February 13 – Day 121 – Duck… Duck… Hawk!

It took overtime, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to hold home ice to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3.

It was actually the Preds that scored first.  Mike Fisher’s snap shot connected at the 9:40 mark of the first, assisted by Viktor Arvidsson and Mattias Ekholm (his 19th helper of the season).  Nashville‘s 1-0 lead held to the intermission.

Tampa leveled the score 8:22 after resuming play, courtesy of a J.T. Brown wrister, assisted by Valtteri Filppula (his 20th helper of the season) and Andrej Sustr.  The Bolts took the lead only 1:45 later when Nikita Kucherov fired a backhander for his 22nd tally of the season, assisted by Nikita Nesterov and Ben Bishop.  The Lightning took their 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Nashville leveled the score only 4:01 after resuming play from the break when James Neal found the back of the net with a wrister for his 20th goal of the season, assisted by Third Star of the Game Roman Josi and Barret Jackman.  They then took the lead at the 7:46 mark with a wrister from Filip Forsberg, assisted by Mike Ribeiro and Josi (his 29th helper of the season).  With only 27 seconds remaining in regulation, the Lightning leveled the game with a slap shot from Second Star Steven Stamkos, assisted by Victor Hedman and Kucherov (his 25th helper of the season).

Overtime only lasted 1:04, as First Star Tyler Johnson’s wrister, assisted by Hedman (his 28th helper of the season) and Stamkos, was pure.

Bishop earns the win after saving 27 of 30 (90%), while Pekka Rinne takes the loss after saving 24 of 28 (85.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 54-27-10, favoring the home squad by 35 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday for the greatest hockey league in the world, with 10 games on the docket today.  New Jersey and Philadelphia drop the opening puck of the day at 1 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by the only other afternoon matinee, Boston at Minnesota.  Four games get started at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Vancouver, Nashville at Florida, the New York Islanders at Carolina and Ottawa at Columbus), followed an hour later by Washington at Dallas.  Anaheim at Chicago starts at 8:30 p.m. eastern in NHL Network.  Edmonton hosts Winnipeg at 10 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Arizona at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (New Jersey at Philadelphia, New York at Carolina and Arizona at San Jose), and another set of three are games between current qualifiers (Nashville at Florida, Washington at Dallas and Anaheim at Chicago).  The AnaheimChicago game is also a rematch of the Western Conference Finals.

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This will be Anaheim‘s fifth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 1-1-2 record.  Their most recent appearance in the series was a 4-1 victory over the Senators on January 13.  Chicago has played many more games (16 so far, in fact), and much more recently.  Their 4-2 loss on home ice to the Stars on Thursday set their Game of the Day record at 9-6-1.

In addition to meeting in last season’s Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks and Ducks are also connected by a mid-season trade that sent Ryan Garbutt to Anaheim in exchange for Jiri Sekac.

Garbutt had two goals, four assists and 94 hits in his 43-game Blackhawks career before being sent to Orange County, where he’s already notched three goals and an assist in eight games played.

The 26-19-8 Anaheim Ducks currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference.  So far this season, they’ve played the fourth-best defense in the league, but it’s been paired with the fewest goals scored in the league.

Sami Vatanen may lead the team with only 85 blocks, but the Ducks have allowed only 1462 shots to reach 12-8-2 John Gibson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.7% for only 125 goals against, fourth-least in the league.  That defensive strength has directly stemmed from Anaheim‘s penalty kill, which is the best in the league, killing 88.71% of opposing power plays for 21 extra-man goals against.

Although the offense has been improving of late, it still ranks worst in the league in goals scored.  Led by Corey Perry’s 145 shots, Anaheim has fired 1618 attempts for 122 goals (led by Perry’s 21 tallies).  The power play has also been fairly poor, as it ranks 11th-worst in the league.  The Ducks have only scored on 17.88% of their opportunities for 27 extra-man goals (led by Perry’s six).

Anaheim lost their most recent game 4-3 in a shootout in Columbus on Thursday.  A win today provides the Ducks the opportunity to move into second place in the division should the Sharks lose, but if Anaheim loses and Vancouver wins, the Ducks‘ lead for third in the division is reduced to only two points.

The 36-18-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference by a lone point over the Stars, and trail only the Washington Capitals, by eight points, for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They play the fourth-best offense in the league, paired with the seventh-best defense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found in Thursday’s post.

With their 4-2 loss to the Stars, the Blackhawks are currently riding a two-game losing skid.  A Blackhawks win paired with a Stars loss to the Capitals expands Chicago‘s lead in the division and conference to three points, but a loss could provide the Stars the opportunity to reclaim the title of ‘Best of the West.’

As stated before, these teams met in the Western Conference Finals last season, where the Blackhawks won in Game Seven en route to their Stanley Cup.

These squads have already met twice this season, with Chicago winning both games in overtime.  Most recently, they met in Anaheim, where the Blackhawks won 3-2 with extra time.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (35 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Gibson (2.13 GAA [sixth-best in the league] and four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (seven shutouts [most in the league], 31 wins [second-most in the league], .929 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league] and 2.17 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Patrick Kane (77 points [leads the league], 44 assists (second-most in the league], 33 goals [second-most in the league] and +23 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (52 points [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Another night in Chicago, another same old prediction.  Although the Stars bested what I predicted, I fully expect the Hawks to take care of the Ducks in the United Center.

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