Tag Archives: Backes

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.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 15

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer – unless noted otherwise –  is Connor Keith.

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 2

By: DtFR Staff

After trailing 3-1 in 3rd period, the Ottawa Senators completed the comeback with a 4-3 victory on an overtime goal from Dion Phaneuf shortly after the Boston Bruins killed off a delay of game penalty against captain Zdeno Chara.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 25 saves on 29 shots faced for an .862 save percentage in the loss, while Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% for the win.

Still tied 0-0 entering the 2nd period, the Bruins struck first on a goal from Drew Stafford (1) at 9:47 of the period. Stafford’s goal was challenged by the Senators, who thought it was offsides, but after review it was determined that there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice. David Backes (1) and Chara (1) tallied the assists on Stafford’s goal.

Clarke MacArthur (1) hit the twine for his first playoff goal since his comeback from injury (and first in two years) on a power play at 10:57 of the 2nd period. MacArthur’s goal tied the game, 1-1, and was assisted by the hot hands of Bobby Ryan (1) and Derick Brassard (1).

Tim Schaller (1) picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a shorthanded opportunity at 12:39 in just his 2nd career NHL playoff appearance to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Dominic Moore (1) recorded the only assist on Schaller’s goal.

With 3:59 remaining in the 2nd period, it looked like Boston had the game all but put away as Patrice Bergeron (1) redirected a shot from David Pastrnak past Anderson for a two-goal lead for the Bruins. Pastrnak (2) and Ryan Spooner (1) were credited with the assists on Bergeron’s goal.

Boston went into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead, but came out looking flat for the final twenty minutes of regulation. And it ultimately cost them.

Chris Wideman (1) fired a shot past Rask— who had been partially screened by his own rookie defenseman, Charlie McAvoy— to make it a one goal game just 5:28 into the 3rd period. Phaneuf (1) had the only assist on the goal and recorded his first point of a three-point night (one goal, two assists).

A mere 2:20 later, Brassard (1) received a pass from Erik Karlsson and sent it behind Rask on a one-timer goal. Karlsson (2) and Phaneuf (2) notched the assists on the game-tying tally not even halfway into the final period of regulation.

After Chara sent the puck over the glass and earned an automatic two-minute minor penalty for delay of game, the Bruins managed to kill off 1:48 of the remaining time on the penalty kill that had carried over into overtime.

Eleven seconds later, it was all over, however, as the B’s were caught in their own zone, while the Sens pressured their will onto their opponent.

Phaneuf (1) sent one behind Rask on a pass from Mark Stone (1) almost two minutes into overtime and tied the series 1-1 with his game winning overtime goal.

The series shifts to TD Garden in Boston on Monday night with Games 3 and 4 hosted by the Bruins before the now necessary Game 5 will occur in Ottawa on Friday, April 21st.

Again, Game 3 is Monday at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen nationally on CNBC in the United Stats and SN/TVAS in Canada.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 2

Led by First Star of the Game Kasperi Kapanen‘s two-goal night, the Maple Leafs were able to level their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Captials at one-all with a 4-3 double-overtime victory at the Verizon Center.

When a playoff game requires overtime, some believe that most of the regulation action doesn’t matter. Kapanen probably doesn’t prescribe to that theory, as his first career postseason goal was almost as important as his second.

With 5:35 remaining in the second period, the rookie right wing (Matt Martin and Brian Boyle) scored a turn-around backhander five-hole on Braden Holtby from right in front of his crease. That tally pulled then the Leafs even at two-goals apiece.

Of course, the one he’ll remember for a long time is the first game-winner of his short NHL career – playoffs or otherwise. To beat the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, you have to be quick, and that’s exactly what Kapanen and co. were. The play started when Martin won a battle near the far corner behind Holtby’s net. He managed to force a pass behind the goal to Boyle, who one-touched the puck with a backhander back towards to far post. Kapanen was streaking towards the crease, so he was more than able to collect the pass and pound it home behind an unsuspecting Holtby, who thought Boyle still had the puck.

This series is turning nasty in a hurry. Though it’s only two games deep, 32 penalty minutes have been served between these two clubs – 24 of which were Saturday night.

All those opposing power plays put pressure on goaltenders, but both Frederik Andersen and Holtby performed rather amicably. Andersen saved 47-of-50 (94%) on the night for the victory, leaving the overtime loss to Holtby, who stopped 47-of-51 (92.2%).

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 2

As far as seeding is concerned, the Central Division is an absolute mess in the first round, as the Predators beat Chicago 5-0 Saturday at the United Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup as the series transitions to Nashville.

Nashville is playing the Blackhawks like a fiddle right now. Led by Austin Watson and his eight blows, the Predators threw 48 hits to get under the top seed in the West’s skin. And as you’d expect, that’s yielded penalties, and lots of them. The Hawks served 16 penalty minutes – almost all of them in the all-important third period.

Nashville was able to convert one of its three power plays into a goal, though it was the ultimately unimportant fifth goal – a Kevin Fiala (Second Star of the Game Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban) wrist shot from the far face-off dot to beat Corey Crawford stick-side with 107 seconds remaining in the game.

No, the winner came off Third Star Ryan Ellis‘ (Johansen and Roman Josi) stick. Only 3:44 into the contest, he fired a one-timer from the blueline so hard the rebound off Crawford’s pad came right back to him. If at first you don’t succeed… Ellis went right back to work, firing another slap shot to beat the netminder glove side.

Even when Chicago was able to run its offense, it ran into one major problem: First Star Pekka Rinne. The goaltender saved all 30 shots he faced for the third postseason shutout of his career, and second straight.

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

Thanks to a power play tally late in the third period, Anaheim beat the Flames 3-2 at the Honda Center to take a two-game lead in their Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup.

No penalty is a good penalty when it turns into a power play goal. Just ask Dougie Hamilton, who was caught holding Corey Perry‘s stick with 5:27 remaining in regulation. Only 41 seconds later, First Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf (Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves) miraculously ricocheted a pass-turned-shot off Lance Bouma‘s skate for the freak game-winning goal.

Those Calgary mistakes were further compounded when T.J. Brodie cross-checked Kesler with 2:38 remaining in regulation. Though Mikael Backlund (Michael Frolik) managed to bury a shorthanded wrist shot with 96 seconds remaining in the first period to then pull Calgary back within a 2-1 deficit, goals while down a skater are tough to come by – especially at the end of games.

If not for their 17 penalty minutes and miserable 41% face-off percentage, the Flames were doing a lot of the right things to win. They matched the Ducks’ physicality by throwing 34 hits to their 38, while also managing almost 40 shots on goal. Though it has yet to win a game, Calgary still is a dangerous foe for the Pacific champions.

March 21 – Day 153 – So much Atlantic, so little time

Monday is over, so that means one of the busier days in the week is today. In total, 11 games will be played tonight, starting with four (Ottawa at Boston [RDS2], Pittsburgh at Buffalo, the New York Rangers at New Jersey and Calgary at Washington) at 7 p.m. and three more (Detroit at Montréal [RDS], Arizona at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Carolina at Florida) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Philadelphia at Winnipeg, with a pair of contests (San Jose at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Vancouver at Chicago) waiting 30 minutes before getting underway. St. Louis at Colorado acts as tonight’s nightcap, starting at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Ottawa at Boston: Chris Kelly spent six seasons with the Bruins, but returned to Ottawa for this season.
  • New York at New Jersey: The Battle of the Hudson River rages on tonight in Newark.
  • Detroit at Montréal: For those that love Original Six rivalries, here’s your game of the night.
  • Vancouver at Chicago: Remember when this was a heated rivalry? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

As someone who is not a fan of any teams in the Atlantic Division, I can understand why regular readers might be annoyed by tonight’s featured matchup. But we must simply focus on the Senators‘ first visit of the season to Boston, as it will act as a playoff preview  and have huge implications on determining home ice when they meet.

 

 

 

 

 

This is actually Kelly’s second stint with the Senators, as he was selected by the club in the third round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. His first tenure lasted 463 games over seven seasons between 2003-2011, and he registered 188 points.

In mid-February of the 2010-’11 campaign, the wing was shipped off to Boston for a draft pick that became Shane Prince (currently playing for the Islanders). It proved to be an effective swap for the Bruins, as he provided 13 points, including five goals (tied for sixth-most on the squad) in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs en route to Boston‘s first title in almost 40 years.

He was originally expected to become a free agent in the 2012 offseason, but instead signed a four-year extension to stay in Boston. In all, he registered 101 points over his six seasons with the Bruins, including his career-best 20-goal, 39-point effort in 2011-’12.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s career with the Bruins ended with a tremendous dud. In only his 11th game last season, his season came crashing to an end when he broke his femur. Making matters worse, it was a contract year for the then 35-year-old skater. Not surprisingly, the Bruins were cautious about offering a contract to an aging player coming off rehab, so Kelly entered free agency for the first time of his career.

Kelly and Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz seem to share one main mantra: “There’s no place like home.” Kelly returned to Ottawa this season on a one-year contract, but to limited success. Although he’s played every game this year, he’s managed only 12 points – easily the worst production of his career.

Kelly’s 39-24-8 Senators currently occupy second place in the Atlantic, trailing the division-leading Canadiens by the exact total they lead third-place Boston: four points (Ottawa has a game-in-hand to boot, so keep that in mind as the last couple weeks of the season play out).

The Senators‘ claim to fame this year is goaltending, even though it has not been an easy season in the slightest for 21-9-2 Craig Anderson. It’s an impressive record in its own right, but when the situation regarding his wife’s cancer treatment is added in, it’s arguably among one of the best performances in the NHL this season (hint: I like him to win the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this year). He’s marked a .928 season save percentage and 2.3 GAA – the fifth and (t)13th-best performances, respectively, among the 54 goalies with at least 16 appearances.

Not to keep heaping the praise on Anderson, but he’s been stellar this year even in light of a below-average defense playing in front of him. Even with Erik Karlsson‘s league-leading 194 shot blocks, the Sens have allowed 30.4 shots-per-game to reach Andreson’s crease, which ties for the 13th-highest rate in the league.

In addition to struggling defensively, the power play has also not been a strong point for the Senators this year. Successful on only 17.6% of its attempts, Ottawa ranks 10th-worst in the league. Although both Mike Hoffman and Karlsson have 23 power play points to their credit, goals have been hard to come by. Hoffman is the biggest contributor in that department, with 12 on the man-advantage to lead the team, but that total doubles the second-best scorer. In essence, the next step for the Sens this offseason is to develop or add another scoring threat to make their power play less predictable.

Losers of their past two games, the 38-28-6 Bruins are trying to both keep pace with the Senators as well as fend off the Maple Leafs (that didn’t go so well for them last night, as you’ll see below).

When Boston has been at its best this season, it’s been when the defense and goaltender are playing lights out. As indicated by his record, that’s been more often than not for 33-17-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s marked a .912 season save percentage and 2.32 GAA, the (t)25th and (t)10th-best efforts, respectively, among the 38 goalies with at least 28 appearances.

A poor save percentage but an excellent GAA? Looks like the mark of a solid defense. That’s exactly what you’ll find wearing the black-and-gold this evening, as Captain Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid have paired to block a total of 238 shots and limit Rask’s workload to only 26.6 shots-per-game, the second-lowest mark in hockey.

As you’d expect, that adds up to a solid penalty kill. Led mostly by Rask and his .894 save percentage when his club is shorthanded (that ties for the seventh-best effort in the NHL), the Bruins have effectively neutralized 85.2% of their opponent’s power plays to rank second-best in the league.

Boston‘s power play is also one that strikes fear into their foes. Led by Torey Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak‘s 21 power play points apiece, the Bruins have registered a goal on 20.7% of their man-advantages to rank 10th-best in the NHL. Pastrnak has been exceptional on the power play with his team-leading nine extra-man tallies.

The Bruins hope that bringing this series to the TD Garden will yield better results, as both their visits to Ottawa have resulted in losses. The Senators last hosted Boston to a 4-2 victory on March 6.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [second-most in the NHL] for 79 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (.928 save percentage [third-best in the NHL] for a 2.3 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) or Mike Condon (five shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) and Karlsson (51 assists [third-most in the league]).

Given the fact that the Bruins just played last night on the road in a tight game, I’m worried about their chances tonight – and that doesn’t even factor in the success the Senators have had against them this year. If Ottawa doesn’t win tonight, I’ll be surprised.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ryan Callahan (1985-) – In his fourth season with the Lightning (although he had surgery on his hip and is not expected to return this year), this right wing was part of the Martin St. Louis trade in 2014 after being selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Erik Johnson (1988-) – St. Louis selected this defenseman with the top-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, but he’s spent most of his career with his current club: Colorado. Johnson is another player who’s had a tough go this season, as he broke his fibula in early December and missed at least 2.5 months of action.

Don’t let the 4-2 final score deceive you, yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day between Boston and Toronto was played by two fantastic goaltenders.

Although they ended up losing the game, David Backes (Marchand) got the Bruins on the board first with a snap shot 7:26 after the game began. They couldn’t get to the first intermission with the lead though, as Morgan Rielly (Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk) scored with 4:55 remaining to tie the game at one-all.

Although not the game-winner, a Second Star of the Game Tyler Bozak (van Riemsdyk and Nikita Zaitsev) power play goal with 1:57 remaining in regulation was the tally that tipped the scales in the favor of the Maple Leafs. Since it was scored so late in the game, it forced Bruce Cassidy to pull Third Star Rask for an extra attacker.  That strategy did not work last night for the Bruins, as William Nylander (Auston Matthews) and Nazem Kadri (Connor Brown and Roman Polak) both scored on the empty net in the span of 22 seconds to set the score at 4-1. Dominic Moore (Noel Acciari) scored a snapper with 10 seconds left in the game, but it was too little, too late to impact the final result – a Toronto victory.

First Star Frederik Andersen saved 33-of-35 shots faced (94.3%) to earn the victory, leaving the loss to Rask after he saved 26-of-28 (92.9%).

For the fourth game in a row in the DtFR Game of the Day series, the home team has earned at least a point. That streak has pulled homers within a point of the 78-55-22 roadies.

January 10 – Day 87 – Backe in white

Time for some Tuesday hockey! There’s lots of good matchups this evening, giving us hockey fans no shortage of games to watch. The action starts at 7 p.m. with two contests (Philadelphia at Buffalo and Columbus at Carolina), followed an hour later by another pair (Boston at St. Louis [NBCSN/SN/TVAS] and Vancouver at Nashville). Detroit at Chicago drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., followed half an hour later by San Jose at Edmonton. Finally, at 10 p.m., Dallas at Anaheim – tonight’s nightcap – gets green-lit. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at St. Louis: David Backes never knew a rink other than Scottrade Center. Now he makes his home in Beantown.
  • Detroit at Chicago: It’s an Original Six matchup in the Windy City!

Barring a meeting in the Stanley Cup finals, this is the only trip Backes will make to St. Louis this season, and he’s sure to receive a warm welcome.

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Backes’ relationship with the Notes began in 2003 when he was drafted in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t join the club for another three years, electing instead to play three seasons for Minnesota State.

Although he started his first professional season in Peoria (the Blues‘ former AHL affiliate), he eventually made the trip down I-55 to play a majority of his games in St. Louis, notching 23 points.

He’s come a long way since that rookie season. Over his entire Blues career, he scored 206 goals among his 460 points, averaging .633 points per game. No season has been better than his 2010-’11 campaign, when he an evenly-split a 62-point season. It was good enough for a +32 ranking, the second-best in the NHL. Ironically, he trailed now-current teammate Zdeno Chara.

He was also a special leader in St. Louis. Following that magical season, he assumed captaincy of the Blues, a role he retained until his departure this offseason.

On the tail end of the peak of his career, Backes and the Blues were unable to agree on a contract this offseason, leaving the center to join Boston on a five-year, $30 million contract. He’s maintained his productive efforts in New England, taking credit for 11 tallies – the third-most on the squad.

Backes and the Bruins come to St. Louis with a 21-17-5 record, the second-best record in the Atlantic Division. They’ve found that success on the back of their defense and goaltending, which has allowed only 104 goals – tied for the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

Although four netminders have spent time between the Bruins‘ pipes, it’s never been in question whose crease it is. 20-9-3 Tuukka Rask has been having a fantastic season, notching a .928 save percentage and 1.93 GAA, the (t)fifth and third-best effort in the league among the 45 goalies with 16 or more appearances.

Much of the reason he’s having arguably the best season of his career is because of the defense playing in front of him. Led by Chara’s 76 shot blocks, Rask has faced an average of only 27.1 shots-per-game, the third-lowest rate in the league.

That success has carried into the penalty kill in a dramatic way, as the Bruins‘ 88% kill rate ties for the best rate in the NHL. Chara continues to lead the charge when shorthanded with 22 blocks, but he’s closely followed by rookie Brandon Carlo, who has 21 shorthanded blocks.

Where the Bruins still need to improve is on the power play. They’re sixth-worst in the league, successful on only 14.5% of man-advantage opportunities. Even though he only ties for 67th against the rest of the league, Brad Marchand leads his club with nine power play points. That being said, it’s David Krejci and David Pastrnak that opposing goaltenders keep their eyes on, as both have four power play goals.

Hosting them this evening are the 21-14-5 Blues, the third-best team in the Central Division. They’ll put that Boston defense to the test, as they’re an offensively-minded club, scoring 113 goals – the 13th-most in the league.

Vladimir Tarasenko is a bad, bad man. He might as well take credit for the Notes‘ entire offense, notching 43 points in 40 games to lead the club. Nearly half of those points have been tallies, as his 20 goals are also the best in St. Louis.

As you’d expect from a team like the Blues, the power play is far from a liability. St. Louis is tied for the sixth best man-advantage in the league, successful on 21.9% of opportunities. As you’d expect, Tarasenko leads this charge too with 17 power play points, but he has company for the extra-man goal scoring lead. He and Kevin Shattenkirk both have six power play goals to lead the team.

The Blues have also been very excellent when down a man, stopping 85.8% of opposing power plays – tied for the fourth-best mark in hockey. Alex Pietrangelo deserves much credit for that success, as his 19 shorthanded blocks are best on the club.

These teams have already met up in Boston on November 22. Led by Jori Lehtera‘s two-goal effort, the Blues were able to upset the Bruins 4-2. Jake Allen took credit for the victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Pastrnak (19 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for most in the NHL] among 20 wins [tied for third-most in the league] on a 1.93 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and .928 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (17 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) and Tarasenko (43 points [tied for fourth-most in the league], including 20 goals [fifth-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked St. Louis a -115 favorite, and I believe it would be unwise to bet against that. Not only do the Blues have home ice, but they’re simply playing solid hockey on both sides of the rink. Boston‘s inability to convert their power play opportunities could be the death of them tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Metz (1916-2007) – You wish you had five Stanley Cup titles like this right wing. What makes his effort even more impressive is the fact he only played with the Leafs for seven seasons.
  • Frank Mahovlich (1938-) – You thought Metz was good? This left wing has one more title then him, not to mention 15 All Star selections and the 1958 Calder Trophy. The longtime Maple Leaf was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

An overpowering, three-goal third period was more than enough to earn the Capitals a 4-1 road victory in Montréal in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the club wearing white. Nicklas Backstrom (First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner) takes credit with his backhander with 8:57 remaining in the frame.

The Canadiens waited until the 7:18 mark of the third period to pull even, courtesy of a Tomas Plekanec (Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen) power play wrsiter.  Washington didn’t seem to take very kindly to that, so Second Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (Ovechkin and Justin Williams) scored a wrister only 54 seconds later that proved to be the winning tally. Brett Connolly (Kuznetsov) and Ovechkin (Backstrom and Marcus Johansson) provided the two insurance tallies to ensure victory.

Third Star Braden Holtby earns the victory after saving 22-of-23 shots faced (95.7%), while Carey Price saved 35-of-39 (89.7%) in the loss.

The third straight victory by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series has pulled the visitors within nine points of the hosts, who have a 47-28-14 record.

October 22 – Day 11 – Not just a rivalry game

It’s Saturday, so you know what that means: a busy day. Everything is being held for prime time, so eight games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Toronto at Chicago [CBC], Montréal at Boston [CITY/TVAS], Tampa Bay at Ottawa [SN1/SN360], San Jose at Detroit, Colorado at Florida, Minnesota at New Jersey, Carolina at Philadelphia and the New York Rangers at Washington [NHLN]). 8 p.m. brings with it two more contests (Pittsburgh at Nashville and Columbus at Dallas), and the final two games find their start two hours later (Vancouver at Los Angeles [CBC] and St. Louis at Calgary [SN1/SN360]). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Boston: One of, if not the best all-time rivalry in hockey. It’s always worth the watch.
  • Toronto at Chicago: Another Original Six matchup.
  • New York at Washington: This rivalry goes back to the ’80s. Since all of us at Down the Frozen River were born in the ’90s, we’re pretty sure that was a long time ago.

Of those three games, it’s just too hard to ignore the scrap for the Atlantic Division lead between Montréal and Boston going on this evening in the TD Garden.

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Two of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference square off this evening and, as I mentioned before, the winner will take the division lead. But, something tells me that a division lead, especially this early in the season, is just icing on the cake between these two.

The Canadiens enter the game with an impeccable 3-0-1 record, with their lone single-point game occurring last weekend In Ottawa.

Although the Habs have scored 16 goals already this season, it has been their blue line and goaltending that has been more impressive. So far, Al Montoya and Carey Price have only allowed six tallies, half the league average, on a combined .955 save percentage.

The home Bruins have a 3-1-0 record, losing their only game last Saturday 4-1 in Toronto.

Just like their counterparts, goaltending has been the Bruins‘ shining spot so far this season, as Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have only allowed nine goals against, collectively saving 92.4% of shots faced.

To properly breakdown how good a goaltending matchup this could be, Montoya and Rask are the top two in the league in save percentage, and both also rank in the top five in goals against average. If presumed starter Price can continue to produce like his backup did to start the season, we should be in for a great game.

Some players to keep an eye on during this evening’s game include Boston‘s David Backes (+7 [tied for third-best in the league]), Brandon Carlo (+7 [tied for third-best in the NHL]), Zdeno Chara (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the league]), Brad Marchand (+9 [tied for the NHL-lead] with nine points [tied for the league-lead] on six assists [tied for the NHL-lead] and three goals [tied for ninth-most in the league]), David Pastrnak (+9 [tied for the NHL-lead] with four goals [tied for second-most in the league] for seven points [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (.947 save percentage [second-best in the league], three wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] and 1.67 GAA [fourth-best in the league]) & Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]), Montoya (1.3 GAA [leads the league] and .962 save percentage [leads the NHL] for a shutout [one of three so far this season] on two wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Shea Weber (+6 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]).

Last season, the Canadiens took the season series 3-2-0, including two victories in Massachusetts. But, it is the Bruins that are favored in tonight’s game at -124. Although the Habs have played well to start the season, I have a hard time picking against Boston on home ice.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ron Tugnutt (1967-) – This goaltender put in 16 NHL seasons, playing most of his 537 games with Quebec (153) and Ottawa (166). Some of the records he still holds are most saves in a regular season contest (70) and highest regular season save percentage.
  • Stephane Quintal (1968-) – A long time Canadien, Quintal played 507 of his 1037 games along the blue line in a red sweater. Nowadays, he’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety.
  • Miroslav Satan (1974-) – Over 14 NHL seasons, Šatan played for five clubs, but he spent most of his time in Buffalo. The right wing scored 363 scores and ended up with 735 points.

I expected a Predators win in yesterday’s Game of the Day. I was terribly wrong.

This game may come to be known as the Power Play Game, as five of the eight scores were a result of the man-advantage. The first of those tallies was struck 5:17 into the second period when Justin Abdelkader (Third Star of the Game Ryan Sproul and Gustav Nyquist) took advantage of a Filip Forsberg holding penalty four seconds earlier to set the score at 1-0 for the Wings. The Predators struck back 8:56 later with power play goal of their own from P.K. Subban (Roman Josi) on a 5-on-3 play. Still on the power play from Danny DeKeyser sending the puck over the glass, Mike Ribeiro (Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson) gave Nashville a 2-1 lead with 5:29 remaining in the period. They couldn’t take that lead into the dressing room though, as Drew Miller (Mike Green) beat Pekka Rinne with 40 seconds remaining before the horn to level the score at two-all.

1:10 after returning to the ice, First Star Tomas Tatar (Alexey Marchenko and Jonathan Ericsson) returned the lead to the Red Wings on an even-strength snap shot. Nyquist takes credit for the game-winner, an unassisted snap shot with 8:33 remaining on the game clock. Nashville pulled within one when Mike Fisher (Josi and Forsberg) scored a power play goal, but Darren Helm (Luke Glendening and Henrik Zetterberg) put that comeback to sleep with a power play goal of his own with 22 seconds remaining on an empty-net.

Second Star Petr Mrazek earns the victory after saving 30-of-33 (90.9%), while Rinne takes the loss, saving 38-of-42 (90.5%).

Detroit‘s victory at Joe Louis Arena sets the home teams’ record in the DtFR Game of the Day series at 9-3-1, favoring them by eight points over the visiting squads

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 5 – Sharks score six goals to pull within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals

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The two highest scoring postseason teams went at it again Monday night, and did not disappoint as the Sharks won 6-3 to pull within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals.

St. Louis started the night with three straight shots before the Sharks could register their first almost four minutes into play.  It didn’t matter though, as Shot No. 2 found the back of the net on a Tomas Hertl backhander, assisted by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and First Star of the Game Joe Pavelski.  Third Star Joe Thornton won the face-off at the far dot, which was collected by Pavelski heading towards the point.  He passed back to the far boards to Vlasic, who fired a slap shot towards Jake Allen’s net before Troy Brouwer could apply pressure, but Hertl redirected the puck before it reached the crease to get past Allen’s glove.

Following that tally, the Sharks certainly took control of the game, as they had another great scoring opportunity around the 6:30 mark.  A San Jose forward collected a rebound in front of a fairly open net, but he elevated the puck too much and it sailed over the cross bar.

Jaden Schwartz leveled the game at the 7:04 mark with a wrister, assisted by David Backes (his seventh helper of the postseason) and Patrik Berglund.  Off an initial shot from Kevin Shattenkirk, Berglund collected the rebound around the near face-off dot.  He turned around and shot again at Martin Jones’ net, which was once again blocked.  From his usual spot right in front of the crease, Backes passed along the goal line to Schwartz, who fired past Jones’ stick side to tie the game at one-all.

With 4:52 remaining in the frame, Brouwer fired a wrister out of midair to give the Blues their second tally.  He was assisted by Paul Stastny (his ninth playoff helper), who had fired the initial shot that became the airborne rebound off Jones’ pads, and Alexander Steen.  Steen advanced the puck into the zone before running into Hertl, but passed just in time to Stastny who fired from between the face-off dots.  Brouwer one-timed his shot from the near face-off circle to beat Jones stick side.

Just like San Jose, the Blues fed off the momentum of that tally to keep the puck almost predominantly in the offensive zone.  Although it did not turn into their third goal, the Notes were certainly happy to keep the Sharks off the board for the remainder of the frame, sending the game into intermission at 2-1.

Although St. Louis led on the scoreboard, San Jose statistically had the advantage through the first frame.  Their 10 shots were one more than the Blues‘, helped by winning 56% of face-offs.  Defensively, their five blocks were two more than St. Louis‘, the same differential as their takeaways (the Sharks had three of those).  Giveaways and hits also favored San Jose, as the Sharks committed one fewer turnover and threw four more blows.

The first power play of the game occurred at the 2:38 mark, but it was three players earning seats.  Tommy Wingels hit an unaware Shattenkirk, who didn’t take kindly to it and initiated a fight.  He was also charged with roughing, which was served by the innocent Second Star Robby Fabbri.  The Blues were two seconds from killing the penalty, but Joel Ward was able to score a wild puck to tie the game again at the 4:37 mark.  He was assisted by Vlasic and Paul Martin.  Martin received a pass at the point and passed to Vlasic, waiting at the top of the near face-off circle.  His initial shot on Allen’s net was saved, but wildly bounced off the crossbar and the net-minder’s back.  Ward’s quick stick was able to complete the score to level the game at two-all.

St. Louis earned their chance at the power play at the 8:03 mark when Justin Braun held Fabbri, partially because he had thrown a solid hit and fired a quality in the preceding seconds.  The Sharks‘ penalty kill stood tall though, so the score remained tied at two.

The second fight of the night was between Roman Polak and Dmitrij Jaskin.  The two were tumbled together in the St. Louis offensive zone and, while they were still on the ice, Polak threw a right punch at Jaskin’s head, and again once they’d gotten  up.  Polak was charged with roughing, and both with fighting, giving the Blues a second power play.

In their first power play attempt, the Blues didn’t notch a shot on goal.  They learned from their mistakes and scored on this one with 8:02 remaining in the frame.  Fabbri takes credit for the tally, assisted by Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo (his seventh playoff helper).  Fabbri begins the play retreating back to the blue line before passing across the zone to Pietrangelo.  After getting to the near face-off dot, he passed across the zone to the rookie defenseman in open ice, who found Fabbri at the point to score five-hole on Jones, making him only the second Blues rookie with 15+ points in a postseason.

With 2:52 remaining, Shattenkirk earned a seat in the sin bin for hooking Hertl as he was streaking towards Allen’s crease, although I would guess that many folks in the Bay Area would have been inclined to award a penalty shot.  The net result was the same, as the Sharks struck on their second power play with their second power play goal with 1:27 remaining in the frame to level the score again.  Pavelski takes credit with a slap shot, assisted by Thornton and Logan Couture (his 14th playoff assist).  Patrick Marleau collected the puck along the near boards and dumped further into the goal to Couture, who won a scrum against Carl Gunnarsson to pass behind the net to Thornton.  Thornton centered a pass to Pavelski, setting him up to beat Allen over his glove.

Three more shots in the period turned into an extra goal for the Sharks, especially when paired with eight takeaways, only two giveaways and 30 hits through 40 minutes.

The Sharks took a 4-3 lead only 16 seconds after returning to the ice when Pavelski tipped-in his second goal of the game, assisted by Brent Burns (his 13th postseason helper) and Hertl.  Off another face-off win (this one courtesy of the goalscorer), Thornton collected and dumped off to Burns, who fired a shot on Allen.  Allen blocked the attempt into the near corner where it was collected by Hertl, who returned the puck to Burns at the top of the zone.  Burns fired once again from the blue line, which Pavelski redirected under Allen’s glove.

A bad situation got worse for St. Louis when they were caught with too many men on the ice, giving the Sharks the opportunity to go three-for-three on the power play this game.  Vladimir Tarasenko took the seat in the box for the Notes at the 4:52 mark.  It lasted only 41 seconds before Marleau tripped Parayko, setting the game at four-on-four for 1:19 and ending that opportunity.  The four-on-four was exciting, with both teams having solid opportunities, but no score.

St. Louis‘ 41 seconds of the power play was equally as unsuccessful as the Sharks‘, so the score remained 4-3.

With 54 seconds remaining in the regulation, Chris Tierney scored a wrap-around goal on an empty net to secure the victory, assisted by Thornton (his 14th playoff helper).  Another empty netter was struck from mid-ice 21 seconds later by Ward, his fourth of the playoffs, setting the score at the 6-3 final.

Jones earns the win after saving 18 of the 21 shots he faced (85.7%), while Allen takes the loss, saving 21 of 25 (84%).

Game 6 will take place on May 25 in San Jose at 9 p.m. eastern.  It may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 2 – Martin and the Sharks level the series with a 4-0 victory

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With the combined efforts of Second Star of the Game Martin Jones and Paul Martin’s three blocks, the Sharks shutout the Blues 4-0 in St. Louis to level the Western Conference Finals at a game apiece.

The Sharks struck quickly, as Tommy Wingels scored a wrister only 2:07 into the contest, assisted by Dainius Zubrus and Justin Braun (his fourth helper of the playoffs).  Heading back towards the blue line along the far boards, Wingels pass to Braun, who dumped back into the zone to Zubrus.  Zubrus advanced to the far face-off dot and found the attacking center, who scored on Brian Elliott’s stick side.  Elliott made the initial save on Wingels’ attempt, but was unable completely contain the trickling puck that proved to be the winning tally.

It was only the second shot faced by Elliott, but it foretold the way the night would go for the Notes.

With 8:34 remaining in the frame, David Backes was charged and found guilty of tripping Tomas Hertl in the Sharks‘ attacking zone.  His sentence: two minutes in the sin bin.  The Blues continued the trend they set in the first game with their fourth straight penalty kill against the Sharks, allowing only three shots against.

Almost immediately after Backes returned to the ice (12 seconds later, to be exact), Chris Tierney returned the favor by tripping Kevin Shattenkirk, but the Notes‘ power play was equally successful as San Jose‘s, failing to score on three shots on goal.  Due in part to that, the contest entered the first intermission with San Jose leading 1-0.

The game certainly began favoring the Sharks, made evident by their tally, but the Blues started getting their skates under them to get the game to be more of back-and-forth, even affair.  The Sharks led the frame’s shot totals (10 to nine), but the Blues actually led in face-off wins (60%), blocks (seven to two), takeaways (seven to three) and hits (14 to 11).

After resuming the back-and-forth nature in the second, Third Star Logan Couture was caught holding Jori Lehtera at the 4:45 mark.  Fortunately for him and his squad, San Jose earned their second straight penalty kill of the night to keep the Notes off the board.

A second after completing the kill, the Sharks went to the power play on a Troy Brouwer slashing penalty against First Star Brent Burns.  Burns took offense to that and made him pay only 18 seconds later with a wicked snap shot, assisted by Joe Pavelski (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Couture. This play was especially lopsided, as Alexander Steen was in the process of returning from the bench with a replacement stick.  Just before receiving a hit from Steen (on his way to the bench) at the blue line, Burns passed across ice to Patrick Marleau, who dumped into the zone to Couture.  Couture centered into the center of the zone for Pavelski, who found the crashing Burns at the left face-off dot to set up his snapper that set the score at 2-0.

The Sharks got their third attempt at the power play at the 8:03 mark when the wily Steve Ott interfered with Pavelski along the far boards.  Luckily for the Blues, they were able to complete this kill to maintain the score differential at two tallies.

Patric Berglund took a rough hit into the open door jam at the completion of that kill that forced him to the dressing room.  He did return to the ice with a little over four minutes remaining in the frame.

Once again, only one goal was struck in the period, and this frame was decidedly more in San Jose‘s favor even though Brouwer had a great opportunity stopped by the goal post.  They led the period in shots (nine to six) and giveaways (one to three), while the Blues had face-offs (52%), blocks (14 to six), takeaways (eight to five) and hits (30 to 20) to their credit.

Off a face-off only 32 seconds into the third period, Marleau hi-sticked Carl Gunnarsson and drew blood, earning him a double minor.  San Jose was once again up to the challenge, making their fourth kill of the night.  They were further rewarded at the five minute mark when Jay Bouwmeester slashed Joe Thornton, but were unable to take advantage.

As would be expected, the Blues certainly increased their offensive pressure in the third period.  With 8:24 remaining in the frame, the Notes had already notched eight shots on goal to San Jose‘s three.

Those attempts came to a grinding halt at that mark though, as Brouwer took his second seat in the penalty box of the night for hi-sticking Martin.  Just like the first time, Burns made him pay, this time with a slap shot assisted by Marleau and Couture (his 12th helper of the postseason).  The play looked like a basketball “extra pass” motion wrapping around the three-point arc.  Couture collected a pass along the near boards and passed to Marleau at the point, who found Burns waiting outside the far face-off circle, scoring over Elliott’s glove hand.

Ex-Blue Roman Polak gave the Blues some life with 6:41 remaining when he interfered with Backes, made even worse for San Jose when Martin slashed Brouwer, giving St. Louis 24 seconds of 5-on-3.  After Polak served his complete time, Ken Hitchcock summoned Elliott to the bench for an extra attacker for a 6-on-4 advantage, but it wasn’t enough to get the Notes on the board.

Elliott remained on the bench to give the Blues a 6-on-5, but it was not the Notes that took advantage.  With 19 seconds remaining, Zubrus scored his first goal of the postseason setting the score at the 4-0 final.

Jones earns the shutout victory after saving all 26 shots he faced, while Elliott takes the loss, saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The series now leveled at a game apiece, the action relocates to the SAP Center.  Game 3 takes place Thursday at 9 p.m. eastern and may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 1 – Elliott saves 32, earns Game 1 victory

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First Star of the Game Brian Elliott allowed only one goal to earn the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 home win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

The first penalty of the game was at the 5:36 mark, a holding penalty against Melker Karlsson, courtesy of Third Star Jori Lehtera.  The Sharks‘ ensuing power play was unsuccessful, as the Blues and Elliott made three saves.

With 8:25 remaining in the first period, the Blues almost struck with their first tally of the night with a Patric Berguland deflection off his chest, but he was ruled to have interfered with goaltender Martin Jones.  The call was challenged by the Notes, but upheld.

Logan Couture was charged with tripping with 6:04 remaining in the period.  St. Louis made him pay 1:08 and one shot later when Second Star David Backes redirected a shot past Jones with his head and stick, giving the Blues the one-goal lead.  Kevin Shattenkirk takes responsibility for the initial shot, assisted by Jaden Schwartz.

Only 34 later, the Sharks leveled when Thomas Hertl (his third tally of the playoffs) and Joe Pavelski redirected Brent Burns’ initial slap shot from the blue line (his 12th helper of the playoffs).

Steve Ott headed to the box with 2:42 remaining for slashing Justin Braun, but once again the Blues‘ penalty kill was up to the task, holding the score at one-all going into the first intermission.

Although the score was tied St. Louis overall dominated play during the first frame, with a solid five scoring chances to San Jose‘s lone chance.  The Blues notched 11 shots on goal to the Sharks‘ eight, six hits to San Jose‘s five, no giveaways to San Jose‘s one and four takeaways to the Sharks‘ one.

With 9:15 gone in the second period, the Sharks committed a turnover in the neutral zone, collected by Lehtera.  Lehtera advanced the puck into the offensive zone before firing his slap shot from the far face-off zone past Jones’ glove elbow (his second of the postseason), giving them another one-goal lead.

Elliott was very fortunate with 1:13 remaining in the second period when he attempted to freeze the puck, but it trickled under his glove and pads.  Before the Joel Ward and the Sharks could capitalize, the referee blew the play dead, leaving the score at 2-1, which held to the second intermission.

Although they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, the Sharks dominated the second period.  The frame started very back-and-forth, but San Jose ended up firing 16 shots in the period to St. Louis‘ five in addition to extending their game total leads in face-offs (29-23), giveaways (two to four) and blocks (10 to eight).

Paul Stastny was sent to the box at the 8:44 mark for hooking Pavelski.  The Blues had not one, but two shorthanded scoring opportunities, but the score remained 2-1 with 9:16 remaining in regulation.

St. Louis earned their third period shot at the power play 20 seconds after Stastny returned to the ice when Hertl was caught tripping Colton Parayko.  Just like San Jose, the Notes were not able to produce with the man-advantage, so the score remained a one-goal differential.

Jones left the ice for the extra attacker with 2:30 remaining in regulation, but Elliot and the St. Louis defense was up to the task to secure the 2-1 victory.

Elliott earns the win afters saving 32 of 33 shots faced (97%), while Jones takes the loss, saving 21 of 23 (91.3%).

Game 2 between these squads will occur Tuesday night at 8 p.m. eastern at Scottrade Center.  It may be viewed on NBCSN, SN and TVAS.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 7 – Blues score six en route to Western Finals

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Led by the Troy Brouwer, Second Star of the Game Robby Fabbri and Third Star Paul Stastny line scoring three goals, the St. Louis Blues beat the Dallas Stars 6-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The first power play of the night was caused by Alex Goligoski at the 4:31 mark for hooking Vladimir Tarasenko in front of Kari Lehtonen’s net.  Fabbri made him pay 52 seconds later when he forced the puck across the goal line through a scrum in the crease, assisted by Brouwer and Stastny (his fifth helper of the playoffs).

Jori Lehtera returned the favor at the 9:38 mark, as a cross check against John Klingberg earned him a seat in the sin bin.  Klingberg seemed to be injured on the play after taking a David Backes clear off an ankle, but returned to the ice for his next shift.  First Star Brian Elliott only needed to make one save on the Stars‘ man-advantage, catching the puck right when Lehtera exited the box, ending the power play.

The Blues headed to their second power play with 5:01 remaining in the frame when Radek Faksa cross checked Steve Ott following another of his violent, but legal hits.  This time, the Stars‘ penalty kill was up to the task, allowing only one shot to reach net that was saved by Lehtonen.

The Blues thought they had scored 40 seconds after Dallas returned to even-strength, but would-be goalscorer Tarasenko was ruled to be offside after taking his skate off the ice an instant too soon.

They obviously weren’t phased though, as Stastny scored on a wrister with 1:38 remaining in the frame, assisted by Brouwer and Fabbri (his ninth helper of the playoffs).  Stastny collected a pass along the near boards from Fabbri and advanced to the goal line before dumping behind the goal to Fabbri again.  The rookie rounded the net and passed to a waiting Brouwer in front of the crease, who dumped to Stastny along the goal line ready to fire over Lehtonen’s stick shoulder.

With four seconds remaining, Patrik Berglund scored again for the Notes on a wrist shot, assisted by Lehtera and Backes (his sixth helper of the postseason).  Berglund received a pass at the point and quickly rifled his shot past Lehtonen’s stick side.

Through one period, St. Louis led not only on the scoreboard, but also at the face-off dots (57%), shots (eight to seven), blocks (10 to two) and giveaways (one to two).

An always important statistic for the Blues is their hits (even though they trailed the first period 11 to 10), and Ott threw quite a few of them.  Somehow, the official stat sheet only gave him credit for one, but he was flying across the ice and making his presence known.

After giving up three goals in the opening 20 minutes, Lehtonen was replaced by Antti Niemi.  He waited 3:50 before giving up a goal, a Backes wrister (his sixth tally of the playoffs) assisted by Berglund and Colton Parayko.  Bergluned received Parayko’s at center ice and flipped into the offensive zone for his captain, who collected and advanced on Niemi’s net from the near face-off dot to set the score at 4-0.

Five seconds before the halfway point of the contest, Ott’s aggressive plays caught up with him, as he earned a seat after being called for interference against Jamie Benn, but the Blues held strong to keep them scoreless.

St. Louis scored yet again with 4:54 remaining in the period on a quick transition attack.  Brouwer gets credit for the tally, assisted by Fabbri and Stastny.  Stastny collected a listing puck at center ice and attacked the offensive zone along the far boards.  He dumped a pass back to Fabbri, who crossed the puck in front of the crease for Brouwer, beating Niemi glove side to set the score at 5-0.

The Stars headed back to the power play with 3:49 remaining in the frame when Jaden Schwartz was charged with hooking Cody Eakin, but St. Louis made it three for three in successful penalty kills.

After two periods, it was actually Dallas playing the more aggressive game, firing 18 shots to set their game total at 25 in addition to winning the face-off dot (63%), takeaways (nine to eight) and hits (17 to 16).

Dallas finally got on the board after 45:15 of play when Patrick Eaves connected on a wrister, assisted by Goligoski and Johnny Oduya.  After a save rebound, Oduya received the puck along the blue line and passed to Goligoski across the point.  Goligoski fired a slap shot at Elliott, who made another save, but this rebound was collected by Eaves on the far side of the crease, who easily buried the puck in a virtually empty net.

With 4:40 to go and an empty net ahead of him, Tarasenko set the score at 6-1 with an wrister, assisted by Schwartz and Lehtera.  Schwartz flipped the puck into the neutral zone for a streaking Tarasenko, who had only one Star to beat before reaching the empty net to easily score.

Elliott earns the victory after saving 31 of the 32 shots he faced (96.9%), while Lehtonen takes the loss, saving five of eight (62.5%).  For no decision, Niemi saved eight of 10 (80%) in the remaining 40 minutes.

The Blues have advanced to the Western Finals, but don’t yet know who they’ll be playing.  That side will be determined tomorrow night at 9 p.m. eastern when Nashville makes their final visit of the year to San Jose for another Western Game 7.  That game may be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 6 – Early mistakes too much for Blues; Stars force Game 7

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The Stars‘ three first period goals were all they needed to force a Game 7 in Dallas, as they won in St. Louis 3-2.

The Blues didn’t get a shot on goal until almost five minutes into the game, but it was Dallas‘ second shot that stole the show when Mattias Janmark connected on a wrist shot at the 4:53 mark (his second tally of the postseason), assisted by Valeri Nichushkin.  It was a breakaway goal caused by Colton Parayko when his pass from the blue line to the center of the offensive zone was intercepted by Nichushkin, who immediately found a steaking Janmark who had already cleared both St. Louis defensemen to set up a one-on-one with Brian Elliott.  After advancing to approximately the far face-off dot before firing over Elliott’s stick shoulder.

The Stars doubled their lead 20 seconds later, courtesy of Vernon Fiddler, who was assisted by Third Star of the Game Colton Sceviour and Kris Russell (his fourth helper of the playoffs), caused by yet another Blues turnover.  Elliott was attempting to clear the puck, but his dump was intercepted by Russell, who immediately sent the puck back behind goal for Sceviour.  Sceviour had intentions of a wrap-around attempt, but Robert Bortuzzo, playing in his first game of the Western Semis, forced him into a backhanded centering pass that Fiddler redirected past Elliott’s stick shoulder.

The Blues had a great opportunity to get a goal back just past the 10 minute mark, as they fired three different shots that First Star Kari Lehtonen only blocked but did not freeze, but the important thing for the Stars is that none found the back of the net.

Jason Demers committed the first penalty of the night for a hi-stick on Jori Lehtera with 7:59 remaining in the frame.  The Blues certainly applied some pressure, but the Dallas penalty kill stood strong to keep the Notes scoreless.

Troy Brouwer returned the favor with 3:46 remaining with a blatant cross check against Radek Faksa.  Unlike the first power play, this one counted as Jason Spezza connected on a wrister, assisted by Jamie Benn and John Klingberg.  Klingberg made a kick steal on an attempted pass from Dmitrij Jaskin, collected and dumped back towards his offensive zone for Benn.  Benn completed the advance along the near boards under pressure from Jay Bouwmeester… until he fell down, allowing Benn to center the puck for Spezza, who advanced towards Elliott’s crease and scored through traffic over the netminder’s glove.

It was the needle that broke the camel’s back, as Ken Hitchcock pulled Elliott in favor of Jake Allen, earning his first minutes of the 2016 playoffs.  He completed the frame without giving up any goals, leaving the score at 3-0.

Although they trailed on the scoreboard, the Blues actually played a decent period beyond their mistimed mistakes, leading the Stars in shots (nine to seven), face-off wins (57%), takeaways (four to two), giveaways (one to three) and hits (11 to nine).

St. Louis finally got on the board at the 7:29 mark of the second period with a Second Star Alexander Steen wrister, assisted by Bortuzzo and Vladimir Tarasenko.  The left wing’s initial shot was blocked by Demers and eventually sent towards the near boards by Tarasenko where it was collected by Bortuzzo, who immediately fired a slap shot on Lehtonen’s net.  With Lehtonen still collecting himself, Steen collected the rebound and scored on the basically empty net.

It was the lone tally of the back and forth period, leaving the Stars with a 3-1 lead going into the final period.

After 40 minutes, the Blues had a commanding lead in shots on goal (23 to 12) in addition to leading face-off wins (51%), takeaways (nine to six), giveaways (four to five) and hits (19 to 15).

2:41 into the third period, Russell earned a seat in the sin bin for a delay of game penalty, giving the Blues their second power play opportunity of the contest, but just like the first it yielded no goal.

The Notes pulled within a goal at the 8:59 mark when Patrik Berglund scored his third goal of the postseason, assisted by Lehtera and David Backes (his fifth helper of the playoffs).  Backes received a pass from Alex Pietrangelo and then found Lehtera hanging around near Lehtonen’s crease.  Lehtera turned with the puck and passed between his legs to Berglund, who tipped-in his score past the goalie’s right skate.

St. Louis was unable to level in the remaining 11:01, which means these teams will meet one more time in North Texas on Wednesday.

In summary, after a poor first period for the Blues, this was an incredible game by St. Louis, as they fired 37 shots on goal to Dallas‘ 14 (the most they ever had in one period was seven), earned 17 takeaways and threw 21 hits.  Given how well they handled the Stars in the final 40 minutes, it is difficult to tell who carries the momentum into the deciding game.

Lehtonen earns the win after saving 35 of 37 shots faced (94.6%), while Elliott takes the loss, saving four of seven (57.1%).  After coming into the game as relief, Allen saved all seven shots he faced for no decision.

Wednesday’s game at the American Airlines Center will drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, and may be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.