November 30 – Day 49 – When that Shark bites with his teeth babe

It’s Wednesday, so you know what that means: a light NHL schedule. Don’t worry though, most off tonight’s offerings are quality matchups.

We start at 8 p.m. with Pittsburgh visiting the New York Islanders (NBCSN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by Toronto at Calgary (SN). Finally, at 10:30 p.m., San Jose at Los Angeles (NBCSN) drops the puck.

  • Pittsburgh at New York: We’ve already featured this rivalry once this season. It’s usually a good one.
  • San Jose at Los Angeles: Another rivalry, but this one cuts a little deeper this season given these squads met in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The added “oomph” of the playoff rematch takes us to the City of Angels!

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Only seven months ago, these teams were battling in the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously, the Sharks won as they represented the Western Conference in the Finals, but their 4-1 victory over the rival Kings surprised many, given that Los Angeles had home ice advantage. But San Jose actually dominated the season series with a 3-1-1 record, three points better than the Kings head-to-head.

Nowadays, those Sharks are 13-9-1 and sit atop the Pacific Division. To earn that position, they’ve played some excellent defense and goaltending to allow only 49 goals, tied for the fourth-fewest in the game.

At 20 starts, Martin Jones has been between the pipes for almost every single game the Sharks have played so far this season. Over his 1148 minutes, he’s earned an 11-8-1 record on a .919 save percentage and 2.09 GAA, the 13th and (t)seventh-best rates, respectively, among the 34 netminders with 10 or more appearances.

A GAA that is significantly better than its associated save percentage is indicative of a great defense, and this instance is no different. Led by Justin Braun‘s 46 blocks, the Sharks have allowed 25.9 shots to reach Jones per night, the second-lowest average in the league.

Unsurprisingly, this success has continued to the penalty kill, where San Jose ranks ninth-best. Braun continues to lead the effort with 12 shorthanded shot blocks, and that has guided the team to effectively limiting opposing power plays 84.9% of the time.

The skating tenants of the Staples Center are 12-9-1, good enough for only fourth place in the Pacific Division. Similar to their NorCal rivals, the Kings play a great defensive game, allowing seventh-fewest goals against in the NHL at 53.

The main headline this year has surrounded Los Angeles‘ crease not being patrolled by Jonathan Quick. He is still expected to need another month of rehabilitation, leaving the net to Peter Budaj. Already on course for his most starts in a season since his days in Colorado, the Slovak has taken advantage of the opportunity presented to him to set a 12-6-1 record – yes, he’s been in net for each and every one of the Kings‘ points. He’s done that with a .917 save percentage and 2.04 GAA, the (t)17th and eighth-best efforts, respectively, among the 40 goaltenders with nine or more appearances.

Once again we have a decent goalie playing with an excellent defense. Leading the charge in only his second season (after a rookie season where he played only 22 games with the senior squad) has been Derek Forbort, with an impressive 52 blocks to his name. The entire blueline’s effort has led to the Kings allowing only 25.5 shots-against-per-game, the lowest in the league.

Where Los Angeles is really lacking is on their power play. Successful on only 12.1% of attempts, they rank third-worst in the NHL. Five different players have three man-advantage points to their credit, but it’s been Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli leading the goal-scoring charge with only two power play-goals apiece.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Los Angeles‘ Budaj (12 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the league] on a 2.04 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]) and Toffoli (+12 [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & San Jose‘s Brent Burns (21 points [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) and Jones (11 wins, including two shutouts [both tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Bets are off in Vegas, which is always a good sign. I’m leaning towards San Jose winning tonight’s contest on the road not only because they won the first meeting this season 2-1, but based on their power play – I believe it to be better than the Kings‘ penalty kill. We’ll see if that holds true.

Hockey Birthday

  • Jason Pominville (1982-) – This right wing was selected by Buffalo in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s currently playing in Minnesota. He was an All-Star in 2012, the same season he was traded.

Tom Rowe may not have turned the Panthers into winners overnight, but they were good enough to force a shootout in Chicago before falling 2-1.

With 2:10 remaining in the first period, Richard Panik (Dennis Rasmussen and Marcus Kruger) scored a backhander to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead they would not yield until the third frame.

Only 35 seconds after returning to the ice from the second intermission, Jaromir Jagr (Jonathan Marchessault and Aaron Ekblad) took advantage of a Niklas Hjalmarsson hooking penalty carried over from late in the second period with a power play wrister to level the game at one-all.

Neither team was able to score a winner in either the remaining time in regulation or three-on-three overtime, so we were off to the Game of the Day series’ second shootout in four days.

  1. Up first was Patrick Kane for Chicago, but his shot was saved by Roberto Luongo.
  2. Vincent Trocheck went next, but he did even worse than Kane – his shot wasn’t even on frame and did not require a Corey Crawford save.
  3. Second Star of the Game Artemi Panarin was the first to strike shootout blood, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead.
  4. Aleksander Barkov‘s tying attempt was saved by Crawford.
  5. Panik sealed the victory for Chicago with another goal.

First Star Crawford earned the victory after saving 38-of-39 shots faced (97.4%), while Third Star Luongo saved 32-of-33 (97%) in the shootout loss.

That home victory extends the hosts’ lead to eight points in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a record of 28-16-7.

November 29 – Day 48 – Rowe says it’s Tommy Time!

Welcome to the last Tuesday of November. I know, it’s not very momentous on its own, but the NHL is helping out with a dozen hockey games to watch. The action starts at – you guessed it – 7 p.m. with a couple of games (Carolina at the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (Boston at Philadelphia [NBCSN/TVAS], Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS2] and Dallas at Detroit). New Jersey at Winnipeg starts at 8 p.m., with Florida at Chicago waiting 30 minutes before beginning. 9 p.m. marks two puck drops (Nashville at Colorado and Toronto at Edmonton [NBSCN]), with tonight’s tri-nightcap getting green lit at 10 p.m. (Minnesota at Vancouver, Montréal at Anaheim [RDS] and Arizona at San Jose). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Carolina at New York: Last season, Viktor Stalberg played in Madison Square Garden on the regular. Tonight, he’s just visiting.
  • Buffalo at Ottawa: A rivalry game, with the chance to be made more special by the return of Jack Eichel.
  • Florida at Chicago: Tom Rowe coaches the first NHL game of his career.

Stalberg will return to Manhattan again, and rivals will be rivals, but you only make your coaching debut once. Let’s see what Rowe’s got.

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Rowe’s carer in the NHL began after being drafted 37th-overall in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft. By the time he hung his skates up the last time, he’d played 357 career games with three different franchises, most of which with Washington, the club that drafted him. His best season was the third of his career, when he scored 31 goals and notched another 30 assists to become the first-ever American to bury 30 or more tallies in a season.

Rowe had been a coach at multiple levels, but he took his first head coaching job in a senior-level league in 2012 when he took command of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, replacing Brad McCrimmon who died in the Lokomotiv plane crash. He led a team of all new players to a 24-18-0 season.

He only kept the job for a year before returning to the States to begin his tenure with the Panthers‘ organization. He took the same job he had with Lokomotiv, but with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. He stuck with the team in their move to Portland before being promoted mid-season to associate general manager on New Year’s Day 2016. By the time he departed Portland, he’d amassed an 88-66-17 record.

If only normal people not involved in sports could get promotions as quick as Rowe. He was associate GM for only four-and-a-half months before replacing Dale Tallon as the man in-charge.

That brings us to Sunday’s move. Gerard Gallant entered PNC Arena as head coach of the then 11-9-1. By the time he exited, he added another loss, had a pink slip in hand and was in search of a job.

It turns out, Rowe already had a new coach in mind: himself. It seems to be the trend in Miami of late, as Dan Jennings did the same thing with the Marlins for most of the 2015 season. If the baseball team in town is any indication, the future doesn’t look bright for the Panthers.

That being said, Jennings had one specific thing playing against him: no managerial experience. Rowe has been a consistent winner, so it will be interesting to see how the Panthers‘ season unfolds.

Rowe completely takes over a 11-10-1 Florida club that sits in fifth in the Atlantic Division. Statistically, they’ve been simply average this season, scoring 55 goals (19th-best) against 57 allowed ([t]15th-best). Given their rankings against the league on those numbers, we’ll pin the poor start to the season on the offense.

Of the Panthers‘ 55 goals, center Jon Marchessault has been involved in 17 of them to lead the team. 10 of those points have been goals, which also is tops in the dressing room. Perhaps that is the biggest problem for Florida: goal distribution. Aaron Ekblad and Vincent Trocheck tie for second-place in the goal-scoring race, but with only six tallies apiece.

Not surprisingly, the power play has been especially poor for the Panthers. They’ve been successful on only 14.7% of their attempts to rank 10th-worst in the NHL. Leading the team’s special team is – you guessed it – Marchessault, as he has three power play goals among six points.

Hosting them this evening is the best team in the Western Conference – the 14-6-3 Chicago Blackhawks. As usual in an even-numbered Stanley Cup year, they’ve been led by their impressive offense which has notched 65 goals – second-most in the conference and seventh-most in the league.

Who else to front the Hawks‘ attack than right wing Patrick Kane? The former first pick has 23 points to his credit, 21.7% of last season’s total a little over a quarter of the way through this year’s campaign. He hasn’t always been the goalscorer, though. That title goes to Marian Hossa, who has 11 tallies on his resume.

Every team has a weakness, and the Windy City‘s is the penalty kill. The Blackhawks rank dead-last in the NHL, stopping the opposition’s man-advantage only 70.8% of the time. Niklas Hjalmarsson may have a dozen shorthanded blocks to his credit, but more Hawks need to get involved to avoid another early playoff exit.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (two shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] among 10 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Hossa (11 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]), Kane (23 points [tied for fourth-most in the league] on 15 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Artemi Panarin (21 points [tied for eigth-most in the league]) & Florida‘s Aleksander Barkov (12 assists [leads his team]), Derek MacKenzie (52 hits [leads his team]), Alex Petrovic (+8 [leads his team]) and Mark Pysyk (30 blocks [leads his team]).

Chicago is marked by Vegas with a -135 next to their name, a line they’ve certainly earned. Rowe is not going to solve all the Panthers‘ plane ride from Raleigh to Chicago, so I am leaning towards the Hawks continuing their great season.

Hockey Birthday

  • Neal Broten (1959-) – A center drafted 42nd-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, he played 17 NHL seasons and hoisted the Stanley Cup once with the 1994-’95 Devils. Of course, he may be even more remembered for being a part of the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid. Either way, he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, two years after his No. 7 was raised to the Stars‘ rafters.
  • Brad May (1971-) – The 14th-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, May played 18 seasons in the league – most of which with Buffalo, the club that drafted him. He won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 with Anaheim.
  • Pavol Demitra (1974-2011) – This left wing won the 1999-00 Lady Byng Trophy while skating for the Blues, the team he spent most of his 16 seasons with. He was one of the 44 people that died in 2011 Lokomotiv plane crash.
  • Tanner Glass (1983-) – A scrapper currently skating for Hartford in the Rangers‘ system, he’s played in the past nine NHL seasons. Most of his time was spent in Vancouver, where he helped the Canucks qualify for the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals.

For the second time in the last three days, the DtFR Game of the Day has required more than 60 minutes to declare a winner. This time, it was host St. Louis beating the Stars 4-3 in overtime.

With 6:24 remaining in the opening frame, Third Star of the Game Robby Fabbri (Robert Bortuzzo and Jori Lehtera) gave the Notes a 1-0 lead with a wrister to beat Antti Niemi.

Only 4:17 into the second period, that lead doubled when Alex Pietrangelo (Patrik Berglund and Colton Parayko) scored a power play backhander. Dallas returned the differential to one with 3:39 remaining in the period with a Second Star Jamie Oleksiak (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin) wrister.

The Stars must have received quite the motivational speech during intermission, as Benn (Julius Honka and Jason Spezza) buried a power play wrister to level the game at two-all. 11:25 later, St. Louis took the lead again with a First Star David Perron (Jaden Schwartz and Jay Bouwmeester) wrister. That lead nearly lasted to the final horn, but not before Oleksiak (Honka and Benn) buried a slap shot with with Niemi pulled. To three-on-three overtime we went.

The extra period lasted only 3:24 before Vladimir Tarasenko (Lehtera and Kevin Shattenkirk) scored a wrister to end the game.

Jake Allen earned the victory after saving 18-of-21 shots faced (85.7%), forcing Niemi to take the overtime loss, saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The Blues‘ win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 27-16-7, favoring the home squads by seven points over the roadies.

November 28 – Day 47 – This time, in the style of B.B. King

All good things must come to an end. That includes the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Even worse, that signals the end of heavy scheduling, with only two games being played this evening. At 7 p.m., Calgary visits the New York Islanders followed an hour later by Dallas at St. LouisAll times eastern.

It’s been a week since we’ve featured a Western Conference team, and even longer since we’ve been to a Western arena. Add in that tonight is a Western Semifinals rematch, and we have to make our way to the Gateway to the West!

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I’ll admit that I’m a bit partial when it comes to the Blues, but this is what I remember from last year’s playoff series:

Game 3, the game where Ryan Reaves shared the love with Dallas‘ bench, was not a good showing by the Stars, as they fell 6-1 that night. That contest was not indicative of their series-long effort though, as neither team trailed by more than a game in the seven-game series.

St. Louis ended up winning Game 7 by the same 6-1 score to advance to the Western Conference Finals, besting the Stars by a combined 25-14 score against the best offense in the league last year. Of course, they would fall to San Jose in six game to miss the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dallas enters tonight’s game with a 9-8-5 record, barely on the outside of the playoff picture that is slowly starting to form – we are after Thanksgiving, after all. The reason they haven’t broken into that bracket is simple: they let a lot of goals by. 72, to be exact, the second-most in the league.

Although time has been almost evenly split between the Stars‘ two netminders, Kari Lehtonen has spent a little bit more time between the pipes. In his dozen starts, he’s earned a 4-6-3 record on an .884 save percentage and 3.38 GAA, both ranking third-worst among the 48 goalies with six or more appearances.

Those numbers are exceptionally poor, especially for a team that has the aspirations Dallas does. He has to take responsibility though, because the defense playing in front of him has done a moderately OK job keeping pucks off his cage. Before Johnny Oduya was placed on injured reserve, his 44 blocks led the blueline. That responsibility now rests on Jordie Benn‘s shoulders, the active block-leader with 41. Those efforts have led the blueline to allowing only 30.8 shots-against-per-game, the 11th-highest in the league.

As one might expect, Dallas‘ penalty kill has faced similar struggles. They’ve negated only 78.7% of opposing power plays, the seventh-worst effort. Oduya was active on the penalty kill as well, notching 12 shorthanded blocks, but he has been forced to hand this mantle off to Benn, too, who has 11 to his credit.

Hosting them this evening are the 12-7-3 Blues. Sitting in second in the Central Division, the Notes have found their success scoring the puck, with 58 tallies to their credit.

Who else to be leading St. Louis‘ offense than Vladimir Tarasenko and his 22 points? How he fell to the 16th-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is beyond me. In addition to being the points leader, his nine goals is also tops for the club.

The success has carried into the special teams. St. Louis‘ power play ranks seventh-best in the league, successful on 21.3% of attempts. Kevin Shattenkirk joins Tarasenko with nine man-advantage points to lead the squad. The defenseman also ties for the team-lead in power play goals, but not with the right wing – instead, it’s Robby Fabbri who has also fired three extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has been even better than the power play. The Notes are second-best in the NHL at neutralizing their own penalties, refusing to yield a goal on 88.4% of opposing man-advantages. Captain Alex Pietrangelo tops the squad with 11 penalty kill blocks.

These teams have already met up once this year at the American Airlines Center, and the Stars took it to the Blues. They won 6-2, led by John Klingberg‘s two-goal night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include DallasTyler Seguin (15 assists [tied for third-most in the league] for 22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & St. LouisJake Allen (10 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]).

According to Vegas, St. Louis is favored by all accords to win tonight’s game as they have a -165 next to their name at most books in town. Seeing as they’ve done a good job keeping the opposition off the board, paired with an offense that will best Lehtonen, I’m confident the Notes defend home ice.

Hockey Birthday

  • Marc-Andre Fleury (1984-) – The 13-year veteran goaltender for Pittsburgh was the first pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Although he has two Stanley Cups to his credit, an emerging star in Matthew Murray has Flower’s future with the Penguins in question.
  • Mike Kostka (1985-) – Almost entirely an AHL lifer, this defenseman has played 85 NHL games with five different teams. His 35-game stint in Toronto in 2012-’13 has been his longest to date.

Ottawa must’ve read yesterday’s Game of the Day preview, because they didn’t seem to care for the high praise I was pouring on New York. They decided to spoil the Rangers‘ fun and shut them out for a 2-0 win.

The winning goal was struck after 21:54 of scoreless play. Second Star of the Game Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Tom Pyatt and Zack Smith) takes credit for the tally with a wrister. The lone insurance goal of the game found the back of the net with 3:49 remaining in the second period, courtesy of Third Star Mark Stone (Mike Hoffman)  on a power play wrister.

First Star Craig Anderson earns the victory and an extra shutout feather in his cap after saving all 33 shots faced, leaving the loss to Antti Raanta, who saved 18-of-20 (90%).

The roadies are pulling closer. After Ottawa‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory, the the home team has a 26-16-7 record, better than the roadies by only six points.

Sick Hands Sunday – Cammalleri and Johnson Completely Go Off, Take Home This Week’s Trophy.

Hey everyone, I’m back again for a new week of Sick Hands Sunday! I can’t wait to get another version out to all my fans for you all to enjoy! This week was a little easier to pick the winner so let’s get right into it!

So for the forward portion of the mix, like I just stated above, it was one of the easiest weeks to pick the winner! The reason why I say this was because Devils winger Mike Cammalleri was on an absolute tear over the last week picking up eight points (4G, 4A) in just three games. In all three of his games, he tallied at least two points and one power play point as well. Here’s how Cammalleri did game by game.

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Cammalleri passes the puck to Travis Zajac for his goal (Julio Cortez/AP)

In Cammalleri’s first game, he picked up four points (1G, 3A) with nine shots on goal, and 23 TOI in a 5-4 come from behind shootout victory of the Maple Leafs. Cammy’s first point of the night came off a wicked assist where he grabbed the pass from eventual goal scorer Travis Zajac at the left dot. He saw him driving to the net, fired a pass over to him streaking down the right-hand side, and Zajac redirected the puck in the Devils first goal of the game.

Shortly after that, just four minutes and some change later Cammalleri was finally on the scoresheet. He was in the right place at the right time as we like to call it in the hockey world. Cammy stood right on the doorstep and grabbed the rebound from fellow defender Andy Greene and slotted the puck past Leafs goalie Jhonas Enroth to come back from 3-0 down to tie the game at 3-3.

In Cammalleri’s next game against the Red Wings, he recorded two points (1G, 1A) in a 5-4 shootout loss. Cammy’s goal was pure hard work and dedication if I’ve ever seen it. He drove to the slot, got the puck poked away but still stayed with it and never lost sight of the puck. Cammy was able to settle the puck, spin around, and fire the puck past Petr Mrazek to tie the game up at 2-2. (This is a great caption for the video New Jersey, props to you guys)

Cammalleri’s last game was a great one to cap off the week. He scored two goals in a heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins. Camm’s firs goal was a wicked shot that beat Matthew Murray far blocker side. He received  a pass at the top of the right dot a quickly released a shot that beat Murray to open the scoring in the game.

Then Cammy tallied yet another goal on the power play and this one was a beauty. He received the pass on the right-hand dot loaded up and ready for the one timer. As the pass came he took a look up to see where the goalie was and he let the shot go. Murray was able to get a good chunk of the shot but not all of it and the puck trickled in for the 3-2 lead! Here is the goal below:

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Now the goalie portion of the article I decided to go with Calgary tendy, Chad Johnson. The reason why I picked him is simple, he was on fire and he is making a statement to be the number one there. He went 3-0  while only giving up three goals in three starts with a 34 save shutout vs the Jackets and a .968 SV% and a 1.00 GAA during the week . He had an amazing 35 save performance against a strong Boston Bruins team as well. So if Johnson keeps this up, I think Brian Elliott is about to have a problem. Right now his stats are, in 11 games, a 7-3-1 record on a .928 SV% and a 1.98 GAA and 2 SO, while Elliot’s record in 12 games is 3-9 on a .882 SV% and a 3.43 GAA. Clearly Johnson looks like the better goalie and deserves more starts.

The Honorable Mention goes to Peter Budaj and Alex Ovechkin. I will see you guys next Sunday for another recap of the best player of the week! (Thanks to the New Jersey Devils’ Twitter for the videos of the goals!)

November 27 – Day 46 – Brassard was a Blueshirt

The long weekend is coming to an end, but not before we get six more games in. Today’s action gets started at 1 p.m. with two contests (Nashville at Winnipeg and Tampa Bay at Boston), followed two hours later by Arizona at Edmonton (SN). Whether you consider 6 p.m. a matinee or an evening game, it marks the start of Florida at Carolina. An hour later Ottawa visits the New York Rangers (NHLN/TVAS), trailed by Calgary at Philadelphia half an hour after. All times eastern.

I know it will be the sixth time in the last eight days that we’ve featured one of these two teams, but Derick Brassard is making his first trip back to Madison Square Garden of the year.

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Brassard found his way to the Big Apple at the 2013 trade deadline during his sixth season with Columbus, the club that drafted him. The center played 254 games with the Rangers over his four campaigns, notching 174 points, plus an additional 44 over 59 playoff appearances.

His two most successful seasons so-far were played on this surface. In 2014-’15 he notched a career-high 60 points, which he missed by only two points in his 27-goal campaign a season later.

Coming off that 2015-’16 season, the Rangers shipped him off to the Canadian capital in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick. It’s a trade that has worked out well for both clubs, as each skater ranks top-six in points for their new squad.

Ottawa enters tonight’s game with a 13-7-1 record and riding a three-game winning streak, the best active in the Eastern Conference. They’ve made it to second-best in the Atlantic Division by allowing only 51 goals, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

A defensive breakdown always starts with the goaltender, in this case the 11-4-1 Craig Anderson. He’s reached that mark with a .932 save percentage and 2.15 GAA, the ninth and (t)12th-best effort among the 41 netminders with eight or more appearances.

Those numbers are even more impressive given how taxed he is. The Sens‘ blueline allows 31.1 shots to reach the cage a night, the ninth-highest average in the league. Erik Karlsson‘s 64 blocks are impressive, but he has 20 more deflections than Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf, who tie for second-most. I’ve been saying it all season, and I’ll say it again: the blueline has to improve if Ottawa doesn’t want to face the same fate as they did last year (read: no playoffs).

Anderson has continued his success on the penalty kill, as opponents’ power plays have been rejected 85.2% of the time – the eighth-best effort in the NHL.

The power play is Ottawa‘s Achilles heel, as their 10% success rate is second-worst in the NHL. Mike Hoffman and Karlsson have been the skaters leading the extra-man charge with four power play points to their credit, and Hoffman leads the team with two man-advantage goals.

Hosting Ottawa this evening are the 15-6-1 Rangers, the best club in the Metropolitan Division. Offense has been the name of the game in New York, as their 85 goals is best in the league by 17 tallies.

After 22 games, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller tie for the Blueshirt scoring lead with 19 points apiece. That being said, it’s been Michael Grabner who has scored the most goals – two more, in fact, than Hayes. In all, 22 skaters have gotten involved in the scoring, an incredible total.

As you’d probably expect, the success has continued to the power play where New York ranks sixth-best with a 21.5% success rate. This is really where the Rangers cashed in on their trade with Ottawa: Zibanejad leads the club with five power play points. That being said, those are all assists, leaving Rick Nash and Brandon Pirri to score three extra-man goals apiece to co-lead the squad.

The Rangers‘ success doesn’t stop there, though. The penalty kill has been equally as impressive, nullifying 86.2% of their infractions to rank sixth-best in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include New York‘s Dan Girardi (+12 [tied for fifth-best in the league]), Grabner (+20 [leads the NHL] on 12 goals [tied for second-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Miller (+13 [fourth-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (11 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] including two shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]).

It looks like it’s another game where Vegas doesn’t have a favorite. I don’t feel very comfortable with that pick, as the Rangers are arguably playing the best hockey in the league right now. I think they can handle the Senators tonight, especially playing at Madison Square Garden.

Hockey Birthday

  • Pierre Mondou (1955-) – This center was the 15th-overall pick in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal. He played eight seasons and nine postseasons with the club, totaling 616 total games played. Two of those playoff appearances ended with him hoisting the Stanley Cup.
  • Chad Kilger (1976-) – Selected fourth-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim, this right wing spent most of his 714 games in Toronto.

They needed a shootout, but the Penguins bested New Jersey 4-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first frame belonged to the visiting Devils. Second Star of the Game Mike Cammalleri (Kyle Palmieri) takes credit for the tally struck only 3:33 after taking the ice that gave Jersey a 1-0 lead.

Mike Sullivan didn’t seem to like that very much, as Pittsburgh quickly took the lead in the second frame. 1:23 after returning to the ice, the Pens found themselves tied after a Jake Guentzel (First Star Evgeni Malkin and Trevor Daley) wrister. 1:15 later, Tom Kuhnhackl‘s (Malkin and Steven Oleksy) first goal of the season put Pittsburgh ahead. That lead lasted only 1:22 before Vernon Fiddler buried an unassisted, shorthanded backhander to level the game at two-all. The final score of the frame was struck with 41 seconds remaining before the 10-minute mark. Cammalleri (Pavel Zacha and John Moore) takes credit again, this time with a power play slap shot, to give Jersey a 3-2 lead going into the third frame.

With 14 seconds remaining in regulation, who else than Third Star Sidney Crosby (Bryan Rust and Malkin) to come to the rescue for the Pens? His late wrister leveled the score to force three-on-three overtime, which proved to be scoreless.

The shootout featured a lot of saves. A lot of saves. Pittsburgh took the first attempt…

  1. Malkin opened the shootout to a Keith Kinkaid save.
  2. P.A. Parenteau went next, only to be saved by Matthew Murray.
  3. Crosby? Kinkaid.
  4. Cammalleri? Yup, you guessed it. Murray said “no way.”
  5. Leave it to a defenesman to bury a goal. Kris Letang beats Kinkaid to force a miss-and-lose scenario for New Jersey.
  6. Travis Zajac gave it his best effort, but Murray sealed the Penguins‘ victory.

Murray earned the win after saving 27-of-30 (90%) leaving the shootout loss to Kinkaid, who saved an incredible 46-of-49 (93.9%).

Pittsburgh‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory sets the series record at 26-15-7, favoring the home squads by eight points.

November 26 – Day 45 – Penguins gone bad?

The only disappointing thing about all the games after Thanksgiving is that we don’t have as busy a Saturday as usual. That being said, most of today’s games have a bit of intrigue. Like usual, we get started at 7 p.m. with five games (Washington at Toronto [CBC/NHLN], Carolina at Ottawa [CITY], Montréal at Detroit [SN/TVAS], Columbus at Florida and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed an hour later by Minnesota at St. Louis. The West Coast games get underway at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Colorado (CBC/SN), trailed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps, Chicago at Los Angeles and Anaheim at San Jose, at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Detroit: Nothing rings in the holiday season like the first Original Six matchup since Thanksgiving. Yup, you read it here.
  • New Jersey at Pittsburgh: Beau Bennett and Ben Lovejoy spent a combined 11 seasons in Pittsburgh before joining Jersey this off-season.
  • Washington at Toronto: Another return to a former home stadium, but this one features Daniel Winnik.
  • Anaheim at San Jose: We always love a good rivalry, especially involved with two teams from the Golden State.
  • Chicago at Los Angeles: Another rivalry that always produces good TV.

You only make one first return of the year, and since they hoisted the Cup last season, we’ll catch Bennett and Lovejoy’s homecoming.

New Jersey Devils Logopittsburgh_penguins_logo

 

Bennett was the Penguins‘ top pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and played a total of 129 contests over four seasons with the black-and-gold, providing them 45 points over that span. This time last year, Bennett was playing regularly for Pittsburgh, although that would last only a few more weeks until injuries started piling up, limiting him to only 33 regular season and one postseason games.

Lovejoy’s tenure with the Pens is a little but longer, but it took two stints for him to reach his 184 games over seven campaigns. The defenseman made it to the NHL the hard way. Undrafted, he signed a contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2007 to, in effect, audition for a job with Pittsburgh. His 20 point, +16 season was enough to do the trick, as the Penguins signed him to a contract the next summer. By the 2010-’11 season, his AHL days were behind him, even though he was regularly a healthy scratch. That season was arguably his best in the Steel City, as he notched 17 points and a +11 in 47 appearances.

After being traded to Anaheim three games into the 2012-’13 season, Lovejoy returned to Pittsburgh at the 2014-’15 trade deadline. He played in every Stanley Cup playoff game last spring, notching six points for a +5.

Both skaters joined the Devils this offseason. Bennett was traded at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft for a third-round pick, while The Reverend left on his own will, joining New Jersey for a three-year deal for $8 million, a far cry from his first $875,000 deal with Pittsburgh in 2008.

Their Devils come to the City of Champions with a 10-6-4 record after hosting the Red Wings last night for a 5-4 overtime loss. While the offense hasn’t been enviable with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri missing time, they’ve kept afloat with a decent defense.

So far this season, New Jersey has allowed only 51 goals, tying for 11th-fewest in the NHL. With 16 starts, Cory Schneider has been has been net for most of those scores, but that’s not to say he’s had a poor season. He has a .915 save percentage for a 2.53 GAA to his credit, which ranks (t)19th and 21st fewest among the 40 goaltenders with eight or more appearances.

With only average netminding numbers, it’d be assumed that the Devils‘ defense is playing out of their mind.

All those who raised their hands are in for some learning.

Schneider faces an average of 30.6 shots against per game, tying for 12th-most in the league. Although Captain Andy Greene‘s 46-block effort has been admirable, he’s the only Devil with more than 40 blocks to his credit. The rest of the blueline needs to get involved, or the Devils may be scheduling tee times right after the regular season.

The power play has not had a lot go their way either. Jersey has been successful on only 13.4% of their attempts, sixth-worst in the NHL. Damon Severson has been the man in charge of the power play with five points to his credit, but those are all assists. The aforementioned Hall was the one with the most power play goals (three), but active Travis Zajac takes that role with two extra-man tallies on his resume.

Hosting them this evening are the 12-6-3 Penguins, who were taken to school in Minnesota yesterday, losing 6-2. While the defense has still led much to be desired, Pittsburgh‘s offense is still one of the best in the league, with 62 goals to their credit – tied for the eighth-highest total in the league.

For those worried that Phil Kessel wouldn’t work out in Pittsburgh, surely you’re doubts ended during last season’s playoffs. If not, you have to believe in the Mr. “The Thrill” now, as he’s leading his club with 21 points. That being said, it’s been Sidney Crosby finishing a lot of plays, with 14 goals in his 15 games played.

Pittsburgh is also home to the seventh-best power play, successful on 21.4% of attempts. That’s where Kessel has been at his best, earning nine power extra-man points. The same goes for Crosby, who leads the squad with five power play tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New Jersey‘s Greene (46 blocks [leads the team]) and Zajac (15 points, 10 of which are assists [both lead the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (14 goals [leads the NHL]), Kessel (15 assists [tied for second-most in the league] for 21 points [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) and Matthew Murray (1.58 GAA [tied for second-best in the league] and .945 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL]).

From what I’ve found, Vegas doesn’t seem to have a line published for tonight’s contest, which is usually a good sign. That being said, I’m not so confident. The Penguins are an incredible offense that should be able to handle anything Jersey throws at them defensively. Paired with a solid defense, Pittsburgh should earn two points.

Hockey Birthday

  • National Hockey League (1917-) – The Montréal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs and Toronto Arenas band together in what would become the greatest hockey league in the world.
  • Chris Osgood (1972-) – This goaltender played 744 games over 17 seasons, most of which with Detroit, the team that drafted him 54th-overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. At 401 victories, he still has the 10th most in NHL history, and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.
  • Keith Ballard (1982-) – He may have been drafted 11th-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, but he never played a game in a Sabres sweater. Instead, most of his 10-year career was spent in Phoenix.

New York took care of business in yesterday’s Game of the Day, beating the Flyers 3-2 in the House that Eric Lindros Built.

Two goals were struck in the opening 20 minutes, and they both belonged to the visiting Blueshirts. 13:16 after the opening puck drop, Second Star of the Game Derek Stepan (J.T. Miller) buried a snap shot to give the Rangers a lead. That lead doubled 1:34 later with Matt Puempel‘s (Jimmy Vesey and Josh Jooris) first goal as a Ranger, only four days after signing with the club.

The eventual game-winning goal found the back of the net with 7:27 remaining in the second period. Kevin Hayes tipped-in Nick Holden‘s initial shot for a 3-0 lead.

Philly tried valiantly to level the game. Only 1:34 after returning to the ice for the third period, Chris VandeVelde deflected Andrew MacDonald‘s shot into the net to pull the Flyers within two goals. The only other score the Flyers could manage was Shayne Gostisbehere‘s (Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds) slap shot with 2:04 remaining in regulation.

First Star Henrik Lundqvist earned the victory after saving 40-of-42 shots faced (95.2%), leaving Steve Mason the loss, saving 20-of-23 (87%).

New York‘s victory pulls the road squads within seven points of the home teams, who have a 25-15-7 record.

Boston Through 20

By: Nick Lanciani

Hey guys, below you’ll see a look at my current projections for Boston Bruins skaters and goaltenders through 20 games into the season. Compared with the projections entering this season, David Pastrnak is a bright spot for the Bruins, Patrice Bergeron is off to a slow start (and that will affect his season totals) and well, they’re a team that’s capable of being the team that they currently are (outside of a playoff spot).

If you’re big into plus-minus, then you might want to look away from my Boston projections for their remaining 62 games (okay 61 now technically, with their loss to Calgary on Friday night, but that game was not included in any of my calculations).

I’ll have an updated look at how the B’s are progressing through 40 games played when the time comes. Likewise, I’ll have a look at the Arizona Coyotes through 20 games, hopefully in the next few days (if not, it’s because I’m busy presenting my Corsi capstone project— wish me luck, I guess).

And as I always write:

“Keep in mind, every stat is based off of a player’s entire career and may not reflect well with the other stats projected for this current season (a.k.a. goals + assists might not equal the number of points shown in the points category), because again, each stat is forecasted individually.

Italics indicates a player currently with their respective AHL affiliate. Underlined player stats indicate a player on the IR (which, admittedly, I’ll do my best to keep up with, but might not have perfect every time, so forgive me if I mistakenly label an injury or fail to label one entirely).”

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Boston Bruins Projections- Through game 20 of 82

Bruins forwards

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Bruins goalies

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Corsi for% projections for Boston roster skaters

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For comparison, here’s how the Bruins were projected to do at Game 0 of 82 (prior to the start of the 2016-2017 regular season):

 

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November 25 – Day 44 – Broadway vs Broad Street

Get out of your turkey coma or home from your Black Friday shopping, because we have tons of hockey to keep an eye on today! The action gets started early at 1 p.m. with the New York Rangers at Philadelphia (NBC), followed three hours later by a trio of contests (Chicago at Anaheim [NHLN/SN], the New York Islanders at San Jose and Pittsburgh at Minnesota). 5 p.m. marks the puck drop of Buffalo at Washington, trailed an hour later by Winnipeg at Nashville (TVAS). 7:30 is the starting time for three matchups (Calgary at Boston, Columbus at Tampa Bay and Detroit at New Jersey), followed an hour later by Vancouver at Dallas. Finally, tonight’s nightcap, Edmonton at Arizona, drops the puck at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

There’s only one rivalry today, so lets head to Philly!

New York Rangers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

All NBC has done for the last week plus is promote this game, so it’d better be good. I think it will be, as these are the top-two offenses in the NHL, combining for 149 total scores.

The 14-6-1 Rangers are the best team in the Atlantic Division. As hinted at before, the offense has led the way with 82 goals to their credit, tops in the league.

Who better to headline the red, white and blue than two Americans? Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller pair to co-lead the forwards, both with 18 points to their credit. Most of those points have been assists, so Michael Grabner has picked up the slack by scoring the puck a dozen times, best in the Big Apple.

Whether that success as sparked the power play or vice versa, the Rangers are seventh-best playing against a short-handed team. They’re successful on 22.2% of their attempts and were led by Mika Zibanejad and his five power play points before the center broke his leg Sunday. That leaves Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Derek Stepan to lead the charge with four power play points apiece, with Nash and Pirri scoring three man-advantage goals apiece.

Winning ways lends itself to more winning ways. New York‘s penalty kill is also pretty envious, successfully defending 86.2% of their infractions to rank sixth-best in the NHL.

Hosting them this afternoon are the 9-9-3 Philadelphia Flyers. Even though the offense has been good, Philly has been held back by their lackluster goaltending that has allowed 70 goals already this year, the second-most in the league.

The Flyers‘ netminder is 5-7-0 Steve Mason, who has a .893 save percentage and 3.04 GAA to his credit – the fifth and 13th-worst, respectively, marks among the 44 goaltenders with seven or more appearances to their credit.

Unfortunately for Mason, he must take credit for his numbers, because the defense playing in front of him has been fairly good. Led by Radko Gudas‘ 44 blocks, Philly‘s blueline has allowed only 27.7 shots against per game, the sixth-fewest in the league.

Making matters worse, Michal Neuvirth injured his groin severely enough on November 11 to send him to the injured reserve list. Backup Anthony Stolarz has yet to see NHL ice in his young career, but does have a 36-33-11 record over his three AHL seasons. While I don’t expect him to see time today, he will need to be called on soon to give Mason rest.

As would be expected, Philadelphia‘s penalty kill has suffered the same fate as at even-strength. Successful on only 80.3% of their kill attempts, Philly ranks eighth-worst in the NHL when down a man.

Instead, they’ve put all their special teams efforts into the power play. Led by Claude Giroux‘ 10 power play points, the Flyers score on 25.7% of their man-advantages to rank second-best in the league. Don’t let Giroux’ efforts distract you from Wayne Simmonds though, as he’s scored five of the Flyers‘ 19 power play goals.

The rivalry between these clubs is almost as long as the Flyers‘ existence. Philadelphia is, of course, the first expansion team to hoist the Stanley Cup, but history was actually made the series before they earned the hardware. A “Second Six” club had never beat an Original Six franchise until Philly bested the Blueshirts in the semifinals of the 1974 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Whether that makes Boston‘s defeat in the Finals more or less painful is still up for discussion.

All-time, this series is knotted at 151-151-37, but Philadelphia has the playoff series advantage, winning six of 11 postseason meetings. That being said, the Rangers won the most recent playoff meeting in the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with a 2-1 Game 7 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this afternoon include New York‘s Dan Girardi (+12 [tied for fourth-best in the league]), Grabner (+19 [best in the NHL] on 12 goals [tied for second-most in the league]), Hayes (+15 [third-best in the NHL]), Captain Ryan McDonagh (+12 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and, on the off-chance he plays, Antti Raanta (.934 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the NHL]) & Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (10 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Even though they’re on the road, Vegas favors the Rangers in today’s contest. I’m comfortable with that pick. Since both teams have potent offenses, it boils down to a goalie dual: Henrik Lundqvist vs Mason. I’ll take the Swede any day.

Hockey Birthday

  •  Eddie Shore (1902-1985-) – A defenseman that spent all but 10 of his 550 NHL games with Boston, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice. Visitors to the TD Garden can see his No. 2 hung in the rafters.
  • Gilbert Delorme (1962-) – The 18th-overall selection in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, this defenseman played 541 games over his nine-year career with five different clubs.
  • Magnus Arvedson (1971-) – This left wing played seven NHL seasons, most of which with Ottawa. He had a phenomenal sophomore season, notching 47 points.
  • John-Michael Liles (1980-) – Another defenseman, he was traded to Boston at last season’s deadline from Carolina. That being said, most of his NHL days have been spent in Colorado.

Ottawa has been featured three times in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and with a 3-1 victory over the visiting Bruins, they improve their series record to 3-0-0.

With 11 seconds remaining in the first period, David Pastrnak (Matt Beleskey and Brad Marchand) capitalized on a power play opportunity with a backhander to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

The Senators pulled even with 6:37 remaining in the second period with a First Star of the Game Mark Stone (Mike Hoffman and Dion Phaneuf) wrister. It was the lone goal of the middle frame, setting up an exciting third period.

Only 6:28 after returning to the ice, Ottawa notched their winning goal with a Chris Wideman wrister, and an insurance goal 3:48 later from Second Star Kyle Turris (Bobby Ryan) sealed the Sens‘ victory.

Third Star Craig Anderson notches another victory after saving 19-of-20 shots faced (95%), leaving Tuukka Rask with the loss, saving 23-of-26 (88.5%).

Ottawa‘s home victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 25-14-7, favoring the hosts by nine points over the roadies.

November 24 – Day 43 – I’m thankful for hockey

On behalf of Down the Frozen River, allow me to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. Unless you’re Canadian, because I’m 43 days late.

Oops.

All I’ve heard this week is about how Thanksgiving is about food, family and football. While these things may be true, you and I both know they’re missing one vital thing: hockey. Luckily for us, the NHL has us covered with two games tonight – Carolina at Montréal (NHLN/RDS/SN360) and Boston at Ottawa (RDS2). Both drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.

One game is between two quality Atlantic Division rivals. The other features the team fifth from the bottom in the Eastern Conference standings. You tell me which one we’re watching.

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Welcome to the Canadian Tire Centre the 11-8-0 Boston Bruins, a team that has been led by their defense and goaltending so far this season, which is surprising giving last season’s effort.

At 228 goals, the Bruins allowed the 12th-most goals against in the league last year. This season, they allow only 2.32 per game – the fifth-best rate in the NHL. That success starts with 11-3-0 Tuukka Rask, who has a 1.57 GAA on a .942 save percentage, the third and sixth-best effort, respectively, among the 44 netminders with seven or more appearances.

Part of the reason Rask has found such success is the blueline playing in front of him. He has faced only 27.3 shots per game this year, the fourth fewest in the league. In comparison, the Bruins allowed 30.4 a season ago. That three-shot improvement has been headlined by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 41 blocks, trailed closely by rookie Brandon Carlo‘s 38. A defensive specialist, the youngster has been a fantastic call-up effectively straight from the juniors (he played only six games at the end of the year in Providence).

As could be expected, the Bruins‘ defensive success has carried to the penalty kill, where they tie for seventh-best in the league with a 85.7% success rate.

Where Boston falters is on the power play. Led by David Krejci‘s five power play points (even though David Pastrnak has three goals on the man-advantage), the Bruins rank ninth-worst in the NHL with the man-advantage, as they’re successful on only 14.8% of their attempts.

The 11-7-0 Senators are the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, and just like Boston, I’ve been most impressed with their defense and goaltending, as they’ve only allowed 49 goals against, which ties for 11th-fewest in the NHL.

9-4-0 Craig Anderson has been the man between the pipes most often for the Sens, earning a .928 save percentage for a 2.32 save percentage – the 11th and 17th-best effort among those 44 goaltenders mentioned earlier with seven or more appearances.

In comparison to Rask, it doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere near as successful. But that’s too easy an answer. Anderson faces 31.6 shots-per-game, the sixth-highest rate in the NHL, and second-highest among clubs that would qualify for the playoffs if they started today. To put it plainly, this blueline simply is not cutting it. The top-three defensemen (Cody Ceci [42], Captain Erik Karlsson [53] and Dion Phaneuf [41]) may have over 40 blocks to their credit, but the rest of the team has yet to break the 24-block mark. Their efforts need to improve soon, or else General Manager Pierre Dorion may be forced to make a move if he wants his team to qualify for the postseason.

One facet of the game where Ottawa certainly has the advantage is on their penalty kill. Pairing with Boston‘s poor power play, Ottawa has the fourth-best penalty kill, nullifying 86.4% of their infractions. Of course, Jean-Gabriel Pageau remains a scoring threat on the penalty kill, as he had nine short-handed points last season to lead the league.

Boston regains the advantage when the Senators earn the power play. Led by Mike Hoffman‘s two power play goals, Ottawa has found the back of the net on only 10.5% of their extra-man attacks – the second-worst rate in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Chara (+12 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]), Pastrnak (10 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (11 wins [tied for most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league], on a 1.57 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and a .942 save percentage [seventh-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (two shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] among nine wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

This should be a fantastic game, and not just because the other game probably won’t be as good. Vegas doesn’t have a line marked for this one, but I’m favoring the Bruins to pull off the road upset.

Hockey Birthday

  • Keith Primeau (1971-) – This center was the third-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit. In 2000, his first season in Philadelphia, he ended the longest overtime playoff game in NHL history by burying a game at the 92:01 mark. Yes, you read that right: that’s over a game-and-a-half of play.
  • Christian Laflamme (1976-) – A defenseman, he was drafted 45th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, where he spent most of his eight seasons.

I expected New York to put the whipping on the Penguins at Madison Square Garden, but the opposite happened, with Pittsburgh winning 6-1.

The lone goal of the first period was the only shot that got past Matthew Murray. 4:22 into the game, Rick Nash (Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello) scored a power play wrister to give the Blueshirts an early lead.

The Penguins began their five-goal second period onslaught only 2:02 after returning to the ice with a wrist shot from Scott Wilson (Second Star of the Game Phil Kessel and Third Star Nick Bonino). 2:56 later, First Star Sidney Crosby (Ian Cole) gave Pittsburgh a lead they would not yield.

Kessel (Bonino), Crosby (Kris Letang) and Conor Sheary (Crosby and Carl Hagelin) all added insurance goals in the second, and Matt Cullen (Justin Schultz and Eric Fehr) notched another in the third.

Murray earns the victory after saving 16-of-17 shots faced (94.1%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving 13-of-17 (76.5%). He was replaced following Crosby’s second goal after 32:57 of play by Antti Raanta, who saved 19-of-21 (90.5%) for no decision.

Pittsburgh‘s victory is the fourth-straight for the visiting teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. It pulls the roadies within seven points of the homers, who have a 24-14-7 record.

November 23 – Day 42 – Do Penguins even like apples?

In anticipation of tomorrow’s holiday, we have tons of hockey on the schedule today, so let’s jump right in. Six games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Winnipeg at Minnesota [SN360], Detroit at Buffalo, Toronto at New Jersey [SN1], Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers, St. Louis at Washington and Calgary at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Philadelphia at Tampa Bay (NBCSN), and Dallas at Nashville (TVAS) gets underway a 8 p.m. to finish the first wave of games. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with three contests (Chicago at San Jose [NBCSN], Edmonton at Colorado and Vancouver at Arizona), followed 30 minutes later by tonight’s nightcap, the New York Islanders at Los AngelesAll times eastern.

There’s at least six games that could qualify for the Game of the Day, but only one is a rematch from last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Back to Manhattan for the second time in four days!

pittsburgh_penguins_logoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

We all remember how the Penguins‘ postseason ended, but New York painfully recalls how it began. Their playoffs ended almost as quickly as they began, as the Pens won their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup in five games on a combined score of 21-10.

Offense has been the name of the game for the 11-5-3 Penguins, notching 54 goals en route to second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Phil Kessel is a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game. Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion. Phil Kessel for president. It’s all been said before, but for good reason: the second-year Penguin leads his club in points with 18. The goal-scoring title still belongs to Captain Sidney Crosby at 12 tallies though, currently a tally behind his goal-per-game rate.

That offense has translated well to the special teams, as Pittsburgh ranks fourth-best in the NHL with a 23.4% success rate on the power play. This has been where Kessel has shined, as half his points have been with the man-advantage. Similarly, Crosby leads the squad with five power play goals.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, these 14-5-1 Rangers are not the ones they played seven months ago. Those Blueshirts averaged only 2.8 goals per game, but this year’s edition scores 4.05 tallies per contest, far and away the highest rate in the league.

Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller have been at the forefront of the assault, both notching 18 points apiece. Hayes’ have been evenly distributed between goals and assists, while the left wing has 10 assists to his name. Michael Grabner has been the goal sniper for the club with a dozen notches on his stick.

Madison Square Garden is home to the eighth-best power play in the league, as the Blueshirts are successful on 21.7% of attempts. The injured Mika Zibanejad was lead the Rangers in that department with five power play points, but a broken leg has forced him to hand that mantle off to Brandon Pirri and Derek Stepan, who each have four points. Pirri has been the more impressive of the two on the man-advantage, as he’s scored three power play goals.

New York‘s penalty kill has also been pretty darn good, nullifying 85.5% of their opposition’s extra-man advantages to rank seventh-best in the league.

This game is actually the second in a home-and-home series. These squads just met Monday at PPG Paints Arena, where the Blueshirts won 5-2.

While watching tonight, make sure to keep an eye on New York‘s Dan Girardi (+14 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]), Grabner (+19 [best in the league] on 12 goals [tied for most in the NHL]), Hayes (+17 [second-best in the league] on 18 points [tied for second-most in the NHL], including nine goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]), Nick Holden (+13 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]), Henrik Lundqvist (nine wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (.938 save percentage [eighth-best in the NHL] for 2.04 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Ryan McDonagh (+14 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]) and Miller (+13 [tied for sixth-best in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (12 goals [tied for most in the NHL]), Kessel (14 assists [tied for third-most in the league]) and Matthew Murray (1.68 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] on a .945 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]).

The Rangers have a -130 next to their name, and I don’t question that in the least. They’ve been one of the best stories in the NHL so far and, better than that, they’ve been one of, if not the best team in the league. Home ice, a strong penalty kill, and an incredible offense all adds up to a Blueshirt victory.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Saku Koivu (1974-) – Selected 21st-overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, this Finnish center captained the squad for 10 seasons, which ties Jean Beliveau for longest in club history, and was the first European to take the job. He won the Masterton and King Clancy Trophies once each.
  • Colby Armstrong (1982-) – Another 21st-overall selection, but this time in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh. This right wing played 476 games in eight seasons, most of which with the organization that drafted him. He notched 209 points over the course of his career.
  • Nicklas Backstrom (1987-) – The fourth-overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has played his entire career with Washington, leading the franchise all-time in assists.
  • Gabriel Landeskog (1992-) – The captain of the Avalanche was the second-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Playing left wing, he notched the 150th assist of his career on November 11.

Heading into last night’s game, Montréal had a perfect record in their DtFR Game of the Day series. After a run-in with the rival Senators, they can’t say that anymore.

Things opened looking like a defensive standoff, as there wasn’t a goal scored in the first period. That all changed 26 seconds into the second frame when Shea Weber (Second Star of the Game Andrei Markov) buried a power play slap shot to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. It lasted only 4:56 before First Star Mike Hoffman (Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson) returned the favor with a golden power play snap shot to level the score. Montréal once again took the lead at the 7:39 mark with a wrister from Alexander Radulov (Alex Galchenyuk and Markov), but the Sens were up to the challenge once again when Derick Brassard (Hoffman and Stone) buried a backhand with 4:05 remaining in the frame to tie the score at 2-2.

Again Montréal tried to pull away in the third period with a Galchenyuk (Markov and Weber) power play slap shot 2:08 into the third period, but for the third time Ottawa pulled even, this time on a Stone (Hoffman and Brassard) wrister 1:05 after Galchenyuk’s tally. The Sens took their first lead with 14:23 remaining in regulation with a Karlsson (Zack Smith) wrister to set the score at 4-3, which proved to be the winning score.

Third Star Craig Anderson earns the victory by saving 36-of-39 shots faced (92.3%), while Carey Price saved 19-of-23 (82.6%) in the loss.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 24-13-7, favoring the home sides by nine points over the roadies.