December 9 – Day 58 – The Tank empties into The Pond

You made it through another week of work, so you deserve to watch some hockey. Washington at Buffalo gets things started at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (Columbus at Detroit and St. Louis at New Jersey). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Edmonton at Minnesota, with the New York Rangers visiting Chicago (NHLN) 30 minutes later. San Jose at Anaheim (SN) acts as this evening’s nightcap, getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list

  • New York at Chicago: It’s an Original Six matchup between two of the top teams in the league.
  • San Jose at Anaheim: This rivalry may not have existed 25 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching.

It’s been a long time since we’ve checked in on the Ducks, so let’s head out to the Honda Center!

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The reigning Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks are well on their way to making their second-straight playoff appearance, as their 15-10-1 is third-best in the Pacific Division. They’ve gotten to that position by playing some good goaltending and even better defense, yielding only 55 goals so far this season – the third-fewest in the NHL.

Martin Jones has only had three days off, but that hasn’t affected him much. He has a 13-9-1 record with a .92 save percentage and 2.04 GAA to rank (t)14th and seventh-best among the 36 netminders with 12 or more appearances.

An impressive GAA paired with a less-impressive save percentage is almost always due to an impressive defense. San Jose is definitely one of those cases. Led by Justin Braun and Brent Burns‘ co-leading 48 blocks, the Sharks‘ blueline has allowed only 25.8 shots to reach Jones’ crease per game, the best rate in the league.

Hosting that strong defense this evening are the 13-9-5 Ducks, the club sitting in fourth place in the Pacific Division. Anaheim is a well-rounded team, but I’m more impressed by their offense that has scored 72 goals this season, a total that ties them for 14th in scoring.

Ryan Kesler has been the man in charge of the Ducks offense so far this season, leading the club with his 23 points as well as his 12 goals. But, it hasn’t been just him. Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry join Kesler in the 20+ point club.

One of the main reasons for this success has been the Ducks‘ opportunistic play. Kesler’s 11 power play points has led Anaheim to converting 22.1% of their man-advantages, the sixth-best rate in the league. The incredible center has completed a lot of those attacks, taking credit for seven of the 19 extra-man tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (20 assists [tied for second-most in the league]) and San Jose‘s Jones (13 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league], on a 2.04 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Anaheim a -112 favorite, but I like the underdog in tonight’s contest. San Jose has a superior defense going against a slightly above-average offense. Unfortunately, I’ve been wrong in my last few picks, so we’ll have to see if it’s the Ducks or Sharks that are grateful I’ve sided with NorCal.

Hockey Birthday

  • Germain Gagnon (1942-2014) – This left wing may have only played five seasons, but he played for four different clubs in that relatively short amount of time. Although he appeared on three Chicago teams, he played most of his 259 games for the Islanders.
  • Pit Martin (1943-2008) – 1101 games were played over 17 NHL seasons by this center, most of which with the Blackhawks. Although he never won a Stanley Cup, he did claim the 1970 Masterton Trophy.
  • Dana Murzyn (1966-) – Hartford selected this defenseman fifth-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his days in Vancouver. After playing his amateur days in Calgary, he joined the Flames in 1988 and played on the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team.
  • Petr Nedved (1971-) – Nearly half of this center’s career was spent playing with the Rangers, but he was drafted second-overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver. By the time his NHL days came to a close, he’d played for seven teams.

For the second time in four days, and coincidentally the same statecommonwealth, goaltending took the night off in the DtFR Game of the Day in favor for a barn-burner as Philadelphia beat Edmonton 6-5.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the visiting Oilers. Third Star of the Game Leon Draisaitl (Jesse Puljujarvi and Kris Russell) scored a snap shot 4:39 into the game to give Edmonton an early lead.

That lead doubled 4:35 into the second period when Connor McDavid (Draisaitl and Milan Lucic) buried a power play snap shot, but Philly reeled them in when Mark Streit (Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov) buried a slap shot 7:56 later to set the score at 2-1. The Flyers leveled the score with 6:36 remaining in the frame when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Andrew MacDonald and Chris VandeVelde) scored his first goal of the season with a snapper. Philadelphia scored again 19 seconds later to take their first lead, courtesy of a flying First Star Claude Giroux (Second Star Jakub Voracek) slap shot. The Oilers didn’t like that very much, so Andrej Sekera (Mark Letestu and McDavid) buried a shorthanded slap shot to tie the game at three-all going into an exciting final period.

As crazy as the second period was, the third was even more wild. With goals from Benoit Pouliot (Draisaitl and Sekera) and Oscar Klefbom (Jordan Eberle and Drake Caggiula) at the 3:07 and 5:12 marks respectively (Klefbom’s was on the power play), the Oilers had a strong 5-3 lead. But it would end up not even yielding a point. A Voracek (Shayne Gostisbehere and Giroux) power play snap shot pulled the Flyers back within a goal at the 6:31 mark, followed 5:40 later by a Giroux (Radko Gudas and Voracek) snap shot to tie the game. The game stayed tied until 89 remained – that’s when Michael Raffl (Voracek and Streit) buried his game-winning snap shot.

Steve Mason took the victory after saving 28-of-33 shots faced (84.8%), leaving the loss to Jonas Gustavsson, saving 25-of-31 (80.6%).

Philadelphia‘s home victory is the fourth-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day series. They join with previous home teams to set the hosts’ record at 33-19-8 in that series, leading the visitors by nine points.

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