Tag Archives: Jacob Markstrom

DTFR Podcast #133- Stuffed

The Original Trio reunites to talk recent trades, recent coaching changes, the Buffalo Sabres current winning streak, a haphazard review of the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers, as well as a look at the division standings as of American Thanksgiving.

Craig Berube is now in charge behind the bench of the St. Louis Blues and Ken Hitchcock is back from retirement to coach the Oilers after Mike Yeo and Todd McLellan were both fired respectively from their clubs.

Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a star in Buffalo as the team rises in the standings– can the Sabres keep this up? Will Dahlin get some votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year and does Phil Housley deserve credit for the team’s turnaround?

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Canucks rout Bruins, 8-5

One more goal and the Vancouver Canucks dressing room could’ve been singing Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” after Thursday night’s win on the road.

Jaroslav Halak (4-1-2, .936 save percentage, 1.96 goals against average in 9 games played) got the start in goal for the Boston Bruins, but was pulled after allowing five goals in favor of Tuukka Rask (4-4-0, .901 SV% and 3.05 GAA in 8 GP).

Halak stopped 14 shots out of 19 shots faced (.737 SV%) in 34:53 time on ice in the loss, while Rask made 11 saves on 14 shots against (.786 SV%) in 25:07 TOI.

Jacob Markstrom (7-3-1, .921 SV%, 3.28 GAA in 11 GP) made 23 saves on 28 shots faced for an .821 SV% in 60-minutes played en route to the, 8-5, win for the Canucks.

11 players recorded at least a point for Vancouver in the victory, while eight players recorded points for the Bruins. David Krejci had a team-high three assists and Jake DeBrusk also had three points (2-1–3 totals) for Boston.

As a result of the loss, Boston fell to 4th in the Atlantic Division with an 8-5-2 record (18 points) on the season. The Canucks maintained possession of 1st place in the Pacific Division, improving to 10-6-1 (21 points) so far.

Vancouver waltzed to sweep the season series against Boston, 2-0-0, with a 2-1 win on home ice at Rogers Arena in overtime on Oct. 20th in addition to Thursday’s 8-5 win at TD Garden.

Thursday night also marked the first time Vancouver scored eight goals in a game since doing so on Nov. 14, 2009 at Colorado.

Bruce Cassidy kept his lines the same from Monday’s matchup (and 2-1 win in overtime) against the Dallas Stars, while only three Bruins remained out of the lineup due to injury (Charlie McAvoy, upper body, Kevan Miller, hand and Urho Vaakanainen, concussion).

Miller and Vaakanainen have been skating on their own at practice, while McAvoy’s status remains shrouded in mystery (other than being on the injured reserve).

With Alex Edler out of the lineup for the Canucks Thursday night, only five players from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final were in action for both teams– incidentally, all of them still on the Bruins (Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Rask).

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Early in the action, Bo Horvat (6) broke the 0-0 tie, capitalizing on a bad bounce and firing the puck past Halak’s glove side while his own defender, John Moore, provided a partial screen in front.

Horvat’s goal was unassisted and gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 2:46 of the first period.

The Canucks entered Thursday night 4-0-1 when scoring first this season and they would improve to 5-0-1 by the final horn. Meanwhile, the B’s were 3-4-1 when allowing the first goal against so far this season and are now 3-5-1 when doing so.

But for all the blunders that built up to giving up the game’s first goal, the Bruins regathered themselves and fought back in a strenuous first period.

Matt Grzelcyk (1) slapped one past Markstrom for his first goal of the season from the point at 13:41 and tied the game, 1-1.

Krejci (9) and DeBrusk (2) picked up the assist’s on the goal and the score remained tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission.

After 20 minutes of play, the game was tied, 1-1, and Vancouver was leading in shots on goal (8-5), as well as face-off win percentage (57-44). Boston had the advantage in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (5-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (12-8). Neither team had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

Just 36 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (8) gathered a rebound and pocketed it behind Markstrom to give the Bruins their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Torey Krug (3) had the only assist on the goal as a result of purposefully shooting the puck to generate a rebound with Bergeron standing right in front of the goal ready to collect the garbage.

Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer, checked Vancouver forward, Antoine Roussel without the puck and received a minor penalty for interference at 3:58 of the second period, sending the Canucks on their first power play of the night.

Vancouver was not able to convert on their first power play opportunity, but set the tone for the remainder of their skater advantages for the rest of the game with some quality chances.

Former Bruin, Loui Eriksson (2) struck go[aled] adding a tally at 7:02 of the second period, tying the game, 2-2, when Boston failed to clear the puck out of their own zone and couldn’t even come up with possession as Brandon Carlo was without a stick.

The Canucks smashed a shot wide off the end boards and capitalized on the carom with Halak out of position, thereby letting Eriksson tie the game.

Erik Gudbranson (5) and Markus Granlund (4) had the assists on Eriksson’s first of the night.

Nine seconds later, Grzelcyk cut a rut to the sin bin for high-sticking Vancouver’s Brendan Leipsic at 7:11.

While on the penalty kill, Bergeron and Marchand almost perfected a break-in with a one-timer opportunity from Bergeron to Marchand, but the puck went wide of the goal and the Canucks pounced back the other way.

Ben Hutton (4) sent a wrist shot past Halak from the blue line after the Canucks moved the puck quickly in the attacking zone while on the power play. Hutton’s power play goal gave Vancouver two unanswered goals in 1:26 and the lead, 3-2, at 8:28 of the second period.

Horvat (5) and Nikolay Goldobin (7) had the assists on the goal.

Vancouver’s lead wasn’t for long as the Bruins struck back 32 seconds later, with DeBrusk (4) tipping the puck past Markstrom to tie the game, 3-3, at 9:00.

Krejci (10) and Joakim Nordstrom (1) recorded the primary and secondary assist’s, respectively, on DeBrusk’s first goal of the night.

Kampfer couldn’t get enough of Roussel after his first penalty moments earlier, so he reached out and got just enough of a hold on him to be assessed a minor infraction for holding at 11:30, sending the Canucks back on the power play at 11:30 of the second period.

Eriksson (3) continued to get revenge on his former team by adding his second goal of the night– this time on the power play– with a tip-in goal at 13:23. Hutton (2) and Leipsic (2) had the assists on the goal that put Vancouver ahead, 4-3.

90 seconds later, Roussel (3) added a goal to make it a two-goal lead for the Canucks at 14:53 of the second period. Granlund (5) and Michael Del Zotto (2) had the assist’s on Roussel’s wacky redirection past Halak to make it, 5-3, Vancouver.

Having surrendered five goals against, Cassidy replaced Halak with Rask after Roussel’s tally.

Late in the second period, Horvat was sent to the penalty box with a two-minute minor penalty for slashing Bruins defenseman, Torey Krug, at 16:13.

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Boston converted on the ensuing power play by working the puck to the dashers and sending a saucer pass to DeBrusk (5) for the redirection past Markstrom from right in front of the net.

DeBrusk had his second goal of the night– his first on the power play– and entered his name in the hat trick watch competition with his opponent, Eriksson, though neither player would complete the rarity of a three-goal game Thursday night.

Krug (4) and Marchand (12) had the assist’s on DeBrusk’s goal at 17:18 of the second period and the Bruins pulled to within one, 5-4.

There was little cause for celebration as Gudbranson (1) notched his first goal of the season for Vancouver moments later on yet another embarrassing effort by the Bruins brass on defense and in goal.

Horvat (6) and Eriksson (6) collected the assist’s on Gudbranson’s goal at 19:28 and the Canucks led, 6-4.

Through 40 minutes of play, Vancouver led, 6-4, on the scoreboard and, 22-16, in shots on goal. The Canucks outshot the Bruins, 14-11, in the second period alone, while the B’s held onto an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-7), giveaways (10-3) and hits (22-9). Vancouver maintained an advantage in face-off win% (53-47).

The Canucks were 2/3 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while Boston went into the dressing room 1/1 on the skater advantage.

Horvat tripped up David Pastrnak 38 seconds into the third period, putting Boston on the power play, but it would be a short-lived extra skater advantage as Marchand retaliated with a slash on Hutton at 1:32 of the third.

Both teams would play 4-on-4 for 1:06, then have an abbreviated 5-on-4 power play for Vancouver.

Horvat went back to the penalty box for the third time of the night when he caught Krug with a high-stick at 7:27 of the third period.

The B’s ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage about a minute later after Hutton slashed Pastrnak at 8:52, but Boston’s power play was powerless on the 35-second two-skater advantage and in the vulnerable minute after when Horvat lucked out with a shorthanded goal of his own individual effort at 9:40.

Rask tried to clear the puck, but sent it awry off of Horvat’s stick as the Canucks forward was pressuring the Bruins netminder. While Rask scrambled to make a last ditch effort play, Horvat buried the puck in the empty twine to make it, 7-4, Vancouver.

Through 10 road games this season, Horvat now has eight goals.

After a stoppage in play at 9:49 of the third period, Troy Stecher and DeBrusk exchanged some words and DeBrusk wound up with the take-down. Both players were assessed roughing minors and went to the penalty box to serve their infractions.

Jake Virtanen (6) added the final goal of the night for the Canucks on a crazy changeup shot that deflected off of Bergeron’s stick and past his own goaltender at 11:12 of the third.

Goldobin (8) and Elias Pettersson (7) had the assists on the goal that made it, 8-4, for the Canucks.

Hutton went back to the penalty box at 11:50 for slashing Bruins veteran, David Backes, and Boston responded on the ensuing power play with Danton Heinen (1) redirecting a slap pass from Grzelcyk past Markstrom at 13:38.

The Bruins once again trailed by three-goals, 8-5, and Grzelcyk (6) and Krejci (11) recorded the assists on Heinen’s first goal of the season– ending his goal-scoring drought at 13 games.

Darren Archibald and Krug mixed things up with an unequal (in size) fight at 17:48 of the third period, as Krug expressed his frustration with a disappointing effort.

No. 47 in black-and-gold picked up an extra two-minutes for instigating and as a result was charged with an automatic ten-minute misconduct.

Anders Bjork served Krug’s minor infraction for instigating, while Krug was sent to the dressing room early. Archibald, meanwhile, was charged with five minutes for fighting.

At the final horn, the Canucks had beaten the Bruins, 8-5, in a high-scoring, wildly all-over-the-place effort form both teams– with only slightly more sparks of brilliance from the team from Vancouver than unfortunate, unlucky, odd bounces and misplays for the team from Boston.

Vancouver finished the 60-minute effort ahead of the Bruins in shots on goal (33-28), despite being outshot in the third period, 12-11. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (14-6) and hits (23-15), while the Canucks led in face-off win% (52-48).

Both teams finished Thursday night 2/5 on the power play.

As a result of the loss, the Bruins faltered to 1-1-0 on their current four-game homestand with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town Saturday night and the Vegas Golden Knights paying a visit on Sunday.

Toronto is 6-0-0 on the road this season, while the Golden Knights are 3-6-0 away from T-Mobile Arena so far this season.

Boston wraps up their homestand against Vegas on Sunday before heading off to begin a four-game road trip with a matchup on the road against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, Nov. 14th.

Canucks slip past Bruins, 2-1, in OT

Saturday night at Rogers Arena, the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in overtime thanks to a little puck luck all night.

Brandon Sutter snuck the puck past Jaroslav Halak early in the first period to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. Joakim Nordstrom tied the game in the third period and Bo Horvat worked a little magic to ding the post and trickle the biscuit past Halak in overtime for the game-winning goal.

Halak (2-0-2, 1.74 goals against average, .933 save percentage) stopped 20 out 22 shots faced for a .909 SV% Saturday night in the loss, while Jacob Markstrom (2-2-0, 3.22 GAA, .903 SV%) made 30 saves on 31 shots against for a .968 SV% in the win.

The Bruins (4-2-2, 10 points) were looking to end a two-game losing streak and instead came out of Vancouver with a three-game skid. They are now 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip which ends Tuesday night in Kanata, Ontario against the Ottawa Senators (4-2-1, 9 points).

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Vancouver improved to 5-3-0 (10 points) on the season, good enough for 2nd place in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks by one point in the division standings.

Urho Vaakanainen made his National Hockey League debut for Boston after being recalled on emergency basis when the Bruins announced that they had sent defenders Kevan Miller and Charlie McAvoy back to Boston for further evaluation pertaining to Miller’s hand injury sustained while blocking a shot against the Oilers on Thursday and McAvoy (undisclosed, though likely upper body).

The 19-year-old, Vaakanainen was drafted by the Bruins in the 1st round of the 2017 NHL Draft (18th overall) and played for the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Friday before hopping on a flight to Vancouver prior to Saturday’s action. He wore No. 58 for the black-and-gold and played 12:26 time on ice, recording one shot on goal while being paired with Steven Kampfer and Matt Grzelcyk at times.

Kampfer returned to the Bruins lineup for the first time since being re-acquired in the Adam McQuaid preseason trade with the New York Rangers. Kampfer last played for Boston in 2012 and had three hits in Saturday’s action.

David Backes wasn’t feeling well and became a late scratch, having not participated in warmups, so Bruce Cassidy planned on having Nordstrom center the third line with Ryan Donato to his left side and Anders Bjork at right wing.

Danton Heinen remained on the left side of David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, while Chris Wagner was moved to the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari to begin the action.

Wagner, Nordstrom and Bjork would later become an effective matchup of their own in the game– leading to Nordstrom’s game-tying goal in the third period– while Cassidy juggled the lines.

With Miller and McAvoy out on the blue line, Zdeno Chara laced up alongside Brandon Carlo, with John Moore starting the game with Kampfer on the second defensive pair. Vaakanainen and Grzelcyk filled out the remainder of the top-six.

Of note, only Patrice Bergeron, Chara, Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask remain on the Bruins roster from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks. Alex Edler is the only connection to that series against Boston for Vancouver.

Brandon Sutter (3) kicked off scoring early in the first period when he snuck the puck underneath Halak for a soft opening goal to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Jake Virtanen (2) and Troy Stecher (2) had the assists at 3:40.

Erik Gudbranson was penalized for tripping Kuraly at 11:13 of the first period, but the Bruins brass was unable to convert on the ensuing power play.

Chara went to the box to serve a tripping minor of his own for pulling down Brock Boeser at 13:37 and the Canucks failed to convert on their only power play of the night.

After one period, Vancouver held on to a 1-0 lead, while also leading in shots on goal, 8-5. The Canucks also led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (9-4), while the B’s led in face-off win percentage (54-46). Blocked shots were even (3-3), as well as takeaways (2-2) after 20 minutes of play and both teams were 0/1 on the skater advantage.

Noel Acciari took exception to a clean hit by Bo Horvat delivered on Joakim Nordstrom as Nordstrom was attempting to play the puck out of mid-air and the two exchanged fisticuffs at 2:14 of the second period.

Acciari and Horvat were handed fighting majors, while Acciari received some slight medical attention for a cut on the left side of his face.

It was the second career fight for Horvat and fourth fight of the season for the Bruins.

Markstrom made a spectacular save without his stick moments later, while sprawling in the crease to recover the puck from going past the goal line, then rolling away on his back to keep it out.

Despite Canucks head coach, Travis Green‘s best intentions, Vancouver was called for too many men on the ice at 5:19 of the second period and Virtanen served the bench minor while the Bruins went on the power play.

Boston did not convert on the advantage.

Markus Granlund committed the final penalty of the game by slashing Bruins forward, Jake DeBrusk at 16:07. Once again, Boston’s power play was power-less.

Through 40 minutes of game action, the Canucks held onto a 1-0 lead, while Boston was outshooting Vancouver, 20-13 (and 15-5 in the second period alone). The Canucks had an advantage in blocked shots (9-6), takeaways (8-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (18-7), while the Bruins maintained dominance on the face-off dot, winning 54% of the face-offs entering the second intermission.

Vancouver was 0/1 on the power play and Boston was 0/3 entering the third period.

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The quest for the Canucks first regular season home shutout against the Bruins in franchise history continues as Joakim Nordstrom (2) sniped a snap shot past Markstrom at 7:45 of the third period to tie the game, 1-1.

John Moore (1) collected the primary assist– and his 100th career NHL point– on the goal, while Matt Grzelcyk (4) notched the secondary helper.

Nordstrom’s goal was high-glove side off of a solid breakout through the neutral zone and matched his total goal-scoring output from last season (two goals in 75 games for the Carolina Hurricanes) in just his seventh game this season.

With the score tied, 1-1, at the end of regulation, 3-on-3 overtime was to commence at Rogers Arena late Saturday night.

The Bruins were outshooting Vancouver, 30-19, after 60 minutes of play– including a 10-6 shots on goal advantage in the third period alone.

But the Canucks got the last laugh as Boston was unable to generate any sustainable pressure in the offensive zone in overtime, especially after Brandon Carlo bungled a play to stay onside and lost the puck to Brock Boeser in the neutral zone.

Boeser moved in with Horvat on a two-on-one with Carlo in desperation to get back, while Patrice Bergeron attempted to make a last-ditch effort.

The Vancouver forwards toyed with the puck long enough for Carlo to stumble to the ice in front of his own net and let Horvat (5) deke and send one off the iron and bouncing past Halak for the game-winning goal in overtime.

Boeser (3) had the only assist on the goal at 3:12.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-22, though the Canucks led in shots, 3-1, in overtime. Vancouver also ended the night leading in blocked shots (14-9), giveaways (8-4) and hits (26-11), while Boston led in face-off win% (56-44).

Among other stats…

Krejci, Acciari, Marchand, Carlo and Vaakanainen were all minus-one for Boston in the loss, while Bjork (plus-one) and Moore (plus-one) were the only positive plus/minus skaters for the Bruins.

Kampfer led the B’s in the physicality department without Backes, McAvoy and Miller in the lineup, with three hits on the night, while Nordstrom and Kuraly were the next closest (each with two).

Wagner and David Pastrnak led Boston in shots on goal with five each.

Chara and Nordstrom each had two blocked shots as Nordstrom was the most complete all-around skater for Boston Saturday night.

Boeser, Horvat, Virtanen and Chris Tanev were all plus-one for the Canucks. Edler and Gudbranson recorded a team-high four hits apiece for Vancouver in the victory, while Edler also led in blocked shots with three.

Sven Baertschi led the Canucks in shots on goal with three on Saturday.

The Bruins fell to 0-1-2 on their current four-game road trip, swinging through Ottawa on Oct. 23rd before returning to TD Garden in Boston for a matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 25th.

Vancouver Canucks 2018-19 Season Preview

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Vancouver Canucks

31-40-11, 73 points, 7th in the Pacific Division

Additions: F Jay Beagle, F Tanner Kero (acquired from CHI), F Antoine Roussel, F Tim Schaller

Subtractions: F Cole Cassels (signed, DEL), F Michael Chaput (traded to CHI, signed with MTL), F Nic Dowd (signed with WSH), F Joseph LaBate (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Jayson Megna (signed with WSH), F Griffen Molino (signed with Toronto Marlies, AHL), F Daniel Sedin (retired), F Henrik Sedin (retired), D Patrick Wiercioch (signed, KHL)

Still Unsigned: D Anton Cederholm, F Jussi Jokinen, D MacKenze Stewart

Re-signed: F Darren Archibald, F Sven Baertschi, D Troy Stecher, F Jake Virtanen

Offseason Analysis: We all knew this day would come, but didn’t want the telepathy to end. Yes, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired at the end of the 2017-18 regular season, leaving the Vancouver Canucks with an identity crisis– well, almost.

The face(s) of the franchise shifts full-time to the likes of Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen while the rest of the roster, umm, does stuff on the ice.

Does Jim Benning know the definition of a rebuild?

The Canucks General Manager signed veteran forwards Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to matching four-year, $12 million contracts (worth $3.000 million per season). Beagle, 32, and Roussel, 28, are not top-six forwards. One’s past his prime, despite winning the Cup with the Washington Capitals last season and the other, well, $3.000 million a year for not just one fourth liner but two is the definition of insanity.

Doing the same thing and expecting different results, Benning keeps patching a non-playoff contender with grizzled veterans on long-term contracts.

It’s one thing to fill some roster holes with veteran players while you rebuild in the short term, but four-year deals? Four-years!?! Especially when this seems to be a trend up and down the lineup since losing to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

That should be enough to convince Vancouver’s ownership group (Canucks Sports & Entertainment) that they should hit the reset button on their current front office.

One good signing– and the only good signing– made by Benning at improving the Canucks bottom-six depth was the addition of former Buffalo Sabre and Boston Bruin, Tim Schaller.

Schaller’s respectable two-year deal at $1.900 million per season is right about what you would expect to pay a top-notch fourth liner that can play third line minutes when called upon.

His 22 points in 82 games with Boston last season matched Beagle’s output in 79 games with the Capitals and was five-points better than Roussel’s 5-12–17 totals in 73 games for the Dallas Stars in 2017-18.

Schaller’s cap hit is a little more than half of Beagle and Roussel’s.

Goaltending continues to be an issue for Vancouver since trading Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo one year apart from one another.

Thatcher Demko isn’t ready for a full-time NHL role yet– either in the starting capacity or as a backup netminder. Anders Nilsson had his worst season as a backup in his first year as a Canuck, amassing a 3.44 goals against average and .901 save percentage in 27 games played.

Meanwhile, subpar starting goalie, Jacob Markstrom worsened from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in GAA (going from a 2.63 to a 2.71), but improved in SV% (.910 in 2016-17 to a .912 in 2017-18)– all while making the jump from being a backup himself in 2016-17 (playing in 26 games) to being Vancouver’s starter in 2017-18 (and playing in 60 games).

There’s hope to be had in 2018-19, however, in standout prospects Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen. Both should make the Canucks NHL roster and be implemented in the lineup for added flair, coupled with the Horvat, Boeser and Virtanen regime that’s now in full swing.

Despite the rumblings of a young core, Vancouver’s still in a tough spot given the strength of the Pacific Division.

The San Jose Sharks look to be a Cup contender on paper, Los Angeles is seeking one last chance at completing a trifecta this decade and Anaheim rounds out the annual California hockey powerhouse.

Meanwhile the Vegas Golden Knights certainly aren’t slowing down.

Between the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver– anything can happen. Edmonton should be better than they were last season, but should and in reality are separate things. Calgary, despite their revamped roster, has Bill Peters behind the bench (enough said).

So if the Canucks are looking to make any ground from 2018-19 to 2019-20, it very well might be on their Pacific Division Canadian counterparts.

What about the Arizona Coyotes, you ask?

They won’t be in last place in the division this season, so Vancouver better watch out. Unless, of course, Benning and Co. are starting to come around to the idea of tanking for a high-end 2019 1st round pick. That’d probably do them a lot of favors.

Offseason Grade: D

It’s hard to track progress when you let yourself get in the way of whatever you’ve got going. I don’t know what that means other than trying to say that the Canucks should continue to pursue a youth movement, decent depth signings (like Schaller) and abandon all hope on– oh wait, they signed Beagle and Roussel to matching four-year contracts.

Never mind.

If The Hockey Guy sees this by any chance– ‘sup. Let’s be friends, friend.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #121- Four-Year Vets

Nick and Connor celebrate the conclusion of the fourth season of the podcast, talk jerseys and logos from the week, the Edmonton Oilers defense and rank the best division by goaltenders.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify.

2018 Offseason Preview: Vancouver Canucks

It’s the third day of our 2018 offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams and today kicks off with the Vancouver Canucks.

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Nobody expected the Vancouver Canucks to be a mid-pack team in 2017-18 and well, what do you know, they weren’t. The Canucks finished 7th in the Pacific Division this season with a 31-40-11 record and 73 points on the season.

Vancouver was second-to-last in Western Conference standings, behind the Chicago Blackhawks by three points in the standings and just ahead of the Arizona Coyotes.

Chicago was the only team in the Central Division to not reach the 90-point plateau, while Vancouver was one of three teams in the Pacific Division to amass less than 80 points on the season.

Yes, Brock Boeser— the 2018 NHL All-Star Game MVP– emerged as a rookie sniper, but the faces of the franchise in Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired after almost 20 years in the NHL.

Other than that, Vancouver still has two fringe starter/backup goaltenders, 32-year-old Loui Eriksson under contract with a cap hit of $6.000 million through the 2021-22 season and a lack of apparent depth throughout the lineup.

At least Bo Horvat is part of the core and the team has gotten younger (due, in part, to the Sedin’s retiring).

2018 NHL Entry Draft

There’s no reason to sound all doom-and-gloom regarding the Canucks, because they’ve managed to establish a small pool of productive prospects in Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro, Olli Juolevi, Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlén.

Another down year can be expected, but there’s plenty of room to grow and turn a lot of heads in 2018-19.

Thankfully, in the deep draft that is the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Vancouver won’t miss out on a decent top-10 prospect with the 7th overall pick as long as General Manager Jim Benning doesn’t mess things up.

It only makes sense that Benning goes with the best available player by the time the Canucks are on the clock– whether it’s (not listed in any particular order) Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, Evan Bouchard, Quintin Hughes, Adam Boqvist, Rasmus Kupari or Joel Farabee– since there’s no immediate need on the NHL roster that can be filled by a player in this year’s draft.

Pending free agents

What it all comes down to for Vancouver is sticking to the plan. Now is the time to implement more youth with the likes of Demko, Juolevi, Pettersson and Dahlén in expanded or new roles altogether on the NHL club.

However, Demko’s path to stealing a job in net for the Canucks is currently crowded by Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson as 1A and 1B solutions to the fact that Vancouver does not have a true number one, starting goaltender.

Markstrom, 28, has two-years remaining on his current contract with a $3.667 million cap hit. That’s a friendly value for any team that’s looking for a temporary placeholder in net as a low-cost, potentially high-reward, starting goaltender– as long as that team has a defense to limit shots against.

Nilsson, 28, has one-year left on his contract and a $2.500 million cap hit. Again, also a bargain in the grand scheme of things, where top-notch goaltenders run organizations around $7.000 million in cap space.

Both are in their goaltending prime, which is different from a skater’s prime in that it’s usually delayed in comparison by a few years, but neither Markstrom nor Nilsson have shown they are going to get better than their 2.71 and 3.44 goals against averages in 60 and 27 games played, respectively.

That’s not just a case of a bad defense.

Average is still average and below average is still below average. For the Canucks to get better, they almost have to get worse, which sounds horrible to diehard fans, but might not actually be that bad.

Sure, Demko doesn’t have the level of experience that Markstrom and Nilsson have, but for a team that’s truly committed to a rebuild, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let him get more playing time to help bring his NHL game up to speed.

Aside from goaltending, Vancouver has six pending free agent forwards to assess. Three of them (Jussi Jokinen, Nic Dowd and Darren Archibald) are pending-unrestricted free agents and three of them are pending-restricted free agents (Jake Virtanen, Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi).

Of their pending-UFA forwards, Dowd should get a callback, while the priority remains on re-signing the 21-year-old Virtanent and 25-year-old Granlund this summer.

Baertschi has only passed the 30-point plateau once in his career, but fills a role as a third line forward that the Canucks desperately need. Anything more than a bridge deal for the 25-year-old forward could come back to bite the organization if his offense doesn’t improve.

Finally, the Canucks have a pair of pending-RFA defenders to re-sign this offseason in 24-year-olds Derrick Pouliot and Troy Stecher.

Once expected to change the course of Pittsburgh’s blueline, Pouliot was the 8th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and only just played his first full NHL season with Vancouver in 2017-18. Plus/minus aside (he was a minus-22 in 71 games played), Pouliot is worthy of keeping around, so long as Erik Gudbranson is considered expendable.

Stecher, on the other hand, has shown signs of being a puck-moving defender with flashes of a decent transition game, but had 1-10–11 totals in 68 games played as part of a sophomore slump.

While the Canucks may have higher expectations for Stecher, given his homegrown development, Pouliot outplayed his teammate with double the production (22 points).

If Vancouver is serious about moving Gudbranson and convinces Alexander Edler to waive his no-trade-clause for a transaction, then both Pouliot and Stecher have bigger roles and a proving ground to make the most of what should be bridge contract extensions.

The Canucks have a little more than $22 million to work with in cap space this summer.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Joseph Labate (UFA), Anton Cederholm (RFA), Cole Cassels (RFA), Griffen Molino (RFA), MacKenze Stewart (RFA), Patrick Wiercioch (UFA), Jayson Megna (UFA), Richard Bachman (UFA), Reid Boucher (RFA), Michael Chaput (RFA)

Down the Frozen River Podcast #98- Do Or Donato, There Is No Try

Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

2018 Trade Deadline Preview: Pacific Division

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1. Vegas Golden Knights– 33-12-4 (70 points, 49 GP)

There isn’t really that much the Vegas Golden Knights need to do to improve down the stretch. Should they trade James Neal or Marc-Andre Fleury as some fans and media members alike wondered since the expansion draft last June? No. They shouldn’t.

These are the Golden Knights. They’re trying to win the Stanley Cup in their first season of existence. And they just might.

They’ve dismantled some of the league’s best teams on a night-to-night basis, while amassing a plus-38 goal differential through 49 games played– and oh yeah, they’re smashing inaugural season records by an expansion franchise. All of that has put them in position for making a stake as a leading horse in the Presidents’ Trophy race.

That said, if Vegas general manager, George McPhee, is presented with an offer he can’t refuse that would make his team better, by all means, he should pursue it. Addition without subtraction or whatever– they have roughly $8.100 million in salary cap space, they can afford it.

Potential assets to trade: F Cody Eakin, F David Perron

Potential assets to acquire: F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), D Ian Cole (PIT)

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2. San Jose Sharks– 26-16-8 (60 points, 50 GP)

The San Jose Sharks sit in an uncomfortable position. Yes, they’re currently 2nd in the Pacific Division, but it’s a four-horse race for anywhere between two and four playoff spots in the Pacific Division.

No that’s not counting out the Edmonton Oilers (spoiler alert– they’ll be sellers), but let’s assume the Golden Knights lay claim to the regular season division title. Then it becomes a Battle of California and Calgary for two divisional spots and either one, two or no wild card positions in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Taking a look at the Central Division… yeah, odds aren’t great that they’ll be five teams from either the Pacific or Central clinching a playoff berth, considering the Dallas Stars (60 points), Sharks (60 points), Minnesota Wild (59 points), Kings (59 points), Ducks (59 points), Colorado Avalanche (58 points) and Flames (58 points) are all separated by a measly two-points.

There’s no room for error.

With only about $5.200 million in cap space currently and pending RFA forwards Tomas Hertl, 24, and Chris Tierney, 23, to re-sign along with pending RFA defenseman, Dylan DeMelo, 24, San Jose would be smart to lock up the future of their core while accepting that they’ll likely lose some guys via trade or free agency this offseason.

Joe Thornton, 38, is currently on IR and making $8.000 million on his soon to expire contract. Joel Ward, 37, has a $3.275 million cap hit on his deal that expires on July 1st.

Could this be a last hurrah?

Again, it all depends on how the Sharks approach everything moving forward– oh, by the way, backup goaltender, Aaron Dell, is a pending-UFA at season’s end too, but Troy Grosenick looks ready enough to settle into the backup role once Dell is either traded or probably makes a lot of money for the chance to be a starting goaltender elsewhere this July.

Potential assets to trade: F Mikkel Boedker, D Justin Braun, D Brenden Dillon, G Aaron Dell, D Paul Martin, F Joel Ward

Potential assets to acquire: Cap Relief, F David Desharnais (NYR), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Ian Cole (PIT), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F Thomas Vanek (VAN), F Nic Petan (WPG)

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3. Los Angeles Kings– 27-18-5 (59 points, 50 GP)

The Los Angeles Kings are set. They don’t really need to add as long as elite-starting goaltender, Jonathan Quick, is healthy. General manager, Rob Blake, should take a page out of Vegas’s book and sit on his hands come February 26th, that way he won’t be tempted to make any phone calls he might regret later.

It’s not like the Kings should really consider dumping what’s left of 35-year-old forward, Marian Gaborik, but they very well could– just to get $4.875 million in salary cap off of their hands. Gaborik’s 7-7–14 totals in 27 games played are pretty telling (albeit due to injury and being scratched other nights).

F Nick Shore, D Kevin Gravel and G Darcy Kuemper stand out as the only “big” names Los Angeles will have to re-sign this offseason with veteran forward, Torrey Mitchell, either working out as a long-term, year-to-year, rental or a short-term, Cup focused, investment.

Similar to San Jose, however, the Kings don’t have a lot of cap space as things stand. Los Angeles has about $3.600 million in wiggle room and really doesn’t have any holes that need to be filled.

Los Angeles should sit this trade deadline out and instead work on a plan for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in June where they’ll have to make some moves (unless the cap rises, which it’s expected to). Then again, Drew Doughty ($7.000 million cap hit) will need a new contract in 2019…

Potential assets to trade: F Marian Gaborik

Potential assets to acquire: draft picks, maybe a prospect or two

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4. Anaheim Ducks– 25-17-9 (59 points, 51 GP)

Every now and then there are teams that seemingly destroy their opponents in more ways than one while quietly existing and carrying their own weight. Injuries amounted early, but these days the Anaheim Ducks are the ones handing out the bruises– and winning… significantly.

The Ducks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, which won’t mean anything by February 26th (unless they go on a significant winning/losing streak).

Anaheim might creep up in the standings, but what will set them apart from the rest of the Western Conference?

This is where the Ducks can shine at the trade deadline if they just add one more piece to the puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a permanent piece, but one that’ll hold them over in the event of injuries.

Let’s face it, regardless of the physical brand of hockey Anaheim plays, there will be an injury or two down the stretch that could impact their chances of postseason success.

The Sami Vatanen-for-Adam Henrique trade with the New Jersey Devils has paid off in much needed scoring throughout their lineup, but the Ducks could get more if they wanted to.

A return of Patrick Maroon to The Pond or a rental like Thomas Vanek or Michael Grabner just might put Anaheim on the fast track to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Filling out their bottom-six depth and scoring prowess, while continuing to center their game around size and skill is exactly what they could add at the end of the month.

With only about $3.100 million in cap space available, the right move might be hard to make.

Potential assets to trade: G Reto Berra, D Steve Oleksy, draft picks, prospects

Potential assets to acquire: D Cody Franson (CHI), D Mike Green (DET), F Patrick Maroon (EDM), F David Desharnais (NYR), F Michael Grabner (NYR), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Erik Gudbranson (VAN), F Thomas Vanek (VAN)

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5. Calgary Flames– 25-17-8 (58 points, 50 GP)

When the Calgary Flames are hot, they’re red hot. When the Flames are cold they’re cooler than being cool (shouts OutKast).

Of all the teams in the Pacific Division, Calgary is the most Jekyll and Hyde of the two Alberta teams. Goaltender, Mike Smith, has saved the season (literally) multiple times on nights where Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames’s offense hasn’t gotten going.

Conversely, Gaudreau has propelled his team on nights when Smith has struggled. Some nights the Flames are on their “A” game. Some nights their porous defense shows. A lot.

Calgary is too young to give up on. Guys like Troy Brouwer, Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg provide a veteran presence both on the ice and in the locker room, but are harder to move given their modified no-trade clauses. Not that anyone’s in a rush to move them. Just being mindful of July 1st and the plethora of youth that could steal some roster spots next year, provided the Flames don’t do anything crazy in free agency.

The Flames have to get better if they want to play longer. Whether or not they decide to take action now or let things develop on their own, well, hasn’t it been long enough?

If they want to make a deep playoff run they have to manage their cap situation a lot better (and fix their defense with, say, six new defensemen?). With a little more than $2.200 million to play with in cap space come deadline day, Calgary isn’t doing this whole “let’s be buyers on February 26th” thing right.

Potential assets to trade: F Mikael Backlund, D Matt Bartkowski, F Michael Frolik, D Travis Hamonic, D Michael Stone

Potential assets to acquire: F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ian Cole (PIT)

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6. Edmonton Oilers– 22-24-3 (47 points, 49 GP)

If you had Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, where would you expect to be in the standings?

It’s a trick question, because no matter how many Art Ross Trophies those two players combined win in their careers, you still need to fill out the rest of the roster so you can be salary cap compliant and thus able to compete in the first place.

Fortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, Peter Chiarelli is at the reins.

Check that. It’s pretty dire.

The Oilers aren’t the worst team anymore, so at least they have that going for them, but once again we’re approaching yet another trade deadline where Edmonton has a lot of cargo to jettison into the void that is the rest of the league.

While McDavid and Draisaitl will eat up $21 million in salary starting next season, the Oilers have plenty of pending free agents to sort out– which also means they have a lot of rentals to sell at the deadline.

With the right moves, Chiarelli can redeem himself in Edmonton. All it requires is a swift retool. Too bad there’s a couple of no movement clauses on the blue line, because they’re eating $9.500 million in salary that the team will probably need to re-sign Rasmus Dahlin in a few years after they win the draft lottery.

Potential assets to trade: F Mike Cammalleri, D Brandon Davidson, F Mark Letestu, F Patrick Maroon

Potential assets to acquire: F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), F Luke Glendening (DET), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Andrew Shaw (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), F Derick Brassard (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL)

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7. Vancouver Canucks– 20-24-6 (46 points, 50 GP)

Similar to the Edmonton Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks had high hopes for this season. Okay, not that high, but still.

Things haven’t exactly gone as planned, thanks in part to Bo Horvat‘s injury, yet the Canucks have one of this season’s most pleasant surprises in the league– the emergence of Brock Boeser.

Vancouver has about $1.000 million in cap space currently. For a team that’s massively under-performing with a minus-31 goal differential through 50 games played, that’s horrendous.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are both pending-UFAs earning $7.000 million through the end of this season. Their playing days are safe in a Canucks uniform, given their no movement clauses and the fact that the traditional “honorary” $1.000 million (with a bunch of bonuses tied to performance) year-to-year contract extensions forthcoming– if they choose to play another year in the NHL.

There’s a lot of youth in Vancouver, so that’s promising.

Guys like Thomas Vanek and Erik Gudbranson have been the subject of those expected to be on the move from the Canucks organization and surely at least one of them will be out the door come February 26th.

As much as Sam Gagner has turned around his game, he may fall victim to the tight cap situation with pending RFAs Jake Virtanen, Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi on the cusp of seeing pay raises. Then again, maybe Gagner’s future with the Canucks will be saved by whatever the Sedin’s decide to do (take less money).

Short of some adjustments on the blue line and letting their young forwards gain experience, Vancouver really doesn’t need that much. Full health and finding the right starting goaltender should be the main focus going into the deadline and beyond.

Potential assets to trade: D Alex Biega, F Sam Gagner, D Erik Gudbranson, G Jacob Markstrom, G Anders Nilsson, F Thomas Vanek

Potential assets to acquire: F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), G Robin Lehner (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL)

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8. Arizona Coyotes– 12-29-9 (33 points, 50 GP)

Just exactly how long will we go before recognizing that the Arizona Coyotes are in a state of denial?

The perpetual rebuild has hit its lowest point so far and general manager, John Chayka, has nothing to show for some of his seemingly brilliant acquisitions in the offseason (namely, Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers, as well as Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks).

Look, neither of the trades the Coyotes made around the 2017 NHL Entry Draft were going to make them contenders for the Cup, but they should’ve at least made them move out of the basement and onto the first floor of the league.

Arizona will be selling once again and unless your last name is Hjalmarsson, Raanta or Stepan and you’re over the age of 24, there’s a good chance you could be packing a bag out of the desert (unless you get traded to Vegas, in which case, you’ll still be in the desert– only cooler because of all of the attractions around T-Mobile Arena, oh and the whole “Cup in one” mentality currently for the Golden Knights).

Potential assets to trade: F Brad Richardson, F Tobias Rieder, F Jordan Martinook, F Nick Cousins, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D Kevin Connauton

Potential assets to acquire: Draft picks, F Zemgus Girgensons (BUF), F Sam Reinhart (BUF), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), F Max Pacioretty (MTL), D Nick Holden (NYR), D Ryan McDonagh (NYR), F Mike Hoffman (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Aaron Dell (SJ), F Klim Kostin (STL), F Jordan Kyrou (STL), F David Perron (VGK)

November 26 – Day 53 – Broadway vs. Hollywood North

After two consecutive days loaded with action, the NHL is forced to pump the brakes this afternoon with only three games on the schedule.

You’ll notice I specifically said “this afternoon.” That’s because all three games are slated as matinees. Nashville at Carolina gets the action started at 1 p.m., followed an hour later by Vancouver at the New York Rangers (SN). Finally, today’s nightcap – which should be done in time for dinner – gets underway at 5 p.m. and features Edmonton at Boston (NHLN/SN/TVAS). All times Eastern.

Since I’m so fascinated by the Canucks, I’ve made the executive decision to head back to the Big Apple for the third time this month.

 

Though this game features two teams currently on the outside of the playoff picture, don’t dismiss it as an uninteresting event.

For starters, the 12-9-2 Rangers are fun to watch for the simple reason that they know what they’re doing with the puck on their stick. Even taking its slow start into account, New York has scored 3.22 goals-per-game this season to rank (t)seventh-best in the NHL.

Currently riding a three-game winning streak, New York’s primary star of late has been F Chris Kreider, who has managed 3-1-4 totals since November 19 to lead the team in that time span. Two of those goals, including one only 52 seconds into the tilt, were scored against G Scott Darling and the Hurricanes in Wednesday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Of course, no matter how well Kreider plays from here on out, the man who really makes the Blueshirts’ offense flow is none other than his center, Mika Zibanejad. The Swede has put up solid 11-11-22 totals so far this season in his 23 games played, which translates into him being directly responsible for 2.5 of the Rangers’ 26 points in the standings according to hockey-reference.

That being said, Zibanejad will have to be at the top of his game this afternoon if the Rangers want to keep up their winning ways, because the 11-9-3 Canucks have been solid on their defensive end. So far this season, Vancouver has allowed only 2.74 goals against-per-game, the eighth-best effort in the NHL.

A major reason for the Canucks’ success has been the quietly strong goaltending tandem of starter 6-8-2 Jacob Markstrom and 5-1-1 Anders Nilsson. Behind a defense that allows 31 shots against-per-game (11th-fewest in the league), they’ve both amassed save percentages over .91 and GAAs under 2.65.

While those numbers aren’t impressive in and of themselves, what I appreciate about the pair is there isn’t a notable difference in the quality of play between them. The Canucks’ defense knows exactly what it will get from either netminder and doesn’t have to do too much to change their game.

The real question today is who will get the start. While I feel pretty confident Markstrom will get the nod, it should be noted that he has a 1-4-0 record in his past five appearances, allowing 16 goals in the process. Meanwhile, Nilsson has not lost a game in regulation since October 19, earning a 4-0-1 record since then.

The longer Nilsson can perform at this level, you have to wonder about his position on Vancouver’s depth chart. Though this is his fifth season in the NHL, he has yet to earn a starting role for any of the five clubs he’s played for. Maybe, just maybe, Head Coach Travis Green has it in him to make the switch today.

If Nilsson does earn the start this afternoon, I’m fully confident that the Canucks can pull off the road victory. Otherwise, New York’s offense might be a little too much for even the incredible RW Brock Boeser to keep up with.


On the back of First Star of the Game RW Phil Kessel‘s four-point night, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Though the opening 10 minutes of the first period was a scoreless affair, Pittsburgh took command of the back half of the frame by scoring three unanswered goals. The first, struck with 5:24 remaining before the first intermission, belonged to W Bryan Rust (Third Star G Tristan Jarry), which he earned by burying a shorthanded wrist shot. 3:27 later, Kessel (Second Star C Sidney Crosby and RW Patric Hornqvist) doubled the Penguins’ lead to 2-0 with a power play wrister.

Before the Bolts could escape to their dressing room, Crosby (Kessel and D Justin Schultz) provided what proved to be the Pens’ game-winning goal, and if you blinked at the wrong time, you probably missed it. The play was simple enough: with both F Cedric Paquette and D Anton Stralman in the penalty box for unassociated charges, Kessel fired a wrister towards G Peter Budaj‘s right goal post. In all honesty, his shot wasn’t all that spectacular on its own, as the netminder was more than prepared to make the necessary blocker save. However, Crosby had different intentions: before Budaj could get his pad on the puck, he elevated it over his leg and into the back of the net, setting the score at 3-0 with 34 seconds remaining before intermission.

Pittsburgh’s scoring onslaught continued into the second period when Kessel (C Riley Sheahan) scored a wrister at the 2:22 mark to give the Penguins a 4-0 advantage, but W Ondrej Palat (D Mikhail Sergachev and F Yanni Gourde) pulled the Lightning back within a goal only 4:30 later with a power play tip-in.

The 4-1 score held until the 4:41 mark of the third period, as that’s when Crosby (Kessel and Schultz) scored his second marker of the game, a power play wrister. F Cory Conacher (F Alex Killorn and C Tyler Johnson) buried a wrister with 6:06 remaining in regulation, but it was too little, too late for Tampa to mount anything that looked like a true comeback.

Jarry saved 33-of-35 shots faced (.943 save percentage) to earn his first-ever NHL victory in four tries, while Budaj was forced to take the loss after saving only 29-of-34 (.853).

The Penguins’ home victory snaps a two-game winning streak by visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series. Hosts now own a 28-19-6 record that is nine points better than the roadies’.

November 7 – Day 35 – The day Western Canadians aren’t so friendly

It’s Tuesday in the NHL, so you know what that means: lots of games to be watched!

In total, there’s nine games on tonight’s schedule, starting with six (Washington at Buffalo [NBCSN], St. Louis at New Jersey, Edmonton at the New York Islanders [TVAS], Arizona at Pittsburgh, Florida at Carolina and Nashville at Columbus) at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. Vegas at Montréal (RDS/TSN2) waits half an hour after those games begin before dropping the puck, followed by Vancouver at Calgary at 9 p.m. Finally, tonight’s nightcap – Los Angeles at Anaheim (NBCSN) – finds its start at 10 p.m. to close out the evening’s action. All times Eastern.

What a slate of games! Just about every contest has a compelling reason to watch:

  • Edmonton at New York: For four seasons, F Ryan Strome called the Big Apple home. After an offseason trade, he’s wearing different shades of blue and orange.
  • Arizona at Pittsburgh: As assistant coach with the Penguins, Rick Tocchet won two-consecutive Stanley Cups. Now he’s trying to find a similar magic as the Coyotes’ head coach.
  • Nashville at Columbus: There’s few motivations stronger than playing against the team that cut you. Just ask LW Scott Hartnell.
  • Vancouver at Calgary: Ever since the Flames moved to Alberta, games against the Canucks have been circled in red.
  • Los Angeles at Anaheim: Round One of the Freeway Face-off goes down tonight on The Pond!

Somehow, the Flames have escaped being featured in the DtFR Game of the Day series for the past 34 days. With a rivalry game tonight, that number will not grow to 35.

 

Ever since the Flames’ first trip to Vancouver on February 1, 1981 representing the city of Calgary, the lore surrounding this rivalry has only grown by the game.

This matchup is far more than a simple Pacific Division rivalry. It’s a contest between coastal and midwest living; a battle between political parties; a war for the Art Ross Trophy.

If a hockey game could determine which way of life is superior, it would seem Calgary’s way of living has won out in the past. In all, the Flames, since moving to southern Alberta, have earned a 113-77-26-13 regular season record against their arch-nemeses that is further supported by their 21-17 postseason record.

In total, these clubs have met in the postseason seven times since 1982, with the Flames winning all but two of those series – including the last two. Their most recent playoff meeting occurred in the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was highlighted by Game 2’s 132 penalty minutes. D Deryk Engelland, now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, was the primary on-ice offender in the fight, but the league eventually ruled that Flames Head Coach Bob Hartley played an even bigger role and fined him $50 thousand. Calgary won the series in six games.

That being said, the turn of the millennium was a positive one for the Canucks. They won seven-straight season series against Calgary starting with the 2007-’08 campaign – including sweeping the Flames 5-0-0 in 2013-’14. But, all good things must come to an end as the Flames have since regained an advantage and won the last three season series.

To make things even more exciting, this is also a fairly important early meeting between these clubs in regards to the Pacific Division, and even the Western Conference. Both squads have already earned 16 points in the standings to join the three-way tie for third place in the division and their also in a seven-way tie for fifth in the conference.

Technically, since the 7-5-2 Canucks have won only one game via shootout compared to the 8-6-0 Flames’ two, Vancouver is the superior team in the standings. As such, they currently occupy the West’s first wild card – an envious position only a month into the season, to be sure.

When things are going Vancouver’s way, it’s been one of the best in the league at preventing its opposition from finding the back of 4-4-2 G Jacob Markstrom‘s net. Though his .918 save percentage is far from being worth writing home to Gavle, Sweden about, he’s managed a 2.3 GAA that is sixth-best in the NHL among goaltenders with at least seven starts.

Of course, it doesn’t seem he’ll be writing home about tonight’s game anyways, as he lost 3-2 at home to the Red Wings last night. Instead, hockey sense leads me to believe 3-1-0 G Anders Nilsson will earn his fifth start of the season tonight. Though he’s had limited time, Nilsson has arguably been the stronger of the two netminders, as his .943 save percentage and 1.89 GAA are both second-best in the league among netminders with at least four starts.

Regardless of who starts, the Cancuks are going to rely on their solid defense to keep things under control. Whether it’s D Alex Biega, RW Derek Dorsett and D Erik Gudbranson‘s combined 80 hits or D Michael Del Zotto‘s 2.2 blocks-per-game – or, more likely, a sum of those parts – the Canucks are among the league’s best at keeping shots off their netminder, allowing a fourth-best 29.5 per game.

Meanwhile, everything seems to be coming up spades for the Flames of late, as they’re winners of their last three games, all against stiff Metropolitan competition.

The key to this winning streak: solid play in the defensive zone. Since October 29, Calgary has allowed only six goals in three games – the third-fewest in the NHL in that stretch.

That’s all the result of the incredible play by 8-5-0 G Mike Smith.

Yes, the same Smith that posted a rough 19-26-9 record in Arizona last year.

He’s been one of the top-three goaltenders in the NHL for the past nine days, as a .943 save percentage and 1.92 GAA earned him a perfect 3-0-0 record over that stretch. For the season, Smith has managed a solid .931 save percentage and 2.32 GAA to be in the discussion for top-10 goaltenders of the campaign so far.

Perhaps the key to Smith finding success is playing for a new team. During his first season with the Coyotes (who then represented simply the city of Phoenix from their arena in Glendale instead of the entire state of Arizona) in 2011-’12, Smith earned a 38-18-10 record on a .93 save percentage and 2.21 GAA for easily the best performance of his 12-season career.

For those Flames fans wondering, Smith is under contract through next season. Do with that information as you see fit.

These clubs have already met once this season, playing to a 5-2 Flames victory at Rogers Arena on October 14. LW Johnny Gaudreau, D Mark Giordano, D Dougie Hamilton, D Travis Hamonic and C Sean Monahan all registered goals for Calgary, while only RW Brock Boeser and Dorsett could find the scorecard for the Canucks.

Though the score of their last meeting may not indicate it, this game has a grind-it-out, defensive style written all over it. These types of games are my favorite without featuring a rivalry. Throw in the animosity and the fact that the Flames have already earned a win in the series away from the Scotiabank Saddledome, and this should be a nasty tilt. I like the Flames to hold on and win since the Canucks played last night, but we should be in for a thriller.


Thanks in large part to a three-goal explosion in the first period, the Winnipeg Jets beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 at the American Airlines Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Winnipeg found success in Texas. After all, the arena is not only sponsored by the world’s largest airline, but also nicknamed The Hangar.

Whether that had anything to do with this game or not, the Jets didn’t take long to take control, as they had a one-goal lead after only 26 seconds of play courtesy of a C Mark Scheifele (First Star of the Game RW Blake Wheeler and LW Kyle Connor) wrist shot. With his fourth power play goal of the year (seventh overall), RW Patrik Laine (Wheeler and Scheifele) doubled Winnipeg’s advantage 4:46 later. Finally, only 57 seconds before heading to the dressing room for first intermission, Connor (Wheeler) scored a wrister to set the score at 3-0.

If not for F Bryan Little‘s hi-sticking penalty against C Jason Spezza, maybe Second Star G Connor Hellebuyck could have earned his first shutout of the season. Instead, Third Star LW Jamie Benn (D John Klingberg and RW Alexander Radulov) buried a backhanded shot 4:13 into the second period to pull the Stars back within a 3-1 deficit.

Even though Dallas fired a total of 23 shots in the final two periods, they could not sneak another goal past Hellebuyck. That fact became especially painful with 13 seconds remaining in the game, as Scheifele (Wheeler and D Jacob Trouba) slung a shorthanded snap shot from the blue line into an empty net to set the 4-1 final score.

Hellebuyck earned the victory after saving 33-of-34 shots faced (.971 save percentage), leaving the loss to G Ben Bishop, who saved 22-of-25 (.88).

Impressively, road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series have won five of the last seven games to pull within four points of the 18-13-4 hosts.