December 29 – Day 80 – Déjà Vu

In last night’s Game of the Day, we confirmed our beliefs that it’s Los Angeles and the rest of the Pacific Division, as the Kings won in Vancouver with a five-goal shutout that included the first hat trick of the Game of the Day series, courtesy of First Star of the Game Tyler Toffoli.

The winning goal was the lone tally of the first period, compliments of Toffoli, assisted by Second Star Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic after 15:33 of play.

6:24 minutes later (if you’re only counting game time and not the intermission!), Trevor Lewis assisted Derek Forbort to his first goal of his career in 11 games, setting the score at 2-0.  Exactly 10 minutes later, Kopitar notched his second assist of the evening with a helper to Brayden McNabb at the 11:57 mark.  The Kings‘ 3-0 lead held into the second intermission.

If they hadn’t put the final nail in the coffin yet, Los Angeles scored their fourth goal of the evening at the 5:55 mark when Kopitar (yes, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three assists!) and Alec Martinez assisted Toffoli to his second tally.  Toffoli completed his hat trick at the 12:56 mark with a power play goal, assisted by Drew Doughty and, you guessed it, Kopitar, for his fourth assist of the evening, setting the score at the 5-0 final.

Third Star (guess that’s what a shutout gets you when there’s a hat trick and a four-assist night) Jonathan Quick made all 27 saves to improve his record to 19-9-1, while Jacob Markstrom’s record falls to 3-4-3 after saving only 33 of 38 (86.8%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 31-13-6, favoring the homers by 26 points over the roadies.

Ten games will be played this evening in the NHL, with the action getting started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time as four matchups go underway (Ottawa at Boston [RDS2], the New York Islanders at Toronto [TVAS], Carolina at New Jersey and Dallas at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Montréal at Florida (RDS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Nashville at St. Louis [NBCSN] and Detroit at Winnipeg), with the final three games beginning an hour later (Anaheim at Calgary, Los Angeles at Edmonton and Chicago at Arizona).

Six of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Ottawa at Boston, Carolina at New Jersey, Montréal at Florida, Nashville at St. Louis, Anaheim at Calgary and Los Angeles at Edmonton), while four feature teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Ottawa at Boston, Montréal at Florida, Nashville at St. Louis and Chicago at Arizona).  Finally, tonight also features a rematch of the Western Conference Semifinals, as Anaheim takes on Calgary.

While most of the matchups listed are tantalizing, it is hard to take our attention away from the OttawaBoston game due to their deadlock tie in the division table.  To the TD Garden we go!

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Both squads have been featured five times already in the DtFR Game of the Day series, with their most recent being against each other only two days ago in Ottawa, where the Sens won 3-1.  In the Game of the Day Series, Boston has a lackluster 1-3-1 record, while the Sens host a 2-2-1 record.

Yes, before you write nasty things in the comment section, I’m fully aware we just watched these two go at it on Sunday (this sounds like as good a time as ever for a plug: here’s my quick-and-dirty recap of that game!).  But, the fact of the matter is that both of these teams are tied at 42 points apiece and qualifying for both the wild card spots, and a win tonight has the potential to move one of these teams into a division qualifying-spot should Detroit lose.

You can read an analysis of both teams here.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Craig Anderson (16 wins [tied for fifth in the league]), Mike Hoffman (17 goals [tied for seventh in the league]) and Erik Karlsson (31 assists [tied for league lead] and 40 points [tied for fourth in the league]).

Ottawa spoiled my prediction when they beat the Bruins at home, but I feel much more confident picking Boston to win in the Garden.

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