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!

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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.

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