Tag Archives: Anthony Mantha

Pastrnak’s hat trick helps B’s pummel Red Wings, 8-2

The Detroit Red Wings have not won in Boston in five years. Even worse, the Red Wings are 0-9-0 at TD Garden in their last nine visits as a result of Saturday afternoon’s 8-2 loss to the Bruins.

Detroit’s last win in the Hub came on October 14, 2013.

David Pastrnak (3-0–3 totals) recorded his second career hat trick (third if you include his postseason hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs last April) as Boston won their fourth game in-a-row since losing 7-0 to the Washington Capitals on the road to start the season.

Patrice Bergeron had three assists, Brad Marchand had two assists and David Krejci had a pair of assists to reach 400 career assists since entering the league with the Bruins in the 2006-07 season.

Meanwhile Charlie McAvoy (1-0–1), Jake DeBrusk (2-0–2), Anders Bjork (1-1–2) and Sean Kuraly (1-0–1) had the other goals for the B’s in the 8-2 victory.

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Tuukka Rask made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage in the win, while Detroit netminder, Jonathan Bernier, stopped 31 out of 39 shots faced for a .795 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 (8 points) on the season, while the Red Wings fell to 0-3-2 (2 points) in their first five games.

Boston has a plus-13 goal differential through the first five games of the regular season and has outscored their opponents 22-6 in the last four games since being shutout by Washington on the road to start the 2018-19 regular season.

The Bruins are tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for 1st place in the Atlantic Division, at least until the Leafs take on the Capitals Saturday night.

Detroit has a minus-12 goal differential through their first five games this season and is one point ahead of the Florida Panthers (0-0-1, 1 point) from the basement of the Atlantic Division. Florida is in action Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Rask got the start Saturday afternoon for Boston after Jaroslav Halak backstopped the B’s to a 4-1 victory Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Bruce Cassidy inserted Ryan Donato back into his lineup in place of Danton Heinen (scratched Saturday after no points in four games) on the third line and kept Joakim Nordstrom on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

Steven Kampfer remained a healthy scratch on the blue line, while Torey Krug remained out of the lineup due to injury.

Late in the first period, Pastrnak (5) went end-to-end with the puck on his stick and fired a snap shot, high-glove side, past Bernier to open Saturday’s scoring for the Bruins, 1-0. Brandon Carlo (1) and Chris Wagner (1) picked up their first assists of the season on Pastrnak’s goal at 19:09.

After attempting to check Noel Acciari and instead reverberating off of Acciari’s solid frame, Dylan Larkin kept pressuring Acciari to crack. Instead, after the third attempt at  a hit that included a quick left handed shove, Acciari dropped the gloves expecting Larkin to do the same.

He did not.

So both Larkin and Acciari received roughing minor penalties, with Larkin earning an extra one for good measure, giving Boston their first power play of the night at 19:44 of the first period.

The skater advantage would carry over into the second period, but the Bruins failed to convert on the advantage.

Through 20 minutes of play, Boston held onto a 1-0 lead on the scoreboard, despite the Red Wings leading in shots on goal, 12-8.

Detroit also led in blocked shots (5-2), hits (13-8) and face-off win percentage (64-36) after one period, while the Bruins led in takeaways (7-5) and giveaways (4-3). The Red Wings had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period on a face-off in the offensive zone, Bergeron won the draw back to McAvoy (1) who fired a shot from the face-off circle that deflected off an opponent in front of the goal past Bernier to make it 2-0 Bruins.

Bergeron (4) had the only assist on McAvoy’s first goal of the season at 4:44 of the second period. Boston did not let off the gas pedal the rest of the way.

DeBrusk (1) was sent into the attacking zone on a breakaway and slid the puck underneath Bernier’s pad– just squeaking the rubber biscuit past the goal line, but enough for the nearest ref to see the whole thing– to make it 3-0 Bruins.

Krejci (3) had the only assist on the DeBrusk’s first of the year at 11:26.

Moments later, Christoffer Ehn caught McAvoy with a high-stick and gave the Bruins their second power play of the afternoon 16 minutes into the second period.

Boston’s first power play unit only needed 20 seconds to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as Pastrnak (6) scored his second goal of the game on a one-timed slap shot. Bergeron (5) and Marchand (8) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal– the 100th of his career– at 16:20 and the B’s led, 4-0.

Late in the second frame, the Bruins were guilty of minor penalties less than a minute apart. First, DeBrusk was sent to the box for tripping Detroit’s Andreas Athanasiou at 18:17. Then Marchand took a trip to the sin bin for sending the puck over the glass on a delay of game minor at 19:00.

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The Red Wings would have 1:17 on the 5-on-3 advantage that would spillover into the third period.

After 40 minutes of play, No. 40 in the home goal (Rask) and the Bruins led 4-0. Boston recovered from trailing in shots on goal in the first period, 12-8, to leading in shots on goal, 23-20 after two periods. The Bruins outshot the Red Wings, 15-8, in the second frame.

Detroit led in blocked shots (10-4) and hits (18-14), while Boston held an advantage in takeaways (13-12), giveaways (7-6) and face-off win% (60-40) entering the second intermission. The Red Wings were 0/2 on the power play (but not for long) and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the final frame.

Filip Hronek (1) fired a clapper from the point 21 seconds into the third period as the first penalty expired for Boston, yielding a 5-on-4 power play goal and his first career NHL goal to put Detroit on the scoreboard, 4-1.

Tyler Bertuzzi (2) and Gustav Nyquist (4) had the assists on Hronek’s goal.

Just 1:44 after the Red Wings scored, David Pastrnak (7) completed his hat trick on a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand in the offensive zone.

Pastrnak rushed in on a pass from Patrice Bergeron, giving the puck to Marchand, before No. 63 returned the vulcanized rubber to its sender for the snipe past Bernier. Marchand (9) and Bergeron (6) had the assists on Pastrnak’s third goal of the game and the Bruins led, 5-1.

It was Pastrnak’s first regular season hat trick since recording his first career hat trick in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13, 2018 (he had 3-1–4 totals that night) and it was his first hat trick since his 6-point effort against Toronto in Game 2 of the First Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Anthony Mantha tripped up Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, at 6:24 of the third period, but Boston would not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Dylan Larkin (3) fired a wrist shot past Rask for his third goal of the season at 8:23 and brough the Red Wings to within three, making it a 5-2 game with plenty of time left in the final period of regulation.

Frans Nielsen (2) and Joe Hicketts (1) had primary and secondary assists on Larkin’s goal.

Less than a couple minutes later, the Bruins responded.

Anders Bjork (1) scored his first goal of the season– and the first of his sophomore campaign since his rookie season ended prematurely due to left-shoulder injury.

Bjork’s goal was unassisted at 10:12 of the third period after No. 10 in black-and-gold was credited with a takeaway in the neutral zone and burst into the attacking zone with Donato on a 2-on-1. Instead of passing, Bjork sniped a wrist shot past Bernier to make it, 6-2, Boston.

A little over a minute later, John Moore was guilty of hooking Darren Helm and Detroit went back on the power play at 11:36. The Red Wings were unable to score this time around on the advantage.

Mantha and McAvoy received roughing minors for some extracurricular activity after the whistle at 13:57 of the third period and two minutes of 4-on-4 action resulted.

That’s about the time when DeBrusk sent a pass to Krejci on the left side, before the Czech center lobbed a pass to Brandon Carlo pinching in from the point, whereby Carlo found DeBrusk (2) in the low slot for the redirection past Bernier to make it 7-2 Boston at 15:15.

In the final minute of regulation, Detroit defender, Nick Jensen caught Ryan Donato with a shoulder to the head and Bruins fourth liner, Chris Wagner, immediately responded.

Though Wagner and Jensen had the gloves off and exchanged fisticuffs, both received unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalties, with Wagner serving two and Jensen picking up one unsportsmanlike conduct call and an illegal check to the head minor penalty at 19:35 of the third period.

In the closing seconds of the game, Sean Kuraly (1) added his first goal of the season and the Bruins sealed an 8-2 victory with 1.3 seconds remaining on the game clock. Kevan Miller (1) and Bjork (1) were tabbed with the assists on Kuraly’s goal at 19:58 (officially) of the third period.

The Bruins finished the night with the 8-2 win and leading in shots on goal (39-34), as well as, face-off win% (52-49), while going 1/3 on the power play. Detroit ended the game leading in blocked shots (12-9) and was 1/3 on the skater advantage, as well. Both teams finished Saturday’s matinee matchup with 21 hits.

Among other stats…

Miller was a plus-four for the Bruins, as only Wagner (even) and Acciari (minus-one) finished the game without a positive plus/minus for Boston.

Moore led the B’s in shots on goal with five, while Chara, DeBrusk, Nordstrom and Pastrnak all recorded four shots on net.

Acciari led the Bruins in hits with four. Carlo, Miller and Nordstrom each had three.

David Pastrnak is the third fastest to reach 100 career goals in franchise history for Boston, doing so in his 259th career game– trailing only Barry Pederson (100 goals in 187 games) and Dit Clapper (100 goals in 247 games). He also became the third fastest Czech-born player to score 100 goals, behind Petr Klima (231) and Jaromir Jagr (245).

Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist and Frans Nielsen were minus-three on Saturday for Detroit. Filip Hronek not only scored his first career goal, but led the Red Wings in shots on goal with six from the blue line (Nyquist was second on the team with five). Joe Hicketts led the Red Wings in hits with five and Nick Jensen led Detroit in blocked shots with four.

The Bruins take on the Calgary Flames on the road on Wednesday, before facing the Oilers on Thursday and rounding out their Western Canada portion of the upcoming four-game road trip on October 20th against the Vancouver Canucks.

Boston travels to Ottawa for a matchup with the Senators on the 23rd before returning home to face the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden on the 25th.

Detroit Red Wings 2018-19 Season Preview

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Detroit Red Wings

30-39-13, 73 points, 5th in the Atlantic Division

Additions: G Jonathan Bernier, D Jake Chelios, F Wade Megan, G Harri Sateri, F Chris Terry, F Thomas Vanek

Subtractions: D Adam Almquist (signed, SHL), F Colin Campbell (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), G Jared Coreau (signed with ANA), F Turner Elson (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), F Matt Lorito (signed with NYI), G Matej Machovsky (signed, ELH), G Tom McCollum (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), F Zach Nastasiuk (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), D Xavier Ouellet (buyout, signed with MTL), D Dan Renouf (signed with CAR), F Ben Street (signed with ANA), F Eric Tangradi (signed with NJ)

Still Unsigned:  F David Booth, F Matt Puempel

Re-signed: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Mike Green, F Dylan Larkin, F Anthony Mantha

Offseason Analysis: Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is standing put this offseason. Tell me if you’ve already heard this story before.

Despite finishing 5th in the Atlantic Division (only two spots out of a playoff spot), Detroit was not at all a playoff contender by any means last season. The same remains true for 2018-19, unfortunately for Red Wings fans.

However, unlike most rebuilding teams this offseason, Detroit had a tremendous draft– landing Filip Zadina at 6th overall. Both Zadina and the Red Wings are ready to prove at least two or three other teams that passed over him wrong.

Holland didn’t just land one great pick that slipped down the order, but two with his second pick of the first round at 30th overall in Joe Veleno.

Re-signing Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha protected the Red Wings core, while bringing in Jonathan Bernier as a backup provides stability in the crease behind Jimmy Howard.

Rebuilding is a long, slow process, but Detroit is ready to speed things up a bit as they look to get younger in the right places. One thing that’s holding them back, however, is their commitment to lateral moves during this time period.

Thomas Vanek is back (for now– just wait until the trade deadline, though he really wants to stay in a winged-wheel sweater) and so is Mike Green. Frans Nielsen is still on the books with his NMC/NTC strapped contract and the blueline at Little Caesars Arena continues to age– without Xavier Ouellet in the picture after Holland used a buyout on the 25-year-old defender reaching his prime.

Holland’s plans for next offseason have to include some kind of restructuring on the back end with four defenders aged 32-plus.

Regardless, 2018-19 is poised to be an average disappointment as a placeholder season while Zadina and Co. gain experience. Detroit is at least competitive enough to lose games by one, two or three goals instead of 5-0 blowouts every other night.

Any experience is good experience, but playoff hopes should be on hold for at least one more season Red Wings fans (because otherwise, they’d be making an early exit for sure).

Offseason Grade: C

Ken Holland didn’t do much, but rather just enough to potentially set the Red Wings up for landing a goldmine in the 2019 offseason. With that in mind, Detroit should line themselves up for another high-end draft pick next June and trying to land a top UFA in 2019.

This season, however, the focus remains on finding a focus. Fix an aging defense, find the next Jimmy Howard and set sights on having younger guys inserted into the lineup.

Could Jeff Blashill be on the hotseat this season? Sure. For better or worse. It’s really not the coaching in Detroit that’s the problem. It’s an average to below average roster that’s continuing to age in a tight salary cap (but again, there’s hope for some serious restructuring next offseason).

2018 Offseason Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Detroit Red Wings and their outlook for the summer.

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After missing the playoffs for the first time in over a quarter of a century, the Detroit Red Wings have only begun phase one of what looks to be a longer rebuild than some of the other recent rebuilds in the league– but one offseason, this offseason, can change the pace.

Detroit finished 5th in the Atlantic Division with a 30-39-13 record and 73 points on the season in 2017-18. While that’s two places removed from a divisional spot in the current Stanley Cup Playoff format, keep in mind that 73 points would put them just ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and tied with the Vancouver Canucks in the overall league standings.

So things, while they may seem otherwise, are pretty dire in the Red Wings organization.

Short of trading Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philadelphia’s stretch run to the postseason, the Red Wings didn’t make much news in the headlines or noise around the league.

General Manager Ken Holland signed a two-year extension in April to remain as Detroit’s general manager through the 2019-20 season and looks to see this rebuild through in his tenure with the franchise.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

The Red Wings currently have two first round picks in the Draft as part of seven total picks in the first three rounds (two firsts, two second round picks and three third round picks).

Pending any transactions, Detroit is expected to select 6th and 30th overall (via the Vegas Golden Knights, thanks to the Tomas Tatar deadline deal).

They’ll likely search for help on the blueline in Quintin Hughes, Evan Bouchard or Adam Boqvist with the higher of the two picks and could very well utilize any of the five other picks in the first three rounds on either prospects or additions to the current roster via a trade.

Author’s note (for those interested): Detroit has their own first round pick, Vegas’s first round pick, their own second round pick, Ottawa’s second round pick, their own third round pick, Philadelphia’s third round pick and Pittsburgh’s third round pick in the first three rounds of the 2018 Draft.

Pending free agents

Despite a lot of no-trade-clauses and no-movement-clauses to work around, the Red Wings have almost $17.4 million in cap space this summer and five pending-restricted free agents to re-sign, including Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

It’s imperative that Holland finds a trading partner or two to ship out one or more of the players with NTCs or NMCs willing to waive their clause(s), because Larkin’s next deal alone (both in cap and clauses) could very well strap the team in a wedge of roster components that they cannot otherwise move around.

Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyqvist present themselves as viable options to move with Helm, 31, and Abdelkader, 31, having to waive their NTCs before agreeing to any deal and Nyqvist as a 28-year-old rental player with one-year remaining on his current contract.

Anthanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Martin Frk and Mantha are several key components to the club moving forward and should all be re-signed, while pending-unrestricted free agent forward, David Booth, likely could hit the open market.

On defense, the Red Wings currently have three blueliners age 34 and older in the likes of Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Niklas Kronwall.

Ericsson and Kronwall are two cornerstones of Detroit’s defense in both their tenure with the team in addition to their veteran presence, while Daley was signed last July after winning a couple of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. All three have some form of an NTC and are signed at a combined cap hit of $12.167 million next season, with Kronwall only signed through the end of 2018-19 at $4.750 million.

Holland will have to make some dance moves to address the overabundance of NTCs and NMCs sooner rather than later, but can probably put the defense on the back burner for another year as part of the long haul plan.

Mike Green is the only pending-UFA defender and since he wasn’t dealt at the deadline as a 32-year-old veteran seeking his first chance at a Cup, should not return to the organization.

Jimmy Howard is the number one goaltender in Detroit for the foreseeable future with one-year remaining on his contract.

As such, finding a competitive backup that could overtake Howard for the number one role remains a priority this offseason, given Jared Coreau‘s less than impressive bid for starting goaltender status.

Speaking of Coreau, the 26-year-old goaltender is a pending-UFA.

If Holland is willing to risk a season worse than this one in an already weak Atlantic Division, then the time is now to make some moves and truly bottom out before rising quickly back to Cup contender status like the great Red Wings teams of the 1990s and 2000s.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Daniel Renouf (RFA), Matt Puempel (RFA), Ben Street (UFA), Eric Tangradi (UFA), Turner Elson (UFA), Tom McCollum (UFA), Zach Nastasiuk (RFA), Matt Lorito (UFA), Matej Machovsky (RFA)

December 13 – Day 70 – Original Six rivalry

It’s another Wednesday in the NHL, so you know what that means: a supposed rivalry-filled schedule.

Let’s see how that pans out.

Tonight’s schedule starts at 7 p.m. with two contests (the New York Rangers at Ottawa [SN/TVAS] and Dallas at the New York Islanders), followed by Boston at Detroit (NBCSN) an hour later. Finally, tonight’s nightcap – Nashville at Vancouver (SN) – gets underway at 10 p.m. to close the game out. All times Eastern.

I had half of today’s games circled on my schedule from the start of the season.

  • New York at Ottawa: It’s a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals.
  • Boston at Detroit: It’s been a while since we’ve had an Original Six rivalry…

In honor of NBC finally featuring a real rivalry – and what is arguably a bigger game than meets the eye – let’s head off to Motown.

 

It doesn’t seem right that these teams are still in the playoff hunt considering they play in the same division that features Tampa Bay and Toronto, but such is life in the Atlantic Division.

The team currently occupying that third division spot is none other than the 14-9-4 Bruins, who are a full three points behind a Pittsburgh team that would be on the outside looking in if the postseason started today.

Don’t tell anybody, but Boston’s defense is quietly making a name for itself as one of the better corps in the league. Bruins fans witness their team allow only 2.74 goals-per-game, which is the seventh-fewest in the league.

Led by the solid efforts of F David Backes (3.1 hits per game), D Zdeno Chara (1.59 blocks per game) and F Riley Nash (team-leading 32 takeaways), Boston has allowed an average of only 29.85 shots to reach its starting goaltender each game, the fifth-fewest in the NHL.

That makes life pretty easy on 7-8-2 G Tuukka Rask, who doesn’t need all that much help to be exemplary at his job – he just needs rest. Now that Head Coach Bruce Cassidy is accepting the fact that Rask cannot start every game (Rask has started at least 62 games for the past three seasons and watched his save percentage drop) and playing 7-1-2 G Anton Khudobin more often, the 2014 Vezina-winning goalie is beginning to look like himself once again.

Rask has earned a perfect 4-0-0 record over his last five appearances (he relieved Khudobin in Nashville last week for no decision), posting a .955 save percentage and 1.1 GAA in that time to elevate his season numbers to a .912 save percentage and 2.43 GAA, the (t)18th- and sixth-best efforts, respectively, among the 35 goaltenders with at least 11 starts.

But we haven’t even gotten to one of my favorite things about this Bruins team: its penalty kill. Successfully defending 85.54 percent of its infractions, Boston’s PK ranks third-best in the league behind only Los Angeles and San Jose, some very good defensive company.

This is where Rask has truly shined brightest. He’s saved 92.8 percent of all power play shots that make it to his goal, which is the most of any netminder with at least 15 starts to their credit. Of course, he’s also had the luxury of facing only 70 such shots all season thanks to Chara’s team-leading 20 shorthanded blocks.

Meanwhile, the 11-13-6 Red Wings are trying valiantly to outperform everyone’s expectations, as they trail the third place Bruins by only four points. Unfortunately, it’s been an anemic offense that has held them back from glory, as they manage a fourth-worst 2.63 goals-per-game.

If anyone in particular is to blame for Detroit’s struggles, it can’t be the second line – specifically F Dylan Larkin (4-19-23 totals) and F Anthony Mantha (12-10-22). They are the team leaders in almost every offensive department, but have combined for only two game-winners. If that’s not an an indictment on the rest of this offense, I don’t know what is.

Additionally, the Wings also have D Mike Green making considerable contributions from the blue line, as he’s managed a decent 2-16-18 effort that is shaping into the best season of his three-year Detroit career.

Knowing that Green, who is slated to be a free agent this offseason, is having a bit of a resurgence but has nothing to show for his career beyond being named to two NHL First All-Star Teams, it’ll be interesting to see if/when he’ll be traded. It is certainly possible in this division for the Wings to regroup and sneak into the playoffs, but it is looking more and more likely that won’t be the case. Green very well could be on the move at or before February 26’s trade deadline.

If Detroit is going to win this game, it’s going to need its greatest weapon to be firing on all cylinders. Though the Wings struggle on offense as a whole, their power play success rate of 20 percent is actually the 11th-best effort in the league. They face a tall task in the previously mentioned Boston penalty kill, but I think Detroit’s best chance of finding a goal is while a Bruin is in the penalty box.

The power play is Green’s specialty, as he leads the squad with nine man-advantage points. However, all of those are assists. Instead, I’d bank on Mantha and his team-leading five power play goals being Rask’s primary focus this evening.

As long has the Bruins can keep Detroit’s two forwards under control, they should come away with a victory tonight.


Behind First Star of the Game G Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s third shutout of the season, the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-0 at Scottrade Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

For the Bolts’ second game in a row, Second Star F Brayden Point (F Tyler Johnson and F Alex Killorn) provided Tampa Bay’s game-winning goal. This one was struck with 45 seconds remaining in the first period.

Johnson entered the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, but Third Star D Colton Parayko did a good job to force him away from the front of G Jake Allen‘s net. Johnson instead traveled behind the cage, moving from Allen’s left to right before passing from the left face-off circle to Point at the top of the zone. Point ripped a wrist shot through two St. Louis defenders that found the right goal post, but he collected his own rebound to squeeze a shot behind Allen and off the left post.

Tampa’s two insurance goals weren’t struck until the third period. RW Nikita Kucherov (D Mikhail Sergachev) scored the first with 6:23 remaining in regulation, followed by Johnson (Point and D Victor Hedman) burying a wrister into an open net with 22 seconds remaining before the final horn to close out the game.

Vasilevskiy saved all 32 shots he faced for the shutout victory, leaving the loss to Allen, who saved 22-of-24 (.917 save percentage).

Home and road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are getting back into the holiday spirit and exchanging victories. With the road Bolts winning last night, the visitors have pulled back within 15 points of the 39-23-8 hosts.

October 20 – Day 17 – Don’t get confused, Mike Green

You know that feeling you get when 5 p.m. rolls around on a Friday? Allow me to magnify that for you: there’s hockey on tonight!

Specifically, there’s six games happening around the league this evening, starting with two (Vancouver at Buffalo [SN360] and San Jose at New Jersey) at 7 p.m. and another pair (Washington at Detroit and Pittsburgh at Florida [TVAS]) half an hour later. The action continues at 8 p.m. when Minnesota visits Winnipeg before tonight’s nightcap – Montréal at Anaheim (RDS/TSN2) – closes out the festivities two hours later.

I was going to feature G Anders Nilsson‘s return to Buffalo this evening, but since he played in the Canucks’ game in Boston last night and is unlikely to draw back-to-back starts, I’m slightly more drawn to the action in Motown.

 

I know we’ve already watched the Red Wings once this week, but that’s what we get on days when the schedule isn’t exactly filled to the brim with exciting matchups.

#ThanksNHL

And, considering expectations for the Wings this season (and the Capitals too, for that matter), we should enjoy watching them as much as we can while they’re still playing well and staying relevant.

How much longer 4-3-0 Detroit can keep up its solid start is certainly the question, as the Wings are currently the last team in if the playoffs started today (you know how important playoff positioning is in Week 3 of a 27-week season).

Earning them this better-than-expected start has certainly been their offense. It may not be as daunting as the days of old (à la C Steve Yzerman and basically anybody else on his line), but the Wings quietly run a decent top-two lines.

The top line is headlined by W Anthony Mantha (3-4-7 totals) and F Henrik Zetterberg (4-4-8), both of whom are averaging at least a point-per-game. If G Braden Holtby and the Caps can fend them off, a second line that includes the likes of W Justin Abdelkader (2-2-4) and F Dylan Larkin (1-7-8) are right behind to continue applying the pressure.

Two skaters that should also be included in that group are defensemen Mike Green and Nick Jensen. 32-year-old Green, a former first-round selection by the Capitals that played 10 seasons in Washington, actually leads the team in points scored with his 1-8-9 totals, while youngster Jensen has provided four assists from the third defensive pairing.

As Minnesota and Ottawa have already proven this season, teams that sleep on this squad are liable to miss out on points that should be earned against a rebuilding club.

That rebuild is no more apparent than when the Wings take to the power play. No matter how hard Green tries with his team-leading four power play points, the club has only converted four-of-27 man-advantage opportunities for an abysmal 14.8 percent success rate that’s eighth-worst in the league. Fortunately for the Wings, they aren’t exactly playing an exemplary penalty kill this evening (Washington kills only 78.6 percent of opposing power plays, 13th-worst in the NHL), so they might be able to find some success.

Of course, it seems the Capitals are experiencing a bit of a rebuild themselves. Though the offense is still trucking right along at 3.14 goals-per-game, the defense has definitely suffered following the offseason’s transactions.

It is no fault of Holtby’s that Washington is allowing an average of 3.43 goals against-per-game (10th-worst in the league). He’s still trucking along as well as ever with his .931 save percentage and 2.19 GAA, both of which are top-10 efforts in the NHL among goaltenders with at least three starts.

Instead, the Capitals are fielding (Icing? No, that’s a penalty…) a defensive corps that allows an 11th-worst 33.9 shots against-per-game – even with D Brooks Orpik blocking 2.6 shots-per-night. In particular, D Dmitry Orlov has been pretty rough to open the season. He has yet to produce a point after posting 6-27-33 totals last season, and has been on the ice for 11 goals against for a -3 rating (both team-worsts).

It seems losing both D Karl Alzner and D Nate Schmidt is proving a bit tougher to handle than previously hoped – and that was before D Matt Niskanen went down with an upper-body injury last Friday. Fortunately for the Caps, they may not notice those departures as badly this evening considering the Red Wings are not a club that likes to pepper opposing goaltenders.

It’s another game of evenly-matched offenses, which means Detroit should have the upper-hand in this game (that’s weird to say when Holtby is playing for the opposing team) based on its defense. The Wings should be more than able to take two points tonight, especially if G Jimmy Howard rediscovers his form from his first three starts.


Though they needed the shutout, the New York Islanders were able to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at Madison Square Garden in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Islanders came out with guns blazing to start this game, as F Anders Lee (D Ryan Pulock and RW Jordan Eberle) was able to bury a power play wrist shot only 2:40 into the game. That early lead didn’t last long though, as C David Desharnais (D Kevin Shattenkirk and D Marc Staal) scored a tip-in only 2:22 later to level the game at one-all. Much to the Islanders’ delight, that tie lasted only 64 seconds courtesy of Second Star of the Game F Brock Nelson‘s (LW Andrew Ladd) wrister to retake the lead for the Boys from Brooklyn.

All goals are important, but C Mathew Barzal‘s (D Calvin de Haan and F Josh Bailey) wrister 75 seconds into the second period will stick out in the minds of the Islanders for the next couple of weeks. Not only was it the first of Barzal’s NHL career, but it also proved to be the one that ensured the Isles would make it to overtime.

The Rangers’ comeback began in earnest 3:29 into the third period when W Mats Zuccarello (Third Star D Brendan Smith) scored a wrister to pull the Blueshirts back within a goal. Brooklyn people and Manhattanites alike were on the edge of their seats until F Kevin Hayes (RW Jesper Fast and D Ryan McDonagh) leveled the game at three-all with a backhanded shot.

Even though a total of six shots were fired over five minutes of three-on-three overtime and the Islanders played the final 79 seconds on the power play, neither club could find the golden goal, forcing the first shootout of the 2017-’18 DtFR Game of the Day series.

  1. Zuccarello drew the first chance to fire at G Jaroslav Halak, and he made good on the opportunity to give the Blueshirts an early lead.
  2. Eberle tried to match it against G Henrik Lundqvist, and he did. 1-1 after two shooters.
  3. Next up for the Rangers was C Mika Zibanejad, but Halak was able to make the save.
  4. With the opportunity to take the lead, Head Coach Doug Weight sent out First Star C John Tavares. The captain converted the break to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
  5. Tavares’ goal forced a miss-and-lose situation for Desharnais and the Rangers, but the center wasn’t able to get past Halak. That gave the Islanders a 4-3 victory on a 2-1 shootout.

Halak earned the victory after saving 38-of-41 shots faced (.927 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Lundqvist, who saved 35-of-38 (.921).

The Isles’ road victory snaps a two-game winning streak by the 10-5-2 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, but the hosts still have a six-point advantage.

October 16 – Day 13 – Selections are slim, Vol. II

We’re only 13 days into the season, but today is already the second that features only one game on the schedule. Fortunately for us, it features two 4-1-0 clubs. Let’s get to Motown by 7:30 p.m. Eastern time for Tampa Bay at Detroit (SN1/TVAS)!

 

Tonight’s showdown between Atlantic Division rivals is a far bigger affair than many projected at the beginning of the season. It was simply assumed the Red Wings would already be in the Eastern Conference cellar and en route to an early pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but so far they’re holding their ground with the best of them. That being said, there are few offenses of the caliber of Tampa Bay’s, so this should be a good test for the Wings.

Since we haven’t featured the Lightning yet this season in the DtFR Game of the Day series, let’s tackle them first.

There are few teams in this league that score as well as the Bolts do, as they average four goals-per game to rank (t)fifth-best. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Head Coach Jon Cooper has F Alex Killorn (1-6-7 totals), RW Nikita Kucherov (5-3-8), F Brayden Point (3-5-8) and C Steven Stamkos (1-6-7) all at his disposal. With the help of two others, these four help to build one of the best top-two line combinations available in the league, meaning 3-0-0 G Jimmy Howard cannot lose his focus for a second without risking a Tampa goal.

In particular, Tampa has absolutely excelled on the power play, converting six-of-21 opportunities (28.6 percent) for the (t)fourth-best effort in the league. While Stamkos has yet to find his second goal of the season, he’s been a vital re-introduction to the special teams with his club-leading four power play points – including one man-advantage goal.

The major hole on this Lightning team is its defensive performance so far, though it’s hard to accurately measure given that opposing forwards are known to step up their game when facing an offense of the caliber of Tampa’s. So far this season, even though D Jake Dotchin has managed two blocks-per-game, the Bolts have allowed 35.8 shots against-per-game to reach 4-1-0 G Andrei Vasilevskiy, the fourth-worst mark in the NHL.

Fortunately, Vasilevskiy – a former first-rounder – is good at his job. Yet to cede the crease to G Peter Budaj, he’s managed a .911 save percentage and 3.2 GAA. Though he’s not exactly at the top of the list of goaltenders in the league right now, he’s doing just enough to ensure his offense can keep the game under control.

Tonight will be a good test for him, because the Wings have had no trouble finding the back of the net most nights. Led by D Mike Green and his eight assists, Detroit has managed 3.4 goals-per-game to rank 10th-best in the NHL.

But since Green doesn’t register an assist without somebody else scoring a goal, Vasilevskiy is going to have to keep an eye on W Martin Frk, W Anthony Mantha and F Henrik Zetterberg, as all three have three goals in their 2017-’18 accounts already.

I brought up Howard earlier, but we didn’t discuss how integral he’s been to this hot start by the Red Wings. Of all the goaltenders that have appeared in more than one game, his .955 save percentage is second-best in the league. If Howard can maintain that level of play, it’ll be interesting to see where his season can take him, especially given he’ll be an unrestricted free agent following the end of next campaign.

Until then, he’s the backbone of a very good penalty kill that could cause fits for Tampa’s special teams. So far this season, the Wings have only allowed two power play goals against in 23 opportunities for a 91.3 percent kill rate that ranks fourth-best in the NHL.

Though Detroit is not being favored by Vegas in this game (the Wings have a +100 associated with their name), I’m leaning towards Howard and co. taking this game. The Wings’ offense has been able to hold its own so far this season, and the Bolts are not the type of team to try to overwhelm a goaltender. Add in the fact that this game is taking place at Little Caesars Arena, and I think the red-and-white can pull this one out.


Though the New York Islanders tried their best, they could not find the upper hand against the Los Angeles Kings in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they fell 3-2 at the Staples Center.

Los Angeles never trailed in this contest, thanks in large part to Second Star of the Game C Anze Kopitar‘s (First Star D Drew Doughty and W Dustin Brown) snap shot with 7:16 remaining in the first period. With the help of the Kings’ defense, Los Angeles was able to take that lead into the first intermission.

F Josh Bailey (Third Star C Mathew Barzal and LW Andrew Ladd) pulled New York even 8:56 into the second frame with a backhanded shot to beat G Darcy Kuemper, but D Jake Muzzin‘s (D Oscar Fantenberg and F Tyler Toffoli) power play wrist shot 2:36 later returned the lead to the Kings’ hands. For the second straight period, Los Angeles’ defensive corps held the Islanders to only seven shots on goal to ensure they took the 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Shorthanded goals have a way of sucking any momentum out of the opposing team. That’s exactly what happened 5:44 into the third period, as Doughty (Kopitar) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on a shorthanded tip-in. Like many shorties do, the play started with the Kings in their defensive zone, but that all changed when Kopitar intercepted a pass from F Joshua Ho-Sang intended for D Johnny Boychuk at the far point. Kopitar tore down the far boards into his offensive zone before steering towards G Jaroslav Halak. But, instead of firing a shot at the goaltender, he centered a pass to the crashing Doughty, who beat the falling Halak five-hole to the far post.

C Casey Cizikas (RW Cal Clutterbuck and D Thomas Hickey) did manage to pull the Isles back within a goal with 5:40 remaining in regulation, but Kuemper did not let them get any further into their comeback plan after that.

Speaking of Kuemper, he earned his 1-0-0 record by saving 23-of-25 shots faced (.92 save percentage), leaving the loss to Halak, who saved 24-of-27 (.889).

A second-straight victory by the 8-4-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series has the visitors falling behind five points early in the season.

October 5 – Day Two – Pour one out for The Joe

Opening day is always fun (congrats to the Leafs, Blues, Oilers and Flyers for achieving 1-0-0 records, by the way), but I think its safe to say that I actually get more excited for the second day when there’s far more action (don’t even get me started about the first Saturday of the season!).

Tonight, there are eight games on the schedule, starting with three (Nashville at Boston, Montréal at Buffalo [RDS/TSN2] and Colorado at the New York Rangers) at 7 p.m. and a pair (Washington at Ottawa [RDS2] and Minnesota at Detroit [NBCSN]) half an hour later. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Pittsburgh at Chicago (SN360), while 10 p.m. features the evening’s co-nightcaps: Arizona at Anaheim and Philadelphia at Los Angeles (NBCSN). All times Eastern.

There’s certainly some fantastic games on the schedule, but one in particular has caught my eye.

 

Yes, we all know Detroit missed the playoffs last season for the first time in 25 years. That narrative was played out for the entirety of the 2016-’17 campaign.

Unfortunately, I think that story overshadowed another equally important one, especially among out-of-town fans: for the first time since December 27, 1979, the Red Wings will no longer call Joe Louis Arena home.

I cannot say I ever had the pleasure of walking into The Joe. Heck, I’ve never even been to Detroit. But for those who have, I can only imagine it was a wonderfully magical experience. Few buildings currently standing in the NHL have borne witness to such prolonged greatness.

C Steve Yzerman scored quite a few of his 692 goals between those unpredictable boards, and Nicklas Lidstrom year in and year out proved his defensive prowess by winning seven Norris Trophies and contributing to four Stanley Cup-winning efforts.

Manny Legace and Chris Osgood are just two of the many heralded goalies to man The Joe’s posts, while few defended his designated area like Bob Probert and his beloved penalty box. In fact, after spending so much of his hockey career defending his fellow Red Wings from Wendel Clark and RW Tie Domi and assuming his spot in the sin bin, Probert’s ashes were scattered in the arena’s penalty box following the club’s final home game last season.

But, unless something dramatic happens to Little Caesars Arena before 7:30 p.m. tonight, the time for Joe Louis Arena (and The Palace at Auburn Hills, for all you basketball fans) has come and gone.

And so, a new chapter in the story that is the Detroit Red Wings begins tonight as this team adjusts to its new home and begins work on building “Hockeytown Dynasty 2.0.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think that chapter gets a good starts tonight, as the Wild should be more than able to spoil the arena’s Grand Opening. Minnesota returns much of a roster that won 12-straight games en route to a 106-point season, including G Devan Dubnyk (40-19-5 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.25 GAA last season), F Mikael Granlund (26-43-69 totals in 2016-’17) and D Ryan Suter (allowed only six even-strength or shorthanded goals last season).

For Detroit, G Jimmy Howard will surely get the opening night start and will be under heavy pressure all night. Even though the Wings added D Trevor Daley, Howard may be the only line of defense considering how much Detroit’s blue line struggled last season. Knowing the Wild fired 30.8 shots-per-game last season, he may be in for a long night.

Offensively, the Red Wings have two sneaky-good top lines in Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist and Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinMartin Frk, but the real question will be if these six have enough firepower in them to keep this team relevant all season against some of the best defenses. This game should provide an effective litmus test in determining just that.

I feel pretty safe in predicting a Wild win tonight, especially when seeing some bookies listing Minnesota at a -140 favorite.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

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.