Tag Archives: Jeff Skinner

November 22 – Day 50 – Decision day, beta version

The big day is finally here! If stats are right – and, I mean, they usually are – the way the standings read after tonight’s action should include 78 percent of this April’s postseason participants.

Making this evening even more exciting, today is the second day of the 2017-’18 season that features the maximum 15 games. Of course, that means one team has to be left off the schedule, which is why members of the Blues are already consuming their turkey dinners.

As for teams on the clock tonight, the action starts at 7 p.m. with nine of those games (Minnesota at Buffalo, Edmonton at Detroit, Toronto at Florida, Boston at New Jersey, Philadelphia at the New York Islanders, Vancouver at Pittsburgh, Ottawa at Washington [TVAS], the New York Rangers at Carolina and Calgary at Columbus [SN360]) and Chicago at Tampa Bay (NBCSN) half an hour later. Montréal at Nashville (RDS/SN1) drops the puck at 8 p.m., while a pair of contests (Dallas at Colorado and San Jose at Arizona) wait until 9 p.m. before getting underway. Finally, tonight’s co-nightcaps – Vegas at Anaheim and Winnipeg at Los Angeles – close out what I consider the first quarter of the season at 10:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

One of the games I had circled on my calendar today was Minnesota at Buffalo due to the returns of F Tyler Ennis and LW Marcus Foligno to the Queen City after being traded this June. Combined, they played 14 seasons in Buffalo.

But, considering how important tonight’s action could be when the regular season comes to a close, I don’t have it in me to make the trip to Upstate New York. Instead, I’m far more interested in a game featuring two teams that started slow, but now are only a point outside of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

 

This matchup at PNC Arena is always a special one to me, because it was my first – and still only – NHL hockey game.

But I’m not featuring it simply for personal nostalgic reasons. As mentioned before, these teams are fighting for their playoff lives after rebounding from very slow starts to the season.

After beginning their campaign with a 2-6-2 record, the 10-9-2 Rangers have exploded in the month of November (and Halloween) to win seven of their last nine games.

The biggest impetus for this resurgence has been the Rangers’ offense making the decision to dominate games. Not only does possessing the puck give New York a better chance of scoring – which it does with ease, by the way, managing 32 goals since Halloween to rank (t)fifth-best in that time – but it also alleviates the pressure on the defense and 9-6-2 G Henrik Lundqvist, whose .91 save percentage since the start of last season is noticeably lower than his career .92 effort.

Leading that offensive charge in the Big Apple is none other than C Mika Zibanejad, whose 10 points in the last nine games top the clubhouse leader board. With seven of those points being assists, Zibanejad’s chemistry with Pavel Buchnevich is almost palpable, as the sophomore winger has warmly embraced his role as the first line’s goalscorer.

In 41 games last season, Buchnevich scored eight goals – a decent enough total for a rookie drafted in the third round. Only 21 games into this campaign, he’s raised his game another level to already match that total, and I’d argue it’s a safe assumption to say he’ll find more than a few more. I could be over-hyping Buchnevich, but I think he has the potential to compete with the likes of Aaron Judge and Kristaps Porzingis for the title of best scorer in town.

Of course, he’ll also need to compete with a member of his own team, at least for the time being. Though W Michael Grabner is only a lowly third-liner, he’s actually been the most potent depth weapon the Blueshirts have at their disposal, as his six goals since Halloween lead the team over that stretch.

There’s just something about playing in New York City that brings out the best in Grabner, because joining the Rangers last year lit a flame that had been dormant since his days with the Islanders. While playing for the blue-and-orange, the Austrian averaged .3 goals-per-game over the course of his five seasons. That attracted the attention of Toronto, who traded for him but received only 18 points out of the transaction in the 2015-’16 season.

Since returning to The Big City, Grabner has gotten right back to his scoring ways much to the Rangers’ delight. He’s scored .37 goals-per-game in a Rangers sweater, giving him decent 9-2-11 totals given his spot on the depth chart.

If any team is capable of slowing down New York, I’d bet on the 9-6-4 Hurricanes, whose 2.68 goals against-per-game is the third-lowest in the Eastern Conference and seventh-best in the entire NHL.

No team in the East plays defense like Carolina. Led by the impressive efforts of F Jeff Skinner (team-best 18 takeaways), D Jaccob Slavin (club-leading 2.5 blocks-per-game) and F Jordan Staal (team-high 2.2 hits-per-game), the Canes allow only 29.2 shots to reach 6-4-4 G Scott Darling, which is important considering the 29-year-old’s .909 season save percentage is nowhere near the .924 he posted last year in Chicago.

Of course, the source of this season’s momentum was the offense’s performance at the end of last season. While averaging 2.95 goals-per-game is not exactly dominant (it’s the [t]15th-worst effort in the league, after all), it seems like the Canes are starting to find momentum a month into the season. Led by F Teuvo Teravainen‘s 5-7-12 effort since November 7, Carolina has managed 25 goals –  the fourth-most in the NHL in that time.

Another weapon the Rangers need to keep an eye on is the wing opposite Teravainen on the top line: Sebastian Aho. After starting the season on a 14-game goalless skid, he’s finally found his touch to score a goal in each of his last four games. With Staal having a scoring renaissance à la his last season in Pittsburgh in 2011-’12 (you know, basically his only good year when he managed 25-25-50 totals), this line has – at least at the moment – few peers (shh, stop talking Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosNikita Kucherov).

When the Hurricanes’ offense is gelling like this, they’re tough to stop – hence the 5-1-1 record over their past seven games. Should they continue that momentum and keep playing the sout defense they have all year, the Canes should be a lock to win tonight’s game and potentially pull into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.


Scoring continues to be a problem for the Montréal Canadiens, as they lost 3-1 to the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

While it’s good to find success on the power play, it must be partially embarrassing to the Habs to know their only goal in this game was struck as the result of a man-advantage. With RW Brett Ritchie serving time in the penalty box for hi-sticking D Joseph Morrow, RW Brendan Gallagher (LW Charles Hudon and Morrow) broke the scoreless draw with 7:56 remaining in the second period.

After that, this game almost entirely belonged to the Stars. That was made no more apparent than in the final 100 seconds before the second intermission when Dallas scored two quick goals to take the lead. The first belonged to First Star F Devin Shore (D John Klingberg and D Esa Lindell) courtesy of a wrist shot struck with 1:38 remaining in the period, followed only 59 seconds later by a wrister from Third Star F Jason Spezza (F Tyler Seguin and Shore) that proved to be the game-winner.

Just like Spezza has been taught his whole life, good things happen when you hang out near the net. Just before Seguin ripped his snap shot from between the left face-off circle and the goal line, Spezza moved from screening G Charlie Lindgren to moving to the top of the crease, pushing Morrow out of position in the process. Though the netminder was able to block Seguin’s shot with his left shoulder, the loose puck was prime for the taking for a relatively uncovered Spezza. Even though Morrow tried to knock him down before he could take possession, Spezza had just enough time to tap the puck to the far post before Lindgren’s left skate sealed the gap.

Both defenses really clamped down in the third period, as a total of only 14 shots were fired between the two teams. As a result, Montréal was unable to find a goal to level the game and Head Coach Claude Julien was forced to pull Lindgren for an extra attacker. With 27 seconds remaining in regulation, Seguin (RW Alexander Radulov) took advantage of the gaping cage to score an insurance empty netter and set the 3-1 final score.

Second Star Ben Bishop earned the victory after saving 29-of-30 shots faced (.967 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lindgren, who saved 26-of-28 (.929 save percentage).

Home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are now riding a five-game point streak thanks to Dallas’ victory last night. The win sets the hosts’ record at 27-17-6, which is 11 points better than that of the roadies.

November 13 – Day 41 – Lookin’ for the Promised Land

Everybody makes a big deal about Fridays that are the 13th day of a month. Since Monday is everybody’s most-dreaded day of the week, shouldn’t Monday the 13th be the unluckiest day of the year?

Think about it and get back to me.

With two games on tonight’s schedule, there’s four teams hoping I’m wrong in my assessment. The first of those – Dallas at Carolina (TVAS) – is scheduled for 7 p.m., followed by St. Louis at Calgary two hours later. All times Eastern.

We could feature a game between two teams that are already in decent position in the league table, but I’m actually more interested in the Stars-Hurricanes game if for no other reason than to say we’ve finally featured Carolina in the DtFR Game of the Day series.

 

It’s time for me to back up the heaps of praise I poured on the Hurricanes this offseason.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the real reason for my confidence in Raleigh’s 2017-’18 team goes way back to the 2015-’16 season. In March of that year, the Canes went on a quietly solid 6-2-6 run that actually ranked 10th-best in the league. Whether by F Jordan Staal‘s gritty physical play (he averaged 2.4 hits-per-game that month) or D Jaccob Slavin‘s 1.8 blocks-per-game in March, that squad played solid team defense to keep shots off G Cam Ward and earn points in six-straight games.

The Canes pulled within four points of the then-second wild card Bruins (Philadelphia eventually qualified as the eighth seed), but that momentum died and they could not improve from 10th-place in the Eastern Conference. While surely disappointing at the time, the young Hurricanes showed promise for the future.

If that comeback story sounds familiar, it’s because the Hurricanes did almost the exact same thing last year. During March of the 2016-’17 campaign, Carolina was even better than it was the previous campaign, going an incredible 10-2-5 to lay claim to the best record of the month.

What makes this surge different than the one the year before is that it was absolutely driven by the offense. The Canes scored 54 goals in the month of March, six more than both Chicago and Pittsburgh (for those wondering, doing anything offensively better than the Blackhawks or Penguins – much less both – is a very good sign). F Jeff Skinner was the primary impetus behind that attack, as he registered 12-5-17 totals – and not a one of them occurred on the power play.

Once again, the playoffs were not in the cards for Carolina. Even though they climbed into 10th-place in the Eastern Conference and trailed – who would have guessed it – the Bruins by only four points for the second wild card, the Hurricanes could not find any success in April and ended the 2016-’17 season the same way they have since 2009-’10: watching the first round on TV.

The optimism remained as strong as ever though. This still young team has now performed brilliantly in crunch time of the NHL season two years in a row, showcasing both ends of the ice. Add in the fact that Skinner, Slavin, Staal and even Ward  are all still members of this year’s club (Ward and RW Justin Williams are the only two Canes still remaining on the team from their 2006 Stanley Cup season), and Carolina seemed poised to take the next step as a franchise and return to the postseason.

That’s what inspired General Manager Ron Francis to acquire talents like G Scott Darling, D Trevor van Riemsdyk and Williams this offseason. Surely adding these solid players – who between them have five Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy – would lead Carolina to the Promised Land!

As it turns out, the 6-5-4 Hurricanes have done just what they’ve done in previous seasons: get off to a slow start that necessitates those late-season pushes. For a season of excitement, 13th-place in the Eastern Conference was not exactly in the Canes’ plan.

It certainly has not been a lack of effort on the defensive end that has held Carolina back. Staal (2.3 hits-per-game) and Slavin (2.3 blocks-per-game) are still as busy as ever, and have led the Hurricanes to allowing only 29.2 shots against-per-game, the best effort in the conference and third-best in the NHL.

Instead, it’s Head Coach Bill Peters’ offense that is holding the Hurricanes back from glory. Even with Williams (2-11-13 totals) and Skinner (8-2-10) leading the way, Carolina has managed only 2.67 goals-per-game, the ninth-fewest in the league.

That all being said, perhaps the Canes are starting to turn a corner. After a rough October, Carolina is 2-1-2 in the month of November and has earned points in its last four games, including a 3-1 victory in Columbus Friday and a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks Saturday. LW Brock McGinn in particular has been on fire during this run, as he’s supplied four of the Canes’ 10 goals since November 4 from the third line.

Another team looking to make a return to the playoffs this season is the 9-7-0 Stars, and they’re off to a much better start in achieving their goal considering they occupy seventh in the Western Conference after 16 games played.

I know I say it every time we talk about Dallas, but it still feels so weird to think about: the Stars are winning on the efforts of their defense.

*shivers*

Told you it’s weird.

The Stars have allowed only 28.8 shots to reach 7-4-0 G Ben Bishop, which is tied for the fewest in the entire league. Though his play has not indicated it’s necessary, keeping a solid netminder with a .914 season save percentage under-worked sounds like an excellent way to earn two points most nights you strap on the skates.

Whether it’s been the work of fourth-liner RW Brett Ritchie and his 2.6 hits-per-game or D John Klingberg‘s 1.8 blocks-per-game, that work in the defensive zone may prove important tonight. After the completion of tonight’s game, the Stars board a plane for Sunrise, Fla. (ok, they’re probably going to fly into Miami) for a Tuesday night tilt with the Panthers.

What that means for tonight’s game is Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has to choose which game to start backup G Kari Lehtonen, who has a 2-3-0 record on a .914 save percentage and 2.4 GAA. Considering the Panthers’ offense scores a solid 3.31 goals-per-game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lehtonen take on the Canes tonight, especially since he beat Carolina in both meetings last season.

With two teams playing some of the best defense around, this game is going to boil down to who has the better offense. Since that is the case, I’m going to bet on forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin every time. Dallas should win tonight.


With two goals in the third period, the San Jose Sharks pulled off the 2-1 comeback victory against the Los Angeles Kings in the Staples Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

If not for D Tim Heed‘s hooking penalty against F Tyler Toffoli at the 7:49 mark of the first period, perhaps the Kings never would have found their lone goal. Instead, W Dustin Brown (C Anze Kopitar and D Drew Doughty) took advantage of the man-advantage only 41 seconds later to give Los Angeles a lead it would hold for nearly 40 minutes.

Though the Sharks fired 19 shots at Second Star G Jonathan Quick through the first two periods, they didn’t find their first goal of the game until the 5:42 mark of the third period. F Melker Karlsson (F Tomas Hertl and F Logan Couture) took credit for breaking through Quick’s defenses with a wrist shot to level the game at one-all.

With 7:10 remaining in regulation, fourth-liner RW Joel Ward (F Barclay Goodrow and D Joakim Ryan) scored the third-and-final goal of the night with his left skate. Caught in the corner by Doughty and F Brooks Laich, Ward shoved a pass up the far boards to Ryan at the point that he returned back down the boards to Goodrow, who was near the left face-off circle. The forward than tried to snap a pass to W Timo Meier on the opposite side of Quick’s crease, but it was intercepted by Ward’s skate and redirected right into the net.

First Star G Martin Jones earned the victory after saving 26-of-27 shots faced (.963 save percentage), leaving the loss to Quick, who saved 31-of-33 (.939).

The Sharks’ road win is a big one in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as it pulls the 21-17-3 road teams even with the 20-16-5 hosts.

Carolina Hurricanes 2017-’18 Season Preview

Carolina Hurricanes

36-31-15, 87 points, seventh in the Metropolitan Division

Additions: G Scott Darling, C Josh Jooris, C Marcus Kruger, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, RW Justin Williams

Subtractions: G Eddie Lack (traded to CGY), G Michael Leighton (signed with TBL), D Ryan Murphy (traded to CGY), F Andrej Nestrasil (signed with HC Neftekhimik), D Matt Tennyson (signed with BUF)

Offseason Analysis: I’ve been high on the Hurricanes all offseason, but now is the time to put everything in writing.

I’m beyond excited, but let’s simply tackle the transactions to get started.

In the crease, Carolina made arguably its biggest move by bringing in Darling from Chicago to replace Lack, who was eventually traded to Calgary. For the Canes last year, Cam Ward’s 29-year old backup started 18 games for an 8-7-3 record with a .902 season save percentage and a 2.64 GAA. Meanwhile, 28-year-old Darling started 27 contests in Corey Crawford’s place for an 18-5-5 with a .924 save percentage and 2.38 GAA.

Given that Darling is certainly the goaltender of the future – and maybe even the present, taking into account 33-year-old Ward’s decline over the past two seasons – Carolina definitely improved in net.

The Hurricanes also made a major move on defense, as they allowed Tennyson to sign with Buffalo to make room for van Riemsdyk. At 27-years-old, Tennyson notched only six assists last season for a -13 rating over 45 games. Meanwhile, the former Blackhawk (noticing a trend yet?) notched 16 points in only 58 games played (he missed over a month of action with an upper-body injury) for a +17 rating. The scoring numbers may not be much of a change, but the fact that Chicago generated one more goal that it allowed while he was on the ice is far more attractive than the Canes’ efforts last season while Tennyson was playing.

Net result of a 26-year-old van Riemsdyk taking over Tennyson’s spot: an improvement I’d make any day.

And lastly, the forwards. As if General Manager Ron Francis hadn’t already gotten Head Coach Bill Peters enough new toys to play with, he also made an effort to add Mr. Game 7 – yes, the same Williams that scored the final goal in Carolina’s Stanley Cup-winning game in 2006 – to a two year, $4.5 million AAV deal. Last year in Washington, the soon-to-be 36-year-old notched 48 points evenly split between goals and assists, but his experience may be an even bigger asset for an offensive corps that had an average age of 25.6 years-old before he was added to the mix.

Even though he’s not an alumnus of the Blackhawks’ organization, I’m sure he’s going to fit in just fine.

But what makes all these additions exciting is how well the club they’re joining performed at the end of last season. From March 9-30, the Hurricanes amassed an incredible record of 9-0-4 – the best in the league during that span – by scoring over 3.5 goals-per-game for 46 tallies (that’s six more than even Edmonton’s mighty offense managed in that time).

That offensive assault was spearheaded by 2011 Calder winner F Jeff Skinner and his 12-3-15 performance (37-26-63 for the season) over that stretch, so he may need a similar start to the 2017-’18 season to prevent another slow start that has plagued Carolina in the past.

Last year, the Canes were only 9-9-4 by the end of November; they were an even worse 8-12-4 over the first two months of the 2015-’16 season. Together, the Hurricanes missed the playoffs by only a combined 18 points. If not for those slow starts, perhaps this campaign could be Carolina’s third-straight playoff appearance.

Offseason Grade: B+

All in all, Francis’ offseason acquisitions may not be quite as good as Jim Nill’s considering how much work was needed in Dallas, but he was no less effective. Carolina only improved their young core this offseason and are prepared to make some serious noise in the Metropolitan Division – but therein lies the problem. Given the competition in that division, the Canes could struggle to bust into the playoffs this season as a top-three seed, but they should be well in the hunt for a wildcard seed.

2017 NHL Expansion Draft: Protected Lists

30 of the NHL’s 31 teams submitted their protected lists on Saturday by 5 p.m. ET. The protected lists were made public at 10:30 a.m. ET (originally scheduled for 10 a.m.) on Sunday. Additionally, the available lists of players to choose from were released.

The Vegas Golden Knights will now spend the next few days constructing their roster, with the full reveal set for Wednesday night during the NHL Awards Ceremony at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

To recap, here’s all of the protected players:

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards: Andrew Cogliano, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Antoine Vermette

Defensemen: Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm

Goaltender: John Gibson

Arizona Coyotes

Forwards: Nick Cousins, Anthony Duclair, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder

Defensemen: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn

Goaltender: Chad Johnson

Boston Bruins

Forwards: David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller

Goaltender: Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Evander Kane, Johan Larsson, Ryan O’Reilly, Kyle Okposo

Defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Rasmus Ristolainen

Goaltender: Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Forwards: Mikael Backlund, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferlund, Michael Frolik, Johnny Gaudreau, Curtis Lazar, Sean Monahan

Defensemen: T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton

Goaltender: Mike Smith

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Elias Lindholm, Brock McGinn, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Teuvo Teravainen

Defensemen: Trevor Carrick, Justin Faulk, Ryan Murphy

Goaltender: Scott Darling

Chicago Blackhawks

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco, Patrick Kane, Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews

Defensemen: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook

Goaltender: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards: Sven Andrighetto, Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Rocco Grimaldi, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Nieto

Defensemen: Tyson Barrie, Erik Johnson, Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender: Semyon Varlamov

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forwards: Cam Atkinson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Alexander Wennberg

Defensemen: Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, David Savard

Goaltender: Sergei Bobrovsky

Dallas Stars

Forwards: Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza

Defensemen: Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell

Goaltender: Ben Bishop

Detroit Red Wings

Forwards: Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen: Danny DeKeyser, Mike Green, Nick Jensen

Goaltender: Jimmy Howard

Edmonton Oilers

Forwards: Leon Draisaitl, Jordan Eberle, Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu, Milan Lucic, Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Defensemen: Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera

Goaltender: Cam Talbot

Florida Panthers

Forwards: Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck

Defensemen: Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle

Goaltender: James Reimer

Los Angeles Kings

Forwards: Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar, Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli

Defensemen: Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin

Goaltender: Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

Forwards: Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker

Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter

Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards: Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Andrew Shaw

Defensemen: Jordie Benn, Jeff Petry, Shea Weber

Goaltender: Carey Price

Nashville Predators

Forwards: Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Defensemen: Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, P.K. Subban

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne

New Jersey Devils

Forwards: Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac

Defensemen: Andy Greene, John Moore, Mirco Mueller, Damon Severson

Goaltender: Cory Schneider

New York Islanders

Forwards: Andrew Ladd, Anders Lee, John Tavares

Defensemen: Johnny Boychuk, Travis Hamonic, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock

Goaltender: Thomas Greiss

New York Rangers

Forwards: Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello

Defensemen: Nick Holden, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal

Goaltender: Henrik Lundqvist

Ottawa Senators

Forwards: Derick Brassard, Ryan Dzingel, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris

Defensemen: Cody Ceci, Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf

Goaltender: Craig Anderson

Philadelphia Flyers

Forwards: Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Claude Giroux, Scott Laughton, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek

Defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning

Goaltender: Anthony Stolarz

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin

Defensemen: Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Justin Schultz

Goaltender: Matt Murray

San Jose Sharks

Forwards: Ryan Carpenter, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney

Defensemen: Justin Braun, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Goaltender: Martin Jones

St. Louis Blues

Forwards: Patrik Berglund, Ryan Reaves, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Paul Stastny, Alexander Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko

Defensemen: Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender: Jake Allen

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Steven Stamkos

Defensemen: Braydon Coburn, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman

Goaltender: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards: Tyler Bozak, Connor Brown, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, James van Riemsdyk

Defensemen: Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly

Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards: Sven Baertschi, Loui Eriksson, Markus Granlund, Bo Horvat, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter

Defensemen: Alexander Edler, Erik Gudbranson, Christopher Tanev

Goaltender: Jacob Markstrom

Washington Capitals

Forwards: Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson

Defensemen: John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov

Goaltender: Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

Forwards: Joel Armia, Andrew Copp, Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler

Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba

Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck

March 27 – Day 159 – Red hot

It happened again. The very day we detest the most: Monday.

Fortunately, the NHL is a true pal and hooked us up with a half-dozen hockey games to make it better. The action starts with three contests (Detroit at Carolina, Florida at Buffalo and Nashville at the New York Islanders [SN]) at 7 p.m., followed by Chicago at Tampa Bay (NBCSN/TVAS) half an hour later. 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Arizona at St. Louis, trailed an hour later by Colorado at Calgary, tonight’s nightcap. All times eastern.

A game of note this evening is the Red Wings‘ first of two straight visits to PNC Arena, as this is the game that had to be postponed in mid-December due to an issue with the arena’s surface cooling equipment.

Since we haven’t featured the Hurricanes all season and they’re quietly in contention for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, let’s make a trip to Raleigh!

 

You may not believe me, but it’s true: 33-27-13 Carolina is still in the playoff conversation with nine games left in their regular season. It may not look like it at quick glance since the Hurricanes have only 79 points, but that’s due in part to the reason they are active tonight.

Eleventh-place Carolina has two games-in-hand on 39-30-6 Boston (84 points) because of its rescheduled contest against Detroit. Should the Canes have played that game and lost, they’d be in much worse shape. Instead, they’ll trail the Bruins by only a point if they win both their games-in-hand and could be in prime position to end their seven-season playoff drought.

Of course, that ignores what the ninth and 10th place Islanders and Lightning do, but I don’t see them featured today!

Much of the reason the Canes are in the position they’re in right now is due to their three-game winning streak and their 7-0-3 record in their last 10 games. Carolina has been an offensive juggernaut since March 9, as their 37 goals for is the highest total in the league since then.

Though Jeff Skinner and his 54 points have been the Hurricanes‘ offensive leader for the entirety of the season, he’s been joined of late by rookie Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm, who both have 11 points during this recent streak.

Don’t read too much into that last graf though. Skinner is still the primary threat for 16-20-8 Petr Mrazek to focus on tonight. 10 of the left wing’s dozen points since March 9 have been goals, doubling Aho’s five and tying Nikita Kucherov for most in the league over that stretch.

To focus on Aho for a minute, the Fin has made a living on the power play with his five man-advantage points during this run – a top-five effort in that time-frame. That success has led the Canes to a 28% success rate with the extra man since earlier this month, the eighth-best mark in the NHL in that time and second-best in a dominant Metropolitan Division that features some elite offenses.

This offensive prowess is a change from what has been Carolina‘s priority all season: defense. In fact, the Canes have allowed only 203 goals against this year, which ties for the 16th-best mark in the NHL.

Nothing tells this story better than Carolina‘s 85.3% season penalty kill rate, the second-best mark in the league. The PK has been a major point of focus for second-year defenseman Jaccob Slavin. The Hurricanes selected him from Colorado College in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and all he’s done is lead the team with 37 shorthanded shot blocks this year. Not bad, kid (he’s almost exactly three months younger than me, I get to call him kid).

In fact, Slavin and Co. has been so good, 24-20-11 Cam Ward has faced only 155 shots against while his club is shorthanded, the lowest total among the 30 netminders with at least 39 appearances.

Other than Joe Louis Arena’s farewell season, the biggest story about the 30-32-12 Red Wings this season has been the prediction-turned-reality that they’ll miss the postseason for the first time in 25 years.

But that doesn’t mean the Wings are entirely incapable of good hockey. Though not as impressive as the Canes‘, Detroit is also riding a three-game streak of earning at least a point, and has a 4-1-1 record since March 16.

All but one of those six contests have been one-goal affairs, and it’s been a resurgent 9-8-1 Jimmy Howard, who just celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday, that has led the charge. Sidelined for much of the season with a knee injury, he’s earned a .953 save percentage and 1.29 GAA since mid-March, the sixth and seventh-best marks in the league, respectively, during that stretch.

Howard has been especially exceptional when faced with an opposing power play. Though he’s faced 12 man-advantages since March 16, he has yet to allow a power play goal after saving all 12 shots he’s faced while his club is shorthanded.

As of publication of this article, it remains to be seen if Jeff Blashill will continue alternating goaltenders this evening. It’d be an odd time to stop the recent practice since the Wings played – and won – an overtime game yesterday before traveling from Michigan to North Carolina. I’d bank on seeing Mrazek in net this evening.

Offensively, nothing paints a picture like a 14% season success rate on the power play. It’s the second-worst rate in the NHL that still features Thomas Vanek – a current member of the Florida Panthers – as the third-best point-earner. Frans Nielsen and Henrik Zetterberg have been able to create symmetry at times this year, but now is not one of those moments. They’ve earned a combined three power play points since March 16. Three.

Thanks to the postponement of what became today’s game, these clubs have only met once this season. In what was the Canes‘ final visit to The Joe, Dylan Larkin scored two of Detroit‘s goals to lead the Wings to a 4-2 victory on October 25.

These teams will complete their three-game season series tomorrow night on the same surface, which adds even a bit more intrigue to tonight’s game.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Carolina‘s Skinner (30 goals for 54 points [both lead the team]) and Slavin (149 blocks for +19 [both lead the team]) & Detroit‘s Zetterberg (46 assists [eighth-most in the league]).

There’s not few, if any, hotter than the Hurricanes right now, and they’re doing it at the right time of the year. Especially given the fact that the Wings were involved in an overtime game yesterday, I like Carolina to continue its playoff push with a win today.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bryan Campbell (1944-) – Though this center spent most of his career in the WHA, he began his professional hockey career in the NHL. He played five seasons in the league, and spent most of that time in Chicago. He scored 106 points over 260 games, including a decent 1970-’71 season with 17 goals for 54 points.
  • Dustin Byfuglien (1985-) – It’s hard to believe, but this season marks this defenseman’s seventh season with the Thrashers/Jets organization. It seems just yesterday he was hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2010 Blackhawks.

Last night’s 6-3 DtFR Game of the Day Duck victory over the Rangers was a big one, as they converted a game-in-hand on their fellow competitors for the Pacific Division title for two points to create a two-point lead with seven games remaining to be played.

The busiest period was the first, as it featured four goals. The icebreaker belonged to Rick Nash (Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad) and New York on a wrist shot 5:54 after the initial puck drop. That lead didn’t last too long though, as Third Star of the Game Patrick Eaves (Second Star Cam Fowler and First Star Ryan Getzlaf) pulled Anaheim even 3:01 later on a wrister. Once again the Blueshirts took a lead, this time off a Derek Stepan (Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello) slap shot, but the Ducks had another answer. Ryan Kesler (Getzlaf and Fowler) scored a power play tip-in with two minutes remaining in the frame to tie the game at two-all, which held into the first intermission.

At the 9:39 mark of the second period, Anaheim finally claimed its first lead of the game when Josh Manson (Getzlaf) scored a wrister. Making that goal even more impressive, the Ducks were shorthanded. That didn’t seem to phase New York though, as Brady Skjei (Jimmy Vesey and Zibanejad) buried only his fifth goal of the season 3:31 later to pull the Rangers even at three-all. That score held into the second intermission.

Whatever Randy Carlyle said in the dressing room, it worked because Anaheim buried three tallies and held the Rangers scoreless for the final 20 minutes. Andrew Cogliano (Kesler) takes credit for the game-winner 2:19 after the beginning of the final frame, followed only 2:04 later by an insurance tally from Eaves (Rickard Rakell and Getzlaf). To ensure the Rangers could not stage a late comeback, Nick Ritchie (Corey Perry) scored a wrister on an empty net with 98 ticks remaining on the clock to clinch the win.

Jonathan Bernier earned the victory after saving 25-of-28 shots faced (89.3%), leaving the loss to Henrik Lundqvist, who saved 28-of-33 (84.8%).

Thanks to the Ducks defending home ice, hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series now trial the 81-57-23 road teams by only a lone point.

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals Logo1. Washington Capitals– 39-12-7 (85 points, 58 GP)

Don’t let the sluggish return from their bye week fool you, the Washington Capitals are the league’s best team, as is customary in the regular season. The competition for this year’s President’s Trophy remains fierce between the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington, but the Capitals will more than likely pull away with yet another President’s Trophy, unless they want to let the Wild take it this year and deal with the President’s Trophy curse in the playoffs.

Washington is tight on the salary cap as they approach the trade deadline, though it would be unwise to unload salary at this point, with plenty of pending free agents to re-sign, as well as the expansion draft in June. If anything, the Capitals could make a move to acquire some depth or replenish some draft picks, should they decide it’s time to do a little restocking of prospects in Hershey.

Potential assets to trade: F Daniel Winnik, D Brooks Orpik

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Taylor Fedun (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Nick Jensen (DET), D Adam Pardy (NSH), D Yannick Weber (NSH), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

pittsburgh_penguins_logo2. Pittsburgh Penguins– 36-14-8 (80 points, 58 GP)

The defending Stanley Cup champions are right where they want to be this time of year. The Pittsburgh Penguins are well on their way to returning to the playoffs comfortably with much of the roster from last season still intact. Of course, there’s always the pressing question of when will they trade Marc-Andre Fleury?

With the Vegas Golden Knights joining the league and the expansion draft coming up in June, the Penguins are bound to lose an exceptional player. It could be one of their goaltenders– Matt Murray, since Fleury would have to automatically be protected– or Pittsburgh could save their future in goal by moving Fleury ahead of time. Plenty of teams are in the market for a solidified starting goaltender.

Other than that, the Pens won’t be active on March 1st. They’ll be buying some depth in the form of a rental player or two, but they won’t be moving much to attain someone they’ll likely pass on come July 1st (unless they’re replacing Chris Kunitz and/or Matt Cullen– both of whom are pending unrestricted free agents).

Potential assets to trade: F Eric Fehr, D Cameron Gaunce, D Steve Oleksy, G Marc-Andre Fleury

Potential assets to acquire: F Shane Doan (ARI), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), G Carter Hutton (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), G Ryan Miller (VAN), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo3. Columbus Blue Jackets– 37-16-5 (79 points, 58 GP)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next to impossible to figure out. They went on an insane 16-game winning streak earlier this season and followed it up with a bit of a decline as of late, but it appears as though head coach, John Tortorella, has righted the ship again.

Taking a look at the Blue Jackets roster, there’s a lot of youth and not that much that you’d want to give up (unless a deal that was too good to pass up presented itself, a la the Brandon Saad trade with the Chicago Blackhawks after Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup championship). Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen would certainly love to add to his roster without subtracting, if he can. It seems like it would never happen, but the Blue Jackets are buyers on March 1st.

Potential assets to trade: F Matt Calvert, umm, draft picks, I guess…

Potential assets to acquire: F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Patrick Eaves (DAL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL)

New York Rangers Logo4. New York Rangers– 38-19-1 (77 points, 58 GP)- currently the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference 

The New York Rangers are in a bit of a predicament thanks to the current qualifying format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs (someone should probably fix that– and it’s an easy fix, just go back to the 1-8 seeding).

But for all of the nonsense that is the playoff format, the Rangers really don’t have that much to worry about at the end of the day. They should try to add if they can, but they’re neither huge buyers nor are they sellers on March 1st and well, given how past years have gone, that still doesn’t do too much to help Henrik Lundqvist, but it’s a sensible strategy this season.

While New York’s defense is aging, there really aren’t that many solid options they could utilize in a top-4 position. Although, adding a depth defenseman usually isn’t a bad idea in the long run (to the Stanley Cup Final, that is). The Rangers should be really active in the offseason, if we’re being honest.

Potential assets to trade: F Tanner Glass, D Steven Kampfer, D Kevin Klein

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Michael Stone (ARI), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

New York Islanders Logo5. New York Islanders– 27-21-10 (64 points, 58 GP)

Something’s in the water in New York, and I’m not just talking about the usual suspect– the Hudson River. No, I’m talking about whatever it is assistant GM– turned interim head coach– Doug Weight has been feeding his players.

The New York Islanders have been on the rise since they looked dead in the water. They’re bound to make some marginal moves on March 1st, but nothing like whatever move they might end up having to make because of the looming pressure of being kicked out of Barclays Center/ wanting out on their own/ the eventual “mutual agreement” that will probably come by 2019.

If they can add without subtracting too much, the Islanders will be looking for as much as they can get to offset some of the awful contracts they signed in the offseason (most notably the Andrew Ladd deal).

Potential assets to trade: F Josh Bailey, F Ryan Strome, D Thomas Hickey, D Dennis Seidenberg, G Jaroslav Halak

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jiri Hudler (DAL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Jonas Brodin (MIN), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Philadelphia Flyers Logo6. Philadelphia Flyers– 28-24-7 (63 points, 59 GP)

With the way things work in the new NHL, nobody’s really out of the playoff picture, except for the Colorado Avalanche. The Philadelphia Flyers have a plethora of youth and could be the team that just might be on the verge of making a serious run in another year or two. Until then, they’re a little cap strapped.

But this season it’s a mixed bag at the trade deadline for the Flyers.

They should use the chance to dump some bad contracts on the blue line and do a little retooling with their group of forwards. They have a team that’s built for the future, but they’re lacking the right glue guys currently. Besides, it might do them good to finally commit to a goaltender.

Potential assets to trade: F Boyd Gordon, F Matt Read, F Jordan Weal, D T.J. Brennan, D Andrew MacDonald, D Nick Schultz, D Mark Streit, G Steve Mason

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Ondrej Palat (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

New Jersey Devils Logo7. New Jersey Devils– 25-24-10 (60 points, 59 GP)

After acquiring Taylor Hall in the offseason from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson, the New Jersey Devils have found themselves on the outside looking in, despite perhaps making a steal of a trade from the 2016 offseason. Of course, one player does not make up an entire team.

New Jersey took on the contract of Marc Savard’s to help get them to the cap floor and that’ll be coming off the books on July 1st, unless they look to trade his contract to a team that’s selling and selling everything (like the Colorado Avalanche, for example). The Devils are by no means out of the playoff hunt and are likely to be dark horses at the trade deadline this year as buyers who are willing to part with some components in order to land bigger components.

General manager, Ray Shero, is destined to replenish New Jersey’s talent pool a lot sooner rather than later, at least compared to how the previous GM ran the team.

Potential assets to trade: F Jacob Josefson, D Ben Lovejoy, D John Moore, G Keith Kinkaid

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

Carolina Hurricanes Logo8. Carolina Hurricanes– 24-23-8 (56 points, 55 GP)

After playing a game of money puck, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in dead last in the Metropolitan Division so far this season, despite being nine points out of a wild card spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking the money puck approach, provided you have the right mix of players and, well, aren’t trying to do so in the most dominant division in the league. Oh, wait.

The Hurricanes are a young team that should be getting better with time, only time will tell. Things haven’t looked so good since the 2009 Eastern Conference Final and especially with the decline in attendance, maybe we’re better off talking about potential cities to relocate to instead of potential transactions to be made by March 1st?

Potential assets to trade: F Jay McClement, F Andrej Nestrasil, F Jeff Skinner, F Viktor Stalberg, F Lee Stempniak, F Derek Ryan, D Justin Faulk

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Shea Theodore (ANA), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL)

April 5 – Day 173 – Win and you’re in… for the night…

The New York Islanders took it to the Lightning with three goals in the second period in yesterday’s Game of the Day, winning 5-2.

The only goal of the first period belongs to New York at the 13:18 mark on a Second Star of the Game Ryan Pulock snap shot (his second tally of the season), assisted by Kyle Okposo and First Star John Tavares.

Tampa Bay returns the period 2:08 after returning to the ice thanks to an Alex Killorn backhander, assisted by Nikita Kucherov (his 35th helper of the season) and Matthew Carle.  A minute after the midway point, Matt Martin struck the Islanders‘ second goal, assisted by Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas (his 20th helper of the season).  The game-winner found the back of the net 4:23 later, courtesy of Third Star Brock Nelson, his 26th tally of the season, after an assist from Nikolay Kulemin.  The 16:15 mark was the next New York goal, a power play slap shot from Tavares, assisted by Frans Nielsen and Okposo (his 39th helper of the season).  The final goal of the period belonged to the Bolts, Victor Hedman to be exact, assisted by Carle and Vladislav Namestnikov (his 19th helper of the season), setting the score at 4-2.

Only one goal was struck in the third, and relatively early at that.  Johnny Boychuk’s wrister found the back of the net at the 4:28 mark, assisted by Tavares (his 34th helper of the season), his second of the night.

Thomas Greiss earns the win after saving 32 of 34 shots faced (94.1%), while Ben Bishop takes the loss, saving 18 of 23 (78.3%).  He was replaced after Boychuk’s goal in the third by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who saved all 13 shots he faced.

New York‘s win is the second straight for the home teams, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 80-45-18, favoring the homers by 39 points over the roadies.

If I’ve ever said we have a busy Tuesday schedule, I was lying – this is a busy Tuesday.  We’ve got 11 games on tap today, starting with three at 7 p.m. eastern (Carolina at Boston, Buffalo at New Jersey [BELL TV] and the New York Islanders at Washington) and another three half an hour later (Tampa Bay at the New York Rangers [NBCSN/TVAS], Florida at Montréal [RDS] and Pittsburgh at Ottawa [RDS2]).  A pair drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Nashville and San Jose at Minnesota), with Arizona at Chicago getting underway 30 minutes later.  Los Angeles at Calgary drops the puck at 9 p.m. eastern, and Winnipeg at Anaheim (NHLN), this evening’s nightcap, starts an hour later.

Four of those games are divisional rivalries (New York at Washington, Florida at Montréal, Colorado at Nashville and Los Angeles at Calgary), and three are between teams qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Washington, Tampa Bay at New York and San Jose at Minnesota).  We’ve also got three playoff rematches from a year ago (New York at Washington [Eastern Quarterfinals], Tampa Bay at New York [Eastern Finals] and Winnipeg at Anaheim [Western Quarterfinals]).

With such a long list, it’s tough to pick a big game, but I think I need to choose the CarolinaBoston game since the Bruins have the chance to get back into playoff position.

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknownThis will be Carolina‘s sixth appearance in the Game of the Day, where they own a 2-1-2 record.  Their most recent appearance was when Eric Staal made his first return to PNC Arena on the last day of March, when the Canes won 6-4.  Boston was last featured Sunday, when they fell 6-4 in Chicago, to set their series record at 8-11-1.

The 34-29-16 Carolina Hurricanes are currently sixth in the Metropolitan Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference, but have already been eliminated from playoff contention.  They’ve played the 14th worst defense, but that is good compared to their fourth worst offense.  A more in-depth analysis of the Canes‘ game can be found within Thursday’s post.

Carolina last played Saturday to a 5-1 home loss to the Blue Jackets.

The  41-30-8 Boston Bruins currently sit fourth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, making them the first team out of the playoff picture.  They’ve played the fourth best offense in the NHL, paired with the 12th worst defense.

Led by Patrice Bergeron’s 272 shots, Boston has fired the puck an incredible 2510 times, with 9.1% finding the back of the net for 233 goals (led by Brad Marchand’s 36 tallies), the fourth most in the league.  That success has continued to the power play, where the Bruins‘ 21.08% success rate, good for 48 power play goals (led by Bergeron’s 12 extra man tallies), ranks seventh best in the NHL.

Even with Zdeno Chara’s 122 blocks, the Bruins have allowed 2399 shots to reach 30-22-7 Tuukka Rask and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 220 goals against, the 12th most in the league.  Although the overall defense hasn’t been there, they have clamped down when facing the power play, killing 81.75%, allowing 48 power play goals in the process, the 13th best rate in the league.  Further improving on that race, the Bruins have also scored nine shorthanded goals (led by Marchand’s four), three more than the league average.

Boston‘s 6-4 loss in Chicago on Sunday was their last game played.  With a win tonight, they will advance past Detroit for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Wings will have a game in hand to react.

Going into the deciding third game, the Bruins leads the season series 1-0-1, but the last game between these two was a 3-2 overtime Carolina winner in Boston on March 10.

Some players to keep an eye on include Boston‘s Bergeron (23 goals [10th most in the league]) and Marchand (36 goals [tied for fifth most in the league]) & Carolina‘s Jeff Skinner (249 shots for 28 goals, 24 of which were at even strength and seven were game winners, for 50 points [all lead the team]) and Jordan Staal (20 even strength and two shorthanded assists, 161 hits and a +6 [all lead the team]).

I think the Bruins win this game, mostly due to the pressure to get past the Red Wings.  A loss tonight is a big issue for Boston, and I don’t think they want to figure out the scenarios to reclaim lost ground.

March 31 – Day 168 – Staal comes home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Rangers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Flyers LogoCarolina Hurricanes Logo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7 – Day 115 – Super Bowl Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Hurricanes LogoUnknown

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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