Down the Frozen River Podcast #22- All Star Weekend

The Down the Frozen River crew tackles the All Star break in stride with thoughts on the relevance of the All Star Game, John Scott, and Dennis Wideman. Stay tuned for more next week, but until then, hear what they have to say about the latest news and notes from around the NHL in this week’s #DTFRPodcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter and/or drop us a line on Facebook– your thoughts might make it on our show!

Colby’s Corner: Florida Heat

The Atlantic division got burned and the teams are feeling the Unknown-2Florida heat with the Florida Panthers on top. The Panthers went on a 12-game winning streak that earned them the top spot in the Atlantic. They made it seem like the other teams were standing still as they blew by them.

My first thought was that it wouldn’t last, and they would fall back to where they belong, but now I am second-guessing myself. They continue to win games, and big games like January 22nd when they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. The Panthers have 63 points, and only 3 points separate them from the second division spot.

So why are they so successful?

A big part of their success can be tied with their young players. First would be the team’s point leader Jonathan Huberdeau. He has 34 points, and of those points 26 come from assists. This is a great feat for a 4th-year player who is only 22 years old.

A bigger piece of this Florida team would be 2nd-year player Aaron Exblad. Exblad is key to this team; he missed four games thus far and Florida stumbled in those games. Ever since his return to the lineup, the Panthers have found winning ways again. Exblad has 21 points this season, split pretty evenly between goals and assists (10G, 11A).

Finally, it wouldn’t be right to talk about this team without mentioning the great one: Jaromir Jagr. Jagr is second on the team in goals with 15 and in points with 33, only one point behind his line mate Huberdeau. Jagr is still finding ways to succeed in this league and his experience is helping these young kids as they push for the playoffs. I feel it will be interesting to watch this team in the playoffs, and this could be the final push for Jagr and another cup.

AP Photo/Joel Auerbach
AP Photo/Joel Auerbach

If I were to steal Rob Ray’s explanation for why Jagr is this old and still playing: he believes it’s because he has stayed single for all these years. Say what you will, but it makes you really think about his career and what he has achieved.

January 27 – Day 109 – Last hurrah for the first half

It’s the last lead that matters!  Buffalo did not have a lead in the game until the 1:08 mark of the third period, but they were able to hang on for the 3-2 win in Ottawa in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Sens opened the scoring after 6:42 of play with a goal from Third Star of the Game Erik Karlsson, assisted by Mika Zibanejad (his 21st helper of the season) and Chris Neil, but the Sabres leveled the score only 4:30 later with Evander Kane’s 11th tally of the season.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

Three seconds after the halfway point of the game, Ottawa took their second lead of the game compliments of Second Star Bobby Ryan’s 18th goal on the season, assisted by Cody Ceci and Shane Prince.  But, just like the first time, the Sabres were able to quickly level the score, this one a power play goal at the 13:48 mark courtesy of First Star Jack Eichel, assisted by Robin Lehner (his first helper of the season).  Once again, the game entered an intermission tied.

Eichel’s night was not complete, as he scored the 16th goal of his NHL career to give Buffalo the win.

Lehner’s record improves to 1-3-0 after saving 34 of 36 (94.4%), while Craig Anderson’s falls to 20-15-4 after saving 19 of 22 (86.4%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-22-9, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

I’m not saying we’re going out with a whimper into the All-Star Break, but there are only four games on the docket this evening.  Fortunately, all of them are nationally televised, making it a pretty phenomenal night for hockey fans!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with Toronto visiting Tampa Bay (TVAS/SN), followed an hour later by Philadelphia at Washington (NBCSN).  9:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Nashville at Calgary (SN1), followed by this evening’s nightcap, Colorado at Los Angeles (NBCSN), an hour later.

Half of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Toronto at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia at Washington), and Colorado at Los Angeles represents the only game between playoff qualifiers.

It’s been a while since we’ve focused on the Kings, so let’s head to the Staples Center.

Colorado Avalanche LogoUnknown

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Colorado‘s fifth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blues on Friday.  Los Angeles has only been featured twice before tonight’s game, and they are 1-1-0 in such games.  Their most recent appearance was a five-goal shutout victory in Vancouver on December 28.

The 26-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division, sixth in the Western Conference and, most importantly, they own the second wildcard position.  They’ve gotten to that position with the sixth-most goals scored in the league, but have been held back by their defense.  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Friday’s post.

Thanks to last night’s loss in San Jose, the Avs‘ win streak ends at four, but a win tonight propels Colorado past Minnesota into the first wildcard position.

The 30-15-3 Los Angeles Kings currently occupy first place in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve paired one of the best defenses in the league with an average offense.

Thanks to Alec Martinez’ team-leading 112 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 1352 shots to reach 26-12-2 Jonathan Quick and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 107 goals against, third-least in the league.  The penalty kill has also been strong, killing 82.25% for 30 goals against.

Led by Dustin Brown’s 131 shots, LA has fired 1534 shots, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 124 goals (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 22 tallies), 15th-fewest in the league.  The strongest asset for the Kings‘ offense has been the power play, where they’ve scored on 21.17% for 29 extra-man goals.  The power play continues to get better, as they’ve allowed only two short-handed goals so far this season, one less than the league average.

Los Angeles‘ most recent game was a 3-2 overtime victory in San Jose Sunday.  A win tonight continue’s Los Angeles‘ excellent season by extending their lead over the Sharks to nine points.

Colorado and Los Angeles have met twice already this season, with both teams winning the game they hosted by holding the opposition to a lone goal.  Their most recent meeting was January 4 in Colorado, where the Avs won 4-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Colorado‘s Matt Duchene (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+17 [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Quick (26 wins [third-most in the league] and three shutouts [10th-most in the league]) and Toffoli (+26 [best in the league] and 22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

After last night’s performance in San Jose, you expect the Avs to play a better game tonight.  Too bad for them, their competition this evening is far superior to last night’s.  I expect the Kings to take care of Colorado easily.

January 26 – Day 108 – Lehner’s Sabres to Sens Town!

With two goals in the second period, the Detroit Red Wings were able to beat the New York Islanders in Brooklyn 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

After Second Star of the Game Brock Nelson hooked Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards fired a power play goal after an assist from Pavel Datsyuk (his 18th helper of the season).  The Wings held the one-goal lead for only 5:36 though, as Nelson scored his 19th tally of the season off an assist from John Tavares to level the score, which held into the intermission.

Third Star Justin Abdelkader was responsible for Detroit‘s second goal of the night at the 13:29 mark, after assists from Henrik Zetterberg (his 24th helper of the season) and Larkin.  1:11 later, the Wings had their game-winner courtesy of First Star Danny DeKeyser.  Detroit‘s 3-1 lead held into the second intermission.

The Islanders tried to stage a comeback with a score at the 15:12 mark of the third, compliments of Mikhail Grabovski (his seventh tally of the season), assisted by Matt Martin and Brian Strait, but they could not manage to level the score.  The Wings‘ final goal of the evening was an empty netter from Luke Glendening, assisted by Darren Helm (his ninth helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.

Petr Mrazek’s record improves to 18-9-4 after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%), while Jaroslav Halak’s falls to 12-9-4, saving 22 of 25 (88%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-21-9, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.  Detroit‘s win was the first for the road squad in six games for our series.

It’s a busy Tuesday in the greatest hockey league in the world!  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games (Anaheim at Boston [TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by four more (Chicago at Carolina [NBCSN/SN1], Columbus at Montréal [RDS], Buffalo at Ottawa [BELL TV/RDS2] and Toronto at Florida).  Arizona at Winnipeg drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, followed by the co-nightcaps (Nashville at Vancouver and Colorado at San Jose [NBCSN/SN1]) at 10 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Ottawa and Toronto at Florida), and only one, Colorado at San Jose, is between current playoff contenders.  Tonight also marks the first return of Bobby Farnham to Pittsburgh, David Legwand and Robin Lehner to Ottawa and Brad Boyes to Florida.

Given how long he spent in the Canadian capital and that he should be starting this evening, lets give the nod to Lehner and the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres LogoUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight marks Buffalo‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, a series in which they have yet to earn a point.  Their most recent game under our observation was a 2-1 loss in Colorado on Wednesday.  The Senators have been featured seven times before tonight, and own a 2-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on January 13.

Legwand and Lehner both joined the Sabres from the Senators this offseason in return for the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (which Ottawa ultimately used to draft Colin White, who at the time, had yet to take the ice for Boston College).  Together, they’ve played a total of 49 games for the Sabres, but the organization is optimistic for Lehner’s future.

So far this season, Lehner has started all four games he’s played, but he has yet to even get the Sabres to overtime (0-3-0 record), giving up eight goals in the process  (.934 save percentage).  During his five-season, 86-game career in Ottawa, he earned a 30-36-13 record with a .914 save percentage.  He is expected to start tonight’s game for Buffalo against his old team.

The 19-26-4 Buffalo Sabres are currently last in the Atlantic Division, and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and NHL, leading only Columbus, and only by a point at that.  Although their position in the standings would not indicate it, their defense is actually on par with the league average (as measured by goals against), but their offense is absolutely horrendous and is the main reason the squad is considering tanking instead of making a playoff push.  You can read a more in-depth analysis of their game on Wednesday’s post.

The Sabres are currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 6-3 loss in Madison Square Garden last night.  A win tonight does have the chance to move Buffalo past Toronto in the standings, but at this point, Sabres fans might prefer to avoid winning as much as possible in hopes of a Jamie McGinn-Jack Eichel-Auston Matthews line.

The 23-20-6 Ottawa Senators are currently sitting in sixth-place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.  To get them to that spot, they play one of the better offenses in the league, but the reason the Sens aren’t in the playoffs right now is due to their atrocious defense.

Even with Erik Karlsson’s team-leading 136 shots, the Sens have only fired 1382 shots this season, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 137 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 22 tallies), sixth-most in the league.  Interestingly, those numbers have not relied on the special teams, as Ottawa has only connected on 18.24% (technically below league average) for 27 power play goals, led by Hoffman’s six.  They’ve also only given up two short-handed goals.

The defense is entirely to blame for Ottawa being out of the playoffs right now.  Even with Karlsson’s team-leading 99 blocks, Ottawa has allowed a whopping 1623 shots to reach 20-14-4 Craig Anderson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 152 goals against, second-most in the league.  Part of that defense is the penalty kill, which has only killed 75.63% of opposing power plays for 39 extra-man goals against.  The only saving grace of the penalty kill has been the 10 (yes, 10) shorties to their credit, led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s five.

Just like Buffalo, Ottawa‘s most recent game was against the Rangers, but the Sens won their game at home on Sunday with a three-game shutout.  A win this evening has the potential to move Ottawa into the “First Team Out” position in the Eastern Conference, but they will need Montréal and Pittsburgh to both lose for that to happen.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Buffalo‘s Evander Kane (147 shots and 107 hits [both lead the team]), Ryan O’Reilly (40 points, of which 17 are goals, with 10 being at even-strength and seven being on the power play [all lead the team]) and Sam Reinhart (three game-winning goals [leads the team]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (20 wins [eighth-most in the league] and three shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hoffman (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (41 assists [second-most in the league] and 51 points [fourth-most in the league]).

I’m picking Ottawa to win this one, mostly because they won’t be as worried about their defense doing their best impression of Swiss cheese since Buffalo‘s offense usually can’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Lehner’s record should fall to 0-4-0.

January 25 – Day 107 – I told you we need to watch Detroit soon…

Just like I predicted, the Chicago Blackhawks used their return to the United Center to regroup and beat the division-rival St. Louis Blues with a two-goal shutout.

The game-winning goal was not scored until 35:26 had ticked off the clock, as Third Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored off assists from Second Star Patrick Kane (his 43rd helper of the season) and Michal Rozsival.  The one-goal lead held into the second intermission.

The lone insurance goal was scored on the power play, only 4:56 after resuming play.  Andrew Shaw was responsible, assisted by Marian Hossa (his 17th helper of the season) and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

First Star Corey Crawford improves his record to 28-11-2 after saving all 25 shots he faced, while Brian Elliott’s falls to 10-6-5 after saving 23 of 25 (92%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-20-9, favoring the home squad by 40 points over the roadies.

After only four games played yesterday, the NHL picks back up the action today with six games.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with three games (Detroit at the New York Islanders, Boston at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Montréal at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Rangers (NBCSN).  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps drop the puck at 8:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Dallas and Arizona at Minnesota).

None of tonight’s games  are between divisional rivals, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at New York and Arizona at Minnesota).

In addition to watching a Western Conference game yesterday, I think the WingsIsles game will be more competitive, so let’s focus in on the action in the Barclays Center.

Unknown-1New York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game marks Detroit‘s fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 loss to the Stars on November 8.  New York has been featured twice before tonight’s game, and are 1-1-0 in such games.  Their most recent in the series was also a 4-1 loss at home, but this one was to the Capitals on January 7.

The 24-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have used an above-average defense to get them there.

Even with Danny DeKeyser’s 65 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed 1444 shots to reach 17-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 122 goals against, 12th-least in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has been above-average, the penalty kill still has room to improve, killing 80.65% of opposing attempts for 30 power play goals against.  To make matters worse, the kill still has yet to score their first short-handed goal of the season.

Standout rookie Dylan Larkin may have 127 shots to his credit, but the Wings as a whole only have 1378 on the season, of which 8.5% have found the back of the net for 118 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies), seventh-fewest in the NHL.  Part of the problem for the lack of offense has been the below-average power play, where the Wings have scored only 17.11% for 26 power play goals, led by Gustav Nyquist’s six extra-man tallies.

The Wings‘ most recent game played was a 4-3 loss to the Ducks on Saturday.  A Detroit win tonight propels them past Tampa Bay for second place in the division, while a loss runs the chance of them falling behind Boston and into a wildcard position.

The 25-15-6 New York Islanders currently occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference, using a top-10 offense paired with an above-average defense.  The Isles are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Led by Calvin de Haan’s 117 blocks, the Isles have allowed only 1389 shots to reach 12-8-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 114 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  The strongest facet of the defense has been the penalty kill, which has killed 87.86% of opposing opportunities, allowing only 17 goals.  To make matters worse for Detroit, New York also has four shorties to their credit, led by Cal Clutterbuck’s two tallies.

Led by Captain John Tavares’ 136 shots, New York has fired a solid 1393 shots, with 9% finding the back of the net for 128 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 18 tallies), 13th-most in the league.  The biggest deficiency has been the power play, where the Isles have only scored on 17.78% for 24 goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s four extra-man tallies).  To make matters worse, the power play has given up five short-handed goals, two more than the league average.

New York won their most recent game, 5-2 victory in Ottawa.  A win tonight increases their lead over fourth-place New Jersey to three points, and has the potential to propel them past the team from Manhattan in the division.

This will be the first of three meetings between these squads this season.  Last year, New York won the series 2-1-0.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+23 [fourth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league]), should he play.

Detroit is a peculiar team to figure out, as they always seem to do just enough to win a lot of their games.  That being said, I think New York, especially in Brooklyn, will be too much to handle.

January 24 – Day 106 – Yup, they’re still not friends

The Florida Panthers scored four goals in the second period to lead them to a 5-2 victory over their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

28:50 after the opening puck drop, First Star of the Game Jonathan Huberdeau scored the Panthers‘ first goal of the evening, assisted by Aleksander Barkov (his 18th helper of the season) and Aaron Ekblad.  3:46 later, Third Star Nick Bjugstad scored a power play goal after an assist from Huberdeau, his 26th helper of the season.  The eventual game winner is compliments of Reilly Smith, his 15th of the season, at the 15:56 mark.  The final tally of the period, another one for the Panthers, was scored by Vincent Trocheck, assisted by Logan Shaw and Jussi Jokinen (his 20th of the season).  Florida‘s four-goal shutout held into the second intermission.

Victor Hedman finally got Tampa Bay on the board with a power play goal at the 5:39 mark of the third, assisted by Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov (his 21st assist of the season).  A little over 10 minutes passed before Florida scored their final goal of the night, an empty netter courtesy of Brian Campbell, assisted by Bjugstad and Jaromir Jagr (his 18th helper of the season).  The final goal of the game belonged to the Lightning after Brian Boyle assisted J.T. Brown to his fourth tally of the season, but it was too little too late, as the 5-2 score held to the final horn.

Second Star Roberto Luongo earns the win by saving 38 of 40 (95%) to improve his record to 21-13-4, while Ben Bishop’s falls to 19-14-3 after saving only 26 of 30 (86.7%).  He was replaced after 39:58 of play by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who saved all four shots that came his way.

Before leaving our recap of the game, I would like to include this note from George Richards, a Panthers beat writer for the Miami Herald:

Although he wrote the tweet before Tampa‘s inconsequential goal trickled in, the fact still stands: Florida is competing with, no, humiliating the best of the best from last season, and should be taken very seriously.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 47-20-9, favoring the home squads by 38 points over the roadies.

We had five games on the schedule, but the snow in Washington D.C. has forced NBC’s Game of the Week to be postponed.  Not to worry though, we still have four games to choose from.  The first of those gets started at 3 p.m. eastern, when the New York Rangers visit Ottawa (RDS2).  Following the completion of that game, Calgary at Carolina (SN) drops the puck at 6 p.m. eastern, trailed by St. Louis at Chicago (NHLN/TVAS) an hour later.  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern when Los Angeles visits San Jose.

Both of today’s divisional matchups (St. Louis at Chicago and Los Angeles at San Jose) are also the games between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Originally, I was planning on PittsburghWashington being the Game of the Day with Eric Fehr making his first return to the Verizon Center, but that will have to wait and make room for St. Louis at Chicago!

Unknown-1Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be St. Louis‘ 10th appearance in the Game of the Day series, and third this week.  They own a 5-3-1 record in the series, with their most recent being a 2-1 shootout loss in Colorado Friday.  Chicago has been featured 14 times before tonight’s game, and own a 8-5-1 record in such games.  They’ve also been featured this week in their 2-1 loss in Tampa Bay Thursday.

The 28-15-8 St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  To get them to that position, they’ve played a top-10 offense (as scored by goals scored), backed by a slightly below-average defense (again, measured by goals against).  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Monday’s post.

The Blues‘ most recent game was the 2-1 shootout loss to Colorado Friday.  A win in Chicago this evening propels the Blues past Dallas for second place in the division and conference, trailing the Hawks by only two points.

The 32-15-4 Chicago Blackhawks own both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and only trail Washington by five points for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They play the third-best offense in the league, paired with the 10th best defense, making them the formidable opponent their position in the standings indicates.  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Thursday’s article.

The Blackhawks‘ most recent game was a four-goal shutout loss in Florida on Friday, which extended their losing streak to two games.  With the Capitals being inactive this weekend due to the snow, a win this evening by the Hawks would pull them within three points of the league lead.

These two have met twice already this season, with the Blackhawks having a slight edge thanks to taking the Blues to overtime before losing in the first meeting.  The most recent game was on November 14, when Chicago beat bested the Blues 4-2 in The Lou.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (six shutouts [most in the league], 27 wins [second-most in the league] and .931 save percentage [fourth-best in the league]), Patrick Kane (72 points [most in the league], 42 assists [most in the league], 30 goals [most in the league] and +23 [tied for third-best in the league) and Artemi Panarin (29 assists [tied for eighth-most in the league] and 45 points [ninth-most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Colton Parayko (+18 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Vladimir Tarasenko (25 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 46 points [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

With the Hawks returning home from their less-than successful Floridian road trip, they’ll be looking to get back in the win column.  I’m picking the Blackhawks to get the win.

Colby’s Corner: Incompletes

report-card incompleteAt the midway point of the season, a lot of people want to give out grades. Well, due to our busy schedules and the fact that we skipped a podcast, I am going to discuss the teams I think deserve an incomplete and why.  So, while all of you are handing out grades, consider these teams for incompletes.

First up

The Ottawa Senators Unknown-2

The Ottawa Senators are 11th in the Eastern conference with 50 points. This is a team who had a strong run at the end of last season, and with help from goalie Andrew Hammond, snuck into the playoffs. The team is currently only three points out of a wildcard playoff spot again.

The Senators are a streaky team and I personally don’t think you can insult the team with a C rating. Obviously, Ottawa’s biggest player is defenseman Erik Karlsson and he is living up to it as he leads the team in points with 51 in 48 games played. This man is a beast, and they play him like it too. There have been a few games this season where Karlsson has played over 30 minutes in a game; that’s more than half the game! From a coach’s perspective, it has to be great to have a player who can play at all times.

However, if you look closer, this could be part of the issue. A stat that scares me for this team is Erik Karlsson’s plus-minus rating: it’s only even. This man is responsible for about 40% of Ottawa’s goals, and he’s been on the ice for 51 goals against average. To me this means his partner on D isn’t correct. Now, people will argue that if he would stay home and not play so offensively, or if he would play less, maybe his plus minus would be better. This may be true, but he is also without a doubt their best player. You play the best player as much as possible as long as he can handle it, which Karlsson can.

Now, with the trade deadline around the corner, you have to wonder what trades the Senators might be considering. If I were them, I would be looking for some defensive help, and, more specifically, a partner for Karlsson. Some big names out there for D help would be Kevin Shattenkirk and Travis Hamonic.

To finish with Ottawa, I would tell people not to write them off yet, by any means. They have a lot of winnable games coming up, including my Buffalo Sabres at the end of the month. If their coach can figure out his D-pairs, I would say Ottawa has the ability to go on a run similar to Florida and jump into the division spots.

Next up

The Vancouver CanucksUnknown-1

Not going to lie to you, I have never been a fan of the Canucks, but this team has surprised me a little bit this year. I felt the Canucks would have a rough year, but they are currently 8th in the Western conference with 51 points. They are in the 3rd division spot in the Pacific. Now, we all know the Pacific division is the weakest in the league, but I think it would be wrong to give Vancouver a grade when they have 2 players who have played in all 49 games this season. This stat tells you that nothing is set in Vancouver, and they have had many injury problems this season.

The Sedin twins are leading the way in points, like usual, as Daniel has 43 and Henrik has 37. It seems the twins have started using their twin powers again, and thus have this team in a playoff position. Ryan Miller, the current #1 goalie in Vancouver, just missed 10 games with an injury, and that may not be a lot, but when Jacob Markstrom is your backup, it doesn’t help in the winnable games.

Another advantage Vancouver might have going down the line is their young kids. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen are kids who will get better with the more games they play. If both of these kids can continue to improve, I feel the Canucks will be in the playoffs, and if Miller can stay healthy, they might be looking at the second division spot.

If I were the GM of Vancouver, I would not be big sellers, but I would be looking for a veteran center to help them in the final push for the playoffs. A name that could come up could be Patrick Marleau, who at the start of the season requested a trade.

Other teams who don’t deserve grades would be the Edmonton oilers, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs.

These teams all knew they would have a rough year before the midway point. Edmonton lost Connor McDavid early and had the same team as last year. The Sabres weren’t going to go from last to playoffs this soon, as many as some hoped. Toronto fans should know by now the rebuild is in full effect. Toronto should be hoping for Auston Mathews and hope for a Stamkos miracle, but that’s for another post.

January 23 – Day 105 – Governor’s Cup

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche needed a shootout to determine the home team as the winner.

The Blues scored the first goal of the night with only 2:03 remaining in the second period, as Troy Brouwer assisted Alexander Steen to his 15th goal of the season, this one a wrister to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead heading into the second intermission.

The Avalanche waited until only 54 seconds remained in regulation to level the score at one-all.  Third Star of the Game Nathan MacKinnon fired a wrister of his own after assists from Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie (his 23rd helper of the season).  The one-all score not only held to the completion of regulation, but also throughout the three-on-three overtime period, forcing the game to the shootout.

Only one goal was scored in the shootout, courtesy of Gabriel Landeskog, to secure the bonus point for Colorado.

First Star Semyon Varlamov saved 34 of 35 (97.1%) to improve his record to 18-12-3, while Second Star Brian Elliott’s falls to 10-5-5 after saving 41 of 42 (97.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 46-20-9, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy, exciting Saturday schedule, with 22 teams in action!  The festivities get started at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Pittsburgh (SN), with the other matinee starting at 4 p.m. eastern when Minnesota visits San Jose.  Five games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time (Columbus at Boston, Montréal at Toronto [CBC/NHLN/TVAS], Anaheim at Detroit, Tampa Bay at Florida and New Jersey at Winnipeg [SN]), followed by Philadelphia at the New York Islanders half an hour later nothing, since PhillyNYI was postponed due to weather.  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Colorado at Dallas, followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Arizona.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Nashville at Edmonton (CBC/SN), gets started at 10 p.m. eastern.

Almost half of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Montréal at Toronto, Tampa Bay at Florida, Philadelphia at New York, Colorado at Dallas and Los Angeles at Arizona), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Minnesota at San Jose, Tampa Bay at Florida and Colorado at Dallas).

For the first season in a long time (arguably the 1995-’96 season), the Governor’s Cup has been an important rivalry in the Atlantic Division.  We’ve already missed three of the games this season, so we’d better catch this one!

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Tonight’s game is Tampa Bay‘s seventh appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-2-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was Thursday, when they beat the Blackhawks 2-1.  Florida has been featured four times before tonight’s game, and own a 3-1-0 record in such games.  Their most recent appearance was January 3, when they defeated the Wild.

The 26-17-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get them to that position, they’ve played a top-10 defense, paired with an offense that falls just short of that ranking (as measured by goals against/scored).  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found on Thursday’s post.

The Bolts are currently riding a seven-game win streak, with their most recent being Thursday’s victory over the Hawks.  A win tonight by the Lightning pulls them within a point of the division-leading Panthers.

The 27-15-5 Florida Panthers currently sit in first place in the Atlantic and second in the Eastern Conference.  Although they have only an average offense, they’ve been able to climb to the top of the table with one of the best defenses in the league (as measured by goals against).

Thanks in part to Willie Mitchell’s team-leading 70 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1351 shots to reach 20-13-4 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved a solid 92.7% for only 105 goals against, third-least in the league.  One reason for that success has been how Florida has reacted to the power play, killing 82.76% for only 25 power play goals against.

The offense continues their interesting play, as they focus more on the quality of shot versus quantity.  Led by Jonathan Huberdeau’s 110 attempts, Florida has fired 1264 shots, of which 9.2% have found the back of the net for 116 goals (led by Jaromir Jagr’s 15 tallies).  The biggest hole in Florida‘s offense has been their power play.  Successful on only 15.48% of attempts, they have 24 extra-man goals, led by Aleksander Barkov’s four tallies.

The Panthers‘ last game was last night, a 4-0 win against the Blackhawks, ending their four-game losing skid.  If Florida pulls out the win, they will extend their division lead over Tampa Bay to five points.

As hinted at before, these squads have already played three of the five games in this season’s series, with the Panthers leading the series 2-1-0.  Although Florida has the lead, it is actually the Bolts who have the most recent success, winning 3-1 only six days ago in Tampa.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game includes Florida‘s Aaron Ekblad (+17 [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Luongo (19 wins [tied for seventh-best in the league], three shutouts [tied for eighth-best in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (1.94 GAA [second-best in the league], 19 wins [tied for seventh-best in the league] and .928 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Now that Ekblad is back and the Panthers have the monkey off their back of the losing streak, I think they will begin to return to form.  I pick Florida to make a statement win for their division this evening.

January 22 – Day 104 – Rocky Mountain High

It was another tight game between last season’s Conference Champions, but it was Tampa Bay who won 2-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Chicago scored the first goal of the game before even a full minute had expired.  Artem Anisimov gave the Blackhawks their first and only goal of the game after only 43 seconds, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 42nd helper of the season).  6:31 later, Tampa Bay leveled the score with a goal from Anton Stralman, assisted by First Star of the Game Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula (his 17th helper of the season).  The one-all score held into the intermission.

The Bolts scored the final goal with 23:21 remaining in the game when Nikita Kucherov scored a power play tally, assisted by Hedman (his 24th helper of the season) and Alex Killorn.

Ben Bishop improves his record to 19-13-3 after saving 17 of 18 (94.4%), while Third Star Corey Crawford’s fell to 27-11-2 after saving 31 of 33 (93.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 45-20-9, favoring the home squads by 35 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy enough Friday schedule, as 12 teams are in action this evening.  The pucks drop at 7 p.m. eastern for three games (Detroit at Buffalo [BELL TV], Anaheim at Washington [NHLN] and the New York Rangers at Carolina), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Ottawa [RDS] and Chicago at Florida).  This evening’s nightcap gets an earlier start than usual, as St. Louis at Colorado begins at 9 p.m. eastern.

Three of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Detroit at Buffalo, New York at Carolina and St. Louis at Colorado), and two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at Florida and St. Louis at Colorado).  Since one of those games is in both sets, we’ll focus on the game happening in Denver.

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Tonight’s game marks St. Louis‘ ninth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-3-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 5-2 victory over the Penguins on Monday.  Colorado has been featured three times before tonight’s game, and own a 2-1-0 record in such games.  Their most recent game in the series was a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Wednesday.

The 28-15-7 St. Louis Blues currently occupy third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They play a top-10 offense (as measured by goals scored), which they’ve needed to cover for a below-average defense (again, measured by goals allowed).  You can read a more detailed explanation of their game on Monday’s post.

The Blues are currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Detroit on Wednesday.  A Notes win this evening does not improve their seeding in the division, but it does pull them into a tie with Dallas on points, which the Stars  win the tiebreaker based on games played.

The 24-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, good enough for the second wild card spot.  Similar to the Blues, the Avalanche play an incredible offense backed by a poorer defense, but Colorado is more extreme, playing a better offense than St. Louis, but allowing far more goals.  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Colorado is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 victory over Buffalo two days ago.  An Avalanche victory this evening does not do as much to improve their situation as much as it solidifies their qualifying for the playoffs.  Since Nashville does not play this evening, Colorado could expand their lead in the “last-team-out” race to three points, although the Predators will have two games in hand.

These squads have already met twice this season, with Colorado owning the series 2-0-0.  Their most recent meeting was by far the more competitive, as the Avs needed an overtime goal from Gabriel Landeskog on January 6 on home ice.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Colorado‘s Matt Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Jake Allen (five shutouts [second-most in the league] and 18 wins [tenth-most in the league] and Vladimir Tarasenko (25 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 46 points [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

As a Blues fan, I am worried for tonight’s game.  Colorado has been playing well of late and has the home-ice advantage.  I expect this to be a tight game, but one the Avs win.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #21 (that’s right we skipped #20)

The Down the Frozen River crew kicks off 2016 with their first podcast of the year (well, that actually made its way onto the site, that is- we may resurrect #20 someday). This week the DTFR crew discusses Montreal, Jonathan Drouin, injuries, and guitar? Hear what they have to say about the latest news and notes from around the NHL in this week’s #DTFRPodcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter and/or drop us a line on Facebook– your thoughts might make it on our show!