March 18 – Day 155 – Boston brings back Beleskey

Thanks to two goals in the second period, the Nashville Predators beat the New York Islanders 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

It was a Second Star of the Game James Neal wrister that opened the scoring (his 27th tally of the season), finding the net at the 9:15 mark after an assist from Calle Jarnkrok.

The Isles waited to level the score util 6:02 had passed in the second period.  It was Ryan Pulock’s first goal of the season in his eighth career NHL game played, assisted by John Tavares (his 30th helper of the season).  The Predators didn’t take kindly to being the first to allow a goal to him though, as they had a two goal lead within 3:52 after his score.  Third Star Ryan Ellis scored the first of those tallies at the 8:13 mark on the power play, assisted by First Star Ryan Johansen (his 36th helper of the season) and Mattias Ekholm, followed 1:41 later by Johansen’s game-winning wrister, assisted by Neal (his 19th helper of the season) and Anthony Bitetto.  Just as quickly as the Nashville blitz began, it ended, giving the Predators a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.

Only 1:55 into the third, Brock Nelson’s 23rd tally of the season pulled New York within a goal, assisted by Thomas Hickey.  The comeback fell apart though, as Austin Watson’s wrister found the back of an empty net, assisted by Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson (his 17th helper of the season), clinching the Preds‘ victory.

Pekka Rinne earns the win after saving 20 of 22 shots faced (90.9%), while Thomas Greiss takes the loss, saving 28 for 31 (90.3%).

After yesterday’s result, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 69-40-16, favoring the home squads by 30 points over the roadies.

We’ve got six games on the schedule this Friday, starting with the first to at 7 p.m. eastern (Ottawa at Buffalo [RDS/Bell TV] and Nashville at Washington [TVAS]).  Chicago at Winnipeg starts at 8 p.m. eastern (NHLN), and another pair trails an hour later (Colorado at Calgary and Vancouver at Edmonton).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Boston at Anaheim, drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern (SN1).

Half of the games taking place this evening are divisional rivals (Ottawa at Buffalo, Chicago at Winnipeg and Vancouver at Edmonton), and two are between teams currently qualified for the playoffs (Nashville at Washington and Boston at Anaheim).

Our attention is attracted to the BostonAnaheim game for two reasons:

  1. Matt Beleskey will be making his first return to Anaheim as a member of the Bruins
  2. It’s Nick’s birthday, so he’s made a special request!

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This will be Boston‘s 17th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-8-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was March 8, a one-goal overtime victory in Tampa Bay.  Anaheim has been featured seven times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-1-2 record in the series, with their most recent being their 3-2 victory in Los Angeles on March 5.

The main reason for tonight’s selection was not only the expected quality of the contest, but also the return of an ex-Duck with seven years tenure on The Pond.  Matt Beleskey was drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  He made his first appearance on the Pond two years later, but began earning regular time with the senior club in the 2010-’11 campaign.  It was that season that he scored 11 NHL goals, which stands as the second most during his time in Anaheim and third most in his career.

That 2010-’11 season arguably stood as his best until his 2013-’14 campaign, where he scored 24 points, including 15 assists – and things have only been looking up since.  Last season, he scored a career high 22 goals and 10 assists (his first double-double, if you’ll allow me to use some March Madness terminology), which he followed with eight playoff goals (half a goal a playoff contest) before the Ducks were eliminated by the Blackhawks, prompting him to test free agency.  The Bruins were impressed, and signed him to a $19.8M contract over five years.

He’s certainly earned that payday so far, as the 33 points he already has to his credit is the best of his career.  He’s gotten to that point by scoring 13 goals, and earning 20 helpers to boot.

To be honest, the real reason I know he’s good is he’s on my fantasy team.  And I only sign quality talent for my best in the league 17-4-0 squad.  You can take that analysis to the bank.

The 39-24-8 Boston Bruins currently occupy second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve earned that position by playing the third best offense in the league, but that’s been paired with the 13th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 237 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck 2221 times, with 9.5% finding the back of the net for 215 goals (led by 34 Brad Marchand’s 34 tallies), third most in the league.  The power play is just a step behind, as their 21.5% power play success rate, good for 43 extra man goals, ranks seventh best in the league.

Even with Dennis Seidenberg’s 133 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2190 shots to reach 28-19-7 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 191 goals against, the 13th most in the league.  Although the defense a whole hasn’t played well, the penalty kill ranks 10th best with their 82.05% kill rate that has allowed only 42 power play goals against.  Further improving on that rate, the Bruins have scored nine shorthanded goals (led by Marchand’s four shorties), four more than the league average.

Boston most recently played Tuesday to a 3-2 loss in San Jose.  With a win tonight, the Bruins could pull within a point of the division leading Panthers.

The 38-22-9 Anaheim Ducks are currently the second best team in the Pacific Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the third best defense in the league, but have scored the sixth fewest goals.

Led by Hampus Lindholm’s 102 blocks, the Ducks have allowed only 1884 shots to reach 19-9-6 Frederik Andersen and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for only 162 goals against, the third fewest in the league.  That success no doubt continues with the special teams, as their 87.04% kill rate is the stingiest in the league, allowing only 32 power play goals.

The offense is what was holding Anaheim back in the beginning of the season, but that issue has certainly been resolved.  That being said, even with Corey Perry’s 186 shots leading the Ducks to 2100 attempts, they’ve only connected on 8.2% for 175 goals (led by Perry’s 29), the sixth fewest in the league.  Anaheim‘s special team play continues its success with the puck on its stick, as their 23.19% power play success rate, good for 48 power play goals (led by Perry’s 11), is the second best rate in the league.

Anaheim lost their most recent game 2-1 to the Rangers on Wednesday.  The most important thing a win does tonight for the Ducks is give them a three point lead over the Sharks for second place in the division.

Anaheim has already made their yearly visit to the TD Garden, and they certainly enjoyed it, winning 6-2 on January 26.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Andersen (2.23 GAA [eighth best in the league]) or John Gibson (2.07 GAA [second best in the league]) and Boston‘s Marchand (34 goals [fourth most in the league] and +22 [10th best in the league]).

This should be an interesting game, as Boston‘s offense and Anaheim‘s defense are about equal in strength.  Over the course of the entire season, Boston‘s defense has been stronger than the Ducks‘ offense, but I’m not feeling confident enough in that for a game on The Pond.  I’ll give a slight edge to Anaheim.

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