Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Sharangovich’s 1st lifts Devils over Bruins in overtime, 2-1

You always remember your first time and Yegor Sharangovich will certainly always remember his first career National Hockey League goal, since he scored it with about two seconds left in overtime on Saturday to give the New Jersey Devils a, 2-1, victory over the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center.

New Jersey goaltender, Mackenzie Blackwood (1-0-1, 1.85 goals against average, .954 save percentage in two games played), made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 SV% in the overtime win.

Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (0-0-1, 1.85 GAA, .954 SV% in one game played) stopped 29 out of 31 shots faced for a .935 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 1-0-1 (three points) on the season and remains tied for 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division with New Jersey– now 1-0-1 on the season (also three points).

The Bruins dropped to 14-6-4 all time in 24 games at Prudential Center, outscoring the Devils, 69-48, in that span.

Bruce Cassidy made a few lineup changes as Craig Smith made his Bruins debut after missing the season opener on Thursday night in New Jersey due to a lower body injury.

Smith was placed in his expected role on the third line right wing with Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle, while Anders Bjork was moved up to the first line right wing with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

As a result, Jack Studnicka was a healthy scratch on Saturday afternoon.

No other lineup changes were made, leaving Studnicka in the press box with Greg McKegg, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar and David Pastrnak (hip).

Kevan Miller and Miles Wood exchanged fisticuffs just 19 seconds into the action on Saturday afternoon as Wood was expected to respond for running into Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, twice on Thursday night.

Cassidy made it clear to his team that he didn’t want to see opponents start a trend of getting friendly with his goaltender, so Miller was compelled to exchange pleasantries with the Devils forward.

Both players received fighting majors– the first fight of the season for Boston and the first fight for Miller since Jan. 29, 2019, when No. 86 in black and gold fought Winnipeg Jets center, Adam Lowry.

About five minutes later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Jack Hughes and was assessed a minor penalty at 5:45 of the first period, yielding the first power play of the game to New Jersey.

The Devils were not able to convert on their first skater advantage of the afternoon.

Moments later, Matt Tennyson was called for holding against Coyle at 9:02 and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the game.

Boston’s power play spent more time chasing the puck outside of their attacking zone than they did at setting up anything on the ensuing power play.

Late in the opening frame, Ty Smith fired a shot from the point that Wood (2) tipped while screening Halak in the slot to give the Devils the, 1-0, lead.

Smith (1) and Hughes (3) tallied the assists on Wood’s goal at 16:15.

With the primary assist, Smith became the fourth defender in New Jersey’s franchise history to record a point in each of his first two career games, joining Viacheslav Fetisov (1989-90), Les Auge (1980-81) and Barry Beck (1977-78) in the process.

About a minute later, Sean Kuraly and Kyle Palmieri exchanged slashes and receiving minor penalties, resulting in 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes at 17:34.

Entering the first intermission, the Devils led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 8-7, in shots on goal.

New Jersey held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (4-3) and hits (10-3), while Boston led in faceoff win percentage (65-35) after 20 minutes of action Saturday afternoon.

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot that Ritchie redirected past Blackwood, but the would-be goal was immediately waved off due to incidental contact with the New Jersey goaltender.

Smith appeared to bump into Blackwood, despite Boston’s protest as Cassidy used a coach’s challenge on the grounds that he thought his player was pushed by a Devils defender into Blackwood.

Nevertheless, the call on the ice stood. The Bruins hadn’t scored and were instead assessed a bench minor for delay of game.

Jake DeBrusk served the infraction against Boston at 16:01 of the second period, but New Jersey wasn’t able to score on the ensuing power play.

Instead, the Bruins worked a little magic while shorthanded.

Marchand worked his way around Palmieri and into the attacking zone before setting up Bergeron (1) for his 18th career shorthanded goal.

Marchand (2) had the only assist on Bergeron’s snap shot goal as the B’s tied the game, 1-1, at 17:16 of the second period.

At some point in the middle frame, Ondrej Kase took a stick up high from Wood in a corner battle and did not return to the action.

Entering the second intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins outshooting the Devils, 20-16, including a, 13-8, advantage in the second period alone.

New Jersey led in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (5-3), giveaways (9-5) and hits (17-11), while Boston led in faceoff win% (64-36).

The Devils were 0/2 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play after 40 minutes of action.

Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, P.K. Subban held and wrestled Trent Frederic to the ground resulting in a minor infraction for holding 28 seconds into the third period.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Grzelcyk hooked Janne Kuokkanen and cut a rut to the penalty box at 18:36. The Devils used their timeout to draw up a game-winning plan on the power play, but it was to no avail.

New Jersey couldn’t score before the horn, which meant they would have a 4-on-3 skater advantage to begin what would usually be five minutes of sudden death 3-on-3 overtime.

After 60 minutes of gameplay, the score remained tied, 1-1, with the Devils outshooting the Bruins, 27-25, including an, 11-5, advantage in the third period alone for New Jersey.

The Bruins had taken control of blocked shots (9-7), but the Devils still held the advantage in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (13-5) and hits (23-14).

Boston continued to dominate faceoff win% (64-36), however.

As no penalties were called in overtime, New Jersey finished the afternoon 0/3 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Cassidy rolled out Bergeron, McAvoy and Miller to start overtime while on the penalty kill.

Devils head coach, Lindy Ruff, started Hughes, Palmieri, Damon Severson and Subban.

Neither team could score until Sharangovich (1) ended it in the dying seconds after the Devils forced a turnover in the attacking zone and Sharangovich broke free from Coyle and Grzelcyk while the two Bruins were rushing back to defend.

Sharangovich slid the puck through Halak’s gaping five-hole and won the game at 4:58 of the overtime period.

Severson (1) and Palmieri (1) had the assists on Sharangovich’s first career NHL goal as the 22-year-old forward continued an impressive start to a decent 2020-21 season in professional hockey.

He had 17-8–25 totals in 34 games with Dinamo Minsk (KHL) prior to quarantining for the NHL’s 56-game season with New Jersey.

The Devils finished the afternoon with the, 2-1, overtime victory while leading in shots on goal, 31-28, including a, 4-3, advantage in the extra frame alone.

New Jersey wrapped up Saturday’s action with the advantage in giveaways (13-6) and hits (23-15), while Boston left town with the advantage in blocked shots (10-7) and faceoff win% (65-35).

The Devils improved to 1-0 in overtime this season as the B’s fell to 1-0 in OT.

Both teams are now 1-1 past regulation this season.

Boston is now 0-0-1 when trailing after the first period, 0-0-1 when tied after the second period and 0-0-1 when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

The Bruins wrap up their three-game road trip (1-0-1) to start the 2020-21 season at Nassau Coliseum on Monday against the New York Islanders. Boston returns home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 21st for their first home game of the season at TD Garden.

There will be no fans in attendance in Boston for the foreseeable future as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #210- 56 Games (And Nothin’ On)/2020-21 Season Preview: Canada Division


Nick and Colby preview the realigned Canada Division for the 2020-21 regular season, which will be a shortened 56-game version of NHL hockey.

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

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #209- Mic Check/Always Improving

Nick and Colby review some of the biggest signings in free agency, as well as other happenings this offseason in the National Hockey League, including teams that have improved, a 2020-21 season outlook and more in the season seven debut of the podcast.

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

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

The definitive review of all 31 Reverse Retro jerseys

Adidas and the National Hockey League are trying something creative this season. It wouldn’t really be right to call it “new”, since most things are old anyway, but all 31 adidas Reverse Retro jerseys were revealed on Monday to mixed reviews by fans and jersey critics alike on social media.

In theory, “everything that’s old is new again” can be a reassuring nostalgic feeling, but it works best when you’re reuniting with friends you haven’t seen in a while and some of them haven’t changed one bit or something.

In reality, “everything that’s old is new again” is just a marketing ploy to sell jerseys and– to the dismay of my wallet– I’m sold. Somewhat.

Not every jersey is perfect, but some are unique, some are good looking and others are downright attractive.

Yes, it’s possible to be seduced by sweater threads. Ask any jersey collector.

Before we begin, there’s just one question left to ask– what, exactly, were the prerequisites for determining what could be considered “retro”?

There’s inconsistency across the board between all 31 teams, but that’s bound to happen since some have been around since before the league’s inception (see, Montreal Canadiens) and other teams are just entering their fourth season of existence (shoutout Vegas Golden Knights).

Alright, let’s grade some sweaters.

Editor’s note: Yes, adidas picked a single year that each jersey represents, but we’re going to present a more accurate timeline for when each original design was flying around the ice.

Anaheim Ducks (based on the 1995-96 alternate)

The Anaheim Ducks must have been browsing eBay one night, saw that the original “Wild Wing” (or “Mighty Wing”, if you prefer) jerseys often sell for double the price of a regular adidas authentic jersey these days and said to themselves “gee, we could make that money easily” without realizing that the sales on eBay do not– in any part– go to the Ducks themselves.

Nevertheless, this is a good plan B, but almost everything from the Mighty Ducks era is beloved except for one thing– whatever’s happening on this jersey.

For one season, it’s a good gimmick and a quick cash grab (especially for the drying up reserves due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic).

It’s standard for an NHL team to reach back in time, change a thing or two and sell a lot of “new” jerseys. Solid effort, Anaheim.

It shouldn’t come back out of the vault ever again.

Grade: C

Arizona Coyotes (based on the 1998-2003 alternate)

This is one of my favorite jerseys in the Reverse Retro bunch simply for the fact that the Arizona Coyotes took an already legendary concept from the 1990s and made it better.

Sure the original look wasn’t great (but also not as horrendous as you probably remember) back in the day, but this time around it looks much better with purple as the base color instead of green.

Why? Because the Coyotes’ moon logo is primarily purple and purple is featured more prominently in the crest logo on this jersey than the green ever was– plus is makes the saguaro inspired cacti design at the bottom pop.

Purple is the night sky of a desert sunset. It accentuates the mountains and rock formations in the lower third.

In simple terms, this jersey is art. It’s a masterpiece.

Grade: A

Boston Bruins (based on the 1981-95 design)

A simple remix of an iconic look that the Boston Bruins used for many years spanning the likenesses of Terry O’Reilly, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely in the “Big Bad Bruins”/”Lunchpail A.C.” era, this Reverse Retro redesign works well as a short-term implementation of the league’s fourth jersey rotation to Boston’s lineup.

Could it become something that sticks in the Hub for a while? Sure, but the franchise would be best to use this for a few seasons and work on an incredible new gold design.

Though it’s hard to argue not resurrecting the bear patch on the shoulders full-time. That bear has seen some things.

The Bruins last used a gold-based jersey in the 2010 Winter Classic and a gold-based third jersey in 1995-96 (the first year of the NHL’s official third jersey program). Prior to that, the B’s actually wore gold for select games from 1940-44, then again as a primary design from 1955-67, when the team was mostly irrelevant to the overall league standings.

It must be mentioned, however, that when Bobby Orr first laced up for Boston, he was wearing a gold uniform in his 1966-67 rookie season.

Simply put, the Bruins need a gold jersey in their rotation. This one works (for now).

Grade: A

Buffalo Sabres (based on the 2000-06 alternate)

The Buffa-goat is back. Kind of.

It’s on the shoulders and modernized with the current color scheme (so… Buffalo’s original colors), but the Sabres opted to cancel out one of their positive changes made in the offseason with a negative resurrection.

No, the two swords logo on the front isn’t bad, but one thing that never made me feel anything special for the original 2000-06 alternates was the fact that the city’s name appears in the lower striping pattern.

It’s neat, but is it necessary?

At least it looks better in traditional Sabres colors and the number font is just like “the good old days” when Buffalo dominated the league with players like Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Daniel Brière and others.

If the Sabres make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, then we’ll know the real reason why the franchise has been awful for about a decade. It all comes down to style points.

Grade: A

Calgary Flames (based on the 1998-2006 alternate)

Yes, folks, as the Calgary Flames’ tweet mentions– “Blasty” is back.

Now get off your high horse if you think this is truly a “Reverse Retro” jersey and not just an updated alternate/fourth sweater.

There was just one minor change to the eye in this design– aside from the white flaming “C” instead of how it looked originally on the shoulders in red– and it’s the striping pattern on the bottom.

There’s significantly less red to this jersey. It isn’t bad, but just… …not great. It doesn’t really “reverse” anything major, which discredits the basic foundation and understanding of the Reverse Retro ideology.

Had adidas gone in a different direction and made a white reversed version of the iconic “Blasty” look, then Calgary would be getting a better grade.

Grade: C

Carolina Hurricanes (based on the Hartford Whalers 1979-82, 1983-85 design)

Prior to the 2018-19 season, the Carolina Hurricanes introduced a Hartford Whalers Throwback jersey that they wore three times between 2018-20 (twice against the Boston Bruins in 2018-19 and once against the Los Angeles Kings in 2019-20).

Despite not playing in Hartford since relocating to North Carolina ahead of the 1997-98 season, Carolina made every effort to get into character– even dressing up PNC Arena in Whalers colors on the inside of the barn, but there was one thing missing from the look.

This time around the Canes have added “Pucky” to the shoulders of this second iteration of a throwback sweater.

It’s grey though, which isn’t so much of an inversion of the 1979 color scheme so much as it is a reversal of the 1992-97 final design before leaving Hartford.

At the very least the Hurricanes deserve credit for going all-in on the retro requirement and not coming up with any “fauxback” shenanigans using Whalers colors on a Carolina logo.

Grade: B+

Chicago Blackhawks (based on the 1940-41 design)

Well, this is… something.

Back in 1940, the Chicago Blackhawks only had the crest on their dark jersey with the white jersey simply having numbers on the front and back a la American football teams.

This is, in fact, a Reverse Retro with the overall design of the white jersey from the 1940-41 season now done in black, but the logo was understandably modified to make it… less racist than it was back then?

Sure the Blackhawks name itself was done in honor of both a military division and a prominent Sauk nation member, Black Hawk, and the club does (at best) more than other professional teams that have recently changed their name (see, Washington Football Team) to honor indigenous people, but the logo isn’t great.

The overall aesthetic is simplistic, but sharp. Why ruin it with a caricature?

Grade: D+

Colorado Avalanche (based on the Québec Nordiques 1991-95 design)

It’s hard to imagine what the Québec Nordiques would look like today– especially since they were rebranding for the 1995-96 season anyway had they not relocated to Denver, Colorado, but the Avalanche have provided a clear look at what wouldn’t have been a terrible idea if the Nordiques had decided to go with the rebrand in the ’90s, then settle back down from a period of throwing caution to the wind.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing something out of the closet once in a while, but someone might cry “jersey foul” if it’s exactly as things used to look before relocating.

That makes things difficult for Carolina and Colorado to do a Reverse Retro sweater without leaving someone feeling like they’ve had their team “stolen” once again.

But whatever, these are meant to make a profit off of nostalgic feelings and jersey collectors. Buy one or not, it doesn’t affect the feelings of the overall brand.

The fact that the Avs and Canes lay claim to the old logos helps them make it out alive in the grueling course of Reverse Retro critics, unlike the Minnesota Wild’s attempt at being the Minnesota North Stars without stepping on the Dallas Stars’ history too much.

Now the only question I have left for the Avalanche is should I get this in Nathan MacKinnon or Mikko Rantanen?

Grade: A

Columbus Blue Jackets (based on the 2000-01 design)

The Columbus Blue Jackets read the directions for the assignment and nearly got a 100% on the final exam. These jerseys are incredible– even if they remind you of the early days of the Washington Capitals (and Washington’s current alternate jersey).

Sure the original Blue Jackets logo is a bit out there, but Columbus set the bar in terms of doing something different and giving the fans in the heart of Ohio a red jersey for the first time in franchise history.

It shouldn’t become commonplace, since– you know– they’re the Blue Jackets– “blue” is literally in their name, but for an “outlandish” marketing standpoint, this jersey has everything.

Except for one thing. Stinger’s not on the shoulder patch.

For whatever reason, adidas decided to include Columbus’ current cannon shoulder patch/alternate logo on this jersey instead of following the guidelines of simply reversing their original look.

That’s why they almost got a “100” on their exam. Just a few points off for not including the most iconic thing about the franchise’s early years and current mascot.

Grade: A

Dallas Stars (based on their 1997-2006 design)

Adidas claims this jersey is based on Dallas’ 1999 Stanley Cup champion look, but the star based design for the Stars began as a third jersey in 1997, before making its way to the full-time grounds for the home and road uniforms from 1999-2006.

Since rebranding ahead of the 2013-14 season, Dallas has put an emphasis on one thing– being Dallas. Gone are the days of the Minnesota North Stars. By removing any semblance of gold from their jersey, the Stars fully completed their transition from pre-relocation to post-relocation.

As a result, this monstrosity happened.

It’s not that the star-shaped design isn’t appreciated– it’s that it shouldn’t be matched with white pants, white gloves, white socks and drained of any color or originality to begin with, since the crest is rather muted as a result of the change from gold to silver on a white background.

Had the jersey been black with a white bottom star-striping pattern then it’d be a different story.

Grade: D

Detroit Red Wings (based on their 1987-2007 design)

Once more, adidas claims that this Reverse Retro jersey harkens back to a championship winning year for the Detroit Red Wings back in 1998. In reality, the Red Wings wore the same look from 1987-2007, with the only difference being that since the 2003-04 season, the NHL deemed white jerseys to be the road set instead of the home uniform.

This jersey seems to borrow the silver from Detroit’s 2017 Centennial Classic jersey to give it a little more definition than a long-sleeved plain white shirt with a logo slapped on the front and red numbers with a nameplate on the sides and back.

If only they would’ve picked something from Detroit’s days as the Detroit Cougars or even the Detroit Falcons.

The Cougars had some designs unlike any other in franchise history, while the Falcons used yellow with the usual red and white format for the club– marking the only time the team has ever used more than just red and white on a regular sweater.

Reversing the Falcons colors would’ve been a hard sell, sure, but the Cougars, man. There was potential and it was left untapped.

Grade: F

Edmonton Oilers (based on the 1979-80 design)

It’s simple, clean and a nod to the team’s inaugural NHL season, while subtly paying homage to their pre-Edmonton Oilers days as the Alberta Oilers in the World Hockey Association (WHA).

Orange is more prominent in what would otherwise likely be a better companion to their home uniform as a road jersey than their current road set, but that’s just probably one of the reasons why the entire jersey wasn’t done in orange instead of white as the base design– because it already exists (sure, with the more modern shade of blue and traffic cone orange, but you get the point).

These aren’t bad, but the Oilers never really stray far from the formula.

Todd McFarlane at least had fun with the brand and nudged it towards the future with his 2001-07 alternate jersey– love it or hate it.

There are just… …fine. The logo wasn’t reversed like some had hoped, but whatever.

Grade: B-

Florida Panthers (based on the 1993-98 design)

The Florida Panthers have long had an identity crisis.

For some, the leaping panther is a better looking logo than today’s spitting image of current head coach, Joel Quenneville, despite the modern logo dating back to the 2016-17 season, which was prior to Quenneville’s arrival behind the bench last season.

Confused? That’s exactly how Florida feels.

This team has probably flipped from red to blue and back again as many times as the state has in U.S. Presidential elections in the last few decades.

Florida’s first dark based uniform was red, then added a blue alternate jersey to their rotation from 1998-2003, before swapping the red with the blue as their new home look from 2003-06, prior to de-arching the nameplates on the back of the jersey on an otherwise untouched design in 2006-07– which was prior to Reebok’s demands that the Panthers use a template with vertical piping centered between the underarms and crest from 2007-11.

Anyway, the Panthers need a blue uniform in their set and this one utilizes the current colors of the franchise (red, blue, tan and white) well in the inverted aesthetic of how the club looked when the team first hit the ice in South Florida after almost being named the Florida Block Busters upon expansion in 1993.

At this point anything else is just filler material to describe a masterpiece that doesn’t really need words to be observed.

Grade: A

Los Angeles Kings (based on the 1988-91 design)

Purple “Forum Blue” is back and the Los Angeles Kings have never felt more royal– except for that time they won the Cup twice in a three-year span in 2012 and 2014.

The timeless look of the Wayne Gretzky era jerseys were given a fresh paint job with old leftover colors, which begs the question “is this really a Reverse Retro look or something new entirely from recycled parts?”

Has marketing gone too far?

Probably not, since there’s no burgers involved this time around.

While the Kings could’ve come up with something different, Los Angeles played it safe and went with something that encapsulates the spirit of the city– trying to be the Los Angeles Lakers.

You might not know some of the struggling actors in Hollywood or if that really was just Anze Kopitar that walked by, but everyone can identity a favorite (or hated, if you’re a Boston Celtics fan) Laker.

Grade: C+

Minnesota Wild (based on the Minnesota North Stars 1978-79 design)

Whereas the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche own and used some form of their old logo from prior to relocation for their Reverse Retro jerseys, the Minnesota Wild have no ties to the Minnesota North Stars because the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, so we’re left with the Wild logo as the crest on the front in 3-D and in North Stars colors.

By default, these jerseys should’ve been what the Stars used, but with the North Stars stylized “N” on the front of the jersey or Dallas could’ve just let Minnesota buy back that old logo or whatever, but instead we get this jersey that looks more appropriate for a local beer league team sponsored by Subway.

Some say the Wild should switch to these colors full time– especially with Dallas relinquishing gold from their palette ahead of the 2013-14 season, but those people should just move on like the North Stars did.

The Wild are here to stay and could’ve been really creative with a red or tan based primary color in a true Reverse Retro design based on their original look from 2000-03.

Besides, Minnesota could use a red jersey as an alternate, whether you like it or not. It is one of their team colors and it could go well with their more uniform approach to their jerseys since adidas took over ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Otherwise these are just fine. The yellow on green number font gives off a “Da Beauty League” vibe, which just isn’t very like the NHL to have fun.

Grade: C

Montreal Canadiens (based on the 1974-2007 design with 1909 elements, etc.)

While the Montreal Canadiens played it rather conservative with regards to their Reverse Retro look, the designers over at adidas really came up with something crisp, clean and hit it out of the park.

Montreal last had a third sweater in 2006-07, and it was really well done for being the one and only regular alternate jersey in franchise history.

Though the Habs have a timeless look that isn’t one to be messed with in any matter, there’s always an exception to every rule and this is it if the Canadiens are planning on using this blue jersey as an alternate in the long-term.

Then again, people from Montreal might feel weird about wearing what would otherwise be considered the Nordiques’ primary color, so there’s the “Battle of Québec” to consider.

If you’re a Habs diehard, maybe you don’t like this jersey. If you’re from Québec City and begrudgingly became a Habs fan after the Nordiques relocated to Colorado instead of joining the Boston Bruins fanbase north of the border or simply following the Avalanche, then perhaps this is the jersey for you.

Grade: A

Nashville Predators (based on the 1998-2001 design)

If the Nashville Predators had walked out onto the ice wearing these in 1998, it would’ve explained their evolution to the modern marigold jerseys a lot better than the simple reversal of the colors that they originally made ahead of the 2011-12 season before Reverse Retro became a thing for 2020-21 (and beyond?).

That said, Nashville’s original look inverted to a gold based jersey with the blue stripe separating the silver yoke that runs down the sleeves still looks fantastic– and with the old number and nameplate fonts too!

The one thing that’s not true to the original 1998 design (other than the slightly modified original crest), however, is the shoulder patch that originally debuted on the mustard yellow alternate sweater from 2001-07, but made its way to the home and road uniform’s shoulders from 2005-07.

Does that actually mean this look is really just based on the 2005-07 design and adidas doesn’t think that something as old as 15 years ago isn’t, you know, actually kind of old?

No big deal though, these jerseys are still great, since the Predators went with the better shoulder patch from their early days.

The guitar pick that’s been on their right shoulder of their regular jerseys since 2011 shouldn’t be afraid of going extinct.

Grade: A

New Jersey Devils (based on the 1982-92 design)

Italy! Great to see they finally got an NHL team.

The New Jersey Devils are paying homage to The Sopranos with these Italian flag inspired jerseys.

Actually, it’s just the inverted color scheme of their original road jersey and the Devils have a quality Reverse Retro jersey on their hands. If they plan on keeping the Heritage Jersey long-term, then this brings a fine balance to The Force.

If not, New Jersey should really design a black alternate jersey and roll with red, white, black and green as their main color scheme among the club’s four jersey options.

Now why do I have a craving for Sbarro?

Grade: A

New York Islanders (based on the 1978-84 design)

Was the Gorton’s Fisherman unavailable?

It doesn’t really look like the New York Islanders even tried at all, but upon further inspection you’ll notice that the orange and white are reversed on this jersey– and that’s besides the fact that the blue is a darker shade than how it looked back in the day (and nowadays too).

To the Isles’ credit, this jersey isn’t outlandish like most of their other attempts at creating a contemporary image for their club.

It’s uninspiring and, frankly, not that original, but it works. It just doesn’t offer much for the Reverse Retro vibes, however, which takes major points off overall.

At the very least it wasn’t oversimplified like their neighbors’ new threads in Manhattan.

Grade: D

New York Rangers (based on the 1996-98, 1999-2007 alternate)

Want to know how to kill a good thing? Make it a practice jersey.

These Statue of Liberty jerseys don’t scream “[g]ive me your tired “, but rather “I’m tired and I shouldn’t have been awoken. Now let me go back to sleep.”

The striping pattern on the sleeves would look better on a New England Patriots pro-shop sweater, which should probably unnerve New York Giants and New York Jets fans that are also New York Rangers fans.

It should’ve been red with blue, silver and white inverted stripes to truly make it “Reverse Retro”.

Instead, New York gave us this. Whatever this is.

Grade: F

Ottawa Senators (based on the 1992-93 design with the 1997-2007 crest)

Are you upset about the Ottawa Senators going back and modernizing an early version of their 2-D logo while casting off the red based home jerseys into the sunset? Well then here’s a red jersey for you!

It’s the reverse of the original black jersey, which is sort of back (there’s some minor differences in number font, striping, etc.) and it’s fine, but it just feels like something Sens fans have come to know and despise in recent years– it feels cheap.

Sure, Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Matt Murray and Co. will look good in it, but introducing this jersey alongside the resurrected homage to the days of yore that the team currently has as home and road sweaters just makes this whole thing feel off.

That said, Ottawa does need a red jersey to complete their otherwise timeless set and it wasn’t like we’re going to get a reversed barber pole jersey anytime soon.

Usually something a little different is preferred, though, to make it feel like an alternate or at least a throwback to the original Senators franchise. This will work for now, however.

Grade: B+

Philadelphia Flyers (based on the 1984-97 design)

The inside of the neck of the jersey says it’s inspired by Philadelphia’s look in 1995, but the Flyers wore this design for much longer before, during and after the mid-90s.

Hell, the base of this design first emerged when “Cooperalls” were adorned, then promptly banned by the NHL because after two seasons they were found to be too much of a safety hazard (sliding on ice without any brakes became an issue because of the nature of the pants’ ability to act like a broom in curling and clear a path to the boards).

Anyway, the Flyers already have a solid set of jerseys to the extent that this one isn’t really necessary.

It might conjure images of Halloween, nightmares of Gritty or reminders of being sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) if you don’t perform well in them, but they’re fine, I guess.

Unnecessary, but fine.

Grade: C

Pittsburgh Penguins (based on the 1992-97 design)

The Pittsburgh Penguins became bold in the 1990s after winning their first Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

First, in 1992, they introduced the “Robo-Penguin” crest to the world, then they made a jersey with diagonal lettering on the front as their road uniform.

Neither decision was very smart and only one of them was corrected on this Reverse Retro jersey, which– all things considered– doesn’t look that bad.

Sure the Penguin on the shoulders is free from his triangle like on their current alternate jerseys (former 2017 Stadium Series look), but the “Pittsburgh” letting seems to standout better on the white edition of this timeless classic (for better or worse).

More teams should experiment with diagonal alternates, but that’s not to say that every team can succeed– let alone barely get away with an acceptable look with just words on the front of their jersey.

There’s a lot of rich jersey history for the Pens though and some of that potential went untapped. It’s a shame, really.

Grade: C+

St. Louis Blues (based on the 1995-98 design)

Aside from the music, the St. Louis Blues are blue for a reason. Sure red is in the St. Louis city flag, but they’re the Blues. The BLUES.

This is almost as bad as the trumpet jerseys that were rightfully spited to the gates of the underworld.

It’d almost make sense to put the shoulder patch as the main crest on these, since then it’d at least make sense as an homage to what was almost the worst alternate jersey in the history of the league, but thankfully avoided due to Mike Keenan’s keen eye.

Some things are just better in concept, but in reality they’re not. As a fashion jersey, this is probably fine. As something the team has to wear on the ice for a game, well… …that’s different.

At least the team didn’t end up moving to Saskatoon back in 1983, right?

Grade: D

San Jose Sharks (based on the 1997-2007 design)

Adidas stipulates that this jersey harkens back to 1998, but the San Jose Sharks originally used this template as an alternate jersey back in 1997-98– the final season that San Jose wore their original uniforms since joining the league in 1991 as an expansion team.

The original Sharks logo is a timeless classic from the ’90s, while the fact that San Jose has already reached back and utilized their original setup to mark their 25th anniversary back in the 2015-16 season, it’s only fitting that they’d naturally move onto their second ever look for the subsequent nod to their franchise history.

In other words, ten years from now, you can probably expect an orange Reverse Retro jersey based on the 2007-13 design, because that’d keep the pattern going.

Anyway, these are fine. They’re nothing spectacular, since grey is a hard sell on a home uniform, but reviving an iconic look without murdering it by reversing it is exactly what the Reverse Retro jerseys are all about.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning (based on the 2001-07 design)

They really like pointing out when teams won Cups years ago with these jerseys, huh? Once again, adidas points out that this is from “2004” (as in “the year the Tampa Bay Lightning won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history”), but the Bolts used this template from 2001-07 after originally debuting the frameworks of this jersey when they first hit the ice in 1992 as an expansion team.

Tampa refined the look over the years by changing the number and nameplate font to italics, changing the font altogether and finally landing on the look that they wore the last time they won the Cup before 2020.

As such, these Reverse Retro jerseys are a great nod to the Lightning’s history as a hockey market.

Though their current uniforms might be a bit plain, a blue version of what is essentially their original design adds a spark of life to their complete jersey set.

Teams sometimes go back to old motifs after a while and if these are popular enough, the Lightning would be smart to find a way to mix their current logo with this jersey template or something.

Grade: A

Toronto Maple Leafs (based on the 1967-70 design and 1970-72, 1973-75 design, etc.)

What were they thinking? Seriously, what were they thinking?

It’s one thing to pull out the old alternate Leaf logo on the shoulders from “the bad Leaf era” or whatever, but it’s another thing to use elements from the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and slap it on the 1970s and 1980s jersey design.

Toronto introduced new jerseys for the 1967 Stanley Cup Playoffs and went on to win the Cup wearing the Leafs logo that was brought back for its appearance on this Reverse Retro jersey, but again, it’s a sin according to Leafs fans and historians to put it on the base design of some of the worst Maple Leafs hockey in franchise history.

Also, it’s a crime to put a blue maple leaf on a blue Maple Leafs jersey– and with blue numbers on the sides and back too!

There’s so much adidas could’ve done with Toronto’s lengthy history of jerseys and instead they went for the most bland design.

If they hadn’t used up the throwbacks to the Toronto Arenas and Toronto St. Pats over the last few years, then that would’ve been a great opportunity for a Reverse Retro look that was truly something special.

Even still, they could’ve gone with anything from 1927-67 or 1992-2011 for a better retro feel.

These are just insulting to the Leafs’ legacy.

Grade: F

Vancouver Canucks (based on the 2001-06 alternate)

Gradients aren’t usually something that look great in sports– especially on a hockey jersey. Yet, this time around the Vancouver Canucks have made significant strides in gradient technology.

When this template first hit the ice in 2001, Vancouver utilized a slow change from blue to maroon which– while being a little bit out there– didn’t look completely out of place for Canucks standards.

It wasn’t the greatest thing ever seen, but it also wasn’t the worst, since Vancouver’s previous gradient design was a horizontal change as opposed to the almost symmetrical vertical approach.

Plus, the Canucks had those “V” jerseys before, so it can’t possibly get any worse, right?

This time around, instead of maroon, the Canucks are using green and a sharper looking number font. Sometimes progress takes time, but when it’s allowed the time to grow, the end result is something pretty special.

These Reverse Retro threads get a seal of approval as one of the better nods to an organization’s more recent past.

Grade: A

Vegas Golden Knights (based on the Las Vegas Thunder 1993-98 design)

The Vegas Golden Knights were born in 2017, therefore making it pretty difficult to reverse something retro that hadn’t even been born yet.

If you were thinking “well, they could at least reverse the colors of their jerseys” then you must not have noticed the introduction of their gold alternate uniform this offseason, so that limits you further.

Unless you get creative.

“Sin City” used to have an International Hockey League (IHL) team known as the Las Vegas Thunder.

The Thunder had a primarily a 1990s looking teal, silver, black and white color scheme and used the template that Vegas based their Reverse Retro jersey on to design this red edition with the Golden Knights’ alternate logo on the front of it.

It works, but at what cost?

Vegas could use a red jersey in their overall selection of jerseys to choose from, but this one probably won’t be getting too much time in the spotlight.

Even for a place where “a bit much” is the standard, this jersey seems a bit too much.

Grade: C

Washington Capitals (based on the 1995-2000 road design)

The Washington Capitals hit a home run by digging out the eagle and updating it with their current colors. The only thing that should change if these become part of their jersey rotation is the name and number font.

It’s nice to see something from the past brought into the future, but it’d also be nice to see it get cleaned up a bit more than just the occasional dusting.

It’s an iconic look from the days of a questionable change in the direction of the franchise’s branding, but in the end it made the team that much better.

Or maybe this all just the nostalgia talking. Either way, it gets them an “A”.

Grade: A

Winnipeg Jets (based on the old 1979-80 Winnipeg Jets)

Like the Minnesota Wild and their relation to the Minnesota North Stars, the current Winnipeg Jets have nothing to do with the old Winnipeg Jets, but at least the Jets have the ability to use the old Jets logo.

They also have the ability to use the old Jets’ colors, which could’ve led to a unique red based Reverse Retro jersey, but we got something that looks like it was designed by Snow Miser instead.

Did it really have to be grey?

The Aviator Jersey is at least more colorful than this and did a better job inverting the color scheme than whatever’s going on here.

The logo is fine, the rest of the jersey is, well, it leaves something to be desired.

Grade: D-

Categories
Free Agency NHL

Winnipeg Stays BEAUtiful

The Winnipeg Jets have brought back defenseman Nathan Beaulieu on a two-year deal with an average annual value of $1.250 million. Beaulieu was plagued last season due to injuries and only played 38 games.

In those 38 games, Beaulieu scored one goal and had seven assists for eight points. Not the season Winnipeg and Beaulieu were hoping for there’s room for redemption if he can stay healthy.

Beaulieu made it known that he wanted to stay in Winnipeg and he got his wish.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

2020 NHL Entry Draft: Round 1 Recap

Round 1 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was held virtually Tuesday night after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic changed plans from hosting the draft at Bell Centre in Montreal to a properly socially distanced from home event.

Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.

As always, there were plenty of surprises and (possibly) a lack of trades. Here’s how it all went down.

2020 NHL Entry Draft Round 1

1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski Océanic, (QMJHL)

2. Los Angeles Kings–> C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–> C/LW Tim Stützle, Adler Mannheim (DEL)

4. Detroit Red Wings–> RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda HC (SHL)

5. Ottawa Senators–> D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)

6. Anaheim Ducks–> D Jamie Drysdale, Erie Otters (OHL)

7. New Jersey Devils–> RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

8. Buffalo Sabres–> RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

9. Minnesota Wild–> C Marco Rossi, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

10. Winnipeg Jets–> C/LW Cole Perfetti, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

11. Nashville Predators–> G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

12. Florida Panthers–> C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–> C/RW Seth Jarvis, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

14. Edmonton Oilers–> C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA)

15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins)–> LW Rodion Amirov, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

16. Montreal Canadiens–> D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

17. Chicago Blackhawks–> LW Lukas Reichel, Eisbären Berlin (DEL)

18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–> C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)

19. New York Rangers (from Calgary Flames)–> D Braden Schneider, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–> D Shakir Mukhamadullin, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

21. Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Yegor Chinakhov, Avangard Omsk (KHL)

22. Washington Capitals (from Carolina Hurricanes via New York Rangers and Calgary Flames)–> C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)

23. Philadelphia Flyers–> RW Tyson Foerster, Barrie Colts (OHL)

24. Calgary Flames (from Washington Capitals)–> C Connor Zary, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

25. Colorado Avalanche–> D Justin Barron, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

26. St. Louis Blues–> LW Jake Neighbours, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–> RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–> C Ridly Greig, Brandon Wheat Kings (OHL)

29. Vegas Golden Knights–> C Brendan Brisson, Chicago Steel (USHL)

30. Dallas Stars–> C Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–> RW Ozzy Wiesblatt, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Trades made on Day 1 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft:

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets traded F Josh Anderson to the Montreal Canadiens for F Max Domi and a 2020 3rd round pick (78th overall).
  • The Calgary Flames traded their 2020 1st round pick (19th overall) to the New York Rangers for a 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall from Carolina via NYR) and a 2020 3rd round pick (72nd overall).
  • Calgary later flipped their 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall from Carolina via NYR) to the Washington Capitals for a 2020 1st round pick (24th overall) and a 2020 3rd round pick (80th overall).
Categories
NHL Nick's Net

2020 Mock Draft: The Complete First Round

It’s June October and the Stanley Cup has been awarded and already cleaned more than a few times from all of the beer and other things that the Tampa Bay Lightning have done with it, which means it’s the perfect time to gather in a city around your TV screen and be ready to throw on any of the 31 National Hockey League team draft hats (excluding the Seattle Kraken– we’ll deal with them next season) when your name is called.

Well, if you’re one of the 31 prospects lucky enough to go in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Tuesday night, at least. Rounds 2-7 will take place Wednesday, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET as always– kind of.

For the first time in NHL history, this year’s draft is virtual thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL

Montreal was set to play host to the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Centre back on June 26th and 27th, but it’s 2020 and with the global pandemic still going on, the league originally postponed the event back on March 25th before announcing it as a virtual draft at a later date (this week).

It’s also the first time that the draft is being held outside of June since the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, which was held at the Westin Hotel Ottawa in Canada’s capital city– Ottawa, Ontario– on July 30th of that year and it’s the first time that the draft is being held completely on weekday(s) for the first time since the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in Hartford, Connecticut, which was on Tuesday, June 28th of that year (remember the Whalers?).

The projected first overall pick– Alexis Lafrenfière– will get his moment in the spotlight sometime once the 2020-21 regular season begins, but until then he’ll have to settle for whatever lights his parents have in the living room.

Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.

1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski, (QMJHL)

Considered the best player to come out of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League since Sidney Crosby– who also played for Rimouski Océanic back in his Junior days– Lafrenière is a no-brainer for the New York Rangers.

He might be the best player in the draft since Connor McDavid was selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, and for good reason.

Lafrenière had 35 goals and 77 assists (112 points) in 52 games for Rimouski this season until the rest of the regular season, as well as all of the postseason and Memorial Cup were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.

There’s nothing wrong with the Rangers stacking up on talent on the left side with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider already in play. Simply put Lafrenière on the third line if you must and watch the forward depth lead the club into a playoff contender.

2. Los Angeles Kings–> C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury (OHL)

Byfield had 32-50–82 totals in 45 games with the Ontario Hockey Leagues’s Sudbury Wolves this season. His 6-foot-4 , 215-pound frame will help ease the transition for the Los Angeles Kings from Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter down the middle to whatever’s next with Byfield taking center stage.

His speed and skating ability is already a cut above the rest in the draft and having a two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner (Kopitar) as a teammate should further elevate Byfield’s game into one of the better two-way centers as he’ll be sure to learn a thing or two from him.

3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–> C/LW Tim Stützle, Mannheim (DEL)

The best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl, Stützle amassed 7-27–34 totals in 41 games with Adler Mannheim in the DEL last season. He’s a dynamic forward that plays a mature game for his age, which is a promising sign for the Ottawa Senators that ensured they’d be having “unparalleled success from 2021-25”.

It’s not off to that promising of a start for the Sens, but with their rebrand, Stützle at 3rd overall and the 5th overall pick at their hands, Ottawa’s brighter days are ahead if not now. They’ll just need to find a new starting goaltender to really make them a playoff contender with Craig Anderson’s departure as part of Ottawa’s plan.

4. Detroit Red Wings–> D Jamie Drysdale, Erie (OHL)

While Detroit Red Wing General Manager, Steve Yzerman, could make a splash later in the week trying to attract Alex Pietrangelo or Michigan native, Torey Krug, to Detroit’s blue line, it’s about time the Red Wings took another defender to potentially anchor the defensive zone in the future with last year’s first round pick, Moritz Seider.

Drysdale checks off all the boxes for the Red Wings as the best defender in the draft and you know what wins championships in “Hockeytown”? Defense.

That said, he had 9-38–47 totals in 49 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20 and is capable of utilizing his 5-foot-11, 175-pound build to his advantage in a two-way game.

5. Ottawa Senators–> RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda (SHL)

Everybody loves Raymond and his playmaking abilities– drawing comparisons to Ottawa’s intra-province rival, Toronto Maple Leafs forward, Mitch Marner, according to scouts and mock draft experts alike.

His skill, two-way style and high hockey IQ are what sets him apart from other players his age and pairs well with Stützle in the picture for the Sens as a pair of players that could change the face of a franchise on their own. In 33 games last season with Frölunda HC, Raymond had 10 points (four goals, six assists) playing as a teenager among men in the SHL.

He has one goal and one assist (two points) in four games this season already.

6. Anaheim Ducks–> C/LW Cole Perfetti, Saginaw (OHL)

The Anaheim Ducks need some scoring power as they stockpile youth on the roster and Perfetti brings the right amount of scoring prowess combined with an all-around ability that sets him apart as a forward.

Perfetti’s vision is one that will generate scoring chances– whether for himself or a teammate– as he amassed 37 goals and 74 assists (111 points) with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) in 61 games last season.

At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, he’s not flashy, but he creates space for his own game and that’ll compliment well with Anaheim’s need for a true top-six forward in the coming years– be it first or second line center or just a solid option at left wing.

7. New Jersey Devils–> C Marco Rossi, Ottawa (OHL)

Like the Senators, the New Jersey Devils have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft and if everything goes according to plan, the Devils will make off with a pretty solid core of forwards to intersperse among their organizational depth.

Rossi lit up the OHL in scoring last season with 39 goals and 81 assists (120 points) in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s, while drawing comparisons to that of Claude Giroux. Meanwhile, he could join the likes of Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and others as one of few Austrian born players to be drafted in the first round.

8. Buffalo Sabres–> C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)

Lundell had 10-18–28 totals in 44 games with HIFK last season in Finland’s top professional league (Liiga) and has a knack for protecting the puck rather well.

One of the better two-way centers in the draft, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound 19-year-old has some room to grow into a top-six role with the Buffalo Sabres in the near future– especially if Casey Mittelstadt and/or Tage Thompson can’t solidify their game in terms of a long-term second line center companion to Jack Eichel’s standout status as the first line center.

The Sabres need to shore up their strength down the middle– regardless of Eric Staal’s presence for this season on the second or third line.

9. Minnesota Wild–> C/RW Seth Jarvis, Portland (WHL)

Jarvis had 98 points (42 goals, 56 assists) in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season before the pandemic cut things short.

He’s a crafty new-age center that has room to grow and has shown he can be more of a second-half of the season player that could one day peak at the right time for something the Minnesota Wild haven’t seen in a while– a deep playoff run.

With the Wild moving on from Mikko Koivu, Minnesota will need to replenish the pipeline down the middle both in the immediate and for the future.

10. Winnipeg Jets–> D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)

Sanderson could go higher in the draft or lower reminiscent of how Cam Fowler fell from 5th in the final rankings coming into the 2010 NHL Draft to being selected 12th overall by the Ducks.

He plays with aggression and has a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame that could make losing Dustin Byfuglien prior to last season a little bit easier for the Jets– though Sanderson has big shoes to fill on a diminished Winnipeg blue line, unless GM Kevin Cheveldayoff flips Patrik Laine for an incredible return to shore up some own zone help for 2019-20 Vezina Trophy winning goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck.

With some polishing of his skills at the University of North Dakota whenever the 2020-21 season is expected to begin, Sanderson could improve from his 7-22–29 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program into a power play specialist that loves to use the body.

11. Nashville Predators–> D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert (WHL)

One of David Poile’s strengths as Nashville Predators GM has long been drafting defenders and Guhle is no exception to the rule. At 6-foot-2, 186-pounds, he could fit in with reigning Norris Trophy winner, Roman Josi, as well as Mattias Ekholm and friends on the blue line.

With 11-29–40 totals in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL last season, Guhle is a consummate two-way defender that can grind his way out of battles and move the puck out of his own zone– a strong suit of Nashville’s defensive core for at least the last 15 years.

12. Florida Panthers–> RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens (SHL)

Holtz had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 35 games with Djurgårdens IF last season in the SHL as a pure goal scorer that’s waiting to emerge with a plethora of shots to take.

He led players 18 and under in Sweden’s top league in scoring and has decent size (6-foot, 192-pounds) to go with adapting well to the increased intensity of NHL-level hockey in due time, though he’ll probably use another season to develop as a more prominent scorer with Djurgårdens in 2020-21.

That said, new Florida Panthers GM, Bill Zito, will take to stocking up prospects in Florida’s new affiliation with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) with pleasure if the American Hockey League is able to make a season happen in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–> RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa (OHL)

Though the Carolina Hurricanes could go with taking a goaltender in the first round, GM Don Waddell just might be satisfied enough with how Alex Nedeljkovic continues to develop with Carolina’s new AHL affiliate– the Chicago Wolves– and instead opt for the next best available player in Quinn.

Carolina is much more satisfied crafting a plan via free agency or through a trade to add a goaltender this offseason for what could hopefully bolster their chances as a Cup contender– that’s right, it’s time for the Canes to unleash a storm on the rest of the league as a big improvement from last season to this season.

Quinn was one of two 50-goal scorers in the OHL last season as he finished the year with 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games. He’s also one of eight OHL players to score at least 50 goals in their first NHL draft eligible season since 2000-01.

You know who else did that? Guys like Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jeff Skinner and Alex DeBrincat. Not too shabby.

14. Edmonton Oilers–> G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

The best goaltender in the draft, Askarov had a 12-3 record in 18 games in Russia’s second-tier league last season. He amassed a 2.45 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in the process and has a .974 SV%, as well as a 0.74 GAA through three games with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL this season.

As the Edmonton Oilers continue to find their way while trying to avoid wasting the primes of once in a generation talents like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’d make perfect sense for the Oilers to nail down a solid goaltending prospect for once.

Especially as there’s an immediate need for someone to replace Mikko Koskinen and/or whoever Edmonton chases after in free agency.

While the team that beat the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final passed over him in this hypothetical mock first round, Edmonton was sure to snag Askarov before anyone else could.

15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins)–> D Braden Schneider, Brandon (WHL)

While serving as an alternate captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) for the second year of his three full Junior seasons thus far, Schneider brought forth a solid two-way game to contribute to his team on the ice in addition to his leadership in the dressing room.

He had 7-35–42 totals in 60 games last season with the Wheat Kings, while utilizing his 6-foot-2, 202-pound body to shutdown opponents with his two-way game.

Schneider won’t be ready to hit the NHL ice in 2020-21, but he should be able to slide into a prominent role with the Toronto Maple Leafs in due time.

16. Montreal Canadiens–> C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

Mercer is a versatile forward that could be beneficial to fitting in with the Montreal Canadiens current game plan– find as many Nick Suzuki’s as possible among their forwards and roll four lines while hoping for the best in Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and others on defense, as well as Carey Price in goal.

The Habs are at a transition point from their old core to a new-age dynamic with the added bonus of head coach, Claude Julien, reconstructing his coaching strategies to propel the Canadiens forward from their .500 season in 2019-20, to hopefully a more legitimate standing as a playoff team in 2020-21.

Mercer amassed 60 points between the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 42 games in the OHL last season and should be able to add a little bit of a power forward component to Montreal’s roster in the near future.

17. Chicago Blackhawks–> D Justin Barron, Halifax (QMJHL)

Barron missed a chunk of time last season with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) due to a blood clot issue, but still managed to put up 4-15–19 totals in 34 games from the blue line while playing an efficient physical game.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a solid group of young forwards emerging that it’s about time they start focusing a little more on developing a defense– whether it’s from within by selecting Barron or through free agency and making trades. In either case, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook aren’t getting any younger and they can’t play forever.

18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–> RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia (OHL)

With their second pick in the first round, New Jersey snags a versatile winger with a knack for shooting the puck and scoring. Perreault had 39-31–70 totals in 57 games with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) last season and should be ready to make an impact on the Devils’ NHL roster sooner rather than later.

He also led Sarnia with 15 power-play goals last season and could help load up New Jersey’s talent pool on the special teams.

19. Calgary Flames–> C Connor Zary, Kamloops (WHL)

If the Calgary Flames are serious about making some big changes to their core, they’re going to need to find a long-term solution down the middle and, luckily, Zary brings just that.

A dynamic skater with decent hands, he had 38 goals and 48 assists (86 points) in 57 games with the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) last season and lends himself to a suitable role as a team player with his 6-foot, 178-pound build at center.

20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–> C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)

Upper body injuries limited Lapierre to 19 games last season, but he managed to put up 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in that span as one of the better playmakers his age.

The Devils complete their trifecta of first round picks with a bit of a gamble, but a high upside if everything works out and Lapierre’s health doesn’t end up being a concern. New Jersey’s influx of speed, skill and youth should be able to get them to attract some key role players in the coming years to fill out bottom-six roles on a playoff contending roster.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets–> C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin (NCAA)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have taken to college hockey players with a lot of love in recent years and there’s no love lost for scooping up Holloway and his 6-foot, 203-pound frame as either a center or left wing in the near future in Flavortown.

He had 8-9–17 totals in 35 games in his freshman year with the Wisconsin Badgers and will likely need at least one more year under his belt in the college program before making the jump, but with the addition of Max Domi via trade ahead of the draft on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets can take their time to craft a heavy hitting lineup down the middle.

22. New York Rangers (from Carolina Hurricanes)–> C Ridly Greig, Brandon (OHL)

Despite being 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, Greig can play in any role and has a good hockey IQ that comes in handy at both ends of the rink. His 26-34–60 totals in 56 games with the Wheat Kings last season should be decent enough for the Rangers to supplement their first round choice in Lafrenière in due time.

23. Philadelphia Flyers–> C Brendan Brisson, Chicago (USHL)

Brisson had 24-35–59 totals in 45 games with the Chicago Steel (USHL) last season and will be attending the University of Michigan to further develop his two-way game.

His consistency should only improve, as well as his scoring ability, which is promising for the Philadelphia Flyers as Claude Giroux peaks in his prime about the time Brisson could make his NHL debut.

24. Washington Capitals–> LW Rodion Amirov, Ufa (KHL)

In what’s not a surprise to anyone, the Washington Capitals aren’t afraid to take a shot on a Russian forward as Amirov had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in Russia’s second-tier league last season. His shot and playmaking skills are good, but he’ll need a little time to develop and get stronger before hitting the ice at the NHL level.

25. Colorado Avalanche–> RW Tyson Foerster, Barrie (OHL)

At 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, Foerster brings some size to the Colorado Avalanche’s pool of prospects to go along with his 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games last season with the Barrie Colts (OHL). He’s also a decent playmaker, which fits right in with the team mentality of the Avs in their current era.

26. St. Louis Blues–> LW John-Jason Peterka, München (DEL)

Peterka led Germany with four goals in seven games at the 2020 World Junior Championship and has an impressive skating ability for his age, which lends itself to playing amongst the professionals in the DEL. He had 7-4–11 totals in 42 games with EHC München last season and is expected to continue to develop his game and work on using his size (5-foot-11, 192-pounds) to his advantage.

27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–> D Jérémie Poirier, Saint John (QMJHL)

With their second pick in the first round, the Ducks don’t mind taking a defender and letting him take his time to get better in his own zone before making an impact in Anaheim. Poirier had 20 goals and 33 assists (53 points) in 64 games last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and plays a “live by the sword, die by the sword” game that can really come into its own as a shutdown defender with some more development.

28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–> D Helge Grans, Malmö (SWE J20)

Grans is a right-shot defender that has a great understanding of the game and decent vision to go along with his 4-23–27 totals in 27 games in Sweden’s junior lead last season, as well as one goal and two assists for Malmö in 21 games in the SHL last season.

He impressed coaches enough to begin the 2020-21 season in Sweden’s top league and should round out a great first round draft for the Senators.

29. Vegas Golden Knights–> D Ryan O’Rourke, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

A two-way defender, O’Rourke has a good hockey sense and had 7-30–37 totals in 54 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) last season. The Vegas Golden Knights already have a solid defensive core, but would be establishing an even better foundation for the future by taking the 6-foot, 178-pound defender.

30. Dallas Stars–> C Thomas Bordeleau, USA U-18 (USHL)

Bordeleau had 16-30–46 totals in 47 games with the U.S. National Development Program last season and has room to grow, but has time to develop within the Stanley Cup runners’ up, Dallas Stars’, system. A native of Texas, he’ll be attending the University of Michigan this fall.

31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–> D William Wallinder, MoDo (SWE J20)

Rounding out the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent the San Jose Sharks the 31st overall pick for Barclay Goodrow back when the global pandemic hadn’t put an early end to the regular season and before the Bolts won the Cup. As a result, the Sharks have the last pick in the first round since they traded their 2020 1st round pick to Ottawa in the Erik Karlsson trade.

As such, it’s only fitting that San Jose continue to build up their defense with Wallinder as a solid option for moving the puck out of his own zone– either by carrying it on his own or finding an open teammate, while shutting down opponents with his 6-foot-4, 191-pound build.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 1 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

It seems everybody’s scoring points these days as the Tampa Bay Lightning won, 8-2, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Final matchup with the New York Islanders on Monday.

Seriously, 11 different Lightning players had at least a point in Monday night’s series opener, while Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each had five points in the victorious effort.

Tampa carries a, 1-0, series lead heading into Game 2 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS). Here’s five takeaways for the next game, as well as the series as a whole.

1. Can the Islanders actually contain Tampa’s offense?

Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on nine shots against in the first 10:46 of the game before being replaced by Semyon Varlamov, but that wasn’t the only reason why New York is behind, 1-0, in the series.

Neither the Columbus Blue Jackets, nor the Boston Bruins were able to limit the Lightning’s attacking zone time and possession, which was not only evident by the fact that each of their series matchups with Tampa only lasted five games– the scoreboard reflected it too.

At any point in time, the Bolts can strike fast and amass goals in bunches (as exhibited by their three goals in the first 10:46 of Monday’s game, plus the other five goals they scored afterward).

It’s that momentum swing that the Islanders (or any team that may face the Lightning if Tampa advances to the Stanley Cup Final) will have to be wary about and eliminate at all costs.

Simply put, the Lightning play with a surge in electricity.

2. Inconsistent shots for the Isles

Tampa outshot New York, 10-6, in the first period and finished the second period with an, 18-17, advantage before going on to finish the game with a, 34-24, total shots on goal advantage.

The Lightning went 58:53 without missing the net in Game 1. The only shot attempt that did not go on net for the Bolts came with 67 seconds left in the game off of Cedric Paquette’s stick blade.

Meanwhile, the Islanders– a team primarily built on a defense-first game plan– failed to record at least 30 shots on goal for the second-straight game after amassing 26 shots on net against the Philadelphia Flyers in their, 4-0, win in Game 7 of their Second Round matchup.

New York only allowed 16 shots against that night too.

In their, 5-4, double overtime loss to the Flyers in Game 6, the Islanders recorded 53 shots on goal and allowed 31 shots against.

Game 5 against Philadelphia resulted in a, 4-3, loss in overtime, while shots on goal were even at 32 aside.

The Islanders were outshot, 38-33, in Game 4, but won, 3-2. New York had a, 29-27, advantage in their, 3-1, win in Game 3, as well as a, 34-31, advantage in their, 4-3, overtime loss in Game 2.

Both teams had 29 shots on goal in New York’s, 4-0, win in Game 1 of their Second Round series with Philadelphia.

Without breaking down the quality of their shots for and shots against, a generalized remedy for the Islanders would be to get more pucks on net (duh) and prevent the Lightning from hitting the twine or whichever goaltender Barry Trotz starts in Game 2 against the Bolts.

3. Followup question, who should start in net for New York?

It’s not like Greiss had really made consecutive starts in the postseason before doing just that from Game 7 against Philadelphia on Saturday to Game 1 against Tampa Bay on Monday.

His 2-2 record in four games doesn’t really speak for his 2.02 goals against average and .929 save percentage in the 2020 postseason.

Plus he got most of the night off, so he should still be fresh enough, in theory.

Meanwhile, Varlamov’s decent 9-4 record in 15 games this postseason stands out on its own, but his goals against average is on the rise as of his last two outings to a 2.22, while his save percentage has dropped to a .913.

Still, the Islanders goaltenders have combined for three shutouts this postseason (Varlamov has two, Greiss has one), which are three more shutouts than what Andrei Vasilevskiy has so far (zero, in case that wasn’t clear).

As bad as Greiss’ .667 SV% in Game 1 sounds, Varlamov still allowed five goals against after Greiss gave up the first three in the, 8-2, loss, so Varlamov’s .800 SV% in Game 1 isn’t ideal either.

If anything, Trotz will have to adjust his matchups to curb the speed of Tampa’s rush and instruct his players on getting in passing and shooting lanes to ease the high danger workload of whichever goaltender he opts for in Game 2.

4. Just how many franchise records will Tampa…

In case you haven’t heard by now, the Lightning are good.

So good, in fact, they tied, broke and set some franchise records in Game 1, including:

— The most assists in a playoff year by a Lightning player (Kucherov had four assists in Game 1 to break Martin St. Louis’ previous mark of 15 helpers in 2004, and set the new franchise record with 16 in 2020).

— The first players in franchise history to record five points in a playoff game (Point had two goals and three assists, while Kucherov had one goal and four assists).

— Tampa’s eight goals matched their franchise record for the most goals in a playoff game (the Lightning had eight in what was also an, 8-2, win in Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Penguins).

Oh and the Bolts improved to 5-0 in their last five playoff games going back to Game 2 against Boston in the Second Round, while outscoring their opponents by a combined, 25-9, margin in the process.

Plus, Point and Kucherov are the second pair of teammates to each record five or more points in a Conference Finals game (since 1982).

Paul Coffey had one goal and five assists (six points), while Jari Kurri had three goals and two assists (five points) in Game 5 of the 1985 Clarence Campbell Conference Final with the Oilers.

5. Will the Lightning buck the trend?

In the last decade or so, the team that plays a longer Conference Final than their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final usually wins the Cup.

It happened just as recent as last year, when the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and had 10 days off before the 2019 Stanley Cup Final began.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the 2019 Western Conference Final and only had five days between the third and fourth round of the postseason.

The Blues, of course, won the Cup in seven games.

In terms of significant time off between one series to the next, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after beating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in five games in the 2006 Western Conference Final, then lost in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final in seven games to the Hurricanes who had just come off of a seven-game series win against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006 Eastern Conference Final.

The aforementioned Mighty Ducks had 10 days off after sweeping the Minnesota Wild in the 2003 Western Conference Final, then lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final in seven games after New Jersey had just three days off between their seven-game series win over the Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Final and the Cup Final.

Obviously those few examples don’t cover the last decade, but fear not, let’s get that out of the way now…

The 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, while the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the Eastern Conference Final before losing in six games to Chicago in the Final.

O.K. that one didn’t fit the trend, but in 2011, the Vancouver Canucks ousted the Sharks in five games, while the Bruins beat the Lightning in seven games, then went on to beat Vancouver in seven games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the Western Conference Final, while the Devils overcame the New York Rangers in six games. Los Angeles beat New Jersey in six games to capture their first Cup in franchise history.

Wait, it happened again, didn’t it?

Well, in 2013, the Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East, while the Blackhawks took five games to knockout the Kings in the West, then beat Boston in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. A-ha! There’s one!

In 2014, the Rangers beat Montreal in six games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Kings defeated the Blackhawks in seven games before Los Angeles won their second Cup in three years by defeating New York in five games.

In 2015, both Tampa and Chicago went all seven games in their respective Conference Finals matchups with the Rangers and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.

Chicago won their third Cup in five years in six games over the Bolts in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, though.

In 2016, the Penguins beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Sharks beat the Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final.

Pittsburgh defeated San Jose in six games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2017, the Penguins edged out the Senators in seven games in the East, while the Nashville Predators beat the Ducks in six games in the West.

Pittsburgh went back-to-back as two-time defending Cup champions with their fifth title in franchise history after defeating the Predators in six games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

And, of course, back in 2018, the Washington Capitals beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the Western Conference Final.

Washington won the Cup in five games over Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Back in 1993, of course, the Canadiens beat the Islanders in five games in the Prince of Wales Conference Final, while Los Angeles took seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Clarence Campbell Conference Final.

The Habs defeated the Kings in five games to capture the Cup in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final– what’s perhaps the most recent instance of a team amassing a week off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final and still winning the Cup despite all that time off.

Either that or it’s one more chance to point out that this year’s Cup will be awarded on Canadian sole, but for the 27th year in-a-row, it won’t be going to a Canadian based NHL club.

Assuming (since they won Game 1) that the Lightning go on to punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in as little as four or five games and the 2020 Western Conference Final matchup between the Dallas Stars and Golden Knights goes six or seven games, then Tampa could be in trouble.

Then again, with the bubble in place and resulting lack of travel— as well as a condensed schedule due to the hopes of still having an 82-game regular season in 2020-21— the earliest the 2020 Stanley Cup Final could begin would be around Sept. 21st or 22nd, since the league already determined the Final must end by or on Oct. 4th— which would leave the Bolts with about a week off to scout their next potential opponent in person for as long as the West takes to decide their series.

For any Islanders fans that thought I forgot about them, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after sweeping the Minnesota North Stars in the 1984 Semifinals (the precursor to the modern Conference Finals round), while New York took down Montreal in six games and had four days off between the Semifinals and the 1984 Stanley Cup Final.

Edmonton won the series in five games in what is the Islanders’ most-recent Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #204- Late For Everything!

Nick and Colby talk about what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams eliminated in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier, as well as preview the already in progress 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round.

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

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview: Western Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

8/8- Game 5 CHI @ EDM*

*If necessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not ideal, ideally speaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

*If necessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a transition period, nonetheless.

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

*If necessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, let’s check the backup…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regular season outcomes:

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

Schedule:

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

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

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

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

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

*If necessary


2020 Western Conference Round Robin Action

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

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

St. Louis Blues

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

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

Aug. 6th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 9th vs. DAL in Edmonton, TBD

Colorado Avalanche

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

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

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

Aug. 8th vs. VGK in Edmonton, TBD

Vegas Golden Knights

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

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

Aug. 6th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD

Aug. 8th @ COL in Edmonton, TBD

Dallas Stars

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

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

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

Aug. 9th @ STL in Edmonton, TBD