December 11 – Day 60 – Round Three for Me

Like U2 said, it’s basically just another Sunday in the NHL. The league has scheduled eight games for us to watch, starting with Ottawa at Anaheim (TVAS) at 4 p.m. Two more games drop the puck at 5 p.m. (Philadelphia at Detroit and Vancouver at Washington), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Minnesota to complete the afternoon matinees. Three contests get green-lit at the usual 7 p.m. starting time (Dallas at Chicago, Colorado at Toronto [SN] and New Jersey at the New York Rangers), with Winnipeg at Edmonton, this evening’s nightcap, waiting until 9:30 p.m. to get underway. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New Jersey at New York: The Battle of the Hudson River finally gets underway in the 2016-17 season.
  • Winnipeg at Edmonton: Similarly, this rivalry makes it’s first visit to Rogers Place.

I expect the late game to one of the better games of the day, so we’re off to The Big E.

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It’s the second of Winnipeg‘s two-game, two-day weekend road trip. Looking to avoid their third-straight loss, the Jets will try to overcome goaltending that has allowed 92 goals, which ties for second-most in the league.

Connor Hellebuyck has been the man between the pipes for the Jets more often than not this season, and has earned a 10-9-1 record in those 20 starts. To claim that record, he’s set a .908 save percentage and 2.73 GAA, both numbers the 30th-best effort among the 44 netminders with 10 or more appearances so far this season.

Disappointingly, much of that responsibility rests on his shoulders. Although the Jets don’t have an exceptional defense, they allow only 29.9 shots to reach the net each game, the 13th-fewest among all clubs. That effort has been headlined by defensive extraordinaire Dustin Byfuglien, who has already prevented 54 shots from reaching Hellebuyck’s cage.

Not surprisingly, Winnipeg‘s penalty kill has also suffered so far this year. Negating only 77.9% of their infractions, the Jets‘ penalty kill ranks fifth-worst in the league. Don’t tell Toby Enstrom though, as he has an impressive 15 shorthanded blocks to his credit to not only lead the team, but tie for 10th-most in the entire NHL.

The power play has also been fairly unimpressive. Even with rookie Patrik Laine‘s nine power play points (seven of which are goals, which also leads the club), the Jets have found success on only 15.4% of opportunities to rank seventh-worst in the league.

Hosting Winnipeg this evening are the 14-11-5 Oilers, a team sitting in third place in the Pacific Division. Much of the reason they’ve been able to find such success this season has been due to their explosive offense, which ranks fifth-best in the NHL after scoring 89 goals.

He was the number one pick in last season’s draft, and every game proves that Peter Chiarelli made the right decision (not that it was in any doubt). Connor McDavid is the king of River City, already notching 38 points this season. While his dozen goals are impressive, it’s been Leon Draisaitl with the scoring lead, burying 13 goals so far this year.

To continue the onslaught, Edmonton is home to the fifth-best power play in the game, converting 22.1% of their opportunities. The usual suspects have both led the man-advantage with 11 points apiece, but it has been Draisaitl with seven power play goals.

The penalty kill has also been very impressive for the Oil. They’ve refused to yield a power play goal in 84.4% of situations, the ninth-best rate in the league. Heading the shorthanded goal-stopping effort has been not-so-new-anymore addition Kris Russell, who has 15 undermanned blocks to his credit.

This matchup has already been played twice this season, with Edmonton winning both games by a combined 9-3, in Manitoba no less.

Some players to keep an eye on include Edmonton‘s Draisaitl (13 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]), McDavid (38 points, including 26 assists [both lead the NHL]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] among 13 wins [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) & Winnipeg‘s Nikolaj Ehlers (19 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]), Laine (17 goals [third-most in the NHL]) and Mark Scheifele (14 goals [tied for fifth-most in the league] for 28 points [10th-most in the NHL]).

A quick search did not yield a line for this game, so it looks like the know-it-alls in the desert are calling this one too close to call. I like the Oilers to win. Not only does Winnipeg have a losing skid hanging over them, but their special teams pale in the face of Edmonton‘s.

Hockey Birthday

  • Moose Vasko (1935-1998) – This defenseman’s given name might have been Elmer, but his nickname Moose was more descriptive of his efforts over his 13 seasons. Most of that time was spent in Chicago, where he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1961.
  • J.P. Parise (1941-2015) – He may have never hoisted the Stanley Cup, but this left wing was twice an All-Star. Most of his 594-point career was spent in Minnesota with the North Stars.
  • Daniel Alfredsson (1972-) – The greatest scorer in Senators history, this right wing was drafted by the club in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. By the time his 17 seasons in Ottawa were complete, he’d notched 1108 points. His number 11 will be retired on December 29.
  • Mark Streit (1977-) – A Montréal draft pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman is in his fourth season in Philadelphia.

By scoring in each period, the Panthers were able to defend home ice against Vancouver 4-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Florida didn’t wait too long to get the scoring started. Their lone goal of the first period was struck only 2:22 into the match by First Star of the Game Aleksander Barkov (Third Star Seth Griffith) with an impressive wrist shot.

With 25 seconds remaining until the midway point of regulation, Derek MacKenzie (Paul Thompson and Colton Sceviour) lit the lamp with a tip-in goal to set the score at 2-0, which held into the second intermission.

Aaron Ekblad (Jaromir Jagr and Barkov) buried what proved to be the winning goal only 1:05 into the final frame with a backhanded shot. The Canucks finally got on the board at the 8:06 mark with a Jack Skille (Michael Chaput) wrister to pull within two, followed 3:39 later by a power play tally from Daniel Sedin (Troy Stecher and Henrik Sedin), but the comeback met its end with 48 seconds remaining in regulation when Vincent Trocheck (MacKenzie and Mark Pysyk) scored on an empty net.

Second Star Roberto Luongo earned the victory after saving 37-of-39 shots faced (94.9%), while Jacob Markstrom takes the loss, saving 38-of-41 (92.7%).

With a win today from Edmonton, the home teams will complete their week-streak over the roadies in the DtFR Game of the Day series. This success has given the hosts a 35-19-8 record, with favors them by 13 points over the visitors.

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