Tag Archives: Hall

October 12 – Day Nine – The Kevin Peter Hall game

If you have no idea who the title is referring to, maybe today’s selection can help.

Action is slightly delayed this evening, as our first two contests (Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay [SN360/TVAS] and St. Louis at Florida) don’t drop the puck until 7:30 p.m. Dallas pays a visit to Nashville at 8 p.m., followed by Minnesota at Chicago half an hour later. Another pair of contests (Winnipeg at Vancouver and Detroit at Arizona) get the green light at 10 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Buffalo at San Jose – getting underway 30 minutes later. All times Eastern.

There’s two games from that selection that have drawn my eye. The Wild-Blackhawks rivalry is always fun to take in, but I’m surprisingly more drawn to a meeting between between two 1-2-0 clubs.

 

Still can’t figure it out? Hall was the person in the Predator suit in the first two Predator movies. He’s the star of Predator!

Sure, I could have gone with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but that would have been too easy.

Anyways…

Coming off an offseason of high expectations, both of these teams had a tough opening week to their campaigns. They both lost their opening two games (including an embarrassing 4-0 loss by the Predators to Pittsburgh in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals) before winning their contests on Tuesday.

Starting with visiting Dallas, this was supposed to be an offense that eclipsed that of 2015-’16, yet the Stars have averaged only 2.33 goals-per-game to start the season ([t]third-worst in the league).

Part of the problem has been the goaltending they’ve squared off against. Both Jake Allen (.93 save percentage and 2.58 GAA) and Marc-Andre Fleury (.963 save percentage and 1.32 GAA) have yet to lose a game in three starts and – especially Fleury – have been among the league’s best.

Even though the super line of Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov didn’t find the back of the net, Dallas proved what it is truly capable of Tuesday against G Petr Mrazek. With the exception of the top power play unit scoring late in the first period, the middle two lines began flexing their muscles by scoring the remaining three goals (shh, no one needs to know that C Martin Hanzal‘s first goal of the year was an empty netter).

While the offense assumes its form, it’s been the superb play of G Ben Bishop that has been keeping the Stars competitive in all their games. So far this season he’s posted a .955 save percentage and 1.15 GAA, including what could have been a shutout if he hadn’t been forced from the Vegas game on opening night.

Of the numerous signings made across the league, few improved a team as immensely as this one did for Dallas. Add in the fact that the Stars also added D Marc Methot to a formerly flimsy defensive corps and you find a Dallas team ready to shoot for the stars (that was so lame).

As for the Predators, they’re just trying to live up to qualifying for last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. No big deal, right?

That postseason effort was largely dependent on a defensive corps that also had a scoring touch as golden as their sweaters, and maybe it’s the absence of that flair that has held Nashville back so far this young season. Beyond D P.K. Subban and his four assists, only two other blue liners have contributed on offense. Even more noticeable is that none of those defensive points are goals.

It would seem D Ryan Ellis‘ absence is certainly being felt, as he posted 16-22-38 totals last season for .54 points-per-game. He would have notched at least one point by now.

And as dependable as Bishop has been for the Stars, G Pekka Rinne has been below-average to star the season. He’s managed only an .869 save percentage for an atrocious 4.16 GAA – and he didn’t even play in the four-goal loss to Pittsburgh.

With such an offensively-minded D-corps, elite play from Rinne is an absolute necessity. To put it bluntly, forcing the defense to actually focus on playing defense (that’s not a knock on this group, but we all know they’re almost always planning their next attack) takes such a major weapon away from this Nashville team. Head Coach Peter Laviolette cannot afford for this solid team to be in the wrong year of Rinne’s “good year, bad year” routine.

If anything is starting to go right for the Predators, it’s their power play. The man-advantage, specifically the top unit, played an integral role in the Preds’ comeback win Tuesday from a 4-3 deficit in the third period. Nashville has converted 31.3 percent of its man-advantages, which ties with the Rangers for the second-best effort in the NHL.

Though it was great to get that win over Philadelphia, I still don’t think all the Preds are mentally back from summer vacation. Having said that, I’m leaning towards Dallas pulling off the victory tonight, whether the game is over after 60 minutes or requires a shootout.


The machine that is the Pittsburgh Penguins seems to have rediscovered its groove, as they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the Verizon Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The Penguins employed a goal-per-period strategy last night that the Caps nearly matched, failing to score in the first period. Because of that, does that make D Kris Letang‘s (W Bryan Rust and First Star of the Game RW Patric Hornqvist) first goal of the season, a power play wrist shot 5:22 into the game, the game-winner?

Unfortunately for Letang, we all know the answer to that question is technically ‘no.’ Sorry, buddy.

Pittsburgh registered its second power play goal of the night 8:20 into the second period, courtesy of Hornqvist (W Tom Kuhnhackl and C Sidney Crosby), another first-time goalscorer for the 2017-’18 season. The Penguins almost took a two-goal advantage into the second intermission, but Second Star D Christian Djoos (C Lars Eller and W Brett Connolly) sneaked a slap shot past G Matthew Murray with 53 seconds remaining in the frame to pull Washington back within a goal. Just like the goalscorers before him, Djoos’ marker was his first of the season, but this one was extra special: tonight was also his NHL debut.

Apparently Head Coach Mike Sullivan was none too pleased about Djoos’ late marker, as Third Star W Conor Sheary (D Justin Schultz and D Olli Maatta) provided what proved to be the true game-winner 38 seconds into the third period.

The play truly started with five seconds remaining in the second period when RW Alex Chiasson earned himself a seat in the penalty box for getting caught holding D Brian Dumoulin. As far as action on the ice is concerned, the scoring play began with Maatta at the blue line. Seeing Schultz undefended – due to the Capitals being shorthanded – in the face-off circle to G Braden Holtby‘s right, he passed to his fellow defenseman who quickly centered a pass to Sheary waiting in Holtby’s crease. Though the 25-year-old began falling while performing his tip-in, the redirection was just enough to beat Holtby to the post.

W Alex Ovechkin (Djoos and C Nicklas Backstrom) did pull Washington back within a goal with 7:09 remaining in regulation, but neither he, F T.J. Oshie nor any of the other Capitals could complete the comeback in the remaining time.

Murray earned the victory after saving 20-of-22 shots faced (.909), leaving the loss to Holby, who saved 33-of-36 (.917).

Pittsburgh’s road victory snaps what was a four-game winning streak for the 5-3-1 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. That being said, hosts still have a two-point advantage over roadies in the competition.

New Jersey Devils 2017-’18 Season Preview

New Jersey Devils

28-40-14, 70 points, last in the Eastern Conference

Additions: F Brian Boyle, C Nico Hischier, F Marcus Johansson, W Drew Stafford

Subtractions: W Beau Bennett (signed with STL), F Mike Cammalleri (signed with LAK), W Patrik Elias (retired), F Jacob Josefson (signed with BUF), D Jonathon Merrill (drafted by VGK), W Devante Smith-Pelly (signed with WSH)

Offseason Analysis: Ignoring the lockout-shortened seasons of 1994-’95 and 2012-‘13, last year’s 70-point effort was the Devils’ worst campaign since 1988-’89. That ensuing draft, New Jersey selected future four-time All-Star RW Bill Guerin, who eventually contributed 11 points in the Devils’ 1995 run to the Stanley Cup – including an assist on C Neal Broten’s Cup-clinching goal.

Especially in light of recent draft standouts at the center position (think Jack EichelAuston Matthews, Connor McDavid, etc.), General Manager Ray Shero is hoping last year’s struggles that allowed him to draft Hischier with the first overall pick will yield similar results in the near future as he works to rebuild the club back to the level of success it’s experienced for most of the past three decades.

The speedy Swiss 18-year-old brings 38-48-86 totals from his time with QMJHL side Halifax last year, but he alone won’t be enough to significantly improve the third-worst offense in the league. That’s where former first-rounder Johansson and his career-high 24-34-58 totals from a season ago with the Capitals comes into play. Since both C Jesper Boqvist and W Fabian Zetterlund – the Devils’ second and third selections in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft – are expected to spend at least one more season in their native Sweden, it’ll be up to them to spearhead any attacking improvements for Head Coach John Hynes’ club alongside Taylor Hall (20-33-53) and Kyle Palmieri (26-27-53), last season’s co-leaders in points for the team.

Since the addition of 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner D Will Butcher on August 27, the situation along Jersey’s blue line could be evolving even though the Devils did little more than draft D Reilly Walsh with their second third-round pick, but it remains to be seen if Butcher will join Captain Andy Greene and co. on the senior team or if he’ll be assigned to Binghamton on AHL assignment.

Of note in this situation are the contracts, or lack thereof, of two Devils defensemen of the same mold: 26-year-old John Moore (12-10-22) and 23-year-old Damon Severson (3-28-31). Moore will be an unrestricted free agent following this season, while Severson is currently a restricted free agent. Should the Devils be unable to agree to terms with Severson – which would seem unlikely, given their almost $18 million in cap space – Butcher would be a lock to make Jersey’s 23-man roster, if not earn regular playing time. And in the predictable case Severson remains with the Devils, Butcher would almost certainly be an improvement over D Dalton Prout, who is eligible to be demoted to the AHL without hitting the waiver wire.

The same two goaltenders return from last year, and Cory Schneider – co-winner of the 2011 William M. Jennings Trophy – will be expected to return to his previous form. For his entire NHL career, Schneider has managed a .922 save percentage and 2.28 GAA, but those numbers fell to .908 and 2.82 last season. In large part, that may have been due to his defense allowing 31.4 shots to reach his crease per game (tied for ninth-worst in the NHL), but he cannot expect that to change given the Devils’ inactivity in changing personnel along the blue line. If New Jersey plans to end its rebuild now (*hint* it shouldn’t), it will have to fall on Schneider to shore up the defensive end.

Unfortunately, I don’t expect Devils fans to witness immediate progress noticeable in a final score. Instead, they should be looking for improved fundamentals from all skaters, a rebound season for Schneider and another solid entry draft to shore up the defensive corps. Rasmus Dahlin or Jared McIsaac, anyone?

Offseason Grade: B

Make no doubt about it: the Devils are in full rebuild mode and would be unwise to believe they are retooled enough to emerge from the bottom of the Eastern Conference this season. But, they have made many of the right steps in improving their forward corps with talented youths and could begin making their resurgence in a few years if they stick with #TheProcess.

January 12 – Day 89 – Y’Hall come back now

You’re getting close to the weekend. Only one more day of school or work. The best way to prepare for Friday is with some hockey tonight, obviously.

As usual, the action begins at 7 p.m. with Vancouver at Philadelphia, followed half an hour later by two more games (Pittsburgh at Ottawa [RDS2] and Buffalo at Tampa Bay). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of another pair of contests (Boston at Nashville [TVAS] and Montréal at Minnesota [NBCSN/RDS]), with Detroit at Dallas trailing 30 minutes later. The final pair of games gets the green light at 9 p.m. (New Jersey at Edmonton and Anaheim at Colorado), with tonight’s nightcap – St. Louis at Los Angeles (SN/SN360) – getting underway at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Taylor Hall finally plays his first game in Rogers Place, although it’s much later than many Oilers fans expected before this offseason. He should receive a warm welcome this evening.

New Jersey Devils LogoUnknown-5

It seems like it was only last weekend that these two played each other. Oh wait, it was last Saturday that the Oilers beat New Jersey 2-1 on an overtime slap shot from Mark Letestu.

This game has certainly been the more anticipated of the two contests waged between these teams this season. Thanks to a trade that shipped the former number one pick to Newark, Hall has been champing at the bit to get back in front of his original home crowd.

Hall was drafted in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and made an almost immediate impact. He played 65 games in his rookie season, scoring a team-leading 22 goals.

Although he only achieved that status one more time (ironically, it was last season when joined by Connor McDavid, the kid that replaced him as the star of the future), Hall was always an integral part of the Oilers‘ offense. He led the club in points three times in his six Edmonton seasons, and never fell lower than third place. In all, Hall contributed to or directly scored 328 goals in a blue sweater, only three fewer than Jordan Eberle in that time span.

Since making his way to New Jersey after being traded for Adam Larsson, he’s learned all about how difficult scoring can be. Currently only taking credit for 25 points on nine goals, Hall is on pace for only 56 points on 20 goals, which would be the fifth and third-worst efforts, respectively, of his seven-year career.

In his defense, it doesn’t help that he regularly has to play against the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist. Those guys don’t give up many goals to start with, no matter how good you are.

Hall and his 16-18-8 Devils make their way to Edmonton with the second-worst record in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. That sounds much worse than it actually is though, as it’s only eight points out of a playoff spot – and with a game in-hand! – but I’m far from predicting a New Jersey surge. As one might expect from Hall’s numbers, the Devils have mightily struggled to score, accounting for only 92 tallies in 42 games, the third-lowest scoring rate in the league.

Remember Hall’s scoring stats? 25 points on nine goals? I regret to inform you that he’s actually a team-leader with those numbers. He and Travis Zajac both have the same point total due to sharing the second line. The other skater on that line – P.A. Parenteau – has certainly benefited from their efforts, as his dozen tallies are the most in Jersey.

It’s not happenstance that the third-worst offense has the second-worst power play in the league, as the Devils capitalize on only 13.3% or their opponent’s penalties. Both Kyle Palmieri and Damon Severson have thrived with one fewer foe to keep an eye on, as both have nine power play points to lead the club, but it’s been Hall and Parenteau who have truly done the minimal damage, each with four man-advantage tallies.

Hosting Jersey this evening are the 21-15-7 Oilers, the third-best team in the Pacific Division even though they’ve lost their last two games. As a club is prone to do when four of their last five first-round picks are forwards, Edmonton has made their living on the offensive end of the ice, scoring 121 goals – the seventh-most in the NHL.

When I said McDavid replaced Hall as the star of Edmonton in his rookie season, I meant it. McDavid has the world – or at least the NHL – by a string with his league-leading 48 points. Just like Parenteau, Patrick Maroon has taken advantage of having such a player on his line, as his 16 goals are tops in Edmonton.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Edmonton‘s McDavid (48 points on 34 assists [both lead the league]) and Cam Talbot (three shutouts among 20 wins [both tied for fifth-most in the NHL]) and New Jersey‘s Parenteau (12 goals [leads the team]) and Steven Santini (+5 [leads the team]).

Vegas has marked the Oilers a heavy favorite to win tonight’s game at -190, and it’s hard to pick against that. The Oilers have been one of the better stories this season barring Columbus and Minnesota, and New Jersey hasn’t been able to match their mid-November form when they went 5-0 in nine days. Oilers fans shouldn’t need to break a sweat.

Hockey Birthday

  • Jimmy Skinner (1917-2007) – Although offered a contract from the Rangers, Skinner never played a game in the NHL. Instead, he coached four seasons in Detroit to win the 1955 Stanley Cup.
  • Tim Horton (1930-1974) – Just in case some of you kids don’t know, he’s more than a donut and coffee shop. This seven-time All Star played 24 seasons, almost all of which were in Toronto, where he won four Stanley Cups – including three-straight from 1962-’64.  He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977, three years after passing away in a car accident.
  • Curt Fraser (1958-) – Drafted 22nd-overall by his hometown Canucks in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft, this left wing played a dozen seasons in the league, most of which in Chicago. He ended his career with 433 points to go with his 1306 penalty minutes.
  • Espen Knutsen (1972-) – Although this center was drafted in the 10th-round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft by Hartford, he never played a game with the club. Instead, he spent most of his five seasons in Columbus. In 2002, he became the first and only Norwegian participant in an All Star Game.
  • Jocelyn Thibault (1975-) – This goaltender was drafted 10th-overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by Quebec, but he ended up spending most of his time in Chicago. He completed his career with a 238-238-75 record and earned one All Star nomination.
  • Marian Hossa (1979-) – The 12th-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Ottawa, this right wing is currently in his eighth season in Chicago. He’s thrice hoisted the Stanley Cup, not to mention his five All Star Game appearances.
  • Claude Giroux (1988-) – The captain of Philadelphia was drafted 22nd-overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He’s spent his entire career with the Flyers and has been thrice named an All Star.

Led by First Star of the Game Alex Ovechkin‘s two-goal night to notch the 1000th and 1001st points of his career, Washington was more than prepared to beat the Penguins 5-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Ovechkin (Second Star Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie) got off to a quick start, giving the Capitals the lead only 35 seconds into the contest with an impressive wrister. Although it proved to be the only goal of the first period, Pittsburgh was never able to pull ahead of the Caps.

Thanks to Carl Hagelin earning a seat in the penalty box for hooking Tom Wilson, Ovechkin (John Carlson and Backstrom) doubled the Capitals‘ lead with a power play slap shot  from the spot he always shoots from in the left penalty circle. The 2-0 Washington lead held into the second intermission.

Justin Williams (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov) takes credit for the eventual winning goal, as his wrister only 4:31 into the final frame was pure. The Pens tried to claw (wing?) their way back into the game with an Evgeni Malkin (Justin Schultz and Phil Kessel) power play wrister only 3:15 later, but Backstrom (Oshie and Carlson) put that threat to bed with a power play wrsiter of his own with 6:49 remaining in the third period. Patric Hornqvist (Sidney Crosby and Kessel) tried once again to find some late momentum by scoring a power play wrister with 2:36 remaining in regulation, but Lars Eller (Backstrom and Oshie) scored on the empty net with 18 seconds left on the clock to fully ice the game.

Third Star Holtby earns the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (93.75%), while Marc-Andre Fleury takes the loss, saving 25-of-29 (86.2%).

Washington‘s home victory snaps the four-game winning streak by the road squads in the DtFR Game of the Day series and improves their record to 48-29-14, nine points better than the visitors.

January 7 – Day 84 – Larsson is back in town

It’s the first Saturday of the New Year, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with hockey.

You’ll notice we’ll celebrate anything around here, and we always celebrate the same way.

There’s a dozen games being played today, so odds are good your favorite team is in action. Everything starts at 1 p.m. with a pair of contests (Tampa Bay at Philadelphia [NHLN/SN1] and Winnipeg at Buffalo), followed three hours later by Minnesota at Los Angeles (NHLN), the last day game. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it five games (the New York Rangers at Columbus [NHLN], Boston at Florida, Montréal at Toronto [CBC/TVAS], Washington at Ottawa [CITY/TVAS2] and Edmonton at New Jersey [SN]), with a another pair of games waiting an hour before dropping the puck (the New York Islanders at Arizona and Dallas at St. Louis). The West Coast gets involved at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Calgary (CBC/SN), with Detroit at San Jose – this evening’s nightcap – waiting half an hour before getting green lit.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Toronto: It’s Original Six rivalry night in the Queen City!
  • Edmonton at New Jersey: Welcome back, Adam Larsson. Welcome back.
  • Dallas at St. Louis: Last season, these clubs met up in the Western Semifinals. The Stars may have been the higher seed, but it was the Blues competing for a Stanley Cup Finals berth.
  • Vancouver at Calgary: What’s better than a rivalry? A rivalry on the second-half of a home-and-home matchup. Tensions will be high.

One of the bigger trades of the offseason has helped put the Oilers solidly in playoff position. The beneficiary? A certain defenseman…

Unknown-5New Jersey Devils Logo

 

Born in Skellefteå, Sweden, this defenseman made his way to the USA in 2011 after being drafted fourth-overall in that year’s NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey.

Lou Lamoriello was drawn to Larsson after two successful World Championships. Playing with the Junior Crowns in 2010 at both the World Junior Championships and the IIHF World U18 Championships, he won bronze and silver medals, respectively.

He got five good seasons in with the Devils, playing a total of 274 games. Although he only notched 69 points during that time, he performed his primary responsibility – keeping shots off his goaltender’s net – to a t. Headlined by his career 163 block campaign last season, he blocked 425 shots for Jersey.

Thanks to a trade only four days after the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Larsson now wears blue and orange instead of red and black. On the way to Edmonton, he passed Taylor Hall, the player traded from the Oilers to New Jersey. Since joining Edmonton, Larsson has only improved. He already has 119 shot blocks this season, and is on pace for 125 more.

Larsson and the 20-13-7 Oilers come to Newark in control of the third-best record in the Pacific Division. The defenseman has been a big help, but theme of the Oil‘s success has been their high-flying offense that has scored 113 goals, tied for the eighth-most in the NHL.

Have you heard of Connor McDavid? He’s kind of good at hockey. He’s already notched 45 points this season and is one of seven players to average more than a point per game. Even though only 14 of those points have been goals, but linemates Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon join McDavid with 14 goals. 42 between the three of them is an impressive number made dangerous as opposing goaltenders don’t know who the final shot will come from.

The power play has also been a strength for Edmonton, as their 20.9% conversion rate is tied for the ninth-best mark in the league. Draisaitl has been the main man in this situation, notching 15 power play points. Most of those have been his 8 man-advantage goals, another statistic in which he leads the club.

Playing host tonight are the 16-17-7 Devils, the second-worst team in the Metropolitan Division. The main problem in New Jersey has been their struggling offense that has managed only 91 goals, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Although it doesn’t look like it’s going to yield a return to the playoffs, today’s featured trade has worked out equally as well for the the Devils. Hall leads the team with 25 points, although P.A. Parenteau has the goalscoring lead with a dozen tallies. Where Jersey has struggled is finding others to score the puck. Only three skaters have 10 or more tallies, which is far from enough to compete in the deep Metropolitan.

Part of the problem is that the Devils severely struggle on the power play. Even with Kyle Palmieri‘s team-leading nine power play points, Jersey has converted only 12.8% of their man-advantage opportunities. Once again, it’s the fact that there’s not a true standout completing plays. Hall leads the team with only four power play goals.

Some players to keep an eye on include Edmonton‘s McDavid (31 assists among 45 points [both most in the league]) and Cam Talbot (19 wins [tied for third-most in the NHL], including three shutouts [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & New Jersey‘s Andy Greene (79 blocks [leads the team]) and Damon Severson (17 assists [leads the team]).

I know the Devils are playing on home ice, but I don’t see any way Edmonton doesn’t win their second-straight game. McDavid is just too good.

Hockey Birthday

  • Babe Pratt (1916-1988) – For eight of his dozen seasons, this Hall of Fame defenseman played for the Rangers en route to two Stanley Cup titles. A year after joining Toronto during the 1942-’43 season, he won the Hart Trophy on a career-high 57 points.
  • Mike Liut (1956-) – A fourth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 13 seasons in the NHL. Selected to the All Star Game in 1980-’81, he was also the recipient of the Pearson Trophy that season on a 33-14-13 record.
  • Guy Hebert (1967-) – Another St. Louis goaltending selection, Herbert was picked in the eighth-round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He ended up playing most of his 10-season career in Anaheim, notching a career 191-222-56 record.
  • Donald Brashear (1972-) – Although undrafted, this left wing played an impressive 16 seasons – most of which in Vancouver. He was most known as an enforcer, earning a career 2634 minutes in the sin bin.
  • Alex Auld (1981-) – The 40th-overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by Florida, this goaltender appeared in 10 NHL seasons, spending most of his time in Vancouver. By the time his career was complete, he set a 91-88-32 record.

A Vancouver 4-2 victory over the Flames in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day was worth more than a rivalry victory. It moved the Canucks into playoff position.

Calgary got things going quickly, scoring only 78 seconds into the game compliments of Third Star of the Game Michael Frolik‘s (Mikael Backlund and Matthew Tkachuk) wrister. The Canucks leveled with 9:11 remaining in the first period when Michael Chaput (Jack Skille) buried his first goal of the season. 2:18 later, Loui Eriksson (Second Star Markus Granlund and Alexander Edler) gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead with a wrister.

The eventual game-winning goal was struck with 22 seconds remaining in the second period. Thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty, Granlund (Bo Horvat and Jayson Megna) took advantage of the power play to set the score at 3-1.

3:18 into the third frame, Granlund (Nikita Tryamkin) deflected an insurance goal into net for the Canucks. Calgary tried their best to get back into the game, but they could only manage a power play wrist shot from Frolik (Backland and Mark Giordano) with 1:43 remaining in regulation.

First Star Ryan Miller earns the victory after saving 44-of-46 shots faced (95.7%), leaving the loss to Brian Elliott, saving nine-of-13 (69.2%).

The Canucks‘ victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 47-26-13, favoring the home sides by 14 points.

December 18 – Day 67 – Battle of the Hudson River

There’s only six more days of hockey left before the Christmas break! Start cramming hockey pucks now, starting with Los Angeles at Boston (SN) at 1 p.m., followed by Colorado at Winnipeg at 3 p.m. and Columbus at Vancouver at 4 p.m. The usual 7 p.m. starting time brings with it two puck drops (San Jose at Chicago [NHLN] and Ottawa at the New York Islanders [SN/TVAS]), trailed 30 minutes later by tonight’s nightcap: New Jersey at the New York RangersAll times eastern.

The Devils may not be having the success they’d like this season, but nothing can lift a team’s spirits more than a victory over a nearby rival. Let’s follow the Rangers back to Madison Square Garden for the Battle of the Hudson River!

New Jersey Devils LogoNew York Rangers Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Separated by only 10 miles, this rivalry was sparked the minute the Colorado Rockies moved to Meadowlands Arena in 1982. Since then, these clubs have met 267 times total, with the Rangers leading both the all-time series at 122-110-27-8, and the more competitive playoff series at 18-16.

Nothing details this rivalry better than their dominance in the 90s than counting trophies. New York‘s Stanley Cup victory in 1994 is widely known, as it was their first title in 54 years. But don’t let it be forgotten who they played in the Eastern Conference Finals. You guessed it, it was their old pal Jersey. The Rangers needed seven games to best the Devils before advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals to beat Vancouver.

Although they didn’t have to go through the Blueshirts (they have Philadelphia to thank for that, even though they don’t get along with that club either), it was the Devils‘ turn to take home Lord Stanley a year later. They bested Detroit in a quick four games that year to earn the franchise’s first title.

My, how things have changed since those days. Entering tonight’s game in seventh-place in the Metropolitan Division, the 12-12-6 Devils would beg for success like that, especially given their five-game losing skid. Although the defense and goaltending have not been phenomenal this season, the main reason for Jersey‘s struggles have been on the scoring end of the ice where they’ve managed only 70 goals – the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

With a team-leading 23 points, Travis Zajac has been involved in nearly a third of the Devils‘ scores. That being said, Mike Cammalleri holds the clubhouse goal-scoring lead having lit the lamp nine times so far this campaign.

Between the two of them and Taylor Hall, who has eight goals among 20 points with his new club, they have scored 35.7% of the Devils‘ goals. In short, the Devils need to find a way to get more skaters involved in scoring. No other players have more than 17 points to their credit, which is a striking number given the fact that Zajac only ties for the 36th-most points in the league. This entire offense needs a reboot, but it is going to have to be a team-effort.

Not unexpectedly, the Devils have also struggled on the power play. Their 14.9% conversion rate is eighth-worst in the NHL, but that can’t be blamed on Hall. He already has seven power play points to his credit, as well as four power play goals to lead the squad in both categories. Unfortunately for the Devils, that only ties for the 61st-best effort with the man-advantage in the league, which considerably takes the wind out of Hall’s sails.

Jersey might have been struggling on the power play, but they still find great success on the penalty kill. Led by Captain Andy Greene‘s 19 shorthanded blocks, the Devils have refused to yield a goal to 83.2% of opposing power plays, tying them for the ninth-best rate in the league.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the odds of them snapping their losing skid are bleak, as they face the second-best team in the Metropolitan Division: the 22-10-1 Rangers, who are riding a two-game win streak thanks to last night’s shootout victory in Nashville. As has been the case all year, the Blueshirts are making headlines with their powerful offense that has already notched 109 tallies this season – the most in the NHL.

Like I said yesterday, you have to keep an eye on the club scoring title in Manhattan. Currently, the king of the dressing room is Kevin Hayes, who has 23 points to his credit. Similarly, Michael Grabner is not the sole lead-goalscorer anymore. He’s been joined by Rick Nash, as they both have 13 tallies apiece.

Currently rating ninth-best, New York has had a solid power play this season as they’re successful on 21.4% of attempts. Six skaters have headed that effort, but Nash, Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Vesey deserve special credit as they each have four goals with the man-advantage, tying for a team-high.

The Blueshirts have been even more impressive on the penalty kill, where their 87.3% success rate is third-best in the NHL. Kevin Klein‘s 13 shorthanded blocks have been the most impressive effort on the squad, but 14 of New York‘s 26 skaters have notched at least one block on the penalty kill. This entire club has bought in on both ends of the ice, and Alain Vigneault should be proud.

Tonight’s contest is the second time these teams have met this season. Only a Sunday ago, Madison Square Garden hosted the Devils to a five-goal shutout Rangers victory.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New Jersey‘s Cammalleri (nine goals [leads the team]), Kyle Palmieri (57 hits [leads the team]), Kyle Quincey (+5 [leads the team]) and Zajac (15 assists among 23 points [both lead the team]) & New York‘s Grabner (+18 [tied for second-best in the league]), Hayes (+16 [tied for eighth-best in the NHL]) and, depending on who plays, Henrik Lundqvist (14 wins [tied for eighth-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (1.67 GAA on a .941 save percentage [both second-best in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for eighth-most in the league]).

New York is favored at almost every casino in Vegas, and for good reason. All facets of the game are going their way these days, which is the exact opposite of what you can say about Jersey. Expect the Rangers to put a similar beat-down on their rivals as they did last weekend.

Hockey Birthday

  • Jean Pronovost (1945-) – This right wing played 998 games over 14 seasons, most of which with Pittsburgh. By the time his career was done, he’d notched 774 points and been selected for four All Star games.
  • Dan Cleary (1978-) – The 13th-overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, this left wing has played most of his 17+ year career with Detroit, where he was a member of the Stanley Cup winning 2008 Red Wings team. He still plays in Detroit‘s system with Grand Rapids, and made 17 appearances with the senior team in the 2014-15 season.

Third Star of the Game Vesey’s return to Nashville – if you can call it that – went exactly as he would have liked, as his Rangers beat the Predators 2-1 in a shootout in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Only one goal was struck in the first period, and it belonged to Nash (Hayes and Nick Holden) and the Rangers. Nash’s wrister was his 13th goal of the year.

It stood as the would-be winner until Second Star Mike Fisher buried an unassisted wrister of his own 9:22 into the second frame to level the score at one-all. As neither side was able to break the tie with the remaining 35:38, which included five minutes of three-on-three play, the important bonus point was awarded in a shootout.

As home team, the Predators elected to shoot first…

  1. …and sent Ryan Johansen into the fray. Lundqvist was not about to let that into his net.
  2. Wonder boy himself, Vesey’s shot was pure to give the Rangers a 1-0 shootout lead.
  3. Next up for Nashville, Craig Smith did even worse than Johansen – he missed the cage.
  4. Mats Zuccarello ended the shootout almost as quickly as it began, scoring on First Star Juuse Saros.

Lundqvist earns the victory after saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.9%), while Saros takes the shootout loss, saving 26-of-27 (96.3%).

Another road victory in the DtFR Game of the Day series pulls the roadies within six points of the hosts, who have a 36-22-11 record.

November 26 – Day 45 – Penguins gone bad?

The only disappointing thing about all the games after Thanksgiving is that we don’t have as busy a Saturday as usual. That being said, most of today’s games have a bit of intrigue. Like usual, we get started at 7 p.m. with five games (Washington at Toronto [CBC/NHLN], Carolina at Ottawa [CITY], Montréal at Detroit [SN/TVAS], Columbus at Florida and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed an hour later by Minnesota at St. Louis. The West Coast games get underway at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Colorado (CBC/SN), trailed half an hour later by tonight’s co-nightcaps, Chicago at Los Angeles and Anaheim at San Jose, at 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Montréal at Detroit: Nothing rings in the holiday season like the first Original Six matchup since Thanksgiving. Yup, you read it here.
  • New Jersey at Pittsburgh: Beau Bennett and Ben Lovejoy spent a combined 11 seasons in Pittsburgh before joining Jersey this off-season.
  • Washington at Toronto: Another return to a former home stadium, but this one features Daniel Winnik.
  • Anaheim at San Jose: We always love a good rivalry, especially involved with two teams from the Golden State.
  • Chicago at Los Angeles: Another rivalry that always produces good TV.

You only make one first return of the year, and since they hoisted the Cup last season, we’ll catch Bennett and Lovejoy’s homecoming.

New Jersey Devils Logopittsburgh_penguins_logo

 

Bennett was the Penguins‘ top pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and played a total of 129 contests over four seasons with the black-and-gold, providing them 45 points over that span. This time last year, Bennett was playing regularly for Pittsburgh, although that would last only a few more weeks until injuries started piling up, limiting him to only 33 regular season and one postseason games.

Lovejoy’s tenure with the Pens is a little but longer, but it took two stints for him to reach his 184 games over seven campaigns. The defenseman made it to the NHL the hard way. Undrafted, he signed a contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2007 to, in effect, audition for a job with Pittsburgh. His 20 point, +16 season was enough to do the trick, as the Penguins signed him to a contract the next summer. By the 2010-’11 season, his AHL days were behind him, even though he was regularly a healthy scratch. That season was arguably his best in the Steel City, as he notched 17 points and a +11 in 47 appearances.

After being traded to Anaheim three games into the 2012-’13 season, Lovejoy returned to Pittsburgh at the 2014-’15 trade deadline. He played in every Stanley Cup playoff game last spring, notching six points for a +5.

Both skaters joined the Devils this offseason. Bennett was traded at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft for a third-round pick, while The Reverend left on his own will, joining New Jersey for a three-year deal for $8 million, a far cry from his first $875,000 deal with Pittsburgh in 2008.

Their Devils come to the City of Champions with a 10-6-4 record after hosting the Red Wings last night for a 5-4 overtime loss. While the offense hasn’t been enviable with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri missing time, they’ve kept afloat with a decent defense.

So far this season, New Jersey has allowed only 51 goals, tying for 11th-fewest in the NHL. With 16 starts, Cory Schneider has been has been net for most of those scores, but that’s not to say he’s had a poor season. He has a .915 save percentage for a 2.53 GAA to his credit, which ranks (t)19th and 21st fewest among the 40 goaltenders with eight or more appearances.

With only average netminding numbers, it’d be assumed that the Devils‘ defense is playing out of their mind.

All those who raised their hands are in for some learning.

Schneider faces an average of 30.6 shots against per game, tying for 12th-most in the league. Although Captain Andy Greene‘s 46-block effort has been admirable, he’s the only Devil with more than 40 blocks to his credit. The rest of the blueline needs to get involved, or the Devils may be scheduling tee times right after the regular season.

The power play has not had a lot go their way either. Jersey has been successful on only 13.4% of their attempts, sixth-worst in the NHL. Damon Severson has been the man in charge of the power play with five points to his credit, but those are all assists. The aforementioned Hall was the one with the most power play goals (three), but active Travis Zajac takes that role with two extra-man tallies on his resume.

Hosting them this evening are the 12-6-3 Penguins, who were taken to school in Minnesota yesterday, losing 6-2. While the defense has still led much to be desired, Pittsburgh‘s offense is still one of the best in the league, with 62 goals to their credit – tied for the eighth-highest total in the league.

For those worried that Phil Kessel wouldn’t work out in Pittsburgh, surely you’re doubts ended during last season’s playoffs. If not, you have to believe in the Mr. “The Thrill” now, as he’s leading his club with 21 points. That being said, it’s been Sidney Crosby finishing a lot of plays, with 14 goals in his 15 games played.

Pittsburgh is also home to the seventh-best power play, successful on 21.4% of attempts. That’s where Kessel has been at his best, earning nine power extra-man points. The same goes for Crosby, who leads the squad with five power play tallies.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New Jersey‘s Greene (46 blocks [leads the team]) and Zajac (15 points, 10 of which are assists [both lead the team]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (14 goals [leads the NHL]), Kessel (15 assists [tied for second-most in the league] for 21 points [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) and Matthew Murray (1.58 GAA [tied for second-best in the league] and .945 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL]).

From what I’ve found, Vegas doesn’t seem to have a line published for tonight’s contest, which is usually a good sign. That being said, I’m not so confident. The Penguins are an incredible offense that should be able to handle anything Jersey throws at them defensively. Paired with a solid defense, Pittsburgh should earn two points.

Hockey Birthday

  • National Hockey League (1917-) – The Montréal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs and Toronto Arenas band together in what would become the greatest hockey league in the world.
  • Chris Osgood (1972-) – This goaltender played 744 games over 17 seasons, most of which with Detroit, the team that drafted him 54th-overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. At 401 victories, he still has the 10th most in NHL history, and hoisted the Stanley Cup twice.
  • Keith Ballard (1982-) – He may have been drafted 11th-overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo, but he never played a game in a Sabres sweater. Instead, most of his 10-year career was spent in Phoenix.

New York took care of business in yesterday’s Game of the Day, beating the Flyers 3-2 in the House that Eric Lindros Built.

Two goals were struck in the opening 20 minutes, and they both belonged to the visiting Blueshirts. 13:16 after the opening puck drop, Second Star of the Game Derek Stepan (J.T. Miller) buried a snap shot to give the Rangers a lead. That lead doubled 1:34 later with Matt Puempel‘s (Jimmy Vesey and Josh Jooris) first goal as a Ranger, only four days after signing with the club.

The eventual game-winning goal found the back of the net with 7:27 remaining in the second period. Kevin Hayes tipped-in Nick Holden‘s initial shot for a 3-0 lead.

Philly tried valiantly to level the game. Only 1:34 after returning to the ice for the third period, Chris VandeVelde deflected Andrew MacDonald‘s shot into the net to pull the Flyers within two goals. The only other score the Flyers could manage was Shayne Gostisbehere‘s (Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds) slap shot with 2:04 remaining in regulation.

First Star Henrik Lundqvist earned the victory after saving 40-of-42 shots faced (95.2%), leaving Steve Mason the loss, saving 20-of-23 (87%).

New York‘s victory pulls the road squads within seven points of the home teams, who have a 25-15-7 record.

November 15 – Day 34 – The Devils went down to Dallas

As you might guess with only one game yesterday, there’s a ton going down tonight. It’s like your favorite bar – you know, the one that has all your favorite microbrews on tap? Perfect.

Anyways, we get started with three games at 7 p.m. (Ottawa at Philadelphia [RDS2], San Jose at Carolina and Washington at Columbus), followed half an hour later by another trio (Nashville at Toronto [TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Tampa Bay at Detroit [NBCSN]). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of a third triplet of games (Buffalo at St. Louis, Calgary at Minnesota and Chicago at Winnipeg), followed 30 minutes later by New Jersey at Dallas. Los Angeles at Colorado gets underway at 9 p.m., and the co-nightcaps – the New York Rangers at Vancouver and Edmonton at Anaheim – are an hour later.

Short list:

  • Tampa Bay at Detroit – Remember last year when the Lightning beat the Red Wings in the Eastern Quarterfinals in five games? Detroit does.
  • New Jersey at DallasVernon Fiddler wore green for five seasons, but he’ll be wearing white tonight at the American Airlines Center.
  • Edmonton at Anaheim – It’s a similar situation for Patrick Maroon. In his fifth year of service with the Ducks, he was traded to the Oil for a prospect and a draft pick.

Since he’ll only be making one visit to Big D this season, we’ll follow Fiddler back to his old stomping grounds.

New Jersey Devils LogoUnknown-2

 

 

The amount of restraint it requires me every time we feature the Devils to not post this song is almost unbearable, but given the subject material’s name, there was no way I could contain myself.

After a couple seasons in Phoenix, Fiddler joined the Stars before the 2011-’12 season to begin his five-year tenure. While in town, the center played 366 games – the most he’s played with a single club, even though he had an extra season in Nashville‘s system – to score 112 points, 69 of which were assists.

Fiddler certainly served his time with the club. Although they entered last season projected to find much success, times were not always so fun in Dallas. He and the Stars went 145-119-30 in his first four seasons in Dallas, qualifying for the postseason only once to be eliminated by Anaheim.

Of course, last year made it all worth it. Well, at least the regular season. With a 50-23-9 record, the Stars took top regular season honors in the Western Conference, but were upset in the quarterfinals by St. Louis.

This off-season, he joined New Jersey in free agency, and they’ve gone 8-3-3 so far for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense has left much to be desired, the Devils have been able to find success by keeping their opposition off the board.

Cory Schneider has started 11 games already this season for a 6-3-2 record on a .927 save percentage and 2.24 GAA, which ranks 11th and 14th-best, respectively, among goaltenders with six or more appearances.

What makes Schneider’s efforts more impressive is that the defense playing in front of him is only average, if not slightly worse. He faces an average 30.86 shots per game, which is a touch over the league average. Captain Andy Greene takes the most credit for limiting his netminder’s workload with 28 blocks to his credit, but he is the only Devil with more than 23 blocks.

That success has not translated well to the defensive special team. New Jersey ranks eighth-worst in the NHL on the penalty kill, negating only 79.5% of their infractions. To their credit, they have tried their hardest to limit trips to the penalty box this season, as Fiddler leads the club with only 13 minutes in the sin bin.

Jersey‘s power play is indicative of their offensive struggles this season. Successful on only 14% of their attempts, the Devils rank ninth-worst in the league and are about as far from being a threat as Newark is from Dallas. Damon Severson has been most active on the man-advantage with five points to his credit in that situation.

After a five game road trip throughout western Canada, the Stars return home with a 6-6-4 record on the season. While the offense has not performed like they did a season ago, the defense and goaltending is responsible for Dallas not being higher in the Western Conference table.

Kari Lehtonen has started nine games this season for a 3-4-3 record on a .891 save percentage and 3.18 GAA, which ranks fifth and ninth-worst among goaltenders with five or more appearances.

He may be the last line of defense, but Dallas‘ situation doesn’t lie directly on Lehtonen’s shoulders. Even with Johnny Oduya‘s 36 blocks, the Stars‘ netminders face 31.125 shots per game, which exceeds the league average by almost a full shot. It doesn’t sound like much, but it only takes one shot to become a goal and effect the outcome of a game, and even if it doesn’t trickle into the net, it is still another shot Lehtonen has to save.

As you’d expect, the penalty kill hasn’t treated the Stars very nicely either. Dallas faces 3.75 man-advantages per game (almost half a penalty more than the league average), but have only defended 76.7% to rank fourth-worst in the NHL. Either the kill has to improve or Dallas needs to find a better way to impose their will, because this combination is not working.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include DallasTyler Seguin (20 points [leads the league] on 13 assists [tied for second-most in the NHL]) and New Jersey‘s Taylor Hall (12 points [leads the team]).

It looks are bets are off in Vegas for this one, so hopefully that indicates a competitive game. Although I do believe that Dallas will be the better of these two teams come April, I think Jersey is able to get out of Dallas with the victory due to the Stars‘ poor netminding and their offense still searching for their identity.

Hockey Birthday

  • Yannick Tremblay (1975-) – The defensman was the 145th-overall pick in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Selected by Toronto, he only appeared in three seasons with the Leafs before five campaigns with Atlanta.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Islanders 4-0 in the only game played yesterday – thereby our Game of the Day.

J.T. Brown (Cedric Paquette and Braydon Coburn) takes credit for the first, and thus winning, score with 2:02 remaining in the opening period with a wrist shot. Ryan Callahan (Andrej Sustr and Victor Hedman) also scored in the remaining 20 seconds of the frame.

Two more goals were scored in the second period by Nikita Kucherov (First Star of the Game Steven Stamkos) and Vladislav Namestnikov (Stamkos and Kucherov) to seal the victory.

Second Star Andrei Vasilevskiy earns the shutout victory after saving all 34 shots he faced, while Jaroslav Halak takes the loss, saving 27-of-31 (87.1%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series stands at 21-12-3, favoring the home sides by nine points over the roadies.

November 14 – Day 33 – Selections are Slim

Here’s the list of tonight’s games. Hopefully your team is playing.

  • Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders – 7 p.m. eastern – TVAS
  • Dancing with the Stars -8 p.m. eastern – ABC
  • The Voice – 8 p.m. eastern – NBC
  • Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants – 8:30 p.m. eastern – ESPN
  • Scorpion – 10 p.m. eastern – CBS

So… yeah… there’s a not a whole lot of hockey action going on this evening…

But hey, it makes my decision-making process much easier!

Unknown-3New York Islanders Logo

 

This will be Tampa Bay‘s first time being featured in the Game of the Day, while New York is making their fourth appearance.

Tampa enters tonight’s game with a 8-6-1 record, good enough for fourth in the Atlantic Division. What impresses me about the Lightning so far this season is their offense, which has 45 goals to its credit.

Who else to lead the Bolts than Steven Stamkos? He’s appeared in all 15 games played this season, and has 17 points to his credit to lead the team. Eight of those points have been goals, which also leads the club.

Much of Tampa Bay‘s success has been found on the power play. Led by Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos’ seven power play points, their 25.4% success ranks fourth-best in the league.

The counterpart to the power play has been equally as successful. Tampa‘s penalty kill ranks eight-best in the league, neutralizing 86% of their infractions for only six extra man-tallies against.

The 5-7-3 Islanders wishes they were in the Bolts‘ position. They are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, due in most part to their lackluster defense and goaltending.

Jaroslav Halak has started 10 games en route to a 3-4-3 record. So far this season he’s played to a .907 save percentage and three GAA, which ranks 21st and 24th among the 35 goaltenders with seven games played.

While Halak and backup Thomas Greiss have left much to be desired after two-straight postseason appearances, they cannot shoulder all the blame. Together they’ve faced 475 shots (31.7 per game), 33 more than the average goaltender, or 2.2 per game. Although led by Johnny Boychuk‘s 2.8 blocks per game, no other Islanders have more than 40 blocks to their credit, leaving their netminders to get peppered.

As would be expected from a team with issues at and behind the blue line, New York has struggled on the penalty kill. Their 78% kill rate is sixth-worst in the NHL.

Offensively, the Isles have also struggled with their power play. Even with John Tavares‘ team-leading three power play points (perhaps that is the best indicator of their success), New York has scored on only 11.4% of their man-advantages.

Tonight’s game is the completion of the three-game regular season series between these clubs, that only just began 13 days ago. Tampa Bay has won both the previous two games by a combined 10-2 score, including a 6-1 victory on this surface on the first day of the month.

Of course, this year’s series is only a recap of their Eastern Semifinal showdown in May. If you’ll remember, the Lightning came out the winners in that series, with the Isles winning only Game 1 before Tampa Bay took the following four contests.

Some players to keep an eye on in tonight’s game include New York‘s Dennis Seidenberg (+10 [leads the team]) and Tavares (five goals for 12 points [both lead the team]) & Tampa Bay‘s Stamkos (17 points [tied for fifth-most in the league] on eight goals [tied for seventh-most in the NHL]) and, should he play, Andrei Vasilevskiy (two GAA [seventh-best in the league] and .932 save percentage [10th-best in the NHL]).

The home squad has a +125 next to their name, which is never a good sign for fans wearing blue and orange. I’m siding with Vegas in this one, as Tampa leads the Isles in almost all statistics in addition to having the recent success against this evening’s competition.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Murray Oliver (1937-2014) – Oliver enjoyed an 18-year, 1127 regular season-game playing career. Most of that time was spent with the Boston Bruins (traded from Detroit during the 1960-’61 season), where he played center for seven seasons for 426 games. He also tried his hand at coaching, leading the Minnesota North Stars in 37 games during the 1982-’83 season.
  • Bobby Allen (1978-) – Allen made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers during the 2002-’03 season, but he would be more known for his two year stint in Boston, where he played defense in 50 regular season games.
  • Taylor Hall (1991-) – Up until this season, the left winger had spent all of his seven-year career with the Edmonton Oilers. The first pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft played in 381 regular season games with the Oil before being traded to New Jersey this off-season.

Yesterday’s Game of the Day featured our second-straight overtime game, and once again it was the home team that scored the final tally as Vancouver beat Dallas 5-4.

The Stars got on the board only 5:43 after the initial puck drop with Patrick Eaves (Dan Hamhuis and Second Star Tyler Seguin) burying a wrister. That lead lasted only 22 seconds before Bo Horvat (Alexandre Burrows and Sven Baertschi) scored a wrister of his own to level for the Canucks. Dallas reclaimed the lead once again only 20 seconds after Horvat’s goal when Lauri Korpikoski (Radek Faksa and Jamie Benn) buried his wrister to set the score at 2-1, which held into the first intermission.

Only one goal was struck in the second frame, and it belonged to the Stars. Eaves (Seguin and Antoine Roussel) takes credit for the score with a deflection to give the Stars a 3-1 lead 4:56 before the second intermission.

Willie Desjardins and Henrik Sedin must have given some speech going into the final frame, because the Canucks came back to the ice with a vengeance. 3:26 after resuming play, Loui Eriksson (Third Star Markus Granlund) buried a wrister to pull Vancouver back within a goal, followed 2:40 later by a power play wrister from Brandon Sutter (Daniel Sedin and H. Sedin) to level the score. Once again Dallas took the lead, this time with a Roussel (Seguin) backhander with 8:11 remaining in regulation. That score held until 100 seconds remained on the clock. First Star Troy Stecher (Burrows and Horvat) scored the first goal of his career with a slap shot to force overtime.

Three-on-three play lasted only 1:27 before Granlund (Sutter) ended the game with a wrister, sealing the Canucks‘ come-from-behind victory.

Ryan Miller earns the victory after saving 17-of-21 shots faced (81%), forcing Kari Lehtonen to take the overtime loss, saving 25-of-30 (83.3%).

Vancouver‘s overtime victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 21-11-3, favoring the home squads by 11 points over the roadies.

November 12 – Day 31 – Fixing Florida

It’s Saturday, so you know what that means: lots of hockey!

Exactly.

Like always, we get glued to our televisions at 7 p.m. when eight pucks are dropped (Detroit at Montréal [SN/TVAS], San Jose at Tampa Bay, the New York Islanders at Florida, Buffalo at New Jersey, Minnesota at Philadelphia, Toronto at Pittsburgh [CBC/CITY/NHLN], Washington at Carolina and St. Louis at Columbus), followed an hour later by two more (Boston at Arizona and Anaheim at Nashville). Finally, the New York Rangers visit Calgary at 10 p.m. (CBC/SN1) to act as our nightcap. All times eastern.

Short List:

  • New York at Florida: It’s a rematch of an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal a season ago between two teams still searching for their identity.
  • Detroit at Montréal: Original Six alert.
  • Anaheim at Nashville: Another 2015-’16 Quarterfinal rematch, but this one is in the Western Conference.
  • New York at Calgary: If Josh Jooris weren’t on injured reserve, this would be his first return to the Saddledome since leaving the Flames. Guess he’ll have to wait until next year.

In a peculiar way, I’m drawn to the Eastern rematch from a season ago. Not only have we not featured the Panthers yet this season, but I want to get to the bottom of why they are not finding the success they were projected to have.

New York Islanders LogoFlorida_Panthers_logo_2016

 

Probably the best explanation of the 5-7-2 Islanders is that they’re 1-2-2 in their last five game played. While the offense has been only average in comparison to the rest of the league, it has been the defense and goaltending that has been the major pitfall.

Jaroslav Halak has started nine games so far this season to earn a 3-4-2 record on a .903 save percentage and 3.03 GAA, which rank 25th and 26th-worst in the league, respectively, among all goaltenders to play this season. While these numbers are far from good, the skaters in front of him have not been providing him much help. Even thought Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg, Calvin de Haan and Thomas Hickey all have 32+ blocks to their credit, the Islanders have allowed 432 shots against, well over the league average.

One of the major reasons for the high shots against totals given the great efforts by those four blueliners is New York‘s inability to avoid the power play. Even though he hasn’t played since last Saturday due to a broken right thumb, Travis Hamonic leads a club that averages 10:55 in the box (tied for 10th-most in the NHL) with 23 penalty minutes. As would be expected by the taxed special team, the Isles have been burned by opposing power plays and allowed a goal on 24.1% of opposing attempts, the worst effort in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn is also home to one of the worst power plays in the league, as the Isles are successful on only 10.5% of their attempts.

Hosting them this evening are the 6-7-1 Florida Panthers, a team that has been only average this season. Unlike tonight’s opponent, what has probably been most impressive about them has been their defense and goaltending.

Roberto Luongo has started nine games this season to earn a 4-5-0 record on a .917 save percentage and 2.36 GAA to rank 12th and 15th-best, respectively, among goaltenders with seven or more starts to their name.

Part of the reason he and James Reimer have been able to find their success has been the blue line playing in front of them. Even though Michael Matheson leads the club with only 16 blocks, Florida has allowed only 401 shots to reach net, six fewer than the league average.

As stated before, these squads met up last year in the opening round of the Atlantic Division’s playoff bracket. After the clubs split the first four games, the Islanders won two double-overtime games in a row to advance to the Eastern Semifinals. It truly was an upset seeing as the Panthers were not only the Atlantic champion, but they had won the regular season series against New York 2-1-0.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Florida‘s Jon Marchessault (seven goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and New York‘s John Tavares (11 points on five goals [both lead the team]).

Florida is marked a -150 favorite by Vegas, and that’s a line I definitely agree with. Their offense should be more than capable of scoring on the Islanders‘ week defense.

Hockey Birthday

  • Denis DeJordy (1938-) – This goaltender played 316 games over his 11 NHL seasons, 62.7% of which were with Chicago. He earned a 124-128-51 career record, and won the 1966-’67 Vezina trophy.
  • Mark Hunter (1962-) – This right wing was the seventh overall selection in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, but he spent  34.7% of his playing days in St. Louis. He hoisted the Stanley Cup once in his career, with the 1988-’89 Calgary Flames. Nowadays, he’s an assistant with the Maple Leafs.
  • Bryan Little (1987-) – The 12th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by AtlantaWinnipeg, this right wing has appeared in 614 games with the franchise. He scored a career-best 64 points in his 2013-’14 campaign.
  • Adam Larsson (1992-) – This defenseman was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by New Jersey. He was the Devil sent to Edmonton this off-season in the trade for Taylor Hall.

I picked Philadelphia to beat Toronto in last night’s Game of the Day. I got embarrassed, as the Leafs won 6-3 on a four-goal third period.

Toronto earned a 1-0 lead only 2:54 into the contest when Nazem Kadri (Star of the Game Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev) scored a wrister, but Philly pulled even 1:05 later when Wayne Simmonds (Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere) capitalized on a power play opportunity. The Flyers pulled ahead only 26 seconds after drawing even when Travis Konecny‘s (Radko Gudas and Michael Del Zotto) backhand found the back of the net. The final goal of the period wasn’t registered until only 52 seconds remained in the frame. Rielly (Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk) takes credit for the power play score with his first goal of the season to set the score at 2-2.

The Flyers returned to the ice intent on imposing their will, made evident by Mark Streit getting caught for tripping Zach Hyman and earning a seat in the sin bin two minutes into the frame. Philly responded well though, as Simmonds (Sean Couturier) scored a shorthanded snapper 53 seconds later to take a 3-2 lead. It was the lone score of the second period.

4:03 into the third period, Martin Marincin (Rielly and Kadri) scored his first goal of the season with a slap shot to pull the Leafs into a 3-3 tie. Another first goal of the season proved to be the eventual game-winner, as Hyman (Auston Matthews and Connor Carrick) scored a snap shot 4:31 later to take the lead. The Leafs didn’t look back, as they scored two insurance goals, courtesy of Leo Komarov and Marner (Rielly and Tyler Bozak), to secure the victory.

Frederik Andersen earned the victory after saving 30-of-33 shots faced (90.9%), while Steve Mason saved 17-of-23 in the loss (73.9%).

Toronto‘s victory sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 19-11-3, favoring the home squads by nine points over the roadies.

October 28 – Day 17 – Sticking with Scrappers

There may be fewer games than yesterday, but that’s not to say Friday is a slouch, as we’ve got six matchups to choose from. Two games get us started at 7:30 p.m. (Chicago at New Jersey and the New York Rangers at Carolina [TVAS]), with two more following at 9 p.m. (Winnipeg at Colorado and Ottawa at Calgary [RDS2]). Finally, at 10 p.m., our final two contests go underway (Edmonton at Vancouver [SN1/SN360] and Columbus at Anaheim). All times eastern.

With the season not even being three weeks old yet, I’m in the business of giving everybody some love. In essence, I guess what I’m saying is let’s head to Newark!

Unknown-2New Jersey Devils Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Enter right wing Jordin Tootoo. A little bit of a journeyman, Chicago is the fourth team he’s played for in his now 13-season career.

Most recently, he was a member of his opposition this evening. He played 134 games over two seasons with the Devils, easily his second-longest tenure with an NHL club.

Similar to Steve Ott, yesterday’s subject of the Game of the Day, Tootoo plays the role of agitator and enforcer. While playing at The Rock, he spent 174 minutes in the sin bin (1.3 minutes, or 77.9 seconds per game), 58.6% of which were last season.

In his defense, life in Jersey wasn’t always about being a nuisance. During the 2014-15 season, he found the back of the net 10 times en route to a 15 point season – the second-most goals he’s ever scored in a season since his junior days in Brandon.

He’s appeared in every game this season for the 3-3-1 Blackhawks, a team that scores as many goals as they give up – 25. Part of the problem for the numerous scores against them has been a pitiful penalty kill. Their 46.1% kill rate ranks worst in the league, trailing the Nashville Predators by 22.1%.

For those wondering, the average kill rate in the league entering Thursday’s action was 79.97%. Chicago has been atrocious.

Offensively, the Hawks are lead by center Artem Anisimov and his nine points. That being said, it has been Richard Panik scoring the goals, with a team-leading six to his credit.

Life has been treating Jersey only slightly better, as they’re sitting at 3-2-1 for an early third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Defense and goaltending have by far been the name of the game for the Devils, as Cory Schneider has allowed only 12 pucks to get past him this season. Saving .936 percent of his shots faced for a solid two GAA, he’s played every second of the season so far. That is, up until tonight. Keith Kinkaid takes the crease this evening for his first game since April 7, a 4-2 loss on home ice to Tampa Bay.

Last season, the Devils ranked dead last in the NHL with only 182 goals to their credit, and this season has been more of the same. Taylor Hall has done his part, leading the team with five goals for six points, but more players than Travis Zajac will have to contribute if the Devils want to make the run at the playoffs Schneider deserves.

Some players to keep an eye on tonight include Chicago‘s Anisimov (nine points [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]), Patrick Kane (six assists [tied for fifth-most in the league] and a +7 [tied for seventh-best in the NHL]) and Panik (six goals [tied for the league lead]) & New Jersey‘s Hall (five goals [tied for fifth-most in the NHL]).

Bets look to be off the table at most establishments in Sin City, but sportsbook.com still has a line posted at -110 in favor of the Devils. If only Jersey had somebody on their team that could ensure the Hawks would head to the penalty box… Huh. Since that’s not the case, I worry for Kinkaid’s safety against an offense that has scored six goals in their past two games. I’m taking the Hawks.

Hockey Birthday:

  • Martin Skoula (1979-) – This Czech defenseman played 10 seasons in the NHL with six different teams, but 383 of his 776 games were with Colorado, the team that drafted him 17th in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Three years later, he hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche.
  • Jack Eichel (1996-) – Buffalo‘s wonder-boy from Boston University scored 56 points in his rookie year, 24 of which were goals to lead the team. Hopefully he’ll return to the ice soon.

After an eight-round shootout, the Detroit Red Wings extended their all-time record over the St. Louis Blues to 146-136-37.

Kevin Shattenkirk (Patrik Berglund) opened the scoring at the 22:31 mark of this game, but the Red Wings leveled again with 6:06 remaining in the second period with a Second Star of the Game Frans Nielsen (Darren Helm and Alexey Marchenko) backhander to set the score at one-all, the score that held through the remainder of regulation and overtime. And off to the shootout they went.

  1. Alexander Steen: bingo, Blues up a score.
  2. Nielsen saved by Third Star Jake Allen.
  3. Vladimir Tarasenko straight-up missed the cage.
  4. Gustav Nyquist found the back of the net to tie the shootout.
  5. Shattenkirk: saved by First Star Petr Mrazek.
  6. Dylan Larkin: saved by Allen.
  7. David Perron: third-straight save.
  8. Andreas Athanasiou: mixing it up with a miss.
  9. Nail Yakupov: Mrazek says “No way, bruh.”
  10. Tomas Tatar gets the same memo from Allen.
  11. Robby Fabbri learns that not just Jesus saves.
  12. Riley Sheahan gets some of the same medicine.
  13. Berglund finds Mrazek.
  14. Helm can’t score either.
  15. Dmitrij Jaskin can’t get it done.
  16. Henrik Zetterberg scored so he could go to bed. Wings win 2-1.

Mrazek earns the victory by saving 31-of-32 shots faced (96.9%), while Allen’s 26-of-27 (96.3%) is only good enough for a shutout loss.

Detroit‘s victory earned the road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series another two points, but the homers still have a five-point advantage with a 11-6-2 record.