The long weekend is coming to an end, but not before we get six more games in. Today’s action gets started at 1 p.m. with two contests (Nashville at Winnipeg and Tampa Bay at Boston), followed two hours later by Arizona at Edmonton (SN). Whether you consider 6 p.m. a matinee or an evening game, it marks the start of Florida at Carolina. An hour later Ottawa visits the New York Rangers (NHLN/TVAS), trailed by Calgary at Philadelphia half an hour after. All times eastern.
I know it will be the sixth time in the last eight days that we’ve featured one of these two teams, but Derick Brassard is making his first trip back to Madison Square Garden of the year.
Brassard found his way to the Big Apple at the 2013 trade deadline during his sixth season with Columbus, the club that drafted him. The center played 254 games with the Rangers over his four campaigns, notching 174 points, plus an additional 44 over 59 playoff appearances.
His two most successful seasons so-far were played on this surface. In 2014-’15 he notched a career-high 60 points, which he missed by only two points in his 27-goal campaign a season later.
Coming off that 2015-’16 season, the Rangers shipped him off to the Canadian capital in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick. It’s a trade that has worked out well for both clubs, as each skater ranks top-six in points for their new squad.
Ottawa enters tonight’s game with a 13-7-1 record and riding a three-game winning streak, the best active in the Eastern Conference. They’ve made it to second-best in the Atlantic Division by allowing only 51 goals, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.
A defensive breakdown always starts with the goaltender, in this case the 11-4-1 Craig Anderson. He’s reached that mark with a .932 save percentage and 2.15 GAA, the ninth and (t)12th-best effort among the 41 netminders with eight or more appearances.
Those numbers are even more impressive given how taxed he is. The Sens‘ blueline allows 31.1 shots to reach the cage a night, the ninth-highest average in the league. Erik Karlsson‘s 64 blocks are impressive, but he has 20 more deflections than Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf, who tie for second-most. I’ve been saying it all season, and I’ll say it again: the blueline has to improve if Ottawa doesn’t want to face the same fate as they did last year (read: no playoffs).
Anderson has continued his success on the penalty kill, as opponents’ power plays have been rejected 85.2% of the time – the eighth-best effort in the NHL.
The power play is Ottawa‘s Achilles heel, as their 10% success rate is second-worst in the NHL. Mike Hoffman and Karlsson have been the skaters leading the extra-man charge with four power play points to their credit, and Hoffman leads the team with two man-advantage goals.
Hosting Ottawa this evening are the 15-6-1 Rangers, the best club in the Metropolitan Division. Offense has been the name of the game in New York, as their 85 goals is best in the league by 17 tallies.
After 22 games, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller tie for the Blueshirt scoring lead with 19 points apiece. That being said, it’s been Michael Grabner who has scored the most goals – two more, in fact, than Hayes. In all, 22 skaters have gotten involved in the scoring, an incredible total.
As you’d probably expect, the success has continued to the power play where New York ranks sixth-best with a 21.5% success rate. This is really where the Rangers cashed in on their trade with Ottawa: Zibanejad leads the club with five power play points. That being said, those are all assists, leaving Rick Nash and Brandon Pirri to score three extra-man goals apiece to co-lead the squad.
The Rangers‘ success doesn’t stop there, though. The penalty kill has been equally as impressive, nullifying 86.2% of their infractions to rank sixth-best in the NHL.
Some players to keep an eye on tonight include New York‘s Dan Girardi (+12 [tied for fifth-best in the league]), Grabner (+20 [leads the NHL] on 12 goals [tied for second-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Miller (+13 [fourth-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (11 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] including two shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]).
It looks like it’s another game where Vegas doesn’t have a favorite. I don’t feel very comfortable with that pick, as the Rangers are arguably playing the best hockey in the league right now. I think they can handle the Senators tonight, especially playing at Madison Square Garden.
- Pierre Mondou (1955-) – This center was the 15th-overall pick in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal. He played eight seasons and nine postseasons with the club, totaling 616 total games played. Two of those playoff appearances ended with him hoisting the Stanley Cup.
- Chad Kilger (1976-) – Selected fourth-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim, this right wing spent most of his 714 games in Toronto.
They needed a shootout, but the Penguins bested New Jersey 4-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.
The only goal of the first frame belonged to the visiting Devils. Second Star of the Game Mike Cammalleri (Kyle Palmieri) takes credit for the tally struck only 3:33 after taking the ice that gave Jersey a 1-0 lead.
Mike Sullivan didn’t seem to like that very much, as Pittsburgh quickly took the lead in the second frame. 1:23 after returning to the ice, the Pens found themselves tied after a Jake Guentzel (First Star Evgeni Malkin and Trevor Daley) wrister. 1:15 later, Tom Kuhnhackl‘s (Malkin and Steven Oleksy) first goal of the season put Pittsburgh ahead. That lead lasted only 1:22 before Vernon Fiddler buried an unassisted, shorthanded backhander to level the game at two-all. The final score of the frame was struck with 41 seconds remaining before the 10-minute mark. Cammalleri (Pavel Zacha and John Moore) takes credit again, this time with a power play slap shot, to give Jersey a 3-2 lead going into the third frame.
With 14 seconds remaining in regulation, who else than Third Star Sidney Crosby (Bryan Rust and Malkin) to come to the rescue for the Pens? His late wrister leveled the score to force three-on-three overtime, which proved to be scoreless.
The shootout featured a lot of saves. A lot of saves. Pittsburgh took the first attempt…
- Malkin opened the shootout to a Keith Kinkaid save.
- P.A. Parenteau went next, only to be saved by Matthew Murray.
- Crosby? Kinkaid.
- Cammalleri? Yup, you guessed it. Murray said “no way.”
- Leave it to a defenesman to bury a goal. Kris Letang beats Kinkaid to force a miss-and-lose scenario for New Jersey.
- Travis Zajac gave it his best effort, but Murray sealed the Penguins‘ victory.
Murray earned the win after saving 27-of-30 (90%) leaving the shootout loss to Kinkaid, who saved an incredible 46-of-49 (93.9%).
Pittsburgh‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory sets the series record at 26-15-7, favoring the home squads by eight points.