Tag Archives: Goligoski

October 10 – Day Seven – Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Today marks the end of the first week of action, so hopefully we can close things out with a bang.

There’s seven games on the schedule tonight, starting with two (St. Louis at the New York Rangers and Columbus at Carolina) at 7 p.m. and Chicago at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS/TSN2) half an hour later. In a similar situation, Philadelphia visits Nashville at 8 p.m. with Detroit at Dallas waiting 30 minutes before dropping the puck. Finally, our co-nightcaps (Ottawa at Vancouver [RDS] and Arizona at Vegas [NBCSN/SN360/TVAS]) find their start at 10 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times Eastern.

There’s a few games that stick out to me…

  • Chicago at Montréal: Another day, another Original Six game.
  • Ottawa at Vancouver: After a dozen seasons with the Canucks, W Alexandre Burrows plays his first game at Rogers Arena in a white sweater.
  • Arizona at Vegas: Speaking of home arenas, it’s about time T-Mobile Arena saw its first regular season game.

It’s unfortunate we can’t spend the evening with Burrows, who played such a vital role in the Canucks’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. But, you only get to make your city debut once, so it’s off to Nevada!

 

 

 

 

 

Just as I waited to welcome the Golden Knights to the NHL until they played their first game, I now officially welcome the city of Las Vegas and all her 632,912 citizens to one of my favorite sports in the world.

Oh, the arena, like almost everything we think about when envisioning the Las Vegas Strip, is technically south of Las Vegas proper in Paradise? Well, those 225,000 people can come too.

On a more serious note, it is unfortunate that no discussion about the Golden Knights’ inaugural  home game is complete without mentioning the terrible events from the night of October 1. I’m certain I speak for all of us here at Down the Frozen River in extending my condolences to the families and friends of the 58 people who lost their lives that night, as well as the hundreds injured.

While a hockey game absolutely pales in comparison to the severity of this tragedy, it is my hope that what will be an exciting, joyous event will be a pleasant reprieve from the sadness surrounding Las Vegas and maybe – just maybe – a small step towards the city’s healing.

Taking our attention back to tonight’s game, though the Golden Knights have been away from home, they’ve been doing all they can on the ice for their community by jumping to an unexpected 2-0-0 record.

Unlike the teams involved in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day (see below for the recap to that game) offense has not been the name of the game for the Knights, as they’ve scored a total of only four goals to start the season.

“But wait,” you say. “I thought Vegas’ defense wasn’t supposed to be good.”

You’ve heard correctly. No matter how many shot blocks D Jason Garrison can manage (he’s averaged six-per-game to lead the league so far this young season, for those interested), that defensive corps has allowed a (t)fifth-worst 37 shots against per-game to reach G Marc-Andre Fleury.

Instead, Fleury has had to perform at his very best to earn his unblemished record. Among goaltenders with at least two games played, his .973 save percentage and .98 GAA are both second-best in the league.

Considering the enormity of tonight’s festivities and the fact that he hasn’t played since Saturday, Flower should be a lock to be in net this evening.

As for the Coyotes, they have come up just short in both of their games played. Arizona opened up its season with a 5-4 loss in Anaheim Thursday before Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss at home to these very Golden Knights.

Similar to Vegas, defense does not seem to be the Yotes’ forte. They’ve allowed an atrocious 41.5 shots to reach their crease, and don’t seem to play any better or worse if G Louis Domingue or G Antti Raanta is in net.

Speaking of, it sounds like Raanta drew the start this evening. Considering he earned Arizona’s lone point of the season against these Knights, that seems like the logical decision.

If the Coyotes want to return the favor of beating the Golden Knights in their first home game of the season, they’re going to need their offense to do the heavy lifting.

Though he plays along the blue line, D Alex Goligoski has been Arizona’s most consistent scoring threat as his three assists against the Ducks are the highest point total on the squad. As for actual forwards to keep an eye on, F Tobias Rieder is the only Coyote to score on Fleury Saturday and F Clayton Keller really likes to shoot. Either, or both, could provide the difference for the Yotes.

Only two things can happen following the pageantry associated with a night like tonight. Either the home team lets the emotion get to them, or they come out and dominate their opponent.

Considering the Golden Knights have been playing for more than themselves, I think most of us are hoping for the latter.

#PlayForVegas


With an unassisted overtime wrist shot from First Star of the Game C Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks at the Air Canada Centre for a 4-3 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The play started in Chicago’s offensive end where C Jonathan Toews tried to pass from the near boards to F Patrick Kane in the center of the zone, but Kane misplayed the puck as it bounced off his right skate… right to Matthews. The reigning Calder Trophy winner screamed up the ice to the far face-off circle in his offensive zone before ripping a fireball of a shot over G Anton Forsberg‘s glove shoulder. Matthews finished the play the only way one should when playing the Blackhawks: imitating Kane’s patented goal celebration in victory.

Matthews’ goal completed a Leafs comeback from a 3-1 deficit with 12:08 remaining in regulation. Second Star RW Connor Brown (D Nikita Zaitsev and D Ron Hainsey) pulled Toronto back within a goal with exactly seven minutes remaining on the clock, followed 2:42 later by a game-tying power play tip-in from LW James van Riemsdyk (C Tyler Bozak and D Morgan Reilly) to force overtime.

That comeback was necessitated in large part by a hot start for Chicago, as it had a 2-0 lead before eight minutes had expired from the first period. First it was D Jan Rutta (F John Hayden and F Tommy Wingels) finding the back of G Frederik Andersen’s net at the 3:46 mark, followed 4:11 later by Toews’ (Third Star RW Richard Panik and W Brandon Saad) second goal of the season.

Zaitsev (Brown and D Calle Rosen) did score with 9:40 remaining in the second period, but that tally was eventually negated by Panik’s (D Gustav Forsling and Rutta) power play wrister 7:52 into the third period.

Andersen earned the victory after saving 18-of-21 shots faced (.857 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Forsberg, who saved 39-of-43 (.907).

A third straight victory by the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series has earned them a 4-2-1 record and a two-point advantage over the visitors.

February 24 – Day 128 – Scrapping for their playoff lives

Friday is finally here! Time to sit down and watch some hockey.

While there may be only four contests tonight, there’s certainly some quality matchups. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Edmonton at Washington (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by two more games (Ottawa at Carolina [RDS] and Calgary at Florida). Finally tonight’s nightcap – Arizona at Dallas – drops the puck at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.

I know Alex Goligoski is making his return to Dallas, but the playoff push is already in full swing – especially in the Eastern Conference. Instead, we’ll turn our attention to Sunrise, Fla. for a game between teams scrapping for their postseason lives.

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Thanks in part to their two-game winning streak, the Flames make their annual visit to Florida in fourth place in the Pacific Division and  eighth in the Western Conference with a 31-26-4 record. Although good enough for the second wildcard, the Flames are an interesting team as they aren’t exactly among the league’s elite on either end of the ice. If you had to pick Calgary‘s forte, I’d choose it’s offense, which has managed 159 goals so far this season, which ties for 18th-most in the NHL.

So far this season, it’s been the Mikael Backlund show on offense in Calgary, as his 43 points currently lead the way for the Flames. Nearing the peak of his career, he’s getting very close to succeeding his current personal-high of 47 points (I’d expect him to do that in Winnipeg next month). That being said, Sean Monahan is probably the biggest reason Calgarians make their way to the Saddledome on a nightly basis, as he’s scored a team-leading 20 goals this campaign.

Playing host tonight is 28-21-10 Florida, the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division and ninth-best in the Eastern Conference. As I said Monday, the Panthers can blame the fact that they are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in squarely on their offense, which has managed only 149 goals so far this season, the ninth-fewest in the NHL.

As he made evident Monday night in St. Louis, there’s no doubt that Vincent Trocheck is the leader of Florida‘s offense (sorry Jaromir Jagr). His 42 points top the team, and just like Backlund, he looks like he’s going to achieve his previous career-mark in the statistic this season. He’ll need 54 points to do just that, and I expect him to achieve that goal late next month in Toronto.

Part of the reason Trocheck has been so successful is because he’s not afraid to shoot the puck on his own. His 21 goals lead the team, and he’s only four tallies shy of tying that personal best. March should be a special time for the center, as he’s on pace to bury his 26th goal against Arizona on March 23.

While Trocheck is preoccupied with the even-strength efforts, Jon Marchessault has taken up a power play specialty. Yet, even though he leads the team with 13 power play points, and Reilly Smith has a team-high six extra-man goals, the Panthers still only convert 15.8% of their man-advantages, the fifth-worst rate in the league.

Fortunately, Florida is much better on the penalty kill. In fact they’re one of the elite clubs in the league, as their 85.2% success rate is third-best in the NHL. Mark Pysyk can take a lot of credit for that, as his 12 shorthanded blocks are most on the team.

The Panthers have already made their yearly trip to the Saddledome, but it wasn’t a pleasant visit for them. Led by Backlund’s three-point, two-goal night, the Flames beat Florida 5-2 on January 17.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Mark Giordano (+16 with 133 shot blocks [both lead the team]) and Florida‘s Trocheck (21 goals for 42 points [both lead the team]).

The Panthers come into tonight’s game with Vegas’ blessing and a -150 line, but I actually like Calgary to win. Both have won at least seven of their past 10 games, but the Flames have been quietly solid on the road this year and I think they can continue that success in Sunrise.

Hockey Birthday

  • Mike Vernon (1963-) – Selected in the third-round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by Calgary, this goaltender was one of the best in his day. Retiring with a career 385-273-92 record, he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice to go with his five All-Star appearances, the 1996 Jennings and the 1997 Smythe.
  • Brian Savage (1971-) – This left wing was picked by Montréal in the eighth-round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his 12-season career. By the time he retired, he had accounted for 192 goals and 359 total points.
  • Alex Kovalev (1973-) – Picked 15th-overall by the Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing was a member of New York‘s 1994 Stanley Cup winning team. He was also selected to three All-Star games.

They needed a shootout to get it done, but the Rangers were able to best Toronto 2-1 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Connor Brown (Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner) gave the Leafs a lead on his wrist shot with 9:04 remaining in the first half. That 1-0 score held not only to the first intermission, but also all the way through the second period.

Being unable to find an insurance goal finally cost Toronto when J.T. Miller (Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri) found the back of the net with 9:10 remaining in regulation. Although the game went to the always unpredictable three-on-three overtime period, neither club could find a winner, which led to the shootout.

  1. Rookie William Nylander was the first to try his hand, but his snap shot was saved by First Star of the Game Henrik Lundqvist.
  2. That proved to cost the Leafs, as Mats Zuccarello gave New York a 1-0 shootout lead on his attempt.
  3. Next up for Toronto was rookie Auston Matthews, who leveled the shootout 1-1.
  4. It didn’t last long though, as Third Star Mika Zibanejad scored the Blueshirts‘ second-straight shootout attempt.
  5. All the pressure was on Nazem Kadri to keep the shootout alive, but Lundqvist was up to the task to earn New York the bonus point.

Lundqvist earned the victory after saving 32-of-33 shots faced (97%), leaving the shootout loss to Second Star Frederik Andersen, who saved 37-of-38 (97.4%).

They got close, but the Leafs couldn’t snap the road teams’ six-game winning steak in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The 66-43-21 roadies now have a six-point lead over the hosts in the series.

November 4 – Day 23 – Friday nights have to improve soon… right?

It’s Friday!

Everybody’s getting off work, including most of the hockey players as there’s only six games going on this evening. The limited action finds its start at the usual time of 7 p.m. with Montréal visiting Columbus (RDS), followed half an hour later by Winnipeg at Detroit (NHLN/TVAS). When those games are complete, you can flip over to Arizona at Anaheim, which drops the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

If the standings are any indicator, the most competitive game of the night should be taking place in Orange County, so we’ll head there.

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While it is not  major, one aspect of this game that does make it a touch more intriguing is the presence of Jamie McGinn. The left wing started last season in Buffalo, but was traded at the deadline to the Ducks to bolster their forward situation. He scored 39 total points all last season – the best season of his career – but only two in the postseason as Anaheim fell in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

This off-season, he tested free agency to eventually sign with Arizona. Already this season McGinn has found the back of the net twice en route to a three-point campaign so far.

The addition of McGinn does not appear to be a major solution for the Coyotes, as they are the proud owners of a 4-6-0 record. In fact, goal scoring really hasn’t been the issue for the Coyotes as much as it has been their defense and goaltending.

Already this season in only 10 games played, Arizona has given up 37 goals, a total that exceeds the league average by 10 scores. That responsibility starts with the man between the pipes: Louis Domingue. Before last night’s shootout victory over Nashville, the 24-year-old goaltender had saved only 88.7% of the shots he’d faced for a 3.95 GAA – not numbers becoming an NHL starting goaltender, or at least one that will keep his job for long.

But he is far from the only one to take credit for the Coyotes‘ struggles. Before last night’s game, Arizona‘s goaltenders have been tasked with blocking 312 shots – approximately 35 per game. When the league average is a touch under 29, that’s a lot. Connor Murphy‘s 18 blocks have been good, but more skaters than him and Alex Goligoski need to contribute defensively.

Based on last year’s efforts, the team they’re facing tonight, the 4-5-2 Ducks, would be the perfect team to emulate, as Anaheim‘s 188 goals allowed last season was best in the NHL.

That was last year though. They’ve regressed to the mean so far this campaign, allowing 28 tallies after 11 games. John Gibson has a .911 save percentage to his credit, good for a 2.58 GAA. Gibson does have the luxury of Sami Vatanen playing in front of him, whose 26 blocks are tied for ninth-most in the league, but it could be argued that the top-two blockers for Arizona are doing better than Vatanen and Cam Fowler (13).

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Gibson (one shutout [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Arizona‘s Oliver Ekman-Larsson (five goals [leads the team]).

The Ducks are a solid favorite coming into this game with an impressive -208 associated with their name. With a line like that, it is probably unwise to pick against them.

Hockey Birthday

  • Howie Meeker (1923-) – Although he is the lone surviving member of Toronto‘s 1947 Stanley Cup-winning team, playing hockey was just the beginning for the nine-year right winger. After a stint as the Leafs‘ coach, the right wing transitioned to the broadcast booth, announcing for Hockey Night in Canada for almost 30 years.
  • Michel Therrien (1963-) – This is Therrien’s 11th season coaching in the NHL, and seventh with Montréal. He spent four seasons with Pittsburgh, including leading the Penguins to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. His replacement the following season, Dan Bylsma, finished the work Therrien started and led the Pens to their third title.
  • Dustin Brown (1984-) – Drafted 13th overall by Los Angeles in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Brown has spent his entire career with the Kings, already winning two Stanley Cups. Interestingly, although he was signed in 2013 to an eight-year contract, Brown was relieved of all captaincy duties this season after leading the team since 2008.

The Battle of the QEW usually favors the home team, but that was not the case in yesterday’s Game of the Day when Toronto beat Buffalo 2-1.

The Maple Leafs waited only 4:08 before scoring their first goal of the night. Second Star of the Game Mitchell Marner (Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk) takes credit for the tally with a solid wrister. The lone score of the frame, Toronto took the 1-0 lead into the dressing room.

1:50 after returning to the ice, Marner struck again with an unassisted wrister to notch the eventual game-winner. It took that winning status only 4:08 later when Third Star Marcus Foligno (Johan Larsson and Sam Reinhart) buried a backhander to set the score at 2-1, the same score that held the remaining 34:02.

First Star Frederik Andersen saved 42-of-43 (97.7%) shots faced to earn the victory, while Robin Lehner falls after saving 27-of-29 (93.1%).

Toronto‘s first win in the DtFR Game of the Day series pulls the road squads within two points of the hosts, but the home team still has a winning 13-9-3 record.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 7 – Blues score six en route to Western Finals

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Led by the Troy Brouwer, Second Star of the Game Robby Fabbri and Third Star Paul Stastny line scoring three goals, the St. Louis Blues beat the Dallas Stars 6-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The first power play of the night was caused by Alex Goligoski at the 4:31 mark for hooking Vladimir Tarasenko in front of Kari Lehtonen’s net.  Fabbri made him pay 52 seconds later when he forced the puck across the goal line through a scrum in the crease, assisted by Brouwer and Stastny (his fifth helper of the playoffs).

Jori Lehtera returned the favor at the 9:38 mark, as a cross check against John Klingberg earned him a seat in the sin bin.  Klingberg seemed to be injured on the play after taking a David Backes clear off an ankle, but returned to the ice for his next shift.  First Star Brian Elliott only needed to make one save on the Stars‘ man-advantage, catching the puck right when Lehtera exited the box, ending the power play.

The Blues headed to their second power play with 5:01 remaining in the frame when Radek Faksa cross checked Steve Ott following another of his violent, but legal hits.  This time, the Stars‘ penalty kill was up to the task, allowing only one shot to reach net that was saved by Lehtonen.

The Blues thought they had scored 40 seconds after Dallas returned to even-strength, but would-be goalscorer Tarasenko was ruled to be offside after taking his skate off the ice an instant too soon.

They obviously weren’t phased though, as Stastny scored on a wrister with 1:38 remaining in the frame, assisted by Brouwer and Fabbri (his ninth helper of the playoffs).  Stastny collected a pass along the near boards from Fabbri and advanced to the goal line before dumping behind the goal to Fabbri again.  The rookie rounded the net and passed to a waiting Brouwer in front of the crease, who dumped to Stastny along the goal line ready to fire over Lehtonen’s stick shoulder.

With four seconds remaining, Patrik Berglund scored again for the Notes on a wrist shot, assisted by Lehtera and Backes (his sixth helper of the postseason).  Berglund received a pass at the point and quickly rifled his shot past Lehtonen’s stick side.

Through one period, St. Louis led not only on the scoreboard, but also at the face-off dots (57%), shots (eight to seven), blocks (10 to two) and giveaways (one to two).

An always important statistic for the Blues is their hits (even though they trailed the first period 11 to 10), and Ott threw quite a few of them.  Somehow, the official stat sheet only gave him credit for one, but he was flying across the ice and making his presence known.

After giving up three goals in the opening 20 minutes, Lehtonen was replaced by Antti Niemi.  He waited 3:50 before giving up a goal, a Backes wrister (his sixth tally of the playoffs) assisted by Berglund and Colton Parayko.  Bergluned received Parayko’s at center ice and flipped into the offensive zone for his captain, who collected and advanced on Niemi’s net from the near face-off dot to set the score at 4-0.

Five seconds before the halfway point of the contest, Ott’s aggressive plays caught up with him, as he earned a seat after being called for interference against Jamie Benn, but the Blues held strong to keep them scoreless.

St. Louis scored yet again with 4:54 remaining in the period on a quick transition attack.  Brouwer gets credit for the tally, assisted by Fabbri and Stastny.  Stastny collected a listing puck at center ice and attacked the offensive zone along the far boards.  He dumped a pass back to Fabbri, who crossed the puck in front of the crease for Brouwer, beating Niemi glove side to set the score at 5-0.

The Stars headed back to the power play with 3:49 remaining in the frame when Jaden Schwartz was charged with hooking Cody Eakin, but St. Louis made it three for three in successful penalty kills.

After two periods, it was actually Dallas playing the more aggressive game, firing 18 shots to set their game total at 25 in addition to winning the face-off dot (63%), takeaways (nine to eight) and hits (17 to 16).

Dallas finally got on the board after 45:15 of play when Patrick Eaves connected on a wrister, assisted by Goligoski and Johnny Oduya.  After a save rebound, Oduya received the puck along the blue line and passed to Goligoski across the point.  Goligoski fired a slap shot at Elliott, who made another save, but this rebound was collected by Eaves on the far side of the crease, who easily buried the puck in a virtually empty net.

With 4:40 to go and an empty net ahead of him, Tarasenko set the score at 6-1 with an wrister, assisted by Schwartz and Lehtera.  Schwartz flipped the puck into the neutral zone for a streaking Tarasenko, who had only one Star to beat before reaching the empty net to easily score.

Elliott earns the victory after saving 31 of the 32 shots he faced (96.9%), while Lehtonen takes the loss, saving five of eight (62.5%).  For no decision, Niemi saved eight of 10 (80%) in the remaining 40 minutes.

The Blues have advanced to the Western Finals, but don’t yet know who they’ll be playing.  That side will be determined tomorrow night at 9 p.m. eastern when Nashville makes their final visit of the year to San Jose for another Western Game 7.  That game may be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

Dallas at St. Louis – Game 4 – Eakin’s overtime winner levels the series for the Stars

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First Star of the Game Cody Eakin’s first goal of the playoffs was a big one, as the Stars beat the Blues 3-2 in overtime to level the series at two-all.

Neither team was able to capitalize of their lone man-advantage in the frame, but Vladimir Tarasenko did find the back of the net with a wrister at the 10:17 mark, assisted by Jaden Schwartz.  Schwartz completed a steal by Carl Gunnarsson along the near boards in Dallas‘ offensive zone and was able to find Tarasenko already streaking towards Third Star of the Game Kari Lehtonen’s net.  The winger collected the pass near center ice with no defensemen in his path, allowing him to advance between the dots before going five hole on Lehtonen.

In addition to leading on the scoreboard, the Blues also owned the face-off dot (61%), blocks (three to one), giveaways (none to three) and hits (16 to 10).

Radek Faksa leveled the game 4:05 into the second period, with an assist from… Joel Edmundson (that’s a joke, just in case you were wondering). Edmundson was trying to find a teammate in the neutral zone, but Faksa easily intercepted that pass to advance on Brian Elliott’s crease and score on his five hole.

16 seconds after Faksa’s goal, David Backes found himself in the penalty box for tripping Mattias Janmark.  It proved to be costly, as 53 seconds later Patrick Sharp scored the Stars‘ first power play goal of the series with a quick wrister past Elliott’s right skate.  He was set up by Jamie Benn (his eighth helper of the playoffs) and Jason Spezza.  John Klingberg passed the puck along the blue line to Spezza, who found Benn along the far side of the goal line.  Benn was forced to the top of the crease, but he found a crashing Sharp to take the lead.

Backes earned himself another trip to the penalty box at the 11:11 mark, but he took Kris Russell with him this team, as both were charged with penalties (roughing and slashing, respectively).  The four-on-four circumstances lasted only 1:27 before the Notes earned a four-on-three when Eakin took a seat for slashing Schwartz.

St. Louis converted on that infraction when Paul Stastny scored his first goal of the playoffs, a tip-in on Tarasenko’s initial shot to level the game at two-all.  He was also assisted by Alexander Steen.  Steen took a pass from Tarasenko near the blue line, but quickly returned the puck back to his possession outside the near face-off circle.  Tarasenko fired a wrister right at Stastny’s stick at the top of the crease, which he angled just the right way to get the puck over Lehtonen.

Alex Goligoski sent the Blues right back to the playoffs at the 13:55 mark when he hooked Patrik Berglund, but Steen returned the ice to four-on-four after only 24 seconds when he interfered with Faksa’s advance on the puck.  Dallas was unable to convert on their end of the 24 second power play when Goligoski returned to the ice.

Although an exciting second period, this game certainly needed a third, as the score was two-all after 40 minutes.  St. Louis continued to lead the game in face-off wins (53%), blocks (four to three) and hits (25 to 19).

Unlike the first two periods, there were no goals or penalties committed in the final 20 minutes.  Elliott and Lehtonen deserve credit for forcing overtime, as they both saved all seven shots they faced.  Through regulation, St. Louis continued to lead in face-offs (56%), blocks (seven to four), giveaways (four to six) and hits (34 to 30).

Only 2:58 into overtime, Eakin scored the winner with his first goal of the postseason, assisted by Sharp and Benn.  Benn collected a pass at his defensive blue line and advanced the puck to center ice before passing to Sharp along the far boards.  Eakin received a cross-ice pass at the near face-off dot, which he wristed over Elliott’s glove shoulder to level the series at two-all.

Lehtonen earns the win after saving 24 of the 26 shots he faced (92.3%), while Elliott takes the overtime loss after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).

With the win, the Stars reclaim home ice for the now effectively three game series.  The important Game 5 will occur Saturday at 1 p.m. eastern in the American Airlines Center, and may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 2 – Backes and the Blues make it a five game series

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The St. Louis Blues may have only managed 25 shots on goal, but they were able to level their series against the Dallas Stars by beating them 4-3 in overtime, thanks to Captain David Backes.

Only 3:36 into Game 2, Cody Eakin collected a puck along the near boards and passed to Second Star of the Game Jamie Benn, who was positioned behind Brian Elliott’s net.  He set up a centering pass towards the left face-off dot for Alex Goligoski, who top shelfed his slap shot into the back of the net.

The Blues took offense to that, and 35 seconds later Third Star Backes carried the puck into the neutral zone before passing to Patrik Berglund, who completed the advance into the attacking zone before passing off to Robby Fabbri.  Fabbri dumped back to the attacking Berguland, who scored a slap shot past Kari Lehtonen’s glove hand to level the game at a goal apiece.

At the 7:02 mark, First Star Troy Brouwer and Scottie Upshall connected with Joel Edmundson to give him his first goal of the playoffs, and more importantly, a St. Louis lead.

With 80 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Brouwer scored the Blues‘ final goal of regulation on a power play wrister, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Fabbri.

At the beginning of the second period, it was not Lehtonen in Dallas‘ net, but instead Antti Niemi, who did not yield a goal on 10 shots faced in his opening 20 minutes of work.  Similarly, Elliott saved all six shots he faced, holding the score at 3-1 going into the final frame.

The fifth goal of the game wasn’t scored until the 4:35 mark of the final frame, courtesy of Mattias Janmark, his first of the playoffs.  His wrister was assisted by Eakin and Colton Sceviour.  Eakin dumped the puck out of the defensive zone to Janmark, who had only one Blue to beat on his way to the crease before sneaking the puck past Elliott’s left skate.

Dallas‘ offensive push was certainly made evident 13 seconds later, when a Dallas power play shot was fired so hard it broke Elliott’s mask, but he made the save to maintain the one-goal differential.

With 2:36 remaining in regulation, Benn scored a wrister to level the game, assisted by Eakin and Kris Russell.  Eakin won the face-off from the far dot, which he sent back to the blue line for Russell to collect and fire on net.  Elliott made the save, but Benn collected the rebound to slide the puck past the sprawling goaltender’s glove hand.

Neither team was able to break the draw before the clock struck zeroes, so the game required 10:58 of overtime before Backes’ power play wrister proved to be the winner.  After providing the screen on Alexander Steen’s initial shot and literally jumping over the puck, he collected the rebound and scored behind Niemi’s left skate.

Elliott earns the win after saving 31 of 34 shots faced (91.2%), while Niemi takes the overtime loss, saving 19 of 20 (95%).  Lehtonen takes credit for the poor first period, where he saved only two of five (40%).

Now a best-of-five series, the locale shifts to Scottrade Arena in St. Louis, MO.  Game 3 will occur on a busy Tuesday, May 3 at 9:30 p.m. eastern and can be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.

St. Louis at Dallas – Game 1 – Lehtonen leads Stars to 2-1 victory

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No, this is not the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.  Just because Ken Hitchcock, Brett Hull and Lindy Ruff are involved doesn’t mean we’re going to be concerned with skates in the crease.  That being said, that game from almost 17 years ago may have been in the back of Ruff’s mind, as he exacted revenge in a 2-1 victory.

There wasn’t much to talk about in the first period.  Only 20 shots were fired between the two teams and none of them found the back of the net, even though there were four minutes played of uneven hockey.

Antoine Roussel finally scored the first goal of the series at the 9:36 mark of the second period, as his slap shot was assisted by First Star of the Game Radek Faksa and John Klingberg (his third helper of the postseason).  It was a coast-to-coast play, beginning with Roussel advancing the puck through all three zones.  From the right face-off circle, he passed cross-ice to Klingberg, who immediately centered the puck for a Faksa wrister that was blocked by Second Star Brian Elliott.  Roussel collected the rebound and fired his slap shot over the diving Elliott to give Dallas a lead they would not yield through the remainder of the frame.

Kevin Shattenkirk and the Blues leveled with 8:28 remaining in regulation on a pure slap shot, assisted by Colton Parayko and Patrik Berglund.  3:44 later, Faksa earned his second point of the night with the game-winning goal, a wrister assisted by Ales Hemsky (his third helper of the playoffs) and Alex Goligoski.  Once again, it was another rebound off an Elliott block, as after Hemsky advanced the puck into the offensive zone, he passed to Goligoski who attempted a wrister that was stopped, but not covered by Elliott.  Faksa quickly advanced on the puck and slid it past Elliott’s left skate before he could seal the crease, giving the Stars their winner.

Dallas certainly deserved to win this one, as they led in shots (42-32; led by Colton Sceviour’s five shots) and blocks (22-11; led by Goligoski’s four blocks).  Additionally, they beat the Blues at their own game, as they threw six more hits to impose their will.

Third Star Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 31 of 32 shots faced (96.9%), while Elliott, who saved 40 of 42 (95.2%), takes the loss.

Game 2 will occur at 3 p.m. eastern on May Day, two days from now.  That contest may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.

December 26 – Day 77 – Top two goal-scorers square-off

The NHL’s Christmas gift to you this season?  The same one they give you every year: a return to hockey after the holiday!

Eighteen teams return from holiday hiatus today to take the ice.  The action gets started at 7 p.m. eastern, when four games get underway (Buffalo at Boston [BELL TV], Columbus at Tampa Bay, Montréal at Washington [CBC/NHLN/TVAS] and New Jersey at Carolina), followed an hour later by three more (Dallas at St. Louis, Detroit at Nashville and Pittsburgh at Minnesota).  Los Angeles visits Arizona at 9 p.m. eastern, followed an hour later by Edmonton at Vancouver (CBC), this evening’s nightcap.

Five of tonight’s matchups are divisional rivalries (Buffalo at Boston, New Jersey at Carolina, Dallas at St. Louis, Los Angeles at Arizona and Edmonton at Vancouver), while three are between current playoff qualifiers (Montréal at Washington, Dallas at St. Louis and Detroit at Nashville).  As you’ve come to expect, we’ll go for the game that qualifies for both categories: the StarsBlues matchup.

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This will be Dallas‘ fifth time featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they currently own a perfect 4-0-0 record, with their last showing a 6-3 victory in Minnesota on Monday.  The Blues have been featured five times before today, and own a 3-2-0 record when the focus of our attention.  Their last showing was a 2-1 victory over the Predators on December 17.

The 26-7-2 Dallas Stars have been the story of the season thus far.  They lead the Central Division and Western Conference by eight points, and the entire NHL by two points.  They’ve found that success by pairing an above-average defense with one of, if not the best offense in the league, made evident by their last victory, a four-goal shutout of the Blackhawks on Tuesday that extended their winning streak to three games.

The Stars have put 1128 shots on goal this season (led by Tyler Seguin’s 143), a total that exceeds the league average by 115 attempts.  A strong 10.9% of those shots have found the back of the net for a league-leading 123 goals (led by Jamie Benn’s 22).  The Stars have been especially potent on the power play, where they’ve scored 27 goals (led by on Benn’s nine) on 116 opportunities for a 23.28% success rate that well exceeds the league average.

Even though it may the weaker end of the ice for Dallas, the Blues should not assume that having the Stars defending will give them an advantage.  Dallas has only let 993 shots reach 15-5-2 Antti Niemi and co. (helped by Alex Goligoski’s team-leading 71 blocks), of which they’ve saved 91.3% for only 87 goals.  Probably the biggest issue the Stars face is their penalty kill.  On 101 attempts, Dallas has given up 20 goals and killed the remaining 80.2%, which trails the league average by .83%.

The 21-11-4 St. Louis Blues currently qualify for second place in both the Central Division and Western Conference, trailing the Stars by eight points.  Their most recent game was a two-goal shutout victory in Boston on Tuesday.  The Blues have favored the defensive end of the ice, but are still very much a threat on the offensive.

Thanks in part to Alex Pietrangelo’s team-leading 65 blocks, St. Louis has allowed only 1020 shots on net, a total that exceeds the league average by only 12 shots in two more games played.  16-8-2 Jake Allen and co. have saved 92.4% of those shots, allowing only 84 goals against.  The defense especially clamps down on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed 87.29% of power plays, allowing only 15 goals.

Offensively, the Blues have not been as strong.  They’ve managed only 1086 shots (led by Vladimir Tarasenko’s 127), of which 8.4%, or 91 (Tarasenko leads the team with 22) have found the back of the net.  Although the offense has only been average overall, the Blues‘ power play is nothing to laugh at.  On 99 attempts, nine fewer than the league average, the Notes have scored 21.21%, or 21 goals (led by Tarasenko’s seven tallies).

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Benn (22 goals [tied for league lead], 46 points [tied for second in the league], +17 [tied for second in the league] and 24 assists [tied for sixth in the league]), Jason Demers (+16 [tied for fifth in the league]), John Klingberg (27 assists [tied for third in the league]), Niemi (three shutouts [tied for fifth in the league] and 15 wins [tied for sixth in the league]), Johnny Oduya (+15 [tied for seventh in the league]) and Seguin (46 points [tied for second in the league], 27 assists [tied for third in the league], 19 goals [fourth in the league] and +15 [tied for seventh in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (five shutouts [tied for league lead], 16 wins [tied for fourth in the league], .928 save percentage [sixth in the league] and 2.06 GAA [tied for sixth in the league]) and Tarasenko (22 goals [tied for league lead] and 38 points [tied for fifth in the league]).

This will be the Stars‘ second trip to St. Louis this season, with the first representing the first game in the season series.  The Blues won the matchup on December 12 with a three-goal shutout.  Following tonight’s game both squads will board planes for Dallas to play again tomorrow night.

This is a tough game to predict, as both provide compelling arguments.  The Stars, their offense in particular, have been very tough to stop this season, but the Blues proved that they have the superior defense in their previous matchup only two weeks ago.  Especially since the game is taking place in the Scottrade Center, I think I have to lean towards the Blues taking a 2-0-0 lead in the season series with a win this evening.

November 8 – Day 33 – Big D heads to The D

In last night’s Game of the Day, the Montréal Canadiens extended their winning streak to six regular season games over the Boston Bruins by beating them 4-2.

The Bruins put up a good fight, as they twice owned a lead in this one.  Their first came at the 1:50 mark of the first period when Loui Eriksson, assisted by Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Spooner, scored a power play goal (yes, that early in the game.  I mean, we are talking about BostonMontréal).  Their one-goal lead held into the first intermission.

Just as quickly as Boston took the lead in the first, Montréal scored in the second to level the game at one-all.  It was another power play goal, this one scored by Tomas Plekanec, after being assisted by Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban, scored at the 1:09 mark.  The Bruins took offense to that, as Frank Vatrano (a kid who no doubt grew up wearing the Black and Gold) scored the first goal of his NHL career 7:42 later, assisted by Colin Miller and David Krejci.  Boston again took their one-goal lead into the intermission.

While the shots totals of the third period are close to even, all the scoring belonged to the Habs, who notched three tallies to seal the victory.  Assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Devante Smith-Pelly, Lars Eller tied the game at two at the 8:58 mark.  The tie held until only 1:08 remained on the clock, when Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov assisted David Desharnais to the game-winning power play goal.  A lone insurance goal was scored 20 seconds later on an empty net by Max Pacioretty, assisted by Gallagher.

Backup turned short-term starter Mike Condon has yet to lose a game in regulation after seven appearances (6-0-1) and saved 29 of 31 (93.5%) tonight.  Jonas Gustavsson’s record falls to 3-1-0 after saving 29 of 32 (90.625%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 19-8-5, favoring the homers by 15 points over the roadies.

As is typical, especially at this point in the season, Sunday’s schedule is a much lighter load than Saturday’s.  The action gets started at 3 p.m. eastern when Dallas visits Detroit, followed a couple hours later when Vancouver visits New Jersey and Boston (TVAS) visits the New York Islanders.  The nightcap is an early one, featuring Edmonton at Chicago (NHL Network/SN) at 8 p.m. eastern.

Not only are none of today’s matchups between divisional rivals, only two are between teams both in the same conference (BruinsIslanders and OilersBlackhawks), and only the StarsWings matchup features teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

The only one that really intrigues me is DallasDetroit, so I’m making the executive decision to watch that game.

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Dallas is making only their second appearance on the DtFR Game of the Day series – their first was a three-goal shutout of the Pittsburgh Penguins to open their season.  Detroit was just featured for their second time Friday when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 2-1.

The 11-3-0 Dallas Stars currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and trail only the Montréal Canadiens for the lead in the entire NHL.  They are currently riding a two-game win streak, with their most recent being a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.  The Stars‘ stars (yeah, I just wrote that.  I think I need to apologize) have been on the offensive end of the ice, where they’ve scored a whopping 50 goals so far this season, led by Captain Jamie Benn’s 10 tallies.  The reason for his and his team’s scoring success?  They’re putting a bunch of pucks on net – 437, to be exact (led by Tyler Seguin’s 61), and scoring 11.4% of the time.

Thirteen of those goals have been on the power play, another spot where Dallas shines.  On 45 opportunities, they’ve scored 28.89% of the time.  Although that is a good number, they are going up against a strong penalty kill in the Detroit Red Wings, so this will be a good test of their special teams.

Not only does the Stars‘ defense pale in comparison to their offense, but it also trails the league average in a few categories.  First-year Alternate Captain Alex Goligoski may have 26 blocks to his credit, but 428 shots are still making it to Antti Niemi and co.  Combined, the two goaltenders have saved 91.1%.  The Stars have also not done a very good job of defending against the penalty.  On 41 opposing attempts, nine goals have found the back of the net (78.05% kill rate).  To their credit, the Stars do have two shorties to help defray that poor percentage, but a team cannot rely on shorthanded goals with any regularity.  Luckily, Detroit‘s power play is not extremely successful, so they should be able to keep a good handle on things.

Their opposition, the 7-5-1 Detroit Red Wings, currently sit in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.  They enter today’s game on a three-game win streak, with their most recent being the 2-1 overtime victory against the Leafs on Friday.

They’ve employed a defensive-mindset to get where they are this season, as they’ve allowed only 32 goals so far this season.  Especially strong has been the goaltending, as Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have faced a total of 419 shots so far this season, and saved 93.1% of them.  As hinted at before, they’ve even been good on the penalty kill, only giving up eight goals on 48 attempts (83.33% kill rate) so far this year.

On the other hand, the offense has not done the defense any favors.  Just as the defense has only given up 32 goals, the offense has only scored 32 goals (led by Gustav Nyquist’s five).  Part of the problem has been that they aren’t putting many shots on goal.  330 shots (25.4 per game) simply does not cut it in this league, even if they are scoring on 9.7% of those attempts.  A point of emphasis for the Wings in practice should be on the power play, where they’ve scored eight goals on 45 attempts (17.78%).  Until this number and their shot rate improves, the Wings cannot be thought of as a serious threat for the Cup.

Last year, the Wings swept Dallas in both meetings by a combined score of 12-8.

Some players to watch in today’s game includes Dallas‘ Benn (10 goals [leads the league] and 20 points [second in the league]), John Klingberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]) and Seguin (21 points [leads the league], 13 assists [tied for lead in the league] and eight goals [tied for fourth in the league]) & Detroit‘s Howard (2.01 GAA [tied for eighth in the league] and .934 save percentage [ninth in the league]), Dylan Larkin (+12 [leads the league]) and Henrik Zetterberg (11 assists [tied for seventh in the league]).

Although Detroit is slightly favored at -105, I expect Dallas to win this one because of Detroit‘s inability to put much pressure on goaltenders.