Tag Archives: Bishop

October 12 – Day Nine – The Kevin Peter Hall game

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

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

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

 

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

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

Anyways…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6 – Day Three – Welcome to the league

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Ouch. Maybe the Golden Knights can do better.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Kings 2017-’18 Season Preview

Los Angeles Kings

39-35-8, 86 points, fifth in the Pacific Division

Additions: GM Rob Blake, F Mike Cammalleri, D Christian Folin, G Darcy Kuemper, Head Coach John Stevens

Subtractions: G Ben Bishop (traded to DAL), D Matt Greene (retired), GM Dean Lombardi, D Brayden McNabb (drafted by VGK), Head Coach Darryl Sutter

Offseason Analysis: If postseason berths were awarded based on goals allowed, Los Angeles would have been not only the third seed in the Pacific Division in 2017, but also the entire Western Conference. In fact, at 205 goals allowed, Los Angeles was the only non-playoff team in the entire league in the top-15 of the statistic.

Unfortunately for the Kings’ offense, that’s not the way this game works.

Last season, Los Angeles couldn’t score to save its life. Even with F Jeff Carter’s team-leading 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists), the Kings could only manage 201 markers – tying for the fifth-fewest in the league.

If a club is struggling on offense, what better place to find a scorer than the entry draft? That’s exactly where new GM Blake looked, selecting 18-year-old C Gabriel Vilardi (29-32-61 in the OHL) with the 11th-overall pick. Fans shouldn’t grow too attached to the idea of him wearing black and silver this year though, as Los Angeles’ top two center positions are locked up for at least the next five seasons (Carter will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022), barring a big trade. Both Nick Shore (6-11-17) and Nic Dowd (6-16-22) will be free agents following this season (restricted and unrestricted, respectively) and could open up a hole in the lineup for the youngster, but I’d be concerned about playing the potential future of the offense, should the scouting reports prove correct, on these more physical lines during his development. Vilardi will almost certainly be back in Windsor trying to win his second-straight Memorial Cup this season.

And that leads us to a major problem with the Kings: they are returning almost an identical roster as last year. That is just fine for the Pittsburgh Penguins or Nashville Predators, but teams like the Kings that are trying to capitalize on a two-time Cup-winning goaltender still in his early 30s – like Jonathan Quick – should be doing all they can to help him out.

General Managers in all sports face the tough job of building a competitive team, keeping a balanced budget, appeasing the owner and making the fans happy. It’s a touchy situation that often doesn’t have clear right or wrong answers.

Unfortunately, Lombardi didn’t find the right balance between those things last season. Currently, the Kings have eight forwards signed to contracts through at least the 2019-’20 season for $1.6 million AAV, at minimum. Six of those are Lombardi’s responsibility, as his attempts to keep the 2014 Stanley Cup-winning gang together and hope they rediscover that magic ultimately led to him losing his job this offseason.

Then again, it doesn’t seem Blake learned from his predecessor’s mistakes, as he is responsible for signing 25-year-olds LW Tanner Pearson (24-20-44) and F Tyler Toffoli (16-18-34) this summer. My concern with these signings is not that these players aren’t worth their contracts, but that it has only added to the logjam of talent that will make it difficult for youths like Vilardi to make the team and could make it difficult to trade pieces in the future.

Offseason Grade: C+

The Kings added Cammalleri to replace unsigned Jarome Iginla and shored up the backup goaltending position (sorry Mr. Game 1 Jeff Zatkoff, but Kuemper is better and younger), but they’re returning almost an identical lineup as last season. Unless Stevens can find a way for the offense to increase production and Quick can add four more wins than Peter Budaj could manage in his absence last year, the Kings are on their way to another postseason on the couch.

January 26 – Day 103 – Governor’s Cup

This is it, guys. The last day of hockey until next Tuesday. Cherish it. Don’t take it for granted.

That shouldn’t be too hard as every club, with few exception, is in action this evening. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when five games get underway (Pittsburgh at Boston [TVAS], Washington at New Jersey, Montréal at the New York Islanders [RDS], Toronto at Philadelphia and Los Angeles at Carolina), followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (Calgary at Ottawa [RDS2] and Tampa Bay at Florida). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of two more matchups (Columbus at Nashville and St. Louis at Minnesota [NBCSN]), and two more games (Winnipeg at Chicago and Buffalo at Dallas) follow suit 30 minutes later. Vancouver at Arizona gets underway all by themselves at 9 p.m., as tonight’s nightcap – Edmonton at San Jose – starts 90 minutes later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Calgary at Ottawa: Alex Chiasson spent the last two seasons in the Canadian capital before making his way to southern Alberta.
  • Tampa Bay at Florida: The Governor’s Cup rages on in the Sunshine State.

It doesn’t seem like much on the surface, but the game in Sunrise this evening could be just the ticket for either – or both – of these teams to turn their season around following the break.

Unknown-3Florida_Panthers_logo_2016

 

Both of these clubs had so much optimism coming into this season, yet here we are, the last day before the All-Star break, and neither of these teams are currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

We turn our attention first to the 22-22-5 Lightning, current occupants of 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Their plight is an issue they haven’t faced in a long time: poor goaltending, which has allowed 142 goals this season in eight games: the eighth-worst rate in the league.

Although it’s been an almost even split of time, 11-11-3 Ben Bishop remains the netminder of choice for Jon Cooper. This season has easily been his worst since moving to Tampa, as he’s managed only a .905 save percentage and 2.78 GAA – the 36th and 34th-best efforts in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 13 appearances.

While the defense playing in front of him is far from the best in the league, they are not below average. Led by Victor Hedman‘s 78 shot blocks, the Bolts‘ defense has allowed only 30 shots against-per-game, which ties for 13th-best in the league.

One thing that is certainly going right for the Lightning is the power play. Tampa has found success on 22.7% of opportunities, the fifth-best rate in the league. Hedman has sparked that attack with his 18 power play points, but it’s been Jonathan Drouin completing most of those plays with his team-leading seven man-advantage goals.

Playing host this evening are the 20-19-10 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division and 10th-best in the East. Florida‘s main struggle this year has been their offense, which has managed only 111 tallies – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With his team-leading 33 points, Vincent Trocheck has tried his hardest to pull his club towards its goal, but he’s struggling to find a dance partner as his 18 goals are also the clubhouse lead. Unfortunately, if it weren’t for him and Jon Marchessault, no skater on the club would have more than nine goals. These two skaters take credit for nearly 28% of the Panthers‘ goals.

The lack of weapons catches up with Florida on the power play, where their 15.2% success rate is seventh-worst in the league. Marchessault and Keith Yandle share the team-lead with 10 power play points, and Reilly Smith has the most power play goals with six. It would seem like there are more weapons, but Trocheck has actually struggled on the power play, scoring only two goals with the man-advantage. The Panthers have become very predictable offensively, regardless of circumstance.

Similar to their northern counterparts, all hope is not lost due to the opposite special team. Florida‘s penalty kill, led by Mark Pysyk‘s team-leading 10 shorthanded blocks, is fifth-best in the league by refusing to yield a power play goal on 84.3% of opposing opportunities.

The Panthers are not only the current owners of the Governor’s Cup, but they are also well on their way to retaining it a second-straight time. They already have a 1-0-1 record against Tampa Bay, including winning their most recent meeting on November 7 by a score of 3-1 on this surface.

While neither team is in the position the would like, the beauty of the Eastern Conference is that no one – no, not even last place Detroit – is anywhere near out of contention. Philadelphia, the current owner of the second wildcard, has 54 points to their credit, only four more than Florida and five more than Tampa.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Trocheck (33 points, including 18 goals [both lead the team]) and Tampa Bay‘s Hedman (31 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Florida is a -108 favorite according to Vegas, due almost entirely to having home ice. Each team’s strength aligns with the opposition’s strength, as do their respective weaknesses. Especially since I’m a defensive-minded fan, I like the Panthers‘ odds of earning two points this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Wayne Gretzky (1961-) – For those who aren’t interested in a long-winded detail, there’s a reason this center is called The Great One. For everybody else, this two-time Hall of Famer played in 18 All Star games and won a total of 35 trophies: four Stanley Cups, five Byngs, nine Harts, five Pearsons, 10 Ross and two Smythes.

For those hoping the rivalry would help the Red Wings play up to Toronto‘s level, that is no where near what happened. Instead, the Leafs shut Detroit out on their own ice, winning 4-0 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With an unassisted tally only 5:30 into the contest, First Star of the Game Auston Matthews takes credit for the game-winning tally on a solid backhand. It was the lone goal of the first period.

Toronto started laying on the insurance goals with 4:25 remaining in the second period, courtesy of a Roman Polak (Matt Hunwick and Nazem Kadri) slap shot.

James van Riemsdyk (Nikita Zaitsev and Martin Marincin) and Nikita Soshnikov (Second Star Frederik Andersen) provided the last two goals in the third period.

Andersen saved all 22 shots he faced to earn the shutout victory, leaving the loss to Petr Mrazek, who saved 24-of-28 (85.7%).

Toronto‘s road victory is the first in three days in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and it pulls visitors within four points of the 54-35-16 hosts.

November 21 – Day 40 – If you get stuck in an Avalanche, I recommend more than a Jacket

Hey buddy, how’s it going? Oh, first day back at work this week got you down? I know how to fix that: watch hockey.

We’ve got a decent little selection to choose from this evening, starting with three at 7 p.m. (Calgary at Buffalo, the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh and Colorado at Columbus), followed by Tampa Bay at Nashville (TVAS) an hour later. Minnesota at Dallas finds its start at 8:30, with Chicago at Edmonton (SN/SN1) dropping the puck at 9 p.m. Finally, New Jersey at San Jose – this evening’s nightcap – gets green-lit at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Colorado at Columbus: Fedor Tyutin spent eight seasons in central Ohio, but returns tonight wearing different colors.
  • New York at Pittsburgh: Last season, these clubs met up in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, where the Pens won in five games.
  • Minnesota at Dallas: Another quarterfinals rematch, but from the Western Conference. Dallas won in six games.

Since Colorado makes only one trip to Nationwide Arena a year, we’ll catch Tyutin’s homecoming.

Unknown-1Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

 

Tyutin joined Columbus during the off-season preceding the 2008-’09 season after being traded by the New York Rangers for Dan Fritsche and Nikolai Zherdev.

While playing for the Jackets, the defenseman notched 185 points in 553 games. Then again, that wasn’t his primary objective. Ohioans remember him most for his physical, selfless play, sacrificing himself 788 times to prevent a puck from finding the net, and another 735 times hurling himself at opposing skaters.

Certainly not quite as momentous, Rene Bourque is also making a return to Columbus. He played 57 games over two seasons with Columbus. Why his return is special will be revealed shortly.

These days, they’re wearing burgundy sweaters – Tyutin  after being the odd-man out in Columbus cap-space moves, and Bourque after not getting his contract renewed. Their Avs are 8-9-0 for last place in the Central Division, due almost entirely to a flailing offense.

Colorado has only managed 36 goals so far this season in their 17 games to average 2.12 per game. Nathan MacKinnon has led the charge (if you can call it that) with 12 points to his credit, but it has been Matt Duchene finishing the plays with six tallies to his credit.

Herein lies the Avalanche‘s first issue: their leading goalscorer hasn’t seen the ice in over a week after suffering a concussion on November 12. This is where Bourque comes in: with five goals to his credit, he is the leading active goalscorer for the club.

Even though defense is what has kept the Avalanche somewhat competitive, they have one fatal flaw: the penalty kill. Successfully nullifying 78.9% of their infractions, Colorado ranks seventh-worst in the NHL. Their poor success rate is due almost entirely to committing too many penalties. The Avs have faced 71 power plays already this year, tying for fourth-most in the league.

The 10-4-2 Blue Jackets play host this season, currently laying claim to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. That position goes well with their four-game winning streak, which ties with Carolina and Tampa Bay for longest-active in the NHL right now.

They’ve gotten there with strong goaltending. With a .931 save percentage and 2.19 GAA, Sergei Bobrovsky for his 10-4-1 record, ranking sixth and ninth-best in the league, respectively, among the 37 goalies with eight or more appearances to their credit.

What makes Bobrovsky’s efforts more impressive is the fact that the blueline in front of him hasn’t been exactly impressive. Jack Johnson leads the club with 28 blocks.

28.

Let that set in for a minute.

For a team having the success the Jackets are this season, they allow 31.5 shots on the cage per game, the eighth-highest average in the NHL. Should Columbus want to really be a threat this postseason, they’ll need to add something to their defensive corps.

Offensively, Columbus‘ forte has been nothing but their power play. They’ve been successful on 31.8% of their extra-man attempts, tops in the league. Alexander Wennberg has been the man-in-charge on the power play with 10 power man-advantage points to his credit. That being said, it’s been Cam Atkinson completing most of those plays, potting four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Colorado‘s Erik Johnson (46 blocks [leads the team]) and MacKinnon (12 points [leads the team]) & Columbus‘ Bobrovsky (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] of his 10 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Wennberg (14 assists [tied for the league-lead]).

For the second night in a row, bets are off for our Game of the Day. That being said, I don’t have anywhere near the expectations I had for yesterday’s Florida at New York contest. Columbus should easily handle the visiting Avalanche.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Alex Tanguay (1979-) – This left wing played 16 NHL seasons, most of which with the club that drafted him 12th-overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft: Colorado. He was a part of the 2001 Avalanche team that hoisted the Stanley Cup.
  • Ben Bishop (1986-) – No time to celebrate, this goaltender has a game tonight in Nashville.

It took a shootout, but Florida was able to earn two points in the World’s Most Famous Arena by beating the Rangers 3-2.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it brought the home fans to their feet. With 6:45 remaining in the frame, Chris Kreider (Derek Stepan and Marc Staal) buried a wrister to set the score at 1-0.

Third Star of the Game Keith Yandle was the whole reason we featured this game, and he came through in a big way for Florida, scoring (Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov) with 5:17 remaining on a power play slap shot to level the score going into the second intermission.

Only 1:45 after returning to the ice for the final frame, Mika Zibanejad (Mats Zuccarello and Jimmy Vesey) scored for the Rangers, but that lead lasted only 6:09 before Aaron Ekblad (Jakub Kindl and Trocheck) tied the game at two-all, the score that held not only to the end of regulation, but also through the three-on-three overtime period.

  1. Zuccarello went first for New York, but was saved by First Star James Reimer.
  2. Trocheck went next and gave the Panthers a 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Next up for the Blueshirts was Brandon Pirri, who was also saved.
  4. Barkov ends the shootout for the Panthers with a goal.

Reimer saved 33-of-35 (94.3%) for the victory, forcing Second Star Henrik Lundqvist to take the shootout loss saving 28-of-30 (93.3%).

Florida‘s shootout victory only pulls the road teams back within a dozen points of the home sides, as the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 24-12-6.

April 4 – Day 172 – Stamkos-less Lightning

Chicago scored for the first half hour, and Boston tried to level in their half, but to no avail, falling 6-4 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

For our NFL fans, the scoring of this contest reminded me of the SeahawksPanthers NFC Divisional game I attended this last postseason, as Chicago scored six goals before ceding to Boston the remainder of the time.  The Hawks‘ first goal was at the 13:14 mark of the first period, an Artem Anisimov power play wrister, assisted by Second Star of the Game Artemi Panarin and Brent Seabrook (his 31st helper of the season).  The only other goal of the frame was First Star Patrick Kane’s unassisted backhander, his 41st of the season.  More from him after the intermission.

Like, immediately after, as he scored his second of three only 54 seconds after returning to the ice (his 42nd tally of the season).  This one was assisted by Anisimov and Panarin.  Jonathan Toews got in on the action 1:06 later with his 26th tally of the seaosn, assisted by Marian Hossa and Andrew Ladd.  Panarin’s third point was a game-winning slap shot at the 5:17 mark, assisted by Kane (his 57th helper of the seaosn) and Anisimov.  Chicago‘s final goal of the day completed Kane’s hat trick, assisted by Panarin (his 44th helper of the season) and Seabrook at the 14:16 mark.  After that, it was all Bruins, starting with David Pastrnak’s wrister at the 19:44 mark, assisted by David Krejci (his 44th helper of the season) and Zdeno Chara.  Eleven seconds later, and with only five ticks remaining in the second period, Third Star Patrice Bergeron set the score at 6-2 with his 31st tally of the season, assisted by Adam McQuaid and Brad Marchand.

Goal #3 for the Bruins found the back of the net at the 2:39 mark of the third, courtesy of a Bergeron wrister assisted by Loui Eriksson and Torey Krug.  The final goal was struck nine seconds before the 10 minute mark from Brad Marchand, assisted by Krug (his 38th helper of the season) and and Bergeron.  Chicago‘s defense and goal-tending finally started taking the comeback seriously, and didn’t let Boston score again to ensure the 6-4 victory.

Scott Darling earns the win after saving 42 of 46 shots faced (91.3%), while Jonas Gustavsson takes the loss, saving 10 of 12 (83.3%).  He replaced starter Tuukka Rask following Toews’ goal, saving 18 of 22 (81.8%).

Chicago‘s win snaps the two game winning streaks by road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the season record at 79-45-18, leaning towards the home sides by 37 points.

We’ve got our second straight day of five games today, starting with two at 7 p.m. eastern (Tampa Bay at the New York Islanders [NHLN/TVAS] and the New York Rangers at Columbus), followed half an hour later by Florida at Toronto.  8 p.m. eastern marks the puck drop of Arizona at St. Louis, and 10 p.m. eastern brings with it our nightcap, Los Angeles at Vancouver.

We’ve got a few divisional rivalries being played this evening (New York at Columbus, Florida at Toronto and Los Angeles at Vancouver), but only Tampa Bay at New York is between two playoff qualifiers.  In efforts to catch the most exciting game of the night, let’s head to Brooklyn!

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Tonight’s game will be Tampa Bay‘s 18th appearance in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 11-4-2 record.  Under our watchful eye, they last played to a 5-2 home loss to the rival Panthers on March 26.  New York has made nine appearances in the series and own a 2-6-1 record.  They last appeared in their five-goal shutout home loss to the Penguins on Saturday.

The 45-28-5 Tampa Bay Lightning are currently the second best team in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve gotten to that position by playing the fourth best defense in the league, paired with the 12th best offense, but that could all be going up in smoke with Steven Stamkos’ blood clot putting him on injured reserve.

Lucky for them, they still have the backbone of their team, their defense.  Led by Victory Hedman’s 131 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 2236 shots to reach 34-20-4 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 186 goals against, the fourth fewest in the NHL.  That success continues on the penalty kill, where the Bolts have killed 84.3% of their infractions, allowing only 38 power play goals, the fifth best rate in the league.  Further improving on those efforts, Tampa has also scored seven shorthanded goals, one more than the league average.

Before his season ended prematurely, the offense centered around Stamkos.  His 216 shots has led the Bolts to firing the puck 2236 times, with a solid 9.4% of those finding the back of the net for 217 goals (again, led by Stamkos’ 36 goals, six more than Nikita Kucherov), the 12th most in the league.  He’ll be missed on the power play as well, as his 14 power play goals has led Tampa to 43 extra man goals (Kucherov has the second most at nine) with their 16.29% success rate that already ranked sixth worst in the league before his exit.

Tampa Bay‘s last game was a 3-1 victory over the visiting Devils on Saturday.  Two more points in the standings between now and this Saturday will clinch them a playoff spot, and I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that they’d like to get both tonight.  Should they do that and Florida lose in Toronto, they will move into first in the Atlantic Division.

The 42-26-9 New York Islanders currently sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, qualifying them for the first wildcard spot.  To get into that spot, they’ve played the 11th best defense in the league, paired with the 13th best offense.  A statistical analysis of the Isles‘ game can be found within Saturday’s article.

New York hasn’t played since their embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins on Saturday, but a win tonight could pull them into a tie with the Rangers for third in the division should the Blueshirts fall in Columbus this evening.

Tonight’s game will be the series deciding game, as both teams split the two meetings at Amalie Arena earlier this year.  The last time they met was March 25, when Tampa won 7-4.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.924 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) or Jaroslav Halak (2.3 GAA [10th best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (two GAA [leads the league], .929 save percentage [second best in the league], six shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 34 wins [sixth most in the league]).

This one is a tough one to predict since Stamkos is out.  Although Tampa‘s defense is still intact and should easily handle New York‘s scoring attempts, there’s no telling what the Bolts will do on the other end.  I’m inclined to pick the Islanders in a close one simply because they’re playing at home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew… I know.  Gotta catch our breath!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25 – Day 162 – Island dwellers head to the beach

Philadelphia used three unanswered goals in the third to earn the road win in Colorado in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Avalanche opened the scoring at the 23:05 mark with a deflection from Nick Holden, assisted by Mikhail Grigorenko and Mikkel Boedker (his 31st helper of the season), but the Flyers leveled the score 9:31 later with the only other goal of the period, courtesy of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was assisted by Shayne Gostisbehere (his 24th helper of the season) and Andrew MacDonald.

Colorado took another lead 6:13 after returning to the ice when John Mitchell connected on a wrister, assisted by Andreas Martinsen and Francois Beauchemin (his 26th helper of the season), which held for 8:04.  Philly leveled the score then on a slap shot from Radko Gudas, assisted by Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek (his 40th helper of the season).  Nineteen seconds later, the Flyers had their first lead of the game, one they would not yield, when First Star of the Game Claude Giroux fired a wrister assisted by Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn (his 28th helper of the season).  The lone insurance goal was from Ryan White on an empty net (his 11th tally of the season), assisted by Bellemare and Gudas.

Third Star Steve Mason earns the win after saving 32 of 34 shots faced (94.1%), while Second Star Semyon Varlamov takes the loss, saving 41 of 44 (93.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 73-42-17, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

Busy Thursdays and Saturdays usually have light Fridays in between, and today is no different, as there’s only three contests taking place this evening.  The night gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with Washington visiting New Jersey, followed half an hour later by the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay (NHLN/TVAS).  Finally, Vancouver at St. Louis, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (SN).

Washington at New Jersey is the only division rivalry taking place this evening, while New York at Tampa Bay is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although last night’s games effected the slated potential playoff matchup between these two, it still must be our focus due to the quality of the competition.

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This will be New York‘s eighth contest in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-4-1 record, with their most recent being March 17’s 4-2 loss in Nashville.  Tampa Bay has been featured 15 times before tonight’s game, and own a 10-3-2 record in such occasions, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 6-2 beat down on the visiting Red Wings.

The 39-24-9 New York Islanders currently occupy fourth in the Metropolitan Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the first wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the seventh best defense, paired with the 13th best offense.

Even with Calvin de Haan’s 172 blocks, the Islanders have allowed 2167 shots to reach 19-10-4 Thomas Greiss and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 182 goals against, the seventh fewest in the league.  Those efforts have been led be the penalty kill, whose 85.44% success rate, allowing only 30 power play goals, ranks second best in the NHL, and has six shorthanded goals to boot, one more than the league average.

John Tavares’ 220 shots has helped lead the Isles to 2141 attempts, with 9.2% finding the back of the net for 200 goals (led by Tavares’ 27 tallies), the 13th most in the league.  That success has continued to the power play, where they also rank 13th in the league with their 19.31% success rate, good for 39 power play goals (led by Kyle Okposo’s seven extra man tallies).

New York‘s last game was a 3-1 home victory over the Senators on Wednesday.  Since Pittsburgh lost last night, a win tonight would propel the Isles back into the third division qualifier.

The 42-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve gotten to that position by playing the fourth best defense in NHL, paired with the 10th best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of Tampa‘s game can be found within Tuesday’s article.

The Bolts enter tonight’s game on a two game winning streak, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the Red Wings.  Increasing that streak to three with a win tonight would propel the Bolts back into the division lead.

This will be only the second of three meetings between these squads this season.  New York won the first game 3-2 in Amalie Arena on November 28.

Some players to keep an eye on include New York‘s Greiss (.927 save percentage [third best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Ben Bishop (2.02 GAA [second best in the league], .928 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 31 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Steven Stamkos (34 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]).

Not only is Tampa the better team, but they’re also riding a winning streak and have a home-ice advantage.  The Bolts should be back in the division lead after this game is through.

May 22 – Day 159 – Final round: Wings v. Bolts

With three unanswered goals in the second period, the Nashville Predators earned their first and only win over the Los Angeles Kings this season in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Third Star of the Game James Neal waited until 27:37 had ticked off the clock before scoring his wrister (his 28th tally of the season), assisted by Second Star Ryan Johansen.  5:40 later, First Star Mike Fisher took advantage of a too many men penalty to double the Preds‘ lead, assisted by Neal and Johansen (his 38th helper of the season).  To close the period’s scoring, Filip Forsberg connected on a backhander to give Nashville their third and eventual game-winning goal, assisted by Craig Smith and Roman Josi (his 41st helper of the season).

The Kings must have gotten a stern talking to from Darryl Sutter during the intermission, as they scored only 32 seconds after resuming play on a Drew Doughty wrister (his 14th tally of the season), assisted by Rob Scuderi and Anze Kopitar.  7:28 later, they pulled within a goal with a tally from Alec Martinez, assisted by Tanner Pearson and Kopitar (his 43rd helper of the season).  Nashville got back to scoring at the 11:45 mark of the third period when Johansen connected on a tip-in, assisted by Shea Weber (his 29th helper of the season) and Calle Jarnkrok.  The Predators‘ final goal was courtesy of Josi on an empty net with only 29 seconds remaining in the game, setting the score at the 5-2 final.

Pekka Rinne earns the victory after saving 28 of the 30 shots he faced (93.3%), while Jonathan Quick takes the loss, saving 24 of 27 (88.9%).  He was replaced after the second intermission by Jhonas Enroth, who saved only one of the two shots he faced (50%).

After Nashville‘s win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 71-41-17, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

If you like days with lots of games, this is the Tuesday for you.  10 games will be played tonight, starting with the first two at 7 p.m. eastern (Buffalo at Carolina [BELL TV] and Philadelphia at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (Anaheim at Montréal [RDS], Washington at Ottawa [RDS2] and Detroit at Tampa Bay [TVAS]).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of the Vancouver at Winnipeg contest, which is trailed 30 minutes later by two more (Los Angeles at Minnesota [NBCSN] and Dallas at Chicago).  Edmonton visits Arizona at 10 p.m. eastern, and this evening’s nightcap, St. Louis at San Jose, drops the puck half an hour later.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Philadelphia at Columbus, Detroit at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Chicago and Edmonton at Arizona) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Chicago and St. Louis at San Jose).

In addition for the reasons listed above, the DetroitTampa Bay game is also a rematch of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal from a season ago, so we’ll head down to Amalie Arena.

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Tonight’s game will be Detroit‘s 11th in our Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-3-1 record.  Their most recent showing in such a game was last Tuesday, when they fell in Philadelphia 4-3.  Tampa Bay has been featured 14 times before this game, and own a 9-3-2 record in the series.  We last focused on them March 8, when they fell 1-0 in overtime to the Bruins on home ice.

The 36-25-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard spot.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th best defense, paired with the 10th worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Wings‘ game can be found within last Tuesday’s article.

Detroit is currently riding a two game winning streak, with their most recent being Saturday’s 5-3 victory at Florida.  While a win tonight would pull the Red Wings into a tie with the Islanders for the first wildcard (a tie they lose on games played), it could, more importantly, expand the gap between themselves and the pressing Flyers to three points, but the Wings will need some help from Columbus this evening for that to happen.

The 41-26-5 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy second in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  Defense has been the name of the game in Tampa, as they’ve given up the fourth fewest goals, and have scored the 13th most to boot.

Led by Victor Hedman’s 126 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 2071 shots to reach 30-19-4 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 171 goals against, the fourth fewest in the league.  The Bolts‘ penalty kill has been especially strong, neutralizing 84.09% of their infractions for only 35 power play goals against, the fifth best rate in the NHL.  Further improving on that tough defense, the Tampa Bay has also scored seven shorthanded goals, two more than the league average.

The offense has been only a step behind.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ team-leading 197 shots, the Lightning have fired the puck only 2091 times, but 9.2% have found the back of the net for 196 goals (led by Stamkos’ 33 tallies), 13th most in the league.  The biggest hole in Tampa‘s game is most certainly their power play, as their 16.32% success rate, good for only 39 extra man goals (led by Stamkos’ 13 power play tallies), ranks fifth worst in the NHL.

Tampa Bay‘s most recent game was Saturday, a 2-0 win in Arizona.  With a win tonight, the Bolts would reclaim the Atlantic Division lead (even if only by a games played tiebreaker), but a loss leaves the door open for the Bruins to take over second place should they beat the Rangers in tomorrow’s game.

Detroit leads the season series 2-1-0 going into the final game, but it was Tampa Bay who earned the 3-1 win last time these squads met, which took place February 3 on the very surface they’ll meet on this evening.  Of course, this season’s regular season series carries extra weight, as these squads met in the first round of last season’s playoffs.  It was a tightly contested series, as the Bolts needed the full seven games to finally knock off the Wings.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Petr Mrazek (.924 save percentage [tied for sixth best in the league] and 2.21 GAA [seventh best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.02 GAA [leads the league], .928 save percentage [second best in the league], five shutouts [tied for second most in the league] and 30 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Stamkos (33 goals [tied for seventh most in the league]).

Both of these teams are playing on even rest, with the minor exception that the Lightning traveled home over the weekend versus Detroit just making the drive across the Sunshine State. Frankly, Tampa Bay is the better team in this game, both offensively and defensively, and I expect them to play as such.

March 8 – Day 145 – Another lesson in alliteration: Bruins and Bolts battle for… the Atlantic Division

It took overtime, but Boston was able to continue their season dominance against the Panthers, beating them in a wild 5-4 game.

It took only 34 seconds before Boston took the lead on a Third Star of the Game Patrice Bergeron tip-in (his 27th tally of the season), who was assisted by Brad Marchand and First Star Lee Stempniak.  They followed that up with a score at the seven minute mark, scored by David Pastrnak, who was assisted by Matt Beleskey (his 20th helper of the season) and Dennis Seidenberg.  The Bruins‘ lead became three goals 5:22 later with a Brett Connolly snap shot (his ninth tally of the season), assisted by Noel Acciari.  Florida got a goal back with 3:12 remaining in the period on an Aleksander Barkov wrister, assisted by Jaromir Jagr (his 28th helper of the season) and Jonathan Huberdeau, but Boston returned their lead to three with Bergeron’s second score of the period, assisted by Stempniak (his 30th helper of the season) and Marchand.  The 4-1 score held into the first intermission.

Both goals in the second period belonged to the Panthers, with their first occurring only 3:15 after resuming play.  It was Second Star Jiri Hudler’s slap shot that found the back of the net, assisted by Huberdeau (his 31st helper of the season) and Erik Gudbranson.  Only 2:53 later, Florida pulled within a goal with a Jussi Jokinen power play wrister, assisted by Reilly Smith and Vincent Trocheck (his 22nd helper of the season).  The 4-3 score held through the rest of the second period and into the second intermission.

Florida got their leveler with 4:43 remaining in regulation from Hudler, assisted by Alex Petrovic and Nick Bjugstad (his 13th helper of the season).  Neither team was able to break the tie, forcing the game into three-on-three overtime.

The Bruins earned the bonus point with a minute remaining in that overtime period, assisted by Ryan Spooner (his 33rd helper of the season) and John-Michael Liles.

Tuukka Rask earns the win after saving 47 of 51 shots faced (92.2%), while Al Montoya takes the overtime loss, saving all but the winner (93.8%).  He replaced Roberto Luongo after the first period, who saved only 12 of 16 (75%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 64-37-14, favoring the home side by 29 points over the roadies.

It’s a relatively busy Tuesday in the NHL, especially in comparison to yesterday’s slate of games.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with three contests (the New York Rangers at Buffalo, Ottawa at Carolina and Detroit at Columbus), followed half an hour later by three more (Pittsburgh at the New York Islanders [NBCSN], Dallas at Montréal and Boston at Tampa Bay).  Nashville at Winnipeg drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap San Jose at Edmonton.

Half of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Pittsburgh at New York, Boston at Tampa Bay, Nashville at Winnipeg and San Jose at Edmonton), but only two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Pittsburgh at New York and Boston at Tampa Bay).

I know that we just featured Boston yesterday, but a regulation win by the Bruins this evening would propel them into first place in the Atlantic Division from third, and that is too much to ignore.

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This will be Boston‘s 16th appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they now own a 6-8-1 record after last night’s contest.  Tampa Bay has been featured 13 times before tonight, and own a 9-3-1 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 victory in Boston on February 28.

The 37-23-7 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the third best offense in the league, but it’s been paired with the 12th worst defense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within yesterday’s article.

After yesterday’s win, the Bruins are within a point of the division lead.  However, if they want to capture that position, they will need to earn their two points within the 60 minutes of regulation, as Tampa Bay would win the games played tiebreaker should the squads end the evening tied at 83 points apiece.

The 39-23-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently occupy the top spot in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fourth best defense in the league, backed by the ninth best scoring offense.

Led by Victor Hedman’s 106 blocks, the Bolts have allowed only 1853 shots to reach 28-17-3 Ben Bishop and co, of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 155 goals against, the fourth fewest in the NHL.  That success continues on the power play, where Tampa Bay kills 83.76% of their penalties, allowing only 32 power play goals, the seventh best rate in the league.  Further improving that rate, Tampa also has five shorthanded goals to their credit, led by Brian Boyle’s two.

The offense doesn’t trail too far behind.  Even with Steven Stamkos’ 179 shots, the Bolts have fired the puck only 1892 times, but 9.5% have found the back of the net for 183 goals (led by Stamkos’ 29 tallies), ninth most in the league.  Even though Tampa has an incredibly accurate offense, their power play is still nowhere near as effective as they would like, as it is successful on only 17.19% of attempts, the sixth worst rate in the league, for 38 power play goals (led by Stamkos’ 12 extra man tallies).  Even worse, the Lightning have allowed six shorthanded goals, one more than the league average.

Last night’s 4-2 loss in Philadelphia ended Tampa Bay‘s nine game winning streak, but they don’t have the opportunity to think about what could have been.  Tonight, they need to defend their division lead from the Bruins, and push Florida away in the process.

Tampa Bay currently leads the season series 2-1-0, with the most recent meeting being the 4-1 Tampa Bay win in Boston on February 28.  Interestingly, neither team has been able to hold home ice, so perhaps Jon Cooper and Claude Julien both use that statistic to their own ends in their pregame speeches.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Bergeron (28 goals [tied for ninth most in the league]), Marchand (33 goals [third most in the league] and +22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league] and 27 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.06 GAA [leads the league], .926 save percentage [fourth best in the league] and 28 wins [sixth most in the league]) and Stamkos (29 goals [tied for seventh most in the league]).

I think this one goes the Bruins way.  Both teams played last night, but the Lightning had to travel home all the way from the City of Brotherly Love.  And, of course, neither team has won on home ice against the other.  Sounds reason enough for me!  Should Tampa reverse that trend, it will be largely up to their defense to keep shots off Bishop’s net.