Tag Archives: Bill Masterton Trophy

Down the Frozen River Podcast #85- Schenn Zen

Nick and Connor breakdown the St. Louis Blues (#SchennZen), Brian Boyle’s success, the Disney deal with 21st Century Fox and preview the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

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

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

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

Short list:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 22 – Day 126 – Guess who’s found their stride

Like most Wednesdays, the NHL is not exactly an active place this evening, as only three games will be contested. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Edmonton at Florida (SN), followed half an hour later by Washington at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS). Finally, Boston visits Anaheim (SN/SN1) at 10:30 p.m. to act as this evening’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve featured either the Capitals or the Flyers? There’s no way we’re missing this rivalry!

Washington Capitals LogoPhiladelphia Flyers Logo

 

For those looking for holes in the 39-12-7 Capitals‘ game, I wish you the best of luck. There’s a reason they lead the Presidents’ Trophy race, as they play extremely well on both ends of the ice. That being said, the main reason Washington has the best scoring differential in the NHL is because of their exemplary defensive play, which has allowed only 121 goals this season – the fewest in the NHL.

Of course, orchestrating that effort is 29-8-5 Braden Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Although it certainly helps to have an offense like the Caps do, Holtby has earned every win to his credit this season, as his .926 save percentage and 2.01 GAA are (t)fourth and (t)best in the NHL, respectively, among the 43 goalies with at least 22 appearances.

He also has the benefit of one of the best defenses in the league, too. Led by Karl Alzner‘s 112 shot blocks, Washington‘s blue line allows only 27.9 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s crease, the sixth-best rate in the game.

The theme of sixth-best continues on the penalty kill, where the Caps neutralize 84.3% of opposing power plays. Just as he does at even-strength, Alzner is an unstoppable force when his club is down a man, as he leads the squad with 31 shorthanded blocks.

Oh yeah, and the power play is the better of the two special teams units. Scoring a goal on 21.8% of opportunities, the Caps are eighth-best in the league with the extra man. That effort is headlined by Nicklas Backstrom and his 23 power play points, even if it is Alex Ovechkin scoring all the goals (he has a dozen tallies with the man-advantage).

That’s a lot for the 28-24-7 Flyers to handle. After a good start to the season, Philadelphia now finds itself in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points behind Florida for the second wildcard.

A dried up offense is the main reason Philly has seen its stock drop so dramatically in the past month. At one point one of the best in the league, the Flyers have accounted for only a total of 154 goals this year – the 10th fewest in hockey. Jakub Voracek is trying his hardest with his team-leading 49 points – as is Wayne Simmonds with his team-leading 25 goals (both have registered a point in four of the last five games) – but the rest of the squad is in a major funk that will be difficult to break against tonight’s opposition.

Don’t let the overall drop in production fool you, though. The Flyers are still one of the best in the league – tied for eighth-best, in fact – on the power play, as they convert an impressive 21.3% of opportunities. Philadelphia employs a two-headed attack, as both Captain Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn tie with 23 power play points for the team lead, but Schenn has been most impressive: 14 of his points are goals, the highest mark on the squad.

Tonight’s contest is the third in the four-game season series between these clubs, and both have won their respective first matchup on home ice. That being said, Washington still has a 1-0-1 advantage over the Flyers thanks to forcing a shootout before falling 3-2 on December 21. The last time they met was January 15, when the Capitals knocked Philly around for a five-goal shutout victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Philadelphia‘s Radko Gudas (192 hits [leads the team]), Ivan Provorov (124 blocks [leads the team]), Simmonds (25 goals [leads the team]) and Voracek (34 assists for 49 points [both lead the team]) & Washington‘s Backstrom (44 assists [second-most in the league] for 61 points [fifth-most in the NHL]), Holtby (seven shutouts [tied for most in the league] and 2.01 GAA [tied for best in the NHL] on a .926 save percentage [tied for fourth-best in the league] for 29 wins [fourth-most in the NHL]), Dmitry Orlov (+27 [ninth-best in the league]), Brooks Orpik (+32 [tied for second-best in the NHL]) T.J. Oshie (+24 [10th-best in the league]) and Ovechkin (27 goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]).

Only one team has a positive (read: bad) line next to their name tonight, and it’s the Flyers with their +138. Unfortunately for them, I don’t know if it would matter if they were hitting on all cylinders coming into this game, the Capitals are, as usual, just plain better than most every other team in the league. I figure Washington should win by at least two goals.

Hockey Birthday

  • Sid Abel (1918-2000) – Spending most of his playing days in Detroit, this forward played in the NHL for 14 seasons. It was a successful career, as three All-Star selections, the 1949 Hart Trophy and three Stanley Cups landed him in the Hall of Fame.
  • Tim Young (1955-) – Selected 16th-overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, this center played 10 seasons in the league, most of which with the North Stars. His lone All-Star appearance was in 1977.
  • Pat LaFontaine (1965-) – A long time Islander, this Hall of Fame center was the third-overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. Although he never hoisted the Stanley Cup, he did play in five All-Star games and won the 1995 Masterton Trophy.

It’s hard to lose with a three-goal period, and the Blackhawks proved that with a 5-3 victory in Minnesota in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Surprisingly for a contest that featured eight markers, the first goal of the game wasn’t struck until 20:58 had ticked off the clock. First Star of the Game Jonathan Toews (Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk) takes credit with his wrist shot, but Second Star Mikael Granlund (Nino Niederreiter and Mikko Koivu) leveled the game 3:22 later with a power play wrister. Thanks to a wrister from Richard Panik (Toews) 41 seconds after Granlund’s tally, Chicago took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

You know how the goal song at the Xcel Energy Center is Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy?” That’s exactly what happened during the third frame, as five goals were struck. Third Star Nick Schmaltz (Toews) buried the first tally of the period only 33 seconds after it began, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead. Zach Parise (Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville) pulled the Wild back within a tally at the 6:41 mark, but Toews (Schmaltz and Panik) buried the eventual game-winning backhander only 102 seconds later. Granlund (Niederreiter and Koivu) scored his second power play goal of the night with 6:51 remaining in regulation to once again pull Minnesota within a tally, but Toews’ (Schmaltz) hat-trick-completing wrister on an empty net sealed the Hawks‘ victory.

Corey Crawford earned the victory after saving 29-of-32 shots faced (90.625%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 34-of-38 (89.5%).

The winning ways for the 64-43-21 road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series won’t stop, as their four-game winning streak has propelled them to a three-point lead over hosts.

January 22 – Day 99 – We’re seeing orange

It’s our last Sunday of action before the All-Star break, and six different games will be played before the day is through. The action starts at 12:30 p.m. with the New York Rangers at Detroit (NBC), followed by Boston at Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. (NHLN/SN) and Columbus at Ottawa (RDS2) at 5 p.m. Philadelphia at the New York Islanders drops the puck at 6 p.m., followed 90 minutes later by Vancouver at Chicago (NHLN/SN). Finally, Nashville at Minnesota drops the puck at 8 p.m. as the last game of the day. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Detroit: Everybody loves an Original Six rivalry, right?
  • Boston at Pittsburgh: NFL fans can treat this as a preview for the SteelersPatriots AFC Championship game.
  • Philadelphia at New York: Doug Weight hasn’t lost a game since taking over as coach.
  • Vancouver at Chicago: Back when the Canucks were one of the big players in the Western Conference, their series against the Blackhawks was must watch TV.

The Eastern Conference is so tight that the Islanders, currently sitting in last place, could pull within three points of the second wild card with a victory tonight. Let’s head back to Brooklyn to see if the Isles are truly pulling something together.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoNew York Islanders Logo

 

 

 

 

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since the 22-19-6 Flyers have been featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series. They’ve had a tough go of it during that span, including their current three-game losing skid. Due to those mistakes, Philadelphia currently finds themselves in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the conference, a point behind Toronto for the second wild card. The main reason? Goaltending. It’s allowed 148 goals in 47 games, which ties for the third-worst rate in the league.

As has been the case since the 2013-14 season after he was traded to Philadelphia, 14-15-6 Steve Mason has been the goalie of choice on Broad Street. Unfortunately, his .897 save percentage and 2.95 GAA are (t)41st and (t)37th in the league against 46 other goalies with at least 17 appearances.

Mason has to take full responsibility too, as his defense is doing all they can. Led by rookie Ivan Provorov‘s 92 shot blocks, the Flyers‘ blueline has allowed only 28.9 shots-per-game to reach Mason’s crease, the eighth-fewest in the league.

As expected, that issue continues to rear its ugly head on the penalty kill, where the Flyers‘ 80% kill rate ties for 10th-worst in the NHL. Philly has been shorthanded 145 times – the 14th-fewest in the league – but Mason’s .853 save percentage against the power play is 34th-worst.

The Flyers cover up for that deficiency by excelling on their own power plays. Successful on 21.8% of attempts, they rank ninth-best in the league. Captain Claude Giroux has been an important facet of that effort with his 21 power play points, but Brayden Schenn has been the most has been the most powerful goalscorer, with 11 man-advantage tallies.

As stated before, 19-17-8 New York is certainly down, but in no way out of the playoff discussion. Much of the issue this season for the Islanders has been their offense, which has managed 126 goals so far this season – the 15th-fewest in the league.

Captain John Tavares has been at the head of that effort with his 36 points. Impressively, most of those points have been goals, and those 19 tallies are also tops in Brooklyn.

The real offensive issue has been the Isles‘ inability to capitalize on prime opportunities. Converting only 14.6% of power plays into goals, New York is fifth-worst in the league with the man-advantage. Nick Leddy and Tavares have done all they can to help the cause with their co-leading 10 power play points, and Anders Lee joins the captain with five extra-man goals.

The penalty kill has also been a big issue for New York. Just like Philadelphia, the Islanders have stopped only 80% of opposing power plays to tie for the 10th-worst effort in the NHL. Calvin de Haan can’t take the blame for the team’s failures, as his 22 shorthanded shot blocks not only lead the team, but also tie for 15th-most in the league.

These squads have only met up one time previously this season, with the Flyers winning 3-2 in a shootout in early November on the same surface they’ll be playing on tonight. New York‘s goaltender that night was Jaroslav Halak, the veteran with 11 seasons of experience that currently finds himself playing in the AHL after clearing waivers.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Jakub Voracek (41 points on 150 shots [both lead the team]).

Vegas has picked New York to win tonight’s game with a -125 line. Personally, I like Philadelphia, based solely on their offensive and power play efficiency. Tonight could be the night they get out of their funk and return to winning ways.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bill Durnan (1916-1972) – This Canadiens-lifer may have only been in net for seven seasons, but they were some incredible campaigns. Not only did he win two Stanley Cups, he was also a three-time All Star and six-time Vezina winner, all adding up to a 1964 Hall of Fame induction.
  • Elmer Lach (1918-2015) – Another player that spent his entire career in Montréal, this center played in just as many All Star games as he won Stanley Cups: three. The Hall of Famer was also the 1945 Hart and 1948 Ross winner over the course of his 14-season career.
  • J.C. Tremblay (1939-1994) – This blueliner hoisted the Stanley Cup five times during his 13 seasons in the NHL, all with – you guessed it – Montréal. He also played in seven All Star games between his NHL and WHA careers.
  • Serge Savard (1946-) – It seems if you want to play for the Canadiens, you should be born today, as this blueliner spent all but two of his 17 seasons in Montréal. As far as he’s concerned, seven Stanley Cups, four All Star selections, the 1969 Smythe and 1979 Masterton all adds up to a Hall of Fame induction.
  • Mike Bossy (1957-) – Yet another decorated player, this right wing was drafted 15th-overall by the Islanders in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, where he played all 10 years of his career. He was a member of those infamous New York squads that won the Stanley Cup four-straight times, and also took home his share of personal accolades, including seven All Star selections, three Byng trophies, the 1978 Calder and the 1982 Smythe. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • David Vyborny (1975-) – Drafted 33rd-overall by Columbus in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing played all his seven NHL seasons with the Jackets. By the time he left for the Czech Extraliga, he’d notched 317 points.
  • Ben Eager (1984-) – Although picked 23rd-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Phoenix, this left wing never suited up for the Coyotes. Instead, he spent most of his nine-year career in Chicago, where he was a member of the 2010 Stanley Cup team.

It took a shootout, but the Senators won last night’s edition of the Battle of Ontario 3-2 in the DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one tally was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the victorious visitors. Bobby Ryan (Marc Methot and Chris Neil) is the guilty party with his slap shot with 5:58 remaining in the frame.

Similarly, there was only one goal in the second period, but this one counted for the Leafs. Tyler Bozak (James van Riemsdyk and Second Star of the Game Nazem Kadri) takes credit with his power play snapper at the 7:31 mark of the frame.

Seven minutes into the third period, Matt Martin (Jake Gardiner and Kadri) scored to give the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead, a lead they almost turned into a victory. Instead, Third Star Mike Hoffman (Erik Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf) buried his power play slap shot with 1:11 remaining in regulation to force three-on-three overtime.

Since neither club could find a winner in those five minutes, we were treated to a shootout. As the home team, Toronto elected to go first.

  1. If anything is alluding rookie Auston Matthews, it’s the shootout. His shot was saved by Mike Condon, lowering his shootout shot percentage to 16.7%.
  2. Ryan pounced on that opportunity for the Senators, burying his shot for a 1-0 lead.
  3. Mitch Marner answered the call for Toronto to level 1-1.
  4. Kyle Turris was next up for the Sens, but his shot was saved by Frederik Andersen.
  5. Next up for the Leafs was van Riemsdyk, but it seemed as if it simply wasn’t his night in the shootout as he blatantly missed the net.
  6. With an opportunity to clinch the bonus point, Karlsson attack Andersen’s net, but the goalie was up to the pressure and made the save.
  7. Bozak ended up being the final Leaf to take his turn, but his shot met the same fate as Matthews’: saved by Condon.
  8. First Star Tom Pyatt provided the winner. Making it more impressive, it was the first shootout goal of his NHL career in three attempts.

Condon earns the victory after saving 31-of-33 shots faced (93.9%), leaving the shootout loss to Andersen, saving 25-of-27 (92.6%).

Ottawa‘s victory is the second-straight in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which now stands in favor of the hosts by only four points with a 52-34-15 record.

November 23 – Day 42 – Do Penguins even like apples?

In anticipation of tomorrow’s holiday, we have tons of hockey on the schedule today, so let’s jump right in. Six games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Winnipeg at Minnesota [SN360], Detroit at Buffalo, Toronto at New Jersey [SN1], Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers, St. Louis at Washington and Calgary at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Philadelphia at Tampa Bay (NBCSN), and Dallas at Nashville (TVAS) gets underway a 8 p.m. to finish the first wave of games. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with three contests (Chicago at San Jose [NBCSN], Edmonton at Colorado and Vancouver at Arizona), followed 30 minutes later by tonight’s nightcap, the New York Islanders at Los AngelesAll times eastern.

There’s at least six games that could qualify for the Game of the Day, but only one is a rematch from last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Back to Manhattan for the second time in four days!

pittsburgh_penguins_logoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

We all remember how the Penguins‘ postseason ended, but New York painfully recalls how it began. Their playoffs ended almost as quickly as they began, as the Pens won their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup in five games on a combined score of 21-10.

Offense has been the name of the game for the 11-5-3 Penguins, notching 54 goals en route to second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Phil Kessel is a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game. Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion. Phil Kessel for president. It’s all been said before, but for good reason: the second-year Penguin leads his club in points with 18. The goal-scoring title still belongs to Captain Sidney Crosby at 12 tallies though, currently a tally behind his goal-per-game rate.

That offense has translated well to the special teams, as Pittsburgh ranks fourth-best in the NHL with a 23.4% success rate on the power play. This has been where Kessel has shined, as half his points have been with the man-advantage. Similarly, Crosby leads the squad with five power play goals.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, these 14-5-1 Rangers are not the ones they played seven months ago. Those Blueshirts averaged only 2.8 goals per game, but this year’s edition scores 4.05 tallies per contest, far and away the highest rate in the league.

Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller have been at the forefront of the assault, both notching 18 points apiece. Hayes’ have been evenly distributed between goals and assists, while the left wing has 10 assists to his name. Michael Grabner has been the goal sniper for the club with a dozen notches on his stick.

Madison Square Garden is home to the eighth-best power play in the league, as the Blueshirts are successful on 21.7% of attempts. The injured Mika Zibanejad was lead the Rangers in that department with five power play points, but a broken leg has forced him to hand that mantle off to Brandon Pirri and Derek Stepan, who each have four points. Pirri has been the more impressive of the two on the man-advantage, as he’s scored three power play goals.

New York‘s penalty kill has also been pretty darn good, nullifying 85.5% of their opposition’s extra-man advantages to rank seventh-best in the league.

This game is actually the second in a home-and-home series. These squads just met Monday at PPG Paints Arena, where the Blueshirts won 5-2.

While watching tonight, make sure to keep an eye on New York‘s Dan Girardi (+14 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]), Grabner (+19 [best in the league] on 12 goals [tied for most in the NHL]), Hayes (+17 [second-best in the league] on 18 points [tied for second-most in the NHL], including nine goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]), Nick Holden (+13 [tied for sixth-best in the NHL]), Henrik Lundqvist (nine wins [tied for sixth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (.938 save percentage [eighth-best in the NHL] for 2.04 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]), Ryan McDonagh (+14 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]) and Miller (+13 [tied for sixth-best in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (12 goals [tied for most in the NHL]), Kessel (14 assists [tied for third-most in the league]) and Matthew Murray (1.68 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] on a .945 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]).

The Rangers have a -130 next to their name, and I don’t question that in the least. They’ve been one of the best stories in the NHL so far and, better than that, they’ve been one of, if not the best team in the league. Home ice, a strong penalty kill, and an incredible offense all adds up to a Blueshirt victory.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Saku Koivu (1974-) – Selected 21st-overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, this Finnish center captained the squad for 10 seasons, which ties Jean Beliveau for longest in club history, and was the first European to take the job. He won the Masterton and King Clancy Trophies once each.
  • Colby Armstrong (1982-) – Another 21st-overall selection, but this time in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh. This right wing played 476 games in eight seasons, most of which with the organization that drafted him. He notched 209 points over the course of his career.
  • Nicklas Backstrom (1987-) – The fourth-overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft has played his entire career with Washington, leading the franchise all-time in assists.
  • Gabriel Landeskog (1992-) – The captain of the Avalanche was the second-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Playing left wing, he notched the 150th assist of his career on November 11.

Heading into last night’s game, Montréal had a perfect record in their DtFR Game of the Day series. After a run-in with the rival Senators, they can’t say that anymore.

Things opened looking like a defensive standoff, as there wasn’t a goal scored in the first period. That all changed 26 seconds into the second frame when Shea Weber (Second Star of the Game Andrei Markov) buried a power play slap shot to give the Habs a 1-0 lead. It lasted only 4:56 before First Star Mike Hoffman (Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson) returned the favor with a golden power play snap shot to level the score. Montréal once again took the lead at the 7:39 mark with a wrister from Alexander Radulov (Alex Galchenyuk and Markov), but the Sens were up to the challenge once again when Derick Brassard (Hoffman and Stone) buried a backhand with 4:05 remaining in the frame to tie the score at 2-2.

Again Montréal tried to pull away in the third period with a Galchenyuk (Markov and Weber) power play slap shot 2:08 into the third period, but for the third time Ottawa pulled even, this time on a Stone (Hoffman and Brassard) wrister 1:05 after Galchenyuk’s tally. The Sens took their first lead with 14:23 remaining in regulation with a Karlsson (Zack Smith) wrister to set the score at 4-3, which proved to be the winning score.

Third Star Craig Anderson earns the victory by saving 36-of-39 shots faced (92.3%), while Carey Price saved 19-of-23 (82.6%) in the loss.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 24-13-7, favoring the home sides by nine points over the roadies.

October 26 – Day 15 – The Boston-New York thing is happening again

We’ve got four games to choose from tonight! Montréal visits the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. (RDS/SN1), followed an hour later by Boston at the New York Rangers (NBCSN/TVAS). 9:30 p.m. brings with it Washington at Edmonton (SN1/SN360) and this evening’s nightcap, Nashville at Anaheim, drops the puck an hour later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at New York: In addition to being hockey’s more recognized iteration of the Boston vs. New York rivalry, tonight also marks Dominic Moore‘s first return to Madison Square Garden, his home arena of the last three seasons.
  • Nashville at Anaheim: Remember the Western Quarterfinals a year ago? The Ducks wish you wouldn’t.

This may be Moore’s 10th team, but his story is worth repeating and makes the rivalry between these clubs a little bit more interesting.

Unknown-7New York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight is far from Moore’s first time in the visitor’s dressing room in Madison Square Garden – he’s done that 12 times before tonight with half as many teams. Heck, this isn’t even his first return to the World’s Most Famous Arena after time with the Blueshirts, as 2013-’15 was his second stint with the club.

What makes this game special is his signing his second contract with the Rangers in the summer of 2013. The last time Moore was on the ice, he was a member of the San Jose Sharks participating in the 2012 playoffs.

The gap year was far from recreational. Moore’s wife Katie was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of travel across the continent for a seven-month hockey season, he stayed by her side until she ultimately passed.

The Rangers took a chance with their third round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and signed him to a one-year deal after he had been off the ice for more than a year, and he didn’t disappoint. He scored 18 points (tied for 12th-most on the team) en route to the Bill Masterton Trophy, earning him a two-year extension. Following the 2015-’16 season, he signed with the Bruins during free agency.

Things haven’t been going so well in Boston, as the Bruins are 3-3-0 after last night’s 5-0 drubbing by the Wild. Their 18 goals-against ties them for 12th worst in the NHL, and that is made even worse by the fact that their three goals-against-per-game ranks even worse, tying for a bottom-11 standing.

Those numbers wouldn’t be quite as bad if the Bruins were scoring like they did last season when they fired 240 goals, the fifth-most in the NHL. This season’s 15 tallies ties for ninth-fewest, once again made worse when taking the number of games Boston has played into account. They average only 2.5 scores-per-game, the sixth-lowest rate in the league and worst in the Atlantic Division.

They’re led offensively by Brad Marchand‘s team-leading nine points and David Pastrnak‘s four goals.

On paper, the 4-2-0 Rangers look like they should be doing much better. They’ve scored the ninth-most goals this season, backed by the great Henrik Lundqvist, who’s led the goaltending department to allowing only 16 goals to tie for ninth-fewest.

They are led offensively by Chris Kreider‘s seven points. Additionally, Jimmy Vesey ties Kreider’s goal totals with three tallies.

Statistics can be misleading though. Even though the Rangers currently have the second-best standing in the Metropolitan Division, they have been unable to find sustained success. Until their last game, a 3-2 victory over the Coyotes, the Blueshirts would win a game, then lose a game. Win a game, then lose a game. Until they prove that they can play consistently, the Rangers are a difficult team to trust.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (nine points [tied for second-most in the NHL], including six assists [tied for third-most in the league] for a +8 [tied for third-best in the NHL]), Pastrnak (+8 [tied for third-best in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (three wins [tied for third-most in the NHL] on a .947 save percentage [fourth-best in the league] for a 1.67 GAA [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (three wins [tied for third-most in the league]).

Most establishments in Vegas mark bets as off in this contest, but I don’t think it’s the same scenario as when San Jose visited Pittsburgh last week. Given them riding their first win streak of the season, I’m leaning towards the home Rangers in this one.

Happy Birthday

  • Miikka Kiprusoff (1976-) – This Finnish goaltender spent nine of his 12 NHL seasons with Calgary, playing 576 games for the Flames. He’s also earned Team Finland three silver medals (two at the World Championships and the 2004 World Cup).

Troy Brouwer and Second Star of the Game Brian Elliott made good on their return to Scottrade Center in yesterday’s Game of the Day, leading the Flames to a 4-1 victory.

Third Star Dennis Wideman (Brouwer and John Gaudreau) scored a power play wrister only 3:54 after puck drop to give Calgary an early lead. With 9:30 remaining in the frame, Deryk Engelland (Kris Versteeg and First Star Sam Bennett) doubled the Flames‘ lead with the eventual game-winner, a score that would hold into intermission.

Only one goal was struck in the second period, belonging to the visiting squad. Bennett (Dougie Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk) is the guilty party, scoring 2:16 after returning to the ice.

St. Louis finally got on the board at the 5:49 mark of the final frame with a Kevin Shattenkirk (Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko) power play wrister, but Gaudreau (Matt Stajan and Micheal Ferland) scored on an empty net with 71 seconds remaining to end any chance of a Blues comeback.

Elliott earns the win after saving 23-of-24 shots faced (95.8%), while Carter Hutton takes the loss, saving 26-of-29 (89.7%).

Calgary‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 10-6-1, but that still favors the home sides by four points.