Tag Archives: Benn

October 12 – Day Nine – The Kevin Peter Hall game

If you have no idea who the title is referring to, maybe today’s selection can help.

Action is slightly delayed this evening, as our first two contests (Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay [SN360/TVAS] and St. Louis at Florida) don’t drop the puck until 7:30 p.m. Dallas pays a visit to Nashville at 8 p.m., followed by Minnesota at Chicago half an hour later. Another pair of contests (Winnipeg at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona) get the green light at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Buffalo at San Jose – getting underway 30 minutes later. All times Eastern.

There’s two games from that selection that have drawn my eye. The Wild-Blackhawks rivalry is always fun to take in, but I’m surprisingly more drawn to a meeting between between two 1-2-0 clubs.

 

Still can’t figure it out? Hall was the person in the Predator suit in the first two Predator movies. He’s the star of Predator!

Sure, I could have gone with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that would have been too easy.

Anyways…

Coming off an offseason of high expectations, both of these teams had a tough opening week to their campaigns. They both lost their opening two games (including an embarrassing 4-0 loss by the Predators to Pittsburgh in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals) before winning their contests on Tuesday.

Starting with visiting Dallas, this was supposed to be an offense that eclipsed that of 2015-’16, yet the Stars have averaged only 2.33 goals-per-game to start the season ([t]third-worst in the league).

Part of the problem has been the goaltending they’ve squared off against. Both Jake Allen (.93 save percentage and 2.58 GAA) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.963 save percentage and 1.32 GAA) have yet to lose a game in three starts and – especially Fleury – have been among the league’s best.

Even though the super line of Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov didn’t find the back of the net, Dallas proved what it is truly capable of Tuesday against G Petr Mrazek. With the exception of the top power play unit scoring late in the first period, the middle two lines began flexing their muscles by scoring the remaining three goals (shh, no one needs to know that C Martin Hanzal‘s first goal of the year was an empty netter).

While the offense assumes its form, it’s been the superb play of G Ben Bishop that has been keeping the Stars competitive in all their games. So far this season he’s posted a .955 save percentage and 1.15 GAA, including what could have been a shutout if he hadn’t been forced from the Vegas game on opening night.

Of the numerous signings made across the league, few improved a team as immensely as this one did for Dallas. Add in the fact that the Stars also added D Marc Methot to a formerly flimsy defensive corps and you find a Dallas team ready to shoot for the stars (that was so lame).

As for the Predators, they’re just trying to live up to qualifying for last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. No big deal, right?

That postseason effort was largely dependent on a defensive corps that also had a scoring touch as golden as their sweaters, and maybe it’s the absence of that flair that has held Nashville back so far this young season. Beyond D P.K. Subban and his four assists, only two other blue liners have contributed on offense. Even more noticeable is that none of those defensive points are goals.

It would seem D Ryan Ellis‘ absence is certainly being felt, as he posted 16-22-38 totals last season for .54 points-per-game. He would have notched at least one point by now.

And as dependable as Bishop has been for the Stars, G Pekka Rinne has been below-average to star the season. He’s managed only an .869 save percentage for an atrocious 4.16 GAA – and he didn’t even play in the four-goal loss to Pittsburgh.

With such an offensively-minded D-corps, elite play from Rinne is an absolute necessity. To put it bluntly, forcing the defense to actually focus on playing defense (that’s not a knock on this group, but we all know they’re almost always planning their next attack) takes such a major weapon away from this Nashville team. Head Coach Peter Laviolette cannot afford for this solid team to be in the wrong year of Rinne’s “good year, bad year” routine.

If anything is starting to go right for the Predators, it’s their power play. The man-advantage, specifically the top unit, played an integral role in the Preds’ comeback win Tuesday from a 4-3 deficit in the third period. Nashville has converted 31.3 percent of its man-advantages, which ties with the Rangers for the second-best effort in the NHL.

Though it was great to get that win over Philadelphia, I still don’t think all the Preds are mentally back from summer vacation. Having said that, I’m leaning towards Dallas pulling off the victory tonight, whether the game is over after 60 minutes or requires a shootout.


The machine that is the Pittsburgh Penguins seems to have rediscovered its groove, as they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the Verizon Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins employed a goal-per-period strategy last night that the Caps nearly matched, failing to score in the first period. Because of that, does that make D Kris Letang‘s (W Bryan Rust and First Star of the Game RW Patric Hornqvist) first goal of the season, a power play wrist shot 5:22 into the game, the game-winner?

Unfortunately for Letang, we all know the answer to that question is technically ‘no.’ Sorry, buddy.

Pittsburgh registered its second power play goal of the night 8:20 into the second period, courtesy of Hornqvist (W Tom Kuhnhackl and C Sidney Crosby), another first-time goalscorer for the 2017-’18 season. The Penguins almost took a two-goal advantage into the second intermission, but Second Star D Christian Djoos (C Lars Eller and W Brett Connolly) sneaked a slap shot past G Matthew Murray with 53 seconds remaining in the frame to pull Washington back within a goal. Just like the goalscorers before him, Djoos’ marker was his first of the season, but this one was extra special: tonight was also his NHL debut.

Apparently Head Coach Mike Sullivan was none too pleased about Djoos’ late marker, as Third Star W Conor Sheary (D Justin Schultz and D Olli Maatta) provided what proved to be the true game-winner 38 seconds into the third period.

The play truly started with five seconds remaining in the second period when RW Alex Chiasson earned himself a seat in the penalty box for getting caught holding D Brian Dumoulin. As far as action on the ice is concerned, the scoring play began with Maatta at the blue line. Seeing Schultz undefended – due to the Capitals being shorthanded – in the face-off circle to G Braden Holtby‘s right, he passed to his fellow defenseman who quickly centered a pass to Sheary waiting in Holtby’s crease. Though the 25-year-old began falling while performing his tip-in, the redirection was just enough to beat Holtby to the post.

W Alex Ovechkin (Djoos and C Nicklas Backstrom) did pull Washington back within a goal with 7:09 remaining in regulation, but neither he, F T.J. Oshie nor any of the other Capitals could complete the comeback in the remaining time.

Murray earned the victory after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (.909), leaving the loss to Holby, who saved 33-of-36 (.917).

Pittsburgh’s road victory snaps what was a four-game winning streak for the 5-3-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That being said, hosts still have a two-point advantage over roadies in the competition.

October 6 – Day Three – Welcome to the league

Man, a week goes by fast when there’s hockey involved. All of a sudden it’s Friday!

Speaking of, we have three games on the schedule tonight in anticipation of a 15-game Saturday. The action starts at 7 p.m. with the New York Islanders visiting Columbus, followed half an hour by Florida at Tampa Bay for Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup. Finally, Vegas heads to Dallas (NHLN/SN360/TVAS) to close out the night at 8:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

There’s only one chance for a franchise to play its first NHL game, so is there any doubt which game we’re featuring tonight?

 

 

 

 

 

Now that it is officially game day for the Golden Knights, allow us at Down the Frozen River to welcome Vegas to the NHL!

Officially, the process of bringing the NHL’s 31st team to Las Vegas began in late 2014 when Commissioner Gary Bettman allowed Bill Foley to test the season ticket market, though the league has had a presence in the city since the early 90s (not counting the bookies).

Over 13,000 season tickets and 18 months later, the Golden Knights were approved for business and preparing to start winning hockey games.

Unfortunately, history is not on their side in this contest. The last expansion franchises to win their opening games were Tampa Bay (7-3 against Chicago) and Ottawa (5-3 against Montréal) in the 1992-’93 season. Since then, expansion teams have gone a dreadful 0-6-1 in their first-ever regular season games, getting outscored 25-11 in the process.

Ouch. Maybe the Golden Knights can do better.

For them to buck the trend, they’ll need exemplary play from stars like G Marc-Andre Fleury, F Jon Marchessault and W Reilly Smith. Considering Vegas’ lack of an effective blue line and the prowess of the Stars’ forwards (more on them in a minute), Fleury’s job description is simple even though it’s not simply filled.

And it’s with that in mind that puts even more pressure on the Knights’ forwards. Given that Dallas doesn’t necessarily play the best defense in the league, Marchessault, and Smith will hopefully be able to find some chemistry on the top line with C Vadim Shipachyov to keep Vegas competitive.

In addition to playing their first game, the Knights are also bringing with them some the Stars’ old friends. In particular, C Cody Eakin spent the last five seasons in Dallas before being selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. During his tenure in the Lone Star State he registered solid 61-85-146 totals, but last season’s 3-9-12 performance was a drastic decline that forced General Manager Jim Nill to leave him exposed.

Speaking of Nill, now that Eakin is on the Golden Knights’ second line, he had the opportunity to make some much needed changes to the Stars’ roster. After finishing 15 points behind the eighth-seeded Predators last season, Nill was able to improve his team by adding the likes of G Ben Bishop, C Martin Hanzal, D Marc Methot and RW Alexander Radulov.

Pair that group of players, who should provide at least a 10-point improvement in the standings compared to last year’s team, with Dallas’ mainstays of LW Jamie Benn and F Tyler Seguin and you find a club that should have something to say about the Blackhawks winning the Central Division for a second-straight season.

Considering the poor history of expansion teams in their first regular season showing and the fact that RW David Clarkson, F Mikhail Grabovski, W James Neal and D Clayton Stoner are all on injured reserve, I’m not expecting much from the Golden Knights this evening. Instead, I’m going to be enthralled by what could be the best top-line in hockey (Benn-Seguin-Radulov) backed by the first number one goaltender Dallas has seen in years.


Of all the teams to make it a priority to defend their new home, I suppose I should have pegged Detroit, who beat Minnesota 4-2 at Little Caesars Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

After a scoreless first period, the Red Wings scored two goals in 23 seconds – both courtesy of their second power play unit. First Star of the Game W Anthony Mantha (RW Martin Frk and Third Star D Mike Green) claimed the honor of scoring the first goal in arena history by burying a five-on-three wrist shot with 5:20 remaining. Under normal power play conditions, that lead doubled 23 seconds later when F Dylan Larkin (Green and Mantha) tipped a loose puck past G Devan Dubnyk.

Not to be outdone, the Wild had a scoring blitz of their own, starting with C Joel Eriksson Ek‘s (W Chris Stewart and LW Marcus Foligno) wrister two minutes into the third period, followed by Stewart’s (F Tyler Ennis and D Kyle Quincey) wrister only 48 seconds later to level the game at two-all.

The tie lasted 4:19 before F Henrik Zetterberg (Green and F Tomas Tatar) found the game-winning snap shot on his stick. From between the face-off circles, he collected a Green pass deflected off W Jason Zucker‘s skate and fired it five-hole on Dubnyk to set the score at 3-2.

Frk (Mantha and Green) secured the win by burying a slap shot with 9:21 remaining in the contest, setting the 4-2 final score.

Second Star Jimmy Howard earned the victory after saving 37-of-39 shots faced for a .949 save percentage, leaving the loss to Dubnyk, who saved 27-of-31 (.871 save percentage).

After three games, road teams have a slight one-point advantage in the DtFR Game of the Day series with a 2-1-0 record.

November 28 – Day 47 – This time, in the style of B.B. King

All good things must come to an end. That includes the extended Thanksgiving weekend. Even worse, that signals the end of heavy scheduling, with only two games being played this evening. At 7 p.m., Calgary visits the New York Islanders followed an hour later by Dallas at St. LouisAll times eastern.

It’s been a week since we’ve featured a Western Conference team, and even longer since we’ve been to a Western arena. Add in that tonight is a Western Semifinals rematch, and we have to make our way to the Gateway to the West!

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I’ll admit that I’m a bit partial when it comes to the Blues, but this is what I remember from last year’s playoff series:

Game 3, the game where Ryan Reaves shared the love with Dallas‘ bench, was not a good showing by the Stars, as they fell 6-1 that night. That contest was not indicative of their series-long effort though, as neither team trailed by more than a game in the seven-game series.

St. Louis ended up winning Game 7 by the same 6-1 score to advance to the Western Conference Finals, besting the Stars by a combined 25-14 score against the best offense in the league last year. Of course, they would fall to San Jose in six game to miss the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dallas enters tonight’s game with a 9-8-5 record, barely on the outside of the playoff picture that is slowly starting to form – we are after Thanksgiving, after all. The reason they haven’t broken into that bracket is simple: they let a lot of goals by. 72, to be exact, the second-most in the league.

Although time has been almost evenly split between the Stars‘ two netminders, Kari Lehtonen has spent a little bit more time between the pipes. In his dozen starts, he’s earned a 4-6-3 record on an .884 save percentage and 3.38 GAA, both ranking third-worst among the 48 goalies with six or more appearances.

Those numbers are exceptionally poor, especially for a team that has the aspirations Dallas does. He has to take responsibility though, because the defense playing in front of him has done a moderately OK job keeping pucks off his cage. Before Johnny Oduya was placed on injured reserve, his 44 blocks led the blueline. That responsibility now rests on Jordie Benn‘s shoulders, the active block-leader with 41. Those efforts have led the blueline to allowing only 30.8 shots-against-per-game, the 11th-highest in the league.

As one might expect, Dallas‘ penalty kill has faced similar struggles. They’ve negated only 78.7% of opposing power plays, the seventh-worst effort. Oduya was active on the penalty kill as well, notching 12 shorthanded blocks, but he has been forced to hand this mantle off to Benn, too, who has 11 to his credit.

Hosting them this evening are the 12-7-3 Blues. Sitting in second in the Central Division, the Notes have found their success scoring the puck, with 58 tallies to their credit.

Who else to be leading St. Louis‘ offense than Vladimir Tarasenko and his 22 points? How he fell to the 16th-overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is beyond me. In addition to being the points leader, his nine goals is also tops for the club.

The success has carried into the special teams. St. Louis‘ power play ranks seventh-best in the league, successful on 21.3% of attempts. Kevin Shattenkirk joins Tarasenko with nine man-advantage points to lead the squad. The defenseman also ties for the team-lead in power play goals, but not with the right wing – instead, it’s Robby Fabbri who has also fired three extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has been even better than the power play. The Notes are second-best in the NHL at neutralizing their own penalties, refusing to yield a goal on 88.4% of opposing man-advantages. Captain Alex Pietrangelo tops the squad with 11 penalty kill blocks.

These teams have already met up once this year at the American Airlines Center, and the Stars took it to the Blues. They won 6-2, led by John Klingberg‘s two-goal night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include DallasTyler Seguin (15 assists [tied for third-most in the league] for 22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & St. LouisJake Allen (10 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]).

According to Vegas, St. Louis is favored by all accords to win tonight’s game as they have a -165 next to their name at most books in town. Seeing as they’ve done a good job keeping the opposition off the board, paired with an offense that will best Lehtonen, I’m confident the Notes defend home ice.

Hockey Birthday

  • Marc-Andre Fleury (1984-) – The 13-year veteran goaltender for Pittsburgh was the first pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Although he has two Stanley Cups to his credit, an emerging star in Matthew Murray has Flower’s future with the Penguins in question.
  • Mike Kostka (1985-) – Almost entirely an AHL lifer, this defenseman has played 85 NHL games with five different teams. His 35-game stint in Toronto in 2012-’13 has been his longest to date.

Ottawa must’ve read yesterday’s Game of the Day preview, because they didn’t seem to care for the high praise I was pouring on New York. They decided to spoil the Rangers‘ fun and shut them out for a 2-0 win.

The winning goal was struck after 21:54 of scoreless play. Second Star of the Game Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Tom Pyatt and Zack Smith) takes credit for the tally with a wrister. The lone insurance goal of the game found the back of the net with 3:49 remaining in the second period, courtesy of Third Star Mark Stone (Mike Hoffman)  on a power play wrister.

First Star Craig Anderson earns the victory and an extra shutout feather in his cap after saving all 33 shots faced, leaving the loss to Antti Raanta, who saved 18-of-20 (90%).

The roadies are pulling closer. After Ottawa‘s DtFR Game of the Day victory, the the home team has a 26-16-7 record, better than the roadies by only six points.

November 10 – Day 29 – Great Stars of fire

The bartender just walked by. He asked if anybody wanted another hockey game. Considering how good yesterday was, I got a whole round for tonight. Hope that’s okay.

In all seriousness, we have quite a selection of games this evening, starting with three at 7 p.m. (Columbus at Boston, Minnesota at Pittsburgh and Anaheim at Carolina), followed half an hour later by four more (Los Angeles at Montréal [RDS/SN360], Vancouver at Detroit, the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay and San Jose at Florida). St. Louis at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m., and tonight’s co-nightcaps get underway an hour later (Dallas at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Los Angeles at Montréal: Tom Gilbert played the last two seasons in The City of Saints, but now he works in The City of Angels.
  • New York at Tampa Bay: It’s a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals from last year.
  • St. Louis at Nashville: Carter Hutton heads back to Nashville, where he played the previous three seasons, and with a chance to play to boot.
  • Dallas at Calgary: Jiri Hudler spent four seasons in the Saddledome, but now he wears white in that building.

We haven’t watched the Stars yet this season, so let’s head to Alberta with them.

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Hudler joined Calgary before the 2012 season via free agency, and the center’s impact was noticed immediately in the lockout-shortened season as he notched 27 points.

His final full season with the Flames was easily the best campaign of his career. In 78 games played during the 2014-’15 season, he narrowly missed averaging a point a game with 76 to his credit.

This was also the season that Calgary qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. Although his club fell in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was no fault of Hudler’s. He continued his success with eight points in 11 games, split evenly between goals and assists.

Following his career year, Hudler was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, the first Flame since Joe Mullen of the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team to earn the honor.

He was traded from Calgary to Florida at last year’s trade deadline, but was not offered another contract this off-season. He signed with Dallas in August, only 21 days before the start of the season. He has not had the start to the season that he would’ve liked, with no points, or even a shot, to show for an hour’s work. He has been facing an illness so severe that he was placed on injured reserve, but he has the chance to be activated this evening.

Those Stars enter the night riding a 4-6-3 record, a far cry from their expectations entering this campaign. While the goaltending is on par with last season’s (be careful, I don’t want you to read that as good), it has been Dallas‘ offensive drought that has caused their current predicament.

So far this season, the Stars have managed only 33 goals in 13 games, the 11th-worst scoring average in the game. Dallas‘ struggles can’t be pinned on Tyler Seguin, who has 14 points to his credit evenly split between goals and assists, but the rest of the team – including great forward like Jamie Benn – has yet to break the 10-point mark.

While I wasn’t planning on thoroughly discussing Dallas‘ defense, there’s one major pitfall that must be acknowledged: the penalty kill. The Stars‘ 75% kill rate ranks fourth-worst in the league. When paired with a team that struggles to keep the puck out of their own net at even-strength, they are not doing themselves any favors by committing 52 penalties – four per game!

The Flames play tonight’s game with the same record as the Stars but with the added note of riding a two-game losing skid. That’s where the similarities end though, as Calgary‘s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring is putting them in quite a hole.

Having already allowed 50 goals against this season, the Flames give up an average of 3.57 tallies against per game – tied for the third-worst rate in the NHL with Philadelphia. The blame rests solely on the goaltenders, who have been under no more or less pressure than the average netminder in the league in terms of shots faced per game. Brian Elliott has started nine games so far this season for a 3-6-0 record. In those games, he’s saved a poor 88.7% of shots faced for a whopping 3.33 GAA to rank worst and third-worst in the league, respectively, among the 24 goalies who have appeared in as many contests.

Offensively, the Flames badly need to focus on one important aspect of their game: the power play. Successful on only 8.3% of attempts, Calgary ranks dead last in the NHL in the category. On the bright side, it means that most of their goals have come against more difficult conditions, so at least they have that going for them.

Ahh, Caddyshack.

Continuing the thread of special teams, you would be wise to assume the Flames‘ penalty kill is equally as bad as their power play given the goaltending situation. For those who had second-to-last in the league, you win bonus points, as the Flames have stopped 72.4% of opposing extra-man advantages to rank better than only Chicago‘s horrendous efforts on the kill.

Some players to keep an eye on include Calgary‘s Michael Frolik (nine points on five goals [both lead the team]) and Dallas‘ Seguin (seven goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Las Vegas favors the home team with a -125, but I don’t like that the NHL’s most potent offense last season is coming to town to face one of the worst goaltending situations. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the Stars start getting things pulled together against a prone opponent.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Saleski (1949-) – This right wing was the 64th overall selection in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing 543 games in the league, all but 67 of which were with the team that drafted him: the Philadelphia Flyers, including the 1973-’74 and ’74-’75 Stanley Cup winning teams.
  • Mike Leclerc (1976-) – On the opposite wing, Leclerc was drafted 55th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim. He ended up playing 341 games over his career, 85.3% of which were with the club that drafted him.
  • Kristian Huselius (1978-) – Another left winger like Leclerc, Huselius was drafted 47th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, the club he spent 38.8% of his career with.

The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the first overtime game in our Game of the Day series since October 28.

Columbus struck quickly last night, scoring both their regulation goals within the opening 5:30. Second Star of the Game Boone Jenner (Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson) takes credit for the first goal with a snap shot only 1:23 after the opening puck drop. 4:06 later, Brandon Saad (Ryan Murray and Third Star Jack Johnson) scored a snapper of his own to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead, which held into the first intermission.

Anaheim‘s comeback began with 2:39 remaining in the second period when Rickard Rakell (Cam Fowler and Josh Manson) scored his fourth goal of the season. It was the lone tally of the second period, meaning Columbus still had a one-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes of play.

That lead lasted only 1:25 after resuming play before Nick Ritchie (Joseph Cramarossa) scored a wrap-around to level the score for the Ducks.

Three-on-three overtime lasted only 1:21 before First Star Zach Werenski (Alexander Wennberg and Saad) scored the winner with a wrister.

Sergei Bobrovsky earns the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), while John Gibson takes the overtime loss saving 15-of-18 (83.3%).

With that victory, Columbus improves the home squads’ record in the DtFR Game of the Day series to 18-10-3, favoring the homers by nine points over the roadies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 4 – Eakin’s overtime winner levels the series for the Stars

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First Star of the Game Cody Eakin’s first goal of the playoffs was a big one, as the Stars beat the Blues 3-2 in overtime to level the series at two-all.

Neither team was able to capitalize of their lone man-advantage in the frame, but Vladimir Tarasenko did find the back of the net with a wrister at the 10:17 mark, assisted by Jaden Schwartz.  Schwartz completed a steal by Carl Gunnarsson along the near boards in Dallas‘ offensive zone and was able to find Tarasenko already streaking towards Third Star of the Game Kari Lehtonen’s net.  The winger collected the pass near center ice with no defensemen in his path, allowing him to advance between the dots before going five hole on Lehtonen.

In addition to leading on the scoreboard, the Blues also owned the face-off dot (61%), blocks (three to one), giveaways (none to three) and hits (16 to 10).

Radek Faksa leveled the game 4:05 into the second period, with an assist from… Joel Edmundson (that’s a joke, just in case you were wondering). Edmundson was trying to find a teammate in the neutral zone, but Faksa easily intercepted that pass to advance on Brian Elliott’s crease and score on his five hole.

16 seconds after Faksa’s goal, David Backes found himself in the penalty box for tripping Mattias Janmark.  It proved to be costly, as 53 seconds later Patrick Sharp scored the Stars‘ first power play goal of the series with a quick wrister past Elliott’s right skate.  He was set up by Jamie Benn (his eighth helper of the playoffs) and Jason Spezza.  John Klingberg passed the puck along the blue line to Spezza, who found Benn along the far side of the goal line.  Benn was forced to the top of the crease, but he found a crashing Sharp to take the lead.

Backes earned himself another trip to the penalty box at the 11:11 mark, but he took Kris Russell with him this team, as both were charged with penalties (roughing and slashing, respectively).  The four-on-four circumstances lasted only 1:27 before the Notes earned a four-on-three when Eakin took a seat for slashing Schwartz.

St. Louis converted on that infraction when Paul Stastny scored his first goal of the playoffs, a tip-in on Tarasenko’s initial shot to level the game at two-all.  He was also assisted by Alexander Steen.  Steen took a pass from Tarasenko near the blue line, but quickly returned the puck back to his possession outside the near face-off circle.  Tarasenko fired a wrister right at Stastny’s stick at the top of the crease, which he angled just the right way to get the puck over Lehtonen.

Alex Goligoski sent the Blues right back to the playoffs at the 13:55 mark when he hooked Patrik Berglund, but Steen returned the ice to four-on-four after only 24 seconds when he interfered with Faksa’s advance on the puck.  Dallas was unable to convert on their end of the 24 second power play when Goligoski returned to the ice.

Although an exciting second period, this game certainly needed a third, as the score was two-all after 40 minutes.  St. Louis continued to lead the game in face-off wins (53%), blocks (four to three) and hits (25 to 19).

Unlike the first two periods, there were no goals or penalties committed in the final 20 minutes.  Elliott and Lehtonen deserve credit for forcing overtime, as they both saved all seven shots they faced.  Through regulation, St. Louis continued to lead in face-offs (56%), blocks (seven to four), giveaways (four to six) and hits (34 to 30).

Only 2:58 into overtime, Eakin scored the winner with his first goal of the postseason, assisted by Sharp and Benn.  Benn collected a pass at his defensive blue line and advanced the puck to center ice before passing to Sharp along the far boards.  Eakin received a cross-ice pass at the near face-off dot, which he wristed over Elliott’s glove shoulder to level the series at two-all.

Lehtonen earns the win after saving 24 of the 26 shots he faced (92.3%), while Elliott takes the overtime loss after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

With the win, the Stars reclaim home ice for the now effectively three game series.  The important Game 5 will occur Saturday at 1 p.m. eastern in the American Airlines Center, and may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 3 – Steen headlines St. Louis’ 6-1 victory

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Three goals in the second period proved to be too much for the Stars, as St. Louis won 6-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

Until approximately the 2:15 mark, the beginning of the game took place almost entirely in the neutral zone before the Blues finally registered a shot on net.  Any momentum they tried getting off those attempts ended though, but it wasn’t due to anything the Stars did – the same pane of glass damaged in Game 7 of the Chicago series proved to be an issue.

In fact, that delay in play actually benefited Dallas, who quickly fired two quick shots following the return to play.  Soon after, they scored the first goal of Game 3 – a Colton Sceviour wrister at the 4:44 mark.  His second tally of the postseason was assisted by Jason Spezza (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Johnny Oduya.

Fifty-seven seconds later, First Star of the Game Alexander Steen leveled with a wrister of his own, assisted by Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer.

Scottie Upshall committed the first penalty of the night when he hi-sticked Oduya in front of Antti Niemi’s net with 6:52 remaining in the period.  Dallas entered the night 0 for seven on the power play in the Western Semifinals, and once again the Blues completed the kill.

Thirty-seven seconds after completing the kill, Vernon Fiddler and the Stars returned the favor by committing a slashing penalty against Jaden Schwartz, which St. Louis converted not even half a minute later when Third Star David Backes connected on a tip-in to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Second Star Vladimir Tarasenko.

The Stars almost tied the game again with 1:19 remaining in the period when Jason Demers collected the rebound of an Elliott save, but the puck hit the crossbar and did not cross the red line, leaving the Blues with the one-goal differential going into the dressing room.

Not only did St. Louis end the frame with the lead on the scoreboard, but they were also winning the dot (58%), blocked shots (eight to four), takeaways (three to two) and, most importantly for their game, hits (19 to eight).

2:34 after returning to the ice for the second period, Brouwer scored his third goal of these playoffs on a wrister, assisted by Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo (his sixth helper of the postseason).  That tally is the one that chased Niemi, who was replaced by Kari Lehtonen for the remainder of the game.

St. Louis continued the onslaught 1:16 later when Tarasenko scored a wrister assisted by Patrik Berglund and Robby Fabbri (his seventh helper of the playoffs).

Jamie Benn began taking his frustrations out Blues skaters, and was sent to the box after tripping Bouwmeester at the 4:47 mark.  The ensuing power play did not go St. Louis‘ way, so the score remained at 4-1 when Benn returned to the ice.

The Blues returned to the power play at the 8:47 mark when two Stars (Demers and Fiddler) were sent to the box, but it was a five-on-four due to Ryan Reaves also earning two minutes in the sin bin for responding with a roughing penalty of his own against Fiddler.  St. Louis‘ power play fell to one for three in the game as they were unable to score with the advantage.

Those penalties are just one example of how Fiddler and the Stars have been trying to get under Reaves’ skin since he has entered the series.  Known for being an aggressive enforcer, When he entered play, an opposing physical Dallas skater was usually quick to follow, and almost every stoppage was followed by a skirmish along the boards.  Even when Fiddler wasn’t on the ice, Reaves was still a focus for the Stars, hoping for any attempt to get their first power play goal of the series.

Antoine Roussel made his fourth trip to the penalty box in the last two games for a delay of game penalty, and the Blues made sure to make him pay.  Only 10 seconds after the infraction at the 17:53 mark, Steen scored his second goal of the night with a power play wrister to set the score at 5-1, assisted by Tarasenko and Schwartz.

Bouwmeester earned himself a break with 63 seconds remaining in the second period when he tripped Spezza in the corner, but the period ended with the Blues leading 5-1.

After two periods, the Blues still led on shots (26-19), as well as face-offs (59%), blocks (12 to five), takeaways (seven to four) and hits (28-17).

St. Louis killed the remaining 57 seconds of the power play at the beginning of the third period to continue their streak of penalty kills at eight straight over the Stars.

Benn committed the first penalty of the final period at the 9:07 mark when he cross checked Pietrangelo, and the Blues followed suit 3:35 later when Colton Parayko was caught roughing Radek Faksa.  Dallas ended their power play 41 seconds early when Cody Eakin hooked Shattenkirk.  After all of that, neither team altered the 5-1 score.

Reaves finally got tired of the Stars late in the third and scrapped with Curtis McKenzie with three minutes to go.  After his bout, he blew a kiss to the Dallas bench before heading to the dressing room, probably not making many friends in the process.

Backes’ fifth goal of the playoffs and second of the game was a shorthanded wrister, due to a Brouwer slash against Faksa, with 1:54 remaining in the game to seal the deal at 6-1.  He was assisted by Carl Gunnarsson.

Elliott earns the win after saving 25 of the 26 shots he faced (96.2%), while Niemi takes the loss, saving nine of 12 (75%).  The goaltending questions continue for Dallas, as Niemi’s replacement saved 24 of 27 (88.9%) for no decision.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the series, the Blues will once again host the Stars Thursday at 8 p.m. eastern.  That contest can be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 2 – Backes and the Blues make it a five game series

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The St. Louis Blues may have only managed 25 shots on goal, but they were able to level their series against the Dallas Stars by beating them 4-3 in overtime, thanks to Captain David Backes.

Only 3:36 into Game 2, Cody Eakin collected a puck along the near boards and passed to Second Star of the Game Jamie Benn, who was positioned behind Brian Elliott’s net.  He set up a centering pass towards the left face-off dot for Alex Goligoski, who top shelfed his slap shot into the back of the net.

The Blues took offense to that, and 35 seconds later Third Star Backes carried the puck into the neutral zone before passing to Patrik Berglund, who completed the advance into the attacking zone before passing off to Robby Fabbri.  Fabbri dumped back to the attacking Berguland, who scored a slap shot past Kari Lehtonen’s glove hand to level the game at a goal apiece.

At the 7:02 mark, First Star Troy Brouwer and Scottie Upshall connected with Joel Edmundson to give him his first goal of the playoffs, and more importantly, a St. Louis lead.

With 80 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Brouwer scored the Blues‘ final goal of regulation on a power play wrister, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Fabbri.

At the beginning of the second period, it was not Lehtonen in Dallas‘ net, but instead Antti Niemi, who did not yield a goal on 10 shots faced in his opening 20 minutes of work.  Similarly, Elliott saved all six shots he faced, holding the score at 3-1 going into the final frame.

The fifth goal of the game wasn’t scored until the 4:35 mark of the final frame, courtesy of Mattias Janmark, his first of the playoffs.  His wrister was assisted by Eakin and Colton Sceviour.  Eakin dumped the puck out of the defensive zone to Janmark, who had only one Blue to beat on his way to the crease before sneaking the puck past Elliott’s left skate.

Dallas‘ offensive push was certainly made evident 13 seconds later, when a Dallas power play shot was fired so hard it broke Elliott’s mask, but he made the save to maintain the one-goal differential.

With 2:36 remaining in regulation, Benn scored a wrister to level the game, assisted by Eakin and Kris Russell.  Eakin won the face-off from the far dot, which he sent back to the blue line for Russell to collect and fire on net.  Elliott made the save, but Benn collected the rebound to slide the puck past the sprawling goaltender’s glove hand.

Neither team was able to break the draw before the clock struck zeroes, so the game required 10:58 of overtime before Backes’ power play wrister proved to be the winner.  After providing the screen on Alexander Steen’s initial shot and literally jumping over the puck, he collected the rebound and scored behind Niemi’s left skate.

Elliott earns the win after saving 31 of 34 shots faced (91.2%), while Niemi takes the overtime loss, saving 19 of 20 (95%).  Lehtonen takes credit for the poor first period, where he saved only two of five (40%).

Now a best-of-five series, the locale shifts to Scottrade Arena in St. Louis, MO.  Game 3 will occur on a busy Tuesday, May 3 at 9:30 p.m. eastern and can be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Minnesota at Dallas – Game 2 – Scandella’s power play goal can’t cover his rough defensive night, Stars take 2-0 series lead

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The best in the west are continuing their winning ways in the postseason, as they now have a two-game lead on Minnesota after winning 3-2.

Although both teams had over three minutes of power play action in the first period (we had a little bit of 4-on-4 action), they both went 0-for-2 with the advantage to end the frame scoreless.  That being said, the Stars were the clear offensive leaders, just like you’d expect, as their 14 first period shots doubled those of the Wild.

Period Two finally saw the first goal, as Ales Hemsky’s initial “shot” at the 3:54 mark was deflected into the back of the net by Third Star of the Game Antoine Roussel to give the Stars the lead.  Roussel brought the puck into the zone from the left boards, under pressure from Matt Dumba, forcing him to dump it behind the cage. Marco Scandella attempted to track it down, but his attempt to get it out of the zone was right on target… for Hemsky’s ankle.  The force sent the puck back behind Devan Dubnyk’s cage, which Hemsky somehow deflects over the net and into the crease.  Already beginning to crouch, the puck was actually above Dubnyk, but below the bar, allowing Roussel to get around the net to force the puck over Dubnyk’s back and into goal.

That was the only goal of the second period, even though Minnesota provided the Stars two power plays.

Dallas proved an important insurance goal, which proved to be the game winner, with 9:37 remaining in regulation when, thanks to an assist from Cody Eakin, Second Star Jamie Benn backhanded a breakaway goal past Dubnyk.  This one doesn’t fall as much on Scandella’s shoulders, as it was him who fired the shot at First Star Kari Lehtonen, but the deflection was corralled in the right corner of the zone by Eakin, who found a streaking Benn to create a one-on-one matchup with the goaltender that he almost always wins.

Thirty-six seconds later, Johnny Oduya was caught holding Charlie Coyle’s stick, which earned him a two-minute break.  Scandella and Minnesota finally capitalized on their fourth power play of the night when he fired a slap shot at the 12:42 mark, assisted by Dumba and Jason Zucker.  Any chances of completing the comeback were effectively nullified when Jason Pominville tripped Stephen Johns with 2:52 remaining in regulation, making them play almost the remainder of the contest a man down.

Lehtonen earns the victory after saving 25 of the 26 shots he faced (96.2%), while Dubnyk takes the loss, saving 26 of 28 (92.9%).

Minnesota will need to capitalize on home ice if they wish to get back in this series.  Their first shot at doing just that will be Monday at 8:30 p.m. eastern, and can be viewed on CNBC, SN or TVAS2.