October 27 – Day 21 – Return home to Mound City

For the second game in the row, Jonathan Toews (assisted by Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook) scored the overtime winner, this one at the :51 mark, to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 1-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Corey Crawford took the win after stopping all 39 shots the Ducks sent his way to elevate his record to 5-2-0, while Frederik Andersen’s record falls to 0-3-2 after giving up the lone goal on 24 shots (95.8%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 12-5-3 for the home team, nine points ahead of the roadies.

After a couple days straight of only three games on the schedule, it’s a busy Tuesday in the NHL with 10 games to be contested.  The first three games will get their start at 7 p.m. eastern (Arizona at Boston, Columbus at New Jersey and Buffalo at Philadelphia [TVAS/BELL TV]), followed half an hour later by two more matchups (Carolina at Detroit and Colorado at Florida).  Another triplet of games drop the opening puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Tampa Bay at St. Louis [NBCSN/SN1], Edmonton at Minnesota and Los Angeles at Winnipeg [TSN3]) with an Anaheim at Dallas chaser 30 minutes later.  Finally, the evening’s nightcap gets started at 10 p.m. eastern when Mighty Montréal visits Vancouver (RDS).

Columbus at New Jersey is the only divisional rivalry being played tonight, but has the competition of two games between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Tampa Bay at St. Louis and Los Angeles at Winnipeg).  Of these three, only one is being broadcast nationally in both nations, plus Ben Bishop will return home to play before his hometown fans, so the game at the Scottrade Center will be our Game of the Day.

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Starting with the road side, we find a Tampa Bay team coming off an overtime shutout loss to the Bluesarchrivals (bad pun intended) that has found early success this season.  Currently, the Bolts and their potent offense have 12 points to their name with a 5-2-2 record, which is good enough for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference (of course, second is as good as first in that division since Montréal doesn’t look like they’ll ever lose).  That offense has scored 27 goals this season, exceeding the league average by five tallies.  They’ve put 243 shots on net so far (exceeding the league average by four), and scored on 11.1% of those attempts (dwarfing the league average by 2.1%).  One player responsible for this success is Captain Steven Stamkos, who leads the team in total goals (five) and power play goals (two), and is tied for the lead in both even strength goals (with Vladislav Namestnikov, three) and game-winners (with Jason Garrison, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat, one).

Netminder Bishop (5-2-1) has also had a solid start to his season, as the Lightning have only given up 24 goals so far (two over the league average).  The team’s collective save percentage of .915 is exactly on par with the rest of the league.

Probably the worst aspect of this Tampa Bay team has been their penalty kill.  They’ve given up two more power play goals than the league average (seven and five, respectively) on two fewer opportunities.  As you can expect, their penalty kill percentage is showing it: their 72% kill rate is 9.41% below average.  If the special teams cannot figure out how to kill penalties better, Nikita Nesterov may find himself riding the bench, being scratched, or even worse, sent back to Syracuse if he cannot get his team leading 17 PIM down (he leads the second highest by nine minutes with only three games played).

Turning our attention to the 5-2-1 home squad, we find another team coming off another overtime loss, this one a 3-2 final against the Isles, but the Notes did manage to score two goals in the second period to earn a point in the standings.  They currently own the fourth position in both the competitive Central Division and Western Conference table.

While the Bolts may be more offensively-minded, the Blues have utilized a more balanced approach and relied on their defense and goaltending for success this season.  St. Louis has scored only one goal over the 22-goal league average, but have kept two more goals off the board than the rest of the NHL this season.  Tonight’s starter Jake Allen (Brian Elliott is recovering from illness) owns a 1-2-0 record with a .899 save percentage and 3.02 GAA.

Luckily for Tampa Bay, the Blues‘ major shortcoming so far this season has been the power play, as they only have four goals to show for 29 opportunities (13.79%, 4.8% below league average).

Inversely, the Blues have done very well on the penalty kill this season.  Although their kill percentage trails the league average by .16%, they’ve had to defend against five more than the typical team.  Should that stat continue, the Blues will be able to physically impose their will on a consistent basis to earn some man-advantages for themselves.

The Blues beat the Bolts in both games played last season, led by RW Vladimir Tarasenko’s two goals and Alexander Steen’s goal and two assists.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (leads squad in shots [36], points [nine]and goals [five]; tied for squad lead in even-strength goals [four], even-strength assists [four], power play goals [one] and game-winners [one]) and Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (five wins [tied for second in the league]).

This will be a tight game and one worth watching.  I’m inclined to give the advantage to the Notes in this one, simply because they’re playing at home.

October 26 – Day 20 – Are the Ducks quacks?

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers ended in a 4-1 victory for the Blueshirts.  Although the Flames had a great start to the evening by posting a goal at the 3:06 mark of the first period, the Rangers were able to take the lead during second and never look back.

Jiri Hudler was responsible for the Flames‘ lone goal.  He scored his third of the season following assists from Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

New York tied the game at the 12:03 mark of the second.  Oscar Lindberg was responsible for the tally, assisted by Kevin Hayes and Marc Staal.  They took the lead only 4:54 later, compliments of of Dan Girardi’s game winner, assisted by Emerson Etem and Jarret Stoll.  The 2-1 score held into the second intermission.

During the third, Kevin Klein scored his second goal of the year at the 8:38 mark, followed by the final goal only 1:48 later by Derick Brassard, assisted by Jesper Fast and Ryan McDonagh.

Antti Raanta earned his second win in as many starts by stopping 22 of 23 (95.7%), while Jonas Hiller took the loss after stopping only 17 of 21 (81%).  He was pulled at the 12:01 mark of the final period and replaced with Joni Ortio, who stopped all five shots he faced.

The DtFR Game of the Day series still favors the home team by eight points, currently standing at 11-5-3.

Today is the second straight of only three games on the schedule.  First up at 7 p.m. eastern, the Flames hop on the B Train a day after playing the Rangers to face their opponent’s in-town rivals, the New York Islanders, at the Barclays Center.  Half an hour after that game gets underway, Arizona visits the Air Canada Centre to face Toronto.  Finally, Anaheim and Chicago round the night out in the United Center, with the opening puck dropping at 8:30 p.m. eastern (NHL Network).

It’s been a trip down memory lane this weekend for Chicago, as they hosted the Stanley Cup runners-up Saturday.  The throwback to last season continues tonight when the Western Conference’s runners-up come a-calling.

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Although the Ducks were only a victory away from earning the right to face the Lightning in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals, they have looked nowhere near being considered contenders early this season.  The Ducks may literally waddle into the United Center tonight, having only a 1-5-1 record to show for their efforts.  Unlike division rival Calgary, whose plight was documented yesterday, the Ducks are right on par with the rest of the league in regards to goals against, as they’ve given up one less than the league average.  As I’m sure you’ve now assumed, the Ducks‘ concerns are with their forwards.  Anaheim has scored a grand total of six goals this season.  Yes, six goals over seven games.  What’s worse, they scored four of those goals in one game (10/18 against Minnesota).  Do the math, and that’s four times they’ve been shutout in seven games (they’re coming off one Saturday night at Minnesota).  In other words, not good.

One of the issues here is an ineffective power play.  In 19 opportunities, the Ducks have only scored a lone power play goal.  Their 5.26% power play percentage trails the league average by 13.28%.  Another issue is the number of shots the Ducks are putting on goal.  Anaheim‘s 193 shots are 40 below the league average.  You’d think that would help their shot percentage… think again.  Anaheim trails the league in that category too, as their 3.1% trails the NHL average by 5.9%.

Compare this to the team that rocked The Pond a season ago.  During the regular season, that squad scored 12 more goals than the league average, and allowed only two more than the average.  While the power play still was not on par with the rest of the NHL last season, it still exceeds this year’s effort as the special teams scored 15.68% of the time. Luckily, this year’s defense and goaltending is comparable, if not slightly surpassing last year’s excellent squad.

So, what gives?  I think the loss of LW Matt Beleskey to Boston during free agency has a big part to do with it.  He scored 22 goals last season for the Ducks, third best on the team.  18 of those goals were during 5-on-5 play, where he also ranked third.  His four remaining goals were all on the power play, which tied for fourth on the team with Corey Perry.  Eight of his goals were game-winners, which led the team by two goals.  A goal scorer also brings with him shots, as he put 145 pucks on goal last season, placing him at fifth-best on the squad.  With those shots, though, came the second-best shot percentage (15.2%), trailing only Perry’s 17.1%.

Additionally, the power play might also be struggling due to RW Kyle Palmieri being traded to the Devils during the offseason.  He accounted for five power play goals last season, which tied for second on the team.

Turning our attention to the Stanley Cup Champions, we find a team that is settling into their groove and beginning to climb the ranks of the Western Conference.  Currently, the Hawks have a 5-3-0 record, giving them the second wild card position and fifth place in the conference.  Chicago enters the game on a three-game win streak, most recently shutting out the Lightning at home in overtime with a quick goal by Jonathan Toews.

Similar to Anaheim, Chicago‘s offense hasn’t been glitzy, but they’ve been winning by keeping opposing offenses off the board.  They’ve given up only 16 goals so far this season, five goals under the league average.  Where they’ve really shined offensively is on the power play.  In 33 opportunities, they’ve converted six for goals (18.18%), which have accounted for a third of their total tallies this season.  Probably what is most frightening about the Hawks in light of their win streak is their number of shots (249, 16 over the league average) compared to their shooting percentage (7.2%).  If and when they get that percentage up, even if its just to the 9% league average, their offense will be a significant threat to any goalie.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Frederik Andersen (.938 save percentage [tenth in the league]) and Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (one shutout [tied for fourth in the league], four wins [tied for seventh in the league] and 1.84 GA average [tied for ninth in the league]) & Patrick Kane (11 points [tied for fourth in the league] and five goals [tied for eighth in the league]).

I expect a defensive, competitive matchup tonight that will end positively for Chicago, probably 1-0 or 2-1.

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.

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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 Winnipeg managed 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 SenatorsRangers 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.

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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.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #13- Torts, Goalies, and Other Essentials

The Down the Frozen River Crew talks about the latest in league standings, Winners and Losers, more surprises, other things, and makes several plugs for themselves. Also, Antti Raanta’s only played in 1 game (0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%), which is not considered by the NHL.com stats page to be leading the league in goalie stats, so you lucked out this time, Reto Berra.

Connor didn’t butcher any names, although he did talk about a keg in a machine instead of a cog… wonder what’s on his mind. Oh and Colby may or may have not spilled the beans on our next marketing campaign. Nick, as usual, did Nick things.

Join the conversation, make a suggestion, or ask a question for our next podcast using #AskDownTheFrozenRiver or #DTFRPodcast on Twitter– your thoughts might make it on our show! Please interact with us- seriously, tell us we’re idiots if you want, we can take it.

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.

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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 Flyers and 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!

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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 is bad 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.

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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.

Colby’s Corner: Columbus Winless through 7 and Torts

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets were picked by many, including myself, to make the playoffs this year. The key addition ofColumbus Blue Jackets Logo Brandon Saad was supposed to improve the team drastically. However, after a 0-7-0 start to their season, many people might be recanting their statements.

On Wednesday, October 21st, the Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach Todd Richards and hired John Tortorella (Torts) as the new coach. Torts brings experience and a Stanley Cup ring from when he led the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Along with signing him, Columbus has to give a second round pick to Vancouver because Torts was last employed by them and he was fired. The pick would’ve been a third rounder if Torts was hired during the off-season, but during the season requires it to be a second rounder. Columbus also agreed to keep some of their assistant coaches, maintaining familiarity with the players.

The team only has two players that are even in plus-minus this year, and the rest of the team is a minus. Goaltending has been another serious issue with save percentage under NHL average, and Sergei Bobrovsky has the league’s worst with .835. The star players in Columbus might be another major issue. Ryan Johansen, the number one center, only has one goal in the year thus far. There are only three players with multiple goals: Brandon Saad (3), Boone Jenner (3) and Scott Hartnell (2). Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen led the team in points last season, but this season each only has one goal through 7 games. The record resembles their performances on ice and their stats.

My Opinion

I feel like the firing of Todd Richards was unfair, and how they did it was very unprofessional. It’s not the coach’s fault if the franchise goalie forgot how to play hockey overnight. I understand it’s not all Bobrovsky’s fault, but he has a goals-against average of 5.07 in addition to his league’s worst save percentage. The defense is another struggle. David Savard and Dalton Prout have plus-minuses of minus 9 on the season. Defense is where Richards could be blamed, but you can only use what you have, and GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t strengthen the back end this off-season, he only went after forwards. giphy

The Blue Jackets screwed up in their hiring process after the 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night. The management began looking into new coaches and had actually agreed to a deal with Torts before letting Todd Richards know he was fired. This is crap and actually makes me sick. The headline Wednesday morning was Richards out Torts in, and I understand the need for action, but come on. Torts, however, doesn’t have full control of his staff because Richards’ assistants stayed with team. Normally the head coach is allowed to pick his assistant coaches, but not in this situation. Now Columbus has to hope one of the most hard-headed coaches in the league gets along with these assistants.

To wrap up, the Blue Jackets won’t go winless all season, so Torts will get a win, but unless Bobrovsky remembers how to play hockey, the Blue Jackets will not make the playoffs. Columbus will realize the issues weren’t behind the bench but in goal and in weak defensemen. The Blue Jackets’ next game is Thursday vs. Minnesota Wild.

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.

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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’s winner 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.

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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 Wings scored 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.

Down the Frozen River(.com!)