February 27 – Day 135 – Goin’ Country

Tampa Bay only needed one goal to win in New Jersey in yesterday’s Game of the Day, but they scored four to ensure the victory.

Alex Killorn provided the game-winner, a wrister after 15:36 of play.  He was assisted by Second Star of the Game Steven Stamkos (his 22nd helper of the season) and Ryan Callahan.

The first of two insurance goals in the second period found the back of the net at the 13:02 mark, courtesy of a Third Star Ondrej Palat wrister assisted by Tyler Johnson (his 16th helper of the season).  Stamkos scored his 27th goal of the season with 1:06 remaining in the second, assisted by Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan.  The 3-0 Bolt lead held into the second intermission.

The final goal of the game was struck at the 11:12 mark, scored by Matthew Carle, who was assisted by Palat and Andrej Sustr (his 14th helper of the season).

First Star Ben Bishop earns the win after saving all 21 shots he faced, while Cory Schneider takes the loss after saving only 32 of 36 (88.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 60-33-12, favoring the home squad by 31 points over the roadies.

We’ve got an exciting lineup of games taking place today, as 18 teams are in action.  The first puck drop is at 1 p.m. eastern, when Arizona visits Philadelphia.  Three games get started at 3 p.m. eastern (St. Louis at Nashville, Winnipeg at Pittsburgh and Florida at Columbus), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Dallas (NHLN).  Toronto visits Montréal at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern, trailed an hour later by Detroit at Colorado (NBC), the last outdoor game of the season.  When the clock strikes 10 p.m. eastern, the Ottawa at Calgary game will commence, trailed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Buffalo at Los Angeles.

Two of tomorrow’s games are divisional rivalries (St. Louis at Nashville and Toronto at Montréal), while three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (St. Louis at Nashville, New York at Dallas and Detroit at Colorado).  The Arizona at Philadelphia game is also the first return of Nicklas Grossmann back to the Wells Fargo Center since being traded in June.

The game that sticks out most from those lists is the St. LouisNashville game, as win by the Predators would pull them within six points of the third-place Blues.

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Tonight’s game will be St. Louis‘ 14th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-5-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was Monday’s 6-3 loss on home ice to the Sharks.  Nashville won their most recent game in the series, a 3-1 victory in Chicago on Thursday.  That win set their series record at 3-3-1.

The 35-19-9 St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  It has been the defense that has earned that position, as it ranks ninth-best in the league, because the offense’s 157 goals is the 11th-fewest.  A more in-depth analysis of the Notes‘ game can be found within Monday’s post.

St. Louis is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 2-1 home loss to the Rangers on Thursday.  With a win this afternoon, the Blues pull into a tie with Chicago for second place in the division, but remain in third due to losing the games played tiebreaker.

The 30-21-11 Nashville Predators currently occupy fourth-place in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, good enough for the top wildcard spot.  They’ve achieved that position by playing a balanced game, with the 13th-best defense and the 14th-best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of Nashville‘s game can be found within Thursday’s article.

The Preds are currently riding a three-game winning streak, with their most recent being their 3-1 victory in Chicago on Thursday.  While a win would pull them within six points of the Blues for third place, it more importantly maintains at least a three point lead over the Avalanche in the race for the higher wildcard spot.

St. Louis has already won the season series 4-0-0 (winning the most recent meeting 1-0 on February 2), and given their current streak, will be very interested in completing the season sweep.  That being said, the Predators are playing some of the best hockey they’ve played all season, so they will not go down easily.

Some players to keep an eye on in this afternoon’s game include Nashville‘s Roman Josi (44 points, 14 of which were power play assists, and 145 blocks [all lead the team]) and Shea Weber (11 power play goals and 133 hits [both lead the team]) & St. Louis‘ Jake Allen (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and 2.17 GAA [seventh-best in the league]) and Vladimir Tarasenko (29 goals [sixth-most in the league]).

Similar to their last meeting, I’m predicting a low scoring game.  The Blues‘ defense will easily take care of Nashville‘s scoring threats, but will probably find it difficult to score themselves.  That being said, I think the Blues can complete the season sweep.

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