Tag Archives: Faulk

Game of the week: February 4-10

Now that all the bye weeks are behind us, the next big event on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline at the end of the month. The activity leading up to that date will be majorly influenced by the next couple weeks’ games, including these tilts:

NHL SCHEDULE: February 4-10
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, February 4
7 p.m. Anaheim Toronto 1-6
7 p.m. Los Angeles Kings New York Rangers 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Vancouver Philadelphia 1-2
8:30 p.m. Arizona Dallas 4-5
Tuesday, February 5
7 p.m. New York Islanders Boston Bruins 1-3
7 p.m. Minnesota Buffalo 4-5 (SO)
7 p.m. St. Louis Florida 3-2
7 p.m. Los Angeles New Jersey 5-1
7 p.m. Carolina Pittsburgh 4-0
7 p.m. Vancouver Washington 2-3
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Montréal 1-4
7:30 p.m. Vegas Tampa Bay 3-2 (SO)
8 p.m. Arizona Nashville 2-5
8 p.m. San Jose Winnipeg 3-2 (OT)
9 p.m. Columbus Colorado 6-3
9 p.m. Chicago Edmonton 6-2
Wednesday, February 6
7:30 p.m. Ottawa Toronto 4-5
8 p.m. Boston Bruins New York Rangers 3-4 (SO)
Thursday, February 7
7 p.m. Carolina Buffalo  
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Florida  
7 p.m. New York Islanders New Jersey Devils  
7 p.m. Los Angeles Philadelphia  
7 p.m. Colorado Washington ESPN+
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Montréal RDS, TSN2
7:30 p.m. Anaheim Ottawa RDS2
7:30 p.m. Vegas Detroit  
7:30 p.m. St. Louis Tampa Bay  
8 p.m. Dallas Nashville  
8 p.m. Edmonton Minnesota  
8:30 p.m. Vancouver Chicago  
9 p.m. San Jose Calgary ESPN+, SN1
9 p.m. Columbus Arizona  
Friday, February 8
8 p.m. Carolina Hurricanes New York Rangers NHLN, SN
Saturday, February 9
1 p.m. Los Angeles Boston  
1 p.m. Detroit Buffalo  
1 p.m. Minnesota New Jersey  
1 p.m. Colorado Avalanche New York Islanders  
1 p.m. Anaheim Philadelphia  
2 p.m. Nashville St. Louis  
2 p.m. Winnipeg Jets Ottawa Senators CBC, SN, SN1, TVAS
4 p.m. Dallas Arizona  
7 p.m. San Jose Edmonton SN, SN360
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs Montréal Canadiens CBC, CITY, SN1, TVAS
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Tampa Bay NHLN
7 p.m. Florida Washington ESPN+
10 p.m. Calgary Flames Vancouver Canucks CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360
10 p.m. Columbus Vegas ESPN+
Sunday, February 10
12:30 p.m. St. Louis Nashville NBC, TVAS
3 p.m. Detroit Chicago  
3 p.m. Colorado Boston SN1, TVAS
3 p.m. Winnipeg Buffalo ESPN+
3 p.m. Carolina New Jersey  
3 p.m. Minnesota Wild New York Islanders  
6 p.m. Tampa Bay Florida  
7 p.m. Toronto Maple Leafs New York Rangers NBCSN, SN, TVAS

This week has more than its fair share of derbies with seven on the schedule spread across four days. First up are both of Wednesday’s tilts (the Battle of Ontario and an Original Six tilt between the Bruins and Rangers), followed this evening by Vancouver visiting Chicago (once a rivalry, always a rivalry). Toronto keeps the Original Six fever going into the weekend when it visits Montréal, then continues the trend into Sunday by visiting the Rangers. Joining the Leafs and Blueshirts in rivalry action to close the week will be Tampa Bay and Florida contesting another round of the Governor’s Cup.

In the player homecoming category, there was none bigger than F Jay Beagle‘s trip back to the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Beagle spent 10 seasons with the Caps, departing for the Pacific Northwest after winning the Stanley Cup last summer.

Also making major returns are G Philipp Grubauer and F Nick Bjugstad, both of whom spent six seasons with the Capitals and Panthers, respectively. These homecomings are especially significant for both, as Grubauer will be collecting his Stanley Cup ring and Bjugstad will probably be snagging some more clothes and household items for his new apartment in the Steel City after being traded there Friday.

However, to keep with tradition, let’s totally disregard those tilts and focus on a totally different fixture – specifically, the one featuring F Jeff Skinner taking on his former team.

Boasting a 4-1-1 record in their past six games (including a dominant 4-0 shutout win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday), the 26-21-6 Carolina Hurricanes have pulled within three points of the East’s second wild card with 29 games to play.

After more than half the season has gone by, there’s no surprises any more in the Canes’ style: they play an upbeat style of offense that stresses shots on goal, hoping to wear down opposing goaltenders simply by the mass volume of stops they have to make.

While that strategy has had varied levels of success throughout the campaign, Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour‘s crew has certainly been making magic lately, as they’ve been led by their offense averaging 4.33 goals per game during this run – the second-best in the entire NHL since January 20.

Leading that charge is none other than the 35th-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, F Sebastian Aho. With 3-6-9 totals in his last six appearances, he’s continued his insane scoring pace to elevate his season marks to 24-36-60 in 53 appearances, putting him only five points away from matching last season’s career-highs in goals and points.

Joining Aho in averaging at least a point per game during this six-game run are F Teuvo Teravainen (2-5-7), D Jaccob Slavin (0-7-7) and new addition W Nino Niederreiter (5-1-6). With Niederreiter’s goal-scoring showing up in Raleigh on January 18, perhaps it’s no mere coincidence the offense has taken off and the Hurricanes are enjoying more of their patented “Carolina Surge” celebrations. Of course, the Canes might be just as surprised with Niederreiter’s success as he is – after all, he only scored nine goals in 46 games with the Wild this season. Since donning Carolina red, he’s already lit the lamp five times in only seven appearances.

But the Hurricanes haven’t been just another pretty offense during this winning run. They’ve also played incredibly well on the defensive end too.

Thanks to the excellent play of late by D Justin Faulk (two blocks per game since January 20) and W Micheal Ferland (3.5 hits per game in his last four outings), the Canes have also boasted the league’s third-best defense as measured by shots against per game, as they’ve allowed only 25.33 per game during this six-game span.

And not surprisingly, that solid defensive work has translated incredibly to the scoreboard. Carolina has allowed only 2.5 goals against per game during this run, the (t)10th-best in the league since January 20. While 11-11-3 G Petr Mrazek‘s (.894 save percentage and 2.83 GAA on the season) stats have been far from incredible during this stretch – he’s actually performed below his already below-average season marks, managing an .874 save percentage and 3.28 GAA behind this defense – the fact that he’s earned five of a possible eight points in his last four appearances indicates he’s doing enough to help the Canes win.

With Carolina heading to Manhattan tomorrow to take on a less offensively-talented Rangers team, it seems likely Mrazek will be in net tonight. Should Brind’Amour instead give 12-6-1 G Curtis McElhinney the nod, he’ll hope to improve on his .918 season save percentage and corresponding 2.37 GAA.

Speaking of New York-based teams, the 26-20-6 Buffalo Sabres also find themselves trailing eighth-place Columbus by three points, but they currently lead the Hurricanes in the standings by virtue of playing one fewer game so far this campaign.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, that is where the positive marks end for a moment, as they’ve had the misfortune of stumbling into a 3-6-0 rut over their past nine games.

The biggest reason for this slump? Struggling goaltending.

Due in large part to an offense that is providing only three goals per game (tied for 13th-fewest in the NHL since January 11) and a defense yielding 31.11 shots against per game (15th-worst in the league in their past nine outings) during this stretch, 11-5-3 G Linus Ullmark has been forced to shoulder the brunt of the Sabres’ mistakes for the past few weeks and has struggled mightily under the pressure.

Despite owning a solid .914 save percentage and 2.93 GAA for the season, Ullmark’s stats in his last seven appearances (of which only five were starts, meaning 15-15-3 G Carter Hutton is struggling even more than Ullmark) have showcased just how much Buffalo has been struggling in the middle of the season. Ullmark has only an .882 save percentage and 3.53 GAA in these games, a far cry from the performance Head Coach Phil Housley has come to expect.

Hutton has an even worse .832 save percentage and 5.59 GAA in his last four starts (of which he’s only won one), so I’d be surprised if the 33-year-old is in net tonight against the Canes’ rolling offense.

Regardless of who’s in net, I have a hard time seeing the Sabres breaking out of their funk against the red-hot Hurricanes. With everything coming up Carolina’s way in it’s last few outings, the Canes should escape the Queen City with two more points in their possession.

March 31 – Day 168 – Staal comes home

With two successful shootout goals, the Flyers held home ice to beat Washington 2-1 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The first two periods were just like I like them – scoreless.  It wasn’t until 41:28 had ticked off the clock that Alex Ovechkin connected on a power play snap shot, assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 54th helper of the season) and Justin Williams.  With 5:28 remaining in regulation, Brayedn Schenn leveled the game for the Flyers, assisted by Claude Giroux (his 43rd helper of the season) and Wayne Simmonds.  Neither side could find the net again during the remaining time, nor the five minutes of overtime, sending us to a shootout.

Washington got to shoot first, but T.J. Oshie’s attempt was denied by Third Star of the Game Steve Mason.  Nick Cousins was up next, and scored on a backhander.  Kuznetsov danced around a bit before getting almost all the way to the goal line and tried to bang one off the far post, but Mason make a quick glove save to end that attempt.  Second Star Sam Gagner gets the unofficial game winner, going five hole on First Star Braden Holtby to secure the bonus point.

Mason earns the win after saving 29 of the 30 shots he faced (96.7%), while Holtby take the shootout loss, saving 33 of 34 (97.1%).

With the third straight home win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 77-43-18, favoring the home sides by 37 points over the roadies.

This Thursday, we have 10 games on tap for you to choose from.  40% of them drop the puck at 7 p.m. eastern (Toronto at Buffalo [BELL TV], Columbus at the New York Islanders, Nashville at Pittsburgh [NHLN/TVAS] and the New York Rangers at Carolina), followed half an hour later by two more (Montréal at Tampa Bay [RDS] and New Jersey at Florida).  Ottawa at Minnesota [RDS2] starts at 8 p.m. eastern, with Arizona at Dallas trailing 30 minutes later.  Finally, our co-nightcaps drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose).

Over half of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (Toronto at Buffalo, Columbus at New York, New York at Carolina, Montréal at Tampa Bay, Calgary at Los Angeles and Vancouver at San Jose), but only Nashville at Pittsburgh is between playoff qualifiers.  Also, the MontréalTampa Bay game is a rematch of one of last season’s Eastern Semifinals.

The game that stands out the most this evening actually has nothing to do with the standings, but everything to do with the return of a beloved player.

New York Rangers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

Tonight’s game will be New York‘s 22nd in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 11-7-3 record, with their most recent being Sunday’s home 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins.  Carolina has been featured four times before this game, and own a 1-1-2 record in such contests, with their most recent being February 23’s 3-1 home victory over the Flyers.

Drafted by the Hurricanes second overall in the 2003 Entry Draft, Eric Staal has only recently joined the second team of his career at this season’s trade deadline.

Over 12 years in Carolina, Staal played 909 games, scoring 322 goals and adding 453 assists for 775 points.

No doubt the best year to be a Cane was during the 2005-’06 season when they won the Stanley Cup.  During that playoff run, Staal scored nine goals (tied for second most on the club) and 19 assists (led the team) for 28 points, the most for Carolina.  Arguably his most important goal was his only game winner of the postseason, an overtime power play tally, his first his playoff career, that saved the Canes from going down three games to none in Montréal.  With that new found momentum, Carolina won the next three games following to win that series 4-2 and eventually hoist the Cup.

That success wasn’t isolated to the playoffs though, as he scored 45 goals during the regular season, as well as 55 assists, for 100 points flat, all categories he led (ok, tied for the lead in assists with Cory Stillman) for his club.  Those sophomore numbers have also been the peak of his career, which he achieved with cool 16.1% shooting rate.

Before joining the Rangers this February, he notched 23 assists, a total that still ranks fourth most on the team this season.  His production has improved since making the move to Manhattan, as he already has three goals and two assists to his credit after only 14 games played.

The 43-24-9 New York Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division as well as the Eastern Conference.  To get there, they’ve played solid offense backed by the 12th best defense.

Even with Derek Stepan’s 176 shots, New York has fired the puck only 2158 times, but 10% have found the back of the net for 219 goals (led by Derick Brassard’s 27 tallies), the fifth best offense in the NHL.  The Rangers prefer to keep things even-steven, as their power play, successful on 19.32% of their attempts for 40 extra man goals (led by Brassard’s eight power play tallies) ranks only 12th best in the league.

Even with Dan Girardi’s 187 blocks, the Blueshirts have allowed 2303 shots to reach 33-19-7 Henrik Lundqvist and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92% for 199 goals against, the 12th fewest in the league.  If you thought New York was concerned about their power play, you haven’t seen the other side of their special teams.  Madison Square Garden is the home of the fourth worst penalty kill in the league, neutralizing only 77.93% of their infractions for 49 power play goals against.

The Rangers last played Sunday when they fell to the Pens, which ended their winning streak at three.  A win is very important for New York, as they are still very much competing with Pittsburgh for second in the division and home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

The  33-28-16 Carolina Hurricanes are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  The Canes play the 15th worst defense, paired with the fifth worst offense.

Led by Ron Hainsey’s 118 blocks, Carolina has allowed only 2112 shots to reach 21-16-10 Cam Ward and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.8% for 208 shots against, the 15th most in the league.  The worst part about that stat is that most of those goals come at even strength, as the Hurricanes‘ 84.38% kill rate that has allowed only 30 power play goals against ranks fifth best in the entire league.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 239 shots, the Canes have fired the puck 2312 times, with 8% finding the back of the net for 187 goals (led by Skinner’s 26 tallies), the fifth fewest in the league.  A major contributor to that issue is certainly their power play, which ranks eighth worst after finding success on only 16.67% of attempts for 38 goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 power play tallies).

Carolina last played Tuesday to a 2-1 shootout loss in Brooklyn.  The Canes are technically still alive for the playoffs, but trail the Flyers by seven points with only five games remaining.

New York has already won the season series against the Hurricanes, but would like to complete the season sweep with a fourth win this evening in Raleigh.

Some players to keep an eye on include Carolina‘s Skinner (26 goals, 22 of which were at even strength and seven were game winners, for 47 points on 239 shots [all lead the team]) and Jordan Staal (+6, 20 even strength assists, two shorthanded assists and 156 hits [all lead the team]) & New York‘s Lundqvist (33 wins [tied for sixth most in the league], four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league] and .922 save percentage [eighth best in the league]) and Ryan McDonagh (+27 [tied for fifth best in the league]).

There’s no doubt in my mind that New York, especially with the help of their offense, will win this game.  That being said, they will get cheered at least once by the Hurricane faithful when the 12-year Carolina alumnus takes the ice.

February 23 – Day 131 – Philadelphia Flyers at Carolina Canes: A lesson on alliteration

A whopping nine goals were scored in yesterday’s Game of the Day, and the San Jose Sharks scored two-thirds of them to beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3.

Second Star of the Game Tomas Hertl was responsible for the first tally of the evening, assisted by Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski (his 29th helper of the season) at the 4:44 mark.  5:34 later, Hertl scored again on Ryan Reaves’ five-minute major, assisted by Joonas Donskoi (his 17th helper of the season) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  The score extended to 3-0 with a tip-in power play goal from First Star Logan Couture, who was assisted by Thornton (his 41st helper of the season) and Brent Burns.  The Blues got one back with 2:24 remaining in the period when David Backes scored a power play goal of his own, assisted by Jaden Schwartz and Third Star Vladimir Tarasenko, for his 15th tally of the season.  The 3-1 score held to the intermission.

11:25 after resuming play, Tarasenko scored his 29th tally of the season to get St. Louis within a goal, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Jori Lehtera.  That energy was short-lived though, as Couture scored his second of the night only 20 seconds later, assisted by Melker Karlsson and Vlasic (his 27th helper of the season), which ended up being the game winner.  The 4-2 score held into the third period.

Thornton extended the differential back to three goals with an unassisted backhander at the 7:26 mark, his 13th tally of the season.  2:24 later, Jay Bouwmeester’s slap shot found the back of the net after being assisted by Tarasenko (his 25th helper of the season) and Lehtera.  The final goal of the game was en empty netter compliments of a Thornton backhander, assisted by Couture, to set the score at the 6-3 final.

Martin Jones earns the win after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%), while Jake Allen takes the loss after saving 15 of 17 (88.2%) in his first action since being on the Injured Reserve for nearly two months.  He replaced starter Brian Elliott (12 for 15, 80%) after 12:59 of play, who sustained a lower-body injury after the Sharks‘ third goal severe enough to send him to the dressing room.

After tonight’s game, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 58-31-12, favoring the home squads by 31 points over the roadies.

It’s a busy Tuesday schedule in the greatest hockey league in the world, with nine games taking place.  The action gets started at the usual 7 p.m. eastern starting time with two contests (the New York Rangers at New Jersey and Philadelphia at Carolina), followed half an hour later by three more (Nashville at Toronto, Columbus at Detroit [NBCSN] and Arizona at Tampa Bay).  The next phase of games drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (the New York Islanders at Minnesota and Dallas at Winnipeg), with Ottawa at Edmonton trailing an hour behind.  Finally, Calgary at Los Angeles, this evening’s nightcap, drops the puck at 10:30 p.m. eastern.

Four of tonight’s games are divisional matchups (New York at New Jersey, Philadelphia at Carolina, Dallas at Winnipeg and Calgary at Los Angeles), and none feature two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game I’m most interested in actually features no teams currently qualifying for the playoffs, but two teams with postseason aspirations.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

This will be Philadelphia‘s third time featured in the Game of the Day series, and their first appearance since October 21, a 5-4 overtime win in Boston.  The Flyers also won their first appearance, so they own a perfect 2-0-0 record in our series.  Carolina has been featured three times before this evening, and own a 0-1-2 record in such games.  Their most recent was a 2-1 shootout loss in Montréal on February 7.

The 26-21-11 Philadelphia Flyers currently occupy seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.  They’ve played the 15th-worst defense in the league and, to make matters worse, have scored the fifth-fewest goals.

Even with Nick Schultz’ team-leading 119 blocks, the Flyers have allowed a whopping 1844 shots to reach 13-15-7 Steve Mason and. co., of which a solid 92.1% have been saved for 158 goals against, 15th-most in the league.  Philadelphia has done well at even-strength, but rank seventh-worst in the league on the penalty kill, where they’ve neutralized only 78.82% of their penalties for 43 extra-man goals against.

The offense ranks even worse, although it isn’t for a lack of effort.  Led by Jakub Voracek’s 171 shots, the Flyers have fired the puck 1751 times, but only 8.1% have found the back of the net for 144 goals (led by Wayne Simmonds’ 21 tallies), fifth-fewest in the league.  In comparison, Philadelphia has been moderately successful on the power play, as they’ve connected on 18.23% of their extra-man opportunities for 35 power play goals (led by Simmonds’ 10 power play goals), 13th-worst in the league.

Philadelphia‘s last game was a 5-4 overtime victory in Toronto on Saturday.  A win tonight in Raleigh will propel the Flyers past the Canes in the standings and, if paired with a New Jersey loss, would position them as first-team-out for the Eastern Conference playoffs.  Should they lose and Ottawa win, they would fall back to 12th in the conference.

The 27-23-10 Carolina Hurricanes enter the night sitting in sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference.  Similar to Philadelphia, they play a slightly below-average defense paired with a lackluster offense.

Thanks in part to Ron Hainsey’s 93 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1578 shots to reach 17-12-7 Cam Ward and co., of which 90.5% have found the back of the net for 160 goals against, 14th most in the league.  Although the defense as a whole has not played as well, they certainly clamp down on the penalty kill, where they rank 12th-best, killing 81.88% of opposing penalty kill for only 27 extra-man goals against.

Led by Jeff Skinner’s 171 shots, Carolina has fired the puck 1819 times, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 148 goals (led by Skinner’s 21 tallies), seventh-fewest in the league.  Too bad for Carolina, this special team has not been as effective, as they only connect on 17.49% of extra-man opportunities for 32 power play goals (led by Justin Faulk’s 12 extra-man tallies).

Carolina‘s last game was a 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Sunday.   Should the Hurricanes win this evening, they could move ahead of New Jersey for ninth in the Eastern Conference if they fall to the Rangers.  Should Carolina lose, they would swap spots with the Flyers regardless of Ottawa‘s result.

Philadelphia may lead the season series 3-0-0, but it hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant as that record would imply.  The Canes have taken the Flyers to overtime in all three of those games, with their most recent meeting ending 4-3 in Philly on December 15.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Jordan Staal (38 points, of which 23 are assists [17 of those were at even-strength and two short-handed], 114 hits and a +9 [all lead the team]) and Philadelphia‘s Michal Neuvirth (.93 save percentage [tied for league lead] and 2.17 GAA [tied for sixth-best in the league]).

These teams are very evenly matched for each other, made evident by their previous meetings.  Given Philadelphia‘s ability to get the winner against the Canes in the past, I think I’m leaning towards the Flyers, but wouldn’t be surprised if the game required more than 60 minutes of play.

February 7 – Day 115 – Super Bowl Sunday

The New Jersey Devils took the Washington Capitals to a shootout, but were not able to prevent them from taking two points away from The Rock.

The first goal didn’t come until 32:30 were played, by way of a Andre Burakovsky deflection, assisted by Justin Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov (his 37th helper of the season) to give the Caps a one-goal lead.  It was the only tally of the second period.

New Jersey finally got on the board after 41:51 of play, a tip-in from Joseph Blandisi, assisted by Travis Zajac (his 18th helper of the season) and Jacob Josefson.  5:56 later, Adam Henrique fired a wrister to give the Devils the lead, assisted by Blandisi and Lee Stempniak (his 24th helper of the season).  Washington leveled the score at the 14:07 mark when Paul Carey scored his first goal of the year, a wrister off assists from Matt Niskanen (his 20th helper of the season) and Brooks Laich.  The two-all score held to the end of regulation, and not a goal was scored in overtime.

T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin both converted their shootout attempts, which bested New Jersey‘s lone shootout goal from Reid Boucher.

Braden Holtby earns the win by saving 22 of 24 (91.7%), while Cory Schneider takes the loss after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 51-24-10, favoring the home squad by 37 points over the roadies.

Especially to all the American readers, happy Super Bowl Sunday!  As usual, the NHL has a light schedule today, which is always wise with that type of competition.  In fact, the NHL has already planned ahead and scheduled all the games before the coin toss, so us sports fans won’t miss a thing!  The first game, Philadelphia at Washington, drops the puck at noon eastern on NBC, and today’s nightcaps (more like afternooncaps) start at 2:30  p.m. eastern (Carolina at Montréal and Edmonton at the New York Islanders).

Only Philadelphia at Washington is a divisional matchup, and no games feature both teams in the playoffs.

I fully acknowledge that I’m biased since I’ve lived in the Carolinas for over six years, but I can’t say I’m big enough to not let it affect my decision for today (Go Panthers!).  There’s a reason the Hurricanes haven’t been in red!

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown

 

 

 

This afternoon’s game will be only Carolina‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 0-1-1 record.  Their most recent appearance was when they hosted the Canucks, but fell 3-2 in overtime, on January 15.  On the other hand, Montréal has been featured eight times before today’s game, and own a 6-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent showing in the series was on January 19, when they fell 4-1 on home ice to the arch-rival Bruins.

The 24-21-8 Carolina Hurricanes are currently the second team out of the Eastern Conference playoffs, occupying sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the conference.  It is interesting that they are in such a good position, seeing as they have scored the ninth-fewest goals and given up the ninth-most.

Led by Ron Hainsey’s 79 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1409 shots to reach 15-11-5 Cam Ward and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 90.3% for 141 goals against, ninth-most in the NHL.  Carolina‘s penalty kill is the 15th best, nullifying 81.06% of penalties for only 25 extra-man goals against.

The offense hasn’t been much better, scoring only 129 goals so far this season, led by Jeff Skinner’s 18 tallies.  They’ve found that total by keeping decent pressure on opposing netminders, firing 1594 shots (led by Justin Faulk’s 160), connecting on 8.1%.  Probably the biggest issue Carolina faces is their power play, or lack thereof.  It is the third-worst in the league, scoring on only 16.36% of attempts for only 27 power play tallies (led by Faulk’s 12).

Carolina won their most recent game, a 5-3 victory in Winnipeg, on Friday.  While a win does not propel the Canes into the playoff bracket, it does have the potential to get them within a point of the second wildcard.

The 25-24-4 Montréal Canadiens currently sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference, trailing the second wildcard position by five points.  The Habs‘ offense ranks 10th best so far this season in goals scored, but the defense has given up the ninth-most goals.

Led by Max Pacioretty’s 204 shots, the Canadiens have fired a whopping 1656 shots so far this season, but only 8.3% have found the back of the net for 137 goals.  Most of Montréal‘s offensive issues stem from their power play, currently ranked 15th worst in the league.  They’ve converted on only 17.98% this season, scoring 32 power play goals.

Led by Andrei Markov’s 84 blocks, the Habs have allowed only 1431 shots to reach 13-15-4 Mike Condon and co., of which they’ve collectively saved only 90.8% for 141 goals against.  Although the goalkeeper play has not been as strong overall this season, things have still been going Montréal‘s way on the penalty kill, which ranks sixth-best in the league.  They’ve killed 83.13% of opposing opportunities, for only 28 goals against.  To make matters even better, Montréal has also scored eight shorthanded goals, led by Paul Byron’s three shorties.

Going back to before the All-Star Break, the Habs have lost four straight, with their most recent being a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Sabres on Wednesday.  Many of the media are pulling the plug on the Habs, which I partially understand.  Condon has showed his youth and regressed to the mean, and it does not help that the power play has virtually disappeared on the other end.  That being said, I’m not 100% ready to give up on the Canadiens.  The penalty kill has played incredibly all season, and the offense is still more than capable of putting pressure on the opposition.  Carey Price was seen on the ice yesterday, and if he can return soon and play the way he did at the beginning of the season, I believe the Canadiens can at least make a solid run at qualifying for the playoffs.

This is the second of two meetings this season between these two squads. Carolina won on home ice 3-2 December 5.

Some players to keep an eye on include Carolina‘s Faulk (34 points, 12 of which were power play goals, on 160 shots and 93 hits [all lead the team]) and Montréal‘s P.K. Subban (36 assists [fourth-most in the league]).

I know that they’ve gotten a lot of bad coverage in the media lately, but I think Montréal can win this game.  Not only are they going to be at home (hopefully in front of optimistic fans), but they are going up against a team not exactly known for their scoring ability.

January 15 – Day 97 – On the outside looking in…

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks was the first since December 26 in the series to require a shootout, which the Sharks executed to perfection to win 2-1.

San Jose scored the opening goal of the game after 11:29 of play, courtesy of Marc-Edouard Vlasic after assists from Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton, his 24th helper of the season.  The Sharks‘ 1-0 lead held into the intermission.

Edmonton leveled the score at the 8:02 mark of the second when Second Star of the Game Nail Yakupov scored on assists from Lauri Korpikoski (his sixth assist of the season) and Justin Schultz.

It was the final goal in regulation, and there wasn’t one scored in the five minutes of three-on-three play, so The Tank hosted its first shootout of the season.

Joe Pavelski was the first to take his shootout goal, and his attempt was pure, giving the Sharks a 1-0 shootout lead.  First Star Martin Jones made the save on Jordan Eberle’s attempt, which was quickly followed by Joonas Donskoi’s shot that also trickled into the net.  Jones secured the bonus point with a save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, cemented San Jose‘s lead over Vancouver to two points, and ruined the homecoming of ex-head coach Todd McLellan.

Jones earns the win after saving 24 of 25 (96%) to improve his record to 19-13-2, while Cam Talbot’s record falls to 7-13-3 after saving 36 of 37 (97.3%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 40-19-8, favoring the home squad by 29 points.

A busy Thursday schedule yields a lighter Friday schedule than normal in preparation of an exciting weekend of NHL action.  A total of six games will be played this evening, with half getting started at 7 p.m. eastern (Boston at Buffalo [BELL TV], Chicago at Toronto [NHLN] and Vancouver at Carolina).  Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay (TVAS) drop the puck 30 minutes later, followed at 8 p.m. eastern by Winnipeg at Minnesota.  This evening’s nightcap gets its start at 10 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits Anaheim (SN).

A third of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Boston at Buffalo and Winnipeg at Minnesota), while none involve both squads currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The game that has attracted my attention the most is actually the Vancouver at Carolina matchup, as both teams are currently very close to qualifying for the playoffs, but are still on the outside looking in.

Unknown-1Carolina Hurricanes Logo

 

 

 

 

Tonight’s game will be Vancouver‘s fourth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 1-2-0 record, while the Canes lost the only other game they’ve played in the series.  Both team’s most recent appearance in the series was on January 6 when Carolina visited Rogers Arena and fell 3-2 to the Canucks.

The 17-17-10 Vancouver Canucks currently sit in fourth place in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, meaning that they are sitting on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, although they trail the Sharks by only two points.  Vancouver plays a balanced, yet lackluster game, slightly favoring their defense.

Even with Chris Tanev’s 99 blocks, the Canucks have allowed a whopping 1315 shots to reach 10-11-6 Ryan Miller and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.3% for 120 goals against, ninth-most in the league.  The power play has also been below average, killing 79.58% of attempts for 29 goals against.

Vancouver‘s offense has also left much to be desired for residents of British Columbia, as they’ve managed only 1249 shots (led by Daniel Sedin’s 149), of which only 8.2% have found the back of the net for 105 goals (led by Sedin’s 19), eighth-fewest in the league.  The power play has been just as incompetent, scoring only only 17.36% of attempts for 25 goals (led by Sedin’s six).

Vancouver‘s most recent game was a 4-1 loss in Washington last night.

The 20-18-7 Carolina Hurricanes currently sit in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, presently missing the playoffs only due to losing a tiebreaker of games played to Boston.  Similar to Vancouver, they play a balanced, but rather underwhelming game slightly favoring their defense.

Thanks in part to Ron Hainsey’s 71 blocks, only 1146 shots have made their way to 14-11-4 Cam Ward and co., who’ve collectively saved 90.1% for 120 goals against, ninth-most in the league.  The Canes‘ penalty kill has been only slightly below league average, killing 80.19% attempts for 21 goals against.

Led by Justin Faulk’s 130 shots, the Hurricanes have fired the puck 1298 times, of which 8.1% have found the back of the net for 105 goals (led by Jeff Skinner’s 16 tallies), eighth-fewest in the league.  The power play has certainly let the Canes down, as they’ve scored on only 17.16% attempts for 23 goals (led by Faulk’s 12).

Carolina is currently riding a four-game win streak, with their most recent game being a 4-1 victory in St. Louis last night.  A win tonight in combination with wins by Buffalo and/or Pittsburgh gets the Canes in the group of eight Eastern Conference teams competing for the Cup.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Faulk (32 points, including 12 power play goals, on 130 shots and 84 hits [all lead the team]) and Vancouver‘s Henrik Sedin (28 assists [tied for fifth-most in the league]).

As made evident by the last time these two met, these squads are an even match for each other, and goals are always at a premium with these offenses.  That being said, I am forced to lean with the Canes solely because they are playing in PNC Arena.

January 6 – Day 88 – Finally! All 30 teams have been featured!

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins was nothing short of fantastic, as it needed an extra 3:47 of play before being decided a 3-2 Hawks win.

First Star of the Game Artemi Panarin scored the first goal of the game after 28:47 of play after being assisted by Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith (his 17th of the season), giving the Blackhawks a one-goal advantage.  Almost exactly 10 minutes later, Third Star Jonathan Toews expanded the lead to two after being assisted by Brent Seabrook (his 20th of the season) and Andrew Shaw.  The 2-0 lead held into the second intermission.

Just as the second period was all Chicago, Pittsburgh took command of the third.  Captain Sidney Crosby scored the Pens‘ first goal 5:54 after resuming play, assisted by David Perron and Second Star Kris Letang (his 20th of the season).  Letang’s night wasn’t done, as he fired the game-tying score with 2:50 remaining in regulation after being assisted by Crosby (his 19th of the season).

Panarin is responsible for the Chicago winner after being assisted by Kane (his 36th of the season) and Seabrook.

Corey Crawford’s record improves to 21-10-2 after saving 34 of 36 (94.4%), while Marc-Andre Fleury’s falls to 14-10-3 after saving 27 of 30 (90%).

These two squads both traveled to Chicago following the game, and are lacing them up again tonight in the United Center.

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stand at 34-17-7, favoring the home side by 23 points over the roadies.

Today’s Wednesday schedule is a light one in comparison to yesterday’s, as only five games are being played.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern when New Jersey visits Montréal (SN/RDS), followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Chicago (NBCSN/TVAS).  Three games share the title of nightcap (St. Louis at Colorado, Carolina at Vancouver and Toronto at Anaheim), all of which start at 10 p.m. eastern.

St. Louis at Colorado represents the only divisional rivalry this evening, and New Jersey at Montréal is the only game featuring two teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

While both of those games should be excellent, there’s one matchup that sticks out due to a player returning to his old stomping grounds.

That, and there is only one team remaining that hasn’t been featured in the Game of the Day series, and since everyone deserves an opportunity (it’s my page, I get to set the rules!) and this is probably their best shot at being featured, let’s catch the Carolina at Vancouver game!

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

As stated before, tonight’s game will be Carolina‘s first time featured in the Game of the Day, while Vancouver has been featured twice before, losing both games.  Their most recent showing in the series was also their most recent game played – their 3-2 loss to Arizona on Monday.

The 16-17-7 Carolina Hurricanes currently sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference.  Neither side of the ice has favored the Hurricanes this season (then again, they’ve been hearing that since the 2009-’10 season), but if Caniacs have to hang their hat on something, they should lean towards their defense.

Carolina‘s problems this season have not necessarily been a result of poor defensive work, but poor goaltending.  Led by Ron Hainsey’s 67 blocks, the Canes have allowed only 1040 shots to reach 11-11-4 Cam Ward and co.’s net so far this season, 114 below the league average even with an extra game played.  The problem rears it’s head here: only 89.9% have been saved (1.7% below the league average), meaning that Carolina has allowed 110 goals, which exceeds the league average by six tallies.  The Canes have also done well to avoid the box as much as possible (only making 92 visits that resulted in an opposing man-advantage), as their 79.35% kill rate trails the league average by 1.3%.

Just like their skaters on the blue line, it has not been a lack of effort in Carolina that has put them in their position.  Led by Justin Faulk’s 117 shots, the Canes have put 1190 shots on net, but only 7.7% of them have resulted in tallies (led by Jeff Skinner’s 15).  The next step in making improvements in Raleigh will be to improve the power play.  Carolina has earned 121 attempts, but has converted only 20 of them (led by Faulk’s 12 goals) for a 16.53% success rate that trails the league average by 2.82%.

Carolina‘s most recent showing was a 1-0 overtime loss in Edmonton on Monday.

The 15-16-9 Vancouver Canucks find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference.  An explanation of their play may be found here, but a basic summary is that the Canucks prefer their defensive end.

Their most recent game was that 3-2 loss to the Coyotes on Monday.  A quick-and-dirty recap of that game may be found here.

The main reason we’re focusing on this game is because of a particular player, nicknamed The Stork playing for them as of June 27 – none other than 5-6-3 backup goaltender Eddie Läck, who will get the start this evening.  The Vancouver Canucks signed the undrafted goaltender on April 6, 2010, and he saw his first game on October 6, 2013, a 5-4 overtime winner over the arch-rival Calgary Flames.  In fact, Läck’s first NHL shutout was against his current team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on December 9 of that same season.

Last season was certainly the better of his two with the Canucks‘ senior squad, as he earned an 18-13-4 record with a 92.1% save percentage in the regular season before playing in four games in the playoffs, where the Canucks were ultimately eliminated by the Flames.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Carolina‘s Faulk (117 shots, 77 hits and 30 points, including 12 power play goals and 13 even-strength assists [all lead team]) and Skinner (15 goals, 13 of which were at even-strength, with four being game-winners[all lead team]) & Vancouver‘s Daniel Sedin (38 points [tied for ninth in the league]) and Henrik Sedin (25 assists [tied for eighth in the league]).

I do not believe either of these teams to be very strong, but I will give the advantage to the Canucks simply because they are on home ice.  Expect Läck’s return to be spoiled.