December 6 – Day 55 – On either end of the spectrum

It’s another busy Tuesday in the NHL! Per usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. with four games (Edmonton at Buffalo, Vancouver at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [SN1] and Florida at Philadelphia), trailed an hour later by three more (Montréal at St. Louis [RDS], Colorado at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroit at Winnipeg). Two contests (Arizona at Chicago and Calgary at Dallas) share nightcap responsibilities, and they fulfill that duty quickly dropping the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.

  • New York at New York: In addition to being bitter rivals, the Rangers barely held off the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division a season ago.
  • Calgary at Dallas: Jyrki Jokipakka played the last two seasons in the American Airlines Center, but tonight he wears white with the visitors.

Since the defenseman never played a full season in Dallas, I think we need to tune in to the Battle of New York.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I’m as disappointed as you that this is probably definitely a cover. Not only did I check it by ear, but Shazam also won’t recognize this cut of the track. Dang you, Taylor Swift, and your restrictive and inconvienent, yet probably well-informed distrust of music streaming sites!

Anyways, the Rangers enter tonight’s game with a 17-8-1 record and have the opportunity to surpass Montréal for the best mark in the Eastern Conference should the Habs fall. They’ve gotten to that position riding their incredible offense that has struck 95 goals already this season, far-and-away the most in the league.

For most teams, 19 points should not be leading the club. Unless that club is the Rangers, which has two 19-point scorers, followed by an 18-pointer, three 17-pointers, etc. You get the idea. Those two leaders with 19-points are Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Both those skaters’ impacts have been evenly split between goals and assists, which leaves the scoring lead open to Michael Grabner, who has already lit the lamp 13 times this season.

Effectively, the easiest thing to say about New York‘s offense is this: Almost. Every. Single. Skater. Is. A. Weapon. You have been warned, Brooklyn.

Part of the reason for that success has been a successful power play. The Rangers‘ 22.7% conversion rate ranks sixth-best in the NHL. Led by Rick Nash‘s team-leading four extra-man goals and six power play points, the Blueshirts have struck 17 man-advantage goals already this season.

The other special team has also been very good. The Rangers‘ penalty kill ranks ninth-best, stopping their opposition 85.1% of the time. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of credit for the success, as he leads the team with 13 shorthanded blocks.

As good as the Rangers have been, the Islanders have been bad. In fact, they are the worst team in the conference, due almost entirely to their lackluster offense, capable of only 61 goals so far this year – the seventh-fewest in the league.

Nineteen seems to be the magic number in the Big Apple, as that’s exactly how many points Captain John Tavares has as well. Unfortunately for him, he’s not backed by a bunch of others with similar totals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson have tied for second-most productive, but with only 15 points on their resumes. Three skaters lead the Isles with six goals: Anders Lee, Nelson and Tavares.

Not surprisingly, the power play hasn’t treated the Boys from Brooklyn any better. Their 11.6% success rate with the man-advantage is the worst in the league. Equally expected, Tavares has taken the lead on this department of play as well, as his five power play points is best on the team, as do his two man-advantage tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include the IslandersDennis Seidenberg (+12 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & the Rangers‘ Grabner (+19 [best in the NHL] on 13 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (12 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (.931 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]).

I pick New York to win this game.

In all seriousness, there should be no way the Rangers lose this game. Vegas has marked the Islanders a +120 underdog, and I think that’s far too narrow a margin. It won’t pay out much, but if you’re the gambling type you should definitely pick the Blueshirts.

Hockey Birthday

  • Matt Niskanen (1986-) – The 28th-overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas, this defenseman is currently in his third season with Washington. So far this season, his nine points is second-most among the Capitals‘ defensive corps.

If you like offense and goal-scoring, yesterday’s Game of the Day was for you, as Pittsburgh beat the visiting Senators 8-5.

Hopefully this summary won’t be too long-winded.

First Star of the Game Bryan Rust (Second Star Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang) opened the scoring for Pittsburgh only 1:45 into the game, but their lead lasted only 6:33 before Kyle Turris (Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman) leveled for the Senators. The Penguins regained the lead only 27 seconds before Sidney Crosby (Conor Sheary and Ian Cole) regained the lead with a wrist shot. 6:16 before the first intermission, Erik Karlsson (Mark Stone) buried a wrist shot to tie the game at two-all.

A minute after returning to the ice, Stone’s (Dion Phaneuf and Karlsson) power play backhander gave the Sens their first lead of the game, which doubled 6:08 later when Mike Hoffman (Karlsson and Stone) scored a power play snap shot. Matt Cullen (Rust) set the score at 4-3 with a shorthanded backhander only 80 seconds later, and Third Star Phil Kessel (Justin Schultz and Cole) tied the game with 5:47 remaining in the second period. Schultz (Malkin and Kessel) scored a goal of his own 24 seconds later to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead that held into the second intermission.

Malkin (Kessel) takes credit for the eventual game-winning goal with a backhander only 1:05 after retaking the ice. Ottawa could manage only one more goal in the game, courtesy of a Phaneuf (Turris and Karlsson) wrister at the 6:17 mark. Rust scored both insurance goals, the first a penalty shot and the second an empty-netter assisted by Chris Kunitz and Brian Dumoulin.

Matthew Murray takes credit for Pittsburgh‘s victory, saving 17-of-18 shots faced (94.4%). He replaced starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who saved 12-of-16 (75%) before being replaced after Hoffman’s lead-taking goal 7:08 into the second period. Fleury, of course, earned no decision.

Craig Anderson takes the loss after saving 36-of-43 shots faced (83.7%). He was replaced by ex-Penguin Mike Condon with 7:24 remaining in regulation (the score was then 7-5), who was the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker before Rust’s third goal. Condon saved both shots he faced and, just like Fleury, he earned no decision.

The Penguins‘ victory increases the home sides’ lead over the roadies to four points in the DtFR Game of the Day series, advancing their record to 30-19-8.

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