Tag Archives: Gretzky

Weekly Bumblings for Week 8 with Special Guest Host, Cap’n Cornelius

While Peter is out enjoying a trip to see some hockey games in person, I’m filling in with a recap of the past week’s NHL action.

Player of the Week:  Blake Wheeler

Wheeler has been the definition of streaky, of late, but this week was the good side of the coin.  He broke a four-game pointless drought last Monday against Minnesota, getting one goal and two assists.

After being held without a point against Colorado, he put in another three-point performance (all assists) against Vegas.

But he would save his best for Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.  In a game that saw the Jets beat the Senators 5-0, Wheeler had a point on all but one of the goals, putting up one goal and three assists.  He had a beautiful cross ice pass to set up Mark Scheifele on the first goal of the night and the Jets never looked back tallying three of their goals on the power play.

Wheeler has passed Steven Stamkos to take the league lead in assists with 28 and has helped power the Jets to the top of the Western Conference, something few expected as the season began.

 Team of the Week: Los Angeles Kings

Just when it looked like the Kings might be fading after a hot start, they went 4-0 this week and moved six points ahead of the second-place Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division, exactly as the media expected before the season began, right?  The Kings won the first three of those games by three goals each.

After one period of play in their Tuesday game in Detroit, the Kings found themselves down 1-0, but Dustin Brown, who has had a heck of a comeback season, evened it up at 1 and Anze Kopitar then put them ahead 2-1 before the second period was over.  LA would add two more in the third on goals from Adrian Kempe and Kopitar’s second of the night.

Next up for the Kings was another road game against the Caps.  Again, the Kings gave up an early lead on a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Marian Gaborik would even it up, only for Kuznetsov to get a second goal.  Jonny Brodzinski would tie it again and nine seconds later Jussi Jokinen would put the Kings ahead.  After that, it was all Kings.

The Kings continued their road trip Friday with a visit to play the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in the league to this point in the season.  This time the Kings got the early lead on a Tyler Toffoli tally. Kopitar would then bang home a rebound to make it 2-0.  Before it was over, Kempe and Toffoli would add goals and the Kings would win 4-1 despite being outshot 40-28 on a stellar performance by backup goaltender, Darcy Kuemper.

The Kings finished their week and their road trip in Chicago on Sunday.  Through two periods the game was scoreless.  Christian Folin finally put the Kings up with just over 10 minutes left in the game.  Then things got a little weird with just over two minutes left in the game.  First, Brown would get an empty net goal.  Then the Hawks would answer on a goal from Jonathan Toews with 1:46 left to end Quick’s shutout bid.  But Kopitar would put the final nail in the coffin with 51.5 seconds left in the game with a final empty net goal.

As long as the Kings continue to get these types of performances from Brown, Kopitar and solid goaltending, they will have a very good chance to lock down the Pacific Division.

Game of the Week: Edmonton Oilers 7 @ Calgary Flames 5, Saturday, December 2, 2017

One of the first NHL games I can remember watching on TV was Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers against Lanny McDonald’s Flames.  This game was a throwback to that era when goalies for some reason spent much of their time standing up and, consequently, watching pucks go past them.  This is the type of game you hope to see with all of the offensive talent on these two teams and the reason you stay up to watch the late game on Hockey Night in Canada if you live in the Eastern Time Zone.

Connor McDavid skated around the Flames zone early and his persistence led to Jesse Puljujarvi cashing in on the rebound. The Oilers then had what looked like their second goal of the night from Patrick Maroon taken off the board as the goal was kicked.  Eric Gryba then set up Puljujarvi for his second of the night on a redirection of Gryba’s point shot.

Mikael Backlund then forced a turnover on the penalty kill that set up Michael Frolik for a short-handed goal to pull the Flames within one goal.  But the Oilers scored again before the first period ended to go up 3-1.  In the second period, Mark Letestu scored on a short-handed breakaway to expand Edmonton’s lead.  Gryba made another shot from the point which was tipped in, this time by Milan Lucic, to go up 5-1.

As the third period started, Mike Smith was replaced in net by David Rittich.  Unfortunately for the Flames, Rittich bungled a handoff behind the net and the Oilers capitalized to go up 6-1.  One might assume this is where the Flames might call it a night.  But Sam Bennett made a tough angle shot to get the score to 6-2.  Next, Micheal Ferland notched a power play goal to bring the Flames within three goals.  Bennett added a second goal on a 2-on-1 where he took the puck top shelf.  Suddenly the score was 6-4 with a lot of time left in the game.  Johnny Gaudreau then made another tough angled shot off a stretch pass, taking advantage of young Oilers netminder, Laurent Brossoit.  The impossible seemed possible with the score 6-5.  But Brossoit would make a key save on Gaudreau on a two-on-one to prevent the tying goal.

With 1:01 left, the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tried to center a pass, but it bounced into the net off T.J. Brodie’s stick to salt away the win for Edmonton by a final of 7-5.  While the Flames couldn’t quite finish their comeback, it was the sort of game that reminded you why the Battle of Alberta was once such a big deal.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

Trade Rumors seem to be starting earlier than normal and we have already seen one blockbuster and several smaller trades.

This past week saw Anaheim and New Jersey make a significant hockey trade if not a true blockbuster.  The Ducks sent right-handed defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional pick to the Devils in exchange for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and a third round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.  The move was a much-needed improvement on the back end for the Devils, who are one of the surprises of the early season.  As for the Ducks, with Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler still out, Henrique can help at center and, when they return, he can provide forward depth.

Who is next?

Well, the name that seemed to be coming up repeatedly during the past week was Pittsburgh’s Ian Cole.  The left-handed defenseman was a healthy scratch and several sources had stated that his relationship with Mike Sullivan had been rocky, leading the Pens to consider a trade.  However, their asking price may be higher than what a willing buyer will give them for Cole—Pittsburgh is still seeking an improvement at center for their third line after Riley Sheahan has failed to impress.  Toronto is a destination that has been mentioned with Tyler Bozak falling out of favor and the Leafs wanting to upgrade their defense, but to this point nothing seems imminent.

The Edmonton Oilers have also been frequently mentioned in trade rumors.  While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins name has probably been mentioned the most, more recently the Oilers have been mentioned in connection with smaller trades that might see them shipping out the likes of Pat Maroon.  It is hard to see how Maroon would produce the sort of return that might get the Oilers back into contention in the Western Conference.

Another name that has been brought up repeatedly is Evander Kane.  Buffalo is one of the few teams clearly out of the hunt at this early date, but it seems most likely they will wait until the deadline to move Kane when they might extract the highest possible return for the wing, who will be a free agent this summer.

Edmonton Oilers 2017-’18 Season Preview

Edmonton Oilers

47-26-9, 103 points, second in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Anaheim

Additions: F Jussi Jokinen, F Ryan Strome

Subtractions: C David Desharnais (signed with NYR), RW Jordan Eberle (traded to NYI), G Jonas Gustavsson (signed with Linköping), F Matt Hendricks (signed with WPG), F Anton Lander (signed with Kazan), D Jordan Oesterle (signed with CHI), F Tyler Pitlick (signed with DAL), LW Benoit Pouliot (signed with BUF)

Offseason Analysis: Going off the additions list, it seems General Manager Peter Chiarelli prescribes to an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

Considering Anaheim needed all seven games to knock off his Oilers in the second round last season in Edmonton’s first postseason appearance since 2006, it’s hard to argue with him.

Of course, that also ignores the elephants in the room: centers Leon Draisaitl and Captain Connor McDavid – two players slated to cost $21 million when the 2018-‘19 season begins (McDavid’s $12.5 million AAV extension begins next year). Assuming next season’s salary cap stays at this year’s $75 million, 28 percent of Edmonton’s payroll belongs to those two players in a sport that features 19 players hitting the ice per game (to compare, one-nineteenth of $75 million is $3,947,368.42 – approximately D Kris Russell’s yearly salary).

Thus, the Oilers were prevented from making many moves. Oh, the joy of having this generation’s Wayne Gretzky and his beloved sidekick-that-could-also-be-a-first-line-center-for-almost-every-other-club on the same team.

The only free agent signing the Oilers made this offseason of much value was their one-year deal with 34-year-old Jokinen. Don’t be distracted by the seemingly pedestrian .57 points-per-game he posted in his three seasons with Florida, as you need to take into account the Panthers’ below-average offense last season. When Florida dominated its division in 2015-’16, he posted impressive 18-42-60 totals before following it up with an 11-17-28 performance last year. Additionally, in his lone full season in Pittsburgh with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (a situation similar to Edmonton’s), he posted 21-36-57 marks – the second, third and third-best efforts, respectively, of his career.

Though it can be said for every player in the league, it’s much easier to do one’s job when surrounded by talented teammates and success. That’s no less true with Jokinen, and he should be able to provide even more versatility to last season’s eighth-best offense.

Instead, Chiarelli was forced to make trades if he wanted to make long-term plans – hence the deal with the Islanders that exchanged Eberle for Strome. Slated to make $6 million this season and next, Eberle had to make way for Draisaitl and McDavid’s contracts. Meanwhile, Strome is slated to be a restricted free agent after costing $2.5 million this season.

The deal makes perfect sense for Chiarelli and owner Daryl Katz’ pocketbooks, but will it pan out for Coach Todd McLellan?

With 20-31-51 totals, 27-year-old Eberle had his best campaign since his 2014-’15 63-point last season, but still significantly under the .33-.43-.75-per-game totals he’s posted over his seven-year NHL career. To compare, 24-year-old Strome posted 13-17-30 totals in only 69 games played last season – a decent effort that shows growth, but still a far cry from his impressive 17-33-50 sophomore season in 2014-’15. Strome played on the top line with Patrick Maroon and McDavid in Monday’s split-squad preseason game against archrival Calgary, scoring two power play points late in the contest, including a five-on-three goal.

Strome should know that this is a true audition season for him, both with the Oilers and elsewhere. If he helps Maroon and McDavid make even more fireworks than they did last year, he might become a staple for the future. But if that pesky budget gets in the way, he could be well on his way to a major payday with another squad if he takes advantage of this prime opportunity.

Oh yeah, there’s also the Stanley Cup to play for. He should probably help Edmonton win that too, because it could very well be in reach. Anything short of an Oilers Conference Finals appearance this season is a failure.

Offseason Grade: B+

Even though we knew it was coming eventually, Chiarelli doesn’t get a glowing review for signing Draisaitl and McDavid to exorbitant contracts. But beyond that, the Oilers’ offseason went splendidly, as they did exactly what they needed to: make a dangerous team lethal.

I’ve said it on a podcast this season, but it bears writing: we’ve seen highly paid super teams before, as recently as last year (read: Chicago and Washington). One came away from their dynasty with three Stanley Cups; the other with three Presidents’ Trophies. Hardware is nice, but Draisaitl and McDavid must ensure their story ends like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’.

March 10 – Day 142 – PETA made me change this title

Now that the week’s work is done, it’s time to settle in for a little hockey action. Tonight’s festivities start at 7 p.m. with Buffalo at Columbus, followed half an hour later by two more games (Chicago at Detroit [NHLN/SN] and Minnesota at Florida). Anaheim at St. Louis drops the puck at 8 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Pittsburgh at Edmonton (TVAS) – dropping the puck an hour after. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Chicago at Detroit: Everybody loves a little bit of Original Six action, right?
  • Pittsburgh at Edmonton: Justin Schultz joined the Penguins at last season’s trade deadline after four seasons with the Oilers.

Not only is Schultz’ return to northern Alberta worthy of watching, this should be an exemplary contest. To Rogers Place we go!

 

A University of Wisconsin product, this defenseman was selected 43rd-overall by Anaheim in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but the two parties were unable to reach a contract after he decided to forgo his senior year.

Similar to Jimmy Vesey this offseason, Schultz was able to be courted as a free agent by the entire league and, well, when Wayne Gretzky shows up at your door asking you to don the blue-and-orange of Edmonton, you usually do what he says.

I mean, I would.

If the 2012-’13 lockout helped anybody as far as their playing ability is concerned, it would have to be the rookies. Shultz happened to be one of those youngsters to begin his professional career during that time, so he was assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton‘s AHL affiliate) where he was able to acclimate his game to that of the pros without holding back the Oil – as if they needed help in that department those days. In fact, he was so impressive during his time playing AAA hockey that he won the Eddie Shore Award, which is awarded annually to the AHL’s top defenseman.

Whether it was the initial plan before the lockout or not, that has been the only time Schultz has spent in the AHL during his career. When the Oilers opened their season on January 20, 2013, he experienced his first career NHL game and played nearly 21 minutes.

That was the beginning of a 248 game-career in Edmonton that spanned four seasons. Known for his offensive contributions from the blueline, Schultz truly shined brightest for the Oil during his sophomore season when he scored 11 goals for 33 points.

He could not maintain that success though, and his numbers dipped from 2014-’16. That prompted Peter Chiarelli to ship the defenseman to Pittsburgh for a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft (the Oilers selected Filip Berglund, who has yet to depart for the NHL from Sweden).

To put it simply, whichever scout suggested to Jim Rutherford to make that trade deserves a hefty raise if he hasn’t received one already. Schultz scored eight points in his 18 regular season games with the Penguins, only two short of his total over 45 games in Edmonton in 2015-16. He added on another four assists en route to the Stanley Cup, including three on the road in San Jose and Tampa Bay.

After considering free agency over the offseason, he returned to the Steel City for this season – and the Penguins are glad to have him. He’s having a career year, already notching 12 goals (career high) for 45 points (career high by a dozen points) and notching his first positive +/- since entering the NHL. In fact, that +28 is seventh-best in the league.

He only signed a one-year contract with the Pens this year, so he’ll once again be a free agent this offseason. Something tells me he’ll be making more than $1.4 million on his next contract regardless of if he’s wearing black-and-gold or any other colors.

Pittsburgh will probably be very interested in retaining him. It may be simply coincidence, but Schultz is riding a three-game goal streak while the Pens are also enjoying a three-game winning streak. While Pittsburgh is not undefeated when he buries the puck, it’s pretty close – the Penguins are 11-2-0 when the blueliner finds the back of the net, and 11-1-0 on his multi-point nights.

Speaking of goal-scoring, that’s beyond a shadow of a doubt the way Pittsburgh has earned their 41-16-8 record – and that’s not intended to be a Maddenism. The Pens have managed 228 goals this year, the most in the league.

Just like it’s been since the 2006-’07 season, the offensive juggernaut that is the Pittsburgh Penguins has been headlined by the dynamic duo of Captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both of whom have 70 points to their credit. Arguably, Malkin has had the better season given the fact that he’s achieved that total on one-fewer game than Crosby, but Sid the Kid (he’s still under 30-years-old, he keeps the nickname a little longer) has the goals –  34, in fact – three more than Malkin to pace the squad.

As you’d expect from an offense of that caliber, Pittsburgh‘s power play cannot be taken lightly. Led by Phil Kessel‘s 27 man-advantage points, the Pens have converted 23.1% of their power plays – the third-best mark in the NHL. Crosby is still the one completing most of those plays though, as his 11 power play goals is one more than Malkin’s total to lead the club.

It’s a battle of strength vs. strength tonight, as the 35-23-8 Oilers are building a reputation for being one of the better defensive teams in the NHL. Edmonton ties for ninth-fewest in goals allowed, with only 170 pucks sneaking past Cam Talbot.

Remember last season when we though Chiarelli was an idiot for trading for Talbot? Yeah, that seems to be working out now for Edmonton, as he has a 33-19-7 record on a .919 save percentage and 2.4 GAA – the (t)eighth and 10th-best marks, respectively, in the league among the 35 netminders with at least 30 appearances this year.

Those numbers aren’t a major step up from last season, but the reason the Oil is finding so much more success is because the defense playing in front of Talbot has vastly improved. Last year, Edmonton‘s defense allowed 31.1 shots to reach his crease per game, the (t)fourth-highest rate in the league. This year, that number is down to 29.6, the (t)ninth-lowest. The addition of Kris Russell, who has really focused on his defensive play this season, has played a huge part in that improvement, as he leads the team with 153 shot blocks.

When the Oilers have everything under control, they’re a solid team. Put a skater in the penalty box, and all heck breaks loose. The youth on the blueline truly shows when Edmonton is forced to the penalty kill, as the Oilers‘ 79.2% penalty kill rate is eighth-worst in the NHL. Old Man Russell (he’s older than eight of the 11 defenseman that have skated for the Oilers this season) has tried his hardest with his 28 shorthanded shot blocks, but he could use more help from other experienced defensemen like Andrej Sekera.

What Edmonton gives up on the penalty kill, it gets back on the power play. Successful on 21.1% of attempts, the Oilers tie for the eighth-best attack in the NHL with the man-advantage. Leon Draisaitl has been the star of that effort with 20 power play points, as he also leads the team with his 10 extra-man goals.

As is the case with most East-West matchups this late into the season, tonight’s host has already made it’s annual visit to the opposite arena. It was not a good trip for the Oilers though, as they fell 4-3 on November 8 due to a Conor Sheary winner with 102 seconds remaining in regulation.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s Connor McDavid (52 assists for 74 points [both most in the NHL]) and Talbot (33 wins [fourth-most in the league], including five shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (34 goals [most in the league] for 70 points [tied for second-most in the NHL]), Malkin (70 points [tied for second-most in the league] on 31 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]), Matthew Murray (.923 save percentage [tied for sixth-best in the league]) and Schultz (+28 [seventh-best in the NHL]).

Vegas has given Edmonton a +100 line for tonight’s game, which means they favor the Penguins. I have to agree with them, as Pittsburgh‘s strength is stronger than Edmonton‘s, and I think the Pens‘ penalty kill will be able to keep the Oil‘s power play in check.

As far as Schultz is concerned, he may not receive a special welcome from Edmontonians, but I get the impression he’ll want to prove Chiarelli and the Oilers made a poor decision trading him a season ago.

Hockey Birthday

  • Tuukka Rask (1987-) – Although selected 21st-overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, this goaltender has played each and every one of his 383 career games with the Bruins. Winner of the 2014 Vezina Trophy, he has a career 198-119-47 record on a .923 save percentage and 2.24 GAA, both of which tie with Cory Schneider for best in the NHL among goalies with at least 200 appearances since the 2007-’08 season.

Led by First Star of the Game Tyler Bozak‘s two-point contribution, Toronto bested the Flyers 4-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

It goes down as a come-from-behind victory for the Maple Leafs, as Wayne Simmonds (Second Star Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux) scored a power play slap shot 6:09 into the contest to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. William Nylander (Jake Gardiner and Connor Brown) pulled Toronto even with a power play goal of his own, a wrist shot 7:48 later. The one-all score held into the first intermission.

Only one goal was struck in the second frame, and that’s where the First Star comes into play. Bozak buried his unassisted snap shot 9:28 into the period to give the Leafs a lead they would not yield the rest of the night.

With 6:16 remaining in regulation, Mitch Marner (Morgan Rielly and Bozak) scored a power play wrister for an insurance goal-turned-winner. Gostisbehere (Valtteri Filppula and Jakub Voracek) pulled Philly back within a goal 3:48 later, but an unassisted Nazem Kadri wrister on an empty net with a minute remaining in regulation ended any chance of the Flyers completing a comeback.

Third Star Frederik Andersen earned the victory after saving 36-of-38 shots faced (94.7%), leaving the loss to Michal Neuvirth, who saved 29-of-32 (90.625%).

Toronto‘s home victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and pulls hosts within two points of the series’ 72-50-22 visitors.

January 26 – Day 103 – Governor’s Cup

This is it, guys. The last day of hockey until next Tuesday. Cherish it. Don’t take it for granted.

That shouldn’t be too hard as every club, with few exception, is in action this evening. As usual, the action starts at 7 p.m. when five games get underway (Pittsburgh at Boston [TVAS], Washington at New Jersey, Montréal at the New York Islanders [RDS], Toronto at Philadelphia and Los Angeles at Carolina), followed half an hour later by a pair of contests (Calgary at Ottawa [RDS2] and Tampa Bay at Florida). 8 p.m. marks the beginning of two more matchups (Columbus at Nashville and St. Louis at Minnesota [NBCSN]), and two more games (Winnipeg at Chicago and Buffalo at Dallas) follow suit 30 minutes later. Vancouver at Arizona gets underway all by themselves at 9 p.m., as tonight’s nightcap – Edmonton at San Jose – starts 90 minutes later. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Calgary at Ottawa: Alex Chiasson spent the last two seasons in the Canadian capital before making his way to southern Alberta.
  • Tampa Bay at Florida: The Governor’s Cup rages on in the Sunshine State.

It doesn’t seem like much on the surface, but the game in Sunrise this evening could be just the ticket for either – or both – of these teams to turn their season around following the break.

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Both of these clubs had so much optimism coming into this season, yet here we are, the last day before the All-Star break, and neither of these teams are currently qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

We turn our attention first to the 22-22-5 Lightning, current occupants of 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Their plight is an issue they haven’t faced in a long time: poor goaltending, which has allowed 142 goals this season in eight games: the eighth-worst rate in the league.

Although it’s been an almost even split of time, 11-11-3 Ben Bishop remains the netminder of choice for Jon Cooper. This season has easily been his worst since moving to Tampa, as he’s managed only a .905 save percentage and 2.78 GAA – the 36th and 34th-best efforts in the league, respectively, among the 51 goalies with at least 13 appearances.

While the defense playing in front of him is far from the best in the league, they are not below average. Led by Victor Hedman‘s 78 shot blocks, the Bolts‘ defense has allowed only 30 shots against-per-game, which ties for 13th-best in the league.

One thing that is certainly going right for the Lightning is the power play. Tampa has found success on 22.7% of opportunities, the fifth-best rate in the league. Hedman has sparked that attack with his 18 power play points, but it’s been Jonathan Drouin completing most of those plays with his team-leading seven man-advantage goals.

Playing host this evening are the 20-19-10 Panthers, the fifth-best team in the Atlantic Division and 10th-best in the East. Florida‘s main struggle this year has been their offense, which has managed only 111 tallies – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With his team-leading 33 points, Vincent Trocheck has tried his hardest to pull his club towards its goal, but he’s struggling to find a dance partner as his 18 goals are also the clubhouse lead. Unfortunately, if it weren’t for him and Jon Marchessault, no skater on the club would have more than nine goals. These two skaters take credit for nearly 28% of the Panthers‘ goals.

The lack of weapons catches up with Florida on the power play, where their 15.2% success rate is seventh-worst in the league. Marchessault and Keith Yandle share the team-lead with 10 power play points, and Reilly Smith has the most power play goals with six. It would seem like there are more weapons, but Trocheck has actually struggled on the power play, scoring only two goals with the man-advantage. The Panthers have become very predictable offensively, regardless of circumstance.

Similar to their northern counterparts, all hope is not lost due to the opposite special team. Florida‘s penalty kill, led by Mark Pysyk‘s team-leading 10 shorthanded blocks, is fifth-best in the league by refusing to yield a power play goal on 84.3% of opposing opportunities.

The Panthers are not only the current owners of the Governor’s Cup, but they are also well on their way to retaining it a second-straight time. They already have a 1-0-1 record against Tampa Bay, including winning their most recent meeting on November 7 by a score of 3-1 on this surface.

While neither team is in the position the would like, the beauty of the Eastern Conference is that no one – no, not even last place Detroit – is anywhere near out of contention. Philadelphia, the current owner of the second wildcard, has 54 points to their credit, only four more than Florida and five more than Tampa.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Florida‘s Trocheck (33 points, including 18 goals [both lead the team]) and Tampa Bay‘s Hedman (31 assists [tied for seventh-most in the league]).

Florida is a -108 favorite according to Vegas, due almost entirely to having home ice. Each team’s strength aligns with the opposition’s strength, as do their respective weaknesses. Especially since I’m a defensive-minded fan, I like the Panthers‘ odds of earning two points this evening.

Hockey Birthday

  • Wayne Gretzky (1961-) – For those who aren’t interested in a long-winded detail, there’s a reason this center is called The Great One. For everybody else, this two-time Hall of Famer played in 18 All Star games and won a total of 35 trophies: four Stanley Cups, five Byngs, nine Harts, five Pearsons, 10 Ross and two Smythes.

For those hoping the rivalry would help the Red Wings play up to Toronto‘s level, that is no where near what happened. Instead, the Leafs shut Detroit out on their own ice, winning 4-0 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

With an unassisted tally only 5:30 into the contest, First Star of the Game Auston Matthews takes credit for the game-winning tally on a solid backhand. It was the lone goal of the first period.

Toronto started laying on the insurance goals with 4:25 remaining in the second period, courtesy of a Roman Polak (Matt Hunwick and Nazem Kadri) slap shot.

James van Riemsdyk (Nikita Zaitsev and Martin Marincin) and Nikita Soshnikov (Second Star Frederik Andersen) provided the last two goals in the third period.

Andersen saved all 22 shots he faced to earn the shutout victory, leaving the loss to Petr Mrazek, who saved 24-of-28 (85.7%).

Toronto‘s road victory is the first in three days in the DtFR Game of the Day series, and it pulls visitors within four points of the 54-35-16 hosts.

December 29 – Day 75 – Gretzky game

The last Thursday of 2016 is a busy one in the NHL. A dozen games will take place this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (Boston at Buffalo and New Jersey at Washington [NBCSN]) and another pair half an hour later (Toronto at Tampa Bay [TVAS] and Montréal at Florida [RDS]). 8 p.m. brings with it four contests (Chicago at Nashville, the New York Islanders at Minnesota, Columbus at Winnipeg and Detroit at Ottawa [RDSI]), and Colorado at Dallas gets underway 30 minutes later. Lastly, it’s a trifecta of nightcaps (Anaheim at Calgary [SN360], Los Angeles at Edmonton and the New York Rangers at Arizona) when 9 p.m. rolls around to close out the night.

Short list:

  • Boston at Buffalo: Nothing like a little rivalry to get the blood pumping.
  • Montréal at Florida: Al Montoya will get the start in net against the club he played 45 games over two seasons with.
  • Los Angeles at Edmonton: Another rivalry, although it’s nowhere near as Great as it once was (See what I did there? Sneaky.).

Sorry Montoya, but the potential for a good game in Alberta is too great for us to pass up. Off to the brand-new Rogers Place!

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Of course, this rivalry exists/used to exist entirely because of the trade that shipped Wayne Gretzky from the Oilers to the Kings, but it takes new life this year as both teams are currently in playoff position. Of course, that could change if things don’t go the Kings‘ way and either Dallas, Nashville or Winnipeg win this evening.

The Kings make the trip to Edmonton with a 17-14-4 record, good enough for fifth place in the Pacific Division and, more importantly, eighth in the Western Conference – aka the second wildcard! They’ve found that success by playing one of, if not the best defense in the league, allowing only 83 goals – the sixth-fewest in the NHL.

Thanks to Jonathan Quick‘s groin injury in the first game of the season, it has been 15-9-3 Peter Budaj taking most of the starts in Los Angeles. Over that time, he’s accrued a .919 save percentage and 2.04 GAA – the 19th and sixth-best efforts, respectively, among the 44 netminders with 14 or more appearances.

An okay save percentage paired with an excellent GAA is always indicative of a stellar defense, and Tinseltown is no different. Led by Derek Forbort‘s 77 shot blocks and second-in-command Alec Martinez‘ 72, the Kings allow only an average of 25.8 shots to reach Budaj’s net per night, the best in the league by nearly a full shot.

As expected, they continue that effort on the penalty kill, where their 84.2% kill rate is tied for seventh-best in the league. Although the same two culprits are responsible for this charge, Martinez’ 19 shorthanded blocks are five more than Forbort’s.

Unfortunately, the power play hasn’t been able to hold up its end of the bargain. Successful on only 15.7% of opportunities, the Kings tie for ninth-worst in the league. Jeff Carter leads the team with only eight power play points, but that overshadows an impressive six power play goals (ties for 11th-most in the NHL).

Playing host this evening are the 18-12-6 Oilers, the second-best team in the Pacific. Offense is the name of the game in The Big E, as the Oil‘s 103 tallies ties for seventh-most in the NHL.

You get two guesses as to who has the most points in Edmonton. Something tells me you only needed one of those guesses. Captain Connor McDavid‘s 42 points are not only tops in Edmonton, but also the tie with Sidney Crosby for most in the entire league. That being said, it has been Leon Draisaitl who has buries the most pucks for the Oil, with 14 to his credit. He narrowly beats out McDavid’s 13.

Just like Los Angeles, what goes well during even-strength action shines especially bright during special teams. Edmonton‘s 21.2% conversion rate on the power play is eighth-best in the NHL. Draisaitl truly shines here, partially because he and McDavid are both on the first power play unit. The elder center has 14 man-advantage points on his resume already this year (two more than McDavid and Milan Lucic), and also has an impressive eight power play goals (tied for second-most in the league).

These clubs have already met once this season, and the Kings came out on top. They squared off in the Staples Center on November 17 to a 4-2 LA victory. Budaj took credit for the win, and Carter’s shorthanded second period wrister was the deciding score.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Edmonton‘s McDavid (29 assists [most in the league] among 42 points [tied for the NHL lead]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts [tied for fourth-most in the league] among 17 wins [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) & Los Angeles‘ Budaj (four shutouts [tied for second-most in the league] and a 2.04 GAA [sixth-best in the NHL] for 15 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Carter (19 goals [tied for second-most in the NHL]).

Vegas likes Edmonton to win tonight at -130, and I do too. Not only are the Oil playing at home sweet home, their penalty kill is more than up to the task of squelching the Kings‘ poor power play. I’d even go so far to say that Mark Letestu, who opened the season with two shorthanded goals, could notch his fourth penalty kill point tonight. Who knows?

Hockey Birthday

  • Nels Stewart (1902-1957) – When the Montreal Maroons won the 1926 Stanley Cup, it was this Hall of Fame center who was in the middle of most of the scoring. A two-time Hart Trophy winner, he scored a team-high 34 goals in 36 games played that season.
  • Filip Kuba (1975-) – A Florida-pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman played most of his 14 seasons in Minnesota. In 2004, his fourth season with the Wild, he earned a roster spot at the All-Star game.
  • Pierre Dagenais (1978-) – You know you’re wanted when the same team drafts you twice. That’s what happened to this left wing, as New Jersey selected him in both the 1996 and 1998 NHL Entry Drafts. He only played 25 games for the Devils; most of his short NHL career was spent in Montréal.

Notching the first hat trick of his NHL career, First Star of the Game Robby Fabbri led St. Louis past the Flyers in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day series, winning 6-3.

It was actually Wayne Simmonds (Travis Konecny and Brayden Schenn) and Philadelphia getting on the board first, as the right wing tipped-in the puck only 3:25 into the contest. The Notes leveled with 4:59 remaining in the first with a Kevin Shattenkirk (Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko) power play slap shot. With a dozen seconds remaining before the first intermission, Fabbri (Second Star Colton Parayko) notched his first goal of the night with a power play wrister, giving the Notes a 2-1 lead.

Only 4:32 after returning to the ice, Nick Cousins (Ivan Provorov and Konecny) leveled the game for Philly with the lone goal of the second period.

It was an evening of quick starts for the Flyers, as they took a 3-2 lead only 4:13 into the third period with a Schenn (Shayne Gostisbehere and Simmonds) power play slap shot. That lead lasted only 100 seconds before David Perron (Parayko) pulled St. Louis even. 1:20 after that, Third Star Scottie Upshall (Joel Edmundson and Alex Pietrangelo) provided the tally that proved to be the game-winning shot. Those that are good at math know that set the score at 4-3, leaving the final two goals to Fabbri to complete his hatty. He scored at even-strength with 4:59 remaining (Patrik Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskin), and on an empty net (Jaskin and Paul Stastny) with 2:56 remaining to earn the accolade.

Carter Hutton earned the victory after saving 17-of-20 shots faced (85%), leaving the loss to Steve Mason, saving 19-of-24 (79.2%).

The Notes‘ victory means the home sides in the DtFR Game of the Day series have earned at least a point in the last six matchups, setting the series record at 42-23-12 and improving their lead over the roadies to a dozen points.

November 1 – Day 20 – The Great Dane

We’re trying out our new DtFR mirror technology. I can only assume that a night with no hockey that aligned with the one night of the year when your neighbors give out free candy has you looking something like this.

Simmer down, kiddo.

Anyways, hockey’s one-day vacation has us feeling all types of withdrawals. Thank goodness we get a healthy serving of games today, starting with two at the usual time of 7 p.m. (St. Louis at the New York Rangers and Dallas at Columbus), followed half an hour later by four more (Boston at Florida [TVAS], Carolina at Ottawa [RDS2], Tampa Bay at the New York Islanders [NBCSN] and Edmonton at Toronto). 8 p.m. brings with it two puck drops (Buffalo at Minnesota and Washington at Winnipeg), with Calgary at Chicago trailing by 30 minutes. Nashville at Colorado finds its start at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m. the San Jose at Arizona (NBCSN) game starts, followed 1800 seconds later (that’s 30 minutes, guys) by Anaheim at Los Angeles, tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Tampa Bay at New York: Last year, the Lightning defeated the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games.
  • San Jose at Arizona: Mikkel Boedker spent eight seasons in Glendale before being traded away to Colorado at the deadline last season.
  • Anaheim at Los Angeles: You might have heard about this one. They call it the Freeway Face-Off. It’s kind of a big deal.

Eight seasons is a long time, and I don’t feel like we’ll have many reasons to go watch Arizona this season, so I’m drawn to the late game in the desert.

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Danish right wing Boedker was drafted eighth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Coyotes. He jumped right into the league that season, scoring 11 goals under head coach Wayne Gretzky, which tied him for sixth-most on the squad.

Boedker’s best campaign with Arizona was in 2013-’14 when he tied Radim Vrbata for the second-most points on the team with 51. But, as has been par for the course for the Coyotes since 2011-’12, it did not yield any playoff action.

Last season, Boedker shed his brick red sweater for a burgundy Avalanche uniform after being traded on February 29. It was all for naught though, as Boedker found himself on the golf course following the regular season for his fourth season in a row.

This offseason he joined a San Jose Sharks who knows a little bit about the playoffs, coming off a Stanley Cup run that fell just a series short a season ago. He has little to show for his work on San Jose‘s second line, notching a lone goal.

The 6-3-0 Sharks have played a more defensive game this season, allowing only 21 goals against – three fewer than the league average. Martin Jones has a .916 save percentage for 2.15 GAA, but he is getting a lot of help from his defensive corps. Four skaters (Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Paul Martin and Joe Pavelski) have 15 or more blocks to their credit, and their efforts have resulted in only 25.2 shots against per game, the second-fewest shots against per game in the league.

The 2-6-0 Coyotes would have to be classified as an offensive club, due to the fact that they definitely don’t play defensive hockey. They’ve scored 24 goals this season – on par with the rest of the league – led by Brad Richardson‘s seven points. That being said, it is Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting a lot of the accolades with a team-leading five goals to his credit.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Arizona‘s Max Domi (six assists [leads the team]), Ekman-Larsson (five goals [leads the team]) and Richardson (seven points [leads the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (seven assists [tied for third-most in the league]), Jones (five wins [tied for third-most in the NHL]), Pavelski (11 points [tied for third-most in the league] on seven assists [tied for third-most in the NHL]) and Joe Thornton (seven assists [tied for third-most in the league]).

Vegas marks Arizona with a +150 in almost every book, meaning that the Sharks are favored.

I’d say that’s a very safe bet.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Al Arbour (1932-2015) – Arbour won eight total Stanley Cups: four as a player (two of which were with Toronto) and four in a row as head coach of the New York Islanders.
  • Phil Myre (1948-) – This goaltender played 14 seasons in the NHL for six different teams. Four years after being drafted fifth overall in the 1966 NHL Entry Draft, he was on the 1970-’71 Montréal Stanley Cup winning team .
  • Tie Domi (1969-) – A right wing that played 16 NHL seasons as an enforcer, Domi is most remembered for his 11 campaigns in Toronto. Maybe son Max will give him a goal for his birthday.
  • Matt Moulson (1983-) – This left wing is in his third season with Buffalo. Two seasons ago he struck 41 points, the second-best effort on the squad that year.

April 6 – Day 174 – Home sweet home… one more time

A point is better than nothing, right?  It all depends how the Red Wings play today, as Boston lost 2-1 in the shootout to Carolina in yesterday’s Game of the Day.

The Canes struck their lone goal of regulation with 1:06 remaining in the first period on a Third Star of the Game Jaccob Slavin wrister, assisted by Justin Faulk (his 21st helper of the season) and Nathan Gerbe.

Boston waited to level until the 1:45 mark of the third, courtesy of a Loui Eriksson wrister (his 29th tally of the season), assisted by John-Michael Liles.  Neither team could find the back of the net again, whether in the remaining regulation time or overtime, so we moved into the shootout.

It took five rounds before the Hurricanes struck their game-winner of sorts.  Noah Hanifin was last night’s hero, scoring on a backhander.

First Star Cam Ward earns the win after saving 35 of 36 shots faced (97.2%), while Second Star Tuukka Rask takes the shootout loss, saving 27 of 28 (96.4%).

After such a busy Tuesday schedule, we need a little breather, so the NHL only scheduled three games today.  The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games dropping the puck (Vancouver at Edmonton and Columbus at Toronto), followed an hour later by this evening’s nightcap, Philadelphia at Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS).

Vancouver at Edmonton is the only divisional rivalry being played this evening, while Philadelphia at Detroit is the only game between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs.

In most cases, I’d usually go PhillyWings (and you should no doubt watch it, it’s a huge game), but tonight is a night of incredible, bittersweet memories and optimism centered around the best rookie Alberta has seen since the Great One, as this is the last Oilers game to be played in Rexall Place.

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Welcome to my EDM/House lounge, I’m DJ Connor bringing you all my favorite tunes.  *Bonus* if you haven’t, you need to listen to the entirety of Daft Punk’s Discovery album.  This is the one that made them big time, and still probably my favorite of their four records.

And you thought you visited this site just for hockey info.

Anyways, tonight’s game is the last NHL hockey game to take place in Rexall barring any terrible setbacks in the completion of Rogers Place or severe damage to the new facility.  Rexall is the second oldest active arena (opened in 1974), and third smallest (16,839 capacity).  Rogers will be 14th biggest in the league.

Rexall has seen a lot in its 42 years.  Five times have the Oilers won the Stanley Cup, and four of those series clinching victories took place on this ice.  In fact, Rexall Place has never seen a visitor clinch the title on its surface, as both of the Oilers‘ Stanley Cup shortcomings were finalized on the east coast.

The 1989 All-Star Game took place in Edmonton, as well as the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.  Of course, those events pale in comparison to even just a single game featuring the likes of Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Al Hamilton, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Adam Oates, Jacques Plante, Chris Pronger, Glen Sather and Norm Ullman, all men who either have their numbers retired by the club or are honored in the Hall of Fame.

This building will be sorely missed by those reminiscing about the past, but the new Rogers Place is a new start for a franchise that looks nothing like its elite past, although a certain rookie has intentions to change that for the better.

The visiting 30-36-13 Vancouver Canucks are the fifth best team in the Pacific Division (read that as third worst) and 12th in the Western Conference (again, read as third worst).  To get there, they’ve played the 10th worst defense, paired with the second worst offense.

Led by Chris Tanev’s 165 blocks, Vancouver has allowed only 2534 shots to reach 17-23-9 Ryan Miller and co., but they’ve collectively only saved 91.8% for 227 goals against, the 10th most in the NHL.  The lack of success absolutely cannot be blamed on the defensive special teams, as the penalty kill has neutralized 82.35% of their infractions, allowing 42 power play goals in the process, the 10th best rate in the league.

Daniel Sedin’s 254 shots has led the squad to firing the puck 2229 times, but only 8% have found the back of the net for 182 goals (led by Sedin’s 28 tallies), the second fewest in the league.  You know what I said about the Canucks‘ penalty kill not being responsible for defensive shortcomings?  Yeah, that doesn’t apply to the power play, which is successful on only 16.17% of attempts, good for 38 extra man goals (led by Sedin’s eight power play tallies), the fifth worst rate in the league.

As poorly as they’ve played all season, Vancouver is actually entering tonight’s game riding a three game winning streak, with their most recent being the 3-2 win over the visiting Kings on Monday.

The 30-43-7 Edmonton Oilers are, once again, the worst team in hockey (okay, they’re tied with Toronto for that honor, but the Leafs have a game in hand).  They play the sixth worst offense paired with the fourth worst defense.

Led by Taylor Hall’s 283 shots, the Oilers have fired the puck a measly 2310 times, with 8.2% finding the back of the net for 194 goals, the sixth fewest in the NHL.  Once again, that is partially to blame on the power play, which is successful on only 17.39% of their attempts for 30 extra man goals (led by Jordan Eberle’s seven power play tallies), the 11th worst rate in the league.

Led by Andrej Sekera’s 153 blocks, the Oil have allowed 2480 shots to reach 20-27-4 Cam Talbot and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91% for 239 goals against, the fourth most in the league.  The special teams strike out again (did someone mention baseball season starting?), as they’ve killed only 80.16% of opposing power plays for 49 extra man goals against, the 11th worst rate in the league.

Edmonton enters tonight’s game on a three game losing skid, with their most recent being Saturday’s 5-0 home loss to the rival Flames.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s Hall (61 points, 21 of which are even-strength goals and 36 are assists, with 30 at even-strength, 283 shots and six game-winning goals [all lead the team]) and Sekera (12 power play assists and 153 blocks [both lead the team]) & Vancouver‘s Jannik Hansen (+16 and a .191 shooting percentage [both lead the team]), D. Sedin (61 points, 28 of which are goals, including six game-winners, consisting of 20 at even-strength and eight on the power play and 254 shots [all lead the team]) and Henrik Sedin (43 assists, consisting of 28 at even-strength and 15 on the power play [all lead the team]).

Given each team’s streak, I’m worried that Vancouver might win this one.  I expect a tight game regardless of the winner, but in honor of the occasion, I am pulling for the Oilers so they may end their years at Rexall on a high note.