January 4 – Day 81 – Metropolitan Mayhem

Time to get back to Wednesday night hockey. To make up for the lighter schedule on Monday, there’s quite a few more games than usual tonight, starting at 7 p.m. with Winnipeg at Florida (SN1). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of two more games (Montréal at Dallas [RDS/SN360] and the New York Rangers at Philadelphia [NBCSN/TVAS]), with another two contests waiting until 10 p.m. (Arizona at Vancouver and Colorado at Calgary). Finally, Detroit at Anaheim – this evening’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Philadelphia: A rivalry made only more heated by the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
  • Colorado at Calgary: Joe Colborne makes his first return to the Saddledome after spending the last three seasons there.
  • Detroit at Anaheim: Nothing reminds Red Wings fans of days gone by like a former rivalry.

Nothing personal, Colborne, but that game in Philly is going to be way too good to miss!

New York Rangers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

EaglesGiants. KnicksSixers. MetsPhillies.

It’s not just tonight’s teams that don’t like each other. It’s a city vs. city rivalry that brings out the best – or worst, depending on your opinion! – in these towns.

Wearing white tonight are the 26-13-1 Rangers, the third best team in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. As has been the case all season, the name of the game in New York has been offense, and they’re very good at that. They’ve scored 134 goals, the most in the league.

Derek Stepan has been at the helm for much of that effort, notching a team-leading 30 points, including 14 points in the last 13 games. That being said, it’s been Chris Kreider who has struck the most fear in opposing goaltenders, burying 15 goals to be the most dangerous scorer for the Blueshirts.

Much of the reason for the Rangers‘ scoring success has been their power play, which ranks fourth-best in the league after converting 22.9% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh takes over in these situations, as his nine power play points are tops on the team, but similar to Stepan, he’s been a better facilitator than goalscorer. On the man-advantage, that role is shared by four skaters – Kreider, injured Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey – that have all lit the lamp four times apiece on the power play.

New York has also been strong on the penalty kill, neutralizing 83.9% of their penalties to rank ninth-best in the NHL. Every Rangers skater has a role, and the penalty kill seems to be Kevin Klein‘s assignment, as his 15 shorthanded blocks are tops in Manhattan.

Clad in orange, the 20-14-5 Flyers play host this evening at the Wells Fargo Center. Similar to New York, offense has been the key to Philly‘s success, as their 112 tallies ties for fifth-most in the league.

Jakub Voracek sweaters have been flying (see what I did there?!?) off the shelves in Philadelphia, as the right wing’s 35 points are the best in town. Then again, Wayne Simmonds has never been hotter. He’s already scored 17 times this season, the most on the club. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll have buried 36 goals by the time the season is complete, four more than last year’s career-high.

The power play has been ticking on Broad Street. The Flyers convert 21.7% of their opportunities, the sixth-best effort in the NHL. This is where Captain Claude Giroux takes command of the ship, already notching 16 power play points this season. Just like Voracek (stop me if you’ve heard something like this today…), Giroux has been a fantastic facilitator, setting up both Brayden Schenn and Simmonds for eight extra-man goals apiece.

New York and Philadelphia have met up only once before this season, a game we featured here at Down the Frozen River. The day after Thanksgiving, the Rangers survived a two-goal surge by the Flyers to win 3-2. Henrik Lundqvist was in net for that victory, winning in-front of 19,981 Philly fans, the biggest crowd the Rangers performed before all November – home or away.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Lundqvist (16 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.28 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Philadelphia‘s Simmonds (17 goals [ninth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked the Flyers a slight favorite at -115, but I’m not willing to take that bet. New York‘s potent offense is playing against a suspect goaltender, not to mention a weak penalty kill. I have the Rangers winning.


As much as Third Star of the Game Shea Weber tried to hog the attention in to his return to Nashville, it was First Star Max Pacioretty that provided the overtime goal to give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory in yesterdays DtFR Game of the Day.

It was actually the host Predators who got on the board first. With 54 seconds remaining in the second period, Kevin Fiala (Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi) buried a backhander to give Nashville a 1-0 lead going into the third frame.

Weber (Alexander Radulov and Torrey Mitchell) didn’t take too kindly to that, so he leveled the game 4:26 after returning to the ice. Neither club could break the one-all tie, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

With half a minute remaining before the shootout, Pacioretty (Radulov and Nathan Beaulieu) ended the game with a wrister.

What makes Pacioretty’s performance even more impressive is that he took a puck to the foot at this morning’s skate that hurt so much he had to be helped from the ice. Who fired that puck, you ask? Weber, obviously!

Carey Price earns the victory after saving 23-of-23 (95.7%), leaving the overtime loss to Second Star Pekka Rinne, who saved 41-of-43 (95.3%).

Montréal‘s victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 46-24-13, favoring the home squads by 16 points over the roadies.

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