January 31 – Day 104 – A real test

I hope you enjoyed your All-Star break, because we’re back on the hockey circuit and won’t stop until April 9.

I tried to make that sound as bad as possible, but I think all I did was make hockey fans more excited.

We get back to action with a bang, as all but two teams are fighting for two points tonight. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when four games (Washington at the New York Islanders, Columbus at the New York Rangers, Nashville at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Carolina) drop the puck, trailed half an hour later by another quartet of contests (Buffalo at Montréal [RDS], New Jersey at Detroit, Boston at Tampa Bay [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Ottawa at Florida [RDS2]). Winnipeg at St. Louis gets underway at 8 p.m., followed 30 minutes later by Toronto at Dallas. 9 p.m. marks beginning of two matches (Minnesota at Edmonton and Los Angeles at Arizona), with Colorado at Anaheim (SN/SN1) waiting until 10 and tonight’s nightcap, Chicago at San Jose, dropping the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Washington at New York: It’s rivalry night in Brooklyn.
  • New Jersey at Detroit: Kyle Quincey was drafted by the Wings and spent eight seasons with the club over two stints.

Sorry Quincey, but since Doug Weight has taken control of the Islanders, they’ve been playing as well as anybody. This rivalry cannot be missed tonight, as it will show a lot about New York‘s potential for the rest of the season.

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

Yes, the Isles have gone 4-0-1 since Weight has taken over, but they have yet to face the likes of the 33-10-6 Capitals. Then again, there’s not many that can claim to be as good as Washington either, as they have a three-point lead over the second-best team in the league.

The reason for their success? Their defensive prowess. The Caps have allowed only 102 goals this season, the fewest in the league.

As it does with every defensive team, it all starts with the goaltender: 24-8-4 Braden Holtby. Last year’s Vezina winner has a season .93 save percentage and 1.96 GAA, the second-best effort in the league among the 45 goalies with at least 19 appearances.

But Washington doesn’t simply rely on one of the best netminders in the game – they also play impressive defense. Led by Karl Alzner‘s team-leading 97 shot blocks, the Capitals allow only 28.2 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s crease, the seventh-best effort in the NHL.

As you’d expect from a defense of that caliber, opposing power plays don’t find very much successes against the Caps. Washington is the home of the fourth-best penalty kill in the league, stopping 85.1% of opposing man-advantages dead in their tracks. Once again, Alzner leads that effort. as his 27 shorthanded blocks both top the team and tie for second-most in the league.

After reading that, fans that follow the 21-17-9 Islanders closely are already a little bit concerned, because they know where, even if they are riding a two-game winning streak, their team has struggled this season: on the offensive end.

He’s no Mike Bossy, but the Islanders offense is, for the third-straight season, all about Captain John Tavares. Once again, he leads the club with 40 points and 19 goals, but the big issue this year is that there is no more than one other major offensive threat. Beyond Anders Lee and his second-most 17 tallies, there is not another scorer on the team with more than 10 goals. In comparison, the Capitals have five players that have lit the lamp 13 or more times.

This is no more apparent than when New York is on the power play, as they’ve only converted 14.6% of opponents’ penalties into goals – the fifth-worst rate in the league. It’s the same folks leading this effort, as Tavares’ 11 power play points are tops on the team, as are his and Lee’s five power play goals.

That all being said, it seems Weight, himself a successful center during his playing days, is working to resolve that. Since he’s taken command of the ship, his team has scored a combined 16 goals over five games (3.2 goals per game), well above their season average of 2.87. That includes their last two contests when they beat the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky and Carey Price with seven total goals.

One thing not entirely in Weight’s bailiwick is the penalty kill, which has also been a liability this season. New York is 10th-worst on the season when down a man, yielding a goal 19.9% of the time even though Calvin de Haan has done all he can to keep pucks off net with his team-leading 24 shorthanded blocks. Since Weight has taken over the Islanders, the penalty kill has performed well 81.8% of the time, which ties for 11th-best over that stretch.

Tonight is the rubber match between these clubs, as they both finished their last meeting with identical 2-2-0 records in the series. That game was on December 27, and the Isles used the energy of the filled-to-capacity Barclays Center to beat the visiting Capitals 4-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.928 save percentage [fifth-best in the NHL] for a 2.25 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Dennis Seidenberg (+21 [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (34 assists [tied for second-most in the league] among 47 points [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]), Holtby (six shutouts [most in the league] and a 1.96 GAA [tied for second-best in the NHL] and .93 save percentage [third-best in the league] for 24 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), Dmitry Orlov (+21 [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Brooks Orpik (+27 [tied for second-best in the NHL]) and Alex Ovechkin (23 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

I know that the Islanders are rolling right now, but I expect Washington to be too good defensively to let New York break through. Obviously the goal is to win, but the Isles remaining competitive in this game will be a major indicator to see if they can overtake the Flyers for the eight seed before the season ends.

Hockey Birthday

  • Camille Henry (1933-1997) – This center played almost exclusively for the Rangers over his 14-season career, and they were happy to have him. He was a three-time All Star and won the 1954 Calder and 1958 Byng trophies.
  • Bob Turner (1934-2005) – Although this blueliner played only eight seasons, they were eight impressive ones. All but two of his campaigns were spent in Montréal, and he was awarded with just as many Stanley Cups as All-Star nominations: five.

2017 NHL All Star Game Live Blog

Game One: Central Division vs. Pacific Division

1st Half Scoring

2:57- GOAL- Cam Fowler (1) assisted by Johnny Gaudreau (1) and Bo Horvat (1) 1-0 Pacific

3:39- GOAL- Jeff Carter (1) assisted by Drew Doughty (1)  2-0 Pacific

7:07- GOAL- Jonathan Toews (1) unassisted 2-1 Pacific

7:13- GOAL- Connor McDavid (1) assisted by Ryan Kesler (1) 3-1 Pacific

8:00- GOAL- Brent Burns (1) assisted by Connor McDavid (1) 4-1 Pacific

9:49- GOAL- Drew Doughty (1) assisted by Joe Pavelski (1) and Jeff Carter (1) 5-1 Pacific

2nd Half Scoring

2:14- GOAL- P.K. Subban (1) assisted by Tyler Seguin (1) 5-2 Pacific

2:33- GOAL- Johnny Gaudreau (1) assisted by Bo Horvat (2) and Cam Fowler (1) 6-2 Pacific

4:15- GOAL- Joe Pavelski (1) assisted by Jeff Carter (2) and Drew Doughty (2) 7-2 Pacific

4:39- GOAL- Vladimir Tarasenko (1) assisted by Tyler Seguin (2) 7-3 Pacific

5:43- GOAL- Ryan Kesler (1) assisted by Brent Burns (1) and Connor McDavid (2) 8-3 Pacific

6:29- GOAL- Bo Horvat (1) assisted by Cam Fowler (2) 9-3 Pacific

6:42- GOAL- Johnny Gaudreau (2) assisted by Cam Fowler (3) and Martin Jones (1) 10-3 Pacific

Pacific Division 10 Central Division 3 FINAL

Game Two: Atlantic Division vs. Metropolitan Division

1st Half Scoring

2:12- GOAL- Wayne Simmonds (1) unassisted 1-0 Metropolitan Division

4:06- GOAL- Nikita Kucherov (1) assisted by Vincent Trocheck (1) and Victor Hedman (1) Tied 1-1

4:49- GOAL- Wayne Simmonds (2) unassisted 2-1 Metropolitan Division

6:30- GOAL- Victor Hedman (1) assisted by Nikita Kucherov (1) and Vincent Trocheck (2) Tied 2-2

7:13- GOAL- Erik Karlsson (1) assisted by Kyle Okposo (1) 3-2 Atlantic Division

8:45- GOAL- John Tavares (1) assisted by Cam Atkinson (1) Tied 3-3

2nd Half Scoring

:50- GOAL- Auston Matthews (1) assisted by Brad Marchand (1) and Shea Weber (1) 4-3 Atlantic Division

1:31- GOAL- John Tavares (2) assisted by Cam Atkinson (2) and Justin Faulk (1) Tied 4-4

1:45- GOAL- Seth Jones (1) unassisted 5-4 Metropolitan Division

1:50- GOAL- Taylor Hall (1) unassisted 6-4 Metropolitan Division

3:15- GOAL- Nikita Kucherov (2) assisted by Vincent Trocheck (3) 6-5 Metropolitan Division

6:26- GOAL- Sidney Crosby (1) assisted by Justin Faulk (2) and Alex Ovechkin (1) 7-5 Metropolitan Division

6:35- GOAL- Cam Atkinson (1) assisted by John Tavares (1) 8-5 Metropolitan Division

7:45- GOAL- Cam Atkinson (2) assisted by John Tavares (2) 9-5 Metropolitan Division

8:54- GOAL- Vincent Trocheck (2) assisted by Nikita Kucherov (2) 9-6 Metropolitan Division

9:59- GOAL- Alex Ovechkin (1) assisted by Sidney Crosby (1) and Justin Faulk (3) 10-6 Metropolitan Division

Metropolitan Division 10 Atlantic Division 6 FINAL

Game Three: Metropolitan Division vs. Pacific Division

1st Half Scoring

:22- GOAL- Joe Pavelski (2) assisted by Drew Doughty (3) and Jeff Carter (3) 1-0 Pacific Division

1:25- GOAL- Seth Jones (2) assisted by Taylor Hall (2) and Justin Faulk (4)  Tied 1-1

4:09- GOAL- Justin Faulk (1) assisted by John Tavares (3) 2-1 Metropolitan Division

4:40- GOAL- Connor McDavid (2) assisted by Ryan Kesler (2) Tied 2-2

7:52- GOAL- Bo Horvat (2) assisted by Johnny Gaudreau (2) 3-2 Pacific Division

2nd Half Scoring

4:57- GOAL- Cam Atkinson (3) unassisted Tied 3-3

5:02- GOAL- Wayne Simmonds (3) assisted by Taylor Hall (3) 4-3 Metropolitan Division

Metropolitan Division 4 Pacific Division 3 FINAL

2017 Honda NHL All Star Game MVP- Wayne Simmonds, Metropolitan Division

January 26 – Day 103 – Governor’s Cup

This is it, guys. The last day of hockey until next Tuesday. Cherish it. Don’t take it for granted.

That shouldn’t be too hard as every club, with few exception, is in action this evening. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when five games get underway (Pittsburgh at Boston [TVAS], Washington at New Jersey, Montréal at the New York Islanders [RDS], Toronto at Philadelphia and Los Angeles at Carolina), followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (Calgary at Ottawa [RDS2] and Tampa Bay at Florida). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of two more matchups (Columbus at Nashville and St. Louis at Minnesota [NBCSN]), and two more games (Winnipeg at Chicago and Buffalo at Dallas) follow suit 30 minutes later. Vancouver at Arizona gets underway all by themselves at 9 p.m., as tonight’s nightcap – Edmonton at San Jose – starts 90 minutes later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Calgary at Ottawa: Alex Chiasson spent the last two seasons in the Canadian capital before making his way to southern Alberta.
  • Tampa Bay at Florida: The Governor’s Cup rages on in the Sunshine State.

It doesn’t seem like much on the surface, but the game in Sunrise this evening could be just the ticket for either – or both – of these teams to turn their season around following the break.

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Both of these clubs had so much optimism coming into this season, yet here we are, the last day before the All-Star break, and neither of these teams are currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

We turn our attention first to the 22-22-5 Lightning, current occupants of 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Their plight is an issue they haven’t faced in a long time: poor goaltending, which has allowed 142 goals this season in eight games: the eighth-worst rate in the league.

Although it’s been an almost even split of time, 11-11-3 Ben Bishop remains the netminder of choice for Jon Cooper. This season has easily been his worst since moving to Tampa, as he’s managed only a .905 save percentage and 2.78 GAA – the 36th and 34th-best efforts in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 13 appearances.

While the defense playing in front of him is far from the best in the league, they are not below average. Led by Victor Hedman‘s 78 shot blocks, the Bolts‘ defense has allowed only 30 shots against-per-game, which ties for 13th-best in the league.

One thing that is certainly going right for the Lightning is the power play. Tampa has found success on 22.7% of opportunities, the fifth-best rate in the league. Hedman has sparked that attack with his 18 power play points, but it’s been Jonathan Drouin completing most of those plays with his team-leading seven man-advantage goals.

Playing host this evening are the 20-19-10 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division and 10th-best in the East. Florida‘s main struggle this year has been their offense, which has managed only 111 tallies – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With his team-leading 33 points, Vincent Trocheck has tried his hardest to pull his club towards its goal, but he’s struggling to find a dance partner as his 18 goals are also the clubhouse lead. Unfortunately, if it weren’t for him and Jon Marchessault, no skater on the club would have more than nine goals. These two skaters take credit for nearly 28% of the Panthers‘ goals.

The lack of weapons catches up with Florida on the power play, where their 15.2% success rate is seventh-worst in the league. Marchessault and Keith Yandle share the team-lead with 10 power play points, and Reilly Smith has the most power play goals with six. It would seem like there are more weapons, but Trocheck has actually struggled on the power play, scoring only two goals with the man-advantage. The Panthers have become very predictable offensively, regardless of circumstance.

Similar to their northern counterparts, all hope is not lost due to the opposite special team. Florida‘s penalty kill, led by Mark Pysyk‘s team-leading 10 shorthanded blocks, is fifth-best in the league by refusing to yield a power play goal on 84.3% of opposing opportunities.

The Panthers are not only the current owners of the Governor’s Cup, but they are also well on their way to retaining it a second-straight time. They already have a 1-0-1 record against Tampa Bay, including winning their most recent meeting on November 7 by a score of 3-1 on this surface.

While neither team is in the position the would like, the beauty of the Eastern Conference is that no one – no, not even last place Detroit – is anywhere near out of contention. Philadelphia, the current owner of the second wildcard, has 54 points to their credit, only four more than Florida and five more than Tampa.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Trocheck (33 points, including 18 goals [both lead the team]) and Tampa Bay‘s Hedman (31 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Florida is a -108 favorite according to Vegas, due almost entirely to having home ice. Each team’s strength aligns with the opposition’s strength, as do their respective weaknesses. Especially since I’m a defensive-minded fan, I like the Panthers‘ odds of earning two points this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Wayne Gretzky (1961-) – For those who aren’t interested in a long-winded detail, there’s a reason this center is called The Great One. For everybody else, this two-time Hall of Famer played in 18 All Star games and won a total of 35 trophies: four Stanley Cups, five Byngs, nine Harts, five Pearsons, 10 Ross and two Smythes.

For those hoping the rivalry would help the Red Wings play up to Toronto‘s level, that is no where near what happened. Instead, the Leafs shut Detroit out on their own ice, winning 4-0 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With an unassisted tally only 5:30 into the contest, First Star of the Game Auston Matthews takes credit for the game-winning tally on a solid backhand. It was the lone goal of the first period.

Toronto started laying on the insurance goals with 4:25 remaining in the second period, courtesy of a Roman Polak (Matt Hunwick and Nazem Kadri) slap shot.

James van Riemsdyk (Nikita Zaitsev and Martin Marincin) and Nikita Soshnikov (Second Star Frederik Andersen) provided the last two goals in the third period.

Andersen saved all 22 shots he faced to earn the shutout victory, leaving the loss to Petr Mrazek, who saved 24-of-28 (85.7%).

Toronto‘s road victory is the first in three days in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and it pulls visitors within four points of the 54-35-16 hosts.

Sick Hands Sunday (Half Way Point) – Bobrovsky Robs the Lime Light from Everyone for This Special “SHS”

Hey, everyone, I’m back again for a new week of Sick Hands Sunday! I can’t wait to get another version out to all my fans for you all to enjoy! This week was a little easier to pick the winner so let’s get right into it! I am very sorry for my post coming out two days late, I was busy with school work and just work and general and could not find time to write until now. This week I am going to do basically a Sick Hands of the Month but players up to the half way point since we have played 41 games. Let’s get to it! I decided not to have the lineup like pictures to be different than the regular “SHoTM”

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Connor McDavid

So for the centermen position, this one was extremely hard to choose for one main reason. The two guys were Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, who both went back and forth holding the lead in points up to the half way point. I decided to go with McDavid simply because of his ability to put up these ridiculous numbers with the lesser of the two teams between the Pens and the Oilers. Don’t get me wrong, Sid’s numbers were amazing too but the way McDavid was able to produce with just one or two guys around him makes him the winner over Crosby who has basically a whole team around him. McDavid, up to this point, has tallied a stunning 56 points in only 49 (1.14 P/PG) games which included 16 goals and FORTY as assists. Yes, I had to put that in all caps because someone who almost has the same amount of helpers then he does games is amazingly good! He’s totaled 16 power play points with two of them being goals and the other 14 being apples. McDavid also grabbed one shorthanded point, five game-winning goals which is third in the whole league, and one overtime goal. Last but not least, McDavid is also the league leader in points (56) and assists (40). So as you can tell, he was on a tear and couldn’t be stopped. If McDavid keeps it up and the Oilers get help from other players, they have a good chance to go far. Here is one of my favorite goals of his first half:

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Brad Marchand

The next position, the left winger, I decided to go with Boston Bruin Brad Marchand who stuck it out over the Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. Marchand finished with 19 goals and 28 assists for a total of 45 points in 50 games at the halfway point in the season. His 17 goals ranked third among left wingers and his 28 assists ranked first by just one helper. He also tallied 12 total power play points with three of them happening to be goals as well as three total short-handed points (which ranks second) with two of them being goals (which ranks second)!  Last but not least Marchand totaled four game winning goals which happened to be third best for left wingers so he knew how to end games in style. Marchand also averaged 0.92 points per game, which may seem bad, but it’s actually pretty good for his points to game ratio and that’s ranked first out of all the left wingers in the show! Marchand seems to be carrying the Bruins offensive workload into the halfway point of the season. If they want to make the playoff’s they are going to need his offensive magic to rub off on everyone else around the locker room! Here is one of my favorite goals of his first half (Sorry for the video quality, I couldn’t find a better one):

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Patrick Kane

Now let’s shift to the position I played when I was playing growing up, right wing, which is my favorite to play out there! I decided to narrow it down between Patrick Kane and a surprising candidate in Cam Atkinson out of Columbus. In the long run, I went with the defending Hart Memorial Trophy Winner Patrick Kane for the winner because of his awesome numbers compared to Atkinson’s. Kane has put up 48 points in 50 games which include 15 goals and 33 assists which are good enough for a solid 0.96 points per game. His 15 goals are tied for eighth for his position, his stunning 33 assists are enough for first place by two, and his points per game rank fourth. Kane has also racked up 13 power play points with two of them being goals so you can see he has a pass first mentality. He does have four game winning goals at this point in the season which is second for right wingers and one overtime goal as well. The Blackhawks sit at second place in the central division and western conference and they can say thanks to the whole team as well to Kane for carrying the load. If Kane keeps up his amazing offensive pace, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it back to the Cup Finals. Here is my favorite goal of his for the first half:

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Brent Burns

Now on to the defensive pairs of the article! Yay, everyone loves defensemen right? Well, I love offensive defensemen and this first guy is probably, and I mean hands down, the best offensive defensemen in the league right now and has been for the past two years or so. He goes by the name of Burns…..Brent Burns (sorry I had to make it suspenseful) I’ll just let myself out haha. Alright, besides my terrible attempt at a James Bond movie Burns has had a fire start to the first half of the season registering 51 points in 49 games with 21 goals and 30 assists with a 1.04 points per game. His 21 goals rank first among D-man, he holds a stunning 10 goal led over the next closest player, his assists also third but are down by just two, and his points rank first by 12! So as you can tell just by his goals, assists, and points Burns is a complete force on the ice and can’t be stopped whenever he plays. He also tallied 14 points on the manpower advantage with six of those points being goals. Burns tallied a loan shorthanded point, four game-winning goals (which is tied for first among defenders), and one overtime goal to his credit as well. The Sharks are currently first in the Pacific Divison and third in the entire Western Conference with 64 points. So as you can see they are doing pretty well at this point, but it doesn’t hurt to keep up to good work and if Burns keeps up this pace the Sharks will be right back in the Finals again. Here is my favorite goal:

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Erik Karlsson

For the other D-man spot I decided to go with, believe it or not, of the guys Burns actually beat in the video above for the goal, Erik Karlsson. This guy is probably one of, if not the only other guy who can compete with Burns for the title of “Best Offensive Defensemen” in the whole NHL in my opinion and I strongly believe that and will argue with anyone who thinks otherwise! But, that’s not the fact, let’s get to the good stuff, I picked Karlsson to be his partner in crime because Karlsson has put up some pretty solid numbers through the first half of the season by registering 39 points in 46 games. This was made up of only seven goals (probably wish he had more if I am being honest with you guys) and a whopping 32 assists for a solid point per game ratio of 0.85. Karlsson’s seven goals rank sixth for the D-man position and his amazing 32 assists ranks first in the league for D-man but only by one assist! To add on to his awesome start, he grabbed 15 points on the first power play line with only one power play goal, one shorthanded point, and just two game winning goals. The Senators are currently in a close battle for second place in the Atlantic Divison and sixth place in the Eastern Conference and a lot of it is thanks to the production to Karlsson. If he keeps it up, the Sens will get back into the playoffs in my opinion which I am sure Ottawa fans will be pretty happy. Here is my favorite goal from the first half (I picked an empty net goal because I thought his determination on this goal was outstanding, I loved it):

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Sergei Bobrovsky

Last but not least, one of the hardest, probably the hardest and the weirdest job description on the face of the earth, goalies! Seriously, they sit in a 4 by 6 white thing and try and stop a little three inch vulcanized rubber thing from getting behind them and into the net for a goal, how is that not the weirdest job title?!? So for the goalie part, it was down better Devan Dubnyk and Sergei Bobrovski and by god, this was the hardest thing to do basically because their stats were basically identical! I decided to go with Sergei Bobrovsky simply because look at how stellar he’s doing right with the team he has around him compared to how the Jackets did in the past (I’ll give you a hint, terrible). So yes, Bobrovsky has had an incredible first half of the season. He has started 38 games going 28-8-2 with an amazing .930 Save Percentage and average 2.04 Goals Against Average. For goalies who have started at least 20 games already or more, he is tied for third for the least amount of losses by a starting goalie (8), he has the most wins by a goalie with at least 20 starts (28), he is in sole position of second for best SV% (.930), and third for best GAA (2.04). Bobrovsky has also saved 999 shots on 1074 shot attempts letting in 75 goals which ranks 10th among goalies who have started 20 games or more and has three shutouts to his name which is fourth. Columbus is currently on fire and off to the best start in franchise history currently sits at second place in the Metropolitan Divison and second in the Eastern Conference. If they keep it up and ‘Bob’ continues to play like this they will be back in the playoffs and will make a “Cinderella Run” in my eyes. Writing about Bobrovsky was my favorite and he was easily the best. Here is one of many spectacular saves of the first half:

January 25 – Day 102 – Red and blue aren’t just election rivals

Tuesday’s gone, but Wednesday is here – and brings with it some more hockey games. Toronto at Detroit (SN) gets things started at 7 p.m., followed an hour later by Philadelphia at the New York Rangers (NBCSN/TVAS). We move west of the Mississippi River at 9:30 p.m. with Vancouver at Colorado (SN360), with tonight’s nightcap – Edmonton at Anaheim – starting half an hour later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Detroit: Simply calling this an Original Six game is an insult to years of deep rivalry.
  • Philadelphia at New York: Just like other teams in their respective towns, the Flyers and Rangers have a history of not getting along.

As much as I dislike featuring the same team two days in a row, Detroit has another big game tonight against the Maple Leafs. Time to break out the red sweaters, boys! You’ve got some rivals coming to town!

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To put things simply, if the Bruins and Canadiens didn’t have their deep playoff history, this would be the rivalry everyone in hockey would look forward to.

Ever since the Red Wings were formed, these clubs have clashed both on the ice as well as in the stands, as Detroit and Toronto are separated by only 210 miles. They’ve faced one another 23 times in the playoffs – including seven meetings in the Stanley Cup finals – with the Wings owning a one-playoff game advantage with a 59-58 record.

Toronto enters tonight with a 22-14-9 record and in possession of the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference, their best positioning in the standings in a long time. They’ve found that success by playing well on the offensive end to score 139 goals in 45 games – the sixth-best rate in the league.

When half of your team’s top-six scorers are rookies, the rebuild looks like it is in good shape. That’s the case in Toronto, as youngster Mitch Marner leads his club with 39 points. The same goes for goalscoring, as first-overall pick Auston Matthews owns that title for the Leafs with his 22 tallies.

Just as Detroit struggles without a reliable power play, Toronto excels with their impressive man-advantage. Led by William Nylander, yet another rookie, and his 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs score on 24.1% of their extra-man opportunities – the second-best rate in the NHL. Nazem Kadri takes credit for the most man-advantage goals on the club with 10 to his credit.

Toronto has also found great success with their other special team, refusing to yield a goal on 85.2% of opposing power plays – the fourth-best rate in the league. Roman Polak gets to take a lot of the credit with his club-topping 24 shorthanded blocks.

Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto have been alternating between playoff qualification and ninth in the Eastern Conference for the last couple of weeks, and that trend could continue tonight. A loss by Toronto opens them up to falling out of the playoff bracket, while earning only a point would improve them into third place in the Atlantic Division, replacing the Bruins.

Things haven’t quite been going 20-19-9 Detroit‘s way – especially lately, as they’ve fallen in overtime in their last three games. For the first time in ages, the Wings find themselves in second-to-last in the Atlantic Division and third-to-last in the Eastern Conference, yet they enter play tonight trailing the second wildcard by only four points.

The main reason for their struggles has been their uninspiring offense, which has managed only 117 goals – the seventh-fewest in the league. That being said, Captain Henrik Zetterberg has done all he can to fight that trend with his team-leading 33 points, as have Dylan Larkin and the injured Thomas Vanek, who co-lead the team with a dozen tallies.

One of the biggest reasons for the Wings‘ lack of offensive success ranks 30th in the league. Detroit is home to the worst power play in the league, converting only 11.3% of their opportunities. Frans Nielsen has tried his hardest to resolve that issue, but his club-leading eight power play points simply aren’t cutting it. Neither are Larkin and Vanek’s three man-advantage goals.

A win tonight would not pull the Wings into playoff position, but it can propel them all the way from 14th to 10th. Even if they continue their recent trend of forcing overtime before losing, they make a significant climb up the table, advancing into 11th.

These clubs have only met once this season, and it was not under usual circumstances. On New Year’s Day, Detroit and Toronto celebrated the 100th anniversary of the NHL by playing the Centennial Classic at BMO Field (home pitch of Toronto FC). The Leafs won that game 5-4 in overtime.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Detroit‘s Luke Glendening (108 hits [leads the team]) and Zetterberg (33 points, including 24 assists for a +9 [all lead the team]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (20 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) and Matthews (22 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked the Wings a +116 underdog in tonight’s game, and that might be giving Joe Louis Arena a little too much credit. Toronto has proven they have the ability to compete with some of the best teams in the league, and they’ll want to ensure they maintain their position in the standings with a victory tonight. I don’t see the Leafs falling this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Chris Chelios (1962-) – Drafted 40th-overall by Montréal in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman pulled managed simply a Hall of Fame career over 26 seasons. He played most of his games with Chicago, but spent more seasons in Detroit. Regardless of if he’s remembered more as a Hawk or Wing, he played in 11 All Star games and hoisted just as many Stanley Cups as Norris Trophies: three.
  • Esa Tikkanen (1965-) – Edmonton picked this left wing in the fourth-round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, and he returned them with four Stanley Cups. He won his fifth and final in 1994 with the Rangers.
  • Randy McKay (1967-) – A sixth-round selection by Detroit in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing spent most of his career in New Jersey. He won two Stanley Cups over his 15-season career, both with the Devils.
  • Jared Cowen (1991-) – Although drafted by Ottawa ninth-overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, this blueliner currently finds himself out of a job after losing his grievance hearing with Toronto and subsequently being cut. He has 249 games played over six seasons of experience.

For the third time in four days, the DtFR Game of the Day required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner. That winner last night proved to be the Boston, who beat the Red Wings 4-3 in overtime.

Of the three regulation periods, the first was the busiest. It got off to a quick start when Kevan Miller (Tim Schaller and Dominic Moore) scored his first goal of the season only 3:39 after the initial puck drop. The Bruins‘ lead lasted only 7:20 until Andreas Athanasiou (Third Star of the Game Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall) leveled with a snap shot. First Star Brad Marchand (Ryan Spooner and Second Star David Pastrnak) reclaimed the lead for Boston with 2:26 remaining in the period with his power play wrister, setting the score at 2-1 going into the first intermission.

The second period absolutely belonged to the Red Wings, beginning with Green’s (Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist) tip-in at the 6:25 mark to level the match. With 9:09 remaining in the period, Tomas Tatar (Zetterberg) provided Detroit its first lead with a strong wrister.

The game was tied again at the 8:20 mark of the final frame, courtesy of Marchand (Patrice Bergeron and Torey Krug). As neither team was able to break the draw, the game advanced into the five-minute three-on-three overtime period.

That extra time nearly resulted in a shootout if not for Pastrnak’s (David Krejci and Brandon Carlo) slap shot with 47 seconds remaining. That tally earned the Bruins the extra point in the standings.

Tuukka Rask earned the victory by saving 23-of-26 shots faced (88.5%), leaving the overtime loss to Jared Coreau, who saved 45-of-49 (91.8%).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are now on a two-game winning streak thanks to Boston‘s victory. Hosts now own a six-point advantage over the visitors with their 54-34-16 record in the series.

January 24 – Day 101 – Motown vs. Beantown

It’s time for some Tuesday hockey. We’ve got a nice schedule, starting with four games at 7 p.m. (Detroit at Boston [SN], Los Angeles at New Jersey, Columbus at the New York Islanders and St. Louis at Pittsburgh [NBCSN]), followed half an hour later by another pair (Calgary at Montréal [RDS] and Washington at Ottawa [RDS2]). Two more games drop the puck at the top of the hour (Buffalo at Nashville [TVAS] and San Jose at Winnipeg), with tonight’s co-nightcaps (Tampa Bay at Chicago and Minnesota at Dallas) waiting until 8:30 p.m. to get underway. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Detroit at Boston: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but the Wings edged the Bruins for a playoff spot by a tiebreaker last season.
  • Minnesota at Dallas: Speaking of the playoffs, the Stars bested the Wild in six games last season.

Based on their position in the standings, the contest occurring at the TD Garden this evening could be one of the best of the night. To New England we go!

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Detroit‘s impressive 25-season streak of qualifying to for the playoffs is not only well known in hockey circles, but across most sports fans.

Outside of Motown, that fact is not more known than in Boston. You see, both the Bruins and the Red Wings finished last season with 93 points, tied for third place in the Atlantic Division. In fact, 42-31-9 Boston actually won one more game than the 41-30-11 Wings.

Even though the Bruins won the season series 3-1-0, the first tiebreaker in the NHL pertains to the total regulation and overtime victories by a club, and it was there that the Wings found their playoff qualification. They won one more game before going to the shootout than Boston to earn their playoff bid.

If Detroit had not won that tiebreaker, only then would the series record between the two clubs have come into play and the Bruins would have faced Tampa Bay.

Nowadays, Detroit is currently riding a two-game streak of overtime losses and has a 20-19-8 record, good enough for sixth place in the Atlantic Division. Part of the reason they find themselves at that spot in the standings is due to their lackluster offense, which has managed only 114 goals, the seventh-fewest in the NHL.

Although Thomas Vanek is tied for the team lead in points, he’s questionable to play tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. That leaves Henrik Zetterberg, who also has 31 points in his pocket, to lead the Red Wings into battle. It’s a similar situation in the goal scoring department, where Vanek’s effort is tied with Dylan Larkin at a dozen tallies apiece.

The number one reason for Detroit‘s offensive struggles is their anemic power play. Even though they’ve earned the seventh-most man-advantages, they’ve converted only 11.3% into goals – the worst in the league. Frans Nielsen has tried all he can to help the cause with his eight power play points, but the Wings haven’t been able to find a consistent scoring threat as Larkin and the injured Vanek lead the club with a measly three power play goals apiece.

Another overtime loss won’t do Detroit any good. If they want any chance of continuing their impressive playoff streak, they’re going to need wins. A victory tonight is certainly a step in the right direction, as they would improve from 13th to 10th, trailing second wild card Philadelphia by two points.

In their way stands their hosts, the 23-21-6 Bruins. Boston currently finds themselves in fourth place in the Atlantic and on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, due in part to losing their last two games. Similar to Detroit, their issue has been offense.

Last season, the Bruins managed to score 236 goals, lightning the lamp nearly three times per game. Things haven’t gone so smoothly this year, as Boston only has 121 tallies to their credit in 50 games – the seventh-worst scoring rate in the NHL. A struggling offense hasn’t held Brad Marchand back, though, as his 45 points are tops on the team by a long shot. When he’s not burying the puck, he’s busy setting up youngster David Pastrnak, whose 19 tallies are the best in Beantown.

The similarities between these two offenses continue with in the special teams. Successful on only 16.9% of attempts, Boston ranks 10th-worst in the league on the power play. Torey Krug has tried his hardest with his 13 power play points, as have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who both have five power play goals.

Where the Bruins separate themselves is with their powerful penalty kill, where they rank second-best in the league. Led by Zdeno Chara‘s 25 shorthanded blocks, Boston refuses to yield a power play goal 86.6% of the time.

The Bruins don’t need much to get back into playoff position, but nobody plays for simply an overtime loss. One point would propel Boston into eighth place for the second wildcard, but a victory would qualify them for third-place in the division.

Boston won their series against Detroit last season, and they’re already on their way to repeating that this year. They’ve met twice this season, and the Bruins have a 1-0-1. They last met Wednesday in Detroit, where the Wings won 6-5 on a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (45 points [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) and Tuukka Rask (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and a 2.11 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] for 22 wins [sixth-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Danny DeKeyser (94 blocks [leads the team]) and Anthony Mantha (+8 [leads the team]).

It’s tough to pick against a goaltender like Rask, especially since the penalty kill in front of him will face no pressure from Detroit‘s power play. The Bruins should earn a victory this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gus Mortson (1925-2015) – This defenseman was so physical, he started a fight in one of his eight All Star appearances. Although he spent most his time in Chicago, he won all four of his Stanley Cups in Toronto, where he started his career.
  • Mark Reeds (1960-2015) – St. Louis drafted this right wing in the fifth round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his eight-season career. By the time he retired, he’d notched 159 points.
  • Tom Kostopoulos (1979-) – A seventh-rounder picked by Pittsburgh in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, he played 630 games (most of which in Los Angeles) over 11 seasons (most with the Penguins). He made good friends with penalty box attendants, serving 723 penalty minutes – 1.15 minutes per game.

First Star of the Game Frederik Andersen didn’t have to empty his net a single time in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, leading his Maple Leafs to a 4-0 shutout victory over the visiting Flames.

Third Star Mitch Marner (Nikita Zaitsev) was the first to tickle the twine, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead with his tip-in only 61 seconds before going to the dressing room for the first intermission.

If the first period allowed only one goal, it seems only natural that the second would yield two. Unfortunately for Calgary, neither would be in their favor. Second Star Nazem Kadri (William Nylander) takes credit for the first tally seven minutes after returning to the ice with his wrister, and the Leafs improved their lead to 3-0 with 3:05 remaining in the frame on a Zach Hyman (Martin Marincin) shorthanded backhander.

The theme of matching goals to the period did not continue, but Toronto didn’t mind. Kadri (Marner and Zaitsev) buried his second tally of the game at the 2:21 mark on the power play to set the 4-0 final score.

Andersen earned the shutout victory after saving all 26 shots he faced, leaving the loss to Brian Elliott, who saved 24-of-28 (85.7%).

In addition to breaking the two-game streak of games requiring extra time, Toronto‘s victory also snapped a three-game winning streak for visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series. With a 53-34-16 record, featured home teams now have a five-point lead over the visitors.

January 23 – Day 100 – Happy birthday Leo Komarov

Manic Monday gets started at its usual 7 p.m. starting time with two games (Los Angeles at the New York Rangers [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Carolina at Washington), followed half an hour later by Calgary at Toronto. Next up is Anaheim at Winnipeg at 8 p.m., trailed an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: San Jose at Colorado (NBCSN) and Florida at ArizonaAll times eastern.

There’s not a single game this evening being contested between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, but Toronto could be right back in that discussion by the time the night closes with a victory tonight.

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Although riding a two-game losing skid, the 24-22-3 Flames still find themselves in eighth-place in the Western Conference, which could improve to seventh with anything better than a regulation loss. Calgary has been led by its offense this season, which has scored 128 goals – tied for 14th-most in the league.

There’s a reason Mikael Backlund sweaters have been flying off the shelves in Southern Alberta these days, as his 33 points lead the Flames. That being said, Sean Monahan‘s 15 goals leads Backlund’s total by a tally.

Playing host this evening are the 21-14-9 Maple Leafs, who currently occupy ninth-place in the Eastern Conference. and similar to their opposition, simply getting to overtime will propel Toronto into seventh. Much of the reason for the Leafs‘ success has been their offense, which has managed 135 tallies in 44 games, the sixth-best scoring rate in the NHL.

In this edition of what has become the weekly Leafs update, Auston Matthews now shares the club points-lead with James van Riemsdyk, as both have been involved in 38 goals this season. That being said, the amazing rookie still has the team scoring title with his 22 tallies.

Last season, Toronto was home to the second-worst power play in the league. My, how the times have changed. Led by rookie William Nylander‘s 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs are now second-best, scoring on 24.1% of attempts. Veteran Nazem Kadri has also played a vital role in that success, burying nine pucks with the man-advantage.

The defensive special team has also been a big role in the Leafs‘ resurgence, refusing to yield a tally on 84.7% of opponent’s extra-man opportunities. The fourth-best penalty kill in the league has been led by Roman Polak, whose 22 shorthanded blocks not only lead the team, but ties for 17th-most in the league.

The Maple Leafs have already made their annual visit to the Saddledome, and it’s a trip they’d rather forget. Led by Chad Johnson‘s shutout, the Flames sent Toronto packing by beating them 3-0.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnson (three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and Toronto‘s Matthews (22 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked Toronto a -142 favorite, and it’s a hard pick to argue with. The Leafs have some superior special teams compared to Calgary‘s average efforts, not to mention Toronto‘s impeccable offense.

Hockey Birthday

  • J.F. Sauve (1960-) – Although undrafted, this center managed 290 games over seven seasons in the NHL, most of which in Quebec. He notched 203 points before retiring after the 1986-’87 season.
  • Brendan Shanahan (1969-) – The second-overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey, this left wing played 21 seasons – most of which in Detroit. It’s easy to say he earned his Hall of Fame inauguration in 2013, as he was an eight-time All Star, three-time Stanley Cup winner and the owner of the 2003 Clancy Trophy.
  • Leo Komarov (1987-) – This center was drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, and that’s where he’s spent his entire career. Last season’s 19 goals and 36 points were career highs, and a goal tonight against Calgary would be his first birthday tally.

They needed overtime, but the Flyers emerged from Brooklyn with a 3-2 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The lone goal of the first period belonged to Nick Leddy with 6:35 remaining in the frame. His unassisted wrister gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

Alan Quine (Shane Prince and Dennis Seidenberg) doubled that lead 4:47 into the second period with a backhander, but Second Star of the Game Wayne Simmonds (Brayden Schenn and Radko Gudas) pulled Philadelphia back within a tally with a wrister with 5:50 remaining in the period.

Once again, only one goal was struck in a period, but this one belonged to Ivan Provorov (Schenn and Simmonds) and the Flyers. Buried only 1:47 into the period, it proved to be the final goal of regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

Only 100 seconds remained in extra time when First Star Claude Giroux (Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek) ended the game with his wrap-around winner.

Steve Mason takes credit for the win after saving 36-of-38 shots faced (94.7%), leaving Third Star Thomas Greiss, who saved 44-of-47 (93.6%), the overtime loss.

Philly‘s victory was the third-straight for a visiting team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling the roadies within three points of the hosts’ 52-34-16 record.

January 22 – Day 99 – We’re seeing orange

It’s our last Sunday of action before the All-Star break, and six different games will be played before the day is through. The action starts at 12:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers at Detroit (NBC), followed by Boston at Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. (NHLN/SN) and Columbus at Ottawa (RDS2) at 5 p.m. Philadelphia at the New York Islanders drops the puck at 6 p.m., followed 90 minutes later by Vancouver at Chicago (NHLN/SN). Finally, Nashville at Minnesota drops the puck at 8 p.m. as the last game of the day. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Detroit: Everybody loves an Original Six rivalry, right?
  • Boston at Pittsburgh: NFL fans can treat this as a preview for the SteelersPatriots AFC Championship game.
  • Philadelphia at New York: Doug Weight hasn’t lost a game since taking over as coach.
  • Vancouver at Chicago: Back when the Canucks were one of the big players in the Western Conference, their series against the Blackhawks was must watch TV.

The Eastern Conference is so tight that the Islanders, currently sitting in last place, could pull within three points of the second wild card with a victory tonight. Let’s head back to Brooklyn to see if the Isles are truly pulling something together.

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It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since the 22-19-6 Flyers have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series. They’ve had a tough go of it during that span, including their current three-game losing skid. Due to those mistakes, Philadelphia currently finds themselves in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the conference, a point behind Toronto for the second wild card. The main reason? Goaltending. It’s allowed 148 goals in 47 games, which ties for the third-worst rate in the league.

As has been the case since the 2013-14 season after he was traded to Philadelphia, 14-15-6 Steve Mason has been the goalie of choice on Broad Street. Unfortunately, his .897 save percentage and 2.95 GAA are (t)41st and (t)37th in the league against 46 other goalies with at least 17 appearances.

Mason has to take full responsibility too, as his defense is doing all they can. Led by rookie Ivan Provorov‘s 92 shot blocks, the Flyers‘ blueline has allowed only 28.9 shots-per-game to reach Mason’s crease, the eighth-fewest in the league.

As expected, that issue continues to rear its ugly head on the penalty kill, where the Flyers‘ 80% kill rate ties for 10th-worst in the NHL. Philly has been shorthanded 145 times – the 14th-fewest in the league – but Mason’s .853 save percentage against the power play is 34th-worst.

The Flyers cover up for that deficiency by excelling on their own power plays. Successful on 21.8% of attempts, they rank ninth-best in the league. Captain Claude Giroux has been an important facet of that effort with his 21 power play points, but Brayden Schenn has been the most has been the most powerful goalscorer, with 11 man-advantage tallies.

As stated before, 19-17-8 New York is certainly down, but in no way out of the playoff discussion. Much of the issue this season for the Islanders has been their offense, which has managed 126 goals so far this season – the 15th-fewest in the league.

Captain John Tavares has been at the head of that effort with his 36 points. Impressively, most of those points have been goals, and those 19 tallies are also tops in Brooklyn.

The real offensive issue has been the Isles‘ inability to capitalize on prime opportunities. Converting only 14.6% of power plays into goals, New York is fifth-worst in the league with the man-advantage. Nick Leddy and Tavares have done all they can to help the cause with their co-leading 10 power play points, and Anders Lee joins the captain with five extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has also been a big issue for New York. Just like Philadelphia, the Islanders have stopped only 80% of opposing power plays to tie for the 10th-worst effort in the NHL. Calvin de Haan can’t take the blame for the team’s failures, as his 22 shorthanded shot blocks not only lead the team, but also tie for 15th-most in the league.

These squads have only met up one time previously this season, with the Flyers winning 3-2 in a shootout in early November on the same surface they’ll be playing on tonight. New York‘s goaltender that night was Jaroslav Halak, the veteran with 11 seasons of experience that currently finds himself playing in the AHL after clearing waivers.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Jakub Voracek (41 points on 150 shots [both lead the team]).

Vegas has picked New York to win tonight’s game with a -125 line. Personally, I like Philadelphia, based solely on their offensive and power play efficiency. Tonight could be the night they get out of their funk and return to winning ways.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bill Durnan (1916-1972) – This Canadiens-lifer may have only been in net for seven seasons, but they were some incredible campaigns. Not only did he win two Stanley Cups, he was also a three-time All Star and six-time Vezina winner, all adding up to a 1964 Hall of Fame induction.
  • Elmer Lach (1918-2015) – Another player that spent his entire career in Montréal, this center played in just as many All Star games as he won Stanley Cups: three. The Hall of Famer was also the 1945 Hart and 1948 Ross winner over the course of his 14-season career.
  • J.C. Tremblay (1939-1994) – This blueliner hoisted the Stanley Cup five times during his 13 seasons in the NHL, all with – you guessed it – Montréal. He also played in seven All Star games between his NHL and WHA careers.
  • Serge Savard (1946-) – It seems if you want to play for the Canadiens, you should be born today, as this blueliner spent all but two of his 17 seasons in Montréal. As far as he’s concerned, seven Stanley Cups, four All Star selections, the 1969 Smythe and 1979 Masterton all adds up to a Hall of Fame induction.
  • Mike Bossy (1957-) – Yet another decorated player, this right wing was drafted 15th-overall by the Islanders in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, where he played all 10 years of his career. He was a member of those infamous New York squads that won the Stanley Cup four-straight times, and also took home his share of personal accolades, including seven All Star selections, three Byng trophies, the 1978 Calder and the 1982 Smythe. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • David Vyborny (1975-) – Drafted 33rd-overall by Columbus in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing played all his seven NHL seasons with the Jackets. By the time he left for the Czech Extraliga, he’d notched 317 points.
  • Ben Eager (1984-) – Although picked 23rd-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Phoenix, this left wing never suited up for the Coyotes. Instead, he spent most of his nine-year career in Chicago, where he was a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup team.

It took a shootout, but the Senators won last night’s edition of the Battle of Ontario 3-2 in the DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one tally was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the victorious visitors. Bobby Ryan (Marc Methot and Chris Neil) is the guilty party with his slap shot with 5:58 remaining in the frame.

Similarly, there was only one goal in the second period, but this one counted for the Leafs. Tyler Bozak (James van Riemsdyk and Second Star of the Game Nazem Kadri) takes credit with his power play snapper at the 7:31 mark of the frame.

Seven minutes into the third period, Matt Martin (Jake Gardiner and Kadri) scored to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead, a lead they almost turned into a victory. Instead, Third Star Mike Hoffman (Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf) buried his power play slap shot with 1:11 remaining in regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

Since neither club could find a winner in those five minutes, we were treated to a shootout. As the home team, Toronto elected to go first.

  1. If anything is alluding rookie Auston Matthews, it’s the shootout. His shot was saved by Mike Condon, lowering his shootout shot percentage to 16.7%.
  2. Ryan pounced on that opportunity for the Senators, burying his shot for a 1-0 lead.
  3. Mitch Marner answered the call for Toronto to level 1-1.
  4. Kyle Turris was next up for the Sens, but his shot was saved by Frederik Andersen.
  5. Next up for the Leafs was van Riemsdyk, but it seemed as if it simply wasn’t his night in the shootout as he blatantly missed the net.
  6. With an opportunity to clinch the bonus point, Karlsson attack Andersen’s net, but the goalie was up to the pressure and made the save.
  7. Bozak ended up being the final Leaf to take his turn, but his shot met the same fate as Matthews’: saved by Condon.
  8. First Star Tom Pyatt provided the winner. Making it more impressive, it was the first shootout goal of his NHL career in three attempts.

Condon earns the victory after saving 31-of-33 shots faced (93.9%), leaving the shootout loss to Andersen, saving 25-of-27 (92.6%).

Ottawa‘s victory is the second-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands in favor of the hosts by only four points with a 52-34-15 record.

January 21 – Day 98 – Saturday night is rivalry night

Eleven games. Yes, 11. What a way to spend a Saturday. We get an early start today, as St. Louis at Winnipeg gets underway 3 p.m., and another matinee drops the puck two hours later with Carolina at Columbus. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings with it four games (Ottawa at Toronto [CBC/CITY/TVAS2], Buffalo at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Los Angeles at the New York Islanders and New Jersey at Philadelphia), and another trio begin an hour later (Tampa Bay at Arizona, Washington at Dallas [NHLN] and Anaheim at Minnesota). The final two games drop the puck within half an hour of each other: Edmonton at Calgary (CBC/SN) starts first at 10 p.m., with Colorado at San Jose acting as this evening’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Ottawa at Toronto: The Battle of Ontario rages on in the biggest city in Canada.
  • New Jersey at Philadelphia: The Jersey Turnpike connects these two cities, but that doesn’t mean their hockey teams like each other.
  • Edmonton at Calgary: Another rivalry takes place in the province of Alberta.
  • Colorado at San Jose: After Matt Nieto spent four seasons with the Sharks, he was claimed off waivers two weeks ago by the Avalanche.

There’s no way we’re missing a rivalry that could result in Toronto a massive shakeup in the Atlantic Division. To the Air Canada Centre we go!

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I know we just featured this matchup last Saturday, but the stakes just keep getting raised in this rivalry. With a regulation win this evening, the Leafs will improve from from fourth place in the division to second. Pair that with a Flyers victory, and the Bruins find themselves outside of playoff position for the night.

The impact this game could have on the standings is incredible.

Ottawa begins the third Battle for Ontario on a two-game winning streak and in possession of second place in the Atlantic with a 24-15-4 record. They’ve found that success by not allowing opponents to score, allowing only 110 goals this season, which ties for fifth-fewest in the league.

12-7-3 Mike Condon has been the man between the pipes more often than not for the Senators this season. As indicated by his record, he’s done a decent job, as his .92 save percentage and 2.31 GAA are both tied for 13th best among the 52 netminders with at least 11 appearances this year.

It’s been important for Condon to have the success he’s had, as the defense playing in front of him has been far from incredible. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s team-leading 114 blocks (tied for second-most in the NHL), the Senators allow 30.4 shots-per-game to reach their goalie’s crease, tied for the 12th-worst effort in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 21-14-8 Maple Leafs. Given their most recent first-round draft choice, it should be no surprise that their resurgence is due to offensive success. They’ve scored 133 goals so far this year in 43 games – the sixth-best rate in the league.

It remains to be seen if Auston Matthews can be the one to lead Toronto to the Promised Land for the first time in 50 years, but he’s certainly making a good impression in his rookie season. His 38 points are enough to lead the club, as are his 22 goals.

What is most impressive is the Leafs‘ power play. They’ve managed to be second in the NHL with the man-advantage, converting 24.1% of opponent’s penalties into goals. This has been where fellow rookie William Nylander has shone, as his 15 power play points are tops on the team. That being said, the true striker of the special teams unit plays on the other power play line, as Nazem Kadri‘s nine extra-man goals are the best on the squad and tied for second-most in the NHL.

These Leafs are truly a complete team, as the other special team has been just that: special. Toronto‘s penalty kill ranks fourth-best in the NHL, refusing to yield a tally on 84.9% of their infractions. Mark Giordano has been a big part of that effort with his team-leading 32 shorthanded blocks.

Twice these teams met already this season, and twice it’s been in the Canadian capital. As these clubs will only meet four times total this year, the Battle of Ontario shifts to Toronto, and the Leafs bring back a 1-0-1 series lead.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Ottawa‘s Condon (three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (30 assists [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (19 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Matthews (22 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Toronto a -139 favorite, and with good reason. They’ve been playing some fantastic hockey over the last month, going 9-2-1 since December 22. What sets the Leafs apart today is their dominance in the special teams play. Unless Condon plays lights-out, I don’t see the Leafs dropping a second-straight home game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Georges Vezina (1887-1926) – Vezina won three Stanley Cups over his nine seasons with Montréal, and the Hall of Famer is remembered today by the trophy awarded annually to the league’s best goaltender. Unfortunately, his life was cut short at the age of 39 due to tuberculosis.
  • Doug Weight (1971-) – The 34th-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, this four-year All Star played 19 seasons – most of which in Edmonton. He hoisted the lone Stanley Cup of his career in 2006 in Carolina, followed five years later by the Clancy. Of course, he just made his coaching debut Thursday, leading his Islanders to a three-goal shutout victory.
  • Andrei Zyuzin (1978-) – San Jose drafted this defenseman second-overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, but he played most of his 10-season career in Minnesota. He finished his playing days with a -40 goal-differential.
  • Dany Heatley (1981-) – Another second-overall pick, this left wing was selected by Atlanta in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, though he played most his career in Ottawa. It was a magical rookie season for Heatly, as he took home the 2002 Calder before earning three All Star selections over his 13-season career.
  • Jonathan Quick (1986-) – Los Angeles drafted this goaltender in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s never worn another sweater since. The Kings made a good selection, as they’ve hoisted the Stanley Cup twice on a netminder that won the 2012 Smythe and the 2014 Jennings. Unfortunately, the All-Star suffered a groin injury in the first game of the season and is not projected to return to the ice for another month.
  • Darren Helm (1987-) – Just like Quick, this forward was selected by the same team he’s played for ever since (Detroit) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, even though he was picked two rounds later. He was a rookie on the Wings‘ 2008 Stanley Cup team and contributed four points in that playoff run, including a goal and assist against Pittsburgh in the Finals.

Sometimes, a goal is all you need. That was the case for the Blackhawks last night, as they beat Boston 1-0 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With 1:26 remaining in regulation, First Star of the Game Marian Hossa (Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza) takes credit for the lone tally of the game. His wrister from the left faceoff zone beat Third Star Tuukka Rask to the near post to ensure the victory.

Second Star Scott Darling earned the victory by saving all 30 shots he faced, while Rask fell just short, saving all but one of the 22 pucks (95.5%) that entered his crease.

Chicago‘s win was the second-straight shutout in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands at 52-34-14 in favor of the hosts, who lead visitors by five points.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #48- Winter Edition (feat. Colby Kephart)

In a special surprise- special edition- of the DTFR Podcast, Nick and Colby discuss Calder Trophy favorites, coaching changes, trade deadline predictions and more.