0:00-5:04 Intros, reactions to all-female broadcast
5:04-11:04 Who will win the Metro Division?
11:04-14:27 Can Avalanche overcome MacKinnon’s injury?
14:27-17:57 Zibanejad, Panarin give Rangers hope for playoffs
17:57-23:40 How coronavirus is affecting the NHL
23:40-43:45 Pierre interviews Lightning’s Victor Hedman
43:45-End Playoff race in Atlantic heating up
Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
A game between two of the best teams in the NHL is always worth noting, whether the Lightning (87 points) really have a chance to catch the Bruins (94), or not. When you consider that the two teams are expected to be on a collision course for a possible second-round playoff matchup (despite, again, easily ranking among the NHL’s best), it only makes each matchup more interesting.
With Tuesday’s meeting in Tampa Bay on NBCSN and Saturday’s bout in Boston, the Lightning and Bruins get two chances to see how they measure up against each other. Which … again, also translates to how they measure up among the best of the best.
“I look at it more as ‘We haven’t seen them in a long time’ and Tampa has been a really strong team since I’ve been here,” Bruce Cassidy said, via NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty. “For us, it’s a measuring stick maybe. Here’s one of the best teams in our division — and I’d put us in that category as well — and let’s see what they’ve got. It’s less about that if we win this, we can start counting down [to a divisional title].”
Torey Krug believes the games will have a “playoff-type feel” to them. Fittingly enough, there are also reasons why the Lightning and Bruins will be going through a “feeling-out process,” including Tuesday on NBCSN.
Lightning, Bruins continue to deal with trade deadline transitions
Want an idea of how hectic it can be when you’re traded? Consider that life doesn’t just hit the pause button for someone like Blake Coleman, whose baby girl arrived just around the time he went from the Devils to the Lightning.
These games provide a chance for the Bruins and Lightning to see how new additions and alignments might work in strength vs. strength situations. Actually, they also get the chance to see if other things work, like sending a more defensive-minded unit after one of those “strengths.”
Now, there’s some relief in that all four forwards weren’t expected to be team-altering players. No doubt, Kase could really tie the room together, and the Bolts paid big enough for Coleman and Goodrow to expect strong play. But these aren’t the sort of additions teams expect to revolutionize an offense or patch up a shaky defense.
Instead, the goal is for the rich to get richer, and these rosters are about as talent-rich as you’re going to see in the salary cap era.
It’s far from ideal timing, although Tampa Bay at least gets time to tune up without him. (It probably would’ve been nice to know about this loss before the trade deadline, though, mind you.)
While the Lightning boast other stars like Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, many eyes will be on reigning Art and Hart winner Nikita Kucherov. Lightning fans should be soothed to know that Kucherov can flourish without Stamkos, even if it’s only natural for there to be some drop-off.
The Lightning possess a 57-32-13 record in 112 games played with Kucherov but without Stamkos. So there’s experience there, even if they don’t want to perpetuate such experiences.
It will be fascinating to see if Kucherov can stay hot, because he’s on a torrid run. Kucherov is currently on a personal 19-game point streak with 14 goals and 31 points during that span. Overall, Kucherov has generated 80 points in 63 games.
Bruins begin tough stretch with Tuesday’s NBCSN game vs. Lightning
Two matches against the Lightning in one week already sounds like a tall order for Boston. The challenges go further than that:
If the Lightning took both of this week’s games in regulation, and also took advantage of their game in hand against Boston, then you can see how the Bruins’ buffer could shrink in no time. Virtually every team on this schedule faces even greater urgency than the B’s, so this will be a gut-check stretch.
A … measuring stick, if you will. It should be a good one between the Bruins and Lightning on NBCSN Tuesday.
NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special – “Wired: Stadium Series – Kings vs. Avalanche” – this Wednesday at 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN, immediately following coverage of Ducks-Avalanche on Wednesday Night Hockey.
Following Wednesday’s premiere, the show will be available on demand on the NBC Sports app. The special will also encore on NBCSN on Thursday, March 5, at 10:30 p.m. ET following NHL Overtime, and on Wednesday, March 11, at 6 p.m. ET.
The Metropolitan Division won’t win the 2020 NHL All-Star Game after winning the 2019 edition. The Atlantic Division dispatched the Metro 9-5 in the first round. The Atlantic awaits the winner of the Central vs. Pacific Divisions.
As you’d expect, the game had a lot of goals, plenty of laughs and smiles, with very little defense.
The gap between the two teams was exaggerated, though. David Pastrnak and Anthony Duclair both generated a hat trick and assist apiece, although their third goals were both empty-netters. Tyler Bertuzzi (four assists) and Victor Hedman (1G, 3A) were the Atlantic’s other four-point players.
Seth Jones (1G, 3A) ranked as the Metro’s only four-point producer.
It’s the NHL All-Star break, which means it’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened during the first four months of the 2019-20 season. There’s been plenty of surprises and disappointments so far, and it’s never too early to begin discussing who could be up for the the major awards in June.
The PHT staff was polled for their top three choices for the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Calder. Below are our selections and our reasons behind our No. 1 selections.
Let us know your winners in the comments.
SEAN: The problem for the super duos in Boston and Edmonton is there are arguments to be made for McDavid and Draisaitl and Marchand and Pastrnak for MVP. All are worthy, but right now the top spot has to go to MacKinnon for what he’s done this season with the Avs. His 70 points puts him top three in NHL scoring and he kept on scoring as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog missed time with injuries. How important has been for Colorado? The second leading scorer on the team — Cale Makar — is 35! points behind him.
JAMES: Woof, this is a tough one. MacKinnon gets the edge for two reasons: First, his defensive impact is stronger than guys like McDavid (in a granular way) and secondly, MacKinnon generated big offense and huge shot totals even with key linemates out. He didn’t have the luxury of Mikko Rantanen as often as McDavid had Leon Draisaitl or Pastrnak had Brad Marchand (who’s just as worthy of consideration as Pastrnak).
ADAM: The Oilers’ roster still isn’t very good outside of the top-two or-three players, and McDavid is single-handedly putting that team on his back and carrying it. He is simply the most dominant player in hockey. He should be going for his third or fourth MVP at this point in his career.
JOEY: This may be the obvious pick, but the Oilers are so thin behind McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that it’s hard not to consider their captain the frontrunner to be MVP. McDavid is currently on pace to pick up 127 points, which is one point fewer than last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, finished the season with in 2018-19.
SCOTT: Whether he wins the award or not, McDavid is by far the most valuable player in the National Hockey League
JAMES: If Carlson’s scoring lead shrinks, I’d lean toward someone like Pietrangelo, who scores and also shines more in underlying metrics. Carlson’s still mostly … fine, though, really, and his offense has been impossible to ignore. Not just 13 goals and 60 points, but also six game-winners. Sorry, I can only ignore so many shiny points. Hamilton would be in the top three if not for his unfortunate injury — I assume we’ll sadly have to forget about him here.
ADAM: I say this knowing Hamilton is almost certainly not going to win at the end of the season because of his injury (and because Carlson’s point total will get most of the votes) but we are talking strictly first half performance here, and I think Hamilton was the best all-around defenseman in the first half before his injury given his dominance at both ends of the rink and his ability to control the pace of the game. He has always been underappreciated and a legit No. 1 defender, and this is his best performance to date.
JOEY: How can you argue with the Carlson pick? The 30-year-old is top 10 in league scoring, which is shocking at this point, and he’s on pace to surpass the 100-point mark. His overall game isn’t terrible either. What a year.
SCOTT: The offensive part of his game this season has been outstanding but Carlson’s play on both ends of the ice is a huge reason why the Capitals are atop the NHL standings.
SEAN: Hellebuyck is as important player to his team as anyone this season. As the Jets continue to struggle, the netminder has stood out keeping them above water and in the playoff race. He sports a .926 even strength save percentage, is top five in goals saved above average (10.75, per Natural Stat Trick), and leads all goalies in goals above replacement (16.3), wins above replacement (2.8), and standings points above replacement (5.5), as tracked by Evolving Wild.
JAMES: Hellebuyck deserves legitimate MVP consideration. The Jets would be lost without them, as they’re getting swamped and basically asking Hellebuyck to save the day. He’s doing so to a staggering extent. Bishop’s been incredible for Dallas, though, and is even impressive in certain stat categories. Sheer workload wins it for Hellebuyck.
ADAM: Bishop does not get enough attention for being one of the league’s best goalies. He has already been a Vezina finalist three different times in his career and should be there again this season. The Stars have a good team, but no one person is driving their success more than him.
JOEY: Hellebuyck might not have the best numbers of the three candidates on this list, but he’s done a relatively good job playing behind a less-than-stellar defense. The Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba in the off-season, so being the goaltender on that team was never going to be easy.
SCOTT: Binnington busted on the scene last season but has proven that it was not a fluke with excellent play between the pipes.
SEAN: The Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot, just as we all predicted back in July… Despite all of the departures in free agency Tortorella has gotten the best out of his charges, with a special thanks to the recent play of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. As Cam Atkinson said before the season, Columbus came in with chips on their shoulders and have proved doubters wrong through the first half.
JAMES: Let’s be honest; “keeping your job” is the real Jack Adams Award for coaches in 2019-20. There are some great choices — including Barry Trotz, who didn’t make the top three — but Sullivan’s Penguins haven’t just rolled with huge injury punches. They’ve also managed to be a top team, not just a team clinging to wild-card contention. Sullivan’s versatility as a coach has really impressed me since he joined the Penguins.
ADAM: Sullivan. The Penguins not only lead the league in man-games lost due to injury, but the quality of players that have been sidelined is far and away above what any other team has had to deal with. They are still one of the league’s best defensive teams, one of the league’s best teams overall, and are playing like they did during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons when they won the Stanley Cup.
JOEY: Tortorella has had to make serious adjustments heading into this season. Losing Panarin and Bobrovsky is something most coaches wouldn’t be able to overcome. Whether they make the playoffs or not, Tortorella needs to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams.
SCOTT: With all the injuries that have ravaged the Penguins, they are still in prime position in the Eastern Conference and Sullivan has done a great job of integrating call-ups up and down the lineup.
SEAN: Makar and Hughes will be the top two finalists and so far it’s an incredibly close race. They’re tight in points (Makar leads with a 0.88 points per game average) and close in minutes played (Hughes is ahead by over a minute per night), but Makar gets the slight edge here with his impact offensively for the Avs. The only question come awards season is if Ilya Samsonov came play his way in being the third finalist.
JAMES: Hughes vs. Makar remains a tough choice, and picking third is tough, with Adam Fox and forwards like Victor Olofsson (injured) and Dominik Kubalik knocking on the door. The three defensemen above are bringing offense, but are also carrying significant workloads — and not just “for rookies.” Hughes strikes me as the most impressive from an all-around standpoint, while Makar’s offensive brilliance cannot be ignored. It’s a strong, strong year for rookie defensemen, and Marino’s a hidden gem. All three defensemen are averaging more than 20 minutes per night on playoff teams.
ADAM: Makar looks like he is going to be a superstar. While the forward trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog is the foundation of the Avalanche roster, a player like Makar is what really takes them to another level as Stanley Cup contenders. An impact defenseman that can move the puck, play those minutes, and help drive the offense the way he does is a cornerstone player and the type of defenseman that has Norris Trophies in his future.
JOEY: Makar has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in his first full year in the NHL and he’s managed to pick up 11 goals and 35 points in 40 games this season. The 21-year-old looks like he’s going to be a huge factor in Colorado for many years to come. He’s definitely the rookie of the year if he stays healthy.
SCOTT: The transition to the NHL shouldn’t be this easy but Makar has been a force on the Avalanche blueline.
Lightning, Canadiens continue to head in different directions
Right now the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens are two runaway freight trains heading in very different directions.
They continued their current streaks on Thursday night as we continue to get some clarity in what was once a jumbled and surprising Atlantic Division playoff race.
The Lightning, thanks to their 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes, extended their current winning streak to nine games on, while the Canadiens let an early two-goal lead slip away in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It is the Canadiens’ eighth loss in a row.
Let’s take a quick look at what is happening with each team at the moment.
The Lightning are back
It is not just the fact they have won nine games in a row that matters. Or even the fact they have the second-best record in the league (14-4-1) since the start of December.
It is the way they are collecting those wins.
They are starting to steamroll teams much the same way they did during the entire 2018-19 season and are finally starting to shake off the early season rust that pushed them down the standings. Over the past three games alone they have outscored the Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes (all teams currently in a playoff position) by a combined margin of 17-3. They are starting to tilt the ice in their favor and dominate teams in the shot attempt and scoring chance numbers. They are pushing the play in every game, they are dictating the pace, and they are playing on their terms. And no one is really able to match up with them.
Their superstars are also starting to get rolling.
Thanks to Thursday’s win they are now up to second place in the Atlantic Division and still have two games in hand on Boston (first place) and Toronto (third place).
They look to win their 10th game in a row on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Canadiens might be out of it
Canadiens fans have seen this story play out before.
Strong start to the season that is followed by a complete meltdown that eventually takes them out of playoff contention.
After turning a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Thursday, the Canadiens have now lost eight games in a row and are just 6-15-4 in their past 25 games.
That stretch includes two different eight-game losing streaks. All of that comes after an 11-5-3 start to the regular season.
In the end it all comes down to a lack of high end, impact talent at forward. The injuries this to players like Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, and Joel Armia have simply been too much to overcome. This was never a particularly deep team to begin with, and when you take some of their top forwards out of the lineup for any stretch of time it is going to hurt in a big way. Add in the fact that Carey Price has not been able to bail them out like he has so many times in the past and you have a perfect recipe for the mess that is currently playing out in Montreal.
They are now nine points out of a Wild Card spot with five teams ahead of them.
Without some sort of a drastic change that deficit seems almost impossible for them to overcome the way things are going.
They have a chance to snap their losing streak on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.