▪ The GMs voted to change the interpretation of the offside rule to OK players hovering their skates above the blue line — similar to the “breaking the plane” rule in football. Had it been in place this season, the Bruins’ goal differential (already best in the league, plus-52) would be a few ticks better. The alteration should pass through the NHL’s competition committee and be in place next season.
▪ Player and puck tracking remains on track for the playoffs. Unclear if we’ll be able to determine the precise moment Charlie Coyle’s puck possession work leaves an opposing defenseman too tired to keep up, but they’ll keep improving the tech.
▪ The NHL also is monitoring the coronavirus epidemic. The league has barred business travel outside North America, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters, and employees who make personal trips to countries with a coronavirus problem must be quarantined before returning to work.
Employees, such as scouts, already in Europe must stay there, and will be quarantined if they return stateside.
It is unclear what this means for the Bruins’ September trip to Europe, which will see them play an exhibition in Mannheim, Germany, and a season opener in Prague against the Predators.
A Bruins spokesperson said in a statement the team is in “consistent contact with the NHL, medical professionals, and the TD Garden to ensure that we are taking every step necessary to ensure the safety of our fans, players and staff.”
The Bruins faced netminder Chris Driedger, who had an impressive .932 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average in nine games before hurting his groin. He saw his first action since Jan. 16.
Last offseason, no one saw Driedger — who before this year played three games for Ottawa from 2014-17 — as the Panthers’ potential saving grace in a playoff race that had all but slipped away. Their savior was expected to be Sergei Bobrovsky, but he has found little but stormy skies since coming to South Florida.
Playing in front of a scattershot defense, Bobrovsky’s .900 save percentage ranked fifth-worst of goalies with 30 or more appearances, and worst of any goalie making more than $6 million. Bobrovsky, ex- of the Blue Jackets, is in the first year of a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Panthers.
Of the six netminders costing their teams more than $6 million, Tuukka Rask’s .928 save percentage leads the pack. The rest behind Rask ($7 million cap hit): Carey Price (.910; $10.5m), Marc-Andre Fleury (.906; $7m), Henrik Lundqvist (.904; $8.5m), John Gibson (.902; $6.4m); and Bobrovsky (.900; $10m).
The league’s average save percentage is .909, which happens to be the lowest since 2008-09. Jaroslav Halak, who started Thursday for the Bruins, is tied for 34th in goalie cap hit ($2.75 million). He is 10th in save percentage (.917) among goalies with 30 or more outings.
The Bruins got another look at Brett Connolly, cut loose after a 2015-16 season as the right wing complement to the Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron pair (he finished with seven goals and 25 points).
Last year in Washington, Connolly’s production began to match his size (6 feet 3 inches, 195 pounds) and pedigree (sixth overall, 2010 draft). After submitting a 22-24—46 line in the final year of his three-year deal, he took his 2018 Cup ring and signed in Sunrise for four years and $14 million. He has delivered 18-13—31 in 66 games for the Panthers, for a $3.5 million annual hit.
But his team, after an offseason in which the Panthers addressed seemingly every hole in the organization (hiring coach Joel Quenneville, signing goaltender Bobrovsky and bringing in Connolly and defenseman Anton Stralman) was struggling. They entered Thursday 5-10-2 since Feb. 1, on the outside looking in of the playoff race.
They were 5 points back of the Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic, with four Metropolitan Division teams — the Blue Jackets, Islanders, Hurricanes, and Rangers — ahead of them in the wild-card race. Florida was 4 points out of the second wild-card slot entering Thursday, with the Hurricanes (two) and Islanders holding at least one game in hand.
“We need a win, simple as that,” Connolly said. “It’s in the room. It’s going to take one game here, one good performance to change that mind-set. We’ve worked so hard to get into position to get in the playoffs, but it hasn’t been our stretch for this last little bit. We need a win.”
A win and a Tampa Bay loss in regulation would give the Bruins an 11-point lead in the Atlantic Division entering Saturday’s rematch at TD Garden. It also would put the Bruins 8 points up on the idle Blues, their closest competition for the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs … Boston’s plus-52 goal differential is three goals better than Colorado for best in the league. The Bruins are seventh in goals for (220) and first in goals against (168) … The Panthers play at the BB&T Center, a 20-mile bus ride west to the edge of the Everglades. They practice in Coral Springs, a traffic-choked 30 miles from the beach. Poor timing or bad luck can mean a lot of red lines on the traffic app. The roads are clearing, metaphorically speaking. The Panthers last fall pledged $45 million to upgrade the 70-year-old War Memorial Auditorium site, less than 3 miles west of the Fort Lauderdale shores. They hope to begin practicing there in September 2021 at a two-rink facility that also includes a 3,000-seat concert hall, rock climbing wall, and outdoor park space. The BB&T Center, the Panthers’ home since 1998, is owned by Broward County and under lease to the Panthers through 2028.
Matt Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports