If you’re the proud owner of an NHL-themed Advent calendar, hopefully you’ve got it ready to go for the official first day of the Christmas season this Sunday. As for the rest of us that don’t have such a beautiful possession, we’ll just have to use the NHL’s schedule.
Speaking of, here’s this week’s offerings:
|NHL SCHEDULE: November 26-December 2|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, November 26|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Florida||3-4 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||Washington Capitals||New York Islanders||4-1|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa Senators||New York Rangers||2-4|
|Tuesday, November 27|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Buffalo||2-3 (OT)|
|7:30 p.m.||Anaheim||Tampa Bay||3-1|
|9 p.m.||Dallas||Edmonton||0-1 (OT)|
|10 p.m.||Los Angeles||Vancouver||2-1 (OT)|
|Wednesday, November 28|
|7 p.m.||St. Louis||Detroit||3-4|
|7:30 p.m.||San Jose||Toronto||3-5|
|9 p.m.||Dallas||Calgary||4-3 (OT)|
|Thursday, November 29|
|7 p.m.||New York Islanders||Boston Bruins||1-2 (SO)|
|7:30 p.m.||New York Rangers||Ottawa Senators||0-3|
|7:30 p.m.||Buffalo||Tampa Bay||4-5|
|9 p.m.||Los Angeles||Edmonton||2-3|
|Friday, November 30|
|7 p.m.||Buffalo||Florida||2-3 (OT)|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Washington||3-6|
|7:30 p.m.||Anaheim||Carolina||2-1 (OT)|
|9 p.m.||St. Louis||Colorado||3-2 (OT)|
|9 p.m.||Los Angeles||Calgary||1-4|
|Saturday, December 1|
|1 p.m.||San Jose||Ottawa||TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Toronto||Minnesota||CBC, SN1|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Montréal Canadiens||SN, TVAS|
|7 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Florida|
|7 p.m.||Winnipeg||New Jersey||CITY, SN360|
|7 p.m.||Columbus Blue Jackets||New York Islanders|
|8 p.m.||St. Louis||Arizona|
|10 p.m.||Vegas Golden Knights||Edmonton Oilers||CBC, CITY, SN, SN1, SN360|
|Sunday, December 2|
|6 p.m.||Winnipeg Jets||New York Rangers|
|7 p.m.||San Jose||Montréal||RDS, SN, SN1|
|10:30 p.m.||Carolina||Los Angeles|
Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like a good rivalry, and there was more than a few of those to choose from this week. A total of three Original Six matchups were contested (Boston at Toronto, Detroit at Boston and the Rangers at Montréal), not to mention six more feuds with slightly little less history (Washington at the Islanders, St. Louis at Detroit, Los Angeles at Edmonton, Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay at Florida and Colorado at Detroit).
In a similar strain, there were also three rematches from last season’s playoffs. Beyond the already mentioned rivalries that were contested last postseason, Colorado made the trip to Nashville in a rematch of the Western Quarterfinals on Tuesday, avenging their series loss with a 3-2 victory.
For those that get excited about player returns, no game is bigger than the Sharks’ trip to Ottawa this afternoon, as D Erik Karlsson will be making his premier visit back the arena he called home for the first nine seasons of his career.
Finally, two numbers are being retired this week, both by teams in the Eastern Conference. On Thursday, the Boston Bruins hoisted RW Rick Middleton‘s No. 16 to the TD Garden rafters before their game against the Islanders, while the New York Rangers are extending the same honor to LW Vic Hadfield‘s No. 11 before tomorrow’s tilt against Winnipeg.
As usual, there’s more than a few excellent options for this week’s featured contest. As to not slight either Hadfield or Middleton, we’ll intentionally show no preference to one or the other. Instead, I think we’ll make a trip to the Big Apple for a homecoming of a different variety to Karlsson’s.
Before you start scouring the Blue Jackets’ roster for players that have donned blue and orange in the past (spoiler alert: no active Jackets have played for the Isles), I should probably let you know that this matchup is not being featured for any sort of player return.
Instead, we’re more worried about the Islanders returning to Nassau Coliseum (officially NYCB Live: Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but that’s an obnoxious mouthful that I’m not willing to type again), their original home arena from 1972-2015.
The list of Islanders events the Coliseum has witnessed is surely a long list, but nothing shines quite as bright as New York’s four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. In fact, the Isles boast an unbelievable 11-1 record at the Coliseum in Stanley Cup Finals games, surely among the league’s best of any team at any particular arena.
The Coliseum has seen some real greats of the game take to its ice. RW Mike Bossy, LW Clark Gillies, RW Bob Nystrom, D Denis Potvin, G Billy Smith and C Bryan Trottier were all members of the Isles’ Stanley Cup-winning rosters, not to mention fellow Hall of Famer C Pat LaFontaine, who donned the blue-and-orange from 1983-91.
The club has run into more than its fair share of troubles – including attendance, a stat in which the Islanders rank dead-last in the NHL by almost 2000 patrons – during its tenure at Barclays Center, but I’m optimistic that the team’s most devoted fans will have no trouble filling the almost 14,000-seat barn they used to call home.
However, one aspect where New York was expected to struggle this season was in its play on the ice. Without C John Tavares, the Islanders were expected to set up camp at the bottom of the NHL standings in a season focused on “Losing for Hughes.” Instead, new Head Coach Barry Trotz has led his team to a surprising 12-9-3 record that trails the rival Rangers by only one point (the Isles have two games in hand) for the East’s second wild card.
Looking more closely at their play over the last week (New York has posted a 2-1-1 record in its last four outings), the Islanders’ best player has been none other than 8-4-1 G Thomas Greiss. While his record may pale in comparison to 14-7-0 G Frederik Andersen‘s, Greiss boasts a .925 save percentage and 2.45 GAA for the entire season as a whole, not to mention managing a .924 save percentage and 2.31 GAA in his last three starts despite playing behind a defense that has yielded a (t)15th-worst 32.25 shots against per game since November 23.
Greiss owns a career 5-6-3 record against the Blue Jackets, due in large part to the current 0-3-1 skid he’s riding against tonight’s opposition dating back to February 25, 2017.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, they enter tonight’s game with a solid 15-8-2 record that’s good enough for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus has been riding high for the past month, as it has managed an impressive 8-2-2 record since November 4.
The main reason for that outstanding play has been the Jackets’ great defensive work. Led by RW Josh Anderson (2.9 blocks per game since November 4) and D Seth Jones (2.1 blocks per game during this run) – both of whom are tied at 10 takeaways apiece since November 4 – Columbus’ blue line has allowed only 30.42 shots against per game in its last 12 games, the 10th-best mark in the NHL in the past 27 days.
As might be expected, none are happier about that defensive play than 10-7-0 G Sergei Bobrovsky (yes, the goaltender is more appreciative than Head Coach John Tortorella – believe me). Behind this solid defense, Bobrovsky has posted a 7-1-0 record with an impressive .932 save percentage and 2.01 GAA – both numbers far better than his season marks of a .912 save percentage and 2.7 GAA.
This is the part where I usually pick my winner, but it should probably be stated that the real winners tonight are the Islanders fans getting to see a game in a historic venue designed to host an ice hockey game.
As for who will walk away with two points tonight, I’m strongly leaning towards Columbus. Both have netminders playing in peak form right now, but the Jackets boasting a defense keeping all but the best offerings away from Bobrovsky will likely be a major benefit to them this evening. Pair in the Jackets averaging 3.52 goals per game this season (compared to New York’s three goals per game), and any traveling fans from Ohio should leave happy.