February 13 – Day 117 – Blueshirts… Blue Jackets… Blue Everything!

There may only be two games happening today, but one of them is going to be absolutely fantastic. The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern when the New York Rangers visit Columbus (NBCSN/SN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Arizona at Calgary.

You get one guess at which one we’re going to feature.

New York Rangers LogoColumbus Blue Jackets Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The 20-somethings will remember this blue song…

…while the 30-something crowd might enjoy a little LeAnn Rimes.

Regardless of your preference, I think the message is clear: blue is the color of the day.

The 36-18-1 Rangers may be wearing white tonight, but they’re the Blueshirts all the same, complete with a five-game winning streak. Currently occupying fourth place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference, offense is the name of the game in Manhattan, as the Rangers have managed 187 goals this season – the third-most in the league.

Calling J.T. Miller the standout forward is almost an insult to the rest of the Rangers‘ attackers, as four players have 40 or more points to their credit. That being said, Miller does lead the team by contributing to 45 tallies this season. Of course, most of those are assists, meaning someone has to be scoring those passes… That’s where linemate Michael Grabner comes into play: he leads the team with 26 tallies.

Playing host this evening is 35-14-5 Columbus, the second-best team in the Metropolitan. Although they’ve been exemplary on both ends of the ice, the Blue Jackets have been most impressive at keeping the opposition off the scoreboard, as they’ve yielded only 132 goals this season – the third-fewest in the NHL.

Every good defense starts with a good goalie, and Columbus is no different. 30-11-3 Sergei Bobrovsky has been the man to beat this year with his .926 season save percentage and 2.17 GAA. Respectively, those stats rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league against the 38 other netminders with at least 22 appearances.

For those wondering, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner – Braden Holtby – currently has a .926 season save percentage and 2.02 GAA. Yes, he’s better than Bobrovsky, but only by the skin of his teeth.

Yet I’d argue Bobrovsky has had a better season than Holtby so far, mostly due to the defenses playing in front of them. Washington has a fantastic defense, which takes pressure off Holtby. Meanwhile, Columbus‘ blueline is only average, as they allow 30.1 shots-per-game to reach Bobrovsky’s crease – only the (t)13th-best in the league. Jack Johnson has been at the head of that effort with his team-leading 89 shot blocks.

The Blue Jackets are no slouch on the other end, though – especially when they have the man-advantage. Led by Alexander Wennberg‘s 20 power play points, Columbus has buried 23.3% of their power play opportunities, which ties for the second-best rate in the NHL. Power play linemates Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno have shared scoring responsibilities, as both have nine goals with the extra man.

It’s rare the Penguins pull for New York, but that’s the case this evening. Should the Rangers win in regulation, Pittsburgh advances past Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division due to winning the three-way games-played tie with the Jackets and Blueshirts (Columbus would still lead the Rangers with a game in hand). Meanwhile, a Jackets victory of any variety leaves the Eastern standings as they are – for a night, anyways.

This is the fourth game in a five-game series between these teams. Currently, Columbus has a 2-1-0 series lead over the Rangers, thanks to a 6-4 victory at Madison Square Garden the last time these clubs met on the last day of January.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Columbus‘ Atkinson (27 goals [fourth-most in the league]) and Bobrovsky (30 wins [second-most in the NHL] on a 2.17 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and a .926 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Grabner (26 goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] for a +28 [tied for sixth-best in the league]) and Henrik Lundqvist (26 wins [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) or Antti Raanta (2.34 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

With a great goaltender, a killer power play and home ice to boot, it’s hard to argue with a -135 line in favor of the Blue Jackets. While the Blueshirts will certainly not lose easy, I think Columbus wins tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gaston Gingras (1959-) – Picked by Montréal 27th-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played 10 seasons in the NHL. Not only did he spend most of his days with the club that selected him, he also won his lone Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986.
  • Marc Crawford (1961-) – This left wing was selected by Vancouver in the fourth-round of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Every single one of his 176 games in the league were in a Canucks sweater.
  • Mats Sundin (1971-) – The first overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Quebec, this Hall-of-Fame center played 18 seasons – most of which with Toronto. He was selected to eight All Star games and notched 1349 career points.
  • Niklas Backstrom (1978-) – Although he currently plays for HIFK, this netminder spent 10 seasons in the NHL, almost all of which with Minnesota. He most recently played for Calgary, making three starts last season.

Rivalries are supposed to be tight games. That wasn’t the case last night in the DtFR Game of the Day, as Boston won a four-goal shutout against the hated Canadiens.

Those that bet on Adam McQuaid (Third Star of the Game Peter Cehlarik and Torey Krug) scoring not only the first goal of the game, but also the game-winner, are currently a whole lot richer. He buried his snap shot 8:57 into the game for the lone tally of the first period.

The Bruins truly took control of this contest in the second period with two goals courtesy of Second Star Zdeno Chara (Ryan Spooner and Brad Marchand) at the 5:08 mark in a shorthanded situation, followed almost exactly 10 minutes later by David Krejci (David Backes and Cehlarik) on the power play.

Five minutes into the third, Frank Vatrano (Krejci and David Pastrnak) took credit for the final Boston goal to set the 4-0 final score.

First Star Tuukka Rask saved all 25 shots he faced to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Carey Price, who saved 32-of-36 (88.9%).

Boston‘s victory is the first shutout in the DtFR Game of the Day series since February 6, and expands the 62-39-18 home teams’ lead over visitors in the series to eight points.