February 16 – Day 124 – Central Showdown

Just as expected, the Anaheim Ducks took care of business in the Saddledome, beating the Calgary Flames 6-4 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Sixty percent of the goals scored in the first period came as a result of the power play, and two of them were for the lowly Flames.  The first tally of the game was one of those Calgary scores, courtesy of Third Star of the Game Johnny Gaudreau, and assisted by Sean Monahan and Second Star Jiri Hudler (his 23rd helper of the season), at the 5:56 mark.  The Ducks responded relatively quickly, scoring only 4:03 later with an extra-man tally of their own courtesy of Hampus Lindholm, his seventh of the year.  Calgary again broke the tie with another power play goal, this one at the 11:22 mark.  Dougie Hamilton took credit for this one, assisted by Monahan (his 21st of the season).  It was Anaheim‘s turn next, who scored only 2:26 later with a score from First Star Mike Santorelli, assisted by Cam Fowler (his 12th helper of the season) and Kevin Bieksa.  Calgary got the last laugh of the wild first, scoring with only 2:55 remaining in the frame courtesy of Hudler, who was assisted by Gaudreau and Hamilton (his 17th helper of the season), setting the score at 3-2.

It was the second period where the Ducks pulled away, scoring three straight, with the first two coming off power plays.  The first of the trio found the back of the net only 2:15 after resuming play, courtesy of Corey Perry, who was assisted by Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf (his 37th helper of the season).  Only 1:05 later, the Ducks took their first lead of the game with a tally from Sami Vatanen, assisted by David Perron (his 19th helper of the season) and Fowler.  The clock read 7:42 when Anaheim scored an insurance goal, that eventually became the game-winner.  Rickard Rakell takes the credit, assisted by Perry (his 18th helper of the season) and Simon Despres.  The Flames got one back with only 2:55 remaining in the period when Hudler’s backhander found the back of the net, assisted by Gaudreau (his 32 helper of the season) and Monahan.  The 5-4 Ducks lead held into the second intermission.

With the exception of Santorelli’s wrister at the 51st second, which was assisted by Ryan Kesler (his 17th helper of the season) and Josh Manson, goal scoring came to a halt in the third period, giving Anaheim the 6-4 victory.

Frederik Andersen earns the victory after saving 33 of 37 (89.2%), while Joni Ortio, who replaced Jonas Hiller (13 of 17, 76.5%) after he allowed Vatanen’s goal in the second period, takes the loss after saving nine of 11 (81.8%).

Anaheim‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 55-28-11, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

It’s a relatively busy Tuesday in the NHL, with eight games on this evening’s schedule.  Half of them get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time (Philadelphia at New Jersey, Los Angeles at Washington, Winnipeg at Carolina and Boston at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more (Buffalo at Ottawa and San Jose at Tampa Bay).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Dallas at St. Louis game (NBCSN), which is trailed by Anaheim at Edmonton an hour later.

Half of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Philadelphia at New Jersey, Buffalo at Ottawa, Dallas at St. Louis and Anaheim at Edmonton), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at Washington, San Jose at Tampa Bay and Dallas at St. Louis).

Regulars have become used to my choices and can probably already predict which one I’ll be going with after that last paragraph.

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Tonight’s game will be Dallas‘ eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-0-2 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was last Thursday, when they beat the Blackhawks 4-2 in the United Center.  St. Louis has been featured 11 times before tonight, and own a 6-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent in the series was on February 2, when they beat the Predators 1-0 in Nashville.

The 37-15-5 Dallas Stars are currently the class of the Central Division and the Western Conference (even if it is by virtue of a games played tiebreaker), and trail only Washington for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They play the highest scoring offense in the league, but it is backed by a defense that ranks 13th-worst in goals against.  A more detailed analysis of their game can be found within Thursday’s post.

With Chicago having an off day, a fourth win a row (their last being a 4-3 win in against the Capitals on Saturday) by the Stars this evening makes their division and conference lead more than simply a tiebreaker, but a full two point lead.  In addition, should Los Angeles beat Washington, Dallas would pull within three points of the Presidents’ Trophy, which becomes more and more desirable with each passing day.

The 32-17-9 St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They play the eighth best defense in the league, but the offense, even with league-wide stars, ranks 12th-worst in goals scored.

Even with Alex Pietrangelo (who’s currently on the IR)’s team-leading 103 blocks, the Notes have allowed a bordering-on-the-high-side 1730 shots to reach 18-10-3 Jake Allen (another member of the Blues’ IR) and co., of which they’ve collectively saved a solid 92.8% for only 138 goals against, eighth best in the NHL.  That success almost directly stems from the third-best penalty kill in the league, which has neutralized 86.6% of opposing power plays for only 26 extra-man goals against.

The offense has been a little less-than this season, but it’s not for a lack of effort.  Led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 200 shots, the Blues have fired the puck 1696 times, of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 140 tallies (led by Tarasenko’s 27 goals), 12th-fewest in the league.  Although the overall offense may not be what St. Louis had planned for, the power play certainly helps to make up for it.  This special team ranks eighth-best in the league, scoring on 20.5% of attempts for 33 extra-man goals, led by Tarasenko’s nine.

Having won both of their last two games (with their most recent being a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay on Sunday), the Blues would also like to optimize on Chicago‘s off-day.  Should the Blues do so, they would pull within four points of both Chicago and Dallas for second and first in the division.

So far, the 2015-’16 season series has gone St. Louis‘ way, as they have a 2-1-0 record against the Stars.  That being said, it was the Stars who won the most recent meeting 3-0, a December 27 game in Dallas.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (64 points [second-most in the league] and 29 goals [fourth-most in the league]), John Klingberg (38 assists [fifth-most in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (30 goals [third-most in the league] and 63 points [tied for third-most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and 2.17 GAA [ninth-best in the league]) or Brian Elliott (.933 save percentage [best in the league] and 2.07 GAA [third-best in the league]) and Tarasenko (27 goals [sixth-most in the league]).

Even with the Blues playing on home ice, I don’t think they match up well with the hot Stars.  Dallas‘ offense always finds a way to score, and the Stars‘ defense is fairly evenly matched against the Blues‘ scorers.  I pick the Stars to win a close on in the Scottrade Center.

2 thoughts on “February 16 – Day 124 – Central Showdown”

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