Tag Archives: Carlo

Game of the week: November 19-25

The NHL’s unofficial deadline for playoff qualification has come and gone, but that doesn’t make this weekend’s games any less significant. Speaking of, let’s take a gander at all the tilts the NHL threw at us this week.

NHL SCHEDULE: November 19-25
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, November 19
7 p.m. Columbus Toronto 2-4
7 p.m. Dallas Stars New York Rangers 1-2
7 p.m. Buffalo Pittsburgh 5-4 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Washington Montréal 5-4 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Florida Ottawa 7-5
8 p.m. Los Angeles St. Louis 2-0
8 p.m. Tampa Bay Nashville 2-3
9 p.m. Vegas Calgary 2-7
10 p.m. Winnipeg Vancouver 6-3
Tuesday, November 20
10:30 p.m. Edmonton San Jose 4-3 (OT)
Wednesday, November 21
7 p.m. Montréal New Jersey 2-5
7 p.m. New York Islanders New York Rangers 0-5
7 p.m. Dallas Pittsburgh 1-5
7 p.m. Chicago Washington 2-4
7 p.m. Toronto Carolina 2-5
7:30 p.m. Philadelphia Buffalo 2-5
7:30 p.m. Boston Detroit 2-3 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Florida Tampa Bay 3-7
8 p.m. St. Louis Nashville 1-4
8 p.m. Ottawa Minnesota 4-6
9 p.m. Vegas Arizona 3-2 (OT)
10 p.m. Vancouver Anaheim 3-4
10 p.m. Winnipeg Calgary 3-6
10:30 p.m. Colorado Los Angeles 7-3
Thursday, November 22
No Games Scheduled – American Thanksgiving
Friday, November 23
1 p.m. New York Rangers Philadelphia Flyers 0-4
4 p.m. Edmonton Anaheim 1-2 (OT)
4 p.m. Winnipeg Minnesota 2-4
4 p.m. Montréal Buffalo 2-3 (OT)
4 p.m. New York Islanders New Jersey Devils 4-3 (OT)
4 p.m. Detroit Washington 1-3
6 p.m. Calgary Vegas 0-2
7 p.m. Toronto Columbus 2-4
7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh Boston 1-2 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Chicago Tampa Bay 2-4
7:30 p.m. Florida Carolina 1-4
8 p.m. Colorado Arizona 5-1
8 p.m. Nashville St. Louis 2-6
8 p.m. Ottawa Dallas 4-6
9 p.m. Vancouver San Jose 0-4
saturday, November 24
2 p.m. Washington Capitals New York Rangers NHLN
7 p.m. Winnipeg St. Louis CITY, SN360
7 p.m. Philadelphia Toronto CBC, NHLN, SN1
7 p.m. Boston Montréal SN, TVAS
7 p.m. Buffalo Detroit
7 p.m. Chicago Florida
7 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes New York Islanders
7 p.m. Columbus Pittsburgh
9 p.m. Dallas Colorado
10 p.m. San Jose Vegas
10 p.m. Vancouver Canucks Los Angeles Kings CBC, SN, SN1, SN360
Sunday, November 25
3 p.m. Calgary Arizona SN
7 p.m. New Jersey Tampa Bay
8 p.m. Anaheim Nashville NHLN
10:30 p.m. Edmonton Los Angeles

I’m a sucker for rivalries, and there was certainly more than a few of those on this week’s slate. The Battle of New York and Governor’s Cup were waged on Wednesday, not to mention an Original Six tilt and two untitled rivalries (Vegas at Arizona and Winnipeg at Calgary). The action continued yesterday when the Rangers visited Philadelphia, followed by today’s schedule of Washington at the Rangers, Boston at Montréal and Columbus at Pittsburgh. One last rivalry is on tomorrow’s schedule when Edmonton heads to Los Angeles (once a rivalry, always a rivalry).

In a similar strain to rivalries, there were also a few playoff rematches from the 2018 postseason scheduled. Winnipeg visited Minnesota yesterday, San Jose is in Vegas today and New Jersey will square off with Tampa Bay tomorrow.

Finally, in the “Homecoming” category, there was perhaps no bigger story than F Mike Hoffman – now a member of the Florida Panthers – making his first trip back to Ottawa since being traded this offseason in the middle of a kinda super weird controversy involving his fiancée. Hoffman was a Senator for seven seasons.

D Calvin de Haan and LW James van Riemsdyk are both celebrating homecomings tonight after spending six seasons with the Islanders and Maple Leafs, respectively, while Jim Montgomery – head coach of the Dallas Stars – is making his first return to the Rockies since being hired from the University of Denver Pioneers this summer.

But of all these great games, which one is worthy of being this week’s featured tilt?

 

Is it any surprise?

I mean, really: this is one of the best rivalries the NHL has to offer regardless of where these teams are in the standings, but the intensity is only ratcheted up with both teams separated by one point and fighting to keep up with Toronto for third in the Atlantic Division or one of the two wild cards.

Mix all that together, and the sparks that were all but certain are now guaranteed.

Currently occupying the Eastern Conference’s first wild card, the 12-6-4 Bruins enter this game riding a four-game point streak – a solid effort considering how many injuries they’ve suffered in the first two months of play. C Patrice Bergeron, D Brandon Carlo, D Zdeno Chara, D Charlie McAvoy and D Urho Vaakanainen (that’s right: four five defensemen [I think we have to count four-time Selke winner Bergeron as a defenseman, given these circumstances]) all find themselves on the injury report, meaning the youngsters from Providence are having to do their best filling in.

Fortunately for Boston, 8-2-2 G Jaroslav Halak has been playing like a machine despite all these injuries to his teammates. In his past two starts, Halak has managed a dominating .917 save percentage and .98 GAA to account for both of the Bruins’ last two wins. Making that all the more impressive, Boston has been allowing 33.5 shots against per game since November 16, the (t)10th-worst in the NHL in that time.

That being said, with Halak getting the start in last night’s overtime victory against the Penguins, all signs are pointing towards 4-4-2 G Tuukka Rask manning the crease this evening at Bell Centre. Rask’s last two outings have shown signs of improvement (he’s managed a .938 save percentage and 1.96 GAA in his last two appearances, both overtime losses), however his .909 save percentage and horrid 2.8 GAA for the season still cast doubts in the minds of more than a few Boston supporters.

Rask owns a 13-19-4 combined regular and postseason record against the Habs. He last beat the Canadiens on January 20 – a sixth-straight victory against his bitter rival – in a game that just so happened to take place in the same barn as tonight’s contest.

Meanwhile, the 11-7-5 Canadiens are also riding a decent run lately, as they’ve pulled off a 2-1-2 record over their last five outings.

Perhaps the brightest facet of Montréal’s game during this five-game run has been its power play. Converting on three of its past 13 opportunities, the Habs’ 23.1 percent success rate is good enough for 13th-best in the NHL since November 15.

Yup, that’s the best I’ve got.

In all honesty, there’s not much about the Canadiens’ recent play that indicates they should still be holding on to the East’s second wild card. Since November 15, Montréal’s offense has averaged only 2.8 goals per game while allowing 3.4 against ([t]11th-worst and ninth-worst in the league, respectively, in that time) – not to mention a defense that’s allowed a whopping 37 shots against per game in that stretch ([t]third-worst in the NHL).

Boston and Montréal have already squared off once this season, and it was far from a pleasurable experience for the Bruins as they were shutout 3-0 on home ice on October 27. RW Brendan Gallagher provided the game-winning goal at the 9:18 mark of the first frame, while F Max Domi and D Jordie Benn provided the two insurance goals. 7-5-4 G Carey Price, Montréal’s starter for tonight’s game, earned the shutout by saving all 33 shots he faced.

So, if neither team is playing particularly well lately, which team is going to snag two points?

Considering Price’s season stats (.895 save percentage and 3.17 GAA) are considerably worse than Rask’s and the fact that the Hab has allowed five goals in each of his last two appearances, I like the Bruins’ chances this evening. This may not be a pretty game, but Rask should be able to lead Boston to victory in Québec.

March 15 – Day 147 – The Flames are red hot

Only four games are on the schedule tonight, so let’s dive right in. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Boston at Calgary (SN). Detroit visits Colorado at 9:30 p.m. and St. Louis at Anaheim (NBCSN), tonight’s nightcap, drops the puck half an hour later. All times eastern.

If it was certain Mark Streit would be available for tonight’s game, I’d be much more inclined to feature the Battle for the Keystone State. But with the injury he sustained Monday night, I’m much more interested in the Bruins‘ visit to the Saddledome.

 

Winners of its past three contests, Boston enters tonight’s game with a 37-26-6 record good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins may not be dominant on either end of the ice, but they play a solid overall game. Specifically, I’m most impressed with a defensive effort that has yielded only 177 goals against, which ties for the 10th-fewest in the NHL.

Of course, that always starts with the goaltender, and Boston has a good one in 33-16-4 Tuukka Rask. Yet even the best goaltenders need a night off every once in a while, and that’s where 4-5-1 Anton Khudobin comes into play. He’s registered a .895 season save percentage and 2.76 GAA, the 56th and 42nd-best marks, respectively, among the 68 goalies with at least five appearances this year.

While neither stats are worth writing home to Russia about (I mean, we need to factor in the price of postage), he’ll be receiving considerable help from his blueline tonight. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 116 short blocks (narrowly beating out Adam McQuaid‘s contributions), the Bruins have allowed only 26.5 shots to reach their goalies’ crease, the second-best rate in the NHL.

That play is especially impressive in light of last season’s performance, which forced Bruins goaltenders to shrug off more than 30 shots-per-game. As rookie Brandon Carlo continues to grow, Boston‘s defense could become one of the stingiest in the league.

Speaking of stingy, that’s exactly what the Bruins‘ top-rated penalty kill is. Thanks in large part to McQuaid’s 32 shorthanded shot blocks, the Bruins escape opponents’ power plays unscathed 86.2% of the time.

Boston is also the proud home of a solid power play. While not as successful as their penalty kill, the Bruins do tie for 10th-best in the league with a power play that finds the back of the net 20.5% of the time. That attack is twin-led by first-unit members Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, both of whom have 20 power play points. Pastrnak also shares the extra-man goal-scoring lead, but this time with Brad Marchand. Both of them have buried the puck eight times on the power play.

In a surprising turn of events since December and January, defense has become the name of the game for the 39-26-4 Flames, who currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division and are easily the hottest team in the league (pun intended). Winners of their past 10 games, they’ve allowed only 183 goals against so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL.

For the second season in a row, 21-13-3 Brian Elliott has righted the ship for another playoff-hopeful club. Although his .91 season save percentage isn’t the best on the team (that belongs to Chad Johnson and his .913), his 2.51 GAA is, and those rank (t)33rd and (t)17th-best in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 18 appearances.

Those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, but they don’t have to be when Elliott plays behind one of the better defensed in the league. Allowing only 28.7 shots to reach his crease per game, Calgary ranks eighth-best in the NHL. That success is due in large part to Mark Giordano, whose 154 shot blocks not only pace the Flames, but are sixth-most in the NHL.

Thanks to Johnson’s incredible night in net (he saved 35-of-36 – 97.2%!), the Flames were able to stave off the Bruins‘ offense for a 2-1 victory when they made their annual visit to Boston on November 25.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [tied for most in the NHL] for 74 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Calgary‘s Giordano (+17 on 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

Calgary is narrowly favored to win tonight’s game by Vegas with a -105 line. I can certainly see why the oddsmakers are concerned, but I also know the Flames have beaten some solid teams over this winning streak. I like the Bruins to win tonight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Calgary can keep the magic going again this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Punch Imlach (1918-1987) – It goes without saying, but a coaching career that features four Stanley Cups, including three in a row from 1962-’64, is probably a good one. Imlach did just that with the Maple Leafs, the team he coached for 12 of his 14 seasons. He completed his career in the 1979-’80 season with a 402-337-150 record.
  • Craig Ludwig (1961-) – Montréal selected this defenseman 61st-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played the first eight years of his career and won his first Stanley Cup. Following a year with the Islanders, he joined the (North) Stars organization in 1991-’92, with whom he played the last eight years of his career  – and won his second Stanley Cup.
  • Darcy Tucker (1975-) – Another Montréal pick, this right wing was selected in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Although drafted by the Canadiens, he actually spent most of his 14-year career with Toronto, where he scored 148 of his 215 career goals.
  • James Reimer (1988-) – Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they selected this goaltender 99th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Sharks at the deadline last year. He now plays in Florida, where he’s earned a 12-12-5 record.

Although the Wild scored two goals in the third period, it wasn’t enough to get past the Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. Washington defended the Verizon Center to a 4-2 victory.

Although both clubs combined for 29 shots in the first period, this game almost reached the first intermission scoreless. The operative word there is almost, as Nate Schmidt (Second Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and First Star Nicklas Backstrom) scored only his second goal of the season with a dozen seconds remaining on the clock to give Washington a one-goal lead.

February 19. 11 games ago. That was the last time Ovechkin scored before tonight’s tally. Assisted by John Carlson and Backstrom, he buried a wrist shot with 5:08 remaining in the second period to double the Caps‘ lead and end his scoreless skid. The game-winner belongs to Evgeny Kuznetsov (Backstrom and Carlson) on a power play wrister 2:16 later that set the score at 3-0.

Whatever Bruce Boudreau said in the dressing room during intermission, it seems Matt Dumba (Mikael Granlund) took it to heart, as he buried a backhanded shot 37 seconds after play resumed to get the Wild on the board. Eric Staal (Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter) followed that four minutes later with a power play wrister to pull Minnesota within a goal, but they couldn’t find another tally. Jay Beagle (Dmitry Orlov) made the Wild‘s comeback even more difficult by burying a wrister with 5:41 remaining in the game, setting the 4-2 final score.

Third Star Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 36-of-40 (90%).

While losing first place in the division and conference is obviously the bigger issue for the Wild, they are also responsible for allowing the 75-53-21 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series to have a one-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.

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.

December 15 – Day 64 – Goals on Gold on Goals

Thursdays are usually good days for hockey, and today is no different. The first of eight games drop the puck at 7 p.m. (Anaheim at Boston and Chicago at the New York Islanders), followed half an hour later by two more (Arizona at Toronto and Los Angeles at Detroit). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of a trio of contests (New Jersey at St. Louis, Minnesota at Nashville and Florida at Winnipeg), with the New York Rangers at Dallas, this evening’s nightcap, waiting 30 minutes before getting underway.

I know we just featured the Bruins Monday, but I like this little West vs. East thing we’ve been doing the last couple days. Let’s keep it going in the TD Garden.

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The 15-10-5 Ducks make their yearly trip to Beantown in second place in the Pacific Division. They’ve earned that position with an offense that has already scored 82 goals this season, the eighth-most in the NHL and second-most in the division.

Much of that success can be attributed to Corey Perry, who has a team-leading 26 points to his credit. However, most of those have been assists, which has left the door open for Ryan Kesler to lead the club with 12 goals.

The Ducks have truly been a juggernaut when they have a man advantage. In that situation, Anaheim has found the back of the net 23.5% of the time, the third-best rate in the NHL. Kesler and Perry both have a dozen power play points to their credit to lead the club, but Kesler’s have been more impressive as he’s potted seven man-advantage tallies – the most in Anaheim.

The Ducks still struggle on the penalty kill, as their 80.6% neutralization rate is tied for eighth-worst in the league. If it weren’t for Sami Vatanen and his squad-leading 12 shorthanded blocks, nobody in Anaheim would have more than nine shot blocks in that situation. That is indicative of the effort the Ducks have put into their kill, and is also what will hold them back from making a deep playoff run if they leave it unresolved.

Playing host tonight are the 16-12-3 Bruins, the third-best club in the Atlantic Division. They provide a good matchup for the Ducks tonight, as their strength has been on the defensive end where they’ve only allowed 74 goals, which ties for the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

15-5-3 Tuukka Rask has been in net for all but one of Boston‘s point-earning games. While that might be cause for concern for his stamina going forward, it certainly makes his success so far this season even more impressive. His .93 save percentage and 1.9 GAA are ninth and fifth best among the 41 netminders with 12 or more appearances.

I know I say it every time we feature the Bruins, but the main reason Rask has bounced back from such a poor season last year is due to the defense playing in front of him that has allowed only 27.5 shots-per-game, the fourth fewest in the league. Rookie Brandon Carlo deserves much of the credit, as his 52 blocks lead the Bruins.

That success has bled into the penalty kill, where Boston‘s 86.4% kill rate is third-best in the NHL. The rookie continues his impressive debut campaign in this department as well, as his 16 shorthanded blocks lead the Bruins.

Boston‘s power play also ranks third in the league, but unfortunately it’s third-worst. They’ve found the back of the net on only 13.2% of opportunities, even though they’re led by three players (David Krejci, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak) with five man-advantage points apiece. Pastrnak has been the most impressive with the extra man, as he’s scored four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye tonight include Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf (22 assists [second-most in the NHL]) & Boston‘s Pastrnak (19 goals [second-most in the league] for a +17 [tied for third-best in the NHL]) and Rask (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] among 15 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL] on a 1.9 GAA [fifth-best in the league] and a .93 save percentage [ninth-best in the NHL]).

I’ve never bet on sports, much less a spread or line, but if I understand correctly the Bruins opened a -127 favorite, but Vegas has since pulled the contest off the board. I like the Ducks to earn the road victory for no other reason than Boston played an overtime game in Pittsburgh yesterday.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mario Marois (1957-) – Although he was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft, this defenseman spent much of his career in his hometown with the Nordiques. After 955 games over 15 seasons, he retired with a career +10 on 433 points.

For every punch in yesterday’s Game of the Day, the opposition had a counter-punch. That forced a shootout, where the Sharks were able to steal a 4-3 victory in Ottawa.

Only 5:57 into the game, Joe Pavelski (Logan Couture and Joe Thornton) buried a snap shot to give San Jose an early lead, but Bobby Ryan (Ryan Dzingel and Second Star Dion Phaneuf) and the Senators were able to answer 64 seconds later with a wrister to tie the game at one-all.

The Sharks took the lead once again with 8:30 remaining in the second period with a wrist shot from First Star Brent Burns (Brenden Dillon), but Ottawa was able to answer 5:57 later when Kyle Turris (Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman) buried a snap shot to tie the game a second time.

Phaneuf (Erik Karlsson and Stone) gave the Senators their first lead of the night when he scored a power play snapper with 3:46 remaining in regulation, but San Jose stole a page out of their book when Chris Tierney (Burns and David Schlemko) netted a wrister 1:18 later, knotting the game a third time. Neither club was able to manage another goal in regulation or three-on-three overtime, which forced a shootout.

The Sens took the first attempt…

  1. …but Turris’ shot was saved by Martin Jones.
  2. Mikkel Boedker failed to take advantage, and his miss did not even test Mike Condon.
  3. Ryan met the same fate as his teammate, once again leaving the door open for the Sharks.
  4. Pavelski failed to take advantage though, as Condon was able to make the save.
  5. Karlsson was up next, and Jones gobbled up his third-straight shot.
  6. San Jose‘s Burns couldn’t end the shootout, but he probably would have had a better chance if he’d put his attempt on frame.
  7. Jones seems to have a hobby of saving Senators‘ shootout shots, as Chris Neil met the same fate as the three previous Sens.
  8. Third Star Kevin Labanc earned that distinction for a reason: he earned the bonus point for the Sharks by scoring the lone shootout goal.

Jones earns the victory after saving 28-of-31 (90.3%) shots faced, leaving the shootout loss to Condon, saving 26-of-29 (89.7%).

The third-straight victory by the visiting team in the DtFR Game of the Day series as pulled the roadies within 11 points of the hosts, who still have a 36-20-10 record.

December 12 – Day 61 – Not just a rivalry these days

Bad news: You had to go back to work today.

Good news: There’s hockey on tonight!

Don’t get too excited though, there’s only two games. The action starts at 7 p.m. when Arizona visits Pittsburgh (TVAS), followed half an hour later by Boston at Montréal (NHLN/RDS/SN). Both times eastern.

As sexy as the CoyotesPenguins matchup is, I think we all know we have to turn our attention to The Metropolis.

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The 15-12-2 Bruins come to Montréal in command of third place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve been able to find that success by allowing only 69 goals so far this season, tying for the seventh-fewest in the NHL.

Every good defense starts with a good goalie, and the Bruins are no different. 14-5-2 Tuukka Rask has earned his impressive record on a .93 save percentage and 1.85 GAA, the eighth and fifth-best rates in the league, respectively, among goaltenders with 11 or more appearances.

Although his numbers have been impressive, Rask doesn’t get all the credit. He faces only 27 shots-per-game, the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Rookie Brandon Carlo and Captain Zdeno Chara have headed that charge with their 46 and 44 blocks, respectively. Last season, the Bruins allowed 30.4 shots per game to tie for 11th-most, and Rask did not play to the standard we’ve come to expect.

In other words, goalies: be thankful for your bluelines!

Not surprisingly, Boston‘s penalty kill has also been very strong, refusing 87.2% of opposing power plays. The rookie has been just as important when a man down as he is at even-strength, notching a club-high 15 shorthanded blocks.

Where the Bruins need to improve is on their own power play, where they find the back of the net only 13.9% of the time. David Krejci, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are the three man-advantage kings, each with five power play points on their season resume, but Pastrnak has been the most impressive. He has four extra man goals.

Third in the division is good, but first is better – especially when it coincides with first in the league. That’s the position the 19-6-3 Canadiens find themselves in, and you won’t find any complainers in that dressing room. Just like Boston, the Habs have found much of their success by keeping the opposition off the board.

The man between the pipes more often than not for the Canadiens has been 16-3-1 Carey Price, who’s .94 save percentage and 1.79 GAA are both the fourth-best efforts in the NHL among goalies with 10 or more appearances.

So both teams keep their opponents from scoring? What makes them different? We’ve already determined that Boston uses an excellent combination of goalie and defense. On the other hand, Montréal prefers to lean hard on Price.

The Habs defense has allowed 30.7 shots to reach Price per night, the 13th-most in the NHL. What’s alarming is to think if they’d not made the trade with Nashville for Shea Weber, who leads his new club with 60 blocked shots.

In conclusion: Price>Rask this season, but Boston‘s defense>Montréal‘s.

Fortunately for Montréal, their offense – specifically the power play – is able to cover up for the lack of defense. Even with Weber’s 10 power play points – including a club-leading seven power play goals – the Canadiens have converted 21.6% of their man-advantages, the eighth-best effort in the league.

These teams last met a little under a month ago on this surface, and the Habs won 3-2. That victory improved Montréal‘s record to 2-0 against the Bruins on the season.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Pastrnak (18 goals [second-most in the NHL] for a +15 [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Rask (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] among 14 wins [tied for third-most in the league] on a 1.85 GAA [fifth-best in the NHL] and a .93 save percentage [ninth-best in the league]) & Montréal‘s Nathan Beaulieu (+13 [10th-best in the NHL]), Price (16 wins [tied for most in the league] on a 1.79 GAA and a .94 save percentage [both fourth-best in the NHL], plus two shutouts [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Weber (+18 [second-best in the NHL]).

The consensus in Vegas is that Montréal is a -150 favorite to win tonight’s game. They’re hard to pick against, given that they’ve already won the first two meetings with their most hated rivals and they have home ice. I like the Habs to win tonight, but it should be a well-contested contest.

Hockey Birthday

  • Billy Smith (1950-) – Who knew goaltenders could be strikers? OK, maybe that’s a slight over-exaggeration, but this longtime Islander was the first netminder to bury a goal. Oh yeah, he also won four Stanley Cups.
  • Colin White (1977-) – Another multi-Cup winner, this defenseman was the 49th-overall selection in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey. He played 743 games over 11 seasons with the Devils, plus a 54-game stint in San Jose.

With two goals in the third period, Edmonton was able to defend home ice against the visiting Jets in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, winning 3-2.

The lone tally of the first period belonged to the Jets. With 5:10 remaining in the opening frame, Third Star of the Game Mathieu Perreault (Bryan Little and Jacob Trouba) buried a wrister to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead.

Second Star Oscar Klefbom (Tyler Pitlick and Patrick Maroon) and the Oilers struck back only 1:53 after returning to the ice with a snap shot, but the tied game lasted only 10:07 before Chris Thorburn (Marko Dano) scored a snapper of his own to reclaim a 2-1 lead for Winnipeg.

Edmonton once again returned from intermission with a vengeance, as First Star Mark Letestu (Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic) buried a power play snap shot to once again tie the game at two-all. But this time, Winnipeg did not have an answer. They could not muster another tally. Instead, it was Letestu who scored the winning goal, earning Edmonton second place in the Pacific Division for the next couple days.

Cam Talbot earns the come-from-behind victory after saving 29-of-31 shots faced (93.5%), while Connor Hellebuyck takes the loss, saving 27-of-30 (90%).

The home teams did it! They won all of this week’s DtFR Game of the Days. That streak improves their record to 36-19-8, which is 15 points better than the roadies.

December 7 -Day 56 – If bears could vote…

There’s only four games occurring tonight, but they all look to be good ones. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Minnesota at Toronto (SN), followed half an hour later by Boston at Washington (NBCSN/TVAS). Later, the co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. (Carolina at Anaheim and Ottawa at San Jose [RDS]). All times eastern.

I know we’ve been in the Eastern Conference for the last four days, but the game I’m most interested in is going down in the Verizon Center. Off to the capital we go!

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Jumping right in, 15-10-1 Boston – currently riding a three-game winning streak – is the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, thanks in most part to a defense and goaltending that has allowed only 57 goals so far this season, the fifth-fewest in the league. That stat is made only more impressive by the fact that the Bruins allowed 228 goals a season ago, the tying for 11th-most.

Much of that improvement can be attributed to the 14-4-1 Tuukka Rask, whose .939 save percentage and 1.68 GAA – which rank fourth and second-best in the league, respectively, among goalies with 10 or more appearances – are vastly better than his efforts a season ago (.915 and 2.56) that rank among the worst campaigns of his 10-season career.

Rask doesn’t get to take all the credit though. Last season, his defense allowed 30.4 shots-per-game to reach his crease, the 13th-most in the league. Nowadays, that number is down to 27.7, the fifth-best. Taking responsibility for that change is rookie Brandon Carlo, who’s 45 blocks is a greater total than even the likes of Captain Zdeno Chara (43), Adam McQuaid (37) and John-Michael Liles (28).

That success has followed the Bruins to the penalty kill, where their 86.4% kill rate is the third-best in the league. Carlo has led that charge as well, with 15 shorthanded blocks on his young NHL resume.

Boston‘s Achilles heel continues to be their power play, which ranks fourth-worst at 13.8%. Two of the Davids (David Krejci and David Pastrnak, to be exact) have five power play points to co-lead the team, but I’d argue Pastrnak has been the most vital with four extra-man goals.

*Seriously, count up how many Davids are on the Bruins‘ roster. Last I checked, there’s three active right now.*

Hosting Boston this evening are the 14-7-3 Capitals, who currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. Just like the Bruins, Washington has found most of their success by being a strong defensive team, allowing only 53 goals – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Last year’s Vezina Trophy-winning Braden Holtby currently has an 11-6-2 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.14 GAA – the 16th and 10th-best efforts among netminders with 10 or more appearances.

Much of the reason Holtby has been able to maintain his stellar play from a season ago has been due to the impressive defense playing in front of him that has allowed only 28.2 shots-per-game to reach his crease – effectively identical to last season’s Presidents’ Trophy-clinching effort.  Brooks Orpik has led the blueline with 39 blocks, but four total defensemen (Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Orpik) already have more than 30 shot blocks on the year.

Surprisingly, the power play has let Washington down thus far into the season. Even with Nicklas Backstrom‘s nine power play points and Alex Ovechkin‘s four power play goals, the Caps‘ 15.2% success rate is ninth-worst in the NHL. Part of the reason for that decline might be due to T.J. Oshie being sidelined since November 19 with an upper body-injury, one would expect a potent Capitals offense to overcome that setback.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Boston‘s Pastrnak (+15 on 15 goals [both tied for third-most in the league]) and Rask (14 wins [tied for most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league], on a 1.68 GAA [second-best in the NHL] and a .939 save percentage [fourth-best in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (2.14 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Ovechkin (12 goals [10th-most in the league]).

Vegas thinks Washington is the favorite tonight, marking them with a -145. Since the Capitals are on home ice, I also like Washington to pull out the victory in what should be a good game.

Hockey Birthday

  • Gerry Cheevers (1940-) – How funny we’d feature the Bruins on 12-year Bostonian goaltender Cheevers’ birthday! Up until the 2011 championship, this netminder had been responsible for the Bruins‘ previous two Stanley Cup titles.
  • Garry Unger (1947-) –  A long-time Blue, this center was an seven-time All-Star and notched 804 points over his 16-season career.
  • Peter Laviolette (1964-) – Currently the head coach in Nashville, this skipper’s crowning achievement of his 15-season coaching career is still the Stanley Cup he won in 2006 with Carolina.
  • Georges Laraque (1976-) – The 31st-overall selection in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing spent most of his time with Edmonton, the club that drafted him. Twice he made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but both times his club failed to hoist the Cup.
  • Milan Michalek (1984) – This left wing was the sixth-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, but he played most of his days in Ottawa.

It’s the games I’m most confident in that are getting the best of me. I assumed the Rangers would have no problem beating the Islanders, but once again a good rivalry game turned the tables as the home Isles bested the Blueshirts 4-2.

The first goal of the night was a special one for the Islanders. Struck 7:03 into the game, Third Star of the Game Scott Mayfield‘s (Cal Clutterbuck and Anders Lee) slap shot was his first goal of the season, and only the second of his 14-game NHL career. Jason Chimera (Brock Nelson) backed that tally up with one of his own with 2:36 remaining in the frame to give the Islanders a two-goal lead going into the first intermission.

The Rangers‘ incredible offense finally got on the board 56 seconds into the second period with a Jimmy Vesey (Rick Nash) wrister, but Andrew Ladd (Shane Prince) notched the eventual game-winner only 1:22 later with a snap shot. The Rangers fought back within a goal at the 8:54 mark via a Marc Staal (J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider) wrister, but it was the last tally they could manage, both in the second period and regulation.

Second Star John Tavares (Josh Bailey and Nick Leddy) scored an insurance goal with 8:47 remaining in the game to seal the Islanders’ victory in the Battle of New York.

First Star Jaroslav Halak earns the victory after saving 36-of-38 shots faced (94.7%), forcing Henrik Lundqvist to take the loss, saving 28-of-32 (87.5%).

The second straight win by the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series has improved their record to 31-19-8 and expended their lead over the roadies to six points.

December 3 – Day 52 – Jack is Back

As usual, Saturday hosts a busy NHL schedule, and with college football getting out of the way, you can pay even more attention to the multiple day games! Three of those matinees start at 1 p.m (Boston at Buffalo [SN], Carolina at the New York Rangers and Chicago at Philadelphia [NHLN]), followed an hour later by New Jersey at Nashville. Five contests begin at the usual 7 p.m. starting time (Toronto at Vancouver [CBC], Winnipeg at St. Louis [SN], Florida at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS], Washington at Tampa Bay and Detroit at Pittsburgh [NHLN]), trailed an hour later by Columbus at Arizona. Dallas at Colorado finds its start at 9 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap, Anaheim at Edmonton (CBC/SN) dropping the puck 60 minutes later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Boston at Buffalo: This rivalry has existed almost as long as the Sabres. Tonight’s edition will look far different than November’s meeting, as Jack Eichel is back on the ice.
  • Detroit at Pittsburgh: Back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals bouts in 2008 and 2009 between these clubs sparked this rivalry, but it’s died down in recent years.

Clubs joined simply by conference are no match for a rivalry shared within a division. To KeyBank Arena we go!

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In the white corner are the visiting Bruins. At 13-10-1, they’re the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division. They’ve gotten to that position with some excellent defense and goaltending, which has allowed only 53 goals – the sixth-fewest in the NHL.

Although four netminders have taken to the crease for the Bruins, 12-4-1 Tuukka Rask has always been the man in charge. His 17 starts leads the club, as do his .938 save percentage and 1.64 GAA that rank fourth and best, respectively, among his peers with nine or more appearances.

Part of the reason he’s been able to find such success is because of the team playing in front of him and their improvement from a year ago. Last season, the Bruins blueline allowed 30.4 shots-per-game to reach Rask, tying for the 11th-highest rate in the league. Nowadays, Boston is home to the fourth-best defense, allowing only 27.3 shots-against-per-game.

Rookie Brandon Carlo has headlined that turnaround, already notching 42 blocks in his debut season. Zdeno Chara also deserves credit, as his 41 deflections were accumulated in only 19 games, but the Bruins‘ captain will not be available today with a lower body injury suffered a week and a half ago. Boston is 2-4 since he sustained the injury.

The defensive success has carried into the penalty kill, where the Bruins‘ 85.4% kill rate is second-best in the Eastern Conference, fifth-best overall. Carlo continues his good work on the special teams, leading the club with 14 shorthanded shot blocks.

Where Boston hasn’t been impressive is the power play. Successful on only 14.7% of attempts, the Bruins are eighth-worst in the NHL. That effort is headlined by by David Krejci and David Pastrnak, who both have five extra-man points. Pastrnak’s effort has been more impressive, as his four power play goals lead the squad.

Hosting them this evening are the 9-9-5 Sabres, who are winners of their last two contests. Buffalo has been held back by their offense so far with the fewest goals in the league (47), but help comes in the form of a sophomore center.

So far this season, Kyle Okposo has led the team with 16 points, and has paired with Matt Moulson for the Sabres‘ scoring title with seven goals. But things changed Tuesday when Eichel exchanged his boot for skates and a stick. In only two games, he’s notched four goals – yes, four – to average the best points-per-game average in the league. I don’t know if he’ll be able to maintain that blistering pace of two points per game, but averaging even half that effort would currently tie him for seventh-best average in the league.

Eichel has rejoined an impressive power play. Ranking fourth-best in the NHL, Buffalo has converted 23.4% of their man-advantages. It’s been in this situation where Okposo has earned his paycheck, as he’s notched 11 power play points to lead the team. Moulson has also been very impressive by leading the team with six extra-man tallies.

While Eichel will help the Sabres‘ offense, he isn’t going to do much for a penalty kill that ranks worst in the conference and second-worst in the league. Even with Josh Gorges‘ 14 shorthanded blocks, Buffalo has neutralized only 76.6% of their penalties. They don’t commit many infractions, so the play on the ice in those two minutes will need to improve for the Sabres to be considered a real threat to qualify for the playoffs.

These two have already once this season, a little under a month ago. Boston easily handled the Sabres at the TD Garden, winning 4-0.

Some players to keep an eye on this afternoon include Boston‘s Pastrnak (13 goals [tied for third-most in the league] for a +13 [fourth-best in the NHL]) and Rask (1.64 GAA [best in the league] for three shutouts [tied for second-most in the NHL] in 12 wins [tied for third-most in the league] on a .938 save percentage [fourth-best in the NHL]) & Buffalo‘s Anders Nilsson (.934 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Vegas has marked Buffalo as a +126 underdog in today’s game, but I don’t know if it’s even that extreme. While each club has a good and bad special team, they line up against each other well in this matchup such that a poor power play is going against a poor penalty kill, and vice versa.

I actually like Buffalo to pull off the home upset, but one thing I do know is this game will not be a four-goal shutout like their last meeting.

Hockey Birthday

  • Igor Larionov (1960-) – This center might have been drafted by Vancouver in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, but he spent far more of his 14 seasons in Detroit, where he won the Stanley Cup three times.
  • Mike Ramsey (1960-) – The 11th-overall pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft belonged to Buffalo, and they drafted this defenseman. He played 911 games over 14 seasons with the Sabres.
  • Jiri Bicek (1978-) – Selected by New Jersey in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing. Although he played in only four seasons with the Devils‘ senior squad, he did appear in five Stanley Cup playoff games to help Jersey to the 2003 title.

Although the Wild was able to score a game-tying goal in the third period, they weren’t able to win the shootout as Calgary won 3-2.

Minnesota actually took credit for the first goal of the game. Only 3:50 after starting play, Chris Stewart (Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter) deflected a shot to put the Wild on the board first. The Flames leveled the score with 7:34 remaining in the frame when Kris Versteeg (Jyrki Jokipakka and Sean Monahan) buried a backhanded shot. Only 1:07 later, First Star of the Game Mikael Backlund (Third Star Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano) scored on a power play backhander to give Calgary the lead going into the first intermission.

The last goal of regulation belonged to Second Star Mikko Koivu (Jason Zucker and Spurgeon), a slap shot 7:40 into the final frame that eventually forced a scoreless three-on-three overtime.

The Wild took the first shootout attempt…

  1. Nino Niederreiter went first for Minnesota, but all he found was Chad Johnson‘s pads.
  2. Versteeg scored a game in regulation, and the success continued in the shootout, putting the Flames up 1-0.
  3. Jason Pominville held serve for the Wild, but Calgary still had a shot in hand…
  4. …that Monahan buried to return the lead to the Flames.
  5. Charlie Coyle ended up being the last shootout participant, as his attempt was stopped by Johnson to secure the victory.

Johnson saved 23-of-25 (92%) shots faced to earn the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 29-of-31 (93.5%).

Calgary‘s victory continues the winning way of the home squads, improving the hosts’ record to 29-18-7 in the DtFR Game of the Day series, leading the roadies by five points.

November 24 – Day 43 – I’m thankful for hockey

On behalf of Down the Frozen River, allow me to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. Unless you’re Canadian, because I’m 43 days late.

Oops.

All I’ve heard this week is about how Thanksgiving is about food, family and football. While these things may be true, you and I both know they’re missing one vital thing: hockey. Luckily for us, the NHL has us covered with two games tonight – Carolina at Montréal (NHLN/RDS/SN360) and Boston at Ottawa (RDS2). Both drop the puck at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.

One game is between two quality Atlantic Division rivals. The other features the team fifth from the bottom in the Eastern Conference standings. You tell me which one we’re watching.

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Welcome to the Canadian Tire Centre the 11-8-0 Boston Bruins, a team that has been led by their defense and goaltending so far this season, which is surprising giving last season’s effort.

At 228 goals, the Bruins allowed the 12th-most goals against in the league last year. This season, they allow only 2.32 per game – the fifth-best rate in the NHL. That success starts with 11-3-0 Tuukka Rask, who has a 1.57 GAA on a .942 save percentage, the third and sixth-best effort, respectively, among the 44 netminders with seven or more appearances.

Part of the reason Rask has found such success is the blueline playing in front of him. He has faced only 27.3 shots per game this year, the fourth fewest in the league. In comparison, the Bruins allowed 30.4 a season ago. That three-shot improvement has been headlined by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 41 blocks, trailed closely by rookie Brandon Carlo‘s 38. A defensive specialist, the youngster has been a fantastic call-up effectively straight from the juniors (he played only six games at the end of the year in Providence).

As could be expected, the Bruins‘ defensive success has carried to the penalty kill, where they tie for seventh-best in the league with a 85.7% success rate.

Where Boston falters is on the power play. Led by David Krejci‘s five power play points (even though David Pastrnak has three goals on the man-advantage), the Bruins rank ninth-worst in the NHL with the man-advantage, as they’re successful on only 14.8% of their attempts.

The 11-7-0 Senators are the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, and just like Boston, I’ve been most impressed with their defense and goaltending, as they’ve only allowed 49 goals against, which ties for 11th-fewest in the NHL.

9-4-0 Craig Anderson has been the man between the pipes most often for the Sens, earning a .928 save percentage for a 2.32 save percentage – the 11th and 17th-best effort among those 44 goaltenders mentioned earlier with seven or more appearances.

In comparison to Rask, it doesn’t seem like he’s anywhere near as successful. But that’s too easy an answer. Anderson faces 31.6 shots-per-game, the sixth-highest rate in the NHL, and second-highest among clubs that would qualify for the playoffs if they started today. To put it plainly, this blueline simply is not cutting it. The top-three defensemen (Cody Ceci [42], Captain Erik Karlsson [53] and Dion Phaneuf [41]) may have over 40 blocks to their credit, but the rest of the team has yet to break the 24-block mark. Their efforts need to improve soon, or else General Manager Pierre Dorion may be forced to make a move if he wants his team to qualify for the postseason.

One facet of the game where Ottawa certainly has the advantage is on their penalty kill. Pairing with Boston‘s poor power play, Ottawa has the fourth-best penalty kill, nullifying 86.4% of their infractions. Of course, Jean-Gabriel Pageau remains a scoring threat on the penalty kill, as he had nine short-handed points last season to lead the league.

Boston regains the advantage when the Senators earn the power play. Led by Mike Hoffman‘s two power play goals, Ottawa has found the back of the net on only 10.5% of their extra-man attacks – the second-worst rate in the league.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Chara (+12 [tied for fourth-best in the NHL]), Pastrnak (10 goals [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Rask (11 wins [tied for most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league], on a 1.57 GAA [third-best in the NHL] and a .942 save percentage [seventh-best in the league]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (two shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] among nine wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

This should be a fantastic game, and not just because the other game probably won’t be as good. Vegas doesn’t have a line marked for this one, but I’m favoring the Bruins to pull off the road upset.

Hockey Birthday

  • Keith Primeau (1971-) – This center was the third-overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Detroit. In 2000, his first season in Philadelphia, he ended the longest overtime playoff game in NHL history by burying a game at the 92:01 mark. Yes, you read that right: that’s over a game-and-a-half of play.
  • Christian Laflamme (1976-) – A defenseman, he was drafted 45th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, where he spent most of his eight seasons.

I expected New York to put the whipping on the Penguins at Madison Square Garden, but the opposite happened, with Pittsburgh winning 6-1.

The lone goal of the first period was the only shot that got past Matthew Murray. 4:22 into the game, Rick Nash (Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello) scored a power play wrister to give the Blueshirts an early lead.

The Penguins began their five-goal second period onslaught only 2:02 after returning to the ice with a wrist shot from Scott Wilson (Second Star of the Game Phil Kessel and Third Star Nick Bonino). 2:56 later, First Star Sidney Crosby (Ian Cole) gave Pittsburgh a lead they would not yield.

Kessel (Bonino), Crosby (Kris Letang) and Conor Sheary (Crosby and Carl Hagelin) all added insurance goals in the second, and Matt Cullen (Justin Schultz and Eric Fehr) notched another in the third.

Murray earns the victory after saving 16-of-17 shots faced (94.1%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the loss, saving 13-of-17 (76.5%). He was replaced following Crosby’s second goal after 32:57 of play by Antti Raanta, who saved 19-of-21 (90.5%) for no decision.

Pittsburgh‘s victory is the fourth-straight for the visiting teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. It pulls the roadies within seven points of the homers, who have a 24-14-7 record.