Tag Archives: Coyle

Whiteout Whitewashing: Jets take the series with Game 5 shutout victory

 

For the first time since the birth of the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise 19 years ago, the team will see the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For the city of Winnipeg, a 31-year wait has ended with thunderous applause.

For Minnesota, however, an arduous struggle has ended in back-to-back blankings at the hands of a Jets squad that far outclassed them. The Wild fought as best they could, but with the absence of Ryan Suter on defense, and the loss of Zach Parise after Game 3, the tools for them to compete with a stacked Winnipeg roster just weren’t there. Pile on some notably lackluster performances from key players like Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle (all held scoreless in the series) and there was really no hope to overcome the juggernaut Jets.

The Wild knew to have any shot at surviving Game 5 they’d need to play the perfect road game and try to keep the Jets from building momentum and getting the raucous crowd involved. This strategy lasted all of 31 seconds.

A strong opening shift was capped off when Jacob Trouba received a cross-ice pass from Mark Scheifele at the top of the right circle, took a few strides towards the net and ripped a wrist shot past Devan Dubnyk to ignite Bell MTS Place in the first minute.

A Winnipeg penalty shortly after the goal threatened to kill the energy, but strong work on the PK kept the tide in the Jets’ favor, and shortly after the conclusion of the penalty Trouba (who had himself a game) nearly scored on an odd-man rush, before nearly tipping home a follow-up shot right after. Dubnyk was trying desperately to keep his team alive and settle things down.

Unfortunately for the Minnesota netminder, his efforts were for nothing, as on the following faceoff Dustin Byfuglien let go a wrist shot from the right point that Bryan Little redirected beautifully past an unsuspecting Dubnyk for the 2-0 lead, still just 5:42 into the game.

Still the Jets kept coming, and the Wild had no answer. A Brandon Tanev shot nearly went in off the skate of Dubnyk after bouncing off of the end boards. Then Niederreiter tried to create a scoring opportunity by dancing around one Winnipeg defender only to get blown up by Big Buff as he attempted to let the shot go. Then Tanev, apparently upset at his previous failure, stripped a fumbling Jonas Brodin of the puck at his defensive blueline and fired a quick turnaround wrister through Dubnyk before he had time to react, Winnipeg taking a 3-0 lead with 8:50 to play. Tanev’s first career playoff goal.

Just 49 seconds later things went from calamity to catastrophe when an initial attempt from Andrew Copp rebounded out high to a locked and loaded Byfuglien, who proceeded to unload a bomb that redirected off of Joel Armia (his first playoff goal, just to stick with the theme) and into the net.

It was now 4-0 with 8:01 to play in the first period, and a mercy pulling was in order. Bruce Boudreau sent Alex Stalock in to relieve Dubnyk of his nightmare, and he returned to the bench to a standing reception from his teammates. Captain Mikko Koivu walked down to the end of the bench after Dubnyk sat down, seemingly to say “We’re sorry, this is on us.” to his visibly emotional goaltender.

Winnipeg fans, however, did not share in Koivu’s sympathies, as a chant of “We Want Dubnyk” rang out not long after the resumption of play. Apparently even after a long, cold winter, Winnipeg still has plenty of salt to go around.

The period ended with the Jets outshooting Minnesota 13-7, but the play was even more lopsided than that would indicate.

Early in the second Minnesota got their proverbial “This one just isn’t going to go your way” sign from the hockey gods, as a Mikael Granlund rush drew Connor Hellebuyck out of his net, giving Granlund an open cage to tuck a wraparound into, only to see the puck sail across the crease along the goal line and bounce off of multiple Winnipeg skates just inches from paydirt, only to be cleared away.

Minnesota did finally gain some offensive traction to their credit, though the second notable opportunity was a Niederreiter rush that was met with a shot block and subsequent leveling hit by Trouba. Ironically even though they controlled a lot of the play early in the second, the Wild would not record a shot for nearly eight minutes of play.

The game’s only real notable save came from the left pad of Stalock who denied a seemingly sure-thing one-timer right on the doorstep at the bottom of the left circle from Scheifele just past the game’s halfway mark.

A Wild power play around the 11:00 mark brought some more offensive traction to the visitors, who had a few quality chances on the power play followed up by a Niederreiter breakaway all turned aside. Jason Zucker found iron on a later power play, but Hellebucyk simply couldn’t be solved.

The Jets put a stamp on the game just 32 seconds into the third with a beautiful high-low-high passing sequence from Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny, and Scheifele capped off by a beautiful one-time rip from #55 into the net from the low slot.

Sensing victory was now firmly in hand, the Winnipeg Whiteout crowd started to take over the third period. Multiple renditions of Bananarama’s ‘Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye’ were belted out in perfect harmony at numerous points in the frame, starting with the initial performance just after the puck had dropped following the 5-0 goal.

When Hellebucyk made a great stop on Matt Cullen off of a Marcus Foligno rebound, the crowd responded with the wave, then some more Bananarama.

Blake Wheeler nearly made it 6-0 on a beautiful backhand tip of a Scheifele centering pass, but the hockey gods had decided enough was enough, so it found the crossbar and vacated the goal crease without further incident.

‘We Want Nashville!’ is now the chant. Bold, Winnipeg. Bold.

Later in the period a fan took a deflected puck to the face, only to be tossed a towel by Matt Hendricks (making his series debut) and signal to everyone in attendance that they were still very much alive, drawing a rousing round of applause.

The standing ovation started with 2:30 to play, and was only interrupted by an obligatory singalong to ‘Sweet Caroline’ at 2:10. The final minute of play was basically just one long explosion of noise as the city erupted into a party that I assume will still be occurring when the sun rises. On Monday.

In the end, Connor Hellebucyk posted his second-consecutive shutout to seal the series, and the Parise-less Wild fail to score a single goal. It’s hard for Minnesota to argue that injuries were the only reason they couldn’t climb this mountain, as Winnipeg faced games without Tyler Myers, Nikolaj Ehlers and Josh Morrissey among others, and played the entire series without Toby Enstrom. It just speaks to their incredible depth that even when missing key contributors they could still trounce Minnesota with relative ease.

Now with a long rest ahead of them to get healthy before a likely (at least as of this writing) Second Round matchup for the ages with Nashville, the Jets have a little time to celebrate before looking towards what lay ahead.

Special shoutout to 20-year veteran and three-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Cullen, who may have just played the final game of a fantastic career.

March 13 – Day 153 – The Central teams without Ss

Only seven games are on this Tuesday’s schedule, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the lower volume means lower quality.

We find our start at 7 p.m. with Boston at Carolina (SN1), followed half an hour later by a pair of tilts (Dallas at Montréal [RDS/TNS2] and Ottawa at Tampa Bay [RDS2]). Next up is Winnipeg at Nashville (TVAS) at 8 p.m., while Colorado at Minnesota (NBCSN) waits 30 minutes before dropping the puck. Edmonton at Calgary (SN/SN1) gets underway at 9 p.m., while tonight’s nightcap – Los Angeles at Arizona – completes the evening’s festivities with their 10 p.m. tilt. All times Eastern.

When the schedule was released last summer, there was a few games that stuck out to me on today’s slate.

  • Dallas at Montréal: RW Alexander Radulov returned to the NHL last season for the third time of his career, but he spent only one campaign with the Habs before commuting to the Lone Star State.
  • Edmonton at Calgary: The Flames need points in the worst way to stay in playoff discussion, but two points are never easily earned in this rivalry.
  • Los Angeles at Arizona: F Tobias Rieder spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with the Coyotes, but that tenure ended at this trade deadline when he was shipped to the Kings.

However, those games pale in comparison to the bouts taking place in the Central Division tomorrow. Since Nashville and Winnipeg are all but locked into the postseason, let’s see what the Avs and Wild can do.

 

The 36-24-8 Avalanche are on a nice little run lately, as they’ve posted an impressive 5-1-4 record over their last 10 showings. A major reason for that success is an imposing offense that has averaged 3.6 goals since February 20, the sixth-best mark in the NHL in that time span.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but F Nathan MacKinnon has been an absolute animal this season.

Okay, I’ve decided that even though you have heard this fact, I’m still going to talk about him.

Let’s just start with his season as a whole. MacKinnon has posted 32-49-81 totals this season, far and away the best numbers of his five-year career having eclipsed his 24-39-63 rookie marks that earned him the 2014 Calder Trophy a while ago. What really sticks out to me here are the 81 points he’s already registered this campaign, even with 14 games separating the Avalanche from the end of the regular season. What that means is, unless he somehow gets held scoreless through his next 14 showings, he’s all but ensured averaging a point per game for the entire 82-game season.

But wait, there’s more! MacKinnon’s marks get even better when we remember that he missed eight games with injury, meaning he’s earned his 81 points in only 60 games played. For those not so mathematically inclined, that means MacKinnon has averaged 1.35 points per game this season, the best mark in that statistic in the league. He’s also managed a cool .53 goals per game this season (well better than his previous career-best .29 in 2013-’14 and 2015-’16), which should be worrisome to Minnesota this evening considering he hasn’t potted his own score in a week.

More recently, the 22-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia has still been the class of the NHL. Since February 20, no player has posted numbers like MacKinnon’s, as his 8-12-20 points (that’s right, he’s averaging two points per game in his last 10 showings!) in that time are even better than division-rival RW Patrik Laine‘s 14-4-18 in as many games played.

I haven’t made my Hart Trophy pick yet, but MacKinnon is certainly going earn his fair share of votes this April.

Of course, an even bigger problem when facing Colorado is that the team is a little bit more than MacKinnon. RW Mikko Rantanen (5-11-16 totals since February 20) and D Tyson Barrie (5-10-15 in his last 10 games) have also been headline worthy lately by averaging at least 1.5 points per game during this run.

Meanwhile, things have also seemed to be going 39-23-7 Minnesota’s way in recent days, as it has managed a 3-1-0 record in its last four tilts.

Just like tonight’s rival, offense has been a major part of the Wild’s winning ways lately, as they’ve averaged an imposing four goals per game over their last four showings, the (t)third-best mark in the league since March 4.

Though there are four players averaging a point per game over this four-game run, none stand out quite like C Eric Staal, who has 37-31-68 totals on the season. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has rediscovered his scoring touch at a ripe 33-years-old, scoring the most goals in one season since his 38-tally effort with the Hurricanes in 2007-’08.

Just to make sure you caught that, that was 10 years ago. 10.

Staal is on track for 44 goals this season, which would be one short of his career mark set in 2005-’06, his sophomore campaign. His last four games have more than kept him in line for that mark, as he’s averaging a frightening goal per game since March 4.

Joining Staal in averaging a point per game during this four-game run are third-liner F Charlie Coyle (2-2-4 totals) and top defensive pair Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter (both with 0-4-4 marks). Suter in particular has played a major role in Staal’s recent success, as three of his assists – two of which were the primary apples – have resulted in goals for the Canadian.

An added perk of Minnesota’s success on the offensive end has been its puck possession. Since March 4, the Wild’s opposing offenses have managed only 30 shots per game, the (t)ninth-best mark in the NHL in that time. Spurgeon (2.3 blocks per game over his last four games) and W Jason Zucker (averaging a takeaway per game over this run) in particular have played major roles in that defensive success.

Facing only 30 shots per outing has certainly made 30-13-5 G Devan Dubnyk look pretty good as well. Having started all of Minnesota’s last four games, Dubnyk has posted a .933 save percentage and 2.01 GAA to improve his season marks to a .917 save percentage and 2.6 GAA.

However, all this success comes with a slight asterisk. The Wild’s last four games have been played against the Red Wings (4-1 victory), Hurricanes (6-2 victory), Canucks (5-2 victory) and Edmonton (4-1 loss) – all teams on the outside of the playoff picture, of which only Carolina still has a real shot at qualifying (though the Canes’ odds are dropping like rocks in a pond). In fact, the last time Minnesota played a good team, it was against the Avalanche.

As we’ll tackle in a moment, that was not a pleasurable experience for the Wild.

With seven points currently separating the Wild from the second-place Jets, there’s little climbing Minnesota can do in the Central Division. Instead, its focus is staving off the Stars and Avalanche from its third place spot. A home win in regulation tonight would obviously be an important step towards that goal, as Dallas – which trails the Wild by only three points – is also in action tonight.

For those that like chaos in the standings (consider me a member of that party), Colorado is the team for you this evening. Not even a full year removed from one of the worst seasons in recent history, the Avs are currently holding onto a second wild card spot over the Ducks, also with 80 points, with two games in hand. With Anaheim inactive tonight, one of those games in hand is being played tonight, meaning Colorado cannot afford to leave St. Paul without at least a point for its effort.

Of course, the Avalanche would prefer to not play Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they could jump into the first wildcard spot with a win tonight should Dallas fall in Montréal, as both clubs would be tied at 82 points with Colorado having a game in hand.

Through the first three meetings between these teams in their four-game season series, it’s been all Colorado, as the Avs have earned a 2-0-1 record against the Wild to clinch the series victory. Minnesota won the first meeting on November 24 3-2 with the help of the shootout (9-10-2 G Alex Stalock earned First Star honors for allowing no goals after the first period), but Colorado responded by posting 7-2 (MacKinnon and Rantanen both posted 1-2-3 totals) and 7-1 (MacKinnon led the way with a dominating 2-3-5 performance) victories on January 6 and March 2, respectively.

It goes without saying that the Avalanche have Minnesota’s number this season, but the comforts of home should play in the Wild’s favor to keep the Avs from hanging seven goals for a third-consecutive matchup. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a game that doesn’t end with Colorado earning two points, as MacKinnon and co. have been finding success regardless of opponent lately.


With two goals in the third period, the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 at Wells Fargo Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

When the Flyers were caught with too many men on the ice at the 4:27 mark, it opened the door for Vegas to find the game’s opening goal. F Erik Haula (W David Perron and D Nate Schmidt) provided the tally, burying a power play wrist shot with only 10 seconds remaining before F Travis Konecny would rejoin play.

Speaking of Konecny, he would be involved in the goal that tied the game at 1-1. Only 1:27 into the second period, Second Star of the Game F Claude Giroux (C Sean Couturier and Konecny) leveled the game with a wrister, the lone marker of the frame.

Another penalty proved to be Philadelphia’s downfall in the third period. When D Travis Sanheim was caught hi-sticking Haula at the 4:30 mark, Third Star C William Karlsson (F Tomas Hyka and D Shea Theodore) needed only 90 seconds with the man-advantage to return a one-goal advantage to the Knights.

However, the referees didn’t only have gold-tinted glasses, as Vegas ended up giving up a power play goal of its own. With D Brayden McNabb in the box for hooking RW Jakub Voracek only 31 seconds after Karlsson’s goal, W Wayne Simmonds (Voracek and D Shayne Gostisbehere) set the score at 2-2 at the 7:06 mark, creating a tie that would last more than 10 minutes.

But instead of that tie holding to the end of regulation, First Star F Ryan Carpenter (C Cody Eakin and F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) provided the game-winning goal with 2:40 remaining on the clock. Playing against his former club, Bellemare performed a lot of the dirty work on this goal, as he scrapped along the boards for four seconds with two Flyers before shoving a pass to Eakin in the trapezoid. Eakin one-timed a centering pass past G Petr Mrazek‘s right post to Carpenter, who fired his wrister from the face-off circle over the netminder’s glove shoulder to win the match.

G Marc-Andre Fleury earned the victory after saving 38-of-40 shots faced (.95 save percentage), leaving the loss to Mrazek, who saved 26-of-29 (.897). With the victory, Fleury notched the 400th victory of his career, and it was made all the more sweet by coming against his former rivals.

Vegas’ victory while wearing white marks the third-consecutive win by a road team in the DtFR Game of the Day. As such, the 83-50-19 hosts’ advantage in the series has been trimmed to 29 points.

Minnesota at Dallas – Game 2 – Scandella’s power play goal can’t cover his rough defensive night, Stars take 2-0 series lead

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The best in the west are continuing their winning ways in the postseason, as they now have a two-game lead on Minnesota after winning 3-2.

Although both teams had over three minutes of power play action in the first period (we had a little bit of 4-on-4 action), they both went 0-for-2 with the advantage to end the frame scoreless.  That being said, the Stars were the clear offensive leaders, just like you’d expect, as their 14 first period shots doubled those of the Wild.

Period Two finally saw the first goal, as Ales Hemsky’s initial “shot” at the 3:54 mark was deflected into the back of the net by Third Star of the Game Antoine Roussel to give the Stars the lead.  Roussel brought the puck into the zone from the left boards, under pressure from Matt Dumba, forcing him to dump it behind the cage. Marco Scandella attempted to track it down, but his attempt to get it out of the zone was right on target… for Hemsky’s ankle.  The force sent the puck back behind Devan Dubnyk’s cage, which Hemsky somehow deflects over the net and into the crease.  Already beginning to crouch, the puck was actually above Dubnyk, but below the bar, allowing Roussel to get around the net to force the puck over Dubnyk’s back and into goal.

That was the only goal of the second period, even though Minnesota provided the Stars two power plays.

Dallas proved an important insurance goal, which proved to be the game winner, with 9:37 remaining in regulation when, thanks to an assist from Cody Eakin, Second Star Jamie Benn backhanded a breakaway goal past Dubnyk.  This one doesn’t fall as much on Scandella’s shoulders, as it was him who fired the shot at First Star Kari Lehtonen, but the deflection was corralled in the right corner of the zone by Eakin, who found a streaking Benn to create a one-on-one matchup with the goaltender that he almost always wins.

Thirty-six seconds later, Johnny Oduya was caught holding Charlie Coyle’s stick, which earned him a two-minute break.  Scandella and Minnesota finally capitalized on their fourth power play of the night when he fired a slap shot at the 12:42 mark, assisted by Dumba and Jason Zucker.  Any chances of completing the comeback were effectively nullified when Jason Pominville tripped Stephen Johns with 2:52 remaining in regulation, making them play almost the remainder of the contest a man down.

Lehtonen earns the victory after saving 25 of the 26 shots he faced (96.2%), while Dubnyk takes the loss, saving 26 of 28 (92.9%).

Minnesota will need to capitalize on home ice if they wish to get back in this series.  Their first shot at doing just that will be Monday at 8:30 p.m. eastern, and can be viewed on CNBC, SN or TVAS2.

 

March 20 – Day 157 – The Wild’s wildcard chase continues in Chicago

The Pittsburgh Penguins used a three goal second period to knock off the in-state rival Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The first goal wasn’t scored until the 21:58 mark, courtesy of Radko Gudas and the Flyers, his fourth goal of the season.  1:01 later, Trevor Daley leveled the game with a snap shot (his fifth tally of the season), assisted by First Star of the Game Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr.  The tie lasted until 3:04 remained in the frame when Second Star Carl Hagelin’s slap shot found the back of the net for the game winner, assisted by Bonino (his 11th helper of the season).  1:29 later, Chris Kunitz fired a slap shot of his own to give the Pens an insurance score, assisted by Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist (his 27th helper of the season).  The 3-1 score held into the second intermission.

Kris Letang was responsible for the lone tally of the final period, an empty netter assisted by Kunitz and Crosby (his 43rd helper of the season).

Marc-Andre Fleury earns the victory after saving 16 of the 17 shots he faced (94.1%), while Third Star Steve Mason takes the loss, saving 31 of 34 (91.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 70-41-16, favoring the home sides by 30 points over the visitors.

It’s getting to be that time of year again when Sundays are just as busy and unpredictable as Saturdays, and I’m not just talking about March Madness.  A total of seven games are going to be played today, starting with Anaheim at Winnipeg at 3 p.m. eastern.  Columbus at New Jersey gets going at 5 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Washington at Pittsburgh (NBCSN/TVAS).  The usual starting time of 7 p.m. features Calgary at Montréal (RDS/SN), which is trailed 90 minutes later by the opening puck drop of Minnesota at Chicago (NBCSN).  9:30 p.m. eastern marks the beginning of Colorado at Edmonton (SN1), which is followed half an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Arizona at San Jose.

A majority of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at New Jersey, Washington at Pittsburgh, Minnesota at Chicago and Arizona at San Jose), but Washington at Pittsburgh is the only game between current playoff qualifiers.  Also, the AnaheimWinnipeg and MinnesotaChicago games are rematches of some Western Conference playoff matchups of a season ago.

In addition for the reasons stated above, the MinnesotaChicago game is an important one because a Wild win propels them into the playoffs.

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Tonight’s game will be Minnesota‘s 11th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-5-0 record, with their most recent being March 10’s 2-1 loss on home ice to Edmonton.  Chicago has been featured 21 times before tonight’s contest, and own a 10-9-2 record in such games.  Their most recent in the series was Wednesday’s 3-2 home loss to Philadelphia.

The 33-28-11 Minnesota Wild currently sit sixth in the Central Division and eighth in the Western Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff picture in that conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the ninth best defense in the league, but have only managed the 13th fewest goals scored.

Led by Jared Spurgeon’s 139 blocks, Minnesota has allowed only 2023 shots to reach 26-22-6 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.6% for 182 goals against, the ninth fewest in the league.  The Wild should make all efforts to avoid taking penalties, as their 77.01% kill rate that has allowed 40 power play goals ranks fourth worst in the NHL.  To slightly make up for that deficiency, the Wild has scored six shorthanded goals (led by Erik Haula’s two shorties), one more than the league average.

Even with Zach Parise’s 199 shots, the Wild have only fired the puck 2067 times, with 9% finding the back of the net for 188 goals (led by Charlie Coyle’s 21 tallies), 13th fewest in the NHL.  As far as Minnesota‘s special teams go, the power play is miles ahead, as their 19.28% success rate, good for 43 extra man goals (led by Mikko Koivu’s nine power play tallies), ranks 14th best in the league.

The Wild played yesterday to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on home ice.  With a win today, Minnesota could advance themselves past the Avalanche for eighth in the conference, even if only for a day, but they will need the help of the Oilers.

The 42-24-6 Chicago Blackhawks are currently the third best team in the Central Division, and fourth best in the Western Conference.  They’ve played stellar hockey all season, as they are the seventh best defense and eighth best offense.

Even with Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 141 blocks, the Hawks have allowed 2207 shots to reach 35-18-4 Corey Crawford (questionable for tonight’s game as of Saturday night) and co., of which they’ve collectively saved a solid 92.3% for only 176 goals against, the seventh fewest in the league.  The best way to beat this Chicago defense is to get under their skin and get them to commit penalties, as their 78.64% kill rate that has allowed 44 power play goals against ranks seventh worst in the NHL.  To make up for that poor effort, the Hawks have scored eight shorthanded goals.

Led by Patrick Kane’s 254 shots, Chicago has fired the puck 2213 times, with 9% finding the back of the net for 201 goals (led by Kane’s 39 tallies), eighth most in the NHL.  The Hawks have truly excelled on the power play, as their 22.52% success rate, good for 50 extra man goals (led by Kane’s 15 power play tallies) ranks third best in the league.

Chicago‘s most recent game was their four goal shutout victory in Winnipeg Friday night.   A win tonight pulls the Blackhawks back within a point of the second seed in the Central Division, but a loss allows the Predators to get within three points of a division qualifier should they beat the Kings tomorrow.

In addition to being  an important game this season, it was also a Western Conference Semifinal last season   It’s not one that Wild fans like being reminded of though, as Chicago swept Minnesota on their way to their sixth franchise Stanley Cup Championship.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (seven shutouts [leads the league], 35 wins [tied for third most in the league] and .926 save percentage [fourth best in the league]) (should he play) and Kane (92 points [leads the league] and 39 goals [second most in the league] and 53 assists [tied for second most in the league]) & Minnesota‘s Coyle (21 goals, 19 of which were at even strength [both lead the team]) and Koivu (48 points, nine of which were power play goals and 23 were even-strength assists [all lead the team]).

With the exception of the injured Crawford, it seems as if Chicago has gotten out of their funk from earlier in the week.  Since Minnesota‘s offense is as much of a threat, Chicago should be able to keep pressure off Scott Darling to ensure a home victory.

March 10 – Day 147 – Hey, that was the Wild’s wildcard spot!

The Kings jumped out to an early lead on the Capitals, but Washington was able to level the game with three goals of their own in the third before giving up an overtime winner.

Three goals were scored in the first period, all belonging to Los Angeles.  Vincent Lecavalier’s was first, marked at the 4:52 mark of play.  His power play tally was assisted by Second Star of the Game Tanner Pearson and Alec Martinez (his 19th helper of the season).  Pearson continued his assisting ways 7:13 later, as he and Tyler Toffoli (his 22nd helper of the season) assisted Jake Muzzin to the Kings‘ second score.  1:21 later, Milan Lucic got involved with a goal of his own, assisted by First Star Jeff Carter (his 29th helper of the season) and Brayden McNabb.  That 3-0 score held not only to the end of the first period, but also through the second.

Washington got one back only 1:46 into the third with a little help from a Dwight King holding penalty that Third Star T.J. Oshie turned into a power play goal, assisted by Marcus Johansson and Matt Niskanen (his 24th helper of the season).  One goal became two 9:16 later, courtesy of a Nicklas Backstrom wrister, assisted by Alex Ovechkin and Oshie (his 22nd helper of the season).  Washington leveled the game with 3:22 remaining in regulation when Dmitry Orlov’s backhander found the back of the net, assisted by Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 48th helper of the season).  The three-all score held to the end of regulation, so the Game of the Day witnessed its third straight overtime game.

Carter’s wrister at the 62:50 mark goes down as the game winner.  He was assisted by Lucic and Drew Doughty (his 31st helper of the season).

Jonathan Quick earns the win after saving 29 of 32 (90.6%), while Braden Holtby takes the overtime loss, saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Los Angeles‘ win ends the road warriors winning streak at five games and sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 65-37-15, favoring the home sides by 29 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Thursday evening, beginning with Carolina at Boston at 7 p.m. eastern.  Dropping the puck at 7:30 p.m. eastern are three contests (Buffalo at Montréal, Winnipeg at Detroit [NHLN] and Ottawa at Florida), followed half an hour later by Edmonton at Minnesota.  This evening’s nightcap is New Jersey at San Jose, which begins at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games will be contested between divisional rivals (Buffalo at Montréal and Ottawa at Florida), and  none are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Colorado surpassed Minnesota last night with their 3-0 win against the Ducks, which certainly upset the Wild.  Let’s see if they can get themselves back into the playoff picture with a win over the Oil.

200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgUnknown-2Tonight’s game will be Edmonton‘s third in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their most recent game in the series was their visit to San Jose on January 14 when they fell 2-1 in a shootout.  Minnesota has been featured nine times before tonight, and own a 5-4-0 record in such games, with their most recent occurring March 6, a 4-2 loss on home ice to the Blues.

The 26-36-7 Edmonton Oilers are currently tied with Winnipeg for the distinction of worst team in the Western Conference (the Jets best them on games played), and are only four points better than Toronto, the worst team in the NHL.  Their offense ranks ninth worst in the league, but the defense has played even poorer, ranking fifth worst.

Even with Taylor Hall’s 249 shots, the Oilers have fired the puck 1995 times, of which 8.2% have found the back of the net for 167 goals (led by Hall’s 22 tallies), the ninth fewest in the NHL.  The power play follows suit, successful on only 16.84% of attempts for 33 power play goals (led by Jordan Eberle’s six extra man tallies), the sixth lowest rate in the league.

The defense has played even poorer.  Even with Andrej Sekera’s team leading 135 blocks, the Oil have allowed 2155 shots to reach 16-23-4 Cam Talbot and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.1% for 204 goals against, the fifth most in the league.  The best thing Edmonton does is kill penalties, as their 80.28% kill rate, which has allowed 42 power play goals against, ranks only 14th worst.

Edmonton‘s most recent game was March 8, a three goal shutout loss to the Sharks on home ice.  I’d like to say that Edmonton does more harm than good by winning even one more game this season, but they’ve consistently had early draft picks and have yet to show anything of it.  So, I guess what I’m saying is, who knows?

The 31-26-10 Minnesota Wild currently occupy sixth place in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 10th best defense in the league, paired with the 14th worst offense.

Led by Jared Spurgeon’s 131 blocks, the Wild have allowed only 1922 shots to reach 25-22-5 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.8% for only 169 goals against, the 10th fewest in the NHL.  Although the overall defense has been solid, Minnesota‘s penalty kill has been atrocious.  Their 75.9% kill rate, which has allowed 40 power play goals, is third worst in the league.  It is slightly made up for by its offensive threat though, as the kill has six shorthanded goals to its credit (led by Erik Haula’s two shorties).

Even with Zach Parise’s team leading 188 shots, the Wild have fired the puck only 1958 times, of which 9% have found the back of the net for 177 goals (led by Charlie Coyle’s 21 tallies), the 14th fewest in the league.  The special teams have tried to make up some of the slack though, as their 18.96% success rate, good for 40 power play goals (led by Mikko Koivu’s nine extra man tallies), ranks 14th best in the league.

Minnesota‘s last game was their 4-2 loss to the Blues on Sunday, but that can be quickly erased with a win tonight.  Should they do just that, they will reclaim their spot in the second wildcard position.

Minnesota has already won this season’s series against the Oilers 2-0-0, with their most recent meeting ending 5-2 in Edmonton on February 18.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (249 shots and  22 goals [six game-winners], 18 of which were at even-strength, and 35 assists, 29 of which were at even-strength, for 57 points [all lead the team]) and Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for fifth most in the league]).

For Minnesota‘s sake, this shouldn’t be too much of a game.  As long as they can take care of Edmonton‘s slightly-decent penalty kill, they should be able to reclaim their position in the second wildcard.