The DTFR Podcast is back from hiatus as Nick provides a State of the Podcast, reviews a few things from the last couple of months and delves into all of the transactions leading up to the 2020 NHL trade deadline.
The Vancouver Canucks routed the Boston Bruins, 9-3, at Rogers Arena on Saturday night in what was Boston’s third game in four nights of traveling.
That said, Canucks goaltender, Jacob Markstrom (23-16-4 record, 2.75 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 43 games played) made 34 saves on 37 shots against for a .918 SV% in 58:12 time on ice en route to the win.
Meanwhile, his teammate and Canucks backup goaltender, Thatcher Demko (10-6-2, 3.03 GAA, .905 SV% in 20 games played) made a brief relief appearance for a 1:48 span after Markstrom took an inadvertent stick through the cage of his mask early in the first period.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (23-6-6, 2.17 GAA, .928 SV% in 36 games played) stopped 21 out of 27 shots faced for a .778 SV% in the loss.
Rask was replaced by Jaroslav Halak (16-6-6, 2.42 GAA, .918 SVT in 29 games played) after amassing 46:28 TOI and allowing six goals.
Halak came into the game during a stoppage in play after a Bruins power play goal in the second period and turned aside five out of the eight shots he faced for a .625 SV% en route to no decision in Boston’s loss.
All four goaltenders that dressed for the game took part in the action on Saturday– on a night in the National Hockey League where, 42-year-old, emergency backup goaltender, Dave Ayres, stole the show for the Carolina Hurricanes in their, 6-3, victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on the road.
Also, the Arizona Coyotes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-3, on Saturday night.
Apparently goaltending was optional league wide for one night only!
Boston fell to 39-12-12 (90 points) on the season, but remained in command of the entire league standings, while Vancouver improved to 33-22-6 (72 points) and rose to 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
The B’s also fell to 18-10-3 on the road this season, while the Canucks improved to 20-7-4 at home this season.
February 9, 2016 was the last time Boston allowed nine goals (a, 9-2, loss on home ice to the Los Angeles Kings).
Once more, the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body/conditioning loan) on Saturday night.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from Friday night’s, 4-3, win in Calgary to Saturday night’s action in Vancouver.
Joakim Nordstrom, Par Lindholm and John Moore were healthy scratches for Boston, while Ondrej Kase was a de facto healthy scratch as he won’t meet up with the team until Monday for practice at Warrior Ice Arena after having been acquired by the Bruins on Friday.
Kase hasn’t played since Feb. 7th due to an illness and was skating with the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday prior to being traded the following day.
A little past the four-minute mark in the action, the Canucks struck first with a blast from Troy Stecher (4) from the faceoff dot, off of Rask, then off the post and over the goal line– giving Vancouver the game’s first lead, 1-0.
Tyler Motte (4) and Jay Beagle (5) recorded the assists on Stecher’s goal at 4:14 of the first period.
Less than a few minutes later, Boston responded on the scoreboard with a goal of their own– tying the game, 1-1, when David Pastrnak (44) deked and wrapped the rubber biscuit around Markstrom with a forehand goal after breaking into the zone on a breakaway thanks to a stretch pass from Matt Grzelcyk through the neutral zone.
Grzelcyk (15) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s first goal of the night at 7:06 of the first period. The goal tied Pastrnak for the most goals by a Bruin in a season since Glen Murray scored 44 goals in the 2002-03 season.
Moments later, Danton Heinen caught Markstrom with an errant stick while engaged in a net front battle and accidentally clipped the Canucks goaltender inside the cage with the blade of his stick.
There was no penalty on the play and Markstrom was forced to briefly leave the game before returning almost two minutes later.
In the meantime, Jeremy Lauzon received a holding infraction against Elias Pettersson at the other end of the ice at 10:21 of the first period, which provided Markstrom with the chance to replace Demko at the stoppage in the action.
Less than a minute later, Canucks captain, Bo Horvat (19), rocketed a one-timer from the high slot past Rask while Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo were split chasing J.T. Miller deep into the corner (from where the one-timer opportunity was generated by Miller to Horvat) and protecting the front of the crease.
Miller (36) and Vancouver’s newest forward, Tyler Toffoli (18), tallied the assists on Horvat’s power play goal and the Canucks led, 2-1, at 11:08 of the opening frame.
About four minutes later, Horvat took a trip to the penalty box for a holding minor against Brad Marchand and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the night at 15:34.
Boston’s power play was cut short when Patrice Bergeron also cut a rut to the sin bin for holding against Motte at 17:13– resulting in 21 seconds of 4-on-4 action before the Canucks had an abbreviated power play.
Neither team was able to score on the special teams action.
After one period of play in Vancouver on Saturday, the Canucks led the Bruins, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 17-12, in shots on goal.
Vancouver also held the advantage in every other statistical category, including blocked shots (4-1), takeaways (7-4), giveaways (5-0), hits (14-10) and faceoff win percentage (57-43).
The Canucks were 1/2 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Early in the middle frame, Adam Gaudette (11) wired a shot under the bar and over Rask’s glove from close range to extend Vancouver’s lead to two-goals.
Quinn Hughes (40) notched the only assist on Gaudette’s goal and Vancouver led, 3-1, at 5:32 of the second period.
Late in the period, the Canucks added a pair of goals when Tanner Pearson (18) pocketed a rebound to extend Vancouver’s lead to three-goals at 14:48.
Loui Eriksson (6) and Tyler Myers (13) had the assists on Pearson’s goal, which made it, 4-1, for the Canucks before Eriksson (6) tallied a goal of his own after stuffing in a loose puck off a deflection in the slot to make it, 5-1, for the Canucks.
Horvat (29) and Alexander Edler (21) recorded the primary and secondary assists on Eriksson’s goal at 15:39 of the second period.
Less than a minute later, Chara took exception to Myers’ hit on Karson Kuhlman in front of the benches and attempted to engage the Vancouver defender in an exchange of fisticuffs, but the Canucks blue liner didn’t want any part of it.
As a result, Myers was assessed a minor for roughing, while Chara picked up two roughing minors at 16:37– yielding a power play to the Canucks in the waning moments of the middle frame.
With less than a minute left in the second period, Charlie Coyle and Horvat got into a scrap and traded punches.
Both players received five-minute majors for fighting at 19:30 and were sent to the dressing room 30 seconds ahead of everyone else.
Through 40 minutes of action in Vancouver, the Canucks led on the scoreboard, 5-1, and in shots on goal, 25-24.
The Canucks also maintained the advantage in blocked shots (11-2), takeaways (12-6), giveaways (8-3) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Bruins led in hits (25-23).
Vancouver was 1/3 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the third period.
Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, Pettersson (25) snapped a wrist shot over Rask’s blocker side and into the twine.
Miller (37) and Stecher (9) had the assists on Pettersson’s goal and the Canucks led, 6-1, 46 seconds into the third period.
Moments later, Antoine Roussel caught Torey Krug with a high stick at 5:25 of the third period and presented the B’s with their second power play of the night.
This time around, Boston made sure to capitalize on the skater advantage.
Pastrnak (45) blasted one of his patented power play goals behind Markstrom to cut the deficit to four-goals at 6:28.
Krug (34) and Marchand (54) tallied the assists as Pastrnak picked up his 45th goal of the season– becoming the highest goal-scoring Bruin since Murray in 2002-03– and the B’s trailed, 6-2.
Before the ensuing faceoff, Cassidy replaced Rask with Halak in the crease.
Less than two minutes later, Boston began to mount some momentum with another quick goal from Chris Wagner (5)– his first goal in 18 games– after Wagner followed up on his own rebound and slipped in a backhand goal to make it, 6-3, at 8:11 of the third period.
Grzelcyk (16) and Sean Kuraly (16) had the assists on Wagner’s first goal since Jan. 7th.
Boston’s surge in momentum didn’t last long as Toffoli (19) slapped a one-timer past Halak about three minutes later.
Miller (38) had the only assist on Toffoli’s first goal and once again worked the puck from the end boards back to a teammate for the surefire one-timer goal at 11:10 of the third period and the Canucks led, 7-3.
Less than two minutes later, after Halak managed to stop multiple consecutive shots, finally the Canucks slipped a shot through as chaos ensued in front of the net.
Toffoli (20) mustered his second goal of the game and extended Vancouver’s lead back to five-goals.
Hughes (41) had the only assist on Toffoli’s second goal at 13:03 and the Canucks led, 8-3.
Finally, Jake Virtanen (17) snaked his way through the neutral zone and beat Halak clean with a wrist shot goal past Halak’s glove at 18:15 of the third period and extended Vancouver’s lead to six-goals.
Edler (22) and Stecher (10) each amassed their second assists of the night on Virtanen’s goal and the Canucks finished off the Bruins, 9-3.
At the final horn, Vancouver had beaten Boston, despite trailing the Bruins in shots on goal, 37-35.
The Canucks finished the night leading in every other stat, including blocked shots (18-6), giveaways (12-4), hits (31-29) and faceoff win% (55-46).
Vancouver wrapped up Saturday night’s action 1/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s went 1/2 on the power play in the 60-minute effort.
Boston fell to 6-5-3 when trailing after one period and 5-9-4 when trailing after two periods this season, while Vancouver improved to 17-3-2 when leading after one period and 21-1-1 when leading after two periods this season.
Hughes became the 2nd Canucks rookie defender to record 40 or more assists in a season, joining Dale Tallon (14-42–56 totals) in 1970-71. Hughes joined Bryan Berard (40 in 1996-97), Janne Niinimaa (40 in 1996-97) and Nicklas Lidstrom (49 in 1991-92) as just the fourth rookie defender in the last 30 years to amass at least 40 assists in a single season.
Vancouver became the third different team this season to score nine goals, joining the Lightning (9-3, win against the New York Rangers on Nov. 14, 2019 and a, 9-2, win against Vancouver on Jan. 7, 2020) and Colorado Avalanche (9-4, win against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 7, 2019).
Boston finished their four-game road trip (3-1-0).
The B’s return home for a two-game homestand on Tuesday, Feb. 25th and Thursday, Feb. 27th for meetings with the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars, respectively, before wrapping up the month of February with a road game against the New York Islanders on Feb. 29th.
Anze Kopitar’s game-winning goal in overtime lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Boston Bruins, 4-3, on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Jonathan Quick (10-12-2 record, 3.05 goals against average, .893 save percentage in 24 games played) made 37 saves on 40 shots against (.925 SV%) in the win for the Kings.
Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (13-4-4, 2.31 GAA, .923 SV% in 21 games played) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced in the overtime loss.
Boston fell to 21-7-7 (49 points) on the season, but remained in command of the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, Los Angeles improved to 15-18-3 (33 points) and moved to 7th place in the Pacific Division.
The Bruins fell to 12-1-6 at home this season, while the Kings improved to 5-12-3 on the road this season.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Tuesday.
Kuhlman and Anton Blidh (shoulder) skated on their own on Monday as the two work to get back into their respective lineups (Kuhlman likely with Boston, while Blidh is rehabbing an injury sustained in the preseason and would likely be assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) when he is reactivated).
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from last Saturday night’s, 4-2, victory in Florida.
Once more, Connor Clifton, Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie comprised of Boston’s healthy scratches.
The Bruins had too many skaters on the ice exactly one minute into the first period and presented Los Angeles with their first power play opportunity of the night.
The Kings took full advantage as Jeff Carter rocketed an intentionally wide shot to Blake Lizotte (4) for the redirection into the twine, giving Los Angeles the, 1-0, lead at 2:17 of the first period.
Carter (6) and Tyler Toffoli (12) had the assists on Lizotte’s power play goal as the Bruins gave up the game’s first goal on home ice for the 11th time this season.
Late in the opening frame, Kyle Clifford knocked down Chris Wagner while the B’s forward didn’t have possession of the puck and received an interference infraction as a result at 18:14.
Boston capitalized on their first power play of the game as Danton Heinen (6) redirected the puck into the net with his right skate– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.
Heinen’s power play goal was reviewed for a distinct kicking motion, but the call on the ice stood.
Brad Marchand (33) and David Pastrnak (21) notched the assists on Heinen’s goal at 19:01.
Pastrnak surpassed Barry Pederson for sole possession of the 4th most points by a Bruins player before the age of 24 with the secondary assist on Heinen’s goal.
Only Bobby Orr (507 points from 1966-72), Ray Bourque (399 points from 1979-84) and Joe Thornton (348 points from 1997-2003) had more points with Boston than Pastrnak (333) before turning 24-years-old.
After one period of play Tuesday night at TD Garden, the B’s and Kings were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Boston outshooting Los Angeles, 11-7.
Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while Los Angeles led in blocked shots (4-3) and takeaways (5-4).
Both teams had eight hits aside and were 1/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.
Trevor Lewis hooked Jake DeBrusk and was sent to the penalty box at 1:59 of the second period as the Kings kicked off the middle frame with an infraction.
While on the power play, the Bruins couldn’t manage to keep the puck in the attacking zone as Los Angeles worked a quick break turned shorthanded breakaway attempt for Adrian Kempe heading the other way.
Kempe (5) slid a backhand shot through Rask’s five-hole for the third shorthanded goal allowed this season by Boston, as well as the third shorthanded goal for Los Angeles this season.
Kempe’s shorthanded goal gave the Kings a, 2-1, lead and was unassisted at 2:45 of the second period.
Midway through the middle frame, Patrice Bergeron (11) fired a wrist shot from the high slot off the post and in behind Quick with traffic in front of the net to tie the game, 2-2.
Torey Krug (19) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal at 10:44.
Late in the period, Dustin Brown slashed Charlie McAvoy’s stick out of the Boston defender’s hands and received a minor penalty for his action at 16:07.
The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing power play.
The two clubs entered the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 21-17, through 40 minutes.
Both teams had 10 shots on net in the second period alone.
Meanwhile, the Bruins led in giveaways (10-4), hits (17-14) and faceoff win% (64-36) and the Kings led in blocked shots (9-5) and takeaways (11-6) entering the third period.
Los Angeles was 1/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/3 on the power play.
Brandon Carlo (3) snapped a 23-game goalless drought after he floated a soft goal past Quick from the point to give the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 1:24 of the third period.
DeBrusk (9) and Heinen (9) had the assists on Carlo’s goal.
There were no penalties called in the third period.
With 2:08 remaining in regulation, Kings head coach, Todd McLellan, pulled Quick for an extra skater. It didn’t take long for Los Angeles to capitalize and tie the game.
Matt Roy (4) sent a shot from the point that had eyes and almost was tipped by Carter before reaching the back of the net at 17:59– tying the game, 3-3.
Nikolai Prokhorkin (4) had the only assist on Roy’s goal as the Kings forced overtime with their first shot on goal in a 10:04 span.
At the end of regulation, the Bruins led the Kings in shots on goal, 37-25– including a, 16-8, advantage in the third period alone.
Boston held the advantage in giveaways (11-9), hits (24-22) and faceoff win% (62-38), while Los Angeles led in takeaways (12-8).
Both teams had ten blocked shots each.
Los Angeles finished the night 1/1 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 1/3 on the power play as there were no penalties called in the third period or overtime.
Cassidy started Bergeron, Marchand and Krug in the extra frame, while McLellan opted for Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Drew Doughty.
The Bruins surged with a couple of breakaways– one from Anders Bjork that was poke checked away by Quick and the other from Bergeron that was sent wide of the goal– but they were no match for Los Angeles’ quick break the other way as Kopitar (14) put the final nail in the coffin.
The Kings had defeated the Bruins, 4-3, at 3:23 of the overtime period with Doughty (17) tallying the only assist.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (40-27), giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (63-38), while both teams managed to amass ten blocked shots aside and 24 hits each.
Los Angeles improved to 4-2 in overtime this season, while the B’s fell to 2-3 in the extra frame thus far.
The Kings are now 3-0-0 when scoring a shorthanded goal in a game this season, while the Bruins fell to 5-1-4 when tied after one period and 5-2-2 when tied after two periods this season.
Boston continues their four-game homestand (0-0-1) on Thursday night against the New York Islanders before hosting the Nashville Predators on Saturday and wrapping up before the holiday break next Monday against the Washington Capitals.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points
- x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points
- wc1- Calgary Flames, 93 points
- Los Angeles Kings, 89 points
- Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
- Edmonton Oilers, 77 points
Vegas Golden Knights: Pros and Cons
Despite a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with the San Jose Sharks this spring, the Golden Knights are ready for what could be another deep playoff run in 2020.
A full season of Mark Stone– plus the rest of the original and supporting cast (Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.)– should provide Vegas with enough scoring power, while Nate Schmidt anchors the defense with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and adopted Vegas son, Deryk Engelland.
Aside from working on the penalty kill and the peaceful transition of power from George McPhee to Kelly McCrimmon as General Manager of the organization (effective Sept. 1st), the Golden Knights have had a quiet offseason.
Sure, they traded Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres which hurts their blue line depth in the event of injuries, but Vegas has a few notable prospects with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) in Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Jimmy Schudlt that should be ready for a taste of NHL action if necessary.
Owner, Bill Foley, has his sights set on his original vision for the franchise– winning a Cup within the first three seasons of its existence.
The only downside for the Golden Knights heading into the 2019-20 season? Goaltending.
No, Fleury isn’t in decline from his status as one of the better goaltenders in the league, but his time in the crease has to be managed.
Though he was limited to 46 games in 2017-18 due to injury, Fleury amassed a 29-13-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Vegas’ backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, managed a 13-4-2 record in 22 games played that season with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 SV% in his rookie season.
Last season, Subban’s numbers took a turn for the worse.
He had an 8-10-2 record in 21 games played with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 SV%– all while Fleury was forced to carry a heavier schedule load, seeing his stat line slip to a 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process, but improving his overall record to 35-21-5 in 61 games.
Vegas added Garret Sparks, who carries a career GAA (3.09) and SV% (.898) that’s worst than Subban in six fewer games played over two full-time seasons as a backup (Sparks appeared in 37 games with Toronto, while Subban’s played in 43 with Vegas since 2017-18).
Gerard Gallant can’t rely on a fallback plan if one of them doesn’t yield a significant turnaround at this point in their careers (because there isn’t one) and he also can’t overexert Fleury in the buildup to the postseason.
This is why you can never have too many goaltenders in the system.
How would the Golden Knights fail?
If an Uber driver records their players complaining about their special teams play and/or said Uber driver can’t do a better job at not allowing four power play goals against on a five-minute major penalty kill.
San Jose Sharks: Pros and Cons
San Jose has about $4.683 million in cap space and Joe Thornton is still unsigned. Are we really ready to live in a world where Thornton isn’t on the Sharks and it’s not 1997-2005 again?
Also, Patrick Marleau is still unsigned too, but that’s besides the point– plus he spent the last two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anyway, the Sharks went all in on Erik Karlsson’s extension, shelling out $11.500 million per season for the next eight years through the 2026-27 season.
As long as Karlsson can remain healthy (and the rest of the roster for that matter, unlike in this spring’s Western Conference Final run), then San Jose’s blue line remains one of the most dynamic forces of offensive capabilities from an otherwise non-traditional source of scoring production.
Kevin Labanc is an emerging star in a Sharks uniform and will carry a bigger role this season with the departure of Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars via free agency.
Meanwhile, it’s officially the Logan Couture Era in Silicon Valley– if General Manager Doug Wilson is truly moving on from the days of Thornton and Marleau– with supporting roles from Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.
While Karlsson’s cap hit tops the league on an otherwise unnerving contract if something goes wrong, Wilson managed to keep Timo Meier in teal for the next four seasons at an affordable $6.000 million cap hit.
Other than injuries, the only thing that could scare the Sharks out of the waters of contention is the inconsistency of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell in the crease.
Despite compiling 36 wins on the season in 62 games played, Jones had a career-worst GAA (2.94) and SV% (.896), while Dell also managed to have a career-worst performance as a backup with a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV% in 25 games played (of which he won 10).
How would the Sharks fail?
San Jose has had everything imaginable happen to them in the postseason, so what seems irrational, inexplicable and/or unimaginable, because that’s probably how they’d lose (again).
Anaheim Ducks: Pros and Cons
The Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space with a good mix of pending-unrestricted free agents and pending-restricted free agents next summer, which means they’ll only have more money to spend and reallocate to their better, younger players like Troy Terry and Daniel Sprong.
What’s the bad news?
It’s Anaheim. They’re suffering from buying out Corey Perry’s contract for the next four seasons ($2.625 million in 2019-20, $6.625 million in 2020-21 and $2.000 million from 2021-23), Ryan Getzlaf is signed through 2020-21 and has a no-movement clause, Ryan Kesler may never play again and is also signed through 2021-22 with a no-movement clause and finally, Adam Henrique has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through 2023-24.
Yes, Kesler can be place on long-term injured reserve and shelved for the remainder of his contract and/or traded elsewhere (after waiving his NMC) to free up cap space if he truly cannot return, but the fact of the matter is the Ducks are still too tied up to takeoff and fly.
The depth of prospects is sketchy with the Ducks, considering not much is known about their overall plan.
Are they overcooking some prospects for a better immediate impact in the NHL or should they just play the kids, wait around near the basement of the standings and rebuild?
Though this forecast has Anaheim tabbed for a divisional spot, they’re likely to be looking from outside the division with perhaps only the saving grace of a wild card spot thanks to John Gibson’s existence as one of the best goaltenders in the game (until the skaters in front of him let him down).
At the very least, Dallas Eakins is back as a head coach in the NHL, so all is right with the world (and he did a decent job resurrecting his career with a strong performance in San Diego (AHL) after his dismal days in Edmonton).
How would the Ducks fail?
General Manager Bob Murray holds onto his cards for too long, talent development stalls and/or Eakins turns out to not be one of those classic examples of a coach that just came into the league a little too early, then got a second chance and succeeded.
Calgary Flames: Pros and Cons
The Flames couldn’t win the Cup with two-time All Star goaltender, Mike Smith, on their roster, so they rolling with David Rittich and Cam Talbot– who joins Calgary from their intra-province rival Edmonton Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers, that’s where Smith ended up. Goalie swap! But without any actual trading involved, since Talbot was most recently serving as a “Plan C” for the Philadelphia Flyers if Carter Hart, Brian Elliott and Co. weren’t ready to go down the stretch.
Anyway, back to the “C of Red”.
Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and ended up saving $500,000 per season for the remainder of Lucic’s contract (signed through 2022-23) in the process. The Oilers retained salary in the trade. You heard that right.
Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are still unsigned RFAs and General Manager Brad Treliving has about $7.757 million to work with in cap space.
Get a deal done with Tkachuk and the Flames will go on without any interruption as a team that pleasantly turned a lot of heads in the regular season last year, then sputtered out in the First Round in five games to the Colorado Avalanche.
Bill Peters is ready for his second season behind the bench in Calgary and the roster looks set to remain in contention for a divisional berth, if not leading the Western Conference once again.
How would the Flames fail?
Simply put, if they flame out at the end of the regular season like they did last season– March was a bad month, which led to their demise in five games against Colorado in the First Round.
Los Angeles Kings: Pros and Cons
The good news for the Kings? Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Mario Kempe, Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Joakim Ryan and Jack Campbell are all pending-UFAs after next season and Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all pending-RFAs.
The bad news? Drew Doughty is signed through 2026-27 at $11.000 million per season, Anze Kopitar is making $10.000 million per season through 2023-24 and Adrian Kempe is currently an unsigned RFA.
General Manager Rob Blake has a lot to sort through this season, but he’s already made some corrections to his blunders in his first two seasons as an NHL GM.
For starters, he replaced Dion Phaneuf with Ryan in free agency, brought back his stable backup goaltender in Campbell on a one-year deal and didn’t give up on Ilya Kovalchuk, but rather hired an actual NHL head coach fit for the contemporary game in Todd McLellan.
Though Marco Sturm remains one of the best looking assistant coaches in the league, we’ll let this one slide, Los Angeles.
Are the Kings actually that much better than they were last season? Time will surely tell, but one thing’s for sure– they can’t possibly be much worse, right? Right!?!
If anything, the Kings are a wild card team at best or situated behind either Vancouver or Arizona at worst in the standings, but they should be lightyears from the basement in the division this season with some solid additions through the draft over the years in Alex Turcotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabriel Vilardi.
Los Angeles should be able to (somewhat) bounce back from their regression last season, but at the same time, the year isn’t 2012 or 2014 anymore. It’s time to start cutting the chord with former “glue guys” turned placeholders on a roster that needs an influx of youth sooner rather than later.
How would the Kings fail?
If Jonathan Quick gets hurt in any fashion and Blake can’t get rid of at least one of the eight players on the 23-player roster over aged 30 or older.
Vancouver Canucks: Pros and Cons
The Canucks are looking to make it back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, but did General Manager, Jim Benning do enough this offseason to set Vancouver back on the right track for 2020?
Benning went out and acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, then signed 29-year-old defender, Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30.000 million contract.
Miller and Myers are two quality assets compared to previous transactions made in the offseason by the Canucks. For once, Benning didn’t overpay an aging veteran player, but he also hasn’t cleaned up what might be a costly (both in price and on ice) fourth line in a league that runs four lines deep.
There’s a very real chance that none of the players on Vancouver’s fourth line any given night are making less than $3.000 million per season.
That’s unfathomable in a salary cap driven sport and only speaks to the number of misguided happenings in asset management by the Canucks.
Come to think of it, Vancouver only has five players out of a possible 23-player roster making less than $1.000 million per season. Sure, nobody’s making $10.000 million, but all those $2.000 million-plus, $3.000 million-plus, $4.000 million-plus and $5.000 million-plus contracts add up.
At least Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are worth watching night-in and night-out. Plus, Thatcher Demko should pan out to be one of the league’s better goaltenders.
There’s just one concern for Benning as the offseason continues– Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are still unsigned RFAs.
And Boeser is certainly worth the four-year, $7.000 million cap hit he’s looking for. Too bad the Canucks only have $5.058 million in cap space though.
How would the Canucks fail?
By being close, but not close enough in yet another race for the playoffs. Things are heading in the right direction, however.
Arizona Coyotes: Pros and Cons
Mastermind GM John Chayka has landed this offseason’s biggest prize in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins– two-time Stanley Cup champion, Team USA representative and hot dog enthusiast, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.
Kessel brings his goalscoring prowess to the Western Conference for the first time in his career, having been drafted by the Boston Bruins 5th overall in the 2006 NHL draft, then playing with Boston until being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and then again the Pittsburgh in 2015.
No. 81 had 82 points in 82 games played last season, which was down from career-high 34-58–92 totals in 2017-18. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.
Along with Carl Soderberg– another offseason acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche– Kessel and the Coyotes are revamped and poised to make a run for the postseason.
Arizona’s only ranked low in this forecast because of nearly a decade of middle of the road rosters and missed opportunities since losing in the 2012 Western Conference Final in five games to Los Angeles.
The Coyotes haven’t been back to the playoffs since, but they’re trending upward.
With Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson locked up on long-term contracts, the core has really come into fruition while Chayka remains active in the draft and trade market.
Now they just need a little luck on their side to avoid losing Antti Raanta to the injury bug again.
How would the Coyotes fail?
If this forecast actually turns out to be true and Arizona finished 7th in the division, because otherwise who would actually want to see them fail?
Edmonton Oilers: Pros and Cons
Pro: New GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett).
Con: Another new GM and a new head coach.
Pro: Connor McDavid!
Con: Plays for the Oilers.
Pro: They were able to trade Milan Lucic.
Con: While acquiring James Neal and retaining part of Lucic’s salary in the process, thereby spending more money than in the first place.
Pro: They should actually be better this year.
Con: We keep saying every year, even about a team that has the second-greatest player in the game behind Sidney Crosby on the roster.
Pro: There’s a lot of pending UFAs and RFAs on the roster.
Con: That means at least half of them are now going to have a career-year in a contract year and be overpaid either by Edmonton or other teams in the next offseason.
Pro: Two-time All Star Mike Smith signed a one-year deal to backup Mikko Koskinen.
Con: The average age of Edmonton’s goaltending duo is 34.
How would the Oilers fail?
How there’s any such thing as optimism besides having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton is incredible. If they make it to a wild card berth, it’d take McDavid playing every position, probably.
Auston Matthews signed an extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What does this mean for the Leafs? Alex Stalock, Jordan Martinook and Pheonix Copley all signed extensions with their clubs, as Tuukka Rask became the winningest goaltender in Boston Bruins history, Alex Ovechkin became the highest scoring Russian-born NHL player and Paul Maurice reached 1,500 games behind the bench as a head coach.
The DTFR Duo also reviewed all 31 NHL teams as buyers and/or sellers at the 2019 trade deadline.
This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
Fleury stopped all 30 shots he faced en route to his 11th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout, while Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 save percentage.
Say what you want about the pregame festivities at T-Mobile Arena prior to puck drop in Game 1 of the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings’s First Round series, but one thing’s for certain— Vegas loves hockey and a good show.
The sports town just can’t get enough of its NHL franchise.
Leading up to the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Sin City, fans outside the arena could get a free Golden Knights tattoo— the real kind, not one of those temporary ones that wash off in the shower.
But after the fracas of fun going on outside T-Mobile Arena, it was time for hockey.
Just over three minutes into the game, Vegas blue liner, Shea Theodore (1), fired a slap shot past Quick and gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead and the home crowd of 18,479 fans— the largest crowd in the franchise’s short history— erupted. Tomas Nosek (1) had the lone assist on the goal at 3:23 of the 1st period.
Theodore’s third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal proved to be enough for the rest of the night, as the Kings couldn’t beat Fleury.
Both teams swapped minor penalties (Brayden McNabb at 4:21 for hooking Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter at 12:47 for holding the stick William Karlsson) and the Kings rallied while Vegas went without a shot on goal for about eight minutes.
Toffoli continued to take a beating in the first period as Nosek caught him along the wall. Nosek was assessed a minor penalty for boarding at 15:46 of the period.
The Golden Knights penalty kill was successful and time ticked down to the end of the first period.
After twenty minutes of play, Vegas led 1-0 and Los Angeles led in shots on goal, 12-8. The Kings also dominated in hits (27-19) and blocked shots (4-3). Faceoffs were almost even with the Golden Knights having won 55 percent of the first period’s faceoff dot action. The Kings were 0/2 on the power play and Vegas was 0/1.
Los Angeles had tremendous control on the power play that resulted in a shot that missed the net to the right of Fleury. The puck caromed off the boards and landed on Dustin Brown’s stick with Fleury in desperation. Brown sent the puck wide right of the far post with the majority of the net open. Anze Kopitar found the loose puck but was quickly stripped of any scoring chances by a Golden Knights player.
The Kings were then guilty of the game’s next two penalties with Trevor Lewis having knocked over Colin Miller in front of Fleury without a puck in sight at 10:30 of the second period and Brown having bumped into Fleury at 15:20. Both were minor penalties for interference with the latter of the goaltender interference kind.
Vegas was unable to convert on either power play.
After two periods, the Golden Knights held onto their 1-0 lead and trailed Los Angeles in shots on goal, 20-19. The Kings led in hits 52-48 while Vegas continued to control the faceoff circle, winning 54% of faceoffs through 40 minutes of game action.
William Carrier was caught up high on a hit by Drew Doughty in the third period, but was able to skate back to the Golden Knights bench. Carrier did not immediately go back to the locker room until a concussion spotter presumably requested he go through protocol.
In the waning minutes of the game, Fleury continued to stand tall and earned his 63rd career playoff win and 11th postseason shutout. Both are the most among active NHL goaltenders.
Los Angeles finished the night leading in shots on goal (30-28), hits (68-59) and blocked shots (22-13). Neither team was able to convert on the power play as both teams went 0/3 on the man advantage.
The Golden Knights were 34-5-2 in the regular season when scoring first and are now 1-0 when scoring first in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vegas takes the 1-0 series lead into Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
Viewers outside of the local markets in the United States can tune in at 10:00 p.m. ET to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can tune to CBC or TVAS to catch the action.
In comparison to other Thursdays, today’s slate of eight games seems to be a lighter load. However, don’t read a lower number of games played as an unimportant evening of action.
The festivities finds their start at 7 p.m. with two puck drops (Pittsburgh at Boston [NBCSN/SN/TVAS] and Carolina at Philadelphia), followed half an hour later by New Jersey at Florida. Next up is Tampa Bay at Dallas at 8:30 p.m., with two more tilts (Nashville at Edmonton and Minnesota at Arizona) waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. Chicago visits San Jose (NBCSN) at 10 p.m., while Columbus at Los Angeles (SN1) – tonight’s nightcap – gets green lit half an hour later to close out the night’s activity. All times Eastern.
Originally, I’d only marked the Columbus-Los Angeles game on my calendar as a potential featured matchup on the off-chance G Jeff Zatkoff would make his first return to Tinseltown.
Though that is extremely unlikely, we’re going to stick with that game due to the Blue Jackets, who are in desperate need of wins, facing the tough task of beating a confident Kings team that is riding a major surge after beating the Golden Knights twice in two days.
To beat the then conference-leader in such a quick turnaround, it takes a team – in this case, the 35-24-5 Kings – being on top of its game, and maybe a little luck too. After all, they were riding a two-game losing skid coming into the home-and-home series.
Los Angeles certainly had both earlier this week, as it posted a 3-2 overtime victory at Staples Center on February 26, followed by a dominant 4-1 win in Sin City a day later.
Perhaps the biggest component of the Kings’ statement victories were the exemplary play of both of their goaltenders. Even behind a defense that allowed an atrocious 40.5 shots per game (the second-worst of any team in the league since Monday), both 24-23-2 G Jonathan Quick and backup 1-0-0 G Jack Campbell were excellent to allow only 1.5 goals against per game, the (t)sixth-best mark in the past three days.
Of the two, Campbell was easily the most impressive, as he posted a solid .976 save percentage for a 1 GAA in his first NHL win. However, Quick will surely earn tonight’s start after his .949 save percentage, 1.94 GAA performance on Monday that elevated his season marks to a (t)ninth-best in the league .922 save percentage and 2.45 GAA.
Before discussing Columbus, Los Angeles’ offense also deserves a hat tip for averaging 3.5 goals per game against the Knights – the ninth-best attack since Monday. With 2-3-5 totals in the two games against Vegas, C Anze Kopitar deserves much of the credit. However, he’s just one of five players that averaged at least a point per game in that home-and-home series, as F Jeff Carter (2-0-2), W Dustin Brown (1-1-2), F Tyler Toffoli (1-1-2) and D Dion Phaneuf (0-2-2) joined him in that effort, but the fact that Kopitar’s 70 points on the season is 10th-most in the league is a testament to how valuable he is to his club.
Meanwhile, it seems the visiting 32-26-5 Blue Jackets have definitely put their five-game losing skid in early February behind them, as they’ve posted a 3-1-0 record in their last four games, including victories at New Jersey and against the Capitals.
Columbus’ strength all season has been in the defensive zone, and that’s been true during these last four games. Led by F Boone Jenner (3.3 hits per game since February 20), D Jack Johnson (two blocks per game in his last four outings) and D Seth Jones (seven takeaways over this stretch), the Jackets have allowed an average of only 27.5 shots against per game during this run, the third-best mark in the NHL since February 20.
Of course, defense like that makes 27-20-5 G Sergei Bobrovsky almost impossible to beat. Having started all four of Columbus’ last games (and likely to start tonight even with Anaheim on the schedule tomorrow), he’s posted an unbelievable .945 save percentage and 1.51 GAA to improve his season marks to a .92 save percentage and a (t)ninth-best in the league 2.41 GAA.
Pairing Bobrovsky and his defense together, they’ve allowed only 1.5 goals against per game since February 20, which ties division-rival Philadelphia for best mark in the NHL in that time.
The Kings have already made their annual trip to Ohio, but they weren’t very nice house guests. Behind a two-goal (including the game-winner), three-point performance by Kopitar, Los Angeles beat the Blue Jackets 6-4 at Nationwide Arena on October 21.
Pending a regulation loss by San Jose tonight against the visiting Blackhawks, the most noticeable immediate impact on the standings this game can have is if the Kings defend Staples Center to a victory. Should both those results come to pass, Los Angeles would pull into a tie with the Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division, taking the lead on regulation+overtime victories.
That’s not to say Columbus isn’t interested in pulling off the victory tonight, as any points it earns are important in keeping pace with New Jersey for the Eastern Conference’s first wild card, not to mention putting a little bit more space between the Jackets and the ninth-seeded Hurricanes.
With goaltenders and defenses like these, this is going to be a tough, grind-it-out style of game. With that in mind, I’m leaning towards the Kings defending Staples Center to a victory due to the fact that they sport a superior offense.
Posting a four-goal period is usually a good way to win, and the Colorado Avalanche did just that to beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 at Pepsi Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Part of the reason for the Avs’ offensive explosion is the fact that they were trailing 2-0 before finding their first goal. C Mikael Backlund scored an unassisted shorthanded backhanded shot with 5:41 remaining in the first period, followed by a F Michael Frolik (LW Matthew Tkachuk and Backlund) backhander 2:41 into the second.
That two-goal advantage lasted until the 8:24 mark of the second frame when First Star of the Game F Nathan MacKinnon (LW Gabriel Landeskog and Second Star D Tyson Barrie) scored a power play wrist shot to get Colorado on the board. That seemed to be the spark the Avs’ offense needed, because D Nikita Zadorov (W Blake Comeau and F Carl Soderberg) provided the game-tying goal only 1:08 after MacKinnon’s tally.
Barrie’s second point of the game proved to be the most important, as it ended up being the game-winner. With 7:19 remaining in the frame, Barrie (RW Mikko Rantanen and MacKinnon) took advantage of a slick Rantanen pass through the slot and around D Travis Hamonic – who was trying to block a potential shot from the right face-off circle alongside G David Rittich‘s attempted save – to bury his one-timer into a gaping net.
W Matthew Nieto (Soderberg and Comeau) finished off the assault 1:18 before the second intermission, setting the score at 4-2.
No goals were scored in the final frame until 17 seconds remained in regulation. With Ritich pulled for a sixth Calgary attacker, D Duncan Siemens scored his first NHL goal with a long-range empty-netter.
Third Star G Semyon Varlamov earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (.938 save percentage), leaving the loss to Rittich, who saved 29-of-33 (.879).
With Colorado’s home victory, it snapped a four-day point streak by road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. As such, the 75-47-19 hosts now have a 20-point advantage on the visitors in the series.
Gearing up for a full slate of 15 games tomorrow, the NHL scheduler applied the brakes today.
Only two games are on the schedule this evening, with the first – Toronto at Chicago (NBCSN/SN/TVAS) – dropping the puck at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Next up is Los Angeles at Calgary (SN360), which gets underway two hours later.
While it would certainly be fun to feature an Original Six rivalry for the first time in a week, the Pacific Division has an important contest taking place this evening. Off to the Saddledome with us!
You know that feeling when you’re driving down the road and you see your friend driving the other way?
That’s kind of what’s going on between these squads within the Pacific Division. For much of the season – as recently as January 4 – the 25-18-5 Kings were competing with Vegas for the division lead, but they’ve suffered a 1-7-0 stretch since then that has sent them to 10th-place in the Western Conference.
A team that drops from second in the division to outside the playoff picture in the span of less than 20 days surely has more than one issue. I’d argue they have two big ones: an anemic offense accented by a regression at the goaltending position.
There’s no other way to say it: Los Angeles’ offense has been terrible lately. Since January 4, the Kings have averaged only 2.13 goals per game – a mark that is better than only the efforts of division-rival Edmonton (two goals per game) and Columbus (1.5 goals per game) in that time.
As might be expected, more than a few Kings have seen a regression in their scoring since this skid began. However, the likes of C Anze Kopitar (19-31-50 totals) and D Jake Muzzin (4-23-27) are still maintaining their high level of play, as they both average a point-per-game since January 4.
Even still, their efforts are not enough to make up for the rest of the squad’s slump. In particular, Los Angeles is missing the usually solid play of W Dustin Brown (15-19-34 totals) and F Tyler Toffoli (18-12-30), two players among the top-five in point production for the Kings on the season that have managed only respective 0-3-3 and 1-0-1 totals in their last eight games played.
While pointing fingers at Head Coach John Stevens‘ offense is certainly a warranted charge, I do need to acknowledge that Los Angeles’ offense was never the class of the league. On the season, the Kings have scored an average of only 2.81 goals per game, the 13th-worst mark in the NHL.
But that bad-turned-worse regression only half the problem. 20-17-2 G Jonathan Quick has also been miserable in his last seven starts. After starting the season with Vezina-like numbers, he’s posted only an .876 save percentage and 3.65 GAA to drop his season marks to a .921 and 2.44.
Making his performance even more frustrating is that his defense is doing everything in its control to make his life easier. Led by Brown’s 3.1 hits per game, Kopitar’s six takeaways and D Alec Martinez‘ 3.3 blocks per game during this run, he’s faced an average of only 29.5 shots per game during this skid – the fifth-fewest in the league in that time.
Pair a flailing offense and a goaltender in a rut and you get a league-worst -12 goal differential since January 4. There’s a lot that needs to improve for this Kings team to get back into playoff position, much less beat the Flames tonight.
One thing that might see an immediate change this evening could take place in the crease. Quick was in net for 24:21 of yesterday’s 6-2 loss in Vancouver, but he was pulled after allowing his fifth goal on 19 shots faced (.737 save percentage). With 5-1-3 G Darcy Kuemper posting a .938 save percentage in his 35:39 of play, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the nod in this very important game today.
Meanwhile, 25-16-6 Calgary has taken advantage of the Kings’ struggles to surge into a top-three spot in the division after spending most of the season fading in and out of the second wildcard spot. They’ve been impressive since December 31, as that’s when the Flames started their current 7-0-2 run.
In a twist of cruel irony, the biggest reason for the Flames’ increased production rests on one man in particular: 20-13-5 G Mike Smith. Smith has been almost unbeatable since December 31, posting a .945 save percentage and 1.84 GAA to improve his season marks to .926 and 2.41 and lead his club to a 6-0-2 record while he’s been in net (4-1-1 G David Rittich earned the final victory on January 12 at Florida).
Smith’s performance has been of the utmost importance for the Flames, because his defense certainly doesn’t do him any favors having allowed a third-worst 35.11 shots against-per-game since December 31.
Of course, to continue the inverted allusion to the Kings, Calgary has also had the luxury of one of the better offenses in the league during this nine-game run. Scoring 3.22 goals per game since New Year’s Eve, the Flames have wielded the ninth-strongest attack in the NHL.
Many players are performing exceptionally well, but four stick out above the rest. You likely guessed LW Johnny Gaudreau first, and with good reason: his 40 assists on the season are (t)fifth-best in the league, and his 55 points (t)sixth-best. The reigning Lady Byng-winner is continuing his career year by posting solid 2-12-14 totals since New Year’s Eve, but he’s not the only one averaging at least a point per game during this run: LW Matthew Tkachuk (6-4-10), C Sean Monahan (4-6-10) and W Micheal Ferland (4-5-9) join him in that feat, making both of Calgary’s top two lines a very imposing force for even the best defenses.
Tonight is Game 3 in a four-game regular season series between the Flames and Kings, and it’s a matchup Los Angeles is not excited about revisiting. Calgary has won both previous meetings this year, posting a 4-3 overtime victory at Staples Center (Monahan provided the game-winner) on October 11 and defending home ice on January 4 with a 4-3 regulation win (Ferland took First Star honors with a 1-1-2 night).
Since all the Kings need is a win tonight to get back into playoff position, maybe that will be enough motivation for them to rediscover their groove on the offensive end. However, I just don’t see it happening considering the Flames’ stellar play of late. Calgary should come away with two more points tonight.
Though Bridgestone Arena boasts an impressive home-ice advantage for the Nashville Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to emerge with a 4-3 overtime victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
If any Preds fans made the mistake of going to the restroom or buying concessions during the first period, there’s a chance they missed all four goals that were struck in the frame. W Chris Kunitz scored the opening goal of the contest with an unassisted wrist shot 6:24 into the period, but Nashville had the game all tied up only 1:04 later courtesy of a power play (F Cedric Paquette was in the box for hooking C Kyle Turris) slap shot from Second Star of the Game D Ryan Ellis (D Roman Josi and C Colton Sissons). The Predators then took their first lead of the night at the 9:11 mark thanks to W Viktor Arvidsson‘s (LW Pontus Aberg and D Matt Irwin) wrister, but the score was once again tied only 1:37 later on a F Vladislav Namestnikov (C Steven Stamkos and Kunitz) wrister.
In all, it took only 4:24 for all four tallies to be struck, yet the first period ended just as it began – with both teams tied.
Scoring substantially subsided in the remaining 40 minutes, as only two goals were struck – one in each period. The second period’s goal belonged to D P.K. Subban (D Mattias Ekholm and F Ryan Johansen), a power play clapper struck with only 50 seconds remaining before the second intermission.
The Bolts tempted fate by waiting until the waning minutes of regulation to find their game-tying goal, but Stamkos (D Slater Koekkoek and Kunitz) scored a clapper with 2:12 remaining on the clock to force three-on-three overtime.
Overtime is scheduled for five minutes, but First Star F Yanni Gourde (Namestnikov) didn’t want to wait that long. Only 105 seconds into extra time, he took advantage of Namestnikov’s deke-turned-pass across the crease to bury a wrister into Third Star G Juuse Saros‘ gaping cage.
G Louis Domingue earned the victory after saving 30-of-33 shots faced (.909 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Saros, who saved 27-of-31 (.871).
Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are rolling this week. The visitors’ four-game winning streak has pulled them within 18 points of the 59-36-14 hosts.
While Peter is out enjoying a trip to see some hockey games in person, I’m filling in with a recap of the past week’s NHL action.
Player of the Week: Blake Wheeler
Wheeler has been the definition of streaky, of late, but this week was the good side of the coin. He broke a four-game pointless drought last Monday against Minnesota, getting one goal and two assists.
After being held without a point against Colorado, he put in another three-point performance (all assists) against Vegas.
But he would save his best for Sunday against the Ottawa Senators. In a game that saw the Jets beat the Senators 5-0, Wheeler had a point on all but one of the goals, putting up one goal and three assists. He had a beautiful cross ice pass to set up Mark Scheifele on the first goal of the night and the Jets never looked back tallying three of their goals on the power play.
Wheeler has passed Steven Stamkos to take the league lead in assists with 28 and has helped power the Jets to the top of the Western Conference, something few expected as the season began.
Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings
Just when it looked like the Kings might be fading after a hot start, they went 4-0 this week and moved six points ahead of the second-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division, exactly as the media expected before the season began, right? The Kings won the first three of those games by three goals each.
After one period of play in their Tuesday game in Detroit, the Kings found themselves down 1-0, but Dustin Brown, who has had a heck of a comeback season, evened it up at 1 and Anze Kopitar then put them ahead 2-1 before the second period was over. LA would add two more in the third on goals from Adrian Kempe and Kopitar’s second of the night.
Next up for the Kings was another road game against the Caps. Again, the Kings gave up an early lead on a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Marian Gaborik would even it up, only for Kuznetsov to get a second goal. Jonny Brodzinski would tie it again and nine seconds later Jussi Jokinen would put the Kings ahead. After that, it was all Kings.
The Kings continued their road trip Friday with a visit to play the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in the league to this point in the season. This time the Kings got the early lead on a Tyler Toffoli tally. Kopitar would then bang home a rebound to make it 2-0. Before it was over, Kempe and Toffoli would add goals and the Kings would win 4-1 despite being outshot 40-28 on a stellar performance by backup goaltender, Darcy Kuemper.
The Kings finished their week and their road trip in Chicago on Sunday. Through two periods the game was scoreless. Christian Folin finally put the Kings up with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Then things got a little weird with just over two minutes left in the game. First, Brown would get an empty net goal. Then the Hawks would answer on a goal from Jonathan Toews with 1:46 left to end Quick’s shutout bid. But Kopitar would put the final nail in the coffin with 51.5 seconds left in the game with a final empty net goal.
As long as the Kings continue to get these types of performances from Brown, Kopitar and solid goaltending, they will have a very good chance to lock down the Pacific Division.
Game of the Week: Edmonton Oilers 7 @ Calgary Flames 5, Saturday, December 2, 2017
One of the first NHL games I can remember watching on TV was Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers against Lanny McDonald’s Flames. This game was a throwback to that era when goalies for some reason spent much of their time standing up and, consequently, watching pucks go past them. This is the type of game you hope to see with all of the offensive talent on these two teams and the reason you stay up to watch the late game on Hockey Night in Canada if you live in the Eastern Time Zone.
Connor McDavid skated around the Flames zone early and his persistence led to Jesse Puljujarvi cashing in on the rebound. The Oilers then had what looked like their second goal of the night from Patrick Maroon taken off the board as the goal was kicked. Eric Gryba then set up Puljujarvi for his second of the night on a redirection of Gryba’s point shot.
Mikael Backlund then forced a turnover on the penalty kill that set up Michael Frolik for a short-handed goal to pull the Flames within one goal. But the Oilers scored again before the first period ended to go up 3-1. In the second period, Mark Letestu scored on a short-handed breakaway to expand Edmonton’s lead. Gryba made another shot from the point which was tipped in, this time by Milan Lucic, to go up 5-1.
As the third period started, Mike Smith was replaced in net by David Rittich. Unfortunately for the Flames, Rittich bungled a handoff behind the net and the Oilers capitalized to go up 6-1. One might assume this is where the Flames might call it a night. But Sam Bennett made a tough angle shot to get the score to 6-2. Next, Micheal Ferland notched a power play goal to bring the Flames within three goals. Bennett added a second goal on a 2-on-1 where he took the puck top shelf. Suddenly the score was 6-4 with a lot of time left in the game. Johnny Gaudreau then made another tough angled shot off a stretch pass, taking advantage of young Oilers netminder, Laurent Brossoit. The impossible seemed possible with the score 6-5. But Brossoit would make a key save on Gaudreau on a two-on-one to prevent the tying goal.
With 1:01 left, the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to center a pass, but it bounced into the net off T.J. Brodie’s stick to salt away the win for Edmonton by a final of 7-5. While the Flames couldn’t quite finish their comeback, it was the sort of game that reminded you why the Battle of Alberta was once such a big deal.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Trade Rumors seem to be starting earlier than normal and we have already seen one blockbuster and several smaller trades.
This past week saw Anaheim and New Jersey make a significant hockey trade if not a true blockbuster. The Ducks sent right-handed defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional pick to the Devils in exchange for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a third round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. The move was a much-needed improvement on the back end for the Devils, who are one of the surprises of the early season. As for the Ducks, with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler still out, Henrique can help at center and, when they return, he can provide forward depth.
Who is next?
Well, the name that seemed to be coming up repeatedly during the past week was Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole. The left-handed defenseman was a healthy scratch and several sources had stated that his relationship with Mike Sullivan had been rocky, leading the Pens to consider a trade. However, their asking price may be higher than what a willing buyer will give them for Cole—Pittsburgh is still seeking an improvement at center for their third line after Riley Sheahan has failed to impress. Toronto is a destination that has been mentioned with Tyler Bozak falling out of favor and the Leafs wanting to upgrade their defense, but to this point nothing seems imminent.
The Edmonton Oilers have also been frequently mentioned in trade rumors. While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins name has probably been mentioned the most, more recently the Oilers have been mentioned in connection with smaller trades that might see them shipping out the likes of Pat Maroon. It is hard to see how Maroon would produce the sort of return that might get the Oilers back into contention in the Western Conference.
Another name that has been brought up repeatedly is Evander Kane. Buffalo is one of the few teams clearly out of the hunt at this early date, but it seems most likely they will wait until the deadline to move Kane when they might extract the highest possible return for the wing, who will be a free agent this summer.