March 13 – Day 150 – Yup, Pittsburgh-New York again

They needed overtime, but the Blues beat the Stars 5-4 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Troy Brouwer scored St. Louis‘ first goal at the 8:47 mark of the first period with a snap shot, assisted by Robby Fabbri (his 16th helper of the season) and Paul Stastny, but the Stars leveled the game 2:19 later with a Cody Eakin backhander, assisted by Jamie Benn (his 43rd helper of the season) and Kris Russell.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

Only 1:37 after resuming play, the Blues again took a lead, this time off a Vladimir Tarasenko wrister (his 33rd tally of the season), assisted by Jay Bouwmeester and Third Star of the Game Alex Pietrangelo, but once again Dallas leveled quickly, as Second Star Jason Spezza’s wrister (his 27th tally of the season), assisted by Tyler Seguin and Russell, found the back of the net 1:01 later.  The Notes took control of the final 10 minutes of the second period, scoring two goals.  The first crossed the goal line at the 10:19 mark, compliments of a First Star Kevin Shattenkirk wrap-around shot (his 11th tally of the season), assisted by Stastny and Jaden Schwartz.  With 46 seconds remaining in the frame, Shattenkirk scored his second of the night on a slap shot, assisted by Schwartz and Tarasenko (his 28th helper of the season).  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission.

Dallas responded to the Blues‘ two unanswered goals in the second with two of their own in the third, the first of which came courtesy of Spezza at the 6:02 mark, assisted by Ales Hemsky and Alex Goligoski.  The lone power play goal of the night found the back of the net with only 1:12 remaining in regulation off a Benn tip-in, assisted by Seguin (his 39th helper of the season) and Goligoski.  Neither team was able to break the tie before regulation, so the game moved into three-on-three overtime.

It took only 2:11 of overtime before Pietrangelo’s wrister, assisted by Stastny (his 28th helper of the season) and Fabbri, found the back of the net for the Blues‘ winner.

Jake Allen earns the win after saving 34 of 38 shots faced (89.5%), while Antti Niemi takes the overtime loss, saving 31 of 36 (86.1%).

After St. Louis‘ win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 66-38-16, favoring the home teams by 28 points over the roadies.

With such a busy hockey Saturday, you probably need a rest.  But, luckily for us, the people in charge of NHL scheduling are addicted to the game just as much as us and can’t just take a day off, so they gave us three games to watch today.  The first of those games, Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers, drops the puck at 12:30 p.m. eastern on NBC.  Game Two gets started at 3 p.m. eastern between Tampa Bay at Columbus, and this evening’s nightcap, Toronto at Detroit (NBCSN) goes underway at 7:30 p.m. eastern.

Two of today’s games are between division rivals (Pittsburgh at New York and Toronto at Detroit), but Pittsburgh at New York is the only game between teams currently qualifying the playoffs.

In addition to qualifying for both of those groups, the PittsburghNew York game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchups, so you know we’re watching that one!

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

This afternoon’s game will be Pittsburgh‘s 13th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-7-1 record.  Their most recent appearance in such games was March 3, a 4-1 home victory over these Rangers.  New York was featured again the day later in their 3-2 victory in Washington, their 18th showing in the series which set their record in such games at 10-6-2.

The 35-24-8 Pittsburgh Penguins are currently the fourth best team in the Metropolitan Division and eighth best in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wild card.  To get to that position, the Pens have played the ninth best defense, paired with the 14th best offense.

Even with Kris Letang’s team-leading 94 blocks, the Penguins have allowed 2030 shots to reach 28-16-6 Marc-Andre Fleury and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.2% for 170 goals against, the ninth fewest in the league.  Pittsburgh‘s defense especially clamps down when short a man, defending 83.65% of their penalties, allowing only 34 power play goals against, the sixth best rate in the NHL.  Further improving on that rate, the Pens have also scored six shorthanded goals this season (led by Eric Fehr’s three shorties), one more than the league average.

The offense had a slow start to the season, but has grown throughout the season to become what we typically expect from Pittsburgh.  Led by Phil Kessel’s 221 shots, the Penguins have fired the puck 2188 times, of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 183 goals (led by Sidney Crosby’s 28 tallies), the 14th most in the league.  The biggest struggle for the Pens seems to be the power play, as they are successful on only 18.31% of attempts, earning 39 extra man goals (led by the injured Evgeni Malkin’s 11 power play tallies), the 13th worst rate in the league.

Pittsburgh‘s last game was Friday, a 3-2 victory in Columbus.  As long as the Penguins do anything better than losing in regulation, they will move ahead of Detroit for the first wildcard position, but Pittsburgh would prefer to earn two points to pull within two points of the Islanders for the final division qualifier.

The 39-22-7 New York Rangers currently occupy second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, the Rangers have played the seventh best offense, backed by the 12th best defense.

Even with Derick Brassard’s 150 shots, the Blueshirts have only fired the puck 1925 times, but 9.8% have found the back of the net for 192 goals (led by Brassard’s 24 tallies), the seventh most in the NHL.  Just like the Penguins, New York‘s offensive special team has not been indicative of their scoring success, as they are successful on only 18.23% of attempts, good for 33 power play goals (led by Brassard’s seven extra man tallies), the 14th worst rate in the league.

Dan Girardi’s 162 blocks have helped lead the Blueshirts to allowing only 1990 shots to reach 31-17-4 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 173 goals against, the 12th fewest in the league.  The biggest hole in New York‘s game has been their penalty kill, whose 77.39% kill rate that has allowed 45 power play goals ranks fourth worst in the league.

The Rangers‘ most recent game was a 3-2 overtime loss in Detroit yesterday.  Currently, the Blueshirts have only a three point lead over their Brooklyn-based rivals, but a win today would improve that spread to five points.

The season series is currently tied 1-1-0, but this is the first visit by the Penguins to Madison Square Garden this campaign.  The last time these teams met was 10 days ago, when the Penguins beat the Rangers 4-1.  Last postseason, these two squads met in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where the Rangers easily took care of the opposition in five games before eventually falling in the Eastern Finals.

Some players to keep an eye on in this afternoon’s game include New York‘s Lundqvist (31 wins [fifth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (67 points [sixth most in the league] and 28 goals [10th most in the league]), Fleury (five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 28 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+28 [tied for second best in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+26 [tied for fourth best in the league]).

We’ve covered both of the previous games between these two squads, and both times I predicted the Rangers to win.  While the Blueshirts are the better team overall, their poor special team play, specifically the penalty kill, always allows other teams the chance to beat them.  Should Pittsburgh get under New York‘s skin, this one could go the way of the visitors.

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