Facts, Figures, Predictions on the Atlantic

*If the Boston Bruins miss the postseason, it will be the first time the B’s have missed the postseason since missing it eight straight years from 1960-67.

*Erik Karlsson’s 82 points was the most for a defenseman since Brian Leetch (85) and Ray Bourque (82) hit that total in 1995-96.

*Jaromir Jagr needs 19 points to tie Mark Messier for second place on the all-time points list, with 1,887. Currently sitting in third at 1,868, he needs 132 to become the second player ever to notch 2,000 NHL points. Last season he closed within 1,000 of Wayne Gretzky, who stands atop the leaderboard at 2,857.

*Max Pacioretty is one of just four players to record 30 goals and 60 points in each of the last four 82-game NHL seasons. The other three are Jamie Benn, Alex Ovechkin, and Joe Pavelski.

*Steven Stamkos is one of four players with three such seasons; joining Corey Perry, John Tavares, and Tyler Seguin. The one season in which Seguin failed to hit 30-60 was 2011-12, when he managed the 60 (67, to be exact) but scored just 29 goals for Boston.

*Morgan Reilly, who averaged 23:14 of ice time last season at the age of 21, is the youngest Toronto defenseman to log 23 minutes per game since the stat began being recorded in 1998.

*Average production by Henrik Zetterberg the last two seasons – 15.5 and 59.8 goals and points per 82 games. Nine seasons prior – 32 and 83.9.

*Brad Marchand has scored 0.35 goals per game going back to 2010-11, his first full NHL season, which equates to about 29 goals per season. That ranks fifth among left wingers, trailing only Ovechkin, Benn, Rick Nash, and Patrick Sharp.

*Ryan O’Reilly led all forwards last season with an average ice-time of 21:44. Evander Kane was second with 21:02. *Buffalo hasn’t had a 30-goal, 60-point season since Jason Pominville put up 30 goals and 73 points in 2011-12.

*Patrice Bergeron and Marchand were on the ice for 192 of the 493 shorthanded faceoffs the Bruins took last season, according to puckbase.com. One-hundred one of those draws were won by the Bruins.

*No Eastern Conference player has averaged 29 minutes of ice-time since Adrian Aucoin averaged 29-flat for the Islanders in 2002-03. Karlsson averaged 28:58 last season.

*Of the top 12 goaltenders in terms of save percentage over the last three seasons (min. 125 games played), five are expected to be starters for Atlantic Division teams this season; Carey Price (1st, .931), Ben Bishop (t-3rd, .922), Tuukka Rask (t-3rd, .922), Roberto Luongo (t-6th, .921), and Frederik Andersen (12th, .918).

*Price’s 17 shutouts over that span, which ranks second to Marc-Andre Fleury (20), came in just 137 games. Four other netminders posted 15 shutouts over that span (Fleury, Jonathan Quick, Braden Holtby, Bishop), all needing at least 186 games.

*Buffalo allowed just 30.6 shots per game last season, the first time it had allowed less than 31 shots per game since 2010-11 (30.7), the last time the Sabres qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Predictions

1- Tampa Bay: The most complete team from top to bottom. Expect a breakout season for Tyler Johnson.

2- Montreal: The Canadiens go as far as Price takes them.

3- Detroit: The Red Wings acquisition of Frans Nielsen the best offseason signing nobody talked about.

4- Florida: The Panthers have made the postseason in back-to-back years just one time; 1995-96 and 1996-97.

5- Buffalo: If they don’t make the playoffs this year, you can pencil them in for next season.

6- Boston: Three straight playoff DNQs could be too much for Claude Julien to overcome.

7- Ottawa: Guy Boucher came within a win of the Prince of Wales Trophy in Tampa Bay. He won’t be pushover in Ottawa.

8- Toronto: The pieces are moving into place, but more holes must be filled.

 

 

2020 Vision: Why the Atlantic Division Will Be the NHL’s Best in Four Years

It’s 2020.

The Montreal Canadiens have never looked more poised to win Stanley Cup No. 25 since winning Stanley Cup No. 24 back in 1993. The Toronto Maple Leafs are knocking on the door of its first title of the NHL’s Expansion Era while the Buffalo Sabres are in pursuit of its first title in, well, ever. On the verge of he 10th anniversary of its only Cup in the last half-century, the Boston Bruins aren’t to be counted out. Nor are the Ottawa Senators. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Detroit Red Wings are still there, like they’ve been for quite some time.

The Atlantic Division has no let up. The best division in the NHL. It’s not even up for debate.

It’s amazing to think the Montreal Canadiens have gone nearly three decades without a Stanley Cup. Prior to this latest drought, the longest the Habs had gone without winning a title was eight between 1916-24, when the bleu, blanc et rouge took a backseat to the original rendition of the Ottawa Senators – who won three Cups in that span – while having the 1919 final wiped out due the great flu pandemic ripping through the world at the time.

But that was 100 years ago, and the Canadiens are looking to erase a drought nearly four times longer. A 2021 Stanley Cup will be its first in 28 years. They’ve been close the last two years. In 2019, they fell to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals before getting to the Cup final in 2020, losing to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

Max Pacioretty hoisting the revered 35-pound trophy isn’t hoped for — it’s expected.

Montreal hasn’t had a goaltender like Carey Price since Patrick Roy, who appropriately enough manned the crease of the most recent championship. At 33, Price is on the back end of his prime. He’s going for his fifth straight Vezina Trophy, looking to become just the fourth player to win six Vezinas, joining Montreal legends Jacques Plante and Bill Durnan, along with Dominik Hasek.

Nobody in the Montreal lineup makes anyone forget about Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, or Larry Robinson, but there’s plenty to be desired. Shea Weber might not be the player he was when general manager Marc Bergevin famously swapped P.K. Subban for in 2016, but he doesn’t have to be. Mikhail Sergechev is quickly blossoming as one of the world’s best blueliners. Up front, mainstays Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk lead the Habs charge.

The Canadien faithful has its swagger back, and the time to win is now.

But it won’t be that easy.

For one, there’s a border battle brewing between Western New York and Southern Ontario.

Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews, currently pegged to bring Team USA back from the shadows of its 2016 embarrassment at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, lead the way for two of the most rabid yet tortured fan bases; the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs haven’t won a title since 1967. The Sabres have never won one ever.

Eichel and Matthews were second and third in last season’s Art Ross Trophy race behind McDavid, whose 131 points were the most since 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux and current Florida Panthers player-coach Jaromir Jagr eclipsed that mark.

Defending Norris Trophy winner Morgan Reilly anchors the Toronto blue line, which is backed up by Frederik Andersen. Buffalo counters with Norris favorite Rasmus Ristolainen and ace netminder Cal Petersen. Buffalo’s one-two center combination of Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly is the envy of the division.

Meanwhile, for Boston Bruins fans, it’s been years that end in ‘1’ that have been kind to the B’s; at least of late (we can forget about Ken Dryden in 1971, or Ulf Samuelsson’s cheap shot on Cam Neely in 1991). In 2001, Bruins fans watched black-and-gold icon Ray Bourque retire with his first Stanley Cup (albeit with Colorado). In 2011, it was the B’s capturing a Stanley Cup of their own, the first since 1972.

It’s been a rough past few years for Bruins fans. Amidst a rebuild, the B’s have missed the playoffs four of the last six seasons. Goaltender Tuukka Rask, who turns 34 in March, is playing for what would be the last big contract of his career. With dynamic duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand well into their 30s, the top line of Jake DeBrusk, Ryan Spooner, and Zach Senyshyn have picked up the load offensively for the B’s. The backline continues to come of age, with many expecting 23-year-old Jeremy Lauzon to hop into the Norris discussion as seamless as the way he can jump into the rush. The pairing of Lauzon and Brandon Carlo are among the top young defensive pairings in the game.

The Ottawa Senators continue to pride themselves on being the Minnesota Twins of the NHL, finding ways to sneak into the playoffs despite being glossed over year after year in the preseason talk. The player who is no longer being glossed over? That would be Erik Karlsson, who last season became just the third defenseman ever to record multiple 100-point seasons, joining Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey. Yeah, can’t say it’s bad company.

Let’s not forget about the three teams that represent the old guard of the division, the veteran teams giving chase to the young blood atop the division.

Captain Dylan Larkin leads the charge for the Detroit Red Wings, which has rebuilt itself on the fly once again while continuing the make the playoffs. The Wings finally won a playoff round after losing in the first round six years in a row. It’s been 30 years since Detroit last missed the playoffs. The Panthers are led by player-coach Jaromir Jagr, who last season became the second player to record 2,000 points in the NHL. Approaching his 49th birthday, Jagr is giving no indications he’ll step away anytime soon. He even says he plans on catching Wayne Gretzky’s record of 2,857 points. Based off his average of 35 points over the last four years, it will only take about 25 seasons for him to reach that mark. The Lightning continue to dazzle offensively, with Tyler Johnson coming off his first 40-goal season. And we all know about that Stamkos guy.

None of the eight teams in this division have won a Stanley Cup since the Bruins most recent banner, in 2011. If it doesn’t change in 2021, the wait won’t last much longer.

How much longer? Who knows.

But what we do know? No division stacks up with this one.

World Cup of Hockey Post-Mortem: Some Facts and Figures

Some facts and figures in the wake of the Boston Bruins winning the World Cup of Hockey..

*But seriously, though. Only two players had more than three goals in this tournament: Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with five and four, respectively. Six of the the nine goals came in the semifinals and final.

*All three goals in Canada’s 2-1 clincher against Europe were scored by Bruins. Zdeno Chara gave Europe the 1-0 lead in the first period before his NHL teammates delivered the late-game heroics; first Bergeron’s redirection to tie the score, then Marchand’s shorthanded goal to go ahead with 44 seconds to play.

*Steven Stamkos was the lone Canadian not named Bergeron or Marchand to score in the final. Stamkos joins John Tavares and Corey Perry – both of whom scored in the 5-3 semifinal triumph over Russia – as the lone Canadians outside the superstar top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Sidney Crosby to tally a goal in the semifinal or final.

*It seemed like the story of the World Cup were the two squads that were multiple countries co-opped together in Team Europe and Team North America. Team North America, of course, was comprised of the best under-23 players from Canada and the U.S., an exciting, fast, skilled team considered the represent the future of the game. Europe was an old, gritty group that had a little bit of everything but didn’t look like the full package that managed to make an unexpected run to the final.

Interestingly enough, it looks like it might be the last you see of such teams. You can definitely mark that down as a guarantee with North America, the team being put together much at the detriment to the American squad; there were quite a few players on that roster that would’ve made a difference playing on John Tortorella’s team. So we’ll see what that means for Europe.

*As for filling out those seventh and eighth teams, here’s an idea for at least one of the two spots that need to be filled: a Canadian ‘B’ team. A team that features the best of those left off the Canadian roster. The talk is that Canada could put together a second team and beat most, if not all, other countries. Well, let’s see it.

*Seventy-nine goals were scored in the tournament. Twenty of those were scored by players who played for either the Boston Bruins or the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s more than a quarter. Of course, it’s important to point out that give-or-take a quarter of the players in this tournament play for the Lightning. Or at least it seemed that way.

*Here’s the breakdown of scoring by NHL club:

Boston- 11; Tampa Bay- 9; Washington-6; Chicago, Colorado, Toronto- 5; Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis- 4; Edmonton, San Jose, N.Y. Rangers- 3; Calgary, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Arizona- 2; N.Y. Islanders, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Nashville, Buffalo, Vancouver, Florida- 1.

*Canada’s title makes it six of eight for the Red Leafs between the three installments of the World Cup of Hockey going back to 1996 and the Canada Cup, of which there were five of between 1976 and 1991. Something about that country when it comes to hockey.

Bruins Signing of Brad Marchand a Slam Dunk

The World Cup of Hockey has been a coming out party of sorts for Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand, whose broken through the doors of the lodge of elite left wingers in the world through his performance for Team Canada. He’s been a key cog for the Red Leafs top line that’s rounded out with world-class forwards Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby.

For those who haven’t seen enough of Marchand or have been wary of his place among his peers, they’ve been put on notice of just how great a player Marchand is through his performance. For those who have helped make his case in recent years, it’s proof positive that the 28-year-old has a rightful place among the elite at his position, which includes Alex Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Johnny Gaudreau, Max Pacioretty, Alex Steen, Filip Forsberg, and Brandon Saad, among a few others.

It’s more likely than not that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in the latter group when it came to opinions on Marchand. Regardless of what his opinions were of the Bruin, he made his current take on the player pretty clear on Monday morning when he signed Marchand to a contract extension at the maximum term of eight years. The total value of the deal is $49 million, his $6.125 million cap hit currently set to be the sixth-highest among left wingers when it takes effect at the start of the 2017-18 season according to spotrac.com.

Whether or not Marchand’s 37-goal campaign in 2015-16 was an anomaly is up for debate, and we’ll get further answers on that in the coming months. But there’s no doubt he’s worth the paycheck he’ll start accruing in 12 months.

Since coming into the league regularly in 2010-11, Marchand has averaged 0.353 goals per game. That translates to 28.95 goals for every 82 games played. That number ranks fifth among all left wingers who have logged 400 games over that span behind Ovechkin (0.58), Rich Nash (0.41), Benn (.40), and Patrick Sharp (0.36). Over the past two seasons, only Ovechkin and Benn have a higher output in the category.

So let’s set the standard for Marchand at 29 goals per season, which is a safe assessment of what to expect. Not the 37 he scored last season, but not the 18 he was on pace for midway through the 2013-14 season, when he slumped to 10 goals in his first 45 games (he finished with 25 in 82 games).

Twenty-nine sounds pretty pedestrian, does it not? Maybe it once was, but in the age of better goalies in bigger padding, defensive systems, and balanced, four-line attacks, that total has weaseled its way into the upper-echelon.

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Jarome Iginla, and Tomas Tatar scored 29 goals apiece in 2014-15, tying for 16th on the goal scoring list for the season. Never had players been so high leaders list with such a scoring output. When Mark Scheifele and Mike Hoffman tied for 29th with 29 goals last season, it marked the fifth time in six years 29 goals ranked in the top 30 during an 82-game season.

Marchand’s cap hit of $6.125 million is tied for 50th as the player salaries are currently constituted. The counterargument to that is he’s finished in the top 50 in points just twice, one of which was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The other was this past campaign, which ultimately earned him this extension.

Marchand’s best work has been on the penalty kill, where he’s been one of the league’s best since entering the NHL. His 25 shorthanded points since the start of the 2010-11 season is tops in the NHL, the next-closest to his 19 goals being Jonathan Toews and Frans Nielsen, with 13. Marchand’s Tasmanian Devil-style approach without the puck fits him well as the role of the offensive zone lone-man in on the PK. His quick stick helps break the puck movement and flow of opposing power play units. He averaged a career-high 2:00 of shorthanded time per game last season.

The last number points at what might be the biggest factor surrounding the logic behind Marchand’s extension. His role in Claude Julien’s lineup is expanding.

Aside from the shorthanded time on ice, Marchand set career-highs in even strength time on ice per game (15:07) and overall time on ice (18:36). His 1:28 of man-advantage time was the highest since the 1:44 he averaged in 2012-13.

In his first few seasons in the league, Marchand logged 16-17 minutes of ice time per game, on average; 14 minutes of five-on-five, 1:30 shorthanded, his time on the man-advantage around 2:00 in his first couple years before dissipating to 30 seconds to a minute for a while before spiking back up this past season.

It’s clear he’s becoming a go-to player for Julien, an all-situations player that is in low demand in the NHL.

So is he worth the money? The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, he only appears to be getting better.

Patrice Bergeron Voted into All-Star Game

The NHL announced the rosters for the league’s all-star game in Anaheim, Calif. later this month, with Bruins center Patrice Bergeron the lone player representing Boston in the three-on-three tournament among the four NHL divisions.

Under the new format, a three-on-three tournament with the four divisions have 10 players selected by the league. Each division also has a captain selected by fans. Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr was voted to represent the Atlantic, with his counterparts being Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (Metropolitan), Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (Central), and Arizona Coyotes forward John Scott (Pacific).

Yes, John Scott was selected as a captain. Fan votes never let us down.

The teams are composed of six forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders.

Bergeron is the Bruins leading scorer, with a 15-22–37 scoring line in 38 games, which ties for 12th in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. His 37 points is the second-highest total of his career through 38 games, the high-water mark coming in 2006-07, when he put up 42 (13-29) in his first 38 contests en route to a second straight 70-point season.

It’s the second straight year Bergeron will be flying solo at the event, barring injuries or withdrawals from other players. Candidates for replacements include Brad Marchand (15 goals), Loui Eriksson (34 points in 38 games), Zdeno Chara (plus-10 rating fifth-highest among defensemen in Atlantic), and Torey Krug (one of five defensemen in Atlantic with 20 points).

 

Alex Khokhlachev Called Up to Bruins

Alex Khokhlachev has been called up to the Bruins in time for Friday’s Winter Classic showdown with the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced on Thursday morning.

Colin Miller will be sent down to Providence to compensate for the surplus on the roster created by Khokhlachev’s promotion.

The promotion of Khokhlachev was said be for ‘roster flexibility’ reasons, according to Sweeney. The primary reason for the 22-year-old forward being called up is likely to make up for the loss of left winger Brad Marchand, who was suspended for three games by the NHL for a low-hit on Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki in Tuesday’s 7-3 win. The team needed an additional left-shot forward, in addition to offensive firepower with the losses of Marchand and center David Krejci (upper body injury) over the last two games. The duo of Krejci (11-22–33) and Marchand (15-11–26) accounted for 26 goals and 59 points, nearly one-fifth of the B’s 308 team points in 2015-16.

Khokhlachev, who is a lefty shot, brings the skill set currently missed from the recent losses. While he doesn’t have a point in eight NHL games, Khokhlachev has 45 goals and 125 points in 148 games for the Providence Bruins going back to the start of the 2013-14 season.

In 22 games for Providence this season, Khokhlachev has nine goals and 25 points. He has 12 points in 11 games since returning from a hand injury that sidelined him for the entire month of November.

Miller’s demotion, done in large part due to lack of minor league options to other players on the varsity roster, comes as no indictment to the play of the rookie defenseman, who has two goals and 12 points in 28 games. His plus-five rating tied for seventh among NHL rookies. He averaged 15:56 of ice-time per game, while getting considerable action on the B’s powerplay.

While his time in Providence should be short-lived, Miller should get a nice opportunity to put up some numbers. In 2014-15, the 23-year-old scored 19 goals and 52 points for the Manchester Monarchs, a big piece of the Los Angeles Kings affiliate that won the 2015 Calder Cup.