February 9 – Day 117 – Hello, old friend

Although they only needed one, the Red Wings decided to score three goals in the final period to secure the shutout victory over the Panthers in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Detroit waited 44:19 before Tomas Tatar tipped-in a goal, assisted by Jakub Kindl and Dylan Larkin (his 20th helper of the season), which came to be the game-winner.  But, now that the goose egg was off the board, the Wings felt a little bit more confident, scoring only 7:07 later when First Star of the Game Pavel Datsyuk snapped his goal off assists from Brad Richards (his 11th helper of the season) and Henrik Zetterberg.  The final goal occurred at the 12:34 mark (yes, 1-2-3-4) when Datsyuk scored his second of the night, assisted by Zetterberg (his 27th helper of the season) and Third Star Justin Abdelkader.

Second Star Petr Mrazek earns the win after saving all 23 shots he faced, while Al Montoya loses, saving 28 of 31 (90.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-24-10, favoring the home squad by an even 40 points.

It’s a busy Tuesday schedule in the NHL!  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with four games (Los Angeles at Boston, Florida at Buffalo, Anaheim at Philadelphia and the New York Islanders at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Tampa Bay at Montréal.  Four more games drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Winnipeg at St. Louis, Washington at Nashville, Dallas at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Edmonton at New Jersey), with San Jose at Chicago beginning half an hour later.  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps, Vancouver at Colorado and Toronto at Calgary, drop the puck at 9 p.m. eastern.

Five of the 12 games this evening are divisional rivalries (Florida at Buffalo, New York at Columbus, Tampa Bay at Montréal, Winnipeg at St. Louis and Dallas at Minnesota), while three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at Boston, Washington at Nashville and San Jose at Chicago).  The Tampa BayMontréal game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It is not only because Boston‘s and Los Angeles‘ records are closest of the playoff qualifiers that we will focus on this game, but also because of the return of Milan Lucic to the TD Garden, where he spent the first eight years of his career.

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This will only be the Kings‘ fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 1-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was January 27, the last day before the All-Star Break, falling 4-3 on home ice to the Avalanche.  Boston has been featured more often, 10 times before tonight, and own a 4-5-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 victory in Montréal on January 19.

Hailing from the city of the now-division rival Canucks, Milan Lucic was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2006.  By 2007, he was playing full time for the Black and Gold, and ended up playing 566 regular season games for the Bruins.  By far his most successful season was the 2010-’11 season (which corresponds with the Bruins‘ most recent Stanley Cup), when he scored 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points (career-highs in goals and points).

Since being traded to the Kings, Lucic has the most hits (157), scored the most game-winning goals (five) and is tied for second-most even-strength goals (11) on the squad.  He’s also been a great distributor, as he is tied for third on the team in even-strength assists (14).

After missing the playoffs a year ago (and becoming the first since Carolina to not qualify after hoisting the Cup the season prior), 31-17-3 Los Angeles has appreciated his contributions.  Although they are still a team that likes to play squelching defense, they appreciate his efforts to make the Kings‘ offense the best of the worst (Does that not make sense?  It will soon…).

Led by Alec Martinez’ 112 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 1421 shots to reach 27-14-2 Jonathan Quick and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for only 119 goals against, fourth-fewest in the league.  Part of that success can be attributed to the penalty kill, which ranks ninth-best in the league, killing 82.7% of opposing power plays for 32 extra-man goals against.

On the other end, Dustin Brown’s 142 shots have led the way to a whopping 1632 attempts, of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 137 goals scored (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 23 tallies), 15th-fewest in the league.  That lack of success cannot be attributed to the power play, as it is fourth-best, connecting on 21.85% of attempts for 33 extra-man goals (led by Toffoli’s eight).

Los Angeles most recently lost 4-2 to the Ducks on Thursday, but that did little to affect the Kings‘ seven-point Pacific Division lead.  A win tonight has the potential to expand that lead to nine points over San Jose, or diminish the differential between the Kings and the Blackhawks to nine, pending the result of the San JoseChicago game.

The 28-18-6 Boston Bruins currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, and have done so playing on of the best offenses in the league.  But what really makes the Bruins scary is the continual improvement on the defensive end, making them a sizable threat on either end of the ice.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 181 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck a whopping 1654 times, with 9.1% finding the back of the net for 155 goals scored (led by Brad Marchand’s 24 tallies), fourth-most in the NHL.  Much of that success can be attributed to the second-best power play in the league, which scores on 24.14% of attempts for 35 extra-man goals (led by Bergeron’s nine power play tallies).

Led by Kevan Miller’s 78 blocks, Boston has allowed only 1545 shots to reach 19-15-5 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.7% for 138 goals against, 14th-fewest in the league.  Again, that success stems from the special teams play.  The Bruins kill 84.66% of penalties, allowing only 27 goals, making them fourth-best .

The Bruins are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 overtime win over the Sabres.  Extending that streak to three breaks the tie with Detroit for the third spot, but also has the ability to propel the Bruins to second in the division should Tampa Bay fall in Montréal.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (24 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league]) & Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (33 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league] and +19 [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Quick (27 wins [third-most in the league]) and Toffoli (+23 [tied for third-best in the league]).

Based on the numbers, this is going to be an incredible game.  That being said, I’m still expected to pick a winner.  Not only because they are on home ice, but also because I think they are the better team overall, I believe that the Boston Bruins will earn the victory this evening.

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