Tag Archives: Western Conference

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Western Conference

How’s your bracket doing? Not great? Well, you should have taken my advice for the last round (except for Calgary and Tampa). Maybe you’ll nail the Second Chance Bracket the NHL is offering.

Or maybe you won’t.

Regardless, the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over and the Second Round starts on Thursday. As such, let’s take a look at every matchup like we did for the last round.

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

San Jose went 3-0-0 in their regular season series against Colorado, but the Avs were 0-2-1 against the Calgary Flames entering their First Round matchup. In short, the regular season doesn’t mean much. Seriously.

Calgary had home ice advantage and lost two out of their three home games in the First Round to the Avalanche.

The Sharks trailed, 3-1, in their series against the Vegas Golden Knights, then Tomas Hertl guaranteed things would go seven games and they did.

Then the Sharks pulled off an improbable comeback in Game 7, overcoming a three-goal deficit in the third period to win in overtime a la the 2013 Boston Bruins in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs that postseason.

Colorado’s first line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen is back firing on all cylinders, while Philipp Grubauer (4-1-0 record, 1.89 goals against average, .939 save percentage in five games played this postseason) has locked down the crease in the Mile High City.

At the other end of the ice, San Jose’s seen the re-emergence of Hertl and Logan Couture, while Barclay Goodrow‘s stock is rising with the game-winning goal in Game 7 against Vegas.

Martin Jones (4-2-0, 3.20 GAA, .904 SV% in seven games played this postseason) has been all over the place in the crease for the Sharks.

With Erik Karlsson amassing nine assists in the last series, San Jose’s defense is quite the two-way prowess in the wake of Colorado’s mostly “shut-down” blue line.

This series is going to come down to whether the Avs can get out to a lead and withhold the inevitable Sharks comeback or if San Jose can limit Colorado’s scoring chances and will the scoreboard to their advantage.

After six games, expect the Avalanche to come out on top of the mountain and make their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002 when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 SJS at SAP Center on April 6th, 4-3 SJS at SAP Center on March 1st, 5-4 SJS at Pepsi Center on Jan. 2nd

Schedule:

4/26- Game 1 COL @ SJS 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/28- Game 2 COL @ SJS 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/30- Game 3 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/2- Game 4 SJS @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

5/4- Game 5 COL @ SJS*

5/6- Game 6 SJS @ COL*

5/8- Game 7 COL @ SJS*

*If necessary

C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

Despite facing the Stars solely in the second-half of the regular season– whereby the Blues went on an incredible run to the postseason backstopped by rookie sensation, Jordan Binnington (4-2-0, 2.63 GAA, .908 SV% in six games played this posteason)– St. Louis went 1-3-0 against Dallas in 2018-19.

Of course, as already noted, the regular season series record doesn’t mean much when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start, but is it possible the Stars are the only team that could make Binnington nervous?

Surely St. Louis’ roster can’t be too nervous, what with Jaden Schwartz notching the natural hat trick in Game 6 against the Winnipeg Jets– almost single handedly eliminating the Jets himself– and the rest of the Blues, like David Perron, overcoming Winnipeg’s speed and skill to get to the Second Round.

But the sheer fire power of the Stars was hard to contain by one of the best defenses on paper in the Nashville Predators. Alexander Radulov had a two-goal game en route to Dallas heading home to clinch their series against the Preds in six games.

Then there’s the best goaltending of the Western Conference to consider. The real wild card that could steal the Vezina Trophy this season (as he is a finalist).

Ben Bishop (4-2-0, 1.89 GAA, .945 SV% in six games this postseason) has been lights out in the regular season and playoffs so far.

Oh yeah, and those guys that were criticized earlier this season in Dallas (Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn)? They’re chipping in when it matters most. Not that they hadn’t been before now, really.

There’s no way this series isn’t going seven games. If it falls short, then that’s an abomination on behalf of The Hockey Gods.

That said, St. Louis has the all-important home ice advantage should it come down to– when it comes down to a Game 7. Because of that, the Blues will meet the Avalanche in the 2019 Western Conference Final.

Regular season outcomes:

4-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on March 2nd, 5-2 DAL at American Airlines Center on Feb. 21st, 3-1 STL at American Airlines Center on Jan. 12th, 3-1 DAL at Enterprise Center on Jan. 8th

Schedule:

4/25- Game 1 DAL @ STL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/27- Game 2 DAL @ STL 3 PM ET on NBC, SN, TVAS

4/29- Game 3 STL @ DAL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

5/1- Game 4 STL @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

5/3- Game 5 DAL @ STL* 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, TVAS

5/5- Game 6 STL @ DAL*

5/7- Game 7 DAL @ STL*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.

In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.

P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”

Only kidding.

Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.

Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.

Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.

Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.

For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.

Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.

Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.

Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.

In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.

Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.

Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?

Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2

4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*

4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*

4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*

*If necessary

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)

The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.

Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.

There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.

Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.

Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.

Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.

Reilly Smith put up 53 points in a “down” season, but Alex Tuch (20-32–52 totals) had a breakout year, so everything evens out in the end.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.

For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.

The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.

But this time around feels different.

San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*

4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*

4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*

*If necessary

C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.

It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.

For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).

Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.

Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

Their offense was led by Ryan Johansen (14-50–64 totals in 80 GP) this season with Filip Forsberg chipping in 50 points and Viktor Arvidsson reaching the 30-goal plateau (he finished with 34).

Their goaltending… oh. Is this when Juuse Saros (17-10-2, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% in 31 GP) takes over for Pekka Rinne (30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV% in 56 GP) as the regular starter?

Oh. Again. Never mind.

While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.

In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.

Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.

This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?

Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.

On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.

Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.

But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.

Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.

As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.

Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.

Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.

It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2

4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*

4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*

4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*

*If necessary

C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.

This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.

Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.

Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.

On defense, Jacob Trouba picked up the slack with 8-42–50 totals from the blue line while Dustin Byfuglien was limited to 42 games and 31 points due to injury.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).

Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.

Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.

Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.

However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.

The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.

This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.

Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.

Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).

Don’t try to mess with what’s working.

Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.

Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.

For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.

Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3

4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2

4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*

4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*

4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*

*If necessary

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering April

There’s only one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season, so let’s make this quick. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 10th.

The stretch run is almost complete. If you’re mathematically alive, you still have a chance. Already clinched a playoff berth? Isn’t a great feeling to be ahead of things for once?

If you’re not, then there’s a good chance you’re looking forward to the 2019 NHL Draft lottery (unless you’re the Ottawa Senators– you see, they traded their 2019 1st round pick last season to the Colorado Avalanche after opting to keep their 2018 1st round pick instead– it’s a long story).

Without further ado, here’s the latest standings forecast through the end of March 31, 2019– keeping in mind this is not an exact science.

Given recent and season long trends, as well as records from the last few seasons, the forecasted standings that appear below are only an educated guess.

Anything can happen (for teams that aren’t otherwise already elimination from postseason contention and/or division, conference of President’s Trophy winners).

Projected Standings After Six Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 126 points (78 games played entering April 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 110 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 100 points (78 GP)
  4. Montreal Canadiens, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. Florida Panthers, 87 points (79 GP)
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 75 points (79 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 74 points (79 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 65 points (78 GP)

To no surprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning have already clinched the President’s Trophy in real life and come close to a 130-point season. Though the Bolts didn’t set an NHL record for “best regular season ever”, they did become the third team in league history to amass 60-plus wins in a season.

Also, sorry Nikita Kucherov, but you can’t spread out your 120-plus points over the course of the playoffs. Everything is reset to “zero” as if it’s a new season within a season altogether.

Is this the year Steven Stamkos records a point in a Game 7?

Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs keep running into each other as Toronto is looking to avenge last postseason’s seven-game series loss to the Bruins.

Unless David Pastrnak has anything to say about that on the scoreboard.

The Montreal Canadiens come up short of a playoff berth thanks to the current tiebreaker format, whereby both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes had more regulation-plus-overtime wins. If anything, there’s more hope for next season than this time around last season in Montreal.

And if you’re a Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings fan, for some reason you still think your teams are on the cusp of playoff contention– especially now that you’ve already reset your focus on being tied with all 31-NHL teams for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff action.

However, unless the Panthers make some serious moves in the offseason, the Sabres find a system (and goaltender) and stick with it and the Red Wings try to speed up their rebuild, it might be Groundhog Day for another season or two.

Finally, Ottawa Senators fans, you exist. You’re real fans.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 105 points (79 GP)
  2. x-New York Islanders, 102 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 99 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Columbus Blue Jackets, 95 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Carolina Hurricanes, 95 points (79 GP)
  6. Philadelphia Flyers, 83 points (79 GP)
  7. New York Rangers, 77 points (78 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 70 points (79 GP)

In the Metropolitan Division, the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals found a way to once-again reign as the division winner heading into the postseason.

After the New York Islanders charged out of the gate on the heels of Barry Trotz’s defensive masterplan and stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, things have started to slide in Long Island.

The good news? Trotz is their head coach and is the defending Stanley Cup champion head coach.

The bad news? They’ll suit up against the Pittsburgh Penguins– annual Stanley Cup contenders as long as Sidney Crosby is still playing and Mike Sullivan is within his five-year window of being the game’s best coach in the playoffs– and that’s just the First Round.

In the Eastern Conference wild card race, Columbus entered April with 44 regulation-plus-overtime wins, leading the Hurricanes (41) and Canadiens (40).

Given the forecasted tie and methods in which each team would need to reach 95 points on the season, it appears as though nothing is going to change over the last week of the season.

Nothing should change anyway.

Not to jinx them or anything, but Carolina is looking to end the longest postseason drought in the major four North American professional sports. The Canes haven’t appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, there’s 1) maybe a goaltender you can rely on, 2) a goaltender who still hasn’t won a Cup and is sticking with a team that’s rebuilding and 3) a goaltender that finally won a game this season (Cory Schneider) and a goaltender that should be your starter next season (Mackenzie Blackwood).

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-St. Louis Blues, 99 points (78 GP)
  2. x-Winnipeg Jets, 98 points (78 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 97 points (79 GP)
  4. wc1-Dallas Stars, 93 points (79 GP)
  5. wc2-Colorado Avalanche, 89 points (78 GP)
  6. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (79 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 81 points (78 GP)

Ever hear of a team going from worst to first? Now have you ever heard of a team doing that in the same season? Because the St. Louis Blues are that team this season (at least in the Central Division alone).

However, the point spread in the expected forecast from 1st to 3rd in the Central is only a two-point difference, which means it’s still anybody’s guess as to who will come out with the top-seed in the division.

Should the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators end up in a First Round rematch of last season’s Second Round battle, then you can expect the Jets to take flight. Just a hunch.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference wild card race came down to the wire and– you guessed it– another tiebreaker.

While the Dallas Stars laid claim to the first wild card spot, the Colorado Avalanche came out on top of the Arizona Coyotes for the last playoff spot by virtue of having won their regular season series, 2-1-0.

Things didn’t go so well for the Minnesota Wild this season, both because of injuries and because of a lot of inconsistency (so… injuries?).

For the Chicago Blackhawks, the season started in October, not January.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 109 points (79 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 101 points (79 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 95 points (79 GP)
  4. Arizona Coyotes, 89 points (79 GP)
  5. Edmonton Oilers, 83 points (78 GP)
  6. Anaheim Ducks, 80 points (80 GP)
  7. Vancouver Canucks, 80 points (79 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 70 points (78 GP)

The Calgary Flames clinched the best record in the Western Conference for the first time in almost 30 years. Conveniently, the Flames last won the Cup 30 years ago.

Guess it’s about time for another repeat of 2004, even though goal line technology could surely keep that from ever happening again whether you believe it was in or not.

Things are looking like business as usual for the San Jose Sharks as they gear up for another taxing First Round battle– this time around in a rematch from last year’s Second Round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights, by the way, are the 7th team to reach the postseason in their first two seasons of existence.

It’s too bad the Arizona Coyotes couldn’t pull off an incredible run, despite losing their starting goaltender to injury for the season before American Thanksgiving.

The fact that they’re not in the Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko conversation is about as close as you can come to winning the Cup this season when you’ve relied on Darcy Kuemper for over 20-consecutive starts.

That’s not a shot at Kuemper. That’s just [heck-]ing incredible (pardon my French).

Back up north in Edmonton, the Oilers are gearing up for another rebuild? Is it that time already? Probably not, but if it’s what Connor McDavid wants… (it’s not).

Thanks to that good old ROW tiebreaker, the Anaheim Ducks managed to climb above the Vancouver Canucks in the standings. That’s not saying much.

Vancouver should be this season’s Arizona, next season (minus the injuries). If that makes sense.

Anaheim, on the other hand, should sell, sell, sell this summer.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings were crowned 2014 Stanley Cup champions for the 5th year in-a-row and finished in the basement of the Pacific.

Game of the Week: March 25-31

Everyone, this is your ghost writer speaking. Connor is preoccupied this week, so I’m taking over to tell you about this humdinger of a matchup for this week’s DTFR Game of the Week.

And also to apologize for not having a cool looking table recapping every night of this week’s action leading up to Sunday’s main attraction in the Western Conference as the Minnesota Wild (36-33-9 record, 81 points, 6th in the Central Division) pay a visit to the Arizona Coyotes (37-33-8, 82 points, 4th in the Pacific Division).


Gila River Arena will be in the spotlight as the Top-2 teams outside of the Western Conference wild card race go head-to-head with the chance to help one of the teams currently in control of a wild card position clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Confused yet?

If Arizona loses in any form on Sunday against the Wild, the Dallas Stars will punch their ticket to the 2019 postseason leaving one final spot remaining in the Western Conference.

Though the Winnipeg Jets (94 points in 78 games played) lead the Nashville Predators (94 points in 79 GP) and St. Louis Blues (92 points in 78 GP) in the Central Division and the Calgary Flames (103 points in 78 GP) lead the San Jose Sharks (97 points in 78 GP) and Vegas Golden Knights (91 points in 79 GP) in the Pacific Division, the First Round matchups across the board in the Western Conference are still to be determined.

The Central Division is a tight race with the current three divisional playoff position holders battling down the wire for the regular season divisional title.

The Pacific Division can be clinched by the Flames on Sunday if they defeat the Sharks in any fashion.

For Minnesota, a win on Sunday would leapfrog the Wild over the Coyotes in the wild card race and put them two points behind the Colorado Avalanche (85 points in 78 GP) for the last playoff berth in the West.

For Arizona, a win on Sunday would provide the Coyotes with a little cushion over the Wild and leave Arizona trailing the Avalanche by one point in the wild card race.

The Coyotes lost to Colorado in their most recent game, 3-2, in overtime on Friday. The Wild defeated the Golden Knights, 3-2, on Friday.

Both teams enter Sunday knowing they control their own destiny in the immediate future as the Avalanche are off until Monday night’s battle in St. Louis.

Colorado doesn’t have an easy road ahead, however, despite their 6-0-1 record in their last seven outings– the Avs have four games remaining in six nights, including one in St. Louis on Monday and a home game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday prior to hosting the Jets on Thursday and closing out the regular season in San Jose next Saturday.

Minnesota (3-6-1 in their last 10 games) enters Sunday on the heels of a, 3-2, win over Vegas on Friday after posting a 2-6-1 record in their previous nine games.

Arizona (3-4-3 in their last 10 games) has lost six out their last seven games and went 1-3-3 in that span, but has a 9-1-1 record in their last 11 home games.

The Wild and Coyotes are tied in the season series, 1-1-0, through two meetings at Xcel Energy Center prior to Sunday. Minnesota picked up a, 2-1, win on Oct. 16th against Arizona before losing, 4-3, on Nov. 27th to the Coyotes.

Minnesota is 13-3-3 in their last 19 games against the Coyotes and enters the Grand Canyon State to face a familiar foe.

Darcy Kuemper (25-19-8 record, 2.39 goals against average, .922 save percentage in 52 GP) was originally drafted by the Wild 161st overall in the 2009 NHL Draft and will make his 20th consecutive start for the Coyotes in the crease.

Kuemper stopped 26 out of 28 shots faced in Arizona’s, 2-1, loss to Minnesota on Oct. 16th and is 14-6-3 in his last 23 starts.

Since Jan. 6th, he has a 20-8-5 record with a 2.14 GAA and .929 SV% while the Coyotes have been battling injuries.

Nick Schmaltz signed a seven-year extension with the club on Saturday and remains out with a lower body injury, while Antti Raanta (lower body– out for the season) and Kyle Capobiano (lower body) will also be unavailable for Rick Tocchet‘s lineup on Sunday.

Arizona’s hard charging offense has scored nine goals in their last seven games and is led by Clayton Keller (14-32–46 totals) this season. Defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (14-29–43 totals) is the only other Coyote with more than 40 points and has seven goals and eight assists since Feb. 21st– tied for the 2nd most by a defender in the league during that span.

Tampa Bay Lightning blue liner, Victor Hedman, has 17 points to Ekman-Larsson’s 15 points in that span.

Coyotes third liner, Alex Galchenyuk, leads his club in goals with 17 this season.

Across the ice, Devan Dubnyk (30-27-6, 2.57 GAA, .912 SV% in 65 GP) is expected to get the start for the Wild as Ryan Donato has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his past seven games for Minnesota.

Zach Parise (26-33–59 totals) leads the team in scoring, while Eric Staal has 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in his last 22 games against Arizona.

Mikko Koivu (knee), Matt Dumba (upper body) and Parise (lower body) will all be unavailable to Wild head coach, Bruce Boudreau‘s lineup on Sunday.

Boudreau perhaps put it best following Friday night’s win in Las Vegas for Sunday’s preview against Arizona– “I think whoever loses is probably for sure out.”

It’s hard not to agree with that sentiment given both teams will have three games remaining on the schedule after Sunday wraps up and the loser will have an almost insurmountable deficit in the wild card standings.

That said, look for the red-hot on home ice Coyotes to keep Minnesota down in what’s sure to be a wild matchup as the two teams tempt fate.

Tune into the matchup on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. ET.

DTFR Podcast #150- Improper Twelve

The DTFR Duo runs through some Tampa Bay Lightning franchise records, Conor McGregor reactions, hands out more awards, fixes the NHL and takes a look at how things are shaping up in the Pacific Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering March

Happy Meteorological Spring (and when the time comes, actual Spring too as the Spring Equinox falls on… well, it’s written on the calendar in your office somewhere).

Of course, the only day that really matters in March is the 18th (you thought I was going to say the 17th, but we can’t all pretend to be Irish now, can we?).

If you’re new to the sport, that’s the day the Lord Stanley of Preston first presented the idea of the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup back in 1892 and thus the Stanley Cup was first played for and awarded in 1893.

The original Cup resides in an old bank vault at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario and was purchased for ten guineas, which was $48.67 at the time or almost $1,400 in contemporary times.

Anyway, March is a pretty important month.

Teams have added or subtracted to their rosters from the trade deadline and are looking to go down the stretch without any additional injuries or worries heading into the postseason (or for some, the offseason).

Feeling lucky? Is this the year your bracket won’t be busted in the First Round? Let the madness begin with a look at the latest standings forecast* across the league based on all 31 NHL teams’ performances through February 28, 2019.

*Standard disclaimer: This forecast is not an exact science, but rather an educated guess among recent and season long trends, with a foundation steeped in recent records over the last few seasons.

In simple terms, just focus on the standing within the division and less on the point spread. A team isn’t eliminated from postseason contention until they are mathematically eliminated.

Anything can still happen (relatively, of course).

Projected Standings After Five Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 121 points (65 games played entering March 1st)
  2. x-Boston Bruins, 115 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 105 points (64 GP)
  4. wc1-Montreal Canadiens, 103 points (64 GP)
  5. wc2-Buffalo Sabres, 90 points (63 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 82 points (63 GP)
  7. Ottawa Senators, 61 points (64 GP)
  8. Detroit Red Wings, 60 points (64 GP)

In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still on pace for what could almost be the best regular season in league history. Their franchise record ten-game winning streak was halted by the re-hot Boston Bruins on Feb. 28th.

Tampa should still lock up the division (if not the President’s Trophy) with ease, though they are beatable– as proven by the Bruins recent win (ignoring the back-to-back games), as well as the St. Louis Blues’ 1-0 overtime victory on Feb. 7th (more on the Blues later).

Boston, meanwhile, is surging at the right time. After going 7-7-0 in December and 6-3-3 in January, the B’s went without a regulation loss in the month of February, finishing with an 11-0-2 record.

It was the 9th time in franchise history and first time since November 2011, that the Bruins went without a regulation loss in an entire calendar month.

Not to be outdone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still very alive and well in a divisional spot and for the second straight season appear destined to battle the Bruins in a First Round rematch from last season.

At least one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be filled by an Atlantic Division team– the first of which being the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs are in the hunt and could knock the Maple Leafs out of the last divisional spot with a good run down the stretch, while the second wild card spot is a little harder to project.

It could be the Buffalo Sabres or it could very well be a team that’s surging in the Metropolitan Division.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-New York Islanders, 113 points (63 GP)
  2. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 101 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Washington Capitals, 92 points (64 GP)
  4. Carolina Hurricanes, 89 points (63 GP)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins, 87 points (63 GP)
  6. New York Rangers, 77 points (63 GP)
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 74 points (64 GP)
  8. New Jersey Devils, 61 points (64 GP)

John Tavares wasn’t well-received in his first trip back to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders for the Leafs in free agency last July, however, Barry Trotz has been adored by Isles fans as the coach of the Metropolitan Division’s best team.

Despite adding a lot of firepower leading up to the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t quite a surefire powerhouse in the division, but they should be good enough for home ice advantage in the First Round and a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals.

It’s a wide-open race for two or three potential playoff spots in the Metropolitan Division, as the Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins all have their sights set on one of two remaining divisional spots or at least one wild card spot in the postseason.

Despite the Capitals edging the Hurricanes and Penguins in this forecast, gut feeling indicates there’s sure to be an upset before the brackets are even finalized.

Carolina is playing really well lately and as those bunch of jerks have shown all season long– you can’t count them out. They also reached 70 points in 61 games played for just the second time in franchise history this season.

The last time they did that was in the 2005-06 season– you know, the one they went on to beat the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

As for the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, well, there’s always a chance things go south for some of the teams ahead of them– except the Rangers are rebuilding and the Flyers have gone zero weeks without an injury to one of the eight goaltenders they’ve used this season.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-Winnipeg Jets, 104 points (63 GP)
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points (63 GP)
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 93 points (66 GP)
  4. wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 92 points (64 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 85 points (64 GP)
  6. Dallas Stars, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 75 points (64 GP)

The Western Conference as a whole has been weaker than the Eastern Conference this season, but no division has been quite as lively as the Central Division.

While the Winnipeg Jets soar into the postseason as the top-team in the Central, the St. Louis Blues are attempting to go from last to first– and then some.

St. Louis might not stop at potentially leading the Central Division by the time the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin– they could just very well go on to win the Cup. The Blues are that hot.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators added a lot of grit leading up to the trade deadline, acquiring Cody McLeod, Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to bolster their crunch to go along with new addition, Mikael Granlund‘s scoring ability.

Anyway, they’ve been slipping as of late and appear destined to miss out on home ice advantage in what will likely be a First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Finally, one of the Western wild cards will surely come from the Central Division teams. Whether that’s the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars will depend on how hot Colorado’s first line is and/or how injured the Wild and Stars are.

Kudos to the Chicago Blackhawks for setting the second half of the season ablaze, though not nearly as mightily as the Blues have, but they’ll still end up last in the Central, but about mid-pack league-wide.

Pacific Division

  1. z-Calgary Flames, 111 points (64 GP)
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 107 points (64 GP)
  3. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (65 GP)
  4. wc2-Arizona Coyotes, 91 points (64 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 88 points (65 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 84 points (64 GP)
  7. Anaheim Ducks, 75 points (64 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 68 points (64 GP)

In the most disappointing division of the season, the Calgary Flames have risen a cut above the rest in the West. Not only do they look to lead the conference, but they look to do so in style.

The Flames are a team that’s destined for a deeper run than just a First or Second Round exit in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how much will recent playoff experience for the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights play into Calgary’s chances of going far?

Vegas hasn’t been as dominant as they were in their inaugural season, however the Sharks have also had a few slip ups in the last month.

Both teams are looking like they’ll meet in the First Round– a round sooner than their Second Round matchup last postseason. It’s a rematch for the ages for the Golden Knights, as the young franchise looks to continue to add to the nearly 30 years of dismal playoff failure for San Jose.

One of the biggest– and most pleasant– surprises in the Western Conference? The Arizona Coyotes.

The team is destined for a wild card spot this season and just might spoil the party for more than just who they cut out of the playoff picture.

For the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a battle until the end. They might make it, they might not, but next season should be better– just stay the course.

And if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and/or the Los Angeles Kings, you’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason.

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Forecast Through 62 Games

Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.

These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.

Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.

Despite bringing in Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty via trade, the Golden Knights haven’t been immune to the injury bug this season.

Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.

While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.

Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).

Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.

Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.

Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.

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

If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.

On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.

At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?

If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
WordPress, when are you going to make the ”gallery” option again (and actually make it good like how it used to be)?

Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.

Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.

Now what about Karlsson?

Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.

Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.

Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.

While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.

That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.

Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).

On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).

In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.

But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.

If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.

Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.

Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.

Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.

Bruins beat Avs for the first time at home in 21 years, 2-1 in OT

Brad Marchand‘s 14th career game-winning overtime goal clinched a, 2-1, victory for the Boston Bruins over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

Following the game, the Bruins partied like it was *1998 (it was Boston’s first win on home ice against the Avalanche since March 30, 1998– a, 4-1, victory for the B’s).

Jaroslav Halak (14-9-4 record, 2.44 goals against average, .921 save percentage in 29 games played) made 35 saves on 36 shots against for a .921 SV% in the overtime win for the Bruins.

Semyon Varlamov (13-13-8, 2.91 GAA, .906 SV% in 35 GP) stopped 33 out of 35 shots faced for a .906 SV% in the overtime loss for Colorado.

The Bruins improve to 31-17-8 (70 points) on the season and move ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Avalanche fell to 22-22-11 (55 points) and remain 6th in the Central Division (tied in points with the Chicago Blackhawks, but ahead in the standings thanks to having a game in-hand on Chicago).

Boston leads Montreal by one point in the standings for the final divisional spot in the Atlantic. Colorado is four points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference.


Prior to Sunday’s matinee, the Bruins hosted the Los Angeles Kings for a Saturday afternoon matchup. Boston defeated the Kings, 5-4, in overtime thanks to an overtime game-winning power play goal from Patrice Bergeron (20) at 2:34 of the overtime period.

Bergeron was honored prior to the game with gifts– including the traditional “Silver Stick”– and a ceremony for having played in his 1,000th career regular season game on Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen, David Krejci and Marchand also had goals for the Bruins in the win, while Alex Iafallo, Anze Kopitar, Nate Thompson and Oscar Fantanberg notched goals for Los Angeles.

Tuukka Rask (17-8-4 , 2.36 GAA, .922 SV% in 30 GP) made 25 saves on 29 shots against in the win for Boston.


Entering Sunday, Bruce Cassidy made minor adjustments to his lineup, inserting Trent Frederic on the fourth line, centering Jake DeBrusk and Joakim Nordstrom, while scratching David Backes.

Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner were reunited on the third line.

Marchand, Bergeron and Heinen were kept together on the first line with Peter Cehlarik lining up alongside Krejci and David Pastrnak.

Steven Kampfer (healthy scratch, on conditioning loan to the Providence Bruins, AHL) and Matt Grzelcyk (lower body) joined Backes out of the lineup on Sunday.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Heinen got a stick up high on Erik Johnson and received a two-minute minor penalty at 9:54. The Avalanche didn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

Almost five minutes later, Gabriel Landeskog tripped Heinen and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the afternoon at 16:19 of the first period.

While on the power play, Torey Krug hooked Matt Calvert in effort to disrupt a shorthanded chance by Colorado. Krug was assessed an infraction and went to the box at 17:27, leaving both teams even strength at 4-on-4 for about 52 seconds before the Avs had an abbreviated power play.

Late in the first period, Nathan MacKinnon (29) roofed a shot over Halak’s glove from close range to give Colorado the first lead of the night, 1-0, at 19:27.

Landeskog (28) and J.T. Compher (11) collected the assist’s on MacKinnon’s goal as the Avalanche took the, 1-0, lead into the first intermission.

After one period, Colorado led in shots on goal (12-7), takeaways (5-3), giveaways (6-4) and hits (10-9), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4). Both teams were 50-50 in face-off win percentage, while the Avs were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were 0/1.

John Moore (3) tied the game, 1-1, as Bergeron acted as a screen in front of Varlamov at 3:40 of the second period. Moore fired a shot off the far post and in as McAvoy (13) and Marchand (44) picked up the assists and the Bruins tied the game.

MacKinnon was penalized for holding at 6:18 of the second period and was followed to the penalty box almost 30 seconds later by Carl Soderberg after Soderberg interfered with McAvoy at 7:45.

Boston had 34 seconds of a two-skater power play advantage before, but couldn’t convert on either opportunity.

Moore sent an odd puck bounce off the curved glass next to the Bruins bench and into the net behind Varlamov, but it was immediately waved off as “no goal” with 24.1 seconds remaining in the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the game was tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, but the Avalanche maintained the advantage in shots on goal, 24-22– despite being outshot by Boston, 15-12, in the second period alone.

Entering the third period, Colorado led in takeaways (10-6), giveaways (7-5) and hits (19-16), while the B’s led in face-off win% (56-44). Both teams had 10 blocked shots aside as the Avs were 0/2 and the Bruins were 0/3 on the power play.

A string of hooking penalties kicked things off in the third period with Kuraly hooking Samuel Girard at 7:16, followed by Krug hooking Matt Nieto at 9:53. Finally, Colorado’s Tyson Barrie hooked Bergeron at 10:08 of the third period.

Neither team capitalized on the special teams play.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Sheldon Dries was penalized for holding Krug at 17:45 and the Bruins went on the power play. Despite forging a couple shots at the net, Boston couldn’t buy a power play goal.

As time expired on regulation, the Avalanche led in shots on goal, 34-31, and the score remained tied, 1-1.

Boston led in blocked shots (18-12), hits (28-21) and face-off win% (53-47) after 60 minutes of play, while Colorado led in takeaways (13-8) and giveaways (11-10).

No penalties were called in the overtime period, meaning the Avs finished 0/4 and the B’s finished 0/5 on the skater advantage Sunday afternoon.

For the 5th time in the last seven games, Boston was heading for extra hockey.

Cassidy started Kuraly, Moore and McAvoy in overtime. Marchand, Bergeron and Krug ended overtime.

Just past the four-minute mark of the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period, Marchand (21) unleashed a wrist shot from about the face-off circle to Varlamov’s left side and sent the puck off an Avalanche defender and into the twine.

Bergeron (31) and Krug (34) notched the assists on Marchand’s game-winning goal at 4:03 of overtime.

Marchand’s goal sealed the deal on a, 2-1, win for Boston, leaving the Bruins with a 6-6 record in overtime this season. Colorado fell to 1-10 in overtime.

The Avalanche finished the day leading in shots on goal (36-35) and giveaways (11-10), while the B’s led in blocked shots (18-12), hits (29-21) and face-off win% (53-47).

With the win, the Bruins are now 4-0-1 in the month of February and 7-0-0 in matinee games this season.

Boston takes on the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday at TD Garden before heading out for a western road trip, starting next Friday (Feb. 15th) in Anaheim, swinging through Los Angeles on Feb. 16th, San Jose on Feb. 18th, Vegas on Feb. 20th and finally St. Louis on Feb. 23rd.

The Bruins improved to 11-3-4 in their last 18 games. Cassidy is now one win shy of his 100th behind the bench for Boston.

Numbers Game: 2018-19 League Forecast Entering January

Happy New Year!

It’s time to figure out whether or not your team has a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup, making the playoffs, being a seller at the trade deadline or a basement dwelling rebuilder in desperate need of anything but what is happening right now.

Teams have begun to reach the official halfway point in the regular season (41 games played out of an 82-game schedule) as the calendar flips from 2018 to 2019.

Here’s a glance at the latest forecast based on how the league standings were through December 31, 2018.

Keeping in mind, there’s no guarantees with any forecast, but rather general trends and “educated” guesses. It’s not always about the exact number of points expected on the season. Sometimes the focus is on the spread or each team’s positioning in the standings.

There’s always context. Plus, nothing’s impossible until it’s mathematically impossible.

So let’s take a look around the league and figure out the future– well, rest of this season, at least.

Projected Standings After Three Months

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. p-Tampa Bay Lightning, 125 points (40 GP entering Jan. 1st)
  2. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 111 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Boston Bruins, 98 points (39 GP)
  4. wc2-Montreal Canadiens, 97 points (40 GP)
  5. Buffalo Sabres, 96 points (40 GP)
  6. Florida Panthers, 84 points (38 GP)
  7. Detroit Red Wings, 75 points (41 GP)
  8. Ottawa Senators, 72 points (40 GP)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the dominant team in the NHL right now. There’s no other comparison. They’re in a league of their own.

Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have surged into one of the league’s most prominent teams this season, they’re no match for the Lightning in the regular season standings Atlantic Division race.

The postseason might be another story– too bad we won’t get to see these teams meet up in the Eastern Conference Final with the current playoff format.

For the Boston Bruins, a lackluster 7-7-0 month of December has taken a toll on their outlook. Sure, winning five out of their last seven games is a good sign and all, but missed opportunities and blown chances regardless of the injury status of many of their players this season has brought them back to Earth this season.

Regression in hockey, however, is to be expected– even for teams that outperformed expectations. Last season was just that– exceeded expectations in the regular season for Boston.

How will Bruce Cassidy jumpstart scoring depth throughout his lineup if General Manager Don Sweeney doesn’t do anything to add? Time will tell.

But they’re running out of time as long as Claude Julien and Phil Housley are in consideration for some Jack Adams Award nominations.

Though the Buffalo Sabres have slumped a bit in the last month, the Montreal Canadiens have solidified themselves as a potential spoiler in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If it’s not them, it’s definitely Buffalo for sure.

The race for the Eastern Conference wild card spots should come down to three teams– Buffalo, Montreal and the New York Islanders (unless the Islanders snag a divisional spot in the Metropolitan Divsion– more on that later).

Look, as good as some players on the Florida Panthers are, it’s not happening this year.

And for all the hype regarding the Detroit Red Wings early in the season? Yeah, it’s the same as last year. They’re not doing so hot either.

There’s some good news if you’re an Ottawa Senators fan– wait, they traded their 2019 1st round pick in the draft to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the three-team Matt Duchene trade and didn’t protect it (because they chose to protect 2018’s 1st round pick and offer up 2019’s instead)? Oh. Never mind.

Metropolitan Division

  1. y-Washington Capitals, 109 points (38 GP)
  2. x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 103 points (39 GP)
  3. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 102 points (39 GP)
  4. wc1-New York Islanders, 98 points (38 GP)
  5. New York Rangers, 90 points (38 GP)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 80 points (38 GP)
  7. New Jersey Devils, 80 points (38 GP)
  8. Philadelphia Flyers, 78 points (38 GP)

As we get closer to “the stretch” things are heating up in the Metropolitan Division, which might not be as full of garbage as once thought earlier in the year.

For now, the Washington Capitals appear to be in a serious “defend the castle” mood. They’re the defending champions and they’re pretty hard to beat.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins are surging. The Pens are on a seven-game winning streak and they’re outscoring their opponents, 28-9, during that span.

What’s necessary to take into account in the divisional spots in the Metropolitan Division is not that the Capitals should lead the way, but rather, that Washington only has a six-point lead in the current forecast over the Penguins– and seven points over the Columbus Blue Jackets (who somehow find themselves in the “top dog” conversation?)– therefore, anything is up for grabs.

If the Islanders don’t scratch and claw their way into a divisional spot, they’ll be a wild card team.

It’s not a completely lost season for the New York Rangers, but it’s not one that’ll end with a playoff berth either.

The same could almost be said for the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, except one’s a little more inconsistent (and worse off), while the other’s just worse.

Sure, the Devils are nowhere to be found this season, but Mackenzie Blackwood could change that outlook next year.

And if Carter Hart‘s ready to take on the full-time role of starting netminder for the Philadelphia Flyers that probably wouldn’t do much for them this season, but it’s promising moving forward.

This year’s Flyers team just goes to show that the problem’s beyond a GM and coaching change, so don’t be surprised to see some roster turnover.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. z-Winnipeg Jets, 107 points (39 GP)
  2. x-Nashville Predators, 96 points (40 GP)
  3. x-Colorado Avalanche, 91 points (40 GP)
  4. wc2-Dallas Stars, 89 points (40 GP)
  5. Minnesota Wild, 87 points (38 GP)
  6. St. Louis Blues, 81 points (37 GP)
  7. Chicago Blackhawks, 77 points (41 GP)

The Winnipeg Jets are one of two teams in serious contention for the Western Conference regular season title– and the Nashville Predators won’t even get to raise a banner next season for it.

Nashville’s been on shaky ground for the last month and, as a result, it shows in the latest forecast. Inadequacy ruptures standards or expectations.

Anyway, between Winnipeg and the Calgary Flames one of those teams will be the best in the West at the end of the regular season.

It says something as a whole about the Central Division when the Colorado Avalanche are currently forecasted to slip into a divisional spot in the postseason with 91 points in the standings.

Usually about 95 points puts you within the wild card range and anything 98 or above brings you into serious contention for a divisional berth.

What all of this means is there’s a lot of uncertainty from the Avs, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild in terms of where they end up, ultimately.

All three teams have been all over the place– at times– this season.

Fear not, though, they’re nothing like the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Nothing makes sense in St. Louis, short of obvious locker room problems and a lack of leadership.

Whereas, in Chicago, the game plan was already reset to “longterm” last season by default (having finished last in the division). Jeremy Colliton‘s job security is safe for now.

There weren’t high expectations coming into the season for the Blackhawks and there weren’t immediate expectations for Colliton in their transition from Joel Quenneville to their 33-year-old head coach.

Essentially, firing Quenneville when they did was an easy way out of having to make things more awkward(?) with a rebuild, but it kind of was anyway given when they did it.

At least they’re not their rivals in St. Louis– let alone the Los Angeles Kings– where expectations were high after reaping some rewards in the offseason.

Pacific Division

  1. y-Calgary Flames, 103 points (40 GP)
  2. x-Vegas Golden Knights, 100 points (42 GP)
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 98 points (41 GP)
  4. wc1-Anaheim Ducks, 92 points (41 GP)
  5. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points (42 GP)
  6. Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (39 GP)
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 76 points (39 GP)
  8. Los Angeles Kings, 75 points (40 GP)

The Flames are red hot. Can they make 2019 more like 1989 and less like 2004? Does having a goaltender even matter any more?

Luck’s starting to turn in Vegas as the Golden Knights have come alive and look to make a serious claim at potentially knocking Calgary off from the Pacific Division lead– if they can catch them first.

Despite their ups and downs, the San Jose Sharks are still a divisional playoff berth kind of team. Expect them to be out of the playoffs before the Western Conference Final though. Surely Martin Jones‘ below average season has to catch up to him at some point, regardless of scoring power.

With no real competition below them, the Anaheim Ducks are a wild card team that will likely continue to live in the First Round elimination hell until John Gibson single handedly plays every position for the club.

The Vancouver Canucks have Elias Pettersson and look ready to bring up Thatcher Demko for a full-time role in net, so it’s kind of on, but a little late. Next season!

Everyone said Ken Hitchcock would turn around the Edmonton Oilers and was dancing in the streets when his first half-dozen games brought the Oilers back into being relevant.

Well, everyone, except me. Hitchcock’s shtick isn’t fit for the contemporary NHL anymore and his last (and only) Cup win came 20 years ago.

Sure he might impart some lessons on leadership, but as long as Peter Chiarelli is trading away Drake Caggiula for Brandon Manning and ensuring guys like Milan Lucic are part of the longterm vision…

The Arizona Coyotes haven’t panned out and it’s not the numbers that have been lying to them. Dylan Strome, their 3rd overall pick in 2015, didn’t develop as planned– whether through the fault of the Coyotes or not– and they traded him.

That draft was four years ago and Mitch Marner was selected after Strome by the Maple Leafs. Hindsight is 20/20, but still.

If it’s any consolation, Mikko Rantanen was selected by Colorado, 10th overall, so Carolina, New Jersey, Philly, Columbus and San Jose all missed out on one of the current leaders in scoring.

Scouting’s not Arizona’s strong-suit from year-to-year, or rather, asset management as a whole it’s just… …not there.

Finally, Los Angeles, the Grim Reaper’s at the door. Bring out your dead (Cup hopes and dreams for 2019). It’s time to rebuild.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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