Tag Archives: Jimmy Howard

Red Wings top Bruins, 4-2, at TD Garden

For the first time since October 4, 2013, the Detroit Red Wings have a victory in regulation at TD Garden, having beaten the Boston Bruins, 4-2, on Saturday.

Frans Nielsen scored the game-winning goal on a tip-in midway through the third period and Gustav Nyquist added the insurance empty net goal late in the third to lift Detroit over Boston on the road.

Unknown

Jimmy Howard (9-6-3, 2.66 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 19 games played) backstopped the Red Wings to victory, stopping 38 out of 40 shots faced for a .950 SV% in the win, while Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask (6-5-2, 2.59 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) turned aside 23 out of 26 shots against for a .917 SV% in the loss.

Boston remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, despite the loss, with a 14-8-4 record (32 points) on the season, while Detroit jumped to 6th place in the Atlantic with a 12-11-3 record and 27 points on the year.

Brandon Carlo returned to the lineup for the B’s on the blue line after missing the last nine games with an upper body injury. As a result, Bruce Cassidy made Steven Kampfer a healthy scratch, alongside Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (healthy scratch), Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Charlie McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) in the press box.

Cassidy kept the same lines from Thursday night’s overtime win against the New York Islanders, but adjusted his defensive pairs as such with John Moore alongside Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug with Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon on the bottom pair with Connor Clifton.

Colby Cave was penalized for boarding Detroit forward, Justin Abdelkader, 65 seconds into the game Saturday night and the Red Wings went on the power play.

Boston killed off the penalty with ease and swapped special team units from their penalty kill to the power play about 30 seconds after Cave returned to the ice as Abdelkader slashed Krug at 3:38 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Sean Kuraly tripped up Michael Rasmussen at 13:34, but the Red Wings were unable to take advantage of their skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Dennis Cholowski caught David Pastrnak with a high-stick at 16:30, sending the B’s back on the power play for the third time Saturday night, but while the Bruins couldn’t score on the Red Wings on the power play, they did strike in the vulnerable minute thereafter.

David Backes (2) retrieved the puck along the wall in the attacking zone and sent a backhand towards the goal whereby the puck deflected off of Cholowski and went past Howard to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 3.8 seconds remaining in the first period.

Moore (3) and Cave (1) had the assists on Backes’ goal at 19:56. Cave’s assist was his first career NHL point in just his 8th career NHL game (Cave appeared in three games last season and five so far this season).

Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailed Detroit, 13-11, in shots on goal. The Bruins, however, held the advantage in blocked shots (6-4) and giveaways (6-3), while the Red Wings led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-5) and face-off win percentage (65-35).

Both teams were 0/2 on the power play after on period.

Tyler Bertuzzi (9) tied things up, 1-1, at 5:45 of the second period on a deflection past Rask off of a shot from Rasmussen. The primary assist was credited to Rasmussen (4), while Mike Green (12) picked up the secondary assist.

Bertuzzi thought he had a pair of goals midway through the middle frame, Thomas Vanek had slid between Clifton and Rask just enough to clip Rask’s stick and prevent him from playing in the crease to disallow the goal– this was determined after Boston used their coach’s challenge, reversing the call on the ice.

With the game still tied, 1-1, tempers began to flare.

First, Cholowski slashed Chris Wagner at 12:47 of the second period. Then Luke Witkowski delivered a hit on David Krejci that didn’t sit well with Boston’s bench given it was the second consecutive game in which Krejci took a big– but clean– blow.

Joakim Nordstrom answered the call and promptly fought Witkowski in defense of his teammate at 15:08 of the middle period.

Shortly thereafter, all hell broke loose.

Brad Marchand delivered a hit on Nick Jensen along the boards in a clean manner that didn’t sit well with Detroit given Witkowski’s clean check on Krejci moments before. Nonetheless, Bertuzzi decided he’d give Marchand a piece of his mind and the two engaged in a battle of words and sticks with Bertuzzi delivering an uncalled cross-check.

Cave came over to respond to the third-man-in mentality of Bertuzzi and a small scrum ensued– right about the time Howard was vacating his net for a delayed call on Marchand.

Howard bumped into the scrum and swung his stick around to the observation of Rask at the other end of the ice in the crease, whereby– as everyone on the ice paired up along the benches– Rask came bursting with speed into the pile and tried to engage Howard in a fight, but the refs broke the two goaltenders up.

We almost had a goalie fight, ladies and gentlemen. Almost.

It would’ve been the first goaltender duel at TD Garden since Boston’s Tim Thomas and Montreal’s Carey Price went at it in February 2011.

In the end, Marchand received a slashing minor and Cave was served one as well. Howard got an infraction for roughing, Rask was penalized for leaving the crease, and Jacob de la Rose received two-minutes for slashing too.

Bertuzzi shortly followed up with an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty of his own before Detroit ended up on the power play after all was said and done.

Dylan Larkin (10) capitalized on a scramble in front of Rask after the Bruins netminder made the initial stop. Noel Acciari failed to clear the puck and Nyquist kept it in the zone– flinging the rubber biscuit back to the slot for Larkin to pot the puck into the twine.

Abdelkader (4) and Nyquist (16) had the assists on Larkin’s power play goal at 17:36 of the second period and the Red Wings led, 2-1.

Before the second period ended, Green hooked Pastrnak and the Bruins would be on the power play at 18:42 and into the third period.

Heading into the dressing room after 40 minutes, Detroit led, 2-1, and was tied in shots on goal with Boston, 20-20. The Bruins outshot the Red Wings, 9-7, in the second period alone and held onto the advantage in giveaways (8-5).

The Red Wings led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (7-4), hits (17-16) and face-off win% (57-43). Detroit was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame and Boston was 0/5.

Danny DeKeyser caught Acciari with a high-stick at 4:45 of the third period and the Bruins went on the power play for the sixth time in the game.

Unknown-7

This time, Boston converted on the ensuing skater advantage with Ryan Donato (2) flying in on a rush and firing the puck past Howard, high, short-side over the blocker into the twine.

Donato’s power play goal tied the game, 2-2, at 5:31 of the third period and was assisted by Pastrnak (11) and Krug (12).

Past the mid-point of the final frame, Nielsen (1) tipped in a shot from the point by DeKeyser and gave the Red Wings the lead back on what would become the game-winning goal at 11:53 of the third period.

DeKeyser (6) and Nyquist (17) had the assists on the goal and Detroit led, 3-2.

The goal was Nielsen’s first goal in 27 games– dating back to March 27, 2018.

Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker with about two minutes remaining in regulation, but it wasn’t enough to muster any fighting chance of an effort in the Bruins crew that looked flat after a rousing second period that almost broke-out in a line-brawl.

Nyquist (4) flung a puck from about the red line into the empty net to give Detroit a two-goal lead and secure the 4-2 victory. DeKeyser (7) had the only assist on Nyquist’s goal at 19:33 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Red Wings sealed the deal on the win and beat the Bruins, 4-2, despite Boston outshooting Detroit, 40-27. Detroit finished the night leading in blocked shots (16-9), hits (22-21) and face-off win% (63-37), while the B’s led in giveaways (11-6).

The Wings finished the night 1/4 on the power play and Boston went 1/6.

These two Atlantic Division rivals meet once more this season on March 31, 2019 in Detroit with the Red Wings leading the season series, 2-1-0.

Boston travels to Florida for a two-game road trip, swinging through Sunrise, Florida for a matchup against the Panthers on Tuesday and Tampa, Florida on Thursday for a battle with the Lightning before returning home next Saturday to host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

DTFR Podcast #133- Stuffed

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

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

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

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

Athanasiou’s two-goal night lifts Red Wings over the Bruins, 3-2, in OT

Detroit Red Wings forward Andreas Athanasiou scored the game-tying goal in the third period, then added his second goal of the night for the sudden death victory in overtime, 3-2, over the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena.

Jimmy Howard (7-6-2, 2.60 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 15 games played) made 34 saves on 36 shots against for a .944 SV% in the win for Detroit, while Tuukka Rask (4-4-2, 2.79 GAA, .909 SV% in 10 GP) got the start for the Bruins and picked up the loss, despite making 24 saves on 27 shots faced for an .889 SV%.

Unknown

The Red Wings improved to 10-9-2 (22 points) on the season and leapfrogged the Ottawa Senators for 6th place in the Atlantic Division standings. Boston fell to 11-6-4 (26 points), but improved to 4th place in the Atlantic by virtue of having one game in-hand over the Montreal Canadiens.

Wednesday night was the 300th meeting in Detroit between the two franchises, with the Bruins now holding an all-time record of 86-159-55 in Hockeytown, while the Red Wings are now 8-3-3 in their last 14 home games against Boston.

Detroit is also 9-2-0 in their last 11 games. Boston is 5-4-2 in their last 11 games as a result of the loss.

Patrice Bergeron missed his second straight game after being ruled out for at least four weeks with a sternoclavicular injury sustained in last Friday’s matchup on the road against the Dallas Stars. As a result, Colby Cave was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) ahead of Wednesday’s game in Detroit.

Bruce Cassidy made some minor adjustments to his lineup from Saturday’s game in Arizona against the Coyotes as Kevan Miller returned to action after missing the last 13 games with a hand injury.

Anders Bjork played alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak on the first line, with Brad Marchand, Joakim Nordstrom and Jake DeBrusk rounding out the top-six forwards.

Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Noel Acciari were left intact on the third line with Chris Wagner playing to the left of Sean Kuraly on the fourth line and David Backes on the right wing.

Miller was paired with Matt Grzelcyk on the first defensive pair, while Torey Krug continued to play alongside Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon was paired with Steven Kampfer.

Jakub Zboril was a healthy scratch and ultimately reassigned to Providence during the first intermission.

Among other scratches, Brandon Carlo (upper body), Cave (healthy scratch), John Moore (lower body), Zdeno Chara (lower body- left MCL), Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) and Charlie McAvoy (concussion) all missed Wednesday night’s action as well.

Mike Green took the game’s only penalty at 13:22 of the first period for tripping Krejci.

The Bruins were not able to convert on the ensuing power play and the game remained tied, 0-0, all the way into the first intermission.

Both teams went to the dressing room with three giveaways each and Boston leading in shots on goal (12-4). Boston also held an advantage in blocked shots (3-2) and takeaways (3-1), while Detroit led in hits (12-6) and face-off win percentage (67-33). The Bruins were 0/1 on the power play in the game’s only skater advantage.

Unknown-7

Forsbacka Karlsson (2) notched his second goal of his young NHL career after following up on a rebound that bounced off of Howard and a Detroit defender before Forsbacka Karlsson found the puck back on his stick and jammed it in at 4:08 of the second period.

Boston led, 1-0, but only for about five minutes until Nick Jensen fired a shot from the point that Tyler Bertuzzi (6) redirected through Rask’s five-hole to tie the game, 1-1, while Kampfer failed to tie-up the Red Wings forward (and goal scorer) in front of the goal.

Jensen (4) and Danny DeKeyser (3) had the assists on Bertuzzi’s goal at 9:48 of the second period.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins outshot Detroit, 25-13, in a, 1-1, tie. The Red Wings led in blocked shots (7-6), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (10-8), hits (21-12) and face-off win% (51-49) after two periods.

Early in the third period, Sean Kuraly threw the puck on goal as Chris Wagner (2) crashed the net and tabbed the garbage goal to give Boston a 2-1 lead at 6:45 of the third period. Kuraly (3) had the only assist on the goal.

Athanasiou (8) followed up with a quick equalizer at 8:59 after Gustav Nyquist fired a shot up high, glove side, that Rask couldn’t get a full handle on, generating a rebound for Athanasiou’s quick reaction and goal.

Nyquist (14) had the only assist and the game was tied, 2-2.

Through 60 minutes of play, regulation was not enough, despite the Bruins leading the Red Wings in shots on goal (35-25). Detroit actually outshot Boston, 12-10, in the third period and held an advantage in just about every other statistical category, including blocked shots (11-6), giveaways (13-8), hits (29-16) and face-off win% (57-43).

The Bruins, meanwhile, led in takeaways (6-4) entering overtime.

Just 49 seconds into overtime, Athanasiou swooped in on a face-off in the attacking zone to steal the puck after Frans Nielsen took the draw to a stalemate.

Athanasiou (9) then spun in front of the goal and scored from point blank to seal the victory, 3-2, for Detroit. Nielsen (11) had the only assist on the game-winning goal.

At the final horn, the Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 36-27, but trailing on the scoreboard, 3-2. Detroit finished Wednesday’s effort with the advantage in blocked shots (11-6), giveaways (14-8), hits (30-16) and face-off win% (60-40).

Boston is now 1-4 in overtime this season as a result of the loss.

The B’s and Red Wings will meet again in ten days back in Boston, then they won’t meet again this season until March 31, 2019 in Detroit.

For now the Bruins head home after going 1-1-2 on a four-game road trip to face the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden this Friday night. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 7:30 p.m. ET with Boston playing the first of back-to-back games on back-to-back days at home and on the road in Montreal against the Canadiens on Saturday.

DTFR Podcast #128- Celebration Hardcore Brother (a.k.a. Celly Hard Bro)

Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.

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

DTFR Podcast #123- 2018-19 Atlantic Division Season Preview

Nick, Colby and Connor talk the Max Pacioretty trade, Eugene Melnyk’s latest antics, John Tortorella’s extension, Adam McQuaid and Steve Yzerman stepping down in Tampa. Also in this episode– DTFR’s official 2018-19 Atlantic Division preview.

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

Detroit Red Wings 2018-19 Season Preview

Unknown

Detroit Red Wings

30-39-13, 73 points, 5th in the Atlantic Division

Additions: G Jonathan Bernier, D Jake Chelios, F Wade Megan, G Harri Sateri, F Chris Terry, F Thomas Vanek

Subtractions: D Adam Almquist (signed, SHL), F Colin Campbell (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), G Jared Coreau (signed with ANA), F Turner Elson (signed with Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), F Matt Lorito (signed with NYI), G Matej Machovsky (signed, ELH), G Tom McCollum (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), F Zach Nastasiuk (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), D Xavier Ouellet (buyout, signed with MTL), D Dan Renouf (signed with CAR), F Ben Street (signed with ANA), F Eric Tangradi (signed with NJ)

Still Unsigned:  F David Booth, F Matt Puempel

Re-signed: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Mike Green, F Dylan Larkin, F Anthony Mantha

Offseason Analysis: Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland is standing put this offseason. Tell me if you’ve already heard this story before.

Despite finishing 5th in the Atlantic Division (only two spots out of a playoff spot), Detroit was not at all a playoff contender by any means last season. The same remains true for 2018-19, unfortunately for Red Wings fans.

However, unlike most rebuilding teams this offseason, Detroit had a tremendous draft– landing Filip Zadina at 6th overall. Both Zadina and the Red Wings are ready to prove at least two or three other teams that passed over him wrong.

Holland didn’t just land one great pick that slipped down the order, but two with his second pick of the first round at 30th overall in Joe Veleno.

Re-signing Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha protected the Red Wings core, while bringing in Jonathan Bernier as a backup provides stability in the crease behind Jimmy Howard.

Rebuilding is a long, slow process, but Detroit is ready to speed things up a bit as they look to get younger in the right places. One thing that’s holding them back, however, is their commitment to lateral moves during this time period.

Thomas Vanek is back (for now– just wait until the trade deadline, though he really wants to stay in a winged-wheel sweater) and so is Mike Green. Frans Nielsen is still on the books with his NMC/NTC strapped contract and the blueline at Little Caesars Arena continues to age– without Xavier Ouellet in the picture after Holland used a buyout on the 25-year-old defender reaching his prime.

Holland’s plans for next offseason have to include some kind of restructuring on the back end with four defenders aged 32-plus.

Regardless, 2018-19 is poised to be an average disappointment as a placeholder season while Zadina and Co. gain experience. Detroit is at least competitive enough to lose games by one, two or three goals instead of 5-0 blowouts every other night.

Any experience is good experience, but playoff hopes should be on hold for at least one more season Red Wings fans (because otherwise, they’d be making an early exit for sure).

Offseason Grade: C

Ken Holland didn’t do much, but rather just enough to potentially set the Red Wings up for landing a goldmine in the 2019 offseason. With that in mind, Detroit should line themselves up for another high-end draft pick next June and trying to land a top UFA in 2019.

This season, however, the focus remains on finding a focus. Fix an aging defense, find the next Jimmy Howard and set sights on having younger guys inserted into the lineup.

Could Jeff Blashill be on the hotseat this season? Sure. For better or worse. It’s really not the coaching in Detroit that’s the problem. It’s an average to below average roster that’s continuing to age in a tight salary cap (but again, there’s hope for some serious restructuring next offseason).

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

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

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

2018 Offseason Preview: Detroit Red Wings

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Detroit Red Wings and their outlook for the summer.

Unknown

After missing the playoffs for the first time in over a quarter of a century, the Detroit Red Wings have only begun phase one of what looks to be a longer rebuild than some of the other recent rebuilds in the league– but one offseason, this offseason, can change the pace.

Detroit finished 5th in the Atlantic Division with a 30-39-13 record and 73 points on the season in 2017-18. While that’s two places removed from a divisional spot in the current Stanley Cup Playoff format, keep in mind that 73 points would put them just ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and tied with the Vancouver Canucks in the overall league standings.

So things, while they may seem otherwise, are pretty dire in the Red Wings organization.

Short of trading Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philadelphia’s stretch run to the postseason, the Red Wings didn’t make much news in the headlines or noise around the league.

General Manager Ken Holland signed a two-year extension in April to remain as Detroit’s general manager through the 2019-20 season and looks to see this rebuild through in his tenure with the franchise.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

The Red Wings currently have two first round picks in the Draft as part of seven total picks in the first three rounds (two firsts, two second round picks and three third round picks).

Pending any transactions, Detroit is expected to select 6th and 30th overall (via the Vegas Golden Knights, thanks to the Tomas Tatar deadline deal).

They’ll likely search for help on the blueline in Quintin Hughes, Evan Bouchard or Adam Boqvist with the higher of the two picks and could very well utilize any of the five other picks in the first three rounds on either prospects or additions to the current roster via a trade.

Author’s note (for those interested): Detroit has their own first round pick, Vegas’s first round pick, their own second round pick, Ottawa’s second round pick, their own third round pick, Philadelphia’s third round pick and Pittsburgh’s third round pick in the first three rounds of the 2018 Draft.

Pending free agents

Despite a lot of no-trade-clauses and no-movement-clauses to work around, the Red Wings have almost $17.4 million in cap space this summer and five pending-restricted free agents to re-sign, including Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.

It’s imperative that Holland finds a trading partner or two to ship out one or more of the players with NTCs or NMCs willing to waive their clause(s), because Larkin’s next deal alone (both in cap and clauses) could very well strap the team in a wedge of roster components that they cannot otherwise move around.

Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyqvist present themselves as viable options to move with Helm, 31, and Abdelkader, 31, having to waive their NTCs before agreeing to any deal and Nyqvist as a 28-year-old rental player with one-year remaining on his current contract.

Anthanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Martin Frk and Mantha are several key components to the club moving forward and should all be re-signed, while pending-unrestricted free agent forward, David Booth, likely could hit the open market.

On defense, the Red Wings currently have three blueliners age 34 and older in the likes of Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Niklas Kronwall.

Ericsson and Kronwall are two cornerstones of Detroit’s defense in both their tenure with the team in addition to their veteran presence, while Daley was signed last July after winning a couple of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. All three have some form of an NTC and are signed at a combined cap hit of $12.167 million next season, with Kronwall only signed through the end of 2018-19 at $4.750 million.

Holland will have to make some dance moves to address the overabundance of NTCs and NMCs sooner rather than later, but can probably put the defense on the back burner for another year as part of the long haul plan.

Mike Green is the only pending-UFA defender and since he wasn’t dealt at the deadline as a 32-year-old veteran seeking his first chance at a Cup, should not return to the organization.

Jimmy Howard is the number one goaltender in Detroit for the foreseeable future with one-year remaining on his contract.

As such, finding a competitive backup that could overtake Howard for the number one role remains a priority this offseason, given Jared Coreau‘s less than impressive bid for starting goaltender status.

Speaking of Coreau, the 26-year-old goaltender is a pending-UFA.

If Holland is willing to risk a season worse than this one in an already weak Atlantic Division, then the time is now to make some moves and truly bottom out before rising quickly back to Cup contender status like the great Red Wings teams of the 1990s and 2000s.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Daniel Renouf (RFA), Matt Puempel (RFA), Ben Street (UFA), Eric Tangradi (UFA), Turner Elson (UFA), Tom McCollum (UFA), Zach Nastasiuk (RFA), Matt Lorito (UFA), Matej Machovsky (RFA)

Down the Frozen River Podcast #95- Call The Ex-Sturm-inator

Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.

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

February 25 – Day 137 – MSG’s newest addition

Don’t be sad that the Olympic hockey tournaments are gone. Instead, remember the fun we had.

That brings our full attention back to the NHL, and not a moment too soon: today’s half-dozen games are the final fixtures before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Here’s hoping your favorite player is still on your team’s roster by tomorrow’s puck drop!

Today’s schedule gets underway at noon with St. Louis at Nashville (NBC/TVAS), followed by Boston at Buffalo (SN360) five hours later and Detroit at the New York Rangers (NHLN) at 7:30 p.m. Two games drop the puck at 8 p.m. (Edmonton at Anaheim [SN] and San Jose at Minnesota), followed by tonight’s nightcap – Vancouver at Arizona – at 9:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

There’s more than a few interesting narratives associated with today’s games. Here’s just a few:

  • St. Louis at Nashville: It’s a rematch of one of last year’s Western Conference Semifinals! The Predators won that series in six games.
  • Boston at Buffalo: This rivalry has died down with the decline of the Sabres, but perhaps there’s a surprise in store today.
  • Detroit at New York: Not only is this an Original Six rivalry, but the Rangers are retiring C Jean Ratelle‘s 19.
  • Edmonton at Anaheim: The other 2017 Western Semifinal is also being revisited today. The Ducks needed all seven games to beat the Oil.

There have been few like Ratelle, so let’s make the trip to Manhattan to ensure his sweater ends up where it rightfully belongs: in the Madison Square Garden rafters.

 

Ratelle played his first NHL game during the 1960-’61 season following three successful campaigns with the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters/Guelph Royals, the Rangers’ OHA farm team before the creation of the NHL Entry Draft.

After suffering and recovering from a back injury during the 1963-’64, Ratelle earned a permanent spot on the Blueshirts’ roster a season later – and he never looked back. In 54 games, he scored decent 14-21-35 totals, followed by even better 21-30-51 marks in 1965-’66.

Those are decent numbers, but nothing really worth retiring a sweater over.

That all changed during the 1967-’68 campaign. Entering the season with only 139 points in 259 games played for his career, 27-year-old Ratelle registered a whopping 32-46-78 performance, starting a run of six-consecutive 70+ point seasons and 13-consecutive 67+ point seasons.

During the 1970-’71 season, Ratelle finally had the opportunity to start his trophy case. After posting 26-46-72 marks, he was awarded the Masterton Trophy for his impressive production paired with taking only 14 penalty minutes. That is a theme that followed Ratelle throughout his career, as we’ll discuss in a moment.

That recognition apparently did a lot to motivate Ratelle, because his 1971-’72 season was by far his best season as a Ranger and in the NHL. In only 63 games, he posted a career-high 46 goals and 109 points. For those astute at math, you probably realized that Ratelle averaged 1.73 points per game, or seven points every four games.

By comparison, Tampa Bay Lightning RW Nikita Kucherov is averaging a league-leading 1.32 points per game this season.

Yeah, Ratelle was pretty darn good.

As would be expected, that effort earned a few more accolades, most notably his lone listing as a season-ending All-Star team – he was the second team’s center. Ratelle also brought home the Pearson Award (now known as the Lindsay Award) and his first Lady Byng Trophy.

Ratelle had one last 100-point season up his sleeve, but in a bizarre twist of fate it was in 1975-’76, the year he was traded to Boston with D Brad Park and D Joe Zanussi for C Phil Esposito and D Carol Vadnais. Ratelle departed the Big Apple having registered 5-10-15 totals through 13 games. Upon arriving in Beantown, he exploded for 31-59-90 marks (36-69-105 season totals). His success through the difficult circumstances paired with committing only 18 penalty minutes earned him his second Byng.

Speaking once again of the Byng Trophy, there is one award that alluded Ratelle throughout this 21-year NHL career: the Stanley Cup. Whether with New York or Boston, he qualified for the playoffs 15 consecutive times, advancing to the Finals thrice (1972, ’77-’78). However, all three times ended in disappointment.

But rings aren’t what makes a player great. His achievements on the ice indicated greatness, as did his ability to it while also being one of the game’s true gentlemen.

Tonight, the Rangers will honor Ratelle’s impact on the franchise and the game by officially retiring his 19 alongside their eight other previously retired sweater already hanging in Madison Square Garden.

He joins another another 19 already hanging in The World’s Most Famous Arena: that of Willis Reed Jr. of New York Knickerbocker lore. Reed led the Knicks to both of their two NBA championships (1970, ’73), earning the Finals MVP award both times.

There’s no doubt that the Rangers’ hoisting Ratelle’s sweater is an honor by the entire franchise, but can these 27-30-5 Blueshirts, who occupy last place in the Metropolitan Division, honor him with their play?

It doesn’t seem likely, given the fact that they’re riding a six-game losing skid.

There’s little good that can be said about New York’s effort lately, but the Rangers’ play in their defensive end has left much to be desired. Even with the play of F J.T. Miller and W Mats Zuccarello (both with a team-leading four takeaways since February 13), W Cody McLeod (4.4 hits per game in his last five showings), D Rob O’Gara (averaging two blocks per game since joining the Rangers), New York has allowed 35.33 shots against per game during this losing skid, the sixth-worst mark in the NHL in that time.

That’s put a lot of pressure on 23-21-4 G Henrik Lundqvist, and he just hasn’t been able to steal enough victories behind this team this season. In his last four starts, Lundqvist has managed an uncharacteristic .859 save percentage for a 4.77 GAA, pulling his season marks down to .914 and 2.89.

Put Lundqvist’s struggles with a porous defense, and you get a Rangers team that has allowed 4.33 goals per game since February 13 – far and away the worst mark in the league in that time.

Turning our attention to the 25-26-10 Red Wings, we find a team currently in fifth place in the Atlantic Division coming off a 1-2-1 home stand. Over that run, Detroit actually played some decent defense to earn its three points.

Led by the solid efforts of W Justin Abdelkader (3.8 hits per game since February 18) and D Danny DeKeyser (2.8 blocks per game during the home stand), the Wings have allowed only 30.5 shots to reach 17-19-7 G Jimmy Howard per game, and he’s reacted very well to the limited workload to post a cool .92 save percentage and 2.31 GAA. That strong play has improved Howard’s season marks to a .911 save percentage and 2.8 GAA.

Between the Wings’ defense and Howard’s effort, Detroit has allowed only 2.5 goals per game in its last four showings – the (t)10th-best effort since February 18.

Tonight’s game is the finale of the three-game season series between these clubs, and it’s an important one considering either side has earned three point against the other. New York won the first meeting at Madison Square Garden on Black Friday 2-1 in overtime (Zuccarello provided the game-winning goal only 37 seconds into overtime), but the Wings leveled the series December 29 by defending Little Caesars Arena to a 3-2 shootout victory (F Andreas Athanasiou took First Star honors for his eight-shot, one-goal performance).

If the Rangers need an example of how to play defense, they’ll get a decent one tonight. With that in mind, I think the Wings can pull off the road victory at MSG.


Thanks to Kirill Kaprizov’s game-winning goal to complete his four-point night, the Olympic Athletes from Russia’s men’s hockey team won the Olympic gold medal by beating Germany 4-3 at Gangneung Hockey Centre.

Germany almost escaped from the first period tied at 0-0, but Slava Voynov (Nikita Gusev and Kaprizov) ruined that opportunity with half a second remaining before the intermission. Voynov roofed a wrist shot over G Danny aus den Birken’s right shoulder to give the OAR the lead.

A misplayed puck got Germany right back into the game. Driving towards the goal line, Felix Fchutz (Brooks Macek and Patrick Hager) flipped a puck towards G Vasily Koschechkin with little more than a prayer of if finding the back of the net. However, Koshechkin let the puck bounce off his arm and fall into the crease, where it eventually rolled across the red line to level the game at 1-1 at the 9:32 mark of the frame.

Tied through the second intermission, the OAR reclaimed the lead with 6:39 remaining in regulation courtesy of a goal from Gusev (Kaprizov and Pavel Datsyuk), but that advantage lasted only 10 seconds before Dominik Kahun (Frank Mauer and Yasin Ehliz) tied the game once again at 2-2. Germany claimed its first (and only) lead of the championship game with 3:16 remaining in regulation when Jonas Muller (Ehliz and Frank Hordler) beat Koshechkin, but an uninformed dump by the Germans while they were on the power play led to Gusev (Artyom Zub and Kaprizov) scoring a shorthanded, but even-strength with Koshechkin off the ice for the extra attacker, goal.

Overtime lasted 9:40 before Kaprizov (Gusev and Voynov) took advantage of a Patrick Reimer high sticking penalty to score the medal-winning goal.

Koshechkin saved 22-of-25 shots faced (.88 save percentage) to earn the victory, leaving the overtime loss to aus den Birken, who saved a solid 26-of-30 (.867).

After that result in the DtFR Game of the Day, home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day now have a 21-point advantage over the roadies with their 73-46-18 record.