Saturdays are a great day in the National Hockey League. Then again, Saturdays in March are pretty great in general even though we’re all going to be watching the sport on ice instead of flipping channels with that sport that started with a peach basket (ATLANTA HAD TWO NHL TEAMS!) and that Canadian guy (HOCKEY, EH!!) in Springfield, Massachusetts (AHL HOCKEY!!!).
Please ignore college basketball for one day, okay? Thanks guys.
So yeah, Saturdays are pretty great. Especially when you wake up and the heat is still running– thank you very much, power company.
While our usual DTFR Game of the Day writer, @connorzkeith, is day-to-day and recovering from minor upper body surgery, I’d like to extend a special “thank you” to @jdettro for filling in yesterday.
Thanks to the second nor’easter in about a week, I was unable to fulfill my scheduled duty of doing Connor’s job for a day as was originally planned. Luckily, the power is back on and I’m here to be the Daily Matchup boss for the day.
In the meantime, looks like New England’s going to get ravaged again by another nor’easter on Monday/Tuesday– so if this experience isn’t for you, don’t worry, my power will probably be knocked out again in a couple days.
Anyway, on with the show.
There’s a boatload of games (11, in fact) on the docket today and only one can be our DTFR Game of the Day, but if you’re trying to catch them all…
The puck drops first in the Hub of Hockey at 1 p.m. between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins nationally on NHL Network (NBCS Chicago and NESN in their respective local markets)– with the Vegas Golden Knights paying a visit to the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning (RDS) and Winnipeg Jets at the Philadelphia Flyers all facing off at the same time.
Two hours later, the Arizona Coyotes visit the Colorado Avalanche at 3 p.m. An hour after that, the St. Louis Blues try to climb back into the playoff picture against the Los Angeles Kings on NHL Network at 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks square off at four in the afternoon as well.
If you’re content with watching NHL Network all day and sitting through the thousands of J.G Wentworth commercials, then you can treat yourself to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on NHL Network in the United States (CBC, Sportsnet & TVAS in Canada). If that’s not your thing, perhaps the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers are more of your cup of tea, because they’re also getting underway at seven o’clock.
The New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators face-off an hour later (8 p.m.) at Bridgestone Arena and the Minnesota Wild wrap up the night in Edmonton against the Oilers at 10 p.m. on CBC and Sportsnet in Canada. All times Eastern.
Here’s a few important ones circled on my calendar:
- Chicago at Boston: Tommy Wingels will be in the lineup for the first of this home-and-home series weekend matchup against his former team. Also, Boston’s without David Backes, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, so there’s that.
- Montreal at Tampa: If you like good Atlantic Division matchups, this is usually one of them, even if the Canadiens are in a rebuild.
- Winnipeg at Philadelphia: The Jets are scary good and the Flyers are physically scary, what’s not to love in the City of Brotherly Love?
- Arizona at Colorado: You would’ve laughed at me if I mentioned this last season, but the Coyotes are ruining their draft lottery chances by winning a lot lately and the Avalanche might be a wild card team this year, so…
- Washington at San Jose: Both of these teams have 81 points on the season and are 2nd in their respective divisions (Capitals in the Metropolitan, Sharks in the Pacific). Fight it out!
- Pittsburgh at Toronto: This could be a playoff matchup if the Leafs make it that far. In any case, it’s a Battle of Mikes behind the bench– Mike Sullivan and Mike Babcock.
Plenty of great match-ups to chose from, but only one can be our Game of the Day, after all. As such, let’s turn our attention to SAP Center, shall we?
Saturday afternoon is a great time to tune into the Washington Capitals at San Jose Sharks. Other than the whole “2nd place theme” going on, the Capitals are riding into San Jose on a two-game losing streak (a 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday and a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday).
Washington is being outscored by the entire State of California (so far), 7-1. Braden Holtby‘s had no brakes going down the tracks all season and it doesn’t appear his defense is doing anything to help.
After allowing three goals in a little over 25 minutes against the Ducks, Holtby was pulled. Philipp Grubauer then only faced eight shots on goal, turning all of them aside.
An empty net goal was enough to seal their fate at Honda Center, however.
Head coach, Barry Trotz, gave Grubauer a nod of confidence in giving him the start against the re-surging Kings, but the night did not go as planned for the team with the league’s leader in goals– Alex Ovechkin with 40 goals thus far– being held off the scoresheet in both SoCal games.
Grubauer allowed two goals before the Capitals gave up yet another empty netter in the closing minutes at Staples Center.
For all intents and purposes, Ovechkin is two-goals shy of 600 career NHL goals.
If he’s able to get at least two pucks past a San Jose goaltender on Saturday, he’ll become just the 20th player in NHL history to score 600 goals.
Looking to recapture the momentum of their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium last week, Washington could use two points in regulation against the on-again-off-again Sharks.
San Jose, in the meantime, enters Saturday night 2-1-0 in the month of March, outscoring opponents 11-6. A 7-2 victory at home against the Chicago Blackhawks yielded itself to an embarrassing 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Shark Tank.
Thankfully a 2-0 win on Thursday night lifted the spirits of Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Martin Jones and crew against St. Louis.
Trade deadline acquisition, Evander Kane, has fit in pretty well with the Northern California based franchise, amassing 1-4–5 totals in four games since trading in his Buffalo Sabres gear for a new teal-colored sweater.
In fact, Kane has fit in so well, he’s rejuvenated the Pavelski line with Joonas Donskoi on the other wing.
Jones will likely see his seventh straight start, but that’s no worry for the plus-14 goal differential Sharks now that Burns has begun to find his rhythm alongside… Joakim Ryan!?!
The 24-year-old rookie defenseman has three goals and nine assists (12 points) in 58 games played and is a plus-10 this season.
Veterans Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun are carrying their weight on the second defensive pair. Each of them are plus-7’s so far. Meanwhile Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo (try saying that ten times fast) solidfy the bottom pairing on the blue line.
Whereas the Capitals added Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek to their defensive zone leading up to the deadline, San Jose went after more of a spark.
It’s kind of hard to imagine where Joe Thornton will return to the lineup the way San Jose has been playing as of late. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad thing for someone who’s 38-years-old and still looking for his first Stanley Cup.
As long as the top-six forwards (Kane, Pavelski, Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker) don’t disappear when it counts, the Sharks should be poised to be a nice dark horse as long as they reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs down the stretch.
Despite being cash-strapped and weaker on defense, the Washington Capitals are putting together a solid season. Trotz’s team is offensively driven. It might just be enough to finally match the Pittsburgh Penguins style of constant offense in the Second Round of the postseason– but I’d hate to get ahead of ourselves.
Washington’s led the Metropolitan Division and they’re looking to regain the division lead with a win in any fashion on Saturday and a Penguins loss in regulation to Toronto later that evening.
In any case, whoever ends up in the Stanley Cup Final will have to go through a rigorous Western Conference team.
For San Jose, it could be three long rounds. For the Capitals, it might be any of the California teams they’ve played this week and, well, they’ve got some work to do.
Regardless, the Sharks want to stay hot and remain competitive– firmly in the grasp of a Pacific Division playoff spot instead of a wild card manifestation. Look for San Jose to take a bite out of Washington’s goaltending with their recent scoring prowess and 3-1-0 record through four games of their six game home stand.
The Dallas Stars took yesterday’s DTFR Game of the Day against the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 2-1 at American Airlines Center.
Ryan Getzlaf (10) kicked off the game’s scoring, giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Corey Perry (27) and Rickard Rakell (29) notched the assists on Getzlaf’s goal at 17:16 of the 1st period.
Devin Shore (9) tied the game, 1-1, at 8:50 of the 3rd period on a power play goal. Tyler Seguin (27) and Jamie Benn (37) recorded the assists on Shore’s goal.
Benn (23) scored the game winning goal on another Stars power play at 14:50. Dallas blueliner, John Klingberg (50) reached the 50-assist plateau and Seguin (28) picked up his 2nd point of the night on Benn’s game-winner with a little more than five minutes remaining in regulation.
Dallas netminder, Kari Lehtonen, picked up the win with 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .963 save percentage. Ducks goaltender, Ryan Miller, allowed two goals on 37 shots for a .946 SV% in the loss.
The Stars were 2/2 on the power play, while Anaheim failed to convert on three man-advantages. Dallas travels to Pittsburgh for a Sunday night matchup at PPG Paints Arena on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET).
Anaheim is off until Monday night on home ice at Honda Center against the St. Louis Blues (10 p.m. ET).