Welcome to the weekend. It’s been waiting for you.
I know you have big plans for these 48 hours, but make sure to make some room for hockey. There’s quite a selection of games today, starting with Dallas at Philadelphia (SN1) at 1 p.m., followed three hours later by Ottawa at Los Angeles (RDS). Five games start at the usual 7 p.m. time (Toronto at Boston [CBC/NHLN], Colorado at Montréal [CITY/SN360/TVAS], Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, Vancouver at Florida [SN] and the New York Islanders at Columbus), trailed an hour later by Nashville at Arizona. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Winnipeg at Calgary (CBC/SN) and tonight’s nightcap – Carolina at San Jose – drops the puck half an hour after. All times eastern.
- Toronto at Boston: Everybody loves an Original Six matchup!
- Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay: Last season, it took seven games for the Penguins to best the Bolts in the Eastern Finals.
- Vancouver at Florida: The first five seasons of Erik Gudbranson‘s career was spent in Florida, but since this offseason he’s called British Columbia home.
- Winnipeg at Calgary: Tonight’s contest is the first meeting of the season between these rivals.
Since Gudbranson will only make one trip to the Sunshine State this season – barring an improbable Canucks–Panthers Stanley Cup Finals – we’ll follow Vancouver to the BB&T Center.
Welcome home Gudbranson. The defenseman was the third-overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he made his NHL debut only a season later. It was a quick introduction to the senior club, as skipping an introductory stop in San Antonio, Florida‘s AHL side.
Gudbranson made an immediate impact on the club, always playing 64 or more games for the Panthers (barring, of course, the 2012-’13 lockout). Over the course of his tenure in Florida, Gubdranson was known as a violent player – the most physical in the dressing room. He threw an impressive 754 hits while playing for the Panthers (the 11th-most among the 484 eligible over that time-span), including a hit season in 2014-15 where he landed 2.8 hits per game.
He also performed his primary duties well, blocking 344 shots before catching a plane to Canada, the third-most for the franchise during his tenure.
He found his way to Vancouver this summer in a trade that included a total of three 2016 draft picks (evenctually becoming Jonathan Ang and Adam Mascherin for Florida and Cole Candella for Vancouver) and Jared McCann joining the Panthers.
He joins a 12-13-2 Canucks club that currently occupies sixth place in the Pacific Division. Much of the reason his team hasn’t found success is not his fault, as it is the offense that has not been producing. Vancouver has notched only 62 goals so far this season, the fourth-fewest in the NHL.
As usual, the Sedins are doing all they can to keep the Canucks alive. Daniel Sedin leads the squad with 18 points, but brother Henrik Sedin is right behind with 17. Bo Horvat joins D. Sedin for the scoring lead, as they both have lit the lamp eight times.
Unfortunately for Vancouver, neither 18 points nor eight goals breaks the top-50 in scoring this season – yet those are the numbers leading their team. That’s not a good sign for the other forwards expected to produce scoring.
Much of those struggles can be attributed to a lackluster power play. Vancouver ties for the fifth-worst power play in the league, converting only 14.1% of opportunities. Once again, who else to lead the Canucks but the Sedins? They both have six man-advantage points for top in the clubhouse, but D. Sedin probably deserves more credit as he has three power play goals.
Impressively, Vancouver has certainly buckled down on their own end when facing the man-advantage. Their 84.9% ties for seventh-best in the NHL, and was led by Alexander Edler and his 10 shorthanded blocks before he broke a finger. The man of the hour is right behind, notching nine for second-most, and has been expected to assume the role Edler left behind.
Playing host this evening are the 12-12-4 Florida Panthers, currently the sixth-best team in the Atlantic Division. Similarly to Vancouver, it has been their offensive struggles that have held them back from greater success. The Panthers have notched only 64 goals this year, tying for fifth-fewest in the game.
Jon Marchessault has been the man in charge of that offense, as he’s notched 19 points this season and 10 goals – already the best mark of his NHL career after only 25 games – to lead the squad. Unfortunately for the Panthers, he has been sidelined for the past week, and his status is unknown for tonight’s game. In his stead, Florida turns to Aleksander Barkov, who has 18 points on his campaign, and the three goalscorers (Aaron Ekblad, Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck) that tie for second-most goals on the team with six apiece.
If the Canucks‘ power play is bad, the Panthers‘ is much, much worse. They tie for worst in the league, successful on only 13.5% of their attempts. Once again, that was Marchessault’s responsibility before he got hurt, as his seven points and three power play goals both led the team. Florida is left with Barkov (five power play points), Jagr (three goals among five points) and Keith Yandle (five power play points )to pick up the slack while their breakout star is healing his lower-body injury.
Fortunately, the penalty kill has been outstanding, negating 85% of their infractions for the sixth-best mark in the league. Michael Matheson has headed that department with seven shorthanded blocks to his name.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Barkov (13 assists [leads the team]) and Trocheck (72 hits [leads the team]) & Vancouver‘s Gudbranson (61 hits [leads the team]) and D. Sedin (18 points [leads the team]).
Vegas has marked Florida a -205 favorite this evening, but I think that’s a little strong given both teams play a similar style. If Marchessault can go, I think the Panthers can win, but without him I think the Canucks can pull off the road victory.
- Rob Blake (1969-) – Los Angeles drafted this defenseman in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, and he played 805 games over 14 seasons for the Kings. He was a member of the 2000-’01 Colorado club that hoisted the Stanley Cup, as well as on the coaching staff for the 2013-’14 champion Kings. His number 4 hangs in the Staples Center rafters for being a seven-time All-Star and winner of the 1998 Norris Trophy.
- T.J. Hensick (1985-) – A 2005 NHL Entry Draft selection by Colorado, he’s appeared in 112 senior-level games. His longest stint in the NHL was in 2008-’09, when he played 61 games for the Avs.
When your first goal of the season is a game-winner, you’re going to have a good night. Ask the Ducks, who beat San Jose 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Anaheim got the scoring started relatively quickly, as Rickard Rakell‘s (Third Star of the Game Shea Theodore and Corey Perry) wrist shot found the back of the net only 4:44 after beginning play. With 4:54 remaining in the frame, the Ducks doubled their score with a wrister from Second Star Antoine Vermette (Theodore and Nick Ritchie), but Brent Burns (Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski) and San Jose reeled them back in with six ticks remaining in the frame, setting the score at 2-1 going into the first intermission.
The Sharks knotted the score at two-all 8:40 into the second period with a Kevin Labanc (Logan Couture and Joel Ward) snapper, only his third tally of the season. That score held to the end of the frame, setting up an exciting third and final period.
This entire business week has been dominated by the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as their fifth-straight victory gives them an 11-point advantage over the roadies for a 34-19-8 record.