Tag Archives: Keller

February 21 – Day 133 – Round four

Six games on this Wednesday’s schedule might be a low number, but don’t misinterpret that as a bad night of action – there’s more than a few games to be seen!

Like we have the last week or so, we begin our hockey day in PyeongChang at the Olympics. Canada vs. Finalnd and Sweden vs. Germany, the final two quarterfinal matchups in the men’s tournament, are scheduled to drop the puck at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time.

Back in the NHL, it’s a typical light Wednesday schedule with only three tilts on the board. The action starts at 8 p.m. when Ottawa at Chicago (NHLN/SN/TVAS), but the next game – Dallas at Anaheim – isn’t slated to begin until 10 p.m. Finally, the league’s nightcap features Calgary at Vegas and gets underway at 10:30 p.m. All times Eastern.

Back at the Olympics, there’s only one game being played and it’s a doozy: Team Canada is squaring off against Team USA in the women’s gold medal game, scheduled for 11:10 p.m. Eastern time.

Of note in NHL action this evening, D Johnny Oduya is making his return to Chicago after spending five seasons with the Blackhawks. However, there’s nothing – not even what should be an excellent matchup between the Canadians and Finns in the men’s tournament – that can distract us from what is sure to be another excellent game between the powerhouses of the women’s game!

 

Let’s talk stats before we even think about jumping into the arguably even more important narrative associated with this game.

Having won Group A, 4-0-0-0 Canada enters this game as the top-seeded team in the women’s Olympic tournament even though it is currently second in the IIHF rankings behind the USA.

The reason for the Canadians’ success is easy to see. Their four goals per game and .5 goals against per game are both the best of any team in the tournament, and the 25 shots against they allow per game is fourth-best.

There have been few lines in the women’s tournament as dominant as Team Canada’s top-three forwards. Of those, none have shined brighter than F Melodie Daoust, who’s posted incredible 3-3-6 totals in only four games played. She’s joined by F Meghan Agosta (2-2-4) and F Marie-Philip Poulin (2-3-5) on the line, making them a dangerous threat to score on every shift they take.

F Rebecca Johnston has also been impressive from the second line with her 3-2-5 totals, but where she really earns her roster spot is on the power play. Two of her three goals have been struck while the Canadians have an extra skater, and she accounts for half of her team’s power play goals.

As mentioned before, Canada’s defense has been only average in this Olympic tournament, but average is all Head Coach Laura Schuler needs when she has not one… not two… but three stellar goaltenders at her disposal. Ann-Renee Desbiens, Genevieve Lacasse and Shannon Szabados have all been tremendous when they’ve taken to the crease, as they’ve combined to allow only two goals in four showings (Desbiens and Szabados both have one shutout apiece) with save percentages that are all above 97 percent.

Considering she was in net for the elimination game against the OAR in the semifinals, it would seem likely Szabados will get the nod tonight with Lacasse as her backup, but I’m under the impression Canada could find success with any of these three commanding the crease.

If Canada is in the red corner, 3-0-0-1 Team USA is in the blue. Having counted the days since February 20, 2014 (more on that in a moment), the Americans are more than excited to play this game, and they have just the strengths to win this game.

The Canadians may be able to claim the best offense and goals-against, but Team USA is right behind them in the rankings. America boasts scoring an average of 3.5 goals per game, led in large part by the incredible efforts of second-liner F Dani Cameranesi, who leads the team with her 3-2-5 totals in four showings. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson has also been exemplary, averaging a point per game with her 3-1-4 marks from the third line.

While the offense is good, the Ice Yanks’ defense is even better. Having allowed only 18.5 shots against per game, Team USA’s defense tops all teams at the Olympics. That’s made life all too easy for G Maddie Rooney, who’s posted a solid .951 save percentage for a 1.01 GAA in three games. Pair her effort with the defense, and Team USA’s .75 goals against-per-game is second-best in PyeongChang.

As mentioned before, the stats are only half the story in this game as the rivalry between these two nations is easily the world’s fiercest and most competitive in the women’s game.

Looking back at recent results of the world’s biggest tournaments, the Americans should be the clear favorites to win the gold medal. They’ve won four-consecutive IIHF World Championships (2013, 2015-’17) and three-consecutive Four Nations Cups (2015-’17).

However, that success has not extended to the Olympic Games, and it’s a curse that extends way back to 2002. After winning the inaugural gold in women’s ice hockey in 1998, Team USA has had to settle for three silvers (including the last two in 2010 and 2014) and a 2006 bronze.

Well, curse is the right word only if you’re from the United States. For one team to win all those World Championships and Four Nations Cups, another team has to lose.

Enter Canada, the four-time runners-up at the IIHF World Championships (2013, 2015-’17) and three-time runners-up at the Four Nations Cup (2015-’17). While those results are undoubtedly disappointing, the Canadians will gladly take those lumps if it prepared them to win their fifth-consecutive Olympic gold.

Team Canada has dominated Olympic competition over the past 20 years. In addition to winning four-consecutive gold medals (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014), Canada also took silver in the inaugural 1998 competition. That means this is Canada’s sixth-consecutive appearance in the gold medal game, a streak better than most teams’ medal counts in this tournament.

The Olympic Rings are on the ice tonight, but does this mean it’s going to be an easy victory for Team Canada? Hardly so, as they – just like Team USA will have to do to win – will have to earn every inch of the ice in what should be an incredibly competitive match.

Just take into account the preview to this game that we witnessed only a week ago. Behind an incredible 44-for-45 save effort (.978 save percentage) from Lacasse, Team Canada was able to hold on to a 2-1 victory. Both teams showed great resilience in that game to register one even-strength goal apiece, but it was D Megan Keller’s interference penalty 7:18 into the second period that ultimately cost the Americans the victory, as Agosta (F Natalie Spooner and F Brianne Jenner) was able to turn the resulting power play into a goal 1:30 later.

Of course, maybe the even more important preview might have occurred four years ago (almost to the day) in the Sochi gold medal game. With goals from F Meghan Duggan and F Alexandra Carpenter, the Americans had a 2-0 advantage with five minutes separating them from the championship.

However, the Canadians are never eliminated until the fat lady sings. Jenner began the comeback with 3:26 remaining in regulation, setting the score at 2-1.

That’s okay, right? Team USA still has a one-goal lead and is inches from the finish line! In fact, the defense and G Jessie Vetter were keeping Canada at bay, holding on to that lead with only a minute until the final horn…

And then it happened. With Szabados pulled for the extra attacker, Poulin leveled the game with only 55 ticks left on the clock, setting up an overtime period that lasted 8:10 before Poulin would score again to clinch her second Olympic gold in as many tries.

It goes without saying, but Team USA cannot afford another collapse like that.

Now comes the tough job of picking the winner of this game. In case it wasn’t brutally apparent, I certainly have my rooting interests in this game and desperately want to see the Americans succeed. However, having seen Team Canada already win Group A and knowing the Americans’ history at the Olympics, I know this will be a very difficult game to win.

If the Americans are going to win this game, they’re going to need their defense to continue to play lights out like it has all tournament, and they also just might need a little bit of luck to beat Szabados. It’s certainly possible for that to happen, but Canada’s success at this tournament year after year (well, four years after four years) will leave me doubting until the clock officially reaches 0:00.

February 14 – Day 126 – Valentine’s rivalry

It’s another busy day in the world of hockey!

As we’ve done all week, we start today’s activities in Pyeongchang at the Olympics. However, today is a little bit different since it marks the beginning of the men’s tournaments. Both Slovakia vs. the OAR and the USA vs. Slovenia will drop the puck at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time this morning in Group B play.

The NHL will take to the ice at 7 p.m. this evening when Columbus visits Toronto (NHLN/SN/TVAS), followed by Montréal at Colorado (RDS/TSN2) at 9:30 p.m. and Florida at Vancouver (SN) – tonight’s NHL nightcap – half an hour later. All times Eastern.

We return our attention to South Korea at 10:10 p.m. when Team USA’s women take on Team Canada to determine the winner of Group A, as well as the Finnish men against the Germans in Group C. Lastly, the OAR women will take on Finland to complete the women’s group stage at 2:40 a.m., joined by the Norwegian men playing Sweden at the same time. All times Eastern.

I’d include a list of the games I definitely have my eye on, but it only includes Olympic play. Of course, the most important game taking place in South Korea tonight is a matchup of the top two teams in the women’s game.

The weird part about this game is that it matters, and doesn’t matter, all at the same time.

Team Canada and Team USA have both already clinched their spots in the Olympic Semifinals, meaning they’ve already assured themselves two more games in South Korea (the semifinal and a medal game).

However, there’s still seeding on the line, as the winner of tonight’s game will square off against the winner of Sweden vs. the third place team from Group A (which will be determined when the OAR and Finland play in the wee hours of the morning), while tonight’s loser will take on the winner of Switzerland vs. the remaining Group A team’s quarterfinal.

As things currently stand, 2-0-0-0 Team Canada leads Group A based on a superior goal-differential, as both Canada and the USA have allowed only one goal in two games played but the Canadians have scored one more goal.

No offense has been finer than Canada’s during these Olympic Games. Albeit in only two games played, the Canadians lead the tournament averaging 4.5 goals per game. Three players are averaging at least a point per game, and that group is headlined by forwards Melodie Daoust (3-1-4 totals), Rebecca Johnston (2-2-4) and Marie-Philip Poulin (1-3-4) – all of whom are managing two points per game.

As made evident of their reflective totals, Daoust and Poulin are continuing the incredible chemistry they’ve displayed throughout their careers playing together on Canada’s top line. However, the standout of the group just might be Johnston, who has been equal part play-maker and goalscorer on the second line.

Having allowed only 20.5 shots against per game these Olympics (the third-best effort in the group stage) there’s little doubting Canada’s defense. However, the backbone of this corps is still its deep goaltending.

Both G Ann-Renee Desbiens and G Shannon Szabados have drawn starts so far, with Desbiens technically being the more impressive of the two considering her perfect 18-save shutout against the OAR. However, it would seem likely that Szabados, even with her inferior 22-for-23 (.957 save percentage) performance against Finland, would be the netminder pegged to take on the world’s top-ranked squad.

Speaking of, 2-0-0-0 Team USA has been just as impressive as Canada even though it sits behind it in the Group B standings. So far, the Americans have played arguably the best defensive game of all eight teams in the tournament, as they’ve matched Canada’s .5 goals against-per-game and allowed a superior 18.5 shots against average.

Just like Canada, the Americans have employed two goaltenders so far this tournament with much success. G Nicole Hensley has technically been the superior of the two considering her perfect 13-save shutout against the OAR, but it would seem probable that G Maddie Rooney, who posted a 23-for-24 (.958 save percentage) performance against a vastly superior Finnish side.

And that doesn’t even get us started on the United States’ offense, which currently ranks third by averaging four goals per game with two fixtures remaining to be played in the entirety of the group stage.

A total of five players are averaging at least a point per game, but none have been better through their first two showings than F Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. Not only do her three points lead the team, but she’s also scored a team-high two goals.

One last note on America’s attack involves D Megan Keller – Group A’s lone defensewoman to average a point per game. She may be just the wild card that can give Team USA the edge against their bitter rivals.

The last time Team Canada and Team USA squared off was at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. November 12, 2017, in the Championship Game of the Four Nations Cup. It was a surprisingly dominant victory by the hosts, as the United States beat Canada 5-1. Hannah Brandt provided the opening and game-winning goals both in the second period.

In fact, Team USA is riding a five-game winning streak against Team Canada dating back to the 2016 Four Nations Championship Game. Since successfully defending their 2015 title at the same tournament, the Americans have beaten Canada twice at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship and two more times at the ’17 Four Nations Cup.

Of course, the Americans would willingly give away that winning streak if it meant they could trade in their two silver medals at the last two Olympics for a gold this year, snapping Canada’s run of four-consecutive titles at the quadrennial tournament.

But, that million dollar question will have to wait until February 22. How will today’s game pan out?

If this were any other tournament, I’d feel very comfortable picking the Americans to beat Team Canada. However, the Canadians always seem to have Team USA’s numbers when playing under the Olympic Rings. I think America can win this game, but this tilt will have no baring on a potential probable Gold Medal matchup.


Though they needed a shootout, the New Jersey Devils beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 at Wells Fargo Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Almost all the action in this game took place in the second period, but that didn’t happen until after F Travis Konecny‘s (F Claude Giroux and D Shayne Gostisbehere) snap shot at the 1:54 mark of the first frame to give the Flyers an early lead.

In total, a whopping six goals were struck in the middle 20 minutes – three by each side. The first marker was struck at the 4:06 mark, and it belonged to F Taylor Hall (D Sami Vatanen) to level the game at 1-1. However, Philadelphia reclaimed the lead only 43 seconds later when C Scott Laughton (W Michael Raffl and D Andrew MacDonald) buried a wrist shot. A D Radko Gudas (F Valtteri Filppula and RW Dale Weise) slap shot with 9:24 remaining in the period gave the Flyers a 3-1 advantage, but it lasted only 2:41 before D John Moore (C Travis Zajac and W Jesper Bratt) pulled Jersey back within a goal.

Only one power play goal was struck in the contest, and it belonged to Giroux (W Jakub Voracek and Gostisbehere) with 4:01 remaining in the period. With Zajac in the box for cross-checking F Jordan Weal, Giroux buried a snapper to return a two-goal advantage to Philly. It didn’t last long though, as C Nico Hischier (Bratt) scored only 10 seconds later to set the score at 4-3.

The third period was a fairly defensive affair, as only a combined 19 shots were fired by both club. Only one tickled the twine, and it belonged to Hall (Hischier and Zajac) with only 1:21 remaining in regulation. A former fan of orange, Hall took advantage of the six-on-five advantage to level the game with a wrister.

After all those goals in regulation, it’s beyond a surprise that neither club could find an overtime game-winner during the five minutes of three-on-three play. However, the tie remained, meaning the game advanced into the shootout. As host, Head Coach Dave Hakstol had the option of shooting first or second…

  1. Like most do, Hakstol elected to shoot first, sending Weal to center ice. Unfortunately, the forward didn’t make good on the decision, as his wrister was saved by G Keith Kinkaid.
  2. However, a saved shot is better than a miss. That’s exactly what W Kyle Palmieri did, leaving the shootout tied at 0-0 through the first round.
  3. Konecny was tapped to turn the tide for Philly in the second round, but his attempt met the same fate as Weal’s: saved by Kinkaid.
  4. The opportunity to score the first goal of the shootout fell next to W Drew Stafford, and he didn’t disappoint. He beat G Michal Neuvirth to force a miss-and-lose situation for the Flyers in the third round.
  5. In such situations, there’s few Flyers better to call upon than Voracek. However, he couldn’t answer the bell yesterday, as Kinkaid saved all three shootout shots he faced.

Kinkaid earned the victory after saving 31-of-35 shots faced (.886 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Neuvirth, who saved 32-of-36 (.889).

That’s three straight wins for visitors in the DtFR Game of the Day series, pulling them within 22 points of the 68-41-17 hosts.

October 10 – Day Seven – Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas

Today marks the end of the first week of action, so hopefully we can close things out with a bang.

There’s seven games on the schedule tonight, starting with two (St. Louis at the New York Rangers and Columbus at Carolina) at 7 p.m. and Chicago at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS/TSN2) half an hour later. In a similar situation, Philadelphia visits Nashville at 8 p.m. with Detroit at Dallas waiting 30 minutes before dropping the puck. Finally, our co-nightcaps (Ottawa at Vancouver [RDS] and Arizona at Vegas [NBCSN/SN360/TVAS]) find their start at 10 p.m. to close out the day’s action. All times Eastern.

There’s a few games that stick out to me…

  • Chicago at Montréal: Another day, another Original Six game.
  • Ottawa at Vancouver: After a dozen seasons with the Canucks, W Alexandre Burrows plays his first game at Rogers Arena in a white sweater.
  • Arizona at Vegas: Speaking of home arenas, it’s about time T-Mobile Arena saw its first regular season game.

It’s unfortunate we can’t spend the evening with Burrows, who played such a vital role in the Canucks’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. But, you only get to make your city debut once, so it’s off to Nevada!

 

 

 

 

 

Just as I waited to welcome the Golden Knights to the NHL until they played their first game, I now officially welcome the city of Las Vegas and all her 632,912 citizens to one of my favorite sports in the world.

Oh, the arena, like almost everything we think about when envisioning the Las Vegas Strip, is technically south of Las Vegas proper in Paradise? Well, those 225,000 people can come too.

On a more serious note, it is unfortunate that no discussion about the Golden Knights’ inaugural  home game is complete without mentioning the terrible events from the night of October 1. I’m certain I speak for all of us here at Down the Frozen River in extending my condolences to the families and friends of the 58 people who lost their lives that night, as well as the hundreds injured.

While a hockey game absolutely pales in comparison to the severity of this tragedy, it is my hope that what will be an exciting, joyous event will be a pleasant reprieve from the sadness surrounding Las Vegas and maybe – just maybe – a small step towards the city’s healing.

Taking our attention back to tonight’s game, though the Golden Knights have been away from home, they’ve been doing all they can on the ice for their community by jumping to an unexpected 2-0-0 record.

Unlike the teams involved in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day (see below for the recap to that game) offense has not been the name of the game for the Knights, as they’ve scored a total of only four goals to start the season.

“But wait,” you say. “I thought Vegas’ defense wasn’t supposed to be good.”

You’ve heard correctly. No matter how many shot blocks D Jason Garrison can manage (he’s averaged six-per-game to lead the league so far this young season, for those interested), that defensive corps has allowed a (t)fifth-worst 37 shots against per-game to reach G Marc-Andre Fleury.

Instead, Fleury has had to perform at his very best to earn his unblemished record. Among goaltenders with at least two games played, his .973 save percentage and .98 GAA are both second-best in the league.

Considering the enormity of tonight’s festivities and the fact that he hasn’t played since Saturday, Flower should be a lock to be in net this evening.

As for the Coyotes, they have come up just short in both of their games played. Arizona opened up its season with a 5-4 loss in Anaheim Thursday before Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss at home to these very Golden Knights.

Similar to Vegas, defense does not seem to be the Yotes’ forte. They’ve allowed an atrocious 41.5 shots to reach their crease, and don’t seem to play any better or worse if G Louis Domingue or G Antti Raanta is in net.

Speaking of, it sounds like Raanta drew the start this evening. Considering he earned Arizona’s lone point of the season against these Knights, that seems like the logical decision.

If the Coyotes want to return the favor of beating the Golden Knights in their first home game of the season, they’re going to need their offense to do the heavy lifting.

Though he plays along the blue line, D Alex Goligoski has been Arizona’s most consistent scoring threat as his three assists against the Ducks are the highest point total on the squad. As for actual forwards to keep an eye on, F Tobias Rieder is the only Coyote to score on Fleury Saturday and F Clayton Keller really likes to shoot. Either, or both, could provide the difference for the Yotes.

Only two things can happen following the pageantry associated with a night like tonight. Either the home team lets the emotion get to them, or they come out and dominate their opponent.

Considering the Golden Knights have been playing for more than themselves, I think most of us are hoping for the latter.

#PlayForVegas


With an unassisted overtime wrist shot from First Star of the Game C Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks at the Air Canada Centre for a 4-3 victory in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

The play started in Chicago’s offensive end where C Jonathan Toews tried to pass from the near boards to F Patrick Kane in the center of the zone, but Kane misplayed the puck as it bounced off his right skate… right to Matthews. The reigning Calder Trophy winner screamed up the ice to the far face-off circle in his offensive zone before ripping a fireball of a shot over G Anton Forsberg‘s glove shoulder. Matthews finished the play the only way one should when playing the Blackhawks: imitating Kane’s patented goal celebration in victory.

Matthews’ goal completed a Leafs comeback from a 3-1 deficit with 12:08 remaining in regulation. Second Star RW Connor Brown (D Nikita Zaitsev and D Ron Hainsey) pulled Toronto back within a goal with exactly seven minutes remaining on the clock, followed 2:42 later by a game-tying power play tip-in from LW James van Riemsdyk (C Tyler Bozak and D Morgan Reilly) to force overtime.

That comeback was necessitated in large part by a hot start for Chicago, as it had a 2-0 lead before eight minutes had expired from the first period. First it was D Jan Rutta (F John Hayden and F Tommy Wingels) finding the back of G Frederik Andersen’s net at the 3:46 mark, followed 4:11 later by Toews’ (Third Star RW Richard Panik and W Brandon Saad) second goal of the season.

Zaitsev (Brown and D Calle Rosen) did score with 9:40 remaining in the second period, but that tally was eventually negated by Panik’s (D Gustav Forsling and Rutta) power play wrister 7:52 into the third period.

Andersen earned the victory after saving 18-of-21 shots faced (.857 save percentage), leaving the overtime loss to Forsberg, who saved 39-of-43 (.907).

A third straight victory by the home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series has earned them a 4-2-1 record and a two-point advantage over the visitors.