November 21 – Day 40 – If you get stuck in an Avalanche, I recommend more than a Jacket

Hey buddy, how’s it going? Oh, first day back at work this week got you down? I know how to fix that: watch hockey.

We’ve got a decent little selection to choose from this evening, starting with three at 7 p.m. (Calgary at Buffalo, the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh and Colorado at Columbus), followed by Tampa Bay at Nashville (TVAS) an hour later. Minnesota at Dallas finds its start at 8:30, with Chicago at Edmonton (SN/SN1) dropping the puck at 9 p.m. Finally, New Jersey at San Jose – this evening’s nightcap – gets green-lit at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Colorado at Columbus: Fedor Tyutin spent eight seasons in central Ohio, but returns tonight wearing different colors.
  • New York at Pittsburgh: Last season, these clubs met up in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where the Pens won in five games.
  • Minnesota at Dallas: Another quarterfinals rematch, but from the Western Conference. Dallas won in six games.

Since Colorado makes only one trip to Nationwide Arena a year, we’ll catch Tyutin’s homecoming.

Unknown-1Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

 

Tyutin joined Columbus during the off-season preceding the 2008-’09 season after being traded by the New York Rangers for Dan Fritsche and Nikolai Zherdev.

While playing for the Jackets, the defenseman notched 185 points in 553 games. Then again, that wasn’t his primary objective. Ohioans remember him most for his physical, selfless play, sacrificing himself 788 times to prevent a puck from finding the net, and another 735 times hurling himself at opposing skaters.

Certainly not quite as momentous, Rene Bourque is also making a return to Columbus. He played 57 games over two seasons with Columbus. Why his return is special will be revealed shortly.

These days, they’re wearing burgundy sweaters – Tyutin  after being the odd-man out in Columbus cap-space moves, and Bourque after not getting his contract renewed. Their Avs are 8-9-0 for last place in the Central Division, due almost entirely to a flailing offense.

Colorado has only managed 36 goals so far this season in their 17 games to average 2.12 per game. Nathan MacKinnon has led the charge (if you can call it that) with 12 points to his credit, but it has been Matt Duchene finishing the plays with six tallies to his credit.

Herein lies the Avalanche‘s first issue: their leading goalscorer hasn’t seen the ice in over a week after suffering a concussion on November 12. This is where Bourque comes in: with five goals to his credit, he is the leading active goalscorer for the club.

Even though defense is what has kept the Avalanche somewhat competitive, they have one fatal flaw: the penalty kill. Successfully nullifying 78.9% of their infractions, Colorado ranks seventh-worst in the NHL. Their poor success rate is due almost entirely to committing too many penalties. The Avs have faced 71 power plays already this year, tying for fourth-most in the league.

The 10-4-2 Blue Jackets play host this season, currently laying claim to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. That position goes well with their four-game winning streak, which ties with Carolina and Tampa Bay for longest-active in the NHL right now.

They’ve gotten there with strong goaltending. With a .931 save percentage and 2.19 GAA, Sergei Bobrovsky for his 10-4-1 record, ranking sixth and ninth-best in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with eight or more appearances to their credit.

What makes Bobrovsky’s efforts more impressive is the fact that the blueline in front of him hasn’t been exactly impressive. Jack Johnson leads the club with 28 blocks.

28.

Let that set in for a minute.

For a team having the success the Jackets are this season, they allow 31.5 shots on the cage per game, the eighth-highest average in the NHL. Should Columbus want to really be a threat this postseason, they’ll need to add something to their defensive corps.

Offensively, Columbus‘ forte has been nothing but their power play. They’ve been successful on 31.8% of their extra-man attempts, tops in the league. Alexander Wennberg has been the man-in-charge on the power play with 10 power man-advantage points to his credit. That being said, it’s been Cam Atkinson completing most of those plays, potting four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Colorado‘s Erik Johnson (46 blocks [leads the team]) and MacKinnon (12 points [leads the team]) & Columbus‘ Bobrovsky (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] of his 10 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Wennberg (14 assists [tied for the league-lead]).

For the second night in a row, bets are off for our Game of the Day. That being said, I don’t have anywhere near the expectations I had for yesterday’s Florida at New York contest. Columbus should easily handle the visiting Avalanche.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Alex Tanguay (1979-) – This left wing played 16 NHL seasons, most of which with the club that drafted him 12th-overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft: Colorado. He was a part of the 2001 Avalanche team that hoisted the Stanley Cup.
  • Ben Bishop (1986-) – No time to celebrate, this goaltender has a game tonight in Nashville.

It took a shootout, but Florida was able to earn two points in the World’s Most Famous Arena by beating the Rangers 3-2.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it brought the home fans to their feet. With 6:45 remaining in the frame, Chris Kreider (Derek Stepan and Marc Staal) buried a wrister to set the score at 1-0.

Third Star of the Game Keith Yandle was the whole reason we featured this game, and he came through in a big way for Florida, scoring (Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov) with 5:17 remaining on a power play slap shot to level the score going into the second intermission.

Only 1:45 after returning to the ice for the final frame, Mika Zibanejad (Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey) scored for the Rangers, but that lead lasted only 6:09 before Aaron Ekblad (Jakub Kindl and Trocheck) tied the game at two-all, the score that held not only to the end of regulation, but also through the three-on-three overtime period.

  1. Zuccarello went first for New York, but was saved by First Star James Reimer.
  2. Trocheck went next and gave the Panthers a 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Next up for the Blueshirts was Brandon Pirri, who was also saved.
  4. Barkov ends the shootout for the Panthers with a goal.

Reimer saved 33-of-35 (94.3%) for the victory, forcing Second Star Henrik Lundqvist to take the shootout loss saving 28-of-30 (93.3%).

Florida‘s shootout victory only pulls the road teams back within a dozen points of the home sides, as the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 24-12-6.

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