November 6 – Day 31 – Hooray, it’s a divisional rivalry…

The Minnesota Wild tried valiantly to level score with a two-man advantage, but were unable to put their third tally past First Star of the Game Pekka Rinne and fell 3-2 to the Nashville Predators.

The Predators waited 36:06 before opening the evening’s scoring.  Mike Fisher earned the honors after taking an assist from Shea Weber and firing a snap shot past Dubnyk.  That score lit a fire under the Wild though, as Second Star Marco Scandella scored a power play goal, assisted by Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu, only 1:30 later to level the score, which held into the second intermission.

It may have taken over half an hour for Nashville to score their first goal, but it only took 12 seconds into the third period to score their second, notched by Third Star Roman Josi.  Minnesota leveled the score again 6:39 later when Matt Dumba fired a power play slapshot after being assisted by Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker.  The final goal of the evening was Cody Hodgson’s first of the season, scored at the 14:39 mark.

Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk earned his third loss of the season (7-3-1 overall) after saving 21 of 24 (87.5%) while Nashville‘s Pekka Rinne saved 27 of 29 (93.1%) to improve his record to 7-1-2.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-4, favoring the home squad by 14 points.  Minnesota‘s perfect record in the Game of the Day series falls to 3-1-0, while Nashville earned their first win in their first appearance.

Today’s schedule features six matchups, so it’s a slight break before Saturday.  Detroit at Toronto (TVAS), Chicago at New Jersey and Dallas at Carolina all begin the festivities at 7 p.m. eastern.  Beginning at 9 p.m. eastern are two more games (the New York Rangers at Colorado and Pittsburgh at Edmonton [SN]), followed an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Columbus at Anaheim.

The WingsLeafs game is the only divisional rivalry being played tonight, and there are no games between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  Although this matchup has already been featured this season, we’ll watch Round Two of the Babcock Series.

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An Original Six game is always fun, right?

The 6-5-1 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and and ninth in the Eastern Conference, both due to losing a tiebreaker against the Boston Bruins.  They enter the game on a two-game winning streak, with their most recent victory coming against the Lightning, whom they beat 2-1 on Tuesday.

The season has not started the way the Wings would have liked, to the point that many (including us at DtFR) are beginning to wonder if the incredible steak of 24 straight Stanley Cup playoff appearances may be in jeopardy.

Beginning with the offense, we find a squad that has only put 306 shots on goal for 30 tallies (9.8%).  Since that shot percentage leads the league average by .7%, if might be argued that the Wings could find more offensive success if they found a better way to get pucks on goal (quite the Maddenism, I know), but I’m not convinced that would fix many problems in Motown.

The power play is close to being on par with the rest of the league, as they have the average eight goals to their credit, but have earned two more opportunities than most teams, putting their 19.05% below the league average by .95%.

If you had to pick an end of the ice the Wings have been better on, you’d have to lean towards the goaltending.  They’ve allowed only 31 goals so far this season on 386 shots (92.7% save rate).  Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have three wins apiece, but they’ve had to work overtime as their leading shot blocker has been Luke Glendening (17), a CENTER.

Continuing with the average theme, Detroit‘s penalty kill is in the same boat.  They’ve given up eight goals, just like the average team, but they’ve had to defend against four more opportunities.  Again, a .71% advantage over the league average is not enough for me to believe that this team has what it takes to be a real threat this season.

Luckily for Detroit, average just might cut it tonight against the 2-8-2 Toronto Maple Leafs.  Neither the offense nor the defense has been turning many heads in Hogtown, as they sit in last place in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.  They enter tonight’s game after losing to the Jets 4-2 on Wednesday.

Beginning with the offense, we find a team that has notched only 26 tallies on 362 shots (7.2%).  Worse than that has been the power play, as they’ve only accounted for five goals with a man-advantage.  To their credit, they’ve only been on the power play 35 times, but a 14.29% success rate does not bode well, regardless of Toronto‘s opponent.

On the other end of the ice, the Leafs have given up 40 goals so far this season, seven more than the league average.  One 363 shots faced, James Reimer and co.’s 90.4% save percentage trails the league average by one percent.  Luckily for the defense, Morgan Rielly (who deserves a raise based on this stat alone) leads the team with 20 blocks for his goaltenders, but it hasn’t been enough to keep pressure off the netminders.

Even worse has been the penalty kill.  Ten goals have been given up by the Leafs‘ special teams for a kill rate of 76.19%, yet another stat that trails the league average.

Babcock has been quoted as saying this was going to be a painful rebuild.  If I were Toronto, I’d be looking for some Advil, and if they’re nice, they should probably share some with any friends they have in Michigan, as neither team looks to have much optimism for this season at minimum.

Toronto is expected to lose with a +111 line, which is further supported by statistics and the Wings beating the Leafs 4-0 when they met almost a month ago at the Joe (you can read a quick-and-dirty recap of it here).  Expect the Wings to get out of Toronto with a win.