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Bruins thrash Capitals in, 7-3, road victory

David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each had a pair of goals, but both players paled in comparison to Matt Grzelcyk’s five-point night (one goal, four assists) as the Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals, 7-3, at Capital One Arena on Monday night.

Grzelcyk (1-4–5) became the first Bruins defender to score five points in a game since Ray Bourque (0-5–5) also had five points against the Capitals in an, 8-2, win at Boston Garden on Jan. 2, 1994.

Linus Ullmark (11-5-0, 2.57 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 16 games played) made 27 saves on 30 shots against in the win for Boston.

Washington goaltender, Zach Fucale (1-1-1, 1.74 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in four games played), stopped 12 out of 16 shots faced before being replaced by Vitek Vanecek almost midway in the second period.

Vanecek (6-4-5, 2.62 goals-against average, .907 save percentage in 17 games played) had 12 saves on 15 shots in relief of Fucale for no decision.

The Bruins improved to 19-11-2 (40 points) on the season and remain in command of 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Capitals fell to 20-8-9 (49 points) overall despite holding onto 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division.

The B’s are now 1-0-0 against the Caps so far this season and went 4-2-2 against Washington last season.

Charlie McAvoy made his return to the blue line for Boston after missing the last two games due to a lower body injury.

McAvoy suited up alongside Grzelcyk in his usual spot on the first defensive pairing on Monday, while Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton joined Jake DeBrusk and Tomáš Nosek in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol.

As a result of Forbort and Clifton’s absence, Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore were made the de facto third pairing defenders in Washington, D.C.

Karson Kuhlman also made his return to action for the Bruins since being placed in COVID protocol on Jan. 1st and missing the last four games.

With Nick Foligno (lower body) out against the Capitals, Trent Frederic was promoted to the third line left wing role, while Curtis Lazar centered the fourth line and Kuhlman slid in on the right side.

In summary, the B’s were without Foligno (lower body), Forbort (COVID protocol), Steven Fogarty (taxi squad), Troy Grosenick (taxi squad), Jakub Zboril (right ACL), DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Clifton (COVID protocol) and Nosek (COVID protocol) on Wednesday.

DeBrusk is expected to be cleared from the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday and practice with the team and may be in the lineup on Wednesday as Boston plays host to the Montréal Canadiens.

Conor Sheary kicked things off with a right place, right time calculated effort as Nic Dowd dumped the puck off the endboards, whereby Ullmark misplayed the puck and Brandon Carlo was out of position as Sheary (9) picked up the loose puck and scored on a backhand shot.

Dowd (5) and Garnet Hathaway (6) tallied the assists on Sheary’s first goal of the game as the Capitals took a, 1-0, lead at 3:02 of the first period.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Grzelcyk was penalized for interference, yielding the night’s first power play to Washington at 8:33, though the Caps couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Grzelcyk, at first, didn’t do much to redeem himself on the night after giving the puck away to Sheary (10) in the slot for a one-timer goal of sorts over Ullmark’s glove after Grzelcyk returned from the box.

Sheary’s unassisted effort gave Washington a, 2-0, lead on his second goal of the game at 12:32 of the first period.

Before long, however, the Capitals became undisciplined.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was penalized for holding at 13:27 and the Bruins went on their first power play of the night as a result.

Boston got a two-skater advantage about a minute later when Dowd took a chunk off of Marchand’s nose with a high stick at 14:42– leaving Marchand bloody and Dowd with a double-minor infraction as a result.

The B’s earned a 5-on-3 power play for 43 seconds until that, too, was cut short by Patrice Bergeron bumping into Lars Eller without the puck.

Bergeron cut a rut to the sin bin for interference at 15:09 and the Bruins held onto a rare 4-on-3 advantage for about 15 seconds before the two teams played at 4-on-4 for a span of 1:42.

While Dowd was still in the box serving his double-minor, however, John Carlson delivered a swift cross check to Erik Haula’s backside and was penalized at 18:19 of the first period– yielding another 5-on-3 power play for Boston, albeit for 23 seconds.

It didn’t take long for the Bruins to strike, however, as Marchand setup Pastrnak (12) in his usual spot from the dot on the left side for a one-timed power-play goal– cutting into Washington’s lead, 2-1, at 18:34.

Marchand (20) and Grzelcyk (8) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal.

Less than a minute later, Marchand (15) received a pass from Grzelcyk and raced up the boards into the attacking zone before unloading a wrist shot that appeared to deflect off of Trevor van Riemsdyk’s stick and floated over Fucale’s shoulder on the far, blocker side, from the right dot.

Grzelcyk (9) and Pastrnak (14) notched the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins tied it, 2-2, at 19:14 of the first period.

After one period, the B’s and Caps were tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Washington leading in shots on goal, 11-10.

The Capitals also maintained an advantage in blocked shots (4-2), while Boston led in takeaways (3-0), giveaways (2-0), hits (10-9) and faceoff win percentage (57-43).

Washington was 0/1 and Boston was 2/4 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Early in the middle frame, Anton Blidh fed Grzelcyk a lead pass from the neutral zone into the attacking zone before Grzelcyk (2) flung a shot from just past the blue line over Fucale’s glove side into the top corner of the net– giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, in the process.

Blidh (4) had the only assist on Grzelcyk’s goal at 2:51 of the second period and the B’s never looked back as Grzelcyk earned his first career three-point night (that he would then extend into his first career five-point night).

Moments later, Bergeron made a save at the other end of the rink while blocking a shot driveway hockey style as Ullmark was down and out.

The Bruins surged in momentum and raced to their attacking zone whereby Lazar wrapped the puck around the net and slipped a pass through the slot to Craig Smith (4) for the one-timer goal.

Lazar (5) and Blidh (5) picked up the assists as Boston took a, 4-2, lead at 7:53 of the second period.

Capitals head coach, Peter Laviolette, then decided that four unanswered goals against was the perfect time to make a change in the crease– replacing Fucale with Vanecek.

It didn’t take Boston long to beat Vanecek as a warm welcome to the ice.

Taylor Hall and Pastrnak skated in on a 2-on-1 before Hall sent a pass over to Pastrnak (13) for a catch and release goal over Vanecek’s glove on the far side– top shelf– under the bar.

Hall (14) and Vaakanainen (2) notched the assists as Pastrnak recorded his second goal of the game and Boston’s fifth unanswered goal to take a, 5-2, lead at 8:54 of the second period.

Less than five minutes later, Haula (3) snapped a shot from about the faceoff circle over Vanecek’s glove– extending the Bruins’ lead to four goals at 13:09.

Hall (15) and Grzelcyk (10) were credited with the assists on Haula’s goal and the B’s led, 6-2, past the midpoint of the night’s action.

Less than a minute later, Washington scored a fluke goal– ending Boston’s run of six unanswered goals, thanks to T.J. Oshie’s (5) deflection on a shot pass from Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin (28) and Kuznetsov (23) had the assists on Oshie’s goal and the Capitals trailed, 6-3, at 14:06 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 6-3, on the scoreboard despite trailing, 22-21, in shots on goal. Both teams split shots on net in the second period alone, 11-11, however.

The Caps led in blocked shots (9-8), takeaways (7-4) and hits (24-18) after two periods, while Boston led in giveaways (4-2) and faceoff win% (58-42).

Washington was 0/1 on the power play, while the B’s were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Prior to the third period, the Bruins tweeted that Frederic would not return to Monday night’s game with an upper body injury.

Not much happened in the final frame until the midpoint when Marchand (16) scored his second goal of the game after Smith’s initial shot rebounded to Marchand for a beautiful display of hand-eye coordination– batting the puck out of mid-air to his blade before slipping the rubber biscuit over Vanecek’s outstretched pad, but under the blocker.

Smith (7) and Grzelcyk (11) notched the assists as the Bruins extended their lead to four goals once more, 7-3, at 10:59 of the third period.

Marchand’s second goal of the game also marked the most goals in a game for Boston this season.

Late in the period, Hall tripped up Martin Fehervary, but the Capitals weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play at 18:55.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 7-3, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-30– including a, 10-8, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston exited Capital One Arena holding an advantage in giveaways (6-3) and faceoff win% (57-43), while Washington left their own ice leading in blocked shots (12-11) and hits (35-27).

The Caps finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 2/4.

The Bruins improved to 7-6-2 (3-3-1 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-5-1 (2-2-1 on the road) when tied after the first period and 14-1-0 (10-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Meanwhile, Washington fell to 16-6-4 (9-2-2 at home) when scoring first, 7-4-3 (1-2-1 at home) when tied after one and 1-6-4 (0-3-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.

Boston returns home to host the Montréal Canadiens on Wednesday and begin a seven-game homestand. The Bruins will play host to the Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks before hitting the road again in Colorado on Jan. 26th.

The B’s host Montréal and Philadelphia on back-to-back nights, Wednesday and Thursday before finishing the current week against the Predators on Saturday.

Wednesday night’s game against the Canadiens was originally scheduled to be at Bell Centre, but due to the rise of the Omicron variant and capacity limits across Canada, that game has been postponed and instead Boston’s meeting with the Habs originally scheduled for March 21st has been moved up.

Tickets for March 21st in Boston will be honored on Jan. 12th against Montréal.

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Vegas Golden Knights 2019-20 Season Preview

Vegas Golden Knights

43-32-7, 93 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the First Round by San Jose

Additions: F Patrick Brown, F Tyrell Goulbourne, F Nicolas Roy (acquired from CAR), D Brett Lernout, D Jaycob Megna, G Garret Sparks (acquired from TOR)

Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with COL), F Ryan Carpenter (signed with CHI), F Daniel Carr (signed with NSH), F David Clarkson (traded to TOR), F Alex Gallant (signed with Stockton, AHL), F Nikita Gusev (traded to NJD), F Erik Haula (traded to CAR), F Tomas Hyka (KHL), F Tobias Lindberg (SHL), F Brooks Macek (KHL), F Stefan Matteau (signed with Cleveland, AHL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (KHL), F T.J. Tynan (signed with COL), D Philip Holm (signed with CHI), D Zachary Leslie (signed with Stockton, AHL), D Colin Miller (traded to BUF), G Zach Fucale (signed with TBL), G Maxime Lagace (signed with BOS)

Still Unsigned: D Griffin Reinhart

Re-signed: F Tomas Nosek, F Brandon Pirri, D Jake Bischoff, D Deryk Engelland, G Malcolm Subban

Offseason Analysis: Entering their third season in existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are looking to avenge a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with San Jose Sharks.

To do so, Vegas needed to improve their special teams and ensure fans that their penalty kill won’t allow four unanswered goals on a major penalty this time around.

Whether or not they actually did remains to be seen.

The Golden Knights are tight against the salary cap with $1,025,001 to work with after trading some key components to their roster depth this offseason.

While George McPhee was still in charge as General Manager, Vegas shipped Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 27th for Nicolas Roy and a conditional 2021 5th round pick.

If Haula is on Carolina’s roster past this season or if the Hurricanes trade him for a player, multiple draft picks or a draft pick in any of the rounds 1-5, then the Golden Knights receive the 5th round pick.

McPhee followed up his cap clearing maneuvers by sending defender, Colin Miller, to the Buffalo Sabres the following day for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.

Miller’s play in Vegas took a step backwards last season to the point that he was a non-factor. While he remains top-six NHL defender status in the league, the Sabres are the fourth organization that he’s been with since being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 151st overall in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Draft.

He’s in demand, but he’s also a commodity.

The Golden Knights helped the Toronto Maple Leafs make some much need cap space on July 23rd by sending the Leafs David Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick in exchange for backup goaltender (who will likely start the season with the Chicago Wolves, AHL), Garret Sparks, on July 23rd.

Less than a week later, Vegas shipped Nikita Gusev’s signing rights to the New Jersey Devils for a 2020 3rd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick on July 29th.

In the meantime, McPhee signed William Karlsson to an eight-year contract with a $5.900 million cap hit per season. Not bad, not bad at all.

Karlsson scored 43 goals in Vegas’ first season, but only had 24 goals last season.

As was announced in the spring, McPhee handed the GM reigns over to Kelly McCrimmon as both members of the Golden Knights’ front office were promoted effective Sept. 1st.

With much of the roster from last season back for another year, the question isn’t what can Gerard Gallant inspire his players to do this season, but rather, can Vegas’ goaltending provide enough of a balance in work load for Marc-Andre Fleury while the rest of the team prevents themselves from getting behind the eight-ball?

Owner Bill Foley hopes that the third time’s a charm as he laid out instructions– before the organization even had a name– to win the Stanley Cup in the franchise’s third season of existence.

Offseason Grade: C+

Signing Karlsson at an affordable price as long as he remains a 50-60 point player, while capitalizing on better than normal returns for expandable parts in the salary cap era have left the Golden Knights with a slightly above average offseason by all standards.

That said, if Vegas doesn’t make a deep playoff run in 2020, it’s important to note just how close they’ve set themselves up for being irrelevant one way or another as a playoff team or a bubble team until they sort their laundry (salary cap space).

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Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Forecast Through 62 Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now what about Karlsson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Season Preview

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Vegas Golden Knights

51-24-7, 109 points, 1st in the Pacific Division

Lost in Stanley Cup Final to WSH, 4-1

Additions: F Daniel Carr, G Zach Fucale, F Alex Gallant, D Nick Holden, F Curtis McKenzie, D Jimmy Oligny, F Max Pacioretty (acquired from MTL), F Paul Stastny

Subtractions: D Philip Holm (signed, KHL), F James Neal (signed with CGY), F David Perron (signed with STL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (signed, KHL), D Luca Sbisa (signed with NYI), F Nick Suzuki (traded to MTL), F Tomas Tatar (traded to MTL), F Paul Thompson (signed with FLA)

Still Unsigned: D Chris Casto, D Jason Garrison, F Mikhail Grabovski, D Clayton Stoner

Re-signed: F William Carrier, G Oscar Dansk, F William Karlsson, D Colin Miller, F Tomas Nosek, F Brandon Pirri, F Ryan Reaves, D Shea Theodore

Offseason Analysis: Only one team in the NHL’s more than a century of existence has ever won the Cup in their inaugural season. The 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights almost joined the 1917-18 Toronto Arenas as the only teams to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Toronto beat the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s (PCHA) Vancouver Millionaires 3-2 in a best of five-game series.

Vegas came up three wins short of winning it all in the modern-day best-of-seven game series against the Washington Capitals that the Stanley Cup Final has become.

The Golden Knights didn’t have an unfair advantage in the 2017 Expansion Draft. General Manager George McPhee worked the trade market to his advantage, primarily building the inaugural season’s core group of players through acquisitions.

Owner Bill Foley has touted the “Cup-in-three” mantra, meaning it’s his goal as an organization to win the Cup in their first three years of existence. Upon league expansion in 1967, it took the Philadelphia Flyers seven years to win their first Cup.

Foley wants to do it in half the time.

McPhee’s already gone to work on improving his roster from year one to year two. He’s added Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.

Stastny, 32, joins the Golden Knights after spending last season with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. In 82 games split between the Blues and Jets, Stastny had 16-37–53 totals.

A deadline acquisition by Winnipeg, he had 13 points down the stretch in the remaining 19 games of the regular season, then had his best career performance in the postseason (15 points in 17 games) en route to the Western Conference Final against (his now current team) Vegas.

Despite Stastny’s playmaking style and ability to elevate the players around him in Patrik Laine and friends in Winnipeg, the Jets were no match for the hard-charging Golden Knights.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

The old saying rings true for Stastny, despite Winnipeg’s intentions on re-signing the veteran NHL center entering his 13th season in the league. He’ll slide in on Vegas’ second line behind William Karlsson and play alongside one of his best friends since they played together at the 2010 Winter Games, Max Pacioretty.

Yes, that’s right, Pacioretty is a Golden Knight– in case you’ve been under a rock since training camp.

At its surface, the price of the Pacioretty trade is one well spent for both teams. Vegas acquired Pacioretty in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick. That’s right about what you’d expect as a going rate for a top-six scorer– one current roster player, a prospect and a draft pick.

But for all that McPhee dealt to the Detroit Red Wings to add Tatar at the trade deadline last season, this Pacioretty deal carries a hefty trade-tree baggage, whereby a lot of assets were ultimately tossed in the pot for Pacioretty’s services.

At the very least, McPhee not only added a five-time 30-goal scorer, but he signed him to a four-year extension right away too. So if things don’t work out this season, the Golden Knights will remain in the hunt for the next few years.

Why’s that?

On top of their solid core group of forwards, Vegas has a crafty defense that’s capable of doing more than turning heads like they did last season. There’s just one catch though– they’ll have to do it without Nate Schmidt for the first quarter of the regular season.

Schmidt will be serving a 20-game suspension for a performance enhancing drug, leaving Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to do the bulk of the work with Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland rounding out the rest of the top-four defenders.

Brad Hunt and Nick Holden, in the meantime, seek to use the first 20 games as an audition for the sixth defenseman role upon Schmidt’s return to the lineup.

Miller signed a four-year extension this summer and Theodore signed a seven-year deal worth $5.200 million per season. While seven years might be a bit more than the Golden Knights can chew if Theodore’s play heads south, at least he’s signed to a manageable $5.200 million cap hit– up to 50% of which can be retained in a trade.

With an immense top-nine group of forwards and questions surrounding who will step up on defense in Schmidt’s absence, head coach Gerard Gallant must adjust accordingly as he’s always done– on-the-fly and with the complete buy-in of the dressing room.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury— now signed through the 2021-22 season, thanks to a three-year extension this summer on top of the remaining year on his current contract– must find a way to continue his rejuvenated play in net. Last season’s 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage are more than likely unattainable in back-to-back seasons.

One thing working in Fleury’s favor is his reduced workload. In his second-straight season under 50 games played, Fleury appeared in 46 games last season after battling a concussion.

Malcolm Subban (2.68 GAA, .910 SV% in 22 games played last season) is still in line to become the next Golden Knights starting netminder in the post-Fleury era, but he undoubtedly must see an increase in playing time this season.

It’s not quite a 1A, 1B option for Vegas, but rather a precaution for Fleury and a means of keeping their starter fresh for what could be another long postseason run.

Unless any of the other Pacific Division teams have anything to say about it.

Offseason Grade: B+

McPhee bolstered his top-six forward group this offseason with two simple moves, while preserving the large-scale depth of the Golden Knights prospect pool. They didn’t land Erik Karlsson, John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk, but they did get Max Pacioretty.

And they still have quite an impressive amount of cap space to work with next offseason as the franchise continues to settle into existence.

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Montreal Canadiens 2018-19 Season Preview

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Montreal Canadiens

29-40-13, 71 points, 6th in the Atlantic Division

Additions: F Kenny Agostino, F Joel Armia (acquired from WPG), F Michael Chaput, F Max Domi (acquired from ARI), D Xavier Ouellet, F Matthew Peca, F Tomas Plekanec, F Hunter Shinkaruk (acquired from CGY)

Subtractions: D Simon Bourque (traded to WPG), F Daniel Carr (signed with VGK), F Adam Cracknell (signed with TOR), F Markus Eisenschmid (signed, DEL), G Zach Fucale (signed with VGK), F Alex Galchenyuk (traded to ARI), F Jeremy Gregoire (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), G Steve Mason (acquired from WPG, buyout), F Joonas Nattinen (signed, KHL), D Tom Parisi (signed, Great Britain), F Kerby Rychel (traded to CGY), F Chris Terry (signed with DET)

Still Unsigned: F Ales Hemsky, F Michael McCarron, F Logan Shaw

Re-signed: F Phillip Danault, F Jacob de la Rose

Offseason Analysis: They didn’t get Jeff Skinner, so now what?

The Montreal Canadiens 2018-19 regular season campaign can’t be much worse than 2017-18. While the Buffalo Sabres are sure to climb out of eighth in the Atlantic Division, at least the Ottawa Senators will more than likely be the foundation of the division standings come April.

Claude Julien‘s Canadiens had the third worst goal differential (a minus-55) in the league last season and with uncertainty surrounding Max Pacioretty‘s future in Montreal, well, that’s about to get worse. No amount of a healthy Carey Price can save the Canadiens porous defense, especially with star defender Shea Weber sidelined due to injury for at least a couple months.

General Manager Marc Bergevin made a little splash in the trade market this offseason, sending Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Max Domi. While Domi brings grit to the Canadiens lineup, so does Andrew Shaw— just without the scoring power.

Wait, Galchenyuk had six more points (19-32–51 totals in 82 GP for MTL) than Domi (9-36–45 in 82 GP for ARI) last season? And that was a “bad” year?

Domi emerged onto the NHL spotlight with an 18-goal season in 2015-16 (81 GP). Injuries limited the young forward to just 59 games in 2016-17, a season in which he amassed 9-29–38 totals. In 23 more games from 2016-17 to 2017-18, Domi had seven more points.

Meanwhile, Galchenyuk has reached the 40-point plateau for the last four seasons– including two 50-plus point seasons.

Bergevin is gambling on Domi to return to form– and then some– but the question remains ever present– how long can these Bergevin gambles go on in Canada’s most prestigious club de hockey?

Joel Armia, Matthew Peca and Xavier Ouellet are sneaky pickups by the Habs that may lead to improved depth, depth and a make-or-break season (for whatever reason), respectively.

The ceremonious return of Tomas Plekanec to the franchise may at least bring back something right to the universe– a Plekanec goatee and turtleneck combo, unlike his short tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs in which Lou Lamoriello’s oppressive regime on facial hair wrought havoc on the hockey universe.

In all seriousness, though, Julien’s time in Montreal may be limited if the front office is looking for someone else to blame other than themselves for their colossal collapse the last few seasons. No amount of Jesperi Kotkaniemi (another gamble at 3rd overall in this year’s Draft) can make up for the inevitable– another long season for Habs fans.

Offseason Grade: D

Like the Ottawa Senators and Erik Karlsson, Montreal really should be receiving an “incomplete” grade until the Max Pacioretty situation is resolved. However, unlike the Sens, the Habs at least added some marginal talent in Max Domi this offseason (albeit at the expense of Alex Galchenyuk) compared to Ottawa’s… well, let’s not compare those two clubs by themselves, shall we?

The Canadiens are like that guy in your class that has a 65 and is technically still passing the class. You know the school year won’t be great for that guy and you also know things could be worse, but they just can’t no matter how hard he tries (or doesn’t try?) because someone is always doing a little bit worse.

Claude Julien is still a good coach, sure, but his system is becoming outdated for the contemporary game. Also, his last Cup win came outside of my “great coach” status (basically, you’re only a “great coach” if you’ve won a Cup within the last five seasons– you’re at the top of the game among the rest– until you retire, then you can lean back on your trophy case all you want to stack up), but that’s a hill worth dying on another day.