Tag Archives: Barkov

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 22

Skater of the Week: Brad Marchand

Yeah, I know, it hurts me to do it. But eight points in three games is a tough stat line to argue against.

*leans away from microphone looking off to stage right* THAT’LL BE ENOUGH OUT OF YOU, @nlanciani53! WE KNOW HE’S GOOD, WE JUST REALLY HATE HIS FACE!

Anyway, here’s how the ‘Little Ball of Hate’ earned the nod for the week.

Marchand started the week by single-handedly ruining the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, racking up three goals and two assists (one of each on the power play) for a five-point night, and tacked on the game-winner for good measure. Then on Thursday he notched a single goal against Philadelphia, with it also being the game-winning tally. Then he capped the week with a pair of ‘apples’ on Saturday to finish off the week with a 50/50 split of four goals and four assists.

Also he possibly tried to murder Anthony Duclair maybe.

Brad Marchand, folks.

Tendy of the Week: Cam Talbot

The Oilers have suddenly remembered how to hockey. It’s a bit late, but hey, good on ’em.

Talbot has, like basically everyone in Edmonton not wearing #97, had a bit of a forgettable year. Currently carrying a .906 save percentage and 3.03 GAA, but sporting a near-.500 record, Talbot’s stats are basically a microcosm of the year the Oilers are having. In fact, his three-straight wins this week directly followed three-straight losses.

But for now we’re focusing on those three wins, as I’m sure all of Edmonton would like to do. Talbot carries a .949 and 1.61 out of the week with him, stopping 94-of-99 shots faced. He did start the week with three goals against on Monday when Arizona visited Rogers Place, but still managed a .914 save percentage on 35 shots. After that he basically completely shut down both the Islanders on Thursday (one goal on 31 shots) and Wild on Saturday (one goal on 33 shots).

It’s definitely a case of too little too late in Edmonton, but a strong finish to the season could give the team, organization, and fans a much-needed morale boost heading into the offseason.

Besides, regardless of where they finish in the standings, we know they’re winning the draft lottery…

Game of the Week: Florida Panthers 4 @ Tampa Bay Lightning 5 (OT), Tuesday March 6th, 2018

If you like hockey games that have a little bit of everything, go watch the condensed game highlights of this one.

Nine goals on 82 shots, 56 hits (evenly split at 28 per team), a fight, a hat trick, and a beautiful overtime winner in a tilt between two in-state rivals. Definitely a candidate for game of the year.

You’d have never guessed there would be nine goals scored if you just watched the first half of the first period. Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Roberto Luongo were fully on their game, and both goaltenders made multiple standout saves just in the opening minutes alone. In particular, Vasi’s early denial of Nick Bjugstad on a two-on-one and Luongo’s breakaway glove snag on J.T. Miller stand out.

Also early in the first period we had a scrap between the Lightning’s Braydon Coburn, who is 6’5″ and 223 lbs., and Michael Haley, who is neither of those things. Haley, the NHL’s penalty minutes leader this season, more than held his own in a fairly uneventful scrap, but it certainly got the crowd at Amalie Arena into the game.

Finally first blood would be drawn at the 10:38 mark, when Yanni Gourde would pounce on an off-the-glass rebound at the side of the net before Luongo could locate the puck and put the Lightning on top. Vasilevskiy would make a pair of outstanding stops on consecutive shots from Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov to keep the score 1-0, eventually allowing Miller to take a Gourde centering pass from behind the goal line and roof a backhand over the glove of Luongo to extend the Tampa lead to 2-0 at the 12:51 mark. Although being outshot 15-8, the Lightning would nearly survive the first with their lead unblemished, but with just 1:37 to play it would be Bjugstad firing one from the goal line to Vasilevskiy’s left that ricocheted off the goaltender’s shoulder and into the net behind him, sending the two teams to the locker rooms with the score at 2-1.

The second period would see a much faster start, as once again Yanni Gourde (recording his third point in three Tampa goals) put his entire heart and soul into a turnaround wrist shot from the right circle that beat Luongo high glove and put his Lightning up 3-1 just 1:27 into the second. A good chunk of the second would pass rather uneventfully (sans a great save by Luongo on Nikita Kucherov) before Bjugstand would walk out from the corner with Steven Stamkos all over him, drive to the crease and bang home his own rebound to bring the Panthers within one again at the 13:35 mark. But less than three minutes later the lead would stretch again as Alex Killorn picked up a juicy rebound off of a Stamkos one-timer and send the game to its final intermission with a 4-2 score in favor of the home team.

The two-goal lead would last just 21 seconds into the third period, as Bjugstad would bury his third of the game to cut the deficit in half. After an Andrej Sustr tripping penalty a few minutes later, Vincent Trocheck would finally knot the score with a power play wrister from the right circle, beating Vasilevskiy just between the glove and left pad. 4-4 would remain the score through the end of regulation, despite the best efforts of the Panthers who would total 16 third period shots to Tampa’s 11, though a tipped Sustr point shot finding Luongo’s left goal post was probably the closest call of the rest of the third. But, alas, off to overtime we’d go.

A fairly tame start to OT would give way to serious offensive zone pressure by Tampa right around the midway point of the frame. Anton Stralman nearly ended things with a one-timer fired at a gaping net, but it would hit the outside of the post and be collected in the corner by Tyler Johnson. Johnson would give it back to Stralman, who saw an open Brayden Point (waving every available limb and utensil frantically) waiting just inside the right circle. Point would receive the pass, absolutely dance a charging Evgeny Dadonov out of his skates, then roof a laserbeam over the glove of Luongo to rid Amalie Arena of its roof and send the Bolts faithful home happy.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

The Carolina Hurricanes are accepting job applications for their next General Manager via Twitter. Obviously we here at DTFR are biased, but I think we’d all gladly throw our hats in the ring for our own @capncornelius to get the gig.

Sidney Crosby reached 1,100 career points, which seems like a slightly obscure number to celebrate. But congrats, I guess.

…this was a slow news week…umm, hey @connorzkeith, can you throw in some sort of funny cat photo or something for filler in the edit? Thanks, buddy.

*Editor’s note: Don’t forget Alex Ovechkin‘s 600th career goal and Marc-Andre Fleury‘s 400th career win last night, @vanekatthedisco! Anyways, time to empty the cat folder. Here’s a few of my faves:*

March 4 – Day 144 – High-Flying Panthers

It’s another Sunday Funday in the NHL, as there’s a solid seven games on today’s schedule. With half of those games happening before prime time, you can spread your hockey throughout the entire day!

The action starts at 3 p.m. when a pair of games drop the puck (Nashville at Colorado [SN] and Philadelphia at Florida [TVAS]), followed an hour later by Chicago at Anaheim (NHLN). Vegas at New Jersey gets underway at 5 p.m., while a pair of tilts (Detroit at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Winnipeg at Carolina [SN]) waits until the usual 7 p.m. starting time. Finally, Columbus at San Jose closes out the evening’s festivities with their 9 p.m. tilt. All times Eastern.

In the list of today’s most intriguing narratives, I have only two games to offer – neither of which have exceedingly exciting headlines.

  • Nashville at Colorado: Now’s as good a time as any to remind you that in the F Matt Duchene-C Kyle Turris trade, Ottawa was supposed to be the team getting the talent upgrade. Turns out the Sens were wrong.
  • Vegas at New Jersey: D Jonathon Merrill was selected by Vegas during the expansion draft from the Devils, the organization he spent the first five years of his professional career with.

However, neither of those games really seem all that exciting to me. Instead, I’d much rather travel down to South Florida to see if these Panthers are for real or not.


There have been few teams better than the 34-20-11 Flyers in the last month of action. Since February 3, Philadelphia has earned an impressive 10-1-3 record to catapult itself into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

A major reason for the Flyers’ recent success has been their effort on the defensive end, which is wild to think about considering 21-11-7 G Brian Elliott and 8-7-3 G Michal Neuvirth are both on injured reserve to force four different goaltenders into action in Philly’s last 14 games.

However, a goaltender’s success almost always starts with the defense playing in front of him, and the Flyers have been pretty darn good in their own end. Led by D Shayne Gostisbehere (two blocks per game since February 3), D Robert Hagg (3.5 hits per game in Philly’s last 14 games) and D Ivan Provorov (nine takeaways over this run), Philadelphia has allowed only 31.14 shots against per game over its last 14 games – the eighth-best mark in the NHL since February 3.

That brings us back to the Flyers’ goaltending situation. Since arriving from Detroit, 3-1-1 G Petr Mrazek has been the Flyers’ starter. However, following his 7-6 shootout loss yesterday in Tampa, it would seem likely that 2-1-0 G Alex Lyon will be between the pipes today. He’s started two of Philly’s last 14 games, posting a .921 save percentage and 2.55 GAA to improve his season marks to a .903 save percentage and 2.88 GAA.

Of course, all this talk about the defense doesn’t mean the Flyers don’t know what to do with the puck on their sticks. In fact, Philly has scored 3.36 goals per game during this run, the (t)ninth-best mark in the NHL since February 3.

At the helm of this attack is none other than F Claude Giroux (8-11-19 totals since February 3) and Gostisbehere (0-15-15 in Philly’s past 14 games), both of whom are averaging more than a point per game during this Flyers hot streak. Giroux and Gostisbehere have united to score eight times in the past month, including the defenseman’s last three assists.

The 31-25-6 Panthers have been equally good since returning from a five-game, nine-day road trip, as they’re currently riding a five-game winning streak that includes victories over Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto and New Jersey.

The biggest reason for Florida’s surge? The incredible play of 11-7-1 G Roberto Luongo. Even though he’s faced a terrible 33.4 shots against per game since February 22 (the 12th-worst mark in the NHL in that time) Luongo has posted a solid .922 save percentage and 2.71 GAA in his five starts to lead the Panthers to allowing a (t)third-best 2.4 goals against per game in that time. Luongo’s season marks now read as a .927 save percentage and 2.58 GAA.

Florida’s offense has also been stellar in the past week or so, scoring an average of 3.8 goals per game since February 22 – the fifth-most in the league in that time. C Aleksander Barkov (4-4-8 totals since February 22), W Evgeni Dadonov (3-5-8 over this run) and F Nick Bjugstad (1-4-5 during this winning streak) have been major parts of this surge, as they’ve all averaged at least a point per game over Florida’s past five games and show no sign of slowing down.

For those that like rubber games, today’s finale of the Flyers and Panthers’ three-game series is the one for you. So far, each team has hosted one game and earned a victory. Philadelphia won October 17’s game at Wells Fargo Center 5-1 (Neuvirth earned First Star honors with his 40-save performance), while the Panthers earned a 3-2 victory at BB&T Center on December 28 (F Jonathan Huberdeau provided the Panthers’ game-winning goal in the second period) to even the series at 1-1-0.

There’s much to be gained for both teams by earning two points today, but the most noticeable impact on the standings occurs if Florida emerges as today’s victor. Should the Panthers do anything better than lose in regulation, there’s a chance they could jump both Carolina and Columbus for the second wild card. For that to happen, both the Hurricanes and Jackets must lose in regulation today. Similarly, if the Panthers win while Carolina and Columbus earn only a point apiece, the Florida would advance into the East’s eight seed.

No matter what happens to Philadelphia today, it’s not budging from its spot as the Metropolitan’s second-best club. However, the Flyers can pull into a tie with division-leading Washington with two points, though the Capitals would win that tiebreaker with a game in hand.

There’s also a lot of action in Philly’s rear view mirror, starting with intrastate rival Pittsburgh. With today’s game being the Flyers’ game in hand on the Penguins, they’ll surely want to improve on their one-point advantage to ensure home-ice in the first round of the playoffs.

I’m expecting nothing short of a stellar game today between these clubs. However, the fact that the Flyers played to a hard-fought shootout loss yesterday while Florida was inactive, not to mention Lyon being in net will likely play a major role in this tilt. I think the Panthers earn two points today.

With three goals in the first period, the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Caps wasted no time in taking control of this game. With D Travis Dermott in the penalty box for holding F Jay Beagle at the 2:43 mark, Second Star of the Game F Evgeny Kuznetsov (Third Star C Nicklas Backstrom and First Star D John Carlson) scored a wrist shot only 67 seconds later to give Washington an early edge. Though F Zach Hyman (D Roman Polak) was able to level the game for Toronto only 1:30 later, an W Alex Ovechkin (RW Tom Wilson and Backstrom) wrister at the 6:19 mark gave Washington a lead it would not yield for the rest of the night.

That fact was cemented with 3:40 remaining in the first period when Backstrom (Kuznetsov and Carlson) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal. After F Dominic Moore earned himself a delay of game penalty at the 15:28 mark for launching the puck over the glass, Backstrom dug out a wrister in the crease to give Washington a 3-1 advantage.

For those wondering, the Capitals’ power play converted both its opportunities tonight, further proving it deserves every bit of its ranking as fifth-best after converting 22.5 percent on the season.

At the 7:22 mark of the second period, C Nazem Kadri (F Patrick Marleau and Dermott) scored a wrister to pull the Maple Leafs back within a goal, but Carlson’s (F Chandler Stephenson and Beagle) wrister only 43 seconds later returned an insurance goal to Washington’s back pocket. LW Jakub Vrana (Kuznetsov and D Dmitry Orlov) cleaned up the game’s scoring with 9:11 remaining in the second frame, scoring a wrister to set the 5-2 final score.

G Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 27-of-29 shots faced (.931 save percentage), leaving the loss to G Frederik Andersen, who saved 20-of-25 (.8). At the whistle following Vrana’s goal, Andersen was lifted in favor of G Curtis McElhinney, who saved all nine shots he faced in 28:49 of action for no decision.

To be the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series is to be a winner lately. The 78-47-19 hosts have won their fourth-straight in the series, taking a 26-point advantage over the roadies.

Florida Panthers 2017-’18 Season Preview

Florida Panthers

35-36-11, 81 points, sixth in the Atlantic Division

Additions: W Evgeni Dadonov, C Micheal Haley, RW Radim Vrbata

Subtractions: G Reto Berra (signed with ANA), F Jussi Jokinen (signed with EDM), C Jon Marchessault (drafted by VGK), F Kyle Rau (signed with MIN), D Brent Regner (signed with DAL), C Michael Sgarbossa (signed with WPG), W Reilly Smith (traded to VGK), RW Paul Thompson (signed with VGK), W Thomas Vanek (signed with VAN)

Offseason Analysis: For some, the 2015-‘16 season feels like yesterday. To others, it was ages ago.

Then there’s Florida.

2016 marked the Panthers’ second playoff appearance since 2000’s sweep by Jersey, and Florida earned that berth in the most dominating way: winning the Atlantic by six points over archrival Tampa.

Though Florida was eliminated in the first round, the future looked bright. C Aleksander Barkov, C Nick Bjugstad, D Aaron Ekblad, C Jonathan Huberdeau, Smith and F Vincent Trocheck all had yet to turn 25-years-old, and they were led by ageless wonder RW Jaromir Jagr.

A year later, although that core remained intact, the Panthers found themselves golfing early, missing the playoffs by 14 points.

It’s one thing to narrowly miss the playoffs, but how could something like this happen?

One problem was Florida’s slow start. Former head coach Gerrard Gallant’s (now Vegas’ coach) Panthers started 11-10-1 before being infamously sacked after losing 3-2 at Carolina, but general-manager-turned-head-coach Tom Rowe proved unable to turn the squad around.

Maybe it was the slow start, or maybe it was the rash firing of the best head coach in franchise history, but since I’m a numbers guy (like Panthers management claims), I believe the answer lies in Florida’s goals against. During the 2015-’16 season, the Panthers scored 232 goals and allowed only 200 for a +32 differential. Last year, Florida scored 210 times (22 less than before) and allowed 237 tallies (37 more) for a -27 differential, a net change of -59.

Where did those opposing goals come from?

I believe the answer falls squarely on the front office’s shoulders. During the playoff season, Florida allowed 29.5 shots to reach G Roberto Luongo per game, tying for 13th-best in the NHL. Last season, that number climbed to 31.6 shots-per-game – the eighth-worst mark. To be fair, Luongo didn’t have the best of campaigns with a .915 save percentage and 2.68 GAA, but the fact that defensemen Brian Campbell, 25-year-old Erik Gudbranson and 26-year-old Dmitry Kulikov all departed the team before last season began, for no other apparent reason than supposed analytics, played a major role.

Trying to resolve this situation and get his squad back to where it belongs, re-anointed GM Dale Tallon elected to not resign 45-year-old Jagr (16-30-46), allow 26-year-old Marchessault (30-21-51) to be selected in the expansion draft (but, why?) and trade 26-year-old Smith (15-22-37) to Vegas.

You read that correctly: Florida thinks offense was the problem.

Don’t get me wrong: 28-year-old Dadonov (30-36-66, KHL) and 36-year-old Vrbata (20-35-55, Arizona) will be valuable additions in replacing Jagr and Marchessault, but it’s a question if Florida’s squeaking wheel didn’t receive the grease. Even if the plan was to draft the elite defenseman of the future, Tallon didn’t select one until Max Gildon of the US NTDP in the third round. Instead, he chose RW Owen Tippett with his first pick for a club with a lot of talent on that side already.

This preview isn’t an attack on advanced analytics – I’m a fan in most instances. However, this preview is an attack on GMs changing course while building arguably the most success the franchise has ever seen (yes, I know Florida won the 1996 Eastern Conference). Unloading young offensive talent – and Jagr – a year after keeping only half the defensive corps is a recipe for disaster, both now and for the immediate future of this organization.

Instead of building a team around a desired analytic, maybe management should have learned which stat was already working and build the rest of its team around that core. Now, Florida may be left in shambles for the foreseeable future.

Offseason Grade: F

First and foremost, letting, no, working out a deal with Vegas to ensure Marchessault was selected in the expansion draft was a crazy idea. That being said, even with the departures of him and Jagr, I still feel that the Panthers’ offense is capable of showing signs of growth with Dadonov and Vrbata in comparison to last year. But, until the blue line improves, Florida will not able to climb much further than seventh place in the Atlantic Division.

February 20 – Day 124 – Check out these cool cats

After a busy weekend of 22 games, it’s understandable that there’s only two this evening as we begin a new week. Tonight’s action starts at 8 p.m. with Florida at St. Louis (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed an hour later by Anaheim at Arizona (SN1). All times eastern.

If you haven’t checked the standings recently, the one and only Florida Panthers have been on a bit of a surge of late and forced themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff discussion.





Thanks in part to their current four-game winning streak, the 27-20-10 Panthers currently occupy fifth place in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the East, just a point behind Toronto in the second wild card. The simplest reason for why Florida is on the outside looking in has to be the offense, which has managed only 144 goals – the eighth-fewest in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck has been charged with leading the Panthers‘ attack, and he has 41 points to show for it. 20 of those have been goals, which is also a team-high total. His numbers are indicative of the Panthers‘ situation overall, as many of the leading forwards’ numbers are only slightly lower than Trocheck’s. Then again, Tom Rowe did not build this team to be an offensive juggernaut, so maybe everything is going according to plan.

Regardless, it’s safe to assume that Rowe would like a little bit more productivity on the power play, as the Panthers rank fourth-worst in the league with a 15% success rate. Jon Marchessault has led that attack with 12 power play points, but Reilly Smith is the skater that’s imposed the biggest threat – he’s buried six markers on the man-advantage, the best total in Florida.

Instead, the Panthers earn their pay on the penalty kill, where they rank third-best in the league by stopping 85% of opposing man-advantages. That effort is led by Mark Pysyk, who has 12 shorthanded shot blocks to lead the squad.

Playing host this evening is 31-23-5 St. Louis, the third-best club in the Central Division. When the Blues have found success this season, it’s been on the offensive end, as their 168 tallies are 10th-most in the NHL.

The man behind that attack is exactly who you’d expect him to be. Vladimir Tarasenko not only leads the Notes with 56 points, but he also has the 10th-highest mark in the league. As the Russian continues to grow into being one of the elite scoring threats in the league, the versatile right wing’s game has evolved as defenses have worked extra hard to limit his looks at net. Those 56 points are split evenly between goals and assists, with his 28 tallies leading the club and the assists ranking second on the team.

St. Louis continues that success when they’re provided the man advantage, as their 21.6% success rate ties for sixth-best in the league. Although Tarasenko continues his scoring ways on the power play, it’s actually proven to be Kevin Shattenkirk‘s point of expertise. His 20 points with the extra man lead the team, and he ties Tarasenko with seven power play goals for tops in St. Louis.

The special teams success continues for the Blues on the penalty kill, where they rank fourth-best in the NHL. Led by Captain Alex Pietrangelo‘s 29 shorthanded shot blocks, the Notes have properly stopped 84.6% of opposing power plays.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Aleksander Barkov (+12 [best on the team]) and Trocheck (20 goals among 41 points [both lead the team]) & St. LouisCarter Hutton (four shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (28 goals [tied for third-most in the NHL] among 56 points [10th-most in the league])

Vegas has marked St. Louis a -135 favorite, but I think that might be a little strong. While I do think the Blues will pull out the victory, Florida‘s defense is the reason they’ve surged through the Eastern table. The Notes will certainly have their hands full this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Phil Esposito (1942-) – If this center was the type to put his awards and trophies on his mantle, he probably had to install another fireplace. In addition to his two Stanley Cups and 10 All Star games, he also won five Ross Trophies, two Harts and two Pearsons. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, followed three years later by his #7 being retired by Boston.
  • Pierre Bouchard (1948-) – If you’re drafted fifth-overall by Montréal in the 1965 NHL Amateur Draft, you should expect some trophies coming your way. Spending eight of his 12 seasons with the Canadiens, this defenseman hoisted five Stanley Cups.
  • Glen Hanlon (1957-) – Vancouver selected this goaltender 40th-overall in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, but he spent most of his 14 seasons with the Red Wings. He retired with a 167-202-61 career record.
  • Niclas Wallin (1975-) – Selected in the fourth-round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, this blueliner played most of his 10-year NHL career with the club that drafted him: Carolina. He was a member of the Canes‘ 2006 Stanley Cup-winning side.

No matter how hard Columbus tried, it was not able to get ahead of former Ryan Johansen and the visiting Predators, who won yesterday’s back-and-forth DtFR Game of the Day 4-3.

Ryan Ellis (Roman Josi and James Neal) got the Predators‘ scoring stared early, firing a pure slap shot only 2:24 into the game that found the back of the net.

Nashville‘s lead doubled to two thanks to a Kevin Fiala (Mike Fisher) backhander at the 9:38 mark of the second period, but Brandon Saad (Seth Jones and Second Star of the Game Zach Werenski) buried a tip-in only 58 seconds later to pull the Blue Jackets back within a goal. That theme repeated, as First Star Calle Jarnkrok (Neal and P.K. Subban) scored a snap shot with 4:20 remaining in the frame to give the Preds another two-goal lead, followed by Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s (Alexander Wennberg and Werenski) slap shot only 1:59 later to set the score at 3-2, which held into the second intermission.

Columbus finally pulled even when Werenski (Wennberg and Jones) scored his snapper 3:41 into the final frame, but Mattias Ekholm‘s (Filip Forsberg and Subban) snapper proved to be the winner, struck 5:28 later.

Third Star Juuse Saros earns the victory after saving 35-of-38 shots faced (92.1%), leaving the loss to Sergei Bobrovsky, who saved 28-of-32 (87.5%).

With that victory, road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have pulled within a point of the 64-44-18 homers.

December 20 – Day 69 – Getting Kul in Florida

As usual, you’d better have your remote ready for tonight’s onslaught of games, because there’s a bunch of good ones. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. with four games (the New York Islanders at Boston [SN], Nashville at New Jersey, the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh and Los Angeles at Columbus), followed half an hour later by another trio of contests (Anaheim at Montréal [RDS], Detroit at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Buffalo at Florida). Colorado at Minnesota drops the puck at the top of the hour, and a pair of games (Ottawa at Chicago [RDS2] and St. Louis at Dallas) wait until 8:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Vancouver gets the West Coast involved at 10 p.m., with our nightcap – Calgary at San Jose – waiting 30 minutes before getting underway.

Short list:

  • New York at Boston: Dennis Seidenberg called the TD Garden home for seven seasons, but he’s gotten a new start in Brooklyn.
  • New York at Pittsburgh: An important duel in the Metropolitan Division is also a rematch of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.
  • Detroit at Tampa Bay: Another Eastern Quarterfinals rematch, but last season’s success is still eluding both these clubs.
  • Buffalo at Florida: Dmitry Kulikov is in the same homecoming boat as Seidenberg. He returns to his old stomping grounds of seven years with his new club.
  • St. Louis at Dallas: Yet another rematch, but this matchup occurred in the Western Semifinals.

I’m torn between featuring Kulikov or Seidenberg, as both spent considerable portions of their careers in the building they’ll be playing in this evening. Since the game in the Sunshine State will probably be much more competitive, we’ll focus on Kulikov.



With the 14th-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Florida Panthers selected Dmitry Kulikov from Drummondville in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

That was the last the Voltigeurs saw of the defenseman, as he signed a contract with the Panthers the following September to begin play in the NHL only a month later.

Barring the 2012-13 lockout season, Kulikov has played at least 58 games in each of the remaining six seasons of his career. While he’s been unable to fully maintain his scoring reputation from his junior days (his 138 points are 75th-most among the 603 defensemen to appear in a game since he’s joined the league), he’s still been very effective for his club as the second-highest points earner among Panthers blueliners.

Leading that group of defensemen from 2009-’16 was Brian Campbell, whose 175 points were 37 more than the Russian’s in 84 fewer games (he joined Florida before the 2011-’12 season). Both skaters notched 28 goals during their tenure with the Panthers.

Kulikov began making his way to the KeyBank Center during this season’s draft. He and Vancouver‘s second round pick that was in the Panthers‘ possession was exchanged with Buffalo for Mark Pysyk, Buffalo‘s second round pick and St. Louis‘ third round pick then in possession of the Sabres.

It’s proven to be a tough transition for Kulikov. He has yet to even notch an assist this season, much less a goal, due in part to injuring his back during the preseason. He played 12 games before taking a leave of absence that left him out of the lineup for a month. Tonight’s game is only his fifth contest back in the lineup, and he’ll certainly want to score on the team that didn’t value him enough to keep him off the trading block.

The Sabres enter tonight’s game with a 12-11-7 record to sit in last place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve gotten in that position by playing some very poor offense that has scored only 65 goals – tying with Colorado for fewest in the NHL.

Hurling insults at the Sabres offense is a difficult thing to do given Jack Eichel was injured for nearly two months. That being said, the offense did not gel without him and has put the Sabres in a tough spot to start the season. Kyle Okposo, with his 22 points to lead the team, and Rasmus Ristolainen effectively carried the team on their backs, as they are the only two skaters with more than 18 points to their credit. Okposo especially deserves credit, as his nine tallies are the most on the team.

One part of Buffalo‘s game where they did not suffer during Eichel’s absence was their man-advantage. Led by Okposo and Ristolainen’s dozen power play points, the Sabres have converted 22.9% of their advantageous opportunities, the third-best rate in the league.

As good as the power play has been, the penalty kill has been the reverse. Even with Josh Gorges‘ 14 shorthanded shot blocks (which ties him for 22nd-most in the league), the Sabres have prevented their opposition from scoring only 73.6% of the time, the worst effort in the league.

Playing host this evening are the 14-13-5 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division. Just like Buffalo, their struggles are found on the offensive end of the ice, where their 75 total goals are sixth-fewest in the NHL.

The similarities between tonight’s clubs continue. Just like the Sabres, Florida has two players who have stood out among a mediocre offense. Aleksander Barkov (22) and Jon Marchessault (20) are the only two players with more than 17 points to their credit so far this season. Marchessault has been especially impressive, as his 10 goals are also the best on the squad.

The power play has really suffered during this season’s scoring slump. Florida has only potted 14.8% of their man-advantage opportunities, the seventh-worst rate in the NHL. Marchessault has been active in this situation too. His seven power play points are most on the team.

Before we go any further, there’s one more matter we need to address: Marchessault, as great has he’s been, is currently listed on the Panthers’ injury report. He’s missed the last two games with a lower body injury, and hasn’t played since last Tuesday in Minnesota.

If anything has gone right for Florida, it’s been their defense – specifically their penalty kill. Successful on 86% of attempts, the Panthers are the fifth-best team when down a man, led by Michael Matheson‘s seven shorthanded blocks.

These squads have already met up once this season at the KeyBank Center. It was a very successful night for the Sabres, as they kept the Panthers off the board, compliments of Anders Nilsson, en route to a 3-0 victory. Johan Larsson‘s first goal of the season was the winner.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Buffalo‘s Nilsson (.933 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Florida‘s Barkov (15 assists among 22 points [both lead the team]).

Florida has a -150 next to their name, which is bad news for the Sabres. It’s tough not to side with the Panthers given the fact that they’re at home. Regardless of who wins, you can certainly assume it will be a low-scoring affair.

Hockey Birthday

  • Cory Stillman (1973-) – The sixth-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this left wing played 1025 games over 16 seasons. He spent most of his days with the club that drafted him but won a Stanley Cup with both Tampa Bay (2004) and Carolina (2006).
  • Andrei Markov (1978-) – This defenseman was selected by Montréal in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s played with the Canadiens ever since. Tonight could mark his 960th career game, provided his lower body injury sustained Sunday in Washington isn’t too severe.

It took a two-goal third period for the Ducks to knock-off the Maple Leafs, winning 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It took 27:27 before Third Star of the Game Auston Matthews (Nikita Zaitsev and Zach Hyman) scored a tip-in goal to give Toronto a 1-0 advantage, but Anaheim was able to level with 1:59 remaining in the frame. Ryan Getzlaf‘s (Sami Vatanen and First Star Cam Fowler) snapper was aided by the fact that Zaitsev was serving two minutes in the penalty box for roughing.

The Ducks when right back to work upon returning from the second intermission. 1:21 after taking the ice for the third period, Nick Ritchie (Ondrej Kase) fired a wrister to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. It lasted 10:21 before Nazem Kadri (Matt Hunwick) scored a wrister of his own to once again level the contest. With 6:52 remaining in regulation, Fowler (Ryan Kesler) buried a power play snapper to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead they would not yield.

Second Star John Gibson saved 33-of-35 (94.3%) shots faced for the victory, leaving the loss to Frederik Andersen, saving 25-of-28 (89.3%) in the loss.

Anaheim’s victory pulls the road teams within five points of the hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series, who have a 37-23-11 record.

December 10 – Day 59 – Gudbranson is Badbranson when he’s playing against your team

Welcome to the weekend. It’s been waiting for you.

I know you have big plans for these 48 hours, but make sure to make some room for hockey. There’s quite a selection of games today, starting with Dallas at Philadelphia (SN1) at 1 p.m., followed three hours later by Ottawa at Los Angeles (RDS). Five games start at the usual 7 p.m. time (Toronto at Boston [CBC/NHLN], Colorado at Montréal [CITY/SN360/TVAS], Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, Vancouver at Florida [SN] and the New York Islanders at Columbus), trailed an hour later by Nashville at Arizona. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Winnipeg at Calgary (CBC/SN) and tonight’s nightcap – Carolina at San Jose – drops the puck half an hour after. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Boston: Everybody loves an Original Six matchup!
  • Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay: Last season, it took seven games for the Penguins to best the Bolts in the Eastern Finals.
  • Vancouver at Florida: The first five seasons of Erik Gudbranson‘s career was spent in Florida, but since this offseason he’s called British Columbia home.
  • Winnipeg at Calgary: Tonight’s contest is the first meeting of the season between these rivals.

Since Gudbranson will only make one trip to the Sunshine State this season – barring an improbable CanucksPanthers Stanley Cup Finals – we’ll follow Vancouver to the BB&T Center.



Welcome home Gudbranson. The defenseman was the third-overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he made his NHL debut only a season later. It was a quick introduction to the senior club, as skipping an introductory stop in San Antonio, Florida‘s AHL side.

Gudbranson made an immediate impact on the club, always playing 64 or more games for the Panthers (barring, of course, the 2012-’13 lockout). Over the course of his tenure in Florida, Gubdranson was known as a violent player – the most physical in the dressing room. He threw an impressive 754 hits while playing for the Panthers (the 11th-most among the 484 eligible over that time-span), including a hit season in 2014-15 where he landed 2.8 hits per game.

He also performed his primary duties well, blocking 344 shots before catching a plane to Canada, the third-most for the franchise during his tenure.

He found his way to Vancouver this summer in a trade that included a total of three 2016 draft picks (evenctually becoming Jonathan Ang and Adam Mascherin for Florida and Cole Candella for Vancouver) and Jared McCann joining the Panthers.

He joins a 12-13-2 Canucks club that currently occupies sixth place in the Pacific Division. Much of the reason his team hasn’t found success is not his fault, as it is the offense that has not been producing. Vancouver has notched only 62 goals so far this season, the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

As usual, the Sedins are doing all they can to keep the Canucks alive. Daniel Sedin leads the squad with 18 points, but brother Henrik Sedin is right behind with 17. Bo Horvat joins D. Sedin for the scoring lead, as they both have lit the lamp eight times.

Unfortunately for Vancouver, neither 18 points nor eight goals breaks the top-50 in scoring this season – yet those are the numbers leading their team. That’s not a good sign for the other forwards expected to produce scoring.

Much of those struggles can be attributed to a lackluster power play. Vancouver ties for the fifth-worst power play in the league, converting only 14.1% of opportunities. Once again, who else to lead the Canucks but the Sedins? They both have six man-advantage points for top in the clubhouse, but D. Sedin probably deserves more credit as he has three power play goals.

Impressively, Vancouver has certainly buckled down on their own end when facing the man-advantage. Their 84.9% ties for seventh-best in the NHL, and was led by Alexander Edler and his 10 shorthanded blocks before he broke a finger. The man of the hour is right behind, notching nine for second-most, and has been expected to assume the role Edler left behind.

Playing host this evening are the 12-12-4 Florida Panthers, currently the sixth-best team in the Atlantic Division. Similarly to Vancouver, it has been their offensive struggles that have held them back from greater success. The Panthers have notched only 64 goals this year, tying for fifth-fewest in the game.

Jon Marchessault has been the man in charge of that offense, as he’s notched 19 points this season and 10 goals – already the best mark of his NHL career after only 25 games – to lead the squad. Unfortunately for the Panthers, he has been sidelined for the past week, and his status is unknown for tonight’s game. In his stead, Florida turns to Aleksander Barkov, who has 18 points on his campaign, and the three goalscorers (Aaron Ekblad, Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck) that tie for second-most goals on the team with six apiece.

If the Canucks‘ power play is bad, the Panthers‘ is much, much worse. They tie for worst in the league, successful on only 13.5% of their attempts. Once again, that was Marchessault’s responsibility before he got hurt, as his seven points and three power play goals both led the team. Florida is left with Barkov (five power play points), Jagr (three goals among five points) and Keith Yandle (five power play points )to pick up the slack while their breakout star is healing his lower-body injury.

Fortunately, the penalty kill has been outstanding, negating 85% of their infractions for the sixth-best mark in the league. Michael Matheson has headed that department with seven shorthanded blocks to his name.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Barkov (13 assists [leads the team]) and Trocheck (72 hits [leads the team]) & Vancouver‘s Gudbranson (61 hits [leads the team]) and D. Sedin (18 points [leads the team]).

Vegas has marked Florida a -205 favorite this evening, but I think that’s a little strong given both teams play a similar style. If Marchessault can go, I think the Panthers can win, but without him I think the Canucks can pull off the road victory.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Rob Blake (1969-) – Los Angeles drafted this defenseman in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, and he played 805 games over 14 seasons for the Kings. He was a member of the 2000-’01 Colorado club that hoisted the Stanley Cup, as well as on the coaching staff for the 2013-’14 champion Kings. His number 4 hangs in the Staples Center rafters for being a seven-time All-Star and winner of the 1998 Norris Trophy.
  • T.J. Hensick (1985-) – A 2005 NHL Entry Draft selection by Colorado, he’s appeared in 112 senior-level games. His longest stint in the NHL was in 2008-’09, when he played 61 games for the Avs.

When your first goal of the season is a game-winner, you’re going to have a good night. Ask the Ducks, who beat San Jose 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Anaheim got the scoring started relatively quickly, as Rickard Rakell‘s (Third Star of the Game Shea Theodore and Corey Perry) wrist shot found the back of the net only 4:44 after beginning play. With 4:54 remaining in the frame, the Ducks doubled their score with a wrister from Second Star Antoine Vermette (Theodore and Nick Ritchie), but Brent Burns (Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski) and San Jose reeled them back in with six ticks remaining in the frame, setting the score at 2-1 going into the first intermission.

The Sharks knotted the score at two-all 8:40 into the second period with a Kevin Labanc (Logan Couture and Joel Ward) snapper, only his third tally of the season. That score held to the end of the frame, setting up an exciting third and final period.

With 5:38 remaining in regulation, First Star Hampus Lindholm (Ritchie and Ryan Kesler) buried his first goal of the season to break the tie and earn the Ducks first place in the Pacific Division.

Jonathan Bernier earned the victory after saving 22-of-24 shots faced (91.7%), while Martin Jones takes the loss, saving 29-of-32 (90.6%).

This entire business week has been dominated by the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as their fifth-straight victory gives them an 11-point advantage over the roadies for a 34-19-8 record.

November 29 – Day 48 – Rowe says it’s Tommy Time!

Welcome to the last Tuesday of November. I know, it’s not very momentous on its own, but the NHL is helping out with a dozen hockey games to watch. The action starts at – you guessed it – 7 p.m. with a couple of games (Carolina at the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (Boston at Philadelphia [NBCSN/TVAS], Buffalo at Ottawa [RDS2] and Dallas at Detroit). New Jersey at Winnipeg starts at 8 p.m., with Florida at Chicago waiting 30 minutes before beginning. 9 p.m. marks two puck drops (Nashville at Colorado and Toronto at Edmonton [NBSCN]), with tonight’s tri-nightcap getting green lit at 10 p.m. (Minnesota at Vancouver, Montréal at Anaheim [RDS] and Arizona at San Jose). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Carolina at New York: Last season, Viktor Stalberg played in Madison Square Garden on the regular. Tonight, he’s just visiting.
  • Buffalo at Ottawa: A rivalry game, with the chance to be made more special by the return of Jack Eichel.
  • Florida at Chicago: Tom Rowe coaches the first NHL game of his career.

Stalberg will return to Manhattan again, and rivals will be rivals, but you only make your coaching debut once. Let’s see what Rowe’s got.







Rowe’s carer in the NHL began after being drafted 37th-overall in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft. By the time he hung his skates up the last time, he’d played 357 career games with three different franchises, most of which with Washington, the club that drafted him. His best season was the third of his career, when he scored 31 goals and notched another 30 assists to become the first-ever American to bury 30 or more tallies in a season.

Rowe had been a coach at multiple levels, but he took his first head coaching job in a senior-level league in 2012 when he took command of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, replacing Brad McCrimmon who died in the Lokomotiv plane crash. He led a team of all new players to a 24-18-0 season.

He only kept the job for a year before returning to the States to begin his tenure with the Panthers‘ organization. He took the same job he had with Lokomotiv, but with the San Antonio Rampage in the AHL. He stuck with the team in their move to Portland before being promoted mid-season to associate general manager on New Year’s Day 2016. By the time he departed Portland, he’d amassed an 88-66-17 record.

If only normal people not involved in sports could get promotions as quick as Rowe. He was associate GM for only four-and-a-half months before replacing Dale Tallon as the man in-charge.

That brings us to Sunday’s move. Gerard Gallant entered PNC Arena as head coach of the then 11-9-1. By the time he exited, he added another loss, had a pink slip in hand and was in search of a job.

It turns out, Rowe already had a new coach in mind: himself. It seems to be the trend in Miami of late, as Dan Jennings did the same thing with the Marlins for most of the 2015 season. If the baseball team in town is any indication, the future doesn’t look bright for the Panthers.

That being said, Jennings had one specific thing playing against him: no managerial experience. Rowe has been a consistent winner, so it will be interesting to see how the Panthers‘ season unfolds.

Rowe completely takes over a 11-10-1 Florida club that sits in fifth in the Atlantic Division. Statistically, they’ve been simply average this season, scoring 55 goals (19th-best) against 57 allowed ([t]15th-best). Given their rankings against the league on those numbers, we’ll pin the poor start to the season on the offense.

Of the Panthers‘ 55 goals, center Jon Marchessault has been involved in 17 of them to lead the team. 10 of those points have been goals, which also is tops in the dressing room. Perhaps that is the biggest problem for Florida: goal distribution. Aaron Ekblad and Vincent Trocheck tie for second-place in the goal-scoring race, but with only six tallies apiece.

Not surprisingly, the power play has been especially poor for the Panthers. They’ve been successful on only 14.7% of their attempts to rank 10th-worst in the NHL. Leading the team’s special team is – you guessed it – Marchessault, as he has three power play goals among six points.

Hosting them this evening is the best team in the Western Conference – the 14-6-3 Chicago Blackhawks. As usual in an even-numbered Stanley Cup year, they’ve been led by their impressive offense which has notched 65 goals – second-most in the conference and seventh-most in the league.

Who else to front the Hawks‘ attack than right wing Patrick Kane? The former first pick has 23 points to his credit, 21.7% of last season’s total a little over a quarter of the way through this year’s campaign. He hasn’t always been the goalscorer, though. That title goes to Marian Hossa, who has 11 tallies on his resume.

Every team has a weakness, and the Windy City‘s is the penalty kill. The Blackhawks rank dead-last in the NHL, stopping the opposition’s man-advantage only 70.8% of the time. Niklas Hjalmarsson may have a dozen shorthanded blocks to his credit, but more Hawks need to get involved to avoid another early playoff exit.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Chicago‘s Corey Crawford (two shutouts [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] among 10 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]), Hossa (11 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]), Kane (23 points [tied for fourth-most in the league] on 15 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]) and Artemi Panarin (21 points [tied for eigth-most in the league]) & Florida‘s Aleksander Barkov (12 assists [leads his team]), Derek MacKenzie (52 hits [leads his team]), Alex Petrovic (+8 [leads his team]) and Mark Pysyk (30 blocks [leads his team]).

Chicago is marked by Vegas with a -135 next to their name, a line they’ve certainly earned. Rowe is not going to solve all the Panthers‘ plane ride from Raleigh to Chicago, so I am leaning towards the Hawks continuing their great season.

Hockey Birthday

  • Neal Broten (1959-) – A center drafted 42nd-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, he played 17 NHL seasons and hoisted the Stanley Cup once with the 1994-’95 Devils. Of course, he may be even more remembered for being a part of the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid. Either way, he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, two years after his No. 7 was raised to the Stars‘ rafters.
  • Brad May (1971-) – The 14th-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, May played 18 seasons in the league – most of which with Buffalo, the club that drafted him. He won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 with Anaheim.
  • Pavol Demitra (1974-2011) – This left wing won the 1999-00 Lady Byng Trophy while skating for the Blues, the team he spent most of his 16 seasons with. He was one of the 44 people that died in 2011 Lokomotiv plane crash.
  • Tanner Glass (1983-) – A scrapper currently skating for Hartford in the Rangers‘ system, he’s played in the past nine NHL seasons. Most of his time was spent in Vancouver, where he helped the Canucks qualify for the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals.

For the second time in the last three days, the DtFR Game of the Day has required more than 60 minutes to declare a winner. This time, it was host St. Louis beating the Stars 4-3 in overtime.

With 6:24 remaining in the opening frame, Third Star of the Game Robby Fabbri (Robert Bortuzzo and Jori Lehtera) gave the Notes a 1-0 lead with a wrister to beat Antti Niemi.

Only 4:17 into the second period, that lead doubled when Alex Pietrangelo (Patrik Berglund and Colton Parayko) scored a power play backhander. Dallas returned the differential to one with 3:39 remaining in the period with a Second Star Jamie Oleksiak (Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin) wrister.

The Stars must have received quite the motivational speech during intermission, as Benn (Julius Honka and Jason Spezza) buried a power play wrister to level the game at two-all. 11:25 later, St. Louis took the lead again with a First Star David Perron (Jaden Schwartz and Jay Bouwmeester) wrister. That lead nearly lasted to the final horn, but not before Oleksiak (Honka and Benn) buried a slap shot with with Niemi pulled. To three-on-three overtime we went.

The extra period lasted only 3:24 before Vladimir Tarasenko (Lehtera and Kevin Shattenkirk) scored a wrister to end the game.

Jake Allen earned the victory after saving 18-of-21 shots faced (85.7%), forcing Niemi to take the overtime loss, saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The Blues‘ win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 27-16-7, favoring the home squads by seven points over the roadies.

March 26 – Day 163 – It’s so much more than a cup… It’s the Governor’s Cup

With four goals in the third period, Tampa Bay beat the Islanders 7-4 to reclaim the Atlantic Division lead.

It was actually New York that opened the scoring, courtesy of a Brock Nelson slap shot at the 8:54 mark (his 25th tally of the season), assisted by Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey, but the Lightning leveled the score 4:48 with tip-in goal from Nikita Kucherov (his 29th tally of the season), assisted by Alex Killorn and Andrej Sustr.  With his 14th goal of the season, Vladislav Namestnikov gave the Bolts a 2-1 lead only nine seconds after Kucherov’s tally, the score that would hold until the intermission.

5:02 after resuming play, Steven Stamkos connected on a slap shot for his 35th goal of the season, assisted by First Star of the Game Jason Garrison and Kucherov.  New York finally scored their second goal 23 seconds later on an unassisted Shane Prince wrister, his fifth of the season, to set the score at 3-2.  With 3:42 remaining in the period, the Isles leveled the game on a Johnny Boychuk tip-in, assisted by John Tavares (his 31st helper of the season) and Bailey, which held into the deciding third frame.

The Bolts took another lead at the 6:03 mark of the third when Sustr connected on a slap shot, assisted by Garrison (his fifth helper of the season), but the Islanders leveled again 19 seconds later on a Nikolay Kulemin snapper, assisted by Frans Nielsen (his 28th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.  Tampa‘s game-winning goal was scored with 9:51 remaining in regulation, a Tyler Johnson wrister (his 13th tally of the season) assisted by Second Star Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Marchessault.  Twenty-three seconds later, Garrison scored the first insurance goal, assisted by Palat and Marchesault (his 10th helper of the season).  The final goal was an empty netter from Victor Hedman, assisted by Matthew Carle and Palat (his 19th helper of the season).

Ben Bishop gets the win after saving 27 of 31 shots faced (87.1%), while Thomas Greiss takes the loss after saving 35 of 41 (85.4%).

After that result, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 74-42-17, favoring the home sides by 35 points over the roadies.

I could be wrong, but I believe that this is the most exciting day of hockey we’ve had all season as, with the exception of New Jersey and Vancouver, every team is in action today.  Business opens at 1 p.m. eastern when Winnipeg visits Buffalo (BELL TV), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Detroit (SN).  3 p.m. eastern is the beginning of Minnesota at Colorado, which precedes the last matinee of the day, Dallas at San Jose, by 60 minutes.  Six games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Toronto [CBC], the New York Rangers at Montréal [NHLN/TVAS/SN], Anaheim at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS2], Florida at Tampa Bay, St. Louis at Washington and the New York Islanders at Carolina), with Columbus at Nashville trailing an hour later.  The trio of nightcaps end the night at 10 p.m. eastern (Philadelphia at Arizona, Edmonton at Los Angeles [CBC] and Chicago at Calgary [SN]).

Whew… I know.  Gotta catch our breath!

There’s five divisional rivalries being played this evening (Minnesota at Colorado, Boston at Toronto, Florida at Tampa Bay, New York at Carolina and Edmonton at Los Angeles), and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Dallas at San Jose, Florida at Tampa Bay and St. Louis at Washington).

Although both Troy Brouwer and Seth Jones will be making noticeable first returns to previous home arenas (the Verizon Center and Bridgestone Arena, respectively), the battle for the Atlantic Division lead is just too important to ignore.






This will be Florida‘s ninth time featured in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-3-1 record.  The last time they were featured was March 14, when they lost 3-2 in Brooklyn.  With yesterday’s win over the Islanders, Tampa Bay improves their series record to 11-3-2.

The 41-24-9 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division (due to losing a regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker) and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth stingiest defense, paired with the seventh highest scoring offense in the league.

Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 111 blocks, Florida has allowed only 2183 shots to reach 31-18-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.2% for only 182 goals against, the fifth fewest in the NHL.  Although the defense as a whole has found incredible success, the penalty kill has not been as good, neutralizing only 81.25% of their infractions for 45 power play goals against, the 15th worst rate in the league.

Even with Vincent Trocheck’s team leading 168 shots, the Panthers have fired the puck only 2108 times, with a whopping 9.7% finding the back of the net for 211 goals, the seventh most in the league.  Yet again, the special teams have let Florida down, as their power play has converted only 17.06% of their opportunities for 43 extra man tallies (led by Aleksander Barkov’s nine power play goals), the ninth worst rate in the league.

Florida‘s last game was Thursday, a 4-1 victory in Boston.  As both squads are tied on points, the Panthers will take the division lead as long as they win tonight, but a regulation loss paired with a Bruins win will reduce their lead for second place to three points.

The 43-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning are currently first in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  The third best defense in the league has gotten them to that position, which has been backed by the 12th best offense.

Led by Hedman’s 128 blocks, the Lightning has allowed only 2096 shots to reach 31-19-4 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for 173 goals against, the third fewest in the NHL.  That success continues even when a man down, as Tampa‘s sixth ranked penalty kill neutralizes 83.71% of opposing power plays, allowing only 36 extra man goals.  Further improving on that solid rate, they’ve scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

Even with Stamkos’ team leading 199 shots, the Bolts have fired the puck only 2125 times, with a solid 9.4% finding the back of the net for 202 goals (led by Stamkos’ 35 tallies), the 12th most in the league.  Tampa‘s hole continues to be their power play, as their 16.46% success rate, good for 40 extra man goals (led by Stamkos’ 13 power play tallies), ranks fifth worst in the NHL.

With last night’s 7-4 victory over the Islanders, Tampa Bay enters this game riding a three game winning streak.  A win tonight officially breaks the tie for the division lead, but a loss could give them only a three point lead over third place.

Florida has already won the Governor’s Cup this season, regardless of tonight’s outcome, with a 3-1-0  against the Bolts – but this game is much more important than an in-state trophy series.  The last time they met was January 23, a 5-2 Panthers victory in Sunrise.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Luongo (four shutouts [tied for sixth most in the league], .922 save percentage [tied for seventh best in the league] and 31 wins [tied for eighth most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.05 GAA [second best in the league], .927 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 32 wins [tied for sixth most in the league]), Hedman (+23 [10th best in the league]) and Stamkos (35 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

I don’t see a lot of goals being scored in this one.  Given the fact that neither of Florida‘s special teams give them much of an advantage and that the Lightning are playing at home, I think I’m leaning towards a Tampa Bay winner.  That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers pull off the upset, proven by them already winning the season series.

March 14 – Day 151 – Panthers in Brooklyn

It was a back-and-forth game between the Penguins and Rangers, but a two goal third period helped Pittsburgh prevail 5-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Pens‘ first goal came as a result of a J.T. Miller holding penalty at the 11:18 mark, as Patric Hornqvist scored 38 seconds later, assisted by Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.  But, the Rangers would enter the intermission tied as Chris Kreider’s tip-in at the 18:06 mark, assisted by Second Star of the Game Derek Stepan (his 21st helper of the season) and Kevin Klein, set the score at one-all.

7:30 after resuming play, First Star Conor Sheary tipped-in Justin Schultz’ initial shot, giving him his ninth helper of the season, to give the Pens a 2-1 lead that lasted only 1:29 before Derick Brassard leveled the game yet again, assisted by Keith Yandle (his 35th helper of the season) and Stepan.  Pittsburgh earned their third lead of the afternoon with Sheary’s second goal of the period, and fifth of the season, at the 15:55 mark, assisted by Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr.  That lead held into the second intermission.

For the third time in the game, the Blueshirts scored a leveler, this time by Ryan McDonagh, who was assisted by Jesper Fast and Miller (his 18th helper of the season) at the 5:04 mark of the third period.  Pittsburgh‘s game-winner found the back of the net with 8:51 remaining in regulation, scored by Third Star Matt Cullen, who was assisted by Dominik Simon and Brian Dumoulin (his 15th helper of the season).  Crosby provided the lone insurance goal on an empty net (his 29th tally of the season) with only 39 seconds remaining, assisted by Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust.

Marc-Andre Fleury earns the win after saving 24 of 27 shots faced (88.9%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving 28 of 32 (87.5%).

With the second straight road victory, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 66-39-16, still favoring the home sides by 26 points over the roadies.

We’ve got six games to watch this evening, so get excited!  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with Florida visiting the New York Islanders, followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Chicago.  9 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (St. Louis at Calgary and Nashville at Edmonton), and this evening’s co-nightcaps trail an hour later (Winnipeg at Vancouver and New Jersey at Anaheim).

None of tonight’s games are between division rivals, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Florida at New York and Los Angeles at Chicago).

Although this evening will be Kyle Palmieri’s first visit back to Anaheim since since being traded to New Jersey this off-season, the most important game this evening is between the Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders.

Unknown-2New York Islanders Logo





Tonight’s game will be Florida‘s eighth in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 4-2-1 record.  Their most recent featured game was their 5-4 overtime loss on home ice to the Bruins exactly a week ago.  New York has been featured five times before tonight’s game, and own a 1-3-1 record in such contests, with their most recent occurring February 18, a 3-2 overtime loss on home ice to the Capitals.

The 38-21-9 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the sixth best defense, paired with the eighth best offense, making them a formidable foe.

Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 100 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1999 shots to reach 29-16-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve saved a solid 92.1% for only 167 goals against, the sixth fewest in the league.  Although a step back for the Panthers, the penalty kill still ranks on the better side of the league average, as they neutralize 81.5% of their infractions for 42 power play goals against, the 12th best rate in the NHL.

The offense is only a step behind, as although they’ve fired only 1926 shots, a cool 9.6% have found the back of the net for 192 goals, the eighth most in the league.  The biggest hole for Florida has been their power play, which seems to be a trend for teams from the Sunshine State.  The Panthers have capitalized on only 16.67% of opportunities for 39 power play goals (led by Aleksander Barkov’s nine extra man tallies), the sixth worst rate in the NHL.

Florida is currently riding a two game winning streak, with their most recent being their 5-4 shootout victory over the Flyers on Saturday.  Should they keep their winning ways going tonight, or even if they lose in overtime, they will succeed Boston for the Atlantic Division lead, but a regulation loss would cause the Panthers to fall into third in the division to their in-state rivals.

The 37-21-8 New York Islanders currently occupy third in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve gotten to that position by playing the fifth best defense, paired with the ninth best offense.

Even with injured Calvin de Haan’s 145 blocks, the Isles have allowed 1993 shots to reach 18-7-4 Thomas Greiss and co., of which they’ve saved a great 92.3% for only 166 goals against, the fifth fewest in the league.  That defense has been partially led by an incredible penalty kill that ranks third best in the league, neutralizing 85.42% of opposing opportunities for only 28 power play goals against (13 fewer than the league average).  Further improving on that stat, New York has also scored six shorthanded goals, one more than the league average.

Just like the Panthers, New York‘s offense is only a step behind.  Led by John Tavares’ 207 shots, the Islanders have fired the puck 1991 times, with 9.3% finding the back of the net for 190 goals (led by Tavares’ 26 tallies, the ninth most in the league.  New York‘s power play has also been decent, successful on 20% of attempts for 38 power play goals, the 11th best rate in the NHL.

New York is currently riding a two game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-1 loss in Boston on Saturday.  A win tonight is important for the Isles, as it would not only pull them within a point of their crosstown rivals in second place, but it would also extend their lead over Pittsburgh to two points for third.

Florida has already won the season series 2-0-0, but would like to earn the sweep with a win this evening.  Their most recent meeting was December 15, a 5-1 Panthers victory in New York.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Florida‘s Brian Campbell (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and 29 wins [tied for sixth most in the league]) & New York‘s Greiss (.928 save percentage [tied for second best in the league] and 2.26 GAA [eighth best in the league]).

Florida may have had the upper hand so far this season over the Islanders, but I’m feeling a New York winner this evening.  Although the power play isn’t necessarily important to the Panthers‘ success, I think New York‘s ability to quickly neutralize any threat could lead to some excitement, maybe even a shorty.

March 7 – Day 144 – Another potential Atlantic playoff pairing?

Although Minnesota put up quite the fight in the third period, St. Louis was able to hold on for the 4-2 win in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Blues notched their first goal only 7:44 into the game, courtesy of a Third Star of the Game Jori Lehtera slap shot, his eighth tally of the season.  The Blues doubled their lead only 1:53 later with a snap shot from Ryan Reaves, assisted by Kyle Brodziak and Jay Bouwmeester (his 14th helper of the season).  St. Louis would hold their 2-0 lead through the remainder of the period and into the intermission.

The goal that came to be the game winner found the back of the net only 21 seconds after the midway point of the game, scored by Patrik Berglund, assisted by David Backes (his 20th helper of the season).  That was the only score of the third, so the Blues‘ 3-0 lead held to the second intermission.

Minnesota began staging their comeback at the 11:02 mark of the final period courtesy of a Second Star Ryan Suter backhander, assisted by Zach Parise (his 22nd helper of the season).  Only 3:38 later, Matt Dumba cut the Blues’ lead to only a score on a backhander, assisted by Charlie Coyle and Mikko Koivu (his 31st helper of the season).  But, it was the Blues with the final goal, as Robby Fabbri fired a wrister at an empty net, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk (his 24th helper of the season) to set the score at the 4-2 final.

First Star Jake Allen earns the win after saving 30 of 32 (93.8%), while Devan Dubnyk takes the loss, saving 13 of 16 (81.3%).  He was replaced after Berglund’s goal by Darcy Kuemper, who saved all 18 shots he faced for no decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 64-37-13, favoring the home sides by 30 points over the roadies.

This Monday’s schedule is a decent one, with seven games taking place.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with Tampa Bay visiting Philadelphia, followed half an hour later by two games (Buffalo at Toronto and Boston at Florida).  The next couple of games don’t drop the puck until 9 p.m. eastern (Arizona at Colorado [NBCSN] and San Jose at Calgary), trailed an hour later by Washington at Anaheim.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Vancouver at Los Angeles, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Over half of this evening’s games are divisional rivalries (Buffalo at Toronto, Boston at Florida, San Jose at Calgary and Vancouver at Los Angeles), and two games will be contested between squads currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Florida and Washington at Anaheim).

Although Alex Tanguay is making his first return to the Pepsi Center since being traded to Arizona at the deadline, the game that attracts my attention is the BostonFlorida game, as it is currently an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.






Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 15th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-8-1 record, with their most recent being a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on February 28.  Florida has been featured only six times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was almost exactly a month ago, a three-goal shutout loss in Detroit on February 8.

The 36-23-7 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played one of the strongest offenses in the game, but the defense ranks 12th worst.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 222 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck a solid 2070 times, with an even better 9.6% finding the back of the net for 202 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 33 tallies), third most in the league.  Part of the reason for that success can certainly be attributed to the power play, as their 21.13% success rate, good for 41 power play goals (led by Bergeron’s 10 extra man tallies), ranks eighth best in the NHL.

It has been the defense that has been the issue for the Bruins this year.  Even with Kevan Miller’s 103 blocks, Boston has allowed 2016 shots to reach 26-18-6 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 180 goals against, 12th most in the league.  That being said, the Bruins still host the 10th best penalty kill in the league, defending 82.19% of their infractions for 39 power play goals against.  Further improving that rate, the penalty kill is also responsible for eight shorthanded goals, led by Marchand’s four.

Boston‘s last game was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals on Saturday.  With a win tonight, Boston would advance past Florida for the second seed in the Atlantic Division, important for home ice in at least the first round.  They could also be only one point behind Tampa Bay for the division lead, should the Bolts fall to the Flyers.

The 36-21-8 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  The name of the game in Sunrise has been their sixth best defense, paired with the 13th best offense.

Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 95 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1913 shots to reach 27-16-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 156 goals against, the sixth fewest in the league.  Probably the biggest chink in their armor has been the penalty kill, but that still ranks 10th best in the NHL.  Florida neutralizes 81.19% of opposing power plays for 41 extra man tallies against.

Led by Vincent Trocheck’s 145 shot attempts, Florida has fired the puck only 1815 times, but 9.4% have found the back of the net for 177 goals, 13th most in the league.  This attack is peculiar in that the power play is not an integral part, as Florida‘s 16.44% success rate, good for 37 goals (led by Aleksander Barkov’s eight power play goals), ranks fourth worst in the NHL.

Florida is currently riding a two game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-1 loss in Arizona on Saturday.  Since the beginning of February, the Panthers have gone 7-6-3, a far cry from their December and January dominance.  Because of this, they have ceded the division lead to the arch-rival Lightning, and run the risk of losing second place with a loss tonight.

Boston currently leads the season series 2-0-0, with their most recent meeting occurring December 12 in Boston, a 3-1 win for the home side.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (33 goals [third most in the league] and +20 [10th best in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league]) & Florida‘s Brian Campbell (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league], .924 save percentage [tied for sixth best in the league] and 27 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]).

I’m always a fan of an underdog, or undercat in Florida‘s case, as they are rarely thought of as a successful club, but I’m worried the Original Six franchise might get the win this evening.  They have the win streak and the season series in their back pocket.  Florida is certainly capable, but I think it will be a Bruins winner.