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.

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