The USWNT won gold in PyeongChang– defeating Canada 3-2 in a shootout– and Nick and Connor are thrilled. Jarome Iginla might be coming back just in time for trades, playoff talk and more on this week’s episode of the DTFR Podcast.
For those of you that don’t work for Hallmark, it’s February, so you all have to get your act together– unless you’re like me and you’re totally going to be hitting up that half-price candy at Target on February 15th for no reason whatsoever.
Anyway, it’s time we take a look at how the standings should look in April based on how all 31 NHL teams entered the month of February.
Now, in light of the trade deadline near the end of the month (Monday, February 26th to be exact), let’s keep this one brief, shall we?
Keep in mind the following projections do not take into account any of the action from Thursday night (“GP so far” = the number of games said team has played from October through January 31st).
2017-2018 Projected Standings after Four Months
z-Boston Bruins, 116 points (48 GP so far)
x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 111 points (52 GP so far)
x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 106 points (50 GP so far)
Detroit Red Wings, 80 points (49 GP so far)
Montreal Canadiens, 79 points (50 GP so far)
Florida Panthers, 69 points (48 GP so far)
Ottawa Senators, 69 points (48 GP so far)
Buffalo Sabres, 63 points (50 GP so far)
Overall the Atlantic Division is rubbish.
Boston, Toronto and Tampa dominate the division, meanwhile the Senators are struggling to figure out that what they really need is to pay Erik Karlssonand rebuild (sooner rather than later). That being said, Detroit’s rebuild that they’re denying is actually a rebuild should look pretty good, considering the state of Montreal, Florida and Buffalo.
Are the Bruins really that good? Time will tell. Under Bruce Cassidy, Boston hasn’t gone through long streaks of highs and lows– in other words, they seem to always be peaking.
Will the Lightning cool off that much?
It’s possible, considering the Maple Leafs might not actually be trying that hard right now. It’s all part of a conspiracy theory pushed forth by @connorzkeith whereby head coach, Mike Babcock, is actually just toying with the league right now and teaching his young kids in Toronto how to play defense. Then one day *boom* Toronto’s offense goes off again.
y-Washington Capitals, 104 points (50 GP so far)
x-Pittsburgh Penguins, 101 points (52 GP so far)
x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 99 points (50 GP so far)
x- New Jersey Devils, 96 points (49 GP so far)
x-Philadelphia Flyers, 89 points (50 GP so far)
New York Islanders, 89 points (52 GP so far)
New York Rangers, 87 points (50 GP so far)
Carolina Hurricanes, 83 points (50 GP so far)
The Metropolitan Division is, at times, really exciting and at other times a crapshoot.
Barry Trotz’s Washington Capitals have figured out their game (like they always do) and should continue to hold onto the regular season division title (cue the cliché Second Round exit joke).
Pittsburgh is hitting their strides, despite shaky goaltending at times– though Washington has seen their share of that too. Speaking of goaltenders, Columbus has a not-so-secret weapon in net– it’s Sergei Bobrovsky and he’s here to keep the team out of a wild card spot.
New Jersey’s hot start was met by a cool middle before figuring out that yes, they can be a playoff team after all. Same thing for the Flyers, but not really. Philadelphia started slow and they’re looking to finish fast (in the 2nd wild card spot in the Eastern Conference).
Other than that, the Islanders and the Rangers look to retool, while Carolina looks to capitalize on selling Hartford Whalers merchandise in Raleigh, North Carolina for the first time at their team store.
Consider me a fan, Tom Dundon.
y-Winnipeg Jets, 112 points (51 GP so far)
x-St. Louis Blues, 103 points (52 GP so far)
x-Chicago Blackhawks, 103 points (50 GP so far)
x-Nashville Predators, 101 points (48 GP so far)
Minnesota Wild, 96 points (50 GP so far)
Dallas Stars, 92 points (51 GP so far)
Colorado Avalanche, 91 points (48 GP so far)
In what might actually be the most exciting playoff push coming down the stretch, the Winnipeg Jets top the Central Division. Prepare for another whiteout at Bell MTS Place.
The St. Louis Blues cruise into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs where it’s make or break– Cup or bust, the Western Conference’s Washington Capitals, except the Blues actually made a conference finals in the last decade.
As always, the Chicago Blackhawks season hasn’t actually started yet, so this whole “they’re last in the Central Division currently” talk is just talk. March comes around and the Blackhawks don’t lose another game until they get swept in the First Round.
Because of Chicago’s immaculate late season surge, Nashville slides into the first wild card spot in the West. No big deal.
Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado, despite missing the playoffs, are all exactly where they want to be. Far ahead of the atrocities in the Atlantic Division, such that Colorado becomes a destination location to land in July.
p-Vegas Golden Knights, 119 points (49 GP so far)
x-Los Angeles Kings, 101 points (50 GP so far)
x-Anaheim Ducks, 98 points (51 GP so far)
x-San Jose Sharks, 97 points (50 GP so far)
Calgary Flames, 88 points (50 GP so far)
Edmonton Oilers, 80 points (49 GP so far)
Vancouver Canucks, 79 points (49 GP so far)
Arizona Coyotes, 57 points (50 GP so far)
The Vegas Golden Knights have already smashed so many records, why not break another one and win the President’s Trophy in their first season of existence as an expansion team?
They’ve already proven they’re the best expansion franchise in the history of the four major North American professional sports.
Los Angeles and Anaheim take advantage of the fact that the San Jose Sharks time is running out with their current core. Deadline moves cost the Sharks a legitimate shot in the playoffs, but at least they still made it as the second wild card from the Western Conference.
Calgary will get better, provided they take care of that defense first.
While disappointing, Edmonton’s misjudgment should be easy to overcome, but they’re going to have to ride out this mediocre season first.
Vancouver’s focus is on getting healthy and always giving Brock Boeser the puck.
Meanwhile, does anyone happen to know if Rasmus Dahlin likes getting his tan on? Because he’s probably headed to Arizona right now, where they might move on from a franchise defenseman (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) to draft… another franchise defenseman. Consider the rebuild over?
The Original Trio reunite for a very fun-filled podcast. The Carolina Hurricanes were sold, Jaromir Jagr is soon to be unsigned, All-Star Rosters were scrutinized, US and Canada men’s national teams were analyzed and more in this action packed episode. #HealthBeforeHockey
Connor and I went long about why Seattle would be an exciting venture for the NHL on the most recent Down the Frozen River Podcast. I was going to write something like this before recording, until the league went ahead and spilled the beans a little earlier than expected (keep reading, you’ll see what I mean) and well… This is DTFR Overtime– go ahead and pour yourself a fresh cup before we dig in.
Something’s brewing in Seattle and it ain’t just another cup of Starbucks.
Los Angeles-based Oak View Group (OVG) expects to complete the renovations by October 2020, which would be just in time for a possible NHL team to take the ice for the 2020-21 season.
Before anyone gets their hopes up, as per the proposal, OVG does not need a team in place to go through with KeyArena’s renovations and has pledged $40 million in a transportation fund for the city to address traffic and parking problems around the arena. An additional $20 million will go from OVG to local charities.
Here’s the kicker out of The Seattle Times report: the NHL is expected to make an announcement by July (2018, for those of you who haven’t realized next year is almost here) regarding a franchise in Seattle via expansion or relocation.
This time around, the expansion fee would be $650 million (up $150 million from when the Vegas Golden Knights went through the expansion process two years ago).
Though every sign points to Seattle becoming part of the NHL’s brand, there’s no guarantee the league will expand to the Emerald City. Relocation could be an option (though league commissioner, Gary Bettman, denies that any current team will be moving) and the NHL still has a lot of homework left (feasibility studies and a season ticket drive– run by OVG– to gauge interest) before the final exam (expansion to Seattle).
The NHL sees green (as in the other 31 teams see about $21 million in expansion fee payouts, not just the Emerald City):
If you’re thinking, “would an NHL team in Seattle be a good idea?” the answer is yes. Don’t be stupid.
Seattle is known for their boisterous Seahawks and Sounders fans (where you at in decibels Mariners fans), as well as their SuperSonics fan base that never died– despite the NBA franchise relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008– but the city’s played a larger part in hockey history than most people might know.
The Seattle Metropolitans– not the New York Rangers– were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers, of course, can lay claim to the fact that they were the first American NHL club to win the Cup in 1928, but the Metropolitans were technically the first American hockey team to win it back in 1917. The Metropolitans were members of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and appeared in three Stanley Cup finals (1917, 1919 and 1920).
Seattle defeated the Montreal Canadiens, then members of the National Hockey Association, three-games-to-one in 1917. The 1919 Stanley Cup Final featured a rematch of the Metropolitans and the Canadiens– now members of the National Hockey League since its inaugural season of 1917-18– was cancelled after five games due to the outbreak of the Spanish Flu with the series tied, 2-2-1. In 1920, the Metropolitans were defeated in the Final in five games by the original Ottawa Senators.
The feasibility of an NHL franchise sustaining itself in Seattle is very high, given the diehard fan base that already exists in all of the other major league sports in the city, let alone the historical significance of hockey in the region. Plus, who wouldn’t love a Pacific Northwest rivalry between neighbors, the Vancouver Canucks and whatever Seattle would be known as (it has to be the Metropolitans or else).
Instead of “can a team last?” the better question would be “can a team move in while renovations are ongoing, a la how the Rangers dealt with Madison Square Garden’s improvements a few years ago?”
The timeline (now through 2020) within the overarching timeline (2020 and beyond), if it even exists, might be crucial to navigating what the looming NHL announcement might be (relocation or expansion). Though given last Thursday’s league statement, it’s (probably) going to be expansion and the Seattle [TEAM TO BE NAMED] will begin play for the 2020-21 season.
And now for something totally inspired by the works of Dave Lozo:
How relocation would work for Seattle if a Western Conference team were on the move:
There are two primary candidates for relocation to Seattle from the NHL’s Western Conference and both of them are already in the Pacific Division, which would negate the need for yet another division realignment this decade. And the candidates are… the Arizona Coyotes and the Calgary Flames.
First up, the Coyotes.
They’re an annual source of relocation rumors, their ownership group has met with people in Seattle before and they don’t have a lease deal in place (technically speaking) with Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes aren’t wanted by the local government in Glendale and their ex (Phoenix) isn’t looking to get back together anytime soon; given the lack of a joint proposal for a new stadium downtown to be shared by the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the NHL’s Coyotes.
Would it be easiest to move Arizona to Seattle? Certainly, if you’re a hockey traditionalist who doesn’t think that the mere existence of the Coyotes in Arizona had anything to do with the fact that Auston Matthews is wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater right now (and totally beating Connor McDavid in the McDavid vs. Matthews argument).
Does it make sense to move the Coyotes? Yes. Out of Glendale at least. The league has been committed to the desert since the franchise jettisoned from Winnipeg in 1996. Even more so now with the existence of “local” rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights, also sharing that desert theme.
So if you’re thinking the Arizona Coyotes could relocate, it’s not going to be to Seattle. Can Vegas be home to two teams? Just wondering.
But what about the Calgary Flames?
The City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment are in a standoff over the use of public funds for a new arena to replace Scotiabank Saddledome. The city has made it clear that they won’t spend one penny on even a pile of dirt for a new home for the Flames, while the Flames have threatened to leave if they don’t get what they want.
We’ve heard this before (hello, NFL’s Los Angeles Rams vs. their former home in St. Louis) and professional sports franchises have moved before because their owners don’t want to finance things privately.
So it’s more than likely that if a team is coming from the Western Conference to Seattle that it’ll be the Flames, which, come to think of it, could make for a killer flaming “S” logo. Why waste the moniker that stuck with the team from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980? Just copy the “C” and paste it upside down and there you have it. I’ve already taken the liberty of creating the logo for you, Flames fans in Seattle.
Should Calgary lose their NHL team over a temper tantrum? No, but crazier things have happened. I mean, we’re talking about the city that hosts Calgary Stampede every year.
How relocation would work for Seattle if an Eastern Conference team were on the move:
Peter Karmanos screws Hartford over one more time by giving them the finger while seated in a private jet as the Hurricanes fly over Connecticut’s capital en route to Québec’s capital city. *But we now know this part, at least, won’t be happening, since the purchase agreement calls for Dallas billionaire, Tom Dundon,– who’s buying a majority stake of the Hurricanes– to not relocate the team for seven years (conveniently the length of time remaining on Carolina’s PNC Arena lease. #Québec2024).*
Thanks to the Houston Astros for finally putting the United States’s fourth most populated metropolitan area on the map with their World Series title this year, the Florida Panthers begin to wonder if they could actually win a Cup by moving to a real sports city– that sports city being the WHA hockey hotbed of Houston, of course.
The Panthers relocate and replicate Major League Baseball’s outlook on the State of Texas, whereby Houston is part of the American League and would be part of the NHL’s Eastern Conference for no other reason than not to disturb the finally balanced conferences after Seattle joins as the 32nd team in the league (because that makes sense).
Finally, the New York Islanders abandon all hope in the Big Apple when it becomes apparent that nobody’s loved them since the 1980s and John Tavares will lea[f]e them for the 6ix in the offseason.
Because of their great relationship with Bridgeport, CT (home of the Islanders’s AHL affiliate, Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and now Worcester, MA (home of the Islanders’s ECHL affiliate, Worcester Railers HC), the Islanders choose to put themselves “between” their farm clubs and successfully bring back the Hartford Whalers (while also continuing to struggle for a new arena, but in Hartford now– shouts XL Center).
Or consider this curveball *which, again, cannot happen as a result of the purchase agreement, pending Board of Governors approval of the final sale of the Carolina Hurricanes*:
The Carolina Hurricanes relocate to Seattle and the NHL finally accepts the deferred expansion bid Quebecor submitted back in 2015 and welcomes Québec City as the 32nd team in the league (welcome back, Québec Nordiques). The conferences are kept in-tact this way and everybody’s happy because the Hurricanes really need to leave Raleigh for an ownership group that will actually love them (along with some fans).
As for Florida and the Islanders, well, they’re on their own in this hypothetical curve.
Nick and Connor address the latest potential-expansion news regarding Seattle, recap the process thus far and speculate about many hypothetical relocation possibilities. Charlotte is better than Raleigh, another Subban was traded and— oh yeah— there’s games on the schedule this weekend.
Nick checks in with Colby Kephart and Frank Fanelli (of Student Union Sports) on Radko Gudas’s suspension, the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Chance The Rapper’s SNL skit for the ages. Also discussed, the overabundance of outdoor games featuring teams that are obviously stuck in a revolving door of outdoor games.
Some of the biggest news and notes (and bad takes) from this week in hockey.
Wednesday was full of surprises as most people probably were distracted by hockey games on TV or at their local rink on Tuesday night.
First, if you didn’t see the news late Tuesday night, then you probably woke up delighted to hear that USA Hockey and the US women’s national team came to an agreement that will 1) pay women’s players more, 2) established a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group to help oversee and assist USA Hockey with fundraising and promoting girls and women’s hockey at all levels to help grow the game and 3) sends the original Team USA members to the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship being held in Plymouth, Michigan (which starts on Friday, by the way).
To summarize, it’s a four-year contract that’s a step forward, but ultimately, probably still not enough to be perfectly ideal and equal. We’ll all keep working on that, right?
I mean, let’s not forget the foolishness of USA Hockey to have contacted members of the U16 team to play against professionals before this agreement was made. Absurd!
Got word now that USA hockey reached out to a player on a U16 (!!!!!) team to play in World Championships.
US games will be carried on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com, so check your local listings for times and more– I’ll be busy watching USA vs Canada on Friday night, thank you very much.
Charlie McAvoy joined the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an ATO for the rest of the season, thereby forgoing his remaining career at Boston University, much to the dismay of Terriers fans (okay, maybe not). Boston Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, was smart not to burn a year off an entry level contract while trying to get McAvoy up to speed in the professional game.
In fact, this is something most general managers have been doing at this point of the season, with the exception of University of North Dakota product and Colorado Avalanche prospect, Tyson Jost’s signing with the Avalanche. Colorado GM Joe Sakic indicated that Jost will be inserted immediately in the lineup– for the remainder of the regular season– in the midst of a season to forget for the Av’s.
As noted by Mike Kelly (NHL Network, TSN, LeafsTV), the Avalanche are really, really bad. Like, really, really, really bad this year.
Tough year for Avalanche, who with 1 more loss, would not have enough points to make playoffs in 48-game, lockout shortened 2012-13 season. pic.twitter.com/OlmnpWUoNo
In other news, Los Angeles Kings forward, Jarome Iginla picked up the game winning goal (his 100th of his career) and the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
Good for him, though I’m sure Flames fans felt uneasy for their favorite adopted son knowing that their team is probably going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead of the Kings. Just like everyone predicted back in October.
Not so long after everyone was gleaming about the US national women’s team agreement with USA Hockey, University of North Dakota cut their women’s hockey program on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s surprise announcement wasn’t the only thing from the league, as NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman was on hand along with members from the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks for the official announcement of the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging that will be played at Mercedes-Benz Arena and the Huaxi LIVE Wukesong’s Le Sports Center in Shanghai on September 21st and September 23rd, respectively.
Expanding the game, good. The whole Kings and Canucks matchup, not as good. I mean, Vancouver is destined for a turnaround, but it just seems like they won’t be competitive enough for Los Angeles, even for preseason games. Then again, the Canucks are quietly gaining ground (on a developmental level).
Last week the league announced the 2017 SAP Global Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Ottawa Senators to take place in Stockholm, Sweden in November. Those regular season games make sense, as long as the Avalanche don’t trade Gabriel Landeskog before then.
But if anything, think of the huge draw for Erik Karlsson fans in his homeland alone.
Both global preseason and regular season games will be the first of their kind since the last regular season games played in Europe in 2011.
And so far through Thursday, looking past matchups and injuries, we’ve been reminded that on this day 38 years ago, the NHL voted on the merger of four World Hockey Association (WHA) teams to begin play in the league for the 1979-1980 season.
Only the playoff bound-for-the-first-time-since 2006, Edmonton Oilers remain in the same location since the merger, as the Winnipeg Jets jettisoned for Arizona, Québec Nordiques left for Colorado and the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes 20 years ago.
There’s only one more day before you have to go back to work. Make it worth it.
I assume that doing so requires hockey, so you have five games to choose from. Today’s action starts at 12:30 p.m. with Minnesota at Detroit (NBC), followed by Dallas at New Jersey at 5 p.m. The usual starting time of 7 p.m. brings with it Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (NBCSN), followed an hour later by Vancouver at Winnipeg (SN). Finally, tonight’s nightcap drops the puck at 9 p.m. with the New York Rangers at Anaheim. All times eastern.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: If anything can spark a late playoff push for the Flyers, it’d be a victory in the Battle for the Keystone State.
New York at Anaheim: Seeing as Brandon Pirri only played nine regular season games with the Ducks last year, it’s hardly a momentous return. Yet, this contest promises to be the best of the day.
Since the Flyers–Penguins rivalry’s zest is diminishing outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, let’s feature the Big Apple for the third-straight day.
Games between Eastern and Western Conference opponents are always weird this time of year. Sometimes both teams can be fighting for their playoff lives or scrapping for a better seed, while other teams are simply playing one of the remaining fixtures on their increasingly unimportant schedule.
Of course, the weirdest situation of all is the one we have tonight, when one club has little to nothing to gain from an inter-conference matchup since they are effectively locked into their playoff position, while the other is still fighting for the best of four spots available.
Tonight, the 46-25-4 Rangers own the role of the “little to gain, little to lose” character. They trail Pittsburgh by seven points for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and a dozen points separate them from the second wildcard.
This may be a weird metaphor, but I imagine New York as a retired elderly gentleman, sitting in a rocker in his screened-in porch. He does not care if it is hot and the bugs are out – he has a fan and the screen keeps the bugs away. He does not care if it rains – he will stay dry and appreciate the ambiance of the rain shower. He does as he wishes and prepares for the next thing he knows he has on his to-do list.
If that doesn’t give away that I live in the South, I don’t know what does.
For those wondering, the next thing for the Rangers to do is gel in anticipation of the playoffs. Of course, they’ve shown they can do that already this year – especially on offense, as their 235 goals is tied with Minnesota for the third-highest total in the NHL.
Mats Zuccarello has been on an absolute tear of late. If it weren’t for his pointless effort at New Jersey on Tuesday, the wing would be riding a seven-game point streak, including two games with two points. In fact, he’s been so impressive that he’s taken over New York‘s clubhouse points lead from J.T. Miller.
Of course, it would be unwise to ignore Michael Grabner. Though he hasn’t buried a goal since March 13, he still leads the squad with his 27 tallies. His lead has certainly slimmed during his dry spell, as he has only one more marker than Chris Kreider.
Much of the reason for Zuccarello’s surge has been his success on the power play. Since his hot streak has began, the Rangers‘ 29.4% power play ranks third-best in the NHL, and he’s been at the forefront of it all. The wing has earned four of his points with the man-advantage in this run, including two goals (both are the highest totals on the team during this stretch).
The one thing the Blueshirts have not been able to figure out all season has been their penalty kill. No matter what Alain Vigneault does, he cannot get his club to do any better than its 79.6% season kill rate – the eighth-worst in the league, and second-worst among clubs currently in playoff position.
Meanwhile, any result from tonight’s game can drastically effect 40-23-11 Anaheim‘s postseason. Currently, the Ducks are in a three-way tie with both Edmonton and San Jose atop the Pacific Division, and the Ducks win the games-played tiebreaker with their game-in-hand.
Since the Oilers and Sharks are both inactive this evening, that un-played contest takes place tonight and provides the opportunity to either take a true lead or drop the Anaheim to second place in the Pacific behind San Jose (the Ducks lead the season series against Edmonton 2-1-1, but have fewer regulation+overtime victories than the Sharks).
Defense is the name of the game on The Pond, as the Ducks have allowed only 179 goals against, which ties for third-fewest in the league. Usually, the crease has belonged to 23-16-8 John Gibson, but he’s been fighting a lower body injury for two weeks.
Instead, it’s presumed the Ducks will turn to 17-7-3 Jonathan Bernier, who currently has them riding a three-game winning streak. Since Gibson went down, Bernier has been in net for all of Anaheim‘s games and has allowed only nine goals against – tied for the fewest in the league in that time among the 14 goaltenders with six or more appearances. In addition, his .947 save percentage and 1.48 GAA over that stretch is second-best and tops in the NHL, respectively, among those 14 aforementioned netminders.
Part of the reason Bernier has been able to find such success is because his defense has stepped up to make his job easier on him. While Anaheim‘s blueline has been good for the entire season (their 29.5 shots-against-average is ninth-best in the NHL), they’ve allowed only 169 total shots to reach Bernier since Gibson went down, the lowest mark in the league.
Hampus Lindholm is certainly deserving of much praise for those solid results, but he’s joined by an unlikely aide: center Ryan Getzlaf. Both skaters have blocked 13 shots apiece since Gibson’s injury, and they’re joined by six others that have blocked at least five or more shots in that time. The entire squad is buying in and sacrificing their bodies for the greater good of the club, and their efforts are paying off in the win column.
More on Getzlaf: he actually has blocked the most shots all season among Western Conference forwards, and the third-most overall. Add in the fact that he has 55 takeaways this year, and we just might have ourselves a Frank J. Selke Trophy candidate.
Making the defense’s performance even more impressive, it has been put under additional strain to perform by the Ducks‘ power play. Instead of taking advantage of teams when they’re shorthanded, Anaheim has scored only one power play goal in the past two weeks for a 4.8% success rate – the second-worst mark in the NHL.
Though he leads the club in power play goals (seven) and co-leads in power play points (18, tied with Corey Perry), Ryan Kesler has not buried a goal with the man-advantage since December 4. That’s almost four months ago! If the Ducks are not careful, this man-advantage slump will, not can, bite them in the butt.
Some players to keep an eye on during tonight’s game include Anaheim‘s Getzlaf (48 assists [tied for fourth-most in the league]) and New York‘s Lundqvist (30 wins [tied for eighth-most in the NHL]).
Anaheim is marked as a -140 favorite to win tonight, which is actually the narrowest line I’ve found in a quick search. The matchup tonight is simple: can the Ducks‘ defense shut down Zuccarello? If they can, they’re on their way to two points. If not, their remaining seven games just got even more important than they already were.
Roger Leger (1919-1965) – A Quebec-native is never happier than when he’s playing for the Canadiens. That’s what this defenseman got to do for four of his five seasons in the league, though he must be one of the few Habs during the Original Six Era to retire without winning a Stanley Cup.
Ulf Samuelsson (1964-) – In comparison, this longtime Whalers defenseman played in the NHL for 16 seasons and twice hoisted the most coveted trophy in sports – though not with Hartford, of course. Instead, he was a member of both Penguins squads that etched their names into the Stanley Cup in the early 90s.
Michael Peca (1974-) – Selected by Vancouver 40th-overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, this center is similar to Samuelsson in the sense that he won one trophy twice, but it was the Selke Trophy instead of the Stanley Cup. Playing most of his 14-year career with Buffalo, he notched 217 points while wearing the blue-and-gold.
Jimmy Howard (1984-) – This goaltender was selected by Detroit with the 64th-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he’s played each and every one of his 396 career games in the league. In total, he’s earned a 197-121-54 record and made one All-Star Game appearance.
Every once in a while, a player refuses to lose a particular game. In yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, that player was First Star of the Game Riley Nash, who scored both Bruins goals to lead them to a 2-1 victory over the Islanders.
What seemed to spur Nash was Third Star John Tavares‘ (Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson) snap shot with 9:55 remaining in the first period. It proved to be New York‘s lone goal of the game, but that was all the spark Nash needed. He buried an unassisted wrist shot only 36 seconds later to tie the game at one-all.
The draw held until the 4:12 mark of the third period when Nash (Dominic Moore) scored only his seventh tally of the season and sixth game-winner of his NHL career on a snapper.
Not all heroes wear capes, as Nash’s solid effort ended Boston‘s four-game losing skid and moved it into the second wildcard in the Eastern Conference.
Second Star Anton Khudobin earned the victory after saving 18-of-19 shots faced (94.7%), leaving the loss to Thomas Greiss, who saved 16-of-18 (88.9%).
It’s a perplexing situation, but road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a combined 81-56-23 record, which is three points better than the series’ hosts.
There’s only two games on Wednesday’s schedule, but don’t let that distract from the quality of at least one of the matchups. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Carolina at Tampa Bay, followed an hour later by Pittsburgh at Chicago (NBCSN/SN/TVAS).
Although the Lightning are fighting valiantly to break into the playoff discussion, there’s no way we’re passing up the opportunity to witness a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview.
The Penguins make their yearly trip to the United Center with a 38-15-8 record, the third-best mark in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. As you’d expect from a club that has one of the all-time best players at the helm, offense is the name of the game for the Pens, as they’ve accounted for 211 goals this year – the most in the NHL.
That player hinted at above is, of course, Captain Sidney Crosby. He’s scored 34 goals for 67 points, both the best marks on the squad. On pace for 93 points by season’s end, it’ll be his best campaign since 2013-’14 when he broke the 100-point mark for the fifth time of his career.
With an offense like that, it’s hard to struggle on the power play. Considered, is a 21.6% conversion rate – ninth-best in the league – struggling? Regardless of the answer (I’d argue yes, but I’m also a little biased), Phil Kessel has been an absolute machine when his club has the man-advantage. He’s registered 26 points on the power play this season, which ties for the best mark in the league. Most of those have been helpers though, as he’s preferred to set up Crosby, who has a team-high 11 extra-man goals.
Playing host this evening are the 39-18-5 Blackhawks, the second-best team in both the Central Division and the Western Conference. As you’d expect from a club that has won its last four games and has such a position in the conference table, Chicago plays very well on both ends of the ice, yet it’s their offense that has been powering this team this season, as they’ve accounted for 185 goals in 62 games – the seventh-best rate in the league.
It’s nowhere near last year’s Hart, Lindsay and Ross-winning 106- point performance, but Patrick Kane is still the man making the Blackhawks machine run. He leads the club with 65 points and 24 goals.
What is probably the biggest surprise for a team of this caliber is how much Chicago has struggled on the penalty kill. Successfully neutralizing only 76.4% of opposing power plays, the Blackhawks rank third-worst in the NHL. The injured Niklas Hjalmarsson has tried his hardest to resolve this issue with his 34 shorthanded shot blocks, but he’s the only member of the club to have more than 25 to his credit.
Only one other team currently qualifying for the playoffs – the Montréal Canadiens – can claim one of the bottom-10 penalty kills in the league. They’ve already made an effort to resolve that issue by trading for Johnny Oduya, who’s 22 shorthanded blocks on the season already rank second-most for the Hawks without him even playing a game in a red sweater.
Both clubs have a lot to gain from a victory tonight. If the visiting Penguins come away with victory (heck, even if they only force the game beyond regulation), they’ll improve to second-place in the Metropolitan Division – though they don’t really clear Columbus, as the Jackets will trail by only two points and have a game in hand. Pittsburgh also has the most to lose from a regulation loss for that exact same reason, as well as the Rangers trailing them by only two points.
Less pressure is on the Hawks as far as losing is concerned, but winning provides a valuable prize. Since the Wild, who lead Chicago by five points, are inactive tonight, the Blackhawks would pull within three points of the Western Conference lead.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Chicago‘s Scott Darling (.929 save percentage [tied for second-best in the NHL] for a 2.18 GAA [tied for fourth-best in the league]) and Kane (41 assists [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] for 65 points [tied for fifth-most in the league]) & Pittsburgh‘s Crosby (34 goals [most in the NHL] for 67 points [second-most in the league]), Evgeni Malkin (62 points [eighth-most in the NHL]), Matthew Murray (.926 save percentage [tied for fifth-best in the league] for a 2.29 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]) and Justin Schultz (+30 [tied for fifth-best in the league]).
Chicago is absolutely rolling right now. In their last 10 games, they’ve only lost one contest. One. Of course, the Penguins are a more than worthy adversary, but I don’t see the Blackhawks getting pushed around too much at the United Center.
Max Bentley (1920-1984) – The most successful of the three Bentley brothers, this Hall-of-Fame center played a dozen seasons in the NHL – most of which in Toronto. In his six campaigns with the Maple Leafs, he hoisted the Stanley Cup three times. The four-time All-Star also won the 1943 Lady Byng and 1946 Hart Memorial Trophies.
Allan Stanley (1926-2013) – This defenseman also had a knack for hoisting the Cup, as he did it four times over his 21-season career – all with Toronto, his longest tenured club. Named to the Hall of Fame in 1981, he played in seven All-Star games.
Ron Francis (1963-) – Greatness must have been created on this date, as this Hall of Fame center was also born on March 1. Selected by Hartford fourth-overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Francis played almost his entire 23-year career with the Whalers/Hurricanes franchise. Two of the years he was absent from the organization were spent in Pittsburgh, where he won back-to-back Stanley Cups. The four-time All-Star won the Byng Trophy three times, as well as the 1995 Frank Selke and the 2002 King Clancy Memorial Trophies.
Brad Winchester (1981-) – Known most for his St. Louis days, this left wing was selected 35th-overall by Edmonton in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He officially retired from the NHL in 2015, three years after his final appearance in the league.
Alex Steen (1984-) – Picked 24th-overall by Toronto in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, this center is playing his ninth season in St. Louis this year. He’s scored 520 points during his career, 209 of which are goals.
Washington took the Rangers to the woodshed in yesterday’s DtFR Game of they Day, as they won 4-1 at the Madison Square Garden.
New York‘s lone tally was struck only 5:08 into the game, belonging to Brady Skjei (Adam Clendening and J.T. Miller) on a tip-in. The Blueshirts‘ 1-0 lead held into the first intermission.
The Capitals finally got on the board at the 27:28 mark of regulation with a snap shot from First Star of the Game Marcus Johansson (Dmitry Orlov and Second Star Evgeny Kuznetsov), followed 8:58 later by Brett Connolly‘s (Third Star Matt Niskanen and Lars Eller) wrist shot that proved to be the game-winner. No other scores were struck in the second period, leaving the score at 2-1 going into the second intermission.
Johansson (Kuznetsov and Niskanen) and Nicklas Backstrom (Johansson and John Carlson) provided the two insurance goals in the final frame to put the final nails in New York‘s coffin.
Thursday is one of my favorite nights for hockey. Not only is there usually tons of games on, but there’s only one more day of work and, hey, Thirsty Thursday isn’t just an expression!
In all seriousness though, there’s some high-quality games being played tonight, even if there’s only six on the schedule. The action starts at 7:30 p.m. with three contests (the New York Islanders at Montréal [RDS], the New York Rangers at Toronto [TVAS] and Calgary at Tampa Bay), followed half an hour later by Colorado at Nashville (SN360). Arizona at Chicago (NBCSN) drops the puck at 8:30 p.m., followed two hours later by tonight’s nightcap: Boston at Los Angeles (SN).
It’s been a week since we’ve featured the Rangers, and even longer for the Maple Leafs. Let’s get both off that list by featuring the biggest city in the United States against the biggest in Canada. Off to the Air Canada Centre!
The Rangers make their trip to The Queen City with a 38-19-2 record, the fourth-best mark in both the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. The reason for that success? An impressive offense that has managed 196 goals, the third-most in the NHL.
Even though he’s only in his third full season with the senior club, J.T. Miller has been at the head of that attack with his team-leading 46 points, already accounting for three more scores than his previous career-high. He’s certainly proven that Glen Sather was right to draft him 15th-overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Part of the reason Miller has been so deadly is due to linemate Michael Grabner, who takes credit for a team-high 26 goals. Just like Miller has already done Grabner is on pace to exceed his current 34-goal career-high by three goals.
Hosting the Blueshirts tonight are the always exciting Maple Leafs, whose 28-20-11 record has earned them third place in the Atlantic Division. As you’d expect from a team that has won their past two games and drafted a center with the first pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, offense is the name of the game in Toronto, as they’ve managed 185 goals already this season, which ties for fifth-most in the NHL.
That rookie, of course, is Arizonan Auston Matthews, and he’s already made an immeasurable impact on a franchise that hasn’t tasted the playoffs since 2013. Not only is he a shining light at the end of the tunnel for brighter futures, he’s providing an early sampler by having the Leafs competitive ahead of schedule thanks to his team-leading 52 points (the second-most among rookies).
Matthews has been especially deadly when he calls his own number. As he grows his supporting cast, the center will learn to distribute the puck just as much as he shoots, but it’s certainly been a pleasure to witness him bury a team-leading 28 goals this season, a total that ties for fourth-most in the league regardless of NHL-tenure.
You’re hard-pressed to find a better club on the power play than Toronto, because there isn’t one. Successful on 23.5% of attempts, the Maple Leafs are best in the league. Since Matthews has been busy with operating the even-strength action, fellow rookie William Nylander has taken up the role of “power play specialist,” as his 19 points with the man-advantage is tops in Toronto. Yet it’s been Nazem Kadri who has been the most dangerous with the extra man, as he has a team-leading 10 power play goals on his resume.
New York shouldn’t expect to catch the Leafs napping when they commit a penalty either, as Toronto is home to the (t)eighth-best penalty kill in the NHL. Led by Roman Polak‘s solid 28 shorthanded blocks, the Maple Leafs don’t yield a goal in 83.3% of penalty kill situations.
Tonight marks the final of three meeting between these clubs this season, and it’s a true rubber match as both sides have a 1-1-0 record against the other. In an interesting turn of events, both teams have won on their opponent’s ice. The Leafs beat New York 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on January 13, followed six days later by the Rangers besting Toronto 5-2 on tonight’s surface.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include New York‘s Grabner (+28 [eighth-best in the league] with 26 goals [10th-most in the NHL]) and Henrik Lundqvist (27 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) or Antti Raanta (2.32 GAA [ninth-best in the NHL]) & Toronto‘s Frederik Andersen (24 wins [10th-most in the league]) and Matthews (28 goals [tied for fourth-most in the NHL]).
It’s not much of line, but Vegas favors Toronto to win tonight’s game with a -110 line. Although both teams have exceptional offenses, I’m leaning towards the Leafs winning tonight’s contest. Not only do they have home ice, but both of Toronto‘s special teams have been exceptional this season, and that should give them the edge.
Jeff O’Neill (1976-) – Drafted fifth-overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing was selected by Hartford and spent most of his playing days with the organization – even if a majority of that time was in Carolina! He was named an All-Star one time in his 11-year career.
Dan Snyder (1978-2003) – Due to a single car accident cutting his life short, this center played only 49 games in the NHL (all with Atlanta), but his memory lives on in various forms, including the organization (now in Winnipeg) and the Chicago Wolves naming awards in his memory and the creation of a scholarship for natives of his hometown Elmira, Ontario, among others.
If only Philadelphia hadn’t committed goaltender interference as its disallowed goal slipped by Braden Holtby 23 seconds into the game, maybe this DtFR Game of the Day would have ended differently for them. Instead, the Capitals swiped a cool 4-1 victory.
The first goal of the game that stayed on the scoreboard belonged to Nicklas Backstrom (Second Star of the Game T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin), who scored his snap shot 6:33 after the initial puck drop. First Star Evgeny Kuznetsov (John Carlson and Justin Williams) followed that up with 3:32 remaining in the frame by scoring a power play snapper to set the score at 2-0. That final goal of the period proved to be the winning tally.
6:54 into the second period, Third Star Brayden Schenn (Brandon Manning) tried to spark life into the Flyers with a deflection that found the back of the net, but Kuznetsov (Williams and Taylor Chorney) once again set the scoring advantage for Washington at two goals by burying a deflection of his own with 2:01 remaining in the frame.
Oshie (Ovechkin and Backstrom) provided a final insurance tally with 5:17 remaining in the game to ensure a Caps win.
Holtby earned the victory after saving 33-of-34 shots faced (97.1%), leaving the loss to Michal Neuvirth, who saved 25-of-29 (86.2%).
If a team is going to be featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series, they want to be wearing white, as the 65-43-21 road teams have won their past five contests and now have a five-point lead over the hosts.