April 1 – Day 169 – No time for April Fools

It wasn’t what I expected, but the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Rangers 4-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

First Star of the Game Patrick Brown opened the scoring at the 11:05 mark of the first period with the first goal of his career, assisted by Second Star Jeff Skinner (his 22nd helper of the season) and Ron Hainesy.  That was the only tally of the first, so Carolina took their 1-0 lead into the intermission.

New York leveled only 1:36 after returning to the ice with a Mats Zuccarello wrister, assisted by Derek Stepan (his 27th helper of the season) and Dan Boyle.  3:27 later, they took the lead with a Rick Nash wrister, assisted by J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh (his 24th helper of the season).  Carolina returned the favor at the 13:27 mark with a goal from Third Star Justin Faulk (his 16th tally of the season), assisted by Sergey Tolchinsky (his first point of his NHL career) and Ryan Murphy.  The Rangers took another lead with 2:42 remaining in the period with a Chris Kreider power play wrister, assisted by Stepan and Keith Yandle (his 40th helper of the season).  The 3-2 Rangers lead held into the second intermission.

Carolina leveled the game again at the 4:22 mark, courtesy of Skinner (his 27th tally of the season), assisted by Murphy and Brown.  The only insurance goal belongs to Victor Rask, a power play snap shot with 9:06 remaining in regulation.

Cam Ward earns the win after saving 24 of 27 shots faced (88.9%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving only 24 of 28 (85.7%).

The fourth straight home win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 78-43-18, favoring those home squads by 39 points over the roadies.

We’ve got five games on the schedule this evening, starting at 7:30 p.m. eastern with Minnesota at Detroit (NHLN).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Boston at St. Louis and Chicago at Winnipeg), followed an hour later by Washington at Colorado.  Finally, our nightcap, Vancouver at Anaheim, drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Almost half of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Chicago at Winnipeg and Vancouver at Anaheim), while only Boston at St. Louis is between playoff qualifiers.

I’m most interested in the BostonSt. Louis game because of the potential impact on the standings possible in both conferences.

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This will be Boston‘s 19th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-10-1 record, with their most recent being their 5-2 loss in Madison Square Garden on March 23.  St. Louis has been featured 16 times before tonight’s game, and their 5-4 overtime victory in Dallas on March 12 set their season series at 9-6-1.

The 40-29-8 Boston Bruins currently rank third in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the fourth best offense in the NHL paired with the 14th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 263 shots, Boston has fired the puck an incredible 2436 times, with 9% finding the back of the net for 223 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 35 tallies), fourth most in the NHL.  Part of that success has been due to the power play, who’s 20.64% success rate, good for 45 extra man goals (led by Bergeron’s 11 power play tallies) ranks ninth best in the league.

Even with Dennis Seidenberg’s 243 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2335 shots to reach 29-22-7 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 209 goals against, the 14th most in the league.  The penalty kill slightly steps up their game, neutralizing 81.96% of their infractions for the 14th best rate in the league, allowing 46 extra man goals in the process.  Further improving on that rate, Boston has also scored nine shorthanded goals, led by Marchand’s four power play goals.

Boston‘s last game was Tuesday, a 2-1 loss in New Jersey.  The Bruins are in desperate need of a win this evening, as anything short of a win paired with a Detroit victory forces the B’s out of playoff position.

The 46-22-9 St. Louis Blues are the second best team in the Central Division as well as the Western Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the fifth best defense paired with the 15th worst offense.

Even with Alex Pietrangelo’s 131 blocks, St. Louis has allowed 2280 shots to reach 21-7-6 Brian Elliott and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 186 goals against, the fifth fewest in the NHL.  The penalty kill has been even better than the overall defense, preventing 85.06% of opposing power plays to score, allowing only 39 power play goals in the process.

Led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 273 shots, the Notes have fired the puck a solid 2324 times, with 8.6% finding the back of the net for 206 goals (led by Tarasenko’s 36 tallies), the 15th fewest in the league.  The Blues‘ biggest strength has been their power play, as their 22.02% success rate ranks fourth best in the NHL, good for 48 extra man goals (led by Tarasenko’s 12 power play tallies).

The Blues enter tonight’s game riding a five game winning streak, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Avalanche.  With a win tonight, they pull back into a tie with Dallas for the top spot in both the division and the conference, but will not move into first place due to a regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker.

St. Louis has already made their yearly visit to Boston, when they won 2-0 on December 22.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [seventh most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Elliott (1.92 GAA [leads the league] and .935 save percentage [leads the league]), Colton Parayko (+26 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Tarasenko (36 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

These teams are a very interesting and even match for each other.  Both teams’ strengths correspond with the others, and neither’s weaknesses are fully exploited with the exception of Boston‘s poor penalty kill.  Given that, St. Louis‘ hot streak and their home ice, I’m picking the Blues to win this one.

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