The Wraparound: Panthers have reason for concern

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Catch up with all of Sunday’s Stanley Cup playoff action with the NHL Rink Wrap right here

Brad Marchand had a gigantic game for the Bruins on Sunday with a five-point effort to help them even their series with the Hurricanes at two games apiece. 

• The Blues made a goalie switch for their series against the Wild. 

This year is supposed to be different for the Florida Panthers. This is the team that is supposed to change the narrative of the franchise and help it find real postseason success for the first time since its miracle run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, which remains the last time the franchise actually won a playoff series.

The Panthers finished the 2021-22 regular season with the league’s best record, claiming its first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history, and became the first team in 25 years to average more than four goals per game over an 82-game season. On top of that, it came into the playoffs looking like an absolute wagon by winning 23 of 28 games (23-4-1) since the start of March.

They entered the playoffs as heavy favorites against the Washington Capitals in their First Round series and were considered a near lock to move on to at least the Second Round.

Nobody told that to the Capitals.

Florida enters Game 4 on Monday night not only facing a 2-1 deficit, but also looking like a team that has some significant questions and concerns to deal with, having been outplayed for most of the first three games of the series.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 First Round schedule, TV info]

As good as the Panthers were during the regular season there were still a handful of red flags that seemed like they could show up in the playoffs to cause some problems. For starters, the Panthers are a team that generates a lot of their offense off of the rush. That does not always lend itself to success in the playoffs. They also are not an outstanding team defensively, while also having a pretty significant question mark in goal.

High scoring teams that are not great defensively and have sketchy goaltending situations are typically one of the first types of teams to get upset in the playoffs. The first three games of this series have not done much to change that narrative. The Panthers have not been able to take advantage of the Capitals in transition, while Washington has done an excellent job locking down the neutral zone and pressuring Florida’s defense. Sergei Bobrovsky had a strong start through the first two games, but started to show some cracks in Washington’s 6-1 Game 3 win on Saturday. These are not concerns that you can just simply fix at this point.

Even though Washington is the eighth playoff team in the Eastern Conference this is no pushover matchup. The Capitals not only finished the regular season with more than 100 points in the standings, this is a seasoned, veteran team that has been through everything there is to experience in the playoffs. They have seen it all, and there is not anything that is going to surprise, scare, or intimidate them. They are not going to be rattled at the first sight of adversity. We do not know that quite yet about this Panthers team.

We might soon find out about that, though, because all of the pressure in this series rests with them right now. They have probably already lost more games than most people expected them to lose in the series and they are facing the potential for a 3-1 series deficit if they do not fix things on Monday night in Washington.

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 4: Florida Panthers at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET — TBS (WSH leads 2-1): If Ilya Samsonov can build on his Game 3 performance and give the Capitals another strong goaltending performance they could push the Panthers to the brink of elimination when the series shifts back to Florida on Wednesday. The Capitals look like a team that still has some fight even though it is one of the older teams in the league. The Panthers need to find that offense that dominated the NHL during the regular season.

Game 4: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET — ESPN (PIT leads 2-1): This series has been wild so far with a triple overtime game, a third string goalie, and that wild Game 3 on Saturday. The Penguins got some depth scoring on Saturday, while Sidney Crosby‘s line has been absolutely dominant so far in the playoffs. After scoring just four goals in four games against Igor Shesterkin and the Rangers during the regular season, the Penguins have already scored 10 goals against Shesterkin and chased him from a game in the first three games of this series. You should probably expect Shesterkin to be better in this game.

Game 4: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET — ESPN (COL leads 3-0): The Avalanche have a chance to be the first team to advance to the Second Round if they can beat Nashville and complete the First Round sweep. Given the fact that Nashville does not have Juuse Saros that result probably would not be a major shock. The big question for Colorado right now is going to be the availability of Darcy Kuemper, who was injured in the Game 3 win.

Game 4: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET — TBS (DAL leads 2-1): This has been one of the more surprising series so far with the Stars jumping out to an early 2-1 series lead and taking home-ice advantage away from the Flames so far. Jake Oettinger has been outstanding in net for Dallas, while Joe Pavelski has been taking over offensively already scoring three of the Stars’ first six goals in the series. That also gives you an idea of what this series has been about. The Stars have scored only six goals in the first three games of the series and still lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4.

TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 5: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET — ESPN (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET — ESPN2 (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET — ESPN (Series tied 2-2)
Game 5: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET — ESPN2 (Series tied 2-2)

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

Hurricanes vs. Bruins
• Penguins vs. Rangers
• Panthers vs. Capitals
Blues vs. Wild
• Avalanche vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings
Flames vs. Stars

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info
First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
• NHL Draft Lottery set: Canadiens have best odds for top pick
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

Scroll Down For:

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

    Chase Agnello-Dean/Getty Images
    0 Comments

    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

    mark stone surgery
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
    2 Comments

    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

    brunette dui
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
    1 Comment

    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”