October 23 – Day 17 – Oh yeah, we’re already talking playoffs

Last night’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild ended poorly for new Head Coach John Tortorella, as Columbus fell 3-2.  Although the Jackets had a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes, Minnesota‘s two-goal second period gave them the victory.  Thomas Vanek was responsible for the winning goal, scored at the 11:12 mark on the power play and assisted by Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon.

Sergei Bobrovsky took the loss after stopping only 20 of 23 shots faced (87%), while Devan Dubnyk improved his record to 4-1-0 by stopping 27 of 29 shots faced (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series favors the home team, as their record improved to 9-5-2 with Minnesota‘s win, six points better than the roadies.

Tonight’s schedule consists of six fixtures, evenly split between the two nations.  The first game of the night begins at 7 p.m. eastern in Buffalo when the Sabres host the perfect Montréal Canadiens (NHL Network, RDS).  Half an hour later, the Bruins make their first of two visits to the Barclays Center this season to face the New York Islanders (TVAS).  The first Canadian game begins at 8 p.m. eastern in Manitoba when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Winnipeg Jets (TSN3), with the second and third following an hour later in Alberta when the Detroit Red Wings play the Calgary Flames (SN1) and the Washington Capitals visit the Edmonton Oilers.  The final game of the night begins at 10:30 p.m. eastern when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Los Angeles Kings.

Of those, only one is a divisional rivalry (Montréal at Buffalo), but there’s another matchup that has caught my attention.

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This is the only game of the night between two teams that are currently in the playoff picture.  Tampa Bay (4-2-1) currently owns second place in the Atlantic division, while Winnipeg (4-2-0) is holding on for dear life to the first wild card position, leading Minnesota by a lone point.

Yes, holding on for dear life.  The playoff push begins in week two.  #10andYou’reIn

The squads split their two meetings last season, both winning in the other team’s home arena.  Their last meeting was on March 14, a game Winnipeg won 2-1.  All the goals in that game were scored before the 12:45 mark in the third period, with first star Blake Wheeler firing the winning goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy during a 4-on-4 and Ondrej Pavelec earning the win.

Some players to keep an eye on in this game include Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (four wins [tied for fourth in the league]) & Anton Stralman (+6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in the league]) and Winnipeg‘s Mark Stuart (+6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in the league]).

Winnipeg leads in goals per game played (3.33), goals against per game played (2.17), power play percentage (26.1%), penalty kill (84%) and shots per game (29).  With this and the Winnipeg‘s home ice at the MTS Centre, I’m picking Jets to win this one 3-2.

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