Tag Archives: Urho Vaakanainen

DTFR Podcast #147- Trade The Whole Team

It’s the DTFR 2019 Trade Deadline recap! Plus a few other notes from the last week around the NHL.

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

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 60 Games

The Boston Bruins and the rest of the NHL are nearing the annual trade deadline. Through 60 games played, the Bruins are currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division with a 35-17-8 record (78 points) behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (46-11-4, 96 points).

Wednesday night, the B’s will play their 61st game of the season when they visit the Vegas Golden Knights (new forecast coming soon for that club too), but before they do that, here’s a quick review and a glimpse of what could be based on this latest forecast with 22 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season for Boston.

After getting off to a quick start in October, despite a blowout on Opening Night, the Bruins fell into a bit of a lull in November and December.

Jaroslav Halak (15-9-4 record, 2.35 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 30 games played) helped carry the weight through November, before regressing towards the end of December into January. As long as the wins rolled in, the team was making progress.

Tuukka Rask (20-8-4, 2.45 GAA, .918 SV% in 33 GP) has not lost in regulation in his last 15 starts as the B’s carry a six-game winning streak into Vegas for Wednesday night’s matchup.

Though Halak is expected to start against the Golden Knights, Rask and his counterpart have formed a solid 1A/1B option for the Bruins all season long– considering league scoring is up and the B’s have allowed the 3rd fewest goals against (155) in the league, behind only the New York Islanders (138) and Dallas Stars (154).

The Bruins went 7-7-0 in December and improved to 6-3-3 in January.

Yes, I know that’s still a .500 win-percentage, but points percentage wise, that’s 14 out of 28 possible points in December and 15 out of a possible 24 points in January (progress!).

Yet, by the end of January and through all of February thus far, the B’s have been starting to reach another gear.

The first line has been consistent all year, while General Manager Don Sweeney is in search of the last missing piece among top-six forwards to complete the second line.

Meanwhile, Sweeney was working the trade deals on Wednesday, acquiring Charlie Coyle (10-18–28 totals in 60 games played this season, 91-151–242 totals in 479 career games) from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato (3-6–9 totals in 34 games, 11-7–18 totals in 46 career NHL games) and a conditional 2019 5th round pick.

If the Bruins advance to the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, then the 5th round pick becomes a 2019 4th round pick (originally belonging to the New York Rangers, previously acquired by the Bruins along with Steven Kampfer in exchange for Adam McQuaid on Sept. 11, 2018).

Coyle will boost Boston’s third line and can play second line minutes if necessary, but isn’t the end-all, be-all solution for a Cup run.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the latest Bruins forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will change things, like injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is a glimpse at expected outcomes.

If a player does better, then they exceeded expectations. If said player does worse, then they didn’t meet expectations (for one reason or another).

My degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.

Whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends that can be deciphered to make educated guesses.

Boston Bruins Forecast Through 60 Games Played (20 Games Remaining)
I really miss the days of making a nice gallery, but WordPress messed around with that feature…

First, I know what you’re thinking, “but Nick, how come you still have Donato on the roster still and haven’t included Coyle?”

There’s two parts to my answer: 1) I ran this forecast after the conclusion of Monday night’s, 6-5, overtime win against the San Jose Sharks, so 2) the Coyle-Donato trade was made early in the writing of this post, so Coyle’s forecast will be reflected at a later date.

Second, I know you’re also looking at Jake DeBrusk’s expected stats saying “uh, there’s only 20 games left, he can’t possibly score 21 more goals and amass 16 more assists for a total of 65 points this season” and you’re right.

With DeBrusk’s recent scoring stretch over the last 20 games, his latest forecast gives a bit of a look at what could have been if he hadn’t been going through streaks like he has.

The same can be applied to David Pastrnak’s expected 32-37–69 totals. Prior to getting injured, Pastrnak’s last forecast had him around the 40-goal plateau.

After his left thumb surgery– in addition to having missed the last few games, as well as his recent decline in goal scoring over the last 20 games– his numbers are more in line with what to expect when he returns, whenever that is.

At best, Pastrnak misses the “at least” two weeks he was supposed to miss, makes his return and picks up as close to where he left off as possible.

At worst, he only scores a few more goals this season after returning later than expected (in the best-case scenario), but is back to being his normal self in a postseason run.

Anyway, Boston’s offense looks like it’ll be led by Brad Marchand with 85 points on the season. Marchand also looks to lead the team in assists with 58 expected apples, topping Patrice Bergeron (49 expected assists), Torey Krug (48) and David Krejci (47).

In goal scoring, Pastrnak remains supreme with 32 expected goals, leading Bergeron (28 expected goals), Marchand (27) and Krejci (16).

On defense, Krug (9-48–57 expected totals) dominates the two-way aspect of the game from the blue line, despite missing a chunk of time due to injury earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy (7-22–29 expected totals) and Matt Grzelcyk (2-18–20 expected totals) continue to be vital assets alongside their captain and anchor, 41-year-old (soon to be 42-years-old on March 18th), Zdeno Chara (5-11–16).

In goal, Rask is destined to settle in with a 2.37 GAA and a .921 SV%, while Halak backstops the team to a 2.40 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% himself.

That’s some consistent goaltending in the crease and plenty to smile about if Sweeney can add more offensive prowess in secondary scoring and perhaps add a depth blue line asset for the playoffs.

Boston Bruins 2018-19 Forecast Through 40 Games

In keeping with true fashion to cranking out these forecasts this season, once again I am a couple of games behind in terms of timeliness.

Nonetheless, the last few games don’t matter– they’re not taken into account for this latest forecast, but they are taken into consideration for future performance as a whole over the remaining “42” games at the time these projections were forecasted.

Halfway through the season, the Boston Bruins find themselves in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings. Despite all the injuries, despite the lack of depth scoring and despite all other areas of regression, the B’s are holding their own weight in a competitive division.

Bruce Cassidy‘s coaching style and compete level is something to be praised as they’ve weathered the storm, but now the question remains– can they take it to the next level?

General Manager, Don Sweeney, probably could opt for a scoring winger before the team goes down the stretch and into the playoffs, where, last year’s depth scoring dried up thanks, in part, due to a gamble that didn’t pay off in acquiring Rick Nash to help provide a spark on the second line.

This season’s team is righting the ship, but are they peaking too early? When will they peak if they aren’t starting to peak now?

Doubt will always enter the mind. True professionals ignore it and achieve.

Anyway, to avoid getting too much into coaching philosophy or whatever, let’s take a look at the most recent forecast for Boston and remember there are many variables that can and will change things. Being injured, called up, assigned, scratched, traded, lucky or unlucky will incur damage to the expected stats.

Unpredictable variables happen. Microsoft Excel knows none of that.

As always, my degree is in communication– not math. This forecast is just an utopian outlook for the Bruins if every player met expectations.

Should they do better, then they will have exceeded expectations. If they fall short, then they were injured, out of the lineup or whatever– they didn’t meet expectations and next season’s numbers will reflect a new benchmark for meeting expectations.

The nature of hockey is both contextually analytical and holistically unpredictable– nothing can account for sheer puck luck or the odd puck bounce, but whatever’s on the scoresheet every night can indicate general trends and be utilized for educated guesses.


Boston Bruins Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)

(Just click on the image if you’re having trouble seeing it– WordPress changed their layout so there’s no more slideshow options.)

Boston’s expected leaders in points indicates an 80-point season for David Pastrnak for the second season in-a-row– and not only that, but a career-high in goals and points.

Pastrnak is forecasted to lead the Bruins with 39 goals and 43 assists (82 points) with linemate Patrice Bergeron (26-41–67 forecasted totals) expected to be second in the club’s scoring.

Second line center, David Krejci (15-45–60 expected totals) is bound to be third in Bruins scoring this season with Jake DeBrusk emerging from the haze of injury and a slow start to his sophomore season.

While Pastrnak is destined to lead his club in goals with 39 in the latest forecast, it appears he’ll be the only Bruin to reach the 30-goal plateau this season, as Brad Marchand is currently forecasted to end up with 27 goals this season.

Marchand has reached 30-goals for the last three consecutive seasons and the 20-goal plateau in seven out of his eight full seasons he’s played since 2010-11.

Should he reach 20 goals as expected this season, he’ll extend his scoring prowess to eight out of his nine seasons in the NHL.

Bergeron’s expected to follow suit with his teammates on what is one of the best lines in the league, ranking third in goals by season’s end with 26, despite missing 16 games due to a rib/sternoclavicular injury.

In assists, Marchand has emerged as much of a playmaker as he is a natural scorer with the current expectation of 47 assists this season, leading his teammates, Krejci (45 expected assists) and Pastrnak (43 expected assists).

Marchand set a career-high in assists with 51 last season and is on pace to reach at least 40 assists for the third consecutive season.

Noted playmaker and usual assist leading suspect, Krejci’s 45 assists would be his best since he had 46 assists in 72 games during 2015-16. Of note, Krejci has not missed a game so far this season.

Fellow Czech native, Pastrnak is the only other player to have appeared in every game so far.

On defense, Torey Krug remains supreme with 10-40–50 expected totals, despite missing 11 games thus far. Another 50 points this season would be the third consecutive season of reaching the 50-point plateau for Krug.

He matched his career-high in goals (14) and set a new career-high in assists (45) last season en route to a career-high 59-point year in 76 games played.

It’s very likely Krug may exceed expectations, so long as he’s healthy.

Young stallion, Charlie McAvoy is still on pace for breaking the 30-point benchmark this season, despite missing 23 games through this forecast due to a couple of injuries (namely, a concussion and a lower body injury after blocking a shot).

While McAvoy’s health may be worrisome this season, Matt Grzelcyk has stepped into more minutes with the expectations of a career-year with 3-19–22 forecasted totals.

John Moore and Zdeno Chara are both expected to reach 15 points with Kevan Miller adding another 12 from the blue line this season.

In goal, Boston has seen some stellar action from Jaroslav Halak— though recently he has been trending in the other direction, Tuukka Rask has picked up his pace of play back to where it’s expected night-in and night-out.

Halak is on pace for a 2.42 goals against average, despite his 2.28 GAA in 22 games played as of this forecast. Still, a 2.42 GAA would be equivalent to his 2.43 GAA in 59 GP in 2014-15 with the New York Islanders.

His workload shouldn’t reach nearly 60 games this season, so there’s still hope he exceeds expectations and keeps his GAA low, while increasing his expected save percentage.

Currently, Halak is forecasted to finish the 2018-19 regular season with a .920 SV%– his highest since attaining a .920 SV% in 52 games in 2013-14 for the Islanders. He had a .919 SV% in 36 games with New York in 2015-16.

Whether Halak will regress back to his usual form remains to fully be seen.

As has been since Halak’s stellar performances early in the season outplayed Tuukka Rask, Cassidy will have to manage both of his goaltender’s time in the crease– keeping each fresh enough to remain hot and rested for a playoff stretch.

Rask, in the meantime, is currently forecasted to reach a 2.38 GAA, which would be the second consecutive season of a slightly worse goals against average since he had a 2.23 in 65 games played in 2016-17 (he had a 2.36 GAA in 54 GP last season).

However, a 2.38 GAA is still respectable, considering his 2.63 GAA in 20 appearances through Boston’s first 40 games this season.

Boston’s usual starting goaltender is on track for a .919 SV%, which would be Rask’s highest since amassing a .922 SV% in 70 games played in 2014-15– a season in which he was drastically overworked.

Rask’s career-high .931 SV% came in 2009-10, when he had stolen the starting job from Tim Thomas and played in 45 games.

He’s also had back-to-back seasons at .929 in 23 games in 2011-12 (while serving as Thomas’ backup) and in 36 games in 2012-13 (during the 48-game lockout-shortened season, in which Rask backstopped Boston to their 2013 Stanley Cup Final appearance).

Anything at or above .920 in terms of save percentage is usually widely praised. A .919 SV% is not that far off and might actually be more reflective of the increased offense league-wide, but that’s something to research on a different day.

Regardless, two goaltenders around .920 in save percentage and close to a 2.30 goals against average isn’t a bad thing to have. That’s what some might refer to as an effective “1A/1B” scenario.

Now fight it out in the comments over who is “1A” and who is “1B” in this case.

Game of the week: December 24-30

Now that the holiday break has come and gone, it’s time to get back into some hockey. Let’s take a gander at all the tilts the NHL has crammed into four days this week.

NHL SCHEDULE: December 24-30
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, December 24
No Games Scheduled – Christmas Eve
Tuesday, December 25
No Games Scheduled – Christmas
Wednesday, December 26
No Games Scheduled – Boxing Day
Thursday, December 27
7 p.m. New Jersey Boston 5-2
7 p.m. Columbus Blue Jackets New York Rangers 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Detroit Pittsburgh 2-5
7 p.m. Carolina Washington 1-3
7:30 p.m. Philadelphia Tampa Bay 5-6 (OT)
8 p.m. Buffalo St. Louis 1-4
8 p.m. Dallas Nashville 2-0
8 p.m. Calgary Winnipeg 4-1
8:30 p.m. Minnesota Chicago 2-5
9 p.m. Vancouver Edmonton 4-2
10 p.m. Colorado Vegas 1-2
10:30 p.m. Arizona Los Angeles  1-2
10:30 p.m. Anaheim San Jose  2-4
Friday, December 28
7 p.m. Montréal Florida RDS, TSN2
7 p.m. Ottawa Senators New York Islanders RDS2
7 p.m. Toronto Columbus ESPN+
Saturday, December 29
1 p.m. Carolina New Jersey SN
4 p.m. Vegas Los Angeles SN1
4 p.m. San Jose Edmonton  
4 p.m. Minnesota Winnipeg  
7 p.m. Boston Buffalo  
7 p.m. New York Islanders Toronto Maple Leafs CBC, ESPN+, SN1
7 p.m. Washington Ottawa CITY, SN360
7 p.m. Montréal Tampa Bay SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Philadelphia Florida  
8 p.m. Pittsburgh St. Louis  
8 p.m. New York Rangers Nashville Predators ESPN+
8 p.m. Detroit Dallas  
9 p.m. Chicago Colorado  
10 p.m. Arizona Anaheim  
10 p.m. Vancouver Canucks Calgary Flames CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, December 30
8 p.m. Vegas Arizona ESPN+, SN, TVAS

Rivalries on tap this week included Detroit at Pittsburgh, Calgary at Winnipeg, Minnesota at Chicago and Anaheim at San Jose on Thursday; Boston at Buffalo and Vancouver at Calgary today and Vegas at Arizona tomorrow.

We also got the pleasure of taking in a few playoff rematches from this spring, including the previously mentioned Anaheim at San Jose tilt Thursday night,  as well as Minnesota at Winnipeg and Vegas at Los Angeles on this evening.

Finally, a few tilts involved players making homecoming trips to former longtime homes. Now a member of the Sabres after an offseason trade, F Vladimir Sobotka made his first trip back to St. Louis on Thursday, while F Leo Komarov returned to Toronto – his former home of five seasons – today.

Of all of those, the showdown I’m most interested in is taking place in the Queen City. The Bruins are the healthiest they’ve been all season, while the Sabres are looking to once again regain the form that earned them a 10-game winning streak through much of November.

Though the 20-14-4 Boston Bruins can currently lay claim to the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, they are far from comfortable or safe in that position considering the New York Islanders are only two points behind them in the standings with two games in hand.

However, playing in the Bruins’ favor is their previously mentioned return to good health. With the exception of D Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s 2017 first-round pick who has a whopping two NHL appearances to his credit, D Charlie McAvoy and LW Brad Marchand, the Bruins have almost achieved full health once again – albeit with F David Backes taking in tonight’s tilt and the next two as well from the press box after he was suspended for a high hit against New Jersey’s F Blake Coleman on Thursday.

Yes, Boston fans, you did the math correctly: Backes will be unavailable for New Year’s Day’s Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, nor the tough matchup with the Flames on Thursday.

Of course, there’s always the question of just how much he’ll be missed. He’s been involved in all of the Bruins’ last seven games in which they’ve posted a 3-4-0 record, contributing only four assists and a -5 rating in those outings.

Now, it might sound like I’m piling on Backes and implying that he does more harm than good when he’s on the ice. While it would certainly be a stretch to say he’d be the best player in white this evening if he were dressing, there’s no doubting the former captain’s defensive contributions. He’s top eight among Bruins forwards since December 14 in hits per game, blocks per game and takeaways (for those wondering, the forwards leading those stats in that time frame are F Noel Acciari [3.8 hits per game], F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson [1.3 blocks per game] and Marchand [eight takeaways]).

Instead, what has been letting Boston down during its last seven games is clearly some sub-par goaltending. Despite a defense that has yielded only 28.86 shots against in its last seven showings (a mark that’s sixth-best in the NHL in that time), neither 12-6-2 G Jaroslav Halak nor 8-8-2 G Tuukka Rask – tonight’s starter – has looked all that impressive.

It goes without saying that Rask is having the worst season of his career this year. His .911 season save percentage and 2.72 GAA are both on pace to be the worst marks of his professional career (barring, of course, his four-game 2007-08 campaign). Making matters even more dreadful for the Bruins’ faithful, Rask’s last two starts have been even more alarming, as he boasts only an .873 save percentage and 4.15 GAA in those outings.

It probably goes without saying, but he lost both of those games (4-2 against Buffalo and 5-3 at Carolina).

With a 21-12-5 record, the Buffalo Sabres have settled into third place in the Atlantic Division, though just like Boston, there’s not many points separating them from teams trying to chase them down. Montréal trails the Sabres by only two points, while the Bruins could pull within a point of Buffalo with a win tonight.

Much of the reason the Sabres are starting to fall back to Earth is their playing .500 hockey of late. Over Buffalo’s last eight games, it has managed only a 4-3-1 record, losing ground on the Maple Leafs in the division standings during Toronto’s five-game winning streak.

If anyone is to blame for Buffalo’s inconsistencies of late, it’s certainly not 8-1-3 G Linus Ullmark. He’s managed a solid .922 save percentage and 2.71 GAA for the entire season, but he’s been even better in his last three starts, winning all three and posting an impressive .953 save percentage and 1.65 GAA.

Making those numbers even more impressive, he hasn’t had the luxury of playing behind one of the league’s best defenses. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. In the Sabres’ last eight games, they’ve allowed 32.75 shots against per game, the 10th-worst mark in the NHL since December 11.

It is unclear if Ullmark or 13-11-2 G Carter Hutton will be in net tonight, but I would argue that it is this decision that will ultimately determine the outcome of this tilt. Just like Rask, Hutton has not looked particularly good lately, as he has earned only three points in his last five starts due to an average .91 save percentage and 2.78 GAA in those showings (compared to his .916 save percentage and 2.64 GAA for the season).

Should Hutton get the start, I am confident the Bruins’ offense, which has averaged 3.29 goals per game in their past eight showings, should be strong enough to earn the road victory. However, if Head Coach Phil Housley gives the nod to Ullmark, he has proven to me that he is more than able to lead the Sabres to two points.

Whalers– er, Hurricanes beat Bruins, 5-3

“Hockey’s been dead to me since 1997,” my high school English teacher told me one day senior year. You see, he was from Connecticut and– by default– a Hartford Whalers fan.

When the Whalers relocated to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season, my 12th grade English teacher couldn’t see himself switching allegiances and rooting for one of Hartford’s rivals and he wasn’t about to follow the Whalers to Greensboro (because their new home arena– ironically– wouldn’t be ready for a couple of years), then ultimately Raleigh.

So for Mr. Huse, hockey didn’t even make it to 100 years like the NHL celebrated last season.

For others, nostalgia sells well, though it’ll never fully replace the void left behind by the real thing.

For the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins on Sunday night, it meant the Hurricanes could sell more seats and merchandise, then let fans watch a thrilling, 5-3, comeback Hurricanes victory over the B’s at PNC Arena.

Coincidentally, the last time the Whalers beat the Bruins as a team based out of Hartford, Connecticut, the final score was, 6-3, on March 12, 1997, so history almost repeats itself, if you will.

Sebastian Aho had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-four in Carolina’s victory on Sunday, while Petr Mrazek (6-7-2 record, 2.62 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the win.

Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-8-2, 2.72 GAA, .911 SV% in 18 GP) made 32 saves on 37 shots against for an .865 SV% in the loss.

After Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory over the Nashville Predators on home ice, the Bruins hit the road for one last game before the mandatory three-day, league-wide, Christmas break.

Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup against the Predators and recorded his 299th and 300th career goals, becoming the 6th player in franchise history to record 300-plus goals with Boston.

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly each added a goal (with Kuraly pocketing the empty net goal) against Nashville before the Bruins boarded a plane headed for Raleigh.

Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in the win against the Preds and had Sunday off, while Rask backstopped the Bruins in the second night of back-to-back games, home and away.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the B’s from Saturday to Sunday, leaving Bergeron on the first line, centering Marchand and Danton Heinen.

Joakim Nordstrom remained on the left side of David Krejci and Pastrnak, while the bottom-six forward lines of Ryan DonatoColby CaveDavid Backes and Kuraly-Noel AcciariChris Wagner remained intact.

With Urho Vaakanainen assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and subsequently loaned to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Finland, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Sunday.

Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Jake DeBrusk (concussion protocol) and Kevan Miller (larynx) are all progressing and nearing returns after the Christmas break. Some, if not all, may be ready to go on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.

If not, they might return in Buffalo against the Sabres next Saturday. Otherwise, the three currently injured Bruins may return next year (well, next calendar year, that is).

As a result of Sunday’s loss, the B’s fell to 6-1-1 in the 2nd night of back-to-back games this season (outscoring opponents, 24-13, in that span).

Micheal Ferland kicked off the action on Whalers Night early in the first period, getting his stick up high on Backes, yielding a minor infraction for high-sticking at 1:27.

The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night and got to work quickly with a fluke play-turned-power play goal thanks to a friendly-fire bounce off of Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Donato (4) was the last Bruin to touch the puck on a shot attempt by Torey Krug that then deflected off of van Riemsdyk, bounced over Mrazek and landed in the net behind the Carolina goaltender.

Krug (18) and Marchand (28) had the assists on Donato’s goal at 2:40 of the first period and Boston led, 1-0.

Steven Kampfer went to the penalty box at 5:35 for holding Warren Foegele, then Acciari made it a 5-on-3 advantage for the Hurricanes after he high-sticked Sebastian Aho at 6:29.

The Hurricanes did not convert on their abbreviated two-skater advantage and subsequent shortened 5-on-4 power play, but the Bruins were able to work the game’s momentum in their favor.

With Kampfer fresh out of the box, Boston worked the offensive zone with little pushback and Kampfer (2) unloaded a shot from the point that Mrazek had no chance at stopping to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

Kuraly (6) and Marchand (29) had the assists on Kampfer’s goal at 8:56 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.

Prior to Sunday, the Bruins were 16-1 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season. After Sunday, the Bruins were 16-2 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season.

Why? Because the Hurricanes had a whale of a comeback.

(Thank you, thank you very much.)

Carolina improved to 5-12-3 when allowing the game’s first goal this season, thanks to four unanswered goals stretching from the first period into the second period.

Boston fell to 13-3-2 when scoring first this season as a result of the blown two-goal lead and loss.

Justin Faulk interfered with Donato and was sent to the box at 10:09 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Instead, shortly after killing off the penalty, Carolina capitalized on a fluke play.

Charlie McAvoy misplayed the puck in his own zone, leading to a Hurricanes attack that resulted in Teuvo Teravainen (7) banking a shot off of McAvoy’s glove and into the net as the young Bruins defender motioned his hand to try to bat the puck away (but instead swatted it into his own net).

Andrei Svechnikov (9) and Aho (23) had the assists and the Canes cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 12:55 of the first period.

With about 16 seconds left on the clock in the first frame, Svechnikov caught Krug with a high-stick and cut a rut to the sin bin.

The Bruins did not score on the power play that stretched into the second period.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Carolina held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 13-10.

The Hurricanes also led in takeaways (8-1), while the B’s dominated in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (3-1), hits (14-11) and face-off win percentage (61-39) through one period.

The Canes were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were 1/3 after 20 minutes of play.

While still on the penalty kill, Carolina roared out to a fast start in the second period as Aho (13) fired a shot that squibbed through Rask’s five-hole as McAvoy partially screened his own goaltender.

Teravainen (20) had the only assist on Aho’s short-handed goal at 1:29 of the second period and the Hurricanes tied the game, 2-2.

As a result of the shorthanded goal against, Boston has now allowed six shorthanded goals this season (tied for the 4th worst in the league).

Aho (14) followed up with his second goal of the night after Carolina forced a turnover and entered the attacking zone with a 3-on-1. This time a one-timer beat Rask and the Hurricanes led, 3-2, at 7:11 for the first time of the night.

Moments later, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Faulk (2) wired a shot from the point that beat Rask’s glove side as traffic in the slot screened the Bruins netminder from even seeing the puck.

Ferland (5) and Justin Williams (13) had the assists on Faulk’s goal at 11:47 and the Canes led, 4-2.

Late in the middle frame, Donato (5) scored his second goal of the night with a patented Donato snipe that went bar-down in the top left corner to pull the B’s within one goal.

Colby Cave (4) and Backes (7) had the assists at 16:05.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes held onto a, 4-3, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-28, advantage in shots on goal.

Early in the third period, Ferland hooked Donato and the Bruins went back on the power play at 5:44.

While shorthanded, Teravainen (8) capitalized on another bad play with the puck in Boston’s own zone– this time on a lapse in judgment from Rask– and pocketed the mostly empty net goal to make it, 5-3, Hurricanes after Aho was denied the first time.

Aho (24) did pick up an assist, however, on Teravainen’s goal and Carolina led by two-goals at 7:20 of the third period.

Late in the final frame of regulation, the Bruins bench picked up a minor penalty for too many men (served by Donato) at 14:27 and Svechnikov put the Hurricanes on the penalty kill for boarding McAvoy at 17:20.

Neither power play was successful and despite pulling Rask for an extra attacker with about 2:40 remaining in regulation, the Bruins failed to score.

At the final horn the Hurricanes had handed Boston their first regulation loss to Carolina since April 13, 2013, with a, 5-3, victory.

Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-30) and giveaways (8-6), while Boston led in blocked shots (16-14), hits (41-32) and face-off win% (60-40) as the team wearing Whalers throwbacks played the role of spoiler just as Hartford used to actually do.

The Canes went 0/3 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/5.

Among other stats, McAvoy finished the night as a minus-four. Matt Grzelcyk and Krejci were both minus-three’s. Steven Kampfer was a plus-one.

The reported attendance at PNC Arena was 17,491– the second highest this season, short of the 18,000-plus crowd for the home opener.

Boston fell to 20-13-4 (44 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic, while Carolina improved to 15-15-5 (35 points) and stayed in 6th in the Metropolitan Division.

Boston takes on New Jersey (Thurs.) and Buffalo (Sat.) before heading to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2019.

B’s beat Ducks, 3-1, on milestone night for Krejci, Krug

David Krejci became the 10th player to reach 600 points with the Boston Bruins on Thursday as a result of his insurance goal in Boston’s, 3-1, victory over the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.

Krejci reached the 600-point plateau in his 804th career NHL game.

Fellow Czech forward, David Pastrnak had a three-point night (1-2–3 totals) and Torey Krug became the all-time leader in assists by a US-born defender in Bruins franchise history, notching his 200th career assist with Boston in the win.

Jaroslav Halak (11-5-2 record, 2.20 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 20 games played) made 24 saves on 25 shots against for a .930 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Anaheim’s John Gibson (15-10-4, 2.54 GAA, .926 SV% in 30 GP) turned aside 28 out of 31 shots faced for a .903 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 19-12-4 (42 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Ducks fell to 19-13-5 (43 points) and remained in 3rd place in the Pacific Division, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, though the Sharks have two games in-hand.

Boston currently holds the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the Buffalo Sabres by three points for the final Atlantic divisional spot in the postseason.

On Tuesday, Boston placed recent waiver acquisition, Gemel Smith, on waivers for the purpose of assignment to Providence. The Bruins also assigned defender, Jeremy Lauzon, to the P-Bruins on the same day.

Smith, 24, (2-1–3 totals in 17 games with the Bruins and Dallas Stars this season) cleared waivers Wednesday and subsequently joined Providence’s roster.

Lauzon, 21, made his NHL debut on Oct. 25th against the Philadelphia Flyers and recorded his first career NHL goal on Nov. 11th against the Vegas Golden Knights.

He had 1-3–4 totals in 15 games with Boston prior to being assigned and had 1-6–7 totals in 52 games with Providence last season (his first professional season).

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup from Monday night’s, 4-0, victory in Montreal to Thursday night’s battle with Anaheim and indicated a minor injury for Tuukka Rask, as well as Boston’s recent record against the Ducks influenced his decision in starting Halak on Thursday.

Prior to Thursday’s final outcome, the Bruins had lost nine-straight games against the Ducks in the regular season.

As a result of Tuesday’s transactions, the only players listed out of the lineup against Anaheim for Boston were all injury related, as Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Jake DeBrusk (concussion) and Kevan Miller (larynx) remain out of action.

Bergeron addressed the media after Thursday’s morning skate and indicated the team doctors and trainers will have the final say in his return to the lineup– though he is pushing for Saturday or Sunday.

John Moore tripped Jakob Silfverberg at 3:00 of the first period and gave the Ducks an early power play as the action got going Thursday night.

Anaheim did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and moments later was charged with a tripping infraction of their own as Andrew Cogliano got his stick tangled in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson‘s legs at 6:44.

While in the waning seconds of their first power play of the night, Bruins forward, Danton Heinen, interfered with Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie at 8:41 and ended the Bruins power play prematurely.

After one period of play, both teams remained tied, 0-0, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 8-7, despite the Ducks leading in just about every other statistical category.

Anaheim led in blocked shots (7-2), takeaways (6-3), giveaways (12-4) and face-off win percentage (65-35), while both teams recorded seven hits aside entering the first intermission.

The Ducks were 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1 after 20 minutes.

Hampus Lindholm kicked off a string of action in the second period as Pastrnak drew an interference penalty, yielding another Bruins power play at 7:44 of the second period.

On the ensuing skater advantage the Bruins almost flubbed the puck out of the zone, had the puck taken an awkward bounce off of David Backes‘ stick.

Instead, the rubber biscuit landed on the stick blade of Krug’s, which the defender quickly flung it to Pastrnak (22) for the surefire power play goal at 8:19.

Krug (17) and Backes (6) had the assists on the goal and the Bruins led, 1-0.

Brad Marchand found himself all over the scoresheet for various reasons Thursday night, starting with a slashing minor against Ryan Getzlaf at 12:20, but shortly followed up by drawing a penalty as Cogliano slashed Marchand about five minutes later.

Boston went on the power play at 17:58 when Cogliano went back to the box for a second time, but it wasn’t long before the B’s power play came to an end.

The Bruins won a face-off in the offensive zone and worked the puck to Pastrnak, then Marchand and finally to Krug (4) at the point, whereby No. 47 in black-and-gold blasted a shot past Gibson to make it, 2-0, at 18:05 of the second period.

Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (21) had the assists on the power play goal and the Ducks didn’t even possess the puck on the short-lived, unsuccessful, penalty kill.

Entering the second intermission, Boston was ahead, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 18-15, in shots on goal. Anaheim led in blocked shots (9-6), giveaways (15-7), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (54-46), while both teams had eight takeaways each.

The Ducks were 0/3 on the power play and the B’s were 2/3.

Though the score wouldn’t remain the same, Boston would go on to improve to 14-1-0 when leading after two periods and Anaheim fell to 6-9-2 when trailing after 40 minutes.

The Bruins also improved to 12-2-2 when scoring first in a game this season.

Brandon Carlo hooked Brian Gibbons at 3:03 of the third period, but Anaheim’s power play unit went silent on all four extra skater opportunities.

Shortly after killing off Carlo’s minor infraction, Krejci (7) rocketed a shot past Gibson at 5:21 to give the B’s a three-goal lead.

Pastrnak (22) and Marchand (25) were credited with the assists as Pastrnak completed a three-point night and Krejci extended his point-streak to eight games (and 5-6–11 totals in those eight games).

Getzlaf hooked Marchand at 10:14 in the game’s final penalty, but the Bruins were unsuccessful on the resulting power play.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Josh Mahura (1) received a pass back to the point off of a face-off in Anaheim’s attacking zone and sent a slap shot past Halak for his first career NHL goal.

Carter Rowney (5) had the only assist on the goal at 15:44 and the Ducks got on the board, 3-1.

With about a minute remaining in regulation, Randy Carlyle pulled Gibson for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Bruins secured the, 3-1, victory upon the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-25, while the Ducks led in giveaways (20-8), hits (25-22) and face-off win% (55-45).

Both teams had ten blocked shots aside as the Ducks went 0/4 on the power play and the B’s went 2/4.

With the mandatory, league-wide, three-day Christmas break fast approaching, the Bruins finish up their pre-Christmas action with another weekend of back-to-back action at home and on the road.

Boston faces the Nashville Predators Saturday afternoon on home ice before traveling to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Whalers Night at PNC Arena this Sunday.

Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.

No, not that forward thinking.

Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).

Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.

At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.

In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem. 

The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.

The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.

Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.

Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.

Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.

In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.

When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.

The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.

It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).

Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.

Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).

Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).

And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.

Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.

Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.

Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.

Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.

In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.

When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.

In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.

Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes  (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.

Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.

Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.

For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?

Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.

This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.

His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.

He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.

Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.

Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.

If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.

Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.

Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that,  he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.

The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.

Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.

Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.

Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).

Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.

He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.

Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.

(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)

Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.

Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.

Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?

Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.

It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

Halak blanks Habs at old home, B’s win, 4-0

Colby Cave (1-1–2 totals), Charlie McAvoy (0-2–2) and David Pastrnak (0-2–2) led the Boston Bruins and their offensive charge as Jaroslav Halak stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout in Boston’s, 4-0, victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

Joakim Nordstrom, David Krejci and Brad Marchand (PP) also had goals for the Bruins, while Halak (10-5-2 record, 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage in 19 games played) picked up the 22-save shutout win in the building he used to call home from 2006-10.

Halak picked up his third shutout of the season and went 56-34-7 (2.62 GAA, .919 SV%, 5 SO) in his career with the Canadiens.

Carey Price (13-9-4, 2.94 GAA, .901 SV% in 27 GP) will have to wait another day for his 300th career victory in a Habs sweater, as the Montreal netminder made 31 saves on 35 shots against for an .886 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 5-0-0 in their last five road games against the Canadiens, dating back to Dec. 12, 2016 (Montreal is 0-3-2 in that span) and set a new franchise record in doing so for their longest regular season win streak versus Montreal (previous, 4-0-0 from Jan. 11-Dec. 20, 1941).

Boston improved to 18-12-4 (40 points) on the season and surpassed the Canadiens for 4th in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while Montreal fell to 17-12-5 (39 points) and 5th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins take on the Anaheim Ducks this Thursday at TD Garden, while Montreal ventures out to Denver, Colorado for a Wednesday night matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to the Bruins lineup on Monday– save for the goaltender, starting Halak over Tuukka Rask (since Rask played on Sunday)– rolling with the same lines and defensive pairs as the last couple of games with Gemel Smith and Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches.

Smith and Lauzon remained out of the lineup alongside Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Jake DeBrusk (concussion) and Kevan Miller (larynx) on Sunday with Bergeron nearing an expected full return to practice on Wednesday.

No. 37 in black-and-gold may return to the lineup in time for Saturday or Sunday’s action against Nashville or in Carolina, respectively.

Nordstom (5) scored the game’s first goal at 2:21 of the first period after the B’s third line worked the puck down low, around the boards and forced a quality backcheck to yield a Canadiens turnover in the attacking zone for David Backes to connect with Nordstrom.

Backes (5) and Cave (3) had the assists on the goal and Boston led, 1-0.

About half-a-minute later, Marchand caught Phillip Danault with a high-stick and was sent to the penalty box while the Habs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Montreal’s power play entering the game on Sunday was 0/22 in the last seven games and did not convert on the skater advantage opportunity while Marchand was in the box.

The Bruins made the kill.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Noel Acciari sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 13:32 of the first period.

The Canadiens did not score on the ensuing power play and followed up with a minor infraction of their own at 16:56, when Danault tripped up Pastrnak.

Boston was unsuccessful on their first power play of the evening and went into the first intermission with the, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and the advantage in shots on goal, 13-5.

Montreal led in blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (14-1) and hits (14-7) after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in takeaways (5-1) and face-off win percentage (60-40). The Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/1 in the first period.

Early in the second period, Montreal was guilty of too many men on the ice, so Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, did the only logical thing to do– send your youngest (and perhaps fastest skater) to the box to serve the penalty and hope for a timely breakaway by the end of the penalty kill.

Things did not go as planned.

At 4:29 of the second period, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi emerged from the sin bin, the Canadiens couldn’t connect.

Instead, both teams continued a string of penalties through the middle frame of the game, with Pastrnak cutting a rut to the penalty box at 11:57 for sending the puck over the glass (Boston’s second automatic delay of game infraction of the night) and a pair of matching minors at 17:48 that sent Sean Kuraly and Kotkaniemi to the box.

Kuraly was handed a holding minor, while Kotkaniemi received a minor infraction for interference and the Bruins and Canadiens would play 4-on-4 for two minutes until just about the end of the second period.

In the final minute of the middle frame, Pastrnak worked the puck back to McAvoy as the Bruins defender worked the puck deep into the attacking zone.

As McAvoy was cruising into the zone, he sent a pass back to Cave in the slot whereby Cave (1) pocketed his first career National Hockey League goal in just his 16th career NHL game.

Cave’s goal was assisted by McAvoy (7) and Pastrnak (19) and gave the B’s a, 2-0, lead over the Habs at 19:34 of the second period.

As both teams entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission, Boston had doubled their lead on the scoreboard, 2-0, and their shots on goal from 13 in the first period to 26 shots after 40 minutes of play.

The Bruins led in shots on goal (26-12), takeaways (7-3) and face-off win% (53-47) after two periods, while Montreal led in blocked shots (14-7), giveaways (18-6) and hits (23-21).

The Habs were 0/3 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2 prior to the start of the third period.

A mere 46 seconds into the third period, Krejci (6) capitalized on a botched attempt at everything from Montreal to put the Bruins ahead, 3-0.

That’s right, everything was botched on the play leading up to Krejci’s goal.

First the Canadiens were slow-footed out of the gate to start the third period, then they were caught in a line change, which led to a Habs blue liner flying in, colliding and tumbling with Tomas Tatar in the low slow as Pastrnak and Marchand worked the puck to each other in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile, with Price in desperation and the puck finding its way to the Price’s right side, McAvoy found Krejci from the side of the goal to bury the puck in the twine.

McAvoy (8) had his second assist of the night on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins had a three-goal lead.

Montreal defender, Mike Reilly, roughed Pastrnak moments later and was assessed a minor penalty at 3:55 of the third period.

Late in the power play for Boston, the Canadiens had another circus clown act in front of their own goal as one of their defenders bumped Pastrnak while the young Bruins forward deked and sent a quick pass to Marchand.

With Pastrnak and one of Montreal’s own colliding with Price, Marchand (11) pocketed the puck in the de facto empty net for a, 4-0, lead and Boston’s fourth power play goal in the month of December.

Pastrnak (20) and Torey Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 5:06.

At the final horn, the Bruins had beaten Montreal, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 35-22, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens finished the night leading in blocked shots (18-17), giveaways (24-11) and hits (46-32), while the B’s led in face-off win% (56-44).

Montreal went 0/3 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

As a result, the Habs are now 0/25 on the power play in their last eight games and 5/58 in their last 19.

Boston improved to 11-2-2 when scoring first this season and heads back home for a quick, two-game, homestand starting Thursday night against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks and ending with a Saturday matinee against the Nashville Predators.

The B’s head to PNC Arena on Sunday for a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Whalers Night in Raleigh. The Hurricanes will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys in both teams’ final game before the league’s mandatory three-day Christmas break.

Eichel’s 4-point night lifts Sabres past B’s, 4-2

Jack Eichel (2-2–4 totals) and Jeff Skinner (2-0–2) led the Buffalo Sabres past the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at TD Garden Sunday evening.

Linus Ullmark (7-1-3 record, 2.94 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 12 games played) made 35 saves on 37 shots against for a .946 SV% in the win, wile Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-7-2, 2.57 GAA, .915 SV% in 17 GP) turned aside 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 17-12-4 (38 points) on the season and remained 5th place in the Atlantic Division as a result, while the Sabres jumped past the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic with a 20-9-5 (25 points) record.

Prior to Sunday evening’s matchup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy provided updates on Jake DeBrusk, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Urho Vaakanainen.

DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup and out of practice, while Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Chara (knee, left MCL), Miller (larynx) and Vaakanainen (concussion) all skated Sunday morning.

Bergeron could join the full group for practice on Wednesday and may return sometime thereafter, while Chara is still a bit further off in his return to the lineup.

Cassidy kept the same lineup as the other night, meaning all of the injured B’s, plus Gemel Smith (healthy scratch) and Jeremy Lauzon (healthy scratch) would be watching the game from the press box.

Jaroslav Halak is likely to get the start in Montreal on Monday night with Rask having played Sunday against the Sabres.

Johan Larsson hooked David Pastrnak early in the first period, sending the Bruins on the power play at 3:47. Boston was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage and returned the favor for the Sabres about ten minutes later.

Joakim Nordstrom tripped up Conor Sheary at 13:33 of the first period and Buffalo went on the power play, but was not able to score as the B’s killed off Nordstrom’s infraction.

Moments later, Matt Hunwick tripped up Ryan Donato on a scoring opportunity, yielding the rare penalty shot for Donato.

Ullmark was unfazed by Donato’s deke and made the pad save as the Bruins forward approached the crease and lost an edge on the penalty shot.

After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, and the Bruins held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 12-10.

Boston also led in blocked shots (3-2), while the Sabres led in takeaways (8-6), giveaways (4-2), hits (11-7) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Buffalo’s first line went right to work on jumping ahead with the game’s first goal.

Jack Eichel worked the puck behind the net and sent a drop pass back to Jeff Skinner (23) for the top-shelf snipe as Rask went from one side of the net to the other.

Eichel (30) and Rasmus Dahlin (15) earned the assists on Skinner’s goal at 3:18 of the second period and the Sabres led, 1-0.

A couple minutes later, Steven Kampfer (1) responded for Boston, accepting a pass from Nordstrom and sending a wrist shot through the roof behind Ullmark to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:18.

Nordstrom (2) and David Backes (4) had the primary and secondary assists on Kampfer’s first goal in 48 games (and first with the Bruins since March 3, 2011).

After being burned by another early whistle for the second game in a row, the Bruins went into the dressing room for the second intermission tied with the Sabres, 1-1, and leading in shots on goal, 24-19.

Both teams had five blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (16-13) and face-off win% (53-47). The B’s led in giveaways (8-7) and hits (19-17) after 40 minutes of play.

For the second period in a row, the Sabres got off to a hot start with their first line generating a rush that sent Eichel into the attacking zone without any pressure from Boston’s blue liners.

Eichel (13) subsequently sent a wrist shot, high, glove-side past the Bruins netminder to give Buffalo their second lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:43 of the third period.

Sam Reinhart (22) and Dahlin (16) had the assists on the goal.

Past the midway point in the third period, Brendan Guhle was penalized for holding Pastrnak, resulting in Boston’s second power play of the night at 11:08.

With 39 seconds remaining on the power play and due to a stoppage in play, Cassidy used his only timeout to try to organize a plan on an otherwise powerless power play.

Though the timeout did not yield a goal on the skater advantage, shortly after it ended, Torey Krug (3) pinched in from the point on a play set up by David Krejci and blasted a shot past Ullmark to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:21 of the third period.

Krejci (23) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2) had the assists on Krug’s goal.

A few minutes later, Skinner (24) scored his second goal of the night thanks, in part, to another ridiculous move Eichel made entering the zone to throw-off Charlie McAvoy, while catching Matt Grzelcyk and Colby Cave out of position for Skinner to scoop up the loose puck and score.

Eichel (31) and Reinhart (23) had the assists at 16:29.

With 2:02 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Bruins couldn’t will a puck past Ullmark as time ticked down.

Krug rocketed a slap shot that was blocked by Zemgus Girgensons and the puck bounced out of the B’s offensive zone.

While in the neutral zone, Reinhart took a stab at the empty net, but was unsuccessful. Finally, Eichel (14) floated one into the vacant four-by-six frame for his second goal of the game and made it, 4-2, Sabres.

Reinhart (24) and Girgensons (5) had the assists at 19:35.

At the final horn, Buffalo completed the, 4-2, victory on the road and handed Boston its second loss in-a-row. The Sabres improved to 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-27), hits (27-23) and face-off win% (54-46), while Buffalo capped off the evening with the lead in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (11-10).

Boston finished the night 0/2 on the power play and last scored a power play goal in Ottawa on Dec. 9th, while Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins travel to Bell Centre for a Monday night matchup against the Montreal Canadiens before heading back home for a two-game homestand starting Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding Saturday against the Nashville Predators.

Boston wraps up their action before the Christmas break with a road game in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes next Sunday.

Carolina will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys as part of Whalers Night at PNC Arena.

DeSmith stops a career-high 48 saves in 5-3 win for Pittsburgh

Casey DeSmith was the star of the game Friday night at PPG Paints Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins de facto starting netminder made 48 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Jake Guentzel had the game-winning goal midway through the third period after a pair of quick goals by the Bruins had tied the game, but the Penguins held strong with DeSmith leading the way from his crease.

DeSmith (10-5-4 record, 2.46 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 22 games played) made 48 saves on 51 shots against for a .941 SV% in the win, while Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-5-2, 2.40 GAA, .926 SV% in 18 GP) turned aside 23 shots on 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins have now dropped their last four games in Pittsburgh and snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss and remain 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 17-11-4 record (38 points).

Pittsburgh bounced back from a, 6-3, blowout loss at United Center on Wednesday– though the Pens haven’t won in Chicago since February 27, 2009 and last beat the Blackhawks in the regular season on March 30, 2014– and improved to 14-11-6 (34 points) on the season to move into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division– surpassing the New York Islanders for the last divisional playoff spot.

Kevan Miller (larynx) was back to practice on Thursday in a red no-contact jersey for the Bruins, while Jake DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup.

Noel Acciari was inserted back on the fourth line at center for Friday night’s matchup with the Penguins after missing the last three games since Dec. 6th as a healthy scratch.

Sean Kuraly slid over from centering the fourth line to playing left wing, having missed Thursday’s practice to undergo minor surgery for his broken nose (sustained in a fight with Ben Harpur in Ottawa last Sunday).

As a result, Gemel Smith joined Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches for Boston, with Miller (throat), DeBrusk (concussion) Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) still out of the lineup due to injury.

Bruce Cassidy kept the rest of the lines and defensive pairings unchanged from Boston’s three-game win streak entering Friday in Pittsburgh.

Brandon Carlo was guilty of the game’s first penalty– a minor infraction for holding– at 2:24 of the first period and the Penguins went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Pittsburgh did not convert on the skater advantage.

Later in the period, DeSmith robbed Boston forward, Brad Marchand, of an otherwise surefire goal as DeSmith got the glove on Marchand’s elevated backhand shot.

Late in the first period, Derek Grant (2) put one through Halak for the game’s first goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 17:48.

Matt Cullen (3) and Garrett Wilson (2) had the assists on Grant’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while trailing, 11-9, in shots on goal. Boston held onto the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (56-44), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (2-1) and hits (20-15).

Both teams had two blocked shots each through one period and the Pens were 0/1 on the power play.

Phil Kessel (13) went unchallenged for a goal early in the second period that made it, 2-0, Penguins after all five skaters for Boston collapsed into a small box their own zone.

Evgeni Malkin (24) and Zach Aston-Reese (3) had the assists on Kessel’s goal at 1:56 of the second period.

Almost midway through the period, Guentzel slashed David Backes and was sent to the penalty box at 9:00 of the middle frame.

The Bruins were unable to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but began to swing momentum into their favor as about a minute after the power play expired, Carlo (1) blasted a shot from the point past DeSmith to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half, 2-1.

Carlo’s goal was his first in 116 games– breaking the longest active goalless streak in the NHL– and notching his first tally since March 4, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils.

Chris Wagner (2) and Kuraly (4) had the assists on the goal at 11:53.

Late in the period, Guentzel cut a rut back into the sin bin for tripping David Pastrnak at 17:22 of the second period.

While on the power play, the Bruins turned the puck over and the ensuing result was costly as Aston-Reese (3) floated a shot past Halak to make it a two-goal game once again.

Pittsburgh led, 3-1, as Aston-Reese scored their first shorthanded goal of the season. For the Bruins, it was their fifth shorthanded goal against this season and yet another defensive breakdown in Friday night’s action.

Riley Sheahan (2) and Brian Dumoulin (9) were credited with the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal at 19:01, deflating any momentum the Bruins had gathered.

After 40 minutes of play, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, and Boston led in shots on goal, 29-18 (18-9 in the second period alone). The Pens held the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), giveaways (5-2) and hits (37-27) after two periods, while the B’s led in takeaways (4-2) and face-off win% (64-36).

Pittsburgh was still 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/2.

Boston opened the third period with a lot more pressure in their own zone than they exhibited in the first 40 minutes of action, which eventually led to a turnover-turned-goal almost midway through the period.

But first, after Charlie McAvoy jumped on a loose puck before it could exit the offensive zone, Wagner (3) received a pass and ripped a one-timer past DeSmith to bring the Bruins to within one goal and make it, 3-2.

McAvoy (6) and Kuraly (5) had the assists on Wagner’s goal at 7:08 of the third period.

A mere 52 seconds later, the B’s forced a turnover and exchanged it for a rush into the attacking zone that led to an initial shot from Pastrnak that rang the crossbar behind DeSmith.

With the puck bouncing back out of the crease and DeSmith well out of position, David Krejci (5) was able to secure just enough possession to get off a backhand shot of his own into the open twine, tying the game, 3-3.

Pastrnak (18) and Marchand (23) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 8:02.

Moments later, Guentzel (13) tipped in a shot from the point by Kris Letang and the Penguins led once again, 4-3. Letang (18) and Sidney Crosby (18) had the assists on Guentzel’s goal at 10:47 of the third period.

Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation.

Torey Krug fired a shot wide of the goal on the ensuing face-off in the offensive zone and the puck bounced off the end-boards with enough force to generate another chance in the low slot had Ryan Donato gotten there in time.

Instead, DeSmith was able to get to it first and covered the puck up for another face-off.

With 14 seconds left in the game, Boston used their only timeout to draw up a plan to tie the game once again, but it was to no avail.

At 19:54 of the third period, Aston-Reese (4) pocketed his second goal of the night on the empty net, with the assists to Crosby (19) and Jack Johnson (6)– making it, 5-3, Pittsburgh.

Upon the final horn, the Penguins beat the Bruins for the fourth time in-a-row at PPG Paints Arena.

The B’s outshot the Pens, 51-28, after 60 minutes, but couldn’t muster enough in the goal scoring department to outdo Pittsburgh.

The Penguins, in the meantime, led in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (6-3) and hits (52-35) after the action Friday night. The Bruins finished the night atop face-off win%, 61-39, and went 0/2 on the power play, while Pittsburgh finished 0/1.

With the win on Friday, Pittsburgh improved to 10-4-5 when scoring first this season. DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves, surpassing his previous career-high mark of 42 saves late in the third period.

Boston travels back home for a Sunday evening (5 p.m. ET puck drop) matchup at TD Garden with the Buffalo Sabres before traveling to Montreal for a square with the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

The Bruins return home after that for a two-game homestand– starting next Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding next Saturday in a matinee matchup with the Nashville Predators.

Sunday, Dec. 23rd, the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Bruins on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes will be wearing their throwback Hartford Whalers sweaters for the first time this season.