March 31 – Day 168 – Staal comes home

With two successful shootout goals, the Flyers held home ice to beat Washington 2-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The first two periods were just like I like them – scoreless.  It wasn’t until 41:28 had ticked off the clock that Alex Ovechkin connected on a power play snap shot, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 54th helper of the season) and Justin Williams.  With 5:28 remaining in regulation, Brayedn Schenn leveled the game for the Flyers, assisted by Claude Giroux (his 43rd helper of the season) and Wayne Simmonds.  Neither side could find the net again during the remaining time, nor the five minutes of overtime, sending us to a shootout.

Washington got to shoot first, but T.J. Oshie’s attempt was denied by Third Star of the Game Steve Mason.  Nick Cousins was up next, and scored on a backhander.  Kuznetsov danced around a bit before getting almost all the way to the goal line and tried to bang one off the far post, but Mason make a quick glove save to end that attempt.  Second Star Sam Gagner gets the unofficial game winner, going five hole on First Star Braden Holtby to secure the bonus point.

Mason earns the win after saving 29 of the 30 shots he faced (96.7%), while Holtby take the shootout loss, saving 33 of 34 (97.1%).

With the third straight home win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 77-43-18, favoring the home sides by 37 points over the roadies.

This Thursday, we have 10 games on tap for you to choose from.  40% of them drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Buffalo [BELL TV], Columbus at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Pittsburgh [NHLN/TVAS] and the New York Rangers at Carolina), followed half an hour later by two more (Montréal at Tampa Bay [RDS] and New Jersey at Florida).  Ottawa at Minnesota [RDS2] starts at 8 p.m. eastern, with Arizona at Dallas trailing 30 minutes later.  Finally, our co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose).

Over half of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Toronto at Buffalo, Columbus at New York, New York at Carolina, Montréal at Tampa Bay, Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose), but only Nashville at Pittsburgh is between playoff qualifiers.  Also, the MontréalTampa Bay game is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Semifinals.

The game that stands out the most this evening actually has nothing to do with the standings, but everything to do with the return of a beloved player.

New York Rangers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

Tonight’s game will be New York‘s 22nd in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 11-7-3 record, with their most recent being Sunday’s home 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins.  Carolina has been featured four times before this game, and own a 1-1-2 record in such contests, with their most recent being February 23’s 3-1 home victory over the Flyers.

Drafted by the Hurricanes second overall in the 2003 Entry Draft, Eric Staal has only recently joined the second team of his career at this season’s trade deadline.

Over 12 years in Carolina, Staal played 909 games, scoring 322 goals and adding 453 assists for 775 points.

No doubt the best year to be a Cane was during the 2005-’06 season when they won the Stanley Cup.  During that playoff run, Staal scored nine goals (tied for second most on the club) and 19 assists (led the team) for 28 points, the most for Carolina.  Arguably his most important goal was his only game winner of the postseason, an overtime power play tally, his first his playoff career, that saved the Canes from going down three games to none in Montréal.  With that new found momentum, Carolina won the next three games following to win that series 4-2 and eventually hoist the Cup.

That success wasn’t isolated to the playoffs though, as he scored 45 goals during the regular season, as well as 55 assists, for 100 points flat, all categories he led (ok, tied for the lead in assists with Cory Stillman) for his club.  Those sophomore numbers have also been the peak of his career, which he achieved with cool 16.1% shooting rate.

Before joining the Rangers this February, he notched 23 assists, a total that still ranks fourth most on the team this season.  His production has improved since making the move to Manhattan, as he already has three goals and two assists to his credit after only 14 games played.

The 43-24-9 New York Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played solid offense backed by the 12th best defense.

Even with Derek Stepan’s 176 shots, New York has fired the puck only 2158 times, but 10% have found the back of the net for 219 goals (led by Derick Brassard’s 27 tallies), the fifth best offense in the NHL.  The Rangers prefer to keep things even-steven, as their power play, successful on 19.32% of their attempts for 40 extra man goals (led by Brassard’s eight power play tallies) ranks only 12th best in the league.

Even with Dan Girardi’s 187 blocks, the Blueshirts have allowed 2303 shots to reach 33-19-7 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 199 goals against, the 12th fewest in the league.  If you thought New York was concerned about their power play, you haven’t seen the other side of their special teams.  Madison Square Garden is the home of the fourth worst penalty kill in the league, neutralizing only 77.93% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against.

The Rangers last played Sunday when they fell to the Pens, which ended their winning streak at three.  A win is very important for New York, as they are still very much competing with Pittsburgh for second in the division and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

The  33-28-16 Carolina Hurricanes are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  The Canes play the 15th worst defense, paired with the fifth worst offense.

Led by Ron Hainsey’s 118 blocks, Carolina has allowed only 2112 shots to reach 21-16-10 Cam Ward and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.8% for 208 shots against, the 15th most in the league.  The worst part about that stat is that most of those goals come at even strength, as the Hurricanes‘ 84.38% kill rate that has allowed only 30 power play goals against ranks fifth best in the entire league.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 239 shots, the Canes have fired the puck 2312 times, with 8% finding the back of the net for 187 goals (led by Skinner’s 26 tallies), the fifth fewest in the league.  A major contributor to that issue is certainly their power play, which ranks eighth worst after finding success on only 16.67% of attempts for 38 goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 power play tallies).

Carolina last played Tuesday to a 2-1 shootout loss in Brooklyn.  The Canes are technically still alive for the playoffs, but trail the Flyers by seven points with only five games remaining.

New York has already won the season series against the Hurricanes, but would like to complete the season sweep with a fourth win this evening in Raleigh.

Some players to keep an eye on include Carolina‘s Skinner (26 goals, 22 of which were at even strength and seven were game winners, for 47 points on 239 shots [all lead the team]) and Jordan Staal (+6, 20 even strength assists, two shorthanded assists and 156 hits [all lead the team]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (33 wins [tied for sixth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league] and .922 save percentage [eighth best in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+27 [tied for fifth best in the league]).

There’s no doubt in my mind that New York, especially with the help of their offense, will win this game.  That being said, they will get cheered at least once by the Hurricane faithful when the 12-year Carolina alumnus takes the ice.

March 30 – Day 167 – Another playoff preview

With a 4-1 victory in yesterday’s Game of the Day, Minnesota completed the season sweep of Chicago, revenge for four-straight losses in the Western Semifinals almost a year ago.

Second Star of the Game Jarret Stoll scored the Wild‘s first goal after only 2:37 of play, assisted by Mike Reilly (his sixth helper of the season) and Jordan Schroeder, but Chicago leveled with a power play goal at the 11:55 mark, courtesy of Marian Hossa, who was assisted by Jonathan Toews (his 27th helper of the season) and Michal Rozsival.  The one-all score held not only into the first intermission, but also the second.

Tonight’s game-winner was a First Star Jared Spurgeon backhander at the 4:07 mark of the third, assisted by Mikko Koivu (his 38th helper of the season) and Jason Pominville.  Third Star Erik Haula scored the first of the two insurance goals at the 11:03 mark, assisted by Nino Niederreiter (his 23rd helper of the season) and Matt Dumba.  Niederreiter’s night was not done though, as he scored on an empty net with 1:19 remaining in the game after assists from Mikael Granlund (his 31st helper of the season) and Haula.

Devan Dubnyk earns the win after saving 18 of 19 shots faced (94.7%), while Scott Darling takes the loss, saving only 14 of 17 (82.4%).

The second straight home victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 76-43-18, favoring that side by 36 points over the opposing roadies.

It’s a light Wednesday night in the NHL, as only three games are taking place.  The action starts at 7:30 p.m. eastern when Ottawa visits Winnipeg (TVAS/SN), followed half an hour later by Washington at Philadelphia (NBCSN/SN360).  Finally, at 10 p.m. eastern, this evening’s nightcap, Calgary at Anaheim (SN) gets underway.

Two of the games this evening are between division rivals (Washington at Philadelphia and Calgary at Anaheim), but only Washington at Philadelphia is between playoff qualifiers.  Additionally, the CalgaryAnaheim game is a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

While the FlamesDucks game might be fun on an emotional level, the CapitalsFlyers game is important, as these two are headed towards meeting each other in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Washington Capitals LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

Tonight’s game will be Washington‘s 16th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 10-4-1 record.  Last time they were featured, they lost 4-3 in overtime in Los Angeles on March 9.  Philadelphia has been featured much more recently, as we focused on their 4-2 victory in Colorado last Thursday, which set their series record at 5-2-0.

The 54-16-5 Washington Capitals are living large, already clinching the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference, and regular season championship, aka the President’s Trophy.  As you’d expect, they play probably the best hockey in the league, as they’ve given up the fewest goals and scored the second most.

Led by Karl Alzner’s 186 blocks, Washington has allowed only 2142 shots to reach 46-9-4 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.2% for 175 goals against, the fewest in the NHL.  Along with that, they’ve successfully killed 84.81% of their penalties for only 36 power play goals against, the fourth best rate in the league.

Offensively, the Capitals focus on quality over quantity, as even with Alex Ovechkin’s team-leading 364 shots, they’ve only fired the puck 2280 times, but a whopping 10.2% have found the back of the net for 236 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 43 tallies), the second most in the league.  The Caps‘ power play has been even better, as they’re successful on 22.75% of their attempts, good for 53 extra man goals (led by Ovechkin’s 17 power play tallies), the second best rate in the NHL.

Washington last played to a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Monday.  What makes the Capitals worth watching this evening (other than how well they play the game) is how they approach this game.  Although Philadelphia could still advance to the first wildcard spot, this could very well be the Capitals‘ first playoff opponent, so they will be using this game almost as a scouting event for a couple weeks from now.

The 37-25-13 Philadelphia Flyers are currently the fifth best team in the Metropolitan Division and eighth best in the Eastern Conference, qualifying them for the second wildcard spot.  To get there, they’ve played the 14th best defense in the league, paired with the 11th worst offense.

Even with Nick Schultz’ 159 blocks, Philadelphia has allowed 2320 shots to reach 20-17-9 Steve Mason and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for 199 goals against, the 14th fewest in the NHL.  Part of that problem has been a poor penalty kill, which has neutralized only 80.82% of their infractions, allowing 47 power play goals in the process, the 12th worst rate in the league.

Led by Claude Giroux’ 222 shots, the Flyers have fired the puck 2303 times, with 8.4% finding the back of the net for 196 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 26 tallies), the 11th fewest in the league.  Once again, part of that problem is due to poor special teams play, as Philly has connected on only 17.97 power play opportunities for 46 extra man goals (led by Simmonds’ 11 power play tallies), the 13th worst rate in the NHL.

Philadelphia last played Monday to a 3-2 overtime home victory over the Jets.  With a win tonight, the Flyers would pull within two points of the dormant Islanders, but New York will have a game in hand.  Of course, that is only an added benefit of pulling away from Detroit by two points while still having a game in hand over them.

Washington has already won the season series with their 2-0-1 record against Philly.  The last time these squads met was February 7, a 3-2 victory in Washington, but that was of course against a Flyers team under much different circumstances.  Washington will be using this game to get a better understanding of the Flyers, while Philly desperately wants to win to try to get away from the Capitals during the playoffs.

Some players to watch include Philadelphia‘s Giroux (64 points, including 42 assists, with 20 coming on the power play and 222 shots [all lead the team]), Radko Gudas (280 hits [leads the team]), Schultz (159 blocks [leads the team]) and Simmonds (26 goals, including 11 on the power play [both lead the team]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (47 assists [tied for sixth most in the league]), Holtby (46 wins [leads the league], 2.19 GAA [fifth best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for sixth best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (53 assists [fourth most in the league], +28 [fourth best in the league] and 73 points [tied for fifth most in the league]) and Ovechkin (43 goals [leads the league]).

This is a tough game to predict the outcome of.  On the one hand, since Washington has clinched, they have no need to strain themselves for victories and will be content to go the rest of the regular season without any injuries and well rested.  However, they can also play “Playoff Hockey God” if they’d like and try to influence who they’d meet in the first round: Flyers, Islanders or Red Wings.  The answer to that question could influence how they play this game.  On the other end, we have a Philadelphia team not only intent on qualifying for the playoffs, but also getting as far away from Washington as possible during the playoffs, and the best way to do that is to be the first wildcard team, sending them to the Atlantic Division to fight towards the conference finals.  To do that, they need a win tonight over the same competition they want to avoid.  Based on talent alone, Washington should win this.

March 29 – Day 166 – Windy City meets the Land of 10,000 Lakes

A three goal third period is what separated San Jose from Los Angeles to win 5-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Los Angeles scored first, thanks to Third Star of the Game Justin Braun firing the puck over glass.  Vincent Lecavalier capitalized on the man advantage with a snap shot, assisted by Alec Martinez (his 21st helper of the season) and Brayden McNabb.  Their lead lasted only 3:45 before Braun amended for his penalty with a pure wrister, assisted by Melker Karlsson and Tommy Wingels (his 10th helper of the season) to level the game.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

7:55 after returning to the ice, First Star Joe Pavelski scored the Sharks‘ second straight goal with a wrister (his 36th tally of the season), assisted by Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns.  But, just like the first intermission, the second was also a level score, as Lecavalier scored his second of the night with 4:17 remaining in the frame, assisted by Milan Lucic (his 33rd helper of the season) and Tyler Toffoli.

San Jose took their second lead of the night 4:28 into the third off a Second Star Joe Thornton power play wrister, assisted by Pavelski and Burns (his 43rd helper of the season).  Instead of LA having the leveler like this game went in the first two periods, the Sharks scored an insurance goal with 3:19 remaining from Karlsson, assisted by Wingels and Roman Polak (his 15th helper of the season).  The final goal was an empty netter with 19 seconds remaining, courtesy of Braun (his fourth of the season) after an assist from Dainius Zubrus.

Martin Jones earns the victory after saving 30 of 32 shots faced (93.8%), while Jonathan Quick takes the loss after saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

The Sharks‘ victory snaps the two game winning streak by the road teams and sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 75-43-18, favoring the home sides by 34 points over the roadies.

It’s a relatively busy Tuesday, especially if you’re like @kephartc and me and are also keeping an eye on both Team USA soccer matches occurring this evening.  That being said, there are nine games being played this evening, with the action starting at 7 p.m. eastern with three of them (Boston at New Jersey [TVAS], Carolina at the New York Islanders and Buffalo at Pittsburgh [BELL TV]), with two more following half an hour later (Detroit at Montréal [RDS] and Toronto at Florida).  Chicago at Minnesota gets its start at 8 p.m. eastern, trailed 30 minutes later by another pair of games (Colorado at St. Louis [NBCSN] and Nashville at Dallas).  Finally, San Jose at Vancouver, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Most of tonight’s games are (Carolina at New York, Detroit at Montréal, Toronto at Florida, Chicago at Minnesota, Colorado at St. Louis, Nashville at Dallas and San Jose at Vancouver), while only two are between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at Minnesota and Nashville at Dallas).  The ChicagoMinnesota game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

You know how this usually goes down – we go with the game that qualifies for all three games!

Unknown-2Unknown-2This will be Chicago‘s league-leading 23rd appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 10-9-3 record.  Minnesota has made 11 appearances before tonight’s game, and own a 6-5-0 record in such instances.  Both of these teams were last featured March 20, when the Wild won 3-2 in a shootout in Chicago.

The 44-25-7 Chicago Blackhawks currently occupy third in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  They’ve played a balanced game to get this far, allowing the eight fewest goals paired with the ninth most goals scored.

Even with Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 147 blocks, Chicago has allowed  2333 shots to reach the injured 35-18-4 Corey Crawford and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 188 goals against, the eighth fewest in the NHL.  That success has been no help to the defensive special team, as they are successful on only 79.17% of their penalty kills, allowing 45 power play goals in the process.  To improve on that rate, they have scored eight shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 264 shots, the Hawks have fired the puck 2335 times, with 9% finding the back of the net for 212 goals (led by Kane’s 39 tallies), the seventh most in the league.  This special team is much better, as the Blackhawks‘ 21.74% success rate on the power play, good for 50 extra man goals (led by Kane’s 15 power play tallies) ranks fifth best in the NHL.

Chicago enters tonight’s game riding a two game winning streak, with their most recent coming Sunday, a 3-2 victory in Vancouver.  With another win tonight, the Blackhawks have the opportunity to pull within two points of the conference lead, but they will need help from both Colorado and Nashville for that to happen.  Should they lose and Nashville win, their lead over the Predators for third in the division will fall to only two points.

The 37-28-11 Minnesota Wild are currently the fifth best team in the Central Division and eighth best in the Western Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the ninth best defense, paired with the 13th best offense.

Led by Jared Spurgeon’s 149 blocks, Minnesota has allowed only 2188 shots to reach 31-22-6 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for only 189 goals against, the ninth fewest in the NHL.  Just like Chicago, the Wild haven’t gotten much help from the penalty kill, which ranks fifth worst in the league with only a 78.42% kill rate, allowing 41 power play goals.  That being said, the Wild have scored seven shorthanded goals (led by Erik Haula’s two shorties), one more than the league average.

Even with Zach Parise’s 220 shots, the Wild has fired the puck only 2215 times, with 9.2% finding the back of the net for 206 goals (led by Parise’s 24 tallies), the 13th most in the NHL.  The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the home of the 10th best power play, successful on 19.75% of their opportunities and good for 48 power play goals (led by Mikko Koivu’s 10 extra man tallies).

Minnesota enters today’s game white hot, winners of five straight.  Their most recent was Saturday’s four goal shutout win in Colorado.  With another win tonight, the Wild have the opportunity to improve their lead over Colorado for the final Western playoff spot to five points, but they’ll need some help from St. Louis for that to happen.  It is also still possible for Minnesota to get out of the second wildcard spot and into the first, and a Wild win paired with a Nashville loss would pull them within four points.

Not only has Minnesota already won the season series against Chicago, but they are looking for the season sweep with their fifth straight victory over the Hawks.  This season’s success is revenge  for a four game sweep in last season’s Western Conference Semifinals on Chicago‘s way to the Stanley Cup.

Some players to keep an eye on include Chicago‘s Kane (94 points [leads the league], 39 goals [second most in the league] and 55 assists [tied for second most in the league]) and Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (five shutouts [tied for fourth most in the league] and 31 wins [10th most in the league]).

Giving Minnesota‘s current winning streak against both the Blackhawks as well as overall in addition to being this evening’s host, I think the Wild pull this one out to complete the season sweep of the Windy City.

March 28 – Day 165 – Battle of California

It may have taken overtime, but the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Rangers 3-2 in New York to win the season series 3-1-0.

4:19 after dropping the opening puck, Second Star of the Game Eric Staal backhanded a goal after assists from Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast (his 17th helper of the season), but the Blueshirts could not enter the intermission with the lead.  Matt Cullen leveled the game with 4:11 remaining in the period for the Penguins, assisted by Derrick Pouliot and Trevor Daley (his 20th helper of the season).  The one-all score held into the break.

It was a night of early starts for Staal, as he scored only 2:07 after returning to the ice, assisted by Fast and Hayes (his 22nd helper of the season) to give the Rangers another lead.  They held onto that differential for only 6:29 before First Star Phil Kessel scored his 23rd goal of the season, assisted by Carl Hagelin, to again level the score for Pittsburgh.  Not only did the 2-2 score hold into the dressing room, but also to the final horn of regulation, forcing overtime.

With only 30 seconds remaining in the overtime period, Third Star Sidney Crosby scored the game winner, assisted by Kris Letang (his 43rd helper of the season) and Kessel, to pull the Pens within three points of second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Marc-Andre Fleury earns the win after saving 25 of his 27 shots faced (92.6%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the overtime loss, saving 29 of 32 (90.6%).

Pittsburgh‘s win is the second straight for the road teams, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 74-43-18, favoring the home sides by 30 points over the roadies.

Eight games will take place this Monday evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. eastern (Winnipeg at Philadelphia and Columbus at Washington), followed half an hour later by another pair (Buffalo at Detroit [NBCSN] and Toronto at Tampa Bay [TVAS]).  Colorado at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, with Anaheim at Edmonton trailing an hour later.  Finally, our co-nightcaps get underway at 10 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Arizona and Los Angeles at San Jose [NBCSN]).

Almost all of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (only Winnipeg at Philadelphia isn’t), but only one is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at San Jose).

As usual, Detroit and Philadelphia have the opportunity to swap spots for the final wildcard, but the game I’m more interested in takes place in The Tank.

Unknown-3Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

This will be Los Angeles‘ eighth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-4-0 record.  Their most recent time featured was last Monday, when they lost 5-2 in Nashville.  San Jose has been featured six times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-2-0 record in such occasions.  Last time we focused on them, they won 6-3 in St. Louis on February 22.

The 45-25-5 Los Angeles Kings currently occupy the top spot in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference (due to winning a games played tiebreaker over Chicago).  To get to that position, they’ve allowed the second fewest goals, paired with an offense that has scored the 13th most goals.  A more in-depth breakdown of LA‘s game can be found within last Monday’s article.

The Kings last played Saturday to a 6-4 home win over the Islanders.  With a win tonight, they have the opportunity to expand their lead for the division over Anaheim to five points, but they will need some help from Edmonton.

The 41-28-6 San Jose Sharks are the third best team in the Pacific Division, and seventh best in the Western Conference.  So far this season they’ve scored the fourth most goals in the league, paired with the 13th stingiest defense.

Led by Brent Burns’ 324 shots, the Sharks have fired the puck 2278 times, with a great 9.5% finding the back of the net for 219 goals (led by Joe Pavelski’s 35 tallies), fourth most in the NHL.  San Jose‘s power play has followed suit, scoring on 22.09% of their attempts for 55 power play goals (led by Pavelski’s 11 extra man tallies), the fourth best rate in the league.

The Sharks have also done well to keep pressure off their goaltenders, allowing only 2041 shots to reach 35-21-4 Martin Jones and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 196 goals against, the 13th fewest in the league.  San Jose‘s biggest problem this year has been their penalty kill, as their 79.91% kill rate, which has allowed 43 power play goals against, ranks eighth worst in the league.

San Jose enters today’s game riding a three game losing skid, with their last being Saturday’s 4-2 home loss to the Stars.  With a win tonight, they could pull within two points of second in the division and home ice for the quarterfinals, but, just like Los Angeles, are pulling for an Edmonton win this evening over the Ducks.

San Jose currently leads the season series 2-1-1 going into this pivotal fifth game.  The last times these squads met was also in the SAP Center, where Los Angeles won 3-2 in overtime on January 24.

Some players to keep an eye on include Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+31 [tied for second best in the league] and 68 points [10th most in the league]), Jonathan Quick (38 wins [second most in the league], 2.21 GAA [tied for fifth best in the league] and four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Tyler Toffoli (+33 [leads the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (35 wins [tied for third most in the league], five shutouts [tied for third most in the league] and 2.25 GAA [seventh best in the league]), Pavelski (35 goals [tied for fifth most in the league], +26 [tied for eighth best in the league] and 71 points [ninth most in the league]) and Joe Thornton (55 assists [tied for second most in the league], 72 points [eighth most in the league] and +26 [tied for eighth best in the league]).

This is always a fun game, and the almost even season record between these two shows that.  Even though they’re on the road, I think the Kings have this one, most notably due to San Jose‘s recent cold stretch.

March 27 – Day 164 – The Pens have risen

I picked the Lightning to beat the Panthers in yesterday’s Game of the Day.  Florida‘s five goals proved me wrong.

Tampa Bay took the initial lead only 5:52 after play on a Tyler Johnson power play wrister, assisted by Nikita Nesterov and Ondrej Palat (his 20th helper of the season).  7:44 later, Vincent Trocheck leveled the score after an assist from Jussi Jokinen, his 41st helper of the season.  Third Star of the Game Jaromir Jagr gave the Panthers a lead they would not yield on the power play with 1:58 remaining in the period, assisted by Aleksander Barkov and Second Star Jonathan Huberdeau (his 36th helper of the season).  The 2-1 score held into the intermission.

Only one goal was scored in the second frame, and it belongs to Florida.  With 4:07 remaining in the period, Jiri Hudler gave the Panthers their third goal, the game-winner, assisted by Alex Petrovic and Nick Bjugstad (his 17th helper of the season).

The score became 4-1 4:02 after resuming play from the second intermission after a Huberdeau wrister, assisted by Barkov and Jagr (his 33rd helper of the season).  Tampa finally scored their second goal with 3:12 remaining in regulation when Steven Stamkos connected on a power play wrister for his 36th tally of the season, assisted by Brian Boyle and Nesterov.  Jokinen closed the scoring for the evening with 25 seconds remaining, a shorthanded wrister on an empty net for his 17th goal of the season.

First Star Roberto Luongo earns the win after saving 33 of 35 shots faced (94.3%), while Andrei Vasilevskiy takes the loss, saving 22 of 26 shots faced (84.6%).

Florida‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 74-43-17, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

After such a busy Saturday, we need a little break, but the Easter Bunny still brought along three games for our viewing pleasure.  The action starts at 5 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits Carolina, followed by Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers at 7:30 p.m. eastern (NBCSN/TVAS).  Finally, Chicago visits Vancouver at 8 p.m. eastern (SN) to round the evening out.

Two of today’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at Carolina and Pittsburgh at New York), and Pittsburgh at New York is the only game between playoff qualifiers.

In addition to the reasons listed above, we’ll head to Madison Square Garden as it is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

This will be Pittsburgh‘s 15th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-7-1 record, with their most recent being March 19’s 4-1 win in Philadelphia.  New York has been featured 20 times before tonight’s game, and they own a 11-7-2 record in such instances.  Their last time featured, they beat the visiting Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday.

The 41-25-8 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy third in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth best defense in the league, paired with the 11th best offense.

Led by Ian Cole’s 106 blocks, the Penguins have allowed 2175 shots to reach 32-17-6 Marc-Andre Fleury and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for 182 goals against, the fifth fewest in the league.  That success has carried into the penalty kill, where the Pens have successfully defended 83.77% of opposing power plays for only 37 extra man goals against, the seventh best rate in the league.  Further improving on that rate, they’ve also scored six shorthanded goals (led by Eric Fehr’s three shorties), one more than the league average.

Led by Phil Kessel’s 236 shots, Pittsburgh has fired the puck a whopping 2408 times, with 8.3% finding the back of the net for 204 goals (led by Sidney Crosby’s 31 tallies), the 11th most in the NHL.  The biggest hole for the Pens continues to be their power play, as their 17.45% success rate, good for 41 power play goals (led by the injured Evgeni Malkin’s 11 extra man tallies), the 12th worst in the league.

Pittsburgh‘s last game was yesterday’s 7-2 victory in Detroit.  With another road win tonight, Pittsburgh would pull within at least three points of second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 43-24-8 New York Rangers currently rank second best in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference.   To get this far, they’ve played the sixth best offense, paired with the 14th best defense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blueshirts‘ game can be found within Wednesday’s article.

The Blueshirts have won their last two games, with their most recent victory being Wednesday over the Bruins.  Should the Rangers hold home ice for the win, they will improve their lead over Pittsburgh to six points for second in the division.

Pittsburgh currently leads the season series 2-1-0, but this final game could level the series at .500.  These squads met last season in the first round of the playoffs, where the Rangers won the series 4-1.

Some players to keep an eye in tonight’s game include New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (33 wins [tied for fifth most in the league], .922 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league] and four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+28 [fourth most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (77 points [third most in the league], 46 assists [tied for seventh most in the league] and 31 goals [tied for ninth most in the league]), Fleury (five shutouts [tied for third most in the league] and 33 wins [tied for fifth most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+31 [leads the league]) and Olli Maatta (+27 [tied for fifth best in the league]).

Although New York enters tonight’s home game riding a winning streak, I’m still leaning towards the Penguins, who have been riding a tremendous surge in the past couple months.

March 26 – Day 163 – It’s so much more than a cup… It’s the Governor’s Cup

With four goals in the third period, Tampa Bay beat the Islanders 7-4 to reclaim the Atlantic Division lead.

It was actually New York that opened the scoring, courtesy of a Brock Nelson slap shot at the 8:54 mark (his 25th tally of the season), assisted by Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey, but the Lightning leveled the score 4:48 with tip-in goal from Nikita Kucherov (his 29th tally of the season), assisted by Alex Killorn and Andrej Sustr.  With his 14th goal of the season, Vladislav Namestnikov gave the Bolts a 2-1 lead only nine seconds after Kucherov’s tally, the score that would hold until the intermission.

5:02 after resuming play, Steven Stamkos connected on a slap shot for his 35th goal of the season, assisted by First Star of the Game Jason Garrison and Kucherov.  New York finally scored their second goal 23 seconds later on an unassisted Shane Prince wrister, his fifth of the season, to set the score at 3-2.  With 3:42 remaining in the period, the Isles leveled the game on a Johnny Boychuk tip-in, assisted by John Tavares (his 31st helper of the season) and Bailey, which held into the deciding third frame.

The Bolts took another lead at the 6:03 mark of the third when Sustr connected on a slap shot, assisted by Garrison (his fifth helper of the season), but the Islanders leveled again 19 seconds later on a Nikolay Kulemin snapper, assisted by Frans Nielsen (his 28th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.  Tampa‘s game-winning goal was scored with 9:51 remaining in regulation, a Tyler Johnson wrister (his 13th tally of the season) assisted by Second Star Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Marchessault.  Twenty-three seconds later, Garrison scored the first insurance goal, assisted by Palat and Marchesault (his 10th helper of the season).  The final goal was an empty netter from Victor Hedman, assisted by Matthew Carle and Palat (his 19th helper of the season).

Ben Bishop gets the win after saving 27 of 31 shots faced (87.1%), while Thomas Greiss takes the loss after saving 35 of 41 (85.4%).

After that result, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 74-42-17, favoring the home sides by 35 points over the roadies.

I could be wrong, but I believe that this is the most exciting day of hockey we’ve had all season as, with the exception of New Jersey and Vancouver, every team is in action today.  Business opens at 1 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Buffalo (BELL TV), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Detroit (SN).  3 p.m. eastern is the beginning of Minnesota at Colorado, which precedes the last matinee of the day, Dallas at San Jose, by 60 minutes.  Six games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Toronto [CBC], the New York Rangers at Montréal [NHLN/TVAS/SN], Anaheim at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS2], Florida at Tampa Bay, St. Louis at Washington and the New York Islanders at Carolina), with Columbus at Nashville trailing an hour later.  The trio of nightcaps end the night at 10 p.m. eastern (Philadelphia at Arizona, Edmonton at Los Angeles [CBC] and Chicago at Calgary [SN]).

Whew… I know.  Gotta catch our breath!

There’s five divisional rivalries being played this evening (Minnesota at Colorado, Boston at Toronto, Florida at Tampa Bay, New York at Carolina and Edmonton at Los Angeles), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at San Jose, Florida at Tampa Bay and St. Louis at Washington).

Although both Troy Brouwer and Seth Jones will be making noticeable first returns to previous home arenas (the Verizon Center and Bridgestone Arena, respectively), the battle for the Atlantic Division lead is just too important to ignore.

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This will be Florida‘s ninth time featured in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-3-1 record.  The last time they were featured was March 14, when they lost 3-2 in Brooklyn.  With yesterday’s win over the Islanders, Tampa Bay improves their series record to 11-3-2.

The 41-24-9 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division (due to losing a regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker) and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth stingiest defense, paired with the seventh highest scoring offense in the league.

Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 111 blocks, Florida has allowed only 2183 shots to reach 31-18-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.2% for only 182 goals against, the fifth fewest in the NHL.  Although the defense as a whole has found incredible success, the penalty kill has not been as good, neutralizing only 81.25% of their infractions for 45 power play goals against, the 15th worst rate in the league.

Even with Vincent Trocheck’s team leading 168 shots, the Panthers have fired the puck only 2108 times, with a whopping 9.7% finding the back of the net for 211 goals, the seventh most in the league.  Yet again, the special teams have let Florida down, as their power play has converted only 17.06% of their opportunities for 43 extra man tallies (led by Aleksander Barkov’s nine power play goals), the ninth worst rate in the league.

Florida‘s last game was Thursday, a 4-1 victory in Boston.  As both squads are tied on points, the Panthers will take the division lead as long as they win tonight, but a regulation loss paired with a Bruins win will reduce their lead for second place to three points.

The 43-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning are currently first in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  The third best defense in the league has gotten them to that position, which has been backed by the 12th best offense.

Led by Hedman’s 128 blocks, the Lightning has allowed only 2096 shots to reach 31-19-4 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for 173 goals against, the third fewest in the NHL.  That success continues even when a man down, as Tampa‘s sixth ranked penalty kill neutralizes 83.71% of opposing power plays, allowing only 36 extra man goals.  Further improving on that solid rate, they’ve scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

Even with Stamkos’ team leading 199 shots, the Bolts have fired the puck only 2125 times, with a solid 9.4% finding the back of the net for 202 goals (led by Stamkos’ 35 tallies), the 12th most in the league.  Tampa‘s hole continues to be their power play, as their 16.46% success rate, good for 40 extra man goals (led by Stamkos’ 13 power play tallies), ranks fifth worst in the NHL.

With last night’s 7-4 victory over the Islanders, Tampa Bay enters this game riding a three game winning streak.  A win tonight officially breaks the tie for the division lead, but a loss could give them only a three point lead over third place.

Florida has already won the Governor’s Cup this season, regardless of tonight’s outcome, with a 3-1-0  against the Bolts – but this game is much more important than an in-state trophy series.  The last time they met was January 23, a 5-2 Panthers victory in Sunrise.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (four shutouts [tied for sixth most in the league], .922 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league] and 31 wins [tied for eighth most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.05 GAA [second best in the league], .927 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 32 wins [tied for sixth most in the league]), Hedman (+23 [10th best in the league]) and Stamkos (35 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

I don’t see a lot of goals being scored in this one.  Given the fact that neither of Florida‘s special teams give them much of an advantage and that the Lightning are playing at home, I think I’m leaning towards a Tampa Bay winner.  That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers pull off the upset, proven by them already winning the season series.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #29- Colby’s Day Out

The Down the Frozen River crew talks about a few things including, Colby’s journey to PNC Arena for the Carolina Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Sabres game on Tuesday, college predictions (both in signings and in NCAA Men’s Division I Frozen Four Tournament inexpert predictions) and Colby and Nick provide their power rankings of the top 10 teams so far this season based on the illusion of logic. As always, stay tuned for next week’s #DTFRPodcast because hopefully it’ll be better than this one. Hear what the DTFR Crew has to say about the latest news and notes from the NHL as always right here on the Down the Frozen River Podcast.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter and/or drop us a line on Facebook– your thoughts might make it on our show!

March 25 – Day 162 – Island dwellers head to the beach

Philadelphia used three unanswered goals in the third to earn the road win in Colorado in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Avalanche opened the scoring at the 23:05 mark with a deflection from Nick Holden, assisted by Mikhail Grigorenko and Mikkel Boedker (his 31st helper of the season), but the Flyers leveled the score 9:31 later with the only other goal of the period, courtesy of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was assisted by Shayne Gostisbehere (his 24th helper of the season) and Andrew MacDonald.

Colorado took another lead 6:13 after returning to the ice when John Mitchell connected on a wrister, assisted by Andreas Martinsen and Francois Beauchemin (his 26th helper of the season), which held for 8:04.  Philly leveled the score then on a slap shot from Radko Gudas, assisted by Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek (his 40th helper of the season).  Nineteen seconds later, the Flyers had their first lead of the game, one they would not yield, when First Star of the Game Claude Giroux fired a wrister assisted by Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn (his 28th helper of the season).  The lone insurance goal was from Ryan White on an empty net (his 11th tally of the season), assisted by Bellemare and Gudas.

Third Star Steve Mason earns the win after saving 32 of 34 shots faced (94.1%), while Second Star Semyon Varlamov takes the loss, saving 41 of 44 (93.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 73-42-17, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

Busy Thursdays and Saturdays usually have light Fridays in between, and today is no different, as there’s only three contests taking place this evening.  The night gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with Washington visiting New Jersey, followed half an hour later by the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay (NHLN/TVAS).  Finally, Vancouver at St. Louis, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (SN).

Washington at New Jersey is the only division rivalry taking place this evening, while New York at Tampa Bay is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although last night’s games effected the slated potential playoff matchup between these two, it still must be our focus due to the quality of the competition.

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This will be New York‘s eighth contest in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-4-1 record, with their most recent being March 17’s 4-2 loss in Nashville.  Tampa Bay has been featured 15 times before tonight’s game, and own a 10-3-2 record in such occasions, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 6-2 beat down on the visiting Red Wings.

The 39-24-9 New York Islanders currently occupy fourth in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the seventh best defense, paired with the 13th best offense.

Even with Calvin de Haan’s 172 blocks, the Islanders have allowed 2167 shots to reach 19-10-4 Thomas Greiss and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 182 goals against, the seventh fewest in the league.  Those efforts have been led be the penalty kill, whose 85.44% success rate, allowing only 30 power play goals, ranks second best in the NHL, and has six shorthanded goals to boot, one more than the league average.

John Tavares’ 220 shots has helped lead the Isles to 2141 attempts, with 9.2% finding the back of the net for 200 goals (led by Tavares’ 27 tallies), the 13th most in the league.  That success has continued to the power play, where they also rank 13th in the league with their 19.31% success rate, good for 39 power play goals (led by Kyle Okposo’s seven extra man tallies).

New York‘s last game was a 3-1 home victory over the Senators on Wednesday.  Since Pittsburgh lost last night, a win tonight would propel the Isles back into the third division qualifier.

The 42-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve gotten to that position by playing the fourth best defense in NHL, paired with the 10th best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of Tampa‘s game can be found within Tuesday’s article.

The Bolts enter tonight’s game on a two game winning streak, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the Red Wings.  Increasing that streak to three with a win tonight would propel the Bolts back into the division lead.

This will be only the second of three meetings between these squads this season.  New York won the first game 3-2 in Amalie Arena on November 28.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Greiss (.927 save percentage [third best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (2.02 GAA [second best in the league], .928 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 31 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Steven Stamkos (34 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

Not only is Tampa the better team, but they’re also riding a winning streak and have a home-ice advantage.  The Bolts should be back in the division lead after this game is through.

March 24 – Day 161 – All the wildcards

The New York Rangers made easy work of Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day, beating them 5-2.

Two unanswered power play goals in the first period set the tone for the Rangers.  The first found the back of the net at the 8:37 mark, scored on a Mats Zuccarello wrister, assisted by Third Star of the Game Keith Yandle and First Star Derek Stepan.  3:02 later, Stepan scored his own goal after assists from Yandle (his 37th helper of the season) and Second Star Henrik Lundqvist.  The Blueshirts‘ two goal shutout lead held into the intermission.

5:26 after resuming play, Derick Brassard scored the eventual game-winner (his 26th tally of the season), assisted by Kevin Klein and Jesper Fast.  Boston finally scored 26 seconds before the midway point of both the period and the game courtesy of a Lee Stempniak wrister, assisted by Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron (his 34th helper of the season).  The 3-1 Rangers lead held into the second intermission.

New York took control of the scoring again 6:32 after returning to the ice, as J.T. Miller’s wrister crossed the goal line after assists from Stepan and Zuccarello (his 32nd helper of the season).  Frank Vatrano scored 5:34 later for the Bruins on a snap shot, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 28th helper of the season) and Zdeno Chara.  The final goal of the game was scored with 2:53 remaining, scored by Rick Nash on an empty net.

Lundqvist earns the win after saving 39 of 41 shots faced (95.1%), while Jonas Gustavsson takes the loss, saving 13 of 15 (86.7%).  He replaced Tuukka Rask after the first intermission, as Rask saved only six of eight shots faced (75%).

The third straight home win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 73-41-17, favoring the home squads by 35 points over the roadies.

Yesterday’s reprieve sets us up for an exciting Thursday schedule.  Three games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Florida at Boston [TVAS], New Jersey at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more (Anaheim at Toronto and Montréal at Detroit [NHLN/RDS]).  Another trio gets started at 8 p.m. eastern (Vancouver at Nashville [SN360], Calgary at Minnesota and Los Angeles at Winnipeg), with Philadelphia at Colorado trailing an hour later.  Dallas at Arizona gets its start at 10 p.m. eastern, and Edmonton at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, follows 30 minutes later.

Five of the 11 games taking place tonight are division rivalries (Florida at Boston, New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Carolina at Columbus, Montréal at Detroit and Edmonton at San Jose), but only Florida at Boston is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

You might think I’d choose the PanthersBruins game, but since that one doesn’t have immediate impact on the standings, I’m more interested in Philadelphia at Colorado.

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In addition to both appearing in the Game of the Day series six times before tonight’s game, both Philadelphia and Colorado own 4-2-0 records in those games.  Philadelphia was last featured Saturday in their 4-1 home loss to the rival Penguins, and Colorado last played in the series March 1, a 6-3 loss in Minnesota.

The 35-24-13 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard spot.  To get into that position, they’ve played the 15th best defense, but it’s been backed by the 10th worst offense.  A more in-depth breakdown of Philly‘s game can be found within Saturday’s article.

The Flyers last played to a 3-2 shootout loss in Columbus on Tuesday.  A win tonight for the Flyers is very important, as the Red Wings are also in action this evening, and playing Montréal to boot – a much weaker opponent than the Avalanche.  An added bonus to winning is pulling within two points of the idle Islanders for the first wildcard spot.

The  38-31-4 Colorado Avalanche are currently sixth in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference, making them the first team left out of the playoff picture.  Offense has led the way, as they rank 14th best in scoring, but 11th worst in defense.

The injured Nathan MacKinnon’s 245 shots have led the Avalanche to firing the puck only 2108 times, but 9.2% have found the back of the net for 198 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 29 tallies), the 14th most in the league.  They step up the pressure on the power play, as Colorado‘s 19.41% success rate, good for 46 power play goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s dozen extra man tallies), ranks 11th best in the NHL.

Even with Francois Beauchemin’s 236 blocks, the Avs have allowed a whopping 2317 shots to reach 26-18-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 204 goals against, the 11th most in the league.  Although the defense as a whole hasn’t been that strong, Colorado definitely clamps down on the penalty kill, neutralizing 82.1% of their penalties for 41 power play goals against, the ninth best rate in the league.  Further improving on that solid rate, the Avalanche have also scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

The Avalanche are currently riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being Sunday’s 3-2 win in Edmonton.  Just like Philadelphia, Colorado‘s main playoff competition, the Minnesota Wild, is playing this evening against a weaker opponent, the Calgary Flames.  As the Wild have only a one point lead over the Avs, a Colorado win paired with anything less than a Wild win would propel Colorado into the second wildcard.

Colorado has already made their yearly visit to Philadelphia, and they certainly enjoyed their time in the City of Brotherly Love, winning on a four-goal shutout on November 10.

Some players to keep an eye on include Colorado‘s Duchene (56 points, 29 of which are goals, with 21 at even strength [all lead the team]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [fifth best in the league] and 2.28 GAA [10th best in the league]).

Colorado seems to be the better team, both statistically and given their three game winning streak.  Add that in with the fact that they are hosting this evening’s contest, it should be an Avalanche winner.

March 23 – Day 160 – Rubber game

It was an easy game plan for the Lightning in yesterday’s Game of the Day, as they used two goals a period to beat the Red Wings 6-2.

Tampa Bay earned the lead they would not yield after only 1:47 of play courtesy of a First Star of the Game Erik Condra wrister, assisted by Third Star Ondrej Palat (his 16th helper of the season) and Brian Boyle.  Vladislav Namestnikov doubled that lead 8:08 later with a wrister of his own, assisted by J.T. Brown (his 14th helper of the season).  Starting the formula, the Bolts held their at those two tallies for the remainder of the period.

Even quicker than they scored in the first period, Tampa scored their game-winning goal in the second.  Steven Stamkos fired a wrister only 33 seconds after resuming play (his 34th tally of the season), assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Second Star Victor Hedman.  Detroit began trying to stage a comeback, as they also scored two goals in the second – the first of which found the back of the net at the 8:08 mark on a Justin Abdelkader power play wrister, assisted by Henrik Zetterberg (his 32nd helper of the season) and Niklas Kronwall.  With 4:35 remaining in the frame, the Wings pulled within a goal after Darren Helm fired a wrister assisted by Pavel Datsyuk (his 27th helper of the season) and Anthony Mantha, but Tampa scored their first of three insurance goals 2:17 later on a Kucherov power play wrister (his 28th tally of the season), assisted by Tyler Johnson and Stamkos to nip that in the bud.  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission.

Another quick start gave the Lightning a two goal advantage, as Palat’s backhander only 1:03 after resuming play, assisted by Johnson and Hedman (his 34th helper of the season) extended their lead to three.  The Bolts‘ final tally was Condra’s second of the game, assisted by Boyle at the 16:56 mark, setting the score at the 6-2 final.

Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 23 of 25 shots faced (92%), while Jimmy Howard takes the loss after saving 13 of 16 (81.3%).  He was replaced after Stamkos’ second period goal by Petr Mrazek, who saved 15 of 18 (83.3%) for no decision.

Tampa Bay‘s win makes it two straight for the home sides, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 72-41-17, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

I hope you enjoyed all the games yesterday, because this evening has only two matchups to offer.  Even better, they’re both occurring not even five miles apart, so it’s doubtful they’re happening anywhere near you.  The first drops the puck at 7 p.m. between Ottawa and the New York Islanders (TVAS/SN), followed an hour later by Boston visiting the New York Rangers (NBCSN/SN1).

Seeing as Ottawa trails Philadelphia by seven points for the final spot in the postseason, we’ve gotta keep an eye on the important battle for playoff position that will take place in Madison Square Garden.

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Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 18th in the Game of the Day series where they own a 7-9-1 record, with their most recent being their 4-0 loss in Anaheim on Friday.  New York has been featured 19 times before tonight’s game, and own a 10-7-2 record such contests.  Their most recent was March 13, a 5-3 loss on home ice to the Penguins.

The 39-26-8 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  It has been their offense that has gotten them there, as they’ve scored the third most goals, but also given up the 13th most scores.  A more in-depth analysis of Boston‘s game can be found within Friday’s article.

A win tonight does two things for the Bruins, the less of which is expanding their lead over the Red Wings to five points for the final division qualifier.  More important is catching the slipping Panthers for the second spot, and they would pull within a point of doing just that.

The 41-24-8 New York Rangers currently occupy second place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.  They’ve also be a stronger offensive team, scoring the sixth most goals in the league, but give up the 15th most scores in the process.

Even with Derek Stepan’s 168 shots, the Rangers have fired the puck only 2084 times, but an incredible 9.8% have found the back of the net for 207 goals (led by Derick Brassard’s 25 tallies), the sixth most in the league.  What is surprising about the Blueshirts‘ offensive success is that it is not very dependent on the power play, as their 18.37% success rate, good for only 36 extra man goals (led by Brassard’s eight power play tallies), ranks 15th worst in the NHL.

Even with Dan Girardi’s 182 blocks, New York has allowed 2204 shots to reach 32-19-6 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 192 goals against, the 15th most in the league.  Even worse than the power play has been the penalty kill, as the Rangers have neutralized only 76.89% of their infractions to allow 49 power play goals, the third worst rate in the NHL.

Seeing as the Capitals have already clinched both the division and the conference, New York is now focused on securing the second seed in the Metropolitan.  A win tonight would help them do that by extending their lead over third place Pittsburgh to four points, although the Pens will have two games in hand.

The season series between these squads is currently tied at 1-1-0, with the most recent meeting occurring January 11 in the World’s Most Famous Arena, a 2-1 victory for the home Rangers.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (34 goals [tied for fourth most in the league] and +22 [10th best in the league]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (32 wins [tied for fifth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for sixth most in the league] and .922 save percentage [tied for ninth best in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+25 [eighth best in the league]).

Boston has the better offense, power play and penalty kill, so I’m leaning towards the Bruins winning the season series with a road victory tonight.