Tag Archives: James Neal

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals– May 18

Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators– Game 4

Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks bursted the Nashville Predators undefeated at Bridgestone Arena this postseason bubble with a 3-2 victory in overtime in Game 4 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals.

In short, the series is now a best-of-three scenario as it is now tied, 2-2, heading back to Honda Center in Anaheim for Game 5.

Ducks goaltender, John Gibson made 32 saves on 34 shots against for a .941 save percentage in the win, while Predators goalie, Pekka Rinne stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced for a .919 SV% in the loss.

Rickard Rakell (7) opened the game’s scoring on a slap shot from outside the slot and just over the blue line after catching the Predators in the midst of a line change to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Cam Fowler (7) had the sole assist on Rakell’s goal.

After 20 minutes of play, Anaheim led 1-0 on the scoreboard and held Nashville to just two shots on goal in the 1st period. As a result, the Ducks set a franchise record for fewest shots against in a playoff period (2). The previous record was three back in the 1st period of Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Both Nashville and Anaheim went 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

The Ducks extended their lead to two goals when Nick Ritchie (4) used Roman Josi as a screen against Rinne, then toe dragged the puck out of Josi’s reach to snipe a wrist shot top shelf on the glove side. Nate Thompson (4) and Sami Vatanen (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on the goal that made it 2-0 Anaheim.

Officials put away the whistles for the 2nd period, as no penalties were called, which would only provide for more scrutiny later in the game when several calls were made against the Ducks and a non-call that probably should’ve been a penalty against the Predators indirectly led to the game tying goal in the final minute of regulation.

After Nashville had an abysmal two shots on goal (compared to Anaheim’s 14 SOG) in the 1st period, the Predators picked up their offensive efforts in the 2nd period, outshooting the Ducks 18-12. Anaheim still led in total shots on goal, though, 26-20 after 40 minutes of play.

Trailing 2-0 at the start of the 3rd period, the Nashville Predators remained calm, as they had been there before this postseason, having trailed by the same score to the Blackhawks in the First Round before coming back and winning in regulation.

Anaheim could not convert on their final power play opportunity of the night about a quarter of the way into the 3rd period.

After being given two power play opportunities of their own about midway through the 3rd, the Predators had no luck on the man advantage, but had begun racking up the minutes of offensive zone time.

P.K. Subban (2) received a pass from Colin Wilson (2) and fired home a slap shot to cut the lead in half and make it a 2-1 game at 13:33 of the 3rd period. The already rambunctious fans in attendance at Bridgestone Arena only became louder as the Predators begun to smell a possible comeback. Viktor Arvidsson (7) had the secondary assist on Subban’s 2nd goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kevin Bieksa’s high sticking infraction was quickly followed up by Anaheim’s Josh Manson’s slashing minor penalty, resulting in a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:31 with 4:38 remaining in regulation for the Preds.

Anaheim’s penalty killing unit was successful at killing off both minor penalties before Nashville could tie the game.

With less than a minute in regulation, the Predators won an offensive zone face-off and fired a barrage of shots at Gibson.

Ryan Johansen appeared to get away with a cross check to the back of one of Anaheim’s skaters, before contributing on what would end up setting up the final goal of regulation

Filip Forsberg (7) tied the game, 2-2, with his followup in front of the goal, beating Gibson to the puck before he could freeze it. Arvidsson (8) and James Neal (2) collected the helpers on the game tying goal with 34.5 seconds to go in the 3rd period.

Forsberg now has four goals in four games thus far in the series.

Nashville was mounting a comeback riding the momentum of the final 13 and a half minutes of regulation. Shots on goal were even at 31-31 after 60 minutes of play. Nashville led in blocked shots 18-15 and in giveaways 10-9, while Anaheim led in hits 28-27 and takeaways 9-6 heading into the overtime intermission.

Game 4 became just the 26th playoff game of the 2017 postseason to require overtime (two games shy of the record— 28 overtime games— set in 1993).

A little past halfway into the overtime period, Perry (4) fired a shot in the direction of the goal as a hard charging teammate, Thompson, was crashing the goal. Instead of setting up a one-timer, the puck deflected off of Nashville defenseman Subban’s stick and past Rinne to secure the 3-2 victory for the Ducks.

Perry’s game winning goal was unassisted at 10:25 of overtime and tied the series 2-2.

Anaheim finished the game leading in shots on goal 37-34, blocked shots 20-19 and giveaways 12-10, while both teams were even in hits 30-30. Neither team scored a power play goal on Thursday night, as Nashville went 0/5 on the man advantage and Anaheim went 0/2.

Puck drop for Game 5 at Honda Center back in Anaheim is scheduled for a little after 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Viewers looking to watch the game in the United States can tune to NBC, while Canadian fans can catch the game on CBC and/or TVA Sports.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 14

 

Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

With a 5-3 victory at the Honda Center Sunday, Anaheim leveled its Western Finals series against the Predators at 1-1.

Three goals is all the Predators needed to beat Anaheim in Game 1. In Game 2, both clubs had already reached that mark by the 30:41 mark.

First it was the Predators with a two-goal surge. Ryan Johansen (Third Star of the Game Viktor Arvidsson and Roman Josi) was the first to score, burying a wrist shot 4:18 into the contest. James Neal (Johansen and Mattias Ekholm) followed that up 4:14 later with a backhanded power play shot to set the score at 2-0.

Next up was an Anaheim attack, though it was split in half by the first intermission. Second Star Sami Vatanen (Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler) got the Ducks on the board with one minute remaining in the first period, followed by Jakob Silfverberg (Rickard Rakell and Cam Fowler) only 39 seconds into the middle frame.

Vatanen’s marker was a special one not only because it leveled the game at two-all and was his first postseason goal since last year’s series with the Preds, but also because it was the Ducks’ first power play goal in their last 22 attempts.

The Predators once again took the lead 7:59 into the second period thanks to a Filip Forsberg (Arvidsson) wrap-around offering, but First Star Ondrej Kase (Shea Theodore and Josh Manson) leveled the game at three-all only 2:42 later.

Neither John Gibson (.909 save percentage) nor Pekka Rinne (.846 save percentage) would yield a goal in the third period, which proved to be a major problem for Nashville considering Nick Ritchie‘s (Getzlaf and Brandon Montour) tally with 2:53 remaining in the second period.

The play started when Montour passed from the near point of his defensive zone to Getzlaf at center ice. The captain one-touched his bank pass off the near boards to the eventual goalscorer, who took possession in the face-off circle to Rinne’s right. Ritchie ripped an impressive snap shot over the goaltender’s stick shoulder for what proved to be the youngster’s second game-winning playoff goal of his career.

Through Rinne was pulled for the extra attacker with 2:08 remaining in regulation, the Predators still couldn’t manage a goal to level the game. Antoine Vermette (Getzlaf and Fowler) made sure to make Rinne pay for vacating his post by burying a wrister with 44 seconds remaining to ensure the Ducks’ victory.

After a four hour flight to Nashville (yet six hours according to a clock due to time zones), Game 3 in the now best-of-five will be played Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern time at Bridgestone Arena. Though American viewers are limited to NBCSN, Canada is being serviced by CBC, SN and TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals – May 12

 

Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks – Game 1

With their 3-2 overtime victory over Anaheim at the Honda Center, the Predators have stolen home-ice advantage and a one-game lead in the Western Finals.

The biggest difference in this game seemed to be energy and rest. The Predators eliminated St. Louis on May 7 while the Ducks just finished their series against Edmonton on Wednesday, meaning Nashville had three more free days before resuming play.

That extra energy showed itself in a multitude of ways, but it was most noticeable in the shots on goal category. Led by Ryan Ellis‘ seven attempts that made their way to Second Star of the Game John Gibson, Nashville led the Ducks  in shots by a whopping 46-29 differential.

It took 5:15 of action before the Ducks could register even their first shot on Third Star Pekka Rinne, but it’s all they needed to take a 1-0 lead. Jakob Silfverberg was the one to register the goal, using the defending Roman Josi as a screen to bury a potent upper-90 snap shot from the near face-off circle.

But that lead didn’t last all that long, as the Predators’ efforts finally bore fruit with 7:26 remaining in the first period via a Filip Forsberg (Matt Irwin and Ryan Johansen) redirection through both Antoine Vermette and Gibson’s legs to level the game at one-all.

In terms of of the Predators’ shooting effort, it was a similar start to the second period as they managed five shots before the Ducks reached Rinne once. Fortunately for Nashville, its second tally came quicker than its first, as Austin Watson (Johansen and Mattias Ekholm) scored a slap shot only 2:42 into the middle frame for the first playoff goal of his career.

The rest of the second period was a test of special teams, specifically an Anaheim power play that can’t find results no matter how well it performs.  Only 34 seconds separated Colin Wilson exiting the penalty box after hooking Rickard Rakell and Ellis earning a seat for roughing Andrew Cogliano. Between the two man-advantages, the Ducks managed only one shot that reached Rinne (courtesy of Ryan Kesler), but the postseason’s best goaltender was more than up to the task and stopped the attempt with ease.

Randy Carlyle apparently had enough of his club being dominated offensively in the first two periods, so the Ducks turned the tables in the third. Anaheim fired five shots at Rinne in the opening 7:21 of the third frame, the last of which was a Hampus Lindholm (Nate Thompson) snapper to level the game at two-all.

Anaheim won 56% of face-offs against the Predators all game, and that came into play on Lindholm’s goal. Thompson beat Calle Jarnkrok at the dot to Rinne’s right to maintain possession in his offensive zone. He shoved the puck back towards the far point to the waiting blueliner, who was more than able to bang home his marker over the netminder’s stick shoulder.

Following their game-tying tally, the Ducks tried their hardest to lose the game by firing not one, but two pucks over the glass within 33 seconds of each other. Though Nashville earned 87 seconds of five-on-three play, it could not find its game-winning goal in regulation.

Instead, the Predators waited until the 9:24 mark of overtime before First Star James Neal (P.K. Subban and Ekholm) ripped his winning snapper into Gibson’s net. It doesn’t quite qualify for a tic-tac-goal play, but it was an absolutely brilliant assist by Subban to set up the marker.

Ekholm began the sequence by driving on Gibson’s crease in attempts of forcing the puck across the goal line, but the netminder was up to the challenge and somehow forced the puck into the far corner. The defenseman got back to his skates, chased down the puck and reset the play at the near point to Subban. The former Hab looked like he had all intentions of firing a slap shot back into the scrum, but decided instead to find a wide-open Neal in the near face-off circle. In the same swipe, Neal took possession and fired his shot over a splayed Gibson to end the game.

It’s only fitting that between these clubs’ primary colors both black and blue are represented. Hockey has never been classified as a gentleman’s game, and neither Anaheim nor Nashville are wasting any effort on chivalry. Not only were 55 total hits thrown between them, but tempers were also flaring even before the first intermission.

In particular, Johansen was certainly frustrated after Ryan Getzlaf fired a slap shot right at the Predator’s right hand covering his groin. A player would certainly be within his rights for being aggravated after taking a puck in that area, but it looks as if Getzlaf intentionally took aim at Johansen’s crotch, making the action all the more egregious. The physicality between these sides will be something to behold as this series advances.

This series will resume Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. American viewers can catch the action on NBCSN, while SN and TVAS will broadcast the game in Canada.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 5

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues – Game 5

Pekka Rinne stood tall, but not tall enough to prevent the Predators from falling 2-1 to St. Louis at the Scottrade Center in their Western Conference Semifinals matchup.

Instead, it was the Blues’ defense that played exceptionally well to earn the victory. Every single blueliner blocked two Predators shots, but the defensive corps was paced by Carl Gunnarsson‘s three. Add in the forwards’ rejections, and 25 total shots were blocked before reaching First Star of the Game Jake Allen, who saved all 22 shots faced except James Neal‘s (P.K. Subban and Roman Josi) five-on-three power play wrist shot with 6:10 remaining in the second period.

Speaking of Nashville’s special teams, they played incredibly. Not only did they convert the only extra-man opportunity of the combined eight in the contest, but the penalty kill also stood especially strong. In total, the Preds were shorthanded for 7:51, including 1:50 of five-on-three action late in the first period, but did not yield a tally.

But the Notes’ postseason success has not been due to their power play. Even though they played the eighth-best man-advantage during the regular season, they’ve managed an anemic 6.9% conversion rate in their 10 playoff games, the worst in the league since the end of the regular season.

Instead, it’s been grind-it-out goals like Second Star Dmitrij Jaskin‘s (Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Sobotka) wrister. Making his first appearance of the 2017 postseason, he took advantage of the rebound of Pietrangelo’s shot from the far point off Rinne’s right pad to beat the goaltender to the near post at the 5:43 mark of the second period.

With Jaskin and Neal both finding the back of the net in the middle frame, the score read 1-1 throughout the second intermission. That score remained for only 25 seconds in the third before Third Star Jaden Schwartz (Colton Parayko) buried St. Louis’ game-winner. Parayko intercepted an attempted clear by Josi at the far point and eventually fired a wrister on Rinne’s net. The netminder was more than able to make the save, but he couldn’t contain the rebound. Schwartz saw an opportunity, and he capitalized by lifting a wrister over Rinne’s right pad for his fourth goal of the postseason.

The Blues wanted a Game 6, and a Game 6 they’ll have. It’s scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast on NBC in the USA or SN and TVAS in Canada.

 

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks – Game 5

With its 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Oilers at the Honda Center Friday, Anaheim has pulled within one game of the Western Conference Finals.

After Leon Draisaitl (Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson), Connor McDavid (Mark Letestu and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and Drake Caggiula (McDavid and Kris Russell) all scored in the second period to set the score at 3-0, the Oilers were feeling confident going into the second intermission.

That confidence only grew the longer that score was displayed on the scoreboard. Cam Talbot played brilliantly for the opening 56:44 of play, saving all 40 shots the Ducks threw at him.

But as it turns out, all the Ducks needed was another attacker.

John Gibson left his net for the first time with 3:34 remaining in regulation. 18 seconds later, Second Star of the Game Ryan Getzlaf (Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler) scored a slap shot from the far point to set the score at 3-1.

Gibson reclaimed his net for the face-off at center ice, but departed with 2:59 remaining before the final horn. Exactly 18 seconds later once again, Cam Fowler (Silfverberg and First Star Corey Perry) struck his first goal of the 2017 playoffs to pull Anaheim within a tally.

Of course, the first two goals wouldn’t matter without a third. Once again Randy Carlyle sent Gibson into his crease for the center ice face-off, but the netminder deserted his post with 72 seconds remaining in play.

Though they didn’t score after only 18 seconds with the extra man this time, all that matters to the Ducks is that they scored. It was a wild play that was almost overturned by replay. With 21 seconds remaining in regulation, Fowler fired a wrist shot from the far point that Talbot was able to deflect. However, he was unable to contain the rebound, which Perry tried to collect and force into the net.

Darnell Nurse shoved him to the ice before he could fire, leaving the puck exposed on the near side of the crease. Third Star Rickard Rakell found the loose biscuit with 17 seconds remaining to miraculously squeeze a backhanded shot between Patrick Maroon‘s legs, under Nurse’s stick, past Kesler’s stick and through Talbot’s five-hole.

To put it simply, Rakell wouldn’t be able to pull off the shot twice in a row.

But all those heroics did was force overtime. In all, 23 shots were recorded between the two clubs – including 14 by Anaheim – but none could find the back of the net in the first overtime period.

The second overtime period didn’t even last half as long as the first, as Perry (Getzlaf and Rakell) buried a wrist shot at the 86:57 mark to give the Ducks a 3-2 advantage in the series.

Though he was probably exhausted, Perry’s goal was a crash-course in patience. After receiving a pass from Getzlaf from the far boards, Perry crossed the slot from far to near waiting for Talbot to commit. Once he did, he was unable to seal his near post as quickly as he would have liked, and Perry took advantage for only his second tally of the 2017 playoffs.

Part of the reason Edmonton struggled so mightily in the late stages of the game was due to their injuries on the blue line. The Ducks came out of the gates flying, throwing hard hits on Matt Benning and Andrej Sekera that forced both from the game for a short while. Though Benning was able to return to action late in the opening frame, Sekera could not retake the ice, leaving the Oil with only five defensemen for most of the game.

The Ducks will have their first opportunity to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals this Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern time at Rogers Place. Viewers in America should tune their sets to NBCSN, while Canadian fans are advised to watch either SN or TVAS.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – May 2

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

 

 

 

 

Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers – Game 3

Sparked by First Star of the Game Mats Zuccarello‘s two-point first period, New York beat the Senators 4-1 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers need to defend home ice twice to level the series at two games apiece, and they completed half that goal with an explosive offense that reminded New Yorkers of the attack at the beginning of the season.

It takes approximately 90 minutes to fly from Canada’s capital to the biggest city in North America. Judging from Zuccarello’s (Third Star Mika Zibanejad and Dan Girardi) snap shot only 5:31 into the game, it was 90 minutes well spent. That marker was followed by Michael Grabner (Zuccarello) taking advantage of Craig Anderson being out of position to bury the eventual game-winning wrap-around goal with 6:36 remaining in the frame.

In all, the Blueshirts fired 15 pucks at Anderson’s net before the first intermission, the greatest total by either team in any period during Game 3.

But a two-goal lead was not enough to lead Alain Vigneault to take his foot off the gas. Rick Nash (Derek Stepan and Jimmy Vesey) expanded New York’s lead to three goals with a wrist shot at the 12:21 mark of the second period, followed by Oscar Lindberg (J.T. Miller and Tanner Glass) finding the back of the net with 103 seconds remaining before the second intermission.

Though Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Bobby Ryan and Cody Ceci) did manage to squeeze in a power play goal on Second Star Henrik Lundqvist before the end of the period, the damage had already been done. New York’s three-goal lead was too much for the Senators to surpass in the remaining 20 minutes.

In baseball, a pitcher that comes in for the final inning to ensure no more runs are scored is called a closer. New York knows a little bit about closing, but it was Lundqvist instead of Mariano Rivera playing that role Tuesday. With the exception of Pageau’s snapper at the end of the second period, King Henrik saved all 22 shots he faced in the final 40 minutes to ensure the Rangers a chance to level the series in Game 4.

Speaking of, Game 4 is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time. It will be the lone action of the day and can be viewed on NBCSN in the States and either CBC or TVAS in Canada.

 

St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators – Game 4

With its 2-1 victory over the Blues at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday, Nashville has pulled within a victory of advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Founded in 1998, this is only Nashville’s ninth appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Though they’ve had three postseason run-ins with the Blackhawks, the Predators have still been searching for a true rival.

If 24 combined penalty minutes, 64 total hits and post-whistle scrums beyond count are any indication, it would seem they’ve finally found the club that makes their fans’ blood boil most, and they just so happen to be only 300 miles away.

There has been nothing friendly about the Blues and Predators’ first postseason meeting. The penalties committed in this game are not simple delay of game infractions. Four roughing penalties were called (including three on the same play) as well as two unsportsmanlike conducts (coinciding) and tripping infractions.

In addition to getting under the opposition’s skin, all the physicality can also have a direct impact on the other team’s offensive proficiency and rhythm. St. Louis allowed only 25 Predators shots to reach Jake Allen (thanks in large part to Magnus Paajarvi and Jaden Schwartz registering four hits apiece), exceeded only by Nashville yielding only 18 in the first 40 minutes. Austin Watson seemed to be involved in every play with his eight hits to lead the Preds, though First Star of the Game Ryan Ellis also performed his defensive duties extremely well by blocking four shots.

Ellis is also proving himself to be a very capable striker when the opportunity arises. Though it lasted 45:09, the defenseman buried a power play wrist shot (Colin Wilson) broke the scoreless draw early in the third period.

That tally didn’t seem to phase the Blues, but Third Star James Neal‘s did. It was an impressive marker he earned after impeding David Perron‘s pass to Carl Gunnarsson at the Notes’ defensive blue line. Neal collected the loose puck in the middle of the offensive zone and took it above the near face-off circle before ripping a quick wrister over Allen’s stick shoulder.

After he buried his eventual game-winning goal with 6:57 remaining in regulation, only then did St. Louis’ offense seem to begin applying extra heat.

But Second Star Pekka Rinne was more than up to the task. If it weren’t for Joel Edmundson‘s (Alex Steen and Jori Lehtera) wicked upper-90 slap shot that pinged into the goal, he would have saved all 33 shots the Blues fired at his net.

Though the series returns to Scottrade Center, the Predators have all the momentum going into their first opportunity to punch their ticket to the conference finals. Game 5 is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, and will be televised by NBCSN in the USA and CBC and TVAS in Canada.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Second Round – April 28

For the first and second rounds of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues – Game 2

After dropping Game 1, St. Louis desperately needed a victory to salvage home ice at the start of the second round to level the series at 1-1. Thanks to First Star of the Game Vladimir Tarasenko‘s two goals, the Blues did just that by beating Nashville 3-2 Friday night at Scottrade Center.

Though the fourth-best (okay, tied for fourth-best) goalscorer of the 2016-17 regular season earned the spotlight, it was actually Nashville’s defense that performed the best all night. Spearheaded by Roman Josi‘s four blocks, St. Louis managed only 20 shots all game – led by Tarasenko’s six.

Making that effort even more impressive is the fact that the Predators served a whopping 23 penalty minutes. By comparison, St. Louis served only two and Patrik Berglund‘s interference corresponded with an embellishment penalty by Third Star Ryan Ellis, meaning Nashville did not earn a single man-advantage all game.

In all, the Preds faced five Blues power plays and yielded only one tally: a Tarasenko (Alex Pietrangelo and Alex Steen) wrist shot with 20 seconds remaining before the first intermission.

Most of those penalty minutes belonged to Vernon Fiddler, who was caught practicing questionable form when hitting Colton Parayko with 92 seconds remaining in the first period. The skaters made knee-to-knee contact as Fiddler hit the defenseman behind Jake Allen‘s net. It earned him a game misconduct and a major penalty, giving the Blues a five-minute unlimited power play that led to Tarasenko’s marker to tie the game at one-all.

All the shorthanded situations is also a major reason the Preds only managed 24 shots on goal of their own. It is difficult, even for the postseason’s third-best offense, to get any rhythm going when playing without a full fleet of weapons.

But even when faced with that self-imposed handicap, a defensive effort that impressive will eventually produce chances on the other end of the ice. That was no more apparent than when Ellis intercepted Vladimir Sobotka‘s attempted pass to Berglund at St. Louis’ blue line. Since both squads were advancing towards the Blues’ offensive zone, the defenseman had to steer his shot past only one possible defender to beat Allen’s glove 3:07 into the third period and set the score at 2-1.

James Neal (Colton Sissons and Ellis) accounted for Nashville’s other marker, a deflection scored on Ellis’ initial shot from the far point 7:49 into the game. It was only the Predators’ second shot on goal of the night.

Nashville’s lead lasted only 4:32 until Second Star Jori Lehtera (Berglund and Parayko) leveled the game once again for the Blues, but they had yet to lead in the contest.

Until, that is, Tarasenko (Joel Edmundson and Jaden Schwartz) buried his game-winning wrister with 3:51 remaining in regulation. Schwartz attacked up the far boards, traversing all three zones with the puck in his possession. Once he reached the face-off dot, he passed back towards the blue line to Edmundson, who kick-passed to St. Louis’ favorite right wing. Tarasenko dropped to a knee to get the proper contact on his shot to beat Pekka Rinne‘s right pad.

In a game dominated by defense, it’s only logical that a strong Blues stand at the end of the contest would be the reason they held on for victory. Even more fitting, the biggest play came from one of the biggest stars on the ice. With Rinne pulled for the sixth attacker, Ryan Johansen had a wrist shot cocked and ready to fire from the near face-off circle. But instead of sending a shot flying towards Allen, his stick met Tarasenko’s, who dove to knock the puck away from the center.

The now best-of-five series shifts a little over 300 miles southeast to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. for Games 3 and 4. Speaking of Game 3, puck drop is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern time and will be broadcast on NBC in the United States of America or SN and TVAS in Canada.

 

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks – Game 2

When the best player on the ice is the goaltender, the team attacking him faces an uphill battle. That’s exactly what happened to Anaheim Friday, as it fell 2-1 at the Honda Center to give the Oilers a two-game advantage in their Western Conference semifinal.

No matter what the Ducks threw at him, First Star of the Game Cam Talbot was absolutely electric in the crease. In all, he faced 40 shots in Game 2, and stopped all but one of them for a ..975 save percentage.

The opposite goaltender, John Gibson, played nowhere near Talbot’s level, but he didn’t necessarily need to be that often. He faced only 23 shots, but did let two by (91.3%).

Instead, Anaheim played an incredible defense to counter the Oil’s fantastic netminder, made evident by the few shots Gibson faced. Though Edmonton did give the puck away 13 times, the Ducks caused more than their fair share of turnovers by playing a very physical game. In total, Anaheim threw 32 hits, including five by Second Star Ryan Getzlaf to lead the club.

Whether by a corps of blue liners or goaltender, what resulted was a grind-it-out, tough contest typical of a playoff matchup featuring the top two teams of a division.

Then again, that doesn’t well explain the first goal of the game, as Andrej Sekera buried a quick unassisted slap shot only 65 seconds into the game to give Edmonton an early one-goal lead. Hampus Lindholm was trying to pass to Jakob Silfverberg at the goal line and set up a breakaway opportunity, but his dish was too strong and sneaked to Sekera at the near point. Seeing no better option, the defenseman banged home his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and only his second career postseason marker (his first was scored way back in 2011 with the Sabres).

The game-winning tally belongs to Patrick Maroon (Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) at the 6:41 mark of the second period, but his play started before he even took to the ice. 1:43 before he scored his tip-in, Korbinian Holzer was caught holding Zack Kassian‘s stick to earn himself a seat in the penalty box.

Similar to the Rangers-Senators game Thursday, hockey has a way of perfectly playing out the “what comes around, goes around” idiom. Only 8:34 after Maroon had scored the insurance goal, Darnell Nurse was sent to the sin bin for hi-sticking Jared Boll. Silfverberg (Third Star Cam Fowler and Ryan Kesler) didn’t wait long to capitalize on that mistake, waiting only 20 seconds before pulling the Ducks back within a goal.

Unfortunately for Anaheim, they could not manage to break through the might Talbot over the remaining 24:26 of regulation. The Ducks now face an intense uphill climb to the Western Finals, as they will need to win three of the next five games – and at least one in Canada – to simply force a deciding Game 7 on The Pond.

Their first chance to get back into the series will be this Sunday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta. Puck drop is scheduled for at 7 p.m. Eastern time and the contest may be viewed on NBCSN in the USA and SN or TVAS in Canada.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round– April 17

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writers are Connor Keith and Nick Lanciani.

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Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins— Game 3

The Ottawa Senators held off a charging effort from a thrilling comeback that just wasn’t meant to be for the Boston Bruins in a thrilling 4-3 victory in overtime on road ice at TD Garden on Monday night.

Bobby Ryan’s game winning goal on the power play came just five minutes, 43 seconds into overtime, sending Boston fans home unhappy on perhaps one of the happiest days of the year in the city— Patriot’s Day.

Ottawa goaltender, Craig Anderson made 17 saves on 20 shots faced for an .850 save percentage in 65:43 time on ice for the win, while Boston’s Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss.

Senators forward, Mike Hoffman (1) kicked off scoring 7:15 into the 1st period with a nifty move (shades of Peter Forsberg) on a breakaway pass from Erik Karlsson that beat Rask. Karlsson (3) and Zach Smith (1) had the primary and secondary assists on what it sure to be a highlight reel goal in Ottawa’s promotional videos for a little while, at least.

Derick Brassard (2) quickly made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the low slot 35 seconds after Hoffman made it 1-0. Ryan (2) and Viktor Stalberg (1) contributed on Brassard’s goal that all but sucked the life out of the building.

With Kevan Miller in the box for interference, the Bruins’s already lackluster penalty kill from a rash of injuries on the blue line suffered even more. Hoffman (2) found the twine for his 2nd goal of the night just 3:42 into the 2nd period and made it a 3-0 lead. Chris Wideman (1) and Brassard (2) tallied assists on Hoffman’s power play goal.

A three goal deficit looked insurmountable for Boston, considering their lack of offensive prowess thus far into the game.

But Noel Acciari (1) redirected his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal at 6:05 of the 2nd period to put the Bruins on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two. John-Michael Liles (1) and Riley Nash (2) had the assists on the goal that made it a 3-1 game.

Just 42 seconds later, David Backes (1) had his turn to score on the breakaway— and he did, beating Anderson on the low side with help from Liles (2) and Tommy Cross (1). The Providence Bruins (AHL) captain, Cross notched his first career point in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in just his first appearance in a NHL playoff game.

Boston was right back into the swing of things, trailing 3-2.

David Pastrnak (1) unleashed a cannon of a shot on a power play goal for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal in just his third career NHL playoffs appearance at 13:51 of the 2nd. The assists on Pastrnak’s goal went to Charlie McAvoy (1) and Ryan Spooner (2). As a result, McAvoy picked up his first career Stanley Cup Playoff point in his third career NHL playoff game— he’s yet to debut in the regular season, mind you.

Both teams swapped chances until regulation alone could not decide the outcome of the game.

Ryan (2) continued his recent streak of timely contributions with a power play goal at 5:43 of overtime. Ryan’s goal did not come without controversy, however. No, it was not because of an offsides review, but rather, the fact that it appeared as though Ryan had gotten away with a right elbow on Bruins forward, Riley Nash, before Nash retaliated and was subsequently penalized.

Regardless of the right call/wrong call argument, Kyle Turris (1) and Karlsson (4) notched the assists on the game winning goal and the Senators now have a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at TD Garden with puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on USA in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.

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Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

As has become custom with this series, Toronto needed overtime to beat the Capitals 4-3 Monday at the Air Canada Centre and earn a one-game lead in its Eastern Conference Quarterfinal.

Game 3’s overtime hero is none other than longtime Leaf and First Star of the Game Tyler Bozak, but the game-winning play actually started before regulation even ended. Not only did Toronto outshoot the Capitals 9-3 in the third period, but they also earned a man-advantage. With 16 seconds remaining before the end of regulation, Lars Eller earned himself a seat in the penalty box for hi-sticking Zach Hyman. Hyman had already gotten under Washington’s skin earlier in the period, as he and Game 1’s winner, Tom Wilson, both earned negating roughing penalties with 2:32 remaining in regulation.

Washington was only seven seconds from killing off Toronto’s third power play of the game, but Bozak had other intentions. After Bozak won possession behind Braden Holtby’s net, Morgan Rielly got ahold of the puck at the blue line to reset the play. He dished to Nazem Kadri at the far face-off circle, who quickly fired a wrist shot towards the crease. It was intentionally off target, a set play the Leafs have been working on that allowed Bozak to redirect the puck to the near post past Holtby’s blocker for the lone man-advantage goal of the contest.

To make matters worse for the Caps, they are just another chapter in what seems to be the most popular sports meme of the past year: Washington joins the Cleveland Indians and Golden State Warriors in blowing a 3-1 lead.*

Washington’s first line was on fire to start this matchup. After only 4:49 of play, Third Star Nicklas Backstrom (Nate Schmidt and T.J. Oshie) and Alex Ovechkin (Backstrom and Oshie) had both found the back of the net for an early 2-0 lead. If not for Second Star Auston Matthews’ (Rielly) tally with 5:52 remaining in the first period, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s (Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams) goal 5:39into the second frame would have been three-straight goals before the midway point.

But as swift as the Capitals’ offense was to start the first period, the Maple Leafs were just as fast to close the second. In a span of only4:07, Kadri (Leo Komarov) and William Nylander (Matthews and Hyman) scored a tip-in and a wrister, respectively, to level the game at three-all.

Perhaps the most exciting play of the game belonged to Holtby, but it wasn’t anything he did in his crease. He stopped any chance of a Leafs breakaway opportunity at the tail end of a Washington five-on-three advantage in the second period. As Mitch Marner was screaming up the far end of the ice, he emerged from his crease to beyond the face-off circle to force the puck off of the rookie’s stick.

*Honorary Mention: the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.

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Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators— Game 3

By: Connor Keith

With a 3-2 overtime victory at Bridgestone Arena Monday, Nashville has taken a three-game lead in its Western Conference Quarterfinals matchup against the Blackhawks.

Pick your overtime goal-scorer from the Predators’ roster: Viktor Arvidsson? Second Star of the Game Filip Forsberg? Ryan Johansen? James Neal?

No, nope, nada and that was the closest guess, but still wrong. It was actually rookie Kevin Fiala, who took First Star honors with only his second tally of the postseason.

The play actually started as a simple dump along the far boards into the offensive zone by Calle Jarnkrok to give Nashville a defensive line change due to a poor pass from Neal at the blue line. To make up for his mistake, Neal meets the puck along the near boards and begins advancing it towards Corey Crawford’s net by using the eventual goal-scorer as a screen. Once Fiala reached the top of the crease, Neal dished the puck to him for an easy backhanded winner.

An overtime winner is far from how the Preds started Game 3. It seems the Blackhawks’ offense was taking a vacation and catching some tunes at the Grand Ole Opry in the first two games of this series. Now that it is reconnected with the club, it’s all Chicago could seem to do. Only 65 seconds into the second period, Dennis Rasmussen (Marcus Kruger and Richard Panik) scored the Hawks’ first goal of the series, followed 10:10 later by Patrick Kane’s (Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews) first goal since March 27. Chicago took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission and looked to be righting the ship.

My how things changed in a hurry, but Joel Quenneville is going to have some questions for the league on his day off Tuesday, as he is probably of the opinion that neither of the Predators’ regulation goals should have counted.

The first is less of a discussion point. Arvidsson fired the original wrist shot, but overshot the crossbar and sent the puck flying towards the glass. …Or, at least that’s what Crawford expected. But instead of finding glass, Arvidsson’s misfire banked off one of Bridgestone Arena’s golden stanchions that connect the panes of glass, causing a wild ricochet that ended up landing right in front of an unknowing Crawford. Forsberg discovered the puck first, and he finished the play with a wrist shot only 4:24 into the third period.

The reason for doubt with this goal is no camera angle – at least not one that CNBC had access to – could tell if the puck continued travelling up the glass after hitting the stanchion and touched the netting. If it did, the puck that landed in Crawford’s crease should have been ruled dead, meaning the goal would not have counted.

The second though, that is the one that had the entire Windy City screaming at its televisions. After receiving a feed from Johansen, Ryan Ellis fired a strong slap shot from the point. His aim was pure, but Crawford was able to deflect, but not contain the puck. Forsberg took advantage, as he collected the rebound by crossing the crease and puts it far post to level the game at two-all.

Forsberg’s collection (or his board, as basketball fans would say) is where things get a little hairy. As he traverses the crease, he makes contact with Crawford – who is technically outside his crease, but has established his position – and knocks the goaltender off-balance. Though the Blackhawks challenged the play, the replay official in Toronto upheld the goal with no goaltender interference.

Probably something about no conclusive evidence. That’s what every official ever says from the replay booth.

A third period battle that was especially exciting to watch was contested between P.K. Subban and Toews. Near the midway point of the third period, the golden-clad defenseman effectively, though legally, tripped the Hawks’ captain. Of course, Toews didn’t like that too much and landed a forceful slash on the back of Subban’s legs – one of the few places a skater has no padding. But what really made this battle so interesting – be it between Subban and Toews or any other plays – is the level of respect exhibited by both sides. No matter what happened while the clock was running, the physical play stopped almost immediately after the whistle was blown.

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Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames— Game 3

Speaking of blown leads (look at Connor’s WSH @ TOR recap for reference), the Calgary Flames blew a 4-1 lead in Game 3 of their First Round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks and succumbed to a 5-4 overtime loss Monday night on home ice at Scotiabank Saddledome

Anaheim goaltender, John Gibson made 12 saves on 16 shots against before being replaced by Jonathan Bernier, who went on to stop all 16 shots he faced in the remaining 32:57 of the game for the win. Flames goalie, Brian Elliott made 22 saves out of 27 shots faced for an .815 save percentage in the loss.

Sean Monahan (3) kicked off scoring early into the 1st period for Calgary with a power play goal. Troy Brouwer (1) and Johnny Gaudreau (2) were credited with the helpers as the Flames took a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into the game.

Kris Versteeg (1) followed suit with a power play goal of his own and his first goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs a little over seven minutes later to put Calgary up 2-0. Monahan (1) and T.J. Brodie (3) had the helpers on Versteeg’s first postseason goal in a Flames uniform.

Before the first period was out, there were some signs of life from the Ducks, as Nick Ritchie (1) notched his first of the 2017 postseason behind Elliott. Antoine Vermette (1) and Hampus Lindholm (1) assisted on Ritchie’s goal which cut the lead in half heading into the first intermission. 

Things were looking up for the Flames as their February acquisition from the Arizona Coyotes, defenseman Michael Stone (1), scored his first of the playoffs 4:34 into the second frame. Stone’s goal was assisted by Brodie (4) and Mikael Backlund (1) and added some insurance to their lead at 3-1.

Sam Bennett (2) added to a hot night for the Flames power play unit with a goal at 8:33 of the 2nd period. Calgary captain, Mark Giordano (1) and Backlund (2) picked up the assists as the lead grew to 4-1.

But Shea Theodore (1) wouldn’t let the Flames or their fans become complacent just yet, firing his first of the postseason into the twine with 49 seconds left in the 2nd period to make it a 4-2 game. Rickard Rakell (1) and Kevin Bieksa (3) assisted on Theodore’s goal.

If you thought the Flames were in the clear past halfway in the 3rd period, you were wrong.

Nate Thompson (1) tipped in his first of the playoffs on a goal that was reviewed for a potential high stick 11:14 into the final frame of regulation. Lindholm (2) fired the original shot and Corey Perry (1) sent the initial pass to Lindholm for the primary and secondary assists on Thompson’s goal.

Theodore (2) struck for the 2nd time on the night with Bieksa (4) and Thompson (1) collecting the helpers on the game tying goal at 15:39 of the 3rd period.

In a little over four minutes the Ducks had tied the game, 4-4, and forced overtime.

Sudden death overtime didn’t last too long, however, as Perry (1) wired one past Calgary’s net minder 90 seconds into the overtime period. Rakell (2) and Thompson (2) had the assists on what became a three point night for Nate Thompson (one goal, two assists). Anaheim had completed the comeback and stolen a win on road ice.

Perry’s goal marked the first time in franchise history for the Ducks to have overcome a three-goal deficit and win in a postseason game. Monday night also marked the third time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that all four games scheduled on the same night required overtime.

Anaheim now leads Calgary 3-0 in the series with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. Wednesday’s action can be viewed nationwide in the United States on USA and in Canada on CBC and TVA Sports.

April 2 – Day 165 – Gigantic goalies

After the final game is complete this evening, we will be officially in the final week of the 2016-17 NHL regular season. It is officially crunch time.

This Sunday’s action gets started at 12:30 p.m. with Boston at Chicago (NBC/TVAS). After that, we have staggered starts every hour, on the hour. 3 p.m. marks the puck drop of the New York Islanders at Buffalo (SN), followed an hour later by Nashville at St. Louis. Carolina at Pittsburgh (NHLN) gets underway at 5 p.m., and a trio of games (Colorado at Minnesota, Dallas at Tampa Bay and Washington at Columbus) follows suit 60 minutes later. 7 p.m. marks the puck drop of San Jose at Vancouver (SN), half an hour before Philadelphia at the New York Rangers (NBCSN). More of the West Coast gets involved at 9:30 p.m. with Anaheim at Calgary (SN1), an hour before tonight’s nightcap: Arizona at Los Angeles.

Short list:

  • Boston at Chicago: For those that love Original Six battles, this is, if my count is correct, the second-to-last one of the year.
  • Nashville at St. Louis: The difference between third in the Central Division and the second wild card is nonexistent.
  • San Jose at Vancouver: A 10-year veteran of the Canucks, Jannik Hansen now makes his home in San Jose.
  • Philadelphia at New York: The Flyers are still hanging around in the playoff hunt, but they’ll need to beat another rival to stay alive.

Call me biased, but there’s no way we’re not heading to Scottrade Center for this important Central Division matchup.

 

8-3-2. That’s the 40-27-11 Predators‘ record since March 7. Though it’s not the best run in that stretch of time, it’s still been more than enough to all but punch Nashville‘s third-straight ticket into the playoffs. Currently occupying the second wild card, it has a 10-point advantage on the Kings.

In fact, all the Preds need to do is avoid a regulation loss and they will be among the 16 teams playing after next Sunday’s regular season finale.

Of course, Smashville has bigger ideas in mind than simply eliminating Los Angeles. Third place in the Central Division is held by their opponent this afternoon, who leads the Predators with only one-fewer game played.

To surge past the Notes, the Predators will probably employ the same tactic that has been the backbone of their recent winning ways: goaltending.

Wait, I thought Nashville was an offensive team… Well, that’s true. On the season as a whole, the Predators have notched 2.92 tallies-per-game, the ninth-best scoring rate in the NHL. Yet since early March, the Preds have allowed only 28 goals against, which #ties for sixth-fewest in that time.

In short, 31-18-8 Pekka Rinne has been excellent of late. Already among the league’s better goaltenders on a normal day, his .931 save percentage and 1.97 GAA of late are far superior to his season-long averages of .917 and 2.44. In fact, since March 7, he’s posted the eighth and (t)sixth-best marks, respectively, among the 32 goalies with at least seven appearances in that time.

Rinne can’t save everything though. That becomes brutally apparent when a Predator takes a seat in the penalty box. Over the past month, Rinne has saved only 32-of-41 power play shots against (78%), which ties for the 11th-worst power play save percentage in that time span.

But take notice of how many shots he’s faced. 41 is a lot. In fact, it’s tied for 14th-most in the league since early March. Therein lies Smashville‘s penalty kill problem. P.K. Subban leads the team with five shorthanded shot blocks, especially when paired with his two shorthanded takeaways.

But yes, only five blocks on the penalty kill in his last 13 games. And yes, he leads the team with that measly total over this stretch.

The penalty kill needs to be a bigger priority for this team, and it needs to see improvements in a hurry. Over the past month, Nashville is sixth-worst in the NHL when down a man, neutralizing only 74.3% of its infractions.

Special teams seem to be a struggle for David Poile’s club this season, because the power play actually manages to be worse than the penalty kill. The Predators tie with Colorado (remember, being compared to the Avalanche in any way this season is a recipe for disaster) for the second-worst man-advantage in the NHL since March 7, converting only 11.4% of opportunities.

Of that limited success, much of it has been off James Neal‘s stick. He’s scored three of Nashville‘s four power play goals in the past month, an impressive effort given the mire he’s been surrounded by.

Can you pick the best team in the league since March 5? Here’s a hint: they’ll be wearing blue today.

That’s right, it’s the 42-28-7 Blues. Having gone 11-1-2 since then, the Notes tie Carolina with 24 points in that time – on two fewer games.

Similar to Nashville‘s surge over the past month, this streak is a direct result of improved play in the crease by Jake Allen. He’s gone 30-19-5 all season, but 8-1-2 of that has come in the past 29 days.

Among goalies with at least four appearances in the past month, Allen is second only to Sergei Bobrovsky in his play. In the month of March, Allen posted an excellent .953 save percentage and 1.35 GAA, making him almost impenetrable to opposing offenses.

What definitely sets him apart from Rinne is the Blues‘ success on the penalty kill. While the Predators are prone to giving up power play goals, St. Louis has successfully neutralized 86.5% of their infractions in the past month, the fifth-best rate in the NHL.

St. Louis‘ power play has also been having a run of success this month. Led by Alex Pietrangelo and his five power play points, the Notes have converted 21.2% of their power plays since March 5, the 10th-best mark in the league.

As you’d might guess, Vladimir Tarasenko has potted a couple of those tallies, but what makes the Blues truly dangerous is the fact that six different players have scored a power play goal in the past month. Unpredictability is a dangerous weapon, and St. Louis has employed it well.

As far as the season series is concerned, this game is meaningless since the Predators have already won three of the previous four meetings. The last time they met was December 30, and it was Nashville‘s most dominant victory in the series. Jusse Saros led the way by saving all 25 shots he faced for a 4-0 shutout at Scottrade Center, the site of today’s matchup.

Some players to keep an eye on during today’s game include Nashville‘s Ryan Johansen (47 assists [ninth-most in the league]) and Rinne (31 wins [10th-most in the NHL]) & St. Louis‘ Allen (four shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]) or Carter Hutton (2.34 GAA [10th-best in the NHL]) and Tarasenko (36 goals [fifth-most in the league]).

According to the odds-makers in the desert, St. Louis is a -135 favorite to win this afternoon. I have to agree. Where the Blues will truly dominate today is in special teams situations. The Predators‘ best shot at pulling off the upset is keeping both penalty boxes empty.


It needed overtime, but Edmonton was able to hold home ice and best the Ducks 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to improve into first place in the Pacific Division.

The first period nearly escaped scoreless, but First Star of the Game Connor McDavid (Patrick Maroon and Adam Larsson) had other plans. He buried a wrist shot with 49 seconds remaining in the frame to give the Oilers a 1-0 going into the first intermission.

That didn’t seem to sit well with Ryan Getzlaf (Jakob Silfverberg and Cam Fowler) over the break, as he took advantage of Matt Hendricks being sent to the sin bin by scoring a power play slap shot 3:27 into the second period. That tied the game at one-all, the same score that read going into the second intermission.

8:53 into the final frame, Patrick Eaves (Antoine Vermette and Silfverberg) provided Anaheim its first lead of the night. It was the result of another power play, this time a slashing penalty by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But what goes around, comes around. With 1:58 remaining in regulation, Third Star Milan Lucic (Leon Draisaitl and McDavid) scored a power play tally of his own to level the game at two-all and force overtime.

Three-on-three play didn’t last long before Draisaitl (McDavid) ended it. After only 1:26 of overtime play, the third-year pro buried a wrister to win the game for Edmonton.

Cam Talbot took the victory after saving 16-of-18 shots faced (88.9%), leaving the overtime loss to Second Star John Gibson, who saved 34-of-37 (91.9%).

The 84-58-25 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are now riding a three-game winning streak. That’s important as the series comes to a close, as it gives them a three-point advantage on the roadies.

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Central Division

Unknown-21. Minnesota Wild– 37-12-6 (80 points, 55 GP)

To nearly everyone’s surprise, the Minnesota Wild are first in the Central Division. I say “to nearly everyone’s surprise” because the Central Division is usually just assumed to be controlled by the Chicago Blackhawks, since at least 2010.

Aside from needing to maintain this surge in momentum that the Wild have been on, it’s reasonable to believe Minnesota will move someone that’s been largely expendable for the Wild organization, but could perhaps use a fresh start elsewhere in return for a nice little package that’ll get them further in the playoffs than in recent years. Look, I really don’t know what Minnesota needs, other than to end some of the rumors that are always swirling the team about Jonas Brodin’s future and such.

Potential assets to trade: F Erik Haula, D Jonas Brodin

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Drew Stafford (WPG)

Unknown-22. Chicago Blackhawks– 35-17-5 (75 points, 57 GP)

The Chicago Blackhawks look like they’re going to go with their usual formula this season at the trade deadline. Acquire a veteran or two, make them look like they robbed the team they made a deal with, then not be able to sign a bunch of people in the offseason after winning the Cup. It is an odd year, after all.

The Blackhawks have a plethora of later picks in the 2017 draft, which all but solidify the “acquire some old guy” theory. They also have almost all of their first, second and third round picks as well, so if they needed to replenish anything immediately and focus on maintaining a future, they could do so.

This could be the year that some 38-year-old forward with a lengthy term and cap hit remaining on his contract gets moved to find a more suitable and long term replacement alongside Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Jonathan Toews, et al.

Potential assets to trade: F Marian Hossa, F Marcus Kruger, F Andrew Desjardins, D Michael Rozsival, G Scott Darling

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), F Drew Stafford (WPG), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown3. St. Louis Blues– 29-22-5 (63 points, 56 GP)

The St. Louis Blues really shouldn’t be where they are in a playoff spot, but this is the world we live in now with the current structure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs format. I digress.

St. Louis is one of those teams that’s marginally decent and could, on a whim, take a turn for the worst. This is one of those years where the Blues management should strongly consider whether or not they have the tools for a deep playoff run and a future, because at a glance– they don’t. They’re getting older and they’ve had to witness the loss of a franchise player in David Backes to free agency because of the salary cap and all.

It’s always better to get something for a player than to get nothing at all. And St. Louis has a defenseman that’s in demand that they’ll probably lose this offseason in free agency if they don’t try to move him now. They’ve got to stay ahead of the downward curve as much as they can to stay competitive.

Potential assets to trade: F Patrik Berglund, D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Carter Hutton

Potential assets to acquire: F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Reto Berra (FLA), F Tyler Johnson (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown4. Nashville Predators– 27-21-8 (62 points, 56 GP)– currently the first Wild Card in the Western Conference

After acquiring one of the better defensemen in today’s game in June, the Nashville Predators are far from hitting the mark everyone expected they would. Now, whether or not the Preds will make the playoffs and just how far might they go remains to be seen, but if anything, they should be buyers at the trade deadline, as opposed to sellers.

The floor hasn’t fallen out from underneath Nashville and they’ve simply been caught in a transition year. Could they restructure some parts of their roster, yes, but it might be wise to just do that in free agency when more options will be open. It would be unwise to simply do nothing at the deadline, though, as Nashville could dangle some of their veterans as bait.

Potential assets to trade: F James Neal, F Mike Ribeiro, F Vernon Fiddler, D Yannick Weber

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Tyler Johnson (TB), F Onrej Palat (TB)

Unknown-25. Dallas Stars– 22-25-10 (54 points, 57 GP)

Facing a lot of injuries and an aging roster, the Dallas Stars have a lot of attractable options to sell as rentals for teams looking for just a little more depth to get them further this season.

This is not how the Stars expected this season to go, but this is what they’ve got. Contrary to what Dallas likes to believe, they should trade at least one of their goaltenders and acknowledge that other parts of their roster could be filled with a younger player that might be able to keep up with the speed game of the Central Division, let alone the modern NHL. Additionally, Stars GM Jim Nill has some repairs to make on the blue line, but it’s best if they wait until free agency to do so.

Potential assets to trade: F Adam Cracknell, F Patrick Eaves, F Jiri Hudler, F Lauri Korpikoski, F Patrick Sharp, G Kari Lehtonen, G Antti Niemi

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Jonathan Drouin (TB), F Tyler Johnson (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB), F Drew Stafford (WPG), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

Unknown-46. Winnipeg Jets– 25-29-4 (54 points, 58 GP)

Despite all of the hype from earlier this season, the Winnipeg Jets have cooled down a bit. After having a taste of the postseason in 2015, Winnipeg’s been on the lookout for a savior like Patrik Laine for quite some time. This might not be their year to get into the playoffs and on a long run, but they can certainly set themselves up for next year as sellers on March 1st.

They don’t have much to sell, but they have just enough to revamp parts of their roster, while still being able to land a good draft pick or two and really building a solid foundation for the future. It’s not wrong to think that the Jets might be taking the Toronto Maple Leafs model and fast forwarding through all of the mumbo-jumbo that the Leafs had going on for the last decade until now. The kids are alright in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Potential assets to trade: F Shawn Matthias, F Drew Stafford, F Chris Thorburn, D Paul Postma, D Mark Stuart, G Michael Hutchinson, G Ondrej Pavelec

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), G Malcolm Subban (BOS), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Jean-Gabriel Pageau (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Ondrej Palat (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB)

Unknown-17. Colorado Avalanche– 15-36-2 (32 points, 53 GP)

This is pathetic, stupid, hockey. I mean, the Colorado Avalanche are like, when the Atlanta Thrashers first came into the league level bad. I won’t go as far to say that they’re like an AHL team, but the Avalanche have a situation that couldn’t possibly get any worse– but looks like it will– before it gets better.

Fifteen wins in 53 games played so far this season. Fifteen.

Colorado GM Joe Sakic has an immensely improbable mountain to climb. Yet, as we’ve seen Super Joe do before (at least on the ice), he’s looking to perform and perform in a big way. The biggest sellers at this year’s trade deadline, the Avalanche are looking at dumping everyone except for Nathan MacKinnon and their head coach, Jared Bednar. Though it pains me to see franchise players, like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, being shopped after an unsuccessful turnaround since 2009.

Potential assets to trade: F Rene Bourque, F Joe Colborne, F Blake Comeau, F Matt Duchene, F Jarome Iginla, F Gabriel Landeskog, F John Mitchell, D Tyson Barrie, D Cody Goloubef, D Erik Johnson* (*pending his injury status), D Fedor Tyutin, G Calvin Pickard

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), G Malcolm Subban (BOS), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Tyler Johnson (TB), F Ondrej Palat (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB), D Martin Marincin (TOR), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

January 17 – Day 94 – Making up like a country song

Welcome to Tuesday hockey, one of the seven best days for the sport in the week. There’s nine games on the schedule this evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. (Dallas at the New York Rangers [SN/SN1/TVAS] and Carolina at Columbus) and Buffalo at Toronto half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of another pair of contests (Ottawa at St. Louis [RDS] and New Jersey at Minnesota), and another pair get underway an hour later (Chicago at Colorado [NBCSN] and Florida at Calgary). The final pair of games – Nashville at Vancouver and Tampa Bay at Anaheim (SN/SN1) – drop the puck at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Buffalo at Toronto: It’s the Battle of the QEW this evening, one of the Sabres‘ fiercest rivalries.
  • Nashville at Vancouver: For the last three seasons, Yannick Weber played for the Canucks, but he returns tonight wearing a white sweater.

Since I highly underestimated Cody McLeod‘s debut for Nashville, I feel I owe the Predators a feature. Looks like Weber 2.0 is our lucky guy.

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After playing the first five seasons of his professional career with the Canadiens, Weber made like a pioneer of old and headed west for brighter futures. He landed in Vancouver before the 2013-14 season.

His first season with the Canucks was not one that turned league heads, but it was important for him personally. He had a goal of proving to Montréal that he was worthy of being kept, and he made that known by notching a then career-high of six goals.

He followed that up in 2014-15 with his most impressive campaign to date, lighting the lamp 11 times and notching a career-best 21 points.

With last season being a significant step back for the defenseman, Weber once again found himself looking for a new club. He found his way to Nashville, where he’s playing on the third blueline pairing and notching a season +8, easily the best mark of his career.

Yannick and his Predators come into tonight’s game with a 20-16-7 record, the fourth-best mark in the Central Division and ninth in the Western Conference thanks to winning their last three games. On the outside looking in, the main concern for the Preds has been their offense that has scored only 118 goals, the 13th-fewest in the league.

Ryan Johansen has been the biggest weapon in Nashville, as he has a team-leading 30 points. That being said, it’s been James Neal that has been the most dangerous to goaltenders with his club-leading 14 goals.

Nashville‘s offensive struggles aren’t for a lack of effort. They’ve averaged 31 shots-per-game, the seventh-most in the NHL. Unfortunately Roman Josi, the man who accounts for nearly three shots per night, has a miserable 4% shot percentage – easily the worst mark of his successful career. If and when he finds his rhythm again, the Preds will surely be able to make some noise as they try to qualify for the postseason.

Playing host this evening are the 20-19-6 Canucks, the sixth-best team in the Pacific Division and 10th in the Western Conference, and it’s almost funny that the Canucks‘ last three games have ended as overtime losses.

Just like the Predators, Vancouver has struggled to score the puck this season, accounting for only 107 goals in 45 games – the sixth-worst scoring rate in the league.

Bo Horvat has tried his hardest to keep the Canucks alive in the playoff race, as both his 30 points and 13 goals lead the club. Unfortunately, that goal total only ties for 50th against the rest of the NHL, which is probably most telling of Vancouver‘s situation.

Much of the reason for the Canucks‘ struggles is due to their miserable power play. Successful on only 13.4% of attempts, they rank fourth-worst in the league. Both Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin lead the team with a whopping nine power play points. D. Sedin has been the most dangerous with the man-advantage, as he also tops the club with five man-advantage goals.

The struggles continue on the penalty kill, where the Canucks‘ 79.8% success rate is ninth-worst in the NHL. Even though he’s only played 31 games, Alexander Edler has been the leading shot blocker when down a man, with 18 shorthanded blocks to his credit.

For those like me who are already keeping tabs on the playoff races, this is certainly an important game – if only for a night. The biggest impact occurs if Nashville earns a victory. In that case, they for sure move into eighth place in the Western Conference and surpass Los Angeles for the second wildcard. But, if the Panthers win in regulation in Calgary, the Predators take control of seventh in the conference and the top wildcard.

Although the Canucks can’t move into playoff position tonight, they can certainly continue their climb up the standings. A regulation win moves them past Nashville into ninth place and into a tie with Los Angeles, but the Canucks lose the games played tiebreaker to remain on the outside looking in.

These clubs have only met once so far this season, and it was only a week ago in Nashville. Although the Predators did pull away with a 2-1 victory, they needed to overtime to do it.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Nashville‘s Matt Irwin (+15 and 83 hits [both lead the team]) and Johansen (23 assists among 30 points [both lead the team]) & Vancouver‘s Horvat (13 goals among 30 points [both lead the team]) and Nikita Tryamkin (84 hits [leads the team]).

Home ice does not always result in favoritism by Vegas, as Vancouver is the projected underdog a +110. Given the nice run the Predators are on right now, I have to side with the oddsmakers.

Hockey Birthday

  • Busher Jackson (1911-1966) – Although he may not have been a role model off the ice, he was certainly one of the better players of his day. The Hall of Famer played 15 seasons in the NHL, most of which in Toronto where he hoisted the Stanley Cup in 1932. By the time his career was through, he had scored 241 goals.
  • Jacques Plante (1929-1986) – The man of hockey legend, this goaltender had difficulty keeping control of all the hardware he earned over his career. Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, he was an eight-time All Star, seven-time Vezina winner (record for the trophy), six-time Stanley Cup winner (all with Montréal) and the 1962 Hart Trophy winner.
  • Sylvain Turgeon (1965-) – Hartford selected this left wing second-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, and he quickly produced. He scored 72 points his rookie season, the second-best campaign of his career. He played most of his dozen seasons with the Whalers and played in one All Star game.
  • Jeremy Roenick (1970-) – Everyone’s favorite center-turned-analyst was drafted eighth-overall in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago, where he played most of his career. By the time his 20-season career was through, the nine-time All Star had scored 1216 points.
  • Aaron Ward (1973-) – Although drafted fifth-overall by Winnipeg in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, he never suited up for the Jets. Instead, this defenseman played most of his 15 seasons in Detroit where he won one of his two Stanley Cups.

If offense is your thing, you missed the game of the season in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day. A combined 15 goals were scored in 60:34 of play, with Conor Sheary earning Pittsburgh an 8-7 victory over the Capitals.

With so many goals, it’s going to be much easier just giving the game summary in list form.

*Warning: Be prepared for an obnoxious second period.*

First Period:

  1. 7:06 – Andre Burakovsky (Daniel Winnik) – Caps lead 1-0
  2. 17:09 – Nicklas Backstrom (T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin) – Caps lead 2-0

Second Period:

  1. 1:17 – Justin Williams (Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson) – Caps lead 3-0
  2. 6:28 – First Star of the Game Evgeni Malkin (Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz) – Caps lead 3-1
  3. 7:12 – Sheary (Second Star Sidney Crosby and Daley) – Caps lead 3-2
  4. 8:55 – Nick Bonino (Schultz and Phil Kessel) – Tied 3-3
  5. 13:47 – Bryan Rust (Daley and Olli Maatta) – Pens lead 4-3
  6. 14:37 – Malkin (Jake Guentzel and Schultz) – Pens lead 5-3
  7. 15:07 – Brett Connolly (Taylor Chorney and Andre Burakovsky) – Pens lead 5-4
  8. 16:54 – SH – Third Star Lars Eller (Nate Schmidt and Oshie) – Tied 5-5
  9. 17:19 – PP – Malkin (Patric Hornqvist and Crosby) – Pens lead 6-5

Third Period:

  1. 5:55 – Crosby (Sheary and Rust) – Pens lead 7-5
  2. 9:29 – PP – Oshie (Ovechkin and Matt Niskanen) – Pens lead 7-6
  3. 14:38 – Eller (Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen) – Tied 7-7

Overtime

  1. :34 – Sheary (Crosby and Schultz) – Pens win 8-7

Matthew Murray holds on for the victory after saving 21-of-28 shots faced (75%), leaving the overtime loss to Philipp Grubauer, who saved eight-of-11 (72.7%). He came into the game in relief of starter Braden Holtby, who saved 21-of-26 (80.8%) before being pulled following Malkin’s second goal. Holtby obviously earned no-decision.

In addition to ending their own losing skid and Washington‘s winning streak, Pittsburgh also broke the three-game trend of road victories in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The series record now favors the home squads by five points with their 50-32-14 record.