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.

FEBRUARY 20 – DAY 128 – EAST IS WILD…CARD

Every game is important for the Flames if they want to make a playoff push, and they made that fact known in yesterday’s Game of the Day, beating Vancouver 5-2 in the Saddledome.

Calgary didn’t wait long, 1:41 to be exact, before scoring their first goal, as Joe Colborne’s snap shot found the back of the net, assisted by Mikael Backlund (his 19th helper of the season) and TJ Brodie.  Vancouver leveled the score at the 10:41 mark with a wrister from Adam Cracknell, assisted by Jannik Hansen and Daniel Sedin (his 27th helper of the season), and followed that 5:06 later with a wrister from Jake Virtanen (his fourth of the season) to take a 2-1 lead that held into the intermission.

A three-goal second is what sealed the game for the Flames.  Their first of the period came only 2:07 after resuming play, courtesy of a Backlund wrister, assisted by Colborne and Michael Frolik.  The game-winner found the back of the net 3:27 later, courtesy of Frolik, who was assisted by Brodie (his 31st helper of the season) and Matt Stajan.  Calgary set the score at 4-2 with only 25 seconds remaining in the second period, compliments of a Mark Giordano slap shot, assisted by Brodie and Johnny Gaudreau (his 34th helper of the season).

Calgary scored the lone goal of the third relatively early, as Josh Jooris’ deflection (his fourth goal of the season) found the back of the net at the 3:01 mark, assisted by Lance Bouma and Jakub Nakladal.

Jonas Hiller earns the win after saving 26 of 28 (92.9%), while Jacob Markstrom takes the loss after saving 28 of 33 (84.8%).

After that, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 57-29-12, favoring the home squad by 34 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy day in the NHL, just like we like it!  There’s nine games on the schedule, and the first one, Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, starts at 12:30 p.m. eastern.  Four games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Philadelphia at Toronto, Detroit at Ottawa, Winnipeg at Florida and New Jersey at Washington), followed an hour later by two more (Los Angeles at Nashville and Boston at Dallas [NHLN]).  The St. Louis at Arizona game gets started at 9 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Coloradoat Edmonton.

Only two of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Detroit at Ottawa and New Jersey at Washington) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles at Nashville and Boston at Dallas).

Since the Lightning and Penguins are currently tied at 66 points for the two wildcard positions, it is impossible to not keep an eye on this game!

Unknown-1Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

This will be Tampa Bay‘s 11th time being featured in our Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 6-3-1 record.  Their most recent game under our observation was a February 12 4-3 overtime victory over the Predators.  Pittsburgh has been featured nine times before today, and own a 3-5-1 record in such games, with their most recent being a 3-0 shutout loss on home ice to the Rangers on February 10.

The 31-22-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wildcard position (they’re tied with Pittsburgh for the other wildcard, but the Pens have played one less game).  To get to that position, they’ve played the eighth-best offense in the league, paired with the 13th-best scoring offense.

Thanks in part to Victor Hedman’s team-leading 97 blocks, the Boltshave allowed only 1606 shots to reach 22-17-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 144 goals against, eighth-fewest in the league.  That success has continued with the penalty kill, which holds 82.08% of extra-man opportunities scoreless for only 31 power play goals against, making Tampa Bay the 11th-best penalty kill.

The offense in Tampa is above average.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ 162 shots, they’ve only fired the puck 1665 times, but 9.1% have found the back of the net for 155 goals (led by Nikita Kucherov’s 24 tallies), 13th-most in the league.   Unlike the penalty kill, this special team does not follow suit with the full unit.  The Bolts have only been successful on 17.95% of attempts for 35 power play goals (led by Stamkos’ 11), 10th-worst in the league.

Tampa Bay last played Thursday night, when they needed a shootout to beat the Jets 6-5.  In addition to breaking their tie with the Pens, a win today also has the potential to move the Bolts all the way into second in the division should both Boston and Detroit lose this evening.  Should Tampa lose, they do run the chance of falling out of the playoffs should New Jersey beat Washington.

The 29-19-8 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth in the Metropolitan Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, leading the Bolts by a games played tiebreaker for the top wildcard position.  They play a top-10 defense, but the offense ranks near the bottom 10, so the Penguins have had struggles this year.

Even with Ben Lovejoy’s 84 blocks, the Pens have allowed 1729 shots to reach 23-13-6 Marc-Andre Fleury and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 144 goals against, eighth-best in the league.  The defense has especially stepped up their efforts on the penalty kill, where they are killing 84.27% of opposing power plays for only 28 extra man goals against, fourth-best in the league.

On the other hand, the offense has been anything but exemplary.  The Pens may have fired 1827 shots, but only 8% have found the back of the net for 148 tallies (led by Sidney Crosby’s 25 goals), 11th fewest in the NHL.  Those numbers improve with the man advantage though, as Pittsburgh has scored on 19.34% of their opportunities for 35 power play goals (led by Evgeni Malkin’s 10 extra man tallies).

Pittsburgh‘s most recent game was a 6-3 victory over the Red Wingson Thursday.  Just like Tampa, a win this afternoon officially breaks their tie with this afternoon’s opposition for the wild card, but Pittsburgh is unable to improve past their current position.  A loss by the Pens would, just like the Bolts, open them up for being replaced in the playoffs by the Devils should they win tonight.

So far this season, Tampa Bay leads the season series 2-0-0.  These teams last met February 5 in Tampa, where the Bolts won 6-3.  The better of the two games for Pittsburgh was the first meeting on January 15, where the Pens took the Lightning to overtime before falling 5-4.

Some players to keep an eye on in this matinee are Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (55 points [eighth-most in the league] and 25 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Fleury (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 23 wins [ninth-most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+22 [fifth-best in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+21 [tied for sixth-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.14 GAA [fifth-best in the league]) and Kucherov (24 goals [10th-most in the league]).

This is a tough game to predict.  Tampa‘s offense, overall, has played better than Pittsburgh‘s, but the Penguins have been surging of late, and will be encouraged by a home crowd.  I predict a tight game, but a Penguins winner.

FEBRUARY 19 – DAY 127 – DAYS GONE BY

Washington‘s 3-2 victory over the Islanders was the second this week in the Game of the Day series that required overtime to determine the recipient of the two points.

It was actually New York who scored the first and only goal of the first period, courtesy of John Tavares’ wrister at the 15:41 mark, assisted by Nick Leddy (his 23rd helper of the season).

Washington leveled the score only 1:25 after returning from the intermission with a goal from Alex Ovechkin.  His wrister was assisted by Evggeny Kuzetsov (his 42nd helper of the season) and Justin Williams.  They took the lead only 1:37 later with another goal from Ovechkin, this time a snap shot on the power play.  This goal was assisted by Nicklas Backstrom (his 37th helper of the season) and T. J. Oshie.  The Capitals held the 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

New York leveled the game with only 1:44 remaining of the game.  Frans Nielsen takes credit, assisted by Kyle Okposo (his 30th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.

Washington had no interest in going to a shootout, so Williams made sure his slap shot with only 46 seconds remaining in overtime was pure, as he was assisted by John Carlson (his 25th helper of the season) and Matt Niskanen.

Braden Holtby earns the win after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%), while Thomas Greiss takes the loss after saving 32 of 35 (91.4%).

The Game of the Day series now stands at 56-29-12, favoring the home squads by 32 points over the roadies.

It’s not a very busy schedule this evening, as there’s only five games on the docket.  As usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with three games (the New York Islanders at New Jersey, San Joseat Carolina and Buffalo at Columbus), while Philadelphia at Montréal (NHLN) dropping the puck half an hour later.  The final game of the night drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern, when Vancouver visits Calgary.

There are only two divisional rivalries being played this evening (New York at New Jersey and Vancouver at Calgary), and none of the games are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Since Vancouver and Calgary met in the playoffs last season, let’s take a trip down memory lane and watch that game.

Unknown-1Calgary Flames Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Vancouver‘s fifth in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 2-2-0 record.  Their most recent time featured was January 15 when they beat the Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime in Raleigh.  Calgary has been featured much more recently, as we focused on their game against the Ducks on Monday, which they lost 6-4.  That game was their second in the series, and they have yet to earn even a point when featured.

The 22-23-12 Vancouver Canucks currently sit in fifth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference, eight points out of a playoff position.  They play the 12th worst defense in the league, which is made even worse by being backed by the second-worst offense.

Even with Chris Tanev’s team-leading 124 blocks, Vancouver has still allowed 1759 shots to reach 12-17-9 Ryan Miller and co., of which they’ve saved 91.8% for 157 goals against, 12th-most in the league.  Although the defense has not played as well, the penalty kill has been slightly above average, killing 81.11% for 34 power play goals against, 14th-best in the league.

That being said, the Canucks‘ offense makes their defense look best in the league.  Even with Daniel Sedin’s 190 shots, Vancouver has only fired the puck 1607 times, with 8% finding the back of the net for 133 goals (led by Sedin’s 22 tallies), second-worst in the NHL.  Much of Vancouver‘s issues can be found by the lack of success on the power play, which ranks fifth-worst in the league by connecting on only 16.96% of extra-man opportunities for 29 power play goals (led by Sedin’s six).  To add insult to injury, Vancouver has allowed five short-handed goals, one more than the league average.

Vancouver is currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss to the Ducks last night in Rogers Arena.  A win this evening would pull the Canucks within two points of the Coyotes for fourth in the division and only six points out of a playoff position.

The 25-28-3 Calgary Flames currently sit in sixth in the Pacific Division and 13th in the Western Conference.  They play the 13th best offense in the league, paired with the fourth-worst defense.  A more in-depth analysis of Calgary‘s game can be found within Monday’s post.

Calgary is also riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 5-3 loss to the Wild on Wednesday.  Should the Flamesend their losing skid, they would move past Winnipeg into 13th position in the conference.

Calgary currently leads the season series against the Canucks 2-1-0, with their most recent meeting on February 6 in Vancouver, where the Flames won 4-1.

These teams also met in last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinal playoffs, where the Flames won the series 4-2 with a deciding 7-4 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (55 points [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Vancouver‘s Sedin (46 points, with 22 goals, 16 of which were at even-strength and six were on the power play, with another six being game-winners, all on 190 shots [all lead the team]).

Neither team’s defense has played well at all this season, but Calgaryseems to be the only team of these two prone to take advantage of that fact.  Expect the Flames to get two points.

FEBRUARY 18 – DAY 126 – ISLANDER WARS, EPISODE II: RETURN OF THE CAPS

New York beat Chicago in the first game of the season.  Chicago finally got the opportunity to return the favor, and capitalized on it, winning 5-3.

It didn’t take long before Chicago had their first goal, courtesy of Andrew Desjardins at the 3:30 mark.  His tip-in was assisted by Second Star of the Game Teuvo Teravainen and Niklas Hjalmarsson (his 16th helper of the season).  That goal was the only one of the period, so the Hawks took their lead into the dressing room.

At the 10:05 mark of the second, Chicago struck again with a power play wrister from First Star Artemi Panarin (his 20th tally of the season), assisted by Erik Gustafsson and Michal Rozsival.  New York finally got on the board 3:40 later with a wrister from Third Star Kevin Hayes, assisted by Oscar Lindberg’s 12th helper of the season.  The Hawks‘ 2-1 lead held into the second intermission.

The Blueshirts leveled the score only 24 seconds after resuming play, courtesy of a Derick Brassard power play snapper, assisted by Keith Yandle (his 28th helper of the season) and Chris Kreider.  They followed that goal 1:53 later with a Dan Boyle slap shot, assisted by Hayes (his 17th helper of the season) and J.T. Miller.  The Blackhawkstook offense to New York‘s goal streak, so they went on one of their own, thanks in large part to two Rangers penalties.  The first of those two power play goals occurred at the 9:53 mark, courtesy of an Andrew Shaw slap shot, who was assisted by Teravainen and Jonathan Toews (his 21st helper of the season) to level the game at three-all.  The Hawks broke the tie with only three minutes remaining in regulation on another power play.  Panarin scored his second of the night, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 49th helper of the season) and Brent Seabrook.  The final goal of the game came 1:49 later when Duncan Keith earned his 30th helper of the season with the assist on Panarin’s first professional hat trick-completing tally, which set the score at the 5-3 final.

Corey Crawford earns the win, saving 31 of 34 (91.2%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss after saving 15 of 19 (78.9%).

The Game of the Day series now stands at 56-29-11, favoring the home squad by 33 points over the roadies.

This Thursday, we have a busy schedule, with 11 games on the docket.  First up are the two games that start at 7 p.m. eastern (Washington at the New York Islanders and Detroit at Pittsburgh [NBCSN]), followed half an hour later by four more (the New York Rangers at Toronto, Carolina at Ottawa, Winnipeg at Tampa Bay and San Jose at Florida).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it a couple more games (Los Angeles at St. Louis and Boston at Nashville), followed 60 minutes later by another pair (Minnesota at Edmonton and Dallas at Arizona).  The final game of the night is Anaheim at Vancouver, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Washington at New York and Anaheim at Vancouver represent the only two divisional rivalries taking place this evening, and five are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at New York, Detroit at Pittsburgh, San Jose at Florida, Los Angeles at St. Louis and Boston at Nashville).  Washington at New York is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

As usual, we try to go with games that qualify for most or all of those groups.  Washington–New York is in all three, and selfishly, it’s been awhile since we’ve featured either squad, so let’s hop on the B Train and head to the Barcalays Center!

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Washington‘s 12th in the series, where they currently own a 8-3-0 record.  Their most recent showing under our focus was February 6, when they visited New Jersey and won 3-2 in the shootout.  New York hasn’t been featured since their February 4 trip to Washington, where they fell 3-2 in their fourth featured game, dropping their record in the series to 1-3-0.

The 41-10-4 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the NHL by a five-point margin.  They’ve earned that position honestly, as they sport the best defense backed by only the second-best offense.

Thanks in part to Karl Alzner’s team-leading 143 blocks, the Caps‘ defense has allowed only 1598 shots to reach 35-6-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.6% for only 126 goals against, fewest in the league.  Although they don’t own the top penalty kill, Washington‘s special team is still a force to be reckoned with, as it’s killed 83.91% of penalties for only 28 power play goals against, fifth-best in the league.

Washington‘s offense is second-rate only in the literal sense that it is second-best in the league in goals scored (184, led by Alex Ovechkin’s 35 tallies).  Ovechkin, with his 276 shots, has also led his squad to 1675 attempts, of which a whopping 10.8% find the back of the net.  The success continues to the power play, where the Capsrank number one with their 23.7% success rate that has provided them 41 extra-man goals (led by Ovechkin’s 14).

At this point, Washington is most concerned with clinching the Presidents’ Trophy, as neither the Rangers nor Florida are providing much competition for either the division or conference, respectively.  With a victory tonight to begin a win-streak (they beat the  Kings 3-1 Tuesday), the Capitals expand their lead for home ice back to seven points over Chicago.

The 30-19-6 New York Islanders currently occupy third in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve made it to that position by playing the eighth-best offense and the ninth-best defense, so they are a very well-rounded team.

Led by John Tavares’ 170 shots, the Isles have fired 1680 attempts, of which 9.3% have found the back of the net for 161 tallies, eighth-most in the league.  That success hasn’t carried over to the power play as much, as their 20.37% success rate, good for 33 goals, ranks only 11th-best in the league.

The defense is right behind, and led by injured Calvin de Haan’s 139 blocks to allow only 1652 shots to reach 16-6-2 Thomas Greiss and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for 141 goals against, ninth-fewest in the league.  That success draws almost directly from the second-best penalty kill in the league, as the Isles kill an incredible 86.96% of their penalties for only 21 extra-man goals against.  They also have taken advantage of opportunities well, as they have five short-handed goals to their credit (led by Cal Clutterbuck’s two shorties).

New York most recently played on Monday, beating the Red Wings4-1.  Should the Islanders manage to turn that win into a streak, they have the opportunity to pull within two points of their Manhattan rivals, but that is also dependent on cooperation from Toronto.  More importantly than that though is avoiding falling out of a division spot, which is possible if they lose and Pittsburgh wins this evening.

Washington currently leads the season series 2-0-0, but the February 4 game was certainly an improvement for the Isles against the Caps, as they fell by only a lone goal instead of three.

These squads also met in last season’s playoffs, where the Caps won in seven games in the first round.  New York has not beaten Washington since Game Six on April 25, and certainly has aspirations of ending that skid.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include New York‘s Greiss (.931 save percentage [second-best in the league] and 2.16 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Alzner (+21 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Nicklas Backstrom (53 points [tied for eighth-best in the league] and 36 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Holtby (35 wins [most in the league], 2.16 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the league] and .926 [seventh-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+27 [leads the league], 41 assists [third-most in the league] and 57 points [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (35 goals [leads the league] and +21 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

Although I think New York is better than their 9-7-1 record in their last 17 games, I don’t really think it matters.  Washington has already started building Donald Trump’s wall, and it’s name is Braden Holtby.  And, when you pair it with Ovechkin’s offense… New Yorkwill be lucky to take the Caps to overtime.

FEBRUARY 17 – DAY 125 – LET’S LOOK BACK AT THE FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON

Yesterday, I picked the Dallas Stars to beat the St. Louis Blues in the Game of the Day, but it was in fact the Notes who fired the overtime winner.

The Blues opened the scoring at the 20:12 mark with a wrister from Jaden Schwartz, who was assisted by Colton Parayko (his 16th helper of the season) and Carl Gunnarsson.  St. Louis‘ 1-0 lead held into the second intermission.

Dallas leveled the score with 6:34 remaining in regulation with a Mattias Janmark wrister, assisted by Valeri Nichushkin and Alex Goligoski (his 21st helper of the season).  Neither side was able to break the tie before the clock read zeroes, so the game went to three-on-three overtime.

The Blues won the game after 1:11 of overtime, courtesy of a slap shot form Kevin Shattenkirk, who was assisted by Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen (his 29th helper of the season).

Brian Elliott earns the win after saving 17 of 18 shots (94.4%), while Kari Lehtonen takes the loss after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 56-28-11, favoring the home squad by 35 points over the roadies.

It’s a light Wednesday schedule, with only three games on deck.  The first two start at 8 p.m. eastern (Montréal at Colorado and Chicagoat the New York Rangers [NBCSN]), followed two hours later by Minnesota at Calgary.

None of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (in fact, Minnesota at Calgary is the only game between teams of the same conference), but Chicago at New York is an enticing matchup since it is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Unknown-2New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s contest will be Chicago‘s 18th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 9-6-2 record.  Their most recent showing in such games was Saturday, when they fell 3-2 in overtime on home ice to the Ducks.  New York has been featured 14 times in the series before this evening, and own an 8-4-2 record in such games.  They were most recently featured last Wednesday when they visited Pittsburgh, winning 3-0.

The 37-18-5 Chicago Blackhawks are currently second in both the Central Division and Western Conference.  As you might guess, there’s a reason they’ve earned that position, as they are the fourth-best offense and the eighth best defense.  Who said you couldn’t have the best of both worlds?

Not Hannah Montana, that’s for sure.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 211 shots, the Hawks have fired a whopping 1861 shots so far this season, of which 9.1% have found the back of the net for 170 goals (led by Kane’s 34 tallies), fourth-most in the league.  Looking from simply it’s position in league’s stats, the power play is almost holding the Blackhawks back, as it ranks a measly sixth-best in the league, scoring on only 21.74% of attempts for 40 extra-man goals (led by Kane’s 14 power play tallies).

Thanks in part to Trevor van Riemsdyk team-leading 112 blocks, the Hawks have held opposing offenses to 1845 shots reaching 31-14-3 Corey Crawford and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.7% for only 139 goals against, eighth-fewest in the league.  Probably the biggest deficiency in Chicago‘s game is their penalty kill, which ranks 15th-worst after killing only 80.72% for 32 power play goals against.  They do improve that number, though, with seven short-handed goals to their credit.

Chicago took care of the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night, winning 7-2 in the United Center to end their losing skid at three games.  A win tonight propels the Hawks past the Stars into first place in the division and conference by a point.

The 32-18-6 New York Rangers currently occupy second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve scored the fifth-most goals in the league, paired with a defense that gives up the 12th-least.

Even with Rick Nash (who’s been sitting out with a bone bruise since January 22)’s team-leading 149 shots, the Blueshirts have only managed 1644 shots so far this season, of which a solid 9.7% have found the back of the net for 163 tallies, fifth-most in the NHL.  Unlike most teams of their caliber, New York‘s power play verges on atrocious, connecting on only 16.56% of opportunities for 26 extra-man goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s five power play tallies), to rank sixth-worst in the league.  Making matters even worse, the power play has also given up five short-handed goals, one more than the league average.

Dan Girardi’s team-leading 130 blocks has helped the Blueshirtsskaters allow only 1650 shots to reach 28-14-4 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 143 goals against, 12th-fewest in the league.  Once again, it is the Rangers‘ special teams that hold them back, as they’ve killed only 78.11% of penalties for 37 power play goals against, fifth-worst in the league.

New York most recent contest was a 3-1 victory over the Flyers on Sunday.  A win tonight may not improve the Rangers‘ position in regards to the Capitals very much, but it does improve their distance from their in-town rivals to six points.

Today’s Game of the Day may seem a little familiar, and that’s because it is.  New York visited Chicago to open the season as our first featured matchup, and won 3-2.

Some players to watch in this game include Chicago‘s Crawford (seven shutouts [most in the league], 31 wins [second-most in the league], .93 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league] and 2.19 GAA [tenth-best in the league]), Kane (82 points [leads the league], 48 assists [second-most in the league], 34 goals [second-most in the league] and +23 [tied for third-best in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (54 points [tied for sixth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (28 wins [tied for third-most in the league] and .924 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league]).

When the season’s best offensive player and one  of the hottest goalies come to town, you know it’s a big game.  If New York can manage to keep the game five-on-five for the entire 60 minutes, they might have a chance of holding home ice, but I doubt it.  Chicago for sure earns two points in the Big Apple.

FEBRUARY 16 – DAY 124 – CENTRAL SHOWDOWN

Just as expected, the Anaheim Ducks took care of business in the Saddledome, beating the Calgary Flames 6-4 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Sixty percent of the goals scored in the first period came as a result of the power play, and two of them were for the lowly Flames.  The first tally of the game was one of those Calgary scores, courtesy of Third Star of the Game Johnny Gaudreau, and assisted by Sean Monahan and Second Star Jiri Hudler (his 23rd helper of the season), at the 5:56 mark.  The Ducks responded relatively quickly, scoring only 4:03 later with an extra-man tally of their own courtesy of Hampus Lindholm, his seventh of the year.  Calgary again broke the tie with another power play goal, this one at the 11:22 mark.  Dougie Hamilton took credit for this one, assisted by Monahan (his 21st of the season).  It was Anaheim‘s turn next, who scored only 2:26 later with a score from First Star Mike Santorelli, assisted by Cam Fowler (his 12th helper of the season) and Kevin Bieksa.  Calgary got the last laugh of the wild first, scoring with only 2:55 remaining in the frame courtesy of Hudler, who was assisted by Gaudreau and Hamilton (his 17th helper of the season), setting the score at 3-2.

It was the second period where the Ducks pulled away, scoring three straight, with the first two coming off power plays.  The first of the trio found the back of the net only 2:15 after resuming play, courtesy of Corey Perry, who was assisted by Fowler and Ryan Getzlaf (his 37th helper of the season).  Only 1:05 later, the Ducks took their first lead of the game with a tally from Sami Vatanen, assisted by David Perron (his 19th helper of the season) and Fowler.  The clock read 7:42 when Anaheim scored an insurance goal, that eventually became the game-winner.  Rickard Rakell takes the credit, assisted by Perry (his 18th helper of the season) and Simon Despres.  The Flames got one back with only 2:55 remaining in the period when Hudler’s backhander found the back of the net, assisted by Gaudreau (his 32 helper of the season) and Monahan.  The 5-4 Duckslead held into the second intermission.

With the exception of Santorelli’s wrister at the 51st second, which was assisted by Ryan Kesler (his 17th helper of the season) and Josh Manson, goal scoring came to a halt in the third period, giving Anaheim the 6-4 victory.

Frederik Andersen earns the victory after saving 33 of 37 (89.2%), while Joni Ortio, who replaced Jonas Hiller (13 of 17, 76.5%) after he allowed Vatanen’s goal in the second period, takes the loss after saving nine of 11 (81.8%).

Anaheim‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 55-28-11, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

It’s a relatively busy Tuesday in the NHL, with eight games on this evening’s schedule.  Half of them get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time (Philadelphia at New Jersey, Los Angeles at Washington, Winnipeg at Carolina and Boston at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more (Buffalo at Ottawa and San Jose at Tampa Bay).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Dallas at St. Louis game (NBCSN), which is trailed by Anaheim at Edmonton an hour later.

Half of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Philadelphia at New Jersey, Buffalo at Ottawa, Dallas at St. Louis and Anaheim at Edmonton), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at Washington, San Jose at Tampa Bay and Dallas at St. Louis).

Regulars have become used to my choices and can probably already predict which one I’ll be going with after that last paragraph.

CJhyiLmKUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Dallas‘ eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-0-2 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was last Thursday, when they beat the Blackhawks 4-2 in the United Center.  St. Louis has been featured 11 times before tonight, and own a 6-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent in the series was on February 2, when they beat the Predators 1-0 in Nashville.

The 37-15-5 Dallas Stars are currently the class of the Central Division and the Western Conference (even if it is by virtue of a games played tiebreaker), and trail only Washington for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They play the highest scoring offense in the league, but it is backed by a defense that ranks 13th-worst in goals against.  A more detailed analysis of their game can be found within Thursday’s post.

With Chicago having an off day, a fourth win a row (their last being a 4-3 win in against the Capitals on Saturday) by the Stars this evening makes their division and conference lead more than simply a tiebreaker, but a full two point lead.  In addition, should Los Angelesbeat Washington, Dallas would pull within three points of the Presidents’ Trophy, which becomes more and more desirable with each passing day.

The 32-17-9 St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They play the eighth best defense in the league, but the offense, even with league-wide stars, ranks 12th-worst in goals scored.

Even with Alex Pietrangelo (who’s currently on the IR)’s team-leading 103 blocks, the Notes have allowed a bordering-on-the-high-side1730 shots to reach 18-10-3 Jake Allen (another member of the Blues’ IR) and co., of which they’ve collectively saved a solid 92.8% for only 138 goals against, eighth best in the NHL.  That success almost directly stems from the third-best penalty kill in the league, which has neutralized 86.6% of opposing power plays for only 26 extra-man goals against.

The offense has been a little less-than this season, but it’s not for a lack of effort.  Led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 200 shots, the Blues have fired the puck 1696 times, of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 140 tallies (led by Tarasenko’s 27 goals), 12th-fewest in the league.  Although the overall offense may not be what St. Louis had planned for, the power play certainly helps to make up for it.  This special team ranks eighth-best in the league, scoring on 20.5% of attempts for 33 extra-man goals, led by Tarasenko’s nine.

Having won both of their last two games (with their most recent being a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay on Sunday), the Blues would also like to optimize on Chicago‘s off-day.  Should the Blues do so, they would pull within four points of both Chicago and Dallas for second and first in the division.

So far, the 2015-’16 season series has gone St. Louis‘ way, as they have a 2-1-0 record against the Stars.  That being said, it was the Stars who won the most recent meeting 3-0, a December 27 game in Dallas.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (64 points [second-most in the league] and 29 goals [fourth-most in the league]), John Klingberg (38 assists [fifth-most in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (30 goals [third-most in the league] and 63 points [tied for third-most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and 2.17 GAA [ninth-best in the league]) or Brian Elliott (.933 save percentage [best in the league] and 2.07 GAA [third-best in the league]) and Tarasenko (27 goals [sixth-most in the league]).

Even with the Blues playing on home ice, I don’t think they match up well with the hot Stars.  Dallas‘ offense always finds a way to score, and the Stars‘ defense is fairly evenly matched against the Blues‘ scorers.  I pick the Stars to win a close on in the Scottrade Center.

FEBRUARY 15 – DAY 123 – HAPPY GRAMMY DAY!

Once again, the Bruins proved me wrong in my prediction, as they fell 6-5 in Detroit in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Although they took the loss, Boston did set a positive franchise record, as Brad Marchand’s goal only eight seconds into the game, his 28th of the season, is the fastest-ever Bruins goal.  He was assisted by Brett Connolly.  Detroit leveled the game only 2:36 later with a Henrik Zetterberg backhander, his 11th tally of the season, assisted by Justin Abdelkader and Danny DeKeyser.  Again, Bostonquickly broke the tie, when Zach Trotman scored his second of the season at the 2:58 mark with a slap shot.  Goal scoring subsided for a little while before the Bruins set the score at 3-1 with a Loui Eriksson tip-in, his 19th tally of the season, assisted by David Krejci and Jimmy Hayes.  The Wings got a goal back 1:47 later on the power play, scored by Pavel Datsyuk, assisted by Abdelkader (his 17th helper of the season) and Brad Richards.  The 3-2 Boston lead held into the intermission.

The Wings leveled the score only 3:13 into the second period with a goal from Darren Helm, assisted by Xavier Ouellet and Alexey Marchenko.  They followed that up with another goal only 3:25 later, courtesy of Datsyuk, who was assisted by Richards and Zetterberg (his 29th helper of the season).  The Wings‘ lead expanded to two with another goal from Helm, assisted by Marchenko and Kyle Quincey.  The Bruins got one back with Dennis Seidenberg’s first goal of the season at the 11:23 mark, assisted by Ryan Spooner (his 29th helper of the season).  The 5-4 Red Wings lead held into the second intermission.

Boston leveled the game only 38 seconds into the final period with a score from Joonas Kemppainen, assisted by Marchand and Krejci (his 31st helper of the season), but Detroit earned the last laugh with a deflection goal from Zetterberg, assisted by DeKeyser and Datsyuk (his 22nd helper of the season).

Petr Mrazek earns the win by saving 17 of 22 (77.3%), while Jonas Gustavsson, who replaced Tuukka Rask after he gave up the fifth goal (19 for 24, 79.2%), takes the loss after saving 10 of 11 (90.9%).

The Game of the Day series now stands at 55-27-11, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

Happy Presidents’ and Grammys Day!  In honor of both of these “holidays,” we’ll try to keep the theme going in the schedule run-down.  The first game of the day is between the Motown Red Wingsand the “New York State of Mind” Islanders at 1 p.m. eastern (NHLN), followed by Marcus Mumford’s Anaheim Ducks at “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest” Calgary Flames three hours later.  7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the “Black and Yellow” Pittsburgh Penguins and the “Pocketful of Sunrise Panthers (yeah, I know, just work with me), followed half an hour later by Switchfoot’s Dallas Stars at the “Crazy Town” Predators.  Drake’s Toronto Maple Leafs are “Goin’ to (the) Chicago” Blackhawks at 8:30 p.m. eastern (NHLN), and the Canadiens are almost “A Million Miles from Montréal,” visiting the Arizona Coyotes.  The “Born to be” Minnesota Wild getting ready for a “Vancouver Shakedown” against the Canucks represents tonight’s nightcap at 10 p.m. eastern.

Only two of today’s seven games are between divisional rivals (Anaheim at Calgary and Dallas at Nashville), while another set of two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at New York and Dallas at Nashville).

While I’d usually go with the Dallas–Nashville game, especially since they’re slated to meet each other in the first round, but we’re already committed to the Grammys spiel.  Because of that, and since Kendrick Lamar, the most nominated artist, is from Compton, Calif., we’ll go with the team he was born closest to (that’s playing today, the Kings are technically closer…): the Anaheim Ducks.

UnknownCalgary Flames Logo

 

 

 

Today’s game will be Anaheim‘s sixth in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 2-1-2 record.  Their most recent featured game was Saturday’s game in Chicago, a 3-2 overtime victory.  The only other time Calgary was featured was featured was their trip to Madison Square Garden on October 25, where they lost 4-1.

The 27-19-8 Anaheim Ducks currently occupy third in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference.  They have gotten themselves into playoff position with the second-best defense in the league, which has been more than necessary to cover for the worst offense in the NHL.  A more in-depth analysis of Anaheim‘s game can be found within Saturday’s post.

As the Ducks were off yesterday, their most recent game was Saturday’s 3-2 overtime victory in Chicago.  A win in today’s game pushes Anaheim past San Jose and back into second place in the division by a point.

The 25-26-3 Calgary Flames currently sit in sixth in the Pacific Division and 12th, or third worst, in the Western Conference.  The main reason they are in that position is because of their fifth-worst defense, as the offense actually ranks 15th-best.

The Flames, led by John Gaudreau’s 143 shots, have fired only 1555 shots, of which 9.3% have found the back of the net for 144 goals (led by Gaudreau’s 21 tallies), 15th best in the league.  That could actually be better if it wasn’t for the power play, which is second worst.  Calgary has only optimized on 14.86% of opportunities for only 26 extra-man goals (led by Mark Giordano’s five power play tallies), seven fewer than the league average.

The problems for Calgary have been on the other end.  Thanks in part to Kris Russell’s team-leading 174 blocks, only 1572 shots have made their way to the injured 17-18-1 Karri Ramo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.3% for 160 goals against, fifth-most in the league.  While it is not completely the problem, part of the issue has been the Flames‘ penalty kill which, just like the power play, ranks second-worst in the league.  The Flames have neutralized only 75% of opposing power plays for 35 extra-man goals against.

Calgary‘s most recent game was a 4-1 loss in Arizona on Friday.  Should Calgary win today, they will move only a point behind 11th place in the Western Conference, and six points behind the second wildcard position.

Today’s game will be the third in the season series, which Anaheimcurrently leads 2-0-0.  Their most recent meeting was way back on December 29 in this building, where the Ducks won 1-0.

This game is also special in the sense that it is a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals, which the Ducks ultimately won in five games before falling to the Blackhawks in the conference finals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (36 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and John Gibson (four shutouts [tied for fourth-best in the league] and 2.11 GAA [fifth-best in the league]) & Calgary‘s T.J. Brodie (+15 and two short-handed assists [both lead the team]) and Gaudreau (30 assists, nine of which were on a power play, and 21 goals, 18 of which were at even-strength and six were game-winners, for 51 points on 143 shots [all lead the team]).

Anaheim has been in control of this series of late, and I don’t expect anything to change now.  As long as Anaheim‘s defense continues to play lights-out like they have been all season, they should be all set for two points.

FEBRUARY 14 – DAY 122 – THESE TEAMS DEFINITELY DON’T LOVE EACH OTHER…

It took overtime, but the Anaheim Ducks were able to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss on the Pond against the Blackhawks by winning in Chicago by the same score.

The Hawks scored the first goal, but it wasn’t until 35:28 had ticked off the clock and Anaheim committed a penalty.  It came courtesy of Second Star of the Game Brent Seabrook on a slap shot, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 45th helper of the season) and Duncan Keith.  It was the only goal of the period, so Chicago took the 1-0 lead into the third.

The Ducks leveled the score at the 4:56 mark of the final frame on a Jakob Silfverberg wrister, assisted by Third Star Ryan Kesler (his 16th helper of the season) and Cam Fowler.  The Ducks then took the lead 3:42 later with a David Perron wrister, assisted by First Star Ryan Getzlaf (his 36th helper of the season) and Mike Santorelli.  The Hawks leveled the game again with 7:59 remaining in regulation when Seabrook scored his second of the night, assisted by Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw (his 18th helper of the season).  Neither team was able to break the tie, so our Game of the Day series went to its second straight overtime period.

The three-on-three lasted only 2:16 before Getzlaf scored the wrister-winner, assisted by Fowler and Sami Vatanen (his 20th helper of the season).

Frederik Anderson replaced John Gibson (16 of 17,  94.1%) at the beginning of the third period and earned the win, saving five of the six shots he faced (83.3%), while Corey Crawford takes the loss after saving 41 of 44 (93.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 54-27-11, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

As usual, the NHL takes a little bit of a reprieve on Sundays, but with the NFL finally out of the way, there’s a little bit more room for some exciting games.  The first games drop the puck at 12:30 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Buffalo and Los Angeles at New Jersey), followed three hours later by Boston at Detroit (NBC).  Tampa Bay hosts St. Louis at 6 p.m. eastern, which is trailed by Philadelphia at the New York Rangers (NBCSN) by 90 minutes.

40% of today’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Detroit and Philadelphia at New York), and another set of two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Detroitand St. Louis at Tampa Bay).  As usual, I like to choose the game that qualifies for both, especially since they are slated to meet in the Eastern Quarterfinals, so we’re headed to Hockeytown!

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s game will be Boston‘s 12th in the Game of the Day series (most in the Atlantic Division), where they own a 4-6-1 record.  Their most recent was Tuesday’s game, where the Kings smashed them 9-2 in the TD Garden.  Detroit has been featured six times before today, and own a 4-2-0 record in such games.  They were last featured Monday, when they beat the Panthers in Motown 3-0.

The 30-19-6 Boston Bruins currently sit in second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They play one of the best offenses in the league, but it’s paired with a defense that, although improving, allows the 13th-most goals.  As they were just featured Tuesday, a more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within that post.

With yesterday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota, the Bruins are currently riding a two-game win streak.  Should they extend it to three, they not only expand their lead over the Wings for second in the division to three points, but they also draw within two points of Florida for the division lead.

The 28-18-9 Detroit Red Wings currently occupy third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  The name of the game in Motown is defense, which ranks 11th-best in the league, but it is paired with the ninth-worst offense in the NHL.

Thanks in part to Danny DeKeyser’s 76 blocks, 21-10-5 Petr Mrazek and co. have had to save 1624 shots, only one more than the league average, of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 138 goals against, 11th-fewest in the league.  That ranking may be explained by Detroit‘s penalty kill, which ranks 14th-worst in the league, killing only 80.43% for 36 extra-man goals against.

The offense has been even poorer, firing only 1593 shots (led by Dylan Larkin’s 149 attempts), 8.7% of which have found the back of the net for 139 goals (led by Larkin’s 18 tallies), ninth-fewest in the league.  Again, those numbers might have the special teams to blame, as the Wings rank 11th-worst in the league with a man-advantage.  They score on only 18.18% of attempts, for 32 power play goals (led by Gustav Nyquist’s six extra man tallies).

The Wings lost their most recent showing, a 3-2 shootout loss on home ice to the Avalanche.  Should the Wings avoid that loss from becoming a streak, they will move a point past Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division, but a loss runs the risk of the Wingsfalling to the first wild card spot should Tampa Bay beat the Blues.

Boston and Detroit have already played twice this season, with the Bruins winning both contests.  Their most recent meting was November 25, a 3-2 overtime game in Detroit.

Some players to watch in today’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (27 goals [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (four shouts [tied for fourth-most in the league) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+25 [tied for second-best in the league]) and Mrazek (1.94 GAA [leads the league], .933 save percentage [leads the league] and four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league).

Especially when taking Detroit‘s offense into consideration, it is tough to pick against the Bruins.

 

FEBRUARY 13 – DAY 121 – DUCK… DUCK… HAWK!

It took overtime, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to hold home ice to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3.

It was actually the Preds that scored first.  Mike Fisher’s snap shot connected at the 9:40 mark of the first, assisted by Viktor Arvidsson and Mattias Ekholm (his 19th helper of the season).  Nashville‘s 1-0 lead held to the intermission.

Tampa leveled the score 8:22 after resuming play, courtesy of a J.T. Brown wrister, assisted by Valtteri Filppula (his 20th helper of the season) and Andrej Sustr.  The Bolts took the lead only 1:45 later when Nikita Kucherov fired a backhander for his 22nd tally of the season, assisted by Nikita Nesterov and Ben Bishop.  The Lightningtook their 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Nashville leveled the score only 4:01 after resuming play from the break when James Neal found the back of the net with a wrister for his 20th goal of the season, assisted by Third Star of the Game Roman Josi and Barret Jackman.  They then took the lead at the 7:46 mark with a wrister from Filip Forsberg, assisted by Mike Ribeiro and Josi (his 29th helper of the season).  With only 27 seconds remaining in regulation, the Lightning leveled the game with a slap shot from Second Star Steven Stamkos, assisted by Victor Hedman and Kucherov (his 25th helper of the season).

Overtime only lasted 1:04, as First Star Tyler Johnson’s wrister, assisted by Hedman (his 28th helper of the season) and Stamkos, was pure.

Bishop earns the win after saving 27 of 30 (90%), while Pekka Rinne takes the loss after saving 24 of 28 (85.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 54-27-10, favoring the home squad by 35 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday for the greatest hockey league in the world, with 10 games on the docket today.  New Jersey and Philadelphia drop the opening puck of the day at 1 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by the only other afternoon matinee, Boston at Minnesota.  Four games get started at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Vancouver, Nashville at Florida, the New York Islanders at Carolina and Ottawa at Columbus), followed an hour later by Washington at Dallas.  Anaheim at Chicago starts at 8:30 p.m. eastern in NHL Network.  Edmonton hosts Winnipeg at 10 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Arizona at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (New Jerseyat Philadelphia, New York at Carolina and Arizona at San Jose), and another set of three are games between current qualifiers (Nashvilleat Florida, Washington at Dallas and Anaheim at Chicago).  The Anaheim–Chicago game is also a rematch of the Western Conference Finals.

UnknownUnknown-2

 

 

 

This will be Anaheim‘s fifth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 1-1-2 record.  Their most recent appearance in the series was a 4-1 victory over the Senators on January 13.  Chicago has played many more games (16 so far, in fact), and much more recently.  Their 4-2 loss on home ice to the Stars on Thursday set their Game of the Day record at 9-6-1.

In addition to meeting in last season’s Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks and Ducks are also connected by a mid-season trade that sent Ryan Garbutt to Anaheim in exchange for Jiri Sekac.

Garbutt had two goals, four assists and 94 hits in his 43-game Blackhawks career before being sent to Orange County, where he’s already notched three goals and an assist in eight games played.

The 26-19-8 Anaheim Ducks currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the Western Conference.  So far this season, they’ve played the fourth-best defense in the league, but it’s been paired with the fewest goals scored in the league.

Sami Vatanen may lead the team with only 85 blocks, but the Duckshave allowed only 1462 shots to reach 12-8-2 John Gibson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.7% for only 125 goals against, fourth-least in the league.  That defensive strength has directly stemmed from Anaheim‘s penalty kill, which is the best in the league, killing 88.71% of opposing power plays for 21 extra-man goals against.

Although the offense has been improving of late, it still ranks worst in the league in goals scored.  Led by Corey Perry’s 145 shots, Anaheim has fired 1618 attempts for 122 goals (led by Perry’s 21 tallies).  The power play has also been fairly poor, as it ranks 11th-worst in the league.  The Ducks have only scored on 17.88% of their opportunities for 27 extra-man goals (led by Perry’s six).

Anaheim lost their most recent game 4-3 in a shootout in Columbuson Thursday.  A win today provides the Ducks the opportunity to move into second place in the division should the Sharks lose, but if Anaheim loses and Vancouver wins, the Ducks‘ lead for third in the division is reduced to only two points.

The 36-18-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference by a lone point over the Stars, and trail only the Washington Capitals, by eight points, for the Presidents’ Trophy.  They play the fourth-best offense in the league, paired with the seventh-best defense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found in Thursday’s post.

With their 4-2 loss to the Stars, the Blackhawks are currently riding a two-game losing skid.  A Blackhawks win paired with a Stars loss to the Capitals expands Chicago‘s lead in the division and conference to three points, but a loss could provide the Stars the opportunity to reclaim the title of ‘Best of the West.’

As stated before, these teams met in the Western Conference Finals last season, where the Blackhawks won in Game Seven en route to their Stanley Cup.

These squads have already met twice this season, with Chicago winning both games in overtime.  Most recently, they met in Anaheim, where the Blackhawks won 3-2 with extra time.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (35 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Gibson (2.13 GAA [sixth-best in the league] and four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (seven shutouts [most in the league], 31 wins [second-most in the league], .929 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league] and 2.17 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Patrick Kane (77 points [leads the league], 44 assists (second-most in the league], 33 goals [second-most in the league] and +23 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (52 points [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Another night in Chicago, another same old prediction.  Although the Stars bested what I predicted, I fully expect the Hawks to take care of the Ducks in the United Center.

FEBRUARY 12 – DAY 120 – WILD CARD SHOWDOWN

Even though they gave up two goals in the third period, the Dallas Stars‘ four-goal first period was enough for two points in yesterday’s Game of the Day in Chicago.

Only 3:19 into the game, First Star of the Game Patrick Eaves scored the first goal of the Stars‘ night with a slap shot, assisted by Jamie Benn (his 34th helper of the season) and Patrik Nemeth.  6:25 later, Second Star John Klingberg backhanded a nasty goal, basically from the goal line, assisted by Ales Hemsky (his 13th helper of the season).  Eaves scored his second of the night at the 16:26 mark with a wrister, assisted by Tyler Seguin (his 31st helper of the season), followed 3:18 later by Eaves’ third and final tally of the evening, assisted by Seguin and Klingberg (his 36th helper of the season).  Dallas‘ 4-0 lead held to the first intermission, and continued through the second period.

Chicago finally got on the board 32 seconds after resuming play in the third period when Duncan Keith fired a slap shot, assisted by Third Star Jonathan Toews (his 18th helper of the season) and Andrew Shaw.  The Hawks continued the comeback at the 7:48 mark when Patrick Kane slap shot found the back of the net for his 33rd tally of the season, assisted by Toews, but Chicago could not score another goal and fell 4-2.

Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 44 of 46 (95.7%), while Corey Crawford takes the loss after saving only 14 of 18 (77.8%).  He was replaced after only one period of play by Scott Darling, who saved all 14 shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-27-10, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

A busy Thursday yields to a busy Friday, which is just the way we like it.  The action begins at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern with three games (Montréal at Buffalo, Los Angeles at the New York Rangers [NHLN] and Pittsburgh at Carolina), followed half an hour later by another set of three (Colorado at Detroit, Nashville at Tampa Bay and St. Louis at Florida).  Finally, Calgary at Arizona, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern this evening.

Almost half of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Montréal at Buffalo, Pittsburgh at Carolina and Calgary at Arizona), with four games being contested between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at New York, Colorado at Detroit, Nashville at Tampa Bay and St. Louis at Florida).

The game that attracts my attention the most is the Predators–Lightning game, as both squads are currently only wildcard qualifiers that especially need to solidify and/or improve their position in the standings.

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

This will be Nashville‘s sixth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-3-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was February 2, a 1-0 loss on home ice to the Blues.  Tampa Bay has been featured nine times before this evening’s game, and own a 5-3-1 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 6-3 victory over the Penguins last Friday.

The 25-21-8 Nashville Predators currently sit in fifth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position.  Even though they are qualifying for the playoffs, they play only an average game that slightly favors those offensive end.

Led by James Neal’s 169 shots, the Preds have fired a solid 1650 shots, of which 8.4% have found the back of the net for 141 goals (led by Neal’s 19 tallies), 14th-most in the league.  Part of the reason for Nashville‘s mediocre offense has been the equally mediocre power play, which ranks only 12th-best in the league.  The special team has connected on 19.44% of attempts for 35 extra man tallies (led by Shea Weber’s 10 power play goals).  Fortunately, Nashvillehas only allowed one short-handed goal this season, so at least they aren’t giving up goals when they aren’t cashing in on prime opportunities.

Led by Roman Josi’s 127 blocks, the Preds have allowed only 1420 shots to reach 20-18-7 Pekka Rinne and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.4% for 145 goals against. 14th-most in the league.  Again, that ranking is a reflection of the Predators‘ lack of success on the penalty kill, which is seventh-worst in the league, killing only 78.44% of opposing attempts for 36 extra man goals against.  Those special teams numbers are slightly improved, though, when taking Nashville‘s five shorties into account, one more than the league average.

Nashville‘s most recent game was a 5-3 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.  A win today paired with a Colorado loss propels the Predatorsinto the first wildcard position, which is preferable to playing the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The 29-20-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard position.  They play one of the best defenses in the league, but it is paired with only an average offense.

Victor Hedman may have only 92 blocks to his credit to lead the team, but only 1483 shots have found their way to 21-15-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for only 130 goals against.  That success has continued on the penalty kill, where Tampa ranks 11th-best in the league, killing 81.99% for only 29 power play goals against.

Steven Stamkos leads the charge with 149 shots to help lead the team to their 1543 total attempts, of which 9.1% have found the back of the net for 142 tallies, 13th-most in the league.  The power play is almost a direct mirror of that, as they’ve scored on 18.68% of attempts for 34 power play tallies (led by Stamkos’ 10 extra man goals).

The Lightning have lost their last two games, with their most recent being a 4-2 loss in Montréal on Tuesday.  A win tonight propels the Bolts past Boston for third in the division and, should Detroit lose, all the way into second.

As these teams represent opposing conferences, this is the second and final meeting between them this regular season.  The Lightningvisited Nashville on October 20 to fall 5-4 in a shootout.  Judging from that score and both teams’ positions in the standings, this should hopefully be a competitive game.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Nashville‘s Josi (38 points, including 12 power play assists, and  127 blocks [all lead the team]) and Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.07 GAA [tied for third-best in the league] and 21 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]).

Not only will Tampa Bay be at home for this evening’s game, I believe that they are easily a better team than the Predators, and I expect them to get the win.

FEBRUARY 11 – DAY 119 – ODUYA AND SHARP RETURN TO THE UNITED CENTER

All it took was a goal from Second Star of the Game Kevin Hayes at the 8:34 mark of the first period for the New York Rangers to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Blueshirts made sure to tack on two more goals just for good measure to win 3-0.

Hayes was assisted by Tanner Glass and Third Star Keith Yandle (his 25th helper of the season).  The 1-0 lead held through not only the first intermission, but also the second.

New York‘s first insurance goal wasn’t until the 4:21 mark of the third, scored by Dominic Moore, who was assisted by Derek Stepan (his 14th helper of the season).  Jesper Fast completed the evening’s scoring with only 1:31 remaining, scoring his eighth goal of the season on the empty net.

First Star Henrik Lundqvist earns the win after saving all 34 shots faced, while Marc-Andre Fleury takes the loss after saving only 19 of 21 (90.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-26-10, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Thursday, with nine games on tap.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with three games (Los Angeles at the New York Islanders, Buffalo at Philadelphia and Anaheim at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Colorado at Ottawa.  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of two games in the Central Division (Washington at Minnesota and Boston at Winnipeg), followed 30 minutes later by Dallas at Chicago.  Toronto at Edmonton drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern, and this evening’s nightcap, Calgary at San Jose, starts at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Two of tomorrow’s games are divisional rivalries (Dallas at Chicagoand Calgary at San Jose), and another set of two games are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at New Yorkand Dallas at Chicago).

In addition to qualifying for both groups, the Dallas–Chicago is also specials since it is first return of the return of Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp to the United Center since joining the Stars this off-season.

CJhyiLmKUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

This will be Dallas‘ seventh time featured in the Game of the Day series, and they own a 4-0-2 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-3 overtime loss in San Jose on January 16.  Chicago leads the league in times being featured, as this will be their 16th.  They own a 9-5-1 record in those games, with their most recent being a 2-0 victory over the Blues on January 24.

Johnny Oduya spent four seasons (219 games) with Chicago after being traded from Winnipeg at the 2012 deadline.  By far his best season scoring with the team was the 2013-’14 season where he scored 16 points (three goals and 13 assists) along with his 114 blocks (second-most of his Blackhawks career).

Patrick Sharp also left the Hawks for the Stars this season, although he did it by virtue of off-season trade.  During his 10 year, 679 game career in Chicago, he scored 511 points (239 goals and 272 assists), with his best season occurring in the 2013-’14 season, where he scored 34 goals (tied for second-most of his Hawks career) and 44 assists (most of his Hawks career) for 78 points.  That campaign also tied his career high of 27 blocks in a one season.

So far this season, Oduya has had one of his best seasons in years.  He already has 15 points to his credit, as well as 102 blocks.  Sharp has also had a slight resurgence, as his 16G-24A-40P line trails his entire last season by only three assists.

Their new squad, the 34-15-5 Dallas Stars, currently sit in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, trailing Chicago by three points.  They play the best offense in the league, and they’ve needed it since they give up the 11th- most.

Thanks in part to Tyler Seguin’s 207 attempts, the Stars have fired a whopping 1753 shots, of which 9.9% have found the back of the net for 176 goals, most in the league.  Much of that success has been a result of the fifth-best power play in the league, as the Stars have connected on 21.18% of attempts for 36 goals (led by Jamie Benn’s 12 extra-man tallies).  The offensive success on the power play has come at a price, as Dallas has given up nine short-handed goals, five more than the league average.

The defense has been a little less successful, as even though they’ve only allowed 1560 shots (thanks in part to Oduya’s 102 blocks) to reach 20-10-5 Antti Niemi and co., they’ve saved only 90.8% for 147 goals against, 11th-most in the league.  That position almost directly relates to their penalty kill, which also ranks 11th-worst.  They’ve killed 79.75% for 32 extra-man goals against, but that is slightly counteracted by Dallas‘ seven short-handed goals.

The Stars last played on Tuesday, a 4-3 overtime victory in Minnesota.  A win tonight not only expands their lead over St. Louis for second place in the division to six points, but it also draws the Starswithin a point of the division and conference leading Blackhawks.

The 36-17-4 Chicago Blackhawks lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference by three points, and trail only the Washington Capitals by six points for the Presidents’ Trophy.  The Hawks are in their position for a reason, as they play a top-five offense paired with a top-10 D.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 198 shots, the Hawks have fired a whopping 1760 shots so far this season, of which 9% have found the back of the net for 159 goals (led by Kane’s 32 tallies), third-most in the league.  Part of the reason for Chicago‘s offensive success has been their efforts on the power play.  The Hawks‘ 20.23% success rate ranks ninth-best in the league, and has earned them 35 extra-man goals.

Unlike Dallas, Chicago hasn’t needed their offense to cover for the other end of the ice.  Even with Trevor van Riemsdyk’s team-leading 103 blocks, the Blackhawks have allowed 1732 shots to reach 31-13-2 Corey Crawford and co., of which they’ve saved 92.7% for only 130 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  Probably the worst aspect of Chicago‘s game has been their penalty kill, and even that ranks 11th-best in the league.  So far this season, the Hawks have killed 82.17% for 28 extra-man goals against.  When taking Chicago‘s offensive efforts on the kill into account, it gets a little better, as the Hawks have seven shorties to their credit.

Chicago‘s most recent game was Tuesday, a 2-0 loss to the Sharks on home ice.  A win tonight over the Stars expands Chicago‘s lead in the division and conference to five points, and has the potential to put them only four points back from Washington for the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Blackhawks and Stars have only played once this season, with the Stars winning 4-0 on home ice.  These teams will meet again in five days at the United Center.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (seven shutouts [leads the league], 31 wins [second-most in the league], .931 save percentage [fourth-best in the league] and 2.1 GAA [sixth-best in the league]), Kane (76 points [leads the league], 32 goals [leads the league], 44 assists [second-most in the league] and +22 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (52 points [tied for seventh-most in the league] and 34 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]) & Dallas‘ Benn (61 points [second-most in the league] and 28 goals [tied for third-most in the league]), John Klingberg (35 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Seguin (28 goals [tied for third-most in the league] and 58 points [fourth-most in the league]).

Given Dallas‘ defensive play so far this season, it is tough for me to pick against the Blackhawks.  I expect Chicago to avenge their loss from earlier this year.

FEBRUARY 10 – DAY 118 – IT’S BEEN 9.5 MONTHS…

So, I predicted a fantastic game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Boston Bruins in yesterday’s Game of the Day.  Turns out, I was way off with that prediction, as the Kings won 9-2.

The first of the Bruins‘ two goals was scored after 5:03 of play on the power play, scored by Brad Marchand (his 25th goal of the season), assisted by Matt Beleskey and Zdeno Chara.  Los Angeles leveled the score 13:18 later with a power play goal of their own via a Second Star of the Game Jeff Carter wrister, assisted by Jake Muzzin and First Star Drew Doughty (his 22nd helper of the season) and later took the lead with only 16 seconds remaining in the period when Marian Gaborik backhanded the puck into net (his 11th goal of the season), assisted by Vincent Lecavalier.  The Kings‘ 2-1 lead held into the intermission.

Los Angeles continued their goal streak 2:42 after resuming play when Andy Andreoff scored his fourth tally of the season off a wrister, which eventually became the game-winner.  9:27 later, the score became 4-1 when Doughty backhanded power play goal into the net, assisted by Third Star Milan Lucic (his 19th helper of the season) and Gaborik.  LA‘s third goal of the period occurred at the 12:42 mark when Dwight King tipped the puck into goal, assisted by Tyler Toffoli and Carter (his 23rd helper of the season).  1:04 before the Bruins were saved by the bell, the Kings scored their fourth and final goal of the period, courtesy of Trevor Lewis off assists from Muzzin (his 25th helper of the season) and Kyle Clifford.  The 6-1 score held into the second intermission.

The Kings struck quickly again at the beginning of the third period, when Lucic scored off assists from Anze Kopitar (his 34th helper of the season) and Dustin Brown.  Boston scored their second and final goal of the night 1:03 later when Tyler Randell connected on his snap shot, assisted by Kevan Miller (his 12th helper of the season) and Max Talbot.  The Kings returned to the offensive at the 13:50 mark when Luke Schenn scored a snap shot power play goal of his own, assisted by Christian Ehrhoff and Toffoli (his 17th helper of the season).  The Kings had one more goal in them, which Brown scored with 3:03 remaining in the game, assisted by Schenn and Ehrhoff (his ninth helper of the season), setting the score at the 9-2 final.

Jonathan Quick earns the win after saving 35 of 37 (94.6%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 27 of 32 (84.4%).  He was pulled after 32:29 of play (King’s goal) and replaced with Jonas Gustavsson, who saved 21 of 25 (84%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-25-10, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.

As usual, it’s a light Wednesday schedule for the NHL this week.  The first puck drops in Detroit, who is hosting Ottawa at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh (NBCSN).  This evening’s nightcap starts at 9:30 p.m. eastern, featuring Vancouver in Arizona.

All of today’s games are divisional rivalries, but New York at Pittsburgh is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, as well as a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

New York Rangers LogoPittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be New York‘s 14th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-4-2 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was January 17, a 5-2 loss in Washington.  Pittsburgh has been featured eight times before tonight’s game, and own a 3-4-1 record in such games.  The last time they were featured was last Friday, when they fell 6-3 in Tampa Bay.

The 30-18-5 New York Rangers currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played one of the strongest offenses in the league, but what makes the Blueshirts most dangerous is their seemingly continuous improvement on the defensive end.

Led by Rick Nash’s 149 attempts, the Rangers have fired 1564 shots, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 153 goals, sixth-most in the league.  The most intriguing thing about this offense, though, is that most of their success is at even-strength.  In fact, New York‘s 15.89% success rate, good enough for only 24 extra-man goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s five power play tallies), ranks third-worst in the league.  Making matters worse, the Rangers have also allowed five short-handed goals, one more than the league average.

Thanks in part to Dan Girardi’s 104 blocks, the Blueshirts have allowed only 1560 shots to reach 26-14-4 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 137 goals against, 13th-fewest in the league.  Just like on offense, this success is with no help to the special teams unit, as New York has killed only 78.13% of opposing power plays and allowed 35 extra-man goals, fifth-worst in the league.

New York is currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory over the Devils on Monday.  A win tonight expands their lead over the Islanders to five points and gets them within 15 points of the league-leading Capitals.

The 27-18-7 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve played a very balanced game to get to this position, with both ends of the ice ranking above average against the rest of the league.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Friday’s post.

The Penguins are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent victory occurring Monday with a 6-2 win over the Ducks.  A win today bumps Pittsburgh back into third place in the division, even if it is only by a point.  Additionally, they would only trail the Rangers by two points for second, an important goal for the Pens as they try to avoid the wild card.

These squads met last year in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Pittsburgh did little than act as a speed bump on the Rangers‘ path to the Eastern Conference Finals, as New York won the series 4-1.

Somehow, division rivals New York and Pittsburgh have avoided each other since that deciding Game Five almost 292 days ago (nine months and 16 days), making this game the first of four meetings this regular season.  In addition to their playoff success against the Penguins, the Rangers won last season’s regular season series 3-0-1.

Some players to watch include New York‘s Lundqvist (26 wins [fourth-most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Sidney Crosby (53 points [sixth-most in the league] and 24 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Marc-Andre Fleury (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 21 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Chris Kunitz (+23 [fourth-best in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+21 [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Judging by overall numbers alone, it is hard to pick against New York‘s offense, but until their special teams improve, they will always be suspect to even the worst teams.  Too bad for them the Penguinsare not the same team that started the season 0-3-0.  Since the game is in Pittsburgh, I give the edge to the Pens.

FEBRUARY 9 – DAY 117 – HELLO, OLD FRIEND

Although they only needed one, the Red Wings decided to score three goals in the final period to secure the shutout victory over the Panthers in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Detroit waited 44:19 before Tomas Tatar tipped-in a goal, assisted by Jakub Kindl and Dylan Larkin (his 20th helper of the season), which came to be the game-winner.  But, now that the goose egg was off the board, the Wings felt a little bit more confident, scoring only 7:07 later when First Star of the Game Pavel Datsyuk snapped his goal off assists from Brad Richards (his 11th helper of the season) and Henrik Zetterberg.  The final goal occurred at the 12:34 mark (yes, 1-2-3-4) when Datsyuk scored his second of the night, assisted by Zetterberg (his 27th helper of the season) and Third Star Justin Abdelkader.

Second Star Petr Mrazek earns the win after saving all 23 shots he faced, while Al Montoya loses, saving 28 of 31 (90.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 53-24-10, favoring the home squad by an even 40 points.

It’s a busy Tuesday schedule in the NHL!  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with four games (Los Angelesat Boston, Florida at Buffalo, Anaheim at Philadelphia and the New York Islanders at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Tampa Bay at Montréal.  Four more games drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Winnipeg at St. Louis, Washington at Nashville, Dallas at Minnesota[NBCSN] and Edmonton at New Jersey), with San Jose at Chicagobeginning half an hour later.  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps, Vancouver at Colorado and Toronto at Calgary, drop the puck at 9 p.m. eastern.

Five of the 12 games this evening are divisional rivalries (Florida at Buffalo, New York at Columbus, Tampa Bay at Montréal, Winnipegat St. Louis and Dallas at Minnesota), while three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at Boston, Washington at Nashville and San Jose at Chicago).  The Tampa Bay–Montréal game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

It is not only because Boston‘s and Los Angeles‘ records are closest of the playoff qualifiers that we will focus on this game, but also because of the return of Milan Lucic to the TD Garden, where he spent the first eight years of his career.

UnknownUnknown

 

 

 

This will only be the Kings‘ fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 1-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was January 27, the last day before the All-Star Break, falling 4-3 on home ice to the Avalanche.  Boston has been featured more often, 10 times before tonight, and own a 4-5-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 victory in Montréal on January 19.

Hailing from the city of the now-division rival Canucks, Milan Lucic was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2006.  By 2007, he was playing full time for the Black and Gold, and ended up playing 566 regular season games for the Bruins.  By far his most successful season was the 2010-’11 season (which corresponds with the Bruins‘ most recent Stanley Cup), when he scored 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points (career-highs in goals and points).

Since being traded to the Kings, Lucic has the most hits (157), scored the most game-winning goals (five) and is tied for second-most even-strength goals (11) on the squad.  He’s also been a great distributor, as he is tied for third on the team in even-strength assists (14).

After missing the playoffs a year ago (and becoming the first since Carolina to not qualify after hoisting the Cup the season prior), 31-17-3 Los Angeles has appreciated his contributions.  Although they are still a team that likes to play squelching defense, they appreciate his efforts to make the Kings‘ offense the best of the worst (Does that not make sense?  It will soon…).

Led by Alec Martinez’ 112 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 1421 shots to reach 27-14-2 Jonathan Quick and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for only 119 goals against, fourth-fewest in the league.  Part of that success can be attributed to the penalty kill, which ranks ninth-best in the league, killing 82.7% of opposing power plays for 32 extra-man goals against.

On the other end, Dustin Brown’s 142 shots have led the way to a whopping 1632 attempts, of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 137 goals scored (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 23 tallies), 15th-fewest in the league.  That lack of success cannot be attributed to the power play, as it is fourth-best, connecting on 21.85% of attempts for 33 extra-man goals (led by Toffoli’s eight).

Los Angeles most recently lost 4-2 to the Ducks on Thursday, but that did little to affect the Kings‘ seven-point Pacific Division lead.  A win tonight has the potential to expand that lead to nine points over San Jose, or diminish the differential between the Kings and the Blackhawks to nine, pending the result of the San Jose–Chicagogame.

The 28-18-6 Boston Bruins currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, and have done so playing on of the best offenses in the league.  But what really makes the Bruins scary is the continual improvement on the defensive end, making them a sizable threat on either end of the ice.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 181 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck a whopping 1654 times, with 9.1% finding the back of the net for 155 goals scored (led by Brad Marchand’s 24 tallies), fourth-most in the NHL.  Much of that success can be attributed to the second-best power play in the league, which scores on 24.14% of attempts for 35 extra-man goals (led by Bergeron’s nine power play tallies).

Led by Kevan Miller’s 78 blocks, Boston has allowed only 1545 shots to reach 19-15-5 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.7% for 138 goals against, 14th-fewest in the league.  Again, that success stems from the special teams play.  The Bruins kill 84.66% of penalties, allowing only 27 goals, making them fourth-best .

The Bruins are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 overtime win over the Sabres.  Extending that streak to three breaks the tie with Detroit for the third spot, but also has the ability to propel the Bruins to second in the division should Tampa Bay fall in Montréal.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (24 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league]) & Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (33 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league] and +19 [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Quick (27 wins [third-most in the league]) and Toffoli (+23 [tied for third-best in the league]).

Based on the numbers, this is going to be an incredible game.  That being said, I’m still expected to pick a winner.  Not only because they are on home ice, but also because I think they are the better team overall, I believe that the Boston Bruins will earn the victory this evening.

FEBRUARY 8 – DAY 116 – WAIT, I THOUGHT DETROIT WAS SLATED TO PLAY TAMPA BAY…

Both Ben Scrivens and Cam Ward played exceptional games, but it was the Montréal Canadiens that took home the bonus point after an extended shootout.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored the first goal of the game rather quickly, after only 2:27 of play.  After an initial shot from Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner tipped in Carolina’s only puck to tickle the twine.  The 1-0 lead held to the intermission.

Montréal leveled the score at the 8:11 mark of the second when Max Pacioretty converted a wrister after assists from Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban (his 37th helper of the season).

The one-all tie held through the third period, as well as the three-on-three overtime.  It took five rounds of the shootout, and only one goal was scored courtesy of Sven Andrighetto, effectively a game-winner.

Scrivens earns the win by saving 34 of 35 (97.1%), while Ward loses, saving 33 of 34 (97.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 52-24-10, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies.

Today’s schedule is only one more game than yesterday’s, and they are all nice and early in the evening!  Two games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at the New York Rangers [NHLN] and Anaheim at Pittsburgh) with the other two following only 30 minutes later (Tampa Bay at Ottawa and Florida at Detroit).

Most of tonight’s games are between division rivals (New Jersey at New York, Tampa Bay at Ottawa and Florida at Detroit), and another set of two are between teams both qualifying for the playoffs (Anaheim at Pittsburgh and Florida at Detroit).

Although Erik Condra is making his first return to the Canadian Tire Centre, where he spent the first five seasons of his career, the game I’m most interested in involves the other team from the Sunshine State.

Unknown-2Unknown-1

 

 

 

 

Both teams have played five games before tonight in the Game of the Day series, but it is the Panthers with the better record in such games (4-1-0 and 3-2-0, respectively).  Florida‘s most recent game in the series was a 5-2 victory over the Lightning on January 23, while Detroit played more recently in Tampa Bay, falling 3-1 on Wednesday.

The 31-15-6 Florida Panthers currently lead the Atlantic Division and trail only the Washington Capitals for the Eastern Conference lead.  They play the second best defense in the league, paired with the ninth-best offense.

With Willie Mitchell’s team-leading 70 blocks, Florida has allowed 1553 shots (10 more than the league average) to reach 23-13-5 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they collectively saved a solid 93% for only 115 goals against, second-fewest in the league.  Part of that defensive success has been the Panthers‘ penalty kill, which ranks seventh-best in the league.  They’ve killed 83.33% of opposing attempts, allowing only 29 extra-man tallies against.

As good as the defense has been, the offense isn’t too far behind.  Led by Jonathan Huberdeau’s 121 attempts, Florida has fired only 1454 shots so far this season, but connected on a whopping 9.8% for 143 goals (led by Vincent Trocheck’s 17 tallies), ninth-most in the league.  One spot where the Panthers would still like to improve would be the power play, which ranks 10th-worst in the league.  They’ve capitalized on only 17.78% of opportunities for 32 power play tallies (led by Aleksander Barkov’s seven extra-man goals).

Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins was Florida‘s first since resuming play after the All-Star Break, and their first in the last six games.  A win tonight pulls the Panthers into an even 10 point deficit behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference lead, but more importantly, improves their lead over Tampa Bay to at least six points in the Atlantic Division.

The 26-18-8 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard position.  They play the 12th-best defense in the league, paired with the ninth-worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Wings‘ game can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Detroit finally won their first game since returning from the break on Saturday, besting the Islanders 5-1 in Motown.  While a win today does not change the Wings‘ position in the standings, it does have the potential to improve their lead over New Jersey should they fall to the Rangers.

Detroit and Florida have already played twice this season, with the Panthers winning both, although they needed overtime for the first meeting in Detroit in November.  They most recently met on Thursday in Sunrise, where the Panthers won 6-3.

Today’s game very well could be a preview of a first round matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but of course things can change with a couple months remaining in the season.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Dylan Larkin (+25 [tied for best in the league]) and Petr Mrazek (.932 save percentage [second-best in the leauge] and 2.03 GAA [tied for third-best in the league]) & Florida‘s Aaron Ekblad (+21 [sixth-best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the leauge], .93 save percentage [tied for fourth-best in the league], 23 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league] and 2.13 GAA [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Although the game is in Motown, the Florida Panthers are playing some of the best hockey in the league this season.  I think it is a tough ask to expect the Wings to do much to this great team.

FEBRUARY 7 – DAY 115 – SUPER BOWL SUNDAY

The New Jersey Devils took the Washington Capitals to a shootout, but were not able to prevent them from taking two points away from The Rock.

The first goal didn’t come until 32:30 were played, by way of a Andre Burakovsky deflection, assisted by Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 37th helper of the season) to give the Caps a one-goal lead.  It was the only tally of the second period.

New Jersey finally got on the board after 41:51 of play, a tip-in from Joseph Blandisi, assisted by Travis Zajac (his 18th helper of the season) and Jacob Josefson.  5:56 later, Adam Henrique fired a wrister to give the Devils the lead, assisted by Blandisi and Lee Stempniak (his 24th helper of the season).  Washington leveled the score at the 14:07 mark when Paul Carey scored his first goal of the year, a wrister off assists from Matt Niskanen (his 20th helper of the season) and Brooks Laich.  The two-all score held to the end of regulation, and not a goal was scored in overtime.

T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin both converted their shootout attempts, which bested New Jersey‘s lone shootout goal from Reid Boucher.

Braden Holtby earns the win by saving 22 of 24 (91.7%), while Cory Schneider takes the loss after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 51-24-10, favoring the home squad by 37 points over the roadies.

Especially to all the American readers, happy Super Bowl Sunday!  As usual, the NHL has a light schedule today, which is always wise with that type of competition.  In fact, the NHL has already planned ahead and scheduled all the games before the coin toss, so us sports fans won’t miss a thing!  The first game, Philadelphia at Washington, drops the puck at noon eastern on NBC, and today’s nightcaps (more like afternooncaps) start at 2:30  p.m. eastern (Carolina at Montréaland Edmonton at the New York Islanders).

Only Philadelphia at Washington is a divisional matchup, and no games feature both teams in the playoffs.

I fully acknowledge that I’m biased since I’ve lived in the Carolinas for over six years, but I can’t say I’m big enough to not let it affect my decision for today (Go Panthers!).  There’s a reason the Hurricaneshaven’t been in red!

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown

 

 

 

This afternoon’s game will be only Carolina‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was when they hosted the Canucks, but fell 3-2 in overtime, on January 15.  On the other hand, Montréalhas been featured eight times before today’s game, and own a 6-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was on January 19, when they fell 4-1 on home ice to the arch-rival Bruins.

The 24-21-8 Carolina Hurricanes are currently the second team out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, occupying sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the conference.  It is interesting that they are in such a good position, seeing as they have scored the ninth-fewest goals and given up the ninth-most.

Led by Ron Hainsey’s 79 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1409 shots to reach 15-11-5 Cam Ward and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 90.3% for 141 goals against, ninth-most in the NHL.  Carolina‘s penalty kill is the 15th best, nullifying 81.06% of penalties for only 25 extra-man goals against.

The offense hasn’t been much better, scoring only 129 goals so far this season, led by Jeff Skinner’s 18 tallies.  They’ve found that total by keeping decent pressure on opposing netminders, firing 1594 shots (led by Justin Faulk’s 160), connecting on 8.1%.  Probably the biggest issue Carolina faces is their power play, or lack thereof.  It is the third-worst in the league, scoring on only 16.36% of attempts for only 27 power play tallies (led by Faulk’s 12).

Carolina won their most recent game, a 5-3 victory in Winnipeg, on Friday.  While a win does not propel the Canes into the playoff bracket, it does have the potential to get them within a point of the second wildcard.

The 25-24-4 Montréal Canadiens currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference, trailing the second wildcard position by five points.  The Habs‘ offense ranks 10th best so far this season in goals scored, but the defense has given up the ninth-most goals.

Led by Max Pacioretty’s 204 shots, the Canadiens have fired a whopping 1656 shots so far this season, but only 8.3% have found the back of the net for 137 goals.  Most of Montréal‘s offensive issues stem from their power play, currently ranked 15th worst in the league.  They’ve converted on only 17.98% this season, scoring 32 power play goals.

Led by Andrei Markov’s 84 blocks, the Habs have allowed only 1431 shots to reach 13-15-4 Mike Condon and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.8% for 141 goals against.  Although the goalkeeper play has not been as strong overall this season, things have still been going Montréal‘s way on the penalty kill, which ranks sixth-best in the league.  They’ve killed 83.13% of opposing opportunities, for only 28 goals against.  To make matters even better, Montréalhas also scored eight shorthanded goals, led by Paul Byron’s three shorties.

Going back to before the All-Star Break, the Habs have lost four straight, with their most recent being a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Sabres on Wednesday.  Many of the media are pulling the plug on the Habs, which I partially understand.  Condon has showed his youth and regressed to the mean, and it does not help that the power play has virtually disappeared on the other end.  That being said, I’m not 100% ready to give up on the Canadiens.  The penalty kill has played incredibly all season, and the offense is still more than capable of putting pressure on the opposition.  Carey Price was seen on the ice yesterday, and if he can return soon and play the way he did at the beginning of the season, I believe the Canadiens can at least make a solid run at qualifying for the playoffs.

This is the second of two meetings this season between these two squads. Carolina won on home ice 3-2 December 5.

Some players to keep an eye on include Carolina‘s Faulk (34 points, 12 of which were power play goals, on 160 shots and 93 hits [all lead the team]) and Montréal‘s P.K. Subban (36 assists [fourth-most in the league]).

I know that they’ve gotten a lot of bad coverage in the media lately, but I think Montréal can win this game.  Not only are they going to be at home (hopefully in front of optimistic fans), but they are going up against a team not exactly known for their scoring ability.

FEBRUARY 6 – DAY 114 – PLAYOFF PREVIEW?

Pittsburgh‘s Floridian road trip got a poor spot, as they dropped yesterday’s Game of the Day against Tampa Bay 6-3.

That being said, it was actually the Penguins that got the first goal of the game.  It was a Patric Hornqvist wrister off assists from Chris Kunitz (his 13th helper of the season) and Derrick Pouliot after 4:53 of play.  The one-goal shutout held exactly 6:57 before Anton Stralman leveled the game with a wrister of his own, assisted by First Star of the Game Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn (his 16th helper of the season).  Tampa took the lead with 1:26 remaining in the period when Killorn earned a tip-in, assisted by Johnson and Nikita Kucherov (his 23rd helper of the season).  The 2-1 score held into the intermission.

Only 6:04 after resuming play, Second Star Ondrej Palat earned the Bolts their third goal with a wrister, assisted by Third Star Steven Stamkos.  Pittsburgh got back within a goal exactly two minutes later when Sidney Crosby scored his 21st of the season off assists from Kunitz and Hornqvist, but the Lightning regained their advantage 1:11 later when Johnson snapped a goal after assists from Kucherov and Victor Hedman (his 25th helper of the season).  The 4-2 lead held into the final period.

Only 55 seconds after returning to the ice, the Pens got back within a goal when Matt Cullen fired a snap shot off the assist from Phil Kessel (his 18th of the season), but it would be the last for Pittsburgh.  At the 15:55 mark, Palat scored his second of the night after assists from Stamkos (his 19th helper of the season) and Vladislav Namestnikov, followed 2:01 by Ryan Callahan earning his 10th assist of the season by helping Anton Stralman to the final goal of the game, setting the score at the 6-3 final.

Ben Bishop earns the win by saving 27 of 30 (90%), while Marc-Andre Fleury takes the loss, saving only 10 of 14 (71.4%).  He was pulled after Johnson’s eventual game winner in the second period and replaced by Jeff Zatkoff, who saved 13 of 14 (92.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 51-24-9, favoring the home squad by 38 points, due in part to the home teams winning the last three games.

As with most Saturdays, this one is a busy one.  The action gets started at 1 p.m. eastern with two games (Washington at New Jersey and the New York Rangers at Philadelphia [NHLN]), with two more starting an hour later (Edmonton at Montréal and the New York Islandersat Detroit).  Three games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time (Buffalo at Boston, Toronto at Ottawa and Pittsburghat Florida), with three more starting 60 minutes later (Minnesota at St. Louis, San Jose at Nashville and Chicago at Dallas [NHLN]).  Finally, the co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Vancouver and Winnipeg at Colorado).

Eight of today’s games are divisional (Washington at New Jersey, New York at Philadelphia, Buffalo at Boston, Toronto at Ottawa, Minnesota at St. Louis, Chicago at Dallas, Calgary at Vancouver and Winnipeg at Colorado), and four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at New Jersey, New York at Detroit, San Jose at Nashville and Chicago at Dallas).  Two of today’s games are also rematches of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinals: Minnesota–St. Louis and Calgary–Vancouver.

I know the last three games have all been in the Eastern Conference, but the Washington–New Jersey game could be a preview of a first round matchup for this postseason, so we have to keep an eye on that.

Washington Capitals LogoNew Jersey Devils Logo

 

 

 

 

Today’s game will be Washington‘s 11th in the DtFR Game of the Day Series, where they own a 7-3-0 record.  Their most recent was just this last Thursday, a 3-2 victory over the Islanders.  New Jerseyhas not seen time in the series since January 8 when they hosted Boston, but lost 4-1.  That game, their third in the series, set their record at 1-2-0 in such games.

The 36-9-4 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the NHL.  They lead the Central Division by 15 points over the New York Rangers, nine points over Florida and two points over Chicago.  In addition to playing the best defense in the league (as measured by goals against), they also have the second-best offense.  A more detailed account of their play may be found in Thursday’s Game of the Day.

Washington‘s most recent game was that victory over the Isles.  Turning that lone win into a streak with this evening’s game has the potential to expand the Caps‘ lead over the Blackhawks in the Presidents’ Trophy race to four points.

The 26-20-6 New Jersey Devils currently sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second and final Eastern Conference wildcard position.  They’ve given up the sixth-fewest goals in the league, but the offense has been brutal to watch, scoring the third-fewest tallies.

Thanks in part to Adam Larsson’s 93 blocks, the Devils have allowed only 1489 shots to reach 23-15-5 Cory Schneider and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for 118 goals against (sixth-fewest in the league).  Although the defense as a whole has been strong, the penalty kill has not been much more than average.  It is the 11th-best in the league, killing 81.82% for 30 extra-man goals against.

The offense has been nothing to write home about.  Even with Kyle Palmieri’s 127 attempts, the Devils have only fired 1268 shots so far this season, of which a solid 9.2% have found the back of the net (led by Palmieri’s 20 tallies).  The offense has been led by the 10th-best power play in the league, successful on 19.39% of attempts for 32 extra-man goals (led by Palmieri’s seven).  There is one major downfall of the power play though, and that’s short-handed goals – the Devils have given up seven so far this season, three more than the league average.

Jersey lost a 3-2 shootout in Toronto on Thursday, and would probably be very interested in keeping it from becoming a losing skid.  A win this afternoon has the potential to move them into the first wildcard spot, which they would certainly appreciate to get as far away from the Capitals in the playoffs as possible.

These teams have only met once this season, with Washington winning 5-3 at the Verizon Center.  After today’s game, they will play one more time during the regular season, two weeks from today.  Should the standings hold as they stand before play today, this will be an  Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

Some players to watch in today’s game includes New Jersey‘s Schneider (2.03 GAA [third-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league], .929 save percentage [sixth-best in the league] and 23 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (+18 [10th-best in the league]), Braden Holtby (31 wins [most in the league], 2.07 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and .928 save percentage [seventh-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+25 [best in the league], 36 assists [third-most in the league] and 51 points [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (29 goals [second-most in the league] and +21 [sixth-best in the league]).

Although the Devils do have the advantage of playing at home, I do not think it will be enough to stop the incredible Caps.  Expect Washington to continue their trek to the Stanley Cup Finals.

FEBRUARY 5 – DAY 113 – LET’S SCORE SOME GOALS

It took a goal with only 2:40 remaining in regulation to give the Washington Capitals the 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Only 1:55 into the game, Mikhail Grabovski scored the first goal with a wrister off assists from Josh Bailey (his 15th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic, giving the Isles a one-goal lead.  The Capitals scored only 5:33 later when First Star of the Game T.J. Oshie scored a slap shot off an Nicklas Backstrom’s first assist of the night.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

The second period had only one goal, this one belonging to Washington.  It was Andre Burakovsky scoring with a wrister off assists from Jason Chimera (his 15th helper of the season) and Dmitry Orlov.

New York scored quickly in the third, 5:38 into the period to be exact.  It was a Bailey wrister after assists from Marek Zidlicky and Brock Nelson, to tie the game at two-all.  Washington scored the game winner late in the third when Second Star Alex Ovechkin fired a wrister off assists from Nicklas Backstrom (his 31st of the season) and Oshie.

Braden Holtby earns the win after saving 24 of 26 (92.3%), while Jaroslav Halak saves only 20 of 23 (87%) and takes the loss.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 50-24-9, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

There’s only four games on the docket this evening, with the Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (NHLN) game starting the festivities at 7:30 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by Carolina at Winnipeg.  9 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Columbus at Calgarygame, followed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Arizona at Anaheim.

Arizona at Anaheim is the only divisional game this season, and none are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

I must admit, I can’t decide between the Pittsburgh–Tampa Bay and Arizona–Anaheim games, as both are very important in the surge for the playoffs.  That being said, I’m going to go with the Pens–Boltsgame because it’s on national TV.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Pittsburgh‘s eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-3-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 5-2 loss in St. Louis on January 18.  Tampa Bay has been featured much more recently, as they beat the Red Wings 3-1 on Wednesday.  That game was their eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-3-1 record.

The 25-17-7 Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit in fifth in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, only a point out of the second wildcard position.  They’ve found their success by playing a top-10 defense, but it’s been paired with the 10th-worst offense in the league.

Even with Ian Cole’s team-leading 80 blocks, 20-11-5 Marc-Andre Fleury and co. have faced 1502 shots, of which they’ve saved 92.2% for 122 goals against, 10th-fewest in the league.  One part of their overall defensive success has been having the seventh-best penalty kill unit in the league, killing 83.85% for only 26 extra-man goals against.

The offense has had a little bit of a tougher time, even though they’ve fired 1596 shots so far this season (led by Patric Hornqvist’s 158 shots), of which only 7.9% have found the back of the net for 126 goals (led by Evgeni Malkin’s 23 tallies), 10th-fewest in the league.  Somehow, even though the offense as a whole hasn’t been as successful, the power play actually ranks eighth-best in the league, scoring on 20.48% of attempts for 34 extra-man goals (led by Malkin’s 10 power play tallies).

Going back to before the All-Star Break, the Penguins are riding a four-game winning streak, with their most recent being 6-5 victory over the Senators on Tuesday.  A win today not only has the chance to move the Penguins into the playoffs, but all the way into the third division qualifier.

The 28-18-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  Their defense is top-five in the league, and their offense is 14th-best.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Going back to before the All-Star Break, the Bolts are riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent victory being the 3-1 victory over the Red Wings on Wednesday.  While a win tonight doesn’t advance them in the standings, it would break the tie with the Boston Bruins.

These teams have already played once this season, and a whopping nine goals were exchanged, with the Bolts winning in overtime.  The Penguins just played a game like that on Tuesday, so it will be interesting to see if they have any goals left over for tonight’s game.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Pittsburgh‘s Fleury (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] and 20 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (1.99 GAA [second-best in the league], 20 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league]).

Tampa Bay has been playing well of late, and have home ice.  It is hard to pick against them.

FEBRUARY 4 – DAY 112 – IT’S ANOTHER REMATCH!

In what is currently a First Round matchup in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning held home ice to earn the 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

The Bolts scored the first goal after 21:23 of play, courtesy of a J.T. Brown wrister, assisted by Braydon Coburn (his seventh helper of the season), but the Wings leveled the score only 3:43 later with a snap shot from Gustav Nyquist, assisted by Tomas Tatar (his 15th helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.  Tampa‘s game-winner came at the 6:30 mark of the second with a Tyler Johnson wrister, assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman (his 24th helper of the season).  The 2-1 Lightning lead held into the second intermission.

The Lightning‘s lone insurance goal was Kucherov’s 21st tally of the season, a wrister off the assist from Ondrej Palat, setting the score at the 3-1 final.

Ben Bishop earns the win by saving 24 of 25 (96%), while Petr Mrazek takes the loss after saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 49-24-9, favoring the home squad by 34 points.

It’s a busy Thursday in the NHL!  The action starts at… you guessed it… 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Buffalo and Minnesota at the New York Rangers)!  7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it four more games (the New York Islanders at Washington [NBCSN], New Jersey at Toronto, Edmonton at Ottawa and Detroit at Florida), followed by two more at the top of the hour (San Jose at St. Louis and Philadelphia at Nashville).  9 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Dallas at Colorado and Chicago at Arizona), with the co-nightcaps occurring an hour later (Columbus at Vancouver and Anaheim at Los Angeles [NBCSN]).

Five of tonight’s 12 games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Buffalo, New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles), while another set of five are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Washington, Detroit at Florida, San Jose at St. Louis, Dallas at Colorado and Anaheim at Los Angeles).

Four of tonight’s games have some special notes associated.  Minnesota brings with them Jarret Stoll, an ex-Ranger of this season, and Edmonton‘s Eric Gryba makes his first return to Ottawa after three seasons of playing with the Sens.  New York–Washington is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and John Tortorella will coach his first game in Vancouver since being released in May of 2014.

While those returns are intriguing, we grow closer to the playoffs everyday, and what better way to realize that than taking a look at last year?

New York Islanders LogoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight is New York‘s fourth game in the DtFR Game of the Day series, in which they own a 1-2-0 record.  Their most recent appearance was on January 25 when they hosted the Red Wings and lost 4-2.  Washington has been featured nine times before tonight’s game, and own a 6-3-0 record in such games, with their most recent being a 5-2 victory over the Rangers on home ice.

The 26-16-6 New York Islanders currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  They have a top-10 defense paired with one of the better offenses in the league.

Led by Calvin de Haan’s 169 blocks, the Islanders defense has allowed only 1457 shots to reach 12-9-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 118 goals against, eighth fewest in the league.  The Isles also own the second-best penalty kill in the league, killing 86.9% for only 19 power play goals against.

John Tavares has spearheaded the Islanders‘ offense with a team-leading 145 shots, with the team being responsible for 1460 shots total.  9% have found the back of the net for 132 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 20 tallies).  The biggest thing holding the Islanders back is their 15th-worst power play.  They’re successful on only 18.12% of attempts for 25 power play goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s five).

New York‘s most recent game was a 5-3 victory over the Wild on Tuesday.  Pending the Rangers‘ result against those Wild, the Islanders do have the opportunity to jump the Blueshirts into second place in the division.

The 35-9-4 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the league, leading the second place Chicago Blackhawks by two points.  There’s no doubting that they deserve that spot, as they have the best defense and second-best offense.

Led by Karl Alzner’s 122 blocks, the Caps have only allowed 1376 shots to reach 30-5-3 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.6% for only 108 goals against, fewest in the league.  Part of the reason Washington has found such success has been their seventh-best penalty kill, killing 83.67% of opposing power plays for only 24 power play goals against.

The offense is no slouch, either.  Led by Alex Ovechkin’s 234 shots, the Capitals have fired 1482 pucks on goal, of which a whopping 10.7% have found the back of the net for 158 goals (Ovechkin leads the way with 28 tallies).  That offense has been supported by the league-leading offense, scoring on 25.33% for 38 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 11 power play tallies).

Going back to before the All-Star Game, the Capitals are actually on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Tuesday.  While the Capitals may not have anyone to surpass, a win tonight does have the potential to increase their lead over the Rangers in the division, the Panthers in the conference and the Blackhawks for the Presidents’ Trophy.

In their only other meeting this season, the Capitals beat the Islanders 4-1 in Brooklyn on January 7.  While that game may not have been so tight, last season’s playoff series was.  The Caps needed seven games to knock off the Isles before eventually falling to the other team from the Big Apple.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Washington‘s Holtby (30 wins [leads the league], 2.07 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and .929 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+25 [leads the league], 36 assists [third-most in the league] and 51 points [fifth-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (28 goals [tied for second-most in the league] and +20 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

It’s tough to pick against the Capitals, especially on home ice.  Washington expects to pick up the offense this night, as Ovi is making his return after serving his one-game suspension for missing/skipping the All-Star Game.  I think this skid ends at two.

FEBRUARY 3 – DAY 111 – POTENTIAL PLAYOFF MATCHUP? BUT WE ALREADY SAW IT LAST YEAR!

St. Louis got exactly the start to the second half they wanted, but it was a little stressful.

The only goal of the game was scored with only 1:05 by Troy Brouwer (who I’m giving the First Star of the Game, assisted by Alex Pietrangelo (his 19th helper of the season) and Robby Fabbri.  The Preds were unable to react and get a leveling goal

Brian Elliott saved all 16 shot he faced to earn the clean sheet, while Pekka Rinne allowed only the one goal on 23 shots faced (95.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-24-9, favoring the home team by 32 points over the road squads.

With so many games yesterday, it makes sense that tonight has only three matchups on the schedule.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern when Buffalo visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Detroit at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Carolina visits Calgary (SN1).

Two of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Buffalo at Montréal and Detroit at Tampa Bay), and Detroit at Tampa Bay is the only meeting of teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (in fact, they are currently slated to meet each other in the first round).

Detroit at Tampa Bay is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

I give you three guesses to pick tonight’s Game of the Day, and you probably won’t need two of them.

Unknown-1Unknown-1

 

 

 

 

Detroit has been featured four times in the Game of the Day series before tonight, and own a 3-1-0 record in those games.  Their most recent was a 4-2 victory in Brooklyn on January 25.  This is Tampa Bay‘s eighth time being featured, with their most recent being a  5-2 loss in Colorado on January 22, which dropped their series-record to 3-3-1.

The 25-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They play the 10th best defense in the league, but have been held back by the seventh worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 65 blocks, the Wings have allowed 1473 shots to reach the incredible 18-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 121 goals against.  That being said, the penalty kill has been only average, killing 80.89% (15th-best in the league) for 30 power play goals against.

Even with Dylan Larkin’s 127 shots, the Wings have only fired the puck 1404 times, but 8.6% have found the back of the net for 121 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies).  Part of the offense’s problem has been the 13th-worst power play in the league, scoring on only 17.65% for 27 extra-man tallies (led by Gustav Nyquist’s six goals).

Detroit won their last game before the break, and will need to continue that success in the tight Atlantic division race.  A win tonight moves them past the Bolts into second in the division.

The 27-18-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best defense in the league paired with the 15th best offense.

Led by Victor Hedman’s team-leading 83 blocks, the Bolts have allowed only 1373 shots to reach 19-14-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 114 goals against.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 14th-best penalty kill in the league, killing 81.08% for only 28 goals against.

The Bolts have also been pretty good at putting on the offensive pressure, even though they only have 1420 shots to their credit (led by Steven Stamkos’ 145 attempts).  Nine percent have found the back of the net for 128 goals against, led by Stamkos’ 21 tallies.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 15th-best power play, scoring on 18.13% of attempts for 31 extra-man tallies (led by Stamkos’ 10 power play goals).

Just like their opposition, Tampa won their last game before taking the All-Star Break.  Turning that win into a streak this evening gives Tampa an actual lead over Detroit in the standings.

Thanks to winning both the previous meetings this season, Detroitwould clinch the season series with anything better than a regulation loss tonight.  These squads last met in Detroit exactly three months ago, with the Wings winning 2-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+24 [tied for best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for second-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for third-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.02 GAA [second-best in the league] and 19 wins [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

Although Detroit has had the upper-hand so far this season on Tampa, the Bolts have improved a lot since their meeting in November.  I’m picking Tampa Bay to win this one and start the second half of their season on the right foot… or skate… or whatever.

JANUARY 23 – DAY 105 – GOVERNOR’S CUP

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche needed a shootout to determine the home team as the winner.

The Blues scored the first goal of the night with only 2:03 remaining in the second period, as Troy Brouwer assisted Alexander Steen to his 15th goal of the season, this one a wrister to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead heading into the second intermission.

The Avalanche waited until only 54 seconds remained in regulation to level the score at one-all.  Third Star of the Game Nathan MacKinnon fired a wrister of his own after assists from Matt Duchene and Tyson Barrie (his 23rd helper of the season).  The one-all score not only held to the completion of regulation, but also throughout the three-on-three overtime period, forcing the game to the shootout.

Only one goal was scored in the shootout, courtesy of Gabriel Landeskog, to secure the bonus point for Colorado.

First Star Semyon Varlamov saved 34 of 35 (97.1%) to improve his record to 18-12-3, while Second Star Brian Elliott’s falls to 10-5-5 after saving 41 of 42 (97.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 46-20-9, favoring the home squad by 36 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy, exciting Saturday schedule, with 22 teams in action!  The festivities get started at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Pittsburgh (SN), with the other matinee starting at 4 p.m. eastern when Minnesota visits San Jose.  Five games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time (Columbus at Boston, Montréal at Toronto [CBC/NHLN/TVAS], Anaheim at Detroit, Tampa Bay at Florida and New Jersey at Winnipeg [SN]), followed by Philadelphia at the New York Islanders half an hour later nothing, since Philly–NYIwas postponed due to weather.  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Colorado at Dallas, followed an hour later by Los Angelesat Arizona.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Nashville at Edmonton(CBC/SN), gets started at 10 p.m. eastern.

Almost half of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Montréal at Toronto, Tampa Bay at Florida, Philadelphia at New York,Colorado at Dallas and Los Angeles at Arizona), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Minnesota at San Jose, Tampa Bay at Florida and Colorado at Dallas).

For the first season in a long time (arguably the 1995-’96 season), the Governor’s Cup has been an important rivalry in the Atlantic Division.  We’ve already missed three of the games this season, so we’d better catch this one!

Unknown-1Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game is Tampa Bay‘s seventh appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-2-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was Thursday, when they beat the Blackhawks2-1.  Florida has been featured four times before tonight’s game, and own a 3-1-0 record in such games.  Their most recent appearance was January 3, when they defeated the Wild.

The 26-17-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get them to that position, they’ve played a top-10 defense, paired with an offense that falls just short of that ranking (as measured by goals against/scored).  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found on Thursday’s post.

The Bolts are currently riding a seven-game win streak, with their most recent being Thursday’s victory over the Hawks.  A win tonight by the Lightning pulls them within a point of the division-leading Panthers.

The 27-15-5 Florida Panthers currently sit in first place in the Atlantic and second in the Eastern Conference.  Although they have only an average offense, they’ve been able to climb to the top of the table with one of the best defenses in the league (as measured by goals against).

Thanks in part to Willie Mitchell’s team-leading 70 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1351 shots to reach 20-13-4 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved a solid 92.7% for only 105 goals against, third-least in the league.  One reason for that success has been how Florida has reacted to the power play, killing 82.76% for only 25 power play goals against.

The offense continues their interesting play, as they focus more on the quality of shot versus quantity.  Led by Jonathan Huberdeau’s 110 attempts, Florida has fired 1264 shots, of which 9.2% have found the back of the net for 116 goals (led by Jaromir Jagr’s 15 tallies).  The biggest hole in Florida‘s offense has been their power play.  Successful on only 15.48% of attempts, they have 24 extra-man goals, led by Aleksander Barkov’s four tallies.

The Panthers‘ last game was last night, a 4-0 win against the Blackhawks, ending their four-game losing skid.  If Florida pulls out the win, they will extend their division lead over Tampa Bay to five points.

As hinted at before, these squads have already played three of the five games in this season’s series, with the Panthers leading the series 2-1-0.  Although Florida has the lead, it is actually the Bolts who have the most recent success, winning 3-1 only six days ago in Tampa.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game includes Florida‘s Aaron Ekblad (+17 [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Luongo (19 wins [tied for seventh-best in the league], three shutouts [tied for eighth-best in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (1.94 GAA [second-best in the league], 19 wins [tied for seventh-best in the league] and .928 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Now that Ekblad is back and the Panthers have the monkey off their back of the losing streak, I think they will begin to return to form.  I pick Florida to make a statement win for their division this evening.

JANUARY 22 – DAY 104 – ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

It was another tight game between last season’s Conference Champions, but it was Tampa Bay who won 2-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Chicago scored the first goal of the game before even a full minute had expired.  Artem Anisimov gave the Blackhawks their first and only goal of the game after only 43 seconds, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 42nd helper of the season).  6:31 later, Tampa Bay leveled the score with a goal from Anton Stralman, assisted by First Star of the Game Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula (his 17th helper of the season).  The one-all score held into the intermission.

The Bolts scored the final goal with 23:21 remaining in the game when Nikita Kucherov scored a power play tally, assisted by Hedman (his 24th helper of the season) and Alex Killorn.

Ben Bishop improves his record to 19-13-3 after saving 17 of 18 (94.4%), while Third Star Corey Crawford’s fell to 27-11-2 after saving 31 of 33 (93.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 45-20-9, favoring the home squads by 35 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy enough Friday schedule, as 12 teams are in action this evening.  The pucks drop at 7 p.m. eastern for three games (Detroitat Buffalo [BELL TV], Anaheim at Washington [NHLN] and the New York Rangers at Carolina), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Ottawa [RDS] and Chicago at Florida).  This evening’s nightcap gets an earlier start than usual, as St. Louisat Colorado begins at 9 p.m. eastern.

Three of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Detroit at Buffalo, New York at Carolina and St. Louis at Colorado), and two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at Florida and St. Louis at Colorado).  Since one of those games is in both sets, we’ll focus on the game happening in Denver.

Unknown-1Colorado Avalanche Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game marks St. Louis‘ ninth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-3-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 5-2 victory over the Penguins on Monday.  Colorado has been featured three times before tonight’s game, and own a 2-1-0 record in such games.  Their most recent game in the series was a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Wednesday.

The 28-15-7 St. Louis Blues currently occupy third place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They play a top-10 offense (as measured by goals scored), which they’ve needed to cover for a below-average defense (again, measured by goals allowed).  You can read a more detailed explanation of their game on Monday’s post.

The Blues are currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Detroit on Wednesday.  A Noteswin this evening does not improve their seeding in the division, but it does pull them into a tie with Dallas on points, which the Stars  win the tiebreaker based on games played.

The 24-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, good enough for the second wild card spot.  Similar to the Blues, the Avalanche play an incredible offense backed by a poorer defense, but Colorado is more extreme, playing a better offense than St. Louis, but allowing far more goals.  A more in-depth explanation of their game can be found in Wednesday’s post.

Colorado is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 victory over Buffalo two days ago.  An Avalanche victory this evening does not do as much to improve their situation as much as it solidifies their qualifying for the playoffs.  Since Nashville does not play this evening, Colorado could expand their lead in the “last-team-out” race to three points, although the Predators will have two games in hand.

These squads have already met twice this season, with Coloradoowning the series 2-0-0.  Their most recent meeting was by far the more competitive, as the Avs needed an overtime goal from Gabriel Landeskog on January 6 on home ice.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Colorado‘s Matt Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Jake Allen (five shutouts [second-most in the league] and 18 wins [tenth-most in the league] and Vladimir Tarasenko (25 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 46 points [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

As a Blues fan, I am worried for tonight’s game.  Colorado has been playing well of late and has the home-ice advantage.  I expect this to be a tight game, but one the Avs win.

JANUARY 21 – DAY 103 – REMATCH, PT. II

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Colorado Avalanche spoiled Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly’s return to the Pepsi Center, beating the Sabres 2-1.

It was actually the Sabres who scored the opening goal of the game, but it did not occur until 36:38 had ticked off the clock.  It was a power play goal, courtesy of an Evander Kane wrister, who was assisted by Jack Eichel and O’Reilly (his 23rd helper of the season).  Buffalo‘s one-goal lead held into the second intermission.

The Avalanche leveled the game at the 9:23 mark of the third, courtesy of an Second Star of the Game Alex Tanguay backhander, assisted by Carl Soderberg (his 24th helper of the season) and First Star Francois Beauchemin.  Tanguay returned the favor with only 32 seconds remaining in the game with his 15th assist of the season, this one to Beauchemin, who banged home the game-winner.

Third Star Semyon Varlamov improves his record to 17-12-3 after saving 27 of 28 (96.4%), while Robin Lehner’s record falls to 0-2-0 after saving 33 of 35 (94.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 44-20-9, favoring the home squad by 33 points over the roadies.

A light Wednesday gives way to a busy Thursday, with 10 games taking place.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with four games dropping the opening puck (Vancouver at Boston [SN360], Ottawaat New Jersey [RDS], Philadelphia at Pittsburgh and Calgary at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more (Carolina at Toronto and Chicago at Tampa Bay [TVAS]).  Nashville at Winnipeggets started at 8 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by Edmonton at Dallas.  9 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of San Joseat Arizona, and this evening’s nightcap, Minnesota at Los Angeles(SN), gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Three of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Nashville at Winnipeg and San Jose at Arizona), while three/four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Chicago at Tampa Bay, San Jose at Arizona and Minnesota at Los Angeles).

Tonight’s selection poses a tough choice for our Game of the Day, as you know I try to favor players returning to their old stomping grounds and last year’s playoff matchups.  Matt Bartkowski is making his first appearance in the TD Garden wearing a white sweater after spending the last five seasons with the Bruins, and Jarret Stoll’s return is even bigger as measured by seasons spent with a team, as he played seven seasons with Los Angeles before joining the Wild earlier this month.  Lastly, Chicago at Tampa Bay is a rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Finals.

CHl8Si-W8AACHtt2015StanleyCupFinalsUnknown-1

No team has been featured more in the DtFR Game of the Day series than the Chicago Blackhawks, as tonight is their 14th appearance.  They own a 8-4-1 record in such games, with their most recent being a 3-2 victory over the Predators in the United Center on January 12.  The Tampa Bay Lightning have been featured five times before this game, and own a 2-2-1 record in the series.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 5-2 loss to the Rangers the day before New Year’s Eve.

The 32-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks are the hottest team in the NHL right now, made evident by their position at the top of the Western Conference standings.  The play one of the top offenses in the league, with their defense only steps behind.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 177 shots, the Hawks have fired a whopping 1523 shots so far this season, with 9.4% finding the back of the net for 143 goals (led by Kane’s 30 tallies), third-most in the league.  Just like the offense as a whole, the power play has been nothing short of exemplary, scoring on 23.3% of opportunities for 33 goals, led by Kane’s 14 man-advantage goals.

It’s almost a shame Chicago‘s offense has been so good this season, because it casts shadows on their defense.  Even with Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 97 blocks, Chicago has allowed 1488 shots to reach 27-10-2 Corey Crawford and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.7% for only 111 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  The biggest hole in the Blackhawks‘ defense is the penalty kill, but Boltsfans shouldn’t be too excited – it’s still above average, completing the kill 82.09% of the time for only 24 goals against.  The penalty kill also has four goals of their own, one more than the league average.

Chicago has won their last 12 games, and has yet to lose this calendar year.  Their most recent game was a 4-1 win in Nashville on Tuesday.  A win tonight gets Chicago within three points of the league-leading Washington Capitals (73 points), although the Caps still have four games in hand.

The 25-17-4 Tampa Bay Lightning obviously made some New Year’s resolutions, as their 2016 surge has paid off with not only a playoff position, but a divisional spot.  They’ve used a top-10 defense to get them back in the playoff picture, and their offense is not far behind.

Thanks in part to Victor Hedman’s 76 blocks, the Bolts have only allowed 1291 shots to reach 18-13-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 108 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  Similar to Chicago, Tampa‘s most glaring defensive deficiency has been their penalty kill, but their’s is slightly below the league average, killing 80.43% for 27 goals against.

Tampa Bay has fired 1318 shots this season (led by Steven Stamkos’ 135 attempts), of which 9.3% have found the back of the net for 123 tallies (led by Stamkos’ 20 goals).  The power play has been below average, scoring on only 17.95% for 28 goals (led by Stamkos’ nine extra-man tallies).

Tampa is also streaking, as they’ve won six-straight.  Their most recent showing was a 6-4 victory over the Oilers on Tuesday.  A Boltswin tonight puts them within a point of the division-leading Panthers.

We all know how last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, but these two have met more recently then that.  It was October 24 when Tampatraveled to the Windy City, and both played an entire 60 minutes without a goal.  Jonathan Toews was responsible for the game-winner, but a scoreless regulation game screams of an exciting, defensive game.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game includes Chicago‘s Crawford (six shutouts [best in the league], 27 wins [second-most in the league] and .931 save percentage [tied for fourth-best in the league]), Kane (71 points [most in the league], 41 assists [most in the league], 30 goals [most in the league] and +24 [third-best in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (45 points [tied for eighth-most in the league] and 29 assists [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (1.97 GAA [second-best in the league], .927 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league] and 18 wins [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Stamkos (20 goals [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

I predict this to be another great game between these two squads, but I do believe that Chicago will get out of The Big Guava with two points.

JANUARY 20 – DAY 102 – WE AIN’T TALKING ABOUT NO AUTO SHOP

Thanks to a two-goal third period to seal the deal, the Boston Bruinshave won their third in a row after beating the Canadiens 4-1 in Montréal in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The only goal of the first period occurred at the 13:08 mark, courtesy of Max Talbot, his second of the season.

The Habs leveled the score at one-all 8:48 after resuming play with Third Star of the Game Mark Barberio’s first goal of the season, assisted by P.K. Subban (his 30th helper of the season) and David Desharnais, but the Bruins were able to take the lead again 3:11 before the second intermission with First Star Patrice Bergeron’s game-winner (his 18th goal of the season), assisted by David Pastrnak and Dennis Seidenberg.

Boston scored their first insurance goal of the evening at the 12:14 mark of the final period, scored by Pastrnak (his fourth tally of the season) and assisted by Zac Rinaldo and Joe Morrow.  The final goal was an empty netter from Brad Marchand, assisted by Loui Eriksson (his 23rd helper of the season), setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Second Star Tuukka Rask improves his record to 16-13-4 after saving 38 of 39 (97.4%), while Mike Condon’s falls to 12-12-4 after saving only 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-20-9, favoring the home squad by 31 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday schedule makes way for a light Wednesday, as their are only three games taking place today.  The action gets started at 8 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits their old friends in Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS/SN), followed two hours later by Buffalo at Colorado(BELL TV).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern, when Minnesota visits Anaheim (NBCSN/SN).

There are no division rivalries being played tonight, and St. Louis at Detroit represents the only matchup between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While the Blues–Red Wings game would be fun for a variety of reasons (Speaking of, I have not featured the Red Wings enough this season… We’ll consider that a note for another day), I’m attracted to another game tonight, as Buffalo visits the Mile High City with a couple of old friends.

Buffalo Sabres LogoColorado Avalanche Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will only be Buffalo‘s second appearance in the Game of the Day series, with their only other showing being a 4-3 loss in Pittsburgh on October 29.  Colorado has been featured twice before tonight, and own a 1-1-0 record in the series.  Their most recent game with our attention was 6-3 loss in Chicago on January 10.

With the Sabres visiting Colorado this evening, Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’Reilly will be making their first appearances in the Pepsi Center since being traded during the 2015 Entry Draft.

McGinn spent a total of 162 games over four seasons with the Avs, with his best season by far being his 2013-’14 campaign in which he scored 38 points (evenly split between assists and goals) and helped Colorado to their first division title in 11 years, although they could not advance beyond the first round after a 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on home ice.

O’Reilly had a longer career in Colorado, playing 427 games over six seasons.  Similar to McGinn, O’Reilly’s best season was the division championship campaign, where he scored 28 goals and 36 assists for 64 points with a 13.9% season shooting percentage, his best to date, although he has the potential to best that stat with a current 15.6% this season.  That strong shooting percentage is what he’s used to lead his team in scoring, with 17 goals to his credit.

The 19-23-4 Buffalo Sabres currently sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  Their success has been found on the defensive end, although they are still below-average in that end.

Even with Josh Gorges’ team-leading 98 blocks, Buffalo has allowed 1372 shots to reach 12-12-2 Chad Johnson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 120 goals against, 13th-most in the league.  The first step in improving this defense should be to beef up the penalty kill, as the special teams have only killed 79.28% of opposing power plays for 23 goals against (four below the league average).

The offense has been the main thing holding the Sabres back this season.  Led by Jack Eichel’s 143 shots, Buffalo has fired the puck 1368 times, of which only 7.7% have found the back of the net for 106 goals (led by O’Reilly’s 17 tallies), fourth-fewest in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has not found much success, the Sabres‘ power play has still been strong, scoring on 20.41% of opportunities for 30 goals (led by O’Reilly’s seven tallies).

The Sabres are currently riding two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 2-1 victory in Arizona on Monday.  A win tonight might do more harm than good at this point in the season, as it will take a miracle for Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs.

The 23-21-3 Colorado Avalanche currently occupy fifth place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position.  The Avsplay one of the top-five offenses in the league, but have not been able put their opponents away due also having a bottom-ten defense.

Even with Nathan MacKinnon’s 157 shots, Colorado has fired the puck only 1337 times, of which 9.8% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 22 tallies), fifth-most in the NHL.  Colorado‘s power play is slightly better than Buffalo‘s, as they’ve scored on 20.89% of opportunities for 33 goals (led by Jarome Iginla’s seven extra-man tallies).  That stat does come with a qualifier though, as the Avs have given up five shorthanded goals this season, two more than the league average.

As good as the offense has been, it’s a shame Colorado hasn’t done much to improve the blue line.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 143 blocks to his credit, 1454 shots have made their way to 16-12-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 130 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The shining spot for this defense has been their penalty kill, as not only have they killed 80.54% for 29 power play goals against, but they’ve also scored four shorthanded goals, led by Blake Comeau’s two.

The Avalanche won their most recent game 2-1 in Winnipeg on Monday.  A Colorado win has the potential to pull them within a game of Minnesota for the first wild card spot, but a regulation loss allows Vancouver to take their spot in the second wild card position.

Some players to watch include Buffalo‘s O’Reilly (39 points, including 17 goals, 10 of which were at even-strength, with the remaining seven being power play tallies [all lead the team]) and Colorado‘s Duchene (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Based on standings alone, you’d like to think the Avs would win this game regardless of location, but that defense does not leave me with a good taste in my mouth.  I think I’ll pick Colorado, but I believe it will be a nail-biter.

JANUARY 19 – DAY 101 – IT’S THE LAST BOSTON-MONTRÉAL GAME OF THE REGULAR SEASON!

The St. Louis Blues used a three-goal third period to secure the 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

It took exactly 12 minutes before Alexander Steen scored the Blues‘ first goal, assisted by First Star of the Game Paul Stastny (his 16th  helper of the season), but they were not able to keep the lead into the intermission, as Christ Kunitz scored with 117 seconds remaining off assists from Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby (the 23rd assist of the season for both).

The Pens took their only lead of the game at the 15:56 mark of the second with a tally from Evgeni Malkin, off assists from Carl Hagelin and Letang (his 24th helper of the season), but the Blues leveled the score 1:18 later with Vladimir Tarasenko’s 25th goal of the season off assists from Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri.  The two-all score held into the second intermission.

The Blues‘ game-winning goal occurred only 2:10 after resuming play, courtesy of Second Star Troy Brouwer after assists from Stastny and Colton Parayko (his 13th helper of the season).  Stastny continued his excellent night with the first insurance goal, assisted by Brouwer and Jay Bouwmeester (his 11th helper of the season).  The final goal of the night was an empty-netter with only 12 seconds remaining, courtesy of Kevin Shattenkirk after assists from Steen (his 27th helper of the season) and Stastny.

Third Star Brian Elliott earns the win after saving 36 of 38 (94.7%) to improve his record to 9-5-4, while Jeff Zatkoff’s record falls to 3-5-1 after saving only 20 of 24 (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 43-19-9, favoring the home squad by 33 points.

It’s an eight-game schedule on this Tuesday, with four games dropping the opening puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at New Jersey, Vancouver at the New York Rangers, Toronto at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Washington at Columbus).  7:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of two more games (Boston at Montréal [RDS] and Edmonton at Tampa Bay), followed half an hour later by Chicago at Nashville (NBCSN/SN1).  This evening’s nightcap occurs at 10:30 p.m. eastern between Dallas and Los Angeles.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Washingtonat Columbus, Boston at Montréal and Chicago at Nashville), and two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Montréal and Dallas at Los Angeles).  The Chicago at Nashville game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Although I’m intrigued by the Dallas–Los Angeles game, the Boston–Montréal game is too important in the standings for us to ignore.  To Montréal we go!

UnknownUnknown

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 10th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-5-1 record.  Their most recent showing in such games was on January 11, when they lost 2-1 in Madison Square Garden.  Montréal has been featured eight times before tonight, and own a 6-1-0 record in such games, with their most recent being on New Year’s Day against these Bruins in Foxboro, Mass., where they won 5-1.

The 23-16-5 Boston Bruins currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the first wild card position.  To get themselves to that position, they utilize one of the best offenses in the league, backed by an above-average defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 153 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck 1388 times, of which a solid 9.4% have found the back of the net for 131 goals (led by Bergeron’s 17 tallies), fourth-most in the league.  A specific facet of Boston‘s offense that has proven highly successful has been the power play, where they’ve scored on a whopping 27.73% of attempts for 33 goals.

Defensively, the Bruins have allowed only 1272 shots (aided by Kevan Miller’s team-leading 71 blocks) to reach 15-13-4 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 115 goals against, 12th-best in the league.  While the penalty kill has been successful (killing 84% for only 24 power play goals against), their biggest strength has been scoring shorties, with six to their credit (led by Brad Marchand’s three).

Boston is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most showing being a 3-2 victory against the Maple Leafs on Saturday.  A win tonight has the potential to move them past Tampa Bay into the third division spot for the Atlantic.

The 23-19-4 Montréal Canadiens currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  They play a game very similar to the Bruins (I know, neither fan base likes being compared to the other), as they have a solid offense backed by an above-average defense.

Led by Max Pacioretty’s 181 attempts, the Habs have fired the puck 1457 times, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 126 tallies (led by Pacioretty’s 19 goals), seventh-most in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has been very successful, the power play has not been as good, as they’ve only found the back of the net on 18.18% of attempts for 28 goals (led by Pacioretty’s seven).

Thanks in part to Andrei Markov’s team-leading 75 blocks, only 1274 shots have made their way to 12-11-4 Mike Condon and co., of which they’ve saved 91.1% for 117 goals against, 15th-best in the league.  The penalty kill has been slightly above average as well, as they’ve killed 84.56% of attempts for 23 goals against.

The Habs are currently riding a four-game losing streak, with their most recent being a 5-2 loss in Chicago on Sunday.  Should Montréalwin tonight, they will swap spots with the Bruins for the first wild card spot.

This is the final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals, with the Habs already winning the series 3-1-0.  Their last meeting was at the Winter Classic, where Montréal won 5-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game includes Boston‘s Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league]) and Montréal‘s P.K. Subban (29 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

This one is a tough one to pick.  Although I think the Bruins are the better overall team, it is hard to argue against the result of the last meeting, especially since the game is in Montréal this time.  The line reads Montréal at -111, so I suppose I’ll pick the Habs to pull out the victory.

JANUARY 18 – DAY 100 – HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY (AND THE 100TH DAY OF NHL PLAY!)

With yesterday’s 5-2 win over the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals clinch the season series at 3-1-0 with a lone game remaining.

It was actually the Blueshirts who scored the opening goal, as Chris Kreider fired a goal after Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello both notched their 17th helpers of the season.  The Caps waited until only 1:59 remained in the first period to level the score, as Alex Ovechkin scored a power play goal after assists from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov.  The one-all tie held into the intermission.

The Caps struck only 7:18 after resuming play with another power play goal, this one from Marcus Johansson, with assists from Nicklas Backstrom (his 29th helper of the season) and Matt Niskanen, earning them a lead they would not give up.  Only 1:02 later, First Star of the Game Justin Williams scored his first of three goals on the afternoon, assisted by Third Star Taylor Chorney and Andre Burakovsky (his 11th helper of the season).  Second Star Chris Kreider tried to stage a Rangers comeback with 2:32 remaining in the second after assists from Rick Nash (his 19th helper of the season) and Derek Stepan, but New York was not able to score another goal in the contest.  The 3-2 lead held into the third.

Williams scored goal no. two 4:51 after resuming play, assisted by Kuznetsov (his 28th helper of the season) and Burakovsky.  He completed the hat trick at the 18:09 mark after an assist from Kuznetsov, setting the score at the 5-2 final.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 42-19-9, favoring the home squad by 31 points.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the NHL is putting on five games.  The action gets started at 7:30 p.m. eastern when Edmontonvisits Florida, followed half an hour later by two more (Pittsburgh at St. Louis [NBCSN/TVAS] and Colorado at Winnipeg).  9 p.m. eastern brings with it the opening puck drop of Buffalo at Arizona (BELL TV), followed by this evening’s nightcap, Ottawa at San Jose, at 10:30 p.m. eastern (RDS).

Colorado at Winnipeg represents the only divisional matchup of the night, and there are no games between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game I’m most interested by is the Pittsburgh at St. Louis, and it’s not only because I like both of these teams.  Pittsburgh has the opportunity to move ahead of Montréal for the second wild card position with a win, but it will be against a Blues team led by one of the best goal scorers in the league.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Pittsburgh‘s seventh in the Game of the Day series, with their most recent appearance being a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blackhawks on January 5.  They own a 3-2-1 record when the focus of our attention.  St. Louis has been featured in the series seven times before tonight, and own a 4-3-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in such games was a 3-1 loss on New Year’s Eve to the Wild.

The 21-16-7 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, but have opportunity to move into eighth with anything better than a loss this evening.  To do so, they will lean on a top-10 defense as measured by goals against.

Thanks in part to Ian Cole’s team-leading 78 blocks, the Pens have limited the opposition to 1344 shots against, of which 15-11-5 Marc-Andre Fleury and co. have saved 92.5% for only 105 goals against, seventh-fewest in the NHL.  The Pens have been especially strong on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 83.92% for only 23 goals against.

The defense has needed to be good to cover up for issues on the offensive end.  Although the squad has 1376 shots to their credit (led by Patric Hornqvist’s 136 shots), only 7.4% have found the back of the net for 102 goals (led by Evgeni Malkin’s 19 tallies), fourth-fewest in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has been very poor, the power play has only been slightly below average, as they’ve scored on 18.88% for 27 goals (led by Malkin’s nine tallies).

Pittsburgh‘s most recent game was a five-goal shutout victory over the Hurricanes yesterday.

The 26-15-7 St. Louis Blues currently sit in third place in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  The Blues pair a slightly above-average offense with a slightly-below defense, measured by goals scored/against, respectively.

The Blues have fired a strong 1447 shots so far this season (led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 168), but only 8.2% have found the back of the net for 118 goals (led by Tarasenko’s 24 tallies), 12th-most in the league.  The real potency of St. Louis‘ offense has been the power play, where they’ve scored 20.74% for 28 power play goals (led by Tarasenko’s eight tallies).

Even with Alex Pietrangelo’s 87 blocks, the Notes have allowed 1406 shots to reach 18-10-3 Jake Allen and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.2% for 119 goals against, 14th-most in the league.  The Blues definitely clamp down on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 85.53% for only 23 goals against.

St. Louis‘ most recent game played was a 4-3 win over the Canadienson Saturday.

Some players to watch include Pittsburgh‘s Fleury (three shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Malkin (43 points [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Olli Maatta (+17 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [second-most in the league] and 18 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (45 points [fifth-most in the league] and 24 goals [fifth-most in the league]).

Since they are playing at home, I think the more balanced game will prevail in this one.  Don’t plan on the Pens joining the playoff picture, as I’m picking the Blues to earn the victory.

JANUARY 17 – DAY 99 – IT’S ANOTHER BLUESHIRTS-CAPS DAY

It took overtime, but the Sharks were able to spoil Antti Niemi’s homecoming, as they beat the Stars 4-3.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it belonged to the road team.  Mattias Janmark and Antoine Roussel both notched their eighth assists of the season as they helped Ales Hemsky to a backhander at the 11:15 mark.

The second period was all San Jose, as they not only leveled the game, but took the lead going into the second intermission.  Their first goal came only 3:54 after resuming play, scored by Second Star of the Game Marc-Edouard Vlasic after assists from Joe Thonton (his 25th helper of the season) and First Star Tomas Hertl.  Only 7:13 later, Chris Tierney fired a slapshot past Niemi on the power play after assists from Tommy Wingels (his ninth helper of the season) and Matt Nieto, setting the score at 2-1.

The Stars leveled the score only 33 seconds after resuming play in the final frame with a snap shot from Tyler Seguin (his 25th tally of the season) after an assist from Jamie Benn.  San Jose took the lead again only 7:18 later with Vlasic’s second goal of the night after assists from Dylan DeMelo and Joonas Donskoi (his 10th helper of the season).  The flurry of goals ended only 12 seconds later when Third Star Jason Spezza leveled the score again after assists from Benn (his 30th helper of the season) and Seguin.  The three-all tie held to the final horn, forcing some three-on-three play.

The overtime period lasted only 1:12 before Hertl scored the game-winner, assisted by Vlasic (his 16th helper of the season) and Logan Couture.

Martin Jones’ record improves to 20-13-2 after saving 32 of 35 (91.4%), while Niemi’s falls to 16-8-5 after saving 35 of 39 (89.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 41-19-9, favoring the home squad by 29 points over the roadies.

Fourteen points are on the table in today’s Sunday schedule.  The action gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when Carolina visits Pittsburgh, followed an hour later by Vancouver at the New York Islanders.  The final two matinees start at 5 p.m. eastern when Florida visits Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers visit Washington (NHLN/TVAS).  Montréal at Chicago (SN/RDS) gets started at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by Philadelphia at Detroit (NBCSN).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Los Angeles at Anaheim, gets started at 9 p.m. eastern.

A majority of today’s games are divisional matchups (Carolina at Pittsburgh, Florida at Tampa Bay, New York at Washington and Los Angeles at Anaheim), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Florida at Tampa Bay, New York at Washington and Montréal at Chicago).  In addition to qualifying for the other two groups, the New York–Washington game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Those who have followed along all season know that I like to give preference to those games that are rematches of last year’s playoffs or a return of a player to an arena he used to call home, and today is no exception.

New York Rangers LogoWashington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s appearance in the Game of the Day series for New York will tie them with Chicago for most games featured in the series at 13.  The Rangers own a 7-3-2 record in such games, and their most recent showing in the series was a 2-1 victory over the Bruins on Monday.  Washington has been featured eight times before this afternoon’s competition, and own a 5-3-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-3 overtime victory in Madison Square Garden on January 9.

The 24-15-5 New York Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get them to that position, the Rangers have employed a top-10 offense backed by an above-average defense, measured by goals for or against.

The Blueshirts‘ most recent showing was a 3-2 shootout victory in Philadelphia yesterday.  Should New York win today’s game, they would move at least a point closer to the league-leading Capitals and potentially create a lead more solid than winning a ROW tiebreaker over the Islanders.

The 33-8-3 Washington Capitals currently lead the Metropolitan Division by 16 points over the Rangers, the Eastern Conference by 12 points over the Panthers and the NHL by five points over the Blackhawks.  Not only does the best defense in the league call the Verizon Center home, but also the second-best offense, showing why the Caps are the class of the NHL.

Thanks in large part to Karl Alzner and his team-leading 115 blocks, the Caps have allowed only 1229 shots to reach 28-4-2 Braden Holtby and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 93.1% for only 95 goals against, best in the NHL by two goals over Los Angeles.  Washington maintains their excellent form on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 84.92% of opposing power plays for only 19 tallies allowed.

Of course, the story in Washington is usually the offense, and this season has not been short of successes on that end as well.  Led by Alex Ovechkin’s 216 attempts, the Caps have fired 1328 shots so far this season, of which a whopping 10.6% have found the back of the net for 144 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 26 goals), second-most in the league (trail Dallas by seven tallies).  Just like the penalty kill, special teams have been a big part of that success, as the Capitals have scored on 26.15% of attempts for 34 power play goals, led by Ovechkin’s nine extra-man tallies.

Washington played yesterday, but it was not the result they were looking for as they lost 4-1 in Buffalo.

This is the fourth meeting of five between these two squads so far this season, with Washington leading the series 2-1-0.  We’ve been there for all three, so you can read a quick-and-dirty recap of the games that occurred November 3December 20 and January 9.

Some players to watch in this afternoon’s game include New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (20 wins [fourth-most in the league]) and Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (28 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league] and +17 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Holtby (28 wins [leads the league], 1.97 GAA [second-best in the league] and .931 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+21 [fourth-best in the league]) and Ovechkin (26 goals [tied for second-most in the league] and +19 [fifth-best in the league]).

I’m not even going to lie to you, I have to pick Washington in today’s game.  They are the best team in the NHL, and I don’t see New Yorkbeing anything more than a stepping stone on their way to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

JANUARY 16 – DAY 98 – IT’S ANOTHER HOMECOMING FOR AN EX-SHARK

Second Star of the Game Bo Horvat loves to play the Carolina Hurricanes.  When they played in Vancouver last week, he had two goals, including the game-winner.

Guess what he did tonight?

Just notch two goals, including the overtime game-winner to secure the Canucks‘ 3-2 victory.

The story was more than Horvat though.  Linden Vey scored his first goal of the season after 13:14 of play to give Vancouver the lead, but Third Star Kris Versteeg was able to level the score with 1:33 remaining before intermission with a power play goal, assisted by Jaccob Slavin and Jordan Staal (his 12th assist of the season).  The one-all tie held into the second period.

Horvat scored his first goal of the night 9:32 after resuming play, assisted by Taylor Fedun and Matt Bartkowski (his ninth helper of the season) to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead that would hold into the second intermission.

Vancouver was beginning to feel certain about their victory, but John-Michael Liles had other ideas.  After assists from Andrej Nestrasil and Victor Rask (his 17th helper of the season), he leveled the score at two-all, which held to the end of regulation, forcing the three-on-three overtime period.

Horvat waited 3:25 before scoring his winner, assisted by Radim Vrbata (his 10th assist of the season) and Christopher Tanev.

First Star of the Game Jacob Markstrom improves his record to 7-5-4 after saving 38 of 40 (95%), while Cam Ward’s record falls to 14-11-5 after saving 19 of 22 (86.4%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 40-19-9, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the road teams.

For a Friday night, the schedule was relatively light with only six games.  Don’t worry though, the NHL has our back, as there’s a solid 10 on deck today.  The action gets started at 1 p.m. eastern when the New York Rangers visit Philadelphia (SN), followed an hour later by New Jersey at Arizona.  The final matinee begins at 4 p.m. eastern when Ottawa visits Los Angeles.  Four games drop the puck at the normal starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Boston [CBC], Washington at Buffalo [BELL TV], Colorado at Columbus and Montréal at St. Louis [NHLN/TVAS/SN]), followed an hour later by Minnesota at Nashville.  10 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Calgary at Edmonton (CBC/SN), followed half an hour later by Dallas at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New York at Philadelphia, Toronto at Boston, Minnesota at Nashville and Calgary at Edmonton), while two other matchups represent meetings of teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Montréal at St. Louis and Dallasat San Jose).

The game that strikes me most is the Dallas–San Jose matchup, and it’s not just because of how both teams are doing this season.  The Sharks have already welcomed Todd McLellan back to The Tank this week, so what hurts seeing another old friend?  How about the goaltender for most of McLellan’s tenure, Antti Niemi?

CJhyiLmKUnknown-3

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Dallas‘ sixth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-0-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was the day after Christmas, a 3-2 shootout loss in St. Louis.  San Jose has been featured much more recently, as they beat the Oilers 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday to improve their series record to 2-2-0.

Niemi spent a total of five seasons in San Jose before having his signing rights traded to Dallas this offseason.  With the exception of the lockout-shortened 2012-’13 season, he was always good for 60+ games and 31+ wins per season, with his best being his 39-17-7 2013-’14 campaign, when he 91.3% for 149 goals against.

Excluding last season, Niemi’s Sharks always qualified for the playoffs, with his best performance certainly being the 2012-’13 where he saved 93% of the shots that came his way.

So far this season, Niemi has helped to lead his 29-11-4 Dallas Starsto second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.

Measured by goals scored, Dallas is the best offense in the NHL this season.  Led by Tyler Seguin’s 166 shots, the Stars have fired the puck 1419 times this season, of which 10.4% have found the back of the net for 147 tallies, led by Jamie Benn’s 25 tallies.  Special teams have certainly contributed to that success, as Dallas scores on 22.46% for 31 power play goals (led by Benn’s 11).  The biggest problem for the power play has actually been the defense, which has given up five short-handed goals so far this season.

Niemi was an excellent add for this team,  as the Stars‘ defense is not exactly anything spectacular.  Even with Johnny Oduya’s team-leading 93 blocks, Dallas has allowed 1279 shots to reach 16-8-4 Niemi and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.2% for 114 goals against, 13th-most in the league.  The defense does clamp down when facing the power play, as they’ve killed 81.25% for only 24 power play goals against.  What improves this special teams unit is their six shorties this season.

Dallas is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 4-2 loss in Anaheim last night.  A Stars win tonight puts them back the division and conference lead, as they win the games played-tiebreaker over Chicago.

The 22-18-2 San Jose Sharks are currently in third place in the Pacific Division and eighth in the Western Conference.  Similar to Dallas, the Sharks play a more offensive game, but they are backed by a stronger defense than tonight’s opposition.  You can read more about the Sharks‘ play here.

San Jose is currently riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 shootout victory over the Oilers on Thursday.  A Sharks victory this evening increases their lead over Vancouverfor the third division spot to two points, while a loss loses one of San Jose‘s three games in hand over rival Canucks.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (53 points [second-most in the league], 25 goals [third-most in the league], 28 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league] and +17 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), John Klingberg (32 assists [third-most in the league]), Niemi (three shutouts [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Seguin (51 points [third-most in the league], 24 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 27 assists [ninth-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Martin Jones (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] and 19 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Joe Pavelski (22 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league] and 43 points [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Although I’m picking the Sharks to win this game tonight due to their current steak and playing on home ice, you can never count out a team like the Dallas Stars, who have aspirations of a Stanley Cup on their mind.

 

JANUARY 15 – DAY 97 – ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN…

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks was the first since December 26 in the series to require a shootout, which the Sharks executed to perfection to win 2-1.

San Jose scored the opening goal of the game after 11:29 of play, courtesy of Marc-Edouard Vlasic after assists from Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton, his 24th helper of the season.  The Sharks‘ 1-0 lead held into the intermission.

Edmonton leveled the score at the 8:02 mark of the second when Second Star of the Game Nail Yakupov scored on assists from Lauri Korpikoski (his sixth assist of the season) and Justin Schultz.

It was the final goal in regulation, and there wasn’t one scored in the five minutes of three-on-three play, so The Tank hosted its first shootout of the season.

Joe Pavelski was the first to take his shootout goal, and his attempt was pure, giving the Sharks a 1-0 shootout lead.  First Star Martin Jones made the save on Jordan Eberle’s attempt, which was quickly followed by Joonas Donskoi’s shot that also trickled into the net.  Jones secured the bonus point with a save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, cemented San Jose‘s lead over Vancouver to two points, and ruined the homecoming of ex-head coach Todd McLellan.

Jones earns the win after saving 24 of 25 (96%) to improve his record to 19-13-2, while Cam Talbot’s record falls to 7-13-3 after saving 36 of 37 (97.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 40-19-8, favoring the home squad by 29 points.

A busy Thursday schedule yields a lighter Friday schedule than normal in preparation of an exciting weekend of NHL action.  A total of six games will be played this evening, with half getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Buffalo [BELL TV], Chicago at Toronto[NHLN] and Vancouver at Carolina).  Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay(TVAS) drop the puck 30 minutes later, followed at 8 p.m. eastern by Winnipeg at Minnesota.  This evening’s nightcap gets its start at 10 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits Anaheim (SN).

A third of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Buffalo and Winnipeg at Minnesota), while none involve both squads currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game that has attracted my attention the most is actually the Vancouver at Carolina matchup, as both teams are currently very close to qualifying for the playoffs, but are still on the outside looking in.

Unknown-1Carolina Hurricanes Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Vancouver‘s fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 1-2-0 record, while the Canes lost the only other game they’ve played in the series.  Both team’s most recent appearance in the series was on January 6 when Carolina visited Rogers Arena and fell 3-2 to the Canucks.

The 17-17-10 Vancouver Canucks currently sit in fourth place in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, meaning that they are sitting on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, although they trail the Sharks by only two points.  Vancouver plays a balanced, yet lackluster game, slightly favoring their defense.

Even with Chris Tanev’s 99 blocks, the Canucks have allowed a whopping 1315 shots to reach 10-11-6 Ryan Miller and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.3% for 120 goals against, ninth-most in the league.  The power play has also been below average, killing 79.58% of attempts for 29 goals against.

Vancouver‘s offense has also left much to be desired for residents of British Columbia, as they’ve managed only 1249 shots (led by Daniel Sedin’s 149), of which only 8.2% have found the back of the net for 105 goals (led by Sedin’s 19), eighth-fewest in the league.  The power play has been just as incompetent, scoring only only 17.36% of attempts for 25 goals (led by Sedin’s six).

Vancouver‘s most recent game was a 4-1 loss in Washington last night.

The 20-18-7 Carolina Hurricanes currently sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, presently missing the playoffs only due to losing a tiebreaker of games played to Boston.  Similar to Vancouver, they play a balanced, but rather underwhelming game slightly favoring their defense.

Thanks in part to Ron Hainsey’s 71 blocks, only 1146 shots have made their way to 14-11-4 Cam Ward and co., who’ve collectively saved 90.1% for 120 goals against, ninth-most in the league.  The Canes‘ penalty kill has been only slightly below league average, killing 80.19% attempts for 21 goals against.

Led by Justin Faulk’s 130 shots, the Hurricanes have fired the puck 1298 times, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 105 goals (led by Jeff Skinner’s 16 tallies), eighth-fewest in the league.  The power play has certainly let the Canes down, as they’ve scored on only 17.16% attempts for 23 goals (led by Faulk’s 12).

Carolina is currently riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent game being a 4-1 victory in St. Louis last night.  A win tonight in combination with wins by Buffalo and/or Pittsburgh gets the Canes in the group of eight Eastern Conference teams competing for the Cup.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Faulk (32 points, including 12 power play goals, on 130 shots and 84 hits [all lead the team]) and Vancouver‘s Henrik Sedin (28 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]).

As made evident by the last time these two met, these squads are an even match for each other, and goals are always at a premium with these offenses.  That being said, I am forced to lean with the Canessolely because they are playing in PNC Arena.

JANUARY 14 – DAY 96 – THE OIL BRING WITH THEM AN OLD FRIEND

The Anaheim Ducks scored three goals in 3:29 to beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 in last night’s Game of the Day.

The first goal of the night did not occur until 27:06 had ticked off the clock.  It belonged to Andrew Cogliana, a wrister after the assist from Kevin Bieksa (his sixth helper of the season).  Ottawa leveled the score with only 3:48 remaining in the second period, as Curtis Lazar snapped a shot past Third Star of the Game Frederik Andersen.  The 1-1 tie held into the second intermission.

The game remained knotted until only 4:55 remained in regulation when First Star Shea Theodore scored the game-winner, a power play goal (his first career point), after assists from Ryan Getzlaf (his 23rd helper of the season) and Sami Vatanen.  2:23 later, it was Carl Hagelin with the first insurance goal, assisted by Ryan Kesler (his ninth assist of the season) and Jakob Silfverberg.  Silfverberg’s night was not done, as he scored with only 1:26 remaining in the game after assists from Second Star Hampus Lindholm (his eighth helper of the season) and Hagelin, giving the Ducks the 4-1 victory.

Andersen’s record improves to 6-8-5 after saving 24 of 25 (96%), while Craig Anderson’s falls to 17-13-4 after saving 34 of 38 (89.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 39-19-8, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the roadies.

It was a light schedule yesterday, which usually means a full set of games tonight.  This Thursday follows the trend, as a total of 16 points are on the table this evening.  The action gets started at the usual time of 7 p.m. eastern with two games dropping the opening pucks (the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [TVAS] and Vancouver at Washington), followed half an hour later by Chicago at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of two games (Carolina at St. Louis and Nashville at Winnipeg), with another pair dropping the puck an hour later (New Jersey at Colorado and Detroit at Arizona).  Finally, at 10:30 p.m. eastern, we have our nightcap between Edmonton and San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Rangers at Islanders, Nashville at Winnipeg and Edmonton at San Jose), while another set of three represents matchups between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Rangers at Islanders, Chicago at Montréal and Detroit at Arizona).

While this information is usually important in choosing a Game of the Day, there is a special reason I’ve chosen Edmonton at San Joseas the point of our focus – the return of Todd McLellan to the Tank.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgUnknown-3

 

 

 

 

 

This is the second time Edmonton has been featured in the Game of the Day series.  They lost their only other appearance 4-2 on December 15 in Madison Square Garden.  The Sharks have been featured three times before tonight, and own a 1-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was also a 4-2 loss on December 18 in Ottawa.

The whole focus of tonight’s game will be McLellan, who is making his first appearance in San Jose since “mutually parting ways” with the squad following the 2014-’15 season.

McLellan never had a losing season in The Tank, including the team’s lone Presidents’ Trophy in 2008-’09, and missed the playoffs only once in his seven-season tenure.  But, for all the success he found in the regular season, the Sharks advanced to the Western Conference Finals only twice (2009-’10 and 2010-’11), and never to the Stanley Cup Finals.

He now leads his new squad, the Edmonton Oilers, in their attempts to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to Carolina in 2005-’06.  He will probably not keep his winning-season streak alive, but he certainly has his team heading in the right direction.

McLellan’s 17-23-4 Edmonton Oilers currently sit in last place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, and lose the games played tiebreaker with Buffalo, putting them in second to last in the league.  Although Edmonton does not play a strong game on either end of the ice, they have to be considered more of an offensive team than a team of strong defense and goaltending.

The Oil has fired 1279 shots so far this season (led by Taylor Hall’s 175), of which 8.2% have found the back of the net for 105 tallies (led by Hall’s 16), 21st most in the league.  While the shots and shot percentage are on par with the rest of the league, the Oilers‘ power play has been a major shortcoming.    Edmonton has scored on only 17.42% of their attempts for 23 goals.

Of course, the forwards can’t take all the blame for the Oilers‘ position, as the defense has been anything but exemplary this season.  Even with Andrej Sekera’s team-leading 88 blocks, 1356 shots have still made their way to 10-10-2 Anders Nilsson and co., who’ve collectively saved 90.7% for 131 goals against, third-most in the league.  The special teams issues continue to the power play, where the Oilhave killed only 78.74% of attempts for 27 goals against.

Edmonton is currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent showing being a 4-3 overtime loss in Arizona on Tuesday.

The 21-18-2 San Jose Sharks currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, and have utilized a decent offense to fight for position in the competitive race for the Pacific’s third division qualifier.

So far this season, the Sharks have fired  1227 shots (led by Brent Burns’ 177 attempts), of which a whopping 9.5% have found the back of the net for 117 goals (led by Joe Pavelski’s 22 tallies), 11th most in the league.  The success has continued to the power play, where San Jose has scored on 21.01% of attempts for 29 goals (led by Pavelski’s seven PP tallies).

Although below the league average, the Sharks‘ defense has not been atrocious.  Burns leads the charge, with 84 blocks to his credit, to allow only 1146 shots to make their way to Martin Jones and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 90.9% for 113 goals against, 11th-fewest in the league.  The real deficiencies show up on the penalty kill, where the Sharks have only killed 79.69% of opposing power plays for 26 goals against.

San Jose is currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a 4-1 win in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (41 points [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (four shutouts (tied for third-most in the league] and 18 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Pavelski (43 points [sixth-most in the league] and 22 goals [sixth-most in the league]).

Although it seems like McLellan has the Oil headed in the right direction, they are still nowhere near the team Edmonton fans would like to see, due in part to Connor McDavid’s injury.  Expect the Sharks to beat their old coach.

JANUARY 13 – DAY 95 – IT’S TIME FOR THESE TEAMS TO PUT THEIR FOOT ON THE GAS

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Chicago Blackhawks held on for a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators to extend their winning streak to eight.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it belonged to the Hawks.  With only 58 seconds remaining in the period, First Star of the Game Andrew Shaw gave the Blackhawks the lead, assisted by Second Star Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews (his 16th helper of the season).

The busiest period was by far the second.  Chicago opened the period scoring after 6:14 ticked off the clock courtesy of Shaw’s second tally of the evening, assisted by Hossa (his 14th assist of the season) and Dennis Rasmussen.  The Hawks‘ final goal of the game, and ultimately their game-winner, occurred 7:04 later when Brent Seabrook set the score at 3-0, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 38th assist) and Erik Gustafsson.  Only 18 later, Mike Ribeiro scored his fifth goal of the season to get the score back to 3-1, which held into the second intermission.

Nashville‘s final goal of the night did not occur until the 19:23 mark, a power play tally from Filip Forsberg after assists from Ryan Johansen and Ribeiro (his 23rd assist).

Third Star Corey Crawford made saved 41 of 43 (95.3%) to improve his record to 24-10-2, while Pekka Rinne’s record falls to 16-14-6 after saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 38-19-8, favoring the home squad by 26 points over the roadies.

A busy Tuesday has come and gone; lets take a step back with today’s four-game schedule.  Columbus and Toronto (SN) get things started at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Boston at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS).  The western games get going at 9:30 p.m. eastern with Florida visiting Calgary (SN1), followed half an hour later by tonight’s nightcap between Ottawa and Anaheim (RDS).

None of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals, both teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, or a rematch of last year’s playoffs.

Today’s Game of the Day is Ottawa at Anaheim, due to both of these teams having playoff aspirations, but currently sit outside the tournament looking in.

Unknown-2Unknown

 

 

 

Ottawa has been featured in the Game of the Day series six times before tonight, and currently owns a 2-3-1 record in such games.  Their most showing in the series was a 7-3 loss in Boston on December 29.  This will be Anaheim‘s fourth appearance in the series, where they own a 0-1-2 record.  The Ducks‘ most recent game as the focus of our attention was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes on November 9.

The 20-17-6 Ottawa Senators currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They play a top-10 offense, but have not been able to break into the playoffs due to the second-worst defense in the league.

Ottawa‘s offense doesn’t put the puck on net very often (only 1222 times in their 43 games, led by Erik Karlsson’s 116), but they score a whopping 9.5% for 116 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 20 tallies), eighth-most in the league.  The Sens still need to improve on the power play, scoring on 18.05% attempts for 24 goals (led by Hoffman’s five tallies), but it doesn’t seem like they are too worried with such success in five-on-five play.

The offense has needed to be good to compensate for, frankly, an atrocious defense, especially for a team with playoff aspirations.  They’ve allowed 1429 shots to be fired (even with Karlsson’s team-leading 88 blocks), of which 17-12-4 Craig Anderson and co. have saved an average 91.7% for 127 goals against, second-most in the league.  The special teams issues continue into the penalty kill, where Ottawa has killed only 76.22% for 34 goals against.  Matters are made a little less terrible though, as the penalty kill has actually been very successful with the puck on their stick, scoring eight shorties already this season (led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s four goals).

In their last showing, the Sens were handily defeated 7-1 in Washington on Sunday, and they currently trail Boston by a single point for a wild card spot.

The 17-17-7 Anaheim Ducks currently occupy fifth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference.  Their game play is the exact opposite of Ottawa‘s, as the Ducks are one of the best teams in the league on defense, yet have arguably the worst offense in the game.

Thanks in part to Kevin Bieksa’s team-leading 69 blocks, the Ducks‘ opposition has only managed 1120 shots so far this season, 91.7% of which have been collectively saved by 9-6-2 John Gibson and co. for only 97 goals against, fourth-least in the league.  The penalty kill has been equally as strong, killing 89.66% of opposing power plays for only 15 goals against.

Measured by goals scored, Anaheim has the worst offense in the league, but it’s not for a lack of effort.  The Ducks have attempted 1231 shots so far this season (led by Corey Perry’s 119 shots), but only 6.2% have found the back of the net for a measly 76 scores (led by Perry’s 16).  To give a better understanding of how few tallies this is, Philadelphia has scored the second-fewest goals this season, and they have 91 to their credit, 13 more than the Ducks.  The peculiar quandary that is Anaheim exhibits itself in the Ducks‘ power play, which is actually slightly better than the average team’s in the NHL.  Anaheim has scored on 19.27% of their attempts for 21 goals to their credit (led by Perry’s six).

The Ducks‘ most recent game was a 2-1 loss to the Red Wings on Sunday, and they currently trail San Jose by three points for the third spot in the division.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Gibson (1.84 GAA [leads the league] and four shutouts [tied for third-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (17 wins [tenth-best in the league]), Hoffman (20 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (36 assists [second-most in the lead] and 45 points [fourth-most in the league]).

I predict Anaheim to win tonight’s game on home ice, mostly because their incredible defense should be able to handle anything Ottawa can throw at them.  The Sens also like to commit a lot of penalties, giving the Ducks the opportunity to beat them on the power play.

JANUARY 12 – DAY 94 – COUNTRY MEETS CHI-TOWN

The New York Rangers scored the game-winning goal with only 1:42 remaining in regulation to secure the 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins.

The first goal of the game was not scored until 29:04 courtesy of Third Star of the Game Jimmy Hayes, assisted by Ryan Spooner (his 20th helper of the season) and Zdeno Chara.  The Bruins‘ one-goal lead held into the second intermission.

New York didn’t wait long to level the score after returning from the dressing room, 35 seconds to be exact.  Derick Brassard scored the leveler, assisted by Second Star Mats Zuccarello (his 16th helper of the season) and Ryan McDonagh.  The Rangers‘ late game-winner was courtesy of First Star Jesper Fast, assisted by Keith Yandle (his 21st helper of the season) and Kevin Klein.

Henrik Lundqvist’s record improves to 19-11-4 after saving 32 of 33 (97%), while Tuukka Rask’s falls to 14-12-4 after saving 28 of 30 (93.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 37-19-8, favoring the home squads by 24 points.

After a light Monday schedule, we jump back into the swing of things with eight games tonight.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with two matchups (Columbus at the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh at Carolina [TVAS]), followed an hour later by three more (New Jersey at St. Louis, Buffalo at Minnesota[BELL TV] and San Jose at Winnipeg).  Nashville at Chicago gets started at 8:30 p.m. eastern, followed 30 minutes later by the co-nightcap games (Tampa Bay at Colorado [NBCSN] and Edmonton at Arizona).

Four of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Columbus at New York, Pittsburgh at Carolina, Nashville at Chicago and Edmonton at Arizona), while New Jersey at St. Louis and Nashville at Chicago are the only games where both teams are currently qualifying for the playoffs.  Lastly, the Preds–Hawks game is a rematch of one of the Western Conference Quarterfinals from a season ago.

As has become the norm for games that qualify for all three groups, lets focus in on tonight’s game in the United Center.

UnknownUnknown-2

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Nashville‘s fourth appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they host a 2-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing was a 2-1 loss in St. Louis on December 17.  Chicagohas been featured 12 times before tonight, with this game breaking their tie with the Rangers for most appearances in the series.  They own a 7-4-1 record when the focus of our attention, with their most recent game being a 6-3 win over the Avalanche on Sunday.

The 19-16-7 Nashville Predators currently occupy fifth place in the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference, qualifying them for the final wild card position.  Overall, they play a balanced game, but have been slipping of late, losing their last three by a combined score of 13-4.

Nashville is a tough team to figure out offensively, as they seem to be doing all the right things for success.  So far this season, they’ve shot the puck 1300 times (led by James Neal’s 129 attempts), with 8.1% finding the back of the net (only slightly below the league average of 8.8%) for 105 goals (led by Neal’s 15 tallies).  Even the power play has been at least average, with the squad connecting on 19.57% of attempts for 27 goals (led by Shea Weber’s eight goals).  Going along with the special teams play, it is probably not a good thing that the best note associated with the power play is that they’ve only given up one short-handed goal this season.

On the other end, the Preds have allowed only 1117 shots (a total below the league average, thanks in part to Roman Josi’s team-leading 111 blocks), but 90.3% have snuck past 16-13-6 Pekka Rinne and co. for 114 goals.  A significant problem for the defense has been their penalty kill.  Nashville kills only 75.4% of opposing attempts, allowing 31 goals.

As stated before, the Preds are currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent showing being a four-goal shutout loss in Arizona on Saturday.

The 27-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, trailing Dallas by four points.  Although they play well on both ends of the ice, they definitely a much more offensive-minded team.

The Blackhawks have attempted a significant 1308 shots so far this season (led by Patrick Kane’s 161 shots), of which 9.1% have found the back of the net for 125 goals (25 courtesy of Kane), third-most in the league.  That success continues to the power play, where the Hawks have scored on 22.9% of their opportunities for 30 goals (led by Kane’s 13).

The defense has been good, just not quite as good as the offense.  Led by Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 87 blocks, Chicago has allowed 1308 shots against, 92.3% of which are collectively saved by 23-10-2 Corey Crawford and co., for only 104 goals against, ninth-best in the league.  Probably the most glaring aspect of Chicago‘s game has been their penalty kill, where they only kill 81.97% of attempts (yes, it’s still better than the league average!) for 22 goals against.

Of all the teams for Nashville to try to get their groove back against, Chicago would have to be near the bottom of the list, as the Hawkshave won their last seven games, with their most recent being Sunday’s Game of the Day against the Avalanche, which they won 6-3.

These two teams met last year in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, with the Hawks winning the series 4-2 on their way to the Stanley Cup.  The series included two incredibly exciting games, as the first meeting needed two overtime periods after the Predsscored three-straight goals to knot the game at three-all.  Thanks to Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks won 4-3.  Three games later, two overtime periods was not enough, as the Hawks won 3-2 in triple overtime with a Brent Seabrook one-timer.

The story has already been continued this season, as this is the third of five meetings.  Each team’s home arena has seen a home-team blowout victory in a home-and-home series, with Chicago winning 4-1 on December 8 before heading to Nashville, where the Predators won 5-1 two days later.

Some players to watch include Chicago‘s Crawford (six shutouts [leads the league], 23 wins [tied for second-best in the league] and .926 save percentage [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Kane (62 points [leads the league], 37 assists [leads the league], 25 goals [tied for second-most in the league] and +19 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) & Nashville‘s Josi (111 blocks and 31 points [both lead team]) and Neal (129 shots, 15 goals, 12 at even-strength, and +11 [all lead team]).

The Predators are in desperate need of a win, but I think it’s too tough a task for a road team in the United Center.  The Hawksshould win this one, with the potential for their second-straight blowout.

JANUARY 11 – DAY 93 – THIS ONE DEFINITELY COUNTS IN THE BOSTON-NEW YORK RIVALRY

With four second period goals, and six goals in 30:15, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Hawks‘ offense blitz did not get started until the 8:27 mark of the first when Brandon Mashinter opened the scoring off assists from Ryan Garbutt (his fourth helper of the season) and Dennis Rasmussen.  The other goal of the period came with 3:38 remaining on the clock, as Second Star of the Game Patrick Kane scored off assists from Artemi Panarin (his 24th assist of the season) and Trevor van Riemsdyk to set the score at 2-0, which held into the intermission.

Chicago continued their success into the second, scoring only 1:39 after resuming play.  It was First Star Marian Hossa with the tally, assisted by Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jonathan Toews (his 14th assist of the season).  Colorado finally got on the board with a goal from Third Star Matt Duchene, assisted by Carl Soderberg (his 22nd helper of the season) and Gabriel Landeskog.  Duchene struck only 4:08 later to set the score at 3-2 after being assisted by Alex Tanguay and Nathan MacKinnon (his 22nd assist of the season).  Two-straight Avalanche goals didn’t seem to make the Blackhawks very happy, as they fired three-straight of their own before the second period ended.  The first was a Kane power play goal at the 12:25 mark, his 25th goal of the season, assisted by Brent Seabrook and Artem Anisimov, which proved to be the game-winner.  The next Hawk goal came only 2:06 later, Toews’ 16th tally, assisted by Andrew Shaw and Erik Gustafsson.  Chicago completed their surge with 1:18 remaining in the period with Hossa’s second goal of the night, assisted by Toews (his 15th assist of the season) and Shaw to set the score at 6-2.

Colorado could only manage one goal in the final period, compliments of MacKinnon after assists from Duchene (his 16th of the season) and Nick Holden, setting the score at the 6-3 final.

Corey Crawford’s record improves to 23-10-2 after saving 34 of 37 (91.9%), while Semyon Varlamov’s record falls to 15-11-3 after saving 16 of 20 (80%).  He was pulled after 32:25 of play following Kane’s second goal of the night, and replaced by Calvin Pickard, who saved 13 of 15 (86.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 36-19-8, favoring the home squads by 22 points over the roadies.

After a busy weekend, this Monday’s schedule consists of only four games, with the action getting started at 7 p.m. eastern when Boston visits the New York Rangers (NHLN/TVAS/SN).  The rest of the games don’t get started for at least another two hours, as San Joseand Calgary drop the puck at 9 p.m. eastern.  10 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Florida at Vancouver game, followed half an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Detroit at Los Angeles.

San Jose at Calgary represents the only divisional rivalry being played this evening, and the remaining matchups are all between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

I know we’ve watched both of these teams recently, one as recent as Saturday, but a team qualifying only for a wild card spot always has a little more to play for, so let’s take a look at the Boston–New Yorkgame.

UnknownNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The Boston Bruins have been featured eight times before tonight’s game in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and own a 3-4-1 record in such games, with their most recent showing being a 4-1 victory in New Jersey on Friday.  The New York Rangers are tied with Chicagofor the most appearances in the series, and own a 6-3-2 record when the focus of our attention.  Their most recent game in the series was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals on Saturday.

The 21-14-5 Boston Bruins currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference and, most importantly, the first wild card position.  An in-depth explanation of their game may be read here, but the important thing to know is Boston is one of the best offensive teams in the league.

Their most recent showing was a 2-1 overtime loss in Ottawa on Saturday.

The 22-14-5 New York Rangers currently own second place in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to the Bruins, the Blueshirts also play a strongly offensive game, which you can read more about here.

The Rangers‘ most recent game was their 4-3 overtime loss to the Capitals in Saturday’s Game of the Day.  You can read a quick-and-dirty recap of that game here.

These two have already met up once this season, a 4-3 Boston win the day after Thanksgiving in the TD Garden.  Although the Rangershad the lead twice, they were not able to hold on for the victory, and will utilize those sour memories as inspiration to level the season series.

Some players to watch in this one include Boston‘s Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-most in the leauge]) and New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Both of these teams play similar styles of play – good defenses supported by strong offenses.  That being said, the B’s have done better on both ends than their opponents, and I believe that will be the difference in this one.  I expect this Original Six matchup to go the way of the Bruins.

JANUARY 10 – DAY 92 – A STREAK MUST END TONIGHT

It may have taken overtime, but the Washington Capitals were able to complete their weekend-sweep of New York City-based teams, as they knocked off the Rangers with a 4-3 victory.

The first two periods had only a goal each, both scored by the Caps.  The first period tally is compliments of none other than First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin, a power play goal with only 15 seconds remaining before intermission.

Washington‘s second goal of the night came a little bit quicker, only 3:56 after resuming play.  Nate Schmidt assisted Justin Williams to his 12th goal of the year to set the score the score at 2-0.

Although the Caps entered the period with the lead, it took a late goal to get the game into overtime.  Oscar Lindberg and the Blueshirts got on the board 5:54 after resuming play after assists from Dominic Moore and Ryan McDonagh, his 13th helper of the season.  Twelve seconds before the midway point of the period, Third Star McDonagh and Derick Brassard (his 16th assist of the year) assisted Kevin Hayes to level the score at two-all.  New York‘s go-ahead goal crossed the goal line at the 13:11 mark, scored by Viktor Stalberg after assists from Keith Yandle (his 20th of the season) and Kevin Hayes.  The Rangers got within six seconds of the victory, but Washington had different plans, as Second Star Nicklas Backstrom scored a game-tying goal after assists from Williams and Matt Niskanen (his 16th helper of the season).

The overtime period lasted only until 1:25 before Nate Schmidt assisted Ovechkin to the 24th goal of his season, and the 499th of his career to earn the Capitals the bonus point.

Braden Holtby improves his record to 27-4-2 after saving 23 of 26 (88.5%), while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 18-11-4 after saving 27 of 31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-19-8, favoring the home squad by 20 points over the roadies.

The second weekend of the new year is completed with six games being played this Sunday.  Only one matinee game is being played, with Buffalo visiting Winnipeg (BELL TV) at 3 p.m. eastern.  Two games get started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern (Ottawa at Washington[TVAS/SN] and Colorado at Chicago), followed an hour later by a couple more (New Jersey at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Detroit at Anaheim).  The final game of the night gets started at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Florida visits Edmonton (SN1).

Colorado at Chicago represents not only the only divisional matchup of the evening, but also the only game between teams both qualifying for the playoffs.  Especially since I’ve been wanting to write about the Avs for a while, lets take a look at that game.

Colorado Avalanche LogoUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game is only Colorado‘s second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, with their first being a three-goal shutout victory in Anaheim on October 16.  On the other hand, Chicago has been featured a series-leading 12 times, and host a 6-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing was a 3-2 overtime victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The 21-18-3 Colorado Avalanche currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division and seventh in the Western Conference, good enough to qualify them for the second wild card position over the Nashville Predators (Colorado wins on regulation+overtime wins).  To get to this position, they’ve utilized one of the best offenses in the league to compensate for a less-exemplary defense.

So far this season, the Avs have put only fired the puck 1189 times (led by Nathan MacKinnon’s 137), of which a whopping 10.3% have found the back of the net for 122 goals (led by Matt Duchene’s 19 tallies), third-most in the NHL.  That sharp-shooting success has followed them to the power play, where Colorado has converted 21.77% of their 147 opportunities for 32 goals.  This success is good, but it comes with a catch – the Avalanche has already given up five short-handed goals this season, two more than the league average.

The offense has been necessary to cover up some less-than-ideal play on the defensive end.  Although Francois Beauchemin has 125 blocks to his credit, 1296 shots have still made their way to 15-10-3 Semyon Varlamov and co., who’ve collectively saved an average 91.5% for 117 goals against, seventh-most in the league.  The average, if not less-than, defensive play has continued to the penalty kill, where Colorado has killed only 79.26% of opposing attempts (1.61% below the league average) for 28 power play goals against.

Colorado is currently riding a three-game winning streak, with their most recent being a 5-3 victory over the Predators on Friday.

The 26-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, trailing the Dallas Stars by six points with a game in hand.  As indicated by their place in the standings, they are one of the strongest teams in the Conference, playing a balanced, strongly competitive game.  You can read more about their style of play here.

Chicago is currently riding a six-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-1 win over the Sabres on Friday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (six shutouts [leads the league], 22 wins [third-best in the league] and .927 save percentage [ninth-best in the league]) and Patrick Kane (60 points [leads the league], 37 assists [leads the league], +20 [third-best in the league] and 23 goals [fifth-best in the league]) & Colorado‘s Duchene (19 goals [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

Tonight’s meeting will be the third in the four-game season series, and the second in the Windy City.  Colorado currently leads the series 1-0-1, thanks to a three-goal shutout victory in the United Center on December 15, followed by a 4-3 overtime Blackhawks winner on New Year’s Eve in Denver.

It will be a tall task for the Avalanche to pull off the upset in the United Center tonight.  Not only are they playing on the road, but the Hawks‘ offense should be able to shred the Avs‘ defense and goaltending.  While I always like to pull underdog, I gotta go with Chicago taking the win.

JANUARY 9 – DAY 91 – I’M RUNNING OUT OF JOKES FOR WASHINGTON VISITING NEW YORK…

It was the second straight 4-1 road victory in the Game of the Day series, as Boston earned their 3000th all-time victory with a win at The Rock.

The lone goal of the first period belongs to Frank Vatrano and the Bruins after only 2:02 of play, assisted by Third Star of the Game Colin Miller, his 11th helper of the season.

It was a night of quick starts for the Bruins, as First Star Ryan Spooner fired his ninth goal of the season, this one the eventual game-winner, after being assisted by Second Star Dennis Seidenberg 4:49 after resuming play.  New Jersey tried to stage a comeback with a goal from Bobby Farnham, assisted by Stephen Gionta and Adam Larsson (his seventh of the season) at the 11:57 mark to set the score at 2-1, but eventually gave up a power play goal to Jimmy Hayes with only 1:25 remaining in the period, assisted by Zdeno Chara (his 15th helper of the season) and Matt Beleskey.

Boston completed their series of quick goals when Seidenberg and Spooner (his 19th assist of the season) assisted Miller to the final goal of the game, setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Tuukka Rask took the night off, so it’s Jonas Gustavsson who earned the win after saving 19 of 20 (95%) to improve his record to 7-3-1, while Cory Schneider’s record falls to 17-13-5 after saving 27 of 31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-19-7, favoring the home squad over the roadies by 21 points.

It’s a busy Saturday in the NHL, with a whopping 10 games being played.  There’s two matinees at 1 p.m. eastern, both of them involving the teams from the Big Apple (Washington at the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders at Philadelphia).  Four games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Pittsburghat Montréal [NHLN/TVAS/SN], Boston at Ottawa, Carolina at Columbus and Toronto at San Jose [CBC]), followed an hour later by Minnesota at Dallas.  The games west of the Rockies get started at 9 p.m. eastern when Nashville visits Arizona, followed an hour later by Tampa Bay at Vancouver (CBC/SN).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits Los Angeles.

Five of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Washington at New York, New York at Philadelphia, Boston at Ottawa, Carolina at Columbus and Minnesota at Dallas), while four feature teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at New York, Minnesota at Dallas, Nashville at Arizona and St. Louis at Los Angeles).  Washington at New York also represents a rematch of an Eastern Conference Semifinal from last season’s playoffs.

Since we already watched Washington‘s rematch with their quarterfinal opponent of a year ago, let’s watch them take on their opponent from the semifinals.

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Washington has been featured seven times before tonight’s game, and owns a 4-3-0 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 victory in Brooklyn on Thursday.  Tonight’s game will tie New York with Chicagofor 11 appearances, most in our series.  The Rangers own a 6-3-1 in such games, with their most recent being a 3-0 loss in Sunrise last Saturday to the Panthers.

The 30-7-3 Washington Capitals currently own the best team in the NHL, as they have a 14-point lead over the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division, a nine-point lead over the Panthers in the Eastern Conference, and a one-point lead in the league over the Stars.  You can read a summary of their play here, but for those that don’t want to, just know that there’s a reason the Caps lead the league – they’re the best on defense, and second-best in offense.  In other words, they’re pretty good!

The Caps are currently riding a two-game winning streak, and their most recent game was a Thursday 4-1 victory in Brooklyn against the Islanders. You can read a quick-and-dirty recap of it here.

The 22-14-4 New York Rangers currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have utilized a strong offense to get them to that position.

Usually, good teams put lots of pucks on net.  Instead, the Rangersprefer to take shots of a higher quality, as they’ve scored 10.3% of their 1132 shots (led by Rick Nash’s 117 shots) for 117 goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 16 tallies), fourth-most in the league.  Although the offense as a whole has been one of the best, the Blueshirts‘ power play has been nothing special.  They’ve had 114 opportunities and scored only 22 goals, for a 19.3% success rate that leads the league average by only .17%.

Thanks in part to Ryan McDonagh’s team-leading 77 blocks, the Rangers‘ defense has been able to keep all but 1193 shots away from 18-11-3 Henrik Lundqvist and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 103 goals against.  Just like the power play, the penalty kill has been only average this season.  New York has defended 133 penalties so far this season, of which they’ve killed 80.45% (.42% below average) for 26 goals against.

The Blueshirts‘ most recent game was a 6-2 victory over the Stars on Tuesday.

The Capitals and Rangers have already met twice before tonight’s game, with both taking place at Madison Square Garden.  New Yorkwon the first meeting 5-2 on November 3, but Washington leveled the series only three weeks ago on December 20 with a 7-3 win.  Both of those games were featured as a Game of the Day, and a recap can be found by clicking either score.

Some players to watch in tonight’s games include New York‘s Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Nicklas Backstrom (25 assists [tied for eighth-best in the league]), Braden Holtby (26 wins [best in the league], 1.9 GAA [third-best in the league] and .933 save percentage [fourth-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+18 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (22 goals [fifth-best in the league] and +17 [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

Like I said a couple days ago, it is hard to pick against the Washington Capitals.  I don’t care where they’re playing, who they’re playing, or any other variable.  This team is no doubt the best team in the Eastern Conference, and potentially the league.  Expect the Caps to complete their three-day, two-game tour of the Big Apple with four points.

January 8 – Day 90 – Does New Jersey count in the Boston-New York rivalry?

The Washington Capitals proved that they are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference by besting a solid New York Islanders team 4-1 in Brooklyn in last night’s Game of the Day.

The Caps came out firing on all cylinders, as they were able to punch the puck into the back of the net twice in the opening period.  The first tally came after 5:45 of play when Third Star of the Game Jason Chimera was able to score off Marcus Johansson’s 16th assist of the season.  Exactly 10 minutes later, Karl Alzner assisted First Star Alex Ovechkin to his 22nd goal of the season, putting his career total at 497 tallies, this one proving to be the game-winner.

New York finally got on the board after 21:59 of play when Ryan Strome and Mikhail Grabovski assisted Brock Nelson to his 14th goal of the season, but Washington was able to regain the momentum when Nate Schmidt scored on Nicklas Backstrom’s 25th assist of the season.  The 3-1 score held into the final period.

Only one goal was scored in the final 20 minutes of play, this one credited to Backstrom, his 12th of the season, after Jaroslav Halak had left the ice for the extra attacker, setting the score at the 4-1 final.

Second Star Braden Holtby continues his incredible season, improving his record to 26-4-2 after saving 34 of 35 (97.1%).  Halak’s first game back from injury didn’t go in his favor, and his record falls to 10-7-3 after saving 34 of 37 (91.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 35-18-7, favoring the home squad over the roadies by 23 points.

The weekend schedule gets started with six games this evening, and the first two drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at New Jersey and Columbus at Carolina).  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the start of the Buffalo at Chicago game (NHLN/BELL TV), followed half an hour later by a couple more (Nashville at Colorado and Tampa Bayat Edmonton).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap gets started at 10 p.m. eastern when St. Louis visits Anaheim (SN).

Two games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at Carolina and Nashville at Colorado), and only Boston at New Jersey exhibits two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The matchup I’m most intrigued by is the Boston at New Jersey game, as these teams are only separated by a point in their fight for the Eastern Conference wild card spots.

UnknownNew Jersey Devils Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston has been featured in the Game of the Day series seven times before tonight’s game, and host a 2-4-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing was the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, when they fell to the Canadiens 5-1.  This will be New Jersey‘s third appearance, and they are 1-1-0 so far.  Their last game in the Game of the Day series was on December 13, a 4-0 loss in Brooklyn to the Islanders.

The 20-14-4 Boston Bruins are currently fourth-best in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, earning them the final playoff position as the second wild card.  They play one of the best offensive games in the league, and are improving their defensive efforts by the game.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 128 shots, the Bruins have put 1182 shots on net, only two behind the league average with two less games played.  9.8% have found the back of the net for 116 goals, fourth most in the league.  The success has continued into the special teams, where Boston has scored on 28.44% of their attempts for 31 tallies (led by Bergeron’s eight goals).

Boston started the season having difficulty keeping opponents off the scoreboard, but has improved over the course of the season.  The Bruins have allowed only 1098 shots (thanks in part to Adam McQuaid’s 67 blocks) to reach 14-11-3 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.2% for only 104 goals against.  The penalty kill has been only average so far this season, killing 82.09% for 24 goals against.  What makes this special team significant is their knack for short-handed goals, as they have six to their credit (three of which belong to Brad Marchand).

The Bruins are currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-2 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday.

The 20-16-5 New Jersey Devils currently own fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, earning them the top wild card spot.  They’ve play one of the best defenses in the league to compensate for lower scoring numbers.

Thanks in part to Adam Larsson’s team-leading 74 blocks, only 1155 shots have made their way to 17-12-5 Cory Schneider and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 93 goals against, sixth-best in the league.  They’ve been just as successful on the penalty kill, preventing 82.95% of power plays and allowing only 22 goals.  Additionally, the Devils also have four shorties to their credit, two of which belong to Adam Henrique.

Offensively, the Devils have not been as strong, with only 1018 shots (led by Kyle Palmieri’s 103) and 92 goals (led by Palmieri’s 17) to their credit, sixth-fewest in the league.  The power play has been slightly better, as New Jersey scores on 19.26% of attempts (average in the NHL) for 26 goals (led by Palmieri’s six).

New Jersey is currently on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 2-1 loss in Montréal on Wednesday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Rask (four shutouts [tied for third-best in league]) and New Jersey‘s Schneider (2.06 GAA [tied for fourth-best in league], three shutouts [tied for sixth-best in league], .927 save percentage [seventh-best in league] and 17 wins [tied for seventh-best in league]).

Although New Jersey‘s defense is strong, I think Boston‘s offense can overpower Schneider’s team.  Since the Devils have such a tough time scoring, I expect the B’s to claim the top wild card spot with a victory tonight.

January 7 – Day 89 – For a team that calls themselves the Caps, you’d figure their logo would be in all-caps like the Islanders…

First Star of the Game Bo Horvat scored twice in the third period to clinch the 3-2 Vancouver victory in Yesterday’s Game of the Day against the Carolina Hurricanes.

It was actually the Canes that struck first in this one, but it wasn’t until 28:02 had ticked off the clock.  It was an important score for Carolina, as Jordan Staal earned his ninth assist of the season, helping Second Star John-Michael Liles to a short-handed goal, the first of the year for the squad.  Vancouver leveled the score with 2:21 remaining on the clock when Adam Cracknell and Christopher Tanev assisted Third Star Sven Baertschi, the score that held into the second intermission.

The Canucks took their first lead of the game when Matt Bartkowski (his eighth assist of the season) and Alex Biega assisted Horvat 7:15 after resuming play.  Their lead was short-lived though, as Noah Hanifin assisted Staal to his eighth goal of the season to knot the score at two.  The game-winner came with only 1:06 remaining on the clock, courtesy of Horvat after being assisted by Baertschi (his seventh on the season) and Linden Vey on the power play.

These Swedish goalkeepers go way back, even before their NHL days.  Eddie Läck began backing up Jacob Markstrom in 2009, when both played for Brynäs IF, and continued their relationship into the NHL, as both played in the Canucks‘ system.  Markstrom got the advantage in this one, saving 26 of 28 (92.9%) to improve his record to 5-5-3.  Läck’s record falls to 5-7-3 after saving 18 of 21 (85.7%).

Today’s Thursday schedule is an exciting one, with eight playoff teams in action.  The festivities get started at 7 p.m. eastern when Washington visits the New York Islanders (TVAS/SN360), followed half an hour later by Floridaat Ottawa (RDS).  Philadelphia at Minnesota (NBCSN) gets started at 8 p.m. eastern, followed 30 minutes later by Winnipeg at Dallas.  9 p.m. eastern starts the Arizona at Calgary game, and this evening’s nightcaps start an hour and a half later (Toronto at Los Angeles and Detroit at San Jose).

Four of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Washington at New York, Florida at Ottawa, Winnipeg at Dallasand Arizona at Calgary), and Washington at New York represents the only game between two playoff qualifiers in addition to being an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal rematch.

Take all that information into account, and I challenge you to take a guess as to which game we’ll watch…

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Washington has been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series sixth times before this evening, and own a 3-3-0 record under such circumstances.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 7-3 victory in Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers on December 20.  New York has been featured only one time before, a 4-0 victory over the Devils on December 13.

The 29-7-3 Washington Capitals are currently the best team in the NHL, leading the Metropolitan Division by 12 points, the Eastern Conference by nine points, and the league by a lone point.  Almost every facet of their game works to a t, as they lead the league in goals against and are second in goals for.

Good defenses keep the puck off their goalie as much as possible, and that is exactly what the Caps are doing.  Thanks in part to Karl Alzner’s 103 blocks, they’ve allowed only 1105 shots to reach 25-4-2 Braden Holtby and co., who’ve collectively saved 92.9% (leads the league average by 1.3%) for only 84 goals against, 21 below the league average and tops in the NHL.  Washington‘s been even better on the penalty kill, where they’ve saved 84.21% of the 114 attempts they’ve defended (3.51% above the league average), allowing only 18 goals.

Another thing good defenses do is get the puck to their forwards, and these forwards are some of the best in the business as well.  Led by Alex Ovechkin’s 192 shots, the Capitals have put the puck on net 1183 times, of which 10.3% have found the back of the net for 122 tallies (led by Ovechkin’s 21).  They’ve been especially potent on the power play, scoring on 25.83% of their attempts for 31 goals (led by Ovechkin’s seven).

The Caps‘ most recent showing was a 3-2 victory in Boston on Tuesday.

The 22-13-5 New York Islanders currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to Washington, the Isles play a very balanced game, but New York slightly favors the offensive end.

So far this season, New York has put 1191 shots on net (led by John Tavares’ 113), of which 9.2% have turned into goals for 110 tallies (led by Tavares’ 15), eighth-most in the league.  Probably the biggest deficiency in the offense has been their power play.  On 112 attempts, the Isles have scored 21 goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s four) for a 18.75% success rate that trails the league average by .55%.

What makes this Islanders team good is that the offense isn’t playing this well to overcome defensive or goaltending struggles.  Although Calvin de Haan has 100 blocks to his credit, 1210 shots have still made their way to 12-6-2 Thomas Greiss and co., who have collectively saved 92.5% for only 97 goals against.  And even though one special team has been struggling doesn’t mean that the other is.  New York‘s penalty kill is great, killing 85.59% of 118 attempts for only 17 goals against.

The Isles‘ most recent game was a 6-5 victory over the Stars on Sunday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include New York‘s Greiss (.928 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) or Jaroslav Halak (2.09 GAA [seventh-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (25 wins [best in the league], 1.93 GAA [second-best in the league] and .932 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+18 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Ovechkin (21 goals [fifth-best in the league] and +15 [tenth-best in the league]).

Last season, these squads met in the first round of the playoffs, with Washington needing all seven games to knock off the Islanders.  Both teams seem to have improved since then, making this game and the season-series all the better to watch.

It doesn’t matter where they play, it is tough to pick against Washington.  The Islanders and their fans will put up a good fight, especially given how the playoffs went last year, but I think the Capitals can get out of the Barclays Center with two points.

January 6 – Day 88 – Finally! All 30 teams have been featured!

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins was nothing short of fantastic, as it needed an extra 3:47 of play before being decided a 3-2 Hawks win.

First Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored the first goal of the game after 28:47 of play after being assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith (his 17th of the season), giving the Blackhawks a one-goal advantage.  Almost exactly 10 minutes later, Third Star Jonathan Toews expanded the lead to two after being assisted by Brent Seabrook (his 20th of the season) and Andrew Shaw.  The 2-0 lead held into the second intermission.

Just as the second period was all Chicago, Pittsburgh took command of the third.  Captain Sidney Crosby scored the Pens‘ first goal 5:54 after resuming play, assisted by David Perron and Second Star Kris Letang (his 20th of the season).  Letang’s night wasn’t done, as he fired the game-tying score with 2:50 remaining in regulation after being assisted by Crosby (his 19th of the season).

Panarin is responsible for the Chicago winner after being assisted by Kane (his 36th of the season) and Seabrook.

Corey Crawford’s record improves to 21-10-2 after saving 34 of 36 (94.4%), while Marc-Andre Fleury’s falls to 14-10-3 after saving 27 of 30 (90%).

These two squads both traveled to Chicago following the game, and are lacing them up again tonight in the United Center.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stand at 34-17-7, favoring the home side by 23 points over the roadies.

Today’s Wednesday schedule is a light one in comparison to yesterday’s, as only five games are being played.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Chicago (NBCSN/TVAS).  Three games share the title of nightcap (St. Louis at Colorado, Carolina at Vancouver and Toronto at Anaheim), all of which start at 10 p.m. eastern.

St. Louis at Colorado represents the only divisional rivalry this evening, and New Jersey at Montréal is the only game featuring two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While both of those games should be excellent, there’s one matchup that sticks out due to a player returning to his old stomping grounds.

That, and there is only one team remaining that hasn’t been featured in the Game of the Day series, and since everyone deserves an opportunity (it’s my page, I get to set the rules!) and this is probably their best shot at being featured, let’s catch the Carolina at Vancouver game!

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

As stated before, tonight’s game will be Carolina‘s first time featured in the Game of the Day, while Vancouver has been featured twice before, losing both games.  Their most recent showing in the series was also their most recent game played – their 3-2 loss to Arizona on Monday.

The 16-17-7 Carolina Hurricanes currently sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference.  Neither side of the ice has favored the Hurricanes this season (then again, they’ve been hearing that since the 2009-’10 season), but if Caniacs have to hang their hat on something, they should lean towards their defense.

Carolina‘s problems this season have not necessarily been a result of poor defensive work, but poor goaltending.  Led by Ron Hainsey’s 67 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1040 shots to reach 11-11-4 Cam Ward and co.’s net so far this season, 114 below the league average even with an extra game played.  The problem rears it’s head here: only 89.9% have been saved (1.7% below the league average), meaning that Carolina has allowed 110 goals, which exceeds the league average by six tallies.  The Canes have also done well to avoid the box as much as possible (only making 92 visits that resulted in an opposing man-advantage), as their 79.35% kill rate trails the league average by 1.3%.

Just like their skaters on the blue line, it has not been a lack of effort in Carolina that has put them in their position.  Led by Justin Faulk’s 117 shots, the Canes have put 1190 shots on net, but only 7.7% of them have resulted in tallies (led by Jeff Skinner’s 15).  The next step in making improvements in Raleigh will be to improve the power play.  Carolina has earned 121 attempts, but has converted only 20 of them (led by Faulk’s 12 goals) for a 16.53% success rate that trails the league average by 2.82%.

Carolina‘s most recent showing was a 1-0 overtime loss in Edmonton on Monday.

The 15-16-9 Vancouver Canucks find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference.  An explanation of their play may be found here, but a basic summary is that the Canucks prefer their defensive end.

Their most recent game was that 3-2 loss to the Coyotes on Monday.  A quick-and-dirty recap of that game may be found here.

The main reason we’re focusing on this game is because of a particular player, nicknamed The Stork playing for them as of June 27 – none other than 5-6-3 backup goaltender Eddie Läck, who will get the start this evening.  The Vancouver Canucks signed the undrafted goaltender on April 6, 2010, and he saw his first game on October 6, 2013, a 5-4 overtime winner over the arch-rival Calgary Flames.  In fact, Läck’s first NHL shutout was against his current team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on December 9 of that same season.

Last season was certainly the better of his two with the Canucks‘ senior squad, as he earned an 18-13-4 record with a 92.1% save percentage in the regular season before playing in four games in the playoffs, where the Canucks were ultimately eliminated by the Flames.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Faulk (117 shots, 77 hits and 30 points, including 12 power play goals and 13 even-strength assists [all lead team]) and Skinner (15 goals, 13 of which were at even-strength, with four being game-winners[all lead team]) & Vancouver‘s Daniel Sedin (38 points [tied for ninth in the league]) and Henrik Sedin (25 assists [tied for eighth in the league]).

I do not believe either of these teams to be very strong, but I will give the advantage to the Canucks simply because they are on home ice.  Expect Läck’s return to be spoiled.

January 5 – Day 87 – The reigning champs visit the City of Champions

The Arizona Coyotes survived an exciting third period to earn a 3-2 victory in Vancouver last night in out Game of the Day.

The first goal of the game didn’t come until 26:55 had passed, and it was First Star of the Game Shane Doan who broke the tie with his 14th tally of the season, assisted by Connor Murphy and Brad Richardson, an ex-Canuck as of this offseason.  Vancouver leveled the score again at the 13:41 mark with a slapshot form Bo Horvat, but the tie lasted only 19 seconds before Tobias Rieder and Louis Domingue assisted Laurent Dauphin to his first career NHL goal.  The Coyotes‘ 2-1 lead held into the second intermission.

The eventual game-winner was a power play goal only 1:13 into the third from Doan, assisted by Rieder and Antoine Vermette.  The Canucks tried to stage a comeback with a goal at the 4:41 mark of the third from Second Star Daniel Sedin, who took a puck to the face earlier in the game and lost a few teeth, but were unable to get a third puck past Domingue.

Domingue improves his record to 4-2-2 after saving 35 of 37 (94.6%), while Jacob Markstrom’s record falls to 4-5-3 after saving 26 of 29 (89.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 34-17-6, favoring the home squad by 24 over the roadies.

There’s a total of eight games being played in the NHL this evening, and most of them will end before your bedtime!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when the first five games drop the opening pucks (Washington at Boston [TVAS], Florida at Buffalo [BELL TV], Dallas at the New York Rangers, Chicago at Pittsburgh [SN1] and Minnesota at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Montréal at Philadelphia (NBCSN/RDS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the start of the Winnipeg at Nashville game, while this evening’s nightcap, Tampa Bay at Calgary, will begin at 9 p.m. eastern.

Two of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Florida at Buffalo and Winnipeg at Nashville), while another two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at Boston and Dallas at New York).

Tonight also marks Rob Scuderi’s first return to Pittsburgh since being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.  Because this is his only trip back to the city he played eight seasons in (barring a Stanley Cup Finals series) this year, lets take a look at the game in the City of Bridges.

Unknown-2Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight marks Chicago‘s Game of the Day series-leading 11th appearance, in which they host a 5-4-1 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a two-goal shutout victory over the Jets on December 11.  Pittsburgh has been featured five times before tonight, and currently owns a 3-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 4-1 loss to the Capitals on home ice on December 14.

The 23-13-4 Chicago Blackhawks currently sit in third place in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference.  They may have started the season slowly, but the Hawks have refined their game to be strong on both ends of the ice, only slightly favoring their offensive end.

With the puck on their stick, the Blackhawks do what every good team does: shoot.  They’ve put a total of 1231 shots on net so far this season (led by Patrick Kane’s 141), of which 8.9% have found the back of the net for 110 goals (led by Kane’s 23).  An especially potent facet of their offense has been the power play, where they’ve scored on 23.58% of attempts for 29 goals (led by Kane’s 12), both numbers well over the league averages.

The Chicago defense has also been very strong this season.  They have allowed 1188 shots on net (Trevor van Riemsdyk has a team-leading 78 blocks), but 20-10-2 Corey Crawford and co. have collectively saved 92.1% for only 97 goals against.  They’ve especially clamped down on the penalty kill, where they have allowed only 21 goals on 113 attempts for at 81.42% kill rate that leads the league average by .66%.  In addition to making kills, the special teams have also gotten four scores of their own.

The Hawks are currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent being a three-goal shutout victory over the Senators on Sunday.

The 19-15-4 Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Although the offense is picking up, the Pens are still a very defensive-minded team.

Even though Ian Cole has a team-leading 70 blocks, 1198 shots have still made their way to 14-10-2 Marc-Andre Fleury and co., who have collectively saved 92.7% (1.1% better than the league average) for only 90 goals against.  The Pens have been just as good on the penalty kill, if not better.  Although Pittsburgh has provided the opposition 126 opportunities, they’ve only been scored on 20 times for a 84.13% kill rate that leads the league average by 3.37%.

Offensively the Penguins haven’t been as fortunate, although it is not for lack of effort.  Led by Phil Kessel’s 121 shots, the Pens have put 1225 shots on net, but only 90 have found the back of the net (led by Evgeni Malkin’s 18) for a 7.3% success rate.  Just like the total offense, the power play has also performed below average.  On 129 opportunities, Pittsburgh has only converted 18.6% (.64% below league average) for 24 goals (led by Malkin’s eight).

The Penguins are currently riding a win-streak of their own, as they are victorious in their last two.  Their most recent game was a 5-2 victory over the Islanders on Saturday.

With the 134th pick in the 1998 entry draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins selected Rob Scuderi, a Boston College product from Syosset, N.Y. in Nassau County.  It took until the 2003-’04 before he saw time with the senior club, and earned a full-time position in the 2006-’07 season.  Following the 2008-’09 season that witnessed the Penguins winning their third Stanley Cup (and, subsequently, him being the first ever Long Islander to have his name engraved on the Cup), he signed with the Los Angeles Kings, where he won his second Cup during the 2011-’12 season.  He signed again with the Penguins before the 2013-’14 season where he has remained until December 14, when he was traded to Chicago for Trevor Daley.

After playing in exactly 460 games with the Penguins, probably his most productive season was with the championship team, as he set career highs in assists (15), blocks (164), points (16), takeaways (26) and +/- (+23).

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (six shutouts [leads league] and 20 wins [third in the league]) and Kane (57 points [leads league], 34 assists [leads league], 23 goals [tied for second in the league] and +18 [fourth in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Fleury (.927 save percentage [tied for ninth in the league]) and Malkin (18 goals [tied for seventh in the league] and 37 points [10th in the league]).

It is hard to pull against Chicago in this one, as their defense should be able to easily neutralize Pittsburgh‘s offense.

January 4 – Day 86 – Pacific Division Pandemonium

It’s a league-best nine straight wins for the Florida Panthers, as they defeated the Minnesota Wild 2-1 last night in our Game of the Day!

The first goal of the game didn’t take even 30 seconds of play.  Third Star of the Game Dmitry Kulikov and Jonathan Huberdeau assisted First Star Jaromir Jagr to his first of two goals on the evening (on only two shots, no less!), setting the score at 1-0, which held into the intermission.

Just as Jagr didn’t wait in the first period to give his team a score, neither did Jason Zucker, as he was assisted by Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter to a goal at the 48 second mark of the second.  His game-tying goal was the only tally of the second period.

Brandon Pirri and Kulikov waited a little while into the period before assisting Jagr to his game-winning tally after 8:52.

Second Star Al Montoya improves his record to 6-1-1 after saving 39 of 40 (97.5%), while Devan Dubnyk’s record falls to 16-11-3 after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 34-16-6, with the home squads leading the roadies by 26 points.

I know we’ve gotten comfortable in Sunrise, but the Panthers don’t have a game tonight, so it looks like we’ll have to look outside the Sunshine State for our Game of the Day!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Detroit pays a visit to New Jersey (TVAS), with Ottawa at St. Louis (RDS) following an hour later.  9 p.m. eastern brings with it the start of two games (Los Angeles at Colorado [NBCSN] and Carolina at Edmonton), while this evening’s nightcap, Arizona at Vancouver, follows an hour later.

Arizona at Vancouver is tonight’s only divisional rivalry, and Detroit at New Jersey is the only game featuring two squads both currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Of late, I’ve been favoring the games between the qualifiers, but I’m going to go off script today due to the competition for the Pacific Division’s playoff spots, as a Vancouver win moves them from fourth to second-best in the division and focusing on the postseason.

Arizona_Coyotes.svgUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be both squads’ second appearance in the Game of the Day series.  The Coyotes currently own a 1-0-0 record thanks to their 4-3 overtime victory in Anaheim on November 9.  Vancouver‘s lone appearance wasn’t quite so fortunate, as they fell 5-0 at home to the Los Angeles Kings last Monday.

The 18-16-4 Arizona Coyotes currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division and seventh in the Western Conference.  They’ve utilized a top-10 offense, as measured by goals scored, to fight their way into playoff position in their highly-competitive division (second and seventh are separated by only five points).

Although they are led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 109 shots, the Coyotes have put only 1022 shots on net so far this season.  Fortunately for them, 10.5% of those attempts are finding the back of the net (led by Captain Shane Doan’s 13 goals) for 107 goals, ninth most in the league.  One portion of the Coyotes‘ play that still needs to find success is their power play.  Although Arizona has had 143 opportunities, 22 over the league average, they have managed 24 goals (led by Doan’s six), only one more than average.  To make matters worse, the Coyotes‘ special teams have allowed eight shorties already this season – most teams have only allowed three!

It has been fortunate that the offense has found success, because they have needed to cover for defensive mistakes.  Even with Michael Stone’s team-leading 61 blocks, the Coyotes have still allowed 1169 shots to reach 10-9-1 Mike Smith and co. (3-2-2 Louis Domingue will get the start), of which only 90.2% have been saved for 121 goals against, third-worst in the league.  The only bright spot for the defense has been their average penalty kill, which is good, since Arizona likes to commit penalties.  The opposition has had 138 man-advantages, of which the Coyotes have killed 78.99%, allowing 29 goals.

Their most recent showing was a 4-3 overtime loss in Edmonton on Saturday.

The 15-15-9 Vancouver Canucks are currently fourth-best in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, but a win tonight puts them in second in the division, at least for the evening.  They play a better defensive game, but both sides of the ice need to see an improvement if this team wants to be taken seriously.

Led by Chris Tanev’s 94 blocks, the Canucks have allowed 1195 shots to reach 10-11-6 Ryan Miller and co. (4-4-2 Jacob Markstrom will start), of which they’ve collectively saved 91.2% for 108 goals against.  Their penalty kill is slightly below-average, killing 78.95% of attacks and allowing 28 goals.

It could be argued that Vancouver‘s offense has simply been unlucky this season.  They’ve put 1138 shot on net so far this season (led by Radim Vrbata’s 138), but only 8.1% have found the back of the net for 92 goals (led by Daniel Sedin’s 16).  The power play continues that trend, as it has been successful only 16.03% of the time, scoring 21 goals (led b Sedin’s five) on 131 opportunities.

Their most recent showing was a 2-1 shootout victory over the Ducks on New Year’s Day.

As an added bonus, tonight’s game is also the first return of Brad Richardson to Rogers Arena, who spent the last two seasons with the Canucks before signing with the Coyotes in free agency this offseason.  He played a total of 118 games over his career in British Columbia, scoring 44 points (19 goals and 25 assists).

Tonight’s game will be the second of four meetings this regular season.  The first game went to the visiting Canucks on October 30, who won 4-3.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Arizona‘s Mikkel Boedker (30 points, 10 even-strength goals and 10 power play assists [all lead team]) and Vancouver‘s Henrik Sedin (24 assists [ninth in the league]).

This is a tough game for me to predict, as I do not believe either to be a playoff-caliber team, at least not as they are currently.  That being said, I think that Arizona‘s offense will be too much for the Canucks to handle, so I’ll pick the Coyotes to win.

January 3 – Day 85 – Which is more Wild? Minnesota or the Everglades?

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the New York Rangers and the Florida Panthers ended in a home shutout winner, as First Star of the Game Roberto Luongo led his squad to a 3-0 victory, their eighth-straight.

The first goal of the night, the game-winner, was a backhander from Second Star Logan Shaw, assisted by Corban Knight with only 25 seconds remaining in the opening period.

The second period was witness to both of Florida‘s insurance goals.  The first of those came 4:41 after resuming play from the intermission, compliments of a Vincent Trocheck tip-in, assisted by Alex Petrovic and Brian Campbell.  At the 11:18 mark, the third and final goal of the night found the back of the net courtesy of a Brandon Pirri power play slapshot, assisted by Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen, setting the score at the 3-0 final.

Luongo improves his record to 17-11-3 by saving all 40 shots he faced, while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 17-11-3 after saving 17 of 20 (85%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 33-16-6, favoring the home squads by 24 points over the roadies.

After a full Saturday schedule, the NHL relaxes a little bit, as there’s only four games this Sunday.  The action gets started at 5 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits the New York Islanders, followed an hour later by Minnesota at Florida.  7 p.m. eastern brings with it Ottawa at Chicago (NHLN/TVAS/SN), and this evening’s nightcap gets started at 9 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Anaheim.

None of today’s games are between divisional rivals (in fact, Winnipeg at Anaheim is the only game between teams from the same conference!), but two are between teams that are both qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at New York and Minnesota at Florida).  Lastly, the Winnipeg–Anaheim game is a rematch of one of last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinal matchups.

I know that we just watched Florida last night, but I am more intrigued by their game against the Wild than the Stars–Isles game, so I’m making the executive decision to keep our focus in Sunrise, Fla.

Unknown-4Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

This evening’s game will be Minnesota‘s seventh appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing while the focus of our attention was their game in St. Louis on New Year’s Eve, a 3-1 victory.  This is Florida‘s fourth showing after winning their game against the Rangers last night.

The 20-10-7 Minnesota Wild‘s most recent game was a 3-2 shutout defeat last night in Tampa Bay.  They’ve utilized one of the best defenses (fourth in goals against) in the league to establish themselves in fourth place in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference.  You can read a more in-depth summary of Minnesota‘s play here.

Just like Minnesota, the 22-12-4 Florida Panthers play a top-five defense (as measured by goals against) to establish themselves as the best in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, and are currently riding a league-best eight-game win streak.  Yesterday’s Game of the Day provides a more in-depth analysis of the Panthers‘ game, and can be found here.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (17 wins [tied for fifth in the league] and .926 save percentage [tenth-best in the league]) and Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for third in the league] and 16 wins [tied for eighth in the league]).

It is my opinion that both Florida‘s offense and defense are better than that of the Wild.  Coupling that with home-ice for the Panthers, and this should be a Florida winner.

January 2 – Day 84 – Rangers in the Magic City

The Boston Bruins didn’t seem to show up until the final period of the Winter Classic, and the Montréal Canadienstook advantage to claim a 5-1 victory in Foxboro, Mass.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it occurred in the second minute of play.  Assisted by Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin, David Desharnais scored a wrister to give the Habs a one-goal lead, but the real story of the first period was Montréal‘s commanding defense (or Boston‘s poor offense, depending on how you want to look at it).  Montréal owned the shots statistic by 11, as they held Boston to only three.

Just like the first period, the Habs owned the second period as well.  They scored their first of two goals of the period at the two-minute mark, when Brian Flynn and Mark Barberio (his first helper of the season) assisted Paul Byron to a wrister, the game-winner.  Montréal‘s third goal came with 2:40 remaining in the period when Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec assisted First Star of the Game Brendan Gallagher to a wrister of his own.

The Bruins gave their fans a ray of hope with a goal after 3:56, when Adam McQuaid and Ryan Spooner assisted Third Star Matt Beleskey, setting the score at 3-1.  That optimism was short-lived though, as Gallagher and Plekanec assisted Pacioretty to a goal only 4:53 later to regain the three-goal lead.  The final goal of the game was courtesy of Byron with 1:32 remaining in the game, assisted by P.K. Subban and Nathan Beaulieu.

Second Star Mike Condon, a Mass. native, improves his record to 11-9-3 after saving 27 of 28 (96.4%), while Tuukka Rask’s record falls to 14-10-3 after saving only 25 of 30 (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 32-16-6, favoring the home squad by 22 points.

Today’s Saturday schedule is a busy one, as there are a total of 12 games taking place.  The three matinee games gets started at 1 p.m. eastern when Detroit visits Buffalo (BELL TV), followed at 4 p.m. eastern by the remaining two (Arizona at Edmonton and Philadelphia at Los Angeles).  Beginning at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern is seven total games (St. Louis at Toronto [CBC], Minnesota at Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers at Florida, Dallas at New Jersey, the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh [NHLN/TVAS/SN], Nashville at Carolina and Washington at Columbus).  After those games are complete, the final two games of the day get started at 10 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Colorado [CBC/TVAS] and Winnipeg at San Jose [SN]).

Four of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Detroit at Buffalo, Arizona at Edmonton, New York at Pittsburgh and Washington at Columbus), while two involve teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Florida and Dallas at New Jersey).  Since Florida and New York‘s records are almost identical, we’ll assume the game to be the more competitive of the two (that’s exactly how this works, right?) and focus in on Sunrise, Fla.

New York Rangers LogoUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

This will be New York‘s 10th time featured in the Game of the Day series, which ties them with Chicago for the most appearances this season.  They own a 6-2-1 record when being featured, with their most recent being a 5-2 victory in Tampa Bay on Wednesday.  Florida has been featured twice before today, and host a 1-1-0 record.  Their last game in the series was a 2-1 shootout victory over the Senators on December 22.

The 21-13-4 New York Rangers currently occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  They play a strong game on the offensive end of the ice, which you can read about here.

The Blueshirts‘ most recent showing was their 5-2 victory in Tampa Bay, which was featured as the Game of the Day on Wednesday.  You can read a quick-and-dirty recap of that game here.

The 21-12-4 Florida Panthers currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They utilize one of the best defenses in the league, measured by goals against, to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the division.

The Panthers couple defensive pairs that have allowed only 1061 shots to reach the crease (led by Captain Willie Mitchell’s 51 blocks) with Roberto Luongo and co. who saves 92.6% of those attempts (a rate that leads the league average by 1%) for only 83 goals against.  Probably the biggest hole in the defense is their penalty kill, but even then it is technically better than average.  Florida has killed exactly 80% of opponents’ power plays, which leads the average team by .5%.

The offense has not been quite as good as the defense, due in part to not getting many shots on net.  Of their 1055 shots (led by Aaron Ekblad’s 93), 9.1% have found the back of the net for 96 goals.  Just like the defense, Florida‘s special teams still have room to improve, as they’ve only converted 17.83% for 23 goals (led by Aleksander Barkov’s four).

The Panthers are riding a league-leading seven-game winning streak, with their most recent a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Tuesday.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (16 wins [tied for sixth in the league] and .926 save percentage [ninth in the league]) and New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (17 wins [fifth in the league]).

Especially since they are at home, I am leading towards a Florida winner.  They are the hottest team in the league right now, and I believe that their defense will be able to handle New York‘s offense.

January 1 – Day 83 – You get two guesses…

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues ended poorly for the home squad, as the Wild scored two goals in the final 8:32 of play to secure the 3-1 victory.

The first goal of the game was not scored until 28:42 had ticked off the clock, and belonged to St. Louis.  Thanks to Marco Scandella sending the puck over the glass, the Blues took advantage of the extra man to get Third Star of the Game Kevin Shattenkirk his seventh goal of the season, assisted by Alexander Steen (his 22nd helper of the season) and Paul Stastny.  Minnesota waited until 3:48 remained in the second period to level the score at one-all, as Justin Fontaine and First Star Erik Haula assisted Second Star Nino Niederreiter to his eighth goal of the season.  The 1-1 score held into the second intermission.

The Wild notched their game winner at the 11:28 mark of the final period with a tally from Haula, assisted by Niederreiter.  Minnesota‘s final tally was an empty-netter, scored with 1:37 remaining in the game, compliments of Thomas Vanek, assisted by Charlie Coyle to set the score at 3-1.

Devan Dubnyk improves his record to 16-10-2 after saving 33 of 34 (97.1%), while Jake Allen’s record falls to 18-9-2 after saving 26 of 28 (92.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day Series now stands at 32-15-6, with the homers favoring the roadies by 24 points.

Happy New Year from all of us at Down the Frozen River!  Too bad the NHL doesn’t share our sentiments, as they are only putting on two games today.  Jerks.

Oh wait.  One of those is the Winter Classic between the Montréal Canadiens and Boston Bruins!

It gets started at 1 p.m. eastern and takes place at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.  The other game takes place inside Rogers Arena (Indoor games.  So yesterday, I know.) at 10 p.m. eastern when the Anaheim Ducks visit the Vancouver Canucks.

UnknownUnknown

 

 

 

Both teams have been featured six times before today’s game in the DtFR Game of the Day series, but the Habsown a much better record than the Bruins (5-1-0 and 2-3-1, respectively).  Montréal‘s last showing in the series was a 6-2 defeat in Dallas on December 19, while the home squad has been featured as recently as Tuesday, when they beat the Senators 7-3 on home ice.

The 21-15-3 Montréal Canadiens currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  Although they play a strong game on both ends of the ice, the Habs are certainly a more offensive-minded team having scored the fifth-most goals so far this season.

They may have two more games to their credit than the league average, but that is not the reason the Habs have 1226 shots to their credit (led by Max Pacioretty’s 156), 134 over the league average.  8.9% of those shots have turned into goals, 109 to be exact, led by Pacioretty’s 15 tallies.  Although the offense has been strong, the power play has been only average.  On 129 attempts, Montréal has only scored 25 goals (led by Pacioretty’s five goals) for a 19.38% success rate that leads the league average by only .24%.

The main facet of Montréal‘s defense has been keeping shots off 10-9-3 Mike Condon and co.  Thanks to Tom Gilbert’s team-leading 61 blocks, only 1077 shots have found their way to the crease, of which 91.2% have ben saved for 97 goals against.  The defensive successes have continued into the penalty kill, which has neutralized 84.5% of opposing opportunities for only 20 power play goals against.  Also, an added bonus to the penalty kill has been the seven short-handed goals that lead the league average by four tallies.

Their most recent showing was a 3-1 loss at Florida on Tuesday.

The 20-12-4 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  Just like Montréal, Boston employs a strong offensive attack, but are backed by a solid defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 122 shots, the Bruins have put 1127 shots on goal, of which 10% have found the back of the net for 113 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 15).  Boston employs one of the strongest power plays in the league, successful on 29.41% attempts for 30 goals.

The Bruins‘ defense has also been very strong, as they’ve only allowed 1039 shots to reach 14-9-3 Tuukka Rask and co. (led by Adam McQuaid’s team-leading 64 blocks), of which 91.4% have been saved for 96 goals allowed.  Boston‘s penalty kill has been slightly better than average, allowing 23 goals on 127 opposing attempts for a 81.89% kill that leads the league average by 1.03%.

Their most recent showing was a 7-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

Some players to watch include Boston‘s Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) and Montréal‘s P.K. Subban (25 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

This will be the fourth meeting of the season between these two bitter rivals.  Montréal owns a 2-1-0 lead in the season series, but the most recent game, on December 9, was a 3-1 Boston victory in the Bell Centre.

It is hard to pick against the Bruins in today’s game.  Both their offense and defense is better than Montréal‘s, and the stands will definitely be filled with rowdy Patriots Bruins fans.  Expect Boston to pick up their first win of the New Year.

December 31 – Day 82 – Last games this year

The 5-2 final score is not indicative of how competitive last night’s Game of the Day between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning was, as the Blueshirts scored two empty-netters in the final 1:30 to secure the win.

The first two periods ended in ties, but New York never trailed.  They earned their first lead of the night after only 1:53 of play, when Keith Yandle and First Star of the Game Dominic Moore assisted Third Star Dan Boyle to his fifth goal of the season.  The Bolts waited until the 16:35 mark to take advantage of a Rick Nash high-sticking penalty, allowing Second Star Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov to assist Jonathan Marchessault to the game-tying goal.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

Even quicker than they scored in the first, New York scored in the second, only 56 seconds after resuming play.  J.T. Miller and Boyle assisted Mats Zuccarello to his 16th goal of the season to give the Rangers their second lead of the night.  Tampa waited until only nine seconds remained in the period to level the score, this tally couresty of Stralman on another power play after being assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Kucherov.  The two-all score held into the final period.

New York‘s winning goal came after 3:16 of play, courtesy of Moore, who was assisted by Viktor Stalberg.  Stalberg’s night wasn’t yet complete, as he scored the first of the Rangers‘ two empty-netters, this one at the 18:39 mark.  The Blueshirts‘ final tally came with only 33 seconds remaining in the game after Jesper Fast assisted Nash to his 12th of the season.

Henrik Lundqvist improves his record to 17-10-3 after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%), while Ben Bishop’s record falls to 15-12-3 after he saved 21 of 24 (87.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 32-14-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points over the roadies.

Eighteen teams will play on the last day of 2015, with the action getting started an hour earlier than usual when three games drop the opening puck at 6 p.m. eastern (the New York Islanders at Buffalo [BELL TV], Pittsburgh at Detroit [SN] and Washington at Carolina).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two Central division rivalries (Minnesota at St. Louis and Chicago at Colorado), followed half an hour later by another (Nashville at Dallas).  Three games combine as this evening’s nightcap, which will get started at 9 p.m. eastern (Los Angeles at Calgary[NHLN/SN360/SN1], Anaheim at Edmonton and Winnipeg at Arizona).

Six of tonight’s nine games are divisional rivalries (Washington at Carolina, Minnesota at St. Louis, Chicago at Colorado, Nashville at Dallas, Los Angeles at Calgary and Anaheim at Edmonton), while two of those, Minnesota at St. Louis and Nashville at Dallas, feature matchups between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  Based on records alone, the Wild–Blues game should be more competitive, and it is also a rematch of a Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup, so let’s head to the Scottrade Center.

Unknown-4Unknown-1

 

 

 

This will be Minnesota‘s sixth time featured in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-2-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 6-3 loss to the Stars on home ice on December 21.  St. Louis has one more game played in the series, and it was a 3-2 nine-round shootout victory against the Stars on Saturday that improved their record in the series to 4-2-0.

To start the season, the 19-10-6 Minnesota Wild (third in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference) were leaning on their offense to cover up for defensive decencies.  But, as more games have been played, the Wild have improved their goals against to third best in the league.

So far this season, the Wild defense has allowed only 1005 shots to reach 15-10-2 Devan Dubnyk and co., thanks in part to Jared Spurgeon’s team-leading 79 shots.  91.9% of those shots have been saved, leaving only 84 goals against.  These numbers are good, but Minnesota is still searching for answers on the penalty kill.  Although they’ve allowed only 85 opposing power plays, 19 of them have yielded goals, giving Minnesota a 77.65% kill rate that trails the league average by 3.23%.

Offensively, the Wild has had a falling-off.  They only have 991 shots to their credit, but fortunately for them, 9.6% of those attempts have found the back of the net for 95 goals.  Although the offensive numbers overall have slid, the power play has still been strong.  On 109 opportunities, they’ve scored 22 goals for a 20.18% success rate that leads the league average by 1.06%.

Their most recent showing was a 3-1 victory over the Red Wings on Monday.

The 23-12-4 St. Louis Blues are currently second best in both the Central Division and the Western Conference and, just like Minnesota, have utilized defensive prowess to get them where they are.

Even with Jay Bouwmeester’s team-leading 71 blocks, 1114 shots have made their way to 18-8-2 Jake Allen and co., who have saved a combined 92.4% (leads the league average by .9%) for only 92 goals against.  An especially strong aspect of this Blues‘ defense has been their penalty kill.  86.4% of the opposing power plays have been killed for only 17 goals allowed, both easily superior to the league average.

St. Louis‘ offense has put a whopping 1170 shots on goal (led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 142), of which 8.3% have found the back of the net for 97 goals (led by Tarasenko’s 22).  St. Louis‘ power play has also been successful this season, scoring on 20.37% of attempts for 22 goals (led by Tarasenko’s seven).

Their last showing was a 4-3 overtime victory over the Predators Tuesday.

Some players to watch include Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [tied for first in the league], 18 wins [fourth in the league], .927 save percentage [tied for sixth in the league] and 2.08 GAA [seventh in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 goals [tied for second in the league] and 39 points [tied for sixth in the league]).

Tonight’s game will be the third in the season series between these two squads, where Minnesota currently leads 1-0-1.  Their most recent meeting was two months ago on Halloween night when the Wild visited St. Louis and left with a point as the Blues won in overtime 3-2.

Since I have to make a pick for this game, I am leaning towards the Blues since I believe their defense is more capable of stopping Minnesota‘s offense than the Wild’s defense against St. Louis‘ offense.  Pairing that with home ice, I predict the Blues to have a pleasant start to 2016.

December 30 – Day 81 – Blueshirt-Bolt Bout

It may have ended in a 7-3 victory for the Boston Bruins over the Ottawa Senators, but a better representation of yesterday’s Game of the Day is the combined 110 penalty minutes.

Thanks to a goal from Second Star of the Game Jimmy Hayes after 8:01 of play, the Bruins never trailed in this game.  Assisted by Kevan Miller, he scored his first of three goals in the game, the Game of the Day’s second straight hat trick.  Only 4:30 later, Shane Prince and Max McCormick assisted Chris Neil to level the score at one-all.  The final goal of the period was the first of four power play tallies on the evening, all scored by Boston.  This one came with only 3:35 remaining in the first period courtesy of First Star Patrice Bergeron, assisted by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner.

The third and final Bruin to score in the game notched his first goal only 1:21 after resuming play, as Brett Connolly and Brad Marchand assisted Third Star Matt Beleskey to the Bruins‘ second power play goal.  Ottawawaited until only 2:09 remained in the period to get a goal back, with a tally from Mika Zibanejad after being assisted by Neil and Prince, setting the second intermission score at 3-2.

The Bruins‘ game winner was, you guessed it, a power play goal from Bergeron after being assisted by Krug and Seth Griffith, his first of the season, at the 2:38 mark.  Ottawa‘s final tally of the evening came 1:44 later when Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot assisted Mike Hoffman, setting the score at 4-3.  As far as scoring is concerned, the game slowed down for over 11 minutes until Max Talbot and Loui Eriksson assisted Hayes to his second score of the night.  At the 16:40 mark, Beleskey closed his scoring line for the evening with his second goal after being assisted by Spooner and Eriksson, setting the score at 6-3.  Hayes scored his hat trick-clinching goal into the game with only a second remaining in the game while on the power play, assisted by Talbot and Dennis Seidenberg.

Tuukka Rask improves his record to 14-9-3 after saving 29 of 32 (90.6%), while Craig Anderson’s record falls to 16-10-4, due to saving only 30 of 37 (81.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 32-13-6, favoring the home squad by 28 points over the roadies.

Today’s Wednesday schedule is a light one, as only 10 teams are in action.  The evening’s festivities begin at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern when two of the five games get started (Toronto at Pittsburgh [SN] and Buffalo at Washington [BELL TV]), followed half an hour later by New Jersey at Ottawa (TVAS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the first leg of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry, as the New York Rangers visit Tampa Bay.  Following the conclusion of that game, NBCSN completes their double-header by showing Philadelphia at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap.

None of tonight’s games are between either division rivals or teams currently qualifying for the playoff.  Probably the most intriguing matchup of the evening based on team names alone is the New York at Tampa Bay game, as it is a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals and their second meeting of the year.  Due to this and the fact that I don’t want to focus on Ottawa three times in the last six games, let’s take a look at the Blueshirt–Bolt game.

New York Rangers LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

This will be New York‘s ninth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day Series, but their first since a 7-3 loss to the Capitals on December 20 that set their series record at 5-2-1.  Tampa Bay has been featured four times before tonight and host a 2-1-1 record in the series.  The last time they were the focus of our attention was October 27 when they fell in St. Louis 2-0.

The 20-13-4 New York Rangers are currently in third place in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  Their most recent showing was a 5-3 loss in Nashville on Monday.  Even though Madison Square Garden is home to one of, if not the best goalkeeper in hockey, the Rangers have actually been a better offensive team this season.

They may have put only 1037 shots on goal so far this season (led by Rick Nash’s 110), but the Rangers have scored 10.2% of those attempts (1.3% above the league average) for 106 goals (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 15), sixth-most in the league. As it does for most good teams, the success continues into the power play, where the Blueshirts score on 21.36% of attempts (2.25% above the league average) for 22 goals.

Defensively, the Rangers haven’t played as well as I would expect.  Even though Dan Girardi has 72 blocks to his credit, they’ve allowed 1133 shots to reach 16-10-3 Henrik Lundqvist and co., who’ve saved 92% and allowed 96 goals.  Just as the defense as a whole has been average, so too has the penalty kill.  The Rangers are killing 80.99% of attempts, only .1% over the league average, and allowing 23 goals.

The 18-15-4 Tampa Bay Lightning sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Their most recent game was a 4-3 shootout loss at home against the Canadiens on Monday.  Tampa has favored the defensive end this season, where they are eighth-best in the league in goals against.

Thanks in part to Jason Garrison’s 58 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 1049 shots to reach 15-11-3 Ben Bishop and co., who have saved 92.4% and allowed only 85 goals.  Although the defense as a whole has been strong, the penalty kill has been lacking.  The Bolts have allowed 24 power play goals on 110 attempts for a 78.18% kill rate that trails the league average by 2.71%.

Although the penalty kill needs to be improved, a bigger hole for the Bolts has been the offense.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ 100 shots, the Lightning have only managed 1048 shots, of which 9% have found the back of the net for 94 goals (led by Stamkos’ 16).  Just as the offense has only been average, so too has been the power play.  Although the Bolts have 24 power play goals to their credit (led by Stamkos’ nine), they’ve needed 130 opportunities, and those of us that are mathematically astute know that brings down averages – 18.46%, to be exact, which trails the league average by .65%.

Some players to watch include New York‘s Lundqvist (16 wins [tied for fifth in the league]) and Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.03 GAA [fourth in the league], 15 wins [tied for eighth in the league] and .926 save percentage [tied for eighth in the league]).

This is the second of three meetings between these two squads this season, with the first occurring on November 19 when Tampa held home ice to win 2-1.  Of course, it is not the regular season series that makes this one special, but the playoff series in May.  It took seven games, but Tampa was able to earn their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-0 victory in the Garden.  If both of these results are indicative of anything, we should be in for a good game.

These teams match up well, given that it’s both teams’ strengths are going against one another.  Tampa has been surging of late and has the opportunity to get back into the playoff conversation, so I think they can defend home ice and earn two points.

December 29 – Day 80 – Déjà Vu

In last night’s Game of the Day, we confirmed our beliefs that it’s Los Angeles and the rest of the Pacific Division, as the Kings won in Vancouver with a five-goal shutout that included the first hat trick of the Game of the Day series, courtesy of First Star of the Game Tyler Toffoli.

The winning goal was the lone tally of the first period, compliments of Toffoli, assisted by Second Star Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic after 15:33 of play.

6:24 minutes later (if you’re only counting game time and not the intermission!), Trevor Lewis assisted Derek Forbort to his first goal of his career in 11 games, setting the score at 2-0.  Exactly 10 minutes later, Kopitar notched his second assist of the evening with a helper to Brayden McNabb at the 11:57 mark.  The Kings‘ 3-0 lead held into the second intermission.

If they hadn’t put the final nail in the coffin yet, Los Angeles scored their fourth goal of the evening at the 5:55 mark when Kopitar (yes, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s three assists!) and Alec Martinez assisted Toffoli to his second tally.  Toffoli completed his hat trick at the 12:56 mark with a power play goal, assisted by Drew Doughty and, you guessed it, Kopitar, for his fourth assist of the evening, setting the score at the 5-0 final.

Third Star (guess that’s what a shutout gets you when there’s a hat trick and a four-assist night) Jonathan Quick made all 27 saves to improve his record to 19-9-1, while Jacob Markstrom’s record falls to 3-4-3 after saving only 33 of 38 (86.8%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 31-13-6, favoring the homers by 26 points over the roadies.

Ten games will be played this evening in the NHL, with the action getting started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time as four matchups go underway (Ottawa at Boston [RDS2], the New York Islanders at Toronto [TVAS], Carolina at New Jersey and Dallas at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Montréal at Florida (RDS).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Nashville at St. Louis [NBCSN] and Detroit at Winnipeg), with the final three games beginning an hour later (Anaheim at Calgary, Los Angeles at Edmonton and Chicago at Arizona).

Six of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Ottawa at Boston, Carolina at New Jersey, Montréal at Florida, Nashville at St. Louis, Anaheim at Calgary and Los Angeles at Edmonton), while four feature teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Ottawa at Boston, Montréal at Florida, Nashville at St. Louis and Chicago at Arizona).  Finally, tonight also features a rematch of the Western Conference Semifinals, as Anaheim takes on Calgary.

While most of the matchups listed are tantalizing, it is hard to take our attention away from the Ottawa–Bostongame due to their deadlock tie in the division table.  To the TD Garden we go!

Unknown-2Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

Both squads have been featured five times already in the DtFR Game of the Day series, with their most recent being against each other only two days ago in Ottawa, where the Sens won 3-1.  In the Game of the Day Series, Boston has a lackluster 1-3-1 record, while the Sens host a 2-2-1 record.

Yes, before you write nasty things in the comment section, I’m fully aware we just watched these two go at it on Sunday (this sounds like as good a time as ever for a plug: here’s my quick-and-dirty recap of that game!).  But, the fact of the matter is that both of these teams are tied at 42 points apiece and qualifying for both the wild card spots, and a win tonight has the potential to move one of these teams into a division qualifying-spot should Detroit lose.

You can read an analysis of both teams here.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Craig Anderson (16 wins [tied for fifth in the league]), Mike Hoffman (17 goals [tied for seventh in the league]) and Erik Karlsson (31 assists [tied for league lead] and 40 points [tied for fourth in the league]).

Ottawa spoiled my prediction when they beat the Bruins at home, but I feel much more confident picking Bostonto win in the Garden.

December 28 – Day 79 – Hollywood vs. Hollywood North

I predicted a Bruins win, but the Senators proved me wrong with a 3-1 victory on home ice in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Ottawa snuck in the only goal of the first period with only 19 seconds remaining.  After Jimmy Hayes was sent to the box for instigating, Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson assisted Mark Stone to a power play goal.

That late goal did not sit well with Third Star of the Game David Krejci and the Bruins during the intermission, as he scored a goal after 7:54, assisted by Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson, to knot the game at one-all.  Again, the Sens waited until the end of the period to take the lead, as Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman assisted Second Star Mika Zibanejad to the game-winner with only 1:39 remaining in the second period.

The final goal only occurred because Tuukka Rask was on the bench to give the Bruins a man-advantage.  It was a copy of the Senators‘ first goal, with Turris and Karlsson assisting Stone to an empty netter with 54 seconds remaining in the game, setting the score at the 3-1 final.

First Star Craig Anderson made 38 of 39 saves (97.4%) to improve his record to 16-9-4, while Rask’s record falls to 13-9-3 after saving 19 of 21 (90.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 31-12-6 in favor of the home side, leading the roadies by 28 points.

After 18 games over the weekend, Monday is a slightly relaxed schedule, featuring six matchups.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Washington visits Buffalo, followed half an hour later by Montréal at Tampa Bay(RDS).  Two games drop the opening puck at 8 p.m. eastern (the New York Rangers at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroitat Minnesota) and are the last games to start before 10 p.m. eastern, when Los Angeles visits Vancouver.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern when Colorado visits San Jose.

Two of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Montréal at Tampa Bay and Los Angeles at Vancouver), while three are between quality squads currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Nashville, Detroit at Minnesota and Los Angeles at Vancouver).  Finally, Montréal at Tampa Bay is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Even though the rematch provides interesting storylines, I’m taking the personal leverage to instead focus in the Los Angeles–Vancouver, mostly because I want to look into the Kings‘ play.  I know, selfish.

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

This will be Los Angeles‘ second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day – the other time they were featured, they fell in Chicago 4-2 on November 2.  Tonight’s game will be Vancouver‘s first appearance as the Game of the Day.

The 21-11-2 Los Angeles Kings currently own a seven-point lead in the Pacific Division, and are tied for third in the Western Conference.  They’ve found that success by playing one of the best defenses in the league, even though their most recent showing, a 4-3 overtime victory in Arizona on Saturday may not be indicative of that.

Thanks in part to Alec Martinez’ team-leading 73 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 958 shots to reach the net, of which 18-9-1 Jonathan Quick and co. have saved 92.1%, allowing only 78 goals, the second best in the league.  The Kings have also killed 82.11% of penalties, allowing 22 goals on 123 attempts.

I say it on a regular basis, but more shots usually turn into more goals.  While the Kings‘ percentages may not be on par with the league average, 86 (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 14 goals) of their 1097 shots (led by Jeff Carter’s 103 shots) have found the back of the net.  One point that the Kings should focus on to improve their offense should be their power play.  They have been successful on only 18%, scoring 18 goals on, you guessed it, 100 attempts.

Their counterparts, the 14-14-9 Vancouver Canucks, currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division, but eighth in the Western Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent showing a 2-1 overtime victory over the Oilers on Saturday.  So far this season, the Canucks have been a better team with the puck on their stick, but both sides of the ice are performing below the league average.

Led by Daniel Sedin’s 133 shots, Vancouver has put 1086 shots on net so far this season (well above the league average), but only 91 have found the back of the net, led by Sedin’s 16 tallies.  The main facet of Vancouver‘s offense that is holding them back is their lack of success on the power play.  On 124 attempts (well-above the league average), the Canucks only have the league-average 21 goals to their credit, led by Sedin’s five.  Given the weak competition in the Pacific division, I expect Vancouver to make moves to improve their offense in preparation of a playoff run.

Defensively, the Canucks have needed all the help they can get.  Even though Chris Tanev has a team-leading 89 blocks to his credit, Vancouver has allowed 1129 shots to reach 10-11-6 Ryan Miller and co., of which they’ve saved 91.2% and allowed 102 goals.  The special teams’ issues continue when defending against the man-advantage, as the Canucks have allowed 124 opportunities to the opposition.  Of those, they’ve killed 79.69%, allowing 26 goals.

Some players to watch include Los Angeles‘ Carter (+16 [tied for fifth in the league]), Quick (18 wins [tied for second in the league] and two shutouts [tied for eighth in the league]) and Toffoli (+18 [third in the league]) & Vancouver‘s D. Sedin (37 points [tied for seventh in the league] and 16 goals [tied for ninth in the league]) and Henrik Sedin (24 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

The Kings and Canucks have already played two games in their five-game season series.  The Canucks won the first meeting 3-0 on October 13 in the Staples Center, but the Kings were able to hold home ice on the first day of this month, winning 2-1 in overtime.

Given Vancouver‘s defensive woes, it’s hard to pick against a stellar Kings team, even if the Canucks have played Los Angeles tough twice this season.  Expect Los Angeles to get the win north of the border.

December 27 – Day 78 – Bruins try to jump to top of the Atlantic Division

Thanks to a clutch save from Jake Allen in the ninth round of the shutout, the St. Louis Blues were able to claim the extra point over the Dallas Stars in last night’s Game of the Day.

After playing a scoreless 26:18, First Star of the Game Alexander Steen scored a power play goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko, to give the Blues a one-goal lead.  It was short-lived though, as Cody Eakin and Jamie Benn assisted Colton Sceviour to knot the score at one-all.  The Stars scored their second and final goal of regulation with only 37 seconds remaining in the period when Patrick Sharp and Alex Goligoski assisted Tyler Seguin to his 20th goal of the season, giving Dallas a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.

The Blues waited to score the game-tying goal until only 1:50 remained in regulation, as Jay Bouwmeester and David Backes assisted Second Star Robby Fabbri to send the game to overtime and, ultimately, the shoutout.

While he won’t get a goal added to his season total, Backes scored the final goal of the shootout, but it was Allen, who made the save on Vernon Fiddler’s shot, who secured the Blues‘ victory.

Allen improves his record to 17-8-2 with the win, saving 22 of 24 (91.7%), while Antti Niemi’s record falls to 15-5-3, saving 35 of 37 (94.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day Series now stands at 30-12-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points.  Last night’s game was the second straight that required a shootout, as Ottawa beat Florida on Tuesday, the last day of action before the Christmas break.

Tonight’s schedule consists of nine games, with the action getting started at 5 p.m. eastern when Boston visits Ottawa (RDS2).  Three games follow at 6 p.m. eastern (Columbus at Florida, Toronto at the New York Islanders[TVAS/SN] and St. Louis at Dallas), trailed an hour later by Carolina at Chicago.  Three games get started at 8 p.m. eastern (Pittsburgh at Winnipeg, Arizona at Colorado and Philadelphia at Anaheim), and the nightcap follows an hour later when Edmonton visits Calgary (SN).

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Ottawa, St. Louis at Dallas and Edmonton at Calgary), while two of those are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (sorry Edmonton–Calgary!).  Even though Dallas and St. Louis just played last night and should carry over a lot of emotion, the Boston–Ottawagame has a more immediate effect on the standings.

UnknownUnknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

This will be both teams’ fifth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they both have a 1-2-1 record.  The lone time the Bruins were the road squad in the series was November 7 then they visited Montréal – they lost 4-2.  Ottawa has been the home side twice, winning their most recent game 4-2 over the Sharks(December 18), but losing 3-1 on October 11 against the Canadiens.

The 19-11-4 Boston Bruins currently sit third in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game losing skid, their most recent showing being a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres.  Don’t let those recent results fool you, though: Boston has been a quietly good team this season, especially on the offensive end of the ice.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 110 shots, the Bruins have accounted for 1018 attempts so far this season.  Exactly 10%, a significant portion, of those shots have found the back of the net for 102 goals, led by Brad Marchand’s 15.  Especially strong for Boston has been their power play.  Of the 90 opportunities the Bruins have been given, they’ve scored 26 goals (led by Loui Eriksson’s seven) for a 28.89% success rate.  Although it is always wise to avoid penalties, Ottawa should probably take special care to avoid the box this evening, as Boston has a knack for making teams pay.

While the defense started the season playing very poorly, they have clamped down to give up only 84 goals to date.  The main reason for this has not been so much the play of 13-8-3 Tuukka Rask and co., but the defense allowing only 959 shots to reach net (led by Adam McQuaid’s 56 blocks).  Although the penalty kill has been only average (currently killing 81.36%), it has gotten in on the goal-scoring.  When shorthanded, the Bruins have scored six times already this season, well above the league average of two.

The 17-12-6 Ottawa Senators currently hold the second wild card position as the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division and eighth-best in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to their New England opponent, the Senators are also riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent game a 2-1 shootout loss at Florida on Tuesday.  I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about Ottawa, but their offense and goaltending have had to cover up for the poor defensive play on a regular basis this season.

I usually try to start with a positive, and Ottawa‘s offense is certainly one.  Thanks in no part to only 969 shots put on net (led by Mike Hoffman’s 95), the Sens have scored 102 goals so far this season, led by  Hoffman’s 17 tallies.  While in no way as strong as Boston‘s, Ottawa‘s power play has been better than average, as they’ve scored 21 (led by Hoffman’s four) on 108 attempts for a 19.4% success rate.

The other end of the ice has not been quite as spectacular.  Although Erik Karlsson already has 71 blocks this season, the Sens have allowed 1180 shots to reach 15-9-4 Craig Anderson and co., who have a combined 92% save percentage, only half a percent above league average.  In addition to allowing too many shots into the crease, the penalty kill is also not going Ottawa‘s way.  They’ve allowed 26 goals on 118 attempts, killing only 77.97%.  If the defense could do more to improve these two statistics, they could be considered a significant threat for the cup this season.  Until then, Ottawa can only be considered a playoff stepping stone.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Rask (four shutouts [tied for third in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (15 wins [tied for sixth in the league]), Hoffman (17 goals [tied for sixth in the league]) and Karlsson (29 assists [tied for league lead] and 38 points [sixth in the league]).

Given Ottawa‘s poor defense and penalty kill, it is hard to pick against the Bruins, even if they are the visiting team.  I expect Boston to jump into the division lead with a win tonight.

December 26 – Day 77 – Top two goal-scorers square-off

The NHL’s Christmas gift to you this season?  The same one they give you every year: a return to hockey after the holiday!

Eighteen teams return from holiday hiatus today to take the ice.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern, when four games get underway (Buffalo at Boston [BELL TV], Columbus at Tampa Bay, Montréal at Washington[CBC/NHLN/TVAS] and New Jersey at Carolina), followed an hour later by three more (Dallas at St. Louis, Detroit at Nashville and Pittsburgh at Minnesota).  Los Angeles visits Arizona at 9 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Edmonton at Vancouver (CBC), this evening’s nightcap.

Five of tonight’s matchups are divisional rivalries (Buffalo at Boston, New Jersey at Carolina, Dallas at St. Louis, Los Angeles at Arizona and Edmonton at Vancouver), while three are between current playoff qualifiers (Montréalat Washington, Dallas at St. Louis and Detroit at Nashville).  As you’ve come to expect, we’ll go for the game that qualifies for both categories: the Stars–Blues matchup.

CJhyiLmKUnknown-1

 

 

 

This will be Dallas‘ fifth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they currently own a perfect 4-0-0 record, with their last showing a 6-3 victory in Minnesota on Monday.  The Blues have been featured five times before today, and own a 3-2-0 record when the focus of our attention.  Their last showing was a 2-1 victory over the Predators on December 17.

The 26-7-2 Dallas Stars have been the story of the season thus far.  They lead the Central Division and Western Conference by eight points, and the entire NHL by two points.  They’ve found that success by pairing an above-average defense with one of, if not the best offense in the league, made evident by their last victory, a four-goal shutout of the Blackhawks on Tuesday that extended their winning streak to three games.

The Stars have put 1128 shots on goal this season (led by Tyler Seguin’s 143), a total that exceeds the league average by 115 attempts.  A strong 10.9% of those shots have found the back of the net for a league-leading 123 goals (led by Jamie Benn’s 22).  The Stars have been especially potent on the power play, where they’ve scored 27 goals (led by on Benn’s nine) on 116 opportunities for a 23.28% success rate that well exceeds the league average.

Even though it may the weaker end of the ice for Dallas, the Blues should not assume that having the Starsdefending will give them an advantage.  Dallas has only let 993 shots reach 15-5-2 Antti Niemi and co. (helped by Alex Goligoski’s team-leading 71 blocks), of which they’ve saved 91.3% for only 87 goals.  Probably the biggest issue the Stars face is their penalty kill.  On 101 attempts, Dallas has given up 20 goals and killed the remaining 80.2%, which trails the league average by .83%.

The 21-11-4 St. Louis Blues currently qualify for second place in both the Central Division and Western Conference, trailing the Stars by eight points.  Their most recent game was a two-goal shutout victory in Bostonon Tuesday.  The Blues have favored the defensive end of the ice, but are still very much a threat on the offensive.

Thanks in part to Alex Pietrangelo’s team-leading 65 blocks, St. Louis has allowed only 1020 shots on net, a total that exceeds the league average by only 12 shots in two more games played.  16-8-2 Jake Allen and co. have saved 92.4% of those shots, allowing only 84 goals against.  The defense especially clamps down on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 87.29% of power plays, allowing only 15 goals.

Offensively, the Blues have not been as strong.  They’ve managed only 1086 shots (led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 127), of which 8.4%, or 91 (Tarasenko leads the team with 22) have found the back of the net.  Although the offense has only been average overall, the Blues‘ power play is nothing to laugh at.  On 99 attempts, nine fewer than the league average, the Notes have scored 21.21%, or 21 goals (led by Tarasenko’s seven tallies).

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (22 goals [tied for league lead], 46 points [tied for second in the league], +17 [tied for second in the league] and 24 assists [tied for sixth in the league]), Jason Demers (+16 [tied for fifth in the league]), John Klingberg (27 assists [tied for third in the league]), Niemi (three shutouts [tied for fifth in the league] and 15 wins [tied for sixth in the league]), Johnny Oduya (+15 [tied for seventh in the league]) and Seguin (46 points [tied for second in the league], 27 assists [tied for third in the league], 19 goals [fourth in the league] and +15 [tied for seventh in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [tied for league lead], 16 wins [tied for fourth in the league], .928 save percentage [sixth in the league] and 2.06 GAA [tied for sixth in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 goals [tied for league lead] and 38 points [tied for fifth in the league]).

This will be the Stars‘ second trip to St. Louis this season, with the first representing the first game in the season series.  The Blues won the matchup on December 12 with a three-goal shutout.  Following tonight’s game both squads will board planes for Dallas to play again tomorrow night.

This is a tough game to predict, as both provide compelling arguments.  The Stars, their offense in particular, have been very tough to stop this season, but the Blues proved that they have the superior defense in their previous matchup only two weeks ago.  Especially since the game is taking place in the Scottrade Center, I think I have to lean towards the Blues taking a 2-0-0 lead in the season series with a win this evening.

December 22 – Day 76 – Would a Miami Vice also be considered a Sen?

Dallas may have waited until they were down two goals, but they ended up beating Minnesota 6-3.

On the same day he signed a four-year, $20.75 million contract extension, Jared Spurgeon celebrated by scoring his fifth goal of the season at the 4:57 mark of the game.  The Wild‘s second goal came 3:19 later, when Justin Fontaine and Third Star of the Game Nino Niederreiter assisted First Star Charlie Coyle to his seventh score of the season.  Minnesota‘s 2-0 lead held into the first intermission.

While the first 20 minutes was all about the home squad, the second period favored the road Stars.  Dallas scored their first goal of the game at the 14:59 mark of the second period, courtesy of Jordie Benn, assisted by Jason Spezza, his 12th helper of the season.  3:31 later, Dallas tied the game at two-all with a power play tally from Vernon Fiddler, assisted by Patrick Eaves and Alex Goligoski, his 11th of the season.  The Stars‘ final goal of the period came only 59 seconds later, as Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn assisted Tyler Seguin to a wrister to take the lead.  Dallas‘ 3-2 lead held into the second intermission.

Dallas‘ fourth straight goal, the eventual game-winner, came only 3:41 into the final period when Johnny Oduya assisted Antoine Roussel to a backhander.  The streak ended at the 10:26 mark when Coyle and Fontaine assisted Niederreiter, setting the score at 4-3.  The comeback could not be completed though, as Cody Eakin scored the first of two empty netters for the Stars at the 18:07 mark.  The second came with only 14 seconds remaining in the game when Seguin assisted Fiddler to his second goal of the game, and the final tally of the night.

Second Star Antti Niemi improved his record to 14-5-2 after earning the win, saving 30 of 31 (96.8%).  He replaced Kari Lehtonen, who saved only two of four shots faced (50%) in only 8:16 played.  14-9-2 Devan Dubnyk earns the loss after saving only 28 of 32 (87.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 28-12-6, favoring the home squads by 24 over the roadies.

Tonight is the last set of games before the NHL takes their Christmas break, with action resuming this Saturday.  Due to that, there’s a total of 10 games occurring this evening, with the first two getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (St. Louis at Boston and Anaheim at the New York Rangers [SN1]).  Three more get started 30 minutes later (New Jersey at Detroit, Vancouver at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Ottawa at Florida [RDS2]), followed at 8 p.m. eastern by Montréal at Minnesota (NBCSN/RDS).  Chicago at Dallas gets started at 8:30 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by two more (Winnipeg at Calgary and Toronto at Arizona).  Finally, the nightcap drops the opening puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern when Los Angeles hosts San Jose (NBCSN/SN).

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Ottawa at Florida, Chicago at Dallas and San Jose at Los Angeles), and they are joined by two others (St. Louis at Boston and Montréal at Minnesota) to make five games between current playoff qualifiers.

The game that deserves our attention is the one that will have the biggest effect on the standings going into the three-day break, so let’s focus in on the Sunshine State.

Unknown-2Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

This will be Ottawa‘s fourth time featured in DtFR’s featured matchup.  When the focus of our attention, they have a 1-2-0 record, with their most recent showing a 4-2 victory over the Sharks on Friday.  The home Panthers have only been featured once before, when they visited Boston on December 12 and lost 3-1.

The 17-12-5 Ottawa Senators are currently in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, which qualifies them for the second wild card position.  Their most recent contest was a 5-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Sunday.  The Sens are certainly an offensive-minded team, as they’ve had to cover up mistakes on the other end of the ice.

So far this season, the Senators have only put 953 shots on net (led by Mike Hoffman’s 94), they’ve scored on a whopping 10.6% of those attempts for 101 goals, including Hoffman’s team-leading 17 tallies.  Although Ottawaemploys a strong offense, an interestingly average aspect of their attack is their power play.  On 106 attempts, they’ve scored 20 goals (led by Hoffman’s four), for a slightly sub-average 18.87% success rate.

The offense has needed to be good, because the other end of the ice has been lacking.  Although Erik Karlsson has a team-leading 69 blocks, 1140 shots have made it to 15-9-3 Craig Anderson and co.  Although the goaltenders have allowed 99 goals, they do have a combined 91.8% save rate that slightly exceeds the league average, implying that the defense needs to do more to disrupt plays and block shots, potentially by being active before or at the trade deadline.

An even more distressing number is Ottawa‘s penalty kill rate: 76.99%.  They have allowed 26 power play goals to the opposition on 113 attempts.  This also points to Ottawa being very active at the trade deadline to bolster their blue line.

Their opposition this evening are the 18-12-4 Florida Panthers, who currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, which qualifies them for the first wild card.  They are currently riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent showing a 5-4 shootout victory over the Canucks on Sunday.  Florida plays well on both ends of the ice, but their strength is certainly their defense.

Although the Panther defense has allowed more shots on net than average, they have been much more stingy than Ottawa, allowing only 998, helped by Willie Mitchell’s team-leading 49 blocks.  The real strength has been 13-11-3 Roberto Luongo an co.  While his personal record is not indicative of their success, the goaltenders have a combined 92.6% save rate that leads the league average.  One spot where Florida still needs to improve is on the penalty kill.  They have allowed 20 goals on 106 attempts for a 81.13% kill rate that barely exceeds the league average.

The Panthers‘ offense may have put only 953 shots on goal (led by Aaron Ekblad’s 88), they’ve scored on 9.3% of those attempts for 89 goals, led by Reilly Smith’s 11.  The power play has been an extension of that success, as they’ve scored 22 goals on 113 opportunities for a 19.47% success rate that leads the league average by .55%.

Tonight’s result could have major implications on the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference Wild-Card standings.  Should Ottawa pull off the upset on the road, they will move into a tie with Detroit (who has a game against the Devils tonight) at 41 points.  A Florida win puts the Panthers into a tie with Boston (who is hosting the Blues this evening), while an overtime loss puts them into a tie with Detroit and Ottawa.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Ekblad (+11 and 88 shots [both lead team]), Erik Gudbranson (84 hits [leads team]) and Jaromir Jagr (24 points [leads team]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (15 wins [tied for fourth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league]), Hoffman (17 goals [tied for fifth in the league]) and Karlsson (28 assists [second in the league] and 37 points [fourth in the league]).

Due to Ottawa‘s poor defensive game and being on the road, I expect the Florida Panthers to win tonight’s game.

December 21 – Day 75 – The Stars head home

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers was a game of goal-streaks, but the Caps took control of the game in the second and third periods to win 7-3.

After 12 minutes of scoreless action, First Star of the Game Justin Williams scored Washington‘s first goal, assisted by Taylor Chorney and John Carlson (his 20th on the season).  The Caps‘ momentum was short-lived though (1:39, to be exact), as J.T. Miller fired a wrister to level the score at one-all, assisted by Rick Nash and Keith Yandle (his 18th of the season).  New York then took the lead at the 15:44 mark with a wrister from Chris Kreider.  The final goal of the period also belongs to the Blueshirts and Dan Boyle, a slap shot after being assisted by Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello (his 14th of the season), setting the score at 3-1.

Washington began their comeback at the 5:25 mark of the second when Evgeny Kuznetsov, assisted by Dmitry Orlov and Williams (his 13th of the season), fired a backhand into net, setting the score at 3-2.  1:36 later, T.J. Oshie scored on a backhander of his own, assisted by Second Star Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov to tie the game.  Captain Alex Ovechkin finally got on the score sheet at the 11:03 mark of the second, assisted by Third Star Marcus Johnansson and Backstrom.  The final score of the period belonged to Williams, a snap shot after being assisted by Johansson and Backstrom (his 21st of the season).  William’s second tallly of the night set the score at 5-3.

Washington began the third where they ended the second, scoring their sixth tally of the evening after only 2:26.  Tom Wilson assisted Jason Chimera to his eighth goal of the season.  Only 2:10 later, the Capitals scored again, this time a snap shot from Johansson after being assisted by Kuznetsov (his 20th of the season), setting the score at the 7-3 final.

21-4-1 Braden Holtby earns the win in tonight’s game by saving 33 of 36 (91.7%), while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 15-9-3 after saving only 19 of 24 (79.2%).  He was replaced with Magnus Hellberg for the third period, who saved four of six shots faced (66.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 28-11-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points over the roadies.

Today’s schedule features eight games, with the action getting started at 7 p.m. eastern when half of those games drop the opening puck (Anaheim at the New York Islanders, St. Louis at Philadelphia, Columbus at Pittsburgh and Washington at Carolina).  At 8 p.m. eastern, two more games get started (Montréal at Nashville[RDS] and Dallas at Minnesota [TVAS]), followed an hour by the co-nightcaps (Toronto at Colorado and Winnipegat Edmonton).

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Columbus at Pittsburgh, Washington at Carolina and Dallasat Minnesota), while two of tonight’s matchups are between current playoff qualifiers (Montréal at Nashville and Dallas at Minnesota).  Only one game qualifies for both lists, so we will focus on the Stars–Wild matchup.

CJhyiLmKUnknown-4

 

 

 

Dallas has been featured three times already in the DtFR Game of the Day Series, most recently Saturday’s win against the Canadiens, which set their record in the series at a perfect 3-0-0.  Minnesota has been featured an additional time and host a 3-1-0 record in the series.

The 24-7-2 Stars currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and are tied with the Washington Capitals for the league lead.  Their most recent victory was the aforementioned game against the Habs.  A summary of the Stars‘ play is featured here.  For those not willing to read the summary, Dallas‘ record and position in the standings should tell the story.

The 17-8-6 Wild currently sit in fourth place in the Central Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.  Their most recent game was in Nashville on Saturday, where they lost 3-2.  So far this season, the Wild have built their success on their defensive strength.

Just as shots for are usually indicative of a team’s success, shots against can also tell a good portion of the story.  Thanks in part to Jared Spurgeon’s 65 blocks, Minnesota has allowed only 887 shots to reach 14-8-2 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which 91.9% have been saved.  One of the major shortcomings of the Wild is their penalty kill.  Although they’ve only allowed 77 opportunities and 17 goals, their 77.92% kill rate trails the league average by 3.23%.

Offensively, the Wild are an interesting situation.  While they have only managed 887 shots (led by Jason Zucker’s 88), they have scored on 9.9% of those shots for 86 goals.  An especially potent aspect of Minnesota‘s offense is their power play.  On 102 attempts, they have scored 21 goals for a 20.59% success rate that leads the league average by 1.74%.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (22 goals [leads league], 44 points [tied for second in the league], +15 [tied for fourth in the league] and 22 assists [tied for sixth in the league]), John Klingberg (26 assists [tied for third in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (44 points [tied for second in the league], 26 assists [tied for third in the league], 18 goals [fourth in the league] and +14 [tied for ninth in the league]) & Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for second in the league] and 14 wins [tied for seventh in the league]).

The Stars and Wild have already played twice this season, with Dallas winning both games in overtime.  If that is indicative of how this game will go, it should be a good one.

December 20 – Day 74 – The Caps are heading back to the Garden!

Dallas proved their position as one of, if not the best team in the league by beating Montréal 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Stars scored the first goal of the game after only 1:34 minutes of play, the lone goal of the first period.  Second Star of the Game Jason Spezza is credited with the tally, his 12th of the season, assisted by Ales Hemsky.

Even quicker than Spezza scored his goal, First Star Jamie Benn scored his, as he scored his unassisted goal at the 1:24 mark of the second.  1:42 later, Patrick Sharp scored the eventual game-winning power play goal, assisted by Third Star Tyler Seguin and Spezza.  The Habs finally got on the board on a power play of their own, when Tomas Fleischmann and P.K. Subban assisted Daniel Carr to his second goal of the season at the 11:35 mark, setting the score at 3-1.  Any momentum the Canadiens had built though, was squelched by another Starsgoal, this one courtesy of Seguin at the 13:51 mark, assisted by Alex Goligoski and Benn.  The 4-1 score held into the second intermission.

It was a night of quick starts for the Stars, as they scored their fifth goal only 31 seconds into the third.  Benn notched his second of the night, assisted by Sharp and Spezza.  3:41 later, the Can scored their final goal of the season when Brian Flynn assisted Paul Byron to a shorty.  On that same power play, Dallas scored their sixth goal of the evening at the 4:27 mark when Vernon Fiddler assisted Patrick Eaves to the second goal of his season, setting the score at the 6-2 final.

13-5-2 Antti Niemi earned the win after saving 21 of 23 (91.3%), while Mike Condon’s record falls to 9-7-3 after saving 17 of 23 (73.9%).  He was pulled after 44:27 for Dustin Tokarski, who saved all four shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 28-10-6, favoring the home team by 28 points.

Six games will be played on this Sunday, with the action getting started at 4 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Florida, followed an hour later by two more games (New Jersey at Boston and Ottawa at Tampa Bay [RDS2]).  Finally, three games share the nightcap role, all starting at 7 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Detroit [SN], Washington at the New York Rangers [NHLN/TVAS] and San Jose at Chicago).

Two of today’s games are between divisional rivals (Ottawa at Tampa Bay and Washington at New York), as well as two involving two teams between current playoff qualifiers (Washington at New York and San Jose at Chicago).  Lastly, Washington–New York is also a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinal.

In other words, we’re watching Washington at New York, just in case you couldn’t figure that out!

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

The Capitals have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series five times, where they currently own a 2-3-0 record.  The Rangers have been featured an additional two times, and they have a 5-1-1 record.

The 23-6-2 Washington Capitals currently lead both the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference, trailing the Stars by only two points for the league lead.  They are riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent game a 5-3 victory over the Lightning on Friday.  The Caps play a superior game on both ends of the ice, but their strength has actually been on the ice, which is surprising for a team with Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

20-4-1 Braden Holtby and co. have allowed only 857 shots, helped by Karl Alzner’s 76 blocks.  Of those shots, only 67 have found the back of the net (92.6% save rate), which ranks second-best in the league.  The Caps‘ penalty kill is not so much their defense, but that they do not commit many penalties.  Washington has only had to defend 87 power plays, and given up 14 goals (83.91% kill rate).

As we’ve grown accustomed to, Washington‘s offense is also very good.  Although they’ve only shot the puck 936 times (led by Ovechkin’s 155), they’ve scored a whopping 94 goals (led by Ovechkin’s 16), sixth best in the league.  Especially potent has been the Caps‘ power play, which has a 25% success rate.

They are visiting the 19-11-4 New York Rangers, who currently occupy second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  They are currently riding a two-game losing skid, most recently a 5-2 loss at Winnipeg on Friday.  The Blueshirts will put Holtby to the test, as they exhibit a strong offense.

Led by Rick Nash’s 96, the Rangers have put a total of 950 shots on goal so far this season, scoring 97 of those attempts (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 14).  Although not as potent as Washington‘s, New York‘s power play is also good, as they’ve scored 20 goals (led by Nash’s four) on 92 opportunities.

It goes without saying that a defense spearheaded by 15-8-3 Henrik Lundqvist in net is a good one.  Aided by Dan Girardi’s 71 blocks, the Blueshirts have only allowed 82 on 1049 shots.  Even when a man down, New York has still been strong, as Lundqvist and co. have killed 83.04% of opposing power plays.

Last year, the Caps and Rangers met in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The Blueshirts won that series in seven games, and if that is indicative of how tonight’s game will go, we should be in for a good one.  Expect the Caps to pull off the road upset.

December 19 – Day 73 – Texas-sized showdown

Yesterday’s Game of the Day saved all the action for the final period, as Ottawa scored three goals in the final 11:38 to secure the 4-2 victory over San Jose.

The Sharks struck first, but not until the beginning of the second period.  Ottawa‘s Mark Stone was still serving time in the sin bin from a first period penalty when Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski assisted Joe Thornton to a power play goal at the 29 second mark.  San Jose‘s lead held only 4:17 though, as Third Star of the Game Bobby Ryan scored his 11th tally of the year to level the game at one-all, which held into the second intermission.

Things really started heating up in the third.  Ottawa broke the tie at the 8:22 mark when Dave Dziurzynski and Cody Ceci assisted Jean-Gabriel Pageau to his ninth of the season.  The eventual game-winner came from First Star Chris Wideman at the 13:06 mark, assisted by Curtis Lazar and Shane Prince.  The Senators‘ onslaught continued 2:45 later, when Second Star Erik Kalrsson set the score at 4-1, assisted by Mike Hoffman and Ryan.  The Sharks tried to mount a comeback with a goal at the 17:36 mark, courtesy of Burns, but it was too little too late.

15-9-3 Craig Anderson earns the win after saving 31 of 33 (93.9%), while Alex Stalock’s record falls to 2-5-0 after saving 31 of 35 (88.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 27-10-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points.

Today’s schedule consists of 10 games, with the action getting started at 1 p.m. eastern when Buffalo hosts Chicago (SN).  The other matinee game gets begins at 3 p.m. eastern when Calgary visits St. Louis.  The evening’s action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern with five matchups (Los Angeles at Toronto [CBC], Anaheim at New Jersey, Carolina at Pittsburgh, Philadelphia at Columbus and Montréal at Dallas [NHLN/TVAS]), followed an hour later by Minnesota at Nashville.  The New York Islanders visit Arizona at 9 p.m. eastern, trailed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap: Edmonton at Colorado (CBC).

Three of tonight’s games feature divisional rivalries (Carolina at Pittsburgh, Philadelphia at Columbus and Minnesota at Nashville), and a total of three are between current playoff qualifiers (Calgary at St. Louis, Montréalat Dallas and Minnesota at Nashville).  Since most throughout North America should be able to watch two division leaders square-off, let’s focus in on the American Airlines Center.

UnknownCJhyiLmK

 

 

 

 

So far this season, Montréal is a perfect 5-0-0 when being featured in the Game of the Day series, but they aren’t the only ones unblemished – Dallas is also undefeated, but has only played in two games.

The Canadiens enter tonight’s game riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent game occurring Thursday against the Kings, who beat them 3-0.  Don’t let that shutout give you the wrong impression, though.  The Habs play a strong game on both ends of the ice, but they are particularly deadly when they have the puck on their stick, which has led them to first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference.

Montréal has put 1048 shots on goal this season (led by Captain Max Pacioretty’s 138), well above the season average with only one more game played than most.  Exactly 100 of those attempts have found the back of the net (9.5%), 16 more than the league average (led by Pacioretty’s 14).  While not an extreme strong suit of the Canadiens‘, their power play is still a force to be reckoned with.  On 113 opportunities, they’ve scored 22 times.  While the 19.47% success rate is impressive, what should be more alarming for the Stars is earning 113 opportunities.  If Dallas wants to win, it will be necessary to not give Montréal these easier opportunities.

Even when defending, the Canadiens have still been one of the best in the league.  10-2-0 Mike Condon and the defense have only allowed 75 goals so far this season.  While this is an impressive number (it trails the league average by nine), it has come on only 908 shots.  The reason backup Condon has found success has not entirely been his quality play, but also that his defense, particularly Tom Gilbert and his 58 blocks, have stepped up to lighten his workload.

One of the better penalty kills in the league will be on display this evening in the Habs.  On 107 opposing opportunities, they’ve allowed only 14 tallies – that 86.92% kill rate leads the league average by 5.78%.

Montréal is good, but they are going up against what is currently the best team in the NHL in the Dallas Stars.  Similar to Montréal, Dallas employs solid play on both ends of the ice, but definitely prefers to play offense.  Their most recent showing was a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Flames on Thursday.

Per the usual, more shots usually equals more goals.  It’s no different in the Lone Star State, where Dallas has put the puck on net 1035 times so far this season, led by Tyler Seguin’s 130, for a league-leading 107 tallies (led by Captain Jamie Benn’s 20).  Especially potent for the Stars has been their power play.  They’ve scored 22 goals (led by Benn’s eight) on 102 opportunities, for a 21.57% success rate that leads the league average by 2.71%.

Defensively, the Stars haven’t been as strong as Montréal.  So far this year, 12-5-2 Antti Niemi and co. have given up 82 goals on 915 shots.  Fortunately for Niemi, who’s 90.9% save rate isn’t exactly on par with most of the league, Johnny Oduya’s team leading 67 blocks has done wonders to keep his workload as light as possible.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (20 goals [tied for the league lead], 41 points [third in the league], 21 assists [tied for seventh in the league] and +13 [tenth in the league]), Jason Demers (+14 [tied for sixth in the league]), John Klingberg (26 assists [third in the league]) and Seguin (42 points [second in the league], 25 assists [fourth in the league] and 17 goals [tied for fourth in the league]) & Montréal‘s Alexei Emelin (91 hits [leads team]), Pacioretty (138 shots and 14 goals [both lead team]), Tomas Plekanec (27 points [leads team]) and P.K. Subban (21 assists and +9 [both lead team]).

This should be an exciting matchup, probably one of the best we’ve had in the series in a while.  Although they are slumping and on the road, I’m picking Montréal based on their stronger defense and emotionally using this game against a tough opponent to rejuvenate their squad.

December 18 – Day 72 – First trip to Canada since my return from hiatus!

It took two goals in the third period, but the Blues were able to hold home ice to beat the Predators and spoil Third Star of the Game Barret Jackman’s homecoming in last night’s Game of the Day.

Nashville struck first with a power play goal at the 7:14 mark of the first period.  Filip Forsberg and Shea Weber assisted Roman Josi to the Predators‘ lone goal of the night to set the score at 1-0, which held into the first and second intermissions.

Only 2:38 into the third period, St. Louis leveled the score thanks to Second Star David Backes’ 10th goal of the season, assisted by Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.  The draw held until the 14:40 mark, when Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny assisted First Star Vladimir Tarasenko to his 20th tally of the season, setting the score at its 2-1 final.

15-7-2 Jake Allen earned the win after saving 27 of 28 (96.4%), while Pekka Rinne’s record falls to 12-9-6 after saving 31 of 33 (93.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 26-10-6, still favoring the home squad by 24 points.  Before anyone points it out, yes, I’m aware that this does not line up with yesterday’s record – This should be the correct record.

Today’s schedule includes six games, with the first three starting at 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Pittsburgh [TVAS], Tampa Bay at Washington and Florida at Carolina), with two more following half an hour later (San Jose at Ottawa[RDS] and Vancouver at Detroit [SN]).  Finally, the nightcap gets its start at 8 p.m. eastern when the New York Rangers visit Winnipeg.

None of tonight’s matchups involve divisional rivalries, and San Jose at Ottawa represents the only game between two playoff qualifiers.  Sounds like reason enough to me to head up to the Canadian Tire Centre!

Unknown-2Unknown-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 16-14-1 San Jose Sharks currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division, but seventh in the Western Conference, utilizing a defensive-first game plan.  They played last night in Toronto, where they won 5-4.

So far this season, 13-10-1 Martin Jones and the Sharks have given up only 832 shots against (due in part to Brent Burns’ team-leading 64 blocks), a total well below the league average, and those efforts are reflected in their 79 goals against.  Even on the penalty kill, the Sharks have been tough to score on.  They’ve given up only 17 goals on 94 opportunities for a 81.91% kill-rate that slightly exceeds the league average.

It has been the offense that has been letting the Sharks down this season made evident by only 880 shots on goal so far this year (led by Burns’ 132).  As can be expected from that total, San Jose has only managed 77 goals this season, led by Joe Pavelski’s 14.

A portion of their offense that especially needs work is the power play.  On 96 opportunities, San Jose has only scored 17 times, for a 17.71% success rate that slightly trails the league average.  If the Sharks want to keep up with the Kings in their division, they need to improve their offensive proficiency.

The 16-11-5 Ottawa Senators were most recently featured in the Game of the Day series on Wednesday.  You can read a quick summary of their squad here.  Their last game played was that Wednesday game in Washington, where they fell 2-1.

Some players to watch in today’s game include Ottawa‘s Craig Anderson (14 wins [tied for sixth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league]), Mike Hoffman (17 goals [tied for fourth in the league]), Erik Karlsson (28 assists [tied for league lead] and 35 points [tied for fourth in the league]) and Mark Stone (21 assists [tied for sixth in the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (three shutouts [tied for fifth in the league] and 14 wins [tied for sixth in the league]) and Pavelski (15 goals [tied for seventh in the league] and 31 points [tied for ninth in the league]).

Especially since they are playing at home, I expect the Sens to be able to win tonight’s matchup.

December 17 – Day 71 – Welcome back, Jack!

Ottawa tried to level the game, but it was too little too late, as the Caps held on to win 2-1 in last night’s Game of the Day.

Each period had its own goal, with the first and second belonging to Washington.  Second Star of the Game Michael Latta scored the first tally of the game at the 14:06 mark, assisted by Dmitry Orvlov and Taylor Chorney.  The second period witnessed the game-winner compliments of Third Star John Carlsson, assisted by Justin Williams and Latta at the 5:43 mark.

Ottawa got their lone tally of the evening with 4:14 remaining in the game when Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson assisted Bobby Ryan to a power play goal, but was not able to put another past First Star Braden Holtby.

Holtby saved 26 of 27 (96.3%) to improve his record to 20-4-1, while last year’s phenom Andrew Hammond (2-1-2) took the loss after saving 23 of 25 (92%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 24-10-5, still favoring the home squad by 21 points.

Tonight’s schedule is in stark contrast to yesterday’s two-gamer, as we have a total of 11 matchups taking place this evening.  Per the usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when three games drop the opening puck (Anaheim at Buffalo [Bell TV], Florida at New Jersey and Vancouver at Philadelphia [SN360]), followed half an hour by two more (San Jose at Toronto and Los Angeles at Montréal [RDS]).  8 p.m. eastern brings the beginning another couple games (Nashville at St. Louis and the New York Rangers at Minnesota), followed 30 minutes later by another pair (Edmonton at Chicago and Calgary at Dallas).  Finally, the last two games get started at 9 p.m. eastern (the New York Islanders at Colorado and Columbus at Arizona).

Nashville at St. Louis represents the only game between divisional rivals, while two other games (Los Angeles at Montréal and New York at Minnesota) join that one as games between two squads currently qualifying for the playoffs.  In addition to qualifying for both sets, the Nashville–St. Louis game is also special because it is Barret Jackman’s first game at the Scottrade Center as a member of a squad not wearing the Note.

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

Jackman was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 1999 Entry Draft, 17th overall.  He saw his first action during the 2001-’02 season, and was promoted to a full-time position the following season when he won the Calder Trophy.  During his time with the Blues, he played 16,364 minutes over 803 games (an average of over 20 minutes per game), scoring 28 goals and notching 153 assists for a total of 181 points.  Pair that effort with his strong defensive game (787 hits and 987 blocks during his St. Louis career), and you get a good understanding of why so many Blues fans wore Jackman sweaters.

I try acknowledge my biases as often as possible, especially in instances like this, so I must admit that as a Bluesfan I am still partial to Jackman.  One reason for this was actually not related to what he did for the Blues, but his commitment to play in St. Louis.  During the 2004-’05 lockout season, instead of playing in Europe like many displaced players in the league, he instead chose to play with the now-defunct Missouri River Otters in St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis.

Jackman signed with the Nashville Predators this offseason after not being offered a contract from the Notes.  In his first year with the Preds, Jackman has played all but one game, scoring a goal and an assist in his enforcer role (leads the team with 48 penalty minutes).  He is also responsible for the third-most blocks (48) and the seventh-most hits (44).

It has been defense like this that has propelled the 15-10-6 Predators to fifth in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, qualifying them for the second wild card spot.  Nashville is currently riding a two-game win-less skid, with their most recent game being a 2-1 OT loss to the Flames at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

That defense, headed by 12-8-6 Pekka Rinne and Captain Shea Weber, has given up only 818 shots so far this season (Roman Josi has a team-leading 84 blocks).  Those fewer shots have not necessarily yielded fewer goals though, as opponents have scored 80 tallies against the Preds, a total that trails the league average by only two scores.

One of the main reasons for Nashville‘s higher than expected goal totals is their poor penalty kill.  The Preds have given up 23 goals on 98 opportunities, meaning that they’re only killing 76.53% of opposing power plays.  If Nashville wants to be a real threat for the Cup, they will need to improve this rate.

Offensively, the Predators have put a good 973 shots on goal so far this season (led by James Neal’s 100), scoring 79 of those attempts (led by Neal’s dozen).  To make up for their poor penalty kill, Nashville plays an excellent power play, scoring on 21 of their 104 opportunities (led by Weber’s eight) – that 20.19% success rate leads the league average by 1.28%.

Their opposition this evening is the 18-10-4 St. Louis Blues, who currently sit second in the Central Division and third in the Western Conference.  In their last game played, the Blues beat the Jets in Winnipeg 4-3 on Tuesday.  Similar to the Predators, the Blues also play an defensive game.

That defense, headed by 14-7-2 Jake Allen and alternate captain Alex Pietrangelo, have given up only 891 shots (Carl Gunnarsson has 55 blocks) and 77 goals.  Even when a man-down, the Blues have been a force to be reckoned with, as they’ve only given up 19 scores on 94 opportunities for a 87.96 kill rate that exceeds the league average by 6.87%.

Offensively, the Blues have been only average.  Although they’ve managed 973 shots this season (led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 115), only 81 have found the back of the net (led by Tarasenko’s 19).  Luckily for the Blues, they have found success on the power play, scoring on 19 of 94 opportunities (led by Tarasenko’s six goals), giving them a 20.21% success rate that exceeds the league average by 1.3%.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Nashville‘s Josi (84 blocks, 22 points and 15 assists [all lead team]), Neal (100 shots and 12 goals [both lead team]) and Weber (74 hits and eight power play goals [both lead team]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (four shutouts [tied for league lead], 14 wins [tied for fifth in the league], 2.11 GAA [eighth in the league] and .925 save percentage [tied for ninth in the league]) and Tarasenko (19 goals [tied for second in the league] and 32 points [tied for seventh in the league]).

While Barret Jackman should expect a warm welcome from St. Louis fans, I think those same fans will go home happy, as the Notes should be able to win this game.

December 16 – Day 70 – National Capitals

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers was a good one, as the 4-2 score was not indicative of the competitive play.

The Blueshirts opened the scoring by notching the only tally of the first period, a snap shot at the 5:04 mark from Second Star of the Game Mats Zuccarello, assisted by Keith Yandle and First Star Rick Nash.

Almost exactly 20 game minutes later, Taylor Hall fired a wrister after being assisted by Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell to tie the game for Edmonton.  The draw lasted only 2:42 before Third Star Dylan McIlrath scored his first goal of the season, assisted by Yandle and Dominic Moore to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.  Jordan Eberle scored a wrister to knot the game again, assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but the Oilers could not maintain the tie into the third period, as Nash scored on a power play with only 39 seconds remaining, assisted by Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, giving the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead that they would not yield.

Jesper Fast tacked on an empty netter late in third period, assisted by Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg to set the score at the 4-2 final.

Henrik Lundqvist (15-6-3) earned the win by saving 18 of 20 (90%), while Anders Nilsson’s record falls to 10-8-1 after saving only 17 of 20 (85%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 23-10-5, favoring the home side by 19 points.

After a busy Tuesday, Wednesday has only two games on the schedule.  The evening gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Ottawa visits Washington (TVAS/SN), and is followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Boston (NBCSN).

Neither of today’s matchups are divisional rivalries, but the Ottawa–Washington game is between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  That game will be the one to focus on today.

Unknown-2Washington Capitals Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The 16-10-5 Ottawa Senators currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth place in the Western Conference.  To establish this position, they’ve needed to employ a strong offense behind Mike Hoffman to cover their defensive deficiencies.

That offense has fired the puck 866 times so far this season (led by Hoffman’s 86) for a total of 94 goals (led by Hoffman’s 17), connecting on 10.9% of attempts.  An especially strong point of the offense has been their efforts on the power play, scoring 19 goals (led by Hoffman’s four tallies) on 95 attempts, giving them a 20% success rate.

The offensive power has been necessary to cover up for issues on the other end of the ice.  Four different goalies have taken their place between the pipes, but 14-9-3 Craig Anderson has taken the lion’s share of the minutes (1,543 of 1,881 available minutes, or 82%).  Anderson and co. have saved 91.8% of 1049 shots for 90 goals against, but within that stat the problem is found, as the save percentage is actually better than the league average.  Although Erik Karlsson has a team-leading 60 blocks, the defense is giving up far too many shots.  If Ottawa wants to be a real threat to the Cup this season, they will need to bolster the blue line.

The 21-6-2 Washington Capitals were featured in Monday’s Game of the Day.  You can read more about them here. If you don’t want to read the summary, just know that Washington is pretty good.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Ottawa‘s Anderson (14 wins [tied for fifth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league]), Hoffman (17 goals [fourth in the league] and 30 points [tied for ninth in the league]), Karlsson (27 assists [tied for league lead] and 34 points [fifth in the league]) and Mark Stone (21 assists [tied for fifth in the league]) & Washington‘s Braden Holtby (19 wins [leads the league], 1.87 GAA [leads the league] and .933 save percentage [tied for fourth in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+15 [tied for second in the league]) and Alex Ovechkin (+13 [tied for seventh in the league]).

The major hole in this game is represented by Ottawa‘s defense.  Although the offense may be able to cover this hole most nights, Washington‘s defense will not let that happen.  Expect the Caps to hold home ice for the win.

December 15 – Day 69 – Wait, what did you say about the Oilers?

The Washington Capitals paid back the Pittsburgh Penguins for beating them in the Verizon Center in October by taking a 4-1 victory in Consol Energy Center in last night’s Game of the Day, spoiling Mike Sullivan’s debut.

Third Star of the Game Nicklas Backstrom scored his 10th goal of the season at the 3:53 mark of the first period after being assisted by Second Star T.J. Oshie and Karl Alzner.  The eventual game-winner was fired only 3:11 later when Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle assisted John Carlson to the Caps‘ final goal of the period.  Evgeni Malkin fired the lone goal of the game for the Pens at the 13:59 mark, assisted by Ben Lovejoy and Phil Kessel.  The 2-1 Washington lead held through both intermissions before expanding.

Oshie again found his way onto the stat sheet with his first of two goals in the final period.  He was assisted by Backstrom at the 8:50 mark to give the Caps a two-goal lead.  His second was a five-on-three power play goal, scored at the 19:11 mark after being assisted by Backstrom and Carlson.

First Star Braden Holtby saved 45 of 46 (97.8%) shots to improve his record to 19-4-1, while Marc-Andre Fleury (13-10-2) takes the loss after saving only 30 of 34 (88.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands 22-10-5 in favor of the home team, who lead the roadies by 17 points.

Tonight’s schedule is a busy one, with a total of 11 games being played.  Four get their start at 7 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at Buffalo [Bell TV], Florida at the New York Islanders, Edmonton at the New York Rangers and Carolina at Philadelphia), followed half an hour later by two more (Tampa Bay at Toronto [TVAS] and San Jose at Montréal [RDS]).  Starting at 8 p.m. eastern are three games involving the Central Division (Calgary at Nashville, Vancouver at Minnesota and St. Louis at Winnipeg), followed half an hour later by the two nightcaps of the evening (Colorado at Chicago [NBCSN] and Columbus at Dallas).

Four of tonight’s games involve division rivals (Carolina at Philadelphia, Tampa Bay at Toronto, St. Louis at Winnipeg and Colorado at Chicago), while another represents the lone matchup between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs: Edmonton at New York.  To commemorate the potential for Edmonton‘s first playoff push since falling in the Stanley Cup Finals to Carolina in 2006, let’s tune into the Oilers visiting the Rangers.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you read that correctly.  The 14-15-2 Edmonton Oilers are currently qualifying for the playoffs.  Nevermind that three Pacific Division teams are technically tied for second place in the division and Edmonton narrowly leads Vancouver by Regulation+Overtime wins, focus more on the fact that Edmonton only needs Arizona to lose two games for the Oilers to officially move past them in the standings.  The future is bright for the Oil!

But how have they made it to this position?  Did Connor McDavid get healthy and the media not let us know? No, he still has near a month before he sees the ice again, but that has not stopped the squad from winning six games in a row coming into tonight’s matchup, including a 3-2 victory over Boston in the TD Garden last night.

So far this season, Edmonton‘s offense has been little more than average.  They’ve scored 80 goals so far, led by Taylor Hall’s 14 tallies, on 865 shots (led by Hall’s 124).  While the shot total trails the league average, the Oilershave made up for it by scoring on 9.2% of their attempts.

Even the power play has been average, as they’ve scored 18 goals on 95 attempts (six players have two goals, including Hall and McDavid), the same 18.95% the average team has earned.

The defense has been where Edmonton has really struggled this season.  Most teams have given up 79 goals so far this season: Anders Nilsson (10-7-1) and co. have given up a whopping 90.  This hasn’t been all the goaltenders’ fault though, as they’ve faced 913 shots already this season.  Oscar Klefbom has a team-leading 62 blocks, but the rest of the defense needs to do more to prevent opponents from putting so much pressure on their keeper.

Luckily, one of the saving graces of this defense has been their penalty kill.  They’ve given up 18 goals on 91 attempts for a 80.22% kill rate that is, once again, simply on par with the rest of the league.

Also, speaking of keepers and the like, it would be wrong to ignore 3-8-1 Cam Talbot who was such an important part of New York‘s season last year when King Henrik went down.  Unfortunately for him, he has not found the same success in Edmonton and has been again relegated to a backup position.

While it is exciting for the Oil to be in the position they’re in after years of futility, they face a stiff opponent this evening that will surely test their grit, as they head to Madison Square Garden to face the 18-9-4 New York Rangers, who currently own the third-best record in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  With their eyes on a deep playoff run, even though they’re currently riding a three-game losing skid (including a 5-4 OT loss in Calgary on Saturday), the Blueshirts employ a strong game on both ends of the ice.

Beginning with the offense, we find a team that has scored 89 goals this season (led by Mats Zuccarello’s 13), well exceeding the league average of 79.  I usually say that goals are a symptom of a high quantity of shots, which still holds true with the Rangers‘ 878 total shots (led by Rick Nash’s 88), but I think this is actually an instance of impeccable and opportunistic shooting accuracy, made evident by a whopping 10.1% of shots tickling the twine.

The Blueshirts are an imposing offense when evenly matched, but their power play has been especially strong, as they’ve scored the league average of 18 goals on 12 fewer attempts (21.69%).  While Edmonton‘s penalty kill may be good, it would be in the Oil‘s best interest to avoid going down a man as much as possible.

Of course, we cannot talk about Nash, Zuccarello and the offense without discussing 14-6-3 Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers‘ defense. They’ve given up only 70 goals this season, and saved 959 shots (well exceeding the league average) for a 93.1% save percentage.  But it’s not been just King Henrik, but also the defense, specifically Dan Girardi and his 70 blocks.  Unfortunately for him, one of those blocks cost him a knee, as he is currently dealing with swelling in that spot and listed as day-to-day.

Just like Edmonton, New York is also good on the penalty kill.  They’ve faced 100 penalties already this season, and only allowed 16 goals.  That 84% kill rate exceeds the league average by over 3%.

The Blueshirts and Oil have already met once this season, a 7-5 Edmonton victory last Friday in Rexall Place.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (34 points [tied for fourth in the league], +14 [tied for fifth in the league], 20 assists [tied for sixth in the league] and 14 goals [tied for eighth in the league]) and New York‘s Lundqvist (14 wins [tied for fourth in the league], .933 save percentage [tied for fourth in the league], two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league] and 2.14 GAA [ninth in the league]).

The Oilers may be hot and caught the Rangers on a long Canadian road trip last week, but I do not think they will be so fortunate in Madison Square Garden.  I expect the Rangers to easily take care of the Oil, potentially even shut them out, to break this losing skid.

December 14 – Day 68 – Trial by Fire

Yesterday’s Game of the Day was a Metropolitan beat-down, as the New York Islanders absolutely took it to the New Jersey Devils, winning on a four-goal shutout.

The game-winning goal belongs to First Star of the Game Marek Zidlicky, scored at the 7:43 mark of the opening period after being assisted by Mikhail Grabovski and Josh Bailey.  Third Star John Tavares notched the lone insurance goal of the first period at the 11:53 mark after being assisted by Kyle Okposo and Brock Nelson.

It was another two-goal period for the Isles in the second, with Matt Martin notching the first one at the 7:28 mark, with assists going to Casey Cizikas and Calvin de Haan.  Zidlicky snuck his second goal of the game, and the final tally of the night, at the 19:17 mark, with assists belonging to Thomas Hickey and Steve Bernier.  The 4-0 lead held not only  into the second intermission, but to the final horn.

Second Star Thomas Greiss (9-3-2) earned the shutout victory on 27 shots faced, while Cory Schneider (13-8-4) earns the loss after saving only 15 of 18 (83.3%).  He was pulled from the game after 27:28 (the third goal of the game), with Keith Kinkaid finishing up the remaining 32:32, saving 11 of 12 (91.7%).

Tomorrow’s schedule consists of five games, and the action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when three of them drop the opening puck (Edmonton at Boston [TVAS], Washington at Pittsburgh [NHLN] and Tampa Bay at Columbus), with the other two following only half an hour later (Los Angeles at Ottawa [RDS] and Buffalo at Detroit [Bell TV]).

Two of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Washington at Pittsburgh and Buffalo at Detroit), and only one is between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at Ottawa).  Then again, this information really doesn’t matter that much, as you probably knew which matchup is our Game of the Day today.

Washington Capitals LogoPittsburgh Penguins Logo

 

 

 

 

 

When Pittsburgh fired Head Coach Mike Johnston Saturday morning, you saw this one coming.  Johnston led the club to a 15-10-3 record so far this season (58-37-15 during his 110-game tenure), which has the Pens in fifth place in the division and ninth in the conference.

Even though Jim Rutherford went out and traded for Phil Kessel (nine goals [second-most on team]) as well as ascertained a few other offensive skaters, Johnston’s Penguins simply did not produce, which should take most of the blame for him being relieved of his duties.  So far this season, they’ve only scored 66 goals (led by Evgeni Malkin’s 13), but even more distressing is the 858 shots (led by Kessel’s 90) they’ve put on goal (trails the league average by 13).  While the number isn’t terribly under the league average, their 7.7% shot percentage speaks volumes, as it trails the league average by 1.2%.

Probably the biggest issue of Pittsburgh‘s game has been the power play.  They’ve scored only 15 goals (led by Malkin’s six) on 96 opportunities, for a 15.63% success rate that trails the league average by 3.49%.  One saving grace about the Pens‘ man-advantage has been that they have yet to give up a shorty all season.

What has kept Pittsburgh in the midst of the playoff hunt this season has been Marc-Andre Fleury (13-9-2) and the defense.  They’ve only given up 65 goals so far this season, a number that makes most teams jealous.  Not only have Fleury and co. saved 92.9% of the 887 shots they’ve faced this season, but they’ve also had Ian Cole’s team-leading 60 blocks to keep even more from reaching the net.

Even when a man-down, the Pens have still done well in keeping the opposition off the board.  They’ve only given up 15 power play goals on 95 attempts, saving a strong 84.21% of attempts.

Johnston’s replacement was found within the organization, albeit four hours up the road in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  Mike Sullivan had only been the head coach of the Baby Pens for this season, but he had led his AHL squad to a 19-5-0 record (best winning percentage in the league) and the top of the Atlantic Division.  In addition to playing 12 years of professional hockey (including part or all of 11 seasons in the NHL) he was head coach of the Boston Bruins for two seasons from 2003-’06 (04-’05 was the lockout) where he amassed a total record of 70-56-15-23.  He also coached the Vancouver Canucks for six games during the ’13-’14 season when John Tortorella was suspended, earning a 2-4-0 record.

Another indicator that management is expecting more goals scored is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton‘s offensive strength.  The Baby Penguins have scored 89 goals so far this season, a total that is second in the conference and third in the league, while being backed by the second-best defense and goaltending in the league.  Sullivan will be expected to enact that same game plan with the senior squad, especially since the defense is already present.

It will be trial by fire for Sullivan’s first game though, as he is going up against the division-leading and second-best in conference 20-6-2 Washington Capitals.  Washington plays a tough game on both ends of the ice, but their defense and goaltending has been their strongest asset this season and will be a good test for Sullivan’s new system.

So far this season, Washington has given up only 62 goals, thanks in part to Karl Alzner’s 62 blocks and Braden Holtby (18-4-1) and co.’s incredible play.  Of the 766 shots that have made their way to the net (102 fewer than the league average, but on two-less games), Holtby and Philipp Grubauer have saved 92.4%.  Even when down a man, the Caps have still kept the opposition off the board 83.54% of the time, giving up only 13 tallies.

The offense has been no joke either, as they’ve put 854 shots (led by Alex Ovechkin’s 138) on goal so far this season for 83 tallies (9.7%), led by Ovechkin’s 14.  Probably the scariest facet of Washington‘s game is the power play, as they’ve scored on 21 of 90 opportunities (23.33%), led by Ovechkin’s four.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Pittsburgh‘s Fleury (13 wins [tied for fifth in the league], two shutouts [tied for seventh in the league] and .927 save percentage [eighth in the league]) and Washington‘s Holtby (18 wins [leads the league], 1.9 GAA [leads the league] and .93 save percentage [tied for sixth in the league]), Evgeny Kuznetsov (+15 [tied for second in the league]) and Ovechkin (14 goals [tied for seventh in the league]).

Based on the stats alone, Pittsburgh‘s weak offense should not be able to keep up with Washington‘s, but it is always hard to tell how a team will react to a new coach.  Unlike the first coaching change of the year in Columbus (which, interestingly, involved the coach he replaced in Vancouver), I think this one was a good move by management that will hopefully yield positive results for an organization that intends to be a part of the playoff discussion.

December 13 – Day 67 – No Sleep Till Brooklyn!

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Boston Bruins defended home ice by beating the Florida Panthers 3-1.

First Star of the Game Ryan Spooner accounted for the first tally of the game at the 11:35 mark of the opening period.  He was assisted by Torey Krug, his 14th helper of the season.

Spooner was also responsible for the eventual game-winning goal, which came on a power play at the 8:00 mark of the second.  Third Star Patrice Bergeron notched his first of two assists on the afternoon, as well as David Krejci.

Florida began to mount a comeback with a goal at the 13:56 mark of the final period, compliments of ex-BruinReilly Smith, assisted by Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Pirri.  As they could not earn another opportunity, the Panthers pulled their goalie in the final minutes, which led to the final Bruin tally via Brad Marchand, assisted by Bergeron.

Second Star Tuukka Rask (11-7-3) saved 27 of 28 (96.4%) to earn his 11th victory of the season, while Roberto Luongo (10-11-3) saved 22 of 24 (91.7%) in the loss.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 22-9-5, favoring the home side by 19 points.

Per usual, this Sunday’s load is one of the lightest of the week.  A total of three games are being played today, with the action getting started at 5 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits the New York Islanders.  An hour later, the puck drops in the Scottrade Center when Colorado visits St. Louis.  The evening’s nightcap gets an early start, as Vancouver and Chicago (NHLN/TVAS/SN) get started at 7 p.m. eastern in the United Center.

Two of today’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at New York and Colorado at St. Louis) and two are between current playoff qualifiers (New Jersey at New York and Vancouver at Chicago).  The one that qualifies for both is today’s Game of the Day:

New Jersey Devils LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is New Jersey‘s second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series.  Their only other appearance was a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blueshirts on Oct. 18.  Due to the hiatus I was forced into, this is New York‘s first appearance in the Game of the Day series.

15-10-4 Jersey enters today’s game after beating Detroit 3-2 in overtime Friday night.  They are a defensive-minded team, a strategy that is currently earning them the second wild card position in the eastern conference.

So far this season, 13-7-4 Cory Schneider and the Devils have only allowed 68 goals, a total that is well below the league average of 77.  Although Schneider and co. have played well this season, their strength has been found by only allowing 824 shots to reach him, thanks to Adam Larsson’s team-leading 56 blocks.  Even when a man-down, the Devils have still done well in preventing the opposition from scoring.  Jersey has only allowed 18 goals on 100 attempts this season, giving them a 82% kill rate that exceeds the league average by 1.15%.

Offensively, things have gone a little slower for the Devils so far this season, as they’ve only notched 72 tallies before today, led by 13-a-piece from Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri.  This is only a symptom of their real problem, though, which is shots.  They have only 748 attempts to their credit (led by Mike Cammalleri’s 84), well below the league average of 853.

The component of their offense that has kept Jersey relevant this season has been their power play.  22 of their 72 goals have come with a man-advantage (led by Palmieri’s five), even if it did take 103 attempts (10 more than the league average).

17-8-5 New York is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-2 victory in Columbus yesterday.  Although the Isles have been strong on both ends of the ice, their strong suit has been their defensive efforts, which is currently earning them the third division spot in the Metropolitan Division.

So far this season, 15-8-4 Jaroslav Halak and New York has given up only 68 goals.  Especially significant about this effort compared to New Jersey‘s comparable 68 is that Halak and co. have faced 852 shots – 28 more than Schneider and the Devils.  Pair strong goalkeeping with a team-leading 78 blocks from Calvin de Haan, and you find a strong defensive side.  New York‘s penalty kill has also been very strong, as they’ve killed 85.39% of all man-advantages, allowing only 13 goals.

Offensively, the Isles have scored 79 goals so far this season (led by John Tavares’ 12 tallies).  Just as Jersey‘s low goal total is an indicator of not many shots, the Isles‘ higher goal total is a symptom of more shots on goal – 854, to be exact (led by Frans Nielsen’s 80).

An intriguing facet of New York‘s game is their power play.  They have found great success so far this season, scoring 16 times (led by three-a-piece from Josh Bailey and Tavares), but on only 76 opportunities.  I must admit, I have not watched much of New York this season, so I do not know if teams are purposefully avoiding the box as much as possible when playing the Isles, or if the Islanders aren’t doing enough to draw penalties.  Regardless, New York needs to find a way to get on the man-advantage more often since it is such a strength of theirs.

Some players to watch in this afternoon’s game include New Jersey‘s Cammalleri (30 points [tied for eighth in the league] and +12 [tenth in the league]) and Schneider (13 wins [tied for fifth in the league], 2.09 GAA [eighth in the league] and .926 save percentage [10th in the league]), and New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.928 save percentage [seventh in the league]).

I believe the Isles will defend home ice for the victory this afternoon, mostly because I think New York‘s defense can handle New Jersey‘s offense, but the Devils will not have an answer for the Isles‘ offensive efforts.

December 12 – Day 66 – The Return of Smith and Savard

The insurance goal in a 2-0 shutout may not always be the most important goal, but it was last night when Chicago beat Winnipeg in the United Center.

The winning goal was scored quickly, when First Star of the Game Jonathan Toews, assisted by Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw, scored at the 4:34 mark on their first power play opportunity of the contest.

The aforementioned insurance goal did not come until the 10:36 mark of the second period on another Winnipegpenalty.  Teuvo Teravainen and David Rundblad assisted, you guessed it, Second Star Patrick Kane to his 25th-straight point.  This point tied him with Sidney Crosby’s own 25-point streak during the 2010-’11 season.

Second Star Corey Crawford (14-7-2) earned his third shutout and 14th win of the season by saving all 25 shots faced, while Connor Hellebuyck (4-1-0) earned the first loss of his career by saving 29 of 31 (93.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 21-9-5, favoring the home squad by 17 points.

Per usual, today’s Saturday schedule is a busy one, with 20 teams in action.  The action gets started early in the TD Garden when Boston hosts Florida at 1 p.m. eastern (SN1).  Four games are getting started at the typical 7 p.m. eastern (Los Angeles at Buffalo [Bell TV], Ottawa at Montréal [CBC/TVAS], Washington at Tampa Bay [NHLN] and the New York Islanders at Columbus).  The next games don’t get started until an hour later at 8 p.m. eastern (Dallas at St. Louis and Colorado at Nashville), followed an hour later by Carolina at Arizona.  The New York Rangers and Calgary drop the puck at 10 p.m. eastern (CBC), with the final game of the evening, Minnesota at San Jose, getting started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Five of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Florida at Boston, Ottawa at Montréal, New York at Columbus, Dallasat St. Louis and Colorado at Nashville), and three are between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Ottawa at Montréal, Dallas at St. Louis and Minnesota at San Jose).

Today marks the first game back in the TD Garden for Reilly Smith, so let’s head to Boston for their afternoon matinee with the B’s.

Unknown-2Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

The Boston Bruins traded Reilly Smith to the Florida Panthers this off-season in exchange for Jimmy Hayes.  During his two seasons in Boston, he was a consistent offensive threat as he ranked top-five in goals and top-six in assists in both campaigns.  He was especially important in Boston‘s special teams unit as well, as he notched a total of 18 power play assists, including 10 last season.

So far this season, Smith ranks first in power play goals (three); third in goals (seven); fourth in shots (55); fifth in points (14); and sixth in assists (seven), +/- (+1) and hits (40), and has been an integral addition to a Panthersquad that has intentions of playing hockey instead of golf this April.

Maybe more significant than Smith returning to the Garden this afternoon is not so much his presence, but the presence of a man he also represents.  Smith was not the only contract that Florida has taken on – they are also currently paying Marc Savard’s salary.  Savard hasn’t stepped foot on the ice since the 2010-’11 Stanley Cup Championship season, and it is almost 100% certain that he never will again due to post-concussion syndrome.

During his playing days in Boston, he played a total of 304 games, scoring 74 goals (25 in 2008-’09) and 231 assists (74 in 2006-’07) for 305 total points (96 in ’06-’07).  Just like Smith, he represented a strong force on Boston‘s power play team as he notched a total of 29 goals (10 in ’06-’07) and 102 assists (39 in ’06-’07).

Currently, Florida sits outside the playoff picture, trailing Boston by only a lone point for the second wild card spot.  They play a strong defensive game with a resurgent Roberto Luongo in net.

Luongo (10-10-3) and co. have only given up 70 goals so far this season, a total that trails the league average by seven tallies.  Especially impressive about this is that 866 shots have found their way to goal, which exceeds the league average of 849, and the goalies have combined for a 92.4% save percentage.

Offensively, the Panthers have notched a total of 72 tallies on 824 shots (8.7%), led by Jaromir Jagr’s nine goals.

The opposition will test that defense, as they like to play a very strong offensive game.  So far this season, the Boston Bruins have scored 87 goals, led by Brad Marchand’s 13 tallies.  What’s most impressive about this high number is they are doing it on much fewer shots, made evident by the strong 10.7% shooting percentage.

Especially potent has been the Bruins‘ power play.  A total of 23 goals have been scored with the man-advantage (led by Loui Eriksson’s six tallies).  While that 23 is good, it’s made even better when it’s presented next to the lowly 77 penalties committed against the Bruins.  For those of you not doing that math, the Bruins are scoring on 29.87% of their power play opportunities.  The Panthers would be very wise to avoid the box at all costs.

Defensively, the Bruins are still a force to be reckoned with.  Although the defense and Tuukka Rask (10-7-3) started slowly this year, they’ve given up only 75 goals so far this season.  The 783 shots that Torey Krug doesn’t block (47 so far this season) have been saved 90.9% of the time.

The biggest shortcoming of this defense has been their penalty killing abilities.  Boston has given teams 103 opportunities, and has been scored on 22 times.  That 78.64% kill rate needs to improve if Boston wants to get out of a wild card position and as far away as possible from their division-leading rivals.

Some players to keep an eye on in today’s game include Boston‘s Rask (three shutouts [tied for second in the league]) and Florida‘s Aaron Ekblad (80 shots, +7, and two game-winners [all lead team])

I think Boston‘s offense will be too much to handle for Florida‘s defense, so I predict that the Bruins will have the potential to move into the third division spot should Montréal beat Ottawa this evening.

December 11 – Day 65 – Which fly higher, Jets or Hawks?

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Nashville Predators exacted revenge on the team that beat them a couple days ago by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1.  They may have scored two goals in the third period, but for most of the game they road the success of the three goals in the first 20 minutes.

Second Star of the Game James Neal opened the scoring late in the seventh minute of the first period after being assisted by Shea Weber and Mike Ribeiro.  Nashville doubled their lead almost nine minutes later exactly, which came to be the game-winner, when Third Star Craig Smith, assisted by Viktor Arvidsson (his first assist of the season), slid a backhand past Scott Darling.  Nashville‘s final goal of the period was scored  at the 16:33 mark during a power play when Filip Forsberg flipped a wrister into the net after being assisted by Roman Josi and Calle Jarnkrok.  The 3-0 lead held not into the first intermission, but also the second.

Patrick Kane scored the lone goal of the evening for the Hawks and extended his point streak to 24 straight games in the sixth minute of the third period after being assisted by Duncan Keith, the 350th helper of his regular-season career.  Neal scored his second of the night almost 10 minutes later, unassisted.  The final goal of the game was a short-handed empty netter, fired by Eric Nystrom, to set the score at the 5-1 final.

First Star Pekka Rinne (12-7-5) earned the victory after saving 36 of 37 shots faced (97.3%), while Chicagokeeper Darling (2-3-2) takes the loss after stopping only 29 of 33 (87.9%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 20-9-5, still favoring the home squad by 15 points.

The hockey weekend gets started this Friday evening with seven matchups on the schedule.  The first two games get started at 7 p.m. eastern (Detroit at New Jersey and Los Angeles at Pittsburgh [SN1 and TVAS2]), followed 90 minutes later by two more games (Winnipeg at Chicago and Philadelphia at Dallas).  Beginning at 9 p.m. are Minnesota and Arizona, followed half an hour later by the New York Rangers visiting Edmonton.  Finally, Carolinavisits Anaheim for this evening’s nightcap, which gets started at 10 p.m. eastern.

Winnipeg at Chicago is the only divisional matchup of the evening, while Los Angeles at Pittsburgh represents the only game between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs tonight.  A divisional matchup is always fun, so we’ll head back to the United Center with the Hawks and catch them playing the Jets.

Unknown-3Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winnipeg enters the game after beating Columbus 6-4 at the MTS Centre last night.  Mathieu Perreault was responsible for the eventual game winner at the 7:36 mark of the third, although Cam Atkinson did all he could by scoring two goals to get within a tally of the high-flying Jets before Blake Wheeler notched an empty netter.

So far this season, the Jets have had to rely on a strong offense to compensate for poor play on the other end of the ice, which may explain why they are currently sitting outside the playoff picture.

That offense has notched 82 goals so far this season (led by Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler’s 10 goals each), eight tallies over the league average.  What’s surprising about this success has been that the Jetshave only shot the puck 814 times (led by Dustin Byfuglien’s 93), a number that trails the league average.  Due to that though, Winnipeg‘s 9.3% shooting percentage exceeds that of the league average.

Another oddity about Winnipeg‘s offensive success is it hasn’t relied on the power play.  The Jets have only notched 14 goals on 89 opportunities, giving them a 15.73% that trails the league average by almost 3.5%.

The strong offense has been necessary for the 89 goals given up this season by Ondrej Pavelec (5-6-1) and co.  Even though Jacob Trouba has 57 blocks to his credit, 844 shots have still made it to net, of which a reasonable 91.1% have been saved.  Should the Jets want to make a playoff push this season, they will need to find another defender to strengthen the blue line.

As the Hawks were just featured yesterday, you can read an analysis of their game here.

The Jets and Hawks have played twice so far this season, with both earning a victory on their home ice.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (13 wins [tied for fourth in league] and two shutouts [tied for sixth in the league]) & Kane (44 points [leads league], 26 assists [tied for league lead] and 18 goals [second in league]) and Winnipeg‘s Wheeler (28 points [tenth in league]).

Although Chicago lost and Winnipeg won last night, I do not think that Winnipeg will be able to stop Kane in the United Center.  Expect Chicago to win and Kane’s streak to continue another game.

December 10 – Day 64 – Return from hiatus

Hello again friends!

As you may have noticed, I was forced into a month long writing hiatus due to a major project for school, for which I am extremely sorry.  For those that care, you will be pleased to know that (1) I completed my senior project and (2) I think it went marvelously!  Due to that, I may be a little rusty in delivering my Game of the Day, and I hope you forgive me as I work out the rust.

That being said, there’s been a lot of hockey happening between then and now, and I’m not in the ‘Hockey in the Last Month’ business.  Let’s take a look at what today’s Game of the Day is!

Tonight’s schedule includes a total of seven games, with three (Montréal at Detroit [RDS], Ottawa at Tampa Bay[RDS2] and Washington at Florida) beginning at 7:30 p.m. eastern.  Three games get started half an hour later (Philadelphia at St. Louis, Chicago at Nashville and Columbus at Winnipeg), followed an hour later by Buffalo at Calgary (SN360), tonight’s nightcap.

Three of tonight’s matchups are divisional (Montréal at Detroit, Ottawa at Tampa Bay and Chicago at Nashville), while two are between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Montréal at Detroit and Chicago at Nashville).  Since one of last year’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals was between Chicago and Nashville, we’ll focus in on Bridgestone Arena.

Unknown-2Unknown

Currently, Chicago lays claim to the final divisional spot in the Central Division’s playoff bracket and fourth place in the Western Conference with a 15-9-4 record (34 points).  They are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their last game being a 4-1 victory against these same Predators in the United Center only two days ago.

So far this season, Chicago has employed strong play on both sides of the ice.  By pairing four more goals scored than the league average with four goals against than the league average, the Hawks have moved their way past the Preds and Wild into the third divisional spot.

An especially strong point of the offense has been the all-important power play.  Chicago has scored 20 power play goals (led by Patrick Kane) so far this season (three more than the league average), as well as earned two more opportunities than the league average.  Both of these numbers combine to yield the Hawks a 21.98% power play rate, which exceeds the league average by almost 2.75%.

Even when down a man, Chicago has been better than the rest of the NHL.  So far this season, they’ve tallied three shorties (two of which belong to Artem Anisimov), which leads the league average by a goal.

While all of these goals are great, the real reason the Blackhawks have been successful has been their forwards putting pucks on goal.  They’ve registered a total of 851 shots so far this season (98 of which belong to Kane), which leads the league average by 35 shots.  Because of this, their 9.2% shot percentage slightly exceeds the league average.

On the other end of the ice,  Corey Crawford (13-7-2) and co. have kept a few more goals out  of net than their average league counterpart – four, to be exact.  Aided by Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 53 blocks, they’ve only allowed 70 goals so far this season by saving 91.6%of the 826 shots they’ve faced.

On the other end of the ice is a 14-9-5 Nashville team that currently occupies the lesser of the two wildcard positions.  Nashville‘s game has focused more so on the defensive end of the ice, but they’ve been struggling of late to keep the puck out of the back of their own net, made evident by the 13 goals they’ve given up in their last four games played.

As it currently stands, Pekka Rinne (11-7-5) and co. have given up 74 goals, exactly the league average.  One of the main reasons this number has been so high, especially on a goalie as strong as Rinne, has been the lack of success on the penalty kill.  22 of Nashville‘s goals against have come when a man down, even though they’ve given up three less opportunities than the average NHL team.  Due to this, their kill rate is below the 80.74% league average, which is only hurting this team’s chances of being a strong force in the Central Division and the Western Conference as a whole.

Offensively, there’s been a lot of bad puck luck happening to the Predators this year.  They’ve put 881 shots on net so far this season (led by James Neal’s 89), well over the league average, but they only have 71 goals to show for their efforts (led by Neal’s 10 tallies).  One of the main things keeping Nashville together this season has been their success on the power play.  So far this season, the Predators have notched 20 power play goals (led by Shea Weber’s eight tallies) on only 86 attempts, giving them a strong success rate of 20.83%.

Tonight’s game between these two squads is the second in a five-game season series.  Game 1 just occurred only a couple days ago.  That game witnessed the Hawks taking a 4-1 victory at the United Center, with Andrew Shaw notching the game-winner on a power play during the 15th minute of the second period, assisted by Teuvo Teravainen and David Rundblad.  A total of seven Blackhawks were mentioned on the score sheet that night, and they will intend to do the same in Nashville this evening.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Chicago‘s Crawford (13 wins [tied for fourth in the league] and two shutouts [tied for sixth in the league]), Kane (43 points [leads the league], 26 assists [leads the league], 17 goals [second in the league] and +13 [tied for sixth in the league]) and Artemi Panarin (19 assists [tied for seventh in the league] and 28 points [tied for eighth in the league]) and Nashville‘s Roman Josi (79 blocks, 21 points, 14 assists and one shorty [all stats lead team]), Neal (89 shots and 10 goals [both lead team]) and Weber (64 hits and eight power play goals [both lead team]).

Even though Nashville has been a much better home team than road team this season, I still expect Chicago to win this matchup, mostly (1) because of the way Nashville has been skidding recently (3-5-2 in their last 10 games played) and (2) my belief that Chicago is simply the better team so far this season.

(Brief hiatus because Connor had to finish working on his Capstone- yay college!)

November 9 – Day 34 – Out of Necessity, Vol. 3

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings ended pretty close to how I think many expected it to, as the Stars won 4-1.

Dallas didn’t wait too long to get their first score on the board.  Assisted by First Star of the Game John Klingberg and Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp scored a power play goal only 7:22 into the game.  The eventual game winner was scored almost eight minutes later (7:57, to be precise) by Valeri Nichushkin (his first of the year) after being assisted by Third Star Jordie Benn and Jyrki Jokipakka.  With only 27 seconds remaining in the period, Detroit got back within a goal after Second Star Gustav Nyquist notched a power play tally, assisted by Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green.  The 2-1 score held well into the third period before things started falling apart in the Joe.

Only down a goal, Detroit pulled goaltender Petr Mrazek (Jimmy Howard started, but took a knee to the head at the 7:09 mark of the third), but Seguin, assisted by Sharp and Klingberg, made the Wings pay with an empty netter at the 18:52 mark.  Seventeen seconds later, Vernon Fiddler sent a puck over the glass, giving the Wings a power play, so they again pulled Mrazek to have a two-man advantage.  Yet once again, it was the Stars who scored, as Jamie Benn assisted Cody Eakin to a shorthanded empty netter, Dallas‘ fourth goal of the evening.

Kari Lehtonen improved his record to 6-1-0 after saving 21 of 22 (95.5%), while Howard’s record falls to 3-3-1 after saving 20 of 22 (90.9%).  Since the final two Stars goals were empty netters, Petr Mrazek technically shut Dallas out in his 11:06 played after saving both shots he faced, earning a no-decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-9-5, favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

If you’ve been following along with us all season, you already know what’s coming based on the title of this post.  There’s a whopping… *insert_drumroll_here.mp3*… one game being played tonight!  *insert_cymbal_crash_and_cool_instrumental_vamp_here.mp3*  Yes, the entire attention of the NHL will be turned to The Pond tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Arizona Coyotes at 10 p.m. eastern.

Arizona_Coyotes.svgUnknown

 

 

 

This is Arizona‘s first appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, while Anaheim is making their third.  The last time they were featured, they fell in overtime in the United Center after playing all of regulation to a scoreless tie.

The 6-6-1 Arizona Coyotes enter tonight’s game in fourth place in the Pacific Division and 10th place in the Western Conference.  Their most recent game was a 4-1 thumping from the New York Rangers at Gila River Arena on Saturday.  So far this season, the Coyotes have been a better defensive team, but both ends of the ice are still sub-par in comparison to the rest of the league.

One of the few things Arizona has gotten right all season has been keeping opposing shots off Mike Smith.  Led by Zbynek Michalek’s  26 blocks, only 395 shots have required a save.  The defense may continue to be asked for more though, as Smith and his backup, Anders Lindback, have saved only 90.6% of those shots combined, allowing 38 goals so far this season.

That being said, the penalty kill has been fairly successful this season.  On 50 opposing attempts, only eight goals have been scored, giving them a 84% kill rate that exceeds the league average by a decent bit (2.81% as of Sunday morning).

On the other end, the offense has only put 371 shots on goal (led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 45), of which only 35 have completed their journey in the back of the net.

A major shortcoming of the Coyotes‘ is their power play.  Although they’ve earned a considerable 53 attempts, they’ve only managed to score six times.  That power play rate of 11.32% is made even worse due to the fact that the Coyotes have allowed a whopping four shorthanded goals already this year.  The special teams need to be a point of focus should Arizona want to take advantage of a weak division.

The 5-7-2 Anaheim Ducks enter the game on a four-game win streak, last beating the San Jose Sharks 1-0 in The Tank on Saturday.  They currently sit at fifth in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference, and are beginning to resemble the Ducks we expected to see this season.

Defense, specifically goaltending, has been the name of the game in Anaheim, as they’ve only allowed 33 goals so far this season.  Even though Frederik Andersen and his backup, Anton Khudobin, have faced 442 shots combined, they’ve saved a strong 93% of those attempts.  Add that in with Kevin Bieksa’s 28 blocks, and you find a team that plays as sound a defense as possible.

Even on the penalty kill, the Ducks have found ways to keep the opposition off the board.  On 48 attempts, opponents have scored only four power play goals.  If you’re doing the math in your head, the number you’ve come to is not wrong: the Ducks are killing 91.67% of their penalties, a rate that exceeds the league average by over 10%.

The offense has had a tough time getting started this year, as they’ve only managed 393 shots so far (led by Jakob Silfverberg’s 32, even though he has yet to score).  They’ve scored on 5.3% of those attempts for a measly 22 goals, but half of those goals have come during their four-game win streak, which should probably make their division rivals a little worried.

A spot where Anaheim still needs to improve is the power play.  On 42 attempts, only five pucks have found the back of the net for a lowly 11.9% success rate.  Again, it seems like Anaheim has finally started getting their skates under them, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see these numbers begin to climb in the next few weeks.

Last season, the Ducks won the season series 3-0-2, but were only 1-0-1 at the Honda Center.

Some players to watch in this one include Anaheim‘s Andersen (.935 save percentage [seventh in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tenth in the league]) and Arizona‘s Martin Hanzal (12 assists [tied for fifth in the league]).

Based on the statistics, their current winning streak, and the fact that they’re playing at home, I expect the Anaheim Ducks to take care of business in this one and move into fourth place in the division.

November 8 – Day 33 – Big D heads to The D

In last night’s Game of the Day, the Montréal Canadiens extended their winning streak to six regular season games over the Boston Bruins by beating them 4-2.

The Bruins put up a good fight, as they twice owned a lead in this one.  Their first came at the 1:50 mark of the first period when Loui Eriksson, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Spooner, scored a power play goal (yes, that early in the game.  I mean, we are talking about Boston–Montréal).  Their one-goal lead held into the first intermission.

Just as quickly as Boston took the lead in the first, Montréal scored in the second to level the game at one-all.  It was another power play goal, this one scored by Tomas Plekanec, after being assisted by Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban, scored at the 1:09 mark.  The Bruins took offense to that, as Frank Vatrano (a kid who no doubt grew up wearing the Black and Gold) scored the first goal of his NHL career 7:42 later, assisted by Colin Miller and David Krejci.  Boston again took their one-goal lead into the intermission.

While the shots totals of the third period are close to even, all the scoring belonged to the Habs, who notched three tallies to seal the victory.  Assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller tied the game at two at the 8:58 mark.  The tie held until only 1:08 remained on the clock, when Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov assisted David Desharnais to the game-winning power play goal.  A lone insurance goal was scored 20 seconds later on an empty net by Max Pacioretty, assisted by Gallagher.

Backup turned short-term starter Mike Condon has yet to lose a game in regulation after seven appearances (6-0-1) and saved 29 of 31 (93.5%) tonight.  Jonas Gustavsson’s record falls to 3-1-0 after saving 29 of 32 (90.625%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-8-5, favoring the homers by 15 points over the roadies.

As is typical, especially at this point in the season, Sunday’s schedule is a much lighter load than Saturday’s.  The action gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits Detroit, followed a couple hours later when Vancouvervisits New Jersey and Boston (TVAS) visits the New York Islanders.  The nightcap is an early one, featuring Edmonton at Chicago (NHL Network/SN) at 8 p.m. eastern.

Not only are none of today’s matchups between divisional rivals, only two are between teams both in the same conference (Bruins–Islanders and Oilers–Blackhawks), and only the Stars–Wings matchup features teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The only one that really intrigues me is Dallas–Detroit, so I’m making the executive decision to watch that game.

CJhyiLmKUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas is making only their second appearance on the DtFR Game of the Day series – their first was a three-goal shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins to open their season.  Detroit was just featured for their second time Friday when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 2-1.

The 11-3-0 Dallas Stars currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and trail only the Montréal Canadiens for the lead in the entire NHL.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.  The Stars‘ stars (yeah, I just wrote that.  I think I need to apologize) have been on the offensive end of the ice, where they’ve scored a whopping 50 goals so far this season, led by Captain Jamie Benn’s 10 tallies.  The reason for his and his team’s scoring success?  They’re putting a bunch of pucks on net – 437, to be exact (led by Tyler Seguin’s 61), and scoring 11.4% of the time.

Thirteen of those goals have been on the power play, another spot where Dallas shines.  On 45 opportunities, they’ve scored 28.89% of the time.  Although that is a good number, they are going up against a strong penalty kill in the Detroit Red Wings, so this will be a good test of their special teams.

Not only does the Stars‘ defense pale in comparison to their offense, but it also trails the league average in a few categories.  First-year Alternate Captain Alex Goligoski may have 26 blocks to his credit, but 428 shots are still making it to Antti Niemi and co.  Combined, the two goaltenders have saved 91.1%.  The Stars have also not done a very good job of defending against the penalty.  On 41 opposing attempts, nine goals have found the back of the net (78.05% kill rate).  To their credit, the Stars do have two shorties to help defray that poor percentage, but a team cannot rely on shorthanded goals with any regularity.  Luckily, Detroit‘s power play is not extremely successful, so they should be able to keep a good handle on things.

Their opposition, the 7-5-1 Detroit Red Wings, currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.  They enter today’s game on a three-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 overtime victory against the Leafs on Friday.

They’ve employed a defensive-mindset to get where they are this season, as they’ve allowed only 32 goals so far this season.  Especially strong has been the goaltending, as Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have faced a total of 419 shots so far this season, and saved 93.1% of them.  As hinted at before, they’ve even been good on the penalty kill, only giving up eight goals on 48 attempts (83.33% kill rate) so far this year.

On the other hand, the offense has not done the defense any favors.  Just as the defense has only given up 32 goals, the offense has only scored 32 goals (led by Gustav Nyquist’s five).  Part of the problem has been that they aren’t putting many shots on goal.  330 shots (25.4 per game) simply does not cut it in this league, even if they are scoring on 9.7% of those attempts.  A point of emphasis for the Wings in practice should be on the power play, where they’ve scored eight goals on 45 attempts (17.78%).  Until this number and their shot rate improves, the Wings cannot be thought of as a serious threat for the Cup.

Last year, the Wings swept Dallas in both meetings by a combined score of 12-8.

Some players to watch in today’s game includes Dallas‘ Benn (10 goals [leads the league] and 20 points [second in the league]), John Klingberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]) and Seguin (21 points [leads the league], 13 assists [tied for lead in the league] and eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]) & Detroit‘s Howard (2.01 GAA [tied for eighth in the league] and .934 save percentage [ninth in the league]), Dylan Larkin (+12 [leads the league]) and Henrik Zetterberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

Although Detroit is slightly favored at -105, I expect Dallas to win this one because of Detroit‘s inability to put much pressure on goaltenders.

November 7 – Day 32 – Let’s watch THAT rivalry

It may have taken overtime, but the Detroit Red Wings improved their record to 7-5-1 after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Assisted by Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg scored the Wings‘ lone regulation goal at the 16:21 mark of the first period from the blue line, the lone goal through both intermissions.

Detroit fans were apparently starting to think the ‘S-word’ too early, as Tyler Bozak and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau assisted Dion Phaneuf to score on Petr Mrazek with only 1:02 remaining to tie the game.

Jakub Kindl, assisted by Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar, fired the game winner over James Reimer’s glove shoulder at 2:17 mark of overtime to seal the victory for the Wings.

Mrazek’s record improves to 4-3-0 after saving 32 of 33 (97%), while Reimer’s record falls to 2-2-2 after saving 22 of 24 (91.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-5, still favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday (aren’t they all, though?) in the best hockey league in the world, and the action gets an early start at 1 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Buffalo (SN).  After that game finishes, our attention turns to the Staples Center, where Los Angeles hosts Florida at 4 p.m. eastern.  Following the completion of that game, the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features four matchups (Boston at Montréal [NHL Network/TVAS/SN], Toronto at Washington [CBC], Ottawa at Carolina [SN1/TVAS2] and Philadelphia at Winnipeg).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two more opening puck drops (St. Louis at Nashville and Tampa Bay at Minnesota), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Arizona.  10 p.m. witnesses the beginning of the Pittsburgh at Calgary game (CBC/SN), followed half an hour later by the evening’s nightcap: Anaheim at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Bruins–Canadiens, Blues–Predators and Ducks–Sharks), and two are being contested by two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Blues–Predators and Lightning–Wild).

I’m torn between the Blues–Predators and Bruins–Canadiens, but given the heated, historical rivalry between the second pair, that has to be where we direct our attention tonight.

UnknownUnknown

 

 

 

 

This is Boston‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their opponent, the Habs, have been featured four times before tonight and have won all of their appearances.

The 6-5-1 Boston Bruins enter tonight’s game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent occurring Thursday in Washington, where they fell 4-1.  It was their first result on the road that wasn’t a victory, as they opened the season winning five straight games away from the TD Garden.  They currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.

It has been the B‘s offense that has been paying dividends this season, as they’ve had to cover up mistakes on the other end of the ice.  Although they’ve only notched 365 shots so far this season (led by Patrice Bergeron’s 37), they’ve scored 43 goals (with David Krejci accounting for seven) – giving them a cool 11.8% shooting percentage.  Especially potent has been the power play, as the man-advantage has accounted for 14, or 32.6%, of those goals (Bergeron has four to his credit).  Although the Habs are pretty good at killing penalties, they may want to avoid that as much as possible tonight (then again, if we know anything about this rivalry, the chances of that happening are slim to none).

As stated before, the offense has needed to be that good to make up for the sub-par play on the other end.  Kevan Miller has tried to do the best he can blocking shots (he leads the team with 21), but 326 have still reached Tuukka Rask (3-5-1, 87.9%) and co., of which only 88.7% have been saved.  That results is quite a few goals scored against Boston, 40 to be exact, and that rate gets much lower when down a man.  On 44 power play attempts for the opposition, the Bruins have been scored on 13 times, meaning they’ve only stopped 70.45%.

The 12-2-1 Montréal Canadiens enter tonight’s game atop the NHL by three points.  Their most recent game was Thursday when they beat the Islanders 4-1.  The Canadiens are a strong team on both ends of the ice and have firmly established themselves as early favorites after only a month of play.

Their offense has put 458 shots on net (led by Max Pacioretty’s 50), with 12% of those attempts ending up behind the opposing goaltender.  Yes, your math is correct: that’s 55 tallies (of which Dale Weise owns eight), a total that exceeds the league average by 20 scores.  Although not as strong as Boston‘s, Montréal‘s power play has been good in their own right as the Habs have scored on 13 of 52 (25%) attempts, led by Brendan Gallagher’s four goals.  Paired with the Bruins‘ penalty kill, the Canadiens‘ power play could be extremely potent tonight.

On the other end of the ice, the Canadiens have given up 2.25 goals per game (27 total).  Of the shots Andrei Markov doesn’t stop (he has 29 blocks so far this season), Carey Price (7-2-0, 93.6%) and co. have saved 93.8% of the 436 shots they’ve faced this season, allowing only 27 goals.  Even when facing a power play, they’ve played stellar, as they’ve only given up five goals on 49 attempts (89.8%).  This stat will be put to the test as they are facing the Bruins‘ fantastic power play.

In their first of five meetings, the Habs beat Boston at the TD Garden 4-2, with Lars Eller scoring twice in that game.  Last season, Montréal swept Boston in the season series 4-0-0, adding to their all-time record of 461-342-103 over the Bruins.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Krejci (15 points [tied for sixth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]) and Montréal‘s Mike Condon (1.5 GAA [leads the league] and .941 save percentage [second in the league]), Gallagher (+9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Markov (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Pacioretty (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]), Tomas Plekanec (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and 14 points [tied for ninth in the league]), P.K. Subban (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +11 [tied for second in the league]) & Weise (eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]).

Montréal is favored at -140 in tonight’s game, but I’m not convinced that it will be that easy, especially if the Bruins can get under the Habs‘ skin and earn more than their fair-share of penalties while also avoiding going a man-down themselves.

November 6 – Day 31 – Hooray, it’s a divisional rivalry…

The Minnesota Wild tried valiantly to level score with a two-man advantage, but were unable to put their third tally past First Star of the Game Pekka Rinne and fell 3-2 to the Nashville Predators.

The Predators waited 36:06 before opening the evening’s scoring.  Mike Fisher earned the honors after taking an assist from Shea Weber and firing a snap shot past Dubnyk.  That score lit a fire under the Wild though, as Second Star Marco Scandella scored a power play goal, assisted by Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu, only 1:30 later to level the score, which held into the second intermission.

It may have taken over half an hour for Nashville to score their first goal, but it only took 12 seconds into the third period to score their second, notched by Third Star Roman Josi.  Minnesota leveled the score again 6:39 later when Matt Dumba fired a power play slapshot after being assisted by Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker.  The final goal of the evening was Cody Hodgson’s first of the season, scored at the 14:39 mark.

Minnesota‘s Devan Dubnyk earned his third loss of the season (7-3-1 overall) after saving 21 of 24 (87.5%) while Nashville‘s Pekka Rinne saved 27 of 29 (93.1%) to improve his record to 7-1-2.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-4, favoring the home squad by 14 points.  Minnesota‘s perfect record in the Game of the Day series falls to 3-1-0, while Nashville earned their first win in their first appearance.

Today’s schedule features six matchups, so it’s a slight break before Saturday.  Detroit at Toronto (TVAS), Chicagoat New Jersey and Dallas at Carolina all begin the festivities at 7 p.m. eastern.  Beginning at 9 p.m. eastern are two more games (the New York Rangers at Colorado and Pittsburgh at Edmonton [SN]), followed an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Columbus at Anaheim.

The Wings–Leafs game is the only divisional rivalry being played tonight, and there are no games between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  Although this matchup has already been featured this season, we’ll watch Round Two of the Babcock Series.

Unknown-1Unknown-3

An Original Six game is always fun, right?

The 6-5-1 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and and ninth in the Eastern Conference, both due to losing a tiebreaker against the Boston Bruins.  They enter the game on a two-game winning streak, with their most recent victory coming against the Lightning, whom they beat 2-1 on Tuesday.

The season has not started the way the Wings would have liked, to the point that many (including us at DtFR) are beginning to wonder if the incredible steak of 24 straight Stanley Cup playoff appearances may be in jeopardy.

Beginning with the offense, we find a squad that has only put 306 shots on goal for 30 tallies (9.8%).  Since that shot percentage leads the league average by .7%, if might be argued that the Wings could find more offensive success if they found a better way to get pucks on goal (quite the Maddenism, I know), but I’m not convinced that would fix many problems in Motown.

The power play is close to being on par with the rest of the league, as they have the average eight goals to their credit, but have earned two more opportunities than most teams, putting their 19.05% below the league average by .95%.

If you had to pick an end of the ice the Wings have been better on, you’d have to lean towards the goaltending.  They’ve allowed only 31 goals so far this season on 386 shots (92.7% save rate).  Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have three wins apiece, but they’ve had to work overtime as their leading shot blocker has been Luke Glendening (17), a CENTER.

Continuing with the average theme, Detroit‘s penalty kill is in the same boat.  They’ve given up eight goals, just like the average team, but they’ve had to defend against four more opportunities.  Again, a .71% advantage over the league average is not enough for me to believe that this team has what it takes to be a real threat this season.

Luckily for Detroit, average just might cut it tonight against the 2-8-2 Toronto Maple Leafs.  Neither the offense nor the defense has been turning many heads in Hogtown, as they sit in last place in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.  They enter tonight’s game after losing to the Jets 4-2 on Wednesday.

Beginning with the offense, we find a team that has notched only 26 tallies on 362 shots (7.2%).  Worse than that has been the power play, as they’ve only accounted for five goals with a man-advantage.  To their credit, they’ve only been on the power play 35 times, but a 14.29% success rate does not bode well, regardless of Toronto‘s opponent.

On the other end of the ice, the Leafs have given up 40 goals so far this season, seven more than the league average.  One 363 shots faced, James Reimer and co.’s 90.4% save percentage trails the league average by one percent.  Luckily for the defense, Morgan Rielly (who deserves a raise based on this stat alone) leads the team with 20 blocks for his goaltenders, but it hasn’t been enough to keep pressure off the netminders.

Even worse has been the penalty kill.  Ten goals have been given up by the Leafs‘ special teams for a kill rate of 76.19%, yet another stat that trails the league average.

Babcock has been quoted as saying this was going to be a painful rebuild.  If I were Toronto, I’d be looking for some Advil, and if they’re nice, they should probably share some with any friends they have in Michigan, as neither team looks to have much optimism for this season at minimum.

Toronto is expected to lose with a +111 line, which is further supported by statistics and the Wings beating the Leafs 4-0 when they met almost a month ago at the Joe (you can read a quick-and-dirty recap of it here).  Expect the Wings to get out of Toronto with a win.

November 5 – Day 30 – Let’s keep it in the division

Last night’s divisional rivalry between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks was absolutely wild, as the Notes came back from a three-goal deficit to win in overtime.

Within six and a half minutes, the Blackhawks had a 3-1 lead.  Marko Dano, assisted by Ryan Hartman, scored the opening goal for Chicago at the 2:08 mark, but Colton Parayko and Vladimir Tarasenko assisted Alexander Steen to a game-tying goal only 54 seconds later.  1:35 later, the Blackhawks again took a one-goal lead when Andrew Shaw fired his penalty shot past Brian Elliott, followed 1:58 later by Trevor Teravainen scoring his fourth of the season.

Three more goals were scored in the first, beginning with Robby Fabbri’s tally, assisted by David Backes, at the 15:12 mark.  Chicago was responsible for the final two scores, as Patrick Kane and Teravainen assisted Brent Seabrook to his fourth of the season at the 17:09 mark, followed 43 seconds later by Seabrook and Shaw assisting Kane to make the score 5-2, which held into the first intermission.

The second period was all Blues, as they scored three goals to tie the game.  They notched their first of the period at the 3:11 mark when Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester assisted Steen to his second of the night, setting the score at 5-3.  The Notes‘ fourth goal of the game didn’t come until the 17:12 mark, when Troy Brouwer and Scott Gomez assisted Bouwmeester to his first of the year, which was followed 2:14 later when Alex Pietrangelo and Fabbri assisted Backes to his third of the season to tie the game at five-all, which held into the second intermission.

Although there weren’t any goals in the third period, the Blackhawks certainly gave it their best effort, as they out-shot the Blues 14-7 in the final period.  Although it was a better showing than the second period for the Hawks, they still were not able to break through Jake Allen, and the game went to overtime.

It took only 3:54 for Pietrangelo to assist Tarasenko to the game-winner, giving the Blues the bonus point.

6-3-1 Corey Crawford earned his first overtime loss of the season after stopping only 23 of 29 (79.3%), while 5-3-0 Jake Allen earned the victory after stopping 27 of 28 (96.4%).  Brian Elliott was the Blues‘ starter, but was pulled twice (once as a blatant informal timeout, and again for an injury), and only played 17:03.  They were a bad 17 minutes though, as he saved only 11 of 15 shots (73.3%), but earned a no-decision after Allen and the offense’s spectacular play.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-7-4, favoring the home team at 16 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy day in the NHL!  As usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when two teams drop the opening puck (Tampa Bay at Buffalo [Bell TV] and Boston at Washington), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Montréal [RDS] and Winnipeg at Ottawa [RDS2]).  Nashville at Minnesota gets started at 8 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by an additional two fixtures (Philadelphia at Calgary [SN360] and Coloradoat Arizona).  Finally, this evening’s double-dose of nightcap gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern when Columbusvisits Los Angeles and Florida visits San Jose.

Two of tonight’s matchups involve divisional rivals (Lightning–Sabres and Predators–Wild), and a total of four games include two teams qualifying for the playoffs (Bruins–Capitals, Islanders–Canadiens, Jets–Senators and Predators–Wild).

The game that qualifies for both categories sounds like the best one to watch!

UnknownUnknown-4

This is Minnesota‘s fourth time being featured in the Game of the Day series, and are currently a perfect 3-0-0 in such games.  It is Nashville‘s first appearance in the Game of the Day series.

The 7-2-2 Nashville Predators currently sit in fifth place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference, albeit because of losing the second tiebreaker to tonight’s opponent.  They enter the game riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on The Pond, falling 4-2 on Sunday.

While the offense has been on par with the league so far this season, it has been 6-1-2 Pekka Rinne and the defense (specifically Alternate Captain Roman Josi and his 28 blocks) who have really shined.  They’ve allowed only 25 goals so far this season, including only four power play tallies, on 309 shots faced (91.9% save rate) (all of those numbers are under the league average).  Pair that with their 87.1% penalty kill rate, and you find a team that is hard to beat, even when the opposition has the upper hand.

The offense has accounted for 32 goals this season (Alternate Captain James Neal leads the way with seven), including eight on the power play (21.62% success rate), even though they only have 344 shots to their credit (8.7% shot percentage).  The power play has been potent, made evident by their goal total exceeding the league average even when Nashville has had fewer opportunities.  The Wild would be wise to keep penalties to a minimum.

The 7-2-2 Minnesota Wild enter tonight’s game after losing to the St. Louis Blues on the road in overtime on Halloween, 3-2.  Their offense has propelled the team to fourth in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Led by Alternate Captain Zach Parise’s seven goals, the Wild have notched a total of 35 goals on only 306 shots (11.4%), including eight power play goals (21.62% success rate).  As made evident by those percentages, Minnesota has found success scoring the puck, and it will be interesting to see how they handle a team as proficient on the defensive end as the Nashville Predators.

The offense has had to be good, because the defense has not done them many favors.  7-2-1 Devan Dubnyk and co. have given up 32 goals (league average) on only 300 shots (89.7% save percentage).  Fortunately, Jared Spurgeon’s 26 blocks have kept many pucks from reaching the crease, but Coach Mike Yeo should have reason to worry if Dubnyk is not simply starting his season slowly.

The biggest struggle for the Wild has been the penalty kill, as the squad has given up six goals on only 25 attempts (76%).  While the team has done all they can to avoid going a man down, this is an alarming number that can affect how the Wild plays going forward in the season.  If this rate cannot be improved, Minnesota will not be able to play as aggressively or check as often has they would like.

Last season, Minnesota won the season series 3-1-1 with a 4-2 victory on April 9 in Nashville.

Some players to watch in this one include Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (seven wins [tied for league lead] and one shutout [tied for seventh in the league]) and Nashville‘s Rinne (six wins [tied for third in the league], 1.97 GAA [sixth in the league] and one shutout [tied for seventh in the league]).

Although the Wild are hosting this game, I don’t think Dubnyk and the defense will be able to prevent Nashvillefrom scoring, especially if the Predators can get under their skin and earn some power plays.  I think you can plan on seeing a Nashville Predators winner.

November 4 – Day 29 – These towns don’t like each other

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the New York Rangers held home ice to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2.

The Blueshirts opened the scoring just before the ninth minute began when Kevin Hayes and Viktor Stalberg assisted Third Star of the Game Oscar Lindberg to his sixth goal of the season, but the Capitals leveled the game at one-all at the 15:45 mark when Nate Schmidt assisted Alex Ovechkin to his sixth tally of the season.  New Yorkbroke the tie 2:01 later when Lindberg and Marc Staal assisted Hayes to his third of the year.  The 2-1 lead held into the first intermission.

At the end of the second minute of the second period, Second Star Derick Brassard assisted Kevin Klein to what came to be the game-winner, followed 5:06 later by Brassard’s fourth of the season, setting the score at 4-1.  Washington scored the final goal of the period at the 18:53 mark when Karl Alzner and Justin Williams assist Marcus Johansson to his third of the season.

The lone goal of the final period belongs to Jarret Stoll and the Rangers, assisted by Keith Yandle and Klein at the 10:53 mark.

First Star Henrik Lundqvist saved 32 of 34 Capital shots (94.1%) to earn his sixth victory of the season (6-2-2 overall), while Braden Holtby earned his third loss (6-3-0 overall) after stopping only 16 of 21 (76.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-7-3 in favor of the home squad, who leads the roadies by 17 points.

After a busy nine-game schedule last night, Wednesday provides a light break in the action with only four games.  The festivities get started at 7 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Toronto (SN/SN1), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Chicago (NBCSN/TVAS).  SN/SN1 viewers get an extra helping tonight, as their TVs will turn to Pittsburgh at Vancouver following the completion of the Jets–Leafs game.  That game gets started at 10 p.m. eastern.  Finally, Florida faces Anaheim on The Pond at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

St. Louis at Chicago is the only divisional rivalry being played this evening, and Pittsburgh at Vancouver is the only game between two playoff squads.  While the Penguins–Canucks game is tantalizing since it also includes the return of Nick Bonino to Rogers Arena, the Blues–Blackhawks rivalry has been too good in recent years to pass up.

Unknown-1Unknown-2

Last night, the 8-2-1 Blues were shutout by Jhonas Enroth and the Los Angeles Kings on home ice.  Jake Allen gave up two goals on 33 shots (93.9%).  Although those numbers sting, it still does not change the fact that St. Louis puts a team on the ice that features a strong defense.  The Blues currently sit second in both the Central Division and the Eastern Western Conference (trailing Dallas by three points).

So far this season, the Notes have given up only 26 goals (five below the league average), even though their goaltenders have faced 47 more shots than the league average.  Assisted by Colton Parayko’s 22 blocks, 4-2-0 Allen and 4-0-1 Brian Elliott (whom I expect will get the start this evening) are even shutting down the opposition’s power play opportunities.  While the Blues have given up the average number of power play goals (seven), they’ve had to defend against four more opportunities, setting their penalty kill-rate 2.17% higher than the league average.

On the other hand, the offense hasn’t quite been as strong as Coach Ken Hitchcock would like.  His squad has only managed 30 goals so far (one under league average), even though Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen already have five or more goals to their credit.  The most frustrating part about not being as potent as in years past is it is not due to effort.  The Blues have put 355 shots on goal so far this season, 18 more than the league average, but their shot percentage is a lowly 8.5%, .6% lower than the league average.

Especially distressing has been the power play.  The Blues have only notched four tallies with the man-advantage, for a measly 10.53% success rate (8.31% below league average).

Turning our attention to the 7-5-0 Blackhawks, we find a team sitting in sixth place in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, a position that does not qualify them for the playoffs.  In their last game played, Chicago bested the same Kings that shutout the Blues yesterday by a score of 4-2.  You can read a short recap about that game here.

Similar to tonight’s opposition, they have not been able to rely on their offense, so Corey Crawford and Co. have been responsible for much of the Hawks‘ success.  They’ve only allowed 26 goals so far this season, five below the league average.  Although Niklas Hjalmarsson’s 28 blocks have surely been much appreciated, it has been Crawford and his backup (1-2-0 Scott Darling) that have been busy, as they’ve had to save 342 shots against, of which they’re successful 92.4% of the time.  Even when a man-down, the Blackhawks have found a way to prevent the opposition from scoring 84.38% of the time and allowed only five man-advantage goals.

On the other hand, the offense has not been completely on par with the rest of the league.  They’ve only scored 28 times (led by Patrick Kane’s seven goals), which trails the league average by three tallies.  Similar to the Blues, it may simply be bad puck luck for the Hawks, as they’ve put 374 shots on goal, 37 more than the league average, but only 7.5% of those shots have found the back of the net.

Luckily for Chicago, the power play has been able to find success, scoring 19.51% of the time (compared to the 18.84% league average).  On 41 attempts, that is a total of eight goals in favor of the Hawks.

Last season, the Blues won the season series 3-2-0 by winning both April matchups, but were not able to utilize the momentum in the playoffs and fell in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to Minnesota in six games.  On the other hand the Hawks won the Stanley Cup, so maybe they aren’t too worried about winning the series?  Yeah, right.

This rivalry runs deep, maybe to the point of being one of, if not the best rivalry in the Western Conference.  In addition to the Blues–Blackhawks rivalry, these cities also have the infamous Cardinals–Cubs rivalry that was rekindled this season when the Cubbies beat the Redbirds in the National League divisional round.  Don’t think even for an instant that the St. Louis faithful don’t want to serve a little payback to Chi-Town.

That being said, the Hawks are favored in tonight’s matchup at -124.  With home ice behind them in this rivalry, it is hard to pick against Chicago, especially since they are playing on a day of rest and their much stronger power play.

November 3 – Day 28 – If the capital had stayed in New York, would the Rangers be the Capitals?

The Blackhawks took advantage of the Los Angeles Kings only managing two goals in the first period to claim a 4-2 victory last night.

Chicago opened the scoring after six minutes of play when Ryan Garbutt and Artemi Panarin assisted Jonathan Toews to his fifth goal of the season.  The Kings tied the game 8:38 later when Kyle Clifford and Second Star of the Game Jake Muzzin assisted Alec Martinez to his first goal of the year.  4:04 later, the Kings took their only lead of the night when Muzzin and Trevor Lewis assisted Anze Kopitar to his fourth of the season.  The 2-1 Kingslead held through both intermissions.

The Blackhawks finally tied the game after 1:22 passed in the third with a First Star Patrick Kane goal, assisted by Brent Seabrook and Viktor Svedberg.  The game-winner came 7:40 later when Kane and Artem Anisimov assisted Teuvo Teravainen to his third tally of the year.  Anisimov added a shorty for insurance, assisted by Toews, with 1:33 remaining in the game.

Second Star Corey Crawford earned his sixth win of the season by saving 33 of 35 (94.3%), while Jonathan Quick’s record fell to 6-4-0 after he saved only 22 of 26 (84.6%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 17-7-3, favoring the home team by 15 points.

It’s a busy nine-game Tuesday night in the league, especially in comparison to the three games played yesterday.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when three opening pucks drop (Dallas at Boston, New Jersey at the New York Islanders and Washington at the New York Rangers [TVAS]), followed half an hour later by two more games (Ottawa at Montréal and Tampa Bay at Detroit).  Starting at 8:30 p.m. eastern is the Los Angeles at St. Louis game (NBCSN), followed half an hour later by two more matchups (Calgary at Colorado and Philadelphia at Edmonton).  Finally, at 10:30 p.m. eastern, the nightcap of the evening begins when Columbus visits San Jose in The Tank.

Some notes on tonight’s games:

  • Four of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at the Isles, Washington at the Blueshirts, Ottawa at Montréal and Tampa Bay at Detroit).
  • Four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at Boston, New Jersey at the Isles, Washington at the Blueshirts and Los Angeles at St. Louis).
  • Washington at the Blueshirts is an Eastern Conference Semifinals rematch from last season, and Ottawa at Montréal and Tampa Bay at Detroit is an Eastern Conference Quarterfinals rematch.

The only game that qualifies for all three lists will attract my attention this evening, as the Capitals travel up I-95 for their date with the Rangers.

Washington Capitals LogoNew York Rangers Logo

Beginning with the 8-2-0 road team, we find a squad that is living up to expectations on both ends of the ice.  The forwards have been scoring and the defenders and goalies have been keeping the opposition off the board to give the Capitals first place in the Metropolitan division and second in the Eastern Conference, albeit through a tiebreaker or two over tonight’s opposition.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent victory a 2-1 overtime game over Florida on Halloween.

On the offensive end of the ice, the Caps have put 296 shots on goal, led by Alex Ovechkin’s 41.  Although it is 34 fewer than the league average, you wouldn’t know it when you look at their 34 goals, which leads the league average by four tallies.  Put those together and you get an 11.5% shot percentage that leads the league average by a considerable 2.4%.  Especially spectacular has been the Washington power play, as they’ve scored seven goals (led by T.J. Oshie’s two) on only 29 opportunities, giving them a 24.14% success rate that dwarfs the league average by 5.26%.

On the other end of the ice, the Capitals have been just as strong.  Only 248 shots have made it to 6-2-0 Braden Holtby and his backup Philipp Grubauer, thanks in part to Karl Alzner’s 22 blocks.  With a save percentage of 91.9%, only 23 shots have become goals, a total that trails the league average by seven tallies.  The defense has especially clamped down when facing a man-advantage, as they’ve only allowed four goals (three less than the average hockey team) and killed 87.88% of attempts, 6.76% more than the NHL average.

Their opposition, the 7-2-2 New York Rangers, are also having a successful season so far.  They currently own second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference due to losing a tiebreaker with the Caps.  While the offense has been good this season, the defense has certainly been better.  They also enter tonight’s game on a two-game win streak, with their most recent game ending in a 3-1 victory over Toronto on October 30.

342 shots have made their way to 5-2-2 Henrik Lundqvist and 2-0-0 Antti Raanta, and they’ve collectively saved 94.7% of those attempts, allowing only 21 goals on the season, a total that bests the league average by nine goals.  Just like Washington, the Blueshirts have stepped up their game when they need to, as they’ve only allowed four power play goals so far this season for a penalty kill rate of 87.88% (6.76% better than the league average).

The offense has 320 shots to their credit, and has converted 9.7% of those attempts for 31 goals.  While that is one goal over the league average, they’ve had to do it the hard way as they only have four power play goals to their credit after 28 opportunities.  Their 14.29% success rate trails the league average by 4.59%.

Last season, New York won the regular season series 3-1-0, and they followed it up with a Game 7 victory in the Conference Semifinals to eventually lose to the Bolts in the Conference Finals.

New York is favored at -125 coming into the game.  I still haven’t decided who I think is going to win, as I think Washington is the better team, but the Rangers do have the advantage of playing at home.  This game will be a good litmus test of the top of the Metropolitan division.

November 2 – Day 27 – All defense, all the time

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Winnipeg Jets and the Montréal Canadiens ended in a 5-1 victory for the home squad.

The Habs opened the scoring at the 6:34 mark of the first with a shorty from Third Star of the Game Paul Byron, assisted by Torrey Mitchell and Jeff Petry.  The game-winner came almost 10 minutes exactly from Second Star Tomas Fleischmann, assisted by First Star David Desharnais and Alexei Emelin.  The two-goal shutout held into the first intermission.

Thirty-five seconds after dropping the puck in the second, Fleischmann scored his second of the night, assisted by Dale Weise and Desharnais.  Two and a half minutes later, the Canadiens set the score at 4-0 with a tally from Desharnais, assisted by Fleischmann and Nathan Beaulieu.  Montréal ended their offensive onslaught at the 17:51 mark when Lars Eller, assisted by Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, fired his power play goal past Ondrej Pavelec.  The five-goal shutout held into the second intermission.

Finally, the Jets got on the board at the 13:57 mark of the final period when Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers assisted Chris Thorburn to his second goal of the season.

The Mike Condon Era (albeit only a week or so long) got off to a good start as he earned his fourth victory in as many starts by saving 18 of 19 (94.7%), while 4-1-0 Michael Hutchinson earned his first loss of the season after saving five of nine (55.6%).  Pavelec replaced him after Desharnais’ goal and saved 16 of 17 (94.1%) for no decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 16-7-3, still favoring the home team by 13 points.  Montréalimproves to 4-0-0 when featured in our series, while Winnipeg falls to 0-1-1.

After a busy holiday weekend, there are only three games on the schedule this evening.  Beginning at 7:30 p.m. eastern at the Air Canada Centre are Dallas and Toronto (TVAS), followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Chicago(NHL Network).  The nightcap gets its start at 10 p.m. eastern when Philadelphia visits Vancouver.

None of tonight’s matchups involve divisional rivals or two teams qualifying for the playoffs, but given the expectations for the Hawks, their game against the Kings provides for an interesting game.

UnknownUnknown-2

After losing their first three games by a combined score of 12-2, the Los Angeles Kings have won seven straight games (their last victory a 4-3 win over the Predators on Saturday) to propel them to first place in the Pacific Division.  Their strength: the defense and goaltending.

So far this season, the Kings‘ defense has only allowed 295 shots on goal (led by Alec Martinez’ 19 blocks), a total that trails the league average by 24 attempts.  Even better is the goals against total (21) that trails the NHL average by eight tallies.  Put those numbers together, and you’ll find Jonathan Quick and his backup, 1-0-0 Jhonas Enroth, owning a 93.2% combined save percentage, exceeding the league average by 1.8%.  Even on the penalty kill, the Kings have found success.  Although their seven power play goals against is on par with the league, they’ve held that number even though they’ve faced five more man-advantages.  Their 82.93% kill rate bests the league average by 1.73%.

Los Angeles‘ offense has been working overtime to cover up their early season shortcomings, made evident by the 24 goals they’ve scored so far this season.  Center Tyler Toffoli leads the team by five tallies with nine goals to his credit.

Probably the biggest struggle for this squad has been putting shots on goal, as well as getting them into the back of the net.  They’ve only managed 305 shots so far, which trails the league average by 15 shots.  Bring into account their 7.9% shot percentage that trails the league average by 1.2%, and we find a team that, should they resolve these issues, becomes a serious threat in the Western Conference.

Turning our attention to the home side, we find a 6-5-0 team that hasn’t quite found the success yet that they’ve grown so accustomed to in seasons past.  Similar to Los Angeles, they’ve had to rely on their defense and goaltending for almost every point in the standings they’ve earned so far.  They enter the game on a two-game losing streak, their most recent a 5-4 loss in Minnesota on Friday.

Goaltender Corey Crawford (5-3-0) and his backup, 1-2-0 Scott Darling, have only allowed 24 goals this season, trailing the league average by five tallies, but they’ve received a lot of help from Niklas Hjalmarsson (24 blocks) and the Hawks‘ defense.  Because of their efforts, Crawford and co. have only faced 307 shots and saved 92.2% of them, both numbers that are better than the league average.  Even on the penalty kill, the defense has been strong.  On 30 attempts, opponents have only scored five times (two less than average), giving the Hawks a 83.33% kill rate that leads the league average by 2.13%.

The offense has only scored 24 goals this season, which trails the league average by five goals.  It has not been due to effort, though, as the offense has notched 348 shots, 28 over the league average.  But, because of that number, their 6.9% shot percentage trails the league average by 1.2%.

Although the standard offense may not be up to standard, the power play lines earn DtFR Gold Stars, as they have eight goals to their credit with a 20% power play success rate.

Last season, Chicago won two of three games against Los Angeles, but the more famous recent series occurred during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Kings beat the Hawks in seven games in the Western Conference Finals en route to the four games to one routing of the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Chicago is favored at -125 at home, but it is hard to ignore a Kings team looking for their eighth straight victory.  I think I’m picking the Hawks to win, but it should be an excellent game.

November 1 – Day 26 – All-Canadian

Phil Kessel’s homecoming went about as smoothly as possible for him, as his Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs with a four-goal shutout last night.

Chris Kunitz scored the winning tally on a power play, assisted by David Perron and Beau Bennett, at the 13:33 mark of the first, the only goal of the period.

Second Star of the Game Eric Fehr made a splash in his 2015-’16 debut by scoring a shorty at the 2:34 mark of the second, assisted by Matt Cullen.  Cullen and Fehr’s period had only just begun, as the two returned each other’s favors 7:55 later, as Fehr and Rob Scuderi assisted Cullen to his first of the season to set the score at 3-0, which held into the third.

The final goal of the game belongs to Patric Hornqvist, as he scored at the 4:31 mark after being assisted by Brian Dumoulin and Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the First Star.

While the assist may be a feather in his cap, the cap itself for Fleury is certainly the 21-save shutout to earn his sixth victory of the win, while Jonathan Bernier’s record fell to 0-6-1 after saving only 28 of 32 (87.5%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 15-7-3, still favoring the home team by 11 points.

Although nowhere near as busy as yesterday, today’s schedule has more action than most Sundays so far this season.  The first game gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when San Jose visits Colorado, followed two hours later by Tampa Bay at Carolina.  Beginning at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time is Winnipeg at Montréal(NHLN/SN/RDS), followed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Islanders (TVAS/Bell TV).  The nightcap of the evening gets an early start, as Nashville and Anaheim drop the opening puck at 8 p.m. eastern on The Pond.

Only one of today’s matchups involve two teams currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, so let’s tune in to the Winnipeg–Montréal game and make it only our second all-Canadian Game of the Day.

Unknown-3Unknown

Winnipeg has been a pleasant surprise this season, as the writers at DtFR did not think they would be able to hold on to their playoff spot from last year.  The 7-3-1 Jets are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-2 win over Columbus last night.  What has been most exciting about their success if they have had quality play on both ends of the ice.

The offense has scored 32 goals so far this season to exceed the league average by five tallies, even though they have three fewer shots.  Those fewer shots certainly separate Winnipeg though, as their 10.7% shot percentage leads the league average by 1.7%.  They’ve found particular success on the power play, as their seven goals on 29 attempts (24.14%) is a goal more on five fewer opportunities (18.47%).

The defense and goaltending has been equally as strong, as they’ve only given up 26 goals so far this season (one fewer than the NHL average), even though they’ve faced 33 more shots than the average squad.  This is reflected in their strong 93.1% save percentage, which exceeds the league average by 1.6%.

Even on the penalty kill, the Jets have been strong.  Even though they’ve given up six goals so far this opportunity, they’ve had to defend against two more opportunities, setting their kill rate at 83.33%.

I expect 4-0-0 Michael Hutchinson to get the start tonight after Pavelec’s win last night.

While the Jets have been a pleasant surprise this season, many would say that the 10-2-0 Habs have simply been a surprise, as the monster of the NHL has set their sights on yet another Stanley Cup.  Everything has been going Montréal‘s way so far this season, but the offense in particular has been worthy of everyone’s respect.  They enter tonight’s game after beating Calgary 6-2 Friday night in the Saddledome.

The club has scored a whopping total of 45 goals so far this season, 18 over the league average, which is a strong correlation to the 371 shots they have put on goal (leads the NHL average by 71) and their 12.1% shot percentage.  Montréal has been especially successful on the power play, as they’ve notched 10 goals already this season with the man-advantage.  Although they’ve done it with eight more opportunities, their 23.81% success rate still dwarfs the league average by 5.34%.

Even though the offense has been lighting up the scoreboard, 7-2-0 Carey Price has been no slouch in net either, as he and Mike Condon have given up only 23 goals so far this season, four under the league average, on 372 shots faced, 71 over the NHL average. Although they’ve had to do more work, they’ve been well up to the task as their 93.8% save percentage still exceeds the 91.5% league average.  They’ve been especially successful on the penalty kill, as they’ve stopped 88.1% of the opposition’s man-advantages (compared to the 81.53% league average).

Since the Habs didn’t play last night and they are playing a good Winnipeg team, I would expect Price to get the start in goal.

The Jets and Habs split their two-game series last season, with each team winning on home ice.

Montréal is favored at -185 at the Bell Centre, and although I don’t think it will be that extreme, I do believe that the well-balanced Jets may still be over-matched in tonight’s matchup.

October 31 – Day 25 – Hockey Halloween

The Minnesota Wild still remember getting swept in the Western Conference Semifinals by Chicago last season, but the defeat stings a little less tonight as they beat the Hawks 5-4 in front of their home fans at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild were firing on all cylinders from the opening puck drop, made evident by Ryan Suter and First Star of the Game Mikko Koivu assisting Third Star Jason Zucker to the opening goal only 18 seconds into the game.  They only held the one-goal lead until the 4:06 mark though, as Second Star Jonathan Toews scored a shorty to level the game.  The Blackhawks continued to press, taking a one-goal lead of their own 6:27 later via a Brent Seabrook power play tally, assisted by Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.  Similar to Minnesota though, their lead was short lived, as Ryan Carter and the Wild tied the game again at the 14:52 mark, assisted by Erik Haula and Chris Porter.  Minnesota capped the wild first period with another goal with less than a minute remaining, credited to Charlie Coyle and assisted by Marco Scandella and Koivu, to set the score at 3-2 going into intermission.

It was another two-goal period for the Blackhawks in the second, but not after Jared Spurgeon scored a power play goal, assisted by Thomas Vanek and Scandella, at the 3:01 mark.  The 4-2 lead held until the 10:47 mark, when Toews scored his second of the evening, assisted by Ryan Garbutt.  The Hawks struck again 2:55 later, when Erik Gustafsson and Trevor Daley assisted Artem Anisimov to his fourth goal of the season to level the score at four, which held into the second intermission.

The only goal scored in the third, and thus the game-winner, belongs to Nino Niederreiter, assisted by Zucker and Koivu.  He notched the winner at the 32 second mark, and goalie Devan Dubnyk was able to preserve the lead in the remaining 19:30 to earn the victory.

Dubnyk improved his record to 7-2-0 by saving 25 of 29 (86.2%), while backup goalie 1-2-0 Scott Darling earns his second loss of the season after saving only 25 of 30 (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 15-6-3, still favoring the home squad by 13 points.

The NHL has 10 games on the Halloween schedule, and all the wise kids are heading to their local stadium instead of hitting the streets for the best treat of all: hockey, obviously.  That being said, there’s a few teams getting their games over before the evening festivities begin.  The first action of the day gets started at 1 p.m. eastern when the New York Islanders take the Northeast Corridor Line to face New Jersey at The Rock (SN).  At 3 p.m. eastern, San Jose visits Dallas, followed an hour later by the final afternoon game: Nashville at Los Angeles.  Starting at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time are five games (Pittsburgh at Toronto [CBC/NHL Network], Detroit at Ottawa [TVAS], Boston at Tampa Bay, Washington at Florida and Winnipeg at Columbus [SN360/SN1]), followed an hour later by Minnesota at St. Louis.  The final game of the evening gets going at 10 p.m. eastern when Calgary visits Edmonton (CBC/TVAS).

Based on it being Halloween, I can already tell you how all of these matchups are going to go:

  • New Jersey will beat the Isles because a Devil is way scarier than the Gorton’s Fisherman.  Probably a billion goals to -5.
  • Same for the Sharks over the Stars, as the only stars that are scary are the crazies in Hollywood.
  • Speaking of Hollywood, let me know when you see a horror movie featuring a king as the monster; on the flip side, Predator has five total movies, and he even scares Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Predators over Kings, easy.
  • A winged wheel might be scary (like, bad dream scary), but not as scary as a Roman general.  Those guys didn’t mess around.  Ottawa wins this one.
  • I’m leaning towards a bruin being scarier than lightning, simply because I’ve spent less time near bearsthan I have been outside during a lightning storm.  Definitely means Boston will pull out the win.
  • Who’s scarier: the American government or panthers?  I’ll leave this one up to you.
  • I think Jets win on principle… and having advanced technology.  If the South had jets against the Union, America may not be the same, and that’s the scariest thought so far.
  • The outdoors against blues music?  Especially in Minnesota, the great outdoors wins every time (Hey, I’ve lived in the south too long.  I’ve acclimated and can’t handle much under 30° anymore), especially since all the music can do is make you sad.
  • An oiler‘s worst fear near his product is fire.  Calgary is super scary to Edmonton.

Anyways, tonight’s matchups feature five divisional rivalries (the Isles at New Jersey, Detroit at Ottawa, Boston at Tampa Bay, Minnesota at St. Louis and Calgary at Edmonton) and three games between two squads currently qualifying for the playoffs (Nashville at Los Angeles, Boston at Tampa Bay and Minnesota at St. Louis).  However, even with those in mind, tonight marks the return of Phil Kessel to his old stomping grounds of six seasons.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoUnknown-3

Kessel’s Penguins are currently riding a three-game win streak, with their most recent victory being a result of weathering 24 third period Buffalo shots to secure a 4-3 win.  While offense is usually the first thing to come to mind when thinking of a squad with both Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have strongly relied on their defense (especially Ian Cole, who has 27 blocks so far) and 5-4-0 Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to achieve their 6-4-0 record.  The Pens have given up 20 goals so far this season, six under the league average.  Even when a man or more down, the Penguins have still found a way to keep the opposition off the board, as they’ve only given up four power play goals (two less than the league average) to maintain an 87.1% penalty kill rate, exceeding the league average of 81.46%.  Fleury’s .937 save percentage also exceeds the league average by 2.2%.

In comparison to both their defense and Penguins teams in the past, the offense has been fairly lackluster.  The club has only tickled the twine 20 times, six goals below the league average.  Part of the problem has been the poor results on the power play.  In 32 attempts, the Penguins have only scored three goals (three below average), for a 9.38% power play.  What’s most frustrating for the team is their lack of offensive success hasn’t entirely been their fault.  Pittsburgh has shot the puck 315 times in 10 games, 31 more times than the league average, but has only scored on 6.3% of their shots.

Although the Pens‘ offense may not be quite on par, Kessel himself is having a decent start to the season.  He has six points (second on team) with four goals (tied for the team lead), all of them on even-strength (he leads the squad in that category) and two of them game-winners (second best on team), on 35 shots, another stat he leads the team in.

His ex-team, the 1-5-2 Toronto Maple Leafs, are still struggling to get their skates under them on both ends of the ice.  Offensively, they’ve only managed 19 goals so far this season, seven below league average.  Especially offensive offense has been played on the power play, as the team has only managed two goals with the man advantage, compared to the league average of six.  Their 8.7% success rate trails the league average by 9.84%.  All of this is a direct result of the low number of shots the Leafs have put on goal.  Only 264 pucks have been fired toward the net, 20 below average, and their shot percentage trails the league by 1.8%.

After seeing those numbers, people in Toronto might hope that the defense has tried to pick up some of the slack, but that has not been the case.  Toronto has allowed 28 goals this season, two over average.  Nine of those scores have been on the penalty kill, three higher than the league average, and their 71.88% penalty kill shows it, as it trails the league average by 9.58%.

Probably the best thing Toronto has going for them is their shots against.  They’ve only allowed 229 shots to reach Jonathan Bernier, but he and James Reimer have only been able to save 89.1% of those attempts, which trails the league average by 2.4%.

The only time the Maple Leafs qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs during Kessel’s tenure was during the 2012-’13 season, which ended with the epic overtime collapse at the hands of the Bruins after having a 4-1 lead before the 9:18 mark of the final period during Game Seven.  During that year’s regular season, he led his team in goals (20), assists (32), points (52), even-strength goals (14), power play goals (six), game-winners (four), power play assists (15) and shots (161).  He followed up his impressive season to lead the Leafs in goals (four), even-strength goals (three) and game-winners (two), but it was not enough to stop the eventual Eastern Conference Champions.

Both of these teams are going in opposite directions, so I fully expect Kessel’s new squad to take care of business and earn their fourth-straight victory.

Oh, and penguins are scarier than leafs, mostly because at least a bird has more chance of causing harm than a leaf.

October 25 – Day 19 – Not Quite a Hot Start

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between Tampa Bay and Chicago was a defensive thriller, as neither team was able to break through the opposing defense in regulation.  The Blackhawks finally scored at the 17 second mark of the 3-on-3 overtime when Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook assisted Jonathan Toews to his first goal of the season (cover of NHL ’16 curse, anyone? IT TOOK HIM EIGHT GAMES TO SCORE!).  His goal earned him second star of the game honors.

Obviously, both goalies were phenomenal in this one, as first star of the game Corey Crawford stopped all 21 shots he faced to improve his record to 4-2-0, while Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all but one of his 32 shots faced (96.9%), earning the remaining third star.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 10-5-3, still favoring the home team by six points.

Today is a much lighter schedule compared to yesterday, as there is only three games on the schedule.  The evening begins at 6 p.m. eastern when Minnesota visits Winnipeg, followed an hour later by Calgary at the New York Rangers (NHL Network, SN, SN1).  The final game of the night gets started at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Los Angeles visits Edmonton (SN, SN360, SN1).

Two of these three games are divisional rivalries (Minnesota at Winnipeg and Los Angeles at Edmonton), and the other features a team that many hockey fans (or, at least us at Down the Frozen River) are just waiting to turn it on and play like they did a season ago.

Since the Calgary Flames at the New York Rangers game will be broadcast throughout both nations, we’ll turn our attention towards Madison Square Garden.

Calgary Flames LogoNew York Rangers Logo

Let’s begin with the 2-5-0 road team.  This young squad, with the exciting way they played last season and getting their first experience in the playoffs in six years, including beating Vancouver in the first round, was expected to turn some heads this year and try to improve on their third place-finish in the Pacific Division.  So far this season, they’ve only accounted for two wins so far against the lackluster Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings (both of those victories required overtime to earn the bonus point).  They have four goals less than the league average (part of that problem is the number of shots the Flames have taken [189] is 18 less than the league average, and their shot percentage is even worse [7.9%, 1.2% less than average]), which doesn’t tell the complete story until paired with giving up eight more goals than the league average (the Flames have a save percentage of only 88.1%, 3.4% under the league average).  The Flames‘ penalty kill is also not on par, as they have only killed 78.26% of opponents’ power plays.

On the other side, they face a 5-2-2 team that is currently firing on all cylinders and well on their way to another successful season.  The Rangers are both scoring (three over average, in spite of the power play not finding early success (only scoring on 15%, 3.9% below average) and stopping (allowed three less goals than the average team, especially on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 86.21% of opponents’ opportunities, 5.11% over league average) the puck to earn themselves second place in the competitive Metropolitan Division.  As is expected, Henrik Lundqvist is staking his claim as one of, if not the best goalie in the league, as he is leading his team to a 94.3% save rate, 2.8% better than the rest of the league.

Although the team write-ups may imply differently, it is in fact only Calgary that enters the matchup on a winning streak after beating Detroit on Friday.  The Rangers lost yesterday’s game against Philadelphia in a shootout.  In last year’s meetings, New York took both games by a combined score of 6-2, including a one-goal shutout via now-Oiler Cam Talbot.

My players to watch in tonight’s game are Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (eight assists [tied for fifth in the league]) and, should he play, New York‘s Lundqvist (four wins [tied for sixth in the league] and .941 save percentage [eighth in the league])

I expect the Rangers to hold home ice in tonight’s matchup, but would not be surprised if the Flames try to build off recent momentum to try to jump-start their so far mediocre season.

October 24 – Day 18 – Rematch

Last night’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets ended poorly for the home crowd as the Bolts scored only half a minute into overtime to win the game 4-3.

Assisted by Tyler Johnson, Braydon Coburn gave Tampa Bay a first period lead at the 12:17 mark, but Winnipegmanaged to level the score 4:11 later with a Nikolaj Ehlers goal, assisted by Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Pereault.  The one-all score held into the intermission.

Seven minutes into the second, the Lightning struck their second goal via Cedric Paquette, assisted by Erik Condra and Victor Hedman.  The Jets again held serve, scoring only 3:36 later when Adam Lowry and Alexander Burmistrov assisted Drew Stafford to his third goal of the season.  Cue Lightning service game, as it only took 21 seconds before the Bolts regained their lead.  Assisted by Paquette and Hedman, Vladislav Namestnikov fired Tampa Bay‘s third goal of the game past Ondrej Pavelec.  The 3-2 lead held into the second intermission.

A little less scoring action in the third period, but it favored the loyal Manitobans.  Only 1:17 into the final period, Blake Wheeler scored the third game-tying goal for the Jets, setting the score at three-all.  Neither side was able to break through their opposition, so the game moved to 3-on-3 overtime.

Ondrej Palat wasted little time in ending the game for the Lightning.  At the 36 second mark, Steven Stamkos and Hedman assisted him to his second goal of the season, this one his first game-winner of the year.

The Bolts‘ Ben Bishop (ooh, alliteration!) made 33 of 36 saves (91.7%) last night for the win, while Pavelec took the loss by saving only 27 of 31 (87.1%) Lightning shots.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 9-5-3 in favor of the home team, who leads the roadies by five points.

Tonight is by far the busiest day we’ve had this week, with a total of a dozen games being played.  It’s like it’s a Saturday or something.  The action gets an early start this evening, as Anaheim and Minnesota are dropping the puck at 6 p.m. eastern at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.  Beginning at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern are four games (New Jersey at Buffalo, Toronto at Montréal [CBC and TVAS], Arizona at Ottawa and the New York Rangers at Philadelphia).  At 8 p.m. eastern, three more games get started (the New York Islanders at St. Louis, Pittsburgh at Nashville and Florida at Dallas), followed half an hour by Tampa Bay at Chicago (NHL Network and SN1), the first of two Stanley Cup Finals rematches this season.  At 9 p.m. eastern, Torts gets another shot at getting the first win for his new team when Columbus visits Colorado, followed an hour later by Detroit at Vancouver (CBC).  Finally, Carolina and San Jose drop the final opening puck of the night in The Tank at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

While there are two matchups that are divisional rivalries (Toronto at Montréal and the Rangers at Philadelphia) and four games between two teams that are currently qualifying for the playoffs (Coyotes at Senators, Rangers at Flyers, Islanders at Blues and Panthers at Stars), following Tampa Bay from the MTS Centre to the United Center for the rematch between the Bolts and Hawks is absolutely too good to miss tonight.

Unknown-1           2015StanleyCupFinalsCHl8Si-W8AACHtt

We all know that last year’s Chicago team beat last year’s Tampa Bay team in six games to take the Cup, but a lot has changed between June 15 and October 24.

Beginning with the reigning champions, it was well documented during the off-season that the Hawks would have to make some major adjustments to get under the salary cap.  The squad traded away nine players, including Antti Raanta, Brandon Saad,  and Patrick Sharp and didn’t resign Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette.  They also lost Daniel Carcillo and Kimmo Timonen to retirement.

On the other side of the ice is a team that remained fairly consistent from last season.  The Bolts did not trade away any players this offseason, and only picked up one main addition during free agency: Condra.

Taking both of those factors into account, this season has slightly favored the 5-2-1 Lightning over the 4-3-0 Blackhawks.  Currently, Tampa Bay sits second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference compared to Chicago‘s sixth position in the Western Conference that fails to qualify them for the playoffs due to their deep division.

Some players to keep an eye on in this game include Chicago‘s Patrick Kane (10 points [tied for second in the league] and five goals [tied for third in the league]) & Artemi Panarin (six assists [tied for fifth in the league]) and Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (four wins [tied for fourth in the league]) & Anton Stralman (+6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in the league]).

Although the United Center will be rowdy tonight, I believe that the Lightning are capable of pulling off the upset.  Bishop will have a few days of rest, and the rest of the team will be looking for revenge against the team that defeated them.

Should be an excellent game.

October 23 – Day 17 – Oh yeah, we’re already talking playoffs

Last night’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild ended poorly for new Head Coach John Tortorella, as Columbus fell 3-2.  Although the Jackets had a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes, Minnesota‘s two-goal second period gave them the victory.  Thomas Vanek was responsible for the winning goal, scored at the 11:12 mark on the power play and assisted by Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon.

Sergei Bobrovsky took the loss after stopping only 20 of 23 shots faced (87%), while Devan Dubnyk improved his record to 4-1-0 by stopping 27 of 29 shots faced (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series favors the home team, as their record improved to 9-5-2 with Minnesota‘s win, six points better than the roadies.

Tonight’s schedule consists of six fixtures, evenly split between the two nations.  The first game of the night begins at 7 p.m. eastern in Buffalo when the Sabres host the perfect Montréal Canadiens (NHL Network, RDS).  Half an hour later, the Bruins make their first of two visits to the Barclays Center this season to face the New York Islanders (TVAS).  The first Canadian game begins at 8 p.m. eastern in Manitoba when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Winnipeg Jets (TSN3), with the second and third following an hour later in Alberta when the Detroit Red Wings play the Calgary Flames (SN1) and the Washington Capitals visit the Edmonton Oilers.  The final game of the night begins at 10:30 p.m. eastern when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Los Angeles Kings.

Of those, only one is a divisional rivalry (Montréal at Buffalo), but there’s another matchup that has caught my attention.

Unknown-1Unknown-3

This is the only game of the night between two teams that are currently in the playoff picture.  Tampa Bay (4-2-1) currently owns second place in the Atlantic division, while Winnipeg (4-2-0) is holding on for dear life to the first wild card position, leading Minnesota by a lone point.

Yes, holding on for dear life.  The playoff push begins in week two.  #10andYou’reIn

The squads split their two meetings last season, both winning in the other team’s home arena.  Their last meeting was on March 14, a game Winnipeg won 2-1.  All the goals in that game were scored before the 12:45 mark in the third period, with first star Blake Wheeler firing the winning goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy during a 4-on-4 and Ondrej Pavelec earning the win.

Some players to keep an eye on in this game include Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (four wins [tied for fourth in the league]) & Anton Stralman (+6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in the league]) and Winnipeg‘s Mark Stuart (+6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in the league]).

Winnipeg leads in goals per game played (3.33), goals against per game played (2.17), power play percentage (26.1%), penalty kill (84%) and shots per game (29).  With this and the Winnipeg‘s home ice at the MTS Centre, I’m picking Jets to win this one 3-2.

October 22 – Day 16 – Welcome back, buddy!

After a total of eight goals were scored in regulation, last night’s Game of the Day between the Philadelphia Flyersand the Boston Bruins ended with a Flyer power play goal from Claude Giroux to seal the win.

The first goal was witness to four goals, but ended in a two-all draw. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare began the scoring at the 9:28 mark of the first to give Philly a one-goal lead.  However, it was short lived, as Brett Connolly scored his first of the season exactly four minutes after.  Philadelphia again took the lead with a goal from Sam Gagner at the 15:04 mark, but the Bruins struck back again 2:20 later with a power play goal from new father Patrice Bergeron.

The second period was all Boston, who scored twice and held the Flyers scoreless.  Chris Kelly fired a shorty at the 4:31 mark to give the Bruins their first lead of the evening, followed 4:18 later by Jimmy Hayes’ second score of the year.

Just as it was a perfect second for Boston, it was a mirror in the third for Philadelphia.  Giroux narrowed the deficit to one at the 7:48 mark, followed by Wayne Simmonds’ game-tying tally at the 10:24 mark.

Tuukka Rask earned the loss (or was it Ryan Spooner and his hooking penalty?) after making only 32 of 37 saves on the night (86.5%), while Steve Mason earned the win after replacing Michal Neuvirth (10 for 12, 83.3%) after the first period.  He stopped 16 of 18 (88.9%)

After the loss, the DtFR Game of the Day series still favors the home squad, standing at 8-5-2.

Tonight’s NHL schedule is full of excitement as there are eight games being played.  The evening gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when Arizona visits the New York Rangers and Dallas visits Pittsburgh (SN360), followed half an hour later by New Jersey at Ottawa.  At 8 p.m. eastern, two more games get started (Anaheim at Nashville and Columbus at Minnesota), followed half an hour later by Florida at Chicago.  At 10 p.m. eastern, Washington pays their yearly visit to Vancouver (SN360), followed half an hour later by the final game of the night: Los Angeles at San Jose.

Before yesterday, the most exciting thing happening pertaining to a particular game was the return of Mike Santorelli to Nashville… where he played 54 games over two seasons… yeah…  Other than that, it was the lone divisional rivalry of the night between the Kings and Sharks.

Luckily for us, the Blue Jackets decided to add a little bit of drama and fire Head Coach Todd Richards, a day after his own birthday no less, and hire everyone’s favorite loose cannon coach: John Tortorella!  That makes Columbus at Minnesota our Game of the Day!

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoUnknown-4

Hey buddy, how’ve you been?  Missed you! .Gif compliments of Sean Gentille at SportingNews.

Anyways, our buddy Torts is taking over the worst team in hockey currently, as the Blue Jackets have yet to even take a game to overtime in seven tries.  The Jackets have two goals less than the league average, which isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of things, but have given up 19 more goals than the average team.  That one there isbad news.  Seven of those goals have been a result of being a man-down, which is three higher than the rest of the league.  Due to this, the Jackets are only killing two-thirds of the opposition’s power play, a rate almost 20% below average.

There are a few good things going on in Columbus though, one of which being the power play.  Teams are averaging only four power play goals so far this season, but the Jackets have six to their credit (of course, half of those belong to Brandon Saad) and have earned nine more power play opportunities, giving them a 2.4% better power play than the average team.  They are also not committing too many penalties, as they’ve only been a man down an extra time over the league average.

They have also accounted for a ton more shots than everybody else (52 more, to be exact), but they haven’t been able to sneak any past the opposing goaltender.  The Jackets‘ shot percentage is only 5.8%, compared to the league average 8.9%.  That stat comes with a grain of salt, though, as they’ve also given up 32 more shots than the average team, and only saving 85.2% of them (compared to the 91.7% league average).

Lucky for them, their new master commander will lead them into battle for the first time against the team that currently occupies the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with seven points: the Minnesota Wild.

Some players to watch in this one include Minnesota‘s Zach Parise (five goals [tied for second in the league],

And, of course, Torts.

Feeling is mutual, buddy.  Thanks to Reddit user MixtapeNostalgia for supplying the .gif here.

The Wild are favored at -200 at home, which only further convinces me that Minnesota should run away with this one.

October 21 – Day 15 – Hey, hockey on TV is hockey on TV

Last night’s Game of the Day contested between St. Louis and Montréal ended with the Habs claiming their seventh straight victory, this one a three-goal shutout.

Max Pacioretty accounted for the game-winner with under 90 seconds remaining in the first period.  Assisted by Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, he redirected a shot past Jake Allen to set the score at 1-0, which would hold into the intermission.  Alexander Semin and Torrey Mitchell accounted for the insurance tallies in the second and third periods, respectively.

Carey Price stopped all 38 shots he faced to earn another shutout, while Allen takes the loss after stopping only 33 of 36 shots faced (91.7%).

The Game of the Day series now stands at 8-5-1 for the homers, leading the roadies by five points.

Tonight’s schedule is relatively light, with only four games being played.  The evening begins at 7 p.m. eastern when Toronto visits Buffalo, followed an hour later by Philadelphia at Boston (NBCSN).  At 9:30 p.m. eastern, the opening puck is dropped in Alberta when Detroit visits Edmonton, followed half an hour later by the final fixture of the evening: Carolina at Colorado.

Tonight’s Game of the Day, you ask?  We’ll keep it simple tonight and go with Philly at the B’s.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoUnknown

Just in case you’re wondering: Yes, I did choose this one because it’s on national TV in the US.  Deal with it.

Philadelphia‘s last game was against the Dallas Stars, who beat them 2-1 in the Wells Fargo Center.  After giving up a goal in each of the first two periods, the Flyers could only manage to narrow the margin to one at the 8:57 mark in the final third.  Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read assisted Sean Couturier to his first goal of the season, earning him third star of the night honors.

Boston returns home to the TD Garden on a two-game winning streak after beating the Coyotes 5-3 in Arizona on Saturday in a thrilling third period.  Shane Doan scored the first goal of the game after only two minutes of play to set the score at a one-goal advantage for the Yotes, which held into the second period.  Boston tied it up at the 8:42 mark with a Tyler Randell goal, assisted by David Krejci  and Torey Krug.  The second and final goal of the period belonged to Krejci in the 16th minute, assisted by Krug and Loui Eriksson on the power play.  The fireworks in the final period began at the 4:44 mark when Brad Marchand, assisted by Tommy Cross and Patrice Bergeron, scored a shorty to set the score at 3-1.  Boston‘s good fortunes were short-lived though, as Tobias Rieder, assisted by Doan and Michael Stone, narrowed the margin to one only 13 seconds later.  2:24 later, Arizona tied the game at three-all with a goal from Kyle Chipchura, assisted by Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.  The B’swinner came 1:49 later on the power play when Ryan Spooner and Krejci assisted Bergeron to his second goal of the season.  Bergeron also accounted for the lone insurance goal (he wanted to make sure he got the winner, I guess) on another power play, this time assisted by Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller at the 18:54 mark.

Some players to watch in this one include Boston‘s Krejci (nine points [tied for third in the league] and five assists [tied for eighth in the league]) & Krug (six assists [tied for fourth in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (two shutouts [tied for league lead], .964 save percentage [fifth in the league] and 1.04 GA average [seventh in the league]).

Boston has a -141 advantage in this one, so I’ll go with the home team earning their third straight game in our series.

October 20 – Day 14 – The Best of the Best

Last night’s game between San Jose and the New York Rangers ended poorly for the hot-starting Sharks, who fell in a four-goal shutout at Madison Square Garden.

Marc Staal scored the lone goal of the first period, the game winner, at the 10:36 mark, assisted by Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast.  At almost the same point in the second, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle assisted Mats Zuccarello to his fourth goal of the season, this one on the power play, to set the score at 2-0.  3:47 into the third, Fast scored his first goal of the year after assists from Chris Kreider and Keith Yandle, followed 13 minutes later by Viktor Stalberg’s goal, assisted by Staal.

Martin Jones earned his first loss of the season after only stopping 24 of 28 (85.7%), while Antii Raanta earned the shutout victory on 22 shots faced in his first game of the season.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 7-5-1 for the home team.

On tonight’s schedule are seven games, of which five are inter-conference matchups.  Three games get started at 7 p.m. eastern (Arizona at New Jersey, Florida at Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders at Columbus), followed half an hour later by two more games (Dallas at Philadelphia [NBCSN] and St. Louis at Montréal).  At 8 p.m. eastern, Tampa Bay and Nashville drop the puck at Bridgestone Arena, followed an hour later by the last game of the evening, Washington at Calgary.

The game that stands out the most this evening is being contested in the Bell Centre between the two conference-leading squads, the St. Louis Blues and the Montréal Canadiens.

Unknown-1Unknown

The Habs are currently leading the league with an undefeated 6-0-0 record, but the Blues are in hot pursuit with a 5-1-0 record having only played one game so far this season at Scottrade Center.

Montréal is coming off a Saturday 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, although it came with maybe the most adversity they’ve faced so far this season.  The Habs had not trailed in five full games played, but the Wingsscored the first goal of this game before five minutes had ticked off the clock in the second period.  Carey Price and the Canadiens took it personally, not giving up another goal the rest of the night, but the forwards were really the ones who were offended, scoring the game-tying goal almost exactly three minutes later before the three-goal explosion that was the final period.  Jeff Petry accounted for the game-winner (assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais), followed by Tomas Plekanec (Brendan Gallagher notched an assist) and Brian Flynn.

This is St. Louis‘ fifth straight game north of the border during their six-game road trip.  Their last game was in Manitoba against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, a game the Notes won 4-2, but, similar to Montréal, it took a little bit of work.  After a scoreless first period, Dmitrij Jaskin and Jori Lehtera assisted RW Vladimir Tarasenko to open the wild second in the fourth minute.  A minute later, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little took advantage of the man-advantage to assist Mathieu Perreault to his first goal of the season to tie the game at one-all.  In the 10th minute of the second, Jaskin and Joel Edmundson assisted Scottie Upshall to his second tally of the year to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, but it was again short-lived due to another St. Louis penalty, an interference call against Edmundson.  Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele assisted Drew Stafford to his second goal of the season, tying the game again, this time at two-all, the score that held into the third.  Tarasenko fired the winning goal of the game with 10:10 remaining in the game, followed in the 19th minute by Carl Gunnarsson’s insurance goal.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Montréal‘s D Andrei Markov (+8 Corsi rating [tied for league lead]), LW Max Pacioretty (+8 Corsi rating [tied for league lead] and four goals [tied for fifth in league]), C Plekanec (five goals [tied for league lead] and +7 Corsi rating [tied for third in league]), G Carey Price (five wins [leads league], one shutout [tied for second in league], .957 save percentage [tied for fifth in league] and 1.2 GAA [seventh in league]) & D P.K. Subban (+7 Corsi rating [tied for third in league]) and St. Louis‘ RW Tarasenko (five goals [tied for league lead], nine points [tied for league lead] and +6 Corsi rating [tied for sixth in league]).

Montréal is favored at -133 and has given up the fewest goals in the league (seven), but is playing a Blues team that leads the league in goals scored (21).  Montréal leads in goals against average (1.17 per game), penalty kill percentage (90.5%) and shots per game (34), while St. Louis leads in goals per game average (3.5 per game), power play percentage (19%), shots against average (25 per game) and face-off percentage (53.8%).

This will be an excellent game, certainly worthy of national attention.  It’s well documented that I’m a midwesterner and partial to my Blues, and I’ll certainly be wearing my Brett Hull sweater, but I think the Habs pull this one out in the Bell Centre.

October 19 – Day 13 – Out of Necessity, Vol. 2

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between New Jersey and the New York Rangers finally gave the series its first overtime game, as the Devils won on a Lee Stempniak goal to grab the bonus point.

The Blueshirts struck first with a goal only 3:12 into the game, when Oscar Lindberg assisted Derek Stepan to his third goal of the season.  The one-goal advantage held into the second period.

Assisted by Mike Cammalleri and Damon Severson at the 1:52 mark of the second, Adam Henrique leveled the score at one-all, the score that held until Stempniak, first star of the game, fired his game winner at the 3:07 mark of three-on-three overtime.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at a six-all draw.

Today is the second day of the season in which the league only has one game on the schedule, and the puck is dropped at 7 p.m. eastern (NHL Network).  Hope you enjoyed watching the Blueshirts yesterday, ‘cuz…

Unknown-3New York Rangers Logo

…The World’s Most Famous Arena is hosting the Sharks tonight.

The Blueshirts won both games last season by a combined score of 7-1 after being swept by the Sharks the season before.  So far this season, both teams have found early success as San Jose is 4-1-0 and New York is 3-2-1.

Some players to watch in this matchup include Sharks goaltender Martin Jones (two shutouts [tied for lead in league], averaging 0.33 goals against per game [second best in the league], stopping .987 percent of shots faced [second best in league] and owning three wins [tied for second in league]) and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (owns three wins [tied for second best in league]).

As stated before, the Sharks enter the game with the better record and on better rest.  It will be interesting to see if Martin Jones can continue his early success against a proven Rangers side.

Heck, why not… I’ll pick Sharks in this one!

October 18 – Day 12 – Moore afternoon hockey

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between Columbus and Chicago ended in a 4-1 loss for the Jackets, making their record 0-6-0.

Chicago waited to score until half the game was over, with Artem Anisimov firing his second of the year after an assist from Artemi Panarin at the 15:35 mark of the second.  A little over a minute later, Teuvo Teravainen scored the game-winner, setting the score at 2-0 going into the third.  Marian Hossa began the third period scoring at the 7:48 mark, followed almost 10 minutes later by Jack Johnson, his first of the season

No, not that Jack Johnson.

The final goal of the game was an empty-netter, scored at the 18:33 mark by Patrick Kane.

Corey Crawford earns a win to set his record at 2-2 by stopping 22 of 23 shots faced (95.7%), while Curtis McElhinney earns his first loss on the season after blocking only 26 of 29 (89.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at a 6-5 advantage for the home squad.

Today’s schedule includes five games, spaced throughout the day.  The first puck is dropped at 1 p.m. eastern in Madison Square Garden when the Rangers host New Jersey.  The other afternoon game begins at 3 p.m. eastern with St. Louis visiting Winnipeg.  The evening games begin at 8 p.m. eastern when Minnesota visits Anaheim, followed an hour later by Edmonton at Vancouver.  The final game of the night begins at 10 p.m. eastern when Colorado visits Los Angeles.

60% of the games today involve division rivals, of which today’s Game of the Day is one, but that is not my main incentive for choosing this fixture – more special is the return of John Moore to Manhattan.

New Jersey Devils LogoNew York Rangers Logo

Bonus points and a shout-out on the next podcast for anyone who can figure out why this is included.  Send us a tweet or post your answers in the comments.  Consider it my challenge to you.  Thanks to YouTube user JUSTASITTINANDAROCK for supplying the piece.

The defender played 125 games of his 233 game career with the Blueshirts (53.6%), the most of any of the four teams he’s played for.  He showed up at the Garden after being traded to the Rangers from Columbus at the 2012-’13 trade deadline, scoring a goal in his first game.  After arriving, he notched five assists and that goal before the end of the season, earning a +9 Corsi rating.

During his entire tenure in the Big Apple, he claimed 21 assists and six goals (all even-strength, and two of which were game-winners) and earned a +23 Corsi rating during the regular season.

His last appearance for the Blueshirts in the Stanley Cup playoffs occurred during the 2013-’14 season as he was traded to Arizona before the deadline in the 2014-’15 season.  In those playoffs, he earned a +2 Corsi rating (seventh on team) with two assists (tied for 17th on team).

So far, Moore nor the 0-3-0 Devils have had quite the start they would have hoped for, as he has a -2 Corsi rating in two games played, due in part to an arm injury sustained in the second game of the season.

Count on the Rangers spoiling Moore’s return with a victory at the Garden.

October 17 – Day 11 – Chicago’s so Saad he’s gone

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Colorado Avalanche and the Anaheim Ducks ended poorly for the home squad, as the Avs earned the three-goal shutout victory.

Nathan MacKinnon, 2013’s first round pick, scored the opening and winning goal of the game before a full minute was off the clock with a slapshot to beat Frederik Andersen.  The two insurance goals were scored by Jack Skille and John Mitchell (an empty netter), in the second and third periods respectively.

Reto Berra stopped all 35 shots he faced to earn his first victory of the year, while Andersen’s record falls to 0-2-1 after stopping 22 of 24 (91.7%).

This was the fourth straight shutout victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands at a five-all tie.

Tonight’s schedule features a full 10 games, meaning a third of the league is dormant tonight.  As usual, the evening gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with six fixtures (Detroit at Montréal [NHL Network], Nashville at Ottawa, Buffalo at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Florida, Toronto at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Washington).  At 7:30 eastern, San Jose and the Islanders drop the puck in the Barclays Center, followed an hour later by Columbus at Chicago.  Finally, at 10 p.m. eastern, the final two matchups get started when Edmonton visits Calgary and Boston plays Arizona.

While there are four divisional rivalries being played tonight, there’s one game that sticks out because of the return of a player to the franchise that drafted him.  This skater won two Stanley Cups in three years and scored 52 regular season goals and 74 regular seasons assists, much less 15 goals and 19 assists in the playoffs, while playing for the team.

That man is none other than Brandon Saad, which is why Columbus at Chicago is today’s Game of the Day.

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoUnknown-2

During his time with Chicago, he never had a Corsi rating poorer than the +7 he earned last season (with the exception of the two games he played with the Hawks in 2011-’12), and increased his scoring contributions each year.  He scored 27 points in the 2012-’13 season, 47 in 2013-’14, and 52 last season.

During last season’s Stanley Cup run, he scored eight goals (third on the team) (seven of them at even-strength, a stat he placed second best in), a +5 Corsi rating (tied for sixth best on team), 11 points (tied for eighth on team) and three assists (tied for 13th on team).

The left winger has scored three goals so far this season (12th best in the league) for the 0-4-0 Jackets, all of them on the power play (he’s best in the league in that category).  He is also the proud owner of the 53rd best shot percentage in the NHL after cashing in on three of his 11 shots (27.3%).

The spread currently reads -190 for the Hawks.  I’ve said it before this season and been wrong, but it should be two points for the Chicago.

October 16 – Day 10 – Beach u to it (yeah, that was super lame)

Last night’s Game of the Day between the Blueshirts and Habs ended in a three-goal shutout for Montréal, earning them their best start (5-0-0) in their illustrious franchise history.

The Habs earned their first goal after almost 29 minutes of scoreless play when Tomas Fleischmann scored his second goal of the year, the eventual game winner, off an assist from David Desharnais.  Both were involved in the first insurance goal of the game, assisting Dale Weise to his first season of the season with little more than two minutes remaining in the game.  The final goal was fired by Tomas Plekanec into an empty net in the final minute of action.

Carey Price earned the shutout victory by stopping all 25 Rangers shots, while Henrik Lundqvist only stopped 29 of 31 (93.5%).

Don’t let the Canadiens (or Maple Leafs fans!) know now, but in addition to having the best start ever, they also have a little bit of history on their side.  The franchise has begun their season at 4-0-0 three times before, and all three of those seasons ended with the Stanley Cup living in The City of Saints for the year.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at a 5-4 advantage for the home squad after the third straight shutout.

Tonight, there’s seven games on the schedule.  The evening gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when San Jose visits New Jersey and Toronto visits Columbus.  Half an hour later, the Canes visit the Wings.  At 8 p.m. eastern, Calgaryvisits Winnipeg.  Starting at 10 p.m. eastern are St. Louis at Vancouver and Colorado at Anaheim.  Finally, Minnesota and Los Angeles drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

There are a few significant returns tonight, including Calgary‘s Michael Frolik to Winnipeg and San Jose coach Peter DeBoer to New Jersey.  That being said, there is one that stands out even more: Francois Beauchemin, current defenseman for the Colorado Avalanche, is returning to the Pond, a place he has called home twice for a combined 9 seasons (approximately) of his 14+ year career.  Because of this, Colorado at Anaheim is today’s Game of the Day.

Colorado Avalanche LogoUnknown

How funny that the first game he’s played against Anaheim since January 20, 2011 (when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs) is with the very team he made his Ducks debut against (of course, they were then the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim)!  It was on November 18, 2005 that Beauchemin played his first game for the Ducks, against the Colorado Avalanche.

Beauchemin was a part of Anaheim‘s lone Stanley Cup squad in the 2006-’07 season.  During those playoffs, he scored four goals (seventh on team) (all of them were power play goals, a stat in which he was second best on the team), eight points (tied for 10th on team), a +2 Corsi rating (tied for 10th on team) and four assists (tied for 11th on team).

Beauchemin still owns a few records on the Ducks‘ books, including being tied for the most playoff game appearances (97) with Ryan Getzlaf, the fourth most playoff points (39) and playoff assists (29), the seventh most playoff goals (10) and the 10th most regular season assists (126).

So far this season with the Avs, Beauchemin has had positive effects on his new club.  He has brought his penchant for assists to Colorado, already notching five in only three games played, which is best on the team and third best in the league (10th best in league in points).

The line currently reads -176 for Anaheim, but both teams have lost two of their three games to start the season and will try to use this matchup to restart their seasons.  That being said, I expect the Ducks to hold their own and earn their first win of the season in what should be a great game.

October 15 – Day Nine –

For two days in a row, the Game of the Day has yielded unexpected results as the Chicago Blackhawks were blanked by the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center last night 3-0.

The two squads played a scoreless 25 minutes before Philadelphia broke the ice (HA! IT’S HOCKEY! THEY PLAY ON ICE!  …I will stop now.) with a power play goal by Sam Gagner, his first of the season.  Claude Giroux added the first insurance tally at the 16:21 mark in the second period, followed by Matt Read early in the third.

Michal Neuvirth earned his second shutout victory in as many games played by stopping all 30 of the Hawks‘ shots, while Corey Crawford’s record falls to 1-2 after stopping 26 of 29 (89.7%)

The DtFR Game of the Day series is now an even four-all between the home and road squads.

Today is a busy day in the league, with a total of eight games being played, of which only two are north of the American border.  Three games drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Nashville at the New York Islanders, Ottawa at Pittsburgh, and Chicago at Washington), followed half an hour later by another set of three (the New York Rangersat Montréal, Dallas at Tampa Bay and Buffalo at Florida).  St. Louis and Edmonton get started at 9 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by the final game of the night: Minnesota at Arizona.

Of that set, there are at least four solid games to choose from (at least in my opinion), but sadly there aren’t any nationally televised games to help make the decision any easier (must be the Game 5 between the Mets and Dodgers…).

Therefore, I’m basically going to draw a game out of the hat and go with the Rangers at Montréal at the Bell Centre.
New York Rangers LogoUnknown

There’s a few appealing qualities about this game compared to the other great games tonight: This one is Montréal‘s home opener, looking for their best start ever in an illustrious franchise history.  This one is an Original Six matchup.  And, this one pits the two current division leaders of the Eastern Conference against each other.  All of these should make for a great game.

Some players to watch in this one include Montréal‘s Andrei Markov (+6 Corsi rating [tied for league lead]), Max Pacioretty (four goals [tied for league lead], +6 Corsi rating [tied for league lead] and six points [tied for second in the league]), Tomas Plekanec (+6 Corsi rating [tied for league lead]), Carey Price (three wins [tied for league lead]) & P.K. Subban (four assists [tied for sixth in the league]) and New York‘s Oscar Lindberg (four goals [tied for league lead]) & Henrik Lundqvist (three wins [tied for league lead]).

Given the environment and some of the statistical edges the Habs have (averaging a goal less per game, higher power play and penalty kill percentages and more shots per game), I’m picking Montréal to win this very competitive game.

October 14 – Day Eight – Wednesday Night Rivalry…

Last night’s Game of the Day was certainly a shocker.  First-year Shark, goalkeeper Martin Jones, earned himself and his team a five-goal shutout victory over the Alex Ovechkin-less Capitals last night in the Verizon Center.

Joe Thornton scored the first goal of the game after almost 11 minutes, the only goal of the first period.  San Jose scored two insurance goals apiece in both the second and third periods, all by different skaters.  In all, nine separate players found their way to the scorecard, with both Matt Nieto and Chris Tierney adding a goal an and assist to their résumé for the year.

Jones stopped all 31 shots faced to improve his record to a perfect 3-0-0 and has only given up one goal so far this season, while Braden Holtby stopped 27 of 30 (90%), as Nieto and Tierney’s goals were scored on an empty net.

The road team now leads the DtFR Game of the Day series 4-3, and are on a three-game win streak.

Tonight’s schedule includes only four games, all of them played under the Stars and Stripes.  Ottawa and Columbus kick things off at 7 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Chicago at Philadelphia (NBCSN).  At 10 p.m. eastern, Boston plays their lone regular-season game in Denver against Colorado, while Arizona and Anaheim wait half an hour before dropping the puck on the Pond.

Today marks the first matchup decided by committee, so that is exciting.  What’s most exciting for me is that I’m not solely responsible if you think I chose the wrong game!  Now we all have to share the blame!  Hooray!

We decided to go with the Hawks–Flyers game.

Unknown-2Philadelphia Flyers Logo

Look at those logos.  They don’t even want to face each other. Definitely screams Wednesday Night Rivalry.

Not only is this the only nationally televised game of the night, it also has an additional “Original 12” narrative (Yes, I’m fully aware that’s not really a thing.  Just roll with it.).  So far in this week-old season, both teams have been competitive, with Chicago owning a 2-1 record (lost to the Rangers on opening night, swept a home-and-home with the Islanders) and a 1-1-1 record for Philly (lost to Tampa in OT, split a home-and-home with Florida).

According to Vegas, this should be the most competitive game of the night, as the Flyers have a +121 line (The next closest is Sens–Jackets at -134).

With that information and overall predictions for the teams for the season, I’m picking the road team to pick up their fourth straight victory in our Game of the Day series.

Some players to watch in this one include Chicago‘s Patrick Kane (regardless of how you feel about him, he is still having a successful season with six points [tied for second in the league] on three goals [tied for second in the league]) and Philly‘s Michal Neuvirth (one shutout this season [tied for second in the league]).

October 13 – Day Seven – And on the seventh day…

No, before you get worried, I won’t be forsaking my responsibility to the Game of the Day.  That being said, since it is fall break for school, I definitely will be resting.  So many video games, so little time…

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins ended exactly the way I, and I think most of us, expected: a Bolts winner.  Steven Stamkos earned his 500th and 501st points with the game-winning goal at the 15:17 mark of the second period to set the score at 4-3.  The Lightning scored two insurance goals in the final period to cement their victory, moving them into a tie with Montréal at the top of the division for the day.

Ben Bishop stopped 27 of 30 (90%) to earn the win, while Tuukka Rask could only stop 17 of 23 (73.9%).

The Game of the Day series is now an evenly split 3-3 between the home and road squads.

Today’s schedule includes nine games (eight in America), making a busy night for hockey fans.  As usual, the action begins at 7 p.m. eastern, with five games starting then: Nashville at New Jersey, Winnipeg at the New York Rangers, Montréal at Pittsburgh, San Jose at Washington, and Florida at Carolina.  Half an hour later, the puck drops at the Joe when Detroit plays host to Tampa Bay (NBCSN).  At 8:30 eastern, Edmonton begins their game against Dallas, followed half an hour later by St. Louis at Calgary.  The final game of the night begins at 10 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Los Angeles.

My pick for the Game of the Day is… San Jose at Washington!
Unknown-3Washington Capitals Logo

Come on down!

Props to “Boba Fettuccine” for posting this .gif to this board.  And for anyone wondering, yes, that is Aaron Paul (a.k.a. Jesse Pinkman) in 2000.  The Internet is a great place with millions of hidden gems of information, kids.

Anyways, while the game may not be the most competitive of the night (the Caps are a -135 favorite in this one), it is highlighted by the return of RW Joel Ward to the Verizon Center.

Ward played 276 games over four seasons with Washington before signing with the Sharks this offseason.  During his time with the Caps, he amassed 57 goals and 64 assists (121 points) and a +22 Corsi rating.  Speaking of Corsi, Ward led the Caps in the statistic twice, during the 2011-’12 season and during the 2013-’14 campaign.

In the last two seasons, he has scored four game-winners per year, a feat he only accomplished once in seasons before.  An especially important aspect of his game in Washington compared to his three seasons in Nashvillewas helping to produce power play goals.  In those same two seasons that he scored his game-winners, he averaged 4.5 power play assists, by far the best of any other two years of his career.  It is surely this recent success that inspired San Jose to sign him to a three-year contract, where he is currently playing on the second line.

So far this season, he has accounted for two assists in as many games played and a +1 Corsi rating.

As stated before, the game will probably not be the most competitive of the night.  Washington has their sites set on Lord Stanley, while the Sharks are simply hoping to put together a respectable campaign during their time of transition.  I’m taking the home squad in this one.

October 12 – Day Six – Christopher Columbus was Definitely a Hockey Fan

Last night’s lone game, and thus the Game of the Day, was contested between the Montréal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators, with the Habs winning 3-1 in the Canadian Tire Centre, their first regular season victory in the nation’s capital since April 4, 2014.

Tomas Plekanec was responsible for the game-winning goal, fired at the 18:34 mark of the first period.  The unassisted tally was his second of the game and third of the season, earning him first star honors.  Mike Condon earned the win after stopping 20 of 21 Senators‘ shots (95.2%), while his counterpart, Matthew O’Connor, stopped 31 of 34 (91.2%).

The home team is now 3-2 in Down the Frozen River’s Game of the Day series.

Today has five games on the schedule, taking place throughout the day in honor of Christopher Columbus, an Italian who undoubtedly was directly involved in forging the Stanley Cup, establishing the Original Six and initiating the new divisions and playoff format implemented in 2014.  Obviously.

The things they do and don’t teach in grade school.  Terrible.

In honor of Columbus, today’s schedule will be relayed in Italian, because we live in the wonderful world of Google Translate, allowing us to be fluent in almost every known language.  Please know I took a few liberties with my translations before you begin harping in the comment section.

The day begins with two games at 1 p.m. eastern, when il Fulmine di Baia di Tampa visit gli Orsi di Boston and gli Aerei di Winnipeg visit le Isole di Nuova York.  The fun continues at 3 p.m. eastern when the star of the day’s team, le Giacche Blu di Colombo, visit le Spade di Bufalo.  The night games begin at 7 p.m. eastern when le Pantere della Florida visit the le Alette di Filatoio di Philadelphia (NHL Network).  Finally, i Canadesi di Vancouver visit i Anatre di Anaheim at 10 p.m. eastern.

Currently, the Bruins are projected to lose with a +125 line, the closest line for the day, which confirms Bolts–B’sas our Game of the Day.

Unknown-1Unknown

This matchup is one of two among divisional foes (Vancouver/Anaheim is the other) happening today, and also has some statistical significance: All Steven Stamkos needs is an assist in today’s game to earn the 500th point of his 7.02 year career.  However, he’ll try to earn his point and, more importantly, two points for his squad in a building his team hasn’t won in since March 25, 2010.

Boston has had little to hang their hat on… or helmet, whichever… so far in this young season.  In two games played, the B’s have yet to earn a point in the standings.  What’s worse, they’ve played both those games at the TD Garden and have given up an average of exactly five goals per game, while only scoring an average of exactly two goals per game.  Compare that to the 2-0-0 Lightning‘s averages of 1.5 goals against per game and 3.5 goals for per game, and you’ll see that this one may be leaning Tampa Bay‘s way.

I’m picking the Bolts to take care of business in this one and enter into a two-way tie with the Habs for the top of the Atlantic Division with six points.

October 11 – Day Five – Out of Necessity, Vol. 1

Last night’s game of the night between St. Louis and Minnesota ended in a 3-2 win for the Wild.  The Blues tied the game at one-all at the 2:49 mark of the second period, a score that held for 13 minutes.  The Wild took a 2-1 lead at the 15:15 mark with a power play goal by Zach Parise, his fourth goal, tying him for the league lead in the young season.  Twenty-one seconds later, Charlie Coyle scored his second goal of the match, the eventual game-winner.

St. Louis out-shot the Wild 32-19, but Devan Dubnyk held his ground by stopping 93.8% of shots faced to earn the win.

Today’s Game of the Day is quite the tough decision.  On the schedule tonight is Montréal at Ottawa (7 p.m. eastern, NHL Network/SN1) and… oh… nobody else… guess that makes things easier!

UnknownUnknown-2

Similar to last night’s game, this matchup is both a divisional rivalry and a rematch from last year’s conference quarterfinals.  Last season, Montréal won the Atlantic Division, 11 points better then the Wild Card Sens.  That being said, Ottawa won the regular season series 3-1 before falling in six games to the Habs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Currently, there is a four-way tie for the division lead between the Bolts, Habs, Sens and Wings at four points apiece, therefore the winner of this game will own the division for a night.  You know, ‘cuz that’s important without even a full week played in the season.

Some players to keep a watch on include Ottawa‘s Mark Stone (three assists, tied for fifth in league) and Kyle Turris (three goals, tied for fourth in league; four points, tied for seventh in league) and Montréal‘s Alex Galchenyuk (three assists, tied for fifth in league), Andrei Markov (+4 Corsi rating, tied for sixth in league) and P.K. Subban (+4 Corsi rating, tied for sixth in league).

The Sens are favored in tonight’s game at -124.

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).

Unknown-1Unknown-4

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, 2015 – 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).

Unknown-3Unknown-1

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 2

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.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoUnknown-5

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 Starstaking 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 Habs–Leafs 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).

New York Rangers LogoCHl8Si-W8AACHtt

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!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Down the Frozen River(.com!)

%d bloggers like this: