Tag Archives: DeKeyser

February 25 – Day 137 – MSG’s newest addition

Don’t be sad that the Olympic hockey tournaments are gone. Instead, remember the fun we had.

That brings our full attention back to the NHL, and not a moment too soon: today’s half-dozen games are the final fixtures before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Here’s hoping your favorite player is still on your team’s roster by tomorrow’s puck drop!

Today’s schedule gets underway at noon with St. Louis at Nashville (NBC/TVAS), followed by Boston at Buffalo (SN360) five hours later and Detroit at the New York Rangers (NHLN) at 7:30 p.m. Two games drop the puck at 8 p.m. (Edmonton at Anaheim [SN] and San Jose at Minnesota), followed by tonight’s nightcap – Vancouver at Arizona – at 9:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

There’s more than a few interesting narratives associated with today’s games. Here’s just a few:

  • St. Louis at Nashville: It’s a rematch of one of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals! The Predators won that series in six games.
  • Boston at Buffalo: This rivalry has died down with the decline of the Sabres, but perhaps there’s a surprise in store today.
  • Detroit at New York: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but the Rangers are retiring C Jean Ratelle‘s 19.
  • Edmonton at Anaheim: The other 2017 Western Semifinal is also being revisited today. The Ducks needed all seven games to beat the Oil.

There have been few like Ratelle, so let’s make the trip to Manhattan to ensure his sweater ends up where it rightfully belongs: in the Madison Square Garden rafters.

 

Ratelle played his first NHL game during the 1960-’61 season following three successful campaigns with the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters/Guelph Royals, the Rangers’ OHA farm team before the creation of the NHL Entry Draft.

After suffering and recovering from a back injury during the 1963-’64, Ratelle earned a permanent spot on the Blueshirts’ roster a season later – and he never looked back. In 54 games, he scored decent 14-21-35 totals, followed by even better 21-30-51 marks in 1965-’66.

Those are decent numbers, but nothing really worth retiring a sweater over.

That all changed during the 1967-’68 campaign. Entering the season with only 139 points in 259 games played for his career, 27-year-old Ratelle registered a whopping 32-46-78 performance, starting a run of six-consecutive 70+ point seasons and 13-consecutive 67+ point seasons.

During the 1970-’71 season, Ratelle finally had the opportunity to start his trophy case. After posting 26-46-72 marks, he was awarded the Masterton Trophy for his impressive production paired with taking only 14 penalty minutes. That is a theme that followed Ratelle throughout his career, as we’ll discuss in a moment.

That recognition apparently did a lot to motivate Ratelle, because his 1971-’72 season was by far his best season as a Ranger and in the NHL. In only 63 games, he posted a career-high 46 goals and 109 points. For those astute at math, you probably realized that Ratelle averaged 1.73 points per game, or seven points every four games.

By comparison, Tampa Bay Lightning RW Nikita Kucherov is averaging a league-leading 1.32 points per game this season.

Yeah, Ratelle was pretty darn good.

As would be expected, that effort earned a few more accolades, most notably his lone listing as a season-ending All-Star team – he was the second team’s center. Ratelle also brought home the Pearson Award (now known as the Lindsay Award) and his first Lady Byng Trophy.

Ratelle had one last 100-point season up his sleeve, but in a bizarre twist of fate it was in 1975-’76, the year he was traded to Boston with D Brad Park and D Joe Zanussi for C Phil Esposito and D Carol Vadnais. Ratelle departed the Big Apple having registered 5-10-15 totals through 13 games. Upon arriving in Beantown, he exploded for 31-59-90 marks (36-69-105 season totals). His success through the difficult circumstances paired with committing only 18 penalty minutes earned him his second Byng.

Speaking once again of the Byng Trophy, there is one award that alluded Ratelle throughout this 21-year NHL career: the Stanley Cup. Whether with New York or Boston, he qualified for the playoffs 15 consecutive times, advancing to the Finals thrice (1972, ’77-’78). However, all three times ended in disappointment.

But rings aren’t what makes a player great. His achievements on the ice indicated greatness, as did his ability to it while also being one of the game’s true gentlemen.

Tonight, the Rangers will honor Ratelle’s impact on the franchise and the game by officially retiring his 19 alongside their eight other previously retired sweater already hanging in Madison Square Garden.

He joins another another 19 already hanging in The World’s Most Famous Arena: that of Willis Reed Jr. of New York Knickerbocker lore. Reed led the Knicks to both of their two NBA championships (1970, ’73), earning the Finals MVP award both times.

There’s no doubt that the Rangers’ hoisting Ratelle’s sweater is an honor by the entire franchise, but can these 27-30-5 Blueshirts, who occupy last place in the Metropolitan Division, honor him with their play?

It doesn’t seem likely, given the fact that they’re riding a six-game losing skid.

There’s little good that can be said about New York’s effort lately, but the Rangers’ play in their defensive end has left much to be desired. Even with the play of F J.T. Miller and W Mats Zuccarello (both with a team-leading four takeaways since February 13), W Cody McLeod (4.4 hits per game in his last five showings), D Rob O’Gara (averaging two blocks per game since joining the Rangers), New York has allowed 35.33 shots against per game during this losing skid, the sixth-worst mark in the NHL in that time.

That’s put a lot of pressure on 23-21-4 G Henrik Lundqvist, and he just hasn’t been able to steal enough victories behind this team this season. In his last four starts, Lundqvist has managed an uncharacteristic .859 save percentage for a 4.77 GAA, pulling his season marks down to .914 and 2.89.

Put Lundqvist’s struggles with a porous defense, and you get a Rangers team that has allowed 4.33 goals per game since February 13 – far and away the worst mark in the league in that time.

Turning our attention to the 25-26-10 Red Wings, we find a team currently in fifth place in the Atlantic Division coming off a 1-2-1 home stand. Over that run, Detroit actually played some decent defense to earn its three points.

Led by the solid efforts of W Justin Abdelkader (3.8 hits per game since February 18) and D Danny DeKeyser (2.8 blocks per game during the home stand), the Wings have allowed only 30.5 shots to reach 17-19-7 G Jimmy Howard per game, and he’s reacted very well to the limited workload to post a cool .92 save percentage and 2.31 GAA. That strong play has improved Howard’s season marks to a .911 save percentage and 2.8 GAA.

Between the Wings’ defense and Howard’s effort, Detroit has allowed only 2.5 goals per game in its last four showings – the (t)10th-best effort since February 18.

Tonight’s game is the finale of the three-game season series between these clubs, and it’s an important one considering either side has earned three point against the other. New York won the first meeting at Madison Square Garden on Black Friday 2-1 in overtime (Zuccarello provided the game-winning goal only 37 seconds into overtime), but the Wings leveled the series December 29 by defending Little Caesars Arena to a 3-2 shootout victory (F Andreas Athanasiou took First Star honors for his eight-shot, one-goal performance).

If the Rangers need an example of how to play defense, they’ll get a decent one tonight. With that in mind, I think the Wings can pull off the road victory at MSG.


Thanks to Kirill Kaprizov’s game-winning goal to complete his four-point night, the Olympic Athletes from Russia’s men’s hockey team won the Olympic gold medal by beating Germany 4-3 at Gangneung Hockey Centre.

Germany almost escaped from the first period tied at 0-0, but Slava Voynov (Nikita Gusev and Kaprizov) ruined that opportunity with half a second remaining before the intermission. Voynov roofed a wrist shot over G Danny aus den Birken’s right shoulder to give the OAR the lead.

A misplayed puck got Germany right back into the game. Driving towards the goal line, Felix Fchutz (Brooks Macek and Patrick Hager) flipped a puck towards G Vasily Koschechkin with little more than a prayer of if finding the back of the net. However, Koshechkin let the puck bounce off his arm and fall into the crease, where it eventually rolled across the red line to level the game at 1-1 at the 9:32 mark of the frame.

Tied through the second intermission, the OAR reclaimed the lead with 6:39 remaining in regulation courtesy of a goal from Gusev (Kaprizov and Pavel Datsyuk), but that advantage lasted only 10 seconds before Dominik Kahun (Frank Mauer and Yasin Ehliz) tied the game once again at 2-2. Germany claimed its first (and only) lead of the championship game with 3:16 remaining in regulation when Jonas Muller (Ehliz and Frank Hordler) beat Koshechkin, but an uninformed dump by the Germans while they were on the power play led to Gusev (Artyom Zub and Kaprizov) scoring a shorthanded, but even-strength with Koshechkin off the ice for the extra attacker, goal.

Overtime lasted 9:40 before Kaprizov (Gusev and Voynov) took advantage of a Patrick Reimer high sticking penalty to score the medal-winning goal.

Koshechkin saved 22-of-25 shots faced (.88 save percentage) to earn the victory, leaving the overtime loss to aus den Birken, who saved a solid 26-of-30 (.867).

After that result in the DtFR Game of the Day, home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day now have a 21-point advantage over the roadies with their 73-46-18 record.

March 8 – Day 140 – I’m spoked

If you want to watch hockey tonight (which we both know you do), it’s going to be pretty easy to find. All three contests (Ottawa at Dallas [RDS/SN360], Pittsburgh at Winnipeg [SN] and Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS]) – all of which happen to drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern – are being nationally televised in Canada, and the one that just so happens to be our DtFR Game of the Day can be seen throughout the USA.

 

Who would’ve guessed I would’ve fallen for an Original Six matchup? In my defense, tonight’s offerings are… lacking… At least this rivalry got a boost last season, no matter how slight.

That boost wasn’t necessarily seen on the ice per se, but more so on the league table. For those that don’t remember, the Red Wings qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 25th-straight season – certainly an impressive feat.

Yet that success always has to detract from that of another. Last year, that was the Bruins who suffered an earlier-than-desired offseason. That fact was made more excruciating by the fact that Detroit qualified on a tiebreaker with the Bruins, besting them by a lone regulation+overtime victory.

To say the 34-26-6 Bruins aren’t proud of their nine victories more than Detroit‘s this season might be a bit of an understatement. That improvement has led them to third place in the Atlantic Division, the exact spot the Wings occupied a year ago.

They’ve gotten to that position on the back of their defense and goaltending. Boston is 11th-best in the league on that end of the ice, allowing only 172 tallies against.

30-16-4 Tuukka Rask has benefited greatly from his improved defense, as his season .913 save percentage and 2.28 GAA are (t)23rd and (t)eighth-best in the league among the 40 netminders with at least 26 appearances.

A season ago, Rask faced 30.4 shots-per-night, which tied for the 11th-worst rate in the NHL. This season, that rate is down to an impressive 26.4-per-game, the second-lowest in the league. He may be turning 40-years-old in 10 days, but Captain Zdeno Chara has been at the forefront of that improvement. He’s blocked 110 shots so far this season, the most on the squad. If he maintains his production, Chara is in line for 140 blocks on the season – far-and-away the largest total of his 19-year career.

Because of those combined efforts, the Bruins also have one of the best penalty kills in the game. Refusing to yield a goal on 85.7% of opposing power plays, Boston is second-best in the NHL. Joining Chara at the top of the chart in shorthanded blocks is Adam McQuaid, as they both have 29 to their credit.

My, what can change from one year to the next. It is all but certain that the 25-28-11 Red Wings will not be among the 16 teams fighting for the Stanley Cup following the 2016-’17 regular season, as the losers of their past two games currently occupy dead last in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

The main reason for their predicament is a lackluster offense. Lackluster may be a compliment, as Detroit has managed only 153 goals this season – the fifth-fewest in the NHL.

He’s tried as hard as he can, but Captain Henrik Zetterberg can only do so much. His team-leading 53 points is a respectable total – the average player claims 17.2 this season – but the rest of the roster is mostly barren of scoring threats, especially following the trade of Thomas Vanek to Florida. Probably the other main threat is Tomas Tatar, who’s 15 tallies is the active clubhouse-leader.

Usually, the power play is supposed to be a positive opportunity for an offense. Instead, it’s almost dreaded in Detroit, as the Wings have found success only 12.8% of the time – easily the worst mark in the game. Just like with the basic offense, weapons are hard to come by in Motor City. With the departure of Vanek, Frans Nielsen leads the squad with only 11 power play points and three skaters have buried an active team-high of three extra-man goals.

Tonight’s contest marks the culmination of this season’s series between these two clubs. Since Boston already has a 2-0-1 record against the Wings, all Detroit can hope for is a regulation victory to tie the series a five points apiece for both sides.

They last time they played was January 24 at the TD Garden. Although they needed an overtime winner from David Pastrnak, the Bruins were able to hold on for a 4-3 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (68 points [fourth-most in the league] on 30 goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and Rask (six shutouts [tied for third-most in the league] among 30 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL] on a 2.28 GAA [tied for ninth-best in the league]) & Detroit‘s Danny DeKeyser (135 blocks [leads the team]), Luke Glendening (135 hits [leads the team]) and Anthony Mantha (+14 [best on the team]).

In what is probably the biggest spread of the night, the Bruins are a -250 favorite to prove victorious this evening. Everything Detroit struggles at, Boston excels. That’s typically a recipe for disaster for the road team, and I expect this one to go no different. The Bruins should win easily.

Hockey Birthday

  • Larry Murphy (1961-) – This Hall of Fame defenseman was the fourth-overall selection in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Although the three-time All-Star spent most of his 21-year career with the Capitals and was drafted by Los Angeles, he hoisted the Stanley Cup four times – twice each with Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Mike Yeo’s return to Minnesota was a successful one for his new club, as the Blues beat the Wild 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

If not for Mikko Koivu‘s (Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund) wrist shot from the neutral zone with the extra skater and 11 seconds remaining in the game, Second Star of the Game Jake Allen would have earned the shutout and First Star David Perron (Colton Parayko and Alexander Steen) would have taken credit for the game-winning goal on his first period tip-in tally.

Instead, that honor belongs to none other than Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko (Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo). He buried a wrister with 8:57 remaining in regulation to then set the score at 2-0.

Allen saved 32-of-33 shots faced (97%) in the victory, leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 18-of-20 (90%).

If my numbers are correct from when I missed time, St. Louis‘ victory should propel the 72-48-22 road teams to a six-point lead over the hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

February 15 – Day 119 – The rivalry lives on

Wednesday schedules are always light, but that doesn’t mean the NHL doesn’t organize some decent matchups. The action starts, as it usually does, at 7 p.m. with Toronto at Columbus (SN/TVAS), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Detroit (NBCSN). Philadelphia at Calgary (SN360) drops the puck at 9:30 p.m., followed 60 minutes later by this evening’s nightcap: Florida at San Jose (NBCSN). All times eastern.

Break out your favorite throwback sweater for tonight’s old-school rivalry!

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Winners of their past four contests, the Blues make their final trip to Joe Louis Arena (barring an improbable meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals) with a 29-22-5 record, which is good enough for third in the Central Division. When St. Louis has found success this season, it’s done it with the puck on it’s stick, as the Notes have struck 160 tallies in 56 games, which ties for the ninth-best scoring rate in the NHL.

You get two guesses as who the superstar forward is for the Notes, and you probably don’t need the second one. Vladimir Tarasenko has been nigh unstoppable with 53 points to his credit, including 26 tallies. Both numbers are the best in Mound City by a decent margin.

If the Blues are dangerous at even-strength, their power play is nearly lethal. St. Louis converts 21.8% of opponent’s penalties into goals, the sixth-best rate in the NHL. The Notes employ a two-headed attack when presented with the man-advantage, as both Kevin Shattenkirk and Tarasenko have 18 power play points apiece, but it’s been the blueliner that’s been most impressive – his seven extra-man goals top the squad.

The penalty kill is no slouch either. When the Blues commit a penalty, they don’t allow a goal 84.2% of the time, which ties for the fifth-best effort in the league. Captain Alex Pietrangelo is deserving of most of the credit, as his 26 shorthanded shot blocks are most on the team.

Blues fans thought they had it bad this season when their club wasn’t performing up to expectations. There’s probably still Red Wings ultras planning on buying playoff tickets for the 26th-straight year.

Unfortunately for them, 22-24-10 Detroit‘s chances aren’t looking bright as they currently sit in last place in the Eastern Conference. Of course, things can change in a hurry in that conference, as they trail second wildcard Toronto by only nine points. The reasons for the Wings‘ struggles are many (injuries being one of the more glaring issues), but the offense has certainly been the weaker facet of their game. Losers of their past three games, Detroit has managed only 135 goals in 56 games – the fifth-worst scoring rate in the NHL.

If Jeff Blashill and Red Wings management have learned nothing this season, it’s that Henrik Zetterberg is definitely the right man to wear the “C” for Detroit. He’s shown his leadership in countless ways since taking the job at the start of the delayed 2013 season, and this campaign is no different as his 41 points are tops on the team. Goal scoring responsibilities have been well distributed throughout the club, but Andreas Athanasiou and Thomas Vanek, who says he’s going to play tonight, have led the team with 14 tallies apiece.

Where the Wings have been especially horrendous is on the power play, as their 12% success rate is easily the worst in hockey. It’s not a good sign Vanek’s 10 points on the man-advantage are the most impressive on the team, although he has been solid at scoring the puck with five power play goals to his credit.

It’s not exactly saying much, but Detroit is definitely better on the penalty kill… but their 79.8% success rate is still 10th-worst in the league. That is no fault of Danny DeKeyser‘s though, as his 26 shorthanded shot blocks are not only the best on the team, but also tie for 16th-most in the NHL.

The Red Wings have already made their yearly trip to St. Louis, and it was certainly a pleasant visit for them. Although it required a shootout, they were able to beat the Blues 2-1 on October 27.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Detroit‘s Zetterberg (28 assists among 41 points [both most on the team]) and St. Louis‘ Tarasenko (26 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

It’s never a good sign for the home team when Vegas has a positive number next to your team, but that’s where Detroit finds itself. A +100 in’t a huge line, but it’s enough to make me feel even more certain that the Blues will earn two points tonight.

Hockey Birthday

  • Tony McKegney (1958-) – Drafted 32nd-overall by Buffalo in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, this left wing played 13 seasons in the league – most of which with the Sabres. His 639 points were split as evenly as they could be between goals and assists, and he lit the lamp 320 times.
  • Brian Propp (1959-) – Another left wing, this five-time All Star was selected 14th-overall by Philadelphia in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. He played 15 seasons – most of which with the Flyers – and is one of the 85 men to register 1000 points in his career.
  • Craig Simpson (1967-) – Although Pittsburgh drafted this left wing second-overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, he spent most of his 10-year career in Edmonton – and how fortunate he was to do so. In the span of his first three seasons with the Oilers, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.
  • Jaromir Jagr (1972-) – The man, the myth and the legend turns 45 today, and gets to celebrate in style in The Tank. The nine-time All Star was drafted fifth-overall in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, where he hoisted two Stanley Cups and won the Hart Trophy, but he’s in his third season in Florida.
  • Serge Aubin (1975-) – Pittsburgh selected this left wing in the seventh-round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, but he never suited up for the Penguins. Instead, he’s best remembered for his time in Columbus.

All those that had Justin Bailey being the Sabres‘ savior in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, please raise your hand. I now consider everyone who raised their hands liars, as that was only the rookie’s second goal of the season.

The game started with a bang for Buffalo, as First Star of the Game Ryan O’Reilly (Kyle Okposo and Justin Falk) buried a snap shot only 24 seconds into the game to give the Sabres an early lead, but Second Star Bobby Ryan (Erik Karlsson and Fredrik Claesson) tied the game with 5:15 remaining in the first period.

Only one goal was struck in the second period, and it belonged to the Senators. Dion Phaneuf (Ryan) takes credit on a wrist shot with 5:27 remaining in the second period to set the score at 2-1 going into the second intermission.

Just like in the first frame, the Sabres attacked quickly in the third. Only 51 seconds after resuming play, Matt Moulson (Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel) lit the lamp with a wrister to tie the game at two-all. 6:47 later, that’s when Bailey (Jake McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen) struck with his game-winning deflection.

Third Star Robin Lehner earns the victory after saving an impressive 39-of-41 shots faced (95.1%), leaving the loss to Craig Anderson, who saved 22-of-25 (88%).

Road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and specifically the Sabres, are on quite a tear. Buffalo takes credit for two of the visitors’ four victories in the past five days, pulling the roadies within four points of the 62-41-18 hosts.

April 7 – Day 175 – Effectively a play-in

With two three-goal periods by the Oilers, Rexall Place went out a winner over the rival Canucks by a score of 6-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

Edmonton saved their first offensive outburst for the second period, as Nail Yakupov got things started at the 28:27 mark of the game with his eighth tally of the season, assisted by Mark Fayne.  Patrick Maroon scored the second 4:49 later, his 10th tally of the season.  The third and final goal of the second period, aka the game winner,  was struck with 2:34 remaining courtesy of a Connor McDavid wrister, assisted by Jordan Eberle (his 21st helper of the season) and Taylor Hall, giving the Oil a three goal lead.

Vancouver finally got on the board at the 5:21 mark of the final period on a Matt Bartkowski snap shot, assisted by Alex Biega and Jared McCann (his ninth helper of the season), but the Oilers returned the differential to three 3:47 later with Maroon’s second of the night, assisted by Eberle and McDavid (his 31st helper of the season).  18 seconds later, Hall scored on a backhander for his 26th tally of the season, assisted by Adam Pardy and Iiro Pakarinen.  With 7:51 remaining in the game, the Canucks scored their second goal on a Bo Horvat snapper (his 15th tally of the season), assisted by Emerson Etem and Derek Dorsett.  The final goal of the game belongs to Leon Draisaitl, whose wrister was assisted by Hall (his 38th helper of the season) and McDavid.

Cam Talbot earns the win after saving 25 of 27 shots faced (92.6%), while Jacob Markstrom takes the loss, saving 32 of 38 (84.2%).

Edmonton‘s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day record at 81-45-19, favoring the home sides by 40 points over the roadies.

I hope you’re ready for another busy hockey night, because you’re in store for one!  Six pucks drop at 7 p.m. eastern (Detroit at Boston [NBCSN/TVAS], Tampa Bay at New Jersey, the New York Islanders at the New York Rangers, Toronto at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh at Washington [SN360] and Montréal at Carolina [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Florida at Ottawa (RDS2).  Arizona at Nashville gets underway at 8 p.m. eastern, with two games trailing 30 minutes later (St. Louis at Chicago and Colorado at Dallas).  Vancouver at Calgary is the only game to start at 9 p.m. eastern, as the co-nightcaps get started an hour and a half later (Anaheim at Los Angeles [SN/SN360] and Winnipeg at San Jose).

There’s a lot of divisional rivalries being  played this evening (Detroit at Boston, Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, Florida at Ottawa, St. Louis at Chicago, Colorado at Dallas, Vancouver at Calgary and Anaheim at Los Angeles), and four games between teams qualifying for the playoffs (Islanders at Rangers, Pittsburgh at Washington, St. Louis at Chicago and Anaheim at Los Angeles).  The VancouverCalgary game is also a rematch of one of last season’s Western Quarterfinals.

There’s a ton of great games being played this evening, which makes my choice difficult.  Boston has the opportunity to qualify, which in turn makes the TorontoPhiladelphia game important (mark it down though, when was the last time Bruins fans hoped for a Maple Leafs win?).  The Islanders can reclaim a division qualifying spot.  St. Louis can move into first place in the Western Conference (again, that also makes the ColoradoDallas game important).  We’ve got a playoff rematch. And, oh yeah, we need to break a tie for the lead in the Pacific Division.

Since the biggest impact on the playoffs is a team not qualifying moving into the bracket, I suppose we’ll head to New England.

UnknownUnknownThis will be Detroit‘s 12th time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-4-1 record.  The last time they were featured was March 22, a 6-2 beat down at the hands of the Lightning.  Boston has been featured 21 times before tonight, and own a 8-11-2 record in such games.  They were just featured Tuesday in their 2-1 home shootout loss to the Hurricanes.

The 41-28-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played the 14th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 103 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2344 shots to reach 27-16-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.5% for 216 goals against, the 14th most in the NHL.  They’ve been about that successful on the penalty kill too, neutralizing 81.23% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against, the 14th best rate in the league.

Led by Dylan Larkin’s 213 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2358 times, with 8.6% finding the back of the net for 204 goals (led by Larkin’s 23 tallies), the eighth fewest in the league.  In comparison, the power play has done well this season, successful on 19.29% of attempts, good for 49 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s eight extra man tallies), the 12th best rate in the league.

Detroit enters tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being last night’s three goal shutout victory over the visiting Flyers.  With a win tonight, the Wings clinch their spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, but a loss makes their final game on Saturday in Madison Square Garden a must win, especially since they play at the same time as the Bruins.

The 41-30-9 Boston Bruins currently occupy fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff picture.  To get there, they’ve played the fifth best offense in the league, but it’s been paired with the 12th worst defense.  A more statistical breakdown of their game can be found within Tuesday’s post.

Boston enters tonight’s game on a two game losing skid, with their most recent being Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Canes.  The Bruins certainly keeps their playoff hopes alive with a win this evening, but they’ll need Toronto to beat Philadelphia if they want to actually break into qualifying position before the night is through.

This is the final meeting of the regular season between these two squads, and Boston leads the season series 2-1-0.  That being said, it was the last meeting on Valentine’s Day that Detroit earned their lone win over the Bruins, a 6-5 home victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (36 goals [tied for fifth most in the league]) and Detroit‘s Larkin (23 goals, including 19 at even-strength and five game-winners, on 213 shots, and +13 [all lead the team]).

I think Boston should be able to win this game.  Their defense shouldn’t be pushed too much, and the offense is more than capable of scoring at a moment’s notice.

March 15 – Day 152 – Qualification battle

The Panthers entered the third period with a two goal shutout lead, but the Islanders scored three unanswered goals to earn the win in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The lone goal in the first period found the back of the net with 4:49 remaining in the frame, courtesy of a Third Star of the Game Aleksander Barkov wrister (his 22nd tally of the season), assisted by Alex Petrovic and Jonathan Huberdeau.

8:03 into the second, Florida struck again to double their lead.  This tally was a Nick Bjugstad wrsiter, assisted by Barkov and Huberdeau (his 34th helper of the season).  The Panthers held their 2-0 lead until 7:10 remained in regulation.

Second Star Kyle Okposo’s wrister finally got New York on the board, assisted by Frans Nielsen (his 26th helper of the season) and Travis Hamonic.  1:21 later, Josh Bailey leveled the contest with a wrister, assisted by John Tavares (his 29th helper of the season) and Casey Cizikas.  The Isles‘ game winner came courtesy of an unassisted First Star Cal Clutterbuck backhander, his 13th tally of the season.

Thomas Greiss earns the win after saving 23 of 25 shots faced (92%), while Roberto Luongo takes the loss, saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

The first home win since Friday sets the DtFR Game of the Day series record at 67-39-16, favoring the home squads by 28 points over the roadies.

It’s an exciting Tuesday of games this evening!  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern as usual with two games (the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh and Carolina at Washington), with four games following half an hour later (Detroit at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Tampa Bay at Toronto, Florida at Montréal and Minnesota at Ottawa).  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the puck drop of the Los Angeles at Dallas contest, and this evening’s nightcap, Boston at San Jose, gets going at 10 p.m. eastern on NBCSN.

Half of tonight’s (New York at Pittsburgh, Carolina at Washington, Tampa Bay at Toronto and Florida at Montréal) and three are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles at Dallas and Boston at San Jose).

While that list is usually helpful, the game I’m most interested in is Detroit at Philadelphia, as both of these squads are competing for the second wildcard.

UnknownPhiladelphia Flyers LogoTonight’s game will be Detroit‘s 10th in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 6-2-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was the last day of February, a 3-2 overtime victory in Dallas.  Philadelphia has been featured three times before tonight’s game, and own a 2-1-0 record in such games, with their most recent being their 3-1 loss in Carolina on February 23.

The 34-24-11 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference, good enough for the second wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played the 15th worst defense, paired with the eighth worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s 92 blocks, the Wings have allowed 2037 shots to reach  26-14-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 182 goals against, the 15th most in the league.  The defense slightly improves when down a man, as their 80.7% kill rate, which has allowed 44 power play goals so far this season, ranks only 11th worst in the NHL.

The offense has been even worse.  Led by Dylan Larkin’s 184 shots, Detroit has fired the puck 2055 times, but only 8.3% have found the back of the net for 173 goals (led by Larkin’s 20 tallies), the eighth fewest in the NHL.  The power play hasn’t done them any help either, as the 16.96% success rate, good for 38 power play goals (led by Pavel Datsyuk’s seven extra man tallies), ranks seventh worst in the league.

Detroit‘s last game was Sunday night, a one goal shutout loss at home to the Maple Leafs.  A win tonight has the potential to propel the Wings back into the first wildcard position should Pittsburgh fall to the Islanders but a loss allows Philadelphia to pull within at least a point of qualifying for the playoffs in Detroit‘s place.

The 32-23-12 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team outside the playoff cut.  They play the 14th best defense, but it is paired with the ninth worst offense.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team leading 136 blocks, the Flyers have allowed 2067 shots to reach 16-15-8 Steve Mason and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 180 goals against, the 14th fewest in the NHL.  Philadelphia‘s penalty kill has been even worse than the Wings‘, neutralizing only 79.65% of their penalties for 46 power play goals against, the ninth worst rate in the league.

Led by Claude Giroux’ 190 shots, Philly has fired the puck a solid 2040 times, but only 8.4% have found the back of the net for 174 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 24 tallies), the ninth fewest in the league.  In comparison to the overall offense, the Flyers‘ power play has been decent, successful on 18.94% of attempts, good for 43 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 11 extra man tallies), the 13th best success rate in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last showing was their 5-4 shootout loss in Florida on Saturday.  With a win tonight, they pull within at least a point of this evening’s opposition for the second wildcard position.

This is only the second meeting between these two squads this season, with the first game on January 17 ending 2-1 in favor of Philadelphia after a shootout.

Some players to keep an eye on include Detroit‘s Mrazek (2.17 GAA [tied for fifth best in the league] and .925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.925 save percentage [tied for fifth best in the league]) should he play.

The Flyers should be able to win this evening’s game, as both teams field terrible offenses, but Detroit‘s defense is much more prone to allowing scores.  The Broad Street Bullies are still alive for the playoffs!

February 29 – Day 137 – Detroit returns the favor to Dallas

The Tampa Bay Lightning took sole ownership of second place in the Atlantic Division by winning 4-1 in Boston in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Bruins‘ lone goal was struck only 6:01 into the game, courtesy of  a Kevan Miller wrister, assisted by Joonas Kemppainen and Landon Ferraro.  Tampa leveled the game 5:18 later with a power play wrister from Alex Killorn, who was assisted by Anton Stralman (his 20th helper of the season) and First Star of the Game Ryan Callahan.  The Bolts took a lead they would not yield with their game-winning goal at the 14:39 mark, courtesy of Callahan, who was assisted by Killorn’s 21st helper of the season.

It was another two-goal period for the Bolts in the second, with their first coming at the 8:18 mark.  It was Callahan’s second of the evening, assisted by Second Star Steven Stamkos (his 23rd helper of the season) and Stralman.  1:46 later, Stamkos’ wrister (his 28th tally of the season) found the back to set the score at the 4-1 final.

Third Star Ben Bishop earns the win after saving 32 of 33 shots (97%), while Tuukka Rask takes the loss after saving 26 of 30 (86.7%).

Tampa Bay’s win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 61-34-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

Six games will be played this Monday night, with half of them getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Columbus at the New York Rangers [NHLN], Calgary at Philadelphia and Arizona at Pittsburgh), with Tampa Bay at Toronto dropping the puck half an hour later.  8:30 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of Detroit at Dallas, and Montréal at San Jose, this evening’s nightcap, gets started at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Columbus at New York and Tampa Bay at Toronto), and Detroit at Dallas is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

Although it is not the nationally televised game this evening, the most exciting is definitely the DetroitDallas game.

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Both sides have been featured eight times in the Game of the Day series before this evening’s game, but it is Dallas with the better record in such games (5-0-3 and 5-2-1, respectively).  Detroit was most recently featured in their 1-0 overtime loss in Madison Square Garden on February 21, while Dallas last saw action in the series on February 16 in their 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis.

The 31-20-11 Detroit Red Wings are, to put it plainly, an intriguing team, as they currently occupy fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference (good enough for the first wildcard spot), but don’t play either end of the ice exceptionally well.

For starters, even with Danny DeKeyser’s 83 blocks leading the squad to allowing 1829 shots (exactly the league average) to reach 24-11-6 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92%, they’ve allowed 161 goals, only the 14th-fewest in the league.  The penalty kill is barely better, as their 81.86% kill rate ranks 13th-best, allowing 37 extra-man tallies.

The offense hasn’t done them any favors.  Rookie Dylan Larkin has a team-leading 164 shots to his credit and helped lead the squad to 1804 attempts, of which 8.6% have found the back of the net for 158 scores (led by Larkin’s 19), 10th-fewest in the league.  The offense gets even worse on the power play, as they are successful on only 17.17% of attempts for 34 extra-man goals, sixth-worst in the league.

All of that being said, the Wings are currently riding a two-game winning streak, with their most recent occurring Saturday in Denver, a 5-3 victory.  Should Detroit pull off a win tonight, they would advance past Boston for third in the division and trail second place Tampa Bay by only a point.

The 38-19-6 Dallas Stars are currently in second place in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the best offense in the NHL, but they’ve been held back by also fielding the eighth-worst defense.

Led by Tyler Seguin’s 241 shots, the Stars have fired the puck 2033 times, of which an incredible 9.9% have found the back of the net for 204 goals, most in the NHL.  The offense has actually slowed down when on the power play, as Dallas‘ 22.11% success rate for 44 extra-man tallies (led by Jamie Benn’s 14) is only fourth-best in the league.

The major pitfall for the Stars this season has been in the defensive zone, specifically the goalie crease.  Led by Johnny Oduya’s team-leading 132 blocks, Dallas has allowed 1841 shots to reach 22-11-5 Antti Niemi and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.5% for 181 goals against, eighth-most in the league.  The penalty kill has been even worse, as the Stars kill only 79.26% of opposing power plays for 39 goals against, seventh-worst in the league.  However, those numbers are slightly improved by the eight short-handed goals (led by Cody Eakin’s three) to their credit.

Dallas is currently riding a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being their 3-2 loss on Saturday to the Rangers.  Should the Stars defend home ice this evening, they would reclaim the top spot in both the division and conference by a point over the Blackhawks.

The Red Wings and Stars have already played once this season, but it was way back on November 8.  Dallas won that game 4-1 in Detroit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (70 points [second-most in the league], 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league] and 38 assists [10th-most in the league]), John Klingberg (42 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Seguin (68 points [third-most in the league] and 32 goals [tied for third-most in the league]) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+20 [tied for ninth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.1 GAA [tied for second-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

Although Mrazek has been impressive in net at times this season, it’s not often he’s seen an offense as proficient as the one in Dallas.  The Stars should easily hold home ice.

February 21 – Day 129 – Original Six in the Garden

The Pittsburgh Penguins extended their DtFR Game of the Day losing streak to six straight, falling to Tampa Bay 4-2 yesterday.

It was all Tampa Bay in the first period, as they scored two unanswered goals.  The first of those tallies was an Anton Stralman wrister at the 9:08 mark, assisted by Vladislav Namestnikov (his 17th helper of the season) and Jonathan Marchessault.  2:12 later, Steven Stamkos got involved with his 24th goal of the season, a backhander assisted by Alex Kilorn and Matthew Carle.

The Bolts began the second right where they left the first, with Carle’s unassisted first goal of the season at the 3:14 mark.  The Penguins finally got on the board 2:21 later, when Tom Kuhnhackl scored his first goal of the season, a short-hander no less.  Tampa set the score at 4-1 with a tip-in from Tyler Johnson, assisted by Ondrej Palat (his 11th helper of the season) and Marchessault.  With 3:59 remaining in the second, Pittsburgh got their second off a Scott Wilson wrister, assisted by Bryan Rust and Kris Letang (his 33rd helper of the season).  The 4-2 score held into the second intermission and through the final period.

Ben Bishop earns the victory after saving 37 of 39 shots (94.9%), while Jeff Zatkoff takes the loss after saving 16 of 20 (80%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 57-30-12, favoring the home squad by 32 points over the roadies.

Twelve teams are in action today, and one of them is being played outside for everyone who thinks that’s fun.  The day’s action gets started at 12:30 p.m. eastern when Pittsburgh visits Buffalo, followed three hours later by Chicago at Minnesota, the first of two games in the Stadium Series this year.  The usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features three puck drops (Calgary at Anaheim, Detroit at the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay at Carolina).  The prestigious title of nightcap is bestowed to the Colorado at Vancouver game, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. eastern.

Chicago at Minnesota and Calgary at Anaheim are the only two divisional rivalries being played today, and only the DetroitNew York game is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.  The ChicagoMinnesota and CalgaryAnaheim games are also worth watching for being rematches of last season’s Western Conference Semifinals.

Although the NHL may not like it for all the effort they put into their outdoor games, it is the DetroitNew York game that attracts my attention best.

UnknownNew York Rangers Logo

Tonight’s game will be Detroit‘s eighth in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 5-2-0 record.  Their most recent was Valentine’s Day, when they beat the Bruins 6-5.  New York will be playing in their 16th game in the series, where they own a 8-5-2 record.  They’ve been featured more recently, falling 5-3 on home ice to the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

The 29-20-10 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, good enough to qualify them for the first wildcard position.  To get to that position, they’ve played a slightly above-average defense, paired with a slightly below-average offense.

Thanks in part to Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 79 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed only 1716 shots to reach 22-11-5 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for 153 goals against, the 14th-fewest in the league.  Just like the entire defensive unit, the penalty kill has also hung around average for much of this season.  Currently, the Wings rank 15th-best, killing 80.73% for 34 extra-man goals against.

Rookie sensation Dylan Larkin has already become an integral part of Detroit‘s offense, as his 157 shots have helped lead the squad to 1695 shots, of which 8.7% have found the back of the net for 149 goals (led by Larkin’s 19 tallies), 13th-fewest in the league.  Just like the penalty kill, this special team ranks just behind the overall offense.  The Wings‘ 18.28% success rate ranks 12th-worst, and has provided 34 goals.

Detroit enters tonight game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 3-2 shootout loss in Ottawa last night.  Should the Wings win, they have the potential to move back into third place in the Atlantic Division, but they will also need Tampa Bay to lose to Carolina.  Should they lose, they do run the risk of falling into the second wildcard position should Pittsburgh beat Buffalo.

The 33-19-6 New York Rangers currently rank second-best in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best offense in the NHL, which is backed by the ever-improving defense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blueshirts‘ style can be found within Wednesday’s article.

New York‘s most recent game was a 4-2 victory in Toronto on Thursday.  Should the Rangers win, they improve their lead over their Brooklyn rivals to five points.

Today’s game is the first in this season’s series.  Last season, Detroit won the series 2-0-1, with the overtime loss being the only game played in Madison Square Garden.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+21 [tied for eighth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (2.11 GAA [fourth-best in the league], four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .927 save percentage [sixth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Henrik Lundqvist (28 wins [tied for fourth-most in the league] and .922 save percentage [10th-best in the league]).

I don’t expect this to be much of a game.  New York is a tough opponent, especially at home, and Detroit has not played well this week.  I expect the Blueshirts to earn two points.

February 14 – Day 122 – These teams definitely don’t love each other…

It took overtime, but the Anaheim Ducks were able to avenge their 3-2 overtime loss on the Pond against the Blackhawks by winning in Chicago by the same score.

The Hawks scored the first goal, but it wasn’t until 35:28 had ticked off the clock and Anaheim committed a penalty.  It came courtesy of Second Star of the Game Brent Seabrook on a slap shot, assisted by Patrick Kane (his 45th helper of the season) and Duncan Keith.  It was the only goal of the period, so Chicago took the 1-0 lead into the third.

The Ducks leveled the score at the 4:56 mark of the final frame on a Jakob Silfverberg wrister, assisted by Third Star Ryan Kesler (his 16th helper of the season) and Cam Fowler.  The Ducks then took the lead 3:42 later with a David Perron wrister, assisted by First Star Ryan Getzlaf (his 36th helper of the season) and Mike Santorelli.  The Hawks leveled the game again with 7:59 remaining in regulation when Seabrook scored his second of the night, assisted by Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw (his 18th helper of the season).  Neither team was able to break the tie, so our Game of the Day series went to its second straight overtime period.

The three-on-three lasted only 2:16 before Getzlaf scored the wrister-winner, assisted by Fowler and Sami Vatanen (his 20th helper of the season).

Frederik Anderson replaced John Gibson (16 of 17,  94.1%) at the beginning of the third period and earned the win, saving five of the six shots he faced (83.3%), while Corey Crawford takes the loss after saving 41 of 44 (93.2%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 54-27-11, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

As usual, the NHL takes a little bit of a reprieve on Sundays, but with the NFL finally out of the way, there’s a little bit more room for some exciting games.  The first games drop the puck at 12:30 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Buffalo and Los Angeles at New Jersey), followed three hours later by Boston at Detroit (NBC).  Tampa Bay hosts St. Louis at 6 p.m. eastern, which is trailed by Philadelphia at the New York Rangers (NBCSN) by 90 minutes.

40% of today’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Detroit and Philadelphia at New York), and another set of two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Boston at Detroit and St. Louis at Tampa Bay).  As usual, I like to choose the game that qualifies for both, especially since they are slated to meet in the Eastern Quarterfinals, so we’re headed to Hockeytown!

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Today’s game will be Boston‘s 12th in the Game of the Day series (most in the Atlantic Division), where they own a 4-6-1 record.  Their most recent was Tuesday’s game, where the Kings smashed them 9-2 in the TD Garden.  Detroit has been featured six times before today, and own a 4-2-0 record in such games.  They were last featured Monday, when they beat the Panthers in Motown 3-0.

The 30-19-6 Boston Bruins currently sit in second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.  They play one of the best offenses in the league, but it’s paired with a defense that, although improving, allows the 13th-most goals.  As they were just featured Tuesday, a more in-depth analysis of their game can be found within that post.

With yesterday’s 4-2 win in Minnesota, the Bruins are currently riding a two-game win streak.  Should they extend it to three, they not only expand their lead over the Wings for second in the division to three points, but they also draw within two points of Florida for the division lead.

The 28-18-9 Detroit Red Wings currently occupy third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  The name of the game in Motown is defense, which ranks 11th-best in the league, but it is paired with the ninth-worst offense in the NHL.

Thanks in part to Danny DeKeyser’s 76 blocks, 21-10-5 Petr Mrazek and co. have had to save 1624 shots, only one more than the league average, of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 138 goals against, 11th-fewest in the league.  That ranking may be explained by Detroit‘s penalty kill, which ranks 14th-worst in the league, killing only 80.43% for 36 extra-man goals against.

The offense has been even poorer, firing only 1593 shots (led by Dylan Larkin’s 149 attempts), 8.7% of which have found the back of the net for 139 goals (led by Larkin’s 18 tallies), ninth-fewest in the league.  Again, those numbers might have the special teams to blame, as the Wings rank 11th-worst in the league with a man-advantage.  They score on only 18.18% of attempts, for 32 power play goals (led by Gustav Nyquist’s six extra man tallies).

The Wings lost their most recent showing, a 3-2 shootout loss on home ice to the Avalanche.  Should the Wings avoid that loss from becoming a streak, they will move a point past Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division, but a loss runs the risk of the Wings falling to the first wild card spot should Tampa Bay beat the Blues.

Boston and Detroit have already played twice this season, with the Bruins winning both contests.  Their most recent meting was November 25, a 3-2 overtime game in Detroit.

Some players to watch in today’s game include Boston‘s Brad Marchand (27 goals [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Tuukka Rask (four shouts [tied for fourth-most in the league) & Detroit‘s Larkin (+25 [tied for second-best in the league]) and Mrazek (1.94 GAA [leads the league], .933 save percentage [leads the league] and four shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league).

Especially when taking Detroit‘s offense into consideration, it is tough to pick against the Bruins.

 

February 3 – Day 111 – Potential playoff matchup? But we already saw it last year!

St. Louis got exactly the start to the second half they wanted, but it was a little stressful.

The only goal of the game was scored with only 1:05 by Troy Brouwer (who I’m giving the First Star of the Game, assisted by Alex Pietrangelo (his 19th helper of the season) and Robby Fabbri.  The Preds were unable to react and get a leveling goal

Brian Elliott saved all 16 shot he faced to earn the clean sheet, while Pekka Rinne allowed only the one goal on 23 shots faced (95.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-24-9, favoring the home team by 32 points over the road squads.

With so many games yesterday, it makes sense that tonight has only three matchups on the schedule.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern when Buffalo visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Detroit at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS).  This evening’s nightcap drops the puck at 9:30 p.m. eastern when Carolina visits Calgary (SN1).

Two of tonight’s games are between division rivals (Buffalo at Montréal and Detroit at Tampa Bay), and Detroit at Tampa Bay is the only meeting of teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (in fact, they are currently slated to meet each other in the first round).

Detroit at Tampa Bay is also a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

I give you three guesses to pick tonight’s Game of the Day, and you probably won’t need two of them.

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Detroit has been featured four times in the Game of the Day series before tonight, and own a 3-1-0 record in those games.  Their most recent was a 4-2 victory in Brooklyn on January 25.  This is Tampa Bay‘s eighth time being featured, with their most recent being a  5-2 loss in Colorado on January 22, which dropped their series-record to 3-3-1.

The 25-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference.  They play the 10th best defense in the league, but have been held back by the seventh worst offense.

Led by Danny DeKeyser’s team-leading 65 blocks, the Wings have allowed 1473 shots to reach the incredible 18-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for 121 goals against.  That being said, the penalty kill has been only average, killing 80.89% (15th-best in the league) for 30 power play goals against.

Even with Dylan Larkin’s 127 shots, the Wings have only fired the puck 1404 times, but 8.6% have found the back of the net for 121 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies).  Part of the offense’s problem has been the 13th-worst power play in the league, scoring on only 17.65% for 27 extra-man tallies (led by Gustav Nyquist’s six goals).

Detroit won their last game before the break, and will need to continue that success in the tight Atlantic division race.  A win tonight moves them past the Bolts into second in the division.

The 27-18-4 Tampa Bay Lightning currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference.  To get to that position, they’ve played the fifth-best defense in the league paired with the 15th best offense.

Led by Victor Hedman’s team-leading 83 blocks, the Bolts have allowed only 1373 shots to reach 19-14-3 Ben Bishop and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.4% for only 114 goals against.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 14th-best penalty kill in the league, killing 81.08% for only 28 goals against.

The Bolts have also been pretty good at putting on the offensive pressure, even though they only have 1420 shots to their credit (led by Steven Stamkos’ 145 attempts).  Nine percent have found the back of the net for 128 goals against, led by Stamkos’ 21 tallies.  Part of the reason for that success has been the 15th-best power play, scoring on 18.13% of attempts for 31 extra-man tallies (led by Stamkos’ 10 power play goals).

Just like their opposition, Tampa won their last game before taking the All-Star Break.  Turning that win into a streak this evening gives Tampa an actual lead over Detroit in the standings.

Thanks to winning both the previous meetings this season, Detroit would clinch the season series with anything better than a regulation loss tonight.  These squads last met in Detroit exactly three months ago, with the Wings winning 2-1.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+24 [tied for best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for second-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for third-best in the league]) & Tampa Bay‘s Bishop (2.02 GAA [second-best in the league] and 19 wins [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

Although Detroit has had the upper-hand so far this season on Tampa, the Bolts have improved a lot since their meeting in November.  I’m picking Tampa Bay to win this one and start the second half of their season on the right foot… or skate… or whatever.

January 25 – Day 107 – I told you we need to watch Detroit soon…

Just like I predicted, the Chicago Blackhawks used their return to the United Center to regroup and beat the division-rival St. Louis Blues with a two-goal shutout.

The game-winning goal was not scored until 35:26 had ticked off the clock, as Third Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored off assists from Second Star Patrick Kane (his 43rd helper of the season) and Michal Rozsival.  The one-goal lead held into the second intermission.

The lone insurance goal was scored on the power play, only 4:56 after resuming play.  Andrew Shaw was responsible, assisted by Marian Hossa (his 17th helper of the season) and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

First Star Corey Crawford improves his record to 28-11-2 after saving all 25 shots he faced, while Brian Elliott’s falls to 10-6-5 after saving 23 of 25 (92%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-20-9, favoring the home squad by 40 points over the roadies.

After only four games played yesterday, the NHL picks back up the action today with six games.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern with three games (Detroit at the New York Islanders, Boston at Philadelphia [TVAS] and Montréal at Columbus [RDS]), followed half an hour later by Buffalo at the New York Rangers (NBCSN).  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps drop the puck at 8:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Dallas and Arizona at Minnesota).

None of tonight’s games  are between divisional rivals, but two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Detroit at New York and Arizona at Minnesota).

In addition to watching a Western Conference game yesterday, I think the WingsIsles game will be more competitive, so let’s focus in on the action in the Barclays Center.

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Tonight’s game marks Detroit‘s fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 2-1-0 record.  Their most recent showing in the series was a 4-1 loss to the Stars on November 8.  New York has been featured twice before tonight’s game, and are 1-1-0 in such games.  Their most recent in the series was also a 4-1 loss at home, but this one was to the Capitals on January 7.

The 24-16-8 Detroit Red Wings currently occupy third place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have used an above-average defense to get them there.

Even with Danny DeKeyser’s 65 blocks, the Red Wings have allowed 1444 shots to reach 17-9-4 Petr Mrazek and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.3% for only 122 goals against, 12th-least in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has been above-average, the penalty kill still has room to improve, killing 80.65% of opposing attempts for 30 power play goals against.  To make matters worse, the kill still has yet to score their first short-handed goal of the season.

Standout rookie Dylan Larkin may have 127 shots to his credit, but the Wings as a whole only have 1378 on the season, of which 8.5% have found the back of the net for 118 goals (led by Larkin’s 15 tallies), seventh-fewest in the NHL.  Part of the problem for the lack of offense has been the below-average power play, where the Wings have scored only 17.11% for 26 power play goals, led by Gustav Nyquist’s six extra-man tallies.

The Wings‘ most recent game played was a 4-3 loss to the Ducks on Saturday.  A Detroit win tonight propels them past Tampa Bay for second place in the division, while a loss runs the chance of them falling behind Boston and into a wildcard position.

The 25-15-6 New York Islanders currently occupy third place in the Metropolitan Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference, using a top-10 offense paired with an above-average defense.  The Isles are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Led by Calvin de Haan’s 117 blocks, the Isles have allowed only 1389 shots to reach 12-8-4 Jaroslav Halak and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.5% for only 114 goals against, sixth-fewest in the league.  The strongest facet of the defense has been the penalty kill, which has killed 87.86% of opposing opportunities, allowing only 17 goals.  To make matters worse for Detroit, New York also has four shorties to their credit, led by Cal Clutterbuck’s two tallies.

Led by Captain John Tavares’ 136 shots, New York has fired a solid 1393 shots, with 9% finding the back of the net for 128 goals (led by Brock Nelson’s 18 tallies), 13th-most in the league.  The biggest deficiency has been the power play, where the Isles have only scored on 17.78% for 24 goals (led by Frans Nielsen’s four extra-man tallies).  To make matters worse, the power play has given up five short-handed goals, two more than the league average.

New York won their most recent game, 5-2 victory in Ottawa.  A win tonight increases their lead over fourth-place New Jersey to three points, and has the potential to propel them past the team from Manhattan in the division.

This will be the first of three meetings between these squads this season.  Last year, New York won the series 2-1-0.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Detroit‘s Larkin (+23 [fourth-best in the league]) and Mrazek (.932 save percentage [tied for third-best in the league] and 2.03 GAA [tied for fifth-best in the league]) & New York‘s Thomas Greiss (.927 save percentage [tied for eighth-best in the league]), should he play.

Detroit is a peculiar team to figure out, as they always seem to do just enough to win a lot of their games.  That being said, I think New York, especially in Brooklyn, will be too much to handle.