April 10 – Day 178 – …but those snow days happened

T.J. Oshie may not have scored in his first return to St. Louis, but he did get a point en route to the Washington Capitals winning 5-1.

St. Louis‘ lone goal was struck only 1:15 into the game by Vladimir Tarasenko (his 40th tally of the season), assisted by Alex Pietrangelo and Paul Stastny, but the good vibes associated with the quick start began to fade 2:49 later when First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin began his hat trick on a wrister, assisted by John Carlson (his 31st helper of the season) and Third Star Nicklas Backstrom.  Ovechkin lit the lamp again for the game winner at the 6:49 mark on another wrister, again assisted by Backstrom (his 49th helper of the season).  The 2-1 score held to the end of the period.

Carlson’s second point of the night was a goal at the 5:21 mark, a backhander assisted by Tom Wilson (his 16th helper of the season) and Brook Orpik.  Jason Chimera got on the board 56 seconds after the midway point of the game with a tip-in, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 57th helper of the season) and Dmitry Orlov.  The Caps‘ 4-1 lead held into the second intermission.

Ovi completed the hat trick with a slap shot with 9:25 remaining in the game (his league leading 50th tally of the season), assisted by Backstrom and Oshie.

Second Star Braden Holtby earns the win after saving 19 of the 20 shots he faced (95%), while Brian Elliott takes the loss after saving 22 of 26 (84.6%).  He was replaced after the second intermission by Anders Nilsson, who saved nine of 10 (90%).

Washington‘s win is the second straight for the road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the season record at 82-47-19, with the home teams leading the roadies by 38 points.

There’s only two games on the docket this evening, and both of them were supposed to be played earlier in the year.  Philadelphia visits the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. eastern and can be viewed on NBCSN, SN and SN360.  Half an hour after that puck drop, Anaheim at Washington gets its start, and can be watched on NHLN, SN and SN360.

I know, there can’t be two different games on the same channels.  Sorry Canada, I don’t have an answer, but if I had to guess, it’s regional.  You’re on your own in figuring this one out.

All four of these teams have already punched their tickets to the playoffs starting this week, but two of them still have some positioning to finalize.  With a win, the Islanders move ahead of the Rangers for third spot for a first round meeting with Pittsburgh, while anything less than two points leaves them in their current matchup with Florida.  Similarly, a win of any variety gives Anaheim the Pacific Division title and a date with Nashville, while anything less leaves them in their matchup with in-state rival San Jose.

I’m more attracted to the PhiladelphiaNew York game, mostly because I think New York has more to gain, or potentially lose, depending on the outcome of this game.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

Tonight’s game will be Philadelphia‘s ninth in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which stands at 6-2-0.  When they were last featured, Philly won 2-1 on a shootout over the visiting Capitals on March 30.  New York has been featured 10 times before tonight, and own a 3-6-1 record in such games.  Last time, they won 5-2 over the visiting Lightning on Monday.

Usually, I go into a big statistical breakdown, but frankly, I don’t think that’s what this game boils down to.

To put that in perspective, the Flyers have absolutely nothing to play for, maybe except for confidence going into the playoffs.  Haha, right, like they need any.  They just fought themselves into a playoff position that many had written them out of contention for a month or two ago.  In fact, I think they’ll use this as an opportunity to rest guys that have been playing their tails off during this span.

They already know they’ll be meeting Washington later this week, so they’ll want to prepare as much as possible for the pressure the Capitals bring at literally every section of the ice.

The real game tonight is being played between the ears of Jack Capuano, and you’d figure he went to bed last night already knowing how this game will end.  He has a couple things to determine going into this game, including health and positioning.

Health is a big concern for New York right now, and Capuano has already said that this is the No. 1 priority.  Eight men are currently listed on the injury report, including G Jean-Francois Berube, RW Cal Clutterbuck (best shooting percentage and a top five goal scorer in Brooklyn), C Mikhail Grabovski, G Jaroslav Halak (18-13-4, .919 save percentage and 2.3 GAA), D Travis Hamonic (top-three shot blocker), LW Anders Lee (a top-five goal scorer, including top power play totals, and assister for the Isles), LW Matt Martin (leads team in hits) and D Brian Strait.

That being said, this line item, although listed second, may come first in his game plan this evening: New York‘s position in the standings, specifically their first and possible second round matchup.  As it stands right now, the Isles will be making the trip to Florida for a first round matchup with the Atlantic Champion Panthers, with the potential to face either the Lightning or Red Wings in the Conference Semifinals.  Should they win tonight, they swap spots with their in-town rivals and head instead to Pittsburgh, with the potential to meet either Philadelphia or Washington in the Semis.

Frankly, one of those situations sounds way better to me, and that’s their current fate of going to Florida.  Yes, the Panthers play an interesting, unpredictable and beautiful game, but I’d rather play them right now than the Penguins, who had an eight game winning streak before losing to Philly yesterday without Sidney Crosby (you know, the guy that scores the goals).  Looking even further ahead, anything is better than playing Washington, and I think New York would have a good chance of beating either Detroit or Tampa, regardless of who they meet.

But Connor, are you implying that the Isles would toss a game?

Uh, yeah.  Seriously, did you not see the beat-down the Caps put on the Blues last night, the fourth best defense in the league?  I’m staying away from them as long as possible, maybe somebody else will do the dirty work of beating them, or at least wearing 50 goal scorer Ovi out.  On top of that, you get to rest players with that game plan, which is a great spot to be in.  Heck, if New York is really committed to losing, they could just not dress a goalie and go 60 minutes with an empty net.  You know the league office would absolutely love that one, but I’d bet there’d be a few Islanders fans in the arena cheering the choice.

Philadelphia leads the season series 2-1-1, as well as won the last meeting 4-1 on March 21.  If I had to pick the better team, I would certainly lean towards New York, but as I’ve already stated, I don’t know if both teams will be fully exerting themselves.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game, should they play, include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.926 save percentage [tied for second best in the league]) and John Tavares (33 goals [10th most in the league]) & Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [fourth best in the league] and 2.28 GAA [ninth best in the league]).

I have no idea how this one will end.  As I’ve hinted, I think this might be the weirdest game of chess played this season, but we shall see.  Under normal circumstances I would have the Isles winning, but I think, if New York is wise, that the game will end in Philadelphia‘s favor.