Category: NHL News

Perseverance pays off for the Bruins, Halak continues his monster season

The Bruins have currently played four games without top leaders Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron and so far they obtained at least a point in each of those games. Boston has trailed just for 7 minutes and 31 seconds so far in these games. A perseverance, never give up mentality and secondary scoring helped the Bruins a lot.

When head coach Bruce Cassidy inserted Connor Clifton and Jakub Zboril into the lineup last Friday in Dallas against the Stars, it was a forced move. Young D-men from Providence in AHL were just making their NHL debuts. Their families were probably very excited, Bruins fans maybe not so much.

Tough stretch no problem so far for Boston

But there was nothing to worry about, no blowout loss came in that mentioned game in Dallas, the Bruins nearly shut out the Stars, in fact they did it, but only in regulation period. Stars, Coyotes neither Red Wings are the best teams in the league, but it is not easy to play tough roadies in those buildings, taking in note that Detroit were 9-1-1 going to a head-to-head matchup with the Bs.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night was not easy either. I was so much surprised when I saw the betting odds and the Pens supposed to be favourites! It surprised me a bit that the Bruins are regarded as underdogs, okay I know it’s the Pens but… They have lost eight out of their last ten games and the Bruins are playing at home, where they are 8-0-1 in last nine home meetings vs. Pittsburgh.

Boston Bruins mid-season preview 2018
Boston Bruins can thank their goalies for their success this season.

At the end of the day, the Bruins prevailed in overtime. Well, with 1-4 record in OTs against a team like Penguins, who have some valuable weapons like Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and so on, that turned out to be a surprise Boston won it with… Joakim Nordstrom netting his first career OT goal!

Keys for Bruins keeping up pace with the giants in the Atlantic division

Secondary scoring has helped the Bruins quite a lot. Chris Wagner scored a goal in Detroit, which was only his second goal of the campaign. Nordstrom´s OT winner was his third of the year and Jake DeBrusk scored his ninth, but young forward was held for just three points throughout first 14 games of the season.

Besides scoring from unlikely sources, goaltending has been there once again. Jaroslav Halak continues his shiny play, Slovak netminder stopped 36 of 37 shots on goal. In his last five starts, in four wins he faced 149 shots on goal and stopped 145 of those and gave up four goals in the process. Then in the only loss of this stretch he allowed six goals on 26 shots on goals. Exception confirmed the rule here for Halak.

Penguins Friday night seemed to be okay with playing up to the Bruins notes. Boston is trying to establish a bit of new style, they know it is not possible to play back-and-forth games, they have to keep a very slow pace temp game. Penguins, just like Red Wings and even the Stars last week, agreed on this style. Pittsburgh was convinced an overtime win is coming up, but hey, Torey Krug already scored one OT game-winner at TD Garden against the Pens. This time he set up Nordstrom for a tap-in.

Penguins, Red Wings or Stars settled down on Bruins terms, but how it will look like, when the Bs are going to play in Montreal and Toronto in very heated battles? That´s up to be resolved and answered next. Huge games coming up for the Bruins upcoming days, but so far in a very tough run with injuries, tactically they have mastered.

Advertisements

With a tough stretch ahead without Chara and Bergeron, how could the Boston Bruins manage it?

The Bruins just entered a very challenging stretch of schedule in their season and it  won’t get much easier. Injuries happen to every NHL team, and most recently in a crazy ratio, but they have been the main problem for the Bruins for years now.

Last season Boston was heading into playoffs without players like Torey Krug, David Backes and many more were banged-up. Bergeron missed one game, Riley Nash or Matt Grzelcyk did too, top pairing of Chara and McAvoy went to play shortly after their major injuries from the end of the regular season.

New season started for the Bruins with “just” one injury and that one to Torey Krug. Everyone else was fine! It lasted like…. Ten games? Charlie McAvoy went down with concussion, same with David Backes, Kevan Miller broke his thumb, Urho Vaakanainen got concussed as well. Last week Brandon Carlo suffered an upper-body injury, then on the road trip which just finished Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and John Moore all went down.

New season, same difficulties

Chara will miss approximately four weeks with knee injury, Bergeron same amount of time with rib injury. Big Zee is the Bruins captain, Bergeron is on the waiting list, he will take over the captaincy from Chara one day. And they both went down and out at the same time and for an extended period of hockey season. How could the Bruins survive their absence? (And an absence of like another hundred bodies…)

cut

Bruins have played three games in these circumstances so far and they have not done a poor job, pretty much otherwise, they grabbed four out of six available points. In all games on the road, in Dallas, Arizona and Detroit, the Bs never trailed and gave up just five goals in total (they gave up six goals in one game solely vs Colorado last Wednesday before these last three meetings).

Goaltenders and defencemen seemed to play with lot of urgency. For the first time in this season, the Bruins did not commit a penalty, that happened against the Red Wings two nights ago. That is certainly a huge help, when you just don’t give your opposition the power-play opportunity. Strong defense has to be stronger than we are used to with these guys.

Main keys to track down the success

Secondary scoring is next on the chart. Bruins got two goals from Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (maybe he can repeat Chytilmania known in New York?), his first two goals in his NHL career, Noel Acciari picked up his first point of the season with an assist on JFK´s first career tally, Chris Wagner scored a goal in Detroit, just his second goal of the year, assisted by Sean Kuraly and developed by fourth line.

Bruins will surely not get a ton of production with their newly constructed forward lines after that Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio breakup. But the need to play like grinders and keep those upcoming games at very low-level, keep them boring and you are just fine. Til Christmas Boston plays twice against Montreal, twice against Toronto, they visit Florida for two roadies within their division, play Buffalo or Nashville among others.

It will not come up easy. They don´t come easy, but the most important thing is that they keep coming. That is the mentality the Bruins have to adjust to. They have to help each other, because most of the time it is Chara or Bergeron to lead the way. Now it is a next man mentality.

Battle of Two top lines of hockey. Which one is better?

The Bruins are heading into Colorado tonight and every single eye will be watching what is promising to be bombastic matchup of two top lines. It should really be the battle of two top lines of hockey! On one side, Rantanen – MacKinnon – Landeskog connection is arguably one of the best, but on the other side there is a trio of guys called Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. So which one is better?

Which top line is better?

Of course that line led by Nathan MacKinnon. I mean Patrice Bergeron. If you look at the scoring leaders stats this season, you see Mikko Rantanen on top with 26 points (currently tied with some young centerman named Connor McDavid), then you see Patrice Bergeron with 25 points. Fourth player on highly regarded list is Nathan MacKinnon with 24 points, in fifth place we can find David Pastrnak with 23 points. That´s your top five in the NHL as of now! Brad Marchand, 85 points last season, has 20 points thus far and Gabriel Landeskog has 19 points.

Those numbers are disgusting to be honest. “Yes, definitely,” responded Gabriel Landeskog on question, whether his line is the best one in NHL. Bruins line was not this confident, but they talked about anticipated matchup later tonight. It was Brad Marchand who offered the words of respect towards his opponents. When the Avs square off against the Bruins tonight at Pepsi Center in Denver, nobody is going to sleep, even if it´s a 10 p.m. ET start!

Bruins and Avalanche. Two one-line teams?

Funny thing is, that Gabriel Landeskog was connected with potential trade to Boston last three years, but nothing happened and Colorado´s captain visibly took advantage of it. Same as Nathan MacKinnon, who was frustrated with his play during that miserable 2016-17 campaign, when the Avalanche hit the rock bottom of NHL. MacKinnon was a Hart Trophy candidate last year. Bergeron would have been the same, but broken thumb late in February prevented that possibility.

With 25 points already, Bergeron is looking for something more. He has been terrific leader off and on the ice for his club all over his career. Yeah, he owns four Selke Trophies, but Hart Trophy would be something completely different. Even if everyone is focusing mainly on well-known guys, in some cases veterans (you would not call MacKinnon or Landeskog veteran, would you?), two young guns have been sparkling for both teams ever since they made it through.

David Pastrnak had a blast last season, 80 points during the regular season and then 20 points in play-offs. During current campaign he already collected two hattricks and leads the race for Maurice Richard Trophy with 16 goals. Mikko Rantanen has none of those, young Finn has “just” six goals. Bergeron´s connection and chemistry with Marchand has been built since forever, but only David Pastrnak made their combination look killing.

mikko-rantanen-nathan-mackinnon-gabriel-landeskog

MacKinnon did not have same history and experience with Landeskog as Marchand with Bergeron, but that apparently does not matter, Jared Bednar found a really perfect working trio. And now they meet each other with lot of expectation. Bruins currently 3-3-2 on the road, Avs coming home after lengthy road trip, right after they skipped their 5-game losing streak on Sunday night in Edmonton.

Weekend has started with Patrice Bergeron leading the race for Art Ross Trophy, then it ended with Mikko Rantanen taking advantage back, now it is Connor McDavid with a tiny statistical upper hand. Who will take mentioned trophies is due to be determined in April next year. Who will take a crown for the best line in hockey (at least for now)? That might be answered in few hours. Nevertheless, it should one heck of a line against line matchup (and a game as well!).

Has social media played a role in the uptick of NHL suspensions?

Let the modern day NHL fans exit in 3,2,1…. ok, awesome. While 90% of readers have clicked off this article because they are to ignorant to hear anyone out on this. Those who stayed around I hope this article opens your eyes a little and leaves you with a different outlook on the topic.

As we all know social media has been growing rapidly over the last few years, Twitter has 336 million active monthly users  and 500 million tweets sent per day (per omnicoreagency.com). Instagram has nearly 1 billion active users, up from 90 million in January 2013 (per http://www.statista.com). Snapchat has 188 million active users per month. We seem to get the point here, the world uses social media a lot, a lot more than we all should. Which means with nearly 500 million tweets sent per day and 100+ million videos and pictures shared on Instagram per day, the public voice has a lot more say than we believe it does. Keeping all politics out of this but look at the most recent election, you’d be ignorant to think that social media did not play a role in individuals opinions.

While social media only continues to grow and many accounts continue to create more and more of a following, the higher the following the more likely it has some influence on the public. Take a look at the accounts you follow with the most followers and likes, are you going to sit there and say those accounts don’t have an affect on your point of view or others…

Ok, let’s get into what the whole article is about here. Look I am not saying the NHL has gone soft (a little soft, yes), while I do understand they are doing their best to protect the players, the young guys of the NHL, the superstars who reel in the most money and looking out for the longevity of the players careers. But what I have noticed and I know I am not the only one on this stance. Social media has certainly played a small, if not minor role in the severity and attention of these suspensions recently. The most recent one that raised a lot of eyebrows was the Michael Matheson hit on Elias Pettersson, Matheson a 6’2 190-200lb defenseman against a 6’2 170-175lb rookie, against a 19 year old Pettersson. We are not going to get into the details of the hit and what you think but, let’s just say if Pettersson is not 19-years-old a recent draft pick and a potential NHL star, there is no suspension or even thought about it. The video below has a great dialogue about this.

So far this year we have seen already 7 suspensions, two related to off-ice incidents and 5 from on-ice incidents. Already this years suspensions total has reached up to 81 games, including Nate Schmidt’s 20 game suspension(for a eye lid of performance enhancing drugs in his system, no policy for it I understand) and Austin Watson’s 18 game suspension for misdemeanor domestic violence case. We have seen already 20 games to Tom Wilson for a hard hockey hit, controversial as well(on number of games), Max Domi sucker punch, Robert Bortuzzo elbow on Michael Kempny, Mike Matheson hit and most recently the Mark Borowiecki elbow during Tuesday nights game vs the Boston Bruins. To watch it click here.

And, again I won’t get into the hit much but if you watch the video linked above you literally hear the announcer say “a forearm shove to the face”, in my honest opinion. Borowiecki was trying to get to the scrum in front, there was a lot of commotion going on in the crease, he saw a defenseman come flying in from the blue line and his natural reaction with his other hand tied up in the play was to protect his goalie/crease. It did not look intentional at all, but it sure does not look pretty. Within in less than 24 hours, Borowiecki had a hearing and was suspended one game. It just seems during todays day in age social media plays a profound influence on these things, I am not saying we the people legitimately decide the call at the end of the day. But when things like this happen the first thing every fan does is throw a knee jerk reaction out there and voice their opinion.

Coming from my own personal experience, one of the most popular accounts on Instagram regarding NHL news, the NHL Discussion account with 193k followers and 12.6k posts. Posted a video about the Borowiecki hit, sure I said that the fans commenting are absolute jokes and trying to voice their opinion too much. Just from that one comment, I received about 15 replies from fans, literally getting angry about what I said and getting personal along with 60+ likes on my comment. People feel as if their opinion matters more than everyone else’s and when they need to voice their opinion and are given a platform they “NEED” to write a comment displaying their voice on the call. Sure that’s what I did by commenting but I was also commenting with the intention to one draw results for this article and two to sir some good fun(some people just can’t take an opinion if it doesn’t agree with theirs, sheesh). I bet if NHL Discussions account disabled their comments they would get reported by their fans for doing so, which is sad. All I am saying, fans your opinion does matter of course but seriously some of you have to take a breather, you don’t play in the league, you are not their agent, you do not make decisions so let George Parros and his colleagues do their job without 500 million people jumping down their throat.

Anyways, the Tom Wilson suspension for example there were 170 tweets fired off about Tom Wilson minutes after the event, Mike Matheson there were 130 tweets covering the Matheson incident and all major news sources covered the stories like, The Athletic, Sports Net, and more. These social media articles and tweets have an influence perhaps not on the call directly but I believe it is making the NHL Player Safety think twice about some decisions they make. I mean with 126.2k followers and their tweets getting nearly 500-1,000 responses, whoever runs that account does not ignore all those messages.

At the end of the day, sure it is great to voice your opinion, this is America and it is what the country is built on, freedom of speech and right to hold your own opinion. I just think the keyboard warriors who start firing off knee jerk reactions after Elias Pettersson got hurt, saying some ludicrous things need to take a break and relax a bit. Perhaps wait it out a second, then respond.

I am not going to sit here and say social media does or does not play a role in these decisions but I think if anyone with a brain and some working knowledge of how the internet and social media works can figure out that the suspensions have been increasing more and more as social media and users continue to increase. Not saying there is a direct correlation but in the world of “everyone has an opinion” we are definitely seeing an increase in “fan engagement” over the years. I just hope this does not get out of hand.

Taking a look at suspensions over the last five years this is what the trend has been…

2013-14: 50 suspensions, 174 total games, 16 preseason, 133 regular season, 25 postseason. This includes a 13 game suspension from Paul Bissonnette for leaving the bench to fight, same with David Clarkson having a similar incident.

2014-15: 31 suspensions,178 games total, no preseason or postseason. 20 games included Zenon Konopka for violating the NHLPA substance program and Slava Voynov 76 games for domestic violence.

2015-16: 41 suspensions, 203 games total, 196 regular season, 7 postseason. Including 31 games from Zach Kassian for violating NHLPA substance program. Same for Shawn Horcoff for 20 games, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin got 1 game for missing NHL All-Star game and Jarred Tinordi got 20 games for violating NHLPA substance program.

2016-17: 28 suspensions, 93 games total, 15 preseason, 76 regular season and 2 postseason, this included 25 on-ice incidents and three off-ice incidents.

2017-18: 29 suspensions, 87 games total, 4 preseason, 73 regular season and 10 postseason. This included 10 games from Luke Witkowski for “automatic suspension for returning to the ice to take part in an altercation after being escorted off by an official”. And of course Radko Gudas’s famous tree chopping slash on Mathieu Perreault.

2018-19: 7 suspensions, 82 games, 20 preseason, 61 regular season. It is only October 27th, 2018 and we have almost exceeded the amount of total games in suspensions from last year. Not an opinion just facts…

 

 

NHL Power Rankings: From 15th and up…

15. Columbus Blue Jackets: 43-30-9

The Metropolitan division is not as deep as it used to be. The Rangers, Hurricanes and Rangers are not contending teams anymore and the Devils while they had a great year last year are going to need a lot of fire power to repeat that season. I believe Columbus comes in at 4th in their division but middle of the pack for the year. They do not have a great team to be honest, while they have a very competent goalie and two good defenseman they are very thin on the backend. Like many teams though they have a solid group upfront, that is if Artem Panarin stays the full-year in Columbus as of right now basing of their situation it seems Panarin is starting the year with them. Making their first three lines very capable of scoring goals, with a fourth line of Sonny Milano-Riley Nash-Anthony Duclair they have a potential four scoring lines. Hopefully Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson can stay healthy, along with Josh Anderson. But aside from those three the Blue Jackets will be relying on Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alex Wennberg and Pierre-Luc Dubois to have a big year and be a focal point of this offense day in and day out. After another playoff season and falling short in the first round perhaps the Blue Jackets can come over that hump once and for all! 

14. Anaheim Ducks: 45-30-7

I think they creep into that #3 spot, essentially that 3, 4, 5 is going to be a real dogfight in the Pacific next year and with the Kings, Ducks and Flames really all relatively similar in structure and lineup depth, the Ducks team overall may be a little more balanced. Sure Corey Perry is not on-fire lately but with Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Jakub Silvferberg, Adam Henrique and a few other options on the forward end their has to be some spark in Anaheim. Their defense when healthy is a solid group of seven guys honestly, Brendan Montour, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson Hamphus Lindholm, Andrej Sustr and Luke Schenn that is a solid seven if you look at what each line will be doing. If John Gibson and Anaheim’s D can stay healthy it is a major confidence booster for the Ducks offense as well knowing you have puck moving defense it makes the forwards job easier, and looking at four puck moving d on Anaheim it can be a major positive for them. A possible third place finish or if they come out slow like they usually do, it could be a missed playoff chance for Anaheim.

13. Minnesota Wild: 43-32-7

The Wild are going to need another big year out Jason Zucker and Eric Staal without those two forward last year it would have been a different turn out for Minnesota. They have a lot of skill but not much consistency. Zach Praise you can chalk up for about 30 points if that, Mikael Granlund had that one year where he rose to the occasion hen battled injuries last year, same with Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle, two young forwards that have been hovering around that same point total for quite sometime now, they are either due for a breakout year or going to continue on this path. Along with an aging and injured Ryan Suter, all you have is Jared Spurgeon and Matthew Dumba two good defenseman but it is not enough. The Wild are good, they will get away with a lot because of their offensive talent and depth but, where they lack defensive depth is their issue. Same goes for goaltending, Devan Dubnyk is solid but at 32-years-old it is not getting easier for the goalie. This may be one of the last seasons we see the Wild within the top 15, another playoff run fallen short for this team.

12. Los Angeles Kings: 43-30-9

That division is not a breeze through for L.A. as it used to be but now you have teams like Vegas, San Jose, Calgary and Anaheim this is going to be a battle for L.A. I would not be surprised if they missed the playoffs. With the Flames getting better, the Ducks staying relatively the same and the Sharks and Vegas being the power houses in this division. The Kings may fall in the 4, 5 spot if anything. But luckily they do have a great tandem on defense in Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf to accompany that Jonathan Quick the William J Jennings trophy and Vezina winner is a solid addition not to mention. Hopefully eh Kings can string some offense together they saw a bizarre year out of Dustin Brown, a big bounce back year from Anze Kopitar but with Jeff Carter aging and really only Tyler Toffloli being the other option the Kings are not super deep on the offensive side of things. We can assume Ilya Kovalchuk will come in and score 30-goals but being out of the NHL since 2011-12 is a long time, as they say one year out and in the KHL equals like seven years (technically he was gone for 42 years), all joking aside. Kovalchuk may be a good addition with Kopitar or he may not be, we do not know he has been out for quite sometime I would not be surprised if the veteran winger had around 50 points this year. Anyways, middle of the pack for the Kings is reasonable what they finished last year essentially perhaps a little worse.

11. Philadelphia Flyers: 44-28-10

They somehow got by with their goaltending last year and I don’t think anything will change in that regards. They added James Van Reimsydk a former Flyer and now current Flyer gets to play alongside Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek, not to mention their first line with Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny, they are very deep across the forward side of things. But they are very similar to Minnesota good upfront and lack depth on the back end. The Flyers saw some good things out of their young defenseman last year and with Ivan Provorov with another year under his belt, Shane Gostisbehere on the back end too these two will do a lot of the heavy lifting. But Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg showed some bright spots last year. It will be a similar run for the Flyers they will have their ups and downs but at the end of it all, they will be out in the first round.

 

 

The Impact of Pacioretty to Vegas, Karlsson to San Jose

What has happened over the last few days in the hockey world, Erik Karlsson finally got traded, Max Pacioretty is out of Montreal, Oliver Ekman Larsson and Justin Williams were named captains, Henrik Zetterberg’s career is over. It has been a whirl wind of emotions for hockey fans lately. 

Patches lands in Vegas, flying high (literally)

First off the Pacioretty trade. Marc Bergevin has to be up to something to dismantle this Canadiens team. First Subban, now Pacioretty what is he up to? Anyways, the Canadiens received Tomas TatarNick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick for Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty has now been enjoying his time in Vegas as he should, being that he has left that dumpster fire of a team in Montreal to join the former Western Conference champs and Stanley Cup contenders. The Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights with this trade now have Pacioretty paired with Paul Statsny and Alex Tuch, how can this not work out. How can Pacioretty not be happy? Look, he gets the pressure of the Montreal media off his back, he is not the center of attention in Vegas, the “C” is now more so he does not have that added pressure and he is a second liner… To close the case here take a look at some of the things Max Pacioretty has already been up to in Vegas since the trade… 

Let’s just say Pacioretty did not mind the move to Vegas too much it seems. But what does this do for the Golden Knights? Well they add a veteran 30-goal scorer and with this move Pacioretty may be due for 35+ this year, just saying. It adds some more fire power to an already electric Vegas offense, you have Marchessault, Smith, Karlsson on top of Pacioretty that is a solid mix to some scoring and play making forwards. Either way this puts Vegas right where they should be a top contender for the Western Conference again and inch closer to the Stanley Cup…

Karlsson is OUT of OTTAWA! 

Goodbye Ottawa and Eugene Melnyk, what a clown that owner is. First off the whole thing that went down over the summer with Hoffman and Karlsson and Melnyk barely said anything and all he did was get ripped off in a trade for Hoffman. Then the whole mid-year controversy between Karlsson and Melnyk where Karlsson did not even feel comfortable being around is own owner. Terrible. Anyways, he is out of another Atlantic dumpster fire and heading to a Pacific division team. What does this do for the Sharks, well. First the Sharks did not have to trade any core guys, they gave up two solid prospects and a few draft picks but to not really downgrade your roster a ton and a receive the best defenseman in the league is a win. The Sharks gave up Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Rudolfs Balcers, Josh Norris, 2019 2nd round pick, 2020 1st round pick, 2021 2nd round pick(turns into a first if San Jose gets to Stanley Cup this year). So the fact the Senators gave up their best defenseman and received just one defenseman in return is brutal. 

Erik Karlsson San Jose Sharks

Anyways, the impact this has on San Jose is immediate you have guys like Joe Thornton who have been around the game for a decade coming out and saying this is “f***ing incredible” for the Sharks. Now you have, Brent Burns a Norris trophy winner, Erik Karlsson and Marc Edouard Vlasic an unbelievable top three, to add in Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun. This blue line is loaded with all types of weapons, shut down d, offensive power, you name it this blue line has it. It also gives reassurance to Brent Burns and the Sharks forwards as well, Burns has been that puck moving guy on that back end for a while now anytime you get someone else who can do it helps out. Sharks forwards will be receiving break out passes galore with Burns, Vlasic and Karlsson coming their way. Not to mention a power play one consisting of Karlsson-Burns-Kane-Pavelski-Couture, my god… need we say more? It really make San Jose automatic Cup contenders and now battling for that pacific division with the other team on this article, Vegas. 

 

NHL Power Rankings: From 20th on up…

20. Dallas Stars: 38-36-8

The Division is too competitive right now, sure the Stars have a lot of good options on their front end, they have two superstars in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn but lack offensive depth Martin Hanzal has been a bust and Jason Spezza is on the way out. Past the Stars top 3 forwards who else is chipping in? Jason Klingberg is a now solidified number one d option, losing Dan Hamihus is a blow and they have not gained much offensive depth this offseason and their defense is very young. Ben Bishop is a solid goaltender but seems to not be himself since his departure in Tampa Bay. Missing the playoffs is reasonable for Dallas.

Key acquisitions: Valeri Nichuskin, Blake Comeau, Marc Methot, Miro Heiskanen

19. Calgary Flames: 40-33-8

Calgary Flames 18-19 previewThe Flames definitely improved in the offseason and this may come back to bite me but taking a look at the Pacific division it is going to be a dog fight once again the Golden Knights, Sharks and Ducks did not get worse, the Kings got better and the Flames are the team battling for that final wild card spot at the moment. The Flames have James Neal to add some insurance in the goal scoring department, with already Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, but after Matthew Tkachuk and the second line what are the Flames going to do? Same on the back end, losing your top scoring defenseman is tough luckily adding Noah Hanafin is a plus but Hanafin and Hamilton are at different points in their career where Hamilton may have the upper hand right now. Flames have to hope Travis Hamonic finds his way this season and Mike Smith stays healthy and remains a solid number one option. For me I don’t see the Flames ending anywhere that much better than last year.

Key acquisitions: James Neal, Noah Hanafin, Elias Lindholm, Troy Bouwer

18. Colorado Avalanche: 45-30-7

The Av’s finished way above and beyond than what anyone thought they were going to, but with St. Louis has done this offseason there is a slight chance the Avalanche finish above St. Louis this season. The Avalanche and Flames will be the two battling for that final wild card spot in the West, or even missing it. The Avalanche have a superstar in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Ratanen coming off an unbelievable year with a ton of young talent surrounding these two with Tyson Jost, Alex Kerfoot, Sven Andrighetto and some other solid veterans in Matt Calvert, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Nieto. With a solid back end in Tyson Barrie and Erik Johsnon with some great tools in Ian Cole, Nikita Zadorov and Samuel Girad this won’t be the end of the Avalanches playoff years but like I said St. Louis has improved drastically they won’t miss the playoffs this season.

Key acquisitions: Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, Phillip Grubauer

17. New Jersey Devils: 39-33-10

New Jersey Devils 18-19 previewThe Devils had a fantastic and unimaginable run last season sparked by Taylor Hall and some small additions in some young forwards but to do it again will be very difficult for the Devils. With an aging goalie in Corey Schneider, Keith Kinkaid not being a viable number one option and losing John Moore on the back end the Devils have a lot of holes in their line up. Without the same year by Taylor Hall, the Devils will be missing the playoffs in my opinion. The Devils do not have much forward depth nor do they have a study blue line. The Devils could possibly make a run at the wild card with the Islanders, Rangers and Hurricanes not being great but I think Florida bumps them for that final wild card spot.

Key acquisitions:

16. Florida Panthers: 45-30-7

The Panthers have now Mike Hoffman a 30-goal scorer, on top of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Evegnii Dadanov, Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad with a solid number four defenseman and the only question mark remains in the crease for the Panthers sure, Roberto Luongo is a solid goaltender but at this age what can he do more? Jonathan Reimer going to be able to withstand the pressure and be a solid 1-2 option for the Panthers. The two will split time for most of the year but the Panthers had a hot run at the end of the year last season and with the addition of Mike Hoffman it will give a ton of fire power to this already solid Panthers defense. If the Panthers back end and Luongo can stay healthy they will make a playoff run, a short lived one but a run at least.