December 28 – Day 79 – Hollywood vs. Hollywood North

I predicted a Bruins win, but the Senators proved me wrong with a 3-1 victory on home ice in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Ottawa snuck in the only goal of the first period with only 19 seconds remaining.  After Jimmy Hayes was sent to the box for instigating, Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson assisted Mark Stone to a power play goal.

That late goal did not sit well with Third Star of the Game David Krejci and the Bruins during the intermission, as he scored a goal after 7:54, assisted by Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson, to knot the game at one-all.  Again, the Sens waited until the end of the period to take the lead, as Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman assisted Second Star Mika Zibanejad to the game-winner with only 1:39 remaining in the second period.

The final goal only occurred because Tuukka Rask was on the bench to give the Bruins a man-advantage.  It was a copy of the Senators‘ first goal, with Turris and Karlsson assisting Stone to an empty netter with 54 seconds remaining in the game, setting the score at the 3-1 final.

First Star Craig Anderson made 38 of 39 saves (97.4%) to improve his record to 16-9-4, while Rask’s record falls to 13-9-3 after saving 19 of 21 (90.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 31-12-6 in favor of the home side, leading the roadies by 28 points.

After 18 games over the weekend, Monday is a slightly relaxed schedule, featuring six matchups.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Washington visits Buffalo, followed half an hour later by Montréal at Tampa Bay (RDS).  Two games drop the opening puck at 8 p.m. eastern (the New York Rangers at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroit at Minnesota) and are the last games to start before 10 p.m. eastern, when Los Angeles visits Vancouver.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern when Colorado visits San Jose.

Two of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Montréal at Tampa Bay and Los Angeles at Vancouver), while three are between quality squads currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Nashville, Detroit at Minnesota and Los Angeles at Vancouver).  Finally, Montréal at Tampa Bay is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Even though the rematch provides interesting storylines, I’m taking the personal leverage to instead focus in the Los AngelesVancouver, mostly because I want to look into the Kings‘ play.  I know, selfish.

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This will be Los Angeles‘ second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day – the other time they were featured, they fell in Chicago 4-2 on November 2.  Tonight’s game will be Vancouver‘s first appearance as the Game of the Day.

The 21-11-2 Los Angeles Kings currently own a seven-point lead in the Pacific Division, and are tied for third in the Western Conference.  They’ve found that success by playing one of the best defenses in the league, even though their most recent showing, a 4-3 overtime victory in Arizona on Saturday may not be indicative of that.

Thanks in part to Alec Martinez’ team-leading 73 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 958 shots to reach the net, of which 18-9-1 Jonathan Quick and co. have saved 92.1%, allowing only 78 goals, the second best in the league.  The Kings have also killed 82.11% of penalties, allowing 22 goals on 123 attempts.

I say it on a regular basis, but more shots usually turn into more goals.  While the Kings‘ percentages may not be on par with the league average, 86 (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 14 goals) of their 1097 shots (led by Jeff Carter’s 103 shots) have found the back of the net.  One point that the Kings should focus on to improve their offense should be their power play.  They have been successful on only 18%, scoring 18 goals on, you guessed it, 100 attempts.

Their counterparts, the 14-14-9 Vancouver Canucks, currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division, but eighth in the Western Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent showing a 2-1 overtime victory over the Oilers on Saturday.  So far this season, the Canucks have been a better team with the puck on their stick, but both sides of the ice are performing below the league average.

Led by Daniel Sedin’s 133 shots, Vancouver has put 1086 shots on net so far this season (well above the league average), but only 91 have found the back of the net, led by Sedin’s 16 tallies.  The main facet of Vancouver‘s offense that is holding them back is their lack of success on the power play.  On 124 attempts (well-above the league average), the Canucks only have the league-average 21 goals to their credit, led by Sedin’s five.  Given the weak competition in the Pacific division, I expect Vancouver to make moves to improve their offense in preparation of a playoff run.

Defensively, the Canucks have needed all the help they can get.  Even though Chris Tanev has a team-leading 89 blocks to his credit, Vancouver has allowed 1129 shots to reach 10-11-6 Ryan Miller and co., of which they’ve saved 91.2% and allowed 102 goals.  The special teams’ issues continue when defending against the man-advantage, as the Canucks have allowed 124 opportunities to the opposition.  Of those, they’ve killed 79.69%, allowing 26 goals.

Some players to watch include Los Angeles‘ Carter (+16 [tied for fifth in the league]), Quick (18 wins [tied for second in the league] and two shutouts [tied for eighth in the league]) and Toffoli (+18 [third in the league]) & Vancouver‘s D. Sedin (37 points [tied for seventh in the league] and 16 goals [tied for ninth in the league]) and Henrik Sedin (24 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

The Kings and Canucks have already played two games in their five-game season series.  The Canucks won the first meeting 3-0 on October 13 in the Staples Center, but the Kings were able to hold home ice on the first day of this month, winning 2-1 in overtime.

Given Vancouver‘s defensive woes, it’s hard to pick against a stellar Kings team, even if the Canucks have played Los Angeles tough twice this season.  Expect Los Angeles to get the win north of the border.

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