February 29 – Day 137 – Detroit returns the favor to Dallas

The Tampa Bay Lightning took sole ownership of second place in the Atlantic Division by winning 4-1 in Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Bruins‘ lone goal was struck only 6:01 into the game, courtesy of  a Kevan Miller wrister, assisted by Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro.  Tampa leveled the game 5:18 later with a power play wrister from Alex Killorn, who was assisted by Anton Stralman (his 20th helper of the season) and First Star of the Game Ryan Callahan.  The Bolts took a lead they would not yield with their game-winning goal at the 14:39 mark, courtesy of Callahan, who was assisted by Killorn’s 21st helper of the season.

It was another two-goal period for the Bolts in the second, with their first coming at the 8:18 mark.  It was Callahan’s second of the evening, assisted by Second Star Steven Stamkos (his 23rd helper of the season) and Stralman.  1:46 later, Stamkos’ wrister (his 28th tally of the season) found the back to set the score at the 4-1 final.

Third Star Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 32 of 33 shots (97%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Tampa Bay’s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 61-34-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Monday night, with half of them getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Columbus at the New York Rangers [NHLN], Calgary at Philadelphia and Arizona at Pittsburgh), with Tampa Bay at Toronto dropping the puck half an hour later.  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Detroit at Dallas, and Montréal at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at New York and Tampa Bay at Toronto), and Detroit at Dallas is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although it is not the nationally televised game this evening, the most exciting is definitely the DetroitDallas game.

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Both sides have been featured eight times in the Game of the Day series before this evening’s game, but it is Dallas with the better record in such games (5-0-3 and 5-2-1, respectively).  Detroit was most recently featured in their 1-0 overtime loss in Madison Square Garden on February 21, while Dallas last saw action in the series on February 16 in their 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis.

The 31-20-11 Detroit Red Wings are, to put it plainly, an intriguing team, as they currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference (good enough for the first wildcard spot), but don’t play either end of the ice exceptionally well.

For starters, even with Danny DeKeyser’s 83 blocks leading the squad to allowing 1829 shots (exactly the league average) to reach 24-11-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92%, they’ve allowed 161 goals, only the 14th-fewest in the league.  The penalty kill is barely better, as their 81.86% kill rate ranks 13th-best, allowing 37 extra-man tallies.

The offense hasn’t done them any favors.  Rookie Dylan Larkin has a team-leading 164 shots to his credit and helped lead the squad to 1804 attempts, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 158 scores (led by Larkin’s 19), 10th-fewest in the league.  The offense gets even worse on the power play, as they are successful on only 17.17% of attempts for 34 extra-man goals, sixth-worst in the league.

All of that being said, the Wings are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent occurring Saturday in Denver, a 5-3 victory.  Should Detroit pull off a win tonight, they would advance past Boston for third in the division and trail second place Tampa Bay by only a point.

The 38-19-6 Dallas Stars are currently in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the best offense in the NHL, but they’ve been held back by also fielding the eighth-worst defense.

Led by Tyler Seguin’s 241 shots, the Stars have fired the puck 2033 times, of which an incredible 9.9% have found the back of the net for 204 goals, most in the NHL.  The offense has actually slowed down when on the power play, as Dallas‘ 22.11% success rate for 44 extra-man tallies (led by Jamie Benn’s 14) is only fourth-best in the league.

The major pitfall for the Stars this season has been in the defensive zone, specifically the goalie crease.  Led by Johnny Oduya’s team-leading 132 blocks, Dallas has allowed 1841 shots to reach 22-11-5 Antti Niemi and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.5% for 181 goals against, eighth-most in the league.  The penalty kill has been even worse, as the Stars kill only 79.26% of opposing power plays for 39 goals against, seventh-worst in the league.  However, those numbers are slightly improved by the eight short-handed goals (led by Cody Eakin’s three) to their credit.

Dallas is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being their 3-2 loss on Saturday to the Rangers.  Should the Stars defend home ice this evening, they would reclaim the top spot in both the division and conference by a point over the Blackhawks.

The Red Wings and Stars have already played once this season, but it was way back on November 8.  Dallas won that game 4-1 in Detroit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (70 points [second-most in the league], 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league] and 38 assists [10th-most in the league]), John Klingberg (42 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Seguin (68 points [third-most in the league] and 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+20 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.1 GAA [tied for second-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Although Mrazek has been impressive in net at times this season, it’s not often he’s seen an offense as proficient as the one in Dallas.  The Stars should easily hold home ice.

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