November 7 – Day 26 – Buffalo-Boston bout

We’ve got three games on the schedule this evening, and they’ll all be played at almost the same time. Two games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Buffalo at Boston [SN/TVAS] and Vancouver at the New York Islanders (NHLN]), with Tampa Bay at Florida going underway half an hour later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Buffalo at Boston: Over 40 years this rivalry has been waged, including eight playoff series. Not only does it rage in the TD Garden this evening, but also at DtFR headquarters.
  • Tampa Bay at Florida: Round two of the Governor’s Cup goes down tonight.

Given that Boston and Buffalo are tied on points, we’ll catch their game in the City on a Hill.

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The Sabres entered the league in 1970, and the rivalry has only intensified since. Boston has a 156-141-29 all-time advantage over the Sabres for a well-contested series in addition to their eight postseason meetings.

They last met in the playoffs during the 2009-’10 season in the Eastern Quarterfinals, with Boston winning the series 4-2. That victory gave the Bruins a 6-2 series record against Buffalo in the playoffs, but they were upset a round later that year by Philadelphia.

The Sabres enter tonight’s game with a 5-4-2 record. While they have had some offensive struggles with Nicolas Deslauriers, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane finding themselves on the injury report, Buffalo has stood strong on the defensive end, allowing only 24 goals against – the fourth-best mark in the league.

Robin Lehner has started eight games for Buffalo this year, accounting for a 4-3-1 record on a .929 save percentage and 2.14 GAA. Given the defense playing in front of him, those numbers are very good. The Sabres defense has allowed 334 shots to reach their goaltenders already this season, which breaks down into 30.4 shots against per game.

Should the Sabres want to continue improving (odds are good that they do), more than Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen, who have 22 and 20 blocks respectively, need to contribute to alleviate pressure on their goaltender. Zach Bogosian has blocked the third-most shots so far this season, and only has 15 to his credit.

The special team Buffalo is most proud of has been their power play, which accounts for 32% of their goals. The Sabres have been successful on 22.22% of their attempts, which ranks as the ninth-best effort in the NHL, and half of their eight power play goals have been scored by Matt Moulson.

Boston enters the night with a 6-5-0 record, a position I feel they are fortunate to be in. Defense and goaltending has been the strength of the Bruins, if you could call an end of the ice that has allowed 32 goals in 11 games a strength. The offense has been even poorer, scoring only 25 times.

Last season, Boston was home to the fifth-most potent offense in the NHL, scoring 236 goals to average 2.88 per game. Almost a month into the season, the Bruins average only 2.27 goals per game to rank fifth-worst. Brad Marchand has done a good job to lead the team with 13 points, trailed closely behind by David Pastrnak‘s 10, but the remaining Bruins have yet to break the five-point mark.

If the Bruins don’t figure their offense out, at least they can hang their caps on having the 10th best penalty kill in the league. Allowing eight extra-man tallies against, they’ve killed 83.33% of their penalties.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Marchand (nine assists [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]), Pastrnak (seven goals [tied for fourth-most in the league] and a +11 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]) and Tuukka Rask (six wins [tied for fourth-most in the league], including a shutout [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) & Buffalo‘s Anders Nilsson (1.95 GAA [10th-best in the league] on a .937 save percentage [10th-best in the NHL]), Kyle Okposo (five goals [leads the team]) and Ristolainen (eight assists [leads the team]).

Boston has been marked by Vegas with a -160 advantage, but I think they’re wrong. I’m picking the upset due to Buffalo‘s defense being more than able to contain the Bruins‘ anemic offense.

Hockey Birthday

  • Michel Picard (1969-) – This left wing played 166 games over nine seasons in the NHL with six teams, 36.7% of which were in St. Louis from 1997-’99. Nowadays, he’s an amateur scour for the Blues.
  • Mike Commodore (1979-) – The 42nd overall selection in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played 484 games over 11 seasons, mostly with Carolina, the team he won his lone Stanley Cup with.
  • Pascal Leclaire (1982-) – The eighth overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and first goaltender selected, Leclaire played 173 games over seven seasons to total a 61-76-15 record. Most of those games were played with the team that drafted him: the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With two goals in the second period, the Anaheim Ducks beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Ducks found the scoreboard first, and didn’t wait long to do it. 2:29 after beginning the game, First Star of the Game Clayton Stoner (Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf) scored a wrister to give Anaheim the lead. With 3:45 remaining in the period, Calgary drew even when Alex Chiasson (John Gaudreau and Sean Monahan) found the back of the net for the Flames. The one-all score held into the first intermission.

The Ducks were quick starters again in the second period, waiting only 3:18 before Second Star Ryan Kesler (Perry and Getzlaf) scored the game-winning wrister.

Andrew Cogliano (Jakob Silfverberg and Josh Manson) and Kesler (Perry and Getzlaf) scored the two insurance goals for Anaheim to secure the victory.

Third Star Jonathan Bernier earns the victory after saving 25-of-26 shots faced (96.2%), while Chad Johnson takes the loss after saving 17-of-21 (81%).

Anaheim‘s victory on the Pond pads the home squads’ lead in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the homers’ record at 15-10-3 to lead the roadies by four points.

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