Other than a brief flurry by Winnipeg that Devan Dubnyk answered with three or four quality stops about 8:30 into the frame, the opening 10 minutes had little to speak of in terms of scoring opportunities.

Finally it was Minnesota who started to find some traction, first coming from an unlikely source in their fourth line of Foligno – Joel Eriksson EkDaniel Winnik, who deployed an effective dump and chase strategy, sending two forecheckers in hard and fast to get the Winnipeg defense in deep, then working the puck free to a second wave usually of the third forward and a pinching defenseman. All Minnesota lines adopted the strategy for a solid few minutes in the late first, and all had decent chances, including Nino Niederreiter feeding Eric Staal right in the goal mouth, only to have an excellent backhand chance waffled away by Connor Hellebuyck. Shortly after, Minnesota’s sustained pressure forced the Jets into a penalty, and on the resulting power play Josh Morrissey got away with an egregious cross-check to the face/neck of Staal, who lay on the ice for a few seconds before slowly making his was to the bench all while play continued around him. The Minnesota crowd was…less than pleased.

To continue their displeasure, shortly after the penalty concluded, it would be Morrissey starting a breakout to Scheifele, who played a give-and-go with Kyle Connor beautifully, taking Connor’s drop pass in the low slot and ripping a snapshot through traffic and over Dubnyk with just 28 seconds left to play, sending the Minnesota crowd into a symphony of boos so loud I think P.K. Subban actually might have heard them.

Minnesota ended the period leading 10-7 in shots, but down on the board. Shot blocking was a major theme of the first period, and the game, really. It also contributed to the growing list of banged up players, as both Mathew Dumba and Dustin Byfuglien left the ice at different points in the first because of shot blocks.

The second started with a bang, as on the opening shift the Wild jumped on a turnover by Jacob Trouba and flew up the ice on a three-on-one lead by Mikael Granlund. #64 in green showed Hellebucyk shot all the way, but with just inches to spare sent a pass across the crease to Dumba who looked to have a sure goal, before the glove of Hellebucyk robbed him blind. A few minutes later Jonas Brodin sprung Niederreiter on a breakaway with an unbelievable stretch pass (that frankly I have no idea how Nino even managed to corral on his stick) but just before he could get the shot off a desperate Morrissey poked the puck off of his stick and clear of danger.

Dubnyk would see little action of serious consequence in the middle frame, a few whacks at a centered puck in the blue paint by Adam Lowry the only real threat of the second 20 minutes. The Wild did, however, lose Granlund for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, but he would return to finish the game. Also of note was Dumba taking a run at Byfuglien, which worked out about as well as you’d expect.

Late in the period Brodin nearly played hero himself, absolutely dancing a Winnipeg defender at the blueline and walking in to label a wrist shot for the high blocker side of Hellebucyk, but the newly-elected Vezina candidate had the answer, as was the case all night.

By the end of the second the Wild lead 20-19 on the shot clock, but struggled to find room to construct any serious chances.

The Jets took the attack to Minnesota for stretches of the third, attempting to prevent them from even having the chance to tie the game. An early chance by Joe Morrow found a goal post, and later Scheifele found one of his own, which created some chaos around the Wild goal that Dubnyk had to tidy up. Laine then got a breakaway opportunity in the dying minutes of the third that was harassed just enough by Spurgeon to allow Dubnyk to poke the puck away before any harm could come.

It took Minnesota until just under two minutes remaining to gain enough solid puck possession to get Dubnyk off, but the extra attacker still couldn’t help them solve the labyrinth that was Winnipeg’s defensive scheme, and Scheifele buried the 2-0 dagger with 10 seconds remaining to seal Minnesota’s fate.

Outshot 30-28, the Jets took the first road victory of the series, giving them the chance to win the first playoff series in franchise history in front of what will surely be a raucous Winnipeg Whiteout crowd on Friday night (DTFR coverage brought to you again by yours truly).

How Minnesota finds a way to extend this series is beyond me. The injuries to key players just seem to be too much for them to overcome. They’ll need nothing short of a miracle to make it back to Xcel Energy Center for Game 6.

November 22 – Day 50 – Decision day, beta version

The big day is finally here! If stats are right – and, I mean, they usually are – the way the standings read after tonight’s action should include 78 percent of this April’s postseason participants.

Making this evening even more exciting, today is the second day of the 2017-’18 season that features the maximum 15 games. Of course, that means one team has to be left off the schedule, which is why members of the Blues are already consuming their turkey dinners.

As for teams on the clock tonight, the action starts at 7 p.m. with nine of those games (Minnesota at Buffalo, Edmonton at Detroit, Toronto at Florida, Boston at New Jersey, Philadelphia at the New York Islanders, Vancouver at Pittsburgh, Ottawa at Washington [TVAS], the New York Rangers at Carolina and Calgary at Columbus [SN360]) and Chicago at Tampa Bay (NBCSN) half an hour later. Montréal at Nashville (RDS/SN1) drops the puck at 8 p.m., while a pair of contests (Dallas at Colorado and San Jose at Arizona) wait until 9 p.m. before getting underway. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – Vegas at Anaheim and Winnipeg at Los Angeles – close out what I consider the first quarter of the season at 10:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

One of the games I had circled on my calendar today was Minnesota at Buffalo due to the returns of F Tyler Ennis and LW Marcus Foligno to the Queen City after being traded this June. Combined, they played 14 seasons in Buffalo.

But, considering how important tonight’s action could be when the regular season comes to a close, I don’t have it in me to make the trip to Upstate New York. Instead, I’m far more interested in a game featuring two teams that started slow, but now are only a point outside of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

 

This matchup at PNC Arena is always a special one to me, because it was my first – and still only – NHL hockey game.

But I’m not featuring it simply for personal nostalgic reasons. As mentioned before, these teams are fighting for their playoff lives after rebounding from very slow starts to the season.

After beginning their campaign with a 2-6-2 record, the 10-9-2 Rangers have exploded in the month of November (and Halloween) to win seven of their last nine games.

The biggest impetus for this resurgence has been the Rangers’ offense making the decision to dominate games. Not only does possessing the puck give New York a better chance of scoring – which it does with ease, by the way, managing 32 goals since Halloween to rank (t)fifth-best in that time – but it also alleviates the pressure on the defense and 9-6-2 G Henrik Lundqvist, whose .91 save percentage since the start of last season is noticeably lower than his career .92 effort.

Leading that offensive charge in the Big Apple is none other than C Mika Zibanejad, whose 10 points in the last nine games top the clubhouse leader board. With seven of those points being assists, Zibanejad’s chemistry with Pavel Buchnevich is almost palpable, as the sophomore winger has warmly embraced his role as the first line’s goalscorer.

In 41 games last season, Buchnevich scored eight goals – a decent enough total for a rookie drafted in the third round. Only 21 games into this campaign, he’s raised his game another level to already match that total, and I’d argue it’s a safe assumption to say he’ll find more than a few more. I could be over-hyping Buchnevich, but I think he has the potential to compete with the likes of Aaron Judge and Kristaps Porzingis for the title of best scorer in town.

Of course, he’ll also need to compete with a member of his own team, at least for the time being. Though W Michael Grabner is only a lowly third-liner, he’s actually been the most potent depth weapon the Blueshirts have at their disposal, as his six goals since Halloween lead the team over that stretch.

There’s just something about playing in New York City that brings out the best in Grabner, because joining the Rangers last year lit a flame that had been dormant since his days with the Islanders. While playing for the blue-and-orange, the Austrian averaged .3 goals-per-game over the course of his five seasons. That attracted the attention of Toronto, who traded for him but received only 18 points out of the transaction in the 2015-’16 season.

Since returning to The Big City, Grabner has gotten right back to his scoring ways much to the Rangers’ delight. He’s scored .37 goals-per-game in a Rangers sweater, giving him decent 9-2-11 totals given his spot on the depth chart.

If any team is capable of slowing down New York, I’d bet on the 9-6-4 Hurricanes, whose 2.68 goals against-per-game is the third-lowest in the Eastern Conference and seventh-best in the entire NHL.

No team in the East plays defense like Carolina. Led by the impressive efforts of F Jeff Skinner (team-best 18 takeaways), D Jaccob Slavin (club-leading 2.5 blocks-per-game) and F Jordan Staal (team-high 2.2 hits-per-game), the Canes allow only 29.2 shots to reach 6-4-4 G Scott Darling, which is important considering the 29-year-old’s .909 season save percentage is nowhere near the .924 he posted last year in Chicago.

Of course, the source of this season’s momentum was the offense’s performance at the end of last season. While averaging 2.95 goals-per-game is not exactly dominant (it’s the [t]15th-worst effort in the league, after all), it seems like the Canes are starting to find momentum a month into the season. Led by F Teuvo Teravainen‘s 5-7-12 effort since November 7, Carolina has managed 25 goals –  the fourth-most in the NHL in that time.

Another weapon the Rangers need to keep an eye on is the wing opposite Teravainen on the top line: Sebastian Aho. After starting the season on a 14-game goalless skid, he’s finally found his touch to score a goal in each of his last four games. With Staal having a scoring renaissance à la his last season in Pittsburgh in 2011-’12 (you know, basically his only good year when he managed 25-25-50 totals), this line has – at least at the moment – few peers (shh, stop talking Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosNikita Kucherov).

When the Hurricanes’ offense is gelling like this, they’re tough to stop – hence the 5-1-1 record over their past seven games. Should they continue that momentum and keep playing the sout defense they have all year, the Canes should be a lock to win tonight’s game and potentially pull into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.


Scoring continues to be a problem for the Montréal Canadiens, as they lost 3-1 to the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

While it’s good to find success on the power play, it must be partially embarrassing to the Habs to know their only goal in this game was struck as the result of a man-advantage. With RW Brett Ritchie serving time in the penalty box for hi-sticking D Joseph Morrow, RW Brendan Gallagher (LW Charles Hudon and Morrow) broke the scoreless draw with 7:56 remaining in the second period.

After that, this game almost entirely belonged to the Stars. That was made no more apparent than in the final 100 seconds before the second intermission when Dallas scored two quick goals to take the lead. The first belonged to First Star F Devin Shore (D John Klingberg and D Esa Lindell) courtesy of a wrist shot struck with 1:38 remaining in the period, followed only 59 seconds later by a wrister from Third Star F Jason Spezza (F Tyler Seguin and Shore) that proved to be the game-winner.

Just like Spezza has been taught his whole life, good things happen when you hang out near the net. Just before Seguin ripped his snap shot from between the left face-off circle and the goal line, Spezza moved from screening G Charlie Lindgren to moving to the top of the crease, pushing Morrow out of position in the process. Though the netminder was able to block Seguin’s shot with his left shoulder, the loose puck was prime for the taking for a relatively uncovered Spezza. Even though Morrow tried to knock him down before he could take possession, Spezza had just enough time to tap the puck to the far post before Lindgren’s left skate sealed the gap.

Both defenses really clamped down in the third period, as a total of only 14 shots were fired between the two teams. As a result, Montréal was unable to find a goal to level the game and Head Coach Claude Julien was forced to pull Lindgren for an extra attacker. With 27 seconds remaining in regulation, Seguin (RW Alexander Radulov) took advantage of the gaping cage to score an insurance empty netter and set the 3-1 final score.

Second Star Ben Bishop earned the victory after saving 29-of-30 shots faced (.967 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lindgren, who saved 26-of-28 (.929 save percentage).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are now riding a five-game point streak thanks to Dallas’ victory last night. The win sets the hosts’ record at 27-17-6, which is 11 points better than that of the roadies.

October 25 – Day 22 – The former Foligno face-off

It’s been a slow hockey week in terms of games played, hasn’t it? There was only one game Sunday, two Monday and now only two today. Thank goodness for yesterday’s 11-game slate.

Both of tonight’s contests are scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time, but only one game will be broadcast in either Canada or the USA. Via SN360, Canadians will have the opportunity to watch Calgary at St. Louis, while NBCSN will televise Buffalo at Columbus to those of us in the 50 States.

Unfortunately, there’s no major draw to either of these games (dang that soft tissue for landing RW Jaromir Jagr on injured reserve), so we’re just going to go with the matchup that features the teams separated by fewer points in the standings.

 

According to my highly scientific decision-making process, Central Ohio is the spot to be tonight.

But before we go any further, I need to clear the air about this tilt. Though NBCSN is advertising this game as a part of its “Wednesday Night Rivalry” series, Buffalo General Manager Jason Botterill ruined any sense of a rivalry this offseason.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “How does a GM ruin a rivalry? Surely the teams would continue disliking each other even after an individual player is gone.”

In truth, ‘rivalry’ might be a strong word for the relationship between these clubs. But, if one existed, it started in the 2013′-14 season, a year after the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 season. It was in that lockout campaign that F Nick Foligno, now captain of the Blue Jackets, began his tenure in Columbus and younger brother LW Marcus Foligno earned a permanent spot on the Sabres’ roster.

Since the lockout forced the schedule to be restricted to only intra-conference play and the Blue Jackets were then a member of the Western Conference, the brothers did not compete against each other for the first time as members of their respective clubs until October 10, 2013.

While we’re on subject, the Foligno Brothers are, of course, the sons of former Sabre RW Mike Foligno. The senior Foligno, undoubtedly the best of the trio, enjoyed 10 seasons in Buffalo, scoring 247 of his 355 career goals in a blue-and-gold sweater to help the franchise to seven playoff appearances in his tenure (eight if you count the 1990-’91 season when he was traded to Toronto in December).

But all that history doesn’t matter anymore thanks to the move Botterill made on June 30. In a trade with the Minnesota Wild, Marcus and teammate F Tyler Ennis were exchanged for D Marco Scandella and former Sabre RW Jason Pominville.

None of this is a knock on Botterill’s decision making. GMs can’t concern themselves with things as petty as media storylines, and he certainly hasn’t. In fact, his offseason efforts are finally starting to show results, as his Sabres team that started the season 1-5-2 has now won it’s last two games.

During this little run, it’s been the offense that has stood out most to me. Though far from pretty (Buffalo has fired 74 shots in its past two games, the second-most by any team since Saturday), it’s been effective as the Sabres have averaged three goals-per-game during this run, well above their 2.6 goals-per-game average for the season.

What all these shots have created is a wildly unpredictable attack, and there’s nothing a defense and goaltender (G Sergei Bobrovsky in this case) like less than unpredictability. In fact, all eight players on the Sabres’ roster to have fired the puck at least four times in the past two games has registered a minimum of one point.

Among that group of eight, none have been more accurate than F Benoit Pouliot. Though only a lowly fourth-liner, Pouliot has found the back of the net on a quarter of his shots during this run to take credit for his first two goals of the season, including last night’s game-winner against the Red Wings.

Of course, no matter how accurate Pouliot has been, there’s no replacing Buffalo’s top-line as the primary source of offense. Both C Jack Eichel (four goals) and LW Evander Kane (six goals) have registered 11 points in 10 games played this season, managing four and six goals, respectively, apiece.

Before discussing what the Blue Jackets bring to the table, a major hat tip is due to G Robin Lehner, who has allowed only four goals in the past two games even though he’s faced a total of 63 shots (.936 save percentage). Since he shutout the Red Wings last night, I expect 1-2-1 G Chad Johnson, who’s sporting a .881 save percentage and 3.84 GAA, to be in net this evening.

While the Sabres enter tonight’s game on a two-game winning streak, Columbus’ two-game losing skid is the negative inverse of that.

Of course, you can’t blame them after going through the gauntlet of hosting Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, the top-two teams in the league right now, in the span of three days.

When things are going the Jackets’ way, they have the incredible talent of absolutely shutting down opposing offenses. Whether it’s by a defense headlined by Jack Johnson, Seth Jones and David Savard‘s combined 6.5 blocks-per-game or Bobrovsky and his 2.16 GAA that’s fourth-best in the NHL, only three offenses have come away from games against Columbus with three or more goals.

In particular, the Jackets have been pretty darn good on the penalty kill this season. Stopping 83.3 percent of opposing extra-man opportunities, the Jackets are among the 10 best teams in the league when shorthanded. Considering the Sabres bring a measly 13.9 power play success rate into tonight’s game, the Blue Jackets should have no problem snuffing out any attacks on that front.

You know what they say: defense wins championships. That’s not a Stanley Cup pick from me, but it is a pick for this game – especially since Johnson will be in net for the Sabres. Columbus should have two more points by the end of the night.


Earning the second win of his career in his first-ever NHL start, First Star of the Game G Oscar Dansk led the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though his night ended the way he wanted it to, the beginning of the game was not necessarily kind to Dansk. Even though D Duncan Keith was in the penalty box for tripping W James Neal, F John Hayden was able to score an unassisted shorthanded wrist shot only 3:33 into the contest to give the visiting Hawks an early lead. That lead lasted only 26 seconds though, as C William Karlsson (D Colin Miller and D Brad Hunt) took advantage of that very power play opportunity to level the game with a deflected goal. F Tomas Nosek (D Deryk Engelland and D Brayden McNabb) completed the scoring blitz at the 5:46 mark of the period with a wrister to give the Knights a lead they would not yield for the remainder of the game.

With his first goal of the season, Second Star F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Nosek and LW William Carrier) provided Vegas’ game-winning goal with 106 seconds remaining in the second period.

This play started as a botched dump-and-chase by the Golden Knights, as Chicago’s D Jordan Oesterle was the first to reach the puck in the corner to G Corey Crawford‘s left. Unfortunately for him, he absolutely fanned on his clearing attempt, leaving the loose puck to be collected by Carrier and dumped into the trapezoid to Nosek. The forward carried the puck behind the goal line to Crawford’s right before seeing a waiting Bellemare and centering him a pass. Firing a one-timer from the slot, Bellemare directed his snap shot past Crawford’s glove.

With 9:40 remaining in regulation, F Jon Marchessault (D Nate Schmidt and D Luca Sbisa) provided an insurance tally with a power play wrister to set the score at 4-1 in favor of the Golden Knights. Though F Patrick Kane (W Brandon Saad and Oesterle) tried valiantly to pull Chicago back into the game with 65 seconds remaining, the Hawks could not alter the 4-2 score in the remaining time.

Dansk earned the victory after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (.935 save percentage), leaving the loss to Crawford, who saved 29-of-33 (.879).

That’s two-straight victories by home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. After a solid run by the road teams over the weekend, the 12-6-4 hosts have now reclaimed a six-point advantage over the roadies in the series.

Minnesota Wild 2017-2018 Season Preview

Minnesota Wild

49-25-8, 106 points (16’-17’), 2nd in the Central Division

Eliminated in the First Round by St. Louis

Key additions: Matt CullenTyler EnnisMarcus Foligno, Kyle Quincey

Key subtractions: Martin Hanzal (signed with Dallas), Darcy Kuemper (signed with LA), Jason Pominville (Traded to Buffalo), Nate Prosser (signed with St. Louis), Marco Scandella (Traded to Buffalo), Alex Tuch (Taken by Vegas)

Offseason Analysis:

The Minnesota Wild had a very tough offseason on paper when it all began. With the expansion draft looming, the Wild knew they were going to lose a big name player if they couldn’t find a deal to send out one of their big name defenseman. They found that deal on June 30th, swapping Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville for then-Sabres Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis’ rights. The Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher had reportedly been chasing Foligno for a while, but former Buffalo General Manger Tim Murray always said Foligno wasn’t up for trade. With the new GM in Buffalo, Fletcher got his target and a nice perk in Ennis.

The offseason wasn’t going to get easier, however, as RFA’s Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter all needed new contracts – and that was before they added RFA Foligno into the mix.

Fletcher still had work to do.

Fletcher began with Niederreiter, signing him to a five-year, $5.25 AAV contract on July 31st. A day later he got his second guy on the books, as Granlund agreed to a 3-year, $5.75 AAV on August 1st, three days before his arbitration hearing.

Fletcher’s next two moves took some time and consideration, giving Fletcher and his staff time to talk veteran center Matt Cullen into signing a one-year deal. This may been one of the most underrated signings of the offseason but could do wonders in this lineup.

Fletcher was able to get his new RFA Foligno signed on September 14th. Foligno signed a four year long deal worth $2.875 AAV. This was a good deal for both parties, as Marcus brings the tough guy role and can also pick up some decent points. This left the Wild with just their captain needing a contract and, just a few days ago on September 18th, Koivu signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 AAV.

This is my least favorite contract they signed, mostly because Koivu, their captain and leader, deserves more job security than just two years. The cap situation is different because there are a lot players making really decent money in Minnesota instead of stays with monster contracts.

Other names that got contracts worth mentioning include Cal O’Reilly, who got a two-year deal, and Kyle Quincey and Niklas Svedberg, who both received one-year deals. All three could be great depth guys if injuries occur.

Offseason Grade: B

Overall, the Wild did a great job of keeping their key players. They didn’t go out and overspend and they made smart moves considering their situation. The only big losses came in Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella and Martin Hanzal. Hanzal was acquired at the deadline and chose free agency, so no major loss. The big question will come if they can fill the void of Scandella in a top-4 role. The Wild will more than likely still be a playoff team and will look to make a bigger impact in the playoffs.