Daily Matchup

April 9 – Day 177 – It used to be the final game of the season…

The Blue Jackets surprised me by beating the Sabres 4-1 in Buffalo in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, belonging to the Jackets.  Matt Calvert is the guilty party, assisted by Brandon Dubinsky (his 31st helper of the season) and Ryan Murray to a power play wrister with 1:15 remaining in the frame.

Buffalo leveled at the 13:37 mark of the second period on a Third Star of the Game Sam Reinhart power play tip-in, assisted by Jack Eichel (his 31st helper of the season) and Matt Moulson.  Second Star Nick Foligno takes credit for the game winning snap shot 1:39 later, assisted by Boone Jenner (his 19th helper of the season) and Josh Anderson.  The first of Columbus‘ two insurance goals found the back of the net with 2:35 remaining in the period, a Dalton Prout wrister assisted by William Karlsson (his 11th helper of the season).

The final goal of the game was struck at the 5:11 mark courtesy of First Star Brandon Saad, assisted by Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

Joonas Korpisalo earns the victory after saving 34 of 35 shots faced (97.1%), while Jason Kasdorf takes the loss, saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Columbus ends the two game winning streak by home sides, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 82-46-19, favoring the home sides by 40 points.

Every single team is in action today.  Yes, that includes your favorite team, your arch rivals, playoff teams, non-playoff teams… all of ’em.  The action starts nice and early at half past noon eastern with two games (Ottawa at Boston [RDS/SN1] and Detroit at the New York Rangers), with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBC/SN1) dropping the puck at 3 p.m. eastern.  Anaheim at Colorado (SN1) is the next game to get underway, starting at 5:30 p.m. eastern, before five games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Minnesota [CITY], Tampa Bay at Montréal [TVAS/SN], Carolina at Florida, Toronto at New Jersey [CBC] and Chicago at Columbus), trailed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Islanders (BELL TV).  The next two games start at 8 p.m. eastern (Washington at St. Louis [NHLN] and Nashville at Dallas), with two more getting underway two hours later (Edmonton at Vancouver [CBC] and Winnipeg at Los Angeles [SN]).  Finally, after all that, Arizona at San Jose gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern, this evening’s nightcap.

A little under half of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Ottawa at Boston, Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, Tampa Bay at Montréal, Nashville at Dallas, Edmonton at Vancouver and Arizona at San Jose), and three are between playoff qualifiers (Detroit at New York, Washington at St. Louis and Nashville at Dallas).  Tampa at Montréal is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

There are some great games on the docket this evening, but the one that could be very meaningful is WashingtonSt. Louis, as T.J. Oshie makes his return to Scottrade Center.

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With the 24th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the St. Louis Blues selected T.J. Oshie from the University of North Dakota.  He joined the club during the 2008-’09 season, playing in 57 regular season games and scoring 39 points.  He followed that effort with 48 points the following season, including 30 assists.

His breakout season was 2011-’12, when he played in almost every regular season game to score 54 points, including 35 assists.  That success carried into the postseason, as he scored three points before falling to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Semifinals.  Excluding the lockout shortened 2013 season, Oshie has continued his success each season, leading to his personal-best 60 point season in 2013-’14 season.

This July, Oshie was shipped to Washington in exchange for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick in this year’s Entry Draft.  In that first year, Oshie has tickled the twine 26 times, the most in his career.

His 55-17-8 Washington Capitals have clinched the President’s Trophy.  They’ve earned that position by playing both the second best offense and defense.

Like you’d expect, the entire offense revolves around Alex Ovechkin.  His 389 shots has led the Caps to firing the puck 2450 times, with a solid 9.9% finding the back of the net for 247 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 47 tallies), the second most in the NHL.  Washington also has a very strong power play, successful on 22.36% of attempts for 55 extra man tallies (led by Ovechkin’s 19 power play goals), the fourth best rate in the league.

Led by Karl Alzner’s 202 blocks, Washington has allowed only 2284 shots to reach 47-9-7 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for only 190 goals against, the second most in the NHL.  Once again, Washington‘s special teams rank fourth best, neutralizing 84.8% of their infractions for 38 power play goals against.

Washington enters tonight’s game on a three game losing skid, with their most recent being Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins.

The 49-23-9 St. Louis Blues currently sit in second in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They’ve gotten there by playing the fourth best defense, paired with the 14th best offense.

Led by Alex Pietrangelo’s 134 blocks, St. Louis has allowed 2391 shots to reach 23-7-6 Brian Elliott and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for 196 goals against, the fourth fewest in the NHL.  The penalty kill has also been spectacular, killing 85.04% of their infractions for 41 power play goals against, the third best rate in the league.

Led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 289 shots, the Blues have fired the puck 2454 times, with 8.9% finding the back of the net for 223 goals (led by Tarasenko’s 39 tallies), the 14th most in the league.  It’s another strong special team unit, as the Blues have found success on 21.79% of their power plays for 51 extra man goals (led by Tarasenko’s dozen power play tallies), the sixth best rate in the league.

St. Louis enters the game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being Thursday’s 2-1 overtime victory in Chicago.  As the Blues are tied with the Stars for the division and conference lead, a win, or even an overtime loss, paired with a Stars loss will propel them to first place, but a Dallas win ensures that they keep home ice until the Stanley Cup Finals.

St. Louis has already made their visit to Washington, which they thoroughly enjoyed, winning 4-0.

Some players to keep an eye on include St. Louis‘ Elliott (two GAA [leads the league] and .932 save percentage [leads the league]), Colton Parayko (+29 [fifth best in the league]) and Tarasenko (39 goals [fourth most in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (47 wins [leads the leauge], 2.22 GAA [seventh best in the league] and .921 save percentage [tied for ninth best in the league), Evgeny Kuznetsov (56 assists [fourth most in the league] and 76 points [tied for eighth most in the league]) and Ovechkin (47 goals [leads the league]).

On paper, Washington should win this game.  They should easily be able to shut down St. Louis‘ offense.  But, the thing that gives the Blues a chance, beyond even their home ice, is that they still have something to play for.  It’s for that reason that I think St. Louis will make every effort to win.

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