Tag Archives: 1980 NHL Entry Draft

March 30 – Day 162 – The Oilers have surpassed the Jones

Thursdays are fantastic, aren’t they? There’s only one day of work left, the weekend is on its way and the cherry on top is that there’s tons of hockey to watch in the meantime.

Nine games will be played in all this evening, starting with two (the New York Islanders at Philadelphia [SN1] and Columbus at Carolina) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by three more (Dallas at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Detroit at Tampa Bay). Another trio of contests (Toronto at Nashville, Ottawa at Minnesota [RDS2] and Anaheim at Winnipeg) drop the puck at the top of the hour and San Jose at Edmonton – tonight’s nightcap – gets the green light at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Detroit at Tampa Bay: In light of the Red Wings not qualifying for the postseason for the first time in 26 years, I present to you their final rematch of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

  • San Jose at Edmonton: Currently tied at 93 points, this is the first of two meetings in eight days between the Oilers and Sharks, who could meet up in the Western Quarterfinals.

Sorry Wings, but you got some love already this week. It’s off to Alberta with us for the biggest game of the night.

 

Nothing makes for more exciting hockey this late in the season than two divisional rivals tied on points and games-played scrapping for home ice in the playoffs. The cherry on top? They very well could be fighting to host tonight’s opponent in that first round.

Thanks to the NHL’s rule book, the tie is broken by regulation+ overtime wins. Tonight’s hosts – the Oilers – have 38 to their credit. The Sharks have 41, so they’d be hosting that playoff series if it started right now.

Of course, that may or may not be the case following tonight’s events. No matter how this contest ends, we will have a clear cut third-place team in the Pacific Division with five games remaining to be played by Anaheim, Edmonton and San Jose.

Things have been better for the 43-26-7 Sharks than they are right now. Although they beat the Rangers 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night, those are the only two points they have to show for their past seven games.

Nothing has gone right for the Sharks in the last two weeks. San Jose has been outscored 27-12 since March 16, showing that the struggles are equal parts offensive and in goal.

You’ll notice I didn’t say defensive. I slightly over-exaggerated before, as the defense has actually remained consistent with their entire campaign. They’ve allowed only 201 shots (28.7 per game) to reach 33-20-6 Martin Jones‘ crease, which is pretty close to their 27.6 season average.

Instead, the issue has been Jones and backup 10-6-1 Aaron Dell. Peter DeBoer has been almost religious in alternating his goaltenders in the month of March, as Jones has made only two pairs of consecutive starts.

What has resting his backstops done for him? Dell has an .881 save percentage and 3.4 GAA. Ouch. Unfortunately, that’s good in comparison to Jones’ .862 and 4.04 GAA.

Jones’ recent struggles continue on the penalty kill, where he’s managed only an .8 save percentage against opponents’ power plays. That is the ninth-worst mark in the league among the 40 netminders with at least three appearances and has resulted in a 64.7% kill rate, the second-worst in the NHL since mid-March.

As of publication of this article, no word has been released from the Sharks whether Dell or Jones will be in net. Since Jones started his second-straight game two nights ago, I’m going to guess Dell will get the nod tonight. I do not know whether that’s the right or wrong choice, but I do know Dell has been the 11th-worst goaltender in the league since March 16, meaning Jones has been… worse.

But the issues aren’t simply limited to DeBoer’s goaltending situation. The Sharks‘ offense has been abysmal too, averaging only 1.7 goals per game. The lone standout over this stretch has been Patrick Marleau, who has buried three of San Jose‘s dozen goals in the past two weeks, not to mention tacking on two more assists.

My biggest concern is that Joel Ward, the man who has notched the sixth-most points (27) and goals (t19) all season for San Jose, did not register a point during the recently-ended skid. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but I think it is no accident that his most recent assist was on March 14 in a victory against the Sabres. The sooner he returns to form, the sooner the Sharks become the team we’ve come to expect.

All that being said about the offense as whole, the power play has actually been solid of late. Not only is a 23.5% conversion rate 10th-best in the league since mid-March, but it also well exceeds the Sharks‘ 17.2% season rate.

It’s been all about the first power play unit – specifically Brent Burns, Marleau and Joe Thornton. Each have a goal and two assists on the man-advantage since the 16th to lead the squad.

While the third month of the year has not gone so well for the Sharks, it’s been splendid for the 42-25-9 Oilers. They’ve taken advantage of playing only two of their 12 games away from Rogers Place to earn an 8-3-1 record in March.

Just like you’d expect from a team led by Connor McDavid, offense has been the driver to Edmonton‘s success. The Oilers have scored 42 goals since March 4, the second-highest total in the league in that time.

In addition to the stellar play of McDavid, line mate Leon Draisaitl has also been exceptional as both have 17 points to their credit this month, which ties for fourth-most in the league in that time. Don’t get confused though; the captain is still in charge of this attack, as he’s scored six of his 27 goals this month, two more than his partner in crime.

As you might expect, Draisaitl and McDavid continue their chemistry on the power play. Since March 4, the Oil has successfully converted 27% of its opponents’ penalties into goals, the fourth-best mark in the league.

The man-advantage seems to be Draisaitl’s forte, as he’s set up five power play goals in March to lead the team in extra-man points. Of course, someone has to score those assists…

That’s where Mark Letestu and Milan Lucic come into play. They are the other two forwards on Draisaitl and McDavid’s power play unit, and they’ve both buried two goals apiece in that situation this month to lead the team.

The Oilers have been just as good of late on the penalty kill with their 88.5% kill rate, so the Sharks will have their work cut out for them this evening. My advice: avoid Andrej Sekera at all costs. He’s blocked nine shots on the penalty kill to not only lead the team, but tie for fourth-most in the league in that time-span.

Thanks to forcing overtime the first time these clubs met, Edmonton trails the Sharks by only a point in the season series between them. The last time they met was January 26, the Oilers‘ lone win against San Jose this season. They traveled to The Tank and emerged with a 4-1 victory thanks to Sekera’s two goals and Cam Talbot‘s 32 saves.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s Draisaitl (71 points [10th-most in the NHL]), McDavid (89 points on 62 assists [both lead the league]) and Talbot (seven shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 38 wins [third-most in the league]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the NHL] on 45 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked Edmonton a -126 favorite tonight, a line I think the Oilers are more than capable of upholding. Unless the Sharks get their goaltending under control, the hot Oilers should get their fans screaming at full-throat and even more excited for their return to the playoffs.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Wickenheiser (1961-1999) – Montréal selected this center with the top pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, but he actually spent more of his 10-year career in St. Louis. Hockey fans truly in the know remember Wickenheiser for completing the Blues‘ “Monday Night Miracle” with an overtime goal against Calgary to force a Game 7 in the 1986 Campbell Conference Finals.
  • Ty Conklin (1976-) – Some guys just seem to be born unlucky. This goaltender, who has nine years of NHL experience with six different teams (mostly with Edmonton), was a member of the 2008 Penguins team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to Detroit. So he could get his hands on the hardware, he joined the Red Wings the following season, who ended up losing the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.
  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic (1987-) – This defenseman was selected 35th-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, and that’s where he’s played ever since. Even though this is his 11th season, tonight’s game is only the fifth he’s ever played on his birthday in the NHL. His last was in 2013, and it was a special one: he notched his first birthday goal.

With four goals in the opening period, the Blackhawks easily beat Pittsburgh 5-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though the scoring started quickly thanks to First Star of the Game Artemi Panarin‘s (Third Star Patrick Kane and Second Star Tanner Kero) wrist shot 3:23 after the opening puck drop, the Hawks truly took command of the game in the final six minutes of the first frame. With what proved to be the game-winning goal, Richard Panik (Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews) buried a snap shot with 5:21 remaining, followed by Marcus Kruger (Kane and Panarin) and Marian Hossa (Ryan Hartman) in the closing minute of the period to set Chicago‘s advantage at four goals.

Kero tacked on an additional goal 3:32 into the third period, followed 2:14 later by an shutout-snapping backhanded shot from Bryan Rust (Ian Cole and Matt Cullen).

Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.875%), leaving the loss to Marc-Andre Fleury, who saved 31-of-36 (86.1%).

A win by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series was an important one yesterday, as it set the visitors’ record at 83-58-23 and gave them a two-point advantage on the hosts.

March 15 – Day 147 – The Flames are red hot

Only four games are on the schedule tonight, so let’s dive right in. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Boston at Calgary (SN). Detroit visits Colorado at 9:30 p.m. and St. Louis at Anaheim (NBCSN), tonight’s nightcap, drops the puck half an hour later. All times eastern.

If it was certain Mark Streit would be available for tonight’s game, I’d be much more inclined to feature the Battle for the Keystone State. But with the injury he sustained Monday night, I’m much more interested in the Bruins‘ visit to the Saddledome.

 

Winners of its past three contests, Boston enters tonight’s game with a 37-26-6 record good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins may not be dominant on either end of the ice, but they play a solid overall game. Specifically, I’m most impressed with a defensive effort that has yielded only 177 goals against, which ties for the 10th-fewest in the NHL.

Of course, that always starts with the goaltender, and Boston has a good one in 33-16-4 Tuukka Rask. Yet even the best goaltenders need a night off every once in a while, and that’s where 4-5-1 Anton Khudobin comes into play. He’s registered a .895 season save percentage and 2.76 GAA, the 56th and 42nd-best marks, respectively, among the 68 goalies with at least five appearances this year.

While neither stats are worth writing home to Russia about (I mean, we need to factor in the price of postage), he’ll be receiving considerable help from his blueline tonight. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 116 short blocks (narrowly beating out Adam McQuaid‘s contributions), the Bruins have allowed only 26.5 shots to reach their goalies’ crease, the second-best rate in the NHL.

That play is especially impressive in light of last season’s performance, which forced Bruins goaltenders to shrug off more than 30 shots-per-game. As rookie Brandon Carlo continues to grow, Boston‘s defense could become one of the stingiest in the league.

Speaking of stingy, that’s exactly what the Bruins‘ top-rated penalty kill is. Thanks in large part to McQuaid’s 32 shorthanded shot blocks, the Bruins escape opponents’ power plays unscathed 86.2% of the time.

Boston is also the proud home of a solid power play. While not as successful as their penalty kill, the Bruins do tie for 10th-best in the league with a power play that finds the back of the net 20.5% of the time. That attack is twin-led by first-unit members Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, both of whom have 20 power play points. Pastrnak also shares the extra-man goal-scoring lead, but this time with Brad Marchand. Both of them have buried the puck eight times on the power play.

In a surprising turn of events since December and January, defense has become the name of the game for the 39-26-4 Flames, who currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division and are easily the hottest team in the league (pun intended). Winners of their past 10 games, they’ve allowed only 183 goals against so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL.

For the second season in a row, 21-13-3 Brian Elliott has righted the ship for another playoff-hopeful club. Although his .91 season save percentage isn’t the best on the team (that belongs to Chad Johnson and his .913), his 2.51 GAA is, and those rank (t)33rd and (t)17th-best in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 18 appearances.

Those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, but they don’t have to be when Elliott plays behind one of the better defensed in the league. Allowing only 28.7 shots to reach his crease per game, Calgary ranks eighth-best in the NHL. That success is due in large part to Mark Giordano, whose 154 shot blocks not only pace the Flames, but are sixth-most in the NHL.

Thanks to Johnson’s incredible night in net (he saved 35-of-36 – 97.2%!), the Flames were able to stave off the Bruins‘ offense for a 2-1 victory when they made their annual visit to Boston on November 25.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [tied for most in the NHL] for 74 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Calgary‘s Giordano (+17 on 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

Calgary is narrowly favored to win tonight’s game by Vegas with a -105 line. I can certainly see why the oddsmakers are concerned, but I also know the Flames have beaten some solid teams over this winning streak. I like the Bruins to win tonight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Calgary can keep the magic going again this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Punch Imlach (1918-1987) – It goes without saying, but a coaching career that features four Stanley Cups, including three in a row from 1962-’64, is probably a good one. Imlach did just that with the Maple Leafs, the team he coached for 12 of his 14 seasons. He completed his career in the 1979-’80 season with a 402-337-150 record.
  • Craig Ludwig (1961-) – Montréal selected this defenseman 61st-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played the first eight years of his career and won his first Stanley Cup. Following a year with the Islanders, he joined the (North) Stars organization in 1991-’92, with whom he played the last eight years of his career  – and won his second Stanley Cup.
  • Darcy Tucker (1975-) – Another Montréal pick, this right wing was selected in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Although drafted by the Canadiens, he actually spent most of his 14-year career with Toronto, where he scored 148 of his 215 career goals.
  • James Reimer (1988-) – Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they selected this goaltender 99th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Sharks at the deadline last year. He now plays in Florida, where he’s earned a 12-12-5 record.

Although the Wild scored two goals in the third period, it wasn’t enough to get past the Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. Washington defended the Verizon Center to a 4-2 victory.

Although both clubs combined for 29 shots in the first period, this game almost reached the first intermission scoreless. The operative word there is almost, as Nate Schmidt (Second Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and First Star Nicklas Backstrom) scored only his second goal of the season with a dozen seconds remaining on the clock to give Washington a one-goal lead.

February 19. 11 games ago. That was the last time Ovechkin scored before tonight’s tally. Assisted by John Carlson and Backstrom, he buried a wrist shot with 5:08 remaining in the second period to double the Caps‘ lead and end his scoreless skid. The game-winner belongs to Evgeny Kuznetsov (Backstrom and Carlson) on a power play wrister 2:16 later that set the score at 3-0.

Whatever Bruce Boudreau said in the dressing room during intermission, it seems Matt Dumba (Mikael Granlund) took it to heart, as he buried a backhanded shot 37 seconds after play resumed to get the Wild on the board. Eric Staal (Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter) followed that four minutes later with a power play wrister to pull Minnesota within a goal, but they couldn’t find another tally. Jay Beagle (Dmitry Orlov) made the Wild‘s comeback even more difficult by burying a wrister with 5:41 remaining in the game, setting the 4-2 final score.

Third Star Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 36-of-40 (90%).

While losing first place in the division and conference is obviously the bigger issue for the Wild, they are also responsible for allowing the 75-53-21 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series to have a one-point lead over the visitors.

March 8 – Day 140 – I’m spoked

If you want to watch hockey tonight (which we both know you do), it’s going to be pretty easy to find. All three contests (Ottawa at Dallas [RDS/SN360], Pittsburgh at Winnipeg [SN] and Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS]) – all of which happen to drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern – are being nationally televised in Canada, and the one that just so happens to be our DtFR Game of the Day can be seen throughout the USA.

 

Who would’ve guessed I would’ve fallen for an Original Six matchup? In my defense, tonight’s offerings are… lacking… At least this rivalry got a boost last season, no matter how slight.

That boost wasn’t necessarily seen on the ice per se, but more so on the league table. For those that don’t remember, the Red Wings qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 25th-straight season – certainly an impressive feat.

Yet that success always has to detract from that of another. Last year, that was the Bruins who suffered an earlier-than-desired offseason. That fact was made more excruciating by the fact that Detroit qualified on a tiebreaker with the Bruins, besting them by a lone regulation+overtime victory.

To say the 34-26-6 Bruins aren’t proud of their nine victories more than Detroit‘s this season might be a bit of an understatement. That improvement has led them to third place in the Atlantic Division, the exact spot the Wings occupied a year ago.

They’ve gotten to that position on the back of their defense and goaltending. Boston is 11th-best in the league on that end of the ice, allowing only 172 tallies against.

30-16-4 Tuukka Rask has benefited greatly from his improved defense, as his season .913 save percentage and 2.28 GAA are (t)23rd and (t)eighth-best in the league among the 40 netminders with at least 26 appearances.

A season ago, Rask faced 30.4 shots-per-night, which tied for the 11th-worst rate in the NHL. This season, that rate is down to an impressive 26.4-per-game, the second-lowest in the league. He may be turning 40-years-old in 10 days, but Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that improvement. He’s blocked 110 shots so far this season, the most on the squad. If he maintains his production, Chara is in line for 140 blocks on the season – far-and-away the largest total of his 19-year career.

Because of those combined efforts, the Bruins also have one of the best penalty kills in the game. Refusing to yield a goal on 85.7% of opposing power plays, Boston is second-best in the NHL. Joining Chara at the top of the chart in shorthanded blocks is Adam McQuaid, as they both have 29 to their credit.

My, what can change from one year to the next. It is all but certain that the 25-28-11 Red Wings will not be among the 16 teams fighting for the Stanley Cup following the 2016-’17 regular season, as the losers of their past two games currently occupy dead last in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

The main reason for their predicament is a lackluster offense. Lackluster may be a compliment, as Detroit has managed only 153 goals this season – the fifth-fewest in the NHL.

He’s tried as hard as he can, but Captain Henrik Zetterberg can only do so much. His team-leading 53 points is a respectable total – the average player claims 17.2 this season – but the rest of the roster is mostly barren of scoring threats, especially following the trade of Thomas Vanek to Florida. Probably the other main threat is Tomas Tatar, who’s 15 tallies is the active clubhouse-leader.

Usually, the power play is supposed to be a positive opportunity for an offense. Instead, it’s almost dreaded in Detroit, as the Wings have found success only 12.8% of the time – easily the worst mark in the game. Just like with the basic offense, weapons are hard to come by in Motor City. With the departure of Vanek, Frans Nielsen leads the squad with only 11 power play points and three skaters have buried an active team-high of three extra-man goals.

Tonight’s contest marks the culmination of this season’s series between these two clubs. Since Boston already has a 2-0-1 record against the Wings, all Detroit can hope for is a regulation victory to tie the series a five points apiece for both sides.

They last time they played was January 24 at the TD Garden. Although they needed an overtime winner from David Pastrnak, the Bruins were able to hold on for a 4-3 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (68 points [fourth-most in the league] on 30 goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] among 30 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] on a 2.28 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & Detroit‘s Danny DeKeyser (135 blocks [leads the team]), Luke Glendening (135 hits [leads the team]) and Anthony Mantha (+14 [best on the team]).

In what is probably the biggest spread of the night, the Bruins are a -250 favorite to prove victorious this evening. Everything Detroit struggles at, Boston excels. That’s typically a recipe for disaster for the road team, and I expect this one to go no different. The Bruins should win easily.

Hockey Birthday

  • Larry Murphy (1961-) – This Hall of Fame defenseman was the fourth-overall selection in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Although the three-time All-Star spent most of his 21-year career with the Capitals and was drafted by Los Angeles, he hoisted the Stanley Cup four times – twice each with Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Mike Yeo’s return to Minnesota was a successful one for his new club, as the Blues beat the Wild 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

If not for Mikko Koivu‘s (Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund) wrist shot from the neutral zone with the extra skater and 11 seconds remaining in the game, Second Star of the Game Jake Allen would have earned the shutout and First Star David Perron (Colton Parayko and Alexander Steen) would have taken credit for the game-winning goal on his first period tip-in tally.

Instead, that honor belongs to none other than Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko (Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo). He buried a wrister with 8:57 remaining in regulation to then set the score at 2-0.

Allen saved 32-of-33 shots faced (97%) in the victory, leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 18-of-20 (90%).

If my numbers are correct from when I missed time, St. Louis‘ victory should propel the 72-48-22 road teams to a six-point lead over the hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

February 18 – Day 122 – No, he’s your friend now!

The best day of the week – at least for hockey – is finally upon us! 11 games are taking place today, starting with St. Louis at Buffalo at 1 p.m. The final matinees of the day drop the puck an hour later (Washington at Detroit [NHLN] and Winnipeg at Montréal [CBC/SN/TVAS]), followed by three (Edmonton at Chicago [NHLN/SN], the New York Islanders at New Jersey and Ottawa at Toronto [CBC/TVAS]) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. 8 p.m. marks the beginning of a trio of contests (San Jose at Arizona, Tampa Bay at Dallas and Nashville at Minnesota), with the co-nightcaps – Florida at Los Angeles and Calgary at Vancouver (CBC/SN) – dropping the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Winnipeg at Montréal: Wait, wasn’t Claude Julien just coaching against the Canadiens on Sunday? Yes, yes he was.
  • New York at New Jersey: If he’s active tonight, this will be Stephen Gionta‘s first game in the Prudential Center wearing white after six seasons with the Devils.
  • Ottawa at Toronto: Have you checked the standings recently? This isn’t just a rivalry game, it’s a scrap for Atlantic Division positioning!
  • Calgary at Vancouver: Matt Bartkowski was a member of the rival-Canucks last season, but he could make his Flames debut tonight against them.

I’m very disappointed today is Julien’s first game back as the Habs‘ coach, as the Battle for Ontario should be spectacular. Nonetheless, we always feature a coach’s first game with his new squad after a mid-season change, so we’re off to the Bell Centre.

Unknown-4Unknown-1

 

Ah, the twists and turns of Julien’s career. 11 years removed from an uninspiring playing career from an NHL standpoint, Julien began his NHL coaching career with none other than the Montréal Canadiens. Hired midway through the 2002-’03 season to replace Michel Therrien (yes, seriously. Therrien) in the midst of a campaign that ended with a 30-35-8-9 record, he managed to qualify the Habs to the Eastern Conference Semifinals only a year later.

That apparently wasn’t enough to keep him his job, as he was released at the halfway point of the 2005-’06 season even though he laid the groundwork of a team that qualified for the playoffs in its second-straight campaign.

His next stop was with the Devils the following season, but it was a short one. Even though he led New Jersey to a 47-24-8 record, he was cut three games before the playoffs.

That was just fine for the Bruins, who signed Julien almost three months later. Of course,  that’s both his most noteworthy and longest-tenured assignment. He was Boston’s bench boss for over nine-and-a-half seasons, leading them to four division titles, a Presidents’ Trophy, two Stanley Cup Finals appearances and, of course, the franchise’s sixth Stanley Cup.

It seems to be in Julien’s best interest to not have a winning record, because after leading the Bruins to a 26-23-6 record, the league’s then-longest-tenured coach was released on February 7.

The irony of the whole situation is that not only was Julien hired once again by the Canadiens mid-season, but that he once again replaced Therrien. Even more bizarre, Therrien had the Habs rolling this season, notching a 31-19-8 record before being released this Valentine’s Day.

Of course, part of the reason for this change must be that Therrien was also in charge of last year’s Canadiens team that started their campaign 9-0-0 yet failed to end the season within 10 points of playoff position. That, and the Habs are currently riding a two-game losing skid and are 3-6-1 in their last 10 contests.

Regardless of the reason he’s back in The City of Saints, Julien takes over a club that plays sound defense with good great goaltending to boot, as the Habs have allowed only 148 goals against in 58 games, the eighth-best rate in the league.

Of course, the man that deserves the most credit is goaltender Carey Price, who has earned every bit of his 24-14-5 record. With a .917 season save percentage and 2.46 GAA, he is not only the best netminder in Montréal, but also the 14th and 13th-best in the NHL in those regards, respectively.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have an above-average defense playing in front of him. Led by Shea Weber and his 120 shot blocks, the Habs allow only 29.9 shots-per-game to reach Price’s crease, the 12th-best effort in the league.

Surprisingly, that overall effort does not carry over to the penalty kill, as the Canadiens are eighth-worst in the NHL at only a 79.4% success rate. With his 33 shorthanded shot blocks (tied for second-most in the league), Weber has kept up his spectacular play when a man down, but the rest of the squad needs to help limit the opposition’s scoring chances for Price, who has faced the fourth-most power play shots in the league.

Fortunately for the Canadiens, they’re able to earn back those goals allowed on the penalty kill with a powerful power play of their own. Successful on 21.4% of attempts, Montréal is eighth-best in the league with a man-advantage. The leader of that effort is special teams ace Weber, who has 18 power play points to his credit, including a team-high 10 extra-man tallies.

26-29-5 Winnipeg just seems to have the worst luck of late. Thursday night they were in victim and fell prey to Sidney Crosby, a man intent on earning his 1000th point in front of his home crowd. Two days later, they have to go up against a coach making his debut with his new club – a circumstance in which four other men have found victory. If the Jets want to win this game, they’ll have to shore up their defense, which has allowed 190 goals this season – the most on the league.

As far as goaltending is concerned, 18-15-2 Connor Hellebuyck takes most of the fall for the Jets. Although he has a winning record and is the best Winnipeg netminder, he has a .91 season save percentage and 2.8 GAA to his credit – only the (t)29th and (t)34th-best efforts, respectively, among the 47 goalies with at least 19 appearances.

Unfortunately for the Jets, it gets worse before it gets better. Even with Dustin Byfuglien‘s team-leading 99 shot blocks, Winnipeg still allows 31 shots-per-game to reach Hellebuyck’s crease, which ties for the 10th-highest rate in the league.

Pair two deficiencies on the same end of the ice together, and you yield a poor special teams unit. That’s the situation the Jets face, as they’re third-worst in the NHL on the penalty kill, successful on only 76.7% of attempts. Even though he’s injured, Toby Enstrom still tops the team with his 23 shorthanded shot blocks. Instead, Jacob Trouba will be called upon to rally the troops to keep as many pucks as possible out of Hellebuyck’s crease, as his 18 shorthanded blocks are second-most on the team.

The Canadiens have already made their yearly trip to Winnipeg, and it was a successful one for them. Led by Artturi Lehkonen‘s two-goal, three-point performance, the Habs claimed a 7-4 victory on January 11.

Some players to keep an eye on this afternoon include Montréal‘s Max Pacioretty (28 goals [third-most in the league]) and Price (24 wins [ninth-most in the NHL]) & Winnipeg‘s Patrik Laine (27 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Mark Scheifele (58 points [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]).

It’s hard to argue with Vegas on this one: Montréal is favored to beat the Jets at -165. Although both teams struggle on the penalty kill, only the Habs can be counted on to take advantage. Pair that with their overall solid defense, and it should be a Julien winner. Hopefully Montrealers have a short memory are forgiving of him coaching their rivals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Andy Moog (1960-) – Just because you’re a seventh-rounder doesn’t mean you’re not a good player. Selected by Edmonton in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, this goaltender proved just that, as he earned the 1990 Jennings Trophy to go with his four All-Star selections and three Stanley Cups.
  • Alexander Mogilny (1969-) – Buffalo selected this right wing 89th-overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, so that’s the number he wore throughout his career. The Russian was named to four All-Star teams, and also won the 2003 Byng Trophy to go with his Stanley Cup in 2000.
  • Nik Antropov (1980-) – Another Russian, this center was the 10th-overall selection in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto. He spent most of his 13 seasons with the Leafs and notched 465 points before hanging up his skates for good in 2013.
  • Cody Hodgson (1990-) – Another center selected 10th-overall pick, this Canadian was drafted by Vancouver in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. That being said, he’s spent a majority of his career in the Sabres‘ system.

With Second Star of the Game Brandon Dubinsky‘s overtime winner, Columbus retained it’s undefeated record when hosting the Penguins this season, winning yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day 2-1.

Both regulation goals were struck within five minutes of each other. Ryan Murray (William Karlsson and Josh Anderson) takes credit for the Jackets‘ tally, burying his backhand only 1:33 after resuming play after the first intermission. Ian Cole tied the contest 4:40 later, set up by Evgeni Malkin‘s face-off win.

Dubinsky (Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones) needed only 64 seconds of three-on-three overtime before registering the Jackets‘ only shot, a pure snap shot that found the back of Third Star Matthew Murray‘s net.

First Star Sergei Bobrovsky earns the victory after saving 38-of-39 shots faced (97.4%), leaving the overtime loss to Murray, who saved 37-of-39 (94.9%).

Columbus‘ victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series and improves the hosts’ record to 64-42-18, five points better than the visitors.

February 13 – Day 117 – Blueshirts… Blue Jackets… Blue Everything!

There may only be two games happening today, but one of them is going to be absolutely fantastic. The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern when the New York Rangers visit Columbus (NBCSN/SN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Arizona at Calgary.

You get one guess at which one we’re going to feature.

New York Rangers LogoColumbus Blue Jackets Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The 20-somethings will remember this blue song…

…while the 30-something crowd might enjoy a little LeAnn Rimes.

Regardless of your preference, I think the message is clear: blue is the color of the day.

The 36-18-1 Rangers may be wearing white tonight, but they’re the Blueshirts all the same, complete with a five-game winning streak. Currently occupying fourth place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference, offense is the name of the game in Manhattan, as the Rangers have managed 187 goals this season – the third-most in the league.

Calling J.T. Miller the standout forward is almost an insult to the rest of the Rangers‘ attackers, as four players have 40 or more points to their credit. That being said, Miller does lead the team by contributing to 45 tallies this season. Of course, most of those are assists, meaning someone has to be scoring those passes… That’s where linemate Michael Grabner comes into play: he leads the team with 26 tallies.

Playing host this evening is 35-14-5 Columbus, the second-best team in the Metropolitan. Although they’ve been exemplary on both ends of the ice, the Blue Jackets have been most impressive at keeping the opposition off the scoreboard, as they’ve yielded only 132 goals this season – the third-fewest in the NHL.

Every good defense starts with a good goalie, and Columbus is no different. 30-11-3 Sergei Bobrovsky has been the man to beat this year with his .926 season save percentage and 2.17 GAA. Respectively, those stats rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league against the 38 other netminders with at least 22 appearances.

For those wondering, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner – Braden Holtby – currently has a .926 season save percentage and 2.02 GAA. Yes, he’s better than Bobrovsky, but only by the skin of his teeth.

Yet I’d argue Bobrovsky has had a better season than Holtby so far, mostly due to the defenses playing in front of them. Washington has a fantastic defense, which takes pressure off Holtby. Meanwhile, Columbus‘ blueline is only average, as they allow 30.1 shots-per-game to reach Bobrovsky’s crease – only the (t)13th-best in the league. Jack Johnson has been at the head of that effort with his team-leading 89 shot blocks.

The Blue Jackets are no slouch on the other end, though – especially when they have the man-advantage. Led by Alexander Wennberg‘s 20 power play points, Columbus has buried 23.3% of their power play opportunities, which ties for the second-best rate in the NHL. Power play linemates Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno have shared scoring responsibilities, as both have nine goals with the extra man.

It’s rare the Penguins pull for New York, but that’s the case this evening. Should the Rangers win in regulation, Pittsburgh advances past Columbus for second place in the Metropolitan Division due to winning the three-way games-played tie with the Jackets and Blueshirts (Columbus would still lead the Rangers with a game in hand). Meanwhile, a Jackets victory of any variety leaves the Eastern standings as they are – for a night, anyways.

This is the fourth game in a five-game series between these teams. Currently, Columbus has a 2-1-0 series lead over the Rangers, thanks to a 6-4 victory at Madison Square Garden the last time these clubs met on the last day of January.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Columbus‘ Atkinson (27 goals [fourth-most in the league]) and Bobrovsky (30 wins [second-most in the NHL] on a 2.17 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and a .926 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Grabner (26 goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] for a +28 [tied for sixth-best in the league]) and Henrik Lundqvist (26 wins [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) or Antti Raanta (2.34 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

With a great goaltender, a killer power play and home ice to boot, it’s hard to argue with a -135 line in favor of the Blue Jackets. While the Blueshirts will certainly not lose easy, I think Columbus wins tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gaston Gingras (1959-) – Picked by Montréal 27th-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played 10 seasons in the NHL. Not only did he spend most of his days with the club that selected him, he also won his lone Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1986.
  • Marc Crawford (1961-) – This left wing was selected by Vancouver in the fourth-round of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Every single one of his 176 games in the league were in a Canucks sweater.
  • Mats Sundin (1971-) – The first overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Quebec, this Hall-of-Fame center played 18 seasons – most of which with Toronto. He was selected to eight All Star games and notched 1349 career points.
  • Niklas Backstrom (1978-) – Although he currently plays for HIFK, this netminder spent 10 seasons in the NHL, almost all of which with Minnesota. He most recently played for Calgary, making three starts last season.

Rivalries are supposed to be tight games. That wasn’t the case last night in the DtFR Game of the Day, as Boston won a four-goal shutout against the hated Canadiens.

Those that bet on Adam McQuaid (Third Star of the Game Peter Cehlarik and Torey Krug) scoring not only the first goal of the game, but also the game-winner, are currently a whole lot richer. He buried his snap shot 8:57 into the game for the lone tally of the first period.

The Bruins truly took control of this contest in the second period with two goals courtesy of Second Star Zdeno Chara (Ryan Spooner and Brad Marchand) at the 5:08 mark in a shorthanded situation, followed almost exactly 10 minutes later by David Krejci (David Backes and Cehlarik) on the power play.

Five minutes into the third, Frank Vatrano (Krejci and David Pastrnak) took credit for the final Boston goal to set the 4-0 final score.

First Star Tuukka Rask saved all 25 shots he faced to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Carey Price, who saved 32-of-36 (88.9%).

Boston‘s victory is the first shutout in the DtFR Game of the Day series since February 6, and expands the 62-39-18 home teams’ lead over visitors in the series to eight points.

February 10 – Day 114 – Should the Blackhawks be scared of Winnipeg?

It’s not often I say this, but today is not a great day for hockey – no matter how hard Hall of Fame coach Bob Johnson tries to convince us otherwise.

There’s only two games on the schedule today, and they’re both snoozers. Both Tampa Bay at Minnesota (NBCSN/TVAS) and Chicago at Winnipeg drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern this evening.

Of the two, I expect the contest in Manitoba to be the better tonight since it’s a divisional matchup, so off to Canada we go!

Unknown-2Unknown-4

 

 

 

 

 

This is the fifth game in 33-17-5 Chicago‘s six-game road trip leading up to their bye week, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering them too much. They’re currently riding a three-game winning streak that has propelled them to the second-best mark in the Western Conference. The reason they’ve been so good? Their offense has managed 154 goals in 55 games, which ties for the 10th-best rate in the league.

Remember how Patrick Kane won the Hart Memorial Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award and the Art Ross Trophy last season for absolutely annihilating the NHL with 106 points? He may not be reaching that number again this year, but he’s still leading the pack for the Hawks. His 53 points are the most on the club. However, it’s not him scoring the puck this campaign. Instead, he’s leaving that responsibility to Marian Hossa, who’s 19 tallies are tops in Chicago (sorry Wade Megan, we’re only counting NHL goals).

The main issue for the Blackhawks continues to be their penalty kill, which ranks fourth-worst in the league and stops only 76.7% of opposing power plays. One of the few bright spots has been the play of Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has blocked 27 shots when facing the man-advantage.

Playing host this evening are the 25-27-4 Jets, who currently occupy fifth-place in the Central Division and 11th in the Western Conference, due in part to their two-game losing skid. The biggest struggle in Winnipeg this season is on the defensive end, as the Jets have allowed 175 goals against – the most in the NHL.

17-13-1 Connor Hellebuyck has gotten most of the starts this season, and for good reason: he has the best save percentage and GAA in Winnipeg. Saving .909 percent of pucks for a 2.78 GAA, he stacks up (t)30th and 32nd in the league against the 47 other netminders with at least 17 appearances.

That being said, it’s been 4-4-0 Ondrej Pavelec that Paul Maurice has charged with manning the crease for the past four games, even though his .888 save percentage and 3.55 GAA are the worst marks by Jets goalies. It’ll be interesting to see who Maurice decides to give the nod against Chicago‘s solid offense.

Unfortunately, the troubles don’t stop there for Winnipeg. Even though Dustin Byfuglien has a decent 95 shot blocks to his credit to lead the squad (ties for 33rd-most in the NHL), the Jets allow 30.7 shots to reach Hellebuyck’s crease per game, the (t)12th-worst rate in the league.

Pair a poor defense with poor goaltending, and you get a miserable penalty kill. That’s the situation Winnipeg finds itself in, as it’s 76.6% kill rate in third-worst in the NHL. Fortunately for the Jets, they do have Toby Enstrom managing the defensive special team with his team-leading 22 shorthanded blocks.

The Blackhawks just got the monkey off their back in Minnesota, beating the Wild for the first time in nine games Wednesday. Now they turn their attention to the Jets, an unusual team that seems to genuinely look forward to playing the Hawks. Winnipeg has already won the first four contests between the clubs by a combined score of 14-5. They last met in Chicago on January 26, where the Jets won 5-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Chicago‘s Scott Darling (.925 save percentage [fourth-best in the NHL] for a 2.31 GAA [ninth-best in the league]) should he play, Duncan Keith (34 assists [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) and Kane (36 assists [tied for third-most in the league] among 53 points [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) & Winnipeg‘s Mark Scheifele (25 goals among 53 points [both tied for seventh-most in the league]).

This is a tough game to pick. Chicago is the obvious choice given their winning streak and overall superior play, but they are on the tail end of a long road trip. Winnipeg has home ice, and of course has won the last four games against the Hawks in convincing fashion. I wouldn’t bet on this game, but I’ll take the Jets to try to complete the season sweep.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bud Poile (1924-2005) – This right win played for every Original Six team but Montréal, but he spent most of his days in a Toronto sweater. His most memorable season was in 1946-’47, when he won the Stanley Cup. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990 as a Builder.
  • Randy Velischek (1962-) – The 53rd-overall pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft by the North Stars, this defenseman played most of his career in New Jersey. His 1984-’85 campaign in Minnesota was probably his best, as he notched 13 points while only allowing six goals.
  • Peter Popovic (1968-) – Selected by Montréal in the fifth-round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played 485 games over eight seasons in the league – most of which with the Canadiens. His 1995-’96 season was his best, marking a +21 with 14 points to his credit.
  • Mike Ribeiro (1980-) – Currently in his third season in Nashville, this center was selected 45th-overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal. He’s most known for his six seasons in Dallas.
  • Jakub Kindl (1987-) – The 19th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit, this defenseman is in his first full season with the Panthers after getting traded from the Red Wings last year.

Three coaching changes: three winning debuts. Bruce Cassidy pushed the right buttons last night in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as Boston bested the Sharks 6-3.

Third Star of the Game David Backes (Torey Krug and David Krejci) got things started quickly, burying a slap shot only 52 seconds into the game to give the Bruins an early lead. It only lasted 6:59 though, as ex-Bruin Joe Thornton (Tomas Hertl) scored his wrister to level the game. The next two goals belonged to the home team. First Star Patrice Bergeron (Backes and Brandon Carlo) took his turn first by scoring a tip-in with 4:08 remaining in the period, followed 1:39 later by Second Star David Pastrnak‘s (Bergeron) power play slap shot to set the score at 3-1 going into the first intermission.

Justin Braun (Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau) did his best Backes impression to pull the Sharks within a tally only 1:08 after resuming play, but Boston‘s offense was more than up to the task. With 6:56 remaining in the second period, Tim Schaller (Riley Nash and Dominic Moore) scored the eventual game-winning goal, followed 6:07 later by Pastrnak’s (Bergeron and Brad Marchand) second power play goal of the game, which set the score at 5-2 going into the second intermission.

With 2:37 remaining in the game, Timo Meier (Joel Ward and Hertl) scored a wrister for his third tally of the season, but even that goal didn’t go unanswered. With exactly 30 seconds remaining in the game Marchand (Bergeron and Backes) tacked on one final goal for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask earns the victory after saving 23-of-26 shots faced (88.5%), while Aaron Dell takes the loss, saving 18-of-20 (90%). He replaced Martin Jones, who’d saved only nine-of-12 (75%), after the first intermission. Jones earned no decision.

Boston‘s win is the second in three days by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series to improve the hosts’ record to 61-37-18, 10 points better than the roadies.

February 4 – Day 108 – Saturday in the pahk. I think it was the Fourth of February

So close Chicago, but your Blackhawks and the NHL aren’t exactly active during July, so you’re just going to have to settle for the month we’re in.

This first Saturday of February has more than it’s fair share of action, with 26 teams lacing up their skates today. It all gets started with a couple 1 p.m. matinees (Washington at Montréal [RDS/SN] and Los Angeles at Philadelphia [NHLN]), followed two hours later by Winnipeg at Colorado. Five games (Toronto at Boston [CBC/CITY], Ottawa at Buffalo [SN/TVAS], Anaheim at Tampa Bay, Carolina at the New York Islanders and New Jersey at Columbus) drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m., with three more (Pittsburgh at St. Louis, Detroit at Nashville and Chicago at Dallas [NHLN]) getting underway an hour later. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Minnesota at Vancouver [CBC/SN], followed half an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Arizona at San JoseAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Boston: An important installment in the Original Six category takes place this evening in the Atlantic Division.
  • Ottawa at Buffalo: Another rivalry game, but another down season for the Sabres detracts from this contest’s attractiveness.

The Maple Leafs are trying their hardest to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the Bruins beat them in Game 7 en route to a Stanley Cup appearance. What’s the better way to pull within a point of achieving that goal than by beating that same team on it’s home ice almost four years later?

UnknownUnknown-7

 

 

 

 

 

The comeback kids make their trip to New England with a 23-17-9 record, which is good enough for fifth in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference even though their riding a three-game losing skid. As I said Thursday when the Leafs were last featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, even though their main issue is on the defensive end, they’ve only allowed 138 goals against, which ties for 15th-worst.

Of course, preventing an opposing offense from scoring always starts with the goaltender, and 21-11-8 Frederik Andersen has been a good one this season. His .917 save percentage and 2.67 GAA are (t)16th and 22nd best in the league, respectively, among the 38 goaltenders with at least 22 appearances this season.

An okay save percentage paired with a not-so-good GAA usually implies that a netminder is facing more shots than he’d like, and that is certainly the case in Toronto. Even with Nikita Zaitsev‘s team-leading 81 shot blocks, the Maple Leafs still allow the sixth-most shots in the NHL at 32.1 per game.

Fortunately for Toronto, that defense kicks it into high gear on the penalty kill where they tie for third-best in the league with their 84.5% kill rate. It’s obvious Roman Polak has made that a priority of his, as he leads the club with 24 shorthanded blocks.

The power play has also been very powerful for the Leafs. They find the back of the net 23.2% of the time, which ties for third-best rate in the league. It’s a two-headed attack, as both rookie William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk have 15 power play points to their credit, but Nazem Kadri has been the truly unstoppable force: he has 10 man-advantage goals to his credit, which ties for third-most in the league in addition to being the team lead.

Playing host this evening are the 26-22-6 Bruins, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division. If I was a Bostonian, I’d be concerned about the playoff chances for my club, as the defense that has held the team together so far this season is starting to fall apart. The Bruins have allowed 141 goals against in 54 games, only the 11th-best rate in the NHL (only six games ago on January 20, the Bruins tied for seventh-best in this statistic).

Just like with Toronto above, an analysis of keeping the opponent off the scoreboard has to start with the goaltender. Enter 25-13-4 Tuukka Rask. His .914 save percentage and 2.24 GAA are (t)19th and sixth-best in the league, respectively, against that same group of 38 goalies as before.

It’s the exact opposite situation facing Rask as is facing Andersen. Thanks to Zdeno Chara‘s team-leading 93 shot blocks, Rask faces an average of only 26.4 shots-per-game. That’s the second-best rate in the NHL.

He’s lost three of his last six outings (four if you tack on the overtime loss to Detroit on January 24) and has a .87 save percentage since January 3 – the worst in the league in that span among the 28 goalies with eight or more appearances. While I certainly respect Rask and believe him to be one of the better netminders in the league, his decline and that of the Bruins are certainly associated.

That being said, this does not fall entirely on Rask. Many are calling for Claude Julien‘s job, and he could be blamed for starting Rask in all but one game over the past month. He’s exhausted. He is one of two goaltenders with 13 starts in that span of time, the most in the league. Even though the All Star didn’t get his entire break to himself, hopefully his time off helped him recharge the batteries.

One point where the Bruins haven’t struggled has been their penalty kill. Led by Chara’s team-leading 27 shorthanded blocks, Boston refuses to yield a goal on 86.4% of opponent’s power plays, the second-best rate in the league.

Having already played half of their four meetings of the season, Toronto is already owning this series. While their 2-0-0 record against the Bruins is certainly impressive, it’s the fact that they’ve won both games 4-1, regardless of if they were played at the Air Canada Centre (October 15) or the TD Garden (December 10), that should have made the Bruins not sleep easy last night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston’s Brad Marchand (54 points [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] on 23 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for third-most in the NHL] among 25 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league] on 2.24 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (three shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league] among 21 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) and Auston Matthews (23 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

It’s not often that I side with a road team on three-game losing skid, but the Leafs are still trending in an upwards direction in comparison to the struggling Bruins. Pair that with the success they’ve had against Boston, and I think we have a safe Toronto victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Denis Savard (1961-) – Drafted third-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, this center played nearly his entire career with the Blackhawks. While it might be unbelievable with his club’s current success, the seven-time All-Star didn’t win his lone Stanley Cup with the Hawks. Instead, he was a member of Montréal‘s 1993 Cup-winning team. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
  • Manny Legace (1973-) – Hartford selected this goaltender in the eighth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, but he never suited up for the Whalers and ended up playing most of his career in Detroit. His best season was his 2005-’06 campaign when he was named to his only All Star game, four years after he won his lone Stanley Cup.
  • Lee Stempniak (1983-) – The Blues picked this right wing in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s the team he’s spent most of his days playing for. Then again, it’s tough for the current Hurricane to call St. Louis home when he’s played for 10 different clubs over 12 seasons. He’s the true definition of an NHL journeyman.

They needed overtime, but Pittsburgh was able to pull out the 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins certainly got off to a hot start, as they accounted for both the tallies in the opening frame. The first belonged to First Star of the Game Phil Kessel (Brian Dumoulin and Trevor Daley), a wrister with 6:23 remaining in the first period. It was followed up 4:51 later by Patric Hornqvist‘s (Matt Cullen and Second Star Kris Letang) wrister to set the score at 2-0 going into the first intermission.

With 4:17 remaining in the second period, Third Star Brandon Dubinsky (Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson) pulled Columbus back within a score of the Pens, but Nick Bonino (Jake Guentzel and Kessel) returned the differential to two scores only 2:40 later. That 3-1 scored held into the second break in the action.

Just like Pittsburgh did in the first, the Blue Jackets absolutely took over the third period. Only 29 seconds after returning to the ice, Alexander Wennberg (Brandon Saad and Seth Jones) pulled them back within a goal with his wrister. Columbus completed the comeback with 8:40 remaining in regulation when Cam Atkinson (Dubinsky and Johnson) buried his wrister to set the score at three-all. Neither team could find the tiebreaker before the horn sounded, which forced three-on-three overtime.

Leave it to a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game to find a game-winner. With 105 seconds separating overtime from a shootout, Kessel (Letang and Justin Schultz) buried his power play wrister to earn the bonus point against the Jackets.

Matthew Murray earns the victory after saving 28-of-31 shot faced (90.3%), leaving the overtime loss to Sergei Bobrovsky, who saved 29-of-33 (87.9%).

You definitely want your favorite team to be at home when featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Pittsburgh‘s victory is the fifth-straight for hosts and improves the home teams’ record to 59-35-16, a dozen points better than the visitors.

January 13 – Day 90 – Ready for an Original Six game?

It’s finally Friday, so sit back and watch some hockey after that stressful business week. The action gets started at 7 p.m. with two games (Toronto at the New York Rangers and Chicago at Washington [NHLN]), followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Florida and Buffalo at Carolina). Columbus at Tampa Bay (SN/TVAS) drops the puck at 8 p.m., trailed an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps (New Jersey at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona).

Short list:

  • Toronto at New York: It’s another Original Six game this evening, this one taking place at Madison Square Garden.
  • New York at Florida: Last postseason, the Islanders upset Florida in the Eastern Quarterfinals before falling to Tampa Bay.

Don’t tell anybody, but Toronto is only four points out of playoff position, and tonight’s game in the Big Apple will be a good test to see if they’re capable of acting  on the opportunity.

UnknownNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The Leafs make their lone trip of the season to Manhattan with an 18-13-8 record. The main problem for Toronto has been their defense and goaltending, which has allowed 111 goals against – only the 15th-fewest in the league.

With the exception of six games, 17-9-7 Frederik Andersen has always been the man in charge of the crease for the Maple Leafs this season. So far, he’s saved .918 percent of shots faced for a 2.69 GAA, which ties for 18th and 27th-best among the 44 goalies with 17 or more appearances.

While Andersen has been far from impressive, he can’t shoulder the entire blame. The Leafs have allowed an average of 32.6 shots-per-game to reach Andersen’s crease, tied for the fourth-worst in the league. Morgan Rielly has given all he can and more to Toronto, as he leads the club with 67 shot blocks.

If the Leafs truly want to make a playoff push, I’d expect them to be active at the trade deadline to bring in a quality defenseman.

Although the Leafs have tied for the seventh-best effort on the penalty kill with a 83.6% kill rate (led by Roman Polak‘s 16 short-handed blocks), percentages can be deceiving. Toronto averages 11:35 penalty minutes per game, the second-highest in the NHL, and Andersen has struggled mightily. He’s allowed 19 power play goals to slip past him, which ties for the seventh-most in the league.

Fortunately, Toronto has been very successful on the power play. Led by William Nylander and his 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs bury the puck 22.4% of the time with the man-advantage, the seventh-best rate in the league. Nazem Kadri has been the one responsible for most of those situational goals, with eight to his credit (tied for the fourth-most in the NHL).

You know you’re in a tough division when you’re riding a two-game winning streak and have the fifth-best point percentage in the NHL, yet you’re still only in a wild card spot. That’s the position the 28-13-1 Rangers find themselves in, although that can change with a win tonight, as they could take advantage of Pittsburgh‘s two-game losing skid and jump into third place in the division. As they have been all season, they’ll be led by their dominant offense that has accounted for a league-leading 144 points.

Although it’s more than a two-headed assault, the main pair getting a lot of the praise right now in New York are Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan, both of whom have an impressive 31 points to their credit. Of course, they’ve mostly been facilitators. The striker on this team is still Michael Grabner with his 19 tallies.

As you might expect, the Blueshirts‘ power play is no slouch. In fact, they’re third best in the league, successful on 23.2% of their opportunities. Ryan McDonagh has been at the forefront of that effort with nine power play points, but hasn’t been the one scoring the goals. That duty has been shared by Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey, all of whom have four power play goals.

Even the penalty kill has been impressive, refusing to yield to the opposition’s man-advantage 83% of the time, the 10th-best effort in the league. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of responsibility for that ranking, as his 16 shorthanded blocks are tops on the club.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Grabner (+22 [fifth-best in the NHL]), Nick Holden (+20 [tied for seventh-best in the league]) and Henrik Lundqvist (18 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (17 wins [10th-most in the league]) and Auston Matthews (21 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has put a -137 next to the Rangers‘ name to indicate they’re the favorites this evening. It’s hard to argue with, given their success regardless of who they’re playing. Until Toronto can put together a full game on a regular basis, they will not be able to stand up to talented teams like New York.

Hockey Birthday

  • Art Ross (1886-1964) – It’s nearly impossible to fully summarize all Ross did. The defenseman won two Stanley Cups as a player, and tacked on an additional three as a coach or general manager for Boston. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1949, and the yearly award for the season’s leading scorer is named in his honor.
  • Cesare Maniago (1939-) – This goaltender played 568 games over 15 seasons in the NHL, mostly with the North Stars. He completed his career with a 190-257-97 record on a 3.27 GAA.
  • Kelly Hrudey (1961-) – Another netminder, the Islanders drafted Hrudey 38th-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. That being said, he spent most of his 15 seasons in Los Angeles en route to a 271-265-88 career record.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin (1973-) – Drafted in the ninth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by the original Jets, this goaltender would’ve been a steal 100 picks earlier. The Bulin Wall finished his 18-season career with a 333-334-97 record, four All Star selections and a 2004 Stanley Cup title while in Tampa Bay.
  • Sergei Brylin (1974-) – The 42nd-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft played his entire career with the club that drafted him – New Jersey. During that time, he notched 308 points to win three Stanley Cups.
  • Marc Staal (1987-) – The middle Staal brother was the 12th-overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Rangers, and that’s where he’s played every since. Over his entire career, he’s notched a +40.
  • Connor McDavid (1997-) – In only 88 career games, the first pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Edmonton has already notched 96 points. There’s no ifs about it: he will be the next superior player, if he’s not already.
  • Ivan Provorov (1997-) – The seventh-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by Philadelphia, this defenseman has finally joined the Flyers this season. He’s made quite the impact, tying Shayne Gostisbehere with 19 points for most by a Philly blueliner.

Talk about an evening of comebacks. First, Third Star of the Game Taylor Hall made his return to Edmonton. Then, the Oilers scored a game-tying goal with 7:24 remaining in regulation to force overtime, which they used to beat the Devils 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The lone goal of the first period belonged to Travis Zajac (Kyle Palmieri and Michael Cammalleri) and the visiting Devils. He tipped-in his shot with 1:54 remaining in the frame to put New Jersey ahead going into intermission.

Edmonton pulled the game back even almost immediately after returning to the ice. 16 seconds after the initial puck drop, Andrej Sekera (Second Star Leon Draisaitl and Adam Larsson) scored a snapper to tie the game at one-all. That draw lasted until 51 seconds remained in the second period, when Steven Santini (Hall and P.A. Parenteau) scored the first goal of his career. Once again, Jersey took a one-goal lead into the dressing room.

As stated before, the Oilers tied the game with 7:24 remaining in regulation off a wrister from First Star Patrick Maroon (Draisaitl and McDavid). Neither side was able to break the knot, so the game advanced into three-on-three overtime.

Only 1:50 into the five-minute period, Draisaitl (McDavid and Oscar Klefbom) ended the game in the home club’s favor with an impressive slap shot, his 16th goal of the season.

Cam Talbot earned the victory after saving 16-of-18 shots faced (88.9%), leaving the loss to Cory Schneider, who saved 31-of-34 (91.2%).

The Oilers‘ victory is the second-straight by a home club in the DtFR Game of the Day series, improving the hosts’ record to 49-29-14, 10 points better than the visitors.

December 14 – Day 63 – Keeping up with the Jones

There’s only four games on the schedule today, but most of them are very good. Like it usually does, the action starts at 7 p.m. when San Jose visits Ottawa (SN/TVAS), trailed half an hour later by Boston at Pittsburgh (NBCSN). Tampa Bay at Calgary (SN/SN360) drops the puck at 9:30 p.m., leading tonight’s nightcap – Philadelphia at Colorado (NBCSN) – by 30 minutes. All times eastern.

The most competitive contest of the evening is where we try to turn our attention to, and I think that will occur tonight in the Canadian Tire Centre.

UnknownUnknown-6

 

 

 

 

 

The most recent winners of the Campbell Bowl are currently the proud owners of a 17-11-1, the best mark in the Pacific Division and winners of their past two games. They’ve reached that distinction riding an impressive defense and goaltending that has allowed only 63 scores this season, a total that is second-fewest in the Western Conference.

As has been the case since last season, Martin Jones mans the Sharks’ crease, and does a pretty good job of it. Although he only has a 14-10-1 record, his .921 save percentage and 2.07 GAA are 13th and ninth-best, respectively, among the 38 goalies in the league with 13 or more appearances. With numbers like that, his record is more representative of an offense that has managed only the ninth-fewest goals.

Part of the reason Jones has been so good has been due to the blueline in front of him. Led by Brent Burns‘ 55 blocks, Jones faces an average of only 26.4 shots per night, the second-fewest in the entire NHL.

Hosting that impressive Sharks defense are the 16-11-2 Senators, losers of their last two games. Although I’m not really impressed by either aspect of Ottawa‘s game, their defense and goaltending has certainly overshadowed their offensive efforts. They’ve allowed 78 goals so far this season, the 11th-fewest in the NHL.

Even though 12-6-1 Craig Anderson has been the main man in net for the Senators, Dean Brown says it will by 4-3-1 Mike Condon in net this evening.

Condon is the proud owner of a .923 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, the 19th and 17th-best effort, respectively, among all 60 goaltenders with four or more appearances.

Regardless of who is in net for Ottawa on a given night, they certainly earn their paycheck. The Senators‘ defense allows 31.2 shots-per-game to reach the crease, the eighth-most in the league. What’s disheartening is Erik Karlsson (79 blocks), Cody Ceci (64) and Dion Phaneuf (63) have been putting their bodies on the line for their goaltenders, but they are the only ones with more than 40 blocks to their names. If the Sens want to hold onto their current playoff spot, more blueliners need to get involved in performing their primary job description.

A good spot to start would be on the penalty kill, where Ottawa ranks eighth-worst in the league on a 80.2% kill rate. Phaneuf has been especially active when down a man, as he leads his club with 21 shorthanded blocks, but he’s the only skater with more than 13.

These squads just met up last Wednesday in The Tank, where Condon and the Senators were able to pull off the 4-2 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Ottawa‘s Karlsson (20 assists [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and San Jose‘s Jones (14 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league], on a 2.07 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]).

All bets are off in Vegas in this game, but I feel pretty confident in picking the Sharks to come away with the victory for no other reason than the Senators are struggling right now. Ottawa‘s penalty kill is not very good, and their defense has not been gelling of late. Add that to San Jose wanting revenge for losing on home ice, and you have a Sharks winner.

Hockey Birthday

  • Patrik Sundstrom (1961-) – A 10-year NHL veteran, this Swedish center was selected by Vancouver in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Sundstrom played 679 games over his career, and very near evenly split them between the Canucks and New Jersey.
  • Bill Ranford (1966-) – Boston selected this Canadian goaltender in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his 15-year career in Edmonton, where he won his only Stanley Cup in 1990. He also won the Smythe Trophy that season.

Only three goals were struck in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day series – and all in the same period – but it was Chicago who avenged their home loss to the Rangers to steal the 2-1 victory in Madison Square Garden.

Trevor van Riemsdyk (Artemi Panarin and Second Star of the Game Artem Anisimov) took credit for the Blackhawks‘ first goal of the night, only 25:18 after the initial puck drop. That lead lasted only 2:57 before Jesper Fast (Oscar Lindberg) tipped-in his third goal of the season to level the game for the Blueshirts. Anisimov (Brian Campbell and Panarin) takes credit for the Hawks‘ game-winner on a snap shot with 69 seconds remaining in the second period, and that 2-1 score held until the final horn.

First Star Scott Darling earns the victory after saving 33-of-34 shots faced (97.1%), while Third Star Antti Raanta takes the loss, saving 24-of-26 (92.3%).

The road teams’ second-straight victory pulls them back within a dozen points of the home sides, but the hosts still host a 36-20-9 record in the DtFR Game of the Day series.