Tag Archives: Chris Kreider

Bergeron’s hat trick, Marchand and Pastrnak’s five-point games, lead Bruins over Rangers, 7-4

Patrice Bergeron (3-0–3 totals) scored a hat trick and his linemates, Brad Marchand (2-3–5) and David Pastrnak (0-5–5) each had five-point nights as the Boston Bruins beat the New York Rangers, 7-4, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (3-1-1 record, 2.59 goals against average, .919 save percentage in five games played) made 25 saves on 29 shots against (.862 SV%) in the win for the B’s.

Henrik Lundqvist (2-3-0, 3.58 GAA, .906 SV% in six games played) stopped 27 out of 31 shots faced (.871 SV%) in 40 minutes played prior to being replaced before the third period by Alexandar Georgiev (1-2-1, 2.70 GAA, .923 SV% in four games played) for the final frame.

Georgiev turned aside nine out of the 11 shots he faced for an .818 SV% in the loss.

Boston improved to 8-1-2 (18 points) on the season and remained in command of 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, meanwhile, New York remained stagnant in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division with a 3-5-1 record (seven points).

For the 11th time this season, Kevan Miller (knee) and John Moore (shoulder) were out of commission due to injuries. Miller should return to full practice later this week, however, while Moore is still on track for a return in mid-November.

David Krejci (upper body) missed his 4th consecutive game, but is hopeful to return Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.

Karson Kuhlman (fractured right tibia) is still out and was placed on the injured reserve as he’ll be sidelined for at least four weeks.

Meanwhile, Joakim Nordstrom (infection) and Chris Wagner (foot) were new additions to Boston’s injury list Sunday night as both players took part in Saturday night’s, 3-0, shutout win over the St. Louis Blues, but were not well enough to go in New York on Sunday.

Nordstrom’s been battling some lingering issues, while Wagner blocked a shot against the Blues and went down the tunnel briefly before returning moments later on Saturday.

As a result of the mountain of injuries for the Bruins, Peter Cehlarik was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on emergency basis and made his 2019-20 season debut for Boston against the Rangers.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted Cehlarik on the fourth line left wing and reintroduced David Backes on the right wing of the fourth line, leaving Steven Kampfer as the only healthy scratch for Boston.

Jesper Fast (personal reasons) was a healthy scratch for New York on Sunday.

Nearly 30 seconds into the game, Rangers defender, Brady Skjei tripped up Bruins alternate captain, Patrice Bergeron, and was sent to the penalty box for a minor infraction.

Boston went to the power play 35 seconds into the first period, but couldn’t muster much of anything on the skater advantage and instead took a penalty of their own shortly after New York killed off Skjei’s minor.

Cehlarik was called for hooking Libor Hajek at 2:55 of the first period and the Rangers went on their first power play of the night.

It didn’t work.

Midway through the opening frame, however, Brendan Smith let go of a shot from just past the blue line that deflected off of Torey Krug in front of his own goaltender.

Micheal Haley (1) pounced on the rebound to give the Rangers the, 1-0, lead with his first goal of the season at 10:19.

Smith (3) and Lias Andersson (1) notched the assists as New York was the first to get on the scoreboard and carried their one-goal lead into the first intermission– even after botching another power play at 12:17, after Marchand cut a rut to the sin bin for high sticking Rangers blue liner, Jacob Trouba.

After one period, New York led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite being outshot, 10-7, by Boston.

Both teams were pretty even in the statistical categories unrelated to shots on net and goals as the Blue Shirts led in blocked shots (9-6), giveaways (12-4) and hits (12-6) and the B’s led in takeaways (1-0) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

The Rangers were 0/2 on the skater advantage and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to tie things up in the middle frame as Bergeron (3) scored his first goal of the night 11 seconds into the second period.

Pastrnak crashed the net and was tripped by a New York defender into Lundqvist– knocking the Rangers netminder to the ice and allowing for Bergeron to swoop in and bury the rebound.

Officials reviewed the play and determined that the call on the ice stood– it was indeed a good goal, as the play was deemed a “continuous motion” cause by New York’s own volition.

Pastrnak (8) and Marchand (11) tabbed the assists and the game was tied, 1-1.

Less than a minute later– 57 seconds, to be exact– Marchand (6) received a pass from Pastrnak, held onto the puck as he entered the low slot, deked Lundqvist off his rocker and scored to make it, 2-1, Boston at 1:08 of the second period.

Pastrnak (9) picked up his second assist of the night on the goal and Brandon Carlo (2) recorded the secondary assist– his first of two in the game on Sunday night.

About 30 seconds later, Kaapo Kakko caught Charlie McAvoy with a high stick and was sent to the box at 1:36.

Boston didn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Midway through the period, Charlie Coyle (1) scored his first goal of the season after receiving a tape-to-tape pass from McAvoy after the Bruins defender wrapped around the net.

McAvoy (3) and Zdeno Chara (1) tallied the assists on Coyle’s goal and the B’s led, 3-1, at 9:27 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, feeling as though he had been wronged on the non-call against Pastrnak (even though it was his own defender’s doing that caused No. 88 in black-and-gold to crash into the New York goaltender), Lundqvist lunged at Pastrnak while the Bruin was attempting to make a play of the puck in the trapezoid.

Marchand and Lundqvist got into a shoving match immediately thereafter and each were disciplined with roughing minors at 10:01.

Pavel Buchnevich served Lundqvist’s penalty in the box for the Rangers as both teams skated 4-on-4 for two minutes before resuming full strength action.

After serving his time in the box, Marchand (7) sniped a shot past Lundqvist to give the Bruins four unanswered goals in the second period.

Whereas on the previous goal, Coyle received a pass on a wraparound from McAvoy, this time around Coyle received a drop pass from Jake DeBrusk, wrapped around the Rangers net and sent a pass to Marchand for the goal.

Coyle (3) and DeBrusk (3) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the night at 12:09.

After allowing a fourth goal against, Rangers head coach, David Quinn, used his team’s only timeout to refocus his team.

Seconds later, Chara tripped Brendan Lemieux and was sent to the box at 12:36, but New York couldn’t convert on the resulting skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes in “The Big Apple”, the Bruins led the Rangers, 4-1, on the scoreboard and outshot New York, 31-12, entering the second intermission– including a, 21-5, advantage in the middle frame alone for Boston.

The Rangers, however, had taken advantage of nearly everything else, leading in blocked shots (14-7), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (19-8) and hits (18-10), while the Bruins led in faceoff win% (55-46).

New York was 0/3 and the B’s were 0/2 on the skater advantage to begin the final frame of regulation.

Quinn replaced Lundqvist with Georgiev prior to the start of the third period and the young Rangers goaltender was immediately put to the test less than a minute after coming into the game.

Chara (2) blasted a one-timer rocket from the point over Georgiev’s glove and the Bruins extended their lead to four-goals.

Pastrnak (10) and Carlo (3) had the assists on Chara’s goal 43 seconds into the third period and the Bruins led, 5-1.

Moments later, Pastrnak tripped up Buchnevich and presented the Rangers with yet another power play opportunity at 4:18 of the third period.

New York didn’t score and Boston successfully made the kill.

The B’s announced that forward, Par Lindholm, suffered an upper body injury at some point in the action and would not return for the night– this, after New York did the same with Mika Zibanejad back in the first period after Zibanejad got laid out on the ice along the boards on a clean hit from Bergeron.

Almost midway through the third, Buchnevich (2) cut Boston’s lead to three-goals as Artemi Panarin sent a saucer pass across the ice to Tony DeAngelo, whereby DeAngelo spotted Buchnevich in the low slot acting as a bumper for the goal.

DeAngelo (3) and Panarin (3) had the assists and the Rangers trailed, 5-2, at 8:15 of the third period.

Moments later, Bergeron (4) sent a shot from the high slot into the corner of the twine behind Georgiev for his second goal of the game and re-extended Boston’s lead back to four at 11:39.

Marchand (12) and Pastrnak (11) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the B’s led, 6-2.

Late in the third, Chara received a delay of game penalty for closing his hand on the puck at 17:52.

Nine seconds later, New York scored on the power play as Chris Kreider (2) snuck around Halak to pocket a rebound off the post and just across the goal line to make it, 6-3.

DeAngelo (4) and Buchnevich (6) were credited with the assists on Kreider’s goal at 18:01.

Just 21 seconds later, Skjei (1) notched his first of the season while following up on another rebound as the Bruins completely broke down in their own zone.

Panarin (4) and Ryan Strome (5) gathered the assists on Skjei’s goal and the Rangers trailed by two, 6-4, in favor of Boston at 18:22.

But with about 90 seconds left on the clock, Quinn pulled Georgiev for an extra attacker, leaving Bergeron (5) with the hat trick goal on an empty net at 19:15 to seal the deal on the win for the B’s, 7-4.

Marchand (13) and Pastrnak (12) each collected their 5th point of the night on Bergeron’s 5th career hat trick.

The Bruins finished the night with the win and with the advantage in shots on goal, 43-29, while the Rangers bounced back to a, 17-12, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

New York wrapped up Sunday night’s action leading in blocked shots (16-12), giveaways (25-13), hits (21-15).

The Rangers went 1/5 on the skater advantage in the game.

Boston finished the night with the advantage in faceoff win% (52-49) and 0/2 on the power play.

Bergeron’s hat trick marked Boston’s second hat trick this season as Pastrnak previously scored a hat trick (and a fourth goal for good measure) in the Bruins’, 4-2, victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 14th.

With five assists on the night– despite not scoring a goal– Pastrnak now has 11-12–23 totals through 11 games played this season.

Boston finishes the month of October at home Tuesday night versus the San Jose Sharks. They begin the month of November at home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday (Nov. 2nd).

The Bruins went 8-3-2 in back-to-back days with games last season and improved to 4-1-1 on the road this season.

Sunday night’s matchup was the 2,000th regular season game at “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, Madison Square Garden.

DTFR Podcast #174- Coaching Conundrums

Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.

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New York Rangers 2019-20 Season Preview

New York Rangers

32-36-14, 78 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Phil Di Giuseppe, F Michael Haley (signed to a PTO), F Greg McKegg, F Danny O’Regan, F Artemi Panarin, D Adam Fox (acquired from CAR), D Jacob Trouba (acquired from WPG, then re-signed)

Subtractions: D Julius Bergman (SHL), D Chris Bigras (signed with PHI), D John Gilmour (signed with BUF), D Neal Pionk (traded to WPG), D Rob O’Gara (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Dustin Tokarski (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Connor Brickley, F Brendan Lemieux, D Fredrik Claesson, D Tony DeAngelo, G Brandon Halverson, G Chris Nell

Re-signed: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Vinni Lettieri

Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton thought he won the lottery when he landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and selected Kaapo Kakko, but he actually won the lottery twice this offseason.

Gorton signed the biggest prize in free agency to the biggest contract among unrestricted free agents and nabbed Artemi Panarin for the next seven years at $11.643 million per season.

Panarin and Kakko are lightly to be centered on the same first line by the legendary DJ, Mika Zibanejad.

Head coach, David Quinn, has no shortage of options when it comes to testing out the new faces in The Big Apple, as Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox were box acquired by the club in addition to Panarin’s signing.

Trouba’s restricted free agency rights were acquired from the Winnipeg Jets and shortly thereafter re-signed in exchange for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick that originally belonged to Winnipeg and was previously acquired by New York in the Kevin Hayes transaction at the trade deadline.

The 25-year-old defender brings his skillset in its prime to stabilize the blue line for a team that is retooling on the fly and looking to shortened the lifespan on its rebuild. Trouba now carries an $8.000 million cap hit through 2025-26 with a no-movement clause set to kick in after this season and a modified no-trade clause for the final two years of the deal.

Fox, the 21-year-old protege from Harvard University, was originally sent to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Calgary Flames in the Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin trade.

After declining to sign with the Canes, Carolina sent Fox to the Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick that may become a 2020 2nd round pick if he plays in 30 or more games this season.

What’s more, Gorton was still active in the trade market, making a minor move with the Buffalo Sabres, shipping Jimmy Vesey off to Buffalo for a 2021 3rd round pick.

Only Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo are still unsigned-RFAs with about $1.000 million in cap space available before New York makes any other transactions– with or without another team involved– to save a little more money.

The Rangers have eight contracts expiring at the end of this season, including backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s current deal which runs a $792,500 cap hit.

With 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist expected to retire in two-years time when his seven-year extension carrying an $8.500 million cap hit that he signed in December 2013 expires, Gorton may have to get creative to assure Georgiev of the starting role– and a starter’s salary– in the meantime for one more season of overlap with Lundqvist.

It’s not feasible for New York to keep Lundqvist past due as Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin could almost run the crease by themselves as things are today.

By season’s end, if the Rangers aren’t in a wild card spot, they will have at least significantly improved from their standing in 2018-19 and reduced their minus-45 goal differential from last season with a new-found defense.

At the very least, New York is improving and adapting to the game, while their counterpart on Long Island may be getting worse.

Offseason Grade: A

Things are tight with the salary cap for Gorton and Co., but the good news is Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are both pending-UFAs at the end of the season. If the Rangers keep one (Kreider) over the other or let both of them go– via a trade or free agency– some much needed cap room will open up for the younger players that are projected to be or currently part of New York’s core.

Also, signing the biggest name in free agency, while fleecing another team in need of cap relief from one of their top-two defenders for next to nothing generally gets a GM high marks for an offseason’s worth of moves. The rebuild is right on track and on schedule.

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

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DTFR Podcast #164- The Free Agency Mega-Hour

Nick, Cap’n and Pete recap the last two weeks of trades and first few days of free agency 2K19.

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DTFR Podcast #163- Cap’n Crunch

The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.

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Rangers at Bruins Preview: 3/27/2019

The Boston Bruins (46-21-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) return home after going 3-1-0 on a four-game road trip to host the New York Rangers (29-33-17, 71 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division) Wednesday night at TD Garden.

Boston is in the midst of an 11-game win streak on home ice, but is 0-1-1 against New York this season, having suffered a, 4-3, shootout loss at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 6th and a, 3-2, loss in Boston on Jan. 19th.

It is the final meeting between these two clubs this season.

The Bruins have already clinched a playoff berth– thanks to their win in Florida on Saturday– and the Rangers were officially eliminated from postseason contention earlier this month.

Marcus Johansson (lung contusion) and Torey Krug (concussion) will likely return to the lineup for the B’s, while Kevan Miller (upper body), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body), Sean Kuraly (fractured right hand) and John Moore (upper body) all remain out the action.

Miller and Grzelcyk will return to full contact at practice on Friday, according to Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, hours before the game on Wednesday, while Moore is week-to-week.

Johansson will likely suit up on the second line right wing with Jake DeBrusk in his usual spot at left wing and David Krejci at center, while Krug should return to his spot on the second defensive pairing with Brandon Carlo on the blue line.

As a result of Johansson’s return to the lineup, Karson Kuhlman will likely be the only healthy scratch for Boston on Wednesday night.

Cassidy indicated to reporters that Jaroslav Halak (20-10-4 record, 2.31 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 37 games played) will get the start in the crease against the Rangers.

Boston is 4-1-0 in their last five games, while New York visits the Hub with a 1-5-1 record in their last seven outings.

Former Boston University Terriers men’s hockey head coach– and current Rangers head coach– David Quinn, told reporters that Henrik Lundqvist (18-20-10, 2.99 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) will get the start for New York.

Quinn also informed the media members that Boo Nieves is out of the lineup in addition to Chris Kreider (day-to-day) and Marc Staal (day-to-day). Connor Brickley will play in Nieves’ place on the roster against the B’s.

Boston is coming off a, 5-4, loss on the road to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, while New York enters TD Garden after a, 5-2, loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Monday.

Rangers, Vigneault will bounce back

Shortly after their last game of the season on Saturday, the New York Rangers relieved Alain Vigneault of his head coaching duties. In his fifth year with the organization, the Rangers went 34-39-9 (77 points) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

It was Vigneault’s worst year in the Big Apple. It was a transition year for a team retooling on the fly– trading away Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller and others for centerpieces in Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov (among other assets).

Now it’s time for someone else to take the reins behind the bench of King Henrik’s team.

The clock is ticking in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist‘s quest for his first Stanley Cup. Vigneault was almost the man to do it having brought the Rangers all the way to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in his first season with New York.

That was the closest Lundqvist has ever been– just three wins away– but the Los Angeles Kings had other plans, given it only took them five games to beat New York for the Los Angeles’s second Stanley Cup championship in three years.

It was the closest the Rangers had come to winning its first Cup since defeating the Vancouver Canucks in 1994.

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The 2014-15 season witnessed a franchise record 113 points in the regular season– good enough to notch the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best record that year. Vigneault’s team knocked out Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in the First Round in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then New York got behind in the Second Round series with the Washington Capitals, 3-1. Chris Kreider tied Game 5, McDonagh scored the game winner in overtime and the Rangers rallied back in the series to force the first Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since Game 7 in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks.

For the first time in Stanley Cup Playoff history, the Rangers were to battle the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Despite a decisive 7-3 victory in Game 6 on the road at Amalie Arena, New York was shutout, 2-0, in Game 7 on home ice.

They wouldn’t get another chance to come that close to the Stanley Cup Final with Vigneault behind the bench.

The 2015-16 Rangers finished third in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points and battled Mike Sullivan‘s Penguins in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It only took five games for the Rangers to be eliminated in Pittsburgh’s tear through the playoffs to their first Cup since 2009.

In 2016-17, New York regrouped with a 102-point season, but was cursed by the NHL’s current playoff format.

The Rangers were relegated to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference since three teams finished ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division with at least 108 points or more.

New York had four more points in the regular season than the Ottawa Senators (98 points)– who finished second in the Atlantic Division– and seven more points than the Boston Bruins (95 points, 3rd in the Atlantic) and Toronto Maple Leafs (95 points, second wild card in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having three fewer regulation-plus-overtime wins than Boston).

Vigneault’s team got by Michel Therrien’s Montreal Canadiens in six games of the First Round in what was touted as a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Then they ran into the streaking Senators who had beaten the Bruins in their own six game series.

Ottawa jumped out to a 2-0 series lead with home ice advantage– despite having the worse of the two teams’s regular season records, but the Rangers seemed unfazed having won Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden 4-1 and 4-1, respectively.

Kyle Turris ended Game 5 almost six-and-a-half minutes into overtime at Canadian Tire Centre and the Rangers found themselves in a 3-2 series hole heading home for Game 6.

Senators captain, Erik Karlsson, had a goal and an assist in Ottawa’s decisive 4-2 victory on road ice and New York hit the golf course after just two rounds of the 2017 postseason.

Time kept ticking. Lundqvist got older.

Management grew more frustrated with the lack of a direction.

Dead last in the Metropolitan Division after all 82 games this season and under .500 for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Vigneault’s dismissal comes as no surprise.

It’s what is expected of any organization that expects to finish first, but fails in a rather large fashion.

Even more so with the league getting younger, skaters getting faster and teams placing more of an emphasis on a constant attack, a constant barrage of offense.

Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Spooner, Namestnikov and crew have already showcased a new face of the game in “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, while Vigneault’s systems might have been the only thing slowing them down in the waning days of the season.

It was time to shake things up and head in that new face of the game’s direction.

For the first time since the 1967-68 season only one coach was fired in-season (thanks to Mother Nature having played a part in extending the season by a day due to Boston’s rescheduled matchup from January with the Florida Panthers).

Unfortunately for Vigneault, he was that coach.

New York will be just fine.

They’re stockpiled with prospects and have already integrated youth, skill and speed into their lineup.

Now general manager Jeff Gorton will look to patch the blue line and give Lundqvist a high-caliber backup goaltender to ease the workload of the grueling regular season schedule.

It might not be the quickest turnaround, but it shouldn’t turn out to become an annual groan-fest watching the Blueshirts next season.

For Vigneault, there will be other opportunities.

He led Vancouver to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in the midst of President’s Trophy seasons. He led New York back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in a generation. He’ll be studying hard, but he’s still in demand.

Somewhere there’s a team looking for his veteran coaching presence– like Buffalo– or a team that just missed the cut this season, but is on the brinks of a breakout year that very well might end up with their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970– like St. Louis.

But alas, this is all merely speculation.

More coaches will be fired for their team’s shortcomings (of their own fault or otherwise) this offseason upon diligent review in front office’s league-wide.

Rangers fans may be glad and it should be a mutual feeling of respect and good luck. They had a good run that lasted a while, but ultimately came up empty handed. Times have changed, players moved on and the game evolved.

Somewhere, Vigneault is that missing piece a franchise is looking for and it won’t just be a team finally getting over that mountain, but a head coach too.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #86- Best Misnomers of 2017

Nick and Connor pick apart the Central Division, provide injury updates, preview the 2018 Winter Classic and discuss the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship so far.

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November 26 – Day 53 – Broadway vs. Hollywood North

After two consecutive days loaded with action, the NHL is forced to pump the brakes this afternoon with only three games on the schedule.

You’ll notice I specifically said “this afternoon.” That’s because all three games are slated as matinees. Nashville at Carolina gets the action started at 1 p.m., followed an hour later by Vancouver at the New York Rangers (SN). Finally, today’s nightcap – which should be done in time for dinner – gets underway at 5 p.m. and features Edmonton at Boston (NHLN/SN/TVAS). All times Eastern.

Since I’m so fascinated by the Canucks, I’ve made the executive decision to head back to the Big Apple for the third time this month.

 

Though this game features two teams currently on the outside of the playoff picture, don’t dismiss it as an uninteresting event.

For starters, the 12-9-2 Rangers are fun to watch for the simple reason that they know what they’re doing with the puck on their stick. Even taking its slow start into account, New York has scored 3.22 goals-per-game this season to rank (t)seventh-best in the NHL.

Currently riding a three-game winning streak, New York’s primary star of late has been F Chris Kreider, who has managed 3-1-4 totals since November 19 to lead the team in that time span. Two of those goals, including one only 52 seconds into the tilt, were scored against G Scott Darling and the Hurricanes in Wednesday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Of course, no matter how well Kreider plays from here on out, the man who really makes the Blueshirts’ offense flow is none other than his center, Mika Zibanejad. The Swede has put up solid 11-11-22 totals so far this season in his 23 games played, which translates into him being directly responsible for 2.5 of the Rangers’ 26 points in the standings according to hockey-reference.

That being said, Zibanejad will have to be at the top of his game this afternoon if the Rangers want to keep up their winning ways, because the 11-9-3 Canucks have been solid on their defensive end. So far this season, Vancouver has allowed only 2.74 goals against-per-game, the eighth-best effort in the NHL.

A major reason for the Canucks’ success has been the quietly strong goaltending tandem of starter 6-8-2 Jacob Markstrom and 5-1-1 Anders Nilsson. Behind a defense that allows 31 shots against-per-game (11th-fewest in the league), they’ve both amassed save percentages over .91 and GAAs under 2.65.

While those numbers aren’t impressive in and of themselves, what I appreciate about the pair is there isn’t a notable difference in the quality of play between them. The Canucks’ defense knows exactly what it will get from either netminder and doesn’t have to do too much to change their game.

The real question today is who will get the start. While I feel pretty confident Markstrom will get the nod, it should be noted that he has a 1-4-0 record in his past five appearances, allowing 16 goals in the process. Meanwhile, Nilsson has not lost a game in regulation since October 19, earning a 4-0-1 record since then.

The longer Nilsson can perform at this level, you have to wonder about his position on Vancouver’s depth chart. Though this is his fifth season in the NHL, he has yet to earn a starting role for any of the five clubs he’s played for. Maybe, just maybe, Head Coach Travis Green has it in him to make the switch today.

If Nilsson does earn the start this afternoon, I’m fully confident that the Canucks can pull off the road victory. Otherwise, New York’s offense might be a little too much for even the incredible RW Brock Boeser to keep up with.


On the back of First Star of the Game RW Phil Kessel‘s four-point night, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though the opening 10 minutes of the first period was a scoreless affair, Pittsburgh took command of the back half of the frame by scoring three unanswered goals. The first, struck with 5:24 remaining before the first intermission, belonged to W Bryan Rust (Third Star G Tristan Jarry), which he earned by burying a shorthanded wrist shot. 3:27 later, Kessel (Second Star C Sidney Crosby and RW Patric Hornqvist) doubled the Penguins’ lead to 2-0 with a power play wrister.

Before the Bolts could escape to their dressing room, Crosby (Kessel and D Justin Schultz) provided what proved to be the Pens’ game-winning goal, and if you blinked at the wrong time, you probably missed it. The play was simple enough: with both F Cedric Paquette and D Anton Stralman in the penalty box for unassociated charges, Kessel fired a wrister towards G Peter Budaj‘s right goal post. In all honesty, his shot wasn’t all that spectacular on its own, as the netminder was more than prepared to make the necessary blocker save. However, Crosby had different intentions: before Budaj could get his pad on the puck, he elevated it over his leg and into the back of the net, setting the score at 3-0 with 34 seconds remaining before intermission.

Pittsburgh’s scoring onslaught continued into the second period when Kessel (C Riley Sheahan) scored a wrister at the 2:22 mark to give the Penguins a 4-0 advantage, but W Ondrej Palat (D Mikhail Sergachev and F Yanni Gourde) pulled the Lightning back within a goal only 4:30 later with a power play tip-in.

The 4-1 score held until the 4:41 mark of the third period, as that’s when Crosby (Kessel and Schultz) scored his second marker of the game, a power play wrister. F Cory Conacher (F Alex Killorn and C Tyler Johnson) buried a wrister with 6:06 remaining in regulation, but it was too little, too late for Tampa to mount anything that looked like a true comeback.

Jarry saved 33-of-35 shots faced (.943 save percentage) to earn his first-ever NHL victory in four tries, while Budaj was forced to take the loss after saving only 29-of-34 (.853).

The Penguins’ home victory snaps a two-game winning streak by visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Hosts now own a 28-19-6 record that is nine points better than the roadies’.