November 5 – Day 30 – Let’s keep it in the division

Last night’s divisional rivalry between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks was absolutely wild, as the Notes came back from a three-goal deficit to win in overtime.

Within six and a half minutes, the Blackhawks had a 3-1 lead.  Marko Dano, assisted by Ryan Hartman, scored the opening goal for Chicago at the 2:08 mark, but Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko assisted Alexander Steen to a game-tying goal only 54 seconds later.  1:35 later, the Blackhawks again took a one-goal lead when Andrew Shaw fired his penalty shot past Brian Elliott, followed 1:58 later by Trevor Teravainen scoring his fourth of the season.

Three more goals were scored in the first, beginning with Robby Fabbri’s tally, assisted by David Backes, at the 15:12 mark.  Chicago was responsible for the final two scores, as Patrick Kane and Teravainen assisted Brent Seabrook to his fourth of the season at the 17:09 mark, followed 43 seconds later by Seabrook and Shaw assisting Kane to make the score 5-2, which held into the first intermission.

The second period was all Blues, as they scored three goals to tie the game.  They notched their first of the period at the 3:11 mark when Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester assisted Steen to his second of the night, setting the score at 5-3.  The Notes‘ fourth goal of the game didn’t come until the 17:12 mark, when Troy Brouwer and Scott Gomez assisted Bouwmeester to his first of the year, which was followed 2:14 later when Alex Pietrangelo and Fabbri assisted Backes to his third of the season to tie the game at five-all, which held into the second intermission.

Although there weren’t any goals in the third period, the Blackhawks certainly gave it their best effort, as they out-shot the Blues 14-7 in the final period.  Although it was a better showing than the second period for the Hawks, they still were not able to break through Jake Allen, and the game went to overtime.

It took only 3:54 for Pietrangelo to assist Tarasenko to the game-winner, giving the Blues the bonus point.

6-3-1 Corey Crawford earned his first overtime loss of the season after stopping only 23 of 29 (79.3%), while 5-3-0 Jake Allen earned the victory after stopping 27 of 28 (96.4%).  Brian Elliott was the Blues‘ starter, but was pulled twice (once as a blatant informal timeout, and again for an injury), and only played 17:03.  They were a bad 17 minutes though, as he saved only 11 of 15 shots (73.3%), but earned a no-decision after Allen and the offense’s spectacular play.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-7-4, favoring the home team at 16 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy day in the NHL!  As usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when two teams drop the opening puck (Tampa Bay at Buffalo [Bell TV] and Boston at Washington), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Montréal [RDS] and Winnipeg at Ottawa [RDS2]).  Nashville at Minnesota gets started at 8 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by an additional two fixtures (Philadelphia at Calgary [SN360] and Colorado at Arizona).  Finally, this evening’s double-dose of nightcap gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern when Columbus visits Los Angeles and Florida visits San Jose.

Two of tonight’s matchups involve divisional rivals (LightningSabres and PredatorsWild), and a total of four games include two teams qualifying for the playoffs (BruinsCapitals, IslandersCanadiens, JetsSenators and PredatorsWild).

The game that qualifies for both categories sounds like the best one to watch!

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This is Minnesota‘s fourth time being featured in the Game of the Day series, and are currently a perfect 3-0-0 in such games.  It is Nashville‘s first appearance in the Game of the Day series.

The 7-2-2 Nashville Predators currently sit in fifth place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, albeit because of losing the second tiebreaker to tonight’s opponent.  They enter the game riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on The Pond, falling 4-2 on Sunday.

While the offense has been on par with the league so far this season, it has been 6-1-2 Pekka Rinne and the defense (specifically Alternate Captain Roman Josi and his 28 blocks) who have really shined.  They’ve allowed only 25 goals so far this season, including only four power play tallies, on 309 shots faced (91.9% save rate) (all of those numbers are under the league average).  Pair that with their 87.1% penalty kill rate, and you find a team that is hard to beat, even when the opposition has the upper hand.

The offense has accounted for 32 goals this season (Alternate Captain James Neal leads the way with seven), including eight on the power play (21.62% success rate), even though they only have 344 shots to their credit (8.7% shot percentage).  The power play has been potent, made evident by their goal total exceeding the league average even when Nashville has had fewer opportunities.  The Wild would be wise to keep penalties to a minimum.

The 7-2-2 Minnesota Wild enter tonight’s game after losing to the St. Louis Blues on the road in overtime on Halloween, 3-2.  Their offense has propelled the team to fourth in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Led by Alternate Captain Zach Parise’s seven goals, the Wild have notched a total of 35 goals on only 306 shots (11.4%), including eight power play goals (21.62% success rate).  As made evident by those percentages, Minnesota has found success scoring the puck, and it will be interesting to see how they handle a team as proficient on the defensive end as the Nashville Predators.

The offense has had to be good, because the defense has not done them many favors.  7-2-1 Devan Dubnyk and co. have given up 32 goals (league average) on only 300 shots (89.7% save percentage).  Fortunately, Jared Spurgeon’s 26 blocks have kept many pucks from reaching the crease, but Coach Mike Yeo should have reason to worry if Dubnyk is not simply starting his season slowly.

The biggest struggle for the Wild has been the penalty kill, as the squad has given up six goals on only 25 attempts (76%).  While the team has done all they can to avoid going a man down, this is an alarming number that can affect how the Wild plays going forward in the season.  If this rate cannot be improved, Minnesota will not be able to play as aggressively or check as often has they would like.

Last season, Minnesota won the season series 3-1-1 with a 4-2 victory on April 9 in Nashville.

Some players to watch in this one include Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (seven wins [tied for league lead] and one shutout [tied for seventh in the league]) and Nashville‘s Rinne (six wins [tied for third in the league], 1.97 GAA [sixth in the league] and one shutout [tied for seventh in the league]).

Although the Wild are hosting this game, I don’t think Dubnyk and the defense will be able to prevent Nashville from scoring, especially if the Predators can get under their skin and earn some power plays.  I think you can plan on seeing a Nashville Predators winner.