All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.
Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.
If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.
Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)
The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.
The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.
Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.
For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.
The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.
Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.
Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.
If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.
The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.
Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.
Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.
Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.
When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.
Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.
Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.
Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.
Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.
Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.
Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.
Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.
Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.
Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.
Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.
In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.
But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.
No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.
Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.
Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.
Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.
On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.
Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.
Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.
Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.
That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.
Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.
The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.
When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.
The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).
Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.
Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.
That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th
5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*
5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*
The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.
There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.
Before the action gets going Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, let’s take a quick second to give an updated forecast on the Carolina Hurricanes roster through 20 games played in the regular season.
Carolina currently sits 5th in the Metropolitan Division with a 9-8-3 record (21 points) on the season and has been all over the board in the league’s most tumultuous division thus far. The Hurricanes have been as high as 1st place in the Metropolitan and as low as 7th in the division on Nov. 6th (then again on Nov. 10th and 11th).
The Canes stormed out of the gate, then quickly dissipated around Halloween dropping out of the lead– but still maintaining a divisional playoff spot– before the rise of the Columbus Blue Jackets bumped them out of a postseason berth altogether on Nov. 1st.
They flirted with a wild card spot for a few days before the sinking ship began to carry too much water.
Head coach, Rod Brind’Amour has implemented a new style in the Hurricanes organization, featuring an emphasis on more shots on goal than ever before regardless of the actual scoring outcome.
Carolina is infected with the youth bug. Rookie mistakes and inconsistencies are to be made and a rookie coach trying to avoid the inevitable errors is no small task. Nothing is truly overnight and through the first quarter of the regular season, the Hurricanes are finding that out.
There’s some good news, however, as the Metropolitan Division is separated by a mere eight points from the Blue Jackets (1st) to the Pittsburgh Penguins (8th), so fixing the weak-spots in one’s game should lead to some separation from the competition with enough wins stringed together.
But with good news, there’s always some bad news too and that is what’s to be expected.
No really, as in the expected outcomes for the Hurricanes latest forecast– it’s not great.
Here’s the latest updated forecast for Carolina through the first 20 games of the regular season, keeping in mind there are many variable that will change what’s to come due to injury, lineup changes, etc. unknown to the frontiers of Microsoft Excel’s formulas.
As always, my degree is in communication– not math.
If a player meets the forecasted stats, they’ve met expectations. If they do better, they exceed expectations. If they do worse, they either missed a lot of action or didn’t live up to expectations.
There’s nothing to forecast puck luck, but we can point out trends and general indications from the scoresheet each night.
Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)
If anything, it’s promising that Sebastian Aho is on track for 26 goals and 43 assists (69 points) in his third NHL season. Next to Teuvo Teravainen‘s 17-35–52 expected totals, that’s about as far as it goes for excitement.
Only Aho, Jordan Staal and Micheal Ferland are expected to reach the 20-goal plateau for the Hurricanes this season. To make matters worse, Staal should end up with 22 goals and Ferland with 20, meaning Carolina will barely even have three players past the 20-goal mark. Yikes.
Hey at least Victor Rask is back from injury after missing the first 20 games.
On the blue line, three defenders will reach the 30-point plateau in expected points as Dougie Hamilton (12-26–38 expected totals), Justin Faulk (10-27–37 expected totals) and Jaccob Slavin (6-24–30 expected totals) lead the way in scoring from the point.
Considering the rest of the offense isn’t necessarily there, at least the defense is pretty respectable, all things considered.
If the Hurricanes get things going, they can capitalize on overall improvements and likely end up with at least two blue liners pushing 40 points. If they don’t– they might be worse than middle of the road. Again.
In goal, well, it’s the same old, same old.
Scott Darling (2.97 expected goals against average and .899 expected save percentage) has yet to prove he is a capable starting netminder. In fact, his expected totals as things stand right now wouldn’t even be backup goaltender caliber.
Petr Mrazek (2.73 expected GAA, .907 expected SV%) might have something left in the tank for one last chance at redemption and becoming a starter– if his defense can tighten its game up and limit quality shots against.
As for Curtis McElhinney (2.87 expected GAA, .908 expected SV%), well, he’s a decent backup in a limited role, so if Carolina wants to continue with a three-goaltender rotation, McElhinney is certain to improve his overall forecast, though only to respectable backup numbers.
After 20 games into the regular season, the Hurricanes aren’t looking much different from last season. This, of course, after they traded their best scorer in Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason for peanuts (draft picks).
Brind’Amour has improved Carolina’s pace of play, but he can’t do anything about the roster that was dealt to him. That’s where General Manager Don Waddell is going to have to get crafty– and soon, given the perpetual rebuild and playoff drought since 2009.
It’s October whateverth, I know, and the regular season is already underway, but transferring data into a new system and (in some cases) building new rosters entirely can take its time in the midst of catching every game on TV, living life, etc.
So without further ado let’s pretend the 5-3-1 (11 points)– 1st place in the Metropolitan Division– Carolina Hurricanes didn’t actually start the season yet and let’s turn back the clocks to before puck drop on the regular season.
Back then, Andrei Svechnikov had yet to play an NHL game as an 18-year-old rookie. The 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft’s forecasted stats couldn’t be calculated until he stepped foot on the ice. Though his 2-2–4 totals in his first nine games have him forecasted for 18 goals and 18 assists (36 points) over his first 82 games, we’ll pretend we don’t actually know what we know now.
Anyway, the fact of the matter remains the same– prior to the start of any regular season, these forecasted stats are merely educated expectations. A player who performs better than their expected outcome exceeded expectations (makes sense). A player who doesn’t live up to the numbers was either injured, a healthy scratch or on a chronic cold streak (or whatever).
Last season’s Carolina Hurricanes finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division with a 36-35-11 record and 83 points on the season. Bill Peters was fired as head coach and former Hurricanes superstar Rod Brind’Amour was hired behind the bench. Don Waddell took over as General Manager in the offseason, going from interim to full-time as owner Tom Dundon embraced a new direction to go along with his new reign.
The annual doldrums in Raleigh, North Carolina might be over sooner rather than later with a stockpile of youth in Sebastian Aho, Warren Foegele, Svechnikov and others, in addition to the quietly shutdown defensive pairings that include Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and newcomers Dougie Hamilton, as well as Calvin de Haan.
Carolina holds the longest playoff drought in the league currently, dating back to their 2009 Eastern Conference Finals appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins– just three years removed from their 2006 Stanley Cup championship. The Hurricanes haven’t been part of any postseason activity in the 2010s.
Not that this season can necessarily change that, but the end of the drought is soon and the oasis of playoff hockey draws near.
It’s at this point in every forecast where I’d like to remind everyone my degree is in communication– not math– therefore all mistakes are strictly Microsoft Excels fault and for sure not an error of my own. Well, that, and there’s sometimes a little gut-feeling mixed in for players who’ve only played in less than ten games and therefore are projected to score, like, 100 goals or something.
My area of expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers.
Forecasted stats are to be looked at as an utopian perspective– as though everything were to fall into line and nothing bad could ever happen. Some players will pan out and others will fall flat. These are only suggested (expected) outcomes for a sport that’s highly unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Carolina Hurricanes Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)
The good news for Carolina heading into 2018-19 is the realistic expectations are low. There’s only three players that are expected to crack the 50-point plateau, but that doesn’t mean any meteoric rise can’t creep up on any member of the Hurricanes and propel this roster into the postseason for the first time in– by the time April rolls around– a decade.
Brind’Amour is behind the bench now and having no prior NHL experience as a head coach, there’s nothing to point to and say “they’re destined to fail”. The Canes might come out of this with one of the best rookie coaches this season if they make the playofs and given all the expectations of the other rookie coaches around the league.
Washington’s Todd Reirden is behind the defending-Cup champions (so there’s high expectations with room only to fail), David Quinn is coaching a rebuilding New York Rangers bunch (so anything goes), Jim Montgomery is in charge of the borderline Dallas Stars (things could go either way) and Brind’Amour, well, he can only go up what with the roster he was given.
As always, we’ll get into goalies and rookies after the first quarter of the season passes, however, he’s a quick look at the expected top-points scorers for the Hurricanes this season.
Valentin Zykov has shown potential before and if Brind’Amour can finally be the one to light a fire under his playing style, perhaps Zykov just might amass 24-35–59 totals and be like William Karlsson was for the Vegas Golden Knights last season– except this time around, Zykov isn’t a new face in town for a new team.
Aho (27-31–58 expected totals) should easily reach, if not exceed, expectations for Carolina as he enters the world of first line minutes in the post-Jeff Skinner on the Hurricanes era.
We’ll neglect the holes in the Skinner trade where Waddell should’ve gotten more, but at least Aho is a positive in the “next man up” category of “players who should live up to being rushed into the spotlight, since there’s nobody else to turn to and have already been part of the organization prior to a rather one-sided trade”.
“Mr. Game 7” himself (Justin Williams) is bound for one last “breakout” year with 22-33–55 expected totals on a rejuvenated Hurricanes roster.
On defense, Dougie Hamilton (44 expected points) supersedes Justin Faulk (39 expected points) as Carolina’s top blue liner after being acquired in the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm trade for Hamilton, Ferland and Adam Fox. In addition, Slavin and Pesce continue to fill-out one of the best kept secrets in NHL defense as pieces of the most underrated top-six blue liners with de Haan now part of the fold.
In goal, well, Brind’Amour has a lot of decisions to make on an almost nightly basis. Neither Scott Darling nor Petr Mrazek look to have goals against averages or save percentages in the starting goaltender range.
In fact, both are in the sub-par backup goaltender range– closer to 3.00 than 2.00– so as long as the Hurricane’s defense limits shots against and lessens the workload, then perhaps the season’s collapse won’t be because of bad goaltending.
Time will tell.
Here’s a roundup of some of the other things that were announced on Thursday from around the league, excluding jersey leaks and the Erik Karlsson trade.
Tyler Seguin is no longer a pending-UFA at the end of the season. Yes, take the 26-year-old’s name off the board of potential free agent forwards in July 2019 as Seguin and the Dallas Stars reached an eight-year extension.
Seguin’s new eight-year, $78.800 million contract goes into effect for the 2019-20 season and carries an average annual value (AAV) of $8.500 million per season through 2026-27.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Brampton, Ontario finished last season tied for seventh in the NHL with a career-high 40 goals and second on the Stars in points with 78 in 82 games. Seguin also led Dallas in power play goals with 14, which was also a new career-high and ranked second in the league in shots on goal (335).
Since his rookie season of 2010-11 with the Boston Bruins, Seguin has amassed 229-276–505 totals in 590 career NHL games with the Bruins and Stars. He won the Cup with Boston in 2011 and returned to the Stanley Cup Final with Boston in 2013, losing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Seguin was later traded that offseason on July 4, 2013 to Dallas along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow.
In 49 career postseason games, Seguin has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) and is a five-time NHL All-Star. He has made one international appearance for Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Czech Republic.
Days after I criticized Stars General Manager Jim Nill in my season preview for not getting an extension done yet, nor really negotiating since this year’s draft, this happened. You’re welcome, Dallas. Not to gloat or anything.
The Arizona Coyotes announced a new captain Thursday afternoon for the first time since Shane Doan wore the “C” on his sweater.
Swedish defender, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 27, became just the fourth captain in Coyotes history with the announcement made by Arizona Coyotes President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka and Head Coach Rick Tocchet.
Ekman-Larsson previously served as an alternate captain the last four seasons (2014-18) and joins Keith Tkachuk, Teppo Numminen and Doan as Arizona’s only captains since their relocation from Winnipeg in 1996.
A native of Karlskrona, Sweden, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman is a two-time All-Star (2015 and 2018) with 102-188–290 totals in 576 career games for Arizona. He is six goals shy of tying Numminen for the most goals by a defenseman in franchise history (108) and holds the NHL record for the most game-winning goals in a season by a defenseman with eight in 2015-16.
He was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (6th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Not to be outdone, the Carolina Hurricanes also announced a new captain on Thursday, swapping the “C” on the front of the jerseys of Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal— last season’s co-captains– with alternate captain designations and placing the captaincy on the shoulders of 36-year-old, Justin Williams.
Williams is in the final season of his current contract with the organization and is the 16th player to serve as captain in franchise history and just the eighth to do so since the Hartford Whalers relocated to Carolina. Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour, made the annoncement.
A native of Cobourg, Ontario, Williams scored 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 82 games last season for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound right-wing is entering his 18th NHL season with 289-444–733 totals in 1,162 career games for the Philadelphia Flyers, Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion (Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014) and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014 as MVP of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Carolina also announced that 25-year-old center, Victor Rask, is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his right fourth and fifth fingers. Rask suffered a hand injury while slicing food in his kitchen and had 14-17–31 totals in 71 games last season for the Hurricanes.
While Carolina’s roster was overhauled in the offseason, the lineup was going to be tweaked anyway. Now with Rask’s injury, Brind’Amour will have to make some added adjustments to his forward lines.
If you were hoping for some good news after the Erik Karlsson trade in Ottawa, well, maybe stop reading right now.
TVA Sports reporter, Renaud Lavoie, tweeted that 25-year-old forward, Jean-Gabriel Pageau could be out four to six months and need surgery to repair an Achilles’ tendon.
According to multiple sources, news are not good regarding Jean-Gabriel Pageau today. Could be out from 4 to 6 months and a surgery to repair a Achilles’ tendon could be necessary. @Senators
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) September 13, 2018
Talk about injury to insult for Sens fans.
Pageau had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 78 games played last season. The 5-foot-10, 184-pound native of Ottawa, Ontario has 59-71–130 totals in 329 career games with Ottawa since being drafted by the Senators in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Buckle up for a Thursday full of hockey! Between the NHL and the Olympics, there’s a total of 15 games going down today!
With the playoff bracket set for the women’s Olympic tournament, it’s all about the men’s action in PyeongChang today. Opening up our day’s action at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time are two Group A games: the Czech Republic vs. South Korea and Switzerland vs. Canada.
Back home in North America, the NHL is enjoying another busy Thursday. As usual, the action begins at 7 p.m. with a trio of tilts (Carolina at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders and Los Angeles at Pittsburgh [TVAS/SN1]), followed half an hour later by two more (Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS2] and Detroit at Tampa Bay). A pair of games drop the puck at 8 p.m. (Calgary at Nashville and Washington at Minnesota), while Anaheim at Chicago waits 30 minutes before getting underway. Next up is Montréal at Arizona (RDS) at 9 p.m., trailed an hour later by Edmonton at Vegas (SN1) and Vancouver at San Jose at 10:30 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.
Returning our attention to South Korea, the American men are taking on Slovakia at 10:10 p.m., followed by the OAR against Slovenia at 2:40 a.m. Friday morning – both in Group B play. All times Eastern.
As usual, it’s a stellar slate of hockey games. Beyond the Olympic group play, two NHL rivalries drew my attention when the schedule was released this summer.
- New York at New York: Earlier in the season, the Battle of New York looked like it was going to be a big deal. Maybe next year.
- Buffalo at Ottawa: The same was said in the preseason about this rivalry featuring a team that had qualified for the Eastern Finals and another that looked to be improving. Maybe next year.
However, don’t read too much into that and think no important games are going on in the NHL tonight. As for the most important, look no further than the fixture atop the league’s schedule.
27-21-9 Carolina enters tonight’s game riding a three-game winning streak and four-game point streak that has propelled it into the second wildcard. However, that winning streak comes with a slight asterisk: those wins came against Vancouver, Colorado and Los Angeles – three teams not currently in playoff position.
That being said, the Hurricanes didn’t make their own schedule, they just have to play teams as they come up. And play them they have, as the Canes have been the stingiest team in the NHL since February 6, allowing only 1.75 goals against per game in that time.
As might be expected, 17-7-3 G Cam Ward has been a major part of that success, as he’s been in net for three of Carolina’s last four games. In those three starts, he’s posted an impressive .933 save percentage and 1.95 GAA to improve his season numbers to .912 and 2.6.
With the Islanders heading to Raleigh to square off against the Hurricanes tomorrow, it remains to be seen if Ward will be in net tonight or if he’ll go tomorrow. Personally, I’m pegging 10-14-6 G Scott Darling to draw the start tonight given the potency of New York’s attack. Though he only has an .894 save percentage and 2.99 GAA on the season, he will have the benefit of a stellar defense playing in front of him whichever night he’s in net.
One of the Hurricanes’ most exciting defensemen of late has been D Haydn Fleury, the 21-year-old flying all over the ice causing havoc. Though he has only played in Carolina’s last two games, he leads the team in hits-per-game (3.5) and blocks-per-game since (2.5) February 6. C Victor Rask has also been impressive during this four-game streak, as he leads the team with nine takeaways in that time.
Between the efforts of Fleury, Rask and the entire Carolina defense, the Hurricanes have allowed an average of only 28 shots against per game, the sixth-best in the NHL since February 6.
The last time we featured the Devils was also their last showing. Tuesday’s 5-4 come-from-behind shootout victory in Philadelphia snapped Jersey’s four-game losing skid that featured it losing to the likes of Ottawa and Columbus – two teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
The only reason New Jersey was able to stop the bleeding is because its offense was able to keep up with the Flyers, but that’s not to say the Devils are scoring with the best of teams right now. Since February 6, Jersey has averaged only 2.6 goals per game – the (t)seventh-fewest in the NHL in that time.
Of course, if there’s one thing a struggling offense doesn’t mix well with, it’s a porous defensive end. Between a defense that has allowed a (t)12th-worst 33.8 shots against per game over its last five games or 11-7-2 G Keith Kinkaid not being 17-11-6 G Cory Schneider, the Devils are having to pay their scoreboard operator overtime lately considering they’re allowing a second-worst 4.6 goals against per game since February 6.
With no game tomorrow and Schneider likely not ready to make his return tonight, Kinkaid is all but certain to be in net this evening. As stated Tuesday, he’s struggled mightily since assuming starting duties while Schneider is recovering from his groin injury, posting a save percentage (.869) and GAA (4.8) in his last four starts that is well below his season marks of a .891 save percentage and 3.31 GAA.
Even though we’re two weeks past the All-Star Break, the NHL’s officially unofficial midway point of the season, this is surprisingly the first meeting of the season between the Canes and Devils. However, just as soon as the four-game season series gets started, it’ll be finished: these clubs will tangle for the second time only three days from now in Raleigh, followed by another game at PNC Arena on March 2 and their final meeting of the season on March 27.
Though the Devils were able to find the win column Tuesday, it’s hard to imagine an evening where they’re able to beat another surging team. I think the Canes are more than capable of earning two points in the standings today, and doing it in regulation would earn them a promotion into the East’s top wild card.
With a 2-1 victory against Team USA in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at Kwandong Hockey Centre, the Canadian women swept Group A play to earn the top seed in the Olympic knockout tournament.
The best scoring opportunity of the first period belonged to Team Canada with 3:15 remaining in the frame. In fact, the opportunity was so good, the puck actually found the back of G Maddie Rooney’s net. However, the play had been ruled dead before the Canadian would-be scorer even struck her shot due to the international rule that restricts all activity by the opposition in a goaltender’s crease, leaving the score tied a 0-0.
F Meghan Agosta (F Natalie Spooner and F Brianne Jenner) broke the scoreless draw at the 7:18 mark of the second period. With D Megan Keller in the penalty box, that left the slot unprotected following a backward centering pass from Spooner from the goal line. Agosta took advantage to flip a wrist shot past Rooney.
Even though the play appeared to be offside, F Sarah Nurse (D Jocelyne Larocque) doubled Canada’s advantage with 5:04 remaining in the period by flinging a wrister from along the left boards over Rooney’s right shoulder. Team USA had an opportunity to pull back within a goal with 3:52 remaining in the frame with a penalty shot, but F Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s backhander was blocked by G Genevieve Lacasse.
Only 23 seconds into the third period, Team USA finally found its first goal of the game when F Kendall Coyne (F Brianna Decker) split two Canadian defensewomen to beat Lacasse five-hole.
Canada thought it had reclaimed a two-goal advantage with 9:08 remaining in regulation, but Haley Irwin used her skate instead of her stick to beat Rooney. The goal was taken off the board, returning the score to 2-1.
That revoked tally didn’t ultimately prove to matter, as the Americans could not find it in them to level the game in the remaining time.
Lacasse earned the victory after saving 44-of-45 shots faced (.978 save percentage), leaving the loss to Rooney, who saved 21-of-23 (.913).
With Canada technically being listed as the home team in yesterday’s game, its victory snapped a three-game winning streak by road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. As such, the 69-41-17 hosts now have a 24-point advantage over the visitors.