The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).
Los Angeles Kings
31-42-9, 71 points, 8th in the Pacific Division
Missed the postseason for the third time in five years
Additions: F Martin Frk, F Mario Kempe, D Joakim Ryan
Subtractions: F Jonny Brodzinski (signed with SJS), F Pavel Jenys (signed ELH), F Brendan Leipsic (signed with WSH), F Zack Mitchell (KHL), F Nikita Scherbak (KHL), D Alex Lintuniemi (signed with CAR), D Dion Phaneuf (bought out), G Peter Budaj (retired)
Still unsigned: F Matheson Iacopelli, F Adrian Kempe,
Re-signed: F Michael Amadio, F Alex Iafallo, D Matt Roy, G Cal Petersen
Offseason Analysis: Los Angeles General Manager Rob Blake is entering his third season at the helm of the Kings and didn’t make the same mistake twice from last offseason to this offseason.
Ilya Kovalchuk (16-18–34 totals in 64 games last season) was signed last July, Dion Phaneuf– after being acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in February 2018– had the final two years of his contract bought out this June.
Despite getting rid of Phaneuf (who’ll carry a $2.188 million cap penalty this season, $4.063 million next season and $1.063 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23), the Kings still have eight players age 30 or older on their roster– including Kovalchuk.
This isn’t 2012 or 2014, Los Angeles, it’s 2019.
Every member from the two Cups in three years core is older. Every draft pick between now and then should have either panned out by now or been traded in a bundle to get something that would’ve been proactive to counteract the aging curve.
Meanwhile, the Kovalchuk dilemma appears to be at ease for the time being. Willie Desjardins is out and Todd McLellan is in as the new head coach behind the bench at Staples Center.
Now it’s up to Kovalchuk to prove he’s worthy of his ice time– even as a 36-year-old veteran of the game. Last season was a wakeup call for him as the league has shifted drastically in many ways since his departure from the NHL in 2013.
Los Angeles’ expectations for this season? Get better. Period.
If not, trades must occur. Adapt or finish second-to-last in the overall standings for the second straight season.
There’s just one problem for Blake– Adrian Kempe is still unsigned as a restricted free agent and key to the Kings’ transition.
With about $8.740 million in cap space and only four no-trade or no-movement clauses on the books, Los Angeles should be an active seller if the old guard can’t dish out one last hurrah.
Offseason Grade: C-
Alex Turcotte was selected 5th overall by Los Angeles in the draft this year and there’s a plethora of youth in the system, but at some point, prospects have to be tested to see where they’re at and to evaluate the strength of the organization as a whole.
Despite not making any bad decisions this offseason, the Kings made no decisions to drastically alter an otherwise faltering team. At least the 1990s Heritage sweaters will look sweet coming out of the vault.
Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The DTFR Duo breaks down Jimmy Howard’s one-year extension with the Detroit Red Wings, Gritty’s allegiance in the 2019 NHL Global Series, the New York Islanders’ bottom-six dilemma, Ilya Kovalchuk’s relationship with the Los Angeles Kings, more awards and a look at how things should stack up in the Metropolitan Division for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The DTFR Duo honors Ted Lindsay, addresses a potential outdoor game hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes, talk John Tavares’ “welcome” back to Long Island, can’t figure out the Ottawa Senators coaching change circus and more.
Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal late in the third period on a tremendous give-and-go as the Boston Bruins defender snuck in from the point en route to Boston’s, 4-2, win over the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on Saturday.
Tuukka Rask (19-8-4 record, 2.37 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 32 games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Los Angeles goaltender, Jack Campbell (7-10-0, 2.23 GAA, .928 SV% in 19 GP), stopped 20 out of 24 shots faced for an .833 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 34-17-8 (76 points) on the season and surpassed the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings. The Kings fell to 23-29-6 (52 points) and remained in 8th place in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 22-4-5 when scoring first this season and 22-1-3 when leading after two periods. Los Angeles stumbled to 1-23-1 when trailing after 40 minutes of play this season.
The B’s are now 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip and 7-0-1 in the month of February.
With the win on Saturday night, the Bruins have matched their longest winning streak of the season (five games), while handing the Kings their fourth-straight loss.
Two skaters made their NHL debuts in Saturday night’s matchup as Karson Kuhlman took part in his first career NHL game for the Bruins, while Matt Roy participated in his first NHL game with the Kings.
Instead, Quick received medical attention for “flu-like symptoms” and was sent home, leaving Willie Desjardins with no choice but to start Campbell and with an emergency goaltender as his potential backup.
Rask got the start on Saturday night after Jaroslav Halak posted a 30-save shutout against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
Grzelcyk kicked off the action with a high-sticking infraction against Austin Wagner at 2:59 of the first period. Los Angeles did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the evening.
Moments later, Jake DeBrusk (17) sent the puck past Campbell to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 5:31 of the opening frame thanks to a great pass from Peter Cehlarik.
Cehlarik (2) and David Krejci (34) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s goal as No. 74 in black-and-gold set a new career-high in goals in a season with his 17th in his 50th game played (DeBrusk had 16 goals in 70 games played last season, his rookie year).
DeBrusk also has scored at least a goal in Boston’s last three games (he has 3-3–6 totals since Feb. 12th).
Past the midpoint of the first period, Roy interfered with Brad Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:25. The Bruins did not convert on their first skater advantage of the night.
Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard as both teams each recorded eight shots on goal in the first period. The B’s led in blocked shots (6-4), giveaways (4-0) and face-off win percentage (59-41) after 20 minutes of play, while the Kings led in takeaways (3-1) and hits (14-6).
Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Carl Hagelin hooked Marchand at 5:26 of the second period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster a goal on the power play.
Shortly after the skater advantage ended for Boston, McAvoy hooked Wagner and sent Los Angeles on the power play at 8:55 of the middle frame.
Late in the ensuing power play, Ilya Kovalchuk (12) held the puck and worked his magic, firing a shot past Rask’s glove side as a teammate was screening the Bruins goaltender to tie the game, 1-1, at 10:37.
Zdeno Chara followed up McAvoy’s penalty with a holding penalty of his own against Kopitar at 12:22, but the Kings couldn’t convert on their second-straight power play opportunity.
Shortly after killing off Chara’s minor, the Bruins gave up a two-on-one, leaving Alex Iafallo with a surefire high-quality scoring chance that Rask denied while sprawling in desperation– kicking the puck out of mid-air with his leg pad extended while on his back.
On a face-off win in the attacking zone by Patrice Bergeron, the puck ended up on Marchand’s stick as the Bruins winger sent a rocket of a wrist shot past Campbell’s glove side from the face-off dot.
Marchand (23) gave Boston the lead, 2-1, with Bergeron (34) tabbing the only assist at 16:15 of the second period.
About 90 seconds later, Noel Acciari high-sticked Kovalchuk and was assessed a minor infraction. Los Angeles did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed the Kings, 19-17, in shots on goal. Boston led in blocked shots (15-6), giveaways (7-2) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while Los Angeles held the advantage in takeaways (4-2) and hits (21-11).
The Kings were 1/4 on the power play through two periods, while the Bruins finished 0/2 on the skater advantage on the night as Los Angeles did not take another penalty in the third period.
Late in the third period, a flurry of goals made Saturday night’s hockey game feel like the last few minutes of a basketball game as Iafallo (12) collected a rebound to set a new career-high in goals and tie the game, 2-2.
Paul LaDue (1) and Adrian Kempe (12) had the assists on Iafallo’s goal at 15:37 of the third period.
Less than a minute later, Marchand went to the penalty box for hooking Carter at 16:00. Boston’s penalty killing units successfully killed off the minor infraction and caught the Kings in the vulnerable minute after Los Angeles’ power play.
McAvoy (3) dished the puck to DeBrusk while penetrating the attacking zone and kickstarted the give-and-go as he entered the slot to receive the pass back from DeBrusk and riffled a shot into the twine behind Campbell.
DeBrusk (8) and Krejci (35) picked up the assists on McAvoy’s goal at 18:47 of the third period as Boston took the lead, 3-2, with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
In the final minute of the game, Bergeron (21) one-handed a loose puck past Campbell with an almost poke-check maneuver to secure the victory for Boston, 4-2.
Bergeron’s goal was unassisted at 19:23 of the final frame.
Boston swept the Kings in their season series, 2-0-0, with the, 4-2, victory on Saturday night despite trailing in shots on goal, 25-24.
The Bruins finished the night with the advantage in blocked shots (17-9), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40), while Los Angeles led in hits (29-19).
The Kings went 1/5 on the power play Saturday night, while the B’s finished 0/2.
The Bruins continue their five-game road trip Monday night against the San Jose Sharks before journeying to visit the Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 20th) and St. Louis Blues (Feb. 23rd). Boston is 2-0-0 on their current road trip and plays their next home game this month on Feb. 26th against the Sharks.
More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.
Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.
We’re just over a week into December, I know, but let’s all hop in the time machine and take a retroactive look at how the rest of the season should pan out based on how the league standings were through November 30, 2018.
Things have started to cool in places around the league (like Carolina), while other clubs (like Buffalo) have heated up to become serious playoff contenders– so let’s take a look at how everything should shake out between now and the first couple of weeks of April.
There’s no guarantees with any forecast, but general indications start to get a little clearer once the season’s hit the quarter-mark and American Thanksgiving has come and gone.
Realistically, if your team is anywhere between 1st and 5th in your division, you’re in for the ride of your life still from now through the end of the regular season. If you’re 6th, 7th or 8th, well, it’s never too early to start thinking about the Draft lottery (plus the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship’s coming up at the end of the month, so that’s exciting too) or about how many games it would take to go on an incredibly hot streak and jump back into the playoff picture.
Without further ado, it’s time to glance around the league and breakdown some of the unforeseen circumstances that are yet to come.
Projected Standings After Two Months
- y-Tampa Bay Lightning, 108 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Boston Bruins, 104 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 101 points (26 GP so far)
- wc1-Buffalo Sabres, 91 points (27 GP so far)
- Montreal Canadiens, 91 points (25 GP so far)
- Detroit Red Wings, 85 points (25 GP so far)
- Florida Panthers, 84 points (24 GP so far)
- Ottawa Senators, 83 points (26 GP so far)
The Tampa Bay Lightning rightfully lay claim to the crown as the leader of the Atlantic Division at regular season’s end. It doesn’t matter that Steven Stamkos has yet to record a point in six career Game 7s. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Brayden Point on a line of their own. They don’t even need Stamkos.
Just kidding, they still do, because that other No. 91 signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the offseason and just think how explosive a playoff matchup of Tampa and Toronto could be in the Battle of John Tavares Signed Where Leafs Fans Wanted Steven Stamkos To Sign Just A Couple Of Offseasons Ago, But Didn’t Because He Stayed With The Lightning.
You know it’s going to happen.
Actually, in the latest forecast entering December, the Boston Bruins slide out of the top spot, because injuries continue to plague their season. However, if they can recover to full health, there’s a good chance they might usurp the Maple Leafs and finish 2nd in the division, unlike what current standings dictate.
But regaining full health is a major stipulation and part of the reason why– while Toronto is 3rd in this forecast– there’s a good chance the Bruins might (probably will) slip further as January’s forecast nears.
This is about the time where it’s important to note the overarching focus on this forecast should be on where each team is positioned and how close in points they are to those above and below before placing any concrete emphasis on how things play out from now through the first week of April 2019.
The Buffalo Sabres make the biggest gain in the Atlantic Division, jumping up four spots in the division standings from the basement to 4th place and a playoff berth (albeit a wild card spot).
The Sabres 10-game winning streak– combined with the additions of Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner in the offseason– proved to be a season-defining stretch of games as Buffalo returns to Stanley Cup Playoff action for the first time since 2011 (despite the current 0-3-2 run in their last five games).
On the outside looking in, the Montreal Canadiens slipped a spot and might be a pretender– especially if Carey Price (11-8-4 record, 2.92 goals against average, .902 save percentage in 23 games played) continues to struggle. To his credit, his GAA is under three now, so there’s that.
The Detroit Red Wings gained some traction with the ongoing lack of focus in Ottawa Senators video reviews and the Florida Panthers injuries.
- p-Washington Capitals, 108 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 99 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 98 points (24 GP so far)
- wc2-New York Rangers, 92 points (26 GP so far)
- New York Islanders, 90 points (24 GP so far)
- Carolina Hurricanes, 87 points (25 GP so far)
- Philadelphia Flyers, 86 points (24 GP so far)
- New Jersey Devils, 81 points (24 GP so far)
The Washington Capitals remain in control of the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins in tow.
Of course, Columbus and Pittsburgh are worth keeping a close eye on as the Blue Jackets have been all over the place near the top and the Penguins have yet to be in playoff position since– actually, pretty much never so far this season.
Plus there’s the whole “second-half of the season surge” we’re still waiting to see from Mike Sullivan’s bunch. That’ll almost assure Pittsburgh of a playoff berth, if not in a divisional spot, at least.
The New York Rangers gained two spots since entering November, which means the rebuild’s over!
Look how close the Rangers, New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes are forecasted to be in points. Even the Philadelphia Flyers have a chance– mathematically speaking, of course.
The battle for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is going to come down to one of the teams in the Big Apple and Carolina, especially since the rest of the division lacks clarity.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils are in the dumps. Taylor Hall isn’t a flash in the pan, but the rest of the Devils are, it appears.
- z-Nashville Predators, 104 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Minnesota Wild, 98 points (25 GP so far)
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points (24 GP so far)
- wc1-Colorado Avalanche, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- wc2-Dallas Stars, 90 points (26 GP so far)
- St. Louis Blues, 88 points (24 GP so far)
- Chicago Blackhawks, 87 points (26 GP so far)
Both the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild remain in the 1-2 spots in the latest forecast. Despite the current hot streak from the Calgary Flames, the Predators are going to be the best team in the conference by the end of the regular season.
The Winnipeg Jets are starting to become like the Penguins under Sullivan’s reign in that Paul Maurice is bound to lead his team to a second-half of the season surge into a divisional spot (or higher).
Of course, there’s always a wild card– both in the literal wild card berth and dark horse standpoint– and that’s the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs have a great chance at jumping up into a divisional spot, since they’ve gained three positions from the previous forecast entering November to the current forecast entering December. The fact of the matter is the Avalanche are a playoff contender– like last season– but with the added improvement of having built on last season’s experience.
Then there’s the Dallas Stars, who might find themselves landing in a wild card position by circumstance (have you even seen the Pacific Division?) and by luck in Jim Montgomery’s first season behind the bench.
Towards the cellar of the Central Division, the St. Louis Blues are bad, but not as bad as they are currently, which isn’t great news if you’re trying to lose for Jack Hughes.
But if you’re a Blues fan who hates rivals more than losing, there’s a positive takeaway– the Chicago Blackhawks are destined to finished last in the Central. They’re bad. Very bad.
- y-San Jose Sharks, 97 points (26 GP so far)
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 97 points (28 GP so far)
- x-Calgary Flames, 93 points (26 GP so far)
- Vegas Golden Knights, 85 points (27 GP so far)
- Edmonton Oilers, 82 points (25 GP so far)
- Los Angeles Kings, 79 points (26 GP so far)
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points (24 GP so far)
- Vancouver Canucks, 78 points (28 GP so far)
The San Jose Sharks’ grasp on the Pacific Division is loosening as the Anaheim Ducks are heating up as one of the hottest teams out west– and that’s not including the one with fire in their name.
San Jose should– should— hit their stride at some point and have everything click into place, but if they don’t the Ducks are hot on their tail. How close? Close enough to show there’s no difference in their forecast total points in the standings by the end of the regular season.
The Sharks could be first or they could be second. Perhaps the Calgary Flames have something to say about that.
It’s anybody’s game in the Pacific Division playoff berths, but one thing’s for sure, there’s not going to be a wild card team coming out of the Pacific.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, that means they’re really going to have to soar and never let their foot off the gas. Vegas only survived so much without Nate Schmidt in the lineup on their blue line– they can’t afford any more major bumps in the road.
The Edmonton Oilers have Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and while they might appear to be gaining ground, they’re sure to be just outside of the playoff window looking in like how Hitchcock’s Stars were last season. Just wait for the implosion.
In the bottom three, the Los Angeles Kings might not be as terrible as they have been if 1) Marco Sturm gets named head coach and Willie Desjardins’ interim basis comes to a close and 2) the Kings light a fire under their grizzled veterans and revive whatever’s left of them this season.
The Arizona Coyotes are on par with how Arizona’s been the last few seasons. Not great, but not terrible and sometimes downtrodden due to injury.
The hype surrounding the Vancouver Canucks in October and early November was just that– hype. No amount of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser can compensate for the holes on the blue line and lack of goaltending. It’s almost as if Canucks General Manager Jim Benning has been living a Groundhog Day career from year-to-year with Vancouver.
Their offense is good, their defense is suspect and their goaltending isn’t starter quality.
The Board of Governors meeting gets underway next week involving the Seattle expansion vote, Bill Peters took a puck to the jaw and Rick Middleton and Vic Hadfield are having their numbers retired this week.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes made another trade with each other, Karl Alzner is being Wade Redden’ed, Ron Hextall got ousted as the Philadelphia Flyers GM, the Buffalo Sabres win streak reached double digits and the Winnipeg Jets brought back their Heritage Jerseys.
Nick and Connor also encourage all of Long Island to go to the New York Islanders game at NYCB Live (it’s the Nassau Coliseum) this week and quickly plan a hopeful trip to see Sporting KC play in Atlanta.