Tag Archives: Elliott

Calgary Flames 2017-’18 Season Preview

Calgary Flames

45-33-4, 94 points, fourth in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Anaheim

Additions: D Travis Hamonic, G Eddie Lack, G Mike Smith

Subtractions: LW Brandon Bollig (signed with SJS), F Lance Bouma (signed with CHI), G Brian Elliott (signed with PHI), D Deryk Engelland (drafted by VGK), G Chad Johnson (signed with BUF), F Linden Vey (signed with Barys, KHL)

Offseason Analysis: In 2015, the Flames made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after five years of ending their season at only 82 games played (well, 48 in 2012-’13). In 2016, Calgary failed to make the postseason. This most recent summer was a quick return to the postseason before the Flames were swiftly eliminated by the Ducks in four games.

If this pattern continues, Southern Albertans – and maybe a few old-timey Atlantans – could be in for a rough hockey season.

Though a postseason appearance usually rewards a strong regular season showing, the Flames did almost all their work in the two months after the All-Star Break. Starting with their dominant 5-1 victory over Minnesota on February 1, Calgary went an incredible 19-6-1 in February and March, a performance overshadowed only by Chicago’s 42 points and Pittsburgh’s 40 in that stretch. Elliott and his defensive corps are responsible for much of that effort, as they allowed the third fewest goals against at 61 (2.35 per game) to power the Flames from eighth place to sixth in the Western Conference.

In most cases, that would usually be reason enough to retain a goaltender after his contract year – even keeping in mind his 3-9-1 start. Instead, General Manager Brad Treliving elected to let 32-year-old Elliott and backup Johnson walk and replace them with 29-year-old Lack (8-7-3, .902 save percentage and 2.64 GAA in 2016-‘17) and 35-year-old Smith (19-26-9, .914 save percentage and 2.92 GAA), signing them to one- and two-year contracts respectively.

For a team that swapped out both its top netminders, the Flames managed to move as laterally as possible. They arguably made a minor improvement by hiring Smith (emphasis on minor) over Elliott, but the now-Flyer is three years younger. More than likely, Lack – the youngest of the four goaltenders in this conversation – will presumably start as Smith’s backup, but he’ll be able to use this season as an audition to be the Flames’ goaltender of the future. He’s performed best with regular action in the past, so he’ll need to perform the way he did the last time he was in the Pacific Division (.917 save percentage and 2.43 GAA in two seasons with Vancouver) instead of continuing his Carolinian ways (.902 save percentage and 2.75 GAA with the Canes) to earn starts and stake his claim for the Flames’ crease past this season.

Looking beyond the crease, the biggest change Calgary made was trading at least two draft picks to the Islanders for Hamonic. Though the defenseman scored a career-high 33 points in 2014-’15, the last two seasons at .29 points-per-game (he was limited to 49 games last season with a knee injury) have been a bit closer to what Calgary should expect from him.

Having been rumored to want to move closer to his native Manitoba in the past, the stay-at-home blue liner will be expected to continue averaging 2.2 blocks-per-game as he did a season ago in more familiar surroundings. If he can do that, then the Flames should be able to further improve on a defense that allowed only 28.7 shots to reach their net a season ago – the eighth-best mark in the NHL.

Offseason Grade: C+

Though their acquisitions were few, Calgary did relatively well to fill the holes on its roster. That being said, the Flames are still far from the top of the Pacific Division and will struggle to make the postseason. Their most important goal this year is to give Lack a good long look at being the goaltender of the future, or else they risk turning into West Philadelphia (born and raised?) with a turnstile in the crease. But if that happens, the most important question is this: which Calgary goaltender does the best Carlton?

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.

March 31 – Day 163 – Keeping it in Alberta

Welcome to the penultimate Friday in the NHL’s regular season. Unless you’re a fan of one of the 16 teams heading for the playoffs, there’s not much hockey left to be watched so make sure to catch the rest of this season’s games!

Tonight’s festivities start with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers (SN) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by New Jersey at the New York Islanders. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Columbus at Chicago,  with two more (St. Louis at Colorado and San Jose at Calgary) getting underway at the top of the hour. Two contests – Los Angeles at Vancouver (SN360) and Washington at Arizona – share the role of nightcap and get started at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Pittsburgh at New York: Not only is it a rematch of last year’s Eastern Quarterfinals, but the Blueshirts could pull within four points of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
  • Columbus at Chicago: Two of the three best teams in the league? Yes please.
  • San Jose at Calgary: Thanks to the Sharks‘ loss last night, the Flames are only three points out of third place in the Pacific Division.

I’d love to watch the Hawks and Jackets square off, but it doesn’t have major playoff implications – and that’s what we’re all about this time of year. As much as I dislike repeating teams on back-to-back nights, it looks like we have to catch the Sharks‘ plane to Calgary for another important Pacific tilt.

 

If the Sharks can be happy about anything right now, it’s that today is the final day in what has been a dreadful March for them. Their 6-9-0 mark is tied with Arizona for the sixth-worst record in the month, and being compared to Coyotes in anything is usually a sign of trouble.

What makes the recent struggles an even harder pill to swallow is that it is spoiling an overall solid regular season. When the final game in February was played, San Jose was not only leading the Pacific Division by five points, but also trailed Minnesota by only seven points for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Thirty days later, the 43-27-7 Sharks sit alone in third place in the division, and four teams separate them from home ice throughout the conference playoffs. It leaves a club and fan base that entered the season on a quest to hoist its first Stanley Cup wondering if they can even escape what will be a very trying quarterfinals matchup against the Ducks, Flames, Oilers or possibly even the Blackhawks.

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been an nearly all-inclusive collapse (defense notwithstanding) by the Sharks that has resulted in their horrendous run over the past 15 games.

Since 33-32-6 Martin Jones was in net last night, I’d assume 10-6-1 Aaron Dell will start in goal tonight (of course, I tabbed Dell to start yesterday and I was wrong, so who knows?). Dell has actually been a solid backup all season, as his .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA are not only better than Jones’ effort, but also rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league among the 56 netminders with at least 16 appearances.

Whether we get that Dell or the Dell that has seen his save percentage drop to .915 in March remains to be seen, but you can plan on Justin Braun and San Jose‘s defense playing as strong as ever.

All season the goal has been to keep pucks off Dell and Jones’ crease as much as possible, and they’ve done an excellent job in achieving just that. All year, they’ve allowed only 27.5 shots-against per game – the third-best rate in the league – and they’ve actually been slightly better of late, allowing only 27.1 per game in March.

No Shark deserves more credit for that than Braun. He’s been the defensive stalwart of the club all year, and it shows in his team-leading 154 shot blocks. Another that has done well defensively is Joe Thornton, but he does his work before the opposition even thinks about firing at the net. He leads the squad in takeaways with 64 (tied for eighth-most in the league), including 13 this month.

The goaltending issues have proven to be especially detrimental to San Jose‘s penalty kill. Since it has been only an average effort on the season as a whole (80.8% kill rate is 15th-worst in the NHL), taking away the luxury of a usually-reliable backstop has dropped the Sharks to ninth-worst in March, neutralizing only 78% of their infractions. Dell has saved only 85% of the power play shots that have come his way this month, the 14th-worst effort among the 38 goalies with at least six March appearances.

Special teams seem to be a struggle for Peter DeBoer’s squad this year, as his power play has actually been worse than his penalty kill. The Sharks rank seventh-worst on the season with their 17.1% success rate with the man-advantage.

It’s surprising that San Jose has been so poor, mostly because they have one weapon few can match: Brent Burns. The offensive-minded blueliner has notched 24 points on the power play this campaign, which ties for 16th-most in the NHL.

Perhaps the Sharks‘ mojo has relocated itself to Cowtown. Currently in possession of a 43-30-4 record and the West’s first wild card, the Flames have earned a 15-4-1 record since February 15. That ties Columbus for the best mark in that time, though I’d argue the Flames have been better with one fewer game played.

I may actually be on to something regarding San Jose‘s mojo, as Brian Elliott has been fantastic during this run. After a rocky start to the season, he’s reclaimed the starting job in Calgary and made it his own. Since mid-February, he’s earned a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA, the fourth and fifth-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 33 goalies with at least nine appearances in that time.

Tonight is the fourth of five games between these clubs this season, and the Flames have the opportunity to clinch the series victory with a win tonight. They’ve gone 2-1-0 so far against San Jose, including the last time they met on January 11. It was a closely contested affair, but Dougie Hamilton scored with 2:19 remaining in regulation to earn a 3-2 win for the Flames in the Saddledome.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (42 assists for 59 points [both lead the team]) and Mark Giordano (176 blocks for a+22 [both lead the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

It’s hard to argue with recent success. Vegas has marked the Flames a -130 favorite to win tonight. Just like I said yesterday, the Sharks‘ rebound has to start in the crease. While Calgary certainly doesn’t pose the offensive threat the Oilers did a night ago, the Flames‘ confidence should be enough to get past whichever goaltender DeBoer decides to go with.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bud MacPherson (1927-1988) – For seven seasons MacPherson roamed along Montréal‘s blueline, and he was rewarded with one All-Star Game and the 1953 Stanley Cup.
  • Gordie Howe (1928-2016) – There’s no discussion: this right wing is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 – seven years before his last season in the league – he played in 23 All-Star Games over 26 NHL seasons (all but one with Detroit) and won both the Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies six times apiece, not to mention his four Stanley Cups.
  • Bob Pulford (1936-) – Another Hall of Famer, this left wing played all but two seasons of his 16-year career in Toronto. He won four Stanley Cups in the process, including three-straight from 1962-’64.
  • Bill Hicke (1938-2005) – Spending most of his time in Montréal, this right wing played 13 seasons in the NHL. The three-time All-Star was good for almost as many penalty minutes as points contributed, but that didn’t stop him from being a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
  • Gilles Gilbert (1949-) – Selected by the North Stars 25th-overall in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 416 games over his 14-year career. Spending most of his time in Boston, he earned a 192-143-60 record before hanging up his pads.
  • Tom Barrasso (1965-) – Buffalo selected this goaltender fifth-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but he played a majority of his career for the Penguins. He played well for both clubs, as he earned the 1984 Calder Memorial and Vezina Trophies and the 1985 William M. Jennings Trophy with the Sabres and back-to-back Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.
  • Pavel Bure (1971-) – Though only selected in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver (his longest-tenured club), this right wing had a highly successful career. In addition to six All-Star Game appearances, he won two Maurice Richard Trophies and the 1992 Calder. All of that added up to a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.
  • Michael Ryder (1980-) – Montréal selected this right wing in the eighth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his 11 seasons. That being said, he was wearing the crest of the arch-rival Bruins when he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup.
  • David Clarkson (1984-) – A longtime right wing for the Devils, this Toronto-native played 10 seasons in the NHL. He could’ve been playing his 11th this year with Columbus, but he was denied the opportunity to practice with the club due to failing his physical.
  • Steve Bernier (1985-) – The 16th-overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, this right wing has played 633 games over 11 seasons in the league. His longest -tenured club is New Jersey, with whom he scored 28 goals for 65 points.
  • Jakob Chychrun (1998-) – This rookie defenseman was the 16th-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by Arizona. He shows promise on the offensive end of the ice, as he’s provided 19 points already this year, the third-most among Coyotes blueliners.

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s 38-save effort, Edmonton was able to best the Sharks 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to improve into second place in the Pacific Division.

Though Talbot had a strong night, it didn’t start off the best way. He allowed Jannik Hansen (Paul Martin) to score only his eighth goal of the season 1:01 into play to allow the Sharks to take an early lead. Fortunately for him, Third Star Patrick Maroon (First Star Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) provided a game-tying goal 9:21 later. Though Zack Kassian was sent off the ice for hooking birthday boy Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 3:24 remaining in the period, McDavid (Oscar Klefbom and Drake Caggiula) was able to score a shorthanded backhander only 52 seconds later to give the Oil a 2-1 lead it would not yield.

Maroon (Kris Russell) provided what proved to be the game-winning goal 7:51 into the third period with a tip-in. It became the winner with 6:01 remaining in regulation when Joe Pavelski (Vlasic and Hansen) scored a tip-in of his own, but the Sharks were unable to find another tally before the final horn.

Talbot earned the victory after saving 38-of-40 shots faced (95%), leaving the loss to Jones, who saved 19-of-22 (86.4%).

We’re all squared up once again in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as both home and away teams in the series have an identical 189 points. Road sides still have more wins with their 83-59-23 record.

March 15 – Day 147 – The Flames are red hot

Only four games are on the schedule tonight, so let’s dive right in. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (NBCSN/TVAS), followed 90 minutes later by Boston at Calgary (SN). Detroit visits Colorado at 9:30 p.m. and St. Louis at Anaheim (NBCSN), tonight’s nightcap, drops the puck half an hour later. All times eastern.

If it was certain Mark Streit would be available for tonight’s game, I’d be much more inclined to feature the Battle for the Keystone State. But with the injury he sustained Monday night, I’m much more interested in the Bruins‘ visit to the Saddledome.

 

Winners of its past three contests, Boston enters tonight’s game with a 37-26-6 record good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins may not be dominant on either end of the ice, but they play a solid overall game. Specifically, I’m most impressed with a defensive effort that has yielded only 177 goals against, which ties for the 10th-fewest in the NHL.

Of course, that always starts with the goaltender, and Boston has a good one in 33-16-4 Tuukka Rask. Yet even the best goaltenders need a night off every once in a while, and that’s where 4-5-1 Anton Khudobin comes into play. He’s registered a .895 season save percentage and 2.76 GAA, the 56th and 42nd-best marks, respectively, among the 68 goalies with at least five appearances this year.

While neither stats are worth writing home to Russia about (I mean, we need to factor in the price of postage), he’ll be receiving considerable help from his blueline tonight. Led by Captain Zdeno Chara‘s 116 short blocks (narrowly beating out Adam McQuaid‘s contributions), the Bruins have allowed only 26.5 shots to reach their goalies’ crease, the second-best rate in the NHL.

That play is especially impressive in light of last season’s performance, which forced Bruins goaltenders to shrug off more than 30 shots-per-game. As rookie Brandon Carlo continues to grow, Boston‘s defense could become one of the stingiest in the league.

Speaking of stingy, that’s exactly what the Bruins‘ top-rated penalty kill is. Thanks in large part to McQuaid’s 32 shorthanded shot blocks, the Bruins escape opponents’ power plays unscathed 86.2% of the time.

Boston is also the proud home of a solid power play. While not as successful as their penalty kill, the Bruins do tie for 10th-best in the league with a power play that finds the back of the net 20.5% of the time. That attack is twin-led by first-unit members Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, both of whom have 20 power play points. Pastrnak also shares the extra-man goal-scoring lead, but this time with Brad Marchand. Both of them have buried the puck eight times on the power play.

In a surprising turn of events since December and January, defense has become the name of the game for the 39-26-4 Flames, who currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division and are easily the hottest team in the league (pun intended). Winners of their past 10 games, they’ve allowed only 183 goals against so far this season, the 13th-fewest in the NHL.

For the second season in a row, 21-13-3 Brian Elliott has righted the ship for another playoff-hopeful club. Although his .91 season save percentage isn’t the best on the team (that belongs to Chad Johnson and his .913), his 2.51 GAA is, and those rank (t)33rd and (t)17th-best in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 18 appearances.

Those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, but they don’t have to be when Elliott plays behind one of the better defensed in the league. Allowing only 28.7 shots to reach his crease per game, Calgary ranks eighth-best in the NHL. That success is due in large part to Mark Giordano, whose 154 shot blocks not only pace the Flames, but are sixth-most in the NHL.

Thanks to Johnson’s incredible night in net (he saved 35-of-36 – 97.2%!), the Flames were able to stave off the Bruins‘ offense for a 2-1 victory when they made their annual visit to Boston on November 25.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Boston‘s Marchand (35 goals [tied for most in the NHL] for 74 points [tied for third-most in the league]) and Calgary‘s Giordano (+17 on 154 blocks [both lead the team]).

Calgary is narrowly favored to win tonight’s game by Vegas with a -105 line. I can certainly see why the oddsmakers are concerned, but I also know the Flames have beaten some solid teams over this winning streak. I like the Bruins to win tonight, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Calgary can keep the magic going again this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Punch Imlach (1918-1987) – It goes without saying, but a coaching career that features four Stanley Cups, including three in a row from 1962-’64, is probably a good one. Imlach did just that with the Maple Leafs, the team he coached for 12 of his 14 seasons. He completed his career in the 1979-’80 season with a 402-337-150 record.
  • Craig Ludwig (1961-) – Montréal selected this defenseman 61st-overall in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played the first eight years of his career and won his first Stanley Cup. Following a year with the Islanders, he joined the (North) Stars organization in 1991-’92, with whom he played the last eight years of his career  – and won his second Stanley Cup.
  • Darcy Tucker (1975-) – Another Montréal pick, this right wing was selected in the sixth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Although drafted by the Canadiens, he actually spent most of his 14-year career with Toronto, where he scored 148 of his 215 career goals.
  • James Reimer (1988-) – Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they selected this goaltender 99th-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent six seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Sharks at the deadline last year. He now plays in Florida, where he’s earned a 12-12-5 record.

Although the Wild scored two goals in the third period, it wasn’t enough to get past the Capitals in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. Washington defended the Verizon Center to a 4-2 victory.

Although both clubs combined for 29 shots in the first period, this game almost reached the first intermission scoreless. The operative word there is almost, as Nate Schmidt (Second Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin and First Star Nicklas Backstrom) scored only his second goal of the season with a dozen seconds remaining on the clock to give Washington a one-goal lead.

February 19. 11 games ago. That was the last time Ovechkin scored before tonight’s tally. Assisted by John Carlson and Backstrom, he buried a wrist shot with 5:08 remaining in the second period to double the Caps‘ lead and end his scoreless skid. The game-winner belongs to Evgeny Kuznetsov (Backstrom and Carlson) on a power play wrister 2:16 later that set the score at 3-0.

Whatever Bruce Boudreau said in the dressing room during intermission, it seems Matt Dumba (Mikael Granlund) took it to heart, as he buried a backhanded shot 37 seconds after play resumed to get the Wild on the board. Eric Staal (Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter) followed that four minutes later with a power play wrister to pull Minnesota within a goal, but they couldn’t find another tally. Jay Beagle (Dmitry Orlov) made the Wild‘s comeback even more difficult by burying a wrister with 5:41 remaining in the game, setting the 4-2 final score.

Third Star Braden Holtby earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), leaving the loss to Devan Dubnyk, who saved 36-of-40 (90%).

While losing first place in the division and conference is obviously the bigger issue for the Wild, they are also responsible for allowing the 75-53-21 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series to have a one-point lead over the visitors.

December 2 – Day 51 – Wildfires usually aren’t fun, but this one is an exception

Congratulations! You made it through the work week! You know what you deserve? Hockey.

Unfortunately, there’s only two games occurring this evening, and the action doesn’t start until 9 p.m. with Minnesota visiting Calgary. An hour and a half later, the second game – Montréal at San Jose (RDS) – drops the puck. All times eastern.

Tonight is the night our Minnesota fans have been waiting for: their Wild are finally being featured in the DtFR Game of the Day!

Unknown-2Unknown-4

 

Making their first of two visits to the Saddledome this season are the 11-8-3 Minnesota Wild, good enough to currently occupy third place in the Central Division. They’ve gotten to that position with excellent play from their goaltending, which allows the fewest goals in the league (46).

Devan Dubnyk has been nothing short of incredible this season. He’s only earned a 9-6-2 record over his 17 starts, but his record is not indicative of how well he’s played. His .946 save percentage and 1.66 GAA both rank second-best in the league among all goaltenders with nine or more appearances.

His exemplary play has been necessary, because Minnesota‘s blueline has not done much to help him. So far this season, they’ve allowed opponents to fire an average of 31.1 shots per game, the ninth-highest in the NHL. Jared Spurgeon‘s 39 blocks leads the team, but him and Jonas Brodin are the only two skaters for the Wild that have more than 30 blocks to their credit.

Hosting the Wild this evening are the 11-13-2 Flames, who currently sit in fifth place in the Pacific Division. The main reason Calgary has not found success this season has been their poor goaltending and defense, which has allowed 76 goals already – the third-most in the NHL.

Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson have split time between the pipes almost perfectly this year – separated by only 5:33 – at 13 starts apiece. Johnson has certainly found more success, earning a 8-4-1 record on a .93 save percentage and 2.06 GAA – the t-ninth and 10th-best effort among the 48 netminders with seven or more appearances.

Part of the reason Johnson has been able to play so well has been due to the defense playing in front of him. The Flames have allowed an average of only 29.5 shots against per game, the ninth-fewest in the league. That effort has been headlined by Mark Giordano, who has 64 blocks to his credit, the second-most in the entire league.

The defensive Achilles heel for Calgary has been on the penalty kill. Giordano’s 20 shorthanded blocks lead not only the Flames, but also the entire league, but it hasn’t done much to improve a 77.3% kill rate, tied for third-worst in the NHL.

It’s frightening, but the penalty kill has actually been the better of the two special teams. The Flames‘ power play is worst in the league, successful on only 10.1% of opportunities. Dennis Wideman has done his best to lead the man-advantage with four power play points, including two goals, but he’s one of only 11 skaters who have earned a point under those circumstances. It goes without saying that the Flames need to work on this aspect of their game if they want to return to their 2014-’15 form.

These squads have already met up once this year, with Calgary notching a 1-0 victory at the Xcel Energy Center. Gaudreau took credit for the lone tally.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Calgary‘s Johnson (three shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] on a 2.06 GAA and a .93 save percentage [both 10th-best in the NHL]) & Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [most in the league] on a 1.66 GAA and a .946 save percentage [both second-best in the NHL]) and Jason Zucker (+12 [tied for fifth-best in the league]).

It’s never a good sign for the home team when they have a line with a plus, but that’s the case this evening. I agree with Vegas’ prediction, based mostly on Calgary‘s ineptitude on special teams. Although Minnesota‘s effort on either the power play or the penalty kill does not dazzle, it should be more than enough to hold the Flames at bay.

Hockey Birthday

  • Rich Sutter (1963-) – This Sutter brother was drafted 10th-overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft by Pittsburgh, but his longest tenure with a club was from 1986-’90 with Vancouver.
  • Ron Sutter (1963-) – The ’82 Draft treated this Sutter a little better, as he was picked fourth-overall by, go figure, the Flyers. Nothing like a little sibling rivalry, especially between twins. Unlike Rich, Ron spent much of his career with the club that drafted him.
  • Sergei Zholtok (1972-2004) – This center was the 55th-overall pick in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, but he played 210 of his 588 career games (35.7%) with Minnesota. Unfortunately, the Latvian’s life was cut short by cardiac arrhythmia.

Edmonton absolutely dominated the second period to seal a 6-3 victory over the Jets in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The scoring started only shortly after the game did. Bryan Little (Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford) waited only 35 seconds before scoring his first goal of the season. 1:56 later, Mark Letestu (First Star of the Game Leon Draisaitl and Andrej Sekera) pulled the Oil even at one-all with a power play goal. Winnipeg resumed the lead with 9:46 remaining in the opening frame with a power play goal of their own, courtesy of rookie Third Star Patrik Laine (Toby Enstrom and Nikolaj Ehlers). The Jets held that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Quick scoring seemed to be the theme of the night, as Draisaitl (Milan Lucic and Second Star Connor McDavid) buried a power play wrister to tie the game for Edmonton. The Oilers took their first lead of the night – a lead they would not yield – only 4:15 later when Letestu (Lucic and McDavid) buried yet another power play wrister. Patrick Maroon (Zack Kassian and Letestu) takes credit for the game-winning goal, as he buried a wrist shot with 8:17 remaining in the second period to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead going into the second intermission.

Another quick goal was struck in the final frame by Laine (Dustin Byfuglien and Wheeler) at the 1:44 mark, but it was all the Jets could muster for their comeback attempt. Draisaitl (McDavid and Adam Larsson) and Benoit Pouliot (Sekera and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) notched two insurance goals for the Oil to seal the victory.

Cam Talbot earned the victory after saving 22-of-25 (88%)shots faced, leaving the loss for Connor Hellebuyck, who saved 23-of-29 (79.3%). He was replaced after Pouliot’s goal by Michael Hutchinson, who saved all four shots he faced for no decision.

The road teams have been staging quite the comeback in the DtFR Game of the Day series, earning 11 points in the last seven games. That being said, the home squads still have the advantage with their 28-18-7 record, leading the visitors by four points.

November 10 – Day 29 – Great Stars of fire

The bartender just walked by. He asked if anybody wanted another hockey game. Considering how good yesterday was, I got a whole round for tonight. Hope that’s okay.

In all seriousness, we have quite a selection of games this evening, starting with three at 7 p.m. (Columbus at Boston, Minnesota at Pittsburgh and Anaheim at Carolina), followed half an hour later by four more (Los Angeles at Montréal [RDS/SN360], Vancouver at Detroit, the New York Islanders at Tampa Bay and San Jose at Florida). St. Louis at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m., and tonight’s co-nightcaps get underway an hour later (Dallas at Calgary and Winnipeg at Arizona). All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Los Angeles at Montréal: Tom Gilbert played the last two seasons in The City of Saints, but now he works in The City of Angels.
  • New York at Tampa Bay: It’s a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals from last year.
  • St. Louis at Nashville: Carter Hutton heads back to Nashville, where he played the previous three seasons, and with a chance to play to boot.
  • Dallas at Calgary: Jiri Hudler spent four seasons in the Saddledome, but now he wears white in that building.

We haven’t watched the Stars yet this season, so let’s head to Alberta with them.

Unknown-2Unknown-4

 

Hudler joined Calgary before the 2012 season via free agency, and the center’s impact was noticed immediately in the lockout-shortened season as he notched 27 points.

His final full season with the Flames was easily the best campaign of his career. In 78 games played during the 2014-’15 season, he narrowly missed averaging a point a game with 76 to his credit.

This was also the season that Calgary qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. Although his club fell in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was no fault of Hudler’s. He continued his success with eight points in 11 games, split evenly between goals and assists.

Following his career year, Hudler was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, the first Flame since Joe Mullen of the 1989 Stanley Cup winning team to earn the honor.

He was traded from Calgary to Florida at last year’s trade deadline, but was not offered another contract this off-season. He signed with Dallas in August, only 21 days before the start of the season. He has not had the start to the season that he would’ve liked, with no points, or even a shot, to show for an hour’s work. He has been facing an illness so severe that he was placed on injured reserve, but he has the chance to be activated this evening.

Those Stars enter the night riding a 4-6-3 record, a far cry from their expectations entering this campaign. While the goaltending is on par with last season’s (be careful, I don’t want you to read that as good), it has been Dallas‘ offensive drought that has caused their current predicament.

So far this season, the Stars have managed only 33 goals in 13 games, the 11th-worst scoring average in the game. Dallas‘ struggles can’t be pinned on Tyler Seguin, who has 14 points to his credit evenly split between goals and assists, but the rest of the team – including great forward like Jamie Benn – has yet to break the 10-point mark.

While I wasn’t planning on thoroughly discussing Dallas‘ defense, there’s one major pitfall that must be acknowledged: the penalty kill. The Stars‘ 75% kill rate ranks fourth-worst in the league. When paired with a team that struggles to keep the puck out of their own net at even-strength, they are not doing themselves any favors by committing 52 penalties – four per game!

The Flames play tonight’s game with the same record as the Stars but with the added note of riding a two-game losing skid. That’s where the similarities end though, as Calgary‘s inability to prevent the opposition from scoring is putting them in quite a hole.

Having already allowed 50 goals against this season, the Flames give up an average of 3.57 tallies against per game – tied for the third-worst rate in the NHL with Philadelphia. The blame rests solely on the goaltenders, who have been under no more or less pressure than the average netminder in the league in terms of shots faced per game. Brian Elliott has started nine games so far this season for a 3-6-0 record. In those games, he’s saved a poor 88.7% of shots faced for a whopping 3.33 GAA to rank worst and third-worst in the league, respectively, among the 24 goalies who have appeared in as many contests.

Offensively, the Flames badly need to focus on one important aspect of their game: the power play. Successful on only 8.3% of attempts, Calgary ranks dead last in the NHL in the category. On the bright side, it means that most of their goals have come against more difficult conditions, so at least they have that going for them.

Ahh, Caddyshack.

Continuing the thread of special teams, you would be wise to assume the Flames‘ penalty kill is equally as bad as their power play given the goaltending situation. For those who had second-to-last in the league, you win bonus points, as the Flames have stopped 72.4% of opposing extra-man advantages to rank better than only Chicago‘s horrendous efforts on the kill.

Some players to keep an eye on include Calgary‘s Michael Frolik (nine points on five goals [both lead the team]) and Dallas‘ Seguin (seven goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]).

Las Vegas favors the home team with a -125, but I don’t like that the NHL’s most potent offense last season is coming to town to face one of the worst goaltending situations. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the Stars start getting things pulled together against a prone opponent.

Hockey Birthday

  • Don Saleski (1949-) – This right wing was the 64th overall selection in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing 543 games in the league, all but 67 of which were with the team that drafted him: the Philadelphia Flyers, including the 1973-’74 and ’74-’75 Stanley Cup winning teams.
  • Mike Leclerc (1976-) – On the opposite wing, Leclerc was drafted 55th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by Anaheim. He ended up playing 341 games over his career, 85.3% of which were with the club that drafted him.
  • Kristian Huselius (1978-) – Another left winger like Leclerc, Huselius was drafted 47th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, the club he spent 38.8% of his career with.

The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the first overtime game in our Game of the Day series since October 28.

Columbus struck quickly last night, scoring both their regulation goals within the opening 5:30. Second Star of the Game Boone Jenner (Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson) takes credit for the first goal with a snap shot only 1:23 after the opening puck drop. 4:06 later, Brandon Saad (Ryan Murray and Third Star Jack Johnson) scored a snapper of his own to give the Jackets a 2-0 lead, which held into the first intermission.

Anaheim‘s comeback began with 2:39 remaining in the second period when Rickard Rakell (Cam Fowler and Josh Manson) scored his fourth goal of the season. It was the lone tally of the second period, meaning Columbus still had a one-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes of play.

That lead lasted only 1:25 after resuming play before Nick Ritchie (Joseph Cramarossa) scored a wrap-around to level the score for the Ducks.

Three-on-three overtime lasted only 1:21 before First Star Zach Werenski (Alexander Wennberg and Saad) scored the winner with a wrister.

Sergei Bobrovsky earns the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), while John Gibson takes the overtime loss saving 15-of-18 (83.3%).

With that victory, Columbus improves the home squads’ record in the DtFR Game of the Day series to 18-10-3, favoring the homers by nine points over the roadies.

November 6 – Day 25 – One more before heading back east

For a Sunday, we have quite a few games on the schedule. What’s pro football? I’ve never heard of it.

Two games drop the puck at 5 p.m. (Colorado at St. Louis and Edmonton at Detroit), followed an hour later by New Jersey at Carolina. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. marks the beginning of a couple of contests (Dallas at Chicago [TVAS] and Winnipeg at the New York Rangers [SN/SN360]) and tonight’s nightcap, Calgary at Anaheim, goes underway at 9:30 p.m. All times eastern.

We’ve had a nice weekend out on the west coast. There’s no games out here tomorrow, so let’s catch one more game before heading back east.

Unknown-4Unknown-1

 

It’s our third game on the Pond in five days, and if this one follows the scoring of the last two, the winner should cruise to a 5-1 victory.

Enter the visiting 5-7-1 Calgary Flames. Just last night the Flames were up the freeway in the Staples Center, but they lost 5-0 to the Kings. While their offense is certainly capable of scoring, Calgary is held back by the large quantities of goals they allow.

Brian Elliott has started nine of the Flames‘ games, including last night’s contest. Before the puck was dropped yesterday, Elliott had a .889 save percentage for 3.12 GAA – a far cry from the .93/2.07 he notched last year with the Blues. Chad Johnson, Elliott’s backup, has better stats – .908 save percentage for a 2.67 GAA – but on a small sampe size, with only four starts to his credit this season.

Regardless of who starts in net for the Flames, they need to do better.  Plain and simple. Led by Mark Giordano‘s 37 blocks, Calgary‘s defenders have allowed the average number of pucks to reach Elliott and Johnson, so the fault does not lie along the blueline.

One way to take pressure off the last line of defense needs to be avoiding the penalty box. Calgary is home to the second-worst penalty kill in the, neutralizing only 73.1% of opposing power plays.

Defending home ice this evening are the 5-5-2 Anaheim Ducks. They play a well rounded game for a +2 goal differential.

A strong suit I’ve liked out of the Ducks has been their commitment to special teams. Successful on 24.4% of power plays, Anaheim ranks sixth-best in the NHL with the man-advantage. They back that with the 10th-best penalty kill, refusing to yield a power play goal on 83% of opposing attempts.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Anaheim‘s John Gibson (one shutout [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Calgary‘s Michael Frolik (nine points on five goals [both lead the team]).

Vegas marks Anaheim as a -190 favorite coming into tonight’s game, one of the most uneven lines on today’s schedule. Given Calgary‘s inability to stop the Ducks‘ power play, much less their standard offense, I think Anaheim easily defends home ice for the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Erik Cole (1978-) – The 71st overall selection in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing is still technically active in the league even though he hasn’t played since the 2014-’15 season. He’s most known for his two stints in Carolina, playing 557 games over nine seasons.
  • Brad Stuart (1979-) – The third overall pick of that draft is in the same situation as Cole. The defenseman was drafted by San Jose, and played 486 games over eight seasons with the Sharks.
  • Andrew Murray (1981-) – Drafted 242nd overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Columbus, Murray’s career has taken him away from North America to the KHL from 2013-’15.

The Penguins are taking no prisoners as of late, as their 5-0 victory over San Jose in yesterday’s Game of the Day is the fifth in their last six games.

Chris Kunitz (Evgeni Malkin and Ian Cole) takes credit for the game-winning tally, a snap shot only 4:22 after initial puck drop. Second Star of the Game Sidney Crosby (Third Star Carl Hagelin and Conor Sheary) tacked on the second-and-final goal of the first period with 1:32 remaining in the frame.

Crosby (Hagelin and Brian Dumoulin), Eric Fehr (Matt Cullen and Sheary) and Nick Bonino (Trevor Daley and Hagelin) scored the three remaining goals during the second period.

First Star Matt Murray earns the shutout victory after saving all 32 shots he faced, while Martin Jones saved four-of-seven (57.1%) for the loss. He was replaced following Crosby’s second goal, only 13 seconds into the second period, by Aaron Dell, who saved 16-of-18 (88.9%) for no decision.

With that victory by the visiting Penguins, the DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 14-10-3, favoring the home squads by only two points.

Bonus stat: Five of our last seven Game of the Days have been won by a five-goal offense, beginning with Pittsburgh in Philadelphia October 29.

October 25 – Day 14 – Moose comes home

It’s been too long since we’ve had a busy schedule. Cue tonight, which has 11 games taking place. As you’ve come to expect, the action gets started at 7 p.m. with three of them (Minnesota at Boston, Arizona at New Jersey and Florida at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by another trio (Buffalo at Philadelphia [NBCSN], Tampa Bay at Toronto [SN1/TVAS] and Carolina at Detroit). Calgary at St. Louis drops the puck at 8 p.m. and Winnipeg at Dallas follows suit 30 minutes later. The west coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with two contests (Ottawa at Vancouver [RDS2] and Anaheim at San Jose [NBCSN]), and Columbus at Los Angeles rounds things out half an hour later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Calgary at St. LouisTroy Brouwer and Brian Elliott make their first return to the Scottrade Center since making their way to Alberta in the offseason.
  • Anaheim at San Jose – No friends here, and that often yields some of the best hockey.

I enjoy an AnaheimSan Jose meeting as much as the next, but since Calgary‘s second visit isn’t until March – a month most have no expectations of them being relevant in – we’ll catch Brouwer and Elliott’s return to the Gateway to the West.

Unknown-4Unknown

 

 

 

Elliott’s career in St. Louis began in the 2011-’12 season, back in the days of Jaroslav Halak. They found immediate success,  taking home the William M. Jennings Trophy for that campaign.

Over the next five seasons, he amassed a 104-46-16 record, averaging a .925 save percentage (best Blues-career among players with more than one appearance) and 2.01 GAA.

His 164 starts are most recorded by a St. Louis goaltender, but the record that he truly hangs his hat on is the franchise record for shutouts – 25, five more than the man he was originally charged with backing-up. One more shutout was recorded last season during the playoffs, as he led the Blues to qualify for the Western Finals for only the seventh time in team history.

Helping Elliott and the Notes to the Western Finals was Brouwer. Only in town for a year as a result of the trade that sent T.J. Oshie to Washington, the right wing made good use of his time, notching 21 assists, the second-highest mark of his career, and 18 goals, tying for third-most on the team.

He scored eight goals in the playoffs with the Notes last season (the most of his career), including a Game 7 winner in Chicago during the Western Quarterfinals to eliminate the team that drafted him in 2004.

Be it by trade or free agency, both have found their way to the struggling 2-4-1 Calgary Flames. Before last night, their only other victory was a 4-3 overtime win against the Sabres last Tuesday.

As Colby documented Saturday, goaltending and defense has been the problem for Calgary so far this season. In only seven games played, they’ve already allowed 28 goals against, by far the most in the league. That averages out to four-per-game, tied for the second-worst rate in the NHL with Carolina and Ottawa.

Much of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the goalies. Together, Elliott and Chad Johnson have saved only .871 percent of shots faced for a 3.78 GAA – in other words, not good, as their combined save percentage trails the league average by .032. These stats collected before the completion of Monday’s game.

St. Louis has picked up right where they left off a season ago. Their 4-1-1 record is best in the Central Division, with their lone pointless game occurring five days ago in Edmonton when they lost 3-1.

After the last few days of focusing on some defensive teams, the Blues provide a lot of scoring. Of course, could you expect anything less of a team led by Paul Stastny, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko with seven points apiece? The right wing of that group is on a mission every time he takes the ice, and already has a team-leading four goals to show for it.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Calgary‘s Brouwer (five points, including three goals [both tied for team lead]), Michael Frolik (three goals [tied for team lead]), Mark Giordano (five points [tied for team lead]) and Sean Monahan (three goals [tied for team lead]) & St. LouisJake Allen (three wins [tied for second-most in the league]) and Tarasenko (four goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] for seven points [tied for ninth-most in the league]).

Tonight’s game is actually the second half of a home-and-home series between these squads… Well, kind of. That holds true for the Blues, who have been waiting for the Flames in St. Louis probably since Sunday morning. The Flames made a quick stop in Chicago last night, winning 3-2 in a seven-round shootout.

The Blues beat the Flames 6-4 Saturday in the Saddledome. Vegas is predicting more of the same, as St. Louis is favored -190 this evening. I’ve picked against the gamblers and been right a few times already this season, but tonight is not a game I’m willing to take that bet. The Notes should win this one.

Hockey Birthday

  • Rejean Houle (1949-) – This right wing spent his entire 11-year NHL career in Montréal, playing 635 games en route to five Stanley Cup championships.
  • Mike Eruzione (1954-) – We usually reserve this section for NHL alumni, but this left wing deserves an exception, seeing as he captained the American hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics. For those who are bad at remembering dates, maybe the game-winning goal in the Miracle on Ice means something to you?
  • Wendel Clark (1966-) – The first pick of the 1985 NHL Entry Draft, Clark played 608 of his 793 career games with Toronto, the team that drafted him. Interestingly, it took him three stints with the club to reach that number.
  • Josef Beranek (1969-) – Beránek was a center drafted 78th overall in 1989 by Edmonton. Although he bounced around the league a little bit, his 208 games with the Oil were the majority of his 531-game NHL career.

Yesterday’s Game of the Day went exactly as expected, with the Montréal Canadiens beating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1.

Second Star of the Game Shea Weber (First Star Alexander Radulov and Artturi Lehkonen) opened the scoring 25:28 into play with a slap shot, but Jakub Voracek (Claude Giroux and Brandon Manning)  drew the Flyers level with 8:13 remaining in the second period.

With 6:52 remaining in regulation, Brendan Gallagher (Radulov and Weber) scored a game-winning power play goal with a tip-in for the Habs. Radulov capped his three-point night with an insurance goal (Alexei Emelin) on an empty net with 63 seconds remaining.

Third Star Carey Price earns the victory after saving 31-of-32 (96.9%), while Steve Mason takes the loss after saving 30-of-32 (93.8%).

Montréal‘s victory set the DtFR Game of the Day series at 10-5-1, favoring the home sides by six points.

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 2 – Martin and the Sharks level the series with a 4-0 victory

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

With the combined efforts of Second Star of the Game Martin Jones and Paul Martin’s three blocks, the Sharks shutout the Blues 4-0 in St. Louis to level the Western Conference Finals at a game apiece.

The Sharks struck quickly, as Tommy Wingels scored a wrister only 2:07 into the contest, assisted by Dainius Zubrus and Justin Braun (his fourth helper of the playoffs).  Heading back towards the blue line along the far boards, Wingels pass to Braun, who dumped back into the zone to Zubrus.  Zubrus advanced to the far face-off dot and found the attacking center, who scored on Brian Elliott’s stick side.  Elliott made the initial save on Wingels’ attempt, but was unable completely contain the trickling puck that proved to be the winning tally.

It was only the second shot faced by Elliott, but it foretold the way the night would go for the Notes.

With 8:34 remaining in the frame, David Backes was charged and found guilty of tripping Tomas Hertl in the Sharks‘ attacking zone.  His sentence: two minutes in the sin bin.  The Blues continued the trend they set in the first game with their fourth straight penalty kill against the Sharks, allowing only three shots against.

Almost immediately after Backes returned to the ice (12 seconds later, to be exact), Chris Tierney returned the favor by tripping Kevin Shattenkirk, but the Notes‘ power play was equally successful as San Jose‘s, failing to score on three shots on goal.  Due in part to that, the contest entered the first intermission with San Jose leading 1-0.

The game certainly began favoring the Sharks, made evident by their tally, but the Blues started getting their skates under them to get the game to be more of back-and-forth, even affair.  The Sharks led the frame’s shot totals (10 to nine), but the Blues actually led in face-off wins (60%), blocks (seven to two), takeaways (seven to three) and hits (14 to 11).

After resuming the back-and-forth nature in the second, Third Star Logan Couture was caught holding Jori Lehtera at the 4:45 mark.  Fortunately for him and his squad, San Jose earned their second straight penalty kill of the night to keep the Notes off the board.

A second after completing the kill, the Sharks went to the power play on a Troy Brouwer slashing penalty against First Star Brent Burns.  Burns took offense to that and made him pay only 18 seconds later with a wicked snap shot, assisted by Joe Pavelski (his sixth helper of the playoffs) and Couture. This play was especially lopsided, as Alexander Steen was in the process of returning from the bench with a replacement stick.  Just before receiving a hit from Steen (on his way to the bench) at the blue line, Burns passed across ice to Patrick Marleau, who dumped into the zone to Couture.  Couture centered into the center of the zone for Pavelski, who found the crashing Burns at the left face-off dot to set up his snapper that set the score at 2-0.

The Sharks got their third attempt at the power play at the 8:03 mark when the wily Steve Ott interfered with Pavelski along the far boards.  Luckily for the Blues, they were able to complete this kill to maintain the score differential at two tallies.

Patric Berglund took a rough hit into the open door jam at the completion of that kill that forced him to the dressing room.  He did return to the ice with a little over four minutes remaining in the frame.

Once again, only one goal was struck in the period, and this frame was decidedly more in San Jose‘s favor even though Brouwer had a great opportunity stopped by the goal post.  They led the period in shots (nine to six) and giveaways (one to three), while the Blues had face-offs (52%), blocks (14 to six), takeaways (eight to five) and hits (30 to 20) to their credit.

Off a face-off only 32 seconds into the third period, Marleau hi-sticked Carl Gunnarsson and drew blood, earning him a double minor.  San Jose was once again up to the challenge, making their fourth kill of the night.  They were further rewarded at the five minute mark when Jay Bouwmeester slashed Joe Thornton, but were unable to take advantage.

As would be expected, the Blues certainly increased their offensive pressure in the third period.  With 8:24 remaining in the frame, the Notes had already notched eight shots on goal to San Jose‘s three.

Those attempts came to a grinding halt at that mark though, as Brouwer took his second seat in the penalty box of the night for hi-sticking Martin.  Just like the first time, Burns made him pay, this time with a slap shot assisted by Marleau and Couture (his 12th helper of the postseason).  The play looked like a basketball “extra pass” motion wrapping around the three-point arc.  Couture collected a pass along the near boards and passed to Marleau at the point, who found Burns waiting outside the far face-off circle, scoring over Elliott’s glove hand.

Ex-Blue Roman Polak gave the Blues some life with 6:41 remaining when he interfered with Backes, made even worse for San Jose when Martin slashed Brouwer, giving St. Louis 24 seconds of 5-on-3.  After Polak served his complete time, Ken Hitchcock summoned Elliott to the bench for an extra attacker for a 6-on-4 advantage, but it wasn’t enough to get the Notes on the board.

Elliott remained on the bench to give the Blues a 6-on-5, but it was not the Notes that took advantage.  With 19 seconds remaining, Zubrus scored his first goal of the postseason setting the score at the 4-0 final.

Jones earns the shutout victory after saving all 26 shots he faced, while Elliott takes the loss, saving 20 of 23 (87%).

The series now leveled at a game apiece, the action relocates to the SAP Center.  Game 3 takes place Thursday at 9 p.m. eastern and may be viewed on CBC, NBCSN or TVAS.

San Jose at St. Louis – Game 1 – Elliott saves 32, earns Game 1 victory

UnknownUnknown-1

 

 

 

First Star of the Game Brian Elliott allowed only one goal to earn the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 home win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

The first penalty of the game was at the 5:36 mark, a holding penalty against Melker Karlsson, courtesy of Third Star Jori Lehtera.  The Sharks‘ ensuing power play was unsuccessful, as the Blues and Elliott made three saves.

With 8:25 remaining in the first period, the Blues almost struck with their first tally of the night with a Patric Berguland deflection off his chest, but he was ruled to have interfered with goaltender Martin Jones.  The call was challenged by the Notes, but upheld.

Logan Couture was charged with tripping with 6:04 remaining in the period.  St. Louis made him pay 1:08 and one shot later when Second Star David Backes redirected a shot past Jones with his head and stick, giving the Blues the one-goal lead.  Kevin Shattenkirk takes responsibility for the initial shot, assisted by Jaden Schwartz.

Only 34 later, the Sharks leveled when Thomas Hertl (his third tally of the playoffs) and Joe Pavelski redirected Brent Burns’ initial slap shot from the blue line (his 12th helper of the playoffs).

Steve Ott headed to the box with 2:42 remaining for slashing Justin Braun, but once again the Blues‘ penalty kill was up to the task, holding the score at one-all going into the first intermission.

Although the score was tied St. Louis overall dominated play during the first frame, with a solid five scoring chances to San Jose‘s lone chance.  The Blues notched 11 shots on goal to the Sharks‘ eight, six hits to San Jose‘s five, no giveaways to San Jose‘s one and four takeaways to the Sharks‘ one.

With 9:15 gone in the second period, the Sharks committed a turnover in the neutral zone, collected by Lehtera.  Lehtera advanced the puck into the offensive zone before firing his slap shot from the far face-off zone past Jones’ glove elbow (his second of the postseason), giving them another one-goal lead.

Elliott was very fortunate with 1:13 remaining in the second period when he attempted to freeze the puck, but it trickled under his glove and pads.  Before the Joel Ward and the Sharks could capitalize, the referee blew the play dead, leaving the score at 2-1, which held to the second intermission.

Although they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, the Sharks dominated the second period.  The frame started very back-and-forth, but San Jose ended up firing 16 shots in the period to St. Louis‘ five in addition to extending their game total leads in face-offs (29-23), giveaways (two to four) and blocks (10 to eight).

Paul Stastny was sent to the box at the 8:44 mark for hooking Pavelski.  The Blues had not one, but two shorthanded scoring opportunities, but the score remained 2-1 with 9:16 remaining in regulation.

St. Louis earned their third period shot at the power play 20 seconds after Stastny returned to the ice when Hertl was caught tripping Colton Parayko.  Just like San Jose, the Notes were not able to produce with the man-advantage, so the score remained a one-goal differential.

Jones left the ice for the extra attacker with 2:30 remaining in regulation, but Elliot and the St. Louis defense was up to the task to secure the 2-1 victory.

Elliott earns the win afters saving 32 of 33 shots faced (97%), while Jones takes the loss, saving 21 of 23 (91.3%).

Game 2 between these squads will occur Tuesday night at 8 p.m. eastern at Scottrade Center.  It may be viewed on NBCSN, SN and TVAS.