December 15 – Day 72 – The Stars are taking over the Metro

Some Fridays in the NHL are great, others… not so much. I’ll let you make your own determination about today, but I think I’ve already made my decision.

One of my complaints about tonight’s slate is that it’s especially front-loaded. Three games (Carolina at Buffalo, Dallas at New Jersey and Los Angeles at the New York Rangers [NHLN/SN/TVAS]) will drop the puck at 7 p.m., followed only half an hour later by Toronto at Detroit. The last matchup of the night doesn’t take place until 10 p.m. when San Jose visits Vancouver. All times Eastern.

There’s also a complaint that few of the games are all that exceptional. Sure, the Maple Leafs-Red Wings rivalry is fun, but the average separation between the two competing teams in the standings is 7.2 points.

That all being said, the event in Newark this evening shows promise, as the Devils and Stars are separated by only two points. Let’s see what that game has to offer.

 

Don’t tell the Devils, but 18-13-1 Dallas is getting some work done against the mighty Metropolitan Division. Tonight’s game is their third of five consecutive games against the division, and the Stars have already won their first two.

That success is just a sampling of the solid run Dallas is on of late, as it has earned a 7-3-0 record over its past 10 games. Both ends of the ice have been impressive during this stint, but I’m more attracted to the offense that has managed to score 33 goals, the 10th most in the league since November 24.

Usually this is where you’d expect me to talk about LW Jamie Benn, RW Alexander Radulov and F Tyler Seguin, but they’re not the entire story. Sure, Seguin has played well over this run with his 5-3-8 totals – as has Benn and his 2-6-8 effort – but I’m most interested in third liner C Radek Faksa. Faksa has performed brilliantly considering his position in the lineup to post 5-3-8 totals to match Seguin’s effort.

For a player that managed only 17-28-45 totals over his first two seasons in the NHL, Faksa is primed for a 26-19-45 campaign that will look very good in the summer of 2020 if he can keep up his progression, as that’s when he’s slated to be a restricted free agent.

The 17-9-5 Devils haven’t exactly been in peak form of late considering their 3-3-1 record for the month of December, but they certainly took a step back in the right direction this week by beating the mighty Kings 5-1 on Tuesday and taking the Habs to overtime in Montréal yesterday.

The major problem I’m finding with New Jersey during its roughest patch of the season so far is its defense. In the Devils’ three regulation losses this month, they’ve allowed five goals against. That’s not an average – they’ve literally allowed five goals in each loss.

Two of those results have come with 5-3-1 G Keith Kinkaid in net, and I’d bet the house that he’ll be the one earning the start this evening since 12-6-4 G Cory Schneider was involved in last night’s affair in Québec.

Even before allowing 10 goals in two starts, this hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Kinkaid. He’d managed only a .906 season save percentage and 3.05 GAA before then, and he now boasts only .893 and 3.48 numbers.

Considering New Jersey’s defense hasn’t exactly been spectacular at keeping pucks off its own net (their 33.45 shots against per game is fourth-most in the NHL), Kinkaid needs to rediscover his form from last year if Jersey wants to sustain its success from last season.

Even though the Devils have the luxury of playing at home this evening, I’m leaning towards Dallas’ red-hot offense taking advantage of a struggling Kinkaid to earn two points.


By scoring a goal in each period, the San Jose Sharks beat the Calgary Flames 3-2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

First Star of the Game F Michael Frolik didn’t wait long to get the scoreboard running, as he scored an unassisted wrist shot 4:42 into the game to give Calgary an early lead. That advantage wouldn’t last into the intermission however, as W Timo Meier (Second Star C Chris Tierney and Third Star RW Joonas Donskoi) leveled the game on a slap shot with 3:53 remaining in the period.

Perhaps the most important play of the second period was G Mike Smith tripping C Joe Thornton at the 9:06 mark. 54 seconds after W Micheal Ferland was sent to the box in Smith’s stead, Tierney (Meier and RW Kevin Labanc) buried a power play wrister to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.

The Flames weren’t going to go down without a fight, and LW Johnny Gaudreau (RW Garnet Hathaway) tied the game once again 7:39 into the third period. Things were starting to head towards overtime, but Donskoi (Thornton and D Justin Braun) was not interested in that. Instead, he scored a wrister with 2:48 remaining in regulation to put San Jose in line for two points. Even with Smith pulled for the remaining 85 seconds on the clock, the Flames couldn’t find it in them to level the game for the second time in one period.

G Aaron Dell earned the victory after saving 32-of-34 shots faced (.941 save percentage), leaving the loss to Smith, who saved 26-of-29 (.897).

Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are rolling right now, as they’ve won three consecutive contests. As such, they’ve pulled within a dozen points of the 39-24-9 hosts.

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