January 5 – Day 82 – A derrick gets the Oil Bruin

Hey Thursday, how are you. Oh, you come bearing gifts? Great! What is it? Sweet, it’s hockey, just what we wanted!

Sorry, I’ve had Bob’s Burgers on the mind lately.

Anyways, we’ve got a nice little selection of seven contests this evening, starting with a pair at 7 p.m. (Edmonton at Boston [SN/TVAS] and Columbus at Washington) and Nashville at Tampa Bay half an hour later. Carolina at St. Louis drops the puck at 8 p.m., with Buffalo at Chicago (NBCSN) waiting half an hour. Finally, our co-nightcaps – Detroit at Los Angeles (SN) and Minnesota at San Jose – get underway at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

It may not be a divisional or even conference matchup, but the game I’m most interested in this evening involves the Bruins and the return of an old friend.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgUnknown-7

 

 

 

 

 

With Milan Lucic in tow, the 19-13-7 Oilers make their annual trip to the TD Garden. Playing the 10th-best offense in the league, Edmonton has earned the third-best record in the Pacific Division.

This Connor McDavid kid just might pan out for the Oilers. His 43 points are not only 10 more than Leon Draisaitl‘s second-place effort, but also tie Evgeni Malkin for the league’s highest mark. Draisaitl isn’t a skater to be laughed at though. He ties McDavid for the clubhouse lead in goals scored, both with 14 tallies apiece.

Part of the reason the Oil have been able to find such success has been their strong power play. They rank eighth-best in the league in that regard, burying the puck in 21.1% of man-advantage situations. Once again, Draisaitl proves himself worth every cent of his three-year, $10.2 million contract by notching a team-leading 15 points on the power play. Eight of those have been goals, which is also the best total in that category.

Playing host this evening are the 20-16-4 Bruins, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division. They’ve earned that position by playing some fantastic defense and goaltending, allowing only 96 goals – the seventh-lowest total in the NHL.

As has been the case since at least the 2012-’13 season, the man in charge of Boston‘s crease has been 19-8-3 Tuukka Rask. He’s managed that mark by notching a season .928 save percentage and 1.93 GAA, the  fifth (tied) and third-best efforts, respectively, among the 45 goalies with at least 15 appearances.

But it hasn’t been just the exemplary play of Rask. As good as he’s been, his defense has also been magnificent. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 73 blocks, the defense has allowed only 27.2 shots-per-game to reach Rask, tying them for the third-best mark in the league.

As one might expect, those combined efforts result in a solid penalty kill. The Bruins are second-best when down a man, refusing to yield a goal 87.6% of the time in that situation. Rookie Brandon Carlo and Chara have shared the bulk of the responsibilities on the penalty kill, both with 21 shorthanded shot blocks on their resumes.

Unfortunately, you can’t be good at everything. Boston‘s figuring that our the hard way when they have a power play presented to them. The seventh-best team on the power play a season ago, the Bruins are now tied for fifth-worst, a dramatic fall from grace. The main issue seems to be that only one power play line is scoring, as Torey Krug and Brad Marchand are on the same line and have the same seven man-advantage points. I don’t think that’s just coincidence, especially when David Pastrnak, who leads the team with four power play goals, is also on that line.

Other than that, yeah. I guess Boston is good at a lot of things right now. All the Big 4 sports are having solid years. I guess the Revolution are the other soft spot? Even then, they only missed the MLS Cup playoffs due to losing a goal-differential tiebreaker with the Union.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Pastrnak (19 goals [fifth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (four shutouts among 19 wins [both tied for second-most in the league] on a 1.93 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and a .928 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & Edmonton‘s McDavid (29 assists [most in the NHL] among 43 points [tied for the league lead]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 18 wins [sixth-most in the league]).

Currently, Boston is marked a -145 favorite to beat the Oil this evening. I’d pick the Bruins to win if I were you, if for no other reason than they’re playing at home. That being said, I wouldn’t doubt the Oilers‘ ability to force overtime.

Hockey Birthday

  • Steve Tuttle (1966-) – A sixth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing only had a job in the NHL for three seasons before finishing his career in the International Hockey League.
  • Joe Juneau (1968-) – Selected in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, this center played most of his 13 NHL seasons with Washington. By the time he hung up his skates, he notched 572 points.
  • Mike Grier (1975-) – Another St. Louis pick, this right wing was selected in the ninth-round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He never actually played a game for the Blues in his 14 seasons, instead spending most of his time in Edmonton.
  • Kyle Calder (1979-) – Chicago selected this left wing in the fifth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons with the Blackhawks before completing the remainder of his 10-year career as a journeyman.

A four-goal explosion in the third period was more than enough for the Rangers to secure a 5-2 victory over the rival Flyers in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The scoring didn’t begin until the 22:08 mark, courtesy of a snap shot from First Star of the Game Kevin Hayes (Michael Grabner and Brady Skjei) to give New York a 1-0 lead. It was the lone tally of the second frame.

Chris Kreider (Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello) was the next Blueshirt to strike, burying his snap shot 5:01 after returning to the ice for the final frame. 6:12 later, Graber (J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi) took credit for the eventual game-winning goal, then setting the score at 3-0. The only New York penalty of the third period proved to be a costly one. Stepan was caught hi-sticking Chris VandeVelde, and Third Star Jakub Voracek (Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere) took advantage by netting a power play snap shot with 7:28 remaining in regulation. Any momentum that earned Philadelphia was squelched 1:43 later when Hayes (Miller) scored a snap shot to set the score at 4-1. Voracek (Michael Del Zotto and Michael Raffl) struck again with 2:52 remaining on the clock to try to give the Flyers late life, but Grabner’s snap shot on an empty net 37 seconds later put the final nail in Philadelphia‘s coffin.

Second Star Henrik Lundqvist saved 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%) to earn the victory, while Steve Mason saved only 23-of-27 (85.2%) in the loss.

Even with two-straight visiting wins in the DtFR Game of the Day series, the home team still holds a 14-point edge with a 46-25-13 record.

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