January 3 – Day 85 – Which is more Wild? Minnesota or the Everglades?

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers ended in a home shutout winner, as First Star of the Game Roberto Luongo led his squad to a 3-0 victory, their eighth-straight.

The first goal of the night, the game-winner, was a backhander from Second Star Logan Shaw, assisted by Corban Knight with only 25 seconds remaining in the opening period.

The second period was witness to both of Florida‘s insurance goals.  The first of those came 4:41 after resuming play from the intermission, compliments of a Vincent Trocheck tip-in, assisted by Alex Petrovic and Brian Campbell.  At the 11:18 mark, the third and final goal of the night found the back of the net courtesy of a Brandon Pirri power play slapshot, assisted by Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen, setting the score at the 3-0 final.

Luongo improves his record to 17-11-3 by saving all 40 shots he faced, while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 17-11-3 after saving 17 of 20 (85%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 33-16-6, favoring the home squads by 24 points over the roadies.

After a full Saturday schedule, the NHL relaxes a little bit, as there’s only four games this Sunday.  The action gets started at 5 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits the New York Islanders, followed an hour later by Minnesota at Florida.  7 p.m. eastern brings with it Ottawa at Chicago (NHLN/TVAS/SN), and this evening’s nightcap gets started at 9 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Anaheim.

None of today’s games are between divisional rivals (in fact, Winnipeg at Anaheim is the only game between teams from the same conference!), but two are between teams that are both qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at New York and Minnesota at Florida).  Lastly, the WinnipegAnaheim game is a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinal matchups.

I know that we just watched Florida last night, but I am more intrigued by their game against the Wild than the StarsIsles game, so I’m making the executive decision to keep our focus in Sunrise, Fla.

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This evening’s game will be Minnesota‘s seventh appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing while the focus of our attention was their game in St. Louis on New Year’s Eve, a 3-1 victory.  This is Florida‘s fourth showing after winning their game against the Rangers last night.

The 20-10-7 Minnesota Wild‘s most recent game was a 3-2 shutout defeat last night in Tampa Bay.  They’ve utilized one of the best defenses (fourth in goals against) in the league to establish themselves in fourth place in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference.  You can read a more in-depth summary of Minnesota‘s play here.

Just like Minnesota, the 22-12-4 Florida Panthers play a top-five defense (as measured by goals against) to establish themselves as the best in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, and are currently riding a league-best eight-game win streak.  Yesterday’s Game of the Day provides a more in-depth analysis of the Panthers‘ game, and can be found here.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (17 wins [tied for fifth in the league] and .926 save percentage [tenth-best in the league]) and Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for third in the league] and 16 wins [tied for eighth in the league]).

It is my opinion that both Florida‘s offense and defense are better than that of the Wild.  Coupling that with home-ice for the Panthers, and this should be a Florida winner.

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