February 21 – Day 129 – Original Six in the Garden

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their DtFR Game of the Day losing streak to six straight, falling to Tampa Bay 4-2 yesterday.

It was all Tampa Bay in the first period, as they scored two unanswered goals.  The first of those tallies was an Anton Stralman wrister at the 9:08 mark, assisted by Vladislav Namestnikov (his 17th helper of the season) and Jonathan Marchessault.  2:12 later, Steven Stamkos got involved with his 24th goal of the season, a backhander assisted by Alex Kilorn and Matthew Carle.

The Bolts began the second right where they left the first, with Carle’s unassisted first goal of the season at the 3:14 mark.  The Penguins finally got on the board 2:21 later, when Tom Kuhnhackl scored his first goal of the season, a short-hander no less.  Tampa set the score at 4-1 with a tip-in from Tyler Johnson, assisted by Ondrej Palat (his 11th helper of the season) and Marchessault.  With 3:59 remaining in the second, Pittsburgh got their second off a Scott Wilson wrister, assisted by Bryan Rust and Kris Letang (his 33rd helper of the season).  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission and through the final period.

Ben Bishop earns the victory after saving 37 of 39 shots (94.9%), while Jeff Zatkoff takes the loss after saving 16 of 20 (80%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 57-30-12, favoring the home squad by 32 points over the roadies.

Twelve teams are in action today, and one of them is being played outside for everyone who thinks that’s fun.  The day’s action gets started at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Pittsburgh visits Buffalo, followed three hours later by Chicago at Minnesota, the first of two games in the Stadium Series this year.  The usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features three puck drops (Calgary at Anaheim, Detroit at the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at Carolina).  The prestigious title of nightcap is bestowed to the Colorado at Vancouver game, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Chicago at Minnesota and Calgary at Anaheim are the only two divisional rivalries being played today, and only the DetroitNew York game is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  The ChicagoMinnesota and CalgaryAnaheim games are also worth watching for being rematches of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

Although the NHL may not like it for all the effort they put into their outdoor games, it is the DetroitNew York game that attracts my attention best.

UnknownNew York Rangers Logo

Tonight’s game will be Detroit‘s eighth in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-2-0 record.  Their most recent was Valentine’s Day, when they beat the Bruins 6-5.  New York will be playing in their 16th game in the series, where they own a 8-5-2 record.  They’ve been featured more recently, falling 5-3 on home ice to the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

The 29-20-10 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the first wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played a slightly above-average defense, paired with a slightly below-average offense.

Thanks in part to Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 79 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed only 1716 shots to reach 22-11-5 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 153 goals against, the 14th-fewest in the league.  Just like the entire defensive unit, the penalty kill has also hung around average for much of this season.  Currently, the Wings rank 15th-best, killing 80.73% for 34 extra-man goals against.

Rookie sensation Dylan Larkin has already become an integral part of Detroit‘s offense, as his 157 shots have helped lead the squad to 1695 shots, of which 8.7% have found the back of the net for 149 goals (led by Larkin’s 19 tallies), 13th-fewest in the league.  Just like the penalty kill, this special team ranks just behind the overall offense.  The Wings‘ 18.28% success rate ranks 12th-worst, and has provided 34 goals.

Detroit enters tonight game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-2 shootout loss in Ottawa last night.  Should the Wings win, they have the potential to move back into third place in the Atlantic Division, but they will also need Tampa Bay to lose to Carolina.  Should they lose, they do run the risk of falling into the second wildcard position should Pittsburgh beat Buffalo.

The 33-19-6 New York Rangers currently rank second-best in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best offense in the NHL, which is backed by the ever-improving defense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blueshirts‘ style can be found within Wednesday’s article.

New York‘s most recent game was a 4-2 victory in Toronto on Thursday.  Should the Rangers win, they improve their lead over their Brooklyn rivals to five points.

Today’s game is the first in this season’s series.  Last season, Detroit won the series 2-0-1, with the overtime loss being the only game played in Madison Square Garden.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+21 [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.11 GAA [fourth-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (28 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .922 save percentage [10th-best in the league]).

I don’t expect this to be much of a game.  New York is a tough opponent, especially at home, and Detroit has not played well this week.  I expect the Blueshirts to earn two points.

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