January 13 – Day 95 – It’s time for these teams to put their foot on the gas

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Chicago Blackhawks held on for a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators to extend their winning streak to eight.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it belonged to the Hawks.  With only 58 seconds remaining in the period, First Star of the Game Andrew Shaw gave the Blackhawks the lead, assisted by Second Star Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews (his 16th helper of the season).

The busiest period was by far the second.  Chicago opened the period scoring after 6:14 ticked off the clock courtesy of Shaw’s second tally of the evening, assisted by Hossa (his 14th assist of the season) and Dennis Rasmussen.  The Hawks‘ final goal of the game, and ultimately their game-winner, occurred 7:04 later when Brent Seabrook set the score at 3-0, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 38th assist) and Erik Gustafsson.  Only 18 later, Mike Ribeiro scored his fifth goal of the season to get the score back to 3-1, which held into the second intermission.

Nashville‘s final goal of the night did not occur until the 19:23 mark, a power play tally from Filip Forsberg after assists from Ryan Johansen and Ribeiro (his 23rd assist).

Third Star Corey Crawford made saved 41 of 43 (95.3%) to improve his record to 24-10-2, while Pekka Rinne’s record falls to 16-14-6 after saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 38-19-8, favoring the home squad by 26 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday has come and gone; lets take a step back with today’s four-game schedule.  Columbus and Toronto (SN) get things started at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Boston at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS).  The western games get going at 9:30 p.m. eastern with Florida visiting Calgary (SN1), followed half an hour later by tonight’s nightcap between Ottawa and Anaheim (RDS).

None of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals, both teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, or a rematch of last year’s playoffs.

Today’s Game of the Day is Ottawa at Anaheim, due to both of these teams having playoff aspirations, but currently sit outside the tournament looking in.

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Ottawa has been featured in the Game of the Day series six times before tonight, and currently owns a 2-3-1 record in such games.  Their most showing in the series was a 7-3 loss in Boston on December 29.  This will be Anaheim‘s fourth appearance in the series, where they own a 0-1-2 record.  The Ducks‘ most recent game as the focus of our attention was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes on November 9.

The 20-17-6 Ottawa Senators currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They play a top-10 offense, but have not been able to break into the playoffs due to the second-worst defense in the league.

Ottawa‘s offense doesn’t put the puck on net very often (only 1222 times in their 43 games, led by Erik Karlsson’s 116), but they score a whopping 9.5% for 116 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 20 tallies), eighth-most in the league.  The Sens still need to improve on the power play, scoring on 18.05% attempts for 24 goals (led by Hoffman’s five tallies), but it doesn’t seem like they are too worried with such success in five-on-five play.

The offense has needed to be good to compensate for, frankly, an atrocious defense, especially for a team with playoff aspirations.  They’ve allowed 1429 shots to be fired (even with Karlsson’s team-leading 88 blocks), of which 17-12-4 Craig Anderson and co. have saved an average 91.7% for 127 goals against, second-most in the league.  The special teams issues continue into the penalty kill, where Ottawa has killed only 76.22% for 34 goals against.  Matters are made a little less terrible though, as the penalty kill has actually been very successful with the puck on their stick, scoring eight shorties already this season (led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s four goals).

In their last showing, the Sens were handily defeated 7-1 in Washington on Sunday, and they currently trail Boston by a single point for a wild card spot.

The 17-17-7 Anaheim Ducks currently occupy fifth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference.  Their game play is the exact opposite of Ottawa‘s, as the Ducks are one of the best teams in the league on defense, yet have arguably the worst offense in the game.

Thanks in part to Kevin Bieksa’s team-leading 69 blocks, the Ducks‘ opposition has only managed 1120 shots so far this season, 91.7% of which have been collectively saved by 9-6-2 John Gibson and co. for only 97 goals against, fourth-least in the league.  The penalty kill has been equally as strong, killing 89.66% of opposing power plays for only 15 goals against.

Measured by goals scored, Anaheim has the worst offense in the league, but it’s not for a lack of effort.  The Ducks have attempted 1231 shots so far this season (led by Corey Perry’s 119 shots), but only 6.2% have found the back of the net for a measly 76 scores (led by Perry’s 16).  To give a better understanding of how few tallies this is, Philadelphia has scored the second-fewest goals this season, and they have 91 to their credit, 13 more than the Ducks.  The peculiar quandary that is Anaheim exhibits itself in the Ducks‘ power play, which is actually slightly better than the average team’s in the NHL.  Anaheim has scored on 19.27% of their attempts for 21 goals to their credit (led by Perry’s six).

The Ducks‘ most recent game was a 2-1 loss to the Red Wings on Sunday, and they currently trail San Jose by three points for the third spot in the division.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Gibson (1.84 GAA [leads the league] and four shutouts [tied for third-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (17 wins [tenth-best in the league]), Hoffman (20 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (36 assists [second-most in the lead] and 45 points [fourth-most in the league]).

I predict Anaheim to win tonight’s game on home ice, mostly because their incredible defense should be able to handle anything Ottawa can throw at them.  The Sens also like to commit a lot of penalties, giving the Ducks the opportunity to beat them on the power play.

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