Tag Archives: Washington Capitals

Lightning strike three times in, 3-2, win against Boston

Is it really August or is it actually just Groundhog Day for the Boston Bruins? The B’s dropped another one, 3-2, to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday in their second game of the Round Robin tournament to determine the No. 1-4 seeds for the Eastern Conference in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (2-0-0, 1.92 goals against average, .933 save percentage in two games) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots faced for a .926 SV% in the win for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (0-1-0, 3.10 GAA, .914 SV% in one game) made 32 saves on 35 shots against for a .914 SV% in the loss at the NHL’s Eastern Conference bubble– Scotiabank Arena– in Toronto, Ontario.

Entering Wednesday, Patrice Bergeron had a day off at practice on Monday, which Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, later clarified to reporters was just a maintenance day, while Rask was back to practice on Monday and returned to the lineup against the Lightning.

Rask mentioned at his media conference call after Monday’s practice that he spent a couple of days quarantined in his hotel room after having a cough and needed to have two negative tests for COVID-19 in order to return.

“I had a cough so I just clicked ‘yes’ on the app and then all kinds of red lights started blinking so I was quarantined for two days. They wanted to do two negative tests after that,” Rask explained to reporters via Zoom.

Nick Ritchie was also back in the lineup after missing last Sunday’s, 4-1, loss against the Philadelphia Flyers, while Ondrej Kase was ruled out of Wednesday’s action against Tampa, but should be good to go against Washington, according to Cassidy.

As a result, Cassidy switched up his middle lines from last Sunday’s matchup with the Flyers to Wednesday’s meeting with the Lightning.

Ritchie took to David Krejci’s left wing with Karson Kuhlman on the other side, while Anders Bjork was on the left side of Charlie Coyle on the third line– with Jake DeBrusk serving as the right winger.

The Bruins made no other changes to their lineup.

Meanwhile, Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Kase, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar and Trent Frederic served as Boston’s scratches.

Jon Cooper’s Lightning were without their captain, Steven Stamkos, in the lineup once again. Stamkos has yet to make his Round Robin debut for the Bolts (with their last matchup before the First Round against Philadelphia set for Saturday).

Less than a minute into the action, Jeremy Lauzon was caught trailing Blake Coleman and hooked the Lightning forward, resulting in a power play for the Bolts 43 seconds into the first period.

Tampa was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Brayden Point (2) slipped a loose puck through Rask’s five-hole after Rask made the initial save and follow up stop, while the Bruins scrambled to defender after blowing a pair of chances to score at the other end.

Ondrej Palat (1) and Nikita Kucherov (1) tallied the assists on Point’s goal and the Lightning led, 1-0, at 7:33 of the first period.

A few minutes later, the Bruins had too many skaters on the ice and were assessed a bench minor for doing so at 10:19. Ritchie served the bench infraction, but Tampa’s power play struck fast.

Alex Killorn (1) redirected a shot with the back of his skate blade after the puck deflected off of Sean Kuraly’s stick initially off a shot from teh point by Lightning defender, Victor Hedman.

Hedman (1) and Tyler Johnson (1) notched the assists on the goal and the Bolts led, 2-0, at 10:32.

Late in the period, chaos ensued as both teams took issue with one another– culminating in Torey Krug and Coleman exchanging fisticuffs at 17:07, and continuing almost 90 seconds later when Point and Charlie McAvoy shared an embrace and with it roughing minor penalties.

Point earned two roughing infractions, while McAvoy was only charged with one at 18:25, yielding the first power play of the game for Boston, but the Bruins couldn’t hit the twine in the dying minutes of the opening frame.

After one period of play, the Lightning led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, but the B’s held the advantage in shots on goal, 9-8.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-2), but Tampa had the edge in just about every other statistical category, including takeaways (4-1), hits (13-11) and faceoff win percentage (61-39).

Both teams had one giveaway aside, while the Bolts were 1/2 on the power play and the B’s were 0/1 heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Coleman was penalized for interference when he brought down Kuraly while crashing the net at 4:37 of the second period, but (in what was a trend for the afternoon) Boston’s power play wasn’t able to convert on the advantage.

Late in the period McAvoy (1) one-timed a shot from the point on a pass from Krug off a faceoff win by Bergeron and cut Tampa’s lead in half.

Boston was on the board, 2-1, while Krug (1) and Bergeron (1) picked up their first points of the Round Robin games at 16:43.

Entering the second intermission, Tampa was ahead, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-18, in shots on goal– including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Lightning led in blocked shots (11-7) and takeaways (5-3) after 40 minutes of action, while the Bruins held the advantage in giveaways (7-3), hits (26-19) and faceoff win% (63-38).

Tampa remained 1/2 on the power play, while Boston dropped to 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Chris Wagner (2) tapped in a loose puck after Zdeno Chara fired a shot that leaked through Vasilevskiy at 1:47 of the third period and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

Chara (1) and Kuraly (1) had the assists on Wagner’s goal and Boston swung momentum in their favor– only until about the midpoint of the final frame.

Kucherov tripped Wagner at 5:13 of the third period, but the Bruins didn’t convert on the skater advantage.

Midway through the third, Barclay Goodrow caught Bjork with a charge and was assessed a minor penalty at 10:19. Once more, Boston’s power play couldn’t get anything going and did not convert on the advantage.

From there, momentum shifted back to Tampa as the Bruins let rush after rush enter their own zone.

Yanni Gourde threw the puck on net, Rask made an initial pad save, but Johnson (1) scored on the rebound while Brandon Carlo was trailing behind the play and Krug was defending the other side where the Lightning entered the zone.

Gourde (1) and Killorn (1) collected the assists on Johnson’s game-winning goal and the Bolts grabbed the, 3-2, lead at 18:33 of the third period– with just enough time to hold off any last ditch efforts from Boston.

Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with about 1:15 remaining, but it was to no avail as the final horn sounded and the Lightning won, 3-2.

The Bolts finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal (35-27) and blocked shots (16-10), while the B’s finished with the advantage in giveaways (11-10), hits (31-28) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Tampa finished 1/2 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/4 on the power play on Wednesday.

The Bruins fell to 0-2-0 in the Round Robin action and can finish no better than 3rd in the seeding with a win against the Washington Capitals in any fashion on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Lightning can all but assure themselves of the No. 1 seed with a win in any fashion against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Flyers down Bruins, 4-1, in Round Robin action

Four different goal scorers’ combined efforts lifted the Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins, 4-1, in the first game of Round Robin action in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario on Sunday.

Carter Hart (1-0-0 in one game played, 1.00 goals against average, .971 save percentage) made 34 saves on 35 shots faced for a .971 SV% in the win for the Flyers.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (0-1-0 in one game played, 4.29 GAA, .862 SV%) made 25 saves on 29 shots against for an .862 SV% in the loss.

Tuukka Rask did not practice on Saturday in either session and was ruled “unfit to play” in Sunday’s matinee against Philadelphia. As a result, Dan Vladar took part in warmups and was Halak’s backup for the Bruins.

It was the first time since 2012, that a goaltender other than Rask started a postseason game for Boston. Tim Thomas started all seven games in their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series loss to the Washington Capitals.

Sunday also marked the first postseason start for Halak since 2015.

Three Bruins made their NHL postseason debuts as Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon and Anders Bjork were all in the lineup for Boston.

Ondrej Kase joined the team in Toronto on Saturday and practiced in the second group session for the Bruins and might be available in time for their next matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday afternoon.

Kase, along with Nick Ritchie and Rask, were the big names out of the lineup for Boston on Sunday, but they weren’t the only ones not on the ice for the action as the B’s had a long list of healthy scratches including, Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Connor Clifton and Trent Frederic (Kevan Miller was not included on the Phase 3 and 4 roster and Steven Kampfer opted out of Phase 3 and 4 action).

Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara skated in his 183rd career postseason NHL game, which is the second-most among active NHL players– trailing Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Patrick Marleau (192 Stanley Cup Playoff games and counting).

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy kicked things off with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak as his usual first line, while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Studnicka rounded out his top-six forwards.

Bjork was on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Karson Kuhlman, while Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner were reunited as the fourth line trio after they were split among the bottom-six forwards in Boston’s, 4-1, exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday.

On defense, Cassidy opted for Chara alongside Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug paired with Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk partnered with Lauzon.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Michael Raffl slashed Bjork and presented Boston with the first power play of the afternoon at 8:51 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Krejci cut a rut to the box after hooking Travis Konecny at 14:41, but Philadelphia’s power play was powerless– a trend that would suit both teams all afternoon.

At 19:08, Carlo was sent to the sin bin for tripping Tyler Pitlick, but despite the skater advantage overlapping with part of the second period, the Flyers were unsuccessful at finding the back of the net while the B’s were shorthanded.

Through 20 minutes of action in Toronto, the Bruins and Flyers were still tied, 0-0, with Boston holding the advantage in shots on goal, 12-6.

The Bruins also led in hits (9-7), while the Flyers led in takeaways (3-0) and faceoff win percentage (67-37).

Both teams had seven blocked shots aside and four giveaways apiece.

Philadelphia was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Raffl (1) broke through Boston’s defense as Lauzon was caught out of position, deked and flipped the puck high over Halak to give Philly the game’s first goal and the game’s first lead, 1-0, at 5:33 of the second period.

Travis Sanheim (1) had the only assist on Raffl’s tally, while the Bruins looked gassed as Raffl scored the goal on a shift lasting over a minute for Bergeron, Marchand, Krug and Lauzon.

Then, moments later, Nate Thompson (1) rushed in with a burst of speed– catching the B’s behind the play again and sent the puck over Lauzon while the Bruins defender inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

The rubber biscuit had eyes as it floated over Lauzon, over Halak’s blocker side, off Halak’s stick and into the twine behind the Boston netminder to extend Philadelphia’s lead to two goals.

Raffl (1) and Ivan Provorov (1) notched the assists on Thompson’s goal and the Flyers led, 2-0, at 9:31 of the second period.

Eight seconds later, Robert Hagg was chasing Bjork and penalized for interference at 9:39, but Boston wasn’t able to muster anything on the scoreboard while on the skater advantage.

Late in the period, Wagner (1) collected a garbage goal and cut Philadelphia’s lead in half, 2-1, at 18:51.

Nordstrom (1) and McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s only goal of the afternoon, but the momentum the B’s generated was short-lived. Really short-lived.

Eight seconds after Wagner made it a one-goal game, Philippe Myers (1) made it a two-goal lead for the Flyers once more after he broke free from the neutral zone while Chara was tripped up and left his netminder short a defender.

Myers sniped a shot over Halak and just under the crossbar and made it, 3-1, Philly at 18:59 of the middle frame.

Jakub Voracek (1) had the only assist on the goal.

After two periods, the Flyers led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Bruins, 20-17, in total shots on goal– despite outshooting Boston, 11-8, in the second period alone.

Philly also held onto the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (5-0) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16).

Both teams were 0/2 on the power play entering the final frame.

At 4:07 of the third period, Scott Laughton (1) fired a shot over Halak’s glove after sneaking through Boston’s defense after Carlo bungled a pinch and Krug was left trailing the Flyers forward.

Kevin Hayes (1) was credited with the only assist on Laughton’s goal and Philadelphia led, 4-1.

Boston recorded their first shot on net in the third period at 9:39, before going on the power play 61 seconds later after Matt Niskanen caught Pastrnak with a high-stick at 10:40.

The Flyers killed off Niskanen’s minor infraction with ease, then Raffl and Lauzon collided near the boards, resulting in an awkward collapse to the ice for Raffl that left the Philadelphia forward with an apparent lower body injury– requiring assistance off the rink from the trainer and one of his Flyers teammates.

Laughton tried to spar with Lauzon, but the two players each received slashing minors and 10-minute misconducts at 13:48 of the third period.

Studnicka served Lauzon’s minor, while James van Riemsdyk served Laughton’s minor infraction as well. Both teams skated at 4-on-4 for two minutes before resuming full strength.

With about 3:30 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.

In the closing minutes, Krug and van Riemsdyk got tangled up, latched onto each other and received holding minors at 18:31– ending their nights early.

At the final horn, the Flyers had won, 4-1, and finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (16-11) and faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bruins led in shots on goal (35-29), giveaways (10-7) and hits (28-25).

Philadelphia finished the game 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 0/3 on the power play.

The two teams will remain in the Toronto bubble until the Bruins take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at 4 PM ET on Wednesday and the Flyers take on the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Both games will be at Scotiabank Arena as the NHL’s postseason plan rolls on while the threat of the pandemic lurks outside each and every day.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Western Conference Qualifiers, while the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars sort themselves out.

All Western Conference games will be at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, including the Western Conference Final and all of the Stanley Cup Final.

(5) Edmonton Oilers (37-25-9, 83 points) vs (12) Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-8, 72 points)

Edmonton: 71 games played, .585 points percentage, 31 regulation wins.

Chicago: 70 games played, .514 points percentage, 23 regulation wins.

The Edmonton Oilers finished second in the Pacific Division with 83 points– three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the division lead. That’s how good the Oilers were at times and/or how far behind the Pacific Division was at times leading up to the premature end of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is for sure about the always home-ice even without fans in the bubble Oilers team, their top players were much better than they were last season.

2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner and Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Leon Draisaitl had 110 points this season in 71 games played. He was on pace for 126 points had the regular season reached its original conclusion.

That would’ve been 21 points better than his previous high of 105 points in 82 games last season. Luckily for Draisaitl, he still set a new career-high in a pandemic– two new career-highs, actually.

Though 43 goals this season did not top the 50 goals he scored in 2018-19, Draisaitl set career-highs in assists (67) and points (110)– and yet, somehow he still was a minus-seven on the season.

Is it worth exploring moving Draisaitl out of Edmonton? MY COLUMN:

(If you’re wondering, that’s four consecutive seasons of at least 70 points and back-to-back 100-plus point seasons for Draisaitl, so no, he’s not going anywhere.)

Oilers captain, Connor McDavid, had 34 goals and 63 assists (97 points) in 64 games this season, which was 19 points shy of his career-high 116-points last season in 78 games in 2018-19. McDavid was on pace for 124 points this season at the time of the stoppage.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third in scoring for Edmonton with 22-39–61 totals in 65 games this season, then the next highest skater had 34 points in 59 games (Zack Kassian). This season marked back-to-back 60-point seasons for Nugent-Hopkins for the first time in his career.

In goal, Mike Smith (19-12-6 in 39 games played, 37 starts, 2.95 goals against average, .905 save percentage and one shutout) split time with Mikko Koskinen (18-13-3 in 38 GP, 34 starts, 2.75 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout in that span) this season.

The 38-year-old veteran goaltender, Smith, has a 2.17 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts over 24 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Koskinen has yet to appear in a postseason NHL game.

Smith’s .938 SV% in the playoffs, however, is league-leading among active NHL goaltenders with a minimum of 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games played.

Oilers head coach, Dave Tippett, might be smart to start Smith over Koskinen in Game 1, considering Smith’s career playoff numbers, but he did post a 3.20 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games with the Calgary Flames in the 2019 First Round en route to Calgary’s defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche.

Smith did record one shutout in last year’s playoffs, however, and faced 205 shots against in those five games against the Avs.

That was about 34% of the number of shots he faced (602) in 16 games with the then known as Phoenix Coyotes en route to their 2012 Western Conference Final appearance against the eventual 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

At the other end of the rink, Patrick Kane led the way for the Chicago Blackhawks this season with 33-51–84 totals in 70 games, which was 24 points more than Jonathan Toews’ 60-point effort in 70 games for Chicago this season.

2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Dominik Kubalik, was third in Blackhawks scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists (46 points) in 68 games played.

For Kane, the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season marked five consecutive seasons with at least 70 points, while he was on pace for about 98 points had the regular season witnessed a full 82-game conclusion.

For Toews, he has never had a season with 82 games schedule below 50 points (though he had 48 points in 47 games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), but he did see a decrease in production from 81 points in 82 games last season to 60 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 70 points over an 82-game schedule in 2019-20.

In goal, Corey Crawford led the Blackhawks with a 16-20-3 record in 40 games played (39 starts), a 2.77 GAA, .917 SV% and one shutout this season.

Prior to being traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline via the Toronto Maple Leafs in a three-team trade– in which Chicago acquired, in part, Malcolm Subban– Robin Lehner served as Crawford’s tandem goaltender with a 16-10-5 record in 33 games played (31 starts), a 3.01 GAA, .918 SV% and no shutouts in that span with the Blackhawks.

Subban, on the other hand, made one appearance with Chicago after the trade and played in one minute as a Blackhawk. He had a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% in 20 games (19 starts) with the Golden Knights this season, however.

Should Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, be given any reason not to opt for Crawford as his Qualifier starter, then there’s cause for concern as to whether or not Chicago can upset the Oilers if Subban can’t right the ship from his worst season as an NHL backup goaltender.

Four months off with plenty of rest to get in the right mindset might have been a good thing for his rhythm, however, as Crawford and Subban made a combined shutout effort in Chicago’s, 4-0, win over the St. Louis Blues in their exhibition matchup.

What’s more, the Blackhawks went 2-1-0 in three games against the Oilers this season, but before you start thinking there’s a chance Chicago upsets Edmonton with a sweep or anything, take caution as the Hawks had ten goals for and nine goals against in their season series.

This will be Colliton’s first appearance behind the bench as head coach in a postseason (but also not technically postseason) appearance for the Blackhawks– and Chicago’s first postseason action without Joel Quenneville at the reigns since before Quenneville was hired four games into the 2008-09 season.

It truly is a new era for Chicago, despite much of the core remaining from their three Cup championships in a five-year span.

Look for the Oilers to get the job done in four games with Tippett looking to punch his ticket back to the postseason since leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, while The Hockey Gods favor Edmonton since the tragic loss of their teammate, Colby Cave, in April after the 25-year-old forward suffered a brain bleed and died days later after being placed in a medically induced coma.

Regular season outcomes:

3-1 CHI at United Center on Oct. 14th, 5-3 EDM at Rogers Place on Feb. 11th, 4-3 CHI at United Center on March 5th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 CHI @ EDM 3 PM ET on NBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 CHI @ EDM 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/5- Game 3 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/7- Game 4 EDM @ CHI in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

(6) Nashville Predators (35-26-8, 78 points) vs (11) Arizona Coyotes (33-29-8, 74 points)

Nashville: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 28 regulation wins.

Arizona: 70 games played, .529 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

There’s something in the water in Nashville– and it’s not just catfish. Predators defender– and 2019-20 James Norris Trophy finalist– Roman Josi led the Preds in scoring this season with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games.

He was on pace for 77 points at the time of the stoppage and trailed Washington Capitals defender– and fellow Norris finalist– John Carlson by ten points for the most points by a defender this season.

It was a career-season for Josi in goals, assists and points, by the way.

Nashville’s top-three in scoring, in fact, nearly contained two defenders as Josi led the way and Ryan Ellis notched 38 points in an injury-riddled 49-game season (a 64-point pace had the full 82-game schedule been completed if the pandemic never happened).

Ellis trailed Filip Forsberg (21-27–48 totals in 63 games) and Matt Duchene (13-29–42 totals in 66 games) in scoring on the Predators roster.

Juuse Saros finally emerged as a de facto starting goaltender for Nashville after amassing a 17-12-4 record in 40 games played (34 starts), as well as a 2.70 GAA, .914 SV% and four shutouts on the season.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, had an 18-14-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), which wasn’t bad, but his numbers past his overall record were actually a career-worst with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 SV% in 2019-20.

Rinne previously had a 3.80 GAA in a season, but that was only when he played in two games in 2005-06.

This was a season to forget for Rinne, but perhaps a larger indicator of more worries to come for Nashville in the net– especially more so after Saros didn’t exactly light it up as a starter with a goals against average that would even make a backup goaltender look, well, average.

The Arizona Coyotes enter the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier with a new owner, as well as a new Interim General Manager in Steve Sullivan, as well as Nick Schmaltz leading the way in scoring with 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points in 70 games played.

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

Clayton Keller had 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games and was on pace for 52 points had the pandemic not cut the regular season short.

Meanwhile, Conor Garland was third on the team in scoring with 39 points in 68 games, while establishing career-highs in goals (22), assists (17) and points (39) in the process.

Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel each had 38 points in 70 games. Over an 82-game schedule, that’s about a 45-point pace, which would’ve still been a career-season for Dvorak and a disappointment for Kessel in his first season in the desert.

Granted, Kessel’s not playing with guys like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in his new home in Arizona.

He failed to reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time since the 2007-08 season, in which Kessel scored 19 goals in 82 games for the Boston Bruins in his sophomore season.

Kessel also failed to reach 30-assists for the first time since his first season as a Toronto Maple Leaf in 2009-10, in which he had 25 helpers in 70 games.

Finally, No. 81 on Arizona’s roster failed to amass at least 40 points in a season for just the third time in his career (29 points in 70 games while missing time battling testicular cancer with the Bruins in his rookie season in 2006-07, and 37 points in 82 games the following season in 2007-08 with Boston).

Granted, Kessel likely could have passed the 40-point plateau had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted plans for him and his Coyotes teammates.

In goal, Antti Raanta appeared in 33 games (32 starts) and had a 15-14-3 record, as well as a 2.63 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Darcy Kuemper went 16-11-2 in 29 games played (all starts) and amassed a 2.22 GAA, while putting up a .928 SV% and two shutouts this season for the Coyotes.

If there’s any doubt Rick Tocchet has over deciding which goaltender to start in Game 1 against Nashville, there shouldn’t be any question– it has to be Kuemper.

Simply put, it’s Kuemper’s net to lose right now in Arizona and a little healthy competition isn’t a bad idea to try to spur Raanta in the right direction if he wants to be a starter in this league.

Boy, home ice advantage really would be something in this series by default, right? After all, each team won their only home game in their regular season matchups prior to the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 regular season due to the pandemic.

Since home ice is without fans in Edmonton for all Western Conference teams in the 2020 postseason, there’s not much to go off of in terms of these two clubs’ head-to-head meetings.

But the Predators have more than a few things going in their favor among their forwards and defenders who could also play forward, arguably.

The one thing Arizona has that Nashville hasn’t seen much of this season is a consistent starter in the crease.

If the Coyotes win the series, it’ll likely have something with Kuemper stealing a few games.

If the Preds sweep Arizona, it might have something to do with the sheer fire power in a last-ditch effort at what’s otherwise a closing window for a potential Cup contending roster.

At the very least John Hynes probably doesn’t have to worry about getting the same treatment as Peter Laviolette– who Hynes replaced in January– if the Predators dropped the ball in this series.

Let’s say Nashville in three, but give props to Kuemper for honing in his talents to tend the crease this well in his career. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s arrived and here to stay, unlike former Coyotes GM John Chayka.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 ARI at Gila River Arena on Oct. 17th, 3-2 NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 23rd

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN360

8/4- Game 2 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, SN360

8/5- Game 3 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN360

8/7- Game 4 NSH @ ARI in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 ARI @ NSH in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(7) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points) vs (10) Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, 77 points)

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

Minnesota: 69 games played, .558 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Entering the 2019-20 season, Vancouver Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, added J.T. Miller to the fold in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Benning then went out and got Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings leading up to the 2020 trade deadline.

As a result, the Canucks are much improved from last season to this season.

Miller led the team in scoring with 27-45–72 totals in 69 games played and was on pace for about 86 points at the time of the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games), Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) and Quinn Hughes (53 points in 69 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring for Vancouver.

Horvat and Hughes were tied for the third most points on the team as Hughes left his mark on the 2019-20 season by earning Calder Memorial Trophy finalist honors.

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom led the Canucks in the crease with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games played (all starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in that span.

Thatcher Demko made 27 appearances (25 starts) as the backup goaltender and went 13-10-2 on the season with a 3.06 GAA and a .905 SV% in that span.

Louis Domingue also appeared in one game (one start) in the regular season for the Canucks and had a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV%.

Markstrom will be the starter for Vancouver’s postseason run, but he’ll have to be a tad better in cutting down his goals against average for a deep run.

For Canucks head coach, Travis Green, it’s more of the same game plan to try to spur the Canucks back into the playoffs for the first time since their 2015 First Round appearance and elimination at the hands of the Calgary Flames in six games.

The Minnesota Wild removed the “interim” tag from their head coach, Dean Evason’s title since the pause in play and are looking to upset the Canucks and get back into the playoffs since missing the postseason last season.

Kevin Fiala led the way for the Wild in scoring with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 games played. He was on pace for 69 points had the season gone all 82 games, but still established career-highs in goals, assists and points in the shortened season regardless.

Ryan Suter led defenders and was second in scoring on the roster with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 69 games, while Eric Staal was ahead of Zach Parise by one point for third in scoring with 47 points in 66 games.

In goal, Alex Stalock (20-11-4 in 38 games played, 36 starts, 2.67 goals against average, .985 save percentage, four shutouts) outplayed Minnesota’s usual starter Devan Dubnyk (12-15-2 in 30 GP, 28 starts, 3.35 GAA, .890 SV%, one shutout) and will likely backstop the team in Game 1 against Vancouver.

Kaapo Kahkonen also made his NHL debut this season in the crease for the Wild in five games– amassing a 3-1-1 record, as well as a 2.96 GAA and a .913 SV%.

Both teams had nine goals for and nine goals against one another in their season series. They also each had 89 total shots on goal against one another in the 2019-20 regular season.

Though the Wild made strides this season at potentially avoiding a rebuild, it’s still an uphill climb for Minnesota against the Canucks on paper– regardless of their head-to-head matchups from the season.

Vancouver has the right combination of speed, skill and youth to limit Minnesota’s chances and, at times, lackluster offense.

The Canucks core is more defined than Minnesota’s fluid situation as Wild GM Bill Guerin evolves the roster over the next season or two.

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

Benning and the Canucks are emerging from their transition and look to be ready to get back into the playoff hunt with what should be a four-game series win against the Wild.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 VAN at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 12th, 4-2 MIN at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6th, 4-3 F/SO MIN at Rogers Arena on Feb. 19th

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 2 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton 10:45 PM ET on USA, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 3 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton TBD

8/7- Game 4 VAN @ MIN in Edmonton*

8/9- Game 5 MIN @ VAN in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(8) Calgary Flames (36-27-7, 79 points) vs (9) Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6, 80 points)

Calgary: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 25 regulation wins.

Winnipeg: 71 games played, .563 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

The Calgary Flames were led in scoring this season by their hottest controversial player, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ruffled some feathers en route to re-igniting the “Battle of Alberta” and managed to amass 23-38–61 totals in 69 games played in 2019-20.

He was on pace for 72 points this season at the time of the stoppage, but still had back-to-back seasons with at least 60 points nonetheless.

Johnny Gaudreau was second on the roster in points with 58 points (18 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games played, which was down from his 99 points in 82 games last season. That said, Gaudreau was still on pace for about 68 points when the regular season was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Instead, his streak of consecutive 60-plus point seasons was over at five seasons thanks to the pandemic.

Finally, Elias Lindholm managed to set a new career-high in goals (29), while scoring 54 points in 70 games this season– ranking third on the team in scoring.

In the crease, Calgary was saved by David “Big Save Dave” Rittich, who went 24-17-6 in 48 games played (all starts), had a 2.97 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts this season.

Actually, on second thought, maybe that’s not very good numbers to have for a *checks notes* starting goaltender.

Alright, let’s check the backup…

Cam Talbot went 12-10-1 in 26 games played (22 starts), had a 2.63 GAA, a .919 SV% and two shutouts this season. Hmm, not much better.

Oh and did you remember that interim head coach, Geoff Ward, replaced Bill Peters after everyone found out Peters is racist?

The Winnipeg Jets landed in fifth place in the Central Division with 80 points this season– two points behind the Dallas Stars, who were the fourth best team in the Western Conference by points percentage and have earned themselves home ice in at least the First Round, which only matters so much in a bubble, but still, this was meant to show how close the Jets came to being a Round Robin team instead of playing in a Qualifier series.

Anyway, Kyle Connor soared as a Jet this season– establishing new career-highs in goals (38), assists (35) and points (73) in the process while playing in 71 games until the pandemic cut the regular season short.

Connor was on pace for 84 points this season if the full 82-game schedule could’ve occurred uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele actually tied Connor for the most points on the roster with 73, as Scheifele tallied 29 goals and had 44 helpers in 71 games. Not quite a career-season, but still respectable after setting career-high totals (38-46–84) last season in all 82 games.

Winnipeg’s captain, Blake Wheeler, contributed more than just actions and words in defense of the Constitution and human rights this season, scoring 22 goals and amassing 43 assists for third place on the roster in points (65) in 71 games played.

Patrik Laine, for those wondering, was fourth on the team with 63 points, which was back to his usual self, albeit with more assists (35) than goals (28) in 68 games.

Laine hasn’t been a bust for the Jets– he’s never had a season with fewer than 50 points (last season, 82 games) and was on pace for about 76 points had the season been played in full.

This was, however, the first season he failed to reach the 30-goal plateau, but he only missed it by two goals and, hello, the pandemic? Remember it? Yeah, that’s why he missed the mark, otherwise he would’ve (probably) scored a pair of goals in the remaining 11 games for Winnipeg on the 2019-20 regular season schedule at the time of the pause.

In goal, Paul Maurice relied on old reliable to bail him out even more so in the wake of Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to sit out the 2019-20 season and eventual mutual termination of his contract with the club.

2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalist, Connor Hellebuyck, held the fort down with a 31-21-5 record in 58 games played (56 starts), amassed a 2.57 goals against average and had a .922 save percenrage– as well as a league-leading six shutouts this season.

Yeah, it was kind of a big season for Hellebucyk and if he’s not the favorite among the NHL GMs that vote for the Vezina, well, who knows what games they were watching (presumably their own).

Laurent Brossoit went 6-7-1 in 19 games (15 starts) this season and had a dismal 3.28 GAA and an .895 SV% in that span. Yikes.

The defense looks different without Byfuglien, but Hellebuyck remained stable as their primary alternative to keeping the puck away from their own net.

That might not pay off against some of the powerhouses in the league, but luckily the Jets have enough time to let Maurice come up with a plan and enact it to cut down on Hellebuyck’s workload in the Qualifier if they want a chance to advance.

Oh, speaking of the Winnipeg and Calgary series– nobody knows what to expect!

The Jets and Flames met once this season– back in the 2019 Heritage Classic outdoors at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg won in overtime in comeback fashion that night, 2-1.

They peppered Rittich with 45 shots (43 saves) and kept Hellebuyck to an ideal workload of 30 shots faced (29 saves).

If the Jets don’t win this series, it’ll be a huge disappointment– perhaps even bigger than making the First Round and getting stomped out by their next opponent after the phenomenal performance by Hellebucyk in the crease all season.

Then again, momentum no longer exists since everyone had about five months off.

Let’s say this one goes all five games for one reason or another and that Winnipeg can pull it off and advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 F/OT WPG at Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan on Oct. 26th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN

8/3- Game 2 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton 2:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/4- Game 3 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton 4:45 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN

8/6- Game 4 CGY @ WPG in Edmonton*

8/8- Game 5 WPG @ CGY in Edmonton*

*If necessary


2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Western Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Western Conference are in Edmonton this year and all times Eastern.

St. Louis Blues

42-19-10, 94 points, 71 GP, .662 PTS%, 33 RW

Aug. 2nd @ COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

42-20-8, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 37 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. STL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360

Aug. 5th @ DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

39-24-8, 86 points, 71 GP, .606 PTS%, 30 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. DAL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

37-24-8, 82 points, 69 GP, .594 PTS%, 26 RW

Aug. 3rd @ VGK in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1

Aug. 5th vs. COL in Edmonton 6:30 PM ET on NHLN, NHL.TV

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

DTFR Podcast #203- Hockey Christmas In August

The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin tournament are almost underway, but this episode has almost nothing to do with that!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Eastern Conference

Hockey’s back. In August!?! In this economy?!?

Yes, truer words have never been spoken. Hockey. Is. Back.

But not in the way you’re probably thinking if you’ve been under a rock for the last– let’s see, what month is it now?

The National Hockey League paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12th due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic before canceling the rest of the regular season in late May and announcing a 24-team playoff format for 2020.

Make no mistake, whether you put an asterisk next to the winners of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final or not– it’ll be the hardest Cup to win since Lord Stanley of Preston announced he’d donate the silver rose bowl to the best hockey team in the world (so Canada) on March 18, 1892.

Despite all the training world class athletes do in contemporary times, nothing could prepare any athlete to stop playing, go through training camp after months of (in some cases) not being able to skate on any ice, then go full throttle for a championship tournament.

If anything, the asterisk next to the 2020 Stanley Cup champions will simply be a marker for the challenging times and remarkable feats of athleticism that team went through to put it all together and lift a 35-pound trophy at the end.

By now you’ve probably heard how the 2020 postseason will work– 24 teams vying for 16 spots, with eight teams (four in each conference) already locked into the playoffs, but fighting for the top-four seeds as the other 16 teams compete in a best-of-five series to punch a ticket into the playoffs.

Those 16 teams are in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which technically isn’t part of the 2020 postseason according to the NHL, but the individual player and team stats will count towards the playoffs in the record books.

So for Arizona Coyotes fans, the long standing playoff drought since 2012, technically isn’t over yet. They’d have to beat the Nashville Predators first.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference Qualifiers, while the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers sort themselves out.

All Eastern Conference games will be at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario until the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final (both of which will be held in Edmonton, Alberta at Rogers Place).

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6, 86 points) vs (12) Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9, 71 points)

Pittsburgh: 69 games played, .623 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montreal: 71 games played, .500 points percentage, 19 regulation wins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were 5th in the Eastern Conference at the time of the pause and being led by Evgeni Malkin with 74 points in 55 games played, while Bryan Rust (56 points in 55 games) and Sidney Crosby 47 points in 41 games) trailed the Russian star on the roster. 

Yes, Malkin missed 14 games and still amassed 74 points in a season for the Penguins, while Pens head coach, Mike Sullivan, carefully charted the course through a bevy of injuries to bring his team within striking range of the Metropolitan Division lead had the regular season seen its full conclusion.

The Washington Capitals topped the Metropolitan Division with 90 points. The Philadelphia Flyers had 89. Pittsburgh had 86.

An annual Stanley Cup contender since Sullivan led the Penguins to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017 (their second and third since 2009– fourth and fifth in franchise history), Pittsburgh’s goaltending might be the only thing that holds them back from their 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Murray had a down year with a 2.87 goals against average and an .899 save percentage in 38 games played– his worst goals against average since he had a 2.92 GAA in 49 games in 2017-18 and his worst-career save percentage in a season. Murray finished the shortened season with a 20-11-5 record and one shutout in 38 starts.

Backup netminder, Tristan Jarry, went 20-12-1 in 33 games played (31 starts) and had a 2.43 GAA, as well as a .921 SV% and three shutouts.

Murray’s leash through the exhibition games should be a short one, despite his career 2.16 GAA and .921 SV% in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games. His goals against average reached a career-low 1.70 in 11 games en route to Pittsburgh’s Cup win in 2017, but rose to a 2.43 in 2018 (12 games) and a 3.02 in 2019 (four games) as the Penguins were swept by the New York Islanders in last year’s First Round.

It’s not that he can’t bounce back, but rather that Sullivan should ride the hotter goaltender and force a little healthy competition if it yields the best in Murray’s game. If not, it’ll either be sink or swim with Jarry in the crease.

At the other end of the rink, the Montreal Canadiens went .500 this season and were mired in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at the stoppage with what looked like little hope for a late season surge into the postseason, despite leading scorer, Tomas Tatar (22-39–61 totals in 68 games played) and starting goaltender, Carey Price’s best efforts.

Phillip Danault had the second-most points on the Habs roster this season with 13 goals and 34 assists (47 points) in 71 games played, while Max Domi was third in scoring on the team with 44 points in 71 games.

Price led Montreal in net with a 27-25-6 record in 58 games played (58 starts), a 2.79 GAA, a .909 SV% and four shutouts this season. Since his 2.23 GAA and .923 SV% in 62 games in 2016-17, Price has not had a goals against average below 2.30 or a save percentage better than .920. He had a 3.11 GAA and a .900 SV% in 49 games in 2017-18, as well as a 2.49 GAA and a .918 SV% in 66 games last season.

As he approaches his mid-30s and the league shifts more and more towards tandem goaltending, Price shouldn’t be playing more than 50 games in a regular season, but the Canadiens struggled with finding a backup this season.

Charlie Lindgren went 2-4-0 in six games (six starts) and had a 3.33 GAA, as well as an .888 SV%. Meanwhile, Cayden Primeau went 1-1-0 in two games (both starts) and had a 2.52 GAA and a .931 SV%.

Keith Kinkaid also made an appearance with six games played (five starts), a 1-1-3 record, a 4.24 GAA and an .875 SV%.

Claude Julien has over 400 regular season wins as the head coach of the Boston Bruins and won the Cup with the B’s in 2011, but that was nine years ago and he’s three full seasons into his second stint behind the bench as head coach of the Canadiens.

His teams aren’t known for keeling over and being swept out of the playoffs, so they’ll likely be able to win one as Montreal scratches and claws their way to victory in classic Julien-style blue-collar work ethic fashion, but can he get it done against Pittsburgh in today’s NHL?

Especially when falling behind the eight ball is even more significant in a best-of-five series than it is in a best-of-seven.

Price might be fresh, but Pittsburgh’s got an offense and a defense. Plus the Penguins did win two out of their three regular season matchups and Crosby and Malkin are ready to make yet another postseason appearance– regardless of how far things will actually go.

It’s not out of the question that the Habs will be able to steal a game, but the Penguins should have this series wrapped up in four games and punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 MTL at PPG Paints Arena on Dec. 10th, 3-2 F/OT PIT at Bell Centre on Jan. 4th, 4-1 PIT at PPG Paints Arena on Feb. 14th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 MTL @ PIT in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 PIT @ MTL in Toronto 8 PM ET NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 PIT @ MTL in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 MTL @ PIT in Toronto*

*If necessary

(6) Carolina Hurricanes (38-25-5, 81 points) vs (11) New York Rangers (37-28-5, 79 points)

Carolina: 68 games played, .596 points percentage, 27 regulation wins

N.Y. Rangers: 70 games played, .564 points percentage, 31 regulation wins

Rod Brind’Amour and the Carolina Hurricanes have their work cut out for them in what just might be the only series that would be an upset if the higher seed wins. The Hurricanes lost all four regular season matchups against the Rangers, despite Sebastian Aho’s team-leading 66 points in 68 games on the season.

Aho set a new career-high in goals (38) and had a pair of goals against New York this season, but fell shy of establishing a new career-high in points after putting up 83 points in 82 games last season. Of course, a pandemic shortened regular season will have something to do with that.

Regardless, he was on pace for about 80 points at the time the NHL season was paused.

Teuvo Teravainen continued to show that he’s one of the most consistent performers in the league with a respectable 48 assists and 63 points in 68 games played as one of Carolina’s more “veteran” players, despite only being 25-years-old.

Meanwhile, Andrei Svechnikov scored two lacrosse goals this season and managed to improve on all fronts from his rookie season (20-17–37 totals in 82 games last season) with 24 goals and 37 assists (61 points) in 68 games in 2019-20. He was on pace for almost 30 goals and around 73 points in his sophomore season had the pandemic not called it short.

In goal, David Ayres led the way with– just kidding– Petr Mrazek went 21-16-2 in 40 games this season (38 starts) and had a 2.69 GAA, as well as a .905 SV% and three shutouts. Not great, but not the worst entering the Qualifiers.

He’ll have to do much better than his 2.73 GAA and .894 SV% in 11 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if he has any hopes of catapulting his team over the Rangers and backstopping them to a deep playoff run like last year.

That said, Curtis McElhinney was the one that replaced him against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Mrazek allowed ten goals against in the series, compared to McElhinney’s five.

The good news for the Hurricanes, however, is that McElhinney’s numbers have been way off the mark this season and he’s the current backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Plus James Reimer exists in Carolina.

Reimer went 14-6-2 in 25 games for the Canes this season and had a 2.66 GAA, as well as a .914 SV% and three shutouts– so basically he’s the same as Mrazek, only Reimer’s looking for a bigger redemption arc in the postseason than being remembered as the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender in Boston’s epic, 5-4, overtime comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

That wasn’t even Reimer’s last appearance in the playoffs, however, as he had a brief stint (29 minutes) with the San Jose Sharks en route to their 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Brind’Amour might be wise to use his best defensive game and start Reimer in Game 1 against the Rangers, except Mrazek had an .861 SV% against New York in three games this season, while Reimer had a .792 SV%.

Advantage… …Mrazek? But on a short leash?

On the other hand, the New York Rangers enter their Qualifier matchup with the Hurricanes two points behind Carolina in the season standings and three spots behind them in the Metropolitan Division standings that are virtually obsolete this postseason.

The Hurricanes had 81 points. The Rangers had 79 points. First place through seventh place in the division was separated by 11 points at the time of the stoppage.

And at that point, 2019-20 Hart Memorial Trophy finalist, Artemi Panarin, had already amassed 32-63–95 totals in 69 games for New York.

He had nine points (three goals, six assists) against the Hurricanes this season, while Mika Zibanejad sat 20 points behind Panarin in team scoring with 41 goals and 34 assists (75 points) in 57 games– including four goals and three assists against Carolina this season.

Ryan Strome carried third place honors for the Rangers in scoring this season with 18-41–59 totals in 70 games.

Rangers head coach, David Quinn, also doesn’t have an easy decision to make with his goaltenders heading to Toronto for their series against Carolina.

Henrik Lundqvist made three starts against the Canes and went 3-0-0, while stopping 125 shots out of 132 shots against (.947 SV%) in that span.

Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in his one start and one win against Carolina this season.

Lundqvist went 10-12-3 on the season in 30 games played (26 starts) with a 3.16 GAA, a .905 SV% and one shutout.

Shesterkin went 10-2-0 in 12 games played (12 starts) and had a 2.52 GAA, as well as a .932 SV%.

Oh yeah, and Alexandar Georgiev went 17-14-2 in 34 games (32 starts) while putting up a 3.04 GAA, a .910 SV% and two shutouts.

One thing is clearer now more than ever before– “King Henrik” is no longer king in “The Big Apple”.

Shesterkin should receive the nod for the playoffs, but this is just the Qualifier. It technically doesn’t count unless you win three out of the next possible five games.

In that case, Quinn could rely on Lundqvist to get the job done, then give Shesterkin his first real taste of the NHL’s toughest job– being a goaltender in the playoffs– since Lundqvist has a history for seemingly always having Carolina’s number when it matters most for the Hurricanes.

Regardless of who’s in net, New York holds all the advantages coming into this series.

The Rangers scored 17 goals for against Hurricanes and allowed nine goals against over their four games against one another.

Carolina threw the kitchen sink at New York on net– totaling 161 shots on goal in their four regular season matchups with the Blue Shirts– but Lundqvist was the key difference maker.

That said, the Hurricanes knocked off the then defending Cup champion Washington Capitals in seven games in last year’s First Round.

But can Brind’Amour motivate his players enough to get the job done more efficiently when the series is only a best-of-five instead of having the luxury to drag things out all seven games like they did against the Caps?

And with back-to-back games incorporated in the schedule, conditions are clearly unfavorable for the Hurricanes in their David and Goliath matchup (again, despite being the higher seed).

One thing that works in their favor? There’s no travel outside the bubble to and from the games, so that’s a plus.

Knowing how The Hockey Gods work, it’d be foolish not to believe this series won’t go all five games just because. Either that or Carolina will pull off the three-game sweep of the Rangers after losing every single regular season game against New York in 2019-20.

Flip a coin and that’s your winner– this series might just be a lot closer and more intense than you think.

Rangers in five, but don’t be surprised if/when Carolina defeats them.

Sit back and enjoy.

Regular season outcomes:

4-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Nov. 7th, 3-2 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27th, 5-3 NYR at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27th, 5-2 NYR at PNC Arena on Feb. 21st

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/3- Game 2 NYR @ CAR in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, SN360, TVAS

8/4- Game 3 CAR @ NYR in Toronto 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS

8/6- Game 4 CAR @ NYR in Toronto*

8/8- Game 5 NYR @ CAR in Toronto*

*If necessary

(7) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points) vs (10) Florida Panthers (35-26-8, 78 points)

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins

Florida: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 30 regulation wins

Barry Trotz is still coaching the trap in today’s NHL, which, honestly, you have to hand it to him. His defense first mindset has turned the New York Islanders into a playoff contender since his arrival last season.

The only bad thing that’s come with Trotz’s arrival and John Tavares’ departure– a lack of goal scoring.

It’s no secret that to win games, your team must score more goals than the other team, whether it’s a, 10-9, high-scoring victory or a, 1-0, shutout.

Unfortunately for Trotz, the Isles ranked ninth in fewest goals for this season with 192, which is the worst among all the Qualifier team. Yes, even Montreal and Chicago each had 212 goals for this season, despite their minus-6 and minus-9 goal differentials, respectively.

At least the Islanders only allowed one more goal than they scored in the pandemic shortened regular season.

Anyway, Mathew Barzal led the charge for New York this season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games played, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) and Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) followed suit.

Barzal was on pace for 23 goals and 72 points this season, which would’ve been a career-high in goals in a season for the young forward only having just completed his third full season. Nevertheless, scoring at least 60 points in three consecutive seasons is respectable.

Nelson scored 26 goals this season, which marked back to back seasons of at least 20 goals for the 28-year-old. He was on pace for 31 goals in what was already a career-season in the making.

Lee was on pace for 52 points after putting up 20-23–43 totals in 68 games, which would have given him four consecutive seasons of 50-plus points.

But it’s not all about what would’ve been for the Islanders, because the future is here in goaltender Ilya Sorokin– oh wait, he can’t play in the 2020 postseason due to the NHL’s Return to Play rulings, which is fine– just means that next year’s looking good for the Isles.

In net, Semyon Varlamov amassed a 19-14-6 record in 45 games played (39 starts) with a 2.62 GAA and a .914 SV%, as well as two shutouts to go with it.

Ideally, you’d like a starting goaltender in the NHL to be closer to 2.50, maybe even 2.30 in goals against average and around a .920 in save percentage, but we addressed some of New York’s shortcomings this season– a lack of offense and injuries on defense with Adam Pelech limited to 38 games.

Thomas Greiss had a 16-9-4 record in 31 games (29 starts) with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process.

It’s likely his last season on Long Island/in Brooklyn with Sorokin signed for the next couple of seasons, so if he sees any ice time in the series, he’ll have to be better in order to prove his next payday at the expense of another team via free agency in November.

New York brought in Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a conditional 2020 1st round pick (can become a 2021 1st round pick if the Islanders lose in the Qualifier and win the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft–a.k.a. top-3 lottery protected), a 2020 2nd round pick and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick (if New York wins the Cup in 2020), then signed Pageau to a six-year extension worth $5.000 million per season.

Though it was all too short to effectively judge Pageau in an Islanders sweater, it’s worth noting he scored two goals in seven games so far. That’s it.

A boost for the third line, sure, but his effectiveness in a new surrounding remains to be seen, which could be a key to New York defeating the Florida Panthers who lack an important figure in Vincent Trocheck since trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen at the deadline on Feb. 24th.

Speaking of the Panthers, Florida was led by Jonathan Huberdeau in scoring this season with 23 goals and 55 assists (78 points) in 69 games this season.

Aleksander Barkov had his fifth consecutive 20-goal season– one season removed from his career-high 35 goals (and 96 points!) last season– and was on pace for 25 tallies this season at the stoppage.

And bringing up the rear in Florida’s top-three scorers this season was Mike Hoffman with 29 goals and 30 assists (59 points) in 69 games. Hoffman finished one goal shy of back to back 30-goal seasons and was on pace to match his career-high 70 points in a season had the regular season been uninterrupted.

In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky probably wishes he could ask for a mulligan this season after going 23-19-6 in 50 games played (49 starts) and amassing a 3.23 GAA, as well as a .900 SV% and one shutout.

Yes, you read that right– one shutout this season. After leading the league with nine shutouts last season, Bobrovsky was far beyond a disappointment in his first year of a seven-year, $70 million contract.

Meanwhile, Sam Montembeault (5-5-1) started the season as Florida’s backup, but things took a turn after his 3.34 GAA and .890 SV% in 14 games played (nine starts) were no better than Bobrovsky’s career-worst season as a starter.

Alas, Chris Driedger was called up from the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL) and put up a 7-2-1 record in 12 games played with a 2.05 GAA, a .938 SV% and one shutout in that span.

The Islanders beat the Panthers in all three regular season matchups this season, but New York has yet to face Driedger.

A word to the wise for Florida’s head coach, Joel Quenneville– what more could you lose by starting Driedger in Game 1?

Bobrovsky hasn’t had the form all season and isn’t going into the playoffs as your surefire starter– $10.000 million cap hit or not. Pray he returns to his two-time Vezina Trophy winning ability in time for 2020-21, but for now he hasn’t earned starter duties and your main focus is on winning three games, let alone going for the Cup with whatever you have for a roster.

The Islanders scored eight goals in their three games against the Panthers this season. They allowed four goals against, while Florida– to their credit– forced New York to a shootout in their first meeting back on Oct. 12th.

New York had 94 total shots on goal against Florida this season.

The Panthers had 108 shots against the Islanders.

It should be a close battle with each team ravaged in some manner– whether by injuries that plagued them all season or lackluster goaltending, neither club is exactly turning heads out there.

The Panthers lost in six games to the Islanders in the 2016 First Round, but this time around it’s a best of five.

New York should win in four games as Trotz has more recent playoff success and the more recent playoff experienced roster to go off of than, yes, Quenneville’s three Stanley Cup Rings from the last ten years.

It’s not that Quenneville can’t pull off the upset, but rather that the Panthers aren’t ready to make a dent in the postseason picture without all the necessary pieces.

The good news for them, at least, is they have a tried and true coach to guide them through what for now will be some growing pains.

Unless 20-goal scorer Noel Acciari pockets a hat trick in three straight games, which sounds quite plausible these days, so who knows!?

Regular season outcomes:

3-2 F/SO NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 12th, 2-1 NYI at Barclays Center on Nov. 9th, 3-1 NYI at BB&T Center on Dec. 12th

Schedule:

8/1- Game 1 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN1, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 FLA @ NYI in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/5- Game 3 NYI @ FLA in Toronto 12 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/7- Game 4 NYI @ FLA in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 FLA @ NYI in Toronto*

*If necessary

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-9, 81 points) vs (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15, 81 points)

Toronto: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 28 regulation wins

Columbus: 70 games played, .579 points percentage, 25 regulation wins

The Toronto Maple Leafs have home ice advantage and– well, technically, the Qualifier isn’t considered part of the playoffs and there’s a pandemic going on, so no fans are allowed inside the bubble.

But hey, at least there’s hockey in Canadian New York City, so we’ll take it!

The Leafs were led by Auston Matthews in scoring this season as the 22-year-old center finished third in the NHL in goals with 47 of them in 70 games played. He had 80 points overall, which established career-highs in both goals and points in his fourth NHL season– and fourth consecutive season with at least 30 goals.

Oh and for the second time in his young career, Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau and was on the cusp of 50 had it not been for the ongoing pandemic cutting things short. He was on pace for 55 goals at the stoppage.

Mitchell Marner was second on the Leafs roster in scoring with 16-51–67 totals in 59 games played– surpassing the 50-assist plateau for the second straight season and further proving his vital role as a playmaker on the roster.

Meanwhile, John Tavares had 26 goals and 34 assists (60 points) in 63 games, which was down from his 47-41–88 totals last season, but then again, he was on pace for 78 points this season had the regular season seen its proper conclusion, so really he wasn’t all that far off from a typical Tavares year.

As it is, the only time Tavares has ever had less than 50 points in a season was in the lockout shortened, 48-game, 2012-13 season, in which he had 47 points in all 48 games.

Yeah, he’s pretty good.

In the crease, the Maple Leafs were led by Frederik Anderson (29-13-7 record in 52 games played, 2.85 GAA, .909 SV%, three shutouts), but hold the phone! What’s this? Toronto acquired a legitimate backup netminder during the season!?!

That’s right, Jack Campbell (3-2-1 in six games with Toronto, six starts, 2.63 GAA, .915 SV% in that span) is a Maple Leaf and– heaven forbid– is more than capable of bailing out Toronto if things get dire with Andersen.

Oh and Sheldon Keefe is in charge behind the bench.

Plus there’s a wild card this year for Toronto that the rest of the league has yet to see– Nick Robertson. You know, the forward that had 55-31–88 totals in 46 games with the Peterborough Petes (OHL) this season and brings both even more speed and skill to the Maple Leafs lineup.

At the other side of the rink, the Columbus Blue Jackets were battered all season and had a trio of goaltenders at one point as a result, yet somehow, here they are to the surprise of all the experts that had them pegged for 8th place in the Metropolitan Division heading into the 2019-20 season after losing Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency.

It’s all just part of the plan.

Many had them out against the Lightning last year and, well, the Blue Jackets brought the thunder in that series.

Unfortunately for CBJ fans, they couldn’t bring the cannon through customs, but they were able to bring their leading scorer, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and his 18-31–49 totals in 70 games this season.

Gustav Nyquist had a respectable 42-point season (15 goals, 27 assists) in 70 games with Columbus after being brought in via free agency, while Zach Werenski was third on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) from the blue line in 63 games.

Columbus has the better defense on paper, but Toronto’s offense has more than enough firepower to outmatch the Blue Jackets’ best efforts.

In goal, however, emerged the rise of a new king (but not of rock)– Elvis Merzlikins. Though Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5, 2.60 GAA, .911 SV%, two shutouts) played in more games (37 played, 35 starts) than Merzlikins, No. 90 in red, white and blue had the better numbers with a 13-9-8 record in 33 games played (31 starts), as well as a 2.35 GAA, a .923 SV% and five shutouts.

It’s the dawn of a new age in Columbus as a hot, young, goaltending tandem has arrived with the departure of Bobrovsky.

It’ll be Merzlikins’ biggest test, but the Blue Jackets just might be a lot better off now more than ever riding the hot goaltender.

Plus they struck down the dragon last spring and made it out of the First Round for the first time in franchise history, so now anything’s possible moving forward.

On paper this is the most even matchup as both teams finished with 81 points, had 70 games played and went won one out of the two games they played against one another before the pandemic shortened the regular season, but it’s hard to ignore one thing– Tortorella.

Once more Tortorella is a Jack Adams Award finalist and, oh yeah, he’s kind of responsible for figuring out how to not only beat, but sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 First Round– you know, last year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners.

But a newcomer has entered the chat and that’s Keefe. He led the Toronto Marlies (AHL) to the 2018 Calder Cup championship and many of the players in the Leafs system have encountered his touch in recent years.

Is Keefe the answer to Toronto’s prayers or will yet another team that’s come into the league since their last Cup in 1967 raise Lord Stanley’s mug over their heads while the Maple Leafs are off somewhere preparing for next season?

The good news, this isn’t technically the playoffs yet, so that means Toronto’s got a better chance off the bat.

There’s not as much of a distraction surrounding their opponent (*ahem* for once, it’s not Boston!– yet, anyway), let alone the “hasn’t made it out of the First Round since before the 2004-05 season-long lockout” specter that shadows the Leafs.

The bad news, they’re the Maple Leafs. Of course only something like a pandemic would throw off any momentum they had going into a possible playoff run, etc.

Imagine if the Chicago Cubs didn’t win in 2016, or the Boston Red Sox didn’t win in 2004– yeah, that’s how most Toronto fans feel day-in and day-out– no matter how confident– no matter how much belief they have in the team.

There’s always that chance that something something goes wrong and the curse or whatever remains hanging over the Maple Leafs dressing room and front office.

Leafs in five, then we’ll see what happens, but Tortorella’s teams aren’t easy to knock off their game. This alone might be Toronto’s greatest test in the Matthews, Marner and Co. Era.

Mike Babcock’s gone. They’re playing the “new age” game. Can they get it done?

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 TOR at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4th, 4-3 F/OT CBJ at Scotiabank Arena on Oct. 21st

Schedule:

8/2- Game 1 CBJ @ TOR 8 PM ET on NHLN, SN, TVAS

8/4- Game 2 CBJ @ TOR 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

8/6- Game 3 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto TBD

8/7- Game 4 TOR @ CBJ in Toronto*

8/9- Game 5 CBJ @ TOR*

*If necessary


2020 Eastern Conference Round Robin Action

Here’s a quick glance at the Round Robin schedule for the top-four Eastern Conference teams if you’re not at all interested in the Qualifiers for some reason.

Again, all games in the Eastern Conference are in Toronto this year and all times Eastern.

Boston Bruins

44-14-12, 100 points, 70 GP, .714 PTS%, 38 RW

Aug. 2nd vs. PHI in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 5th vs. TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 9th @ WSH in Toronto, TBD

Tampa Bay Lightning

43-21-6, 92 points, 70 GP, .657 PTS%, 35 RW

Aug. 3rd vs. WSH in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 5th @ BOS in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS

Aug. 8th vs. PHI in Toronto, TBD

Washington Capitals

41-20-8, 90 points, 69 GP, .652 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 3rd @TBL in Toronto 4 PM ET on NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS

Aug. 6th @ PHI in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. BOS in Toronto, TBD

Philadelphia Flyers

41-21-7, 89 points, 69 GP, .645 PTS%, 31 RW

Aug. 2nd @ BOS in Toronto 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

Aug. 6th vs. WSH in Toronto, TBD

Aug. 8th @ TBL in Toronto, TBD

DTFR Podcast #202- What Are Your Qualifications?/Let’s Get Kraken

Using Qualifiers to enhance this postseason (it’s a breakdown of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Round Robin action). Plus the Seattle Kraken!

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

DTFR Podcast #201- Summer School (Since Summer Camp Is A Sponsored MLB Thing Now)

Dates, awards finalists, opting out, new faces, exhibition schedule and the Ottawa Senators rebrand.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify.

Look To The Rafters: Carolina Hurricanes (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Carolina Hurricanes might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of PNC Arena someday.

Carolina Hurricanes Current Retired Numbers

2 Glen Wesley

10 Ron Francis

17 Rod Brind’Amour

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! But that could change as soon as current Minnesota Wild forward, Eric Staal, eventually decides he’s had enough and calls it a career. Not just could, it should and (probably) will.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

9 Gordie Howe

Let’s keep this one short and sweet– it’s “Mr. Hockey”. Howe spent his final year in the NHL (1979-80) with the Hartford Whalers and subsequently had his number retired by both the Detroit Red Wings and the Whalers, but when Hartford relocated to North Carolina, the Hurricanes chose not to honor any of the retired numbers from their Whalers days.

As such, Howe’s No. 9 is technically available, but it has never been worn in Carolina. Why not go all out sometime on Whalers Night and re-retire Howe’s No. 9 out of a formality?

12 Eric Staal

From the 2003-04 season through part of the 2015-16 season, Staal was a fixture on the Hurricanes roster. In 909 games with Carolina, he scored 322 goals and had 453 assists (775 points), which ranks 2nd on the all-time scorers list in franchise history (behind only Ron Francis, of course, who had 1,175 points as a Hartford Whaler/Carolina Hurricane).

Staal had a massive 100-point season in his sophomore campaign in 2005-06, en route to Carolina’s Stanley Cup championship over the Edmonton Oilers in seven games. He notched career-highs in goals (45), assists (55) and points (100) that season in all 82 games played and only had one season below 70 points– his rookie season, in which Staal had 11-20–31 totals in 81 games in 2003-04– until an injury in 2013 disrupted his prolific playing ability.

As time moved on, it became more clear that Staal would need a change of scenery and the Hurricanes would be wise to cash in on what they could still get for him at a high rather than let him walk away for nothing. 

After three consecutive seasons of at least 50 points from 2012-13 through 2014-15, Staal entered the 2015-16 season with Carolina, but finished the season with the New York Rangers.

On Feb. 28, 2016, the Hurricanes dealt Staal to the Rangers for Aleksi Saarela, New York’s 2016 2nd round pick and New York’s 2017 2nd round pick.

Staal had ten goals and 23 assists (33 points) in 63 games for Carolina at the time of the trade that season. He had three goals and three assists in 20 games for the Rangers down the stretch.

The Hurricanes won the trade, which had seen the departure of their first true “homegrown” star, having drafted Staal 2nd overall in 2003.

And there’s still connections to the Staal trade with the Rangers on the roster to this day.

Saarela was later packaged with Calvin de Haan on June 24, 2019, in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg. You might recognize Forsberg as one of Carolina’s many goaltenders this year after David Ayres made his NHL debut back in February.

The 2016 2nd round pick (50th overall) was packaged with a 2017 3rd round pick (originally belonging to Chicago) in a trade with the Blackhawks before the de Haan deal on June 15, 2016, in which the Hurricanes received Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell.

Finally, the 2017 2nd round pick (52nd overall) was used by Carolina to draft a right-shot defender from the University of Michigan named Luke Martin.

Staal played more than one vital role in the ever changing landscape of the Hurricanes from Cup winner to modern day playoff contender on the upswing after making an appearance in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final (albeit losing in four games to the Boston Bruins).

20 Sebastian Aho

Entering the 2015-16 season, Carolina kicked things off by drafting Aho in the second round (35th overall) in 2015. Little did anyone know, but it was poetic selection as Staal later was traded that season and Aho made his NHL debut the following season– proving to perhaps be the heir to Staal’s legacy as the current face of the franchise.

In his rookie season of 2016-17, Aho had 24 goals and 25 assists (49 points) in all 82 games. He followed that up with a sophomore campaign of 29-36–65 totals in 78 games in 2017-18, then set a career-high in assists (53) and points (83) in 82 games last season.

Up until the shortened regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic this season, Aho had a new career-high in goals (38) and 66 points in 68 games played. He was on pace for another 80-point season.

It’s truly a shame we didn’t get to see what might have panned out– and that’s ignoring the cutthroat Eastern Conference playoff berth race.

At the very least, Aho is no flash in the pan. He’s the real deal in terms of skill, consistency and the true direction of where the franchise is going.

Only four seasons into his NHL career, it looks like he’s destined to be honored for eternity in Hurricanes lore one day with a jersey retirement night.

37 Andrei Svechnikov

Svechnikov just wrapped up a sophomore season that was cut short due to the pandemic, but improved on his 20-17–37 totals in all 82 games in his rookie season last season.

This year, Svechnikov had 24 goals and 37 assists (61 points) as well as two lacrosse wraparound goals henceforth referred to as “The Svech”.

Gifted, young, crafty Russian wingers are sometimes hard to predict, but Svechnikov appears to be the real deal– especially since he was the 2nd overall pick in 2018.

Sure, the Hurricanes have had a young Russian first round product before in Alexander Semin, but whereas Semin was drafted by the Washington Capitals 13th overall in 2002, Svechnikov was drafted at the same overall position as Pittsburgh Penguins center, Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was a 2004 Draft product and look how he turned out for Carolina’s division rival.

It might be early to say that Svechnikov’s No. 37 will be hanging from the rafters of PNC Arena one day, but it’s not too late to admit that you really liked “The Svech” and you won’t moan about “the disrespect for goaltenders and the game that it has caused”.

What’s not to love?

Final Thoughts

Carolina has their best chance in franchise history at winning a Cup and remaining an annual Cup contender in the process. The first (and only) time they won in 2006, the Hurricanes utilized assets picked up via trades and otherwise to push them over the edge and into eternal glory as names like “Staal”, “Williams”, “Cole”, “Brind’Amour” and others were etched onto Lord Stanley’s chalice.

But this time around, something’s different.

This time, the Canes have been built primarily from within and over the years via the draft. While Aho has a great chance at being a cornerstone for the franchise, players like Brett Pesce, Jaccob Slavin and Teravainen have been around for at least a few years and could cement their names in franchise lore by winning a Cup in Raleigh.

If they’re able to win multiple Cups in Raleigh, then they just might move themselves up into consideration for having their numbers hanging from the rafters of PNC Arena. 

The hard part is, however, that the accolades of Slavin and Pesce, for example, may otherwise go unnoticed by the rest of the league. Real Caniacs will know the impact they’ve had on the blue line for the franchise, but how much of the impact will be measured in twine on a pulley that brings their last name and number to the ceiling forever?

Finally, guys like Martin Necas, well, he just had his rookie season, so it seems a bit premature to run around just yet and declare him a player destined to have his No. 88 retired by the Hurricanes (but he just might someday, so you heard it here first if it happens and don’t quote me unless I’m right).

Look To The Rafters: Boston Bruins (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Boston Bruins might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of TD Garden someday.

Boston Bruins Current Retired Numbers

2 Eddie Shore

3 Lionel Hitchman

4 Bobby Orr

5 Dit Clapper

7 Phil Esposito

8 Cam Neely

9 Johnny Bucyk

15 Milt Schmidt

16 Rick Middleton

24 Terry O’Reilly

77 Ray Bourque

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

Yes! Rick Middleton had his No. 16 retired by the Bruins on Nov. 29, 2018, after scoring 898 points in 881 games with Boston over 12 seasons from 1976-88.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

30 Gerry Cheevers/Tim Thomas

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, so why not make the first one count for two of the most prolific Boston netminders in the Expansion Era?

Boston has a chance to right a few wrongs if there’s any ill will leftover from Cheevers’ departure to the World Hockey Association (WHA) and back or Thomas’ debacle regarding his year-long vacation from the sport that led to being suspended from the team and his trade to the New York Islanders in Feb. 2013, while Thomas was resting at home reconnecting with (in his words) his family, friends and faith.

Last month, I addressed the pros and cons facing what might be a longshot at this point for No. 30 to ever be raised to the rafters at TD Garden in Cheevers’ and/or Thomas’ honor, but with Rick Middleton having his No. 16 retired last season– years after he hung up the skates and despite being on the outside looking in regarding Hockey Hall of Fame status, then there’s a chance the B’s overlook Cheevers’ sin and Thomas’ short tenure.

Nevertheless, both are Stanley Cup champion goaltenders and legends in their own right among Bruins fans around the Hub.

33 Zdeno Chara

The 2008-09 James Norris Trophy winner has played in 1,023 games in a Bruins uniform and amassed 148-333-481 totals in that span– so far. No, the 43-year-old defender and longest tenured captain in the National Hockey League is not done yet. 

Chara has indicated he’d like to go out on his own terms, whether that’s with another Cup under his belt or another full season– at least– if there’s ever another “normal” 82-game schedule again in the future.

In 1,553 career NHL games played for the Bruins (1,023 games), Ottawa Senators (299) and New York Islanders (231), Chara has 205 career goals and 451 career assists (656 points).

At 6-foot-9, he’s the tallest player in NHL history and though he might be tall in stature and a fierce competitor on the ice, Chara has a big heart off of it– taking charge in the annual pie donation at homeless shelters across Boston on American Thanksgiving, being one of the first You Can Play Project supporters and many other charitable efforts throughout the city, including, most recently, joining Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of Boston.

He joined the Bruins as a free agent on July 1, 2006, with Marc Savard as two centerpieces tasked with overhauling a floundering Original Six franchise on the ice and transforming the team into not only an annual playoff contender, but more popular than perhaps even the 1970s B’s teams throughout the New England region.

And even still, there’s some in the Bruins fan base that negate his workhorse effort, team leader mentality and humility.

Well, there was until he sustained a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then played in Game 5 on home ice with a cage and (presumably) in pain.

He’ll do anything to win another Cup since winning it with Boston nine years ago and ending the city’s 39-year Cup drought between raising Lord Stanley’s mug in 1972 and 2011.

37 Patrice Bergeron

Throughout the course of Bruins history there have been several individuals who have exemplified– with the utmost detail in every little thing they do– what it means to be a Bruin in Boston. 

Their names are Art Ross, Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Bobby Orr and Patrice Bergeron.

Bergeron has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with Boston since being drafted by the Bruins in the second round (45th overall) in 2003. In 1,089 games, he’s scored 352 goals and amassed 517 assists for 869 career points. 

He’s also a member of the elusive Quadruple Gold Club, having won a Stanley Cup ring in 2011, two gold medals at the Winter Games for Canada in 2010 and 2014, a gold medal at the World Championship in 2004 and a gold medal at the World Junior Championship in 2005.

And if the Pentaple Gold Club was a thing, then Bergeron would be in that too– having been a member of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey championship winning Team Canada.

But enough about what he’s done away from the Bruins, eh.

If Schmidt was “Mr. Bruin”– or “The Ultimate Bruin” in his later years– then Bergeron is “Mr. Bruin Jr.” as the quintessential (likely) Bruin for life like how Schmidt lived and breathed (despite at one point coaching the Washington Capitals).

Bergeron recorded back-to-back 70-point seasons in his sophomore season and third NHL season, then suffered an almost career-ending– if not life threatening– concussion at the helm of Philadelphia Flyers defender, Randy Jones’ hit from behind just ten games into the 2007-08 season.

Bergeron’s season was cut short and his 2008-09 campaign was limited to 64 games when another concussion from a run-in with future teammate, then Carolina Hurricanes defender, Dennis Seidenberg, sidelined Bergeron for a duration of the season.

In 2011, Bergeron captured the Cup with Chara, Thomas and several other players who will be named in a moment that are possibly also deserving of the highest team honor in Boston– which raises a point about retired numbers in Bruins lore.

They come in bunches.

Nos. 2, 3 and 5 were all early pioneers of the franchise with No. 15 serving as a bridge between them and Nos. 4, 7 and 9. Then along came No. 24 before Nos. 8, 16 and 77 defined an era of Bruins hockey.

The same can be said for Nos. 33, 37, 40, 46 and perhaps 63 one day.

Anyway, No. 37 will go down in Boston sports history for more than a few reasons aside from his playoff overtime goals and everything else– he got better with age.

Bergeron turned in a career-high 79 points in 65 games played in 2018-19, and had 31-25–56 totals in 61 games up until the COVID-19 stoppage this season. He was on pace for 75 points had the regular season not met an abrupt end.

40 Tuukka Rask

No, Rask has “never won a Cup”. He has a Stanley Cup ring from 2011 and it doesn’t matter in the eyes of the engraver whether or not you were the starter or the backup when your name is etched into Lord Stanley’s mug.

Also, what hasn’t he done in Boston?

Rask has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy twice (which was the same number of times Thomas was a Vezina finalist) in his career, winning in 2013-14 and yet to be determined this season. 

Oh, plus he ranks 1st in Bruins franchise history in wins (Rask has 291, Tiny Thompson is 2nd with 252), games played (Rask has 536, Thompson is 2nd with 468), saves (Rask has 13,711, Eddie Johnston had 12,375), save percentage (among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played as a Bruin, Rask has a .922, Thomas had a .921) and goals against average (again, among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played, Rask has a 2.26, Byron Dafoe had a 2.30).

Rask also leads all Bruins goaltenders in franchise history in points with 15 (all assists, as no B’s netminder has ever scored a goal). Cheevers is second to Rask in points by a Boston goaltender with 11 assists.

Want to talk about the two most important trophies in the league?

Cheevers and the Bruins made four Stanley Cup Final appearances together, winning in 1970 and 1972, and losing in 1977 and 1978. Boston also finished first in the regular season standings in 1970-71 and 1971-72, which preceded the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986, but was done with Cheevers in net.

Thomas won the Cup and the Conn Smythe in his only Stanley Cup Final with the team in 2011, but never backstopped the team to a Presidents’ Trophy season.

Rask, meanwhile, earned a Cup ring on the 2010-11 roster, dragged his teammates to the 2013 and 2019 Stanley Cup Final and helped them to the franchise’s second and third Presidents’ Trophy seasons in 2013-14 and 2019-20.

The Bruins have never retired a goaltender’s jersey number, but they’d be crazy not to retire Rask’s when his playing career is over.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that both Thomas and Rask won the William M. Jennings Trophy in their careers. Thomas shared the award with his backup, Manny Fernandez, in the 2008-09 season, while Rask won the award with his backup, Jaroslav Halak, this season.

Crazy, right?

46 David Krejci

Imagine for a moment, if you will, a player like Bergeron, but only quieter and better at making everyone around him better because he has a golden stick when it comes to passing. That player is Krejci.

Krejci has 38 assists fewer than Bergeron in 178 games less in his career so far. Bergeron has 517 assists in 1,089 games, while Krejci has 479 assists in 911 career NHL games. Both players have only ever played for Boston.

A second-half of the season player, Krejci emerges in peak performance from about February onward and crests his prime in the postseason. As long as the Bruins clinch a playoff berth, Krejci remains a dark horse threat for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

He had 23 points in 25 games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and improved that to 26 points in 22 games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the run to his third Stanley Cup Final appearance, Krejci had 16 points across 24 games played through the seven-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues in 2019.

All of this is to say that Krejci is the other constant in the Bergeron-Chara Era (or is it really the Bergeron-Chara-Krejci Era?) and that he’s quietly amassed 207-479–686 totals in 911 career games with Boston from breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season through now.

Do not sleep on him. He deserves as much praise when all is said and done as some of the surefire players to have their jersey numbers retired when they hang up the skates.

63 Brad Marchand

Controversial? You got it.

But Terry O’Reilly has his jersey number hanging from the rafters of TD Garden, which means the “Little Ball of Hate” can get the same treatment as “Taz”.

Then there’s the fact that Marchand had 100 points last season in 79 games played– no, he did not miss any time due to any suspensions in 2018-19. He’s also had 85-points or more in the last four seasons dating back to 2016-17.

Since breaking into the league with a 20-game stint and only one assist in 2009-10, Marchand has gone on to amass 290-355–645 totals in 731 games from 2010-11 through the pandemic shortened 2019-20 season. That means he’s had 646 points in 751 career NHL games from the 2009-10 season through now.

After reaching 100 points last season in 79 games, Marchand had 87 points in 70 games this season. He was on pace for 102 points had the COVID-19 pandemic not interrupted those plans.

Instead of extending his four consecutive 30-goal seasons to five, Marchand finished short with 28 goals in 2019-20’s shortened regular season. He had a career-high 39 goals in 2016-17, and a career-high 64 assists last season.

Like Bergeron, Marchand appears to only be getting better with age and that’s only going to cement his status as an icon in Bruins franchise history. It might just be enough to push him over the edge and encourage Boston to hang his number from the rafters someday.

88 David Pastrnak

How did 24 other teams– yes fully acknowledging that some teams traded their picks to other teams that then had multiple picks in the first round before Boston selected 25th overall– pass over Pastrnak in the 2014 NHL Draft? How? 

In 390 career NHL games thus far, Pastrnak has 379 points. He has 180 goals and 199 assists in that span since breaking into the league in the 2014-15 season and not being sent back down to the Providence Bruins (AHL).

This season alone, Pastrnak had 48 goals in 70 games– tied for the league lead in goals scored with Washington Capitals forward, Alex Ovechkin– en route to sharing the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy and being the first Bruin in franchise history to have his name etched on that award named after the prolific Montreal Canadiens goal scorer from many years ago.

In fairness, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy wasn’t a thing until the 1998-99 season, so B’s legends like Rick Middleton and Cam Neely never got a chance to win it (let alone Bobby Orr).

But Pastrnak is a star in his own right. He’s a star in the making that was on pace for 56 goals at the time of the stoppage and 111 points before the pandemic put an early end to the 2019-20 regular season.

Nevertheless, he set career-highs in goals (48), assists (47) and points (95) this season and has scored more goals than the prior season in four-consecutive seasons now (34 goals in 75 games in 2016-17, 35 goals in 82 games in 2017-18, 38 goals in 66 games in 2018-19 and 48 goals in 70 games in 2019-20).

As long as Pastrnak can stay healthy and maintain and/or elevate his play for the next four or five seasons, then he’ll see his jersey number in Boston’s rafters with their most recent prolific goal scorer with the last name “Neely”.

Final Thoughts

Since Chara created the current team culture, it’d be an insult to leave out any of the key core members of the last decade or so of Bruins hockey history. 

Sure, it might be a bit much to have so many jersey retirement nights upcoming and increasing the amount of jersey numbers taken out of circulation in Boston from 11 to upwards of at least 16, but to reiterate– the Bruins retire numbers in bunches.

These players define an era in B’s lore. These players are doing so as one unit– the way their current captain and perhaps greatest leader in the history of the team methodically designed, cultivated and produced the close-knit machine that is the Bruins organization on the ice and in the dressing room.

In a time with rightful public shaming and disgrace for not immediately stepping up and committing to help their employees in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these players stepped up out of their own volition to do something their owner wouldn’t do without being provoked.

The very least that owner can do to keep in good faith standing with the club’s alumni and current players destined for jersey retirement night ceremony glory, would be to honor this extraordinary group of gentlemen with class.

DTFR Podcast #183- Loyalty Loyalty Loyalty

Nick talks a little about why Joe Thornton didn’t get traded and the moves the Boston Bruins made leading to the trade deadline.

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