January 27 – Day 109 – Last hurrah for the first half

It’s the last lead that matters!  Buffalo did not have a lead in the game until the 1:08 mark of the third period, but they were able to hang on for the 3-2 win in Ottawa in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Sens opened the scoring after 6:42 of play with a goal from Third Star of the Game Erik Karlsson, assisted by Mika Zibanejad (his 21st helper of the season) and Chris Neil, but the Sabres leveled the score only 4:30 later with Evander Kane’s 11th tally of the season.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

Three seconds after the halfway point of the game, Ottawa took their second lead of the game compliments of Second Star Bobby Ryan’s 18th goal on the season, assisted by Cody Ceci and Shane Prince.  But, just like the first time, the Sabres were able to quickly level the score, this one a power play goal at the 13:48 mark courtesy of First Star Jack Eichel, assisted by Robin Lehner (his first helper of the season).  Once again, the game entered an intermission tied.

Eichel’s night was not complete, as he scored the 16th goal of his NHL career to give Buffalo the win.

Lehner’s record improves to 1-3-0 after saving 34 of 36 (94.4%), while Craig Anderson’s falls to 20-15-4 after saving 19 of 22 (86.4%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-22-9, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

I’m not saying we’re going out with a whimper into the All-Star Break, but there are only four games on the docket this evening.  Fortunately, all of them are nationally televised, making it a pretty phenomenal night for hockey fans!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with Toronto visiting Tampa Bay (TVAS/SN), followed an hour later by Philadelphia at Washington (NBCSN).  9:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Nashville at Calgary (SN1), followed by this evening’s nightcap, Colorado at Los Angeles (NBCSN), an hour later.

Half of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Toronto at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia at Washington), and Colorado at Los Angeles represents the only game between playoff qualifiers.

It’s been a while since we’ve focused on the Kings, so let’s head to the Staples Center.

Colorado Avalanche LogoUnknown

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Colorado‘s fifth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blues on Friday.  Los Angeles has only been featured twice before tonight’s game, and they are 1-1-0 in such games.  Their most recent appearance was a five-goal shutout victory in Vancouver on December 28.

The 26-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division, sixth in the Western Conference and, most importantly, they own the second wildcard position.  They’ve gotten to that position with the sixth-most goals scored in the league, but have been held back by their defense.  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Friday’s post.

Thanks to last night’s loss in San Jose, the Avs‘ win streak ends at four, but a win tonight propels Colorado past Minnesota into the first wildcard position.

The 30-15-3 Los Angeles Kings currently occupy first place in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve paired one of the best defenses in the league with an average offense.

Thanks to Alec Martinez’ team-leading 112 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 1352 shots to reach 26-12-2 Jonathan Quick and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 107 goals against, third-least in the league.  The penalty kill has also been strong, killing 82.25% for 30 goals against.

Led by Dustin Brown’s 131 shots, LA has fired 1534 shots, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 124 goals (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 22 tallies), 15th-fewest in the league.  The strongest asset for the Kings‘ offense has been the power play, where they’ve scored on 21.17% for 29 extra-man goals.  The power play continues to get better, as they’ve allowed only two short-handed goals so far this season, one less than the league average.

Los Angeles‘ most recent game was a 3-2 overtime victory in San Jose Sunday.  A win tonight continue’s Los Angeles‘ excellent season by extending their lead over the Sharks to nine points.

Colorado and Los Angeles have met twice already this season, with both teams winning the game they hosted by holding the opposition to a lone goal.  Their most recent meeting was January 4 in Colorado, where the Avs won 4-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Colorado‘s Matt Duchene (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+17 [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Quick (26 wins [third-most in the league] and three shutouts [10th-most in the league]) and Toffoli (+26 [best in the league] and 22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

After last night’s performance in San Jose, you expect the Avs to play a better game tonight.  Too bad for them, their competition this evening is far superior to last night’s.  I expect the Kings to take care of Colorado easily.

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