Tag Archives: Eller

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 1

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 3

By beating Pittsburgh 3-2 in overtime, the Capitals have pulled within a game of leveling their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup

The tone of this match was set early  – at the 5:24 mark, specifically – when Captain Sidney Crosby was injured after driving towards Braden Holtby‘s crease. While Alex Ovechkin‘s slash across the back appeared to be intentional, his taking Crosby’s left skate out from under him and whacking him across the head with his stick while preparing to play defense was done with no malice.

The contact threw Crosby off-balance and he tumbled across Holtby’s crease. The first thing he came in contact with was Matt Niskanen, and it is here where Crosby probably got hurt.  The defenseman was taken by surprise and raised his hands to fend him off, a reasonable reaction especially since the puck was still in his defensive zone. But with hands come a stick, and Niskanen’s ended up catching Crosby squarely in the forehead. Though conscious, Pittsburgh’s star stayed down following the hit and the play was soon stopped.

Crosby did not see the ice for the rest of the game with an apparent head injury and Niskanen was charged with a five-minute major and a game misconduct, suspending him for the remainder of Game 3. Niskanen probably doesn’t deserve the misconduct he received, but was forced into a penalty befitting one who downs – intentionally or accidentally – a league superstar.

As one would expect, the physical series became only more so after play resumed. 67 hits were thrown in all between the two clubs, led by Pittsburgh’s 36. Chris Kunitz was the Penguins’ most dominant checker with seven hits, with his counterparts Brooks Orpik and Ovechkin both managing four blows apiece.

All the physicality made it difficult for either club to find much rhythm throughout the game, which is why power plays and man-advantages proved to be so important.

The first tally of the game was a wrist shot from Second Star of the Game Nicklas Backstrom (Ovechkin and Justin Williams), but even with the five-on-three power play it was not easy. After receiving Ovechkin’s pass from above the far face-off circle, Backstrom fired his shot from the far corner of the slot. Obviously boucing the puck off Marc-Andre Fleury‘s stick and Ian Cole‘s shaft was the plan, because his shot ended up in in the corner of the goal to give the Caps a 1-0 lead with 6:55 remaining in the first period.

No goals were struck in the second period, but the Penguins’ situation became even more dire when Patric Hornqvist accidentally injured teammate Conor Sheary. He bore the brunt of his attempted hit on Lars Eller, and his recoil sent him crashing into Sheary’s head. Similar to Crosby, Sheary did not return for the remainder of the game.

The lack of bodies started becoming apparent late in the frame and through much of the third. Losing two top-line forwards in a game is detrimental to any team, but especially one that is trailing.

Though technically scored at even-strength, Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s (Marcus Johansson and Williams) wrister at the 9:46 mark of the third might as well have been with the man-advantage given his exhausted opponent. Given the circumstances, the Capitals  – and the many Pittsburgh fans that made their ways home early – thought they’d iced the victory away.

Then the Penguins made things interesting.

Knowing his club needed a goal as soon as possible, Mike Sullivan pulled Fleury for an extra attacker with 2:56 remaining in regulation, and Third Star Evgeni Malkin (Phil Kessel and Justin Schultz) capitalized with 63 seconds later on his six-on-five slap shot from the near face-off circle.

There was little to no celebration by Malkin, as he knew there was still work to be done. Sullivan left his piecemeal top-line on the ice for the remainder of regulation and eventually called a wise timeout with 94 seconds remaining before the final horn.

That’s exactly the rest the Penguins needed, as Schultz (Malkin and Kunitz) scored a slap shot with only 65 ticks remaining in regulation to level the game at two-all and force overtime.

That extra period didn’t last long though, due in part to Trevor Daley holding Johansson 2:40 after it began. 33 seconds later, First Star Kevin Shattenkirk (Backstrom and Kuznetsov) took advantage of the man-advantage by ripping a slap shot past Fleury for the first postseason game-winner of his career.

Of course, Washington’s work has only just begun. With the Penguins winning both games at the Verizon Center, they still have home ice in this series. If the Caps truly want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in franchise history, they’ll need to repeat Monday’s performance in Game 4.

Speaking of, Game 4 is slated for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time at PPG Paints Arena. The contest will be televised on NBCSN in the USA and CBC and TVAS in Canada.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – April 27

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers at Ottawa Senators – Game 1

Second Star of the Game Erik Karlsson‘s third period wrist shot proved to be the difference in Game 1 at the Canadian Tire Centre, as Ottawa beat the Rangers 2-1.

It seems like it’s said every time Henrik Lundqvist is involved, but this was a stunning goaltending matchup.  The Swede saved a brilliant 41-of-43 shots faced (95.3%), but was out-dueled by First Star Craig Anderson, who allowed only one tally on 35 attempts (97.1%).

This contest’s scoreless draw was not broken until 27:10 had ticked off the clock, though what set up the play occurred a little bit before that. 6:54 into the second period, Cody Ceci earned a seat in the penalty box for tripping Michael Grabner, and the Blueshirts made sure he paid. Captain Ryan McDonagh (Mats Zuccarello and Pavel Buchnevich) took advantage of the man-advantage only 16 seconds later by pinging a strong slap shot from the far point off the near post.

But as happens so often in sports, what comes around goes around. Brady Skjei got caught holding Ryan Dzingel with 2:23 remaining in the frame, followed 62 seconds later by the Third Star himself (Alexandre Burrows and Kyle Turris) cashing in on the power play with a wrist shot from the slot. Dzingel’s goal leveled the contest at one-all with only one period of regulation remaining.

Karlsson is one of the most clutch players for the Senators and he proved that once again tonight with his first goal of the 2017 playoffs. The play reset at the far point when Marc Methot battled Rick Nash to keep the puck in the Sens’ offensive zone. Mike Hoffman collected that victory and carried the puck to the face-off circle before rolling it along the boards behind Lundqvist’s net to Karlsson at the opposite end of the goalline. There’s not much room to score from there by usual means, but the two-way defenseman proved his mastery at scoring by banking the puck off the back of the netminder’s head and into the net.

What a way to score the first postseason game-winning goal of your career.

As made evident by tonight’s action, it’s going to take a talented – or otherwise opportunistic – goalscorer to earn a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Be on the lookout for New York’s Grabner and J.T. Miller (both earned a .167 shooting percentage in the regular season) or Ottawa’s Mark Stone (scored on 16.4% of shots) to be the determining factor in future games.

Game 2 will drop the puck at 3 p.m. Eastern time this Saturday. Residents of the 50 States can catch the contest on NBC, while those that salute the red maple leaf will be serviced by CBC and TVAS2.

 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals – Game 1

The first round of this best-of-seven bout between Metropolitan Division rivals went to the visiting Penguins, who beat Washington 3-2 at the Verizon Center Thursday.

Before the offensive performances by the two captains, this series proved to be shaping into exactly what it was expected to be. Both defenses were flying in Game 1, leading to only 56 combined shots being fired. Pittsburgh’s blue line made its presence known with its 29 blocked shots (led by Ian Cole‘s eight), while the Capitals preferred a more personal approach: sparked by Third Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin‘s six hits, Washington threw an impressive 41 blows to disrupt the Pens’ attack.

But no matter how well a defensive corps plays, there’s not much that can ensure these clubs don’t bury the puck. Braden Holtby stopped all four shots he faced in the first period, but couldn’t keep Second Star Sidney Crosby (Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist) off the board a dozen seconds into the middle frame. Crosby (Hornqvist and Olli Maatta) followed that up 52 seconds later with another wrist shot to give Pittsburgh a quick two-goal lead.

The game cooled – offensively, at least – following Crosby’s blitz, but the period wouldn’t end without Ovechkin (Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie) having some fun. With 103 seconds separating him from the second intermission, the captain scored a wrister of his own on Marc-Andre Fleury to pull his Caps back within a tally.

Washington’s comeback was completed 8:05 into the third period courtesy of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored a wrister from the slot off a beautiful cross-slot setup from former Penguin Matt Niskanen to set up a thrilling finish.

Unfortunately for fans clad in red, that finish is not what they were hoping for. That result is due in large part to the existence of First Star Nick Bonino, who has scored the last two game-winning goals for Pittsburgh in playoff games against the Capitals.

This one was a wrister struck with 7:24 remaining regulation with assists from Scott Wilson and Cole. After receiving a Justin Schultz from behind Fleury’s net, Cole dished to Wilson along the far boards into the offensive zone. The left wing one-touched a pass to his trailing center who was tearing towards Holtby’s crease. When he reached the slot, he ripped his wrister glove-side before the goalie could react.

These clubs will drop the puck again Saturday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time. The game will be televised on NBC in the USA and CBC and TVAS in Canada.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 23

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins – Game 6

By: Nick Lanciani

The Ottawa Senators came back in Game 6 to eliminate the Boston Bruins from 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff competition with a 3-2 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Sunday. Clarke MacArthur had the game-winning power play goal to end the series.

Third Star of the game and Senator’s goaltender, Craig Anderson, made 28 saves on 30 shots faced for a .933 save percentage in the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on 29 shots against for an .897 SV% in the loss.

After killing off three consecutive delay of game penalties for sending the puck over the glass, the Bruins had their first power play opportunity of the afternoon after Ottawa forward, Mark Stone, tripped Sean Kuraly as he was exiting the defensive zone.

On the ensuing power play, Brad Marchand faked a shot and slid a pass over to Drew Stafford (2) who went high with a slap shot, beating Anderson on the blocker side, to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 18:13 of the 1st period. Marchand (2) and Charlie McAvoy (3) recorded the assists on Stafford’s goal.

In an incredible display of goaltending, Rask denied Stone on a breakaway and follow up shot with about 15 seconds left in the period after David Pastrnak failed to connect on a pass to a mid-line change Bruins defense.

McAvoy was sent to the box early in the 2nd period for tripping Senators forward, Tommy Wingels in a manner similar to how Ottawa defenseman, Chris Wideman, injured Bruins forward, David Krejci in Game 5 with a knee-on-knee collision. Wideman’s play was not penalized, unlike McAvoy’s.

While on the power play, Bobby Ryan (4) tied the game, 1-1, 3:26 into the 2nd period on a redirected slap shot from Derick Brassard. Brassard (5) and Erik Karlsson (6) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Ryan’s power play goal.

Past the halfway mark in the 2nd period, Kyle Turris (1) received a pass from Ryan Dzingel and unleashed an absolute laser of a wrist shot that found the back of the net. Dzingel (1) had the only assist on Turris’s goal, which made it 2-1 Ottawa.

Trailing 2-1 early in the 3rd period, Boston caught Ottawa in a slow line change, which resulted in a quick rush from Colin Miller to Marchand, who fired a shot at Anderson, producing a rebound. Patrice Bergeron (2) was on the doorstep and scored on the rebound from the left side of the crease, having tapped the trickling puck into the twine while Anderson sprawled to recover.

Marchand (3) and Miller (1) were given the helpers on the play and the Bruins tied the game, 2-2.

For the fourth time in the series, overtime was necessary to determine a game winner.

Pastrnak was sent to the box for tying up MacArthur on a Senators rush with 14:06 to go in the overtime period.

MacArthur (2) ended the series on the ensuing power play, scoring Ottawa’s second power play goal of the afternoon at 6:30 of overtime. Ryan (3) and Brassard (6) notched the assists on the game winning goal.

Sunday’s game marked the first time in Senators franchise history that they were involved in four overtime games in a playoff series. Additionally, all six games in the series were decided by one goal.

Per the NHL’s PR department, 17 out of 41 First Round games (41.5%) have required overtime in this year’s postseason, which ties the record for an opening round. In 2013, 17 out of 47 games (36.2%) required overtime in the Conference Quarterfinals.

Of note, Ottawa had three shots on goal in the 3rd period, while Boston recorded 12 shots on net in the last twenty minutes of regulation. In overtime, the Senators had six shots on goal, while the Bruins failed to record a shot on net.

The Senators advance to the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and will face the New York Rangers at the Canadian Tire Centre in Games 1 and 2, as Ottawa will have home ice in the series.

The first contest of the series will take place Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern time. American viewers can watch the game on CNBC, while Canadian residents will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

 

Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs – Game 6

By: Connor Keith

On the backs of Braden Holtby and Marcus Johansson, the Capitals beat in overtime Toronto 2-1 at the Air Canada Centre Sunday night to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third-straight year.

Only 6:31 of extra time was required before Washington made its move. The play started in the far face-off circle in front of Frederik Andersen. Evgeny Kuznetsov won the scrum by kicking the puck back to John Carlson at the far point. The defenseman shoved the puck down the far boards to Justin Williams, who fired a shot a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle. That attempt never reached the waiting netminder because it was intercepted by Johansson, who redirected the puck beyond his reach to the near post.

It’s only fitting this contest went to overtime, as all but Game 4 of this series required post-regulation hockey to determine a winner. In fact, overtime has been a theme throughout the 2017 playoffs so far. In addition to being the first time the Caps played five overtime games in a single playoff series, this was the 18th match to require extra time – an NHL record for a single round.

This game was a true goaltending treat. No matter how hard each offense tried, it simply could not register a goal. In all, the Capitals fired 36 shots at Andersen (94.4%) and Toronto 37 at Holtby (97.4%) over the course of the game, but they both answered the bell on all but three combined times.

Both regulation tallies were struck in the third period. The scoreless draw survived 47:45 before being snapped by Auston Matthews (Morgan Rielly and Zach Hyman) with a wrist shot from the slot. The Maple Leafs didn’t get to celebrate their lead long though, as Johansson (Lars Eller and Brooks Orpik) buried a wrister of his own only 5:06 later to level the knot at one-all and force the eventual overtime.

Much of the reason neither club could find a goal for so long was due to the very disciplined play by both sides.  Only five penalties were recorded in the entire game to yield what proved to be effectively one power play – an opportunity for Washington due to William Nylander holding Nicklas Backstrom.

Technically, the Leafs did earn a man-advantage in the first period when Johansson was caught holding Nylander, but Tyler Bozak‘s hi-stick against Carlson negated that power play only 22 seconds into the opportunity.

Nazem Kadri and T.J. Oshie were sent to the box simultaneously for roughing with 47 seconds remaining in regulation for the final two infractions.

With their victory, the Capitals will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center for Games 1 and 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. It will be their second-straight meeting in the second round and their fourth since the turn of the millennium.

Game 1 drops the puck at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday. Residents of the United States can watch the game on NBCSN, while interested Canadians will be serviced by both SN and TVAS.

This will be the 10th time the Capitals and Penguins have squared off in the postseason, but it’s been a lopsided affair in the past. Pittsburgh has won all but one of the previous series and has advanced to the next round six straight times at the Caps’ expense. Washington’s only time besting the Pens was in the 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, winning four games to two, before falling in the conference semifinals to the New York Rangers, the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 13

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 1

Though it was an uphill battle, Washington managed to maintain home-ice advantage by beating the visiting Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at the Verizon Center.

Though the final score may not be indicative of a true goalie battle, that’s exactly what this game was. It’s well known how good both Washington’s and Toronto’s offenses are, but both Third Star of the Game Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen were up to the task of keeping the opposition neutralized. The netminders combined for 76 saves on 81 shots faced, including 44 rejections by Holtby.

For anyone wondering if the Leafs were going to be content with simply qualifying for the playoffs this year, rookie Mitch Marner (James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak) proved otherwise. He buried a wrist shot only 95 seconds into the game, beating Holtby’s left skate.

Near the midway point of the first, the Caps were originally the beneficiary of a questionable goaltender interference call. Though Nazem Kadri was certainly in Holtby’s crease, the left wing’s skate barely restricted the netminder’s stick. Fortunately for Jake Gardiner, the NHL’s new review system for the playoffs ruled in his favor to give the youngsters an impressive two-goal lead on his unassisted strike.

Andersen played well all game, but his play and the Leafs’ two goals were not enough to daunt Second Star Justin Williams. The three-time Stanley Cup champion provided both goals to pull the Caps even, starting with his first (T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom) with 7:36 remaining in the opening frame. He scored his power play wrister two seconds after Brian Boyle returned to the ice from his interference penalty to end Washington’s five-on-three advantage.

Williams’ second tally was struck with exactly four minutes remaining in the second frame. Assisted by Matt Niskanen and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Williams collected the rebound, which was sitting right between Andersen’s legs, of the defenseman’s initial shot and buried it to level the game at two-all.

Though they needed overtime, the Capitals were able to complete their comeback. But instead of Williams being the goalscorer, it was First Star Tom Wilson, who managed to knock down Martin Marincin‘s attempted clear and rip his wrister from the near face-off circle top-shelf over Andersen’s glove for his first NHL playoff goal.

Win, lose or draw, the most impressive thing about Toronto’s play is it was not afraid of anything the Capitals threw at it. Washington tried early and often – made evident by Lars Eller‘s cross-check against Marincin early in the first – to get under the young Leafs’ skins, but Mike Babcock’s well-coached club would not be drawn into a dumb reactionary penalty. Do not count the Maple Leafs out simply because of their youth.

 

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 1

When First Star of the Game Pekka Rinne reaches peak performance, he’s tough to beat. Chicago learned that the hard way, as it fell 1-0 to the Predators at the United Center.

Though Chicago then led the shot count 5-3, Nashville took the opening – and only –  score in the ninth minute of play, courtesy of a quick tip-in from Second Star Viktor Arvidsson (Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen).

That proved to be the last tally of the game, though a total of 41 more shots were fired between the two offenses. Rinne was outstanding, as he saved all 29 shots he faced.

Though he gave up a tally, Third Star Corey Crawford was also solid, saving 19-of-20. But the real reason Chicago gave up only one score is found within Crawford’s stat line. His defense was exemplary, and allowed the second-fewest among all the first playoff games. Brent Seabrook was the brightest star, blocking four shots on the night.

 

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 1

Though the Flames fired a dozen shots at John Gibson in the third period, Anaheim defended home ice with a 3-2 victory at the Honda Center.

The Ducks’ win is a result of one thing: their power play. Special team action was expected in this matchup, as these clubs were numbers one and two in times shorthanded during the regular season. This series already looks like it will be decided by the club that takes better advantage, as 24 total penalty minutes were assessed in only the first game.

Anaheim converted two of its seven extra-man opportunities, and Second Star of the Game Jacob Silfverberg played a role in both of them. The wing assisted First Star Ryan Getzlaf to the opening goal of the game, a wrister only 52 seconds into the contest, and buried the game-winning marker (Patrick Eaves and Shea Theodore) with 2:13 remaining in the second.

If Calgary can’t convert any more than one extra-man situation into a goal, their playoff run may see an untimely end. Sean Monahan (Kris Versteeg and T.J. Brodie) did manage one at the 8:43 of the first period to level the game, but the Flames couldn’t take advantage of their other four opportunities, including two in the third period (technically three, though the final power play lasted only a second before the end of regulation).

Another issue for the Calgary is Anaheim’s unrelenting offense, regardless of the number of players on the ice. Led by 17 attempts in the first period, the Ducks fired the puck on Brian Elliott‘s net 41 times. Not only will that wear out the 32-year-old goaltender, but it also means that the Flames do not have the puck in their offensive zone very often. Both those variables add up to early playoff exits.

January 9 – Day 86 – These goaltenders are Eller good

It’s a low-key Monday in the NHL with only eight teams in action. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Florida at New Jersey (SN/SN1), followed half an hour later by Washington at Montréal (NHLN/RDS). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Calgary at Winnipeg (TVAS), with tonight’s nightcap – Dallas at Los Angeles (SN) – waiting until 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Washington at Montréal: For all intents and purposes, Lars Eller played the first six years of his NHL career in Montréal. Nowadays, he finds himself playing for the Capitals.
  • Calgary at Winnipeg: It’s the third-straight rivalry game for the Flames.

Not only is this a special night for Eller, but it should be a fantastic game between two competitive teams. To the City of Saints we go!

Washington Capitals LogoUnknown-1

 

The Danish center might have been drafted by St. Louis 13th-overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but he only suited up seven times for the Blues during the 2009-’10 season before being traded to the Canadiens with Ian Schultz for Jaroslav Halak.

It turned out to be a good trade for both clubs. Specifically for Eller, he ended up notching 154 points from 2010-’16 during his tenure with the Habs – the eighth-most for a Canadien during that span.

He especially had a knack for scoring when shorthanded, as his eight shorthanded points for the Habs are second-most for the club during his tenure. That 2011-’12 season was certainly a magical one for Eller. He notched three shorthanded points that season, including two shorthanded goals.

But scoring probably isn’t what he’s most known for.

From the moment he showed up in Montréal to the day he left, Eller was always known as a physical player. Every single season, he made Montréal‘s top-10 list for hits thrown, including twice finishing the season with the third-most on the club. His presence was most known during the 2013-’14 campaign when he threw 130 hits, his career-high.

During the 2016 NHL Entry Draft with two years remaining on his contract, Eller was shipped down to Washington in exchange for the Capitals‘ 2017 and 2018 second-round picks.

Eller has kept his hitting ways up with the Capitals, as his 33 hits 10th most on the club. But he’s been an even bigger asset at the faceoff dot, where his .46 winning percentage is fifth-best on the team.

Eller and his new club, winners of their last five contests, come to Montréal with a 25-9-5 record, only good enough for fourth place in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division. Although usually known for their offense, it’s been the Capitals’ impressive defense and goaltending that has led the way, allowing only 79 goals this season – the fewest in the NHL.

As you’d expect after the phenomenal year he had last season, 18-8-4 Braden Holtby has been charged with manning Washington‘s crease most nights. He’s done a good job, notching a season .931 save percentage and 1.93 GAA – the fourth and second-best efforts, respectively, among the 45 goaltenders with 16 or more appearances.

A player of Holtby’s caliber doesn’t necessarily need help, it’s certainly nice to play behind the sixth-best defense. Led by Karl Alzner‘s 70 blocks, Washington allows only 28 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s net.

That success has continued into the penalty kill, where the Capitals are third-best in the league, neutralizing 87.1% of their shorthanded situations. Among the blueliners, Brooks Orpik deserves most credit for that success with his team-leading nine shorthanded blocks.

Surprisingly, the Washington power play is on the verge of being strikingly bad. Scoring on only 16.4% of their opportunities, the Capitals are tied for 10th worst in the NHL. Nicklas Backstrom has led the man-advantage surge with 13 power play points to his credit but, as one would expect, it’s been Alex Ovechkin scoring most the power play goals, with six to his credit – twice the total of second place.

Playing host this evening are the 25-9-6 Canadiens, the best team in the Atlantic Division. Winners of their last three games, Montréal has also played fantastically on the defensive end, allowing only 92 goals – the fifth-fewest in the league.

20-5-4 Carey Price has been just as impressive for the Habs with a season .93 save percentage and 2.06 GAA – the fifth and seventh-best efforts, respectively, in the league among the 45 netminders with 15 or more appearances.

I would like to submit the argument that Price’s play has been more important for the Habs than Holtby’s for the Caps. You see, even with Shea Weber‘s team-leading 85 blocks, Montréal‘s defense allows 30.1 shots-per-game to reach Price’s crease, the 15th-highest total in the league.

The defensive issues especially come to light when Montréal is on the penalty kill, as their 80.3% success rate is tied for 10th-worst in the league. Once again, Weber takes command of the defensive efforts with 24 shorthanded blocks, but he and Alexei Emelin are the only two skaters with 20 or more blocks on the penalty kill. More skaters need to get involved if the Habs want to find success when the playoffs come around.

Fortunately for the Canadiens, they’ve been able to cover their inability to stop power play goals by scoring quite a few of their own. Successful on 21.3% of power play opportunities, the Habs are 10th-best in the league and led by Weber’s 14 man-advantage points, eight of which are goals, which also leads the club.

These clubs have already met once this season, with the Canadiens earning a 2-1 road victory on December 17. Price earned the victory thanks to a Jeff Petry tally late in the second period.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Montréal‘s Max Pacioretty (19 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Price (20 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] on a .93 save percentage [fifth-best in the league] and a 2.06 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (five shutouts [tied for most in the NHL] and a 1.93 GAA [tied for second-best in the league] and .931 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL] for 18 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (18 goals [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]).

Montréal has a -110 next to their name in Vegas, marking them the favorite in tonight’s contest, and based on the most recent matchup, I think that’s fair. As both teams are certainly capable of scoring, I give the edge in this game to the Habs‘ blueline that will guide them to victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Scott Thornton (1971-) – This left wing was the third-overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, but he spent most of his playing days in San Jose. By the time his 17-season career was through, he’d notched 285 points, 144 of which were goals. And yes, he and Joe Thornton are cousins.
  • Radek Bonk (1976-) – A two-time All Star, this center was drafted third-overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by Ottawa. He played 10 of his 14 seasons with the Senators, helping them to eight playoff appearances over his tenure.
  • Mathieu Garon (1978-) – The 44th-overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, this goaltender played 341 games over a dozen seasons. He played most of those games with Los Angeles, even though he spent more years with the Canadiens. He was a member of Pittsburgh‘s 2009 Stanley Cup winning squad.

Minnesota took command of the second period in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, beating the Ducks 2-1 at the Honda Center.

Only the Ducks were able to break through for a goal in the first period, compliments of Third Star of the Game Ryan Kesler‘s (Jakob Silfverberg) tip-in tally, his 16th time lighting the lamp this season. Anaheim held their lead into the first intermission.

Only 4:39 after returning to the ice, Matt Dumba (Zach Parise and First Star Eric Staal) took advantage of a five-on-three power play caused by both Cam Fowler and Logan Shaw taking seats in the penalty box for separate offenses and leveled the game with a slap shot. 1:42 later, Jared Spurgeon (Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker) scored what ended up being final goal of the game, a game-winning wrister.

Devan Dubnyk earns the victory after saving 23-of-24 shots faced (95.8%), leaving the loss to Second Star John Gibson, who saved 34-of-36 (94.4%).

Minnesota‘s win is the second-straight for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the series record at 47-27-14 in favor of the hosts by 11 points.

November 7 – Day 32 – Let’s watch THAT rivalry

It may have taken overtime, but the Detroit Red Wings improved their record to 7-5-1 after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1.

Assisted by Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader, Henrik Zetterberg scored the Wings‘ lone regulation goal at the 16:21 mark of the first period from the blue line, the lone goal through both intermissions.

Detroit fans were apparently starting to think the ‘S-word’ too early, as Tyler Bozak and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau assisted Dion Phaneuf to score on Petr Mrazek with only 1:02 remaining to tie the game.

Jakub Kindl, assisted by Teemu Pulkkinen and Tomas Tatar, fired the game winner over James Reimer’s glove shoulder at 2:17 mark of overtime to seal the victory for the Wings.

Mrazek’s record improves to 4-3-0 after saving 32 of 33 (97%), while Reimer’s record falls to 2-2-2 after saving 22 of 24 (91.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 18-8-5, still favoring the home squad by 13 points over the roadies.

It’s another busy Saturday (aren’t they all, though?) in the best hockey league in the world, and the action gets an early start at 1 p.m. eastern when Vancouver visits Buffalo (SN).  After that game finishes, our attention turns to the Staples Center, where Los Angeles hosts Florida at 4 p.m. eastern.  Following the completion of that game, the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features four matchups (Boston at Montréal [NHL Network/TVAS/SN], Toronto at Washington [CBC], Ottawa at Carolina [SN1/TVAS2] and Philadelphia at Winnipeg).  8 p.m. eastern brings with it two more opening puck drops (St. Louis at Nashville and Tampa Bay at Minnesota), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Arizona.  10 p.m. witnesses the beginning of the Pittsburgh at Calgary game (CBC/SN), followed half an hour later by the evening’s nightcap: Anaheim at San Jose.

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (BruinsCanadiens, BluesPredators and DucksSharks), and two are being contested by two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (BluesPredators and LightningWild).

I’m torn between the BluesPredators and BruinsCanadiens, but given the heated, historical rivalry between the second pair, that has to be where we direct our attention tonight.

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This is Boston‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their opponent, the Habs, have been featured four times before tonight and have won all of their appearances.

The 6-5-1 Boston Bruins enter tonight’s game on a two-game losing skid, with their most recent occurring Thursday in Washington, where they fell 4-1.  It was their first result on the road that wasn’t a victory, as they opened the season winning five straight games away from the TD Garden.  They currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.

It has been the B‘s offense that has been paying dividends this season, as they’ve had to cover up mistakes on the other end of the ice.  Although they’ve only notched 365 shots so far this season (led by Patrice Bergeron’s 37), they’ve scored 43 goals (with David Krejci accounting for seven) – giving them a cool 11.8% shooting percentage.  Especially potent has been the power play, as the man-advantage has accounted for 14, or 32.6%, of those goals (Bergeron has four to his credit).  Although the Habs are pretty good at killing penalties, they may want to avoid that as much as possible tonight (then again, if we know anything about this rivalry, the chances of that happening are slim to none).

As stated before, the offense has needed to be that good to make up for the sub-par play on the other end.  Kevan Miller has tried to do the best he can blocking shots (he leads the team with 21), but 326 have still reached Tuukka Rask (3-5-1, 87.9%) and co., of which only 88.7% have been saved.  That results is quite a few goals scored against Boston, 40 to be exact, and that rate gets much lower when down a man.  On 44 power play attempts for the opposition, the Bruins have been scored on 13 times, meaning they’ve only stopped 70.45%.

The 12-2-1 Montréal Canadiens enter tonight’s game atop the NHL by three points.  Their most recent game was Thursday when they beat the Islanders 4-1.  The Canadiens are a strong team on both ends of the ice and have firmly established themselves as early favorites after only a month of play.

Their offense has put 458 shots on net (led by Max Pacioretty’s 50), with 12% of those attempts ending up behind the opposing goaltender.  Yes, your math is correct: that’s 55 tallies (of which Dale Weise owns eight), a total that exceeds the league average by 20 scores.  Although not as strong as Boston‘s, Montréal‘s power play has been good in their own right as the Habs have scored on 13 of 52 (25%) attempts, led by Brendan Gallagher’s four goals.  Paired with the Bruins‘ penalty kill, the Canadiens‘ power play could be extremely potent tonight.

On the other end of the ice, the Canadiens have given up 2.25 goals per game (27 total).  Of the shots Andrei Markov doesn’t stop (he has 29 blocks so far this season), Carey Price (7-2-0, 93.6%) and co. have saved 93.8% of the 436 shots they’ve faced this season, allowing only 27 goals.  Even when facing a power play, they’ve played stellar, as they’ve only given up five goals on 49 attempts (89.8%).  This stat will be put to the test as they are facing the Bruins‘ fantastic power play.

In their first of five meetings, the Habs beat Boston at the TD Garden 4-2, with Lars Eller scoring twice in that game.  Last season, Montréal swept Boston in the season series 4-0-0, adding to their all-time record of 461-342-103 over the Bruins.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Boston‘s Krejci (15 points [tied for sixth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]) and Montréal‘s Mike Condon (1.5 GAA [leads the league] and .941 save percentage [second in the league]), Gallagher (+9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Markov (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +9 [tied for fourth in the league]), Pacioretty (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and seven goals [tied for eighth in the league]), Tomas Plekanec (+9 [tied for fourth in the league] and 14 points [tied for ninth in the league]), P.K. Subban (12 assists [tied for second in the league] and +11 [tied for second in the league]) & Weise (eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]).

Montréal is favored at -140 in tonight’s game, but I’m not convinced that it will be that easy, especially if the Bruins can get under the Habs‘ skin and earn more than their fair-share of penalties while also avoiding going a man-down themselves.