November 1 – Day 26 – All-Canadian

Phil Kessel’s homecoming went about as smoothly as possible for him, as his Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs with a four-goal shutout last night.

Chris Kunitz scored the winning tally on a power play, assisted by David Perron and Beau Bennett, at the 13:33 mark of the first, the only goal of the period.

Second Star of the Game Eric Fehr made a splash in his 2015-’16 debut by scoring a shorty at the 2:34 mark of the second, assisted by Matt Cullen.  Cullen and Fehr’s period had only just begun, as the two returned each other’s favors 7:55 later, as Fehr and Rob Scuderi assisted Cullen to his first of the season to set the score at 3-0, which held into the third.

The final goal of the game belongs to Patric Hornqvist, as he scored at the 4:31 mark after being assisted by Brian Dumoulin and Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the First Star.

While the assist may be a feather in his cap, the cap itself for Fleury is certainly the 21-save shutout to earn his sixth victory of the win, while Jonathan Bernier’s record fell to 0-6-1 after saving only 28 of 32 (87.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 15-7-3, still favoring the home team by 11 points.

Although nowhere near as busy as yesterday, today’s schedule has more action than most Sundays so far this season.  The first game gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when San Jose visits Colorado, followed two hours later by Tampa Bay at Carolina.  Beginning at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time is Winnipeg at Montréal (NHLN/SN/RDS), followed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Islanders (TVAS/Bell TV).  The nightcap of the evening gets an early start, as Nashville and Anaheim drop the opening puck at 8 p.m. eastern on The Pond.

Only one of today’s matchups involve two teams currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, so let’s tune in to the WinnipegMontréal game and make it only our second all-Canadian Game of the Day.

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Winnipeg has been a pleasant surprise this season, as the writers at DtFR did not think they would be able to hold on to their playoff spot from last year.  The 7-3-1 Jets are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-2 win over Columbus last night.  What has been most exciting about their success if they have had quality play on both ends of the ice.

The offense has scored 32 goals so far this season to exceed the league average by five tallies, even though they have three fewer shots.  Those fewer shots certainly separate Winnipeg though, as their 10.7% shot percentage leads the league average by 1.7%.  They’ve found particular success on the power play, as their seven goals on 29 attempts (24.14%) is a goal more on five fewer opportunities (18.47%).

The defense and goaltending has been equally as strong, as they’ve only given up 26 goals so far this season (one fewer than the NHL average), even though they’ve faced 33 more shots than the average squad.  This is reflected in their strong 93.1% save percentage, which exceeds the league average by 1.6%.

Even on the penalty kill, the Jets have been strong.  Even though they’ve given up six goals so far this opportunity, they’ve had to defend against two more opportunities, setting their kill rate at 83.33%.

I expect 4-0-0 Michael Hutchinson to get the start tonight after Pavelec’s win last night.

While the Jets have been a pleasant surprise this season, many would say that the 10-2-0 Habs have simply been a surprise, as the monster of the NHL has set their sights on yet another Stanley Cup.  Everything has been going Montréal‘s way so far this season, but the offense in particular has been worthy of everyone’s respect.  They enter tonight’s game after beating Calgary 6-2 Friday night in the Saddledome.

The club has scored a whopping total of 45 goals so far this season, 18 over the league average, which is a strong correlation to the 371 shots they have put on goal (leads the NHL average by 71) and their 12.1% shot percentage.  Montréal has been especially successful on the power play, as they’ve notched 10 goals already this season with the man-advantage.  Although they’ve done it with eight more opportunities, their 23.81% success rate still dwarfs the league average by 5.34%.

Even though the offense has been lighting up the scoreboard, 7-2-0 Carey Price has been no slouch in net either, as he and Mike Condon have given up only 23 goals so far this season, four under the league average, on 372 shots faced, 71 over the NHL average. Although they’ve had to do more work, they’ve been well up to the task as their 93.8% save percentage still exceeds the 91.5% league average.  They’ve been especially successful on the penalty kill, as they’ve stopped 88.1% of the opposition’s man-advantages (compared to the 81.53% league average).

Since the Habs didn’t play last night and they are playing a good Winnipeg team, I would expect Price to get the start in goal.

The Jets and Habs split their two-game series last season, with each team winning on home ice.

Montréal is favored at -185 at the Bell Centre, and although I don’t think it will be that extreme, I do believe that the well-balanced Jets may still be over-matched in tonight’s matchup.

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