Today marks the end of the first week of action, so hopefully we can close things out with a bang.
There’s seven games on the schedule tonight, starting with two (St. Louis at the New York Rangers and Columbus at Carolina) at 7 p.m. and Chicago at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS/TSN2) half an hour later. In a similar situation, Philadelphia visits Nashville at 8 p.m. with Detroit at Dallas waiting 30 minutes before dropping the puck. Finally, our co-nightcaps (Ottawa at Vancouver [RDS] and Arizona at Vegas [NBCSN/SN360/TVAS]) find their start at 10 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times Eastern.
There’s a few games that stick out to me…
- Chicago at Montréal: Another day, another Original Six game.
- Ottawa at Vancouver: After a dozen seasons with the Canucks, W Alexandre Burrows plays his first game at Rogers Arena in a white sweater.
- Arizona at Vegas: Speaking of home arenas, it’s about time T-Mobile Arena saw its first regular season game.
It’s unfortunate we can’t spend the evening with Burrows, who played such a vital role in the Canucks’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. But, you only get to make your city debut once, so it’s off to Nevada!
Just as I waited to welcome the Golden Knights to the NHL until they played their first game, I now officially welcome the city of Las Vegas and all her 632,912 citizens to one of my favorite sports in the world.
Oh, the arena, like almost everything we think about when envisioning the Las Vegas Strip, is technically south of Las Vegas proper in Paradise? Well, those 225,000 people can come too.
On a more serious note, it is unfortunate that no discussion about the Golden Knights’ inaugural home game is complete without mentioning the terrible events from the night of October 1. I’m certain I speak for all of us here at Down the Frozen River in extending my condolences to the families and friends of the 58 people who lost their lives that night, as well as the hundreds injured.
While a hockey game absolutely pales in comparison to the severity of this tragedy, it is my hope that what will be an exciting, joyous event will be a pleasant reprieve from the sadness surrounding Las Vegas and maybe – just maybe – a small step towards the city’s healing.
Taking our attention back to tonight’s game, though the Golden Knights have been away from home, they’ve been doing all they can on the ice for their community by jumping to an unexpected 2-0-0 record.
Unlike the teams involved in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day (see below for the recap to that game) offense has not been the name of the game for the Knights, as they’ve scored a total of only four goals to start the season.
“But wait,” you say. “I thought Vegas’ defense wasn’t supposed to be good.”
You’ve heard correctly. No matter how many shot blocks D Jason Garrison can manage (he’s averaged six-per-game to lead the league so far this young season, for those interested), that defensive corps has allowed a (t)fifth-worst 37 shots against per-game to reach G Marc-Andre Fleury.
Instead, Fleury has had to perform at his very best to earn his unblemished record. Among goaltenders with at least two games played, his .973 save percentage and .98 GAA are both second-best in the league.
Considering the enormity of tonight’s festivities and the fact that he hasn’t played since Saturday, Flower should be a lock to be in net this evening.
As for the Coyotes, they have come up just short in both of their games played. Arizona opened up its season with a 5-4 loss in Anaheim Thursday before Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss at home to these very Golden Knights.
Similar to Vegas, defense does not seem to be the Yotes’ forte. They’ve allowed an atrocious 41.5 shots to reach their crease, and don’t seem to play any better or worse if G Louis Domingue or G Antti Raanta is in net.
Speaking of, it sounds like Raanta drew the start this evening. Considering he earned Arizona’s lone point of the season against these Knights, that seems like the logical decision.
If the Coyotes want to return the favor of beating the Golden Knights in their first home game of the season, they’re going to need their offense to do the heavy lifting.
Though he plays along the blue line, D Alex Goligoski has been Arizona’s most consistent scoring threat as his three assists against the Ducks are the highest point total on the squad. As for actual forwards to keep an eye on, F Tobias Rieder is the only Coyote to score on Fleury Saturday and F Clayton Keller really likes to shoot. Either, or both, could provide the difference for the Yotes.
Only two things can happen following the pageantry associated with a night like tonight. Either the home team lets the emotion get to them, or they come out and dominate their opponent.
Considering the Golden Knights have been playing for more than themselves, I think most of us are hoping for the latter.
With an unassisted overtime wrist shot from First Star of the Game C Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks at the Air Canada Centre for a 4-3 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
The play started in Chicago’s offensive end where C Jonathan Toews tried to pass from the near boards to F Patrick Kane in the center of the zone, but Kane misplayed the puck as it bounced off his right skate… right to Matthews. The reigning Calder Trophy winner screamed up the ice to the far face-off circle in his offensive zone before ripping a fireball of a shot over G Anton Forsberg‘s glove shoulder. Matthews finished the play the only way one should when playing the Blackhawks: imitating Kane’s patented goal celebration in victory.
Matthews’ goal completed a Leafs comeback from a 3-1 deficit with 12:08 remaining in regulation. Second Star RW Connor Brown (D Nikita Zaitsev and D Ron Hainsey) pulled Toronto back within a goal with exactly seven minutes remaining on the clock, followed 2:42 later by a game-tying power play tip-in from LW James van Riemsdyk (C Tyler Bozak and D Morgan Reilly) to force overtime.
That comeback was necessitated in large part by a hot start for Chicago, as it had a 2-0 lead before eight minutes had expired from the first period. First it was D Jan Rutta (F John Hayden and F Tommy Wingels) finding the back of G Frederik Andersen’s net at the 3:46 mark, followed 4:11 later by Toews’ (Third Star RW Richard Panik and W Brandon Saad) second goal of the season.
Zaitsev (Brown and D Calle Rosen) did score with 9:40 remaining in the second period, but that tally was eventually negated by Panik’s (D Gustav Forsling and Rutta) power play wrister 7:52 into the third period.
Andersen earned the victory after saving 18-of-21 shots faced (.857 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Forsberg, who saved 39-of-43 (.907).
A third straight victory by the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series has earned them a 4-2-1 record and a two-point advantage over the visitors.