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