Dallas Stars

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

Breaking down the winners and losers of NHL 24-team season return format

The NHL has their 24-team postseason format and they’ve even drilled down on some of the specifics this week.

We still don’t know exactly when the Stanley Cup postseason can start or when NHL training camps would be going full speed ahead. Also, all of the matchups beyond the “qualifying round” are still very much in the air.

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Clearly there is still plenty we don’t know about the Stanley Cup Playoffs once the NHL presses the play button in the next few months.

But we do know enough about the proposed postseason to know who will benefit, and who will be getting the short end of the stick. So that’s enough to put together the always popular winners and losers list when it comes to the new NHL postseason format. 

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Chris Wagner injury: Bruins winger exits vs. Stars with upper body issue

Chris Wagner injury: Bruins winger exits vs. Stars with upper body issue

BOSTON -- The Bruins lost one of their fourth line warriors in Thursday night’s win over the Dallas Stars, but it's unclear exactly how long Chris Wagner will be out after leaving the game with an upper-body injury.

Wagner exited in the second period of the Bruins' 4-3 win over the Stars after taking a roughing penalty for tackling Mattias Janmark, who went after Bruins forward David Krejci.

Janmark had bumped Krejci at the Dallas net after the B’s center had just exited the penalty box for a fight with Joe Pavelski, and Wagner quickly came to his aid by grabbing Janmark in a hug and throwing him down to the ice. 

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Wagner tallied four hits and a couple of shot attempts in 7:52 of ice time before his exit.

“Upper body. He didn’t come back, obviously,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Wagner, who had goals in two of the last three games and seven shots on net during an active stretch. "We’ll have a better idea [on Friday] on how he feels when he comes in.”

The real shame of it all is that Wagner had been playing some of his best hockey of the season over the last month, jelling with Par Lindholm and Sean Kuraly into the kind of effective, energetic fourth line that was giving the B’s consistent minutes.

The good news is that Wagner was walking around the Bruins dressing room following the win and appeared to be OK, so the expectation is that he won’t be out very long due to injury. 

If Wagner can’t play this weekend against the New York Islanders, then the expectation is that pot-stirring forward Anton Blidh would draw back into the lineup for the Black and Gold after sitting out the last couple of games.

Bruins-Stars Talking Points: Nick Ritchie as advertised in big win over Dallas

Bruins-Stars Talking Points: Nick Ritchie as advertised in big win over Dallas

GOLD STAR: Nick Ritchie showed his physicality on Tuesday night and showed off the skill that made him a top-10 pick in the draft in Thursday night’s win over the Stars.

Ritchie scored a second period goal on his first shot as a member of the Bruins after collecting a loose puck in the high slot and firing it through traffic on its way past Ben Bishop. Then, Ritchie teamed with David Pastrnak on a give-and-go play where he fed No. 88 at the post for a tap-in goal that showed off the big winger’s smooth hands for a power forward-type player.

Ritchie finished with two shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots to go along with a plus-1 rating in 12:59 of ice time, and continues to show the ability to win battles along the boards and serve as a big body in front of the net. He looks as advertised a couple of games into his Bruins career.

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BLACK EYE: Alex Radulov didn’t even register a blip on the radar screen for the Stars as he finished with zero shots on net while on ice for a pair of goals against in 13:49 of ice time.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn at least both picked up assists in the loss for Dallas while showing a little offensive production, but Radulov was a passenger while doing next-to-nothing in defeat. Radulov is having a so-so season with the Stars while sitting at 15 goals and 33 points, but it was far from his “A” game against the Bruins on Thursday night.

Then there’s the literal black eye that Joe Pavelski probably received after getting hammered by a flurry of right-handed punches from David Krejci before the referees were able to break things up.

TURNING POINT: It was very clearly the fight between Krejci and Pavelski in the second period where Krejci had decided enough was enough with the Stars forward. Krejci got tangled up with Pavelski in front of the net and the gloves came flying off both players before the Bruins center landed a number of right-handed punches on him.

The Bruins seemed to play with more intensity and energy following the fisticuffs from Krejci and scored a pair of goals to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish on the evening. For a player that was criticized for not playing hard enough following Tuesday night’s loss, Krejci had a big response this time around in his first fight since dropping the gloves with Benoit Pouliot during the 2010-11 season.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak continues to push the envelope offensively and that’s what he did in scoring his 46th goal of the season on Thursday night. Pastrnak sped the puck up the ice all by himself, dished quickly to Nick Ritchie and then cut to the net before the power forward dished it back to him for the tap-in goal at the post.

Pastrnak finished with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 17:16 of ice time while registering four shots on net and eight shot attempts overall. More importantly, Pastrnak had zero giveaways in the game and managed the puck while making his usual array of dazzling plays in the offensive zone.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of shots on net in a Bruins uniform that it took for both Ritchie brothers to score goals, and with both of those goals coming against the Stars.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We responded. They were aware that it wasn’t our best. We needed to be better and we were tonight.” –Bruce Cassidy, on the B’s bouncing back after back-to-back losses to Vancouver and Calgary.