Tag Archives: Hainsey

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 23

 

Pittsburgh Penguins at Ottawa Senators – Game 6

Thanks to its 2-1 victory over the Penguins at the Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday, Ottawa has forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The first period was an overall bland showing by both sides. Even though both Mark Stone and Second Star of the Game Bobby Ryan served independent stints in the sin bin, the Penguins managed only 11 shots at Third Star Craig Anderson, just two more than Ottawa sent Matthew Murray‘s way.

The action tremendously improved in the second, especially in favor of the Pens early on. By the time the middle frame was through, the Pens had fired a tremendous 23 shots on goal to the Sens’ 10.

One of those belonged to Trevor Daley exactly three minutes into the period. It was a scrappy wrist shot from inside Anderson’s crease that eventually slipped past the netminder. Unfortunately for Daley and the Penguins, Anderson felt he was interfered with, leading to Guy Boucher challenging the goal. The officials ruled in Anderson’s favor, so Daley’s potential second goal of the postseason was taken off the board.

But Ottawa could only keep the game tied at nil against the postseason’s best offense for so long. Only 1:51 after play resumed, Evgeni Malkin (Ian Cole and Scott Wilson) collected the rebound of his own shot from the near slot to push a backhander between Anderson and the near post.

The Penguins didn’t relinquish control of the period until 8:15 remained before the second intermission, though it wasn’t by their own accord. Ron Hainsey didn’t seem to make much contact with Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the neutral zone, and the referee did not seem to be inclined to call a penalty. Until, that is, the Senators’ faithful started to cause a ruckus. The official was quickly persuaded and sent Hainsey to the box for interference.

Ottawa’s power play had not yet found success yet against the Penguins, so there were few on the Pens’ bench truly worried until Cole joined Hainsey in the sin bin 36 seconds later for hi-sticking Kyle Turris.

It took only 54 seconds of the five-on-three advantage for Ryan (Turris and Erik Karlsson) to turn the tides for the Sens. It was some beautiful puck movement that led to the tally, as Turris faked a slap shot from the center of the zone before finding Ryan at the near face-off dot. The left wing immediately ripped a snap shot top-shelf over Murray’s to level the game at one-all with 6:45 remaining in the second period.

Ottawa carried that momentum into the third period, easily it’s best frame. The Sens fired six shots at Murray before a single one reached Anderson. One of those offerings was a slap shot over Murray’s glove from First Star Mike Hoffman (Fredrik Claesson and Clarke MacArthur), who did his best Alex Ovechkin impression 94 seconds into the final frame from the far face-off circle to give Ottawa its first lead since Game 3.

Any chance for a late Penguins comeback was effectively eliminated when they were caught with too many men on the ice with 4:05 remaining in regulation. Even with Murray pulled for the remaining 1:44 of regulation for the extra attacker, they could not level the game.

The officiating in this contest was questionable at best, especially in the minds of Mike Sullivan and the Penguins. Though it’s rare – especially in the middle of the game – that a club agrees with a referee, there will be many Pens fans that question Daley’s goalie interference call. Even more will wonder if Hainsey’s blow should have earned him a seat in the box.

The lone Game 7 of the Conference Finals will be played Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern time at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. NBCSN is responsible for broadcasting the event in the United States, while Canadians will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 13

 

Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 1

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Bobby Ryan‘s overtime winner, the Senators defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 at PPG Paints Arena Saturday to steal home ice in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Ryan was involved in both Senators tallies, as was Jean-Gabriel Pageau – the proud scorer of a wrist shot with 5:28 remaining in the first period. The play was caused when Pageau forced Brian Dumoulin into a giveaway behind Marc-Andre Fleury‘s net. Ryan collected the loose puck and centered a pass to the native Ottawan in the far face-off circle that he was more than able to bury top-shelf.

Though the Senators have been lauded for their defense this postseason, it certainly didn’t hurt that Pittsburgh struggled to find much rhythm offensively for most of the evening. The Pens uncharacteristically gave the puck away a whopping 17 times (Pittsburgh has given the puck away only 109 times this entire postseason, the fewest of the remaining squads), not to mention the 11 times Ottawa intentionally stole the puck.

A lot of that was due to the Sens’ physical play. Led by Marc Methot‘s seven blows, Ottawa threw 32 hits to knock the Penguins off balance. Even when Pittsburgh could manage a shot, the Sens were quick to get in the way, as they blocked an impressive 22 offerings (led by Methot’s four).

And the Penguins’ 28 shots that did manage to reach First Star Craig Anderson? He saved all but one for a .964 save percentage.

But no matter how well a defense and goaltender perform, its tough to keep the mighty Penguins offense off the board. With 5:35 remaining in regulation, Third Star Evgeni Malkin (Chris Kunitz and Ron Hainsey) leveled the game at one-all to give Pittsurgh life. It was a beautiful redirection by Malkin on Kunitz’ initial shot from the near face-off circle to beat Anderson five-hole.

That marker could have rattled the Sens, but they regrouped following regulation to reestablish their dominance. In the 4:59 of extra time, they allowed only two Penguins shots to reach Anderson.

The Senators themselves may have managed only three shots, but their final one ended the game. Assisted by Pageau and Mark Stone, Ryan fended off Bryan Rust in his own defensive zone to set up a breakaway opportunity for himself. Screaming up the near boards, he crossed across the slot to set up a nasty backhander that beat Fleury to the far post.

After a day off, these teams will be right back at it Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern time for Game 2. NBCSN has broadcasting rights withing the 50 United States, while Canada will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 8

 

Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 6

By beating Pittsburgh 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena, the Capitals have forced a winner-takes-all Game 7 for a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Simply put, absolutely nothing was going right for the Penguins. Though the Capitals did throw an impressive 38 hits (led by both Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson‘s five blows), Pittsburgh still should have managed more than 18 shots on goal.

It wasn’t until 7:43 remained in the first period that the Pens managed their first shot on Braden Holtby‘s goal. Unfortunately for them, Third Star of the Game T.J. Oshie (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Second Star Nicklas Backstrom) was already getting to work on the Capitals’ first goal of the night 24 seconds later, a power play snap shot from the far face-off circle.

Another part of the game the Penguins struggled at was keeping the puck away from Washington. They committed a combined 11 giveaways, the most egregious of which was Ron Hainsey‘s at the 6:32 mark of the second period.

Though it doesn’t go down as a turnover because First Star Andre Burakovsky dislodged the puck with a hit along the far boards, Hainsey brought the contact on himself. At the tail end of what proved to be a long 76-second shift, he tried to maintain possession for his club instead of chip the puck out of the defensive zone, turning back towards Marc-Andre Fleury‘s goal. Burakovsky took advantage of the exhausted defenseman to squeeze a wrist shot between Fleury and the far post to double the Caps’ lead.

But not all of Washington’s goals were results of Penguins mistakes. The game-winner certainly qualifies as one of those, as Backstrom (Oshie and Dmitry Orlov) won the third frame’s opening face-off to bury a snapper only 16 seconds later to set the score at 3-0.

John Carlson (Matt Niskanen and Kuznetsov) and Burakovsky tacked on two more goals within 1:12 of one another to set up a comfortable five-goal advantage for the visiting Caps, more than enough to survive Jake Guentzel (Sidney Crosby) and Evgeni Malkin‘s (Conor Sheary and Brian Dumoulin) two-goal surge in the remaining 3:22 of regulation.

The series’ deciding game has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 10. American viewers can catch the game on NBCSN, while Canadian hockey fans will be serviced by both CBC and TVAS.

March 29 – Day 161 – Bird is the word

Though there’s only four games on today’s schedule, there’s at least two that should provide some captivating play.

The action starts a little later this evening as Chicago at Pittsburgh (NBCSN/TVAS) doesn’t drop the puck until 8 p.m., followed an hour later by Los Angeles at Calgary (SN). 10 p.m. marks the beginning of Washington at Colorado, preceding tonight’s nightcap – St. Louis at Arizona (SN360) – by half an hour. All times eastern.

Since the Kings‘ playoff chances took a significant hit last night with their loss in Edmonton, let’s catch the action in the Steel City.

 

Quick, tell me the best team in the NHL since the beginning of February. Calgary? Nope. Pittsburgh? Nada. Washington? Guess again.

You’ve probably figured it out, but the correct answer is the best team in the Western Conference, the 48-21-7 Blackhawks. In the past two months, Chicago has earned an impressive 18-4-2 record on the back of its elite offense.

On the season as a whole, the Hawks rank seventh-best in goals-per-game, but February and March have been an absolute clinic. Led by Patrick Kane‘s 33 points (the fourth-most in the league over that stretch), Chicago has buried 84 goals in that time, trailing only Nashville for most in the NHL.

Kane has been absolutely magnificent of late. 19 of his 34 goals on the season have been struck since the beginning of February, and both totals are tops in the Windy City. But the main reason Chicago is playing so well is they’ve stayed extremely healthy. Only 25 different skaters have donned a Blackhawks sweater in their past 24 games, an extremely impressive total that perfectly explains the club’s synergy.

That compatibility is most evidenced when the Hawks take to the power play. Though they actually rank 14th-worst on the season as a whole, Chicago has converted 22.4% of its man-advantages in the past month – the 10th-best effort in that time.

Captain Jonathan Toews gets to take a lot of credit for that success. Though he’s only registered one power play point in his past six games, Toews has nine on his resume since February to lead the club. Most of those have been assists to the other star of the first power play unit: Kane. He’s buried five power play goals in the past two months to headline the team and tie for fourth-most in the NHL.

If there’s one spot the Hawks are still trying to improve, it has to be their penalty kill. Stopping only 77.4% of opponents’ power plays all season, they rank fifth-worst in the league. The issue is not 30-16-3 Corey Crawford, but the defense playing in front of him. Crawford has faced the 12th-most power play shots against in the league (among netminders with 30 or more appearances) due to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook being the only two players with more than 22 shorthanded shot blocks.

Though two games ended in a shootout, the last three games have been tough for the 46-18-11 Penguins, the third-best team in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.

The reason for Pittsburgh‘s struggles is not on the ice, but off it. Nine players were listed on the Penguins‘ most recent injury report, though Jake Guentzel (concussion), Ron Hainsey (upper body) and Conor Sheary (lower body) skated yesterday. If any are cleared before tonight’s game, I’d bet on Sheary since Guentzel and Hainsey wore non-contact sweaters.

Usually one of the elite squads in the game, the holes in the lineup has most effected Pittsburgh‘s offense. Usually averaging a league-high 3.4 goals-per-game, the Pens have scored only six goals in their past three games, which ironically ties with Chicago for fifth-fewest since Thursday.

If able, Sheary will be a welcome addition to the lineup to rejuvenate the offense. He’s averaged .91 points-per-game this season, which is the third-best average in Pittsburgh. Of course, he’s no Evgeni Malkin, another member of the club spending more time in the training room than he’d like. His 33 goals are second-most on the team (and 10th-most in the league) behind Sidney Crosby‘s 42, as is his 1.16 points-per-game average (good for the ninth-most points in the NHL).

One thing that hasn’t suffered is the power play. Scoring on a third of its attempts, Pittsburgh is tied for sixth-best in the league since March 23 – well above its 22.4% success rate on the season. What’s most impressive about this effort is that the power play scoring has come from five different players, and none of them were drafted first overall.

Instead, the special team that has taken a step back is the one that was already poor to begin with. The Pens‘ penalty kill has blocked only one power play shot (courtesy of Tom Kuhnhackl) en route to only a 75% kill rate, which ties for eighth-worst in the league in the last week.

When the Penguins visited the United Center four weeks ago, they seemed to forget about one major detail: Kane.

Not Kahn, Captain Kirk; Kane. Notching his second hat trick in three games, the right wing teamed with Scott Darling and his 36-save effort to lead Chicago to a 4-1 victory.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include Chicago‘s Crawford (30 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]) and Kane (82 points [tied for second-most in the league] on 34 goals and 48 assists [both tied for sixth-most in the NHL]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (42 goals [leads the league] for 82 points [tied for second-most in the NHL]), Matthew Murray (.923 save percentage [seventh-best in the league]), Justin Schultz (+27 [eighth-best in the NHL]) and Sheary (+26 [tied for ninth-best in the league]).

No matter how busy Chris Stewart – the Penguins‘ head athletic trainer –  is, Vegas still favors Pittsburgh to win with a -125 line. Unfortunately, I don’t feel quite so optimistic for the home team. Chicago has been on an absolute tear over the past 56 days and doesn’t look like its stopping now.

Hockey Birthday

  • Brad McCrimmon (1959-2011) – Selected 15th-overall by the Bruins in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, this defenseman spent most of his 18 seasons in Philadelphia. The late 80s were an incredible year for this Saskatchewanian, as he not only made his lone All-Star Game appearance in ’88, but also hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Flames a year later.
  • Maxim Lapierre (1985-) – Though currently playing in Switzerland, this center has 10 seasons of NHL experience. Due to being selected 61st-overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the local Canadiens, most of his playing time came in Montréal. A consistent enforcer, he spent 130 minutes in the penalty box in 2011-’12 as a Canuck.

Three of Boston‘s four lines found the back of the net to lead the Bruins to a 4-1 victory over the Predators in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Patrice Bergeron (Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand) got the scoring started early with a wrist shot 2:28 into the game to give the Bruins an early lead. With 6:08 remaining in the first period, Second Star of the Game David Krejci (David Pastrnak and Drew Stafford) doubled that lead with a wrister of his own, the score that proved to be the game-winner.

The visiting Preds finally got on the scoreboard with 8:44 remaining in regulation when Craig Smith (Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis) tipped the puck into Tuukka Rask‘s net, but Third Star Noel Acciari (Riley Nash) neutralized that tally 4:31 later with the first goal of his NHL career. David Backes (Dominic Moore) took advantage of an empty net in the waning moments of the contest to set the final 4-1 score.

Rask earned the victory after saving 24-of-25 shots faced (96%), leaving Pekka Rinne with the loss, who saved 27-of-30 (90%).

Boston‘s home victory was a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as road and home teams in the series have both earned an equal 187 points. Visitors do have the most wins though at 82-58-23, compared to the hosts’ 81-57-25.

March 24 – Day 156 – Isle have what he’s having

Just like you look forward to Friday to begin your two-day break, this is a lot of the league’s rest day before a weekend of excitement.

There’s only four games on the schedule tonight, starting with the New York Islanders at Pittsburgh (NHLN/SN/TVAS) at 7 p.m. and Tampa Bay at Detroit half an hour later. San Jose at Dallas drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., with Winnipeg at Anaheim – tonight’s nightcap – getting underway at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • New York at Pittsburgh: Not only is it rivalry night in the Steel City, but the Isles have a chance to move into the playoff bracket.
  • Tampa Bay at Detroit: It’s been almost a year now, but these clubs did meet up in one of last season’s Eastern Quarterfinals.

With the Bruins on a four-game losing skid, they’ve opened the door for the Islanders to once again enter the playoff picture. Pair that with one of my favorite rivalries in the Metropolitan Division (at least), and we’ve got a surefire featured matchup!

 

The rivalry between these two clubs is well documented in multiple places around the web, though I would recommend the YouTube videos I included on November 18 when these teams met for the second time this season. In gist, previous meetings between these clubs have been… scrappy.

As mentioned before, 34-26-12 New York is licking its chops in anticipation for tonight’s game, because a win over a rival is made only sweeter by moving into the second wild card spot that is currently occupied by 38-30-6 Boston.

For the ninth-place Isles (fifth in the Metropolitan) to actually secure that win, they’ll need to shore up a defensive end that has been a little more than leaky this season. They’ve allowed 216 goals against already this year, the #fifth-most in the NHL.

Of course, that starts with the goaltender. Enter 25-16-5 Thomas Greiss, who was officially declared New York‘s starting goaltender after 6-8-5 Jaroslav Halak was sent to Bridgeport on New Year’s Eve. Greiss has tried to make solid use of his time, but his .914 season save percentage and 2.67 GAA rank only #(t)24th and #28th-best among the 46 goalies with at least 23 appearances.

While those are below-average numbers, it’s not as if he’s the only hole on that end of the Islanders‘ ice. The defense playing in front of him is not much better, as they allow 32.1 shots-per-game to reach Greiss’ net – the #fifth-highest average in the NHL. The main reason New York isn’t worse is the incredible play of Calvin de Haan, who has 170 shot blocks to his credit to not only lead the team, but also rank #fifth-best in the league.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but another issue in New York has been a power play that is successful on only 15.8% of attempts – the #fifth-worst effort in the league. Just like he does on the even-strength attack, Captain John Tavares has been the star of the man-advantage with his team-leading 17 power play points. He’s joined at the top of the Isles‘ extra-man scorers list by Anders Lee, as both have buried seven tallies.

Though their injury list is nearly as long as this preview, the 46-17-10 Penguins are the second-best team in the Metropolitan, Eastern Conference and the NHL. Having already locked up their spot in the playoffs, Pittsburgh will try to continue their impressive offensive performance that has returned 250 goals – the #most in the NHL.

As you’d probably guess, the man behind that charge is none other than Captain Sidney Crosby. He leads Pittsburgh‘s offensive juggernaut with 81 points, 41 of which are goals – another mark he paces the club in. His season goal total is already the second-highest of his career, but it doesn’t seem he’ll match or succeed his 2009-’10 personal best of 51 tallies in a campaign.

One of the Pens‘ favorite ways to score the puck is via the power play, as they are #tied for third-best in the league with their 22.3% success rate. Second-year Penguin Phil Kessel has been instrumental in that effort with his team-leading 28 power play points, but Crosby still manages to get his beak wet, as 13 of his goals have come with the extra-man – the most on the squad.

So far this year, the Penguins have had the upper-hand when squaring off against the Islanders, as they’ve won two of the previous three matchups. Of course, the most recent meeting on November 30 was the one the Isles won 5-3.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Josh Bailey (37 assists [leads the team]), Cal Clutterbuck (193 hits [leads the team]), Dennis Seidenberg (+23 [leads the team]) and Tavares (62 points [leads the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Ian Cole (+28 [seventh-best in the league]), Crosby (41 goals [leads the NHL] for 81 points [tied for second-most in the league]), Matthew Murray (.925 save percentage [sixth-best in the NHL] for a 2.34 GAA [10th-best in the league]) and Justin Schultz (+32 [tied for best in the NHL]).

I haven’t seen Vegas’ line for tonight’s game yet, but I can only assume it favors the home Penguins. None are better than Pittsburgh at scoring the puck, and the Islanders can’t help but allow goals. All signs point toward the Isles fighting for a playoff spot on a different night.

Hockey Birthday

  • Doug Jarvis (1955-) – Toronto selected this center 24th-overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft, but he never played a game for the Leafs. Instead, he played most of his 13 seasons in Montréal, where he hoisted four-straight Stanley Cups. His hardware collection also includes the 1984 Frank J. Selke and the 1987 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophies.
  • Pat Price (1955-) – 13 picks before Jarvis was selected, the Islanders picked up this defenseman. He played 13 seasons in the NHL, and spent most of his time in Quebec. From 1976-’78, he registered an impressive +51 rating on only 37 points.
  • Philippe Boucher (1973-) – The 13th-overall selection in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, this defenseman spent 16 seasons in the league, mostly in Los Angeles. During his sixth campaign with Dallas, he was traded to Pittsburgh to win the 2009 Stanley Cup and close out his career.
  • Maxim Kuznetsov (1977-) – Detroit selected this defenseman 26th-overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he spent most of his NHL career. Unfortunately for him, his tenure in the league was only 136 games and four seasons long.
  • Ron Hainsey (1981-) – A longtime member of the Thrashers/Jets organization, this defenseman was selected 13th-overall by Montréal in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Similar to Boucher, Hainsey was traded to Pittsburgh at this season’s trade deadline in hopes of claiming his first Stanley Cup.
  • P.A. Parenteau (1983-) – Though selected by Anaheim in the ninth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, this left wing has been a career journeyman over his nine seasons in the league. Currently, he plays for the Predators after joining them at this season’s trade deadline.

I predicted a defensive matchup, and that’s exactly what we got in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as Washington needed a shootout to knock off the Blue Jackets at the Verizon Center.

Although a combined total of 48 shots were fired over the course of the first 40 minutes, the first goal of the game wasn’t struck until the 41 second mark of the third period. That tally belonged to Seth Jones (Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner) and the Jackets, but the Capitals were more than prepared to deal with that obstacle. 5:58 after Jones’ marker, Third Star of the Game Dmitry Orlov (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) buried his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at one-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and the five-minute three-on-three overtime period.

Who knew that even a shootout could be a defensive affair?

  1. The only person that didn’t apply to was T.J. Oshie, who scored the first shootout attempt to give the Caps an early lead.
  2. Cam Atkinson was charged with leveling the shootout for Columbus, but First Star Braden Holtby was having none of that. He saved Atkinson’s shot to keep Washington‘s 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Evgeny Kuznetsov tried to improve on the Capitals‘ advantage, but Second Star Sergei Bobrovsky would not yield.
  4. Sam Gagner tried to reward Bobrovsky’s work, but he met a worse fate than Atkinson – he completely missed.
  5. Nicklas Backstrom had a chance to end the shootout with a goal, but Bobrovsky earned one more shot for his club after saving the center’s attempt.
  6. It’s not often a team gets three tries to tie a shootout, but Alexander Wennberg did not take advantage of that opportunity. Holtby made the save to earn the extra point in the standings.

Holtby saved 29-of-20 shots faced (96.7%) to earn the victory, leaving the shootout loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 44-of-45 (97.8%).

That victory is the second-straight by a home team in the DtFR Game of the Day series, which is now tied at 79-56-23.

March 31 – Day 168 – Staal comes home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Rangers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Flyers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7 – Day 115 – Super Bowl Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unknown-1Carolina Hurricanes Logo

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown-1

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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