November 8 – Day 33 – Big D heads to The D

In last night’s Game of the Day, the Montréal Canadiens extended their winning streak to six regular season games over the Boston Bruins by beating them 4-2.

The Bruins put up a good fight, as they twice owned a lead in this one.  Their first came at the 1:50 mark of the first period when Loui Eriksson, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Spooner, scored a power play goal (yes, that early in the game.  I mean, we are talking about BostonMontréal).  Their one-goal lead held into the first intermission.

Just as quickly as Boston took the lead in the first, Montréal scored in the second to level the game at one-all.  It was another power play goal, this one scored by Tomas Plekanec, after being assisted by Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban, scored at the 1:09 mark.  The Bruins took offense to that, as Frank Vatrano (a kid who no doubt grew up wearing the Black and Gold) scored the first goal of his NHL career 7:42 later, assisted by Colin Miller and David Krejci.  Boston again took their one-goal lead into the intermission.

While the shots totals of the third period are close to even, all the scoring belonged to the Habs, who notched three tallies to seal the victory.  Assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller tied the game at two at the 8:58 mark.  The tie held until only 1:08 remained on the clock, when Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov assisted David Desharnais to the game-winning power play goal.  A lone insurance goal was scored 20 seconds later on an empty net by Max Pacioretty, assisted by Gallagher.

Backup turned short-term starter Mike Condon has yet to lose a game in regulation after seven appearances (6-0-1) and saved 29 of 31 (93.5%) tonight.  Jonas Gustavsson’s record falls to 3-1-0 after saving 29 of 32 (90.625%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-8-5, favoring the homers by 15 points over the roadies.

As is typical, especially at this point in the season, Sunday’s schedule is a much lighter load than Saturday’s.  The action gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits Detroit, followed a couple hours later when Vancouver visits New Jersey and Boston (TVAS) visits the New York Islanders.  The nightcap is an early one, featuring Edmonton at Chicago (NHL Network/SN) at 8 p.m. eastern.

Not only are none of today’s matchups between divisional rivals, only two are between teams both in the same conference (BruinsIslanders and OilersBlackhawks), and only the StarsWings matchup features teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The only one that really intrigues me is DallasDetroit, so I’m making the executive decision to watch that game.

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Dallas is making only their second appearance on the DtFR Game of the Day series – their first was a three-goal shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins to open their season.  Detroit was just featured for their second time Friday when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 2-1.

The 11-3-0 Dallas Stars currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and trail only the Montréal Canadiens for the lead in the entire NHL.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.  The Stars‘ stars (yeah, I just wrote that.  I think I need to apologize) have been on the offensive end of the ice, where they’ve scored a whopping 50 goals so far this season, led by Captain Jamie Benn’s 10 tallies.  The reason for his and his team’s scoring success?  They’re putting a bunch of pucks on net – 437, to be exact (led by Tyler Seguin’s 61), and scoring 11.4% of the time.

Thirteen of those goals have been on the power play, another spot where Dallas shines.  On 45 opportunities, they’ve scored 28.89% of the time.  Although that is a good number, they are going up against a strong penalty kill in the Detroit Red Wings, so this will be a good test of their special teams.

Not only does the Stars‘ defense pale in comparison to their offense, but it also trails the league average in a few categories.  First-year Alternate Captain Alex Goligoski may have 26 blocks to his credit, but 428 shots are still making it to Antti Niemi and co.  Combined, the two goaltenders have saved 91.1%.  The Stars have also not done a very good job of defending against the penalty.  On 41 opposing attempts, nine goals have found the back of the net (78.05% kill rate).  To their credit, the Stars do have two shorties to help defray that poor percentage, but a team cannot rely on shorthanded goals with any regularity.  Luckily, Detroit‘s power play is not extremely successful, so they should be able to keep a good handle on things.

Their opposition, the 7-5-1 Detroit Red Wings, currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.  They enter today’s game on a three-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 overtime victory against the Leafs on Friday.

They’ve employed a defensive-mindset to get where they are this season, as they’ve allowed only 32 goals so far this season.  Especially strong has been the goaltending, as Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have faced a total of 419 shots so far this season, and saved 93.1% of them.  As hinted at before, they’ve even been good on the penalty kill, only giving up eight goals on 48 attempts (83.33% kill rate) so far this year.

On the other hand, the offense has not done the defense any favors.  Just as the defense has only given up 32 goals, the offense has only scored 32 goals (led by Gustav Nyquist’s five).  Part of the problem has been that they aren’t putting many shots on goal.  330 shots (25.4 per game) simply does not cut it in this league, even if they are scoring on 9.7% of those attempts.  A point of emphasis for the Wings in practice should be on the power play, where they’ve scored eight goals on 45 attempts (17.78%).  Until this number and their shot rate improves, the Wings cannot be thought of as a serious threat for the Cup.

Last year, the Wings swept Dallas in both meetings by a combined score of 12-8.

Some players to watch in today’s game includes Dallas‘ Benn (10 goals [leads the league] and 20 points [second in the league]), John Klingberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]) and Seguin (21 points [leads the league], 13 assists [tied for lead in the league] and eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]) & Detroit‘s Howard (2.01 GAA [tied for eighth in the league] and .934 save percentage [ninth in the league]), Dylan Larkin (+12 [leads the league]) and Henrik Zetterberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

Although Detroit is slightly favored at -105, I expect Dallas to win this one because of Detroit‘s inability to put much pressure on goaltenders.

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