February 5 – Day 109 – You want to talk super?

Something, something non-hockey sports reference. Who cares? There’s hockey on!

Well, we have to take that with a grain of salt. While it is true there’s hockey being played today, we only have three games on the schedule. The shotgun gets underway at noon with Los Angeles at Washington (NBC), followed an hour later by Edmonton at Montréal (RDS/SN). Finally, Calgary at the New York Rangers (SN360) clean things up at 2 p.m. All times eastern.

Three really good games today. The entire trio is being contested between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs. That being said, one still stands out above the rest.

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Nothing says Super Bowl Sunday like the only game of the day between two Canadian teams.

The Oilers makes their lone trip of the season to Montréal with a 28-18-8 record, good enough for third place in the Pacific Division even though they’re currently on a three-game losing skid. The reason they’ve usually been able to find that success? It’s been their knockout offense, which has already buried 152 goals – the ninth-most in the NHL.

For those that haven’t heard: Captain Connor McDavid is a good hockey player. To prove that, we need only to look at his team- league-leading 60 points, 13 more than Leon Draisaitl‘s. Opposing gaoltenders (in today’s case, Carey Price) shouldn’t look past Draisaitl though, as he has the team-lead with 20 tallies.

Playing host this evening are the 30-16-7 Canadiens, the best team in the Atlantic Division by a decent margin even though they’re riding a two-game losing skid. What’s really been impressive about the Habs so far this season has been their strong offense. It’s accounted for 157 tallies so far this season, the seventh-most in the NHL.

He’s not quite the scoring monster McDavid is, but Max Pacioretty is still pretty darn good. His 44 points are most on the team, as are his 25 goals.

Where the Habs have been truly deadly has been their power play. They find success on 22.8% of attempts, the third-best rate in the league. Pacioretty handles the even-strength work, but Shea Weber takes control command of the man-advantage. His 18 power play points are tops on the team and tied for ninth-most in the league. Even more impressive, especially for a blueliner, is the fact that 10 of those points have been goals, and that is once again the benchmark in Montréal – and tied for third in the league.

The glaring deficiency for the Canadiens continues to be their Swiss cheese-impersonating penalty kill. They’ve stopped only 79.1% of opposing power plays, the ninth-worst rate in the league. Montréalais looking to cast blame should not include Alexei Emelin or Weber in their scolding, as both share the clubhouse lead in shorthanded shot blocks with 27 apiece – tying for fourth in the league in the statistic.

Some players to keep an eye on this afternoon include Edmonton‘s McDavid (60 points on 42 assists [both lead the league]) and Cam Talbot (26 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL], including four shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league) & Montréal‘s Pacioretty (25 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Price (23 wins [eighth-most in the league]).

If you like offense, you’ll enjoy this game. That being said, I pick Montréal to win today not just because they have home ice, but also because I trust Price more than Talbot to keep pucks out of the twine.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Cherry (1934-) – More known for his coaching and announcing careers, Cherry did play defenseman for exactly one game in the NHL: a playoff game for Boston, the team he would also coach with much success for five seasons.
  • Larry Hillman (1937-) – This blueliner was a longtime Maple Leaf, playing eight of his 19 NHL seasons in Toronto. By the time his career in the greatest hockey league in the world was through, he’d been named to five All-Star games and won four Stanley Cups.
  • Richard Matvichuk (1973-) – 14 seasons the eighth-overall pick in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft  by the North Stars played, spending most of his time in Dallas. Sticking with the club certainly payed off, as he was a member of the 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team.
  • Tomas Kopecky (1982-) – This center was the 38th-overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit, but he spent most of his NHL career in Florida. He’s only played for one other club in the league, and that’s where he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup: Chicago.
  • Linus Omark (1987-) – Edmonton picked this left wing in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s earned his most playing time in the senior league. Nowadays, he’s skating for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL.
  • Ty Rattie (1993-) – The 32nd-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by St. Louis, this right wing could never bust into the Blues lineup. He was claimed off waivers during this season by Carolina, his current club.

For those that love high-scoring affairs, yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day was for you. 11 goals were scored between the Maple Leafs and Bruins, with Toronto coming out on top 6-5 courtesy of Third Star of the Game James van Riemsdyk‘s late tally.

Everything got started with Second Star David Pastrnak‘s (Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara) wrister only 2:17 into the game to give the Bruins an early lead. It lasted until 8:45 remained in the frame when First Star William Nylander (Nazem Kadri and Auston Matthews) leveled the game at one-all, the score that held at the end of the period.

The second frame was absolutely nuts. Van Riemsdyk (Mitch Marner) buried his first goal of the night at the 8:31 mark, followed 38 seconds later by Goal #2 for Nylander. The rookie completed his hat trick (Connor Brown and Matthews) on the power play with 9:43 remaining in the second, setting the score at 4-1. The comeback was on for Boston, starting with Pastrnak’s (Bergeron and Chara) second tally of the night only 38 seconds after Nylander’s third, and Torey Krug (Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner) burying a power play goal with 4:07 remaining before intermission. Once the dust had settled and both teams were in their dressing rooms, the score read 4-3 in favor of the Leafs.

The comeback was completed with 9:54 remaining in regulation by Spooner’s (Chara and Dominic Moore) eighth tally of the season, but Brown (Zach Hyman and Matthews) gave the Maple Leafs a 5-4 lead only 5:09 later. The Bruins were able to find another equalizer with 2:54 remaining in regulation from Bergeron (Krug and Brad Marchand),  but van Riemsdyk (Tyler Bozak and Marner) was undeterred. He buried his winning wrister with 96 seconds remaining on the clock to secure the Leafs‘ victory.

Frederik Andersen earns the victory even though he saved only 36-of-41 (87.8%), leaving the loss to Zane McIntyre, who saved 10-of-12 (83.3%). He replaced starter Tuukka Rask in the second period following Toronto‘s fourth goal (aka Nylander’s third) after Rask had saved only 10-of-14 (71.4%).

Coincidentally, the last two road teams to win when featured in the DtFR Game of the Day are Toronto and… Toronto. The Leafs snapped a five-game winning streak by the home teams in the series, pulling them within 10 points of the 59-36-16 hosts.

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