January 7 – Day 84 – Larsson is back in town

It’s the first Saturday of the New Year, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with hockey.

You’ll notice we’ll celebrate anything around here, and we always celebrate the same way.

There’s a dozen games being played today, so odds are good your favorite team is in action. Everything starts at 1 p.m. with a pair of contests (Tampa Bay at Philadelphia [NHLN/SN1] and Winnipeg at Buffalo), followed three hours later by Minnesota at Los Angeles (NHLN), the last day game. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it five games (the New York Rangers at Columbus [NHLN], Boston at Florida, Montréal at Toronto [CBC/TVAS], Washington at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS2] and Edmonton at New Jersey [SN]), with a another pair of games waiting an hour before dropping the puck (the New York Islanders at Arizona and Dallas at St. Louis). The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Calgary (CBC/SN), with Detroit at San Jose – this evening’s nightcap – waiting half an hour before getting green lit.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Toronto: It’s Original Six rivalry night in the Queen City!
  • Edmonton at New Jersey: Welcome back, Adam Larsson. Welcome back.
  • Dallas at St. Louis: Last season, these clubs met up in the Western Semifinals. The Stars may have been the higher seed, but it was the Blues competing for a Stanley Cup Finals berth.
  • Vancouver at Calgary: What’s better than a rivalry? A rivalry on the second-half of a home-and-home matchup. Tensions will be high.

One of the bigger trades of the offseason has helped put the Oilers solidly in playoff position. The beneficiary? A certain defenseman…

Unknown-5New Jersey Devils Logo

 

Born in Skellefteå, Sweden, this defenseman made his way to the USA in 2011 after being drafted fourth-overall in that year’s NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey.

Lou Lamoriello was drawn to Larsson after two successful World Championships. Playing with the Junior Crowns in 2010 at both the World Junior Championships and the IIHF World U18 Championships, he won bronze and silver medals, respectively.

He got five good seasons in with the Devils, playing a total of 274 games. Although he only notched 69 points during that time, he performed his primary responsibility – keeping shots off his goaltender’s net – to a t. Headlined by his career 163 block campaign last season, he blocked 425 shots for Jersey.

Thanks to a trade only four days after the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Larsson now wears blue and orange instead of red and black. On the way to Edmonton, he passed Taylor Hall, the player traded from the Oilers to New Jersey. Since joining Edmonton, Larsson has only improved. He already has 119 shot blocks this season, and is on pace for 125 more.

Larsson and the 20-13-7 Oilers come to Newark in control of the third-best record in the Pacific Division. The defenseman has been a big help, but theme of the Oil‘s success has been their high-flying offense that has scored 113 goals, tied for the eighth-most in the NHL.

Have you heard of Connor McDavid? He’s kind of good at hockey. He’s already notched 45 points this season and is one of seven players to average more than a point per game. Even though only 14 of those points have been goals, but linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon join McDavid with 14 goals. 42 between the three of them is an impressive number made dangerous as opposing goaltenders don’t know who the final shot will come from.

The power play has also been a strength for Edmonton, as their 20.9% conversion rate is tied for the ninth-best mark in the league. Draisaitl has been the main man in this situation, notching 15 power play points. Most of those have been his 8 man-advantage goals, another statistic in which he leads the club.

Playing host tonight are the 16-17-7 Devils, the second-worst team in the Metropolitan Division. The main problem in New Jersey has been their struggling offense that has managed only 91 goals, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Although it doesn’t look like it’s going to yield a return to the playoffs, today’s featured trade has worked out equally as well for the the Devils. Hall leads the team with 25 points, although P.A. Parenteau has the goalscoring lead with a dozen tallies. Where Jersey has struggled is finding others to score the puck. Only three skaters have 10 or more tallies, which is far from enough to compete in the deep Metropolitan.

Part of the problem is that the Devils severely struggle on the power play. Even with Kyle Palmieri‘s team-leading nine power play points, Jersey has converted only 12.8% of their man-advantage opportunities. Once again, it’s the fact that there’s not a true standout completing plays. Hall leads the team with only four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Edmonton‘s McDavid (31 assists among 45 points [both most in the league]) and Cam Talbot (19 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New Jersey‘s Andy Greene (79 blocks [leads the team]) and Damon Severson (17 assists [leads the team]).

I know the Devils are playing on home ice, but I don’t see any way Edmonton doesn’t win their second-straight game. McDavid is just too good.

Hockey Birthday

  • Babe Pratt (1916-1988) – For eight of his dozen seasons, this Hall of Fame defenseman played for the Rangers en route to two Stanley Cup titles. A year after joining Toronto during the 1942-’43 season, he won the Hart Trophy on a career-high 57 points.
  • Mike Liut (1956-) – A fourth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 13 seasons in the NHL. Selected to the All Star Game in 1980-’81, he was also the recipient of the Pearson Trophy that season on a 33-14-13 record.
  • Guy Hebert (1967-) – Another St. Louis goaltending selection, Herbert was picked in the eighth-round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing most of his 10-season career in Anaheim, notching a career 191-222-56 record.
  • Donald Brashear (1972-) – Although undrafted, this left wing played an impressive 16 seasons – most of which in Vancouver. He was most known as an enforcer, earning a career 2634 minutes in the sin bin.
  • Alex Auld (1981-) – The 40th-overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this goaltender appeared in 10 NHL seasons, spending most of his time in Vancouver. By the time his career was complete, he set a 91-88-32 record.

A Vancouver 4-2 victory over the Flames in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day was worth more than a rivalry victory. It moved the Canucks into playoff position.

Calgary got things going quickly, scoring only 78 seconds into the game compliments of Third Star of the Game Michael Frolik‘s (Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk) wrister. The Canucks leveled with 9:11 remaining in the first period when Michael Chaput (Jack Skille) buried his first goal of the season. 2:18 later, Loui Eriksson (Second Star Markus Granlund and Alexander Edler) gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead with a wrister.

The eventual game-winning goal was struck with 22 seconds remaining in the second period. Thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty, Granlund (Bo Horvat and Jayson Megna) took advantage of the power play to set the score at 3-1.

3:18 into the third frame, Granlund (Nikita Tryamkin) deflected an insurance goal into net for the Canucks. Calgary tried their best to get back into the game, but they could only manage a power play wrist shot from Frolik (Backland and Mark Giordano) with 1:43 remaining in regulation.

First Star Ryan Miller earns the victory after saving 44-of-46 shots faced (95.7%), leaving the loss to Brian Elliott, saving nine-of-13 (69.2%).

The Canucks‘ victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 47-26-13, favoring the home sides by 14 points.

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