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NHN East Division Picks: Philadelphia Flyers Beasts Of The East

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Philadelphia Flyers

Are the Philadelphia Flyers poised to win the first-ever Mass Mutual East Division title? 

The 2021 NHL Season kicks off in Philadelphia tonight when the Flyers host their longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first-ever East Division game, and out of our four National Hockey Now writers that cover teams in the East Division, two of the four picked the Philadelphia Flyers to be the top seed out of four playoff teams from the East.

Due to the COVID pandemic and travel restrictions and the Canadian-United States border being closed for the foreseeable future, the NHL had to have all seven Canadian NHL teams remain in Canada throughout the season in the Scotia North Division. The rest of the league will play their 56 regular season games south of the border in the East, Central, and West Divisions.

The eight-team East Division consists of the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, and the Buffalo Sabres will all play each other eight times each. As they say, familiarity breeds contempt and with the skill and physical play of these teams, new rivalries are expected to develop fast and old ones, like the Flyers and Penguins tonight, will be taken to another level!

So without further ado, here are the National Hockey Now East Division predictions:

 

Jimmy Murphy (Boston Hockey Now)

 

Division Winner: Philadelphia Flyers

Surprise Playoff Team (If any): New York Rangers

MVP of Division: Carter Hart

Best Defenseman: Ivan Provorov

Best Goalie: Carter Hart

 

Joe Haggerty (Boston Hockey Now)

 

Division Winner: Philadelphia Flyers 

Surprise Playoff Team (If any): New York Rangers

MVP of Division: Brad Marchand

Best Defenseman: Ivan Provorov 

Best Goalie: Tuukka Rask

 

Dan Kingerski (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)

 

Division Winner: Washington Capitals 

Surprise Playoff Team (If any): New York Rangers

MVP of Division: Sidney Crosby

Best Defenseman: John Carlson

Best Goalie: Tristan Jarry

 

Christian Arnold (NYI Hockey Now)

 

Division Winner: Boston Bruins

Surprise Playoff Team (If any): New York Rangers 

MVP of Division: Artemi Panarin 

Best Defenseman: Adam Pelech 

Best Goalie: Ilya Samsonov

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New York Islanders

RUNNING WITH THE DEVILS: Islanders Lineup, Matchups and Game Notes vs. New Jersey

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New York Islanders lineup

The New York Islanders will look to complete the sweep of the New Jersey Devils this evening as they wrap up a two-game set with the Devils tonight at Prudential Center.

The Islanders handily dispatched New Jersey on Thursday night with a 4-1 win at Nassau Coliseum. The two meetings are the first of eight that will occur between divisional rivals this season.

Head coach Barry Trotz was keeping his cards close to the vest this afternoon, but the Islanders lineup is expected to be the same as it was on Thursday. Where the head coach hinted things could change was during the upcoming week as the Islanders begin a five-game road trip.

“I’m trying to get a little rhythm with the group that we have,” Trotz said. “At some point, either injury will hit or we’ll make sort of subtle changes and try to keep everyone involved. The taxi squad, they sometimes feel like outliers. We’re monitoring them and evaluating them every day. Making it a little bit of a competition. We have a busy week and I’m sure you’ll see different lineups as we go along during the week.”

New Jersey will try to contain the Islanders offense, which scored a season-high four goals on backup Scott Wedgewood. He was in net on Thursday with MacKenzie Blackwood on the COVID protocol list.

Wedgewood is expected to start again on Sunday night with Blackwood still on the COVID protocol list.

The one player the Devils will be focused on stopping will be Mathew Barzal, who helped lead the Islanders’ offense during the first matchup. The Islanders star had a three-point night against New Jersey on Thursday.

“We have to be a lot more aware of when he comes on the ice; the angles we take on him,” Lindy Ruff said, according to Mike Morreale. “There were a couple angles we took that just allowed him to go right thru us. He’s got the capability, once he’s wound up, to probably beat any defenseman in this League.”

New York Islanders Lineup (Projected)

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey

Ross Johnston — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Oliver Wahlstrom

Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock

Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield

Andy Greene — Noah Dobson

Semyon Varlamov

Ilya Sorokin

New Jersey Devils Lineup (Projected)

Yegor Sharangovich — Jack Hughes — Kyle Palmieri

Miles Wood — Travis Zajac — Janne Kuokkanen

Nicholas Merkley — Pavel Zacha — Nikita Gusev

Andreas Johnsson — Michael McLeod — Nathan Bastian

Ryan Murray — P.K. Subban

Dmitry Kulikov — Damon Severson

Ty Smith — Matt Tennyson

Scott Wedgewood

Eric Comrie

Game Notes

The Islanders have allowed the fewest goals in their first four games since the 1981-82 season, giving up just five so far. … The Islanders have been strong in the faceoff circle early this season. They are ranked second in the league with a 57.2 faceoff percentage. … Among the team’s best faceoff men has been Brock Nelson, who has is 30-for-50 in faceoffs this season. … New Jersey has a five-game point streak against the Islanders at home. They are 2-0-3 in that span against New York. … Nico Hischier (2-1-3) and Kyle Palmieri (1-2-3) led New Jersey in points against the Islanders last season. … The last three games between New York and New Jersey at Prudential have to overtime.

How to Watch

Today’s game will air locally on MSG+2 or it is streamable on MSG Go or on NHL.tv outside of the New York market. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on AM 970, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.

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Young blood: Noah Dobson making strides at blue line for Islanders

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Noah Dobson

When the New York Islanders traded defenseman Devon Toews in the lead-up to the season, it almost inevitably gave Noah Dobson a more prominent role on the teams defensive corps.

When Johnny Boychuk announced his career was over, it thrust Dobson into an important role.

So far, the 21-year-old has held his own and has been a key contributor to the defense.

In four games, Dobson’s recorded three assists — half his point total from 34 regular-season games last year. More than the point production, though, the Prince Edward Island native has seen a significant uptick in his ice time.

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

Already this year, he’s averaging over 18 minutes per game, which is five minutes more than he was during his rookie season. But he’s also been a key piece on the power play, generating two of his three points on the extra-man unit.

After Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils, head coach Barry Trotz said Dobson had put in extra work to have a more visible offensive side. Dobson had drawn rave reviews in the QMJHL for his stay-at-home defensive play, but has added a little more of an aggressive offensive dimension this year. That was especially noticeable on the power play against New Jersey when he came into the slot for a shot attempt that went wide but set up Jordan Eberle’s second goal of the game.

“He’s been putting extra time in and some work on the power play as well as 5-on-5,” Trotz said. “I just think that the more he plays, the more comfortable that he gets, the more confidence he gets the better it is for us and better it is for him. I thought he’s responded well from the Ranger game, hopefully, he continues to grow.”

In the aforementioned Rangers game, Noah Dobson took a penalty and was a minus-2 in what was a sloppy 5-0 loss for the Islanders. But after two points and a season-high 20:24 of ice time against New Jersey, Dobson quickly recovered.

Defensively, he’s blocked 12 shots and worked with veteran Andy Greene, though he pair has been toward the bottom for the Islanders in terms of possession. According to Natural Stat Trick, the two have a 35.90 Corsi For percentage in over 40 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 together. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but that’s a number the Islanders would like to see rise significantly. Right now, it’s the worst pair on the team that’s played any significant minutes this year.

Noah Dobson Natural Stat Trick

Some of Noah Dobson’s stats from the 2020-21 season.

But the good news for Dobson, outside of playing with Greene, he has a CF percentage of 58.33 in a little over 13 minutes of ice time with other partners.

When the Islanders dealt Toews to the Colorado Avalanche, they lost a player who could move the puck and chip in significant time on the power play. While it might be unfair to slip Dobson right into the Toews-sized hole left on defense and power play, he can at least remain a decent contributor in facilitating offense and helping the man advantage.

And so far he has, recording over 2:30 minutes of power-play time in each of the four games this year. As the year goes on, Dobson expects to continue to grow and have that experience benefit him.

“I think confidence is a huge thing, I think the more games you play the more comfortable you feel,” Noah Dobson said Thursday. “Every game I’m getting more comfortable, more confident. I think there’s more opportunities to jump up into the play.”

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New York Islanders

Coach Boychuk? Former Defenseman Helps Coaches During Islanders Practice

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Johnny Boychuk

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — There was a familiar face on the ice at Northwell Ice Center. Johnny Boychuk helped out the New York Islanders coaching staff during Saturday’s practice as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Boychuk ended his 13 year NHL career in November due to an eye injury and was placed on LTIR at the start of this season. Saturday was not Boychuk’s first time on the ice for practice, having worked with the taxi squad players and he had been on the ice at times during training camp.

Boychuk has been seen around the organization publically several times this week. On Monday, the MSG broadcast caught Boychuk sitting next to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello in a suite at Nassau Coliseum.

His continued presence around the Islanders organization has been a welcomed one by the rest of the team.

“It’s great for us. We love Johnny,” Josh Bailey said after practice. “We’ll take him as much as we can get him. It would have been tough to just more or less go cold turkey and not see him. He’s been such a big part of our dressing room for a long time. To get to have him out on the ice with us and to see him on a daily basis has been really great.”

Additionally, Boychuk had been skating with Mathew Barzal while he and the team sorted out his new contract the first week of training camp.


Josh Bailey became the first Islander to deal head-on with a COVID-related issue this season.

The veteran forward missed a day of practice this week and was briefly on the COVID-protocol list before returning to the lineup the following day. Bailey, along with the rest of the team, has been adhering to the COVID protocols, but potentially came into contact with the virus after his youngest son’s teacher tested positive for COVID-19.

A few days later when Bailey went to check on his son he noticed that he sounded a little sick and had a bit of a cough, the Islanders forward said. They had him tested and it came back positive for the virus.

The result ended up being a false positive and Bailey’s son tested negative twice over the following two days.

“For a couple of days there it was touch and go, but at the same time it all worked out,” Bailey said.

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