January 6 – Day 88 – Finally! All 30 teams have been featured!

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins was nothing short of fantastic, as it needed an extra 3:47 of play before being decided a 3-2 Hawks win.

First Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored the first goal of the game after 28:47 of play after being assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith (his 17th of the season), giving the Blackhawks a one-goal advantage.  Almost exactly 10 minutes later, Third Star Jonathan Toews expanded the lead to two after being assisted by Brent Seabrook (his 20th of the season) and Andrew Shaw.  The 2-0 lead held into the second intermission.

Just as the second period was all Chicago, Pittsburgh took command of the third.  Captain Sidney Crosby scored the Pens‘ first goal 5:54 after resuming play, assisted by David Perron and Second Star Kris Letang (his 20th of the season).  Letang’s night wasn’t done, as he fired the game-tying score with 2:50 remaining in regulation after being assisted by Crosby (his 19th of the season).

Panarin is responsible for the Chicago winner after being assisted by Kane (his 36th of the season) and Seabrook.

Corey Crawford’s record improves to 21-10-2 after saving 34 of 36 (94.4%), while Marc-Andre Fleury’s falls to 14-10-3 after saving 27 of 30 (90%).

These two squads both traveled to Chicago following the game, and are lacing them up again tonight in the United Center.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stand at 34-17-7, favoring the home side by 23 points over the roadies.

Today’s Wednesday schedule is a light one in comparison to yesterday’s, as only five games are being played.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Chicago (NBCSN/TVAS).  Three games share the title of nightcap (St. Louis at Colorado, Carolina at Vancouver and Toronto at Anaheim), all of which start at 10 p.m. eastern.

St. Louis at Colorado represents the only divisional rivalry this evening, and New Jersey at Montréal is the only game featuring two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While both of those games should be excellent, there’s one matchup that sticks out due to a player returning to his old stomping grounds.

That, and there is only one team remaining that hasn’t been featured in the Game of the Day series, and since everyone deserves an opportunity (it’s my page, I get to set the rules!) and this is probably their best shot at being featured, let’s catch the Carolina at Vancouver game!

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As stated before, tonight’s game will be Carolina‘s first time featured in the Game of the Day, while Vancouver has been featured twice before, losing both games.  Their most recent showing in the series was also their most recent game played – their 3-2 loss to Arizona on Monday.

The 16-17-7 Carolina Hurricanes currently sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference.  Neither side of the ice has favored the Hurricanes this season (then again, they’ve been hearing that since the 2009-’10 season), but if Caniacs have to hang their hat on something, they should lean towards their defense.

Carolina‘s problems this season have not necessarily been a result of poor defensive work, but poor goaltending.  Led by Ron Hainsey’s 67 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1040 shots to reach 11-11-4 Cam Ward and co.’s net so far this season, 114 below the league average even with an extra game played.  The problem rears it’s head here: only 89.9% have been saved (1.7% below the league average), meaning that Carolina has allowed 110 goals, which exceeds the league average by six tallies.  The Canes have also done well to avoid the box as much as possible (only making 92 visits that resulted in an opposing man-advantage), as their 79.35% kill rate trails the league average by 1.3%.

Just like their skaters on the blue line, it has not been a lack of effort in Carolina that has put them in their position.  Led by Justin Faulk’s 117 shots, the Canes have put 1190 shots on net, but only 7.7% of them have resulted in tallies (led by Jeff Skinner’s 15).  The next step in making improvements in Raleigh will be to improve the power play.  Carolina has earned 121 attempts, but has converted only 20 of them (led by Faulk’s 12 goals) for a 16.53% success rate that trails the league average by 2.82%.

Carolina‘s most recent showing was a 1-0 overtime loss in Edmonton on Monday.

The 15-16-9 Vancouver Canucks find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference.  An explanation of their play may be found here, but a basic summary is that the Canucks prefer their defensive end.

Their most recent game was that 3-2 loss to the Coyotes on Monday.  A quick-and-dirty recap of that game may be found here.

The main reason we’re focusing on this game is because of a particular player, nicknamed The Stork playing for them as of June 27 – none other than 5-6-3 backup goaltender Eddie Läck, who will get the start this evening.  The Vancouver Canucks signed the undrafted goaltender on April 6, 2010, and he saw his first game on October 6, 2013, a 5-4 overtime winner over the arch-rival Calgary Flames.  In fact, Läck’s first NHL shutout was against his current team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on December 9 of that same season.

Last season was certainly the better of his two with the Canucks‘ senior squad, as he earned an 18-13-4 record with a 92.1% save percentage in the regular season before playing in four games in the playoffs, where the Canucks were ultimately eliminated by the Flames.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Faulk (117 shots, 77 hits and 30 points, including 12 power play goals and 13 even-strength assists [all lead team]) and Skinner (15 goals, 13 of which were at even-strength, with four being game-winners[all lead team]) & Vancouver‘s Daniel Sedin (38 points [tied for ninth in the league]) and Henrik Sedin (25 assists [tied for eighth in the league]).

I do not believe either of these teams to be very strong, but I will give the advantage to the Canucks simply because they are on home ice.  Expect Läck’s return to be spoiled.