Tag Archives: Bailey

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 4

Player of the Week: Josh Bailey

This award almost went to Bailey’s captain John Tavares, who himself had a 3-goal 5-point week, but his output couldn’t quite match that of Bailey, who tallied 7 points (all of them assists) during the Islanders’ 3-game stretch. The versatile Islanders forward started off the week with a trio of apples against Vegas on Monday night, before adding 2 apiece Thursday in Washington and Sunday against the Avs.

But, quite more impressively, Bailey’s scoring stretch goes beyond this week’s 3 games. In fact, it triples that.

Yes, to find the last time Josh Bailey was held off of a scoresheet, you have to travel all the way back to October 14th against the Sharks. 10 games ago. Registering 2 goals and 14 assists in the 9 games since, once could argue that Bailey is possibly the hottest player in the league that doesn’t play for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Team of the Week: New York Rangers

This was another tight vote, as the San Jose Sharks almost got the nod here. But I’m going to give it to the Rangers based on the fact that they needed this hot streak more than fish need water. After a mostly-miserable October where nothing seemed to go right, the Rangers rolled into MSG to face Vegas on All-Hallows Eve, looking to banish the ghouls that were haunting them. (It physically pained me to write that.)

Fresh off a loss in the ‘Battle to Decide Who is the Least Worst’ in Montreal, the Blueshirts battled their way to a 6-4 victory over the Golden Knights and get their feet back under them, at least for the time being. Faced with the daunting task of taking on the scorching hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night (in Tampa’s barn), the Rangers pulled off the upset, allowing just 1 goal against the hottest offense in the league, and vanquished the home team on the strength of a J.T. Miller goal just 1:19 into overtime. Two nights later it would be Kevin Shattenkirk spoiling another Florida foe’s party, as his OT goal would lift the Rangers to their 3rd consecutive win, and directly into this prestigious award.

Now, doubling your season victory total in one week isn’t necessarily something to brag about, but the Rangers desperately needed a week like this to at least drag them back into something resembling contention. We’ve still got a lot of season to go, but digging yourself too big a hole early on can prove fatal when the season reaches crunch time.

Game of the Week: Tampa Bay Lightning 8 @ Florida Panthers 5, Monday October 30th

How could it not be? Seriously. Look at the score. That’s silly. Plus the intrastate rivalry, there was a fight, Andrei Vasilevskiy tied a league record for wins in October, it was just dumb and that’s what made it great.

“Oh, but what about…”

No! You’re wrong! My article, my rules, silliness wins.

News, Notes, and Nonsense:

I’m officially done making jokes about the Vegas goaltending situation, because at this point I might actually be like 3rd or 4th on their depth chart.

Habs goaltender Charlie Lindgren has been a rare bright spot for the team this year, as he has now gone 4-0 as an NHL starter and racked up his 1st career shutout with a 38-save effort to blank the Blackhawks in the United Center. Not bad, kid. Not bad.

Brian Boyle returned to game action this week, promptly telling cancer where it can shove it.

A bunch of guys squirted each other with water bottles and the league fined them for it, which can be filed under both the news and nonsense parts of this section.

Alright, let me just check and see if I missed anything as I was putting this together on Sunday evening and *opens Twitter* OH DEAR LORD WHAT HAPPENED?!?

So…apparently Matt Duchene is a Senator…and, Kyle Turris is a Pred…and both of those teams’ futures now belong to Joe Sakic. Huh…

November 5 – Day 33 – Rolling Avs vs. a Sandwich

Last Sunday was spectacular, as there was little to no overlap between the three games, meaning fans could focus in on only one game at a time.

With this Sunday’s four-game schedule, we get pretty darn close to that similar situation. The action starts in Edmonton at 4 p.m. when Detroit visits the Oilers, followed two hours later by Colorado at the New York Islanders and Montréal at Chicago (NHLN/RDS/SN) at 7 p.m. Finally, this evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 9 p.m. when New Jersey makes its annual visit to Calgary (SN360). All times Eastern.

If Original Six matchups get you really excited, there’s no doubt the Canadiens-Blackhawks game is the one for you. That being said, we featured Chicago yesterday and I don’t want to feature teams on back-to-back days this early in the season.

Because of that, let’s feature the only game between two teams that are currently in playoff position (because, you know, that’s super important the first week of November).

 

That’s right, you read it correctly: if the standings remain the way they are right now, the 8-5-0 Avalanche and the 7-5-1 Islanders are both on their way to extending their seasons by at least four playoff games.

Even more unpredictable is that Colorado enters tonight’s game riding a three-game winning streak. The Avs offense has been firing on all cylinders since October 28 against the Blackhawks, as it has scored 15 goals (five goals-per-game) for the (t)fourth-most in the league in that time.

Leading the charge over this stretch is none other than the top overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft: F Nathan MacKinnon. Though he personally hasn’t been the goalscorer, his 2-5-7 totals in the past three games have undoubtedly been among the top performances in the league over the past week.

But if MacKinnon isn’t scoring the goals, who is? Answer: RW Mikko Rantanen, who has scored four of his five goals on the season since October 28, including two on that date against Chicago.

Even though he played for a notoriously bad Avalanche offense last season that scored only 2.01 goals-per-game, Rantanen managed a 20-18-38 rookie season in 75 games played lat year. This Finn is an absolute stud with a nose for twine that should be very exciting to watch for the remainder of his career, whether in Denver or elsewhere.

In particular, the Avs have been very advantageous, as they’ve converted a (t)second-best 50 percent of their power plays since last weekend; and as you might expect, MacKinnon and Rantanen have been a major part of that effort. Considering New York’s 79.5 percent kill rate for the season is 11th-worst in the NHL, the Isles would be wise to keep D Johnny Boychuk and his team-leading 11 PIM under control.

Speaking of the Islanders, they’ve also been one of the strongest offenses in the league as their 3.62 goals-per-game is (t)third-best.

New York’s culprit is just as predictable as Colorado’s, though he’s been a lot better about spreading the puck around to both of his wings. C John Tavares has been one of the brightest stars in the league this season (did anyone say contract year?), as his 12 goals are overshadowed only by RW Nikita Kucherov‘s 14.

Even though Tavares is a good great goalscorer, he also makes his parents proud by showcasing his ability to share with the rest of what I’ve affectionately named the Sandwich Line. Linemates F Josh Bailey and F Anders Lee have also seen some solid offensive numbers this season, as they both have point totals at or in excess of 15. In particular, Lee has been the most impressive scorer without a “C” on the front of his sweater, as eight of his 15 points are goals.

With two hot offenses going head-to-head, this contest will almost certainly come down to the defense and goaltender that bend the most without breaking. Though neither blue line is necessarily fantastic, I’m leaning towards New York holding off MacKinnon and Rantanen to earn two points.


Pitching his second shutout in as many starts, Second Star of the Game G Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-0 at the Xcel Energy Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Both Crawford and First Star G Devan Dubnyk were absolutely spectacular in this contest. Both had shutouts through the first two periods, and Dubnyk allowed his lone goal with 5:42 remaining in regulation. Crawford ended the night saving all 24 shots faced, while Dubnyk made 33-of-34 saves (.971 save percentage).

The goal Dubnyk allowed belonged to Third Star F Artem Anisimov (D Duncan Keith and F Patrick Kane), and he didn’t have much of a chance to make the save. For starters, the Hawks had a power play due to rookie F Luke Kunin committing a double-minor hi stick against D Cody Franson, so the Wild’s defenses were already dropped.

Chicago made good work of the advantage, as Kane started with the puck at the right point before passing along the blue line to Keith while Anisimov was setting himself up in the crease as a screen. The defenseman snapped a waist-high shot towards the net that Anisimov deflected towards the far post for the first goal of the game.

F Alex DeBrincat (C Jonathan Toews) tacked on the insurance goal on an empty net with 97 seconds remaining in regulation to secure the win for the Blackhawks.

The Hawks’ victory is the second-straight by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling the visitors within four points of the 17-12-4 home teams.

November 2 – Day 30 – How fun can the DMV can be?

Most Thursdays are busy, and this one is no different. A perfect dozen games are on the schedule, so we should be in for an exciting night of hockey action.

Like most nights do, this evening’s festivities find their beginning at 7 p.m. when two games (Vegas at Boston [SN/SN360/TVAS] and the New York Islanders at Washington) drop the puck, followed by three more (Detroit at Ottawa [RDS2], the New York Rangers at Tampa Bay and Columbus at Florida) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the beginning of a second trio of contests (Philadelphia at St. Louis, Montréal at Minnesota [RDS/TSN2] and Dallas at Winnipeg), with a pair of matchups (Carolina at Colorado and Pittsburgh at Calgary) holding an hour before getting underway. Buffalo at Arizona finds its start at 10 p.m., half an hour before tonight’s nightcap: Toronto at Los Angeles. All times Eastern.

There’s reasons aplenty to choose any one game this evening. Here’s just a few I can think of:

  • Vegas at Boston: After being selected in the expansion draft, D Colin Miller makes his first trip back to the TD Garden.
  • New York at Washington: It’s rivalry night in the US Capital!
  • Philadelphia at St. Louis: C Jori Lehtera played for the Blues for three seasons, but he was traded to the Flyers this offseason.

Of those three games, the one that gets me the most excited is taking place at Capital One Arena. Off to the DMV!

 

For those wondering, no: you can’t register for your new license plates at Capital One Arena. This is a different DMV.

I’ve made it a habit of late to feature stellar offenses, and the  7-4-1 Islanders have been nothing short of that so far. Through a month of action, New York has done nothing but average 3.67 goals-per-game, the fourth-highest scoring rate in the entire NHL.

Even among all the talk about his future, all C John Tavares does is score. He’s been an absolute monster to start this season, as his 11-4-15 totals through 12 games played are undoubtedly the best on the team. In fact, his 11 goals are the second-most by any player in the NHL and only two short of RW Nikita Kucherov‘s baker’s dozen.

Tavares’ primary partner in crime is none other than F Josh Bailey, who has managed a 3-11-14 effort so far this year. Tack on F Anders Lee‘s 6-6-12 totals, and you have a first line that has accounted for 20 of the Isles’ 44 goals (45 percent). If the Capitals can’t find a way to squelch what I affectionately refer to as New York’s Sandwich Line (named such because of Bailey, Lee and Tavares’ initials), G Braden Holtby could be in for a long day.

Speaking of 5-3-0 Holtby, it’s been the activity in his end of the rink that has been the biggest struggle for the 5-6-1 Capitals. Of course, even though his .919 season save percentage and 2.75 GAA may not be necessarily indicative of the fact, it hasn’t really been his fault Washington has seen a spike in goals against this season. Holtby has faced 258 shots already this campaign (32.3 per start), which is the second-highest work load among goaltenders with eight or fewer starts this season.

Instead, it’s largely his defense’s fault that the Caps have allowed a seventh-worst 3.42 goals-per-game. That being said, there is one defenseman that has been laying it all on the line for his club: Brooks Orpik.

The former first-rounder has been all over the ice doing the nitty-gritty things to help his team win: he’s throwing hits (three per game); he’s blocking shots (2.6 per game); heck, he’s even providing sparks by earning seats in the penalty box (his eight penalty minutes are [t]second-most among Washington defensemen). If Head Coach Barry Trotz knows nothing else about his team, he knows Orpik will do everything short of scoring to help the team in red (he hasn’t registered a marker since his three-goal explosion in 2015-’16).

Fortunately for Holtby, the Islanders’ 30.4 shots-per-game is the 10th-lowest in the NHL, so his defense should be able to manage this evening’s onslaught for the most part. If they can’t, I think this could be the Isles’ third-straight victory.


Bolstered by First Star of the Game G Cory Schneider‘s first shutout of the season, the New Jersey Devils beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 at Rogers Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

I predicted a competitive contest, and that’s exactly what we got. Only one goal was registered in the opening 59:44 of play (read: basically the entire game), and the only reason W Drew Stafford (Third Star F Taylor Hall) was able to score the Devils’ insurance marker was due to Second Star G Jacob Markstrom abandoning his post for the Canucks’ extra attacker.

Otherwise, this was a game dominated by the goaltenders. Schneider certainly earned his shutout, as Vancouver threw everything it had at him. He saved all 37 shots he faced to earn his first clean sheet since on the road since January 16, 2016.

Markstrom was also exemplary, as he saved all but one of his 25 shots faced (.96 save percentage) in his third loss of the season.

Unfortunately, it was that lone blemish, scored courtesy of RW Jimmy Hayes (Hall) with 9:51 remaining in the second period, that proved to be the deciding goal – and Markstrom had actually already performed brilliantly on the play.

Hall entered the offensive zone screaming up the far boards to set himself up for a quick wrist shot against Markstrom. The netminder did exactly what he needed to, using his left pad to direct the shot towards to his right. Unfortunately for him, Hayes was the first to reach the loose puck, and he banged a slap shot from above the right face-off circle off the far post.

Jersey’s victory is the second-straight by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That being said, the 16-10-4 home teams still own a six-point advantage in the series.

Buffalo Sabres 2017-2018 Season Preview

Buffalo Sabres

33-37-12, 78 points, 8th in Atlantic (‘16-‘17)

Key Additions: Viktor Antipin, Nathan BeaulieuSeth GriffithChad JohnsonJacob JosefsonJason PominvilleBenoit PouliotMarco Scandella, Phil Housley (Coach), Jason Botterill (GM)

Key Subtractions: Tyler Ennis (Traded to Minnesota), Marcus Foligno (Traded to Minnesota), Dmitry Kulikov (Signed with Winnipeg), Dan Bylsma (Fired), Tim Murray (Fired)

Unsigned: Cody Franson

Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres had a busy offseason to say the least, as both General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Byslma were fired following the club’s sixth-straight season missing the playoffs. The search for a new GM led Owner Terry Pegula to former player Jason Botterill, who continued the trend of hiring former players by offering former Sabres great Phil Housley his first NHL head coaching job. Housley was an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators for the past four seasons, helping to lead the club to its first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. This was a smart move to hire a former blue liner to lead the team, as he should bring Buffalo a smooth-skating team that allows the defensemen, Rasmus Ristolainen in particular, to carry the puck up ice similar to Nashville’s style.

The Sabres have struggled defensively for years now, so it was no surprise that Botterill’s first goal was to fix that issue. He started by signing KHL free agent defenseman Viktor Antipin, but didn’t stop there: he also acquired Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal for a 3rd round pick. Botterill still saw the need for a top pair defenseman, so he traded Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and a 3rd round pick to the Minnesota Wild for Marco Scandella, fan-favorite Jason Pominville and a 4th round pick.

Although Botterill addressed the Sabres’ defensive issues early in summer, he didn’t neglect his other positions. Among his most important additions are Benoit Pouliot, Chad Johnson and Jacob Josefson.

All in all, the Sabres’ offseason look pretty solid. They didn’t go out and overspend on any major free agents.

That being said, they still have a big hole among their top 6 forwards. Specifically, the need for a left wing is paramount, and it has top prospects Justin Bailey, Nicholas Baptiste and Alexander Nylander all itching for the chance to play with the big boys. I personally believe Nylander stands the best chance. He is a natural left wing and has added some needed muscle this offseason. A solid camp from him could see him playing on the left with Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly.

Offseason Grade: B+

Overall, the Sabres had a tremendous offseason and I think the fans will see a better product on the ice this season. With a healthy Eichel and strong defense, I think the Sabres should be a playoff team.

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

A dozen games are on the schedule today, so let’s hop right in with our list!

A pair of games (Vancouver at Minnesota and Philadelphia at Columbus [NHLN/SN1]) get the action underway at 2 p.m., followed by seven (Calgary at St. Louis [CITY], Toronto at Buffalo [CBC], Ottawa at Montréal [SN/TVAS], Chicago at Florida [NHLN], Carolina at New Jersey, Boston at the New York Islanders and Arizona at Washington) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. San Jose at Nashville drops the puck an hour later, followed by Colorado at Edmonton (CBC/SN) at 10 p.m. Finally, the New York Rangers at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Buffalo: Only two more editions of the Battle of the QEW go down this season, and one is tonight.
  • Ottawa at Montréal: Speaking of rivalries, this one is kind of important since it could determine who raises an Atlantic Division banner.
  • Chicago at Florida: For five seasons, Brian Campbell was a member of the Panthers‘ blueline. This offseason, he decided to return to the Windy City.
  • Boston at New York: These clubs are currently tied for the second wildcard, but they won’t be after tonight.
  • San Jose at Nashville: Remember last year’s Western Semifinals? The Predators would probably like to exact some revenge tonight.

Since both the Canadiens and Senators are all but locks to for this year’s postseason, let’s head back to Brooklyn with the Islanders for their wildly important matchup with Boston.

 

The 38-30-6 Bruins have been in the playoff picture – or right outside it – for almost the entire season. A mistimed four-game losing skid (then again, when does a four-game losing skid ever come at an appropriate time?) has felled them to the second of those two categories.

Of course, this is not the first position Boston has lost in the last month. For a long while, the Bruins actually had command of third place in the Atlantic Division, but they ceded that too to a Maple Leafs team that has won seven of its last 10 games.

The main reason for this fall from grace? I’d argue sub-par play in net by 33-20-4 Tuukka Rask. He’s been in net for all four of these contests, and the Bruins have allowed an average of five goals against. In fact, his .842 save percentage and 4.53 GAA from March 16 through last night’s action is the fifth and second-worst efforts in the NHL, respectively, in that time span.

“But Rask is a great goaltender!” said Bruins fans.

And I agree; yes, he is great. He’s also no spring chicken anymore. Rask just celebrated his 30th birthday not too long ago, which makes him older than the average goaltender throughout the 2000s (per Quant Hockey), whether by mean (28.81) or median (28.3).

Whether you’re in the camp of believing Bruce Cassidy needs to play 5-5-1 Anton Khudobin more often or Don Sweeney needs to provide a better backup than a nearly 31-year-old Russian is inconsequential to the fact that Rask needs more breaks. With 59 starts, Rask has played the third-most games in a NHL crease this season, and the other two goalies with more starts are younger than him (though not by much in Cam Talbot‘s case).

Making the exhausted netminder’s demise even more troublesome is that the defense playing in front of him is one of the better – and improving – corps in the league. Over this sour stretch, they’ve allowed only 117 shots to reach his net (29.25 per game), which is barely worse than their 25.6 average allowed per game for the entire season that ranks second-best in the league.

He doesn’t wear the Bruins‘ “C” for nothing. Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that effort with his team-leading 124 shot blocks, followed closely behind by Adam McQuaid‘s 122. Center Patrice Bergeron has also been very impressive on the defensive front, as his 59 takeaways are second-most on the club. Brad Marchand has one more for the squad lead, but he also tops (Or would it be bottoms?) the team in the opposite statistic with his 74 turnovers.

When looking at the season as a whole, Boston usually finds more than enough success on the penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is sixth-best in the league. Of course, this rough patch hasn’t been so kind. The Bruins have allowed seven power play goals against (you guessed it, most in the league in this time-span) for a measly 63.1% kill rate.

One thing that has gone Boston‘s way over the past 10 days has been their power play. Co-led by Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner‘s three man-advantage points, as well as David Krejci and David Pastrnak‘s two man-advantage goals, the Bruins have scored on 35.7% of their opponents’ penalties – the best mark in the league in that span. That’s not exactly a surprise though. Boston has been successful on 21.2% of their power plays all year, the eighth-best rate in the league.

First it was the Leafs taking advantage of the Bruins‘ fall from grace. Now it’s the 35-26-12 Islanders, a team riding a two-game winning streak.

This success is a far cry from where New York was before Doug Weight took command of the ship. Former head coach Jack Capuano had only managed a 17-17-8 record – the worst mark in the Eastern Conference. But since then, the Isles have gone on an 18-9-4 run to climb back into the eighth place in the East. In fact, that’s the fifth-best record in the league since Capuano’s firing, better even than teams like Columbus and Nashville.

The main reason for that improvement is New York‘s potent offense. The Islanders have buried 96 goals under Weight, which ties for the fourth-highest total in the league since January 17. Behind that effort is none other than John Tavares, who’s registered 32 of his 64 points on the campaign. Anders Lee also came alive, as he’s registered 13 goals to lead the team during the Weight-era.

Ready to be even more impressed by the Islanders‘ resurgent offense? They do it almost exclusively at even-strength. In fact, New York‘s power play is borderline atrocious, as they only convert 15.8% of their opportunities – the fifth-worst rate in the league.

If recent history is any indicator, it looks like the Bruins are on their way to their fifth-straight loss, as they have yet to beat New York this year in their previous two meetings. The last time these clubs ran into each other was January 16 in Boston. Between Nikolai Kulemin‘s two-goal night (one-sixth of his season total!) and Thomas Greiss‘ 32-save shutout, the Islanders walked out of the TD Garden with a 4-0 victory.

Ironically, that was Capuano’s last game as head coach of the Isles. My, how the story has come full circle.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-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]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

Though they might be a little tired from their shootout victory in Pittsburgh last night, I’m inclined to pick the Islanders right now. Something tells me that only one day off is not enough for Rask, and everything seems to be going New York‘s way right now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Ken Wregget (1964-) – Toronto selected this goaltender 45th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his career with the Penguins. By the time his career was through, he’d earned a 225-248-53 record and hoisted the 1992 Stanley Cup.
  • Ladislav Benysek (1975-) – This defensemen was selected in the 11th round by Edmonton in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent most of his four-year career in the league with Minnesota. Over 161 games in the NHL, he accumulated only 15 points for a -28 rating.

With their 4-3 shootout victory against Pittsburgh in the DtFR Game of the Day, the Islanders have improved to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

With six goals in regulation, you’d figure there’d be two a period, right? Not last night. Instead, five were struck in the second frame, and another in the third.

The scoring started 1:54 after beginning the second period when Third Star of the Game Cameron Gaunce (Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel) buried a slap shot for the second goal of his career. 2:54 later, Second Star Brock Nelson (Joshua Ho-Sang and Alan Quine) tied the game at one-all, the score that held until Lee (Bailey and First Star Tavares) scored a wrist shot to give New York the lead 4:30 later. Now it was Pittsburgh‘s turn to pull even, and Sidney Crosby (Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary) was up to the task with 6:19 remaining in the frame. With five seconds remaining before the second intermission, Casey Cizikas (Tavares) found the back of the net to send the Isles to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.

After all that action, the final goal of regulation wasn’t struck until 6:10 remained in regulation. Cullen (Gaunce and Kessel) scored his wrister to tie the game at three-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five minute three-on-three overtime period.

Looks like this one will have to be decided in the shootout. The Pens elected to go second…

  1. …meaning Anthony Beauvillier was up first. He scored on Marc-Andre Fleury, giving New York an early shootout lead.
  2. Kessel had the chance to tie the shootout, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task and made the save.
  3. Weight called Tavares’ number next as if he knew the captain would score him another goal. With a 2-0 shootout lead, the Pens were in a miss-and-lose situation.
  4. Speaking of captains, that’s exactly who took Pittsburgh‘s next shootout attempt. Crosby had better luck than Kessel and scored his shot to keep the Penguins alive.
  5. Andrew Ladd took what proved to be the Islanders‘ final shootout attempt, but was unable to beat Fleury to win the game.
  6. Instead, Halak provided the victory by saving Nick Bonino‘s shot.

Halak saved 37-of-40 shots faced (92.5%) for the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Fleury after he stopped 43-of-46 (93.5%).

It was the second-straight DtFR Game of the Day to be decided by shootout, but the fact that this one was decided by the 80-56-23 visitors gives them a one-point advantage over the road teams in the series.

March 24 – Day 156 – Isle have what he’s having

Just like you look forward to Friday to begin your two-day break, this is a lot of the league’s rest day before a weekend of excitement.

There’s only four games on the schedule tonight, starting with the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh (NHLN/SN/TVAS) at 7 p.m. and Tampa Bay at Detroit half an hour later. San Jose at Dallas drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., with Winnipeg at Anaheim – tonight’s nightcap – getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Pittsburgh: Not only is it rivalry night in the Steel City, but the Isles have a chance to move into the playoff bracket.
  • Tampa Bay at Detroit: It’s been almost a year now, but these clubs did meet up in one of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.

With the Bruins on a four-game losing skid, they’ve opened the door for the Islanders to once again enter the playoff picture. Pair that with one of my favorite rivalries in the Metropolitan Division (at least), and we’ve got a surefire featured matchup!

 

The rivalry between these two clubs is well documented in multiple places around the web, though I would recommend the YouTube videos I included on November 18 when these teams met for the second time this season. In gist, previous meetings between these clubs have been… scrappy.

As mentioned before, 34-26-12 New York is licking its chops in anticipation for tonight’s game, because a win over a rival is made only sweeter by moving into the second wild card spot that is currently occupied by 38-30-6 Boston.

For the ninth-place Isles (fifth in the Metropolitan) to actually secure that win, they’ll need to shore up a defensive end that has been a little more than leaky this season. They’ve allowed 216 goals against already this year, the #fifth-most in the NHL.

Of course, that starts with the goaltender. Enter 25-16-5 Thomas Greiss, who was officially declared New York‘s starting goaltender after 6-8-5 Jaroslav Halak was sent to Bridgeport on New Year’s Eve. Greiss has tried to make solid use of his time, but his .914 season save percentage and 2.67 GAA rank only #(t)24th and #28th-best among the 46 goalies with at least 23 appearances.

While those are below-average numbers, it’s not as if he’s the only hole on that end of the Islanders‘ ice. The defense playing in front of him is not much better, as they allow 32.1 shots-per-game to reach Greiss’ net – the #fifth-highest average in the NHL. The main reason New York isn’t worse is the incredible play of Calvin de Haan, who has 170 shot blocks to his credit to not only lead the team, but also rank #fifth-best in the league.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but another issue in New York has been a power play that is successful on only 15.8% of attempts – the #fifth-worst effort in the league. Just like he does on the even-strength attack, Captain John Tavares has been the star of the man-advantage with his team-leading 17 power play points. He’s joined at the top of the Isles‘ extra-man scorers list by Anders Lee, as both have buried seven tallies.

Though their injury list is nearly as long as this preview, the 46-17-10 Penguins are the second-best team in the Metropolitan, Eastern Conference and the NHL. Having already locked up their spot in the playoffs, Pittsburgh will try to continue their impressive offensive performance that has returned 250 goals – the #most in the NHL.

As you’d probably guess, the man behind that charge is none other than Captain Sidney Crosby. He leads Pittsburgh‘s offensive juggernaut with 81 points, 41 of which are goals – another mark he paces the club in. His season goal total is already the second-highest of his career, but it doesn’t seem he’ll match or succeed his 2009-’10 personal best of 51 tallies in a campaign.

One of the Pens‘ favorite ways to score the puck is via the power play, as they are #tied for third-best in the league with their 22.3% success rate. Second-year Penguin Phil Kessel has been instrumental in that effort with his team-leading 28 power play points, but Crosby still manages to get his beak wet, as 13 of his goals have come with the extra-man – the most on the squad.

So far this year, the Penguins have had the upper-hand when squaring off against the Islanders, as they’ve won two of the previous three matchups. Of course, the most recent meeting on November 30 was the one the Isles won 5-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Josh Bailey (37 assists [leads the team]), Cal Clutterbuck (193 hits [leads the team]), Dennis Seidenberg (+23 [leads the team]) and Tavares (62 points [leads the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Ian Cole (+28 [seventh-best in the league]), Crosby (41 goals [leads the NHL] for 81 points [tied for second-most in the league]), Matthew Murray (.925 save percentage [sixth-best in the NHL] for a 2.34 GAA [10th-best in the league]) and Justin Schultz (+32 [tied for best in the NHL]).

I haven’t seen Vegas’ line for tonight’s game yet, but I can only assume it favors the home Penguins. None are better than Pittsburgh at scoring the puck, and the Islanders can’t help but allow goals. All signs point toward the Isles fighting for a playoff spot on a different night.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Jarvis (1955-) – Toronto selected this center 24th-overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, but he never played a game for the Leafs. Instead, he played most of his 13 seasons in Montréal, where he hoisted four-straight Stanley Cups. His hardware collection also includes the 1984 Frank J. Selke and the 1987 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophies.
  • Pat Price (1955-) – 13 picks before Jarvis was selected, the Islanders picked up this defenseman. He played 13 seasons in the NHL, and spent most of his time in Quebec. From 1976-’78, he registered an impressive +51 rating on only 37 points.
  • Philippe Boucher (1973-) – The 13th-overall selection in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, this defenseman spent 16 seasons in the league, mostly in Los Angeles. During his sixth campaign with Dallas, he was traded to Pittsburgh to win the 2009 Stanley Cup and close out his career.
  • Maxim Kuznetsov (1977-) – Detroit selected this defenseman 26th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his NHL career. Unfortunately for him, his tenure in the league was only 136 games and four seasons long.
  • Ron Hainsey (1981-) – A longtime member of the Thrashers/Jets organization, this defenseman was selected 13th-overall by Montréal in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Similar to Boucher, Hainsey was traded to Pittsburgh at this season’s trade deadline in hopes of claiming his first Stanley Cup.
  • P.A. Parenteau (1983-) – Though selected by Anaheim in the ninth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing has been a career journeyman over his nine seasons in the league. Currently, he plays for the Predators after joining them at this season’s trade deadline.

I predicted a defensive matchup, and that’s exactly what we got in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as Washington needed a shootout to knock off the Blue Jackets at the Verizon Center.

Although a combined total of 48 shots were fired over the course of the first 40 minutes, the first goal of the game wasn’t struck until the 41 second mark of the third period. That tally belonged to Seth Jones (Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner) and the Jackets, but the Capitals were more than prepared to deal with that obstacle. 5:58 after Jones’ marker, Third Star of the Game Dmitry Orlov (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) buried his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at one-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five-minute three-on-three overtime period.

Who knew that even a shootout could be a defensive affair?

  1. The only person that didn’t apply to was T.J. Oshie, who scored the first shootout attempt to give the Caps an early lead.
  2. Cam Atkinson was charged with leveling the shootout for Columbus, but First Star Braden Holtby was having none of that. He saved Atkinson’s shot to keep Washington‘s 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Evgeny Kuznetsov tried to improve on the Capitals‘ advantage, but Second Star Sergei Bobrovsky would not yield.
  4. Sam Gagner tried to reward Bobrovsky’s work, but he met a worse fate than Atkinson – he completely missed.
  5. Nicklas Backstrom had a chance to end the shootout with a goal, but Bobrovsky earned one more shot for his club after saving the center’s attempt.
  6. It’s not often a team gets three tries to tie a shootout, but Alexander Wennberg did not take advantage of that opportunity. Holtby made the save to earn the extra point in the standings.

Holtby saved 29-of-20 shots faced (96.7%) to earn the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 44-of-45 (97.8%).

That victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which is now tied at 79-56-23.

February 16 – Day 120 – Battle in the Big Apple

Congratulations! At game time tonight, there’s only one more day of work before the weekend! To celebrate, I’d recommend hockey.

You have a wide selection of games to choose from this evening, as 16 teams are in action this evening. Per usual, contests start at 7 p.m. with three games (the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [TVAS], Ottawa at New Jersey [RDS] and Winnipeg at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by Colorado at Buffalo (NBCSN). Two games drop the puck at 8 p.m. (Vancouver at St. Louis [SN/SN360] and Dallas at Minnesota), with Philadelphia at Edmonton waiting an hour before getting underway. Finally, Arizona at Los Angeles – tonight’s nightcap – gets the green light at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at New York: The situation has certainly changed since the last time these rivals met.
  • Dallas at Minnesota: Remember last season’s Western Conference Quarterfinals? The Stars beat the Wild in six games.

The Battle of New York has some huge short-term implications on the standings. Pair that pressure with the rivalry and we should have a good game on our hands.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

The 37-18-1 Rangers aren’t back to Madison Square Garden yet! After going to Columbus and beating the Blue Jackets 3-2 for their sixth-straight victory, the Blueshirts complete their two-game road trip with a stop at the Barclays Center in possession of fourth place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. When they’re at their peak – and they are right now – the Rangers are an offensive-minded team, as they’ve scored 190 goals so far this season, the third-most in the league.

The man leading that charge is none other than J.T. Miller, a fifth-year left wing from the Plymouth Whalers. Although he’s one of four Rangers with at least 40 points to his credit, he tops the club with his 46. Many of those points have been assists though, and that’s where Michael Grabner, the right wing on the Blueshirts‘ third line, comes into play. Grabner has buried the puck 26 times this season to lead the team.

Yes, you read that correctly: third line. No matter who is on the ice, the Rangers are potent.

Playing host this evening are the 25-20-10 Islanders, the sixth-best team in the Metropolitan and 10th in the East. The main reason the Isles find themselves on the outside of playoff contention is due to their defense, which has allowed 162 goals in 55 games – the sixth-worst rate in the NHL.

17-10-3 Thomas Greiss has been charged with manning the crease more often than not this season, and for good reason: his .918 season save percentage and 2.55 GAA are the best on the team. And those are solid numbers even when compared to the rest of the league. He ranks (t)16th and (t)19th, respectively, against the 50 other netminders with at least 15 appearances this season.

No, the goals are not on Greiss’ head. Instead, I point the finger at an Islanders defense that allows 32.4 shots to reach his crease per game, the fourth-worst effort in the NHL. Although Calvin de Haan has been an absolute shot blocking machine (his 141 blocks not only lead the team, but are also fourth-most in the league), he is the only blueliner with more than 110 blocks to his credit. If Garth Snow thinks it’s in the card for his club to qualify for the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Isles make a move for another defenseman.

Although the Isles‘ offense as a whole has been adequate this season, one part of their game that still needs to improve is the power play. Even with Captain John Tavares‘ team-leading 14 power play points, the Islanders only convert 16% of opponents’ penalties into goals – the sixth-worst rate in the NHL. Anders Lee has been the final man responsible for most of the limited success the Islanders have found this season, as he’s buried seven goals with the man-advantage, one more than Tavares.

Although these clubs are separated by only a half-hour train ride, this is only the third time this season they’ve met. It’s been an even series so far, as both teams have won a game and lost one in regulation. The last time they met was December 6, when the Islanders beat the Rangers 4-2 on this surface.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include the IslandersJosh Bailey (27 assists [leads the team]), Dennis Seidenberg (+18 [best on the team]) and Tavares (46 points [leads the team]) & the Rangers‘ Grabner (26 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league] for a +28 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (26 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.32 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]).

By the narrowest of margins, Vegas has marked the Islanders to win tonight’s game with a -105 line. Unfortunately for them, that’s not the way I see this game going. The Rangers are red-hot right now, and that offense will be more than enough to overpower the Isles‘ miserable defense.

Hockey Birthday

  • Lanny McDonald (1953-) – If for nothing else, this right wing deserved to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his mustache alone, but four All-Star appearances and the 1989 Stanley Cup don’t hurt. He was drafted fourth-overall by Toronto in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft, but he spent most of his 16-year career in Calgary.

Although Detroit tried valiantly with the sixth attacker, they were unable to break First Star of the Game Carter Hutton, who earned a two-goal shutout victory for the Blues in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With St. Louis‘ first shot of the game, Second Star Ivan Barbashev (Kenny Agostino and Carl Gunnarsson) takes credit for the game-winning goal. He buried his wrist shot 2:06 after the beginning of play.

The only goal in the game was an unassisted wrister by Jaden Schwartz on an open net with 11 seconds remaining on the clock.

Hutton earns the shutout victory after saving all 25 shots he faced, leaving the loss to Third Star Petr Mrazek, who saved 27-of-28 (96.4%).

The Blues‘ victory is the third-straight by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which pulls visitors within two points of the 62-42-18 hosts.

*Also, don’t tell anybody, but St. Louis just swept it’s five-game road trip.*

Numbers Game: Ranking the NHL Mascots (5-1)

The following is a continuation of the ranking of all of the mascots in the NHL, based on the list of NHL mascots Wikipedia page.

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Blades is definitely mascot goals if you want to make the top five. (Photo by Brian Babineau/ Getty Images)

5. Blades- Boston Bruins

Blades is a fierce looking mascot with a big heart deep inside. Trust me, from personal experience, Blades is really nice, despite what nightmares he may give you. The Bruins hit one out of the park when they introduced Blades, a bruin (which is an old English word for “bear”, look it up) that has luscious blue eyes.

Additionally, Blades is less sarcastic than The Bear, Boston’s unofficial mascot that they use in plenty of marketing schemes who helps fit the New England stereotype of being tough and a diehard fan of Rene Rancourt.

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Slapshot is a great mascot for the Capitals, but enough with the drum, Slapshot, we’re trying to watch the game. (Photo via @Caps_Slapshot)

4. Slapshot- Washington Capitals

Nothing screams patriotism than a bald eagle representing your hockey franchise that plays in Washington, D.C. Nothing. Slapshot is an excellent mascot. Seriously. Well done. Props to you, Washington Capitals, you remembered to give your wicked cool mascot pants and all.

My only complaint (like with any mascot) is the drum. I hate those during play and they’re pretty tacky if your fan base can’t rally themselves and must be provoked to cheer or chant. Okay, rant over, please don’t hate me Capitals fans. It’s nothing against you, just something about sports that I’ve observed over the years.

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Wild Wing, you make my heart sing. (Photo via @WildWing_93)

3. Wild Wing- Anaheim Ducks

The California teams sweep the podium in my ranking of the NHL’s mascots and for good reason. To some, Wild Wing could rank higher or lower, but to me, Wild Wing comes in at number three. Look, this is a quality mascot. I have no complaints other than minor qualms about Wild Wing’s lack of pants and such. And if you claim he’s wearing pants and that they’re white. Newsflash, IT’S AFTER LABOR DAY.

As an aside, I’ve never seen the Mighty Ducks or any of the sequels. No, I won’t watch them because you tell me I have to in order to be a real ’90s kid, hockey fan or whatever.

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S.J. Sharkie + Brent Burns forever. True love does exist. (Photo via @sjsharkie)

2. S.J. Sharkie- San Jose Sharks

What other mascot tries to eat everyone they meet? Anyone? Anyone? I didn’t think so. S.J. Sharkie not only rappels from the rafters (and gets stuck every now and then), but likes to offer his bite instead of a handshake as a formal greeting. Simply put, S.J. Sharkie is on the shortlist of mascots I wouldn’t mind having at my birthday party sometime.

No amount of Metallica could keep the Shark Tank rocking on its own. S.J. Sharkie is the heart and soul of SAP Center and he knows how to keep it loud all the time. Party at S.J. Sharkie’s everyone.

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Bailey is truly the pride of the pack. He is the king of mascots. (Photo via @BaileyLAKings)

1. Bailey- Los Angeles Kings

Bailey reigns supreme over all of the other mascots in the NHL. He’s got the royal look down with the heart of a lion. Though lions are typically menacing, Bailey’s actually pretty amiable. The Los Angeles Kings really outdid themselves with the creation and implementation of Bailey as their mascot.

Named after the Kings’s pro scouting director, Garnet “Ace” Bailey, who was tragically killed when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower on 9/11, the Los Angeles franchise turned the tragedy and mourning of a coworker, mentor, friend and family member into part of the organization’s legacy forever. What better way to memorialize a man like “Ace” Bailey than by making him the most approachable mascot in the NHL?

December 6 – Day 55 – On either end of the spectrum

It’s another busy Tuesday in the NHL! Per usual, the action gets started at 7 p.m. with four games (Edmonton at Buffalo, Vancouver at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at the New York Islanders [SN1] and Florida at Philadelphia), trailed an hour later by three more (Montréal at St. Louis [RDS], Colorado at Nashville [TVAS] and Detroit at Winnipeg). Two contests (Arizona at Chicago and Calgary at Dallas) share nightcap responsibilities, and they fulfill that duty quickly dropping the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.

  • New York at New York: In addition to being bitter rivals, the Rangers barely held off the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division a season ago.
  • Calgary at Dallas: Jyrki Jokipakka played the last two seasons in the American Airlines Center, but tonight he wears white with the visitors.

Since the defenseman never played a full season in Dallas, I think we need to tune in to the Battle of New York.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I’m as disappointed as you that this is probably definitely a cover. Not only did I check it by ear, but Shazam also won’t recognize this cut of the track. Dang you, Taylor Swift, and your restrictive and inconvienent, yet probably well-informed distrust of music streaming sites!

Anyways, the Rangers enter tonight’s game with a 17-8-1 record and have the opportunity to surpass Montréal for the best mark in the Eastern Conference should the Habs fall. They’ve gotten to that position riding their incredible offense that has struck 95 goals already this season, far-and-away the most in the league.

For most teams, 19 points should not be leading the club. Unless that club is the Rangers, which has two 19-point scorers, followed by an 18-pointer, three 17-pointers, etc. You get the idea. Those two leaders with 19-points are Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller. Both those skaters’ impacts have been evenly split between goals and assists, which leaves the scoring lead open to Michael Grabner, who has already lit the lamp 13 times this season.

Effectively, the easiest thing to say about New York‘s offense is this: Almost. Every. Single. Skater. Is. A. Weapon. You have been warned, Brooklyn.

Part of the reason for that success has been a successful power play. The Rangers‘ 22.7% conversion rate ranks sixth-best in the NHL. Led by Rick Nash‘s team-leading four extra-man goals and six power play points, the Blueshirts have struck 17 man-advantage goals already this season.

The other special team has also been very good. The Rangers‘ penalty kill ranks ninth-best, stopping their opposition 85.1% of the time. Kevin Klein gets to take a lot of credit for the success, as he leads the team with 13 shorthanded blocks.

As good as the Rangers have been, the Islanders have been bad. In fact, they are the worst team in the conference, due almost entirely to their lackluster offense, capable of only 61 goals so far this year – the seventh-fewest in the league.

Nineteen seems to be the magic number in the Big Apple, as that’s exactly how many points Captain John Tavares has as well. Unfortunately for him, he’s not backed by a bunch of others with similar totals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson have tied for second-most productive, but with only 15 points on their resumes. Three skaters lead the Isles with six goals: Anders Lee, Nelson and Tavares.

Not surprisingly, the power play hasn’t treated the Boys from Brooklyn any better. Their 11.6% success rate with the man-advantage is the worst in the league. Equally expected, Tavares has taken the lead on this department of play as well, as his five power play points is best on the team, as do his two man-advantage tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include the IslandersDennis Seidenberg (+12 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & the Rangers‘ Grabner (+19 [best in the NHL] on 13 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]), Hayes (+16 [third-best in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (12 wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (.931 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]).

I pick New York to win this game.

In all seriousness, there should be no way the Rangers lose this game. Vegas has marked the Islanders a +120 underdog, and I think that’s far too narrow a margin. It won’t pay out much, but if you’re the gambling type you should definitely pick the Blueshirts.

Hockey Birthday

  • Matt Niskanen (1986-) – The 28th-overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Dallas, this defenseman is currently in his third season with Washington. So far this season, his nine points is second-most among the Capitals‘ defensive corps.

If you like offense and goal-scoring, yesterday’s Game of the Day was for you, as Pittsburgh beat the visiting Senators 8-5.

Hopefully this summary won’t be too long-winded.

First Star of the Game Bryan Rust (Second Star Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang) opened the scoring for Pittsburgh only 1:45 into the game, but their lead lasted only 6:33 before Kyle Turris (Ryan Dzingel and Chris Wideman) leveled for the Senators. The Penguins regained the lead only 27 seconds before Sidney Crosby (Conor Sheary and Ian Cole) regained the lead with a wrist shot. 6:16 before the first intermission, Erik Karlsson (Mark Stone) buried a wrist shot to tie the game at two-all.

A minute after returning to the ice, Stone’s (Dion Phaneuf and Karlsson) power play backhander gave the Sens their first lead of the game, which doubled 6:08 later when Mike Hoffman (Karlsson and Stone) scored a power play snap shot. Matt Cullen (Rust) set the score at 4-3 with a shorthanded backhander only 80 seconds later, and Third Star Phil Kessel (Justin Schultz and Cole) tied the game with 5:47 remaining in the second period. Schultz (Malkin and Kessel) scored a goal of his own 24 seconds later to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead that held into the second intermission.

Malkin (Kessel) takes credit for the eventual game-winning goal with a backhander only 1:05 after retaking the ice. Ottawa could manage only one more goal in the game, courtesy of a Phaneuf (Turris and Karlsson) wrister at the 6:17 mark. Rust scored both insurance goals, the first a penalty shot and the second an empty-netter assisted by Chris Kunitz and Brian Dumoulin.

Matthew Murray takes credit for Pittsburgh‘s victory, saving 17-of-18 shots faced (94.4%). He replaced starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who saved 12-of-16 (75%) before being replaced after Hoffman’s lead-taking goal 7:08 into the second period. Fleury, of course, earned no decision.

Craig Anderson takes the loss after saving 36-of-43 shots faced (83.7%). He was replaced by ex-Penguin Mike Condon with 7:24 remaining in regulation (the score was then 7-5), who was the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker before Rust’s third goal. Condon saved both shots he faced and, just like Fleury, he earned no decision.

The Penguins‘ victory increases the home sides’ lead over the roadies to four points in the DtFR Game of the Day series, advancing their record to 30-19-8.

December 13 – Day 67 – No Sleep Till Brooklyn!

In yesterday’s Game of the Day, the Boston Bruins defended home ice by beating the Florida Panthers 3-1.

First Star of the Game Ryan Spooner accounted for the first tally of the game at the 11:35 mark of the opening period.  He was assisted by Torey Krug, his 14th helper of the season.

Spooner was also responsible for the eventual game-winning goal, which came on a power play at the 8:00 mark of the second.  Third Star Patrice Bergeron notched his first of two assists on the afternoon, as well as David Krejci.

Florida began to mount a comeback with a goal at the 13:56 mark of the final period, compliments of ex-Bruin Reilly Smith, assisted by Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Pirri.  As they could not earn another opportunity, the Panthers pulled their goalie in the final minutes, which led to the final Bruin tally via Brad Marchand, assisted by Bergeron.

Second Star Tuukka Rask (11-7-3) saved 27 of 28 (96.4%) to earn his 11th victory of the season, while Roberto Luongo (10-11-3) saved 22 of 24 (91.7%) in the loss.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 22-9-5, favoring the home side by 19 points.

Per usual, this Sunday’s load is one of the lightest of the week.  A total of three games are being played today, with the action getting started at 5 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits the New York Islanders.  An hour later, the puck drops in the Scottrade Center when Colorado visits St. Louis.  The evening’s nightcap gets an early start, as Vancouver and Chicago (NHLN/TVAS/SN) get started at 7 p.m. eastern in the United Center.

Two of today’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at New York and Colorado at St. Louis) and two are between current playoff qualifiers (New Jersey at New York and Vancouver at Chicago).  The one that qualifies for both is today’s Game of the Day:

New Jersey Devils LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is New Jersey‘s second appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series.  Their only other appearance was a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blueshirts on Oct. 18.  Due to the hiatus I was forced into, this is New York‘s first appearance in the Game of the Day series.

15-10-4 Jersey enters today’s game after beating Detroit 3-2 in overtime Friday night.  They are a defensive-minded team, a strategy that is currently earning them the second wild card position in the eastern conference.

So far this season, 13-7-4 Cory Schneider and the Devils have only allowed 68 goals, a total that is well below the league average of 77.  Although Schneider and co. have played well this season, their strength has been found by only allowing 824 shots to reach him, thanks to Adam Larsson’s team-leading 56 blocks.  Even when a man-down, the Devils have still done well in preventing the opposition from scoring.  Jersey has only allowed 18 goals on 100 attempts this season, giving them a 82% kill rate that exceeds the league average by 1.15%.

Offensively, things have gone a little slower for the Devils so far this season, as they’ve only notched 72 tallies before today, led by 13-a-piece from Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri.  This is only a symptom of their real problem, though, which is shots.  They have only 748 attempts to their credit (led by Mike Cammalleri’s 84), well below the league average of 853.

The component of their offense that has kept Jersey relevant this season has been their power play.  22 of their 72 goals have come with a man-advantage (led by Palmieri’s five), even if it did take 103 attempts (10 more than the league average).

17-8-5 New York is currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 3-2 victory in Columbus yesterday.  Although the Isles have been strong on both ends of the ice, their strong suit has been their defensive efforts, which is currently earning them the third division spot in the Metropolitan Division.

So far this season, 15-8-4 Jaroslav Halak and New York has given up only 68 goals.  Especially significant about this effort compared to New Jersey‘s comparable 68 is that Halak and co. have faced 852 shots – 28 more than Schneider and the Devils.  Pair strong goalkeeping with a team-leading 78 blocks from Calvin de Haan, and you find a strong defensive side.  New York‘s penalty kill has also been very strong, as they’ve killed 85.39% of all man-advantages, allowing only 13 goals.

Offensively, the Isles have scored 79 goals so far this season (led by John Tavares’ 12 tallies).  Just as Jersey‘s low goal total is an indicator of not many shots, the Isles‘ higher goal total is a symptom of more shots on goal – 854, to be exact (led by Frans Nielsen’s 80).

An intriguing facet of New York‘s game is their power play.  They have found great success so far this season, scoring 16 times (led by three-a-piece from Josh Bailey and Tavares), but on only 76 opportunities.  I must admit, I have not watched much of New York this season, so I do not know if teams are purposefully avoiding the box as much as possible when playing the Isles, or if the Islanders aren’t doing enough to draw penalties.  Regardless, New York needs to find a way to get on the man-advantage more often since it is such a strength of theirs.

Some players to watch in this afternoon’s game include New Jersey‘s Cammalleri (30 points [tied for eighth in the league] and +12 [tenth in the league]) and Schneider (13 wins [tied for fifth in the league], 2.09 GAA [eighth in the league] and .926 save percentage [10th in the league]), and New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.928 save percentage [seventh in the league]).

I believe the Isles will defend home ice for the victory this afternoon, mostly because I think New York‘s defense can handle New Jersey‘s offense, but the Devils will not have an answer for the Isles‘ offensive efforts.