January 10 – Day 92 – A streak must end tonight

It may have taken overtime, but the Washington Capitals were able to complete their weekend-sweep of New York City-based teams, as they knocked off the Rangers with a 4-3 victory.

The first two periods had only a goal each, both scored by the Caps.  The first period tally is compliments of none other than First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin, a power play goal with only 15 seconds remaining before intermission.

Washington‘s second goal of the night came a little bit quicker, only 3:56 after resuming play.  Nate Schmidt assisted Justin Williams to his 12th goal of the year to set the score the score at 2-0.

Although the Caps entered the period with the lead, it took a late goal to get the game into overtime.  Oscar Lindberg and the Blueshirts got on the board 5:54 after resuming play after assists from Dominic Moore and Ryan McDonagh, his 13th helper of the season.  Twelve seconds before the midway point of the period, Third Star McDonagh and Derick Brassard (his 16th assist of the year) assisted Kevin Hayes to level the score at two-all.  New York‘s go-ahead goal crossed the goal line at the 13:11 mark, scored by Viktor Stalberg after assists from Keith Yandle (his 20th of the season) and Kevin Hayes.  The Rangers got within six seconds of the victory, but Washington had different plans, as Second Star Nicklas Backstrom scored a game-tying goal after assists from Williams and Matt Niskanen (his 16th helper of the season).

The overtime period lasted only until 1:25 before Nate Schmidt assisted Ovechkin to the 24th goal of his season, and the 499th of his career to earn the Capitals the bonus point.

Braden Holtby improves his record to 27-4-2 after saving 23 of 26 (88.5%), while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 18-11-4 after saving 27 of 31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-19-8, favoring the home squad by 20 points over the roadies.

The second weekend of the new year is completed with six games being played this Sunday.  Only one matinee game is being played, with Buffalo visiting Winnipeg (BELL TV) at 3 p.m. eastern.  Two games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern (Ottawa at Washington [TVAS/SN] and Colorado at Chicago), followed an hour later by a couple more (New Jersey at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Detroit at Anaheim).  The final game of the night gets started at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Florida visits Edmonton (SN1).

Colorado at Chicago represents not only the only divisional matchup of the evening, but also the only game between teams both qualifying for the playoffs.  Especially since I’ve been wanting to write about the Avs for a while, lets take a look at that game.

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Tonight’s game is only Colorado‘s second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, with their first being a three-goal shutout victory in Anaheim on October 16.  On the other hand, Chicago has been featured a series-leading 12 times, and host a 6-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing was a 3-2 overtime victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The 21-18-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position over the Nashville Predators (Colorado wins on regulation+overtime wins).  To get to this position, they’ve utilized one of the best offenses in the league to compensate for a less-exemplary defense.

So far this season, the Avs have put only fired the puck 1189 times (led by Nathan MacKinnon’s 137), of which a whopping 10.3% have found the back of the net for 122 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 19 tallies), third-most in the NHL.  That sharp-shooting success has followed them to the power play, where Colorado has converted 21.77% of their 147 opportunities for 32 goals.  This success is good, but it comes with a catch – the Avalanche has already given up five short-handed goals this season, two more than the league average.

The offense has been necessary to cover up some less-than-ideal play on the defensive end.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 125 blocks to his credit, 1296 shots have still made their way to 15-10-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., who’ve collectively saved an average 91.5% for 117 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The average, if not less-than, defensive play has continued to the penalty kill, where Colorado has killed only 79.26% of opposing attempts (1.61% below the league average) for 28 power play goals against.

Colorado is currently riding a three-game winning streak, with their most recent being a 5-3 victory over the Predators on Friday.

The 26-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, trailing the Dallas Stars by six points with a game in hand.  As indicated by their place in the standings, they are one of the strongest teams in the Conference, playing a balanced, strongly competitive game.  You can read more about their style of play here.

Chicago is currently riding a six-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-1 win over the Sabres on Friday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (six shutouts [leads the league], 22 wins [third-best in the league] and .927 save percentage [ninth-best in the league]) and Patrick Kane (60 points [leads the league], 37 assists [leads the league], +20 [third-best in the league] and 23 goals [fifth-best in the league]) & Colorado‘s Duchene (19 goals [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Tonight’s meeting will be the third in the four-game season series, and the second in the Windy City.  Colorado currently leads the series 1-0-1, thanks to a three-goal shutout victory in the United Center on December 15, followed by a 4-3 overtime Blackhawks winner on New Year’s Eve in Denver.

It will be a tall task for the Avalanche to pull off the upset in the United Center tonight.  Not only are they playing on the road, but the Hawks‘ offense should be able to shred the Avs‘ defense and goaltending.  While I always like to pull underdog, I gotta go with Chicago taking the win.