Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.
Nick, Colby and Pete assess the Philadelphia Flyers’ hiring of Alain Vigneault, the Los Angeles Kings’ hiring of Todd McLellan, where does this leave the Buffalo Sabres in their search for a head coach, as well as some of the good (CBJ and NYI sweep), bad and ugly from the ongoing First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wednesday was a light schedule, so you know what that means: gobs and gobs of hockey tonight. The action commences at the usual 7 p.m. with two games (Tampa Bay at Buffalo and Winnipeg at Philadelphia), followed half an hour later by another pair (Florida at Toronto and Nashville at Ottawa [RDS]). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of our third pair (San Jose at St. Louis and Boston at Minnesota), with Colorado at Dallas trailing 30 minutes later. A final pair drop the puck at 10 p.m. (Arizona at Vancouver and New Jersey at Anaheim) with Edmonton at Los Angeles (SN360) getting underway half an hour later. All times eastern.
- San Jose at St. Louis: In a thrilling six-game series, the Sharks advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals by beating St. Louis.
- Arizona at Vancouver: Radim Vrbata took a two-year hiatus from playing with the Coyotes from 2014-’16. You remember correctly, he played for Vancouver.
- Edmonton at Los Angeles: In addition to the more historic than current rivalry between the clubs, Milan Lucic makes his first return to the Staples Center after calling it home a season ago.
In the spirit of playoff rematches from a season ago, we’re off to the Gateway to the West.
The Sharks swim into St. Louis (Yeah, just ignore it. It’s bad.) with a 9-7-0 record, which is good enough for third place in the Pacific Division. Before losing in Carolina Tuesday night, the Sharks were riding a three-game winning streak.
While they’ve certainly been let down by their offense, San Jose has found their nine wins on a solid defense.
Martin Jones has started 14 games already this season to an 8-6-0 record. He has a .913 save percentage and 2.2 GAA to his credit, which ranks 16th and 11th-best among goaltenders with at least seven appearances.
These are not numbers one would expect from a netminder that was two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. Why has he been able to find wins?
I’d argue it is his blue line. Led by Justin Braun‘s 35 blocks, the Sharks allow only 25.7 shots per night to reach the net, the second-lowest rate in the NHL. Of course, knowing that Jones is facing far fewer shots than most goalies and still not performing well is a bit distressing, but at this point a win is a win!
That defensive success has continued to the penalty kill, where the Sharks rank third-best in the league by negating 89.5% of their infractions. They’ve also done well to limit opposing extra-man opportunities, facing only 38 power plays so far this season (2.4 per game).
Playing host this evening are the 8-6-3 St. Louis Blues. Although neither the offense nor defense has been anything near impressive, the thing that concerns me as an admittedly-biased Blues fan is the decline in defense and goaltending.
Last season, St. Louis allowed only 197 goals – 2.4 per game. So far this year, they’ve allowed 2.8 per game. You’d think that four-tenths of a goal isn’t much, but at this rate the Blues will allow 30 more goals by season’s end than they did a year ago.
Manning the net this season is 6-3-3 Jake Allen, who has a .901 save percentage and 2.49 GAA to his credit, which ranks 12th and 23rd-worst among the 42 netminders with six or more appearances.
None of that blame may be placed on St. Louis‘ defense. Led by Colton Parayko‘s 31 blocks, the Blues have allowed only 26.3 shots to reach net, the third-lowest average in the league.
Just like San Jose, that defensive success has continued to the Blues‘ penalty kill. Only 10.3% of opposing power plays have found the back of Allen’s net, the second-lowest rate in the league.
Offensively, the Blues have found much of their success on the power play. Led by Kevin Shattenkirk and Vladimir Tarasenko, both of whom have nine power play points, St. Louis has connected on 22% of their extra-man opportunities, the 10th-best rate in the NHL.
The last time these teams met, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was awarded to the Sharks for besting the Blues in six games. It should have been expected given that the Sharks won the 2015-’16 season series 2-1-0.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (18 points [tied for sixth-most in the league] on 12 assists [tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) and San Jose‘s Jones (one shutout [tied for ninth-most in the league] and eight wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]).
St. Louis comes into tonight’s game slightly favored at -110. Since the Sharks are on the tailend of a long eastern roadtrip, I’ll stick with Vegas’ decision.
- The Western Pennsylvania Hockey League (1896-1910) – This league was the first of it’s kind, allowing players to be paid for their services and be traded between clubs.
- Dennis Maruk (1955-) – The California Golden Seals drafted this center 21st overall in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft. Not only was he a part of the merge with Minnesota, he returned to the North Stars for the final six seasons of his career.
The Penguins were nothing short of whipped in yesterday’s Game of the Day, falling 7-1 in Washington.
Second Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Jay Beagle) didn’t wait long to open the scoring, but he did choose the most difficult circumstances. He potted a backhand shot while the Capitals were short-handed 7:32 after the opening puck drop. The eventual game-winning goal was struck almost 10 minutes later by First Star Nicklas Backstrom (Oshie and Matt Niskanen), who scored a snap shot with 2:30 remaining in the period. Oshie (Backstrom and John Carlson) struck again with eight seconds remaining in the first frame to set the score at 3-0.
Dmitry Orlov (Marcus Johansson and Backstrom) scored an insurance goal in the second period, as did Justin Williams (Oshie and Backstrom), Alex Ovechkin (Andre Burakovsky) and Backstrom (Nate Schmidt and Brooks Orpik) in the third.
The Penguins did get on the board with a tally from Phil Kessel (Nick Bonino and Justin Schultz) with 3:32 remaining in the game, but it was far too little too late to make any sort of an impact on the tone of the contest.
Third Star Braden Holtby saved 25-of-26 shots faced (96.2%) to earn the victory, while Matthew Murray takes the loss after saving 12-of-14 (85.7%). He was lifted for Marc-Andre Fleury with 24 seconds remaining in the first period after taking Evgeni Malkin‘s stick to the face. Fleury saved 20-of-25 (80%) for no decision.
The Capitals‘ victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 22-12-4, favoring the homers by 10 points over the roadies.
By: Nick Lanciani
This season on Down the Frozen River we’re going to write some more feature stories, starting with ourselves, of course. Here’s one about DTFR member, Frank Fanelli.
A tall, young, bearded man ambles up to the door of a four-story brick building with a Philadelphia Flyers jacket on that makes him look like he should be behind the bench as the equipment manager, at least— if not athletic trainer— and approaches with a grin. We exchange pleasantries then head up to the Down the Frozen River studio to begin this interview.
Born in Arlington, Texas, Frank Fanelli has moved a total of seven times in 18 years. He’s lived in Texas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and now currently resides in North Carolina, though he doesn’t remember much up until about New Jersey. Fanelli and his family have bounced around the country as his father’s job has called them to new and exciting lands within the United States.
The middle child, technically by 20 minutes, says he was reminded a lot when he was younger of the fact that his older twin sister was born first. Fanelli grew up in a household with two siblings, his older twin sister and a younger sister. He says they’ve always been pretty tight and have never argued much, but that they have always had a bit of healthy competition between the three of them.
While Fanelli and his family were living in Pennsylvania, he fell in love with hockey. Fanelli quickly became a Philadelphia Flyers fan when Mike Richards was with the team and playing in his prime, however, Fanelli’s love for the Flyers was not easily reciprocated by the people he was surrounded by. You see, he was a Flyers fan, living in Pittsburgh Penguins territory. Unlike the City of Brotherly Love, there’s no love in Pittsburgh. At least if you’re a Flyers fan.
Yet for Fanelli’s sake, he could take comfort in knowing that only his closest friends knew he was a Flyers fan and that “no one really [other than them] knew or would give me trash [otherwise] unless I wore a Flyers jersey.” Fanelli proudly wore Philadelphia apparel to Penguins-Flyers matchups at Mellon Arena growing up.
“People would lay into you and I wanted to say something back, but unfortunately I couldn’t. It bothered me, but I got used to it over the eight years of living there,” Fanelli recalled. He explained how the atmosphere of a Penguins vs. Flyers game is unlike any other he has experienced in that there’s usually a brawl, intense momentum swings, lead changes and lots of blown leads between the two teams. But that’s all part of the highs and lows of the sport.
One of the more memorable highs of the sport in Fanelli’s lifetime was when the Flyers went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. He explained the emotional rollercoaster of a ride that the then 13-year old version of himself was part of during the Flyers comeback in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins that led to the unthinkable, though ultimately disappointing 2010 Stanley Cup Final run.
Despite the fact that the Flyers lost, Fanelli took residence in the holistic approach to hockey— the experience of the sport in one of its best forms, on one of its largest stages. Fanelli was at Game 1.
“I remember a lot— I probably won’t remember a lot when I’m 80 though,” Fanelli remarked. “My dad worked for Dick’s [Sporting Goods] at the time and got tickets from the NHL. We were sitting behind one of the nets.” Fanelli remembers the remarkable atmosphere of an Original Six arena, long dehydrated from a Stanley Cup run. “[Chicago’s] goal horn and ‘Chelsea Dagger’ got embedded in my mind. Usually when your team scores five goals, you expect them to win, but that wasn’t the case for the Flyers that night.”
Philadelphia dropped Game 1, 6-5. While leaving the United Center, Fanelli experienced some trash talk from the notoriously passionate Blackhawks fans, but he took it in stride as part of the road game experience.
Aside from attending Game 1 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, Fanelli’s other most enjoyable experience as a fan happened when he went to the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. Although, once again, Fanelli watched his team lose, the overall atmosphere of an outdoor NHL game as the home team made it that much better at the end of the day.
“The United Center [in 2010] had the best overall atmosphere, but the 2012 Winter Classic is definitely a close second,” Fanelli remarked as he then explained how he became a Flyers fan. “It’s because I played hockey at the time— I still do— but becoming a professional hockey player was something I wanted to be when I was five years old.”
When Fanelli was young and just started to get into the sport, his eyes latched onto one Flyers forward in his prime— Mike Richards. There was just something about the way that Richards played that drew Fanelli to the TV for every game broadcast, combined with the style of play Philadelphia has long been accustomed to.
Brash, hard hitting, tough; the Broad Street Bullies have been shoving their weight around the NHL since 1967, but have been number one in the hearts of their city and fans forever, as the team has matched the work ethic of the citizens of Philadelphia— never give up. Fanelli admits to not being as “successful” as some players are growing up playing youth hockey, scoring many goals and mimicking their heroes, but his style of play has always had a role on any team. He doesn’t give up on a play and knows when to come in clutch— like the work ethic of many Flyers over the years.
For a while, Richards was Fanelli’s favorite player (and not just because 18 was Richards’ jersey number and Fanelli’s favorite number— though it was his favorite number before associating it with Richards ever since. “It just came naturally,” he exclaimed). He was devastated when Philadelphia traded their captain, Mike Richards, and Flyers prospect, Rob Bordson, to the Los Angeles Kings in June 2011.
Although the Flyers got Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the Kings’ 2012 2nd round pick in the deal, Fanelli was less than thrilled. In fact, Fanelli has had a few qualms to say about former Philadelphia GM, now President of the Flyers, Paul Holmgren’s time with the organization. Fanelli hated the Richards trade and wasn’t a fan when Holmgren traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Matt Walker and a 2011 4th round pick in July 2010.
But by now, Fanelli’s used to the revolving door side of the business of hockey— and that’s helped grow his interest in the sport. Players come and players go— sometimes a lot quicker than you want, other times agonizingly too slow to watch as a fan. Prior to being a fan of Richards, Fanelli’s favorite Flyer was Daniel Briere. Since Mike Richards, it’s been Claude Giroux.
His all time favorite Flyer “would have to be either Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke.” From the mindset of a player, Fanelli understands the business side of the sport and the urge to win, but as a Sport Management major at Queens University of Charlotte, Fanelli’s passion for the front office has grown.
“I want to work for a sports team— preferably a hockey team [in any league]. I want to work for the business operations side or hockey operations side— GM, Vice President, President, Owner, Coach; you name it. Mainly I want to work as a marketing or analytics guy,” Fanelli added, while also mentioning that he wouldn’t mind working in a scouting department too. “It may change, but that’s what I have my mind set on.”
Change is part of the sport, but one thing remains the same, his love for Philadelphia. To help celebrate 50 years of the single largest moment of expansion in NHL history (when the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 with the addition of the California Golden Seals, Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues), this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game is being held between the Penguins and the Flyers at Heinz Field.
And like any Philly fan, Fanelli wants to be there, in enemy territory, to cheer on the Flyers. February 25, 2017 won’t just be his third outdoor game; it might become his favorite moment in Flyers history, if his team is able to pull off the win.
“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere. Just seeing the atmosphere and an outside game… …it’s the greatest thing in the world.” But it could be said that anywhere there’s a rink is the greatest thing in the world. There’s not a day that goes by that Fanelli isn’t wearing something associated with the Flyers (or any Philly sports team for that matter).
While graduation is just a couple of years away, one can only assume that Fanelli is not that far away from nesting his home somewhere in the realm of one of his favorite teams, whether it’s the Flyers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Union or the Philadelphia 76ers, the time is almost now for him to begin the ascension to the throne of a front office position in Philadelphia sports.