It’s the second-to-last Friday of 2017, so don’t miss your chance to take in some hockey this evening!
For those taking me up on that offer (which should be all of you), the action starts at 7 p.m. with Philadelphia at Buffalo (SN), followed half an hour later by Minnesota at Florida. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps (Montréal at Calgary [RDS/TSN2] and Washington at Arizona) find an early start at 9 p.m. to close out the evening. All times Eastern.
Sometimes hockey fans get spoiled by a given day’s schedule, and some days… are like this. However, there’s a clear choice for which contest should attract most of our attention this evening.
After climbing from the bottom of the Eastern Conference into third place in the Atlantic Division, the 15-15-4 Canadiens have cooled off of late. Even though they’ve posted a decent 6-3-1 record over their last 10 games, they’ve ceded their playoff spot to the red-hot Bruins and have settled back into mediocrity.
Though the defensive end still leaves much to be desired, my biggest complaint with the Habs for most of the season has been their offense that has managed only 2.74 goals per game, the (t)sixth-fewest in the NHL.
That being said, Montréal currently has a wonderful story on its hands in undrafted third-year NHLer W Daniel Carr. With only eight NHL games to his credit this season, the Union College product has already earned 3-6-9 totals on the Canadiens’ fourth line to climb to 13th place in Montréal’s season point-earners leader board.
As for players who have been with the club all season, F Phillip Danault certainly doesn’t deserve the blame for the Habs’ struggles. His 7-14-21 totals from the second line lead the team, and he’s trailed closely behind by LW Max Pacioretty‘s 8-12-20 effort.
Playing host this evening are the 18-14-3 Flames, another team currently in fourth place in their division after spending time at various points over the past two months on the right side of the playoff bubble.
Of the two teams involved in tonight’s game, Calgary is easily the hotter of the two – and not just because of its nickname and logo. The Flames are riding a two-game winning streak, having beaten the rival Canucks 6-1 Sunday and a good-but-slumping Blues team 2-1 on Wednesday.
Made apparent by both of those scores, the defensive zone has not been the Flames’ biggest problem this season. 14-11-3 G Mike Smith is putting together a decent enough season with a .919 save percentage and 2.55 GAA, and he’ll be in net this evening since Calgary is off until Thursday.
Instead, my concerns with the Flames is the same as the Habs: an anemic offense. Calgary has managed only 2.77 goals per game this season, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.
That number would be much worse without LW Johnny Gaudreau on this team. He’s by far Calgary’s best offensive weapon, and he’s posted team-leading 13-27-40 totals from his spot on Head Coach Glen Gulutzan’s top line. Unfortunately for Gaudreau, there are few besides linemate C Sean Monahan (17-14-31) acting as a supporting cast, which has allowed defenses to have their way with the Flames.
It’s always tough to pick against 10-10-2 G Carey Price, but I feel confident that the Flames can defend the Saddledome and earn two points in tonight’s contest.
Though they needed a shootout, the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at the Prudential Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
Even though D John Moore (C Nico Hischier and Third Star of the Game W Kyle Palmieri) opened the scoring in the Devils’ favor, the Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to tallies from W Jimmy Vesey (F Paul Carey and C David Desharnais) and D Nick Holden (F Chris Kreider and W Pavel Buchnevich).
Only 1:48 into the third period, F Kevin Hayes (D Brendan Smith and W Mats Zuccarello) buried a wrist shot to give New York a 3-2 advantage, but a Kreider elbowing penalty with 9:05 remaining in regulation proved to be the Rangers’ downfall. 59 seconds into the man-advantage, First Star F Brian Boyle (F Taylor Hall and Palmieri) scored a power play backhanded shot to level the game at 3-3, the score that would hold through the remainder of regulation and all five minutes of three-on-three overtime.
It’s been two weeks since the last shootout in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Let’s see how this one pans out…
- As the home team, Jersey elected to shoot first. Hall didn’t make good on that decision though, as G Henrik Lundqvist was able to save his backhander.
- Zuccarello drew the Rangers’ first shot, but his snapper met the same fate as Hall’s offering: saved by G Cory Schneider.
- Palmieri scored the first goal of the shootout for the Devils…
- …but C Mika Zibanejad was able to match that effort and set the score at 1-1.
- W Drew Stafford had made half the shots he’d attempted in the shootout before last night, but his conversion percentage fell to .4 after Lundqvist made the save on his snapper.
- Vesey had the opportunity to win the game, but his wrister was saved by Schneider to force the shootout into overtime.
- Boyle did not earn his First Star honor for simply tying the game – he was also the last person to score a goal in the shootout.
- D Kevin Shattenkirk‘s wrister was saved by Schneider, earning the bonus point for the Devils.
Schneider earned the victory after saving 25-of-28 shots faced (.893 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Lundqvist, who saved 45-of-48 (.938).
There’s no stopping the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series nowadays, as they’ve won six of the last seven contests. Last night’s win gave the hosts a 45-25-9 record that is 21 points better than the visitors’.