March 15 – Day 152 – Qualification battle

The Panthers entered the third period with a two goal shutout lead, but the Islanders scored three unanswered goals to earn the win in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The lone goal in the first period found the back of the net with 4:49 remaining in the frame, courtesy of a Third Star of the Game Aleksander Barkov wrister (his 22nd tally of the season), assisted by Alex Petrovic and Jonathan Huberdeau.

8:03 into the second, Florida struck again to double their lead.  This tally was a Nick Bjugstad wrsiter, assisted by Barkov and Huberdeau (his 34th helper of the season).  The Panthers held their 2-0 lead until 7:10 remained in regulation.

Second Star Kyle Okposo’s wrister finally got New York on the board, assisted by Frans Nielsen (his 26th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.  1:21 later, Josh Bailey leveled the contest with a wrister, assisted by John Tavares (his 29th helper of the season) and Casey Cizikas.  The Isles‘ game winner came courtesy of an unassisted First Star Cal Clutterbuck backhander, his 13th tally of the season.

Thomas Greiss earns the win after saving 23 of 25 shots faced (92%), while Roberto Luongo takes the loss, saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

The first home win since Friday sets the DtFR Game of the Day series record at 67-39-16, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the roadies.

It’s an exciting Tuesday of games this evening!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern as usual with two games (the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Washington), with four games following half an hour later (Detroit at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Tampa Bay at Toronto, Florida at Montréal and Minnesota at Ottawa).  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the puck drop of the Los Angeles at Dallas contest, and this evening’s nightcap, Boston at San Jose, gets going at 10 p.m. eastern on NBCSN.

Half of tonight’s (New York at Pittsburgh, Carolina at Washington, Tampa Bay at Toronto and Florida at Montréal) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles at Dallas and Boston at San Jose).

While that list is usually helpful, the game I’m most interested in is Detroit at Philadelphia, as both of these squads are competing for the second wildcard.

UnknownPhiladelphia Flyers LogoTonight’s game will be Detroit‘s 10th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-2-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was the last day of February, a 3-2 overtime victory in Dallas.  Philadelphia has been featured three times before tonight’s game, and own a 2-1-0 record in such games, with their most recent being their 3-1 loss in Carolina on February 23.

The 34-24-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 92 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2037 shots to reach  26-14-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 182 goals against, the 15th most in the league.  The defense slightly improves when down a man, as their 80.7% kill rate, which has allowed 44 power play goals so far this season, ranks only 11th worst in the NHL.

The offense has been even worse.  Led by Dylan Larkin’s 184 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2055 times, but only 8.3% have found the back of the net for 173 goals (led by Larkin’s 20 tallies), the eighth fewest in the NHL.  The power play hasn’t done them any help either, as the 16.96% success rate, good for 38 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s seven extra man tallies), ranks seventh worst in the league.

Detroit‘s last game was Sunday night, a one goal shutout loss at home to the Maple Leafs.  A win tonight has the potential to propel the Wings back into the first wildcard position should Pittsburgh fall to the Islanders but a loss allows Philadelphia to pull within at least a point of qualifying for the playoffs in Detroit‘s place.

The 32-23-12 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff cut.  They play the 14th best defense, but it is paired with the ninth worst offense.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team leading 136 blocks, the Flyers have allowed 2067 shots to reach 16-15-8 Steve Mason and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 180 goals against, the 14th fewest in the NHL.  Philadelphia‘s penalty kill has been even worse than the Wings‘, neutralizing only 79.65% of their penalties for 46 power play goals against, the ninth worst rate in the league.

Led by Claude Giroux’ 190 shots, Philly has fired the puck a solid 2040 times, but only 8.4% have found the back of the net for 174 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 24 tallies), the ninth fewest in the league.  In comparison to the overall offense, the Flyers‘ power play has been decent, successful on 18.94% of attempts, good for 43 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 11 extra man tallies), the 13th best success rate in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last showing was their 5-4 shootout loss in Florida on Saturday.  With a win tonight, they pull within at least a point of this evening’s opposition for the second wildcard position.

This is only the second meeting between these two squads this season, with the first game on January 17 ending 2-1 in favor of Philadelphia after a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Mrazek (2.17 GAA [tied for fifth best in the league] and .925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) should he play.

The Flyers should be able to win this evening’s game, as both teams field terrible offenses, but Detroit‘s defense is much more prone to allowing scores.  The Broad Street Bullies are still alive for the playoffs!