November 20 – Day 39 – Here come some cool cats

It’s a Sunday, but don’t despair: you have five NHL games to watch, starting with Columbus at Washington (SN) at 12:30 p.m. 5 p.m. marks the beginning of Winnipeg at Carolina, followed two hours later by Florida at the New York Rangers. 7:30 brings with it the start of Calgary at Detroit (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by Los Angeles at AnaheimAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Florida at New York: Keith Yandle and Dylan McIlrath bring their new friends back to The World’s Most Famous Arena.
  • Los Angeles at Anaheim: Game 2 of the Freeway Face-off goes down tonight!

It’s been close to a month since we’ve focused on the Rangers, so let’s head to the Big Apple.

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Yandle’s tenure with the Blueshirts began at the 2014-’15 trade deadline after playing nine seasons with the Coyotes. Though his time in Manhattan was not extremely long, his impact was certainly felt – he notched 58 points over 103 games to average over half a point-per-contest.

He joined that Rangers club that narrowly missed the Stanley Cup Finals by losing a Game 7 to Tampa Bay. During that playoff run, he notched 11 points – the fourth-best effort of the team.

McIlrath was drafted 10th-overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, but he only played 38 games with the club before making his way south. Last season was certainly “The Undertaker’s” most impressive as he earned four points in his 34 games played in addition to taking on Wayne Simmonds in a scrap.

Both players were traded to the Panthers, but at different times. Yandle came into the season knowing he would be playing in the Sunshine State, as his rights were traded in the offseason and he signed with his new squad soon after. McIlrath joined Florida only a dozen days ago in a swap for Steven Kampfer and a late 2018 draft pick.

Their Panthers are 9-8-1 coming into tonight’s game, good enough for fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Overall I believe they’re a good team, but they’ve been held back early this season by a slightly below-average offense.

So far this season, Florida has struck 49 goals to average 2.72 per game. Leading the charge has been Jon Marchessault with his 14 points, with eight of those being goals. 21 different players have been involved in the scoring this season, including an assist from Roberto Luongo against Toronto in late October.

Playing host this evening are the 13-5-0 Rangers, who lead the Metropolitan Division by a point. Although the defense and goaltending has been great this year, that success is 100% – maybe even more – due to their incredible offense.

74 goals have been scored this season by the team in blue. Think about that. 74 goals in 18 games. For those bad with math, that’s 4.11 scores per game, almost three-quarters of a goal more than second place. They’ve been led by J.T. Miller and his 17 points, but it’s been Michael Grabner who’s finished the strikes with 11 goals to his credit.

Much of that success can be attributed to New York playing the fifth-best power play in the league. They’ve been successful on 23.2% of their attempts,  with Mika Zibanejad leading the extra-man charge with five power play points on his resume.

The penalty kill has been no slouch either. New York has neutralized 85.7% of their infractions to rank eighth-best in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on include Florida‘s Marchessault (14 points, including eight goals [both lead the team]), Alex Petrovic (+8 [leads the team]) and Yandle (eight assists [leads the team]) & New York‘s Kevin Hayes (+15 [third-best in the NHL]), Nick Holden (+13 [fifth-best in the league]), Grabner (+17 [best in the NHL] with 11 goals [third-most in the league]), Henrik Lundqvist (nine wins [tied for third-most in the NHL]) or Antti Raanta (.938 save percentage [eighth-best in the NHL] for a 2.05 GAA [ninth-best in the league]) and Miller (+14 [fourth-best in the league]).

Bets are off for this game!

Hopefully this game lives up to it. That being said, I’m not too concerned about the Rangers taking this game. The Panthers played last night in Ottawa while the Blueshirts were dormant in their homes. I expect New York to pull within two points of Montréal for the Eastern Conference lead.

Hockey Birthday

  • John Van Boxmeer (1952-) – This defenseman was the 14th overall selection in the 1972 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, but he’s more known for his 294 games over four seasons in Buffalo. The Sabres qualified for the playoffs every season he was with the club.
  • John MacLean (1964-) – Drafted sixth in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey, MacLean played right wing for 18 seasons. He won one Stanley Cup in his career with the team that drafted him in 1995.
  • Max Pacioretty (1988-) – This left wing has played each and every one of his 500 games with Montréal, the team that drafted him 22nd-overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Montréal‘s fifth-straight victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series was a 2-1 win over the rival Maple Leafs.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it caused cheers among the Bell Centre faithful. Paul Byron (Third Star of the Game Shea Weber and First Star Alexander Radulov) scored a backhand with 4:15 remaining in the opening frame to give the Habs a 1-0 victory.

Only 32 seconds into the second period, the Canadiens doubled their lead with an Alex Galchenyuk (Radulov and Weber) power play wrister. It proved to be the game-winner, as William Nylander (Leo Komarov and Auston Matthews) capitalized on a Leafs power play 8:15 later with a wrister of his own, but it proved to be Toronto‘s lone tally of the night.

Second Star Carey Price earned the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.9%), while Frederik Andersen takes the loss saving 27-of-29 (93.1%).

The Habs‘ victory sets the Game of the Day series at 24-12-5, favoring the home sides by 13 points over the roadies.