February 10 – Day 118 – It’s been 9.5 months…

So, I predicted a fantastic game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Boston Bruins in yesterday’s Game of the Day.  Turns out, I was way off with that prediction, as the Kings won 9-2.

The first of the Bruins‘ two goals was scored after 5:03 of play on the power play, scored by Brad Marchand (his 25th goal of the season), assisted by Matt Beleskey and Zdeno Chara.  Los Angeles leveled the score 13:18 later with a power play goal of their own via a Second Star of the Game Jeff Carter wrister, assisted by Jake Muzzin and First Star Drew Doughty (his 22nd helper of the season) and later took the lead with only 16 seconds remaining in the period when Marian Gaborik backhanded the puck into net (his 11th goal of the season), assisted by Vincent Lecavalier.  The Kings‘ 2-1 lead held into the intermission.

Los Angeles continued their goal streak 2:42 after resuming play when Andy Andreoff scored his fourth tally of the season off a wrister, which eventually became the game-winner.  9:27 later, the score became 4-1 when Doughty backhanded power play goal into the net, assisted by Third Star Milan Lucic (his 19th helper of the season) and Gaborik.  LA‘s third goal of the period occurred at the 12:42 mark when Dwight King tipped the puck into goal, assisted by Tyler Toffoli and Carter (his 23rd helper of the season).  1:04 before the Bruins were saved by the bell, the Kings scored their fourth and final goal of the period, courtesy of Trevor Lewis off assists from Muzzin (his 25th helper of the season) and Kyle Clifford.  The 6-1 score held into the second intermission.

The Kings struck quickly again at the beginning of the third period, when Lucic scored off assists from Anze Kopitar (his 34th helper of the season) and Dustin Brown.  Boston scored their second and final goal of the night 1:03 later when Tyler Randell connected on his snap shot, assisted by Kevan Miller (his 12th helper of the season) and Max Talbot.  The Kings returned to the offensive at the 13:50 mark when Luke Schenn scored a snap shot power play goal of his own, assisted by Christian Ehrhoff and Toffoli (his 17th helper of the season).  The Kings had one more goal in them, which Brown scored with 3:03 remaining in the game, assisted by Schenn and Ehrhoff (his ninth helper of the season), setting the score at the 9-2 final.

Jonathan Quick earns the win after saving 35 of 37 (94.6%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 27 of 32 (84.4%).  He was pulled after 32:29 of play (King’s goal) and replaced with Jonas Gustavsson, who saved 21 of 25 (84%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-25-10, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.

As usual, it’s a light Wednesday schedule for the NHL this week.  The first puck drops in Detroit, who is hosting Ottawa at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (NBCSN).  This evening’s nightcap starts at 9:30 p.m. eastern, featuring Vancouver in Arizona.

All of today’s games are divisional rivalries, but New York at Pittsburgh is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, as well as a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

New York Rangers LogoPittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be New York‘s 14th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-4-2 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was January 17, a 5-2 loss in Washington.  Pittsburgh has been featured eight times before tonight’s game, and own a 3-4-1 record in such games.  The last time they were featured was last Friday, when they fell 6-3 in Tampa Bay.

The 30-18-5 New York Rangers currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played one of the strongest offenses in the league, but what makes the Blueshirts most dangerous is their seemingly continuous improvement on the defensive end.

Led by Rick Nash’s 149 attempts, the Rangers have fired 1564 shots, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 153 goals, sixth-most in the league.  The most intriguing thing about this offense, though, is that most of their success is at even-strength.  In fact, New York‘s 15.89% success rate, good enough for only 24 extra-man goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s five power play tallies), ranks third-worst in the league.  Making matters worse, the Rangers have also allowed five short-handed goals, one more than the league average.

Thanks in part to Dan Girardi’s 104 blocks, the Blueshirts have allowed only 1560 shots to reach 26-14-4 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 137 goals against, 13th-fewest in the league.  Just like on offense, this success is with no help to the special teams unit, as New York has killed only 78.13% of opposing power plays and allowed 35 extra-man goals, fifth-worst in the league.

New York is currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory over the Devils on Monday.  A win tonight expands their lead over the Islanders to five points and gets them within 15 points of the league-leading Capitals.

The 27-18-7 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve played a very balanced game to get to this position, with both ends of the ice ranking above average against the rest of the league.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Friday’s post.

The Penguins are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent victory occurring Monday with a 6-2 win over the Ducks.  A win today bumps Pittsburgh back into third place in the division, even if it is only by a point.  Additionally, they would only trail the Rangers by two points for second, an important goal for the Pens as they try to avoid the wild card.

These squads met last year in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Pittsburgh did little than act as a speed bump on the Rangers‘ path to the Eastern Conference Finals, as New York won the series 4-1.

Somehow, division rivals New York and Pittsburgh have avoided each other since that deciding Game Five almost 292 days ago (nine months and 16 days), making this game the first of four meetings this regular season.  In addition to their playoff success against the Penguins, the Rangers won last season’s regular season series 3-0-1.

Some players to watch include New York‘s Lundqvist (26 wins [fourth-most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Sidney Crosby (53 points [sixth-most in the league] and 24 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Marc-Andre Fleury (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 21 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+23 [fourth-best in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+21 [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Judging by overall numbers alone, it is hard to pick against New York‘s offense, but until their special teams improve, they will always be suspect to even the worst teams.  Too bad for them the Penguins are not the same team that started the season 0-3-0.  Since the game is in Pittsburgh, I give the edge to the Pens.

2 thoughts on “February 10 – Day 118 – It’s been 9.5 months…”

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