Jet City Ice helps you make the most of your limited TV hockey time with our picks for the upcoming weekend.
St. Louis Blues vs. Boston Bruins
When: Saturday, 10/26, 4:00pm PT
Rematch! The Boston Bruins, no doubt still feeling the sting of a Game 7 loss to St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final, host the Blues for the first of two meetings this season. Boston peppered St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington with 33 shots, dominating play through a large portion of the game, but only dented the twine once and fell to the Blues 4 – 1. They then suffered through watching the Blues hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in the Bruins’ home rink. Each team plays a physical game; I have a feeling there will be some frustrations taken out on the TD Center ice on Saturday.
Both clubs are off to strong starts: the Bruins are 6-1-2, good for 3rd place in the Eastern Conference; St. Louis is 4-2-3, but the cracks in the armor are beginning to show in their minus-3 goal differential. Surprisingly, goaltending appears to be the problem. Binnington has not showed his Stanley Cup form in the early going, and backup Jake Allen has a 4.17 GAA and save percentage of 0.849%. You can bet Boston will try to exploit this weakness on Saturday.
Potential Future Seattle Players: From St. Louis, as of this point they will actually have to bring in players to expose in the draft. Currently 10 players on the 23-man roster will have their contracts expire just shy of the expansion draft, including both goalies. But I’d keep your eye on left winger Zach Sanford. This is a moose of a kid, 6’4″ and tipping the scales at 207 lbs. But he notched 20 points for the Blues last year while keeping his plus-minus at +8, and he has shown he can play at a point-per-game pace in the USHL and NCAA. He’ll be an RFA coming into the draft — I’d wager that St. Louis will qualify him, but I doubt they’ll protect him.
From the Bruins, you’re going to say I’m nuts, but hear me out. No team is going to expose their number one goalie. Seattle will not be able to acquire one through the expansion draft — that’s just reality. So the only way to get an experienced, go-to starting goaltender will be via free agency. There are 9 goalies with starting jobs right now whose contracts expire at the end of the 2020-21 season. Two of them Seattle won’t touch — too old by that time. But the other 7 include the starting netminder for the Boston Bruins. So say what you will, but if Boston doesn’t sign him to an extension in the prior year, it’s possible that your starting goalie on opening night in Seattle will be Tuuka Rask.
NHL Center Ice/NHL.tv
Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks
When: Friday, 10/25, 7:00pm PT
This is the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. The Capitals’ powerhouse offense arrives on the West Coast tonight to face a hot Canucks goaltending duo in Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. Both are boasting save percentages north of 0.930%, and with Vancouver allowing as many shots against as most teams in the league, it is genuinely these two who are doing the heavy lifting.
Washington brings a 7-2-2 record out to Vancouver, led by captain Alexander Ovechkin and Washington (State!) native T.J. Oshie. Once you get past those two and defenseman John Carlson however, the Caps’ point production drops off significantly. That provides an opportunity for the Canucks to focus on neutralizing just 3 players and getting their own offense in gear. This should be a good one.
Possible Future Seattle Players: We talked before about Carl Hagelin, but the other possibility from the Capitals is defenseman Nick Jensen. He’s got good size at 6’1″ and 196 lbs, and he’s a right-handed shot — a coveted commodity in the NHL. He’s off to a rough start this year, showing a minus-6 through 11 games. But if he can demonstrate good instincts and get back to being the playmaker he was at St. Cloud State, he could be a good pickup.
The Canucks are another team with a lot of expiring contracts, so the picture will be clearer this time next year. But I would like to see Seattle pursue right-handed center Brandon Sutter. He’s in his 12th season in the NHL, plays a consistent two-way game, and has taken on a leadership role as an Assistant Captain for the Canucks. By the time Seattle will be looking at him he’ll be best used as a shut-down 3rd-line center, and hopefully will agree to a commensurate level of salary. But he’s an asset in the locker room, and another player the younger guys can look up to and emulate as they learn how to coalesce into a team. Sutter will be a UFA coming into the expansion draft, so Seattle will have first crack at him if they’re interested.