Tag Archives: Backlund

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.

February 24 – Day 128 – Scrapping for their playoff lives

Friday is finally here! Time to sit down and watch some hockey.

While there may be only four contests tonight, there’s certainly some quality matchups. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Edmonton at Washington (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by two more games (Ottawa at Carolina [RDS] and Calgary at Florida). Finally tonight’s nightcap – Arizona at Dallas – drops the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.

I know Alex Goligoski is making his return to Dallas, but the playoff push is already in full swing – especially in the Eastern Conference. Instead, we’ll turn our attention to Sunrise, Fla. for a game between teams scrapping for their postseason lives.

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Thanks in part to their two-game winning streak, the Flames make their annual visit to Florida in fourth place in the Pacific Division and  eighth in the Western Conference with a 31-26-4 record. Although good enough for the second wildcard, the Flames are an interesting team as they aren’t exactly among the league’s elite on either end of the ice. If you had to pick Calgary‘s forte, I’d choose it’s offense, which has managed 159 goals so far this season, which ties for 18th-most in the NHL.

So far this season, it’s been the Mikael Backlund show on offense in Calgary, as his 43 points currently lead the way for the Flames. Nearing the peak of his career, he’s getting very close to succeeding his current personal-high of 47 points (I’d expect him to do that in Winnipeg next month). That being said, Sean Monahan is probably the biggest reason Calgarians make their way to the Saddledome on a nightly basis, as he’s scored a team-leading 20 goals this campaign.

Playing host tonight is 28-21-10 Florida, the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division and ninth-best in the Eastern Conference. As I said Monday, the Panthers can blame the fact that they are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in squarely on their offense, which has managed only 149 goals so far this season, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

As he made evident Monday night in St. Louis, there’s no doubt that Vincent Trocheck is the leader of Florida‘s offense (sorry Jaromir Jagr). His 42 points top the team, and just like Backlund, he looks like he’s going to achieve his previous career-mark in the statistic this season. He’ll need 54 points to do just that, and I expect him to achieve that goal late next month in Toronto.

Part of the reason Trocheck has been so successful is because he’s not afraid to shoot the puck on his own. His 21 goals lead the team, and he’s only four tallies shy of tying that personal best. March should be a special time for the center, as he’s on pace to bury his 26th goal against Arizona on March 23.

While Trocheck is preoccupied with the even-strength efforts, Jon Marchessault has taken up a power play specialty. Yet, even though he leads the team with 13 power play points, and Reilly Smith has a team-high six extra-man goals, the Panthers still only convert 15.8% of their man-advantages, the fifth-worst rate in the league.

Fortunately, Florida is much better on the penalty kill. In fact they’re one of the elite clubs in the league, as their 85.2% success rate is third-best in the NHL. Mark Pysyk can take a lot of credit for that, as his 12 shorthanded blocks are most on the team.

The Panthers have already made their yearly trip to the Saddledome, but it wasn’t a pleasant visit for them. Led by Backlund’s three-point, two-goal night, the Flames beat Florida 5-2 on January 17.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Mark Giordano (+16 with 133 shot blocks [both lead the team]) and Florida‘s Trocheck (21 goals for 42 points [both lead the team]).

The Panthers come into tonight’s game with Vegas’ blessing and a -150 line, but I actually like Calgary to win. Both have won at least seven of their past 10 games, but the Flames have been quietly solid on the road this year and I think they can continue that success in Sunrise.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mike Vernon (1963-) – Selected in the third-round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this goaltender was one of the best in his day. Retiring with a career 385-273-92 record, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice to go with his five All-Star appearances, the 1996 Jennings and the 1997 Smythe.
  • Brian Savage (1971-) – This left wing was picked by Montréal in the eighth-round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 12-season career. By the time he retired, he had accounted for 192 goals and 359 total points.
  • Alex Kovalev (1973-) – Picked 15th-overall by the Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing was a member of New York‘s 1994 Stanley Cup winning team. He was also selected to three All-Star games.

They needed a shootout to get it done, but the Rangers were able to best Toronto 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Connor Brown (Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner) gave the Leafs a lead on his wrist shot with 9:04 remaining in the first half. That 1-0 score held not only to the first intermission, but also all the way through the second period.

Being unable to find an insurance goal finally cost Toronto when J.T. Miller (Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri) found the back of the net with 9:10 remaining in regulation. Although the game went to the always unpredictable three-on-three overtime period, neither club could find a winner, which led to the shootout.

  1. Rookie William Nylander was the first to try his hand, but his snap shot was saved by First Star of the Game Henrik Lundqvist.
  2. That proved to cost the Leafs, as Mats Zuccarello gave New York a 1-0 shootout lead on his attempt.
  3. Next up for Toronto was rookie Auston Matthews, who leveled the shootout 1-1.
  4. It didn’t last long though, as Third Star Mika Zibanejad scored the Blueshirts‘ second-straight shootout attempt.
  5. All the pressure was on Nazem Kadri to keep the shootout alive, but Lundqvist was up to the task to earn New York the bonus point.

Lundqvist earned the victory after saving 32-of-33 shots faced (97%), leaving the shootout loss to Second Star Frederik Andersen, who saved 37-of-38 (97.4%).

They got close, but the Leafs couldn’t snap the road teams’ six-game winning steak in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The 66-43-21 roadies now have a six-point lead over the hosts in the series.

February 1 – Day 105 – Get your brooms ready

Last night was beyond busy in the NHL. While those types of evenings are fun, sometimes it’s nice to only have a few games to keeps tabs on. Tonight is one of those nights, as only six teams drop the puck. Boston at Washington (NBCSN/TVAS) gets things started at 8 p.m., and is basically the only game going on during that time-frame. The next game to get underway is Minnesota at Calgary (SN360), but that isn’t until 10 p.m. The nightcap is right behind, as Colorado at Los Angeles (NBCSN) gets started only half an hour later. All times eastern.

Not only do I not like repeating teams twice in a row (sorry Washington!), tonight’s contest in Calgary could act as a playoff preview. Off to Cowtown we go!

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It’s hard to argue with those that believe Minnesota is the best team in the Western Conference. Riding a three-game winning streak, their 33-11-5 record is five points better than second-best San Jose, and they’ve been led by an impressive goaltender that has allowed only 109 goals this season, the second-fewest in the NHL.

Since Darcy Kuemper played last night in Edmonton, 27-8-3 Devan Dubnyk will be more than ready to go this evening. That’s bad news for the Flames, as his .936 save percentage and 1.88 GAA are both the best marks in the league.

What makes Dubnyk’s season so impressive is that the bluelines playing in front of him are nothing more than average, as they allow 30.6 shots to reach his crease per night – tied for the 12th-most in the NHL. Jared Spurgeon and his 90 shot blocks have been at the head of the defensive front and tie for 32nd-most against the rest of the league.

Combine those two aspects of the defensive end, and you find a club that has the sixth-best penalty kill with a 83.8% success rate. Mikael Granlund has been the most effective skater on that effort, as he leads the Wild with 13 shorthanded blocks.

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the home of the 10th-best power play in the league (ok, they’re technically tied for 10th), finding success 21.3% of the time. Granlund is apparently the Wild‘s special teams ringer, as his 12 power play points are tops in the dressing room, but Nino Niederreiter has been the one scoring all the goals. He has six man-advantage tallies to his credit, the most in Minnesota.

Playing host this evening are the 25-24-3 Flames, the ninth-best team in the Western Conference thanks to Los Angeles beating Arizona last night. That being said, simply making it to overtime tonight would move them back into playoff position.

The reason Calgary finds itself on the bubble is due to its lackluster defense and goaltending, which has allowed 147 tallies so far this season, the ninth-most in the NHL. That starts with 16-12-1 Chad Johnson, who has a .913 save percentage and 2.5 GAA – the (t)27th and (t)18th-best effort, respectively, among the 49 goalies with at least 15 appearances.

A decent GAA paired with a below-average save percentage is usually the mark of a decent defense, and that’s exactly the case the Wild will find this evening in the Saddledome. Led by Mark Giordano‘s 116 shot blocks (tied for sixth-most in the league), the Flames allow only 28 shots to reach Johnson’s crease per game – the sixth-best effort in the game.

Although they’re the ones currently sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in, it’s been the Flames that have dominated the season series between these clubs so far this year. Calgary has yet to drop a game to the Wild even if their most recent meeting on December 2 required a shootout to determine the 3-2 result.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Mikael Backlund (34 points [leads the team]), Troy Brouwer (98 hits and .16 shot percentage [both lead the team]), Giordano (116 blocks [leads the team]), Dougie Hamilton (144 shots and 25 assists [both lead the team]) and Sean Monahan (16 goals [leads the team]) & Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (1.88 GAA on a .936 save percentage [both best in the league] for 27 wins [second-most in the NHL], including five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league]), Matthew Dumba (+22 [eighth-best in the NHL]), Granlund (+26 [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Mikko Koivu (+26 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]), Spurgeon (+28 [tied for third-best in the league]), Ryan Suter (+30 [tied for the NHL-lead]) and Jason Zucker (+30 [tied for the league-lead]).

Vegas has marked Calgary a slight underdog, placing a +105 next to their name. Personally, I’d take that bet. Not only do they have the history beating Dubnyk this season, they’re playing at home after a nice long All-Star break, compared to the Wild who just played last night. I like the Flames to complete the season-sweep and get back into the playoff bracket.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mark Recchi (1968-) – Although drafted in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by rival Pittsburgh, this right wing spent most his career in Philadelphia. That being said, none of the seven-time All-Star’s three Stanley Cups were with the Flyers.
  • Kyle Palmieri (1991-) – Another right wing, Palmieri was drafted 26th-overall by Anaheim in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the first five seasons of his NHL career with the Ducks before moving on to New Jersey before the 2015-16 season.

The wins just keep rolling in for the Islanders. They won their third-straight game 3-2 last night against the league-leading Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It’s only made sweeter by the fact that it was a comeback victory. That’s because Evgeny Kuznetsov (Justin Williams and Brooks Orpik) was able to bury his snap shot only 4:41 after the game’s initial puck drop. That was the lone tally of the first period.

With a power play slap shot 2:41 after returning to the ice for the second period, Second Star of the Game Alan Quine (Third Star Andrew Ladd and Calvin de Haan) leveled the contest for New York. Once again, it was the lone score of the frame to set up a deciding third period.

The Isles responded well coming out of intermission, with their surge completed by First Star Ryan Strome‘s (Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier) wrister to give them the lead. The game remained 2-1 until Johnny Boychuk (Casey Cizikas and John Tavares) took advantage of an empty net with 68 seconds remaining in the contest. Impressively, Alex Ovechkin (Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov) was able to make it only a one-goal differential with his slap shot, but the Capitals were unable to level with the remaining 47 seconds.

Thomas Greiss earns the victory after saving 28-of-30 shots faced (93.3%), leaving the loss to Philipp Grubauer, who saved 26-of-28 (92.9%).

Not only is the Islanders‘ victory their third-straight, it is also the second-straight win by the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That advances the hosts’ record in the series to 56-35-16, seven points better than the roadies.

January 23 – Day 100 – Happy birthday Leo Komarov

Manic Monday gets started at its usual 7 p.m. starting time with two games (Los Angeles at the New York Rangers [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Carolina at Washington), followed half an hour later by Calgary at Toronto. Next up is Anaheim at Winnipeg at 8 p.m., trailed an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: San Jose at Colorado (NBCSN) and Florida at ArizonaAll times eastern.

There’s not a single game this evening being contested between two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, but Toronto could be right back in that discussion by the time the night closes with a victory tonight.

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Although riding a two-game losing skid, the 24-22-3 Flames still find themselves in eighth-place in the Western Conference, which could improve to seventh with anything better than a regulation loss. Calgary has been led by its offense this season, which has scored 128 goals – tied for 14th-most in the league.

There’s a reason Mikael Backlund sweaters have been flying off the shelves in Southern Alberta these days, as his 33 points lead the Flames. That being said, Sean Monahan‘s 15 goals leads Backlund’s total by a tally.

Playing host this evening are the 21-14-9 Maple Leafs, who currently occupy ninth-place in the Eastern Conference. and similar to their opposition, simply getting to overtime will propel Toronto into seventh. Much of the reason for the Leafs‘ success has been their offense, which has managed 135 tallies in 44 games, the sixth-best scoring rate in the NHL.

In this edition of what has become the weekly Leafs update, Auston Matthews now shares the club points-lead with James van Riemsdyk, as both have been involved in 38 goals this season. That being said, the amazing rookie still has the team scoring title with his 22 tallies.

Last season, Toronto was home to the second-worst power play in the league. My, how the times have changed. Led by rookie William Nylander‘s 15 power play points, the Maple Leafs are now second-best, scoring on 24.1% of attempts. Veteran Nazem Kadri has also played a vital role in that success, burying nine pucks with the man-advantage.

The defensive special team has also been a big role in the Leafs‘ resurgence, refusing to yield a tally on 84.7% of opponent’s extra-man opportunities. The fourth-best penalty kill in the league has been led by Roman Polak, whose 22 shorthanded blocks not only lead the team, but ties for 17th-most in the league.

The Maple Leafs have already made their annual visit to the Saddledome, and it’s a trip they’d rather forget. Led by Chad Johnson‘s shutout, the Flames sent Toronto packing by beating them 3-0.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnson (three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and Toronto‘s Matthews (22 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league]).

Vegas has marked Toronto a -142 favorite, and it’s a hard pick to argue with. The Leafs have some superior special teams compared to Calgary‘s average efforts, not to mention Toronto‘s impeccable offense.

Hockey Birthday

  • J.F. Sauve (1960-) – Although undrafted, this center managed 290 games over seven seasons in the NHL, most of which in Quebec. He notched 203 points before retiring after the 1986-’87 season.
  • Brendan Shanahan (1969-) – The second-overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey, this left wing played 21 seasons – most of which in Detroit. It’s easy to say he earned his Hall of Fame inauguration in 2013, as he was an eight-time All Star, three-time Stanley Cup winner and the owner of the 2003 Clancy Trophy.
  • Leo Komarov (1987-) – This center was drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, and that’s where he’s spent his entire career. Last season’s 19 goals and 36 points were career highs, and a goal tonight against Calgary would be his first birthday tally.

They needed overtime, but the Flyers emerged from Brooklyn with a 3-2 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The lone goal of the first period belonged to Nick Leddy with 6:35 remaining in the frame. His unassisted wrister gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead.

Alan Quine (Shane Prince and Dennis Seidenberg) doubled that lead 4:47 into the second period with a backhander, but Second Star of the Game Wayne Simmonds (Brayden Schenn and Radko Gudas) pulled Philadelphia back within a tally with a wrister with 5:50 remaining in the period.

Once again, only one goal was struck in a period, but this one belonged to Ivan Provorov (Schenn and Simmonds) and the Flyers. Buried only 1:47 into the period, it proved to be the final goal of regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

Only 100 seconds remained in extra time when First Star Claude Giroux (Shayne Gostisbehere and Jakub Voracek) ended the game with his wrap-around winner.

Steve Mason takes credit for the win after saving 36-of-38 shots faced (94.7%), leaving Third Star Thomas Greiss, who saved 44-of-47 (93.6%), the overtime loss.

Philly‘s victory was the third-straight for a visiting team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling the roadies within three points of the hosts’ 52-34-16 record.

January 6 – Day 83 – Surging Canucks

You did it. You made through your first week back to work after the long holiday. You deserve some hockey.

Fortunately, the NHL has you covered with six contests this evening, starting with two at 7:30 p.m. (Toronto at New Jersey and Nashville at Florida [TVAS]) and Carolina at Chicago (NHLN) an hour later. 9 p.m. marks the puck drop of the New York Islanders at Colorado, followed 60 minutes later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Calgary at Vancouver and Arizona at Anaheim.

Short list:

  • Carolina at Chicago: Teuvo Teravainen played 115 games over three seasons in the United Center. Tonight, he wears white facing off against his old club.
  • Calgary at Vancouver: It’s rivalry night in British Columbia!

As badly as I want to feature the Hurricanes for the first time this season, Teravainen is not enough to pull me away from the rivalry taking place this evening in the ever-tightening Pacific Division.

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The Flames relocating from Atlanta to Cowtown in 1980 fulfilled a rivalry that needed only Canada’s best arena to be made complete: a hockey rink. The Rocky Mountains used to be the only thing separating these differing  cultural and political hubs of Western Canada, but the NHL has joined Calgary and Vancouver with the opportunity to claim superiority in the most definitive way possible.

Both all-time and as of late, Calgary has had the upper-hand in this matchup. In all regular and postseason meetings, the Flames have a 132-93-26-13 record against the rival Canucks, including a 111-76-26-13 record during the regular season.

Seven times these clubs have met up in the playoffs, and almost every time it has gone the Flames‘ way. Most recently, Calgary won their 2015 Western Conference Quarterfinals series in six games to improve their postseason-series record against the Canucks to 5-2.

Calgary enters tonight’s game on a two-game winning streak and with a 21-17-2 record, good enough for fourth place in the Pacific Division and, more importantly, seventh in the Western Conference. They’ve found that by playing a steady offense, scoring 107 goals – tied for 15th-most in the league.

Fourth-year player Johnny Gaudreau has been at the head of that effort, notching 26 points for the highest mark on the club. He beats Mikael Backlund by a lone point, but the center has something the left wing hasn’t: a dozen goals, the most on the squad by two tallies.

Part of that offensive success is due to a solid power play. The Flames are 10th-best with the man-advantage, burying 20.7% of their attempts. Gaudreau continues his excellent season in this department, with 10 power play points. Similarly, Backlund’s five extra-man goals is also still tops on the team.

Don’t overlook the Canucks this season. Blessed (#blessed?) with a weak Western Conference, 19-18-3 Vancouver sits only a point out of playoff position, thanks in part to their current five-game winning streak. What’s held them back so far this season has been some slightly leaky defense and goaltending that has allowed 115 goals, tying them for sixth-most tallies given up.

Although he’s seen only six more starts than Jacob Markstrom, 11-10-1 Ryan Miller has been the netminder of choice in Vancouver. In 23 starts, he’s notched a .912 save percentage and 2.65 GAA, the 29th-best effort in the league compared to the 47 other goalies with a dozen or more appearances.

While those numbers are far from exemplary, Miller can’t take full responsibility for the Canucks‘ struggles. The defense playing in front of him hasn’t given him much help, allowing 30.5 shots-per-game to reach his crease – tied for the 11th-highest average. It’s not that Vancouver doesn’t have good defensemen. In fact, Alexander Edler, Ben Hutton and Luca Sbisa all tie for the team lead in shot blocks, with 61 to their credit (Edler has been especially impressive, playing only 26 games compared to Hutton and Sbisa’s 40 appearances), tying them for 58th in the league.

Instead, it’s been the other three skaters that haven’t contributed. Combined, Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin have blocked only 64 shots. Chris Tanev gets a pass, as tonight’s game will be only his 18th of the season. When he’s on the ice, Vancouver has an 11-4-2 record.

Now that Edler and Tanev are back on the ice, Vancouver hopes to improve their lackluster penalty kill that ranks 10th-worst after neutralizing only 80.3% of opposing power plays. Even after missing so many games, Edler’s 16 shorthanded blocks are still best on the team by a wide margin.

If I’m Vancouver, I’m more concerned about my power play, or lack thereof. The Canucks are fourth-worst in the NHL with the man-advantage, potting only 13.9% of their opportunities. Both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin have eight power play points to the their names, which is just fine. It’s the fact that who’s scoring the goals – Loui Eriksson, D. Sedin and Brandon Sutter – are predictable. Combined, their 11 power play goals account for 65% of the man-advantage tallies. More skaters need to take responsibility for lighting the lamp, and in doing so, they’ll help increase the numbers of their established scoring stars.

These clubs have already met twice this season, and Calgary already has a slight 1-0-1 advantage. They most recently met two days before Christmas at the Saddledome, where the Flames 4-1. Tonight’s game is the first-half of a home-and-home series that completes tomorrow night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Chad Johnson (three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) should he play and Vancouver‘s Bo Horvat (12 goals among 27 points [both lead the team]).

Vegas has given a slight edge to the Flames, putting a +102 next to Vancouver‘s name. I’m going to side with Vegas on this one. Even if the Canucks‘ defense starts to buckle down and prevent Calgary from finding any rhythm, the Flames‘ defense should still be able to prevent their rivals from scoring.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Dickie Moore (1931-2015) – You know you’re good when you have won the Stanley Cup six times. That’s the case with this Hall-of-Fame left wing, who also has just as many All Star selections. A 12 season-alumnus of Montréal, the Art Ross Trophy collected dust on his mantle, as he won it two-straight seasons with a combined 180 points.
  • Scott Ferguson (1973-) – Although undrafted, this defenseman played in seven NHL seasons before calling it quits. Most of that time was with Edmonton, the team that gave him a chance out of juniors. He ended up playing in 201 games for the Oilers, earning 288 penalty minutes.
  • Richard Zednik (1976-) – A 10th-round pick by Washington in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing proved to have a very good career given his draft position. Although he played seven seasons with the Capitals, he played most his 745 games with Montréal. He notched 379 points before he took his sweater off the last time.
  • Adam Burish (1983-) – Drafted in the ninth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, this right wing played a nine-year career. Spending most of his time with the club that drafted him, he was finally rewarded in 2010 with a Stanley Cup.

With two goals in the third period, the Oilers were able to escape Boston with a 4-3 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

They got off to a hot start, capped by First Star of the Game Patrick Maroon‘s (Third Star Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) wrister that lit the lamp only 1:08 into the game. That lead lasted only 6:08 before Colin Miller (Austin Czarnik and Torey Krug) leveled the score with a slap shot.

They remained tied until 9:17 remained in the second period. Second Star Patrice Bergeron (David Pastrnak and Kevan Miller) is charged with breaking the draw with a solid snap shot. Just like earlier, that lead did not last long. Maroon (Eric Gryba and McDavid) waited only 3:26 before burying another wrister, once again knotting the game at two-all.

That was the first of three-straight goals by the Oilers. 14 seconds into the final period, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Matthew Benning) gave Edmonton a 3-2 lead, followed 8:48 later by Maroon’s hat-trick and eventual game-clinching shot. Edmonton tried their hardest to let the Bruins back into the game, sending both Gryba and Benoit Pouliot to the penalty box to give Boston a five-on-three power play, but David Krejci (Bergeron and Brad Marchand) could only manage one goal on the opportunity.

Cam Talbot earns the victory after saving 33-of-36 shots faced (91.7%), leaving the loss to Tuukka Rask, who saved 21-of-25 (84%).

Edmonton‘s victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 46-26-13 in favor of the home sides, who have a 12 point lead over the road sides.

October 14 – Day Three – Everyday I’m Russellin’

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between Washington and Pittsburgh was exactly what we’d hoped it would be. Exciting. Tight. Competitive. It took a shootout for Pittsburgh to earn two points on a 3-2 victory that improved their record in banner-raising games to 3-0-1.

Third Star of the Game Andre Burakovsky (Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson) scored five-hole on First Star Marc-Andre Fleury only 59 seconds after the opening puck drop to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

The Pens leveled 8:47 into the second frame with a power play tally when Patric Hornqvist (Kris Letang and Second Star Evgeni Malkin) deflected a shot from the point to score on Braden Holtby. With 1:08 remaining in the frame, they took the lead when Malkin (Conor Sheary) faked out Holtby to sneak the puck behind his left skate.

Washington returned the favor with another Burakovsky (Backstrom and Matt Niskanen) tally to level the game with 13:47 remaining in regulation. That score held until the clock read zeroes, forcing three-on-thee overtime and, thanks to some incredible saves by Fleury, the shootout.

Pittsburgh elected to shoot first.

  1. Nick Bonino found glass.
  2. T.J. Oshie? Bueno.
  3. Malkin: Tickled the twine, top-shelf.
  4. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Fleury makes the stop.
  5. Letang: Lit the lamp.
  6. Backstrom: Keeps the shootout going.
  7. Phil Kessel: Rang one off the post. Originally called no good, it bounced out that fast.
  8. Alex Ovechkin: Rejected to give the Penguins the win.

Fleury saved 39-of-41 (95.1%) in his first victory of the season, while Holtby saved 28-of-30 (93.3%) in the shootout defeat.

With that result, the home teams improve to 4-1-0 in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

There’s three games going on this evening – a nice, light schedule. Chicago at Nashville kicks things off at 8 p.m. (NBCSN/TVAS), followed an hour later by Edmonton at Calgary (SN1/SN360). Philadelphia at Los Angeles clean things up at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

All three are great contests, but I’m drawn to the Battle of Alberta for the second time in three days. Not only is it a serious rivalry (any rivalry that has a name is serious), but it’s also Kris Russell‘s first game in Calgary since being traded to Dallas at the deadline last season.

Unknown-5Unknown-4This is both teams’ second fixture of the season, as well as their second meting of the three-day-old season. Wednesday night, the Oilers defended home ice 7-4 with Leon Draisaitl (A), Jordan Eberle (G), Zack Kassian (G), Oscar Klefbom (A), Adam Larsson (A), Patrick Maroon (G), First Star of the Game Connor McDavid (2G/A), Darnell Nurse (A), Tyler Pitlick (G), Jesse Puljujarvi (G), Second Star Russell (2A) and Andrej Sekera (A) all getting on the score sheet.

Who else to seal the Oil‘s first victory of the year than newly-christened Captain McDavid. His second goal of his sophomore season was an unassisted breakaway goal during four-on-four play in the middle frame.

Scoring for Calgary in the game was Third Star Mikael Backlund (2A), Lance Bouma (A), T.J. Brodie (A), Troy Brouwer (G), Alex Chiasson (G), Michael Frolik (G), Mark Giordano (A), Matt Stajan (A) and Dennis Wideman (G).

The shared province of Alberta is physically represented this season by defenseman Russell, who as of Wednesday has played for both clubs. Three seasons ago, Russell moved from St. Louis to Calgary. While there, he helped lead that 2014-15 Flames team to the Western Semifinals, a team that turns more into an aberration instead of foreshadowing by the game. He scored two goals and seven points that postseason, the most of any playoff appearance in his career, but the Flames were unable to build off that success and missed the playoffs last year.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Calgary‘s John Gaudreau (78 points last season [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Edmonton‘s McDavid (two goals [tied for second in the league] and three points [tied for fifth in the NHL]), Russell (+3 [tied for seventh in the league]) and Cam Talbot (a win [tied for second-best in the league] on a .902 save percentage [10th-best in the NHL]).

Calgary enters the game favored by Vegas anywhere from -125 to -130, but I have a hard time thinking the Flames can pull out the win given the seven goals McDavid and co. put up the other night. Oilers improve to 2-0-0.

Hockey Birthday

  • Dave Schultz (1949-) – The Hammer was not simply an enforcer, he was an enforcer on the Philadelphia FlyersBroad Street Bullies teams of the 70s. An enforcer for enforcers, if you will. It’s not something he puts on his résumé anymore, even if he still holds the distinction of most penalty minutes in a season (472).  Nowadays, he’s a successful businessman.
  • Sylvain Lefebvre (1967-) – Most known for his days in Colorado, the defenseman played 14 seasons and hoisted one Stanley Cup. He’s still involved in hockey, specifically coaching the St. John’s IceCaps within Montréal‘s system, the first club he played for.