December 30 – Day 81 – Blueshirt-Bolt Bout

It may have ended in a 7-3 victory for the Boston Bruins over the Ottawa Senators, but a better representation of yesterday’s Game of the Day is the combined 110 penalty minutes.

Thanks to a goal from Second Star of the Game Jimmy Hayes after 8:01 of play, the Bruins never trailed in this game.  Assisted by Kevan Miller, he scored his first of three goals in the game, the Game of the Day’s second straight hat trick.  Only 4:30 later, Shane Prince and Max McCormick assisted Chris Neil to level the score at one-all.  The final goal of the period was the first of four power play tallies on the evening, all scored by Boston.  This one came with only 3:35 remaining in the first period courtesy of First Star Patrice Bergeron, assisted by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner.

The third and final Bruin to score in the game notched his first goal only 1:21 after resuming play, as Brett Connolly and Brad Marchand assisted Third Star Matt Beleskey to the Bruins‘ second power play goal.  Ottawa waited until only 2:09 remained in the period to get a goal back, with a tally from Mika Zibanejad after being assisted by Neil and Prince, setting the second intermission score at 3-2.

The Bruins‘ game winner was, you guessed it, a power play goal from Bergeron after being assisted by Krug and Seth Griffith, his first of the season, at the 2:38 mark.  Ottawa‘s final tally of the evening came 1:44 later when Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot assisted Mike Hoffman, setting the score at 4-3.  As far as scoring is concerned, the game slowed down for over 11 minutes until Max Talbot and Loui Eriksson assisted Hayes to his second score of the night.  At the 16:40 mark, Beleskey closed his scoring line for the evening with his second goal after being assisted by Spooner and Eriksson, setting the score at 6-3.  Hayes scored his hat trick-clinching goal into the game with only a second remaining in the game while on the power play, assisted by Talbot and Dennis Seidenberg.

Tuukka Rask improves his record to 14-9-3 after saving 29 of 32 (90.6%), while Craig Anderson’s record falls to 16-10-4, due to saving only 30 of 37 (81.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 32-13-6, favoring the home squad by 28 points over the roadies.

Today’s Wednesday schedule is a light one, as only 10 teams are in action.  The evening’s festivities begin at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern when two of the five games get started (Toronto at Pittsburgh [SN] and Buffalo at Washington [BELL TV]), followed half an hour later by New Jersey at Ottawa (TVAS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the first leg of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry, as the New York Rangers visit Tampa Bay.  Following the conclusion of that game, NBCSN completes their double-header by showing Philadelphia at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap.

None of tonight’s games are between either division rivals or teams currently qualifying for the playoff.  Probably the most intriguing matchup of the evening based on team names alone is the New York at Tampa Bay game, as it is a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals and their second meeting of the year.  Due to this and the fact that I don’t want to focus on Ottawa three times in the last six games, let’s take a look at the BlueshirtBolt game.

New York Rangers LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

This will be New York‘s ninth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day Series, but their first since a 7-3 loss to the Capitals on December 20 that set their series record at 5-2-1.  Tampa Bay has been featured four times before tonight and host a 2-1-1 record in the series.  The last time they were the focus of our attention was October 27 when they fell in St. Louis 2-0.

The 20-13-4 New York Rangers are currently in third place in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  Their most recent showing was a 5-3 loss in Nashville on Monday.  Even though Madison Square Garden is home to one of, if not the best goalkeeper in hockey, the Rangers have actually been a better offensive team this season.

They may have put only 1037 shots on goal so far this season (led by Rick Nash’s 110), but the Rangers have scored 10.2% of those attempts (1.3% above the league average) for 106 goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 15), sixth-most in the league. As it does for most good teams, the success continues into the power play, where the Blueshirts score on 21.36% of attempts (2.25% above the league average) for 22 goals.

Defensively, the Rangers haven’t played as well as I would expect.  Even though Dan Girardi has 72 blocks to his credit, they’ve allowed 1133 shots to reach 16-10-3 Henrik Lundqvist and co., who’ve saved 92% and allowed 96 goals.  Just as the defense as a whole has been average, so too has the penalty kill.  The Rangers are killing 80.99% of attempts, only .1% over the league average, and allowing 23 goals.

The 18-15-4 Tampa Bay Lightning sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Their most recent game was a 4-3 shootout loss at home against the Canadiens on Monday.  Tampa has favored the defensive end this season, where they are eighth-best in the league in goals against.

Thanks in part to Jason Garrison’s 58 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 1049 shots to reach 15-11-3 Ben Bishop and co., who have saved 92.4% and allowed only 85 goals.  Although the defense as a whole has been strong, the penalty kill has been lacking.  The Bolts have allowed 24 power play goals on 110 attempts for a 78.18% kill rate that trails the league average by 2.71%.

Although the penalty kill needs to be improved, a bigger hole for the Bolts has been the offense.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ 100 shots, the Lightning have only managed 1048 shots, of which 9% have found the back of the net for 94 goals (led by Stamkos’ 16).  Just as the offense has only been average, so too has been the power play.  Although the Bolts have 24 power play goals to their credit (led by Stamkos’ nine), they’ve needed 130 opportunities, and those of us that are mathematically astute know that brings down averages – 18.46%, to be exact, which trails the league average by .65%.

Some players to watch include New York‘s Lundqvist (16 wins [tied for fifth in the league]) and Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.03 GAA [fourth in the league], 15 wins [tied for eighth in the league] and .926 save percentage [tied for eighth in the league]).

This is the second of three meetings between these two squads this season, with the first occurring on November 19 when Tampa held home ice to win 2-1.  Of course, it is not the regular season series that makes this one special, but the playoff series in May.  It took seven games, but Tampa was able to earn their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-0 victory in the Garden.  If both of these results are indicative of anything, we should be in for a good game.

These teams match up well, given that it’s both teams’ strengths are going against one another.  Tampa has been surging of late and has the opportunity to get back into the playoff conversation, so I think they can defend home ice and earn two points.

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