Milan Lucic, David Krejci

Get your game notes: Canadiens at Bruins

12 Comments

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Boston Bruins hosting the Montreal Canadiens starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Tonight marks the 895th all-time meeting between Boston and Montreal, regular season and playoffs (the most meetings between any two teams in NHL history). The Canadiens had won five straight regular-season meetings in the series, until the Bruins defeated the Canadiens on Mar. 12 in Montreal by a 4-1 margin. The B’s got a combined four points from their second line (Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith) and 35 saves by goaltender Tuukka Rask in the win.

• The Bruins enter tonight’s game having won 12 games in a row, all but one of which were settled in regulation. It is their longest win streak since a 13-game run in 1970-71, and two shy of the franchise record set in 1929-30 (14). If they defeat the Canadiens tonight, they can tie the franchise mark on Thursday evening at TD Garden against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.

• Bruins winger Jarome Iginla has been on fire in March, with an NHL-high 11 goals in the month, including seven goals in his last five games. On Saturday, the 36-year-old scored his 557th and 558th career NHL goals, leaving him only two goals shy of Guy Lafleur (560 goals) for 24th all-time. Lafleur scored all but 42 of his goals with the Canadiens, winning five Stanley Cups from 1971-85.

• Canadiens winger Thomas Vanek has four goals since being acquired from the Islanders at the March 5 trade deadline. On Mar. 18 vs. Colorado, Vanek became the first player to score his first three goals as a Canadien in the same game since Alex Smart did so in his NHL debut on Jan. 14, 1943. Vanek also joined Minnesota’s Matt Moulson in scoring goals for three different teams this season (Vanek: BUF, NYI, MTL – Moulson: NYI, BUF, MIN), a feat no player had accomplished since Pascal Dupuis (MIN, NYR, ATL) and Alexei Zhitnik (NYI, PHI, ATL) in 2006-07.

• Before the Bruins’ current win streak, head coach Claude Julien sat one win shy of Jack Adams (DET, 413 wins, 1927-47) for 29th on the all-time wins list. 12 wins later, Julien has solidified his candidacy for the Jack Adams Award, given to the top coach as selected by the NHL Broadcasters Association. If victorious, Julien (who won the award in 2008-09) would become the first two-time winner since former Canadiens great Jacques Lemaire (1993-94, with New Jersey; 2002-03, with Minnesota.)

• Since Julien took over before the 2007-08 season, the Bruins defense has been the stingiest in the NHL, allowing 1,275 goals in 529 games (2.41 goals/game). During that span, they have allowed two or fewer goals in 296 games (most in the NHL) and five or more in only 48 (fewest in the NHL).

• Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is 7-0-0, with a 1.55 GAA, .946 save% and a shutout during the 12-game win streak. Together with backup Chad Johnson (5-0-0, 1.20 GAA, .954 save%, shutout), the Bruins netminders have allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of the 12 wins.

• Since Mar. 15, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is 3-1-0 with a 3.28 GAA and .906 save%, following his 5-0-0, 0.59 GAA, .972 save% performance in Canada’s run to gold at the Sochi Olympics. Price has played in and won more games against the Bruins than any other NHL team, posting a career 17-8-3 record with a 2.50 GAA and .919 save% in 29 games vs. Boston – though he has not won at Boston since Oct. 27, 2011 (0-2, with one no-decision since then).

• In 11 games this month, the Canadiens have been assessed 193 penalty minutes, and their opponents have been assessed 187 penalty minutes, both NHL-highs for March. The Habs have gone 7/44 on the power play (15.9%, T-18th in the NHL for March) and 37/42 on the penalty kill (88.1%, T-6th).

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo
2 Comments

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.

Wild GM Fletcher undecided on Vanek buyout, but notes ‘our cap situation is much better this year’

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Thomas Vanek hopes he’s not bought out, but his rough 2015-16 campaign has made that a possibility.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher certainly isn’t ruling it out, but at the same time he also presented an assessment for Vanek that was in a way more of a mixed than negative review.

“I thought Thomas in October and November was arguably our best forward – or certainly played as well as any body on our team,” Fletcher said, per the StarTribune. “He seemed to lose confidence. But I thought he really shot the puck well and did a lot of great things early. And there’s no question he pressed after that and then got banged up. He’s a goal scorer and we need to find a way to score more goals. Our cap situation is much better this year.”

That last point is particularly relevant given that a buyout essentially boils down to missing out on the chance of Vanek bouncing back in exchange for some short-term cap relief. To put figures on it, buying out Vanek would save Minnesota $5 million in cap space for the 2016-17 campaign, but then it will cost Minnesota $2.5 million in 2017-18, per General Fanager.

With Vanek in the books, the Wild are projected to consume $63.8 million in cap space next season and that figure doesn’t including pending restricted free agents Jason Zucker, Jordan Schroeder, Zac Dalpe, Matt Dumba, or Darcy Kuemper. If the 2016-17 ceiling is $74 million, as has been previously suggested, then it seems reasonable to believe that Minnesota can lock up its RFAs, keep Vanek, and still have some flexibility left over to engage in other changes over the summer. Although obviously gaining an extra $5 million would make it easier for them to make more sizable moves.

“I’m much more comfortable with our flexibility this year than last year. It’s going to give us more options,” Fletcher said.

The plan is for Fletcher to take a couple weeks before deciding on what to do with Vanek.

Related: No Chemistry issues or character problems here, says Wild GM