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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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.