Tag Archives: Freeway Face-Off

March 30 – Day 170 – Freeway Face-Off

The penultimate weekend of the regular season is upon us! There’s not much time left before the greatest postseason in sports can begin!

The night gets started with three games (Toronto at the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [NHLN/SN/TVAS] and Carolina at Washington) at 7 p.m., but Chicago at Colorado waits until 9 p.m. before getting underway. Next up is Los Angeles at Anaheim (SN1) at 10 p.m., followed by St. Louis at Vegas half an hour later to close out the evening. All times Eastern.

After the transactions at this year’s trade deadline, the Bolts’ visit to Madison Square Garden will be a fun game to see considering D Dan Girardi, D Ryan McDonagh and F J.T. Miller are going to be making their first appearance in front of their former home fans.

However, nothing can keep us away from Orange County this evening and witnessing a pivotal Freeway Face-Off.

 

In the spirit of Opening Day taking place yesterday, the second half of March has been very, very good to the 39-25-13 Ducks. Anaheim has posted an impressive 5-1-1 record since March 14, and it’s all been because of some stellar play on the defensive end.

Whether it’s been the solid play of D Cam Fowler (2.4 blocks per game since March 14), C Ryan Getzlaf (11 takeaways in his last six games played) or D Josh Manson (3.6 hits per game in his last five outings), Anaheim’s defense has made it very tough on its opposition to find any sort of offensive rhythm. During this seven-game run, the Ducks have allowed only 30.29 shots against per game – the 10th-best average in the league since March 14.

With the only possible exception being Head Coach Randy Carlyle, no one is happier about that statistic than 30-18-7 G John Gibson, tonight’s projected starter who has been the only goaltender Anaheim has used during this seven-game run. Gibson has certainly earned his spot in the crease lately, as he’s posted a .934 save percentage and 1.99 GAA to improve his season marks to a .925 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.

After paring the Ducks’ solid defense with some stellar play from Gibson, Anaheim has allowed only 2.14 goals per game since March 14, the fifth-best mark in the NHL in that time.

Of course, Anaheim is not the only squad playing well at the right time of year, as the 43-28-7 Kings are also enjoying a nice run of success right now with a 4-1-1 record over their past six showings.

To continue the similarities, Los Angeles is finding success lately in exactly the same way as Anaheim: behind some stellar defense. Behind the impressive efforts of D Derek Forbort (3.5 blocks per game since March 19), C Anze Kopitar (averaging a takeaway per game in his past six outings) and D Dion Phaneuf (2.7 hits per game during this run), Los Angeles has allowed only 27.83 shots against per game since March 19, the fourth-lowest mark in the NHL in that time.

As would be expected from a goaltender like 31-27-2 Jonathan Quick, he has absolutely relished the play of his skaters and made full use of their excellent effort. In his last four starts, Quick has posted a solid .934 save percentage and 1.73 GAA, both of which are much better than the .923 save percentage and 2.38 GAA he’s managed for the entire regular season.

Quick was intentionally saved for tonight’s game against the Ducks, as it was 2-0-2 G Jack Campbell in action last night in the Kings’ 4-2 victory over the Coyotes. Campbell did his job in earning the victory last night, so now it’s up to Quick to hold up his end of the deal and beat the opponent with much more to play for.

Speaking of the Kings’ win last night against Arizona, Los Angeles has created a slight separation of two points between it and its southeastern neighbor. However, it is that very game that also plays to the Kings’ detriment, as a regulation win by the Ducks tonight propels them into third place in the Pacific Division considering their game in hand on Los Angeles.

Even though the Ducks and Kings have split their four meetings in terms of wins, Anaheim has certainly had the upper hand on its Southern Californian counterparts so far this season by forcing overtime in its two losses.

These clubs first met on November 7 at Honda Center in Anaheim, but it was the Kings that earned the 4-3 overtime victory (C Nick Shore – now a member of the Flames –  scored the game-winner). A similar result occurred a few weeks later on November 25, as Los Angeles successfully defended home ice with a 2-1 shootout win (Quick earned First Star honors with a 25-save performance).

However, the tides have turned in favor of Anaheim in their two more recent meetings. The Ducks took another trip up I-5 on January 13, this time finding a 4-2 victory in Tinseltown (W Ondrej Kase dominated the game with 2-1-3 totals), followed only six days later by a narrow 2-1 home win (all three goals were struck in the third period, but F Ryan Kesler scored the final – and game-winning – marker).

The Ducks have the luxury of playing on The Pond with two night’s rest as compared to Los Angeles playing last night. This result might just boil down to those facts, as neither defense nor goaltender is going to yield very much this evening. It might be a close one, but I think Anaheim can earn two points tonight.


With a 4-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins have taken a one-point lead in the Eastern Conference.

Though it looks like the Bruins dominated the first period based on the scoreboard reading 2-0 during the first intermission, Boston didn’t register its opening markers until the final minute of the frame. F Tim Schaller (F Tommy Wingels) took credit for the ice-breaker with 58 ticks remaining in the period, followed only 32 seconds later by Third Star of the Game RW David Pastrnak (D Torey Krug and Second Star C Patrice Bergeron) scoring a power play deflection.

In terms of game time, Boston’s two-goal lasted only 2:10 before Miller (RW Nikita Kucherov and D Victor Hedman) pulled the Bolts back within a goal with a power play deflection 1:44 into the second period. The Lightning had their fist around a penalty-laden second frame (eight different infractions were recorded between the intermission), as they allowed only three Boston shots to reach G Andrei Vasilevskiy.

That 2-1 score lasted throughout the second frame, as well as over half the third. However, Bergeron’s (Krug and LW Brad Marchand) wrist shot with 8:01 remaining in regulation during four-on-four play returned the two-goal advantage to the Bruins and proved to be the game-winner.

What a slick play this tally proved to be. Bergeron actually started the play along the right boards with the puck on his stick, dumping it into the trapezoid to Marchand. Upon collecting Bergeron’s pass, Marchand slid above the goal line to Vasilevskiy’s right, but instead of firing a quick shot, instead dished to Krug in the high slot to the netminder’s glove side. Once again a player would be within his rights to fire a shot, but Krug’s unselfishness led to him returning a backhanded pass across the slot. However, instead of Marchand being in that position, it was Bergeron, who had drifted behind the net from his original spot along the boards and was now near the left goal post. With Vasilevskiy leaning towards his glove side to stop any Krug offering, Bergeron had a gaping net to fire his wrister into.

Tampa still had a lot of fight left in it, as proven by Hedman (F Yanni Gourde and Girardi) scoring his 15th goal of the season to pull the Bolts back within a score, but Marchand’s (Bergeron and Pastrnak) backhanded shot on an empty net with 56 seconds remaining in the game ended any chance of Tampa Bay leveling the game.

First Star G Tuukka Rask earned the victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (.929 save percentage), leaving the loss to Vasilevskiy, who saved 26-of-29 (.897).

There’s some serious perks to being the home team in the DtFR Game of the Day lately, as the 96-53-21 hosts have rattled off a six-game winning streak that’s made only better by earning points in eight-straight tilts. Home teams in the series now have a 43-point lead on the visitors.

January 13 – Day 98 – Freeway Face-Off

It’s Saturday, and a lot of the teams in action today are well rested and ready to roll. This should be a good one!

The action sees an early start today, as there’s two (the New York Islanders at the New York Rangers and Detroit at Pittsburgh [NHLN/SN]) 1 p.m. matinee games. Next up are the three contests (Winnipeg at Minnesota [CITY/SN1], Boston at Montréal [CBC/NHLN/SN/TVAS] and Philadelphia at New Jersey) dropping the puck at the usual 7 p.m. starting time, followed by Colorado at Dallas two hours later. Edmonton at Vegas (CBC/SN) will get underway at 10 p.m., followed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps: Anaheim at Los Angeles and Arizona at San Jose. All times Eastern.

Teams on the bye: Buffalo, Columbus, Florida, Nashville, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington.

More than a few of these games caught my eye…

  • New York at New York: It’s the Battle of New York! Which borough is supreme: Queens Brooklyn or Manhattan?
  • Detroit at Pittsburgh: Not only is this the rivalry of two consecutive Stanley Cup matchups, but it’s also the first returns of D Trevor Daley and F Scott Wilson to PPG Paints Arena since joining the Red Wings.
  • Boston at Montréal: One of the NHL’s most storied rivalries finally gets started for the 2017-’18 season.
  • Philadelphia at New Jersey: The Battle of the Turnpikes is always solid, and both these teams are coming off five days rest.
  • Anaheim at Los Angeles: It’s a Freeway Face-Off night in Tinseltown!

Now that the Ducks are rested and healthy, there’s no way we can miss this rough-‘n’-tough rivalry game!

 

Both of these teams enter today well-rested, as they were both enjoying their six-day bye weeks from January 7-12. Hopefully we get a high-energy contest and not one that features two rusty clubs.

The similarities between these clubs extend beyond that. Besides the simple fact that they both call Southern California home, they both entered the bye week losing week, even though they both play some of the best defense in the league.

Let’s start with the 24-13-5 Kings, who are currently in second place in the Pacific Division. With the exception of the active losing streak, most things have gone Los Angeles’ way this season, and a lot of it has to do with the dominant play of 19-13-2 G Jonathan Quick.

Quick has been solid in his first full season back from his 2016 groin injury. His .926 season save percentage is (t)fifth-best in the league among qualified goaltenders, and his 2.31 GAA is sixth-best. Only six netminders have more wins than Quick on the season, and this three shutouts are (t)fourth-best in the NHL.

Oh yeah, it also doesn’t hurt that D Drew Doughty wears the black and silver. He’s been solid this season to post a (t)third-best in the league +21 rating on 7-23-30 totals. Doughty’s point totals are (t)third-most on the Kings’ roster.

It’s highly doubtful that much will change for the Kings coming out of the bye, but the same can’t be said for 19-15-9 Anaheim. Though the Ducks sit three points outside the playoff picture coming into today’s action, they’re poised for a surge since almost their entire roster is now healthy.

C Ryan Getzlaf has played only 19 games this season. F Ryan Kesler only six. Tonight will be D Hampus Lindholm‘s 31st contest, and only D Cam Fowler‘s 32nd. Even W Corey Perry has played fewer than 35 games.

But tonight, they’ll all be back and ready to roll, bringing with them a combined 3.4 points-per-game. Add in the fact that Anaheim allows a seventh-fewest 2.67 goals per game, and this Ducks team should be in business to inflict some damage in the Pacific Division.

These teams have already squared off twice this season, and both games took place back in November. Even though the Kings won both meetings, don’t think they had an easy time of it. Los Angeles needed an overtime game-winning goal from C Nick Shore to beat the Ducks on The Pond 4-3 on November 7, and November 25’s meeting in Hollywood required a four-round shootout to declare the Kings the 2-1 winners.

Considering the Kings are playing at home this evening, you’d be led to believe they should have what it takes to beat the rival Ducks. However, it’s still unknown just how good this Anaheim team can be. Regardless of who wins, I think it’s a safe assumption that this will be a physical, closely contested match.


With four goals in the second period, the Vancouver Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 at Nationwide Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though the game would ultimately belong to Vancouver, the Jackets took credit for the game-opening tally at the 4:33 mark courtesy of a power play slap shot from Third Star of the Game D Seth Jones (F Nick Foligno and LW Artemi Panarin). With First Star C Henrik Sedin in the box for holding F Boone Jenner, Jones’ eighth goal of the season proved to be the lone marker of the first frame.

After the first intermission, it didn’t take the Canucks long to level the game. LW Sven Baertschi (Second Star W Thomas Vanek and F Sam Gagner) took advantage of D Zach Werenski earning a seat in the sin bin for tripping W Loui Eriksson late in the first period to tie the game-at one-all with a power play snap shot at the 1:19 mark. 4:19 later, D Erik Gudbranson (Eriksson and Sedin) scored his first goal of the season to give Vancouver the lead.

Scoring subsided for almost 10 minutes, but the next goal to be struck proved to be the game-winner. With 5:29 remaining in the second period, F Brendan Gaunce (Vanek and D Michael Del Zotto) scored Vancouver’s second power play goal of the night to set the score at 3-1. With C Lukas Sedlak in the box for hooking Sedin, Vanek entered his offensive zone along the right boards before D Jack Johnson got in his way and forced him back towards the blue line. To avoid the Canucks getting caught offsides, he shoved a pass across the zone to Gaunce, who was undefended. Every stick wants to die a warrior, and this one did – Gaunce’s wrist shot found the back of G Sergei Bobrovsky‘s net three seconds before Sedlak was to be released from the box.

D Alexander Edler (LW Daniel Sedin and H. Sedin) set the score at 4-1 on a wrister with 2:45 remaining in the period.

After that scoring explosion by Vancouver, the Jackets were in desperate need of a goal. However, they would not find the back of the net until only 7:25 remained in regulation courtesy of a LW Matt Calvert (D Scott Harrington and Foligno) clapper. Facing  a two-goal deficit, Head Coach John Tortorella pulled Bobrovsky in hopes of turning the tides for his offense. However, he allowed RW Jake Virtanen (F Markus Granlund) to score an empty-netter to set the 5-2 final score.

G Jacob Markstrom earned the victory after saving 27-of-29 shots faced (.931 save percentage), leaving the loss to Bobrovksy, who saved 24-of-28 (.857).

The road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are starting to feel it, as they’re now riding a three-game winning streak. This streak has pulled them within 20 points of the 54-32-12 hosts.

March 5 – Day 142 – Freeway Face-Off

For the second straight day, my prediction was incorrect, as the New York Rangers won in Washington 3-2.

New York got on the scoreboard first, only 5:47 into the contest.  Jesper Fast’s wrister was true, assisted by Dan Girardi (his 15th helper of the season) and Ryan McDonagh.  Thanks to a Karl Alzner tripping penalty, the Blueshirts doubled their lead with a power play snap shot from Keith Yandle, who was assisted by Derick Brassard (his 25th helper of the season) and First Star of the Game Derek Stepan, which they held into the intermission.

Just as the Rangers scored two goals in the first frame, Washington did in the second.  10:58 after resuming play, Third Star Jay Beagle’s wrister found the back of the net, his seventh tally of the season.  With only 40 seconds remaining in the period, T.J. Oshie’s scored on a wrister of his own, his 19th tally of the season.  The game would come down to the final 20 minutes, as the two-all score held into the second intermission.

Only one goal was scored in the third, belonging to the Rangers only 17 seconds after returning to the ice from the dressing room.  New York‘s winner came courtesy of a Stepan wrister, assisted by McDonagh (his 23rd helper of the season).

Second Star Antti Raanta earns the win after saving 32 of 34 (94.1%), while Braden Holtby takes the loss, saving 20 of 23 (87%).

With New York‘s win, the DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 64-35-13, favoring the home squads by 34 points over the roadies.

It’s a wildly busy Saturday in the NHL, as 11 games will be played in the span of approximately 12 hours, with the first of those matchups dropping the puck at 1 p.m. eastern (Minnesota at Buffalo).  3 p.m. eastern brings with it the beginning of a pair of games (Nashville at Colorado and Calgary at Pittsburgh), followed an hour later by Anaheim at Los Angeles.  The usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern features the beginning of five contests (Montréal at Winnipeg, Ottawa at Toronto, Carolina at Tampa Bay, Washington at Boston [NHLN] and Columbus at Philadelphia).  Florida at Arizona drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern, trailed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Vancouver at San Jose.

Five of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Nashville at Colorado, Anaheim at Los Angeles, Ottawa at Toronto, Columbus at Philadelphia and Vancouver at San Jose), but only two are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Anaheim at Los Angeles and Washington at Boston).

If you haven’t looked at the standings recently, you need to know that Anaheim and Los Angeles are currently tied at 80 points apiece for the Pacific Division lead.  To not feature this game would be blatantly disrespectful to hockey, and probably all of mankind.

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This afternoon’s game will be Anaheim‘s seventh in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they currently own a 3-1-2 record.  Their most recent showing under our scrutiny was February 15, a 6-4 victory in Calgary.  Los Angeles has only been featured four times before today’s matinee, and own a 2-2-0 record in such games.  Their most recent was February 9, an incredible 9-2 victory in Boston.

The 36-19-8 Anaheim Ducks currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division (due to losing a regulation+overtime win tiebreaker to Los Angeles) and fifth in the Western Conference.  Although they had a rough start to the season, they’ve played the third best defense in the league, but it’s been supported by the sixth worst scoring offense.

Led by Hampus Lindholm’s 97 blocks, the Ducks have allowed only 1722 shots to reach 16-8-2 John Gibson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.9% for only 147 goals against, third fewest in the league.  That incredible run of success has been led by the second best penalty kill in the NHL, which has neutralized 86.73% of their trips to the sin bin, allowing only 30 power play goals against.

Earlier in the season, it was the offense holding Anaheim back, although that doesn’t seem to be the case right now (more on that in a minute).  Led by Corey Perry’s 174 shots, the Ducks have fired the puck a decent 1935 times, but only 8.2% have found the back of the net for 161 goals (led by Perry’s 28 tallies), sixth fewest in the league.  The penalty kill has not been hampered by this lack of success though, as Anaheim‘s 22.8% success rate, good for 44 power play goals (led by Perry’s 11 extra man tallies), is the second best rate in the NHL.

Anaheim‘s 10 game winning streak is currently best in the league, two games stronger than Tampa Bay‘s eight game streak.  Their most recent showing was Thursday, a 5-1 victory in Arizona.  In addition to giving the Ducks a two point lead in the division over the rival Kings, Anaheim would also pull within three points of the dormant Blackhawks for the top spot in the Western Conference.

The 38-21-4 Los Angeles Kings currently lead the Pacific Division by virtue of the regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker, and sit in fourth in the Western Conference.  They’ve gotten to that position by playing the bet defense in the league, paired with the 13th worst offense.

Led by Alec Martinez’ 145 blocks, the Kings have allowed only 1747 shots to reach 32-16-3 Jonathan Quick and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 92.1% for 145 goals against, the fewest in the NHL.  The key to besting Los Angeles has been to get them to commit a penalty, as their 81.42% kill rate, which has allowed 42 power play goals, ranks only 13th best in the league.

Jeff Carter’s 174 shots has helped lead the Kings to firing the puck a whopping 2054 times, but only 8.1% have found the back of the net for 168 goals (led by Tyler Toffoli’s 24 tallies), 13th fewest in the NHL.  While overall numbers might not be where they want them, the Kings have had decent success on the power play, where they optimize on 81.42% of opportunities for 40 power play goals (nine from Toffoli), the ninth best rate in the league.

Los Angeles‘ last game was Thursday, a 3-2 victory over the visiting Canadiens.  Just like Anaheim, a win this afternoon gives the Kings an official lead over their heated rivals, and they pull within three points of the Western Conference lead.

Anaheim currently leads the season series 2-1-0, with the most recent meeting occurring Sunday, a 4-2 victory for the Ducks on The Pond.

Some players to keep an eye on in this afternoon’s game include Anaheim‘s Ryan Getzlaf (42 assists [eighth most in the league]), Frederik Anderson (2.22 GAA [eighth best in the league]) or Gibson (2.09 GAA [second best in the league]) and Perry (28 goals [ninth most in the league]) & Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+23 [tied for sixth best in the league]), Quick (32 wins [tied for third most in the league] and 2.18 GAA [sixth best in the league]) and Toffoli (+27 [tied for second best in the league]).

It’s a shame this game isn’t on national TV, because there’s a lot on the line for not only the Pacific, but even the Western Conference.  Although the Kings‘ offense has been better for the entirety of the season and they have home ice, it is hard to pick against the Ducks with their 10 straight wins.  I’ll take Anaheim on the road.