January 26 – Day 108 – Lehner’s Sabres to Sens Town!

With two goals in the second period, the Detroit Red Wings were able to beat the New York Islanders in Brooklyn 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

After Second Star of the Game Brock Nelson hooked Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards fired a power play goal after an assist from Pavel Datsyuk (his 18th helper of the season).  The Wings held the one-goal lead for only 5:36 though, as Nelson scored his 19th tally of the season off an assist from John Tavares to level the score, which held into the intermission.

Third Star Justin Abdelkader was responsible for Detroit‘s second goal of the night at the 13:29 mark, after assists from Henrik Zetterberg (his 24th helper of the season) and Larkin.  1:11 later, the Wings had their game-winner courtesy of First Star Danny DeKeyser.  Detroit‘s 3-1 lead held into the second intermission.

The Islanders tried to stage a comeback with a score at the 15:12 mark of the third, compliments of Mikhail Grabovski (his seventh tally of the season), assisted by Matt Martin and Brian Strait, but they could not manage to level the score.  The Wings‘ final goal of the evening was an empty netter from Luke Glendening, assisted by Darren Helm (his ninth helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.

Petr Mrazek’s record improves to 18-9-4 after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%), while Jaroslav Halak’s falls to 12-9-4, saving 22 of 25 (88%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-21-9, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.  Detroit‘s win was the first for the road squad in six games for our series.

It’s a busy Tuesday in the greatest hockey league in the world!  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games (Anaheim at Boston [TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by four more (Chicago at Carolina [NBCSN/SN1], Columbus at Montréal [RDS], Buffalo at Ottawa [BELL TV/RDS2] and Toronto at Florida).  Arizona at Winnipeg drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, followed by the co-nightcaps (Nashville at Vancouver and Colorado at San Jose [NBCSN/SN1]) at 10 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Ottawa and Toronto at Florida), and only one, Colorado at San Jose, is between current playoff contenders.  Tonight also marks the first return of Bobby Farnham to Pittsburgh, David Legwand and Robin Lehner to Ottawa and Brad Boyes to Florida.

Given how long he spent in the Canadian capital and that he should be starting this evening, lets give the nod to Lehner and the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres LogoUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight marks Buffalo‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, a series in which they have yet to earn a point.  Their most recent game under our observation was a 2-1 loss in Colorado on Wednesday.  The Senators have been featured seven times before tonight, and own a 2-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on January 13.

Legwand and Lehner both joined the Sabres from the Senators this offseason in return for the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (which Ottawa ultimately used to draft Colin White, who at the time, had yet to take the ice for Boston College).  Together, they’ve played a total of 49 games for the Sabres, but the organization is optimistic for Lehner’s future.

So far this season, Lehner has started all four games he’s played, but he has yet to even get the Sabres to overtime (0-3-0 record), giving up eight goals in the process  (.934 save percentage).  During his five-season, 86-game career in Ottawa, he earned a 30-36-13 record with a .914 save percentage.  He is expected to start tonight’s game for Buffalo against his old team.

The 19-26-4 Buffalo Sabres are currently last in the Atlantic Division, and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and NHL, leading only Columbus, and only by a point at that.  Although their position in the standings would not indicate it, their defense is actually on par with the league average (as measured by goals against), but their offense is absolutely horrendous and is the main reason the squad is considering tanking instead of making a playoff push.  You can read a more in-depth analysis of their game on Wednesday’s post.

The Sabres are currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 6-3 loss in Madison Square Garden last night.  A win tonight does have the chance to move Buffalo past Toronto in the standings, but at this point, Sabres fans might prefer to avoid winning as much as possible in hopes of a Jamie McGinn-Jack Eichel-Auston Matthews line.

The 23-20-6 Ottawa Senators are currently sitting in sixth-place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.  To get them to that spot, they play one of the better offenses in the league, but the reason the Sens aren’t in the playoffs right now is due to their atrocious defense.

Even with Erik Karlsson’s team-leading 136 shots, the Sens have only fired 1382 shots this season, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 137 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 22 tallies), sixth-most in the league.  Interestingly, those numbers have not relied on the special teams, as Ottawa has only connected on 18.24% (technically below league average) for 27 power play goals, led by Hoffman’s six.  They’ve also only given up two short-handed goals.

The defense is entirely to blame for Ottawa being out of the playoffs right now.  Even with Karlsson’s team-leading 99 blocks, Ottawa has allowed a whopping 1623 shots to reach 20-14-4 Craig Anderson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 152 goals against, second-most in the league.  Part of that defense is the penalty kill, which has only killed 75.63% of opposing power plays for 39 extra-man goals against.  The only saving grace of the penalty kill has been the 10 (yes, 10) shorties to their credit, led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s five.

Just like Buffalo, Ottawa‘s most recent game was against the Rangers, but the Sens won their game at home on Sunday with a three-game shutout.  A win this evening has the potential to move Ottawa into the “First Team Out” position in the Eastern Conference, but they will need Montréal and Pittsburgh to both lose for that to happen.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Buffalo‘s Evander Kane (147 shots and 107 hits [both lead the team]), Ryan O’Reilly (40 points, of which 17 are goals, with 10 being at even-strength and seven being on the power play [all lead the team]) and Sam Reinhart (three game-winning goals [leads the team]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (20 wins [eighth-most in the league] and three shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hoffman (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (41 assists [second-most in the league] and 51 points [fourth-most in the league]).

I’m picking Ottawa to win this one, mostly because they won’t be as worried about their defense doing their best impression of Swiss cheese since Buffalo‘s offense usually can’t hit the broad side of a barn.  Lehner’s record should fall to 0-4-0.

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