Category Archives: Daily Matchup

Connor Keith presents a Game of the Day Column every game day (what a surprise). For those with a lot of initiative, free time, and money- you could also use this to plan to attend every game of the day in person and watch it live. Props to anyone who actually does that. Maybe we’ll write something about you or give you a high five- OR BOTH.

October 10 – Day Four – Hey Bro’

Yesterday’s Game of the Day, contested between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, ended in a 4-0 victory for the home squad over ex-coach Mike Babcock.  Justin Abdelkader earned first star honors after scoring a hat trick before the 24th minute of the game ticked off the clock, with rookie Dylan Larkin accounting for the remaining goal 20 seconds into the second period.  Jimmy Howard made 22 saves, including fighting off Toronto‘s three power plays, to earn his first shutout in as many games played.

Home teams are now 2-1 in the Game of the Day series.

Tonight marks the first date when almost every squad in the league is in action.  The only dormant squads are the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets.  Some of the highlights of the evening’s action includes Montréal at Boston (7 p.m. eastern, NHL Network) and the Isles at Chicago (8:30 p.m. eastern).

Those games being considered, my pick for Game of the Day is the St. Louis Blues at the Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. eastern).

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Connor, you’re so biased to pick the Notes.

Yeah, I know, you probably call ’em as you see ’em, but I do have a few factors that may help you at least semi-respect my choice.  I understand that nine of the 14 games (64%) contested tonight are divisional rivalries (of which this matchup is one) and Calgary/Vancouver is another Western Conference Quarterfinals rematch from last season.  I get it, this one isn’t that special in the grand scheme of things, at least in those regards.

What makes this one a little bit different is that the Blues bring with them to the Xcel Energy Center newly-acquired (as of July) center Kyle Brodziak, who spent six seasons with the Wild.  While in Minnesota, he qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the last three seasons, with an especially strong performance in the 2014 postseason where he scored three goals and notched three assists to help the Wild beat the Central Division Champion Colorado Avalanche before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals in six games.

During his time with the Wild, Brodziak scored 72 regular season goals (including six game winners, with three coming in the 2009-’10 season) and 97 regular season assists, placing him at eighth on Minnesota‘s all-time scoring leaders list (third among centers) with 169 points.  Defensively, he also blocked 291 shots and caused 265 takeaways.

Minnesota is currently favored in the matchup at -127, but expect the Blues to still harbor hard feelings after yet another early exit from the playoffs, this time at the hands of the Wild.

October 9 – Day Three – “All my exes live in… Toronto?”

Last night’s Game of the Day between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Dallas Stars ended poorly for the road team, as the Stars won 3-0.  Dallas had the game won after only a minute of play when Antti Niemi and Ales Hemsky assisted Mattias Janmark to his first goal of the season.  Pittsburgh managed 37 shots on goal, but were unable to break Niemi, who earned his first shutout of the season.  Two of Dallas‘ goals were a result of the power play, which certainly won’t make Mike Johnston happy, especially when the Pens couldn’t convert on any of their three.

Today, the NHL has five games on the schedule, including Winnipeg at New Jersey (7 p.m. eastern), the New York Rangers at Columbus (7 p.m. eastern), Chicago at the New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. eastern) and Arizona at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. eastern).

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Regardless of how those games may go, the one I’m most interested in tonight is at 7:30 eastern in Hockeytown, when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Detroit Red Wings.

There’s a ton of story lines that go with this game.  A few of the easy ones: It’s Detroit‘s first game of the season… it’s an Original Six matchup… it’s a divisional rivalry, the first of four games between the squads and the first of two in Motown this season… But we all know the most important factor about this game is that Mike Babcock, new head coach of the Leafs, will return to Joe Louis Arena to coach against the same team he led to the playoffs in all 10 of his seasons as head coach and won the Stanley Cup with in 2008, for the first time in the regular season.

Babcock’s career in Detroit is certainly not one worth laughing at.  In addition to leading the team to 10 playoff appearances in his 10 seasons (do the math, kids.  That’s good.) and winning Detroit‘s 11th cup, Babcock coached the team for a total of 909 games (786 regular season [third in team history], 123 playoff), winning 458 regular season games (leads team) and 67 playoff games (second in team history), and outright losing 223 regular season games (third most in team history) and 56 playoff games (most in team history).  His .649 regular season winning percentage ranks fifth in team history, while his .545 postseason winning percentage is second best in team history.

Luckily for Babcock, this won’t technically be his first time coaching against the Wings, or even his first time coaching against them in Detroit, as Toronto and Detroit played a home-and-home series to end the preseason.  That being said, a crowd in the preseason is nowhere near the size, nor has the same amount of energy, as a regular season crowd.

I think it’s safe to expect a relatively positive response from Red Wings fans when Babcock’s name is announced before the game since the team and coach separated on mutual terms, but I expect a rowdy crowd for the full 60 minutes of action as fans try to propel their team past their ex-leader.

Detroit is heavily favored to win this one (not as much as Los Angeles over Arizona, though!), which means I’m immediately pulling for Toronto because I love to pull underdog… or plant-life, in this case.  That being said, I think the Wings will grab two points in this one.

October 8, 2015 – Day Two

Last night’s Game of the Night between the New York Rangers and the Chicago Blackhawks ended in a Blueshirts‘ 3-2 winner.  Center Derek Stepan, assisted by Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider, scored the eventual game-winner with less than a minute left… in the first period.  The Hawks could only muster a goal 6:55 into the second period for the remainder of the game.  Although they lost, Chicago put 34 shots on goal (compared to New York‘s 27), but the Blueshirts made sure one more of their’s counted.

Tonight’s action involves seven games, all played on American soil… er… frozen water.  The Winnipeg Jets are visiting the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. eastern), the Ottawa Senators are visiting the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. eastern), the Philadelphia Flyers are visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m. eastern), the Edmonton Oilers are visiting the St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. eastern), the Carolina Hurricanes are visiting the Nashville Predators (8 p.m. eastern), the Pittsburgh Penguins are visiting the Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. eastern), and the Minnesota Wild are visiting the Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. eastern, NBCSN).

Judging from expected quality of the game, me, and thus Down the Frozen River (Look at all the power I have!), can make only one choice for our Game of the Night.

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Thanks in large part to the trade for Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh is expected to have improved this season from last, and tonight will be their first real opportunity to show that where it counts: the regular season.  Another team that has improved, maybe even more so from last season to this season, is the Dallas Stars.  Colby has the Stars taking the Central Division crown after missing the Stanley Cup playoffs by seven points.  While not all of us here at Down the Frozen River are yet convinced of that, we do agree that Dallas has made strong moves toward being highly competitive.

Currently, the Stars are favored in the matchup, but I expect a highly competitive game.  It goes without saying that the Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in their arsenal, two players that already have significant reputations for scoring.  But Dallas is now the home of Antti Niemi, Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp, all of whom have at least one Stanley Cup to their résumé and will want to impose their winning habits early on their new squad.

It should be an excellent game.

October 7, 2015 – Opening Day

The day we’ve been waiting for since June 15th has finally arrived: Opening Day of the 2015-’16 season.  Regardless of whether your team wins their first game by 10 goals or loses by 10 goals, your life is all the better this week because skates are on the ice playing for two points that count ‘for realz’ in the standings (pardon my feeble attempts to be cool… I’ll stop now while I still have a little bit of pride left).

This year’s iteration of Opening Day includes four matchups, one for each North American time zone and evenly split between the two nations.  The season officially gets started at 7 p.m. Eastern when the Montréal Canadiens visit the new-and-seemingly-improved Toronto Maple Leafs (TVAS, SN).  An hour later, the puck drops in the United Center after a banner-raising ceremony as the Chicago Blackhawks host the New York Rangers (NBCSN).  After the conclusion of the HabsLeafs game at 10 p.m. Eastern, SN viewers will be whisked off to Alberta to witness the first rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs waged between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames (the game will also be available for viewing on TVAS2 in Canada).  Half an hour later, the fourth and final game of the night begins in the Staples Center when the San Jose Sharks visit the Los Angeles Kings (NBCSN).

But Connor, whatever shall the Game of the Day be? (That’s right, you just used the word ‘shall.’ How astute of you).

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I think I’m going to go with the banner raising ceremony and what should be the highly competitive game between the Blueshirts and the Hawks.  As much as it’s been documented that I do not like Chicago, there’s only one defending Stanley Cup champion, and only one banner raising ceremony for them.

Not only is this a special moment for the team and league as a whole, the game should be fairly competitive, and it will be interesting to see Blackhawks‘ 2015-’16 form after their well-documented salary cap management during the offseason.  The other side of the ice is no slouch either, and intends to return to their 2014 Stanley Cup Finalist form with King Henrik in goal.

An added perk of this game is, with it hopefully being pretty competitive, we may get the chance to see some 3-on-3 overtime hockey in a real-game setting.  If it is anything like it was in the preseason, you definitely won’t want to blink.

Best of luck to you and your team this season!