After taking a forced hiatus because SoundCloud is falling from the sky and we moved our podcast to Libsyn, Nick and Connor discuss what was going on in the hockey world around July 21st. At the time of this recording, Jaromir Jagr was still unsigned, arbitration was going on, the Carolina Hurricanes found a potential buyer and Colton Parayko signed a 5-year extension with the St. Louis Blues.
Thursday is one of my favorite nights for hockey. Not only is there usually tons of games on, but there’s only one more day of work and, hey, Thirsty Thursday isn’t just an expression!
In all seriousness though, there’s some high-quality games being played tonight, even if there’s only six on the schedule. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with three contests (the New York Islanders at Montréal [RDS], the New York Rangers at Toronto [TVAS] and Calgary at Tampa Bay), followed half an hour later by Colorado at Nashville (SN360). Arizona at Chicago (NBCSN) drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., followed two hours later by tonight’s nightcap: Boston at Los Angeles (SN).
It’s been a week since we’ve featured the Rangers, and even longer for the Maple Leafs. Let’s get both off that list by featuring the biggest city in the United States against the biggest in Canada. Off to the Air Canada Centre!
The Rangers make their trip to The Queen City with a 38-19-2 record, the fourth-best mark in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. The reason for that success? An impressive offense that has managed 196 goals, the third-most in the NHL.
Even though he’s only in his third full season with the senior club, J.T. Miller has been at the head of that attack with his team-leading 46 points, already accounting for three more scores than his previous career-high. He’s certainly proven that Glen Sather was right to draft him 15th-overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Part of the reason Miller has been so deadly is due to linemate Michael Grabner, who takes credit for a team-high 26 goals. Just like Miller has already done Grabner is on pace to exceed his current 34-goal career-high by three goals.
Hosting the Blueshirts tonight are the always exciting Maple Leafs, whose 28-20-11 record has earned them third place in the Atlantic Division. As you’d expect from a team that has won their past two games and drafted a center with the first pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, offense is the name of the game in Toronto, as they’ve managed 185 goals already this season, which ties for fifth-most in the NHL.
That rookie, of course, is Arizonan Auston Matthews, and he’s already made an immeasurable impact on a franchise that hasn’t tasted the playoffs since 2013. Not only is he a shining light at the end of the tunnel for brighter futures, he’s providing an early sampler by having the Leafs competitive ahead of schedule thanks to his team-leading 52 points (the second-most among rookies).
Matthews has been especially deadly when he calls his own number. As he grows his supporting cast, the center will learn to distribute the puck just as much as he shoots, but it’s certainly been a pleasure to witness him bury a team-leading 28 goals this season, a total that ties for fourth-most in the league regardless of NHL-tenure.
You’re hard-pressed to find a better club on the power play than Toronto, because there isn’t one. Successful on 23.5% of attempts, the Maple Leafs are best in the league. Since Matthews has been busy with operating the even-strength action, fellow rookie William Nylander has taken up the role of “power play specialist,” as his 19 points with the man-advantage is tops in Toronto. Yet it’s been Nazem Kadri who has been the most dangerous with the extra man, as he has a team-leading 10 power play goals on his resume.
New York shouldn’t expect to catch the Leafs napping when they commit a penalty either, as Toronto is home to the (t)eighth-best penalty kill in the NHL. Led by Roman Polak‘s solid 28 shorthanded blocks, the Maple Leafs don’t yield a goal in 83.3% of penalty kill situations.
Tonight marks the final of three meeting between these clubs this season, and it’s a true rubber match as both sides have a 1-1-0 record against the other. In an interesting turn of events, both teams have won on their opponent’s ice. The Leafs beat New York 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on January 13, followed six days later by the Rangers besting Toronto 5-2 on tonight’s surface.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Grabner (+28 [eighth-best in the league] with 26 goals [10th-most in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (27 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.32 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (24 wins [10th-most in the league]) and Matthews (28 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]).
It’s not much of line, but Vegas favors Toronto to win tonight’s game with a -110 line. Although both teams have exceptional offenses, I’m leaning towards the Leafs winning tonight’s contest. Not only do they have home ice, but both of Toronto‘s special teams have been exceptional this season, and that should give them the edge.
- Jeff O’Neill (1976-) – Drafted fifth-overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing was selected by Hartford and spent most of his playing days with the organization – even if a majority of that time was in Carolina! He was named an All-Star one time in his 11-year career.
- Dan Snyder (1978-2003) – Due to a single car accident cutting his life short, this center played only 49 games in the NHL (all with Atlanta), but his memory lives on in various forms, including the organization (now in Winnipeg) and the Chicago Wolves naming awards in his memory and the creation of a scholarship for natives of his hometown Elmira, Ontario, among others.
If only Philadelphia hadn’t committed goaltender interference as its disallowed goal slipped by Braden Holtby 23 seconds into the game, maybe this DtFR Game of the Day would have ended differently for them. Instead, the Capitals swiped a cool 4-1 victory.
The first goal of the game that stayed on the scoreboard belonged to Nicklas Backstrom (Second Star of the Game T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin), who scored his snap shot 6:33 after the initial puck drop. First Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (John Carlson and Justin Williams) followed that up with 3:32 remaining in the frame by scoring a power play snapper to set the score at 2-0. That final goal of the period proved to be the winning tally.
6:54 into the second period, Third Star Brayden Schenn (Brandon Manning) tried to spark life into the Flyers with a deflection that found the back of the net, but Kuznetsov (Williams and Taylor Chorney) once again set the scoring advantage for Washington at two goals by burying a deflection of his own with 2:01 remaining in the frame.
Oshie (Ovechkin and Backstrom) provided a final insurance tally with 5:17 remaining in the game to ensure a Caps win.
Holtby earned the victory after saving 33-of-34 shots faced (97.1%), leaving the loss to Michal Neuvirth, who saved 25-of-29 (86.2%).
If a team is going to be featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, they want to be wearing white, as the 65-43-21 road teams have won their past five contests and now have a five-point lead over the hosts.
A total of 10 games are on tap today, more than enough for us hockey addicts. The action starts at 2 p.m. with two matinees (Philadelphia at Dallas and Arizona at Minnesota), but the excitement really starts at 7 p.m. when five contests drop the puck (Pittsburgh at Toronto [CBC], New Jersey at Ottawa [SN360], Anaheim at Detroit, Montréal at Washington [CITY/NHLN/TVAS] and Buffalo at Carolina). Another pair get underway at 8 p.m. (Chicago at St. Louis and the New York Rangers at Nashville), with tonight’s nightcap – Tampa Bay at Edmonton (CBC/SN360) – getting green lit two hours later.
- Anaheim at Detroit: These days, Detroit fans probably need the reminder of the glory days, and this old rivalry might do the trick.
- Chicago at St. Louis: In case it was ever in question, these towns don’t like each other.
- New York at Nashville: Ah, the drama.
I know there’s some good rivalries on , but since this is the only trip the Blueshirts will take to the Music City, we’ll follow the Jimmy Vesey saga to its conclusion.
Vesey is just like you and me. He graduated from college (Harvard, so I guess he’s not exactly like you and me…) and was eager to look for a job. But, he had already been drafted by the Predators in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Sounds like a great situation, right? Immediate employment out of school! It’s everyone’s dream!
It was actually better than that. David Poile, the Predators‘ general manager, did not want to send Vesey to Milwaukee to play in the AHL. His plan was to have Vesey participating with the Predators as soon as possible for their playoff run.
Turns out, Vesey wasn’t too interested in being told where to go. The Crimson graduate showed his smarts – like you do with an Ivy League education – and played the NHL’s CBA like a fiddle. Drafted in 2012 and not singing a contract by 2016, Vesey had the right to decline the contract and become a free agent.
As you might expect, that rubbed the Predators organization the wrong way, but they realized they had to get something out of the situation. Poile shipped Vesey off to Buffalo, where he again declined the Sabres‘ offers. As made evident by his eighth-most points by a forward in Madison Square Garden, the rookie has laid down roots with the Rangers.
Those Blueshirts have an impressive 21-10-1 record that is good enough for second in both the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. Besides signing Vesey, New York added tons of offensive talent this offseason, and that has yielded 108 goals, the second-highest scoring average in the NHL.
It seems the points leader in Manhattan changes game by game. Going into tonight’s contest in Nashville, Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller co-lead the offense, each with 22 points to their credit. Of course, the most dangerous Ranger as far as a netminder is concerned is Michael Grabner, who has lit the lamp a team-leading 13 times.
As one might expect, that success has carried into the power play, where the Rangers‘ 21.9% success rate is tied for seventh-best in the league. An incredible six players top the Blueshirts with six power play points apiece, but once again a goalies’ biggest concern is the final goalscorer. Rick Nash, Brandon Pirri and Vesey all have four man-advantage goals to their credit to account for 57% of New York‘s extra-man tallies.
If the Predators were planning on taking advantage of New York‘s penalty kill they have another think coming. The Blueshirts refuse to yield a goal on 86.9% of opposing power plays, the third-best rate in the NHL. Kevin Klein gets this accolade, as his 13 shorthanded blocks are tops in Manhattan.
The Vesey-less Predators have had more bad than good happen to them this season (Vesey no doubt being one of the first line items), as their 13-12-4 record is good enough for only fifth place in the Central Division. On the ice, their biggest issue has been their goaltending that has allowed 84 goals already this year – at only 29 games played, that’s the 10th-highest rate in the league.
12-8-4 Pekka Rinne has started between the pipes for Nashville in all but five games, and has notched a .916 save percentage and 2.5 GAA in that time – the (t)18th and (t)20th best efforts, respectively, in the NHL among the 42 goaltenders with a dozen or more appearances.
The Preds are a defensive-minded team, made apparent by their 29.9 shots-against average that ranks 13th-lowest in the team. Mattias Ekholm takes most of the credit for that, as his 54 shot blocks are the most on the squad. That being said, a total of four skaters (Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban) have 40 or more blocks, so it has certainly been a team effort.
That defensive presence breaks down on the penalty kill though. Nashville ranks 10th-worst in the league at nullifying their penalties, successful only 80% of the time. This has been where Josi has shined, with a team-leading 13 shorthanded blocks to his name.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Nashville‘s Matt Irwin (+9 [leads the team]), Ryan Johansen (21 points [leads the team]) and James Neal (12 goals [leads the team]) & New York‘s Hayes (+15 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]), Grabner (+18 [tied for second-best in the league]) and, should he play, Antti Raanta (1.67 GAA on a .941 save percentage [both second-best in the league]).
Since Nashville‘s defense and goaltending will not be good enough to handle the Rangers‘ offense, this boils down to the Predators‘ breaking though New York‘s tough defense and keeping up on the scoreboard. I don’t think it will happen, and Vesey will be able to laugh himself to back to Manhattan with another two points for his club.
- Ken Hitchcock (1951-) – Hitch got his first head coaching job in the NHL in 1996, and he’s been involved in almost every season since. This season marks his sixth and final with the St. Louis Blues, who he got to the Western Finals a season ago. The highlight of his career came in 1999, when his Dallas Stars hoisted the Stanley Cup.
- Frantisek Musil (1964-) – More commonly known by Frank, this defenseman was the 38th-overall pick in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars. That being said, he played 335 of his 797 games in Calgary and notched a +93 over his 14-season career.
- Craig Berube (1965-) – After going undrafted, this left wing had a physical 17-season career, spending most of his days in Washington. By the time he hung up his skates, he notched 159 points to go with his 3149 penalty minutes. Currently, he spends his days in Chicago as the head coach of the AHL’s Wolves.
- Vincent Damphousse (1967-) – Although drafted sixth-overall in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, this center played most of his 18-season careeer with the rival Canadiens. He hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1993, his first campaign playing in hometown Montréal.
- Samuel Pahlsson (1977-) – Drafted by Colorado in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft, this center played eight of his 11 seasons in Anaheim, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2007. He finished his career with 199 points.
- Matt Murley (1979-) – Some draft picks don’t pan out. Murley is one of those. Although a second-round pick by Pittsburgh in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, he only played 62 total games in the league.
- Erik Christensen (1983-) – Another center, Christensen played seven NHL seasons after being drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2002 Entry Draft. By the time his NHL career was through, he’d notched 163 points after playing with five different clubs.
The 4-2 score is misleading, as the Sharks had control of yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day from the get-go, scoring three goals in the first period in Montréal.
Aided by a Paul Byron hooking penalty, the Sharks got on the board only 6:50 into the contest when Second Star of the Game David Schlemko (Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi) buried a power play wrist shot to give the Sharks an early lead with his first goal of the season. That lead doubled 3:10 later when Patrick Marleau (First Star Joe Thornton and Third Star Brent Burns) score another power play wrister. Finally San Jose scored in a five-on-five situation, as Timo Meier (Schlemko and Donskoi) scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game with 6:42 remaining in the first period, made only better by the fact that it was the eventual game-winner. The Sharks‘ 3-0 lead lasted them into intermission.
Montréal tried their hardest in the third period to stage a comeback. In the span of 3:20, Brian Flynn (Tomas Plekanec and Zach Redmond) and Jeff Petry (Michael McCarron and Daniel Carr) both lit the lamp once each to pull the Habs within two scores, but they were unable to do anymore damage.
Martin Jones earns another victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (92.9%), while Carey Price takes the loss, saving 14-of-18 (77.8%). He was replaced following Karlsson’s goal by Al Montoya, who saved all five shots he faced.
Just like the home sides did last week, the road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are on quite a little streak. They’ve won their last five contests to pull themselves within seven points of the hosts, who still have a 36-22-10 record.
By: Nick Lanciani
The St. Louis Blues began their Saturday by acquiring Edmonton Oilers goaltender, Anders Nilsson, in exchange for goaltender Niklas Lundstrom and a fifth round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Nilsson is a 25-year-old who has played in 26 games this season for the Oilers. His 10-12-2 record, along with a 3.14 GAA and .901 SV% provide a little depth for the Blues in net given their recent injury prone run in goal. Nilsson will be assigned to St. Louis’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
The 6’5″, 229-pound goalie is a native of Lulea, Sweden and was drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round (62nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He has played in 49 career NHL games for the Islanders and Oilers, amassing a 19-21-4 record and a 3.10 career GAA, as well as a .900 career SV% and one shutout.
Lundstrom is a 23-year-old goalie who was drafted by St. Louis in the fifth round (132nd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He split this season between the ECHL’s Elmira Jackals and the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Lundstrom is a native of Varmdo, Sweden and is 6’1″, 194 pounds.
He has an 8-3-0 record in 13 games with Elmira and a 1-1-0 record in four games with the Wolves this season.
Late on Friday night/early Saturday morning (if you’re on the East coast), TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that it was believed that the St. Louis Blues had acquired 25-year-old goaltender, Anders Nilsson, from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a mid-round draft pick.
The Blues, of course, just regained the health of their goalie, Jake Allen, but lost Brian Elliott due to injury in the span of about 24 hours apart from one another. St. Louis was just one of a few teams looking to add a goalie down the stretch (with San Jose having added James Reimer on Saturday and Buffalo in search of another net minder and/or trading partner for Chad Johnson).
Neither the Edmonton Oilers, nor the Blues, had officially announced a trade involving Nilsson following Friday night’s action.
Shortly before 3 AM on the East Coast, Anaheim tweeted some sort of cryptic message shown below just to cause anguish for those of us still up at the crazy hour of almost three in the morning (aside from the fact that the Ducks beat the Oilers 2-1 in overtime, of course).
This post has been updated to reflect the official announcement of the trade.
Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the St. Louis Blues. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.
St. Louis Blues (52-23-7, second in division, third in conference)
After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time exiting the playoffs in the first or second round since 2008-‘09), the Blues look to do more than reclaim the division title taken from them by Colorado last season. Although GM Doug Armstrong resigned Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Associate Coach Brad Shaw, & Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, he pulled the plug on Assistant Coach Gary Shaw & Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch. In their place, he hired Kirk Muller (ex-head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, amassing a record of 80-80-27) as Assistant Coach & Jim Corsi as Goaltending Coach.
One of the major turnovers from last year for the Blues is between the pipes. Last season’s leading goalie in games played & wins was Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to Buffalo with Chris Stewart, William Carrier, & two draft picks for Steve Ott & goalie Ryan Miller. Miller was acquired on the last season of his contract & has since signed with Vancouver, leaving the Blues with only Brian Elliot within their system with playing time last season. The Blues have called up Jake Allen from Chicago to be a second goalie for the Blues. Based on last season’s stats, I believe that this preseason could be a major factor in the decision for who is defending the crease against the Rangers on October 9.
Brian Elliot has the experience, playing 31 games last season (double Jake Allen’s career NHL appearances). He amassed a record of 18-6-2 last season. Of those 18 wins, four were shutouts (over 22% of wins were as a result of a shutout). He blocked 92.2% of all shots last season, allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game, .07 better than Allen’s 2013-’14 campaign.
On the other hand, Jake Allen played in 52 regular season games last season for the Chicago Wolves for a 33-16-3 record. Of those 33 wins, seven were shutouts (over 21% of wins were shutouts). He blocked 92.8% of all the shots he faced last season, .6% better than Elliot, allowing 2.03 goals per game. A main thing Allen has over Elliot is recent playoff experience. Although it was not for the Stanley Cup, Allen played nine games for Chicago, amassing a 3-6 record & allowing 3.29 goals against per game. His save percentage also dipped in the Wolves’ quest for the Calder to 87.9%, dropping almost 5%.
The Blues come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Vladimir Sobotka (signed with Avangard), Brenden Morrow (signed with Tampa Bay), & Derek Roy (signed with Nashville).
They lost two of the top 10 players with most regular season games with the Blues last season in Derek Roy & Roman Polak (traded to Toronto) both playing over 70 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost five of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Blues last season in Vladimir Sobotka & Roman Polak (both played in all six playoff games), Adam Cracknell (five, signed with Los Angeles), Derek Roy (four), & Brenden Morrow (two). The Blues are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Chris Butler (Calgary) & Carl Gunnarsson (traded from Toronto), who both played 80+ games last season.
The Notes are not bringing back three of their top 14 shot takers this year as Derek Roy (114), Vladimir Sobotka (102), & Roman Polak (83) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 12% of the Blues’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, five of last playoff’s shot-takers are not returning, as Vladimir Sobotka (13), Derek Roy (nine), Adam Cracknell (six), Roman Polak (five), & Brenden Morrow (one) are not returning. These shooters accounted for almost 16% of the shots taken in the postseason.
Over 5% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Brenden Morrow (13) is with the Bolts. The Blues have added Paul Stastny (25, signed from Colorado) & Joakim Lindstrom (23, signed from Skellefteå) to almost quadruple his goal production.
Two of the leading 11 assisters will not be with the Blues this season as Derek Roy (28), & Vladimir Sobotka (24) are not returning. The Blues have profited by signing Joakim Lindstrom (40), Paul Stastny (35), & Jori Lehtera (32, signed from Sibir Novosibirsk). These new additions double the totals of Roy & Sobotka, hopefully providing even more opportunities for Alexander Steen (33 goals), David Backes (27 goals), Paul Stastny (25 goals), & Jaden Schwartz (25 goals).
Vladimir Sobotka (14), one of the top nine +/- guys in the 2013-’14 regular season, will not return for this one. Included in that, the Blues also lost three of the top seven +/- players during the playoffs. Without Vladimir Sobotka (two), Brenden Morrow (zero), & Adam Cracknell (zero), the Blues would have scored a lowly -27. To try to improve upon these numbers, St. Louis has signed Carl Gunnarsson (12), & Paul Stastny (nine). The two additions provide decent improvements that will hopefully continue their success in St. Louis.
The Blues lost one of the top six penalty minute earners in Brenden Morrow (76). Sadly, the Blues picked up Joakim Lindstrom, who had minutes (72) almost equal to Morrow’s, so no major improvements have been made in that regard. New hires Paul Stastny & Jori Lehtera only served 22 minutes in the sin bin last season each, which averaged out to a little less than 19 seconds per game for Stastny & 27.5 seconds per game for Lehtera.
Present roster consists of 32 forwards, 16 defensemen, & four goalies (52 men).