October 20 – Day 14 – The Best of the Best

Last night’s game between San Jose and the New York Rangers ended poorly for the hot-starting Sharks, who fell in a four-goal shutout at Madison Square Garden.

Marc Staal scored the lone goal of the first period, the game winner, at the 10:36 mark, assisted by Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast.  At almost the same point in the second, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle assisted Mats Zuccarello to his fourth goal of the season, this one on the power play, to set the score at 2-0.  3:47 into the third, Fast scored his first goal of the year after assists from Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle, followed 13 minutes later by Viktor Stalberg’s goal, assisted by Staal.

Martin Jones earned his first loss of the season after only stopping 24 of 28 (85.7%), while Antii Raanta earned the shutout victory on 22 shots faced in his first game of the season.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 7-5-1 for the home team.

On tonight’s schedule are seven games, of which five are inter-conference matchups.  Three games get started at 7 p.m. eastern (Arizona at New Jersey, Florida at Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more games (Dallas at Philadelphia [NBCSN] and St. Louis at Montréal).  At 8 p.m. eastern, Tampa Bay and Nashville drop the puck at Bridgestone Arena, followed an hour later by the last game of the evening, Washington at Calgary.

The game that stands out the most this evening is being contested in the Bell Centre between the two conference-leading squads, the St. Louis Blues and the Montréal Canadiens.

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The Habs are currently leading the league with an undefeated 6-0-0 record, but the Blues are in hot pursuit with a 5-1-0 record having only played one game so far this season at Scottrade Center.

Montréal is coming off a Saturday 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, although it came with maybe the most adversity they’ve faced so far this season.  The Habs had not trailed in five full games played, but the Wings scored the first goal of this game before five minutes had ticked off the clock in the second period.  Carey Price and the Canadiens took it personally, not giving up another goal the rest of the night, but the forwards were really the ones who were offended, scoring the game-tying goal almost exactly three minutes later before the three-goal explosion that was the final period.  Jeff Petry accounted for the game-winner (assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais), followed by Tomas Plekanec (Brendan Gallagher notched an assist) and Brian Flynn.

This is St. Louis‘ fifth straight game north of the border during their six-game road trip.  Their last game was in Manitoba against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, a game the Notes won 4-2, but, similar to Montréal, it took a little bit of work.  After a scoreless first period, Dmitrij Jaskin and Jori Lehtera assisted RW Vladimir Tarasenko to open the wild second in the fourth minute.  A minute later, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little took advantage of the man-advantage to assist Mathieu Perreault to his first goal of the season to tie the game at one-all.  In the 10th minute of the second, Jaskin and Joel Edmundson assisted Scottie Upshall to his second tally of the year to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, but it was again short-lived due to another St. Louis penalty, an interference call against Edmundson.  Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele assisted Drew Stafford to his second goal of the season, tying the game again, this time at two-all, the score that held into the third.  Tarasenko fired the winning goal of the game with 10:10 remaining in the game, followed in the 19th minute by Carl Gunnarsson’s insurance goal.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Montréal‘s D Andrei Markov (+8 Corsi rating [tied for league lead]), LW Max Pacioretty (+8 Corsi rating [tied for league lead] and four goals [tied for fifth in league]), C Plekanec (five goals [tied for league lead] and +7 Corsi rating [tied for third in league]), G Carey Price (five wins [leads league], one shutout [tied for second in league], .957 save percentage [tied for fifth in league] and 1.2 GAA [seventh in league]) & D P.K. Subban (+7 Corsi rating [tied for third in league]) and St. Louis‘ RW Tarasenko (five goals [tied for league lead], nine points [tied for league lead] and +6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in league]).

Montréal is favored at -133 and has given up the fewest goals in the league (seven), but is playing a Blues team that leads the league in goals scored (21).  Montréal leads in goals against average (1.17 per game), penalty kill percentage (90.5%) and shots per game (34), while St. Louis leads in goals per game average (3.5 per game), power play percentage (19%), shots against average (25 per game) and face-off percentage (53.8%).

This will be an excellent game, certainly worthy of national attention.  It’s well documented that I’m a midwesterner and partial to my Blues, and I’ll certainly be wearing my Brett Hull sweater, but I think the Habs pull this one out in the Bell Centre.