November 7 – Day 32 – Let’s watch THAT rivalry

It may have taken overtime, but the Detroit Red Wings improved their record to 7-5-1 after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Assisted by Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg scored the Wings‘ lone regulation goal at the 16:21 mark of the first period from the blue line, the lone goal through both intermissions.

Detroit fans were apparently starting to think the ‘S-word’ too early, as Tyler Bozak and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau assisted Dion Phaneuf to score on Petr Mrazek with only 1:02 remaining to tie the game.

Jakub Kindl, assisted by Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar, fired the game winner over James Reimer’s glove shoulder at 2:17 mark of overtime to seal the victory for the Wings.

Mrazek’s record improves to 4-3-0 after saving 32 of 33 (97%), while Reimer’s record falls to 2-2-2 after saving 22 of 24 (91.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-5, still favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday (aren’t they all, though?) in the best hockey league in the world, and the action gets an early start at 1 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Buffalo (SN).  After that game finishes, our attention turns to the Staples Center, where Los Angeles hosts Florida at 4 p.m. eastern.  Following the completion of that game, the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features four matchups (Boston at Montréal [NHL Network/TVAS/SN], Toronto at Washington [CBC], Ottawa at Carolina [SN1/TVAS2] and Philadelphia at Winnipeg).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two more opening puck drops (St. Louis at Nashville and Tampa Bay at Minnesota), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Arizona.  10 p.m. witnesses the beginning of the Pittsburgh at Calgary game (CBC/SN), followed half an hour later by the evening’s nightcap: Anaheim at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (BruinsCanadiens, BluesPredators and DucksSharks), and two are being contested by two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (BluesPredators and LightningWild).

I’m torn between the BluesPredators and BruinsCanadiens, but given the heated, historical rivalry between the second pair, that has to be where we direct our attention tonight.

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This is Boston‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their opponent, the Habs, have been featured four times before tonight and have won all of their appearances.

The 6-5-1 Boston Bruins enter tonight’s game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent occurring Thursday in Washington, where they fell 4-1.  It was their first result on the road that wasn’t a victory, as they opened the season winning five straight games away from the TD Garden.  They currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.

It has been the B‘s offense that has been paying dividends this season, as they’ve had to cover up mistakes on the other end of the ice.  Although they’ve only notched 365 shots so far this season (led by Patrice Bergeron’s 37), they’ve scored 43 goals (with David Krejci accounting for seven) – giving them a cool 11.8% shooting percentage.  Especially potent has been the power play, as the man-advantage has accounted for 14, or 32.6%, of those goals (Bergeron has four to his credit).  Although the Habs are pretty good at killing penalties, they may want to avoid that as much as possible tonight (then again, if we know anything about this rivalry, the chances of that happening are slim to none).

As stated before, the offense has needed to be that good to make up for the sub-par play on the other end.  Kevan Miller has tried to do the best he can blocking shots (he leads the team with 21), but 326 have still reached Tuukka Rask (3-5-1, 87.9%) and co., of which only 88.7% have been saved.  That results is quite a few goals scored against Boston, 40 to be exact, and that rate gets much lower when down a man.  On 44 power play attempts for the opposition, the Bruins have been scored on 13 times, meaning they’ve only stopped 70.45%.

The 12-2-1 Montréal Canadiens enter tonight’s game atop the NHL by three points.  Their most recent game was Thursday when they beat the Islanders 4-1.  The Canadiens are a strong team on both ends of the ice and have firmly established themselves as early favorites after only a month of play.

Their offense has put 458 shots on net (led by Max Pacioretty’s 50), with 12% of those attempts ending up behind the opposing goaltender.  Yes, your math is correct: that’s 55 tallies (of which Dale Weise owns eight), a total that exceeds the league average by 20 scores.  Although not as strong as Boston‘s, Montréal‘s power play has been good in their own right as the Habs have scored on 13 of 52 (25%) attempts, led by Brendan Gallagher’s four goals.  Paired with the Bruins‘ penalty kill, the Canadiens‘ power play could be extremely potent tonight.

On the other end of the ice, the Canadiens have given up 2.25 goals per game (27 total).  Of the shots Andrei Markov doesn’t stop (he has 29 blocks so far this season), Carey Price (7-2-0, 93.6%) and co. have saved 93.8% of the 436 shots they’ve faced this season, allowing only 27 goals.  Even when facing a power play, they’ve played stellar, as they’ve only given up five goals on 49 attempts (89.8%).  This stat will be put to the test as they are facing the Bruins‘ fantastic power play.

In their first of five meetings, the Habs beat Boston at the TD Garden 4-2, with Lars Eller scoring twice in that game.  Last season, Montréal swept Boston in the season series 4-0-0, adding to their all-time record of 461-342-103 over the Bruins.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Krejci (15 points [tied for sixth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]) and Montréal‘s Mike Condon (1.5 GAA [leads the league] and .941 save percentage [second in the league]), Gallagher (+9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Markov (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Pacioretty (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]), Tomas Plekanec (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and 14 points [tied for ninth in the league]), P.K. Subban (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +11 [tied for second in the league]) & Weise (eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]).

Montréal is favored at -140 in tonight’s game, but I’m not convinced that it will be that easy, especially if the Bruins can get under the Habs‘ skin and earn more than their fair-share of penalties while also avoiding going a man-down themselves.

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