Tag Archives: Bergeron

October 21 – Day 18 – Time to right the ship

In the words of Sir Elton John, “Saturday night’s alright for fighting.” If there’s a lyric that better describes hockey, I have yet to hear it.

To take it a step further, Saturday afternoon must not be too bad either, as Nashville visits the New York Rangers (SN) at 12:30 p.m. and Philadelphia hosts Edmonton half an hour later. After the matinees are complete, five contests (Buffalo at Boston, Toronto at Ottawa [CBC/CITY/TVAS], Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay, San Jose at the New York Islanders and Los Angeles at Columbus) find their start at the usual time of 7 p.m., followed by Florida at Washington (NBCSN) 30 minutes after. Carolina makes its yearly visit to Dallas at 8 p.m., with Chicago at Arizona waiting an hour before dropping the puck. The stroke of 10 p.m. brings with it the start of Minnesota at Calgary (CBC), half an hour before tonight’s nightcap: St. Louis at Vegas. All times Eastern.

It’s nights like these that are hard to pick just one game to focus on, as there’s a good reason to watch at least half of them. Here’s a few that stick out to me…

  • Buffalo at Boston: Rivalry night in Beantown is always a worthwhile experience.
  • Toronto at Ottawa: Speaking of rivalries, the Battle of Ontario is another good one.
  • Chicago at Arizona: Don’t tell anybody, but D Connor Murphy played his first four NHL seasons with the Coyotes.
  • St. Louis at Vegas: W Chris Thorburn was one of Vegas’ expansion draft selections, but he ended up signing with the Blues instead.

Since we haven’t had the opportunity to feature the Bruins or the Sabres yet this season, what better way to make up for our transgression than by focusing on their rivalry tonight?

 

Let’s just put things simply: both these clubs have much higher aspirations for their seasons than the first two-and-a-half weeks have indicated.

The 1-5-2 Sabres have especially had a tough run of things, as they’re currently riding a two game losing skid after falling in overtime to Vegas on Tuesday and losing outright to Vancouver last night.

Since the Bruins don’t play for a city that starts with a ‘V’, maybe Buffalo has a chance this evening.

Averaging .8 points-per-game after his first two seasons in the NHL, C Jack Eichel was expected to lead the Sabres to one of the best offensive efforts in the league. Instead, Buffalo’s attack has averaged a (t)fourth-worst 2.5 goals-per-game effort, forcing the Sabres to be discussed in the same breath as the likes of Arizona.

Unless we’re talking about logo and sweater designs at a franchise’s debut, it’s rarely good to be compared to the Coyotes.

Though I threw Eichel under the bus, the Sabres’ struggles are certainly no fault of their first line. In fact, if not for the production of Eichel, LW Evander Kane and RW Jason Pominville, Buffalo might as well not have an offense at all. All three are averaging at least 1.13 points-per-game this season and they combine for 12 of the Sabres’ 20 goals. While it is nice to know that one line is capable of producing 60 percent of a team’s offense, I’ll bet the house that Head Coach Phil Housley would love for F Ryan O’Reilly‘s line to find their form sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, little has gone well on the Sabres’ defensive end either. Due at least in part to Buffalo’s 49.9 face-off winning percentage (11th-worst in the league), neither G Chad Johnson nor G Robin Lehner can claim a GAA under three. Lehner has certainly been the superior of the two netminders so far with his .9 save percentage and 3.14 GAA, and he’s likely to be tonight’s starter since Johnson was responsible for last night’s 4-2 loss to the Canucks.

If anything has gone well so far for the Sabres, it’s certainly been their penalty kill. Successfully rejecting 83.3 percent of opposing power plays, Buffalo ties for eighth-best in the NHL. Defensemen Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe have played exceptionally when shorthanded, as both have five shot blocks to their credit in that situation. But there’s an asterisk next to Gorges’ name: he’s hit that total in only four games played as compared to McCabe’s eight.

Alright, that’s enough laying into one team. Time to take on the 3-3-0 Bruins.

There’s little to complain about on the Bruins’ offensive end. Averaging 3.33 goals-per-game, Boston is tied for the ninth-best offense in the NHL. It’s been the LW Brad Marchand show so far this season, as his 4-5-9 totals are easily among the top-25 performances in the league so far.

Then again, that was before C Patrice Bergeron returned to action from his lower body injury. In only one game played against Vancouver on Thursday, the 32-year-old managed one goal and three assists for a four-point night, tying him for sixth-most points on the team with players that have five more games played.

Regarding Bergeron, I have two guesses: (1) he’s one of those guys that’s good at his job, and (2) last season’s not-so-great 53 points could be eclipsed rather easily.

Whether it’s Bergeron or Marchand leading the charge, the Bruins’ power play is one of the most intimidating in the league. Boston has found success on eight-of-27 extra-man opportunities for a fourth-best 29.6 percent success rate, including C David Krejci‘s team-leading four power play points.

Of course, for an offense to be clicking along as well as the Bruins’ has been and the club only have a .500 record, there might be a problem on the other end of the ice.

That problem’s name is G Tuukka Rask. Though he’s certainly been one of, if not the league’s best netminder since his debut in the 2007-’08 season (his .922 career save percentage is tied for best in the NHL since then among goalies with at least 50 starts, and his 2.25 career GAA is second-best in that group), he’s struggled mightily in his four starts to open this campaign, managing an ugly .882 save percentage and 3.3 GAA.

Could it simply be that he’s getting sprayed with pucks every time he takes to the crease? Unfortunately, not really. He’s seen an average of only 25.5 shots-per-game so far this season, which is right in line with the (t)fourth-best 29.2 shots allowed by the Bruins’ defense per game.

It’s a fact Bruins fans may not want to admit, but Rask has only seen his save percentage drop since his .93 performance in the 2013-’14 season, with the lone exception of last year when he matched his .915 effort from the 2015-’16 campaign.

This drop in play began at the same time Rask started seeing 50-60 starts per season, which hearkens back to a statement I’ve made countless times about the Bruins’ goaltender: you can only work a mule so much. He’s been overworked for the past four seasons to the point that his play is suffering. Hopefully with G Anton Khudobin in the picture, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will be able to relieve some of the pressure off his starter so he can rediscover his true form before his best playing days are behind him. If not, the Bruins are in a deeper hole than even the most dire of pessimists could have predicted.

Of course, all that writing may have been for naught with Rask currently listed as day-to-day with a concussion after a collision with rookie F Anders Bjork Wednesday. Expect Khudobin and his .927 save percentage to start this evening.

The Sabres are just waiting for a breakout game, but they have yet to earn it. I truly do believe in their offense, but I have concerns about the defense going up against an elite scoring club in Boston. Though the TD Garden hasn’t exactly been friendly to its residents for the past few years, I expect the Bruins to win this game by dominating the scoreboard.


For the second-straight night, the DtFR Game of the Day required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner. This time, it was First Star of the Game W Alex Ovechkin scoring the overtime winner for the Washington Capitals to beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.

Featuring four total goals, the third period was absolutely wild. It was set up by a two-goal second period, as both F Darren Helm and W Andre Burakovsky (D Dmitry Orlov and W Tom Wilson) found goals to set the score at one-all. Helm’s wrist shot at the 4:31 mark of the frame was particularly noteworthy, as it was his first shorthanded goal since April 9, 2015.

Eighty-five seconds after the second intermission ended, the flurry of third period goals began when F Jay Beagle (RW Alex Chiasson) scored a shorthanded wrister to give the Capitals the lead. It was a lead that lasted only 3:59 though, as Second Star F Tomas Tatar (F Dylan Larkin and D Mike Green) leveled the contest with a tip-in. Scoring subsided until Tatar (F Henrik Zetterberg and D Niklas Kronwall) buried his second of the game, a power play snap shot, with 7:15 remaining in regulation to take a 3-2 lead for the Red Wings.

Detroit almost managed to earn the victory, but Larkin’s delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass set up a power play opportunity for the Capitals. Held off the scorecard in his last game played, F T.J. Oshie (Burakovsky and C Evgeny Kuznetsov) was sure to take advantage, scoring his wrister with 61 seconds remaining in regulation to level the game at three-all.

The Red Wings apparently didn’t learn their lesson when Oshie forced overtime. 68 seconds into three-on-three play, D Trevor Daley earned himself a seat in the penalty box for tripping Ovechkin. Ovi didn’t seem to like that very much, as he ended the game only 48 later with a game-winning slap shot from his usual spot in the face-off circle to Third Star G Petr Mrazek‘s right, assisted by C Nicklas Backstrom and D John Carlson.

G Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 34-of-37 shots faced (.919 save percentage), forcing Mrazek to take the overtime loss, saving 37-of-41 (.902).

Not only was this the second-straight overtime game, but it was also a second-straight victory for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Visitors now trail the 10-5-3 home teams by only five points.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 23

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins – Game 6

By: Nick Lanciani

The Ottawa Senators came back in Game 6 to eliminate the Boston Bruins from 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff competition with a 3-2 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Sunday. Clarke MacArthur had the game-winning power play goal to end the series.

Third Star of the game and Senator’s goaltender, Craig Anderson, made 28 saves on 30 shots faced for a .933 save percentage in the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.

After killing off three consecutive delay of game penalties for sending the puck over the glass, the Bruins had their first power play opportunity of the afternoon after Ottawa forward, Mark Stone, tripped Sean Kuraly as he was exiting the defensive zone.

On the ensuing power play, Brad Marchand faked a shot and slid a pass over to Drew Stafford (2) who went high with a slap shot, beating Anderson on the blocker side, to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 18:13 of the 1st period. Marchand (2) and Charlie McAvoy (3) recorded the assists on Stafford’s goal.

In an incredible display of goaltending, Rask denied Stone on a breakaway and follow up shot with about 15 seconds left in the period after David Pastrnak failed to connect on a pass to a mid-line change Bruins defense.

McAvoy was sent to the box early in the 2nd period for tripping Senators forward, Tommy Wingels in a manner similar to how Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman, injured Bruins forward, David Krejci in Game 5 with a knee-on-knee collision. Wideman’s play was not penalized, unlike McAvoy’s.

While on the power play, Bobby Ryan (4) tied the game, 1-1, 3:26 into the 2nd period on a redirected slap shot from Derick Brassard. Brassard (5) and Erik Karlsson (6) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Ryan’s power play goal.

Past the halfway mark in the 2nd period, Kyle Turris (1) received a pass from Ryan Dzingel and unleashed an absolute laser of a wrist shot that found the back of the net. Dzingel (1) had the only assist on Turris’s goal, which made it 2-1 Ottawa.

Trailing 2-1 early in the 3rd period, Boston caught Ottawa in a slow line change, which resulted in a quick rush from Colin Miller to Marchand, who fired a shot at Anderson, producing a rebound. Patrice Bergeron (2) was on the doorstep and scored on the rebound from the left side of the crease, having tapped the trickling puck into the twine while Anderson sprawled to recover.

Marchand (3) and Miller (1) were given the helpers on the play and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

For the fourth time in the series, overtime was necessary to determine a game winner.

Pastrnak was sent to the box for tying up MacArthur on a Senators rush with 14:06 to go in the overtime period.

MacArthur (2) ended the series on the ensuing power play, scoring Ottawa’s second power play goal of the afternoon at 6:30 of overtime. Ryan (3) and Brassard (6) notched the assists on the game winning goal.

Sunday’s game marked the first time in Senators franchise history that they were involved in four overtime games in a playoff series. Additionally, all six games in the series were decided by one goal.

Per the NHL’s PR department, 17 out of 41 First Round games (41.5%) have required overtime in this year’s postseason, which ties the record for an opening round. In 2013, 17 out of 47 games (36.2%) required overtime in the Conference Quarterfinals.

Of note, Ottawa had three shots on goal in the 3rd period, while Boston recorded 12 shots on net in the last twenty minutes of regulation. In overtime, the Senators had six shots on goal, while the Bruins failed to record a shot on net.

The Senators advance to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the New York Rangers at the Canadian Tire Centre in Games 1 and 2, as Ottawa will have home ice in the series.

The first contest of the series will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. American viewers can watch the game on CNBC, while Canadian residents will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

 

Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – Game 6

By: Connor Keith

On the backs of Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson, the Capitals beat in overtime Toronto 2-1 at the Air Canada Centre Sunday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third-straight year.

Only 6:31 of extra time was required before Washington made its move. The play started in the far face-off circle in front of Frederik Andersen. Evgeny Kuznetsov won the scrum by kicking the puck back to John Carlson at the far point. The defenseman shoved the puck down the far boards to Justin Williams, who fired a shot a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle. That attempt never reached the waiting netminder because it was intercepted by Johansson, who redirected the puck beyond his reach to the near post.

It’s only fitting this contest went to overtime, as all but Game 4 of this series required post-regulation hockey to determine a winner. In fact, overtime has been a theme throughout the 2017 playoffs so far. In addition to being the first time the Caps played five overtime games in a single playoff series, this was the 18th match to require extra time – an NHL record for a single round.

This game was a true goaltending treat. No matter how hard each offense tried, it simply could not register a goal. In all, the Capitals fired 36 shots at Andersen (94.4%) and Toronto 37 at Holtby (97.4%) over the course of the game, but they both answered the bell on all but three combined times.

Both regulation tallies were struck in the third period. The scoreless draw survived 47:45 before being snapped by Auston Matthews (Morgan Rielly and Zach Hyman) with a wrist shot from the slot. The Maple Leafs didn’t get to celebrate their lead long though, as Johansson (Lars Eller and Brooks Orpik) buried a wrister of his own only 5:06 later to level the knot at one-all and force the eventual overtime.

Much of the reason neither club could find a goal for so long was due to the very disciplined play by both sides.  Only five penalties were recorded in the entire game to yield what proved to be effectively one power play – an opportunity for Washington due to William Nylander holding Nicklas Backstrom.

Technically, the Leafs did earn a man-advantage in the first period when Johansson was caught holding Nylander, but Tyler Bozak‘s hi-stick against Carlson negated that power play only 22 seconds into the opportunity.

Nazem Kadri and T.J. Oshie were sent to the box simultaneously for roughing with 47 seconds remaining in regulation for the final two infractions.

With their victory, the Capitals will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center for Games 1 and 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. It will be their second-straight meeting in the second round and their fourth since the turn of the millennium.

Game 1 drops the puck at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. Residents of the United States can watch the game on NBCSN, while interested Canadians will be serviced by both SN and TVAS.

This will be the 10th time the Capitals and Penguins have squared off in the postseason, but it’s been a lopsided affair in the past. Pittsburgh has won all but one of the previous series and has advanced to the next round six straight times at the Caps’ expense. Washington’s only time besting the Pens was in the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, winning four games to two, before falling in the conference semifinals to the New York Rangers, the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 15

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

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 2

By: DtFR Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 2

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

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

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

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

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

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

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

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

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

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

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 12

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

 

New York Rangers at Montréal Canadiens – Game 1

On nights like these, it doesn’t matter who the goal comes from. All that matters is that it goes in the net. That was the case for the Rangers, who bested the Habs 2-0 at the Bell Centre to take an early lead in their playoff series.

After collecting a face-off Tomas Plekanec had originally won for Montréal, Second Star of the Game Tanner Glass sneaked an unassisted backhanded shot over Third Star Carey Price‘s glove shoulder at the 9:50 mark of the first period for what proved to be the netminder’s only goal allowed on the night. Michael Grabner (Jesper Fast) provided the lone insurance tally on an empty net with 70 seconds remaining in regulation.

We knew coming into this series it was a matchup between two incredible goaltenders in 31-20-4 First Star Henrik Lundqvist and 37-20-5 Price, and they didn’t disappoint, combining for 59 saves. Lundqvist saved all 30 he faced for the 10th postseason shutout of his career.

New York truly took command of this game after the first intermission, limiting the Canadiens to only 15 shots over the remaining 40 minutes. Even when the Habs were able to control the posession, the Blueshirts would not let them get a shot on Lundqvist’s net, managing 24 blocks – led by Dan Girardi‘s four.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators – Game 1

By: Nick Lanciani

After going 0-3-1 against the Ottawa Senators in the regular season, the Boston Bruins opened up their edition of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 victory on road ice.

Fresh off of his two-game suspension for the last two games of the regular season, Brad Marchand scored the game winning goal with 2:33 to go in the 3rd period– capping an almost two-minute long shift.

Ottawa Senators goaltender, Craig Anderson, played a stellar game despite the loss. Anderson made 23 saves on 25 shots faced for a .920 save percentage.

Both teams swapped tremendous chances in the first 20 minutes, but neither Boston’s David Pastrnak, nor Ottawa’s Derick Brassard could score on back-to-back breakaway chances. After an eventful 1st period which nearly witnessed Bruins forward– and Ottawa native– Ryan Spooner pocket one in the twine with about four seconds to go, the score remained tied at 0-0.

The Sens kicked off the series’s goal scoring in the 2nd period with a goal from Bobby Ryan (1) at 10:28. Ryan crashed the net and followed up on one of his own chances, firing the puck short side by Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask. Erik Karlsson (1) notched the only assist on the goal.

For the first time since May 10, 2014 an NHL team was held without a shot in a single period in a Stanley Cup playoff game, as Boston did not record a shot on goal in the 2nd period. The Anaheim Ducks, by the way, were the last team to do so in their matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks wound up winning the game 2-0, however.

After going without a goal in his last 15 games of the regular season, Frank Vatrano (1) found the back of the net with 15:05 to go in the 3rd period in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game. Riley Nash (1) and Adam McQuaid (1) were credited with the assists on the goal.

Vatrano became the 6th Bruin since 1999 to score in his playoff debut and Boston tied the game, 1-1.

Late in the 3rd period, Marchand (1) put the Bruins ahead for the first time in the game with the game-winning goal off of a blocked shot by Dion Phaneuf. Patrice Bergeron (1) and Pastrnak (1) collected the assists on Marchand’s 17th career NHL playoff goal.

Boston’s Rask made 26 saves on 27 shots against for a .936 save percentage in the win. The Bruins lead the series 1-0 with Game 2 scheduled for Saturday at Canadian Tire Centre and can be viewed on NBC/TVAS/SN at 3 p.m. ET.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

When Matthew Murray went down in warmups, things were looking grim for the Penguins, at least for their playoff opener. Instead, First Star of the Game Marc-Andre Fleury saved all but one shot faced to lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 victory over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena.

Just like Pierre McGuire said during the broadcast, sometimes the best trade a club can make is the very one they don’t. Trade rumors swirled about the Penguins’ former first-overall pick all season, but he turned in a 31-save performance and a Game 1 victory for First Star honors.

Jeff Zatkoff, anyone? Maybe Fleury has too much playoff experience to be the Pens’ new “Mr. Game 1,” but the story is beginning to sound eerily similar to last year’s Cup run.

Offensively, the Pens showed one period of greatness after a sluggish opening frame. The Jackets held them to only three shots on the opening 20 minutes – including none in the last 14:49 – due in large part to their 23 first period hits .

The Penguins came out on fire after the intermission, notching all three of their tallies. Only 1:15 after returning from the dressing room, Bryan Rust (Second Star Phil Kessel and Third Star Evgeni Malkin) broke the ice with a snap shot. Kessel’s assist was especially impressive, as he used his skate to pass to the right wing.

Rust’s tally was followed only 2:30 later by Kessel’s (Justin Schultz and Malkin) eventual game-winner. Kessel’s tally was a strong power play wrist shot from the near face-off dot over Sergei Bobrovsky‘s glove shoulder.

Nick Bonino (Patric Hornqvist and Olli Maatta) provided Pittsburgh’s final tally with 3:35 remaining in the frame.

Columbus finally got on the board with 7:19 remaining in regulation courtesy of Matt Calvert (Josh Anderson), but the Jackets couldn’t convert any more of their 32 shots on goal into markers.

 

St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Minnesota Wild – Game 1

Overtime game-winners in the playoffs can come from the most unlikely of sources. In Game 1, it was First Star of the Game Joel Edmundson that gave St. Louis the 2-1 overtime victory over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

No matter how hard Minnesota’s offense tried, it could not get past Second Star Jake Allen. The Blues’ goaltender saved 43 straight shots faced for an unblemished effort.

That is, until only 23 seconds remained in regulation. Zach Parise (Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund) scored a wrist shot to match Vladimir Sobotka‘s (Alex Steen) snap shot at the 6:21 mark of the second period to force the first overtime period of the 2017 postseason.

Similar to the Notes’ long playoff run a year ago, the Wild found its success when it made its presence known. Led by Jared Spurgeon and Chris Stewart‘s four checks apiece, Minnesota threw an impressive 28 hits in regulation to St. Louis’ 13, which led to 11 takeaways.

In all, Allen saved 51 shots faced before Edmundson (Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz) scored the game-winning wrister. It wasn’t the prettiest play the Blues have ever run, but they aren’t complaining. Tarasenko was crashing Third Star Devan Dubnyk‘s crease, but lost control of the puck before he could manage a shot. Fortunately for him and his club, the loose puck found the defenseman’s stick and he easily scored on Dubnyk’s stick side.

 

San Jose Sharks at Edmonton Oilers – Game 1

The Sharks arguably entered the playoffs in their worst slump of the season, but those losing ways just might be behind them. San Jose beat Edmonton 3-2 in overtime at Rogers Place to take an early one-game lead in their first round series.

San Jose’s worst fears were realized in the first period, as Edmonton’s offense made it known that it has no trouble picking Martin Jones apart when he’s off his game. Both Oscar Klefbom (Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic) and Lucic (Mark Letestu and Connor McDavid) scored in the opening frame to give the Oil an early 2-0 lead.

Playoff experience is one of the most valuable things a club can have. Whether it was the Oilers’ offense not having much of it or the Sharks’ defense being able to match the hosts’ efforts (Edmonton managed only nine shots on goal after the first period), San Jose was able to fight its way back into this contest by constricting Edmonton’s attack. As a result, Joel Ward (Joonas Donskoi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) took advantage of Drake Caggiula‘s hooking penalty late in the opening period to score a power play wrist shot 1:43 into the second.

Paul Martin (Tomas Hertl) completed the comeback 5:22 into the final frame. He buried the rebound off Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s left pad after Hertl’s inial shot to tie the game at two-all and force the second extra-time game of the night.

It only took 3:22 of extra time, but that playoff experience was truly apparent in that time. San Jose fired six shots to the Oilers’ two, and the final one, a snap shot by First Star Melker Karlsson (Joe Pavelski and Valsic), was able to get past Talbot for a Sharks victory.

March 25 – Day 157 – Seeing circles

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

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

Short list:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (37 goals [third-most in the NHL] for 80 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 33 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New York‘s Josh Bailey (38 assists [leads the team]) and Cal Clutterbuck (199 hits [leads the team]).

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 9 – Day 113 – Back in the saddle again

The NHL is trying to make up for scheduling only one game yesterday with 11 today.

I think I accept it’s apology.

Like it usually does, the action starts tonight at 7 p.m. with six games (San Jose at Boston [SN360/TVAS], Anaheim at Buffalo, Nashville at the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Detroit at Washington and Vancouver at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (St. Louis at Toronto, Dallas at Ottawa [RDS2] and Los Angeles at Florida). Only one more time-slot exists this evening, and it holds two games (Pittsburgh at Colorado and Montréal at Arizona [RDS]) as co-nightcaps at 9 p.m. All times eastern.

Whether he deserved it or not, Claude Julien was handed a pink slip Tuesday after 10 years of service to the Bruins organization. Tonight, it will be Bruce Cassidy making his first appearance as head man behind Boston‘s bench, although it’s not his first head coaching job in the NHL.

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419 victories. Four division titles. A Presidents’ Trophy and a Stanley Cup.

The club may get to keep the hardware and banners, but Julien was the one to lead them there.

That being said, he’s been under fire for almost this entire season, and part of last year as well. Even though he’s the winningest coach in Bruins history and got the team into the playoffs in all but two seasons (hint: the last two) under his command, it’s that very fact that became his downfall. Even with some great players on his roster, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Bruins haven’t tasted the postseason since 2014 and are in danger of making it three years in a row should the standings remain as they currently are.

That’s what prompted Don Sweeney to make the change to Cassidy. The interim head coach is remembered most from his days behind the Capitals‘ bench, a job he held from 2002-’03. He was in command for the entire 2002-’03 campaign and led Washington to second place in the Southeastern Division. That success didn’t continue in the playoffs, as the Caps were eliminated in the Eastern Quarterfinals.

That elimination marked the beginning of the end of Cassidy’s tenure in the capital. Washington started the 2003-’04 season with an 8-16-1 record, which was not good enough for George McPhee and resulted in Cassidy being relieved of his duties.

He began his time with the Bruins‘ organization in 2008 as an assistant coach in Providence, but he was the man in charge by the 2011-’12 season. During his tenure as skipper, the Bruins went a combined 207-128-45, include a Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy-winning (effectively the Presidents’ Trophy, but in the AHL) 50-21-5 record in 2012-’13.

He was rewarded for that success this season with a promotion to assistant coach in Boston (Come to think of it, it seems Sweeney had this whole thing planned out, didn’t he?). A former defenseman, his addition has certainly been noticed on the ice. Last season, Boston allowed 30.4 shots to reach Rask’s crease per game. This season? That number is down to 26.4, an impressive improvement.

Cassidy takes command of a 26-23-6 Bruins team that is riding a two-game losing skid and currently occupies fourth place in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, missing out on a playoff position by one point technically two points to avoid losing a games-played tiebreaker to Philadelphia.

As stated before, the Bruins have certainly improved on the defensive end. Unfortunately, they didn’t plan for the offensive regression they’re experiencing this year. A season ago, Boston scored 236 goals – the fifth-most in the NHL. Nowadays, they’ve only managed 141 tallies in 55 games, the 10th-worst rate in the league.

That regression can’t be pinned on Marchand, though, as his 55 points are tops on the team. Making that number even more impressive is the fact that he personally takes credit for 23 goals, which is also the best in Beantown.

Fortunately for the Bruins, the penalty kill has been topnotch this year, stopping 86% of opposing power plays – the second-best rate in the league. The sick Zdeno Chara has been a major part of that success with his 27 shorthanded blocks, but is still unknown if he’ll play this evening. If he doesn’t, Adam McQuaid and his 24 penalty kill blocks will be called upon to fill the captain’s role when down a skater.

The Sharks make their annual visit to the TD Garden with a 33-17-4 record, more than good enough for the lead in the Pacific Division even if they have lost their last two games in overtime. The defense leads the way in San Jose, as the Sharks have allowed only 125 goals in 54 games this season, the second-best effort in the NHL.

Have you ever met someone who is really good at their job? Martin Jones is one of those people. His .917 season save percentage and 2.25 GAA are (t)12th and fifth-best in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with at least 23 appearances.

Of course, it’s easy to be good when you have a defense like Jones does. Led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s 100 shot blocks, San Jose allows only 27.3 shots to reach Jones’ crease per game, the third-best rate in the NHL.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (55 points [fourth-most in the league], including 23 goals [10-most in the NHL]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] among 25 wins [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] on a 2.31 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & San Jose‘s Brent Burns (57 points [third-most in the NHL], including 35 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Jones (27 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL] on a 2.25 GAA [sixth-best in the league]).

Boston has been marked with a -123 favorite by Vegas, and if I were a gambling man I’d bet lots of money on the Sharks spoiling that this evening. Not only are the Sharks exceptional at preventing something the Bruins have had little success doing (scoring), Boston is also not kind to the home team. The Bruins are only 12-13-0 on their home surface. San Jose should exploit that and take this contest easily.

Hockey Birthday

  • Chris Nilan (1958-) – He may have only been a 19th-rounder in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft by Montréal, but this right wing enjoyed a 13-year career. The highlight of his career came in 1986 when he was a member of the Canadiens team that hoisted the Stanley Cup.
  • Andre Burakovsky (1995-) – Selected by Washington with the 23rd-overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing is certainly making a name for himself. His 11 tallies tie for seventh-most on the team.

It took overtime, but the Blackhawks don’t mind as they earned their first victory over Minnesota in the last nine tries in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Chicago came to play, and they proved it with a tally with 9:06 remaining in the first period, compliments of Ryan Hartman (Vinnie Hinostroza and Duncan Keith). It was the lone tally of the frame, giving the Hawks a one-goal lead going into the first intermission.

If you like scoring, the second period was easily the most exciting – at least in regulation. Four goals were scored, starting with Nick Schmaltz‘ (First Star of the Game Jonathan Toews and Third Star Richard Panik) only 1:09 after returning to the ice, but Second Star Jared Spurgeon (Eric Staal and Nino Niederreiter) apparently took exception to that and pulled the Wild back within a tally only 37 seconds later. With a wrister, Zach Parise (Charlie Coyle and Jason Pominville) leveled the game at two-all at the 7:15 mark, but a Panik (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Toews) wrister with 2:36 remaining in the frame returned a one-goal lead to the Blackhawks going into the second intermission.

Only one goal was scored in the third period, but it was one that blew the roof off the Xcel Energy Center. With 3:03 remaining in regulation, Erik Haula (Marco Scandella and Niederreiter) buried his wrister to level the game for Minnesota at three-all. Neither club could break the knot in the remaining time, forcing five minutes of three-on-three sudden-death overtime.

There is nothing more damning than committing an overtime penalty. Just ask Ryan Suter, who was caught holding Marian Hossa at the midway point of the frame. Only 39 seconds later, Toews (Patrick Kane and Keith) was able to capitalize on the man-advantage to seal the Hawks‘ victory.

Corey Crawford earns the victory after saving 35-of-38 shots faced (92.1%), forcing Darcy Kuemper to take the overtime loss, saving 28-of-32 (87.5%).

Chicago‘s victory is the fourth in the last five games by the road team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling the visitors within eight points of the 60-37-18 hosts.

January 24 – Day 101 – Motown vs. Beantown

It’s time for some Tuesday hockey. We’ve got a nice schedule, starting with four games at 7 p.m. (Detroit at Boston [SN], Los Angeles at New Jersey, Columbus at the New York Islanders and St. Louis at Pittsburgh [NBCSN]), followed half an hour later by another pair (Calgary at Montréal [RDS] and Washington at Ottawa [RDS2]). Two more games drop the puck at the top of the hour (Buffalo at Nashville [TVAS] and San Jose at Winnipeg), with tonight’s co-nightcaps (Tampa Bay at Chicago and Minnesota at Dallas) waiting until 8:30 p.m. to get underway. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Detroit at Boston: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but the Wings edged the Bruins for a playoff spot by a tiebreaker last season.
  • Minnesota at Dallas: Speaking of the playoffs, the Stars bested the Wild in six games last season.

Based on their position in the standings, the contest occurring at the TD Garden this evening could be one of the best of the night. To New England we go!

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Detroit‘s impressive 25-season streak of qualifying to for the playoffs is not only well known in hockey circles, but across most sports fans.

Outside of Motown, that fact is not more known than in Boston. You see, both the Bruins and the Red Wings finished last season with 93 points, tied for third place in the Atlantic Division. In fact, 42-31-9 Boston actually won one more game than the 41-30-11 Wings.

Even though the Bruins won the season series 3-1-0, the first tiebreaker in the NHL pertains to the total regulation and overtime victories by a club, and it was there that the Wings found their playoff qualification. They won one more game before going to the shootout than Boston to earn their playoff bid.

If Detroit had not won that tiebreaker, only then would the series record between the two clubs have come into play and the Bruins would have faced Tampa Bay.

Nowadays, Detroit is currently riding a two-game streak of overtime losses and has a 20-19-8 record, good enough for sixth place in the Atlantic Division. Part of the reason they find themselves at that spot in the standings is due to their lackluster offense, which has managed only 114 goals, the seventh-fewest in the NHL.

Although Thomas Vanek is tied for the team lead in points, he’s questionable to play tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. That leaves Henrik Zetterberg, who also has 31 points in his pocket, to lead the Red Wings into battle. It’s a similar situation in the goal scoring department, where Vanek’s effort is tied with Dylan Larkin at a dozen tallies apiece.

The number one reason for Detroit‘s offensive struggles is their anemic power play. Even though they’ve earned the seventh-most man-advantages, they’ve converted only 11.3% into goals – the worst in the league. Frans Nielsen has tried all he can to help the cause with his eight power play points, but the Wings haven’t been able to find a consistent scoring threat as Larkin and the injured Vanek lead the club with a measly three power play goals apiece.

Another overtime loss won’t do Detroit any good. If they want any chance of continuing their impressive playoff streak, they’re going to need wins. A victory tonight is certainly a step in the right direction, as they would improve from 13th to 10th, trailing second wild card Philadelphia by two points.

In their way stands their hosts, the 23-21-6 Bruins. Boston currently finds themselves in fourth place in the Atlantic and on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, due in part to losing their last two games. Similar to Detroit, their issue has been offense.

Last season, the Bruins managed to score 236 goals, lightning the lamp nearly three times per game. Things haven’t gone so smoothly this year, as Boston only has 121 tallies to their credit in 50 games – the seventh-worst scoring rate in the NHL. A struggling offense hasn’t held Brad Marchand back, though, as his 45 points are tops on the team by a long shot. When he’s not burying the puck, he’s busy setting up youngster David Pastrnak, whose 19 tallies are the best in Beantown.

The similarities between these two offenses continue with in the special teams. Successful on only 16.9% of attempts, Boston ranks 10th-worst in the league on the power play. Torey Krug has tried his hardest with his 13 power play points, as have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who both have five power play goals.

Where the Bruins separate themselves is with their powerful penalty kill, where they rank second-best in the league. Led by Zdeno Chara‘s 25 shorthanded blocks, Boston refuses to yield a power play goal 86.6% of the time.

The Bruins don’t need much to get back into playoff position, but nobody plays for simply an overtime loss. One point would propel Boston into eighth place for the second wildcard, but a victory would qualify them for third-place in the division.

Boston won their series against Detroit last season, and they’re already on their way to repeating that this year. They’ve met twice this season, and the Bruins have a 1-0-1. They last met Wednesday in Detroit, where the Wings won 6-5 on a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (45 points [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) and Tuukka Rask (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and a 2.11 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] for 22 wins [sixth-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Danny DeKeyser (94 blocks [leads the team]) and Anthony Mantha (+8 [leads the team]).

It’s tough to pick against a goaltender like Rask, especially since the penalty kill in front of him will face no pressure from Detroit‘s power play. The Bruins should earn a victory this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gus Mortson (1925-2015) – This defenseman was so physical, he started a fight in one of his eight All Star appearances. Although he spent most his time in Chicago, he won all four of his Stanley Cups in Toronto, where he started his career.
  • Mark Reeds (1960-2015) – St. Louis drafted this right wing in the fifth round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his eight-season career. By the time he retired, he’d notched 159 points.
  • Tom Kostopoulos (1979-) – A seventh-rounder picked by Pittsburgh in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, he played 630 games (most of which in Los Angeles) over 11 seasons (most with the Penguins). He made good friends with penalty box attendants, serving 723 penalty minutes – 1.15 minutes per game.

First Star of the Game Frederik Andersen didn’t have to empty his net a single time in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, leading his Maple Leafs to a 4-0 shutout victory over the visiting Flames.

Third Star Mitch Marner (Nikita Zaitsev) was the first to tickle the twine, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead with his tip-in only 61 seconds before going to the dressing room for the first intermission.

If the first period allowed only one goal, it seems only natural that the second would yield two. Unfortunately for Calgary, neither would be in their favor. Second Star Nazem Kadri (William Nylander) takes credit for the first tally seven minutes after returning to the ice with his wrister, and the Leafs improved their lead to 3-0 with 3:05 remaining in the frame on a Zach Hyman (Martin Marincin) shorthanded backhander.

The theme of matching goals to the period did not continue, but Toronto didn’t mind. Kadri (Marner and Zaitsev) buried his second tally of the game at the 2:21 mark on the power play to set the 4-0 final score.

Andersen earned the shutout victory after saving all 26 shots he faced, leaving the loss to Brian Elliott, who saved 24-of-28 (85.7%).

In addition to breaking the two-game streak of games requiring extra time, Toronto‘s victory also snapped a three-game winning streak for visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series. With a 53-34-16 record, featured home teams now have a five-point lead over the visitors.

April 5 – Day 173 – Win and you’re in… for the night…

The New York Islanders took it to the Lightning with three goals in the second period in yesterday’s Game of the Day, winning 5-2.

The only goal of the first period belongs to New York at the 13:18 mark on a Second Star of the Game Ryan Pulock snap shot (his second tally of the season), assisted by Kyle Okposo and First Star John Tavares.

Tampa Bay returns the period 2:08 after returning to the ice thanks to an Alex Killorn backhander, assisted by Nikita Kucherov (his 35th helper of the season) and Matthew Carle.  A minute after the midway point, Matt Martin struck the Islanders‘ second goal, assisted by Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas (his 20th helper of the season).  The game-winner found the back of the net 4:23 later, courtesy of Third Star Brock Nelson, his 26th tally of the season, after an assist from Nikolay Kulemin.  The 16:15 mark was the next New York goal, a power play slap shot from Tavares, assisted by Frans Nielsen and Okposo (his 39th helper of the season).  The final goal of the period belonged to the Bolts, Victor Hedman to be exact, assisted by Carle and Vladislav Namestnikov (his 19th helper of the season), setting the score at 4-2.

Only one goal was struck in the third, and relatively early at that.  Johnny Boychuk’s wrister found the back of the net at the 4:28 mark, assisted by Tavares (his 34th helper of the season), his second of the night.

Thomas Greiss earns the win after saving 32 of 34 shots faced (94.1%), while Ben Bishop takes the loss, saving 18 of 23 (78.3%).  He was replaced after Boychuk’s goal in the third by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who saved all 13 shots he faced.

New York‘s win is the second straight for the home teams, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 80-45-18, favoring the homers by 39 points over the roadies.

If I’ve ever said we have a busy Tuesday schedule, I was lying – this is a busy Tuesday.  We’ve got 11 games on tap today, starting with three at 7 p.m. eastern (Carolina at Boston, Buffalo at New Jersey [BELL TV] and the New York Islanders at Washington) and another three half an hour later (Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [NBCSN/TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Pittsburgh at Ottawa [RDS2]).  A pair drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Nashville and San Jose at Minnesota), with Arizona at Chicago getting underway 30 minutes later.  Los Angeles at Calgary drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern, and Winnipeg at Anaheim (NHLN), this evening’s nightcap, starts an hour later.

Four of those games are divisional rivalries (New York at Washington, Florida at Montréal, Colorado at Nashville and Los Angeles at Calgary), and three are between teams qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Washington, Tampa Bay at New York and San Jose at Minnesota).  We’ve also got three playoff rematches from a year ago (New York at Washington [Eastern Quarterfinals], Tampa Bay at New York [Eastern Finals] and Winnipeg at Anaheim [Western Quarterfinals]).

With such a long list, it’s tough to pick a big game, but I think I need to choose the CarolinaBoston game since the Bruins have the chance to get back into playoff position.

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknownThis will be Carolina‘s sixth appearance in the Game of the Day, where they own a 2-1-2 record.  Their most recent appearance was when Eric Staal made his first return to PNC Arena on the last day of March, when the Canes won 6-4.  Boston was last featured Sunday, when they fell 6-4 in Chicago, to set their series record at 8-11-1.

The 34-29-16 Carolina Hurricanes are currently sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference, but have already been eliminated from playoff contention.  They’ve played the 14th worst defense, but that is good compared to their fourth worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Canes‘ game can be found within Thursday’s post.

Carolina last played Saturday to a 5-1 home loss to the Blue Jackets.

The  41-30-8 Boston Bruins currently sit fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team out of the playoff picture.  They’ve played the fourth best offense in the NHL, paired with the 12th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 272 shots, Boston has fired the puck an incredible 2510 times, with 9.1% finding the back of the net for 233 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 36 tallies), the fourth most in the league.  That success has continued to the power play, where the Bruins‘ 21.08% success rate, good for 48 power play goals (led by Bergeron’s 12 extra man tallies), ranks seventh best in the NHL.

Even with Zdeno Chara’s 122 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2399 shots to reach 30-22-7 Tuukka Rask and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 220 goals against, the 12th most in the league.  Although the overall defense hasn’t been there, they have clamped down when facing the power play, killing 81.75%, allowing 48 power play goals in the process, the 13th best rate in the league.  Further improving on that race, the Bruins have also scored nine shorthanded goals (led by Marchand’s four), three more than the league average.

Boston‘s 6-4 loss in Chicago on Sunday was their last game played.  With a win tonight, they will advance past Detroit for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Wings will have a game in hand to react.

Going into the deciding third game, the Bruins leads the season series 1-0-1, but the last game between these two was a 3-2 overtime Carolina winner in Boston on March 10.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Bergeron (23 goals [10th most in the league]) and Marchand (36 goals [tied for fifth most in the league]) & Carolina‘s Jeff Skinner (249 shots for 28 goals, 24 of which were at even strength and seven were game winners, for 50 points [all lead the team]) and Jordan Staal (20 even strength and two shorthanded assists, 161 hits and a +6 [all lead the team]).

I think the Bruins win this game, mostly due to the pressure to get past the Red Wings.  A loss tonight is a big issue for Boston, and I don’t think they want to figure out the scenarios to reclaim lost ground.

April 1 – Day 169 – No time for April Fools

It wasn’t what I expected, but the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Rangers 4-3 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

First Star of the Game Patrick Brown opened the scoring at the 11:05 mark of the first period with the first goal of his career, assisted by Second Star Jeff Skinner (his 22nd helper of the season) and Ron Hainesy.  That was the only tally of the first, so Carolina took their 1-0 lead into the intermission.

New York leveled only 1:36 after returning to the ice with a Mats Zuccarello wrister, assisted by Derek Stepan (his 27th helper of the season) and Dan Boyle.  3:27 later, they took the lead with a Rick Nash wrister, assisted by J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh (his 24th helper of the season).  Carolina returned the favor at the 13:27 mark with a goal from Third Star Justin Faulk (his 16th tally of the season), assisted by Sergey Tolchinsky (his first point of his NHL career) and Ryan Murphy.  The Rangers took another lead with 2:42 remaining in the period with a Chris Kreider power play wrister, assisted by Stepan and Keith Yandle (his 40th helper of the season).  The 3-2 Rangers lead held into the second intermission.

Carolina leveled the game again at the 4:22 mark, courtesy of Skinner (his 27th tally of the season), assisted by Murphy and Brown.  The only insurance goal belongs to Victor Rask, a power play snap shot with 9:06 remaining in regulation.

Cam Ward earns the win after saving 24 of 27 shots faced (88.9%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving only 24 of 28 (85.7%).

The fourth straight home win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 78-43-18, favoring those home squads by 39 points over the roadies.

We’ve got five games on the schedule this evening, starting at 7:30 p.m. eastern with Minnesota at Detroit (NHLN).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two games (Boston at St. Louis and Chicago at Winnipeg), followed an hour later by Washington at Colorado.  Finally, our nightcap, Vancouver at Anaheim, drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Almost half of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Chicago at Winnipeg and Vancouver at Anaheim), while only Boston at St. Louis is between playoff qualifiers.

I’m most interested in the BostonSt. Louis game because of the potential impact on the standings possible in both conferences.

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This will be Boston‘s 19th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-10-1 record, with their most recent being their 5-2 loss in Madison Square Garden on March 23.  St. Louis has been featured 16 times before tonight’s game, and their 5-4 overtime victory in Dallas on March 12 set their season series at 9-6-1.

The 40-29-8 Boston Bruins currently rank third in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the fourth best offense in the NHL paired with the 14th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 263 shots, Boston has fired the puck an incredible 2436 times, with 9% finding the back of the net for 223 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 35 tallies), fourth most in the NHL.  Part of that success has been due to the power play, who’s 20.64% success rate, good for 45 extra man goals (led by Bergeron’s 11 power play tallies) ranks ninth best in the league.

Even with Dennis Seidenberg’s 243 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2335 shots to reach 29-22-7 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 209 goals against, the 14th most in the league.  The penalty kill slightly steps up their game, neutralizing 81.96% of their infractions for the 14th best rate in the league, allowing 46 extra man goals in the process.  Further improving on that rate, Boston has also scored nine shorthanded goals, led by Marchand’s four power play goals.

Boston‘s last game was Tuesday, a 2-1 loss in New Jersey.  The Bruins are in desperate need of a win this evening, as anything short of a win paired with a Detroit victory forces the B’s out of playoff position.

The 46-22-9 St. Louis Blues are the second best team in the Central Division as well as the Western Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the fifth best defense paired with the 15th worst offense.

Even with Alex Pietrangelo’s 131 blocks, St. Louis has allowed 2280 shots to reach 21-7-6 Brian Elliott and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 186 goals against, the fifth fewest in the NHL.  The penalty kill has been even better than the overall defense, preventing 85.06% of opposing power plays to score, allowing only 39 power play goals in the process.

Led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 273 shots, the Notes have fired the puck a solid 2324 times, with 8.6% finding the back of the net for 206 goals (led by Tarasenko’s 36 tallies), the 15th fewest in the league.  The Blues‘ biggest strength has been their power play, as their 22.02% success rate ranks fourth best in the NHL, good for 48 extra man goals (led by Tarasenko’s 12 power play tallies).

The Blues enter tonight’s game riding a five game winning streak, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Avalanche.  With a win tonight, they pull back into a tie with Dallas for the top spot in both the division and the conference, but will not move into first place due to a regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker.

St. Louis has already made their yearly visit to Boston, when they won 2-0 on December 22.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [seventh most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Elliott (1.92 GAA [leads the league] and .935 save percentage [leads the league]), Colton Parayko (+26 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Tarasenko (36 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

These teams are a very interesting and even match for each other.  Both teams’ strengths correspond with the others, and neither’s weaknesses are fully exploited with the exception of Boston‘s poor penalty kill.  Given that, St. Louis‘ hot streak and their home ice, I’m picking the Blues to win this one.

March 18 – Day 155 – Boston brings back Beleskey

Thanks to two goals in the second period, the Nashville Predators beat the New York Islanders 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

It was a Second Star of the Game James Neal wrister that opened the scoring (his 27th tally of the season), finding the net at the 9:15 mark after an assist from Calle Jarnkrok.

The Isles waited to level the score util 6:02 had passed in the second period.  It was Ryan Pulock’s first goal of the season in his eighth career NHL game played, assisted by John Tavares (his 30th helper of the season).  The Predators didn’t take kindly to being the first to allow a goal to him though, as they had a two goal lead within 3:52 after his score.  Third Star Ryan Ellis scored the first of those tallies at the 8:13 mark on the power play, assisted by First Star Ryan Johansen (his 36th helper of the season) and Mattias Ekholm, followed 1:41 later by Johansen’s game-winning wrister, assisted by Neal (his 19th helper of the season) and Anthony Bitetto.  Just as quickly as the Nashville blitz began, it ended, giving the Predators a 3-1 lead going into the second intermission.

Only 1:55 into the third, Brock Nelson’s 23rd tally of the season pulled New York within a goal, assisted by Thomas Hickey.  The comeback fell apart though, as Austin Watson’s wrister found the back of an empty net, assisted by Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson (his 17th helper of the season), clinching the Preds‘ victory.

Pekka Rinne earns the win after saving 20 of 22 shots faced (90.9%), while Thomas Greiss takes the loss, saving 28 for 31 (90.3%).

After yesterday’s result, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 69-40-16, favoring the home squads by 30 points over the roadies.

We’ve got six games on the schedule this Friday, starting with the first to at 7 p.m. eastern (Ottawa at Buffalo [RDS/Bell TV] and Nashville at Washington [TVAS]).  Chicago at Winnipeg starts at 8 p.m. eastern (NHLN), and another pair trails an hour later (Colorado at Calgary and Vancouver at Edmonton).  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Boston at Anaheim, drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern (SN1).

Half of the games taking place this evening are divisional rivals (Ottawa at Buffalo, Chicago at Winnipeg and Vancouver at Edmonton), and two are between teams currently qualified for the playoffs (Nashville at Washington and Boston at Anaheim).

Our attention is attracted to the BostonAnaheim game for two reasons:

  1. Matt Beleskey will be making his first return to Anaheim as a member of the Bruins
  2. It’s Nick’s birthday, so he’s made a special request!

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This will be Boston‘s 17th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 7-8-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was March 8, a one-goal overtime victory in Tampa Bay.  Anaheim has been featured seven times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-1-2 record in the series, with their most recent being their 3-2 victory in Los Angeles on March 5.

The main reason for tonight’s selection was not only the expected quality of the contest, but also the return of an ex-Duck with seven years tenure on The Pond.  Matt Beleskey was drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.  He made his first appearance on the Pond two years later, but began earning regular time with the senior club in the 2010-’11 campaign.  It was that season that he scored 11 NHL goals, which stands as the second most during his time in Anaheim and third most in his career.

That 2010-’11 season arguably stood as his best until his 2013-’14 campaign, where he scored 24 points, including 15 assists – and things have only been looking up since.  Last season, he scored a career high 22 goals and 10 assists (his first double-double, if you’ll allow me to use some March Madness terminology), which he followed with eight playoff goals (half a goal a playoff contest) before the Ducks were eliminated by the Blackhawks, prompting him to test free agency.  The Bruins were impressed, and signed him to a $19.8M contract over five years.

He’s certainly earned that payday so far, as the 33 points he already has to his credit is the best of his career.  He’s gotten to that point by scoring 13 goals, and earning 20 helpers to boot.

To be honest, the real reason I know he’s good is he’s on my fantasy team.  And I only sign quality talent for my best in the league 17-4-0 squad.  You can take that analysis to the bank.

The 39-24-8 Boston Bruins currently occupy second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve earned that position by playing the third best offense in the league, but that’s been paired with the 13th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 237 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck 2221 times, with 9.5% finding the back of the net for 215 goals (led by 34 Brad Marchand’s 34 tallies), third most in the league.  The power play is just a step behind, as their 21.5% power play success rate, good for 43 extra man goals, ranks seventh best in the league.

Even with Dennis Seidenberg’s 133 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2190 shots to reach 28-19-7 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for 191 goals against, the 13th most in the league.  Although the defense a whole hasn’t played well, the penalty kill ranks 10th best with their 82.05% kill rate that has allowed only 42 power play goals against.  Further improving on that rate, the Bruins have scored nine shorthanded goals (led by Marchand’s four shorties), four more than the league average.

Boston most recently played Tuesday to a 3-2 loss in San Jose.  With a win tonight, the Bruins could pull within a point of the division leading Panthers.

The 38-22-9 Anaheim Ducks are currently the second best team in the Pacific Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the third best defense in the league, but have scored the sixth fewest goals.

Led by Hampus Lindholm’s 102 blocks, the Ducks have allowed only 1884 shots to reach 19-9-6 Frederik Andersen and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for only 162 goals against, the third fewest in the league.  That success no doubt continues with the special teams, as their 87.04% kill rate is the stingiest in the league, allowing only 32 power play goals.

The offense is what was holding Anaheim back in the beginning of the season, but that issue has certainly been resolved.  That being said, even with Corey Perry’s 186 shots leading the Ducks to 2100 attempts, they’ve only connected on 8.2% for 175 goals (led by Perry’s 29), the sixth fewest in the league.  Anaheim‘s special team play continues its success with the puck on its stick, as their 23.19% power play success rate, good for 48 power play goals (led by Perry’s 11), is the second best rate in the league.

Anaheim lost their most recent game 2-1 to the Rangers on Wednesday.  The most important thing a win does tonight for the Ducks is give them a three point lead over the Sharks for second place in the division.

Anaheim has already made their yearly visit to the TD Garden, and they certainly enjoyed it, winning 6-2 on January 26.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Andersen (2.23 GAA [eighth best in the league]) or John Gibson (2.07 GAA [second best in the league]) and Boston‘s Marchand (34 goals [fourth most in the league] and +22 [10th best in the league]).

This should be an interesting game, as Boston‘s offense and Anaheim‘s defense are about equal in strength.  Over the course of the entire season, Boston‘s defense has been stronger than the Ducks‘ offense, but I’m not feeling confident enough in that for a game on The Pond.  I’ll give a slight edge to Anaheim.