Tag Archives: Brad Marchand

February 9 – Day 113 – Back in the saddle again

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

I think I accept it’s apology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sick Hands Sunday – Granland Seals His First Hat-Trick and “SHS” Trophy.

Hey everyone, I’m back again for a new week of Sick Hands Sunday! I can’t wait to get another version out to all my fans for you all to enjoy! This week was a little tough to pick the winner because there was three players tied for six points this week and 16 players tied for five points! I can finally post another one after not having one last week since it was the All-Star break. So let’s jump right into this madness, shall we?

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Grunland calmly celebrates his third goal of the game (Darry Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

So like I said above this week was tough to pick the winner because there were three guys who finished with six points on the week. Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild who tallied six points with three goals and three assists in three games played, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins who recorded six points with two goals and four assists in three games, and Bruins’ David Pastrnak who also finished with six points with two goals and four assists in three games. So as you can tell, they were all basically evenly matched and it was super tough to pick a top performer! In the end, I decided to go with Wild forward Granlund mainly because he tallied a hat trick this week so that set him above the other two guys!

In Granlund’s first game of the week, they faced the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton. Granlund finished with just an assist in a comfortable 5-2 win. But this assist was more than an ordinary assist, it was one of the better assists I have seen in a long time and I am not overreacting one bit! He carried the puck down the right-hand dot and as soon as he got to the bottom of the circle fired a sweet all most no-look backhand pass across the slot to the stick of teammate Tyler Graovac. He had a wide open net to put the puck home and did just that to stretch their lead to 4-1. You can see the nice assist below:

In his second game of the week, they didn’t have to travel very far as they took on the Calgary Flames. Grundland once again only finished with an assist in an awful 5-1 loss, but like last night his assist was just as beautiful. Granlund drove down the right-hand circle again, shifted the puck from his forehand to his backhand and went to the bottom of the circle. As soon as he got to the bottom of the circle he fired another mesmerizing backhand pass right to the slot to driving teammate Jason Zucker. All Zucker had to do was redirect the puck onto goal from about a couple feet out and he did just that to cut the Flames lead to 2-1. Here is his awesome pass below:

In Granlund’s last game of the week, they continued their Canadian road trip as they took on the Vancouver Canucks. Granlund caught fire this game and went off for a total of four points including a hat-trick and another assist in an easy 6-3 win. For Granlund’s first goal of the game, he was in the right spot at the right time and where every goal scorer should be, the front of the net. He waited for the rebound to squeak out from under Canucks goalie Ryan Miller and beat the defenders to the rebound and swiped home the puck to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Wild.

His second goal of the game came short-handed and was a beauty. Granlund carried the puck into the offensive zone and over the blueline and stickhandled the puck as he was set to shoot as he glided into the slot. He then let a wicked wrist shot go that beat Ryan Miller under the glove to push their lead to 3-1. It set a new career high for him in goals! You can see the goal down below:

The next goal he was involved in was the Wild’s 5th overall of the game and Granlund made the play happen all by himself and I mean it. He carried the puck down the right-hand side and into the offensive zone. He then faked a shot and moved into the slot making it seem to everyone in the arena as if he was going to put a shot on net. Well, Granlund had other plans and saw Wild captain Mikko Koivu all open at the side of the net to Miller’s left on the goal line.rifled a pass down to Koivu who one-timed the puck into the wide open net to make the score 5-2. Here is the beauty pass:

For his final goal of the game and to complete the hat-trick this goal took some skill! Granlund came into the zone already trailing the play with the puck in the corner. He did what any well-known goal scorer would do and went right to the front of the net. Well, it was his night and his luck that Zucker was able to finesse the puck into the slot where Granlund was standing and he literally poked the puck home to finish off the hat-trick with a brilliant goal. Here is the awesome goal down below:

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Budaj makes one of his 17 saves in the shutout win vs Philly (Derik Hamilton, AP)

For the goalie portion of the article, I decided to go with Los Angles Kings’ tendy Peter Budaj who was on point in all three of his games this week! Budaj went 3-0 this past week in all three games he started with an amazing .972 SV5 and a whopping .66 GAA including two back to back shutouts against Colorado and  Philadelphia. He stopped all 69 of the 71 shots faced during the week only giving up two goals which is completely insane! I mean seriously, Budaj who would have spent probably the whole year down in the minors if not for Jonathan Quick‘s injury. If Budaj keeps this level of play up and keeps shutting the door game after game the Kings will be in for a real treat and a decent playoff run in my opinion!

The Honorable Mentions of the week go to Brad Marchand and Cam Ward. I will see you guys next Sunday for another recap of the best player of the week! (Thanks to the Minnesota Wild’s Twitter for the videos of the goals!)

 

February 4 – Day 108 – Saturday in the pahk. I think it was the Fourth of February

So close Chicago, but your Blackhawks and the NHL aren’t exactly active during July, so you’re just going to have to settle for the month we’re in.

This first Saturday of February has more than it’s fair share of action, with 26 teams lacing up their skates today. It all gets started with a couple 1 p.m. matinees (Washington at Montréal [RDS/SN] and Los Angeles at Philadelphia [NHLN]), followed two hours later by Winnipeg at Colorado. Five games (Toronto at Boston [CBC/CITY], Ottawa at Buffalo [SN/TVAS], Anaheim at Tampa Bay, Carolina at the New York Islanders and New Jersey at Columbus) drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m., with three more (Pittsburgh at St. Louis, Detroit at Nashville and Chicago at Dallas [NHLN]) getting underway an hour later. The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Minnesota at Vancouver [CBC/SN], followed half an hour later by tonight’s nightcap: Arizona at San JoseAll times eastern.

Short list:

  • Toronto at Boston: An important installment in the Original Six category takes place this evening in the Atlantic Division.
  • Ottawa at Buffalo: Another rivalry game, but another down season for the Sabres detracts from this contest’s attractiveness.

The Maple Leafs are trying their hardest to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the Bruins beat them in Game 7 en route to a Stanley Cup appearance. What’s the better way to pull within a point of achieving that goal than by beating that same team on it’s home ice almost four years later?

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The comeback kids make their trip to New England with a 23-17-9 record, which is good enough for fifth in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference even though their riding a three-game losing skid. As I said Thursday when the Leafs were last featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, even though their main issue is on the defensive end, they’ve only allowed 138 goals against, which ties for 15th-worst.

Of course, preventing an opposing offense from scoring always starts with the goaltender, and 21-11-8 Frederik Andersen has been a good one this season. His .917 save percentage and 2.67 GAA are (t)16th and 22nd best in the league, respectively, among the 38 goaltenders with at least 22 appearances this season.

An okay save percentage paired with a not-so-good GAA usually implies that a netminder is facing more shots than he’d like, and that is certainly the case in Toronto. Even with Nikita Zaitsev‘s team-leading 81 shot blocks, the Maple Leafs still allow the sixth-most shots in the NHL at 32.1 per game.

Fortunately for Toronto, that defense kicks it into high gear on the penalty kill where they tie for third-best in the league with their 84.5% kill rate. It’s obvious Roman Polak has made that a priority of his, as he leads the club with 24 shorthanded blocks.

The power play has also been very powerful for the Leafs. They find the back of the net 23.2% of the time, which ties for third-best rate in the league. It’s a two-headed attack, as both rookie William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk have 15 power play points to their credit, but Nazem Kadri has been the truly unstoppable force: he has 10 man-advantage goals to his credit, which ties for third-most in the league in addition to being the team lead.

Playing host this evening are the 26-22-6 Bruins, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division. If I was a Bostonian, I’d be concerned about the playoff chances for my club, as the defense that has held the team together so far this season is starting to fall apart. The Bruins have allowed 141 goals against in 54 games, only the 11th-best rate in the NHL (only six games ago on January 20, the Bruins tied for seventh-best in this statistic).

Just like with Toronto above, an analysis of keeping the opponent off the scoreboard has to start with the goaltender. Enter 25-13-4 Tuukka Rask. His .914 save percentage and 2.24 GAA are (t)19th and sixth-best in the league, respectively, against that same group of 38 goalies as before.

It’s the exact opposite situation facing Rask as is facing Andersen. Thanks to Zdeno Chara‘s team-leading 93 shot blocks, Rask faces an average of only 26.4 shots-per-game. That’s the second-best rate in the NHL.

He’s lost three of his last six outings (four if you tack on the overtime loss to Detroit on January 24) and has a .87 save percentage since January 3 – the worst in the league in that span among the 28 goalies with eight or more appearances. While I certainly respect Rask and believe him to be one of the better netminders in the league, his decline and that of the Bruins are certainly associated.

That being said, this does not fall entirely on Rask. Many are calling for Claude Julien‘s job, and he could be blamed for starting Rask in all but one game over the past month. He’s exhausted. He is one of two goaltenders with 13 starts in that span of time, the most in the league. Even though the All Star didn’t get his entire break to himself, hopefully his time off helped him recharge the batteries.

One point where the Bruins haven’t struggled has been their penalty kill. Led by Chara’s team-leading 27 shorthanded blocks, Boston refuses to yield a goal on 86.4% of opponent’s power plays, the second-best rate in the league.

Having already played half of their four meetings of the season, Toronto is already owning this series. While their 2-0-0 record against the Bruins is certainly impressive, it’s the fact that they’ve won both games 4-1, regardless of if they were played at the Air Canada Centre (October 15) or the TD Garden (December 10), that should have made the Bruins not sleep easy last night.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston’s Brad Marchand (54 points [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] on 23 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for third-most in the NHL] among 25 wins [tied for fifth-most in the league] on 2.24 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Andersen (three shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league] among 21 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) and Auston Matthews (23 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

It’s not often that I side with a road team on three-game losing skid, but the Leafs are still trending in an upwards direction in comparison to the struggling Bruins. Pair that with the success they’ve had against Boston, and I think we have a safe Toronto victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Denis Savard (1961-) – Drafted third-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, this center played nearly his entire career with the Blackhawks. While it might be unbelievable with his club’s current success, the seven-time All-Star didn’t win his lone Stanley Cup with the Hawks. Instead, he was a member of Montréal‘s 1993 Cup-winning team. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000.
  • Manny Legace (1973-) – Hartford selected this goaltender in the eighth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, but he never suited up for the Whalers and ended up playing most of his career in Detroit. His best season was his 2005-’06 campaign when he was named to his only All Star game, four years after he won his lone Stanley Cup.
  • Lee Stempniak (1983-) – The Blues picked this right wing in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s the team he’s spent most of his days playing for. Then again, it’s tough for the current Hurricane to call St. Louis home when he’s played for 10 different clubs over 12 seasons. He’s the true definition of an NHL journeyman.

They needed overtime, but Pittsburgh was able to pull out the 4-3 victory over the Blue Jackets in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins certainly got off to a hot start, as they accounted for both the tallies in the opening frame. The first belonged to First Star of the Game Phil Kessel (Brian Dumoulin and Trevor Daley), a wrister with 6:23 remaining in the first period. It was followed up 4:51 later by Patric Hornqvist‘s (Matt Cullen and Second Star Kris Letang) wrister to set the score at 2-0 going into the first intermission.

With 4:17 remaining in the second period, Third Star Brandon Dubinsky (Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson) pulled Columbus back within a score of the Pens, but Nick Bonino (Jake Guentzel and Kessel) returned the differential to two scores only 2:40 later. That 3-1 scored held into the second break in the action.

Just like Pittsburgh did in the first, the Blue Jackets absolutely took over the third period. Only 29 seconds after returning to the ice, Alexander Wennberg (Brandon Saad and Seth Jones) pulled them back within a goal with his wrister. Columbus completed the comeback with 8:40 remaining in regulation when Cam Atkinson (Dubinsky and Johnson) buried his wrister to set the score at three-all. Neither team could find the tiebreaker before the horn sounded, which forced three-on-three overtime.

Leave it to a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game to find a game-winner. With 105 seconds separating overtime from a shootout, Kessel (Letang and Justin Schultz) buried his power play wrister to earn the bonus point against the Jackets.

Matthew Murray earns the victory after saving 28-of-31 shot faced (90.3%), leaving the overtime loss to Sergei Bobrovsky, who saved 29-of-33 (87.9%).

You definitely want your favorite team to be at home when featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Pittsburgh‘s victory is the fifth-straight for hosts and improves the home teams’ record to 59-35-16, a dozen points better than the visitors.

Sick Hands Sunday (Half Way Point) – Bobrovsky Robs the Lime Light from Everyone for This Special “SHS”

Hey, everyone, I’m back again for a new week of Sick Hands Sunday! I can’t wait to get another version out to all my fans for you all to enjoy! This week was a little easier to pick the winner so let’s get right into it! I am very sorry for my post coming out two days late, I was busy with school work and just work and general and could not find time to write until now. This week I am going to do basically a Sick Hands of the Month but players up to the half way point since we have played 41 games. Let’s get to it! I decided not to have the lineup like pictures to be different than the regular “SHoTM”

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Connor McDavid

So for the centermen position, this one was extremely hard to choose for one main reason. The two guys were Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, who both went back and forth holding the lead in points up to the half way point. I decided to go with McDavid simply because of his ability to put up these ridiculous numbers with the lesser of the two teams between the Pens and the Oilers. Don’t get me wrong, Sid’s numbers were amazing too but the way McDavid was able to produce with just one or two guys around him makes him the winner over Crosby who has basically a whole team around him. McDavid, up to this point, has tallied a stunning 56 points in only 49 (1.14 P/PG) games which included 16 goals and FORTY as assists. Yes, I had to put that in all caps because someone who almost has the same amount of helpers then he does games is amazingly good! He’s totaled 16 power play points with two of them being goals and the other 14 being apples. McDavid also grabbed one shorthanded point, five game-winning goals which is third in the whole league, and one overtime goal. Last but not least, McDavid is also the league leader in points (56) and assists (40). So as you can tell, he was on a tear and couldn’t be stopped. If McDavid keeps it up and the Oilers get help from other players, they have a good chance to go far. Here is one of my favorite goals of his first half:

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Brad Marchand

The next position, the left winger, I decided to go with Boston Bruin Brad Marchand who stuck it out over the Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. Marchand finished with 19 goals and 28 assists for a total of 45 points in 50 games at the halfway point in the season. His 17 goals ranked third among left wingers and his 28 assists ranked first by just one helper. He also tallied 12 total power play points with three of them happening to be goals as well as three total short-handed points (which ranks second) with two of them being goals (which ranks second)!  Last but not least Marchand totaled four game winning goals which happened to be third best for left wingers so he knew how to end games in style. Marchand also averaged 0.92 points per game, which may seem bad, but it’s actually pretty good for his points to game ratio and that’s ranked first out of all the left wingers in the show! Marchand seems to be carrying the Bruins offensive workload into the halfway point of the season. If they want to make the playoff’s they are going to need his offensive magic to rub off on everyone else around the locker room! Here is one of my favorite goals of his first half (Sorry for the video quality, I couldn’t find a better one):

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Patrick Kane

Now let’s shift to the position I played when I was playing growing up, right wing, which is my favorite to play out there! I decided to narrow it down between Patrick Kane and a surprising candidate in Cam Atkinson out of Columbus. In the long run, I went with the defending Hart Memorial Trophy Winner Patrick Kane for the winner because of his awesome numbers compared to Atkinson’s. Kane has put up 48 points in 50 games which include 15 goals and 33 assists which are good enough for a solid 0.96 points per game. His 15 goals are tied for eighth for his position, his stunning 33 assists are enough for first place by two, and his points per game rank fourth. Kane has also racked up 13 power play points with two of them being goals so you can see he has a pass first mentality. He does have four game winning goals at this point in the season which is second for right wingers and one overtime goal as well. The Blackhawks sit at second place in the central division and western conference and they can say thanks to the whole team as well to Kane for carrying the load. If Kane keeps up his amazing offensive pace, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it back to the Cup Finals. Here is my favorite goal of his for the first half:

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Brent Burns

Now on to the defensive pairs of the article! Yay, everyone loves defensemen right? Well, I love offensive defensemen and this first guy is probably, and I mean hands down, the best offensive defensemen in the league right now and has been for the past two years or so. He goes by the name of Burns…..Brent Burns (sorry I had to make it suspenseful) I’ll just let myself out haha. Alright, besides my terrible attempt at a James Bond movie Burns has had a fire start to the first half of the season registering 51 points in 49 games with 21 goals and 30 assists with a 1.04 points per game. His 21 goals rank first among D-man, he holds a stunning 10 goal led over the next closest player, his assists also third but are down by just two, and his points rank first by 12! So as you can tell just by his goals, assists, and points Burns is a complete force on the ice and can’t be stopped whenever he plays. He also tallied 14 points on the manpower advantage with six of those points being goals. Burns tallied a loan shorthanded point, four game-winning goals (which is tied for first among defenders), and one overtime goal to his credit as well. The Sharks are currently first in the Pacific Divison and third in the entire Western Conference with 64 points. So as you can see they are doing pretty well at this point, but it doesn’t hurt to keep up to good work and if Burns keeps up this pace the Sharks will be right back in the Finals again. Here is my favorite goal:

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Erik Karlsson

For the other D-man spot I decided to go with, believe it or not, of the guys Burns actually beat in the video above for the goal, Erik Karlsson. This guy is probably one of, if not the only other guy who can compete with Burns for the title of “Best Offensive Defensemen” in the whole NHL in my opinion and I strongly believe that and will argue with anyone who thinks otherwise! But, that’s not the fact, let’s get to the good stuff, I picked Karlsson to be his partner in crime because Karlsson has put up some pretty solid numbers through the first half of the season by registering 39 points in 46 games. This was made up of only seven goals (probably wish he had more if I am being honest with you guys) and a whopping 32 assists for a solid point per game ratio of 0.85. Karlsson’s seven goals rank sixth for the D-man position and his amazing 32 assists ranks first in the league for D-man but only by one assist! To add on to his awesome start, he grabbed 15 points on the first power play line with only one power play goal, one shorthanded point, and just two game winning goals. The Senators are currently in a close battle for second place in the Atlantic Divison and sixth place in the Eastern Conference and a lot of it is thanks to the production to Karlsson. If he keeps it up, the Sens will get back into the playoffs in my opinion which I am sure Ottawa fans will be pretty happy. Here is my favorite goal from the first half (I picked an empty net goal because I thought his determination on this goal was outstanding, I loved it):

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Sergei Bobrovsky

Last but not least, one of the hardest, probably the hardest and the weirdest job description on the face of the earth, goalies! Seriously, they sit in a 4 by 6 white thing and try and stop a little three inch vulcanized rubber thing from getting behind them and into the net for a goal, how is that not the weirdest job title?!? So for the goalie part, it was down better Devan Dubnyk and Sergei Bobrovski and by god, this was the hardest thing to do basically because their stats were basically identical! I decided to go with Sergei Bobrovsky simply because look at how stellar he’s doing right with the team he has around him compared to how the Jackets did in the past (I’ll give you a hint, terrible). So yes, Bobrovsky has had an incredible first half of the season. He has started 38 games going 28-8-2 with an amazing .930 Save Percentage and average 2.04 Goals Against Average. For goalies who have started at least 20 games already or more, he is tied for third for the least amount of losses by a starting goalie (8), he has the most wins by a goalie with at least 20 starts (28), he is in sole position of second for best SV% (.930), and third for best GAA (2.04). Bobrovsky has also saved 999 shots on 1074 shot attempts letting in 75 goals which ranks 10th among goalies who have started 20 games or more and has three shutouts to his name which is fourth. Columbus is currently on fire and off to the best start in franchise history currently sits at second place in the Metropolitan Divison and second in the Eastern Conference. If they keep it up and ‘Bob’ continues to play like this they will be back in the playoffs and will make a “Cinderella Run” in my eyes. Writing about Bobrovsky was my favorite and he was easily the best. Here is one of many spectacular saves of the first half:

January 24 – Day 101 – Motown vs. Beantown

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

Short list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 20 – Day 97 – Blackhawks in Boston

Loverboy is right: everybody is working for the weekend.

No, not the Weeknd – the weekend, and what better way to get it started than with hockey? The action begins tonight at 7 p.m. with three games (Chicago at Boston [NHLN/SN1/TVAS], Detroit at Buffalo and Pittsburgh at Carolina) and Montréal at New Jersey (RDS) half an hour later. 9 p.m. marks the puck drop of Nashville at Edmonton, with tonight’s nightcap – Florida at Vancouver – waiting an hour before getting underway.

There’s been a lot of Original Six matchups this week, and any involving the Blackhawks are special due to rarity. Given that both are currently in playoff position, let’s head up to the City of Notions.

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The Hawks make their yearly trip to the TD Garden with a 28-14-5 record, good enough for second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference. They’ve found that success by scoring a lot of goals, already notching 130 this season, which ties for 10th most in the league.

They call him Showtime for a reason. Patrick Kane has had his hand on an impressive 47 tallies this season to lead the team. That being said, it’s been second-year Hawk Artem Anisimov that has scored the most goals on the team with 18 to his credit.

That offensive success has been necessary for Chicago to cover for their horrendous penalty kill. The Blackhawks‘ 75.2% kill rate ties for second-worst in the NHL and is the worst among squads currently in playoff position. Niklas Hjalmarsson has tried to do all he can with his 19 shorthanded blocks, but him and Brent Seabrook are the only two skaters with more than nine.

Given the fact that usual-starter Corey Crawford‘s .822 save percentage against the power play is third-worst in the NHL among goalies with at least 15 appearances, it goes without saying that the entire team needs to make a stronger effort to keep shots off his net. If not, Stan Bowman will not be afraid to bring in another blueliner to bolster his squad. Fortunately, Scott Darling has been named the starter for tonight’s game, as his save percentage against the power play is slightly better at .898.

Playing host this evening are the 23-19-6 Bruins, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division. They pose a good matchup against the Blackhawks, as they’ve found much of their success on the defensive end. The Bruins have allowed only 121 goals in 48 games, which ties for the seventh-best rate in the league.

With a goaltender like 22-10-4 Tuukka Rask, it’s tough to lose. He’s earned that impressive record on a .919 save percentage and 2.11 GAA, the (t)14th and fourth-best rates, respectively, in the league against the 42 other goalies with 19 or more appearances.

I’ve said it every time we’ve featured Boston, and it’s not going to change tonight: Rask is successful this year because of the incredible defense playing in front of him. He faces only 26.6 shots-per-game, the second-fewest in the league. Zdeno Chara has headed that effort with 84 blocks in 42 games. When combined with Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid‘s efforts, a whopping 225 shots have been kept off Rask’s net (4.6875 per game).

It’s not surprising that the second-best defense at even-strength also fields the second-best penalty kill. Led by Chara’s 16 shorthanded blocks (tied for second-most in the NHL), Boston rejects 86.9% of opposing power plays.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (45 points [tied for sixth-most in the NHL] on 28 assists [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] and a 2.11 GAA [fifth-best in the league] for 22 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Chicago‘s Darling (.924 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]), Kane (33 assists [second-most in the NHL] among 47 points [fourth-most in the league]) and Duncan Keith (29 assists [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]).

It looks like defense and home ice is the key to victory, as Vegas favors the Bruins at -138. It’s a hard formula to argue with, especially given the fact that Boston‘s offense is no slouch. The Bruins should earn tonight’s victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Lou Fontinato (1932-2016) – This defenseman played almost the entirety of his nine-season NHL career with the Rangers. By the time his career was through, he’d notched 104 points to go with his 1247 career penalty minutes.

Although one game is far too small a sample size to make any concrete claims, it seems that Doug Weight can at least handle his own behind the bench, as his Islanders beat Dallas 3-0 in his coaching debut.

First Star of the Game John Tavares (Third Star Anders Lee) is the man responsible for the winning goal, burying his wrister with 6:29 remaining in the first frame.

The first of the two insurance goals did not get struck until only 3:06 remained in regulation. Once again it was Tavares (Nikolai Kulemin) taking credit for the tally, this time a shorthanded wrister. Calvin de Haan (Second Star Thomas Greiss) completed the game’s scoring on an empty net with only four seconds remaining in the game.

Greiss earns the shutout victory by saving all 23 shots he faced, leaving the loss to Kari Lehtonen, who saved 33-of-35 (94.3%).

Mark New York‘s victory as another win for the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Hosts now have a 52-33-14 record, seven points better than the visitors.

Avalanche of Trades Coming

By: Nick Lanciani

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We’re still about a month and a half away from this year’s NHL trade deadline, but it’s never too early to start talking about who might get traded or what teams will be active.

There’s a lot of chatter on Twitter in the last couple of days that Arizona Coyotes general manager, John Chayka, will be a busy GM from now through the deadline working the phones and trying to acquire assets. And of course, everyone knows the current dire situation of the Colorado Avalanche and the mountain of work that’s facing their general manager, Joe Sakic.

But let’s be realistic here for a moment– anything is possible.

Although, there’s probably one thing we can rule out at this point, and that’s the Montreal Canadiens trading P.K. Subban (because they already did that, in June, to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber— what have you been under a rock for the last several months?).

While the Coyotes are likely to be unpredictable past the potentially looming Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan deals, Colorado is sure to be playing host to this year’s trade deadline fire sale and mostly predictable in regards to who may be dealt.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie has had his name tossed around more than a few times in the last couple of seasons, but recently the Av’s have taken a long hard look at trading forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog.

With everybody but Nathan MacKinnon at their disposal, Sakic remains firm on driving a steep price for either Duchene or Landeskog.

Moving Duchene would likely yield a forward or a defenseman, but not much more, as those teams that have expressed interest do not seem to be all to bent on a package deal for the center who has two-years left on his contract at $6 million AAV. The 30 goal scorer last season has had two 65+ point seasons aside from last year’s 30-29-59 totals in 76 games played.

Duchene remains a tremendous attraction, but one that has been quietly shopped, most recently inquired about by the Carolina Hurricanes as per Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater.

Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins remain very much in on trying to add a piece or two to their roster, as well as the Boston Bruins and just about anyone else, but that’s where Landeskog comes in.

It’s no doubt that Landeskog will be traded at some point or another. When is the golden question, considering how Sakic will continue to play hardball and could hold out until the Entry Draft in June when more teams are open to moving pieces that may or may not have previously been important to their successful/failed playoff run prior to June.

Boston has several pieces that they could be willing to move with Ryan Spooner, Joseph Morrow, Jimmy Hayes and others as “expendable”, however even the combination of Bruins GM Don Sweeney‘s dreams would not add up to the value of Landeskog alone or with other components.

Sakic is insistent on bringing home Colorado Springs native, Brandon Carlo, from the Bruins, but trading Carlo should be the last thing on Boston’s mind (along with disrupting any of their core players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask, just to name a few).

The B’s are buyers this season– and they have to be, in order to remain in the hunt, with Toronto a point behind after Tuesday night and five games in hand over the Bruins. But Boston cannot add and subtract, like they’ve seem to have done the last couple of seasons in lateral moves that have kept them complacent with their standing in the Atlantic Division.

Pittsburgh might be keen on moving a defenseman, such as Kris Letang, but Sakic remains stern on wanting to do more than just a one-for-one deal, considering the state of the rebuild in Colorado.

Of the teams with perhaps the best situation for trading (without looking into the salary cap, of course), the Los Angeles Kings could play the role of the dark horse that sweeps Landeskog away with a plethora of prospects in the AHL and a few options to trade from their NHL roster.

Any team that is willing or has room for Landeskog’s $5.571 million cap hit over the next five years is easily in the running behind closed doors and on phones we haven’t heard ring yet.

Among the other players likely to leave the Avalanche in an ever looming avalanche of trades, Jarome Iginla, Carl Soderberg, Patrick Wiercioch and Semyon Varlamov remain attractive options.

Iginla’s name has been tied to the Chicago Blackhawks in their annual search for an older veteran who’s looking to finally win the Cup, but there could be more teams at play, for the right price. Meanwhile, Soderberg’s name has gone under the radar, however he remains an attractive option for any team looking into solidifying themselves down the middle with a little veteran experience and NHL caliber seasoning.

Wiercioch appears to be the most expendable defenseman other than Barrie or Erik Johnson, but won’t pull enough weight in a deal on his own. A Wiercioch-Soderberg-something package certainly might be more appealing to a team looking to dump rental contracts in return.

Finally, Varlamov may be left exposed in the expansion draft if he isn’t moved prior to then. Certainly there are some teams that could utilize Varlamov’s starting goaltender status, including the Kings, Winnipeg Jets or others depending on their plans down the road (the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and/or Penguins to name a few).

Though if there’s going to be a goalie moved at or before the deadline, it’ll likely be Ondrej Pavelec, Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Fleury or Ben Bishop before other teams get on board with their plans to change things in goal before Vegas swoops in.

Look, it’s the end of an era one way or another for Colorado.

It’s just crazy that it might have to come down to trading Duchene and Landeskog (both top-5 draft picks in their respective draft years) to do so. Then again, things already got pretty crazy when Cody McLeod was sent to Nashville after spending his entire career until then in an Av’s uniform.

Boston Through 40 (2016-2017)

By: Nick Lanciani

In another rendition of my season long look at projected Boston Bruins stats, here’s how things are going through 40 games played (yes, I know, I’m a little late to posting this, but hey, life is kind of going on outside of the Internet, ya know).

Despite cooling off as of late, David Pastrnak is still on pace for a career year to remember in Boston. A slow year for Patrice Bergeron is still a lot better year than all of our years combined. Given the eye test as of late, Brad Marchand is waking up, despite what his 22-35-57 projected totals say.

Across the roster, the Bruins are dominating the Corsi for% game. The only problem is that they’re having a hard time converting immense offensive production and efficiency into goals. Additionally, plus-minus is not Boston’s best friend right now, despite having stellar nights in and out from Tuukka Rask in goal. While Rask has been outstanding, that whole “goals in, goals out” model doesn’t appear to be working for the skaters in front of him in goal differential and the like.

Boston’s rookie trio of Austin Czarnik, Anton Blidh and Brandon Carlo look to be contributors down the remaining stretch, but don’t look for their play to show up in the points column too much. Instead, take your eye off the puck, because that’s where they reside, setting up the big plays.

Finally, about the Bruins goalies…

Rask shouldn’t play upwards of 60 games, but if he has to, this year appears to be an acceptable year to do so.

Anton Khudobin was sent to Providence after having played thus far worse than he did in nine games last season with the Anaheim Ducks before being sent to San Diego.

With a few more games under his belt, Zane McIntyre should come into his own on the NHL level. Until then, the 10-0-0 goalie in the AHL so far this year is still looking for his first win in the NHL (which would certainly help my forecast function in Excel and allow me to say more).

Standard disclaimer:

“Keep in mind, every stat is based off of a player’s entire career and may not reflect well with the other stats projected for this current season (a.k.a. goals + assists might not equal the number of points shown in the points category), because again, each stat is forecasted individually.

Italics indicates a player currently with their respective AHL affiliate. Underlined player stats indicate a player on the IR (which, admittedly, I’ll do my best to keep up with, but might not have perfect every time, so forgive me if I mistakenly label an injury or fail to label one entirely).”

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Boston Bruins Projections- Through game 40 of 82

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For comparison, here’s how the Bruins were projected to do at Game 0 of 82 (prior to the start of the 2016-2017 regular season):

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*I keep saying I’m going to get around to projecting stats for the Arizona Coyotes and I really do mean it. These things take some time by hand, so please forgive me. It’ll probably be some time soon(ish).*

 

January 10 – Day 87 – Backe in white

Time for some Tuesday hockey! There’s lots of good matchups this evening, giving us hockey fans no shortage of games to watch. The action starts at 7 p.m. with two contests (Philadelphia at Buffalo and Columbus at Carolina), followed an hour later by another pair (Boston at St. Louis [NBCSN/SN/TVAS] and Vancouver at Nashville). Detroit at Chicago drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., followed half an hour later by San Jose at Edmonton. Finally, at 10 p.m., Dallas at Anaheim – tonight’s nightcap – gets green-lit. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at St. Louis: David Backes never knew a rink other than Scottrade Center. Now he makes his home in Beantown.
  • Detroit at Chicago: It’s an Original Six matchup in the Windy City!

Barring a meeting in the Stanley Cup finals, this is the only trip Backes will make to St. Louis this season, and he’s sure to receive a warm welcome.

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Backes’ relationship with the Notes began in 2003 when he was drafted in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t join the club for another three years, electing instead to play three seasons for Minnesota State.

Although he started his first professional season in Peoria (the Blues‘ former AHL affiliate), he eventually made the trip down I-55 to play a majority of his games in St. Louis, notching 23 points.

He’s come a long way since that rookie season. Over his entire Blues career, he scored 206 goals among his 460 points, averaging .633 points per game. No season has been better than his 2010-’11 campaign, when he an evenly-split a 62-point season. It was good enough for a +32 ranking, the second-best in the NHL. Ironically, he trailed now-current teammate Zdeno Chara.

He was also a special leader in St. Louis. Following that magical season, he assumed captaincy of the Blues, a role he retained until his departure this offseason.

On the tail end of the peak of his career, Backes and the Blues were unable to agree on a contract this offseason, leaving the center to join Boston on a five-year, $30 million contract. He’s maintained his productive efforts in New England, taking credit for 11 tallies – the third-most on the squad.

Backes and the Bruins come to St. Louis with a 21-17-5 record, the second-best record in the Atlantic Division. They’ve found that success on the back of their defense and goaltending, which has allowed only 104 goals – tied for the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

Although four netminders have spent time between the Bruins‘ pipes, it’s never been in question whose crease it is. 20-9-3 Tuukka Rask has been having a fantastic season, notching a .928 save percentage and 1.93 GAA, the (t)fifth and third-best effort in the league among the 45 goalies with 16 or more appearances.

Much of the reason he’s having arguably the best season of his career is because of the defense playing in front of him. Led by Chara’s 76 shot blocks, Rask has faced an average of only 27.1 shots-per-game, the third-lowest rate in the league.

That success has carried into the penalty kill in a dramatic way, as the Bruins‘ 88% kill rate ties for the best rate in the NHL. Chara continues to lead the charge when shorthanded with 22 blocks, but he’s closely followed by rookie Brandon Carlo, who has 21 shorthanded blocks.

Where the Bruins still need to improve is on the power play. They’re sixth-worst in the league, successful on only 14.5% of man-advantage opportunities. Even though he only ties for 67th against the rest of the league, Brad Marchand leads his club with nine power play points. That being said, it’s David Krejci and David Pastrnak that opposing goaltenders keep their eyes on, as both have four power play goals.

Hosting them this evening are the 21-14-5 Blues, the third-best team in the Central Division. They’ll put that Boston defense to the test, as they’re an offensively-minded club, scoring 113 goals – the 13th-most in the league.

Vladimir Tarasenko is a bad, bad man. He might as well take credit for the Notes‘ entire offense, notching 43 points in 40 games to lead the club. Nearly half of those points have been tallies, as his 20 goals are also the best in St. Louis.

As you’d expect from a team like the Blues, the power play is far from a liability. St. Louis is tied for the sixth best man-advantage in the league, successful on 21.9% of opportunities. As you’d expect, Tarasenko leads this charge too with 17 power play points, but he has company for the extra-man goal scoring lead. He and Kevin Shattenkirk both have six power play goals to lead the team.

The Blues have also been very excellent when down a man, stopping 85.8% of opposing power plays – tied for the fourth-best mark in hockey. Alex Pietrangelo deserves much credit for that success, as his 19 shorthanded blocks are best on the club.

These teams have already met up in Boston on November 22. Led by Jori Lehtera‘s two-goal effort, the Blues were able to upset the Bruins 4-2. Jake Allen took credit for the victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Pastrnak (19 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Rask (five shutouts [tied for most in the NHL] among 20 wins [tied for third-most in the league] on a 1.93 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and .928 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (17 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) and Tarasenko (43 points [tied for fourth-most in the league], including 20 goals [fifth-most in the NHL]).

Vegas has marked St. Louis a -115 favorite, and I believe it would be unwise to bet against that. Not only do the Blues have home ice, but they’re simply playing solid hockey on both sides of the rink. Boston‘s inability to convert their power play opportunities could be the death of them tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Metz (1916-2007) – You wish you had five Stanley Cup titles like this right wing. What makes his effort even more impressive is the fact he only played with the Leafs for seven seasons.
  • Frank Mahovlich (1938-) – You thought Metz was good? This left wing has one more title then him, not to mention 15 All Star selections and the 1958 Calder Trophy. The longtime Maple Leaf was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

An overpowering, three-goal third period was more than enough to earn the Capitals a 4-1 road victory in Montréal in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to the club wearing white. Nicklas Backstrom (First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner) takes credit with his backhander with 8:57 remaining in the frame.

The Canadiens waited until the 7:18 mark of the third period to pull even, courtesy of a Tomas Plekanec (Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen) power play wrsiter.  Washington didn’t seem to take very kindly to that, so Second Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (Ovechkin and Justin Williams) scored a wrister only 54 seconds later that proved to be the winning tally. Brett Connolly (Kuznetsov) and Ovechkin (Backstrom and Marcus Johansson) provided the two insurance tallies to ensure victory.

Third Star Braden Holtby earns the victory after saving 22-of-23 shots faced (95.7%), while Carey Price saved 35-of-39 (89.7%) in the loss.

The third straight victory by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series has pulled the visitors within nine points of the hosts, who have a 47-28-14 record.

January 5 – Day 82 – A derrick gets the Oil Bruin

Hey Thursday, how are you. Oh, you come bearing gifts? Great! What is it? Sweet, it’s hockey, just what we wanted!

Sorry, I’ve had Bob’s Burgers on the mind lately.

Anyways, we’ve got a nice little selection of seven contests this evening, starting with a pair at 7 p.m. (Edmonton at Boston [SN/TVAS] and Columbus at Washington) and Nashville at Tampa Bay half an hour later. Carolina at St. Louis drops the puck at 8 p.m., with Buffalo at Chicago (NBCSN) waiting half an hour. Finally, our co-nightcaps – Detroit at Los Angeles (SN) and Minnesota at San Jose – get underway at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

It may not be a divisional or even conference matchup, but the game I’m most interested in this evening involves the Bruins and the return of an old friend.

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With Milan Lucic in tow, the 19-13-7 Oilers make their annual trip to the TD Garden. Playing the 10th-best offense in the league, Edmonton has earned the third-best record in the Pacific Division.

This Connor McDavid kid just might pan out for the Oilers. His 43 points are not only 10 more than Leon Draisaitl‘s second-place effort, but also tie Evgeni Malkin for the league’s highest mark. Draisaitl isn’t a skater to be laughed at though. He ties McDavid for the clubhouse lead in goals scored, both with 14 tallies apiece.

Part of the reason the Oil have been able to find such success has been their strong power play. They rank eighth-best in the league in that regard, burying the puck in 21.1% of man-advantage situations. Once again, Draisaitl proves himself worth every cent of his three-year, $10.2 million contract by notching a team-leading 15 points on the power play. Eight of those have been goals, which is also the best total in that category.

Playing host this evening are the 20-16-4 Bruins, the third-best team in the Atlantic Division. They’ve earned that position by playing some fantastic defense and goaltending, allowing only 96 goals – the seventh-lowest total in the NHL.

As has been the case since at least the 2012-’13 season, the man in charge of Boston‘s crease has been 19-8-3 Tuukka Rask. He’s managed that mark by notching a season .928 save percentage and 1.93 GAA, the  fifth (tied) and third-best efforts, respectively, among the 45 goalies with at least 15 appearances.

But it hasn’t been just the exemplary play of Rask. As good as he’s been, his defense has also been magnificent. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 73 blocks, the defense has allowed only 27.2 shots-per-game to reach Rask, tying them for the third-best mark in the league.

As one might expect, those combined efforts result in a solid penalty kill. The Bruins are second-best when down a man, refusing to yield a goal 87.6% of the time in that situation. Rookie Brandon Carlo and Chara have shared the bulk of the responsibilities on the penalty kill, both with 21 shorthanded shot blocks on their resumes.

Unfortunately, you can’t be good at everything. Boston‘s figuring that our the hard way when they have a power play presented to them. The seventh-best team on the power play a season ago, the Bruins are now tied for fifth-worst, a dramatic fall from grace. The main issue seems to be that only one power play line is scoring, as Torey Krug and Brad Marchand are on the same line and have the same seven man-advantage points. I don’t think that’s just coincidence, especially when David Pastrnak, who leads the team with four power play goals, is also on that line.

Other than that, yeah. I guess Boston is good at a lot of things right now. All the Big 4 sports are having solid years. I guess the Revolution are the other soft spot? Even then, they only missed the MLS Cup playoffs due to losing a goal-differential tiebreaker with the Union.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Pastrnak (19 goals [fifth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (four shutouts among 19 wins [both tied for second-most in the league] on a 1.93 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and a .928 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & Edmonton‘s McDavid (29 assists [most in the NHL] among 43 points [tied for the league lead]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] among 18 wins [sixth-most in the league]).

Currently, Boston is marked a -145 favorite to beat the Oil this evening. I’d pick the Bruins to win if I were you, if for no other reason than they’re playing at home. That being said, I wouldn’t doubt the Oilers‘ ability to force overtime.

Hockey Birthday

  • Steve Tuttle (1966-) – A sixth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing only had a job in the NHL for three seasons before finishing his career in the International Hockey League.
  • Joe Juneau (1968-) – Selected in the fourth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, this center played most of his 13 NHL seasons with Washington. By the time he hung up his skates, he notched 572 points.
  • Mike Grier (1975-) – Another St. Louis pick, this right wing was selected in the ninth-round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. He never actually played a game for the Blues in his 14 seasons, instead spending most of his time in Edmonton.
  • Kyle Calder (1979-) – Chicago selected this left wing in the fifth round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons with the Blackhawks before completing the remainder of his 10-year career as a journeyman.

A four-goal explosion in the third period was more than enough for the Rangers to secure a 5-2 victory over the rival Flyers in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The scoring didn’t begin until the 22:08 mark, courtesy of a snap shot from First Star of the Game Kevin Hayes (Michael Grabner and Brady Skjei) to give New York a 1-0 lead. It was the lone tally of the second frame.

Chris Kreider (Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello) was the next Blueshirt to strike, burying his snap shot 5:01 after returning to the ice for the final frame. 6:12 later, Graber (J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi) took credit for the eventual game-winning goal, then setting the score at 3-0. The only New York penalty of the third period proved to be a costly one. Stepan was caught hi-sticking Chris VandeVelde, and Third Star Jakub Voracek (Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere) took advantage by netting a power play snap shot with 7:28 remaining in regulation. Any momentum that earned Philadelphia was squelched 1:43 later when Hayes (Miller) scored a snap shot to set the score at 4-1. Voracek (Michael Del Zotto and Michael Raffl) struck again with 2:52 remaining on the clock to try to give the Flyers late life, but Grabner’s snap shot on an empty net 37 seconds later put the final nail in Philadelphia‘s coffin.

Second Star Henrik Lundqvist saved 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%) to earn the victory, while Steve Mason saved only 23-of-27 (85.2%) in the loss.

Even with two-straight visiting wins in the DtFR Game of the Day series, the home team still holds a 14-point edge with a 46-25-13 record.