Tag Archives: B’s

April 7 – Day 175 – Effectively a play-in

With two three-goal periods by the Oilers, Rexall Place went out a winner over the rival Canucks by a score of 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Edmonton saved their first offensive outburst for the second period, as Nail Yakupov got things started at the 28:27 mark of the game with his eighth tally of the season, assisted by Mark Fayne.  Patrick Maroon scored the second 4:49 later, his 10th tally of the season.  The third and final goal of the second period, aka the game winner,  was struck with 2:34 remaining courtesy of a Connor McDavid wrister, assisted by Jordan Eberle (his 21st helper of the season) and Taylor Hall, giving the Oil a three goal lead.

Vancouver finally got on the board at the 5:21 mark of the final period on a Matt Bartkowski snap shot, assisted by Alex Biega and Jared McCann (his ninth helper of the season), but the Oilers returned the differential to three 3:47 later with Maroon’s second of the night, assisted by Eberle and McDavid (his 31st helper of the season).  18 seconds later, Hall scored on a backhander for his 26th tally of the season, assisted by Adam Pardy and Iiro Pakarinen.  With 7:51 remaining in the game, the Canucks scored their second goal on a Bo Horvat snapper (his 15th tally of the season), assisted by Emerson Etem and Derek Dorsett.  The final goal of the game belongs to Leon Draisaitl, whose wrister was assisted by Hall (his 38th helper of the season) and McDavid.

Cam Talbot earns the win after saving 25 of 27 shots faced (92.6%), while Jacob Markstrom takes the loss, saving 32 of 38 (84.2%).

Edmonton‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day record at 81-45-19, favoring the home sides by 40 points over the roadies.

I hope you’re ready for another busy hockey night, because you’re in store for one!  Six pucks drop at 7 p.m. eastern (Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS], Tampa Bay at New Jersey, the New York Islanders at the New York Rangers, Toronto at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh at Washington [SN360] and Montréal at Carolina [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Florida at Ottawa (RDS2).  Arizona at Nashville gets underway at 8 p.m. eastern, with two games trailing 30 minutes later (St. Louis at Chicago and Colorado at Dallas).  Vancouver at Calgary is the only game to start at 9 p.m. eastern, as the co-nightcaps get started an hour and a half later (Anaheim at Los Angeles [SN/SN360] and Winnipeg at San Jose).

There’s a lot of divisional rivalries being  played this evening (Detroit at Boston, Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, Florida at Ottawa, St. Louis at Chicago, Colorado at Dallas, Vancouver at Calgary and Anaheim at Los Angeles), and four games between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, St. Louis at Chicago and Anaheim at Los Angeles).  The VancouverCalgary game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Quarterfinals.

There’s a ton of great games being played this evening, which makes my choice difficult.  Boston has the opportunity to qualify, which in turn makes the TorontoPhiladelphia game important (mark it down though, when was the last time Bruins fans hoped for a Maple Leafs win?).  The Islanders can reclaim a division qualifying spot.  St. Louis can move into first place in the Western Conference (again, that also makes the ColoradoDallas game important).  We’ve got a playoff rematch. And, oh yeah, we need to break a tie for the lead in the Pacific Division.

Since the biggest impact on the playoffs is a team not qualifying moving into the bracket, I suppose we’ll head to New England.

UnknownUnknownThis will be Detroit‘s 12th time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-4-1 record.  The last time they were featured was March 22, a 6-2 beat down at the hands of the Lightning.  Boston has been featured 21 times before tonight, and own a 8-11-2 record in such games.  They were just featured Tuesday in their 2-1 home shootout loss to the Hurricanes.

The 41-28-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the 14th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 103 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2344 shots to reach 27-16-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 216 goals against, the 14th most in the NHL.  They’ve been about that successful on the penalty kill too, neutralizing 81.23% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against, the 14th best rate in the league.

Led by Dylan Larkin’s 213 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2358 times, with 8.6% finding the back of the net for 204 goals (led by Larkin’s 23 tallies), the eighth fewest in the league.  In comparison, the power play has done well this season, successful on 19.29% of attempts, good for 49 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s eight extra man tallies), the 12th best rate in the league.

Detroit enters tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being last night’s three goal shutout victory over the visiting Flyers.  With a win tonight, the Wings clinch their spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, but a loss makes their final game on Saturday in Madison Square Garden a must win, especially since they play at the same time as the Bruins.

The 41-30-9 Boston Bruins currently occupy fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff picture.  To get there, they’ve played the fifth best offense in the league, but it’s been paired with the 12th worst defense.  A more statistical breakdown of their game can be found within Tuesday’s post.

Boston enters tonight’s game on a two game losing skid, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Canes.  The Bruins certainly keeps their playoff hopes alive with a win this evening, but they’ll need Toronto to beat Philadelphia if they want to actually break into qualifying position before the night is through.

This is the final meeting of the regular season between these two squads, and Boston leads the season series 2-1-0.  That being said, it was the last meeting on Valentine’s Day that Detroit earned their lone win over the Bruins, a 6-5 home victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (36 goals [tied for fifth most in the league]) and Detroit‘s Larkin (23 goals, including 19 at even-strength and five game-winners, on 213 shots, and +13 [all lead the team]).

I think Boston should be able to win this game.  Their defense shouldn’t be pushed too much, and the offense is more than capable of scoring at a moment’s notice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 3 – Day 171 – Will the Bruins get back in?

The success in Pittsburgh continues with a 5-0 victory in Brooklyn in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The game-winner found the back of the net at the 12:41 mark of the first.  What makes this one special is not only that it was an unassisted shorty, but that it was Oskar Sundqvist’s first tally of his career.

The insurance goals started piling on in the second period, with Patric Hornqvist finding the back of the net at the 8:09 mark, assisted by Justin Schultz and Sidney Crosby (his 49th helper of the season).  Second Star of the Game Matt Cullen struck with 4:30 remaining in the frame with a wrister for his 14th tally of the season, assisted by Third Star Tom Kuhnhackl and Eric Fehr.  The Pens didn’t score again in the period, and took their 3-0 lead into the third.

At the 10:40 mark of the final frame, Phil Kessel extended Pittsburgh‘s lead to four with a wrister, assisted by Kris Letang (his 46th helper of the season).  The final goal belonged to Kuhnhackl, assisted by Cullen (his 14th helper of the season) and Justin Schultz.

First Star Matthew Murray earns the shutout win, saving all 24 shots he faced, while Jean-Francois Berube takes the loss after saving only 28 of 33 (84.8%).

Pittsburgh‘s victory is the second straight for the road squads, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 78-45-18, but favoring the home sides by 35 points.

We’ve got five games on tap today, starting with Boston at Chicago at 12:30 p.m. eastern (NBC/TVAS/SN).  Philadelphia at Pittsburgh is the next game to start, dropping the puck at 5 p.m. eastern.  Two games go under way three hours later (St. Louis at Colorado and Minnesota at Winnipeg), and Dallas at Anaheim, this evening’s nightcap, starts at 9 p.m. eastern.

A majority of today’s games are division rivalries (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, St. Louis at Colorado and Minnesota at Winnipeg), but only two are between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Philadelphia at Pittsburgh and Dallas at Anaheim).

The game I’m most concerned with actually isn’t listed in either of those groups, but instead the BruinsBlackhawks contest.

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This afternoon’s game will be Boston‘s 20th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-10-1 record.  They most recent series  appearance was Friday’s 6-5 victory in St. Louis.  Chicago has been featured 23 times before tonight’s game, where they own a 10-10-3 record.  Their last time featured was Tuesday, when they lost 4-1 in Minnesota.

The 41-29-8 Boston Bruins currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team left out of the Eastern playoffs.  To get there, they’ve played the fourth best offense, but they’ve been held back by the 13th worst defense.  A more in-depth analysis of Boston‘s play can be found within Friday’s article.

That 6-5 victory in St. Louis was not only Boston‘s most recent appearance in the Game of the Day series, but also their most recent played period.  As Detroit is inactive today, a win will propel the Bruins past the Red Wings for the third division qualifier, while a loss wastes Boston‘s game in hand.

The 45-26-7 Chicago Blackhawks are currently the third best team in the Central Division and fourth best in the Western Conference.  They’ve been led by the eighth best defense in the league, but have also played the ninth best offense.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Tuesday’s article.

The Blackhawks‘ last game was their 5-4 overtime victory in Winnipeg.  Chicago has already clinched a playoff spot, but that does not mean that they have nothing more to play for until the postseason.  A win provides them the opportunity to pull within two points of the second place Blues, but they’ll need some help from Colorado for that to happen.

Chicago has already made their annual vision to Boston, with the Bruins winning 4-2 on March 3.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (35 win [seventh most in the league]) and Chicago‘s Patrick Kane (96 points [leads the league], 40 goals [third most in the league] and 56 assists [third most in the league]).

I like Chicago to win this one, even with Corey Crawford continuing to miss games.  Their offense should not have too many issues with Boston‘s defense, and will have the crowd at their back to propel them to victory.

April 1 – Day 169 – No time for April Fools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23 – Day 160 – Rubber game

It was an easy game plan for the Lightning in yesterday’s Game of the Day, as they used two goals a period to beat the Red Wings 6-2.

Tampa Bay earned the lead they would not yield after only 1:47 of play courtesy of a First Star of the Game Erik Condra wrister, assisted by Third Star Ondrej Palat (his 16th helper of the season) and Brian Boyle.  Vladislav Namestnikov doubled that lead 8:08 later with a wrister of his own, assisted by J.T. Brown (his 14th helper of the season).  Starting the formula, the Bolts held their at those two tallies for the remainder of the period.

Even quicker than they scored in the first period, Tampa scored their game-winning goal in the second.  Steven Stamkos fired a wrister only 33 seconds after resuming play (his 34th tally of the season), assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Second Star Victor Hedman.  Detroit began trying to stage a comeback, as they also scored two goals in the second – the first of which found the back of the net at the 8:08 mark on a Justin Abdelkader power play wrister, assisted by Henrik Zetterberg (his 32nd helper of the season) and Niklas Kronwall.  With 4:35 remaining in the frame, the Wings pulled within a goal after Darren Helm fired a wrister assisted by Pavel Datsyuk (his 27th helper of the season) and Anthony Mantha, but Tampa scored their first of three insurance goals 2:17 later on a Kucherov power play wrister (his 28th tally of the season), assisted by Tyler Johnson and Stamkos to nip that in the bud.  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission.

Another quick start gave the Lightning a two goal advantage, as Palat’s backhander only 1:03 after resuming play, assisted by Johnson and Hedman (his 34th helper of the season) extended their lead to three.  The Bolts‘ final tally was Condra’s second of the game, assisted by Boyle at the 16:56 mark, setting the score at the 6-2 final.

Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 23 of 25 shots faced (92%), while Jimmy Howard takes the loss after saving 13 of 16 (81.3%).  He was replaced after Stamkos’ second period goal by Petr Mrazek, who saved 15 of 18 (83.3%) for no decision.

Tampa Bay‘s win makes it two straight for the home sides, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 72-41-17, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

I hope you enjoyed all the games yesterday, because this evening has only two matchups to offer.  Even better, they’re both occurring not even five miles apart, so it’s doubtful they’re happening anywhere near you.  The first drops the puck at 7 p.m. between Ottawa and the New York Islanders (TVAS/SN), followed an hour later by Boston visiting the New York Rangers (NBCSN/SN1).

Seeing as Ottawa trails Philadelphia by seven points for the final spot in the postseason, we’ve gotta keep an eye on the important battle for playoff position that will take place in Madison Square Garden.

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Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 18th in the Game of the Day series where they own a 7-9-1 record, with their most recent being their 4-0 loss in Anaheim on Friday.  New York has been featured 19 times before tonight’s game, and own a 10-7-2 record such contests.  Their most recent was March 13, a 5-3 loss on home ice to the Penguins.

The 39-26-8 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  It has been their offense that has gotten them there, as they’ve scored the third most goals, but also given up the 13th most scores.  A more in-depth analysis of Boston‘s game can be found within Friday’s article.

A win tonight does two things for the Bruins, the less of which is expanding their lead over the Red Wings to five points for the final division qualifier.  More important is catching the slipping Panthers for the second spot, and they would pull within a point of doing just that.

The 41-24-8 New York Rangers currently occupy second place in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.  They’ve also be a stronger offensive team, scoring the sixth most goals in the league, but give up the 15th most scores in the process.

Even with Derek Stepan’s 168 shots, the Rangers have fired the puck only 2084 times, but an incredible 9.8% have found the back of the net for 207 goals (led by Derick Brassard’s 25 tallies), the sixth most in the league.  What is surprising about the Blueshirts‘ offensive success is that it is not very dependent on the power play, as their 18.37% success rate, good for only 36 extra man goals (led by Brassard’s eight power play tallies), ranks 15th worst in the NHL.

Even with Dan Girardi’s 182 blocks, New York has allowed 2204 shots to reach 32-19-6 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 192 goals against, the 15th most in the league.  Even worse than the power play has been the penalty kill, as the Rangers have neutralized only 76.89% of their infractions to allow 49 power play goals, the third worst rate in the NHL.

Seeing as the Capitals have already clinched both the division and the conference, New York is now focused on securing the second seed in the Metropolitan.  A win tonight would help them do that by extending their lead over third place Pittsburgh to four points, although the Pens will have two games in hand.

The season series between these squads is currently tied at 1-1-0, with the most recent meeting occurring January 11 in the World’s Most Famous Arena, a 2-1 victory for the home Rangers.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (34 goals [tied for fourth most in the league] and +22 [10th best in the league]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (32 wins [tied for fifth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for sixth most in the league] and .922 save percentage [tied for ninth best in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+25 [eighth best in the league]).

Boston has the better offense, power play and penalty kill, so I’m leaning towards the Bruins winning the season series with a road victory tonight.

March 18 – Day 155 – Boston brings back Beleskey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

March 7 – Day 144 – Another potential Atlantic playoff pairing?

Although Minnesota put up quite the fight in the third period, St. Louis was able to hold on for the 4-2 win in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Blues notched their first goal only 7:44 into the game, courtesy of a Third Star of the Game Jori Lehtera slap shot, his eighth tally of the season.  The Blues doubled their lead only 1:53 later with a snap shot from Ryan Reaves, assisted by Kyle Brodziak and Jay Bouwmeester (his 14th helper of the season).  St. Louis would hold their 2-0 lead through the remainder of the period and into the intermission.

The goal that came to be the game winner found the back of the net only 21 seconds after the midway point of the game, scored by Patrik Berglund, assisted by David Backes (his 20th helper of the season).  That was the only score of the third, so the Blues‘ 3-0 lead held to the second intermission.

Minnesota began staging their comeback at the 11:02 mark of the final period courtesy of a Second Star Ryan Suter backhander, assisted by Zach Parise (his 22nd helper of the season).  Only 3:38 later, Matt Dumba cut the Blues’ lead to only a score on a backhander, assisted by Charlie Coyle and Mikko Koivu (his 31st helper of the season).  But, it was the Blues with the final goal, as Robby Fabbri fired a wrister at an empty net, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk (his 24th helper of the season) to set the score at the 4-2 final.

First Star Jake Allen earns the win after saving 30 of 32 (93.8%), while Devan Dubnyk takes the loss, saving 13 of 16 (81.3%).  He was replaced after Berglund’s goal by Darcy Kuemper, who saved all 18 shots he faced for no decision.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 64-37-13, favoring the home sides by 30 points over the roadies.

This Monday’s schedule is a decent one, with seven games taking place.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with Tampa Bay visiting Philadelphia, followed half an hour later by two games (Buffalo at Toronto and Boston at Florida).  The next couple of games don’t drop the puck until 9 p.m. eastern (Arizona at Colorado [NBCSN] and San Jose at Calgary), trailed an hour later by Washington at Anaheim.  Finally, this evening’s nightcap, Vancouver at Los Angeles, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Over half of this evening’s games are divisional rivalries (Buffalo at Toronto, Boston at Florida, San Jose at Calgary and Vancouver at Los Angeles), and two games will be contested between squads currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Florida and Washington at Anaheim).

Although Alex Tanguay is making his first return to the Pepsi Center since being traded to Arizona at the deadline, the game that attracts my attention is the BostonFlorida game, as it is currently an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

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Tonight’s game will be Boston‘s 15th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-8-1 record, with their most recent being a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on February 28.  Florida has been featured only six times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was almost exactly a month ago, a three-goal shutout loss in Detroit on February 8.

The 36-23-7 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played one of the strongest offenses in the game, but the defense ranks 12th worst.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 222 shots, the Bruins have fired the puck a solid 2070 times, with an even better 9.6% finding the back of the net for 202 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 33 tallies), third most in the league.  Part of the reason for that success can certainly be attributed to the power play, as their 21.13% success rate, good for 41 power play goals (led by Bergeron’s 10 extra man tallies), ranks eighth best in the NHL.

It has been the defense that has been the issue for the Bruins this year.  Even with Kevan Miller’s 103 blocks, Boston has allowed 2016 shots to reach 26-18-6 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 180 goals against, 12th most in the league.  That being said, the Bruins still host the 10th best penalty kill in the league, defending 82.19% of their infractions for 39 power play goals against.  Further improving that rate, the penalty kill is also responsible for eight shorthanded goals, led by Marchand’s four.

Boston‘s last game was a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals on Saturday.  With a win tonight, Boston would advance past Florida for the second seed in the Atlantic Division, important for home ice in at least the first round.  They could also be only one point behind Tampa Bay for the division lead, should the Bolts fall to the Flyers.

The 36-21-8 Florida Panthers currently occupy second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  The name of the game in Sunrise has been their sixth best defense, paired with the 13th best offense.

Led by Dmitry Kulikov’s 95 blocks, the Panthers have allowed only 1913 shots to reach 27-16-6 Roberto Luongo and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 156 goals against, the sixth fewest in the league.  Probably the biggest chink in their armor has been the penalty kill, but that still ranks 10th best in the NHL.  Florida neutralizes 81.19% of opposing power plays for 41 extra man tallies against.

Led by Vincent Trocheck’s 145 shot attempts, Florida has fired the puck only 1815 times, but 9.4% have found the back of the net for 177 goals, 13th most in the league.  This attack is peculiar in that the power play is not an integral part, as Florida‘s 16.44% success rate, good for 37 goals (led by Aleksander Barkov’s eight power play goals), ranks fourth worst in the NHL.

Florida is currently riding a two game losing skid, with their most recent being a 5-1 loss in Arizona on Saturday.  Since the beginning of February, the Panthers have gone 7-6-3, a far cry from their December and January dominance.  Because of this, they have ceded the division lead to the arch-rival Lightning, and run the risk of losing second place with a loss tonight.

Boston currently leads the season series 2-0-0, with their most recent meeting occurring December 12 in Boston, a 3-1 win for the home side.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (33 goals [third most in the league] and +20 [10th best in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league]) & Florida‘s Brian Campbell (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Luongo (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league], .924 save percentage [tied for sixth best in the league] and 27 wins [tied for seventh most in the league]).

I’m always a fan of an underdog, or undercat in Florida‘s case, as they are rarely thought of as a successful club, but I’m worried the Original Six franchise might get the win this evening.  They have the win streak and the season series in their back pocket.  Florida is certainly capable, but I think it will be a Bruins winner.

February 28 – Day 136 – The Bolts won’t stop winning!

It took five games for the Predators to beat the Blues, but they made up for it by scoring five unanswered goals in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The winning tally was the only one of the first period.  Third Star of the Game Craig Smith’s wrister found the back of the net at the 5:39 mark, assisted by Mike Ribeiro and First Star Filip Forsberg (his 20th helper of the season).

Only 54 seconds into the second, Nashville doubled their lead with a Forsberg wrister.  He was assisted by Petter Granberg and Smith (his 10th helper of the season).  4:45 later, Forsberg struck again with another wrister, assisted by Smith and Ribeiro, for his 25th tally of the season.  The lead become 4-0 with 5:11 remaining as Forsberg’s snap shot, assisted by Ribeiro (his 36th helper of the season) and Roman Josi, earned him a hat trick.

The final goal entered the net at the 4:37 mark of the third, courtesy of Colin Wilson’s wrister (his fifth goal of the season), assisted by Viktor Arvidsson and Anthony Bitetto.

Second Star Pekka Rinne earns the shutout victory, saving all 28 shots he faced.  Jake Allen takes the loss, allowing four goals on 23 shots (82.6%).  He was replaced by Pheonix Copley at the 15:34 mark of the second period for this first NHL action.  He made five of six saves (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 61-33-12, favoring the home sides by 33 points over the roadies.

To close out the week, there’s seven games taking place this Sunday.  The first of those drops the puck at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Washington visits Chicago, followed two and a half hours later by two matchups (Florida at Minnesota and St. Louis at Carolina).  6:30 p.m. eastern features the puck drop of the Tampa Bay at Boston game, trailed 30 minutes later by San Jose at Vancouver.  At 9 p.m. eastern, Los Angeles visits Anaheim, with this evening’s nightcap, the New York Islanders at Edmonton, dropping the puck half an hour later.

Three of the games are between division rivals (Tampa Bay at Boston, San Jose at Vancouver and Los Angeles at Anaheim), and another set of three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Washington at Chicago, Tampa Bay at Boston and Los Angeles at Anaheim).

Although the WashingtonChicago game is very tempting, the game that has the most immediate impact on the standings actually occurs in New England, as the Bolts and B’s are currently tied for second place in the Atlantic Division.

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This evening’s game will be Tampa Bay‘s 13th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-3-1 record.  Their most recent under our scrutiny was their 4-0 victory in New Jersey on Friday.  Boston has also been featured this week, as they beat Pittsburgh 5-1 on Wednesday, which set their series record at 5-7-1 in 13 games played.

The 35-22-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve no doubt earned that position, as they play the sixth-best defense in the league paired with the ninth-best offense.

Thanks in part to Victor Hedman’s team-leading 102 blocks, the Lightning have allowed only 1727 shots to reach 25-17-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for only 149 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  That strong defensive play has continued to the penalty kill, as Tampa‘s 82.97% kill rate for only 31 power play goals against ranks eighth-best in the NHL.  That rate improves even more when the Bolts‘ short-handed goals are taken into account, of which they have five (led by Brian Boyle’s two), one more than the league average.

The offense trails right behind, led by Steven Stamkos’ 170 shots for 1775 attempts on goal, of which a solid 9.4% have found the back of the net for 169 tallies (led by Stamkos’ 27 tallies), ninth-most in the league.  It has been the power play where Tampa Bay‘s biggest weakness can be found, as they connect on only 16.98% of opportunities (fifth-worst in the league) for 36 power play goals (led by Stamkos’ dozen).  To make matters worse, the Bolts have also given up six shorties on the season.

Tampa is currently riding a five-game winning streak, the second-best active streak in the NHL right now.  Their most recent showing was the four-goal shutout at The Rock Friday night.  In addition to breaking their tie with the Bruins for second place, a win also has the potential to pull the Bolts within two points of the in-state rival Panthers should they lose to the Wild.

The 34-22-6 Boston Bruins currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  Their efforts have been almost entirely on the offensive end, as the defense and goaltending have allowed the 11th-most goals.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Wednesday’s article.

The Bruins are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent being their 4-1 victory in Carolina Friday night.  Just like Tampa, a win by Boston earns the Bruins outright ownership to second place in the division, with them potentially trailing Florida by only two points for the division lead.

The season series is currently tied at 1-1-0, with both teams earning a win on the road.  Their most recent meeting Halloween, when the Bruins won 3-1 in Tampa.

Some players to keep an eye on in this evening’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.09 GAA [second-best in the league], .924 save percentage [tied for seventh-best in the league] and 25 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league])and Stamkos (27 goals [seventh-most in the league]).

Although neither team has been able to defend home ice yet in this season this year, I think Boston‘s poor defense allows Stamkos and co. to earn two points and focus in on catching the Panthers for the top seed in the Atlantic.

February 24 – Day 132 – Wildcard Wednesday

The Carolina Hurricanes finally won a game in the Game of the Day series, beating the Philadelphia Flyers, who hadn’t lost in our series, 3-1.

It was actually the Flyers that scored first, but it wasn’t until late in the first.  Scott Laughton’s wrister found the back of the net at the 17:45 mark, assisted by Matt Read (his 10th helper of the season) and Radko Gudas, the only score of the opening frame.

In their black alternates, the Canes leveled the score 8:09 after resuming play with a Joakim Nordstrom snap shot, his eighth tally of the season.  10:17 later, Jordan Staal’s 16th goal of the season gave Carolina a lead they would not yield, assisted by Brett Pesce and Andrej Nestrasil.  The Hurricane‘s 2-1 lead held into the second intermission.

Carolina‘s lone insurance goal found the back of the net with 5:49 remaining, courtesy of a Eric Staal wrister, assisted by Jay McClement and Elias Lindholm (his 21st helper of the season).

Cam Ward earns the win after saving 36 of 37 (97.3%), while Michal Neuvirth takes the loss, saving 15 of 18 (83.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 59-31-12, favoring the home squad by 33 points over the roadies.

Today’s schedule is fairly light, with only four games to be played.  The first, Montréal at Washington, drops the puck at 7 p.m. eastern, followed half an hour later by Pittsburgh at Boston (NBCSN).  San Jose at Colorado (NBCSN) gets started at 10 p.m. eastern, trailed 30 minutes later by this evening’s nightcap, Buffalo at Anaheim.

None of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Pittsburgh at Boston and San Jose at Colorado).

I must admit, I’m being swayed by a mini-rivalry here in the “office” (aka our dorm rooms), but I think the PittsburghBoston game will be the most competitive this evening, so let’s head to the TD Garden!

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Tonight’s game will be Pittsburgh‘s 11th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-6-1 record.  Their most recent showing under our observation was a 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Saturday.  Boston hasn’t been featured since Valentine’s Day, when they fell 6-5 in Detroit.  That game was their 12th in the series, and set their record at 4-7-1 in such games.

The 30-20-8 Pittsburgh Penguins currently occupy fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 12th-best defense in the league, but have scored the 11th-fewest goals, which has kept contests tight.  A more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within Saturday’s article.

The Penguins most recent game was a 4-3 victory in Buffalo Sunday afternoon.  A regulation win tonight would propel Pittsburgh past Boston into the first wildcard position, and they would trail the Islanders by a lone point for the third division spot.  A loss would not put them out of the playoffs, but it would keep the differential between them and the first team out, New Jersey, at only a lone point.

The 32-22-6 Boston Bruins currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  It has been the offense that has led the way for the Bruins, as they’ve scored the third-most goals in the league, but they’ve given up the 10th-most goals.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 201 shots, the B’s have fired puck an incredible 1902 times, with a whopping 9.5% finding the back of the net for 185 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 30 tallies), third-most in the NHL.  Just like you’d expect, that offense success has continued on the power play, where Boston‘s 22.29% success rate, for 39 power play goals (led by Bergeron’s nine), ranks fourth-best in the league.

The center line has represented the divide between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the Bruins, as the defense continues to struggle this season.  Even with Kevan Miller’s team-leading 96 blocks, Boston has allowed 1822 shots to reach 22-17-5 Tuukka Rask and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.3% for 169 goals against, 10th-most in the league.  That being said, the Bruins do flip a switch on the penalty kill, as they’ve killed 82.76% of their penalties for only 35 power play goals against.  In addition, the kill has also been tremendous at scoring, as they have eight short-handed goals to their credit (led by Marchand’s four shorties).

The Bruins last played Monday night, a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jackets on home ice.  A win tonight would put Boston back into the third division spot by virtue of losing the games played tiebreaker to Tampa Bay.  A regulation loss allows the Penguins to jump the Bruins for the top wildcard spot, and they would have a three point lead over New Jersey.

Boston has already won the season series 2-0-0, with the cumulative score reading 9-2.  Both previous games were played in a home-and-home series on December 16 and 18, with the Bruins winning 3-0 on home ice before travelling to the Steel City and winning 6-2.  Those games were the second and third of Mike Sullivan’s Pittsburgh career.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Marchand (30 goals [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and Rask (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Sidney Crosby (56 points [eighth-most in the league] and 25 goals [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Marc-Andre Fleury (four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and 24 wins [tied for ninth-most in the league]) and Chris Kunitz (+21 [tied for seventh-best in the league]).

This Pittsburgh team is a much different one than played the Bruins in December, and is much more capable of scoring.  I expect to see a lot of goals scored, but favoring the Bruins when the clock reads zeroes.