Yesterday’s Game of the Day between Tampa Bay and Chicago was a defensive thriller, as neither team was able to break through the opposing defense in regulation. The Blackhawks finally scored at the 17 second mark of the 3-on-3 overtime when Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook assisted Jonathan Toews to his first goal of the season (cover of NHL ’16 curse, anyone? IT TOOK HIM EIGHT GAMES TO SCORE!). His goal earned him second star of the game honors.
Obviously, both goalies were phenomenal in this one, as first star of the game Corey Crawford stopped all 21 shots he faced to improve his record to 4-2-0, while Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all but one of his 32 shots faced (96.9%), earning the remaining third star.
The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 10-5-3, still favoring the home team by six points.
Today is a much lighter schedule compared to yesterday, as there is only three games on the schedule. The evening begins at 6 p.m. eastern when Minnesota visits Winnipeg, followed an hour later by Calgary at the New York Rangers (NHL Network, SN, SN1). The final game of the night gets started at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Los Angeles visits Edmonton (SN, SN360, SN1).
Two of these three games are divisional rivalries (Minnesota at Winnipeg and Los Angeles at Edmonton), and the other features a team that many hockey fans (or, at least us at Down the Frozen River) are just waiting to turn it on and play like they did a season ago.
Since the Calgary Flames at the New York Rangers game will be broadcast throughout both nations, we’ll turn our attention towards Madison Square Garden.
Let’s begin with the 2-5-0 road team. This young squad, with the exciting way they played last season and getting their first experience in the playoffs in six years, including beating Vancouver in the first round, was expected to turn some heads this year and try to improve on their third place-finish in the Pacific Division. So far this season, they’ve only accounted for two wins so far against the lackluster Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings (both of those victories required overtime to earn the bonus point). They have four goals less than the league average (part of that problem is the number of shots the Flames have taken  is 18 less than the league average, and their shot percentage is even worse [7.9%, 1.2% less than average]), which doesn’t tell the complete story until paired with giving up eight more goals than the league average (the Flames have a save percentage of only 88.1%, 3.4% under the league average). The Flames‘ penalty kill is also not on par, as they have only killed 78.26% of opponents’ power plays.
On the other side, they face a 5-2-2 team that is currently firing on all cylinders and well on their way to another successful season. The Rangers are both scoring (three over average, in spite of the power play not finding early success (only scoring on 15%, 3.9% below average) and stopping (allowed three less goals than the average team, especially on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 86.21% of opponents’ opportunities, 5.11% over league average) the puck to earn themselves second place in the competitive Metropolitan Division. As is expected, Henrik Lundqvist is staking his claim as one of, if not the best goalie in the league, as he is leading his team to a 94.3% save rate, 2.8% better than the rest of the league.
Although the team write-ups may imply differently, it is in fact only Calgary that enters the matchup on a winning streak after beating Detroit on Friday. The Rangers lost yesterday’s game against Philadelphia in a shootout. In last year’s meetings, New York took both games by a combined score of 6-2, including a one-goal shutout via now-Oiler Cam Talbot.
My players to watch in tonight’s game are Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (eight assists [tied for fifth in the league]) and, should he play, New York‘s Lundqvist (four wins [tied for sixth in the league] and .941 save percentage [eighth in the league])
I expect the Rangers to hold home ice in tonight’s matchup, but would not be surprised if the Flames try to build off recent momentum to try to jump-start their so far mediocre season.